A book of American pioneers would be incomplete without a sketch of Daniel Boone, the pioneer of Kentucky. It is not because he had such thrilling adventures, for the experiences of many of the borderers far surpassed those of Boone in wild heroism and wonderful feats. It is the character of Boone which impressed itself upon the minds of his contemporaries, and gives him such a prominent place in the history of the Ohio valley. His grandfather came to this country from England. No further reason need be sought for this move on the part of the old gentleman than the fact that he had nineteen children. He possessed peculiar qualifications for the population of a new country.
Our hero was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, but his family moved at an early age to North Carolina. His education consisted in a short term at a school, opened by a wandering Irishman. The building was a square log structure, with a fire-place occupying one side of the room, and holding a log ten feet long. One day young Boone found himself at a spot where his schoolmaster had been observed to frequently stop. Under some vines he discovered, to his surprise, a bottle of whisky. That night Master Boone took some of his comrades into his confidence, and poured into the bottle a quantity of tartar-emetic.
Having set up the job, the boys waited on the following morning for the dénouement. During recess the boys, with many a poke in one another's ribs, observed the unsuspecting pedagogue going to the spot where the bottle was hidden. He reappeared in a few moments with his face red as fire. The school was called together more quickly than usual, and the urchins trembled on their puncheon seats. The first two scholars made wretched failures of their lessons, and received terrific thrashings. Boone's turn came next. The Irishman's face was white as paper. Boone's head was buzzing with curiosity about the whisky bottle, and he too failed. The master began to whip his pupil when the medicine began to take fearful effect. Boone revenged himself for his beating by throwing the wretched man down, at which signal the whole school joined in a shout and ran off.
We have one other brief glimpse of Boone's boyhood. One evening he failed to return from a hunt. His father and neighbors went out to search for the missing lad, who was but fourteen years old. At the end of two days the father found the lad living in a temporary hovel of sods and branches. Numerous skins of wild animals decorated the place. A piece of venison was roasting at the fire. Here the boy was enjoying himself all alone.
When he arrived manhood, Boone married Rebecca Bryan. The first explorers brought back glowing reports of Kentucky, and in 1769, Boone, fascinated by these stories, with five companions, started to view this inland paradise themselves. They built a cabin on Red River, to protect themselves from a tremendous rain, which fell steadily for two weeks. Here they remained almost stationary for six months. The vast droves of buffalo and shadowy herds of deer supplied the men with profitable employment and exciting pleasure.
On the 22d of December, 1769, Boone and Stuart resolved to explore the interior of the country. In all the six months of their residence in the lovely region, neither the figure or even a foot-print of a savage had been seen. After a few day's journey, the men discovered a lofty mountain, which they climbed, in order to obtain a view of the country. Standing on its top, their dark figures outlined the sky, and visible for many miles, the hunters' eyes were gladdened with a view of the fairest landscape in the world. Sloping hills, alternated with lovely valleys; leafless forests, with wide extended plains. Far to the north rolled the peaceful Ohio, beyond which lay expanses of a country destined to be the rest of the empire, the home of busy millions.
Coming down from the mountain, little suspecting any danger, the two hunters were startled by a terrific yell just to their right. At the same instant the bushes parted, and dark forms emerging quickly, surrounded them and they were taken prisoners.
The captives were as yet ignorant of Indian customs. They knew not one word of the language. As the howling captors bound them and marched them off to the forest, Boone did not know but that it might be to their death. He had, however, the cold and self-possessed temper which has in all times characterized men of action and leadership, a disposition which knows no special joy nor disheartening depression. There was nothing to be done except to obey his savage guards.
Manners are an art. It has been said that there is a mode of conduct possible which will blind the shrewdest insight and foil the most expert observer. The popular notion of the art of manners assumes that it belongs solely to the refined, the elegant; that its home is in society, and its disciples the votaries of fashion. Yet the languid belle and the prancing dandy are by no means the only nor the real experts in manners. The shaggy backwoodsman, dressed in the skin of wild animals, speaking in a peculiar dialect of frontier phraseology, and passing his life in restless warfare with a hideous and blood-thirsty foe, practices the so-called parlor art with infinitely more zeal and success than the empty-headed throngs of fashionable society.
Boone, on this occasion, revealed his superior skill in this regard. Though his heart was full of apprehension, his demeanor indicated the most fearless indifference. He acted a part. He had a care for the tone of his voice, the poise of his head, the length of his step, the expression of his eye. He succeeded in what he was about. The Indians insensibly gave way to the influence of his manners. Reading in his eye no fear, and in his air no discontent, their vigilance insensibly relaxed. They and their captive could not exchange one single word. It was all pantomine, or manners.
