Part 3 out of 5
while half as many more were feasting, preparing their own food by cutting
it from the carcasses of two oxen which lay near at hand, and broiling it
on the live coals.
I knew sufficient of savage customs to understand that, if there had been
any torturing of prisoners during the evening, such fiendish work was at
an end, and that which we were witnessing was but the ending of the
Now it was that I mentally thanked Sergeant Corney for having delayed so
long before starting, for it would have been agony indeed had we been
forced to witness the horrible spectacle of a white man suffering under
the knives and by the fire of these wolves in human form.
We remained there stretched out at full length on the ground, with no
possibility of gaining information which might be of service to us in the
future, ten minutes or more, and then, suddenly, I was forced to exert all
my will-power to prevent a scream of fear from escaping my lips, for what
was unmistakably a human foot had been planted directly upon my leg.
Like a flash, after I succeeded in restraining myself from giving an
alarm, came the knowledge, I know not how, that he who had stumbled upon
me was no less frightened than I, and, clutching Sergeant Corney's leg
nervously to attract his attention, I sprang upon the newcomer, believing
him to be some Indian straggler whom it was absolutely necessary we should
silence in order to save our own lives.
So quick had been my motions that the fellow had no opportunity to get
away, save at the cost of betraying himself to us, and by what seemed to
be the most fortunate chance, I succeeded, when leaping blindly forward,
in gripping him by the throat.
We went down together, I on top striving most earnestly to strangle him to
death, and he fighting quite as strenuously to throw off my hold.
Before one could have counted ten I began to realize that this stranger
who was at my mercy appeared quite as much afraid of making a noise as did
I, and involuntarily my grasp was loosened ever so slightly, for I
understood that had it been an Indian he would have done his best to
attract the attention of those near the camp-fire.
With this thought came the knowledge that I had beneath me one clad much
like myself, and not the half-naked body of such villains as marched in
Then it was, and just as Sergeant Corney came up to us, that I loosened my
grasp entirely in order to pass my hands over the stranger's face and
There were no feathers, no daubs of paint, which should have been
apparent to the touch, and I whispered, with my mouth close to the
fellow's ear, while yet pinioning his arms in such a fashion that he could
not well move:
"Who are you?"
"A white man," came the reply, the words sounding thick and muffled
because of the squeezing which the speaker's throat had received.
Then like a flash came to me that which I should have suspected before!
It was my comrade for whom we had been searching that I was grappling
with, and, just as the old soldier knelt by my side knife in hand to put
an end to the struggle, I whispered, for the darkness was so intense that
I could not even see the face which was but a few inches from my own:
"Are you Jacob Sitz?"
"Ay; an' you?"
"It is the sergeant an' Noel, lad, an' right glad am I that we came to
know each other just as we did, else would your blood have been on our
Jacob apparently gave no heed to the close shave which had been his, so
great was the delight at knowing we were with him once more, and we three
sat with our heads close together in order that we might question and be
questioned without fear of betraying our whereabouts.
"Where have you been all this time?" I asked, and Jacob replied, softly:
"Hangin' around this camp. Twice have I come near bein' discovered, an'
of a verity I believed, when you clutched my throat, that this was the
last--the endin' of it all."
"Have you seen your father?" Sergeant Corney asked, and the lad replied,
"Ay, an' had speech with him."
"Where is he?"
"In a lodge near Thayendanega's, an' until to-night there has been no
great danger he would be tortured, as I believe because of the sachem's
promise that he shall not be killed."
"How did you get to speak with him?" I asked, in surprise.
"Within three hours after leavin' you I was hereabout, an' saw him. That
night I crept through the village undiscovered, for even the dogs failed
to bark at me, I know not why, an' there talked with my father as I now
talk with you."
"If you got away, why could not he have done the same?" I asked, surprised
that Jacob should have succeeded in making his way among the lodges.
"I urged him to make the attempt, but he claimed that there was no hope we
two could leave the village undiscovered. First he was bound hand an'
foot, an', although I might have cut my way through the lodge to release
him from the fetters, he forbade it because of the risk, sayin' I must not
endanger my life on account of mother, an' insistin' that at some future
time escape would be more easy than then. He ordered me to go home at
once, providin' I could not find you, an' I would have done so this night
but for the battle of the mornin'."
"Why did that stop you?" I asked. "Surely you had no part in it?"
"No; but the savages were so infuriated that I feared even Thayendanega
himself would be unable to prevent the wretches from leadin' my father to
the stake, therefore I remained on watch. Three prisoners have been
murdered in a most barbarous manner, but yet he was left unmolested in the
lodge. Have you somethin' to eat?"
I took from my pocket all the food remaining, and the lad devoured it like
one famished, whereupon Sergeant Corney asked:
"Have you had nothin' to eat since we left you?"
"I gathered some roots an' berries, but not enough to satisfy my hunger."
"An' yet you would have stayed here longer in danger of starvation?"
"Ay, until havin' satisfied myself that father was as safe as one can be
who remains in the power of such as are encamped here. Did you come for no
other purpose than to find me?"
"Nothin' more," I said, not minded to let him know that if he could show
any reasonable chance of rescuing Peter Sitz it was our purpose to give
"Where have you been all this while?"
"That is too long a story to tell now," Sergeant Corney interrupted. "If
the savages are not likely to do more than dance from now till mornin', we
may as well find a shelter in which to spend the morrow, an' then I'm of
the opinion that the three of us had best make tracks for Cherry Valley,
as Jacob's father advised."
As he ceased speaking, Sergeant Corney would have led us out of the
thicket; but Jacob whispered, softly:
"Not half a mile away is a small cave--no more than a hole in the
hillside, an' there we may remain hidden durin' the hours of daylight."
"Lead the way, an' we will follow," the old man said, in a tone of
command, and straightway Jacob did as he was thus ordered.
Knowing, as the lad did, very nearly where the Indians might be found, we
advanced with reasonable rapidity, until having come to the place of which
he had spoken.
It was indeed no more than a hole in the ground, and so small that when we
three were lying at full length inside with our heads toward the opening,
it would have been a very small cat who could have found a chance to lie
down comfortably with us.
Some bushes and a tangle of creeping vines hid the entrance most
admirably; but, after we were once inside, I questioned to myself whether
we had not been reckless in coming directly to this place without taking
precautions to cover our footprints, for, should a keen-eyed savage chance
to see our trail, there was good reason for believing he would follow it
However, we were there, and the mischief might not be undone readily,
therefore I held my peace, saying mentally that if Sergeant Corney and
Jacob were satisfied with having taken no especial precautions, then of a
verity ought I, the least experienced in woodcraft of the three, be
When Jacob had eaten all the small store of provisions which I gave him
without having apparently satisfied his hunger, he insisted on our telling
him what we had done since he left us, and I related the story much as it
is set down here, spending a full hour in the recital.
When I had finally come to an end, the old soldier proposed that as soon
as another day had passed we should turn our faces toward Cherry Valley,
for, after receiving the commands of his father, Jacob could do no less
than go home.
I understood full well that the lad would have encountered any danger or
suffered every privation rather than leave this place where his father was
held prisoner, even though there was little or no hope he could aid him;
but yet he did not argue against the plan, and thus was it settled that
when night came again we would start on our journey.
"Save for the fact that father himself insisted I should go, no one could
force me to leave here," Jacob said, after a long pause, and Sergeant
Corney added, soothingly, saying that which I question if he himself
"You can do no better, lad. If Thayendanega has given his word to save
your father's life, so will it be, despite all the howlin' wolves in his
followin'. But if you should stay here and be discovered tryin' to rescue
him, there is little doubt that it would result in the death of both."
With that we fell silent once more, and I was right glad of an opportunity
Jacob insisted that the old soldier and I give ourselves up to slumber
while he kept guard, for he did not need the rest as much as we.
Therefore it was that I slept soundly and sweetly until a full hour past
noon, and when I awakened the sergeant was peering out through the leafy
curtain in front of the cave, while Jacob was enjoying his turn at sleep.
"Can you see the camp?" I asked, wriggling forward until my head was close
beside his, and then it was not necessary he should make reply, for we had
from this place of vantage a fairly good view of the red-skinned portion
of St. Leger's army.
It is true that the trees and bushes screened certain portions of the
encampment, but the greater number of the lodges were in a clearing, and
Sergeant Corney pointed out to me that shelter which Jacob had told him
was the one where his father was confined.
The Indians were lounging about lazily, some stretched at full length
sleeping, others gathered in little companies, squatting on the ground as
they smoked and talked, and not a few moving slowly to and fro; but never
one who appeared to have any business on hand.
There were both women and children in the camp, which struck me as being
odd, for when savages set off on the war-path it is not customary for them
to take their families; but I explained this peculiar state of affairs to
myself by the supposition that the women had been brought that they might
do the work, which is deemed unfitting a warrior.
"Jacob counts on payin' one more visit to his father before we start,"
Sergeant Corney said to me, when, having wearied with gazing at the scene,
I turned away.
"To what end?" I asked, with somewhat of irritation, for it did not seem
to me wise the lad should run the chances of capture when nothing was to
be effected by taking such risks.
"Only that he may speak with him."
"But it is folly!" I said, sharply. "It has been possible for him to go
into the village twice; but of a certainty it cannot be done many times in
"You are right, lad, an' yet how can we refuse him? Fancy if your father
was in the same tight place, an' ask yourself if, when about to turn your
back on him, perhaps forever, the desire to hold converse with him once
more would not be stronger than the fear of disaster?"
To this I could make no reply, as a matter of course; yet I was still
firmly convinced that it was a foolhardy venture. If there had been a
possibility of his doing the prisoner any good, then would I have said
that we would stay on until further efforts were of no avail. As it was,
however, Peter Sitz himself had said it was wiser for Jacob to go, and
surely he, the most interested and the most experienced in such matters,
should be the judge.
