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David Crockett: His Life and Adventures by John S. C. Abbott

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belonged to the class of what is called loafers. He was a sort of
Rip Van Winkle. The forest and the mountain stream had great charms
for him. He loved to wander in busy idleness all the day, with
fishing-rod and rifle; and he would often return at night with a
very ample supply of game. He would then lounge about his hut,
tanning deerskins for moccasins and breeches, performing other
little jobs, and entirely neglecting all endeavors to improve his
farm, or to add to the appearance or comfort of the miserable shanty
which he called his home.

He had an active mind, and a very singular command of the language
of low, illiterate life, and especially of backwoodman's slang.
Though not exactly a vain man, his self-confidence was
imperturdable, and there was perhaps not an individual in the world
to whom he looked up as in any sense his superior. In hunting, his
skill became very remarkable, and few, even of the best marksmen,
could throw the bullet with more unerring aim.

At the close of two years of this listless, solitary life, Crockett,
without any assigned reason, probably influenced only by that
vagrancy of spirit which had taken entire possession of the man,
made another move. Abandoning his crumbling shanty and untilled
fields, he directed his steps eastwardly through the forest, a
distance of about forty miles, to what is now Franklin County. Here
he reared another hut, on the banks of a little stream called Bear's
Creek. This location was about ten miles below the present hamlet of

An event now took place which changed the whole current of David
Crockett's life, leading him from his lonely cabin and the peaceful
scenes of a hunter's life to the field of battle, and to all the
cruel and demoralizing influences of horrid war.

For many years there had been peace with the Indians in all that
region. But unprincipled and vagabond white men, whom no law in the
wilderness could restrain, were ever plundering them, insulting
them, and wantonly shooting them down on the slightest provocation.
The constituted authorities deplored this state of things, but could
no more prevent it than the restraints of justice can prevent
robberies and assassinations in London or New York.

The Indians were disposed to be friendly. There can be no question
that, but for these unendurable outrages, inflicted upon them by
vile and fiend-like men, many of whom had fled from the avenging arm
of law, peace between the white man and the red man would have
remained undisturbed. In the extreme southern region of Alabama,
near the junction of the Alabama River with the almost equally
majestic Tombeckbee River, there had been erected, several years
before, for the protection of the emigrants, a fort called Mimms. It
consisted of several strong log huts, surrounded by palisades which
enclosed several acres. A strongly barred gate afforded entrance to
the area within. Loop-holes were cut through the palisades, just
sufficiently large to allow the barrel of a musket to be thrust
through, and aim to be taken at any approaching foe.

The space within was sufficient to accommodate several families, who
were thus united for mutual protection. Their horses and other
cattle could be driven within the enclosure at night. In case of a
general alarm, the pioneers, occupying huts scattered through the
region for miles around, could assemble in the fort. Their
corn-fields were outside, to cultivate which, even in times of war,
they could resort in armed bands, setting a watch to give warning of
any signs of danger.

The fort was in the middle of a small and fertile prairie. The
forest-trees were cut down around, and every obstacle removed which
could conceal the approach of a foe or protect him from the fire of
the garrison. The long-continued peace had caused vigilance to
slumber. A number of families resided in the fort, unapprehensive of

One evening, a negro boy, who had been out into the forest at some
distance from the fort in search of cattle, came back saying that he
saw far in the distance quite a number of Indians, apparently armed
warriors. As it was known that the Creek Indians had been greatly
exasperated by recent outrages inflicted upon them, this
intelligence created some anxiety. The gate was carefully closed. A
guard was set through the night, and some slight preparations were
made to repel an assault, should one be made.

Thus several days were passed, and there was no attack, and no signs
of Indians being near. The general impression was that the timid
negro boy was the victim of his own fears. Many jokes were
perpetrated at his expense. With wonted carelessness, all
precautions were forgotten, and the men sallied thoughtlessly forth
to disperse through the fields in their labors.

But after several days, the boy was again sent out into the woods
upon the same errand as before. He was a timid little fellow, and
had a great dread of the Indian. Tremblingly and cautiously he
threaded the paths of the forest for several miles, keeping a
vigilant lookout for any signs of the savage foe, when his eye fell
upon a sight which appalled him. At but a short distance, as he
stood concealed by the thickets through which he was moving, he saw
several hundred Indian warriors, plumed and painted, and armed to
the teeth. They had probably just broken up from a council, and were
moving about among the trees. His fears magnified their numbers to

Terror-stricken, he turned for the fort, and with almost the
fleetness of a deer entered the gate with his tidings. Even his
black face was pallid with fright, as he breathlessly told his
story. "The Indians," said he, "were as many, and as close together
as the trees. There were thousands." The alarm was sounded in the
garrison. All the outsiders were called in. The sun shone serenely,
the gentle breeze swept over the fertile prairie; not a sight was to
be seen but what was peaceful, not a sound came from the forest but
the songs of birds.

It was generally believed that the silly, cowardly boy had given a
false alarm. They cross-examined him. He was so frightened that he
could not tell a straight story. The men, indignant at being thus a
second time duped, as they supposed, actually tied the poor boy to
the whipping-post and commenced whipping him. But a few lashes had
left their bloody marks upon his back when the uplifted arm of the
executioner was arrested.

The awful Indian war-whoop, the precursor of blood and flame and
torture, which even the boldest heart could seldom hear without
terror, burst as it were simultaneously from a hundred warrior lips.
The wary savages had provided themselves with sharpened sticks.
Rending the skies with their yells, they rushed forward from the
gloom of the woods upon the totally unprovided garrison, and very
speedily plugged up the loop-holes, so that not a musket could be
discharged through them.

Then with their hatchets they commenced cutting down the palisades.
The bewilderment and consternation within was indescribable. A few
of the assailants hewing at the barricades were shot down, but
others instantly took their places. Soon a breach was cut through,
and the howling warriors like maddened demons rushed in. There was
no mercy shown. The gleaming tomahawk, wielded by hundreds of brawny
arms, expeditiously did its work. Men, women, and children were
indiscriminately cut down and scalped. It was an awful scene of
butchery. Scarcely an individual escaped.

One athletic boy, after having seen his father, mother, four
sisters, and four brothers tomahawked and scalped, pursued by the
savages, with frantic energy succeeded in leaping the palisades.
Several Indians gave chase. He rushed for the woods. They hotly
pursued. He reached a sluggish stream, upon the shore of which,
half-imbedded in sand and water, there was a mouldering log, which
he chanced to know was hollow beneath. He had but just time to slip
into this retreat, when the baffled Indians came up. They actually
walked over the log in their unavailing search for him. Here he
remained until night, when he stole from his hiding-place, aud in
safety reached Fort Montgomery, which was distant about two miles
from Fort Mimms.


The Soldier Life.

War with the Creeks.--Patriotism of Crockett.--Remonstrances of his
Wife.--Enlistment.--The Rendezvous.--Adventure of the
Scouts.--Friendlier Indians.--A March through the Forest.--
Picturesque Scene.--The Midnight Alarm.--March by Moon-light.--
Chagrin of Crockett.--Advance into Alabama.--War's Desolations.--
Indian Stoicism.--Anecdotes of Andrew Jackson.--Battles, Carnage,
and Woe.

The awful massacre at Fort Mimms, by the Creek Indians, summoned, as
with a trumpet peal, the whole region to war. David Crockett had
listened eagerly to stories of Indian warfare in former years, and
as he listened to the tales of midnight conflagration and slaughter,
his naturally peaceful spirit had no yearnings for the renewal of
such sanguinary scenes. Crockett was not a quarrelsome man. He was
not fond of brawls and fighting. Nothing in his life had thus far
occurred to test his courage. Though there was great excitement to
be found in hunting, there was but little if any danger. The deer
and all smaller game were harmless. And even the grizzly bear had
but few terrors for a marksman who, with unerring aim, could strike
him with the deadly bullet at the distance of many rods.

But the massacre at Fort Mimms roused a new spirit in David
Crockett. He perceived at once, that unless the savages were
speedily quelled, they would ravage the whole region; and that his
family as well as that of every other pioneer must inevitably
perish. It was manifest to him that every man was bound immediately
to take arms for the general defence. In a few days a summons was
issued for every able-bodied man in all that region to repair to
Winchester, which, as we have said, was a small cluster of houses
about ten miles from Crockett's cabin.

When he informed his wife of his intention, her womanly heart was
appalled at the thought of being left alone and unprotected in the
vast wilderness. She was at a distance of hundreds of miles from all
her connections. She had no neighbors near. Her children were too
young to be of any service to her. If the dreadful Indians should
attack them, she had no one to look to for protection. If anything
should happen to him in battle so that he should not return, they
must all perish of starvation. These obvious considerations she
urged with many tears.

"It was mighty hard," writes Crockett, "to go against such arguments
as these. But my countrymen had been murdered, and I knew that the
next thing would be that the Indians would be scalping the women and
children all about there, if we didn't put a stop to it. I reasoned
the case with her as well as I could, and told her that if every man
would wait till his wife got willing for him to go to war, there
would be no fighting done until we all should be killed in our own
houses; that as I was as able to go as any man in the world, and
that I believed it was a duty I owed to my country. Whether she was
satisfied with this reasoning or not she did not tell me, but seeing
I was bent on it, all she did was to cry a little, and turn about to
her work."

David Crockett hastened to Winchester. There was a large gathering
there from all the hamlets and cabins for many miles around. The
excitement was intense. The nation of Creek Indians was a very
powerful one, and in intelligence and military skill far in advance
of most of the Indian tribes. Mr. Crockett was one of the first to
volunteer to form a company to serve for sixty days, under Captain
Jones, who subsequently was a member of Congress from Tennessee. In
a week the whole company was organized, and commenced its march to
join others for the invasion of the Creek country. It was thought
that by carrying the war directly into the Indian towns, their
warriors might be detained at home to protect their wives and
children, and could thus be prevented from carrying desolation into
the settlements of the whites.

In the mean time David Crockett revisited his humble home, where his
good but anxious and afflicted wife fitted him out as well as she
could for the campaign. David was not a man of sentiment and was
never disposed to contemplate the possibility of failure in any of
his plans. With a light heart he bade adieu to his wife and his
children, and mounting his horse, set out for his two months'
absence to hunt up and shoot the Indians. He took only the amount of
clothing he wore, as he wished to be entirely unencumbered when he
should meet the sinewy and athletic foe on the battle-field.

This company, of about one hundred mounted men, commenced its march
for an appointed rendezvous called Beatty's Spring. Here they
encamped for several days, waiting the arrival of other companies
from distant quarters. Ere long there was collected quite an
imposing army of thirteen hundred men, all on horseback, and all
hardy backwoodsmen, armed with the deadly rifle. A more determined
set of men was perhaps never assembled. While they were thus
gathering from far and near, and making all preparations to burst
upon the foe in one of war's most terrific tempests, Major Gibson
came, and wanted a few men, of tried sagacity and hardihood, to
accompany him on a reconnoitring tour across the Tennessee River,
down through the wilderness, into the country of the Creek Indians.
It was a very hazardous enterprise. The region swarmed with savages.
They were very vigilant. They were greatly and justly exasperated.
If the reconnoitring party were captured, the certain doom of its
members would be death by the most dreadful tortures.

