Daniel Boone, Backwoodsman by Forbes-Lindsay, C. H.
DANIEL BOONE BACKWOODSMAN
_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_
JOHN SMITH GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER
An interesting work on the life and times of this famous soldier of fortune and American colonist, intended primarily for the young, but of such a character as to appeal to all.
“A good, strong, interest compelling narrative, and a valuable addition to a boy’s library.”--_The Sun_, New York.
“Historical fiction that appears to show him [Smith] in a clearer and more truthful light than has ever before been shed.”--_The Courier-Journal_, Louisville.
“The book will be read with great interest by both old and young, for all men love adventures of the Smith type.”--_The Republic_, St. Louis.
“Should mightily interest every boy who loves his country.”--_The Inter-Ocean_, Chicago.
_With four full-page illustrations in color by_ HARRY B. LACHMAN 12 mo. Cloth, $1.50
[Illustration: IMMEDIATELY HE BECAME A TARGET]
Daniel Boone BACKWOODSMAN
BY C. H. FORBES-LINDSAY
Author of “John Smith, Gentleman Adventurer,” “India: Past and Present,” “America’s Insular Possessions,” etc.
_WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY_ FRANK McKERNAN
“Who passes for in life and death most lucky, Of the great names which in our faces stare Is Daniel Boone, backwoodsman of Kentucky.”
PHILADELPHIA & LONDON J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY 1909
COPYRIGHT, 1908 BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
Published September, 1908
_Electrotyped and printed by J. B. Lippincott Company The Washington Square Press, Philadelphia, U. S. A._
CHAPTER PAGE I THE AMERICAN BACKWOODSMAN 9 II HARDY GOODFELLOW 24 III THE YOUNG HUNTER 39 IV THE DARING PIONEER 54 V IN FAIR KENTUCKY 68 VI HARDY’S FIRST INDIAN 86 VII THE CAPTURE OF BOONE 101 VIII THE HANNIBAL OF THE WEST 116 IX THE VICTORY OF VINCENNES 131 X A FEAT OF STRENGTH 145 XI “BIG TURTLE” 160 XII DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND 174 XIII BOONESBOROUGH IS BESIEGED 188 XIV KENTON’S STORY 202 XV THE YOUNG SCOUT 216 XVI THE WHITE SQUAW 229 XVII A STRING OF DISASTERS 243 XVIII “THE BLOODY YEAR” 257 XIX SIMON GIRTY, RENEGADE 270 XX BATTLE OF THE BLUE LICKS 285 XXI AN OLD BIRD 300 XXII THE LAST HUNT 311
IMMEDIATELY HE BECAME A TARGET _Frontispiece_
“MY SCALP, I RECKON, YOUNG FELLOW” 96
BOONE WAS NEARING THE LIMIT OF HIS ENDURANCE 155
HIS WEAPON WHIZZED THROUGH THE AIR AND BURIED ITSELF IN THE SKULL OF THE FOREMOST 296
THE AMERICAN BACKWOODSMAN
The backwoods town in colonial days--The place of the backwoodsmen in the march of progress--Boone and his descendants among the leading pioneers--How the backwoods fighters forced the boundary westward--The frontier farmer was necessarily hunter and fighter--The character of the backwoodsman and his manner of life--The dwellings, dress and weapons of the frontier--Daniel Boone, a typical backwoodsman--His birth and boyhood in a frontier settlement--His parents migrate to North Carolina--Then he marries and settles on the border--He explores Kentucky and forms a determination to settle there.
We shall be able to follow the story of Daniel Boone with a better understanding if, before entering upon it, we take a brief survey of the country in which his entire life was passed and the people among whom he lived--the American backwoods and the American backwoodsmen.
At the outbreak of the Revolution the American colonies extended no farther west than the Alleghany Mountains, and consisted of the narrow strip of territory lying between that rocky wall and the Atlantic seaboard. By far the greater portion of the population dwelt along the coast in urban centres, or in comparatively closely settled districts which had been cleared and cultivated. In this belt were found the large plantations and wealthy slave-owners. Beyond it, the land was covered with virgin forest, dense, impenetrable, except along the trails, and infested by wild beasts and savages.
In the portion of this region that lay nearest to civilization a rude backwoods town might be found here and there. It lay in a clearing of a few hundred acres, and usually at the junction of several frequented trails. It consisted of a cluster of log cabins, a general store, perhaps a smithy, a school, a tavern, and court-house. The inhabitants seldom numbered more than three or four hundred. It may not be strictly proper to speak of a people to whose midst the schoolmaster and the judge penetrated, as beyond the bounds of civilization, and, of course, the expression is used in a comparative sense. The backwoods dominie was hardly worth considering as an educational factor. He was generally ignorant, frequently intemperate, and sometimes immoral. The law lost much of its wonted majesty in a community where an unpopular judge was liable to be mobbed and a dishonest sheriff to be lynched.
The fact is that these people were entirely different from the colonists of the coast--different in origin, in religion, in manners, and customs. With splendid natural qualities, such as made them peculiarly fitted to act as the pioneers of the nation, they were rude, unlettered, and impatient of restraint. In the upbuilding of the infant nation, these pathfinders formed the muscle and sinew, whilst the older communities supplied the brain. Although both classes were essentially Americans, in the Revolutionary period they had hardly anything in common but their patriotism.
The inhabitants of the backwoods towns were in general the less bold spirits. Deeper in the forest wilderness were found more daring souls, scattered along the mountain border that divided the colonies from the Indian territory. They lived face to face and in constant touch with the fierce savages, and acted as a buffer to their countrymen behind them.
The term “backwoods” conflicts somewhat with a proper sense of the actual situation. From the time that they turned their backs on the mother country, our people faced steadily towards the west, and maintained a forward march in that direction until they reached the distant shores of the continent. A marked peculiarity of the class we have under consideration is that when they arrived in the country, they pushed through the ranks of the colonists and, assuming the vanguard, continued at the head of the advance, first taking possession of Kentucky and Tennessee, then settling Mississippi and Missouri, and ultimately marching across the continent to the Pacific. Son followed father, and continued on when the latter lay in the peace of the grave. Two children of Boone were among the first Americans to make homes beyond the “Father of Waters”; a grandson was the first settler in Kansas; another among the earliest in Colorado; and a third--the famous Kit Carson--acted as scout and guide to the expedition of General Frémont.
Many backwoods families devoted themselves, through several generations, to the winning of the wilderness with rifle and axe. The debt of the nation to these people is a heavy one. They may be compared to the outposts of an encamped army, the border settlers being the sentries, stretching along the enemy’s face, and the backwoods towns the pickets. As an army sleeps in security behind its outposts, so was the main body of the colonists, screened from the Indians by the backwoods settlers, enabled to build up towns and cultivate its plantations in safety. And as, when an army resumes the march, the outpost of the night before forms the advance guard, so these border sentinels were ever in the front of our territorial progress.
In 1783 the western boundary of the United States had been carried forward to the Mississippi River. The large area between it and the Alleghanies had been won for us by the dauntless backwoodsmen after a decade of intense struggle. By holding the border Indians in check they performed a valuable service to the colonies in their fight for freedom. The settlement of Kentucky made possible the capture of the British posts in the Illinois and Indiana regions, and paved the way for the acquisition of our Western territory.
Whilst working out the destiny of a nation, the simple-minded backwoodsmen were quite unconscious of any such high purpose. They pushed forward into the wilderness because land was to be had there for practically nothing. They desired to make homes for their children, and were willing to risk their lives in the venture. As to the hardships, they and their fathers had been accustomed to arduous poverty in the old country. The life of the hunter, which was an inseparable part of backwoods existence, appealed to them as it does to all healthy men. In fact, the majority of them grew to love their hard lot, with its constant adventure. Many, like Boone, became so enamoured of the life, despite its dangers and hardships, that they shunned the approach of civilization and moved farther into the forest whenever the region they had opened up began to be at all thickly populated.
The backwoodsman was at once hunter, fighter, and farmer. He could not look for aid or protection from the Government. He had to depend upon his own resources and, even in the acquisition of new territory, upon his own strong right arm. This was particularly the case with the pioneer settlers of Kentucky, for the movement took place when all the men and material available were needed to strengthen the Continental forces, and the backwoodsmen battling with the Indian allies of the British had difficulty in getting sufficient powder and lead to carry on the conflict. Every man and youth was a home-made soldier. Most of the women could handle a rifle, and the annals of the frontier teem with stories of brave mothers and daughters who, in the absence of their men-folk, successfully defended their cabins against the attacks of savages. In the frequent sieges of the forts the women loaded the weapons, moulded bullets, and sometimes stood to a port-hole. It is significant of the life of the backwoodsmen that every male among them who was old enough to carry fire-arms was spoken of as a “gun.”
For the most part, the people of the backwoods were of Scotch or Irish descent, with a strong sprinkling of English and Germans, but in the second generation differences of nationality were rarely detectable. Their characters and even their physical traits were greatly affected by the peculiar conditions of their lives, which created a type the members of which were all much alike, whilst they differed widely from the colonists in general. Their isolation tended to develop some of the best human qualities. It taught them independence and self-reliance and at the same time prompted them to help one another. On the border men practiced the golden rule and maintained a homely code of morality and justice. They were hard, rough and self-contained, but neither ungenerous, cruel, nor morose.
In their dealings with hostile Indians the backwoodsmen may appear to have exercised merciless severity, but that is hardly to be wondered at when the provocation is considered. The wanton barbarity of their enemies hardened them and goaded them to revenge. This sometimes took the form of deplorable cruelty but, as a rule, the backwoodsmen were neither inhuman nor bloodthirsty. They fought in defence of their homes and property, and when they carried the conflict into the Indian’s country it was usually in retaliation for an attack and with a view to checking further hostilities. The settler was always glad to live in peace if he might.
As to the respective rights of the white men and their red foes, a great deal has been said on both sides, and perhaps it would be impossible to exactly weigh the equities in the case. It was, however, inevitable that a growing and energetic race should have contested the possession of the soil with the mere handful of savages that did not occupy it but merely roamed over it, hunting and camping here and there and keeping up a perpetual warfare among themselves. They set up claims, it is true, to the exclusive possession of certain large areas but, even among themselves, such claims were only sustained by superior strength, and one tribe frequently ousted another from its accustomed territory.
The most ardent defenders of the Indians must find it difficult to establish a case of trespass against the settlers of Kentucky. The territory that is now comprised within that State was ceded by the Indians in more than one treaty and purchased for a definite sum. Moreover, it had not been the home or country of any particular tribe, but was held as a hunting-ground common to all and in which none were allowed to settle. It contained no permanent Indian villages, nor was an acre of its soil cultivated until the white man cleared the land.
The pioneers of the wilderness made their settlements in groups of five or six families. The first thing they did was to erect their cabins and form a fort. This was usually accomplished by raising the former in a row and making their backs one side of a palisaded enclosure, with blockhouses at the corners. This was the refuge of all during an attack by the Indians, but otherwise each family lived in a cabin upon its farm. The clearings were generally four hundred acres in extent and lay at some distance from each other in the heart of the forest. The trees having been felled, the settler left the stumps standing, rolled the trunks to one side and burned the branches on the spot. He then planted his fields with maize or other cereals. Some stock was raised and a few sheep, but only in sufficient numbers to supply local needs. Corn, or maize, was the principal reliance of the frontier farmer. His wife made a coarse flour and hominy from it, and a bag of the parched grains served him for food on his hunting expeditions.
The backwoods cabin was commonly a one-roomed structure of unhewn logs, chinked with clay and moss. After a while, when the owner became fairly settled and had his fields in good order, this would give place to a larger building, containing perhaps as many as three rooms and an attic reached by a ladder. A huge stone fireplace occupied one end of the cabin, and the door was always furnished with heavy bolts. The logs were hewn, at least on the inside, and the roof covered with clapboards. There was little furniture and few utensils in such a place. The table was a board set on trestles, and three-legged stools served to sit upon. The beds were rough wooden contrivances covered with skins. The dishes and platters were often of wood and the spoons and forks of pewter, the hunting-knife serving admirably to cut the meat. The family depended very largely upon its head to furnish the larder with venison and bear-steaks.
The dress of the backwoodsman was a distinctive one. He wore a hunting-shirt of buckskin, or homespun, ornamented with a fringe of the same material, or perhaps with porcupine quills. It was a loose tunic, descending nearly to the knees and fastened round the waist with a belt, from which were suspended the tomahawk and hunting-knife. From his shoulders hung by a strap the powder-horn and bullet-pouch, in which he also carried spare flints. On his head he wore a fur cap or a soft felt hat, and his feet were covered with moccasins, after the fashion of the Indians, from whom the dress was in large part borrowed. His legs were encased in leather leggings or trousers.
The backwoodsman’s principal weapon was the heavy flint-lock rifle. It was five feet, and sometimes slightly more, in length, and although it did not carry very far was exceedingly accurate. The most marvellous feats of marksmanship were performed by some of the pioneers with these weapons. Every boy learned to shoot almost as soon as he was strong enough to lift a gun, and his training in woodcraft commenced even earlier, so that it is not surprising that many a youth, such as Kit Carson and Simon Kenton, exhibited the qualities of the expert hunter and Indian fighter before his beard was grown.
There was little money in the backwoods, pelts serving instead. Almost all the needs of the people were supplied by themselves. The women made homespun, in which they clothed the children and themselves. Every man was something of a smith, and most of the rifles were of backwoods manufacture. The men tanned the skins and their wives sewed them into foot-gear and garments. Trenchers and bowls, and even harrows and sleds, were made without much difficulty.
There were, however, a few very necessary articles for which the settlers had to depend upon the outside world. These were salt, iron, powder and lead. In the fall the members of a settlement would make a joint collection of fur-skins and send two or three of their number to some large town, such as Baltimore, to get what was needed. Thus, a train of several peltry-laden horses would make the long, slow journey over a distance which we may cover in these days in two or three hours.
Daniel Boone was a typical backwoodsman. Born in a frontier settlement, he passed his long and adventurous life in sparsely-peopled regions and died in a pioneer community beyond the Mississippi. Boone’s father, a native of England, after living in different parts of Pennsylvania, took up some land on what was then the frontier, in Oley township, about eight miles from the site of the present city of Reading. Here Daniel was born in November, 1734. His early life was that of the ordinary backwoods boy. It embraced no considerable opportunity for scholarship. He learned to read and write but, having little occasion in the course of his active life for the exercise of either accomplishment, his spelling was poor to the day of his death. He helped his mother with the chores and, when old enough, was entrusted with the care of the stock at pasture. His days were spent in the open and he grew to be a lusty lad, well versed in nature and the ways of wild beasts and the less dangerous denizens of the forest. When he had reached the age of twelve, his father gave him a rifle, with which he soon became a good shot and furnished his mother’s kitchen with an ample supply of game. His winters were now spent in hunting, and he often roamed long distances from home in his solitary expeditions, returning with skins secured by his trap or gun.
In 1750 Boone’s parents with their children migrated south and settled on the banks of the upper Yadkin, in the northwestern corner of North Carolina. The location was even wilder than that they had left, and their lives were harder and more adventurous. Attacks by the Indians were not infrequent, and a few years later a border war cost many lives in the Yadkin Valley. Here Daniel, following the custom of young backwoodsmen, married as soon as he had arrived at manhood and set up housekeeping in a log cabin.
Ten years were passed after the usual manner of backwoods existence, in hunting, farming, and fighting Indians. But Boone’s hunting expeditions sometimes partook of the character of explorations. He went far beyond the frontier in various directions, and on two or three occasions crossed the mountains into Kentucky. The beauty and richness of the country and the abundance of game filled him with an irresistible desire to make his home there. In the fall of 1773 Boone sold his farm on the Yadkin and set out at the head of a company, consisting of his own family and several others that he had induced to accompany them, to make new homes in the lovely valleys of Kentucky. It is at this point that we take up his story.
Boone leads a company toward the promised land of Kentucky--They are attacked by Indians in Powell’s Valley--Six of the party are slain and among them Boone’s eldest son--The sorrow of a strong man and his sense of duty--The dead are buried and the march resumed--Boone’s lonely watch over the sleeping settlers--His encounter with Hardy Goodfellow in the gray dawn--“Now that father’s dead, I’m all alone”--Hardy finds a new father and Boone another son--Man and boy make a strange compact--“Maybe the Lord meant it that way--who knows?”
“Isn’t it about time to make camp, Captain?”
“Pretty near that, but I don’t exactly fancy campin’ right on a trace. I reckon we’ll push on a bit and see if we can’t find a likelier location.”
The first speaker was not a backwoodsman but a Charlestown surveyor. The day’s march had wearied him to the point of exhaustion, and he felt faint for lack of a good meal, for the frontiersman ate plenteously but once in the twenty-four hours and that at the close of the day. He turned to his pipe for solace, first offering his plug of strong tobacco to his companion.
“Have a fill, Captain?”
“Thanks; I don’t use it.”
“You don’t smoke, Captain?” said the other, in astonishment.
“No; I never learned and I don’t see that it would have done me any particular good if I had. It seems to take pretty hard hold on a man. I’ve seen hunters well nigh crazy when their tobacco run out, and I shouldn’t like to be that way myself. Then it’s apt to make trouble in other ways. A deer could scent your pipe half a mile away, and an Injun’s nose is near as keen.”
“You don’t think there are any Indians hereabouts, do you?” asked the surveyor, with some show of apprehension.
“I wouldn’t like to say one way or the other. There might be a hundred in there”--he jerked his head in the direction of the dense undergrowth--“and we not know it till they showed themselves. You see, a redskin’s like a copperhead--you don’t know where he is till he strikes.”
The men who thus conversed were following a forest trail, or “trace,” as it was called at the time, in Powell’s Valley, which lay near the point where the States of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee meet. On either side stretched forest so dense that the sun never penetrated the canopy of leaves. Even at midday a gloom prevailed, and now, as evening approached, it was impossible for any but the keenest eyes to see farther than a few yards in the growing dusk. The undergrowth was so thick as to be impenetrable at most points without the aid of the axe. Only a practiced woodsman dare enter that tangle of shrubs and vines. Had Mr. Sproul, the surveyor, ventured a hundred yards from the trail, he could only have found it again by accident and would in all probability have died of hunger, unless, indeed, his sufferings had been cut short by wild beasts or Indians.
It was precisely in this manner that Stuart, Boone’s companion in his first expedition to Kentucky, lost his life. He wandered from their camp and, failing to find his way back, probably died of starvation after his ammunition became exhausted. Years afterwards his skeleton was found in a hollow sycamore and identified by the powder-horn which bore his initials.
Of the two men we have under notice, one would have attracted immediate attention in any company, or under any conditions. He was verging upon his fortieth year and in the prime of life. Five feet ten inches in height, his erect carriage gave him an appearance of greater stature. His body, encased in the deerskin dress of the backwoodsman, was splendidly formed, the extraordinarily broad and deep chest giving evidence of great strength. A sculptor might have taken the head, with its noble brow and fine features, for a model. The long hair was plaited and rolled into a knot. The clear, keen, blue eye had a mild expression, but force was written in the large, aquiline nose and the square chin, while the thin, compressed lips denoted resolution. It was a face on which courage and composure were strongly stamped. As he swung along with easy stride, his rifle over his shoulder, the movement of the sinewy limbs betrayed strength and agility.
It did not appear to the surveyor that his companion was particularly mindful of his surroundings but, as a matter of fact, nothing escaped the ever-watchful eyes of Daniel Boone. To him a twig, a leaf, a stone, the bark of a tree, or the lightest impression on the earth, told a story that none but a master of woodcraft might read. Throughout the day his piercing glance had fallen on this side and on that, taking in every detail as he passed along the trail. This caution was habitual with the backwoodsman, but on the present occasion Boone’s vigilance was, if possible, keener than usual because he was responsible for the safety of a large company which included many women and children. Behind the leader came a train of settlers bound for the promised land beyond the mountains.
The band, which had left their homes at Boone’s persuasion, numbered about forty men and the women and children of five families including his own. The majority were old neighbors from the Yadkin Valley who had been fired by the glowing accounts of Boone and other hunters who had penetrated to the wonderful country that was the favorite hunting-ground of the Indians. The settlers had crossed the Blue Ridge and some lesser ranges and were approaching the Cumberland Gap, which was the gateway to the region they sought. The hardships of a backwoods migration were nothing to them, but they were a little apprehensive about pushing so far into the interior and going hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement. Such a thing had never been done, and probably would not have been attempted except under the guidance of Boone, who was already an acknowledged leader on the frontier and one in whom all placed the utmost reliance.
It was now the 6th of October and the party had left the Yadkin district on the 25th of the preceding month. Their progress was necessarily slow, owing to the nature of the country they had to traverse and the character of the cavalcade. The narrow and rough trail forbade their using wagons as did the later pioneers in crossing the prairie regions. A string of pack-horses, tied head to tail, carried their bedding, clothing, and other belongings. Aside from corn, maple-sugar, and salt, they did not need to burden the animals with provisions, for the men could always be depended upon to supply the evening camp-kitchen with an abundance of meat. Wild turkeys were numerous, and at this time of the year fat and lazy. Pigeons, quail, and other game birds abounded in the forest, and an occasional deer or bear was to be had.
Here and there in the line a woman rode, holding a child before her, but for the most part the backwoods women tramped along with the men. Some mothers placed their infants in baskets, Indian fashion, and hung them to the sides of the ponies. Others carried them slung to their backs or straddled across their hips. Early in life the little ones became accustomed to tramping and a boy or girl of ten years, born in the wilderness, made small matter of a ten or twelve miles journey on foot.
At night they encamped near some spring or creek. Meat was broiled over the flames of the fire, and bread baked in the ashes. Each family or group of men made its fire in front of the shelter for the night, so that they might lie with their feet to it. A low structure, open in front and sloping towards the back, was readily raised by means of poles covered with skins. A comfortable bed was made of dry leaves or grass, with a blanket or pelt for covering. With such accommodations, these hardy, simple people deemed themselves well provided for, and without doubt they enjoyed better health than would have been their lot under the softer conditions of city life.
Boone and Mr. Sproul--whom it is needless to describe, for he does not figure any further in our story--were pacing the path in silence when several shots fired in rapid succession rang out. The surveyor dropped his pipe and stood paralyzed with alarm. At the first sound the hunter had wheeled about, and before the last report, which his trained ear told him was half a mile at least in the rear, had died away, he was speeding past the string of pack-animals with his rifle in readiness. In passing he called on five men to follow him and ordered the remainder to guard the women and children.
It was evident that the attack--for the character of the firing clearly indicated an attack--had been upon the party set to guard and drive the cattle, which often lagged a long way behind. Boone remembered, with a sudden pang, that his young son was one of the cattle escort that day, and the thought spurred him onward. Presently a savage whoop of triumph broke upon his ears and the next instant he was upon the scene.
The animals had plunged into the thicket and scattered. Six figures lay upon the earth, still in death. Five Indians, each exultantly brandishing a bleeding scalp, were in the act of diving into the neighboring undergrowth. A sixth bent over one of the prostrate forms, with his fingers entwined in the hair and knife raised to make the circular sweep in the crown of the head. Boone’s rifle went up, and had hardly touched his shoulder before it spoke. The Indian dropped, shot through the brain.
The father had the poor consolation of having saved his boy’s body from mutilation. That to a backwoodsman was a source of satisfaction, but it did not go far towards mitigating Boone’s present grief. He stood for some minutes, leaning upon his rifle and looking down at the face of his dead boy. The convulsive twitching of his features told of the inward commotion. But there was urgent duty at hand and Boone sternly put his grief behind him and turned to it. When he lifted his head, his companions saw that the features, though drawn, were calm and the eyes keen and alert as ever.
Reloading his rifle, Boone stepped into the forest at the point where the Indians had disappeared. In ten minutes’ time he rejoined the anxiously waiting men.
“Only seven,” he said. “No likelihood of another attack. McCurdy, you go and fetch back five men--and don’t tell them what’s happened as yet.”
With the reinforcement, the party set to work digging a broad and shallow grave, in which they laid their dead without further preparation or ceremony. It was but an incident of backwoods life and the men who performed the service to-day might be in need of it to-morrow. Having marked the grave with stones and blazed some neighboring trees, they rejoined the main body, which resumed the march, leaving the cattle to be sought for the next day.
A little farther on, the party came upon a favorable spot and went into camp for the night. As soon as Boone had made the shelter for his family and built a fire, he devoted himself to comforting his stricken wife. But even this task could not be pursued uninterruptedly. The camp needed guarding with special vigilance. It is true that Boone believed the attack of the afternoon to have been made by a small party of wandering Indians who killed the settlers for the mere sake of securing their scalps. On the other hand, they might have been a scouting party sent out by a large band. Although Boone was as fearless as any man that ever lived, he was never imprudent, much less reckless. In the course of their conversation Mr. Sproul had said something about “trusting to Providence.” The hunter had replied that he didn’t “believe in trusting to Providence until you have done all you can for yourself. After that, Providence is much more likely to lend a willing hand.”
As soon, therefore, as the other settlers had composed themselves to rest, Boone went out and seated himself upon a fallen tree, prepared to spend the night in watchfulness. His ears were alive to the slightest sound and he could instantly detect the origin of each. Now and again the stillness of the forest would be broken by the howl of a wolf, or the hoot of an owl. At such times the hunter would raise his head and listen intently, for the Indians imitated the cries of birds and animals in signalling to one another. Boone was himself a very good hand at that form of reproduction and was seldom deceived by the performance of another.
Boone’s vigil had extended to the gray dawn when his attention was attracted by a dim figure moving on the farther side of the camp. He thought that it was probably one of the settlers suffering from indigestion or, perhaps, walking in his sleep. However, prudence demanded that he should stalk the figure, and he accordingly slipped noiselessly round the back of the shelters in his moccasined feet. The manœuvre brought him suddenly within sight of the person at a few feet distance. The light was just strong enough to enable him to discern the form of a youth who was struggling to suppress the sobs that convulsed his frame at intervals.
Boone took the boy by the arm and gently led him to the fallen tree by his own camp fire.
“Sit down,” he said. “Now, what’s the trouble, young man?” He spoke in a low, soft voice that told the lad that he had fallen in with a friend. “Take your time,” continued the hunter, soothingly; “I know it hurts, whatever it is, and you’re taking it like a man, anyhow.”
He placed an arm across the boy’s shoulders and the youngster felt the touch strengthen and calm him as had not all the comforting words of the sympathetic settlers’ wives. After a while he controlled himself sufficiently to speak.
“My father was killed yesterday,” said the lad, at last, “and--and I didn’t see him.”
“Too bad, too bad,” said Boone, drawing the boy closer to his side. “I wouldn’t worry about not seeing him, though. I saw him--I buried him, and he looked peaceful and I don’t doubt is happier than you or me at this moment. Where’s your mother, young man?”
“Mother died long ago, before we left England.”
“You don’t mean that you’re all alone?”
“Yes, now that father’s dead, I’m all alone.”
The thought of his utter loneliness overcame the lad, and for a few minutes he was again shaken with grief. Boone waited silently until the boy had somewhat recovered himself. Then he asked:
“What’s your name?”
“Hardy Goodfellow, sir.”
“I like that name,” said the hunter. “Hardy Goodfellow sounds like it ought to fit a backwoodsman. What are you going to do, Hardy?” The hunter did not wait for an answer to his question but went on: “We can’t leave you here and there’s no way of sending you back, at present. Do you want to go on to Kentucky, Hardy?”
“Yes, I’d rather go on,” replied the lad. “I think father would want me to, if he knew.”
“Why do you think he would?”
“Well, I’ve often heard him say he hated to see a man turn back when he’d once started to do anything--but, of course, I’m not a man.”
“I’m not so sure of that, Hardy. You don’t need to have a certain number of years nor a certain number of feet to be a man, leastways not in the backwoods. It’s more a matter of the heart and head, Hardy, and I think you’ve got as much pluck and sense as many of your elders.”
After this speech the hunter lapsed into silent thought and so sat for ten or fifteen minutes. When he turned again to his young companion it was with an air of satisfied decision.
“Hardy, the same Injuns that killed your father killed my son. The eldest he was--the other’s only a baby. Now, if you’re willin’, I’ll try to take the place of your father and you shall take the place of our Jim. What do you say?”
The boy strove to speak but his emotions choked him. He looked up at Boone and the hunter could see gratitude and joy written on his face.
“Shake on it--that’s enough,” said Boone, extending his hand. “That’s settled, then, and I don’t think either of us will ever be sorry for the bargain. My woman will make you a good mother and I’ll go bail you’ll make her a good son. Now crawl into your new home, Hardy, and get an hour’s sleep. I’ll stretch my legs a bit.”
It may seem strange that Boone should on such short acquaintance have taken a boy into his family on the footing of a son. However, Boone’s judgment of human character amounted to almost unerring intuition and he felt strongly drawn towards Hardy, largely perhaps on account of his recent bereavement. Moreover, he was not devoid of the backwoods trait of superstition, as was evidenced by his muttered remark as he turned on his heel after seeing the boy enter the shelter: “Maybe the Lord meant it that way--who knows?”
THE YOUNG HUNTER
The emigrants show the white feather--They retrace their steps to North Carolina--Boone refuses to turn his back upon Kentucky and Hardy proves staunch--“Didn’t we make a bargain?”--The new home in the cabin on the Clinch--Hardy enters upon his backwoods education--Boone finds him an apt and willing pupil--The hunting expeditions in the glorious Indian summer--Hardy soon learns to shoot straight and to stalk a deer--Hardy has a lesson in tracking a man--“I laid flat, thinking you might fire”--Winter trapping and camping--The Indians invade the settlements--Hardy serves in Dunmore’s War.
When the first rays of the rising sun called the settlers from their rude couches, Boone appeared in camp, after a bath in the branch, as fresh and alert as though he had enjoyed a long rest like the others. The night before he had instructed them not to strike their shelters in the morning, for he designed to remain in the camp until the next day and devote the interval to searching for the strayed cattle. These were a very valuable property. Their milk was needed for the young children, and they were intended to form the nucleus of the stock in the new settlement. A party was sent out to search the thickets, but Boone was doomed to meet with a great disappointment before the close of the day and to have his cherished plans entirely upset.
At about noon the heads of the families among the emigrants came to the leader and expressed their determination to return. The attack of the day before had convinced them that the Indians would oppose their farther progress, and they deemed it suicidal to venture into an unknown region, far beyond the limits of settlement. Many of the other men were married and had joined the expedition with a view to prospecting for land. These, also, were bent on returning to their homes. A few of the single men, who had no ties, were indifferent as to their future course, and of these perhaps half a dozen stayed in the district.
Boone felt that if there was to be any turning back, the sooner it took place the better, and he did not try to dissuade the settlers from their purpose. For his own part, he had made up his mind to go to Kentucky and get there he would. He should stay where he was until an opportunity for going forward presented itself.
While this understanding was being reached, Hardy stood beside his adoptive father, an interested listener. Boone now turned to him.
“Hardy,” he said, with a grim smile, “here’s a fine chance to go back again, if you want to.”
The boy looked up at the hunter with an expression of mingled surprise and reproach.
“Didn’t we make a bargain?” he asked.
“That we did, Hardy,” replied Boone heartily, slapping the lad on the back, “that we did, and I’m to blame for doubting you.”
So it was settled, and the next morning the entire party set out on the back trail. Boone accompanied the returning settlers for a distance of about forty miles and then bade them farewell and good luck. They parted company in the Valley of the Clinch, near the headwaters of the river of that name. Boone had noticed a deserted cabin and a small clearing on the banks of the stream and had marked the place for his future home. When the retreating band had disappeared from view, Boone turned his pack-horses towards the spot and before nightfall his little family was comfortably ensconced in the lonely hut.
The Boones were not beyond the bounds of settlement. During the few years previous to their arrival, restless pioneers from the borders of Virginia and North Carolina had pushed out to the valleys this side of the Cumberland Mountains, and there were several scattered “stations” at no great distance, as backwoodsmen computed distance. Indeed, Russell’s Station was next door, being only eight miles away. Boone felt confident that among these adventurous spirits he would soon find some to make up another expedition for the settlement of Kentucky. Meanwhile, there was much to be done. The cabin needed repairing and the clearing had to be attended to. Then there was the winter’s stock of meat to be laid in and some furs, which, as we have said, represented money, to be secured.
Then commenced for Hardy Goodfellow the happiest time of his life. Boone, as soon as he had seen his wife and little ones comfortably settled at home, began to take hunting trips. This was a very necessary part of a backwoodsman’s life, and his wife was quite accustomed to being left alone for weeks and months at a time. For Hardy these excursions afforded the most delightful experience and the most useful education. While he was somewhat better schooled than the average backwoods boy, he was almost a greenhorn in the matters that went to the making of an accomplished frontiersman, his father having but recently arrived with him from England. He had, however, unusual advantages to favor his development into an expert backwoodsman. He was a lusty, well-formed lad, rather tall for his fourteen years. His childhood had been passed in a rural district, and he delighted in outdoor life. He possessed, as Boone had quickly discerned, plenty of pluck and an ample fund of common sense. But Hardy’s greatest good fortune lay in having such an instructor as Boone who, besides being an expert hunter and a master of woodcraft, was a man of splendid character and one calculated to stimulate and develop the inherent good qualities in a pupil.
The glorious “Indian summer” of the South was upon them when they began these wanderings together. Their days were spent mainly in hunting deer, the skins of which were worth a dollar apiece and the meat the most desirable for storing. Under Boone’s directions Hardy soon learned to shoot straight, and also became fairly adept in stalking the game. After a while the hunter would allow his young companion to take the direction of the day’s hunt, when Hardy would be required to calculate from the state of the weather and the condition of the surrounding country where the deer were likely to be found, and to decide from the course of the wind upon the point at which they were to be approached.
Every minute of the day added to the boy’s knowledge and his strength, while his powers of observation and reasoning steadily developed. Hunting is hard work and Boone was no light taskmaster, but despite the fatigue and the bruises and the scratches, Hardy fairly revelled in his new experience, as any healthy boy would. As they tramped along, Boone showed the eager youngster how to detect “signs” of Indians and animals; how to tell whether an upturned stone or leaf had been disturbed by the wind or by the foot of man or beast. He explained to him how, from the barks of trees and other indications, to determine the points of the compass, so that he might travel the wilderness without guide. They studied the habits of birds and animals and practiced mimicking their cries.
