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1793 Bunn

Matthew Bunn [ca1772- ] was born in Brookfield, Massachusetts and enlisted for a western expedition about age 19. He was captured by Indians in Ohio and when he escaped from them he as captured by George Girty. After he escaped from Girty he went to Detroit arriving there in April of 1793. After many adventures he returned to Massachusetts in 1795. In October of 1826 Bunn swore in an affidavit that his story was true. The story of his adventures has gone through several editions but is still considered very rare in the original. ["The Rarest Story of Adventure in the region of the Niagara: Narrative of Matthew Bunn." In Pubications of the Buffalo Historical Society (7) 1904: 379-436]

When I arrived at Detroit, (April 30, 1793,) I flattered myself I was secure from any further insult from the savages; expecting the English garrison would protect poor captives, that fled to them for protection; and that if I was retaken, humanity would plead for me, in case it was called into question, supposing the English people deserved the character of being humane. Upon these principles, I took the liberty of walking the streets of that place, seeking for employ, that might enable me to procure some clothing, being almost naked; but I was very soon convinced that I had placed confidence in a people that were not deserving of it, and that by being too credulous, had imposed on myself. I had been there about three weeks before I could believe my own eyes. Within that term of time I had seen many Indians that frequented the place, and could not but admire how a few days after I was thoroughly convinced, by seeing them bring into the English garrison the scalps of men, women and children, for which the English would give them a large reward, and encourage them to practise their cruelties upon the Americans. They let them have fire arms, ammunition and provisions, and also ardent spirits, to stimulate them to action; at the idea of which humanity must revolt.

As I was walking the streets in the after part of a day on which some savages had come to town with their scalps and treasure, which had been taken from the Americans, feeling very melancholy, and not observing the Indian faces so critically as I ought to have done, my mind being much enervated by the frequent disappointments which I had met with, I was met by two savages that knew me, and said that I had run away from my master, and therefore took me prisoner, and were immediately going to carry me back to Maumee town. None can conceive the perturbation of mind which I experienced at that unlucky meeting, but those who have been in a similar situation. My pen or imagination would fall infinitely short of a just description; for the cruel savages, eager to begin their torture, and thirsting for American blood, with their uplifted tomahawks, crying for vengeance, could hardly be restrained from putting a period to my life instantly. I begged of them to spare my life a little while longer, and asked them if they would not ransom me in case I would procure them the money. They seemed more pacified, and accordingly were persuaded to go with me a small distance, to one Thomas Smith, an Indian trader, whom I was acquainted with (being the person that favored my escape from the Indians, by sending me to Detroit not long before, and whose name will ever be precious to my memory,) and when we came to Mr. Smith, I informed him how my circumstances were, and that unless he would befriend me, I should be miserable, lost, and undone, being threatened with instant death; but in case the Indians deferred it until they carried me to my master, it would be still worse with me, for then they would scalp and burn me at the stake. He being well acquainted with the Indians, said he doubted not one word of it. I then made the most solemn promise to bind myself a servant to him till I had repaid him for his kindness, provided he would redeem me from these savage brutes. Mr. Smith being now moved with compassion, began to barter with the Indians for my ransom, while I stood trembling for fear of an unfavorable issue. I understood so much of the Indian language as to be able to learn that they held me at a great price, and was ready to sink into the dust for fear Mr. Smith would not give it. At length a bargain was completed, and one hundred and twenty dollars was the price. Mr. Smith paid it, and the Indians gave him a bill of me, and departed. Language is too poor to express the gratitude which I felt towards my kind deliverer, who could have no other motive in my deliverance than the love he cherished in his tender bosom for his fellow men, when suffering. My heart must cease to beat within my breast, before I can forget that worthy gentleman. Again I was freed from immediate death, and a bound servant to the best of masters; but in a strange country, amongst strangers and only that one friend; naked and hungry, and a great ransom to pay. All these circumstances considered, it was but a gloomy prospect. A person at ease could not enumerate the obstacles I had to surmount, to regain my liberty. - When life is compared with wealth, the former preponderates; to rate the estimate, none are competent, but those who have undergone the trial; for when men's interest is at stake, and life in no danger, they think the object great; but when life is at stake, it will command the interest to redeem it, which will be given up with all imaginable pleasure. But my case was worse than either, for my life was at stake, and I had no interest to redeem it; and had it not been for my kind benefactor, I had soon been numbered with the dead. After I was liberated, I went directly to work under the direction of Mr. Smith, improving every moment of the time very industriously, earning a little here and a little there, till I was taken sick with the fever and ague, to which the inhabitants of that place are subject, especially new comers. My constitution being almost ruined, from the hardships I endured while an Indian captive, the fever ran exceedingly high, and for some time entirely laid me up. My spirits were very low, almost despairing of recovery. Being destitute of clothing, the cold fits which preceded the hot, would almost force me to the fire; and having no person to assist me, nor speak one consoling work, I was almost driven to despair, but in the intermission of my fits, would consider better of it, knowing the obligation I was under to Mr. Smith, and viewing the many difficulties I had encountered and surmounted, was encouraged; and considering likewise, that it was doing injustice to myself and my friend Mr. Smith, to give up. The feelings I had for my kind deliverer wrought a greater effect on my mind than my own case; so with patience and perseverance I conquered my difficulties, and again went to my labor and continued so to do for nearly the space of two years; in which time I had almost earned a sum sufficient to have paid my ransom; and had it not been for an unlucky accident taking place in a very short time should have completed my deliverance. But my sufferings were not at an end in so short a space of time, being again involved in trouble and difficulty, not with the Indians, as before, but with British tyrants, that heartless savages without the fear of God could only equal.