On the seventh night after the capture, the Indians went to sleep. For three days Boone had been unbound. At night the bonds had heretofore been replaced. But what need was there to tie a man who was willing to stay with them anyhow.
Boone and his companion escaped. They did not kill any of their guards, nor did they attempt it. It was not a physical achievement, but a mental one. They made their way back to their cabin. The door was open. The rude furniture was broken in pieces. There was no fire in the fire-place. The stock of skins, the fruit of six months' toil, was gone. There was no clue to their companions. The whole thing was a mystery, and continued to be so. To the day of his death, Boon never knew whether the other men had stolen the stock and made off with it, or whether they had been killed by Indians, and the cabin plundered by the murderers.
There are some rare joys in the life in the wilderness. Such was the accidental meeting of Boone with his brother, who, with a companion, had also came to Kentucky. There are many sorrows in a life in the wilderness. Such was that which befell Boone when, a few days later, he and Stuart were pursued by Indians, and Stuart was killed and scalped.
Only a week afterward, a still more distressing calamity happened. The companion of Boone's brother happened to remain away from the camp one night on a hunt. Finding, in a day or two, that he did not return, the two brothers began a search. In time they came upon the remains of the unfortunate man. While asleep by his fire, he was surrounded and attacked by a troop of famished wolves. The stock of his gun was shattered from the desperate use he had made of it in trying to beat back the animals. At last, his strength failing, the throng of brutes had borne him to the ground, and quickly stripped the flesh from his bones, which the Boones found scattered about. But for the gun, the remains would have been beyond identification.
Boone and his brother thus left alone soon found their ammunition supply running low. The brother returned to Carolina to procure a new stock of powder and ball, leaving Boone in complete solitude. "I was," he says, "left by myself, without bread, salt, or sugar, without the company of my fellow-creatures, or even a horse or dog." On the 27th of July, 1770, his brother returned. He brought with him two good horses, with heavy packs of the much-needed supplies. Not till March, '71, did they think of returning. During all this time they maintained a ceaseless vigilance, never making a permanent camp. During his brother's absence, Boone had frequently slept in a canebrake, without fire, and heard the yell of the Indians around him.
At the date last named by Daniel rejoined his family after an absence of three years, during which he had tasted neither bread nor salt. He came home fired with the fever for removing to the new country. He sold out his property, loaded some horses and milch cows with the necessary baggage, and, amid prophecies of their destruction, started back to the wilderness with his wife and children.
His clear statements of the advantages of the region induced five other families and forty well armed men to accompany him. The party felt great confidence in its strength. Pride goeth before destruction. The party of immigrants were attacked by Indians near Cumberland Mountain, and six of their number killed, among whom, to the infinite sorrow of the great pioneer, was Boone's oldest son. This reception so startled the party that they beat a hasty retreat to the settlements on Clinch River, forty miles to the rear, where they remained for several years.
In 1774 and 1775 Daniel Boone was engaged in the border conflicts of the time. Only one incident of his part in these struggles has been preserved. He was taken prisoner one night by Indians. He had just extinguished his camp-fire, wrapped himself in his blanket, and lain down to sleep, being, as was his custom, on a lone hunt, when he suddenly felt himself seized in the darkness by a number of hands.
Resistance was useless. He was bound with strips of buffalo hide, and carried to the Indian camp. The squaws immediately began to search their prisoner for valuables, and they soon drew forth a flask of strong whisky. Boone looked on with secret joy as he saw the bottle passed around from mouth to mouth. He earnestly wished the bottle was ten times its size, and that every drop might stretch a brave dead-drunk on the ground. He felt, to his sorrow, that there was not enough liquor to intoxicate the company.
At that moment a gun was heard in the distance. The braves jumped up, held a short talk with the squaws, pointing frequently to Boone, and then seizing their guns, hurried away in the darkness to see what the firing of the gun meant. The squaws sat down cross-legged around the fire, and took frequent drinks from the bottle, until one by one, they sprawled out on the ground, and went to sleep.
It was time for action. With the frontiersman's ingenuity and pluck, Boone rolled over and over toward the fire, held his hands in the blaze, in spite of the torture, until his bonds were burnt asunder. He sprang to his feet, and, though severely burned, snatched up his rifle for escape. He says, that at that moment he was on the point of tomahawking the drunken squaws, but on second thought reflected that to kill such defenseless wretches would be murder, and he desisted. Devoting his tomahawk to less bloody work, he walked to an ash sapling, and chopped out three large chips to mark the spot. He concealed himself in a canebrake, and, in a day or two, made his way home.