Sometimes they would halt in a small glade and Boone would set up a mark for Hardy to shoot at, impressing upon him the wisdom of never pressing trigger until he should be sure of his aim. This exercise was varied with that of throwing the tomahawk, a very useful accomplishment. The Indian fighter who expended a shot without bringing down his foe, might not have time to reload, when he would have to resort to the weapons in his belt. On such and many other occasions the tomahawk came into play. At times they would engage in running matches and wrestling bouts, and although at first the hunter could pick Hardy up by the belt and hold him at arm’s length, the boy soon became too strong and agile to be treated as an altogether indifferent antagonist.
As they were constantly on the move, they made what was called an “open” camp,--that is to say, at night they rolled themselves in their blankets under the sky, or beneath the trees. As they sat beside their fire, after the meal of venison and cornbread, Boone would instruct Hardy in the ways of Indians, or tell him tales of frontier life--stories of hairbreadth escape from wild beast or cruel Indian; of women defending their cabins in the absence of their men; of fierce fights; of captivity and torture; of wanderings in the trackless wilds; of various adventures in a world that was as yet little known to the lad. The hunter liked to tell and Hardy to hear of Boone’s excursions into Kentucky--how he spent three months alone, hundreds of miles from a white man and without even a horse or dog for company; how the Indians captured him, and how he escaped. These stories fired Hardy with an intense longing to become a full-fledged frontiersman, and he bent every effort towards that end.
Sometimes Hardy would awake in the morning to find Boone gone. Then he understood that he was expected to trail the hunter to the next camp. The man took care that the task should not be too difficult and Hardy met with such success that he was quite elated at it. One night he boasted of his skill and the next day received a lesson that abated his pride and convinced him that he had a great deal yet to learn.
The next morning Hardy found himself alone and at once started off on Boone’s trace, which was plainly visible. He followed it with comparative ease until some time after noon. Then he began to be uncertain and at last was entirely at a loss. For hours he wandered about, carefully examining the ground, the bushes, and the trees, but not a sign could he find. For all trace of him that Hardy could see, the hunter might have flown straight up from the earth. Evening found the lad still at fault. There was nothing for it but to camp for the night.
Hardy felt somewhat downcast as he looked around for a resting place. He had perfect confidence in Boone and knew that he would turn up on the morrow, but it was the first time that Hardy had been alone in the wilderness and he didn’t quite like the experience. However, he concluded to make the best of it, and to hearten himself, said aloud:
“Cheer up, Hardy! You’ll never make a frontiersman if you’re afraid to be alone in the woods.”
A short chuckling laugh came from the depths of the neighboring undergrowth. Hardy started and peered apprehensively into the gloaming, his rifle half way to his shoulder. He could see nothing to cause alarm and the most profound silence reigned.
“Ugh! a gobbler I reckon,” concluded Hardy, turning once more to his preparations for the night.
He made a fire and was broiling a venison steak on the end of his ramrod, when a well-known voice greeted him with, “Got a bit of meat to spare, Hardy?” and Boone strode into the circle of light, a quizzical smile overspreading his face. He took in the preparations for the night’s camp at a glance, rested his rifle against a tree within arm’s reach, and sat down beside the young hunter.
It goes without saying that Hardy was delighted to have his adoptive father with him just as he was looking forward to a solitary and cheerless night, but he was not a little nettled to learn that Boone, after purposely throwing him off the track, had stalked him to his camp and was able to tell him of every movement that he had made.
“Son,” said the hunter, after he had explained the situation, “if I had been an Injun, I’m afraid that you’d a had less hair on your head than you have. But I shouldn’t have laughed just now. That was foolish. As soon as I’d done it, I laid flat, thinking you might fire. I was glad to see that you minded what I’ve told you, not to shoot till you can see what you’re shooting at. You’ve nothing to be ashamed of, son. Dan’l Boone’s thrown many an Injun off his track before now.”
Notwithstanding the reassuring remarks of his mentor, Hardy had sense enough to realize from this incident that he was not so smart as he had imagined himself to be, and he redoubled his efforts to become expert in woodcraft.
With the approach of winter the hunters took out pack-horses and brought home the skins from where they had cached them. They also laid in a store of smoked venison. Some time was spent in making the cabin weather-tight and in cutting logs for the great fireplace. In this work Hardy learned to wield the long-handled backwoods axe, which was as important a factor in frontier life as the rifle. When all was made snug at home, the hunters were ready to set out again.
Hardy now entered upon an entirely new experience. Winter hunting he found quite different from what had gone before. They did not wander about, as in the fall, but stayed in one place for weeks at a time. Trapping was their chief occupation, and their object to secure the furs of beaver, otter, mink, and other desirable animals. The rifle was only used for the purpose of providing food.
They had plenty of tramping to do, for making the rounds of the traps involved a journey of several miles; but at night they always came back to the spot where their shelter stood and where their stores were kept. This was called a “closed” camp, or a “half-faced cabin.” It was made in the following manner: A log was placed for the back and two or three logs along each side. These were chinked with moss to keep out the cold wind. Boughs or poles were laid over the top and skins or bark covered these, sloping down to the back-log. The shelter was open in front.
When Indians were not to be feared, a fire was kept burning before the cabin all night and the hunters lay with their stockinged feet to it, their wet moccasins being hung to dry. The bed was made of boughs covered with a blanket, or a skin with the hair on it. Except in the very severest weather, this kind of shelter afforded sufficient protection to the hardy hunters. During the winter of 1773-1774, Boone and Hardy Goodfellow occupied such a camp during two trapping expeditions which resulted in good takes.
With the approach of spring, conditions on the border became such that Boone was obliged to abandon hunting and take up another phase of the backwoodsman’s life, that of Indian fighter.
With the increase of population in the colonies and the corresponding increased demand for lands, the border had been steadily pushed forward towards the Indian country. The savages had gradually become alarmed at the threatened invasion of their hunting-grounds and at the time of our story were preparing to contest the advance in force. They had shown many evidences of ill temper, but as yet no open declaration of war had been made. There were frequent conflicts between small parties or individuals of the two races and, in fact, whenever a redman met a white the rifle generally came into immediate play. Now, however, there were indications that the tribes upon the western border were preparing to go on the war-path unitedly.
Although the backwoodsmen were a fine class as a whole, there were among them some ruffians. In the spring of 1774, a band of such men committed a dastardly deed that acted as a firebrand upon the inflammable minds of the Cherokees and Shawnees. This was no less than the cold-blooded and unprovoked murder of the family of Chief Logan. Logan was an Indian of exceptionally fine character and peaceable disposition, and the whites, no less than his own people, deplored the outrage. The Indians were aroused to a pitch of fury. The tomahawk was dug up; the war-pipe was carried through the villages; runners were sent to recall hunting parties; and all the usual preparations for a war to the knife were put in train.
The danger was, of course, greatest on the frontier, and every man and boy who could bear arms was mustered into the militia. Boone received a commission as captain and was given command of three stockaded forts, in one of which Hardy Goodfellow served as rifleman. A few hundred soldiers were distributed among the frontier posts but they were not the valuable accession that might be supposed. The regulars always proved to be much inferior to the Indians in forest fights. The former were brave enough but utterly ignorant of the tactics of backwoods warfare. In conflicts with the savages, one frontiersman was worth a score of redcoats.
But before actual hostilities had broken out, it was found that a company of land prospectors and surveyors were in Kentucky, with great danger of being cut off and massacred. Lord Dunmore, the Governor of Virginia, sent a messenger to the Clinch Valley with the request that Boone and another should go out and endeavor to bring the party back. Boone immediately accepted the dangerous and difficult task and taking with him Michael Stoner, a backwoodsman of experience, started upon the long journey without delay. “If they are alive,” wrote Russell to Colonel Preston, the commandant in the Valley, “it is indisputable but Boone must find them.” So, indeed, he did and accomplished his errand successfully, having travelled upwards of eight hundred miles in sixty-five days, including a halt of more than a week.
A detailed description of Dunmore’s War, as it is called, is not necessary to our story. Suffice it to say that after a fierce battle, in which fifteen hundred braves were opposed by a force of frontiersmen, under General Lewis, the Indians were glad to sue for peace and entered into a treaty waiving all claim to the country now known as Kentucky.
Boone and Hardy, who had their share of the fighting, came through the campaign without serious mishap. Before the close of the year they were cheered by the opening of a prospect of pursuing the desire which both possessed to go on to the fair land of Kentucky.
THE DARING PIONEER
Colonel Henderson plans a semi-independent republic--He employs Boone to spy out the land--Boone makes a hazardous journey into Kentucky alone--He locates the site of Boonesborough and after six weeks’ absence returns--Boone gathers the Indian chiefs at Sycamore Shoals--The Indians sell Kentucky to Henderson and his associates--Boone with a small band starts out to blaze the way into the interior--They are attacked by Indians and see buffalo for the first time--They commence the erection of a fort--Hundreds of speculators flock to the new territory.
The important part played by Daniel Boone in the settlement of Kentucky was due to the extraordinary combination of qualities possessed by this ideal backwoodsman, a combination which was not found in any other of the pioneers who were associated with him. George Rogers Clark was his superior in intellect, but Clark lacked Boone’s calm, even temper and infinite patience. Kenton was as fearless, but he had not Boone’s prudence and foresight. Harrod, Logan, Todd, and others were able captains, but each was wanting in some of the qualities that combined to fit Boone so perfectly for the rôle he filled in frontier history.
The men of the border, with their independent dispositions, were extremely difficult to control. Even when imminent danger demanded concerted action, they were amenable only to the lightest discipline. If they followed a leader, it was not from any consideration of their obligations as militiamen, but because they had confidence in him and personal regard for him. These sentiments Boone excited in almost every one with whom he came in contact, and his influence over the rough, untrammelled backwoods fighters was probably greater than that exerted by any other leader. In the time of dire danger and stress that came upon the Kentucky settlers, when hundreds fled at the approach of the storm, had not Boone stood his ground, the new country must have been deserted.
The affection and respect which the settlers evinced for Boone were enhanced by the fact that he was in all respects one of themselves. Born on the border, of backwoods parentage, he was wedded to the hard life led by the frontier people, and like most of them he was poor and unlettered. There is much in his simple, honest character, with its homely common sense and cheery humor, to remind us of Abraham Lincoln, and it is not difficult to believe that Lincoln, under similar circumstances, would have been just such a backwoodsman as Boone.
The high qualities which made Daniel Boone a natural leader among his fellows were not lost upon men of superior station with whom he happened to have relations. Colonel Richard Henderson, of Granville County, North Carolina, had the highest opinion of the pioneer’s character and ability. Henderson was a judge whose circuit included the backwoods town of Hillsboro, and here he had frequently met Boone at the time that the latter lived upon the Yadkin. In fact, there is a tradition that Boone once saved Henderson from ill-treatment, if not death, at the hands of a band of Regulators.
Boone’s descriptions of Kentucky had keenly interested the Judge and ultimately awoke in his mind the idea of establishing in that wonderful region a semi-independent republic, to be called Transylvania. Of course, such a movement would meet with the disapprobation of the British authorities, but active opposition was hardly to be feared in such a remote part of the country. Three brothers named Hart who, like Colonel Henderson, were men of means, associated themselves with him in this romantic project. The defeat of the Indians in Dunmore’s War and the subsequent treaty of peace seemed to open a promising prospect of prosecuting the enterprise with success.
Towards the close of the year, Colonel Henderson put himself in communication with Boone, in whose judgment and discretion he had, as we have said, implicit confidence. The plan was outlined to the backwoodsman and his services as prospector were readily secured. Though Boone was not, perhaps, so sanguine as the promoters in the ultimate success of the undertaking, he fully appreciated its advantages as a preliminary step. He knew that in the past, the dwellers upon the frontier had been left to fight their own battles and manage their own affairs, with no considerable aid from the colonial authorities, and he did not believe that they would fare much better in the contemplated case with a corporation at their backs; but he realized that the efforts of Henderson and his associates might have a powerful effect in starting the settlement and he entered into the scheme with hearty good-will.
Leaving Hardy, who was duly proud of the responsibility, to look after the family on the Clinch, Boone started in January, 1775, upon a solitary expedition into Kentucky. His ostensible purpose was hunting, but in reality he was engaged in spying out the land for his employers. He struck the Kentucky River near the Virginia border and followed it to the site of Harrodsburg, which had been surveyed the year before. Thence he took a diagonal course across the great valley to the Cumberland Gap, and so home.
It was a hazardous journey, but just such an adventure as Boone delighted in. He found a genuine pleasure in the solitude of the wilderness, and felt safer when alone than with a companion whose imprudence might lead him into trouble. Kentucky was the common hunting-ground of several tribes and did not contain any permanent Indian villages. There were, therefore, few savages about in the winter. Perils of other kinds were, however, plentiful. Panthers, wolves, and bears sometimes attacked lone men. There was the possibility of becoming lost or, worse still, of suffering a crippling accident. Imagine the plight of a man with a broken leg, lying in the snowy wastes hundreds of miles from a human being. Such a fate befell more than one scout and pioneer, but Boone accomplished his task without mishap and returned after an absence of about six weeks to the cabin on the Clinch.
When Boone reported the result of his observations to Colonel Henderson and his associates, who now called themselves the Transylvania Company, it was determined to entrust him with a task calling for qualities of a different nature from those exercised in his exploration. It was proposed by the Company to purchase from the Cherokees the land which they decided on Boone’s recommendation to settle, and to him was entrusted the matter of opening negotiations.
It should be understood that the Cherokees had no better title to the territory in question than had the Choctaws, Shawnees, or Iroquois. In fact, the last named had some few years previous transferred to the British Crown all the lands lying between the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. However, the Company felt that its position would be strengthened by securing some title, however shadowy, from an Indian tribe, and the Cherokees were selected because they commanded the path that would be followed by the settlers from the South in going to the new country.
As usual, Boone accomplished his errand and in March brought twelve hundred Cherokees to the Sycamore Shoals, on the Watauga River, where the promoters met them and after considerable bickering struck a bargain. It was agreed that in consideration of the payment of fifty thousand dollars, the tribe should cede to Henderson and his partners in the Transylvania Company all the land lying between the Kentucky and Cumberland Rivers, and should allow them a free road to the region through Powell’s Valley and the Cumberland Gap.
According to the general practice of the time, the purchase price was paid in merchandise, consisting of cloth, clothing, guns, ammunition, cooking utensils, hatchets, and ornaments. The goods filled a large cabin but when it came to distributing them, each warrior’s share proved to be small. One brave, to whom was allotted a deerskin hunting-shirt, expressed his disgust in no uncertain terms. What a fool he had been, he said, to sell for such an article his hunting-grounds, where in a single day he could kill deer enough to make half a dozen such garments.
Thus, at the outset, the arrangement met with the dissatisfaction of the Indians. Indeed, before the meeting broke up one of the chiefs warned Boone that he must not expect to effect the settlement of the region without trouble. He pointed out, truthfully enough, that the Indian chiefs could no more control their young men than the frontier leaders could the hot-heads among themselves. The Cherokees as a nation might, he said, be at peace with the Virginians--they called all frontiersmen “Virginians”--and a few individuals on either side wantonly commit some act that would bring on war. The chiefs could not, he declared, guarantee the safety of emigrants upon the promised path, much less of settlers in Kentucky itself.
This was not very promising, but it did not daunt the promoters, for they had expected nothing better. All they had looked for from the agreement was something that would give them a moral right to fight for the possession of the land and entitle them to the countenance of the Crown authorities. In this hope they were, however, immediately disappointed; for the Governors of North Carolina and Virginia denounced the transaction as soon as knowledge of it reached them.
By this time the colonists, and especially those on the borders, had begun to treat the representatives of King George with scant respect, and the Transylvania Company was in no measure deterred from the prosecution of its enterprise by the proclamations issued against it by Governors Martin and Dunmore. Boone counselled immediate action, reasoning that the Indians might be expected to observe the treaty for a few months and that by driving the entering wedge home before they should awake to active opposition, much would be gained. In this view the promoters concurred and again they relied upon their trusty agent to carry out their designs.
In his expedition of the preceding January, Boone had marked a spot for the first settlement of the Transylvania Company, and now it was arranged that he should go out at the head of a body of thirty picked backwoodsmen to mark a path through the wilderness to the place selected. The party started immediately after the conclusion of the meeting on the Watauga and arrived at their destination on the sixth day of April. They encountered many difficulties on the way and were more than once attacked by Indians, several of their number being killed and wounded.
The point at which it was decided to locate the capital town of Transylvania, as the colony was to be called, was Big Lick, just below Otter Creek on the Kentucky River. The site was a plain on the south side of the river, and as the pioneers approached it they were confronted with a sight which to most of them was entirely novel. Hundreds of buffalo occupied the destined ground, where they were engaged in licking the earth for the salt with which it was impregnated. As the men advanced, the huge beasts scattered in every direction, some running, some walking, others loping carelessly along with young calves skipping and bounding at their sides. Such a sight was common enough in Kentucky at that time, but soon after the advent of white men the great herds of bison moved westward.
The pioneers immediately commenced the erection of a fort and raised a few cabins along the river bank, but it was long before the stockade of Boonesborough, as the settlement was named, was completed. In the absence of women, it was hard to induce the backwoodsmen to devote themselves to measures of defence while such tempting opportunities for hunting presented themselves. They were a self-confident and somewhat reckless lot. Their first thought was to mark off a claim by a rude method of surveying which entailed endless after trouble. Their second, to pursue the game which abounded in a plenteousness far surpassing anything in their past experience.
Before the close of April, Colonel Henderson arrived with a reinforcement of thirty men and a quantity of tools and ammunition. In the succeeding months arrivals were numerous from various quarters and by different routes. During the course of the year upwards of five hundred men from the frontiers of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina went into Kentucky, but the majority of them were not settlers. Some were merely hunters but the greater number land speculators or “cabiners,” as they were termed, who ran up a shanty on a piece of land as evidence of occupation and returned to the colonies in the hope of selling the tract.
At the close of the summer Boone brought in his family from the Clinch Valley and his wife and daughters were, as he proudly declared, “the first white women to stand on the banks of the Kentucky.” Shortly afterwards, several other families came in, and there were before the end of September four or five settlements, the principal being Boonesborough and Harrodsburg, about fifty miles to the west of the former place. Two or three hundred acres of corn had been planted, fruit trees had been set, and horses, cattle and hogs had been introduced.
The settlers were for the most part of Scotch-Irish extraction, sturdy, patriotic men, attaching themselves to the soil with a tenacity that nothing could shake. In the struggle to maintain their homes in the new territory they greatly aided their countrymen in the Revolution, which was just about to break out. Indeed, they guarded the western flank of the colonies and even carried the war into the Crown dominions on the north. Among those who came into Kentucky in this first year of its settlement were a number whose names figure prominently in border story and in the history of our western march--George Rogers Clark, Simon Kenton, the Lewises, Benjamin Logan, James Harrod, John Todd, the brothers McAfee, Bowman, Hite, Randolph, McClellan.
During the latter months of 1775 the Indians gave little trouble and many settlers began to congratulate themselves upon the prospect of occupying the land without serious opposition, but in the closing days of the year several attacks were made on the whites at different points. These were the signal for the hurried departure of the timid, and of speculators, surveyors, and others who had no permanent interests in the country, making it apparent that in time of stress the tenure of the land would depend upon a few bold spirits.
In order to dispose of the Transylvania Company once for all, we shall anticipate the course of time somewhat. The settlers found many causes of dissatisfaction with the Company’s methods of managing affairs, and the declaration of independence by the colonies in July, 1776, made it evident that a proprietary government could not long exist. Under the circumstances, the settlers of Kentucky wished for definite inclusion in the new republic and with that view they sent a delegation to the Virginia Assembly praying that body to give them recognition as part of the State. In accordance with this petition, Kentucky was organized as a county of Virginia, with David Robinson as county lieutenant, John Bowman colonel, Anthony Bledsoe and George Rogers Clark majors, and Daniel Boone, James Harrod, Benjamin Logan and John Todd captains. Ultimately the Transylvania Company was compensated for the forfeiture of its possessions by a large grant of land.
But before all this happened, Kentucky had entered upon the stormy days that earned for it the grim title of “the dark and bloody ground.”
IN FAIR KENTUCKY
The settlers find themselves in a rich and beautiful land--But soon learn that they must fight for the possession of it--A night alarm on the border--How a woman and two children defended their home--The stockade at Boonesborough--Two girls carried off by the savages--Hardy raises an alarm and a party is soon in hot pursuit--Boone circumvents the wily redskins--They are overtaken and caught unprepared--A volley, a charge, and the girls are safe--Back to Boonesborough and a happy reunion.
The country in which Boone and his companions found themselves differed greatly from the gloomy, forest-covered region that they had left. Here were extensive forests, it is true, but they were not so dense as those along the Alleghanies, and furthermore they were interspersed with stretches of fertile plain and valleys of succulent grass. Hill and vale, river-bottom and prairie, timber-land and cane-brake, succeeded one another in pleasing variety and offered the widest opportunities for agricultural pursuits. Game was so plentiful that the settler might almost shoot it from his door-sill, but this very abundance induced to reckless and unnecessary killing, with the result that in a few years there was an actual scarcity and more than once the little community was hard pressed to secure a sufficient supply of food. The wanton killing of game continued until recent years.
Settlers were allowed to acquire lands on very easy terms. An advertisement inserted by Henderson in the newspapers of Virginia stated that: “Any person who will settle on and inhabit the same before the first day of June, 1776, shall have the privilege of taking up and surveying for himself five hundred acres, and for each tithable person he may carry with him and settle there, two hundred and fifty acres, on the payment of fifty shillings sterling per hundred, subject to a yearly quit-rent of two shillings, like money, to commence in the year 1780.” The deeds required the holders of the lands to pay this nominal rent “yearly and every year for ever,” so that had the Company’s title been confirmed, a large portion of Kentucky might have been subject to proprietary control at this day.
Having selected his land, the settler proceeded to clear it of timber and brush and to erect upon it a cabin. In this work he was aided by his neighbors, and himself stood ready to help the next comer. The farms were widely separated from one another and were in many cases situated several miles from the town or fort. Families lived upon them in times of quiet and almost invariably in the winter, when it was the habit of the Indians to retire to their villages. During troublous periods, one half of the men were engaged in scouting and guarding the settlement, whilst the other half tilled the ground. Often runners would make the rounds of the outlying farms warning the occupants of impending attack. There might not be a moment to spare, in which case all the worldly possessions of the family would be abandoned and they would make a hasty retreat to the stockaded village.
Doctor Doddridge, who was born and reared on the frontier says: “I well remember that when a little boy the family were sometimes waked up in the dead of night by an express with a report that the Indians were at hand. The express came softly to the door or back window, and by gently tapping waked the family; this was easily done, as an habitual fear made us ever watchful and sensible to the slightest alarm. The whole family were instantly in motion: my father seized his gun and other implements of war; my stepmother waked up and dressed the children as well as she could; and being myself the oldest of the children, I had to take my share of the burthens to be carried to the fort. There was no possibility of getting a horse in the night to aid us in removing to the fort; besides the little children, we caught up what articles of clothing and provisions we could get hold of in the dark, for we durst not light a candle or even stir the fire. All this was done with the utmost despatch and the silence of death; the greatest care was taken not to awaken the youngest child; to the rest it was enough to say ‘Indian,’ and not a whimper was heard afterwards. Thus it often happened that the whole number of families belonging to a fort, who were in the evening at their homes, were all in their little fortress before the dawn of the next morning. In the course of the succeeding day their household furniture was brought in by parties of the men under arms.”
On the other hand, it frequently happened that when the assembled settlers looked round after such a hasty gathering, it was discovered that one or another family was missing. Then a party of men would go out after them and, if fortunate, bring them in, but it might be that they had wandered from the trail in the darkness and become lost, or that they had encountered the savages and been massacred. Some men of reckless disposition would not leave their cabins until actually forced to do so by the approach of the enemy, or would return to their farms before the removal of danger. Such individuals caused serious trouble to the settlers with whom they were associated and often jeopardized their safety.
Such warnings as we have described were attendant upon the advance of the Indians in force, but the lone cultivator, upon his isolated farm, was in constant danger of attack from small bands or single savages that skulked unseen through the forest. The clearing was generally surrounded by woods or thicket that afforded ample cover to the foe in his stealthy approach. The settler, driving his team along the furrow, never knew but that watchful eyes were following his every movement, awaiting the opportunity for a favorable shot at him. His boy, going to the spring for water, might be suddenly seized from behind, gagged before he could utter a sound, and carried away to meet a cruel death, or to be brought up in some Indian’s wigwam. The mother, standing in the doorway of the cabin, oblivious to all danger, might be shot through the heart in the very sight of her husband. Perhaps, when the head of the family was away on a short hunt, or a trip to the fort, a party of Indians who had patiently awaited the chance for days would make an attack on the cabin. If the occupants had time to throw the heavy bolts across the door, there was a fair chance of their beating off the assailants, even though their success depended upon the courage of one woman and a half-grown boy. Many a thrilling border story turns upon the heroism of frontier women and children under such circumstances.
A typical affair of the kind occurred in Nelson County, Kentucky, during the year 1791. A party of about a score of Indians attacked the cabin of a settler named Merrill. The place was at some distance from the nearest habitation and no help could reasonably be looked for. The family were taken entirely unawares, the first intimation of the presence of the dreaded redskins being a volley from the neighboring brush aimed at the father who was working near his home. He fell grievously wounded but contrived to struggle to his feet and staggered into the cabin with the foremost savage at his heels. The wife of the settler succeeded, however, in closing the door and throwing the heavy bar across it, before the Indian could enter. Meanwhile, her husband sank helpless upon the floor.
The defence of the home now depended upon the woman and her son and daughter, neither of whom was much more than a child. But the desperate situation did not daunt the brave mother. She seized an axe and prepared to defend the family as best she might with it. There were no firearms in the cabin. Merrill, after the manner of backwoodsmen of the time, had carried his rifle to work with him and after being hit had been unable to regain it from the tree against which it had been placed.
The assailants at once began to hack an opening in the door with their tomahawks and of course the defenders were unable to offer any obstruction to this proceeding. At length a hole was made big enough for a man to squeeze through and one of the savages entered the room by this means. The woman stood beside the door with axe poised and as soon as the Indian was fairly inside, but before he could rise to his feet, she brought the weapon crashing down upon his skull. He expired with scarce a groan.
Close behind the first intruder followed a second. He met with a similar fate and so with a third and a fourth. Each had entered as fast as the way became clear and the death-blows had been delivered swiftly and surely. The Indians now began to suspect that something untimely had befallen their fellows and before another essayed to enter the house they made a cautious survey through the crevice of the door. By the fitful light of the fire four motionless figures stretched upon the floor were discernible and their fate was easily surmised.
The attackers now decided upon another line of tactics. Two of them clambered to the roof of the cabin and began a descent of the capacious chimney. The alert woman had heard the noises made by the climbers and anticipated their designs. Still maintaining her vigilant watch at the door, she bade her children cut open the feather bed and throw its contents upon the fire. The burning feathers flew up the chimney in a fountain of flame and acrid smoke. The two savages half way down strove to regain the roof but were unable to do so and at last fell into the fireplace, scorched and suffocated. They were easily despatched by the children and the wounded father.
Hardly had the attack been repulsed at one end of the room than it was renewed at the other. A fifth savage made an effort to gain entrance by way of the door. He was not more than half way through when the well-wielded axe ended his career. This put an end to the assault. The Indians were more than satisfied and beat a retreat. When they reached their village they assured the tribesmen that the squaws fought better than the “Long Knives” themselves.
Although the fort at Boonesborough was not completed until some months after the point at which we have arrived in our story, it will be well to describe it here. There was a close resemblance between all these frontier stockades, and the picture of one serves as a general description of any other. The Boonesborough fort stood about two hundred feet from the river. It was a parallelogram, about three hundred feet in length and half as wide. The sides were formed of cabins set close together, the spaces between being closed with double rows of logs, planted endwise in the ground and standing about ten feet in height. At each corner was a blockhouse, two stories in height, the upper section extending two feet beyond the lower, with the floor of the projection loop-holed so that attackers immediately below might be fired upon. The cabins and palisades were plentifully loop-holed along each of the sides. Stumps, brush and everything that might afford cover, was cleared from the immediate vicinity. In the middle of each of the long sides was a strong, heavy gate, with wooden hinges and bolts. In the centre of the enclosure stood a storehouse for provisions and ammunition, a few trees, and posts for stretching clothes-lines. In time of siege, cattle and horses were driven into the stockade.
Such a fortress could not, of course, stand against artillery and in some instances, where the Indians were supported by British gunners and cannon, the defenders of stockades were obliged to surrender. But it was seldom, indeed, that any force of savages unaided succeeded in carrying a frontier fort by assault when there were a handful of unerring backwoods rifles to defend it. In fact, the redskins had, long before this date, learned the futility of direct attack and usually resorted to subterfuge, or attempted to starve out the garrison. But this was not so easily accomplished in the case of such resourceful and determined men as the pioneers of Kentucky. When food began to fail, one would leave the fort in the dead of night and, stealthily creeping through the cordon of besiegers, take to the woods in search of game. The return, heavily laden, was even a more dangerous and difficult feat than the departure, and many laid down their lives for the sake of their fellows in such enterprises. But though one fell to-day, another was ready to essay the task to-morrow, and in the end some would succeed.
The Indians generally relied upon stratagem to overcome the defenders. A favorite subterfuge was pretended retreat. Simulating discouragement or alarm, they would act as though retiring from the country. The object was to draw the garrison into pursuit and entrap them in ambush. As we shall see, these tactics were sometimes highly successful with men who were ever ready to embrace any excuse for escaping the irksome restraint of the fort.
With the approach of summer, Indian outrages became increasingly frequent. No large bodies of savages were seen, nor was any concerted attack made upon a settlement. It was evident, however, that numbers of redskins were in the country, which was not strange, for at this time of the year hundreds of them had been in the habit of hunting in Kentucky. Settlers were picked off at the plough, or while traversing the forest. Women and children were killed and scalped or seized and carried into captivity. Cattle and horses were frequently found dead, with arrows in their sides, for the redskins still used that weapon upon animals in order to save valuable ammunition for fighting.
Another and more extensive exodus took place. All but three of the stations were abandoned, those maintained being Boonesborough, Harrodsburg, and McClellan’s, and the last-named was deserted early in the following year. There were hardly one hundred “guns,” that is, fighting men, left in the entire territory.
Fair Kentucky was soon to be in the throes of a life-and-death struggle for possession of the soil. As yet the settlers did not realize the fearful danger that beset them. Had they done so, all but the very stoutest hearts must have quailed before it. The Revolution was now in progress and, incited and armed by British agents, the Shawnees, Cherokees, and Mingos were preparing to exterminate the invaders of their old-time hunting-grounds. Virginia could afford but scanty aid to her distant territory. All the men and munitions that the State could command were needed to support the Continental Army. To the devoted band of backwoodsmen, isolated from their fellows and dependent upon their own resources, two courses were open,--either to retreat, or to stand their ground and face the flood of savage onslaught. It is characteristic of such men as Boone and his companions that the former alternative was not even considered by them.
Among the families at Boonesborough was that of Colonel Richard Callaway, an intimate friend of Boone. One day early in July, 1778, the two daughters of the former and Jemima Boone entered a canoe near the fort and cast it off from its moorings. This act was contrary to the injunctions of their parents, who realized that lurking Indians might be encountered even in the immediate neighborhood of the stockade. However, the girls were young and careless and as they drifted idly upon the placid stream that lovely summer evening, no thought of danger entered their minds.
Thick woods and dense undergrowth came down to the water’s edge upon the opposite bank. Here a party of savages crouched, motionless and silent, peering hungrily through the leafy screen at their intended victims. Laughing and chatting, while they aimlessly paddled the little craft, the girls gradually approached the farther bank. At length they were within a few feet of it, when suddenly the foliage parted in several places and five hideous forms sprang into the shallow water, seized the horror-stricken young women, and plunged into the thicket with them.
The screams of the girls as their captors bore them away were heard in the fort. Hardy, who was seated in the doorway of the Boones’ cabin, cleaning his rifle, sprang up and ran to the river bank. The empty canoe, drifting in the current, and a bonnet, floating on the stream, told the story. Hardy’s first thought was to plunge into the river and swim across, but he quickly realized that he could accomplish no good by following the abductors alone, and so he turned to the fort for assistance. Both Boone and Callaway were some miles distant, surveying a piece of land. In two minutes Hardy was astride a horse and galloping in the direction they had taken. He was fortunate in coming upon them without loss of time, but night had fallen before the party regained the stockade of Boonesborough.
Of course every man in the settlement was eager to join in the pursuit, but Boone determined to take but seven picked men with him. Even though the Indians should prove to be a large body, it was more important to come upon them by surprise than in force. The main point was to recover the girls before the savages should have time to kill them. The smaller the body of pursuers, then, the greater the likelihood of their success. Hardy Goodfellow begged, but without success, to be allowed to accompany the party. He was greatly disappointed but, although he did not suspect it, his eagerness for Indian fighting was soon to be satisfied.
At the first streak of dawn the eight men crossed the river, the two fathers in the lead. At the outset they experienced a check, but this was no more than their knowledge of Indian tactics had led them to suspect. The redskins, on leaving the river bank, had separated and made their way at considerable distance from one another through the thickest cane-brake. The pursuers could not follow any one of these tracks without danger of being misled. It was noticed that they all pointed in one general direction and that gave a clue as to their destination and Boone concluded that they were bound for the Ohio River and the Indian villages beyond it.
It was probable that the savages would drop scouts in the rear to ascertain whether they were being followed, and if they had reason to believe that they were not, that they would relax their speed and their vigilance. Taking these probabilities into consideration, Boone formed a plan of action with his usual decision. He abandoned the track and took his party by a rapid march over a circuit of thirty miles, coming round to a point where he hoped to again pick up the trail of the warriors. Sure enough, it was discovered in a buffalo path and the backwoodsmen were delighted to find that the Indians had made a considerable turn in order to cross their trace, and so had lost much headway. It was evident, too, from the signs that they had begun to travel carelessly and imagined themselves safe from pursuit.
The men under Boone pushed on as rapidly as possible and with every mile saw that they were getting nearer to their quarry. Vigilance was of no less consequence than speed. They knew that at the first alarm the redskins would bury their tomahawks in the skulls of the girls and scatter in the forest. Noiselessly, then, and tirelessly, the trackers followed the trail, every moment bringing them closer to the now slowly-moving savages. At length, towards the close of the third day, and after a journey of fifty miles, Boone decided that nightfall would bring them within striking distance of the Indians’ camp.