About Christmas, I went out to the river Letrench, to clear land for a Mr. Samuel Choat (a hatter by trade) about 80 miles distant from Detroit, and after laboring there about two months and a half, being one day at the raising of a barn for one Henry Boochford, I tarried till evening, and a company of jovial lads got together, some of them Americans, who came there with the idea of taking the oath of allegiance to George the III and by that means be permitted to take up new lands. We all being merry with liquor, began to drink healths. One of my countrymen drank a health to the king, and damnation to Washington, in order to ingratiate himself into the favor of his majesty's subjects, and demonstrate his loyalty to the crown of England, as I supposed. I was moved by the insult, and to retaliate, drank a health to Washington and damnation to the king. Henry Boochford immediately accosted me thus, do you damn the king? Supposing him to be in a merry humor, and not in earnest, I repeated my words. He again said, what! Do you damn king George? I replied I did, for what was the king to me? He still insisted on whether I damn'd the king. I thought him too much of a critic, and gave him to understand me so; telling him he busied himself with that which he had no immediate concern with. One word brought an another; being a little exasperated, and feeling as much for my insulted Washington, as he did for his king, I inconsiderately repeated my words, and more by saying that I damn'd the king and all the royal family, and all such fellows as he as, who took their part. By this time our debates were exceedingly warm, and continued so for some time; at length the dispute subsided, and I expected a good night's rest would have settled the matter; but it did not prove to be the case; it only lay dormant a few days, not extinct, as I expected; for not long after, I was visited by a civil officer, with a warrant to apprehend me, which he did, and informed me that I was indicted for high treason. He then carried me to prison, and put irons on my hands and feet, saying that I must lie in that condition till the sitting of the next sessions, then to be tried for high treason, and punished as the law directed in such cases, which was nothing short of death.

At hearing this, a dark gloom pervaded all future prospect of deliverance. Thus confined in a strong prison in irons, in that cruel condition to remain till next sessions, which was to sit in about ten weeks, and then to be tried, condemned and executed, was awful, indeed too shocking for human nature to contemplate. I began to wish the Indians had prevented this, which they would have done instantly, had I resisted them when they met me walking in the streets of Detroit. My sufferings were augmented by the fever and ague, which so enfeebled me that I was not able to walk the prison floor without the aid of some of the soldiers, I was almost destitute of clothing, having barely sufficient to cover my body. My lodgings were equally poor, only one old ragged blanket to wrap round me; indeed my clothing, lodging and boarding were all of a piece, for one pound of bread and that exceedingly poor, was my daily allowance.

At length the time of my trial came on, and being called to the bar, and questioned respecting the crime alledged against me, I plead not guilty. The court then proceeded in the business, but the charge could not be supported against me, as I had not taken the oath of allegiance to the king, and could not be considered as one of his subjects. Therefore, I was to be banished from that place, instead of being hanged - a happy turn in my favor, (tho't I) expecting to be sent to the United States. But they took care to prevent that; and to be sure of me (expecting the American army were coming the ensuing summer to Detroit) sent me down the country, about 350 miles, to Niagara.


See Also:

The Rarest Story of Adventure in the Region of Niagara: Narrative of Matthew Bunn. Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society 1904 7: 379-436.