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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1107

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Magdelana Borst, the oldest of five daughters, marries Gilbert Martin and together they start off from her home at Fox’s Mill to settle farther west in their home at Deerfield. The time is July, 1776, and the spirit of the revolution reaches into the Mohawk Valley, where settlers who side with the rebels have already formed a company of militia commanded by Mark Demooth. Soon after he comes to his new home, Gil reports for muster day. Some Indians were seen in the vicinity. Also, the militia decides to investigate the home of John Wolff, suspected of being a king’s man. Finding evidence that a spy was hidden on the Wolff farm, they arrest Wolff, convict him of aiding the British, and send him to the Newgate Prison at Simsbury Mines.

A few months after their arrival at Deerfield, Gil decides to organize a logrolling to clear his land for farming. The Weavers, the Realls, and Clem Coppernol all come to help with the work. When they are about half finished, Blue Back, a friendly Oneida Indian, comes to warn them that a raiding party of Seneca Indians and whites is in the valley. The settlers immediately scatter for home to collect their few movable belongings, which they might save, and then drive to Fort Schuyler. Lana, who is pregnant, loses her baby as a result of the wild ride to the fort. The enemy destroys the Deerfield settlement. All the houses and fields are burned; Gil’s cow is killed; Mrs. Wolff, who refused to take refuge with the people who sent her husband to prison, is reported missing. Gil and Lana rent a one-room cabin in which to live through the winter. With spring coming and needing a job to support himself and Lana, Gil becomes the hired man of Mrs. McKlennar, a widow. The pay is forty-five dollars a year plus the use of a two-room house and their food.

General Herkimer tries to obtain a pledge of neutrality from the Indian chief, Joseph Brant, but is unsuccessful. At the end of the summer, word comes that the combined forces of the British and the Indians, commanded by General St. Leger, are moving down from Canada to attack the valley. The militia is called up, and they set out westward to encounter this army. The attack by the militia, however, is badly timed, and the party is ambushed. Of nearly six hundred and fifty men, only two hundred and fifty survive. The survivors return in scattered groups. Gil receives a bullet wound in the arm. General Herkimer, seriously injured in the leg, dies from his wounds.

After the death of General Herkimer, General Benedict Arnold is sent out to reorganize the army and lead it in another attack—this time against General St. Leger’s camp. When Nancy Schuyler, Mrs. Demooth’s maid, hears that her brother, Hon Yost, is in the neighborhood with a group of Tories, she decides to sneak out to see him. On the way, she meets another Tory, Jurry McLonis, who seduces her. Before she is able to see Hon, the American militia breaks up the band. Hon is arrested but is later released when he agrees to go back to the British camp and spread false reports of American strength. As a result of her meeting with McLonis, Nancy becomes pregnant. About the same time, Wolff escapes from the prison at Simsbury Mines and makes his way to Canada to look for his wife.

The following spring brings with it General Butler’s raiding parties, which swoop down to burn and pillage small settlements or farms. Mrs. Demooth torments Nancy constantly because of her condition and one night frightens Nancy so completely that she, in terror, packs a few of her belongings in a shawl and runs away. Her only idea is to try to get to Niagara and find her brother Hon, but she does not get far before labor pains overtake her, and she bears her child beside a stream. An Indian finds her there and takes her with him as his wife. Lana has her child in May. The destruction by the raiding parties continues all through that summer, and the harvest is small. Mrs. McKlennar’s stone house is not burned, but there is barely enough food for her household that winter. In the spring, Colonel Van Schaick comes to the settlement with an army, and the militia heads west once again, this time to strike against the Onondaga towns.

Lana has her second child the following August. As a result of the lack of food during the winter, she is still weak from nursing her first boy, Gilly, and after the birth of her second boy, it takes her a long time to recover. The next winter they all have enough to eat, but the cold is severe. During that winter, Mrs. McKlennar ages greatly and keeps mostly to her bed. The raids continue through the next spring and summer. The men never go out to their fields alone; they work in groups with armed guards. One day, after all the men go to the fort, Lana takes the two boys for a walk and then sits down at the edge of a clearing and falls asleep. When she awakens, Gilly is gone. Two Indians are near the house. She puts the baby, Joey, into a hiding place and then searches for Gilly. She finds him at last, and the two of them also crawl into the hiding place. Meanwhile, the two Indians enter the house and set it on fire. Overwhelmed by Mrs. McKlennar’s righteous indignation, they carry out her bed for her. They flee when men, seeing the smoke, come hurrying from the fort. Gil and the two scouts, Adam Helmer and Joe Boleo, build a cabin to house them all during the coming winter.

With the spring thaws, a flood inundates the valley. As the waters recede, Marinus Willett comes into the Mohawk Valley with his army, with orders to track down and destroy the British forces under General Butler. Butler’s army is already having a difficult time, for British food supplies are running out and wolves kill all stragglers. The militia finally catches up with Butler, harasses his army for several miles, kills Butler, and scatters the routed army in the wilderness. The Mohawk Valley is saved.

Three years later, the war over, Gil and Lana go back to their farm at Deerfield. They now have a baby girl, and Lana and Gil feel content with their hard-won security, their home, their children, and each other.