The Project Gutenberg EBook of Four American Indians, by Edson L. Whitney and Frances M. Perry This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Four American Indians King Philip, Pontiac, Tecumseh, Osceola Author: Edson L. Whitney Frances M. Perry Release Date: May 20, 2008 [EBook #25538] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK FOUR AMERICAN INDIANS *** Produced by Chris Curnow, Joseph Cooper and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
NEW YORK CINCINNATI CHICAGO
AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY
[Pg 2] Copyright, 1904, by
Edson L. Whitney and Frances M. Perry
Four Am. Ind.
|II.||Philip's Childhood Home||12|
|III.||Massasoit and His Two Sons||15|
|IV.||Philip Hears of the English||19|
|V.||Philip Meets the English||23|
|VII.||Philip's Daily Life||30|
|VIII.||Philip's Relations with the English||34|
|IX.||Philip Becomes Grand Sachem||37|
|X.||Philip's Troubles with the Whites||39|
|XI.||Philip and the Indian Councils||42|
|XII.||King Philip's War||45|
|XIII.||The Last Days of Philip||48|
|I.||The Meeting of Pontiac and the English||53|
|VI.||The Seventh of May||74|
|VIII.||The Two Leaders||84|
|IX.||The Siege of Detroit||89|
|XI.||The End of the Siege||101|
|XII.||All Along the Frontier||104|
|XIII.||The Last of Pontiac||110|
|III.||Adventures of the Young Brave||125|
|V.||Tecumseh's Brother, the Prophet||133|
|VII.||The Prophet's Town||144|
|VIII.||The Council Between Harrison and Tecumseh||149|
|IX.||Preparations for War||155|
|X.||The Battle of Tippecanoe||161|
|XI.||Reorganization of the Indians||166|
|XII.||Tecumseh and the British||170|
|I.||The Exodus of the Red Sticks||179|
|II.||The Florida Home||183|
|III.||The First Seminole War||189|
|V.||The Treaty of Payne's Landing||202|
|VII.||The War Opened||212|
|VIII.||Osceola a War Chief||219|
|IX.||The Seminoles Hold Their Own||223|
|X.||Osceola and General Jesup||228|
|XI.||The Imprisonment Osceola||233|
Philip, ruler of the Wampanoags, was the only Indian in our country to whom the English colonists gave the title of king. Why no other Indian ever received this title I cannot tell, neither is it known how it happened to be given to Philip.
The Wampanoags were a tribe of Indians whose homes were in what is now southeastern Massachusetts and in Rhode Island east of Narragansett Bay. A few of them, also, lived on the large islands farther south, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.
Three centuries ago Massasoit, Philip's father, was the grand sachem, or ruler, of the Wampanoags. His people did not form one united tribe. They had no states, cities, and villages, with governors, mayors, and aldermen, as we have. Nor did they live in close relations with one another and vote for common officers.
On the other hand, they lived in very small villages. A few families pitched their wigwams together and lived[Pg 10] in much the same way as people do now when they camp out in the summer.
Generally, among the Wampanoags, only one family lived in a wigwam. The fathers, or heads of the families in the different wigwams, came together occasionally and consulted about such matters as seemed important to them.
Every one present at the meeting had a right to express his opinion on the question under consideration, and as often as he wished. All spoke calmly, without eloquence, and without set speeches. They talked upon any subject they pleased, as long as they pleased, and when they pleased.[Pg 11]
The most prominent person in a village was called the sagamore. His advice and opinion were generally followed, and he governed the people in a very slight manner.
The Indians of several villages were sometimes united together in a petty tribe and were ruled by a sachem, or chief.
The chief did not rule over a very large tract of country. Generally none of his subjects lived more than eight or ten miles away from him.
He ruled as he pleased, and was not subject to any constitution or court of any kind. In fact, he was a leader rather than a ruler. Nevertheless, a wise chief never did anything of great importance without first consulting the different sagamores of his tribe.
The chief held a little higher position in the tribe than the sagamore did in his village. He settled disputes. He held a very rude form of court, where justice was given in each case according to its merits. He sent and received messengers to and from other tribes.
As several villages were united in a single petty tribe, so also several petty tribes were loosely joined together and ruled over by a grand sachem.
The different Wampanoag tribes which owed allegiance to Philip and his father, Massasoit, were five in number besides the small bands on the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. The village where the grand sachem lived was called by them Pokanoket.[Pg 12]
Massasoit had several children. The eldest son was named Wamsutta, and the second Metacomet. In later years, the English gave them the names of Alexander and Philip, which are much easier names for us to pronounce.
We do not know the exact date of Philip's birth, for the Indians kept no account of time as we do, nor did they trouble to ask any one his age. It is probable, however, that Philip was born before 1620, the year in which the Pilgrims settled near the Wampanoags.
Philip spent his boyhood days playing with his brothers and sisters, and with the neighbors' children; for although he was the son of a grand sachem, he had no special privileges above those of the other children around him.
We are apt to think of a prince as a man that does very little work. We expect him to attend banquets, to be dressed in military uniform, with a beautiful sword at his side and many medals on his breast, to be surrounded by servants, and to have everybody bow down to him and stand ready to do his bidding.
It was very different with Philip. He lived in no better way than did the other members of his tribe. His home was neither better nor worse than theirs. His food was of the same quality. His daily life was the same. He wore no uniform. He never heard of medals or badges. He had no servants. His father differed[Pg 13] from the other Indians only in being their leader in time of war and in being looked up to whenever the chiefs of the tribe held a meeting, or council.
Philip's home was not such as American boys and girls are brought up in. There were no toys, no baby carriages, no candy. There were no romps with the parents, for the Indians were a quiet, sober people, and rarely showed any affection for their children.
Philip's father never played any games with him. In fact, in his younger days the boy never received very much attention from his father. He was taken care of by his mother. He was never rocked in a cradle, but was strapped in a kind of bag made of broad pieces of bark and covered with soft fur. Sometimes he was carried in this on his mother's back, as she went about her work. Sometimes he was hung up on the branch of a tree.
The little house in which he lived was called a wigwam. It was circular, or oval, in shape, and made of barks or mats laid over a framework of small poles. These poles were fixed at one end in the ground, and were fastened together at the top, forming a framework shaped somewhat like a tent.
Two low openings on opposite sides of the wigwam served as doors. These were closed with mats when necessary, thus making the place tight and warm.
The wigwam had but one room. In the middle of it[Pg 14] were a few stones which served as a fireplace. There was no chimney, but the smoke passed out through an opening at the top of the wigwam.
On one side of the fireplace was a large couch made of rough boards raised perhaps a foot above the ground and covered with mats or skins. The couch was very wide, so that Philip and the rest of the children could lie on it side by side at night.
There was no other furniture in the room. A few baskets were hung on the walls ready for use. A few mats were placed here and there as ornaments. The dishes that held Philip's food were rude vessels made of baked clay, of pieces of bark, of bits of hollowed stone, or of wood.
There was very little desire to keep the wigwam neat and tidy. It was used for only a few months, and then given up for a new one that was built near by. In the summer it was customary to pitch the wigwam in an open place. In the winter it was pitched in the thick woods for protection from the winds and storms.
Such was the home in which Philip was brought up. It differed but little from those of his playmates, for there was no aristocracy among the Indians. The place[Pg 15] where Massasoit and his family generally lived was near the present site of Bristol, on a narrow neck of land projecting into Narragansett Bay. It is now called Mount Hope, and is twelve or fifteen miles southeast of Providence, Rhode Island.
In the early evening, during his boyhood days, Philip delighted to sit near the camp fire where the members of his tribe were wont to gather. There he eagerly listened to the stories of adventure told by his elders, and wished that he was old enough to enter into the sports that they so interestingly described.
Although children were not expected to talk in the presence of their elders, Philip frequently showed his[Pg 16] interest in their stories by asking many questions in regard to the places visited by the older Indians.
In those days news traveled slowly from one little village to another, for there were neither telegraphs nor telephones; no, not even railroads. In fact, there were no roads, and even the paths through the woods were so little used that it was difficult to find one's way from one place to another. The Indians kept no animals of any kind, and always traveled from place to place on foot.
One pleasant evening in June, in the year 1620, little Philip noticed that there was less general story-telling than usual, and that the Indians seemed greatly interested in a long story which one of their number was telling. He could not understand the story, but he frequently caught the words, "Squanto" and "English." These were new words to him.
The next evening, as Philip and his brother were sitting by the fire, they asked their father what had caused the Indians to be so serious in their talk, and what the long story was about.
"Squanto has come home," his father replied.
"And who is Squanto?" asked Philip.
Then his father told him a story, which was too long to be repeated here. But in brief it was as follows:
Several years before—long, in fact, before Philip was born—a ship had come from across the sea. It was larger than any other vessel the Indians had ever seen.
The only boats that Philip knew anything about were quite small, and were called canoes. They were made[Pg 17] either of birch bark fastened over a light wooden frame, or of logs that had been hollowed by burning and charring.
But the boat from across the sea was many times larger than any of theirs—so Massasoit explained to the boys—and had accommodations for a great many men. Instead of being pushed along by paddles, it was driven by the wind by means of large pieces of cloth stretched across long, strong sticks of wood.
The Indians did not go down to the shore, but[Pg 18] watched this boat from the highlands some distance inland. Finally the vessel stopped and some of the men came ashore. The Indians looked at the strangers in astonishment. Their skin was of a pale, whitish color, very different from that of the Indians, which was of a copper or reddish clay color.
The white men, or the pale-faced men, as Massasoit called them, made signs of friendship to the Indians, and after a few minutes persuaded them to go down to the shore. There the two peoples traded with each other. The Indians gave furs and skins, and received in return beads and trinkets of various kinds.
When the vessel sailed away it carried off five Indians who had been lured on board and had not been allowed to return to shore. These Indians had not been heard from since, and that was fifteen years before.
Little Philip's eyes increased in size, and instinctively he clenched his fists at the thought of the wrong that had been done his people by the palefaces.
His father went on with the story, and told him how the Indians then vowed vengeance on the white man; for it was a custom of the Indians to punish any person who committed a wrong act towards one of their number.
From time to time, other vessels visited their shores, but no Indian could ever be induced to go on board any of them.
Nine years later, another outrage was committed. The palefaces while trading with the Indians suddenly seized upon twenty-seven of the latter, took them to[Pg 19] their vessel, and sailed away with them before they could be rescued. Is it any wonder that Philip felt that the whites were his natural enemies?
After that time, Massasoit said, the Indians had refused to have any dealings with the whites. Whenever a white man's vessel came in sight, the Indians prepared to shoot any one that came ashore. And now another white man's vessel had arrived on the coast, and several of its crew had landed in spite of all that could be done to prevent them.
To the great surprise of Massasoit's men, there was an Indian with these palefaces. And that Indian proved to be Squanto, one of the five who had been taken away fifteen years before.
This is but a bare outline of what Massasoit told his sons. It seemed to the lads like a fairy tale, and for days they talked of nothing but this strange story.
During the following summer young Philip heard many an interesting story about the English. Squanto himself came to see Massasoit several times, and from him Philip heard the story of his adventures across the sea.
Late in the fall, long before Philip had lost his interest in the stories of Squanto, another English vessel arrived on the coast of the Indian country.[Pg 20]
On the eleventh day of November, 1620, the vessel anchored near Cape Cod. Sixteen palefaces came ashore. They did not act like the others who had preceded them. They made no effort to become acquainted with the Indians, but spent their time in looking around and in examining the country.
They found four or five bushels of corn, which had been stored for the winter by an Indian, and carried it away to their vessel.
This angered the Indians, and we can well imagine the thoughts that passed through the mind of the boy Philip when he heard that the English had stolen the corn that belonged to a poor Indian, one of his father's friends.
The Indians talked the matter over by their camp fire, and little Philip listened to the story as eagerly as he had listened to the story of Squanto six months before.
A week or so later, more news came to Mount Hope. The palefaces had visited the shore a second time, and on this occasion had stolen a bag of beans and some more corn.
How Philip's anger increased as he heard his father talk the matter over with the other Indians!
A few days afterwards Philip heard still other news of the English. They had come ashore a third time. The[Pg 21] Indians had watched them from a distance. Finally, when a good opportunity offered itself, thirty or forty Indians quietly surrounded the palefaces, and at a given signal every one of them yelled at the top of his voice and began to shoot arrows at the hated visitors.
For a time it looked as if the palefaces would be driven into the water. But soon they fired their guns, and the Indians ran away frightened at the noise.
Philip was greatly interested in the description that was given of a gun. He had never so much as heard of one before, and he thought it very strange that any one should be afraid of little pieces of lead. He could not see why it was not as easy to dodge bullets as it was to dodge arrows.
A week or two later still further news was brought to Massasoit's village. The palefaces had left Cape Cod and had sailed across the bay to Patuxet (to which the English gave the name of Plymouth). There they had gone ashore and had built some log cabins, evidently with the intention of staying for some time.
This was something that the Indians could not understand. Every day some of them went to the top of the hill which overlooked the little settlement to see what the English were doing. Then they returned to Mount Hope with something new to tell about the palefaces, and Philip eagerly listened to every story that was related.
Several meetings of the Indians were held during the winter, at which Philip was always present, and finally[Pg 22] one of their number, whose name was Samoset, was sent to Plymouth to ask the English why they had settled in this land which belonged, of right, to the red men.
Samoset returned a few days later. He told his story to the Indians around the camp fire, little Philip, as usual, paying great attention to what was said.
Samoset said that the palefaces had been very kind to him, and had told him that they had come to this country to settle, that they wanted to live on the most friendly terms with the red men, and that they desired to pay not only for the corn and beans which they had taken, but also for the land on which they had built their village.
At the close of his story the Indians expressed themselves as satisfied with the palefaces, and Philip felt that perhaps the English were not so bad as he had thought them to be.
Samoset was then sent to the settlers to tell them that Massasoit and some of his friends would like to meet them for a friendly talk about many things that might otherwise become a cause of disagreement between them. He brought back word that the English eagerly welcomed the opportunity to meet the Indians, and had offered to see them on the following day.
The next day Massasoit and sixty of his warriors visited the English. They did not go into the English village, but stopped on the top of the hill near by.
Philip was not with them, for at this time he was too young to go so far away from home. We can imagine his feelings, however, when he saw his father and the warriors start out on their journey.
They were dressed in costumes that would look very strange if seen on our streets to-day. Their clothing was made of the raw skin of wild animals. Their feet were protected by moccasins made of thin deerskin. Each one was tall, erect, and active, with long, coarse, black hair falling down his back.
None of them had any physical deformities, for it was the custom of the tribe to kill any child that was born deaf, dumb, blind, or lame.
Each one was decked with his personal ornaments. These did not consist of gold, silver, diamonds, or any other precious stones so familiar to us. The Indians knew nothing about these. Their ornaments consisted of ear-rings, nose-rings, bracelets, and necklaces made out of shells or fish-bones or shining stones, which were very common in that neighborhood.
Their faces were smeared with heavy daubs of paint.[Pg 24] Each one had a cloak thrown over his shoulders, and he also wore a head-dress made of feathers or quills. To Philip it seemed as if he had never seen anything so imposing.
We can imagine how eagerly Philip listened to the story that his father told when he came back home: how the settlers came out to meet him on the hill, and made him a present of three knives, a copper chain, and an ear-ring, besides several good things to eat, very different from anything he had ever tasted before.
Then Massasoit described the treaty that he had made with the palefaces in which the settlers and the Wampanoags had agreed to remain friends and to help each other in every way they could. To make the treaty as strong as possible, the palefaces had written it down on paper and had signed their names to it. The Indians did not know how to read or write. That was something that they had never heard of before. But they drew rude pictures at the end of the writing and called these pictures their names.
Philip never tired listening to the stories about the palefaces. He was still too young to be taken to their settlement, but he longed for a chance to see them.
Suddenly, one day in the middle of the summer of 1621, about four months after the Indians had made their treaty with the whites, six warriors came into the little Indian village at Mount Hope with two men, who Philip saw were palefaces. They were not so tall as the Indians. They were thicker set, and their faces were covered with beards.[Pg 25]
Massasoit recognized them immediately, for they were some of the party that he had met at Plymouth. They had come on a friendly visit to him, and had brought him a red cotton coat and a copper chain. Philip was greatly pleased to see the palefaces, of whom he had heard so much. He listened to their stories, answered their inquiries in regard to Indian life, and learned what he could about their homes and customs.
After this, the settlers called on the Indians many times, and Philip soon became very well acquainted with them.
During the next few months several white men came from England and settled at Weymouth, a few miles north of Plymouth. These new settlers were not so honest as those that had settled at Plymouth. They stole from the Indians and otherwise injured them, and caused them to plot against all the whites in the country. But before their plans were carried out Massasoit was taken sick. The medicine man was called in.
The medicine man was the physician. He had learned the medicinal virtues of a few simple herbs. He knew how to bind up wounds in bark with certain preparations of leaves, and he could also cure a few fevers. He went through many magical ceremonies with howls, roars, and antics of various kinds. If the sick man became well, the medicine man took all the credit; if the patient died, then the medicine man said that the bad spirit had too strong a hold on him.
But the medicine man did not help Massasoit. Philip[Pg 26] watched by his father's side and saw him grow worse day by day. He remembered how, only a few years before, the smallpox had carried away large numbers of the Indians, and now he began to think that the days of his father, too, were numbered.
But one day a paleface, one of the leaders of the colony at Plymouth, came into the Indian village. He sent the medicine man away and tenderly nursed Massasoit himself. He gave him medicine, nourished him with several little delicacies, and brought him slowly back to health.
Massasoit was so grateful for the kindness shown him that he told the palefaces of the Indian plot against them.
The whites at Weymouth were driven away and the palefaces at Plymouth continued to live on most excellent terms of friendship with the Wampanoags.
In the years that followed, Philip became better acquainted with the whites, and while he never loved them, he had great respect for their wisdom.
During the next twenty years many more white men came and settled on or near the lands of the Wampanoags.
In the mean time, Philip grew to manhood and received the same education that was given to the other young men of his tribe. It was very different from the education received by us to-day. The Indians had no[Pg 27] schools. Philip did not learn his A B C's or the multiplication table. He never learned how to read or write. He knew nothing about science, and could not even count, or keep track of time.
His education was of a different character, and was intended to make him brave, daring, hardy, and able to bear pain; for these things were thought by the Indians to be of the greatest importance.
He was taught to undergo the most horrible tortures without a word of complaint or a sign of anguish. He would beat his shins and legs with sticks, and run prickly briars and brambles into them in order to become used to pain. He would run eighty to one hundred miles in one day and back in the next two.
When he neared manhood he was blindfolded and taken into the woods far from home to a place where he had never been before.
There he was left with nothing but a hatchet, a knife, and a bow and arrows. The winter was before him, and he was expected to support himself through it. If he was unable to do so, it was better for him to die then.
Philip passed the lonely winter far away from home. Many times did he wish that he was back in his father's wigwam where he could talk with his parents and his brothers and his friends, and know what the palefaces were doing.
But he knew that if he should return to his little village before the winter was over he would be branded[Pg 28] as a coward, and never be considered worthy to succeed his father as sachem.
What, he, Philip, a prince, afraid? No, no, no! Of course he was not afraid. What was there to be afraid of? Had he not always lived in the woods? Still, he was a little lonely, and once in a while he wanted some one to talk with.
So Philip went to work with a will. With his hatchet he cut down some small trees, made them into poles, and placed one end of them in the ground. With his knife he cut some bark from the trees and laid it over[Pg 29] the poles so that he had a fairly comfortable shelter from the storms and winds which he knew would soon surely come. Then he spent several days in hunting birds and wild game in the forest. With his bow and arrows he shot enough to support himself through the winter.
Many an adventure did he have. Many a time did he lie down at night without having tasted food during the whole livelong day. Many a savage beast did he see, and on several occasions he climbed trees, or crawled into caves, or ran as fast as he could, to get out of their way.
But he had a strong will. He knew that the son of the grand sachem of the Wampanoags could do anything that any other Indian had done. And so he passed the long, cold winter, bravely and without complaining.
In the spring, when his father and friends came after him, they found him well and strong. His winter's work had made him healthy and rugged. He was taken home, and a feast was prepared in honor of Massasoit's son who had returned to his home stronger than when he had gone away the fall before.
During the next two moons—for the Indians counted by moons and not by months as we do—Philip led an idle life. He did no work of any kind. He was taking his vacation after the hard winter life he had led alone in the woods.
But his education was not yet finished. His body had been made strong. It was next necessary to strengthen his constitution against the evil effects of[Pg 30] poison. He again went into the forest, and daily found poisonous and bitter herbs and roots. These he bruised and put the juices into water, which he drank.
Then he drank other juices which acted as antidotes and prevented his sickness or death. He did this day after day until his constitution became used to the poisons, and he was able to drink them freely without any harm coming to him.
Then he went home. The people sang and danced and gave him another great feast. He was now considered a man and ready to marry and have a wigwam of his own.
The wedding ceremony was extremely simple. There were no presents, no flowers, no guests, no ceremony, no banquet. Philip simply asked a certain woman to come and live with him. She came and was thereafter his wife, or squaw, as the Indians called her.
We have no record of the date of his marriage, for the Indians kept no such records. We only know that it took place soon after his return from his battle with poisons in the woods.
We should consider the daily life of Philip very monotonous. It was the same, day by day, year in and year out, with very little change. The little village where he lived contained fewer than one hundred inhabitants. Everybody was thoroughly acquainted with everybody else.[Pg 31]
There was no society such as we have to-day. Philip's squaw did not dress herself up in the afternoon, and make calls on the other squaws. If she wished to talk with them she went where they were, whether it was morning, afternoon, or evening.
There were no parties, no receptions, no theaters, no art museums, no libraries, no books, no music, no fireworks, no holidays, no Sabbath. The Indians believed in a good and a bad spirit, but they had no churches or temples or service or worship or priests.
So we cannot think of Philip sitting in the best pew in church, and listening to a grand sermon, preached by the most famous minister in the country. Philip knew nothing of sermons.
He played no games that instructed his mind. He cared for only such games as would strengthen his body, increase his power of endurance, or develop his muscle or his craftiness. With the other Indians he played football, tossed quoits, wrestled, ran, and jumped.
Occasionally he engaged with them in the war dance. This was performed in a very solemn manner. It represented a war campaign, or a sham battle, as we say. First, the Indians came together from different directions. Then they marched forward stealthily and quietly, lay in ambush, awaited the coming of the enemy, suddenly jumped out and rushed upon them, slaughtered them, retreated, and finally went home. The dance ended with the reception at home, and the torturing and killing of the prisoners.[Pg 32]
These were his amusements. His occupations were two in number: hunting and fishing.
In the fall of the year, and again in the spring, he spent about three months in hunting. In company with his brother or some close friend, he went in search of a supply of meat for the use of the family, and of skins to sell to the white men or to use for clothing.
After reaching the hunting-grounds, they built a big wigwam where they stayed at night. There also they stored the skins of the animals they had captured.
Many stories might be told of the exciting adventures they had with bears and wolves. The woods of New England contained many moose and other wild animals, and generally Philip returned to his little village with meat enough to last all winter. Frequently he brought home as many as one hundred beaver skins.
But Philip, like others, had bad luck sometimes. Now and then he lost his way in the woods, and on one or two occasions the raft on which he was taking his skins across the river upset and the results of his winter's labor were lost.
He captured his game by shooting or snaring, or by catching it in pitfalls. When the hunting season was over he spent his time in fishing. Generally he caught his fish in nets, although occasionally he used a hook and line.
When not engaged in hunting or fishing, or attending a meeting of Indian princes, he was generally to be found near his wigwam, asleep or watching his squaw at work.[Pg 33]
All the work around the wigwam was done by his wife or squaw. According to the Indian view she was his slave. She covered and lined the wigwam, plaited the mats and baskets, planted, tended, and harvested the corn and vegetables, cooked the food, ate the leavings, and slept on the coldest side of the wigwam.
Many Indians did not care very much for their squaws, and made their lives miserable by treating them badly, and showing them no sympathy nor love in any way whatever. But we are told that Philip was better than the other Indians in this respect. He loved his wife and treated her as a companion instead of as a slave.
Philip had no pots and kettles like ours. His wife roasted his meat by placing it on the point of a stake.[Pg 34] She broiled it by laying it on hot coals or hot stones. She boiled it in rude vessels made of stone, earth, or wood, and heated the water by throwing hot stones into it.
Philip's only garden tool was a hoe, made of clam shells or of a moose's shoulder-blade fastened to a wooden handle. He also had a rude axe or hatchet made of a piece of stone, sharpened by being scraped on another stone, and tied to a wooden handle. His arrows and spears were tipped with bone or with triangular pieces of flint. These were all home-made, for Philip, like other Indians, was obliged to make his own hatchets and arrows.
Finally, Philip never went to the store to buy things to be used at home, for the Indians kept no stores. His wife raised the corn, squashes, and pumpkins, and he caught his own fish and game. These, with nuts, roots, and berries, gave him all the food he needed.
Such was the daily life of Philip year after year, with but little change. Occasionally he met the palefaces in the woods or at his father's village. Now and then he went to Plymouth and traded with them. Several of them he considered to be his strong personal friends.
We have already seen how greatly interested he was in his boyhood days at the coming of the white men and how friendly he felt toward them at that time. He, his[Pg 35] father, and the other Wampanoags continued to remain on friendly terms with the English, although several other Indian tribes did not.
Between the years 1628 and 1640 many white people settled forty or fifty miles north of Plymouth, in what is now Boston and Salem, and other cities and towns near Massachusetts Bay.
Others settled inland on the Connecticut River, near the present boundary line between Massachusetts and Connecticut, about seventy-five miles west from Mount Hope, the home of Philip. Others settled at Providence, and still others on the island of Rhode Island, fifteen to twenty miles south of Mount Hope.
The settlers on the Connecticut had trouble with the Pequots, a tribe of Indians living to the west of the Wampanoags, and in the war that followed, all the Pequots were killed. The whites also had trouble with the Narragansetts, who lived near Providence, outbreaks occurring every year or two for several years.
During these years Philip and his father did nothing to injure the settlers in any way. They refused to aid the other Indians in their wars with the English, preferring to remain faithful to their early treaty with the whites; and the whites remained on the most friendly terms with them.
Philip knew nothing of the Christian religion. Several attempts were made by the whites to convert the Indians to Christianity. In 1646, John Eliot translated the Bible into the Indian language, taught the Indians the English[Pg 36] habits of industry and agriculture, and established near Boston two towns composed entirely of converted Indians.
At the same time, Thomas Mayhew preached to the Wampanoags on Martha's Vineyard, and there converted a great many. By the year 1675, four thousand Indians had been converted to Christianity.
But the missionaries were not successful with Philip and the Wampanoags at Mount Hope. They utterly refused to listen to the preachers. They preferred their former mode of life, and there were several good reasons for this preference, as they thought.
Philip noticed that many white men who called themselves Christians were in the habit of stealing from the red men, and cheating them whenever they could. He could not see that the Christian religion made them more happy, more honest, or better than he was.
Again, he noticed that, as soon as the Indians were converted, they left their former life and companions and joined themselves to the English. This tended to lessen the control of the chiefs over their tribes, and so reduced their power. Thus he saw that a great deal might be lost by changing his religion, or by urging his followers to change theirs.
Nevertheless, Massasoit and his sons remained strong friends to the Plymouth people until 1661, when Massasoit died, being about eighty years of age.[Pg 37]
According to the custom of the Indians, Wamsutta, the eldest son of Massasoit, succeeded his father as grand sachem of the Wampanoags.
Almost his first act was to go to Plymouth, where he made some requests of the settlers. These were granted. Then he asked for an English name, and was given the name of Alexander.
He was so much pleased with this name that he asked for an English name for his younger brother, Metacomet. The English gave him the name of Philip, by which name we have been calling him in our account of his life.
