Joseph A. Altsheler.

The Rulers of the Lakes A Story of George and Champlain online

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strong incentive to the spirits of the men.

"Go, lads, and rest!" he repeated to Robert and Tayoga, and now that
their supreme task was achieved they felt the need of obeying him. Both
were sagging with weariness, and it was well for the Onondaga to look to
his shoulder, which was still a little lame. As they saluted and left
the tent a young Indian lad sprang toward them and greeted them eagerly.
It was young Joseph Brant, the famous Thayendanega of later days, the
brother of Molly Brant, Colonel William Johnson's Mohawk wife.

"Hail, Tayoga! Hail, Dagaeoga!" he exclaimed in the Mohawk tongue. "I
knew that you were inside with Waraiyageh! You have brought great news,
it is rumored already! It is no secret, is it?"

"We do have news, mighty news, and it is no secret," replied Robert.
"It's news that will give you your opportunity of starting on the long
path that leads to the making of a great chief. Dieskau has marched
suddenly and is near. We're going to meet him."

The fierce young Mohawk uttered a shout of joy and rushed for his arms.
Robert and Tayoga, after a brief breakfast, lay down on their blankets
and, despite all the turmoil and bustle of preparation, fell asleep.

While the two successful but exhausted messengers slumbered, Colonel
Johnson called a council of war, at which the chief militia officers and
old Hendrik, the Mohawk sachem, were present. The white men favored the
swift advance of a picked force to save Edward, one of the new forts
erected to protect the frontier, from the hordes, and the dispatch of a
second chosen force to guard Lyman, another fort, in the same manner.
The wise old Mohawk alone opposed the plan, and his action was
significant.

Hendrik picked up three sticks from the ground and held them before the
eyes of the white men.

"Put these together," he said, "and you cannot break them. Take them one
by one and you break them with ease."

But he could not convince the white leaders, and then, a man of great
soul, he said that if his white comrades must go in the way they had
chosen he would go with them. Calling about him the Mohawk warriors,
two hundred in number, he stood upon a gun carriage and addressed them
with all the spirit and eloquence of his race. Few of the Americans
understood a word he said, but they knew from his voice that he was
urging his men to deeds of valor.

Hendrik told the warriors that the French and their allies were at hand,
and the forces of Waraiyageh were going out to meet them. Waraiyageh had
always been their friend, and it became them now to fight by his side
with all the courage the Ganeagaono had shown through unnumbered
generations. A fierce shout came from the Mohawks, and, snatching their
tomahawks from their belts, they waved them about their heads.

To the young Philadelphians and to Grosvenor, the Englishman, who stood
by, it was a sight wild and picturesque beyond description. The Mohawks
were in full war paint and wore little clothing. Their dark eyes
flashed, as the eloquence of Hendrik made the intoxication of battle
rise in their veins, and when two hundred tomahawks were swung aloft and
whirled about the heads of their owners the sun flashed back from them
in glittering rays. Now and then fierce shouts of approval burst forth,
and when Hendrik finished and stepped down from the gun carriage, they
were ready to start on a march, of which the wise old sachem had not
approved.

The militia also were rapidly making ready, and Robert and Tayoga,
awakened and refreshed, took their places with the little Philadelphia
troop and the young Englishman, Grosvenor. Hendrik was too old and stout
to march on foot, and he rode at the head of his warriors on a horse,
lent him by Colonel Johnson, an unusual spectacle among the Iroquois,
who knew little of horses, and cared less about them.

This was the main force, and the Philadelphia troop, with Robert, Tayoga
and Grosvenor, was close behind the Iroquois as they plunged into the
deep woods bordering the lake, a mass of tangled wilderness that might
well house a thousand ambushes. Grosvenor glanced about him
apprehensively.

"I don't like the looks of it," he said. "It reminds me too much of the
forest into which we marched with Braddock, God rest his soul!"

"I wasn't there," said young Captain Colden, "but Heaven knows I've
heard enough horrible tales about it, and I've seen enough of the French
and Indians to know they're expert at deadly snares."

"But we fight cunning with cunning," said Robert, cheerfully. "Look at
the Mohawks ahead. There are two hundred of 'em, and every one of 'em
has a hundred eyes."

"And look at old Hendrik, trotting along in the very lead on his horse,"
said Wilton. "I'm a man of peace, a Quaker, as you know, but my
Quakerish soul leaps to see that gallant Indian, old enough to be the
grandfather of us all, showing the way."

