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Forest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier online

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name, don't let the savages butcher and scalp me ! If I've
got to die, I want to die in Old Kentucky, among my

This was an appeal hard to be resisted by brave men
with feeling hearts; but it might have been resisted,
nevertheless, and the poor fellow been left to his fate, had
it not been for the gallant youth, who declared he would
die on the field sooner than leave a companion in such a

On reaching the spot where the poor fellow lay, they
found him with one leg and one arm broken, and a serious
wound in his breast. Lifting him up carefully, they
hastily bore him to the only horse which was not yet
laden ; and carefully placing him upon the back of the
beast, they were just in the act of setting forward, when
the youth, who had been quickly darting over the field and
examining the fallen, called out to them that there were
two more yet with life, who must on no account be de-
serted. As two of the party ran back to pick them up,
another small body of Indians who for the last few
minutes had been busy in a different quarter, and had now
returned to the main field of slaughter poured in upon
them a close volley, and literally cut them down over the
wounded they were assisting, at the same time rushing in
upon them with brandished tomahawks and furious yells.

Finding there was no hope of saving any more, our


young hero now ran back to the main party, shouting,
"Let us give them a farewell volley I" which was imme-
diately done several of the savages in turn falling beneath
the fatal aim of the Kentuckians.

"Now, then, for a retreat!" pursued the youth, who,
though himself a mere private in the ranks, was listened to
and obeyed with the deference due to an officer in full
command. " Load up, men, and guard the wounded with
your lives ! In Heaven's name, do not desert them, what-
ever may be your fate I I will run forward and give notice
of your approach, that those who set out ahead of us may
not push off the last boat before you reach them."

" We'll all come in together, William, or you'll never
see us again !" replied one of his comrades ; and as they
began to urge their horses forward, the youth darted into
a thicket and disappeared in advance of them. % .

As he ran through the wood toward the river, his rifle
thrown across his shoulder, his eye constantly on the alert
for the foe, he passed over the gory corpse of many a com-
panion, who had been overtaken, slain, scalped, and even
stripped of his clothing and which, in fact, at different
intervals, marked the course oft the retreat from that dis-
astrous field of battle.

A last, faint and almost exhausted, our brave youth
reached the bank of the river, just as the only boat at that
point, heavily laden with the escaping fugitives, was in the


act of being pushed from the shore. Here at the moment
were, fortunately, none of the enemy but above and
below were sounds of conflict and an attack was every
instant expected.

" Hold, comrades I" he shouted, presenting his weak
and bloody figure to their view. " I am just in advance
of a few more of our friends, who are hurrying up with
the wounded I"

" Get aboard yourself, if you want to," replied one ;
"but don't ask us to wait for any more for another party
would sink us to say nothing of the savages, who may
attack us here at any moment."

" Yes, jump aboard," said another ; " and quick, too
or we'll have to leave you as well as them."

" Never !" returned the youth, with a mingled flush of
pride and shame ; " never will I desert my friends in such
a cowardly manner! Until the others arrive, I will not
put my foot aboard your boat, whatever may be the con-

" Then we'll have to leave you among the rest," called
out a third ; " for it's better a few should perish than all ;
and all will, if we stay here a minute longer."

He seized an oar as he spoke, and was about to push
off the boat, regardless of all lives save his own, when the
youth, throwing his rifle across the root of a fallen tree,
pointed the muzzle at his breast, and exclaimed :


''Beware ! the first man that sends that boat one inch
from the shore until our comrades are aboard, I will shoot,
so help me God 1"

The man, knowing the youth, and knowing him to be
one who would keep his word, at once threw down the
oar, muttering some bitter curses upon his folly; but a
few of the others, moved to feelings of shame and admira-
tion by his heroic self-sacrifice, took part with our hero,
and declared that all should escape, or all perish together.
This at once raised an altercation ; and hot and angry
words had begun to pass between the different parties,
when, fortunately for all, the last escort arrived, and were
immediately hurried on board the boat, by this additional
weight, being sunk to her very gunwale, so that it was
feared another pound might swamp her.

