R. B. Stratton's narrative is based upon interviews with the Oatmans themselves. It vividly describes the Oatman family, their fateful journey, the massacre, captivity, and search. Olive Oatman's account of her captivity provided one of the earliest descriptions of life in Indian villages of the Southwest.
When first published in 1857, Captivity of the Oatman Girls was a sensational bestseller, encouraging Stratton to enlarge the book for later editions. The Bison Books edition reprints in its entirety the text of the enlarged third edition.