The pace was now slackened and each man bent his efforts to a stealthy advance without sound. The moccasined feet, hardly less adept than those of the redskins, trod so lightly as scarcely to disturb a twig or leaf. And so, several feet separating each man from the next, they crept forward until at length they came in sight of the abductors. In a small glade surrounded by thick cane they were in the act of building a fire at which to cook their evening meal.
The party had been instructed as to their action in this situation, which had been anticipated. Four rifles went up in careful aim, the others reserving their fire. The instant that the reports rang out, the whole body charged forward with a yell. The manœuvre was a perfect success. Two Indians fell. The others dashed into the forest, leaving their rifles, and even their knives, tomahawks and moccasins behind them. The girls were unharmed, and without delay the party turned about and retraced its steps to Boonesborough.
HARDY’S FIRST INDIAN
The war-cloud gathers over Kentucky--Hardy goes a-hunting and bags a fat turkey--He practices the difficult feat of barking squirrels--He detects a dusky foe spying upon him from behind a tree--And plans to outwit the wily savage--Hardy fires and scatters the head-feathers of the Indian--Hardy is now reduced to his tomahawk for defence--He makes a good throw and barely misses the mark--Powerless, he awaits death as the savage advances--A friend in need is a friend indeed--“My scalp, I reckon, young fellow!”--Simon Kenton, the daring dandy of the backwoods.
Before the close of the summer the Kentuckians became fully alive to the fact that they were threatened with a great Indian war. Most of the settlers were too careless or lacking in foresight to take measures in advance for their safety, and the preparations for the protection of the settlements devolved upon a few leading men among them. There were constant consultation, exchange of views, and formation of plans. The two principal objects desired were the inclusion of the new territory in the State of Virginia and the procurement of a supply of ammunition. By effecting the former, it was hoped to secure aid from the State in the impending struggle, and without the latter the backwoodsmen would soon be reduced to a state of helplessness, for they depended upon the rifle for their supplies of food, no less than for defence against the Indians. George Rogers Clark was sent to Virginia as the representative of the Kentucky settlers, and before the close of the year succeeded in having the desired legislation passed and, after a hazardous voyage down the Ohio, returned with a large quantity of powder.
Daniel Boone was of course indispensable to the councils of the leaders, and his time was entirely occupied in the affairs of the community, which took him frequently from home. Under these circumstances it fell to the lot of Hardy to look after the family and perform the ever-pressing duty of hunter. The search for game did not entail long journeys as in North Carolina, but he made frequent trips into the woods and met with such success as to excite the praise of his adoptive father.
The settlers, had not at this time contrived to plant anything like a sufficiency of corn, nor did they until several years afterwards. Before the country had been two years in occupation the live stock had become reduced to very small numbers, and beeves were not slaughtered for food but carefully kept for breeding purposes and as a reserve against emergency. The sole source of meat supply was the hunter’s rifle, and in the use of that Boone and other leaders were urging economy, for ammunition was running alarmingly low.
It was a fine, mild morning in October when Hardy set out for a day’s hunt, by which he might with reasonable good luck secure enough meat to keep the family pot boiling for a week. He was not in search of big game, but intended to make his bag of birds, of which many edible kinds were to be found in the neighborhood. He filled his powder-horn and bullet-pouch, put a generous piece of corn bread into his wallet and, with tomahawk and knife in belt and rifle over shoulder, left the cabin, with a promise to return before nightfall.
Hardy paddled himself across the river and, after hiding his canoe in a secluded spot, he made his way into the woods. It was not long before he heard the gobble of a turkey. Listening closely for a few minutes, and satisfying himself that the sounds came from a bird and not from an Indian, he commenced stealthily to approach his intended victim. This was not to be easily accomplished, however. The turkey detected Hardy’s movements before he got a sight of the bird. The chase lasted for an hour or more. Now the quarry would take alarm and make off with long, awkward strides, and anon, lulled into quietness by the hunter’s caution, would again allow him to come almost within range, only to run off just as the rifle was coming into position. At length a good chance came to the patient tracker. In one of its sudden retreats the turkey incautiously started across an open space about sixty feet in breadth. Hardy was eighty yards away from his mark but determined not to lose this opportunity. He dropped on one knee and, taking careful aim, fired as the bird reached the middle of the glade. The turkey fluttered for a few paces and then fell dead.
It proved to be a fine, fat bird, and would have justified Hardy in considering the day’s hunt as finished and returning to the many tasks of a less attractive nature that awaited him. But the weather and the surroundings were so enticing that he could not resist the temptation to remain out a little longer. He hid his turkey where he could find it on the return, and determined to indulge himself for a while in the sport of “barking” squirrels. This was a favorite pastime with Hardy, because it involved a very high order of marksmanship, in which he was eager to excel. At the same time, it was the last use to which he should have put his rifle at this time, when, as he knew, powder and shot were precious and every load should be made to count.
As the reader may imagine, a squirrel hit by a rifle ball would be torn to pieces, so that neither its flesh nor its fur could be of any service. In order to secure the animals intact, the backwoodsmen resorted to a skilful expedient which was called “barking.” The marksman aimed, not at the squirrel, but at the bark of the tree immediately below its feet. If he hit the exact place at which he fired, the animal flew into the air and came down, killed by the concussion, but whole. To accomplish this feat required the greatest precision. If the course of the bullet was an inch too high, the squirrel was shattered; if it was as much too low, the ball sank into the wood of the tree without the desired effect.
“Barking” squirrels was one of the favorite methods with the backwoodsmen of showing off their marksmanship. Boone could bring down his animal, without injuring a hair, every time at fifty yards. When far advanced in years, he gave such an exhibition of his skill to Audubon that made the naturalist wonder exceedingly. It is hardly necessary to say that Hardy, although a very creditable pupil, had not attained to anything like the same expertness. Indeed, if he “barked” one squirrel in five attempts he was doing very well. To-day it appeared, however, that our young hunter was in unusually good form, for by careful approach and steady shooting he succeeded in getting three whole squirrels with ten shots. Fragments of a number of others had been uselessly scattered over the ground.
Hardy was blessed with a healthy appetite, and had not yet trained his stomach to the one plenteous meal a day which was the custom with the backwoodsmen. It was now past midday, and feeling keenly hungry he decided to eat one of his squirrels and take a short rest before turning homeward. Whilst his fire was burning up, he skinned and dressed the little animal and soon had it broiling on the end of his hickory ramrod. Well-cooked squirrel and corn bread, washed down with cool spring water, make a very enjoyable meal to a hungry hunter, especially when his taste has not been spoiled by condiments and dainties.
Hardy sat with his back to a large linden, leisurely eating and thinking of nothing in particular, when presently he began to _feel_ that eyes were upon him. We have all had a similar experience more than once in our lives. The knowledge--or belief, if you will--that he was being watched, coming upon him gradually in this manner, instead of suddenly with the apparition of the watcher, did not upset his self-control or cause him to betray any uneasiness. On the contrary, whilst continuing to pick the bones of the squirrel with apparent disregard for everything else, he furtively scanned the neighboring landscape. It was not long before he discerned an Indian peering at him from behind a tree. Averting his face, but not sufficiently to prevent a watch of the spot out of the corner of his eye, Hardy fell to considering the situation.
No question as to the intentions of the skulking savage entered into his mind for, although Hardy had not yet encountered any Indians, he had fully imbibed the border doctrine, begotten of bitter experience, that every redskin was a natural enemy. In his present position, the Indian behind the tree was considerably beyond range, and Hardy’s watchful concern was chiefly directed to seeing that he did not approach nearer unobserved. The boy concluded that he was alone, because had there been others with him they would surely have attacked ere this.
It would not do to retreat. In the first place, such a movement would give the other a decided advantage, and in the second place--well, Hardy didn’t think of it. Clearly there was to be a duel between them. The point was, how should Hardy set about playing his part in it. Suddenly he struck upon a plan based on the recollection that Boone had once said that an Indian will seldom fire at beyond fifty yards’ range, because he is not confident of his marksmanship and also because he uses a light charge.
These reflections only occupied a few minutes and, when he had decided upon his plan of action, Hardy rose with a well-feigned air of indifference as to the direction he should take. He was gratified to find that, although his heart beat somewhat faster than usual, he had no feeling of fear, and in fact rather enjoyed the situation. After looking around carelessly, he set out walking slowly and taking a line that would carry him past the Indian’s tree but at a distance of about one hundred yards. Hardy was confident of his own aim at that range, and unhesitatingly relied upon Boone’s statement that the Indian would not fire at that distance.
Out of the corner of his eye, Hardy kept a watch on the savage’s hiding place as he strolled leisurely along. When he had passed the point he wheeled suddenly about, and at the same time brought his rifle to his shoulder. As he had anticipated, the Indian, believing himself undiscovered, had come from cover and was preparing to steal upon Hardy from behind. The latter’s sudden turn surprised the redskin and he stood stock-still in his tracks. The next instant Hardy’s rifle cracked and the Indian’s head-feathers flew.
Hardy had missed his mark by a scalp’s breadth. Almost his sole chance of safety lay in taking to his heels. He thought of it and started to run but something restrained him and, instead, he stepped behind a tree and waited. Later in life Hardy learned that even such dare-devils as Simon Kenton and Lewis Wetzel recognized discretion as the better part of valor under similar circumstances, and were not ashamed to resort to flight in the face of great odds.
The advantage was now enormously in favor of the Indian, and he fully realized it. He ran forward instantly and circling round Hardy’s tree kept him so busily dancing about in order to remain under cover that it was impossible to reload his gun. This manœuvre had brought the savage within fifty feet of his adversary, and he would in all probability have presently fired. Instead of awaiting such action and trusting to the possible miss which would have placed them on even terms again, Hardy--who, it must be confessed, had become somewhat excited--made a foolish move. He took his tomahawk from his belt and, seizing a favorable moment, threw it with all the force he could command at the Indian. It was well aimed but the nimble redskin dodged and the missile whizzed over his left shoulder.
Hardy noted his failure with a sinking of the heart. His first impulse was to run but he checked at thought of that bullet in his back. He would rather meet death face to face than have it overtake him in flight. Then there was a slim chance of fight left, he remembered, as he drew his hunting-knife from its sheath. The Indian now approached boldly with his gun presented, intending to make a sure shot at the closest range. Regardless of the fact that the weapon was directed full at him, Hardy stood, with head exposed, staring spell-bound at the hideous features of the exultant redskin.
He never could tell afterwards what thoughts passed through his mind in those few seconds, that seemed an eternity. He remembered only that he seemed to have fallen into a trance from which he was awakened by the whip-like report of a rifle behind him, and at the moment it broke upon his ear the Indian fell in a convulsive heap at his feet.
“My scalp, I reckon, young fellow. Sorry you didn’t get him. Better luck next time.”
[Illustration: “MY SCALP, I RECKON, YOUNG FELLOW”]
The words were spoken in a cheery, musical voice, and before he had finished the utterance the speaker’s knife had secured the prize to which he referred.
Hardy looked up to the handsome beardless face of a young man of extremely attractive presence. The countenance was made up of contradictory features. The sternness suggested by the square jaw and large nose was belied by the smiling lips and the merry glint in the eyes. The careful dress, with its adornment of porcupine quills, the embroidered moccasins, the raccoons’ tails pendent from the back of the cap, the long, curled locks that fell below the shoulders,--all these betokened the backwoods dandy; but the great stature, the erect form, the muscular limbs and the weather-beaten face proclaimed the practiced hunter and fighter.
“Simon Kenton, at your service,” said the newcomer, extending his hand with a smile that instantly won Hardy as it did everyone who came in contact with the young frontiersman.
“My name is Hardy Goodfellow,” replied our friend, who had not yet quite recovered his composure. “I live at Boonesborough.”
“Well, if you’ve nothing to keep you, Hardy, we’ll make tracks for the fort. No telling how many more Indians there may be about, and I’d rather eat than fight just now.”
He threw his rifle over his shoulder and led the way to the beaten path with easy swinging strides, whistling as he went. Hardy presently ranged up alongside of him and immediately proceeded to unburden his mind.
“You saved my life,” he said. “I hope I may do as much for you some day.”
“Well, if I’m ever caught in the same kind of a fix,” said Kenton, with a laugh, “I hope you may be somewhere around. But it’s nothing to make a palaver about. In the backwoods it’s every man for himself and every man for his neighbor. If we didn’t stick together and help one another the redskins would soon wipe us out.
“Say, that was a right pretty throw of yours with the tomahawk,” continued Kenton. “Who taught you?”
“Daniel Boone,” replied Hardy, proudly. He then went on to explain his relationship to the great hunter. With boyish enthusiasm he told Kenton how Boone had taken him, a forlorn orphan, into his family and had treated him as a son. How the great hunter had tutored him in woodcraft, in the use of the rifle and the tomahawk and in the rude arts of the backwoods. When he had concluded his companion extended his hand, saying:
“Shake again, Hardy! We shall see a good deal of each other, if I’m not mistaken. I’ve been at Hinkston’s, but when they all cleared out for fear of the Indians I made up my mind to come over here, because I know that there won’t be any backing down with Boone. He’s here to stay and so am I.”
Their mutual admiration of Boone brought these two close together in a very short while. Kenton had only had one brief meeting with Hardy’s adoptive father but that had made a deep impression on him, and he listened with avidity to his young companion’s enthusiastic accounts of the man who had fostered him in his loneliness and had cared for him since.
They picked up Hardy’s turkey on their way and Kenton helped to eat it at the Boone cabin a few hours later. The party was completed by the arrival of the head of the family from Harrodsburg in time for supper. Boone warmly welcomed Kenton to the settlement, for that young man had already made a name for himself as a good fellow, a fearless fighter, and an expert hunter. Boone strongly suspected that the time was fast approaching when such men would be invaluable to the community.
As to Hardy, from the first he was strongly drawn to this handsome, cheery son of the wilderness and the more he saw of him the better he liked him. In fact, their dramatic encounter in the forest proved to be the beginning of a friendship that lasted through life. Many years afterwards, when another generation dwelt peacefully in Kentucky, Colonel Goodfellow was a frequent guest at the humble home of General Kenton in Urbana, Ohio.
THE CAPTURE OF BOONE
The Indians burst upon the frontiers and overrun Kentucky--Boonesborough is besieged once and again--Boone spies on the Indian camp, is detected and wounded--Kenton runs to the rescue in the nick of time--Boone goes salt-making with a band of settlers--He is tracked by Indians and caught in an ambush--He makes a great race for life and liberty but is captured--Boone wisely decides to surrender his men who are surprised and powerless--“It was a sorry day for the Indians when they captured me and my salt-makers.”
With the opening of spring the Indians, who had spent the preceding winter in preparation, burst upon the frontiers. Had they made a concentrated attack, with the aid of the British, upon the Kentucky settlements at this time, there can be little doubt but that they would have succeeded in clearing the country of the “buckskins,” as they sometimes called the pioneers. Fortunately, they scattered their forces and directed their first attack mainly against the borders of Virginia and Pennsylvania. Sufficient numbers, however, assailed the four stations of Kentucky to tax the courage and resources of the defenders and to keep them in a constant state of disquietude. Men, women and children were unremittingly alert, for the forest swarmed with skulking savages. Frequent attacks in force were made upon the stockades, which were from time to time subjected to the characteristically brief sieges of the Indian. The ground was tilled and crops were tended under guard. Scouts scoured the surrounding country, and saved the settlers from many a surprise.
During March an attack was projected against Harrodsburg. About four miles from that place the Indians came unawares upon a small party of whites, who were engaged in making a new settlement. One of these was killed and another taken prisoner, whilst a lad named James Ray, whom we shall have further occasion to mention, contrived to make his escape and warn the settlers at the station. This intimation of approaching enemies, although it gave scanty time for preparation, enabled the defenders to gather their entire number within the fort and to beat off the Indians without any loss to themselves.
At about the same time a movement was made against Boonesborough, but there was small chance of that stronghold being taken by surprise. Aside from the ever-wakeful Boone, the station now had the advantage of the services of such splendid rangers as Kenton, the McAfee brothers, and other expert woodsmen who had recently come in. The approach of the foe was announced in good time, and when the Indians arrived within sight of the stockade every rifleman was at his post awaiting them.
On one side, Boonesborough was protected by the river, which the bravest warriors dared not cross in the face of the backwoods marksmen. On the other sides, open ground stretched for a sufficient distance to prevent near approach under cover. The Indian of the forest regions was accustomed to the tactics of the skirmisher and guerilla. He would seldom fight in the open, but would take cover behind trees, stumps, bushes, or in long grass. The facility with which he could hide his body and the stealthiness of his movements sometimes proved an efficient offset to the superior gunplay of his adversary.
On this occasion the savages besieged Boonesborough for several days, during which the attack and the defence took the form of a series of duels. On each side vigilant eyes marked individuals on the other and patiently watched for an opportunity to shoot with fair chance of success. In such contests the backwoodsmen were sure to inflict the greater injury, provided they remained behind their stockades; but it was seldom possible to ascertain the loss of the Indians, because, unless hotly pressed in flight, it was their custom to carry off their dead and wounded.
The siege of a fort was usually raised after a few days. The redskin warriors lacked the patient determination necessary to the success of such an undertaking and, moreover, as they depended upon the country for their food supply, the attacking body was frequently weakened by the detachment of hunting parties. In the present instance, the Indians soon retired, having killed one of the settlers and wounded four others.
It seldom happened that the Indian attacks were characterized by determination or concerted action. Large bodies were usually composed of detachments from several tribes and were led by a number of chiefs who acknowledged no superior. The will of the majority as expressed in council theoretically controlled the action of all, but as a matter of fact a dissatisfied member often acted contrary to the decision of the allied chiefs in action.
Furthermore, tribal discipline was very low at this time. Even such powerful chiefs as Cornstalk and Blackfish had difficulty in controlling the young braves and less renowned leaders had hardly any influence over their followers. Hence a band of Indians engaged in warfare was apt to break up in the most sudden and unexpected manner.
A few months later a more serious assault was made upon Boonesborough. Had they but known it, the Indians could hardly have chosen a less propitious date than the fourth of July for such a venture, but it was on that day that a band of two hundred warriors made its appearance before the fort. They seem to have been particularly anxious to reduce the place, which they doubtless knew was commanded by the great chief, Daniel Boone. Detachments had been sent to make feints against the other stations, in order to prevent their extending relief to Boonesborough.
At the outset, the whites came near to suffering what would have been an irreparable loss not only to them but to the settlers in general. On the morning after the arrival of the besiegers, Boone, being anxious to learn something of their numbers and disposition, left the stockade just before daybreak and made a reconnoissance of the Indian camp. The day dawned to find him still several hundred yards from the fort. He was picking his way cautiously, taking advantage of all the cover available, when an Indian discovered him. The redskin fired and hit Boone upon the ankle.
Short of a mortal wound, nothing could have been more effective than this ill-aimed bullet. Boone fell to the earth heavily, and as he did so his trusty rifle escaped from his grasp and flew to some distance. He was unable to rise and utterly helpless. The Indian, seeing his plight, advanced rapidly with uplifted tomahawk to despatch him, and Boone calmly awaited what he believed to be his end.
But the watchful eye of Kenton had noted the incident and Boone had hardly fallen when the scout was outside the stockade and speeding towards the spot with the swiftness of the deer. As soon as the Indian came into the open, Kenton stopped, took aim, and at the moment that the redskin reached the side of his intended victim sent a bullet through his brain. Kenton was now little more than one hundred yards from Boone, but by this time a number of warriors had appeared at the edge of the clearing. There was not a second to be lost and, although he appeared to be rushing into the jaws of death, Kenton flung aside his gun and flew to the spot where Boone lay anxiously awaiting the issue.
At the same instant several Indians bounded forward, yelling and brandishing their weapons. They had advanced but a few yards when a dozen rifles in the stockade spoke and four of the redskins fell. The others hastily regained cover and turned their weapons upon the gallant ranger who was in the act of lifting Boone onto his serviceable leg. Half carried by his rescuer, Boone hopped slowly to the gate of the fort, while a shower of bullets played unceasingly around. The half light favored the wounded man and his companion, who gained the shelter of the stockade without being touched.
Boone was a reticent man, estimating his own deeds lightly and little given to bestowing praise on others. But the splendid courage, strength and skill displayed by Kenton in this dashing exploit excited unwonted emotion in the great pioneer and he expressed his admiration and gratitude in the warmest terms. He recognized in the young, debonair scout a man after his own heart and one of his own kind. Ever after this episode Boone and Kenton were the fastest friends.
During the ensuing months, whilst his wound was slowly healing, Boone took up his quarters in the upper story of one of the blockhouses, where he could command the scene and direct the defence in case of another attack. But the experience of the Indians on this occasion, which included the loss of seven of their number, appears to have cooled their ambition to take Boonesborough, and that place enjoyed a respite during the remainder of the year, although attacks were made at intervals upon other stations.
Salt was always one of the prime needs of the settlers, as it had been when they dwelt farther back in the borderland. To secure it now from the coast towns was a matter of much greater difficulty than it had been then. Resort was had to the simpler method of manufacturing the coveted commodity from the waters of the salt licks in which the territory of Kentucky abounded. At first this was accomplished in a manner far from satisfactory, owing to imperfect knowledge of the process and lack of proper utensils. But just about this time the authorities in Virginia sent out a number of kettles and two experienced salt-makers.
In view of the prospect of further hostilities, and perhaps protracted sieges, it was determined to lay in a large stock of salt. The men of the station were divided into two parties, which were to go out in turns and manufacture the material. As there was less danger of attack by Indians in the dead of winter than later on, Boone decided to take command of the first party, so that he might be at the fort with the opening of spring.
On the first day of the year 1778, Captain Boone with thirty men and the necessary utensils left Boonesborough and set out for the Lower Blue Licks, fifty or more miles to the north. Here they established a camp and set to work. From time to time a small party was sent to the fort with the pack-horses laden with salt. On their return they brought back supplies of parched corn and, perhaps, a few of the simple comforts that the hardy backwoodsmen looked upon almost in the light of superfluous luxuries. Thus the work progressed satisfactorily and the six weeks’ spell, at the end of which time the party was to be relieved, approached its termination.
Of course, a considerable amount of meat was constantly needed to satisfy the appetites of thirty vigorous men. Boone, as the most expert hunter among them, undertook the duty of keeping the general larder supplied. The task was a thoroughly congenial one to him, which we cannot imagine salt-making to have been. It was his habit to go out some miles from camp every morning, returning at the close of the day with as much game as he could carry and often leaving a quantity to be sent after with a pack-horse.
One afternoon in the early part of February Boone was making his way towards the lick, after a successful hunt, when he suddenly found himself surrounded by a hundred Indians. Not having seen a redskin for months, and knowing the unlikelihood of their presence in numbers at that time of the year, Boone was perhaps not as keenly on the alert as usual. But, in any case, he could hardly have escaped his present predicament. He had not crossed the trail of the Indians nor encountered any signs of them. They had seen him earlier in the day and had secreted themselves about his return path.
As soon as Boone was fairly within the circle of the ambuscade, the savages suddenly arose on every side and made at him. He took in the situation at a glance and, dropping the carcass with which he was encumbered, started to run with all the speed he could command. A few years before, Boone had been a match for the swiftest runners among the redskins, but he had now reached middle age, when the limbs of the best lose something of their supple agility. Moreover, he had spent the day in toilsome exertion, without rest or food, whereas his pursuers were comparatively fresh. Still he held his own for awhile and put the Indians to their utmost endeavor to overtake him. At length, however, seeing that further effort was useless, Boone stopped and surrendered, with a complimentary remark to the foremost braves to put them in a good humor.
It was at once evident to Boone that the band which had captured him was upon the war-path, and their destination could be none other than Boonesborough. They knew of the presence of the party at the lick and had, in fact, tracked the hunter from that place in the morning. As they journeyed thither, Boone’s mind was busy with a consideration of the conditions and the best course to be followed under the circumstances. His judgment was remarkably sure and his decisions unusually quick. Before they had arrived at the camp, he told the Indians that, if they would assure his men of kind treatment, he would order them to surrender without resistance. The proposition appealed to the savages and they readily gave the required promise.
When the scene of the salt-making was reached the Indians secured to themselves all the advantage possible by surrounding the unconscious workmen, who were in an exposed spot, before discovering themselves. When the Indians made their presence known the whites were taken utterly by surprise, but they quickly seized their rifles and no doubt would have made a stout, though hopeless, resistance had not Boone signed to them to restrain their fire. He then approached with an escort of his captors and informed his men that he had agreed to their surrender. The declaration elicited some murmurs, but so great was the confidence in Boone’s resourcefulness and the wisdom of his conclusions, that the men laid down their arms without further ado and agreed to accompany the Indians.
This action of Boone’s excited the censure of some of his fellow-officers and the disapprobation of many of the settlers. These feelings continued to be evinced after the outcome had shown the wisdom of his course, and prompted Boone, some time later, to secure a court-martial of himself. The evidence produced before this body and the frank explanation made by Boone induced his honorable acquittal, and not only that, but his promotion to the rank of major.
The considerations that moved Boone (who was the last man to avoid a fight when it could serve a good purpose) to surrender his command, were as follows: The settlement at Boonesborough, weakened by the absence of half the garrison, was in no state to make a successful defence against a large number of the enemy, should they take it by surprise. That they would do so, was more than probable, for the settlers were accustomed from long experience to consider themselves safe from attack in the winter months, when the Indians almost invariably rested and took refuge from the weather in their villages. Familiar as he was with the character and habits of the Indians, Boone calculated with confidence upon their abandoning their expedition and returning to their country in triumph with their prisoners. It was ever the tendency of these savages to repair to their towns after a great victory, to indulge in a celebration and in their customary vauntings and boasting.
Boone thus deliberately sacrificed himself and his men for the sake of saving the settlement with its women and children. That they would soon learn what had happened and be put upon their guard he felt sure, for three of the party of salt-makers were absent at the fort and would soon return. The event proved that all his calculations were justified, and the incident ultimately tended to the welfare of the community.
The shrewdest among Boone’s men began to divine their leader’s purpose when the Indians turned their backs on Boonesborough and with all possible speed took the direction of the Ohio. Up to this time the Kentucky settlers had no definite knowledge of the location of the Indians’ towns. It would have been well for the savages had this ignorance continued. In after life, Boone said: “It was a sorry day for the Indians when they captured me and my salt-makers and showed us the way to their villages and the lay of their land.”
The prisoners were not subjected to any cruelty by the Indians, who were highly elated by their capture and especially by having the renowned captain, Daniel Boone, in their power. They seem to have given the whites their fair share of food and to have allowed them a sufficiency of covering when they were camped at night. The captives were at a loss whether to accept this consideration as an evidence of friendly feeling, or a measure designed to keep them in good condition to stand extreme torture when they should reach their destination. Most of them knew the fickle and childlike temper of the Indian and the uncertainty of any deductions that may be drawn from his behavior.
Here we must leave Boone for a while, trudging through the snow-swept wilderness with philosophical readiness to accept with equanimity whatever fate might have in store for him, but with a determination to turn circumstances to the best account whenever opportunity should offer.
THE HANNIBAL OF THE WEST
Clark comes to Kentucky “to lend a helping hand”--He immediately takes a leading part in the affairs of the settlers--He goes to Virginia for much-needed ammunition--The race down the river with Indians in pursuit--The powder and shot are safely delivered--Clark makes a daring raid on the British posts in Canada--The party surprises the Kaskaskians in the midst of a revel--The fort and town are taken without the loss of a life--The inhabitants take the oath of allegiance--Cahokia and Vincennes are quickly captured--But the situation of the victors is precarious.
In order to follow the story of the Kentucky settlers with intelligent understanding, it will be necessary to take a brief survey of the achievements of that very remarkable man, George Rogers Clark. Not only were Clark’s direct services to the new settlement powerfully influential in its development, but his campaigns in British territory were also of the utmost consequence to the Kentuckians, as we shall see.
George Rogers Clark was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, November 19, 1752. Roosevelt, in “The Winning of the West,” thus tersely describes him as he was at the beginning of his career: “He was of good family, and had been fairly well educated, as education went in colonial days; but from his childhood he had been passionately fond of the wild roving life of the woods. He was a great hunter; and, like so many other young colonial gentlemen of good birth and bringing up, and adventurous temper, he followed the hazardous profession of a backwoods surveyor. With chain and compass, as well as axe and rifle, he penetrated the far places of the wilderness, the lonely, dangerous regions where every weak man inevitably succumbed to the manifold perils encountered, but where the strong and far-seeing were able to lay the foundations of fame and fortune. He possessed high daring, unflinching courage, passions which he could not control, and a frame fitted to stand any strain of fatigue or hardship. He was a square-built thick-set man, with high broad forehead, sandy hair, and unquailing blue eyes that looked out from under heavy, shaggy brows.”
Clark made a short visit to Harrodsburg in 1775 and returned in the following year. Long afterwards, General Ray, who in 1776 was a boy of sixteen living at the station established by Colonel Harrod, told the following story of Major Clark’s second arrival in Kentucky:
“I had come down to where I now live (about four miles north of Harrodsburg) to turn some horses in the range. I had killed a small blue-wing duck that was feeding in my spring, and had roasted it nicely on the brow of the hill, about twenty steps east of my house. After having taken it off to cool, I was much surprised on being suddenly accosted by a fine soldierly-looking man, who exclaimed, ‘How do you do, my little fellow? What is your name? Ain’t you afraid of being in the woods by yourself?’
“On satisfying his inquiries, I invited the traveller to partake of my duck, which he did, without leaving me a bone to pick, his appetite was so keen, though he should have been welcome to all the game I could have killed, when I afterwards became acquainted with his noble and gallant soul.”
Having satisfied his hunger, the stranger asked a number of questions about the settlers, the Indians, and the general conditions in the locality. These the boy answered as well as he could and then ventured to ask the name of his guest.
“My name is Clark,” he answered, “and I have come out to see what you brave fellows are doing in Kentucky and to lend you a helping hand if necessary.”
Clark immediately took a leading part in the affairs of the struggling community. His superior talents were so unmistakable and his personality so impressive that he readily inspired the confidence of the Kentucky settlers. At a general meeting, held at Harrodsburg in June, 1775, he had been appointed with another to represent the young community in negotiations with the Assembly of Virginia. The delegates proceeded at once to Williamsburg, where it soon became apparent that their errand could not be accomplished without great difficulty. At the first serious check Clark’s companion returned to Kentucky, but Clark determined to persevere, and by the exercise of diplomacy and persuasion ultimately succeeded in his purpose.
In August the Council, with the approval of Governor Patrick Henry, caused a large quantity of gunpowder to be shipped to Pittsburg and there to be delivered to Major Clark for the use of the Kentucky settlers. At the fall session of the Legislature, the determined soldier, who had now been rejoined by his fellow-delegate, Gabriel Jones, successfully urged the political organization of the new settlement and the bill was passed that created it a county of the State of Virginia. This was an important step, as it secured for the crude commonwealth in the wilderness a judicial and military establishment.
Clark now proceeded to Pittsburg, where the precious powder awaited him and where he entered upon an extremely perilous phase of his mission. The country about Pittsburg swarmed with Indians, who were not only hostile to white men in general but, like all their race at the time, ready to go to any extremes in the effort to secure ammunition. Clark decided that speed and secrecy would serve his purpose more effectively than a strong force which, encumbered and travelling slowly, could be constantly harassed and would be probably cut up before reaching its destination. Accordingly, he quietly embarked with seven sturdy boatmen and commenced a rapid journey down the Ohio.
The Indians almost immediately got wind of the expedition and Clark’s vessel had but an indifferent start when they were in pursuit of it by land and water. The powder escort soon became aware of the pursuit and bent its efforts to out-distancing the redskins, it being no part of the leader’s plan to offer fight, except in the last extremity. Indeed, although they were frequently fired upon from the shores and from the following canoes, Clark forbade his men to retaliate but required them to devote all their care and energies to the preservation of the cargo.
This grim race was maintained until it became evident to Clark that his men could not much longer continue their arduous labor at the oars. The Indians, on the other hand, being subjected to much less strain, might have kept up the pursuit indefinitely. Realizing that the sole chance of success lay in bringing the journey to a speedy end, Clark called on his rowers for a supreme final effort with a view to getting beyond sight of the Indians for a short space of time. The men responded heartily. The boat was then at the mouth of Limestone Creek, near the present town of Maysville. It was headed into the small stream and shot up it with such swiftness that the pursuers were left far behind.
At a favorable point the boat was run into the bank, the powder hastily brought ashore, and the craft turned loose to drift down the branch. The barrels were now quickly conveyed to a hiding place in the densest brush, the carriers carefully covering their tracks. This accomplished, the entire party struck across country for Harrodsburg. They arrived without mishap and Clark immediately returned with a sufficient guard for the powder, which was found safe and uninjured where it had been secreted. Thus, towards the close of 1776 the Kentucky settlers were assured of the means of defending their homes in the impending struggle.
It must be remembered that the war of the Revolution was by this time in full swing, and, whereas Boone and his associates had entered Kentucky as British subjects, they were now rebels. It is not strange, therefore, that the authorities of the Crown dominions in the north treated them with hostility, nor that the Indian tribes friendly to the British were employed in the attacks upon the settlers. The practice of the times fully sanctioned the employment of savages and the colonists were not above accepting such aid when it was available. Clark, in fact, employed Indians in the defence of Vincennes, although he declined their aid in attacking the town.
Several writers, in ignorance of the facts, or regardless of them, insist on attributing the worst barbarities to the higher officials in Canada, and the frontiersmen of the time were prone to credit them with the utmost cruelty. They believed, and quite recent writers have stated, that the Indians were urged by these officials to massacre the whites in Kentucky unsparingly, and that they offered rewards for scalps with the distinct understanding that they were preferable to prisoners.
Now the most cursory examination of the records proves these statements to be utterly false and shows that Governor Hamilton and other officials rescued prisoners from the Indians and ransomed them whenever possible. Thus, Boone’s fellow captives in the year 1778 were secured from the Shawnees and kindly treated. Every effort was made to induce them to give up Boone, and when these failed, money and gifts were pressed upon them by the officers at Detroit.