A few days later, ten armed men suddenly appeared at the place where Wamsutta and several of his followers were holding a feast, and arrested them all. Wamsutta was taken to Plymouth immediately, and charged with plotting with the Narragansetts against the English.
Being seized by force on their own grounds, and compelled to go to Plymouth to answer charges based on rumor, was a new, experience for the Wampanoags. It was very different from the friendly manner in which they had been treated formerly.
The English treated Wamsutta very well at Plymouth. They could prove nothing against him, and hence they soon let him go. On his way home he died.
As Wamsutta left no children, he was succeeded by his brother Philip. There was no ceremony of crowning, no procession, no speeches. In fact, there was no[Pg 38] crown at all; nor was there any ceremony of any kind. The other Indians merely obeyed Philip just as they had formerly obeyed his father and his brother.
Philip and all the members of the Wampanoag tribe believed that Wamsutta's death was due to poison which had been given him by the whites when he was at Plymouth. According to the belief and custom of the Indians, it was Philip's duty to take vengeance on those who had caused his brother's death.
Still, Philip made no attempt to injure the whites in any way. But the whites became suspicious, probably because they felt that they had done wrong; and very soon they summoned Philip to Plymouth to answer a charge of plotting against them.
Philip acted very honorably in the matter. Instead of hiding in the forest, as he might easily have done, he went to Plymouth. There he had a long talk with the whites. He denied that he had plotted against them. He showed them that it was against his own interests to have any trouble with them, and as proof of his good intentions toward them, he offered to leave his next younger brother with them as a hostage.
He agreed to continue the treaty that his father had made forty years before. He went further, and acknowledged himself to be a faithful subject of the King of England, and promised not to make war on any Indian tribe unless the English first gave their consent.
For several years Philip was grand sachem of the Wampanoags and kept this treaty with great faithfulness.[Pg 39] During this time his duties were similar to those which his father had had, and his life was uneventful. He was consulted by the other sachems of the tribe, and his advice was generally followed by them.
Like his father, the good Massasoit, he was inclined to be conservative; that is, he did not like to change the established order of things. He was very much liked by the Indians, who felt that he tried to treat them all honestly and fairly.
He went to Plymouth very frequently, to visit the whites and to trade with them. And, likewise, the whites frequently came to Mount Hope to see him.
The relations between the whites and the Indians were such that it was perfectly safe for a white man to go anywhere among the Wampanoags unarmed. This is something that cannot be said of any other Indian tribe in the colonial days. The Indians, acting under orders from King Philip, treated the whites honestly and fairly. In fact, there was a feeling of great friendship between the whites and the Indians.
Ten years passed by peacefully, except for one little trouble, which occurred in 1667, six years after Philip became sachem. An Indian told the people at Plymouth that Philip had said that he wished the Dutch would beat the English in the war which was then being carried on between Holland and England.[Pg 40]
The Plymouth people were very much surprised at this, and immediately called Philip to account. But he denied ever making any such statement, and offered to surrender all his arms to the English in order to show that he had no hostile designs against them. This satisfied the English. Everything went on quietly until 1671, when troubles between the two races finally began to arise.
In that year Philip complained that the English were not living up to their agreement which they had made with him ten years before. At the request of the people of Plymouth, Philip went to Taunton, a village near his hunting-grounds, and talked matters over with them.
He was accompanied by a band of warriors armed to the teeth and painted. The meeting was held in the little village church. Philip and his Indians sat on one side of the room and the English on the other.
A man from Boston, who was thought to be friendly to both parties, was chosen to preside over the meeting. Then the Indians and the settlers made speeches, one after the other, just as is done in meetings to-day.
Philip admitted that lately he had begun to prepare for war, and also that some of his Indians had not treated the whites justly. But he also showed that the English were arming themselves, and that many of them had cheated the Indians when dealing with them.
Philip said that he preferred peace to war, and had only armed his warriors in self-defense. Finally, it was decided to make a new treaty.[Pg 41]
Here is a copy of the new treaty as it was drawn up. Notice the quaint way of expressing the ideas, and also, that many words are not spelled as we spell them to-day. Notice, too, how one-sided the treaty is, and that it is signed only by Philip and the Indians.
Whereas my Father, my Brother, and my self have formerly submitted our selves and our people unto the Kings Majesty of England, and this Colony of New-Plymouth, by solemn Covenant under our Hand, but I having of late through my indiscretion, and the naughtiness of my heart, violated and broken this my Covenant with my friends by taking up arms, with evill intent against them, and that groundlessly; I being now deeply sensible of my unfaithfulness and folly, do desire at this time solemnly to renew my Covenant with my ancient Friends and my Father's friends above mentioned; and doe desire this may testifie to the world against me, if ever I shall again fail in my faithfulness towards them (that I have now and at all times found so kind to me) or any other of the English colonyes; and as a reall Pledge of my true Intentions, for the future to be faithful and friendly, I doe freely ingage to resign up unto the Government of New-Plymouth, all my English Armes to be kept by them for their security, so long as they shall see reason. For true performance of the Premises I have hereunto set my hand together with the rest of my council.
|In the presence of||The Mark of||Philip,|
Chief Sachem of Pokanoket
|William Davis.||The Mark of||Tavoser.|
|William Hudson.||—— ——||Capt. Wisposke.|
|Thomas Brattle.||—— ——||Woonkaponehunt.|
But Philip doubted the sincerity of the English. He hesitated to give up his arms. Then the settlers ordered him to come to Plymouth and explain why.[Pg 42]
Instead of obeying, he went to Boston and complained there of the treatment he had received. He said that his father, his brother, and himself had made treaties of friendship with the English which the latter were trying to turn into treaties of subjection. He said he was a subject of the King of England, but not of the colony of Plymouth, and he saw no reason why the people of Plymouth should try to treat him as a subject.
The people of Massachusetts again made peace between Philip and the settlers at Plymouth. But it could not long continue, for each side had now become thoroughly suspicious of the other.
In 1674, an Indian reported to the settlers that Philip was trying to get the sachems of New England to wage war on the whites. A few days later, that Indian's dead body was found in a lake. The English arrested three Indians and tried them for the murder. They were found guilty and were executed, although the evidence against them was of such a character that it would not have been admitted in a court of justice against a white man.
Philip thought the matter over. He felt that the English had done the Indians great injustice.
In the first place, the land had originally belonged to the Indians. It was not of great value to them, for they used it mainly for hunting purposes. So they had very willingly parted with a few acres to the English in[Pg 43] return for some trinkets of very little value—such as a jack-knife, or a few glass beads, or little bells, or a blanket.
Then the English had forbidden the Indian to sell his land to any white man. He was allowed to sell only to the colonial government. This was done in order to protect him from white men who wanted to cheat him; but Philip only saw that it prevented his giving away something of little value to himself, and getting something he wanted in return.
Before the English came, the woods were full of game and the streams were full of fish. Now Philip noticed that the game was going from the woods and the fish from the rivers. He felt that the Indians were becoming poorer and the English were getting richer.
Only the poorer lands were owned by the Indians now. All the best were in the hands of the white men.
Philip was also tired of the airs of superiority assumed by the whites. They looked upon the Indians as fit only for servants and slaves. He thought that his people were as good as the whites. He felt that the bonds of love and sympathy between the two races had been broken.
In spite of his many complaints and requests, the English had failed to punish unprincipled white men who had done wrong to the Indians.
Finally, those Indians who had been converted to Christianity had left their old tribes and their former modes of life. This had weakened the power of the[Pg 44] Indians, and Philip began to think that the English were Christianizing the Indians simply for the purpose of getting control of their lands.
Philip felt that the question was too deep a one for him to solve. He called the sachems of the Wampanoags together, and talked the matter over with them. Several meetings were held, and every member expressed himself on the subject very freely.
The question then arose, what should they do? It very soon became evident that two opposite opinions were held.
It was not the custom of the Indians to vote on any questions that were discussed at their meetings. They talked the matter over and then adopted the plan that most of them thought was best. But at this time they were unable to decide what to do in order to get back that which they had lost, and how to prevent losing any more. And so they kept on talking over plans.
Fifty-five years of peace and friendship with the English had resulted in giving the white men all the land of any value, while the Wampanoags were decreasing in numbers and each year were finding it more and more difficult to live.
The young warriors urged immediate action. They wanted war, and wanted it then, and desired to keep it up until the English should be driven out of the country.
Philip was opposed to this. He knew how strong the English were, and that it would be impossible to drive them out. He saw that the time had gone by[Pg 45] when the English could be expelled from the country. He threw his influence with the older warriors, and for a while succeeded in holding the younger men in check. He felt that the Indians could never be successful in a war with the English when the tribe owned only thirty guns and had no provisions laid aside to carry them through the war.
Philip did his best to keep at peace with the English. For a while he succeeded. But his young warriors began to steal hogs and cattle belonging to the settlers, and on one pleasant Sunday in June, 1675, when the people were at church, eight young Indians burned a few houses in the village of Swansea, the nearest town to the Wampanoag headquarters at Mount Hope. The whites immediately raised a few troops, marched after the Indians, and had a little skirmish with them.
Philip was not with his warriors at the time. The attack on the whites had been made against his express orders. When he heard that the Indians and settlers had really had a battle, he wept from sorrow, something which an Indian rarely does.
Everything seemed to go wrong. He tried to make peace with the whites, but they would not listen to him. The young warriors no longer paid any attention to what he said. They went on destroying property and killing cattle.[Pg 46]
After leaving Swansea, they went to Taunton and Middleboro, where they burned several houses and killed a few persons. But troops soon arrived from Boston and Plymouth, and in a few days the Indians were driven back to their homes at Mount Hope.
The English hurried on after them, and the war that followed is known in history as King Philip's War.
Philip and the Indians swam across Narragansett Bay and went to some of their friends in the Connecticut Valley. There they obtained the help of the Nipmucks, who had never been very friendly towards the English.
We do not know where Philip was during the war. He knew that he would be held responsible for it, although he had done everything in his power to prevent it. For a year the war was carried on, one hundred miles away from his home, and never once was he known to have been connected with any fighting, nor was he even seen by the English during that time. Some of them thought that he was directing the war, but really it was carried on by other tribes of Indians that had not been very friendly towards the whites. The Wampanoags seem to have had very little connection with the war.
The Indians attacked the English towns in the Connecticut Valley, and the more exposed places on the frontier of the colony where the people were few and scattered.
No battle was fought in the open field. The Indians did not fight in that way. They secretly surrounded a[Pg 47] town, rushed in from all sides, killed as many people as possible, took what property they could carry away, and burned all that remained.
They knew all the paths in the forests, swamps, and thickets. They were fast runners, and went rapidly from town to town.
Their favorite method of fighting was in an ambuscade. That was something peculiar to the Indians. The English had never heard of that way of fighting before they came to America. The Indians would lie down flat on the ground or stand behind trees or in a bush or thicket. When the enemy came along with no suspicion that any one was near, the Indians suddenly gave a yell and fired their arrows or guns at them. This would startle them and generally cause them to run away.
The war was one of the most dreadful in the history of our country. A farmer left his home in the morning not knowing whether he would ever see his wife and children again. His gun was always in his hand. Laborers were cut off in the field. Reapers, millers, women at home, and people on their way to and from church were killed.
Nearly every town in the Connecticut Valley was destroyed by the Indians, and the people suffered ter[Pg 48]ribly. The Indians were very successful during the first year of the war. They lost but few warriors and did an immense amount of injury to the whites. This caused the young warriors to believe that Philip and the old warriors were wrong, and that it was really possible for them to drive the English from the country.
During the winter there was very little fighting. In the spring the Indians did not fight with any spirit. They had begun to get tired of the war. Many wished for peace. The Narragansetts who had been helping in the war had suffered a terrible defeat from the English.
The English began to understand better the Indian method of fighting. They attacked the Indians wherever they could find them. They surprised several large forces of Indians in different places. Then it began to look as if Philip and the old warriors were right and the young warriors were wrong.
Several sachems had been killed. The Indians had no stores of corn. The English tore up every field that the Indians planted. Finally, the Indians gave up hope. They were being starved out. During the summer of 1676, large numbers of them surrendered to the whites.
Philip was not seen from the time he swam across Narragansett Bay until in July, 1676, when he returned to his old home at Mount Hope. His wife and son had[Pg 49] been captured earlier in the spring, and he knew that the cause of the Indians was lost.
He wanted to see his old home once more, the place where he had lived for sixty years, but which he felt he was now going to lose forever. We can see him as he returned to his home, now desolated by war, his wigwam destroyed, his cornfield trodden down, his family taken from him, his friends taken captive in the war. He felt that the war was wrong, that his young warriors had been too hasty in starting it without making proper preparations for it. He looked into the future. It seemed very dark to him.
The war indeed was nearly over. The Wampanoags were talking about surrendering. Philip knew that surrender meant death for him. He refused even to think of it. When one of his warriors suggested it to him he killed him on the spot.
The English soon learned that Philip had returned to his old home. They surrounded him. On the twelfth day of August, 1676, he was shot in an ambuscade by the brother of the Indian he had killed for suggesting that he surrender.
And now, see how barbarous the English settlers could be. They cut off his hands and quartered his body, leaving it to decay on four trees. They carried his head to Plymouth, and placed it on the end of a pole. Then they appointed a public day of thanksgiving.
Philip's wife and children were taken to the Bermudas and sold as slaves, in common with the other Indians[Pg 50] captured in the war. Thus the Wampanoag tribe of Indians came to an end.
Philip was unjustly blamed by the Plymouth people for starting the war. They thought that he was in league with several other tribes in New England and New York, and that he intended to drive out the English if he could. That was why they fought so desperately, and at the end of the war removed the remnants of the tribe from New England. It is true that the Indians would have been obliged to move in time. Philip undoubtedly saw that, but he believed that peace was best and he urged it on his followers. The English did not know this, and the result was that Philip was held responsible for a war which he had opposed from the outset.[Pg 51]
Though the French were still fighting stubbornly at sea, the French war was over in America. Canada had been surrendered to the British, and England's banners waved over Quebec. Yet the tidings of defeat had not reached the French garrisons on the Great Lakes.
In the fall of 1760 Major Robert Rogers, with two hundred British rangers, set out in fifteen whale boats, to carry to the interior the news of the surrender and to take possession of the French forts on the lakes.
This was a somewhat dangerous task. For, although no resistance was to be feared from the French, the savages who were in league with them could not be counted on to understand or believe the changed state of affairs. Indeed, it was doubtful if they would even allow the British a hearing before attacking them.
Rogers and his men, however, coasted along the shores of Lake Erie without adventure until early in November. Then the weather became so stormy and the lake so rough that the commander decided to go ashore and camp in the forest until the tempest had passed.
The rangers were glad to feel the solid earth under their feet and to find shelter from the driving wind and[Pg 54] rain. Nevertheless, they soon realized that the forest was not without its dangers.
They had not been long ashore when a large band of Indians entered the camp. These Indians said that Pontiac, chief of the Ottawas, had sent them before him to demand of the Englishmen how they dared to come into his country without his permission.
Before nightfall the famous warrior himself stood in the presence of the English commander and his officers and spoke in this fashion: "Englishmen, I am Pontiac, greatest councilor and warrior of the Ottawas. This land belongs to my people. You are the enemies of my people. You are the enemies of our brothers, the French. Why do you bring armed warriors into my country without asking my consent? You can not go farther until Pontiac leaves your path."
To this haughty speech Rogers answered: "Brother, we come to tell you that the war is over. Our mighty English warriors have made your French brothers shake with fear. We have slain their war chiefs; we have taken their strong villages. They have begged us for mercy. They have promised to be the dutiful and obedient children of the English king if we will lay down the hatchet and fight against them no more. They have given us their guns, their forts, and all the land of Canada. I have come into your country to take Detroit. I shall not fight with your brothers, the French; I shall not shoot them. I shall show their commander a paper and he will pull down his flag and he and his men will come out of the fort and give me their guns. Then I shall go in with my men and put up my flag.
"The English king is terrible in war. He could punish the Indians and make them cry for mercy, as he has the French. But he is kind and offers to his red children the chain of friendship. If you accept it he is ready to shut his eyes to the mischief the French have put you up to in the past, and to protect you with his strong arm."
Pontiac listened gravely to every word the white man spoke. But his dark face gave no token of what was passing in his mind. Now, Indians despise rashness, and it is their custom to deliberate over night before answering any important question. So, with the dignity of one who knows no fear and craves no favor, the greatest councilor of the Ottawas replied simply: "Englishmen, I shall stand in your path till morning. In the[Pg 56] meantime if your warriors are cold or hungry the hands of my people are open to you." Then he and his chiefs withdrew, and slipped silently back through the dripping forest to their camp.
The English rangers slept with their guns at hand that night. They knew the pride and might and treachery of Pontiac, and they feared him. They felt as if they were in a trap, with the raging sea before them and the forest alive with pitiless savages behind.
But they need have had no fear, for the great chief thought not of massacre that night. He thought of the English who stood ready to avenge any harm done to their brothers; of his own race dependent on the white men for rum, for wampum, for guns and powder and bullets. Clearly the Indians must have friends among the palefaces. The French were their "brothers." They had given them presents, had married their maidens, had traded, hunted, and gone to battle with them. The English were their foes. But they were many and strong. They had beaten the French and taken their guns. The red men must let their hatred sleep for awhile. They would smoke the pipe of peace with the English, and the English would give them presents: tobacco and rum, guns and powder.
Having reached this conclusion, Pontiac and his chiefs returned to Rogers's camp on the following morn[Pg 57]ing. There they smoked the calumet with the English and exchanged presents and promises of kindness and friendship. The men who had met as enemies parted as friends.
Years later, when British armies were marching against Indians whose tomahawks were red with English blood, Pontiac's faith in the friendship of Rogers remained unshaken. The latter sent to the chief a bottle of rum. When advised not to drink it lest it should contain poison, Pontiac replied: "I did not save from death on the shores of Lake Erie a man who would to-day poison me," and he drained the bottle without hesitation.
Though a single Indian and a single Englishman could thus overcome their distrust for each other, the feelings of the two races could not be so easily altered. The Indians looked upon the English as cruel robbers, whose object was to drive them from their homes and possess their lands. They thought of them as enemies too powerful to be withstood by open force and therefore to be met only with cunning and deception. Many of the English looked upon the savages as ignorant, filthy, and treacherous beings, little better than wild beasts, and thought that the world would be better off without them. Yet for the present both were glad to be at peace.[Pg 58]
The Indians found that Major Rogers had spoken truly about Detroit. When they saw the large French garrison yield without resistance they were filled with wonder, and said to one another: "These English are a terrible people. It is well we have made friends with them."
By "making friends" with the English, the Indians had no notion of accepting them as masters. The French had seemed pleasant neighbors and valuable friends. When they occupied the fort the Indians had always found a warm welcome there. Their chiefs had been treated with great pomp and ceremony. They had received rich presents and great promises. They expected the English to show them the same consideration. But they were disappointed. The new masters of the fort had little patience with the Indian idlers, who loafed about at the most inconvenient times in the most inconvenient places, always begging, and often sullen and insolent. They frequently ordered them in no mild terms to be off. The chiefs received cold looks and short answers where they had looked for flattery and presents.
The Indians resented the conduct of the English bitterly, and when Pontiac learned that they claimed the lands of his tribe, he said within himself: "The hatred of the Ottawas has slept long enough. It is time for it to wake and destroy these British who treat the red man as if he had no right to the land where he was born."[Pg 59]
We love our country principally because of the political freedom its government allows us. As we study its history, the lives of its heroes, and the struggles they have made for the liberties we enjoy, our patriotism grows stronger.
Pontiac loved his country, too, but in a much simpler and more personal way, as you will understand when you have learned about the proud chieftain's boyhood and youth.
The birds scarcely know the forest so well as he did. When he was a tiny baby,—a fat, brown, little pappoose,—his mother used to bundle him up in skins, strap him to a board, and carry him on her back when she went to gather the bark of the young basswood tree for twine. As the strong young squaw sped along the narrow path, soft and springing to her moccasined feet with its depth of dried pine needles, the baby on her back was well content. Even if he felt cross and fretful the regular motion pleased him; the cool dim green of the forest rested him; the sweet smell of the pines soothed him; and the gentle murmur of the wind in the tree tops soon lulled him to sleep.[Pg 60]
When the mother clambered over a large tree trunk that had fallen across the path and the little pappoose was jolted wide awake, he did not cry. His beady black eyes followed every stray sunbeam and every bounding rabbit, or chance bird with wonder and delight. When his mother went to work she placed his rude cradle beside a tree where he could look on, out of harm's way. He was very little trouble, and she always took him with her when she went to get cedar bark, to gather rushes for mats and herbs for dyes, to pick up fagots for the fire, or to get sap from the sugar tree. So it happened that when he grew up Pontiac could not remember a time when the dark forest did not seem like home to him.
As soon as he was old enough to understand words, he heard his mother laughing with her neighbors about[Pg 61] the men in the village who stayed about their wigwams like women. Now, he thought that a wigwam or bark lodge was a very pleasant place. The small, dark, oven-shaped room, smoky and foul with the smell of fish and dirt, was home to him—the mud floor, worn smooth and hard with use, was strewn with mats and skins which served for chairs and beds. There was a fireplace in the center, and over it a rack on which smoked fish hung, well out of the reach of the wolf-like dogs that lay about gnawing at old bones. It was usually dry in wet weather, warm in cold weather, and cool when the sun was hot. It was where he went for food when he was hungry; it was where he slept on soft buffalo robes and bear skins when he was tired; it was where he heard good stories, and, best of all, it was where his mother spent most of her time.
But before Pontiac was many years old he knew that the wigwam was the place for women and children, and that it was a shame for a man not to follow the deer through the forest, and go upon the warpath. He saw that if a man stayed at home and loved ease and comfort his squaw would scold him with a shrill tongue. But if he went off to hunt, it was different. Then, when he came home for a short time, he might lounge on a bear skin while his squaw worked hard to make him happy, cooking his meals, fetching clear water from the spring, and dressing the skins he had brought from the hunt.
Pontiac liked to watch his mother while she stood weaving the wet rushes into mats to cover the lodge in summer, or while she sat on the floor with her feet crossed[Pg 62] under her, making baskets out of sweet grass or embroidering with brightly dyed porcupine quills. But if he showed his pleasure or offered to help her, she looked stern and shook her head, saying, "Go out into the field and run; then you will be swift when you are a man;" or "go into the forest and shoot rabbits with your little bow and arrow, so that you may one day be a great hunter like your father."
All this made little Pontiac feel that the great fields and forests were his—his to find his pleasure in while he was a boy; his to find his work in when he should become a man.
He learned, too, that his very life depended on the forests he loved. He could never forget the cruel winter days when he had asked his mother again and again for fish and meat, and she had told him to be still and wait till his father brought meat from the forest. And he had waited there long with his hollow-eyed mother, crouching before the feeble fire, starving with hunger. He had strained his ears toward the great white forest only to hear the wail of the winds and the howl of the wolves. But at last the yelp of the dogs was sure to be heard, and then the half-frozen hunters would appear, dragging the deer over the crusted snow.
Pontiac's father was a war chief. But it did not follow that therefore Pontiac would be a war chief. He[Pg 63] would have to prove himself strong and brave, a good hunter and a good warrior, or his tribe would choose some more able leader.
Pontiac, like most small boys, took his father for his pattern. His ambition was to be like him. But he was told early, "Be a good Indian. Be a good Ottawan. Be true to your tribe. Be a strong man and help your people. But don't think about being chief. The greatest brave must be chief of the Ottawas."
Yet, Indians love glory and perhaps in the bottom of their hearts Pontiac's father and mother hoped that he would one day be a chieftain. At any rate they did all they could to train him to be a worthy Indian.
They were sometimes very severe with him. If he was rude to strangers or to old people; if he lost his temper and threw ashes at his comrades; if he told a falsehood, he was beaten. He had broken the laws of the Great Spirit, and the Great Spirit had commanded that parents should beat their children with rods when they did wrong. The boy understood this and he tried to take his punishment bravely that he might regain the[Pg 64] good will of the Great Spirit. He stood quite still and endured heavy blows without whimpering or flinching.
He learned, too, to endure hunger and great fatigue without complaint. He raced, and swam, and played ball, and wrestled with other boys till his body was strong and straight and supple. He played at hunting and war in the forest, until his eyes became so sharp that no sign of man or beast escaped them.
But he did not depend altogether on his eyes for information. He could find his way through a forest in the dark, where the dense foliage hid the stars. Perhaps the wind told him the direction by the odors it brought. He could tell what kind of trees grew about him by the feel of their bark, by their odor, by the sound of the wind in the branches. He did not have to think much about his course when on a journey. His feet seemed to know the way home, or to the spring, or to the enemy's camp. And if he had traveled through a wilderness once he knew the way the next time as well as any boy knows his way to school.
While Pontiac was training his body, his parents took care that he should not grow up in ignorance of the religion and the history of his people. He heard much about the Great Spirit who could see all he did and was angry when he said or did anything dishonest or cowardly.
The laws of the Great Spirit were fixed in the boy's mind, for his mother was always repeating them to him. She would say as he left the wigwam: "Honor the gray-[Pg 65]headed person," or "Thou shalt not mimic the thunder;" "Thou shalt always feed the hungry and the stranger," or "Thou shalt immerse thyself in the river at least ten times in succession in the early part of the spring, so that thy body may be strong and thy feet swift to chase the game and to follow the warpath."
 Translated from the Ottawa language by A. Blackbird.
In the evenings the older members of the family and some visiting Indians sat around the fire and told stones about the Great Spirit and many other strange beings, some good and some evil. They told, too, wonderful tales about omens and charms. The same story was told over and over again, so that in time little Pontiac knew by heart the legends of the Ottawas. He remembered and firmly believed all his life stories that as a child he listened to with awe, in his father's wigwam.
In the same way he heard about the great deeds of the warriors of his tribe; and he came to think there were no people in the world quite equal to the Ottawas. He heard of other tribes that were their foes and he was eager to go to war against them.
As he grew older he heard a good deal about men, not only of another tribe but of another race, the palefaces, who were trying to get the lands of the Indians. Then he thought less about being an Ottawa and conquering other Indians; while every day he felt more and more that he was an Indian and must conquer the white man. He wished he could unite the tribes in friendship and lead them against these strangers who were so many and so[Pg 66] strong, and who had come to drive the Indians from their homes and hunting grounds.
Such thoughts made Pontiac very serious. Obeying the commands of the Great Spirit, the young Indian often blackened his face with a mixture of charcoal and fish-oil, and went into the depths of the forest, where he remained for days without food, praying and thinking earnestly about the future.
He formed his own plans, but he hid them in his heart. He practised keeping his feelings and thoughts to himself, and spoke only when he was very sure he was right. This habit soon gained him a reputation for gravity and wisdom.
When he was old enough to go to battle with the tried warriors, Pontiac took many scalps and distinguished himself for courage. He was, therefore, amid great feasting and rejoicing, made a war chief of the Ottawas.
His influence increased rapidly. The young men of his tribe felt sure of success when they followed Pontiac to battle. His very name made his foes tremble.
In the council, too, his power grew. His words seemed wise to the gray heads, and the young warriors were ready to take up the hatchet or lay it down at his bidding. Because of his eloquence and wisdom, Pontiac was made sachem, so that he not only led his people to battle, but also ruled them in time of peace. He was called[Pg 67] the greatest councilor and warrior of the Ottawas; yet he was not content.
In Michigan, where the Ottawa Indians lived, there were other tribes of the Algonquin Indians. Chief among these were the Ojibwas and the Pottawottomies. These tribes, though related by marriage and on friendly terms, had separate chiefs. But gradually they came to recognize the great Pontiac as their principal ruler.
Among the Indians of his own tribe Pontiac's word was law. Among kindred tribes his friendship was sought and his displeasure feared. Through all the Algonquin territory, from the Lakes to the Gulf, from the mountains to the river, the great chief's name was known and respected.
