This week I was privileged to attend a Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History seminar at Yale University. The topic is “Everyday Life in Early America” which included a fieldtrip to Historic Deerfield, in Massachusetts.
Deerfield–rich with history going back thousands of years–has seen its inhabitants serve in time of war on far off fields of the American Revolution and the American Civil War. Yet, prior to that, the town itself bore witness to a terrible attack—known in history as the Deerfield Raid.
On February 4, 1704 during Queen Anne’s War French and Native American forces attacked the settlement just before dawn. During the ensuing hours, their combined forces burnt part of the town, killed 56 men, women, and children, and took into captivity over 100 others. Altogether, nearly half the town’s establishments were destroyed. The Deerfield Raid (or Massacre as it was called in the past) was, according to the attackers in retaliation for the displacement and murders of Native Americans in the preceding years.
The event is remembered in large part because of the published account of Reverend John Williams, who was one of the Deerfield residents taken captive that day.
In the cemetery in Deerfield situated on a mount sits a memorial to the people who fell in the raid of 1704 by the Society of Colonial Wars. Also, in the same cemetery lies the gravesite of a patriot-David Fredle, who survived the war and died in 1794 at the age of 81.
Continuing tracing Deerfield’s contributions to American military history leads one to a tall monument. The brown colored stone monument commemorates the Deerfield residents who marched off to fight in the American Civil War. Among some of the men who went off–Deerfield residents served in multiple regiments– were two that served in the 20th Massachusetts, the “Harvard Regiment” who fought conspicuously through the streets of Fredericksburg in December 1862.
After touring Historic Deerfield, the group headed back to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut where the seminar is being held. On an evening walk, I came across a statue commemorating the men who left New Haven (and I would think Yale Unviersity students also comprised some of the volunteers) to serve in the American Civil War. There was, however, no “Yale Regiment” but can you imagine the competition between regiments if there was one?
Thus, a day devoted to studying everyday life in early America suddenly became a study of two places–Deerfield and New Haven–and their contributions to American military history and a march through war.