Part 2 out of 5
I could not find it in my heart to blame Jacob for being eager to learn
all he could regarding his father, and it certainly seemed as if we might
hear that which would at least tell us who this prisoner was that they
were so keen to torture; but surely we were not warranted in lingering for
the possible saving of one human life, when by our delay hundreds might be
placed in gravest danger.
However, I could not retreat, because Jacob held me firmly in his clutch,
from which I would have been unable to release myself save at the cost of
betraying our whereabouts.
With the hope that the lad might soon come to realize that we must be
attending to General Herkimer's business, I remained silent and
motionless, straining my ears to hear what the painted snakes were saying,
and at the same time expecting to receive a silent protest from Sergeant
Corney because of remaining inactive when the moments were so precious.
In less than a single minute I knew that the savages were speaking of
Peter Site, and the tightening of Jacob's grip told that he too was aware
of the fact.
Because I can understand only a few words here or there of Brant's native
tongue, it would be impossible to set down exactly what the villains said;
but I caught enough to understand that the prisoner in whom we were so
deeply interested was not far distant,--probably at the main
encampment,--and Thayendanega was protecting him at least from the
torture. Why the sachem had taken such an interest in the unfortunate man
I could not make out; most likely the savages themselves were ignorant on
It appeared to me, from the conversation, that there was much hard feeling
on the part of the Indians because they were not allowed to indulge in an
amusement which had been countenanced by more than one officer of the
British army, and I fancied that Thayendanega, great sachem though he now
was of the Six Nations, would have no little trouble in holding his
precious followers in check.
When I had learned as much as has been set down here, I felt a tugging at
my shirt, and knew, without seeing him, that Sergeant Corney was not
willing to remain at this point any longer.
The savages had begun to speak of St. Leger, and what he might succeed in
doing so far as the siege was concerned, therefore it did not seem
probable we would hear more regarding Peter Sitz.
This much Jacob must have understood as well as I, for when I forced
myself backward, pushing vigorously against him, he gave way, and we thus
slowly retreated until having gained such a distance from the feasting
murderers that it seemed safe to rise to our feet.
"To what were you listenin'?" Sergeant Corney asked, in a whisper, and
with no slight show of anger because I had lingered so long.
In the fewest words possible I told him what we had heard, and when I was
come to an end of the brief recital, Jacob asked, as if believing that now
all our plans would be changed:
"What are we to do?"
"That for which we came," Sergeant Corney replied, decidedly.
"But we know that my father is near at hand, and, if Thayendanega grows
careless or indifferent, will be tortured to death."
"Ay, lad, an' I could be no more sorry if Peter Sitz was my brother; but
we cannot now do anything to aid him, even though the way lay clear before
us," and the old man laid his hand on Jacob's shoulder as if to give
emphasis to the words. "We are to push on toward the fort, an' must not
heed any other duty."
"But we stand as much chance of rescuing my father as we do of gettin'
speech with Colonel Gansevoort, an' surely you will not leave a friend to
be tortured to death?" Jacob said, pleadingly, and speaking incautiously
"Lad, we have no choice in the matter. If General Herkimer was in your
father's place I would turn my back on him until after our work had been
done. Can't you see that by loiterin' now we may be sacrificing all those
brave fellows who are making ready to march from the Oriskany in the hope
of aiding in holdin' the fort?"
"That is your final word?" Jacob asked, sharply, and Sergeant Corney
"It cannot be otherwise. We are bound first to obey orders, even though a
dozen of our best friends were bein' led to the stake, an'--"
"Then you will obey them without me," Jacob said, in a tone which I knew
full well betokened a purpose from which he would not be turned by words.
"Two will stand a better chance of gainin' the fort than three, an' _my_
duty calls me to Thayendanega's camp."
"But surely you will not attempt to go there alone!" I cried, in horror.
"Even though you should come face to face with your father, you could not
hope to set him free!"
"I would rather die by his side than have him believe I remained idle
while he was in such terrible danger."
"If you cannot be persuaded, we must leave you, an' that without delay,"
the old man said, sadly. "God knows I would do all a man might to aid
Peter Sitz; but if he was here at this minute, knowin' that the stake was
bein' made ready for him, he would say that we were bound to keep on
toward the fort regardless of his fate."
"I shall go to him," Jacob replied, quietly, and Sergeant Corney turned
aside with a sigh.
But that I knew beyond a peradventure it was useless, I would have said
all in my power to keep him with us; but his mind was fixed, and, to tell
the truth, I could not well blame him for doing as I would have done,
regardless of any duty I might owe to General Herkimer.
"We can say nothing more, lad?" Sergeant Corney said to me, inquiringly,
and I shook my head, for so great was the grief in my heart that just then
I could make no reply.
I believe Jacob understood how keen was my sorrow at thus parting, when
the chances were that we would never meet again in this world, for, as if
to put an end to the agony, he turned abruptly, not even stopping to press
my hand, and in an instant was lost to view amid the gloom of the forest.
Already had our venture, so it appeared to me, cost the life of one of our
small party, and mentally I reproached myself bitterly for having left
Cherry Valley to take service with this General Herkimer, who could as
well have sent some other in our place, for surely all in his command were
not known to Thayendanega's following. I, as captain of the Minute Boys
stationed at Cherry Valley, could not have been accused of refusing to aid
the Cause had I failed to serve under the general, so far from my post of
As it was, however, we had come a long distance from our friends, and
already sacrificed a life uselessly, so it seemed to me then in my
bitterness of spirit.
"Come, lad," Sergeant Corney whispered, shaking me roughly by the shoulder
as if he would drive from my mind the painful thoughts. "We cannot do as
Jacob would have us, and there is an end of that matter. Get to work, and
it may be that 'twixt now an' morning but one of us will remain to carry
I had never before heard the old man speak in so despondent a tone, and it
seemed an evil omen, coming as the words did when we were ready to plunge
into the most dangerous portion of the work.
In silence I led the way once more, making such a detour as I thought
would carry us safely past that party of savages from which we had gained
such painful information, and perhaps half an hour was spent in advancing
at a snail's pace; but in the direction where we supposed the fort stood.
Now it was I realized that some one well acquainted with the locality
should have been sent with us, for we were obliged to go on blindly, as it
were, trusting that chance, and what we might see of the disposition of
the enemy's forces, would bring us to the point we desired to gain, for
neither of us had ever visited Fort Schuyler.
At the end of half an hour I came to a sudden standstill, for we were
within a few paces of half a dozen white men, as could be told even in the
darkness by the outlines of their clothing.
These last appeared to be stationed at that point, for none of them made
any attempt to go away during the two or three minutes I remained
motionless, although why so many should have been placed there as
sentinels, when one would have served the purpose, I failed to understand,
and it perplexed me not a little, for it was necessary that we should know
whether we were inside the lines, or simply confronting their outlying
There was nothing for it, however, but to crawl backward half a dozen
yards, and then make another detour, and while this was being done
Sergeant Corney had only a single question to ask, which was as to whether
I had seen white men or Indians.
"White men," I replied, "and no less than half a dozen standing in a
group, as if stationed there."
The old man paused an instant, as if quite as much perplexed as I, and
"Go on. We are like to run across more than one such snag, an', what is
worse, don't have a clear idea of whether we shall come plump on to the
fort, or go a considerable distance to one side of it."
Again I advanced, making an even wider detour than before, and in ten
minutes, perhaps, we were come upon a single sentinel,--a soldier,--who
stood leaning against a tree as if half-asleep, and I was less careful in
passing him because he did not appear to be particularly on the alert.
Again and again we nearly stumbled upon a squad of men, small parties of
Indians, or a single sentinel, until it seemed to me as if all St. Leger's
force must be distributed throughout the thicket, and I began to despair
of ever making our way through.
Now we were where it seemed as dangerous to retreat as to advance, and I
strove manfully to keep from my mind all thoughts of the perils that
surrounded us, lest I grow faint-hearted at the very time when all my
courage was needed if we would save our lives.
To do this it was only necessary I think of Jacob and his hazardous
venture, which could serve no good purpose even though he succeeded in
avoiding the enemy, therefore my mind dwelt on the perils which confronted
him, causing me in a measure to forget where I myself stood.
To go on in such a manner was most wearisome, and I was well-nigh at the
end of my strength when a faint lightness in the eastern sky gave warning
that the day was near at hand.
At the same moment I observed this fact, the sergeant gripped me by the
arm, and, understanding he would have speech with me, I halted.
"It is time we went into hidin', lad, although I did count we would come
within sight of the fort before bein' obliged to call a halt."
"Where can we hide here?" I asked, bitterly, and, strange as it may seem,
I began to realize, for the first time since the general had explained
what he would have us do, that we must remain concealed from view during
all the hours of daylight, and that while we were literally surrounded by
"We must take our chances in the first dense thicket, wherein may be found
a stout tree, that we come across," he replied, "an' now instead of tryin'
to get a sight of the fortification, turn all your efforts toward findin'
This promised to be as difficult a task as I had ever undertaken, for how
would it be possible in the darkness to say whether one thicket was denser
than another, and, without spending precious time in the examination, to
learn if there was a stout tree within any certain clump of bushes?
Because the sergeant had said we were to halt where was a tree, I believed
he proposed spending the day amid the branches, and any one who has ever
been in a forest can readily understand how few there are of such
However, we were there, and within another hour must be screened from view
after some fashion, therefore it was useless to grumble, or say this or
that movement was impossible; but rather I should do the best I might, and
trust to the chapter of accidents that I did not lead my companion into
what would prove to be a trap.
All the thicket looked dense in the night, but when I was finally come to
a clump of bushes through which it was difficult to force my way, I
stopped and whispered to Sergeant Corney.
