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exclaimed, with an oath :

" There she is, with her two bare poles run up so inno-
cent like, (the thief!) just above the Brandywine,

where she's playing 'possum, pretending to be dead or
asleep, like a spider watching a fly, and calculating to
take us as soon as we git up to her ! Yes, I'm afeard
they've catched us finely, after all, Captain !" he added,
looking down the stream; "for the fleet is pouring out
its armed boats to cut us off from the sea, and this sneak
is waiting to nab us as we go up."

" What we cannot cure we must endure !" said Captain
Stellwagen, in a seemingly calm tone of resignation, as he
took the glass, and for a few minutes quietly surveyed the
scene around him. " She does not move yet," he added,



A DARING EXPLOIT. 221

with some slight degree of hope, as he once more brought
his glass to bear upon the schooner, " and we are almost
on a line with her. Perhaps Ha ! there she goes !"

As he spoke, the fore and topsail yards of the schooner
were suddenly swayed aloft and crossed; her sails, one
after another, were run up and set ; and almost immedi-
ately she began to fill away and run before the breeze, in
a direction to cut off the more heavily-laden Concord.

" Well, Pilot, there is but one course for us now !" said
the Captain, in a firm, even tone of voice, as he glanced
around upon the gloomy faces of his disappointed men,
with an expression of mingled determination and despera-
tion; "we must face this she-devil and stand her fire for,
while a chance remains, I will never surrender."

This determination met with a hearty approval from all ;
and the pilot hopefully suggested that, by keeping among
the shoals and flats, where the .schooner could not safely
venture without a native of the coast to guide her, the
brig might even yet go clear.

The chase, which was now fairly begun, was excitingly
maintained for some considerable time the Paz gliding
steadily up the more smooth and open channel, into which
the fugitive Concord must eventually turn and the latter
essaying every art to escape, by crossing ridges and banks,
or boldly ploughing the deeper water of narrow channels
between dangerous shoals.



A DARING EXPLOIT.

As the space occupied by the dividing shoals and
sand-spits gradually narrowed, it brought the two vessels
nearer together, till at length the schooner opened her fire,
and sent her shot whistling around the brig and through
her rigging and sails, though without inflicting any mate-
rial damage.

Crow and Deadman's Shoals were safely passed by the
Concord, and good fair sailing might have given her the
victory; but the time had now come for her to find her
way into the main channel, or run aground ; and in
attempting to do this, her heel suddenly caught and
ploughed the sand beneath her; she stopped started
caught again ; and then, with every timber groaning, she
thumped hard aground, and fell partly over on her side.

All was over now, and so groaned the disappointed
Captain, as he gloomily surveyed the faces of his dis-
appointed men. The Paz, perceiving the discomfiture
of the Concord, at once ceased firing, and dispatched
some twenty men in cutters to take possession of what
was now her prize.

" Steward," said the Captain, addressing a bright-eyed
mulatto, as the foremost cutter, containing an admiralty's
mate, came alongside the brig, " hand the officer the man-
ropes !" and he himself walked quietly to the gangway, to
receive his captor with the same polite dignity he would
have welcomed him as an honored guest.



A DARING EXPLOIT. 223

" Who commands this brig ?" demanded the officer, as
he sprung on deck from the rail.

" I di<i, sir, before you came," returned the Captain, with
a polite bow.

" Your papers, if you please," said the other.

"They are American, sir," replied the Master, as he
quietly handed them to his captor.

" Then," returned the midshipman, merely glancing at
the manifest, clearance, and crew-list, "I take possession
of this vessel, and lay claim to her as lawful prize, in the
name of His Britannic Majesty."

He then proceeded to give the necessary orders for
securing the crew of the Concord, furling her sails, hoist-
ing English colors to her main peak, and preparing her to
float off with the next tide ; and as soon as these com-
mands were executed, he dispatched the cutters back to
the schooner Paz, bearing the pilot and crew of the Con-
cord prisoners, and a hasty report to the lieutenant-com-
manding he himself remaining as master of the prize,
and retaining Captain Stellwagen as his guest, the mulatto
steward as a general waiter and cook, and seven of his
own men to make every thing secure.