Pontiac was no doubt proud and ambitious. But if he was glad to gain glory for himself he considered the good of his people also. To unite them and overpower the palefaces was the end toward which he planned.
By this time he had learned that all palefaces were not alike. There were two great nations of them, the French and the English, and the Indians had found a great difference between them. The English had treated them with contempt and helped themselves to their lands. The French had come among them as missionaries and traders, with kind words and gifts. To be sure, they had built forts in the land, but they told the Indians they did this for their sake that they might protect them from the English, who wished to take their lands. The French seemed to hate the English no less than the Indians did.[Pg 68]
It is said that Pontiac planned to use the French to help him conquer the English, and then intended to turn upon them and drive them away. No doubt if the French had openly claimed the territory of the Indians, or in any way had shown that their professions of friendship were false, Pontiac would have been their enemy. But he evidently took them at their word and looked upon them as friends who wished to help his people.
In all his dealings with the French, Pontiac was true and honorable. He joined them in their wars against the English. He and his Ottawas helped to defeat the British regulars under General Braddock at Fort Duquesne. He saved the French garrison at Detroit from an attack by hostile Indians. He trusted them when all appearances were against them. His acceptance of the peace offered by Major Rogers on the shore of Lake Erie was not a betrayal of the French. Pontiac did not forsake their cause until they had given it up themselves. He took a step which seemed for the best interests of his own people, and, at the same time, not hurtful to the French. We have seen that he was disappointed in the reward he expected.
The English, having subdued the French, felt able to manage the Indians without difficulty. They were, therefore, more careless than ever about pleasing them. They refused to give the supplies which the French had been accustomed to distribute among the Indians. The Indians were obliged to provide for themselves, as in the days of Pontiac's childhood. They had no powder or[Pg 69] bullets and the young men had lost their skill with the bow. There was suffering and death for want of food.
Even Pontiac had been willing to profit by the generosity of the French. He had not only cheered himself with their firewater, but, like other Indians, he had been glad to give up his bow and arrow for a gun; he had been ready to accept corn and smoked meats in winter when game was scarce, and to protect himself from the cold with the Frenchmen's blankets.
He realized now that in adopting the white men's customs, in using their food and blankets and arms, his people had become dependent upon them. He remembered the stories he had heard in his childhood about the might of the Ottawas in the days when they depended on the chase for their food, and fought their battles with bows and arrows and stone hatchets. He wished his people would return to the old customs. In that way only could they regain their native hardihood and independence.
While Pontiac's hatred of the English grew more bitter daily, other Indians were[Pg 70] not indifferent. Through all the Algonquin tribes spread this hatred for the English. The insolence of the garrisons at the forts provoked it; the cheating, the bad faith, and the brutality of the English trappers and traders increased it; the refusal of supplies, the secret influence of the French, the encroachments of English settlers, fanned it into fury. And when at last, in 1762, word came that the English claimed the land of the Algonquins their rage could no longer be restrained.
The time was ripe for rebellion and Pontiac was ready. All over the land should council fires be lighted. All over the land should the hatchet be raised. By wile and treachery the forts should fall. By fire and bloodshed the settlements should be laid waste and the Englishmen driven into the sea. Thus spoke Pontiac, and thus spoke his messengers, who with war belts of black and red wampum and hatchets smeared with blood sought out the villages of the Algonquins. Far and wide this dark company went its way through forests, across prairies, in spite of storm or flooded stream, or mountain barrier. No camp was so secret, no village so remote, that the messengers of war did not find it out. Wherever they went the bloody plan found favor; the tokens of war were accepted and pledges of warlike purpose sent to Pontiac.[Pg 71]
Not far from the summering place where clustered the lodges of Pontiac and his kinsmen rose the walls of Fort Detroit. There Pontiac had suffered humiliation at the hands of the English, and upon it he planned to visit his vengeance.
The little French military station planted on the west bank of the Detroit River had reached half a century's growth. It had become a place of some importance. Both banks of the river were studded with farmhouses for miles above and below the "fort," as the walled village where the soldiers lived was called.
The fort consisted of about one hundred small houses surrounded by a palisade, or wall of heavy stakes, twenty-five feet high. Since gates are easily broken down, over every gate a block house had been built, from which soldiers could fire upon the approaching enemy. At the four corners of the palisade were bastions, or fortified projections, from which the inmates could see the whole length of the wall and shoot any one attempting to climb it, set fire to it, or do it any harm.
The small log houses within were crowded together with only narrow passage-ways between. They were roofed with bark or thatched with straw. To lessen the danger of fire a wide road was left between the wall and the houses. Besides dwelling houses, there were in the fort the barracks where the soldiers stayed, the church, shops, and the council house, where meetings with the Indians were held.
At this time the garrison consisted of about one[Pg 72] hundred and twenty men. But counting the other inmates of the fort and the Canadians who lived along the river, there were about two thousand five hundred white people in the Detroit settlement. On the outskirts of the settlement hung the Indian villages, much as the Indian villages crowd around the white settlements of Alaska to-day.
In the midst of the wilderness this little band of English lived protected by their log walls. No friends were near. Their nearest neighbors were the conquered French, who regarded them with jealousy and dislike. Not far away were their Indian enemies. Yet they thought little of danger.
Occasionally some story of Indian treachery, some rumor of Indian hostility, or some omen of evil filled the garrison with vague alarm. In October, 1762, dense clouds gathered over the fort, and soon rain black as ink fell from them. This strange occurrence stirred up the fears of the settlers. Some said that it was a sign that the end of the world was at hand; others, that it was a sign of war. But by the spring of the next year the settlers of Detroit had ceased to think of the black rain and war.
If a few had suffered unrest because of the Indians, their fears were put to flight by a visit which Pontiac made to Detroit late in April. With forty of his chiefs he came to the fort asking to be allowed to perform the peace dance before the commander. The request was granted, and a good-natured crowd gathered near Major Gladwin's house to see the Indian dance.[Pg 73]
No one thought anything of the fact that ten of the party took no part in the dance, but strolled around the fort prying into everything. Those who noticed them at all, thought their conduct showed nothing more than childish curiosity.
No one dreamed that these men were spies, and that the sole purpose of the visit was to discover the strength of the garrison. The Indians left with promises to come again to smoke the calumet with the English when all their chiefs should assemble after the winter's hunt.
After visiting Detroit, Pontiac sent swift-footed runners to all the tribes in the neighboring country, calling the chiefs to a council to be held in the village of the Pottawottomies.
When the day for the great council arrived, all the women were sent away from the village so that they could not overhear the plans of the chiefs. At the door of the great bark lodge where the chiefs met, sentinels were posted to prevent interruption.
When all had taken their places in the council room Pontiac rose and laid before his trusted chiefs his crafty plans. On the seventh of May the young warriors should gather on the green near Detroit to play ball, while the older men lay on the ground looking on, or loitered in and about the fort. The squaws should go about the streets with guns and tomahawks hidden under their blankets, offering mats and baskets for sale, or begging. Later Pontiac, with the principal chiefs would arrive, and[Pg 74] ask to hold a council with the commander and his officers. While speaking in the council he would suddenly turn the wampum belt that he held in his hand. At that signal the chiefs should throw off the blankets that hid their weapons and war paint, and butcher the English before they could offer resistance. When the Indians outside heard the clamor within the council house they should snatch the guns and knives that the squaws carried, fall upon the surprised and half-armed soldiers, kill them and plunder and burn the fort, sparing only the French.
From the Indians' point of view this seemed a brave plot. No one objected to the treachery. All the guttural sounds that broke from the throng of listeners were made for approval and applause.
The Indians kept their secret well. A Canadian saw some Indians filing off their guns to make them short enough to hide under their blankets. But if his suspicions were aroused he held his peace and said no word of warning to the English. The appointed seventh of May was at hand and no alarm had been taken at the garrison.
But on the evening of the sixth, Major Gladwin talked long in secret with his officers, then ordered half the garrison under arms. He doubled the guard and himself went from place to place to see that every man was at his post. The soldiers did not know the reason for this unusual watchfulness, but they understood that it meant danger.[Pg 75]
It is said that in the afternoon an Indian girl who was deeply attached to the English Major had brought him a pair of moccasins she had been embroidering for him. She lingered at the fort and seemed unwilling to leave. At last she begged Gladwin to go away from the fort for a day or two. Her conduct and request excited suspicion. The Major questioned her closely and discovered Pontiac's plot.
Be that as it may, on the night of the sixth Major Gladwin was on the alert.
Nothing disturbed the peace of the mild May night. In the morning one watchman on the walls said to another, "See, yonder they come."
The man addressed looked up the stream and saw many birch canoes rapidly approaching the fort. "A perfect fleet!" he exclaimed.
"Yes; plenty of boats, but not many Indians; only two or three in each canoe," replied the first.[Pg 76]
"That's true. But see how deep the canoes are in the water, and what heavy paddling those fellows are doing! A dozen beaver skins to one, every canoe's got a load of those red rascals stretched on their backs well out of sight."
"You may be right," said the other, shaking his head. "It looks as if there might be some ugly work before us. They say the Major has ordered the whole garrison under arms. Even the shops are closed and the traders armed to the teeth."
Most of the Indians who came in the boats went to a green near the fort and began a game of ball. Soon Pontiac himself was seen approaching along the river road at the head of sixty of his chiefs. They wore blankets and marched in single file without a word. When they reached the gate Pontiac, with his accustomed dignity, asked that he and his chiefs might meet their English brothers in council to discuss important questions.
In answer to his request the gates swung open. Lines of armed soldiers appeared on either side. The Indians, trained to read signs, knew at once that their plot was discovered. Perhaps they felt that the treachery they had planned would be visited on their own heads. But if they feared, they gave no token; they said no word. They walked undaunted through the narrow streets, meeting armed soldiers at every turn.
At the council house they found Major Gladwin, his assistant, Captain Campbell, and other officers already assembled and waiting for them. If any Indian had[Pg 77] doubted the discovery of their plot, he was certain of it when he saw that the officers wore swords at their sides and pistols in their belts. It was with some reluctance that they seated themselves on the mats arranged for them.
This was a trying moment for Pontiac. He stood there discovered, defeated. But he did not quail before the steady gaze of the English. His brow was only more haughty, his face more stern.
"And why," he asked, in a severe, harsh voice, "do our brothers meet us to-day with guns in their hands?"
"You come among us when we are taking our regular military exercise," answered the commander calmly.
With fears somewhat soothed, Pontiac began to speak: "For many moons the love of our brothers, the English, has seemed to sleep. It is now spring; the sun shines bright and hot; the bears, the oaks, the rivers awake from their sleep. Brothers, it is time for the friendship between us to awake. Our chiefs have come to do their part, to renew their pledges of peace and friendship."
Here he made a movement with the belt he held in his hand, as if about to turn it over. Every Indian was ready to spring. Gladwin gave a signal. A clash of arms sounded through the open door. A drum began beating a charge. Within the council room there was a startled, breathless silence. Pontiac's hand was stayed. The belt fell back to its first position. The din of arms ceased. Pontiac repeated his promises of friendship and loyalty, and then sat down.[Pg 78]
Major Gladwin answered briefly: "Brothers, the English are not fickle. They do not withdraw their friendship without cause. As long as the red men are faithful to their promises they will find the English their steadfast friends. But if the Indians are false or do any injury to the English, the English will punish them without mercy."
The one object of the Indians was now to turn aside the suspicion of the English. After Gladwin's speech presents were exchanged, and the meeting broke up with a general hand-shaking. Before leaving, Pontiac promised that he would return in a few days with his squaws and children that they might shake hands with their English brothers.
"Scoundrels!" laughed one officer, when the last Indian had left. "They were afraid to sit down. They[Pg 79] thought they had been caught in their own trap. It's a pity to let them off so easily."
"No," replied another, more seriously. "The Major is right. If there is an outbreak, the Indians must take the first step. They depend more on treachery than force for success; now that their plan is foiled, the whole trouble will probably blow over."
The next day this opinion seemed verified by the appearance, of Pontiac with three of his chiefs. He brought a peace-pipe and approached the commander with smooth speeches: "Evil birds have whistled in your ears, but do not listen to them. We are your friends. We have come to prove it. We will smoke the calumet with you."
Pontiac then offered his great peace-pipe. After it had been smoked in all solemnity, he presented it to Captain Campbell as a high mark of friendship.
Bright and early the next morning hordes of naked savages gathered on the pasture land near the fort. A long quadrangle was marked out on the grass with lines across it. At each end of this "gridiron" two tall posts were erected five or six feet apart. This, as you may have guessed, was to prepare for an Indian game of ball.
When all was ready the young men of the Ottawa[Pg 80] tribes took their places on one side of the field. Opposite to them were the Pottawottomies. Each Indian had a long racket or bat with which he tried to drive the ball to the goal against the opposition of the players of the other nation. Such a yelling as they kept up, running and pushing and plunging and prancing the while! Small wonder that squaws, warriors, and chiefs should have come to watch so exciting a game!
Still the men in the fort kept the gates closed and stayed behind their walls, as if they took no interest in the game. They were really watching with some uneasiness the vast crowd of Indians so close at hand.
When the game was finished Pontiac went to the gate of the fort. His chiefs attended him and a motley[Pg 81] crowd of warriors, squaws, and children came trooping after. The great chief shouted in a loud voice, demanding admission. He received answer that he might come in if he wished, but the rest would have to keep out. With injured dignity he asked if his followers were not to be allowed to enjoy the smoke of the calumet.
The English commander, tired of false speech, gave a short answer, refusing flatly to let the Indians in. Thereupon Pontiac's brow darkened and he strode off to the river in high dudgeon.
The others withdrew a little and stood in groups, muttering and gesticulating. Then with wild whoops they bounded off to join their comrades who lay stretched on the earth around the ball grounds. After a brief parley, some started with blood-curdling yells toward a house across the fields where an English woman lived with her children; others leaped into their canoes and paddled off to an island where an English farmer lived alone.
Before sunset the men at the fort heard the exultant scalp yell of the Indians, and knew that the first blood of the war had been shed.
In the meantime Pontiac hastened with gloomy rage to his own village across the river. It was deserted by all but a few squaws and old men. These Pontiac ordered to pack the camp luggage and make all ready for removal, as soon as the men came with their canoes to carry the camp equipment to the Detroit side of the river.[Pg 82]
All labored to do their chief's will, while he went apart and blackened his face.
At nightfall the braves came in with the scalps they had taken. A pole was driven into the ground in the open space where the tents had been. The warriors gathered about it, their bodies decked with paint and eagle feathers.
Pontiac sprang into their midst, brandishing his hatchet and striking violently at the pole. As he danced about, he recited the great deeds he and his fathers had done in war. His appalling cries, his terrible words, stirred the hearts of his Indians and fired their blood. All were in a frenzy of excitement. With wild cries they joined their chief in his war dance.
Even the faint echo of the din these blood-thirsty demons made struck terror into the hearts of the watchers in Detroit. The soldiers kept close guard all night, expecting an attack at any moment.
But not till early dawn did the war cry sound. Shrill and near it rose from hundreds of throats. Strong men turned pale at the clamor of yells and cracking rifles. It seemed that the Indians must be at the very walls of the fort.
The guards on the ramparts, however, could see no enemy in the faint gray light. From behind every tree, every stone, every rise of ground, came the incessant flash of muskets. Bullets and blazing arrows rattled against the palisades. The Indians aimed at the loopholes and succeeded in wounding five of the English.[Pg 83] The soldiers returned a cautious fire, unwilling to waste powder on an invisible foe.
After an attack of six hours' duration the Indians, weary with their night's activity, gradually withdrew to their camps, having suffered no loss, but at the same time having inflicted little.
Gladwin, whose spirit was manly and humane, wished if possible to avoid further bloodshed. The Canadians took no part in the war, and could, therefore, be safely used as messengers. As soon as the battle had subsided Major Gladwin sent a deputation of them to tell Pontiac that he was willing to listen to any real grievance of the Indians, and do his best to redress whatever wrongs they had suffered.
Pontiac knew that his chief charge of injustice against the English, their presence in and claim to his lands, would not be considered by the English a real grievance. He thought the hour for talking had passed; the time for action had come. Treachery was his readiest weapon and he used it. He replied that he could consent to no terms unless they were made with the English in person, and asked that Captain Campbell, second in command at the fort, come to a council in his camp.
Captain Campbell had no fear, and urged Major Gladwin to permit him to go. He and another Englishman, accordingly, hastened to the Indian village. The women and the warriors were so enraged at the sight of their red coats, that they would have stoned them had not Pontiac interfered and led them to his lodge.[Pg 84]
After a long but fruitless talk around the council fire, the English rose to go. But Pontiac said: "Brothers, you will sleep to-night on the couches the red men have spread for you." He then gave orders that his prisoners should be taken to the house of a Canadian, where they should be treated with respect, but closely guarded.
When the officers at Detroit learned that their deputies were detained by the Indians, they realized that there was no hope of peace. Before the fort two armed schooners rode at anchor. Most of the officers wished to abandon the fort and seek safety by sailing away on these boats.
"There is no use trying to hold the old fort against eight times our number," they said impatiently.
But Major Gladwin had no thought of surrender. "We could not," he answered, "if the Indians should attempt to force the walls. But there is no danger of their venturing within gunshot in any numbers. They won't risk their red skins that way. They'll simply waste their powder and lead in such firing as they did this morning, and pretty soon they'll lose heart and drop off, leaving Pontiac to beg for peace."
"I don't suppose they will unite in a charge," assented one of the officers. "But they will keep a sharp lookout day and night to do us injury. We have four[Pg 85] walls to guard and only one hundred and twenty men to do it. The garrison will be exhausted in no time."
"Yes, we have hard work before us," agreed the commander, "but we can do it. Our case is not so bad as you represent. The ship's guns protect two walls, so that virtually only two sides of the fort are exposed to the enemy. To me the most alarming feature of the siege is short rations."
"The supplies are low and we cannot hope for more within three weeks. We'll starve to death, penned up here with no hunting and no provisions from the Canadian farmers," complained some, ready in their alarm to magnify every danger.
"By taking care to prevent waste we can make the supplies last," the commander interrupted. "I shall buy up at once everything in the fort that can serve as food, put it into a common storehouse, and give to each person a daily allowance. If even with this care the food runs short, Canadians may be found who love gold better than Indians." In this way the courageous leader argued, until, at last, he overcame the fears of his aids and roused in them a spirit of resistance.
Pontiac had no lack of warriors, nevertheless he, as well as the British leader, had his fears and difficulties.
His own followers were not easily managed. He had brought them together from near and far with promise of easy victory over the English. After a short struggle many of the tribes lost heart and were ready to go back to their villages.[Pg 86]
The Canadians were neutral and were supposed to sympathize with the Indians; but Pontiac knew that many of them favored the English, and were ready at the slightest offense to take the side of his enemies.
His campaign against the English had begun with failure. Treachery had failed. He had put the English on their guard and must now use open force.
To hold a horde of savages together, to keep the fickle Canadians friendly, to take without cannon all the fortifications on the frontier, were the tasks the Indian general had set himself.
Pontiac's personal influence over the Indians was unparalleled. He had lost none of his power over them by the defeat of his plan to take Detroit. No Indian dared reproach him with failure. All quailed before his terrible rage and disappointment. They brought him the scalps of the English they had slain. They sought to please him with loud outcries against the English, and promises of the[Pg 87] bloody work they would do. He held all in awe of him. He commanded as if sure of being obeyed, and punished the slightest disobedience with extreme severity.
But he did not govern by fear alone. He took care that his warriors should not want for food; he took care to give them grounds for hope and to keep them busy.
No preparations had been made for a long siege. When provisions failed and the tribes were on the point of leaving, Pontiac had a conference with some Canadians and arranged that they should furnish his people with corn and meat. He had no money to pay for provisions, but he made out notes promising to pay for them at some future time. These notes were written on birch bark, and signed with the figure of an otter, the totem of the great chief. Many of the farmers feared they would never see the money promised them in these notes, but Pontiac paid them all faithfully.
Pontiac knew how wasteful his people were, feasting in the day of plenty without thought of the morrow. He therefore employed a Canadian as his provision officer. This man had charge of the storehouse, and doled out each morning the provisions for the day.
This novel arrangement increased the Indians' confidence in their leader. Yet some grew restless and were on the point of giving up the struggle as a failure.
On learning this, Pontiac sent out messengers to the Wyandot Indians, ordering them to join him in his war against the British or prepare to be wiped off the[Pg 88] face of the earth. By this stroke Pontiac turned threatened loss into gain. The support of the warlike Wyandots renewed the courage of the faint-hearted, and for a time all thought of failure ceased.
The chiefs conduct toward the Canadians was highly praiseworthy. They had encouraged him to make war against the British by promising that the French king would send him help. Week after week passed and no help came. Pontiac's expectation of the arrival of a French army grew fainter and fainter. Still he did not lose faith in the truth of the Canadians. He protected them and their property from injury and theft; for there were many lawless young warriors who were ready to do violence to the French as well as to the English.
While pretending to sympathize with the Indians, many of the French farmers were secretly helping the English by selling them food and reporting the movements of the Indians. Pontiac heard many reports of their faithlessness.
One stormy evening the chief entered the cabin of a Frenchman whom he had known for many years. With only a nod for his host he sat down before the dying fire. He sat there wrapt in his blanket for a long time without a word. At last he faced the Frenchman and said: "Old friend, I hear that the English have offered to give you a bushel of silver if you will take them my scalp."
"It is false," cried the Frenchman in alarm. "I would not injure my friend for many bushels of silver."[Pg 89]
"Pontiac has no fear. Pontiac trusts his brother," the Indian replied, and stretching himself upon a bench he was soon sound asleep. The Frenchman could not be false to such faith and the chief slept unharmed.
While successfully keeping together his warriors and strengthening the bond of friendship between the French and the Indians, Pontiac was carrying on the war against the English with vigor. His camp near Detroit was the center of action. From it Pontiac directed the war and kept constant watch over the garrison. He prevented the besieged from leaving their walls; he sent out parties to waylay the supplies the British were expecting from the East; he planned and managed expeditions against other forts held by the British.
The English at Detroit soon became accustomed to the discomforts and alarms of the siege. The women no longer trembled when the Indian war whoop sounded. The men no longer ran to the walls at the popping of muskets. The smell of gunpowder, the whiz of bullets, had lost their power to quicken the pulse.
The days dragged slowly on. A few wan-faced men worked, many lounged in the narrow streets, playing games of chance, betting on the outcome of the war, quarreling, complaining, boasting. Now they talked vauntingly, telling tales of the Englishman's prow[Pg 90]ess and the Indian's cowardice. Again, they told dismal stories of Indian cruelty and massacre, and shook their heads over their own prospects.
But every idler had his firelock close at hand, and all the time the sentinels on the bastions kept a sharp lookout. Every little while rapid firing broke the monotony of the long watch; the rolling drum called the garrison to the ramparts; wounded men groaned under the rough kindness of the fort surgeon; the dead received the soldiers' burial. But over all the old flag with its red cross, stained with rain and smoke, flapped defiantly.
Major Gladwin went about with a cheerful face, but a heavy heart. Provisions were fast melting away. It seemed scarcely possible that the garrison would be able to hold out till the expected supplies arrived. He decided to send one of the schooners to meet the provision boats, to warn them of the hostility of the Indians and urge them to all speed.
They could ill spare any of the garrison, but food must be had. So, on a bright spring morning one of the vessels weighed anchor and started for the East. Before she left the Detroit River the wind died and her sails hung limp.
As the boat lay helplessly drifting with the current a hundred canoes darted out from the shore. In the foremost one the Indians had bound their prisoner, Captain Campbell. The British saw, and were afraid to fire lest they should shoot their countryman. Noticing[Pg 91] their hesitation, the brave old man called out: "Don't think of me. Do your duty and fire." The man at the cannon still paused. A breeze stirred, swelled the canvas, and the schooner flew like a great gull over the blue waters far out of reach of the canoes.
After the boat left, a gloom settled upon the little garrison at Detroit. With two boats in the harbor flight had seemed possible. Now that one of them had gone, all felt that the siege meant victory or death. The daily allowance of food grew smaller. The men became exhausted with ceaseless watching. All hope was fixed on the expected reinforcements.
On the thirteenth of May the sentinel announced that the long looked for convoy was in sight. The good news spread rapidly. Soon the entire population of the village was hurrying to the gate that led to the river.
The hungry, haggard-looking men that crowded the wharf sent up cheer after cheer as the boats approached with flags flying. Days of rest and plenty seemed theirs again. Here were comrades to share their vigils. Here was food to satisfy their hunger.
As the boats drew nearer, the cheers died in throats hoarse with horror. No answering shout came from the boats. The English at the oars were not their own masters. The long expected supplies had fallen into the hands of the Indians. The men to whom the garrison had looked for help were the prisoners of the enemy.
Two Englishmen escaped from their guards and succeeded in reaching the fort where they told their story:[Pg 92] Ninety men had started with large stores of food and ammunition, early in the spring to reinforce Detroit. Meeting the schooner from the fort and learning the danger and need of the garrison, they had pushed on with all possible speed until they reached the mouth of the Detroit River. That night, as the boats were drawn up on the shore and the men were getting supper, their camp was suddenly surprised by a horde of Wyandot Indians. The British made an attempt to defend themselves. But the Indians were upon them brandishing their tomahawks and yelling like demons. Panic fear seized the white men. They dropped their guns, fled to the boats, jumped in and pushed off. The exultant Indians pressed after them and succeeded in retaking all but two of their overloaded boats. The savages were now taking their prisoners, about sixty in number, to the camp of Pontiac, where they would be tortured and put to death.
The success of this bold venture probably would have ended the siege of Detroit with victory for Pontiac, had the Canadians been as loyal to the Indians as they pretended. But while they were giving the chief assurances of good will and future help, some of them were secretly succoring the English. Under the cover of night they smuggled cattle and sheep and hogs to the famishing garrison.
Even with this aid the prospects of the little garrison were dark enough. Every wind seemed to blow them ill news.
One afternoon the guard at the fort heard a weird[Pg 93] chant and saw issuing from the distant forest a file of warriors whose naked bodies were smeared with black paint. Every one of them carried a pole over his shoulder, and the horrified watchers knew well enough that from the end of each pole fluttered the scalp of some Englishman. They learned from the Canadians that night that Fort Sandusky had been burned and its garrison murdered.
A little later the Indians offered to exchange some prisoners with the English. The victims thus released by the Indians proved to be from Fort St. Joseph. They told how that fort had been treacherously taken and burned, and all the inmates but themselves slain.
A traveling priest brought word that the plot which had failed at Detroit had succeeded only too well at Michillimackinac. Next came tidings of the massacres at Fort Ouatanon on the Wabash River and at Fort Miamis, on the Maumee.
Nor was the tale of fire and blood yet ended. A fugitive from the camp of Pontiac reached Detroit one afternoon. It proved to be Ensign Christie, the commanding officer at Presqu' Isle, near the eastern end of Lake Erie. His story was a thrilling one. He told how his little garrison of twenty-seven men had fortified themselves in their block house and made a fierce struggle to keep back the Indians and save their stronghold from the flames; how at last the Indians had undermined their fort and threatened to apply the torch above and below at once. Then to escape death by fire the little[Pg 94] band had listened to the promises of the Indians and yielded themselves prisoners.
If these reports terrified the English at Detroit, they also strengthened their determination not to surrender. In spite of fatigue, hunger, and discouragement they fought stoutly on, until, at length, there came a turn in the tide of ill fortune that had surged against them.
On the nineteenth of June news reached them that the schooner which had been sent to meet the provisions had returned and was entering the Detroit River. This cheered all, for they knew that the boat had been to Niagara for more supplies and more men. Still, they remembered the fate of the provision boats, and were worried lest mischance should befall the schooner.
