The little school had no session on Saturdays. On these days the boys were accustomed to have their fun. One Saturday in February five of these school-boys went out for a hunt. In the party were the two Linns, William Wells, Brashear, and a fifth whose name is not preserved. They were little fellows, ranging from ten to fourteen years old. Yet they were marksmen who might well put to blush many of the best shots of the present day. They made a trip of several miles from home, to a region of ponds and swamps, in which abounded ducks, geese, and swans. They had a rare day, and, delaying until too late to return home, they decided to encamp for the night on the spot. As to the proper method of building a hut and spreading boughs for their beds, they were thoroughly posted. During the night a light snow covered the ground.
Rising early, they prepared their breakfast, and made ready to return home, when suddenly a party of Indians burst into their little camp with unearthly yells. Two of the boys attempted to run. Of these, the elder Linn being fat and clumsy, and encumbered with some game he had hung over his shoulder, stumbled and fell. For this the Indians called him "Fat Bear." Brashear, however, came near escaping. He, however, like all the rest, was captured, but his agility won him the name of "Buck Elk."
Having secured their captives, the Indians demanded to know where they came from. "From Louisville," said Brashear, "You lie," was the gentle response of the leading Indian. But the boys stuck to the falsehood, and by their sagacity and firmness prevented the savages from advancing upon the defenseless settlement in which they lived.
When they found themselves prisoners the boys took it coolly enough. Their captors at once started on the journey to their distant wigwams. They crossed the Ohio River and moved northward through what is the State of Indiana. Every day took the five plucky little fellows farther from home, and decreased their chance for rescue. Yet they kept quiet, ate heartily of the game and other food provided by the Indians, and above all remained cheerful. Their journey did not end till they reached an Indian village on the Little Calumet River, near the present town of Valparaiso, in north-western Indiana.
On entering the village they were compelled to run the gauntlet. This, however, they knew exactly how to do, having heard about it all their lives, and having prepared themselves in mind for their ordeal. Two rows of Indian boys, some smaller, many larger than themselves, were drawn up. The young Indians had their hands full of clubs, tomahawks, dirt, salt, and stones.
At the word, away dashed the five spirited little Kentuckians at the top of their speed. They were met with showers of filth, missiles, and blows, but by rapid running and skillful dodging, they were in a fair way to get through all right. Just as the younger Linn, who was in front, was three-quarters down the ranks of howling redskins, an Indian boy, much larger than himself, hit him a stunning blow with his fist. Linn was a hot-blooded and fiery-tempered fellow at best. Resenting the insult with all the fury of his impetuous nature, he knocked the ruffian down by a left-handed stroke. At this clever feat, the assembled crowd of warriors gave a vent to a huge uproar of laughter, but the squaws sympathized with their own blood.
Young Linn quickly planted himself with his back to the council-house, and with clenched fists uplifted, and his eyes blazing with rage through his heavy tangled hair, which in the mêlée had fallen over his forehead, awaited the onslaught which he knew was sure to come. A large and brawny young Indian, with a sinister countenance, ran at him. Linn received him with the same left-handed stroke which had been so effective before, and knocking him down, sprang on him with the ferocity of a panther, kicking, biting, and pounding till, in a moment, his formidable foe was completely demoralized.
The ring of warriors shouted and danced with delight at this sport, which was so much better than any gauntlet running. But the whole crowd of juvenile Indians, seeing their champions vanquished, now became pugnacious, and rushed upon him to demolish him. At this, the other four Kentuckians came to their friend's rescue, and fought the howling mass of Indian youth with the fury of tigers turned at bay. They fought against great odds, but being far superior to their enemies in athletic and pugilistic skill, they overthrew them one by one, until the rest were glad to run off.
The warriors here intervened, and proudly carried the boys into the council-house, to be adopted into the tribe as Indians. Four of the boys were adopted into one families of the leading warriors of the village. Poor Wells, however, fell to the lot of an Indian living in a remote village. With sad hearts the boys parted from him, as he went from them, and they never saw him again. For many years he lived with the Indians, marrying a sister of Little Turtle, one of their celebrated chiefs, and fighting with his tribe against the whites. He afterwards rejoined the whites, and became a noted scout under General Wayne.
The other boys, becoming gradually accustomed to the loss of their friend, rapidly adapted themselves toward their new mode of life. They soon excelled in all Indian sports, and seemed so well satisfied with the pleasures of savage life, fishing and hunting, wrestling, racing, riding Indian ponies, and romping with the maidens, that their captors no longer entertained any suspicion of their disloyalty, and they were allowed to roam about as they pleased. The boys, however, were playing a deep game, and were only biding their time to escape.
