Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

Southern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry online

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we not have reached the Pacolet before this ? "

" I have seen no road that could take us astray," replied
Robinson, " and, by what we were told just before sundown, I
should guess that we could n t be far off the ford. We have n t
then quite three miles to Christie s. Well, courage, major !
supper and bed were never spoiled by the trouble of getting
to them."

" Wat Adair, I think, directed us to Christie s ? " said Butler.

" He did ; and I had a mind to propose to you, since we
caught him in a trick this morning, to make for some other
house, if such a thing was possible, or else to spend the night
in the woods."

" Perhaps it would be wise, sergeant ; and if you think so
still, I will be ruled by you."

" If we once got by the riverside, where our horses mought
have water, I almost think I should advise a halt there. Al
though I have made one observation, Major Butler that
running water is lean fare for a hungry man. Howsever, it
won t hurt us, and if you say the word we will stop there."

" Then, sergeant, I do say the word."

" Is n t that the glimmering of a light yonder in the bushes?"
inquired Horseshoe, as he turned his gaze in the direction of
the bivouac, "or is it these here lightning bugs that keep so
busy shooting about?"

" I thought I saw the light you speak of, Galbraith ; but it
has disappeared."

" It is there again, major ; and I hear the rushing of the
river we are near the ford. Perhaps this light comes from
some cabin on the bank."

" God send that it should turn out so, Galbraith ! for I am
very weary."

" There is some devilment going on in these woods, major.


I saw a figure pass in front of the light through the bushes.
I would be willing to swear it was a man on horseback.
Perhaps we have, by chance, fallen on some Tory muster ; or,
what s not so likely, they may be friends. I think I will ride
forward and challenge."

" Better pass unobserved, if you can, sergeant," interrupted
Butler. " It will not do for us to run the risk of being sepa
rated. Here we are at the river ; let us cross, and ride some
distance ; then, if any one follow us, we shall be more certain
of his design."

They now cautiously advanced into the river, which, though
rapid, was shallow ; and having reached the middle of the
stream, they halted to allow their horses water.

" Captain Peter is as thirsty as a man in a fever," said
Horseshoe. " He drinks as if he was laying in for a week.
Now, major, since we are here in the river, look up the stream.
Don t you see, from the image in the water, that there s a fire
on the bank? And there, by my soul! there are men on
horseback. Look towards the light. Spur, and out on the
other side ! Quick quick they are upon us ! "

At the same instant that Horseshoe spoke a bullet whistled
close by his ear, and in the next, six or eight men galloped
into the river from different points. This was succeeded by a
sharp report of firearms from both parties, and the vigorous
charge of Robinson, followed by Butler, through the array of
the assailants. They gained the opposite bank and now di
rected all their efforts to outrun their pursuers ; but in the very
crisis of their escape Butler s horse, bounding under the prick
of the spur, staggered a few paces from the river and fell dead.
A bullet had lodged in a vital part, and the energy of the brave
steed was spent in the effort to bear his master through the
stream. Butler fell beneath the stricken animal, from whence
he was unable to extricate himself. The sergeant, seeing his


comrade s condition, sprang from his horse and ran to his
assistance, and, in the same interval, the ruffian followers
gained the spot and surrounded their prisoners. An ineffectual
struggle ensued over the prostrate horse and rider, in which
Robinson bore down more than one of his adversaries, but was
obliged, at last, to yield to the overwhelming power that pressed
upon him.

" Bury your swords in both of them to the hilts ! " shouted
Habershaw ; " I don t want to have that work to do to-morrow."

" Stand off ! " cried Gideon Blake, as two or three of the
gang sprang forward to execute their captain s order ; " stand
off ! the man is on his back, and he shall not be murdered in
cold blood " ; and the speaker took a position near Butler,
prepared to make good his resolve. The spirit of Blake had
its desired effect, and the same assailants now turned upon

" Hold ! " cried Peppercorn, throwing up his sword and
warding off the blows that were aimed by these men at the
body of the sergeant. " Hold, you knaves ! this is my prisoner.
I will deal with him to my liking. Would a dozen of you strike
one man when he has surrendered ? Back, ye cowards ; leave
him to me. How now, old Horseshoe ; are you caught, with
your gay master here ? Come, come, we know you both. So
yield with a good grace, lest, peradventure, I might happen to
blow out your brains."