Captain Jones pointed out David Crockett as one of the most suitable
men for this enterprise. Crockett unhesitatingly consented to go,
and, by permission, chose a companion by the name of George Russel,
a young man whose courage and sagacity were far in advance of his

"I called him up," writes Crockett, "but Major Gibson said he
thought he hadn't beard enough to please him; he wanted men, not
boys. I must confess I was a little nettled at this; for I know'd
George Russel, and I know'd there was no mistake in him; and I
didn't think that courage ought to be measured by the beard, for
fear a goat would have the preference over a man. I told the Major
he was on the wrong scent; that Russel could go as far as he could,
and I must have him along. He saw I was a little wrathy, and said I
had the best chance of knowing, and agreed that it should be as I
wanted it."

The heroic little band, thirteen in number, well armed and well
mounted, set out early in the morning on their perilous enterprise.
They crossed the Tennessee River, and directing their steps south,
through a region almost entirely uninhabited by white men, journeyed
cautiously along, keeping themselves concealed as much as possible
in the fastnesses of the forest. They crossed the river, at what was
called Ditto's Landing, and advancing about seven miles beyond,
found a very secluded spot, one of nature's hiding-places, where
they took up their encampment for the night.

Here they chanced to come across a man by the name of John Haynes,
who for several years had been a trader among the Indians. He was
thoroughly acquainted with the whole region about to be traversed,
and consented to act as a guide. For the next day's march,
instructed by their guide, the party divided into two bands,
following along two obscure trails, which came together again after
winding through the wilderness a distance of about twenty miles.
Major Gibson led a party of seven, and David Crockett the other
party of six.

The Cherokee Indians, a neighboring nation, powerful and warlike,
were not in alliance with the Creeks in this war. They were, at that
time, in general friendly to the whites. Many of their warriors were
even induced to join the whites and march under their banners. On
each of the trails that day to be passed over, there was the lodge
of a Cherokee Indian. Both of them were friendly. Each of the
parties was to collect all the information possible from these
Indians, and then to meet where the trails came together again.

When Crockett arrived at the wigwam of the Indian he met with a very
friendly reception. He also found there a half-breed Cherokee, by
the name of Jack Thompson. This man, of savage birth and training,
but with the white man's blood in his veins, offered to join the
reconnoitring party. He however was not ready just then to set out,
but in a few hours would follow and overtake the band at its night's

It was not safe to encamp directly upon the trail, lest some Creek
war-party should be passing along, and should discover them. It was
necessary to seek concealment where even the prying eyes of the
savage would with difficulty search them out. The cry of the
shriek-owl is exceedingly shrill, and can be heard at a great
distance. A particular spot on the trail was designated, near which
Crockett would seek his secret encampment. When Jack Thompson
reached that spot, he was to imitate the cry of the owl. Crockett
would respond, and thus guide the Indian to his retreat. As night
approached, Crockett, with his party, found a deep and dark ravine,
where, encircled by almost impenetrable thickets, he hid his men and
the horses. No campfires could be built. It was ten o'clock in the
night when, in the distance, he heard the signal shriek of the owl,
a cry too common to arrest the attention of any Indian bands who
might be in the vicinity. Jack, guided by a responsive cry, soon
found the place of concealment, and there the party remained through
the night.

The next morning after breakfast they set out to join Major Gibson
and his band; but, in some way, they had lost track of him, and he
could not be found. Some were alarmed, as, in so small a band, they
were entering the domains of their powerful foe. Crockett taunted
them with their fears; and indeed fear kept them together. The party
consisted now of seven, including the Indian guide. Most of them
determined to press on. The two or three who were in favor of going
back dared not separate from the rest.

At the distance of about twenty miles, Jack Thompson told them that
there was a village of friendly Cherokee Indians. As he was leading
them through obscure trails toward that place, they came across the
hut of a white man, by the name of Radcliff, who had married a Creek
woman, and had been adopted into their tribe. The man had two nearly
grown-up boys, stout, burly fellows, half-breeds by birth, and more
than half savage in character and training. The old man's cabin was
slightly above the usual style of Indian wigwams. It was in a region
of utter solitude.

There Radcliff had taught his barbarian boys some of the arts of
industry. He had cleared quite a space of ground around his hut, and
was raising a supply of corn and potatoes ample for his family
wants. With these vegetable productions, and with the game which the
rifle supplied them, they lived in abundance, and free from most of
those cares which agitate a higher civilization.

But the old man was quite agitated in receiving and entertaining his
unwelcome guests. He was an adopted Creek, and ought to be in
sympathy with his nation. He was bound to regard the white men as
his enemies, to withhold from them all important information, and to
deliver them up to the Creeks if possible. Should he be suspected of
sympathy with the white men, the tomahawk of the savage would soon
cleave his brain. He entreated Crockett immediately to leave him.

"Only an hour ago," said he, "there were ten Creek warriors here,
all on horseback, and painted and armed. Should they come back and
discover you here, they would certainly kill you all, and put me and
my family to death also."

But Crockett, instead of being alarmed by this intelligence, was
only animated by it. He assured Radcliff that he could desire no
better luck than to meet a dozen Indians on the war-path. He
considered his party quite strong enough to meet, at any time, three
times their number. Evening was approaching, and the full moon, in
cloudless brilliance, was rising over the forest, flooding the whole
landscape with extraordinary splendor. After feeding their horses
abundantly and feasting themselves from the fat larder of their
host, they saddled their steeds and resumed their journey by

The trail still led through the silent forest. It was, as usual,
very narrow, so that the horses walked along in single file. As
there was danger of falling into an ambush, not a word was spoken,
and, as noiselessly as possible, they moved onward, every eye on the
eager lookout. They had been thus riding along when Crockett, in the
advance, heard the noise of some animals or persons apparently
approaching. At a given signal, instantly the whole party stopped.
Every man grasped his rifle, ready in case of need, to leap from his
horse, and select the largest tree near him as a rampart for the

All solicitude was, however, soon dispelled by seeing simply two
persons advancing along the trail on Indian ponies. They proved to
be two negro slaves who had been captured by the Indians, and who,
having escaped, were endeavoring to make their way back to their
former master. They were brothers, and being both very stout men,
and able to speak the Indian as well as the English language, were
esteemed quite a powerful reinforcement to the Crockett party.

They rode quietly along another hour and a half, when toward
midnight they saw in the distance the gleam of camp-fires, and heard
shouts of merriment and revelry. They knew that these must come from
the camp of the friendly Cherokees, to which their Indian guide,
Jack Thompson, was leading them. Soon a spectacle of wonderful
picturesque beauty was opened to their view.

Upon the banks of a beautiful mountain stream there was a wide
plateau, carpeted with the renowned blue-grass, as verdant and soft
as could be found in any gentleman's park. There was no underbrush.
The trees were two or three yards from each other, composing a
luxuriant overhanging canopy of green leaves, more beautiful than
art could possibly create. Beneath this charming grove, and
illumined by the moonshine which, in golden tracery, pierced the
foliage, there were six or eight Indian lodges scattered about.

An immense bonfire was crackling and blazing, throwing its rays far
and wide through the forest. Moving around, in various engagements
and sports, were about forty men, women, and children, in the
fringed, plumed, and brilliantly colored attire of which the Indians
were so fond. Quite a number of them, with bows and arrows, were
shooting at a mark, which was made perfectly distinct by the blaze
of pitch-pine knots, a light which no flame of candle or gas could
outvie. It was a scene of sublimity and beauty, of peace and
loveliness, which no artist could adequately transfer to canvas.

The Cherokees received very cordially the newcomers, took care of
their horses, and introduced them to their sports. Many of the
Indians had guns, but powder and bullets were too precious to be
expended in mere amusements. Indeed, the Indians were so careful of
their ammunition, that they rarely put more than half as much powder
into a charge as a white man used. They endeavored to make up for
the deficiency by creeping nearer to their prey.

Crockett and his men joined these barbarians, merry in their
pleasant sports. Such are the joys of peace, so different from the
miseries of demoniac war. At length the festivities were closed, and
all began to prepare to retire to sleep.

The Cherokees were neutral in the war between the whites and the
Creek Indians. It was very important for them to maintain this
neutrality strictly, that they might not draw down upon themselves
the vengeance of either party. Some of the Cherokees now began to
feel anxious lest a war-party of the Creeks should come along and
find them entertaining a war-party of whites, who were entering
their country as spies. They therefore held an interview with one of
the negroes, and requested him to inform Mr. Crockett that should a
war-party come and find his men in the Cherokee village, not only
would they put all the white men to death, but there would be also
the indiscriminate massacre of all the men, women, and children in
the Cherokee lodges.

Crockett, wrapped in his blanket, was half asleep when this message
was brought to him. Raising his head, he said to the negro, in terms
rather savoring of the spirit of the braggadocio than that of a
high-minded and sympathetic man:

"Tell the Cherokees that I will keep a sharp lookout, and if a
single Creek comes near the camp to-night, I will carry the skin of
his head home to make me a moccasin."

When this answer was reported to the Indians they laughed aloud and
dispersed. It was not at all improbable that there might be an alarm
before morning. The horses were therefore, after being well fed,
tied up with their saddles upon them, that they might be instantly
mounted in case of emergence. They all slept, also, with their arms
in their hands.

Just as Crockett was again falling into a doze, a very shrill Indian
yell was heard in the forest, the yell of alarm. Every man, white
and red, was instantly upon his feet. An Indian runner soon made his
appearance, with the tidings that more than a thousand Creek
warriors had, that day, crossed the Coosa River, but a few leagues
south of them, at what was called the Ten Islands, and were on the
march to attack an American force, which, under General Jackson, was
assembling on another portion of the Coosa River.

The friendly Indians were so greatly alarmed that they immediately
fled. Crockett felt bound to carry back this intelligence as
speedily as possible to the headquarters from which he had come. He
had traversed a distance of about sixty miles in a southerly
direction. They returned, by the same route over which they had
passed. But they found that a general alarm had pervaded the
country, Radcliff and his family, abandoning everything, had fled,
they knew not where. When they reached the Cherokee town of which we
have before spoken, not a single Indian was to be seen. Their fires
were still burning, which showed the precipitancy with which they
had taken flight. This rather alarmed the party of the whites. They
feared that the Indian warriors were assembling from all quarters,
at some secret rendezvous, and would soon fall upon them in
overwhelming numbers. They therefore did not venture to replenish
the Indian fires and lie down by the warmth of them, but pushed
rapidly on their way.

It chanced to be a serene, moonlight night. The trail through the
forest, which the Indian's foot for countless generations had
trodden smooth, illumined by the soft rays of the moon, was
exceedingly beautiful. They travelled in single file, every nerve at
its extreme tension in anticipation of falling into some ambush.
Before morning they had accomplished about thirty miles. In the grey
dawn they again reached Mr. Brown's. Here they found grazing for
their horses, and corn and game for them selves.