The chance came at last. In the autumn after their capture the warriors went off on their animal hunt, roaming far and wide over the country in quest of game, leaving the village inhabited only by old men, squaws and children. One day the four boys arranged to go fishing some miles from the village. An old Indian and his wife accompanied them.
The boys felt this to be their opportunity for escape. But a serious problem had first to be solved. Did they dare to leave the old Indian and his squaw alive? The struggle in their minds was painful. The old people were kind to them in their way. To kill them seemed terrible. Yet to leave them alive meant speedy discovery of their flight, pursuit, and probably recapture, as the long journey to their homes lay through a wilderness of which they were ignorant, while their pursuers were thoroughly familiar with it. These boys, it must be remembered, had been to regard the Indians as their most abhorred enemies. Frontier life was a constant warfare with them. The father of two of them had been killed by savages only four years before. These things decided them.
At dead of night the boys rose stealthily, armed themselves with tomahawks, and two of them placed themselves at the head of each sleeping Indian. At a signal from Brashear, they all struck at the skulls of the sleepers, killing them instantly. Hastily collecting the little stock of provisions in the camp, the boys set out in the darkness for home. Happy thought! With the skill of a band of Indian warriors themselves, they pursued their flight, traveling by night, guiding their course by the north star, lying by, hid in bushes and deep grass by day. They subsisted on nuts, wild berries, roots, and occasionally a squirrel or rabbit, which they succeeded in killing with a stone.
Their journey lay through a vast wilderness of gloomy swamps, lonely forests, solitary rivers, and silent prairies, which is now thickly populated with the citizens of Indiana. Their journey must have taken them over the site of the present splendid city of Indianapolis, the capitol of the State, a city of fine public buildings, of wide, well-paved and brilliantly lighted streets and avenues, lines with tall business blocks, a city with miles of elegant residences, with numerous churches, handsome theaters, large manufacturing establishments, modern school-houses, and more railways than any other strictly interior city on the globe. The site of all this was, at the time of the boys' journey, a bottomless marsh. Besides this, our young heroes' path led them through the sites of innumerable flourishing county towns, such as Logansport, Franklin, Columbus, Seymore, New Albany, and Jeffersonville. Yet, in all their journey, they saw not a white man's clearing, nor a single cabin, nor a settlement.
After a three weeks' journey, they reached the shores of the Ohio, opposite Louisville. Here they tried by shouts and gestures to induce friends to come over for them. But the Indians had been very troublesome that summer, and moreover, the young pioneers were dressed and disguised until they looked for all the world like four young Indians. So the good people of Louisville remained on their own side.
Nothing disheartened the boys went up the river some distance, and, with no tool but a small knife, constructed a raft. Their haste to finish was so great, and the thing so rickety, that it would only bear the weight of three. The elder Linn, being a splendid swimmer, swam by its side while the others paddled. In this way they reached the Kentucky shore. Just as they landed, their pursuers appeared on the opposite shore, mad with rage at their escape. Linn was nearly exhausted by his long swim in the chilly waters. But they soon found Colonel Pope, who had been driven from his settlement by Indians, and was living in Louisville. He gave them a hearty welcome, supplied their wants, and listened to their thrilling story with the joy of a loving father. The only cloud in the sky was the absence of poor Wells, whose fate remained unknown to his companions.
WHO WAS HE?
It was one morning in 1780, that the inmates of a cabin in what is Bourbon County, Kentucky, were startled by strange yells from outside. The door was slightly opened, and, while no person was in sight, the yells were discovered to proceed from a dense clump of underbrush. The bushes were violently shaken, and in a moment there stepped into view a man. His features were European, but his complexion, costume, and speech were Indian. He continued to jabber in a loud voice, rolling his eyes and gesturing in a frightful manner. In a short time all the people in the little settlement had formed in a circle around him.
From his jargon, the settlers, who knew a little of the Indian language, made out that, when he was a child, he had been captured by the Indians and had been reared by them; that of his home or parents he remembered nothing; that he had gone out on a hunt with his Indian father and brothers, and had accidentally come within sight of the white men's cabins. The view had acted like a magician's wand. In an instant all the associations and attachments of the long years of life in the wigwam had been swept away. He was seized with an overwhelming desire to rejoin the people of his birth, and now he begged them to receive him. His Indian father would miss him, but he wanted to rejoin the white people, and, if possible, learn something of his own birth and parentage.
The settlers conversed in a low tone among themselves, and, fearful lest he should be a decoy, asked him many questions. Among other things he said that he and his companions had ascended the Licking River in a canoe, and burying it, had struck into the woods. The cautious pioneers, therefore, as a test of the truth of his story, proposed that he conduct them to the spot where the canoe lay concealed.
