Part 2 out of 6
arms. The English fired; several of the militia were killed, nine
wounded, and the rest dispersed. There was no further fighting and
the English marched on, unopposed, to Concord.
As they approached the town the militia retreated from it. The
English took possession of a bridge behind the place and held this
while the troops were engaged in destroying the ammunition and
gun-carriages. Most of the guns had been removed and only two
twenty-four pounders were taken. In destroying the stores by fire the
court-house took flames. At the sight of this fire the militia and
armed countrymen advanced down the hill toward the bridge. The
English tried to pull up the planks, but the Americans ran forward
rapidly. The English guard fired; the colonists returned the fire.
Some of the English were killed and wounded and the party fell back
into the town. Half an hour later Colonel Smith, having performed the
duty that he was sent to do, resumed the homeward march with the
whole of his troops.
Then the militiamen of Concord, with those from many villages around
and every man in the district capable of bearing arms, fell upon the
The road led through several defiles, and every tree, every rock,
every depression of ground was taken advantage of by the Americans.
Scarcely a man was to be seen, but their deadly fire rained thick
upon the tired troops. This they vainly attempted to return, but they
could do nothing against an invisible foe, every man of whom
possessed a skill with his rifle far beyond that of the British
soldier. Very many fell and the retreat was fast becoming a rout,
when, near Lexington, the column met a strong re-enforcement which
had been sent out from Boston. This was commanded by Lord Percy, who
formed his detachment into square, in which Colonel Smith's party,
now so utterly exhausted that they were obliged to lie down for some
time, took refuge. When they were rested the whole force moved
forward again toward Boston, harassed the whole way by the Americans,
who from behind stone walls and other places of shelter kept up an
incessant fire upon both flanks, as well as in the front and rear,
against which the troops could do nothing. At last the retreating
column safely arrived at Boston, spent and worn out with fatigue.
Their loss was 65 men killed, 136 wounded, 49 missing.
Such was the beginning of the war of independence. Many American
writers have declared that previous to that battle there was no
desire for independence on the part of the colonists, but this is
emphatically contradicted by the language used at the meetings and in
the newspapers which have come down to us. The leaders may not have
wished to go so far--may not have intended to gain more than an
entire immunity from taxation and an absolute power for the colonists
to manage their own affairs. But experience has shown that when the
spark of revolution is once lighted, when resistance to the law has
once commenced, things are carried to a point far beyond that dreamed
of by the first leaders.
Those who commenced the French Revolution were moderate men who
desired only that some slight check should be placed on the arbitrary
power of the king--that the people should be relieved in some slight
degree from the horrible tyranny of the nobles, from the misery and
wretchedness in which they lived. These just demands increased step
by step until they culminated in the Reign of Terror and the most
horrible scenes of bloodshed and massacre of modern times.
Men like Washington and Franklin and Adams may have desired only that
the colonists should be free from imperial taxation, but the popular
voice went far beyond this. Three years earlier wise counsels in the
British Parliament might have averted a catastrophe and delayed for
many years the separation of the colonies from their mother country.
At the time the march began from Boston to Concord the American
colonists stood virtually in armed rebellion. The militia throughout
New England were ready to fight. Arms, ammunition, and military
stores were collected in Rhode Island and New Hampshire. The cannon
and military stores belonging to the Crown had been carried off by
the people, forty cannon being seized in Rhode Island alone. Such
being the case, it is nonsense to speak of the fray at Lexington as
the cause of the Revolutionary War. It was but the spark in the
powder. The magazine was ready and primed, the explosion was
inevitable, and the fight at Lexington was the accidental incident
which set fire to it.
The efforts of American writers to conceal the real facts of the
case, to minimize the rebellious language, the violent acts of the
colonists, and to make England responsible for the war because a body
of troops were sent to seize cannon and military stores intended to
be used against them are so absurd, as well as so untrue, that it is
astonishing how wide a credence such statements have received.
From an eminence at some distance from the line of retreat Captain
Wilson and his son watched sorrowfully the attack upon the British
troops. When at last the combatants disappeared from sight through
one of the defiles Captain Wilson turned his horse's head homeward.
"The die is cast," he said to his wife as she met him at the door.
"The war has begun, and I fear it can have but one termination. The
colonists can place forces in the field twenty times as numerous as
any army that England can spare. They are inferior in drill and in
discipline, but these things, which are of such vast consequence in a
European battlefield, matter but little in such a country as this.
Skill with the rifle and knowledge of forest warfare are far more
important. In these points the colonists are as superior to the
English soldiers as they are in point of numbers. Nevertheless, my
dear, my duty is plain. I am an Englishman and have borne his
Majesty's commission, and I must fight for the king. Harold has
spoken to me as we rode home together, and he wishes to fight by my
side. I have pointed out to him that as he was born here he can
without dishonor remain neutral in the struggle. He, however, insists
that as a royal subject of the king he is entitled to fight for him.
He saw to-day many lads not older than himself in the rebel ranks,
and he has pleaded strongly for permission to go with me. To this I
have agreed. Which would you prefer, Mary--to stay quietly here,
where I imagine you would not be molested on account of the part I
take, or will you move into Boston and stop with your relations there
until the struggle has ended one way or the other?"
As Mrs. Wilson had frequently talked over with her husband the course
that he would take in the event of civil war actually breaking out,
the news that he would at once offer his services to the British
authorities did not come as a shock upon her. Even the question of
Harold accompanying his father had been talked over; and although her
heart bled at the thought of husband and son being both engaged in
such a struggle, she agreed to acquiesce in any decision that Harold
might arrive at. He was now nearly sixteen, and in the colonies a lad
of this age is, in point of independence and self-reliance, older
than an English boy. Harold, too, had already shown that he possessed
discretion and coolness as well as courage, and although now that the
moment had come Mrs. Wilson wept passionately at the thought of their
leaving her, she abstained from saying any word to dissuade them from
the course they had determined upon. When she recovered from her fit
of crying she said that she would accompany them at once to Boston,
as in the first place their duties might for some time lie in that
city, and that in any case she would obtain far more speedy news
there of what was going on throughout the country than she would at
Concord. She would, too, be living among her friends and would meet
with many of the same convictions and opinions as her husband's,
whereas in Concord the whole population would be hostile.
Captain Wilson said that there was no time to be lost, as the whole
town was in a tumult. He therefore advised her to pack up such
necessary articles as could be carried in the valises, on the horses'
Pompey and the other servants were to pack up the most valuable
effects and to forward them to a relation of Mrs. Wilson's who lived
about three miles from Boston. There they would be in safety and
could be brought into the town, if necessary. Pompey and two other
old servants were to remain in charge of the house and its contents.
Jake, an active young negro some twenty-three or twenty-four years
old, who was much attached to Harold, whose personal attendant and
companion he had always been, was to accompany them on horseback, as
was Judy, Mrs. Wilson's negro maid.
As evening fell the five horses were brought round, and the party
started by a long and circuitous route, by which, after riding for
nearly forty miles, they reached Boston at two o'clock next morning.
The excitement caused by the news of the fight at Concord was intense
and, as it spread through the colonies, the men everywhere rushed to
arms. The fray at Lexington was represented as a wanton outrage, and
the fact wholly ignored that the colonists concerned in it were drawn
up in arms to oppose the passage of the king's troops, who were
marching on their legitimate duty of seizing arms and ammunition
collected for the purpose of warring against the king. The colonial
orators and newspaper writers affirmed then, as they have affirmed
since, that, up to the day of Lexington, no one had a thought of
firing a shot against the Government. A more barefaced misstatement
was never made. Men do not carry off cannon by scores, and accumulate
everywhere great stores of warlike ammunition, without a thought of
fighting. The colonists commenced the war by assembling in arms to
oppose the progress of British troops obeying the orders of the
Government. It matters not a whit on which side the first shot was
fired. American troops have, many times since that event, fired upon
rioters in the streets, under circumstances no stronger than those
which brought on the fight at Lexington.
From all parts of New England the militia and volunteers poured in,
and in three days after the fight, twenty thousand armed men were
encamped between the rivers Mystic and Roxburgh, thus besieging
Boston. They at once set to work throwing up formidable earthworks,
the English troops remaining within their intrenchments across the
neck of land joining Boston with the mainland.
The streets of Boston were crowded with an excited populace when
Captain Wilson and his party rode into it at two in the morning. No
one thought of going to bed, and all were excited to the last degree
at the news of the battle. All sorts of reports prevailed. On the
colonial side it was affirmed that the British, in their retreat, had
shot down women and children; while the soldiers affirmed that the
colonists had scalped many of their number who fell in the fight. The
latter statement was officially made by Lord Percy in his report of
Captain Wilson rode direct to the house of his wife's friends. They
were still up, and were delighted to see Mary Wilson, for such
exaggerated reports had been received of the fight that they were
alarmed for her safety. They belonged to the moderate party, who saw
that there were faults on both sides and regretted bitterly both the
obstinacy of the English Parliament in attempting to coerce the
colonists and the determination of the latter to oppose, by force of
arms, the legitimate rights of the mother country.
Until the morning the events of the preceding day were talked over; a
few hours' repose was then taken, after which Captain Wilson went to
the headquarters of General Gage and offered his services. Although
Boston was the headquarters of the disaffected party, no less than
two hundred men came forward as volunteers in the king's service, and
Captain Wilson was at once appointed to the command of a company of
fifty men. Before leaving the army he had taken part in several
expeditions against the Indians, and his knowledge of forest warfare
rendered him a valuable acquisition. Boston was but poorly
provisioned, and, as upon the day when the news of Lexington reached
New York two vessels laden with flour for the use of the troops at
Boston were seized by the colonists and many other supplies cut off,
the danger of the place being starved out was considerable. General
Gage, therefore, offered no opposition to the exit from the city of
those who wished to avoid the horror of a siege, and a considerable
portion of the population made their way through to the rebel lines.
Every day brought news of fresh risings throughout the country; the
governors of the various provinces were powerless; small garrisons of
English troops were disarmed and made prisoners; and the fortress of
Ticonderoga, held only by fifty men, was captured by the Americans
without resistance. In one month after the first shot was fired the
whole of the American colonies were in rebellion.
The news was received in England with astonishment and sorrow. Great
concessions had been made by Parliament, but the news had reached
America too late to avoid hostilities. Public opinion was divided;
many were in favor of granting at once all that the colonists
demanded, and many officers of rank and position resigned their
commissions rather than fight against the Americans. The division,
indeed, was almost as general and complete as it had been in the time
of our own civil war. In London the feeling in favor of the colonists
was strong, but in the country generally the determination to repress
the rising was in the ascendant. The colonists had, with great
shrewdness, dispatched a fast-sailing ship to Europe upon the day
following the battle of Lexington, giving their account of the
affair, and representing it as a massacre of defenseless colonists by
British troops; and the story thus told excited a sympathy which
would not, perhaps, have been extended to them had the real facts of
the case been known. Representatives from all the colonies met at
Philadelphia to organize the national resistance; but as yet,
although many of the bolder spirits spoke of altogether throwing off
allegiance to England, no resolution was proposed to that effect.