Horses and riders were equally fatigued. The weary adventurers were
in no mood for talking. After dozing for an hour or two, they again
set out, and about noon reached the general rendezvous, from which
they had departed but a few days before. Here Crockett was not a
little disappointed in the reception he encountered. He was a young,
raw backwoodsman, nearly on a level with the ordinary savage. He was
exceedingly illiterate, and ignorant. And yet he had the most
amazing self-confidence, with not a particle of reverence for any
man, whatever his rank or culture. He thought no one his superior.
Colonel Coffee paid very little respect to his vainglorious report.
In the following characteristic strain Crockett comments on the

"He didn't seem to mind my report a bit. This raised my dander
higher than ever. But I know'd that I had to be on my best behavior,
and so I kept it all to myself; though I was so mad that I was
burning inside like a tar-kiln, and I wonder that the smoke had not
been pouring out of me at all points. The next day, Major Gibson got
in. He brought a worse tale than I had, though he stated the same
facts as far as I went. This seemed to put our Colonel all in a
fidget; and it convinced me clearly of one of the hateful ways of
the world. When I made my report I was not believed, because I was
no officer. I was no great man, but just a poor soldier. But when
the same thing was reported by Major Gibson, why then it was all
true as preaching, and the Colonel believed it every word."

There was indeed cause for alarm. Many of the Indian chiefs
displayed military ability of a very high order. Our officers were
frequently outgeneralled by their savage antagonists. This was so
signally the case that the Indians frequently amused themselves in
laughing to scorn the folly of the white men. Every able-bodied man
was called to work in throwing up breastworks. A line of ramparts
was speedily constructed, nearly a quarter of a mile in circuit. An
express was sent to Fayetteville, where General Jackson was
assembling an army, to summon him to the rescue. With characteristic
energy he rushed forward, by forced marches day and night, until his
troops stood, with blistered feet, behind the newly erected

They felt now safe from attack by the Indians. An expedition of
eight hundred volunteers, of which Crockett was one, was fitted out
to recross the Tennessee River, and marching by the way of
Huntsville, to attack the Indians from an unexpected quarter. This
movement involved a double crossing of the Tennessee. They pressed
rapidly along the northern bank of this majestic stream, about forty
or fifty miles, due west, until they came to a point where the
stream expands into a width of nearly two miles. This place was
called Muscle Shoals. The river could here be forded, though the
bottom was exceedingly rough. The men were all mounted. Several
horses got their feet so entangled in the crevices of the rocks that
they could not be disengaged, and they perished there. The men, thus
dismounted, were compelled to perform the rest of the campaign on

A hundred miles south of this point, in the State of Alabama, the
Indians had a large village, called Black Warrior. The lodges of the
Indians were spread over the ground where the city of Tuscaloosa now
stands. The wary Indians kept their scouts out in all directions.
The runners conveyed to the warriors prompt warning of the approach
of their foes. These Indians were quite in advance of the northern
tribes. Their lodges were full as comfortable as the log huts of the
pioneers, and in their interior arrangements more tasteful. The
buildings were quite numerous. Upon many of them much labor had been
expended. Luxuriant corn-fields spread widely around, and in
well-cultivated gardens they raised beans and other vegetables in
considerable abundance.

The hungry army found a good supply of dried beans for themselves,
and carefully housed corn for their horses. They feasted themselves,
loaded their pack-horses with corn and beans, applied the torch to
every lodge, laying the whole town in ashes, and then commenced
their backward march. Fresh Indian tracks indicated that many of
them had remained until the last moment of safety.

The next day the army marched back about fifteen miles to the spot
where it had held its last encampment. Eight hundred men, on a
campaign, consume a vast amount of food. Their meat was all
devoured. They had now only corn and beans. The soldiers were living
mostly on parched corn. Crockett went to Colonel Coffee, then in
command, and stating, very truthfully, that he was an experienced
hunter, asked permission to draw aside from the ranks, and hunt as
they marched along. The Colonel gave his consent, but warned him to
be watchful in the extreme, lest he should fall into an Indian

Crockett was brave, but not reckless. He plunged into the forest,
with vigilant gaze piercing the solitary space in all directions. He
was alone, on horseback. He had not gone far when he found a deer
just killed by a noiseless arrow. The animal was but partially
skinned, and still warm and smoking. The deer had certainly been
killed by an Indian; and it was equally certain that the savage,
seeing his approach, had fled. The first thought of Crockett was one
of alarm. The Indian might be hidden behind some one of the gigantic
trees, and the next moment a bullet, from the Indian's rifle, might
pierce his heart.

But a second thought reassured him. The deer had been killed by an
arrow. Had the Indian been armed with a rifle, nothing would have
been easier, as he saw the approach of Crockett in the distance than
for him to have concealed himself, and then to have taken such
deliberate aim at his victim as to be sure of his death. Mounting
the horse which Crockett rode, the savage might have disappeared in
the wilderness beyond all possibility of pursuit. But this adventure
taught Crockett that he might not enjoy such good luck the next
time. Another Indian might be armed with a rifle, and Crockett,
self-confident as he was, could not pretend to be wiser in woodcraft
than were the savages.

Crockett dismounted, took up the body of the deer, laid it upon the
mane of his horse, in front of the saddle, and remounting, with
increasing vigilance made his way, as rapidly as he could, to the
trail along which the army was advancing. He confesses to some
qualms of conscience as to the right of one hunter thus to steal
away the game killed by another.

It was late in the afternoon when he reached the rear. He pressed
along to overtake his own company. The soldiers looked wistfully at
the venison. They offered him almost any price for it. Crockett was
by nature a generous man. There was not a mean hair in his head.
This generosity was one of the virtues which gave him so many
friends. Rather boastfully, and yet it must be admitted truthfully,
he writes, in reference to this adventure:

"I could have sold it for almost any price I would have asked. But
this wasn't my rule, neither in peace nor war. Whenever I had
anything and saw a fellow-being suffering, I was more anxious to
relieve him than to benefit myself. And this is one of the true
secrets of my being a poor man to the present day. But it is my way.
And while it has often left me with an empty purse, yet it has never
left my heart empty of consolations which money couldn't buy; the
consolation of having sometimes fed the hungry and covered the
naked. I gave all my deer away except a small part, which I kept for
myself, and just sufficient to make a good supper for my mess."

The next day. in their march, they came upon a drove of swine, which
belonged to a Cherokee farmer. The whites were as little disposed as
were the Indians, in this war, to pay any respect to private
property. Hundreds of rifles were aimed at the poor pigs, and their
squealing indicated that they had a very hard time of it. The army,
in its encampment that night, feasted very joyously upon fresh pork.
This thrifty Cherokee was also the possessor of a milch cow. The
animal was speedily slaughtered and devoured.

They soon came upon another detachment of the army, and uniting,
marched to Ten Islands, on the Coosa River, where they established a
fort, which they called Fort Strother, as a depot for provisions and
ammunition. They were here not far from the centre of the country
inhabited by the hostile Indians. This fort stood on the left bank
of the river, in what is now St. Clair County, Alabama. It was a
region but little explored, and the whites had but little
acquaintance with the nature of the country around them, or with the
places occupied by the Indians. Some scouts, from the friendly
Creeks, brought the intelligence that, at the distance of about
eight miles from the fort, there was an Indian town, where a large
party of warriors was assembled in preparation for some secret
expedition. A large and select band was immediately dispatched, on
horseback, to attack them by surprise. Two friendly Creeks led them
with Indian sagacity through circuitous trails. Stealthily they
approached the town, and dividing their force, marched on each side
so as to encircle it completely. Aided by their Creek guides, this
important movement was accomplished without the warriors discovering
their approach. The number of the whites was so great that they were
enabled to surround the town with so continuous a line that escape
was impossible for any enclosed within that fearful barrier of
loaded rifles wielded by unerring marksmen. Closer and more
compactly the fatal line was drawn. These movements were
accomplished in the dim morning twilight.

All being ready, Captain Hammond, and a few rangers, were sent
forward to show themselves, and to bring on the fight. The moment
the warriors caught sight of them, one general war-whoop rose from
every throat. Grasping their rifles, they rushed headlong upon the
rangers, who retired before them. They soon reached one portion of
the compact line, and were received with a terrible fire, which
struck many of them down in instant death. The troops then closed
rapidly upon the doomed Indians, and from the north, the south, the
east, and the west, they were assailed by a deadly storm of bullets.

Almost immediately the Indians saw that they were lost. There was no
possibility of escape. This was alike manifest to every one, to
warrior, squaw, and pappoose. All surrendered themselves to despair.
The warriors threw down their weapons, in sign of surrender. Some
rushed into the lodges. Some rushed toward the soldiers, stretching
out their unarmed hands in supplication for life. The women in
particular, panic-stricken, ran to the soldiers, clasped them about
the knees, and looked up into their faces with piteous supplications
for life. Crockett writes:

"I saw seven squaws have hold of one man. So I hollered out the
Scriptures was fulfilling; that there was seven women holding to one
man's coat-tail. But I believe it was a hunting-shirt all the time.
We took them all prisoners that came out to us in this way."

Forty-six warriors, by count, threw down their arms in token of
surrender, and ran into one of the large houses. A band of soldiers
pursued them, with the apparent intent of shooting them down. It was
considered rare sport to shoot an Indian. A woman came to the door,
bow and arrow in hand. Fixing the arrow upon the string, she drew
the bow with all the strength of her muscular arm, and let the arrow
fly into the midst of the approaching foe. It nearly passed through
the body of Lieutenant Moore, killing him instantly. The woman made
no attempt to evade the penalty which she knew weald follow this
act. In an instant twenty bullets pierced her body, and she fell
dead at the door of the house.

The infuriate soldiers rushed in and shot the defenceless warriors
mercilessly, until every one was fatally wounded or dead. They then
set the house on fire and burned it up, with the forty-six warriors
in it. It mattered not to them whether the flames consumed the flesh
of the living or of the dead.

There was something very remarkable in the stoicism which the
Indians ever manifested. There was a bright-looking little Indian
boy, not more than twelve years of age, whose arm was shattered by
one bullet and his thigh-bone by another. Thus terribly wounded, the
poor child crept from the flames of the burning house. There was no
pity in that awful hour to come to his relief. The heat was so
intense that his almost naked body could be seen blistering and
frying by the fire. The heroic boy, striving in vain to crawl along,
was literally roasted alive; and yet he did not utter an audible

The slaughter was awful. But five of the Americans were killed. One
hundred and eighty-six of the Indians were either killed or taken
prisoners. The party returned with their captives the same day to
Fort Strother. The army had so far consumed its food that it was
placed on half rations. The next day a party was sent back to the
smouldering town to see if any food could be found. Even these hardy
pioneers were shocked at the awful spectacle which was presented.
The whole place was in ruins. The half-burned bodies of the dead, in
awful mutilation, were scattered around. Demoniac war had performed
one of its most fiend-like deeds.

On this bloody field an Indian babe was found clinging to the bosom
of its dead mother. Jackson urged some of the Indian women who were
captives to give it nourishment. They replied:

"All the child's friends are killed. There is no one to care for the
helpless babe. It is much better that it should die."

Jackson took the child under his own care, ordered it to be conveyed
to his tent, nursed it with sugar and water, took it eventually with
him to the Hermitage, and brought it up as his son. He gave the boy
the name of Lincoyer. He grew up a finely formed young man, and died
of consumption at the age of seventeen.

Jackson was a very stern man. The appeals of pity could seldom move
his heart. Still there were traits of heroism which marked his
character. On the return march, a half-starved soldier came to
Jackson with a piteous story of his famished condition. Jackson drew
from his pocket a handful of acorns, and presenting a portion to the
man, said:

"This is all the fare I have. I will share it with you."