"This seems to be such a place as you would have; but who can say whether
it will answer our purpose?"
"So much the worse for us if it does not," the old man replied, grimly.
"Make your way in, an' if there be no tree to give us a roostin'-place, we
must take our chances on the ground, for the day is comin' on apace."
And indeed he said no more than the truth; already was it possible for me
to see surrounding objects, dimly, to be sure, but more clearly than when
we first began searching for a place of refuge.
Unless we were concealed from view within half an hour, we might as well
march straight to the nearest sentinel and give ourselves up as prisoners.
There was much to be desired in this thicket which we had chosen by
chance, as was learned when we were well within it. Several large trees
grew amid the clump of bushes, to be sure; but the foliage was not so
dense that one who passed near at hand with reasonable alertness would
have failed to discover us lurking there.
"It is better than the open country," Sergeant Corney said, when I would
have found fault with our blind choice. "We will burrow amid these small
bushes until daylight, an' then, if necessary, go to roost."
I had in my pocket a small piece of corn bread, and, when I would have
divided it with the old man, he showed me about the same quantity, which
he had saved in event of just such an emergency, and we munched the dry
food with no very keen appetites, but eating at this the first
opportunity, in order to keep up our strength for the struggle which must
ensue before we gained speech with those in the fort.
My sorrow because Jacob had left us on a venture from which I did not
believe he could ever return, was so great that I felt no desire for food,
but ate it from a sense of duty, even as I had turned my back on my
comrade when he needed aid.
One does not make haste with such a meal, and when I had swallowed the
last dry crumbs, which were like to have choked me, the day had fully
It can readily be imagined that we crept even nearer the edge of the
thicket than was really safe in order to get some idea of our position,
and to my great surprise and delight I found that we had come in as direct
a course as if we had followed a blazed trail.
There before us, and less than three hundred yards distant, was the
fortification over which was floating the flag made from Capt. Abraham
Swartwout's cloak, and because we were on high ground it was possible to
see the Americans moving about within, bent on this task or that duty.
After one hasty glance we crept back into the middle of the thicket, and
there, surrounded by hundreds of enemies, we two held a whispered
conversation regarding the situation.
It was only natural we should first congratulate each other on our good
fortune in having come unwittingly to the very spot we most desired to
gain, and then I said, simply giving words to the thoughts which had
entered my mind as I gazed upon the fortification:
"He who crosses the clearing between here and the fort, even though it be
in the night, needs to wriggle along like a snake, else will one of
Thayendanega's painted beauties lift his scalp."
"It is a bit open jest in front of here; but I took note that further to
the westward was a little more of green," Sergeant Corney said, half to
himself, and I knew he was picturing in his mind the two of us making the
attempt where was not a blade of grass to give shelter, for the "green" of
which he spoke was nothing more than the fragment of a bush near the
"How are we to attract their attention, providin' we succeed in creepin'
up under the wall?" I asked, after a long pause, and he replied, grimly:
"I'll answer that question after you've told me how we're goin' to stop
'em shootin' at us while we're tryin' to get across."
Then it was I understood that even though the enemy did not see us while
we were making our way over the plain, the sentinels in the fort were
doubtless on the alert against just such an attempt on the part of the
Indians, and there was little question but that they would fire at any
moving thing which came within their line of vision.
"It seems to me that we'll be between two fires," I said, with a feeble
attempt to speak in a jovial tone, and Sergeant Corney's reply was much
like a bucket of cold water full in my face.
"That's exactly the case, lad, an' I'm countin' that betwixt 'em we'll be
peppered in fine shape, else there are some mighty poor marksmen
"Why didn't you tell the general that we couldn't carry his message?
Didn't you think of all this at the time?"
"Ay, lad, it was pictured in my mind much as we see it now; but he said we
were to do the job, an' it wasn't for me to point out the danger."
"Why not, if you felt certain we would be shot?" I cried, angrily.
"Because a soldier has good reason when he enlists to expect he'll stop a
bullet, else what would be the need of powder an' ball?"
Having said this, the old man relapsed into silence, as if he was trying
to figure out how the work might be done with less of danger, and I sat
staring at him in a rage, for to my mind he had much the same as
compassed his own death and mine by not speaking of all the perils in our
Now it was that I almost envied Jacob his position. It is true the odds
were strongly against his being able to make his way through the camp
without being captured, yet it was possible for him at any time to give
over the attempt and retrace his steps, whereas we were absolutely penned
up in the thicket, where retreat was even more perilous than advance.
Fume and fret as I might, it was not possible to mend matters, and I
stretched myself out at full length under the bushes, with the idea in
mind that it would be better if we were captured at once, for then we
would be spared just so much suspense, yet when Sergeant Corney suggested
that we were not as well hidden from view as we should be, I was alarmed
on the instant.
How that day was passed by us I can hardly say even now, when I look back
calmly upon all the incidents which were then so terrifying.
We had eaten the last crumb of our corn bread in the morning, without
appeasing the hunger which assailed us, and now could only chew the twigs
of the bushes, striving to make ourselves believe we extracted nourishment
More than once straggling soldiers or Indians passed near where we were
hidden; but no one thought of searching the thicket for those who were
friendly to the garrison, because none save idiots like ourselves would
thus have ventured into the lion's mouth.
Screened as we were from the lightest breath of wind, it was cruelly hot
in that hiding-place. Tiny streams of perspiration ran down my face,
wetting the leaves beneath my head, and I chewed them in the vain hope
that the suspicion of moisture might serve to quench my thirst.
I rejoiced when the sun began to sink in the west, even though it was, as
I believed, bringing the hour of my death so much the nearer; but I soon
came to understand that Sergeant Corney was not disposed to make the
perilous venture without first having taken all possible precautions for
When the day was within an hour of its close, I suddenly became aware that
the old soldier was stripping the fringe from his shirt, and immediately I
sat bolt upright, fancying for the moment that he had lost his reason.
"What are you doin'?" I asked, sharply, and he replied, with a faint
"If the sentinel who stands on the wall of the fort facin' us is 'tendin'
to his business as a soldier should, then there's a chance I can let him
know these 'ere bushes shelter decent people."
While speaking he had been cutting cautiously with his knife one of the
longer branches which helped to screen us from view, and when it had been
severed he trimmed it with infinite care, as if our welfare depended upon
its being smooth and clean.
When this had been done to his satisfaction, and it seemed to give him
greatest pleasure to keep me in suspense as to his purpose, he tied to the
smaller end of the stick the fringe from his shirt.
"You're goin' to creep out an' wave that!" I cried, in the tone of one who
has made a great discovery.
"You can set it down as a fact that I won't creep very far out," the old
man replied, with a smile. "It's only the ghost of a chance that anybody
will take heed of it, an' yet there's no harm in the tryin'."
When finally he crept cautiously out toward the edge of the thicket, I
watched him as eagerly as if all our troubles would be over in case we
succeeded in attracting the attention of those in the fort, whereas, no
matter how many of our friends might see the waving fringe, we would still
be in the same danger of getting a bullet from the besiegers.
"It ain't any ways certain that some of these sneakin' Injuns don't see my
signal before one of the garrison does, in which case we won't have to
puzzle our heads about gettin' into the fort; but if they should jump on
me, you'd best take to your heels. There's a bare chance you might give
'em the slip in the squabble, for I shouldn't knock under while there was
any fight left in me."
[Illustration: "Sergeant Corney waved the bit of fringe slowly to and
Then, peering through the branches, I could see the sentinel on the wall
near the sally-port, and it goes without saying that I watched with my
heart in my mouth for some gesture which might tell that he understood
what was of so much importance to us.
It was fortunate that we had blindly stumbled upon a hiding-place a few
yards in advance of the enemy's line of watchers, otherwise the scheme
could never have been successful. Even as it was, I expected each instant
that some painted snake would take it into his wicked head to wander
around in front of the thicket, when the game would come to a speedy end.
Sergeant Corney waved the bit of fringe slowly to and fro in such a manner
that the dull color of the deerskin might offer a contrast against the
green of the foliage, and when five minutes or more had passed without any
movement on the part of the sentinel, I said to myself that there was no
possibility we could catch the man's eye.
The old soldier was not one easily discouraged. During ten minutes more he
continued his efforts, now moving the stick to and fro, and again giving
to it an up-and-down motion, and then, at the very moment when all hope
had fled from my heart, I saw the man straighten himself suddenly, as he
shaded his eyes with his hand.
Then there could be no doubt but that Sergeant Corney had succeeded in his
purpose, for the soldier waved his hand twice, and bent over as if
speaking to some one on the inside.
Now it was that I expected the old man would return to my side and chuckle
over our good fortune; but he remained at the edge of the thicket while I
might have counted twenty, and then a second member of the garrison had
clambered up beside the first.
Another hand was waved in reply, and then, having finished his task in
good shape, Sergeant Corney crept back to me as he whispered, gleefully:
"I reckon we needn't fear that any of the garrison will shoot at us this
night, an', what's more to our advantage, we won't be called on to lay
behind the walls very long tryin' to attract attention."
"It was a great plan!" I replied, as if all our troubles were at an end,
and then again came the thought that it would be necessary for us to creep
out from the thicket under the very noses of those who were on guard, and
straightway all my fears returned.
It no longer seemed to me as if we had gained any great advantage from the
old man's efforts.
Between the Lines
As the sun slowly sank behind the hills in the west, I forgot the thirst
and the hunger which had assailed me. So great was the fear in my mind
because of what we were about to attempt, that bodily discomforts seemed
It was a most daring venture we were to make, and one wherein the chances
were no less than ninety and nine out of an hundred that we would be
killed or captured before having well started on the enterprise, and yet
the attempt must be made, however faint-hearted we might be, for, as I
have already said, there was as much danger in retreating as advancing.
