The Winning of the West, Volume 3 by Theodore Roosevelt

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  • 1889
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The material used herein is that mentioned in the preface to the first volume, save that I have also drawn freely on the Draper Manuscripts, in the Library of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, at Madison. For the privilege of examining these valuable manuscripts I am indebted to the generous courtesy of the State Librarian, Mr. Reuben Gold Thwaites; I take this opportunity of extending to him my hearty thanks.

The period covered in this volume includes the seven years immediately succeeding the close of the Revolutionary War. It was during these seven years that the Constitution was adopted, and actually went into effect; an event if possible even more momentous for the West than the East. The time was one of vital importance to the whole nation; alike to the people of the inland frontier and to those of the seaboard. The course of events during these years determined whether we should become a mighty nation, or a mere snarl of weak and quarrelsome little commonwealths, with a history as bloody and meaningless as that of the Spanish-American states.

At the close of the Revolution the West was peopled by a few thousand settlers, knit by but the slenderest ties to the Federal Government. A remarkable inflow of population followed. The warfare with the Indians, and the quarrels with the British and Spaniards over boundary questions, reached no decided issue. But the rifle-bearing freemen who founded their little republics on the western waters gradually solved the question of combining personal liberty with national union. For years there was much wavering. There were violent separatist movements, and attempts to establish complete independence of the eastern States. There were corrupt conspiracies between some of the western leaders and various high Spanish officials, to bring about a disruption of the Confederation. The extraordinary little backwoods state of Franklin began and ended a career unique in our annals. But the current, though eddying and sluggish, set towards Union. By 1790 a firm government had been established west of the mountains, and the trans-Alleghany commonwealths had become parts of the Federal Union.






II. THE INDIAN WARS, 1784-1787







[Illustration: The Western Land Claims at the Close of the Revolution. Showing also the state of Franklin, Kentucky, and the Cumberland Settlements, or Miro District. _Source:_ Based on a map by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York and London.]




At the beginning of 1784 peace was a definite fact, and the United States had become one among the nations of the earth; a nation young and lusty in her youth, but as yet loosely knit, and formidable in promise rather than in actual capacity for performance.

The Western Frontier.

On the western frontier lay vast and fertile vacant spaces; for the Americans had barely passed the threshold of the continent predestined to be the inheritance of their children and children’s children. For generations the great feature in the nation’s history, next only to the preservation of its national life, was to be its westward growth; and its distinguishing work was to be the settlement of the immense wilderness which stretched across to the Pacific. But before the land could be settled it had to be won.

The valley of the Ohio already belonged to the Americans by right of conquest and of armed possession; it was held by rifle-bearing backwoods farmers, hard and tenacious men, who never lightly yielded what once they had grasped. North and south of the valley lay warlike and powerful Indian confederacies, now at last thoroughly alarmed and angered by the white advance; while behind these warrior tribes, urging them to hostility, and furnishing them the weapons and means wherewith to fight, stood the representatives of two great European nations, both bitterly hostile to the new America, and both anxious to help in every way the red savages who strove to stem the tide of settlement. The close alliance between the soldiers and diplomatic agents of polished old-world powers and the wild and squalid warriors of the wilderness was an alliance against which the American settlers had always to make head in the course of their long march westward. The kings and the peoples of the old world ever showed themselves the inveterate enemies of their blood-kin in the new; they always strove to delay the time when their own race should rise to wellnigh universal supremacy. In mere blind selfishness, or in a spirit of jealousy still blinder, the Europeans refused to regard their kinsmen who had crossed the ocean to found new realms in new continents as entitled to what they had won by their own toil and hardihood. They persisted in treating the bold adventurers who went abroad as having done so simply for the benefit of the men who stayed at home; and they shaped their transatlantic policy in accordance with this idea. The Briton and the Spaniard opposed the American settler precisely as the Frenchman had done before them, in the interest of their own merchants and fur-traders. They endeavored in vain to bar him from the solitudes through which only the Indians roved.

All the ports around the Great Lakes were held by the British; [Footnote: State Dep. MSS., No. 150, vol. ii., March, 1788. Report of Secretary Knox.] their officers, military and civil, still kept possession, administering the government of the scattered French hamlets, and preserving their old-time relations with the Indian tribes, whom they continued to treat as allies or feudatories. To the south and west the Spaniards played the same part. They scornfully refused to heed the boundary established to the southward by the treaty between England and the United States, alleging that the former had ceded what it did not possess. They claimed the land as theirs by right of conquest. The territory which they controlled stretched from Florida along a vaguely defined boundary to the Mississippi, up the east bank of the latter at least to the Chickasaw Bluffs, and thence up the west bank; while the Creeks and Choctaws were under their influence. The Spaniards dreaded and hated the Americans even more than did the British, and they were right; for three fourths of the present territory of the United States then lay within the limits of the Spanish possessions. [Footnote: State Dep. MSS., No. 81, vol. ii., pp. 189, 217. No. 120, vol. ii., June 30, 1786.]

Thus there were foes, both white and red, to be overcome, either by force of arms or by diplomacy, before the northernmost and the southernmost portions of the wilderness lying on our western border could be thrown open to settlement. The lands lying between had already been conquered, and yet were so sparsely settled as to seem almost vacant. While they offered every advantage of soil and climate to the farmer and cultivator, they also held out peculiar attractions to ambitious men of hardy and adventurous temper.

The Rush of Settlers

With the ending of the Revolutionary War the rush of settlers to these western lauds assumed striking proportions. The peace relieved the pressure which had hitherto restrained this movement, on the one hand, while on the other it tended to divert into the new channel of pioneer work those bold spirits whose spare energies had thus far found an outlet on stricken fields. To push the frontier westward in the teeth of the forces of the wilderness was fighting work, such as suited well enough many a stout soldier who had worn the blue and buff of the Continental line, or who, with his fellow rough-riders, had followed in the train of some grim partisan leader.

The people of the New England States and of New York, for the most part, spread northward and westward within their own boundaries; and Georgia likewise had room for all her growth within her borders; but in the States between there was a stir of eager unrest over the tales told of the beautiful and fertile lands lying along the Ohio, the Cumberland, and the Tennessee. The days of the early pioneers, of the men who did the hardest and roughest work, were over; farms were being laid out and towns were growing up among the felled forests from which the game and the Indians had alike been driven. There was still plenty of room for the rude cabin and stump-dotted clearing of the ordinary frontier settler, the wood-chopper and game hunter. Folk of the common backwoods type were as yet more numerous than any others among the settlers. In addition there were planters from among the gentry of the sea-coast; there were men of means who had bought great tracts of wild land; there were traders with more energy than capital; there were young lawyers; there were gentlemen with a taste for an unfettered life of great opportunity; in short there were adventurers of every kind.

All men who deemed that they could swim in troubled waters were drawn towards the new country. The more turbulent and ambitious spirits saw roads to distinction in frontier warfare, politics, and diplomacy. Merchants dreamed of many fortunate ventures, in connection with the river trade or the overland commerce by packtrain. Lawyers not only expected to make their living by their proper calling, but also to rise to the first places in the commonwealths, for in these new communities, as in the older States, the law was then the most honored of the professions, and that which most surely led to high social and political standing. But the one great attraction for all classes was the chance of procuring large quantities of fertile land at low prices.

Value of the Land.

To the average settler the land was the prime source of livelihood. A man of hardihood, thrift, perseverance, and bodily strength could surely make a comfortable living for himself and his family, if only he could settle on a good tract of rich soil; and this he could do if he went to the new country. As a matter of course, therefore, vigorous young frontiersmen swarmed into the region so recently won.

These men merely wanted so much land as they could till. Others, however, looked at it from a very different standpoint. The land was the real treasury-chest of the country. It was the one commodity which appealed to the ambitious and adventurous side of the industrial character at that time and in that place. It was the one commodity the management of which opened chances of procuring vast wealth, and especially vast speculative wealth. To the American of the end of the eighteenth century the roads leading to great riches were as few as those leading to a competency were many. He could not prospect for mines of gold and of silver, of iron, copper, and coal; he could not discover and work wells of petroleum and natural gas; he could not build up, sell, and speculate in railroad systems and steamship companies; he could not gamble in the stock market; he could not build huge manufactories of steel, of cottons, of woollens; he could not be a banker or a merchant on a scale which is dwarfed when called princely; he could not sit still and see an already great income double and quadruple because of the mere growth in the value of real estate in some teeming city. The chances offered him by the fur trade were very uncertain. If he lived in a sea-coast town, he might do something with the clipper ships that ran to Europe and China. If he lived elsewhere, his one chance of acquiring great wealth, and his best chance to acquire even moderate wealth without long and plodding labor, was to speculate in wild land.

Land Speculators

Accordingly the audacious and enterprising business men who would nowadays go into speculation in stocks, were then forced into speculation in land. Sometimes as individuals, sometimes as large companies, they sought to procure wild lands on the Wabash, the Ohio, the Cumberland, the Yazoo. In addition to the ordinary methods of settlement by, or purchase from private persons, they endeavored to procure grants on favorable terms from the national and State legislatures, or even from the Spanish government. They often made a regular practice of buying the land rights which had accrued in lieu of arrears of pay to different bodies of Continental troops. They even at times purchased a vague and clouded title from some Indian tribe. As with most other speculative business investments, the great land companies rarely realized for the originators and investors anything like what was expected; and the majority were absolute failures in every sense. Nevertheless, a number of men made money out of them, often on quite a large scale; and in many instances, where the people who planned and carried out the scheme made nothing for themselves, they yet left their mark in the shape of settlers who had come in to purchase their lands, or even in the shape of a town built under their auspices.

Land speculation was by no means confined to those who went into it on a large scale. The settler without money might content himself with staking out an ordinary-sized farm; but the new-comer of any means was sure not only to try to get a large estate for his own use, but also to procure land beyond any immediate need, so that he might hold on to it until it rose in value. He was apt to hold commissions to purchase land for his friends who remained east of the mountains. The land was turned to use by private individuals and by corporations; it was held for speculative purposes; it was used for the liquidation of debts of every kind. The official surveyors, when created, did most of their work by deputy; Boone was deputy surveyor of Fayette County, in Kentucky. [Footnote: Draper MSS.; Boone MSS. Entry of August court for 1783.] Some men surveyed and staked out their own claims; the others employed professional surveyors, or else hired old hunters like Boone and Kenton, whose knowledge of woodcraft and acquaintance with the most fertile grounds enabled them not only to survey the land, but to choose the portions best fit for settlement. The lack of proper government surveys, and the looseness with which the records were kept in the land office, put a premium on fraud and encouraged carelessness. People could make and record entries in secret, and have the land surveyed in secret, if they feared a dispute over a title; no one save the particular deputy surveyor employed needed to know. [Footnote: Draper MSS. in Wisconsin State Hist. Ass. Clark papers. Walter Darrell to Col. William Fleming, St. Asaphs, April 14, 1783. These valuable Draper MSS, have been opened to me by Mr. Reuben Gold Thwaites, the State Librarian; I take this opportunity of thanking him for his generous courtesy, to which I am so greatly indebted.] The litigation over these confused titles dragged on with interminable tediousness. Titles were often several deep on one “location,” as it was called; and whoever purchased land too often purchased also an expensive and uncertain lawsuit.