For the first six weeks after his arrival at Boston, Captain Wilson
was engaged in drilling his company. Harold was, of course, attached
to it, and entered with ardor upon his duties. Captain Wilson did not
attempt to form his men into a band of regular soldiers; accuracy of
movement and regularity of drill would be of little avail in the
warfare in which they were likely to be engaged. Accuracy in
shooting, quickness in taking cover, and steadiness in carrying out
any general orders were the principal objects to be attained. Most of
the men had already taken part in frontier warfare. The majority of
them were gentlemen--Englishmen who, like their captain, had come out
from home and purchased small estates in the country. The discipline,
therefore, was not strict, and, off duty, all were on terms of
Toward the end of May and beginning of June considerable
re-enforcements arrived from England, and, as a step preparatory to
offensive measures, General Gage, on June 12, issued a proclamation
offering, in his Majesty's name, a free pardon to all who should
forthwith lay down their arms, John Hancock and General Adams only
excepted, and threatening with punishment all who should delay to
avail themselves of the offer. This proclamation had no effect
Near the peninsula of Boston, on the north, and separated from it by
the Charles River, which is navigable and about the breadth of the
Thames at London Bridge, is another neck of land called the Peninsula
of Charlestown. On the north bank, opposite Boston, lies the town of
Charlestown, behind which, in the center of the peninsula, rises an
eminence called Bunker's Hill. Bunker's Hill is sufficiently high to
overlook any part of Boston and near enough to be within cannon-shot.
This hill was unoccupied by either party, and about this time the
Americans, hearing that General Gage had come to a determination to
fortify it, resolved to defeat his resolution by being the first to
About nine in the evening of June 16 a detachment from the colonial
army, one thousand strong, under the command of Colonel Prescott,
moved along the Charlestown road and took up a position on a shoulder
of Bunker's Hill, which was known as Breed's Hill, just above the
town of Charlestown. They reached this position at midnight. Each man
carried a pick and shovel, and all night they worked vigorously in
intrenching the position. Not a word was spoken, and the watch on
board the men-of-war in the harbor were ignorant of what was going on
so near at hand. At daybreak the alarm was given, and the _Lively_
opened a cannonade upon the redoubt. A battery of guns was placed on
Copp's Hill, behind Boston, distant twelve hundred yards from the
works, and this, also, opened fire. The Americans continued their
work, throwing up fresh intrenchments; and, singularly, only one man
was killed by the fire from the ships and redoubt. A breastwork was
carried down the hill to the flat ground which, intersected by
fences, stretched away to the Mystic. By nine o'clock they had
completed their intrenchments.
Prescott sent off for re-enforcements, but there was little harmony
among the colonial troops. Disputes between the contingents of the
various provinces were common; there was no head of sufficient
authority to enforce his orders upon the whole; and a long delay took
place before the re-enforcements were sent forward.
In the meantime the English had been preparing to attack the
position. The Fifth, Thirty-eighth, Forty-third, and Fifty-second
regiments, with ten companies of the grenadiers and ten of the light
infantry, with a proportion of field artillery, embarked in boats,
and, crossing the harbor, landed on the outward side of the
peninsula, near the Mystic, with a view of outflanking the American
position and surrounding them. The force was under the command of
Major General Howe, under whom was Brigadier General Piggott.
Upon seeing the strength of the American position, General Howe
halted, and sent back for further re-enforcements. The Americans
improved the time thus given them by forming a breastwork in front of
an old ditch. Here there was a post-and-rail fence. They ran up
another by the side of this and filled the space between the two with
the new-mown hay, which, cut only the day before, lay thickly over
[Illustration: Plan of the Action at Bunkers Hill, on the 17th of
Two battalions were sent across to re-enforce Howe, while large
re-enforcements, with six guns, arrived to the assistance of
Prescott. The English had now a force consisting, according to
different authorities, of between 2000 and 2500 men. The colonial
force is also variously estimated, and had the advantage both in
position and in the protection of their intrenchments, while the
British had to march across open ground. As individual shots the
colonists were immensely superior, but the British had the advantages
given by drill and discipline.
The English lines advanced in good order, steadily and slowly, the
artillery covering them by their fire. Presently the troops opened
fire, but the distance was too great and they did but little
execution. Encumbered with their knapsacks they ascended the steep
hill toward the redoubt with difficulty, covered, as it was, by grass
reaching to the knees. The colonists did not fire a shot until the
English line had reached a point about one hundred and fifty yards
from the intrenchments. Then Prescott gave the order, and from the
redoubt and the long line of intrenchments flanking it flashed a line
of fire. Each man had taken a steady aim with his rifle resting on
the earthwork before him, and so deadly was the fire that nearly the
whole front line of the British fell. For ten minutes the rest stood
with dogged courage, firing at the hidden foe, but these, sheltered
while they loaded and only exposing themselves momentarily while they
raised their heads above the parapets to fire, did such deadly
execution that the remnant of the British fell back to the foot of
While this force, which was under the command of General Pigott, had
been engaged, another division under Howe himself moved against the
rail fence. The combat was a repetition of that which had taken place
on the hill. Here the Americans reserved their fire until the enemy
were close; then, with their muskets resting on the rails, they
poured in a deadly fire, and, after in vain trying to stand their
ground, the troops fell back to the shore.
Captain Wilson was standing with Harold on Copp's Hill watching the
"What beautiful order they go in!" Harold said, looking admiringly at
the long lines of red-coated soldiers.
"It is very pretty," Captain Wilson said sadly, "and may do in
regular warfare; but I tell you, Harold, that sort of thing won't do
here. There is scarce a man carrying a gun behind those intrenchments
who cannot with certainty hit a bull's-eye at one hundred and fifty
yards. It is simply murder, taking the men up in regular order
against such a foe sheltered by earthworks."
At this moment the long line of fire darted out from the American
"Look there!" Captain Wilson cried in a pained voice. "The front line
is nearly swept away! Do you see them lying almost in an unbroken
line on the hillside? I tell you, Harold, it is hopeless to look for
success if we fight in this way. The bravest men in the world could
not stand such a fire as that."
"What will be done now?" Harold asked as the men stood huddled upon
"They will try again," Captain Wilson said. "Look at the officers
running about among them and getting them into order."
In a quarter of an hour the British again advanced both toward the
redoubt and the grass fence. As before the Americans withheld their
fire, and this time until the troops were far closer than before, and
the result was even more disastrous. Some of the grenadier and light
infantry companies who led lost three-fourths, others nine-tenths of
their men. Again the British troops recoiled from that terrible fire.
General Howe and his officers exerted themselves to the utmost to
restore order when the troops again reached the shore, and the men
gallantly replied to their exhortations. Almost impossible as the
task appeared, they prepared to undertake it for the third time. This
time a small force only was directed to move against the grass fence,
while the main body, under Howe, were to attack the redoubt on the
Knapsacks were taken off and thrown down, and each man nerved himself
to conquer or die. The ships in the harbor prepared the way by
opening a heavy cannonade. General Clinton, who was watching the
battle from Copp's Hill, ran down to the shore, rowed across the
harbor, and put himself at the head of two battalions. Then, with
loud cheers, the troops again sprang up the ascent. The American
ammunition was running short, many of the men not having more than
three or four rounds left, and this time they held their fire until
the British troops were within twenty yards. These had not fired a
shot, the order being that there was to be no pause, but that the
redoubt was to be carried with the bayonet. For a moment they wavered
when the deadly volley was poured in upon them. Then, with a cheer,
they rushed at the intrenchments. All those who first mounted were
shot down by the defenders, but the troops would not be denied, and,
pouring over the earthworks leaped down upon the enemy.
For a few minutes there was a hand-to-hand fight, the Americans using
the butt-ends of their muskets, the English their bayonets. The
soldiers were exhausted with the climb up the hill and their exertions
under a blazing sun, and the great majority of the defenders of the
redoubt were, therefore, enabled to retreat unharmed, as, fresh and
active, they were able to outrun their tired opponents, and as the
balls served out to the English field-pieces were too large, the
artillery were unable to come into action.
The colonists at the rail fence maintained their position against the
small force sent against them till the main body at the redoubt had
made their escape. The British were unable to continue the pursuit
beyond the isthmus.
In the whole history of the British army there is no record of a more
gallant feat than the capture of Bunker's Hill, and few troops in the
world would, after two bloody repulses, have moved up the third time
to assail such a position, defended by men so trained to the use of
the rifle. Ten hundred and fifty-four men, or nearly half their
number, were killed and wounded, among whom were 83 officers. In few
battles ever fought was the proportion of casualties to the number
engaged so great. The Americans fought bravely, but the extraordinary
praise bestowed upon them for their valor appears misplaced. Their
position was one of great strength, and the absence of drill was of
no consequence whatever in such an engagement. They were perfectly
sheltered from the enemy's fire while engaged in calmly shooting him
down, and their loss, up to the moment when the British rushed among
them, was altogether insignificant. Their casualties took place after
the position was stormed and on their retreat along the peninsula,
and amounted in all to 145 killed and captured and 304 wounded. It
may be said that both sides fought well; but, from the circumstances
under which they fought, the highest credit is due to the victors.
The battle, however, though won by the English, was a moral triumph
for the Americans, and the British Parliament should at once have
given up the contest. It was, from the first, absolutely certain that
the Americans, with their immense superiority in numbers, could, if
they were only willing to fight, hold their vast country against the
British troops, fighting with a base thousands of miles away. The
battle of Bunker's Hill showed that they were so willing--that they
could fight sternly and bravely: and this point once established, it
was little short of madness for the English government to continue
the contest. They had not even the excuse of desiring to wipe out the
dishonor of a defeat. Their soldiers had won a brilliant victory and
had fought with a determination and valor never exceeded, and England
could have afforded to say, "We will fight no more. If you, the
inhabitants of a vast continent, are determined to go alone, are
ready to give your lives rather than remain in connection with us, go
and prosper. We acknowledge we cannot subdue a nation in arms."
From the height of Copp's Hill it could be seen that the British had
suffered terribly. Captain Wilson was full of enthusiasm when he saw
the success of the last gallant charge of the English soldiers, but
he said to Harold:
"It is a disastrous victory. A few such battles as these and the
English army in America would cease to exist."