Beneath one of the houses was found quite a large cellar, well
stored with potatoes. These were eagerly seized. All the other
stores of the Indians the insatiable flames had consumed. Starvation
now began to threaten the army. The sparsely settled country
afforded no scope for forage. There were no herds of cattle, no
well-replenished magazines near at hand. Neither was there game
enough in the spreading wilderness to supply so many hungry mouths.
The troops were compelled to eat even the very hides of the cattle
whom they had driven before them, and who were now all slaughtered.

While in this forlorn condition, awaiting the arrival of food, and
keeping very vigilant guard against surprise, one night an Indian,
cautiously approaching from the forest, shouted out that he wished
to see General Jackson, for he had important information to
communicate. He was conducted to the General's tent. The soldiers
knew not the news which he brought. But immediately the beat of
drums summoned all to arms. In less than an hour a strong party of
cavalry and infantry, in the darkness, were on the march. General
Andrew Jackson was one of the most energetic of men. The troops
crossed the Coosa River to the eastern shore, and as rapidly as
possible pressed forward in a southerly direction toward Talladega,
which was distant about thirty miles. Gradually the rumor spread
through the ranks that General Jackson had received the following
intelligence: At Talladega there was a pretty strong fort, occupied
by friendly Indians. They had resolutely refused to take part in the
war against the Americans. Eleven hundred hostile warriors, of the
Creek nation, marched upon the fort, encamped before it, and sent
word to the friendly Indians within the palisades, that if they did
not come out and join them in an expedition against the whites, they
would utterly demolish the fort and take all their provisions and
ammunition. The Creeks were in sufficient strength to accomplish
their threat.

The friendly Indians asked for three days to consider the
proposition. They stated that if, at the end of this time, they did
not come out to join them in an expedition against the whites, they
would surrender the fort. The request was granted. Instantly an
Indian runner was dispatched to inform General Jackson, at Fort
Strother, of their danger and to entreat him to come to their aid.
Hence the sudden movement.

The Creek warriors had their scouts out, carefully watching, and
were speedily apprised of the approach of General Jackson's band.
Immediately they sent word into the fort, to the friendly Indians
there, that the American soldiers were coming, with many fine
horses, and richly stored with guns, blankets, powder, bullets, and
almost everything else desirable. They promised that if the Indians
would come out from the fort, and help them attack and conquer the
whites, they would divide the rich plunder with them. They assured
them that, by thus uniting, they could easily gain the victory over
the whites, who were the deadly foes of their whole race. The appeal
was not responded to.

A little south of the fort there was a stream, which, in its
circuitous course, partially encircled it. The bank was high,
leaving a slight level space or meadow between it and the stream.
Here the hostile Indians were encamped, and concealed from any
approaches from the north. It was at midnight, on the 7th of
December, that Jackson set out on this expedition. He had with him,
for the occasion, a very strong force, consisting of twelve hundred
infantry and eight hundred cavalry.

When they reached the fort, the army divided, passing on each side,
and again uniting beyond, as they approached the concealed
encampment of the enemy. While passing the fort, the friendly
Indians clambered the palisades, and shouted out joyously to the
soldiers "How-de-do, brother--how-de-do, brother?"

The lines, meeting beyond the fort, formed for battle. No foe was
visible. Nearly a thousand warriors, some armed with arrows, but
many with rifles, were hidden, but a few rods before them, beneath
the curving bank, which was fringed with bushes. Major Russel, with
a small party, was sent cautiously forward to feel for the enemy,
and to bring on the battle. He was moving directly into the curve,
where a concentric fire would soon cut down every one of his men.

The Indians in the fort perceived his danger, and shouted warning to
him. He did not understand their language. They made the most
earnest gestures. He did not comprehend their meaning. Two Indians
then leaped from the fort, and running toward him, seized his horse
by the bridle. They made him understand that more than a thousand
warriors, with rifle in hand and arrows on the string, were hidden,
at but a short distance before him, ready to assail him with a
deadly fire. The account which Crockett gives of the battle, though
neither very graphic nor classic, is worthy of insertion here, as
illustrative of the intellectual and moral traits of that singular

"This brought them to a halt; and about this moment the Indians
fired upon them, and came rushing forth like a cloud of Egyptian
locusts, and screaming like all the young devils had been turned
loose with the old devil of all at their head. Russel's company quit
their arses and took into the fort. Their horses ran up to our line,
which was then in view. The warriors then came yelling on, meeting
us, and continued till they were within shot of us, when we fired
and killed a considerable number of them. They broke like a gang of
steers, and ran across to the other line.

"And so we kept them running, from one line to the other, constantly
under a heavy fire, till we had killed upwards of four hundred of
them. They fought with guns and also with bow and arrows. But at
length they made their escape through a part of our line, which was
made up of drafted militia, which broke ranks, and they passed. We
lost fifteen of our men, as brave fellows as ever lived or died. We
buried them all in one grave, and started back to our fort. But
before we got there, two more of our men died of wounds they had
received, making our total loss seventeen good fellows in that


Indian Warfare.

The Army at Fort Strother.--Crockett's Regiment.--Crockett at
Home.--His Reenlistment.--Jackson Surprised.--Military Ability of
the Indians.--Humiliation of the Creeks.--March to Florida.--Affairs
at Pensacola.--Capture of the City.--Characteristics of
Crockett.--The Weary March,--Inglorious Expedition.--Murder of Two
Indians.--Adventures at the Island.--The Continued March.--Severe
Sufferings.--Charge upon the Uninhabited Village.

The army, upon its return to Fort Strother, found itself still in a
starving condition. Though the expedition had been eminently
successful in the destruction of Indian warriors, it had consumed
their provisions, without affording them any additional supply. The
weather had become intensely cold. The clothing of the soldiers,
from hard usage, had become nearly worn out. The horses were also
emaciate and feeble. There was danger that many of the soldiers must
perish from destitution and hunger.

The regiment to which Crockett belonged had enlisted for sixty days.
Their time had long since expired. The officers proposed to Jackson
that they and their soldiers might be permitted to return to their
homes, promising that they would immediately re-enlist after having
obtained fresh horses and fresh clothing. Andrew Jackson was by
nature one of the most unyielding of men. His will was law, and must
be obeyed, right or wrong. He was at that time one of the most
profane of men. He swore by all that was sacred that they should not
go; that the departure of so many of the men would endanger the
possession of the fort and the lives of the remaining soldiers.
There were many of the soldiers in the same condition, whose term of
service had expired. They felt that they were free and enlightened
Americans, and resented the idea of being thus enslaved and driven,
like cattle, at the will of a single man. Mutinous feelings were
excited. The camp was filled with clamor. The soldiers generally
were in sympathy with those who demanded their discharge, having
faithfully served out the term of their enlistment. Others felt that
their own turn might come when they too might be thus enslaved.

There was a bridge which it was necessary for the soldiers to cross
on the homeward route. The inflexible General, supposing that the
regulars would be obedient to military discipline, and that it would
be for their interest to retain in the camp those whose departure
would endanger all their lives placed them upon the bridge, with
cannon loaded to the muzzle with grape-shot. They were ordered
mercilessly to shoot down any who should attempt to cross without
his permission. In Crockett's ludicrous account of this adventure,
he writes:

"The General refused to let us go. We were, however, determined to
go. With this, the General issued his orders against it. We began to
fix for a start. The General went and placed his cannon on a bridge
we had to cross, and ordered out his regulars and drafted men to
prevent our crossing. But when the militia started to guard the
bridge, they would holler back to us to bring their knapsacks along
when we came; for they wanted to go as bad as we did. We got ready,
and moved on till we came near the bridge, where the General's men
were all strung along on both sides. But we all had our flints ready
picked and our guns ready primed, that, if we were fired on, we
might fight our way through, or all die together.

"When we came still nearer the bridge we heard the guards cocking
their guns, and we did the same. But we marched boldly on, and not a
gun was fired, nor a life lost. When we had passed, no further
attempt was made to stop us. We went on, and near Huntsville we met
a reinforcement who were going on to join the army. It consisted of
a regiment of sixty-day volunteers. We got home pretty safely, and
in a short time we had procured fresh horses, and a supply of
clothing better suited for the season."

The officers and soldiers ere long rendezvoused again at Fort
Deposit. Personally interested as every one was in subduing the
Creeks, whose hostility menaced every hamlet with flames and the
inmates of those hamlets with massacre, still the officers were so
annoyed by the arrogance of General Jackson that they were
exceedingly unwilling to serve again under his command.

Just as they came together, a message came from General Jackson,
demanding that, on their return, they should engage to serve for six
months. He regarded enlistment merely for sixty days as absurd. With
such soldiers, he justly argued that no comprehensive campaign could
be entered upon. The officers held a meeting to decide upon this
question. In the morning, at drum-beat, they informed the soldiers
of the conclusion they had formed. Quite unanimously they decided
that they would not go back on a six-months term of service, but
that each soldier might do as he pleased. Crockett writes:

"I know'd if I went back home I wouldn't rest for I felt it my duty
to be out. And when out, I was somehow or other always delighted to
be in the thickest of the danger. A few of us, therefore, determined
to push on and join the army. The number I do not recollect, but it
was very small."

When Crockett reached Fort Strother he was placed in a company of
scouts under Major Russel. Just before they reached the fort,
General Jackson had set out on an expedition in a southeasterly
direction, to what was called Horseshoe Bend, on the Tallapoosa
River. The party of scouts soon overtook him and led the way. As
they approached the spot through the silent trails which threaded
the wide solitudes, they came upon many signs of Indians being
around. The scouts gave the alarm, and the main body of the army
came up. The troops under Jackson amounted to about one thousand
men. It was the evening of January 23d, 1814.

The camp-fires were built, supper prepared, and sentinels being
carefully stationed all around to prevent surprise, the soldiers,
protected from the wintry wind only by the gigantic forest, wrapped
themselves in their blankets and threw themselves down on the
withered leaves for sleep. The Indians crept noiselessly along from
tree to tree, each man searching for a sentinel, until about too
hours before day, when they opened a well-aimed fire from the
impenetrable darkness in which they stood. The sentinels retreated
back to the encampment, and the whole army was roused.

The troops were encamped in the form of a hollow square, and thus
were necessarily between the Indians and the light of their own
camp-fires. Not a warrior was to be seen. The only guide the
Americans had in shooting, was to notice the flash of the enemy's
guns. They fired at the flash. But as every Indian stood behind a
tree, it is not probable that many, if any, were harmed. The Indians
were very wary not to expose themselves. They kept at a great
distance, and were not very successful in their fire. Though they
wounded quite a number, only four men were killed. With the dawn of
the morning they all vanished.

General Jackson did not wish to leave the corpses of the slain to be
dug up and scalped by the savages. He therefore erected a large
funeral pyre, placed the bodies upon it, and they were soon consumed
to ashes. Some litters were made of long and flexible poles,
attached to two horses, one at each end, and upon these the wounded
were conveyed over the rough and narrow way. The Indians, thus far,
had manifestly been the victors They had inflicted serious injury
upon the Americans; and there is no evidence that a single one of
their warriors had received the slightest harm. This was the great
object of Indian strategy. In the wars of civilization, a great
general has ever been willing to sacrifice the lives of ten thousand
of his own troops if, by so doing, he could kill twenty thousand of
the enemy. But it was never so with the Indians. They prized the
lives of their warriors too highly.