Many years later a gentleman laid out and purchased a tract of several thousand acres, and, by chance, took as one of the corners of his survey "an ash marked by three distinct notches of the tomahawk." Another series of years rolled by, the ash had grown until the bark had completely covered the marks. The land became involved in litigation. It was impossible to find the boundary tree.
Daniel Boone, who at that time was living in Missouri, was sent for to identify the spot. He had almost forgotten the incident we have related, but, after talking the matter over, remembered it. He returned to Kentucky, and, in company with several witnesses, went to the locality where he had been a prisoner twenty years before. Waiting until the moon rose, so as to reproduce, as far as possible, his surroundings on the night of his capture, Boone started through the woods, eyeing each tree attentively, and at last stopped before a large ash, averring positively that it was the tree.
His companions examined the trunk closely. Not a mark was to be seen in the dark. The men were skeptical, but Boone took an ax and cut off a strip of the bark. Still nothing was to be seen. He then scraped and cut with his butcher-knife, until he did come to a place where the tree had been scarred a long time before. The astonished men then went to work, scraped the whole trunk carefully until three hacks, as plain as three notches ever were, could be seen. On the strength of this remarkable testimony the gentleman who had sent for Boone won his lawsuit.
In the spring of 1775 Boone and some companions were employed to guard a company of surveyors through Kentucky. The party had two battles with the Indians, losing eleven of their number. These attacks suggested the necessity of building a small fort, lest the Indians should little by little destroy the whole party. For two weeks the men worked with unremitting toil in the construction of a block-house on the Kentucky River, to which the name of Boonesborough was eventually given. Beside the block-house several cabins were built, and the whole surrounded by a palisade.
When the work was done it looked so strong, so secure; it was such a snug retreat from all the dangers of the forest, that Boone resolved to bring his family there. He returned to the settlement on Clinch River, and at once started with Mrs. Boone and her daughters for the new fort in Kentucky. The women of Boone's family were the first white women who ever looked upon the Kentucky River. A few months prior to the founding of Boonesborough James Harrod had erected a block-house at Harrodsburg. These two places soon became famous as the only refuge from the savages south of the Ohio.
Boone's family had a lonely life. Yet the excitement in which they lived, growing out of constant danger from wild animals and Indians, took the place of companionship. Three more families soon came to make their home in the fort. After a few months' residence, the women of the place were accustomed to venture outside of the palisade for short distances.
One July day, Jemima Boone, with two girls named Calloway, growing weary of the cramped quarters of the palisade, took a canoe, and crossed the Kentucky River to a point where the overhanging trees formed a dense and pleasant shade. The cool retreat afforded an agreeable relief from the heat of a July day. These pioneer girls had few pleasures, and the little diversion was all the more enjoyed.
While floating lazily in the water, sometimes splashing with their paddles, five Indians hid themselves nearby. The girls were unconscious of any impending danger, until they discovered that their boat, propelled by an unseen force, was moving into a leafy nook out of sight of the fort. Looking for the cause, they discovered in front of them the head of an Indian. He was swimming with all his might with the tying rope of the boat in his teeth. The girls screamed at the top of their voices. They were heard at the fort. The men were scattered through the forest, busy with their usual occupations.
Before anything could be done to rescue the girls, the Indians had seized them and started off through the forest at the top of their speed. It was nearly two hours before word of the terrible mishap could be sent to the men of the fort and a party of sufficient strength could be made up to attempt a rescue. Those hours seemed like ages. The women at the fort wrung their hands in agony, while the one white man who happened to be there hurried off to find help. When Boone at last got started with eight companions, the Indians were several miles in advance.
Darkness came on, but the pursuers caught no glimpse of the chase. All through the night the white men, with a skill which we of the present day can neither explain or understand, followed the trail of the savages. Some time during the following night the ruffians were discovered. They were attacked and driven off before they had time to kill their fair prisoners. Two of the Indians were killed, while Boone's party was uninjured. The poor girls were overjoyed at their rescue, and the glad welcome which they received at the fort on their return may well be imagined.
The wandering band of Indians who had captured the three girls was a precursor of a host of warriors who were on their way to destroy the white settlements. Two hundred braves surrounded Boonesborough, and for two days attempted to capture the place. They retreated only to renew the attempt a few days later. Now and then some defender of the fort was killed, so that the garrison was depleted to fifteen men. The Indians fought with great boldness. Under cover of night, they stole up to the gates of the fort, and attempted to hew them down with their tomahawks. The arrival of a hundred men, under Colonel Bowman, coming to the relief of Boonesborough, Harrodsburg, and Logan's fort, suddenly put an end to the siege.
