Part 5 out of 6
"You had best tell the others what you think, Pearson. It may make a
difference in our movements."
A short halt was called, and the Seneca and Peter quite agreed with
"We'd best make for the canoe that's furthest off. When the redskins
find the others, which they're pretty sure to do, for they'll hunt
every bush, they're likely to be satisfied and to make sure they'll
ketch us at one or the other."
This much decided upon, they continued their flight, now less
rapidly, but in perfect silence. Speed was less an object than
concealment. The Indians might spread, and a party might come across
them by accident. If they could avoid this, they were sure to reach
their canoe before morning and unlikely to find the Indians there
It was about twelve miles to the spot where they had hidden the
canoe, and although they heard distant shouts and whoops ringing
through the forest, no sound was heard near them.
THE ISLAND REFUGE.
The night was intensely cold and still and the stars shone brightly
through the bare boughs overhead. "Are you sure you are going all
right?" Nelly asked Harold. "It is so dark here that it seems
impossible to know which way we are going." "You can trust the
Indians," Harold said. "Even if there was not a star to be seen they
could find their way by some mysterious instinct. How you are grown,
Nelly! Your voice does not seem much changed, and I am longing to see
"I expect you are more changed than I am, Harold," the girl answered.
"You have been going through so much since we last met, and you seem
to have grown so tall and big. Your voice has changed very much, too;
it is the voice of a man. How in the world did you find us here?"
Pearson had gone on ahead to speak to the Seneca, but he now joined
"You mustn't talk," he said. "I hope there's no redskins within five
miles of us now, but there's never any saying where they may be."
There was, Harold thought, a certain sharpness in the hunter's voice,
which told of a greater anxiety than would be caused by the very
slight risk of the quietly spoken words being heard by passing
redskins, and he wondered what it could be.
They were now, he calculated, within a mile of the hiding place where
they had left the boat, and they had every reason for believing that
none of the Indians would be likely to have followed the shore so
far. That they would be pursued and that, in so heavily laden a
canoe, they would have great difficulty in escaping, he was well
aware, but he relied on the craft of the hunters and Senecas for
throwing their pursuers off the trail.
All at once the trees seemed to open in front, and in a few minutes
the party reached the river. A cry of astonishment and of something
akin to terror broke from Harold. As far as the eye could reach the
lake was frozen. Their escape was cut off.
"That's jest what I've been expecting," Pearson said. "The ice had
begun to form at the edge when we landed, and three days and nights
of such frost as we've had since was enough to freeze Ontario. What
on arth's to be done?"
No one answered. Peter and the redskins had shared Pearson's anxiety,
but to Harold and Cameron the disappointment was a terrible one; as
to Jake, he left all the thinking to be done by the others. Harold
stood gazing helplessly on the expanse of ice which covered the
water. It was not a smooth sheet, but was rough and broken, as if,
while it had been forming, the wind had broken the ice up into cakes
again and again, while the frost as often had bound them together.
They had struck the river within a few hundred yards of the place
where the canoe was hidden, and, after a short consultation between
the Seneca chief, Peter Lambton, and Pearson, moved down toward that
"What are you thinking of doing?" Harold asked when they gathered
round the canoe.
"We're going to load ourselves with the ammunition and deer's flesh,"
Peter said, "and make for a rocky island which lies about a mile off
here. I noticed it as we landed. There's nothing to do but to fight
it out to the last there. It are a good place for defense, for the
redskins won't like to come out across the open, and, even covered by
a dark night, they'd show on this white surface."
"Perhaps they won't trace us."
"Not trace us!" the trapper repeated scornfully. "Why, when daylight
comes, they'll pick up our track and follow it as easy as you could
that of a wagon across the snow."
They were just starting when Harold gave a little exclamation.
"What is it, lad?"
"A flake of snow fell on my face."
All looked up. The stars had disappeared. Another flake and another
fell on the upturned faces of the party.
"Let's thank the great God," Peter said quietly. "There's a chance
for our lives yet. Half an hour's snow and the trail 'll be lost."
Faster and faster the snowflakes came down. Again the leaders
"We must change our plans, now," Peter said, turning to the others.
"So long as they could easily follow our tracks it mattered nothing
that they'd find the canoe here; but now it's altogether different.
We must take it along with us."
The weight of the canoe was very small. The greater part of its
contents had already been removed. There was a careful look round to
see that nothing remained on the bank; then four of the men lifted it
on their shoulders, and the whole party stepped out upon the ice. The
snow was now falling heavily, and to Harold's eyes there was nothing
to guide them in the direction they were following. Even the Indians
would have been at a loss had not the Seneca, the instant the snow
began to fall, sent on one of his followers at full speed toward the
island. Harold wondered at the time what his object could be as the
Indian darted off across the ice, but now he understood. Every minute
or two the low hoot of an owl was heard, and toward this sound the
party directed their way through the darkness and snow.
So heavy was the fall that the island rose white before them as they
reached it. It was of no great extent--some twenty or thirty yards
across, and perhaps twice that length. It rose steeply from the water
to a height of from ten to fifteen feet. The ground was rough and
broken, and several trees and much brushwood grew in the crevices of
The Seneca and the hunters made a rapid examination of the island,
and soon fixed upon the spot for their camp. Toward one end the
island was split in two, and an indentation ran some distance up into
it. Here a clear spot was found some three or four feet above the
level of the water. It was completely hidden by thick bushes from the
sight of anyone approaching by water. There the canoe was turned
over, and the girls, who were both suffering from the intense cold,
were wrapped up in blankets and placed under its shelter. The camp
was at the lower end of the island and would, therefore, be entirely
hidden from view of Indians gathered upon the shore. In such a
snowstorm light would be invisible at a very short distance, and
Peter did not hesitate to light a fire in front of the canoe.
For three hours the snow continued to fall. The fire had been
sheltered by blankets stretched at some distance above it. Long
before the snow ceased it had sunk down to a pile of red embers. A
small tent had now been formed of blankets for the use of the girls;
brushwood had been heaped over this, and upon the brushwood snow had
been thrown, the whole making a shelter which would be warm and
comfortable in the bitterest weather. A pile of hot embers was placed
in this little tent until it was thoroughly heated; blankets were
then spread, and the girls were asked to leave the shelter of the
canoe and take their place there.
The canoe itself was now raised on four sticks three feet from the
ground; bushes were laid round it and snow piled on, thus forming the
walls of which the canoe was the roof. All this was finished long
before the snow had ceased falling, and this added a smooth white
surface all over, so that, to a casual eye, both tent and hut looked
like two natural ridges of the ground. They were a cheerful party
which assembled in the little hut. The remainder of the embers of the
fire had been brought in, and, intense as was the cold outside, it
was warm and comfortable within. Tea was made and pipes filled, and
they chatted some time before going to sleep.
Duncan Cameron was like a man transfigured. His joy and thankfulness
for the recovery of his daughter were unbounded. Harold's pleasure,
too, at the rescue of his cousin was very great, and the others were
all gratified at the success of their expedition. It was true that
the Indians had as yet gained no scalps, but Harold had promised them
before starting that, should the expedition be successful, they
should be handsomely rewarded.
"We mustn't reckon as we are safe yet," Peter said in answer to one
of Harold's remarks. "The redskins aint going to let us slip through
their fingers so easy as all that. They've lost our trail and have
nothing but their senses to guide 'em, but an Injun's senses aint
easily deceived in these woods. Ef this snow begins again and keeps
on for two or three days they may be puzzled; but ef it stops they'll
cast a circle round their camp at a distance beyond where we could
have got before the snow ceased, and ef they find no new trails
they'll know that we must be within that circle. Then, as to the
boats, when they find as we don't come down to the two as they've
discovered, and that we've not made off by land, they'll guess as
there was another canoe hidden somewhere, and they'll sarch high and
low for it. Waal, they won't find it; and then they'll suppose that
we may have taken to the ice, and they'll sarch that. Either they'll
git to open water or to the other side. Ef there's open water
anywhere within a few miles they may conclude that we've carried a
canoe, launched it there, and made off. In that case, when they've
sarched everywhere, they may give it up. Ef there aint no such open
water, they'll sarch till they find us. It aint likely that this
island will escape 'em. With nine good rifles here we can hold the
place against the hull tribe, and as they'd show up against the snow,
they can no more attack by night than by day."
"I don't think our food will hold out beyond seven or eight days,"
"Jest about that," Peter answered; "but we can cut a hole in the ice
and fish, and can hold out that way, if need be, for weeks. The wust
of it is that the ice aint likely to break up now until the spring. I
reckon our only chance is to wait till we git another big snowstorm
and then to make off. The. snow will cover our trail as fast as we
make it, and, once across to the other shore, we may git away from
the varmints. But I don't disguise from you, Harold, that we're in a
very awk'ard trouble, and that it 'll need all the craft of the
chief, here, and all the experience of Pearson and me to get us out
"The guid God has been vera merciful to us sae far," Duncan Cameron
said; "he will surely protect us to the end. Had he na sent the snow
just when he did, the savages could hae followed our trail at once;
it was a miracle wrought in our favor. He has aided us to rescue the
twa bairns frae the hands of the Indians, and we may surely trust in
his protection to the end. My daughter and her friend hae, I am very
sure, before lying down to sleep, entreated his protection. Let us a'
do the same."
And the old soldier, taking off his cap, prayed aloud to God to heed
and protect them.
Harold and the frontiersmen also removed their caps and joined in the
prayer, and the Senecas looked on, silent and reverent, at an act of
worship which was rare among their white companions.
As Peter was of opinion that there was no chance whatever of any
search on the part of the Indians that night, and therefore there was
no need to set a watch, the whole party wrapped themselves up in
their blankets and were soon asleep.
When Harold woke next morning it was broad daylight. The Senecas had
already been out and had brought news that a strong party of Indians
could be seen moving along the edge of the forest, evidently
searching for a canoe. One of the Indians was placed on watch, and
two or three hours later he reported that the Indians were now
entirely out of sight and were, when last seen, scouting along the
edge of the forest.
"Now," Peter said, "the sooner we git another snowstorm the better.
Ef we'd been alone we could have pushed on last night, but the gals
was exhausted and would soon have died of the cold. Now, with a fresh
start they'd do. Ef we can't cross the lake I calculate that we're
about thirty mile from a p'int on the north shore below the falls of
Ste. Marie, and we could land there and strike across through the
woods for the settlement. It'd be a terrible long journey round the
north of Huron, but we must try it ef we can't get across."
"But we could go off by night, surely," Harold said, "even if there
is no fresh snow."