"Bravery and self-sacrifice are quite common among Indians. You'll learn
that," said Robert. "Now, watch with all your eyes, every man of you,
and notice anything that stirs in the brush."

Despite himself, Robert's own mind turned back to Braddock also, and all
the incidents of the forest march that had so terrible an ending.
Johnson's army knew more of the wilderness than Braddock's, but the
hostile force was also far superior to the one that had fought at
Duquesne. The French were many times more numerous here than there, and,
although he had spoken brave words, his heart sank. Like the old Mohawk
chief, he knew the army should not have been divided.

The region was majestic and beautiful. Not far away lay the lake,
Andiatarocte, glittering in the sun. Around them stretched the primeval
forest, in which the green was touched with the brown of late summer.
Above them towered the mountains. The wilderness, picturesque and grand,
gave forth no sound, save that of their own marching. The regiments of
Williams and Whiting followed the Mohawks, and the New England and New
York men were confident.

Robert heard behind him the deep hum and murmur that an advancing army
makes, the sound of men talking that no commands could suppress, the
heavy tread of the regiments and the clank of metal. That wild region
had seen many a battle, but never before had it been invaded by armies
so great as those of Dieskau and Johnson, which were about to meet in
deadly combat.

His apprehensions grew. The absence of sounds save those made by
themselves, the lack of hostile presence, not even a single warrior or
Frenchman being visible, filled him with foreboding. It was just this
way, when he marched with Braddock, only the empty forest, and no sign
of deadly danger.

"Tayoga! Tayoga!" he whispered anxiously. "I don't like it."

"Nor do I, Dagaeoga."

"Think you we are likely to march into an ambush again?"

"Tododaho on his star is silent. He whispers nothing to me, yet I
believe the trap is set, just ahead, and we march straight into it."

"And it's to be another Duquesne?"

"I did not say so, Dagaeoga. The trap will shut upon us, but we may
burst it. Behold the Mohawks, the valiant Ganeagaono! Behold all the
brave white men who are used to the forest and its ways! It is a strong
trap that can hold them, one stronger, I think, than any the sons of
Onontio and their savage allies can build."

Robert's heart leaped up at the brave words of Tayoga.

"I think so, too," he said. "It may be an ambush, but if so we will
break from it. Old Hendrik tried to stop 'em, to keep all our force
together, but since he couldn't do it, he's riding at the very head of
this column, a shining target for hidden rifles."

"Hendrik is a great sachem, and as he is now old and grown feeble of the
body, though not of the mind, this may well be his last and most
glorious day."

"I hope he won't fall."

"Perhaps he may wish it thus. There could be no more fitting death for a
great sachem."

They ceased talking, but both continued to watch the forest on either
side with trained eyes. There was no wind, though now and then Robert
thought he saw a bough or a bush move, indicating the presence of a
hidden foe. But he invariably knew the next instant that it was merely
the product of an uncommonly vivid imagination, always kindling into a
burning fire in moments of extreme danger. No, there was nothing in the
woods, at least, nothing that he could see.

Ahead of him the band of Mohawks, old Hendrik on horseback at their
head, marched steadily on, warily watching the woods and thickets for
their enemies. They, at least, were in thorough keeping with the
wildness of the scene, with their painted bodies, their fierce eyes and
their glittering tomahawks. But around Robert and Tayoga were the young
Philadelphians, trained, alert men now, and following them was the
stream of New York and New England troops, strong, vigorous and alive
with enthusiasm.

The wilderness grew wilder and more dense, the Mohawks entering a great
gorge, forested heavily, down the center of which flowed a brook of
black water. Thickets spread everywhere, and there were extensive
outcroppings of rock. At one point rose precipices, with the stony
slopes of French Mountain towering beyond. At another point rose West
Mountain, though it was not so high, but at all points nature was wild
and menacing.

The air seemed to Robert to grow darker, though he was not sure whether
it was due to his imagination or to the closing in of the forests and
mountains. At the same time a chill ran through his blood, a chill of
alarm, and he knew instinctively that it was with good cause.

"Look at the great sachem!" suddenly exclaimed Tayoga.