But although they were aware that the losses were heavy they were not
prepared for the truth. The long grass had hidden from view many of
those who fell, and when it was known that nearly half of those
engaged were killed or wounded the feeling among the English was akin
The generalship of the British was wholly unworthy of the valor of
the troops. There would have been no difficulty in placing some of
the vessels of light draught so far up the Mystic as to outflank the
intrenchments held by the colonists. Indeed, the British troops might
have been landed further up the Mystic, in which case the Americans
must have retreated instantly to avoid capture. Lastly, the troops,
although fighting within a mile of their quarters, were encumbered
with three days' provisions and their knapsacks, constituting, with
their muskets and ammunition, a load of 125 pounds. This was, indeed,
heavily handicapping men who had, under a blazing sun, to climb a
steep hill, with grass reaching to their knees, and intersected by
walls and fences.
American writers describe the defenders of the position as inferior
in numbers to the assailants, but it is due to the English to say
that their estimate of the number of the defenders of the
intrenchments differs very widely from this. General Gage estimated
them as being fully three times as numerous as the British troops. It
is probable that the truth lies between the two accounts.
Captain Wilson returned with Harold, greatly dispirited, to his
"The lookout is dreadfully bad," he said to his wife, after
describing the events of the day. "So far as I can see there are but
two alternatives--either peace or a long and destructive war with
failure at its end. It is even more hopeless trying to conquer a vast
country like this, defended by irregulars, than if we had a trained
and disciplined army to deal with. In that case two or three signal
victories might bring the war to a conclusion; but fighting with
irregulars, a victory means nothing beyond so many of the enemy
killed. There are scarcely any cannon to take, no stores or magazines
to capture. When the enemy is beaten he disperses, moves off, and in
a couple of days gathers again in a fresh position. The work has no
end. There are no fortresses to take, no strategical positions to
occupy, no great roads to cut. The enemy can march anywhere, attack
and disperse as he chooses, scatter, and re-form when you have passed
by. It is like fighting the wind."
"Well, John, since it seems so hopeless, cannot you give it up? Is it
"Altogether too late, Mary, and if I were free tomorrow I would
volunteer my services again next day. It is not any the less my duty
to fight in my country's cause because I believe the cause to be a
losing one. You must see that yourself, dear. If England had been
sure to win without my aid, I might have stood aloof. It is because
everyone's help is needed that such services as I can render are due
to her. A country would be in a bad way whose sons were only ready to
fight when their success was a certainty."
The Congress determined now to detach Canada from the English side
and prepared a force for the invasion of that colony, where the
British had but few regular troops.
Captain Wilson was one morning summoned to headquarters. On his
return he called together four or five of the men best acquainted
with the country. These had been in their early days hunters or
border scouts, and knew every foot of the forest and lakes.
"I have just seen the general," Captain Wilson said. "A royalist
brought in news last night that the rebels are raising a force
intended to act against Montreal. They reckon upon being joined by a
considerable portion of the Canadians, among whom there is,
unfortunately, a good deal of discontent. We have but two regiments
in the whole colony. One of these is at Quebec. The rebels,
therefore, will get the advantage of surprise, and may raise the
colony before we are in a condition to resist. General Howe asked me
to take my company through the woods straight to Montreal. We should
be landed a few miles up the coast at night. I suppose some of you
know the country well enough to be able to guide us."
Several of the men expressed their ability to act as guides.
"I've fought the Injuns through them woods over and over again," said
one of them, a sinewy, weather-beaten man of some sixty years old,
who was known as Peter Lambton. He had for many years been a scout
attached to the army and was one of the most experienced hunters on
the frontier. He was a tall, angular man, except that he stooped
slightly, the result of a habit of walking with the head bent forward
in the attitude of listening. The years which had passed over him had
had no effect upon his figure. He walked with a long, noiseless
tread, like that of an Indian, and was one of the men attached to his
company in whom, wisely, Captain Wilson had made no attempt to
instill the very rudiments of drill. It was, the captain thought,
well that the younger men should have such a knowledge of drill as
would enable them to perform simple maneuvers, but the old hunters
would fight in their own way--a way infinitely better adapted for
forest warfare than any that he could teach them. Peter and some of
his companions were in receipt of small pensions, which had been
bestowed upon them for their services with the troops. Men of this
kind were not likely to take any lively interest in the squabbles as
to questions of taxation, but when they found that it was coming to
fighting they again offered their services to the government as a
matter of course. Some were attached to the regular troops as scouts,
while others were divided among the newly raised companies of
Peter Lambton had for the last four years been settled at Concord.
During the war with the French he had served as a scout with the
regiment to which Captain Wilson belonged, and had saved that
officer's life when with a portion of his company, he was surrounded
and cut off by hostile Indians. A strong feeling of friendship had
sprung up between them, and when, four years before, there had been a
lull in the English fighting on the frontier, Peter had retired on
his pension and the savings which he had made during his many years'
work as a hunter, and had located himself in a cottage on Captain
Wilson's estate. It was the many tales told him by the hunter of his
experiences in Indian warfare that had fired Harold with a desire for
the life of a frontier hunter, and had given him such a knowledge of
forest life as had enabled him to throw off the Indians from his
trail. On Harold's return the old hunter had listened with extreme
interest to the story of his adventures and had taken great pride in
the manner in which he had utilized his teachings. Peter made his
appearance in the city three days after the arrival of Captain Wilson
"I look upon this here affair as a favorable occurrence for Harold,"
he said to Captain Wilson. "The boy has lots of spirits, but if it
had not been for this he might have grown up a regular town
greenhorn, fit for nothing but to walk about in a long coat and to
talk pleasant to women; but this 'll jest be the making of him. With
your permission, cap, I'll take him under my charge and teach him to
use his eyes and his ears, and I reckon he'll turn out as good an
Injun fighter as you'll see on the frontier."
"But it is not Indians that we are going to fight Peter," Captain
Wilson said. "I heartily wish it was."
"It 'll be the same thing," Peter said; "not here, in course; there
'll be battles between the regulars and the colonists, regular
battles like that at Quebec, where both parties was fools enough to
march about in the open and get shot down by hundreds. I don't call
that fighting; that's jest killing, and there aint no more sense in
it than in two herd of buffalo charging each other on the prairie.
But there 'll be plenty of real fighting--expeditions in the woods
and Injun skirmishes, for you'll be sure that the Injuns'll join in,
some on one side and some on the other; it aint in their nature to
sit still in their villages while powder's being burned. A few months
of this work will make a man of him, and he might have a worse
teacher than Peter Lambton. You jest hand him over to my care, cap,
and I'll teach him all I know of the ways of the woods, and I tell
yer there aint no better kind of edication for a young fellow. He
larns to use the senses God has given him, to keep his head when
another man would lose his presence of mind, to have the eye of a
hawk and the ear of a hound, to get so that he scarcely knows what it
is to be tired or hungry, to be able to live while other men would
starve, to read the signs of the woods like a printed book, and to be
in every way a man and not a tailor's figure."
"There is a great deal in what you say, old friend," Captain Wilson
answered, "and such a training cannot but do a man good. I wish with
all my heart that it had been entirely with red foes that the
fighting was to be done. However, that cannot be helped, and as he is
to fight he could not be in better hands than yours. So long as we
remain here I shall teach him what drill I can with the rest of the
company, but when we leave this town and the work really begins, I
shall put him in your charge to learn the duties of a scout."
The young negro Jake had also enlisted, for throughout the war the
negroes fought on both sides, according to the politics of their
masters. There were only two other negroes in the company, and
Captain Wilson had some hesitation in enlisting them, but they made
good soldiers. In the case of Jake, Captain Wilson knew that he was
influenced in his wish to join solely by his affection for Harold,
and the lad's father felt that in the moment of danger the negro
would be ready to lay down his life for him.
There was great satisfaction in the band when they received news that
they were at last about to take the field. The long inaction had been
most wearisome to them, and they knew that any fighting that would
take place round Boston would be done by the regular troops. Food,
too, was very scarce in town, and they were heartily weary of the
regular drill and discipline. They were, then, in high spirits as
they embarked on board the _Thetis_ sloop-of-war and sailed from
It was a pitiful parting between Mrs. Wilson and her husband and son.
It had been arranged that she should sail for England in a ship that
was leaving in the following week and should there stay with her
husband's family, from whom she had a warm invitation to make their
home her own until the war was over.
The _Thetis_ ran out to sea. As soon as night fell her bow was turned
to land again, and about midnight the anchor was let fall near the
shore some twenty miles north of Boston. The landing was quickly
effected, and with three days' provisions in their knapsacks the
little party started on their march.
One of the scouts who had come from that neighborhood led them by
paths which avoided all villages and farms. At daybreak they
bivouacked in a wood and at nightfall resumed the march. By the next
morning they had left the settlements behind, and entered a belt of
swamp and forest extending west to the St. Lawrence.
A party of six men were seated around a fire in the forest which
covered the slopes of the northern shore of Lake Champlain. The spot
had been chosen because a great tree had fallen, bringing down
several others in its course, and opening a vista through which a
view could be obtained of the surface of the lake. The party
consisted of Peter Lambton, Harold, Jake, Ephraim Potter, another old
frontiersman, and two Indians.
The company under Captain Wilson had made its way safely to the St.
Lawrence after undergoing considerable hardships in the forest. They
had been obliged to depend entirely on what game they could shoot and
such fish as they could catch in the rivers whose course they
followed. They had, however, reached Montreal without loss, and there
they found that General Carleton had in all about 500 regulars and
about 200 volunteers who had recently been engaged.
It was clear that if the people of Canada were as hostile to the
connection with England as were those of the other colonies, the
little force at the disposal of the English general could do nothing
to defend the colony against the strong force which the Americans
were collecting for its invasion. Fortunately this was not the case.
Although the Canadians were of French descent and the province had
been wrested by arms from France, they for the most part preferred
being under English rule to joining the insurgent colonies. They had
been in no way oppressed by England, their property had been
respected, and above all things no attempt had ever been made to
interfere with their religion. In the New England provinces the hard
Puritan spirit of the early fathers had never ceased to prevail.
Those who had fled from England to obtain freedom of worship had been
intolerant persecutors of all religion different from their own. The
consequence was that the priests of Canada were wholly opposed to any
idea of union with the insurgent colonists. Their influence over the
people was great, and although these still objected to the English
rule and would have readily taken up arms against it under other
circumstances, they had too little sympathy with the New Englanders
to join in their movement, which, if successful, would have placed
Canada under the rule of the United States instead of that of
The upper classes of Canadians were almost to a man loyal to the
English connection. They had been well treated and enjoyed a greater
state of independence than had been the case under French rule.