"We could do that," Peter replied; "no doubt of it. But ef they were
to find our track the next day, ay, or within three days, they'd
follow us and overtake us afore we got to the settlements. Ef we was
alone, it'd be one thing; but with the gals it'd be another
altogether. No, we must stop here till a snowstorm comes, even if we
have to stop for a month. There's no saying how soon some of them
Injuns may be loafing round, and we daren't leave a trail for 'em to
They had scarcely ceased speaking when a low call from the Indian
placed on watch summoned the chief to his side. A minute later the
latter rejoined the group below and said a few words to Peter.
"Jest as I thought!" the latter grumbled, rising with his rifle
across his arm. "Here are some of the varmints coming out this 'ere
way. Likely enough it's a party of young braves jest scouting about
on their own account, to try and get honor by discovering us when
their elders have failed. It would have been better for them to have
stopped at home."
The party now crept up to the top of the rock, keeping carefully
below its crest.
"Ef you show as much as a hair above the top line," Peter said,
"they'll see you, sartin."
"Would it not be well," Harold asked, "for one of us to show himself?
There is no possibility of further concealment, and if they go off
without any of them being killed the others might be less bitter
against us than they would if they had lost some of their tribe."
Peter laughed scornfully.
"Ye haven't had much to do with Injuns, lad, but I should have
thought you'd have had better sense nor that. Haven't these Injuns
been a-murdering and a-slaying along the frontier all the summer,
falling on defenseless women and children? Marcy and pity aint in
their natur, and, fight or no fight, our scalps will dry in their
wigwams if they get us into their power. They know that we can shoot
and mean to, and that 'll make 'em careful of attacking us, and every
hour is important. Now," he said to the others, "each of you cover a
man and fire straight through your sights when I gives the word.
There's others watching 'em, you may be sure, and ef the whole five
go down together, it'll make 'em think twice afore they attack us
Peering between some loose rocks, so that he could see without
exposing his head above the line, Harold watched the five Indians
approaching. They had evidently some doubts as to the wisdom of the
course they were pursuing, and were well aware that they ran a
terrible risk standing there in the open before the rifles of those
concealed, should the fugitives be really there. Nevertheless, the
hope of gaining distinction and the fear of ridicule from those
watching them on shore, should they turn back with their mission
unaccomplished, inspired them with resolution. When within three
hundred yards of the island they halted for a long time. They stood
gazing fixedly; but, although no signs of life could be perceived,
they were too well versed in Indian warfare to gain any confidence
from the apparent stillness. Throwing themselves flat on the snow and
following each other in single line, by which means their bodies were
nearly concealed from sight in the track which their leader made
through the light, yielding snow, they made a complete circuit of the
island. They paused for some time opposite the little forked entrance
in which the camp was situated, but apparently saw nothing, for they
kept round until they completed the circuit.
When they reached the point from which they had started there was,
apparently, a short consultation among them. Then they continued
their course in the track that they had before made until they
reached a spot facing the camp. Then they changed order, and, still
prone in the snow, advanced abreast toward the island.
"The varmints have guessed that, if we are here, this is the place
where we'd be hid," Peter whispered in Harold's ear.
As the Indians made their circuit the party in the island had changed
their position so as always to keep out of sight. They were now on
the top of the island, which was a sort of rough plateau. The girls
had been warned, when they left them, to remain perfectly quiet in
their shelter whatever noise they might hear. Peter and the Seneca
watched the Indians through holes which they had made with their
ramrods through a bank of snow. The others remained flat in the
slight depression behind it. At the distance of one hundred and fifty
yards the Indians stopped.
"The varmints see something!" Peter said. "Maybe they can make out
the two snow heaps through the bushes; maybe they can see some of our
footsteps in the snow. They're going to fire!" he exclaimed. "Up,
lads! They may send a bullet into the hut whar the gals is hid."
In an instant the line of men sprang to their feet. The Indians,
taken by surprise at the sudden appearance of a larger number of
enemies than they expected, fired a hasty volley and then sprang to
their feet and dashed toward the shore. But they were deadly rifles
which covered them. Peter, Harold, and Pearson could be trusted not
to miss even a rapidly moving object at that distance, and the men
were all good shots. Not in regular order, but as each covered his
man, the rifles were discharged. Four out of the five Indians fell,
and an arm of the fifth dropped useless by his side; however, he
still kept on. The whites reloaded rapidly, and Harold was about to
fire again when Pearson put his hand on his shoulder.
"Don't fire! We've shown them that we can shoot straight. It's jest
as well at present that they shouldn't know how far our rifles will
The four Senecas dashed out across the snow and speedily returned,
each with a scalp hanging at his belt.
A loud yell of anger and lamentation had risen from the woods
skirting the shore as the Indians fell, but after this died away deep
"What will be their next move?" Cameron asked Peter, as they gathered
again in their low hut, having placed one of the Indians on watch.
"We'll hear nothing of 'em till nightfall," Peter said. "Their first
move, now they know as we're here, will be to send off to fetch up
all the tribe who're in search of us. When it comes on dark they'll
send scouts outside of us on the ice to see as we don't escape--not
that they'd much mind ef we did, for they could track us through the
snow and come up with us whenever they chose. No, they may be sure
we'll stay where we are. It may be they'll attack us to-night, maybe
not. It'd be a thing more risksome than redskins often undertake to
cross the snow under the fire of nine rifles. I aint no doubt they'd
try and starve us out, for they must know well enough that we can
have no great store of provisions. But they know as well as we do
that, if another snowstorm comes on, we might slip away from 'em
without leaving a foot-mark behind. It's jest that thought as may
make 'em attack."
"Well, we can beat them off, if they do," Harold said confidently.
"Waal, we may and we may not," the scout answered. "Anyhow we can
kill a grist of 'em afore they turn us out on this 'ere island."
"That's sartin enough," Pearson put in; "but they're a strong tribe,
and ef they can harden their hearts and make a rush it's all up with
us. I allow that it's contrary to their custom, but when they see no
other way to do with, they may try."
"I suppose if they do try a rush," Harold said, "they will do it
against this end of the island?"
"Yes, you may bet your money on that," the scout answered. "In other
places the rock goes pretty nigh straight up from the water, but here
it's an easy landing. Being so close to 'em they're sure to know all
about it; but even if they didn't, the chap that got away would tell
'em. I don't much expect an attack to-night--the bands won't be back
yet. They'll have a grand palaver to-night, and there'll be a big
talk afore they decide what is best to be done; so I think we're safe
for to-night. To-morrow we'll set to work and build a shelter for the
pretty ones up above, where they'll be safe from stray shots. Then
we'll throw up a breastwork with loose rocks on the top of the slope
round this cove, so as to give it to 'em hot when they land."
"You have plenty of powder?" Harold asked.
"Dollops," Peter replied; "more'n we could fire away if we was
besieged here for a month."
"Then you could spare me twenty pounds or so?"
"We could spare you a whole keg if you like; we've got three full.
But what are you thinking of now, young un?"
"I was thinking," Harold answered, "of forming a line of holes, say
three feet apart, in the ice across the mouth of the cove. If we were
to charge them with powder and lay a train between them, we could,
when the first dozen or so have passed the line, fire the train and
break up the ice. This would prevent the others following, and give
them such a bad scare that they would probably make off, and we could
easily deal with those who had passed the line before we fired it."
"That's a good idea of yours, lad. A fust-rate idea. The ice must be
a foot thick by this time, and ef you put in your charges eight
inches and tamp 'em well down you'll shiver the ice for a long way
round. The idea is a fust-rate one."
Pearson and Cameron assisted in the work, and the Indians, when Peter
had explained the plan to them, gave deep gutteral exclamations of
surprise and approval. The process of blasting was one wholly unknown
"I will mak' the holes," Cameron said. "I hae seen a deal of blasting
when I was in the army. I can heat the end of a ramrod in a fire and
hammer it into the shape of a borer."
"A better way than that, Cameron," Harold said, "will be to heat the
end of a ramrod white-hot. You will melt holes in the ice in half the
time it would take you to bore them. That was what I was thinking of
"Right you are, lad!" Pearson said. "Let's set about it at once."
A large fire was now lighted outside the hut, for there was no longer
any occasion for secrecy. The ends of three or four of the ramrods
were placed in the fire, and two lines of holes were bored in the ice
across the mouth of the little cove. These lines were twelve feet
apart, and they calculated that the ice between them would be
completely broken up, even if the fractures did not extend a good way
beyond the lines. The holes were of rather larger diameter than the
interior of a gun barrel. It was found that the ice was about fifteen
inches thick, and the holes were taken down ten inches. Three or four
charges of powder were placed in each; a stick of a quarter of an
inch in diameter was then placed in each hole, and pounded ice was
rammed tightly in around it until the holes were filled up, a few
drops of water being poured in on the top, so as to freeze the whole
into a solid mass. There was no fear of the powder being wetted, for
the frost was intense. Then the sticks were withdrawn and the holes
left filled with powder. With the heated ramrods little troughs were
sunk half an inch deep, connecting the tops of the holes; lines of
powder were placed in these trenches; narrow strips of skin were laid
over them, and the snow was then thrown on again. The two lines of
trenches were connected at the ends at the shore, so that they could
be fired simultaneously.
While the men were occupied with this work the girls had cooked some
venison steaks and made some cakes.
It was just nightfall when they had finished, and all sat down and
enjoyed a hearty meal. Peter and one of the Senecas undertook the
watch for half the night, when they were to be relieved by Pearson
and the chief. The early part of the night passed off quietly, but an
hour before morning the party were aroused by the sharp crack of two
rifles. Seizing their arms, all rushed out.
"What is it, Pearson?"
"Two of their scouts," Pearson answered, pointing to two dark bodies
on the snow at a distance of about one hundred yards. "I suppose they
wanted to see ef we was on the watch. We made 'em out almost as soon
as they left the shore, but we let 'em come on until we was sartin of
our aim. There aint no more about as we can see, so ye can all turn
in again for another hour or two."
There was no fresh alarm before morning, and, when the sun rose, it
shone over a wide expanse of snow, unbroken save where lay the bodies
of the two Indians--whose scalps already hung at the belt of the
Seneca--and those of their four comrades who had fallen in the first
The day passed quietly. Toward the afternoon two Indians were seen
approaching from the shore. They were unarmed and held their hands
aloft as a sign of amity. Peter and Pearson at once laid down their
guns, left the island, and advanced to meet them. They were Indian
chiefs of importance.
"Why have my white brothers stolen in at night upon the village of
War Eagle and slain his young men?"
"It is what you have been doing all last year, chief," Pearson, who
spoke the dialect better than Peter, replied. "But we injured no one.
We didn't kill women and children, as your warriors have done in the
white villages. We only came to take what you had stolen from us, and
ef your young men have been killed it's only because they tried to
"The white men must see," the chief said, "that they cannot get away.
The water is hard, and their canoe will not swim in it. The snow is
deep, and the tender feet cannot walk through it. My warriors are
very numerous, and the white men cannot fight their way through them.