On their march the troops came to a wide creek, which it was
necessary to cross. Here the Indians again prepared for battle. They
concealed themselves so effectually as to elude all the vigilance of
the scouts. When about half the troops had crossed the stream, the
almost invisible Indians commenced their assault, opening a very
rapid but scattering fire. Occasionally a warrior was seen darting
from one point to another, to obtain better vantage-ground.

Major Russel was in command of a small rear-guard. His soldiers soon
appeared running almost breathless to join the main body, pursued by
a large number of Indians. The savages had chosen the very best
moment for their attack. The artillery-men were in an open field
surrounded by the forest. The Indians, from behind stumps, logs, and
trees, took deliberate aim, and almost every bullet laid a soldier
prostrate. Quite a panic ensued. Two of the colonels, abandoning
their regiments, rushed across the creek to escape the deadly fire.
There is no evidence that the Indians were superior in numbers to
the Americans. But it cannot be denied that the Americans, though
under the leadership of Andrew Jackson, were again outgeneralled.
General Jackson lost, in this short conflict, in killed and wounded,
nearly one hundred men. His disorganized troops at length effected
the passage of the creek, beyond which the Indians did not pursue
them. Crockett writes:

"I will not say exactly that the old General was whipped. But I
think he would say himself that he was nearer whipped this time than
any other; for I know that all the world couldn't make him
acknowledge that he was pointedly whipped. I know I was mighty glad
when it was over, and the savages quit us, for I began to think
there was one behind every tree in the woods."

Crockett, having served out his term, returned home. But he was
restless there. Having once experienced the excitements of the camp,
his wild, untrained nature could not repose in the quietude of
domestic life. The conflict between the United States and a small
band of Indians was very unequal. The loss of a single warrior was
to the Creeks irreparable. General Jackson was not a man to yield to
difficulties. On the 27th of March, 1814, he drove twelve hundred
Creek warriors into their fort at Tohopeka. They were then
surrounded, so that escape was impossible, and the fort was set on
fire. The carnage was awful. Almost every warrior perished by the
bullet or in the flames. The military power of the tribe was at an
end. The remnant, utterly dispirited, sued for peace.

Quite a number of the Creek warriors fled to Florida, and joined the
hostile Indian tribes there. We were at this time involved in our
second war with Great Britain. The Government of our mother country
was doing everything in its power to rouse the savages against us.
The armies in Canada rallied most of the Northern tribes beneath
their banners. Florida, at that time, belonged to Spain. The Spanish
Government was nominally neutral in the conflict between England and
the United States. But the Spanish governor in Florida was in
cordial sympathy with the British officers. He lent them all the aid
and comfort in his power, carefully avoiding any positive violation
of the laws of neutrality. He extended very liberal hospitality to
the refugee Creek warriors, and in many ways facilitated their
cooperation with the English.

A small British fleet entered the mouth of the Apalachicola River
and landed three hundred soldiers. Here they engaged vigorously in
constructing a fort, and in summoning all the surrounding Indian
tribes to join them in the invasion of the Southern States. General
Jackson, with a force of between one and two thousand men, was in
Northern Alabama, but a few days' march north of the Florida line.
He wrote to the Secretary of War, in substance, as follows:

"The hostile Creeks have taken refuge in Florida. They are there
fed, clothed, and protected. The British have armed a large force
with munitions of war, and are fortifying and stirring up the
savages. If you will permit me to raise a few hundred militia, which
can easily be done, I will unite them with such a force of regulars
as can easily be collected, and will make a descent on Pensacola,
and will reduce it. I promise you I will bring the war in the South
to a speedy termination; and English influence with the savages, in
this quarter, shall be forever destroyed."

The President was not prepared thus to provoke war with Spain, by
the invasion of Florida. Andrew Jackson assumed the responsibility.
The British had recently made an attack upon Mobile, and being
repulsed, had retired with their squadron to the harbor of
Pensacola. Jackson called for volunteers to march upon Pensacola.
Crockett roused himself at the summons, like the war-horse who
snuffs the battle from afar. "I wanted," he wrote, "a small taste of
British fighting, and I supposed they would be there."

His wife again entered her tearful remonstrance. She pointed to her
little children, in their lonely hut far away in the wilderness,
remote from all neighborhood, and entreated the husband and the
father not again to abandon them. Rather unfeelingly he writes, "The
entreaties of my wife were thrown in the way of my going, but all in
vain; for I always had a way of just going ahead at whatever I had a
mind to."

Many who have perused this sketch thus far, may inquire, with some
surprise, "What is it which has given this man such fame as is even
national? He certainly does not develop a very attractive character;
and there is but little of the romance of chivalry thrown around his
exploits. The secret is probably to be found in the following
considerations, the truth of which the continuation of this
narrative will be continually unfolding."

Without education, without refinement, without wealth or social
position, or any special claims to personal beauty, he was entirely
self-possessed and at home under all circumstances. He never
manifested the slightest embarrassment. The idea seemed never to
have entered his mind that there could be any person superior to
David Crockett, or any one so humble that Crockett was entitled to
look down upon him with condescension. He was a genuine democrat.
All were in his view equal. And this was not the result of thought,
of any political or moral principle. It was a part of his nature,
which belonged to him without any volition, like his stature or
complexion. This is one of the rarest qualities to be found in any
man. We do not here condemn it, or applaud it. We simply state the

In the army he acquired boundless popularity from his fun-making
qualities. In these days he was always merry. Bursts of laughter
generally greeted Crockett's approach and followed his departure. He
was blessed with a memory which seemed absolutely never to have
forgotten anything. His mind was an inexhaustable store-house of
anecdote. These he had ever at command. Though they were not always,
indeed were seldom, of the most refined nature, they were none the
less adapted to raise shouts of merriment in cabin and camp. What
Sydney Smith was at the banqueting board in the palatial saloon,
such was David Crockett at the campfire and in the log hut. If ever
in want of an illustrative anecdote he found no difficulty in
manufacturing one.

His thoughtless kindness of heart and good nature were
inexhaustible. Those in want never appealed to him in vain. He would
even go hungry himself that he might feed others who were more
hungry. He would, without a moment's consideration, spend his last
dollar to buy a blanket for a shivering soldier, and, without taking
any merit for the deed, would never think of it again. He did it
without reflection, as he breathed.

Such was the David Crockett who, from the mere love of adventure,
left wife and children, in the awful solitude of the wilderness, to
follow General Jackson in a march to Pensacola. He seems fully to
have understood the character of the General, his merits and his
defects. The main body of the army, consisting of a little more than
two thousand men, had already commenced its march, when Crockett
repaired to a rendezvous, in the northern frontiers of Alabama,
where another company was being formed, under Major Russel, soon to
follow. The company numbered one hundred and thirty men, and
commenced its march.

They forded the Tennessee River at Muscle Shoals, and marched south
unmolested, through the heart of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations,
and pressed rapidly forward two or three hundred miles, until they
reached the junction of the Tombeckbee and Alabama rivers, in the
southern section of the State. The main army was now but two days'
march before them. The troops, thus far, had been mounted, finding
sufficient grazing for their horses by the way. But learning that
there was no forage to be found between there and Pensacola, they
left their animals behind them, under a sufficient guard, at a place
called Cut-off, and set out for the rest of the march, a distance of
about eighty miles, on foot. The slight protective works they threw
up here, they called Fort Stoddart.

These light troops, hardy men of iron nerves, accomplished the
distance in about two days. On the evening of the second day, they
reached an eminence but a short distance out from Pensacola, where
they found the army encamped. Not a little to Crockett's
disappointment, he learned that Pensacola was already captured. Thus
he lost his chance of having "a small taste of British fighting."

The British and Spaniards had obtained intelligence of Jackson's
approach, and had made every preparation to drive him back. The
forts were strongly garrisoned, and all the principal streets of the
little Spanish city were barricaded. Several British war-vessels
were anchored in the bay, and so placed as to command with their
guns the principal entrance to the town. Jackson, who had invaded
the Spanish province unsanctioned by the Government, was anxious to
impress upon the Spanish authorities that the measure had been
reluctantly adopted, on his own authority, as a military necessity;
that he had no disposition to violate their neutral rights; but that
it was indispensable that the British should be dislodged and driven

The pride of the Spaniard was roused, and there was no friendly
response to this appeal. But the Spanish garrison was small, and,
united with the English fleet, could present no effectual opposition
to the three thousand men under such a lion-hearted leader as
General Jackson. On the 7th of January the General opened fire upon
the foe. The conflict was short. The Spaniards were compelled to
surrender their works. The British fled to the ships. The guns were
turned upon them. They spread sail and disappeared. Jackson was
severely censured, at the time, for invading the territory of a
neutral power. The final verdict of his countrymen has been
decidedly in his favor.

It was supposed that the British would move for the attack of
Mobile. This place then consisted of a settlement of but about one
hundred and fifty houses. General Jackson, with about two thousand
men, marched rapidly for its defence. A few small, broken bands of
hostile, yet despairing Creeks, fled back from Florida into the
wilds of Alabama. A detachment of nearly a thousand men, under Major
Russell, were sent in pursuit of these fleas among the mountains.
Crockett made part of this expedition. The pursuing soldiers
directed their steps northwest about a hundred miles to Fort
Montgomery, on the Alabama, just above its confluence with the
Tornbeckbee, about twelve miles above Fort Stoddart. Not far from
there was Fort Mimms, where the awful massacre had taken place which
opened the Creek war.

There were many cattle grazing in the vicinity of the fort at the
time of the massacre, which belonged to the garrison. These animals
were now running wild. A thousand hungry men gave them chase. The
fatal bullet soon laid them all low, and there was great feasting
and hilarity in the camp. The carouse was much promoted by the
arrival that evening of a large barge, which had sailed up the
Alabama River from Mobile, with sugar, coffee, and,--best of all, as
the soldiers said--worst of all, as humanity cries,--with a large
amount of intoxicating liquors.

The scene presented that night was wild and picturesque in the
extreme. The horses of the army were scattered about over the plain
grazing upon the rich herbage. There was wood in abundance near, and
the camp-fires for a thousand men threw up their forked flames,
illumining the whole region with almost the light of day. The white
tents of the officers, the varied groups of the soldiers, running
here and there, in all possible attitudes, the cooking and feasting,
often whole quarters of beef roasting on enormous spits before the
vast fires, afforded a spectacle such as is rarely seen.

One picture instantly arrested the eye of every beholder. There were
one hundred and eighty-six friendly Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians,
who had enlisted in the army. They formed a band by themselves under
their own chiefs. They were all nearly naked, gorgeously painted,
and decorated with the very brilliant attire of the warrior, with
crimson-colored plumes, and moccasins and leggins richly fringed,
and dyed in bright and strongly contrasting hues. These savages were
in the enjoyment of their greatest delight, drinking to frenzy, and
performing their most convulsive dances, around the flaming fires.