The wants of the little community could not be supplied without some exposure and risk. The dangers of hunting were great. Behind every tree or log might lurk a savage. A still greater danger was the procurement of salt. In January, 1778, Boone took thirty men to the Blue Lick, to make salt for all the different stations in Kentucky.
It is related that one day he had wandered some distance from his party, and was suddenly confronted by two stalwart Indians. Boone threw himself behind a tree, and cautiously exposed a small portion of his body, to attract their aim. An Indian fired, and Boone dropped as if killed. To make the second savage throw away his shot, Boone repeated the trick, and while the two Indians were hurriedly attempting to reload, rushed out and deliberately shot the foremost savage. He then advanced upon the Indian.
The white man relied on his knife, the Indian on his tomahawk. Boone planted his foot on the corpse of the dead savage, and awaited the attack with resolute eye and compressed lips. His antagonist advanced, and with the well-known, quick, circular movement, was about to bury his hatchet in the white man's brain. At the same instant, when the Indian's arm was lifted, Boone, quick as lightning, plunged his knife into his exposed side. There was a spurt of hot blood which crimsoned the hand upon the knife handle, a convulsive, despairing groan. The hatchet descended, but slipped from the nerveless grasp and stuck in the ground. The Indian threw his hands to his side in vain attempt to stop the crimson tide, bestowed one look of unutterable malignity and hopelessness upon the man who still stood confronting him with the bloody hand and knife yet held aloft, then fell to rise no more.
On the 7th of February Boone, while out hunting, discovered a war party of a hundred Indians approaching him. He took to flight, but being then a man beyond the prime of life, and somewhat stiff from exposure, he was unable to contend with the braves who pursued him. He was captured and taken back to the lick, where found his whole party of twenty-seven men prisoners like himself.
At this point we note a significant fact. The Indians neither tortured nor offered to put them to death. The conflict with the white man was a recent thing with the tribes so far west. Boone and his companions were taken to the Indian town of Chillicothe. As usual, Boone's mild and patient character made its impression upon the savages. While his courage excited the admiration of the fiercest brave, his gentleness touched the heart of the humblest squaw. His knowledge of human nature also helped him. Sometimes he was invited to engage in shooting matches with the Indians. On such occasions he usually took care to plant his bullets a little wider from the mark than the Indians, lest he should excite their animosity by beating them.
In the spring Boone was taken to Detroit. Here Governor Hamilton himself offered £100 for his ransom, but so strong was the affection of the Indians for their prisoner that they refused to consider it. Several English gentlemen, touched with sympathy for the misfortunes of the old prisoner, made pressing offers of money and other articles; but old Boone, with sturdy independence, refused to receive benefits which he could never return. In this incident we discover the character of Boone's reputation. It was in the midst of the Revolutionary War. Yet the Englishmen recognized Boone as a non-combatant. The Indians themselves knew that he was not an Indian fighter. He was simply and truly a pioneer.
Boone was taken back to Chillicothe, only to be terrified by the preparation of a great war-party for an attack on Boonesborough. His anxiety on account of his wife and children became intolerable. He resolved, at every risk, to attempt an escape so as to warn them of the impeding danger. Early one morning he started from Chillicothe, directing his course toward Boonesborough. He traveled the one hundred and sixty miles in four days, during which time he ate but one meal and slept none.
Just at sunset he came in sight of the fort. The gates were open. Some women were leisurely milking the cows on a pleasant stretch of turf some distance from them. A little further off a man was chopping wood. The whole place looked to the returned captive like a bit of Acadia. Every thing wore an air of peace and quiet, as if danger were the farthest things from the minds of the little company of pioneers. Boone, hoarse, haggard, disfigured by Indian paint and costume, his eyes glaring wildly from their sunken sockets, shouted to the people to come into the fort. At the apparition waving its arms in the twilight, the people made haste to follow its advice, fleeing wildly to the gates as if it were a wild man.
A moment later old Boone was recognized. A shout of welcome went up. Receiving the greetings of his friends, he told them in a few short words of their danger, ordered every person outside the gates to be called in, and preparation to be made for an Indian attack. This done he looked anxiously around for his family. A hard disappointment awaited him. His wife and daughters, giving him up for dead, had returned to North Carolina, taking all his property with them. Swallowing his chagrin, Boone, after a rest, went to work with a will to repair and strengthen the fort. Traces of lurking Indians could be seen in the surrounding woods, spies, no doubt, upon the fort. Their reports must have been bad, as the Indian invasion was not forthcoming.
In the previous September, Simon Kenton had abandoned his cabin at Washington, Kentucky, and seeing a white man told him that a settlement had already been made in the interior at a place called Boonesborough, and had repaired to this place. He was overjoyed to find a substantial fort, and was greeted by Boone himself.