The two chief topics of thought and conversation, the two subjects which beyond all others engrossed and absorbed the minds of the settlers, were the land and the Indians. We have already seen how on one occasion Clark could raise no men for an expedition against the Indians until he closed the land offices round which the settlers were thronging. Every hunter kept a sharp lookout for some fertile bottom on which to build a cabin. The volunteers who rode against the Indian towns also spied out the land and chose the best spots whereon to build their blockhouses and palisaded villages as soon as a truce might be made, or the foe driven for the moment farther from the border. Sometimes settlers squatted on land already held but not occupied under a good title; sometimes a man who claimed the land under a defective title, or under pretence of original occupation, attempted to oust or to blackmail him who had cleared and tilled the soil in good faith; and these were both fruitful causes not only of lawsuits but of bloody affrays. Among themselves, the settlers’ talk ran ever on land titles and land litigation, and schemes for securing vast tracts of rich and well watered country. These were the subjects with which they filled their letters to one another and to their friends at home, and the subjects upon which these same friends chiefly dwelt when they sent letters in return. [Footnote: Clay MSS. and Draper MSS., _passim: e.g._, in former, J. Mercer to George Nicholas, Nov. 28, 1789; J. Ware to George Nicholas, Nov. 29, 1789; letter to Mrs. Byrd, Jan. 16, 1786, etc., etc., etc.] Often well-to-do men visited the new country by themselves first, chose good sites for their farms and plantations, surveyed and purchased them, and then returned to their old homes, whence they sent out their field hands to break the soil and put up buildings before bringing out their families.

Lines Followed in the Western Movement.

The westward movement of settlers took place along several different lines. The dwellers in what is now eastern Tennessee were in close touch with the old settled country; their Western farms and little towns formed part of the chain of forest clearings which stretched unbroken from the border of Virginia down the valleys of the Watauga and the Holston. Though they were sundered by mountain ranges from the peopled regions in the State to which they belonged, North Carolina, yet these ranges were pierced by many trails, and were no longer haunted by Indians. There were no great obstacles to be overcome in moving in to this valley of the upper Tennessee. On the other hand, by this time it held no very great prizes in the shape of vast tracts of rich and unclaimed land. In consequence there was less temptation to speculation among those who went to this part of the western country. It grew rapidly, the population being composed chiefly of actual settlers who had taken holdings with the purpose of cultivating them, and of building homes thereon. The entire frontier of this region was continually harassed by Indians; and it was steadily extended by the home-planting of the rifle-bearing backwoodsmen.

The Cumberland Country.

The danger from Indian invasion and outrage was, however, far greater in the distant communities which were growing up in the great bend of the Cumberland, cut off, as they were, by immense reaches of forest from the seaboard States. The settlers who went to this region for the most part followed two routes, either descending the Tennessee and ascending the Cumberland in flotillas of flat-boats and canoes, or else striking out in large bodies through the wilderness, following the trails that led westward from the settlements on the Holston. The population on the Cumberland did not increase very fast for some years after the close of the Revolutionary War; and the settlers were, as a rule, harsh, sturdy backwoodsmen, who lived lives of toil and poverty. Nevertheless, there was a good deal of speculation in Cumberland lands; great tracts of tens of thousands of acres were purchased by men of means in the old districts of North Carolina, who sometimes came out to live on their estates. The looseness of the system of surveying in vogue is shown by the fact that where possible these lands were entered and paid for under a law which allowed a warrant to be shifted to new soil if it was discovered that the first entry was made on what was already claimed by some one else. [Footnote: Clay MSS., Jesse Benton to Thos. Hart, April 3, 1786.]

Hamlets and homesteads were springing up on the left bank of the upper Ohio, in what is now West Virginia; and along the streams flowing into it from the east. A few reckless adventurers were building cabins on the right bank of this great river. Others, almost as adventurous, were pushing into the neighborhood of the French villages on the Wabash and in the Illinois. At Louisville men were already planning to colonize the country just opposite on the Ohio, under the law of the State of Virginia, which rewarded the victorious soldiers of Clark’s famous campaign with grants in the region they had conquered.

Movement of Settlers to Kentucky.

The great growth of the west took place in Kentucky. The Kentucky country was by far the most widely renowned for its fertility; it was much more accessible and more firmly held, and its government was on a more permanent footing than was the case in the Wabash, Illinois, and Cumberland regions. In consequence the majority of the men who went west to build homes fixed their eyes on the vigorous young community which lay north of the Ohio, and which already aspired to the honors of statehood.

The Wilderness Road to Kentucky.

The immigrants came into Kentucky in two streams, following two different routes–the Ohio River, and Boone’s old Wilderness Trail. Those who came overland, along the latter road, were much fewer in number than those who came by water; and yet they were so numerous that the trail at times was almost thronged, and much care had to be taken in order to find camping places where there was enough feed for the horses. The people who travelled this wilderness road went in the usual backwoods manner, on horseback, with laden packtrains, and often with their herds and flocks. Young men went out alone or in parties; and groups of families from the same neighborhood often journeyed together. They struggled over the narrow, ill-made roads which led from the different back settlements, until they came to the last outposts of civilization east of the Cumberland Mountains; scattered block-houses, whose owners were by turns farmers, tavern-keepers, hunters, and Indian fighters. Here they usually waited until a sufficient number had gathered together to furnish a band of riflemen large enough to beat off any prowling party of red marauders; and then set off to traverse by slow stages the mountains and vast forests which lay between them and the nearest Kentucky station. The time of the journey depended, of course, upon the composition of the travelling party, and upon the mishaps encountered; a party of young men on good horses might do it in three days, while a large band of immigrants, who were hampered by women, children, and cattle, and dogged by ill-luck, might take three weeks. Ordinarily six or eight days were sufficient. Before starting each man laid in a store of provisions for himself and his horse; perhaps thirty pounds of flour, half a bushel of corn meal, and three bushels of oats. There was no meat unless game was shot. Occasionally several travellers clubbed together and carried a tent; otherwise they slept in the open. The trail was very bad, especially at first, where it climbed between the gloomy and forbidding cliffs that walled in Cumberland Gap. Even when undisturbed by Indians, the trip was accompanied by much fatigue and exposure; and, as always in frontier travelling, one of the perpetual annoyances was the necessity for hunting up strayed horses. [Footnote: Durrett MSS. Journal of Rev. James Smith, 1785.]

The Travel down the Ohio.

The chief highway was the Ohio River; for to drift down stream in a scow was easier and quicker, and no more dangerous, than to plod through thick mountain forests. Moreover, it was much easier for the settler who went by water to carry with him his household goods and implements of husbandry; and even such cumbrous articles as wagons, or, if he was rich and ambitious, the lumber wherewith to build a frame house. All kinds of craft were used, even bark canoes and pirogues, or dugouts; but the keel-boat, and especially the flat-bottomed scow with square ends, were the ordinary means of conveyance. They were of all sizes. The passengers and their live stock were of course huddled together so as to take up as little room as possible. Sometimes the immigrants built or bought their own boat, navigated it themselves, and sold it or broke it up on reaching their destination. At other times they merely hired a passage. A few of the more enterprising boat owners speedily introduced a regular emigrant service, making trips at stated times from Pittsburg or perhaps Limestone, and advertising the carriage capacity of their boats and the times of starting. The trip from Pittsburg to Louisville took a week or ten days; but in low water it might last a month.

Numbers of the Immigrants.

The number of boats passing down the Ohio, laden with would-be settlers and their belongings, speedily became very great. An eye-witness stated that between November 13th and December 22d, of 1785, thirty-nine boats, with an average of ten souls in each, went down the Ohio to the Falls; and there were others which stopped at some of the settlements farther up the river. [Footnote: Draper MSS., _Massachusetts Gazette_, March 13, 1786; letter from Kentucky, December 22, 1785.] As time went on the number of immigrants who adopted this method of travel increased; larger boats were used, and the immigrants took more property with them. In the last half of the year 1787 there passed by Fort Harmar 146 boats, with 3196 souls, 1371 horses, 165 wagons, 191 cattle, 245 sheep, and 24 hogs. [Footnote: Harmar Papers, December 9, 1787.] In the year ending in November, 1788, 967 boats, carrying 18,370 souls, with 7986 horses, 2372 cows, 1110 sheep, and 646 wagons, [Footnote: _Columbian Magazine_, January, 1789. Letter from Fort Harmar, November 26, 1788. By what is evidently a clerical error the time is put down as one month instead of one year.] went down the Ohio. For many years this great river was the main artery through which the fresh blood of the pioneers was pumped into the west.

There are no means of procuring similar figures for the number of immigrants who went over the Wilderness Road; but probably there were not half as many as went down the Ohio. Perhaps from ten to twenty thousand people a year came into Kentucky during the period immediately succeeding the close of the Revolution; but the net gain to the population was much less, because there was always a smaller, but almost equally steady, counter-flow of men who, having failed as pioneers, were struggling wearily back toward their deserted eastern homes.

Kentucky’s Growth.

The inrush being so great Kentucky grew apace. In 1785 the population was estimated at from twenty [Footnote: “Journey in the West in 1785,” by Lewis Brantz.] to thirty thousand; and the leading towns, Louisville, Lexington, Harrodsburg, Booneboro, St. Asaph’s, were thriving little hamlets, with stores and horse grist-mills, and no longer mere clusters of stockaded cabins. At Louisville, for instance, there were already a number of two-story frame houses, neatly painted, with verandahs running the full length of each house, and fenced vegetable gardens alongside [Footnote: “Lettres d’un cultivateur american,” St. John de Creve Coeur. Summer of 1784.]; while at the same time Nashville was a town of logs, with but two houses that deserved the name, the others being mere huts. [Footnote: Brantz.] The population of Louisville amounted to about 300 souls, of whom 116 were fighting men [Footnote: State Department MSS. Papers Continental Congress, No. 150, vol. ii., p. 21. Letter from Major W. North, August 23, 1786.]; between it and Lexington the whole country was well settled; but fear of the Indians kept settlers back from the Ohio.

The new-comers were mainly Americans from all the States of the Union; but there were also a few people from nearly every country in Europe, and even from Asia. [Footnote: Letter in _Massachusetts Gazette_, above quoted.] The industrious and the adventurous, the homestead winners and the land speculators, the criminal fleeing from justice, and the honest man seeking a livelihood or a fortune, all alike prized the wild freedom and absence of restraint so essentially characteristic of their new life; a life in many ways very pleasant, but one which on the border of the Indian country sank into mere savagery.

Kentucky was “a good poor man’s country” [Footnote: State Department MSS. Madison Papers. Caleb Wallace to Madison, July 12, 1785.] provided the poor man was hardy and vigorous. The settlers were no longer in danger of starvation, for they already raised more flour than they could consume. Neither was there as yet anything approaching to luxury. But between these two extremes there was almost every grade of misery and well-being, according to the varying capacity shown by the different settlers in grappling with the conditions of their new life. Among the foreign-born immigrants success depended in part upon race; a contemporary Kentucky observer estimated that, of twelve families of each nationality, nine German, seven Scotch, and four Irish prospered, while the others failed. [Footnote: “Description of Kentucky,” 1792, by Harry Toulmin, Secretary of State.] The German women worked just as hard as the men, even in the fields, and both sexes were equally saving. Naturally such thrifty immigrants did well materially; but they never took any position of leadership or influence in the community until they had assimilated themselves in speech and customs to their American neighbors. The Scotch were frugal and industrious; for good or for bad they speedily became indistinguishable from the native-born. The greater proportion of failures among the Irish, brave and vigorous though they were, was due to their quarrelsomeness, and their fondness for drink and litigation; besides, remarks this Kentucky critic, “they soon take to the gun, which is the ruin of everything.” None of these foreign-born elements were of any very great importance in the development of Kentucky; its destiny was shaped and controlled by its men of native stock.

Character of the Frontier Population.

