Emerson Bennett.

Forest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier online

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and then advancing to the bride, he extended his hand,
and said : ^

" Permit me to congratulate you ! You know it was
always my desire to be present at your wedding !"

Her face flushed crimson ; and it was observed that she


trembled more than ever as she took his hand and in turn
presented him to him who had now acquired the title of
legal protector. A few civilities* were exchanged between
the different parties, and Mr. Yaughan was invited to
become a guest at the board of honor. Room was made
for him on the side of the table opposite the bride, and
matters once more resumed their natural course ; but not
with the same freedom and hilarity as before all parties
seeming to act under deep restraint. If Vaughan noticed
this, he appeared not to do so, but now and then ex-
changed a few civil words with those around him, and
altogether conducted himself as one who believed himself
a welcome guest.

At length, taking up a bottle of wine which, it was
subsequently remembered, he for some time held in his
hand in a peculiar way; though it excited no suspicion at
the time he said, looking directly at the newly-wedded
pair :

" Will you permit me to drink a toast with you ?"

Receiving a quiet assent, he reached over, filled their
glasses, and then his own.

" My sentiment," he continued, " is one which I know
you will not refuse. Here is happiness through life, and
only separation by death 1"

The toast was a little singular, and the word death
seemed mal apropos. Why should it have been uttered


then and there ? It was the last word of the sentence >
was pronounced distinctly, though without emphasis but
it unpleasantly fixed the mind upon what nobody cared to
think about during a wedding feast.

The wine was drank in a kind of ominous silence, the
bride turning a shade paler as the ruby liquid passed her
lips ; but it was noticed that the giver of the toast only
slightly wet his lips, and, making some apology for his
abstemious habits, set his glass down nearly full.

For a few minutes after this, nothing unusual was per-
ceived. Conversation in all quarters was resumed ; and it
was evident that, in spite of the new presence, the old feel-
ing of convivality Was gradually being restored ; when
suddenly Mr. Wallace started up and called out, in a tone
that sent a chill to every heart :

" Good God ! what is the matter -with Helen ?"

The words brought the attention of all directly upon her,
and more than one cry of alarm arose as the different
guests sprung up in confusion.

The bride was indeed deathly pale her eyes were closed
her beautiful features were working almost convulsively
and she was gradually sinking back in her seat and
falling therefrom.

Her husband, turning to her in alarm, was in the act
of reaching out his arm to save her, when he himself was
suddenly seized in the same terrible manner ; and both


would have fallen together, had not some of the excited,
and now terrified spectators rushed forward and caught

For a few minutes a scene of the wildest confusion
ensued. Young and old came hurrying up from the. dif-
ferent tables, and crowding around in horror ; and then,
in a tremulous, fearful, shuddering whisper, dark words
began to float through the collected crowd, and gradually
swell out into one long, loud, wild, chilling, heart-piercing
wail :

" They are poisoned! poisoned! poisoned!"

Then suddenly uprose another, a louder, and a wilder
yell the out-bursting shriek for vengeance, quick and
terribly upon the inhuman author of the dark and damn-
able deed.

But he was gone James Vaughan was gone, amid
the awful excitement and confusion he had suddenly dis-
appeared. Yet he must not escape ! the very earth
would groan to hold upon her fair bosom such a monster !

" Ah ! then and there was hurrying to and fro," indeed !
with sounds of joy all changed to shrieks of woe ! and
sounds of merriment to yells of vengeance ! Some ran
away in .horror, some wrung their hands with irrepressible
grief, some hurried to seek medical aid, and others flew to
arm themselves and follow the damnable author of all this


We need not prolong the tale of woe. Three days later
a solemn funeral procession wound slowly through that
mourning village, following that lovely bride and her noble
husband to their last dark and narrow home. But long
ere the clods of the valley fell upon their coffins " united
in life, and in death not divided" the breeze of the forest
swayed to and fro the dangling body of their inhuman mur-
derer, whom summary vengeance had overtaken, and sent,
" all unanointed and unaneled," to his awful reckoning in
the eternal world !