Kenton was a valuable accession to the place. It was on the failure of the Indian invasion to materialize that Boone resolved on his expedition against the Indian village at Paint Creek. We have elsewhere mentioned the fact of Boone's retreat, on finding that his advance was discovered, and have related the adventures of Kenton, who resolved to go on with his friend Montgomery.
Boone's reason for retreat was the conviction that the whole Indian force were now on their way to Boonesborough, and that the condition of the fort and of his own party was extremely critical. He hurried back, and fell in with the trail of a great Indian war-party headed directly towards Boonesborough. Making a wide detour to avoid the savages, and traveling night and day, he and his men reached the fort on the evening of the seventh day, in advance of the Indians.
On the following morning, five hundred warriors appeared before the fort. They were commanded by British officers. The ensuing siege was, in fact, an obscure chapter in the Revolutionary War. A demand for surrender was made, accompanied by the significant and cruel hint that, if hostilities ensued, the handful of British officers would hardly be able to restrain the Indians from massacring the members of the garrison should they be taken prisoners. Boone asked two days to consider. The request, strange to say, was granted.
The intervening time was busily employed in strengthening the fort. Every man resolved to die in its defense rather than surrender. When Boone informed the British commander of his decision, the latter said that he meant no harm to the settlers, and that if nine of the principal men would come out of the fort and treat with him, he and his Indians would at once go away. For some unexplained reason, Boone assented to this proposal, and, with eight picked men emerged from the fort, and was soon surrounded by throngs of hideous braves. Some sort of "a treaty" was pretended to be patched up.
Boone and his friends prepared to return, when the British commander said that it was an invariable custom of the Indians at the close of a treaty for two warriors to take hold of either hand of each white man. The Indians at once proceeded to act on the hint. The white men, who were not surprised by the movement, flung off their assailants, and started for the fort. The men at the latter place, who were looking on with deep anxiety, instantly fired upon the Indians, under cover of which the nine men reached the fort and barred the gates. Only one of their numbers had been wounded in this scrimmage.
A siege of nine days followed. Every attack by the Indians resulted in the loss of many of their braves, while the whites suffered but little. The fort stood sixty yards from the river bank. The enemy, foiled in their other efforts, commenced to dig a mine from the river bank into the fort. One morning Boone's quick eye detected the discoloration of the river from the fresh earth thrown into it, and instantly divined the state of affairs. A deep trench was cut by the garrison under the palisade and then in front of the fort so as to intersect the approaching mine. This stratagem forced the Indians to abandon their attempt. At last, foiled in every effort, the savages withdrew. This was the last siege Boonesborough ever sustained. It occurred in the summer of 1778.
In the fall of this year, Boone, who was piqued at the facility with which his family had given him up for lost, returned to North Carolina. He was detained here by family troubles until 1780, when he again returned to Boonesborough with his wife and daughters.
Shortly after his return, Boone and his brother went to Blue Licks, where he had been taken captive, and were surprised by Indians. The brother was killed and scalped. Boone fled, urged on by a relentless pursuit. The Indians had with them a remarkable dog, which tracked Boone incessantly, and prevented his concealing himself. The situation was critical. Every twist and turn he made was detected by his pursuers, who were guided by the dog. At last Boone calmly paused, and waited till the animal should come in sight. It was a hazardous thing to stop with the Indians so near. In a moment the dog came bounding toward him, with a great red tongue lolling from his mouth, and uttering mournful bays. At that moment Boone fired, and killed the brute. Then, under cover of the forest and approaching night, he made his escape.
Sometime about this time in Boone's career, he, with a few companions, was surprised in the woods by a large party of Indians. The whites were eating breakfast, and the savages sat down near by without hostile demonstrations, and pretended to prepare their own meal, acting as if they were completely ignorant of the presence of Boone. The latter cautioned his men in an undertone to be prepared for a fight at any moment. Boone then walked toward the Indian chief unarmed, and intently gnawing the meat from a bone. The savage, who was also eating, licked his greasy hands, and rose to greet Boone. The latter asked to see a knife, with the Indian was cutting his meat. Boone took the long knife, and with a dexterous juggle, affected to swallow it, concealing it at the same time in his sleeve.
The Indians looked on with wide-eyed astonishment, while Boone struck his stomach, pronouncing the knife very good. In a few moments he went through another contortion, and apparently vomited forth the knife, which he wiped on his sleeve and returned to the Indian. The latter took it cautiously between his thumb and forefinger, and flung it into the bushes, as if the thing were contaminating. The whole party of savages then instantly broke and ran, regarding Boone, no doubt, as the devil himself.