As soon as he understood the request, the stranger protested most vehemently against it. He said, that while he desired to leave his Indian father and brother, yet they had raised him and been very kind to him for many years; that they were the only friends he could remember having ever had, and he would not on any account betray them. The suspicion of the group of listeners deepened at this answer. They demanded that he lead them to the canoe at once, or they would treat him as a prisoner. With the strongest reluctance he set out to guide the company of twenty mounted men to the buried canoe.
Perhaps, with the hope of giving this Indian friends time to escape, the wild stranger nervously explained that he would first lead the white men to a spot where he and his father and brother had encamped, and where he said they would find a kettle hidden in a hollow log. As they approached the spot from a distance they discovered two Indians in the camp, an old man and a boy sitting by the fire, roasting some venison. At the sight the stranger burst into tears, and falling on his knees, begged and implored the white men in the most vehement and frenzied manner, to spare his Indian father and brother.
Moved by his entreaties, the pioneers formed a circle to surround the two Indians, with the notion, real or pretended, of taking them captive. The old man, however, fought with such desperation that they killed him, while the boy, with incredible agility escaped into the forest. Seeing the old man fall, the stranger leaped from his horse, and running, threw his arms around the neck of the dying savage, begging his forgiveness for having unwittingly betrayed him to death. The aged Indian evidently recognized him, giving him a pressure of the hand, but he was too far gone to speak.
The settlers at once called loudly to the stranger to lead them at a gallop to the buried canoe. He wrung his hands in bitter agony, begging them to see that he had already given proof of his honesty at the cost of his father's death, and beseeching that they might spare his younger brother. The only response was a peremptory demand to lead them to the canoe without delay. They rightly surmised that the young Indian would hasten thither. Overwhelmed with grief, the stranger again mounted his horse. In two hours they reached the spot. No footprints were visible. The young Indian had not arrived.
The men at once hid themselves in the bushes to wait. In ten minutes the young savage came running to the spot, and commenced hastily to dig up the canoe. In a moment he fell, pierced by a dozen balls. With a mournful cry the strange white man hid his face in his hands. They took him back to the settlement, but he mourned all day long, saying over and over to himself in the Indian tongue, "I betrayed my best friends. I killed my father. I killed my brother. Oh, me."
One morning the strange and unhappy man was missing. He appears only for this single act in the drama of history. That act is tragedy. Whether he sought out the white settlements of the east, or returned to the smoky wigwam which he had deprived both its support and its hope, or whether, maddened with grief, Judas like, he went out into the solitary wilderness, and there, alone with his God, expiated his crime with the act of self-destruction, will never be known.
THE FIRST CHICKAMAUGA.
Horse-stealing is in the frontier code the worst of all crimes. This is because it is the one against which there is the least protection. In the spring of 1784, a small Kentucky settlement suffered this depredation from Indians. The pursuing party failed to overtake the thieves. Three of the pursuers, all hot-blooded fellows, named McClure, Davis, and Caffree, determined to push on south to some Indian village, make reprisals of their horses, and thus balance the account.
One day, traveling along a trail, the three white men fell in with three Indians. It was in the vicinity of the Tennessee River, probably south of it, and near an Indian village called Chicacaugo, or Chicamaugo. It seems not improbable that this was near the field of the great battle of Chickamauga, in the civil war, to which the name was given from the creek near which it was fought. The two parties were equal in numbers. After a moment's thought each seemed to come to the same conclusion. Instead of fighting, they made signs of friendship, and agreed to travel together. The three white men walked in single file on one side of the path; the three Indians walked in single file on the opposite side of the path.
For a while this interesting procession held its way along the forest trail without incident or delay. It was observed at the end of a quarter of an hour that the Indians were marching very close together. Moreover they were, without turning their heads, whispering to one another. The white men saw danger. Each selected his man. Caffree, the most powerful of the party, leaped upon one Indian. Davis, at the same instant, fired at the second Indian, but missed him. McClure, with better success, killed his man.
Leaving Caffree still struggling with his foe, his two companions jumped behind trees. The other Indian fired at Caffree, inflicting a mortal wound, and was in turn shot by the cool-headed McClure, who had reloaded his weapon. Caffree, poor fellow, struggling now not only with the Indian, but with the arch-enemy Death himself, called for help. Davis ran towards him, but when half-way to him, the Indian threw off Caffree's weakening grasp, seized his gun, and took aim at Davis. The latter dropped his gun, still unloaded, and ran off into the forest.