Their anxiety increased when they saw the Indians going in large companies down the river and heard from the Canadians that they were planning to attack the schooner. The British at the fort fired two cannon shots to let their countrymen know that they still held Detroit. But several days passed before they heard anything of the boat. At last they saw her sailing safely toward them.
There were waving caps, shouts of joy, and prayers of thanksgiving among the little company of half-starved men who thronged at the gate to welcome the newcomers.
They had heard that eight hundred more Ojibwa Indians were on their way to increase the forces of Pontiac. But what were eight hundred Ojibwas to[Pg 95] sixty hardy sons of England and a schooner loaded with supplies and cannon!
Hope grew strong in Pontiac's heart as week after week his tribes and allies brought to his camp trophies of victory—guns, prisoners, scalps. But Detroit troubled him. The most violent attacks produced no effect. To starve the garrison seemed the only way to conquer it.
When, therefore, Pontiac's messengers had brought word that the schooner was approaching he bent his whole energy to prevent her reaching Detroit. Along the river where dense underwoods grew, hundreds of Indians lay concealed with their canoes, waiting for the schooner.
When, in the darkness of a moonless night, they saw the great boat sailing steadily up the narrow channel they paddled silently toward her, dark specks on the breast of the dark, shining river. Nearer and nearer they pressed. All was silent on the vessel. Surely no one had taken alarm. Not a shot and they had reached the boat; they were clambering like rats up its bulky sides—when lo! a sharp hammering on the mast head, a flash of muskets in the dark, a cry of defeat and rage above the din of battle! Cannon boomed; canoes flew high into the air; bullets did their work.
For fourteen Indians the long struggle against the palefaces was over. The rest scurried to the shore[Pg 96] as best they could, some paddling, some swimming. Once there, they took shelter behind some temporary earthworks, and opened such a fierce fire on the schooner that it was forced to drop down stream to a broader part of the river. For several days they delayed the ship, but at length she sailed boldly past, and was but little injured by the fire.
Pontiac was sorely vexed that the ship had succeeded in reaching the garrison. He and his people looked upon the boats with almost superstitious horror. Their dislike was not lessened when one day the smaller schooner made her way against wind and current up to Pontiac's village, and there sent shot and shell roaring through the frail dwellings.
Though no loss of life resulted, the Indians were greatly alarmed. Pontiac moved his camp to a safer place and then turned his attention to destroying the ships. Early in July he made his first attempt.
Two large boats filled with birch bark and pitch pine were tied together and set on fire. They were then cut loose and left to float down stream. Keenly the Indians watched; keenly, the English. Would the fireboats go close enough? the first wondered with bated breath. Would they come too close? questioned the British. Woe on the one hand, joy on the other! the space between the ships and the flaming craft widens—the fireboats float harmlessly down the river. A second and a third attempt to burn the boats failed. Fortune seemed to favor the English.[Pg 97]
Pontiac began to despair of taking Detroit unaided. He called a council of the French. He reminded them that the English were their enemies as well as his. He charged them with helping the English and told them that the time had come for them to choose sides and fight with him or against him. He then offered them the war belt. His hope was that they would take it up and join him against the English.
Now, the Canadians had become by the terms of the treaty that closed the French war, British subjects, but they were ashamed or afraid to admit it, and still deceived the Indians. They told Pontiac that much as it would please them to fight with him against the English, they must obey the commands of their father, the King of France, who had bidden them to remain at peace until his coming. They added that he, with a great army, was already on the St. Lawrence and would soon arrive to punish the enemies of his children and reward their friends. They advised the chieftain not to make an enemy of his mighty friend.
When the French speaker had finished, there was a short silence. Then an old trapper came forward, and, picking up the war belt, declared that he was ready to take sides with the Indians against the English. Several of his rough comrades followed his example.
Pontiac's hope of gaining aid from the French was thus not utterly defeated. Besides, he still believed their talk about the coming of the French king. So the French and Indians continued friends.[Pg 98]
Some of the tribes growing restless, now made peace with the English and deserted Pontiac. But a greater blow than the desertion of a few tribes was in store for the chief.
Late in July he learned that twenty-two barges bearing large supplies of food and ammunition and almost three hundred men had made their way up the Detroit River in safety, protected by a dense fog. The news came so late that it was impossible for the Indians to oppose the progress of the boats, and they reached the fort with little resistance.
At about two o'clock in the morning of the second day after the arrival of this convoy, Pontiac's spies brought him word that the English were coming against his camp with a great force.
Swiftly and silently the Ottawas broke their camp, and with some Ojibwas started to meet the British. On reaching the site of their former camp, about a mile and a half above the fort, near the bridge that crossed a little stream, called from that night Bloody Run, they formed an ambush and waited for the British.
They had barely time to hide behind their old earthworks, natural ridges and piles of brush. Already they heard the barking of watchdogs at the farmhouses along the river road, and the tramp of many feet. They listened and discovered that the enemy outnumbered them. What of that! The night was dark. They knew their ground. Their scouts would soon bring other tribes to help them.[Pg 99]
Every Indian was out of sight; every gun was loaded. The tramp of feet drew nearer. A dark mass of marching men came in sight. The quick steps of the advanced guard rang on the wooden bridge. All else was still. The vanguard had crossed the bridge and the main body of the English had started over, when, in front, to right, to left, burst blood curdling yells, blazed a fatal volley of muskets.
Back only, lay safety. Those who had not fallen in the first charge turned and fled, followed by a rain of bullets. Panic spread along the line. But the brave leader of the English, Captain Dalzel, sprang to the front and rallied his men. They made a bold charge, as they thought, into the midst of the enemy; but they found none to resist them. Every Indian had vanished. They pressed bravely on in search of their assailants; but the night was black and the way was rough and unfamiliar. Whenever they reached a place of difficulty the Indians unexpectedly renewed their attack.
The savages, whose eyes were accustomed to the darkness, saw the enemy after a parley return to the bridge. There, half of the men mounted guard while the others took up the dead and wounded and carried them to two armed boats that had accompanied them down the river.
Seeing that a return to the fort was intended, the Indians turned back in large numbers to form another ambuscade at a point where several houses and barns stood near the road and cut the English off from the fort.[Pg 100]
They again allowed the vanguard to pass unmolested and surprised the center with a galling fire. The soldiers, confused by the weird and terrible cries of the savages and the blaze of musketry, blinded by smoke and flash, and stung by pelting bullets, huddled together like sheep.
Captain Dalzel, though severely wounded, by commanding, imploring, fairly driving his men with his sword, at last succeeded in regaining order. He made a charge and as usual the Indians fled before the attack. As soon as the English attempted to continue their retreat the Indians were upon them again, firing from every fence and thicket.
The gallant Dalzel was among those shot down by this fire. He died trying to save a wounded soldier from the scalping knife of the Indians. In the confusion he was scarcely missed. The officers next in command took charge of the retreat. In the gray dawn the remnant of Dalzel's army reached the fort. The Indians went off, well satisfied with their night's work, to count their scalps and celebrate.
While the English lost about sixty men in this engagement, called the battle of Bloody Ridge, the number of Indians killed and wounded was not greater than fifteen or twenty. The Indians considered it a great victory and fresh warriors flocked to the camp of the Indian commander who seemed to be a match for the English.[Pg 101]
We have seen that after the battle of Bloody Ridge many tribes that had before been afraid to take up the hatchet against the English, presented themselves at the camp of Pontiac, eager for a share in the victory at Detroit, which they thought would follow.
Yet that English stronghold, that log palisade, was a prize out of reach of the chief and his warriors. The Indians kept close watch. If a head appeared at a loophole, bang went an Indian's gun. If a point was left unguarded, there was the torch applied. Fire arrows whizzed over the rampart in the darkness, only to burn themselves out in the broad roadway between the wall and the buildings. Again and again hundreds of painted warriors danced about the fort yelling as if Detroit, like Jericho, might be taken with shouting. Their spent bullets pelted the old fort like harmless hail. They tried to rush upon the gate, but the fusilade from the block house and the fire-belching cannon of the British drove them back helter-skelter.
Late in September an incident occurred which increased the Indians' awe of the British. A scout brought word to Pontiac that a dispatch boat with a large store of provisions was on her way to the fort. As there were only twelve men aboard, her capture seemed an easy matter.
The Indians planned a midnight attack. Three hundred of them drifted down the river in their light birch[Pg 102] canoes. The night was so dark and they came so noiselessly that the watching English did not know of their approach until they were within gunshot of the boat.
A cannon was fired, but its shot and shell went over the heads of the Indians and plowed up the black water beyond. The canoes were all about the ship and the savages, with knives in their teeth, were climbing up its sides. The crew fired once. One or two Indians fell back into the water; the rest came on. As they climbed nearer, the British charged them with bayonets, and hacked them with hatchets and knives. But where one man was driven back a dozen gained the deck.
The little crew defended themselves desperately; they were surrounded by brandished tomahawks; their captain had fallen; more than half their number were cut down. The Indians were raising their shout of triumph. Then the order of Jacobs, the mate, rang out: "Blow up the ship!" he said. One Indian understood and gave the alarm to his fellows. With one accord they threw down hatchets and knives and leaped into the river. They made haste to reach the shore and left six bloodstained British sailors to take their boat in triumph to Detroit.
As autumn advanced the Indians grew weary of the long siege. The prospect of winter with no food, the continued resistance of the British, and the report that a large force of armed men was coming to relieve Detroit, discouraged them.
One tribe after another sent delegations to Major Gladwin to sue for peace. They told smooth stories.[Pg 103] They had always loved the English, but Pontiac had compelled them to go to war. Now they were sorry they had obeyed him and longed to be at peace with their English brothers.
Gladwin understood their deceit, but as he was in need of winter supplies, readily granted them a truce. The various tribes broke up their camps and separated for the long winter hunt.
Pontiac and his Ottawas still held their ground without flinching. "Surely," thought the proud-hearted chief, "our French father will send us help before long."
One day, near the close of October, a messenger did come from the French. The letter he brought was from M. Neyon, the commandant of Fort Chartres, in the Illinois country. Pontiac had written to him asking for aid. What had he answered? He had told the truth. He had told Pontiac that the French in America were now the subjects of the English king, and so could not fight against his people.
When the great chief heard this he did not put on his war paint and lead his warriors against the defenseless French who had so long dealt falsely with him. He sat alone for a long time, thinking. The next day he sent a letter to Major Gladwin saying that he was now ready to bury the hatchet, and begging the English to forget the past.
Major Gladwin thought that the French were more to blame than the Indians in the war, and was willing to be at peace with his red neighbors. So he sent Pontiac a[Pg 104] favorable reply. A few days later the stern-faced chief turned his back on Detroit, and began his march to the Maumee River, followed by his faithful braves.
The plan of Pontiac had been to take the forts all along the frontier by strategy and then destroy the defenceless English settlements.
We have seen that while there were many French farmers living outside of the walls of Detroit there were very few English. And, in truth, in 1763, there were not many English settlers east of the Alleghany Mountains. Most of the forts that had been taken from the French, except those on the Mississippi River, were garrisoned with English. Within reach of the protection of these forts, lived some British traders and trappers, and a few venturesome settlers. But the Mohawk Valley in New York, and the Susquehanna, in Pennsylvania, really formed the western limit of extensive English settlement.
Pontiac's war belts had stirred up the Indians all along the border. In the summer of 1763, while he and the Ottawas and Ojibwas were besieging Detroit, the Delawares and Shawnees were laying waste the Pennsylvania frontier.
Backwoodsmen, trappers or travelers, venturing into the wilderness were shot down without warning. Men,[Pg 105] women, and children were miserably slain. Isolated farmhouses were attacked, their inmates scalped, the cabins burned. Churches and schools added to the blaze that swept the wilderness from the Great Lakes to the Ohio. One after another the smaller forts were taken by the Indians.
Panic seized the settlers. Women left the kettle on the hearth, men the plow in the furrow, and fled. Some crowded for refuge into the nearest fort. Others feared to stop until they had reached Lancaster or even Philadelphia.
The terrible butcheries committed by the Indians so maddened the frontiersmen that they forgot their civilization and resorted to methods as inhuman as did the Indians. Peaceable, friendly Indians were massacred by bands of ruffian borderers, organized for vengeance as well as protection. Even men in high places forgot their usual humanity. The commander-in-chief of the army, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, and Colonel Henry Bouquet planned to send smallpox among the Indians by giving them infected blankets. They even talked of fighting them with bloodhounds instead of soldiers. The Governor of Pennsylvania issued a proclamation offering a reward for Indian prisoners and Indian scalps.
Fort Pitt, one of the most important posts on the frontier, held out against the attacks of the Delawares and the Shawnees. When the commander-in-chief of the army learned of the distress of the fort he sent a strong force under Colonel Bouquet to relieve it.[Pg 106]
In August, when crossing the Alleghany Mountains, Bouquet's army was assailed by a horde of Indians that had been lying in wait for them at Bushy Run. The battle which followed was hot. The British were courageous, but they fell in large numbers under the fire of the Indians, who fled before every charge, only to return like infuriated wasps at the moment the English fancied they had repulsed them. Night brought relief from the galling fire. But the battle was not over.
The English were held penned up on the road without water till dawn, when the charge was renewed with such zest that for a time it looked as if there were no escape for the forces of Bouquet. The unusual boldness of the Indians suggested to him a stratagem.
He feigned a retreat. Thus encouraged the Indians rushed upon the British with war whoop and scalp cry. The forces of Bouquet divided; the Indians filled the breach. Then at the word of command the troops closed on them, charging with bayonets. Many of the Indians entrapped in this way fell; the rest fled.[Pg 107]
After that the English made their way to Fort Pitt without serious interruption. In the battle of Bushy Run the loss on both sides was heavy for an Indian battle. The English lost eight officers and over one hundred soldiers; the Indians, several chiefs and about sixty warriors. Though the English loss was greater than that of the Indians, it could be more easily made up. For that reason, and because the English had succeeded in reaching Fort Pitt, the expedition was regarded as a splendid victory for the palefaces.
As winter advanced the Indians were obliged to desist from war and go into the forest in small companies to hunt. During the winter that followed the rebellion, the Indians had no help from the white people, and the bitter hardships they suffered did much to put them into a pacific frame of mind.
Sir William Johnson, the king's sole agent and superintendent of Indian affairs, understood the red men better than most of his countrymen did. He lived among them on a great estate in the Mohawk Valley. He spoke their language and often dressed in Indian suit of slashed deerskin.
In his opinion it was wasteful and unwise to fight with the Indians. He said the English were largely to blame for the Indian war because of their injustice and their want of policy in dealing with the savages. He advocated following the example of the French, and winning the good will of the Indians by flattery and presents. He believed that under that policy the Indians[Pg 108] would become so dependent on the white man that they could be easily subdued.
Early in the spring of 1764 he sent messages to the various tribes, warning them that two great armies of English soldiers were ready to start into the western forest to punish the enemies of the English, and inviting all who wished to make peace to meet him at Niagara.
Accordingly, early in the spring, the fields around the fort at Niagara were dotted with Indian encampments. Among the savages were friendly Indians who had come to claim their reward; enemies who, through want or fear, were ready to make a temporary peace, and spies, who wanted to see what was going on.
For many a long day Sir William Johnson sat in the council room at the fort making treaties with various tribes. All day the fumes of the peace-pipe filled the hall, and threats and promises were made, and sealed with long strings of wampum.
It would have taken much less time to make one treaty with all the Indians, but Sir William Johnson sought to discourage the idea of a common cause, which Pontiac had done so much to arouse among the Indians. He treated each tribe as if its case were quite different from that of every other tribe.
Some Indians were so bold that they would not even pretend to be friendly. The Delawares and the Shawnees replied to the Indian agent's message summoning them to Niagara, that they were not afraid of the English, but looked upon them as old women.[Pg 109]
The armies to which Sir William Johnson had referred were under the command of Colonel Bouquet and Colonel Bradstreet. The latter went by way of the Lakes to relieve Detroit, offer peace to the northern Indians, and subdue those who refused to submit. Bouquet, with a thousand men, penetrated the forests further south to compel the fierce Delawares and Shawnees to submission. Both succeeded.
Bradstreet found the northern Indians ready to come to terms. He has been criticised for requiring the Indians to sign papers they did not understand and make promises that they did not fulfill. He did not see Pontiac, but sent a deputation to find him and confer with him.[Pg 110]
Colonel Bouquet, on the other hand, was stern and terrible. In council he addressed the Indians as chiefs and warriors, instead of "brothers." He refused to smooth over their wrong doing or listen to the excuses they offered for going to war. He charged them openly with the wrongs they had done, and required them to surrender all their white prisoners and give him hostages from their own race.
Many of the captives had lived among the Indians so long that they had forgotten their white relatives and friends. They left the Indian life and Indian friends with tears, and would have remained in captivity gladly. But Colonel Bouquet would make no exceptions.
His stern measures subdued the warlike tribes completely. In the fall of 1764 Bouquet returned to the East to receive honors and rewards for his services.
While other Indians were promising to bury the hatchet, Pontiac, the soul of the conspiracy, made no promises and smoked no peace-pipe. Surrounded by hundreds of warriors the chief camped on the Maumee River. His messengers brought him news of what was going on, and until the white men had taken their soldiers from the land he was content to wait and plan.
Captain Morris, who had been sent to Pontiac's camp by Colonel Bradstreet, was coldly received by the[Pg 111] great chief. Pontiac, indeed, granted him a hearing, but he bent upon his guest dark looks and refused to shake his hand. He made no flowery speeches, but declared that all the British were liars, and asked what new lies he had come to tell. After some talk Pontiac showed the captain a letter which he supposed to have been written by the King of France. It told the old story of the French army on its way to destroy the English. Captain Morris did his best to persuade him that the report was false. He was much impressed with the influence, knowledge, and sense of Pontiac—an Indian who commanded eighteen nations and was acquainted with the laws that regulated the conduct of civilized states.
Pontiac would make no official promises of peace, but he was so much discouraged by the communications Captain Morris brought, that he said to one of the followers of the latter: "I shall never more lead the nations to war. As for them, let them be at peace with the English if they will; for me, I shall be at war with them forever. I shall be a wanderer in the woods, and if they come to seek me I will fight them single-handed." With much bitterness of soul did Pontiac learn that the forts he had taken with so much effort and loss of Indian blood, had been retaken by the enemy; that the war spirit he had with so much labor aroused had been put to sleep.
But his hopes were not easily dashed. There were the letters from the French. The English said they[Pg 112] were false, but the English were his enemies. The French were his friends. Enemies might deceive each other, but friends must trust each other.
His confidence in the French was encouraged by the fact that several of the forts in the Illinois country were still occupied by French garrisons.
Pontiac resolved to make another effort to rouse his people. He set his squaws to work on a wampum war belt, broad and long, containing symbols of the forty-seven tribes which belonged to his confederacy. When the belt was done he sent a delegation of chiefs to the south with it. These messengers were instructed to show the war belt and offer the hatchet to all the tribes along the Mississippi River as far south as New Orleans. They were then to visit the French Governor at New Orleans and invite him to assist them in war against their common enemy.
Pontiac, in the meantime, went about among his old French friends asking for their help, and among the Illinois Indians urging them with threats and promises to join him in making war against the English. He met with some success, but his dreams were rudely broken by the return of his chiefs with the news that the Governor of New Orleans had indeed yielded to the British, and by the arrival of a company of British from Fort Pitt, offering terms of peace to the Illinois Indians. Daily Pontiac's allies deserted him, and accepted the terms of the English.
Again the day had come when it seemed to Pontiac[Pg 113] wise to let his hatred of the English sleep. He sent his great peace-pipe to Sir William Johnson and promised to go to Oswego in the spring to conclude a treaty with him.
True to his promise, in the spring of 1766, Pontiac, greatest war chief and sachem of the Ottawas, presented himself in the council chamber of Sir William Johnson. There was nothing fawning in his attitude; he conducted himself with the dignity of a fallen monarch. "When you speak to me," he said, "it is as if you addressed all the nations of the west." In making peace he submitted not to the will of the British but to that of the Great Spirit, whose will it was that there should be peace. He made it clear that in allowing the English to take the forts of the French the Indians granted them no right to their lands. When he promised friendship for the future, he called his hearers to witness how true a friend he had been to the French, who had deceived him and given him reason to transfer his friendship.
It would be hard to say how sincere Pontiac was, or how readily he would have let go the chain of friendship he had been forced to take up, had opportunity offered. He went back to his camp on the Maumee River, and there among his own people tried to live the life of his fathers. Little was heard of him for a year or two, but whenever an outbreak occurred among the Indians there were those who said Pontiac was at the bottom of it.
In the spring of 1769, anxious to see his French[Pg 114] friends once more, he made a visit to St. Louis. He was cordially received and spent several days with his old acquaintances. Then he crossed the river with a few chiefs to visit an assembly of traders and Illinois Indians.
After feasting and drinking with some of the Illinois, Pontiac sought the quiet of the forest. He wandered through its dim aisles, living over again the hopes and ambitions of the past, which his visit with the French and the Illinois had vividly recalled. He had forgotten the present and was again the mighty warrior who had made the hearts of the palefaces quake with fear. Little he dreamed that behind him stood an assassin with up-raised tomahawk.
The murderer of the great chief was an Illinois Indian who had been bribed to do the deed by an English trader.
During his life Pontiac had tried to overcome the tribal feeling of the Indians, and to unite them as one people. Over his grave the old tribal instinct awoke. The Illinois rallied about their kinsman to protect him; the Ottawas flew to arms to avenge their chief—such a sachem, such a chief, could not be forgotten. Wrong to him could not be forgiven. The fury of the Ottawas was not slaked until they had avenged the death of their chief, through the destruction of the powerful tribes of the Illinois.[Pg 115]
The great Indian leader, Pontiac, died in 1769, disappointed in his attempt to unite the Indians in a confederacy strong enough to withstand the white race. But the struggle between the red man and the white was not ended.
At about the time of the old chief's death a child was born among the Shawnee Indians who was to take up the cause of his people with equally great courage and intelligence. This child was called Tecumseh, which means shooting-star.
The tribe to which Tecumseh belonged had not yielded to the temptations offered by the white man. Although many of the tribes north of the Ohio River, through the influence of alms and whisky, were fast losing their savage virtues and becoming spiritless beggars, idle, drunken, quarrelsome, the Shawnees were still strong and warlike.
Several of the Shawnee tribes lived together in a large village on Mad River, not far from the place where Springfield, Ohio, now stands. There they had built for themselves rude huts made of sapling logs. Around these lodges, on the fertile land along the river were[Pg 118] corn fields, where the Indian women worked while the men hunted or went to war.
In this village, on a bluff near the river, stood Tecumseh's first home. His father was chief of a small tribe and was highly respected for his courage and good sense. His mother, the daughter of a chief, was a woman of strong character.
As Tecumseh was the son of such worthy parents, and as he was one of three brothers born on the same day, he was regarded even in babyhood with uncommon interest. The superstitious Indians believed that the three little boys would become extraordinary men. Two of them, Tecumseh and his brother, Laulewasikaw, fulfilled the largest expectations of their friends.
The child, Tecumseh, was a bright-eyed, handsome little fellow, at once winning and masterful in manner. His favorite pastime was playing war. The boys he played with always made him chief and were as devoted to him as ever Indians were to a real chief.
It is no wonder that at this time the Shawnee children played war; for their elders were almost constantly fighting with the settlers.
Tecumseh's childhood was far from a peaceful, happy one. He learned early the oppressive gloom and the wild excitement that accompany war. He was called upon, now to take part in the fierce rejoicing that followed an Indian victory; again, to join in the mournful wailing of the women when the dead warriors were brought from the battlefield.[Pg 119]
But his experience of war was not limited to celebrating and mourning distant victories and defeats. The enemy did not spare the village in which he lived. He knew that when the braves were on the warpath the children must stay near their mother's lodge. For, several times runners had come in hot haste bidding the squaws flee with their pappooses to the forest and hide there till the palefaces had passed. It made little Tecumseh's heart beat hard to think of the excitement and terror of those days.
Even in time of peace Tecumseh was accustomed to suffering and discontent. Food and clothing were so scarce that the Indians were often in want of enough to eat and wear. Children died from the effects of hunger and cold, and men and women grew gaunt and stern. Frequently the hunters came home empty-handed or bringing only small game.
They attributed all their troubles to the "Long Knives," as they called the white men, who, they said, had stolen their hunting grounds. So when Tecumseh was but a[Pg 120] child he hated the palefaces, and was glad when his tribe made war against them.
In 1774 the Ohio Indians learned that the Virginians were coming into their country to destroy their villages. Accordingly, all able-bodied warriors took up their weapons and went with the proud chief, Cornstalk, to meet the enemy. Tecumseh's father and eldest brother, Cheeseekau, were among the number.
After anxious waiting, those who had stayed behind were gladdened by the good news that for the present their homes were safe. But many of those homes had been made desolate by the battles waged in their defense. Cheeseekau came home from the war alone. His father had fallen in battle.
The mother and her children ceased their wailing and for the time forgot their loss, as they sat by the fire with Cheeseekau and heard the young warrior talk of his first battle. He said that he wished to die on the battlefield, as his father had done, for an Indian could hope for no better end. He told what a good fight the Indians had made and how brave their leader had been.
"All over the field," he said, "you could hear Cornstalk shout to his men 'Be strong! Be brave!' The warriors had more fear of Cornstalk's hatchet than of the Long Knives' guns. They did not dare to run. Some tried it. But Cornstalk buried his tomahawk in the head of the first, and the rest turned back to fight the palefaces. When the battle was over Cornstalk called a council and said: 'The palefaces are coming against us[Pg 121] in great numbers. We can not drive them back. What shall we do? Shall we fight a while longer, kill a few more of them, and then yield? Shall we put to death our women and children and fight till we die?' No one spoke. Then he said: 'I see you will not fight. I will go and make peace with the white men.' And he made us a good peace. Cornstalk is the greatest chief we have had since Pontiac."
Then followed stories of the great Pontiac, who had tried to make the Indian tribes stop fighting with one another and unite their strength against the white man. Thus, before Tecumseh could talk plainly, he heard about the heroes of his race, and learned what was expected of a good Indian.
From this time the youthful warrior Cheeseekau took his father's place as head of the family. He not only provided the family with food and clothing, but also looked after the education of his younger brothers. Tecumseh was his favorite, and he strove to teach him all that was needful to make him a brave warrior and a good man.
During Tecumseh's boyhood the Revolutionary war was being fought. The Indians took the part of the British. It was natural that they should feel a more bitter hatred for the colonists who had actually taken their lands and fought against them, than they had for[Pg 122] the distant mysterious "king," whom they had been taught to call "father," and to regard as a superior being. Besides, they little doubted that the king who had already beaten the French could subdue his own rebellious subjects. And they looked forward to the reward he would give them for their aid when the war was over.
The victories of the colonists were familiar topics of discussion among the Indians. They spoke with increasing uneasiness of the deeds of Washington, Putnam, and Greene. But the name to them more terrible than all the rest was that of George Rogers Clark. With sinking hearts they heard of his victories on the frontier.
In the summer of 1780 scouts brought word to the Shawnees on Mad River that this dreaded soldier was approaching with his army. Though alarmed, the Indians determined to do what they could to save the cabins and fort which they had built with much toil, and the growing corn upon which they depended for their winter food.
Three hundred warriors assembled in the village. They held a hurried council and decided to advance to meet Clark's army and surprise it with an attack at daybreak. But if there was a surprise where Gen. Clark was concerned, he was usually the man to give it. Accordingly, the Indians learned with dismay that their plan could not be carried out, for General Clark's army by forced marches had reached and was already surrounding their[Pg 123] village. The Indians had built a fort, but now they were afraid to use it and took refuge in their log huts. They began to cut holes in the walls, so that they might fire on the enemy.
When General Clark heard this, he said: "Hold on a minute, and I'll make holes enough for them." With that he ordered up his cannon and caused it to be fired into the village.