In such a population there was of course much loosening of the bands, social, political, moral, and religious, which knit a society together. A great many of the restraints of their old life were thrown off, and there was much social adjustment and readjustment before their relations to one another under the new conditions became definitely settled. But there came early into the land many men of high purpose and pure life whose influence upon their fellows, though quiet, was very great. Moreover, the clergyman and the school-teacher, the two beings who had done so much for colonial civilization on the seaboard, were already becoming important factors in the life of the frontier communities. Austere Presbyterian ministers were people of mark in many of the towns. The Baptist preachers lived and worked exactly as did their flocks; their dwellings were little cabins with dirt floors and, instead of bedsteads, skin-covered pole-bunks; they cleared the ground, split rails, planted corn, and raised hogs on equal terms with their parishioners. [Footnote: “History of Kentucky Baptists,” by J. H. Spencer.] After Methodism cut loose from its British connections in 1785, the time of its great advance began, and the circuit-riders were speedily eating bear meat and buffalo tongues on the frontier. [Footnote: “History of Methodism in Kentucky,” by John B. McFerrier.]

Rough log schools were springing up everywhere, beside the rough log meeting-houses, the same building often serving for both purposes. The school-teacher might be a young surveyor out of work for the moment, a New Englander fresh from some academy in the northeast, an Irishman with a smattering of learning, or perhaps an English immigrant of the upper class, unfit for and broken down by the work of a new country. [Footnote: Durrett MSS. “Autobiography of Robert McAfee.”] The boys and girls were taught together, and at recess played together–tag, pawns, and various kissing games. The rod was used unsparingly, for the elder boys proved boisterous pupils. A favorite mutinous frolic was to “bar out” the teacher, taking possession of the school-house and holding it against the master with sticks and stones until he had either forced an entrance or agreed to the terms of the defenders. Sometimes this barring out represented a revolt against tyranny; often it was a conventional, and half-acquiesced-in, method of showing exuberance of spirit, just before the Christmas holidays. In most of the schools the teaching was necessarily of the simplest, for the only books might be a Testament, a primer, a spelling book, and a small arithmetic.

Frontier Society.

In such a society, simple, strong, and rude, both the good features and the bad were nakedly prominent; and the views of observers in reference thereto varied accordingly as they were struck by one set of characteristics or another. One traveller would paint the frontiersmen as little better than the Indians against whom they warred, and their life as wild, squalid, and lawless; while the next would lay especial and admiring stress on their enterprise, audacity, and hospitable openhandedness. Though much alike, different portions of the frontier stock were beginning to develop along different lines. The Holston people, both in Virginia and North Carolina, were by this time comparatively little affected by immigration from without those States, and were on the whole homogeneous; but the Virginians and Carolinians of the seaboard considered them rough, unlettered, and not of very good character. One travelling clergyman spoke of them with particular disfavor; he was probably prejudiced by their indifference to his preaching, for he mentions with much dissatisfaction that the congregations he addressed “though small, behaved extremely bad.” [Footnote: Durrett MSS. Rev. James Smith, “Tour in Western Country,” 1785.] The Kentuckians showed a mental breadth that was due largely to the many different sources from which even the predominating American elements in the population sprang. The Cumberland people seemed to travellers the wildest and rudest of all, as was but natural, for these fierce and stalwart settlers were still in the midst of a warfare as savage as any ever waged among the cave-dwellers of the Stone Age.

The opinion of any mere passer-through a country is always less valuable than that of an intelligent man who dwells and works among the people, and who possesses both insight and sympathy. At this time one of the recently created Kentucky judges, an educated Virginian, in writing to his friend Madison, said: “We are as harmonious amongst ourselves as can be expected of a mixture of people from various States and of various Sentiments and Manners not yet assimilated. In point of Morals the bulk of the inhabitants are far superior to what I expected to find in any new settled country. We have not had a single instance of Murder, and but one Criminal for Felony of any kind has yet been before the Supreme Court. I wish I could say as much to vindicate the character of our Land-jobbers. This Business has been attended with much villainy in other parts. Here it is reduced to a system, and to take the advantage of the ignorance or of the poverty of a neighbor is almost grown into reputation.” [Footnote: Wallace’s letter, above quoted.]

The Gentry.

Of course, when the fever for land speculation raged so violently, many who had embarked too eagerly in the purchase of large tracts became land poor; Clark being among those who found that though they owned great reaches of fertile wild land they had no means whatever of getting money. [Footnote: Draper MSS. G. R. Clark to Jonathan Clark, April 20,178.] In Kentucky, while much land was taken up under Treasury warrants, much was also allotted to the officers of the Continental army; and the retired officers of the Continental line were the best of all possible immigrants. A class of gentlefolks soon sprang up in the land, whose members were not so separated from other citizens as to be in any way alien to them, and who yet stood sufficiently above the mass to be recognized as the natural leaders, social and political, of their sturdy fellow-freemen. These men by degrees built themselves comfortable, roomy houses, and their lives were very pleasant; at a little later period Clark, having abandoned war and politics, describes himself as living a retired life with, as his chief amusements, reading, hunting, fishing, fowling, and corresponding with a few chosen friends. [Footnote: _Do._, letter of Sept. 2, 1791.] Game was still very plentiful: buffalo and elk abounded north of the Ohio, while bear and deer, turkey, swans, and geese, [Footnote: _Magazine of American History_, I., Letters of Laurence Butler from Kentucky, Nov. 20, 1786, etc.] not to speak of ducks and prairie fowl swarmed in the immediate neighborhood of the settlements.

The Army Officers.

The gentry offered to strangers the usual open-handed hospitality characteristic of the frontier, with much more than the average frontier refinement; a hospitality, moreover, which was never marred or interfered with by the frontier suspiciousness of strangers which sometimes made the humbler people of the border seem churlish to travellers. When Federal garrisons were established along the Ohio the officers were largely dependent for their social pleasures on the gentle-folks of the several rather curious glimpses of the life of the time. [Footnote: Major Erkuries Beattie. In the _Magazine of Am. Hist._, I., p. 175.] He mentions being entertained by Clark at “a very elegant dinner,” [Footnote: 2 Aug. 25, 1786.] a number of gentlemen being present. After dinner the guests adjourned to the dancing school, “where there were twelve or fifteen young misses, some of whom had made considerable improvement in that polite accomplishment, and indeed were middling neatly dressed considering the distance from where luxuries are to be bought and the expense attending the purchase of them here”–for though beef and flour were cheap, all imported goods sold for at least five times as much as they cost in Philadelphia or New York. The officers sometimes gave dances in the forts, the ladies and their escorts coming in to spend the night; and they attended the great barbecues to which the people rode from far and near, many of the men carrying their wives or sweethearts behind them on the saddle. At such a barbecue an ox or a sheep, a bear, an elk, or a deer, was split in two and roasted over the coals; dinner was eaten under the trees; and there was every kind of amusement from horse-racing to dancing.

Friction with the Backwoodsmen.

Though the relations of the officers of the regular troops with the gentry were so pleasant there was always much friction between them and the ordinary frontiersmen; a friction which continued to exist as long as the frontier itself, and which survives to this day in the wilder parts of the country. The regular army officer and the frontiersman are trained in fashions so diametrically opposite that, though the two men be brothers, they must yet necessarily in all their thoughts and instincts and ways of looking at life, be as alien as if they belonged to two different races of mankind. The borderer, rude, suspicious, and impatient of discipline, looks with distrust and with a mixture of sneering envy and of hostility upon the officer; while the latter, with his rigid training and his fixed ideals, feels little sympathy for the other’s good points, and is contemptuously aware of his numerous failings. The only link between the two is the scout, the man who, though one of the frontiersmen, is accustomed to act and fight in company with the soldiers. In Kentucky, at the close of the Revolution, this link was generally lacking; and there was no tie of habitual, even though half-hostile, intercourse to unite the two parties. In consequence the ill-will often showed itself by acts of violence. The backwoods bullies were prone to browbeat and insult the officers if they found them alone, trying to provoke them to rough-and-tumble fighting; and in such a combat, carried on with the revolting brutality necessarily attendant upon a contest where gouging and biting were considered legitimate, the officers, who were accustomed only to use their fists, generally had the worst of it; so that at last they made a practice of carrying their side-arms–which secured them from molestation.

Pursuits of the Settlers.

Besides raising more than enough flour and beef to keep themselves in plenty, the settlers turned their attention to many other forms of produce. Indian corn was still the leading crop; but melons, pumpkins, and the like were grown, and there were many thriving orchards; while tobacco cultivation was becoming of much importance. Great droves of hogs and flocks of sheep flourished in every locality whence the bears and wolves had been driven; the hogs running free in the woods with the branded cattle and horses. Except in the most densely settled parts much of the beef was still obtained from buffaloes, and much of the bacon from bears. Venison was a staple commodity. The fur trade, largely carried on by French trappers, was still of great importance in Kentucky and Tennessee. North of the Ohio it was the attraction which tempted white men into the wilderness. Its profitable nature was the chief reason why the British persistently clung to the posts on the Lakes, and stirred up the Indians to keep the American settlers out of all lands that were tributary to the British fur merchants. From Kentucky and the Cumberland country the peltries were sometimes sent east by packtrain, and sometimes up the Ohio in bateaus or canoes.

Boone’s Trading Ventures.

In addition to furs, quantities of ginseng were often carried to the eastern settlements at this period when the commerce of the west was in its first infancy, and was as yet only struggling for an outlet down the Mississippi. One of those who went into this trade was Boone. Although no longer a real leader in Kentucky life he still occupied quite a prominent position, and served as a Representative in the Virginia Legislature, [Footnote: Draper’s MSS., Boone MSS., from Bourbon Co. The papers cover the years from 1784 on to ’95.] while his fame as a hunter and explorer was now spread abroad in the United States, and even Europe. To travellers and new-comers generally, he was always pointed out as the first discoverer of Kentucky; and being modest, self-contained and self-reliant he always impressed them favorably. He spent most of his time in hunting, trapping, and surveying land warrants for men of means, being paid, for instance, two shillings current money per acre for all the good laud he could enter on a ten-thousand acre Treasury warrant. [Footnote: _Do_., certificate of G. Imlay, 1784.] He also traded up and down the Ohio River, at various places, such as Point Pleasant and Limestone; and at times combined keeping a tavern with keeping a store. His accounts contain much quaint information. Evidently his guests drank as generously as they ate; he charges one four pounds sixteen shillings for two months’ board and two pounds four shillings for liquor. He takes the note of another for ninety-three gallons of cheap corn whiskey. Whiskey cost sixpence a pint, and rum one shilling; while corn was three shillings a bushel, and salt twenty-four shillings, flour, thirty-six shillings a barrel, bacon sixpence and fresh pork and buffalo beef threepence a pound. Boone procured for his customers or for himself such articles as linen, cloth, flannel, corduroy, chintz, calico, broadcloth, and velvet at prices varying according to the quality, from three to thirty shillings a yard; and there was also evidently a ready market for “tea ware,” knives and forks, scissors, buttons, nails, and all kinds of hardware. Furs and skins usually appear on the debit sides of the various accounts, ranging in value from the skin of a beaver, worth eighteen shillings, or that of a bear worth ten, to those of deer, wolves, coons, wildcats, and foxes, costing two to four shillings apiece. Boone procured his goods from merchants in Hagerstown and Williamsport, in Maryland, whither he and his sons guided their own packtrains, laden with peltries and with kegs of ginseng, and accompanied by droves of loose horses. He either followed some well-beaten mountain trail or opened a new road through the wilderness as seemed to him best at the moment. [Footnote: _Do., passim._]

Boone’s creed in matters of morality and religion was as simple and straightforward as his own character. Late in life he wrote to one of his kinsfolk: “All the religion I have is to love and fear God, believe in Jesus Christ, do all the good to my neighbors and myself that I can, and do as little harm as I can help, and trust on God’s mercy for the rest.” The old pioneer always kept the respect of red man and white, of friend and foe, for he acted according to his belief. Yet there was one evil to which he was no more sensitive than the other men of his time.