It is true that certain agents of the British, such as Caldwell and McKee, were guilty of the worst kind of atrocities in their dealings with the American settlers; but these were men of the Simon Girty stamp, natural blackguards, for whose actions their superiors cannot be justly held accountable. It would be difficult to find in human history records of more cruel and bloody deeds than some of those attributable to men amongst the Kentucky pioneers themselves, but the historian who should blame the settlers as a body, or their leaders, for the villanies of such brutes as Greathouse, or Lewis Wetzel, could not more effectually prove his unreliability.
It was well understood that the Governor of Canada was doing his utmost to encourage and aid the Indians in the war which all felt to be imminent, but it remained for Clark to devise the daring scheme of crippling the enemy by adopting the policy of Hannibal in his conflict with the Carthaginians, when he “carried the war into Africa.” Clark conceived that the most effective way of defending Kentucky lay in attacking the posts in the British territory on the north. He hoped thus to keep the garrisons in Canada too busy in their own defence to consider aggressive action, and also to curtail the supplies of ammunition that they would be willing to give to the Indians. The former object was of vital importance, for had they enjoyed freedom of movement during this momentous period, a few small bodies of English with cannon might have enabled the Indians to clear Kentucky of the American colonists.
Clark’s plan met with the approval of the authorities in Virginia and he was permitted to raise a body of one hundred and fifty men, and was furnished with tents, supplies and ammunition. It was a very small force for such an ambitious enterprise, but the leader was a man of dauntless courage and resource and the men were picked fighters who had the utmost confidence in their captain. The whole-souled devotedness that Clark inspired in his followers, and the willing manner in which they coöperated in his most hazardous plans, mark him as one of the truly great leaders that this nation has produced. Had his exploits been performed in the full limelight of the revolutionary stage, instead of in the shadow of the wings, he must have attained to a greatly wider fame than actually fell to his lot.
In May, 1778, Clark and his force, which had been somewhat increased by the addition of a score or so of Kentucky volunteers, descended the Ohio in flat-bottom boats as far as the mouth of the Tennessee, where preparations were made for the advance upon the Illinois posts. At this juncture the leader was extremely fortunate to fall in with some American hunters who had recently been in the French settlements. From these friends he acquired useful information, and secured their services as guides.
At length a force of fewer than two hundred men started upon the march across the wilderness to Kaskaskia. This place was fortified and garrisoned by a strong body of militia, so that the only prospect of capturing it lay in effecting a surprise. The party, therefore, proceeded with the utmost caution, their front and flanks screened by scouts. After a toilsome journey of fifty miles through dense forest, they emerged upon the prairie and the difficulties of the march were lightened whilst the danger of discovery increased. However, the adventurers seem to have been attended by the most extraordinary good fortune, for on the evening of the fourth of July they arrived without mishap on the southern bank of the river, upon the opposite side of which stood the town they sought.
The Americans lay concealed in the woods until nightfall, when they crossed the stream in some boats which they had happily found. When all were landed, Clark divided his force into two bodies. Whilst one of these formed a cordon round the fort, he led the other into it. Never was more strikingly illustrated the old adage that “Fortune favors the bold.” The entire population of the place was gathered in or about a large hall, where the officers of the garrison were giving a ball. Even the sentries had deserted their posts to watch the dancing and hear the music. Clark had found a small gate, through which he and his men easily gained admittance to the fort. They traversed the deserted streets without exciting attention and at last took up posts in the vicinity of the hall, from the windows of which floated the mingled sounds of music and merry laughter.
Clark went forward and stood with folded arms in the doorway of the building, calmly surveying the scene. Some minutes passed before his presence was noted. Then a woman, seeing the dread figure of an American backwoodsman silhouetted in the opening, screamed in terror. Confusion instantly prevailed. Shriek followed shriek. The violins ceased. The dancers stood riveted to the floor, or ran hither and thither aimlessly. The men, as soon as they had overcome the first shock of surprise, advanced towards the entrance.
Clark’s waiting men now entered the building and made the French officers prisoners. A house-to-house patrol disarmed all the inhabitants and ordered them on the penalty of death to remain within doors until daylight. These creole subjects of the British King had been taught to believe the American backwoodsmen to be more cruel and barbarous than the Indians, and they were filled with the worst fears for their fate. Clark sought to increase their wild fancies, for he fully appreciated the precarious nature of his situation, in the midst of a hostile population many times more numerous than his own force and surrounded by Indians ready to come to their aid.
The next morning, Clark proved himself to be a diplomat no less than a soldier. The news of the alliance of France with the young American republic had just reached the old-time colony of the former in Canada. Counting upon this and his knowledge that the _habitans_ were inclined to give allegiance to any ruler who would insure them peace and protection, he relaxed the acerbity of his demeanor and adopted a friendly attitude towards the Kaskaskians. He assured them that it was not his desire to treat them with severity. That as British subjects they were enemies to the Americans, but if they were willing to take the oath of allegiance and to support the American cause, no harm should befall them. He assured them that their religion should not be interfered with, that they should enjoy the fullest protection for their property, and that all their rights should be scrupulously respected.
The creoles, relieved of the terrible dread that had been upon them and overjoyed at the prospect of resuming the peaceful, pleasure-seeking lives they loved beyond everything else, cheerfully assented to sever the slender tie that bound them to the British Crown. The oath was administered, and the American flag floated in British territory.
The fickle Frenchmen were now moved to enthusiastic admiration and friendliness for their conquerors, and many of their young men displayed eagerness to fight for them. When Clark organized an expedition against Cahokia a body of these volunteered to augment his meagre detachment, and he was only too glad to avail himself of their services. Cahokia was taken without resistance on the part of the inhabitants, who were readily persuaded by the French contingent in the American force to take the oath of allegiance as they had done.
Encouraged by these successes, Clark despatched a French priest, who had displayed genuine regard for the Americans, to the important post of Vincennes, with the object of persuading its garrison and population to follow the example of the people of Kaskaskia and Cahokia. The expedition was entirely successful. Père Gibault gathered the inhabitants of Vincennes in the church and at the close of a convincing argument induced the majority of them to take the oath of allegiance to the American Congress. Clark was delighted at the result of this venture but, having no garrison to spare for Vincennes, was compelled to content himself with a commander, who was permitted to raise the American flag without any opposition.
It was now August, so that in three short months an intrepid leader in command of fewer than two hundred men had succeeded in reducing three British posts and placing a considerable extent of territory under the flag of his own country. And this wonderful achievement had been accomplished without the loss of a single life on the side of the invaders.
THE VICTORY OF VINCENNES
Hamilton raises a strong force and regains Vincennes--He prepares to move upon the other posts but Clark forestalls him--A desperate march through the “drowned” lands--The band struggle along day after day through icy water--The food gives out and starvation stares them in the face--“No provisions yet, Lord help us!”--The bold march upon Vincennes and the attack on the fort--The backwoodsmen give the British a lesson in marksmanship--The fort is surrendered and the garrison made prisoners--Governor Hamilton is sent to Virginia.
At the close of the year 1778, Clark found himself in possession of three British posts commanding a territory of many hundreds of square miles, in which dwelt an undependable population of creoles, and large bands of Indians who might become active enemies at any moment. His force had become diminished by the return to their homes of a number of men whose terms of enlistment had expired. He had barely one hundred Americans with him, and the French with whom he filled the vacancies in his ranks were sorry substitutes for his sturdy backwoodsmen.
Henry Hamilton, the Governor of Canada, had been on the point of making an aggressive movement against the American settlements in the West when knowledge of Clark’s invasion of British territory came to him. Hamilton was brave and energetic. He immediately turned his attention to the task of ousting the Americans from Canada. At Detroit, the headquarters of the dominion, preparations were made for a formidable expedition.
Early in October, Hamilton started for Vincennes at the head of a force of about one hundred and eighty whites and sixty Indians. The latter contingent was joined by many bands on the way, until the total strength of the command was brought up to five hundred. Many difficulties were encountered on the journey, which involved the crossing of Lake Erie and the passage of several rivers under highly unfavorable conditions. At length, however, after seventy days of toilsome progress, the mixed force reached its destination.
At the first appearance of the British commandant the creole population of the town rushed to tender their allegiance. The garrison of the fort promptly abandoned its arms and followed suit. There were but three Americans in the place, and of course nothing remained for them but to surrender. They were placed under parole and treated with consideration. Thus by the middle of December the British had without any difficulty regained the principal of the captured posts.
Hamilton was now justified in the conclusion that he had complete command of the situation. Clark could not possibly stand against the overwhelming force that the British commander could bring against him. The latter decided to defer further operations until after the passage of the cold weather, during which, in fact, it was almost impossible to traverse the country. Meanwhile, he made his plans not only for the comparatively easy task of subduing Clark but also for an expedition of a thousand Indians, supported by artillery, into Kentucky.
Had the opening of spring found the British Governor in a position to prosecute his designs the most momentous consequences must have ensued. Without doubt he would have cleared the invaders from Canada, when that large section of country below the Lakes which accrued to us from the treaty of 1783 would have been lost. But he must also have swept the settlers from Kentucky, and would probably have worked incalculable damage all along the colonial frontier.
Clark, who had timely news of Hamilton’s movements, fully appreciated the dangers of his situation and knew that he could not hope to hold out against the regular soldiers, trained militia, and hordes of Indian warriors that Hamilton would bring to the attack. He did not despair, however, but calmly determined to make the most of circumstances, and the good fortune which ever attended Clark in his early career here afforded an opportunity for the exercise of his peculiar genius. In reviewing the incidents of this important campaign, it will not do to overlook the fact that only one man in a million would have found an opening for action in the circumstances that afforded Clark an avenue to victory.
In January, 1779, a Spanish trader named Vigo came to Kaskaskia. He had recently been in Vincennes, and he imparted to Clark the news that the Indians, according to their custom, had repaired to their villages for the winter, and that Hamilton had but eighty men in the garrison. Vigo also informed the American leader of the plans made by the British commandant for the spring advance upon Kentucky. Clark instantly decided to forestall his opponent by attacking him without delay.
During all this time,--nearly a year,--since his departure, Clark had received no aid, nor any word, from Governor Henry, or any of the officials of Virginia. Perhaps his wonderful success was in large measure due to the freedom from interference that enabled him to exercise his judgment and daring without trammel. The adventure which he now entered upon was one that only the stoutest heart could have contemplated without quailing. If Hamilton, with his greatly superior resources, deemed the passage of the country between Vincennes and Kaskaskia impracticable in winter, how much more formidable an undertaking was it to the ill-provided force of Clark!
On the seventh of February the American leader started at the head of one hundred and seventy men, nearly half of whom were creoles, for Vincennes. The distance was two hundred and forty miles, and the way lay through what was in summer time a beautiful region of woodland and prairie, but now much of it was what the Indians called “drowned,” that is, flooded. Fortunately, the weather was unusually mild, or the troops must have suffered intensely from cold, for they carried little baggage of any kind and had no tents. During the earlier stages of the march they secured a sufficient supply of game and made enormous fires at night, round which they slept in comparative comfort.
For a week the experiences of the party were only such as backwoodsmen and trappers were commonly accustomed to, but at the end of this time they reached the branches of the Wabash and the rigors of the journey began. Their road lay first across the two forks of the Little Wabash. These were three miles apart and hidden beneath a great lake five miles in breadth and nowhere less than three feet in depth.
Clark immediately constructed a pirogue, with which he crossed the first channel and erected a platform on the other side. He then ferried his men across, and next brought the baggage over and placed it upon the platform. Last of all, he swam the pack-horses through the stream, reloaded them beside his temporary landing, and marched the entire party over the flooded land to the farther fork. This was passed in a similar manner. The passage of a little more than three miles occupied as many days.
They had now approached within twenty miles of Vincennes, but every step of the way hereafter was fraught with dangers and difficulties, and progress was painfully slow. All day long they labored through ooze, or water, which was sometimes breast-high. The floods had cleared the country of game and the pangs of hunger were soon added to the other privations of the desperate adventurers. Clark and his officers directed their utmost efforts towards keeping up the spirits of the men, for they knew that only thus could they hope to tide them over the terrible last stages of the journey.
On the seventeenth, they reached the Embarrass River, but could find nothing in which to cross nor a dry spot to camp upon. They passed that night huddled together, wet and hungry, upon a small hillock that was just clear of the water. In the morning they were cheered by the sound of the sunrise gun at the fort, but had they known the weary way that still lay between them and their objective, some of them must have abandoned the struggle there and then.
Three days were now spent in building canoes. On the twentieth the men had been two days without food, and the control that Clark maintained of these rude levies may be inferred from the fact that they still had the horses, which he did not propose to eat except in the last extremity. In the course of the day, they captured a boat containing five Frenchmen from Vincennes, and were cheered to learn that conditions in the town remained in the state described by the trader Vigo. In the evening a deer was caught, and the situation of the party was thereby materially improved.
The following morning Clark ferried his troops across the river, but found it impossible to bring his horses any farther. The captive French were carried along, protesting that it was impossible for human beings to reach the town by way of the intervening submerged lands. But Clark was determined to go forward, and he led his men through the chill waters that often came up to their necks. Thus they advanced slowly and painfully for three miles, and at night camped upon a little knob of wet ground.
The following morning the march was resumed, but some of the men had become too weak to walk and these were conveyed in the canoes. They now came to a stretch of land where the difficulties of wading were enhanced by the presence of thick bushes. This was passed after wearisome effort, but nightfall of the twenty-second found them still six miles from the fort. Most of the men had clearly approached the limits of their endurance, and it required all the encouragement of the leader to keep them up. In this he was materially aided by “a little antic drummer,” as he calls him in his memoir of the expedition. This youngster seemed to have the most buoyant spirits and with his merry quips and pranks made the men laugh in the midst of their misery. One of the officers closes the entry in his diary for this day with the words: “No provisions yet. Lord help us!”
This night was bitterly cold. Half an inch of ice formed on the stagnant water. The miserable adventurers, with empty stomachs and drenched clothing, who cowered in the open, or moved about to keep their blood in circulation, suffered intensely. But the morning broke with a bright sun overhead, and with their leader’s assurance that the evening would see them at the goal for which they had striven so valiantly, the almost exhausted men steeled themselves to a final effort. And, indeed, they needed all the fortitude and determination that they could summon, for the final stage of the march proved to be the most trying of all.
Between the advancing force and Vincennes lay a broad sheet of water without as much as a hand’s-breadth of land visible. It was four miles across, and on the farther side of it lay dense woods. Clark once more exhorted his men in fiery words to exert their energies to the utmost. He then ordered one of the officers to the rear with a guard and instructions to shoot anyone who should refuse to go forward. Having provided this sinister rearguard, he assumed the lead and dashed into the water, which came up to the middle of his breast.
By the time they had reached the middle of the flooded plain, cold and exhaustion caused the weakest to faint. Their more hardy comrades held them in their arms until the canoes could take them on board and carry them to dry land. As long as they were able, men on the verge of collapse struggled on, those with a little superfluous strength lending a supporting hand or shoulder where it was sorely needed. Clark was unceasing in his efforts to animate the poor fellows. Constantly his voice came to them in cheery tones, joking, exhorting and praising. Not once by word or sign did he evince the least discouragement or the slightest thought of turning from his purpose.
When at length they reached the margin of this icy lake, the strongest had approached the limits of their powers of endurance. Many threw themselves down with their faces in the water, and but for the interference of their comrades would have allowed themselves to drown. Fires were immediately built and had hardly been started when a providential supply of meat was secured. A party of Indian squaws was captured in a canoe that proved to contain a large portion of the carcass of a buffalo. Cheered by this good fortune and revived by the food, the troops set out again in excellent spirits.
A short march brought them to a grove of trees, in which they halted. Before them, at a distance of two miles, stood the town and fort of Vincennes, the prize for which they had endured as much as mortal men might. In the middle ground lay a plain over which in different directions rode a number of creole hunters shooting ducks. Clark despatched a party which succeeded in capturing one of the sportsmen. From the prisoner Clark learned with some annoyance that a party of two hundred Indians were then in the town. This would make the armed force at the command of the British commandant four times the number of his own men. Still he determined to proceed without delay. He was particularly anxious to avoid killing any of the inhabitants or Indians, whose good-will he hoped to gain. He decided, therefore, not to rely upon the uncertain chance of a surprise but to make his advance openly and give notice of his intended attack. The creole was despatched to the town with a message to the inhabitants stating that if they observed strict neutrality and remained in their houses during the fighting, no harm would befall them.
At sundown Clark marched his men in regular ranks against Vincennes. As he had anticipated, the creole population offered no resistance and the town was occupied without any opposition. The proclamation had not only induced the inhabitants to passivity but had also caused the Indians, who were not in a fighting temper, to take their departure. One of the chiefs offered to support Clark with his band but the American leader declined the aid, saying that if the Indians would refrain from any interference he would ask no more of them.
During the night Clark took advantage of the darkness to throw up intrenchments against the fort, and at sunrise the garrison found the Americans in a strong position. Firing was at once commenced and maintained during the next few hours, with the result that six or seven of the defenders were killed, or wounded, while the attacking party suffered no loss. Before midday Clark sent forward a flag of truce with a demand upon the fort to surrender. His troops took advantage of the short lull in hostilities to eat a hearty breakfast, which was the first sufficient meal any of them had enjoyed in six days.
Hamilton refused to capitulate but proposed a truce for three days. This proposition Clark, of course, instantly rejected and hostilities were resumed. After further losses on the side of the British it became apparent that the Detroit militia were weakening, although the regulars held firm. At the approach of evening Hamilton proposed a meeting of the respective commanders, and they accordingly repaired to an old French church in the vicinity. After considerable discussion, Hamilton agreed that his garrison of seventy-nine men should surrender as prisoners of war.
This was a most notable achievement. Clark had without the loss of a man taken a strong fort defended by trained soldiers and protected by cannon. It was also highly important in its results, for it assured to the infant republic a large territory and saved the Kentuckians from an attack which would surely have overwhelmed them. In the contemplation of the exploits of the Revolutionary heroes this splendid performance of the “Hannibal of the West” is too frequently overlooked or not properly appreciated.
Clark sent Hamilton and a score or more of the prisoners to Virginia. The remainder he paroled. Reinforcements soon arrived and strong garrisons were placed in the captured posts. The Indians were placated and in many cases friendly relations were established with them. They soon learned to have the greatest confidence in Clark, and up to the time of his death he exercised an influence over them to which few other white men attained.
A FEAT OF STRENGTH
The warriors and their prisoners start for the Indian country--Boone lightens the journey and puts the captors in good humor--Stephen Halliwell falls ill of a fever--He is in danger of being tomahawked by the savages--Boone undertakes the care of the feeble man--“No Indian shall raise your hair whilst I can raise a hand to prevent it”--Halliwell is doomed to death but Boone stays the executioners--He carries the exhausted man over the last stage of the march--The party arrives at Chillicothe--Boone and others are taken to the British post at Detroit.
The month of February, 1778, was unusually mild. A few inches of snow fell during the night following the capture of Boone and his men but the next day a thaw set in. The condition of the ground rendered walking tiresome and disagreeable and made it difficult to secure a dry bed at night. It also obliterated ordinary traces and almost precluded the possibility of pursuers finding and following the trail of the band of Indians and their prisoners. Boone noted this circumstance with satisfaction. His chief anxiety now was lest the men of Boonesborough should attempt a rescue, which could only end in disaster and might induce the savages to revert to their original design of attacking the fort. Before starting upon the march he instructed his men not to resort to any of the usual devices for creating a trace, such as leaving scraps of clothing on bushes, breaking off twigs, pieces of bark, and so on.
The Indians divided their captives into three equal squads of nine each, and themselves into four bodies of twenty-five warriors, sandwiching the former between the latter, and this order was maintained upon the daily march. The whites had, of course, been deprived of their weapons and could not have made any concerted attack on their captors with the least chance of success. Any individual attempt at escape during daylight must have been even more hopeless.
A consignment of salt having been sent to Boonesborough a few days before the capture, there was but one pack-horse in the camp at the licks when it fell into the hands of the Indians. This animal was loaded with as much of the plunder as it could carry and the heavy rifles were distributed among the Indian ponies, but the arrangement left a large amount of baggage unprovided with carriage and this was distributed among the prisoners. Each had a burden of fifty or sixty pounds, which consisted largely of the blankets and skins with which he was permitted to cover himself at night. Such a load would tire the ordinary man in an hour, but these hardy backwoodsmen could carry it all day and over fifteen miles of heavy ground, not without great fatigue, of course, but without breaking down. Thus they tramped along under the dripping boughs of the silent forest, their moccasins squelching the spongy earth and their long hair hanging wet and stringy about their necks.
At night the camp was pitched in some place that afforded natural protection from the wind, and this was, perhaps, supplemented by a screen of boughs. Game was plentiful that season and they suffered nothing from lack of food. Whilst the Indians naturally retained for themselves the choicest portions, the prisoners received sufficient to satisfy their appetites. In the centre of the camp a large fire was made and around this the twenty-seven white men stretched themselves to sleep, with their feet towards the blazing logs. This group was encircled by a ring of smaller fires at which the hundred savages lay close together, forming a human belt round the encampment.
The arrangement was a sufficiently comfortable one for the captives, but it presented little prospect of escape. The prisoners lay in the full glare of the girdle of flame and could not stir whilst an Indian remained awake without attracting attention. But even though every one of them was sunk in slumber it would be a task of the utmost difficulty to pass through their prostrate ranks undetected, for the savage has the dog-like habit of sleeping with senses on the alert. The slightest sound, a strange smell, the lightest touch, will arouse him to full intelligence in an instant.
No doubt Boone might have effected his escape had he been so minded. He was one of the few frontiersmen who acquired the peculiarly subtle qualities of the savages, and even excelled the craftiest of them in many respects. No redskin could wriggle over the ground more stealthily than he, nor tread the earth with less disturbance. He knew the character of the Indians thoroughly, and this knowledge he turned to account in the several instances that he fell into their hands. From the first moment of capture, he always turned his attention to arousing a desirable condition of mind in his captors, and this will account for the fact that they invariably treated him well.
He knew how to play upon their feelings, how to tickle their sense of humor, how to excite their self esteem, how to allay their suspicions. He would interest them with stories of the white folks. He would entertain them with feats of strength or dexterity. He would gratify them by imparting some bit of useful knowledge or some practical suggestion. Or, mindful of their love of debate, he would lead them into some discussion, taking care, whilst infusing sufficient zest into his contention, to leave his dusky opponents final masters of the argument.
And all the while he would maintain a perfect appearance of the utmost unconcern with regard to himself and his fate. Never by word, look, or gesture would he display the slightest fear or uneasiness of mind. As a matter of fact, this attitude was in complete consonance with the state of his feelings. From his first capture by Indians, during his expedition to Kentucky in 1769, until the day of his death, Boone always felt, when in their hands, the utmost confidence in his ability to influence them and to make his escape from them. No band ever held him prisoner without coming under the spell of his magnetism and admiring his calm self-possession. If any other man enjoyed the same exemption from fear of the redskins, and possessed the same power of arousing their better natures, it was George Rogers Clark.
As we have intimated, to have given his present captors the slip would have been no great feat on the part of Boone, but he did not entertain the idea. In the first place, he was restrained by the conviction that the loss of their chief prize would arouse the savages to fury and prompt them to wreak vengeance upon the other captives. Furthermore, he considered it his duty to remain with his men, who had no one among them capable of filling his place as leader or counsellor. Had Boone entertained any different ideas, circumstances which arose at the close of the first day’s march would have put them to rout.
In the squad of prisoners that included Boone was a young fellow named Stephen Halliwell, who had been sickening for days previous to the capture. By almost superhuman effort he got through the first march and when camp was reached fell upon the ground in a state of collapse. Boone was seriously concerned about the man, but not so much on account of his fever as because it was the invariable practice of the Indians to tomahawk sick or weak prisoners in order that they should not impede progress. Boone made a comfortable bed for the sufferer beside himself, using most of his own covering in doing so, and he exerted himself more than ever that night to put the Indians round the camp fires in good humor.
The next morning poor Halliwell braced himself for the fearful struggle of another day. Boone had learned from the Indians that they expected to reach their town at the close of the third full day’s march. This prospect alone gave the fever-stricken man the courage to proceed. Boone carried Halliwell’s pack in addition to his own and the sick man’s comrades took turns in supporting his tottering steps. Many a sinister glance was cast by the nearby savages at the evidently exhausted captive, but Boone was ever ready to avert the impending doom. He tramped along carelessly, almost jauntily, under his double load and constantly kept the neighboring redskins entertained--now he joked with them, offering to match himself against any squaw in their tribe at carrying a pack; now he pointed to the faint trace of some game animal that had lately passed that way and started a discussion of the best manner of tracking it. Anon he gave them a description of one of the great coast towns of the “Long Knives,” of which he knew only by hearsay. Again he sang a song or started a contest in mimicry with some brave, each being required to imitate the cries of certain beasts and birds. And so the weary day drew to a close and Halliwell, almost carried by one of his companions, reached the night’s camp.
The sick man was in a sorry plight. He had neither the will nor the power to make the slightest effort for himself. He dropped almost inanimate and so lay until Boone and another made his bed and rolled him in the blankets. A large stone was then heated in the fire and placed at his feet, with the object of producing a sweat. He was with difficulty induced to swallow a little broth, and then lay for hours in a semi-comatose condition, groaning feebly.
Towards midnight Halliwell awoke from a brief and restless slumber and turned to Boone, who was watching him.
“Captain,” said the sick man, in feeble tones--“Captain, you’ve done all you could for me and more than I had a right to expect, but I’m afraid it’s no use. I’ve shot my bolt, Captain.” The last words were uttered with an air of the deepest despair. A moment after, ashamed at the show of weakness, he continued, with a pitiful attempt at bravado: “I’m half minded to ask you to whip my scalp off, Captain, so as to cheat these red devils.”
“You’ve got to make a better stand than that, Steve,” replied Boone. “If I’d had any idea of letting you lose your scalp, I shouldn’t have gone to the trouble of carrying your pack to-day. We haven’t got to to-morrow yet. Now you go to sleep and don’t worry until worrying can do you some good, which’ll be never. If it’ll give you any satisfaction, I’ll say this much. No Indian shall raise your hair whilst I can raise a hand to prevent it.”
This assurance evidently cheered the wretched man. With a sigh of relief, he composed himself to sleep, whilst Boone rearranged his coverings.
The morning of the third and last day’s march opened to find Halliwell quite incapable of going farther. He could hardly stand, and his legs bent under him when he attempted to walk. As his dismayed companions stood around him, at a loss what to do, two warriors approached, tomahawk in hand. They had been ordered to do away with the unfortunate man, who had already occasioned sufficient delay in the start to excite the impatience of the Indians.
Boone stepped between the appointed executioners and their intended victim, and with upraised hand motioned them to stop. There was something in the quiet air of command that constrained the savages to obey the unarmed man. Boone then addressed the five chiefs, who stood together at a short distance. He said that it would serve no good purpose to kill the man and might bring great trouble upon themselves. If their only object was the professed one of avoiding delay, it might be accomplished without recourse to the measure they contemplated. He would carry the sick man through the last stage of the journey and would undertake that they should not impede the march. If he failed to fulfill his promise, they might tomahawk both himself and his charge.
To this proposition the Indians assented without hesitation. They were not, however, moved to this action by any sense of humanity but by the respect they already felt for Boone and, even more, by the desire to see him perform the extraordinary feat of carrying a man weighing something like one hundred and fifty pounds for a distance of thirteen miles. The arrangements were quickly made. Boone’s pack and that of Halliwell were divided among their comrades. With a buffalo skin and thongs of elk’s hide a sling was constructed and so adjusted as to secure the greatest degree of ease to the sick man whilst causing as little unnecessary strain upon Boone as possible. This done, Halliwell was lifted into the contrivance and the march commenced.
Boone knew that he was making no idle boast when he undertook the task that amazed the Indians. He had more than once carried an equal weight of dead matter for as great a distance. It was not, nevertheless, any light undertaking. Before the journey was more than half completed, he began to look forward to its close with eager anticipation, and when at length the party arrived within sight of Chillicothe, on the banks of the Little Miami, Boone was nearing the limit of his endurance. But the savages, who frequently looked at him with curious wonder, had not the satisfaction of learning this. He turned upon them his usual calm, inscrutable countenance, and replied to their jibes with perfect good-nature.
[Illustration: BOONE WAS NEARING THE LIMIT OF HIS ENDURANCE]
A great concourse awaited their coming on the outskirts of the town. The larger part of the crowd was composed of unkempt squaws, in dirty clothing, many of them with babies strapped to their backs. Young boys and girls, with a sprinkling of aged grandsires, made up the remainder, whilst the mongrel dogs of the Indians yelped an excited welcome to their returning masters. A mile from the town the warriors had begun to chant their song of victory, and as they neared the waiting throng they set to brandishing their weapons and shouting exultantly. The prisoners were conducted to the great square and there subjected to the curious scrutiny of the women and children for the space of an hour or two. The greatest interest was displayed in the white squaw who had come in carrying his sick papoose upon his back.
The Shawnees kept Boone and his companions at old Chillicothe for nearly three weeks, during which time they were well treated and, from the Indian point of view, comfortably lodged. At length ten of the prisoners and Boone were sent, under the escort of forty of the savages, to Detroit. Here they were, as Boone declared, “treated by Governor Hamilton, the British commander at that post, with great humanity.” Boone did not forget this kindness and afterwards, when Hamilton was an execrated prisoner in the hands of the Americans, Boone befriended him to the best of his ability.
The ten men who had been brought to Detroit in company with their captain were readily ransomed by the British, but the Indians declined to dispose of Boone in the same manner. The Governor offered one hundred pounds sterling--an extraordinary sum--for his release, intending to liberate him on parole. The offer must have been an extremely tempting one, but the Shawnees resolutely refused it. Boone had created a deep impression on their chiefs, and it had been determined, although the fact was not then announced, to adopt him into the tribe.
Boone made no effort to influence the issue one way or the other. Perhaps he realized that it would be futile to attempt to turn the Indians from their purpose. Perhaps he thought it advisable to go back to the remainder of his men. Or, which is highly probable, he was anxious for the opportunity of learning more about the tribe which constituted the chief menace to his people in Kentucky. Whatever his motive, he displayed such willingness to accompany the Shawnees back to Chillicothe that they were deluded into the belief that he was really disposed to become one of themselves.
Some of the officers at Detroit pressed gifts of money and various useful articles upon Boone, but he declined them all, saying that so far as he could foresee, the opportunity to repay their proffered kindness would never occur and he could not allow himself to lie under a perpetual obligation to them. Their good wishes he thankfully acknowledged, and left them with feelings of respect and admiration for him.
Early in April the Shawnees turned homeward with the prisoner upon whom they set so high a value. Their satisfaction in the possession of him prompted them to guard him with the utmost care, but he soon discovered that he had risen in their estimation and regard since the visit to Detroit. The march was a long and tedious one of three weeks’ duration, but during its course everything was done to promote the comfort of the captive. Boone was not slow to foster the good feelings evinced by his captors, and by the time they arrived at Chillicothe the most cordial relations existed between them and himself.
Boone is formally adopted by the Shawnees--He becomes the son of Blackfish and is given the name of Big Turtle--The Indians treat him well but watch him closely--A description of old Chillicothe and its people--Boone gains the confidence of the tribe so that they allow him to go on short hunting trips--He accumulates a store of ammunition and secretes it--A war-party of various tribes visits the town--Boone learns their purpose to attack the Kentucky settlements--He contrives his escape and makes for Boonesborough--Arrives after a remarkable journey.
Adoption was a common practice among the Indians, and probably had always been so. They readily extended it to include white men, as the history of the earliest settlements proves. There are grounds for believing that, while most of the members of the “lost colony” of Roanoke were doubtless massacred, some of them survived as Indians by adoption and left descendants. John Smith was adopted by the Powhatans as the son of their great Werowance, and the Susquehannas were anxious to make him their chief.
At the time to which our story relates, the practice was prevalent among the Indians of the border and was usually resorted to with a view to filling the places of warriors killed in battle. Once admitted to the tribe, the white Indian was treated with kindness and often with more consideration than would have been the case had he been born among his adoptive relatives. He was, however, closely watched until his captors believed him to be fully reconciled to his new condition.
It was seldom that adult whites, thus forcibly affiliated with the redskins, missed a favorable opportunity to escape, and consequently the Indians became more disposed to the adoption of children. With respect to the latter, their designs were naturally attended by better success. The boy, prepared perhaps by a disposition inherited from backwoods ancestors, readily adapted himself to his new surroundings and soon became enamoured of the free and active life of the village and the camp. In many instances, youths recovered by their natural parents after many years’ residence with the Indians displayed the greatest repugnance to the ways of civilization, and sometimes ran away, returning to the people of their adoption.
Shortly after Boone’s return from Detroit, he was informed that his captors had determined to admit him into the tribe and that he was to become the son of the renowned warrior Blackfish, who was the chief of the band that inhabited Chillicothe. Boone professed to be gratified by the announcement and duly appreciative of the great honor of being adopted by the most powerful Indian of those parts. The tribesmen were delighted by his complacence and entered upon the ceremony with the utmost enthusiasm, for many of them had become sincerely attached to their extraordinary captive.
The ceremony of adoption, which the Indians naturally viewed with a sense of solemn importance, occupied several days and included features that were not altogether pleasant to the central figure in it. Indeed, the first stage of the initiation severely taxed Boone’s patience and fortitude, and more than once he was forced to convert a grimace of pain into a pretended grin of amusement. The operation of forming the scalp-lock was performed in the presence of the warriors, who closely noted the manner in which the victim bore his sufferings.
Boone was required to seat himself and was expected to remain passive while two Indians tore his hair out by the roots. The ordeal was the more severe because the operation was protracted and the hair plucked in small strands. It was customary to allow the subject of this ceremony one or two intervals for rest and the recovery of his nervous system. The usual respite was offered to Boone but he replied that if the operators were not too tired to proceed he should like them to go ahead and finish their work. This they did and at the end of several hours Boone’s long locks had all disappeared with the exception of one thick tuft in the centre of the crown. This was the scalp-lock. When it had been tied up with ribbon and fixed with feathers the operation was pronounced complete and our hero stood forth literally and metaphorically a redskin, so far as his head was concerned.