The white settlements are very far away, and their friends cannot
reach them; and it will be many months before the water softens, and
long before that the white men will have eaten their moccasins."
"Waal, chief," Pearson said, "we're in a tight hole, I grant you; but
I'm far from allowing that we aint no chances left to us yet. What do
you propose? I suppose you've some proposition to make."
"Let the white men leave behind them their guns and their powder and
the maidens they have taken from War Eagle's camp; then let them go
in peace. They shall not be harmed."
Pearson gave a short laugh.
"War Eagle must think the white men are foolish. What's to prevent
the red warriors from taking all our scalps when our arms are in
"The word of a great chief," War Eagle said. "War Eagle never lies."
"You may not lie, chief," Pearson said bluntly, "but I've known many
a treaty broken afore now. You and your people may not touch us, but
there's other redskins about, and I wouldn't give a beaver's skin for
our sculps ef we were to take the back trail to the settlements
without arms in our hands. Besides that, we've among us the father of
the gal who was stole far away off from Lake Champlain, and a
relative of hers whose parents you've killed down on the lake. Ef we
were to agree to give up our arms, it stands to reason it aint likely
they'd agree to give up the gals. No, no, chief; your terms aren't
reasonable. But I tell ye what we will do; ef you'll give us your
word that neither you nor your tribe'll molest us in our retreat
we'll go back to the settlements, and 'll engage that, when we get
back there, we'll send you nine of the best rifles money can buy,
with plenty of powder and ball, and blankets and such like."
The chief waved his hand in contemptuous refusal of the terms.
"There are six of my young men's scalps at your girdles, and their
places are empty. War Eagle has spoken."
"Very well, chief," Pearson said. "Ef nothing but sculps will content
you, to fighting it must come; but I warn you that your tribe'll lose
a good many more afore they get ours."
So saying, without another word, they separated, each party making
their way back to their friends.
"What on earth can he have proposed such terms as those for?" Harold
asked, when Pearson had related what had taken place between him and
the chief. "He must have known we should not accept them."
"I expect," Pearson said, "he wanted to see who we were and to judge
what sort of spirit we had. It may be, too, that there was a party
among the tribe who had no stomachs for the job of attacking this
place, and so he was obliged to make a show of offering terms to
please 'em; but he never meant as they should be accepted. No, I take
it they'll wait a few days to see what hunger'll do. They must be
pretty sure that we've not a very large supply of food."
THE GREAT STORM.
"Let us overhaul our packages," Harold said, "and see what provisions
we have left. It would be as well to know how we stand."
It was found that they had a sufficient supply of flour to last, with
care, for a fortnight. The meal was nearly exhausted; of tea they had
an abundance; the sugar was nearly out, and they had three bottles of
"Could we not make the flour last more than the fourteen days by
putting ourselves on half rations?" Harold asked.
"We might do that," Peter said, "but I tell you the rations would be
small even for fourteen days. We've calkilated according to how much
we eat when we've plenty of meat, but without meat it'd be only a
starvation ration to each. Fortunately we've fish-hooks and lines,
and by making holes in the ice we can get as many fish as we like.
Waal, we can live on them alone, if need be, and an ounce or two of
flour, made into cakes, will be enough to go with 'em. That way the
flour would last us pretty nigh two months. I don't say that, if the
wust comes to the wust, we might not hold on right to the spring on
fish. The lake's full of 'em, and some of 'em have so much oil in 'em
that they're nigh as good as meat."
"Do you think, Peter, that if the Indians make one great attack and
are beaten off they will try again?"
"No one can say," Peter answered. "Injun natur' can't never be
calkilated on. I should say if they got a thundering beating they
aint likely to try again; but there's never no saying."
"The sooner they attack and get it o'er the better," Cameron said. "I
hae na slept a wink the last twa nights. If I doze off for a moment I
wake up, thinking I hear their yells. I am as ready to fight as ony
o' you when the time comes, but the thought o' my daughter, here,
makes me nervous and anxious. What do you say, Jake?"
"It all de same to Jake, Massa Cameron. Jake sleeps bery sound, but
he no like de tought ob eating nothing but fish for five or six
months. Jake neber bery fond ob fish."
"You'll like it well enough when you get used to it, Jake," Pearson
said. "It's not bad eating on a pinch, only you want to eat a sight
of it to satisfy you. Well, let's see how the fish'll bite."
Four holes were cut in the ice at a short distance apart. The hooks
were attached to strong lines and baited with deer's flesh, and soon
the fishing began. The girls took great interest in the proceeding.
Nelly was an adept at the sport, having generally caught the fish for
the consumption of the household at home. She took charge of one of
the lines, Harold of another, while Jake and one of the Senecas
squatted themselves by the other holes. There had been some
discussion as to whether the fishing should take place on the side of
the island facing the shore or behind the rocks, but the former was
decided upon. This was done because all were anxious that the
expected attack should take place as soon as possible, and the event
was likely to be hastened when the Indians saw that they were
provided with lines and were thus able to procure food for a
It was soon manifest that, if they could live upon fish, they need
feel no uneasiness as to its supply. Scarcely had the lines been let
down than fish were fast to them. Harold and the other men soon had
trout, from three to six pounds, lying on the ice beside them, but
Nelly was obliged to call Pearson to her assistance, and the fish,
when brought to the surface, was found to be over twenty pounds in
weight. An hour's fishing procured them a sufficient supply for a
week's consumption. There was no fear as to the fish keeping, for in
a very short time after being drawn from the water they were frozen
stiff and hard. They were hung up to some boughs near the huts, and
the party were glad enough to get into shelter again, for the cold
As before, the early part of the night passed quietly; but toward
morning Peter, who was on watch, ran down and awakened the others.
"Get your shooting-irons and hurry up," he said. "The varmints are
coming this time in arnest."
In a minute everyone was at the post assigned to him. A number of
dark figures could be seen coming over the ice.
"There's nigh two hundred of 'em," Peter said. "War Eagle has brought
the whole strength of his tribe."
Contrary to their usual practice the Indians did not attempt to crawl
up to the place they were about to attack, but advanced at a run
across the ice. The defenders lost not a moment in opening fire, for
some of their rifles would carry as far as the shore.
"Shoot steady," Peter said. "Don't throw away a shot."
Each man loaded and fired as quickly as he could, taking a steady
aim, and the dark figures which dotted the ice behind the advancing
Indians showed that the fire was an effectual one. The Indians did
not return a shot. Their chief had, no doubt, impressed upon them the
uselessness of firing against men lying in shelter, and had urged
them to hurry at the top of their speed to the island and crush the
whites in a hand-to-hand fight.
It was but three or four minutes from the time the first shot was
fired before they were close to the island. They made, as Peter had
expected, toward the little cove, which was indeed the only place at
which a landing could well be effected. Harold ran down and hid
himself in a bush at the spot where the train terminated, carrying
with him a glowing brand from the fire.
"War Eagle means to have our sculps this time," Peter said to
Pearson. "I never seed an uglier rush. White men couldn't have done
The Indians had run in scattered order across the ice, but they
closed up as they neared the cove. As they rushed toward it four fell
beneath the shots of half the defenders, and another four a few
seconds later from a volley by the other section.
In a wonderfully short time the first were ready again, and the
Indians wavered at the slaughter and opened fire upon the breastwork,
behind which the defenders were crouching. Those behind pressed on,
and, with terrific yells, the mass of Indians bounded forward.
Harold had remained inactive, crouching behind the bush. He saw the
head of the dark mass rush past him and then applied the brand to the
There was a tremendous explosion. Yells and screams rent the air, and
in an instant a dark line of water, twenty feet wide, stretched
across the mouth of the cove.
In this were pieces of floating ice and numbers of Indians struggling
and yelling. Some made only a faint struggle before they sank, while
others struck out for the side furthest from the island.
The main body of the Indians, appalled by the explosion, checked
themselves in their course and at once took to flight; some, unable
to check their impetus, fell into the water upon the wounded wretches
who were struggling there. Those who had crossed stood irresolute,
and then, turning, leaped into the water. As they struggled to get
out on the opposite side the defenders maintained a deadly fire upon
them, but, in two or three minutes, the last survivor had scrambled
out, and all were in full flight toward the shore.
"I think we've seen the last of the attacks," Peter said, as they
came down from their breastwork and joined Harold in the cove. "That
was a first-rate notion of yours, lad. Ef it hadn't been for that we
should have been rubbed out, sure enough; another minute and we'd
have gone down. They were in arnest and no mistake; they'd got steam
up and was determined to finish with us at once, whatever it cost
The instant the attack had ceased Cameron had hastened to the hut
where the girls were lying, to assure them that all danger was over
and that the Indians were entirely defeated. In an hour a fresh skim
of ice had formed across the streak of water, but, as through its
clear surface many of the bodies of the Indians could be seen, the
men threw snow over it, to spare the girls the unpleasantness of such
a sight every time they went out from the cove. The bodies of all the
Indians who had fallen near the island were also covered with snow.
Those nearer the shore were carried off by the Iroquois in their
"I suppose, Peter," Harold said as they sat round the fire that
evening, "you have been in quite as awkward scrapes as this before
and have got out all right?"
"Why, this business aint nothing to that affair we had by Lake
Champlain. That were as bad a business, when we was surrounded in
that log hut, as ever I went through--and I've been through a good
many. Pearson and me nigh got our har raised more nor once in that
business of Pontiac's. He were a great chief and managed to get up
the biggest confederation agin us that's ever been known. It were
well for us that that business didn't begin a few years earlier when
we was fighting the French; but you see, so long as we and they was
at war the Indians hoped as we might pretty well exterminate each
other, and then they intended to come in and finish off whoever got
the best of it. Waal, the English they drove the French back and
finally a treaty was made in Europe by which the French agreed to
"It was jest about this time as Pontiac worked upon the tribes to lay
aside their own quarrels and jine the French in fighting agin us. He
got the Senecas, and the Delawares, and the Shawnees, the Wyandots,
and a lot of other tribes from the lakes and the hull country between
the Niagara River and the Mississippi.
"Jack Pearson and me, we happened to be with the Miamis when the
bloody belt which Pontiac were sending round as a signal for war
arrived at the fort there. Jack and me knew the redskins pretty well,
and saw by their manner as something unusual had happened. I went to
the commandant of the fort and told him as much. He didn't think much
of my news. The soldier chaps always despises the redskins till they
see 'em come yelling along with their tomahawks, and then as often as
not it's jest the other way. Howsumdever, he agreed at last to pay
any amount of trade goods I might promise to the Miamis if the news
turned out worth finding out. I discovered that a great palaver was
to be held that evening at the chief's village, which was a mile away
from the fort.
