The Captured is a fascinating true story told by Scott Zesch. Set in the Texas frontier in the latter part of the 19th century, the book is predominately peopled with German-American immigrants and Southwestern Native Americans.
Zesch, himself a distant relative of a captured child, has diligently retraced the paths of the nine children captured by Indians. He follows the journey of each child, from their abduction, through their residence with the Native American tribes and their eventual return to white society.
The story itself is intriguing. It highlights an interesting and little-known topic: a sort of specialized Stockholm Syndrome. Some of the children in this story witness their parents’ murder at their captors’ hands. Yet, in what seems to be an inexplicable turn of events, the children actually grow to love these same people, often as surrogate parents. Later, when the children are recovered and restored to their natural homes, they suffer severe depression and separation anxiety from their captors.
Although the story and the setting are wonderful, the book’s true value is in Zesch’s portrayal of the Indians. The Comanches and Apaches in his story are not transformed into angels or demons; their actions are not justified or exaggerated with praise. This is refreshing in our age of hyper-political correctness. The author’s depictions of scalpings, murders and tortures are factual and unflinching. He also shows the unparalleled generosity and devotion that characterized so many of these Indians.
It seems inconsistent that a war party would slaughter parents, loot a house and then adopt the children to treat them with great kindness. But it was so. The Indians in The Captured are not consistent and their actions cannot be easily explained. This is true of all humans, but writers rarely are able to capture this quality. Congratulations to Mr. Zesch on his simple, straightforward account of these captured children, and his excellent portrait of human nature.