Графични страници
PDF файл

"they would be in hell before morning.' Brant's authority, however, was exerted effectually to prevent the massacre.

On the following morning, Harper was brought before the Indians for examination. The chief commenced by saying, that they were suspicious he had not told them the truth. Harper, however, had great coolness and presence of mind; and although Brant was eyeing him like a basilisk, he repeated his former statements without the improper movement of a muscle, or betraying the least distrustful sign or symptom. Being satisfied, therefore, of the truth of his story, Brant determined to retrace his steps to Niagara. This he did with great reluctance, admitting to Captain Harper that the real object of his expedition was to fall upon Schoharie, which place, as they had been informed, was almost entirely undefended. "He bad promised to lead his warriors to spoils and victory, and they were angry at being thus cut short of their expectations. Under these circumstances of chagrin and disappointment, it had only been with great difficulty that he could restrain his followers from putting them to death. Brant then said to Captain Harper, that he and his companions should be spared, on condition of accompanying him as prisoners of war to Niagara.

Their march was forth with commenced, and was full of pain, peril, and adventure. The prisoners were heavily laden with the booty taken from Harpersfield, and well guarded. Their direction was first down the Delaware, where they stopped at a mill to obtain provisions. The miller was a tory, and both himself and daughters counselled Brant to put his prisoners to death On the following day they met another loyalist, who was well acquainted with Brant, and with Captain Harper and his party. He assured the former that Harper bad deceived him, and that there were no troops at Schoharie. The captain was, therefore, brought to another scrutiny; but he succeeded so well in maintaining the appearance of sincerity and truth, as again to avert the upraised and glittering tomahawk. On the same day an aged man, named Brown, was accidentally fallen in with and taken prisoner, with two youthsul grandsons ; the day following, being unable to travel with sufficient speed, and sinking under the weight of the burden imposed upon him, the old man was put out of the way with the hatchet. The victim was dragging behind, and when he saw preparations making for his doom, he took an affectionate farewell of his little grandsons, and the Indians moved on, leaving one of their number, with his face painted black the mark of an executioner - behind, with him. In a few moments afterward, the Indian came up, with the old man's scalp dangling between the ramrod and muzzle of his gun.

Having descended the Delaware a sufficient distance, they crossed over to Oghkwaga, where they constructed floats, and sailed down the Susquehanna to the confluence of the Chemung, at which place their land-travelling again commenced. Being heavily encumbered with luggage, and withal tightly pinioned, the prisoners must have sunk by the way, at the rate the Indians travelled, and would probably have been tomahawked, but for the indisposition of Brant, who, providentially for the prisoners, was attacked with fever and ague ; so that every alternate day he was unable to travel. These interruptions gave them time to rest and recruit. Brant wrought his own cure by a truly Indian remedy. Watching upon the southern side of a bill, where serpents usually crawl forth in the spring to bask in the sunbeams, he caught a rattlesnake, which was immediately made into soup, of which he ate. A speedy cure was the consequence.

But a new trial awaited the prisoners soon after they reached the Chemung. During his march from Niagara on this expedition, Brant had detached eleven of his warriors to fall once more upon the Minisink settlement for prisoners. This detachment, as it subsequently appeared, had succeeded in taking captive five athletic men, whom they secured and brought with them as far as Tioga Point. The Indians sleep very soundly, and the five prisoners had resolved at the first opportunity to make their escape. While encamped at this place during the night, one of the Minisink men succeeded in extricating his hands from the binding cords, and with the utmost caution unloosed his four companions. The Indians were locked in the arms of deep sleep around them. Silently, without causing a leaf to rustle, they each snatched a tomahawk from the girdles of their unconscious enemies, and in a moment nine of them were quivering in the agonies of death. The two others were awakened, and springing upon their feet, attempted to escape.

One of them was struck with a hatchet between the shoulders, but the other fled. The prisoners immediately made good their own retreat, and the only Indian who

escaped unhurt, returned to take care of his wounded companion. As Brant and his warriors approached this point of their journey, some of his Indians having raised a whoop, it was instantly returned by a single voice with the death yell! Startled at this unexpected signal, Brant's warriors rushed forward to ascertain the cause. But they were not long in doubt. The lone warrior met them, and soon related to his brethren the melancholy fate of his companions. The effect upon