GENERAL LEE, in his Memoir of the Southern
paigns, makes frequent and honorable mention of one
Captain Joseph Kirkwood, of the Delaware line, whose
regiment, at the battle of Camden, was reduced to a single
company, of which the latter remained the commanding
officer. Owing to the fact that Delaware could not raise
another regiment, Captain Kirkwood, though truly deserv-
ing, could not by military rule receive promotion, and
therefore remained in command of a single company
throughout the revolutionary struggle taking a gallant
and distinguished part, not only in the bloody encounter
at Camden, but also in the battles of Hobkirk's, Eutaw,
and Ninety- Six.

After the declaration of peace, there being no other
military service for this gallant officer, he removed with
his family within the limits of the present State of Ohio,
for the purpose of a permanent settlement. He chose a
locality nearly opposite the present city of Wheeling, on

the right bank of the Ohio, and erected his cabin on a
15 (169)


commanding knoll, where, though greatly exposed, he
remained unmolested for a couple of years. It was his
intention to have built a block-house for further security,
and he actually commenced one ; but, from one cause or
another, it was still unfinished in 1791, when the events
occurred which we are about to relate.

One evening, in the spring of the year just mentioned,
^temall party of soldiers, under the command of one Cap-
tain Biggs, on their way into the country, stopped at the
humble residence of Kirkwood, and asked permission to
remain through the night, which was cheerfully granted.

The evening was spent in a sociable manner, in talking
over the various events of the times Captain Kirkwood
depicting some of the more striking of the military scenes
which had occurred in his experience, and also speaking,
with a soldier's sensitiveness, of his chagrin at seeing
officers younger, and of inferior rank, promoted over him,
simply because his little State could not furnish a sufficient
quota of men to give him the rank to which he was honor-
ably entitled.

When the hour came for retiring, most of the men were
assigned the loft beneath the roof, where, with the aid of
straw and blankets, they disposed themselves very comfort-
ably upon the rude flooring Captain Kirkwood, with his
family and the officer mentioned, remaining below.

All gradually fell asleep, and the house continued quiet


for several hours, not a soul dreaming that a merciless
enemy was even then stealing through the surrounding
woods in the darkness, bent upon the destruction of the (
building, and the death of all it contained.

Sometime late in the night, Captain Biggs, being rest-
less, concluded to get up and take a walk in the open air.
Passing leisurely once or twice around the dwelling, he
advanced to the block-house ; and, after examining ii
few minutes, and wondering why the captain did not com-
plete it, he turned his steps to the bank of the river. Here
he stood a few minutes longer, in quiet meditation, looking
down upon the dark, gliding stream the rippling of
whose waters, the slight rustling of the leaves, the plain-
tive hoot of the owl, and now and then the far-off cry of
some wild beast, being the only sounds that broke the
otherwise solemn stillness.

Once he fancied he heard a movement, as of some heavy
body in the bushes near him ; and knowing he was in a
region of country not safe from Indian molestation, he
started and turned quickly in the direction of the sound,
looking steadily for some moments, and prepared for
sudden flight, should he discover any further grounds for
his partially aroused fears. But he neither saw nor heard


anything to ^Justify alarm ; and turning away, he quietly
repaired to the dwelling, re-fastened the door, laid himself
down, and fell asleep.


Soon after this the whole house was startled by a loud
cry of fire, which proceeded from one of the men who
lodged in the loft. Captains Kirkwood and Biggs instantly
sprung from their beds, and, rushing up the ladder, made
the startling discovery that the roof was all in flames. A
scene of the wildest confusion now prevailed the men,
thus suddenly aroused, and half choked with smoke, not
0^rly comprehending their situation, and the wife and
children all shrieking with terror.

As soon as he could make his voice heard, Captain
Kirkwood ordered the men to push off the burning slabs ;
and while in the act of doing this, a volley of balls rattled
in among them, followed by those terrific yells which ever
proved so appalling to those awakened by them in the still
hours of night. Two of the men were wounded by the
first discharge of the Indians whose position, on the top
of the block-house, situated still higher on the knoll, com-
manded the roof of the dwelling and being greatly
terrified, they all drew back in dismay, and some declared
that their only safety was in immediate flight.

" Your only safety is in throwing off the roof before the
whole house takes fire I" returned Captain Kirkwood, as
he pushed in among them, and put his own hands actively
to the work.

" We'll risk all that," said one, as he hurried to the


ladder. " I'm not going to remain cooped up here to be
shot at."