The next morning Boone was conducted to the river, stripped of his clothing and led into the water. He was then vigorously washed and rubbed “to take all his white blood out.” Following this ablution, he was led to the council-house, where the chief, in this case the adoptive father, made an address. The initiate was informed of the great honors and benefits that would accrue to him by admission to the tribe; he was instructed as to the duties that would devolve upon him and the course of behavior he would be expected to follow. The assembled warriors were also reminded of the rights and future status of their new brother and exhorted to accord to him proper treatment and consideration.
At the completion of the chief’s speech, which was received with grunts of approval, two Indians approached Boone, who stood in the centre of the chamber, and with pigments of various hues proceeded to paint his head and face after the most approved fashion. This was the final step in the ceremony. Boone was now a full-blown Shawnee, and his fellow-tribesmen crowded round to congratulate him. A big feast was now spread. After they had eaten heartily, pipes were lit and the company sat smoking and talking far into the night. Boone’s natural dignity and habitual self-control enabled him to adapt himself to his new rôle with ease, and before the gathering broke up the warriors had begun to look upon him as a kindred spirit and boon companion.
The town of which Boone was now an inhabitant under the name of Sheltowee, or “Big Turtle,” was situated on the banks of the Little Miami River. The buildings were ranged round a great square which, like the market-place of a country town, was the common resort of loungers and the general rendezvous of the community. Here they performed their ceremonial dances, erected the war-post, celebrated victory or bemoaned defeat, indulged in various sports, including the torture of prisoners, divided spoils, held mass-meetings, and in short gathered for any purpose of general interest.
The council-house was the principal building in the town. It stood on somewhat elevated ground at the northern end of the square and was constructed of logs in part painted and carved. The roof was finished with slabs of bark and the interior furnished with mats and the skins of various animals. A platform, raised to the height of about two feet, ran round three sides of the wall, leaving a sort of pit in the centre. Upon this platform the warriors squatted on the occasions of councils, the receptions of delegations from other tribes, or deliberations on the fate of prisoners; the visitors, or captives, occupying the central and less elevated space.
The cabins of the population, which numbered about six hundred, were of a permanent character and not unlike those of the poorer class of settlers in form. Scattered about amongst them were corn-cribs, poultry-houses and dug-outs. The last were by the Indians called “hot-houses,” and consisted of holes in the ground to which the people resorted in particularly severe weather.
Boone, or “Sheltowee,” as the Indians now always called him, was assigned to lodgings in a small hut with two young braves for companions. The accommodations were far from what he could have desired, but they were as good as those enjoyed by the chief, his adoptive father, and he accepted them with his usual philosophy. Accustomed to fresh air in abundance, Boone found the close and foul atmosphere of the wigwam almost intolerable. The place was often filled with acrid smoke and always infested by insects. How filthy it was he could only guess, for the light of day never penetrated to its interior.
Even the strong stomach of Boone rebelled against the food that was presented to him. It was plentiful and of materials that in another form would have been appetizing, but the Indian methods of cooking spoilt it. Meat, corn, hominy, beans, and other vegetables were stewed in bear’s oil, with little care for cleanliness, and served in one repellent mess. But Boone forced himself to swallow his meals with feigned enjoyment and, indeed, made a point of affecting satisfaction and contentment with all the conditions of his new life.
Boone soon discovered that he was watched during every moment of the day, but he did not allow the Indians to know that he was aware of the fact. The surveillance was often cleverly contrived to evade his detection but never succeeded in that respect. The copper-colored urchin who with precocious cunning pretended to casually encounter him on the outskirts of the town was instantly recognized as a spy, but treated as a welcome friend, and after a joyous romp carried home on the shoulder of the man he had been set to watch. At night no guard was placed, nor was any necessary, for although Boone might with little difficulty have eluded his sleeping companions, he could not have walked twenty paces outside the hut without arousing the dogs which fairly swarmed about the town. These gaunt mongrels were particularly exuberant when they smelt a white man and snarled and snapped at any that came near them.
But it was not in Boone’s mind to make any attempt to escape for the present. It was his purpose to turn his captivity to good account by improving his knowledge of the Indians and gaining information as to their contemplated movements against the settlers. His efforts were now bent towards increasing the feeling of friendliness that they entertained towards him and exciting their confidence in him. He took part in the sports and contests of the young braves, but shrewdly regulated his conduct so as to arouse their admiration without exciting their envy. In the shooting matches he might easily have outdone the best of them, but he contented himself with making a good showing without equalling the performances of their best marksmen.
Boone’s judicious behavior soon created in the Indians the state of mind that he had desired. Blackfish grew quite fond of his adopted son, and in the course of a few weeks began to entertain the belief that he had made up his mind to remain with the Indians and continue the life that appeared to be so congenial to him. Boone was now permitted to go on occasional hunting trips alone, but the chief was not yet entirely devoid of suspicion. The hunter’s hours were limited and he was given to understand that if his absence exceeded the stipulated period of liberty, a party would be sent in search of him. The number of bullets and the charges of powder issued to him were carefully counted, and he was held to a strict accountability for the supply. But Boone was even more shrewd and cunning than Blackfish. By cutting his bullets in two and using reduced charges of powder, the backwoodsman contrived to accumulate a considerable store of ammunition, which he secreted for use in emergency.
Early in June Boone was sent with a party of braves to the salt springs of the Scioto, where they remained ten days engaged in the manufacture of salt. On his return to Chillicothe, he was greatly concerned to find in the town something like five hundred strange warriors, fully armed and bedecked in war-paint and feathers. Boone’s knowledge of the Shawnee language was more thorough than he had allowed the Indians to imagine, and mingling with the crowd in the square he had no difficulty in picking up all the information that he needed. He learned that the war party was organized for an immediate attack upon Boonesborough, to which they had been instigated by the British commandant at Detroit. He ascertained the proposed route and other details of the expedition.
Boone decided that he must escape without an hour’s unnecessary delay. That night the Indians engaged in their war dances and other ceremonies and no doubt he might have slipped away from the town without being missed until he should have gained several hours’ start, but many considerations induced him to defer his departure. Boone never lost his head. Indeed, the greater the emergency the more carefully he laid his plans before action. The first stages of his journey would be through a district difficult to traverse and with which he was little acquainted, whilst the warriors of Chillicothe were perfectly familiar with every rood of it. Consequently a night start would give him less advantage than an equal number of hours’ headway in the daytime. Furthermore, he had that day made a long march and was somewhat fatigued. The task he proposed for himself would tax his strength to the utmost and he determined to fortify himself with a night’s rest before setting out upon it.
The next morning Boone left the town with his rifle as though going upon one of his usual hunting trips. This was the more easily contrived because the presence in the place of so many strangers made it necessary for the young braves to secure a much larger supply of meat than ordinary. He had not dared to excite suspicion by providing himself with any considerable quantity of food but he managed to secrete a small piece of jerked venison in his hunting-shirt. He made directly for the spot where his reserve stock of ammunition lay hidden and filled his powder-horn and bullet-pouch. Thus equipped, he headed for the Ohio with all the speed he could command.
Boonesborough was one hundred and sixty miles away, and Boone proposed to cover the distance in the least possible time. He knew that he would be pursued within a few hours and realized that the greatest danger of his recapture would be passed if he should gain safely the other side of the Ohio. He therefore exerted himself to the utmost at the outset, combining speed with skilful efforts to hide his trail. His route lay through dense forest and led him across several streams and through more than one swamp. Where the ground was firm and fairly open, he ran with long, loping strides for hours at a time. The first night the moon served him until early morning and he kept on his way until it set, stopping to sleep for a few hours only before dawn. The next day similar progress was made, and on the morning of the third Boone arrived at the bank of the Ohio River. He had covered more than seventy miles in about forty-four hours.
Here an obstruction confronted the fugitive that had not been unforeseen. Boone was an indifferent swimmer. Recent long-continued rains had swelled the river and it was running with a strong current. It would be hazardous to delay long and Boone was hastily skirting the bank, almost decided to commit himself to the stream with a log upon the chance of reaching the other side, when he stumbled upon an abandoned canoe. The paddle lay with it but a large hole gaped in one end. This Boone stopped with his hunting-shirt, and launching the rickety craft succeeded in gaining the farther bank.
Although he began to feel confident of eluding his pursuers after putting the river between them and himself, Boone realized that he was not out of danger and pushed on rapidly. His own safety was not the only incentive to speed. If the war Party had adhered to its plan it must have left Chillicothe two days after Boone and every hour gained to Boonesborough for defence would be of account.
On the third day, after crossing the Ohio, Boone shot a turkey and made a hearty meal upon it, and this was the only one that he allowed himself in five days. At other times he had eaten morsels of his jerk as he went along. At the close of the fifth day he walked into the stockade at Boonesborough, having averaged more than thirty miles of travel for every twenty-four hours from the time of leaving Chillicothe.
DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND
Boone sets the defences of Boonesborough in order--He learns of the departure of his family--“You see, they all thought you were dead, Dad”--Boone carries “the war into Africa”--His party have a skirmish with the Indians--The run back to Boonesborough--Blackfish and his warriors appear before the stockade--Parleying and fencing--Boone gains time and sends for relief--Blackfish plans a treacherous manœuvre--He seeks to beguile the settlers with a false treaty--The trap is laid with skill--But the whites break out of it after a desperate struggle.
Boone appeared in the stockade like one coming from the dead. Nothing had been heard of any of the party captured at the salt licks, and it was generally believed that all had been killed. It was, therefore, with feelings of unbounded joy that the settlers crowded round their regained leader, eagerly demanding his story. But Boone declined, for the present, to satisfy their curiosity. He had more momentous matters in his mind. On entering the fort he had noticed that the defences had been allowed to fall into a condition of neglect and that a general state of unpreparedness for attack prevailed. Weary and hungry as he was, he set about improving affairs before attending to his personal needs and comfort.
He warned the settlers that they might expect the arrival of the Indians in great force within three or four days’ time, and urged upon all the necessity of the utmost exertion in the meanwhile. The women were to busy themselves moulding bullets and the men in repairing the stockade. Three mounted messengers were immediately despatched to the Holston, with a request to Colonel Campbell for reinforcements. Others were sent to Harrodsburg and Logan’s Station on similar errands. Runners began the circuit of the outlying farms to round up all the people belonging to Boonesborough and scouts set off in the direction from which the Indians would approach.
Having taken all the measures immediately possible for the defence of his post, Boone turned towards his cabin. It was characteristic of him that, notwithstanding he missed his family from among the throng that greeted his return, he had made no inquiry for them, although Hardy and Kenton had been the first to welcome him, but had addressed himself at once to the business in hand. Now, as he walked with these two friends across the square, the desire to hear of his loved ones was uppermost in his mind.
“Mother took the children and went back to her father’s place on the Yadkin,” began Hardy, anticipating the question that hung on Boone’s lips. “You see, they all thought you were dead, Dad. But we didn’t. Did we, Kenton?”
“Well, hardly,” replied the scout, with a chuckle. “I kinder thought I’d hear something drop, Captain, in case your hair was raised.”
“Well, if I wasn’t scalped, I was plucked, and that’s the next thing to it,” said Boone, removing his felt hat and displaying his bald pate and scalp-lock to his astonished companions. “I’m a full-blooded Indian, Hardy. Your dad is Sheltowee, the Big Turtle, and he’s apt to go on the rampage any time, so watch out, young man.”
By this time the trio had arrived at Boone’s cabin, but before they could set about their preparations for supper neighbors began to arrive with an abundance and variety of food, prompted equally by a desire to serve their leader and impatient curiosity to hear his story. The party made a hearty meal in the open, and then Boone related to them all that had befallen him since the New Year’s Day on which he set out for the Lower Blue Licks with the band of salt-makers. The tale was long in the telling, for the description of the Indian village and the customs of its inhabitants was new to the auditors. They, in their turn, had many matters of more or less moment to mention to Boone, so that the summer night was far advanced when this man of iron turned to his couch for a much needed rest.
The next day work upon the necessary repairs to the fort was entered into with vigor. From time to time settlers, alarmed by the urgency of the call, came in with their families. Men, women and children were kept busy from early morning until night, for there was work in which all could take some part. When the fourth, and then the fifth, day passed without the appearance of the Indians, there was some inclination to desist, but Boone insisted upon a completion of the preparations without delay, and would not allow any of the men to return to their farms until the fort was in a satisfactory state.
After ten days’ hard labor the stockade was in the most effective condition attainable to resist attack. The line of palisades had been made entire, new gates had been erected, the blockhouses strengthened, double bastions constructed, provisions laid in, and cattle collected. Just before the termination of the task, one of the captives from Chillicothe, who had contrived to escape shortly after Boone left, arrived at the fort. From him it was learned that the war-party, disconcerted by Boone’s escape, had postponed its departure for three weeks, and meanwhile had sent to Detroit for a reinforcement of whites. The latter news was alarming, but it was offset by the consideration that the delay greatly increased the chance of the hoped-for aid from the Holston arriving in time.
Boone now determined to adopt Clark’s tactics of “carrying the war into Africa.” He thought that by arousing the apprehensions of the Indians for the safety of their own towns, he might succeed in diverting the impending attack against Boonesborough, or at least in inducing the leaders of the expedition to detach a portion of their strength for the defence of their country. With this idea, then, he took nineteen men and started on a rapid march for an Indian village on Paint Creek, a branch of the Scioto. Hardy, who was now a full-fledged “gun,” made one of the party.
On the way frequent traces were discovered that indicated that small parties of Indian scouts were abroad in Kentucky, and pointed to unusual preparation for the ensuing expedition. When within four miles of their objective point, Boone’s band suddenly fell in with a force of thirty warriors on the way to Kentucky. The two bodies had approached closely before either discovered the presence of the other, but immediately they did so the men on both sides sprang behind trees and a typical backwoods fight followed.
These guerilla combats always took the form of so many independent duels, each individual acting upon his own responsibility and without direction. Every man singled out an adversary and awaited an opportunity to get a shot at some exposed part of his body. Frequent ruses, such as poking a cap out upon the end of a ramrod, were employed to induce an enemy to show himself. The Indians almost invariably defeated regular troops in this kind of skirmishing. The latter adhered to their accustomed tactics of charging in close order and fell easy victims to the active savages. On the other hand, the backwoodsmen were greatly the superior of the redskins in fighting from cover. Such men as Boone possessed all the cunning and dogged patience of the Indian, whilst vastly excelling him in marksmanship.
In such a case as the present, where the disparity in numbers was not overwhelming, the ultimate issue was a foregone conclusion. After two or three hours of conflict the Indians took advantage of the growing dusk to withdraw, abandoning their horses and baggage. What their loss in killed and wounded was had to be left, as usual, to conjecture. The settlers escaped without any casualties. Immediately after this affair Boone learned, to his dismay, that the war-party from Chillicothe had already set out and was now between him and Boonesborough.
Boone now started for the settlement with all possible speed, his front and flanks guarded by scouts feeling for the large body of Indians which he was striving to overtake. On the third day the Indians were reported to be but a few miles away and immediately in the course of the returning settlers. Boone now made a détour and redoubled his speed. The army of warriors was successfully passed and left behind. The raiders entered Boonesborough, after their three hundred miles’ march, in time to allow the occupants of the fort nearly twenty-four hours’ time for preparation.
The following day the Indian force made its appearance. It consisted of about four hundred warriors, for the most part Shawnees, but including Wyandots, Miamis and Delawares. They were under the command of Blackfish, Boone’s adoptive father. Accompanying the Indians was a small body of French-Canadians led by Captain De Quindre, of the Detroit militia. This formidable battalion marched to within a few hundred yards of the stockade and sent forward a white flag with a demand upon the garrison to “surrender the fort in the name of his Britannic Majesty.”
There were at Boonesborough fewer than seventy males capable of bearing arms, and a number of women and children. Whilst the defences were in good condition and a plentiful supply of ammunition was on hand, the settlers were not fully prepared to resist a protracted siege, such as the present situation promised. There was far from a sufficiency of water stored, and the cattle, which was collected at the time of the first alarm, had been permitted to return to the woods. In fact, a party that had been sent out the previous day to round up and bring in some beeves had not yet returned to the stockade.
Despite these drawbacks and the apparent hopelessness of resistance, Boone did not for an instant entertain the idea of capitulating. Nor did he canvass the opinions of his men, but took it for granted that they were of the same mind as himself. In answer to the summons, however, he declared that the garrison needed time for consideration, and so sure of ultimate success were the assailants that they granted two days’ respite from hostilities. This intermission was employed by the settlers in filling all their water-vessels and in getting the party with the cattle safely within the walls.
At the termination of the truce De Quindre approached the fort for the purpose of receiving the answer of the defenders. Boone had devised a ruse to deceive the Canadian as to the number of men in the place. When De Quindre neared the gate, which was thrown open that he and Boone, with their escorts, might meet just outside of it, the officers perceived seventy backwoodsmen grouped in the foreground, whilst standing about in other distant parts of the square were some thirty more “buckskins.” The latter, however, were women and girls dressed in the clothing of their husbands and fathers.
To the amazement of Captain De Quindre, Boone announced the determination of the garrison to defend the post, at the same time thanking the enemy for the time allowed the defenders for the completion of their preparations. De Quindre was chagrined to realize that he had been tricked but did not evince any resentment and, after a brief consultation with Blackfish, returned to Boone with a fresh proposition. He declared that the attacking party was not in the least desirous of resorting to severity, and that if Boone and a few of the other leading men in the fort would meet the Indian chiefs on the following day, a treaty could be effected upon the most advantageous terms to the settlers.
Boone was quite satisfied that some deception was intended by this proposition, but he readily acceded to it because every day’s delay improved the prospect of relief arriving from the Holston. It was agreed that Boone and eight of his men should go out to a spot about eighty yards from the fort and there confer with a delegation from the Indian camp, both parties to be absolutely unarmed. The truce was to be extended to the termination of this conference.
The commissioners met as agreed but instead of an equal number of Indians, Blackfish appeared attended by eighteen warriors, so that there were two Indians to each white man. Boone took no notice of this early indication of treachery, for he had posted twenty guns in concealment behind the palisades ready for an emergency. A table with writing materials had been brought out, that any agreement which might be arrived at could be inscribed and signed.
Blackfish opened the proceedings with a speech in which he pretended to be moved almost to the point of tears. He professed to be heartbroken at the desertion of his son Sheltowee, and reproached him with ingratitude in leaving the Indians after their kind treatment of him. To this Boone replied that it was but natural that he should cleave to his own people. That he had been allowed no voice in the adoption, and could not justly have been expected to observe it. That he was truly grateful to Blackfish and his tribe for their gentle treatment of him and would wish for nothing better than to be on friendly terms with them. But if they persisted upon attacking the whites, he, Boone, would fight them to the bitter end.
This point having been disposed of, they proceeded to the question of the treaty. On the single condition of the settlers owning allegiance to the King of Great Britain, the Indian chiefs promised to withdraw to their own country and to leave them in peaceful possession of Boonesborough and their property. They did not demand hostages, nor any other pledge of sincerity. The signatures of Boone and his eight companions to a brief agreement embodying the conditions on both sides would be sufficient to secure the retirement of the Indians from Kentucky and the avoidance of future hostilities.
This absurdly liberal proposition bore all the earmarks of a subterfuge. Boone knew full well that these Indians had not been at the trouble of coming fifty leagues for the sole purpose of inducing the allegiance of a band of backwoodsmen to the King of Great Britain. He felt sure that the proposed treaty would be preliminary to some contemplated treachery, and that it would be shortly followed by some act rendering it null and void. He had, therefore, little hesitancy about signing it; and, moreover, he wished to play the game to a stage where its object would become apparent.
Boone, therefore, expressed himself as highly gratified at the liberal terms offered and willing to accept them. The agreement was accordingly drawn up and signed by Boone and the eight men accompanying him, as well as by Blackfish, the other Indians, and De Quindre. Blackfish now appeared to be overjoyed at the happy termination of the affair and suggested that the amicable understanding should be signalized by an old Indian ceremony indicative of friendship. This required that each hand of every one of the whites should be grasped and shaken by an Indian in token of good faith.
Boone perceived the trap involved in this artifice but he was determined that the Indians should have no excuse for the treachery which they clearly contemplated. He agreed to the proposal and two of the redskins advanced on each of the whites and seized his hands and arms. At the same instant, Blackfish shouted: “Go!” and his followers attempted to drag the settlers away. But this was not so easy a task as they had imagined that it would be. A desperate struggle ensued. Boone, Kenton, Montgomery, and Buchanan quickly threw off their assailants and felled them with their fists. They then turned to the assistance of others less strong than themselves. At the same time the rifles in the stockade began to crack and the Indians broke away and fled to cover.
The affair of the treaty had ended as Boone expected from the first that it would, but it was not without good results to the defenders. They had gained one more day and so increased the likelihood of succor. But better still, whilst the parley was in progress a little band of five men from Logan’s had entered the fort and among them Stephen Hancock, one of the best riflemen in Kentucky.
Boone now proceeded without a moment’s delay to assign the men to their several posts in anticipation of the attack which he felt sure would not now long be delayed. Women were also detailed for specific duties at certain points, some to supply food and water to the men, others to load guns, and not a few, in the last resort, to man port-holes.
BOONESBOROUGH IS BESIEGED
The night attack upon the stockade--“Not a shot, mind, till I fire, and then let them have it”--The Indians are repulsed but come again with firebrands--They set fire to a cabin--Hardy’s brave fight with the flames--“That was well done, son,--very well done”--The savages are beaten off after fierce fighting--A renegade negro snipes the settlers from a tree-top--Boone puts a bullet through his brain at long range--The Indians attempt to undermine the fort--The scheme is frustrated and they raise the siege--Boone goes after his family.
Fortunately for the brave hearts at Boonesborough, the summer nights afforded but brief cover of darkness. In fact, at the time of the siege a bright moon shone during the early hours and only for a short space before dawn was it possible for a man to approach within thirty or forty yards of the palisades without detection. Nevertheless, serious determined night attacks by the entire Indian force could hardly have failed to overwhelm the little garrison in time. During that dangerous period Boone required every man to be alert at his post. At other times of the night sentries were placed, but those off immediate duty slept with their rifles ready to the hand and within a few feet of the port-holes they were required to command. Boone never closed his eyes between suns whilst the siege lasted but passed his time on the lookout and in visiting his sentries. For rest he depended upon snatches of sleep in the daytime when favorable opportunities occurred. Very few hours sufficed to recuperate him after the hardest day.
The night succeeding the fiasco of the treaty was wearing towards its close. It was the hour preceding dawn, when all nature seems to be silently crouching for the spring into the life of a new day. Boone stood at the port-hole of the upper story of one of the blockhouses, the cool breeze from the west fanning his brow. A sigh escaped him as he thought of the many lives that had been sacrificed for the possession of “the dark and bloody ground” of Kentucky, and the many more that would be demanded. For Boone was a fighter of necessity, not from choice. Action was the very spice of life to him and he loved the stress of conflict, as every strong man must, but he found no pleasure in bloodshed. Boone killed as a measure of self-preservation and for the protection of others. Although he was moved as much as any man to sorrow and indignation at the thought of the women and children barbarously murdered or carried to a cruel captivity, he never allowed vengeful passion to sway him. And the stern, cool temper in which he met the foe made him the more terrible and dangerous antagonist. Such he looked now, his mind having passed on to the thought that, no matter what the cost, Kentucky must and should be held by the people who were willing to convert its wilderness into fair fields and rich pastures.
From time to time the tireless watcher moved from a port-hole and stepped noiselessly to another, commanding a different direction. The ordinary man could with difficulty have discerned an object upon the ground immediately below Boone’s position, but the keen eyes of the hunter, accustomed to the gloom of the forest, penetrated the darkness to at least the distance of fifty yards.
Suddenly the silence was broken by the hoot of an owl. Boone listened intently. In a few seconds the cry was repeated, as though by a bird at some distance from the first. Boone stretched forth his foot and touched the form of a sleeper upon the floor. In an instant Kenton was on his feet, and at the same moment the owl’s cry again floated over the night air to them.
“Injuns on the move, Kenton,” said Boone in low tones and without a trace of excitement in his voice. “Give Hardy a jolt. Now you two slip round the stockade in opposite directions. Have every man stand to his post as quietly as possible and wait for the signal from me. Not a shot, mind, till I fire, and then let them have it. Quick! They’re in the clearing already, if I’m not mistaken.”
When Kenton and Hardy had disappeared down the ladder, Boone took up his rifle and ran his hand over the flint-lock. Satisfied that it was ready for service, he stood it against the wall by his side and peered out of the port-hole. Hardly more than five minutes had elapsed when he imagined that he discerned a dark wall moving towards him. A minute later he was certain. The Indians were about eighty yards away and stealing forward as noiselessly as shadows. Without removing his eyes from the advancing foe, Boone slowly brought his rifle into position and dropped his right cheek upon the stock. When he judged the line of redskins to be fifty yards distant he pressed the trigger.
Boone’s signal shot had hardly sounded when seventy reports rang out almost in a volley. The Indians checked in surprise. Then with a yell they rushed forward, and again seventy trusty guns spoke with tongues of fire. Still the redskins came on, discharging their pieces as they ran. They were within a few paces of the stockade--some, indeed, had reached it--when once more the defenders fired into their ranks. Had they pushed the assault the savages might have carried the fort with their tomahawks, but they checked again and then fell back to reload.
Then occurred one of those strange lulls that commonly happen in fights and even in battles. No movement was detectable on either side and comparative silence prevailed. Suddenly Kenton’s voice was heard serenely singing the lines of a popular ballad of the time:
“If they hang poor Paddy for a thing like that, Whatever will they do with me?”
“That fellow will sing going to his own funeral,” muttered Boone, but he was pleased to hear the cheery laugh that ran round the stockade in response to Kenton’s song.
Anon the chiefs were heard exhorting their tribesmen to renewed efforts, and soon it was seen that they had kindled a fire. This was far enough back to be out of effective range from the fort. As soon as the flames sprang up, a long line of the redskins filed past the fire and each one of them ignited a resin-soaked torch. The defenders instantly divined the purport of this movement, and realized that they were about to be subjected to one of the most dreaded forms of attack. When employed determinedly, fire was the most effective auxiliary the Indians could enlist. Even though they failed to burn a breach in the defences, they gained the advantage of drawing a number of riflemen from the firing line to the task of fighting the flames.
The garrison had enjoyed but a brief respite when the Indians were again upon them. Just as the first gray tints of dawn appeared in the sky, and before Kenton had finished the third verse of his lyric, the ranks of dusky warriors began to advance in a wide crescent formation calculated to envelop three sides of the stockade. Interspersed through their line were some thirty or forty torch-bearers, who immediately became the marks of the riflemen. Many of the savages carried bundles of sticks and grass to be laid against the walls of the cabins and blockhouses and lighted. Boone was now in the square, where he could best direct operations against this new form of attack.
When they had come within one hundred yards of the palisades the Indians rushed forward with the most unearthly yells and whoops. The efforts of the defenders were chiefly directed towards preventing the men bearing torches and combustibles from approaching near enough to lay the latter or to throw the former on the roofs of the buildings. At the same time the horde of howling redskins had to be held back. Fierce fighting followed along every side of the stockade. Every man strove and strained for dear life. The women worked hard, loading spare rifles, of which there were fortunately a considerable number in hand. Here and there an Indian gained the top of the palisade, when a hand-to-hand struggle with tomahawks ensued. The din of musketry, the cries of the combatants, the howling of dogs, and the bellowing of cattle, created a veritable pandemonium.
Presently it was discovered that the roof of one of the cabins had ignited and was burning fiercely. Kenton and Hardy were the first at the spot.
“Give me a boost up, Hardy,” cried Kenton, standing with his face to the building and arms uplifted. Instead, Hardy took a flying leap upon his friend’s back and grasped the eaves of the cabin.
“Come off that!” shouted Kenton, trying to seize Hardy by the leg, but the youngster wriggled out of reach and gained a footing on the roof.
“How’s that for impudence, Captain?” said Kenton to Boone, who was now beside him. “Order him down, won’t you?”
“I’m all right, Dad! Hurry up the buckets!” shouted Hardy.
Boone loved the lad more than he had realized until he saw him in his present extremely perilous position. For an instant Boone hesitated, but only for an instant, before he answered the scout:
“Let him be, Kenton. He’s playing a man’s part and we haven’t the right to baulk him. Not water!” he cried to the women, who now arrived with several buckets of the fluid. “Not water! We shall need every drop we have. We must make sand serve, if it will. Hurry with some empty buckets.”
In the meanwhile, Hardy had sense enough not to expose himself unnecessarily but lay prone along the edge of the roof. In a few minutes half a dozen women were digging energetically in the sandy soil of the square and filling the buckets, which Boone and Kenton handed up to Hardy. The lad was now obliged to stand, and immediately his form, clearly outlined in the lurid light, became the target for a hundred rifles. A frontiersman would have brought him down in a minute, and although the Indians were poor shots, it was a miracle that he lived through the fusillade that they directed against him. At one time he felt a sudden stinging sensation in his right thigh and looked down to see if an ember had burned through his leggings. A little later, a hot iron seemed to sear his cheek, and when he put his hand to the place it came away covered with blood.
In hardly more than five minutes after the buckets began to come up Hardy had the fire out, and, shouting a warning to those below, dropped upon his stomach and slid off the roof into the arms of Kenton.
“That was well done, son,--very well done,” said Boone. “Now back to your post. The Injuns will draw off at daybreak, but they may come strong once again before that.”
The fire which Hardy had extinguished was the only one that got well under way, and the failure in that case seemed to discourage the Indians. The attack slackened perceptibly and soon they withdrew, carrying away their dead and wounded. When the defenders checked up their casualties it was found that only two men had been killed outright. A number had received more or less severe injuries, and among these was Hardy. His clothing had been pierced in four places. His hurts were slight. They consisted of a flesh wound in the thigh and an abrased cheek, and though the former incapacitated him during the remainder of the siege, it soon healed.
This attack, in which they lost heavily, thoroughly disheartened the Indians. The siege was maintained for nine days longer with almost constant fighting, but no such assault as that of the first night was again attempted. Occasionally small parties endeavored to set fires against the walls under cover of darkness, but they always found that a vigilant watch was maintained and no redskin could approach within a hundred yards of the fort except at the peril of his life.
During the day, the besiegers kept up a constant fire against the stockade, but did little damage. They wasted an enormous amount of ammunition, for after their departure the garrison gathered up over two thousand pounds of musket-balls in the vicinity, not to mention the number that were embedded in the walls of the stockade. The settlers, on the other hand, husbanded their resources and fired only when there was a good chance of doing execution. Men stood to the port-holes constantly, and an Indian could not show himself in the clearing during daylight but he immediately became the target of some sharpshooter.
A negro had escaped from the fort during the parley that preceded the attack which has been described, carrying with him a rifle and ammunition. This man took up his station in a tree, at a distance which he considered safe to himself but which rendered his fire practically harmless. He spent several days in shooting at the occupants of the stockade, but little attention was paid to him until one of his nearly spent bullets hit a woman on the hip, causing a painful contusion. Then some of the men tried to dislodge him. They had expended half a dozen or more charges without effect when Boone sauntered up to them.
“I’m afraid you’re using up a lot of good powder and shot needlessly, Aiken,” Boone said to one just about to aim.
“We’re trying to get the range, Captain,” replied the man.
“Well, let me see if I can get it for you.”
The head of the negro was presently seen as he peered out from between two forking branches of the tree. Boone’s eye ran over the ground in a calculation of the distance. Then he rested his rifle on a post and took a long, steady aim. There was a whip-like crack, and the body of the negro came hurtling to the ground. Afterwards it was found with a ball in the skull, the shot having been made at one hundred and seventy-five yards. The Indians who buried, or carried away, their own dead, would not touch the body of the negro.
The siege had continued for five or six days when Boone, from his lookout in the upper story of a blockhouse, noticed one morning that the water below the fort was muddy whilst that above ran clear as usual. The bank was high and nothing could be seen to account for the strange condition. Boone watched for several hours, during which time the phenomenon continued, and came to the conclusion that the Indians, directed by their white allies, were endeavoring to enter the fort by mining.
Having calculated with sufficient precision the direction of the tunnel under construction by the besiegers, Boone began counter-operations. He set men to work digging an underground passage from within the stockade. The earth that was excavated, he ordered to be thrown over the palisade as an intimation to the attackers of what he was about. This had the desired effect. The Indians realized that they were baulked, and on the following day abandoned their project.
On the twentieth day of August the discomfited chiefs, Blackfish and De Quindre, withdrew their forces and took the route to the Indian country. They left with a very wholesome opinion of the prowess of the backwoodsmen, and of the people of Boonesborough in particular. In fact, that place was never again directly attacked by the Indians, who seemed to accept the idea that it was impregnable.
The settlers were now justified in the belief that they would be left in peace for some months at least. Small bodies of marauding redskins might molest isolated individuals and families, but after such a crushing defeat as they had experienced the chiefs would not be willing to plant the war-post again for some time. Gladly the backwoodsmen, who detested confinement, went out to their clearings. There they found things in a sorry state. The Indians had burned the cabins, killed the cattle, and destroyed the growing crops. But these incidents the hardy frontiersmen accepted as part of the necessary conditions of their adventurous lives, and they set cheerfully about repairing the damage.
Shortly after the siege the trial by court-martial, from which Boone emerged so triumphantly, took place. At its conclusion he set out alone upon the long journey to the Yadkin, with a view to bringing his family back to Kentucky. We may imagine the joy of the wife and children upon being reunited to the beloved one whom they had mourned as dead.
Simon Kenton’s boyhood--His fight for a sweetheart--His defeat and his victory--Flight into the wilderness--Three adventures in Kentucky--Attack by the Indians and the death of Strader--A terrible journey and a timely rescue--Kenton is captured by the Indians--He is tortured and made to run the gauntlet--He is sentenced to be burned at the stake--Girty saves his old comrade’s life--Kenton is sent to Logan’s village and befriended by the great chief--Again he is doomed to death by torture--And finds a new friend in a British agent--He goes to Detroit a prisoner of war--Escapes with the aid of a trader’s wife--And at last finds himself safe in Kentucky.
