Richard Markham.

Colonial Days : being stories and ballads for young patriots ; as recounted by five boys and five girls ; in Around the yule log, Aboard the Mavis, On the edge of winter online

. (page 29 of 30)
Online LibraryRichard MarkhamColonial Days : being stories and ballads for young patriots ; as recounted by five boys and five girls ; in Around the yule log, Aboard the Mavis, On the edge of winter → online text (page 29 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

quences to their unhappy brothers ; and no words can express
the frantic sorrow to which they abandoned themselves. The
young men themselves assumed an air of firmness, but it was


easily penetrated. They were marched off to Saratoga barracks ;
and, as they came up the main road opposite to our house, we
saw them approach, and my father and myself spoke to them.
They confessed that they were the persons who had alarmed us
on the night to which I have already alluded.

" ' After crossing in the canoe, they had lain two days and
nights in the bush, a quarter of a mile from the river, looking
out for persons alone, and intending to capture the principal and
most active of the neighboring Whigs. They did not deny that
they had deliberated some time as to the propriety of taking my
father off with them.

" ' The poor wretches were tried and condemned at a court-
martial. Lovelass alone suffered death. He was considered too
dangerous a man to be permitted to escape. He complained,
that, being found with arms in his hands, he was only a prisoner ;
and many thought, that, such being the fact, he was scarcely
punishable as a spy. Indeed, he even bewailed his hard fate,
and the injustice done him, but found he had nothing to expect
from the judges. In two or three days he was brought out
upon the hill, and suffered death upon the gallows. Nothing
could have been more quiet and unaffected than his manner ;
the spectators themselves were touched with compassion : but
public policy seemed to require an unbending sternness on the
part of the court, and his punishment certainly put an end for
that time to all marauding expeditions by the Tories. Love-
lass's companions were sent down the river, the same day, to a
depot for prisoners.' '

" That is a tiptop story," said Jack, as Mr. Longwood


stopped. "Hasn't the book a good .Indian one? just a regu
lar first-class fellow."

Mr. Longwood laughed. " Yes : I think I could find one that
would please you," he said. " But it will have to be short ; for
I begin to make out the houses of Sing Sing in the distance,
and I think we will get our worthy captain to put us ashore

" Well, let's make sure of the story, anyway," said Jack, seat
ing himself in Turkish fashion, while the other boys grouped
themselves comfortably around.

" It is of one of the exploits of our old acquaintance Brant,"
said Mr. Longwood, turning the leaves.

" ' On the morning of the day which Schoharie will long
remember, John Vrooman, well known as old rifle, and two others,
wire out upon duty as scouts. They were in the woods, about
eight miles distant from the settlement, anxiously reconnoitring
every suspicious object, and ready to fight or fly, as was more
necessary, when Vrooman caught a glance of an Indian, who
appeared engaged in a business similar to their own. The next
instant he raised his rifle to his face, and the savage fell. An
other Indian discovered himself, and Vrooman's companion fired at
him. This one also fell, apparently dead. A third rose, as if to
give them each a chance of firing ; but the third scout became
alarmed at this third vision, and refused to fire. Vrooman
snatched the rifle from his hand, and shot this one also.
Instantly a group of Indians and Tories rose from the ground
near them with a yell, and in a manner that clearly indicated
that they were disturbed in finishing their breakfast. ' Did you


see that flock of crows ? ' said Vrooman. ' We shall have a
warm day of it : let every one take care of himself.'

" ' He was an old woodsman ; and, as the three scouts sepa
rated, he immediately made a tack, and dashed into the thickest
of the forest. The enemy pursued him ; and it was only by a
series of zigzag flights that he reached the fort at Vrooman's
Flats at noon, breathless, exhausted, and completely worn out by
fatigue. He was scarcely there before the flames of the dwell
ings at the settlement were visible. Brant, at the first alarm,
pushed for the settlement by an old road, and was already doing
his work of devastation.