The day passed off with no remarkable occurrence the
Concord being got afloat at the next high tide and an-
chored in the main channel where she remained till the
second morning after; when, there springing up a fresh



224 A DARING EXPLOIT

breeze from the south-east, with a flying mist, indicating
the commencement of a " smoky south-easter," she was got
under way, and beat down the bay to within some quarter
of a mile of the fleet, where she was again brought to
anchor, directly under the guns of the seventy-four.

Here, feeling himself perfectly secure, and the storm
which Bad sprung up rather increasing than abating, the
young officer gave himself up to the enjoyment of good
eating and good drinking, and the happy illusion that he
was supreme commander of all he surveyed, and might
perhaps be sent home with the prize, to receive a lieuten-
ant's commission and be made a* lion of for his distin-
guished services.

The crew, too, became rather elated at their good
fortune ; and the rigid discipline of the service being some-
what relaxed, and good wine, direct from Lisbon, being
easily procured from the stores around them, they gradu-
ally became careless to a degree that at length awoke a
strange, wild hope in the breast of Captain Stellwagen,
that perhaps, with the assistance of his steward, he might
yet, by a bold, desperate step, retake his vessel and escape
from the very clutches of his foe.

Till this thought and this hope entered the mind of the
captain, he had been very much cast down and depressed ;
as indeed he well might be ; for he had by this capture
not only lost his all of worldly goods, his position as com-



A BAKING EXPLOIT. 225'

mander of a goodly ship, but his own personal liberty, and
the ardently-cherished hope of soon meeting with the dear
beings of his fondest affection and solicitude ; and though
he had seemingly appeared cheerful and resigned when
conversing with his polite and gentlemanly captor, it had
been the cheerfulness which one sometimes assumes to
cover grief, and the resignation which as often springs
from the very depths of despair. But now, with the bare
hope of escape the bare hope of regaining all he had
lost, and again greeting, with the fond kiss of a husband
and father, all he loved on earth a new life seemed
infused into his veins a new spirit seemed animating his
body and he felt as if, in some bold attempt for freedom,
he would have the physical strength of a dozen men.

He now, though apparently indifferent and at his ease,
began to watch closely everything taking place around
him ; and it was with a secret joy he could scarcely
conceal, that he observed the remissness of the officer in
command, who spent most of his time below in eating,
drinking, and smoking and the careless negligence of the
men, who, with their arms rolled up in a tarpaulin and
placed under the long-boat, passed a large portion of the
day under a temporary awning, which they had stretched
along the deck to secure themselves from the fine, driving
Scotch mist, and where, with plenty of wine and small
chat, they appeared to be both happy and oblivious.



226 A DARING EXPLOIT.

Under pretence of giving his faithful steward, Richard
Douce, some directions about his supper, Captain Stell-
wagen easily found an opportunity to touch him upon the
matter nearest his heart. Briefly mentioning what he had
seen, and what, if Heaven favored them, they might hope,
he added, in a low, earnest tone :

" Richard, how much are you willing to risk for your
freedom and mine?"

" My life, Captain Stellwagen, for my freedom and my
life, twenty times over, for yours, sir God bless you !"

" Thank you, Richard ; you are a brave, noble lad, and
I trust will have your reward. I have a plan in view,
which, should it succeed, will perhaps give us both our
liberty, and restore us to our friends."

" Ah 1 Heaven bless your honor 1" said Richard, his
eyes sparkling with hope.

" But if it fails, Richard " and the captain paused

and fixed his dark eye steadily upon the other.

" What then, sir ?" asked the steward, holding his
breath and turning somewhat pale.

" We shall either be cut to pieces by yonder men, or be
swung from the yard-arm of a man-of-war I" rejoined the
other, with impressive solemnity. " So. Richard, my
brave lad," he gravely added, "think well and seriously
before you decide upon what must result in liberty or
death !"



A DARING EXPLOIT. 227

" Captain," said the brave mulatto, after a momentary
pause, " I'm with you for life or death ! What you dare,
I'll dare and what you suffer, I'll suffer and God bless
you for the kindest master I ever sailed under."

"Your hand, Richard!"

The captain then briefly made known his plans, which
would not require action before the flood tide of the
following morning, and established signals between him-
self and faithful servitor, by which the latter would know
exactly when and how to act, even should there be no
further communication between them.

