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Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, ca. 1820-1910
Historical collections. Collections and researches made by the Michigan pioneer and historical society ... Reprinted by authority of the Board of State auditors. Volume 12
ESCAPE FROM FIVE POTTAWATTOMIE INDIANS IN 1814. *
* See appendix
[BY COL. GEORGE HUNT.]
On my way from Cincinnati with money to pay the troops at Fort Wayne, I had bought a fine young horse. Soon after I left St. Marie's where Harrison's supplies for the army were collected and sent down the Au Glaise and St. Marie's to Fort Meigs, I found that I was pursued by Indians. I was alone. The Indians were mounted on ponies. I had expected to find a canoe at the crossings (Cheine) on St. Marie's. In consequence of high waters, when I reached the river I found no canoe. I had not spared my horse; if I succeeded in crossing the river I was safe, for the Indians would have to cross on a raft of logs, which would have detained them an hour, as rafting timber was scarce, and the St. Marie's at the top of its banks. Imagine my disappointment. I searched up and down the stream for something to cross on; during all this time the Indians gained on me. Being mounted on a stout young horse, I had no fears of their overtaking me, could I once reach the other side of the river. On the side I was then on was a prairie, and I could see any one approaching at least a mile. The sun was nearly down, and I was yet 37 miles from the fort. Finding no means of crossing the river, there was no alternative but swimming it with my horse. In order to do this I had to look for high banks when the waters were up. The bottom lands at the crossings extended one-half mile over the bottoms. I went up the stream three-fourths of a mile and found a place where both banks were just out of water. I had on my horse a pair of saddle bags with $500 in specie, and my clothes and great coat attached to my saddle and $4,000 in notes of the Miami Exporting Co., Cincinnati. I commenced first to secure my saddle bags by tying them tight to my saddle. I placed my bank notes in the crown of my hat, and placed it firmly on my head. I was at a narrow point of the river, and was determined to place the river as soon as possible between myself and the Indians. I mounted my horse, walked him to the edge of the water, but not an inch further could I get him. I worked there until, on looking back, discovered the Indians just entering the prairie not over a mile behind me, coming on at full speed. I lost no time but, taking a start of about fifty yards back from the stream, put spurs under full headway, jumped him off into 0447 437 the stream. I soon found he had not been accustomed to swim; the river was twenty or thirty feet deep; my horse attempts with his hind legs to touch bottom, in doing so the water began to run into his ears; not liking this he struck off, and soon reached the middle of the stream. There new difficulties began, and all I could do he would either turn his head up stream or down. For some time I worked with the bridle to give him the proper direction, but all to no purpose. At length I dropped the reins, and with my hands, first on one side and then on the other side of his head, I got him on the right course. By this time he began to feel my weight on him, and became very much fatigued. All this time I kept my head steady, thinking of my money in my hat. When my horse struck his forefeet to the bank he was so weak that the current brought him sideways close up to the bank of the river, which was almost perpendicular. I was soon off his back, laid my hat on one side, took off the saddle which relieved him of great weight. My great coat was as heavy as five dry ones, and my saddle bags held water. I took my horse by his halter, and after letting him blow a minute or two, succeeded in getting him up the bank. When I came to examine my fireworks, my punk was wet and useless, so if I was inclined to strike fire I could not. I had scarcely resaddled my horse—by this time it became dusk so that a person could not be seen far, but I could hear the Indians talking to themselves. They found the same difficulty in crossing that I did, and I supposed would not cross that night. It commenced raining hard, and soon became very dark; you could scarcely see your horse's head. I was determined to push for the fort that night. I was some three-fourths of a mile from the Indian track that led to the fort, and I was under the necessity of trusting partly to my horse to know when I came to it. Whether he passed the track, I can't say; after wandering in the dark two hours, I found myself again on the bank of the St. Marie's. I made up my mind to wait for daylight, spancelled out my horse, doubly secured him by tying his halter to his forefoot, and let him graze. I took my saddle for a pillow, spread down my wet blanket, and covered with my greatcoat. Under a sloping tree I laid down and slept three or four hours. On waking I found the weather clear, and prepared for a fresh start for the track. I soon reached it. My horse found no difficulty in keeping it, and traveled well the balance of the night. I arrived at the fort before noon, missing some few articles of clothing which I lost in looking after my fireworks. After the war I ascertained I gave the slip to the five Pottawattomies who had been on a visit to the Shawnees at Warpuckinetta [Waupokonetta] for information of the movements of our army, and I made no doubt that during the war a regular intercourse was kept up between our Indians and the British Indians. The Indians not overtaking me at the river as they expected, gave up the chase, particularly as the night was dark, and they 0448 438 would have to follow by torchlight. They, however, crossed the St. Marie's on a raft at the very same place that I did. The next morning, found my old vest and some newspapers that belonged to me. Four sons of five—were of the party. When peace took place they returned to the vicinity of Fort Wayne, and I often traded with them. They had fallen on my horse's track, and did their best to overtake me, and said they had made up their minds to make me their prisoner and take me to Malden.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
As soon as the four Winnebago spies, who were sent to my house, had made the necessary inquiry as to the number of Americans who were with me, and had finished their meal, they left. My men were at work within two hundred yards of the house within call. I saw the four Indians stop opposite Arnold & Peters, and, after eyeing them for a few minutes, passed on, I suppose to make their report to the chief of the war party. As soon as I supposed the spies were out of hearing I called the men to the house and informed them that old Shequamy had that morning discovered about one hundred Indians who had encamped about a mile from the house; that they were all painted for war. Whether against us or the Osages, she did not know, but advised me to hide my goods; this was the first of January, 1812. I had a few days previous traded with a party of Winnebagoes and I supposed, notwithstanding the old squaw advising me to hide my goods, that it was a party of Indians who came to wish me a happy New Year; still we came to the conclusion that it was best to be on our guard. I told my men that if they wished to leave they might do so, that I had too much property to think of going myself; they looked at each other and then at me. I then told them to go into the store and open two boxes of rifles and a box of fusils and to load all our arms whilst I was employed in knocking out chinking all around the house to use as port-holes to fire out of. I gave a gun to one Duguia, a half-breed Indian hunter, who happened to be at the store that day, trading. He could speak good French, and so long as I thought he was at his post at the corner of the house, the enemy could not approach without his seeing them, and he was to give us notice of the approach of the Indians, come in and bolt the door. He might have seen them three hundred yards off, it being winter. He left his post at sight of some Indians and fled to some Sac Lodges, two and a half miles below my trading post on the Mississippi, without giving us any notice whatever.