The only thing in our favor was that the night promised to be dark.
Already were clouds hiding the setting sun, the wind was growing stronger,
and it was reasonable to believe that within an hour the heavens would be
covered as with a black veil.
After having succeeded in attracting the attention of the sentinels,
Sergeant Corney crept back to my side, lying there at full length and in
silence. I believed his anxiety as to the outcome of this mad venture was
so great that he did not dare indulge in conversation, and because of such
idea was I even more cast down in spirit.
I tried to count the seconds in order to have some knowledge of the
passage of time; but could not fix my mind upon such a simple act.
When it seemed to me as if the night was considerably more than
half-spent, I whispered tremblingly to my companion:
"Have you given over tryin' to gain the fort?"
"Why should you think so, lad?" he asked, as if in surprise. "We had best
make the venture after midnight, rather than now while the enemy is
So great was my fear as to what the future might have in store for us that
I had failed to hear the hum of voices, until my attention was thus
attracted, and then I realized that it was yet quite early in the evening,
instead of well toward morning, as I had supposed.
Because he did not speak again I understood that Sergeant Corney was not
inclined for conversation, and I lay there motionless and silent until it
was as if twice four and twenty hours had passed, when the old man, rising
to a sitting posture, whispered, cautiously:
"I reckon, lad, that the time has come for us to make a try at deliverin'
the general's message. As I figger it, we had best bear off to the
westward, strikin' the fort on that side nearabout where the fragment of a
bush stands, than to push on for the main gate. It seems reasonable the
enemy will watch that part of the works closer than any other, in order to
guard against a sortie, an' if Colonel Gansevoort has been told of our
signals, every sentinel will be on the alert for us."
"Well?" I asked, as he ceased speaking for an instant.
"We'll do the trick after this fashion: You shall go ahead, an' I'll keep
two or three paces in the rear."
"Why do you propose such a plan as that?" I asked, suspiciously, and the
old man replied, hesitatingly, as if averse to having his reasons known:
"In case they see us before we are well on our way, he who is in advance
stands the best show of escapin'."
"But why should my chances be made any better than yours?" I asked,
angrily, for even though I was afraid of the venture, it was not in my
mind to be treated like a child, as seemed to be the case when the old man
was considering my safety rather than his own.
"Well, lad, there are two reasons, 'cordin' to my way of figgerin', but
the last is the strongest. First off, I have a much shorter time to live
in this world than you, therefore, if one life is taken, it had best be
mine, so far as the patriot cause is concerned. Then agin, an' this has
weight to it, in case we are chased you should be able to run faster than
me, an' we must bear in mind the fact that to deliver the message is the
one important thing--our lives amount to very little compared with that."
I could not well make protest after this explanation, and, in fact, it
seemed to me that there was little choice of position. If the enemy
discovered us at any time while we were between the lines, our fate was
well-nigh certain, and he who was three paces in advance would have no
more show of escaping the bullets than the one who remained in the rear.
"Are we to go now?" I asked, striving earnestly to prevent my voice from
"Ay, lad, I reckon it's time," and the old man tightened his belt as he
spoke. "Throw away your rifle, or strap it on your back where there's no
chance it will hinder the progress, an', once havin' started, keep your
mind well on the fact that we must get there, heedin' not what lies
Then he gently forced me to the edge of the thicket, where we halted an
instant to make certain there was no one in the immediate vicinity, after
which was begun such an advance as I hope never to be forced into again,
for of a verity it was nerve-shattering.
Strive as I might it was impossible, during the first two or three minutes
of the painful journey, to prevent myself from fancying that half a dozen
of Thayendanega's painted wolves were creeping up close behind me,
enjoying the mental torture caused by my suspense, and then suddenly my
mind was cleared of fears, even as the heavens are of clouds after a
storm, as I ceased to think of what lay behind, remembering that my
efforts _must_ be successful else patriot blood might flow in streams.
We were lying flat upon the ground, pulling ourselves painfully along by
our hands, and pushing with our toes whenever it was possible to get a
leverage on the hard earth, moving perhaps no more than twelve inches each
Had St. Leger's sentinels kept the strict watch which the siege demanded
of them, we would not have gone a dozen paces before being discovered.
But that we did move out from the thicket without causing an alarm was, as
I believe, due to the fact that the enemy contented themselves with
watching the main gate of the fort, fancying that only from such quarter
could any danger menace them. They had so many scouts out between the fort
and Oriskany that it probably seemed to be an absolute impossibility any
of the patriots could come through their lines undetected.
However it may be, we did succeed in crossing that open space without
being seen by those who would have delighted in torturing us to death; but
it was as if I lived a full lifetime before coming within the deep shadows
cast by the walls on the west side, at the point decided upon by Sergeant
Some moments before we arrived I understood, and my heart literally
bounded with joy, that those on the inside were already aware of our
approach, and waiting to receive us, for we heard subdued voices from the
sentinels on the walls, as if they were giving information to those below
of our progress.
"It's a big thing we have done, lad," Sergeant Corney said, as he drew
himself up by my side while both of us hugged the earthworks as limpets do
a rock. "It stands to reason we'll be in danger many a time before we go
out from this world, unless it so chances that we come to grief here; but
I dare venture to say we'll never be nearer death than we have been since
leaving the thicket."
The relief of mind was so great, and the knowledge that we had come thus
far undetected under the very eyes of a watchful enemy was so
overpowering, that I could not for a moment make reply, and by the time I
had gathered my scattered senses--scattered through very joy--we heard
voices from the inside which told that the men were seeking to learn
exactly where we were.
"Keep right on till you come to the horn-works," I heard a voice whisper,
and the words had little or no meaning to me, for I was not familiar with
the names of different portions of a regular fort; but the sergeant seemed
to understand the command, for he began to creep in a southerly direction,
still keeping within the shadow of the wall, until we arrived where was a
This, as I afterward came to know, was the "horn-works," which as yet was
in an unfinished condition, and protected by a stockade of logs, between
each of which last were spaces, in some cases two or three inches wide.
By lying with our faces against these narrow openings, it was possible to
hold converse with those on the inside almost as well as if we were within
"Who are you, and where did you come from?" a voice asked, and Sergeant
Corney took it upon himself, much to my relief, to act as spokesman.
"Messengers sent by General Herkimer, who have come from Oriskany."
"When did you leave there?"
"We thought the woods were overrun with Indians and Tories."
"So they are; but by some lucky chance we have come through thus far in
safety, and would have speech with the commandant."
"I am Colonel Gansevoort. My people saw your signal this afternoon, and I
myself have been watching for your arrival, but supposed you to be
fugitives, for I never dared hope there was a possibility of
reinforcements so near at hand. Will you make an attempt to get in by the
"Is there any other entrance, sir?"
"Yes; but the enemy have been keeping sharp watch there since noon, as if
thinking something of this same kind might be attempted."
"We will deliver our message, sir, and then decide what to do," the old
man said, grimly. "The words had best be repeated now, for we may be
unable to utter them half an hour later."
Then Sergeant Corney delivered the message with which we were charged, and
during a full minute after he ceased speaking the commandant remained
When he spoke again, it was to say:
"It would be folly to give him now the signal of your arrival, since to
discharge one of the cannon when there is no direct target in sight would
be to apprise St. Leger of all the facts. If it were possible for you to
return, I would say that we will signal the moment my men are ready for
"I am of the mind that there will be no more danger in going back than in
trying to enter the fort," Sergeant Corney said, half to himself.
"Doubtless the enemy are watchin' the sally-port so closely that we would
be seen tryin' to gain it, for on that side the shadow is less than here,
and if there be large numbers posted to prevent an entrance, then must we
come to grief."
"Meaning what?" Colonel Gansevoort asked, with no slight tinge of
impatience in his tone, as if he did not care to hear the old soldier
summing up all the situation.
"Meanin' that we are runnin' no greater risks in goin' back to General
Herkimer, or at least not many more, than by tryin' to gain admission to
"It will simplify matters if you choose to return; but I would not ask any
man to do so, in view of all the danger."
"What do you say, lad?" Sergeant Corney asked, laying his hand on my
shoulder, and, although I would have given anything I possessed to have
been at that moment behind the walls, I was not minded to show that my
courage was less than his, therefore I replied:
"It is for you to say, accordin' to the agreement we made."
"But I would not set off against your wishes, because of the danger in the
road, although I claim it would be quite as great if we attempted to enter
the fort at once."
"Then it is decided you will return to General Herkimer," Colonel
Gansevoort said, quickly, as if fearing lest we might repent of our
decision. "Tell him that within five minutes after giving the signal we
will make a sortie from the main gate in the direction of Oriskany."
"An' if it should be that we didn't get through alive?" Sergeant Corney
said as if to himself, and the commandant replied, quickly:
"In such case, without means of knowing what has happened to you, we shall
make the sortie and shed much blood uselessly. Is there anything I can do
for you before you start?"
The old soldier hesitated, as if unable to think of anything we needed,
and I, remembering the hunger which had assailed us while we lay hidden in
the thicket, replied:
"If it so be you could spare us a bit of corn bread, we would be the
better able to make a hurried journey."
"That you shall have, and in plenty," the commandant said, as if relieved
at knowing our wants could be gratified with so little trouble, and
Sergeant Corney added:
"Only so much as we can put in our pockets, for this is not the time to
encumber ourselves even with provisions."
Some of the soldiers who had been standing near by hurried away, returning
a few moments later with as much bread as would have served to satisfy our
hunger for a week at least.