" Silence, fellows ! You carrion crows ! " roared Habershaw.
" Remember the discipline I taught you. No disorder, nor con
fusion, but take the prisoners, since you hav n t the heart to
strike; take them to the rendezvous. And do it quietly do you
hear ? Secure the baggage ; and about it quickly, you hounds!"

Butler was now lifted from the ground, and, with his com-,
panion, was taken into the custody of Blake and one or two of
his companions, who seemed to share in his desire to prevent the


shedding of blood. The prisoners were each mounted behind
one of the troopers, and in this condition conducted across the
river. The saddle and other equipments were stripped from
the major s dead steed ; and Robinson s horse, Captain Peter,
was burdened with the load of two wounded men, whose
own horses had escaped from them in the fray. In this guise
the band of freebooters, with their prisoners and spoils, slowly
and confusedly made their way to the appointed place of re
assembling. In a few moments they were ranged beneath the
chestnut, waiting for orders from their self-important and vain

[The next day Horseshoe Robinson managed to escape and
bent all his ingenuity to bring about the freedom of Butler.
While endeavoring to accomplish this, he meets with the fol
lowing adventure.]


David Ramsay s house was situated on a byroad, between
five and six miles from Musgrove s mill, and at about the
distance of one mile from the principal route of travel between
Ninety-Six and Blackstock s. In passing from the military post
that had been established at the former place, towards the
latter, Ramsay s lay off to the left, with a piece of dense wood
intervening. The byway, leading through the farm, diverged
from the main road and traversed this wood until it reached
the cultivated grounds immediately around Ramsay s dwelling.
In the journey from Musgrove s mill to this point of diver
gence the traveler was obliged to ride some two or three miles
upon the great road leading from the British garrison, a road
that, at the time of my story, was much frequented by military
parties, scouts, and patrols, that were concerned in keeping
up the communication between the several posts which were


established by the British authorities along that frontier.
Amongst the Whig parties, also, there were various occasions
which brought them under the necessity of frequent passage
through this same district, and which, therefore, furnished op
portunities for collision and skirmish with the opposite forces.

On the morning that succeeded the night in which Horse
shoe Robinson arrived at Musgrove s, the stout and honest
sergeant might have been seen, about eight o clock, leaving the
main road from Ninety-Six, at the point where that leading to
David Ramsay s separated from it, and cautiously urging his
way into the deep forest by the more private path into which
he had entered. The knowledge that Innis was encamped
along the Ennoree within a short distance of the mill had
compelled him to make an extensive circuit to reach Ramsay s
dwelling, whither he was now bent ; and he had experienced
considerable delay in his morning journey by finding himself
frequently in the neighborhood of small foraging parties of
Tories whose motions he was obliged to watch for fear of an
encounter. He had once already been compelled to use his
horse s heels in what he called " fair flight," and once to
ensconce himself a full half hour under cover of the thicket
afforded him by a swamp. He now, therefore, according to his
own phrase, " dived into the little road that scrambled down
through the woods towards Ramsay s, with all his eyes about
him, looking out as sharply as a fox on a foggy morning " ;
and with this circumspection he was not long in arriving within
view of Ramsay s house. Like a practiced soldier, whom
frequent frays has taught wisdom, he resolved to reconnoiter
before he advanced upon a post that might be in possession of
an enemy. He therefore dismounted, fastened his horse in a
fence corner, where a field of corn concealed him from notice,
and then stealthily crept forward until he came immediately
behind one of the outhouses.


The barking of a house dog brought out a negro boy, to
whom Robinson instantly addressed the query,

"Is your master at home ? "

" No, sir. He s got his horse, and gone off more than an
hour ago."

" Where is your mistress ? "

" Shelling beans, sir."

" I didn t ask you," said the sergeant, "what she is doing,
but where she is."

" In course, she is in the house, sir," replied the negro
with a grin.

" Any strangers there ? "

" There was plenty on em a little while ago, but they Ve
been gone a good bit."

Robinson, having thus satisfied himself as to the safety of his
visit, directed the boy to take his horse and lead him up to the
door. He then entered the dwelling.