Among his accounts there is an entry recording his purchase, for another man, of a negro woman for the sum of ninety pounds. [Footnote: _3 Do_., March 7, 1786.] There was already a strong feeling in the western settlements against negro slavery, [Footnote: See Journals of Rev. James Smith.] because of its moral evil, and of its inconsistency with all true standards of humanity and Christianity, a feeling which continued to exist and which later led to resolute efforts to forbid or abolish slave-holding. But the consciences of the majority were too dull, and, from the standpoint of the white race, they were too shortsighted to take action in the right direction. The selfishness and mental obliquity which imperil the future of a race for the sake of the lazy pleasure of two or three generations prevailed; and in consequence the white people of the middle west, and therefore eventually of the southwest, clutched the one burden under which they ever staggered, the one evil which has ever warped their development, the one danger which has ever seriously threatened their very existence. Slavery must of necessity exercise the most baleful influence upon any slave-holding people, and especially upon those members of the dominant caste who do not themselves own slaves. Moreover, the negro, unlike so many of the inferior races, does not dwindle away in the presence of the white man. He holds his own; indeed, under the conditions of American slavery he increased faster than the white, threatening to supplant him. He actually has supplanted him in certain of the West Indian islands, where the sin of the white in enslaving the black has been visited upon the head of the wrongdoer by his victim with a dramatically terrible completeness of revenge. What has occurred in Hayti is what would eventually have occurred in our own semi-tropical States if the slave-trade and slavery had continued to flourish as their shortsighted advocates wished. Slavery is ethically abhorrent to all right-minded men; and it is to be condemned without stint on this ground alone. From the standpoint of the master caste it is to condemned even more strongly because it invariably in the end threatens the very existence of that master caste. From this point of view the presence of the negro is the real problem; slavery is merely the worst possible method of solving the problem. In their earlier stages the problem and its solution, in America, were one. There may be differences of opinion as to how to solve the problem; but there can be none whatever as to the evil wrought by those who brought about that problem; and it was only the slave-holders and the slave-traders who were guilty on this last count. The worst foes, not only of humanity and civilization, but especially of the white race in America, were those white men who brought slaves from Africa, and who fostered the spread of slavery in the States and territories of the American Republic.


THE INDIAN WARS, 1784-1787.

Lull in the Border War.

After the close of the Revolution there was a short, uneasy lull in the eternal border warfare between the white men and the red. The Indians were for the moment daunted by a peace which left them without allies; and the feeble Federal Government attempted for the first time to aid and control the West by making treaties with the most powerful frontier tribes. Congress raised a tiny regular army, and several companies were sent to the upper Ohio to garrison two or three small forts which were built upon its banks. Commissioners (one of whom was Clark himself) were appointed to treat with both the northern and southern Indians. Councils were held in various places. In 1785 and early in 1786 utterly fruitless treaties were concluded with Shawnees, Wyandots, and Delawares at one or other of the little forts. [Footnote: State Department MSS., No. 56, p. 333, Letter of G. Clark, Nov. 10, 1785; p. 337, Letter of G. Clark to R. Butler, etc.; No. 16, p. 293; No. 32, p. 39.]

Treaty of Hopewell.

About the same time, in the late fall of 1785, another treaty somewhat more noteworthy, but equally fruitless, was concluded with the Cherokees at Hopewell, on Keowee, in South Carolina. In this treaty the Commissioners promised altogether too much. They paid little heed to the rights and needs of the settlers. Neither did they keep in mind the powerlessness of the Federal Government to enforce against these settlers what their treaty promised the Indians. The pioneers along the upper Tennessee and the Cumberland had made various arrangements with bands of the Cherokees, sometimes acting on their own initiative, and sometimes on behalf of the State of North Carolina. Many of these different agreements were entered into by the whites with honesty and good faith, but were violated at will by the Indians. Others were violated by the whites, or were repudiated by the Indians as well, because of some real or fancied unfairness in the making. Under them large quantities of land had been sold or allotted, and hundreds of homes had been built on the lands thus won by the whites or ceded by the Indians. As with all Indian treaties, it was next to impossible to say exactly how far these agreements were binding, because no persons, not even the Indians themselves, could tell exactly who had authority to represent the tribes. [Footnote: American State Papers, Public Lands, I., p. 40, vi.] The Commissioners paid little heed to these treaties, and drew the boundary so that quantities of land which had been entered under regular grants, and were covered by the homesteads of the frontiersmen, were declared to fall within the Cherokee line. Moreover, they even undertook to drive all settlers off these lands.

Of course, such a treaty excited the bitter anger of the frontiersmen, and they scornfully refused to obey its provisions. They hated the Indians, and, as a rule, were brutally indifferent to their rights, while they looked down on the Federal Government as impotent. Nor was the ill-will to the treaty confined to the rough borderers. Many men of means found that land grants which they had obtained in good faith and for good money were declared void. Not only did they denounce the treaty, and decline to abide by it, but they denounced the motives of the Commissioners, declaring, seemingly without justification, that they had ingratiated themselves with the Indians to further land speculations of their own. [Footnote: Clay MSS. Jesse Benton to Thos. Hart, April 3, 1786.]

Violation of the Treaty.

As the settlers declined to pay any heed to the treaty the Indians naturally became as discontented with it as the whites. In the following summer the Cherokee chiefs made solemn complaint that, instead of retiring from the disputed ground, the settlers had encroached yet farther upon it, and had come to within five miles of the beloved town of Chota. The chiefs added that they had now made several such treaties, each of which established boundaries that were immediately broken, and that indeed it had been their experience that after a treaty the whites settled even faster on their lands than before. [Footnote: State Department MSS., No. 56. Address of Corn Tassel and Hanging Maw, Sept. 5, 1786.] Just before this complaint was sent to Congress the same chiefs had been engaged in negotiations with the settlers themselves, who advanced radically different claims. The fact was that in this unsettled time the bond of Governmental authority was almost as lax among the whites as among the Indians, and the leaders on each side who wished for peace were hopelessly unable to restrain their fellows who did not. Under such circumstances, the sword, or rather the tomahawk, was ultimately the only possible arbiter.

Treaties with Northwestern Indians.

The treaties entered into with the northwestern Indians failed for precisely the opposite reason. The treaty at Hopewell promised so much to the Indians that the whites refused to abide by its terms. In the councils on the Ohio the Americans promised no more than they could and did perform; but the Indians themselves broke the treaties at once, and in all probability never for a moment intended to keep them, merely signing from a greedy desire to get the goods they were given as an earnest. They were especially anxious for spirits, for they far surpassed even the white borderers in their crazy thirst for strong drink. “We have smelled your liquor and it is very good; we hope you will give us some little kegs to carry home,” said the spokesmen of a party of Chippewas, who had come from the upper Great Lakes. [Footnote: _Do._, Letters of H. Knox, No. 150, vol. i., p. 445.] These frank savages, speaking thus in behalf of their far northern brethren, uttered what was in the minds of most of the Indians who attended the councils held by the United States Commissioners. They came to see what they could get, by begging, or by promising what they had neither the will nor the power to perform. Many of them, as in the case of the Chippewas, were from lands so remote that they felt no anxiety about white encroachments, and were lured into hostile encounter with the Americans chiefly by their own overmastering love of plunder and bloodshed.

Nevertheless, there were a few chiefs and men of note in the tribes who sincerely wished peace. One of these was Cornplanter, the Iroquois. The power of the Six Nations had steadily dwindled; moreover, they did not, like the more western tribes, lie directly athwart the path which the white advance was at the moment taking. Thus they were not drawn into open warfare, but their continual uneasiness, and the influence they still possessed with the other Indians, made it an object to keep on friendly terms with them. Cornplanter, a valiant and able warrior, who had both taken and given hard blows in warring against the Americans, was among the chiefs and ambassadors who visited Fort Pitt during the troubled lull in frontier war which succeeded the news of the peace of 1783. His speeches showed, as his deeds had already shown, in a high degree, that loftiness of courage, and stern, uncomplaining acceptance of the decrees of a hostile fate, which so often ennobled the otherwise gloomy and repellent traits of the Indian character. He raised no plaint over what had befallen his race; “the Great Spirit above directs us so that whatever hath been said or done must be good and right,” he said in a spirit of strange fatalism well known to certain creeds, both Christian and heathen. He was careful to dwell on the fact that in addressing the representatives of “the Great Council who watch the Thirteen Fires and keep them bright,” he was anxious only to ward off woe from the women and little ones of his people and was defiantly indifferent to what might personally be before him. “As for me my life is short, ‘t is already sold to the Great King over the water,” he said. But it soon appeared that the British agents had deceived him, telling him that the peace was a mere temporary truce, and keeping concealed the fact that under the treaty the British had ceded to the Americans all rights over the Iroquois and western Indians, and over their land. Great was his indignation when the actual text of the treaty was read him, and he discovered the double-dealing of his far-off royal paymaster. In commenting on it he showed that, like the rest of his race, he had been much impressed by the striking uniforms of the British officers. He evidently took it for granted that the head of these officers must own a yet more striking uniform; and treachery seemed doubly odious in one who possessed so much. “I assisted the great King,” he said, “I fought his battles, while he sat quietly in his forts; nor did I ever suspect that so great a person, one too who wore a red coat sufficient of itself to tempt one, could be guilty of such glaring falsehood.” [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 56, March 7, 1786, p. 345, also p. 395.] After this Cornplanter remained on good terms with the Americans and helped to keep the Iroquois from joining openly in the war. The western tribes taunted them because of this attitude. They sent them word in the fall of 1785 that once the Six Nations were a great people, but that now they had let the Long Knife throw them; but that the western Indians would set them on their feet again if they would join them; for “the western Indians were determined to wrestle with Long Knife in the spring.” [Footnote: _Do._, No. 150, vol. i., Major Finley’s Statement, Dec. 6, 1785.]

Failure of the Treaties.

Some of the Algonquin chiefs, notably Molunthee the Shawnee, likewise sincerely endeavored to bring about a peace. But the western tribes as a whole were bent on war. They were constantly excited and urged on by the British partisan leaders, such as Simon Girty, Elliot, and Caldwell. These leaders took part in the great Indian councils, at which even tribes west of the Mississippi were represented; and though they spoke without direct authority from the British commanders at the lake posts, yet their words carried weight when they told the young red warriors that it was better to run the risk of dying like men than of starving like dogs. Many of the old men among the Wyandotes and Delawares spoke against strife; but the young men were for war, and among the Shawnees, the Wabash Indians, and the Miamis the hostile party was still stronger. A few Indians would come to one of the forts and make a treaty on behalf of their tribe, at the very moment that the other members of the same tribe were murdering and ravaging among the exposed settlements or were harrying the boats that went down the Ohio. All the tribes that entered into the treaties of peace were represented among the different parties of marauders. Over the outlaw bands there was no pretence of control; and their successes, and the numerous scalps and quantities of plunder they obtained, made them very dangerous examples to the hot-blooded young warriors everywhere. Perhaps the most serious of all obstacles to peace was the fact that the British still kept the lake posts. [Footnote: _Do._, Letters of H. Knox, No. 150, vol. i., pp. 107, 112, 115, 123, 149, 243, 269, etc.]