Kentucky was filling up rapidly with settlers. Numerous other stations besides Boonesborough and Harrodsburg afforded refuge from savages. For a year or two the country was free from Indian hostilities. The settlers, busy with their farms, began to hope that the wars with the savages were over. In 1782, however, the tempest of destruction broke forth again. Numerous isolated outrages were committed by Indians.
In the spring, twenty-five savages sneaked up to Estill's station, entered a cabin somewhat apart from the rest, and after outraging a woman and her two daughters, brutally murdered them. A few moments later some women of the settlement discovered the tragedy which had been enacted. The men of the place were nearly all absent, searching for this very band of Indians. Word was with difficulty conveyed to Captain Estill, who commanded the squad of pioneers. On receiving the information, instant pursuit was resolved on. Five men, anxious about their families, returned to the station. Ten more were soon left behind on account of their jaded horses.
The party, reduced to twenty-five men, pushed on, and over-took the Indians, whose numbers were exactly the same. The battle, which is memorable in the annals of pioneer warfare, took place at a small stream, on the opposite banks of which the combatants were posted. For an hour the loss on both sides was equal. The Indians fought with the pertinacity and coolness of the whites themselves. It seemed, as the battle continued, that nothing remained except to fight until all the men on each side were killed. Estill resolved on a stratagem. Six men were ordered to attempt a flank movement. They were, however, utterly destroyed in the effort. The Indians now pressed their foes hard. Estill, himself, became engaged in a terrible hand-to-hand struggle with the Wyandot chief. Each man made furious exertions to overpower his adversary. The friends of each dared not fire for fear of wounding the wrong man.
At last, a mishap of the most serious character occurred. Estill had in the year before broken his arm. In this combat, the bones, imperfectly knitted, came apart. As the arm gave way, Estill gave a cry of despair, and the next instant the Indian sunk a knife into his heart. The triumph of the savage was short. Just as he took the scalp in air, a rifle ball laid him in the lowly dust beside his fallen foe. The whites fled, bearing wild reports of the numbers of the Indians to the agitated settlements. Panic and defeat seemed about to overwhelm the pioneers. Band after band met the fate of Estill's company.
In August came the famous attack of Simon Girty, on Bryant's station, on the southern bank of the Elkhorn, between Maysville and Lexington, Kentucky. The garrison of the place was about to march to the relief of Hoy's station. Just as the gates were thrown open, a volley of rifle-balls rattled against the sides of the fort. No weakening of the garrison was to be thought of; instead, preparations for a siege had to be made at once. Their greatest peril in case of a siege arose from a scarcity of water. The spring on which they depended was some distance away from the fort. In a neighboring wood, signs of an ambush could be detected.
A council was held in the fort, and it was suggested that all the women get buckets, and go down to the spring after water, as if no ambush was suspected. The Indians, believing themselves undiscovered, would hardly attack a party of squaws, when by waiting longer, some of the fighting part of the garrison might be ambuscaded at the spring. This plan was adopted. Only one thing was wanting. This was the women's consent. Sharp words were indulged in. They did not see why the men could not go after the water. At last, some of the stronger and more sensible women took a practical view of the situation, and seizing their buckets, started boldly to the spring. The others followed with fear and trembling. On they went, defenseless and frightened, to within a short distance of the deadly ambush, where five hundred Indians lay concealed.
The buckets were filled with assumed deliberation, and the trembling procession of females started back to the fort. As they crossed the wide, open space their steps quickened, until every woman was in a dead run for the gates. Though pale with fear, they reached the fort without having been molested. As had been surmised, the Indians withheld their attack in the belief that some of the men of the fort could be caught at the spring before long.
Meanwhile an Indian decoy party had appeared on the opposite side of the fort. Thirteen men went out and attacked them, a maneuver which at once brought the whole Indian force upon the opposite side of the fort, which they believed to be unprotected. Heavy volleys of rifle-shots poured into them at point-blank range, destroyed the delusion, and the Indians fled to the woods. A regular battle was now begun.
At two o'clock a diversion occurred. Two messengers had carried the news of the attack to Lexington, near which a company, on its way to Hoy's station, was met, and its course changed to Bryant's station. At two o'clock in the afternoon this re-enforcement reached the vicinity of the fort. The Indians, discovered their approach, attempted to cut them off. The horsemen spurred on through clouds of dust, and made their way into the fort. Those on foot were not so fortunate. Finding themselves about to be destroyed, they took to a corn-field and attempted to escape. Some succeeded, but several were cut down in their flight. In the evening Girty called on the place to surrender. A man named Reynolds replied from the fort with taunts and insults, which put Girty in a terrible rage.
