Page images

guage can describe the distress, which was felt by its inhabitants, when intelligence was received, that Boone — the beau ideal of a woodsman—the leader and first pioneer in the country, with twenty-seven men was captured by the enemy at the Lower Blue Licks. *

The circumstances of this heavy misfortune were, that Boone with thirty men had gone about the 1st of Jan., 1778, “to make salt for the different garrisons in the country, where the people were in great want of that article, without the prospect of supply from abroad.” On the 7th day of the ensuing February, while Boone was out hunting to obtair. meat for the salt-makers, he fell in with a large Indian party and two Frenchmen, on its march to attack, for a third time, the devoted fort at Boonesborough. At this moment the Indians particularly wanted a prisoner, who might give them intelligence; and while Boone fled, some of the swiftest warriors pursued and overtook him. Eight days afterwards, they brought Boone to the Licks, where twenty-seven of his men surrendered as prisoners by a previous capitulation, in which they were promised life and good treatment. The other three men of the original party had been sent home with the salt, which had already been made. The difficulty of obtaining salt, and the severe want of it which was felt in the western country, at an early day, are but little known at this advanced period of its settlement. Yet at a comparatively recent time, the interior country, remote from Davigable waters, was supplied by long lines of salt-packers codveying the precious condiment from the different licks, a thousand gallons of whose water would only afford a bushel of salt. The price of this most essential article has varied from two and five dollars per bushel to fifty cents for the same quantity its present price at St. Louis.

To return to our captured party; the Indians proud of their upwonted success, most fortunately for Kentucky, instead of pursuing their advantage against the weakened forts, and with such precious pledges in their possession, sweeping the land, by threatening to massacre their prisoners, returned to their homes, at Old Chillicothe, on the Little Miami. In justice to the ferocious foes of our countrymen, it must be acknowledged, that during a march of three days in cold and inclement weather, they treated their prisoners as themselves. “The generous usage,” says Boone, “che Indians had promised before in my capitulation, was after

• Boone's Narrative, in Filson, 18.

wards complied with.” An instance of Indian faith which, if it had only been continued, might have saved both belligerents many ruthless scenes. But the truth is, that the Indian is not brought up to spare his enemies when in his power, or to murmur at the full practice on himself of all the torments authorized by his laws of war.

Early in June, 1778, a party of 450 warriors assembled at Chilicothe, armed and painted, in their usual terrific way, and bent on another expedition against the marked and signal object of Indian hostility and vengeance—Boone’s Fort on the Kentucky river. Now, for the first time, Capt. Boone derived pleasure from his captivity, since it gave him an opportunity of information of the utmost importance to his threatened garrison. This he determined at all hazards, to convey to it, in order to save it from destruction. How much must the simple woodcraft of Boone have won upon the Indians, to have permitted him to know, much more to witness their formidable military preparations! That he was a great favorite with them, in spite of his white skin, appears from the refusal of his captors to allow of his ransom, when offered by Col. Hamilton, the British governor at Detroit. The prisoner was too dear, even to gratify the love of tormenting a prisoner, or avidity for the tempting stores of British goods kept for liberal distribution among their red allies.

On the 10th of the month, before sunrise, “I departed,” says the pioneer, “in the most secret manner, and arrived at Boonesborough on the 20th, after a journey of 160 miles, during which time I had but one meal.” Never could an escape have been more providential for the redemption of our forlorn hope on the frontiers. The fort was in a bad state of defence; the garrison proceeded, however, to repair its flanks, strengthen its gates and posterns, and to form double bastions; all of which was completed in ten days."* At length another of the white prisoners, escaping from the enemy, informed our people, that the Indians, on learning Boone's elopement, had, according to their customs, postponed their expedition three weeks.

The Indians had sent spies out to view our movements; and were greatly alarmed, at our increase in number and strength. “The grand councils of the nation were held frequently, and with more deliberation than usual.” They evidently saw the hour ap

[ocr errors]

proaching, when the Long Knife would dispossess them of their domestic habitations, and anxiously concerned for futurity, determined utterly to extirpate the whites out of Kentucky.* Our forlorn hope was not intimidated by the fearful odds opposed to them; but in the face of a formidable invasion impending over them, Capt. Boone, about the 1st of August, 1778, undertook an expedition into the Indian country with a party of 19 men for the purpose of surprising a small Indian town, on the Scioto, called Paint Creek Town. “We advanced,” says the daring invader, “within four miles thereof, where we met a party of thirty Indians on their march against Boonesborough, intending to join the others at Chilicothe. A smart fight ensued betwixt us ; at length the savages gave way and filed.” Learning from two of his scouts, who had been seni on to the town, that the Indians had deserted it, Boone returned with all possible expedition to assist the garrison at home. On the 6th of August, 1778, he passed a mixed party of Canadians and Indians, and on the 7th day the party arrived safe at Boonesborough.”