McClure, the coolest man of the trio, having already killed two Indians, shouldered Davis's gun, and ran after him. Strange as it may seem, in the short instant of picking up the gun, he lost sight of both pursuer and pursued. On he ran into the thick shadows of the southern forest, but not a trace could he discover of their flight. He stopped to listen. Not a sign was audible, but the steady plash of the little creek of Chicamaugo, or the twittering of the birds. He ran on a little farther, and called aloud. No answer came, but the mocking echo, which rang in a thousand-voiced responses, each fainter than the last, from every direction in the forest. He shouted with all his power. It only seemed to wake a thousand fiends, who took up his word and hurled them back and forth. The fate of Davis is unknown to this day.
McClure, left alone in the Indian country, resolved to make his way home at once, if possible. No more fine notions in him about running off a whole herd of Indian ponies from their masters. Still carrying Davis's rifle as well as his own, our brave young friend set his face to the north. He had only pushed forward a mile or two, when he discovered approaching him, an Indian warrior, on a horse with a bell around its neck, and a boy walking by its his side. A ready wit is valuable anywhere. McClure dropped one of his rifles, lest it excite suspicion, and boldly advanced, making signs of peace. The fellow returned them, dismounted, seated himself on a fallen tree, and producing a pipe, drew a few puffs, then handed it, following true Indian etiquette, to McClure.
Just then another tinkle was heard in the forest, followed by quite a troop of gayly attired Indian horsemen. McClure's companion now informed him that the Indians intended to tie him on a horse, and carry him off as a prisoner. To illustrate the thing, Mr. Indian, in the excess of his politeness, bestrode the fallen tree, and locked his feet beneath. As the dusky gentleman twined his legs about the log, the white man raised his rifle, and shot him dead. The Indian boy jumped on the horse and rode away. McClure ran in the opposite direction. A lot of small Indian dogs took after him, harmless in themselves, but succeeded in tripping him up. He fell several times with terrific force, but scrambled to his feet and ran on, until an unlucky fall filled his eyes with dust.
Blinded and exhausted, he lay still, expecting each moment to be seized by savage hands. Several minutes passed. No foe more formidable than the snapping dogs appeared. The silence of the woods was unbroken by a single foot-fall. His path homeward was open. Still anxious, but inspired with hope, he regained his feet, and again commenced the journey which safely to his Kentucky cabin.
A WIDOW'S CABIN.
The lonely name of "Widow Scraggs" has survived the death of its obscure bearer only by reason of her fate. Her home was an isolated cabin in Bourbon County, Kentucky. The structure contained two rooms, separated by a porch or passage-way, which was covered by the same roof as the rooms. In summer months this porch was spread the frugal meal of the widow's family. In winter, but little use was made of it except for piles of firewood. One room was occupied by the old lady, two grown sons, a widowed daughter and her infant child. The other room was used by two unmarried daughters, one twenty-one years old, the other just blooming with all the blushing beauty of sweet sixteen, a girl living with the family, and the children.
It was twelve o'clock, on the night of April 11, 1787. In one room the elder daughter was still spinning flax at the old-fashioned spinning-wheel; in the other, one of the young men still busied himself with the humble task of cobbling his shoes by the flickering firelight. The remainder of the family were fast asleep. From time to time, the young cobbler raised his head, and, with awl arrested in mid-air, seemed to listen with anxiety to some sounds in the forest, which now and then disturbed the silence of the cabin.
These noises, to the ordinary listener, were no reason for the apparent apprehension of the young man. They were but the hooting of owls and the restless neighing of a couple of horses in the barnyard. The young spinner in the other room seemed not to notice them. Probably the noise of the spinning-wheel or the preoccupation of her mind explained this. The shoes were almost mended, when a footfall was heard from the porch, followed by a knock on the door. "Who keeps house?" the person knocking inquired in good English. The young man, supposing it to be some belated settler, rose to unbar the door. At that moment his mother, roused by the unusual disturbance, screamed, "Keep the door shut! They are Indians!"
The other young man, till then asleep, sprang from his bed, and the two prepared for defense. The Indians, of whose character there could now be no doubt, set up terrific yells, and attempted to batter down the heavy door. A shot from a port-hole in the cabin caused them to fall back quickly, only to discover the door to the other room, in which were the three defenseless girls. This door was out of range of the rifles of the young men. The fence supplied the savages with heavy rails. Using these as battering rams against the door, the savages filled the air with wild yells and discordant clamor, mingled with the heavy thuds of the rams, and the sharp sound of splitting wood and breaking hinges as the door began to give way.