When such a quantity as we needed for one meal had been pushed out between
the logs of the stockade, my companion whispered to the commandant:
"We shall strike into the thicket to the westward, making a circle to the
south around the fort, until coming to the road leading to Oriskany,
crossing the river just below here, and now, sir, if you have no further
demands, we will go."
"May God have you in His keeping," the colonel said, fervently, and
without waiting to hear more the old soldier set off, this time leaving
it for me to bring up the rear.
Now it was I came to understand that the rain was beginning to fall; the
wind came in spiteful gusts, betokening a storm, and I could have hugged
myself with glee at the thought that the elements were favoring us in the
attempt which, at the outset, had seemed doomed to failure.
Before we had traversed half the distance from the fort to the thicket on
the westerly side, the rain was falling heavily, and the wind whistling at
such a rate as to have drowned any ordinary noise we might make in forcing
our way through the foliage.
Never had a storm, which promised much bodily discomfort, been so warmly
welcomed by me; never had one been more sadly needed by those who fought
against the king and his savage followers for the cause of American
It is well known that Indians, like cats, are averse to exposing their
bodies to rain, and when we set out on the return I had but little fear,
believing that every one of Thayendanega's followers would be hugging his
lodge closely, while the Tories would find it difficult to discern us from
any great distance as we lay prone upon the ground.
Lest I spend too many words in the telling of it, let me say, in short,
that we gained the thicket without causing an alarm, and, what was really
strange, made our way through it in a westerly direction for fully a mile
without meeting any living being.
Then it was that Sergeant Corney came to a halt, and, taking the corn
bread from his pocket, began to munch it greedily as he said to me,
speaking indistinctly because of the fulness of his mouth:
"I reckon, lad, we've passed the Britishers' lines, an' can begin to
circle southward from this point."
While we were creeping away from the fort, beginning the second journey
before having had time to rest from the first, I had said to myself again
and again that it was the act of madmen for us to make any attempt at
gaining General Herkimer's forces. In the first place there was no real
necessity for such dangerous labor, because the signal could have been
given by Colonel Gansevoort at a reasonably early hour next morning, and
thus our commander would have known that the message was delivered. We
were risking our lives foolishly, and when the old soldier spoke of making
a circle from that point, in a tone which told that he was very well
contented with himself and what he had done, I lost my temper, and
"Ay, we have got through the lines safely because of the storm, which was
a lucky chance in our favor, and one we could not have foreseen when you
were so foolish as to propose that we go back to-night."
"It would have pleased you better had we made the attempt to get into the
"Ay, ten times over, for then instead of roaming these woods, taking a
fool's chances of bein' shot down, we might be comfortable and in safety."
"An' remained there so long as pleased Colonel Gansevoort, for once inside
that fort we placed ourselves under his command."
"Well, and why not?" I asked, in surprise.
"Because it does not please me to linger when there is other work to be
"But there was no real need of undertakin' this task," I said, with
"Yet it gave us an excuse to which he would listen for leavin', when, had
we told the truth, I question if he had not tried to stop us."
"Well, what is the truth?" I cried, sharply.
"Is there nothin' in your mind that we are bound to do, now the message
has been delivered?"
"Do you mean to aid Jacob?" I asked, as a sudden light began to dawn on
"Ay, lad, all of that. Neither you nor I would have let him gone alone in
the hopeless task of rescuin' his father, had it not been that duty
demanded of us to keep our faces turned toward yonder fort. Now we have
done that which General Herkimer required, we can set out to fulfil our
duty toward the lad, an' this goin' back on the road to Oriskany is but
little more than we would be forced to do in order to gain the spot where
we parted with him, for I'm countin' that he was then near by the place
where his father is held prisoner."
I could have hugged the old man, but that he might have fancied I had
lost my senses.
When we parted with Jacob there was no thought in my mind that Sergeant
Corney had the slightest idea of joining in what was a most desperate
venture, and I even fancied he felt a certain sense of relief in having
such a good excuse for not sticking his nose into the Indian encampment.
But now I understood that all the while he held firm to the determination
to do whatsoever he might toward aiding Peter Sitz, and I began to feel
real affection for the noble old man.
Whether we might be able to find Jacob or not, and the chances were that
he had already been made prisoner, we could say to ourselves that the poor
lad was not deserted by us in his hour of need, and, if the worst
happened, it would be no slight satisfaction to us in after years.
The storm increased each moment, and we were soon wetted to the skin, but
hardly conscious of the discomfort because of the safety which this
downpour brought to us.
I had never given Sergeant Corney credit for any great knowledge of
woodcraft, because he came to us from over the seas where his life had
been spent fighting battles in the open, and could not be expected to cope
with the savage foe, as did our people who had always been accustomed to
the skulking methods of warfare practised by the redskins.
Now, however, I was forced to give him credit for being wiser than I in
the forest, since in the darkness and amid the tumult caused by the wind
and rain he made the detour as if a broad trail stretched out before him
under the sunlight, and we half-circled around the fortification, at the
distance of a mile or more, without varying, so far as could be told, a
single hair from the true course.
Not until we were come to the trail which led to Oriskany did the old man
halt, and then it was to say to me:
"From this on I'm allowin' we had better be cautious how we move."
"But surely there is no danger of meetin' any of the savages now," I said,
like a simple, and he replied, with a laugh:
"True for you, lad; but General Herkimer was to begin an advance on the
mornin' after we left camp, and he should be nearabout. To run upon his
sentinels in the darkness might not be agreeable."
From that on, until half an hour had passed, we pressed forward
cautiously, and well it was that we did so, for suddenly I came upon a
levelled musket, which would have been discharged but for my crying out
quickly, as I swerved to one side:
"We are messengers for the general! We are friends!"
"You come from an odd direction if that be true," was the reply, and at
the same instant a vigorous hand seized me by the shirt-collar.
Then it was that Sergeant Corney stepped forward, as he asked:
"Are you of General Herkimer's force?"
"How much will it benefit you to get such information?"
"Nay, nay, friend; there is no need of bein' overcautious with us. We are
two of the three messengers who left camp at Oriskany to go to Fort
Schuyler, and are now returnin'."
"Returnin'?" the soldier said, for it was indeed one of General Herkimer's
sentinels whom we had come upon. "It must please you to skulk around among
the Tories and savages, if, after having once gained the fort, you come
"That is exactly what we have done, my friend," Sergeant Corney replied,
gravely, "and for the good reason that Colonel Gansevoort had a message
for us to deliver to the general. You are right in questioning us, for
under such situations a soldier had best be overcautious than too
credulous. But now we ask to be sent to the commander."
"Have you seen any of the enemy near at hand?" the man asked.
"I can swear there are none within half a mile."
"Then come with me," and the sentinel deserted his post to lead us into
camp, a proceeding which called forth harsh criticisms from Sergeant
Corney, despite the fact that he was being benefited thereby.
It was near to daybreak when we followed the soldier to where General
Herkimer lay under a shelter of pine boughs; but owing to the storm the
gloom was quite as profound as at any time during the night.
To my surprise, the general came out from his poor apology for a tent on
hearing our voices, although we spoke cautiously low, and even then I
could but ask myself why it was that an experienced soldier such as he was
not giving more heed to his bodily welfare, for men on the eve of
encountering a strong enemy surely need all the repose which can be had.
I was soon to understand why the commander slept so lightly, and to learn
for the first time that even patriots may be insubordinate.
General Herkimer did not at first recognize us in the gloom; but when
Sergeant Corney made himself known, the leader said, in a tone of bitter
"Then you did not succeed in getting there?"
"Ay, that we did, sir," the old soldier replied, emphatically; "but
Colonel Gansevoort had the desire to send a message to you, and we have
brought it, hopin' to be excused from further duty for a short time."
"What had Gansevoort to say?" General Herkimer asked, impatiently, and
Sergeant Corney repeated the message twice over, in order that there
should be no misunderstanding as to its meaning.
"Very well. We will be on the alert if these hotheads can be restrained,"
the general replied, and his words were a riddle to me until half an hour
Then he asked what the old soldier meant by wishing to be excused from
duty, and the sergeant, in the fewest words possible, gave him an account
of our proceedings since leaving the camp at Oriskany, concluding by
"There is no question but that Jacob Sitz will make his way through the
Indian encampment, if it can be done by any person. Yet the lad is blinded
by love for his father, an' will take altogether too desperate chances,
unless there be some one at hand who can restrain him."
"Is it in your mind that the prisoner may be taken out of Thayendanega's
camp?" General Herkimer exclaimed.
"We do not count on any such good fortune; but follow the lad simply that
he may know he has not been forgotten. If it so be you need us, sir, we
will wait until you have gained the fort before making any effort to join
"No, no, it was not from such motives that I spoke," the general
interrupted, hastily. "With a force as large as this two men would not
make much of a count either way. Go where you please, Sergeant Braun, and
when you are once more at liberty report to me."
"We reckon on resting our legs a bit, sir, before settin' out. You will
not advance for some time to come, sir?"
"How far do you count we are from the enemy's pickets?"
"Not above two miles, sir."
"Then we shall remain here, unless matters get beyond my control, until
having heard the signal."
Having made this, to me, odd remark, the commander disappeared from view
inside the shelter of boughs, and Sergeant Corney led me a dozen yards or
more from what might by courtesy have been called "headquarters," when he
halted to say, gravely:
"It appears that things are not just as they should be in this camp, lad."
"How do you mean?" I asked, in surprise.
"You heard what the general said?"
"Well, who of his men are making the trouble?"