In addition to this spectacle which met the eye, there were sounds
of revelry which fell almost appallingly upon the ear. The wide
expanse reverberated with bacchanal songs, and drunken shouts, and
frenzied war-whoops. These were all blended in an inextricable
clamor. With the unrefined eminently, and in a considerable degree
with the most refined, noise is one of the essential elements of
festivity. A thousand men were making all the noise they could in
this midnight revel. Probably never before, since the dawn of
creation, had the banks of the Alabama echoed with such a clamor as
in this great carouse, which had so suddenly burst forth from the
silence of the almost uninhabited wilderness.

This is the poetry of war. This it is which lures so many from the
tameness of ordinary life to the ranks of the army. In such scenes,
Crockett, bursting with fun, the incarnation of wit and good nature,
was in his element. Here he was chief. All did him homage. His pride
was gratified by his distinction. Life in his lonely hut, with wife
and children, seemed, in comparison, too spiritless to be endured.

The Alabama here runs nearly west. The army was on the south side of
the river. The next day the Indians asked permission to cross to the
northern bank on an exploring expedition. Consent was given; but
Major Russel decided to go with them, taking a company of sixteen
men, of whom Crockett was one. They crossed the river and encamped
upon the other side, seeing no foe and encountering no alarm. They
soon came to a spot where the winding river, overflowing its banks,
spread over a wide extent of the flat country. It was about a mile
and a half across this inundated meadow. To journey around it would
require a march of many miles. They waded the meadow. The water was
very cold, often up to their armpits, and they stumbled over the
rough ground. This was not the poetry of war. But still there is a
certain degree of civilization in which the monotony of life is
relieved by such adventures.

When they reached the other side they built large fires, and warmed
and dried themselves. They were in search of a few fugitive Indian
warriors, who, fleeing from Pensacola, had scattered themselves over
a wilderness many hundred square miles in extent. This pursuit of
them, by a thousand soldiers, seems now very foolish. But it is
hardly safe for us, seated by our quiet firesides, and with but a
limited knowledge of the circumstances, to pass judgment upon the

The exploring party consisted, as we have mentioned, of nearly two
hundred Indians, and sixteen white men. They advanced very
cautiously. Two scouts were kept some distance in the advance, two
on the side nearest the river, and five on their right. In this way
they had moved along about six miles, when the two spies in front
came rushing breathlessly back, with the tidings that they had
discovered a camp of Creek Indians. They halted for a few moments
while all examined their guns and their priming and prepared for

The Indians went through certain religious ceremonies, and getting
out their war-paint, colored their bodies anew. They then came to
Major Russell, and told him that, as he was to lead them in the
battle, he must be painted too. He humored them, and was painted in
the most approved style of an Indian warrior. The plan of battle was
arranged to strike the Indian camp by surprise, when they were
utterly unprepared for any resistance. The white men were cautiously
to proceed in the advance, and pour in a deadly fire to kill as many
as possible. The Indians were then, taking advantage of the panic,
to rush in with tomahawk and scalping-knife, and finish the scene
according to their style of battle, which spared neither women nor
children. It is not pleasant to record such a measure. They crept
along, concealed by the forest, and guided by the sound of pounding,
till they caught sight of the camp. A little to their chagrin they
found that it consisted of two peaceful wigwams, where there was a
man, a woman, and several children. The wigwams were also on an
island of the river, which could not be approached without boats.
There could not be much glory won by an army of two hundred men
routing such a party and destroying their home. There was also
nothing to indicate that these Indians had even any unfriendly
feelings. The man and woman were employed in bruising what was
called brier root, which they had dug from the forest, for food. It
seems that this was the principal subsistence used by the Indians in
that vicinity.

While the soldiers were deliberating what next to do, they heard a
gun fired in the direction of the scouts, at some distance on the
right, followed by a single shrill war-whoop. This satisfied them
that if the scouts had met with a foe, it was indeed war on a small
scale. There seemed no need for any special caution. They all broke
and ran toward the spot from which the sounds came. They soon met
two of the spies, who told the following not very creditable story,
but one highly characteristic of the times.

As they were creeping along through the forest, they found two
Indians, who they said were Creeks, out hunting. As they were
approaching each other, it so happened that there was a dense
cluster of bushes between them, so that they were within a few feet
of meeting before either party was discovered. The two spies were
Choctaws. They advanced directly to the Indians, and addressed them
in the most friendly manner; stating that they had belonged to
General Jackson's army, but had escaped, and were on their way home.
They shook hands, kindled a fire, and sat down and smoked in
apparent perfect cordiality.

One of the Creeks had a gun. The other had only a bow and arrows.
After this friendly interview, they rose and took leave of each
other, each going in opposite directions. As soon as their backs
were turned, and they were but a few feet from each other, one of
the Choctaws turned around and shot the unsuspecting Creek who had
the gun. He fell dead, without a groan. The other Creek attempted to
escape, while the other Choctaw snapped his gun at him repeatedly,
but it missed fire. They then pursued him, overtook him, knocked him
down with the butt of their guns, and battered his head until he
also was motionless in death. One of the Choctaws, in his frenzied
blows, broke the stock of his rifle. They then fired off the gun of
the Creek who was killed, and one of them uttered the war-whoop
which was heard by the rest of the party.

These two savages drew their scalping-knives and cut off the heads
of both their victims. As the whole body came rushing up, they found
the gory corpses of the slain, with their dissevered heads near by.
Each Indian had a war-club. With these massive weapons each savage,
in his turn, gave the mutilated heads a severe blow. When they had
all performed this barbaric deed, Crockett, whose peculiar type of
good nature led him not only to desire to please the savages, but
also to know what would please them, seized a war-club, and, in his
turn, smote with all his strength the mangled, blood-stained heads.
The Indians were quite delighted. They gathered around him with very
expressive grunts of satisfaction, and patting him upon the back,
exclaimed, "Good warrior! Good warrior!"

The Indians then scalped the heads, and, leaving the bodies
unburied, the whole party entered a trail which led to the river,
near the point where the two wigwams were standing. As they followed
the narrow path they came upon the vestiges of a cruel and bloody
tragedy. The mouldering corpses of a Spaniard, his wife, and four
children lay scattered around, all scalped. Our hero Crockett, who
had so valiantly smitten the dissevered heads of the two Creeks who
had been so treacherously murdered, confesses that the revolting
spectacle of the whites, scalped and half devoured, caused him to
shudder. He writes:

"I began to feel mighty ticklish along about this time; for I knowed
if there was no danger then, there had been, and I felt exactly like
there still was."

The white soldiers, leading the Indians, continued their course
until they reached the river. Following it down, they came opposite
the point where the wigwams stood upon the island. The two Indian
hunters who had been killed had gone out from this peaceful little
encampment. Several Indian children were playing around, and the man
and woman whom they had before seen were still beating their roots.
Another Indian woman was also there seen. These peaceful families
had no conception of the disaster which had befallen their
companions who were hunting in the woods. Even if they had heard the
report of the rifles, they could only have supposed that it was from
the guns of the hunters firing at game.

The evening twilight was fading away. The whole party was concealed
in a dense canebrake which fringed the stream. Two of the Indians
were sent forward as a decoy--a shameful decoy--to lure into the
hands of two hundred warriors an unarmed man, two women, and eight
or ten children. The Indians picked out some of their best marksmen
and hid them behind trees and logs near the river. They were to
shoot down the Indians whom others should lure to cross the stream.

The creek which separated the island from the mainland was deep, but
not so wide but that persons without much difficulty could make
themselves heard across it. Two of the Indians went down to the
river-side, and hailed those at the wigwams, asking them to send a
canoe across to take them over. An Indian woman came down to the
bank and informed them that the canoe was on their side, that two
hunters had crossed the creek that morning, and had not yet
returned. These were the two men who had been so inhumanly murdered.
Immediate search was made for the canoe, and it was found a little
above the spot where the men were hiding. It was a very large
buoyant birch canoe, constructed for the transportation of a
numerous household, with all their goods, and such game as they
might take.

This they loaded with warriors to the water's edge, and they began
vigorously to paddle over to the island. When the one solitary
Indian man there saw this formidable array approaching he fled into
the woods. The warriors landed, and captured the two women and the
little children, ten in number, and conveyed their prisoners, with
the plunder of the wigwams, back across the creek to their own
encampment. This was not a very brilliant achievement to be
accomplished by an army of two hundred warriors aided by a
detachment of sixteen white men under Major Russel. What finally
became of these captives we know not. It is gratifying to be
informed by David Crockett that they did not kill either the squaws
or the pappooses.

The company then marched through the silent wilderness, a distance
of about thirty miles east, to the Conecuh River. This stream, in
its picturesque windings through a region where even the Indian
seldom roved, flowed into the Scambia, the principal river which
pours its floods, swollen by many tributaries, into Pensacola Bay.
It was several miles above the point where the detachment struck the
river that the Indian encampment, to which the two murdered men had
alluded, was located. But the provisions of the party were
exhausted. There was scarcely any game to be found. Major Russel did
not deem it prudent to march to the attack of the encampment, until
he had obtained a fresh supply of provisions. The main body of the
army, which had remained in Florida, moving slowly about, without
any very definite object, waiting for something to turn up was then
upon the banks of the Scambia. Colonel Blue was in command.

David Crockett was ordered to take a light birch canoe, and two men,
one a friendly Creek Indian, and paddle down the stream about twenty
miles to the main camp. Here he was to inform Colonel Blue of Major
Russel's intention to ascend the Conecuh to attack the Creeks, and
to request the Colonel immediately to dispatch some boats up the
river with the needful supplies.

It was a romantic adventure descending in the darkness that wild and
lonely stream, winding through the dense forest of wonderful
exuberance of vegetation. In the early evening he set out. The night
proved very dark. The river, swollen by recent rains, overflowed its
banks and spread far and wide over the low bottoms. The river was
extremely crooked, and it was with great difficulty that they could
keep the channel. But the instinct of the Indian guide led them
safely along, through overhanging boughs and forest glooms, until, a
little before midnight, they reached the camp. There was no time to
be lost. Major Russel was anxious to have the supplies that very
night dispatched to him, lest the Indians should hear of their
danger and should escape.

But Colonel Blue did not approve of the expedition. There was no
evidence that the Indian encampment consisted of anything more than
half a dozen wigwams, where a few inoffensive savages, with their
wives and children, were eking out a half-starved existence by
hunting, fishing, and digging up roots from the forest. It did not
seem wise to send an army of two hundred and sixteen men to carry
desolation and woe to such humble homes. Crockett was ordered to
return with this message to the Major. Military discipline, then and
there, was not very rigid. He hired another man to carry back the
unwelcome answer in his place. In the light canoe the three men
rapidly ascended the sluggish stream. Just as the sun was rising
over the forest, they reached the camp of Major Russell. The
detachment then immediately commenced its march down the River
Scambia, and joined the main body at a point called Miller's
Landing. Here learning that some fugitive Indians were on the
eastern side of the stream, a mounted party was sent across,
swimming their horses, and several Indians were hunted down and

Soon after this, the whole party, numbering nearly twelve hundred in
all, commenced a toilsome march of about two or three hundred miles
across the State to the Chattahoochee River, which constitutes the
boundary-line between Southern Alabama and Georgia. Their route led
through pathless wilds. No provisions, of any importance, could be
found by the way. They therefore took with them rations for
twenty-eight days. But their progress was far more slow and toilsome
than they had anticipated. Dense forests were to be threaded, where
it was necessary for them to cut their way through almost tropical
entanglement of vegetation. Deep and broad marshes were to be waded,
where the horses sank almost to their saddle-girths. There were
rivers to be crossed, which could only be forded by ascending the
banks through weary leagues of wilderness.