Myself, Pepeck and my two men were in the store loading our rifles, shot-guns and pistols (horse-pistols).I had placed two rifles in my room loaded two pistols with 15 buckshot which I placed in my great coast pocket. Having large capes to my great coat, they were hid from view directly. In rear of
* See appendix
0449 439 my store was my lead house, 20 feet square. A window was out so that as I traded lead it was thrown through this window into the lead house and piled up at our leisure. At this time the lead had been stacked eight feet high and two feet thick all around this lead house except near the window next to the store. This lead house could not be entered except through the store, and it was understood that as a dernier resort we were to occupy it. Guns, pistols and swords were placed there, for we were well supplied with firearms. We had nearly loaded all our guns and prepared to give them a warm reception at 100 yards, when passing from the store to my room, I saw an Indian dog pass the door. From that I stepped out, and to my great surprise, within a few feet of me were fifty Winnebagoes drawn up in line, between my house and store and the river. My buildings were within eight or ten feet of the bank of the Mississippi, so we were completely hemmed in. Their line extended the whole length of my buildings. On seeing me they held out their hands, saying, "bon jour Saginash my New Year's gift."
All my fears for the moment vanished. It had been always customary for large parties of Indians to visit trading posts on that day, and they expected a present of tobacco, &c. My men, who were in the store, hearing the conversation and coming out saw the Indians receive me so cordially, came forward, and the Indians also shook hands with them, and immediately fell into line, and as I supposed, were about firing a salute over the houses. Soon the word was given from right, left and center, Ho! Ho! Ho! and every gun was discharged at my men who stood within four feet of me and not over six feet from the muzzles of their guns. They instantly fell, pierced with bullets. Then the scalping commenced, and in a few minutes they were entirely dissected; not a joint was left together, and an old squaw sat on a dead man's legs.
I supposed that I was reserved for a worse fate, perhaps to be tortured or burnt. I drew my horse pistols and presented at a dozen heads. It missed fire. Those in the act of scalping, hearing my pistols, looked up, threw up their hands and said, Certah! Certah! Nicaw Saginash Cow Win Ke Napo. The next moment I was caught in the arms of a big Winnebago Indian. He raised me from the ground, giving me a shake or two. I was, as it were in a vise. After disarming me, an Indian put his arm affectionately round my neck and led me into the house. The men had locked the store door as they came out. I seated myself so that I could see my store door. After stripping the bones of my poor men and throwing pounds of their flesh against the trees, that it stuck fast, the war chiefs and the braves commenced making speeches, telling what feats they had done. At each speech they struck a joist with a tomahawk directly above my head. I 0450 440 thought at first it was my death warrant, but soon got used to it. About this time I heard the voice of some Sac warriors. Five or six had started from their camps two and a half miles below when Duga, or Old Shequamy, made their report to defend me but arrived near the house too late to render me assistance. Waiting awhile they returned. Not seeing me, they asked the Winnebagoes where Saginash or the Englishman was. They replied, "what do you want of him?" "We came," said the Sacks, "to invite him to a deerfeast." In return the Winnebagoes invited the Sacks to stay and feast with them on fresh beef, for they had shot a yoke of oxen that were employed at the smelting furnace owned by Lieut. Nathan Pryor, formerly of the U. S. Army. It was understood that I could not accept the invitation of my Sack friends. It was now about three o'clock in the afternoon.
The war chief wore a large British medal, solid silver. He pointed to it and said that the ribbon that suspended it around his neck was old and dirty and asked me to give him a new ribbon. I did so. During all this time the Sacs were lookers on. Presently the war chief came forward with his war pipe and after making a long speech presented it to the Sac Indians. After lighting it to smoke, they all refused to smoke the pipe which was a deep red color, which they said was a war pipe presented to them by their British father at Malden; that it had been smoked by different nations who had agreed to assist the British in a war soon to commence with the "Big Knives," the Americans. When the Sacks refused to smoke, they passed it to me. Policy said smoke, so I took a few whiffs as an Englishman. The young warriors wanted my goods and looked wishfully towards my store. Very soon one of them, with a single blow of the tomahawk, broke the lock from the door. The nearest thing at hand was a bunch of sleigh bells. As he came out I succeeded in getting them from him. At this moment the head chief seeing that he had broken the lock, tied up the door with a prisoner's belt, at the same time, forbidding them from taking the goods. In a short time another attempt was made and I again shut the door. A third time a majority rushed into the store and a general pillage commenced.
They were not satisfied with taking my goods but robbed my trunk of a dozen fine linen shirts which were divided among them as far as they would go. At this time it was dusk. They put on my shirts, walked up and down the room, much pleased with their appearance.