Before I could so much as make a guess at the proper answer, I must needs
be told that there was trouble, for, through having failed to understand
exactly what the commander meant, I had not suspected that there was
anything serious brewing. But Sergeant Corney, experienced as he was in
such matters, seemed to know as if he had been informed in so many words
that insubordination was rife in the camp, and at a time when it was in
the highest degree necessary the men should move in harmony.
Since I could not even so much as hazard a guess, the old man, forgetting
his weariness and the need of gaining repose, led me out to where he had
been halted by the sentinel, and, finding him at his post, began his
investigations by saying:
"We two have just come from Fort Schuyler, an' knowin' full well how
strong a force is in front of the place, have a better idea of the kind of
work in hand than you who haven't seen the enemy."
"Did the general send you over here to tell me that?" the man asked, in a
certain tone of irritation, and Sergeant Corney replied, soothingly:
"Not a bit of it, my friend; but while we were having an interview with
the commander it struck me that matters here were not just as pleasant as
they should be, an' instead of awakenin' some one who might need more
slumber, we thought to come to you for an explanation."
"That we cannot say; but there is a question I would ask you, as between
man and man, for mayhap the lives of us all depend upon the general sense
of good fellowship. Tell me plainly, is there insubordination in the
"I know not if you may call it by that name," the sentinel said, somewhat
moodily; "but certain it is we would have relieved the fort four and
twenty hours ago had General Herkimer not held us back. With such a force
as we have here, it cannot be a hard matter to do about as we please. Look
you," the man continued, growing more confidential, "the general has no
less than eight hundred men under his command, and what may not a company
of that number do?"
"Very much, my friend; but your eight hundred would be weak indeed unless
the advance was made at the proper time and in a soldierly fashion. So
your people have been complaining because the commander holds them back?"
"Ay, and with good cause. When Colonels Cox and Paris say openly that it
is cowardly for us to loiter here, surely there must be some reason in
their words. A full third of this force believe we should have come in
front of Fort Schuyler yesterday mornin', an' think you all those can be
mistaken, an' only General Herkimer stand in the right?"
"Then it _is_ insubordination!" Sergeant Corney said, sadly, and the
sentinel replied, angrily:
"It is only common sense and a desire to aid the Cause. If we are eager to
begin a battle which will drive the Tories and their painted allies from
the valley, surely that man is a criminal who would hold us back."
"If you had been where this lad and I have just come from, able to see
what was seen by us, you would talk in a different strain," the old
soldier said, hotly. "Why, man, Colonel Gansevoort himself sent us back to
request that you remain here until he signals, so that everything may be
prepared for your comin', and we, knowin' how important it was you delay
until the proper moment, risked our lives twenty times over in the effort
to bring the word."
"Then Colonel Gansevoort is as great a coward as General Herkimer, for we
are of sufficient strength to march whithersoever we will."
Sergeant Corney turned as if to go, and then suddenly wheeling upon the
"I do not read my Bible, as a man should; but yet I remember that in it
can be found these words: 'Fools die for want of wisdom,' an' I'm
allowin', my friend, if you have any desire to linger in this 'ere world,
that you take the statement home mighty strong."
With this cutting remark, which for a moment I feared would provoke a
downright quarrel, Sergeant Corney strode off into the darkness, I
following meekly at his heels.
"Surely there can be nothing which would work harm in this desire of the
men to go forward," I said, when the sergeant had come to a halt,
throwing himself down under a tree as if to rest. "It should be a good
sign when soldiers are eager to go into battle."
"Insubordination, wherever you find it, is the most dangerous condition of
affairs that can be figgered out. When a man puts himself under a leader,
whether to fight or to till the land, an' then sets up his opinions
against those of the one who is supposed to know best, else he wouldn't be
in command, matters have come to a mighty dangerous pass. Instead of
helpin' the men inside the fort, this regiment is likely to bring them to
grief, unless things are changed, an' that right soon. Now get what sleep
you can, lad, before the encampment is astir," the old man added, changing
his tone very suddenly, and before I could obey he drew out his rifle from
the hiding-place where he had left it when we set off for the fort.
I laid myself down by his side; but it was not to sleep, for I realized
that the old soldier would not have spoken in such a tone unless matters,
according to his belief, had been in a most serious condition.
I was still speculating upon the situation, sorrowing because the men
would, at such a time, while the lives of so many depended upon concerted
action, set up their individual opinions against those who had been put in
authority over them, when a bustle on every side told that the soldiers
were awakening to a day of noble struggle for their country, or worse
than criminal bickerings.
If Sergeant Corney had really closed his eyes in slumber, which I doubted,
he was now awakened by the many noises, and a plan of action must have
been presented to him in his dreams, for he spoke like one who is
determined upon some decided course, as he said to me:
"Now, lad, we'll fill ourselves up with one good hearty meal, if it so be
this mutinously inclined army has a proper store of provisions, and then
it is for us to decide whether we stay among those who are like to come to
grief if they have their own way, or push out for ourselves."
I did not understand fully what he meant; but it was sufficient for me
that he was no longer in doubt as to what was best, and right willingly
did I obey his orders, for my stomach was uncomfortably empty.
There was no lack of food in this command which seemed to be divided
against itself, and the breakfast would have been to me most enjoyable but
for the sauce with which it was served.
Every man's tongue was loosened as if its owner was the only man amid all
the company who knew exactly which was the wisest course to pursue, and I
dare venture to say never a commander had under him at a critical moment,
such as this certainly was, so many pig-headed recruits.
Only once during the brief meal was Sergeant Corney asked for
information, although the word had passed around the encampment that he
and I were but just come from Fort Schuyler, and then it was that the old
soldier gave those insubordinate men such a tongue-lashing as they
deserved and I dare say had never before received; but, storm as he might,
it seemed as if all the arguments he brought up in favor of General
Herkimer's carrying out the plans suggested by Colonel Gansevoort, only
served to make those imitation soldiers more fixed in their opinions.
And for all this unseemly wrangling, when it was almost a crime to raise
one's voice against an order of the commander, I lay the blame upon the
two colonels, Cox and Paris, who, instead of holding their men firmly in
check, as was their duty, openly declared that General Herkimer was in the
wrong; thus fomenting what promised to be a most serious disturbance, and
what was finally paid for over and over again in blood.
It was perhaps half an hour after daybreak when Colonel Cox, the same
officer who by injudicious use of his tongue had well-nigh compassed the
death of us all during the powwow with Thayendanega, approached General
Herkimer while the latter was walking slowly around the encampment as if
on a tour of inspection, and said, in a tone so loud that all in the
vicinity might hear it:
"Are we to go forward, sir, as men should who set out to relieve a
besieged fort, or must we loiter here until the enemy has worked his
For an instant the general made no reply, and Sergeant Corney whispered to
"That man deserves to be shot, an' all the more so because he is high in
command. I've seen troops in many a tight place durin' my life, but never
before heard any thin' that quite come up to that."
When, after a pause of fully a moment, General Herkimer spoke, it was to
"Do you know that messengers have come from Gansevoort, asking that we
hold our hands until he shall give the signal?"
"I have heard that it is pretended such a message has come," Colonel Cox
replied, in a most offensive tone, and I could see Sergeant Corney
clenching his fists tightly, as if thereby the better to hold himself in
check, for surely were we two entitled to make reply to such an implied
"The garrison will make a sortie immediately after giving the signal, and
we can thus go into action with some hope of success," General Herkimer
said, mildly and firmly. "To advance before Gansevoort is ready would be
to imperil the lives of all this command."
"Speaking more particularly for yourself, sir, I suppose," Colonel Paris
said, with a sneer, and it would have given me the greatest pleasure to
have struck him down for that insult.
Then the three officers, still disputing, or, I should have said, the two
colonels still insulting their commander, who continued to bear with them
beyond that point where forbearance ceases to be a virtue, passed out of
earshot for the time being, and the men in the immediate vicinity took up
the subject, until, to my surprise, I found that nearly all of them sided
with the insubordinate colonels.
Five minutes later the three officers had approached so near where
Sergeant Corney and I were sitting that we could hear their words once
more, and then, to my indignation and the old soldier's anger, Colonel Cox
cried, in a fury, as he planted himself directly in front of the
"You are not only a coward, sir, but a Tory!"
I shall always hold that General Herkimer was a brave man, because, after
a severe effort which was evident to us all, he so far mastered his
righteous anger as to say, quietly:
"I am placed over you as a father and guardian, and shall not lead you
into difficulties from which I may not be able to extricate you."
Unless the soldiers of the command had been literally beside themselves,
such words would have brought them to a proper frame of mind; but as it
was, the temperate reply seemed to inflame their anger, and on the moment
there was a very babel of outcries, amid which it was only possible to
distinguish the demand that the force be led toward Fort Schuyler without
delay, regardless of any message which the sergeant and I might have
I could see, rather than hear, for the tumult was exceeding great, that
the two colonels continued to demand that the commander follow their plans
rather than adhere to his own, and it was a veritable fishwoman's squabble
during twenty minutes or more, when General Herkimer apparently lost his
temper for the first time, and cried, in a tone so loud that the words
could be distinctly heard all over the encampment:
"I will give the command to march forward, and you shall soon see that
those who have been boasting loudest of their courage will be the first to
run on meeting the enemy."
"I was afraid it would come to that," Sergeant Corney whispered to me,
with a sigh. "It don't stand to reason that any man could hold his temper
a great while under such a tongue-lashin' as those curs gave the
commander, an' I'm predictin' that every mother's son of 'em will rue this
Immediately the unwilling permission for them to do as they pleased had
been given, the men set about making ready for the advance as if each
moment was of the greatest value, and in an incredibly short time after
General Herkimer had been bullied into agreeing to that which his better
judgment told him to be wrong, the company was ready for the march.