I held my tongue, even though rebelling against the scheme, because of
knowing that the lad was prompted only by love, and yet my heart grew
heavy within me, until I had become convinced that something of evil would
So disturbed was I in mind that it was impossible to close my eyes in
slumber again, even though knowing that my best preparation for the
journey would consist in getting all the rest I could.
Sergeant Corney had fallen into what seemed to me a moody silence; I
looked out now and then at the painted forms of those human wolves, who
would lay waste our happy valley, and wished most fervently that I had the
power to destroy them all with one blow.
When one has seen, as have I, women and children butchered in the most
fiendish manner which a wicked man can devise, he cannot consider
bloodthirsty the person who would, if he could, wipe out the entire race.
It would only be an act of mercy to the colonists, who lived in momentary
fear, not so much of sudden death as of barbarous torture.
Jacob slept until nightfall, and when he awakened the first thought in his
mind was to set off on his dangerous and useless venture; but Sergeant
Corney advised that he wait until the night was well advanced, and to this
I agreed, although chafing against the expenditure of time, because he
would but have ensured his own capture had he ventured among the wretches
while the entire encampment was astir.
We did not have supper for the very good reason that we had no provisions,
but buckled our belts a bit tighter, because already was hunger beginning
to assail us.
As we waited for the lengthening of the night, Jacob went over in detail
his experiences while Sergeant Corney and I were with General Herkimer,
and this served to make the time seemingly pass more swiftly.
The savages evidently had no fiendish sport on their programme for this
evening, most likely because of having exhausted themselves the night
previous, and at a reasonably early hour this portion of St. Leger's army
was in a comparative state of quietude.
"Now, if ever, is the time when you can go, lad; but remember that I
advise against it, as would your father," Sergeant Corney said, gravely.
"I am not minded to argue you out of what your heart is set upon, but ask
that you give the matter due weight before goin' so far that retreat will
"I must speak with my father once more," Jacob said, in a tone so piteous
that I did not have the heart to make any protest.
"Then God go with you," the old soldier said, solemnly, and in a twinkling
my comrade had slipped out of the cave, being lost to our view almost
immediately amid the foliage near at hand.
When we were thus left alone a silence fell upon us. Because of the
forebodings in my heart I was not inclined for conversation, and I dare
venture to say the sergeant held his peace for much the same reason.
During half an hour, perhaps, we listened intently, fearing each instant
lest we hear those sounds which would betoken the capture of Jacob, and
then did it seem probable he had succeeded in the venture, at least so far
as gaining the village was concerned.
Regarding him I had no further anxiety, and, without being aware that
slumber was weighing heavily upon my eyelids, I fell asleep.
I could not have been unconscious many moments, for it seemed as if my
eyes had but just closed, when I was aroused by the pressure of Sergeant
Corney's hand upon my arm, and as I would have sprung up he forced me
"The savages are comin' this way, an' it looks to me mightily as if they
counted on stoppin' hereabouts."
Involuntarily I parted the vines at the mouth of the cave, for I had been
lying with my head close upon them, and gazed down the side of the small
hill, where it was possible to see, even despite the gloom of the night,
no less than ten forms coming up the incline as if following a trail.
"They have taken Jacob, an' he has told them where we are," I said on the
impulse of the moment, not meaning to cast reproach upon the lad, but
knowing what fiendish means those wretches employed in order to extort
"We would have heard the noise of a squabble if he had been captured, an'
I have stood watch ever since he left," Sergeant Corney said, decidedly.
"Can they be followin' our trail in the darkness?" I cried, and my
companion replied, grimly, drawing his rifle nearer to him:
"It makes no difference to us, lad, why or how they are comin'. The
question is whether, in case they find this place, we shall fight to the
death or submit without resistance."
It was a question I could not answer. I knew full well that we could not
hope to hold the cave any considerable length of time, and that if, during
the fight, we killed any of the villains, our end at the stake would come
before morning, even though Thayendanega himself should do all he might to
I remained silent, the Indians approaching nearer and nearer each instant,
and, when they were half-way up the hill, within perhaps thirty yards of
the mouth of the cave, the sergeant said, as if speaking to himself:
"All we can hope for, if we should put up a fight, is to die with weapons
in our hands, for death in some form would come to us within a few hours.
While there's life there's a chance."
"Meanin' that we had best give ourselves up?" I asked, in alarm.
"Ay, lad, that is my idee, unless you can show me something better."
There was little time for reflection. Already were the Indians so near
that I fancied I could hear them breathing. I knew that the cave had no
other outlet than this one at which we crouched, but also that two
determined men might hold half an hundred in check as long as their
ammunition lasted--but then?
The foremost of the red-skinned snakes were within a dozen feet of us when
I whispered, with tremulous voice:
"It shall be as you say, sergeant!"
[Illustration: "With upraised hands, stepped out from amid the screen of
I believe if at that critical moment I had decided it was best we hold the
cave against the foe, regardless of the ultimate consequence, Sergeant
Corney would have done my bidding. But immediately I declared myself
willing to act as he thought best, the old man threw down his rifle, and,
with upraised hands, stepped out from amid the screen of foliage into the
very arms of those who were coming up the slope.
Just for one instant there was in my mind the thought that I might slink
back into the further end of the cave, and possibly escape detection,
unless it so chanced that the savages knew exactly how many were hidden
there. But, fortunately, before there was time to do anything so cowardly,
a realization of what it meant to thus hang back when I had spoken the
words which sent my comrade forward came upon me with full force, and I
followed him so closely that he could not have had any suspicion of that
which, for the merest fraction of time, found lodgment in my heart.
It was too dark for me to see the look of triumph on the faces of our
captors; but I knew they wore such expressions, because of the cries of
satisfaction and shouts of delight which burst from them when we, unarmed,
stood in their midst.
I was satisfied in my own mind that they had seen the trail, even in the
darkness, which had been made when we three entered the cave, or by Jacob
as he went out, and had followed it rather from curiosity than the belief
that white men were in the vicinity.
This idea of mine, although there was in it nothing favoring to us, gave
me no little relief of mind, for it led to the conclusion that Jacob was
After the first outburst of rejoicing at having taken two captives at a
time and in a place where they least expected to find them, the Indians
set about securing us in the most businesslike manner.
Some one of the party brought strips of rawhide, by which our hands and
arms were bound tightly to our sides, and with so large a surrounding that
it would have been impossible to escape even had we been unfettered, they
led us down to the village, where we were greeted by the squaws and the
children with fiendish cries of delight.
I knew enough of savage customs to understand that we would be forced to
submit to a certain amount of ill-treatment from the female portion of the
band before the warriors decided upon our fate, and nerved myself to bear
it as best I might, realizing that any show of weakness at such a time
would work to our disadvantage later.
We were tied to a tree, Sergeant Corney on one side and I on the other,
within twenty paces of Thayendanega's lodge, where the light of the
camp-fire shone full upon us.
The braves of the tribe seated themselves in a circle, as if holding a
council to determine our fate, while the squaws and the young boys amused
themselves by holding stout sticks in the fire until one end was a living
coal, and then placing these against our hands, until the pain was so
great that only by summoning all my strength of will could I prevent
myself from screaming.
Even at such a time, when our lives were literally hanging in the balance,
I found somewhat of comfort in the thought that Sergeant Corney was with
me, and not very far away Peter Sitz could probably see us.
It may be difficult to understand why knowledge of that kind should serve
to cheer one at such a horrible moment, and I myself cannot explain it. It
simply remains a fact that I seemed in less danger of being murdered than
if I had been the only prisoner in the encampment.
"It's plain that Jacob was not captured, else we would see him near by,"
Sergeant Corney said to me, and I tried my best to enter into conversation
with him, to the end that I might in some slight degree take my mind from
the torture which, perhaps, was but a foretaste of what I would be forced
"He will be overcome with grief on knowin' that by lingerin' to speak once
more with his father we were captured, an' I fear the lad may be led to
some foolishly reckless move," I said, at the same moment trying to stifle
"If he will but stop a moment to rigger the matter out, he'll understand
that only by keepin' clear of this camp can he hope to help us," the old
man replied, and I asked, sharply:
"Do you really believe, sergeant, that any one can aid us now?"
"Tut, tut, lad; do not give yourself up for dead yet awhile. So long as
there's life there's a chance. Peter Sitz has been in the clutches of
these villains many a day, an' yet, 'cordin' to Jacob's story, he's as
sound an' hearty as when he left Cherry Valley."
"Ay; but his life has been saved because Joseph Brant knew him before the
dream of bein' made great sachem of the Six Nations turned that redskin
into the most bloodthirsty of savages."
"Yet had you been in Peter Sitz's place when he was first taken prisoner,
your despair would likely have been as great as it seems to be now."
I knew that Sergeant Corney would say many things which he himself did not
believe, if he thought thereby he might strengthen my courage for the
terrible ordeal which was probably before us; therefore his words of
cheer had less weight than might otherwise have been the case.
Not until it seemed to me every square inch of my hands had been burned to
a blister, and there was a livid, red mark across my forehead, where an
old hag had scorched me with a burning brand, did the squaws tire of their
cruel sport, and then we were left comparatively alone, with sufficient of
pain to keep us so keenly alive to the situation that weariness of body
did not make itself apparent.
"We came to aid Jacob, and now ourselves are standing in need of
assistance," I said, bitterly, for this seemed like the irony of fate.
"True for you, lad, an' yet we won't look at it in that light. But for
marvellous good luck we would have been made prisoners before this,
therefore let us reckon it simply as the fortune of war, and not count
Jacob the cause of our trouble."