In the morning the men looked out through the palisades toward the spot where the Indians had encamped the night before, and were astonished to find the place entirely deserted. The enemy was in full retreat. Re-enforcements also began to pour into the fort, among them a strong army under Daniel Boone, from Boonesborough. Each little party which arrived had a leader, and among the multitude of counselors arose a discussion, which ended in a unanimous resolve not to wait for General Logan, who with a strong force was marching to Bryant's but to commence pursuit of the Indians at once.
On the afternoon of the 18th of August, 1782, began the fatal march. The trail of the Indians was very plain. Here and there the enemy had chopped bits out of the trees. These signs made Boone and a few others cautious, as they indicated no anxiety to conceal retreat, but rather the reverse. At the Lower Blue Licks the whites, on the following day, came in sight of the enemy. The pursuers were gathered on the southern bank of the Licking River. On the opposite side a small group of savages could be seen standing on the top of a ridge. They coolly stared at the whites, and then disappeared.
A hurried consulation was held as to what should be done. The men were now a long way from any point of support. The country was wild and lonely, well adapted for ambuscades. The enemy was largely superior in strength to the whites. Boone advised a return or, at least a halt, until Logan's force could come up with them. The discussion continued, when suddenly Hugh McGary, whose fierce and impetuous temper chafed at delay or deliberation when Indians were so near, gave a loud yell for "all who are not cowards" to follow him. At the same instant he spurred his horse into the stream.
The example was contagious. Calm deliberation was at an end, and the whole company crowded pell-mell after him. Through the river and up the opposite ridge they rushed in confused tumult. They hurried along the trail about a mile, burning with reckless zeal which the rash McGary had inspired. Suddenly a party of Indians confronted them and fired. The place was inauspicious for the whites. They were on open ground, while the foe occupied a ravine, filled with a dense growth of trees and bushes. This ravine flanked the ridge from which the whites fought.
A severe battle at once began. The lagging settlers hurried to the front to the support of their companions. As soon as the Indians saw the whites well bunched together, a strong party of several hundred warriors started to throw themselves in their rear and cut off retreat. The movement was easy and on the point of success. The whites, seeing their peril, broke and ran back toward the river. The scene was awful. The battle of Blue Licks was really a slaughter. The Indians fell upon the fugitives, outnumbering them ten to one, and tomahawking them not singly, but by dozens.
At the moment of the retreat, Boone, who was in the front of the fight, and had already seen his son and many neighbors killed, found himself and a few friends surrounded by savages, and retreat was hopelessly cut off. Thoroughly acquainted with the ground, he spurred forward boldly into the ravine which the Indians had occupied, finding it, as he expected, almost deserted. By a roundabout course he reached the Licking, crossed it at a remote point, and reached the settlements in safety.
At the ford the Indians plunged into the water, falling upon and scalping their unhappy victims, and then letting the corpses float away, leaving behind a crimson trail in the blue water. There was no selfishness among the whites. Those who were able to boldly helped their companions. Young Reynolds, who had given Girty the insult from the wall of the fort, was mounted on a fine horse. Half-way to the ford he overtook Captain Patterson, a man infirm from former wounds, and in his flight on foot in good way to be killed. With kingly generosity Reynolds sprang to the round, placed his protesting friend in the saddle, and continued his own flight on foot. He saved his friend, but was taken prisoner.
He was at first guarded by three Indians, but the excitement of the pursuit was so fascinating that two of the savages turned their prisoner over to the third one, and eagerly ran on to take part in the fray. Reynolds marched quietly on, under the eye of his captor, who carried a tomahawk and a loaded rifle. But when the Indian stooped down for a moment to tie his moccasin, Reynolds leaped on him, stunning him with terrific blows from his fists, and instantly disappeared in a thicket, making his way home in safety.
The survivors of the battle of Blue Licks spread terror among the sorrowing settlements. Sixty of the picked men of Kentucky had been slain, and a number taken captives. It was a time when every man was worth much more to the new community. On the second day after the slaughter General Logan, with four hundred and fifty men, visited the fatal spot, and interred the swollen and disfigured bodies of the dead. Blue Licks was the most unlucky spot Boone ever knew. Here he had been taken captive, and kept for so many months. Here too, his brother had been killed before his eyes, while he himself barely escaped with his life. And here, at last, his son Israel, together with sixty of his neighbors and friends, had fallen in the battle we have just described. He subsequently took part in an expedition against the Indian towns of Ohio, but without results.
Here Boone's adventures close. We have no record that he ever figured in any subsequent fight with the Indians. He remained for some years a quiet farmer. As the years rolled on and his old friends, one by one, passed away, he became lonely, and, to some extent, unhappy. The country in which he had been a pioneer grew and developed into a splendid State of fertile farms and thrifty towns. Political questions succeeded the old agitations of the border wars.
