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About the year 1763, the depredations of the Indians upon our western frontiers became so audacious, that a large number of the inhabitants were required to be continually under arms. The Middle and Southern states were particularly exposed, and the beautiful valley of the Ohio, which is now the most fruitful part of civilized America, and is rapidly becoming the centre of a vast nation of freemen, was then tenanted only by hordes of hostile savages, animated by a common sentiment of hatred to the white man. The observant Indian had become aware of the energy and enterprise of the American character; he had seen the axe and the plough, quietly but with undaunted perseverance, urging their conquests westwardly, until the greater part of the forests east of the Alleghany mountains had been subdued : and now the hardy Pioneers seemed ready to pass those barriers, which had been supposed to be impregnable defences against the footsteps of civilization.
The Indians had vainly hoped to find in the valley of the Ohio a refuge which the European invader would not covet. They little dreamed of the wonderful energies, or of the rapid growth, of that people; and attributing their success thus far to want of union and energy among themselves, were now prepared for a more vigorous resistance. Extensive alliances were formed among the tribes, and active efforts were used to stir up in the savage mind the feelings of revenge
and hatred. The Pioneers soon became awakened to the necessity of corresponding efforts; and they were a people whose genius and habits rendered them little averse to a state of war. Every man residing on the frontiers was necessarily a soldier, prepared at all times to defend his own fireside, or to hasten with alacrity to the assistance of his neighbors. The cruelties practised by the Indians, the shocking scenes of midnight violence, the burning of houses, and the indiscriminate slaughter of individuals, however young, beautiful, or helpless, enlisted in this warfare the noblest sympathies of the heart; and it was a high and generous impulse that armed those gallant men for the fight. They were not mercenary soldiers, nor were they called to the field by the lust of conquest or of plunder; but were patriots, united in the defence of their homes, and rallying around their firesides and family altars, for the protection of all they held most dear and sacred. True, they often carried the war into the enemy's country, striking him with a violence as ruthless as his own; but it was to reclaim their property, to redeem their friends from a captivity worse than death, or to revenge the atrocities of the marauder.
The revolting scenes of desolation incident to savage warfare were calculated to engender a deep and lasting hatred against the red man, which has proved fatal to that race, by involving all in the punishment due to the misdeeds of a part. But these wars were also productive
of nobler fruits; uniting a scattered population by a sense of common danger in the bonds of friendship; inculcating a generous hospitality, by throwing open every door to the houseless; and calling out the valor of the strong, for the protection of the widowed and defenceless. From this stock sprang the Pioneers, who peopled the western forests, and whose intrepidity in meeting the varied dangers that beset their path, was not more conspicuous than the simplicity of their lives, and the kindness of their hearts. They were rough, but brave and honest; impetuous, but kind-hearted and charitable.
In the eventful enterprises growing out of these border wars, a martial spirit was inculcated, and a military experience gained, which enabled the American people, afterward, in the struggle for independence, to contend successfully against the veteran troops of Europe. The colonists were an industrious, pacific, and loyal people; but they had always been accustomed to defend themselves from aggression, without asking aid from he Sovereign; and when he became the aggressor, they were ready to turn against him the arms they had wielded honorably against his and their own enemies. particularly the character of the population of the frontier districts. The revolution found them soldiers, with arms in their hands and military habits ready formed; and this school furnished many of the most accomplished officers of that war, as well as numerous bodies of the best light troops in the world.
We cannot fix exactly the date of the adventure we are about to relate; we only know that it occurred during one of the military expeditions of the stormy period mentioned at the beginning of this article.
A company of volunteers were marching from the Virginia border toward the Indian country, under the command of Captain Crawford, the same gallant but unfortunate individual whose tragical end a few years afterward has given his name a melancholy celebrity in the legends of the border. He was, like those under his command, a farmer, with no pretensions to any military knowledge gained from books, or from the drill-sergeant, nor indeed any training, except such as had been obtained in repelling or pursuing the savages, according to the desultory warfare of the times. He was a brave and enterprising man; the fact that he was placed on several occasions at the head of parties of this description, by the choice of his neighbors, shows that he was popular; and this is no small evidence of merit, for the country was not then distracted by that miserable spirit of party, whose excitements exalt the demagogue, as the boiling of a liquid raises the scum to the surface. A common sense of danger called the bravest and most competent men into stations of responsibility. Crawford was a plain man, of affable manners, who practised a simple though genuine hospitality. Without being wealthy, he was surrounded by abundance, his farm yielding him all the necessaries of life, and affording the ability to contribute to the relief of those who were driven by the violence of the times from the shelter of their own roofs.
