Captivity of the Oatman Girls


Captivity of the Oatman Girls

New Edition

R. B. Stratton
Foreword by Wilcomb E. Washburn
Foreword to the new edition by Billy J. Stratton

320 pages
16 illustrations


October 2024


$21.95 Pre-order

About the Book

In the spring of 1851 nine members of the Oatman family set out for California on the old Santa Fe Trail. Seventy miles from the California border they were attacked by Indians, who killed the entire family, except a boy, Lorenzo (mistakenly left for dead), and two girls, Ann and Olive. The girls were taken into captivity, soon to be sold to other Indians farther west. Lorenzo, though badly wounded, regained consciousness, and found his way back to a trail, where he received help. As soon as he was able, he began to search for his sisters.

R. B. Stratton’s narrative, based on interviews with the Oatmans, vividly describes the Oatman family, their fateful journey, the killings, the girls’ time in captivity, and Lorenzo’s search for them. 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 became a sensational best seller, which encouraged Stratton to enlarge the book. This Bison Books edition includes the entirety of that enlarged edition, plus a new foreword by Billy J. Stratton, which provides historical context for the captivity story and places it within the American literary tradition that resulted from violent encounters between would-be colonizers and Indigenous groups fighting for their lands.

Author Bio

R. B. Stratton (1827–1875) was a Methodist reverend. He lectured in California for eleven years before publishing his best-selling story of the Oatman girls in 1857. Wilcomb E. Washburn (1925–1997) was former director of for the Smithsonian Institution’s American Studies Program. Billy J. Stratton is an associate professor of English at the University of Denver and is not related to R. B. Stratton. He is the author of Buried in Shades of Night: Contested Voices, Indian Captivity, and the Legacy of King Philip’s War and editor of The Fictions of Stephen Graham Jones: A Critical Companion.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Wilcomb Washburn
Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the Third Edition
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII

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