"Are we to go with them?" I asked of the sergeant, believing for the
moment that it would be wiser for us to form an independent command of
"Ay, lad, I'm thinkin' that we had best stand by the general, for he may
be needin' us before this mornin's work is done, an' we sha'n't be takin'
a great deal of time from Jacob, because, in case of arrivin' before
Colonel Gansevoort is ready for us, the scrimmage will soon be over."
The two colonels, who were responsible for this unsoldierly method of
conducting a campaign, busied themselves with getting the men into lines,
and all the while telling what it was possible for them to do to St. Leger
and his force, as if anything of value could be done when the idiots did
not have sufficient sense to make inquiries of those who could give them
full information regarding the strength of the enemy whom they were so
soon to meet.
Even had Sergeant Corney not decided to follow the commander before the
line of march had been arranged, he would have done so later, because
General Herkimer beckoned us to approach when he took his place at the
head of the column.
"Are you counting on coming with me, despite the unnecessary danger which
we know will be encountered?" he asked, and Sergeant Corney replied,
"Ay, sir, that we are, and had already settled it in our own minds."
"Which portion of the besieging troops are we likely to meet first, if we
follow the trail?" the general asked.
"Thayendanega's camp lies southeasterly from the fort; but how far it may
be from the trail, I cannot say."
At this moment the report of a rifle from the direction of where the
outermost sentinels were stationed startled every one, including those
bloodthirsty colonels, and for a moment all stood silent and motionless,
waiting to learn the cause of the alarm.
Then it was that the sentinel with whom the sergeant and I had already
spoken, came running into camp, for it seemed a favorite trick of his to
desert a post of duty whenever inclination prompted.
It was Colonel Cox who asked, advancing:
"Did you fire that gun?"
"Ay, sir; I saw two Indians in the thicket, coming as if from the
direction of this camp."
"Did you kill either of them?"
"I do not think I even scratched 'em. The wood is too dense for much good
Colonel Cox wheeled around as if the information was of no especial
importance, when even a boy like me understood somewhat of its import,
and, carelessly saluting the commander, reported that the troops were
ready for the word to march.
The general, who was mounted, spurred his horse on to the head of the
column, Sergeant Corney and I following as best we might, and once in the
lead he gave the command.
"Is nothing to be done toward finding out whether the Indians whom the
sentinel saw, succeeded in getting back to their own camp?" I asked of my
companion, and he replied, grimly, with what was very like a smile of
satisfaction on his wrinkled face:
"These officers who have so much wind to spare in camp cannot afford the
time to consider such trifles as a few scouts skulkin' around to make
certain of what we are doin'."
"An' we are like to find ourselves ambushed!" I cried, in dismay.
"Ay, that's what we are, lad, an' I'm thinkin' there will be no way out of
the difficulty until some of these insubordinates are killed off, which
will be greatly to the advantage of the command, accordin' to my way of
I will set down here that which I read in a book several years after the
day Sergeant Corney and I followed General Herkimer on what we believed to
be a most ill-advised and hazardous march, in view of Colonel Gansevoort's
request, and from the words it will be seen that I am not the only person
who lays blame of all that happened upon those loud-mouthed, imitation
soldiers who were so soon to show themselves cowards.
"The morning was dark, sultry, and lowering. General Herkimer's troops,
composed chiefly of the militia regiments of Colonels Cox, Paris,
Visscher, and Klock, were quite undisciplined, and their order of march
was irregular and without precaution. The contentions of the morning had
delayed their advance until about nine o'clock, and the hard feelings
which existed between the commander and some of his officers caused a
degree of insubordination which proved fatal in its consequences.... A
deep ravine crossed the path of Herkimer in a north and south direction,
extending from the high grounds on the south to the river, and curving
toward the east in semicircular form. The bottom of this ravine was
marshy, and the road crossed it by means of a causeway of earth and logs.
On each side of the ravine the ground was nearly level, and heavily
timbered. A thick growth of underwood, particularly along the margin of
the ravine, favored the concealment of the enemy."
All the colonels of this small army were on horseback, a fact which caused
me no little astonishment, for I had heard my uncle say again and again,
and there can be no question but that he was a brave and skilful soldier,
that the man who went in the saddle to meet savages was courting his own
So great was my indignation against these men who had badgered the
commander that I mentally hugged myself with delight because of their
folly, not only in thus riding, but in moving the column without scouts
ahead to learn the whereabouts of the enemy, or to ascertain what might be
in front of, or on either side of them.
It is true that Colonel Visscher's regiment was detailed as a rear-guard,
and I question if even such a precaution would have been taken but for the
fact that the provision and ammunition wagons, which were not able to move
at as rapid a pace as the men, needed something in the way of protection.
It was not until we had advanced half a mile or more that I bethought
myself of the position in the column which Sergeant Corney and I occupied
because of attempting to follow General Herkimer closely.
In event of an ambush being prepared for our reception, and I confidently
expected that such would be the case after the sentinel had seen Indians
lurking nearabout the camp, we two would be in a most dangerous position,
and I made mention of that which was in my mind to the sergeant.
"Ay, lad, you may be right, an' yet I am questionin' whether we shall be
any worse off here than further in the rear, for if it so be
Thayendanega's sneaks count on ambushin' us, I can tell you to a dot just
where it'll be done. They will let this gang of men--you can't call 'em
soldiers after what we have seen--get well into the ravine before makin'
any attack. Consequently it will be about the centre of the line that
"You mean that if trouble comes it will be at the ravine over which is
"Ay, lad, an' there's no question about our gettin' it hot there!"
I am willing to confess that I grew more and more frightened as we neared
the ravine, and but for the disgraceful scenes of insubordination which
occurred earlier in the morning, I would have cried out against the folly
of thus going blindly into such trap as Thayendanega's murderers had
probably prepared for us.
As it was, however, I would not let these mutinous men who called
themselves soldiers see that we from Cherry Valley would question a
commander's orders, whatever might be the situation, and I held my peace,
but with much effort and inward fear.
There was little attempt made by these representatives of the Tryon County
militia to hold in military formation during the march, each man trying to
outstrip his neighbor, as if this advance upon a foe of superior strength
could have no more serious consequences than that some might be left
behind, and when one of the company came up to my side with words of
complaint because the general would not move faster than a walk, I said,
"It can make but little difference if you are not killed at the first
volley, for the savages will have ample time to finish us all off after we
have walked into their trap."
"So you are one of the weak-kneed, eh?" the man cried, with a sneer, and
my anger was too great to permit of my making reply; but Sergeant Corney,
who had heard the insulting words, said, sharply:
"You may talk to that lad about bein' weak-kneed after you have shown the
courage he has within the past four an' twenty hours. You an' your
mutinous comrades prate loudly of bravery when there is no enemy in sight;
but I'll lay odds that not one out of an hundred like you would dare go
alone from here to the fort!"
"Oh, you are the messengers who claim that Colonel Gansevoort asked us to
remain idle until he should give the signal, eh?" the fellow said, in an
offensive tone, and Sergeant Corney raised his rifle clubwise, as if to
strike him down, but held his hand as he said, slowly, and in a tone which
was full of menace:
"But that you are already so near your death at the hands of the enemy, I
would make certain you never again questioned my word! We did go to the
fort, while you were engaged in the manly sport of badgerin' your
commander, an old soldier who knows his business, an' had you been with us
it is certain you'd never made the attempt to get back. Go on to your
death, you fool, an' I'll hope it don't come so soon but that you'll have
time to realize you did all in your power to bring it about the more
By this time we were well within the ravine which has already been
described, and the old soldier had hardly ceased speaking when from amid
the foliage ahead and on every side came a circle of fire like unto the
lightning's flash, followed by the crackling of firearms, which served to
drown the death-cries from every portion of our lines.
We had marched like children into the ambush, and on the instant a blind
rage took possession of me because I had followed the mutineers when I
knew full well to what they were hastening.
Even as the flashes of light sprang out from among the leaves, I saw
Colonel Cox, he who was responsible for all that flood of death, leap high
in the air, only to fall back dead, and at the same moment General
Herkimer's horse reared and screamed in a death-agony.
It was as if every second man of the command fell before that withering
fire, and in the midst of the tumult of groans, screams, and savage
war-whoops could be heard shouts behind us, telling that the rear-guard,
who a few moments previous were prating of their bravery, had turned and
fled like cowards that they were.
More than the rear-guard would have beat a retreat at that moment, but for
the fact that the baggage-wagons hemmed us in so that flight was
It seemed as if I lived a full hour during the terrible ten seconds that
elapsed after the first volley was fired by the hidden foe, and then I
heard Sergeant Corney crying in my ear, his voice sounding as if afar off:
"It is for you an' I, lad, to look after the general! He is wounded!"
Then it was that I realized the commander was pinned to the earth by his
dead horse, and, without being really conscious of my movements, I ran to
The old soldier and I had no more than bent over General Herkimer to learn
how we could best release him from his dangerous position, when a second
volley came from amid the foliage, and those alleged soldiers of the
command who were yet alive ran wildly to and fro like frightened chickens,
seeking some way of escape, rather than standing up like men to battle for
their own lives.
Without really seeing it, I was conscious that all this was taking place
around us, and then I heard Sergeant Corney say to the general, in a
"That's a bad wound in your knee, sir."
"Ay, but there's no time to think of ourselves just now. The cowards must
be brought to their senses, or every one of them will be shot down," was
the reply of the man whom his own soldiers had taunted with cowardice not
an hour previous.