" Mistress Ramsay," said he, walking up to the dame, who
was occupied at a table, with a large trencher before her, in
which she was plying that household thrift which the negro
described ; " luck to you, ma am, and all your house ! I hope
you haven t none of these clinking and clattering bullies about
you, that are as thick over this country as the frogs in the
kneading troughs, that they tell of."

" Good lack, Mr. Horseshoe Robinson," exclaimed the
matron, offering the sergeant her hand. " What has brought
you here ? What news ? Who are with you ? For patience
sake, tell me ! "

" I am alone," said Robinson, " and a little wettish, mistress,"
he added, as he took off his hat and shook the water from it ;
" it has just sot up a rain, and looks as if it was going to give
us enough on t. You don t mind doing a little dinner work of
a Sunday, I see shelling of beans, I s pose, is tantamount to


dragging a sheep out of a pond, as the preachers allow on the
Sabbath ha, ha ! Where s Davy ? "

" He s gone over to the meetinghouse on Ennoree, hoping
to hear something of the army at Camden ; perhaps you can
tell us the news from that quarter ? "

" Faith, that s a mistake, Mistress Ramsay. Though I don t
doubt that they are hard upon the scratches by this time. But,
at this present speaking, I command the flying artillery. We
have but one man in the corps and that s myself ; and all
the guns we have got is this piece of ordinance that hangs in
this old belt by my side (pointing to his sword), and that I cap
tured from the enemy at Blackstock s. I was hoping I mought
find John Ramsay at home I have need of him as a recruit."

" Ah, Mr. Robinson, John has a heavy life of it over there
with Sumpter. The boy is often without his natural rest, or a
meal s victuals, and the general thinks so much of him that
he can t spare him to come home. I haven t the heart to
complain as long as John s service is of any use, but it does
seem, Mr. Robinson, like needless tempting of the mercies of
Providence. We thought that he might have been here to-day ;
yet I am glad he did n t come, for he would have been cer
tain to get into trouble. Who should come in this morning,
just after my husband had cleverly got away on his horse, but
a young cock-a-whoop ensign that belongs to Ninety-Six, and
four .great Scotchmen with him, all in red coats ; they had been
out thieving, I warrant, and were now going home again. And
who but they ! Here they were, swaggering all about my house,
and calling for this, and calling for that as if they owned the
feesimple of everything on the plantation. And it made my
blood rise, Mr. Horseshoe, to see them run out in the yard and
catch up my chickens and ducks, and kill as many as they
could string about them and I not daring to say a word,
though I did give them a piece of my mind, too."


" Who is at home with you ? " inquired the sergeant, eagerly.

" Nobody but my youngest boy, Andrew, answered the
dame. " And then the filthy, toping rioters " she continued,
exalting her voice.

"What arms have you in the house?" asked Robinson,
without heeding the dame s rising anger.

" We have a rifle, and a horseman s pistol that belongs to
John. They must call for drink, too, and turn my house of a
Sunday morning into a tavern."

" They took the route towards Ninety-Six, you said, Mistress
Ramsay ? "

" Yes ; they went straight forward upon the road. But,
look you, Mr. Horseshoe, you re not thinking of going after

" Is n t there an old field, about a mile from this, on that
road ? " inquired the sergeant, still intent upon his own

" There is," replied the dame ; " with the old schoolhouse
upon it."

" A lopsided, rickety, log cabin in the middle of the field.
Am I right, good woman ? "

" Yes."

" And nobody lives in it ? It has no door to it ? "

" There ha n t been anybody in it these seven years."

" I know the place very well," said the sergeant, thought
fully ; " there is woods just on this side of it."

" That s true," replied the dame ; " but what is it you are
thinking about, Mr. Robinson ? "

" How long before this rain began was it that they quitted
this house ? "

" Not above fifteen minutes."

" Mistress Ramsay, bring me the rifle and pistol both and
the powderhorn and bullets."


" As you say, Mr. Horseshoe," answered the dame, as she
turned round to leave the room ; " but I am sure I can t
suspicion what you mean to do."

In a few moments the woman returned with the weapons,
and gave them to the sergeant.

" Where is Andy ? " asked Horseshoe.