Thus, when twenty-eight days had passed, and their provisions were
nearly expended, though they had for some time been put on short
allowance, they found that they had accomplished but three-quarters
of their journey. Actual starvation threatened them. But twice in
nineteen days did Crockett Taste of any bread. Despondency spread
its gloom over the half-famished army. Still they toiled along,
almost hopeless, with tottering footsteps. War may have its
excitements and its charms. But such a march as this, of woe-begone,
emaciate, skeleton bands, is not to be counted as among war's pomps
and glories.

One evening, in the deepening twilight, when they had been out
thirty-four days, the Indian scouts, ever sent in advance, came into
camp with the announcement, that at the distance of but a few hours'
march before them, the Chattahoochee River was to be found, with a
large Indian village upon its banks. We know not what reason there
was to suppose that the Indians inhabiting this remote village were
hostile. But as the American officers decided immediately upon
attacking them, we ought to suppose that they, on the ground, had
sufficient reason to justify this course.

The army was immediately put in motion. The rifles were loaded and
primed, and the flints carefully examined, that they might not fall
into ambush unprepared. The sun was just rising as they cautiously
approached the doomed village. There was a smooth green meadow a few
rods in width on the western bank of the river, skirted by the
boundless forest. The Indian wigwams and lodges, of varied
structure, were clustered together on this treeless, grassy plain,
in much picturesque beauty. The Indians had apparently not been
apprised of the approach of the terrible tempest of war about to
descend upon them. Apparently, at that early hour, they were soundly
asleep. Not a man, woman, or child was to be seen.

Silently, screened by thick woods, the army formed in line of
battle. The two hundred Indian warriors, rifle in hand and tomahawk
at belt, stealthily took their position. The white men took theirs.
At a given signal, the war-whoop burst from the lips of the savages,
and the wild halloo of the backwoodsmen reverberated through the
forest, as both parties rushed forward in the impetuous charge. "We
were all so furious," writes Crockett, "that even the certainty of a
pretty hard fight could not have restrained us."

But to the intense mortification of these valiant men, not a single
living being was to be found as food for bullet or tomahawk. The
huts were all deserted, and despoiled of every article of any value.
There was not a skin, or an unpicked bone, or a kernel of corn left
behind. The Indians had watched the march of the foe, and, with
their wives and little ones. had retired to regions where the
famishing army could not follow them.


The Camp and the Cabin.

Deplorable Condition of the Army.--Its wanderings.--Crockett's
Benevolence.--Cruel Treatment of the Indians.--A Gleam of Good
Luck.--The Joyful Feast.--Crockett's Trade with the Indian.--Visit
to the Old Battlefield.--Bold Adventure of Crockett.--His Arrival
Home.--Death of his Wife.--Second Marriage.--Restlessness.--
Exploring Tour.--Wild Adventures.--Dangerous Sickness.--Removal
to the West.--His New Home.

The army, far away in the wilds of Southern Alabama, on the banks of
the almost unknown Chattahoochee, without provisions, and with
leagues of unexplored wilderness around, found itself in truly a
deplorable condition. The soldiers had hoped to find, in the Indian
village, stores of beans and corn, and quantities of preserved game.
In the impotence of their disappointment they applied the torch, and
laid the little village in ashes.

A council was held, and it was deemed best to divide their forces.
Major Childs took one-half of the army and retraced their steps
westward, directing their course toward Baton Rouge, where they
hoped to find General Jackson with a portion of the army with which
he was returning from New Orleans. The other division, under Major
Russel, pressed forward, as rapidly as possible, nearly north,
aiming for Fort Decatur, on the Tallapoosa River, where they
expected to find shelter and provisions. Crockett accompanied Major
Russel's party. Indian sagacity was now in great requisition. The
friendly savages led the way through scenes of difficulty and
entanglement where, but for their aid, the troops might all have
perished. So great was the destitution of food that the soldiers
were permitted to stray, almost at pleasure, on either side of the
line of march. Happy was the man who could shoot a raccoon or a
squirrel, or even the smallest bird. Implicit confidence was placed
in the guidance of the friendly Indians, and the army followed in
single file, along the narrow trail which the Indians trod before

Crockett, in this march, had acquired so much the confidence of the
officers that he seems to have enjoyed quite unlimited license. He
went where he pleased and did what he would. Almost invariably at
night, keeping pace with the army, he would bring in some small
game, a bird or a squirrel, and frequently several of these puny
animals. It was a rule, when night came, for all the hunters to
throw down what they had killed in one pile. This was then divided
among the messes as equitably as possible.

One night, Crockett returned empty-handed. He had killed nothing,
and he was very hungry. But there was a sick man in his mess, who
was suffering far more than he. Crockett, with his invariable
unselfishness and generosity, forgot his own hunger in his
solicitude for his sick comrade. He went to the fire of Captain
Cowen, who was commandant of the company to which Crockett belonged,
and told him his story. Captain Cowen was broiling, for his supper,
the gizzard of a turkey. He told Crockett that the turkey was all
that had fallen to the share of his company that night, and that the
bird had already been divided, in very small fragments, among the
sick. There was nothing left for Crockett's friend.

On this march the army was divided into messes of eight or ten men,
who cooked and ate their food together. This led Crockett to decide
that he and his mess would separate themselves from the rest of the
army, and make a small and independent band. The Indian scouts, well
armed and very wary, took the lead. They kept several miles in
advance of the main body of the troops, that they might give timely
warning should they encounter any danger. Crockett and his mess kept
close after them, following their trail, and leaving the army one or
two miles behind.

One day the scouts came across nine Indians. We are not informed
whether they were friends or enemies, whether they were hunters or
warriors, whether they were men, women, or children, whether they
were in their wigwams or wandering through the forest, whether they
were all together or were found separately: we are simply told that
they were all shot down. The circumstances of the case are such,
that the probabilities are very strong that they were shot as a wolf
or a bear would be shot, at sight, without asking any questions. The
next day the scouts found a frail encampment where there were three
Indians. They shot them all.

The sufferings of the army, as it toiled along through these vast
realms of unknown rivers and forest glooms, and marshes and
wide-spread, flower-bespangled prairies, became more and more
severe. Game was very scarce. For three days, Crockett's party
killed barely enough to sustain life. He writes:

"At last we all began to get nearly ready to give up the ghost, and
lie down and die, for we had no prospect of provision, and we knowed
we couldn't go much farther without it."

While in this condition they came upon one of those wide and
beautiful prairies which frequently embellish the landscape of the
South and the West This plain was about six miles in width, smooth
as a floor, and waving with tall grass and the most brilliaintly
colored flowers. It was bordered with a forest of luxuriant growth,
but not a tree dotted its surface. They came upon a trail leading
through the tall, thick grass. Crockett's practised eye saw at once
that it was not a trail made by human foot-steps, but the narrow
path along which deer strolled and turkeys hobbled in their movement
across the field from forest to forest.

Following this trail, they soon came to a creek of sluggish water.
The lowlands on each side were waving with a rank growth of wild
rye, presenting a very green and beautiful aspect. The men were all
mounted, as indeed was nearly the whole army. By grazing and
browsing, the horses, as they moved slowly along at a foot-pace,
kept in comfortable flesh. This rye-field presented the most
admirable pasturage for the horses. Crockett and his comrades
dismounted, and turned the animals loose. There was no danger of
their straying far in so fat a field.

Crockett and another man, Vanzant by name, leaving the horses to
feed, pushed across the plain to the forest, in search of some food
for themselves They wandered for some time, and found nothing. At
length, Crockett espied a squirrel on the limb of a tall tree. He
shot at the animal and wounded it but it succeeded in creeping into
a small hole in the tree, thirty feet from the ground. There was not
a limb for that distance to aid in climbing. Still the wants of the
party were such that Crockett climbed the tree to get the squirrel,
and felt that he had gained quite a treasure.

"I shouldn't relate such small matters," he writes, "only to show
what lengths a hungry man will go to, to get something to eat."

Soon after, he killed two more squirrels. Just as he was reloading
his gun, a large flock of fat turkeys rose from the marshy banks of
the creek along which they were wandering, and flying but a short
distance, relighted. Vanzant crept forward, and aiming at a large
gobbler, fired, and brought him down. The flock immediately flew
back to near the spot where Crockett stood. He levelled his rifle,
took deliberate aim, and another fine turkey fell. The flock then

The two hunters made the forest resound with shouts of triumph. They
had two large, fat turkeys, which would be looked at wistfully upon
any gourmand's table, and for side-dishes they had three squirrels.
Thus they were prepared for truly a thanksgiving feast. Hastily they
returned with their treasure, when they learned that the others of
their party had found a bee-tree, that is, a tree where a swarm of
bees had taken lodgment, and were laying in their winter stores.
They cut down the tree with their hatchets, and obtained an ample
supply of wild honey. They all felt that they had indeed fallen upon
a vein of good luck.

It was but a short distance from the creek to the gigantic forest,
rising sublimely in its luxuriance, with scarcely an encumbering
shrub of undergrowth. They entered the edge of the forest, built a
hot fire, roasted their game, and, while their horses were enjoying
the richest of pasturage, they, with their keen appetites, enjoyed a
more delicious feast than far-famed Delmonico ever provided for his
epicurean guests.

The happy party, rejoicing in the present, and taking no thought for
the morrow, spent the night in this camp of feasting. The next
morning they were reluctant to leave such an inviting
hunting-ground. Crockett and Vanzant again took to their rifles, and
strolled into the forest in search of game. Soon they came across a
fine buck, which seemed to have tarried behind to watch the foe,
while the rest of the herd, of which he was protector, had taken to
flight. The beautiful creature, with erect head and spreading
antlers, gallantly stopping to investigate the danger to which his
family was exposed, would have moved the sympathies of any one but a
professed hunter. Crockett's bullet struck him, wounded him
severely, and he limped away. Hotly the two hunters pursued. They
came to a large tree which had been blown down, and was partly
decayed. An immense grizzly bear crept growling from the hollow of
this tree, and plunged into the forest. It was in vain to pursue
him, without dogs to retard his flight. They however soon overtook
the wounded buck, and shot him. With this treasure of venison upon
their shoulders, they had but just returned to their camp when the
main body of the army came up. The game which Crockett had taken,
and upon which they had feasted so abundantly, if divided among
twelve hundred men, would not have afforded a mouthful apiece.

The army was in the most deplorable condition of weakness and
hunger. Ere long they reached the Coosa, and followed up its eastern
bank. About twenty miles above the spot where they struck the river
there was a small military post, called Fort Decatur. They hoped to
find some food there. And yet, in that remote, almost inaccessible
station, they could hardly expect to meet with anything like a
supply for twelve hundred half-famished men.