Moreover, they were for the most part descended from old French
families, and their sympathies were entirely opposed to popular
insurrection. Thus, when Captain Wilson and his party reached
Montreal, they found that, in spite of the paucity of English troops
under the command of General Carleton, the position was not so bad as
had been feared by General Gage. It was possible, and indeed
probable, that Upper Canada might fall into the hands of the
Americans, and that even Quebec itself might be captured; but unless
the people joined the Americans the success of the latter would be
but temporary. With the spring the navigation of the river would be
open and re-enforcements would arrive from England. The invaders
would then be at a disadvantage. Separated from home by a wide tract
of forest-covered country, they would have the greatest difficulty in
transporting artillery, ammunition, and stores, and, fighting as an
army in invasion, they would be placed in a very different position
to that occupied by the colonists fighting on their own ground. It
was probable that for a time the tide of invasion would succeed.
The Indians of the Five Nations, as those dwelling near the British
frontier at this point were called, had volunteered their services to
the general to cross the frontier to recapture Ticonderoga and Crown
Point, which had been seized by the Americans, and to carry the war
into the colonies. But General Carleton, an exceedingly humane and
kind-hearted man, shrank from the horrors that such a warfare would
entail upon the colonists. He accepted the services of the Indians as
far as the absolute defense of Canada from invasion, but refused to
allow them to cross the frontier.
On the arrival of Captain Wilson with his little force he was ordered
to march at once to the fort of St. John's, which was held by a party
of regular troops.
On arriving at that place the two scouts had been sent down toward
Lake Champlain to watch the proceedings of the enemy. Harold had
obtained leave from his father to accompany the scouts, and Jake had
been permitted to form one of the party. Peter Lambton had grumbled a
little at this last addition to the number. He knew Jake's affection
for his young master, and the great strength of the negro would have
rendered him useful in a hand-to-hand fight, but he was altogether
unaccustomed to forest work, and his habit of bursting into fits of
laughter on the smallest provocation, as is the manner of his race,
enraged the scout to the last degree. Indeed, he had not left the
fort above an hour when he turned savagely on the negro.
"Look-ee here," he said, "if that's the way ye're a-going on, the
sooner ye turns yer face and tramps back to the fort the better. When
you were at Concord it done no harm to make as much noise as a
jackass braying whenever you opened that mouth of yours, but it won't
do in the forests. It would cost us our har and your wool ef yer were
to make that noise with the enemy anywhere within fifteen miles of
yer. I aint a-going, if I knows it, to risk my sculp on such a
venture as this; still less I aint a-going to see this young chap's
life thrown away. His father hez put him in my charge, and I aint
a-going to see him sacrificed in no such way. So ye've got to make up
yer mind; yer have got to keep that mouth of yours shut tight or
yer've got to tramp back to the fort."
Jake gave many promises of silence, and although at first he often
raised his voice to a point far exceeding that considered by the
hunters safe in the woods, he was each time checked by such a savage
growl on the part of Peter, or by a punch in the ribs from Harold,
that he quickly fell into the ways of the others and never spoke
above a loud whisper.
At a short distance from the fort they were joined by the two
Indians, who were also out on a scouting expedition on their own
account. They had previously been well known both to Peter and
Ephraim. They were warriors of the Seneca tribe, one of the Five
Nations. They had now been for two days on the north shore of Lake
Champlain. They were sitting round a fire eating a portion of a deer
which had been shot by Harold that morning. So far they had seen
nothing of the enemy. They knew that 3000 men, under Schuyler and
Montgomery, had marched to the other end of the lake. The colonists
had been sending proclamations across the frontier to the
inhabitants, saying that they were coming as friends to free them
from the yoke of England and calling upon them to arise and strike
for freedom. They were also in negotiation with some of the chiefs of
the Five Nations and with other Indian tribes to induce them to join
"I propose," Peter said when the meal was finished and he had lighted
his pipe, "to go down the lake and see what they're doing. Deer Tail
here tells me that he knows where there's a canoe. He, Harold, and me
will go and reconnoiter a bit; the other three had best wait here
till we comes back with news. In course, chief," he continued to the
other Indian, after explaining to him in his own language what he
intended to do, "you'll be guided by circumstances--you can see a
long way down the lake, and ef anything should lead you to think that
we're in trouble, you can take such steps as may seem best to you.
It's mighty little I should think of the crowd of colonists; but ef,
as you say, a number of the warriors of the Five Nations, indignant
at the rejection, of their offers by the English general, have gone
down and joined the colonists, it'll be a different affair
The Elk, as the second Seneca chief was called, nodded his assent. In
a few words Peter told Harold what had been arranged. Jake looked
downcast when he heard that he was not to accompany his master, but
as he saw the latter had, since leaving the fort, obeyed without
questioning every suggestion of the scout, he offered no
A quarter of an hour later Peter rose, Deer Tail followed his
example, and Harold at once took up his rifle and fell in in their
steps. There was but little talk in the woods, and the matter having
been settled, it did not enter the mind either of Peter or of the
Indian to say a word of adieu to their comrades. Harold imitated
their example, but gave a nod and a smile to Jake as he started.
Half an hour's tramp took them to the shore of the lake. Here they
halted for a minute while the Indian closely examined the locality.
With the wonderful power of making their way straight through the
forest to the required spot, which seems to be almost an instinct
among Indians, Deer Tail had struck the lake within two hundred yards
of the point which he aimed at. He led the way along the shore until
he came to a spot where a great maple had fallen into the lake; here
he turned into the forest again, and in fifty yards came to a clump
of bushes; these he pushed aside and pointed to a canoe which was
lying hidden among them. Peter joined him, the two lifted the boat
out, placed it on their shoulders, and carried it to the lake. There
were three paddles in it. Peter motioned Harold to take his place in
the stern and steer, while he and the Indian knelt forward and put
their paddles in the water.
"Keep her along on the right shore of the lake, about fifty yards
from the trees. There's no fear of anyone lurking about near this
The canoe was light and well made, and darted quickly over the water
under the strokes of the two paddlers. It was late in the afternoon
when they started, and before they had gone many miles darkness had
fallen. The canoe was run in close to shore, where she lay in the
shadow of the trees until morning. Just as the sun rose the redskin
and Peter simultaneously dipped their paddles in the water and sent
the canoe under the arches of the trees. They had at the same instant
caught sight of four canoes making their way along the lake.
"Them's Injuns," Peter whispered. "They're scouting to see if the
lake's free. If the general could have got a couple of gunboats up
the Sorrel the enemy could never have crossed the lake, and it would
have given them a month's work to take their guns round it. It's
lucky we were well under the trees or we should have been seen. What
had we best do, Deer Tail?"
For two or three minutes the scouts conversed together in the Indian
"The Seneca agrees with me," Peter said. "It's like enough there are
Injuns scouting along both shores. We must lay up here till
nightfall. Ef we're seen they'd signal by smoke, and we should have
them canoes back again in no time. By their coming I expect the
expedition is starting, but it won't do to go back without being sure
The canoe was paddled to a spot where the bushes grew thickly by the
bank. It was pushed among these, and the three, after eating some
cooked deer's flesh which they had brought with them, prepared to
pass the day.
"The Seneca and I'll keep watch by turns," the scout said. "We'll
wake you if we want ye."
Harold was by this time sufficiently accustomed to the ways of the
woods to obey orders at once without offering to take his turn at
watching, as his inclination led him to do, and he was soon sound
asleep. It was late in the afternoon when he was awoke by the scout
"There's some critters coming along the bank," he said in a whisper.
"They aint likely to see us, but it's best to be ready."
Harold sat up in the canoe, rifle in hand, and, listening intently,
heard a slight sound such as would be produced by the snapping of a
twig. Presently he heard upon the other side of the bushes, a few
yards distant, a few low words in the Indian tongue. He looked at his
companions. They were sitting immovable, each with his rifle directed
toward the sound, and Harold thought it would fare badly with any of
the passers if they happened to take a fancy to peer through the
bushes. The Indians had, however, no reason for supposing that there
were any enemies upon the lake, and they consequently passed on
without examining more closely the thicket by the shore. Not until it
was perfectly dark did Peter give the sign for the continuance of the
journey. This time, instead of skirting the lake, the canoe was
steered out toward its center. For some time they paddled, and then
several lights were seen from ahead.
"I thought so," the scout said. "They've crossed to the Isle La Motte
and they're making as many fires as if they war having a sort of
picnic at home. We must wait till they burns out, for we daren't go
near the place with the water lit up for two or three hundred yards
round. It won't be long, for I reckon it must be past eleven o'clock
The fires were soon seen to burn down. The paddles were dipped in the
water and the canoe approached the island.
"I'd give something," Peter said, "to know whether there's any
redskins there. Ef there are, our chance of landing without being
seen aint worth talking of; ef there aint we might land a hull fleet;
at any rate we must risk it. Now, Harold, the chief and me'll land
and find out how many men there are here, and, ef we can, how long
they're likely to stop. You keep the canoe about ten yards from
shore, in the shadow of the trees, and be ready to move close the
instant you hear my call. I'll jest give the croak of a frog. The
instant we get in you paddle off without a word. Ef ye hears any
shouts and judges as how we've been seen, ye must jest act upon the
best of yer judgment."
The boat glided noiselessly up to the shore. All was still there, the
encampment being at the other side of the island. The two scouts, red
and white, stepped noiselessly on to the land. Harold backed the
canoe a few paces with a quick stroke upon the paddle, and seeing
close to him a spot where a long branch of a tree dipped into the
water, he guided the canoe among the foliage and there sat without
movement, listening almost breathlessly.
Ere many minutes had elapsed he heard footsteps coming along the
shore. They stopped when near him. Three or four minutes passed
without the slightest sound, and then a voice said, in tones which
the speaker had evidently tried to lower, but which were distinctly
audible in the canoe:
"I tell yer, redskin, it seems to me as how you've brought us here on
a fool's errand. I don't see no signs of a canoe, and it aint likely
that the British would be along the lake here, seeing as how there's
a score of canoes with your people in them scouting ahead."
"I heard canoe," another voice said, "first at other end of the
island and then coming along here."
"And ef yer did," the first speaker said, "likely enough it was one
of the canoes of your people."
"No," the Indian answered. "If canoe come back with news, would have
come straight to fires."
"Well, it aint here, anyway," the first speaker said, "and I don't
believe yer ever heard a canoe at all. It's enough to make a man
swear to be called up jest as we were making ourselves comfortable
for the night on account of an Injun's fancies. I wonder at the
general's listening to them. However, we've got our orders to go
round the island and see ef there's any canoe on either shore; so
we'd better be moving, else we shall not get to sleep before
Harold held his breath as the group passed opposite to him.
Fortunately the trunk of the tree grew from the very edge of the
water, and there were several bushes growing round it, so that at
this point the men had to make a slight _detour_ inland. Harold felt
thankful indeed that he had taken the precaution of laying his canoe
among the thick foliage, for although the night was dark it would
have been instantly seen had it been lying on the surface of the
lake. Even as it was, a close inspection might have detected it, but
the eyes of the party were fixed on the shore, as it was there, if at
all, that they expected to find an empty canoe lying.