The Indians were so terrified that all who could do so fled into the woods and swamps. The rest fell an easy prey to the soldiers, who killed many warriors, made prisoners of the women and children, burned the houses, and cut down the corn.
Tecumseh and his brothers were among those who escaped the sword of Clark, but they could not forget[Pg 124] the distress of their kindred. Tecumseh was too young to take part in this battle. Although he spent much time in fighting sham battles, it was not until six years later that he had an opportunity to fight in a real one. In 1786 he and his elder brother went out with a band of warriors to check or drive back Captain Logan, who was advancing toward Mad River.
In an encounter near Dayton the boy was forced for the first time to face a cavalry charge. He had never imagined anything so terrifying. He saw those great, rushing horses, the cruel flash of steel. He forgot his hatred of the white man, his dreams of glory. His only thought was to save his life. He threw down his gun and ran.
As soon as he recovered from his fright he felt very much ashamed of his cowardly conduct. He was eager for another opportunity to test his courage. Fortunately for him he did not have to wait long.
Tecumseh was with a party of Indians who attacked some flatboats on the Ohio River. The boats were taken and all the men in charge of them were killed except one, who was made prisoner.
This was an important occasion in the life of Tecumseh. He acted with such daring and bravery that the old warriors of the party were astonished. From that night the Shawnees spoke of Tecumseh as a brave. Besides winning the good opinion of others, he regained his self-respect and conquered fear.
The memory of this victory was not pleasant to[Pg 125] Tecumseh. It was followed by the burning of the prisoner. Although the burning of prisoners was not rare among the Shawnee Indians this was the first time Tecumseh had seen a man put to death in that barbarous manner, and he grew sick and faint with horror at the sight. But this time he was terrified not for himself but for another, and he was not ashamed of his feelings.
Boy though he was, he stood before the older Indians and told them plainly what he thought of their cruel act. He spoke with so much power that he made all who heard him feel as he did about it. And they all agreed never again to take part in so inhuman a practice.
On this night Tecumseh gave glimpses of the man he was to be. He proved his valor; he showed mercy; he influenced warriors by his words.
A short time after Tecumseh had proved himself worthy to be considered an Indian brave, he started with his brother Cheeseekau on a journey across the woods and prairies of Indiana and Illinois. The brothers were accompanied by a band of Kickapoo Indians. Such a journey was an important part of the training of young warriors.
The party tramped through the country, courting hardships and adventure, getting acquainted with the wilderness, hunting buffaloes, visiting friendly tribes,[Pg 126] learning many languages, breaking bread with strangers, and visiting vengeance on enemies. To fall upon the defenseless cabin of some sleeping frontiersman and murder him and his family was in their eyes a feat to boast of.
But their warlike exploits were not confined to attacks on the white settlers. If they found friendly tribes at war with other tribes they joined them. In one of these battles Cheeseekau met his death, singing and rejoicing that it was his lot to fall like a warrior on the field of battle. This young man is said to have had a vision that he should die. Before going into battle he made a formal speech, telling his friends that he would be shot in the forehead in the thick of the fight, and his prophecy was fulfilled.
After Cheeseekau's death Tecumseh took his place as leader of the company and continued his wanderings to the South. There he made many friends and had numerous stirring adventures. One evening just as he and his eight followers were about to go to bed their camp was attacked by thirty white men. Tecumseh ordered his frightened comrades to follow him and rushed upon the enemy with such spirit and force that his little company killed two of the assailants and frightened the rest away.
Tecumseh returned to Ohio after an absence of three years. He discovered that it is not always necessary to go away from home to find adventures. His friends and neighbors were greatly excited about a victory which[Pg 127] they had just gained over the United States troops under General Harmer.
The next year, 1791, the new republic sent General St. Clair with a large army into the Indian country. Tecumseh's recent expedition had fitted him to be a good scout, and he was therefore sent out to watch the movements of St. Clair's troops. While he was employed scouting, the main body of Indians fell suddenly upon St. Clair's troops and completely routed them. During the next few years there was no lack of opportunity for the Shawnees to indulge their love of battle; for General Wayne, "Mad Anthony Wayne," as he was called, proved a more formidable foe than had General St. Clair. Tecumseh's reputation as a warrior was soon firmly established.
He was equally noted as a hunter. Though he had long been pointed out as one of the best Shawnee hunters, many young men had claimed as great success as he. At length some one suggested a way to decide who was the ablest hunter.
"Let us," said he, "each go alone into the forest, for three days, to hunt the deer, and the one who brings home the largest number of deer skins shall be considered the greatest hunter."
All agreed to this test, and several noted hunters started out. After three days each returned bearing the evidence of his skill as a hunter. Some proudly displayed ten skins, some twelve. Last of all came Tecumseh with thirty-five deer skins. Then the other Indians[Pg 128] stopped boasting, and declared Tecumseh the greatest hunter of the Shawnee nation. Tecumseh was a generous hunter as well as a skillful one. He made it his business to provide many who were old or sick with meat and skins.
Among the Indians the hero was the man who could do most to help his tribe. He could do that by hunting, to supply its members with food and clothing, by speaking wisely in council, to lead them to act for their highest welfare, and by fighting to defend their rights or avenge their wrongs. A brave who could do all this was worthy of being a chief, even if he was not the eldest son of a chief.
Tecumseh had shown that he could hunt, that he could speak in council, that he could fight. He had therefore all the requirements for a chief. Moreover, he had great influence with the young men of the neighboring tribes.
The suffering among the Indians was so great because of the ceaseless war they had carried on against the white people, that in 1795 many of the tribes were ready to accept the terms of peace offered by the United States government.
Accordingly, in June a treaty was made at Greenville, Ohio. The Indians promised to give up all claim to many thousand acres of land in the Northwest Terri[Pg 129]tory, to live at peace with the white settlers occupying the land, to notify them of the hostile plans of other tribes, to surrender whatever prisoners they had, to give up evil doers for trial, to protect travelers and traders, and to recognize no "father" but the President of the United States.
In return for all this the national government pledged itself to give the Indians a yearly "present" of food, blankets, powder, and other necessities, to respect the boundary lines and prevent settlers from hunting or intruding on Indian lands, and to punish white men who were found guilty of robbing or murdering Indians.
Tecumseh would not attend the council at which the treaty was made. Much as he felt the need of peace he was unwilling to pay for it a price which he thought the white man had no right to ask. He was unwilling to give up the lands which the Great Spirit had allotted to the Indians, and which were necessary to their very existence.
He foresaw that in the years of peace to which the Indians had pledged themselves, white men without number would come to make their homes in the fertile lands secured by the treaty. He foresaw that while the settlements flourished the tribes would become more and more dependent and submissive to the will of their civilized neighbors.
The injurious effect of civilization upon the Indian tribes was only too evident to all. The Superintendent of Indian Affairs later wrote to President Jefferson: "I can[Pg 130] tell at once upon looking at an Indian whom I may chance to meet whether he belongs to a neighboring or to a more distant tribe. The latter is generally well-clothed, healthy, and vigorous; the former, half-naked, filthy, and enfeebled by intoxication, and many of them are without arms excepting a knife, which they carry for the most villainous purposes."
What wonder that the patriotic Tecumseh refused to sanction a treaty which he considered a step toward the downfall of his race! He remembered the dead hero Pontiac, and wished that the red men had such a chieftain to unite them and rouse their manhood. He determined henceforth to take Pontiac for his model and to do what he could to unite his people and prepare them to resist the next attempt of the palefaces to take the land of the redskins. With this idea in view he used his influence to collect from various tribes a band of followers, who made him their chief.
The new chief was not an unworthy successor of the great Pontiac. Though living at a time when the Indians were beginning to lose much of their native vigor and virtue, Tecumseh had grown to be one of the most princely red men we know anything about.
His appearance was dignified and pleasing. Colonel W. S. Hatch gave the following picturesque description of him: "His height was about five feet nine inches; his face, oval rather than angular; his mouth, beautifully formed, like that of Napoleon I., as represented in his portraits; his eyes, clear, transparent hazel, with a[Pg 131] mild, pleasant expression when in repose, or in conversation; but when excited in his orations or by the enthusiasm of conflict, or when in anger, they appeared like balls of fire; his teeth, beautifully white, and his complexion more of a light brown or tan than red; his whole tribe, as well as their kindred, the Ottawas, had light complexions; his arms and hands were finely formed; his limbs straight; he always stood very erect, and walked with a brisk, elastic, vigorous step. He invariably dressed in Indian tanned buckskin; a perfectly well-fitting hunting frock descending to the knee was over his underclothes of the same material; the usual cape with finish of leather fringe about the neck, cape, edges of the front opening, and bottom of the frock; a belt of the same material, in which were his sidearms (an elegant silver-mounted tomahawk and a knife in a strong leather case); short pantaloons, connected with[Pg 132] neatly fitting leggings and moccasins, with a mantle of the same material thrown over his left shoulder, used as a blanket in camp, and as a protection in storms."
Tecumseh's character was not that of the typical Indian, because it was broader. The virtues that most Indians exercise only in the family, or, at best, in the tribe, he practised toward his entire race, and, to some extent, toward all mankind. He once said: "My tribe is nothing to me; my race, everything." His hatred of the white man was general, not personal. Able, brave men, whether red or white, he respected and admired. While most Indians thought it necessary to be truthful to friends only, Tecumseh was honest in his dealings with his enemies. He often set white men an example of mercy.
An amusing story is told of him, which shows how kindly tolerant he was where he could feel nothing but contempt for a man: One evening on entering the house of a white man with whom he was acquainted, Tecumseh found a gigantic stranger there, who was so badly frightened at sight of him that he took refuge behind the other men in the room, begging them to save him. Tecumseh stood a moment sternly watching the great fellow. Then he went up and patted the cowering creature on the shoulder, saying good naturedly, "Big baby; big baby!"
In 1804 and 1805, before the new chief was ready for decided action, Governor Harrison, of Indiana Territory, made additional treaties with a few weak and[Pg 133] submissive tribes, by which he laid claim to more land. This measure aroused such general indignation among the more hardy and warlike Indians that Tecumseh felt the time had come when he might win them to support his cherished plan of united opposition to the whites.
Tecumseh had not been alone in his anxiety for the future of his race. After the death of his elder brother he had made his twin brother, Laulewasikaw, his trusted comrade. Together they had talked over the decay in power and manliness that was swiftly overtaking the tribes, and the wrongs the red men suffered at the hands of the white. They had not spent their strength in useless murmurings, but had analyzed the causes of trouble and decided how they might be removed.
One day after brooding deeply over these matters Laulewasikaw fell upon the earth in a swoon. For a long time he lay quite stiff and rigid, and those who saw him thought he was dead. But by and by he gave a deep moan and opened his eyes. For a moment he looked about as if he did not know[Pg 134] where he was. On coming to his senses he explained to his friends that he had had a vision in which he had seen the Great Spirit, who had told him what to do to save the Indian people from destruction.
From that time he styled himself "Prophet" and claimed to act under the direction of the Great Spirit. He changed his name to Tenskwatawa to signify that he was the "Open Door," through which all might learn the will of the Great Spirit.
Though professing to have supernatural power himself, Tenskwatawa realized the degrading effect of petty superstition and the terror and injury the medicine men were able to bring upon the simple-minded Indians who believed in their charms and spells. He denounced the practice of sorcery and witchcraft as against the will of the Great Spirit.
Many of the Prophet's teachings were such as we should all approve of. Wishing to purify the individual and family life of the Indians, he forbade men to marry more than one wife, and commanded them to take care of their families and to provide for those who were old and sick. He required them to work, to till the ground and raise corn, and to hunt.
Some of his teachings were intended to make the Indians as a people independent of the white race. The Great Spirit, said Tenskwatawa, had made the Indians to be a single people, quite distinct from the white men and for different purposes. The tribes must therefore stop fighting with one another and must unite and live peace[Pg 135]ably together as one tribe. They must not fight with the white men, either Americans or British. Neither must they intermarry with them or adopt their customs. The Great Spirit wished his red children to throw aside the garments of cotton and wool they had borrowed from the whites and clothe themselves in the skins of wild animals; he wished them to stop feeding on pork and beef, and bread made from wheat, and instead to eat the flesh of the wild deer and the bison, which he had provided for them, and bread made from Indian corn. Above all, they must let alone whisky which might do well enough for white men, but was never intended for Indians.
Furthermore, Tenskwatawa taught the Indians that a tribe had no right to sell the land it lived on. The Great Spirit had given the red people the land that they might enjoy it in common, just as they did the light and the air. He did not wish them to measure it off and build fences around it. Since no one chief or tribe owned the land, no single chief or tribe could sell it. No Indian territory therefore could be sold to the white men without the consent of all tribes and all Indians.
The words of the Prophet were eagerly listened to. Indians came from far and near to hear him. Some were so excited by what he said against witchcraft that they put to death those who persisted in using charms and pronouncing incantations.
The sayings and doings of the Shawnee Prophet soon attracted the attention of the Governor of Indiana Territory. Pity for the victims of the Prophet's misguided[Pg 136] zeal, and alarm because of the influence Tenskwatawa seemed to be gaining, led Governor William Henry Harrison to take measures to check the popularity of a man who seemed to be a fraud and a mischief-maker. He sent to the Delaware Indians the following "speech":
"My Children: My heart is filled with grief, and my eyes are dissolved in tears at the news which has reached me. * * * Who is this pretended prophet who dares to speak in the name of the Great Creator? Examine him. Is he more wise and virtuous than you are yourselves, that he should be selected to convey to you the orders of your God? Demand of him some proofs at least of his being the messenger of the Deity. If God has really employed him, He has doubtless authorized[Pg 137] him to perform miracles, that he may be known and received as a prophet. If he is really a prophet, ask him to cause the sun to stand still, the moon to alter its course, the rivers to cease to flow, or the dead to rise from their graves. If he does these things you may believe that he has been sent from God. He tells you that the Great Spirit commands you to punish with death those who deal in magic, and that he is authorized to point them out. Wretched delusion! Is, then, the Master of Life obliged to employ mortal man to punish those who offend Him? * * * Clear your eyes, I beseech you, from the mist which surrounds them. No longer be imposed on by the arts of the impostor. Drive him from your town and let peace and harmony prevail amongst you."
This letter increased rather than diminished the influence of the Prophet. He met the Governor's doubt of his power with fine scorn and named a day on which he would "put the sun under his feet." Strange to say, on the day named an eclipse of the sun occurred, and the affrighted savages quaked with fear and thought it was all the work of Tenskwatawa.
Tenskwatawa met with strong opposition from some of the Indians. The small chiefs especially were displeased with the idea that the tribes should unite to form one people, as that would take away their own power.[Pg 138] They, therefore, heard the Prophet with anger, and carried away an evil report of him.
Still, many believed all that he said, and wished to gain the good will of the Great Spirit by doing his bidding. They were willing to leave their tribes to follow the Prophet. So it happened that in 1806 Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh with their followers established a town at Greenville, Ohio. There all lived in accordance with the Prophet's teachings. They strengthened their bodies by running and swimming and wrestling. They lived at peace without drunkenness. They minded their own affairs. Now, all this was just what President Jefferson, the Indians' friend, had often advised the red men to do.
Yet the white neighbors were greatly disturbed and wished to break up the Prophet's town. In the first place the town was on land that had been ceded to the United States, or the Seventeen Fires (as the Indians picturesquely named the new nation), by the treaty of Greenville. Then, the visiting Indians who came from all parts of the country to hear the words of the Prophet were a constant source of alarm to the border settlers. And, although he professed to preach peace, the Prophet was believed by many to be preparing secretly for war.
Besides, innocent as most of his teachings appeared, those regarding property rights were hostile to the white race and decidedly annoying to the men who coveted the hunting grounds of the savages. The United States government in acquiring land from the Indians had usually proceeded as if it were the property of the tribe[Pg 139] that camped or hunted upon it. The Indian Commissioners had had little difficulty in gaining rich tracts of land from weak tribes, at comparatively little expense, by this method. When it came to a question of land, even Jefferson had little sympathy for the Indians. He had not scrupled to advise his agent to encourage chiefs to get into debt at the trading posts, so that when hard pressed for money they might be persuaded to part with the lands of their tribes.
Now Tecumseh had seen that the whole struggle between the red men and the white was a question of land. If the white men were kind to the Indians and came among them with fair promises and goodly presents, their object was to get land. If they came with threats and the sword, their object was, still, to get land. They needed the land. They could not grow and prosper without it. But if the white men needed land in order to live how much more did the Indians need it! Where a few acres of farm land would give a white family comfortable support, many acres were needed to support an Indian family by the chase. Tecumseh argued in this way: The Seventeen Fires unite to get our lands from us. Let us follow their example. Let us unite to hold our lands. Let us keep at peace with them and do them no harm. Let us give them no reason to fight with us and take our land in battle. When they offer to buy we will refuse to sell. If they try to force us to part with our lands we will stand together and resist them like men.[Pg 140]
He heartily agreed with his brother's teachings concerning property rights, and possibly suggested many ideas that Tenskwatawa fancied he received from the Great Spirit. Certain it is that Tecumseh had long held similar views and had done his best to spread them. Although Tenskwatawa was more conspicuous than Tecumseh, the latter had the stronger character. For a time he kept in the background and let his brother do the talking, but his personal influence had much to do with giving weight to the Prophet's words.
The brothers had not been at Greenville long before they were summoned to Fort Wayne by the commandant there to hear a letter from their "father," the President of the Seventeen Fires. Tecumseh refused to go. He demanded that the letter be brought to him. This put the officer in a trying position, but there was nothing left for him to do but send the letter to Greenville. It proved to be a request that the Prophet move his town beyond the boundaries of the territory owned by the United States. The letter was courteous, and offered the Indians assistance to move and build new homes.
To the President's request Tecumseh sent a decided refusal. He said: "These lands are ours; we were the first owners; no one has the right to move us. The Great Spirit appointed this place for us to light our fires and here we will stay."
The settlement continued to be a source of annoyance to the government. Indians kept coming from distant regions to visit the Prophet. Rumor said that the[Pg 141] brothers were working under the direction of British agents, who were trying to rouse the Indians to make war on the United States.
To counteract the British influence the Governor of Ohio sent a message to Greenville. At a council called to consider the Governor's letter, the chief, Blue Jacket, and the Prophet made speeches in which they declared their wish to remain at peace with the British and the Long Knives, as they called the settlers.
Tecumseh accompanied the commissioners on their return and held a conference with the Governor of Ohio. He spoke plainly, saying the Indians had little cause for friendliness to either the British or the people of the United States, both of whom had robbed them of their lands by making unjust treaties. But he assured the governor that for their own sake the Indians wished to remain at peace with both nations.
The Governor, like all who heard Tecumseh speak, was impressed with his sense and honesty, and believed that the Indians were not planning war.
A little later Tecumseh was again called to Springfield to attend a large council of Indians and white men. The council was held to determine who was responsible for the murder of a white man, who had been found dead not far from Springfield. On this occasion Tecumseh attracted much attention. In the first place he refused to give up his arms, and entered the council with the dignity of manner and the arms of a warrior.
He made a speech of such passion and eloquence[Pg 142] that the interpreter was unable to keep up with him or translate his ideas. The white men were left to guess his meaning by watching his wrathful face and the excitement of his hearers. The Indians, however, understood him perfectly, and when the council was over and they went to their homes all repeated what they could remember of the wonderful speech.
The influence of Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh increased. The excitement among the Indians became more general. Governor Harrison again wrote to the Shawnee tribes. He began by reminding them of the treaties between the Indians and the people of the United States:
"My children, listen to me. I speak in the name of your father, the great chief of the Seventeen Fires.
"My children, it is now twelve years since the tomahawk, which you had raised by the advice of your father, the King of Great Britain, was buried at Greenville, in the presence of that great warrior, General Wayne.
"My children, you then promised, and the Great Spirit heard it, that you would in future live in peace and friendship with your brothers, the Americans. You made a treaty with your father, and one that contained a number of good things, equally beneficial to all the tribes of red people who were parties to it.
"My children, you promised in that treaty to acknowledge no other father than the chief of the Seventeen Fires, and never to listen to the proposition of any foreign nation. You promised never to lift up the tomahawk against any of your father's children, and to give notice[Pg 143] of any other tribe that intended it. Your father also promised to do something for you, particularly to deliver to you every year a certain quantity of goods, to prevent any white man from settling on your lands without your consent, or from doing you any personal injury. He promised to run a line between your land and his, so that you might know your own; and you were to be permitted to live and hunt upon your father's land as long as you behaved yourselves well. My children, which of these articles has your father broken? You know that he has observed them all with the utmost good faith. But, my children, have you done so? Have you not always had your ears open to receive bad advice from the white people beyond the lakes?"
Although Governor Harrison writes in this letter as if he thought the white men had kept their part of the treaty, he had written quite differently to President Jefferson, telling him how the settlers were continually violating the treaty by hunting on Indian territory and reporting that it was impossible for the Indians to get justice when their kinsmen were murdered by white men; for even if a murderer was brought to trial no jury of white men would pronounce the murderer of an Indian guilty. "All these injuries the Indians have hitherto borne with astonishing patience." Thus Mr. Harrison had written to the President, but it was evidently his policy to try to make the Indians think they had no cause for complaint. In his letter to the Shawnees he went on to say:
"My children, I have heard bad news. The sacred[Pg 144] spot where the great council fire was kindled, around which the Seventeen Fires and ten tribes of their children smoked the pipe of peace—that very spot where the Great Spirit saw his red and white children encircle themselves with the chain of friendship—that place has been selected for dark and bloody councils.
"My children, this business must be stopped. You have called in a number of men from the most distant tribes to listen to a fool, who speaks not the words of the Great Spirit, but those of the devil and of the British agents. My children, your conduct has much alarmed the white settlers near you. They desire that you will send away those people, and if they wish to have the impostor with them they can carry him. Let him go to the lakes; he can hear the British more distinctly."
To this letter the Prophet sent a dignified answer, denying the charges the Governor had made. He spoke with regret rather than anger, and said that "his father (the Governor) had been listening to evil birds."
In 1808 Tecumseh and the Prophet moved with their followers to the Wabash Valley, and established on the Tippecanoe River a village known as the Prophet's Town.
Several advantages were to be gained by moving from Greenville to Tippecanoe, all of which probably had their weight in influencing the brothers to make this[Pg 145] change. In the first place, there seems to be little doubt that Tecumseh wanted peace, at least until he had built up a confederacy strong enough to fight the Americans with some hope of success. At Greenville the Indians were so near the settlers that there was constant danger of trouble between them. And Tecumseh realized that any wrong done by his people might be made an excuse for the government to take more lands from the Indians.
Then, too, this redskinned statesman realized in his way that the best way to prevent war was to be ready for it. He wished his people to be independent of the whites for their livelihood. The Wabash Valley offered the richest hunting grounds between the Lakes and the Ohio. Here they need not starve should they be denied aid by the United States government.
The location of the new village had further political value. It was in the center of a district where many tribes camped, over which the brothers wished to extend their influence. From the new town communication with the British could be more easily carried on. This was important in view of the troubled relations existing between the United States and Great Britain. Tecumseh was shrewd enough to see that though under ordinary circumstances the Indians were not sufficiently strong to be very formidable to the United States government, their friendship or enmity would be an important consideration in the war that threatened. And he hoped that the Long Knives' anxiety lest they should join the British[Pg 146] would prevent their doing anything to gain the ill will of the Indians.
The brothers wished Governor Harrison to understand that their desire was for peace, and that they did not intend to make war unless driven to do so. Accordingly, in August, Tenskwatawa, with a band of followers, made the Governor a visit. The Indians stayed at Vincennes for about two weeks. Harrison was surprised to find the Prophet an intelligent and gifted man. He tested the sincerity of the Prophet's followers by questions as to their belief and by putting in their way opportunities to drink whisky. He was again surprised to find them very earnest in their faith and able to resist the fire water. In Tenskwatawa's farewell speech to Harrison, he said:
"Father: It is three years since I first began that system of religion which I now practice. The white people and some of the Indians were against me, but I had no other intention but to introduce among the Indians those good principles of religion which the white people profess. I was spoken badly of by the white people, who reproached me with misleading the Indians, but I defy them to say that I did anything amiss. * * *
"The Great Spirit told me to tell the Indians that he had made them, and made the world—that he had placed them on it to do good and not evil.
"I told all the redskins that the way they were in was not good and they ought to abandon it; that we ought to consider ourselves as one man, but we ought to live[Pg 147] according to our customs, the red people after their fashion and the white people after theirs; particularly that they should not drink whisky; that it was not made for them, but for the white people who knew how to use it, and that it is the cause of all the mischiefs which the Indians suffer, and that we must follow the directions of the Great Spirit, and listen to Him, as it was He who made us; determine to listen to nothing that is bad; do not take up the tomahawk should it be offered by the British or by the Long Knives; do not meddle with anything that does not belong to you, but mind your own business and cultivate the ground, that your women and children may have enough to live on.
"I now inform you that it is our intention to live in peace with our father and his people forever.
"My father, I have informed you what we mean to do, and I call the Great Spirit to witness the truth of my declaration. The religion which I have established for the last three years has been attended by all the different tribes of Indians in this part of the world. Those Indians were once different people; they are now but one; they are determined to practise what I have communicated to them, that has come directly from the Great Spirit through me."
The Prophet made a favorable impression on the Governor, and after his visit affairs went smoothly for a time. The Prophet preached and his followers worked. Tecumseh traveled about north and south, east and west, talking with the Indians and trying to unite the[Pg 148] tribes and to persuade them to follow his brother's teachings.
In the meantime, settlers came steadily from the south and the east, and the governor felt the need of more land. Since he saw no prospect of immediate trouble with the British and was convinced that the Prophet had not been preparing the Indians for war, he determined to attempt to extend the United States territory.
On the thirtieth of September, 1809, Governor Harrison called all the tribes that claimed certain lands between the White and Wabash rivers to a council. Only a few of the weak and degenerate tribes answered the summons. Nevertheless, he went through the ceremony of making a treaty by which the United States government claimed three million acres of Indian land.
This act of Harrison's lighted a hundred council fires. Everywhere the Indians denounced this treaty. Soon word reached Vincennes that tribes that had before stood apart cherishing their independence had declared their willingness to join the brothers at Tippecanoe. At the Prophet's town the voice of the warrior, Tecumseh, sounded above that of the preacher, Tenskwatawa; and running and wrestling were said to have given place to the practice of shooting and wielding the tomahawk.
When the annual supply of salt was sent to Tippecanoe, the Prophet refused to accept it, and sent word to the Governor that the Americans had dealt unfairly with the Indians, and that friendly relations could be renewed only by the nullification of the treaty of 1809.[Pg 149]
The Indians were evidently ready for war, and repeated rumors of plots to attack the settlements caused great anxiety among the frontiersmen. The Indians now recognized Tecumseh as their leader, and looked to him for the word of command. Realizing how much loss of life and land a defeat would bring to the Indians, he worked tirelessly to make his people ready for war, but resolved not to hazard a battle unless driven to do so.
Governor Harrison sent agents to Tippecanoe, who brought back word that the Indians were preparing for war; that Tecumseh had gathered about him five thousand warriors, and that the British were encouraging them to go to war, and promising them aid. He therefore sent a letter to the Prophet telling him of the reports he had received, and warning him not to make an enemy of the Seventeen Fires. He wrote:
"Don't deceive yourselves; do not believe that all the nations of Indians united are able to resist the force of the Seventeen Fires. I know your warriors are brave; but ours are not less so. But what can a few brave warriors do against the innumerable warriors of the Seventeen Fires? Our blue-coats are more numerous than you can count; our hunters are like the leaves of the forest, or the grains of sand on the Wabash. Do[Pg 150] not think that the red-coats can protect you; they are not able to protect themselves. They do not think of going to war with us. If they did, you would in a few moons see our flag wave over all the forts of Canada. What reason have you to complain of the Seventeen Fires? Have they taken anything from you? Have they ever violated the treaties made with the red men? You say they have purchased lands from those who had no right to sell them. Show that this is true and the land will be instantly restored. Show us the rightful owners. I have full power to arrange this business; but if you would rather carry your complaints before your great father, the President, you shall be indulged. I will immediately[Pg 151] take means to send you, with those chiefs that you may choose, to the city where your father lives. Everything necessary shall be prepared for your journey, and means taken for your safe return."