The hostess went to the door and called her son, and almost
immediately afterwards a sturdy boy of about twelve or four
teen years of age entered the apartment, his clothes dripping
with rain. He modestly and shyly seated himself on a chair
near the door, with his soaked hat flapping down over a face
full of freckles, and not less rife with the expression of an
open, dauntless hardihood of character.

" How would you like a scrummage, Andy, with them
Scotchmen that stole your mother s chickens this morning ? "
asked Horseshoe.

" I m agreed," replied the boy, " if you will tell me what
to do."

" You are not going to take the boy out on any of your
desperate projects, Mr. Horseshoe ? " said the mother, with the
tears starting instantly into her eyes. " You would n t take
such a child as that into danger ? "

" Bless your soul, Mrs. Ramsay, there ar n t no danger
about it ! Don t take on so. It s a thing that is either done at
a blow, or not done, and there s an end of it. I want the
lad only to bring home the prisoners for me, after I have
took them."

" Ah, Mr. Robinson, I have one son already in these wars
God protect him ! and you men don t know how a
mother s heart yearns for her children in these times. I can
not give another," she added, as she threw her arms over the
shoulders of the youth and drew him to her bosom.

"Qh! it ain t nothing," said Andrew, in a sprightly tone.


"It s only snapping of a pistol, mother, pooh! If I m not
afraid, you ought n t to be."

" I give you my honor, Mistress Ramsay," said Robinson,
" that I will bring or send your son safe back in One hour ; and
that he sha n t be put in any sort of danger whatsomedever ;
come, that s a good woman ! "

" You are not deceiving me, Mr. Robinson ? " asked the
matron, wiping away a tear. " You would n t mock the suffer
ings of a weak woman in such a thing as this ? "

" On the honesty of a sodger, ma am," replied Horseshoe,
" the lad shall be in no danger, as I said before what

" Then I will say no more," answered the mother. " But
Andy, my child, be sure to let Mr. Robinson keep before you."

Horseshoe now loaded the firearms, and having slung the
pouch across his body, he put the pistol into the hands of
the boy ; then, shouldering his rifle, he and his young ally left the
room. Even on this occasion, serious as it might be deemed,
the sergeant did not depart without giving some manifestation
of that light-heartedness which no difficulties ever seemed to
have the power to conquer. He thrust his head back into the
room, after he had crossed the threshold, and said with an
encouraging laugh. " Andy and me will teach them, Mistress
Ramsay, Pat s point of war we will surround \h& ragamuffins."

" Now, Andy, my lad," said Horseshoe, after he had mounted
Captain Peter, "you must get up behind me. Turn the lock
of your pistol down," he continued, as the boy sprang upon
the horse s rump, " and cover it with the flap of your jacket, to
keep the rain off. It won t do to hang fire at such a time as this."

The lad did as he was directed, and Horseshoe, having
secured his rifle in the same way, put his horse up to a gallop,
and took the road in the direction that had been pursued by
the soldiers.


As soon as our adventurers had gained a wood, at the dis
tance of about half a mile, the sergeant relaxed his speed, and
advanced at a pace a little above a walk.

" Andy," he said, " we have got rather a ticklish sort of a
job before us, so I must give you your lesson, which you will
understand better by knowing something of my plan. As soon
as your mother told me that these thieving villains had left her
house about fifteen minutes before the rain came on, and that
they had gone along upon this road, I remembered the old field
up here, and the little log hut in the middle of it ; and it was
natural to suppose that they had just got about near that hut
when this rain came up ; and then, it was the most supposable
case in the world that they would naturally go into it, as the
dryest place they could find. So now, you see, it s my calcula
tion that the whole batch is there at this very point of time.
We will go slowly along, until we get to the other end of this
wood, in sight of the old field, and then, if there is no one on
the lookout, we will open our first trench ; you know what that
means, Andy ? "

" It means, I s pose, that we 11 go right smack at them,"
replied Andrew.

" Pretty exactly," said the sergeant. " But listen to me.
Just at the edge of the woods you will have to get down and
put yourself behind a tree. I 11 ride forward, as if I had a whole
troop at my heels, and if I catch them, as I expect, they will
have a little fire kindled, and, as likely as not, they 11 be cooking
some of your mother s fowls."