Harold was uneasy at the discovery that there were still some
redskins on the island. It was possible, of course, that the one he
had heard might be alone as a scout, but it was more likely that
others of the tribe were also there.
After landing, Peter and the Seneca made their way across the island
to the side facing the American shore. Creeping cautiously along,
they found a large number of flat-bottomed boats, in which the
Americans had crossed from the mainland, and which were, Peter
thought, capable of carrying 2000 men. They now made their way toward
the spot where the forces were encamped. The fires had burned low,
but round a few of them men were still sitting and talking. Motioning
to the Seneca to remain quiet, Peter sauntered cautiously out on to
the clearing where the camp was formed. He had little fear of
detection, for he wore no uniform, and his hunter's dress afforded no
index to the party to which he was attached.
A great portion of the Americans were still in their ordinary attire,
it having been impossible to furnish uniforms for so great a number
of men as had been suddenly called to arms throughout the colonies.
From the arbors of boughs which had been erected in all directions,
he judged that the force had been already some days upon the island.
But large numbers of men were sleeping in the open air, and picking
his way cautiously among them, he threw himself down at a short
distance from one of the fires by which three or four men were
For some time they talked of camp matters, the shortness of food, and
want of provisions.
"It is bad here," one said presently; "it will be worse when we move
forward. Schuyler will be here tomorrow with the rest of the army,
and we are to move down to Isle-aux-Noix, at the end of the lake, and
I suppose we shall land at once and march against St. John's. There
are only a couple of hundred Britishers there, and we shall make
short work of them."
"The sooner the better, I say," another speaker remarked. "I am ready
enough to fight, but I hate all this waiting about. I want to get
back to my farm again."
"You are in a hurry, you are," the other said. "You don't suppose we
are going to take Canada in a week's time, do you. Even if the
Canadians join us, and by what I hear that aint so sartin after all,
we shall have to march down to Quebec, and that's no child's play. I
know the country there. It is now September 4. Another month and the
winter will be upon us, and a Canadian winter is no joke, I can tell
"The more reason for not wasting any more time," the other one
grumbled. "If Montgomery had his way we should go at them quickly
enough, but Schuyler is always delaying. He has kept us waiting now
since the 17th of last month. We might have been halfway to Quebec by
"Yes," the other said, "if the Britishers had run away as we came;
but we have got St. John's and Fort Chamblee to deal with, and they
may hold out some time. However, the sooner we begin the job the
sooner it will be over, and I am heartily glad that we move tomorrow."
Peter had now obtained the information he required, and rising to
his feet again, with a grumbling remark as to the hardness of the
ground, he sauntered away toward the spot where he had left the
Indian. Just as he did so a tall figure came out from an arbor close
by. A fire was burning just in front, and Peter saw that he was a
tall and handsome man of about forty years of age. He guessed at once
that he was in the presence of the colonial leader.
"You are, like myself," the newcomer said, "unable to sleep, I
"Yes, general," Peter answered. "I found I could not get off, and so
I thought I'd stretch my legs in the wood a bit. They're lying so
tarnal thick down there by the fires, one can't move without treading
"Which regiment do you belong to?"
"The Connecticut," Peter replied, for he knew by report that a
regiment from this province formed part of the expedition.
"As good men as any I have," the general said cordially. "Their only
fault is that they are in too great a hurry to attack the enemy."
"I agree with the rest, general," Peter said. "It's dull work wasting
our time here when we're wanted at home. I enlisted for six months,
and the sooner the time's up the better, say I."
"You have heard nothing moving?" the general asked. "One of the
Chippewas told me that he heard a canoe out in the lake. Ah! here he
At that moment five or six men, headed by an Indian, issued from the
wood close by. It was too late for Peter to try to withdraw, but he
stepped aside a pace or two as the party approached.
"Well, have you found anything?" the general asked.
"No find," the Chippewa said shortly.
"I don't believe as there ever was a canoe there," the man who
followed him said. "It was jest a fancy of the Injun's."
"No fancy," the Indian asserted angrily. "Canoe there. No find."
"It might have been one of our own canoes," Montgomery said in a
conciliatory tone. "The Indians are seldom mistaken. Still, if no one
has landed it matters not either way."
"Only as we have had a tramp for nothing," the colonist said.
"However, there's time for a sleep yet. Hullo!" he exclaimed as his
eye fell on Peter Lambton. "What, Peter! Why, how did you get here?
Why, I thought as how----General," he exclaimed, sharply turning to
Montgomery, "this man lives close to me at Concord. He's a royalist,
he is, and went into Boston and joined the corps they got up there!"
"Seize him!" Montgomery shouted, but it was too late.
As the man had turned to speak to the general, Peter darted into the
wood. The Chippewa, without waiting to hear the statement of the
colonist, at once divined the state of things, and uttering his
war-whoop dashed after the fugitive. Two or three of the colonists
instantly followed, and a moment later three or four Indians who had
been lying on the ground leaped up and darted like phantoms into the
The general no sooner grasped the facts than he shouted an order for
pursuit, and a number of the men most accustomed to frontier work at
once followed the first party of pursuers. Others would have done the
same, but Montgomery shouted that no more should go, as they would
only be in the others' way, and there could not be more than two or
three spies on the island.
After the Chippewa's first war-cry there was silence for the space of
a minute in the forest. Then came a wild scream, mingled with another
Indian yell; a moment later the leading pursuers came upon the body
of the Chippewa. His skull had been cleft with a tomahawk and the
scalp was gone.
As they were clustered round the body two or three of the Indians ran
up. They raised the Indian wail as they saw their comrade and with
the rest took up the pursuit.
Peter and the Seneca were now far among the trees, and as their
pursuers had nothing to guide them, they reached the spot where they
had left the canoe unmolested.
On the signal being given, Harold instantly paddled to the shore. Not
a word was spoken until the canoe was well out in the lake.
Occasional shots were heard on shore as the pursuers fired at objects
which they thought were men. Presently a loud Indian cry rose from
"They see us," Peter said. "We're out of shot and can take it easy."
The redskin said a few words. "You're right, chief. The chief says,"
he explained to Harold, "that as there are redskins on the island
they have probably some canoes. The moon's jest getting up beyond
that hill, and it'll be light enough to see us half across the lake.
It would not matter if the water was free; but what with Injuns
prowling along the shores and out on the lake, we shall have to use
our wits to save our har. Look!" he exclaimed two or three minutes
later as two columns of bright flame at a short distance from them
shot up at the end of the island. "They're Injun signals. As far as
they can be seen Injuns will know that there are enemies on the lake.
Now, paddle your hardest, Harold, and do you, chief, keep your eyes
and your ears open for sights and sounds."
Under the steady strokes of the three paddles the bark canoe sped
rapidly over the water. When the moon was fairly above the edge of
the hill they halted for a moment and looked back. The two columns of
fire still blazed brightly on the island, which was now three miles
astern, and two dark spots could be seen on the water about halfway
between them and it.
"You can paddle, my lads," Peter Lambton said to the distant foes,
"but you'll never ketch us. I wouldn't heed you if it weren't for the
other varmint ahead."
He stood up in the canoe and looked anxiously over the lake.
"It's all clear as far as I can see at present," he said.
"Can't we land, Peter, and make our way back on foot?"
"Bless you," Peter said, "there aint a native along the shore there
but has got his eye on this canoe. We might as well take her straight
back to the island as try to land. Better; for we should get a few
hours before they tried and shot us there, while the Injuns would not
give us a minute. No, we must just keep to the water; and now paddle
on again, but take it quietly. It's no odds to let them varmints
behind gain on us a little. You needn't think about them. When the
danger comes we shall want every ounce of our strength."
For half an hour they paddled steadily on. The pursuing canoes were
now less than a mile behind them.
"I'd give a good deal," muttered the scout, "for a few black clouds
over the moon; we'd make for shore then and risk it. It will be
getting daylight before long. Ah!" he exclaimed, pausing suddenly as
the chief stopped rowing, "a canoe on each side is rowing out to cut
Harold was now paddling forward, while the scout had the place at the
stern. The former was surprised to feel the canoe shooting off from
its former course at right angles toward the shore; then, curving
still more round, they began to paddle back along the lake. The
canoes which had been pursuing them were nearly abreast of each
other. They had embarked from opposite sides of the island, but they
had been gradually drawing together, although still some distance
apart, when Peter turned his canoe. Seeing his maneuver, both turned
to head him off, but by so doing they occupied an entirely different
position in relation to each other, one canoe being nearly half a
mile nearer to them than the other.
"Take it easy," Peter said. "These varmints will cut us off and we've
got to fight, but we can cripple the one nearest to us before the
other comes up."
The boats were now darting over the water in a line which promised to
bring the leading canoe almost in collision with that of Peter. When
within two hundred yards of each other Peter ceased rowing.
"Now," he said, "Harold, see if you can pick one of them fellows off.
It's no easy matter, traveling at the pace they are. You fire first."
Harold took a steady aim and fired. A yell of derision told that he
had missed. The Indians stopped paddling. There was a flash and a
ball struck the canoe. At the same moment Peter fired.
"There's one down!" he exclaimed.
The Seneca fired, but without result; and the three unwounded Indians
in the canoe--for it had contained four men--replied with a volley.
Harold felt a burning sensation, as if a hot iron passed across his
"Hit, boy?" Peter asked anxiously as he gave a short exclamation.
"Nothing to speak of," Harold replied.
"The varmints are lying by, waiting for' the other canoe. Paddle
straight at 'em."
The Indians at once turned the boat and paddled to meet their
companions, who were fast approaching.
"Now," Peter exclaimed, "we've got 'em in a line--a steady aim this
The three rifles spoke out; one of the Indians fell into the boat and
the paddle of another was struck from his grasp.
"Now," the scout shouted, "paddle away! We've got 'em all fairly
Day broke just as they were again abreast of the island. One canoe
was following closely, two others were a mile and a half behind,
while the one with which they had been engaged had made for the
"What do you mean to do?" Harold asked Peter.
"I mean to run as close as I can round the end of the island, and
then make for the place where they must have embarked on the
mainland. They may have seen the signal fires there, but will not
know what has been going on. So now row your best. We must leave the
others as far behind as possible."
For the first time since they started the three paddlers exerted
themselves to the utmost. They had little fear that there were any
more canoes on the island, for, had there been, they would have
joined in the chase. It was only necessary to keep so far from the
end of the island as would take them out of reach of the fire.
Several shots were discharged as they passed, but these fell short as
the canoe shot along at its highest rate of speed, every stroke
taking it further from its nearest pursuer.