I would have replied yet more bitterly than before, but for the fact that
at the moment it so chanced my eyes were fixed upon the lodge wherein our
comrade had said his father was held prisoner, and I saw the flap pulled
Then the face of a man could be seen close to the ground, and I said,
eagerly, to my companion, who, perforce, had his head turned in the
"Peter Sitz is lookin' at us."
"I would he had remained ignorant of our whereabouts," Sergeant Corney
muttered, and I asked, in surprise:
"Because, in addition to his own sufferin', he must believe that we've
been brought to this plight through tryin' to aid him, an' it only serves
to make his troubles greater, without lessenin' ours."
Sergeant Corney was rapidly becoming a hero in my eyes, for surely it is a
brave man who, when he stands in most imminent danger, can think rather of
others than himself.
We spoke but little from this time on, the sergeant and I. The rawhides,
which were tied so tightly as to nearly stop the circulation of blood,
were eating their way into our flesh, and the pain thus caused became
greater than the smarting of the blisters raised by the burning brands.
We knew that those who formed that circle of painted forms but a short
distance away were deciding whether we be put to torture immediately, or
reserved for some especial time of rejoicing, and there grew upon me such
a fascination as is sometimes brought about by keenest peril, until I
almost forgot the desperate situation as I watched those who held our fate
in their hands, trying to discover from the expression on their hideous
faces what might be the result of the conference.
As the moments passed I sank into a sort of apathy, until it was as if
some other lad's fate trembled in the balance, and I myself was looking
down upon the encampment from a secure place of refuge.
The fires burned dim. One by one Thayendanega's heathens stalked away to
his lodge, until the council was finally brought to a close; a deep
silence came over the encampment, as if all, save that white face which I
could see just beneath the flap of the lodge in front of me, and we two
who were bound to the tree, were wrapped in slumber.
"We can count on remainin' alive at least until to-morrow night," Sergeant
Corney said, as if imparting some cheering information, "for these
wretches do not torture a prisoner in the daytime."
"Unless some change is made speedily I will not be in their power, for of
a verity I am dyin', Sergeant Corney," I said, and he, thinking, of
course, to cheer me, laughed almost merrily as he replied:
"Nonsense, lad, you are a long ways from bein' dead. I allow your body is
numbed, but that's all. If these strips of rawhide were slackened a bit,
you'd soon find yourself feelin' as well as ever, save, perchance, for the
blisters upon your hands."
"If we _could_ stretch them a bit," I cried, trying vainly to change the
position of my arms.
"Ay, but you can't, lad, an' by makin' the effort you'll only cause them
to bind the tighter."
How that long night passed I cannot well say. The agony of mind, together
with the bodily pain, benumbed all my senses until I was like one in a
trance, hearing nothing, seeing nothing, save the gleam of that white
face beneath the flap of the lodge where Peter Sitz kept mournful watch
The morning came, and like one under the influence of some hideous
nightmare I became aware that the savages were loosening the rawhide
thongs. Faintly, with but little curiosity regarding the matter, I
wondered if we were to be killed at once, regardless of the usual customs
of such wretches.
When the bonds had been removed the sergeant and I sank down upon the
ground helpless, unable to move hand or foot, and in that condition we
were dragged into the lodge where was Jacob's father.
There we were bound quite as securely and cruelly as before, the thongs
cutting fresh welts into our wrists and ankles; but the relief caused by
the change of position was so great that it seemed as if I had every
reason for thankfulness.
Here, when our captors had made certain we could not by any possibility
escape, we were left alone with Peter Sitz, and his first question was as
to why we had ventured within reach of the enemy.
Sergeant Corney, minded to save our neighbor from the self-reproach which
might be his if he knew we were in such plight through desire to aid his
son or himself, replied that we had been sent into the vicinity by General
Herkimer, and then explained how we came across Jacob, as well was the
manner in which we had been taken prisoners.
"Will they torture us to death?" I asked, giving words to that question
which had been uppermost in my mind from the moment we saw the painted
sneaks approaching the cave, and Master Sitz replied, with a painful
effort at cheerfulness:
"It's for you to believe that they won't, lad. Remember how long I've been
in their power, an' yet have come to no real harm, so far as life is
concerned, although this bein' trussed up like a chicken ready for the
roastin' is by no means pleasant or comfortable."
Then it was that Sergeant Corney, minded as I now believe only to change
the subject of conversation, asked Master Sitz why it was we had failed to
see him during the march from Cherry Valley to the Indian village.
The explanation was simple, and at the same time served to show, to my
mind at least, that Jacob's father would not be led to the stake.
It seems that when he was first captured, at the time Lieutenant Wormwood
was killed, he came face to face with Thayendanega, and that savage
recognized him at once, speaking in such a friendly tone that Master Sitz
immediately appealed for mercy.
The sachem declared that if he remained with the war party it might be
impossible to save him, and even went so far in his friendliness as to
explain that it were better he be sent ahead to the Indian village, for,
having once arrived at that place, there was little fear of the warriors
demanding his death until on some especial occasion.
Therefore, within half an hour after having been made prisoner, Master
Sitz was being hurried forward to Oghkwaga, under charge of two savages,
and was well on his journey before we started.
When, immediately after the interview with General Herkimer, Thayendanega
hurried his tribe on to join St. Leger's forces, he so far submitted to
the demands of his followers as to allow them to take Peter Sitz on the
war-path with them.
"More than once have the red devils insisted on torturin' me; but each
time Joseph Brant has prevented them, although I question if he could have
done so but for the unfortunate men who were captured in the battle with
General Herkimer's troops."
Peter Sitz ceased speaking very suddenly, and I had not the courage to ask
him how those prisoners suffered; I could imagine that they came to a most
horrible end, and knew that my worst picturing of it would fall far short
of the reality.
Then Jacob's father spoke of the possibility that we might escape with our
lives; but it was evident he did so with an effort, and I had it in mind
that he only tried to cheer me, while he was convinced that his end, as
well as ours, would come at the stake before the siege was finished.
And now I do not propose to make any effort at giving in detail all that
occurred while we lay cruelly bound, during a greater portion of the time,
in this lodge, situate almost in the centre of the Indian camp.
For eight days we were kept thus close prisoners, without a ray of hope,
and then came the unexpected.
At least once in every twenty-four hours, and sometimes twice, the bonds
were taken from our arms that we might feed ourselves on such food as
savages cast to their dogs. Perhaps thrice in that long term of captivity
were we permitted to walk around the lodge, and, save for that short
respite from our suffering, I believe of a verity we would have lost the
use of our limbs.
Half-starved, suffering oftentimes the keenest pangs of thirst, and
believing that all this torture was the preface to something yet worse, it
can well be imagined that we were indeed a sorry party. Even Sergeant
Corney ceased trying to animate us, for despair had seized upon him.
When we did hold converse among ourselves, it was usually regarding Jacob.
We had neither seen nor heard anything of the lad since the hour he left
us in the cave to get speech with his father, and it was to me wondrous
strange that he who had been so eager when there was but one prisoner, had
apparently lost all desire to render aid after two more had been captured.
During the first two or three days we believed he was skulking around
somewhere near at hand, with the vain hope that he might be able to effect
our escape; but as the time passed on it became certain that such could
not be the case, otherwise he would have succeeded in making his way to
the lodge, as he had done when his father was the only occupant of it.
So far as I could make out, there was no more vigilant guard kept after we
were taken than before, and the lad must have succeeded in getting speech
with us had he made the effort during those times when the savages gave
themselves up to dancing or feasting, as occurred at least once in every
eight and forty hours.
Then we decided he had gone in search of General Herkimer's men, thinking
to enlist a sufficient number of them in our behalf; but if such had been
the case we should have heard something from him, at least when eight days
were passed, and after that time we made no mention of the lad, believing
he had been discovered near the encampment and killed outright.
And now it must be understood that during all this time St. Leger's army
was laying close siege to Fort Schuyler, and, strange as it may seem, we,
closely confined in that lodge of skins, had a fairly good idea of what
More than one of the Indians spoke English, and, not unfrequently, the
Tories or British officers came to visit Thayendanega in his own lodge,
when we could overhear a goodly portion of the conversation.
Thus it was we knew that Colonel Billinger and Major Frey, officers from
General Herkimer's force, who had been taken prisoners by some of the
British during the battle of Oriskany, had been compelled, under threats
of torture, to write a letter to Colonel Gansevoort, misrepresenting St.
Leger's strength, and advising him to surrender.
We also knew that this letter, written under pressure, was delivered by
Colonel Butler, who went to the fort with a flag of truce, and, when the
commandant flatly refused to surrender, the Tory officer threatened that,
in case it became necessary to take the fortification by force, the women
and children inside would be delivered over to the mercies of the Indians.
Fortunately Colonel Gansevoort was too brave a man to be frightened by
such threats, and when Colonel Butler told him that Burgoyne had already
taken possession of Albany, he became thoroughly well convinced that the
officer was deliberately lying to him.
At all events, he refused to surrender, and two days later General St.
Leger sent a written demand, the reply to which contained the emphatic
statement that it was Colonel Gansevoort's determined resolution with the
force under his command, to defend the fort to the last extremity.
We learned also, through different friendly visits which were paid to
Joseph Brant by the officers, that General St. Leger was continuing the
siege in true military fashion, advancing by parallels slowly but surely,
and it was the belief of all our enemies that they must of a necessity
soon succeed in their purpose.
The information which we thus obtained did not tend to make us feel any
more comfortable in mind. In case the fort was taken, the utmost we could
hope for would be to escape death, but at the cost of remaining, no one
knows how long, as slaves to the savages.
If, however, the garrison made such a resistance as we believed they
would, and then were finally overcome, the Indians being allowed to wreak
vengeance until their thirst for blood was satisfied, then was it probable
we would go to the stake with a goodly company and little chance of
However, I am not minded to set down here all our fears. One can readily
understand how many and great they were, and how we twisted and turned
each additional bit of information which we gathered by eavesdropping,
until it seemed as if matters which had no bearing whatsoever on our
condition were a direct and deadly menace.