Acting under Sergeant Corney's commands, for the old man was as cool as if
he had been born amid just such scenes of carnage, I helped raise the body
of the horse until it was possible for General Herkimer to roll himself
out from beneath the dead animal, and, while we worked to aid him, the
commander was crying to his men to stand firm if they would save their own
"Rally, there!" he shouted, yet lying, unable to move, upon the ground.
"Stand firm, and we yet have a good chance of holding our own!"
All the while Sergeant Corney and I worked over him he continued to cheer
the frightened men, until, by the time we had dragged him to where he
could sit upright with his back against a huge tree, placing his saddle
beneath him to serve as a prop, the men were beginning to understand that
the only chance for life was to fight desperately.
The wagons in the rear, and the horde of savages which had closed in upon
us, prevented any save those who had first fled, from retreating, and by
the time a full third of the command had been killed or disabled, the
remainder understood that it would be well to turn to the man they had so
lately reviled, for possible safety.
Sergeant Corney and I gave no heed to what was going on around us until we
had bound up the general's knee in such a manner that there was no longer
danger he would bleed to death, and when this had been done I noted that
our people had taken shelter behind the trees, where they could strike a
blow in their own defence.
The Indians, understanding that the first daze of terror had passed away,
leaving their intended victims in condition to do considerable execution,
fell back a short distance to where they could find shelter, and thus,
thanks to General Herkimer, it was no longer a massacre, but a battle.
When Sergeant Corney and I had done all we could to render the commander
more comfortable, we took our share in the fight, remaining close beside
General Herkimer meanwhile, lest the Indians make an attempt to take him
Within half an hour from the time the first volley had been fired, our
people were doing good execution, and yet the enemy's line was closing in
upon us slowly but surely.
"Tire 'em out, lads!" the general shouted, encouragingly. "You never yet
saw a painted snake who could take much punishment, an' it's only a
question of holding your own awhile longer. Make every bullet count, for,
although we have ammunition in plenty, there is no good reason why we
should waste any."
Then the commander, most likely in order to set his men an example of
coolness, rather than because he needed the fumes of tobacco, quietly
lighted his pipe, and, seeing this, our people cheered at the same time
they shot down every feather-bedecked form that was exposed to view.
[Illustration: "'Tire 'em out, lads!' the General shouted"]
A few moments later General Herkimer gave the word that our force form a
circle, in order to meet the foe at every point, and after this had been
done the enemy were the better held in check.
Even at the moment I was surprised when I found myself thinking of the
danger to which Jacob must be exposed, rather than of my own desperate
plight. While on the alert for a living target, I speculated whether he
was yet free, and if he had discovered the whereabouts of his father.
I had no idea as to the flight of time, and could not have told whether we
had spent ten minutes or sixty in that struggle for life, when, without
warning, the floodgates of heaven were opened. The rain came down
literally in torrents; it seemed as if the water descended in solid sheets
rather than drops, and, no matter how bloodthirsty a man might have been,
he could no more have continued the battle than if he had been neck-deep
in the river.
Savages as well as white men were forced to cease their efforts to kill,
and for a time we crouched beneath such poor shelter as the trees
afforded, but drenched to the skin in a twinkling.
General Herkimer was in no better plight than those who were the most
exposed. The fire in his pipe was drowned out; but he continued to hold it
between his teeth as he said, in a low tone, to Sergeant Corney:
"Pass the word quietly for our people to close in where it will be
possible to hear what I say. Thus far I've noted that the savages have
watched until a rifle has been discharged, when they rush up and use their
hatchets. We can put an end to that kind of butchery."
The old soldier did as he had been bidden, moving to and fro without fear
of exposing himself, for the downpour was so great that no man could have
loaded a musket with dry powder, and even while the storm continued the
circle was contracted until the commander was enclosed by a living hedge.
Then it was that orders were given for the men to take their stations in
couples, and, when one had discharged his rifle, the other was to wait
until the Indians came up to kill the supposedly defenceless soldier, when
a second bullet would be ready for them.
Much to my surprise, I heard General Herkimer say that a full hour had
elapsed from the time the first volley had been fired, and it stiffened
the courage of all to learn that we had been able to hold the foe in check
Immediately the summer storm had so far sub-sided that the weapons could
be loaded, the battle was continued, raging with even more fury than
before, as the enemy tried to overwhelm us by a sudden rush, and in a very
few seconds the painted fiends came to understand that it was no longer an
easy matter to tomahawk a man immediately after he had fired a shot.
When the savages found that their tactics were guarded against, it seemed
as if they lost courage, and gradually fell back a little, having had
quite as much of Whig marksmanship as was pleasing.
Because we could no longer see as many targets before us, the fire was
slackened considerably, and then some one on the outer lines of our
defensive circle shouted:
"They are bringin' up the Tories! Here come the Johnson Greens!"
Although I was standing well in the centre of our force, it was possible
to see the uniforms of that band of renegades which Sir John had armed and
equipped that they might kill their neighbors, as the men came up to take
the place of the retreating redskins, and, if anything had been needed to
stiffen the backs of our people, surely they got it when seeing those whom
they had once called friends, moving into line to compass their death.
I had thought that the men under General Herkimer's command fought bravely
after the cowards were weeded out, and those who were left understood
that, but for the mutiny in camp, the ambush would not have been
successful; but now they seemed like veritable tigers as the Tories came
into the battle.
There was no longer any thought of fighting from behind trees, but each
man pushed forward intent only on vanquishing the renegades, until none
save Sergeant Corney and I were left to guard our wounded commander.
I will set down here that account of the battle from this point, which I
found some time since in a book containing the story of the fight in the
ravine, sometimes called the Battle of Oriskany:
"Major Watts came up with a detachment of Johnson's Greens to support them
(the savages), but the presence of these men, mostly refugees from the
Mohawk, made the patriots more furious, and mutual resentments, as the
parties faced and recognized each other, seemed to give new strength to
their arms. They leaped upon each other with the fierceness of tigers, and
fought hand to hand and foot to foot with bayonets and knives."
While this portion of the battle was at its height, we suddenly heard the
reports of firearms from the direction of the fort, and my heart leaped
into my throat, for I understood that Colonel Gansevoort was making the
sortie for which we should have waited.
Nor was I the only one who thus realized that the Britishers and their
painted allies were at the end of their rope, so far as this fight in the
ravine was concerned, for our people pressed the foe yet more hotly, and
in a short time the savages raised the cry of "Oonah! Oonah!" which told
that they had had enough of the battle.
So far as my experience goes, and I have had considerable from first to
last, Indians are only brave when they have the advantage; but, let the
tide turn against them, and they are veriest cowards.
Hemmed in as we were, our ranks thinned by death and the desertion of the
rear-guard, it should have been possible for the enemy to cut us down to a
man, and yet the retreating cry of the savages sufficed to send all that
force back to the encampment, leaving us in possession of the field, even
though we might not rightly be called victors.
Some of our people, upon whom the fever of battle had fastened more
firmly, would have pursued the cowards, even though it might have been to
come directly upon the main army, who were then, doubtless, engaged in
checking the sortie from the fort; but General Herkimer sent a squad of
the cooler soldiers after them, with the result that the valiant Johnson
Greens were allowed to continue their retreat unmolested.
And it was high time we had a breathing-spell. More than two hundred of
General Herkimer's force lay dead among the trees, while even a larger
number were so seriously wounded as to be unable to defend themselves,
therefore it was impossible for us to act in concert with those who were
making the sortie, and the commander issued orders to fall back.
The contents of the baggage-wagons were thrown out to make room for our
wounded, and, while the uproar of the battle near the fort rang in our
ears, we retreated from that valley of death.
Now those who had raised their voices against the general, accusing him of
cowardice, did all within their power to make atonement by their care of
him, and willing hands bore him on a litter that he might be spared the
pain of transportation in the lumbering wagons.
It was a sorry train that left the ravine, not stopping to bury the dead
because of the certainty that St. Leger's army would come to finish the
bloody work as soon as the force from the fort had been driven back, and
when it was in motion Sergeant Corney gripped me by the arm, as he said:
"Our road is not in that direction, lad. Yonder men may take the repose
which they do not deserve after havin' brought about all this disaster;
but we must face danger once more, an' perhaps for the last time."
"Meanin' that we're to go back in search of Jacob?" I asked, feeling for
the moment as if it would be impossible for me to voluntarily turn my face
in the direction of the enemy, now that I was no longer animated by the
fever of battle.
"Ay, lad, our duty is now toward him, havin' done all we may under General
Herkimer's command. As I figger it, we're free to do as we choose, for we
can no longer aid those who are goin' back when, but for rankest mutiny,
they might have entered the fort amid the cheers of victory. If Colonel
Gansevoort is forced to surrender, it can all be set down to the credit
of those who howled so loudly this mornin' that they could march straight
through the enemy's lines."
"There is little hope we can find Jacob after so long a time has passed,"
I said, thinking of the perils that must necessarily await us while we
tried to make our way through Thayendanega's camp.
"I grant you that, lad, an' yet we are bound to make the venture, or let
it be said that we deserted a comrade when he needed us."
"We did that same when we pressed on toward the fort," I suggested,
"Ay, an' because we were in duty bound to carry the general's message. Now
that work has been done, we are free."
I could not well say anything more against his plan without laying myself
open to a charge of cowardice,--and at that moment I really was a
coward,--therefore I stood ready to follow him.
There were provisions in plenty strewn on the ground, having been thrown
out of the wagons to make room for the wounded, and from such store
Sergeant Corney gathered up as much as would serve us during four and
This we stuffed into the pockets of our shirts; filled our powder-horns
and bullet-pouches from the ammunition on the dead bodies, and then we
were ready to leave that valley of death.