" Yes, I understand," said the boy eagerly,

" No, you don t," replied Horseshoe, " but you will when you
hear what I am going to say. If I get at them onawares, they 11
be mighty apt to think they are surrounded, and will bellow,
like fine fellows, for quarter. And thereupon, Andy, I 11 cry
out * stand fast, as if I was speaking to my own men, and


when you hear that, you must come up full tilt, because it will
be a signal to you that the enemy has surrendered. Then it
will be your business to run into the house and bring out the
muskets, as quick as a rat runs through a kitchen ; and when
you have done that, why, all s done. But if you should hear
any popping of firearms that is, more than one shot, which
I may chance to let off do you take that for a bad sign, and
get away as fast as you can heel it. You comprehend."

" Oh ! yes," replied the lad, " and I ? 11 do what you want, and
more too, maybe, Mr. Robinson."

" Captai?i Robinson, remember, Andy, you must call me
captain, in the hearing of these Scotsmen."

" I 11 not forget that neither," answered Andrew.

By the time that these instructions were fully impressed upon
the boy, our adventurous forlorn hope, as it may fitly be called,
had arrived at the place which Horseshoe Robinson had
designated for the commencement of active operations. They
had a clear view of the old field, and it afforded them a strong
assurance that the enemy was exactly where they wished him
to Ipe, when they discovered smoke arising from the chimney
of the hovel. Andrew was soon posted behind a tree, and
Robinson only tarried a moment to make the boy repeat the
signals agreed on, in order to ascertain that he had them correctly
in his memory. Being satisfied from this experiment that the
intelligence of his young companion might be depended upon,
he galloped across the intervening space, and, in a few seconds,
abruptly reined up his steed in the very doorway of the hut.
The party within was gathered around a fire at the further end,
and, in the corner near the door, were four muskets thrown
together against the wall. To spring from his saddle and thrust
himself one pace within the door was a movement which the
sergeant executed in an instant, shouting at the same time :

" Halt ! File off right and left to both sides of the house,


and wait orders. I demand the surrender of all here," he said,
as he planted himself between the party and their weapons.
" I will shoot down the first man who budges a foot."

" Leap to your arms," cried the young officer who commanded
the little party inside of the house. " Why do you stand ? "

" I don t want to do you or your men any harm, young man,"
said Robinson, as he brought his rifle to a level, " but, by my
father s son, I will not leave one of you to be put upon a
muster roll if you raise a hand at this moment."

Both parties now stood, for a brief space, eyeing each other
in a fearful suspense, during which there was an expression of
doubt and irresolution visible on the countenance of the soldiers,
as they surveyed the broad proportions and met the stern
glance of the sergeant, whilst the delay, also, began to raise
an apprehension in the mind of Robinson that his stratagem
would be discovered.

" Shall I let loose upon them, captain ? " said Andrew
Ramsay, now appearing, most unexpectedly to Robinson, at
the door of the hut. " Come on, boys ! " he shouted, as he
turned his face towards the field.

"Keep them outside of the door stand fast," cried the
doughty sergeant, with admirable promptitude, in the new and
sudden posture of his affairs caused by this opportune appear
ance of the boy. " Sir, you see that it s not worth while
fighting five to one ; and I should be sorry to be the death of
any of your brave fellows ; so take my advice, and surrender
to the Continental Congress and this scrap of its army which
I command."

During this appeal the sergeant was ably seconded by the
lad outside, who was calling out first on one name and then on
another, as if in the presence of a troop. The device succeeded,
and the officer within, believing the forbearance of Robinson to
be real, at length said :


" Lower your rifle, sir. In the presence of a superior force,
taken by surprise and without arms, it is my duty to save
bloodshed. With the promise of fair usage, and the rights of
prisoners of war, I surrender this little foraging party under
my command."

" I 11 make the terms agreeable," replied the sergeant.
" Never doubt me, sir. Right hand file, advance, and receive
the arms of the prisoners ! "

" I m here, captain," said Andrew, in a conceited tone, as
if it were a near occasion of merriment ; and the lad quickly
entered the house and secured the weapons, retreating with
them some paces from the door.

" Now, sir," said Horseshoe to the ensign, " your sword, and
whatever else you mought have about you of the ammunitions
of war ! "

The officer delivered up his sword and a pair of pocket pistols.

As Horseshoe received these tokens of victory, he asked, with

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 7 of 35)