I have said that we were eight days closely confined in this one lodge,
and then came the night when we were lifted from out the mire of despair
into which we had fallen, so suddenly as to make us literally dizzy with
During the afternoon of this day Thayendanega's warriors had spent their
time laying on an unusual quantity of paint, and arraying themselves to
the last feather of their finery, therefore we knew that something of
considerable importance was on foot. When they marched out of the
encampment, the medicine-men leading the way, with the beating of drums
and blowing of horns, we believed a council of war was to be held, in
which these wretches, most likely to tickle their vanity, had been invited
to take part.
When, just as they were setting out, the rain began to fall heavily and
the wind to blow in a manner which betokened a summer storm, I found the
wildest delight in picturing to myself the discomforts which would be
theirs unless St. Leger had tents sufficient to provide them all with
At another time I would have given little heed to such a trifling matter,
but now it seemed of so much importance that I spoke to my companions in
misery regarding it, picturing the bedraggled condition of the fine
feathers after they had become thoroughly saturated, and was talking with
more of animation than at any time since having been made prisoner, when
suddenly a sound, as of some one scratching on the skin of the lodge,
caused my heart to bound until it seemed positive its furious beatings
could be heard a long distance off.
"It is Jacob!" I cried, speaking incautiously loud.
A warning hiss from Peter Sitz brought me to my senses, and in a fever of
suspense I listened for the sound which had first attracted my attention,
to be repeated.
The silence remained unbroken, save for the lightest rustling of the
skins, until, in the dim light to which my eyes had been so long
accustomed, I saw Jacob's head and shoulders inside the lodge.
It was only with difficulty I restrained myself from crying aloud with
joy, for now it seemed, even surrounded by enemies though we were, that
because my comrade had come were we rescued.
So great was my delight at seeing Jacob slowly working his way into the
lodge, that there was no room in my heart for surprise. I entirely forgot
to be astonished because after so long a time he had returned, or to
question why it was he dared venture within the encampment.
Only the fact that he was there presented itself to my mind, and I gave no
heed to anything else.
I struggled violently to reach the dear lad, intent on throwing my arms
around him in order to show how deeply I felt this devotion of his which
had brought him back, perhaps, to a terrible death; but Master Sitz and
Sergeant Corney remained silent and motionless until Jacob was well within
the lodge. Then his father said, conveying reproach even in the whisper:
"Why have you come here after once having gotten well away from the place?
You can do us no good, an' only hope to add to the savages' list of
"They have not got me yet," Jacob replied, cheerily, and I understood
that his courage had been greatly stiffened since the night he crept out
from the cave. "There's a big powwow goin' on over at St. Leger's camp,
an' no one is on guard hereabouts. This is the time when, if ever, you can
It seemed to me as if the lad talked the veriest nonsense in speaking of
our escape by simply crawling away from the lodge, situate as it was in
the very midst of the encampment; but Jacob had the whole plan in his
mind, and was not to be disheartened, however much cold water we might
throw upon it.
It may seem strange, but such is the fact, that even when thus surrounded
by danger my curiosity was so great that I asked him, even before he had
time to explain how he hoped to effect our rescue, where he had been so
"At Cherry Valley," he replied, as if a journey there and back was the
most simple thing imaginable.
"Meanin' that you have been home since the night you left the cave?" I
repeated, in astonishment.
"Ay, no less than that."
"But why did you do it?" I cried, speaking so loudly as to call forth a
warning groan from Sergeant Corney.
"Because I believed it might be possible for you to escape, providin' we
had help enough near at hand," he replied, and I said, even more
mystified than before:
"Surely you could not expect to get help for us from Cherry Valley?"
"Ay; and that is just what I did."
"Is my uncle here?"
"No, indeed; he believed my scheme to be so wild that he would hardly
listen to me, and said you three had the same as come to your death
already, therefore it was useless to raise a finger in your behalf while
there were so many hundred people near at hand needin' assistance."
"Who then did you expect would come to our aid?" I asked, and Jacob
replied, with what sounded very like a chuckle of satisfaction:
"Who else, save the Minute Boys of the Mohawk Valley?"
But for the rawhide ropes which held me so cruelly immovable, I would have
leaped to my feet in astonishment; as it was, I involuntarily gave so
violent a start as to cause myself considerable pain, and then asked, in
"Why do you play upon our hopes, so lately raised, by declaring that the
company of lads is here?"
"Not a bit of play about it, Noel," Jacob replied, in so cheery a tone
that my heart became wondrously light. "Four an' twenty of our company,
with John Sammons still acting as captain, are within an hundred yards of
this lodge, an', what is more, we count on takin' you away with us before
another day shall dawn."
Then it was as if Jacob believed he had satisfied our curiosity so much as
was necessary at such a time, for without delay he moved from one to the
other, deftly cutting the rawhide which held us motionless, and three
minutes had not elapsed from the time he first showed himself inside the
lodge until our limbs were freed.
We were no longer bound, but yet remained helpless. I could move neither
hand nor foot, struggle as I might. It was as if my limbs were dead while
my body yet remained alive; but Jacob, who had in his wild plan considered
just such a probability, set about chafing my arms and legs until the
feeling began to return.
He performed the same office for Sergeant Corney, I aiding in the task
before it was finished; but a good ten minutes elapsed before we had
command of our limbs, and then it was that even Master Sitz began to
believe it might be possible for us to escape from the encampment.
While he worked over us, Jacob, understanding that we were being literally
overwhelmed with curiosity regarding his movements during the long
absence, explained that he was but a short distance from the cave when we
were made prisoners, and at first almost gave way to despair because of
what seemed to him the hardest stroke which an ill fortune could deliver.
During that night he kept us in view, until learning that we would not be
put to death immediately, and then the lad searched in his mind for some
plan which might give promise, however slight, of success.
He could not hope that those in the fort, closely besieged as they were,
would be willing to make a desperate venture in order to aid three men,
when so many hundred were in peril, and, even though the chances might be
in favor of Colonel Gansevoort's being ready to make a sortie in our
behalf, they were decidedly against Jacob's being able to communicate with
Then it was he bethought himself of the Minute Boys, who were not
absolutely needed in Cherry Valley after the hundred and fifty soldiers
were quartered there, and, without knowing how they might be able to aid
him in the almost hopeless task, he set off at full speed for our home,
travelling by night as by day, with no more halts than were absolutely
necessary in order to recruit his strength.
Colonel Campbell, my uncle, was much averse to Jacob's wild plans. He
believed that, because of the danger which threatened all the inhabitants
of the Mohawk Valley, it was in the highest degree foolhardy to make any
such effort toward saving the lives of three people as might jeopardize an
hundred times that number. However, while saying flatly it was a boy's
scheme, and not worthy the attention of men, he stated that he would not
put any obstruction in the way of those who chose to make the hazard,
save to state openly that whosoever left on such a mission was but
hastening his own death.
It quickened the sluggish blood in my veins when Jacob said that, after he
had summoned the Minute Boys and explained to them in what peril we three
were, never one showed the slightest disinclination to do as he proposed.
John Sammons, the lad who was acting as captain in my absence, insisted
that it was plainly the duty of every member of the company to do
whatsoever he might in our behalf, and the result was that the lad had
been in Cherry Valley no more than half an hour before every member of the
company was armed and outfitted for the perilous venture.
At the very last moment, however, eight or ten of the number were
dissuaded by their parents; but the remainder started hotfoot for Fort
Schuyler, arriving an hour before this last day had dawned.
The only plan which Jacob had formed in his mind was to get speech with us
as speedily as possible after arriving. Then, if needs be, he would make a
dash upon the encampment, and trust to the Minute Boys fighting their way
out with us in their midst.
Fortunately, however, he saw very speedily after daybreak that something
of import was taking place, and wisely waited until it could be seen that
every warrior was making ready for a grand powwow.
Now, so he told us, the Minute Boys were waiting hardly more than an
hundred yards distant, and, if it should be possible for us to make our
way through the encampment to that point, it was the determination of
every lad to fight to the best of his ability, with the hope of being able
to retreat meanwhile in case the Indians were aroused.
He who would not have done his best at escaping after all Jacob's work,
and in face of the pluck shown by our comrades, deserved of a verity to
remain prisoner even until he was led to the stake; but, as can well be
imagined, neither of us three hung back from the hazard, for surely it was
better to die fighting than be tortured as Thayendanega's wolves could
torture a human being.
Master Sitz made one stipulation, however, which was that Jacob should
lead the way as we crept out from the lodge, and, in event of our attempt
at escape being discovered while we were yet within the encampment, the
lad was to save himself without giving heed to us.
"There shall not be another victim added to our number," Jacob's father
said, in a tone of determination. "Strike out for your comrades, in case
the alarm is given, my boy, and if we are taken again leave us to our
Jacob made no reply to this; but I believed that if the need arose he
would disobey his father's command without compunction.
There was no time to linger. At any moment the powwow might be brought to
an end, or some warrior return to the encampment, therefore it stood us in
hand to move quickly, and so we did.
Not until Jacob was well outside the lodge did either of us three make any
move to follow him, and then Sergeant Corney would have pushed me under
the skins, which he raised slightly, but that I hung back, declaring it
was Master Sitz's place to go first; but the old man forced me forward.
How my heart beat when for the first time in eight days I had full command
of my limbs, and wriggled myself out into the clear air! It seemed as if
every movement of my arms or legs caused so much noise that the few who
remained in the lodges must be alarmed, and that I moved at even less than
a snail's pace, when every muscle was being strained in the effort to
The perspiration came out upon my forehead in great drops, caused, not by
the heat, but by the mental anguish, and again and again I said to myself
that Jacob had labored for naught, since it would be impossible I could
crawl undetected even over the short distance.
