Part 4 out of 5
was trussed up as stoutly as either you or Sergeant Corney."
"Yet but for your persistence we would never have thought of enlisting the
boys to aid in our defence, therefore must you take your portion of the
praise, an' more especially since it is said by Sergeant Corney himself
that you have proven yourself a man at every time when danger threatened."
"Sergeant Corney has no idea how my knees shook beneath me when, as he
believed, I was stout-hearted," I replied, with a careless laugh that
served to cloak the feeling of pride which rose in my bosom when he gave
good words to the Minute Boys.
While weeping over our dead, and rejoicing because of having beaten back
the enemy when it seemed as if the assault was about to be successful,
fear regarding the safety of Colonel Willett and Lieutenant Stockwell lay
heavily upon our hearts. It was the belief of nearly all the garrison that
the two officers had been captured, and, if such had been the case, there
could be no question but that they suffered a terrible death at the stake
while the savages were mourning over their loss.
Those among us who felt convinced that the messengers had succeeded in
their attempt, and Colonel Gansevoort was one of the hopeful ones,
insisted that if the Indians had tortured any prisoners to death, we must
have heard yells and shouts of triumph; yet the night wind had brought to
our ears nothing more than the cries of sorrow.
Viewing the situation in the brightest light possible, many days must of a
necessity elapse before we could hope for any good results from their
brave venture, and if in the meantime the enemy pressed us sharply, we
would be in hard straits, more particularly since so much of our
ammunition had been expended in defending the fort against that first
When a large number of men are confined in a limited space, and exposed to
danger, it needs but the lightest word to make cowards of the more
faint-hearted, as we soon had good proof.
On the day following the truce, after the enemy had buried their dead,
work on the parallels was continued, and it gave me no little satisfaction
to see that the Tories were forced to perform the greater portion of the
As I have already said, these trenches extended within an hundred and
fifty yards of the fort by this time, and we knew only too well that it
was not within our power to prevent their being advanced as near as the
enemy saw fit to carry them.
After a certain time mining would probably be begun, and then, if our
supply of ammunition had not been replenished, the end must be near at
hand, when St. Leger would have opportunity to carry into execution his
threat of allowing Thayendanega's murderers to work their cruel will.
All this was talked over and commented upon by our people as the days wore
on, and the more timid seemed to find delight in picturing what would take
place if the fort was captured.
"Why must they keep harpin' on that possibility all the time?" I asked,
angrily, of Sergeant Corney, when I had turned away in disgust from a
group of men who were painting horrible word-pictures, and the old soldier
had followed me to the parade-ground beyond sound of such words.
"It is all as plain as the nose on your face, lad," the old man said,
grimly. "Look about, an' you'll see that them as are makin' the howl over
what the Injuns may do are the faintest-hearted among us. It's all done
for one purpose."
"What can that be?" I asked, in surprise. "How do they suppose any good
can come of conjuring up everything horrible?"
"They're of the same kidney that drove General Herkimer into the ambush,
an' are tryin' to force the colonel to surrender."
"That can't be possible!" I cried, sharply. "There's never one among them
who does not know full well what the result will be if Colonel Gansevoort
surrenders the fort! St. Leger's promises would be as the idle wind when
Thayendanega's followers wanted victims for the stake!"
"True for you, lad, an' yet these cowards are ready to howl for
capitulation rather than fight as men should, in the presence of such an
enemy, to the last ditch," the sergeant replied, bitterly.
I could not believe that among the entire garrison might be found one
soldier who would willingly consent to a surrender, and said as much to
the old man, who replied, grimly:
"I haven't been around here for the past four an' twenty hours with my
eyes shut an' my ears filled with moss. Take a turn about the works,
listenin' to all that is said, an' you'll find I'm not wrong in my
figgerin'. The colonel knows as well as do I what's in the wind, an' I'll
agree never to eat sweet-cake agin if he ain't makin' ready for trouble
inside the fort as well as outside."
I remained silent a full minute, horrified by the bare possibility, and
then asked, in a voice which trembled despite all my efforts to render it
"Think you they can force him against his will, as the militia did General
"It is my belief that he'd shoot down a round dozen before consentin' to
give us all over to death; but there's no knowin' what a man may be forced
into when pressure enough has been brought to bear upon him."
At this moment Jacob came up, looking like his old self now that his
father was safe, at least, for the time being, and to him I put the matter
much as I had had it from the sergeant.
"Within the hour I have heard the same word from my father. He believes
there are a full hundred of the garrison who, when they have worked
themselves up to just such a pitch, will howl for surrender."
Even then I refused to believe in what was as yet no more than a
suspicion, and Sergeant Corney said, impatiently:
"It won't cost you much time to find out for yourself, lad. Take a couple
of turns around, an' I'll guarantee you'll agree that Peter Sitz an' I are
not tryin' to make mountains out of mole-hills."
"I'll go with you," Jacob said, promptly, and straightway we set out,
keeping our ears open whenever we came within speaking distance of a
group of men who appeared to be talking earnestly upon some particular
It was not necessary that we should go twice around the inside of the
fortification, for before we completed the first circuit I had heard
enough to convince me that Sergeant Corney, instead of exaggerating the
matter, had not made his statements strong enough by one-half.
As it seemed to me, a full third of the garrison were arguing in favor of
surrender, giving as their reasons the scanty supply of powder for the
cannon, and the probability that St. Leger's army would constantly
increase as the Tories from the Mohawk Valley got wind of what was going
I was sick at heart and literally faint with fear when this knowledge was
forced in upon me, for I knew only too well how idle would be all the
promises of St. Leger if the savages were inclined to massacre the
prisoners that were surrendered on promises of fair treatment.
I had thought that we would never again be called upon to witness such a
scene as that in General Herkimer's encampment on the morning when those
who, later, were the first to show the white feather, literally drove him
into a place where he, as a soldier, knew it was not safe to venture until
all the arrangements for a sortie from the fort were completed.
Now, however, it seemed to me that we were to be treated to a second dose
of mutiny, and this one more serious than the first, for, in case these
fools in the fort succeeded in badgering Colonel Gansevoort as the others
had the general, then would nearly a thousand men be given over to the
savage foe, whom we knew full well would show no mercy.
To me the strange part of it all was that these very simpletons who were
howling so loudly for surrender would be among those counted as prisoners,
and I failed utterly to understand how they could figure themselves as
being better off in the power of Thayendanega's wolves, than in the fort
where they had a chance of fighting to the death.
Even to this day it seems so strange that I would not dare set it down as
a fact unless those gentlemen who write history had spoken of it so
"You can make up your mind that those fellows who are lettin' out the most
noise are the ones who've got a cowardly streak in 'em somewhere,"
Sergeant Corney said, when Jacob and I, having satisfied ourselves that
mutiny was rife in the fort, went to him for the purpose of talking the
"The greater the cowards the less inclined they should be to surrender, as
it seems to me," I replied, in perplexity.
"Ay, lad, that's the way it looks to a decent man; but sich fellows as
these here who are makin' a row, are the ones who're always lookin' ahead,
thinkin' matters may be bettered, an' regardin' not the possibility of
their growin' worse. Here they are, like to come on short allowance, an'
obleeged to take their turn at bein' shot at now an' then, consequently,
not havin' the heart to endure even the lightest sufferin', they say we
can't be any worse off, an' ought to surrender."
"But they know the nature of Thayendanega's wolves as well as do you or
"Yes, they did know yesterday; but now, because their stomachs are not
quite full, they're ready to admit that every redskin is an imitation
"Think you they can badger the colonel?" Jacob asked, thoughtfully, thus
repeating my question in different words.
"I will say to you as I did to Noel, that they're like to get the rough
end of it before drivin' him into a mistake. We who are not inclined to be
mutinous can help him out a good bit in this matter."
"How?" I asked, in perplexity.
"By standin' out stiffly against their fool talk, though there ain't much
chance you can convince 'em with words; but if one, or half a dozen, for
that matter, gives me an openin', I'll see if the weight of my fist can't
beat some sense into them."
It is not agreeable to set down the details of such a disgraceful scene as
we witnessed during the next four and twenty hours, and more than painful
to describe how the mutiny was finally checked. It must be done, however,
if I would write fairly the part which we Minute Boys of the Mohawk Valley
took in the troubles and triumphs round-about Fort Schuyler; but I will
give the story in as few words as possible.
It so chanced that during this day the rations dealt out to us were
smaller than before, and this gave the fool croakers an opportunity of
airing their grievances in fine style.
Those who should have been steadily attentive to their duties, with never
a thought in their minds of anything save besting the motley crew that
besieged us, began to talk openly of starvation, as if there was no
question whatsoever but that we had come nearly to the end of our
provisions, and thus, as I believe, they brought over to their way of
thinking many who never would have listened to such wild talk, but for the
fact that it seemed probable the hour of surrender must be near at hand.
I saw to it that none of the Minute Boys sided with these malcontents,
while Sergeant Corney and Peter Sitz moved here and there throughout the
day, trying to persuade the men to do only that which was for their own
good, but without success.
The longer such talk ran through the garrison the stronger it became,
until shortly before sunset the mutiny was so well advanced that the
commandant could do no less than take serious notice of it, and it pleased
me that he did not delay.
Save for the sentinels on the walls, the entire garrison was called out as
for parade, and, having been clumsily formed in a hollow square, Colonel
Gansevoort, surrounded by his staff of officers, undertook to still the
He began by saying that it was the opinion of himself and his staff that
the men ought to know exactly the condition of affairs, lest they be led
astray by idle fears, and to that end he called upon the quartermaster for
a detailed statement of the amount of eatables then on hand.
When this had been given, and it required some time to read the entire
list, he announced the number of men, women, and children which were
inside the walls of the fort, figuring out that by slightly decreasing the
size of the rations it would be possible to provide every person with food
during three weeks at least.