The Indians who did come in to treat were sullen, and at first always insisted on impossible terms. They would finally agree to mutual concessions, would promise to keep their young men from marauding, and to allow surveys to be made, provided the settlers were driven off all lands which the Indians had not yielded; and after receiving many gifts, would depart. The representatives of the Federal Government would then at once set about performing their share of the agreement, the most important part of which was the removal of the settlers who had built cabins on the Indian lands west of the Ohio. The Federal authorities, both military and civil, disliked the intruders as much as they did the Indians, stigmatizing them as “a banditti who were a disgrace to human nature.” There was no unnecessary harshness exercised by the troops in removing the trespassers; but the cabins were torn down and the sullen settlers themselves were driven back across the river, though they protested and threatened resistance. Again and again this was done; not alone in the interest of the Indians, but in part also because Congress wished to reserve the lands for sale, with the purpose of paying off the public debt. At the same time surveying parties were sent out. But in each case, no sooner had the Federal Commissioners and their subordinates begun to perform their part of the agreement, than they were stopped by tidings of fresh outrages on the part of the very Indians with whom they had made the treaty; while the surveying parties were driven in and forced to abandon their work. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 30, p. 265; No. 56, p. 327; No. 163, pp. 416, 418, 422, 426.]

Both Sides Bent on War.

The truth was that while the Federal Government sincerely desired peace, and strove to bring it about, the northwestern tribes were resolutely bent on war; and the frontiersmen themselves showed nearly as much inclination for hostilities as the Indians. [Footnote: _Do._, Indian Affairs. Letter of P. Muehlenberg, July 5, 1784.] They were equally anxious to intrude on the Government and on the Indian lands; for they were adventurous, the lands were valuable, and they hated the Indians, and looked down on the weak Federal authority. [Footnote: _Do._, Report of H. Knox, April, 1787.] They often made what were legally worthless “tomahawk claims,” and objected almost as much as the Indians to the work of the regular Government surveyors. [Footnote: _Do._, 150, vol. ii., p. 548.] Even the men of note, men like George Rogers Clark, were often engaged in schemes to encroach on the land north of the Ohio: drawing on themselves the bitter reproaches not only of the Federal authorities, but also of the Virginia Government, for their cruel readiness to jeopardize the country by incurring the wrath of the Indians. [Footnote: draper MSS. Benj. Harrison to G. R. Clark, August 19, 1784.] The more lawless whites were as little amenable to authority as the Indians themselves; and at the very moment when a peace was being negotiated one side or the other would commit some brutal murder. While the chiefs and old Indians were delivering long-winded speeches to the Peace Commissioners, bands of young braves committed horrible ravages among the lonely settlements. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 56, pp. 279 and 333; No. 60, p. 297, etc.] Now a drunken Indian at Fort Pitt murdered an innocent white man, the local garrison of regular troops saving him with difficulty from being lynched [Footnote: Denny’s Journal, p. 259.]; now a band of white ruffians gathered to attack some peaceable Indians who had come in to treat [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 56, p. 255.]; again a white man murdered an unoffending Indian, and was seized by a Federal officer, and thrown into chains, to the great indignation of his brutal companions [Footnote: _Do_., No. 150, vol. ii., p. 296.]; and yet again another white man murdered an Indian, and escaped to the woods before he could be arrested. [Footnote: Draper MSS. Clark, Croghan, and Others to Delawares, August 28, 1785.]

Bloodshed Begun.

Under such conditions the peace negotiations were doomed from the outset. The truce on the border was of the most imperfect description; murders and robberies by the Indians, and acts of vindictive retaliation or aggression by the whites, occurred continually and steadily increased in number. In 1784 a Cherokee of note, when sent to warn the intruding settlers on the French Broad that they must move out of the land, was shot and slain in a fight with a local militia captain. Cherokee war bands had already begun to harry the frontier and infest the Kentucky Wilderness Road. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 48, p. 277.] At the same time the northwestern Indians likewise committed depredations, and were only prevented from making a general league against the whites by their own internal dissensions–the Chickasaws and Kickapoos being engaged in a desperate war. [Footnote: _Do_., Muehlenberg’s Letter.] The Wabash Indians were always threatening hostilities. The Shawnees for some time observed a precarious peace, and even, in accordance with their agreement, brought in and surrendered a few white prisoners; and among the Delawares and Wyandots there was also a strong friendly party; but in all three tribes the turbulent element was never under real control, and it gradually got the upper hand. Meanwhile the Georgians and Creeks in the south were having experiences of precisely the same kind–treaties fraudulently procured by the whites, or fraudulently entered into and violated by the Indians; encroachments by white settlers on Indian lands, and bloody Indian forays among the peaceful settlements. [Footnote: _Do_., No. 73, pp. 7, 343. Gazette of the State of Georgia, Aug. 5, 1784, May 25, June 1, Nov. 2, Nov. 30, 1786.]

The more far-sighted and resolute among all the Indians, northern and southern, began to strive for a general union against the Americans. [Footnote: _Do_., No. 20, pp. 321 and 459; No. 18, p. 140; No. 12, vol. ii., June 30. 1786.] In 1786 the northwestern Indians almost formed such a union. Two thousand warriors gathered at the Shawnee towns and agreed to take up the hatchet against the Americans; British agents were present at the council; and even before the council was held, war parties were bringing into the Shawnee towns the scalps of American settlers, and prisoners, both men and women, who were burned at the stake. [Footnote: _Do_., No. 60, p. 277, Sept. 13, 1786.] But the jealousy and irresolution of the tribes prevented the actual formation of a league.

The Federal Government still feebly hoped for peace; and in the vain endeavors to avoid irritating the Indians forbade all hostile expeditions into the Indian country–though these expeditions offered the one hope of subduing the savages and preventing their inroads. By 1786 the settlers generally, including all their leaders, such as Clark, [Footnote: _Do_., No. 50, p. 279. Clark to R. H. Lee.] had become convinced that the treaties were utterly futile, and that the only right policy was one of resolute war.

The War Inevitable.

In truth the war was unavoidable. The claims and desires of the two parties were irreconcilable. Treaties and truces were palliatives which did not touch the real underlying trouble. The white settlers were unflinchingly bent on seizing the land over which the Indians roamed but which they did not in any true sense own or occupy. In return the Indians were determined at all costs and hazards to keep the men of chain and compass, and of axe and rifle, and the forest-felling settlers who followed them, out of their vast and lonely hunting-grounds. Nothing but the actual shock of battle could decide the quarrel. The display of overmastering, overwhelming force might have cowed the Indians; but it was not possible for the United States, or for any European power, ever to exert or display such force far beyond the limits of the settled country. In consequence the warlike tribes were not then, and never have been since, quelled save by actual hard fighting, until they were overawed by the settlement of all the neighboring lands.

Nor was there any alternative to these Indian wars. It is idle folly to speak of them as being the fault of the United States Government; and it is even more idle to say that they could have been averted by treaty. Here and there, under exceptional circumstances or when a given tribe was feeble and unwarlike, the whites might gain the ground by a treaty entered into of their own free will by the Indians, without the least duress; but this was not possible with warlike and powerful tribes when once they realized that they were threatened with serious encroachment on their hunting-grounds. Moreover, looked at from the standpoint of the ultimate result, there was little real difference to the Indian whether the land was taken by treaty or by war. In the end the Delaware fared no better at the hands of the Quaker than the Wampanoag at the hands of the Puritan; the methods were far more humane in the one case than in the other, but the outcome was the same in both. No treaty could be satisfactory to the whites, no treaty served the needs of humanity and civilization, unless it gave the land to the Americans as unreservedly as any successful war.

Our Dealings with the Indians.

As a matter of fact, the lands we have won from the Indians have been won as much by treaty as by war; but it was almost always war, or else the menace and possibility of war, that secured the treaty. In these treaties we have been more than just to the Indians; we have been abundantly generous, for we have paid them many times what they were entitled to; many times what we would have paid any civilized people whose claim was as vague and shadowy as theirs. By war or threat of war, or purchase we have won from great civilized nations, from France, Spain, Russia, and Mexico, immense tracts of country already peopled by many tens of thousands of families; we have paid many millions of dollars to these nations for the land we took; but for every dollar thus paid to these great and powerful civilized commonwealths, we have paid ten, for lands less valuable, to the chiefs and warriors of the red tribes. No other conquering and colonizing nation has ever treated the original savage owners of the soil with such generosity as has the United States. Nor is the charge that the treaties with the Indians have been broken, of weight in itself; it depends always on the individual case. Many of the treaties were kept by the whites and broken by the Indians; others were broken by the whites themselves; and sometimes those who broke them did very wrong indeed, and sometimes they did right. No treaties, whether between civilized nations or not, can ever be regarded as binding in perpetuity; with changing conditions, circumstances may arise which render it not only expedient, but imperative and honorable, to abrogate them.

Necessity of the Conquest.

Whether the whites won the land by treaty, by armed conquest, or, as was actually the case, by a mixture of both, mattered comparatively little so long as the land was won. It was all-important that it should be won, for the benefit of civilization and in the interests of mankind. It is indeed a warped, perverse, and silly morality which would forbid a course of conquest that has turned whole continents into the seats of mighty and flourishing civilized nations. All men of sane and wholesome thought must dismiss with impatient contempt the plea that these continents should be reserved for the use of scattered savage tribes, whose life was but a few degrees less meaningless, squalid, and ferocious than that of the wild beasts with whom they held joint ownership. It is as idle to apply to savages the rules of international morality which obtain between stable and cultured communities, as it would be to judge the fifth-century English conquest of Britain by the standards of today. Most fortunately, the hard, energetic, practical men who do the rough pioneer work of civilization in barbarous lands, are not prone to false sentimentality. The people who are, are the people who stay at home. Often these stay-at-homes are too selfish and indolent, too lacking in imagination, to understand the race-importance of the work which is done by their pioneer brethren in wild and distant lands; and they judge them by standards which would only be applicable to quarrels in their own townships and parishes. Moreover, as each new land grows old, it misjudges the yet newer lands, as once it was itself misjudged. The home-staying Englishman of Britain grudges to the Africander his conquest of Matabeleland; and so the home-staying American of the Atlantic States dislikes to see the western miners and cattlemen win for the use of their people the Sioux hunting-grounds. Nevertheless, it is the men actually on the borders of the longed-for ground, the men actually in contact with the savages, who in the end shape their own destinies.

Righteousness of the War.

The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages, though it is apt to be also the most terrible and inhuman. The rude, fierce settler who drives the savage from the land lays all civilized mankind under a debt to him. American and Indian, Boer and Zulu, Cossack and Tartar, New Zealander and Maori,–in each case the victor, horrible though many of his deeds are, has laid deep the foundations for the future greatness of a mighty people. The consequences of struggles for territory between civilized nations seem small by comparison. Looked at from the standpoint of the ages, it is of little moment whether Lorraine is part of Germany or of France, whether the northern Adriatic cities pay homage to Austrian Kaiser or Italian King; but it is of incalculable importance that America, Australia, and Siberia should pass out of the hands of their red, black, and yellow aboriginal owners, and become the heritage of the dominant world races.

Horrors of the War.

Yet the very causes which render this struggle between savagery and the rough front rank of civilization so vast and elemental in its consequence to the future of the world, also tend to render it in certain ways peculiarly revolting and barbarous. It is primeval warfare, and it is waged as war was waged in the ages of bronze and of iron. All the merciful humanity that even war has gained during the last two thousand years is lost. It is a warfare where no pity is shown to non-combatants, where the weak are harried without ruth, and the vanquished maltreated with merciless ferocity. A sad and evil feature of such warfare is that the whites, the representatives of civilization, speedily sink almost to the level of their barbarous foes, in point of hideous brutality. The armies are neither led by trained officers nor made up of regular troops–they are composed of armed settlers, fierce and wayward men, whose ungovernable passions are unrestrained by discipline, who have many grievous wrongs to redress, and who look on their enemies with a mixture of contempt and loathing, of dread and intense hatred. When the clash comes between these men and their sombre foes, too often there follow deeds of enormous, of incredible, of indescribable horror. It is impossible to dwell without a shudder on the monstrous woe and misery of such a contest.