During Boone’s captivity Hardy had attached himself to Kenton, and when the former went upon his journey to North Carolina these two became inseparable companions. Neither had any work to do at Boonesborough. Hardy was too young to take up land and Kenton lacked the desire to do so. His occupation was scouting. When Indians were in the country he went out and watched their movements, warning the settlements of impending attack. When an expedition into the Indian territory was contemplated, he went in advance and ascertained the state of the intervening country and the condition of the town against which the movement was directed. He preceded armed bodies on the march and guarded them against surprise and ambush. He conducted settlers from one point to another and performed many other services of a similar nature. Kenton was one of a number of scouts whose names are perpetuated in the stories of border adventure. The vocation demanded qualities of the highest order. In order to follow it with success, a man needed to be fearless, vigorous, a good shot, a master of woodcraft; to be familiar with the country over which his operations extended, and to have a thorough knowledge of the Indian character and customs. The scouts were regularly attached to the military establishment, received pay from the authorities, and were amenable to their orders. The militia officers frequently took counsel with them and sometimes entrusted to them important details in the arrangement of an expedition. The calling of scout was a highly responsible and honorable one.
After the Indians retired from Boonesborough Kenton trailed them back to their own country, and returned to report that they had dispersed to their several villages and would probably not be heard from again until after the winter. When Boone went away Kenton and Hardy started upon a long hunt and scout in the country lying south of the Ohio. Now and again they crossed the river and made short excursions into the region inhabited by the redskins. November was drawing to a close when they reappeared at Boonesborough.
The two friends took up their abode in Boone’s cabin for the winter. In the long nights, when the wind whistled around the walls and the wolves howled in the neighboring forest, they sat for hours before the great log fire and exchanged experiences. The scout was glad to learn what Hardy could tell of life in England, and in turn told the story of his adventures. It was a wonderful tale, considering that Kenton was but twenty-three years of age in this year 1778. It was related piecemeal and at many sittings, so that we must be content with a brief _résumé_ of it.
Simon Kenton was a born backwoodsman. He first saw the light of day in a little cabin on the borders of Virginia. His boyhood was that common to frontier children--a little schooling, a good deal of hard work, and a fair admixture of adventure. When only sixteen years old he was attracted by the charms of a young girl in the settlement. This aroused the resentment of a youth several years older than Kenton, who imagined that he had engaged the affections of the backwoods maiden, although she would not admit as much. As Kenton declined to abandon his suit, the rivals determined to settle the matter by one of the fist fights that were not uncommon incidents of border life.
The encounter took place in the presence of the assembled settlers, as was usual. Kenton made a plucky stand, but in the end was beaten by the man, who had immeasurably the advantage of him in physical development. He accepted his defeat cheerfully but a year later, when he had grown into a muscular giant of six feet, he challenged his former antagonist to try conclusions once more. The other was a powerful man and readily accepted the cartel.
These backwoods fights were often terrible affairs. Everything short of the use of weapons was permissible, and the participants were frequently seriously injured. In this instance, the former victor was fired by intense hatred for Kenton, who was determined on this occasion to win. The conflict which ensued was terrifically fierce. At first the younger man got the worst of it and was severely hurt, but his courage continued unabated. He renewed the struggle, and in the end so beat his antagonist that he lay unconscious.
Kenton looked down at the prostrate form in horror, fully believing it to be that of a dead man. Then he turned and fled with all the speed possible, stopping only to snatch up his rifle and ammunition from the stump upon which they lay. So convinced was he that the sheriff with a posse would shortly be in pursuit of him that he continued his flight with little cessation for two days.
On the third day Kenton, still apprehensive and downcast, was traversing the forest in an unsettled part of the country when his eye was suddenly gladdened by the sight of a man upon the trail ahead of him. The stranger proved to be a wanderer named Johnson, as homeless and as careless of his destination as was Kenton. Each man was glad of the prospect of company and after a brief comparison of notes they agreed to become partners, as they say in the West.
These two travelled in company for some weeks and until they reached a settlement on the Monongahela, where Kenton decided to stop. This decision was prompted by learning that two young men at the place, named Strader and Yager, contemplated a journey into Kentucky and were willing that he should join them. The three set out shortly afterwards and for a year or more they lived in the wilderness, hunting and trapping, and selling their peltries to traders at Fort Pitt.
They had not been troubled by Indians, and had come to consider themselves safe from their attacks. Of this belief, however, they were rudely disabused one evening in March, 1773. As they sat in their “open-face” cabin, utterly unmindful of danger, a volley was suddenly fired at them from the surrounding thicket. Strader, who was the most exposed, instantly fell dead, riddled with bullets. The other two leaped to their feet and dashed into the neighboring cover without even taking time to pick up their rifles.
The dusk and heavy undergrowth aided their escape and they were soon beyond the reach of their pursuers. But, though the immediate prospect of death had been averted, these men found themselves in the most perilous situation. The onslaught had happened at a time when their belts and weapons were laid aside. They had now nothing with which to defend themselves against the possible attacks of Indians or wild beasts. They lacked provisions and blankets, and had not even a tinder-box with which to make a fire.
They did not, however, abandon themselves to despair, but struck out in the direction of the Ohio, hoping to reach a settlement before their strength should give out. For days they subsisted upon roots and the bark of trees, and at night huddled together in the brush with shaking limbs, for the weather was unusually cold. Gradually weakness stole upon them and on the third day both were seized with violent cramps and nausea, probably in consequence of having swallowed some poisonous substance. Before the close of the fourth day they fell exhausted to the ground and for the first time despaired of going farther, but with the dawn of the morrow their strength and spirits were sufficiently revived to enable them to make another effort. With slow and trembling steps they painfully pursued the way and in a few hours’ time came upon a party of traders.
This experience decided Yager to return to civilization, but Kenton, as soon as he had recovered his strength and had secured a rifle and ammunition, bade the party farewell and plunged again into the recesses of the wilderness. The next year he spent, for the most part alone, hunting and exploring the country. In the spring, Dunmore’s War broke out and Kenton performed valuable services as a scout, this being his first employment in that capacity. It was during this campaign that he became acquainted with Simon Girty, the notorious renegade, and rendered him a signal service. Girty professed the greatest friendship for Kenton and his after conduct proved the sincerity of his declaration.
Upon his return from a reconnoissance in the Indian country, Kenton, when about to cross the Ohio into Kentucky, was captured by a band that had suffered recent defeat by the whites and was consequently in a ferocious mood. Their temper was not improved by the severe injuries that the scout inflicted on some of their number before he could be subdued. Few men on the frontier could command the cool common-sense that unfailingly characterized Boone in a critical situation. He would fight against the heaviest odds whilst any hope of success existed, but once convinced of the futility of resistance, he avoided creating unnecessary rancor by continuing it. Kenton on this occasion fought like a catamount and so aroused the resentment of his assailants that when they had disarmed him they continued to lay on their clubs and tomahawks until he lapsed into unconsciousness.
When the scout came to his senses, he found himself “spread-eagled,” face downwards upon the earth. His arms and legs had been extended and pegged down so that the body lay in the form of a Maltese cross. The position did not permit of any movement save that of slightly raising the head. As time wore on the body became filled with excruciating pains and Kenton passed the night in intense suffering. He did not doubt that he was reserved for worse tortures. Otherwise the Indians would have vented their anger by killing him.
In the morning the party took up the march after strapping Kenton along the bare back of an unbroken horse. All day his limbs were racked by the fresh pains of this cruel mode of progression, and at night he was crucified as before. This march, with its unceasingly attendant agonies, continued for three days and nights. On the fourth the Indians arrived at the village of Chillicothe. By this time Kenton would have welcomed death, but he was to endure much more.
After his captors had refreshed themselves with food and rest, the entire population of the place assembled in the great square and Kenton was led forth to afford amusement for them. After he had been subjected to the jibes and floutings of the children and squaws, he was bound to a post and flogged upon the bare back with switches until the blood flowed copiously. Meanwhile the redskins danced around him, howling with demoniac delight. But they tired of this pastime when it was found impossible to extract a cry of pain from the victim.
Kenton was now led to the stake, stripped of his clothing and bound with hands extended above his head. Faggots were heaped about his feet and all the preparations completed for burning him. At this juncture the Indians seemed to waver in their purpose. The chief men withdrew, leaving the scout to the spiteful persecution of the villagers, who found a fiendish pleasure in pulling his hair, pricking him with knives, and beating him with sticks and clubs. This continued until nightfall, when Kenton was released from his bonds and removed under a strong guard to one of the wigwams.
The next morning he realized why he had been spared from the flames on the previous day. The chiefs had declared that it would be a pity to dispose finally of so strong a man until he had been subjected to all the torture he was capable of enduring. He was now condemned to “run the gantlet,” and when he emerged from the cabin in which he had passed the night he saw the painted warriors assembled and ready to perform their part in the affair.
Across the square two lines of braves were drawn up, facing inwards, with a space of about six feet between them. Each was furnished with a club, tomahawk, or leathern thong. Kenton was required to traverse this lane of inhuman wretches whilst they rained blows upon him in passing. This cruel pastime of the Indians was not designed to kill the victim, but many a man sank dead before going through the ordeal and none completed it without receiving the most severe injuries.
Kenton was a swift runner but as he looked down that double row of waiting warriors, more than one hundred yards in length, he determined not to attempt its entire passage. When he started at the utmost speed he could command, it was with eyes alert for a gap in the line through which he might make his escape. The opportunity offered when he had covered about half the distance. Dashing through the opening, he dodged the Indians who attempted to intercept him and took refuge in the council-house. Of course he was soon once more in the clutches of his tormentors but they did not force him to run the gantlet again. Instead, a council was held to determine his fate. After considerable discussion it was decided that he should be taken to a town named Waughcotomoco and there burned.
Whilst preparations were in progress for the death of Kenton, Simon Girty, the renegade white man, came into Waughcotomoco with a settler’s wife and her children, whom he had captured. Curious to see the prisoner under sentence to be burned at the stake, he went to the wigwam where Kenton was confined. Great was the surprise of Girty to find his old companion and benefactor. Since they had last seen each other, Girty had forsworn his race, and his name had become execrated along the border as that of an unnatural creature devoid of pity and destitute of principle.
Girty’s conduct on this occasion proved that he was not utterly abandoned, but it is the sole redeeming feature of his life as we know it. With the utmost difficulty, he induced the chiefs to defer their purpose, and for three weeks Kenton was left unmolested. At the end of that time he was sent to the village of the great chief Logan, who despite the wrongs he had suffered at the hands of the whites, befriended the scout and treated him as kindly as possible.
Even Logan’s influence did not, however, seem sufficient to save Kenton from the doom with which the Indians appeared to be determined to visit him. After a short while he was sent under escort to Sandusky, which place had been selected as the scene of his death by torture. Here, when the sturdy scout had abandoned hope, a British agent named Drewyer contrived his removal to Detroit.
At Detroit Kenton was held as a prisoner of war and well treated. He was required to work, but received half wages, the other half being applied to the cost of his keep. Some months were passed under these conditions, when Kenton and another Kentuckian contrived to escape with the aid of the wife of a trader. This woman secured and secreted on the outskirts of the town two rifles and a supply of ammunition. At a favorable opportunity the prisoners stole out of the fort, possessed themselves of the weapons and, after a month of travel through the wilderness, found themselves at last among friends in Kentucky.
THE YOUNG SCOUT
The whites suffer great reverses at the hands of the Indians--Kenton and Hardy go on a scout to old Chillicothe--The surprise and the flight--Kenton’s wonderful leap and escape--Hardy falls into the hands of the savages--The midnight visitor to the camp--Hardy fears a snake and finds a friend--The escape to the river--“I reckon we’ve shaken your last night’s friends”--The journey through the Indian country--Hardy has some new experiences and is initiated to the calling of the scout--The companions encounter dangers and feel hunger--Kenton continues the education that Boone began--At last they come in sight of Chillicothe.
During the year 1779 the settlements of Kentucky were free from attack by large bodies of Indians but several fierce fights took place between the whites and their implacable foes. One of these occurred early in the spring and resulted in a fearful loss to the Kentuckians.
Colonel Rogers, who had been down to New Orleans for supplies, returned by boat up the Mississippi and Ohio with a company of about eighty men. When they had reached the point where Cincinnati now stands their scouts reported a large party of Indians to be issuing in canoes from the mouth of the Little Miami, with the evident intention of invading Kentucky. Rogers determined to attack the Indians and with that view landed and marched his men towards the place where he judged that the canoes would make the shore.
Perhaps the discovery made by the scouts diverted them from a proper reconnoissance of the country along the Kentucky side of the river. At any rate, a large body of Indians that had already crossed remained undiscovered. When the men under Colonel Rogers had taken up their position on the bank, these suddenly assaulted them in the rear. At the same time the warriors in the canoes pushed forward to the attack.
The whites were completely caught in a trap and overwhelmingly outnumbered. The situation was palpably a hopeless one. It was a case in which every man sought his own safety without regard to the others. A few--less than one-fourth of the entire number--contrived to escape along the river bank before retreat was completely cut off. These regained the boats and made off down stream with all possible speed. The remainder fought desperately but were ultimately overcome by sheer weight of numbers.
Upwards of sixty men were lost in this encounter, which was the greatest disaster that ever befell the Kentucky settlers, with the exception of the battle of the Blue Licks, which will be described in due course.
The Kentuckians, stirred by a thirst for revenge, determined upon a formidable expedition into the Indian country. Whilst this movement was in course of preparation Kenton was instructed to make a scout through Kentucky and across the Ohio as far as the town of Chillicothe, which was the contemplated point of attack.
Kenton took Hardy with him and the two set out early in the month of June, burdened with nothing more than their rifles and a plentiful supply of ammunition. They did not follow the direct route but zigzagged east and west of it, so as to cover a wide range of territory, the object being to ascertain if any large parties of Indians were on the move. They came to within a day’s march of the Ohio without having seen any sign of a war-party, though they had come upon many traces of small bands and had caught glimpses of them now and again. In response to their inclinations, as well as with regard to the demands of the task in which they were engaged, they avoided unnecessary encounters. Kenton, like Boone, never fought without provocation, and Hardy had learned his lesson from both.
About seven days after leaving Boonesborough, the scouts--for Kenton treated Hardy as a full-fledged member of the brotherhood--camped within sight of the Ohio. They had eaten a venison steak and were sitting in the gloaming beside the dying embers of their fire. Suddenly Kenton sprang up, crying:
“Injuns, Hardy! Scoot!”
Each seized his rifle and they dashed into the thicket, side by side, as a number of rifles were discharged at them. The Indians were instantly at their heels. Hardy was a fast runner but Kenton could have easily outstripped him. However, the tall, lithe scout kept beside his young companion and with a light touch of the hand upon his back helped him onward. They turned on to a sloping stretch of a few hundred yards and raced down it for dear life. At the bottom Kenton glanced over his shoulder and saw that two of the pursuers were gaining rapidly and must soon overtake them, whilst six or seven more were close behind. He stopped, wheeled round, and fired. The nearest warrior fell and the other slackened his pace. Kenton exchanged rifles with Hardy and they resumed their flight.
Kenton realized at the outset that they were being pursued by a number of active young braves, and he felt that it was only a matter of time when they would be overtaken. Alone, he could have distanced the Indians, but Hardy’s best pace was fatally unequal to the task. Once more Kenton stopped the leader in the pursuit when he was within twenty yards of them. Then the others, realizing that the white men were practically unarmed, set up a yell of exultation and redoubled their efforts.
Slowly but surely the Indians gained. At length four of them were within a hundred feet of the fleeing scouts, when Hardy caught his toe in a vine and fell headlong. Kenton did not check his pace, but on the contrary increased the speed of his flight. The nearest Indians, leaving the fallen youth to be captured by those behind, continued their career after Kenton. The scout began to draw away and had put nearly one hundred yards between him and the redskins when he suddenly found himself obstructed by a narrow ravine. Running his eye along the opening he discerned a place about two hundred yards to the left, where the rocky sides appeared to come close together.
Kenton turned his course towards the spot where he hoped to be able to cross, but the change of direction gave the pursuers an advantage, and by the time the scout had approached the brink they were within a few feet of him. Kenton went on without check of speed and on the edge of the ravine gathered himself together, made a mighty effort, and sprang into the air. He landed safely on the other side.
The Indians stopped short. The leap was at least twenty feet, and none of them dared attempt it. They proceeded hastily to reload their guns, but before one of them was ready to fire Kenton had run on beyond range and they turned back to their companions. The scout, safe from pursuit, stretched himself at full length upon the ground and lit his pipe.
Hardy had been momentarily stunned by his fall. As he struggled to his feet he saw Kenton’s form in mid-air, as the scout took his sensational leap. The next instant Hardy was felled to the ground by a rap on the head with a tomahawk.
The Indians immediately crossed the river with their captive and camped for the night on the other side. Hardy was fast bound, hand and foot, with buffalo thongs, and stretched in the circle which the warriors formed round the fire. Fortunately, he had eaten his evening meal, for the redskins did not offer him a scrap of theirs. They ate their fill, smoked their pipes, and then lay down to sleep.
Hardy lay plunged in gloomy thoughts. He had never before been in the hands of the Indians, and it is no discredit to him that he was filled with fearful apprehensions. That he had not been killed he accepted, with reason, as an indication that his captors were reserving him for the torture. He thought with a shudder of the terrible stories of Kenton’s experience, which the scout had related in the long evenings of the previous winter.
Hardy felt somewhat aggrieved that Kenton had abandoned him so readily. He was forced to confess to himself that had his friend stopped to assist him in all probability they would both have been captured. Still Hardy could not divest his mind of the idea that there was something savoring of desertion in Kenton’s flight whilst his companion lay helpless upon the ground. Somehow, the passage of the river seemed to Hardy to cut him off from hope of help and he lay for hours oppressed by forebodings.
The Indians were sunk in the slumber of assured security and it was past midnight when Hardy became conscious that something was stirring near him. The movement was so slight and noiseless that he supposed it to be occasioned by some insect or reptile. Snakes were numerous in the forest and occasionally caused death. Hardy determined to investigate.
This thing, whatever it was, seemed to be just behind his head. Slowly and cautiously Hardy turned over upon his stomach and raised his head. The fire had been allowed to burn low, but it still emitted a faint light. Hardy dimly discerned the form of some large creature within arm’s length of him. In a few moments it took the shape of a man. Like a flash the truth broke upon him. It was Kenton.
Hardy lay still as a statue, realizing that his safety depended upon leaving himself entirely in the hands of his friend. Satisfied that the captive’s movement had not disturbed the sleepers, Kenton resumed his wriggling progress, advancing silently and by inches. After what seemed to the eager prisoner to have been an hour, Kenton was stretched alongside of him. He felt the relaxation of the thongs about his legs and knew that they had been cut, though so subtle was the touch of the keen knife that he neither heard nor felt the bonds sever. Next the arms were freed, and Kenton whispered in his ear:
“Get away easy, on your belly. Take your time. I’ll get a rifle for you and join you in a few moments.”
Hardy stealthily crawled away from the camp until he had gained a distance of about fifty feet, and then he rose and awaited Kenton. The scout soon rejoined him carrying the arms and ammunition of one of the savages. His own rifle had been left near by, and after regaining it they set out for the river.
The scouts had no difficulty in reaching the bank of the stream, but some hours were consumed in the search for the two canoes in which Hardy’s recent friends had crossed. At length they were found, and the fugitives embarked in one, cutting the other loose and turning it into the current. The first signs of dawn were appearing in the sky when Kenton took up the paddles and began leisurely to propel the craft upstream.
For half an hour or so the friends sat in silence, each occupied with his thoughts. Kenton was turning over in his mind a plan of future action. Hardy, since the daring rescue by Kenton, had been troubled with qualms of conscience. He felt ashamed at the doubts he had entertained of his friend’s loyalty. He longed to ease his mind, but hardly knew how to go about it. At length he said:
“I am afraid that I did you an injustice last night, Kenton. You see, when you ran off, leaving me lying upon the ground, I thought that you might--that is, it seemed to me----”
“I see,” said Kenton, with a laugh. “You thought I had given you the long leg, eh? I don’t wonder. I’d have stayed by you, Hardy, if it could have done any good. But if I had, we’d both be going to a hair-raising party now.”
“I understand,” replied Hardy, “and I understood then. I only want you to forgive me for having had the least doubt about it.”
“That’s all right, young ’un!” cried Kenton heartily, extending his hand. “Say no more about it. I think we might make shore here.”
To Hardy’s surprise, Kenton shot the canoe into the north bank, that is, the one from which they had embarked. Noting the puzzled expression on his companion’s face, Kenton said:
“Why, you haven’t forgotten that we are bound for Chillicothe, have you, Hardy? I reckon we’ve shaken your last night’s friends and now we’ll go about our own business. But we must hide the canoe where we are likely to find it when we come back. I swam over this morning, but we may be in a greater hurry than I was when we cross going home.”
They found what appeared to be a safe hiding place for the canoe and carefully marked the spot. Then they turned their faces towards old Chillicothe, which lay somewhat more than two days’ journey to the north. They were now not only in the Indian country during the season of greatest travel, but passing through a section of it that was cut up by trails running in every direction. It behooved them, therefore, to proceed with the utmost caution. They dared not light a fire, and were forced to subsist upon some water-soaked parched corn which Kenton had in his wallet and the edible berries that they occasionally found in the forest.
Hardy realized that these hardships and experiences were the best possible training for him. He cheerfully accepted the situation and positively refused to accept the larger portions of their scanty fare that Kenton pressed upon him. They had many a playful dispute on the subject, Hardy contending that Kenton was the bigger and therefore needed the more nourishment, and Kenton maintaining that his stomach was the better trained and consequently the better able to get along on short rations. Sometimes, when they were both hungry as wolves, they would engage in one of these arguments for half an hour, whilst the untouched corn and berries, lay between them.
With two such tutors as Boone and Kenton, it is hardly necessary to say that a bright and eager lad such as Hardy Goodfellow was, had by this time developed into a really creditable woodsman. Kenton’s method was much the same as Boone’s had been in the dear old hunting days in Clinch Valley. He let Hardy understand that he was depending upon him and only interfered to point out some serious oversight or failure on the part of his pupil.
In this journey to Chillicothe they constantly encountered signs of Indians. Kenton required Hardy to decide how long a time had elapsed since the party passed, how many persons there were in it, their sexes and physical condition, whether or not they had carried burdens, the speed at which they had been going, and a score of other deductions. Hardy was very often at fault, but seldom a second time on the same point.
Before noon of the third day they arrived within sight of Chillicothe, and lay hidden in the undergrowth to await the shades of evening.
THE WHITE SQUAW
Kenton makes a reconnoissance from a tree-top--He stalks a young brave and captures him--The Indian guides the scouts to Micmacto--Where they watch the dances and sports from a point of vantage--The discovery and the alarm--“I am a white woman! For God’s sake take me with you!”--Three against hundreds--The attackers cannot pass the “dead line”--The white squaw proves her marksmanship--The escape over the precipice by night--The boldest course proves to be the wisest--A three days’ race through the forest--The Ohio is passed in safety--Boonesborough again.
As the sun sank below the horizon, the scouts began cautiously approaching the town. They made a détour of a mile or so, in order to get to windward and avoid discovery by the Indian dogs. A thick grove of trees on the edge of the woods, and less than a hundred yards from the village, was the point at which Kenton aimed. They reached it without mishap, and selecting a large oak clambered into its lower branches. From this elevation, which was increased by the lay of the ground, the spies commanded a good view of the square and surrounding buildings of Chillicothe.
Hardy was very eager to see the town so closely associated with the adventures of his two heroes. Here was the place in which Boone had been held prisoner for several weeks, and whence he had made his wonderful journey to Boonesborough in less than five days. It was here that Kenton had run the gauntlet, and there upon a mound stood the council-house into which he had fled. Here, too, in all probability, Hardy himself would now have been a prisoner, suffering torture and perhaps bound to the stake, but for his rescue by Kenton a few nights previous.
To Kenton the condition of the village was an open book. He could tell from the character of the crowd about the square, from the state of the wigwams, from the number of the fires and the extent of the cooking, and from a hundred details which would have seemed trivial to the ordinary observer, whether the town contained its usual population or any considerable number of warriors were absent. A short scrutiny satisfied him that a large proportion of the men were absent, as he had expected to find them at this time of the year, and that nothing out of the ordinary was on foot.
There did not seem to be anything further to be learned from their post of observation, and Kenton was preparing to descend when they observed a young brave leaving the village and sauntering in their direction. The scouts crouched, still and watchful, in their leafy hiding place, whilst the Indian passed almost under their tree and continued his stroll into the forest. Kenton, whispering to Hardy to follow after an interval of a few minutes, slipped noiselessly to the earth and followed the redskin.
Hardy allowed five minutes to elapse before he started after his companion. He had hardly reached the ground when he heard a rustling which he rightly inferred to be the sound of a struggle. He hurried forward and in a few minutes came upon Kenton, calmly sitting upon his captive, whose mouth was stopped with the scout’s fur cap. Hardy quickly tied the Indian’s arms to his side and loosely hobbled his feet. He was then hurried forward, after being made to understand that at the first outcry, or attempt to escape, he would be shot dead.
The party went on for six or seven miles, during which Kenton used his best endeavors to confuse the trail. They had struck away from the beaten paths and were in an unfrequented locality when they came upon a small stream in the midst of woods. Here Kenton decided to camp. He had noticed the spoor of deer upon the bank and proposed to get one of the animals at a later hour of the night when they should come down to drink in the moonlight. He and Hardy were beginning to feel the need of substantial food, and would require a supply for future use. He might discharge his gun and light a fire with less risk at a late hour and, moreover, it was not at all likely that any Indians would be encamped so close to the town.
Having selected a resting place about half a mile from the rivulet, where he left Hardy to guard the prisoner, Kenton went down to the bank and lay in waiting for the deer. The moon had not been risen more than half an hour when Hardy heard the crack of a rifle and shortly afterwards the tall figure of Kenton appeared bending under the burden of a large buck. The animal was soon skinned and some choice portions were broiled. The scouts ate heartily and gave their captive all that he desired. Before lying down to sleep, they set some steaks to smoke. These were for future provision.
But before seeking repose Kenton pursued the object with which he had captured the Indian. He gave the redskin to understand that his future treatment depended upon the truth with which he should answer the questions that would be put to him. He then demanded to know the whereabouts of the warriors of Chillicothe, and what designs they entertained against the settlers. The prisoner replied, with apparent frankness, that the chief men of his town were at Micmacto, where a general council of the Shawnees was in progress. The purpose of the meeting was to consider the advisability of a concerted attack upon the Kentucky settlements.
Kenton instantly realized the importance of learning, if possible, the outcome of this council. He determined to go on to Micmacto, which the captive declared was about sixteen miles to the north of Chillicothe, or less than a good day’s march from the camp.
Under the guidance of the young brave, who appeared to be quite tractable, the scouts set out at daybreak and before sunset reached their destination. Leaving Hardy and the prisoner under cover at a distance of a mile or more, Kenton went forward to reconnoitre the place. As at Chillicothe, from the vantage point of a tree on the outskirts of the village, he secured a good survey.
Micmacto was built in much the same form as Chillicothe. It was not so large a town as the latter, but a number of abandoned cabins indicated that it had once contained a larger population than at present. The village lay in an open plain, upon the bank of a small river. On the north side of the place stood a group of high, pointed rocks, which quickly attracted the eye of the observant scout. These needle-like projections rose abruptly out of the plain, and from the summit of one in particular it was evident that a clear view of the town and the adjoining plain could be had. Kenton decided that no better post of observation could be wished.
Kenton having rejoined Hardy and the prisoner, the party circled round the town and reached the rocky eminence upon which it was proposed to take up their station. It was found that whilst three sides of this elevation were precipitous, the summit might be easily gained by a sloping approach on the north. The top proved to be a flat space, less than an acre in extent, and six or seven hundred feet above the level of the plain. It was broken by crevices and strewn with bowlders, making it an ideal hiding place.
The shades of night were closing over the scene when the scouts turned their gaze upon the village lying at their feet. The square was filled with dusky figures evidently agitated by some unusual occurrence. The shrill gabble of the squaws and the barking of dogs reached the ears of the watchers with startling distinctness. In front of the wigwams burned domestic fires, throwing a fitful light upon the scene.
Presently a huge fire was ignited in the centre of the square and at the same time the women and children retired to the line of buildings. Now a score of painted and befeathered warriors advanced to the blaze in single file and formed a circle round it. They began to move slowly to the time of a low, solemn chant. Gradually their pace quickened as their voices rose in faster measure. Louder and louder grew the song. They brandished their weapons and broke into the wildest antics. Meanwhile the spectators shouted applause and beat with clubs upon the walls of the cabins, whilst the dogs added their long-drawn howls to the din.
At the end of perhaps half an hour a fresh party of braves relieved the first performers, who retired exhausted. In due course a third relay took up the dance, and so it was continued far into the night, finishing in a wild disorderly reel, in which many of the younger women took part.
“Well, at any rate it isn’t the war dance,” remarked Kenton, as they composed themselves to sleep. “But when they get to cutting up those capers, it isn’t long before they work themselves into a crazy fit and paint the war-post. I’m afraid there’s trouble brewing.”
The next day was spent by the people of Micmacto and their guests in the usual Indian sports. There were pony races upon the plain. There were shooting matches, and a sham attack upon the village. Several parties of young braves contested in the game from which we get lacrosse. Dances again enlivened the early hours of the night, preceded by feasting.
Kenton was anxious to remain until the council should reach a decision and break up. Their conclusion would, he knew, be easily inferable from the character of the closing festivities. By husbanding their jerked venison, the scouts and their prisoner could contrive to subsist for two more days, but an immediate supply of water was needed. As a matter of fact, it should have been secured the night before, but so intent had they been upon watching the Indians that the canteens had been allowed to run dry unnoticed.
As the entire population of Micmacto appeared to be engrossed in the pastimes taking place at the village, Kenton thought that he could succeed in reaching the river and returning without detection in daylight. Accordingly he started for the stream, taking advantage of all the cover available on the way. He arrived at the bank without mishap and was in the act of filling the canteens when a piercing shriek broke upon his ears. He looked up to see two squaws a short distance from him. One, still screaming, dived into the bushes and disappeared. The other ran towards Kenton and to his amazement addressed him in English:
“I am a white woman,” she cried, holding up her hands pleadingly. “For the love of God, take me with you.”
“Come along,” replied Kenton. “Don’t talk! You can tell me about it afterwards.”
The white squaw was young and active. She bounded along beside the fair-haired giant, declining his proffered aid. In a few minutes they had gained the post upon the rocky summit where Hardy, who had witnessed the incident, anxiously awaited them. It was at once made evident that the woman was not going to be an encumbrance. She cast a surprised glance at the bound Indian but did not waste time with enquiry about him.
“Will you let me have his rifle?” she asked. “I can make good use of it.”
When the weapon was handed to her she loaded it deftly, examined the flint, and then turned her gaze with the others towards the village. A party of warriors was already on the way to the spot where the scouts and their new ally awaited them. In answer to an enquiry by Kenton, the young woman said that the place where they were could only be reached by the northern approach. By dropping about fourteen feet from a nearby spot it was possible to gain a difficult pathway down to the plain, but no one could come up by the same route, and she fancied that few of the townspeople knew of it.
The Indians were soon at the bottom of the slope. The ascent afforded no cover, and at a place about midway, and a hundred yards from the top, the path was so narrow that not more than two men could pass along it together. It was the passage of this restricted place that Kenton determined to contest. He instructed Hardy and the woman not to fire until one or more of the attackers should have reached that point. It was also agreed that they should shoot in turn so that one, at least, of the rifles might be always loaded.
Despite the enormous disparity in numbers, the task of the defence was not such a difficult one as it might seem. The Indians had a rooted reluctance to facing rifle fire in the open. They could not see their adversaries, who were safely ensconced behind rocks, and had no idea of their numbers. Some half dozen braves advanced uncertainly up the slope. They reached the “dead line” set by Kenton. Crack! Crack! Kenton and Hardy had fired, and the two foremost dropped in their tracks. The others checked. Then a third came forward. The white squaw fired and he fell with a bullet through his brain.
This was too much for the redskins. Three shots and three dead! What if there were twenty rifles behind the rocks waiting to do similar execution? By this time a hundred or more warriors were assembled in a group at the foot of the slope. The distance was well-nigh two hundred yards, but Kenton decided to give them a reminder that the white man’s rifle carried far. He aimed at an Indian whose headdress marked him as a chief, and fired. The savage was seen to stagger and fall into the arms of the men about him.
The Indians now withdrew to a greater distance. Small parties were detached to make an examination of the position from different points of view, but they evidently reported that the summit was accessible only from the north. As no further attack was made, the defenders concluded that the chiefs had decided to besiege them and starve them out, or else to assault under cover of night. In order to frustrate the latter design, Kenton, taking advantage of the cover of the rocks and crawling upon his belly, contrived to collect a pile of sticks and grass at a spot not much farther up the slope than his “dead line.” When darkness set in, he lit this fire, intimating to the Indians that they had little better chance of rushing the position than in daylight.
But long before this time Kenton had decided upon the future course of the little party. The white squaw had declared her willingness to guide them, and the scout readily placed himself in her hands. There was one brief hour of darkness before the rising of the moon, and although this increased the difficulty of descent, it was necessary that they should avail themselves of it. As soon as their fire was lit, the white squaw led them to the place at the edge of the plateau of which she had spoken, leaving their bound captive upon the summit. She dropped first, and alighted safely upon the ledge below. Kenton followed and then helped Hardy down. The woman leading, they made the slow descent of the precipitous rock with joined hands. At length they were upon the plain and at the outskirts of the village.
All was quiet in Micmacto. The men were at the camp of the besiegers, where many of the women had joined them out of curiosity and for the purpose of cooking the evening meal. Two or three fires burned before wigwams in the village, but the square was steeped in darkness. Kenton admired the boldness and wisdom with which the woman led the way directly into Micmacto. The move was calculated to avoid exciting the dogs and it would most effectually hide their traces. A squaw accosted them from the doorway of her cabin, but the reply of the white woman satisfied her and they passed on through the village without further incident.
Once beyond Micmacto, the party sped away; nor did they halt before the sun was high in the heavens next day. The woman, who had been ten years a captive, during which time she had not seen a white man until encountering Kenton, was strong and active. Furthermore, her dread of recapture lent her unnatural strength and she urged Kenton to push on without consideration for her.
Kenton knew that they could not hope for more than six or seven hours’ start, for they had neglected to gag the Indian prisoner, and when he should find himself alone at daybreak he would surely shout the intelligence to the besiegers. The party, therefore, made all the haste possible.
At the close of the third day they found themselves upon the bank of the Ohio, and by good fortune at a spot which they recognized as not far from the place where the canoe had been hidden. This was recovered without difficulty, and before midnight they were in Kentucky. The journey to Boonesborough was accomplished without mishap, and the delighted white woman found herself once more in the company of her own sex and race.