True it is the supply was not large enough to admit of our gorging
ourselves; but I dare venture to say that many there would have lived on
much less had they been thrown upon their own resources in their own
Then he told how many times the big guns had been fired during the late
assault, and stated that we had two hundred and fifty rounds of ammunition
remaining for the cannon. He claimed that it was possible for us to hold
the fort even though we did not use the heavy weapons, and showed that we
could yet put up as much of a fight as St. Leger's army would be able to
After all these details, he described to the men what would likely be
their fate in event of surrender, declaring that we had every reason and
the ability to hold the fort if we were so minded, and urged us to be men
rather than cowards.
It was a good speech, and one which should have put heart into the veriest
white-livered militiaman that ever pretended to be a soldier; but, to my
surprise, I could see on the faces of those who had talked surrender the
loudest, an expression telling that the words passed by them as does the
When we were dismissed the contention was greater than before the colonel
spoke, and I began to believe it would have been better had he held his
peace, for surely it seemed as if they believed his words of cheer were
but proof that he shared their fears.
During the evening one of the bolder poltroons declared it was the duty of
all the garrison, in order to save their lives, to force Colonel
Gansevoort to do as they desired, and while the talk was the hottest
Sergeant Corney "broke loose," as he afterward expressed it.
"This lad an' I," he said, laying his hand on my shoulder, after
attracting the attention of all within sound of his voice, "have within a
short time seen just such scoundrelly curs as you are provin' yourselves
to be. We have heard them cry out against a commander who was fitted to
lead brave men, and their blood is not yet dry on the banks of the
Oriskany. They forced General Herkimer into an ambush against his better
judgment,--against his will,--an' at the first volley from Thayendanega's
painted wretches they turned tail. Until that time I had thought an Indian
was the meanest specimen of humanity on the face of the earth; but I have
come to know different, an' am yet gettin' fresh proof. If you talk so
boldly of what St. Leger's promises are worth, why don't you put 'em to
the test? If you believe death by starvation awaits you here, an' that all
the heart of man can desire is to be found among yonder yellin' imps, why
don't you make an exchange? The garrison would be the stronger for your
absence, an' if it so be any man here wants to consort with the red
wolves, I, who pride myself on never yet havin' disobeyed a military
order, will stand by an' help him to leave the fort."
For a moment after the old man ceased speaking I fully expected he would
be set upon and ill-treated by those whom he had so severely lashed with
That no move toward open violence was attempted simply gave proof that
they were the cowards he had accused them of being; but I believed it was
possible to see in their faces that his ironical advice might bear fruit,
and so I told him when the opportunity came.
"More than one of them has had it in his mind to desert an' go over to the
enemy," I said, whereupon he replied, as if the possibility gave him great
"I wish they might! It's true I said more than I meant when declarin' my
willingness to help 'em get away; but I promise you, Noel Campbell, that
my hand never will be raised to stop them, if they try any sich fool
When my lads were together in the barracks once more, and had settled down
for the night, none of us having been detailed for guard-duty, the thought
of what I fancied I saw on the faces of the mutineers troubled me not a
little, and, instead of lying down to sleep with the majority of my
comrades, I called Peter Sitz and Sergeant Corney aside, urging that one
or the other go to Colonel Gansevoort for the purpose of telling him what
it was possible some of the garrison might attempt to do before morning.
Peter Sitz claimed that, since he was not a soldier, he had no right to
make what might seem to the commandant like a suggestion, and shoved all
the responsibility on the sergeant.
The old man declared, as he had previously, that the men might do as they
pleased; that if it was possible to stop them by a single word his lips
should remain closed.
Whereupon I suggested that if the men should desert, in however small
numbers, they might leave some portion of the fortification unguarded,
which would work to the peril of all, and insisted, if the sergeant would
not do what he might to prevent the desertion, it was at least our duty to
so act that the remainder of the garrison would not be put in jeopardy
because of their folly.
Not until I had spoken at some length would the old soldier give any heed,
and then, upon a suggestion from Peter Sitz, he said:
"This much I'm willin' to do, an' no more: from now till mornin' I'll make
it my business, although clearly I am goin' beyond the bounds of ordinary
duty, to move to an' fro around the fort, an' will summon the Minute Boys
in case any point is left unguarded."
Both Jacob and I proposed to share the labor with him; but he would have
none of it.
"Stay where you are," he said, "for I'm not minded you shall do that which
may disgruntle the commandant. When he learns that we took it upon
ourselves to look after the safety of the garrison without orders from
him, there'll be a good chance for a row. I'll stand the brunt of it
alone, without draggin' you lads into the scrape."
I knew from the expression on his face that any attempt at argument with
him at the time would be useless, therefore held my peace; but had it in
mind that by thus interfering he might be committing an offence such as
the commandant would not readily forget.
If any number of men should desert on this night, there could not be any
question but that we, having had an inkling of it, might justly be held
accountable, but yet I was not pleased at the thought of doing or
suffering to be done that which the old soldier had set his face against.
However, as has been said, I could have done nothing to change matters
save by going to the commandant, and therefore remained in the barracks,
mightily uncomfortable in mind, but trying my best at holding conversation
with Jacob on indifferent subjects.
The majority of my company had no idea of what might be done that night,
therefore they lay down to sleep as usual, Jacob and I seeking the open
air after we found it was impossible to take interest in any subject save
that which lay, just at that time, nearest our hearts.
We paced to and fro in front of the barracks, taking good care not to
disturb the sleepers, until perhaps half an hour before midnight, and then
the sergeant came up, looking much like a man who has just settled a very
"Well, it's done," he said, abruptly, "an' to-morrow at this time I reckon
there'll be less fools in the world."
"What do you mean?" I cried, excitedly, for, although expecting to hear
that a certain number of men had deserted, I could not but feel
astonishment when the suspicions thus became a certainty.
"Five of the cowards have deserted, countin' that St. Leger will receive
'em with open arms. They had a good deal to say about the need of
somethin' to fill up their stomachs, an' I reckon that within four an'
twenty hours sich a question as that won't give 'em any further trouble."
"How did they go?" Jacob asked, eagerly.
"Out through the horn-works, an' over the stockade."
"How did it happen that only five started?"
"The rest of the mutinous ones were not quite sich fools when it came to
the last pinch, an' I'm allowin' we're well rid of those who have gone,
save that they can carry information to St. Leger of a kind he'll be glad
That was a possibility which I had failed to realize until this moment,
and immediately the knowledge came I understood clearly that it was our
duty to have notified the commandant at once of what we suspected, for, if
the enemy learned that we were on short allowance and with a scarcity of
ammunition, as he certainly would from these men who were bound to make
matters appear as bad as possible, we might expect more than one vigorous
assault within a very short time.
"Did you stand quietly by while they went?" Jacob asked, in a tone of
"I wasn't quite sich a fool as that, lad, even though I did advise 'em to
go. I kept my eye on the gang, however, an' was hidden in the horn-works
when they made the final plans. Those who had been left behind seemed to
be frightened, an' I reckon there'll be less show of mutiny in this 'ere
fort to-morrow mornin' than we've seen in the past four an' twenty hours."
Jacob and I would have insisted that the old soldier tell us more
regarding the desertion, although it was evident he had imparted all the
information at his command; but he, bent on getting some rest before
morning, entered the barracks, and we could hardly do better than follow
Although it had not seemed possible I would close my eyes in slumber that
night, with so much which was disagreeable to keep me awake, I did fall
asleep, and that right soon after I lay down by the side of Jacob.
We were astir very early next morning, through some whim of Sergeant
Corney's, who insisted that the Minute Boys should be the first to make an
appearance, and I left the barracks fully expecting to find a scene of
Matters were much as they had been the night previous, and I came to the
conclusion, that as yet the commandant was ignorant of the fact that five
of his men had gone over to the enemy.
However that may have been, no signs of disquietude among the officers
were apparent until the sun was two hours or more high, and then half a
dozen men belonging to the same company as those who had deserted, were
summoned to headquarters.
"You might save the commandant a good bit of trouble by telling him what
you know," Jacob suggested to Sergeant Corney, and the latter replied,
"I'm not sich a fool. It's one thing to let a lot of sneaks get away when
you think the garrison will be the better off without 'em, an' quite
another to own up to your superior officer that you've winked at
desertion. I'll keep a close tongue in my head, an' so will them as are my
With this the old man walked away, leaving us gazing at each other in
something very like astonishment, for we understood by his tone that he
was much the same as threatening us in case we should take it upon
ourselves to tell what we knew regarding the matter.
Before ten o'clock all of the garrison were aware that five of the force
had deserted, and those men who had been loudest spoken regarding the
wisdom of surrendering, were now moving about very uneasily, doubtless
fearing they might be called upon to answer for some of the unsoldierly
remarks in which they had indulged.
There was no real confusion in the fort, but a general air of disquietude
and apprehension, which I thought quite wholesome, since it caused every
man to do his duty more promptly and more thoroughly than I had ever seen
When those who had been summoned to headquarters appeared on the
parade-ground once more, they were surrounded by eager comrades, all
anxious to know what had been said to them; but they could give very
little definite information, and were unwilling to talk openly regarding
the matter, for the reason, as I fancied, that some of them, being privy
to the desertion, had denied such fact to the officers.
Well, by noon it seemed as if the matter had entirely blown over.
Everything went along much as on the day previous, save that, according to
my idea, there was a more healthy tone among the men, because we no longer
heard talk of surrender, and I suggested that perhaps Colonel Gansevoort
was as glad to be rid of his mutinous soldiers as Sergeant Corney had been
to see them depart.
It goes without saying that all of us, whether on duty or not, kept a
sharper lookout over the enemy's encampment than ever before, for there
was good reason to expect that St. Leger would order another assault; but
not one of us dreamed of that horrible spectacle which was to be
presented, much as if Thayendanega's murderers were of a mind to give
would-be deserters such a lesson as could never be forgotten.
