CAPTAIN SAMUEL BRADY, the hero of this narrative, was born in 1758, in the town of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. John Brady, his father, had before him been a brave and adventurous man. On the eleventh day of April, 1779, this gentleman, being in command of an exposed post, set out for Fort Augusta, to procure supplies of provisions. He had loaded his wagon heavily, and with several guards started early in the afternoon to return.

At a certain point the road forked. Those in charge of the wagon went one way, while Brady and a companion named Smith, who were on horseback, took the shorter cut. The spot was lonely. As the two men rode along, Brady related to his companion an incident in his life which had made a deep impression on his mind.

The story he told was as follows: In 1776, information had been received at Fort Augusta, of the approach of Indians. Runners were at once dispatched to the neighboring settlements. In the afternoon Brady remembered that they had forgotten to send word to a trading post, occupied by a Dutchman named Derr. He threw himself into his saddle to carry the message.

Arriving at his station, Brady found the yard full of Indians, stretched out on the ground, brutally drunk, while Derr sat calmly by smoking his pipe, as if nothing unusual had occurred. Brady rebuked him sternly. The Dutchman replied that the Indians had come and informed him that they would kill him unless he gave them liquor. Acting on the hint, he had politely rolled out a barrel of Drawing - 'Death of James Brady' rum for his guests' entertainment. As he spoke, a drunken Indian, with a long scar on his left cheek, staggered toward the half-emptied barrel to take another drink. Brady, however, interfered, and upset the barrel, spilling its contents. The Indian broke out into curses, and, with bitter emphasis, told Brady that the day would yet come when he would regret that act.

Ever since that time, said the Captain to his companion, the memory of that threat had haunted him. Knowing the Indian character, he believed that if the savage should ever chance to meet him, the threat would be fulfilled by an attempt on his life. By this time the riders had reached a place of exceeding wildness. At that moment three rifles were fired in quick succession. Brady dropped lifeless on the road. Smith bounded away. Momentarily glancing back, he saw an Indian standing over his dead friend flourishing a bloody scalp. He also saw that the savage had a long and prominent scar on the left side of his face.

Such was the fate of the father of Captain Samuel Brady. Only the year before, his younger brother, James, had also been killed by Indians. The young man, with three or four companions, had stood their guns against a tree. An Indian suddenly fired, at which the others fled. Brady, however, seized a gun, and shot the savage, only to find himself left to contend alone against a host of enemies. Two other guns he also fired at his foes with fatal effect, but while reaching for the fourth was knocked senseless. He was tomahawked, scalped, and left for dead. Coming to conciousness, the plucky fellow managed to crawl to a settlers cabin. He lived three or four days, and then died from his wounds.

In conformity to the wild customs of the frontier, the elder brother took a solemn oath that the remainder of his life should be devoted to wreaking a dreadful vengeance on the race whose members had thus twice desolated the family circle.

In 1780 Brady was dispatched from Fort Pitt to the distant towns of the Sandusky on a scout. He chose for his companions a few men and four Chickasaw Indians. The season was wet. The streams were swollen beyond their banks. Owing to several mishaps, their provisions ran low. The chart of the country which Brady carried proved to be defective and misleading. In time, however, they reached the neighborhood of the Indian towns.

While stealing through the woods, the sound of human voices broke upon them. Leaving his comrades behind him, Brady slipped forward to make observations. Sitting beside the embers of a camp-fire he found two squaws. He turned back unnoticed, leaving them unharmed. Coming back to his companions, he detected by their sullen looks and gruff answers that something had happened. The young scout sat down unconcernedly to clean his rifle. For some time nothing was said. He then called on the men to hand him their ammunition pouches. In order to make an equal distribution of the powder on hand. Instead of obeying the command, the men flatly refused. They informed Brady that the faithless Chickasaws had deserted, taking with them all the provisions, and that instead of continuing the scout, they had resolved on flight.

To this startling announcement Brady replied by handing the speaker his powder-horn, and asked him to see how much powder it contained. There was not a grain left. Raising his gun to his shoulder, Brady announced that he had one load yet in the weapon and that he would use it to maintain his authority. The men, awed into admiration for their young leader, yielded. Matters having been thus settled, Brady hid all of his company but one fellow in a ravine. He and his companion then started to the village, wading the river to an island opposite the town, where they lay during the night.