A STRING OF DISASTERS
Colonel Bowman heads an expedition against the Indians--The attempted surprise of Chillicothe--Somebody blundered--A bungling retreat--A skirmish in the forest--Death of Blackfish, the Shawnee chief--General Clark takes command of the military forces--The Indians, reinforced by artillery, invade Kentucky--Ruddle’s and Martin’s Stations are captured--And their people carried away to the Indian country--Clark retaliates by attacking the Shawnee villages--Boone returns with his family--Hardy is permitted to take up the life of the scout--Squire Boone is slain by the savages.
Whilst Kenton was unable to report positively as to the conclusion of the Indian council at Micmacto, his information, combined with that derived from the rescued woman, pointed to a strong probability that the Shawnees meditated a serious onslaught at an early date. Colonel Bowman, in charge of the expedition that had been preparing for some weeks past, determined to start immediately, in the hope of being able to attack Chillicothe before the tribesmen could gather for the invasion of Kentucky.
On an early day in July, three hundred men marched for the Indian stronghold. Colonel Bowman was in chief command and had under him Captains Harrod and Logan. The force made rapid progress and, in less than a week’s time after starting, arrived at Chillicothe without the enemy having gained any knowledge of their approach. Bowman halted his men at the distance of about a mile from the town and arranged a plan of action with his officers. Logan was instructed to take half the force and proceed round the town westward, forming a cordon of investment. Bowman undertook to perform a similar operation in the opposite direction and to meet his lieutenant on the other side of the place. Just before dawn the town was to be assaulted.
Logan set out shortly after midnight and executed his orders with admirable precision. An hour before dawn his men were placed under cover enveloping one half of the town. Time wore on but failed to bring Bowman. At length day broke and the village was soon astir but still no sign of his commander relieved the anxious Logan. Presently a dog, straying on the outskirts of the town, scented one of the men in ambush and set up a persistent barking. A warrior started for the spot to investigate the cause of the animal’s excitement. The concealed backwoodsman fired, in violation of his instructions, and in an instant confusion reigned, not only in the village but also in the ranks of the attackers.
It was now broad daylight and many men who sprang from their cover on the alarm were plainly visible to the warriors and revealed to them the fact that an attack in force was in progress. The squaws and children went scuttling into the woods and the men, hastily picking up their arms, ran into the council-house, which stood on an elevated spot at one end of the square. The movement was performed with such unanimity that it was clearly a prearranged resort for such an emergency.
Logan now advanced his men and took possession of the deserted cabins upon the west side of the square. Under the instructions of their leader they quickly formed the doors and other suitable material into shields and under cover of them began to advance upon the Indian stronghold. Most of the force were in the middle of the square, whilst others were creeping up behind the cabins, when Bowman issued the order to retire. Logan was amazed and his men were reluctant to obey. However, the commander repeated the order in such peremptory terms that there was no questioning it.
The backwoodsmen had little discipline and no formation. When they retreated each man looked out for himself, and the movement was always characterized by disorder and often by unnecessary loss. In this case the men under Logan were at a distinct disadvantage. They had advanced into the open to make an attack, and now there was nothing for it but to throw down their breastworks and run. This they did, whilst the Indians rained bullets upon them. Several lives were lost before the force was once more united in the forest to the south of the town.
But this was only the beginning of a disgraceful rout that strikingly exemplified the manner in which a body of brave men will go to pieces in the hands of an incompetent commander. Nearly three hundred men commenced a retreat in the face of not more than forty savages. The Indians, under Blackfish, hung upon the rear and flanks of Bowman’s party and picked off men at their leisure and without danger to themselves. At length Bowman ordered a halt and turned to face the pursuers.
Here was committed another of the series of blunders. After traversing a stretch of the densest forest and undergrowth, the party was brought to a stand just beyond it in comparatively open ground. The situation gave the assailants even a greater advantage than they had enjoyed whilst the force was on the march. A considerable proportion of the whites could not secure adequate cover, whilst the redskins kept up their fire without in the least exposing themselves. Bowman seemed to be incapable of direction and the men were verging upon panic. An overwhelming disaster would doubtless have ensued had not Logan and Harrod, followed by Kenton, Hardy, and half a dozen others, mounted the pack-horses and charged through the neighboring forest in every direction, dislodging the lurking savages.
The turn of affairs aided the disconcerted whites to regain their self-possession, and they turned upon the Indians with something like their wonted energy and intelligence. As the redskins ran from cover before the horsemen, many of them were brought down by the rifles of the backwoodsmen, and when one of the bullets found a billet in the heart of Blackfish, the Shawnees fled from the field of the action.
It is impossible to explain the bungling conduct of the commander of this expedition. Attempts have been made, with indifferent success, to exculpate Bowman. He was a man of proved courage, had a good military record and had served with credit under Clark in the Illinois campaign, but he returned to Kentucky on this occasion with a shattered reputation.
Bowman’s feeble incursion to the Indian country was not calculated to have the effect for which it was designed. The death of Blackfish, however, induced the Indians to postpone the expedition into Kentucky that had been contemplated. But they were eager for revenge and sought the aid of the British in an attack upon the settlements, which was timed to take place in the following spring. The authorities at Detroit were smarting under a sense of humiliation occasioned by Clark’s success at Vincennes, and they readily fell in with the proposition of the Shawnees. Arrangements were made for the despatch of a joint force against the hated Kentuckians.
In the year 1779, numbers of bona fide settlers came into Kentucky and some thirty time-expired men, who had been with Clark in Illinois, returned. The newcomers scattered over a wide area, many stations being planted south and west of the Kentucky River from Boonesborough to Louisville, and upon the forks of the Licking. Early in the year Lexington was provided with a blockhouse and “three rows of cabins.” A few months later Bryan’s Station was established at a point about five miles northeast of Lexington. Kentucky was thus in a much better condition to defend itself than it had been the year before, as might be inferred from the fact of Bowman being able to muster three hundred riflemen for a raid, whereas Boone could gather but seventy to repel the attack upon Boonesborough.
Shortly after this time, Kentucky was divided into three counties. General Clark was in command of the entire territory. He had the rank of brigadier-general and held his headquarters at Fort Nelson, where the city of Louisville now stands. John Todd was the colonel commanding in Lincoln County, which contained Boonesborough, with Daniel Boone as lieutenant-colonel.
These changes had not, however, taken place in the spring of 1778; otherwise it is more than probable that a greater state of preparedness against attack would have existed. Boone had not yet returned. Bowman was still in command of the militia, and the settlers seem to have entertained no apprehensions of reprisals on the part of the Indians. The awakening was rude and sudden and the escape from dire disaster entirely a matter of good fortune.
In May, six hundred Indians assembled at Detroit preparatory to the expedition against the Kentucky settlements. At the close of the month they took up the march, reinforced by a body of French-Canadians under Colonel Byrd. The numerical strength of the force was unusually great, but it was rendered especially formidable by the addition of two field-pieces. The transportation of this artillery was a matter of extreme difficulty. The guns and their carriages were first hauled from Detroit to the waters of the Great Miami. They were then floated down that stream to the Ohio; next up the Ohio to the mouth of the Licking, and up that river to a landing place. From this point the invaders were forced to cut a road through the forest for many miles to their ultimate destination.
It is almost incredible that the slow advance of so large a body, accompanied by the most obtrusive operations, should have been accomplished without the knowledge of the settlers. Clearly, there was not a scout out in the direction of the Indian country, although the failure of Bowman’s movement of the previous summer should have suggested the utmost precautions.
On the twenty-second of June the enemy appeared before Ruddle’s Station and took the settlers completely by surprise. It is true that they could not have made an effective defence even though they had received warning of the attack. Stockades were helpless against artillery. But the invading force might have been attacked with good effect whilst on the march and encumbered by its heavy guns.
The garrison realized the futility of resistance, which could only serve to infuriate the savages. The gates were, therefore, thrown open in response to the demand to “surrender at discretion to the arms of his Britannic Majesty.” The Indians rushed into the fort, made its occupants prisoners, and secured all the property worth carrying off.
A few miles distant lay Martin’s Station. This was taken in a similar manner. By this time the savages, who had agreed to spare the lives of the captives, were getting out of hand and beyond the control of the British officer. Already several of the settlers had been tomahawked and scalped. Colonel Byrd now declined to support the Indians in further operations. Thus deprived of the main element of their strength, the chiefs decided to retreat to their own country. Had the campaign been continued with vigor it is conceivable that the whites might have been swept out of Kentucky.
No attempt was made to follow or intercept the victorious Indians. They retired rapidly with their plunder and prisoners. All the adults among the latter were compelled to carry loads, and many of them, especially the women, fell exhausted under their burdens. These were promptly put to death by their captors.
Of the settlers who survived the terrible ordeal of this march, some were dispersed among the Indians, to meet with variously horrible fates and in very few cases to regain their homes. Others, more fortunate, were carried to Detroit, where they were held as prisoners of war until the close of the Revolution.
This affair had a depressing effect upon the settlers, and particularly upon those who were new to the country. It is probable that an exodus would have commenced, but just at this juncture General Clark assumed command and with his characteristic energy and ability put a different complexion upon the situation.
Clark immediately mustered the militia and called for additional volunteers. His splendid reputation insured a ready response, and he was soon at the head of a force of several hundred men, with which he made a rapid march into the Indian country. The expedition was conducted with marked ability and met with the utmost success. Several Indian towns were taken and destroyed and a considerable area laid waste. Some shortsighted writers have characterized these ravages as wanton cruelty, failing to realize that the destruction of the crops and buildings of the Indians was one of the most effective means of keeping their men at home to repair the damage and engage in hunting for the subsistence of their families.
Despite the disasters at Ruddle’s and Martin’s, emigration continued and several new stations were located during the year 1780. For the most part, the newcomers were of a desirable class. They were generally homeseekers and, like the first settlers, inured to the hardships and exigencies of frontier life. In many cases they came down the Ohio and formed settlements in the region between that river and the Kentucky, so that Boonesborough was no longer in the front rank of the defence presented to the Indians. Most of the new settlements were small and weak but they depended upon aid from their neighbors in time of trouble.
In October Boone returned with his family. Not only the settlement for which he was responsible, but the whole country experienced an access of confidence from the presence of this tower of strength. By the people of Boonesborough he was, as always after an absence, welcomed with joy. Hardy and Kenton, who entertained the strongest affection for their leader, were of course delighted to have him with them again. They had much to tell him of their own adventures and of the affairs of the settlers.
Kenton gave what was, perhaps, a somewhat overdrawn account of Hardy’s share in their joint scouting expeditions. Boone expressed as much pleasure as his habitual reticence would permit, and when Hardy begged to be allowed to continue upon the path he had entered under the guidance of Kenton, his foster-father assented. Boone could see no reason why Hardy should not regularly adopt the calling of the scout, for which Kenton declared him to be admirably adapted. It was a time when, next to good leaders, the greatest need of the community was good rangers. And so it was arranged that Hardy should complete his apprenticeship under the tutelage of Kenton.
“I wouldn’t undertake it, Captain,” said the scout, apologetically, “only I suppose that you’ll be tied to the station most of the time. What he learns from me in a twelvemonth won’t amount to as much as you’d teach him in a week.”
“Make him as good a scout as yourself, Si, and he won’t find any betters this side of the Alleghanies,” replied Boone.
Late in the fall, Daniel Boone and his brother Squire went on a hunt in the country to the north of the settlement. One evening they were in camp near the Blue Licks when a party of Indians opened fire upon them from the neighboring brush. Squire fell dead at the first discharge and Daniel Boone sprang to his feet and fled into the forest. He made good headway and after going three or four miles had left his pursuers considerably in the rear, but had not been able to shake off a hound which the savages had set upon his track. At length he stopped and shot the animal, after which his flight was continued without interference.
The death of his brother affected Daniel Boone deeply. They had been companions in many hunting and scouting expeditions. They had shared many dangers and difficulties. Before the entry of settlers Daniel and Squire had spent months alone, exploring the wilds of Kentucky.
In his self-contained way Boone mourned many months for his brother. But this severe blow was soon followed by a heavier one.
“THE BLOODY YEAR”
Whitaker and his men fall into an ambush--A number are killed but the remainder rally and beat off the Indians--Colonel Floyd goes in pursuit--He has a fight with the savages--His force is put to flight with the loss of half its number--Captain Wells rescues his commander--The McAfee brothers, noted Kentucky backwoodsmen--They have an exciting adventure with a band of Indians--The “bloody year” is ushered in by the loss of Laughrey’s party--One hundred and seven men are killed or captured--Estill’s battle with the Wyandots--Another defeat for the whites--The Indian tribes gather and plan a great invasion of Kentucky under the leadership of two white men.
The winter of 1780-81 was long remembered in Kentucky as the “hard winter.” The intensity of the cold confined the Indians more closely than usual to their villages. But though the settlers were thus exempted from the annoyance of marauding parties, they suffered severely on account of the insufficiency of food. The crops of the previous autumn had been in large part destroyed, and many immigrants had arrived too late in the year to plough and sow. Buffalo meat, and a scanty allowance of that, formed the main subsistence of the people for several months.
With the opening of spring a number of Indian parties crossed into Kentucky. One of these ambushed a body of men under Colonel William Linn and killed four of the number, including the leader. Captain Whitaker, with fifteen “guns,” pursued the Indians and trailed them to the Ohio. Supposing them to have crossed the river, Whitaker commenced to embark his men in canoes, with the object of following. Whilst thus engaged, the whites were suddenly attacked in the rear by the redskins who, instead of taking to their canoes, had stepped into the water and walked some distance through it, returning finally to the bank, where they formed an ambuscade.
It was a very pretty trap and the whites were completely caught in it. Nine of their number fell in the course of a few minutes, but the remainder rallied and attacked the Indians with such spirit that they fled into the forest.
In the next month--April--the settlers at Shelbyville, a station that had been established by Squire Boone, were warned by a scout of the approach of a strong body of redskins. There were few men in the place and the stockade was not in a fit condition for defence. It was determined, therefore, to remove to a nearby settlement on Bear Creek. This proved to be an unfortunate step, for the Indians assailed the party _en route_, dispersing it and killing more than half its number.
Colonel Floyd hastily collected twenty-five men and went in pursuit of this body of warriors, which numbered two hundred.
Whilst they were fearless fighters, most of the leaders among the Kentucky settlers lacked the cool caution that characterized Boone’s movements. Nor did they possess the intimate knowledge of the Indians’ habits and strategy which enabled him so successfully to cope with the savages. Indeed, it may be said that the only military officer in Kentucky at that time who in any degree approached Boone in these respects was George Rogers Clark, and possibly Logan. As to the rest, they were constantly blundering into ambuscades that should have been avoided.
On this occasion, Floyd allowed his zeal to outrun his discretion. In his eagerness to overtake the retreating warriors, he neglected the ordinary precaution of scouting across his front and marched his force into a carefully prepared ambush. Half his men were slain in the fight that ensued, and the remainder retreated in the usual disorderly fashion. Floyd’s horse had been shot under him and he was wounded. Weak and exhausted, he began to lag behind and would most assuredly have fallen into the hands of the pursuers had not Captain Wells, who was well mounted, come to his aid. Wells insisted upon Floyd taking his place in the saddle and himself ran alongside, holding a stirrup. Thus both escaped from a very perilous situation.
A feeling of enmity had existed between these two, but this gallant action of Captain Wells knit them in a close friendship that lasted through life.
Among the most noted of the Kentucky backwoodsmen were three brothers named Samuel, James, and Robert McAfee, who had planted a station in the vicinity of Harrodsburg. One day in May, Samuel McAfee left the fort with another man to visit a nearby farm. They had not proceeded more than a quarter of a mile when they were fired upon and McAfee’s companion fell dead. McAfee turned and ran towards the fort, but an Indian sprang into the path to intercept him. The two men raised their rifles with muzzles almost touching. They pressed the trigger at the same instant. The redskin’s gun missed fire, whilst McAfee’s sent the bullet home.
As Samuel McAfee started afresh for the shelter of the stockade his two brothers ran out to meet him. Despite the warnings of the elder, Robert insisted upon going forward to secure the scalp of the dead Indian. By this time a number of warriors had placed themselves between the brothers and the fort. Samuel sped on and, although many shots were fired at him, reached the gate untouched.
Dodging from tree to tree and using his rifle when occasion offered, Robert McAfee gradually gained to within one hundred yards of the fort, when he made a dash for it and entered the stockade in safety.
Meantime James was in a situation of extreme peril. Five warriors confronted him. He ran to a large tree for protection, but immediately afterwards three Indians shot at him from behind, making the bark fly near his head. He sought a new retreat, but with similar result. Finding that he was surrounded by the savages and could not secure effective cover, he determined to run the gauntlet of their fusillade. Accordingly, he set out for the fort with all the speed he could command and, like his brothers, arrived unhurt.
The Indians now attacked the stockade, which was but poorly garrisoned. A hot fight was maintained for more than two hours, the men being aided in the defence by the women, some of whom stood to port-holes whilst others loaded spare rifles. Warned by their scouts that reinforcements were on the way, the Indians abandoned the attack and retreated.
Hardly had the redskins disappeared from before McAfee’s than Major McGary arrived with forty men from neighboring stations. They immediately took up the pursuit and came in contact with the enemy before they had covered two miles. McGary’s men, who had been joined by the McAfees and others, made a vigorous attack, before which the savages fled. They were pursued for several miles and completely routed with heavy loss.
Aptly has 1782 been termed the “bloody year” of Kentucky’s history. It witnessed the most terrible disasters that ever befell the settlers on “the dark and bloody ground.” We shall come presently to an account of the disastrous Battle of the Blue Licks, but will first describe two affairs that happened in the same year.
The annihilation of Captain Laughrey’s expedition was the more serious, though the less interesting of these. Laughrey was coming down the Ohio with a force of one hundred and seven men, designed to reinforce the Kentuckians. At a point near the mouth of the Miami he was attacked by a large body of Indians and his entire party was killed or captured.
It is a remarkable fact that when the whites and redskins were pitted against each other in large bodies, the latter were generally victorious. The backwoodsman always gave the best account of himself when alone or when acting with one or two companions. A few men of the stamp of Boone and Kenton could withstand five times their number of savages. Thus it was that the Indians held rather a contemptuous estimate of the whites in general, and had by contrast an exaggerated opinion of the prowess of Boone and a few others.
In May Estill’s Station was attacked by a party of Wyandots. After killing one of the settlers and securing a prisoner they slaughtered the cattle in the neighboring fields and retreated. Captain Estill assembled twenty-five men and went in pursuit of the Indians. They had crossed the Licking and entered a narrow valley. He overtook them as they were about to leave it. As soon as the Indians perceived the whites, they halted and took up position under cover to await them.
The Wyandots were distinguished for bravery above all the tribes in that part of the country. They were rendered especially formidable adversaries from the fact that they would maintain a stand under heavy loss, which none of the other tribes would do. The Shawnees, Mingos, and other savages with whom the Kentuckians came in contact, invariably retreated upon the loss of a few of their number. This was not the result of cowardice but of calculation. They justly reasoned that their warriors were so few as compared with the whites that a victory might easily be too dearly bought at the expense of ten or twenty of them. The Wyandots, however, would sometimes lose half their number engaged and still continue the fight.
Estill advanced his men to within eighty yards of the Indians, who had each taken shelter behind a tree, and made a similar disposition of them. The Indians slightly outnumbered their adversaries and had somewhat the advantage of position. They also excelled in the matter of taking cover, but were inferior to the backwoodsmen in marksmanship.
At the outset the whites gained an advantage by wounding the chief of the Wyandots. Seeing him fall, his men began to waver but he was almost instantly upon his feet again and, supporting himself against the trunk of a tree, he continued to encourage the warriors.
The combat was carried on for upwards of an hour with the utmost determination on both sides. The whites had lost six or seven men and several more were wounded, the casualties among the Indians being about the same. But there was no sign of giving way in their ranks and Captain Estill began to be impatient to bring the affair to an issue.
Considering how closely contested had been the fight, it is difficult to understand how Estill could have entertained the idea of weakening his line. He did, however, decide to detach six men and an officer in a flanking movement. The party was placed in charge of Lieutenant Miller, who was instructed to steal round under cover and take the enemy in flank or rear.
Estill now faced the Indians with only twelve men, four of whom were wounded. His weakened condition became apparent to the enemy before Miller had had time to execute his movement. Urged on by their chief, the Wyandots rushed upon the whites and forced them to retreat. Pursuing closely, the savages killed eight of the backwoodsmen, and among them Captain Estill.
Of Miller’s party but two escaped, including that officer, who was afterwards accused of failure to carry out his instructions. Whether or not Miller was remiss in his duty, Estill cannot be relieved of the prime responsibility for the disaster.
The Indians were reported to have lost thirteen of their number. Shawnees would have retired after three or four men had fallen.
The marked increase of immigration during the two years preceding this time had wrought the Indians up to a high pitch of resentment. Despite their successes, they saw that the whites were able to oppose fresh men to them without apparent abatement of numbers. They realized that unless the Long Knives were speedily driven from Kentucky they would become rooted to the soil.
During the winter of 1782 the chiefs of the northwestern tribes held many councils and debated upon a concerted invasion of Kentucky. They made the usual appeal to the authorities at Detroit, but on this occasion found them unwontedly lukewarm. The surrender of Cornwallis in the previous October had taken the heart out of the British in Canada, and they were more disposed to think of defence than to consider aggression.
Two white men had great influence in the councils of the Indians. These were Alexander McKee and Simon Girty. The former was a British agent among the tribes, who had gained an unenviable notoriety for the atrocities committed with his sanction, if not actually at his instigation. Doubtless, the backwoodsmen of Kentucky, who execrated his name, exaggerated McKee’s villany, but enough is known on good authority to stamp him as one of the most cruel and hardened wretches of his time.
Simon Girty was one of four brothers who were natives of Pennsylvania. Whilst they were children their father was slain by Indians. The mother remarried and soon afterwards the entire family was captured by the redskins, who burnt the stepfather in the presence of his wife and her children. The woman and the boys were then sent to different towns of the northwestern Indians.
After many years’ captivity, they all secured their freedom. Simon, as has been said elsewhere, served as a soldier and scout in Dunmore’s War. But association with the whites was irksome to the man, who was by taste, habits, and education a redskin. He soon returned to the Indians and was readily admitted to a position of leadership among them.
Girty acknowledged allegiance to the British, and although he held no official position under the Crown, had the protection and countenance of the authorities in Canada and was permitted to establish a trading-post in the territory. He was a close companion and confidant of McKee. In fact they were kindred spirits, and it would be difficult to say which was the greater scoundrel, or the more inhuman monster.
Girty had all the ferocity and bloodthirstiness of the worst Indians. He delighted in their most refined cruelties and looked on with glee whilst helpless white women and children were put to the torture, or butchered in cold blood. He excited the passions of the savages and urged them to deeds of violence and barbarism. He frequently led them in their attacks upon the settlements, and many of the most successful expeditions were of his planning.
Of such an evil and malignant disposition was this man that it is difficult to understand his interposition in the case of Kenton. Of the much that is recorded and rumored of Girty, this is the solitary act that redounds to his credit. He does not appear to have had the redeeming quality of courage, but found a substitute for it in cunning and treachery.
Under the advice of McKee and Girty the Indians formed a plan for attacking the Kentucky settlements. In the summer of 1782, five hundred warriors of the Shawnees, Wyandots, Miamis, and other tribes assembled at Chillicothe, prepared to march under the guidance of the renegade and his friend, the British agent.
SIMON GIRTY, RENEGADE
Hardy goes on a lone scout--He encounters a mysterious stranger--And recognizes an enemy--“If you make a sound or signal, you are a dead man”--The ride to the fort and the warning--Hardy reconnoitres the Indian camp--And makes a long ride to bring aid to Bryan’s Station--Girty and his Indians invest the stockade--They plan a stratagem and are caught in their own trap--They attack in force and are repulsed--Relief from Lexington--Girty tries to cajole the garrison--The defenders disregard his threats and promises--“You see this cur? He’s called Simon Girty. We couldn’t think of a better name for him”--The Indians depart as suddenly as they came.
Kenton and Hardy, who for months had been engaged making reconnoissances, accompanying expeditions, and guiding settlers, separated early in August, leaving Boonesborough in different directions. Kenton proposed to range through the country northward to the Ohio, whilst Hardy should strike west until reaching Lexington and Bryan’s, and should scout thence to the river, somewhere upon the southern bank of which the comrades expected to encounter each other in the course of a few weeks. They moved lightly, carrying nothing but their arms and ammunition and a little parched corn in their wallets.
On the morning of the third day after parting with Kenton, Hardy was passing along the timber-covered ridge that formed the eastern boundary of the valley in which lay Bryan’s Station. The surrounding open country had been a favorite resort of buffalo, elk, and other large game, when the first settlers arrived, but these animals were fast disappearing. As the scout’s eyes swept the beautiful panorama that lay spread before them, not a living object presented itself to his observant gaze.
Presently the scout’s ear caught the soft pad of hoofs upon the grassy slope and he turned to see a horseman coming towards him at a lope. As he came nearer, a white man was revealed, mounted upon an unusually fine animal. On reaching the spot where Hardy stood he drew rein and sprang to the ground.
“Hallo, young man! Can you tell me where I am?” cried the stranger.
“You are about three miles from Bryan’s. Where did you want to be?” replied Hardy, a little nettled by something in the other’s manner.
“That’s all right! I am on my way to Bryan’s. Know, the country hereabouts?”
Hardy admitted that he was tolerably well acquainted with it and, in response to the stranger’s gestured invitation, sat down on one end of a fallen tree. The stranger took a seat at the other, with the horse’s bridle over his arm.
“My name’s Beatty. I’m from Pennsylvania. Came in with a train, but they’re about ten miles behind. We think of settling hereabouts.”
Hardy was not entirely satisfied with this statement. Neither the man nor the horse seemed to fit with it. The latter was as fine an animal as Hardy had ever seen in Kentucky and not at all like the kind of beast a settler might be expected to ride. As to the stranger, whilst he wore the usual backwoods costume, it was ornamented with a profusion of beading and feathers such as adorned the dress of Indian chiefs.
Hardy did not betray the uneasiness excited in him by the stranger’s appearance and which increased with closer observation. He cautiously answered the other’s questions whilst closely scrutinizing him. Beatty, as he called himself, was anxious to know the number and distribution of the settlers in that part of Kentucky, and to secure other information such as one contemplating taking up land might naturally desire. Nevertheless, Hardy’s vague suspicion prompted him to return deceptive answers whilst simulating the utmost candor.
Truly the appearance of the professed settler was not such as to inspire confidence. He was an undersized but well-knit man with a small bullet head. Although he had in reality not reached his thirtieth year, the seamed countenance gave the impression of much greater age. It was an evil face. The eyes were black, close set, and snake-like. Their glance was at once furtive and sinister. The swarthy surface of the face was startlingly broken by a broad scar extending from the forehead to the jaw upon the right side. The ears, round and flat, stood out from the head like those of a bat. High cheek-bones flanked a thin aquiline nose, beneath which stretched a straight, almost lipless, mouth.
Hardy was an unusually plucky young man, but he felt cold chills running up and down his spine as he looked at the stranger. From the first moment of their encounter he had been repelled by him and the sensation of distrust and aversion grew with every moment. But more predominant than any other feeling was a sense of having met the man before. This he knew was not the case but still the idea that he had seen this sinister-looking individual somewhere held possession of him. Suddenly the truth flashed upon his mind. He knew the man seated at the other end of the log.
Whilst continuing with apparent frankness to reply to the stranger’s enquiries, Hardy carelessly brought his rifle across his knees and gradually moved it until his hand was upon the trigger and the muzzle pointed at the breast of the man beside him.
“Don’t move!” he said in low but determined tones. “No doubt your Indian friends are within call, but if you make a sound or signal you are a dead man. Sit still! I ought to kill you, Simon Girty, and I believe that I would but that you once saved the life of a friend of mine. I’ll pay that debt, but after this, if ever I get a chance----”
Girty’s hand stole towards his rifle, which rested upon the tree-trunk beside him, but the action did not escape the sharp eye of the scout.
“Stop it!” cried Hardy. “Now understand me. If you try any tricks, I’ll blow the top of your head off without hesitation. It would be my easiest way, anyhow.”
The tone of the scout’s voice and the look in his eyes conveyed to the other an assurance that the threat was no idle one. He sat rigid and listened, as Hardy proceeded.
“Leave your rifle where it is. Get up and lead your horse straight ahead and keep your hand away from your belt. I shall be a yard behind you.”
Girty rose and walked forward as directed. When they had covered about one hundred yards, Hardy took the bridle from the renegade.
“Now walk over to that tree,” said Hardy, keeping the rifle threateningly pointed. “You may be good at throwing the hatchet. A little farther--that’s it. Now, good-by, Girty, for the present.”
With that Hardy sprang upon the back of the horse, dug his heels into its flanks, and dashed off down the slope towards Bryan’s Station.
In a few minutes Hardy reached the fort. He warned the settlers that Girty, doubtless with a large band of redskins at his back, was in the neighborhood. Immediately the place was in the bustle of preparation. Runners were despatched in every direction to bring in the people from the surrounding farms. As many of the cattle and horses as possible were driven into the stockade. The women and girls busied themselves carrying water from the spring. Men hastily inspected the defences and repaired, as well as they could, defective places. At the same time, a mounted messenger was sent to Lexington with the news and a request for aid.
In the meanwhile, Hardy was not idle. He surmised that the main body of the Indians had been some miles behind Girty and he conjectured that, after the incident which has been described, they would enter into one of their protracted powwows before continuing the advance. It was quite probable, therefore, that the attack would be deferred for some hours or until the next day.
These considerations prompted Hardy to make a reconnoissance with a view to ascertaining the strength and composition of the attacking party. The country around Bryan’s was, as has been stated, comparatively open. Hardy believed, with correctness, as the event proved, that the Indians were about seven or eight miles distant. In order to get around to their rear undiscovered it was necessary that he should make a détour of about twelve miles. Fortunately, he had Girty’s particularly fine horse, which was quite fresh.
Early in the afternoon, after making a wide circle, Hardy struck the trail over which the Indians had passed some hours before. He rode forward upon it until he came within a mile of the party. He then tied his horse to a tree and advanced cautiously under cover. As he had anticipated, the redskins had halted and were deliberating a change of plan. Between five and six hundred warriors were present, but the scout was relieved to find that they had no artillery.
Having gained all the information that he sought, Hardy made his way back to the place where he had left his horse and rode away. He reached Bryan’s in the evening and learned that, whilst Indian scouts had been observed in the vicinity, no large body of savages had made its appearance. The little garrison was filled with anxiety on learning the strength of the attackers and began to look eagerly for reinforcements. As soon as Hardy had allowed his horse a few hours’ rest, he started for Boonesborough, fifty-five miles distant, to summon assistance.
Bryan’s Station was a little more than five miles from the larger settlement of Lexington. It was situated on the southern bank of the Elkhorn, one side of the stockade being within a few hundred feet of the river. The fort was formed of two parallel rows of cabins, containing forty in all, connected by strong palisades and reinforced by blockhouses at each end. The garrison consisted of fifty men at this time, besides whom there were at least an equal number of women and children in the place. There was a good supply of ammunition and provisions on hand, and the general conditions favored the ability of settlers to stand a lengthy siege, provided they should not be overwhelmed by weight of numbers.
On the morning following the alarm the scouts from the garrison reported large bodies of the Indians to be in the neighborhood, and the settlers stood to their arms in expectation of the attack. Girty did not disclose the strength of his force, of which he believed the garrison to be in ignorance. Instead, he secreted his main body in some neighboring thickets and attempted a ruse.
A party of about fifty warriors was advanced against the fort with instructions to feign a determined assault but after a while to retreat as though in flight. Girty hoped by this stratagem to induce the defenders to issue in pursuit, when he would advance at the head of four hundred Indians, seize the stockade, and take the settlers in the rear.
Had the garrison not been forewarned by Hardy of the number of the attackers, the plan of the wily renegade might have succeeded. As it was, the settlers suspected the object of the feint and met it with a counter-stratagem. Thirteen active young men were sent out in pursuit of the retiring warriors, whilst the remainder of the garrison stood ready to repel the attack which they expected upon the other side of the stockade.
Girty heard the firing and the designedly loud shouts of the young men as they followed the redskins towards the woods. He supposed that the garrison had left the fort and confidently advanced to the nearest gate, anticipating easy possession. There was nothing in the appearance of the place to undeceive him as he approached, followed by a horde of painted savages. Not a head was visible; not a muzzle showed from port-hole.
The redskins were allowed to advance to within fifty yards of the palisades. Then a staggering fire was poured upon them. They stopped, amazed, and aimlessly discharged their guns in the direction of the fort. The garrison replied with another well-directed fusillade, and as the savages broke and began to run, volley after volley was poured into their panic-stricken ranks.
The thirteen men who had been despatched in pursuit of the former party of Indians, now reëntered the stockade. Their presence was needed, for after a brief interval the main body of the redskins returned in an attack better sustained than their first essay. The onslaught was maintained for several hours with a vigor that taxed the defenders to the utmost. Urged on by Girty and McKee, the redskins rushed upon the stockade again and again. But the garrison always reserved its fire until the assailants were so near that every shot told. Never an Indian passed that fifty-yard line but met his death. Now and again, one, more determined than his fellows, gained to the palisade and clambered upon it, only to be stricken down by the tomahawk of the nearest backwoodsman.
At about one o’clock in the afternoon the redskins withdrew on hearing from their scouts that a reinforcement was approaching. This timely succour consisted of a body of fifty men from Lexington. The force was about equally composed of horsemen and others on foot. When they approached the station, it was agreed that the mounted contingent should keep to the beaten trail and charge through the besiegers, whilst the men on foot should make their way to the fort under cover of some favoring cornfields.
The former party rode through the waiting Indians under a shower of bullets and entered the stockade without the loss of a man. They had succeeded in diverting attention from their companions, who were well hidden by the standing corn and should have arrived at their destination with equal safety. By some mischance, however, they blundered on to the road and were discovered by the savages. Fortunately the fort was near at hand, but in the rush to that refuge six men fell.