And when, in my excited frame of mind, it seemed as if the escape was but
just begun, I found myself in the thicket amid those lads who had been my
playmates since I could remember, while each strove to show in silence
how delighted he was that I had come safely.
Then ensued another time of keenest suspense, when we strained our ears to
hear the lightest sound which should betoken that the squaws of the
encampment had been alarmed, and once more our hearts leaped up in joy as
Master Sitz came behind the screen of bushes.
Now we had only to wait for Sergeant Corney, and, having seen what he
could do in the wilderness, I had no doubt but that he would succeed in
his purpose, which he soon did.
Perhaps no more than half an hour had passed from the time we first saw
Jacob until we three, so lately prisoners, were surrounded by that brave
band of lads who, by calling themselves "Minute Boys," had excited the
mirth of the elders of Cherry Valley, and yet never one who was not
prepared to sacrifice his own life for the welfare of the others.
"What are we to do?" Sergeant Corney said, turning to me, as if I should
resume command of this company of mine, and I replied, promptly, with
never a thought of claiming my rights as captain:
"It is for you to lead, sergeant, an' we will obey. There's not one in
this company so well fitted as you to take us out from amid the dangers
which surround us."
"Yet my idea of what is safest may seem to the rest of you like veriest
folly," he replied, as if he would shirk the responsibility, and Master
Sitz said, eagerly:
"It all seems to me like a piece of folly, Sergeant Corney, even though
because of it are we brought out from the power of our enemies. You can do
no more hairbrained things than has already been done by my son."
"Then, if the command be left to me, we shall make our way into Fort
Schuyler, provided that be possible."
"Fort Schuyler!" I cried, in dismay.
"Ay, lad, an' we shall be there before another day dawns if we live,
provided we make the start."
"But why not put as many miles between us and this place as is possible?"
I cried, with no slight show of irritation, for the imminence of the
danger set every nerve tingling until I could think of nothing save the
most hurried flight.
"It stands us in hand to go there, first, because they are in need of our
help, and, secondly, because we shall stand a better show of finally
escaping from the savages."
"How do you make that out?" John Sammons asked, and I understood from his
tone that he was not inclined for the hazard.
"Think you Thayendanega's wolves will lose the prisoners whom they counted
on seeing at the stake, without some effort to retake them?" the old man
asked, sharply, and John Sammons replied:
"All that we understand; but reckon on puttin' a goodly distance between
us an' yonder encampment before to-morrow mornin'. Unless there is an
accident the escape will not be known for many hours, and then should we
have so much the lead that we could count with some degree of assurance
upon gaining Cherry Valley."
"In that I do not agree, lad, an' for many reasons. We cannot advance at
full speed, because it will be necessary to spend some time in learnin'
whether there be an enemy in the road; but the savages followin' the trail
may come as fast as their legs can bring them, therefore will they travel
three miles to our two."
"Ay; but we should be able to hold in good play as many as may overtake
"That must be accordin' to the fortunes of war. It is hardly to be
reckoned that we could fight a pitched battle without losin' some portion
of our company, and I would have this brave rescue of yours accomplished
with as little cost as may be. Therefore have I in mind to enter Fort
I cannot truly say that Sergeant Corney convinced us his plan was the
best; but certain it is we were silenced, as was no more than proper,
since it stood to reason he knew best about such affairs.
After this, having made up our minds that we must attempt the perilous
task, came the question of how it should be done, and on this point the
old soldier gave us very little opportunity for discussion.
"It is my plan that we circle around the encampment, even beyond St.
Leger's quarters, in order to get a general idea of what may be goin' on,
an', havin' arrived at the road westward of the fortification, you lads
shall get in hidin' while I try once more to open communication with the
"Why should you go alone?" I asked. "We might remain in a body, and thus
save just so much time. If one can do the trick, then may it be possible
for two, or a dozen."
"Yes, to make one's way across the open country, I grant you; but
remember, lad, how long it would have taken to gain admission when we were
there before had the garrison not been warned that we were in the
vicinity. This time they will look upon us as enemies until we are near
enough to make ourselves known, and such a force as is here would appear
to them like an attackin' party."
The sergeant was right, as I now understood full well, and, although I
craved not the dangerous work, because my comrades were near at hand I
desired they should see that I shirked not peril.
However, all seemed to understand that, if the sergeant's plan was to be
carried out, he should arrange the details, and therefore I held my peace.
In order to gain the westerly side of the fort from the Indian encampment,
in the vicinity of which we then were, and learn what might be going on
at St. Leger's headquarters, it would be necessary to cross the river and
traverse at least two-thirds of a complete circle around the
Much time might have been saved had we crossed the Mohawk to the
southward, without venturing near the camps of the British.
Sergeant Corney seemed to consider that it was more important to get a
general idea of the disposition of St. Leger's forces before entering the
fort, than to save ourselves so much labor, therefore he led the way
eastwardly half a mile or more, until we were come to the narrowest part
of the river, when we swam over, afterward heading directly for the main
encampment of the besiegers.
Still acting under Sergeant Corney's directions, the greater part of the
company kept at a respectful distance when we were come within the
vicinity of St. Leger's headquarters, while he, Jacob, and I crept forward
Because of the many fires and the apparent confidence of the enemy that no
attempt would be made to surprise them, we had ample opportunity to see
all that was required.
The biggest kind of a feast, or powwow, or council, or whatever it might
have been called, was in progress, and so deeply interested were the
Britishers, Tories, and Indians alike that I believe of a verity we could
have approached within fifty feet and not been discovered save by purest
"Whatever they've got on hand seems to be somethin' that'll last well
through the night," Sergeant Corney said, as he lay amid the bushes
watching the various groups of men, both white and red. "If Colonel
Gansevoort could only know what's goin' on at this minute, I allow he'd
make such a sortie as would raise this siege in quick order. We couldn't
have a better night for enterin' the fort, an', if we don't succeed, it'll
be our fault, or through the blundering of some fool sentinel."
To one who had not been in this vicinity, as had I, the old soldier's
words might have induced the belief that we were really not exposed to
danger in making the proposed venture; but I knew full well he believed,
as did I, that, however many might be feasting and dancing in the
encampment, there were a certain number watching the fort, and if one of
them should catch a glimpse of us the business would be at an end right
When Sergeant Corney had satisfied himself with a scrutiny of the camp, he
led the way to the northward, where the Minute Boys were in hiding, and,
arriving there, explained in few words the situation, to the end that they
might be encouraged for that which was to come.
I question if, after showing the bravery they already had, the lads needed
any words to stiffen their backs; but it pleased the old soldier to make
it appear as if we had clear sailing before us, and did no real harm.
Then we started on the march, which would be long because it was
necessary, after passing the encampment, to make considerable of a detour
in order to avoid, first, a battery of three guns, then one of four
mortars, and, lastly, a battery of three more guns, all of which extended
northwesterly from St. Leger's headquarters.
After this distance had been traversed, we passed within less than two
hundred feet of the line of trenches which had been begun as an approach
to the fort, and then bore to the southward again, crossing the Albany
Finally, at perhaps two o'clock in the morning, we arrived at a broad
elevation, the easternmost slope of which came very near to the outer
walls of the fort.
Here it would be necessary to advance without cover for perhaps an hundred
yards, and it was this last and most dangerous work that Sergeant Corney
insisted on doing himself.
My company found fairly good hiding-places in the thicket near at hand,
Jacob and I creeping out to the edge of the foliage in order to keep watch
upon the old soldier as he made his way like a snake over the plain, which
was almost entirely destitute of vegetation.
He set off without delay, for, owing to the lateness of the hour, there
was no time to be wasted, and our hearts were literally in our mouths as
we watched him make his way slowly along, at imminent danger each second
of being fired upon by the sentinels inside the fort.
In the Fort
Everything was in our favor on this night, otherwise Sergeant Corney's
attempt would not have been the simple matter which it appears as set down
True it is we had previously visited the fort, and that while many of the
enemy's sentinels were on the alert; but because a task has once been done
is no proof that it may be accomplished a second time. In fact, it is by
trying a hazardous venture again and again that it becomes yet more
dangerous, or, in other words, "The pitcher that goes often to the well
will one day return broken."
I question if there could have been found in the entire Mohawk Valley a
man who would have performed the task better than did Sergeant Corney. The
night was not particularly dark, and we who were watching from the
undergrowth knew exactly where to look for him, but yet there were many
times when I failed utterly to distinguish his form, although, as I have
already said, there was nothing in the way of vegetation to screen his
Only when he half-raised himself to make certain he was advancing in a
direct course could we see him, and when, after perhaps twenty minutes of
such stealthy approach, the deeper shadow cast by the fortification itself
had been gained, he was entirely lost to our view.
Then was come the time when I feared most for his safety, although, if the
sentinel had failed to see him making his way across the open space, we
might have reasonable hope that the remainder of his scheme, less
dangerous, could be worked without mishap.
It seemed to me as if an hour elapsed from the time he disappeared before
we saw any sign of him again. The minutes passed laggingly, although while
there was no outcry we knew full well he had come to no harm; but yet I
trembled with anxiety until we finally saw a figure upon the wall waving
its arms, and I said to Jacob:
"That is the signal for us to advance."
"Advance where?" he asked, in perplexity. "Surely it is not possible for
us to get in at any point."
"We can at least hold communication with those inside if we creep to the
new portion of the fort, which as yet is only a stockade--the same place
where the sergeant and I had converse with Colonel Gansevoort."
It appears, as I finally learned, that the sergeant believed I would have
sufficient sense to understand it was at this place we must effect an
entrance, if anywhere, and I ought to have known at the time, for, after
waving his arms to attract attention, he walked along the wall,
disappearing near what was known as the "horn-works," which as yet were
enclosed only by a stockade of logs.
