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Shirley, and the other to Colonel William Williams, who seems to have been his immediate military superior. At most points they are substantially the same; but that to Williams contains some passages not found in the other. The letter to Shirley is printed in Saunderson, History of Charlestown, N. H., 34–37, and that to Williams in Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, iv. 109–113. Stevens also kept a diary, which was long in possession of his descendants. One of these, Mr. B. F. Stevens, kindly made a search for it, at my request, and learned that it had been unfortu. nately destroyed by fire, in 1856. Doolittle, in his Narrative of Mischief, and Hoyt, in his Antiquarian Researches, give other accounts. The French notices of the affair are few and short, as usual in cases of failure. For the principal one, see N. Y. Col. Docs., x. 97. It is here said that Stevens asked for a parley, in order to capitulate; but all the English accounts say that the French made the first advances.
FRONTIER DEFENCE. – NORTHFIELD AND ITS MINISTER. - MILI:
TARY CRITICISMS OF REV. BENJAMIN DOOLITTLE. – RIGAUD DE VAUDREUIL: HIS GREAT WAR-PARTY; HE ATTACKS FORT MASSACHUSETTS. — SERGEANT HAWKS AND HIS GARRI. SON. — A GALLANT DEFENCE. - CAPITULATION. — HUMANITY OF THE FRENCH. – RAVAGEB. — RETURN TO CROWN POINT. — PEACE OF AIX-LA-CHAPELLE.
SINCE the last war, the settlements of Massachusetts had pushed westward and begun to invade the beautiful region of mountains and valleys that now forms Berkshire. Villages, or rudiments of villages, had grown up on the Housatonic, and an establishment had been attempted at Pontoosuc, now Pittsfield, on the extreme western limits of the province. The position of these new settlements was critical, for the enemy could reach them with little difficulty by way of Lake Champlain and Wood Creek. The Massachusetts government was not unmindful of them, and when war again broke out, three wooden forts were built for their protection, forming a line of defence westward from Northfield on the northern frontier of the province. One of these forts was in
the present town of Heath, and was called Fort Shirley; another, named Fort Pelham, was in the present town of Rowe; while the third, Fort Massachusetts, was farther westward, in what is now the town of Adams, then known as East Hoosac. Two hundred men from the militia were taken into pay to hold these posts and patrol the intervening forests. Other defensive works were made here and there, sometimes by the votes of town meetings, and sometimes by individuals, at their own cost. These works consisted of a fence of palisades enclosing a farmhouse, or sometimes of a blockhouse of timber or heavy planks. Thus, at Northfield, Deacon Ebenezer Alexander, a veteran of sixty who had served at Louisbourg, built a “mount,” or blockhouse, on the knoll behind his house, and carried a stockade from it to enclose the dwelling, shed, and barn, the whole at the cost of thirty-six pounds, one shilling, and sixpence, in Massachusetts currency,” which the town repaid him, his fortifications being of public utility as a place of refuge for families in case of attack. Northfield was a place notoriously dangerous, and military methods were in vogue there in season and out of season. Thus, by a vote of the town, the people were called to the Sunday sermon by beat of drum, and Eleazer Holton was elected to sound the call in consideration of one pound and ten
1 Temple and Sheldon, History of Northfield, 237, give the items
from the original account. This is one of the best of the innumer able town histories of New England.
shillings a year, the drum being hired of Ensign Field, its fortunate possessor, for the farther sum of three shillings. This was in the earlier days of Northfield. In 1734 the Sunday drum-beat was stopped, and the worshippers were summoned by the less obstreperous method of “hanging out a flagg," for the faithful discharge of which function Daniel Wright received in 1744 one pound and five shillings.1
The various fortifications, public and private, were garrisoned, sometimes by the owner and his neighbors, sometimes by men in pay of the Provincial Assembly. As was to be expected from a legislative body undertaking warlike operations, the work of defence was but indifferently conducted. John Stoddard, the village magnate of Northampton, was charged, among the rest of his multifarious employments, with the locating and construction of forts; Captain Ephraim Williams was assigned to the general command on the western frontier, with headquarters at Fort Shirley and afterwards at Fort Massachusetts ; and Major Israel Williams, of Hatfield, was made commissary.
At Northfield dwelt the Rev. Benjamin Doolittle, minister, apothecary, physician, and surgeon of the village; for he had studied medicine no less than theology. His parishioners thought that his cure of bodies encroached on his cure of souls, and requested him to confine his attention to his spiritual charge; to which he replied that he could not afford it, his
1 Temple and Sheldon, History of Northfield, 218.
salary as minister being seventy-five pounds in irredeemable Massachusetts paper, while his medical and surgical practice brought him full four hundred a year. He offered to comply with the wishes of his flock if they would add that amount to his salary, — which they were not prepared to do, and the minister continued his heterogeneous labors as before.
As the position of his house on the village street seems to have been regarded as strategic, the town voted to fortify it with a blockhouse and a stockade, for the benefit both of the occupant and of all the villagers. This was accordingly done, at the cost of eighteen pounds, seven shillings, and sixpence for the blockhouse, and a farther charge for the stockade; and thenceforth Mr. Doolittle could write his sermons and mix his doses in peace. To his other callings he added that of historiographer. When, after a ministry of thirty-six years, the thrifty pastor was busied one day with hammer and nails in mending the fence of his yard, he suddenly dropped dead from a stroke of heart-disease, — to the grief of all Northfield; and his papers being searched, a record was found in his handwriting of the inroads of the enemy that had happened in his time on or near the Massachusetts border. Being rightly thought worthy of publication, it was printed at Boston in a dingy pamphlet, now extremely rare, and much prized by antiquarians.
1 A short Narrative of Mischief done by the French and Indian Enemy, on the Western Frontiers of the Province of the Massachusette