The afternoon passed quietly and without unusual incident; but when the
sun was just about to set we observed the Indians crossing the river from
their encampment to the meadow at a point near the creek, where it was
possible for us to hold them in plain view, while they were yet beyond
range of any except the heavier guns, which could not be brought to bear
The first movement was made by a party of a dozen or more, who seemed to
be carrying heavy burdens on their backs, and this was such an unusual
thing for a redskin to do that we were keenly curious.
This first squad was followed by a veritable swarm of the painted
murderers, and I said nervously to Sergeant Corney, who was standing near
me at the moment:
"The savages are goin' to try their hand at an assault, an' we're like to
have warm work before mornin'."
"There's little fear anything of that kind will happen, lad. The painted
devil never lived who was willin' to stand up an' fight face to face,
"Then why are they goin' out of their encampment like a swarm of bees?"
"There's some mischief afoot, though what it is I can't rightly make out.
Perhaps St. Leger has summoned 'em to another powwow, in order that they
may know of our condition, as has been told by the deserters."
In a very few moments it was positive that this guess was not correct,
for, instead of crossing the creek to approach the British encampment, the
Indians halted when they were about midway between the fort, the camps of
the British soldiers, and the quarters of the Tories.
It was at a point where every man on either side could see what was being
done, and yet so far away that, save by a sortie, no one could molest
I dare venture to say that every man in the garrison, save perhaps the
officers, was watching intently the movements of Thayendanega's gang, and
it was as if the knowledge of what was about to be done burst upon us all
at the same instant.
A low murmur of horror involuntarily came from our lips, and men said in
whispers, one to another, the blood suddenly leaving their bronzed faces:
"The Indians are going to torture prisoners!"
By this time we could see that two stout posts had been set firmly in the
earth, and around them were heaped piles of light wood, such as the squaws
and children were bringing up in great quantities.
Thayendanega's bloodthirsty crew was bent on showing us what would be our
fate if we fell into their clutches.
When the first shock of horror had passed away in a measure, there came
the question as to who might be the victims, and then those who had talked
mutiny and urged their fellows on to rankest insubordination turned pale
as death, while many of them walked totteringly away as if unable to
control their limbs. We all believed, and with good reason, that those
unfortunates who were to suffer death at the hands of the most
cruel-minded men God ever made, were none other than the deserters from
During the assault not one of the garrison had been taken prisoner, and
certain it was that the besiegers had not left the vicinity of the fort
for such length of time as would be sufficient to enable them to procure
captives elsewhere, therefore did we know beyond a peradventure who the
victims would be, but why only two were to suffer was something at which
we could not even so much as guess.
I saw Colonel Gansevoort and several of the officers come out from
headquarters, having most likely been informed as to what was going on,
and, when they stood where it was possible to have an unobstructed view of
the horrible preparations, the entire garrison of Fort Schuyler were
assembled as spectators.
"Cannot something be done for the poor fellows?" I heard a man behind me
ask in a quavering tone, and, turning, I saw one who had declared most
vehemently but a few hours previous that if we would surrender the fort we
could be assured beyond question of such treatment as civilized people
give to prisoners of war.
No one answered his question, and in a whisper I repeated it to Sergeant
Corney, whereupon he shook his head decidedly.
"The commander who would make a sortie for the purpose of savin' only two
lives would be guilty of criminal folly," the old soldier said,
emphatically. "If those who are to suffer were Colonel Gansevoort's
nearest friends, still must he remain here idle rather than put in
jeopardy all the garrison. As it is, those painted devils are givin' us
sich a lesson as will cause every man here to fight until the death,
rather than so much as hint that we might trust to the enemy's promises.
It's a harsh remedy--the harshest man could imagine; but yet there are an
hundred or more lookin' on at this minute who need it."
I cannot make the feeblest attempt at describing the horror which took
possession of me as I realized that we could make no effort toward saving
the unfortunate men, who were not the less to be pitied because they had
brought about their own misery, and, unable longer to gaze at what was so
soon to be such a terrible scene, I turned away with a mind to shut myself
up in the barracks.
There was one odd thing I noted while turning away, sick at heart, which
was that those friends of the deserters, the men whose voices had been
raised highest against Colonel Gansevoort because he would not surrender
the fort at St. Leger's bidding, had no word to say now that their friends
were in such dire distress, while those who had struggled to quell the
mutiny were asking loudly if it were not possible to do something toward
saving the lives of the unfortunate men.
Twenty or more of the bolder spirits, among whom was Sergeant Corney, were
making ready to ask permission of the commandant to their creeping out of
the fort on that side nearest the river, and then trying by a sudden dash
to rescue the prisoners.
Even the slight experience which I had had in savage warfare was
sufficient to show me that there was nothing which we could do in behalf
of the wretched men, and any plan, however promising, could not fail of
exposing the entire garrison to the keenest peril.
There could be no question but that the enemy hoped we might be so
venturesome as to sally out, and I doubt if there was a man within the
fortification who did not feel convinced that St. Leger's troops were
ready to swoop down in assault at the first show of our having sent away
any portion of our force.
All knew that we inside the fortification were powerless to aid those who
had wilfully gone to their doom, and none better than those same brave
fellows who were ready to risk their lives in behalf of comrades who would
have worked disaster to the entire garrison, yet they could not stand idle
without at least a show of willingness to face danger in the hope of
The one lesson which all of us learned at this time was as to how much
dependence might be placed upon the word of the British commander. He had
declared that he would protect all who came to him promising to serve the
king, and yet, when the five foolish cowards from our garrison presented
themselves, they were given over to the merciless savages, much as honest
people give play-things to their children.
I had turned away from the scene sick with horror, even though the
fiendish work had not yet begun; but as I stood near the barracks,
trembling in every limb, the thought came that perhaps our deserters were
not the ones for whom the stakes were intended. Of course, it would be
equally terrible to see any human being tortured to death; but at the
moment it seemed as if the frightfulness of it would in some degree be
lessened if it were strangers who suffered, and straightway I went back to
the walls, taking station by the side of Jacob, as I strained my eyes to
see who the Indians led out.
"Where is the sergeant?" I asked, in a whisper.
"Gone, in company with a dozen others, to ask permission of the commandant
to leave the fort for a short time."
"Do they want to compass their own death?" I asked, angrily. "I dare
venture to say every Tory in yonder encampment is ready to cut off any
who, from motives of mercy and pity, venture beyond the walls."
"Ay, so my father believes. He says that Colonel Gansevoort cannot, in
justice to the remainder of the force, allow such a sacrifice of life as
would result from a sortie."
"But we are not yet certain that it is our deserters who are to be put to
death," I suggested, and at the moment a hoarse cry went up from all that
company of heart-sick spectators.
Accompanied by war-songs from the warriors and hoots and yells from the
squaws and fiendish children, the unfortunate men were being brought
across the river in triumph, and then a deep hush fell upon our garrison,
as every person within the walls bent forward anxiously to get a glimpse
of those who were being carried to the theatre of a terrible death.
The unfortunate prisoners were yet too far away for me to distinguish
their features, when a soldier standing near by, a man whom I recognized
as one of those who had howled most loudly for surrender, cried with a
groan as of mortal agony:
"There is Seth Morton!"
This was the name of one of the deserters, and there was no longer any
hope but that the savages were ready to show us how our own people could
At this moment the party with whom Sergeant Corney had gone to the
commandant for permission to attempt a rescue came up, and but one glance
at their faces was needed to show that the request had been denied.
"He wouldn't let you go?" I whispered, as the old man stood by my side.
"No, lad, an' we should have had better sense than to ask him. A
commandant who would agree to sich a plan has no right to expect his
troops can rely upon his showin' good judgment in a tight fix."
"What did he say?"
"He talked like a gentleman who speaks with his friends. Instead of
roarin' out that we were all kinds of idjuts, as another commander might
have done, he told us exactly what would be the result if any of us
attempted to leave the fort, an' wound up by sayin' that if his own
brother was in the hands of the red devils, he would not consider it doin'
justice by the garrison even to let one man venture forth. He only told us
the truth, an' I'm not sorry I went to him, even though nothin' came of
it, for it ain't cheerful to stand still without makin' a little bit of a
try while sich work as that yonder is goin' on."
When the prisoners had been taken across the stream the savages lost no
time in setting about their terrible work, and, although so many years
have elapsed since then, I cannot bring myself to set down that which I
know was done.
While the poor fellows were being bound to the stakes, Jacob and I ran
into the barracks, where we remained, trying to shut out from our ears the
yells and whoops which told of what was going on.
"And I would have suffered the same bitter death but for what you did,
dear lad!" I said, hardly able to control my voice.
"Don't think of it, Noel," he replied, soothingly, as he pressed my hand.
"An', above everything, don't give me the credit. All our company had a
part in that rescue."
"Ay, yet they'd never known of our peril but for you, an' it was you
alone, when they were arrived, who braved the danger of coming across the
encampment to the lodge."
"Talk of somethin' else, Noel Campbell!" Jacob cried, fiercely. "Even
though the colonel knows best what should be done, it seems cowardly for
us to be sittin' here in safety while those poor fellows are sufferin' all
that men can!"
I tried to do as he would have me; but one can readily understand that at
such a time it would be well-nigh impossible to think of anything save
that which was being done within sight of all the garrison.
It seemed to me like a very long time before the sergeant joined us, and
then I knew that the unfortunate men were out of their misery at last.
"They have paid a fearful price for their folly," the old man said,
solemnly; "but by thus dyin' they've ensured the holdin' of this fort, for
there's not a man within the walls who wouldn't delight in drawin' his
last breath at the post of duty rather than take the chances of sich
protection as St. Leger has shown he's ready to give. We'll have no more
mutiny, an' all hands will be starved to death before the enemy gets
possession of the fortification."