But in all this Boone took no part. He wandered around--in the present, but not of it. In 1792 he dictated a brief and rather dry sketch of his life to some young man who could write. The young scribe palmed off some cheap rhetoric on the old man, who, no doubt regarded it as thrilling eloquence. He was never so happy as when one would take the book, in which his name appeared "in print," and read it to him. He never wearied of it. Innumerable times the dull book, was read over to him, and he never failed to listen with intense interest, rubbing his hands and exclaiming, "All that's true--every word of it--not a lie in it!" he never spoke of himself unless questioned, but this published account of his life was the Delilah of his imagination.
The last of Boone were strikingly like those of Simon Kenton, George Rogers Clark, and many others of the earliest settlers. The brave and heroic race of pioneers seemed to have no capacity for adapting themselves to the new and changed conditions of life which surrounded them. Their rigid and unyielding disposition, which refused to yield to circumstances, but viewed the advancing tide of civilization with sullen and morose regrets, has in it something of the very nature of the red men, in fighting whom they passed their lives.
Boone became embarrassed and involved in lawsuits, lost all his property, and, at last, heartsore and unhappy, took his way to Missouri. Here, in the wilderness, he once more found comparative peace. He hunted and trapped, selling his furs at St. Louis, till he had laid up a considerable sum.
One day he reappeared at Boonesborough. He spent no time in reminiscence or pleasure, but with an expression on his face which indicated that he had some important task to perform, which would never let him rest until it was accomplished, sought out all his creditors, took their word for the amount which was owing to them, and paid them all off in full. This done, the honest old man shouldered his gun, and trudged back to Missouri. His face wore a brighter look than for some time. He took long hunting and trapping expeditions to the north-west, to the sources of the Missouri River. On one occasion he was on the Osage River, and was taken dangerously ill. His only companion was a negro lad. One pleasant day he managed to crawl out of his cabin, and marked out the spot where he wished the boy to bury him. He did not die, however, but lived to meet with further reverses.
The title which he had acquired through the Spanish government to certain Missouri lands was declared invalid, and at the age of seventy-six the venerable pioneer again found himself without one acre in all the boundless domain which he had explored. He however, maintained his sweetness of temper, and in 1812, petitioned the Legislature of Kentucky to use its influence with Congress for the confirmation of his Spanish title to ten thousand acres of land. The request was granted, but Congress hesitated, and, after long delay, confirmed in him the title to one thousand acres of land, unmarketable at two cents an acre. Before this tardy and insufficient act of justice was done, his faithful wife, who had followed him through so many years of adventure, passed away. From that time he lived with his son, passing his days in meditative rambles through the forests. At the advanced age of eighty-two years he went on a hunting expedition of more than two hundred miles.
In 1819 a distinguished artist visited Boone at his dwelling near the Missouri, for the purpose of taking his portrait, and found him in a "small, rude cabin, indisposed, and reclining on his bed. A slice from the loin of a buck, twisted about the ramrod of his rifle, within reach of him as he lay, was roasting before the fire. Several other cabins, arranged in the form of a parallelogram, were occupied by the descendants of the pioneer. Here he lived in the midst of his posterity. His withered energies and locks of snow indicated that the sources of existence were nearly exhausted."
He died September 26, 1820, at the home of his son-in-law, in Flanders, Calloway County, Missouri, being then eighty-seven years old.
Daniel Boone is the most honored of all the pioneers of the Ohio valley. This is as it should be. The gentleness and humanity which pervaded his life stand out in marked contrast with the fierceness and brutality which characterized so many of the borderers. He was a true pioneer.
Governor Morehead, in a memorial address on the life and services of Daniel Boone, has said: "His life is a forcible example of the powerful influence a single absorbing passion exerted over the destiny of an individual. Possessing no other acquirements than a very common education, he was enabled, nevertheless, to maintain through a long and useful career, a conspicuous rank among the most distinguished of his contemporaries. He united, in an eminent degree, the qualities of shrewdness, caution, courage, and uncommon muscular strength. He was seldom taken by surprise, he never shrank from danger, nor cowered beneath the pressure of exposure and fatigue. His manners were simple and unobtrusive--exempt from the rudeness characteristic of the backwoodsman. In this person there was nothing remarkably striking. He was five feet ten inches in height, and of robust and powerful proportions. His countenance was mild and contemplative. His ordinary habits were those of a hunter. He died as he lived, in a cabin, and perhaps his trusty rifle was the most valuable of all his chattels."
Retyped and reformatted by Ray and Kathy Leigh