"I'd seen a good deal of the Miamis and had fought with 'em against
the Shawnees, so I could do as much with 'em as most. Off Pearson and
I goes to the chief; and I says to him, 'Look ye here, chief, I've
good reasons to believe you've got a message from Pontiac and that it
means trouble. Now don't you go and let yourself be led away by him.
I've heard rumors that he's getting up a great confederation agin the
English. But I tell you, chief, if all the redskins on this continent
was to jine together, they couldn't do nothing agin the English. I
don't say as you mightn't wipe out a number of little border forts,
for no doubt you might; but what would come of it? England would send
out as many men as there are leaves in the forest, who would scorch
up the redskin nations as a fire on the prairie scorches up the
grass. I tell yer, chief, no good can come on it. Don't build yer
hopes on the French; they've acknowledged that they're beaten and are
all going out of the country. It'd be best for you and your people to
stick to the English. They can reward their friends handsomely, and
ef you jine with Pontiac, sooner or later trouble and ruin will come
upon you. Now I can promise you, in the name of the officer of the
fort, a good English rifle for yerself and fifty guns for your braves
and ten bales of blankets ef yer'll make a clean breast of it, and
first tell us what deviltry Pontiac is up to and next jine us
freely--or anyway hold aloof altogether from this conspiracy till yer
see how things is going.'
"Waal, the chief he thought the matter over and said he'd do his best
at the palaver that night, but till that was over, and he knew what
the council decided on, he couldn't tell me what the message was. I
was pretty well satisfied, for Prairie Dog were a great chief in his
tribe, and I felt pretty sartin he'd git the council to go the way he
wanted. I told him I'd be at the fort and that the governor would
expect a message after the council was over.
"It was past midnight when the chief came with four of his braves. He
told us that the tribe had received a bloody belt from Pontiac and a
message that the Mingoes and Delawares, the Wyandots and Shawnees
were going to dig up the hatchet against the whites, and calling upon
him and his people to massacre the garrison of the fort and then
march to jine Pontiac, who was about to fall upon Detroit and Fort
Pitt. They were directed to send the belt on to the tribes on the
Wabash, but they loved the English and were determined to take no
part against them; so they delivered the belt to their friend the
white commander, and hoped that he'd tell the great king in England
that the Miamis were faithful to him. The governor highly applauded
their conduct and said he'd send the news to the English governor at
New York, and at once ordered the presents which I promised to be
delivered to the chief for himself and his braves. When they'd gone
"'You were right, Peter. This news is important indeed, and it's
clear that a terrible storm's about to bust upon the frontier.
Whether the Miamis will keep true is doubtful; but now I'm on my
guard they'll find it difficult to take the fort. But the great thing
is to carry the news of what's happened to Detroit, to put them on
their guard. Will you and Pearson start at once?'
"In course we agreed, though it was clear that the job was a risksome
one, for it wouldn't be no easy matter to journey through the woods
with the hull redskin tribes on the war-path.
"The commander wanted me to carry the belt with me, but I said, 'I
might jest as well carry my death warrant to the first redskins as I
come across.' Major Gladwin, who commanded at Detroit, knew me, and I
didn't need to carry any proof of my story. So, afore the Miamis had
been gone half an hour, Jack and me took the trail for Detroit. We
had got a canoe hid on the lake a few miles away, and we was soon on
board. The next morning we seed a hull fleet of canoes coming down
the lake. We might have made a race with 'em, but being fully manned
the chances was as they'd have cut us off, and seeing that at present
war had not been declared, we judged it best to seem as if we weren't
afeared. So we paddles up to 'em and found as they were a lot of
Wyandots whose hunting-grounds lay up by Lake Superior. In course I
didn't ask no questions as to whar they was going, but jest mentioned
as we was on our way down to Detroit. 'We're going that way, too,'
the chief said, 'and 'll be glad to have our white brothers with us.'
So we paddled along together until, about noon, they landed. Nothing
was said to us as how we were prisoners, but we could see as how we
was jest as much captives as ef we'd been tied with buckskin ropes.
"Jack and me talked it over and agreed as it was no manner o' use
trying to make our escape, but that as long as they chose to treat us
as guests we'd best seem perfectly contented and make no show of
considering as they was on the war-path; although, seeing as they had
no women or children with 'em, a baby could have known as they were
up to no good.
"The next morning they started again at daybreak, and after paddling
some hours landed and hid away their canoes and started on foot.
Nothing was said to us, but we saw as we was expected to do as they
did. We went on till we was within ten mile of Detroit and then we
halted. I thought it were best to find out exactly how we stood, so
Jack and I goes up to the chief and says that as we was near Detroit
we would jest say good-by to him and tramp in.
"'Why should my white brothers hurry?' he said. 'It is not good for
them to go on alone, for the woods are very full of Indians.' 'But,'
I said, 'the hatchet's buried between the whites and the redskins, so
there's no danger in the woods.' The chief waved his hand. 'My white
brothers have joined the Wyandots, and they will tarry with them
until they go into Detroit. There are many redskins there, and there
will be a grand palaver. The Wyandots will be present.'
"Jack and me made no signs of being dissatisfied, but the position
weren't a pleasant one, I can tell you. Here was the redskins
a-clustering like bees around Detroit, ready to fall upon the
garrison and massacre 'em, and we, who was the only men as knew of
the danger, was prisoners among the redskins. It was sartin, too,
that though they mightn't take our lives till they had attacked the
garrison, they was only keeping us for the pleasure of torturing us
quietly arterward. The situation was plain enough; the question was,
what were to be done? There was about sixty of the varmints around us
sitting by their fires and looking as ef they didn't even know as we
was there, but we knew as sharp eyes was watching us and that, afore
we'd gone five yards, the hull lot would be on our track.
"Jack and me didn't say much to each other, for we knew how closely
we was watched and didn't want 'em to think as we was planning our
escape, so after a few words we sat down by one of the fires till it
got time to lie down for the night; but we had both been a-thinking.
We saw, when we lay down, that the Injuns lay pretty well around us,
while two on 'em, with their rifles ready to hand, sat down by a fire
close by and threw on some logs, as if they intended to watch all
"It was a goodish-size clearing as they'd chose for a camping-ground,
and we should have had to run some distance afore we got to the
shelter of the trees. The moon too was up, and it were well-nigh as
light as day, and anxious as we was to git away, we agreed that there
were no chance of sliding off, but that it'd be better to wait till
"When we woke our guns was gone. We complained to the chief, who said
coldly that his young men would carry the guns and give 'em back to
us when we got to Detroit. It were no use saying more, for he might
at any moment have ordered us to be bound, and it were better to keep
the use of our legs as long as we could.
"For two days we stayed there, not seeing the shadow of a chance of
gitting away. Several redskin runners come in and spoke to the chief,
and we got more and more anxious to be off. We was still allowed to
walk about, provided we didn't go near the edge of the clearing;
whenever we went that way two Injuns, who kept guard by turns over
us, shouted to us to go no furder.
"The third morning, after a runner had come in, the chief gave the
word for a move and we set out. We saw they wasn't taking the direct
line to Detroit, although still going in that direction, and after
two hours' marching through the woods we got down on to the Detroit
River. Here was a big encampment, and some three or four hundred
Shawnees and Delawares was gathered here. A chief come up to us as we
entered the open. He gave an order to the Wyandots, and in a minute
we was bound hand and foot, carried to a small wigwam, and chucked
down inside like two logs of wood.
"After a little talk Jack and I agreed as after all we had a better
chance of escaping now than when we was watched by a hull tribe, and
we concluded that there weren't no time to be lost. The Wyandots had
no doubt been brought up in readiness to strike the blow, and even if
we'd known nothing about the belt we'd have been, sure that mischief
was intended when these three bands of red varmints had gathered so
close to the fort. It was sartin we couldn't do nothing till night,
but we both strained our cords as much as possible to get 'em to
stretch a bit and give us a better chance of slipping out of 'em. No
one come near us for some time, and as we could hear the sound of
voices we guessed that a great council was taking place, and we
agreed at once to loosen the knots, so as to be in readiness for
work, as like enough they'd put a sentry over us at night.
"It was a risky thing to try, for we might be disturbed at any
minute. Still we thought it were our only chance, so Jack set to work
with his teeth at my knots and in a quarter of an hour had loosened
them; then I undone his. We unbound our thongs and then fastened 'em
up again so that to the eye they looked jest the same as before but
really with a jerk they'd fall off.
"I must teach you how to do that, Harold, some time; ye may find it
of use. The knots was tied up as tightly as before, and it would have
needed a close examination to see that we was not tied as tight as
ever. Not a word was spoken and, we was as quiet as mice, for we
could hear two redskins talking outside. You may guess we was pretty
slick about it; and I don't know as ever I felt so thankful as when
we laid ourselves down again, jest as we had been throwed, without
the slit in the tent having opened and a red face peered in.
"A quarter of an hour later a redskin come in and looked at us.
Seeing, as it seemed to him, as we hadn't moved, he went out again.
Jest before nightfall two on 'em came in together, rolled us over,
and looked at the knots; they found as these was all right; then one
sat down jest in the door of the tent and the other took his place
outside. We waited some hours.
"At last the fires burned low and the camp got quiet. We knew it was
well-nigh hopeless to wait for 'em all to be asleep, for redskin
natur' is a restless one, and especially when there's anything on
hand they'll turn out two or three times in the night to smoke their
pipes by the fires, and they'd be the more restless since, as we'd
seen, there was only four or five wigwams and all would be sleeping
on the ground. At last I thought the time were come and gave Jack a
nudge, and we both sat up.
"It were a ticklish moment, young un, I can tell ye, for we knew that
it were scarce possible to get off without the alarm being raised. Ef
the wigwam had stood close to the edge of the forest it would have
been compar'tively easy, for once among the trees we might have hoped
to have outrun 'em, though the moon was so pesky bright; but
unfortunately it was built not far from the river, and we should have
to cross the hull clearing to gain the woods. The chances weren't
good, I can tell you, but it was clear as we had to try 'em. We had
purposely moved about pretty often, so that our movements would not
attract the attention of the Injun now. It didn't take a minute to
slip out of the cords, which, tight as they looked, really were not
fastened at all, there being two loose double ends between our arms
and our bodies. We could see the outside sentry through the open
door, and we waited till he turned his back and looked out on the
river. Then suddenly I gripped the redskin sitting at the entrance by
the neck with both my hands, pretty tight, as you may reckon, and
Jack ketched his knife from his belt and buried it in his body.
"That was soon over, and not a sound made as would have startled a
mouse. Then, standing up, I made a spring on to the sentry, while
Jack used his knife as before. We let him drop softly down and
prepared to bolt, when of a sudden the war-whoop sounded not twenty
feet away. One of the redskins, finding the ground hard, I suppose,
was strolling up to speak to the sentry when he saw us tackle him.