The Lake Posts.

The men of Kentucky and of the infant Northwest would have found their struggle with the Indians dangerous enough in itself; but there was an added element of menace in the fact that back of the Indians stood the British. It was for this reason that the frontiersmen grew to regard as essential to their well-being the possession of the lake posts; so that it became with them a prime object to wrest from the British, whether by force of arms or by diplomacy, the forts they held at Niagara, Detroit, and Michilimakinac. Detroit was the most important, for it served as the headquarters of the western Indians, who formed for the time being the chief bar to American advance. The British held the posts with a strong grip, in the interest of their traders and merchants. To them the land derived its chief importance from the fur trade. This was extremely valuable, and, as it steadily increased in extent and importance, the consequence of Detroit, the fitting-out town for the fur traders, grew in like measure. It was the centre of a population of several thousand Canadians, who lived by the chase and by the rude cultivation of their long, narrow farms; and it was held by a garrison of three or four hundred British regulars, with auxiliary bands of American loyalist and French Canadian rangers, and, above all, with a formidable but fluctuating reserve force of Indian allies. [Footnote: Haldimand Papers, 1784, 5, 6.]

The British Aid the Indians.

It was to the interest of the British to keep the American settlers out of the land; and therefore their aims were at one with those of the Indians. All the tribes between the Ohio and the Missouri were subsidized by them, and paid them a precarious allegiance. Fickle, treacherous, and ferocious, the Indians at times committed acts of outrage even on their allies, so that these allies had to be ever on their guard; and the tribes were often at war with one another. War interrupted trade and cut down profits, and the British endeavored to keep the different tribes at peace among themselves, and even with the Americans. Moreover they always discouraged barbarities, and showed what kindness was in their power to any unfortunate prisoners whom the Indians happened to bring to their posts. But they helped the Indians in all ways save by open military aid to keep back the American settlers. They wished a monopoly of the fur trade; and they endeavored to prevent the Americans from coming into their settlements. [Footnote: _Do._ John Hay to Haldimand, Aug. 13, 1784; James McNeil, Aug 1 1785.] English officers and agents attended the Indian councils, endeavored to attach the tribes to the British interests, and encouraged them to stand firm against the Americans and to insist upon the Ohio as the boundary between the white man and the red. [Footnote: _Do._ Letter of A. McKee, Dec. 24, 1786; McKee to Sir John Johnson, Feb. 25, 1786; Major Ancrum, May 8, 1786.] The Indians received counsel and advice from the British, and drew from them both arms and munitions of war, and while the higher British officers were usually careful to avoid committing any overt breach of neutrality, the reckless partisan leaders sought to inflame the Indians against the Americans, and even at times accompanied their war parties.

Life at a Frontier Post.

The life led at a frontier post like Detroit was marked by sharp contrasts. The forest round about was cleared away, though blackened stumps still dotted the pastures, orchards, and tilled fields. The town itself was composed mainly of the dwellings of the French _habitans_; some of them were mere hovels, others pretty log cottages, all swarming with black-eyed children; while the stoutly-made, swarthy men, at once lazy and excitable, strolled about the streets in their picturesque and bright-colored blanket suits. There were also a few houses of loyalist refugees; implacable Tories, stalwart men, revengeful, and goaded by the memory of many wrongs done and many suffered, who proved the worst enemies of their American kinsfolk. The few big roomy buildings, which served as storehouses and residences for the merchants, were built not only for the storage of goods and peltries, but also as strongholds in case of attack. The heads of the mercantile houses were generally Englishmen; but the hardy men who traversed the woods for months and for seasons, to procure furs from the Indians, were for the most part French. The sailors, both English and French, who manned the vessels on the lakes formed another class. The rough earthworks and stockades of the fort were guarded by a few light guns. Within, the red-coated regulars held sway, their bright uniforms varied here and there by the dingy hunting-shirt, leggings, and fur cap of some Tory ranger or French partisan leader. Indians lounged about the fort, the stores, and the houses, begging, or gazing stolidly at the troops as they drilled, at the creaking carts from the outlying farms as they plied through the streets, at the driving to and fro from pasture of the horses and milch cows, or at the arrival of a vessel from Niagara or a brigade of fur-laden bateaux from the upper lakes.

The Indians.

In their paint and their cheap, dirty finery, these savages did not look very important; yet it was because of them that the British kept up their posts in these far-off forests, beside these great lonely waters; it was for their sakes that they tried to stem the inrush of the settlers of their own blood and tongue; for it was their presence alone which served to keep the wilderness as a game preserve for the fur merchants; it was their prowess in war which prevented French village and British garrison from being lapped up like drops of water before the fiery rush of the American advance. The British themselves, though fighting with and for them, loved them but little; like all frontiersmen, they soon grew to look down on their mean and trivial lives,–lives which nevertheless strongly attracted white men of evil and shiftless, but adventurous, natures, and to which white children, torn from their homes and brought up in the wigwams, became passionately attached. Yet back of the lazy and drunken squalor lay an element of the terrible, all the more terrible because it could not be reckoned with. Dangerous and treacherous allies, upon whom no real dependence could ever placed, the Indians were nevertheless the most redoubtable of all foes when the war was waged in their own gloomy woodlands.

The British Officers

At such a post those standing high in authority were partly civil officials, partly army officers. Of the former, some represented the provincial government, and others acted for the fur companies. They had much to do, both in governing the French townsfolk and countryfolk, in keeping the Indians friendly, and in furthering the peculiar commerce on which the settlements subsisted. But the important people were the army officers. These were imperious, able, resolute men, well drilled, and with a high military standard of honor. They upheld with jealous pride the reputation of an army which in that century proved again and again that on stricken fields no soldiery of continental Europe could stand against it. They wore a uniform which for the last two hundred years has been better known than any other wherever the pioneers of civilization tread the world’s waste spaces or fight their way to the overlordship of barbarous empires; a uniform known to the southern and the northern hemispheres, the eastern and the western continents, and all the islands of the sea. Subalterns wearing this uniform have fronted dangers and responsibilities such as in most other services only gray-headed generals are called upon to face; and, at the head of handfuls of troops, have won for the British crown realms as large, and often as populous, as European kingdoms. The scarlet-clad officers who serve the monarchy of Great Britain have conquered many a barbarous people in all the ends of the earth, and hold for their sovereign the lands of Moslem and Hindoo, of Tartar and Arab and Pathan, of Malay, Negro, and Polynesian. In many a war they have overcome every European rival against whom they have been pitted. Again and again they have marched to victory against Frenchman and Spaniard through the sweltering heat of the tropics; and now, from the stupendous mountain masses of mid Asia, they look northward through the wintry air, ready to bar the advance of the legions of the Czar. Hitherto they have never gone back save once; they have failed only when they sought to stop the westward march of a mighty nation, a nation kin to theirs, a nation of their own tongue and law, and mainly of their own blood.

The Frontiersmen and the British.

The British officers and the American border leaders found themselves face to face in the wilderness as rivals of one another. Sundered by interest and ambition, by education and the habits of thought, trained to widely different ways of looking at life, and with the memories of the hostile past fresh in their minds, they were in no humor to do justice to one another. Each side regarded the other with jealousy and dislike, and often with bitter hatred. Each often unwisely scorned the other. Each kept green in mind the wrongs suffered at the other’s hands, and remembered every discreditable fact in the other’s recent history–every failure, every act of cruelty or stupidity, every deed that could be held as the consequence of the worst moral and mental shortcomings. Neither could appreciate the other’s many and real virtues. The policies for which they warred were hostile and irreconcilable; the interests of the nations they represented were, as regards the northwestern wilderness, not only incompatible but diametrically opposed. The commanders of the British posts, and the men who served under them, were moved by a spirit of stern loyalty to the empire, the honor of whose flag they upheld, and endeavored faithfully to carry out the behests of those who shaped that empire’s destinies; in obedience to the will of their leaders at home they warred to keep the Northwest a wilderness, tenanted only by the Indian hunter and the white fur trader. The American frontiersmen warred to make this wilderness the heart of the greatest of all Republics; they obeyed the will of no superior, they were not urged onward by any action of the supreme authorities of the land; they were moved only by the stirring ambition of a masterful people, who saw before them a continent which they claimed as their heritage. The Americans succeeded, the British failed; for the British fought against the stars in their courses, while the Americans battled on behalf of the destiny of the race.

Between the two sets of rivals lay leagues on leagues of forest, in which the active enemies of the Americans lived and hunted and marched to war. The British held the posts on the lakes; the frontiersmen held the land south of the Ohio. In the wilderness between dwelt the Shawnees, Wyandots, and Delawares, the Wabash Indians, the Miamis, and many others; and they had as allies all the fiercest and most adventurous of the tribes farther off, the Chippewas, the Winnebagos, the Sacs and Foxes. On the side of the whites the war was still urged by irregular levies of armed frontiersmen. The Federal garrisons on the Ohio were as yet too few and feeble to be of much account; and in the south, where the conflict was against Creek and Cherokee, there were no regular troops whatever.

Indian Inroads.

The struggle was at first one of aggression on the part of the northwestern Indians. They were angered and alarmed at the surveyors and the few reckless would-be settlers, who had penetrated their country; but there was no serious encroachment on their lands, and Congress for some time forbade any expedition being carried on against them in their home. They themselves made no one formidable attack, sent no one overmastering force against the whites. But bands of young braves from all the tribes began to cross the Ohio, and ravage the settlements, from the Pennsylvania frontier to Kentucky. They stole horses, burned houses, and killed or carried into a dreadful captivity men, women, and children. The inroads were as usual marked by stealth, rapine, and horrible cruelty. It is hard for those accustomed only to treat of civilized warfare to realize the intolerable nature of these ravages, the fact that the loss and damage to the whites was out of all proportion to the strength of the Indian war parties, and the extreme difficulty in dealing an effective counter stroke.

The immense tangled forests increased beyond measure the difficulties of the problem. Under their shelter the Indians were able to attack at will and without warning, and though they would fight to the death against any odds when cornered, they invariably strove to make their attacks on the most helpless, on those who were powerless to resist. It was not the armed frontier levies, it was the immigrants coming in by pack train or by flat boat,–it was the unsuspecting settlers with their wives and little ones who had most to fear from an Indian fray; while, when once the blow was delivered, the savages vanished as smoke vanishes in the open. A small war party could thus work untold harm in a district precisely as a couple of man-eating jaguars may depopulate a forest village in tropical America; and many men and much time had to be spent before they could be beaten into submission, exactly as it needs a great hunting party to drive from their fastness and slay the big man-eating cats, though, if they came to bay in the open, they could readily be killed by a single skilful and resolute hunter.

Warfare of the Settlers.

Each settlement or group of settlements had to rely on the prowess of its own hunter-soldiers for safety. The real war, the war in which by far the greatest loss was suffered by both sides, was that thus waged man against man. These innumerable and infinitely varied skirmishes, as petty as they were bloody, were not so decisive at the moment as the campaigns against the gathered tribes, but were often more important in their ultimate results. Under the incessant strain of the incessant warfare there arose here and there Indian fighters of special note, men who warred alone, or at the head of small parties of rangers, and who not only defended the settlements, but kept the Indian villages and the Indian war parties in constant dread by their vengeful retaliatory inroads. These men became the peculiar heroes of the frontier, and their names were household words in the log cabins of the children, and children’s children, of their contemporaries. They were warriors of the type of the rude champions who in the ages long past hunted the mammoth and the aurochs, and smote one another with stone-headed axes; their feats of ferocious personal prowess were of the kind that gave honor and glory to the mighty men of time primeval. Their deeds were not put into books while the men themselves lived; they were handed down by tradition, and grew dim and vague in the recital. What one fierce partisan leader had done might dwindle or might grow in the telling or might finally be ascribed to some other; or else the same feat was twisted into such varying shapes that it became impossible to recognize which was nearest the truth, or what man had performed it.