The youth, who had meantime stood back, giving
directions, and refusing to enter till the very last, on
seeing the condition of things, told his comrades to push
off at once, and he would find a way to save himself; and
without waiting for a reply, he hurried up the stream a
few yards, to where some horses stood panting, which had
escaped from the field of battle ; and selecting one of these,
he, by great exertion, considering his weak and wounded
condition, got upon his back, and forced him into the
stream, and toward the opposite shore.

The moment the men in the boat perceived that the


youth had fairly made his escape, they pushed off from the
bank ; but not a moment too soon ; for they had scarcely
got a dozen yards out, when a large body of Indians, who
had been attacking the boats below, came hurrying up
along the bank, and at once poured in upon them a heavy
volley. Only one or two of them were wounded, however
most of the enemy's balls going wide of the mark and
with loud yells of defiance, the Kentuckians returned the
fire, and then pulled eagerly for the opposite shore.

The wounded youth urged his horse toward the boat ;
but just before he reached it, another ball of the enemy
struck him, and shattered his right arm ; when, bending
over, he seized the mane of the horse with his teeth, and
so clung to him, till, overcome by pain and the loss of
blood, he fainted and rolled from his back into the water,
from whence he was rested by his companions at great
peril to themselves.

This heroic youth, who so self-sacrificingly saved his
friends, and was himself most providentially preserved
through many a perilous encounter besides these enume-
rated, subsequently rose to enviable distinction, and
became one of the prominent men of the West. In 1810
he removed to Cincinnati, where he passed the remainder
of his days. During the war of 1812 he was appointed
Major General of the Ohio Militia; and, in 1829, Sur-
veyor General of the public lands of Ohio, Indiana, and


Michigan. He proved to be as noble in heart as he was
brave in deed, and was ever noted for his public spirit and
benevolence. He died in 1831 ; and the public were then
called to mourn the loss, and do honor to the memory, of
a distinguished fellow-citizen the subject of our present

READER ! come with me, and together let us enter a
wilderness-fort, at a period when our now great Republic
was in its infancy at a period when the heroes of the
American Revolution were in the very heat of strife, doing
those brave and noble deeds which have brought their
names down to us covered with immortal renown.

There ! we now stand within the walls of a Western
fortress ; and on all sides we are enclosed by strong palis-
ades, about eight feet in height, which mark out the
ground, some three-quarters of an acre, in the form of a
parallelogram. At each of the four corners is a block-
house made of logs, which rises above and projects beyond
the stout pickets or palisades ; and in each of these block-
houses are loop-holes, which enable us to look out upon
the surrounding country, and also along the outside of the
pickets, without being ourselves exposed to the view of
whatever enemy may be lurking about.

And what do we see ? On' one side the Ohio river ; on

another a straggling wood, stretching back into a mighty



forest ; on the third a large cornfield, enclosed by a Yir-
ginia fence ; on the fourth a small village of log-houses ;
and on all sides hideously painted and half-naked savages.

Yes ! we are surrounded by Indians a large body of
vindictive red men who are thirsting for the blood of
those who are in the fort with us, for we are not the only
occupants of this stronghold. It is now past one o'clock
of a warm, clear, bright, autumnal day ; and since the
golden rising of the sun, there have been some terrible
scenes enacted, and many human beings have passed from
time to eternity by the most violent and bloody of deaths.

Last night soon after the tenants of yonder log-houses,
which we have pointed out to you, had retired to rest the
whole village was roused by the alarming intelligence,
brought by an Indian hunter, that a great body of savages
were prowling about the vicinity; and men, women and
children, catching up their most valuable articles, rushed
into the fort, and spent the night here in peace and safety.
This morning the garrison numbered forty-two fighting
males, including several youths, some quite young, but all
brave, and all sharp-shooters.

About daylight this morning, there being no signs of the
enemy, the commandant of the fortress dispatched a white
man and a negro back into the country on an errand but
the white man never will return. As he was passing
through yonder cornfield, a hideous-looking savage sud-


denly rose up before him, knocked him down with his mus-
ket, and then killed and scalped him. The negro saw the
bloody deed performed, and, with a yell of horror, fled back
to the fort, where he communicated to anxious listeners the
startling fact.