A militia officer in those days was a person of character and consideration, who became a leader in consequence of some real or supposed qualification for the office. His men were armed with some
thing more dangerous to the enemies of their country than walkingcanes and umbrellas, and they desired to be commanded by those who understood the use of their weapons. He was a social man, who loved to mingle with the people on public occasions : being a sort of chief among them, he was expected to show himself whenever a concourse was assembled, and his natural instincts led him to seek out such opportunities for gaining popular favor. A militia officer was moreover a modest man, who said little, because in those days he was expected to do much; but then he could convey a good deal of meaning in a few words, and had a pleasant way of saying agreeable things to the women, who always have great influence in elections, and can make and unmake great men when they please. He was an excellent judge of a horse, a quality which, in the purest days of the good Old Dominion, seldom failed to secure for its possessor the regard and esteem of his neighbors; he was an admirable shot with the rifle, and was usually among the winners at shooting matches; and above all, he was a man of speed and muscle. It was not often that he engaged in wrestling and foot-races, as these sports were usually left to the young men ; but the captain had a pride in that way; it was known that he had proved his manhood in such feats, and was well understood that he would not back out if challenged.
That Captain Crawford was possessed of most of the good qualities which distinguished the men of his grade and profession, need not be doubted : he had many social and estimable traits of character. His company was made up of border men, hastily collected for the occasion; farmers and their sons, mounted on their own horses, carrying their well-tried rifles at their backs, and going to war at their own proper charges. They were a merry set of men, when they rode forth on their sleek and well-curried nags, full of jokes and pleasant sayings, and brimful of courage, noise, life, and action ; but they were cautious and quiet woodsmen, as wise as serpents, and as cunning as foxes, when they came upon the trail of the enemy.
The company had charge of some provisions and ammunition, intended for the use of troops assembled on the frontier for an expedition in which Crawford's men were to bear a part. They had nearly passed through the settlements, and were upon the verge of the wilderness, when one of the wagons employed in carrying those stores broke down, and was so completely disabled that it was found to be impossible to repair it. This was a sore disaster : the stores were too valuable to be abandoned, and it was not probable that any
suitable conveyance for them could be procured in that wild region.
The prospect of a delay was very unwelcome to these gallant fellows, who having volunteered for a short period, were eager to employ their whole term of service in active duty; to perform some brilliant feat, and then return quickly to their homes. The idea of lying idle, or of getting forward at a snail's pace, while other detachments were pressing on, was very galling. In this extremity the greater part of the border men lost their tempers, and showed themselves to be
persons who could be overcome by small difficulties, though they might bravely contend with great ones. They swore terribly; and in the excitement of the moment, invented new and strange oaths, wherewith to express their displeasure against the stores, the wagon, the driver, the roads, and even themselves. They blasphemed against King George, who was innocent of the whole matter, pouring out anathemas upon him which would have shocked the ears of some of his more refined subjects, but which were as void of malice as those which they wasted upon their own persons. The captain was puzzled; but he very prudently kept that to himself, and as there was a cool stream at hand, with a pleasant grass plat on its margin, he commanded a halt, and made his camp for the evening.