At the end of an hour's paddling this canoe was a mile and a half
behind. Its rowers had apparently somewhat abated their speed in
order to allow the other two boats to draw up to them, for the result
of the encounter between their comrades and the fugitives had not
been of a nature to encourage them to undertake a single-handed
contest with them.
IN THE FOREST.
"See, Peter!" Harold exclaimed; "there is a whole fleet of boats
"I sees 'em," Peter said, "and have seed 'em for the last quarter of
an hour. It's Schuyler, with the rest of what they calls their army.
Steer a little out of the course; we must pass close by 'em. They
won't suspect nothing wrong and will suppose we are merely carrying a
In half an hour they were abreast of the flotilla, consisting of
flatboats laden with troops. With them were two or three Indian
canoes. Peter steered so as to pass at a distance of a hundred and
fifty yards. They rowed less strongly now, but still vigorously.
There was a shout from the boat.
"All well on the island?"
"All well," Peter shouted back, waving his hand, and without further
word the canoe passed on. "There! do you hear that?" Peter exclaimed.
"They're firing shots from the canoes to call their attention. The
chances are they won't hear them, for the rattle of their oars and
the talking and the row they're making are enough to drown the sound
of a cannon. Now put it on again as hard as you can. Another hour
will take us to the landing place."
They could see, when the flotilla came up to the pursuing boats, that
the canoes which accompanied it turned their heads and joined in the
pursuit, but they were now near three miles ahead and there was no
chance whatever of their being overtaken. They slackened their speed
slightly as they approached the land, and rowed up to the landing
place without any signs of extraordinary haste. A few men were
"What's the news from the island?" one asked as they landed.
"All well there," Peter said.
"Did you see anything of Schuyler?"
"Yes, we met him about halfway across."
"What have you come for?"
"General Montgomery says that no spare flints have been sent over for
"I'll swear that some went," one of the men exclaimed, "for I packed
a sack of them myself in one of the boats."
"I s'pose they have been mislaid," Peter said. "Perhaps some of the
stores have got heaped over 'em. Ef you are quite sartin, we have had
our journey for nothing."
"As sartin as life," the man replied. "I'll swear to the sackful of
flints; and tarnation heavy they was, too."
"Well, then, I need not trouble about it further," Peter said. "We'll
take a rest and paddle back in an hour or two. Was there any marks on
the sack, so as I may tell the general how to look for it?"
"Marks!" the man repeated. "Why, it had 'Flints' written on it in big
black letters six inches long. It must turn up, anyhow. They'll find
it when they come to shift the stores."
Then, accompanied by his two companions, Peter strolled quietly
through the little village. Stopping at a small store, he purchased
some flour and tea; then he followed the road inland and was soon out
of sight of the village; he stopped for a moment and then shook his
"It's no use trying to hide our trail here," he said. "The road's an
inch thick in dust, and do what we will they'll be able to see where
we turn off. It's our legs as we have got to trust to for a bit.
We've got a good half hour's start of the canoes; they were a long
three miles behind when we struck the shore."
Leaving the road, he led the way with a long, swinging stride across
the cultivated land. Twenty minutes' walk took them into the forest,
which extended from the shore of the lake many miles inland.
"Take off your boots, Harold," he said as he entered the wood. "Them
heels will leave marks that a redskin could pick up at a run. Now
tread, as near as you can, in the exact spot where the Seneca has
trodden before you. He'll follow in my track, and you may be sure
that I'll choose the hardest bits of ground I can come across. There,
the varmints are on shore!"
As he spoke an angry yell rose from the distant village. At a long,
steady pace, which taxed to the utmost Harold's powers as a walker,
they kept their way through the woods, not pursuing a straight
course, but turning, winding, and zigzagging every few minutes.
Harold could not but feel impatient at what seemed to him such a loss
of time, especially when a yell from the edge of the wood told that
the Indians had traced them thus far--showed, too, that they were far
nearer than before. But, as Peter, afterward explained to him, all
this turning and winding made it necessary for the Indians to follow
every step, as they would an animal, to guess the direction they had
taken. The weather had been dry and the ground was hard; therefore
the most experienced trapper would be obliged to proceed very slowly
on the trail and would frequently be for a time at fault; whereas,
had they continued in a straight line, the Indians could have
followed at a run, contenting themselves with seeing the trail here
and there. They came across two or three little streams running down
toward the lake. These they followed, in some cases up, in others
down, for a considerable distance, leaving the bed where the bushes
grew thick and hid the marks of their feet as they stepped out from
the water. Harold would gladly have gone at a run, but Peter never
quickened his pace. He knew that the Indians could not pick up the
trail at a rate faster than that at which they were going, and that
great delay would be caused at each of the little streams, as it
would be uncertain whether they had passed up or down.
As the time passed the Indian yells, which had, when they first
entered the wood, sounded so alarmingly near, died away, and a
perfect stillness reigned in the forest. It was late in the afternoon
before Peter halted.
"We can rest now," he said. "It'll be hours before the critters can
be here. Now let us have some tea."
He began to look for some dried sticks. Harold offered to assist.
"You sit down," the scout said. "A nice sort of fire we should get
with sticks of your picking up! Why, we should have a smoke that
would bring all the Injuns in the woods on to us. No, the sticks as
the Seneca and me'll pick up won't give as much smoke as you can put
in a teacup; but I wouldn't risk even that if we was nigh the lake,
for it might be seen by any redskins out in a canoe. But we are miles
back from the lake, and there aint no other open space where they
could get a view over the tree-tops."
Harold watched the Indian and the scout collecting dry leaves and
sticks, and took particular notice, for future use, of the kinds
which they selected. A light was struck with a flint and steel, and
soon a bright blaze sprang up, without, so far as Harold could see,
the slightest smoke being given off. Then the hunter produced some
food from his wallet, and a tin pot. He had at the last spring they
passed filled a skin which hung on his shoulder with water, and this
was soon boiling over the fire. A handful of tea was thrown in and
the pot removed. Some flour, mixed with water, was placed on a small
iron plate, which was put on the red-hot ashes. A few cakes were
baked, and with these, the cold venison, and the tea an ample meal
After nearly an hour's halt they again proceeded on their way. A
consultation had taken place between Peter and the Seneca as to the
best course to be pursued. They could, without much difficulty or
risk, have continued the way through the woods beyond the lake, but
it was important that they should reach the other side by the evening
of the following day, to give warning of the intended attack by the
Americans. There were, they knew, other redskins in the woods besides
those on their trail, and the nearer they approached the shore the
greater the danger. They had determined that they would at all
hazards endeavor to obtain another canoe and cross the lake. Until
nightfall they continued their course, and then, knowing that their
trail could no longer be followed, they made down to the lake. They
were many miles distant from it, and Harold was completely worn out
when at last he saw a gleam of water through the trees. He was not
yet to rest. Entering the lake, they began wading through it at a few
feet from the edge.
After an hour's walking thus they entered the bushes, which thickly
covered the shore, and made their way through these until they came
to a spot sufficiently open for them to lie down; and Harold,
wrapping himself in the blanket which he carried over his shoulder,
was sound asleep in less than a minute. When he woke the sun was
"Get up, youngster! We're in luck," the scout said. "Here's a canoe
with two of the varmints making toward the shore. By the way they're
going they'll land not far off."
The scout led the way, crawling on his hands and knees, to the
water's edge, to where the Seneca was sitting watching the canoe
through a cover of green leaves. The course that the boat was taking
would lead it to a point some three hundred yards from where they
"We shall have no difficulty in managing them," Harold said, and
grasped his rifle eagerly.
"Not too fast," Peter said. "The chances are that the varmints have
friends on shore. Like enough they have been out fishing."
The shore formed a slight sweep at this point, and the bushes in
which they were hidden occupied the point at one extremity. In the
center of the little bay there was a spot clear from bushes; to this
the canoe was directed. As it approached the shore two other Indians
appeared at the water's edge. One of them asked a question, and in
reply a paddler held up a large bunch of fish.
"Just as I thought. Like enough there are a dozen of them there,"
On reaching the shore the men sprang out, taking their fish with
them. The canoe was fastened by its head-rope to the bushes, and the
Indians moved a short distance inland.
"There is their smoke," Peter said, indicating a point some thirty
feet from the lake, but so slight was it that, even when it was
pointed out to him, Harold could hardly make out the light mist
rising from among the bushes. Presently he looked round for the
Seneca, but the Indian had disappeared.
"He's gone scouting," Peter said in answer to Harold's question. "Ef
there are only four of them it would be an easy job, but I expect
there's more of the red varmints there."
In ten minutes the Seneca returned as noiselessly as he had gone. He
opened his hand and all the fingers twice; the third time he showed
only three fingers.
"Thirteen," Peter said. "Too many of them even for a sudden
The Indian said a few words to Peter; the latter nodded, and Deer
Tail again quietly stole away.
"He's going to steal the boat," Peter said. "It's a risky job, for
where it lies it can be seen by 'em as they sit. Now, you and me must
be ready with our shooting irons to cover him, if need be. Ef he's
found out before he gets the boat he'll take to the woods and lead
them away from us; but ef he's fairly in the boat, then we must do
our best for him. Ef the wust comes to the wust, I reckon we can hold
these bushes agin 'em for some time; but in the end I don't disguise
from ye, youngster, they'll beat us."
Harold now sat intently watching the canoe. It seemed an age to him
before he saw a hand emerge from the bushes and take hold of the
head-rope. The motion given to the canoe was so slight as to be
almost imperceptible; it seemed as if it was only drifting gently
before the slight breeze which was creeping over the surface of the
lake. Half its length had disappeared from the open space, when an
Indian appeared by the edge of the water. He looked at the canoe,
looked over the lake, and withdrew again. The hand had disappeared in
the bushes on his approach. The movement of the canoe, slight as it
was, had caught his eye, but, satisfied that it was caused only by
the wind, he had returned to his fire again. The hand appeared again
through the bushes, and the canoe was drawn along until hidden from
the sight of those sitting by the fire. Again the watchful Indian
appeared, but the boat was lying quietly by the bushes at the full
length of its head-rope. He stooped down to see that this was
securely fastened and again retired. Harold held his breath,
expecting that every moment the presence of the Seneca would be
discovered. Scarcely had the Indian disappeared than the Seneca
crawled out from the bushes. With a sweep of his knife he cut the
rope of the canoe and noiselessly entered it, and as he did so gave a
shove with his foot, which sent it dancing along the shore toward the
spot where Harold and his companion were hidden. Then he seized the
paddle, and in half a dozen strokes brought it within reach of them.
Harold and Peter stepped into it; as they did so there was a sudden
shout. The Indian had again strolled down to look at the canoe, whose
movements, slight as they had been, had appeared suspicious to him.