"What about the other three men?" Jacob asked, in a whisper, not daring to
trust his voice lest it should betray the fear in his heart.
"I reckon their turn will come soon--perhaps to-morrow night.
Thayendanega's 'noble red men' can't afford to waste their victims. But,
hark ye, lads, it won't do for you to moon over what is enough to turn any
man's blood to water. Take a brisk walk up an' down the parade-ground for
half an hour, an' then come to bed. I'm thinkin' we may have a bit of
work cut out for us within the next four an' twenty hours."
"Of what kind?" I asked, not inclined to follow the old man's advice so
far as to venture out while the howling Indians were making night
something of which to be afraid.
"It stands to reason that before the deserters were turned over to the
painted wolves St. Leger got from them all the information concernin' this
fort which they could give. The British general now knows that we haven't
any too much ammunition for the cannon, an' it'll be odd if he don't give
us a chance to spend a good bit more of it."
This seemed a plausible line of reasoning, and yet I was not in the
lightest degree troubled by the possibility; I had known so much of horror
during the past few hours that an assault, however desperate, was
something to be courted rather than feared.
Sergeant Corney smoked his pipe long and furiously that night as he sat in
the barracks, giving no heed as to whether we followed his advice, and we
two lads sat side by side with little inclination to indulge in
One by one our boys, pale-faced and trembling, entered the
sleeping-quarters, some even going so far as to lie down, but positive am
I that never an eye was closed in slumber during all that night, and every
one of us welcomed the first rays of the rising sun as if years had
passed since he last showed his face.
Before another six hours passed we had good proof that those who deserted
gave all the information at their command to General St. Leger regarding
the condition of affairs at the fort, and yet never a word was spoken
against them, because of the frightful punishment which followed their
From what our party of Minute Boys had seen up to this time, the work of
the siege was not pushed vigorously by the Britishers, and even the little
which was done had been performed by the Tories. It is true that the
parallels were run unpleasantly near the fort, yet, had the besiegers so
desired, there would have been twice as much to show for their efforts.
On the morning after two of the deserters had been tortured to death, it
began to look as if our people would have little time for idleness.
The enemy's trenches were filled with men,--regulars as well as
Tories,--all of whom worked with a will, and at different points
sharpshooters were stationed to pick off our sentinels.
"Now this is somethin' like business," Sergeant Corney said, as if the
sense of additional danger was most pleasing to him. "Barry St. Leger has
just found out that there's a chance of takin' this fort by storm, an'
from now on we'll have our hands full."
Jacob and I were in the barracks trying to sleep when the old man burst
in upon us with the remark I have set down, and as he spoke he began
furbishing up his rifle with unusual care.
"Have you any especial work on hand?" I asked, looking curiously at him.
"Ay, lad, that's what I have. This 'ere garrison ain't in any very great
danger of runnin' short of ammunition for the small arms, an' we're goin'
to give the enemy lead in the place of iron for a spell."
"What do you mean?" I asked, somewhat petulantly, for it seemed as if the
old man was making sport of me.
"Only that we've given the enemy's sharpshooters a chance all the forenoon
without interferin' to any great extent, an' now we're countin' on takin'
our turn. Fifty men have been detailed to pick off as many of St. Leger's
force as we can draw a bead on. I reckon workin' in the trenches won't be
a healthy job from this time on. Colonel Gansevoort allows to show the
Britishers that he can stir his stumps if needs must."
The sergeant left the barracks without giving us further information; but
we soon learned that our people were to be kept sharply up to their work,
instead of being allowed to spend five hours out of every six in lounging
The force of sharpshooters to which Sergeant Corney was assigned had been
stationed on the north and east sides of the fort, where they could
command a view of the British and Tory encampments and the trenches.
Another company of fifty was told off especially for the horn-works, while
we Minute Boys were ordered to keep at least ten of our number constantly
on watch over the sally-port, from which point the best view of the Indian
encampment could be had.
Yet others of the force were detailed to go from one division to another
of those I have named, in order to lend a hand in case it might become
necessary, and thus it was we no longer had any loungers on the
parade-grounds or near the barracks.
The orders were that every effort be made to pick off such of the enemy as
offered themselves for targets, and before the day had come to an end St.
Leger's men must have begun to understand that the siege of Fort Schuyler
was no longer the one-sided affair which it had been.
My lads could not have been stationed in any other position where they
would have been as well satisfied, for thus were they fighting the savages
who had threatened to ravage the Mohawk Valley, and every time we made a
successful shot it was much as if we struck a blow in defence of our
Thayendanega's so-called braves did not give us very much opportunity to
display our skill as marksmen, however. Within five minutes after the
curs discovered that we were straining every effort to reduce their
number, they hugged the encampment mighty snug, and I am of the opinion
that General St. Leger would have found it difficult to make them obey any
order which might necessitate their coming within our line of fire.
In addition to this slow method of whipping a large force, I noted the
fact that twenty men or more were at work moving one of the guns in the
northwest bastion, and was not a little puzzled to make out why such a
piece of work should be done at a time when we could not afford to use the
cannon any more than was absolutely necessary.
My surprise was not lessened when the laborers with great difficulty
transferred the big gun directly to our station, mounting it almost
directly over the port, after which six rounds of ammunition were brought
from the magazine and placed where it could be got at handily.
"Does the commandant think we lads can handle that cannon properly?" I
asked of the corporal who was superintending the work, and he replied,
with a laugh of satisfaction:
"I reckon he wasn't thinkin' very much about you when he gave orders to
have the gun moved. That's to help out on our surprise-party; it'll carry
a ball farther an' with truer aim than any other piece in the fort, as I
know, havin' had somewhat to do with all of 'em."
"What do you mean by a surprise-party?" I asked, in perplexity. "An' why
should the best gun be brought here?"
"Well, you see, lad, the chances are them bloody sneaks will soon try to
work the same deviltry which we had to look at idly last night, for it
stands to reason that all who deserted from this fort fell into their
clutches. The next time they start in to kill a man by inches, believin'
they're out of range, we'll plump a ball into the middle of the gang
that'll make em' hop a bit."
I laughed in glee at the prospect of turning the tables on the
bloodthirsty wretches, but very shortly came the thought that the
unfortunate prisoners would be in as much danger as the savages, and this
I suggested to the corporal, whereupon he said, gravely:
"We'll hope the first shot kills as many as are trussed up to the stakes,
lad, because a quick death is the only favor we can do for the poor
It would indeed be a mercy to kill the prisoners, if we could not save
their lives; but of a verity we were come to hard lines when it was to be
hoped our missiles would slay those who had been our comrades.
I believed all the garrison were better content, now that Colonel
Gansevoort was finding work for every man. Certainly there was less chance
for searching out bugbears when they were busily engaged, and each of us
felt a grim satisfaction at knowing that we inflicted some punishment on
the enemy, however slight.
It must not be supposed that our sharpshooters found all the targets they
desired, else had we wiped St. Leger's force out in a twinkling; but there
were in the white portion of his army a sufficient number who scorned to
show fear of what we might be able to do, and these kept our men so
engaged that the reports of the rifles were ringing out almost without
As I have already said, we Minute Boys had but little opportunity to show
our skill after the first hour, because the savages kept so close within
their lodges; but now and then we had a crack at a painted figure, and
seldom missed our aim.
As the day wore away it became evident that the Indians counted on
torturing the remainder of their prisoners as before, and, instead of
suffering from the sickness of horror, as I had twenty-four hours
previous, there was in my mind a most pleasing anticipation of what would
be the result.
Half an hour before sunset they began setting up new posts, a fact which
told that St. Leger had indeed turned over to them all the deserters.
Word was passed around the fort that the commandant counted on putting an
end to their cruel sport, if perchance the distance was not greater than
he had estimated, and by sunset every person inside the walls, save those
who were acting as sentinels on the westerly side, had their faces turned
in the direction of the Indian encampment.
It was claimed that the corporal with whom I had previously spoken was the
best gunner in the command, and to him had been entrusted the work of
sighting the cannon.
He had already charged it heavily, and when the savages began setting up
new posts he knew the time had come to look for the proper range.
The corporal had no need to call for a crew to aid him. An hundred pairs
of hands were out-stretched eagerly whenever he signified the desire to
have this thing or that done, and he was more like to suffer from a
surplus of helpers than a lack.
It looked much as if Colonel Gansevoort feared that, while our attention
was attracted toward the fiendish work of the savages, the British and
Tory soldiers might make an assault, for he ordered the number of
sentinels doubled and all the spectators to be in line, weapons in hand,
that no time might be lost in case it became necessary to move them from
one point to another.
Thayendanega's wolves did not count on keeping us waiting very long; but
as soon as the sun had set began crossing the river with their unfortunate
prisoners, singing and shouting, as if the capture and torturing of these
unarmed men was some signal act of bravery.
The corporal told off a certain number of those nearest to act as crew
for the gun, explaining to them just how they should set about the task of
recharging when once it had been discharged, and then the remainder of the
spectators, save we Minute Boys who were entitled to remain at our
stations, were forced to fall back that they might not impede the work
after it was once begun.
By this time Colonel Gansevoort himself had come up, and thus we
understood that he was to direct the firing. If our cannon could carry a
missile to the place of torture, then certain it was the red-skinned
brutes would receive a lesson well calculated to surprise those who were
left alive after the piece had been discharged.
The commandant did not wait until the horrible work was begun; but, once
the stakes were surrounded by the howling, screaming, dancing mob as they
placed the prisoners in the desired positions, the corporal got the word
for which he had been eagerly waiting.
A puff of dense white smoke, a report which was almost deafening to those
of us standing near by rang out.
Then we could follow the flight of the missile in the air until it struck,
as it seemed to me, within a dozen paces of those bloodthirsty villains
who stood on the outside of the throng, and, rebounding as does a flat
stone when a boy drives it along the surface of the water, it plunged into
the very midst of the fiendish crew.