" By heavens ! you shall remain here till I give you
leave to go down !" cried the enraged captain, as he sprung
forward, seized the fellow, and threw him back violently.

" Let us pass 1" cried two or three of the others, advanc-
ing toward the captain the shots of the Indians mean-
while rattling like hail against the walls and burning rool*
and their wild yells now and then resounding afar through
the gloomy wilderness around.

" What ! mutiny 1" exclaimed Captain Kirkwood. " For
shame, men ! for shame ! Turn back this moment, and do
your duty ! Is it not enough that we have a common
enemy without, but we must have a civil strife within I"

" Who dares rebel against Captain Kirkwood's orders ?"
shouted Captain Biggs from below, whither he had gone
for his rifle. " Shoot down the first rascal that attempts
to escape, Captain, or refuses to obey you 1"

" Quick, then, pass me 'up my rifle !" shouted Kirkwood,
-who kept his position at the head of the ladder.

"Ay, here it is," returned Captain Biggs.

Just as he was in the act of reaching it up, a ball passed
through a small window, and, striking his arm, so disabled
it that he let the weapon fall. Kipping out an oath, he
picked it up with his other hand, and passed it to Kirk-


wood. The moment the latter got hold of it, he turned to
the mutinous men, and exclaimed :

" Xow let me see who will refuse to do his duty ! Back,
there, and finish your work of throwing off the burning
roof I The first man that attempts to leave this house, I
swear to send this ball through his brain 1"

The more mutinous of the number, finding the captain
determined, and that there was no chance for them to
escape, at once began to take an active part with those who
were already doing their duty ; and in a very short time
the burning portions of the roof were dislodged and thrown
to the ground the Indians all the while keeping up a
steady fire, and slightly wounding one or two more.

Thus far our besieged party had no opportunity to return
the fire of the enemy ; but now the latter, finding that their
first attempt to burn the house was likely to prove unsuc-
cessful, rushed forward in a body, with still wilder and
more terrific yells, and at once began a vigorous assault
upon the door and windows, the former of which they
nearly forced open at the first onset.

The danger now being chiefly below, Captain Kirkwood
hurried down, and ordered the greater portion of the men
to follow, leaving a few above to defend the open roof, in
case the savages should attempt to climb the walls and
make an entrance there.

At once tearing up several puncheons from the floor, a


party of men proceeded to brace the door in the most
effective manner, the others keeping watch near the two
small windows, and firing whenever they could get a
glimpse of an Indian.

In this manner the attack and defence was continued
some little time longer another of the party inside being
slightly wounded when suddenly the sound of a heavy
gun came booming through the air.

" CouragCj men I" cried Captain Kirk wood, in an ani-
mated tone ; " they already hear us at Wheeling, and
doubtless assistance will soon be here."

" Let us give three cheers !" said Captain Biggs ; "just
to show the attacking scoundrels that we are not the least

Three cheers were accordingly given ; and were an-
swered by the Indians, by the loudest, wildest, and fiercest
yells of furious rage.

" Ay, yell away ! you mean, cowardly, thieving vaga-
bonds !" shouted one of the men, tauntingly, as he reck-
lessly advanced close to one of the small windows, which
had not been so boarded up inside as to render his position
safe from the balls of the enemy.

" Have a care there, Walker!" exclaimed his commander,
in alarm.

Scarcely were the words spoken, when the man, clapping


his bands to his breast, staggered back, reeled, and fell to
to the floor, groaning out :

" Oh, God ! the fiends have killed me !"

Some two or three of his companions immediately lifted
the poor fellow, and placed him upon a bed, while the two
officers hurried up to examine his wound, which with deep
regret they-discovered to be mortal. As they turned sor-
rowfully away, the firing and yelling of the Indians, which
up to this time had been almost continuous, suddenly

"Ah! they are about to depart," said Captain Kirkwood,
joyfully ; "probably they fear a reinforcement."

"More likely they have stopped to plot some new devil-
try," said Captain Biggs, who was more familiar with the
Indian mode of warfare.

All kept silent for a few minutes waiting, hoping and
fearing so that the suspense itself was not a little painful.
Suddenly one of the men uttered an exclamation of alarm ;
and on being questioned as to the cause, replied :

" Listen ! Don't you hear the devils piling brush around
the house ? They're going to burn us out !"