Just at this moment a wagon, drawn by four stout horses, which happened to be passing from one settlement to another, appeared in sight, and as it slowly approached the camping-ground, the commander determined on pressing it into the service. The driver, wholly unconscious of an intention so hostile to his civil rights, moved quietly on until he reached the spot, when finding it convenient, he halted to bait his horses, and to ascertain at the same time the meaning and destination of this military gathering. When the intention of the captain was announced to him, his surprise and indignation were very great ; and he promptly resolved to offer all the resistance in his power. But he was alone, in the midst of a military band, who were ready and able, at a word, to enforce their leader's command ; and he stood for a while silent, sullenly gazing at the bordermen, as if measuring their strength against his own comparative weakness. The soldiers considering the affair settled, resumed their good humor, and were soon busily engaged in rubbing down their horses, cooking their suppers, and whistling merry airs ; so well are men satisfied when they can shift an evil from themselves to others, and especially when a community can throw off its own proper burther upon the shoulders of some poor scape-goat, who may be crushed by the weight, but cannot cast it off. However tyrannical the teamster may have thought it, to be pressed into the public service against his own interest and wishes, the soldiers thought there was no pressure that any honest man should complain of; and the very individuals who would have fought to their knees in blood, rather than submit to such wrong from the king's officers, saw no harm in the thing when done by themselves.
But there are two sides to every question. The wagoner had been reared in a country where the rights even of the weakest are held inviolate, and considering himself an injured man, was determined not to submit without a struggle. Although alone, he did not lack the courage and audacity to assert his liberty. He was a great, gigantic, two-fisted, square-built fellow, who bore on his face the marks of many a hard-fought battle, and was in fact a noted bruizer the hero of numerous fights one on whom much money had been lost and won. He considered himself the best man in the country, and had much better evidence to found his belief apon, than most men can show in support of their self-estimation. After a pause of some minutes, he observed to the captain that it was hard to be forced to go with the expedition against his will; that every man ought to have a fair chance, that he had not a fair chance, inasmuch as the odds against him were so great as to deprive him of the power of resistance. He said, however, that he would make a proposal, which he hoped the captain would be gentleman enough to agree to.
‘Oh, certainly!' replied the captain ; 'I will agree to any thing that's fair.'
* Very good,' said the wagoner; 'all I want is to be put on an equal footing with the rest of the men. I don't want to be forced to go like a slave along with others that are going by their own free will. I am Virginia born, and am as willing to serve my country as another man; but then I'm not going to be ordered about by them that are not my masters.'
"Gentlemen,' continued the wagoner, turning to a circle of the men who had collected around, 'I am come of the right breed of dogs ; there is no mistake in me; I am not afraid to go where there is danger; all I want is a fair chance.'
That 's right!' exclaimed several voices.
Very good,' says the teamster ; ‘now, captain, I will make you a civil, genteel offer. I will fight you, or any man in your company; if I am whipped, my wagon and team are yours, and I will go with you; but if I win the fight, I am my own man, to go or not, as I please.'
• Hurrah! Hurrah!' • Old Virginia never tire ! shouted several voices.
A dead silence ensued, and all eyes were turned upon the captain. It was now evident that the wagoner had shown himself a shrewd negociator. He was aware of the military bias which formed a leading trait in the character of those around him, and which would lead them to applaud his bold challenge. He knew Crawford's cast of mind, or had guessed it during the interview. The captain was stout, active, and chivalrous; he prided him on his personal prowess, for which he had obtained some reputation. He was not by any means so heavy or muscular as the team-driver, and could scarcely hope to meet him in a pugilistic encounter, with any chance of success. But then to refuse the challenge might seem to indicate a want of confidence in his own manhood ; it might lessen him in the eyes of his men, and endanger his influence over them; while his own disposition and code of ethics perhaps suggested that in good faith the wagoner was entitled to the fair chance which he claimed. He was a popular leader, and must act in conformity with the public sentiment of the community whose suffrages he desired. The sense of justice of that body would doubtless have decided, that when about to take possession of a man's property, and indeed of himself, against his will, nothing could be more reasonable than to indulge him in a fight if he demanded it. Military commanders, when forced to surrender to superior force, think it right to make a show of fight, and have a few men killed, to save their honor. Our wagoner acted same principle; and Captain Crawford was not the man to deny justice to any one, however humble. He therefore agreed to the proposal, and both parties threw off their coats, and began to prepare for the combat.
At this juncture, a tall stripling, who had recently joined the company, but was a stranger to most of them, and who had been carelessly leaning against a tree, observing the scene with apparent unconcern, or with the levity with which a spirited youth beholds a contest which he supposes
will end in words, stepped forward and drew the commanding officer aside.