Narrative of the Captivity of Maria and Christina Manheim – Indian Captivities

Frederick Manheim, an industrious German, with his family, consisting of his wife, a daughter of eighteen years of age, and Maria and Christina, his youngest children, (twins,) about sixteen, resided near the river Mohawk, eight miles west of Johnston. On the 19th of October, 1779, the father being at work at some distance from his habitation, and the mother and eldest daughter on a visit at a neighbor’s, two hostile Canasadaga Indians rushed in and captured the twin sisters.

The party to which these savages belonged consisted of fifty warriors, who, after securing twenty-three of the inhabitants of that neighborhood, (among whom was the unfortunate Frederick Manheim) and firing their houses, retired for four days with the utmost precipitancy, till they were quite safe from pursuit. The place where they halted on the evening of the day of rest was a thick pine swamp, which rendered the darkness of an uncommonly gloomy night still more dreadful. The Indians kindled a fire, which they had not done before, and ordered their prisoners, whom they kept together, to refresh themselves with such provisions as they had. The Indians eat by themselves. After supper the appalled captives observed their enemies, instead of retiring to rest, busied in operations which boded nothing good. Two saplings were pruned clear of branches up to the very top, and all the brush cleared away for several rods around them. While this was doing, others were splitting pitch-pine billets into small splinters about five inches in length, and as small as one’s little finger, sharpening one end, and dipping the other in melted turpentine.

At length, with countenances distorted by infernal fury, and hideous yells, the two savages who had captured the hapless Maria and Christina leaped into the midst of the circle of prisoners, and dragged those ill fated maidens, shrieking, from the embraces of their companions. These warriors had disagreed about whose property the girls should be, as they had jointly seized them; and, to terminate the dispute agreeably to the abominable custom of the savages, it was determined by the chiefs of the party that the prisoners who had given rise to the contention should be destroyed, and that their captors should be the principal agents in the execrable business. These furies, assisted by their comrades, stripped the forlorn girls, convulsed with apprehensions, and tied each to a sapling, with their hands as high extended above their heads as possible; and then pitched them from their knees to their shoulders, with upwards of six hundred of the sharpened splinters above described, which, at every puncture, were attended with screams of distress, that echoed through the wilderness. And then, to complete the infernal tragedy, the splinters, all standing erect on the bleeding victims, were set on fire, and exhibited a scene of extreme misery, beyond the power of speech to describe, or even the imagination to conceive. It was not until near three hours had elapsed from the commencement of their torments, and that they had lost almost every resemblance of the human form, that these helpless virgins sunk down in the arms of their deliverer, death.



Collection: Indian Captivity Narratives. A collection of first hand Indian captivity narratives from a variety of sources. For a list of sources, please see title page.

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