" We must dislodge the enemy, which doubtless is small,"
said Colonel Shepherd, the commandant of the fort. " Cap-
tain Mason, take fourteen picked men, and let the red
devils have a taste of your bravery and skill."

And Captain Mason marched out with his fourteen brave
followers, through that large gate which you see in the
centre of the eastern line of pickets, and hurried down to
the cornfield, which he thoroughly searched for his savage
foe, but without finding him ; and he was on the point of
retracing his steps, when suddenly there came the crack of
a hundred muskets ; a hundred balls came whizzing among
his little force, killing several and wounding nearly all ;
and then up-rose, on every side front, flank and rear
many hundreds of vindictive red men, who, with shrill
whoops and yells, rushed upon the gallant few still living
and began to hew them down. They made a brave resist-
ance but what could such a handfull do against such a
host ? One by one they fell, and were tomahawked and
scalped. Captain Mason fought desperately ;- and cutting
his way through the ranks of the enemy, succeeded in

reaching some fallen timber, where, though badly wounded,



he is now concealed, though all his friends in the fort think
him dead.

Twelve more men, under Captain Ogle, rushed from the
fort to cover the retreat of their gallant comrades; but
they too were drawn into an ambuscade, and were all cut
off from rejoining their friends in the fortress only some
two or three of the party being now alive, secreted in the
underbrush of yonder wood. And still three more of the
little garrison sallied forth to the support of Captain Ogle ;
but they were forced to make a hasty retreat, and were
pursued to the very gate of the fort, and fired upon as they
entered, and had one of their number mortally wounded.

And now the siege commenced in earnest. With whoops
and yells of triumph, some five hundred savages surrounded
the fortress, and began to fire upon it. And now the little
garrison numbering only twelve, all told began to return
their fire ; and so sure was their aim, that some one of the
besiegers bit the dust at every shot. Several times did
the enemy make a rush, in large bodies, to effect a lodg-
ment under the walls but the unerring rifles of the heroic
borderers, fired through the loop-holes of the different
block-houses, drove them back in dismay, burdened with
the weight of their fallen comrades.

Once only was there a pause in the conflict. A white
flag was thrust out of a window of one of yonder cabins,
and the head of a white man appeared, demanding, in


English, the surrender of the fort, in the name of His En*
tannic Majesty. He read the proclamation of a British
Governor, and promised protection to all in the fort, if
they would surrender at once, and swear allegiance to the
British crown. He was answered with derision.

" If you want the fort, why don't you and your red,
howling devils come and take it ?" replied the intrepid
Colonel Shepherd.

" And if we do take it, by ! we'll put to death all

that are in it 1" replied the white leader of the savages.

" You would do that even if we surrendered, you red-
headed, white-livered renegade 1" was the taunting re-

" No ! You shall be protected ; I swear it, by all I hold
sacred 1"

" And what do you hold sacred, you treacherous scoun-
drel !" cried the gallant Colonel. "Bah ! Simon Girty, we
know you ; and this place shall never be surrendered to
you, while there is an American soldier left to defend it."

Girty, the renegade for the white chief was none other
was about to renew his treacherous proposition, when
one of the men in the fort, becoming exasperated, lodged
a bullet in the logs, just above his head, as a warning of
what he might expect himself, unless he withdrew, which
he did immediately.

Again were hostilities renewed, and continued up to the


moment when we have seen proper to enter the fort with
the reader.

And now, for the second time since daylight this morn-
ing, have the Indians ceased their assault. It is one
o'clock, and for eight long hours has there been almost
incessant firing. Let us look through the loop-holes.

Away there against the wood, at the base of the hill,
beyond rifle range, you see a body of savages collected,
holding a council of war. Yonder, along the edge of the
cornfield, partly hidden by the fence and partly concealed
among the fallen timber, you may see many dusky forms,
and may readily believe you see only a few of the number
which there lie in wait, as a sort of corps de reserve.
And up among the cabins, yonder, you see a few more
savages some sauntering about, some peering through the
palings, and some gazing out of the windows. And look
where you may, in every direction you behold Indians.