" In that case we may be compelled to make a sortie,"
returned Captain Biggs.

" It must be at the last moment, then," said Captain
Kirkwood ; " for once beyond these walls, my wife and
children would stand little chance of escape. If they set


fire to us, we must endeavor to put it out. We have
considerable water in the house, thank Heaven ! and before
they can burn through these thick logs, I trust assistance
will arrive from the Fort.

Almost as he said this, a bright sheet of flame shot up
round the cabin, shedding a lurid and fearful light upon
those within. This was accompanied by a series of ter-
rific and triumphant yells, and a general discharge of fire-
arms on the part of the savages.

There was not sufficient water in the house to justify the
inmates in throwing it over the roof; and all they could
do, therefore, was to wait, in the most gloomy suspense,
till some presence of the fire could be seen between the
crevices of the logs, and then attempt to check its headway

Some half-an-hour was passed in this manner the In-
dians continually fetching and piling on more brush, until
the lapping and writhing fire had ascended to the very
roof keeping up the while their yells of triumph, and
occasional shots of musketry ; which, combined with the
lurid and ghastly light in which each saw the other, the
loud and awful roaring of the flames, and the groans of
the wounded, made a most terrible scene for the imprisoned
inmates a scene that cannot be fully described, and the
horrors of which can only partially be comprehended by
the most vivid imagination.


At length the fire began to dislodge the heated clay
which had been used to stop the chinks and crannies
between the logs and the furious flames to send in their
devouring tongues in search of new material for destruc-
tion ; and then all who were able set eagerly to work,
dashing on water, and so checking in some degree the
progress of the consuming element.

This was continued until the 'water became entirely
exhausted ; and then recourse was had to what milk thqre
chanced to be in the house ; and, after this, to some fresh
earth, which they dag up from beneath the floor the
Indians still keeping up their yells, and firing through
every crevice, (by which some more of the inmates were
wounded, though none mortally,) and Captains Kirkwood
and Biggs moving about from point to point, and ani-
mating all parties with their own heroism and the hope
of speedy deliverance.

The attack began about three o'clock in the morning,
and lasted till dawn ; when the Indians, finding they could
not succeed in their fell purpose without carrying the
siege far into the day, and probably fearing they might
suddenly be surprised by a large party from the Fort,
uttered another series of wild, discordant whoops, poured
in upon the building one regular volley, and then sud-
denly retreated the men inside calling after them in the


most taunting manner the voice of the poor fellow mor-
tally wounded being heard among the loudest.

About an hour before sunrise the whole party, having
succeeded in subduing the flames, ventured forth cautiously,
and immediately crossed the river to Eort Henry Walker,
the only one who lost his life, expiring on the way. Here
all the living were properly cared for, and the gallant sol-
dier was buried with military honors.

A few days after, Captain Kirkwood set out with his
family for his native State ; but meeting on the way some
Delaware troops, who were marching to the Indian coun-
try, and who offered him. the command of their body, he
took leave of his family and turned back. In the Novem-
ber following, he took part in the bloody action known as
St. Glair's Defeat; "where he fell," says his chronicler,
11 in a brave attempt to repel the enemy with the bayonet,
and thus closed a career as honorable as it was unre-

"Boys," said old Reuben Hardinge, as, with three of his
companions, he sat before his camp-fire in the deep wilder-
ness of the Far West, " it's right amazing how old recol-
lections will plump down on a feller every now and then,
and make him about as fit for his business as a turkey-
buzzard is for a singing bird."

" What's up now, Rube ?" inquired one of the others, as
he lazily inhaled and puffed out a volume of tobacco

" Well, Joe, I war jest thinking back to the time I fust
put out for these here diggings, and the right smart chance
of a muss that made me do it."

"I never heerd the story, Rube."

" I reckon none of us ever did," said another.

" S'pose you tells it, ef you're in the mood for't," put in
the third.

"Wall," rejoined Rube, "I s'pose I mought as well tell
it as think about it though thar's mighty few as ever
heerd it for it arn't one o' the things as I likes to hev cut

across my track purty often.