At last the frail defense fell inward, and the savages leaped with exultant cries toward the frightened girls. The eldest, pale and desperate, braced herself against the door, but a savage hand and arm, thrust through a breach, buried a knife in her back. The second girl was captured without a struggle. The youngest one, in the uproar, slipped under a bed and out of the door. Instead of escaping, however, the little girl ran to the door of the other room, screaming that her sisters were murdered. The young men, were about to attempt her rescue, when the mother firmly interposed, declaring that she must be left to her fate, as to open the door would be the death of all. At that moment a piercing scream announced that she lived no longer.
But a new horror was at hand. The room filled with smoke, the crackling of flames was heard. The inmates were forced to flight. Their plans were quickly made. The door was flung open. The widow, supported by her eldest son, ran in one direction; the daughter, with her child and the younger son, ran in another direction. The mounting flames lighted up the yard with the brightness of day. The widow was shot as she reached the fence; her son, by strange fortune, escaped. The other party also reached the fence, but were attacked in the act of crossing, by several Indians.
The younger brother, careless of his own safety, and seeking only that his sister and her child might have time for escape, fought with all the fury of despair and the sublime courage which is inspired by a consciousness of self-sacrifice. He had placed one foot on the fence. A spring, and he would have been over. Instead, he withdrew his foot. He resolved to remain on the side where he was. The foremost Indian he shot dead. Then, with clubbed musket, he beat back the swarming foes, till his sister and her child were well out of the way,
But the unequal contest ended. Wounded unto death, he fell into the fence corner, where the ground was stained with the ebbing life tide. Four members of the family had been killed on the spot and one, the second daughter, taken prisoner. The fugitives carried the dark tidings to their neighbors. There were hurried preparations, eager inquiries, and dreadful maledictions among the settlers. By morning, a company of thirty men was raised for pursuit. They tracked the foe easily through the light snow. The latter, finding themselves hard pressed, tomahawked the young girl, taken captive. While the main band fled, two of their number posted themselves on a woody ridge, where, by terrific yells and incessant darting among the trees, they deluded the whites into thinking that a large force of Indians occupied the hill. Such is heroism--to die for others. The two dusky braves suffered death to aid their friends' escape.
THE SUFFERINGS OF MASSY HARBISON.
Two hundred yards from Reed's block-house, which was itself about twenty-five miles from Pittsburgh, stood, in the year 1792, the rude cabin of an Indian fighter named Harbison. At sunrise, one morning, while Harbison was absent on a scout, the horn sounded at the block-house. Not thinking the bugle blast a danger sound, Mrs. Harbison fell asleep again. Dreaming of trouble, she awoke, to find a huge savage dragging her from the bed by her foot, and the house swarming with Indians. After ransacking the house, they forced her to come along with them. She carried in her arms her infant child, and led by the hand her little boy of five years.
There was yet a third child, three years old. For the little fellow the mother had no hand. To relieve her of this embarrassment, an Indian took him by the feet, whirled him through the air, and brained him against the cabin wall. To relate these details is sickening. The mother fainted at the awful sight. For this the murderers had a cure. It deserves the attention of medical men. In her story the mother describes it. "The savage gave me a blow across my head and face, and brought me to sight and recollection."
With this delicate medical attention the procession marched on. In a few minutes the path led down a steep hill. The little five-year-old-boy fell. It hurt him. He was but a child. With uplifted face filled with liquid grief, he sought consolation from the mother's heart, which had never failed. As she put forth her hand in gentle caresses, such as only a mother can give, her arm was seized and she was jerked back. Instead of the soft maternal touch, an Indian's hand seized the little fellow. His crying was stopped forever. Her babe was left to the mother.
All day she marched with her captors. At night, they spread a blanket on the ground, and, tying her hand and foot, said "Go sleep." Two Indians lay down on each side of the poor woman. The next day the march was continued. This day she had food. It was a piece of dried venison, "about the bulk of an egg." One of the Indians went away for a few hours. In his absence another savage busied himself with making a small hoop. At first the captive watched him with languid curiosity. Then, full of wretchedness, she turned her head to look upward into the waving foliage of the forest, and the vast illimitable sky-dome. When her eyes fell on the savage again, he had something in his hand. A flash of horror-struck recognition flickered in the woman's eyes. It was the scalp of her boy. The savage was stretching it on the hoop.
The second night passed like the first. Towards morning one Indian rose and left the camp. The wakeful mother managed to slip loose from her bonds. With a step, noiseless as a spirit, she fled with her babe in arms on and on, pausing not to look behind, breathless, frantic, "over rocks, precipices, thorns, and briers, with bare feet and legs, "as she says pathetically.