" ' I had an aunt living at the place, whose husband, at the
moment of Brant's arrival, was engaged in loading his barn
with hay, and was himself on the load with the pitchfork in his
hand, while his sons were in the barn stowing it away. As he
accidentally looked around, he discovered the Indians between him
and the house. At the same instant he heard his wife scream.
He had presence of mind to cry out, ' My boys, the enemy ! '
He jumped from the load, with the apparent intention of making
for the cornfield. As he struck the fence, a ball went through
him, and he fell dead on the spot. His wife was coming out
of the garden, where she had just parted with a neighbor, when
she saw the savages, and gave the shriek which had alarmed
her husband. She was instantly tomahawked. The three oldest
of the sons were mad?, prisoners; while the youngest brother, of
about five years of age, who had been playing about the wagon
in the field, they knocked on the head. Thus, in a few moments,
was a family put to a cruel and savage death. The three cap-


tives were carried away to Canada. They did not obtain their
liberty until nearly two years afterwards. I well remember their
return. My father obtained information of it, and went to the
North to meet them. He brought them home to his own house r
and there learned the story of their sufferings and exile. From
their long captivity, and their continued labors in the field with
out hats, both in the service of the savages and the Canadians,,
they were burned very black, and presented a woful appearance.

" ' Some of the inhabitants, however, escaped under circum
stances very extraordinary, and worthy of reminiscence. The
road which led from the upper to the middle fort ran across the
hill. At the time of the enemy's approach, two men were in
the field with a wagon and horses, busily engaged in work.
They were at least two miles and a half from the fort. They
heard the noise of the engagement, and instantly attempted to
escape. One of them stood up and drove, while the other, with
his pitchfork, goaded the horses to their topmost speed. No
less than seven swing-gates interposed themselves as barriers on
the road ; but, as most miraculously they were made to swing-
either way, they were forced open by the horses running against
them. During this terrible race against time, several persons
succeeded in getting into the wagon from behind ; and these
laid hold of every person who came near enough to attempt the
same exploit. As they passed a point where an old person by
the name of Swarts resided, who was unloading some corn from
a wagon, they gave him the alarm, and, being near the goal
they wished to arrive at, slackened their pace. He told them
not to wait for him. He sent one of his men to his house to


call his wife, while he reharnessed his horses to the wagon.
His poor wife came running out, the picture of distraction, and,
in her fright, forgot her child, that was sleeping in a cradle.
She was surprised at her forgetfulness, and ran back for it.
The three were then hauled into the wagon as quick as possible.
The horses were forced into a gallop down the hill, and through
the creek. Notwithstanding they were pursued by the savages
the whole of the distance, they escaped, reaching the fort in
safety, with eleven persons in the wagon, picked up in this
singular manner. The harness was covered with clotted blood,
and the poor animals were completely exhausted. Another per
son escaped across the flats in this way. Whenever he found
his pursuer gaining on him, he would turn round, and point
something which he carried towards the savage, as if he was
about to fire. This occasioned a halt ; and, with a fresh breath
drawn at those intervals, he completely succeeded in getting
safely into the fort.

" ' This celebrated excursion, as I before mentioned, was con
ducted by Sir John Johnson and Brant. The force which they had
with them has always been said to have been 1,150, counting red
and white. The enemy, while on their march, were discovered by
the lookouts at the upper fort ; and immediately three guns were
discharged as a signal to the neighborhood. As I have before
mentioned, the inhabitants were engaged in their usual business,
for they always hoped to be able to retire to the fort before the
danger became imminent. When the alarm was given, my grand
father was in the fort, and his son was in a mill which belonged
to the family, about one mile from the place. The former imme-


diately went down to the mill, and the two shut it up, and
stopped its motion. This was considered very venturesome in
the old man, but he was not immediately exposed through his
rashness. Besides, the life of a favorite son was not the least
incentive on the occasion. He and his son mounted two horses
that were there, while the miller trusted to his legs for security.
As the fugitives approached the fort on their return, they dis
covered the enemy within a hundred yards of them. They
immediately changed their course, and got in at the rear of the
fort without further risk. This was early in the morning. After
sunrise, Sir John Johnson surrounded the middle fort, and sent
a flag demanding its surrender. Exasperated by the sufferings
they had already undergone, and perhaps by a knowledge of the
mischief already done at the flats, and incited to hostility by
the remarks of some old people, that they wanted no red-coats
in the fort, they told the sentry to fire at the flag, and drive it
off. A Major W., a Continental officer, who was stationed there,
endeavored to prevent this outrage of military etiquette, and
commanded the sentry not to fire. The militia officer overruled
him, and gave peremptory orders to the man to fire. I can
imagine the moment when the willing sentry, looking beyond
the rude palisade which skirted the fort, saw the white flag
drawing nearer with that uncertainty of manner which indicates
the doubt of a favorable reception. Raising his musket to his
shoulder, he looked around for some approving look from his
comrades-in-arms. The distant smoke, which he well knew was
from the torch of the incendiary, and the glitter of the red-coats
just within sight of him, gave a sort of tremor to his hand, and