The following was a trying night to the two prisoners
a night of alternate hopes and fears but the next morn-
ing, to their unspeakable delight, they found everything
favorable to their purpose. The wind was blowing
almost a gale in their favor; the rain was fine and misty ;
the tide was running up ; the men were under their
awning, with their arms, as on the previous day, rolled up
in the tarpaulin and placed under the bow of the long-
boat ; and the Prize Master was below, thinking about
anything rather than the capture of himself and the escape
of his prisoners.

Soon after this, the Midshipman came on deck, and
exchanged a few words with his prisoner, on the state of
the weather, and the prospect of their being left unmo-
lested by the Admiral for at least another day ; and then



228 A DARING EXPLOIT.

the Captain went below, and was followed by the steward,
with some hot coffee, as was previously agreed upon.

The Midshipman's pistols and cutlass were in his berth ;
and these Richard Douce now hurriedly secured, handing
the former to his master and hiding the latter. This done,
he again went on deck, and took his. station by the cook's
galley, to await the final signal of life or death ; while the
captain, hastily swallowing a cup of coffee, called to the
officer to come down and take his ere it should cool!

As tire latter complied, the captain made an errand on
deck ; and on reaching it, he remarked that he would
draw over the hatch, to keep out the rain ; and having
done so, he quietly fastened it with the hasp, and thus
secured the officer a prisoner without his being aware
of it.

Glancing quickly around, and perceiving that every-
thing was favorable to his desperate purpose, the captain
now gave the signal agreed upon, a twist of his neck-
cloth ; and the mulatto, bounding upon the tarpaulin,
caught it up in his arms, and darted back to the quarter-
deck, where he succeeded in arming himself with another
brace of pistols before the astonished crew had time to
take any action whatever.

Both the captain and steward, pistols in hand, now
rushed forward together, the former exclaiming, in a voice
of thunder :



A BAKING EXPLOIT. 229

"Down into the forecastle, every man of you, before I
blow your brains out I"

Three of the surprised and astonished men fled precipi-
tately down the fore-castle hatch two seemed irresolute
and two, the boatswain's mate and quarter-master, made a
show of resistance. Instantly each was covered by a pistol
in the determined hands of Stellwagen and Douce, and the
captain again thundered forth :

"Back, I tell you, and down with you below, or, by the
living God above us, I will scatter your brains where you
stand ! I am a desperate man, and will have possession of
this vessel or die ! so down with you down ere I send
your souls to your Maker !"

As he uttered this threat, his fine commanding form
seemed to tower aloft; and the bright, stern gleam of his
dark, eagle 'eye, proclaimed that his was an oath that
would not be broken. The petty officers, awed by his
look, began gradually to quail before him ; and then,
exchanging glances, they sullenly turned on their heels,
and slowly followed those who had preceded them. The
moment their heads were below the deck, the hatch was
closed and secured by some heavy coils of rope, which the
gallant captain and his steward now drew upon it.

"Quick, now, Richard!" exclaimed the captain; "cut
the hempen cable, and let her drift beyond the guns of the

fleet I The wind is in our favor the tide is running up

20



230 A DARING EXPLOIT.

and if they do not perceive us in this cloud-like mist, we
shall soon be beyond their reach. God send we may ! for
our lives depend upon it."

He had scarcely finished his order, when the mulatto
severed the cable, and the laden brig was once more in
motion. A few minutes of the most intense anxiety
followed; and then there boomed a signal-gun from the
seventy-four, to warn the Prize Master of the Concord
that something was wrong. It was of course unheeded,
and was presently followed by another.

" Now then for our lives !" cried the captain, as he
sprung forward and seized a rope. " Cut loose the jib,
Richard ! Now hoist away ! There there up she goes !
Now, my brave lad, spring up and cut. the gaskets of fore-
sail and foretopsail, while I take the helm and keep her off
before the wind I'

The two men both worked hard and fast ; and in a few
minutes the sails were spread and sheeted home, and the
noble vessel was speeding away from her foes, favored by
wind and tide. Gun after gun now thundered from the
Poictiers, and shot after shot came whistling past the brig
and through her rigging ; but in fifteen minutes more she
was beyond the reach of her enemies, and bearing safely
homeward the brave master and steward, who had recap-
tured her by one of the boldest and, most daring exploits
on record.



.

A DARING EXPLOIT. 231

We need only add, that in due time she safely arrived in
Philadelphia, where Captain Stellwagen had the honor of
transferring to the legal authorities the first prisoners
brought thither during the war of 1812 a commissioned
officer and seven men captured by himself and colored
steward, and taken, together with the vessel which con-
tained them, right from under the guns of an Admiral's
fleet.