To summon the Minute Boys and bring them to the edge of the clearing was
but the work of a few moments, and then was done that which I venture to
say has seldom been accomplished during such a siege as was then in
For an armed party of nearly thirty to cross an open plain, supposedly
under the very eyes of the enemy's sentinels, without being discovered, is
something of which to boast, yet we Minute Boys of the Mohawk Valley did
it without raising an alarm.
When the foremost of us, among whom I was, gained that portion of the
fortification of which I have already spoken, the sergeant was lowering a
long ladder over the stockade, and up this we clambered without delay, the
entire party getting inside the fort within two minutes after the ascent
What a time of congratulation that was! The garrison pressed around to
praise us and pat themselves on the head, because we had come at what was,
for them, an opportune time. Not only was the fort reinforced by no
inconsiderable number, but we brought with us fairly good information as
to the condition of affairs in the enemy's camp.
The men were yet praising and thanking us for having come at such a time,
when an officer approached with the word that Colonel Gansevoort wished to
speak with the leaders of the party.
"That means you, Noel," the sergeant said, patting me on the shoulder.
"The colonel quite rightly believes that we can give him valuable
information, an' is eager to have it."
"But I am not the leader of the party," I said, finding time to be a bit
bashful, now that the imminent danger was passed.
"Who is, if not the captain of the company?" the old man asked, with a
"You, an' you always were when we were at home, Sergeant Corney, therefore
are you doubly the leader now, after having brought us safely in from the
The old soldier flatly refused to present himself as being in command of
the Minute Boys, and there is no saying how long we might have wrangled
among ourselves had not Colonel Willett, impatient to see us, come up just
at that moment.
After asking a few questions, he settled the matter by saying:
"If you lads who have accomplished so much which men might well have
feared to attempt, are not willing that one should have more praise than
another, let all those who have been in command at different times present
themselves to Colonel Gansevoort, and then, mayhap, we shall hear that for
which we are so eager."
I am free to admit that it was childish in any of us to hang back at such
a moment, but, thanks to Colonel Willett, the matter was arranged as he
suggested, Sergeant Corney, John Sammons, Jacob, and I going to the
commandant's quarters, escorted by the colonel and the messenger who had
been sent for us.
There was no real occasion for us to have been timid regarding the
interview with the commandant of Fort Schuyler, for a more pleasantly
spoken, neighborly-like man it was never my good fortune to come in
One would have said that he was interested personally in each and every
one of us, from the questions he asked concerning our having organized a
company of Minute Boys, how we had been drilled, and such like homely
Then, having shown himself to be a friend, as it were, he began getting
that information which was necessary for the safety of the garrison. First
he was eager to learn regarding the battle of Oriskany, for those inside
the fort knew nothing whatsoever of that disastrous ambush, save such as
could be guessed by the reports of the firearms and the bearing of the
Indians after they beat a retreat.
Sergeant Corney flatly refused to tell the story, insisting that I was the
better able to do so, and, in the presence of Colonel Gansevoort and all
his principal officers, I related the events of that day when an able
soldier and a brave man was forced by the prating of cowards to lead his
soldiers where he knew, almost beyond a peradventure, he had no hope of
winning a victory.
Then Jacob and I in turn gave an account of what had been done, bringing
our story up to the time when Sergeant Corney took the lead in the attempt
to gain the fort, and the old man could not well refuse to describe what
he had seen that night regarding the disposition of the enemy's forces.
That Colonel Gansevoort and his officers were deeply interested in our
recital may be understood by the fact that day had fully come before we
were at an end of our stories, and yet never one of them had shown the
slightest impatience or a desire to cut us short.
"I know of no greater favor which could have been done the garrison, save
that of bringing in additional stores and larger reinforcements, than what
has come to us through you," Colonel Gansevoort said, when we had imparted
all our information. "I hope you will not regret having made this effort
to aid us, and, if it so be an opportunity ever offers, I will see to it
that, so far as is within my power, the Minute Boys of the Mohawk Valley
shall receive substantial credit from their country-men because of
services rendered. We will give you as good quarters as we have; but if
the rations seem scanty now and then, you must remember that we are not in
position to get all we may require in the way of eatables."
"Will you answer me one question, sir, an' not deem it impertinent?"
Sergeant Corney asked, with a degree of humility such as I had never
before seen him exhibit.
"An hundred if you please. We can hardly refuse anything to those who have
given us so much encouragement this night as have you and your comrades."
"I would like to know, sir, simply from curiosity, an' not because it
would make any difference with my desire to go or stay, if you have a good
show of holdin' the fort against so strong a force as is under St. Leger's
"I believe we have," the colonel replied, thoughtfully. "At all events, I
promise you that we will not surrender; but, if the worst comes to the
worst, I shall sally out at night with the idea of cutting my way through
the enemy's lines. Our provisions are running low; the enemy has advanced
by parallels within an hundred and fifty yards, and the store of
ammunition is by no means as great as we could wish. Our only hope is that
General Schuyler may be able to succor us."
"If a company of thirty boys can move through Thayendanega's camp, spy
upon the British, and force their way into this fort unharmed, then of a
surety can I do half as much," Colonel Willett said, vehemently. "I will
undertake to make my way to General Schuyler, setting out when another
night shall have come."
"And I will go with you!" an officer, whom I afterward came to know was
Lieutenant Stockwell cried heartily, whereupon the sergeant, puffed up
because of what we had already done, declared that Jacob, he, and I would
act as messengers.
"It is enough for you to have shown us that the task can be accomplished,"
Colonel Willett said with a smile. "I have been the first to volunteer for
such service, and claim the right to go."
At this point the commandant suggested in the most friendly manner that
perhaps we who had lately arrived might be in need of food, and I fancied
he made this suggestion in order to be rid of us while he and his officers
discussed the proposition.
At all events, we left headquarters and were conducted by Lieutenant
Stockwell to a portion of the barracks which was set aside especially for
the Minute Boys, to the end that we might all be together.
"Rations shall be served you at once," the lieutenant said, as he turned
to leave us, and, although he kept his word, it was past noon before we
had an opportunity to break our fast, because it seemed as if nearly every
man in the garrison was eager to hold personal converse with us in order
to learn what he might concerning the besieging army.
No matter however much we as a company might succeed in doing in the
future, certain it is we could not be petted or praised more than we were
during that first day in the fort.
We had not accomplished anything remarkable, so far as I could see; aided
by all the circumstances, and particularly by the fact that St. Leger's
force had concluded to hold a powwow with the Indians on that certain
night, we had come across the plain when, at another time and under other
conditions, we might have made an hundred attempts without succeeding.
It was, as Sergeant Corney would put it, the fortune of war, or the
accident of war, which enabled us to do as we had done, and only the old
soldier himself could take personal credit for our being there.
If the garrison was on short allowance, we never would have suspected it
during the first four and twenty hours of our stay, for every man inside
the walls who had anything in the way of food which he thought might tempt
our appetites, offered it to us, and the wonder of it all is that we were
not so puffed up with pride as to behave very foolishly.
Late in the afternoon, on the day after we arrived, Colonel Willett came
to our quarters, and, sitting down among us regardless of his rank and
high attainments as a military officer, talked in the most neighborly
fashion with us concerning the surrounding country, the different routes
we had pursued when coming to or going from the fort, and, particularly,
concerning what we might have heard regarding the movements of the enemy
between Fort Schuyler and Oswego.
Of course to this last question we could give no satisfactory reply; but
certain it is that he gained very much of useful information which would
serve him in his attempt to reach General Schuyler. Having come to an end
of his inquiries, he told us that it had been determined between himself
and the commandant that on the next stormy night he and Lieutenant
Stockwell would make an effort to leave the fort on their way to
Stillwater, where it seems he believed the general would be found.
Sergeant Corney begged hard to be allowed to accompany the two officers,
but the colonel said, laughingly:
"You will remain where you are, sir, unless it is in your mind to leave
here because of the danger which threatens. Already have you done enough
in the way of scouting."
"I hope you do not think, sir, that I would run away because of anythin'
"No, my man, I am quite certain you never would; but you are not to gain
all the credit in this siege, for I count on taking some of it myself,
unless, peradventure, the enemy treat me worse than they did you."
Then the colonel left us, and right glad was I that he had not accepted
the sergeant's offer, for I might in some way have been dragged into the
venture, and of a verity I had had enough in that line of work to last me
so long as I might live. It is all very well when a fellow is beyond reach
of danger to speculate upon what might be done to gain a name for himself;
but quite another matter to take his life in his hand any oftener than may
be absolutely necessary.
On the following morning I presented myself to the commandant with a
complaint, having been prompted thereto by Sergeant Corney. We had not yet
been assigned to any duty, and each member of the garrison seemed
particularly averse to allowing us to even help ourselves.
There was not a member of our company who wished to remain there idle, and
I visited headquarters to ask that we might be called upon for the regular
garrison work, the same as if we were enlisted men.
Colonel Gansevoort very kindly assured me that there was no real reason
why we should do duty while the force was so large; but promised, if we
insisted upon it, to consider us when making a detail, exactly as he would
any of the others.
Colonel Willett had not long to wait before beginning his perilous
journey. By noon of the second day after our arrival the wind veered
around into the south, bringing heavy clouds across the sky, and even the
poorest weather prophets among us knew that a summer storm was close at
Once during the afternoon the colonel passed near where I was furbishing
up my rifle, and halted to say:
"The lieutenant and I count on leaving the fort shortly before midnight.
If you and your friends have any desire to see us set out, go down to the
new works at about that time."
By the "new works" he meant the stockade over which we had come, and I
hastened to impart the information to Sergeant Corney and Jacob, knowing
full well that they would be as interested in the venture as was I.
The volunteer messengers could not have asked for a better night. When the
day had come to an end the storm burst with no inconsiderable fury, and it
was safe to predict that it would not clear away before sunrise.