The Border Leaders.

Often in dealing with the adventures of one of these old-time border warriors–Kenton, Wetzel, Brady, Mansker, Castleman,–all we can say is that some given feat was commonly attributed to him, but may have been performed by somebody else, or indeed may only have been the kind of feat which might at any time have been performed by men of his stamp. Thus one set of traditions ascribe to Brady an adventure in which when bound to a stake, he escaped by suddenly throwing an Indian child into the fire, and dashing off unhurt in the confusion; but other traditions ascribe the feat not to Brady, but to some other wild hunter of the day. Again one of the favorite tales of Brady is his escape from a band of pursuing Indians, by an extraordinary leap across a deep ravine, at the bottom of which flowed a rapid stream; but in some traditions this leap appears as made by another frontier hero, or even by an Indian whom Brady himself was pursuing. It is therefore a satisfaction to come across, now and then, some feat which is attested by contemporaneous testimony. There is such contemporary record for one of Brady’s deeds, which took place towards the close of the Revolutionary war.

Brady’s Feats.

Brady had been on a raid in the Indian country and was returning. His party had used all their powder and had scattered, each man going towards his own home, as they had nearly reached the settlements. Only three men were left with Brady, the four had but one charge of powder apiece, and even this had been wet in crossing a stream, though it had been carefully dried afterwards. They had with them a squaw whom they had captured. When not far from home they ran into a party of seven Indians, likewise returning from a raid, and carrying with them as prisoners a woman and her child. Brady spied the Indians first and instantly resolved to attack them, trusting that they would be panic-struck and flee; though after a single discharge of their rifles he and his men would be left helpless. Slipping ahead he lay in ambush until the Indians were close up. He then fired, killing the leader, whereat the others fled in terror, leaving the woman and child. In the confusion, however, the captive squaw also escaped and succeeded in joining the fleeing savages, to whom she told the small number and woful plight of their assailants; and they at once turned to pursue them. Brady, however, had made good use of the time gained, and was in full flight with his two rescued prisoners; and before he was overtaken he encountered a party of whites who were themselves following the trail of the marauders. He at once turned and in company with them hurried after the Indians; but the latter were wary, and, seeing the danger, scattered and vanished in the gloomy woodland. The mother and child, thus rescued from a fearful fate, reached home in safety. The letter containing the account of this deed continues: “This young officer, Captain Brady, has great merit as a partizan in the woods. He has had the address to surprise and beat the Indians three different times since I came to the Department–he is brave, vigilant, and successful.” [Footnote: Draper MSS. Alex. Fowler to Edward Hand, Pittsburgh, July 22, 1780.]

For a dozen years after the close of the Revolution Brady continued to be a tower of strength to the frontier settlers of Pennsylvania and Virginia. At the head of his rangers he harassed the Indians greatly, interfering with and assailing their war parties, and raiding on their villages and home camps. Like his foes he warred by ambush and surprise. Among the many daring backwoodsmen who were his followers and companions the traditions pay particular heed to one Phouts, “a stout, thick Dutchman of uncommon strength and activity.”

In spite of the counter strokes of the wild wood-rangers, the Indian ravages speedily wrapped the frontier in fire and blood. In such a war the small parties were really the most dangerous, and in the aggregate caused most damage. It is less of a paradox than it seems, to say that one reason why the Indians were so formidable in warfare was because they were so few in numbers. Had they been more numerous they would perforce have been tillers of the soil, and it would have been far easier for the whites to get at them. They were able to wage a war so protracted and murderous, only because of their extreme elusiveness. There was little chance to deliver a telling blow at enemies who had hardly anything of value to destroy, who were so comparatively few in number that they could subsist year in and year out on game, and whose mode of life rendered them as active, stealthy, cautious, and ferocious as so many beasts of prey.

Ravages in Kentucky.

Though the frontiers of Pennsylvania and of Virginia proper suffered much, Kentucky suffered more. The murderous inroads of the Indians at about the close of the Revolutionary war caused a mortality such as could not be paralleled save in a community struck down by some awful pestilence; and though from thence on our affairs mended, yet for many years the most common form of death was death at the hands of the Indians. A resident in Kentucky, writing to a friend, dwelt on the need of a system of vestries to take care of the orphans, who, as things were, were left solely to private charity; though, continues the writer, “of all countries I am acquainted with this abounds most with these unhappy objects.” [Footnote: Draper MSS., Clark MSS. Darrell to Fleming, April 14, 1783.]

Attacks on Incoming Settlers.

The roving war bands infested the two routes by which the immigrants came into the country; for the companies of immigrants could usually be taken at a disadvantage, and yielded valuable plunder. The parties who travelled the Wilderness Road were in danger of ambush by day and of onslaught by night. But there was often some protection for them, for whenever the savages became very bold, bodies of Kentucky militia were sent to patrol the trail, and these not only guarded the trains of incomers, but kept a sharp look-out for Indian signs, and, if any were found, always followed and, if possible, fought and scattered the marauders.

The Indians who watched the river-route down the Ohio had much less to fear in the way of pursuit by, or interference from, the frontier militia; although they too were now and then followed, overtaken, and vanquished. While in midstream the boats were generally safe, though occasionally the savages grew so bold that they manned flotillas of canoes and attacked the laden flat-boats in open day. But when any party landed, or wherever the current swept a boat inshore, within rifle range of the tangled forest on the banks, there was always danger. The white riflemen, huddled together with their women, children, and animals on the scows, were utterly unable to oppose successful resistance to foes who shot them down at leisure, while themselves crouching in the security of their hiding-places. The Indians practised all kinds of tricks and stratagems to lure their victims within reach. A favorite device was to force some miserable wretch whom they had already captured to appear alone on the bank when a boat came in sight, signal to it, and implore those on board to come to his rescue and take him off; the decoy inventing some tale of wreck or of escape from Indians to account for his presence. If the men in the boat suffered themselves to be overcome by compassion and drew inshore, they were sure to fall victims to their sympathy.

The boat once assailed and captured, the first action of the Indians was to butcher all the wounded. If there was any rum or whiskey on board they drank it, feasted on the provisions, and took whatever goods they could carry off. They then set off through the woods with their prisoners for distant Indian villages near the lakes. They travelled fast, and mercilessly tomahawked the old people, the young children, and the women with child, as soon as their strength failed under the strain of the toil and hardship and terror. When they had reached their villages they usually burned some of their captives and made slaves of the others, the women being treated as the concubines of their captors, and the children adopted by the families who wished them. Of the captives a few might fall into the hands of friendly traders, or of the British officers at Detroit; a few might escape, or be ransomed by their kinsfolk, or be surrendered in consequence of some treaty. The others succumbed to the perils of their new life, or gradually sank into a state of stolid savagery.

Forays on the Settlements.

Naturally the ordinary Indian foray was directed against the settlements themselves; and of course the settlements of the frontier, as it continually shifted westward, were those which bore the brunt of the attack and served as a shield for the more thickly peopled and peaceful region behind. Occasionally a big war party of a hundred warriors or over would come prepared for a stroke against some good-sized village or fort; but, as a rule, the Indians came in small bands, numbering from a couple to a dozen or score of individuals. Entirely unencumbered by baggage or by impediments of any kind, such a band lurked through the woods, leaving no trail, camping wherever night happened to overtake it, and travelling whithersoever it wished. The ravages committed by these skulking parties of murderous braves were monotonous in their horror. All along the frontier the people on the outlying farms were ever in danger, and there was risk for the small hamlets and block-houses. In their essentials the attacks were alike: the stealthy approach, the sudden rush, with its accompaniment of yelling war-whoops, the butchery of men, women, and children, and the hasty flight with whatever prisoners were for the moment spared, before the armed neighbors could gather for rescue and revenge.

In most cases there was no record of the outrage; it was not put into any book; and, save among the survivors, all remembrance of it vanished as the logs of the forsaken cabin rotted and crumbled.

Incidents of the War on the Frontier.

Yet tradition, or some chance written record kept alive the memory of some of these incidents, and a few such are worth reciting, if only to show what this warfare of savage and settler really was. Most of the tales deal merely with some piece of unavenged butchery.

In 1785, on June 29th, the house of a settler named Scott, in Washington County, Virginia, was attacked. The Indians, thirteen in number, burst in the door just as the family were going to bed. Scott was shot; his wife was seized and held motionless, while all her four children were tomahawked, and their throats cut, the blood spouting over her clothes. The Indians loaded themselves with plunder, and, taking with them the wretched woman, moved off, and travelled all night. Next morning each man took his share and nine of the party went down to steal horses on the Clinch. The remaining four roamed off through the woods, and ten days later the woman succeeded in making her escape. For a month she wandered alone in the forest, living on the young cane and sassafras, until, spent and haggard with the horror and the hardship, she at last reached a small frontier settlement.

At about the same time three girls, sisters, walking together near Wheeling Creek, were pounced upon by a small party of Indians. After going a short distance the Indians halted, talked together for a few moments, and then without any warning a warrior turned and tomahawked one of the girls. The second instantly shared the same fate; the third jerked away from the Indian who held her, darted up a bank, and, extraordinary to relate, eluded her pursuer, and reached her home in safety. Another family named Doolin, suffered in the same year; and there was one singular circumstance connected with their fate. The Indians came to the door of the cabin in the early morning; as the man rose from bed the Indians fired through the door and shot him in the thigh. They then burst in, and tomahawked him and two children; yet for reasons unknown they did not harm the woman, nor the child in her arms.

No such mercy was shown by a band of six Indians who attacked the log houses of two settlers, brothers, named Edward and Thomas Cunningham. The two cabins stood side by side, the chinks between the logs allowing those in one to see what was happening in the other. One June evening, in 1785, both families were at supper. Thomas was away. His wife and four children were sitting at the table when a huge savage slipped in through the open door. Edward in the adjoining cabin, saw him enter, and seized his rifle. The Indian fired at him through a chink in the wall, but missed him, and, being afraid to retreat through the door, which would have brought him within range of Edward’s rifle, he seized an axe and began to chop out an opening in the rear wall. Another Indian made a dash for the door, but was shot down by Edward; however, he managed to get over the fence and out of range. Meanwhile the mother and her four children remained paralyzed with fear until the Indian inside the room had cut a hole through the wall. He then turned, brained one of the children with his tomahawk, threw the body out into the yard through the opening, and motioned to her to follow it. In mortal fear she obeyed, stepping out over the body of one of her children, with two others screaming beside her, and her baby in her arms. Once outside he scalped the murdered boy, and set fire to the house, and then drove the woman and the remaining children to a knoll where the wounded Indian lay with the others around him. The Indians hoped the flames would destroy both cabins; but Edward Cunningham and his son went into their loft, and threw off the boards of the roof, as they kindled, escaping unharmed from the shots fired at them; and so, though scorched by the flame and choked by the smoke, they saved their house and their lives. Seeing the failure of their efforts the savages then left, first tomahawking and scalping the two elder children. The shuddering mother, with her baby, was taken along with them to a cave, in which they hid her and the wounded Indian; and then with untold fatigue, hardship, and suffering, for her brutal captors gave her for food only a few papaw nuts and the head of a wild turkey, she was taken to the Indian towns. Some months afterwards Simon Girty ransomed her and sent her and tried to follow the trail; but the crafty forest warriors had concealed it with such care that no effective pursuit could be made.

Retaliation of the Settlers.