History does not furnish a bolder or a braver deed than
this.

Captain Daniel Stellwagen subsequently entered the
United States Navy, and commanded the Third Division
of Galley's at Commodore McDonough's celebrated victory
on Lake Champlain. He was afterward honored by Con-
gress with the presentation of a sword and a vote of
thanks, and died at Philadelphia in 1828, respected by all
who knew him, and beloved by those who knew him most.






THE life of the trapper in the Far West, in earlier
times, was one of almost constant peril. Setting off alone,
or with only a companion or two, into the great, lonely wil-
derness, whose only denizens were wild beasts and savages,
and pursuing an occupation which led him into the wildest
and gloomiest retreats among the mountains, he was com-
pelled to be. ever on the watch, night and day, to protect
his life against foes who often lurked in deep thickets, or
behind projecting rocks, awaiting an opportunity to cut
him off and carry his scalp and effects in triumph to their
barbarous homes. This wild life naturally made the trap-
per wary, suspicious, and ferocious a sort of semi-savage ;
and regarding his rifle as his truest friend, and the Indian
as his greatest foe, he took care to keep the former ever by
him, and kill the latter whenever opportunity presented.

One of the most daring, and for many years successful,
of these mountaineers, was a man by the name of Markhead.
He was a finely-built, athletic fellow, and was probably

as devoid of fear as it is possible for any human being to
(232)






ROCKY MOUNTAIN PERILS. 233

be and retain the natural instincts of life. There was no
persona] risk, at one period of his career, that he seemed
afraid to venture ; and probably, the renowned Kit Carson
alone excepted, there never was so bold and reckless a
hunter, trapper, and guide, who lived so many years to
boast of his almost incredible exploits. He managed for a
long time to escape with life ; though his body and limbs
were covered with ugly scars, which told the tale of many
deadly conflicts, and how near he had more than once bee&
to the very jaws of death itself.

As a single instance of what he had been known to dare,
it is related of him, that, while accompanying Sir William
Drurnmond Stewart in one of his expeditions across the
mountains, a half-breed absconded one night with several
animals ; and Sir William, being greatly vexed and annoyed
at the occurrence, remarked that he would give five hun-
dred dollars for the scalp of the thief. Soon after, it was
discovered that Markhead was missing ; but the next day
he rode into camp, with the scalp of the half-breed dang-
ling at the end of his rifle.

Markhead was by profession a trapper, and boldly ven-
tured into every region where he thought he might be most
successful in taking the beaver, having no regard whatever
to the dangers he would be compelled to encounter in his
lonely explorations. On more than one occasion he was

himself taken by outlying savages, who were only pre-
20*



234: ROCKY MOUNTAIN PERILS.

vented from immediately dispatching him by their fiendish
desire of burning him at* the stake ; but he always suc-
ceeded, sometimes in an almost miraculous manner, in
effecting his escape, and always embraced every opportu-
nity of a vindictive revenge upon the hated race.

The Yellow Stone and its numerous branches, from its
source among the mountains to its junction with the great
and turbid Missouri, was the favorite trapping-ground of
this daring individual ; and one of his most remarkable
adventures in this region of country it is our present
purpose to record.

Setting off alone, as was frequently his custom, with his
riding-horse, pack-mules, " possibles," " traps," and camp-
utensils, himself well-armed and equipped in mountain
style, Markhead penetrated far into the territorial posses-
sions of his savage foes, and at last fixed his camp in a
wild, romantic valley, and set about his vocation with the
same careless indifference to danger that the angler would
cast his line in the tranquil waters about his peaceful home.

Here he remained unmolested for several weeks, and
found beaver so plenty as to gladden his heart at the
thought of the "glorious time" he would have when he
should return to the "rendezvous," that paradise for such
mountain men as happen to bring sufficient "peltries"
to indulge largely in its luxuries, its games, and its general
dissipations.