Had I been going on the venture I would have set out much before the
appointed time, because while the rain came down so furiously there was
little chance the enemy's sentinels could see what might be going on at
the southerly end of the fortification, and it seemed as if my opinion was
shared by Colonel Willett, for he and the lieutenant were ready to leave
at about ten o'clock.
I considered it very friendly in him to send us word as to his change of
plans, that we might not miss seeing them set forth, and thus it was we
beheld the two brave men as they imperilled their lives voluntarily and
solely in the hope of aiding their comrades.
They carried no weapons save spears, wore no clothing except what was
absolutely necessary for comfort, and, stripped to the lightest possible
marching trim, they went out into the blackness of the night like true
heroes, with a smile and a jest upon their lips.
There were not above twenty of us who witnessed the departure, but it is
safe to say that no more fervent prayers for their safety could have been
offered up if the whole garrison had bent the knee.
The darkness of night had literally swallowed them up, and the downpour of
rain drowned every noise that might have been made by their advance. It
was a brave venture, more particularly because, without chance of being
accused in the slightest degree of cowardice, they might have yielded
their places to others.
During half an hour or more we remained exposed to the storm, as we
listened with painful intentness for some sound which should tell us that
they had been discovered, and when at the end of that time we had heard
nothing, it was believed they were on their way in safety.
Later in the day we learned that it was Colonel Willett's intention to
push on to German Flats, and there, procuring horses, ride at full speed
down the valley to General Schuyler's headquarters.
Having once got clear of the fort and its vicinity, as we believed to be
the fact, the only thing which might prove the undoing of the venture was
that the general had gone to some other section of the country, and they
would not succeed in finding him until St. Leger had accomplished his
Well, we settled down to garrison duty, taking our turn with the squads of
from fifty to an hundred men who remained constantly on the alert to shoot
such of the enemy as might be sufficiently obliging as to show themselves,
and ready to give warning of any signs of an attack.
This last was not believed probable. The officers of the garrison argued
that neither the Indians nor the Tories could be depended upon to make a
direct assault on such a fortification as Fort Schuyler, and that all St.
Leger's efforts would be directed toward advancing his parallels until he
was sufficiently near to mine.
And yet how true is the old maxim that "it is always the unexpected which
On the third morning after we had entered the fort Sergeant Corney and I
were on duty as sharpshooters, and, before we had been upon the walls many
moments, I called his attention to what seemed like an unusual hurrying to
and fro on the part of the enemy. It was as if they were making ready for
some important movement, and, according to my way of thinking, that could
only mean an assault, improbable as our officers believed it to be.
As a matter of course, we gave immediate information to the officer of the
day of what we fancied had been discovered, and within half an hour more
there could no longer be any doubt but that St. Leger had made up his mind
to see what might be accomplished by a direct attack.
I was disposed to make light of the matter, not believing it possible the
enemy could effect anything of importance, but lost somewhat of my
confidence on observing the grave expression on the faces of the officers.
"What is it?" I asked of Sergeant Corney. "Do they fancy for a moment
that, even though the Indians should be willing to take part in the
assault, the fort could be carried?"
"No, lad, I reckon they're not sich fools as that; but it has come to my
ears that ammunition for the cannon is runnin' mighty low, an' to repel an
attack, even though there be no danger come from it, will be a serious
Even then I failed to understand what the old soldier meant, and asked him
to explain more fully, which he did.
Then I came to realize that to expend our ammunition for the big guns at
that time might result disastrously for us later, when, the parallels
having been brought nearer, an assault would be vastly more menacing.
However, St. Leger had the right to do whatsoever he might, and he could
not have chosen a wiser course had he known exactly the amount of powder
in our magazine.
The gunners were sent to their stations, the remainder of the force
disposed here or there as they might be the most useful, we Minute Boys
being stationed near the sally-port, which, as Sergeant Corney said, was a
great compliment, because at about that place might the hottest work be
It was not pleasant, this making ready for a battle. When we went into
action with General Herkimer it was done quickly; we suspected something
of the kind might happen, but were not certain of it. Now there could be
no question but that, in a short time at the most, we would be striving to
kill human beings, and unable, except at the cost of being branded as
cowards, to do anything toward saving our own lives.
If I have not spoken of Peter Sitz since he was rescued by the Minute
Boys, it is because he did not remain in the barracks with us from Cherry
Valley, but messed with some of his acquaintances from German Flats,
therefore we saw very little of him until the garrison was mustered to
repel the threatened attack.
Then I noted that Colonel Gansevoort had entrusted to him the charge of a
certain portion of the wall nearly opposite where the Minute Boys were
stationed, and because he had been placed in command, even though it was
of course only temporary, I judged, and truly, that Jacob's father was
accounted an able assistant in such work as we most likely had before us.
Sergeant Corney remained with the Minute Boys, as was his duty. I believe
of a verity my company would have grumbled almost as loudly as had General
Herkimer's men on the morning before the fight at Oriskany, had the old
soldier taken station elsewhere, and yet it would have been but natural
for him to go into the fight side by side with those of the garrison who
were most experienced in warfare.
As I have said, we were given a post which had in it no inconsiderable
honor, since it was at that point where the most fighting might be
expected, and from where we stood it was possible to have a fairly good
view of the plain immediately surrounding the fort.
Within twenty minutes after the alarm was first given, we could see the
British and Tory soldiers forming in line, while to the southward, below
the bend in the river, the Indians were crossing hurriedly, which last
fact caused me to say to the sergeant:
"I am of the mind that the savages count on attacking the stockaded
portion of the fortification," and the old man replied:
"Ay, lad, an' one might have guessed that without stopping to see from
which direction they were comin'. Thayendanega may prate as much as he
pleases about the bravery of his warriors, but he cannot find a corporal's
guard among the whole crowd that would dare march up to a direct assault
"What portion of the force is on duty in the stockade?" Jacob asked, but
none of our company could answer him. It was reasonable to suppose Colonel
Gansevoort had stationed there those of his men who were most experienced
in savage warfare, and we whose duty it was to hold the walls in the
vicinity of the sally-port had no need to trouble our heads concerning
The one thing which puzzled me was as to why St. Leger was making this
attack, since he had begun to approach the fort by parallels. I was eager
to have some expert opinion as to whether the British were apparently
abandoning the slow method of reducing the fortification, or if, having
learned perchance that we were running short of ammunition for the big
guns, they were making an attack in order to provoke us to waste powder
which would be more sadly needed at some later day. Therefore it was that
I asked Sergeant Corney what his belief was regarding the matter.
"It looks to me much as if Colonel Willett an' Lieutenant Stockwell had
"How do you figure that out?"
"Because an assault is evidently about to be made. If they are not
prisoners, the enemy has learned that they left the fort."
I was still in darkness as to why he arrived at such conclusion, but found
the reason exceedingly plain when he said:
"If St. Leger knows that a man of Colonel Willett's rank was eager to take
the chances of leaving the fortification to summon assistance, he must
believe the garrison is in sore straits, an' therefore it is that I
believe the mistake was made in allowin' him to go out when there were
plenty of others here willin' to take the chances."
It grieved me sorely to think that the brave officer might be at that
moment in the hands of the savages, or, what amounted to much the same
thing, in the custody of the Britishers, for it was charged openly that,
in order to keep the Indian allies in good temper, prisoners taken by his
Majesty's troops were often delivered over to the red-skinned wolves for
However, there was but little time left me in which to speculate upon this
painful matter, for even as Sergeant Corney and I spoke together the
British troops, supported by the Johnson Greens, came out into view from
amid the encampment, marching directly toward the fort.
"There is more in this than an ordinary assault," I heard the sergeant
mutter, as he looked to the priming of his musket. "St. Leger would not
expose his men to the slaughter which must follow without good and
sufficient cause. I'm not overly given to praising the Britishers; but we
must admit that he who's in command here is a thoroughly good soldier."
Under ordinary circumstances I would have been conscious of a certain
chill along my spine, and felt my knees trembling beneath me at the
certainty of soon being engaged in a life or death struggle; but after my
experience as a prisoner there was but one thought in my heart, and that
of repaying the enemy for some of the sufferings I had undergone.
The desire for revenge was greater than the fear of death.
Before many moments passed Sergeant Corney hit upon what I firmly believed
was the true answer to my question of why an assault was to be made at
The Britishers and Tories advanced in good order until facing the
northerly and westerly sides of the fort, within musket-shot range, and
from that distance poured their bullets into us without doing much
execution; but calling for strict attention on our part lest a charge be
made, for the ditch was not so wide or deep but that a body of trained
soldiers could have overcome the obstacle.
Only twice were the guns, which could be trained in that direction,
discharged, and then we inflicted no slight injury upon the foe; but
Colonel Gansevoort soon showed that he was far too prudent a commander to
shoot away all his powder at one time, even though it was possible to
punish the enemy severely.
It looked much as if the king's forces were bent on continuing the battle
with small arms at short range, for they discharged their pieces as
rapidly as it was possible to reload them, making a great din even though
the execution was slight.
Then it was that Sergeant Corney hit upon the meaning of this odd move.
Without a word he leaped down from the wall where he had been stationed,
running swiftly toward the unfinished portion of the fortification, and
was gone no more than three or four minutes when he returned with more
show of excitement than I had ever known him to exhibit.
"Yonder Britishers and renegades are but holding our attention in order to
give Thayendanega's wolves a chance to scale the stockade," he said,
hurriedly. "The force there is all too small. I will take half of the
company, at risk of disobeying orders, to that point, while you go with
all speed and tell the commandant what I have learned."
I understood the situation without further explanation, and, realizing the
necessity for haste, went as rapidly as my legs would carry me to the
northeast bastion, where I had last seen Colonel Gansevoort.