In the morning a dense fog covered the landscape. The astonished spies discovered a vast concourse of Indians, evidently just returned from an expedition against the frontiers, bringing with them a number of fine horses. The crowd was wild with hilarity over some races, by which they were testing the animals and celebrating the occasion. That night Brady, having accomplished the object of the journey, rejoined his men and commenced the return trip. Entirely destitute of provisions they nevertheless subsisted for a time on strawberries. Only one rifle-charge was left in the party.

The loaded gun was given to Brady. Discovering a deer-track, the scout followed it, and, coming within sight of the animal, attempted to fire. To his intense disappointment the gun failed to go off, and the deer fled. Brady picked the touch-hole of the weapon, and was starting in renewed pursuit of the game, when he discovered a party of Indians. They were led by a large and powerful savage on horseback, carrying in his arms a white child. The child's mother rode behind him on the horse. Ten warriors followed the leader.

Brady was a kind-hearted man. Moreover, he was young, and, therefore, gallant. From his concealment his quick eye perceived that the woman had been brutally mistreated. One of her arms was broken. Her face was a mass of bruises. Brady forgot himself. He aimed his gun, and aiming carefully for fear of injury to the mother or her child, fired, the unerring bullet plunging into the heart of the savage. The Indians were paralyzed by fright and confusion.

Seizing his opportunity, Brady rushed forth, caught the child in one arm, the woman in the other, and disappeared in the bush amid a shower of bullets. He was infinitely disgusted to find that his cowardly men had fled, allowing two prisoners to escape. Nevertheless he made his way with his two helpless companions to Fort McIntosh, and from there to Pittsburgh, where he received the congratulations of General Broadhead.

Brady's next service was a scout, with a man named Phouts, in the direction of the Susquehanna. Their start was made two hours before day. At evening they halted by a small creek and built a fire. While out hunting they discovered a deer-lick, and, as a consequence, brought into camp some excellent venison. The following day, a blue smoke, floating above the top of a distant forest, indicated an Indian camp. They approached cautiously and discovered, to their surprise, one old Indian sitting by the fire mending his moccasins. Phouts prepared to fire, but Brady prevented him from doing so, and the two men left unobserved.

A few hours later they came upon a well-defined Indian trail. Brady noted the signs, and became convinced that a strong party of Indians had passed there the previous day. He at once determined to take the old savage captive, and return forthwith to Pittsburgh. Early in the morning they returned to the Indian's camp, and found the savage lying on his back by the fire. Brady crept forward toward the Indian, and when within a few feet, gave a whoop and jumped on the prostrate savage. A brief struggle ended in the old fellow being strongly tied.

On being assured that he would be taken to Pittsburgh unharmed, the captive politely pulled aside some bushes, and pointed out a most excellent canoe. The trio embarked, floating down the creek to the spot where they had encamped the previous night, and landed. Here they encamped until morning. Brady rose early and went up the creek to where they had left some venison hanging on a tree, which they wanted for breakfast.

Meanwhile, an interesting little occurrence took place in Brady's absence. The wily Indian complained to Phouts, who was a dull Dutchman, that his cords hurt him, and begged his guard to loosen them for a few moments. The Dutchman, charmed by the docile behavior and extreme humility of the prisoner, took off the cords entirely.

The old man sat meekly on the ground without a suspicious movement. At a moment when Phouts stooped to fix the fire, the Indian gave a lightning spring toward the Dutchman's gun, which was leaning against a tree, seized it, and fired at point-blank range. In the hurry his aim was bad, and the ball only took off a part of the Dutchman's bullet-pouch. Phouts rushed on the savage, and, with one blow from his tomahawk, clove asunder his skull. Brady, alarmed by the report, hurried back, relieved to find that nothing worse had happened. Their return to Pittsburgh was made without further incident.

Brady's genius for scouting was soon recognized, and he was constantly employed on the most perilous missions. On one occasion his bravery almost brought about a fatal result. He was taken captive by a band of Indians, near Beaver River. He and four companions had come upon an Indian camp. A fire was burning, and near by lay some tempting deer meat. Their hunger overcame their prudence, and the men, roasting the venison, were soon in the midst of a hearty meal.

It is said that one of the men stopped eating, and suggested that the meat might be poisoned. At that instant there was a report from a dozen rifles. Brady's four companions dropped dead. The Indians, recognizing him, had saved his life only to reserve him for the pleasure of torture. He was taken to their village, given the usual reception of blows and beatings, and was forced to run the gauntlet. The traditional stake, with a pile of fagots, was prepared. Previous to commencing the torture, he was stripped and a circle of Indians formed around him for a fantastic dance.