Yet they supposed something might be concealed under the floor of my room which was of hewed puncheon, laid down, but not nailed. I had about a half barrel of whisky not intended for them. I had buried it under the floor. They soon with a musk-rat spear, struck the barrel and it was soon raised. They rejoiced at their good luck and I felt it was all up with me, 0451 441 but it proved the means of my escaping from them, for they soon became intoxicated and paid but little attention to me and Pepeck and I left the house (at dusk) for the Sac and Fox lodges. Some time before leaving I saw the principal chief and told him I would go to the Sack and Fox lodges, as I had been invited to a feast and would return in the morning. To this he would not consent. The whisky began to have its effect and they became merry and soon thought of nothing else. An opportunity soon offered and I was left alone, and I took the opportunity to bid them good bye. Myself and Pepeck soon reached the Sack lodges. The old squaws set up a terrible howling, expecting the Winnebagoes down upon them.
As soon as I entered the first lodge I came to, and my voice was heard, out rolled Duga, the man I had placed as sentinel, from under and behind a parcel of old squaws and saying, "Is it possible you are here alive?" I was so indignant at his cowardly conduct that I made no reply.
I asked if there was any young man who would guide me down to Fort Madison, promising a horse for his services. I soon obtained a guide, a young Sack Indian named Ka-Sin-Wa, who offered his services. The distance was about 250 miles from my house. They proposed that I should stay that evening with them and leave for the fort the next morning. I declined their invitation and said I would start immediately. They then furnished me with two blankets, a shot gun, shot pounch powder-horn, two pairs moccasins, and patches to mend my moccasins if necessary and the guide being ready, I bid good-bye to my good friends, the Sacks. Soon after leaving the Sacks, I looked towards my house and observed a bright light. I supposed the Winnebagoes had fired my buildings. We ascertained this to be the fact. The following spring the lead from my buildings was melted in a lump. Having each as many goods as they could pack away, they made a present of my furs to the Sacks and they delivered them to Mr. [John] Johnson in the manner that I had packed them up, the week before I was robbed. The guide who took the lead on our retreat was a young man about 19 or 20 years of age, a son of She-qua-me (who first reported the Winnebagoes near me.) We pursued our way down the river at a rapid rate and had traveled about eight miles when we struck a small creek, well frozen over, and we followed it for some time. I soon saw that this creek, if followed as the guide was doing, would nearly lead us back from whence we came. I communicated my fears to my interpreter, Pepeek, and we came to the conclusion he had repented of his bargain and intended to lead us back to his lodge. Each of us had his gun and Pepeek and I came to the determination that as we were two to one we would stop him and have an understanding about the course he was then leading us. I had determined to compel him to change his course and stopped him. I 56 0452 442 told him our course was directly towards the moon (that was shining beautifully, there being snow on the ground. It was light as day), that we were taking a wrong direction. He pointed down at his feet saying, "Do you see these turkey tracks?" It was so. "A large flock was going up the creek in search of water" said the Indian. "If they pursue us they will see our tracks in the snow. When they find we are going back they will suppose they are following hunters and will leave our tracks." I approved of his plan. We still followed the turkeys' track. At length the Indian struck his course and continued on all the first night. At daylight we were 50 miles on our way to the fort. Before leaving the bottom lands of the Mississippi our route lay through the large, now called Illinois prairies. Before commencing to cross the first prairies Cashinwa, our guide, struck up a fire and advised us to change our wet moccasins for dry ones. Our route the first night lay through bottom lands and springy grounds and we were wet to the knees. In the morning there was a change in the weather. It became very cold and windy and it was necessary to guard our feet against the frost before leaving our first fire. Our guide with a sharp flint scarified his ankles and legs, as he said. it prevented them from swelling, and at this fire we divided between us what provisions we started with. It consisted of one flour-cake baked on a plate. With one third of that and two hind legs of a muskrat we started. I ate the bread but could not swallow the muskrat, neither did I feel hungry. To go back to Sack lodges. When we left, the Sacks dispatched two young men in the contrary direction from that we were pursuing, and when we had a start of 50 miles from our enemies a party of fifteen Winnebagoes arrived at the Sac camps enquiring for the Yankee that had got from them the evening before. They had found out during the night that I was not a Saginash and, tomahawk in hand, they expected to find me at their lodges.
The old Sac chief coolly got up, pointed to the tracks in the snow, saying we had gone up the Mississippi to Prairie du Chien, whilst I had gone down the river to Fort Madison. Once on the prairie I began to inquire if we traveled as Indian war parties did when they had struck at the Osages. He, the guide, smiled and shook his head. I then told him to take that speed and I would follow him. He drew his belt tight and commenced taking an Indian lope, and in two hours I was satisfied that if pursued, although I had fifty miles the start, I would be overhauled before reaching the fort, for in that time my guide was nearly out of sight. I could just discern him on the prairie. After satisfying curiosity he stopped for us. The first day we saw deer and turkey in plenty but did not fire at them. Towards evening we saw an Indian camp, but proving to be Winnebagoes I did not choose to stop at them. Nothing occurred; we walked all night and the next morning shot under a high 0453 443 bluff a fine fat turkey; the Indian picked it whilst walking. We passed that morning two Winnebago camps; they did not see us, it being early in the morning; they were asleep as we passed. About the middle of the afternoon we stopped and roasted our turkey and ate it all but the hind legs; finished our meal on turkey alone. We left our fire and continued our journey all night. I felt no disposition to sleep. In the morning our Indian and Pepeek shot a pheasant each and we cooked them and that day crossed Rock river at the Sac and Fox village. The village had been deserted in the fall for their hunting grounds. In passing through the village we entered a lodge. Although in the winter, yet the fleas still inhabited at least one of the lodges, for we were instantly covered with them.