Fortunately for my purpose he was still there, giving directions as to the
firing of the guns, and in a twinkling I had acquainted him with the
situation as described by Sergeant Corney, at the same time explaining
that half the Minute Boys had been withdrawn from near the sally-port.
"The sergeant has done well," the commandant replied. "Ten of your number
should be more than sufficient there, if matters are as they seem. Tell
Sergeant Braun I will join him as soon as possible."
Then I ran with all speed to my company, and, explaining to John Sammons
my purpose, took with me half the number remaining under his command.
With this small force I set off at full speed, and we arrived none too
soon at the place where the most desperate fighting was going on.
At the beginning of the action no more than forty men had been stationed
in the "horn-works," and it seemed to me as if the entire stockaded
portion was surrounded by a dancing horde of howling, maddened Indians,
who, bringing with them tree-trunks or stout branches, were throwing up
such a heap of odds and ends as admitted of their gaining the top of the
logs despite the fire which our people were pouring upon them.
It must be set down here that there were no cannon in this unfinished
portion of the fortification. The so-called rebellion against the king had
broken out before this very necessary adjunct to the strength of the fort
could be completed, and, consequently, it was the weakest portion of our
When I arrived with my comrades at this point, our people were engaged in
a hand-to-hand struggle with the savages, three score or more having
succeeded in effecting an entrance, and it needed no experienced eye to
say that unless the onrush could be speedily checked, the capture of the
fort might be effected at a time when we had believed St. Leger was simply
making a feint.
Exactly what happened during the next half-hour I am unable to state of my
own knowledge, for I had no sooner entered the horn-works than it became
necessary to put forth every effort in the saving of my own life.
A gigantic savage discharged his musket with seemingly true aim directly
at my head; but, strangely enough, missed the target, and then he came at
me, hatchet in hand, with such fury that for an instant it seemed as if I
was at his mercy.
So excited was I that my bullet, which should have found lodgment in his
heart, went as wild as had his, and then was I forced to use a clubbed
musket for defence.
Had any one asked me on that morning if I believed it possible to
withstand the attack of an Indian, the two of us using the weapons I have
just described, my answer would have been a decided "no," and yet now I
held him in good play, although realizing that each moment I was growing
weaker and he gaining the advantage.
Already were my eyes becoming suffused with blood; my brain was in a
whirl, as I leaped here or there, parrying with the butt of the musket the
blows of his hatchet, and all the time he continued to press me nearer and
nearer toward the wall, where my resistance would have been overcome
within a very short time.
I wondered why it was that Colonel Gansevoort delayed in the coming, and
could see, without looking in any direction save at my foe, that the
number of savages inside the stockade was increasing each moment.
[Illustration: "The painted villain sank down upon the ground"]
Only a brief delay now on the part of the commandant, and they would gain
so great an advantage that such portion of the garrison as could be
withdrawn from the walls where the Britishers were making the pretended
attack, would not be able to dislodge them.
Then suddenly, at the very moment when it seemed impossible I could
struggle any longer, the painted villain sank down upon the ground as if
having received his death-blow, and I dimly heard Sergeant Corney cry,
"That was a narrow squeak, lad, an' we'll hope there'll be many more of
'em before the last one comes! Keep yourself well in hand, for of a verity
our work is cut out for us here!"
Now it was I knew that a shot from the old soldier's musket had put an end
to the combat in which I was most deeply interested, and I strained every
nerve to gather myself together as he had commanded.
By this time I dare venture to say no less than two hundred of the howling
demons had scaled the stockade, and we who were defending this weakest
portion of the fortification were pressed back and back until we stood
massed against that opening which gave entrance to the main fortification.
We were in good position for the enemy to mow us down with bullets, and in
such close formation that only those in the outermost ranks could use
their weapons to advantage.
"It is all over," I said to myself, realizing that within a very few
moments we must be killed or disabled under such a fire as Thayendanega's
scoundrels were pouring upon us. Then from our rear I heard ringing
cheers, the trampling of many feet, and realized that assistance had come
at the most critical moment.
Sixty seconds later we had all been slain like sheep in the shambles!
"Give way, give way, lads in front!" I heard Colonel Gansevoort shout,
and, hardly understanding the words, instinctively we surged either side
of the passage, having hardly done so before a shower of grape-shot came
hurtling between our ranks, dealing death to scores of the
"Stand to your muskets, you Minute Boys!" Sergeant Corney shouted, and the
sound of his voice stiffened my courage wonderfully. "Now is the time to
pay back some of our old scores, and every bullet should cut short a life
from among those who would harry us of the valley."
He had hardly more than ceased speaking when a great uproar could be heard
from the distance, and, without turning my head, I understood that the
British regulars and the Johnson Greens were pressing the attack on the
west and the front, in order to hold our men at the walls that we might
not be able to regain possession of the stockade.
Now the fight was on in good earnest, and a bloodier one or a more
desperate struggle I hope never to see again.
After the single cannon which Colonel Gansevoort had caused to be brought
in was discharged, the reinforcements betook themselves to their muskets,
for our frontiersmen were more accustomed to the use of small arms than
big guns, and the tide surged this way and that, with the fate of the fort
trembling more than once in the balance, until I had before my eyes only
great billows of feathered forms, which rose and fell, advanced and were
forced back, until I was well-nigh bewildered.
Before this portion of the fighting had come to an end, fully half the
garrison was engaged in repelling the attack of Thayendanega's forces, and
during such time the white portion of the enemy's army might have made a
successful assault upon the walls, I verily believe, but for the cowardice
displayed by the Tories.
How long we struggled there hand to hand, stumbling now over the lifeless
forms of our comrades, and again finding our way checked by the dead
bodies of the savages, I cannot say; but certain it is that we finally
drove the last of the hated foe over the stockade, and gave Thayendanega's
boasting braves such a lesson as they would not need to have repeated for
I was not less wearied with the carnage than those around me. Even
Sergeant Corney, to whom such scenes were not strange, leaned against a
portion of the earthworks as if for support while he dashed the
perspiration from his eyes, and then we knew by the sounds that the battle
was being waged severely over against the sally-port.
Then it was I called for the Minute Boys to follow me, as I ran at the
best pace possible in that direction, for there was our post of duty.
Now Colonel Gansevoort no longer husbanded his store of ammunition
intended for the cannon, and every piece in the northern and eastern
bastions was being worked with the utmost rapidity, sending among the
Tories such a shower of iron as their cowardly hearts could not hold out
against, and, when they turned with cries of fear to flee, the British
regulars, understanding that they were too few in number to effect
anything against us, joined in the retreat.
The assault had come to an end, and we of the garrison were triumphant,
but at such an expense of life that we could not well afford many more
During that night we buried our dead,--four and twenty men,--committing
them to the dust under cover of darkness lest the enemy see how much
injury he had inflicted, and, thank God, never a member of my company who
could not answer to the roll-call.
There were forty-one so seriously wounded that it was necessary a certain
force be told off from among the garrison to play the part of nurses, and,
when to the number of disabled is added those who were to care for them,
it can be seen that St. Leger struck us a severe blow, even though he did
not succeed in his purpose.
We buried our comrades in the horn-works, just under the stockade they had
defended so gallantly, and threw over the fence of logs fifty-two of
Thayendanega's wolves who would take no further part in murder and rapine.
It is positive that there must have been many wounded among the Indians,
some so severely that it would have been impossible for them to accompany
their fellows in the retreat; but yet we found none that had any life in
them when we searched among the ghastly evidences of the fight for our own
Peter Sitz declared that he had seen one of the wounded savages
deliberately kill himself with a knife, when it was seen that the assault
had failed, and I doubt not but that several did the same rather than fall
into our hands. Then, also, it is possible, in the heat of battle, and
remembering what these human wolves had done to the women and children of
the settlements which had been attacked, some of our men had sent more
than one of the helpless wretches to the Happy Hunting Grounds. I count
myself as tender-hearted as any other, and yet it would not have troubled
my conscience had I put a few wounded villains out of the world, rather
than let them live to commit yet more murders.
On the morning after the assault a white flag was raised over the fort,
and when St. Leger sent in hot haste a messenger to learn what we wanted,
thinking, most like, we had made up our minds to surrender, he was
informed that Colonel Gansevoort was willing to grant an hour's truce that
the British and Indian dead might be buried.
This the enemy accepted, and I was surprised to see that never one of
Thayendanega's beauties came forward to carry off the slain of his tribe.
I had always heard it said that the redskins would brave any danger rather
than allow a dead Indian to fall into the hands of an enemy; but certain
it is that on this day the rascally Tories dragged away the bodies, with
not even a squaw to help them.
Within the time set we were rid of the ghastly evidence of the battle,
which might have proven a menace to the health of the garrison had the
corpses been allowed to remain unburied while the weather was so warm, and
during all the coming night we could hear distinctly cries of lamentation
from the Indian camp. It was as if every brave, squaw, and papoose howled
his or her loudest in token of sorrow, and three of us within the fort had
a very good idea of what would have been our fate had we not been rescued
before the assault.
"This would have been our last night on earth, had the Minute Boys not
come to the rescue," Peter Sitz said to me, as we stood near the
sally-port for an instant, listening to the wild cries, and, strong man
though he was, I took note of the fact that his face shone pale in the
It did not need that I should strain my imagination very much to paint a
mental picture of our condition at that time, if we had remained in the
power of the savages. Of a verity we would have tested their keenest
torture before death came to our relief.
"It would seem as if that company of ours had been formed to some purpose,
an' not all of them were children," I said, minded that he who had laughed
most heartily at what he was pleased to call our "pretensions," should
give credit where it was due.
"If I live to see home again, there is never a man in Cherry Valley who
shall not hear from me what I owe to you lads!"
"Don't forget that I had no part in the rescue, Master Sitz, for surely I