Hendrik, loyal friend of the Americans and English, had reined in his
horse, and his old eyes were peering into the thicket on his left, the
mass of Mohawks behind him also stopping, because they knew their
venerable leader would give no alarm in vain. Tayoga, Robert, Grosvenor
and the Philadelphians stopped also, their eyes riveted on Hendrik.
Robert's heart beat hard, and millions of motes danced in the air before
his eyes.

The sachem suddenly threw up one hand in warning, and with the other
pulled back his horse. The next instant a single rifle cracked in the
thicket, but in a few seconds it was followed by the crashing fire of
hundreds. Many of the Mohawks fell, a terrible lane was cut through the
ranks of the Colonials, and the bullets whistled about the heads of the
Philadelphia troop.

"The ambush!" cried Robert.

"The ambush!" echoed the Philadelphians.

Tayoga uttered a groan. His eyes had seen a sight they did not wish to
see, however much he may have spoken of a glorious death for the old on
the battlefield. Hendrik's horse had fallen beneath the leader, but the
old chief leaped to his feet. Before he could turn a French soldier
rushed up and killed him with a bayonet. Thus died a great and wise
sachem, a devoted friend of the Americans, who had warned them in vain
against marching into a trap, but who, nevertheless, in the very moment
of his death, had saved them from going so completely into the trap that
its last bar could close down.

A mighty wail arose from the Mohawks when they saw their venerated
leader fall, but the wail merged into a fierce cry for vengeance, to
which the ambushed French and Indians replied with shouts of exultation
and increased their fire, every tree and bush and rock and log hiding a
marksman.

"Give back!" shouted Tayoga to those around him. "Give back for your
lives!"

The Mohawks and the frontiersmen alike saw they must slip from the trap,
which they had half entered, if they were not to perish as Braddock's
army had perished, and like good foresters they fell back without
hesitation, pouring volley after volley into the woods and thickets
where French and Indians still lay hidden. Yet the mortality among them
was terrible. Colonel Williams noted a rising ground on their right, and
led his men up the slope, but as they reached the summit he fell dead,
shot through the brain. A new and terrible fire was poured upon his
troops there from the bordering forest, and, unable to withstand it,
they broke and began to retreat in confusion.

The young Philadelphians, with Robert, Tayoga and Grosvenor, rushed to
their aid, and they were followed swiftly by the other regiment under
Whiting. Yet it seemed that they would be cut to pieces when Robert
suddenly heard a tremendous war cry from a voice he thought he knew, and
looking back, he saw Daganoweda, the Mohawk, rushing into the battle.

The young chieftain looked a very god of war, his eyes glittering, the
feathers in his headdress waving defiantly, the blade of his tomahawk
flashing with light, when he swung it aloft. Now and then his lips
opened as he let loose the tremendous war cry of the Ganeagaono. Close
behind him crowded the warriors who had survived the combat with St.
Luc, and there were Black Rifle, Willet, Rogers and the rangers, too,
come just in time, with their stout hearts and strong arms to help stay
the battle.

Robert himself uttered a shout of joy and the dark eyes of Tayoga
glowed. But from the Mohawks of Hendrik came a mighty, thrilling cry
when they saw the rush of their brethren under Daganoweda to their aid.
Hendrik had fallen, and he had been a great and a wise sachem who would
be missed long by his nation, but Daganoweda was left, a young chief, a
very thunderbolt in battle, and the fire from his own ardent spirit was
communicated to theirs. Willet, Black Rifle and the rangers were also
pillars of strength, and the whole force, rallying, turned to meet the
foe.

The French and Indians, sure now of a huge triumph, were rushing from
their coverts to complete it, to drive the fugitives in panic and
turmoil upon the main camp, where Johnson had remained for the present,
and then to annihilate him and his force too. Above the almost
continuous and appalling yells of the savages the French trumpets sang
the song of victory, and the German baron who led them felt that he
already clutched laurels as great as those belonging to the men who had
defeated Braddock.

But the triumphant sweep of the Northern allies was suddenly met by a
deadly fire from Mohawks, rangers and Colonials. Daganoweda and his men,
tomahawk in hand, leaped upon the van of the French Indians and drove
them back. The rangers and the frontiersmen, sheltering themselves
behind logs and tree trunks, picked off the French regulars and the
Canadians as they advanced. A bullet from the deadly barrel of Black
Rifle slew Legardeur de St. Pierre, who led Dieskau's Indians, and whom
they always trusted. The savage mass, wholly triumphant a minute ago,
gave back, and the panic among the Mohawks and Colonials was stopped.