For a moment he were too much surprised to holler, but when he did he
gave a yell as brought the hull tribe to their feet. Jack had taken
up the sentry's rifle.
"'Ye'd better have held yer tongue,' he said as he leveled on the
redskin, and before the whoop was out of his lips the bullet hit him
and he went down like a log. It didn't need to look round to see as
there was no chance of getting to the trees, for two hundred redskins
was between us and them. 'We must take to the river, Jack,' I said.
It were but thirty yards away. I expected every moment, as we run, to
hear the rifle bullets whistle round us, but I guess Pontiac had
given orders that no gun was to be fired lest it might be heard at
the fort. Anyhow, not a shot was fired and we got down safe to the
THE SCOUT'S STORY.
"Luckily enough there was a canoe lying close at our feet. 'Shove it
out, Jack,' says I, 'and then keep along the bank.' We gave it a
shove with all our strength and sent it dancing out into the river.
Then we dived in and swum down close under the bank. There was bushes
growing all along, and we came up each time under 'em. The redskins
was some little distance behind us as we reached the river, and in
course thought we had throwed ourselves flat in the canoe. In a
minute or two they got another and paddled off to it, and we soon
heard the shout they raised when they found it was empty. By this
time we was a hundred yards below the spot where we had taken to the
water, and knowing as they would be off along the bank and would find
us in no time, we scrambled straight up and made for the trees.
"We was within fifty yards of the edge of the forest, and none of the
redskins was near us, as the hull body Had clustered down at the spot
where we had jumped in. We hadn't fairly set foot on the bank afore
they saw us and, with a whoop--which sometimes wakes me even now in
my sleep and makes me sit up with the sweat on my forehead--they
started. I could run faster then than I can now, and ye may guess I
went my best. We plunged into the trees and went as hard as we could
foot it, the redskins being fifty or sixty yards behind.
"Our hope was to find a place with a thickish underwood. It was
darker a deal under the trees than in the clearing, still it was not
dark enough to hide us from redskin eyes. We run straight, for we
knew they could see us, and arter about four hundred yards we come
upon a place where the undergrowth grew thick. Here we began to dodge
'em, turning now one way and now another, keeping always low in the
bushes. They had lost us by sight now, but there was so many of 'em
that we pretty nigh despaired of getting through. Some of 'em had
tried to follow us, but the best part had run straight on for a bit,
and then, when sure they had headed us, scattered right and left, so
that they were ahead of us now as well as on our traces, and we could
hear 'em shouting all round us, so we did the only thing there was to
be done and made the best of our way back to the clearing, keeping
low and taking good care not to cross any patch where the moonlight
through the trees fell on the ground.
"It were lucky for us that it was a camp of braves. Had it been an
ordinary redskin encampment there would have been squaws, and boys,
and wuss still, dogs, who would have seed us the moment we got back;
but being all braves on the war-path the hull gang had started arter
us, and not a soul had remained in the clearing. We did not rest
there long, you may be sure, but made straight down to the water.
There we picked out a canoe, crossed the river, and got into the
shade of the trees the other side. Then we kept along down it till we
got close to the fort of Detroit.
"We could see a good many smoldering fires out afore it, and guessed
that a strong body of redskins, pretending to be friends, had camped
there. We made round 'em and reached the gate of the fort safe. The
sentries wouldn't let us in, but when a sergeant was fetched it
turned out as he knew us, seeing that we had been scouting out from
thar in the summer. Pretty thankful we was when the gate closed arter
us. Our news would keep, so we waited till morning afore we saw the
major, and then told him the whole history of the matter, and how
Pontiac had raised all the tribes east of the Mississippi against us.
"We found that Pontiac had been into the camp with fifty of his
warriors three days afore, professing great friendship, and had said
that in two or three days he would call again and pay a formal visit.
"Detroit then was but a trading post, defended by a stockade twenty
feet high and twelve hundred yards in circumference. About fifty
houses of traders and storekeepers stood within it. The garrison was
composed of 120 men of the Eighteenth Regiment and 8 officers. They
had three guns--two six-pounders, and a three-pounder--and three
mortars, but their carriages was so old and rotten that they was of
no real service. Two vessels, mounting some small guns, lay in the
river off the fort. The governor was a good soldier, but he was
naturally startled at hearing that there was something like a
thousand redskins in the woods round; but he said that now he had
warning he was not afraid of 'em. A messenger was sent off in a canoe
to carry the tidings east and to ask for re-enforcements, and the
traders was all told to get their arms ready.
"At eight o'clock in the morning Pontiac was seen a-coming with three
hundred warriors. There had been no declaration of war, and the
redskins was supposed to be friendly, so the major didn't like to be
the first to commence hostilities, as folks who knew nothing of it
might likely enough have raised an outcry about massacring the poor
Injuns. Howsumever, he called all the troops under arms and disposed
'em behind the houses. The traders, too, with their rifles, were
drawn up ready. The gates was opened when Pontiac arrived, and he and
his warriors entered. They had left their rifles behind them, as they
pretended that their mission was a peaceful one, but they had all got
their tomahawks and knives under their blankets. They advanced in a
body toward where Major Gladwin and his officers was standing in
front of his quarters.
"Jack and me and two or three scouts who happened to be in the fort
stood just behind, careless like, with our rifles, so that, in case
of any sudden attack, we could keep them back for a moment or two. I
noticed that Pontiac carried in his hand a wampum belt. I noticed it
because it was green on one side and white on the other, and it
turned out arterward that when he twisted that belt with two hands it
was to be the signal for an attack.
"Pontiac spoke soft for a time. He was a fine redskin; that can't be
denied. He was a Catawba by birth, but had been adopted into the
tribe of Ottawas and had risen to be their chief. He were a great
brave and one of the best speakers I ever heard. He was a wise chief,
as you may guess by the way he got all the tribes to lay aside their
private quarrels and make common cause against us. I watched him
close. He kept his eyes on the major and spoke as cool and as calm as
if he had nothing on his mind; but I could see the warrior glancing
about, wondering, no doubt, what had become of the soldiers.
Presently the chief changed his tone and began to pretend as he was
in a rage at some grievance or other.
"The major jest put his whistle to his lips, and in a moment from
behind the houses the soldiers and traders marched out, rifle in
hand. You never saw a more disgusted crew than them redskins. I'll do
Pontiac justice to say that he never so much as moved, but jest went
on talking as if he hadn't noticed the troops at all. The major
answered him in the same way, and after half an hour's talk the
redskins went out again without so much as a knife having been shown.
Major Gladwin gave Jack and me papers testifying as how we had saved
Detroit from destruction, and sent an account of it to Governor
Amherst, and to this day Jack and me draws special pensions for that
'ere business, besides what we earned as British scouts."
"That was an adventure, Peter!" Harold said. "They did not take
Detroit after all, did they?" "No; we beat 'em off handsome when
they tried it. Then they laid siege to Fort Pitt and tried very hard
there, too, but the place held out till some troops who had come up
marched out from here and raised the siege. At some of the little
places they succeeded. Lots of settlers was massacred. At Fort
Sandusky Ensign Paulli and the garrison was massacred by a party of
Hurons and Ottawas who come in as friends. This was on the same day
as they had intended to do for us at Detroit.
"At St. Joseph's an English ensign with fourteen soldiers was killed
by the Pottawatomies, but nowhere did Pontiac obtain any real
successes. The French in Illinois were preparing to leave, and he
couldn't git no assistance from them. After the siege of Fort Pitt
was raised peace was patched up again. Pontiac's confederacy, finding
as they hadn't got none of the successes he promised 'em, was
beginning to break up, and the English saw no chance of doing any
good by hunting the redskins among the forests, so both parties was
willing for peace.
"Pontiac never gave any more trouble, and some years arterward,
coming into one of the towns, he was killed by an Injun who had a
private grudge agin' him. And now I'm longing for a quiet pipe, and
you'd better turn in. There's no saying whether we'll have a quiet
night of it".
A fortnight passed without further incident. Then the sky became
overcast, and Peter and the Indians agreed that snow would soon fall.
All hands were at once set to work to make up their stores into
packages. The deerskins and blankets were tied in bundles; besides
these there were only two kegs of powder and about two hundred pounds
of frozen fish.
Harold was in high glee at the thought that their imprisonment was to
come to an end, although there was no doubt that the attempt would be
a hazardous one, as the backwoodsmen were sure that the instant the
snow began to fall the Indians would be out in great numbers round
the island, to prevent the defenders taking advantage of the storm.
Several times Harold observed the two backwoodsmen talking with the
Seneca chief and looking at the sky, and he thought that their
countenances expressed some anxiety.
"What is it, Peter?" he asked at length. "Don't you think we shall
have a snowstorm?"
"We may have snow," Peter said, "but I think it's more than a
snowstorm that's coming. The clouds are flying past very fast, and it
seems to me as ef we're in for a big gale of wind."
"But that will drift the snow and cover our footsteps almost as well
as a snowstorm," Harold said.
"Yes, it 'll do all that," the scout answered.
"What is the objection to it, Peter?"
"In the first place, lad, ef it don't snow we may stop where we are,
for there'd be no chance of getting through the Injuns unless it
snowed so thick you couldn't see five feet away. It'll be difficult
enough, anyhow. There'll be four or five hundred of the varmints out,
for they'll bring even their boys with 'em, so as to form a pretty
close line round the island. Our only chance'll be for the Senecas to
go first, and to silence, afore they can give the alarm, any they
might meet on our line. That might be done in a heavy snowstorm, but
without snow it would be impossible. In the next place, even if we
got through 'em, we'd have to carry our canoe."
"Why?" Harold asked, surprised. "What good could the canoe be to us,
with the lake frozen hard?"
"You see, the wind is on the shore here, lad, and when it does blow
on these lakes it blows fit to take the har off your head. It's as
much as a man can do to make way agin' it, and I doubt whether the
gals could face it, even with our help. As to carrying a canoe in its
teeth, it couldn't be done."
"But why carry the canoe at all, Peter? That's what I cannot
"Waal, you see, lad, the force of the wind acting on sech a big sheet
of ice will move it, and like enough you'd see it piled up in a bank
forty feet high on this side of the lake, and there'll be a strip of
clear water half a mile wide on the other. That's why we must take
Harold was silent. In the face of such a probability it was clear
that they must encumber themselves with the canoe.
The prevision of the scout proved well founded. Before evening the
wind was blowing with tremendous force. Small flakes of snow were
driven before it, inflicting stinging blows on the face and eyes of
those who ventured out of shelter. As it became dark the lookout
announced that he could, see large numbers of Indians starting from
the shore at some distance to the right and left of them, showing
that the redskins were fully alive to the possibility of the garrison
of the island taking advantage of the storm, which would hide their
trail, to effect their escape.