" Let me see now !" pursued the old mountaineer,
musingly ; " thirty year, I reckon, would take me back to
a right smart-looking young man. Now you needn't grin
so about that, boys for it's a fact, by thunder ! I warn't
al'ays the scarrified, stoop-shouldered, grizzly-faced, gray-
headed, grunting old beaver you sees me now, I can tell
you but a right smart chance of a sapling six foot high
in my moccasins, hair as black as a crow's, eye like a
young eagle's, and with everything about me as limber and
supple as a two-year old buck. Yes, that's what I war
thirty year ago but that thirty year has tuk it all down

The trapper paused for a few moments, as one lost in
contemplation, and then resumed :

"Yes, thirty year ago, it don't seem a great while,
nyther, though I've done a heap o' tramping and seen a
heap o' rough and tumble sence then, thirty year ago it
war ; and yit I can fetch it all back as cl'ar as ef it war
yesterday; and the way he looked, and the way she
looked, and the way I felt, all stand out afore me as plain
as the nose on your face, Joe and your wost eneiny'll be
apt to allow that you've got some nose.

" But you won't understand me, boys, onless I begins a
little back o' that partickerlar time, and so I'll do it.
You see the way of it war this : I war raised down in

Tennessee, on to a plantation that would hev been my



father's ef he'd only had all his debts paid, which he
hadn't ; and on another plantation, about a half a mile off,
thar lived Neil Waterman, who war a colonel in the
militia, and a squire-in-law, and some punks ginerally all

"Now Colonel Squire Waterman had a darter named
Lucy, that war the purtiest speciment of a duck in them
parts slim, straight, plump-lipped, rosy-cheeked, and
silky-haired, with two blue eyes that 'ud fotch the tallest
brute of a human right down on to his marrerbones afore
he knowed what ailed him.

" Wall, to git along into the meat of the thing, I fell
head over heels in love with Lucy, from the time I war big
enough to say boo to a b'ar; and I kept on that way, only
gitting wusser as I growed older ; and ef Lucy didn't love
me back agin, she made believe to do it, and that did me
jest as well for the time.

" But the difference 'tween me and Lucy, as we both
growed older, war, that I'd only one to pick from, and
she'd everybody for every scamp in the diggings war
arter her and some o' the fellers I used to think mought
be a heap better looking to her than Rube Hardinge
though I could out-run, out-jump, out-shoot, out-holler,
and out-lick the hull kit, and stood ready to do it any
minute that anybody wanted to try it.

" Wall, the p'int I'm coming to, ar' this : Things had


gone on one way and t'other purty considerable and me
and Lucy had quarrelled and made up agin about a hun-
dred times and I'd kicked the clothes off o' my bed every
night for two months, in dreaming as how I war kicking
some mean sneak as war trying to get on to the blind side
o' the gal of my affections : things war gitting on this way,
I say, when Colonel Squire Waterman he gin a corn-
husking, and axed in all the boys and gals around them

" I war thar, in course ; and I went thar determined to
keep poor Lucy from being bothered with palavers from
them as she mou'tn'fc like ; but, for some reason or other,
the gal had -tuk a notion jest then that nobody war no
bother to her 'cept me, and- that I war al'ays in her way
when I happened to git along side o' her. That thar sort
o' thing naterally riled me up and made me feel wolfish ;
and when I spoke, I ginerally said so'thing that didn't
altogether set well on the stomachs of the crowd though
as to who liked it, and who didn't, I never stopped to ax.

" Now, amongst the ugly mugs as war trying to tote off
the affections of Lucy, thar war one called Pete Blodget,
that I'd tuk a mortal hate to ; and jest as ef they'd both
planned out how they could best fotch the catermount into
me, he squeezed himself up along side o' Lucy ; and she
talked and joked and laughed with him, jest as ef no sech
a man as me had never been born.


" Wall, for me, I reckon I stood it purty well for a good
while ; but I felt Satan coming into me as I husked away ;
and I sometimes pitched the corn on to the pile, and some-
times over my head amongst the stalks and husks for
somehow blood war dancing afore my eyes, and I couldn't
al'ays see right well what I war doing. At last the boys
and gals all round me began to titter and laugh, and nod

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Online LibraryEmerson BennettForest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier → online text (page 9 of 22)