When St. Pierre fell Robert saw a gallant figure appear in his place, a
figure taller and younger, none other than St. Luc himself, the
Chevalier, arriving in time to help his own, just as Daganoweda, Willet
and the others had come in time to aid theirs. The Chevalier was unhurt,
and while one dauntless leader had fallen, another as brave and perhaps
more skillful had taken his place. Robert saw him raise a whistle to his
lips, and at its clear, piercing call, heard clearly above the crash of
the battle, the Indians, turning, attacked anew and with yet greater
impetuosity.

The smoke from so much firing was growing very thick, but through it the
regulars of the regiments, Languedoc and La Reine, in their white
uniforms, could be seen advancing, with the dark mass of the Canadians
on one flank and the naked and painted Indians on the other, confident
now that their check had been but momentary, and that the victory would
yet be utter and complete.

Nevertheless, the Colonials and the Mohawks had rallied, order was
restored, and while they were giving ground they were retreating in good
formation, and with the rapid fire of their rifles were making the foe
pay dearly for his advance.

Grosvenor had snatched up a rifle and ammunition from a fallen man, and
was pulling trigger as fast as he could reload. His face was covered
with smoke, perspiration and the stains of burned gunpowder, the whole
forming a kind of brown mask, through which his eyes, nevertheless,
gleamed with a dauntless light.

"It won't be Duquesne over again! It won't be! It won't be!" he repeated
to all the world.

"But if you're not more careful you'll never know anything about it!"
exclaimed Robert, as he grasped him suddenly by the coat and pulled him
down behind a log, a half dozen musket balls whistling the next moment
where his body had been. Grosvenor, in the moment of turmoil and
excitement, did not forget to be grateful.

"Thanks, my dear fellow," he said to Robert. "I'll do as much for you
some time."

Robert was about to reply, but a joyous shout from the rear stopped him.
Over a hill behind them a strong body of provincials appeared coming to
help. Waraiyageh in his camp had received news of ambush and battle, and
knowing that his men must be in desperate case had hurried forward
relief. Never was a force more welcome. Along the retreating line ran a
welcoming shout, and all facing about as if by a single order, they gave
the pursuing French and Indians a tremendous volley.

Robert saw regulars, Canadians and Indians drop as if smitten by a
thunderbolt, and the whole pursuing army, reeling back, stopped. Then he
heard the French trumpets again, and waiting behind the log, he saw that
the hostile array was no longer advancing. The trumpets of Dieskau were
sounding the recall, for the time, at least. Robert did not know until
afterward that the Indian allies of the French had suffered so much that
they were wavering, and not even the eloquence and example of St. Luc
could persuade them, for the time being, to continue such a dangerous
pursuit.

A few minutes of precious rest were allowed to the harried vanguard of
Johnson, and now, holding their fire for a time when it would be needed
more, the men continued to fall back toward the main camp, from which
they had so recently come. The crash of rifles and muskets sank, but
both sides were merely preparing for a new battle. Robert examined
himself carefully, but found no trace of a wound.

"How is it with you, Tayoga?" he asked.

"Tododaho and Areskoui have protected me once more," replied the
Onondaga. "The exertion has made my shoulder stiff and sore a little,
but I have taken no fresh hurt."

"And you, Grosvenor?"

"My head is thumping at a terrible rate, but I feel that it will soon
become quieter."

"Its ability to thump shows that you're full of life. How about your
men, Captain Colden?"

"Four of my brave lads are sped. God rest their souls! They died in a
good cause. Some of the others are wounded, but we won't count wounds
now."

Robert was still able to see the indistinct figures of the French and
Indians, through the clouds of smoke that hung between the two armies,
but he saw also that they were not pursuing. At the distance he heard no
sounds from them, and he presumed they were gathering up their dead and
wounded, preparing for the new attack that would surely come.

"I was not in the first battle, but I will be in the second," a youthful
voice said beside him, and he saw the Mohawk boy, Joseph Brant, his face
glowing.

"We heard the firing," continued the boy, "and Colonel Johnson hurried
forward a force, as you know. We are almost back at the camp now."