Every hour the fury of the gale increased, and it was unanimously
agreed that until it diminished it would be impossible for the girls,
and for men carrying a canoe, to face it.
Two men were placed on watch at the mouth of the cove, where mines
similar to the first had been sunk in the ice in a semicircle some
little distance outside that before exploded. This precaution had
been taken on the day succeeding the great repulse of the enemy,
although the scouts felt assured that the attempt would not be
repeated. But it was thought possible that the Indians might toward
morning, if they found the whites did not attempt to pass them, take
advantage of the storm to attempt a surprise.
After it became dark Cameron and Harold, as was their custom, went
into the girls' hut to chat until it was time to turn in. The
deerskin and blankets had again been unrolled, and the covering of
snow kept the interior warm in spite of the storm without.
"What is that noise?" Nelly asked in a pause of the conversation.
"I don't know," Harold answered. "I have heard it for some time."
All were silent, intent upon listening. Even above the fury of the
gale a dull grinding sound, with occasional crashes, could be heard.
"I think it must be the ice," Harold said. "I will go out and see."
On issuing from the hut he was for a time blinded by the force of the
wind and the flying particles of snow. The din was tremendous. He
made his way with difficulty in the teeth of the storm to the edge of
the rocks. Then he started in surprise. A great bank of cakes and
fragments of ice was heaped up against the wall of the rock, crashing
and grinding against each other as they were pressed onward by fresh
additions from beyond. Already the bank was nearly level with the top
of the rock, and some of the vast blocks, two feet in thickness, had
been thrust on to it. The surface of the lake beyond was no longer a
brilliant white. Every particle of snow had been swept away and the
dull gray of the rough ice lay unbroken.
He made his way at once to the hut of the men, and just as he reached
the entrance Peter (who had also been out to reconnoiter) came up,
and before Harold had turned to speak he put his head into the hut.
"Turn out!" he said. "I tell ye we're in a fix. This aint no common
gale. I don't know as ever I've been in a worse one."
"What's the use of turning out?" Pearson asked. "We can't do nothing,
and it's warmer here a sight than it is outside."
"I tell ye ye've got to go. The ice is breaking up fast and it's
level with the top of the island already. Unless I'm mistaken
there'll be forty foot of ice piled over this island afore an hour."
This was, indeed, alarming news. And in a minute the occupants of the
hut were all in the open air.
"You can call in your scouts, Seneca. There aint no fear of an attack
to-night. No mortal soul--not even an Injun--could stand the force of
the wind out on the lake."
A very short examination sufficed to show the truth of Peter's
Already the upper part of the bank was sliding over the rock, and it
was clear that in a very short time the whole would be covered.
"What is to be done, Peter?" Harold shouted.
"We must take to the canoe. There's clear water on the other side."
Harold crossed the island and saw that what Peter said was correct. A
broad strip of black water stretched away in the darkness toward the
shore. The whole ice-sheet was moving bodily before the wind, and as
the island stood up in its course the ice to windward of it was
forced up over it, while under its lee the lake was clear. Not a
moment was lost. The canoe was got out, carried over the rocks, and
carefully lowered into the water under shelter of the island. All the
stores and provisions were lowered into it. A deerskin was spread on
the bottom, and the girls, having been helped down into the boat,
were told to lie down and were then covered with blankets. The men
wrapped themselves up in skins and blankets and took their places in
the canoe, the four Indians taking paddles.
Quickly as the preparations had been made, there were but a few feet
of the island uncovered by the ice, as the last man descended into
the boat and they pushed off and, after a couple of strokes, lay with
the boat's head facing toward the island at a distance of fifty yards
from it. Although somewhat sheltered from the wind, the Indians were
obliged to paddle hard to maintain their position. Harold wondered at
first that they had not kept closer to the island, but he soon
understood their reason for keeping at a distance. The massive blocks
of ice, pressed forward by, the irresistible force behind, began to
shoot from the top of the island into the water, gliding far on
beneath the surface with the impetus of the fall, and then shooting
up again with a force which would have destroyed the canoe at once
had they touched it.
Soon a perfect cataract of ice was falling. Peter and Pearson took
their places on each side of the bow of the canoe, with poles to push
off the pieces as they drifted before the gale toward the shore. The
work required the utmost strength and care. One touch from the
sharp-edged blocks would have ripped open the side of the bark canoe
like a knife, and in the icy cold water, encumbered by floating
fragments of ice, even the best swimmer could not have gained the
solid ice. The peril was great, and it needed all the strength and
activity of the white men and the skill of the paddlers to avoid the
danger which momentarily threatened them. So quickly did the blocks
float down upon them that Pearson thought it might be impossible to
avoid them all. The skins, therefore, were hung round the boat,
dropping some inches into the water, and these, although they could
not have prevented the boat from being stove in, by the larger
fragments, yet protected its sides from the contact of the smaller
For upward of an hour the struggle continued, and Harold felt
something like despair at the thought of a long night passed in such
a struggle. Presently sounds like the booming of cannon were heard
above the gale.
"What is that?" he shouted to the Seneca chief, next to whom he was
"Ice break up," the chief replied. "Break up altogether."
This proved to be the case. As the ice was driven away from the
further side of the lake the full force of the wind played upon the
water there, and as the streak widened a heavy sea soon got up. The
force of the swell extended under the ice, aiding the effect of the
wind above, and the vast sheet began to break up. The reports
redoubled in strength, and frequently the ice was seen to heave and
swell. Then, with a sound like thunder, it broke and great cakes were
forced one on the top of another, and soon, instead of a level plain
of ice, a chaos of blocks were tossing about on the waves.
Harold watched the change with anxiety. No longer was the channel on
either side marked by regular defined lines, but floating pieces
encroached upon it, and, looking toward the shore, the channel
appeared to be altogether lost. The danger was overwhelming, but the
Indians, paddling with increased strength, urged the boat forward
until within a few yards of the island.
A few minutes before such an approach would have assured the
immediate destruction of the boat. But Harold saw with surprise that,
almost simultaneously with the breaking up of the ice-sheet, the fall
of blocks from the island had ceased. A moment's reflection showed
him the reason of this phenomenon. With the break-up of the ice-field
the pressure from behind had suddenly ceased. No longer were the
blocks piled on the island pushed forward by the tremendous pressure
of the ice-field. The torrent was stayed and they could approach the
island with safety. As soon as they were assured that this was so the
canoe was brought close to the rocks.
Pearson leaped ashore, climbed the rocks and the ice piled twenty
feet above them, and with his pole convinced himself that at this
point there were no loose blocks likely to fall. Having satisfied
himself on this head, he descended again and took his place in the
boat. This was moored by a rope a few feet long to a bush growing
from a fissure in the rock close to the water's edge. He and Peter
remained on watch with their poles, to fend off any pieces of ice
which might be brought round by the waves, while the rest of the
crew, wrapping themselves up in their blankets, lay down at the
bottom of the boat.
The next morning the storm still raged, and the lake presented the
appearance of an angry sea. Sheltered under the lee of the island,
the party were protected from its effects, although the light canoe
rose and fell on the heavy swell. The ice had wholly disappeared from
the lake, the pieces having been ground to atoms against each other
in the storm. Along the line of shore there was a great bank of ice
as high as the tree-tops.
"The ways of the Lord are won'erful," Duncan Cameron said. "The storm
which threatened to be our destruction has proved our salvation. When
it abates we shall be able to paddle down the lake without fear of
"Yes," Peter said, "the varmints are not likely to follow us. In the
first place, unless they thought of taking their canoes into the
forest when the storm first began, which aint likely, as they was
a-thinking only of cutting off our escape, they'd 've been smashed
into tinder. In the second place, they couldn't ketch us if they had
canoes, for, as we've eight paddles, counting them we made out of the
seats when we was on shore, we'd be able to laugh at 'em. And lastly,
they've had such a taste of the quality of our rifles that, even if
they had a dozen canoes on hand, I doubt if they'd care to attack us.
No, sir; when this storm's over we have nothing to do but paddle down
to the settlements at the other end of the lake."
Toward the afternoon the storm abated, and next morning the sun was
shining brilliantly and the waves had gone down sufficiently to
enable the canoe to start on her voyage.
"Now, boys," Pearson said cheerfully, "ef ye don't want to git froze
up again you'd best be sharp, for I can tell ye about thirty-six
hours of this weather and the lake'll be solid again."
Five minutes later the canoe with its eight sturdy paddlers started
on its way, speeding like an arrow from the ice-covered island which
had done them such good service in their greatest need.
"Now, Jake," Peter said, "the more strength you put into that paddle
of yourn the sooner you'll have a piece of meat atween your jaws."
The negro grinned.
"Don't talk ob him, Massa Peter; don't say a word about him until I
see him. Fish bery good when dere's noting else to eat, but Jake
never want to see him again. He hab eat quite enough for the rest ob
Cameron, who was not accustomed to the use of the paddle, sat in the
stern with the two girls; but the others were all used to the
exercise, and the boat literally bounded along at each stroke from
the sinewy arms, and by nightfall they had reached the opposite
shore. After some hours' work together two of them had rested, and
from that time they took it by turns, six paddles being kept
Without any adventure they arrived safely at the end of the lake. The
clearing where Nelly had lived so long, and where her father and
mother had been killed, was passed in the night, much to Harold's
satisfaction, as he was afraid that she would have been terribly
upset at the many sad memories which the sight of the place could not
but call up. On their way down they had seen many gaps in the forest
caused by the gale, but it was not until they reached their landing
place that the full effect of its destructive force was visible.
Several scows and other boats lay wrecks upon the shore, every house
in the little village was leveled to the ground, the orchards were
ruined, palings and fences torn down, and the whole place strewn with
A few people were moving among the ruins. They gazed with a dull
apathy upon the new-comers, apparently dazed by the misfortune that
had befallen them. Harold learned, on questioning them, that
twenty-seven persons had been killed and the majority of the
survivors more or less seriously injured. With the exception of the
few whom they saw, about all the survivors had been taken off to the
town in boats down the river, or in wagons lent by neighbors whose
villages, sheltered in the woods, had escaped the ravages of the
gale. After a few hours' halt, having obtained meat and other stores,
they proceeded on their way to Detroit.
Here Nelly had several friends, who had long believed her to have
fallen at the massacre at the farm. By them she was gladly received,
and she took up her abode in a family with some daughters of her own
age. Harold found that there was a considerable sum of money in the
bank in her father's name, and from this, after a consultation with
her, a sum of money sufficient to provide the Seneca and his
followers with blankets, powder, and Indian finery for years was
drawn and bestowed upon them.
A day or two afterward the Indians left for their own country, highly
gratified with the success of the expedition and proud of the
numerous scalps which hung from each of their girdles.
