On February 29, 1704, between two and three hundred French soldiers and their Native American allies raided the tiny frontier settlement of Deerfield, Massachusetts. The assault was a tiny skirmish in Queen Anne's War—a broader conflict between France and England. As a precaution, the townsfolk had sheltered in the town's palisade but they were surprised by the mid-winter attack and Deerfield quickly fell to the invaders. Fifty-six English men, women, and children were killed and over one hundred residents began a forced march through heavy snows to Canada.
Deerfield's minister, Rev. John Williams, his wife and five children, were among the captives. Although twenty one of the prisoners died along the way, including Mrs. Williams, the minister survived the trip. After over a year as a prisoner of war, he and sixty other captives returned to Massachusetts. William memorialized his Canadian experience in The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion. First printed in 1707, the book was reprinted again and again.