We crossed Rock river on the ice early in the day. In the afternoon it clouded up and commenced to snow. This day we traveled through prairies and were fairly into a large one that, but for our guide, we should probably have perished in. The weather in the night became exceedingly cold. After a fall of snow that did not discommode our guide in steering his course in the least, he drew his blanket over his head, unconcerned. This night, about midnight, I should judge, after crossing the prairie, we came to an old encamping ground. The guide made a halt, said we are not pursued. Had the Winnebagoes got on our trail we should have been overtaken to-day noon; here is plenty of fire-wood, alluding to a frame of lodge poles; we will take an armful each, and go down this sink hole where our light will not be seen, and sleep the balance of the night. We all agreed; we had collected a quantity of dry poles and struck up a fire. We had nothing to eat. I threw myself down by the fire, and Pepeck followed the example; not so the guide; sometime through the day he had picked up a small pumpkin, and roasted it by the fire. When done, he jogged us, saying: "We-sen-na" (eat). After eating up the pumpkin, through the interpreter I ascertained that we were fifty-five miles from Fort Madison. I proposed to Pepeek to leave our fire, and by walking the balance of the night we would be enabled to reach the fort the next day. He readily agreed to it, and the Indian did not object. The weather had become intensely cold; it was calm and starlight; we were furnished each with two good blankets, which we wore Indian fashion, and both of us without hats; our moccasins began to fail us, particularly our guide's. At daylight we were covered with frost. Half a foot of snow on the ground made our traveling rather heavy. About ten o'clock we struck the Mississippi low grounds, and soon we were in thick woods, and soon we came to a gang of Indian ponies. Said the Indian, "We are near lodges," and soon after said, snuffing up his nose, "I smell smoke." "Remain here," said he, "and I will see if they are friends." We had not to wait long. Soon 0454 444 I saw an Indian at a short distance from us. He beckoned to us to come for ward; we were soon seated by a comfortable fire in a clean Indian lodge. Over the fire hung a five-pail brass kettle, that appeared clean and bright, filled with sweet corr and beans, and any quantity of fat deer meat. A clean mat was placed for us to sit on; the squaws came forward and took off our moccasins, dried, rubbed and mended them whilst we were doing justice to a large bowl of corn and venison. Before eating of this, the old man of the lodge poured out about a half pint of clear bear's oil, gave me a couple of Irish potatoes. "After eating that," said he, "eat all you want of corn and meat; it can't hurt you."
My guide remained at this lodge; he had one of his big toes frozen that morning. A young Sac, discovering it, sat immediately down beside him, put his toe in his mouth and sucked out the frost. Query: Would one white man do as much for another? We left well pleased with our reception, at the only Sac lodge we passed on our way to the fort, which we reached at sundown, having traveled on foot 250 miles in three days and four nights. I was not known by Mr. Johnson, whom I found at tea, until I spoke. My Indian blanket and pouch and powder horn were trimmed with buttons, and without hat or shoes, he did not immediately recognize me. This was the 4th of January, 1812.
The day I arrived at Fort Madison, an expressman in a French traineau, had passed the fort. He was sent by Gen. [William] Clark of St. Louis, to apprise the inhabitants of Prairie du Chien of the battle of Tippecanoe. Too late to save the goods I received at Fort Madison of the U. S. Factor, Mr. [John] Johnson, the Winnebagoes who were in that battle, had time to reach the head waters of Rock river, rest one month, raise a war party, and give me the first news of that battle by killing my men, and plundering me of my goods, as well as the goods of the United States factory under my charge.
I had two horses at the fort; one I gave to my guide for his services, and well he deserved it. Mr. Johnson gave him a full suit of clothes, also a quantity of silver works. The commanding officer [Capt. H. Starke] loaded his horse with pork and flour. I have have never Cashinwa since, though within a few years I made inquiry after him when I was in Iowa. The old squaw, Shequamy, I met at the agency in 1840. I resided at the agency. Whilst there she, the old woman, died. Before she died she called a friend and put in his care four pair of moccasins, telling him to deliver them personally to Saginash. She was mother to Cashinwa. During the war of 1812 there were two parties in the Sac nation, one called the British party, and the other called the American party. The American party moved across the Missouri; the other warred against us on the side of the British. I remained 0455 445 at Fort Madison until the return of Gen. Clark's express from Prairie du Chien, on his return to St. Louis.