How is it within the fort ? In the centre of the area
which the palisades enclose, in front of yonder row of
cabins where many a brave father, husband, and son slept
last night, whose mangled bodies now repose in yonder
cornfield in the centre of the area, I say, a group of men,
women and children are collected. There stand gray-
haired sires, and strippling youths staid matrons, and
maidens in bloom and all look sad and anxious. Some
of the men, with doleful faces, are leaning upon their


rifles, and wiping the perspiration, blackened with powder,
from their bronzed features ; and some of the women are
clasping little innocent infants to their hearts, and looking
down upon them with fond eyes dimmed with tears.

" God help us !" says the gallant Colonel Shepherd a
fine, noble specimen of humanity, who is standing in the
centre of the group and as he speaks, he casts down his
eyes and sighs. " If we could only die like soldiers, fight-
ing to the last, selling our lives at a heavy price to our
accursed foes, it would not seem so hard ; but to be com-
pelled to stand idle and helpless, and see the hideous mon-
sters enter our stronghold, and butcher our mothers, wives,
sisters, and children, while we ourselves are secured for
future tortures oh ! it is terrible ! terrible ! And yet it
must come to this soon, if the Indians renew their attack,
unless kind Providence saves us by a miracle. Men," he
added, with a kindling eye, "you have done nobly you
have fought like heroes : boys, you are worthy of your
sires I see no cowards here ; and oh 1 would to God we
all had the means to continue our gallant defence ! But
what are rifles without powder ? and it is a startling fact
that we have but three rounds left /"

"What an oversight," says another, "that we did not
fetch all our powder with us ! There is a whole keg in my
house ; and if we had it now, it would be our salvation."

" It must be procured," returns a third.


"But how?" inquires the Colonel. "The Indians are
all around us, and more than a hundred eyes are constantly
on the fort, so that no movement can be made outside the
walls that will not be discovered. And yet, my friends,
that powder must be procured, or we are lost. It is a
perilous undertaking and, in all probability, whoever
makes the attempt will lose his life, and so I will detail
no one to the duty but if there is any one here brave
enough to volunteer, I will accept his services ; and if he
falls, and we escape, we will remember his name and do it
honor; and if he saves us, and is saved with us, our
blessings shall be upon him through life. Is there any
one present who will volunteer to go into the very jaws
of death ?"

Four young men instantly spring forward, and, almost in
the same breath, each exclaims :

"I will go."

"But we can spare but one of you, my noble lads!"
says the Colonel, while his features flush, and his dark eye
sparkles with pride, at the self-sacrificing bravery of his
young comrades. " Which shall it be ?"

" Me !" cries one ; " I spoke first."

"No, no, John I was ahead of you."

"No you wasn't, Abe no such thing."

"I will leave it to the Colonel, if he didn't hear my
voice first of any 1" cries a third.


" I was before you, Joe ; I call all here to witness 1"
exclaims the fourth.

" Ho ! listen to Robert I was first I tell you I"

"No, I was first 1" cries John. "You know I was,
Colonel 1"

"But I tell you I am going for I can run the fastest,
and therefore will stand the best chance of getting back
alive I" cries Abe.

"I can run as fast as the best, and I'm much stronger
than either Abe, Joe, or Robert," says John, laying his
hand on the Colonel's arm. " Let me go do ! And
besides, I've got no mother or sister here to mourn for me,
if I fall."

" There !" cries one of the others " he talks as if he
might fall ! and I'm sure I could get back safely."

Look at their flushed faces, and eager, sparkling eyes,
as thus they wrangle for the privilege of being permitted
to go forth to almost certain death I for the chances are
five hundred to one, that he who leaves the fort for the
village will never return alive. And listen to the mur-
murs of approbation which come from the surrounding
circle of females ! A mother looks fondly on her son a
sister jooks proudly on her brother and a maiden's heart
swells with emotions unspeakable, as she hears him who is
the light and life of her world, boldly contend for the right


of being allowed to go forth into a peril from which most
men would shrink aghast.