the warriors, who gathered in a group to hear the recital, was inexpressibly fearful. Rage, and a desire of revenge, seemed to kindle every bosom, and light every eye as with burning coals. They gathered round the prisoners in a circle, and began to make unequivocal preparations for hacking them to pieces. Harper and his men of course gave themselves up for lost, not doubting that their doom was fixed and irreversible. But at this moment deliverance came from an unexpected quarter. While their knives were unsheathing, and their hatchets glittering, as they were flourished in the sunbeams, the only survivor of the murdered party rushed into the circle and interposed in their favor. With a wave of the hand as of a warrior entitled to be heard — for he was himself a chief silence was restored, and the prisoners were surprised by the utterance of an earnest appeal in their behalf. It has already been observed that Captain Harper knew enough of the Indian language to understand its purport, though unfortunately not enough to preserve its eloquence. In substance, however, the Chief appealed to his brother warriors in favor of the prisoners, upon the ground that it was not they who had murdered their brothers; and to take the lives of the innocent would not be right in the eyes of the Great Spirit. His appeal was effective. The passions of the incensed

warriors were hushed, their eyes no longer shot forth the burning glances of revenge, and their gesticulations ceased to menace immediate and bloody vengeance.

True, it so happened that the Chief who had thus thrown himself spontaneously between them and death, knew all the prisoners - he having resided in the Schoharie canton of the Mohawks before the war. He doubtless felt a deeper interest in their behalf on that account. Still, it was a noble action, worthy of the proudest era of chivalry, and, in the palmy days of Greece and Rome, would have insured him almost an apotheosis and rites divine.' The interposition of Pocahontas, in favor of Captain Smith, before the rude court of Powhattan, was perhaps more romantic; but when the motive which prompted the generous action of the priucess is considered, the transaction now under review exhibits the most of genuine benevolence. Pocahontas was moved by the tender passion — the Mohawk sachem by the feelings of magnanimity, and the eternal principles of justice. It is matter of regret that the name of this highsouled warrior is lost, as alas ! have been too many that might have served to relieve the dark and vengeful portraitures of Indian character, which it has so well pleased the white man to draw! The prisoners themselves were so impressed with the manner of their signal deliverance, that they justly attributed it to a direct interposition of the providence of God.

The march was now resumed toward Niagara, along the route travelled by Sullivan's expedition the preceding year. Their sufferings were great for want of provisions - neither warriors nor prisoners having any thing more than a handful of corn each for dinner. A luxury, however, awaited them, in the remains of a horse which had been left by Sullivan's expedition to perish from the severity of the winter. The wolves had eaten all the flesh from the poor animal's bones, excepting upon the under side. When the carcass was turned over, a quantity of the flesh yet remained, which was equally distributed among the whole party, and devoured. On reaching the Genessee river, they met a party of Indians preparing to plant corn. These laborers had a fine horse, which Brant directed to be instantly killed, dressed, and divided arnong bis famishing company. They had neither bread nor salt; but Brant instructed the prisoners to use the white ashes of the wood they were burning, as a substitute for the latter ingredient, and it was found to answer an excellent purpose. The meal was partaken of, and relished as the rarest delicacy they had ever eaten. In regard to provisions, it must be mentioned, to the credit of Captain Brant, that he was careful to enforce an equal distribution of all they had among his own warriors and the prisoners. All fared exactly alike.

On his arrival at the Genessee river, and in anticipation of his own departure with his prisoners for Niagara, Brant sent forward a messenger to that post, bearing information of his approach, with the measure of his success and the number of his prisoners. But it was not merely for the purpose of conveying this intelligence that he despatched his avant courier. He had another object in view,

as will appear in the sequel, the conception and execution of which add a link to the chain of testimony establishing the humanity and benevolence of his disposition. Four days more of travel brought the party to within a few miles of the fort; and the Tories now took special delight in impressing upon the prisoners the perils and the sufferings they must endure, in the fearful ordeal they would have to pass, on appaoaching the iwo Indian encampments in front of the fort. This ordeal was nothing less than running the gauntlet, as it is called in Indian warfare a doom supposed to be inevitable to every prisoner; and one which, by direct means, even Thayendanegea bimself had not sufficient power to prevent.

The running of the gauntlet, or rather compelling their prisoners to run it, on the return of a war-party to their camp or village, is a general custom among the American aboriginals-a preliminary that must precede their ultimate fate, either of death or mercy. It is not always severe, however, nor even generally so, unless in respect to prisoners who have excited the particular animosity of the Indians; and it is often rather a scene of amusement than punishment. Much depends on the courage and presence of mind of the prisoner undergoing the ordeal. On entering the village or camp, he is shown a painted post at the distance of some thirty or forty yards, and directed to run to, and catch hold of it as quickly possible. His path to the post lies between two parallel lines of people — men, women, and children armed with hatchets, knives, sticks, and other offensive weapons; and as he passes along, each is at liberty to strike him as severely and as frequently as he can. Should he be so unfortunate as to stumble, or fall in the way, he may stand a chance to lose his life — especially if any one in the ranks happens to have personal wrong to avenge. But the moment he reaches the goal he is safe, until final judgment has been pronounced upon his case.