The torture fires were already blazing. He felt that his end was at hand, but still, with cool head and fearless eye, he calculated the chances of escape. When the dance was at its height, a squaw, carrying in her arms a young child, strode up to Brady and hit him a terrible blow with a war-club. She was about to repeat the outrage when Brady, gathering all his strength, sprang upon her, tore the child from her arms, and, threw it clear over the circle of dancers into the flames beyond. The Indians, struck with horror, rushed, as by one thought, to rescue the child. This Brady had foreseen. In the midst of the confusion he dashed through the crowd, overturning every one in his way, and disappeared in a neighboring ravine.

Another story related of Brady places him in company with sixteen companions. The party was encamped for a night. Towards morning a gun was heard, and the scouts quickly withdrew to an elevated bluff. Beneath them they discovered six Indians standing around a fire. Brady ordered his men to lie down while he kept watch. At day-break he placed them side by side, with himself at the end of the line. At an opportune moment Brady touched, with his elbow, the man on his left, who in turn communicated it to his neighbor, and so on down the line. When the nudge reached the last man, he fired, followed by all the others. Every Indian in the camp was killed, with perhaps, a single exception.

Brady and two companions, passing along the northern shore of the Ohio, once reached the neighborhood of a cabin occupied by a man named Gray. Suddenly Brady detected the presence of Indians. In the moment of concealing himself Brady saw Gray approaching carelessly on horseback. As the hunter passed him Brady sprang out, dragged him off his horse, and whispered, "I am Sam Brady. For heaven's sake keep quiet."

That this summary treatment saved Gray's life there can be no doubt. The four men approached the site of the cabin and discovered to be a heap of embers. Of Gray's wife and children there was no trace. Gray, frantic with grief, begged his companions to join him in pursuit of he abductors. To Brady such an appeal was never made in vain. In two hours they came upon the Indians, who were there in force. There, bound hand and foot, sat Gray's wife and children.

The number of the savages so much exceeded that of Brady's party that a night attack was the only hope for the rescue of the captives. At an auspicious moment the four avengers stole noiselessly into the camp and distributed themselves among the sleepers. At a given signal from Brady each man tomahawked the nearest Indians. The survivors, leaped to their feet, bounded into the forest, leaving their captives in the hands of the white men.

Probably the most famous of Brady's exploits in that known as "Brady's Leap." He had been pursued by Indians for some distance from Sandusky, and, at last, seemed to be hedged in in all directions. It was a principle with the scout to never surrender. Taking in the situation with a quick glance, he bounded off toward a creek, at a point where it rushed through a rocky gorge. From Drawing - 'Brady's Leap' bank to bank was more than twenty-five feet. On his way, Brady hurled two Indians to the ground. The whole swarm were following him with wild yells, believing that when he reached the brink of the chasm, he must be forced to pause and become their captive. Rushing forward with the greatest impetuosity, Brady collected all his energies, and as his foot touched the verge of the precipice, he gave a terrific leap, catching the bushes on the steep, rocky cliff of the opposite bank, and quickly scrambling to his feet.

The Indians were dumbfounded. It was not long, however, till they made their way around, and were again in pursuit of Brady. For his part, he had received a bullet in his leg as he jumped the chasm, and found himself unable to maintain his terrific speed. He made his way to a body of water, which still bears the name of "Brady's Lake." He unhesitatingly plunged in, diving to a spot covered by pond lilies. Here he found that he could keep his face under water by breathing through the hollow stem of a weed. The Indians followed his bloody track to the edge of the lake, and concluded that he had committed suicide. When their pursuit was abandoned Brady came out of the water and made his way home.

In 1786 Captain Brady married a Miss Drucilla Swearingen. Her father, a prominent soldier of the Revolution, objected to the match, but the beautiful young lady, enamored with the prowess and prestige of her lover, married him. The fond and lovely wife suffered greatly in mind during the absences of her husband on lengthy scouts. He was always a little lame from the wound received at the time of his famous leap. He also became quite deaf in his old age. This he attributed to his having remained so long under the water of the lake. His last years were spent at West Liberty, West Virginia, where he died.

Retyped and reformatted by Ray and Kathy Leigh


Brady, the Backwoodsman
Created April 25, 2001
Copyright 2002
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