I could see that one of the posts had been carried away by the ball, but
whether or no the prisoner was killed could not be told from so great a
distance and while he was surrounded by such numbers.
It was to be hoped the poor fellow had gone to his final account without
pain, as would have been the case had the huge shot struck him.
The gunners did not wait to see the result of their work; but instantly
the cannon was discharged every man sprang to the task allotted him, and
the savages had not yet recovered from the first surprise before a second
shot came hurtling among them, striking down half a score before it
I do not believe forty seconds elapsed before the gunners were ready for
the third discharge. In order to save time they did not wait to swab out
the piece, and the only preparation make by them was to clear the interior
To tell it in the fewest possible words, the corporal had for his target
nearly the entire number of Indians who had attempted to witness the
torture, while we fired four shots, and not until then did the
panic-stricken crew get their wits about them sufficiently to beat a
But the gun was discharged twice more while they were crossing the river,
and I know for a certainty that one boat was swamped, while the ground in
the vicinity of the posts set up for the prisoners seemed literally
strewn with the dead and the dying.
At that moment, while we were making the air ring with our shouts of
triumph, I saw a figure emerge from that sinister pile of dead and maimed
and come limpingly in the direction of the fort, moving evidently with
great effort and slowly.
At first I believed it was a wounded Indian, who was so crazed with pain
or fear as not to be aware of the direction in which he was proceeding,
and then a cry went up from the soldiers nearabout me:
"Reuben Cox! Reuben Cox!"
"Was he one of the deserters?" I asked of the corporal, who, his work
having been done, was leaning out over the wall to watch the frightened
sneaks as they scuttled into their lodges out of sight.
"Ay, that he was," the corporal replied, "an' it looks much as if he stood
a chance to gain the fort before those painted beauties dare stick their
noses out from cover."
As we watched it was possible to see that the man's arms were tied behind
him, while it seemed as if his legs were fettered in some way; yet he was
able to take short steps, and in his eagerness to make better speed he
fell to the ground again and again, rising only with difficulty.
The fugitive was a deserter from the fort, one who had doubtless given
such information to the British general as might work serious harm to all
of us; but yet never a cry was heard from our garrison, save such as
expressed hope that he might escape the terrible doom from which we had at
least temporarily saved him, and all appeared eager for him to gain the
Even Colonel Gansevoort seemed to lose sight of the fact that if this man
came among us once more it would be necessary to treat him as a deserter;
but to check, if possible, pursuit from the British and Tory soldiers, he
lined the walls with men under command to fire without waiting for the
word, upon any of the enemy who might approach within range.
The crews of the guns in the northeastern bastion were sent to their posts
of duty, in order that the pieces might be used in case an opportunity
presented itself, and, in fact, every possible effort, save the absolute
sallying out of a relief party, was made to preserve the life of the man
who by all military laws deserved death.
It seemed to me as if I did not breathe while that poor, struggling
creature was straining every effort to find a place of refuge among those
whom he had wronged. It was as if the distance increased even as he came
toward us, and I found it difficult to remain silent while he stumbled,
fell, rose, and fell again during his painful flight.
Fifty men or more ran to the sally-port, ready to open the gates if he
should draw near, and Colonel Gansevoort made no effort to check them.
I believe at the moment that he entirely lost sight of the fact that this
man could no longer claim the right of entrance, having forfeited it when
he went over to the enemy. He, and all within the walls, saw before them
only a wretched prisoner, striving to escape from those who would torture
him to death, and had he been a dear friend no greater anxiety could have
been shown for his safety.
Not until he was within fifty yards of the walls of the fort did a shot
come from the direction of the Indian encampment, and then the bullet sped
wide of its mark.
From the camp of the Tories a squad of men dashed out, as if intent on
cutting off the poor fellow even after he was close under the walls, but a
gun from the northeastern bastion hurled a shot uncomfortably near,
sending them flying back beyond range, and five minutes later Reuben Cox
was in our midst, as nearly dead from wounds and fatigue as he ever would
be again until his final moment had come.
Five men had deserted from the fort trusting to the promises made by
General St. Leger, and one had returned, after having suffered more than
death, rejoicing because he was able to be once again with those whom he
At the moment, however, we had no thought of the deserter, but saw before
us only a former comrade who had come out from the very jaws of death to
The poor fellow had been cruelly cut on the legs and arms by the savages
while they were bringing him across the river, and had lost much blood.
His face and hands were covered with huge blisters, and it was not
necessary either Sergeant Corney or I should ask how he came by them, for
we knew through bitterest experience what the squaws and children would do
when a white man was at their mercy.
Not until a full hour had passed could Reuben Cox tell his story, and even
then he was in such a sorry plight that it was possible for him to speak
only a moment at a time; but before morning came--before we were able to
do very much toward relieving his sufferings--we had a fairly good account
of all that had occurred from the moment the five foolish men clambered
over the stockade until our cannon had done its work of mercy.
It seems that the deserters, after getting outside the fort, decided to
make their way as nearly to St. Leger's quarters as might be possible, and
to that end made a long detour to the westward. The sun had risen before
they came upon a sentinel, and he was, fortunately, as it seemed to them,
one of the British regulars.
Their story was soon told; no attempt was made to hide the fact that they
had deserted, for all believed that such a statement would ensure their
receiving a hearty welcome from the commander.
Much to their surprise, however, the British soldiers treated them with
the utmost contempt and no slight degree of harshness. The Tories were the
only white men who appeared particularly pleased with what had been done,
and they gave the fellows a friendly reception only because, being
renegades themselves, it gladdened them to know there were others in the
valley who could be so contemptible.
As a matter of course they were soon taken before the commander that he
might question them; but even he evidently looked upon them with no slight
disgust, for he forced them to remain standing while in his presence, and
failed to give any instructions as to how they should be quartered or fed.
Reuben Cox admitted, with many a groan and plea for mercy, that he and his
companions had given St. Leger all the information concerning the fort
which was in their power, and even made our situation appear more
desperate than really was the case; but when they asked for permission to
serve the king under his command, he roughly told them to present
themselves to Sir John Johnson, declaring that the regulars would not
receive them as companions-in-arms.
Just at that moment it was impossible for them to find Sir John, and, more
hungry than they had ever been inside Fort Schuyler, they wandered about
until arriving face to face with a party of Indians, who had come from
their encampment to lounge around near the white soldiers, from whom they
begged rum and tobacco.
That meeting sealed their fate, and the poor wretches came to understand
what was in store for them, even before St. Leger had agreed that they
might be turned over to the tender mercies of his savage allies.
During an hour they did their best to escape, but only to be dragged back
with many a kick and blow each time they endeavored to sneak out of the
As nearly as the unhappy men could understand, there was a long, angry
interview between Sir John, Thayendanega, and some of the British officers
before the matter was settled, and then they were delivered up to the
Indians, even the Tories shutting their ears to the prayers for mercy.
It was not necessary I should hear what he had to say about the treatment
the deserters received in the Indian encampment prior to being led out to
the stake. I knew full well what suffering must have been theirs before
the hour arrived when all was to be ended. I had had some slight
experience as a prisoner in the power of the savages, and even then could
not listen to another's story of similar treatment without severe mental
The three who were reserved for the second evening's entertainment
suffered nearly all the agonies of death when their comrades were
tortured, for the Indians forced them to be present as spectators, and it
is little wonder they were half-dead with fear when their turn came to
afford amusement for those who found their greatest delight in listening
to screams of agony from helpless victims.
The first shot from the fort killed two of the deserters outright and
overturned the post to which Cox was being bound. He could not tell very
much about the execution done by the balls, for at first he believed it
was some new form of torture which the savages had invented; but when the
painted crew fled across the river in abject fear, leaving him
comparatively at liberty, he began to understand that the comrades whom he
had wickedly wronged were doing what they could to aid him.
He declared that there were no less than twenty dead savages lying
nearabout the place when he started for the fort, while as many more,
badly wounded, were putting forth every effort at escaping beyond range of
All this was repeated to me by Sergeant Corney, who had heard it from
Reuben Cox himself, and when he was come to an end of the recital I asked:
"Now that he is here, an' likely to live, what will be done with him?"
"That's what I can't say, lad, an' I'm of the belief that it puzzles the
commandant not a little. Desertion in the face of an enemy is punishable
by death the world over, an' rightly, for a soldier can commit no greater
crime; but what about shootin' a man who has already suffered a dozen
I soon came to know that the question I had asked of the sergeant was
being discussed by all the garrison, many of the men declaring that Reuben
Cox deserved to be treated as any other deserter, while a large number
claimed that the sufferings he had endured should be considered as having
atoned for the crime.
The arguments became so warm that it was evident Colonel Gansevoort would
be forced to come to some decision regarding the matter, and so he did on
this same day when we were called out on the parade-ground, being formed
in a hollow square.
Then it was that the commandant laid the affair before us without comment,
save as he declared that neither he nor his staff were willing to settle
the question themselves, and he had decided to leave it to the
garrison,--the men who must suffer because of the information given to St.
Leger, if it so chanced that the British commander gained any advantage
"Discuss it thoroughly among yourselves," the colonel said, "and, having
made up your minds as to what punishment should be dealt out to Cox, write
the verdict on a bit of paper, signing your names thereto, and leave the
same at headquarters. Whatsoever the majority of you declare just to all
concerned, shall be done."
Then we were dismissed from parade, and on the instant there ensued such a
buzzing and humming that one might have thought an hundred swarms of bees
had taken possession of the fort, as each man tried to impress upon his
neighbor that he had the only correct solution to the painful question.
Our Minute Boys were all of the same mind, and it gave me no little
satisfaction to know that my company were of the mind that Cox had been
fully punished for his wrong-doing. Without any delay we stated our views
in few words at the top of a sheet of paper, and each member signed his
name, after which I carried it to headquarters.