he thought of the fate which perhaps awaited them all. Just
behind him stood the extremes of Continental etiquette and
militia subordination, personified in the one instance by a sharp
and huge cocked hat, trimmed profusely with gold lace, sur
mounting a well-powdered head ; the lips of the officer firmly
set, and his right hand resting on a cane, with which he now
and then laid down his argument, and somewhat roundly too, on
the toes of his unlucky listeners around him. A long-waisted
blue coat turned up with buff, that met and parted at the same
time on his breast, and a black-silk kerchief drawn tightly round
his throat, completed the upper part of our major. A pair of
small-clothes drawn tightly over a muscular thigh were met at
the knee by a pair of straight-sided boots, that doubtless, by
their stiffness and want of pliability, prevented any thing like an
attack upon the limb inside. A white belt thrown over the
whole man, and a heavy sabre with a leathern scabbard, com
pleted the Ajax of the council, the son of chivalry, and the
regularly fed friend of the Continental Congress. But the nicely
drawn arguments taken from the rules of war were lost upon
the rude minds of his unlettered but exasperated companions.
Their embrowned visages, but illy protected by their ancient hats,
which had served at least during the war, declared that revenge
and an obstinate defence were all they wished, and that the means
which were to lead to these were not to be invaded by rules to
which they, at least, had never subscribed.

" ' Brown shirts were the panoply of the farmer soldiers :
over them hung powder-horns and shot-bags, manufactured dur
ing the winter nights, and now and then stopped up with a.


corn-cob. Muskets were rather uncommon. Long fowling-pieces
were more in fashion in Schoharie. Sometimes the rank of the
individual led him to greater expense in equipment. A sparse
sprinkling of gold lace in places best calculated for display, a
long feather, and a thin epaulette, were indicative of the superior
pretensions of the man who wore them.

" ' Occasionally, in the interstices of the disputants, an old
man or two would be listening with that peculiar expression
of countenance which argues the possession of hard hearing.
These, who had generally known something of service in the
French war, would occasionally chime in with Yes or No, as the
controversy came within the range of their memories. There was
another argument used, which, after all, was perhaps the most
powerful of any ; and this was the fact, that, however etiquette
might be regarded by the besieged, it certainly was not likely
to produce a correspondent feeling on the part of the enemy.
On the whole, the friends of etiquette were overpowered. The
order to fire was repeated, and the close shot of the sentinel
drove away at full speed the bearer of the flag of truce. The
major, however, unwilling to be responsible for the consequences,
retired to his pallet, and excused himself from any further com
mand at present, alleging his indisposition. A Capt. Vrooman
was invested with the honors of the command, and, at the head
of three hundred and fifty men, besides women and children,
resolved to fight while there was a combatant of either sex left
alive. After the violation of the flag, Sir John brought up his
artillery, and fired upon the fort. The fire was promptly returned.
Having a few light howitzers with him, he threw a few shells,


of which only two struck the building. One of them entered
the roof of a small building in the pickets, and fell through the
roof into a room where two sick women were lying. It was
arrested in its fall by a feather-bed, where it exploded, and
scattered a gale of feathers about the apartment. No serious
injury, however, occurred. An effort was made to set fire to
the pickets and out-houses, by loading a wagon with dry wheat,
and, after firing it, to shove it as close to the place as possible.
This attempt also failed. Either the sharp shooting of the rifle
men, or the short-lived flames of the material which was used,
prevented any injury. The principal part of the day was occu
pied in operations of this kind, when the sentry again discovered
the approach of a white flag. In an instant the news was about,
and a crowd again assembled to watch its coming. Major W.
with the rest, determined to make his last stand against the
invasion of military law. A Capt. Reghtmeyer, however, was on
the platform where the soldier stood, and he gave him the order
to fire. The major, exasperated at this, drew his sword, and
seemed about to run the delinquent through. The little captain,
who carried a fusee in his hand, instantly clubbed it, and made
an impressive motion with its breech, which again drove the
major back to his retreat.