Instead of answering this letter, Tenskwatawa said he would send his brother, Tecumseh, to Vincennes to confer with the Governor. Early in August a fleet of eighty canoes started down the Wabash for the capital. Tecumseh, with four hundred warriors at his back, all armed and painted as if for battle, was on his way to meet in council for the first time the man who was responsible for the treaty of 1809.
The party encamped just outside of Vincennes, and on the morning appointed for the council Tecumseh appeared attended by forty warriors. He refused to meet the Governor and his officers in council on the porch of the Governor's house, saying he preferred to hold the conference under a clump of trees not far off. The Governor consented and ordered benches and chairs to be taken to the grove. When Tecumseh was asked to take a chair he replied pompously: "The sun is my father; the earth is my mother; on her bosom I will repose," and seated himself on the ground. His warriors followed his example. In his speech Tecumseh stated plainly the grievances of the Indians. He said:
"Brother, since the peace was made, you have killed some Shawnees, Winnebagoes, Delawares, and Miamis, and you have taken our land from us, and I do not see how we can remain at peace if you continue to do so.[Pg 152] You try to force the red people to do some injury. It is you that are pushing them on to do mischief. You endeavor to make distinctions. You wish to prevent the Indians doing as we wish them—to unite, and let them consider their lands as the common property of the whole; you take tribes aside and advise them not to come into this measure; and until our plan is accomplished we do not wish to accept your invitation to go to see the President. You want by your distinctions of Indian tribes in allotting to each a particular tract of land, to make them to war with each other. You never see an Indian come and endeavor to make the white people do so. You are continually driving the red people; when, at last, you will drive them into the Great Lake, where they can neither stand nor walk.
"Brother, you ought to know what you are doing with the Indians. Perhaps it is by direction of the President to make these distinctions. It is a very bad thing and we do not like it. Since my residence at Tippecanoe we have endeavored to level all distinctions—to destroy village chiefs, by whom all mischief is done. It is they who sell our lands to the Americans. Our object is to let our affairs be transacted by warriors.
"Brother, only a few had part in the selling of this land and the goods that were given for it. The treaty was afterwards brought here, and the Weas were induced to give their consent because of their small numbers. The treaty at Fort Wayne was made through the threats of Winnemac; but in future we are prepared[Pg 153] to punish those chiefs who may come forward to propose to sell the land. If you continue to purchase of them it will produce war among the different tribes, and, at last, I do not know what will be the consequence to the white people.
"Brother, I was glad to hear your speech. You said that if we could show that the land was sold by people that had no right to sell, you would restore it. Those that did sell it did not own it. It was me. Those tribes set up a claim, but the tribes with me will not agree to their claim. If the land is not restored to us you will see when we return to our homes how it will be settled. We shall have a great council, at which all the tribes will be present, when we shall show to those who sold that they had no right to the claim they set up; and we will see what will be done to those chiefs that did sell the land to you. I am not alone in this determination; it is the determination of all the warriors and red people that listen to me. I now wish you to listen to me. If you do not, it will appear as if you wished me to kill all the chiefs that sold you the land. I tell you so because I am authorized by all the tribes to do so. I am the head of them all; I am a warrior, and all the warriors will meet together in two or three moons from this; then I will call for those chiefs that sold you the land and shall know what to do with them. If you do not restore the land, you will have a hand in killing them."
Governor Harrison began his reply by saying that the Indian tribes were and always had been independent of[Pg 154] one another, and had a right to sell their own lands, without interference from others.
Tecumseh might have answered that the Seventeen Fires had already recognized that the land was the common property of the tribes by treating with ten of them in making the Greenville purchase. But instead he and his followers lost their temper and jumped to their feet in a rage, as if to attack the Governor. And the council ended in an undignified row.
Tecumseh regretted this very much. He sent an apology to Governor Harrison and requested another meeting. Another council was called and this time the Indians controlled their anger; but Tecumseh maintained till the last that the Indians would never allow the white people to take possession of the land they claimed by the treaty of 1809.
The next day Governor Harrison, accompanied only by an interpreter, courageously visited Tecumseh's encampment and had a long talk with him. Tecumseh said the Indians had no wish for war, and would gladly be at peace with the Long Knives if the Governor could persuade the President to give back the disputed land. He said he had no wish to join the British, who were not the true friends of the Indians, but were always urging them to fight against the Americans for their own advantage.
Governor Harrison said he would report to the President all that Tecumseh had said, but that he knew the President would not give up the land he had purchased.[Pg 155]
"Well," said Tecumseh, bluntly, "as the great chief is to determine the matter, I hope the Great Spirit will put sense enough into his head to induce him to direct you to give up this land. It is true, he is so far off he will not be hurt by the war; he may sit in his town and drink his wine, while you and I will have to fight it out."
A year of unrest and anxiety followed the council at Vincennes. The United States government made an attempt to survey the new purchase, but the surveyors were driven off by the Indians.
Occasional outrages were committed on both sides. Horses were stolen. Several white men were murdered by Indians, and several Indians were murdered by white men.
In the spring of 1811, when the usual supply of salt was sent up the Wabash to be distributed among the tribes, the Indians at the Prophet's town, instead of again rejecting it, seized it all. This was done in the absence of Tecumseh, who seemed in every way to seek to avoid bringing about war.
Governor Harrison knew the treacherous nature of Indians and feared that Tecumseh's desire for peace might be feigned in order to throw him off his guard. He reasoned that it was scarcely to be expected and little to be wished that the United States should relin[Pg 156]quish the territory for which the Indians were contending. The Indians would hardly give up the land without war. Delay only gave Tecumseh time to strengthen his band. Harrison thought it wise to force the brothers to open war or to give assurance of peace. Accordingly, he wrote them a letter or speech, in which he said:
"Brothers, this is the third year that all the white people in this country have been alarmed at your proceedings; you threaten us with war; you invite all the tribes to the north and west of you to join against us.
"Brothers, your warriors who have lately been here deny this, but I have received information from every direction; the tribes on the Mississippi have sent me word that you intended to murder me, and then to commence a war upon our people. I have also received the speech you sent to the Pottawottomies and others to join you for that purpose; but if I had no other evidence of your hostility to us your seizing the salt I lately sent up the Wabash is sufficient. Brothers, our citizens are alarmed, and my warriors are preparing themselves, not to strike you but to defend themselves, and their women and children. You shall not surprise us as you expect to do; you are about to undertake a very rash act. As a friend, I advise you to consider well of it; a little reflection may save us a great deal of trouble and prevent much mischief; it is not yet too late.
"Brothers, if you wish to satisfy us that your intentions are good, follow the advice I have given you[Pg 157] before: that is, that one or both of you should visit the President of the United States and lay your grievances before him. He will treat you well, will listen to what you say, and if you can show him that you have been injured, you will receive justice. If you will follow my advice in this respect it will convince the citizens of this country and myself that you have no design to attack them. Brothers, with respect to the lands that were purchased last fall, I can enter into no negotiations with you on that subject; the affair is in the hands of the President. If you wish to go and see him, I will supply you with the means."
If either of the brothers should act upon the Governor's advice and go to Washington he would be virtually a hostage in the hands of the government, and the Indians would not dare to do the settlers any harm lest their leader should come to grief because of their misdoing.
Tecumseh sent the Governor a brief, friendly reply, in which he promised to go to Vincennes himself in a short time. Governor Harrison did not know just what to expect from the proposed visit, but he remembered Pontiac's attempt to capture Detroit by surprise and he prepared to give his guest a warlike reception if need be.
Late in July the chief arrived, attended by about three hundred Indians. A council was held which the Governor opened by recounting the injuries the white men had suffered at the hands of the Indians, and by again[Pg 158] making the charge that the Indians were preparing for war. Tecumseh replied with a counter enumeration of injuries, and said again that the Indians would never give up the land in dispute, but that it was his wish and hope that the matter could be settled peaceably. He said that he was trying to build up a strong nation of red men, after the model of the Seventeen Fires, and that he was on his way to visit the southern tribes to invite them to join his league. He assured Governor Harrison that he had given the strictest orders that the northern Indians should remain at peace during his absence, and that as soon as he returned he would go to Washington to settle the land question.
Tecumseh then hastened to the South, where he worked to good effect among the Creeks and Seminoles, persuading them to join his confederacy. It is said that where he could not persuade he threatened. One story illustrating his manner of dealing with those that resisted him is as follows: Visiting a tribe which listened coldly[Pg 159] to his words and seemed unwilling to take part in his plans he suddenly lost all patience. With fierce gestures and a terrible look he shouted: "You do not think what I say is true. You do not believe this is the wish of the Great Spirit. I will show you. When I reach Detroit I will stamp my foot on the earth and the earth will tremble and shake your houses down about your ears." The tale goes on to say that after due time had elapsed for Tecumseh to reach Detroit an earthquake shook down all the dwellings of the village he had left in anger. Whether this is true or not, Tecumseh certainly had wonderful influence over all tribes. Governor Harrison wrote to the Secretary of War about him: "If it were not for the vicinity of the United States, he would perhaps be the founder of an empire that would rival in glory Mexico or Peru. No difficulties deter him. For four years he has been in constant motion. You see him to-day on the Wabash, and in a short time hear of him on the shores of Lake Erie or Michigan, or on the banks of the Mississippi; and wherever he goes he makes an impression favorable to his purpose. He is now upon the last round to put a finishing stroke to his work. I hope, however, before his return that that part of the work which he considered complete will be demolished, and even its foundation rooted up."
In the meantime Tecumseh trusted Governor Harrison with child-like simplicity. It seems not to have occurred to him that the Governor would not remain inactive until he had completed his arrangements and[Pg 160] opened the war. Indeed, there were those at Washington who also thought this was what Harrison would and ought to do; that is, keep on the defensive until the Indians made some outbreak.
This was not the feeling on the frontier, however. The frontiersmen were in no humor to sit still and wait for the Indians to scalp them at their plows or burn them in their beds. Their cry was, "On to Tippecanoe!"
This spirit was in accord with the Governor's inclination. A man of action, and bred to military life, Harrison favored prompt, vigorous measures. He believed this a favorable time for an attack on the Prophet's town. Tecumseh was well out of the way, and had left orders for the tribes to remain at peace during his absence. As many would hesitate to disobey his command, there would be no united resistance. Besides, the Prophet had been left in charge, and a victory over him would destroy the Indians' faith in his supernatural power. This faith Harrison had come to regard as the backbone of the Indian alliance. Moreover, the British were not in a position to give the Indians open assistance and they would learn from a few battles fought without their aid how little trust was to be put in British promises.
For these reasons, Harrison wrote to the War Department urging immediate action and asking for troops and authority to march against Tippecanoe. The troops were granted, but with the instruction that President[Pg 161] Madison wished peace with the Indians preserved if possible.
In August, in the year 1811, Governor Harrison sent stern "speeches" to the Indian tribes, threatening them with punishment if they did not cease their preparations for war and comply with his demands.
On September the twenty-fifth the Prophet's reply arrived at Vincennes. He gave repeated assurances that the Indians had no intention of making war on the settlers, and he promised to comply with whatever demands the Governor might make. To this message Harrison sent no answer.
The Governor was now ready for action. He had a force of about a thousand fighting men. The militia were reinforced by three hundred regulars, and one hundred and thirty mounted men, under a brave Kentuckian, J. H. Daveiss, who wanted a share in the glory of an encounter with the Indians. Later two companies of mounted riflemen were added to this force. Harrison sent a detachment of men up the river to build a fort on the new land. By this act he took formal possession of it.
He felt his hands tied by the President's instructions to avoid war with the Indians if possible, and awaited developments with impatience. He expected the Indians to oppose in some way the building of the fort[Pg 162]—and his expectations were at length realized. One of the sentinels who kept guard while the soldiers worked on the fort was shot and severely wounded. Harrison thought this might be regarded as the opening of hostilities, and determined to march upon the Prophet's town. A letter from the War Department received at about this time left him free to carry out his plans.
It was late in October before the new fort, named Fort Harrison in honor of the Governor, was finished, and the force ready to leave. Then Harrison sent messengers to the Prophet demanding that the Indians should return stolen horses to their owners, and surrender Indians who had murdered white men. He also demanded that the Winnebagoes, Pottawottomies and Kickapoos who were at Tippecanoe should return to their tribes. Without waiting for a reply or appointing a time or place where the Prophet's answer might find him, Harrison began his march on Tippecanoe. Through the disputed land the armed forces marched; on, on, into the undisputed territory of the Indians.
Still they met with no opposition. Not an Indian was seen until November the sixth, when the troops were within eleven miles of Tippecanoe. And although many of them were seen from that time on, they could not be tempted to any greater indiscretion than the making of threatening signs in response to the provoking remarks of the interpreters. When within two miles of Tippecanoe, Harrison found himself and his army in a dangerous pass that offered the Indians a[Pg 163] most inviting chance for an ambush. But he was not molested.
When the troops were safe in the open country once more, Harrison held a conference with his officers. All were eager to advance at once and attack the town. They held that if there was any question about the right or the necessity of an attack it should have been decided before they started; now that they had arrived at the stronghold of the Indians there was only one safe course, and that was immediate attack.
Perhaps the circumstances of the march had persuaded Harrison of the sincerity of the Indians' plan for peace, and he felt that after all the affair might be settled without bloodshed. At any rate, he was most reluctant to comply with the wishes of his aids. But at last yielding to their urgency he gave the order to advance and storm the town. Scarcely had he done so, however, before he was turned from his purpose by the arrival of messengers from the Prophet begging that the difficulties be settled without a battle. Harrison sent back word that he had no intention of making an attack unless the Prophet refused to concede to his demands. He consented to suspend hostilities for the night and give Tenskwatawa a hearing in the morning.
Greatly against the will of his officers, who had no faith in the Indians' professions of friendliness and saw that every hour of delay might be put to good use by the Prophet, Harrison encamped for the night. He seems to have had little fear of an attack, as he did not even[Pg 164] fortify his camp with intrenchments. But his men slept on their arms that night, and, although no sound from the Indian village disturbed the stillness, there was a general feeling of restlessness.
Between four and five in the morning, in the dark that comes before the dawn, a sentinel's shot followed by the Indian yell brought every man to his feet. As the soldiers stood in the light of the camp fires, peering into the blackness with cocked muskets, they were shot down by savages, who rushed upon them with such force that they broke the line of guards and made an entrance into the camp. Had the number of assailants been greater, or had Harrison been less alert, they would doubtless have created a panic. But Harrison was already up and on the point of rousing his soldiers when the alarm sounded. With perfect self-possession he rode about where bullets were flying thickest, giving orders and encouraging his men.
The brave Daveiss, having gained Harrison's consent, recklessly plunged with only a few followers into a thicket to dislodge some Indians who were firing upon the troops at close range. He was soon surrounded and shot down.
The Indians fought with great persistence and kept up the attack for two hours, during which the troops held their ground with admirable firmness. As day dawned the Indians gradually withdrew.
Harrison's situation was perilous. Counting killed and wounded he had already lost one hundred and fifty[Pg 165] fighting men. The Indians might return at any moment in larger numbers to attack his exhausted force. Provisions were low and it was cold and raining. The men stood at their posts through the day without food or fire. All day and all night the soldiers kept watch. The second day, the horsemen cautiously advanced to the town. To their relief they found it empty. The Indians had evidently fled in haste, leaving behind large stores of provisions. Harrison's troops helped themselves to what they wanted, burned the deserted town, and returned to Vincennes with rapid marches.
As a result of the battle of Tippecanoe, Harrison was the hero of the hour. News of the destruction of the Prophet's town carried cheer into every white man's cabin on the frontier.[Pg 166]
Of the six hundred Indians that Harrison estimated had taken part in the battle of Tippecanoe, thirty-eight were found dead on the field. Though that was not a large number from a white man's point of view, the Indians regarded the loss of thirty-eight of their warriors as no light matter.
But that was not the heaviest blow to the confederation that Tecumseh and the Prophet had worked so hard to establish. Tippecanoe had been regarded with superstitious veneration as the Prophet's town, a sort of holy city, under the special protection of the Great Spirit. The destruction of the town, therefore, seriously affected the reputation of the Prophet.
It is hard to tell what part the Prophet played in the attack on Governor Harrison's forces. In their anxiety to escape punishment from the United States government many Indians who were known to have taken part in the battle excused their conduct by saying they had acted in obedience to the Prophet's directions. They told strange stories of his urging them to battle with promises that the Great Spirit would protect them from the bullets of the enemy.
On the other hand, the Prophet said the young men who would not listen to his commands were to blame for the trouble.
The fact that the Indians did not follow up their advantage over Harrison, and instead of renewing the at[Pg 167]tack with their full force, fled from him, would indicate that there certainly was a large party in favor of peace. It seems probable that that party was made up of the Prophet and his most faithful followers, rather than of those Indians who, while pretending to be the friends of the United States and accusing the Prophet, admitted that they had done the fighting. Tenskwatawa had had advice from the British, and strict orders from Tecumseh to remain at peace, and he had shown in many ways his anxiety to appease Harrison and keep the Indians from doing violence. For some time the influence of Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh had been more to restrain and direct than to excite the anger of the Indians which had been kindled by the treaty of 1809, and was ready to break out at any instant. It is hard, too, to believe that young warriors who had never been trained to act on the defensive could be constrained to wait until they were attacked, and so lose the advantage to be gained by surprising the enemy, or that they could be made to withdraw without striking a blow.
But however blameless the Prophet may have been, he suffered for a time, as Harrison had supposed he would. He was the scapegoat on whom all placed the responsibility for the battle of Tippecanoe. Even Tecumseh is said to have rebuked him bitterly for not holding the young men in check.
That Tecumseh disapproved of the affair is evident from the answer he sent the British, who advised him to avoid further encounters with the Americans:[Pg 168]
"You tell us to retreat or turn to one side should the Big Knives come against us. Had I been at home in the late unfortunate affair I should have done so; but those I left at home were—I cannot call them men—a poor set of people, and their scuffle with the Big Knives I compared to a struggle between little children who only scratch each other's faces."
In the spring, Tecumseh presented himself at Vincennes saying that he was now ready to go to Washington to visit the President. The Governor, however, gave him a cold welcome, telling him that if he went he must go alone. Tecumseh's pride was hurt and he refused to go unless he could travel in a style suited to the dignity of a great chief, the leader of the red men.[Pg 169]
Harrison soon learned that the brothers were again at Tippecanoe, with their loyal followers, rebuilding the village and strengthening their forces.
In April, 1812, a succession of horrible murders on the frontier alarmed the settlers. A general uprising of the Indians was expected daily. The militiamen refused to leave their families unprotected. The Governor was unable to secure the protection of the United States troops. Panic spread along the border; whole districts were unpeopled. Men, women, and children hastened to the forts or even to Kentucky for safety. There was fear that Vincennes would be overpowered.
Had the Indians chosen this time to strike, they could have done terrible mischief. But Tecumseh's voice was still for peace. At a council held in May, he said:
"Governor Harrison made war on my people in my absence; it was the will of God that he should do so. We hope it will please the Great Spirit that the white people may let us live in peace. We will not disturb them, neither have we done it, except when they come to our village with the intention of destroying us. We are happy to state to our brothers present that the unfortunate transaction that took place between the white people and a few of our young men at our village, has been settled between us and Governor Harrison; and I will further state that had I been at home there would have been no bloodshed at that time.
"It is true, we have endeavored to give all our brothers good advice, and if they have not listened to it we are sorry for it. We defy a living creature to say we ever advised any one, directly or indirectly, to make war on our white brothers. It has constantly been our misfortune to have our view misrepresented to our white brothers. This has been done by the Pottawottomies and others who sell to the white people land that does not belong to them."
Greatly as Tecumseh wished the Indians to remain at peace with the citizens of the United States, he saw that it was impossible for them to do so unless they were willing to give up their lands. The British, meanwhile, promised to regain for the Indians all the land north of the Ohio River and east of the Alleghany Mountains. They roused in the heart of Tecumseh the hope that the old boundaries between the territory of the Indians and the territory of the white man would be reëstablished. When war broke out in 1812, between Great Britain and the United States, Tecumseh joined the British at Malden. In making this alliance he was not influenced by any kindly feeling toward the British. He simply did what seemed to him for the best interests of the Indians.
At the outset, fortune favored the British flag. Fort Mackinac, in northern Michigan, fell into the hands of a force of British and Indians. Detroit was surrendered[Pg 171] to General Brock without resistance. Fort Dearborn, at Chicago, was burned and its garrison was massacred by the Indians. The English seemed in a fair way to fulfill their promise of driving the American settlers from the Northwest. Fort Harrison and Fort Wayne were the only strongholds of importance left to guard the frontier. These forts Tecumseh planned to take by stratagem.
The victories of the British won to their side the tribes that had hesitated, and hundreds of warriors flocked to the standard of Tecumseh. He became an important and conspicuous figure in the war. His brav[Pg 172]ery, his knowledge of the country, and his large following made it possible for him to give his allies invaluable aid. Without Tecumseh and his Indians the British war in the West would have been a slight affair.
The Americans fitted out a large military force to retake Detroit, and overthrow the Indians who threatened the settlements. General Harrison was put in command of the expedition. He set out with his army in grand array, but was unable to reach Detroit because of the swampy condition of the land over which he must march. He was forced to camp on the Maumee River. His advance into the territory of the Indians thwarted the enterprise that Tecumseh had set on foot against Fort Wayne.
While Harrison was encamped at Fort Meigs there were several encounters between the hostile forces. A division of Harrison's army, under General Winchester, having allowed itself to become separated from the main army, was attacked on the River Raisin by a party of British and Indians. After a fierce struggle the remnant of General Winchester's force surrendered to the British. In the absence of Tecumseh many of the prisoners were cruelly massacred by the Indian victors.
Major Richardson's description of General Winchester's men gives us a good idea of the hardihood of the frontier soldiers, and shows us how they came to be called "Long Knives" by the Indians:
"It was the depth of winter; but scarcely an individual was in possession of a great coat or cloak, and[Pg 173] few of them wore garments of wool of any description. They still retained their summer dress, consisting of cotton stuff of various colors shaped into frocks, and descending to the knee. Their trousers were of the same material. They were covered with slouched hats, worn bare by constant use, beneath which their long hair fell matted and uncombed over their cheeks; and these, together with the dirty blankets wrapped round their loins to protect them against the inclemency of the season, and fastened by broad leathern belts, into which were thrust axes and knives of an enormous length, gave them an air of wildness and savageness."
Later, General Proctor, who had succeeded General Brock in command of the British forces at Detroit, laid siege to Fort Meigs. Tecumseh, who took part in the siege, was anxious to meet the enemy in open country. He sent the following unceremonious challenge to his old acquaintance:
"General Harrison: I have with me eight hundred braves. You have an equal number in your hiding place. Come out with them and give me battle. You talked like a brave when we met at Vincennes, and I respected you; but now you hide behind logs and in the earth, like a ground-hog. Give me answer.
When Harrison did venture to send out a detachment it was beaten by the Indians, and many of the Americans were made prisoners. For all the effort General Proctor made to prevent it, a terrible massacre might have followed this victory. Just as the Indians had begun to murder the prisoners, Tecumseh rode upon the scene of slaughter. When he saw what was going on he exclaimed in a passion of regret and indignation, "Oh, what will become of my Indians!" He rushed into the midst of the savages, rescued the man they were beginning to torture, and, with uplifted tomahawk, dared the whole horde to touch another prisoner. They cowered before him, deeply ashamed of their conduct.
On discovering that General Proctor was present, Tecumseh demanded impatiently why he had not interfered to prevent the massacre. General Proctor answered that Tecumseh's Indians could not be controlled. To this Tecumseh responded with scorn: "Say, rather, you are unable to command. Go put on petticoats."
In September, 1813, Commodore Perry's splendid victories on Lake Erie gave to the Americans control of the Lakes, and this made it impossible for the British to hold Detroit and Malden. Harrison was advancing with a land force to take these towns and General Proctor was[Pg 175] eager to get out of his way. He began to prepare for retreat, but tried to conceal his purpose from Tecumseh. The latter's suspicions were aroused, however, and he demanded a council, in which he made his last formal speech. He spoke boldly and bitterly against General Proctor's course. He said:
"You always told us you would never draw your foot off British ground; but now, father, we see that you are drawing back, and we are sorry to see our father doing so without seeing the enemy. We must compare our father's conduct to a fat dog that carries its tail on its back, but when affrighted it drops it between its legs and runs off. Father, listen! The Americans have not yet defeated us by land; neither are we sure they have done so by water; we therefore wish to remain here and fight our enemy, should they make their appearance. If they defeat us we will retreat with our father. * * * We now see our British father preparing to march out of his stronghold. Father, you have the arms and ammunition which our great father sent to his red children. If you have an idea of going away, give them to us and you may go and welcome. For us, our lives are in the hands of the Great Spirit. We are determined to defend our lands, and if it be His will, we wish to leave our bones upon them."
Notwithstanding the wish of Tecumseh, General Proctor kept his purpose to retreat. He promised, however, that if they were pursued by the Americans he would turn at the first favorable site and give them bat[Pg 176]tle. Accordingly, Tecumseh accompanied the retreating General. He repeatedly urged Proctor to keep his promise and face the enemy. On the fifth of October, Proctor learned that the American forces were at his heels. Valor, therefore, seemed the better part of discretion, and, choosing a ridge between the Thames River and a swamp, he arranged his forces for battle.
Colonel Richard M. Johnson managed the charge of the Americans. One division of his regiment, under command of his brother, attacked and quickly routed the British regulars under General Proctor. The other division he himself led against Tecumseh's Indians.
The Indians waited under protection of the thick brush until the horsemen were within close range; then in response to Tecumseh's war cry all fired. Johnson's advance guard was nearly cut down. The horses could not advance. Johnson ordered his men to dismount and a terrible struggle followed. Soon Tecumseh was shot, and, the Indians missing him, gave up the battle and fled. One of them afterwards described the defeat in a few words: "Tecumseh fell and we all ran."
The war was now ended in the Northwest. The Americans had regained the posts taken by the British; they had subdued the Indians, and gained possession of the lands in the Wabash Valley. The power of the Prophet was destroyed. Tecumseh was dead. The Long Knives had crushed forever the Confederacy of Tecumseh, but it had taken upward of five million dollars and an army of twenty thousand men to do it.[Pg 177]
The sun was low in the west and sent long shafts of light across the tops of the trees that bordered a quiet, shining lake in northern Florida. It shone upon a company of Indians who were straggling along the shore, and made their bright turbans and many colored calicoes look gay in spite of dirt and tatters.
The company was a large one. In it were not only braves, but also squaws and pappooses, and a few negroes. They trooped along with the unhurried swiftness and easy disarray of men and women who have journeyed for many days and have many days of travel still before them.
Here and there a strapping brave bestrode a horse, while his squaw trudged beside him, sharing with a black slave the burden of household goods. But for the most part ceremony had given way to necessity and the warriors went afoot, leaving the horses and mules to carry the old men, aged squaws, and young children, who were too feeble to walk.
This was a band of Red Stick Indians who had left forever the camping grounds of their fathers on the Chattahoochee River, to escape the oppression of their[Pg 180] powerful kinsmen, the Creek Indians. They had rebelled against the rule of the Creeks, because the Creeks refused them their share of plunder in battle, and laid claim to their lands and their slaves. The Red Sticks hated the Creeks so bitterly that they could no longer live near them. They were resolved to leave altogether the territory that the United States government recognized as belonging to the Creeks, and seek homes with the Seminoles or runaways in Florida.