Upon reaching the river, Crockett took a canoe and paddled across.
On the other shore he found an Indian. Instead of shooting him, he
much more sensibly entered into relations of friendly trade with the
savage. The Indian had a little household in his solitary wigwam,
and a small quantity of corn in store. Crockett wore a large hat.
Taking it from his head, he offered the Indian a silver dollar if he
would fill it with corn. But the little bit of silver, with
enigmatical characters stamped upon it, was worth nothing to the
Indian. He declined the offer. Speaking a little broken English, he
inquired, "You got any powder? You got any bullets?" Crockett told
him he had. He promptly replied, "Me will swap my corn for powder
and bullets."

Eagerly the man gave a hatful of corn for ten bullets and ten
charges of powder. He then offered another hatful at the same price.
Crockett took off his hunting-shirt, tied it up so as to make a sort
of bag, into which he poured his two hatfuls of corn. With this
great treasure he joyfully paddled across the stream to rejoin his
companions. It is pleasant to think that the poor Indian was not
shot, that his wigwam was not burned over his head, and that he was
left with means to provide his wife and children with many luxurious

The army reached Fort Decatur. One single meal consumed all the
provisions which the garrison could by any possibility spare. They
had now entered upon a rough, hilly, broken country. The horses
found but little food, and began to give out. About fifty miles
farther up the Coosa River there was another military station, in
the lonely wilds, called Fort William. Still starving, and with
tottering horses, they toiled on. Parched corn, and but a scanty
supply of that, was now almost their only subsistence.

They reached the fort. One ration of pork and one ration of flour
were mercifully given them. It was all which could be spared. To
remain where they were was certain starvation. Forty miles above
them on the same stream was Fort Strother. Sadly they toiled along.
The skeleton horses dropped beneath their riders, and were left,
saddled and bridled, for the vultures and the wolves. On their route
to Fort Strother they passed directly by the ancient Indian fort of
Talladega. It will be remembered that a terrible battle had been
fought here by General Jackson with the Indians, on the 7th of
December, 1813. In the carnage of that bloody day nearly five
hundred Indians fell. Those who escaped scattered far and wide. A
few of them sought refuge in distant Florida.

The bodies of the slain were left unburied. Slowly the flesh
disappeared from the bones, either devoured by wild beasts or
decomposed by the action of the atmosphere. The field, as now
visited, presented an appalling aspect. Crockett writes:

"We went through the old battle-ground, and it looked like a great
gourd-patch. The skulls of the Indians who were killed, still lay
scattered all about. Many of their frames were still perfect, as
their bones had not separated."

As they were thus despairingly tottering along, they came across a
narrow Indian trail, with fresh footmarks, indicating that
moccasined Indians had recently passed along. It shows how little
they had cause to fear from the Indians, that Crockett, entirely
alone, should have followed that trail, trusting that it would lead
him to some Indian village, where he could hope to buy some more
corn. He was not deceived in his expectation. After threading the
narrow and winding path about five miles, he came to a cluster of
Indian wigwams. Boldly he entered the little village, without
apparently the slightest apprehension that he should meet with any
unfriendly reception.

He was entirely at the mercy of the savages Even if he were
murdered, it would never be known by whom. And if it were known, the
starving army, miles away, pressing along in its flight, was in no
condition to send a detachment to endeavor to avenge the deed. The
savages received him as though he had been one of their own kith and
kin, and readily exchanged corn with him, for powder and bullets. He
then returned, but did not overtake the rest of the army until late
in the night.

The next morning they were so fortunate as to encounter a detachment
of United States troops on the march to Mobile. These troops, having
just commenced their journey, were well supplied; and they liberally
distributed their corn and provisions. Here Crockett found his
youngest brother, who had enlisted for the campaign. There were also
in the band many others of his old friends and neighbors. The
succeeding day, the weary troops, much refreshed, reached a point on
the River Coosa opposite Fort Strother, and crossing the stream,
found there shelter and plenty of provisions.

We know not, and do not care to know, who was responsible for this
military movement, which seems to us now as senseless as it was
cruel and disastrous. But it is thus that poor humanity has ever
gone blundering on, displaying but little wisdom in its affairs.
Here Crockett had permission to visit his home, though he still owed
the country a month of service. In his exceeding rude, unpolished
style which pictures the man, he writes:

"Once more I was safely landed at home with my wife and children. I
found them all well and doing well; and though I was only a rough
sort of backwoodsman, they seemed mighty glad to see me, however
little the quality folks might suppose it. For I do reckon we love
as hard in the backwood country as any people in the whole creation.

"But I had been home only a few days, when we received orders to
start again, and go on to the Black Warrior and Cahaula rivers, to
see if there were no Indians there. I know'd well enough there was
none, and I wasn't willing to trust my craw any more where there was
neither any fighting to do, nor anything to go on. So I agreed to
give a young man, who wanted to go, the balance of my wages, if he
would serve out my time, which was about a month.

"He did so. And when they returned, sure enough they hadn't seen an
Indian any more than if they had been, all the time, chopping wood
in my clearing. This closed my career as a warrior; and I am glad of
it; for I like life now a heap better than I did then. And I am glad
all over that I lived to see these times, which I should not have
done if I had kept fooling along in war, and got used up at it. When
I say I am glad, I just mean that I am glad that I am alive, for
there is a confounded heap of things I ain't glad of at all."

When Crockett wrote the above he was a member of Congress, and a
very earnest politician. He was much opposed to the measure of
President Jackson in removing the deposits from the United States
Bank--a movement which greatly agitated the whole country at that
time. In speaking of things of which he was not glad, he writes:

"I ain't glad, for example, that the Government moved the deposits;
and if my military glory should take such a turn as to make me
President after the General's time, I will move them back. Yes, I
the Government, will take the responsibility, and move them back
again. If I don't I wish I may be shot."

The hardships of war had blighted Crockett's enthusiasm for wild
adventures, and had very considerably sobered him. He remained at
home for two years, diligently at work upon his farm. The battle of
New Orleans was fought. The war with England closed, and peace was
made with the poor Indians, who, by British intrigue, had been
goaded to the disastrous fight. Death came to the cabin of Crockett;
and his faithful wife, the tender mother of his children, was taken
from him. We cannot refrain from quoting his own account of this
event as it does much honor to his heart.

"In this time I met with the hardest trial which ever falls to the
lot of man. Death, that cruel leveller of all distinctions, to whom
the prayers and tears of husbands, and even of helpless infancy, are
addressed in vain, entered my humble cottage, and tore from my
children an affectionate, good mother, and from me a tender and
loving wife. It is a scene long gone by, and one which it would be
supposed I had almost forgotten. Yet when I turn my memory back upon
it, it seems but as the work of yesterday.

"It was the doing of the Almighty, whose ways are always right,
though we sometimes think they fall heavily on us. And as painful as
even yet is the remembrance of her sufferings, and the loss
sustained by my little children and myself, yet I have no wish to
lift up the voice of complaint. I was left with three children. The
two eldest were sons, the youngest a daughter, and at that time a
mere infant. It appeared to me, at that moment, that my situation
was the worst in the world.

"I couldn't bear the thought of scattering my children; and so I got
my youngest brother, who was also married, and his family, to live
with me. They took as good care of my children as they well could;
but yet it wasn't all like the care of a mother. And though their
company was to me, in every respect, like that of a brother and
sister, yet it fell far short of being like that of a wife. So I
came to the conclusion that it wouldn't do, but that I must have
another wife."

One sees strikingly, in the above quotation, the softening effect of
affliction on the human heart There was a widow in the neighborhood,
a very worthy woman, who had lost her husband in the war. She had
two children, a son and a daughter, both quite young. She owned a
snug little farm, and being a very capable woman, was getting along
quite comfortably. Crockett decided that he should make a good
step-father to her children, and she a good step-mother for his. The
courtship was in accordance with the most approved style of country
love-making. It proved to be a congenial marriage. The two families
came very harmoniously together, and in their lowly hut enjoyed
peace and contentment such as frequently is not found in more
ambitious homes.

But the wandering propensity was inherent in the very nature of
Crockett. He soon tired of the monotony of a farmer's life, and
longed for change. A few months after his marriage he set out, with
three of his neighbors, all well mounted, on an exploring tour into
Central Alabama, hoping to find new homes there. Taking a southerly
course, they crossed the Tennessee River, and striking the upper
waters of the Black Warrior, followed down that stream a distance of
about two hundred miles from their starting-point, till they came
near to the place where Tuscaloosa, the capital of the State, now

This region was then almost an unbroken wilderness. But during the
war Crockett had frequently traversed it, and was familiar with its
general character. On the route they came to the hut of a man who
was a comrade of Crockett in the Florida campaign. They spent a day
with the retired soldier, and all went out in the woods together to
hunt. Frazier unfortunately stepped upon a venomous snake, partially
covered with leaves. The reptile struck its deadly fangs into his
leg. The effect was instantaneous and awful. They carried the
wounded man, with his bloated and throbbing limb, back to the hut.
Here such remedies were applied as backwoods medical science
suggested; but it was evident that many weeks would elapse ere the
man could move, even should he eventually recover. Sadly they were
constrained to leave their suffering companion there. What became of
him is not recorded.

The three others, Crockett, Robinson, and Rich, continued their
journey. Their route led them through a very fertile and beautiful
region, called Jones's Valley. Several emigrants had penetrated and
reared their log huts upon its rich and blooming meadows.

When they reached the spot where the capital of the State now
stands, with its spacious streets, its public edifices, its halls of
learning, its churches, and its refined and cultivated society, they
found only the silence, solitude, and gloom of the wilderness. With
their hatchets they constructed a rude camp to shelter them from the
night air and the heavy dew. It was open in front. Here they built
their camp-fire, whose cheerful glow illumined the forest far and
wide, and which converted midnight glooms into almost midday
radiance. The horses were hobbled and turned out to graze on a
luxuriant meadow. It was supposed that the animals, weary of the
day's journey, and finding abundant pasturage, would not stray far.
The travellers cooked their supper, and throwing themselves upon
their couch of leaves, enjoyed that sound sleep which fatigue,
health, and comfort give.

When they awoke in the morning the horses were all gone. By
examining the trail it seemed that they had taken the back-track in
search of their homes. Crockett, who was the most vigorous and
athletic of the three, leaving Robinson and Rich in the camp, set
out in pursuit of the runaways. It was a rough and dreary path he
had to tread. There was no comfortable road to traverse, but a mere
path through forest, bog, and ravine, which, at times, it was
difficult to discern. He had hills to climb, creeks to ford, swamps
to wade through. Hour after hour he pressed on, but the horses could
walk faster than he could. There was nothing in their foot-prints
which indicated that he was approaching any nearer to them.

At last, when night came, and Crockett judged that he had walked
fifty miles, he gave up the chase as hopeless. Fortunately he
reached the cabin of a settler, where he remained until morning. A
rapid walk, almost a run, of fifty miles in one day, is a very
severe operation even for the most hardy of men. When Crockett
awoke, after his night's sleep, he found himself so lame that he
could scarcely move. He was, however, anxious to get back with his
discouraging report to his companions. He therefore set out, and
hobbled slowly and painfully along, hoping that exercise would
gradually loosen his stiffened joints.

But, mile after mile, he grew worse rather than better. His head
began to ache very severely. A burning fever spread through his
veins. He tottered in his walk, and his rifle seemed so heavy that
he could scarcely bear its weight. He was toiling through a dark and

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