Robert had taken no notice of distance, but facing about, he saw the
main camp not far away. Lucky it was for them that Waraiyageh and his
officers were men of experience. They had sent enough men to help the
vanguard break from the trap, but they had retained the majority, and
had made them fortify with prodigious energy. A barricade of wagons,
inverted boats, and trees hastily cut down had been built across the
front. Three cannon were planted in the center, where it was expected
the main Indian and French force would appear, and another was dragged
to the crest of a hill to rake their flank.

The retreating force uttered a tremendous shout as they saw how their
comrades had prepared for them, and then, in good order, sought the
shelter of the barricade, where they were welcomed by those who had not
yet been in battle.

"Get fresh breath while you may!" exclaimed Tayoga, as he threw himself
down on the ground. "The delay will not be long. Sharp Sword will drive
the warriors forward, and the regulars and Canadians will charge. It
will be a great battle, and a desperate one, nor does Tododaho yet
whisper to me which side will win."

Robert and his comrades breathed heavily for a while, until they felt
new strength pouring back into their veins. Then they rose, looked to
their arms and took their place in the line of battle. The trumpets of
Dieskau were sounding again in the forest in front of them, and the new
attack was at hand.

"Keep close, Grosvenor," said Robert. "They'll fire the first volley and
we'll let it pass over our heads."

"I know the wisdom of what you say," replied the Englishman, "but it's
hard to refrain from looking when you know a French army and a mass of
howling savages are about to rush down upon you."

"But one must, if he intends to live and fight."

Clear and full sang the trumpets of Dieskau once more. Despite his
advice to Grosvenor, Robert peeped over the log and saw the enemy
gathering in the forest. The French regulars were in front, behind them
the Canadians, and on the flanks hovered great masses of savages. Smoke
floated over trees and bushes, and the forest was full of acrid odors.
Far to the right he caught another glimpse of St. Luc in his splendid
white and silver uniform, marshaling the Indians, a shining mark, but
apparently untouched.

"The attack will be fierce," whispered Tayoga, who lay on his left.
"They consider their check a matter of but a moment, and they think to
sweep over us."

"But we have hundreds and hundreds of good rifles that say them nay. Is
Tododaho still silent, Tayoga?"

The Onondaga looked up at the heavens, where the deep blue, beyond the
smoke, was unstained. There was the corner, where the star, on which his
patron saint lived, came out at night, but no light shone from the
silky void and no whisper reached his ear. So he said in reply:

"The great Onondaga chieftain who went away four hundred years ago is
silent today, and we must await the event."

"We won't have to wait long, because I hear a single trumpet now, and to
me it sounds wonderfully like the call to charge."

The silver note thrilled through the woods, the French regulars and
Canadians uttered a shout, which was followed instantly by the terrible
yell of the Indians, and then the thickets crashed beneath the tread of
the attacking army.

"Here they come!" shouted Grosvenor, and, laying his rifle across the
log, he fired almost at random into the charging mass. Robert and Tayoga
picked their targets, and their bullets sped true. All along the
American line ran the fierce fire, the crest of the whole barricade
blazing with red, while the artillery, which the savages always dreaded,
opened on them with showers of grape.

The Indians, despite all the bravery and example of St. Luc, wavered,
and, as their dead fell around them, they began to give forth laments,
instead of triumphant yells. But the regulars in the center, led by
Dieskau, came on as steadily as ever, and the little group behind the
log, of which Tayoga and Robert were the leading spirits, turned their
rifles upon them. Robert presently heard a youthful shout of exultation
at the far end of the log, and he saw the boy, Joseph Brant, reloading
the rifle which he had fired in his first battle. The French regulars
suddenly stopped, and Grosvenor cried:

"It will be no Duquesne! No Duquesne again!"

The French were not withdrawing. Upon that field, as well as every other
in North America, they showed that they were the bravest of the brave.
Wheeling his regulars and Canadians to the right, Dieskau sought to
crush there the three American regiments of Titcomb, Ruggles and
Williams, and for an hour the battle at that point swayed to and fro,
often almost hand to hand. Titcomb was slain and many of his officers
fell, but when Dieskau himself came into view an American rifleman shot
him through the leg. His adjutant, a gallant young officer named
Montreuil, although wounded himself, rushed from cover, seized his
wounded chief in his arms and bore him to the shelter of a tree.

But he was not safe long even there. While they were washing his wounds
he was struck again by two bullets, in the knee and in the thigh. Two


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Online LibraryJoseph A. AltshelerThe Rulers of the Lakes A Story of George and Champlain → online text (page 20 of 21)