Harold learned that there was but little fighting going on along the
Canadian frontier. The winter had set in again with extreme severity;
the St. Lawrence would be frozen, and he would have no means of
leaving Canada; he was therefore well content to settle down until
the spring at Detroit, where he received numerous and hearty
invitations to stay, for any time, from the various friends of his
cousins. Jake, of course, remained with him. Peter went up to
Montreal, where he had some relatives residing; Harold promising to
call for him on his way East in the spring. Pearson, after a few
days' stay in Detroit, started again with a comrade on a hunting
expedition. Cameron and his daughter also spent the winter at
The months passed very pleasantly to Harold. Since the war began he
had had no period of rest or quiet, and he now entered with zest into
the various amusements, sleighing, and dancing, which helped to while
away the long winter in America. He also joined in many hunting
parties, for in those days game abounded up to the very edge of the
clearings. Moose were abundant, and the hunt of these grand deer was
full of excitement. Except when the snow is on the ground these
animals can defy their pursuers, but the latter with their snowshoes
go lightly over the frozen snow, in which the moose sink heavily.
There were many discussions as to the future of Nelly. Several of her
friends would gladly have adopted her as a member of their family,
but Harold warmly urged that she should go to England and take up her
abode with his mother, who was her nearest relative, and Nelly,
somewhat to the surprise of her friends, finally agreed to this
proposal. A purchaser was readily found for the farm, which was an
excellent one, and the proceeds of the sale, with the amount of
savings in the bank, gave her a little fortune of some twenty-five
When the spring came and the navigation of the lake was open, Harold,
Nelly, the Camerons, and Jake started in a ship for Montreal. There
they were joined by Peter and sailed down to Quebec, where Nelly and
the Camerons took passage for England. Very deep was the gratitude
which Duncan expressed to the friends who had restored his daughter
to him. He had had enough of the colonies, and intended to spend the
rest of his life among his own people in Scotland. Harold, Peter, and
Jake sailed to join the English army in the South.
THE SIEGE OF SAVANNAH.
After the surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga the English
Parliament made another effort to obtain peace, and passed an act
renouncing all rights to tax the colonists and yielding every point
as to which they had been in dispute. Commissioners were sent over
with full authority to treat, and had the colonists been ready
nominally to submit to England, a virtual independence, similar to
that possessed by Canada and the Australian colonies at the present
time, would have been granted. As a very large body of the Americans
had from the first been desirous of coming to terms, and as the
paralyzed state of trade caused great and general distress, it is
probable that these terms might have been accepted had it not been
for the intervention of France. That power had all along encouraged
the rebellion. She had smarted under the loss of Canada, and although
her rule in her own colonies was far more arbitrary than that of
England in America, she was glad to assist in any movement which
could operate to the disadvantage of this country. Hitherto,
nominally she had remained neutral, but now, fearing that the offers
of the English would induce the colonists to make peace, she came
forward, recognized their independence, and engaged herself to
furnish a large fleet for their assistance.
The colonists joyfully accepted the offer, seeing that the
intervention of France in the struggle would completely alter its
conditions. Heretofore the British had been enabled to send over men
and stores at will, but were they blockaded by a French fleet their
difficulties would be immensely increased.
As there had been no cause of quarrel between England and France,
this agreement was an act of wanton hostility on the part of the
latter. On obtaining information of the signature of the treaty
between France and the colonies, the English ambassador was recalled
from Paris and both countries prepared vigorously for war.
The first result was that the English deemed it prudent to evacuate
Philadelphia and retreat to New York. Washington endeavored to cut
off their retreat, and a battle took place at Freehold Court House,
in which the Americans were worsted. Washington drew off his army,
and the British army continued its march to New York without further
opposition. Early in May the French sent off a fleet of twelve ships
of the line and six frigates, carrying a large number of troops
commanded by Count D'Estaing. An English fleet, under Admiral Byron,
was lying at Portsmouth, and this sailed on June 9 in pursuit; for it
was not until that time that information was received of the intended
destination of the French fleet.
D'Estaing reached the American coast upon the very day on which the
English army re-entered New York, and after making a demonstration
before that town the French fleet sailed for Rhode Island to expel
the British troops, under Sir Robert Pigott, who held it.
Lord Howe sailed with the fleet from New York to give battle to that
of D'Estaing. For two days the fleets maneuvered in sight of each
other. Howe, being inferior in force, wished to gain the
weather-gauge before fighting. Failing to do this, on the third day
he offered battle, but a tremendous storm prevented the engagement
and dispersed both fleets. The French vessels retired to Boston and
the English to New York.
Taking advantage of the departure of the French fleet, Sir Robert
attacked the American force, which had crossed to Rhode Island to act
with the French, and drove them from it. While crossing the Atlantic
the fleet under Admiral Byron had met with a tremendous storm, which
had entirely dispersed it, and the vessels arrived singly at New
York. When their repairs were completed the whole set out to give
battle to the French, but D'Estaing, finding that by the junction of
the two English fleets he was now menaced by a superior force, sailed
away to the West Indies.
After his departure an expedition was sent down along the coast to
Georgia and East Florida. This met with great success. Savannah was
captured and the greater part of South Carolina was occupied. The
majority of the inhabitants joyfully welcomed the troops and many
companies of volunteers were raised.
Harold had arrived in New York early in the spring. He had been
offered a commission, but he preferred remaining with his two
comrades in the position of scout. In this way he had far greater
independence, and while enjoying pay and rations sufficient for his
maintenance, he was to a great extent master of his own movements. At
an earlier period of the war he was offered by General Howe a
commission in the army, and his father would have been glad had he
accepted it. Harold, however, although determined to fight until the
struggle between the colonists and the mother country came to an end
one way or the other, had no great liking for the life of an officer
in the regular army, but had resolved at the conclusion of the war to
settle down upon a farm on the lakes--a life for which he felt far
more fitted than for the strict discipline and regularity of that of
an officer in the army.
As, with the exception of the attack by the French fleet and American
army upon Rhode Island, both parties remained quiet all through the
summer of 1778, the year passed uneventfully to him, and the duties
of the scouts were little more than nominal. During the winter
fighting went on in the Carolinas and Georgia with varied success.
In the spring of 1779 Harold and his comrades were, with a party of
scouts, sent down to Georgia, where constant skirmishes were going on
and the services of a body of men accustomed to outpost duty were
required. They were landed in May and joined General Prevost's force
on the island of St. John, situated close to the mainland and
connected with it by a bridge of boats, at the end of which on the
mainland a post had been erected. Shortly afterward General Prevost
left for Savannah, taking with him most of the troops, which were
carried away in the sloops which had formed the bridge of boats. On
the American side General Lincoln commanded a considerable army,
which had been dispatched by Congress to drive the English from that
State and the Carolinas.
Lieutenant Colonel Maitland, who commanded the post on the mainland,
was left with only a flat-boat to keep up his communication with the
island. He had under his command the first battalion of the
Seventy-first Highlanders, now much weakened in numbers, part of a
Hessian regiment, some provincial volunteers, and a detachment of
artillery, the whole not exceeding 500 effective men. Hearing that
General Lincoln was advancing against him, Colonel Maitland sent all
his sick, baggage, and horses across to the island, and placed the
post as far as possible in a defensive position. Most of the scouts
who had come down from New York had accompanied General Prevost to
Savannah, but Harold, with Peter Lambton, Jake, and three or four
others, had been ordered to remain with Colonel Maitland, and were
sent out to reconnoiter when the enemy were known to be approaching.
"This is something like our old work, Peter, upon Lake Champlain,"
Harold said, as with his two comrades he took his way in the
direction from which the enemy were advancing.
"Ay, lad, but they've none of the redskins with 'em, and there'll be
no great difficulty in finding out all about 'em. Besides, we've got
Jake with us, and jest about here Jake can do better nor we can.
Niggers swarm all over the country and are as ready to work for one
side as the other, jest as their masters go. All Jake has got to do
is to dress himself as a plantation nigger and stroll into their
camp. No question will be asked him, as he will naturally be taken
for a slave on some neighboring estate. What do you say, Jake?"
Jake at once assented, and when they approached the enemy he left his
comrades and carried their plan into execution. He was away six
hours, and returned saying that the enemy were 5000 strong, with
eight pieces of artillery.
"We must hurry back," Peter said. "Them are big odds agin' us. Ef all
our troops was regulars, I don't say as they might not hold the
place; but I don't put much count on the Germans, and the colonists
aint seen no fighting. However, Colonel Maitland seems a first-rate
officer. He has been real sharp in putting the place into a state of
defense, and I reckon ef the Yankees thinks as they're going to eat
us up without trouble they'll be mistaken."
Jake reported that the enemy were on the point of marching forward,
and the scouts hurried back to give Colonel Maitland news of their
It was late in the afternoon when they reached the post.
"At what time do you think they will arrive here?" the colonel asked,
when Jake had made his report. "Dey be pretty close by dark, for
sure," Jake replied.
"But I don't think, sir," Peter added, "they'll attack before
morning. They wouldn't be likely to try it in the dark, not knowing
the nature of the place."
The commander was of the same opinion, but to prevent the possibility
of surprise he placed pickets at some distance round the fort, the
scouts being, of course, of the party.
The night passed quietly, but at seven in the morning Peter, Harold,
and Jake, who were at some distance in advance of the others, saw the
enemy approaching. They fired their pieces and fell back upon the
outposts. Their position was rather to the right of the line of
defense. The pickets were about to fall back when 70 men, being two
companies of the Seventy-first under Captain Campbell, were sent out
to feel the enemy.
"We're going to have a skirmish," Peter said. "I know these
Highlanders. Instead of jest firing a bit and then falling back,
they'll be sticking here and fighting as if they thought they could
lick the hull army of the Yankees."
It was as Peter predicted. The Highlanders took post behind a hedge
and maintained a desperate resistance to the advance of the enemy.
Harold and his comrades for some time fought with them.
"It's time for us to be out of this," Peter said presently. "Let's
jest get back to the fort."
"We cannot fall back till they do, Peter"
"I don't see that," Peter said. "We're scouts, and I don't see no
advantage in our chucking away our lives because these hot-headed
Highlanders choose to do so. Peter Lambton's ready to do a fair share
of fighting, but when he's sure that fighting aint no good, then he
And suiting the action to the word, Peter rose from his recumbent
position and began to make his way back to the camp, taking advantage
of every bit of cover.
Harold could not help laughing. For an instant he remained
irresolute, and then, seeing the overwhelming forces with which the
enemy were approaching, he called to Jake and followed Peter's
example. So obstinately did the Highlanders fight that they did not
retreat until all their officers were killed or wounded, and only 11
men out of the two companies succeeded in regaining the camp.