It was Colonel Gansevoort himself whom I saw, and he asked, after glancing
over the list of names:
"How does it happen that you lads arrived at a decision so quickly?
Desertion is a very serious offence, and, because of the lesson which
others may receive, should be punished severely."
"True, sir," I made bold to say; "but among those who signed the paper are
two who were prisoners among the savages, and, while not havin' been
subjected to great torture, they have a fair idea of what Cox must have
"Are you speaking of yourself and the old soldier?"
"And yet because of what Cox has told St. Leger you may soon be again in
the power of the Indians."
"That can never be, sir," I replied, gravely. "We know full well you will
not surrender, however sore our plight, therefore the savages must take
their prisoners in a fight, an' one need not be captured alive."
"Then you would rather die with a musket in your hands than fall into
"A good many times over, if that could be, sir," and so great was the
horror in my heart through simply calling the possibility to mind that the
colonel must have understood I spoke no more than the truth.
"Well, my lad, I will tell you this much for the gratification of yourself
and friends: When it comes, if it ever does, that I am convinced, because
of lack of food, ammunition, or any other contingency, that we cannot hold
the fort, I will lead as many of the garrison as choose to follow me in an
attempt to cut our way through the enemy's lines. I, like you, prefer to
die fighting, rather than at the stake."
These words gave me greatest relief of mind, even though to do as the
colonel promised was much like going to certain death, and I asked:
"May I repeat to my comrades what you have said, sir?"
"Ay, that you may, lad, and unless succor comes soon I shall speak quite
as plainly to all the garrison, for to-morrow morning the rations are of a
necessity to be cut down one-half, which will give our discontented men
good chance to talk of starvation."
It would have given me greatest satisfaction to ask him a few questions
concerning our supplies, which, when he made the statement to the
garrison, had seemed so plentiful; but, fortunately, I had sense enough to
understand that, for a lad like me, to make searching inquiries of the
commandant of a fort was something which the most easy-going officer would
not tolerate for an instant.
Therefore, thanking him for having given me the assurance which he had, I
took my leave, going with all speed to the barracks that I might acquaint
Sergeant Corney with what I had heard.
"It's good news, lad, though not much different from what I've come to
expect from sich a soldier as the commandant. Now we've nothin' in
particular to worry about, seem's there won't be any question of takin'
advantage of the Britisher's offer, which would be kept in the case of all
hands much as it was when our poor fools deserted. But what is this about
short allowance? I thought it was proven to us that we had supplies in
plenty for many days to come?"
"I can only tell you what the commandant said."
"I reckon he'll explain matters when he tells us why the rations are
short, an' that he'll have to do in order to satisfy some of the imitation
soldiers we've got in this 'ere fort."
Then the old man went to his post of duty, and I rejoined the Minute Boys
over the sally-port, where every member of my company was aching to get a
fair shot at one of Thayendanega's curs.
The Indians were not inclined to show themselves on this morning after we
gave our surprise-party. I fancy they had come to understand it wouldn't
be an easy matter to get the best of us, and were having considerably more
of fighting than was pleasing.
Never one of the painted snakes came within range of our rifles. At some
time during the night they had plucked up courage enough to drag off their
wounded, and, if they visited the British or Tory camp that day, it was
after making such a detour through the thicket as kept them screened from
In the trenches the white portion of St. Leger's army worked like men who
feel the whip behind them, and our people succeeded in sending six to the
hospital or their last resting-place, without receiving a scratch.
Such a siege as had been carried on during the past eight and forty hours
could not be cheerful amusement, and I began to have an idea that it would
not take very much of a reverse to send the Tories flying to some other
section of the country. If our people would only follow the example set
them by Colonel Gansevoort, it seemed certain we could hold the fort at no
greater cost than that of being hungry during a certain length of time!
When another day had come, and the rations were reduced in size as the
commandant had said they would be, there was a hum of dissatisfaction all
over the fort, even those whom we counted as being the stoutest-hearted
doing their full share of grumbling, and wholly because the commandant had
so lately told them that we had sufficient of food for many days.
They were not yet done with the business of deciding what punishment
should be dealt out to Cox; but that was entirely lost sight of in face
of this apparent change in the situation. It seemed as if the store of
provisions must be very low indeed, else the rations would not have been
cut down so soon after the statements made by the quartermaster.
It is true that there was no mutinous talk to be heard; the fate of the
deserters had taught the grumblers a lesson that would not soon be
forgotten, but much was said that did not tend to improve the discipline.
At noon word was passed among the men that the last of the votes on Cox's
case must be in the commandant's hands within two hours, and it was
generally understood, if not stated as a fact, that at nightfall we would
hear the verdict. Then also, so nearly all the members of the garrison
believed, Colonel Gansevoort would explain the reason for putting us on
short allowance after having stated that we had food in plenty.
Therefore it was the men went about their work as usual, content to wait
until night; but the commandant would have been unwise to keep them in
"The only mistake that has been made in this business was when Colonel
Gansevoort condescended to give out any statement while the men were ripe
for mutiny," Sergeant Corney stopped to say to me, as I met him on the
parade-ground while going to the barracks to summon some of the lads whose
time for sentinel-duty had come. "If a dozen or more of the
loudest-mouthed had been put under arrest, an' such as the deserters
strung up by the thumbs, four lives might have been saved, an' there
wouldn't be any foolish talk made now."
I had no time to reply to the old man, for, having thus relieved his mind,
he passed on, and I went about my duties.
The Britishers and Tories worked half-heartedly in the trenches, the
savages kept well out of sight, and we of the garrison watched eagerly for
an opportunity to send home a bullet where it would do the most good,
until nightfall, and then came the call for us to fall into line.
The fate of Cox had been decided, and we were to be told about the
reduction of rations, therefore nearly every man wore an expression of
Sergeant Corney was an exception to the general rule; he apparently had no
particular interest in either matter, and obeyed the call as if he did so
only because it was necessary.
As on the previous occasion, we were drawn up in a hollow square, with
Colonel Gansevoort and his staff inside, and without wasting many words in
leading up to the subject, the commandant announced that the majority of
the men had decided there was no need of further punishment for Reuben
Cox; that the penalty which he had already paid was a sufficient lesson
for those of us who entertained any idea of trusting to the promises made
by the British commander.
Then he spoke of our being put on short allowance, and straightway the men
pricked up their ears, listening intently to the end that they might be
able to prove the quartermaster had told a deliberate falsehood.
"You were told that we had food sufficient with which to feed all inside
the walls for a term of three weeks," he said, speaking slowly that there
might be no mistake as to his words. "The statement, under the conditions
then existing, was true; but you must bear in mind that since that time
General St. Leger has been informed of our situation, so far as the
deserters understood it. The result of his learning that the stock of
provisions is not as great as it should be has been the increased activity
of the foe, which entails much severe labor upon you, and causes him to
guard more closely against the succor which may be sent us.
"Therefore my officers and I have believed it wisest to say to ourselves
that it is not reasonable to expect aid from the outside can come to us
for four or five weeks, even if Colonel Willett and Lieutenant Stockwell
finally succeed in finding General Schuyler, because it must arrive in
sufficient force to break through the lines St. Leger will throw around
us. Now in order that we may safely count on having sufficient food to
sustain life during at least five weeks, it has been decided, after due
deliberation, to put the entire garrison, the commandant as well as the
men, on short allowance."
"And what if General Schuyler has so much on his hands because of Burgoyne
that he can't come to our relief?"
"If when we are come to our last two rations we get no definite
information that relief is near at hand, we will sally out at night and
cut our way through the enemy's lines!" Colonel Gansevoort cried in
ringing tones, and straightway Sergeant Corney set about clapping his
hands with such vigor that, almost before the men were aware of the fact,
they were applauding the commandant heartily.
In the midst of this involuntary token of good-will the officers very
wisely went to their quarters, leaving us to stew over the situation in
such fashion as best pleased us.
Every man on the parade-ground understood full well that if he would save
his life it stood him in hand to get back to his post of duty without
unnecessary delay, and in a very few minutes those whose turn it was to go
on duty were setting about the regular routine as laid down since the
besiegers displayed unusual activity.
That night, when Sergeant Corney should have been sleeping, he came to my
post, and the two of us discussed the situation in all its bearings,
coming to the conclusion that the garrison was in much better shape than
it would have been but for the horrible lesson Thayendanega's villains
gave us regarding their treatment of prisoners.
Certain it was that we would hear no more about surrendering, therefore we
need not fear another mutiny, and, as the old man said grimly:
"If the men want more to eat, let 'em go outside to get it, for it won't
do any good to whine after what has been said."
During the week which followed every man did his full duty, and we heard
very little grumbling, although I am sorry to set it down that some of the
faint-hearted did wag their tongues more than was seemly; but on the whole
the garrison showed themselves to be fairly good soldiers.
Reuben Cox was able to move about on the fourth day after he succeeded in
getting inside the fort, and as I saw this man and that, who had formerly
been his close comrades, move aside lest he should speak to them, I
decided that the man's punishment was far greater than any we could have
inflicted upon him. Death, according to my way of thinking, would have
been far preferable to being thus scorned.
Cox must have had some such thoughts himself, for, coming full upon the
commandant one day, the two being not above twenty paces from where I was
stationed, he pleaded piteously to leave the fort in order that he might
do what he could toward hurrying forward the relief for which we were
"You would not live to get two hundred yards away," Colonel Gansevoort
replied, speaking not unkindly. "The enemy are doubtless on the alert for
some such attempt on our part, since knowing we are not overly burdened
"I would like to make the try, sir," Cox said, in a pleading tone, "an',
if it so be that they get hold of me again, it'll be better to die in
their hands than stay here where every man looks upon me as somethin' to
"You can't be surprised, Cox, that the brave fellows, whose plight has
been rendered more desperate by what you and your companions did, should
be averse to making friendly with you."