In none of the above-mentioned raids did the Indians suffer any loss of life, and in none was there any successful pursuit. But in one instance in this same year and same neighborhood the assailed settlers retaliated, with effect. It was near Wheeling. A lad named John Wetzel, one of a noted border family of coarse, powerful, illiterate Indian fighters, had gone out from the fortified village in which his kinsfolk were living to hunt horses. Another boy went with him. There were several stray horses, one being a mare which belonged to Wetzel’s sister, with a colt, and the girl had promised him the colt if he would bring the mare back. The two boys were vigorous young fellows, accustomed to life in the forest, and they hunted high and low, and finally heard the sound of horse-bells in a thicket. Running joyfully forward they fell into the hands of four Indians, who had caught the horses and tied them in the thicket, so that by the tinkling of their bells they might lure into the ambush any man who came out to hunt them up. Young Wetzel made a dash for liberty, but received a shot which broke his arm, and then surrendered and cheerfully accompanied his captors; while his companion, totally unnerved, hung back crying, and was promptly tomahawked. Early next morning the party struck the Ohio, at a point where there was a clearing. The cabins on this clearing were deserted, the settlers having taken refuge in a fort because of the Indian ravages; but the stock had been left running in the woods. One of the Indians shot a hog and tossed it into a canoe they had hidden under the bank. The captive was told to enter the canoe and lie down; three Indians then got in, while the fourth started to swim the stolen horses across the river.

Fortunately for the captured boy three of the settlers had chosen this day to return to the abandoned clearing and look after the loose stock. They reached the place shortly after the Indians, and just in time to hear the report of the rifle when the hog was shot. The owner of the hogs, instead of suspecting that there were Indians near by, jumped to the conclusion that a Kentucky boat had landed, and that the immigrants were shooting his hogs–for the people who drifted down the Ohio in boats were not, when hungry, over-scrupulous concerning the right to stray live stock. Running forward, the three men had almost reached the river, when they heard the loud snorting of one of the horses as it was forced into the water. As they came out on the bank they saw the canoe, with three Indians in it, and in the bottom four rifles, the dead hog, and young Wetzel stretched at full length; the Indian in the stern was just pushing off from the shore with his paddle; the fourth Indian was swimming the horses a few yards from shore. Immediately the foremost white man threw up his rifle and shot the paddler dead; and a second later one of his companions coming up, killed in like fashion the Indian in the bow of the canoe. The third Indian, stunned by the sudden onslaught, sat as if numb, never so much as lifting one of the rifles that lay at his feet, and in a minute he too was shot and fell over the side of the canoe, but grasped the gunwale with one hand, keeping himself afloat. Young Wetzel, in the bottom of the canoe, would have shared the same fate, had he not cried out that he was white and a prisoner; whereupon they bade him knock loose the Indian’s hand from the side of the canoe. This he did, and the Indian sank. The current carried the canoe on a rocky spit of land, and Wetzel jumped out and waded ashore, while the little craft spun off and again drifted towards midstream. One of the men on shore now fired at the only remaining Indian, who was still swimming his horse for the opposite bank. The bullet splashed the water on his naked skin, whereat he slipped off his horse, swam to the empty canoe, and got into it. Unhurt he reached the farther shore, where he leaped out and caught the horse as it swam to land, mounted it, rifle in hand, turned to yell defiance at his foes, and then vanished in the forest-shrouded wilderness. He left behind him the dead bodies of his three friends, to be washed on the shallows by the turbid flood of the great river. [Footnote: De Haas, pp. 283-292. De Haas gathered the facts of these and numerous similar incidents from the pioneers themselves in their old age; doubtless they are often inaccurate in detail, but on the whole De Haas has more judgment and may be better trusted than the other compilers. In the Draper MSS. are volumes of such traditional stories, gathered with no discrimination whatever.]

Monotonous Horror of the Ravages.

These are merely some of the recorded incidents which occurred in the single year 1785, in one comparatively small portion of the vast stretch of territory which then formed the Indian frontier. Many such occurred on all parts of this frontier in each of the terrible years of Indian warfare. They varied infinitely in detail, but they were monotonously alike in their characteristics of stealthy approach, of sudden onfall, and of butcherly cruelty; and there was also a terrible sameness in the brutality and ruthlessness with which the whites, as occasion offered, wreaked their revenge. Generally the Indian war parties were successful, and suffered comparatively little, making their attacks by surprise, and by preference on unarmed men cumbered with women and children. Occasionally they were beaten back; occasionally parties of settlers or hunters stumbled across and scattered the prowling bands; occasionally the Indian villages suffered from retaliatory inroads.

Attack on the Lincoln Family.

One attack, simple enough in its incidents, deserves notice for other reasons. In 1784 a family of “poor white” immigrants who had just settled in Kentucky were attacked in the daytime, while in the immediate neighborhood of their squalid cabin. The father was shot, and one Indian was in the act of tomahawking the six-year-old son, when an elder brother, from the doorway of the cabin, shot the savage. The Indians then fled. The boy thus rescued grew up to become the father of Abraham Lincoln. [Footnote: Hay and Nicolay.]

Now and then the monstrous uniformity of horror in assault and reprisal was broken by some deed out of the common; some instance where despair nerved the frame of woman or of half-grown boy; some strange incident in the career of a backwoods hunter, whose profession perpetually exposed him to Indian attack, but also trained him as naught else could to evade and repel it. The wild turkey was always much hunted by the settlers; and one of the common Indian tricks was to imitate the turkey call and shoot the hunter when thus tolled to his foe’s ambush; but it was only less common for a skilled Indian fighter to detect the ruse and himself creep up and slay the would-be slayer. More than once, when a cabin was attacked in the absence or after the death of the men, some brawny frontierswoman, accustomed to danger and violent physical exertion, and favored by peculiar circumstances, herself beat off the assailants.

Prowess of Frontier Women.

In one such case, two or three families were living together in a block-house. One spring day, when there were in the house but two men and one woman, a Mrs. Bozarth, the children who had been playing in the yard suddenly screamed that Indians were coming. One of the men sprang to the door only to fall back with a bullet in his breast, and in another moment an Indian leaped over the threshold and attacked the remaining man before he could grasp a weapon. Holding his antagonist the latter called out to Mrs. Bozarth to hand him a knife; but instead she snatched up an axe and killed the savage on the spot. But that instant another leaped into the doorway, and firing, killed the white man who had been struggling with his companion; but the woman instantly turned on him, as he stood with his smoking gun, and ripped open his body with a stroke of her axe. Yelling for help he sank on the threshold, and his comrades rushed to his rescue; the woman, with her bloody weapon, cleft open the skull of the first, and the others fell back, so that she was able to shut and bar the door. Then the savages moved off, but they had already killed the children in the yard.

A similar incident took place in Kentucky, where the cabin of a man named John Merrill was attacked at night. He was shot in several places, and one arm and one thigh broken, as he stood by the open door, and fell calling out to his wife to close it. This she did; but the Indians chopped a hole in the stout planks with their tomahawks, and tried to crawl through. The woman, however, stood to one side and struck at the head of each as it appeared, maiming or killing the first two or three. Enraged at being thus baffled by a woman, two of the Indians clambered on the roof of the cabin, and prepared to drop down the wide chimney; for at night the fire in such a cabin was allowed to smoulder, the coals being kept alive in the ashes. But Mrs. Merrill seized a feather-bed and, tearing it open, threw it on the embers; the flame and stifling smoke leaped up the chimney, and in a moment both Indians came down, blinded and half smothered, and were killed by the big resolute woman before they could recover themselves. No further attempt was made to molest the cabin or its inmates.

One of the incidents which became most widely noised along the borders was the escape of the two Johnson boys, in the fall of 1788. Their father was one of the restless pioneers along the upper Ohio who were always striving to take up claims across the river, heedless of the Indian treaties. The two boys, John and Henry, were at the time thirteen and eleven years old respectively. One Sunday, about noon, they went to find a hat which they had lost the day before at the spot where they had been working, three quarters of a mile from the house. Having found the hat they sat down by the roadside to crack nuts, and were surprised by two Indians; they were not harmed, but were forced to go with their captors, who kept travelling slowly through the woods on the outskirts of the settlements, looking for horses. The elder boy soon made friends with the Indians, telling them that he and his brother were ill-treated at home, and would be glad to get a chance to try Indian life. By degrees they grew to believe he was in earnest, and plied him with all kinds of questions concerning the neighbors, their live stock, their guns, the number of men in the different families, to all of which he replied with seeming eagerness and frankness. At night they stopped to camp, one Indian scouting through the woods, while the other kindled a fire by flashing powder in the pan of his rifle. For supper they had parched corn and pork roasted over the coals; there was then some further talk, and the Indians lay down to sleep, one on each side of the boys. After a while, supposing that their captives were asleep, and anticipating no trouble from two unarmed boys, one Indian got up and lay down on the other side of the fire, where he was soon snoring heavily. Then the lads, who had been wide awake, biding their time, whispered to one another, and noiselessly rose. The elder took one of the guns, silently cocked it, and, pointing it at the head of one Indian, directed the younger boy to take it and pull trigger, while he himself stood over the head of the other Indian with drawn tomahawk. The one boy then fired, his Indian never moving after receiving the shot, while the other boy struck at the same moment; but the tomahawk went too far back on the neck, and the savage tried to spring to his feet, yelling loudly. However the boy struck him again and again as he strove to rise, and he fell back and was soon dead. Then the two boys hurried off through the darkness, fearing lest other Indians might be in the neighborhood. Not very far away they struck a path which they recognized, and the elder hung up his hat, that they might find the scene of their feat when they came back. Continuing their course they reached a block-house shortly before daybreak. On the following day a party of men went out with the elder boy and found the two dead Indians. [Footnote: De Haas.]

After any Indian stroke the men of the neighborhood would gather under their local militia officers, and, unless the Indians had too long a start, would endeavor to overtake them, and either avenge the slain or rescue the prisoners. In the more exposed settlements bands of rangers were kept continually patrolling the woods. Every man of note in the Cumberland country took part in this duty. In Kentucky the county lieutenants and their subordinates were always on the lookout. Logan paid especial heed to the protection of the immigrants who came in over the Wilderness Road. Kenton’s spy company watched the Ohio, and continually crossed it on the track of marauding parties, and, though very often baffled, yet Kenton and his men succeeded again and again in rescuing hapless women and children, or in scattering–although usually with small loss–war parties bound against the settlements.

Feats of an Indian Fighter

One of the best known Indian fighters in Kentucky was William Whitley, who lived at Walnut Flat, some five miles from Crab Orchard. He had come to Kentucky soon after its settlement, and by his energy and ability had acquired property and leadership, though of unknown ancestry and without education. He was a stalwart man, skilled in the use of arms, jovial and fearless; the backwoods fighters followed him readily, and he loved battle; he took part in innumerable Indian expeditions, and in his old age was killed fighting against Tecumseh at the battle of the Thames. In 1786 or ’87 he built the first brick house ever built in Kentucky. It was a very handsome house for those days, every step in the hall stairway having carved upon it the head of an eagle bearing in its beak an olive branch. Each story was high, and the windows were placed very high from the ground, to prevent the Indians from shooting through them at the occupants. The glass was brought from Virginia by pack train. He feasted royally the hands who put up the house; and to pay for the whiskey they drank he had to sell one of his farms.

In 1785 (the year of the above recited ravages on the upper Ohio in the neighborhood of Wheeling), Colonel Whitley led his rangers, once and again, against marauding Indians. In January he followed a war party, rescued a captive white man, and took prisoner an Indian who was afterwards killed by one of the militia–“a cowardly fellow,” says Whitley. In October a party of immigrants, led by a man named McClure, who had just come over the Wilderness trace, were set upon at dawn by