In the train was the expressman, Willard; a discharged sergeant, Griffith, and a Mr. Gates, interpreter of Mr. Johnson's, on his way to see his family at St. Louis, and myself on horseback, left the fort; after breakfast made twenty-five miles, and encamped below the river Des Moines; started the next day at daylight. The ice was good, and we traveled from point to point; nothing of importance occurred until about ten o'clock, when we were a few miles from Polier and Bleakley's, two British traders. They attempted to introduce a large quantity of whisky into the Indian country, but their boats were seized and their liquor stored in the fort by Capt. Harks [Hanks], who commanded Fort Madison. Here I expected difficulty, and was determined not to stop within sight of their houses. We discovered a dozen or more Indians crossing to some islands we had passed and about a mile below, from around a point, about fifty more coming out, we thought to intercept us. We were descending the right hand side of the Mississippi, and were above a sand-bar that extended two miles. I knew from the formation of this bar, that if those in the sled took that chute [route], the Indians were certain to take them, because the banks were high and quite a narrow passage below the sand-bar, running quite close to the side we were on. At the upper end of the bar the ice was smooth, and at first those in the train seemed determined to take it, although I opposed it. I took the outside of this bar, and after some time the train turned about and followed me. I then communicated to them my plan, which was to seem to make directly up to them, and shaped our course accordingly. It had a good effect; they slackened their pace and we gained as much down the river as we could without their suspecting our object (which was to pass them). So confident were they that we would fall into their hands, that they sat down on the jammed ice and waited for us. They soon saw our object, and raised to their feet, and we put whip to our horses. I was foremost, and for sometime it was doubtful how things would end. I was safely past them, but on looking around to see how the train was getting on, I perceived an Indian twenty paces in advance of the party, and in the act of catching hold of the stakes attached to the train. Just at that time I saw Gates, the inspector, raise his horse pistol as if to strike instead of shooting, and the Indian held back and the train passed on. The Indians felt disappointed, and beckoned us to come back, offering their hands in token of friendship. Having been a short time before deceived by the Indians in that way, we paid no attention to their pretended friendship. Had the Indian caught hold of the train it would probably have broken down, and the men would have shared the fate of Arnold and Peeters. The ice was caked up 0456 446 and very rough, the train scarcely holding together. I was of the opinion that this party had been watching the return of Willard, who was sent by Gen. Clark to Prairie du Chien to notify the Americans of the battle of Tippecanoe, and to put us on our guard, but too late to do me any good. Two months had elapsed since the battle. Had I been notified, as we all should have been, one month sooner, I could have saved my goods by returning them to Mr. Johnson, but in neglecting to give us the information as they might, and ought to have done, one month before, I lost not only my own goods, but the public goods also.
The Indians, seeing they could not coax us up to them, made for the mainland, and from there to Bay Charles, formed by a very short turn of the Mississippi, was distant about thirty miles by land, and much longer distance by water, about fifty miles.
Discovering the object of the Indians, the race commenced, we by the ice and they by the land. I knew, for I had seen speed of an Indian, and his capacity to continue on that speed from morning till night, when they had a great object to obtain. I kept the lead of the sled for several hours; about the middle of the afternoon the sled passed me. My horse began to fail; we had not reached the point at which we expected the Indians to head us (Bay Charles). Soon there was a prospect of my having to leave my horse, and to avoid that, I got off his back and drove him before me at a trot, and then rode a while to rest. Before reaching this Bay Charles, formed by a sudden turn of the river, a strong current was formed, and the ice was just sufficiently wide to permit a horse and train to pass. Here we expected the Indians would have reached before us, and they would have certainly cut us off, but fortunately for our scalps, we arrived first at this turn. From thence to Salt river was nine miles. I arrived about nine o'clock. The train beat me in the race that day nine miles. We stopped at a trader's house, by the name of Parquette. He was married to a Winnebago woman. I was not inclined to sleep that night in his house, lest the Indians might come upon us whilst we slept. The three men chose to stay there that night,and after much persuasion, I made up my mind to remain instead of encamping in the woods.
We were not disturbed during the night, got our breakfast early in the morning, and left Parquette's house, expecting to reach O'Niel's that evening. Our horses from the race of the day before were very stiff, and we could only go on a walk. This day's journey was only twenty-five miles, quite sufficient for our jaded horses. We had observed that broad trails crossed the river every six or eight miles, which we knew to be Indian trails. We saw no Indians that day; it began to snow towards evening, and before sun-down 0457 447 we came within sight of O'Niel's house. We kept near the middle of the river. The ice was good,—eighteen inches thick. On approaching O'Niel's house our suspicions were raised that all was not right there. The household consisted of O'Niel, his wife and fourteen children, and one orphan boy. Opposite the house we discovered a bacon-house on fire, and the doors and windows open. We hailed the house. No one answered. From the trails we had passed that day we were apprehensive that something wrong had happened, and from appearances of things we did not venture up to the house. Two miles from O'Niel's, Burnes resided, directly on the river bank. On arriving about sun-down we found Burnes chopping wood, and informing him of our suspicions in regard to O'Neil, he told us they were to have killed hogs that day, and were probably in the field back of the house. I thought it might have been so, and prepared for the night. We had reached the first settlements from Fort Madison, distance 150 miles.
After turning out our horses in a small corn field, for there was no stables at the time, we made ourselves as comfortable as possible, whilst Burnes' wife was occupied in getting supper for us. She was a very tall woman with red hair; had two children; one about three and the other a year old. Burnes was a small man, and had settled here, and had commenced to clear up a farm, and that year had made quite a commencement. Supper was soon ready, and we did justice to it, for we had eaten nothing since breakfast. After supper we sat around a good fire talking until ten o'clock, when it was proposed that we should go to bed. I had pulled off my moccasins,and was in the act of throwing them across a pole suspended over the fireplace, when "Hallo, the house" was heard. The door was opened, and a stranger to me addressed Burnes, saying, "Burnes, clear yourself to Mr. Dicken's. The Indians are in the neighborhood and have killed all of the O'Niel family." Whilst I was putting on my moccasins I saw the first thing Burnes did was to take his rifle, and then opened a chest and took from it a long stocking filled with specie, and was about leaving, when his wife caught him around the neck and said, "Burnes, think of what you are doing. Are you going to desert your wife and family?" He pitched the money on the bed, hustled his children in a coverlid, and with his wife left the house, as I went out to catch my horse that was loose in the corn field. It was dark, and snowing fast. It was some time before I could get my horse cornered, and on going back to the house I found all had left for Dickson's. There was a good fire burning, and by its light I discovered Burnes' bag of silver laid on the bed. In the hurry and confusion of the moment he had forgotten to take it with him.