" Come ! come 1" chides the Colonel, at length, speaking
almost sternly to the now angry disputants; "you will
ruin all, unless some of you yield for the Indians may
renew hostilities at any moment, and then we are lost
indeed. You are all brave, noble fellows ; and if I could
spare four, you should all go ; but as it is, three of you
must give way to the fourth; and I pray you do so
speedily, for time is precious."

" I will never yield !" cries one.

" Nor 1 1" exclaims a second.

" I will go, if I have to scale the walls to get out 1"
says a third.

" Colonel, I am the strongest and fleetest, and was the
first to accept your offer; and I demand, therefore, that
you settle the dispute by sending me !"

Look ! In the circle of men, women and children that
are now promiscuously gathered around these hot, eager,
passionate youths, do you observe one human face that
wears a very singular expression ? that seems to be
animated by some strange and powerful emotion ? It is
the face of a young and beautiful female, about whom
there is a certain air of refinement seen in the grace of
attitude, dress, and general demeanor which contrasts
rather forcibly with many of her coarse-featured, rustic


companions. But I wish you to observe that face particu-
larly not alone for its beauty but to mark the expres-
sion of noble, lofty, heroic resolve which is settling upon
it I Do you see the head gradually straightening back, as
if with pride ? do you see those dark, bright eyes kindle
with the almost fanatical enthusiasm of daring self-sacri-
fice ? do you see the warm blood spring upward to the
temples, and broad, white forehead, and finally settle in a
bright, red spot upon either soft, downy cheek, as if the
passion-fires of a mighty soul were already burning within ?
do you see the thin nostrils of a slightly aquiline nose
gradually dilate ? and the thin, determined lips gradually
close over those white, even teeth ?

There ! she moves ; and mark, I pray you, the proud
step, as she advances into the center of the circle, and
catches all eyes, and sweeps the whole group of curious
and anxious spectators with a lightning glance ! And now
her thin lips part, and she speaks in clear, silver tones.
There is no quivering, no tremulousness, in her voice
and every other voice is hushed. Listen !

" Hold I" she exclaims : " cease this wrangling I cease
this contention for the privilege of being allowed to throw
away a life that cannot be spared ! You are all brave
almost too brave since you so eagerly court death for the
honor it will confer on the name of him who may die in

the noble attempt to save the rest. But not another



heroic defender of this fortress must be lost I Already
thirty of the forty-two men we numbered this morning are
gone ; and shall we take another from the gallant twelve
that remain ? No, no this must not be 1 The powder
must be procured from my brother's dwelling but let the
first attempt to obtain it be made by one who cannot use a
rifle. / will go !"

There is an almost simultaneous burst of " No I no !
no !" from the astonished listeners to this heroic offer.

" I am resolved !" replies the noble heroine j " seek not
to alter my determination !"

"But you will be killed 1" cries one.

" Then I shall die with the consolation of knowing that,
so far, this brave little garrison is not weakened. "

" No, no leave this adventure to us 1" cries one of the
late disputants : "we can run faster than you fc and are
therefore more likely to be successful. We cannot yield
this peril to a lady, the fairest of her sex, and see her
throw her life away we should not be acting like men,
and shame would ever rest upon us."

" The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to
the strong," proudly replies the noble girl. "What is
my life compared to yours, who can skilfully use the rifle
against our savage foe, and are required here for the pro-
tection of these helpless beings who stand around you ?
Look at these little, innocent children, each of whose lives


is as valuable as mine ; and remember their whole depend-
ence is on you !"

"Lizzie! Lizzie 1" now interposes one of her two
brothers who are present "this must not be I You
must not go ! .We cannot suffer it and retain the name
of men. You cannot comprehend what you ask you
do not consider the peril. v Remember, you are just from
Philadelphia, where you have lived in safety, in ease, in
comparative refinement and luxury ; and you cannot surely
be aware of the risk, the danger, of trusting yourself alone
with a savage, merciless foe, who spares neither sex nor
age I Consider I there are numbers of Indians strolling
about yonder village, to whom your scalp would be a prize
of victory: consider every thing, and give over this mad
folly t

" Brother," replies the fair girl, " you have seen little of

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Online LibraryEmerson BennettForest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier → online text (page 2 of 22)