The whole force of the enemy now advanced against the works, and
halting at a distance of three hundred yards opened a tremendous fire
from their cannon on the intrenchments. The defenders replied, but so
overwhelming was the force of the assailants that the Hessians
abandoned the portion of the works committed to them and fell back.
The enemy pressed forward and had already gained the foot of the
abattis, when Colonel Maitland brought up a portion of the
Seventy-first upon the right, and these gallant troops drove the
Americans back with slaughter. Colonel Maitland and his officers then
threw themselves among the Hessians and succeeded in rallying them
and bringing them back to the front. The provincial volunteers had
also fought with great bravery. They had for a time been pressed
backward, but finally maintained their position.
The Americans, finding that all their efforts to carry the post were
unavailing, fell back to the forest. On the English side the loss
amounted to 129. The Americans fought in the open and suffered much
The position of matters was suddenly changed by the arrival of Count
D'Estaing with a fleet of forty-one ships-of-war off the coast. The
American general, Lincoln, at once proposed to him to undertake a
combined movement to force the English to quit Georgia. The arrival
of the French fleet was wholly unexpected, and the _Experiment_, a
frigate of fifty guns, commanded by Sir James Wallace, having two or
three ships under his convoy, fell in with them off the mouth of the
Savannah River. Although the _Experiment_ had been much crippled by a
gale through which she had recently passed, Sir James Wallace would
not haul down his flag and opposed a desperate resistance to the
whole of the French fleet, and did not surrender until the
_Experiment_ was completely dismasted and riddled with shot.
Upon the news that the French fleet was off the mouth of the river,
Captain Henry, who commanded the little squadron of four small
English ships, fell back to Savannah after removing all the buoys
from the river. He landed his guns from the ships and mounted them on
the batteries, and the marines and blue-jackets were also put on
shore to assist in the defense. Two of the brigs of war were sunk
across the channel below the town to prevent the French frigates
coming up. A boom was laid across above the town to prevent
fire-rafts from being sent down.
D'Estaing landed the French troops at the mouth of the river, and,
marching to the town, summoned General Prevost to surrender. The
English commander, who had sent off a messenger to Colonel Maitland,
ordering him to march instantly to his assistance with the force
under him, which now amounted to 800 men, asked for twenty-four hours
before giving an answer. D'Estaing, who knew that General Lincoln was
close at hand, made sure that Prevost would surrender without
resistance, and so granted the time asked for. Before its expiration
Colonel Maitland, after a tremendous march, arrived at the town. As
the French commanded the mouth of the river he had been obliged to
transport his troops in boats through the marshes by a little creek,
which for two miles was so shallow that the troops were forced to
wade waist-deep, dragging the boats by main force through the mud.
Upon the arrival of this re-enforcement General Prevost returned an
answer to Count D'Estaing that the town would be defended to the
last. Some time was spent by the enemy in landing and bringing up
heavy artillery from the ships, and the French and Americans did not
begin their works against the town until September 23. The garrison
had utilized the time thus afforded to them to erect new defenses.
The allied force of the assailants consisted of more than 10,000
Americans and 5000 French troops, while the garrison, including
regulars, provincial corps, sailors, militia, and volunteers, did not
Nevertheless, they did not allow the enemy to carry on their work
without interruption. Several sorties were made. The first of these,
under Major Graham of the Sixteenth Regiment, reached the lines of
the enemy and threw them into confusion. Large re-enforcements came
up to their assistance, and as Graham's detachment fell back upon the
town, the enemy incautiously pursued it so close up to the British
lines that both artillery and musketry were brought to bear upon
them, and they lost a large number of men before they could regain
their works. On the morning of October 4 the batteries of the
besiegers opened fire with fifty-three pieces of heavy artillery and
fourteen mortars. General Prevost sent in a request to Count
D'Estaing that the women and children might be permitted to leave the
town and embark on board vessels lying in the river, there to await
the issue of the fight; but the French commander refused the request
in a letter couched in insulting terms.
The position of Savannah was naturally strong. The river protected
one of its sides and a deep swamp, partially flooded by it, covered
another. The other two were open to the country, which in front of
them was for several miles level and clear of wood. The works which
had been thrown up on these sides were extremely strong. When the
French first landed there were but ten pieces of cannon upon the
fortifications, but so incessantly did the garrison work that before
the conclusion of the siege nearly one hundred pieces of artillery
were mounted on the redoubts and batteries erected round the town.
Upon the side of the swamp there was not much fear of attack, but
three redoubts were erected to prevent a surprise from this
direction. The defense on the right face of the town was conducted
by Colonel Maitland. The defense on the left, consisting of two
strong redoubts and several batteries, was commanded by Lieutenant
Colonel Cruger. In the center were several strong works, of which
General Prevost himself took the special supervision. The whole
British line, except where the swamp rendered no such defense
necessary, was surrounded by a thick abattis. The French fire made
no sensible impression upon the English defenses, and finding that
the British artillery equaled his own, D'Estaing determined to
discontinue the attack by regular approaches and to carry the place
by storm. His position was a perilous one. He had already spent a
long time before the place, and at any moment the English fleet might
arrive from the West Indies and attack his fleet, which was weakened
by the men and guns which had been landed to carry on the siege. He
therefore determined to risk an assault rather than remain longer
before the town. To facilitate the attack an officer with 5 men on
October 8 advanced to the abattis and set fire to it. The wood,
however, was still green, and the flames were easily extinguished.
The attack was fixed for the following morning. Bodies of the
American militia were to feign attacks upon the center and left,
while a strong force of the combined armies was to make a real attack
in two columns upon the right. The troops composing the two columns
consisted of 3500 French soldiers and 950 Americans. The principal
force, commanded by Count D'Estaing in person, assisted by General
Lincoln, was to attack the Springfield redoubt, which was situated at
the extreme right of the British central line of defense and close to
the edge of the swamp. The other column, under the command of Count
Dillon, was to move silently along the margin of the swamp, pass the
three redoubts, and get into the rear of the British lines.
The troops were in motion long before daylight. The attempt to burn
the abattis had excited the suspicion of the English that an assault
might be intended, and accordingly pickets were thrown out in front
of the intrenchments and the scouts were ordered to keep a sharp
watch among the trees which grew in and near the swamp.
Harold with his friends had accompanied Colonel Maitland's column in
its march to Savannah and had labored vigorously at the defenses,
being especially occupied in felling trees and chopping wood for the
abattis. Before daybreak they heard the noise made by the advance of
the enemy's columns through the wood and hurried back to the
Springfield redoubt, where the garrison at once stood to arms. In
this redoubt were a corps of provincial dismounted dragoons,
supported by the South Carolina regiment.
Just as daylight appeared the column led by Count D'Estaing advanced
toward the Springfield redoubt, but the darkness was still so intense
that it was not discovered until within a very short distance of the
works. Then a blaze of musketry opened upon it, while a destructive
cross-fire was poured in from the adjoining batteries. So heavy was
the fire that the head of the column was almost swept away. The
assailants kept on with great bravery until they reached the redoubt;
here a desperate hand-to-hand contest took place. Captain Tawse fell
with many of his men, and for a moment a French and an American
standard were planted upon the parapet; nevertheless the defenders
continued to cling to the place and every foot was desperately
At this moment Colonel Maitland, with the grenadiers of the Sixtieth
Regiment and the marines, advanced and fell upon the enemy's column,
already shaken by the obstinate resistance it had encountered and by
its losses by the fire from the batteries. The movement was decisive.
The assailants were driven headlong from the redoubt and retreated,
leaving behind them 637 of the French troops killed and wounded and
264 of the Americans.
In the mean time the column commanded by Count Dillon mistook its way
in the darkness and was entangled in the swamp, from which it was
unable to extricate itself until it was broad daylight and it was
fully exposed to the view of the garrison and to the fire from the
British batteries. This was so hot and so well directed that the
column was never able even to form, far less to penetrate into the
rear of the British lines.
When the main attack was repulsed Count Dillon drew off his column,
also. No pursuit was ordered as, although the besiegers had suffered
greatly, they were still three times more numerous than the garrison.
A few days afterward the French withdrew their artillery and
re-embarked on board ship.
The siege of Savannah cost the allies 1500 men, while the loss of the
garrison was only 120. The pleasure of the garrison at their
successful defense was marred by the death of Colonel Maitland, who
died from the effects of the unhealthy climate and of the exertions
he had made.
A few days after the raising of the siege the French fleet was
dispersed by a tempest, and Count D'Estaing, with the majority of the
ships under his command, returned to France.
During the course of this year there were many skirmishes round New
York, but nothing of any great importance took place. Sir Henry
Clinton, who was in supreme command, was unable to undertake any
offensive operations on a large scale, for he had not received the
re-enforcements from home which he had expected. England, indeed, had
her hands full, for in June Spain joined France and America in the
coalition against her and declared war. Spain was at that time a
formidable marine power, and it needed all the efforts that could be
made by the English government to make head against the powerful
fleets which the combined nations were able to send to sea against
them. It was not only in Europe that the Spaniards were able to give
effective aid to the allies. They were still a power on the American
continent, and created a diversion, invading West Florida and
reducing and capturing the town and fort of Mobile.
In the spring of 1780 Sir Henry Clinton sent down an expedition under
the command of Lord Cornwallis to capture Charleston and reduce the
State of South Carolina. This town was extremely strongly fortified.
It could only be approached by land on one side, while the water,
which elsewhere defended it, was covered by the fire of numerous
batteries of artillery. The water of the bay was too shallow to admit
of the larger men-of-war passing, and the passage was defended by
Fort Moultrie, a very formidable work. Admiral Arbuthnot, with the
_Renown, Romulus, Roebuck, Richmond, Blonde, Raleigh_, and _Virginia_
frigates, with a favorable wind and tide ran the gantlet of Fort
Moultrie, succeeded in passing up without great loss, and co-operated
on the sea face with the attack of the army on the land side.
A force was landed on Sullivan's Island, on which Fort Moultrie
stood, and the fort, unprepared for an attack in this direction, was
obliged to surrender. The American cavalry force which had been
collected for the relief of the town was defeated by the English
under General Tarleton. The trenches were pushed forward with great
vigor, and the batteries of the third parallel opened at short range
on the town with great execution. The advances were pushed forward at
the ditch, when the garrison, seeing that further resistance was
impossible, surrendered. Five thousand prisoners were taken, 1000
American and French seamen, and ten French and American ships-of-war.
With the fall of Charleston all resistance ceased in South Carolina.
The vast majority of the inhabitants made their submission to the
British government and several loyalist regiments were raised.
Colonel Tarleton, with 170 cavalry and 100 mounted infantry, was
dispatched against an American force under Colonel Burford,
consisting of 350 infantry, a detachment of cavalry, and two guns,
which had taken post on the border of North Carolina. Tarleton came