She was a pioneer woman, the wife of a scout. At two o'clock in the afternoon she could no longer keep up her flight. She waited. At night, when the north star appeared, she marked out the course for the next day. Long before sunrise she was on her way, resting not. It rained all day. She had no food for herself or her child. Yet she bravely pushed on. At night she made a bed of leaves in the forest. The child was hungry. The little creature wept aloud. "Fearful of the consequences," writes the mother, "I put him to my breast, and he became quiet. I then listened, and distinctly heard footsteps. The ground over which I had traveled was soft, and my footprints had been followed.
"Greatly alarmed, I looked about for a place of safety, and providentially discovered a large tree which had fallen, into the top of which I crept. The darkness greatly assisted me, and prevented detection. The savage who followed me had heard the cry of the child, and came to the very spot where it had cried, and there he halted, put down his gun, and was at this time so near that I heard the wiping-stick strike against his gun distinctly. My getting in under the tree and sheltering myself from the rain, and pressing my boy to my bosom, got him warm, and, most providentially, he fell asleep, and lay very still during that time of extreme danger. All was still and quiet: the savage was listening to hear the cry again. My own heart was the only thing I feared, and that beat so loud I was apprehensive it would betray me.
"After the savage had stood and listened with nearly the stillness of death for two hours, the sound of a bell and a cry like that of a night-owl, signals which were given to him by his companions, induced him to answer, and after he had given a most horrid yell, he started off to join them. After his retreat, I concluded it unsafe to remain there till morning.
"But by this time nature was so nearly exhausted that I found some difficulty in moving; yet, compelled by necessity, I threw my coat about my child and placed the end between my teeth, and with one arm and my teeth I carried him, and with the other groped my way between the trees and traveled on, as I supposed, a mile or two, and there sat down at the root of a tree till morning. The night was cold and wet, and thus terminated the fourth day and night's difficulties, trials and dangers!"
After two days more of incredible suffering, the unfortunate woman made her way to a settlement. So changed was she by the six days of hardship, that her nearest neighbor failed to recognize her. "Two of the females, Sarah Carter and Mary Ann Crozier, took out the thorns from my feet and legs, which Mr. Felix Negley stood by and counted, to the number of one hundred and fifty, though they were not all extracted at that time, for the next evening there were many more taken out. The flesh was mangled dreadfully, and the skin and flesh were hanging in pieces on my feet and legs. The wounds were not healed for a considerable time. Some of the thorns went through my feet and came out the top."
Thus the pioneers of the Ohio valley endured for the sake of the hope which was set before them. Forty years they wandered in the wilderness that their children might enter into and possess the land of promise. What honor is due them by the thoughtless thousands who eat the fruit of their toil! Yet the shores of the Ohio contain no monument to their memory!
Nature is full of compensations, of balances. Light and darkness; heat and cold; love and hate; positive and negative; more and less--these are but a few instances of a law running through the universe. Indian massacres made Indian fighters. In the shadow of the murderer stalks the avenger. There was a woman named Moredock, who lived about 1793, at Vincennes, Indiana, the oldest and, historically, the richest town in the State. She had had several husbands, all of whom had fallen victims of Indian hostility. She had lived for twenty years on the extreme frontier. Husbands, children, neighbors, all these she had seen slain by the red destroyers. Yet with calm heart, stony face, and tearless eye, she faced the danger. She did more. She resolved to move farther west, that her boys might have a chance to grow up with the country.
The party of twenty-five or thirty voyagers, of which she and her family were members, journeyed easily down the Ohio and up the Mississippi. One noon they went ashore at what is Grand Tower, to tow the boats around a high cliff, by which the foaming river rushed with furious current. It was their last landing before reaching their destination. Every one was cheered at the happy prospect. At that moment a dark and dreadful band of warriors burst upon the little company. The surprise was too great, the force too overwhelming for the emigrants to rally. Only one man escaped. John Moredock, the widow's son, more lucky than the rest, hid in a fissure in the rock. When the murderers left, glutted with the feast of blood, he climbed down and found the corpses of his family and friends. He buried them. Looking out over the majestic river, he lifted his hand heavenward, and with dark and rigid countenance, hissed out between clenched teeth, "Before God, I will have revenge."
That night the lonely youth started for the Kaskaskia settlements. By daylight he reached them. He told his story. Bold frontiersmen, hardy scouts, appalled by the extent of the horror, inspired by the suppressed fury of Moredock, vowed to help him track the murderers. The flower of the frontier joined the expedition. They set out. It was days before they came within reach of the fleeing murderers.
At last they were discovered. Their camp was on the banks of the Missouri River. But Moredock refused to allow an attack. Why? Did his heart fail him? No. Were he and his companions, after all their tremendous pursuit, going to let the Indians escape? Yes, and no. Moredock's determination was to kill every Indian in the party. Their camp was so pitched that some might escape. He contained himself. Almost bursting with hatred, he was as calm and cool as a marble statue. He said to his men, "We will wait." For several days the avengers shadowed the band of warriors. Their patience was inexhaustible; their pertinacity tireless.
