Captors and Captives:
The 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield
By Evan Haefeli andKevin Sweeney
University of Massachusetts,376 pp., illustrated, $29.95
Dead Men Tapping: The End of the Heather Lynne II
By Kate Yeomans
International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 403 pp., $24.95
Essays in Honor of
Thomas H. O'Connor
Edited by James M. O'Toole and David Quigley
Northeastern University, 284 pp., $45
Three hundred years ago, on Feb. 29, 1704, a force of French-Canadian troops and their Native American allies surprised the frontier village of Deerfield at dawn. After a three-hour battle in which some 50 villagers were killed and much of the village destroyed, the raiders returned north with 112 captives.
In "Captors and Captives," historians Evan Haefeli of Tufts University and Kevin Sweeney of Amherst College have produced an impressive account that explores the raid from the conflicting viewpoints of the raiders, both French-Canadian and Native American, and the Deerfield villagers -- as well as its place in the century-long conflict between the two colonial empires.
Accounts of such notable events in the region's history are always made richer by a discussion of the ways in which they have been remembered. In the immediate aftermath, it was typically referred to as "the destruction of," or even "the mischief at" Deerfield, since "the hapless victims" were not "the stuff out of which mighty empires were made." But adoption of "massacre" as its identifier about the time of the centenary in 1804, the authors write, "ensured that [the raid] became a cornerstone of the village's identity in the new republic."
And while the title of "massacre" was further enshrined when the village was preserved as Historic Deerfield in the 1950s, present commemorations are "relentlessly peaceful," with a focus on the differing cultures that converged on the morning of the raid.
Shortly before dawn on Sept. 5, 1996, off Cape Ann, the Heather Lynne II, a gillnetter out of Newburyport, was run down by a barge under tow. Its three-man crew was trapped in the overturned hull. As other fishing boats gathered, their crews could hear the trapped men yelling for help and tapping from inside the hull.
Mayday calls alerted the Coast Guard, but it was more than an hour before a cutter and a helicopter from nearby stations arrived at the scene -- and neither carried divers who could have freed the trapped crew. By the time a civilian salvage diver arrived, the men were dead.
In "Dead Men Tapping," Kate Yeomans, who, with her husband, operates a deep-sea fishing charter, also out of Newburyport, recounts the collision and the ensuing federal trial with a sure sense of drama -- and against the background of her own and her husband's hazardous encounters with larger vessels.
Her powerful account will remind readers of Sebastian Junger's "The Perfect Storm." While the crew of the Andrea Gail died alone, their final moments only imagined, here, fellow fishermen stood by helplessly during the long two hours before the sound of tapping died away.
While the Coast Guard was absolved of liability, many of the region's fishermen, Yeomans writes regretfully, "now believe they can't expect the Coast Guard to pluck them from peril."
In "Boston's Histories," scholars pay tribute to colleague Thomas H. O'Connor of Boston College with a series of essays. As Sam Bass Warner Jr., a distinguished regional historian himself, notes in an introduction, "Not since the first generation of urban historians . . . has anybody labored so faithfully and well on the history of a single city."
The essays deal with such topics as radical publishers in the years before the Civil War, "the politics of sex and race" in the Boston NAACP, and the role of the Catholic Church in school desegregation.
Perhaps not "history" in the traditional sense, but fully appropriate -- and provocative -- is an essay by James J. Connolly of Ball State University on why Edwin O'Connor's classic novel, "The Last Hurrah," "has so often been accepted as an accurate picture" of early 20th-century ethnic politics.
The novel, Connolly writes, "fit" with then-current theories of pluralist politics that "worked best when politicians worked pragmatically to serve the concrete interests of their supporters, balanced by the give and take of democratic politics."
James Michael Curley's "appropriation" of O'Connor's Mayor Skeffington, Connolly writes, "steered [readers] away from a more careful analysis of [the novel] as a work of fiction."
And, Connolly writes, Thomas O'Connor himself has noted that "O'Connor's fiction has at times served as a substitute for careful analysis of the city's political past."
Michael Kenney writes every other month about new books of regional and local interest.