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there arose and spread through the North Carolina and Virginia hills that final influence which was to start the American people on their long westward march.
The next two years were spent in a discussion of the impending exodus and in preparation for it. Though many were anxious to get away from the conditions that burdened them, and eager to find new homes in the distant Kentucky region, the contemplated migration could not be commenced offhand. The cabin people owned the little log huts and clearings where they lived, and their properties could not be altogether sacrificed. Such a radical and unparallelled shift demanded forethought and much preliminary arrangement, even on the part of a population so fertile in expedient and adaptibility as they were. At last seven families were ready, including the households of Daniel and Squire Boone, and after plans had been made by which the remaining five and a considerable number of other men were to join the Boones in a nearby valley, the day came for the start. It was on September 25, 1773,' that the course of empire began to take its westward way from the banks of the Yadkin. The Boones were joined by the remainder of the party according to arrangement, and when the two divisions of the expedition had united the cavalcade consisted of seven families, including women and numerous children of various ages, and about forty individual men.
At the head of the column marched a group of woodsmen, all, of course, bearing rifles. Some strode on foot, but many of them — perhaps the majority mounted on horses that walked slowly along. They wore loose hunting shirts and trousers of dressed deerskins, gayly decorated with the colored fringes so widely affected as a backwoods fashion. Their feet were clad in moccasins and on their heads were many sorts of fantastic caps of skins, or of linsey-woolsey, each fashioned according to the whim of its owner. Every man was girt by a leather belt, from the right side of which hung a tomahawk to be used either as a hatchet or for some more violent purpose. On his left side he carried his hunting knife, a full powder horn, a leather pouch of home-made bullets and another larger leather pouch holding a quart or two of parched corn. Each man's rifle lay with apparent carelessness within the crook of his elbow, but as he moved onward his glance swept ceaselessly — almost unknowingly from side to side, pausing with each swing to dwell for an instant on the distance ahead. Behind this foreguard came the pack animals led by other similarly garbed men or boys, and bearing the women, small children, provisions and household goods. The women sat either on pillion saddles similar to those of the North or rode astride, as they pleased. The younger children swung in wicker baskets made from hickory withes, and two or three horses were thus loaded with the next generation, whose members had nothing to do but eat hoe-cake and count the trees.
1 According to Speed, in "The Wilderness Road," and probably correct, though Hart. ley, in his “Life," puts the day exactly one year later.
Behind the pack animals came a small drove of pigs and several cattle — those ingredients of a domestic caravan that regulate its speed — and flanking the farm animals were still other men on horseback to keep them from straying from the proper path. A few rifle members of the expedition marched as a rear-guard behind all the rest. There was no iron-clad regularity about the progress of the group that thus made its way through the forest. Its individual members were constantly shifting as the men stopped to chat with the women, or as they argued with a reluctant pig, readjusted the ropes of bark that bound the burdens of the horses, or stole off into the woods to shoot a deer and bring back its carcass for the next meal. Dogs frisked about the legs of the horses, yelped with excitement as they found the scent of an animal in a nearby thicket, and distributed showers of spray after swimming some creek that the rest of the caravan had forded.
i Parched corn was an article of food always taken on forest expeditions.
The distance covered by the marchers in the course of a day varied with the nature of the country. Perhaps the average was about ten miles of advancement. In midafternoon a part of the band increased its speed a little to find a camping-place, leaving the stock in care of others who brought it in an hour or so after the foremost had chosen a spot for the night's sojourn. Then each member of the expedition fell upon his appointed task. In an incredibly short time — so adept were they in such necessary duties — a snug shelter made from the limbs and foliage of trees was raised for the women and children; horses were relieved of their burdens and tethered; the stock was herded and put under guard; fires were kindled; water brought from a clear stream; huge slabs of venison were broiled on ramrods held over the hot coals; corn pones baked, and the day's labor was done. The feast was a royal one, few and simple though its ingredients were, for toil such as theirs and the air they breathed bred appetites whose mere possession was itself a luxury. People did not nibble at dainty luncheons and munch macaroons in those days; they devoured their food as a fireman throws coal into a furnace, and for the identical reason. What they ate was the fuel that carried them
34.-A timber fort. Used for the same purpose as a blockhouse, but designed to accommodate a greater number of persons. Such a structure was generally made in the shape of a hollow square, with various small buildings and a
watch-tower within. Showing the line of loopholes at shoulder heigbt.
onward. Man himself was the engine at that stage of travel.
After the meal beside the camp-fire the petticoat and juvenile divisions of the wandering army disappeared beneath the lean-to. The leather-clad men stretched out their long legs around the blazing logs, lit their clay pipes and puffed big clouds of rank tobacco smoke up toward the stars until they fell asleep, while a few still figures, that almost blended with the shadows amid which they crouched, sat with rifles ready until another dawn separated the branches of the trees.
No direful happening befell Boone's people for two weeks, and their immunity from attack by Indians up to that time had gradually — perhaps to an extent imperceptible to themselves — resulted in a slackening of those methods by which danger of the sort was best to be avoided. At any rate, while they were approaching Cumberland Gap on October 6 the men who were driving the stock allowed themselves to fall behind the main body by five or six miles — which was too far — and while the two divisions of the party were so separated the rear body was surprised by a band of Cherokees, and six of its seven members were killed. Among those cut off was Boone's eldest boy, James, a fine young fellow of seventeen. The sound of the firing brought Boone and the rest back helter-skelter, but it was too late. This attack by the red men was significant of the attitude which the natives had long taken toward white movement along the whole border. They had previously allowed Boone and his small party of six to travel four hundred miles to the west, for on that occasion the whites were obviously hunters and did not, to the Indian mind, presage any general advance into or permanent occupancy of the terri