He now, to his astonishment, saw it at the point with two white men
and an Indian on board. He had left his gun behind him and, uttering
his war-cry, bounded back for it.
"Round the p'int, quick!" Peter exclaimed. "They'll riddle us in the
Two strokes took the canoe round the projecting point of bushes, and
she then darted along the shore, driven by the greatest efforts of
which the three paddlers were capable. Had the shore been open the
Indians would have gained upon them, but they were unable to force
their way through the thick bushes at anything like the rate at which
the canoe was flying over the water. The first start was upward of a
hundred yards, and this was increased by fifty before the Indians,
arriving at the point, opened fire. The distance was beyond anything
like an accurate range with Indian guns. Several bullets struck the
water round the canoe.
"Now steer out," Peter said as the firing suddenly ceased. "They're
making a _detour_ among the bushes, and 'll come down ahead of us if
we keep near the shore."
Two or three more shots were fired, but without effect, and the canoe
soon left the shore far behind.
"Now," Peter said, "I think we're safe. It's not likely they've
another canoe anywhere near on this side, as most of 'em would have
gone with the expedition. Ef the firing has been heard it will not
attract much attention, being on this side, and I see nothing in the
way of a boat out in the lake. Still, these redskins' eyes can see
'most any distance. Now, chief," he went on to the Indian in his
native language, "the young un and I'll lie down at the bottom of the
boat; do you paddle quietly and easily, as ef you were fishing. The
canoe with a single Indian in it will excite no suspicion, and even
ef you see other canoes, you had better keep on in that way unless
you see that any of 'em are intending to overhaul you."
The chief nodded assent. Peter and Harold stretched themselves at
full length in the canoe, and the Indian paddled quietly and steadily
on. For an hour not a word was spoken in the canoe. Harold several
times dozed off to sleep. At last the Seneca spoke:
"Many boats out on water--American army."
Harold was about to raise his head to look out when Peter exclaimed:
"Lie close, Harold! Ef a head were shown now it would be wuss than ef
we had sat up all the time. We know there are Injun canoes with the
flats, and they may be watching us now. We may be a long way off, but
there's no saying how far a redskin's eyes can carry. Can you see
where they are going to, chief?" he asked the Seneca. "Are they
heading for Isle-aux-Noix, as we heard 'em say they were going to
The Seneca nodded.
"Going to island."
"Then," Peter said, "the sooner we're across the lake the better."
The Seneca again spoke, and after a consultation with Peter laid in
"What is he doing now?" Harold asked.
"Our coarse lies pretty near the same way as theirs," Peter said.
"The island is but a short distance from the shore, near the mouth of
the Sorrel, so where we're going would take us right across their
line. We fooled them yesterday, but are not likely to do it again
to-day. So the chief has stopped paddling and makes as if he were
fishing. I doubt whether it will succeed, for he would hardly be
fishing so far out. But we'll soon see. It's better so than to turn
and paddle in any other direction, as that would be sure to excite
The fleet of boats had already passed the spot where the canoe would
have crossed had she been going directly across the lake when she was
first seen, and was therefore now ahead of it. The great flotilla
kept on as if the canoe with its single occupant in its rear had not
excited suspicion. The Seneca, however, knew that sharp eyes must be
upon him. The manner in which the canoe had baffled pursuit the day
before must have inflicted a severe blow upon the pride of the
Indians, and although, having driven them off the lake, they could
have no reason for suspecting that their foes could have obtained a
fresh canoe, the Seneca knew that their vigilance would not sleep for
a moment. Therefore, although bending over the side of the canoe as
if watching his lines, his eyes were never off the boats.
"There are canoes making for the shore both ways," he said at last.
"It is time that my white brother should take the paddle."
Peter and Harold at once sat up in the boat and looked round the
lake, which at this point was about ten miles wide. The canoe was
four miles from the eastern side; the flotilla was a mile further up
the lake and the same distance nearer to the western shore. Four or
five canoes were detaching themselves from the flotilla, apparently
rowing direct for the shore. It would have been easy for the canoe to
have regained the eastern side long before she could have been cut
off, but here they might find the Chippewas. The Indians whose boat
they had taken would assuredly follow along the shores of the lake in
hopes that something might occur to drive them back. Besides, had
they landed there, they would be unable to carry in time the news of
the approaching attack upon St. John's. For the same reason it was
important to land up the lake near the Canadian end.
Peter rapidly took in the situation. He saw that it was possible, and
only just possible, to reach the shore at a point opposite to that at
which they now were before the hostile canoes could cut them off from
it. If they headed them there they would be obliged to run down to
the other end of the lake before effecting a landing, while he could
not calculate on being able to beat all the canoes, most of which
carried four paddlers, who would strain every nerve to retrieve their
failure of the previous day.
Not a word was spoken as the boat darted through the water. Harold,
unaccustomed to judge distances, could form no idea whether the
distant canoes would or would not intercept them. At present both
seemed to him to be running toward the shore on nearly parallel
courses, and the shorter distance that the Indians would have to row
seemed to place them far ahead. The courses, however, were not
parallel, as the Indians were gradually turning their canoes to
intercept the course of that which they were pursuing. As the minutes
went by and the boats converged more and more toward the same point,
Harold saw how close the race would be. After twenty minutes' hard
paddling the boats were within a quarter of a mile of each other, and
the courses which they were respectively taking seemed likely to
bring them together at about a quarter of a mile from the shore.
There were three Indian canoes, and these kept well together. So
close did the race appear that Harold expected every moment to see
Peter sweep the head of the canoe round and make a stern chase of it
by running down the lake. This Peter had no intention of doing. The
canoes, he saw, traveled as fast as his own and could each spare a
man to fire occasionally, while he and his companions would be
obliged to continue paddling. Better accustomed to judge distances
than Harold, he was sure, at the speed at which they were going, he
would be able to pass somewhat ahead of his foes.
"Row all you know, Harold," he said. "Now, chief, send her along."
Harold had been rowing to the utmost of his strength, but he felt by
the way the canoe quivered at every stroke that his companions were
only now putting out their extreme strength. The boat seemed to fly
through the water, and he began to think for the first time that the
canoe would pass ahead of their pursuers. The latter were clearly
also conscious of the fact, for they now turned their boats' heads
more toward the shore, so that the spot where the lines would meet
would be close to the shore itself. The canoes were now within two
hundred yards of each other. The Indians were nearer to the shore,
but the oblique line that they were following would give them about
an equal distance to row to the point for which both were making.
Harold could not see that there was the slightest difference in the
rate at which they were traveling. It seemed to him that the four
canoes would all arrive precisely at the same moment at the land,
which was now some five or six hundred yards distant.
Another two minutes' paddling, and when the canoes were but seventy
or eighty yards apart, Peter, with a sweep with his paddle, turned
the boat's head nearly half round and made obliquely for the shore,
so throwing his pursuers almost astern of him. The shore was but
three hundred yards distant; they were but fifty ahead of their
pursuers. The latter gave a loud yell at seeing the change in the
position in the chase. They had, of course, foreseen the possibility
of such a movement, but had been powerless to prevent it. But they
were prepared, for on the instant one man in each canoe dropped his
paddle and, standing up, fired. It is a difficult thing to take aim
when standing in a canoe dancing under the vigorous strokes of three
paddlers. It was the more difficult since the canoes were at the
moment sweeping round to follow the movement of the chase. The three
balls whistled closely round the canoe, but no one was hit.
The loss of three paddlers for even so short a time checked the pace
of the canoes. The Indians saw that they could not hope to overtake
their foes, whose canoe was now but a few lengths from shore. They
dropped their paddles, and each man seized his rifle. Another moment,
and the nine pieces would have poured their fire into the canoe about
fifty yards ahead of them, when from the bushes on the shore three
puffs of smoke shot out, and three of the Indians fell, one of them
upsetting his boat in his fall. A yell of surprise and dismay broke
from them, the guns were thrown down, the paddles grasped again, and
the heads of the canoes turned from the shore. The Indians in the
overturned boat did not wait to right it, but scrambled into the
other canoes, and both were soon paddling at the top of their speed
from the shore, not without further damage, for the guns in the
bushes again spoke out, and Peter and the Seneca added their fire the
instant they leaped from the boat to shore, and another of the
Indians was seen to fall. Harold was too breathless when he reached
the bank to be able to fire. He raised his gun, but his hands
trembled with the exertion that he had undergone, and the beating of
his heart and his short, panting breath rendered it impossible for
him to take a steady aim. A minute later Jake burst his way through
"Ah, Massa Harold!" he exclaimed. "Bress de Lord dat we was here!
What a fright you hab giben me, to be sure! We hab been watching you
for a long time. Ephraim and de redskin dey say dey saw little spot
far out on lake, behind all dose boats; den dey say other boats set
off in chase. For a long time Jake see nothing about dat, but at last
he see dem. Den we hurry along de shore, so as to get near de place
to where de boats row; ebery moment me tink dat dey catch you up.
Ephraim say no, bery close thing, but he tink you come along first,
but dat we must shoot when dey come close. We stand watch for some
time, den Ephraim say dat you no able to get to dat point. You hab to
turn along de shore, so we change our place and run along, and sure
'nough de boat's head turns, and you come along in front of us. Den
we all shoot, and the redskins dey tumble over."
"Well, Jake, it is fortunate indeed that you were on the spot, for
they could scarcely have missed all of us. Besides, even if we had
got to shore safely, they would have followed us, and the odds
against us would have been heavy."
"That ar war a close shave, Peter," Ephraim said; "an all-fired close
shave I call it."
"It war, Ephraim, and no mistake."
"Why didn't yer head down along the lake?"
"Because I got news that the colonists air going to attack St. John's
to-morrow, and I want to get to the fort in time to put 'em on their
guard. Besides, both sides of the lake are sure to be full of hostile
Injuns. Those canoes paddled as fast as we did, and in the long run
might have worn us out."
"Did you have a fight on the lake two nights ago? Me and the redskin
thought we heard firing."
"We had a skirmish with 'em," Peter said; "a pretty sharp shave it
war, too, but we managed to slip away from them. Altogether we've had
some mighty close work, I can tell yer, and I thought more than once
as we were going to be wiped out."
While they were speaking the men had already started at a steady pace
through the woods, away from the lake, having first drawn up the
canoe and carefully concealed it.
It was late at night when they reached Fort St. John. A message was
at once dispatched to a party of the Senecas who were at their
village, about sixteen miles away. They arrived in the morning and,
together with a portion of the garrison, moved out and took their
place in the wooded and marshy ground between the fort and the river.