The Red Sticks had left the Creek country far behind them, and had arrived, as we have seen, in northern Florida. The land into which they had come was uncultivated, wild, and sweet. The lakes and rivers were full of fish; the forests were full of game; fruits and berries grew in abundance. Everything seemed to invite the wanderers to tarry there and build themselves homes. Still they marched on over rich brown fields, past dancing lakes and streams, over fertile hillsides[Pg 181] shaded with live oak and magnolia. No spot, however beautiful, could induce them to pause for more than a few days' rest. Their object was not to find a pleasant camping ground but to escape the hated Creeks. They were bound for a distant swamp. On the borders of the Okefinokee marsh they planned to make their homes. There they would be reasonably safe from the enemy, and even if the Creeks should follow them there, the swamp would afford them a secure retreat.
But this goal was still many miles away, and the fugitives were now pressing toward a little hill, where they expected to make a short halt.
The young men were silent but alert. Now and again one raised his bow and brought down a goose or a wild turkey, and some youngster plunged into the thicket to find it and fetch it to his mother. Here and there were groups of women burdened with kettles and pans and bundles of old clothes, or carrying small children and raising a great clamor of chatter and laughter.
A little apart from the main company a tall and handsome Indian woman plodded silently along by herself. The splendor of her kerchief had been faded by sun and rain; her skirts were torn by briers, but the necklace of silver beads wound many times about her throat retained its glory. On one hip rested a huge basket, packed and corded. Astride the other rode a sturdy-limbed boy of about four years of age. Nearly all day the child had run by her side without complaint. But toward evening he had begun to lag behind, until at last, when, after a[Pg 182] good run, he caught up with his mother, he clutched her skirts to help himself along. Then she had stooped and picked him up with a sort of fierce tenderness and in a moment he had fallen asleep.
Soon the Indians reached the hilltop where they were to camp for a few days. Their preparations for the night's rest consisted chiefly in building camp fires; for, though the days were warm, the nights were chilly. Besides, fires were needed to cook food and to keep the wild beasts away during the darkness. A small fire of light brush was made first. Then several large logs were placed about it, each with one end in the flame, so that they looked like the spokes of a great wheel radiating from a center of fire. As the ends of the logs burned away, the fiery ring at the center grew wider and dimmer. When a hotter fire was wanted, the logs were pushed toward the center till the glowing ends came together once more and burned briskly.
On the morning after the Red Sticks went into camp on the hill, while others lounged and talked together, the woman wearing the necklace of silver beads still kept apart. She sat on the unburned end of a fire log and for a time paid no heed to the question her small son had repeated many times. At last she looked up and said: "Do not ask again about the baby with the blue eyes. Do not think of her. She does not cry for you. She plays with little Creek pappooses. She is not your sister any more. Go, play at shooting turkeys with black Jim. He loves you like a brother."[Pg 183]
The woman was the daughter of a chief. She had married a man of her own tribe, but after he fell in battle she married a Scotch trader, named Powell, who lived among the Creeks. When the time came for the flight of the Red Sticks her heart turned to her people. She enjoyed too much the glory of being a trader's wife to give up her position and her home without much bitterness. But she was too true an Indian to desert her tribe. As her husband had no notion of leaving his trading station among the Creeks, she had left him and her blue-eyed baby and had come with her kindred, bringing with her her little son, a true Indian, the child of her first husband.
The boy played at shooting wild turkeys with black Jim that day, and many times afterward. As time passed he thought less and less of the blue-eyed sister and more and more of his comrade with a black skin.
These Red Sticks were not the first wanderers who had sought homes and safety in Florida. For some fifty years bands of Indians enticed by the rich hunting grounds, or driven by the persecutions of the Creeks, had left their kindred in Georgia and Alabama to try their fortunes in Florida.
They had found other tribes in possession of the peninsula, but the newcomers were more warlike and[Pg 184] soon made themselves and their claim to the land respected by the natives. Indeed, the immigrants soon came to be looked upon as the ruling people. They were called Seminoles, which means runaways.
The Seminoles would not attend Creek councils. They refused to be bound by treaties made by the Creeks. In all ways they wished to be considered a separate and distinct people.
Among the Florida Indians there lived a people of another race, the Maroons or free negroes. In those days Florida was owned by Spain. Therefore, American slaves once safely within its borders were free men. They became Spanish subjects and their former masters had no power to reclaim them. Florida formed a convenient refuge, and slaves were sure of welcome there, especially if they were willing to exchange a white master for a red one. Most negroes were glad to do this, for the slaves of the Indians were happy, independent slaves. Their chief duty to their masters was to raise for them a few bushels of corn each year. Though the Indians in general regarded themselves as superior to the negroes, the two races of exiles felt strong sympathy and affection for each other. They lived in the same manner, observing common customs. They fought together against a common enemy. They even intermarried.
But the country was extensive and only thinly settled; and so, notwithstanding the frequent increase of their force by Indians and negroes, warriors were still more valuable than land in the eyes of the Seminoles. The tribe of Red Sticks that went to Florida in 1808 was received with great friendliness.
The Indian woman with the silver beads soon married another brave, and went to live on a "hammock" near Fort King, not far from the place where Ocala now stands. She took with her her son. He was called Powell by some who remembered his stepfather, the trader. But his mother called him Osceola, which means[Pg 186] the rising sun. Osceola grew up loving Florida as his home. And, indeed, it was a home that any Indian might have loved.
The climate was healthful for the Indians, and so warm and pleasant that clothing was a matter of small concern. The soil was rich, and corn and koontee were to be had in abundance. The forests were full of deer and small game.
A few skins thrown over some poles afforded sufficient protection for ordinary weather. But if rains made a more substantial dwelling necessary the palmetto furnished material for posts, elevated floor, and thatched roof.
Not least among the advantages of the Florida home were its wonderful waterways leading off through dense mysterious forests, where strange birds called and strange plants grew—a labyrinth full of danger for the intruder, but a safe and joyous retreat for the Seminole floating on the dark water in his dugout.
Though the Indians could have lived comfortably in this country without much effort, the Seminoles did not choose to live in idleness. They saw the flourishing farms of the Spanish settlers and wished to have farms of their own.
So it happened that when Osceola was a boy he saw the Indians around him make the beginnings of what they believed would be permanent homes. He saw them cultivate the soil and tend their herds of cattle and horses and hogs. He watched them build their dwellings and[Pg 187] storehouses—palmetto lodges without walls for themselves, substantial log cribs for their corn and potatoes.
When a child, he imitated not only the warriors and hunters, but made cornfields of sand with tall grass spears for cornstalks, and built "camps" and corncribs out of little sticks.
As he grew older he often hoed the corn and ground the koontee and drove the cattle. He did cheerfully the work of a farmer, though he liked best to hunt and fish and explore. He had a strong boat made by burning out the heart of a large cypress log. In this he often glided swiftly and noiselessly down some stream where the salmon trout lived. He held in his right hand a tough[Pg 188] spear, made of a charred reed with a barbed end. When he saw a fish almost as large as himself close at hand he hurled his harpoon at it with all his force. And the fish darted off, leaving a trail of crimson in the clear water and dragging the boat behind it; for the boy clung to the end of the spear and soused the wounded fish in the water until its strength was exhausted. Then with the help of a friend he dragged it into the boat, and began to watch for another fish.
Osceola was so energetic that he enjoyed work for its own sake. He had unusual endurance, and could keep at work or play long after others were tired. He was a famous ball player, and distinguished himself at the green corn dances. There he drank without flinching such large draughts of the bitter "black drink" that he was nick-named by some "Asseola," which means "black drink."
Once when acting as a guide for a party of Spanish horsemen he asked them why they rode so slowly. They told him that as he was unmounted they traveled easily to accommodate him. He laughed and replied that they might go as fast as they liked, they would hear no complaint from him. At this they spurred their horses to a livelier pace. Then seeing that Osceola still seemed to be making little effort they rode faster and faster to test his swiftness and strength. They were soon convinced that the young Indian had made no idle boast, and rode the entire day as if all the members of the party had had horses. When they reached the end of their journey Osceola seemed less tired than the horsemen.[Pg 189]
Osceola was not only active and enduring. He was also generous and helpful. His bright face, his frank manner, and true kindness made him a great favorite with all who knew him, Indians, negroes, or white men.
When Osceola was a light-hearted boy of twelve, with kind impulses toward every one, something happened to rouse in him a bitter hatred, a thirst for blood.
During the War of 1812 large numbers of negroes in the South took advantage of the general excitement to make good their escape from bondage. The Indians welcomed them and shielded them from bands of slave hunters that made sallies into the Spanish territory for the purpose of recapturing them. In this the Indians were aided by the British, who saw an opportunity to make trouble for the republic on its southern border, while the United States troops were occupied on the Canadian frontier. A British agent built a strong fort on Spanish soil on the Appalachicola River. After the close of the war the British withdrew and left the fort, well filled with ammunition, in the hands of the Indians and negroes.
The Seminoles and their negro friends rejoiced over this. They could not foresee the doom that this fort was to bring upon them.
For many years the Southern people had complained[Pg 190] bitterly against the Seminole Indians for "stealing," as they said, their slaves. The "stealing" consisted in receiving and protecting runaways. The feeling against the Indians was so strong that expeditions into Spanish territory had been made by people on the frontier to capture slaves and punish the Seminoles. But this fort would now be a hindrance to such forays, and the slaveholders demanded that it should be destroyed. They were so persistent in their demands that General Andrew Jackson gave General Gaines directions to invade Spanish territory with United States troops to blow up the fort and return the "stolen negroes" to their rightful owners.
For miles up and down the Appalachicola River the land along the banks was cultivated and divided into small farms, where Indians and negroes lived. When these farmers learned of the approach of the enemy they fled with their wives and children to the fort for protection. Over three hundred men, women, and children crowded into the fort, feeling sure of safety. But when the troops attacked them by land and water, and the cannon roared about the walls of the fort, they were panic-stricken. The women and children shrieked and wrung their hands. The men did not know what to do; they rent the air with fearful yells, but made little attempt at resistance. What would they not have given to exchange the fort walls for an open boat and the endless waterways of the forest?
They were not left long to fear and regret. The[Pg 191] enemy promptly accomplished its purpose. A redhot ball reached the powder magazine of the fort. A terrible explosion followed, destroying the fort and bringing instant death to two hundred and seventy of its inmates.
The story of the horrible death, of the mutilated bodies of the injured men carried off on the boats of the white men, spread all over Florida. At every camp fire the tale was told, and all the old savage thirst for vengeance was stirred in the hearts of men who had begun to care for crops and herds and to dream of days of peace.
The Indians knew that peace with the white man was best for them. But Indian blood had been shed and peace was impossible. Preparations began at once for what was afterward known in history as the First Seminole War. The Indians bought arms and powder from Spanish and British traders. They practised shooting. They explored the country for safe retreats and excellent ambushes. They raised their crops and harvested them. A year passed before the first stroke of vengeance fell.
A boat carrying supplies to Fort Scott was surprised by Indians, and its crew, passengers, and military escort were overpowered and killed. The War Department had been expecting some hostile act on the part of the Seminoles, and was ready for war. The massacre in the vicinity of Fort Scott is usually regarded as the cause of the war of 1818, though it was not without its cause, as has been shown.
General Jackson promptly invaded Florida with a[Pg 192] strong force of United States troops and Creek Indians, to punish the Seminoles. He was met by a motley crowd of Indians and negroes. Even children joined their fathers to resist the approach of the whites and Creeks. Though they did not present an imposing appearance, the Florida Indians and their allies proved to be desperate fighters.
General Jackson first moved against the settlements on the Appalachicola. The Indians and negroes made a stand and fought a battle, but were obliged to retreat. Jackson then secured the provisions the Indians had stored there, burned the villages and pushed on to St. Marks and then to the valley of the Suwanee.
On this march he was much troubled by Indians who hung along his path, making frequent swift attacks and then vanishing in the wilderness. At Old Town a battle was fought in which the Maroons gave the Indians brave assistance. Here again the forces of Jackson were victorious. After suffering heavy losses, the Indians and their allies retreated. They were pursued by a detachment of Jackson's men and driven far to the south.[Pg 193]
The Indians had taken the precaution to move the negro women and children out of reach of the American army, fearing that they would be captured and carried back into slavery, but they had been less careful to conceal their own squaws and pappooses, and Jackson made hundreds of them captives.
The battle of Old Town closed the war. Jackson, feeling that the Indians had been thoroughly beaten, withdrew from Florida, leaving fire and desolation in his track.
The boy Osceola, strong and straight, and with the spirit of an eagle, had played a man's part in the war. He combined with the reckless courage of youth a determination that made him capable of good service in Indian warfare. He was a good scout and an unexcelled messenger. Swift and light, and sure as the arrow he shot from his bow, he had carried signals from chief to chief, he had crept as a spy past the pickets of the enemy, he had acted as runner and guide, taking women and children from exposed villages to the secret recesses of the forest. Nor had his youth exempted him from doing the more deadly work of war.
The Seminoles had lost heavily in the war, but as a nation they had gained some things of great value. The hardships they had suffered together gave the various tribes a stronger feeling of fellowship than they had had before. Black men had fought shoulder to shoulder with red, and would henceforth be less their inferiors and more their friends.[Pg 194]
Not many days passed after General Jackson withdrew his army from Florida before the Seminoles were again established on the fertile lands from which they had been driven. They brought with them their flocks and herds. Before long their simple dwellings were re-built and the Seminole villages seemed as prosperous as ever.
The slaveholders of the South felt that Florida was still a dangerous neighbor. They saw that to mend matters it was necessary that Florida should be made a part of the United States in order that the government should have authority over the Seminoles. So, in the year 1821, through the influence of Southern statesmen the territory of Florida was purchased from Spain for five million dollars.
Now that the people of the United States owned Florida they wished to occupy the land, but the Seminoles claimed it. Many were unwilling to recognize the justice of this claim, however; for it was held that as the Indians were not native tribes but were Creeks they should be compelled to go back to Georgia and live with their kindred.
This proposal gave the Indians great alarm. They expected momentarily that an attempt would be made to expel them from their homes. By spreading a report that Jackson was coming to seize their property and drive them back to live with the Creeks, bands of lawless[Pg 195] men created such a panic among the Indians that they fled into the forests and swamps, leaving their provisions and property for the plunderers to carry off.
Border troubles increased until action could not be postponed longer. A council was called at Camp Moultrie in 1823, where a treaty was made between the United States government and the Seminole Indians.
By the terms of this treaty the Indians were to give up all their land north of the Withlacoochee River, except a few tracts reserved for chiefs. They were bound to stay within the limits of the lands assigned them, and if found in the northern part of the territory without passports were to suffer thirty-nine stripes on the bare back, and give up their firearms. They were also pledged to assist in recapturing fugitive slaves, who in the future should seek refuge among them.
In return for what they had given up the Seminoles were to receive from the United States at once, provisions for one year and six thousand dollars worth of cattle and hogs; and for twenty years thereafter, an annuity of five thousand dollars was to be paid to them. They were also assured that their rights would be protected. The United States promised "to take the Florida Indians under their care and patronage, and afford them protection against all persons whatsoever," and to "restrain and prevent all white persons from hunting, settling, or otherwise intruding, upon said lands."
The effects of this treaty were neither beneficial nor lasting. The Indians were moved from their homes[Pg 196] to the southern part of the peninsula, where the land was poor. While they had once been happy and prosperous, they now became miserable and destitute, and dependent on the annual allowance from the government. The lands they relinquished were soon occupied by white settlers, and the red men and the white were again neighbors. Of course, the border troubles were renewed. The white men would never be satisfied until the Indians were expelled from the peninsula altogether.
The Indians were aware that the white settlers were eager to have them sent away. They tried to keep peace and avoid trouble. If any of their number violated the treaty, the Indians punished him themselves, even inflicting the ignominious thirty-nine stripes. The white men, however, were bent on making mischief. Indeed, one of the lawmakers of the Territory said frankly: "The only course, therefore, which remains for us to rid ourselves of them, is to adopt such a mode of treatment towards them as will induce them to acts that will justify their expulsion by force."
The Indians had yielded many points for the sake of peace, but they were determined not to leave Florida. They believed that if they could abide by the terms of the treaty of Camp Moultrie for its full period of twenty years the United States government would admit their right to stay in Florida permanently.
Osceola was most active in trying to preserve peace. He had now grown to manhood. He had married Morning-Dew, the daughter of a chief, and they were[Pg 197] living together happily near Fort King. Osceola was not a chief, but he was well known and liked among the Indians. He used his influence to keep the rash young men from violating the treaty. He wished to see the Seminoles do their full duty to the white people, not because he was fond of the white race, but because he thought it well for the Indians that the peace should not be broken.
His eagerness to keep the Indians in order made him greatly liked at Fort King. His services were often demanded there as guide or informer. But while he made every effort to keep the Indians from doing wrong, he did not think the white men blameless and said so frankly. He accused them of failure to punish men who were guilty of committing crimes against the Indians, of unfairness in seizing negroes, of theft of property, and of withholding annuities. Osceola's was a good kind of patriotism—he did not consider his enemies[Pg 198] right, but he wanted his own people to be right, and did his best to make them so.
But Indians, who are by nature revengeful, could not be expected to endure wrongs without some retaliation. Their complaints of injustice were met by the proposition that they move beyond the Mississippi, out of the white man's reach.
The nature of their grievances is clearly shown in a "talk" which Chief John Hicks sent to the President in January, 1829. He said:
" * * * We are all Seminoles here together. We want no long talk; we wish to have it short and good. We are Indians and the whites think we have no sense; but what our minds are, we wish to have our big father know.
"When I returned from Washington, all my warriors were scattered—in attempting to gather my people I had to spill blood midway in my path. I had supposed that the Micanopy people had done all the mischief, and I went with my warriors to meet the Governor with two. When I met the Governor at Suwanee he seemed to be afraid; I shook hands with him. I gathered all my people and found that none was missing, and that the mischief had been done by others. The Governor had them put in prison. I was told that if one man kills another we must not kill any other man in his place, but find the person who committed the murder and kill him. One of my people was killed and his murderer's bones are now white at Tallahassee. Another one that had done[Pg 199] us mischief was killed at Alpaha. A black man living among the whites has killed one of my people and I wish to know who is to give me redress. Will my big father answer? When our law is allowed to operate, we are quick; but they say the black man is subject to the laws of the white people; now I want to see if the white people do as they say. We wish our big father to say whether he will have the black man tried for the murder of one of our people. If he will give him up to us, the sun shall not move before he has justice done to him. We work for justice, as well as the white people do. I wish my friend and father to answer. In answer we may receive a story, for men going backwards and forwards have not carried straight talks.
"I agreed to send away all the black people who had no masters, and I have done it; but still they are sending to me for negroes. When an Indian has bought a black man they come and take him away again, so that we have no money and no negroes, too. A white man sells us a negro and then turns around and claims him again, and our father orders us to give him up. There is a negro girl in Charleston that belongs to my daughter—her name is Patience. I want her restored to me. She has a husband here; she has a child about a year old. I want my big father to cause them to be sent to me, to do as he compels me to do, when I have just claims. If my father is a true friend, he will send me my property by our agent, who has gone to Washington. I have been told by the Governor that all runaway negroes must[Pg 200] be given up, but that all those taken in war, were good property to us; but they have taken away those taken in war, and those we have raised from children. * * *
"Will my father listen now to the voice of his children? He told me we were to receive two thousand dollars' worth of corn—where is it? We have received scarcely any, not even half, according to our judgment, of what was intended for us. If the Governor and the white people have done justly in this we wish our big father to let us know. We were promised presents for twenty-one years; we have received nothing but a few promises. It seems that they have disappeared before they reached us, or that our big father did not intend to give them to us. We were promised money, but we have not received a cent for this year. What has become of it? We wish our big father to ask the Governor. The white people say that we owe them, which is not true. We did take some goods of an Indian trader, Mr. Marsh, to whom the Governor had promised part of our money. We took the goods because we were afraid we should never get what was ours in any other way; they amounted to fifteen hundred dollars. We understand that Mr. Bellamy has received from the Governor sixteen hundred dollars; what is it for? The Indians do not owe him anything,—he has lost no property by us,—we have taken none of his cattle. If a tiger has killed one, it is charged to the Indians. If they stray away and are lost for a time, it is charged to the Indians. He has lost nothing by us; but my people have suffered loss[Pg 201] from him. He has taken all the Indians' hogs that he could lay his hands on. * * * He has taken hogs—one hundred head—from one man. We can not think of giving away sixteen hundred dollars for nothing. According to the white man's laws, if a man takes that which does not belong to him, he has to return it and pay for the damages. Will our great father see that this man restores to us what he has unjustly taken from us, for we look to our big father to fulfill his promises and give us the presents and money that are due to us. We understand that Colonel Piles has received some of the money that is due to us; he is a good man; when we were perishing with hunger he gave us to eat and drink. He is entitled to what he has received. It appears that the Seminoles who have done no mischief, have to suffer, as well as the few that have been guilty—this does not appear to be right to us. By stopping our money, the Governor has prevented our paying just debts, the debts we owe to the licensed Indian traders, who have trusted us under the expectation that we would pay them when we received our money. Our father has put two agents to look over us; our agent, Colonel Humphries, has not seen any of the money or presents that belong to us. * * *
"I am getting to be very old, and I wish my bones to be here. I do not wish to remove to any other land, according to what I told my father. When great men say anything to each other, they should have good memories. Why does Colonel White plague me so much[Pg 202] about going over the Mississippi? We hurt nothing on this land. I have told him so before."
One day when Osceola was at Fort King he was told that a great council was to be held at Payne's Landing, about twenty miles from the fort. The Indians' "white father" had sent special messengers to talk with the Seminoles, and all the leading men of the nation were summoned to come to hear his words.
Osceola knew that the message was about the Seminoles' leaving Florida. He was bitterly opposed to that project. He knew that some of the old chiefs were very easily influenced, and that the white men had a way of getting them to make promises in council which they afterwards regretted. He therefore wished that none of the Indians would attend the council. Then no action could be taken.
He went around advising men not to go to Payne's Landing. But the white men sent their messengers near and far, calling in the chiefs and head men. Early in May the streams were full of canoes and the forest paths were traveled by bands of Indians on their way to Payne's Landing. Seeing this, Osceola decided to go to the council himself, and do what he could there to prevent the chiefs from making any rash agreements.
Osceola was not a chief, but he was a recognized leader[Pg 203] of the young men, and as he sat in the council house, stern and alert, many a glance was cast in his direction to see how he was impressed by the white man's talk.
He listened to the interpreter eagerly and learned that the President wished the Seminoles to give up the land that had been reserved for them by the treaty of Camp Moultrie. In exchange they were to occupy a tract of land of the same extent west of the Mississippi River in Arkansas among the Creek Indians. A delegation of chiefs was to visit the country and if "they" were satisfied with the country, the Seminoles were to be transported to it in three divisions, one in 1833, one in 1834, and the last in 1835. Something was said about the payment of annuities, about the distribution of blankets and homespun frocks, and compensation for cattle and slaves stolen by the whites. But the point that concerned Osceola most of all was that the Seminoles were expected to leave Florida and live among the Creeks west of the Mississippi! Still there was no reason to be distressed about it, he thought, for it was to be done only if the Florida Indians were willing to make the change, and he knew that the Seminoles would never consent to leave Florida. With arms folded across his breast and a calm eye he watched one chief after another take the pen and make at the end of the treaty his mark or signature.
A short time afterwards seven chiefs and the faithful negro interpreter, Abraham, left for Arkansas to examine the new country. The delegation returned in April, 1833.[Pg 204]
Then the Indians asked, "When will the white men meet the red to hear what they think about going towards the setting sun?"
"There will be no council," said the agent. "You promised to go if the delegates liked the land. They like the land. Now you must go without any more talk."
"No, no! We promised to go if we were suited with the land when they told us about it!" exclaimed the Indians.
The agent repeated, "You gave your word to your white father that you would go if the country pleased your chiefs. The chiefs were well pleased." Then he added, "They met your white father's messengers on the new land and pledged their faith that you would go. They promised for you. They signed another treaty. You agreed to do as your chiefs wished. Your chiefs have promised your white father. There is no help for it. You must go."
When Osceola heard this he was in a rage. The white men had got the chiefs away from their own people and induced them to make promises they had no right to make. What right had Charley A. Mathla to promise for him or to promise for Micanopy, the head chief of the nation?
Osceola was not the only indignant one. All the Indians were in a fury with the government agents. They felt that they had been tricked, caught by a phrase they did not understand. They believed that undue influence had been brought to bear upon their chiefs. Had[Pg 205] the delegates been allowed to return to Florida to give their report, some Indians would have heard it with favor, but all were angered because the chiefs had been influenced to make an additional treaty at Fort Gibson without consulting their people. But the Indians were usually as severe in their judgment of their own race as in their condemnation of another and they did not spare the chiefs who had signed the additional treaty. Men and women alike held them in supreme contempt. They scolded, they ridiculed till the men in self defense declared that they had not signed the treaty, and gave so many reasons why the Seminoles should not go west that the spirit against emigration was more positive than ever.
The faith of even those Indians who had striven to keep peace with the United States was destroyed by the "Additional Treaty" and a general feeling of ill will prevailed. The Indians refused to surrender negroes claimed as slaves by the white people, and were so hostile that in 1834 General Jackson, then president of the United States, determined to force them to leave if necessary. He had the treaties ratified by the Senate, appointed a new Indian agent, and ordered that preparations for the removal of the Indians should be pushed with all speed.
In October the new Indian agent called a council. This time Osceola went about urging the Indians to attend and advising the chiefs about their talks. In the council the slender, energetic, young warrior sat next to the fat, inactive old chief, Micanopy. Osceola had no right to speak in council, but there was no man there who[Pg 206] had more influence. If Micanopy wavered under the stern eye of the white man, he heard the voice of Osceola in his ear and did the young man's bidding.
Micanopy denied signing the treaty of Payne's Landing. When shown his mark he declared that he had not touched the pen, though he had been on the point of doing so, "for," he said, "the treaty was to examine the country and I believed that when the delegation returned, the report would be unfavorable. It is a white man's treaty, and the white man did not make the Indian understand it as he meant it." He finished by saying that he had agreed to the treaty of Camp Moultrie and that by the terms of that treaty southern Florida belonged to the Seminoles for twenty years, scarcely half of which had passed.
Other chiefs spoke and said bitter things. The agent became angry and threatened to withhold the annuity unless the Indians signed a paper agreeing to leave without further trouble.
At this Osceola's eyes flashed fire; he sprang up like a tiger and declared that he did not care if the Indians never received another dollar of the white man's money; he and his warriors would never sign away their liberty and land for gold. Then, drawing his knife from his belt, he raised it high in the air and plunged it through document and table, exclaiming, "The only treaty I will sign is with this!"[Pg 207]
The new Indian agent, General Thompson, had marked Osceola as a man of power. He thought it wise to make friends with him. So when Osceola went to Fort King he was cordially received by the agent. Once on returning from New York the latter brought Osceola a beautiful new rifle, which was worth one hundred dollars. Osceola was pleased with the rifle and pleased with this evidence of General Thompson's regard for him. But he was not to be bought by gifts to forsake the cause of the Seminoles.
He saw that the white men were actually getting ready to move the Indians; they were preparing transports at Tampa and making ready for the sale of the Indians' cattle. Another council was called at Fort King.
On the night before this council, Osceola spoke to a gathering of chiefs who had met secretly in Micanopy's village. He told them that, whatever happened in council, they must be prepared to resist force with force should the white men attempt to compel the Indians to emigrate. They must take advantage of every opportunity to buy powder and lead, to increase their store of food and ammunition. He advised them to declare in council their wish for peace, but to maintain firmly that they were determined never to leave Florida.