"I'm not surprised, sir, an' I'd like to end it all by showin' that I've
still got man enough in me to die tryin' to repair the mischief that's
"The only way to make atonement is by doing whatsoever comes to your hand
here in the fort. There's like to be plenty of fighting ahead of us, and
you should be able to do more than your share."
"Could it be fixed, sir, so that I might give up nearly all my rations to
those who need 'em the most?" the poor fellow asked, in a tone so pitiful
and weak that my heart really went out in sympathy to him.
"We will stand or fall on the same footing, my man," the colonel said, as
he walked away, and immediately I was relieved of duty I made it my
business to repeat the conversation to every man I came across.
We were all so near death just then that it surely seemed as if we should
have forgiveness in our hearts for such as Cox, lest we be denied that
same boon in the next world.
From that day our people showed less aversion for the repentant deserter,
and of a verity he did the work of three men during every four and twenty
hours thereafter while we remained in Fort Schuyler.
In just eight days after that assault when the Indians so nearly succeeded
in gaining a foothold in the horn-works, another attack was threatened,
and this time it was not unexpected.
We had been punishing so severely those who were working in the trenches,
and had kept the savages such close prisoners in their own encampment,
that it seemed only natural the more soldierly of the men in St. Leger's
army should insist on being led against us.
It was possible for us to tell by the shouts and yells that on a certain
night Thayendanega's cowards had assembled in the British camp for a
powwow, although they had taken good care not to let us see them going
there, and Sergeant Corney said to me, as if he had a written programme
of the entire proceedings:
"To-morrow we will have redcoats in plenty at which to shoot."
"Why do you say that?" I asked, in surprise.
"I'll eat my head if Barry St. Leger hasn't called Thayendanega's gang
together with the idea of stiffenin' their backs so they'll be willin' to
make an assault. The regulars have been gettin' mighty uneasy these two
days, an' somethin' has got to be done, different from ditch-diggin', to
keep 'em in good spirits."
"Won't Cox fight if he gets another show at the beauties who came so near
killing him at the stake!" I cried, giving words to the first thought
which entered my mind.
"He won't get the chance. The assault will be made before to-morrow night,
an' never a feather can be seen."
"Why are you so positive about that?"
"They've much the same as told us. If we hadn't got 'em cowed by sendin' a
bullet their way whenever one of the sneaks showed his nose, they'd been
cavortin' 'round here this week past tryin' to make it lively for us. I
tell you, Noel, we can count the painted murderers out of the game from
"I hope you may be right," I said, with a long-drawn sigh, "for if St.
Leger has lost as many of his army as Thayendanega's crowd represents, it
won't be such a desperate venture to cut our way through his lines when
we've eaten the last ration."
"Don't stop believin' that General Schuyler will contrive to give us a
lift. I'm countin' that he's lookin' after the matter now," the sergeant
replied, and then he walked away whistling softly, as if the thought of
taking part against another assault pleased him mightily.
Before morning came I understood that Sergeant Corney was not the only one
in the garrison who believed the enemy would soon show unusual signs of
The howling and yelling of the savages at the powwow continued until near
to midnight, and the noise had hardly more than died away when the
commandant came to where I was stationed, halting a moment to gaze in the
direction of the Indian camp before he asked:
"Have you seen any targets in this direction lately?"
"It has been a good many days since any of the crew gave us a chance to
show what we could do with a bullet, sir."
"How long are you on duty to-night?"
"Until morning, sir. Jacob Sitz and I have thought best to stay with the
sentinels of our company during all the hours of darkness. We catch a
cat-nap now and then, so it isn't like doin' extra work."
"Your lads will make good names for themselves among those who love the
Cause, if they keep on as they've begun," the colonel said in the most
kindly tone, and the praise made me as proud as any peacock, for I had
hoped we might be able to show him we could do the work of men.
For the life of me I couldn't get my wits together quickly enough to thank
him as I should have done, and immediately he said, as if speaking to one
of his officers:
"See that a sharp watch be kept from now on, and do not hesitate to raise
an alarm if anything unusual is seen, Captain Campbell."
I am certain my cheeks reddened when he thus recognized my rank, yet I was
such a simple that I could only stammer:
"You must have in mind, sir, somethin' the same as has Sergeant Corney. He
has lately been here predicting an assault for to-morrow."
"The sergeant uses his ears to some purpose," the colonel said, with a
laugh, and then he walked away, leaving me with a determination to keep
guard as I had never kept it before.
Surely if ever a boy had been warned of coming danger I was that one, and
the great fear in my mind was lest at the critical moment I fail to do my
It seemed as if the commandant had much the same as told me he was
depending upon the Minute Boys to bring him word of the first sign or
sound of danger, and I was nervously afraid lest, by some unlucky chance,
I might disappoint him.
After having dwelt upon the matter for half an hour or more, giving undue
prominence to my own responsibility, I aroused Jacob, who was sleeping in
an angle of the wall hard by, and repeated to him the substance of the
conversations with Colonel Gansevoort and Sergeant Corney.
"Well, I don't know why we should be in a better position than any other
to know what may be goin' on," he said, rubbing his eyes sleepily. "If the
sergeant has the rights of it, an' the savages are done with the siege,
then we're not likely to see much from this point."
"But we're not certain the old man knows better than any one else; he has
figured it out to suit himself, without havin' definite knowledge. The
commandant has much the same as praised our company, an' we must see to it
that he has no cause to blame."
By this time Jacob was fully awake, and he set out along such portion of
the wall as was under our charge, straining his eyes in the direction of
the Indian encampment, but without seeing anything whatsoever. Not a
camp-fire was burning, and I failed to hear even the howling of a dog,
which was something so unusual as to cause us no little surprise.
"Can it be that Thayendanega's gang has deserted General St. Leger?" I
asked, in a whisper. "The sergeant will have it that they are done with
the siege, in which case it wouldn't be surprisin' if they had sneaked
"There's no such good news as that," Jacob said, with a laugh; "but I'm
puzzled to make out why they're so quiet."
Had we been left to our own counsels ten minutes longer I believe I might
have been tempted to waken the sergeant, which would have given him an
opportunity to laugh at us because we had grown nervous over the absence
of all danger-signs; but just then Peter Sitz approached, and I whispered
to my comrade in a tone of relief that he and I were not the only nervous
members of the garrison.
"It seems as if all hands had it in mind that we need lookin' after,"
Jacob replied, grimly, and then his father asked if we had seen anything
unusual since the powwow came to an end.
"It's what we've neither seen nor heard that's puzzlin' us, sir," my
comrade said, and then he called his father's attention to the remarkable
quiet which reigned where, ordinarily, noises of some kind could be heard
during every hour of the night.
Master Sitz appeared decidedly disturbed in mind, yet he made no comment,
and, after listening in vain five minutes or more, he walked away without
giving heed to us.
It really appeared, before that long night had come to an end, as if every
officer in the fort suspected something might be wrong, and, what seemed
yet more strange to me, they all came directly to our post, instead of
visiting those sentinels who, if the savages had really cut loose from St.
Leger, should have been in the best positions to hear or see the first
signs of the expected assault.
I have set all this down at considerable length because, in view of what
finally occurred, it was much as if our people had a premonition of that
which was to come.
The night passed without alarm, and I am willing to take my oath that if
any animal as large as a dog had passed within an hundred yards of the
sally-port we would have seen it.
The entire garrison, even including women and children, was astir when the
first gray light of coming day appeared in the eastern sky, and as each
man came out upon the parade-ground I noted the fact that he had all his
weapons with him.
Of course these details are of no particular importance, and yet I have
set them down in order to show how strong was the belief of every person
in the fort that something unusual was about to happen, although, with the
exception of the powwow held in St. Leger's camp the evening previous, we
had seen nothing to betoken especial activity on the part of the enemy.
It was early in the morning; the men had not yet broken their fast, when
one of the sentinels shouted:
"Here they come! Here they come!"
I expected to see every man spring toward the walls in order to learn for
himself what had caused the alarm, and at any other time they would have
done so; but so great was the sense of impending danger that instinctively
the garrison formed in line ready for orders.
I had not yet been relieved from duty, and therefore remained where it was
possible to have a fairly good view of all the encampments occupied by the
Near the quarters of the British regulars I could see the men drawn up in
line as if making ready to advance, and in the Tory camp there was a
bustle and confusion such as might have been made by half-baked soldiers,
while trying to copy after those who knew their business; but the Indians
gave no signs of life, save as their squaws went about the ordinary camp
Because everything had been so suspiciously quiet in this last quarter
during the night, I more than half expected to discover that they had
withdrawn under cover of darkness; but the presence of the women and
children told I was mistaken. Unless the entire gang had spent the night
with the white men, however, it was positive these exceedingly brave
warriors of whom Thayendanega boasted, had no idea of continuing the part
of allies during this day at least.
A plentiful supply of ammunition was dealt out to our men, and the big
guns were served as if our magazine was filled to overflowing, after which
the garrison went to quarters, Reuben Cox being the happiest member of the
army, for he believed the time was near at hand when it might be possible
for him to wipe out some of the stain which rested upon him.
The Minute Boys were ordered to remain at their post over the sally-port,
much to my disappointment, for if the Indians did not take part in the
assault, which we had every reason to believe was near at hand, then would
our duties be so light that we could not hope to win much credit.
Do not let it be supposed that I had become a swash-buckler of a soldier.
The cold chill of fear still crept up and down my spine whenever I thought
of taking part in an engagement; but I was becoming so nearly a man as to
desire, in case it became necessary to fight, that I might gain some honor
for standing stiffly when really my heart was faint.
We remained at quarters a full half-hour, expecting each instant to see
the long lines of soldiers emerge from amid the fringe of foliage which
partially screened their encampment, and yet the advance was delayed.