My gun stood in the corner. After saddling my horse, I took off a silk 0458 448 handkerchief from round my neck, reprimed my gun, and wrapped the handkerchief round the lock. It was an old fashioned lock. I was soon mounted. I think I never saw a darker and more blustering night. I could not see my horse's head, and the snow blew in my face so that I could scarcely keep my eyes open. It was only a short half mile to Dickson's. The road passed near Burnes' door. I put spurs to my jaded horse, and soon got him on a slow pace. Once in a while he would make a kind of a snort that I would rather he would not do, lest if the Indians were near I should warn them of my whereabouts. I still spurred on my horse, and soon I heard at a short distance before me a terrific scream. I knew it was uttered by a female. I reined up my horse for an instant, and then determined to go straight forward, and in a few minutes, apparently under my horse's feet, the same scream repeated. I then knew if, as I supposed, the Indians were waylaying the road and were murdering those that passed,that I should have been knocked off my horse. I therefore spoke and said, "It is a friend; don't be alarmed." It proved to be a black woman who was carrying her mistress' child in her arms, and hearing me approach, thought it was Indians. She came to a small rise in the road, and had nearly given out. Said she, "For God Almighty's sake, Massa, take this little child." I took it up before me. All it had on seemed to be its night clothes, and the black girl had carried it four or five miles. Her mistress had left her alone. Not a whimper did the child utter in that cold, half clad situation. I was soon up to Dickson's. I hailed the house, inquiring whose child I had, and it was some time before I could find an owner. At length a woman (not its mother) said she would take it. Some thirty years after I met this same woman in Iowa who reminded me of the occurrence.
I was soon off the horse, and after caring for him, I went in the house at Dickson's, a large farm house, all in one room, around which stood about twenty stout men, all armed with rifles. In the middle of the room were the women, children, and what bed-clothes they could carry with them all piled together. Before a large fireplace sat an old man gazing on the coals. His head was white; not a tear was in his eye, nor could he utter one word. He was horror struck, paid no attention to what was passing. Most of these men had traveled from four to six miles through the snow, and an attack might be made upon us at any moment. I suggested the propriety of each man's firing off his gun. Mine went clear. Not one in ten of the others could be got off by repriming. Soon they commenced to withdraw their loads, and soon were in readiness should we be attacked. We were not molested. When morning came those who had met at Dickson's had commenced making preparations to follow the Indians who had committed this murder, 0459 449 which was a useless undertaking, as they committed the attack just as it commenced snowing the evening before. The snow covering up their tracks, it was impossible to follow them.
I obtained, the following morning, the following account from O'Niel. The day of the murder he left the family early for the purpose of attending a meeting of the farmers some five miles from home. The object was to select a point to build block-houses and to erect a picket work, so that if the settlement was molested they could if necessary fly to it and not break up the settlement. He left home after breakfast. His wife was preparing to wash, and after the meeting, returned home and the first object he met near the house was his eldest daughter, 10 years old, tomahawked and scalped. On opening the door the first thing that met his sight was the heads of all of his family spitted before the fire. On a large farm table lay the bodies of his children, quartered. Two of his youngest children were thrown in his wife's wash kettle that was over the fire.
He did not see his wife and eldest son, a man grown, but from the traces of the blood that led to a room, he had no doubt but that they shared the fate of the rest of the family. Upon visiting the house it was ascertained it was so.
O'Niel joined the first company of spies that was raised in Missouri, determined to seek satisfaction for the murder of his family. The next day we arrived at St. Charles, twenty miles from St. Louis. There I remained until spring when an opportunity offered to go to Galena, for the lead which the Winnebagoes could not carry off. They before leaving my house, set fire to it and melted the lead together. I left St. Louis in May, took passage in a French boat. There were three together and had proceeded fifty or sixty miles above Fort Madison. We met Maurice Blondo [Blandeau] from Prairie du Chien. From him we learned that the Winnebagoes were in force at Rock Island. All Frenchmen and French boats were to pass by paying tribute in provisions to enable them to remain there, but they would kill all Americans. The men on board these boats refused to go farther. If I remained on board my going would get them into difficulty. I therefore made up my mind to return to St. Louis. Mr. Blondoe's boat was loaded with packs of fur. He invited me on board his boat, having something curious to show me. On lifting a pack of fur in the center of his boat, who should I see but Lieut. N. Pryor (who was engaged within a few hundred yards of my house at the time I was robbed in melting the lead and whom I supposed was killed at the time by the Indians, but was saved by a squaw who declared he was an Englishman). I was told by Lieut. Pryor that he made a very narrow escape; the Indians drew their knives across his throat, made 57 0460 450 him open his mouth, looked down his throat to see if he was an American. At length they held a council back of his house whether to kill him or not. Unperceived the squaw listened; the vote was, he must die. She told Pryor no chance was left to save himself. He jumped for his rifle and left the house. Near by his house was a quantity of drift wood under which he concealed himself and heard the Indians searching for him in the house, uttering savage yells. Not finding him they supposed he had gone up the river. In their haste they over-ran his tracks; some even passed over the drift wood under which he had concealed himself. It being a clear moonlight night, he could see them form a line hunting for his tracks in the snow. Pryor followed on behind them as long as they kept near. Not finding his tracks, they wheeled off from the river in search of his track and Pryor, keeping the river, arrived safe at a French village fifteen miles from our wintering grounds. There he lived nearly all winter in a cellar, coming out only at night. On account of the Winnebagoes he lost all the lead he had been collecting for one year. Embarking with Blondo and Pryor, we left our French friends and landed that afternoon at a Sac wintering ground of that part of the nation that did not join the British in the war of 1812. Blondo [Maurice Blandeau] was a sub-agent of the United States; he stopped to deliver a message to them from Gov. [William] Clark, of St. Louis, an invitation for some of the chiefs to visit Washington. We encamped that night on an island, the chiefs setting a guard or spies, lest we should be attacked by some scattering Winnebagoes that might pass.