At last they were rewarded. At last, the Indians, unconscious of danger, stepped into a trap. They encamped on a little island in the middle of the Mississippi. Moredock said, "We have them." At midnight the white men landed on the island. They were as noiseless as specters. The canoes of the Indians were floating at the water's edge. These were cut adrift. This made escape for the Indians impossible. Moredock stepped to the canoes from which from which he and his men had disembarked. With a face of cast-iron, he cut them adrift also. What did this mean? It meant that escape for the white men was also impossible. "We will fight to the death!" said Moredock.
The struggle which followed on the island was terrible. The Indians, surprised, ran to their canoes. They were gone. With a howl of despair, the red sons of the forest turned to fight to the death. Out of thirty, twenty-seven were slain. Was not Moredock's revenge complete? No! Three had escaped, by swimming. His appetite for vengeance was unappeased. He dismissed his friends with thanks. They returned to their settlements. For himself, he struck out into the wilderness. For two years he followed the three Indians like shadows. Across mountains, down rivers, over prairies he pursued them, day and night. One by one they fell before the avenger,
At the end of two years he returned to Kaskaskia with their scalps. His revenge was complete. He settled down. He was known as a quiet, peaceful man, strongly domestic in his tastes. This was his true character. Such men, once roused, make the deadliest of all foes. Moredock lived to be not only a respected, but a leading citizen. He was chosen to hold offices of honor and profit. With it all, he spoke but seldom of the past. Many of the people among whom he lived and moved little suspected him of being a blood avenger. Yet it was the case. Such is our ignorance of our neighbors!
THE WIZARD'S PUNISHMENT.
Early in this century, a strange Indian appeared in a white settlement, near what is now the capital of Ohio. He seemed to be continually apprehensive of some danger, but otherwise acted as any Indian of the better sort. Gradually the white men won his confidence. He explained why he was always so watchful to see that no pursuer was after him. He was a Wyandot. His tribe had taken up a notion that he was guilty of witchcraft. His life was in peril. He fled to the wilderness. For a long time he eluded them. But his tribe ceased not to pursue him with undying malignity. He was growing old. He needed a more settled habitation as he advanced in years. He had thrown himself upon the mercy of the white man, his father's foe.
One June morning he was sitting in a chair in his cabin. Suddenly a band of Wyandots entered the room. They had tracked him to his retreat. He made no effort to escape. With calm disdain and unruffled courage, he submitted quietly to be bound and carried away. The settlers asked his captors what it meant. With dark and bigoted looks they replied that he was a bad Indian, that he had caused horses, dogs, and even the people of his tribe to fall sick. For this crime he must die. The settlers labored to convince them that their captive had no power to achieve such wonders. To this the savages obstinately shook their heads. The white men exhausted their powers of argument and persuasion. The victim could only be saved by force of arms. This was out of the question. The band of savages greatly outnumbered the population of the settlement.
Finding that he must die, the suspected wizard asked that he might be arrayed in his finest clothes and ornaments. Gorgeously decked in his gay trappings of silver, gold, and scarlet cloth, he took his place in a ring, and asked that a paper, which he handed them, be read aloud, and then fastened to a tree. It was done. The document was only a recommendation from a prominent settler. With much emotion he bade farewell to his white friends, and obediently took up his march to a lonely wood, chanting the while the Indian death-song. Arriving at his destination, he was made to kneel before a shallow grave. His relentless executioners formed a circle about him. There was a pause. Then a young warrior stepped briskly forward. His uplifted tomahawk glittered for a moment in the light of the afternoon sun, then sank to the heft in the skull of the victim.
Herein Indian haters may find a text. The barbarism, the cruelty, the blood-thirstiness, the ignorance, the superstition of the savage! Softly, friend, if you please. Yonder, on the stormy New England coast, sits an old town, with its single street and queer old houses, which look as if they were haunted. In the town museum you may see the wooden pegs which witnesses swore had been suddenly and mysteriously thrust into the flesh of tender babes, without any visible agency, except it was through the black art of the culprit at the bar. Near by is Witch's Hill, where innocent women and men were executed, under sentences rendered on just such testimony. Not ignorant savages were the witnesses, the jury, the judge, the approving crowd; but intelligent, educated, New England Puritans, from whom is said to flow the best blood in America. When we remember the Reign of Superstition in Salem, when we open to the black pages of the witchcraft persecutions, let us withhold our obloquy from the wretched Indian.