EOCKY MOUNTAIN PERILS. 235

But going one morning to examine his traps, the gallant
mountaineer, to his great annoyance, discovered the fresh
print of a moccasin a little distance back from the stream ;
and the sight so roused his ire, that he at once gave vent
to it in a very uncomplimentary apostrophe to an indivi-
dual he had not yet seen ; and using all due caution to
guard against a surprise, he continued on down the stream
to his different traps ; and found to his great delight, that
each one held a prize, in the shape of a plump, fat beaver.
Having dispatched the animals, and reset his traps, he
cautiously, but proudly, returned to his camp, muttering as
he went along :

"The sneaking fool 1 to come and put his foot into my
mess in that way, and think to outwit me I But I'll fix
him yit, and every son of an aboriginee that comes with
him ; for whilst I find beavers coming in this handsome,
and begging to be tuk by a gentleman what appreciates,
I'll be dogged ef I'll be druv from my position by all the
greasy, copper-colored rascals in North America P

Markhead spent much of the day in hunting for " Indian
signs," but without discovering any thing to excite fresh
uneasiness. He found a few more moccasin prints, it is
true, but evidently made by the same feet j and he came
to the conclusion that some stray Indian, perhaps a solitary
hunter, had been near his camp and departedit might be
with, and it might be without, the knowledge of a white



236 ROCKY MOUNTAIN PERILS.

man being encamped in the vicinity. If the former, and
the 'savage had friends near, he thought it more than likely
an attempt would soon be made to waylay and kill him ;
and if the latter, that he had nothing unusual to fear ; but
as he could not determine this point satisfactorily, he
permitted prudence for once to have entire control over
his actions ; and he took the trouble to secrete his peltries,
lead his animals to a new grazing spot, and pass the fol-
lowing night in another place himself.

The next morning, Markhead, by a new and roundabout
course, went down to his first trap most cautiously, recon-
uoitering the ground as he neared it ; and much pleased
was he with himself at having taken this precaution ; for
right in the very path along which he would otherwise
have approached the spot, he now discovered three
Indians, crouched down among some bushes behind a
projecting rock, patiently- awaiting his appearance. By
the course he had prudently taken, he had come upon the
stream a little below, and consequently behind them ; and
he now, without being himself perceived, had them in fair
range.

" That's the way you painted heathens watch for a white
gentleman, is it ?" chuckled the trapper, as he slowly and
deliberately brought forward his long, unerring rifle, and
took a steady aim at the nearest, who nearly covered the
one beyond him.



ROCKY MOUNTAIN PERILS. 237

Markhead recollected the old proverb of "killing two
birds with one stone," and a grim smile partially relieved
the harshness of his vindictive expression as he pulled the
trigger. True to its duty, the piece sent forth its leaden
messenger, and with such force as to drive the ball clean
through the first savage and mortally wound the second.
The instant he fired, the daring mountaineer grasped his
long knife, and bounded forward with a ferocious yell ;
while the unharmed Indian, starting as suddenly to his
feet, with a wild yell of surprise and terror, darted quickly
away, leaving his wounded, floundering, and groaning
friends to the mercy of a foe who was never known to
spare one of the hated race.

On coming up to the wounded savages, neither of whom
was dead, JSlarkhead proceed to dispatch and scalp them
with the same ferocious satisfaction that he would have
butchered and skinned two wounded wild beasts ; after
which he coolly reloaded his rifle, without the least com-
punction of conscience, and with a self-complacent chuckle
at his own caution and triumph.

" Wonder how fur that thar other skeered Injun '11 run
afore he stops 1" he grinned, as he spurned his dead ene-
mies with his foot, and gathered up, as further trophies of
his exploit, the weapons with which they had intended to
destroy him. " Thar 1" he continued, as he moved away
from the dead bodies ; " I reckon I'll see to my traps now,



238 ROCKY MOUNTAIN PERILS.

without axing no leave of you, whilst you stop here to
feed wolves and buzzards, that maybe is wanting a break-
fast this fine morning."

He then, believing there was no further danger set off
boldly, and somewhat carelessly, down the stream, to visit
his traps. As on the preceding day, he found his success
had been somewhat remarkable ; and, fairly loaded with
beaver he returned toward his camp in fine spirits. On
his direct route, was a wild, romantic glen, with steep,
high, rocky hills on either hand, and between which
dashed, foaming and roaring, a clever mountain stream.
He had reached nearly the centre of this valley, and was
walking leisurely along, when he was startled by the sharp
report of several muskets, instantly followed by the fierce


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Online LibraryEmerson BennettForest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier → online text (page 12 of 22)