his case. When a prisoner displays great firmness and courage, starting upon the race with force and agility, he will probably escape without much injury; and sometimes, when his bearing excites the admiration of the savages, entirely unharmed. But wo to the coward whose cheeks blanch, and whose nerves are untrue! The slightest mani. festation of fear will deprive him of mercy, and probably of his life.*

Such was the scene which Harper and his fellow-prisoners now had in near prospect. They of course well knew the usages of Indian warfare, and must expect to submit. Nor was the chance of escape from injury very cheering, enfeebled and worn down as they were by their journey and its privations. Miserable comforters, therefore, were their Tory guards, who were tantalizing them in anticipation, by describing this approaching preliminary cruelty. But on emerging from the woods, and approaching the first Indian encampment, what was the surprize of the prisoners, and the chagrin of their conductors, at finding the Indian warriors absent from the encampment, and their place supplied by a regiment of British soldiers ! There were only a few Indian boys and some old women in the camp; and these offered no violence to the prisoners, excepting one of the squaws, who struck young Patchin over the head with an instrument which caused the blood to flow freely. But the second encampment, lying nearest the fort, and usually occupied by the fiercest and most savage of the Indian warriors, was yet to be passed. On arriving at this, also, the Indians were gone, and another regiment of troops were on parade, formed in two parallel lines, to protect the prisoners. Thus the Mohawk chief led his prisoners directly through the dreaded encampments, and brought them safely into the fort. Patchin, however, received another severe blow in this camp, and a young Indian menaced him with his tomahawk. But as he raised his arm, a soldier snatched the weapon from his hand, and threw it into the river.

* 'In the month of April, 1782, when I was myself a prisoner, at Lower Sandusky, waiting for an opportunity to proceed to Detroit, I witnessed a scene of this description which fully exemplified what I have above slated. Three American prisoners were one day brought in by fourteen warriors from the garrison of Fort McIntosh. As soon as they had crossed the Sandusky river, to which the village lay adjacent, they were told by the Captain of the party to run as hard as they could to a painted post which was shown to ihem. The youngest of them, without a moment's hesitation, immediately started for it, and reached it fortunately without receiving a single blow; the second hesitated for a moment, but recollecting himself, he also ran as fast as he could, and likewise reached the post unhurt. But the third, frightened at seeing so many men, women, and children, with weapons in their hands ready to strike him. kept begging the Captain to spare his life, saying he was a mason, and would build him a large stone house, or do any work for him that he should please. "Run for your life,' cried the Chief to him, 'and don't talk now of building houses ! But the poor fellow still insisted, begging and praying to the Captain; who, ai last, finding his exhortations vain, and fearing the consequences, turned his back upon him, and would not hear him any longer. Our mason now began to run, but received many a hard blow, one of which nearly brought him to the ground, which, if he had fallen, would at once have decided his fate. He, however, reached the goal, not without being badly bruised, and he was, beside, bitterly reproached and scoffed at all round as a vile coward; while the others were hailed as brave men, and received tokens of universal approbation.' HECKWELDER.

The solution of this unexpected deliverance from the gauntletrace was this : Miss Jane Moore, the Cherry Valley prisoner whose marriage to an officer of the Niagara garrison has already been mentioned, was the niece of Captain Harper, a fact well known to Brant. Harper, however, knew nothing of her marriage, or in fact of her being at Niagara, and the chief had kept the secret to himself. On his arrival at the Genessee river, his anxious desire was to save his prisoners from the cruel ordeal-trial, and he despatched a runner, as before mentioned, with a message to Jane Moore's husband, whose name was Powell, advising him of the fact, and proposing an artifice, by which to save his wife's uncle, and his associates, from the accustomed ceremony. For this purpose, by concert with Brant, Powell had managed to have the Indian warriors enticed away to the Nine Mile Landing, for a frolic, the means of holding which were supplied from the public stores. Meantime, for the protection of the approaching prisoners from the violence of the straggling Indians who remained behind, Powell caused the two encampments to be occupied in the manner just described. It was a generous act on the part of Brant, well conceived and handsomely carried through. The prisoners all bad cause of gratitude ; and in the meeting with his niece in the garrison, Captain Harper found a source of pleasure altogether unexpected.

The prisoners, nevertheless, were doomed to long captivity. From Niagara they were transferred to Montreal, thence to a prison in Chamblee, and thence to Quebec. They were afterward sent down to Halifax, and only restored to their country and homes after



« ПредишнаНапред »