On 16 October 1780, about the time that Peter was routing the British at the Burkeville tavern, Robert Havens was awakened by the barking of a neighbor's dog; something was after the sheep. Partially clothed, he left his house near the White River in South Royalton, Vermont, and ascended the hill. He found the sheep safe. He stood pensively looking back as the first light of dawn touched his frontier home. Something was wrong!
As he turned to retrace his steps, he saw a large company of Indians move from the forest and push in the front door of his home. Two teenage boys who had been aroused to help with the sheep were getting dressed. One was his son Daniel Havens. The other, Thomas Pimber, was courting a neighbor girl and had stayed overnight with the Havens family.
The boys burst through the back door and ran for their lives. Daniel stumbled as he reached the stream, rolled down the bank under a log, and was not discovered. Thomas Pimber was not so fortunate. In a few minutes the Indians were roaring with delight. His scalp had a double cowlick. Cut in two, it would fetch a double bounty from the British.
The Indians-three hundred of them from Canada-and a few Tories were commanded by a British captain named Horton. The British had offered the Indians eight dollars each for live captive men, something less for boys, and a lesser amount for scalps. The British had placed no bounty on women and girls, who were therefore immune to captivity and subject to something less than death.
During that long-forgotten burning of South Royalton, Vermont, the Indians moved downriver capturing the men and boys, killing those who resisted. They killed all the livestock and burned the houses and barns holding the harvest upon which the colonists depended for survival during the long New England winter.
Some distance downstream, the Hendee family had been warned. The husband set out on foot to warn others further downstream. Hannah Hendee grabbed her seven-year-old son, Michael, and a younger daughter and ran for the woods. Just when she thought she had reached safety a band of Indians stepped from the shadows and wrested her boy from her. One of them spoke English. She demanded to know what they were going to do to her boy. The Indian replied, "Make a soldier of him."
As the Indians dragged her sobbing boy away, she made her way toward the road along the river carrying her little girl, who screamed in panic for her mother to keep the Indians away.
Near the river she met Captain Horton and asked what they intended to do with the little boys. She was told that they would be marched to Canada with the men. She said the youngsters could not endure such a march, and was told, "In that case, they will be killed."
She headed down the road toward Lebanon, sixteen miles away, carrying her little girl. She had not gone far when she was filled with a surge of uncommon resolve, a fierce determination. They should not keep her little boy!
She returned upriver and found the British and the Indians gathering their captives on the opposite bank. She started across and would have drowned had not an old Indian helped her to shore.
Oblivious of the danger, she demanded her little boy. Captain Horton said he could not control the Indians; it was none of his concern what they did. She threatened him: "You are their commander, and they must and will obey you. The curse will fall upon you for whatever crime they may commit, and all the innocent blood they shall here shed will be found in your skirts when the secrets of men's hearts are made known, and it will cry for vengeance upon your head!"
When her little son was brought in she took him by the hand and refused to let go. An Indian threatened her with a cutlass and jerked her son away. She defiantly took him back and said that she would follow them every step of the way to Canada, she would never give up, they would not have her little boy!
Finally, intimidated by her determination, Captain Horton told her to take her son and leave. He could face an army of men, but not a mother driven by the strongest of emotions. She had gone but a few rods when she was made to return. Captain Horton said she must wait in camp until all the captives were assembled and the march north began.
During the day other little boys were brought into camp. Desperately they clung to Mrs. Hendee. With uncommon courage she interceded for them as vigorously as she had for her own.
Finally, when the captives were assembled for the long march to Canada, Mrs. Hendee somehow crossed the river with her daughter and nine small boys: her son, Michael, Roswell Parkurst, Andrew and Sheldon Durkey, Joseph Rix, Rufus Fish and his brother, Nathaniel Evans, and Daniel Downer. Two of them she carried across. The others waded through the water with their arms around each other's necks, clinging to her skirts. As the cold October night closed in, Mrs. Hendee huddled in the woods with the soaking-wet little brood she had rescued from certain death.
One of the boys, Daniel Downer, "received such an affright from the horrid crew, that he was ever afterwards unable to take care of himself, wholly unfit for business and lived for many years, wandering from place to place, a solemn, tho' silent witness of the distress and horror of that dreadful scene." (Evelyn Wood Love-joy, History of Royalton, Vermont [Burlington, Vermont: Free Press Printing Co., 1911].)
They talk about a woman's sphere,
As though it has a limit;
There's not a place in earth or heaven,
There's not a task to mankind given,
There's not a blessing nor a woe,
There's not a whispered yes or no,
There's not a life, or death, or birth,
That has a feather's weight of worth . . .
Without a woman in it.