That afternoon I witnessed a novel ceremony performed on a Sac Indian, no less than dispossessing him of a heavy head of hair by plucking him as we would pick a hen. They commenced by placing a quantity of ashes from our fire in two piles, leaving space for him who they were to operate on between the two piles. An Indian on each side knelt down, placing one hand each on the side of his head and soon every hair was pulled out except on the top, a sort of coxcomb was left and that was fixed with much care and painted with vermillion. All the time of the performance they cracked jokes with the fellow who stood it seemingly without pain, laughed and joked in turn. After they had finished, he jumped up, shook his blanket and walked off, not without a good dram of whisky from Blondo. This he had performed out of respect for a deceased wife. He was now at liberty to marry again.
The next day we arrived at Fort Madison, from thence to St. Louis. In June, war having been declared, I left St. Louis for Detroit; at Cincinnati, we received information of the massacre of Chicago, the surrender of Detroit and siege of Fort Wayne. Being short of funds, I volunteered in a horse company for the relief of Fort Wayne. After organizing a few companies we marched and encamped at Chien's * crossings, 35 miles from Fort Wayne, and there
* See appendix
0461 451 waited for Gen. [W. H.] Harrison and the Kentucky troops. Whilst at the crossing a company of spies were sent out and came across a party of seventeen Pottawattomies, fired on them, wounding one of the party, a chief by the name of Metia, got his gun and shot-pouch, and returned to camp soon after Gen. Harrison arrived and entered into Fort Wayne without meeting an Indian. In a few days after our arrival Gen. Harrison divided his forces; one part was sent to Five Medals town under the command of Col. [Captain William] Wells from Kentucky; and Gen. Harrison, with the other part, went to the Miami village, but found no Indians. They had left the Miamis for Malden and the Pottawattomies had moved to the mouth of the St. Joseph. Both parties left the Indian towns and returned to Fort Wayne. Gen. [James] Winchester took command of the troops and marched down the Maumee on Wayne's old trail above Defiance. Gen. Winchester met a force of British and Indians on their way up to attack Fort Wayne. The British threw their cannon in the Maumee and retreated. Although the English were on retreat and Winchester was so near them that both armies could hear the tattoo and reveille, yet Winchester never brought them to action and let them escape.
I remember at Fort Wayne having been appointed by the commanding officer, issuing commissary. I had a drove of cattle that ran at large; it was my duty to herd them, which was attended with some danger. A few days after the army left Fort Wayne, two men out hunting for turkeys, were one of them killed and the other taken prisoner. I had agreed to go with them but overslept myself, which probably saved my life. I remained at Fort Wayne three months, until hearing Gen. Winchester was nearly ready to march towards Detroit, when I left with an intention to go into Detroit with the army. I left Fort Wayne with that intention and arrived at St. Marie's that evening. An express overtook me and I was appointed sutler for the garrison, and offered the same situation as contractor's agent, if I would return; the express brought with him the pay and muster rolls of the company, with a requisition on Jesse Hunt of Cincinnati, district paymaster, for 12 months' pay of the company. I accepted of both appointments and went to Cincinnati. All the funds I had was the three months' pay as contractor's agent, amounting to $90. I entered into bonds for $6,000. Judge [John Cleves] Symmes of Cincinnati became my security. I obtained a credit through the friendship of Jesse Hunt. Through disinterested friendship laid in goods at Dayton. I laid in three pack horses, loaded with shoes, stockings, sugar, tobacco, coffee and tea. The troops were nearly barefoot, out of tobacco, sugar, coffee, etc., whilst the clothing lay in store-houses in Cincinnati. I paid off the troops two years without receiving a cent for my services, transported the hospital stores and clothing for the troops. There being no funds 0462 452 at the post, I was not paid the money I had expended. No quartermaster at the post, I took no receipt of the commanding officer, having hired three wagons by the trip for which I paid $500 in silver. On account of danger from the Indians, I obtained an escort at St. Marie on account of having public clothing in my wagons and $4,000 to pay the troops at Fort Wayne.