" ' During this petty siege, the enemy would draw off their
forces, and burn and destroy dwellings in the neighborhood. At
these intervals, our men would succeed in killing numbers of
them ; but, the moment any thing like a show of force took
place, the latter would run back, repass the gate under the pro
tection of a heavy fire from their comrades, and the small


artillery, within the walls. During this desultory warfare, which
lasted from morning to night, the females within our fort dis
played a heroism worthy of commemoration. They were well
provided with arms, which they intended to use if the English
attempted to take the place by storm. Their services were not
required by such an extremity. One of these, then an interest
ing and handsome young female, whose name is still mentioned
with respect by the people of Schoharie, displayed a good deal
of courage on this occasion. Perceiving that one of our men,
who went to draw water from a well within reach of the enemy's
fire, scudded into the fort as fast as he could to escape it, she
gallantly went out herself, and drew water for the men in the
fort, as long as any was required. Without changing color, she
carried bucket after bucket to the thirsty combatants, and, provi
dentially, she escaped without the slightest injury.

" ' Finding the fort too strong for them, the enemy drew
down to the lower fort, and, after skirmishing until sundown
without much effect, drew off towards the Mohawk River. By
this time, however, the alarm had spread through the neighbor
ing settlements ; and a body of militia of sufficient force to
become the assailants arrived, it is said, within a short distance
of the enemy near the river, and Sir John Johnson, in conse
quence, had actually made arrangements to surrender. The
Americans, however, at this moment, fell back a short distance,
for the sake of occupying a better position during the night.
The interval was improved by the enemy ; and, by great exertions
on their part, floats and rafts were constructed, upon which they
passed over before the Americans came up in the morning.


There is a tradition among the Schoharie people, however, that,
as the last float was going over, a British officer who was on
it offered a fair mark for the rifle, in consequence of the glitter
of his dress in the light of the morning sun. A friendly Oneida
asked permission to fire at him; and, on its being given, he took
a rest for his rifle in order to take a good aim, fired, and shot
the officer instantly.' "

As Mr. Longwood finished reading, and closed the book,
Jack jumped up promptly.

" Shall I go and tell the hairy man to get his boat," he
asked, " to put us ashore ? "

" I suppose he may as well have it ready," said Mr. Long-
wood ; " for we shall be off Sing Sing presently, and that will be
a good place to land. All or nearly all the express-trains stop
there, so that we can be sure of getting home promptly."

The hairy man was sitting forward on the roof of the stable.
He had been sitting there for an hour, doing nothing but gaze
morosely at the water. The mules every now and then lifted
up their united voices in a tenor and bass duet, with a volume
of sound that seemed as if it must lift the roof of their stable,
hairy man and all, clear off, and send them floating down the
river. But their sweet notes did not seem to rouse him. He
sat as stolidly as ever.

Jack approached, and made known their wishes.

He rose without a word, and jumping on to the boat next
alongside, and from that to another, made his way forward until.
he came to the bow of the one nearest the tug that was draw
ing them. Between him and the tug lay a broad stretch of


boiling water lashed into foam by the paddle-wheels. Putting
his hands to his mouth, he gave a loud halloo.

A man standing idly on the deck answered ; and a conversa
tion in shouts ensued, of which the boys could hear nothing.
Apparently, however, it terminated successfully ; for they saw a
boat tipped off the stern of the tug. Then the paddle-wheels
stopped for a moment ; and the man, taking advantage of the
temporary lull, jumped into his boat, and, with a few vigorous
strokes, sent it out of the whirling eddies into the quieter water
on the farther side of the tow. The hairy man met him there,
got into the boat while the new-comer got out, and sat down
to talk with an acquaintance he had found.