All this while it was possible to hear the din of that battle which was
being fought near the fort; but as we advanced it became evident that the
conflict was subsiding.
It would have been folly for the besieged to do other than beat a retreat,
when it could be seen that General Herkimer's men were not in a position
to take advantage of the sortie, and as soon as might be the brave fellows
sought the shelter of the fort once more, leaving twenty of their comrades
between the lines as victims of the mutiny among the Tryon County
Much to my surprise, Sergeant Corney appeared sadly disappointed when the
tumult of battle died away, and I asked if he believed that the people
from the fort should have made an attempt to inflict more punishment upon
"Not a bit of it, lad," the old soldier replied, promptly. "They have
already done more than could have been expected; but yet I had a hope that
the scrimmage would have lasted a bit longer."
"Why?" I asked, in surprise.
"Because we stand a better chance of circlin' around to where we left
Jacob, while the villains have somethin' to keep 'em busy. Now there's no
longer any need to fight, they'll likely keep sharper watch. Yet I count
that Peter Sitz, if they haven't killed him already, has a bigger show of
livin' a spell longer than he had last night."
"Because it stands to reason that Thayendanega's beauties have taken more
than one prisoner, an' will have a better supply of livin' material for
the stake than before. Peter may be lucky enough to keep his hair a spell
longer; but there'll be many a poor wretch who'll taste of torture this
"An' perhaps Jacob may be one of them!" I cried, in an agony of
apprehension, and from that moment it was not necessary the old soldier
urge me forward, for I burned with the desire to do all I might to find
our comrade before it should be too late.
When we left the ravine in search of the lad, it was necessary we advance
over much the same course as when we carried General Herkimer's message,
and it was slightly in our favor that we knew fairly well at how great a
distance from the general encampment of the enemy we must keep in order to
avoid running into the Indians.
Then, again, it seemed probable we had a better chance of making our way
around this circle than when we first traversed it, because just at this
time Thayendanega's villains had received such a drubbing at the hands of
the patriots as would most likely prevent them from having any keen desire
to come upon more white men.
It was also probable, as Sergeant Corney had suggested, that they had
taken a number of prisoners during the fight with the garrison of the
fort, as well as at the ravine, and the murderous scoundrels would be so
occupied with making preparations for torturing such poor unfortunates as
to neglect their duties as St. Leger's allies.
When I had thus viewed the situation, it did not appear such a difficult
matter for us to gain a station to the southward of Thayendanega's
encampment; but coming across Jacob was quite a different proposition.
Finding a needle in a hay-stack seemed much more simple than running upon
a lad who was doing his best to remain hidden from view, unless,
perchance, he had already been captured.
"It ain't any easy job, figger as you will," Sergeant Corney said, when I
had put the situation before him from my point of view. "But I'm reckonin'
that we're goin' to come somewhere near succeedin'. We can count on doin'
pretty much as we please from now till to-morrow mornin', providin' we
don't stick our noses into the camps of the Britishers or Tories, for you
can set it down as a fact that every red-faced wretch will have
considerable on hand this night. The only trouble will be that we may have
to keep within cover while they're torturin' some poor fellow under our
very shadows. You'll have to keep in mind that Peter an' Jacob Sitz are
the only white men we're after, an' shut both eyes an' ears to every one
"Suppose Jacob has been made prisoner? Would you risk your life to save
The old man made no reply until I had repeated the question, and then he
"If there was any show of bein' able to work the trick, you could count
on me to the end; but if he _has_ fallen into their clutches, unless some
wonderfully big turn of affairs comes in our path, we would be only
throwin' away the lives of both without chance of helpin' him. I've heard
long-tongued boasters tellin' how they'd rescued a prisoner from an Indian
camp, but I never believed anything of the kind, for it ain't to be done
more'n one time in a thousand, an' then you'd have to find a lot of
red-skinned idjuts to work on."
Sergeant Corney had used a good many words in replying to my short
question, and I believed he had done so to the end that I might not fully
understand what he meant.
As I made it out, however, he would turn his back on poor Jacob in case
the savages had him in their power, and I asked myself again and again
what course I should pursue in such a situation.
We made a long detour around the battle-field in order to avoid as much as
possible the danger of stumbling upon the enemy's scouts, and, when the
afternoon was half-spent, had come, as nearly as we could guess, to a
point due south from Thayendanega's camp.
"How far do you reckon we are from St. Leger's force?" I asked, when
Sergeant Corney threw himself on the ground within shelter of a clump of
bushes, as if for a long halt.
"Three miles or more from their lines of sentinels, if they've got any
out, an' we're none too far away, 'cordin' to my figgerin'. After sunset
we'll work in toward 'em; but there needn't be any hurry, for I'm
reckonin' that we don't want to do much work till after midnight. If Jacob
is still free to do as he pleases, there's little danger he'll come to
grief 'twixt now an' mornin'."
"Unless he should see them torturin' his father, an' then it's certain
he'd make a fight, no matter how great the odds against him," I suggested,
thinking of what I would be tempted to do under similar circumstances.
"In that case we're better off where we are. I don't allow that a lad has
any right to deliberately throw away his own life, an' that's what Jacob
would be doin' if he showed himself when the villains had his father at
"He couldn't stand still an' see it done."
"True for you; but, no matter how he might feel, it's his duty to think of
his mother, an' surely she would say that it was better one came home,
than for both to be killed."
"It's a mighty hard outlook," I said, with a sigh.
"You're right, an' at the same time you ain't makin' matters any better by
chewin' it over. A man don't fit himself for a fight by figgerin' out all
the possible horrors."
"An' you think we'll have a fight before this venture is ended?"
"I'll leave it to you if somethin' of the kind don't seem reasonable,"
the old man replied, grimly, and then he set about making a dinner from
the supply of provisions we had found in the ravine.
After that I made no more effort to keep up a conversation, and tried very
hard to force from my mind any speculations regarding Jacob and his
father, but with poor success. It seemed as if every subject had some
bearing upon the matter, and so disagreeable was the constant harking back
to what was beyond my control, that I really felt glad when the shadows of
night began to lengthen, for almost any kind of action was better than
remaining there in hiding, eating one's heart out.
Sergeant Corney gave no sign that he realized night had come, until I
called his attention to the fact, and then he said:
"Ay, lad, the time is drawin' nigh; but I reckon that we'll be wise to
hold on as we are a spell longer."
Then he lay back as if bent on going to sleep, and I held my peace,
determined to say no more even though he remained there until sunrise.
It must have been ten o'clock before he showed signs of life, and then he
rose to his feet as he said:
"I allow that we'd better be movin', though there ain't any great need of
hurryin'. We'll be able to cover three miles in an hour, an' even then be
a bit early for good work."
"How will you set about findin' Jacob?" I asked, giving words to the
question which had been in my mind ever since we came to a halt.
"Our only chance is to keep movin' nearabout Thayendanega's camp, an'
trustin' to accident for comin' across him."
Sergeant Corney strapped his rifle on his back, as if believing he would
have no use for it; but he made certain his knife was loose in its sheath,
and I understood that if we had trouble it would be at close quarters.
At last we were ready, and this time the sergeant did not propose that I
lead the way.
He strode off in advance, with never a glance backward to see if I was
following, and in silence we went on toward the danger-point at a swift
pace, until the old man halted to say, in a whisper:
"There should be sentinels nearabout, unless Thayendanega believes he has
killed all the decent men in the Mohawk Valley; so have your wits about
you, lad, for a mistake now will cost us dearly."
The Indian Camp
I claim that it is nothing to my discredit when I say that there was a
great fear in my heart while we advanced at a snail's pace, after having
come to that point where we might reasonably expect the Indian sentinels
would be posted.
In the darkness, moving amidst the dense foliage, where it required the
utmost care to avoid betraying one's whereabouts, advancing blindly into
you knew not what peril, was well calculated to make even the most
courageous feel a bit timid.
At any moment we might literally stumble over a party of warriors in such
numbers that there could be no possibility of making our escape, and in
case we should come face to face with no more than four or five of the
enemy, it would be well-nigh useless to show fight, because of the
hundreds everywhere around who could be summoned to the assistance of
Before we had advanced an hundred paces, I became convinced that it was
impossible we should be able to reconnoitre the camp and return to the
point from where we had set out without being killed, or, what was worse,
taken prisoner, and yet, had I known for a certainty that such fate
awaited us, I would not have let Sergeant Corney know of my unwillingness
to follow him.
Sorely did I blame Jacob for having forced us into such a position of
danger, when there was little hope any good could be effected by our
coming, and more than once I promised myself that, if by any fortunate
chance I succeeded in arriving at Cherry Valley again, no one could tempt
me to leave it.
It was useless, however, to mourn over what could not be cured. We had
come there voluntarily, and, unless both of us were willing to write
ourselves down as cowards, must perform the task.
It was well-nigh midnight before we heard anything of the enemy, and then
a faint hum of voices in the distance told that Sergeant Corney had led
the way truly and wonderfully well. Never again would I say that he was
not thoroughly versed in woodcraft.
The old soldier gripped my arm to make certain I understood that we had
come near to the enemy, and then inch by inch we moved forward, halting a
few moments every time we incautiously caused a rustling among the
[Illustration: "Three or four hundred Indians were dancing wildly around a
How long that slow progress continued I cannot rightly say; but it seemed
to me as if the morning was near at hand when we were arrived, having
miraculously passed such stragglers, scouts, or sentinels as might have
been in the vicinity, at a point where we could have a view of this
particular portion of the encampment.
Three or four hundred Indians were dancing wildly around a huge fire,