Scouts were sent along the Sorrel, and these returned about one
o'clock, saying that a large number of boats were coming down the
lake from Isle-aux-Noix. It had been determined to allow the
colonists to land without resistance, as the commander of the fort
felt no doubt of his ability, with the assistance of his Indian
allies, to repulse their attack. Some twelve hundred men were landed,
and these at once began to advance toward the fort, lead by their two
generals, Schuyler and Montgomery. Scarcely had they entered the
swamp, when from every bush a fire was opened upon them. The invaders
were staggered, but pushed forward, in a weak and undecided way, as
far as a creek which intercepted their path. In vain General
Montgomery endeavored to encourage them to advance. They wavered and
soon began to fall back, and in an hour from the time of their
landing they were again gathered on the bank of the river. Here they
threw up a breastwork, and, as his numbers were greatly inferior, the
British officer in command thought it unadvisable to attack them.
After nightfall the colonists took to their boats and returned to
Isle-aux-Noix, their loss in this their first attempt at the invasion
of Canada being nine men.
A day or two later the Indians again attempted to induce General
Carleton to permit them to cross the frontier and carry the war into
the American settlements, and upon the general's renewed refusal they
left the camp in anger and remained from that time altogether aloof
from the contest.
St. John's was now left with only its own small garrison. Captain
Wilson was ordered to fall back with his company to Montreal, it
being considered that the garrison of St. John's was sufficient to
defend that place for a considerable time. As soon as the Indians had
marched away, having sent word to the colonists that they should take
no further part in the fight, Montgomery--who was now in command,
Schuyler having fallen sick--landed the whole of the force and
invested the fort. An American officer, Ethan Allen, had been sent
with a party to try to raise the colonists in rebellion in the
neighborhood of Chamblee. He had with him 30 Americans and was joined
by 80 Canadians. Dazzled by the success which had attended the
surprise of Ticonderoga, he thought to repeat the stroke by the
conquest of Montreal. He crossed the river in the night about three
miles below the city. Peter and some other scouts, who had been
watching his movements, crossed higher up and brought the news, and
36 men of the Twenty-sixth Regiment, Captain Wilson's company, and
200 or 300 loyal Canadians, the whole under the command of Major
Campbell, attacked Ethan Allen. He was speedily routed and, with 38
of his men, taken prisoner. The siege of St. John's made but little
progress. The, place was well provisioned, and the Americans encamped
in the low, swampy ground around it suffered much from ill health.
The men were mutinous and insolent, the officers incapable and
disobedient. So far the invasion of Canada, of which such great
things had been hoped by the Americans, appeared likely to turn out a
General Carleton, seeing that Montgomery's whole force was retained
idle before St. John's, began to hope that the winter would come to
his assistance before the invaders had made any serious progress.
Unfortunately he had not reckoned on the utter incapacity of the officer
in command of Fort Chamblee. Major Stopford of the Seventh Regiment had
160 men and a few artillerymen, and the fort was strong and well
provided with provisions. American spies had found the inhabitants
around the place favorable to the Americans. Major Brown was sent down
by Montgomery with a small detachment, and, being joined by the
inhabitants, sat down before the fort. They had only two six-pounders,
and could have effected nothing had the fort been commanded by a man of
bravery and resources. Such was not the character of its commander, who,
after a siege of only a day and a half, surrendered the place with all
its stores, which were of inestimable value to the invaders, who were
upon the edge of giving up the siege of the fort; their ammunition being
entirely exhausted; but the six tons of gunpowder, the seventeen cannon,
mortars, and muskets which fell into their hands enabled them to carry
on the siege of St. John's with renewed vigor. There was no excuse
whatever for the conduct of Major Stopford in allowing these stores to
fall into the hands of the Americans; as, even had he not possessed the
courage to defend the fort, he might, before surrendering, have thrown
the whole of the ammunition into the river, upon which there was a safe
sally-port, where he could have carried on the operation entirely
unmolested by the enemy. The colors of the Seventh Regiment were
captured and sent to Congress as the first trophy of the war.
The siege of St. John's was now pushed on by Montgomery with vigor.
Colonel Maclean, with 800 Indians and Canadians, attempted to relieve
it, crossing the St. Lawrence in small boats. On nearing the other bank,
they were received by so heavy a fire by the Americans posted there that
they were obliged to retire without effecting a landing. Provisions and
ammunition were now running short in St. John's, there was no hope
whatever of relief from the outside, and the officer commanding was
therefore obliged to surrender on November 14, after a gallant defense.
As there were only some fifty or sixty regulars in Montreal, General
Carleton was unable to defend that town, and, upon the news of the fall
of St. John's, he at once retired to Quebec, and Montreal was occupied
by the Americans. In the meantime another expedition had been dispatched
by the Americans under Arnold. This officer, with 1500 men, had started
for Quebec from a point 130 miles north of Boston. Suffering enormous
fatigue and hardship, the force made its way up the river; past rapids,
cataracts, and through swamps they dragged and carried their boats and
stores. They followed the bed of the river up to its source, and then,
crossing the watershed, descended the Chaudiere and Duloup rivers on to
the St. Lawrence, within a few miles of Quebec.
This was a wonderful march--one scarcely equaled in the annals of
military history. Crossing the St. Lawrence in canoes, Arnold encamped
with his little force upon the heights of Abraham. Such a daring
attempt could not have been undertaken had not the Americans been aware
of the extreme weakness of the garrison at Quebec, which consisted only
of 50 men of the Seventh Regiment, 240 of the Canadian militia, a
battalion of seamen from the ships-of-war, under the command of Captain
Hamilton of the _Lizard_, 250 strong, and the colonial volunteers,
under Colonel Maclean.
The fortifications were in a ruinous condition. It was fortunate that
Colonel Maclean, who had come from the Sorrel, upon the surrender of St.
John's, by forced marches, arrived on the very day on which Arnold
appeared before the city. Directly he arrived Arnold attacked the city
at the gate of St. Louis, but was sharply repulsed. He then desisted
from active operations and awaited the arrival of Montgomery, who was
marching down from Montreal. The flotilla in which Carleton was
descending the river was attacked by the Americans, who came down the
Sorrel, and was captured, with all the troops and military stores which
it was bringing down. General Carleton himself escaped in a small boat
under cover of night, and reached Quebec.
Captain Wilson's company had been attached to the command of Colonel
Maclean, and with it arrived in Quebec in safety.
Upon the arrival of Montgomery with his army the city was summoned to
surrender. A strong party in the town were favorable to the invaders,
but General Carleton treated the summons with contempt, and turned
all the inhabitants who refused to join in the defense of the city
outside the town.
The winter had now set in in earnest, and the difficulties of the
besiegers were great. Arnold's force had been much weakened by the
hardships that they had undergone, Montgomery's by desertions; the
batteries which they erected were overpowered by the fire of the
defenders, and the siege made no progress whatever. The men became
more and more disaffected and mutinous. Many of them had nearly served
the time for which they had enlisted, and Montgomery feared that they
would leave him when their engagement came to an end. He in vain
tempted the besieged to make a sally. Carleton was so certain that
success would come by waiting that he refused to allow himself to
hazard it by a sortie.
The weather was fighting for him, and the besiegers had before them only
the alternatives of taking the place by storm or abandoning the siege
altogether. They resolved upon a storm. It was to take place at daybreak
on December 31. Montgomery determined to make four attacks--two false
and two real ones. Colonel James Livingstone, with 200 Canadians, was to
appear before St. John's gate, and a party under Colonel Brown were to
feign a movement against the upper town, and from high ground there were
to send up rockets as the signal for the real attacks to commence--that
led by Montgomery from the south and that under Arnold from the
northwest--both against the lower town.
The false attacks were made too soon, the rockets being fired half an
hour before the main columns reached their place of attack. The British
were not deceived; but, judging these attacks to be feints, left but a
small party to oppose them and marched the bulk of their forces down
toward the lower town. Their assistance, however, came too late, for,
before they arrived, the fate of the attack was already decided. The
Americans advanced under circumstances of great difficulty. A furious
wind, with cutting hail, blew in their faces; the ground was slippery
and covered with snow.
Half an hour before the English supports arrived on the spot Montgomery,
with his leading company, reached the first barricade, which was
undefended; passing through this, they pressed on toward the next. The
road leading to it was only wide enough for five or six persons abreast.
On one side was the river, on the other a steep cliff; in front was a
log hut with loop-holes for musketry, and a battery of two
three-pounders. It was held by a party of 30 Canadians and 8 militiamen
under John Coffin, with 9 sailors under Bairnsfeather, the captain of
the transport, to work the guns. Montgomery, with 60 men, pushed on at a
run to carry the battery; but, when within fifty yards Bairnsfeather
discharged his pieces, which were loaded with grape-shot, with deadly
aim. Montgomery, his aid-de-camp Macpherson, Lieutenant Cheeseman, and
10 others fell dead at the first discharge, and with them the soul of
the expedition fled. The remaining officers endeavored to get the men to
advance, but none would do so, and they fell back without losing another
man. So completely cowed were they that they would not even carry off
the bodies of their general and his companions. These were brought into
Quebec next day and buried with the honors of war by the garrison.
The force under Arnold was far stronger than that under Montgomery. The
Canadian guard appointed to defend the first barrier fled at the
approach, but the small body of sailors fought bravely and were all
killed or wounded. Arnold was shot through the leg and disabled. Morgan,
who commanded the advanced companies, led his men on and carried the
second barrier after an obstinate resistance. They were attacking the
third when Maclean with his men from the upper town arrived. The British
then took the offensive, and drove the enemy back, and a party, going
round, fell upon their rear. Fifty were killed in Arnold's column, 400
taken prisoners, and the rest retreated in extreme disorder.
Thus ended the assault upon Quebec--an assault which was all but
hopeless from the first, but in which Americans showed but little valor
and determination. In fact, throughout the war, it may be said that the
Americans, when fighting on the defensive behind trees and
intrenchments, fought stubbornly; but that they were feeble in attack
and wholly incapable of standing against British troops in the open.
It would now have been easy for Carleton to have sallied out and taken
the offensive, but he preferred holding Quebec quietly. He might have
easily driven the Americans from their position before the walls; but,
with the handful of troops under his orders, he could have done nothing
toward carrying on a serious campaign in the open.
Until spring came, and the rivers were opened, no re-enforcements could
reach him from England, while the Americans could send any number of
troops into Canada. Carleton, therefore, preferred to wait quietly
within the walls of Quebec, allowing the winter, hardships, and disunion
to work their natural effects upon the invaders.
Arnold sent to Washington to demand 10,000 more troops, with siege
artillery. Several regiments were sent forward, but artillery could not
be spared. Eight regiments entered Canada, but they found that, instead
of meeting, as they had expected, an enthusiastic reception from the
inhabitants, the population was now hostile to them. The exactions of
the invading army had been great, and the feeling in favor of the