Four dollars a day was then paid wagoners and forage found for the horses. The roads were so bad that it occurred that they fed out their whole load to their horses before reaching their destination. It cost the United States $40 in some cases to deliver one barrel of flour. For the army a barrel of flour was put in a bag and thrown across a pack horse. It was impossible at some seasons of the year for a wagon to get along empty, and it often occurred that horses died, sticking fast in a mud hole for want of strength to extricate themselves. In some cases the cost exceeded that amount. Previous to Harrison's army going to the relief of Fort Wayne, a winter campaign under command of Col. Campbell was undertaken against the Miami towns on the Mississineway. I was then at Dayton, Ohio. The army stopped there to supply themselves with necessaries. It was spoken of as something great that one of the stores, Phillips of Dayton, sold $700 worth of blue cloth in one day. It was fortunate for me that I did not possess the means of purchasing a rifle or I should have volunteered in that disgraceful campaign. Seven hundred men, mostly mounted men, left Dayton under Col. Campbell. Some of my old acquaintances, well acquainted with the country, who had previous to the war traded with the Muncies and the Miamis, acted as spies to the army under Col. Campbell. Shortly after the army left Greenville, for they took that route, bulletins came out that Campbell had three engagements with the Indians previous to the ever memorable battle on a branch of the Mississineway, fifteen miles from the principal Miami village. They were there attacked by sixty Indians and boys at night; all the men they could muster that were in the two villages. All the principal chiefs were at their wintering ground scattered in small hunting parties. The army of Col. Campbell was attacked between midnight and daybreak. A guard line was in advance some fifty or one hundred yards, commanded by a captain. As they, the Indians, advanced, the sentinel hailed. "Who comes there?" "Pottawattomies, God damn you," was the answer made by Sa-ce-miah, or Francis Lafountain, who together with Joseph Rushervill [Rusherville], commanded the Indians; who immediately rushed up to the guard line, killed the captain of the guard, and took two fine silver mounted pistols. He was killed by a Miami Indian I knew well by the name of Aneconse, or Little Squirrel. Our men encamped in level spots well timbered. It was a very cold night. This small party of Miamis, commanded by two boys not twenty years old, 0463 453 attacked at a point where our mounted men had formed, and having no breastworks save their horses, seventy of which were killed that night, this small party could charge up to the line, hallooing, "Fight on you d.—r.; the day is ours," when in fact they had no idea of doing so. Their object was to give the Muncie Indians an opportunity to make their escape from Col. Campbell, but did not succeed. When daylight came, the Indians scattered and took off their dead and wounded, if they had any. I never heard they had a single man killed. It put a stop to the advance of the Americans, nearly all mounted men. Such a crippled set of men who came into Dayton, was a sight to look upon. They should have had their grandmothers there to keep their feet warm. How many were buried of our people I can not now say; seventeen died of their wounds after they got into Dayton. Major Edwards, then Capt. Edwards, formerly surgeon's mate at Fort Wayne, assisted in dressing their wounds. Half of the men were frosted in their feet; quite a crippled set. When the call was made on Dayton for more ammunition, I happened to be passing through Dayton and assisted in packing kegs of powder on pack horses. Being used to that kind of business I got a job of it. They wanted me with them. I asked no better fun. We soon packed ten or fifteen horse loads of ammunition, rode all night, not sparing our horses; they belonged to Uncle Sam. We were as often on a gallop as a trot; one spur in heel and one in head.
I met Col. Campbell on the retreat with twenty or twenty-five old and young squaws and papooses, and but one man, and he came hopping on behind. I met our people near sundown, the second evening after the battle. Had the same party followed through the day and attacked at night, they would have done great damage, for the morning after the engagement there was not three rounds of ammunition to a man. I traveled over the battle ground after the war. My guide, a Miami Indian, told me where the Americans stood that night. The Indians scraped up whole handfuls of powder on the snow when they visited the ground the second day after the battle. They waited at their village on the Wabash, expecting the army, and they had sent runners to the Pottawattomies, and 500 were on hand ready to back up the Miamis, who would have been all on hand. The second fight (well for some of them they lost all their powder, and that this handful of Indians defeated them in the first fight), scarcely a man would have got back had the army advanced fifteen miles further.
The first three fights were a charge on defenseless Muncie women and children in their cabins. One old grey-headed woman was left in her lodge, provisions placed near her, for she was too old to take along. A man went back, killed and scalped the old woman. No man but O'Neil could have 0464 454 been justifiable in committing such an act. May not the defeat of that army be attributable to that fiendish act? God's curse rested on all they undertook.
This determined the Miami Indians to leave and join the British at Malden. They refused to join the Pottawattomies from Chicago against Fort Wayne. They were determined to remain neutral. They even had pickets out as a defence against other Indians, neighbors, the Pous Chien. I. B. Rusherville, mounted his horse, and said he was going to Malden, and all who could followed him. The White Loon and family remained behind because of sickness. His party consisted of two men and six women and five children. Came to Fort Wayne; was treated well. I issued provisions to them until the Miamis returned to Detroit. The Indians committed some few depredations about the garrison. A party of eleven Pottawattomies decoyed the surgeon's mate, a small Indian boy, and a Sergeant Stokes, from the fort by mimicing turkeys four mornings and evenings in succession. The Miami boy was taken in Antoine Bondi's family, and Bondi baptized him. I have his own words for the truth of it. He told the boy he was now a Christian, and that if he suffered himself to be taken prisoner he would go to hell, describing hell as an awful place. This party was decoyed up and surrounded by Benack, a Pottawattomie chief, and ten other Indians. Benezette, the Dad of the post, remained a short distance behind, he being the last that got from a small canoe they used to cross the river St. Marie's. The young Miami was the only one who fired a gun, and he was riddled and cut to pieces by the Pottawattomies. He kept his word with Bondi. Sergeant Stokes was taken by the Indians to St. Josephs and well treated, and was returned to the fort one year after, accompanied by an old Indian and his wife who had adopted him in their family. For their kindness to him (he having one year's pay due), he gave his father and mother, as he called them, forty dollars in goods from my store, and they left well pleased. When first taken, Stokes had a valuable silver watch. They pledged it at a trader's and when he was about to leave, redeemed it, and returned the watch to the owner. When the Indians had a drunken frolic, they would hide Stokes till they got sober. They only required him to work in their corn fields two hours in the morning and two in the evening. They frequently objected to his going out too early in the afternoon, and always shared with him what they had to eat. He met with Crum, who was taken prisoner at the time Sedore was killed. Crum saw the preparation being made to kill him, and said to Stokes, "I will sell my life as dear as I can." "No," said Stokes, "Die like a man. By the Holy Ghost, King," said he "die like a man. Submit to your fate; you live in misery (he had the gravel.)" And the squaws killed him with their hominy 0465 455 pounders. Stokes thought that if King should kill any of the Indians his life was in danger; they would certainly revenge themselves on Stokes, hence his advice to make no resistance.
Shortly after Stokes was taken prisoner, a small party made an attack on the last of seventeen boats loaded with provisions, and within one half a mile and in sight of the fort killed three men just at the time Col. R. M. Johnson's regiment came in sight (mounted men). They immediately gave chase, but the Indians escaped. It was in June, the bushes were thick, and heavy timber favored them.