Could active enterprise have been more gallantly displayed at the head of thousands, than by this sagacious and intrepid captain of forest rangers? In the face of an enemy twenty times his force, Boone carried the war into the enemy's country — into Africa. On the 7th of September, 1778,+ an Indian army [if the term is not hyperbolical] consisting of four hundred men, commanded by Capt. Duchesne, with eleven other Frenchmen, and some Inwhen the fort should be taken by storm. The beleaguered party concluded to maintain the fort to the last extremity. The horses and cattle were collected, it is said, strange as it appears, that the enemy should have allowed it, and brought into the fort; and on the 9th of September, 1778, Boone replied to the summons of surrender, that "they were determined to defend their fort while a man was living.” Contrary to all expectation, the besieged were then informed, that it was the orders of Gov. Hamilton* to take them captive, and not to destroy them, but if nine of them would come out, and treat with them, they would immediately withdraw, and return home peaceably.” Time was important to the garrison, in order to give opportunity for assistance to arrive. This had been sent for, to Col. Campbell on Holston, and this is, perhaps, the key to entertaining, on the part of Boone, [himself so experienced and prudent a warrior against Indians,] so insidious a proposal, carrying deception palpably on its face. The enemy's proposition was embraced; and Boone with eight others met the opposite party, t "and entered into a treaty within sixty yards of the fort." The Indians then came forward and informed Boone withat it was customary with them on such occasions, for two Indians to shake hands with every white man in the treaty, as an evidence of entire friendship;"" "they immediately grapled us,” says Boone, “but although surrounded by hundreds of savages, we extricated ourselves from them, and escaped all safe into the garrison, except one that was wounded.” This was Squire Boone, brother of Daniel, the only one who was hurt by a heavy fire from the Indians. This escape seems extraordinary enough; yet it was personally confirmed to the industrious and latter biographer of Boone, by some of the actors themselves. I

our fort with British and French colors flying.” Col. Bowman makes the number 350, and Blackfish [who had adopted Boone as bis son, when a prisoner among the Indians, ] was the commander. The fort was summoned in bis Britannic Majesty's name, to surrender. Two days were requested for consideration, which were granted. It was now indeed, in the language of Boone, "a critical tine” with the besieged; their numbers were small, “between 60 and 70 men, with a large number of women and children;"I the army before these rude walls was "fearfully painted, marking their footsteps with desolation.” Death was, however, preferable to captivity among such an enemy, and could but be their fate,

• Boone's Narrative. Filson's Kentucky.

| See Bowman's Letter in Appendix, and Annals of the West, 2d edit., 220. Spark's Biography. Life of Boone, p. 18.

Peck's Life of Boone, 79.

Yet they could not recollect how it was done; tho' they stated that the Indian was hardly ever equal to the white man in physical strength, and their party expecting mischief, was prepared.|| This treaty, and the surrender of the saltmakers at the Blue Licks, became the subject of a military investigation as to Boone's conduct. And although not in the exact order of time, it may be well to add that the result was perfectly honorable to Boone ; although the charges were exhibited by Col, Richard Callaway supported by Col. Logan. So satisfactory was his defence, that Boone was pro

[ocr errors]

moted from the rank of captain to that of major. Nor is the slightest mention of the court martial in the history of the times. *

The enemy snow attacked us on every side, and a constant fire ensued between us day and night for the space of nine days. During the siege an attack was made to undermine the fort, which stood only sixty yards from the river bank; as soon as this was discovered by the muddiness of the water below the fort, produced by the excavated earth, a trench was cut to intersect the mine on the bank of the river. When the besiegers found out this, by the earth thrown out of the fort, they desisted from their stratagem; and on the 20th of September, 1778, raised the siege and departed.

During this formidable attack both in time and numbers, which seemed to threaten the garrison so fatally, when the enemy were assisted by white men from Canada, our people whad but two men killed and four wounded; besides a number of cattle destroyed.” A degree of injury almost incredibly insignificant under such fearful odds of numbers; “while the enemy's loss amounted to thirtyseven killed, and a great number wounded.” “125 pounds of bullets were picked up about the fort, besides those which had penetrated the logs of the walls.”

Thus most fortunately for the gallant band of pioneers, surrounded in the heart of an Indian wilderness, hundreds of miles from the settlements of their countrymen, terminated an expedition strong enough under an energetic and persevering commander with suitable followers, to have stormed every fort in the country, and have swept it clean of our countrymen. Providence ordered it otherwise, and as the author rejoices to believe, for the good of the human race. This can never be extensively or permanently promoted, under the dominion of the ignorance, brutality and ferocity incident to the savage state, all over the world. These vices were exhibited in our own barbarian ancestors, before their conquest and civilization, by the Romans. Sickly must the benevolence of that bosom be, which sighs over the triumphs of civilized life, even in its ruder forms ; for they are the harbingers of brighter and better days of diffusing light, learning and religion. These are the consolations, which Heaven presents the human race for the temporary strife and distress attending the conflict between barbarism and civilization. They are the price set by Providence on the blessings of higher social happiness, humanity and peace.

• Boone's Life, hy Peck, and the inquiries of the indefatigable Lyman C. Draper have alone furnished this intelligence, 92.

« PreviousContinue »