Presently their man brought the boat around to the side of
his own craft where they were waiting, and threw aboard the
painter, which Tom made fast. Then Jack and Ned and Charlie
made their way over the side, and the three others were about
to follow, when suddenly there appeared up the cabin-steps a
woman. She was not a handsome woman. Over her head was
tied a handkerchief which, folded two or three times, completely
covered one eye. She appeared to have been engaged in
sweeping : at all events, she had a broom in her hands. She
advanced to where they were embarking, and, addressing her
husband, said firmly,

" John Quincy Adams Jones, you get out of that boat."

" I'm goin' to put them ashore," said the man.

" Not much you ain't," she said. " You're comin' right out
of that boat quicker."

" But, my good woman," said Mr. Longwood, " he has prom
ised to land us at Sing Sing."


" Don't good woman me," said she fiercely, turning upon
that gentleman, who involuntarily retreated a step. " When
you've only one eye left, you'll know better'n let your husband
go off where he can get liquor, when you see the fit comin' on
him. Coin' ashore ! Not if I knows it. Here, you, John Quincy
Adams Jones, you get out of that boat."

Thus adjured, John Quincy Adams Jones got out.

" Who's to take 'em, then ? " he said sulkily.

" Never you mind : you ain't. Here, Sam," she called to
one of the mule-drivers, who had been asleep in his bunk until
roused by the commotion, " you get in here, and take these
folks ashore."

" Do'no zi know how to row much," said the man, taken
aback at the suddenness of this order, and scratching his head

" Then'ts time you learned. Get in, I say, the whole passel
of you;" and she clutched her broom, and looked so threaten
ingly, that no one dared to object ; but pell-mell, Tom, Will,,
Mr. Longwood, and Sam all tumbled in. The next moment the
end of their painter was unloosed and thrown after them, and
they were adrift.

Tom seized one oar, and Will another ; and, as they were both
broad-shouldered lads, the boat was soon moving at a good
pace. It was well loaded down, though, with our party, so that
pulling at the oars was no light task.

After a little, the pier at Sing Sing began to be close at
hand. Just then a faint shout was heard behind them. They
stopped, and all looked back. On the deck of one of the boats


of the flotilla they had left, they could see a man who was
shouting wildly, and gesticulating.

" He acts as if he wanted us to come back," said Mr. Long-
wood. " Can we have left any thing behind us ? "

The boys counted their packages. No ; nothing was missing.

" He must be shouting at some one else," said Mr. Long-
wood. " Go on, boys."

So the oars were dipped once more, and soon they were all
scrambling up the pier.

" The boat will row more easily going back," said Tom pleas
antly to the man. " You'll be glad to get rid of us."

The man made no reply. He got up from the stern where
he had been sitting, and plunged unsteadily forward, nearly
upsetting the craft, and sat down on the seat nearest the bow,
with his face toward it. The natural result of this arrangement
was, that the bow went down almost to the water's edge, while
the stern stood well up out of it. Then he pulled out his oars,
and stretched them out across the gunwales. Finding no row
locks to put them in, he rose up again, and backed to the next
seat, upon which he sat down suddenly and most unexpectedly
with a crash. In executing this movement, he let go one of his
oars, which immediately slipped off into the water. He recovered
it with a sudden lunge over the side, which wet his arm up to
the elbow, and tipped the boat so that she shipped at least a
pail ot water.

About this time, his movements began to excite great interest
among a crowd of boys who suddenly appeared from nowhere,
and began to give him most disinterested advice.


" Put your oar in deep, and bring it out with a jerk," said one.

" You ought to sit straddle of the seat," said another.

There was no end to the advice that was thus generously
thrust upon him. Tom, however, made his way through the
crowd of urchins to the edge of the pier, and said quietly,

" Turn around, with your face to the other end of the boat."

The man recognized his voice, and, lifting up his feet, spun
around on the seat as on a pivot.

" Put your oars out through the rowlocks." The man did so.

" Now, then, you're all right," said Tom encouragingly. " Go

The man drew his knees up nearly to his chin. Of course,
as soon as he pulled, the oars struck his knees, and jumped

Online LibraryRichard MarkhamColonial Days : being stories and ballads for young patriots ; as recounted by five boys and five girls ; in Around the yule log, Aboard the Mavis, On the edge of winter → online text (page 29 of 30)