This accession to the garrison, indicating as it did that further reinforcements might be looked for ere long, whilst it greatly heartened the defenders had the reverse effect upon the Indians. The chiefs were seriously alarmed, and apprehensive lest the expedition should be cut off from retreat. They were disposed to retire without delay to their own country. However, Girty diverted them from their purpose. He harangued them with the greatest earnestness, urging persistence. He reminded them that it was becoming ever more difficult for them to muster such a force as was present, whilst the whites were constantly growing stronger and more numerous. He warned them that if they forewent this opportunity to drive the Long Knives from the country, another would never present itself. His vindictive eloquence prevailed, and the chiefs agreed once more to place the warriors at his disposal.
The next day Girty endeavored to cajole the garrison into surrender. He had been wounded by a ball in the thigh, and now he crawled to a stump near the stockade under protection of a white flag. Captain Robert Patterson, who had led the reinforcement from Lexington, being the senior officer present, was in command. He went to the gate with others to hear what the renegade had to say.
Girty commenced by expressing his admiration for the splendid defence offered by the garrison. He assured them, however, that further resistance would be worse than useless. He promised, “upon his honor,” to secure the life and safety of every soul in the stockade in case they should capitulate at once. Otherwise, he would abandon them to the fury of the savages. He declared that a large reinforcement of Indians and a detachment of artillery was within a day’s march of his camp, and should it arrive to find the settlers in arms, nothing that he could do would save them from massacre and torture.
Girty demanded an immediate answer to his proposal. Captain Patterson turned on his heel and walked back into the fort without deigning to reply. But a young fellow named Reynolds had something to say to the renegade which sufficiently indicated the temper of the garrison.
“Say, do you see this cur?” cried Reynolds, holding up a wriggling, yelping nondescript by the slack of its neck. “He ain’t fair bird, beast, nor fish. He’s just the meanest, ugliest mongrel that ever walked on four legs. See him, do you? Well, he’s called Simon Girty. We couldn’t think of a better name for him.”
A loud laugh followed Reynolds’ sally and, with derisive gestures towards the discomfited Girty, the settlers moved into the stockade. The renegade crawled away towards the camp of his followers, uttering the most horrible imprecations and threats against the defenders of Bryan’s Station. He was soon to be glutted with revenge.
Captain Patterson and his men were not at all disturbed by Girty’s vauntings. They felt confident of withstanding the present besiegers and were satisfied that the boast of an artillery accession was a lie. In fact, Captain Patterson’s chief anxiety now was lest the Indians should leave before the arrival of the heavy reinforcements which he felt sure were upon their way to Bryan’s. He regretted that he had not parleyed with Girty and feigned uneasiness with regard to his situation and ability to hold out.
The day passed without an attack by the Indians. This did not greatly surprise the garrison, but led them to look for an attack in force under cover of darkness. Patterson kept every man standing at his post throughout the night. From their positions they could see the fires of the Indians about half a mile away, and momentarily expected their advance. But the day dawned without any change having occurred in the situation.
Captain Patterson sent out scouts to reconnoitre. These soon returned to report that the Indians had departed, evidently having taken the great buffalo trace which passed by Ruddle’s and Martin’s and so to the Lower Blue Licks.
BATTLE OF THE BLUE LICKS
Reinforcements reach Bryan’s Station--Unwise counsel rules the leaders--Boone’s warning is not heeded--The force starts in pursuit of the Indians--“All who are not cowards, follow me!”--The terrific fight on the banks of the Licking--The whites are beaten and dispersed--Israel Boone is wounded and falls--The father’s fierce fight for his son--Boone and Hardy swim to safety--Reynolds’ heroic rescue of his captain--His capture and dashing escape--Colonel Logan arrives with reinforcements--But the Indians escape to their own country--Boone and Hardy revisit the scene of carnage--The blackest day in Kentucky’s history.
Thanks to the timely warning of Hardy Goodfellow, and the expedition employed in spreading the news, information of the attack upon Bryan’s Station quickly reached every settlement within sixty miles of that place. The day after the retreat of the Indians, reinforcements began to come in from various directions. Before the fall of night one hundred and eighty-two men were mustered in the fort. Daniel Boone arrived with a strong party from Boonesborough, which included his brother Samuel and his son Israel. The latter had been almost a baby when the family lived in Clinch Valley and had only recently come into his backwoods heritage of rifle and axe. Colonel Stephen Trigg brought in a force of men from Harrodsburg, and Colonel John Todd an additional levy from Lexington. This party included Majors Harlan, McGary, McBride, and Levi Todd. A considerable proportion of the newcomers were mounted.
Colonel Todd, as senior officer present, assumed command of the entire forces. Early in the afternoon a council of officers was held. The deliberations were far from cool, and the opinions expressed were of the most contradictory character. The majority, however, agreed in advocating immediate pursuit. This proposal met with the approval of Colonel Todd, although it was not consistent with his reputation for prudence and circumspection.
Colonel Todd’s decision is believed to have been influenced by a rather selfish and short-sighted consideration. A messenger had arrived with the tidings that Colonel Benjamin Logan had raised a body of four hundred and fifty men and would hurry forward with them. A proper soldierly spirit would have prompted the commander to wait for this reinforcement, but he and others seem to have been jealous of Logan, whose reputation as a leader was growing apace. It is said that the determination to advance at once was largely due to a hope that Logan might be shut out of participation in the affair.
Colonel Boone had not been present during the long wrangle between the leading officers. With them, he had gone out to the late camp of the Indians, immediately on arriving at Bryan’s, but, unlike them, he had not contented himself with a cursory survey of the surroundings. Whilst the officers were debating, Boone and Hardy were engaged in a careful examination of the ground occupied by the warriors on the previous night and the trace left by them in their retreat.
The first thing noticed by Boone was that the fires in the camp had been very few, indicating a desire on the part of the Indians to create the impression that their numbers were less than was actually the case. Such deception was not consistent with flight in fear, because it courted pursuit.
No attempt had been made to cover the trail, or disguise the direction taken by the war-party. On the contrary, their path was plainly marked and strewn with a variety of articles. These signs were readily accepted by the less experienced as evidences of a hurried and panic-spurred retreat. But Boone discerned in them a very thin deception, designed to draw the whites to their destruction. Indeed, the entire tactics of the Indians on this occasion were such as they commonly resorted to, and no backwoods officer claiming any degree of experience should have been outwitted by them.
When Boone returned to the fort, after having followed the Indian trail for several miles, the council had arrived at its conclusion and preparations were on foot to act upon it without delay. Nevertheless, Colonel Todd was anxious to have the opinion of the man whom all acknowledged--secretly, at least--to be superior to themselves in knowledge of the Indians.
“Well, what do you think, Boone?” the commander asked, accosting the pioneer as he entered the stockade.
“Why, Todd, it’s as clear a case of hocus-pocus as ever I saw. It isn’t a trace they’ve left. It’s a road marked with sign-posts every few yards. They’re afraid that we might miss ’em and they’ve actually blazed the trees. They’re headed for the Blue Licks. You know the lay of the country thereabouts, Todd. We’re invited to walk into an ambush just as plainly as if they had put it in a printed paper.”
This was a long speech for Boone and there was no mistaking its purport. Todd was visibly disconcerted. Like every other leader in Kentucky, he had learned to value Boone’s opinions highly. However, he had not the moral courage to adopt the course which his secret judgment told him was the proper one. It must be remembered, too, that the control of backwoods levies by their officers depended upon the most slender thread of discipline. A large proportion of the men assembled at Bryan’s were volunteers who might decline to act further if thwarted in their wishes.
“I’ve no doubt you are right, Boone, but my officers seem set on going forward at once,” said Todd, weakly. “And, if we don’t get on their trace soon, the Indians may get away from us.”
“They won’t get away from you, Todd; never fear,” answered Boone, with a grim smile, as he turned to assemble his men for the march.
Boone was a loyal subordinate. After having expressed himself to his commander, he had no further word to say on the subject until again appealed to. He briefly informed his men that the orders were to pursue the enemy without delay, and he saw to it that they were ready and in their places when the column formed.
Colonel Todd marched out of the stockade at Bryan’s Station, before dark, at the head of one hundred and eighty men. The force pushed on with all possible speed and on the morning of the third day, after having travelled forty miles, reached the bluffs of the Licking, opposite the lower Blue Licks.
The country round about was unusually wild and rugged. The licks had been for ages the resort of buffalo and other animals which cropped the surrounding herbage, and the rains had washed the ground clear of soil, leaving bare rocks over a large area. At this point, the river curved southward, forming a U-shaped loop. Through the centre of the enclosed area ran a ridge and from either side of it a ravine extended down to the river. Each of these ravines was filled with thick brushwood, affording ideal cover.
As the band of frontiersmen approached the place, several Indians were seen marching over the ridge. They took a leisurely survey of the whites and disappeared.
On the bank of the river, Colonel Todd ordered a halt and again went into consultation with his chief officers. He sought another expression from Boone, and this time it was delivered in the presence of all the leaders.
Boone was quite familiar with the country in which they were. Many a time he had hunted in it, and here he had been taken prisoner by the Shawnees in 1778. It was, as he explained to his companions, admirably suited for an ambuscade, and he expressed his opinion that Girty’s force was even now secreted somewhere in the neighborhood. He reminded the officers that the trace had led so pointedly to the spot on which they stood that it was impossible to escape the conclusion that the Indians had wished to lure them to it.
In conclusion, Boone said frankly that he considered their situation a precarious one. He believed that it would be hazardous to advance and that the prudent course would be to await the arrival of Logan, who could not be more than a day’s march distant. If, however, it was decided upon to cross the river, he would advise a division of the force, one half being sent round to approach the ravines from the rear, whilst the other made a direct attack upon the enemy, whom he strongly suspected of being concealed there.
Colonel Boone’s calm statement made a noticeable impression on his hearers and it is probable that his advice would have been followed but for the insubordinate action of a hot-headed officer. Boone had hardly finished speaking when Major McGary shouted:
“All who are not cowards, follow me! I will show you where the redskins are.” With that he raised the war-whoop and urged his horse into the river.
The men, who had impatiently awaited the conclusion of the conference and could not have known that McGary’s action was entirely unauthorized, rushed in a body after him and, of course, the officers were obliged to fall in with the movement. By the time the force reached the other side, discipline was once more restored and Colonel Todd ordered a halt. Retreat was now out of the question, for in case the enemy lay hid on the peninsula they would descend upon the rear of the whites recrossing the stream and cut them to pieces.
But before advancing, Colonel Todd, at the suggestion of Boone, sent forward two scouts with instructions to carefully examine the country on each side of the trace which led over the ridge. The scouts performed the hazardous service in safety. They passed along the ridge to the head of the loop and returned without having seen an Indian.
The order to march was given, fifteen men under Major Harlan forming the advance guard. Colonel Todd commanded the centre, Colonel Trigg the right, and Colonel Boone the left. The vanguard had passed the ravines and the main body was within forty yards of them, when five hundred Indians suddenly issued and fired a withering volley into the surprised frontiersmen.
A terrific combat ensued. A more disadvantageous position than that in which Colonel Todd’s force found itself could hardly be imagined. Across their front stretched the Indians. On every other side the river enveloped them. They made a gallant stand, however, until the greatest havoc had been wrought in their ranks.
The advance guard was quickly surrounded by savages. Major Harlan and his men fought desperately until he and twelve of them fell covered with wounds. The other three contrived to make their way through the horde of howling redskins and escaped by continuing onward over the ridge and into the country beyond the loop in which the battle raged.
Colonel Trigg and many of the Harrodsburg men fell under the fierce onslaught, and shortly afterwards Colonel Todd received a mortal wound and was seen to fall from his horse. Only Boone, on the left, was holding his own. But when the right crumbled up and the men in the centre, dismayed by the death of their commander, began to give way, the situation of Boone’s force became precarious.
Seeing the disruption of the ranks, the Indians now rushed forward with uplifted tomahawks, uttering the most fiendish yells. Two-thirds of the troops broke into flight and made for the ford, with the redskins in close pursuit. Boone strove to keep his men together, urging them to retreat in a compact body and to present a front to the enemy. The calm demeanor of the pioneer influenced his men for a while after all the others had broken into disorderly rout, but unfortunately Boone’s horse, which had been wounded some time before, suddenly fell to its knees, bringing the rider to the ground. The men, imagining that their leader was killed, immediately took to flight.
When Boone gained his feet, his son Israel and Hardy Goodfellow alone of all his followers were beside him. Savages were advancing from every side, and down at the ford a raging mass of humanity contested the passage. Boone was an indifferent swimmer, but he instantly decided that the best chance of safety for his little party depended upon taking to the stream at its nearest point.
Boone and his young companions turned towards the bank on the western side of the loop. They had progressed but a short distance when five savages attempted to intercept them. Two of these lacked firearms. The aim of the white men was directed at the others, two of whom fell, when Boone and Hardy rushed upon the remaining three with drawn tomahawks. The redskins fled without awaiting the attack, and when Boone turned it was to see his son stretched upon the ground. Israel had received a bullet in his breast.
Without waiting to reload his rifle, Boone picked the boy up in his arms and resumed the road to the river. They were nearing the bank when three Indians came down upon them. One of these Hardy disposed of when they were within twenty yards, but the other two continued to advance. They were extremely big men and unusually courageous. Armed only with their tomahawks they rushed upon the whites without faltering.
Boone laid the boy upon the ground. His form was convulsed in the agonies of death. As the father rose erect his face was calm and his lips close-set, but a tempest raged in his heart. Hardy stood transfixed by the awful gleam of the eyes. Thus he had never seen the man before, nor ever did again.
Boone drew his tomahawk and turned on the savages, who were now almost within arm’s length. He sprang at them like a panther robbed of its whelps. His weapon whizzed through the air and buried itself in the skull of the foremost. Springing aside he avoided a blow from the tomahawk of the second savage, and the next instant gripped his throat and bore him to the ground.
[Illustration: HIS WEAPON WHIZZED THROUGH THE AIR AND BURIED ITSELF IN THE SKULL OF THE FOREMOST]
Hardy ran to the spot and raised his tomahawk but, as he was about to strike, Boone glanced up, and at his look Hardy dropped his arm. The Indian was a powerful man, but in the hands of the grief-stricken father he was as a child. Boone struck the savage’s head upon the rocks until he was stunned, and then drew his knife and plunged it into his heart.
This whirlwind combat had occupied less time than it takes to tell, but when Boone turned again to his son the boy was dead. The father looked around. From three directions new enemies were approaching. There was nothing for it but to leave Israel’s body to be mutilated by the savages.
Together, Boone and Hardy gained the bank and, plunging into the river, succeeded in reaching the other side in safety. They were almost the last to leave the battle-field, and by the time they landed upon the south side of the Licking the expiring flames of the fatal fight were flickering out.
Half of the force that rashly pursued Girty’s warriors lay dead upon the peninsula or at the ford. There the carnage had been fearful and would have been much worse but for the presence of mind of a man named Netherland, who on a former occasion had been taxed by his companions with cowardice. With twelve or fifteen other horsemen, Netherland crossed the river. The others were about to consult their own safety by riding off, when Netherland called upon them to halt and protect their comrades by firing upon the Indians. They did so, with the result of enabling many to escape who would otherwise have been slain.
Among many acts of conspicuous bravery that marked that day, was a deed of daring performed by young Reynolds, who had taunted Girty at Bryan’s. Reynolds was making a retreat on horseback to the ford when he overtook Captain Patterson staggering along under a painful wound. A party of Indians were close behind, but the young man stopped and dismounted, insisting upon the officer taking his place in the saddle.
When he had seen the wounded man safely mounted, Reynolds ran to a place below the ford and swam to the other side of the river. He was, however, pursued by a band of Indians and captured. After a while the redskins left him in the hands of one of their number and started in pursuit of other victims. Seizing a favorable opportunity, Reynolds knocked his captor down with his fist and escaped. When he arrived at Bryan’s it was to find Captain Patterson there.
The fugitives from the Blue Licks met Colonel Logan and his reinforcement on the way to the scene of action. Boone and Hardy returned with them. A forced march was made to the battle-field, but when they arrived there was no sign of the Indians. It was almost certain that they had made a rapid retreat to their own country and so Colonel Logan dismissed his men.
The Battle of the Blue Licks impressed Boone, perhaps, more than any other incident of his life. In after years the mere mention of it brought tears to his eyes.
AN OLD BIRD
Clark heads a great invasion of the Indian country--And devastates the fields and villages--A period of peace and prosperity--Boone takes up the life of the farmer--He receives a visit from old friends--The Indians learn that “an old bird is not to be caught with chaff”--The farmer turns his tobacco to good account--Boone finds himself beggared--And determines to leave Kentucky--He emigrates to the Spanish possessions--And finds land and honors--His life is rounded out in the performance of important duties--He dies at the ripe old age of eighty-six--Under the American flag.
The defeat at the Blue Licks was the heaviest misfortune that had ever befallen the settlers of Kentucky. They did not learn until afterwards that the loss of the Indians had been even greater than that they had inflicted, and that the chiefs had returned to their villages bemoaning the victory which had cost so many warriors. The Kentuckians were possessed by dread of another such invasion, and not a few of them displayed a disposition to leave the country. Almost immediately after the battle at the Licks, Boone wrote to Governor Benjamin Harrison, of Virginia, saying: “The inhabitants of this county are very much alarmed at the thought of the Indians bringing another campaign into our country this fall. If this should be the case, it will break up these settlements. I hope, therefore, your Excellency will take the matter into your consideration, and send us some relief as quick as possible.”
No sooner had the news of the disaster reached General Clark than he determined upon reprisals and immediately summoned Colonels Boone, Logan, and other officers, as well as Kenton and two or three more scouts, to a council at Fort Nelson. All agreed that a blow should be struck at the Indians before they could recover from the effects of the recent campaign. Their force, which had been drawn from several tribes, would be disbanded and scattered and, if surprised, their country would probably be found in a comparatively defenceless condition. The main object was to strike hard and quickly.
General Clark issued an urgent call for volunteers and supplies and disseminated it throughout the country with all possible despatch. The response was instantaneous. One thousand mounted riflemen soon assembled at the two places of rendezvous, Bryan’s Station and the Falls of the Ohio. Those who could not come contributed generously to the equipment and supply of the expedition, which had an ample number of pack-horses, beeves, and spare mounts. The two divisions marched to the mouth of the Licking, where General Clark assumed the command.
Desiring to move with all possible secrecy and speed, Clark declined to be burdened with the extensive supplies. He required each man to carry a liberal quantity of “jerk” and corn, and left the cattle and other material behind. Although game abounded at this time of the year, it was not deemed prudent to send out hunting parties, and the expedition felt the pinch of hunger before reaching Chillicothe, which was the first point of attack. Here they surprised the Indians so completely that when they entered the place, from which the inhabitants fled without offering resistance, the pots were upon the fires. The troops were very glad to fall to upon the meals that the squaws had been preparing for their men.
Clark’s force spread desolation through the Indian country. Villages were razed to the ground and crops destroyed. Horses and cattle were driven off and the inhabitants dispersed in the forest. The blow paralyzed the redskins and made the greater impression as coming immediately after a decisive defeat of the whites. Nothing could have more effectually convinced them of the futility of waging war against the settlers. Their chiefs became disheartened and their confederacy was disbanded. At the same time, they lost the support of the British, which had constituted a very important element of their strength. Although small parties of Indians continued for years to attack families in exposed parts of the country, a formidable invasion of Kentucky was never attempted after the year 1783.
General Clark’s expedition was the last occasion on which Daniel Boone was called upon to fight in the defence of the settlements of Kentucky. He had been among the earliest explorers of the country. He had led one of the first parties of settlers into it. His rifle had been constantly at the service of the harassed backwoodsmen and his counsel had guided their leaders. None had made greater sacrifices for the territory than he, and none reaped less benefit. He had lost a son at the very threshold of the promised land, and another had fallen in the final fight. His brother Squire had been scalped at the Blue Licks, and there his brother Samuel was sorely stricken. And yet, when the period of strife and stress had passed and the country presented a peaceful picture of well-tilled fields and cheery cabins, Boone’s sole possession was his good name and his trusty rifle. He had not an acre to transmit to his children, nor a habitation he could call his own. He was a mere squatter among men who held their lands in security largely by reason of his determined efforts.
It was not, however, until some time after this that Boone learned that through ignorance of legal requirements and characteristic simplicity, he had failed to make good his title to the land he occupied. For several years he cultivated his farm and in the hunting season followed his favorite pursuit.
In the meantime the population of Kentucky was rapidly increasing. Towns were springing up at various points and a considerable trade in furs and merchandise developed. The settlers lived in comparative peace, but they were by no means exempt from attack by hostile Indians. It is believed that between the years 1783 and 1790 no fewer than fifteen hundred persons were either killed or carried into captivity by small bands of redskins that made stealthy inroads into Kentucky. One such incident must be mentioned in detail.
The Indians probably held Boone in higher estimation than they did any other man among the Kentuckians, and this was particularly the case with the Shawnees, who were best acquainted with him, having thrice had him in their power. A few years after the affair of the Blue Licks they conceived the idea of again trying to capture Boone. Four of the most agile and wily braves were assigned to the task.
Although he did not use the weed, Boone had a patch of tobacco upon his farm with a view to meeting the market demand for the leaf. A short distance from his cabin was a small shed in which he cured his crop. Around the inside of the shed was a construction of rails twelve or fifteen feet in height. Poles were laid upon these so as to extend across the hut. Upon the poles were spread stacks of leaves in three tiers, representing three different stages of curing.
Boone was one day at work in this shed. On the lower tiers was a large quantity of dry tobacco which the farmer required to move to the uppermost poles in order to make room for fresh leaves. He was standing upon the rails that supported the poles and just about to enter into his task when four Indians, carrying rifles, entered the place.
“Now we got you, Boone,” cried the leader. “We carry you back to Chillicothe and you never get away again.”
The days were past when the settler constantly had his gun beside him. Boone was unarmed, but he did not exhibit the slightest uneasiness. He kept his position and looked down upon the redskins with a pleasant smile.
“Well, well! Is that you, Pewultee?” he cried, recognizing one of the sons of old Blackfish. “How is the squaw and how are the papooses? How is everyone at Chillicothe? I think I should like to see them all again.”
The Indians expressed some impatience to have Boone come down, but his manner was so cordial that they fell under its spell as of old. He assured them that he would descend in a few minutes but begged them to wait until he should have finished his work. He kept up a running fire of talk about the old times, about adventures and fights that he and they had taken part in. The savages were soon absorbed in the conversation. They stood leaning upon their rifles and gazing up intently at the speaker.
Meanwhile, Boone had been arranging his bundles of tobacco and at length had them adjusted to his satisfaction. Suddenly he removed two poles and the next instant the four Indians were buried beneath a huge pile of dry leaves. Before they could extricate themselves Boone had sprung through the open door and was fifty yards away.
When he had reached what he considered a safe distance, the farmer turned and at the sight that met his eyes, burst into peals of laughter. The Indians, blinded and half suffocated, had groped their way out of the shed and were now aimlessly stumbling around, whilst their frames shook with violent coughing and sneezing. With scanty breath they cursed Boone’s cunning and bewailed their own folly.
Boone went to the cabin and secured his rifle. He then bade the Indians, who were by this time somewhat recovered, get their guns and begone. He warned them that if he should catch them in that part of the country again worse would assuredly befall them. It would be interesting to know the story Pewultee and his companions told upon their returning to Chillicothe.
With the development of the territory and the return of peace, steps were taken by the authorities for the proper surveying of land in Kentucky and the perfection of titles. In this process hundreds of the older settlers were dispossessed in favor of shrewder claimants, better versed in the technicalities of the law. Boone had always displayed an aversion for legal forms and carelessness in matters of business. Scrupulously honest, he credited all others with a similar quality. His life had been governed by the golden rule, which, indeed, generally prevailed in the backwoods communities. He was as ignorant as any child of the devious ways of the speculator and land-shark. Nor was it possible for him to conceive that the State he had served so loyally should fail to protect him in what he reasonably considered his rights.
When his beautiful farm at Boonesborough and other tracts were wrested from him by the subtle processes of law, he was aggrieved to think that the community for which he had bled and suffered could offer him no better recompense than the beggar’s portion, but he did not become embittered, as did Clark towards the close of his life. Boone laid his misfortunes at the door of the speculators and lawyers, and resolved to leave Kentucky and seek a new home in the wilderness. In a memorial to the legislature of Kentucky in 1812, he says: “Unacquainted with the niceties of the law, the few lands I was enabled to locate were, through my ignorance, generally swallowed up by better claims.”
Hale and active, and with spirit undaunted, the grand old pioneer set out when past sixty years of age for the land of prairies beyond the “Father of Waters.” His fame had reached the Spanish dominions in America, and the Lieutenant-Governor whose seat was at St. Louis invited him to settle in that district with “assurance that ample portions of land should be given to him and his family.”
The proposal was an alluring one to Boone. Many Americans were settled in Louisiana, and it was already generally believed that the country would soon be annexed to the United States. Boone’s eldest son, Nathan, had some years previous taken up land in the rich country bordering on the Missouri River. The invitation of the Spanish official presented a means of acquiring land which Boone had not the money to purchase and, finally, the region beyond the Mississippi abounded in game.
Boone accepted the liberal offer and in 1795, accompanied by his family, journeyed to the Femme Osage settlement, about forty-five miles from St. Louis, and there took up his abode. Here, as promised, a large tract of land was conveyed to him and he was made commandant, or syndic, of the district. The post was an important one, entailing both civil and military duties of a responsible nature.
A large proportion of the people in the district were Americans, among whom were included several of Boone’s relatives. The population was a peaceable, happy and prosperous one. Boone found the new conditions of his life congenial and he passed his last years in cheery contentment. He discharged his duties agreeably to the community under his control, and to the satisfaction of the Spanish authorities. When, at length, he passed peacefully away in the year 1820, at the ripe old age of eighty-six, the American flag was flying over the land.
THE LAST HUNT
Travelers in a strange land--“I’m dying to see old Dad!”--Old friends meet after many years--Kenton and Hardy find the old man happy in his simple life--“I have more than I need and no man can lay a claim against me”--The simple creed of a sincere Christian--One more hunt together--Boone proves that he is still a stout backwoodsman--And shows Hardy how to “bark” a squirrel--He tells his companions of his early life and adventures--His strange dread of dying in the wilderness--Kenton and Hardy part with the old man for ever--He stood at the cabin door and watched them out of sight.
Let us go back in our story and take a parting glimpse at some of its characters.
On a bright September day of the year 1808 two men stepped from a boat to the landing at St. Louis. They were both bronzed and weather-beaten and wore the familiar dress of the American backwoodsman. One was a fair-haired giant of about forty years, with laughing blue eyes and a musical voice. He had the careless, joyous manner of a boy and the air of one to whom mere living was a delight. His companion was a younger man but of graver aspect. His slight but sinewy frame gave evidence of strength and activity, and the clear-cut features bespoke alert intelligence.
The travellers carried rifles but were unburdened with baggage. They did not appear to be pressed for time nor hampered by business. Two or three hours were spent by them in rambling about the quaint town with its mixed population of Americans and Creoles, French and Spanish. Then they resorted to a tavern and ate a hearty meal. When at length they returned to the street it was with the air of men refreshed and with a purpose in view.
“Well, Hardy, how shall it be? On horseback, or on foot?” asked Kenton.
“On foot, Si, by all means. I’m dying to see old Dad, but I don’t want to ride up to his doorstep like a trooper. It will seem more like old times if we come in on the tramp. In fact, I want to arrive with a good fat buck on my back.”
“Right you are, but it shall be two bucks. We’ll come on the old man just as we used to do in the good old days at Boonesborough. Those were good times, Hardy! Things are getting too tame in the back country now. You and I will have to go farther west, I’m thinking.”
“Yes. If we stay this side of the Mississippi, I shall never get a chance to pay off that little debt I contracted to you. Do you remember--the first time I ever saw you?”
Kenton laughed heartily and slapped his companion on the back, as he said:
“You know better now than to aim at the crest-feathers of a redskin and then throw your tomahawk at him, eh, young ’un?”
It was a beautiful country through which the travellers passed in their two days’ journey. On every hand stretched timbered prairie, over which roamed herds of buffalo, deer, and other game. Every few miles brought them to a little settlement surrounded by orchards and standing crops. Many of the inhabitants were Americans. In fact, three-fifths of the population of Upper Louisiana were immigrants from the States at the time of annexation.
On the evening of the second day, the friends learned that they were within a few miles of their destination. They determined to defer their arrival until the next morning, and spent the interval before bedtime in securing the two fat bucks that they had proposed to take to their old leader as a humble testimony of respect.
Early the next morning Kenton and Hardy, laboring under their heavy burdens, approached a cabin, to which they had been directed, on the outskirts of a settlement in St. Charles County, Missouri. It was a small, two-roomed, structure of hewn logs and shingle roof. Well-fenced fields and a large orchard lay behind the building.
On a tree-stump near the cabin sat an old man, with snow-white hair falling over his shoulders. He was repairing the lock of a gun, whilst a hound crouched at his feet and looked up in eager expectation, hoping that a hunt was in prospect.
The travellers hurried forward as well as they could with their loads, shouting greetings as they came:
The old man rose, displaying surprising activity and erectness of carriage. He shaded his eyes with his hand and in a moment recognized his visitors.
“Hardy! Si!” he cried, in accents of delight. “Bless your dear hearts! The sight of you is surely good for old eyes! It looks like old times to see you two coming up to the cabin so.”
Twelve years had passed since these former followers of Boone had seen him. Of course, they had a great deal to tell one another. The old pioneer’s life had been comparatively uneventful in these later years, but his two disciples insisted on hearing all about it. At sight of the humble cabin they had feared that the old man might be in straitened circumstances. They were relieved to learn that he was very comfortably situated, and lived in his little log hut because he felt more at home in it than in a spacious dwelling. At times, he told them, he would spend a few weeks in the mansion of his son Nathan, a few miles distant, or in the roomy frame house of his son-in-law Callaway, but he was always glad to get back to his own little two-roomed cabin.
“The Lord has dealt kindly with me,” said the old man, reverently; “I have more than I need and no man can lay a claim against me. I left some debts in Kentucky but with a few good seasons’ hunting and trapping I got together a considerable pile of money. I went back--you two boys were in Illinois and I was mighty sorry not to see you--and I cleaned up every debt. When I got home again I had just half a dollar but--oh, Hardy!--it felt good to be a free man.”
“And you have been happy, Dad?”
“Yes, son, I’ve been happy. I won’t say that I was not sorry to leave the country that I had hunted over and fought for, but Kentucky was getting crowded and I felt that I needed more elbow room. It pleased the Lord to choose me as an instrument for the settlement of Kentucky, but I think my work was done before I left.”
Two or three days were delightfully spent by the three friends in exchange of experiences and in mutual reminiscences. Boone evinced particular pleasure in recalling the scenes and events connected with his first years in Kentucky. Without being garrulous he had become more communicative than when Kenton and Hardy knew him and he told them many details of his earlier life that they had never known.
Hardy had often felt curiosity on the subject of his foster-father’s religious belief. Boone’s life and actions marked him as a moral and God-fearing man, but he was not given to the discussion of such matters. During this visit, when they happened to be alone, Hardy took an opportunity to ask the old man for an expression of his creed.
“I never had much schooling, Hardy, and you know that churches are not over plentiful in the backwoods,” replied Boone, thoughtfully. “I’m afraid my religion is the home-made kind, and I dare say it wouldn’t seem quite the right thing to a parson, but I’ve used it as a guide through life, son, and it served me well enough. It’s just this,” continued the old man, baring his head: “To love and fear God; to believe in Jesus Christ. To do all the good to my neighbor and myself that I can, and to do as little harm as I can help. And to trust in God’s mercy for the rest.”
One morning Kenton and Hardy rose early as usual and, to their surprise, found the old man bustling about in front of the cabin. Two pack-horses stood tied to neighboring trees. Blankets, wallets, powder-horns, and a variety of other articles lay strewn around.
“Why, Dad, what’s forward now?” asked Hardy, in astonishment.
“We’re going on a hunt,” answered Boone, in the most matter-of-course tone.
“Bully, Colonel!” cried Kenton. “It’s just what I’ve been thinking of proposing. Lend a hand, Hardy, and let’s pack the outfit!”
In a few hours they started, the old man on foot like the others. Nor did they need to slacken their pace to accommodate him. He strode along, erect and with a step that displayed much of its old-time elastic swing. They found that he could cover his twelve miles a day without undue fatigue and he insisted that the stages should be no less. If Kenton or Hardy attempted any subterfuges, such as feigning weariness or a desire to examine the scenery, for the sake of affording their aged companion a rest, Boone was visibly annoyed and they soon decided to let him have his own way.
They were delighted to find that the old woodsman’s eye, though somewhat restricted in range, was as keen as ever in detecting “signs.” He soon gave them proof that he still possessed his wonderful skill with the rifle.
“Can you bark a squirrel now, Hardy? Try that fellow,” said Boone, pointing to one of the little animals on a branch, at the distance of about fifty yards.
Hardy declined to take the shot, but insisted upon Boone doing so.
The old hunter took aim and fired. The squirrel flew into the air and came to the ground without a hair injured. It was a feat that few backwoodsmen in the prime of life and practice could accomplish.
Boone took his young friends to Kansas River. They spent two weeks hunting in the adjoining country and never enjoyed themselves better in their lives. Boone at this time was a more delightful companion than in his younger years. He talked freely and frankly about himself and men whom he had known. He recounted stories of great hunts in which he had taken part, and told his companions of the long months he had passed in Kentucky before the advent of settlers. He related the incidents of his capture by the Indians and his escape to find his companions gone and himself alone a hundred miles and more from the nearest white settlement.
Boone informed them that he was in the habit of going on a hunting expedition twice a year with a companion whom he had bound by a written contract to bring his body home in case he should die in the wilderness.
“It is strange,” he said, “that I, who have spent much of my life in strife and most of it in the wilderness, should have a dread of leaving my bones in the forest. I can’t account for it, but I have the strongest desire to be buried near the habitations of men.”
It was with regret that the hunters turned their faces homewards. Each felt that it was their last hunt together, and perhaps the closing incident of their last meeting. Such, indeed, it proved to be.
The day after their return, Kenton and Hardy bade the old man a reluctant and affectionate farewell. He stood at his cabin door with eyes shaded and watched them out of sight. He went out of their lives, but in their distinguished after-careers each felt and acknowledged that he was a better man for having known Daniel Boone.
--Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).
--Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.
--Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.
--Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.