"What's the matter?" Jacob asked, nervously, as he pressed close to my
"I wish I knew, lad," was my reply, in a voice that was not overly steady.
"This waitin' while others are gettin' ready to try to kill a fellow is
not to my likin'."
"I had rather have a full hour of hot fightin' than such idleness, when we
know that soon the bullets will be whistlin' around our ears," Jacob
replied, and just then John Sammons came up, as he said:
"I reckon they're goin' to bring their siege-guns with 'em this time. It
looks to me much as if a big crowd was gatherin' in the rear of the line."
Then it was that we could see the Tories running to and fro, each man for
himself, and in a twinkling the line of regulars melted away. There was no
longer any semblance of military formation to be seen, and yet certain it
was that a few moments previous the enemy was nearly ready for an
We lads were not the only ones who felt disturbed because of this strange
behavior on the part of the enemy. I could see that Colonel Gansevoort and
all his officers were on that portion of the wall nearest the British
camp, gazing earnestly toward it, while our men moved about uneasily, as
if having forgotten that they had been sent to their several posts of
Strain our eyes as we might, it was impossible to make so much as a guess
regarding what could be the cause of the odd proceedings, and it was in my
mind to go in search of Sergeant Corney to ask his opinion of the
situation, when John Sammons cried, suddenly:
"Look there! The sneaks are comin' out at last! I reckon the Britishers
have been waitin' for 'em!"
But one glance was sufficient to show me that John had spoken truly. From
the lodges I could see troops of savages pouring forth with every token of
excitement, like a swarm of hornets, and that something unusual was afoot
might be told by the fact that no effort was made to keep beyond range of
our guns, as the befeathered and painted horde went swiftly toward St.
I was determined that my company should remain at its post, no matter what
might happen, until we got the word that it was no longer needed, there
fore neither Jacob nor I could hear the speculations of the men as to
what had happened in the enemy's encampment; but after a time Sergeant
Corney came along as if looking for us, and, on seeing the Minute Boys
standing in rank while all the remainder of the garrison were flitting
here and there like flies on the scent of molasses, he said, grimly:
"Here's a sight I never expected to see in this blessed country where
private soldiers have the habit of commandin' their superiors! Why ain't
you lads huntin' 'round to find out what's goin' on?"
"We were ordered here, an' to be ready for action," I replied, not a
little pleased to hear the old soldier's tone of approval. "This company
will stay where it is until I have permission to break ranks."
"It don't seem to be the military fashion for Americans to obey a command
so strictly, an' I'm afraid you're settin' a bad example to them who
demand that a list of the supplies be read to 'em whenever they're feelin'
a bit out of sorts. There's a chance I'll grow proud of havin' licked you
into shape if you don't change your ways mighty quick."
"I don't fancy you came here just to see why we stayed on duty," Jacob
said, with a laugh, which told me he was well pleased with what the old
man had said.
"I'm free to admit that I didn't expect to see anythin' quite so soldierly
in this 'ere fort, an' that's the fact. I had been detailed to hang
'round headquarters till the scrimmage began, but was given liberty to do
as I pleased five minutes ago, consequently I came here to find out why
the fight ain't on."
"We're expectin' you to answer that question, sergeant. You've never been
backward in findin' fault with the ways of American soldiers, an' now
perhaps you can tell what's gone wrong with the Britishers?"
"I wish I knew, lad, an' that's the fact! It looks as if they'd clean
forgot we're waitin' for 'em, an' as for them precious babies of
Thayendanega's, they've gone out of their heads completely. It's a puzzle
all 'round, an' I reckon the commandant is as much in the dark as are the
rest of us."
"Can't you make a guess?" Jacob asked, impatiently.
"Not a bit of it, lad; but it's certain there's trouble of some kind at
Barry St. Leger's quarters, an' I'm of the mind to find out, if you an'
Jacob want to stir yourselves a bit."
"How do you count on doin' it?" I asked in surprise, half-inclined to
believe the old man was joking.
"Look at the Indian encampment; do you think there's anybody nearabout
that place who's keepin' an eye on this 'ere fort?"
"Even the squaws have gone over to the British quarters; they've been
paddlin' across the river for the last half-hour," Jacob replied, and as a
matter of fact I failed to see a living being outside the lodges, search
with my eyes as I might.
"An' it's much the same over yonder," Sergeant Corney said, as he pointed
to the other encampments. "Every blessed one of us might sneak out an' not
attract any attention from them as are supposed to be besiegin' us."
"Well?" I asked, as the old man paused.
"Well, if you an' Jacob feel like havin' a look around, I'll ask the
commandant's permission to do a little scoutin' on our own account,
agreein', in case we're laid by the heels, not to expect any help from
this 'ere garrison."
"Do you mean to go outside the fort?" John Sammons asked, his eyes opening
wide in surprise.
"You've guessed it the first time," Sergeant Corney replied, with a laugh,
and I said, in a tone of conviction:
"The commandant never will give you permission. I heard him refuse Reuben
Cox most emphatically."
"But that was when everythin' seemed to be runnin' smooth, an' Cox only
wanted to get himself killed. Now I'll go bail that Colonel Gansevoort is
more eager than we to know the meanin' of this queer business, an' will
jump at the plan."
"You'll know better after you've asked him," I suggested. "If he gives
permission, Jacob an' I are with you."
The old man sauntered away as if he had nothing of importance to do, and
with a look on his face which told that he was certain of getting the
desired permission without very much difficulty.
The thought was in my mind that he would receive a very decided answer
from the commandant without delay, and after a fashion that would not be
pleasing to him, for it seemed to me that no sane officer could sanction
an attempt to send out scouts across the open plain in the clear light of
day, therefore one can imagine somewhat of my surprise when word came for
Jacob and me to report at headquarters without delay.
"Can it be possible that Colonel Gansevoort is seriously thinkin' of
allowin' the sergeant to leave the fort in the daytime?" I asked of my
comrade, as we went rapidly across the parade-ground to obey the summons.
"It looks like it, for a fact, else why should we have been sent for? I'm
beginnin' to think, Noel, that you said 'yes' to his wild scheme too
quickly. There won't be any child's play in tryin' to get from the fort to
where we can find the first show of cover."
"Meanin' that you're not willin' to make the venture?" I asked, quickly,
hoping my comrade would flatly refuse to go, for, now that the venture
seemed countenanced by Colonel Gansevoort, I was growing mighty
"I would stick my nose into a good deal of danger before bein' willin' to
go back on a promise made to the sergeant," Jacob replied, thoughtfully.
"If he has told the commandant that we are minded to go, there's nothin'
for it but to tackle the job."
I was decidedly disappointed by the reply, and yet could make no protest,
since I was the one who had spoken for us both when the old man broached
the subject, and in silence we walked on until having come to the door of
the colonel's quarters.
The sentinel on duty there had evidently received orders concerning us,
for he announced that we were to go in at once, and I pushed Jacob ahead
as we entered the apartment where Sergeant Corney was standing in a
soldierly attitude in front of the commandant.
We were not called on to wait many seconds before learning the reason for
the summons, since Colonel Gansevoort jumped into the subject by saying:
"So you lads are keen for a hazardous venture, eh?"
I would have given much if at that moment I could have called up
sufficient courage to say that I was well content to remain within the
walls of the fort; but instead of boldly declaring myself I remained
silent until Jacob said, with only a faint show of enthusiasm:
"We told Sergeant Corney that we would go with him to find out what may
be the trouble in General St. Leger's camp, if so be you gave permission,
Now was I fully committed to a matter which was by no means to my liking,
and, with a certain sense of being ill-treated, I listened to that which
"Under almost any other circumstances I would flatly refuse permission for
any man to leave the fort; but now it seems as if it was of the highest
importance we should know what is taking place in the enemy's camp.
Whatever it may be is of such a serious nature as to attract the attention
of the entire encampment so entirely that no attention whatsoever appears
to be paid to us. I believe that, by leaving through the horn-works, you
can make your way to the rear of the British encampment without incurring
any very grave danger, and if it is the desire of you lads to go with the
sergeant you have my permission."
It was just what I didn't want, but, under the circumstances, I could do
no less than look as if he had granted us the greatest favor possible, and
at the same moment it would have done me solid good had I been able to
kick the sergeant with sufficient vigor to convince him that he had made
an ass of himself.
Then the colonel, after receiving our thanks for permission to run our
heads into unnecessary danger, went on to explain what he would have us
do in case we lived long enough to get an idea of that which was going on
in the enemy's camp.
As he had already said, we were to scale the stockade in the horn-works,
and then, making a detour to the westward, gain the cover of such shelter
as might be found on the high lands, working well toward the ruins of Fort
Newport before trying to strike across to and behind the line of
earthworks which St. Leger had caused to be thrown up early in the siege.
He had laid out a long journey for us, and one that might not be performed
before nightfall; but it had the merit of being comparatively safe until
we were in the vicinity of the British encampment.
The interview was brought to a close within five minutes after it had
begun, and then we were at liberty to make our preparations for that which
might result in our death by torture, for it was certain that if the
Indians laid hands on another man from the fort they would take good care
he was neither rescued nor killed until they had worked their cruel will
Sergeant Corney was inclined to boast of having succeeded when I had
declared he must fail, and would have congratulated himself in great shape
while we were crossing the parade-ground on our way to the barracks, but
that I said, curtly:
"That man who exerts himself to go into danger will one day find himself
in a box from which his best friends can't extricate him."
"Which is the same as sayin' that you've changed your mind about goin' out
scoutin'?" he cried sharply, looking me squarely in the face. "There is no
reason why you should go if the job isn't to your likin'."
"Both Jacob an' I must keep on with you, or write ourselves down as
cowards; but at the same time we have the right to think it a foolish
The words had no sooner escaped my lips than I regretted having spoken,
and without delay I hastened to make amends by explaining that I was in
truth frightened at the idea of venturing into that nest of snakes from