Why do we look with such intense aversion, such anger, such disgust upon these crimes, which were committed in the name of justice? It is because it is a part of this age to abhor superstition. We know that the poison flower sheds a fatal perfume. We see that nothing so enervates the intellect, corrupts character, and demoralizes society as this denial of the laws of cause and effect, this belief in a lie, which we call superstition. We hate it. But the place for us to attack superstition is right here and now, and not in the past. There are historical reasons for the witchcraft persecutions of New England. There are reasons, too obvious to be named, for the rank superstition of the Indians. Those reasons do not exist for us. Let us tear from out hearts every cherished bit of superstition. Let us not merely believe in witches. Let us also trample under our feet every vague belief in table-tipping spirits, in luck, in good and bad omens, in fortune-telling, in the infallibility of the past. This is our work. But it is not our work to abuse the Indians or the Salemites, or any other people under heaven because they believe or believed in superstitions at which we smile with scorn.
Let us pause. This chapter and others, both before and after it, deals with the massacres, the bloodshed, the midnight surprises, the deadly combats, the decoys, the ambushes of the Indian wars in the Ohio valley. These terrible records cover a period of twenty years, from 1774 to 1794. During all that time the frontier was a line of battle.
The history of the time is a history of murders, of cruelties, of tortures. It recites the slaughter of children the tomahawking of women. It recites captivities, starvations, and wanderings. It tells of ruined homes, of desolated lives, of suffering hearts. The midnight sky is forever red with the glare of blazing cabins; the forest is forever filled with blood avengers; yelling Indians are forever battering down the doors of lonely dwellings. Little bands of devoted pioneers are constantly being shut up to starve in block-houses. Strong men, brave women, and tender girls are alike ever running the gauntlet of the encircling foes, to secure food, ammunition, and relief. Lion-hearted men, maddened by the outrages, the murders, the cruelties of the foe, are giving up their farms, their settlements, to roam the forests with the dark occupation of the Indian scout. This is but another name for Indian killer.
Young men, snatched away when children from the arms of agonized mothers, and reared in the squalid wigwams of the savage, remembering not the loving parents who bore them, but knowing only their filthy and ignorant captors, are ever returning, when they reach years of maturity, to the habitation of the white man. They feel themselves strangely moved. Faint memories of their real parents are pictured on their minds. They forever search, without success, to find that early home, and carry with them through life a dull sorrow in the heart. All this, and much more, enters into the story of the time. Seated in our comfortable homes, we read this history. The Indian hater says, "I told you so." Their baseness, their brutality, their wickedness made and makes it just that the red men should be destroyed from the face of the earth.
Let us take a wider view. Let us turn from the silent forests, the majestic rivers, the unpopulated landscapes of the wilderness during the years of this war, to the sunny cities of France, with their cathedrals and palaces, with their gay nobility, their thronging populations, their courts, their literature, their civilization. View them as they were during these same years which the wild Indians of the west marked out upon the historic calendar with emblems of death and destruction. Need we to be reminded that these very years were the years of the French Revolution; that at the very time when a few half starved Indians were attacking some cabin in the beautiful valley, infuriated thousands were thronging through the streets of Paris, crying "Bread or Blood?"
The past rises before us. The red panorama of the Revolution, with its sacked cities, its burning chateaux, its wild orgies of massacre, its streams of blood, its guillotine blades rising and falling with the regularity of heart beats, severing the heads of the bravest, the tenderest, the noblest, the loveliest, the truest sons and daughters of France, all these move in lurid procession before our startled eyes. Mirabeau, Danton, Robespierre, rise before us now terrible phantoms, but once, more terrible realities. Charlotte Corday, the peasant girl, leaving her rural home, seeking admittance to Marat's chamber, thrusting the dagger into his guilty heart, and then calmly waiting for her own execution, which came so soon; the awful tan-yard, there the skins of the guillotine's victims were transformed into a "fine soft leather, which made excellent breeches;" the Hall of the Jacobins; the procession of black tumbrils winding daily through the streets of Paris, bearing poets, nobles, statesmen, even the silly king and the sorrowful queen, to the place of public execution; these are but a few of the flame-lit scenes of the Reign of Terror.
Yet all this was civilization, progress, political birth-throes, the regeneration of the French, the richest, the gayest, the most brilliant, the most highly civilized people of Europe. How much worse was the '92 of the Ohio valley than the '93 of France? Upon the surface, the savages of the Revolution were blacker, bloodier, than the red men of America. The philosophy of History steps in, and laying her hand alike upon the raging madmen of France and the untutored savages of America, says to us, JUDGE NOT!
Retyped and reformatted by Ray and Kathy Leigh