At the council the next day, Jumper acting as spokesman for the Indians expressed these views. When he had finished, the agent arose and rebuked the Indians[Pg 208] for breaking their word. His charge of dishonor excited the Indians and many lost their tempers. In the confusion that followed, General Clinch threatened to order in the soldiers if the Indians did not sign the compact to leave Florida, without further parley. This threat proved to be effectual. Several chiefs signed, but three of the leading chiefs refused to do so. For punishment General Thompson ordered that their names should be stricken from the list of chiefs. This enraged the Indians and the agent realized that he had lost more than he had gained by the council. He sent[Pg 209] word to Washington that the Indians were in no mood to leave Florida and that there would be bloodshed if an attempt was made to enforce the treaty of Payne's Landing. Accordingly, the date for embarking was changed to a more distant date.
Osceola made good use of the delay in adding to his war supplies; but one day he was refused powder. This indignity surprised and offended him. A refusal to give an Indian firearms or powder was evidence of distrust, and Osceola was used to respectful usage. "Am I a negro, a slave?" he exclaimed. "My skin is dark, but not black. I am a red man, a Seminole. The white man shall not treat me as if I were black. I will make the white man red with blood and then let him grow black in the sun and rain." His language became so violent that General Thompson ordered him put in irons and cast into prison.
Alone in the dark, Osceola ceased to rave. Thoughts of a terrible vengeance soothed him. He planned it all carefully. After several days had passed he seemed repentant. He asked to see General Thompson and said he had spoken in anger. He expressed his friendship for the agent and his willingness to assist in persuading the Indians to live up to their treaty.
After he was liberated Osceola seemed as good as his word. His manner at the Fort changed. He even brought in two or three sub-chiefs to sign the treaty. The agent was completely deceived and believed he had gained a powerful ally.[Pg 210]
When the Indians learned that Osceola had been put in irons they felt his wrong as their own and wished to visit the agent with swift punishment. But Osceola looked at the place on his wrist where the fetters had been and said: "That is my affair. Leave General Thompson to me. Your part is to see that no Indian leaves Florida."
Almost daily something happened to show both Indians and white men that they could no longer live together in peace. One evening while a little company of Indians was camping in a hammock cooking supper, a party of white men came upon them, seized their rifles, examined their camping equipment and then fell to beating them. While they were occupied in this way some friends of the campers came up and seeing the plight of their comrades opened fire on the white men. The latter returned the fire and killed an Indian.
While the Indians blamed the white men for this affair the white men held the Indians responsible for it. They ordered out the militia to protect the citizens and punish the Indians. Both parties believed that the time had come for definite action. By definite action the white men meant the transportation of the Seminoles, the Indians meant war. The former pushed forward preparations at Tampa, and issued a summons to all Indians to come in, sell their cattle and pledge themselves to assemble on the first of January 1836 for their journey. The latter held a council and decided that while the Indians promised to assemble at the beginning of the year it[Pg 211] should be for war rather than emigration. They further agreed that the first Indian to sell his cattle and prepare in good faith to go should be punished with death.
As might be inferred from this decision, there were some Seminoles whose loyalty to their race could not be counted on. A chief, Charley A. Mathla, who had been one of the delegates to visit Arkansas, was one of these. As he was known to be on good terms with the white people, Osceola ordered that he should be closely watched. He soon learned that there was only too much ground for his suspicion. Charley was getting ready to leave; he had driven his cattle to Tampa and sold them to the white people. If he were allowed to go unpunished other wavering ones would soon follow his example. Osceola wished his warriors to know from the start that punishment for disobedience to him would be more swift and terrible than anything they need fear for disobeying the white man.
With a few faithful followers he hastened through the wilderness towards the village of Charley A. Mathla. There scouts brought him word that Chief Charley was on his way home from Tampa. The war party hid among the trees where the trail to the village passed through a hammock. They had not waited long before the chief came swiftly along the path. Osceola rose and fired. His comrades followed his example. Charley A. Mathla fell forward on the path without a word, dead.
One of the party seized a handkerchief that the dead chief grasped in his hand and showed Osceola[Pg 212] that it was full of money. Osceola took the offered treasure and cast the glittering coins far from him. The Indians watched them disappear among the green leaves with surprise and regret. But their leader said, "Do not touch his gold; it was bought with the red man's blood."
In a short time news of the murder of Charley A. Mathla reached Fort King. With it came a rumor that the Indians were holding councils of war in the villages of the Big Swamp. But it was impossible for the agent to get definite information, as the woods were full of hostile Indian scouts. The runners who were on friendly terms with the men at the fort feared to venture beyond the protection of its guns lest they should suffer the fate of Charley A. Mathla.
After the shooting, Osceola and his followers repaired to the fastnesses of Wahoo Swamp, where for some time Indians had been assembling from exposed villages. Here were collected vast stores of ammunition and food supplies, herds of cattle, women and children and old men, both red and black, and many warriors of the two races.
Osceola was now recognized as a war chief. In council no one was listened to more eagerly than he. While addressing the assembled warriors he said: "Remember, it is not upon women and children that we make war and draw the scalping knife. It is upon men. Let[Pg 213] us act like men. Do not touch the money of the white man or his clothes. We do not fight for these things. The Seminole is fighting for his hunting grounds."
Definite plans were made for opening the war at once. Negroes living in the neighborhood of Fort Brooke near Tampa had brought word that Major E. L. Dade was to conduct reënforcements from Fort Brooke to Fort King. The detachment would pass on its march within a short distance of Wahoo Swamp and might easily be surprised and overpowered. Plans were formed for such an attack. Several days would probably pass, however, before Major Dade's force, encumbered with cannon and marching through marshes, would reach the point best suited for the Indians' attack.
In the meantime Osceola must make a visit to Fort King. There was a white man there whose scalp he had sworn should be the first one taken in the war. With a small band of warriors he started on his errand of vengeance.
Osceola knew General Thompson's habits. He was accustomed to take a walk after dinner while he smoked a cigar. Frequently he walked some distance from the fort, going out towards the sutler's house, where he sometimes had business. Osceola determined to wait for him in that vicinity.
He and his comrades lay closely concealed, and watched without ceasing. But for several days the weather was unpleasant and the agent did not go beyond the fort. Still the Indians waited. At last a fine day[Pg 214] dawned, and shortly after noon Osceola saw from his hiding place two men approaching the sutler's house. From afar he knew that one was General Thompson. He crept closer to the path; his friends followed; all were silent as serpents. The unsuspecting men came nearer, laughing and talking in easy security. Rising on one knee, Osceola took steady aim and fired. Instantly other shots rang through the still air and the two men lay dead on the earth.
The Indians quickly scalped their victims. Then they hurried to the sutler's house, where they found several men at dinner; they surrounded the house and shot and[Pg 215] scalped its inmates. When this was done they set fire to the house and took their leave with an exultant war whoop. No one pursued them; those who heard the shots and the war whoop, and saw the flaming house supposed a large war party had come to attack the place, and were afraid to investigate.
The Indians meanwhile left the neighborhood with all speed. They had stayed longer than they had intended and they were anxious to reach the swamp in time to share in the attack on Major Dade and his men. They set off through the forest, a grim and terrible company, smeared with war paint and stained with human blood. Their knives and tomahawks were red; fresh scalps dangled from their belts or swung from poles carried over their shoulders. At the head of the company strode Osceola. On his head he wore a red and blue kerchief twisted to form a turban, from whose center waved three splendid ostrich plumes.
Darkness fell before the company reached the swamp, but as they drew near to its outskirts they saw the luminous smoke of camp fires over the trees and heard faint yells. This told them they had come too late for the struggle, but in time to celebrate the victory. They were greeted by the revelers with wild shouts of delight. All joined in a hideous dance about a pole on which were fastened the scalps that had been taken that day.
From the old chief, Micanopy, and his sub-chiefs, Jumper and Alligator, Osceola learned the details of that day's action. About two hundred warriors had taken[Pg 216] their station in the outskirts of the swamp to await the coming of Major Dade and his one hundred and ten soldiers. They sent out scouts who brought them exact information concerning Dade's route and all his movements. They knew the information to be reliable, for they obtained it from Dade's guide, Louis, a slave, who was in sympathy with the Indians and Maroons. On the third day of their march the troops reached the point the Indians had decided upon as best adapted to their purpose. But neither Micanopy nor Osceola was present and many were unwilling to act without them. Some young warriors set out for Micanopy's camp and forced him to come with them to the scene of action. Even then he advised delay and it took all Jumper's eloquence to induce the old man to give the command for attack on the following morning.
Meanwhile Dade's men spent a good night in their camp, little dreaming how near to them was the enemy. On the morning of the twenty-eighth of December they resumed their march in good spirits.
The Indians had left the swamp and hidden themselves in a pine barren, near which the roadway wound. On one side was a deep swamp; on the other, a thin pine forest with a swamp beyond it. They found hiding places behind trees or on the ground sheltered by the saw palmetto and brush.
From their hiding places the Indians saw the advance guard come into sight, reach, and pass them. Still Micanopy did not fire the signal shot. Now the main[Pg 217] division was coming with Major Dade on horseback at the head. On marched the soldiers with unwavering tramp, tramp. The warriors crouched with muskets ready. Micanopy fired and Jumper raised the yell. Instantly the green waste was awake with the flash and bang of muskets, with death cries and savage yells. A white smoke hid the scene for a moment. When it cleared away, the road was strewn with the dead and dying. The Indians having reloaded their guns, rushed from their hiding places to finish their work.
Some of Dade's men sprang to the thicket to seek refuge behind trees. They were followed and shot down. Others caught their feet in the heavy stems of the palmetto and, stumbling, fell an easy prey to their pursuers. The officers who had escaped the first fire did their best to rally the men. The cannon was brought into action and added its roar to the din of battle. But its balls went over the heads of the Indians and they succeeded in shooting the gunners before they could do any harm.
The contest seemed over. The warriors were scattered in pursuit of fugitives or busy scalping the dead, when a negro brought word to Jumper that a number of the soldiers had collected and were building a fort of logs with the cannon to protect them. Jumper raised the yell and called together his Indians for a charge on the little company of brave men who were making their last stand behind tree trunks placed on the ground in the form of a triangle. The soldiers had exhausted their powder and were able to offer only a feeble resistance to the savages, who shot them down without mercy.
The Indians carried off their own dead and wounded—three dead and five wounded. But they left the bodies of Dade's men to tell their own story to those who should find them. So well were the commands of Osceola heeded that months later when white troops found the dead, their money, watches and clothes were untouched.
The battle over, the Indians returned to the swamp to await Osceola, count scalps, and celebrate their victory. Of one hundred and ten soldiers only four escaped.[Pg 219]
As a fire that has smoldered long flames up in many places at once, so the war broke out with several actions in quick succession. The tidings of the slaughter at Fort King had not become generally known and the Indians had not slept after Dade's massacre, before preparations were afoot for another assault.
Scarcely had the victors wearied of shouting and dancing when an Indian, exhausted, not with revelry, but with swift running through forest and swamp, came into the camp, bringing important news. A council of chiefs was called. The bowl of honey water was passed around and when all had drunk from the deep ladle, the messenger rose to give his message. He told the chiefs that General Clinch had left Fort Drane with two hundred regulars and four hundred Florida volunteers, and was already far advanced into the[Pg 220] Indian country. Indeed he was even now approaching the Withlacoochee River.
Micanopy, with his usual caution, advised the Indians to keep out of the way of such a large force. But his hearers were in no mood to listen to his faint-hearted advice; they had been emboldened by their recent victories and responded to the fearless daring of Osceola. One hundred and fifty Indians and fifty negroes volunteered to go with Osceola and Alligator to intercept General Clinch and his six hundred soldiers.
With one accord the warriors bounded off towards the ford of the Withlacoochee. There the water was only two feet deep, and as it was the only place where the river could be crossed without boats, there could be little doubt that the white general would lead his forces to this point before attempting to cross the river.
For a day and a night the Indians waited to give their enemy a deadly welcome. In the neighborhood of the ford there was no sound to interrupt the music of the river, no sight to disturb the peace of the dense forest. But on the morning of the following day, scouts came skulking through the trees, and in a few minutes the apparently unpeopled place was alive with red men.
The scouts brought word that General Clinch and two hundred of his men had already crossed the river. They had made the passage slowly and laboriously in an old canoe that carried only eight at a time. But they were now advancing on this side of the river. Many a warrior's heart failed him when he heard this. But Osceola's[Pg 221] dauntless spirit rose to the emergency. He cheered his men with words of such good courage that they were soon following him with new enthusiasm to a hill, where he posted them in a hammock to await the enemy.
On the morning of the last day of the year, General Clinch advanced towards the hammock. He was aware of the presence of hostile Indians, but not knowing of the outrages they had already committed, he felt reluctant to attack them. He sent messages to Osceola telling him that it was useless for the Indians to struggle against the white man and advising him not to enter upon a war that could end only with the destruction of his race.
To this humane counsel Osceola replied with haughty independence: "You have guns, and so have we; you have powder and lead, and so have we; you have men, and so have we; your men will fight, and so will ours until the last drop of the Seminoles' blood has moistened the dust of his hunting grounds." He added, what then seemed to the whites an idle boast, that after a few weeks' further preparation the Seminoles would be ready to enter upon a five years' struggle for the hunting grounds of Florida.
At about noon General Clinch charged up the hill. He was greeted with a lively fire, but his men were tried fighters and were not checked. On they came calmly returning the fire of the enemy. The Indians and negroes offered a determined resistance. If they wavered, the shrill and terrible "Yo-ho-e-hee" of their leader gave them new courage. Everywhere his white plumes waved[Pg 222] in the thick of the fight. The fire of his warriors broke upon the enemy always at the most unexpected point, and had it not been for the bravery of General Clinch, the Indians would have driven the soldiers back to the river, on the other side of which four hundred volunteers were watching the battle. But they held their ground, and at last Osceola was so seriously wounded that he ordered a retreat.
For an hour and twenty minutes the battle had raged. The loss of the Indians was slight. When at Osceola's signal the wild yells ceased and the Indians disappeared in the forest, they bore with them only three dead and five wounded. General Clinch had suffered much heavier loss. Eight of his men had been killed and forty wounded.
The Seminoles were highly elated by the success of the first engagements of the war. They regarded the battle on the Withlacoochee as a great victory, and Osceola's praises were on every lip. The old and timid Micanopy, head chief of the Seminoles by birth, kept that title of honor. But Osceola who, before the war opened, was not so much as a sub-chief and had but two constant followers, had been the real power in planning the hostile acts that opened the second Seminole war. All knew this and they now made him head war chief of the nation. He was only thirty-two years old, but he had the respect of all. With his own hand he had taken vengeance on the great white man who had wronged him; with his own hand he had punished the traitor chief,[Pg 223] Charley A. Mathla. He had planned the massacre of Dade's troops. With a small band of Indians and negroes he had engaged the forces of General Clinch for more than an hour, inflicting heavy loss. His words had kindled the spirit of war throughout Florida.
On the border, lawless young men were spreading terror and desolation; in the month of January sixteen well stocked plantations were laid waste by the Indians. In the distant swamp, Indian women were moulding bullets for the warriors. Through all the forest paths war parties were hurrying towards the camp of Osceola. The leader of each carried a bundle of sticks, each stick representing a warrior under his command. These were given to Osceola—but how many sticks there were only the Seminoles knew.
The hostile actions of the Seminoles at the close of the year 1835 convinced the War Department of the United States that the Seminole Indians would not submit to be driven from one section of the country to another like sheep. Though the combined force of Indian and negro warriors was not supposed to be greater than twelve hundred, their treacherous nature and the wildness of the country, made the task of subduing them so difficult as to require many times that number of soldiers. General Clinch was already in the field quar[Pg 224]tered at Fort Drane, not far from the village of Micanopy. There were several forts in the Indian country, but they were meagerly garrisoned. General Scott was made commanding general of the army in Florida, with authority to call on the governors of South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama for assistance. He went to work at once to raise a force for an Indian war.
Meanwhile Major General Gaines, who was commander of the Western Military Department, started to Florida with a force of more than a thousand men. He ventured into the Seminoles' country with the hope of meeting them and fighting a decisive battle. He passed the scene of the Dade massacre and saw the work the savages had done, and after burying the dead he continued his march to Fort King. But in the whole of his march he saw not a single Indian. He had expected to find supplies for his army at Fort King, but being disappointed in this, he was obliged to return to Tampa with all speed.
While looking for the ford across the Withlacoochee River he ran into an Indian ambush and was so harassed by the savages that he had to give up his plan of crossing the river and go into camp. He had ordered General Clinch to meet him in this neighborhood, and he sent out expresses to see what prospect there was of his arrival. The Indians were gathering in large numbers, and he believed that if General Clinch arrived in time their combined forces could surround them and crush them. But his supply of food was so reduced[Pg 225] that he was obliged to have his horses killed to provide the men with meat. All the while the Indians were lying in wait and assailing all who ventured beyond the fortifications of the camp.
On the fifth of February a negro who spoke good English came to the camp and asked to see General Gaines. The latter supposed he was a messenger from General Clinch, and ordered that the negro be sent at once to his tent. To the general's surprise the negro announced that he was Cæsar, the slave of the Seminole chief Micanopy, and that he had been sent by the Indians to say that they were tired of fighting and wished to make a treaty of peace. General Gaines told Cæsar that he had no power to make treaties, but that if the chiefs would pay him a visit the next day, he would grant them a truce and notify the President of the United States that his red children wanted to be at peace.
Cæsar had acted without consulting any one; he had been a favorite and had his own way with Micanopy until he thought himself greater than his master. He had grown tired of the hardships of war and decided to[Pg 226] put a stop to it. When he returned and gave a report of his visit, the Indians were so angry that they were ready to kill him. The negroes, however, defended him, and Osceola, fearing trouble between the allies, used his influence to save him. Osceola's interference in Cæsar's behalf displeased some of the chiefs so much that they deserted without ceremony.
As Osceola was ready enough to visit the camp of General Gaines to see his force, he went with other chiefs on the following day, as Cæsar had promised, to hold an interview with General Gaines. Scarcely had the interview begun when General Clinch arrived and seeing a crowd of Indians at the entrance of the camp fired on them. This action broke up all parley; the Indians thought they had been dealt with treacherously and fled.
Since the Indian forces had been weakened and the strength of the enemy greatly increased, Osceola decided that it would be best for his warriors to withdraw and gave directions for them to disperse. The next day the two generals found their enemy gone. Their supplies were too low to justify an attempt to pursue them, and General Gaines returned to Tampa and General Clinch to Fort Drane without accomplishing anything.
Though General Clinch had not attempted to follow the Indians, Osceola and his warriors lost no time in finding his stronghold. They succeeded in making his fine plantation at Fort Drane so uncomfortable that in July when his crops were at their best he was obliged to leave it. Osceola immediately took possession of the[Pg 227] place, and occupied it with grim pleasure until he was driven out a month later by Major Pearce.
During the spring and summer several skirmishes between the Indians and United States soldiers occurred, in which the Indians and their black allies fought with remarkable pluck, perseverance, and success.
The want of troops trained for Indian fighting, the unwholesome climate, ignorance of the country, the absence of roads and bridges, and the difficulty of getting supplies had made it almost impossible to invade Florida without large sacrifice of life and treasure. The people of the United States, not appreciating the difficulties, complained so much of the delay that General Scott was removed from the command and General Jesup was promoted to the command in Florida.
In November, before General Jesup assumed control, an engagement took place which for a time threatened to close the war. On the eighteenth of November a force of five hundred soldiers attacked a company of Indians. After a fierce battle the Indians fled, leaving twenty-five dead on the field. This was counted by them their first defeat, for so long as they carried away their dead they did not admit themselves to be defeated. Three days later they rallied to meet General Call, who was advancing upon Wahoo swamp with over a thousand men. This was the stronghold of the Indians. Here their provisions, their cattle, their wives and children were hidden. The Indians had much at stake and made a strong defense. At last, however, they were compelled[Pg 228] to retreat across the river. But they took their stand on the opposite bank behind a sand ridge, prepared to fight to the death.
The commander knew that if he could penetrate the Wahoo swamp successfully he would bring the Seminole War to an end; but before him rolled the swift dark waters of the Withlacoochee, and beyond waited the Indians like tigers at bay. He decided not to make the attempt.
On the eighth of December 1836, under most favorable circumstances, General Jesup took command of the Florida War and entered upon an energetic campaign. He had under his command about eight thousand men. Among these were several hundred Creek Indians hired to fight the Seminoles with the promise of "the pay and emoluments, and equipments of soldiers in the army of the United States and such plunder as they may take from the Seminoles."
It will be remembered that Osceola had told the Indians that the war was not against women and children. General Jesup took a different view of the matter. His first step was to make a series of sudden raids upon the villages on the Withlacoochee in which he seized unprotected women and children. By his frequent sorties he drove the Indians south or divided them. On the twelfth of January he reported that he had sent mounted men in[Pg 229] pursuit of Osceola, who was hiding with only three followers and his family.
The capture of women and children broke the spirit of the Indians. They felt that if their wives and children must be sent to Arkansas perhaps they would be happier there with them than in Florida without them. Accordingly many listened with favor to General Jesup's invitation to come to Fort Dade and hold a council to decide on terms of capitulation.
On the sixth of March, 1837, five chiefs and a large number of sub-chiefs met General Jesup at Fort Dade. They agreed to emigrate according to the terms of the treaty of Payne's Landing, but insisted that their negroes should be allowed to accompany them. This point was at last conceded them, and the fifth article of the terms of capitulation contained these words: "The Seminoles and their allies who come in and emigrate to the west shall be secure in their lives and property; their negroes, their bona fide property, shall accompany them west."
Large numbers of Indians expressed their willingness to sign these terms and assembled at a point near Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay, where twenty-eight vessels waited in the harbor to transport them. Even Osceola is said to have sent word that he and his family would emigrate with the rest. The camp at Fort Brooke grew larger every day.
General Jesup was well satisfied. He reported that the Florida war was ended. And indeed it might have been had the terms of the agreement been adhered to.[Pg 230] But slave claims were pushed; unprincipled men went into the Indians' territory and seized negroes; there was bitter complaint against the fifth article of the compact. At last General Jesup was induced to change that article so that it should contain a promise by the Indians to deliver up all negroes, belonging to white men who had been taken during the war.
This change was made with the knowledge and consent of only one chief, Alligator. When the Indians in general became aware that the terms of capitulation had been tampered with they were highly indignant.
General Jesup appointed a day on which all negroes taken during the war were to be brought in, but no attention was paid to his order. He then sent Osceola the following message: "I intend to send exploring parties into every part of the country during the summer, and I shall send out all the negroes who belong to the white people, and you must not allow the Indians or their negroes to mix with them. I am sending for bloodhounds to trail them, and I intend to hang every one of them who does not come in."
When Osceola received this message and learned that ninety negroes had already been seized by General Jesup as belonging to the whites he declared that the agreement had been violated and that the signers were therefore no longer bound by it. He instructed those encamped at Tampa to disperse. The old chief, Micanopy, refused to do so or to give the command to his people. One night early in June, Osceola entered the camp and visited[Pg 231] the tent of the sleeping Micanopy. As he had always done before, the old man yielded to the wonderful personal influence of Osceola and did his bidding like a child.
On the morning of the fifth of June, General Jesup was awakened by an officer who came hurrying to tell him that the Indians had gone. Surely enough the great camp had vanished in the night. The captives had fled. Already they were safe in their marshy fastnesses. Families were reunited; all had had rest and food and clothes. The coming sickly season would make it impossible to pursue them till their growing crops were harvested. The Seminole war with all its difficulties was reopened.
Osceola, who a few months before had been a hunted fugitive with only three followers, without hope for himself or his people, was again a powerful war chief. With a brighter outlook his natural cheerfulness of disposition returned, and he hoped and planned great things for the coming autumn.
Early in September he learned that his good friend "King Philip" had been captured with eleven followers by General Joseph Hernandez. King Philip's son, Wild Cat, came to him, saying he had been to St. Augustine to see his father, that the palefaces had treated him well and had allowed him to carry his father's messages to his friends. The old chief wanted Osceola to come to St. Augustine to arrange for his liberation.
Osceola, always generous and ready to serve a friend,[Pg 232] sent back to General Hernandez a finely wrought bead pipe and a white plume to indicate that the path between them was now white and safe and to inquire whether it would be safe for his return.
Wild Cat soon returned to Osceola with presents and friendly messages from the general. With the hope of gaining the release of King Philip, Osceola started for St. Augustine with a large attendance of warriors. Wild Cat went in advance to announce his coming. With a great show of regard General Hernandez went out to meet Osceola with a store of supplies. He met his advance guard, and learning that Osceola would not arrive till evening, left word that Osceola should choose a camping ground near Fort Peyton, and went back to communicate with General Jesup.
The next morning General Hernandez rode out dressed in full uniform and escorted by his own staff and many of the officers of General Jesup's staff. He found Osceola and Chief Alligator with seventy-one picked warriors assembled under the white flag for council. The warriors had brought with them the women of King Philip's family, and about one hundred negroes to be given up in exchange for the prisoner.
After the usual greetings and ceremonies General Hernandez took out a paper and said that General Jesup wanted to know the Indians' answer to these questions: "What is your object in coming? What do you expect? Are you prepared to deliver up at once the slaves taken from the citizens? Why have you not sur[Pg 233]rendered them already as promised by Alligator at Fort King? Have the chiefs of the nation held a council in relation to the subjects of the talk at Fort King? What chiefs attended that council and what was their determination? Have the chiefs sent a messenger with the decision of the council? Have the principal chiefs, Micanopy, Jumper, Cloud, and Alligator, sent a messenger, and if so, what is their message? Why have not those chiefs come in themselves?"
When Osceola heard these questions he struggled to answer. He began a sentence but could not finish it. Turning to Alligator he said in a low husky voice: "I feel choked. You must speak for me." Perhaps his suspicions were aroused by the questions; perhaps he saw afar the lines of soldiers closing round his camp—at any rate he was deeply troubled.
Finding the answers given by Alligator unsatisfactory, General Hernandez, following the orders of General Jesup, gave the signal and the troops surrounding the camp closed in upon the dismayed Indians and marched them off to the fort.
In this way was the man that the generals in Florida pronounced the war spirit of the Seminoles conquered.
Osceola and his warriors were taken by their captors to St. Augustine where they were imprisoned within the[Pg 234] strong walls of the old Spanish castle of San Marco. It was very hard for these Indians who loved liberty better than life to be shut up in narrow dark cells, to be obliged to give up the warpath, to sit for hours, and days, and weeks, and months in inaction, not knowing what need their friends had of them but imagining the heaviest possible misfortunes for those they held dear.
Osceola could have stood the torture of wrenched limbs and of fire with haughty spirit unbent. What was that to this torture of the white man's, the dim light, the quiet, the narrow walls, the waiting, the not knowing, the fearing of evil?
The warrior still held his head high, but gradually the fierce gleam in his eye changed to a look of gentleness, of unspeakable sadness, and his winning smile came to have so much sorrow in it that men said to each other after they left him, "His heart is breaking." He was[Pg 235] allowed to see and talk with other prisoners. When Micanopy and other chiefs were brought to the fort he was told of their arrival. When Wild Cat, after fasting many days, escaped through the small window in his wall with the help of a rope made from his blanket, Osceola was aware of it. But none of these things seemed to move him.
General Jesup told the chiefs that he would urge the United States authorities to let them and their people stay in southern Florida if they would agree to keep their tribes at peace, guard the frontier, and themselves accompany him to Washington. Micanopy showed a little distrust when he heard the proposition, but Osceola took off his proud head dress and removing one of the beautiful plumes from it handed it to the man who had betrayed him, saying simply: "Give this to my white father to show him that Osceola will do as you have said."
The suggestion made by General Jesup was not considered favorably by the government, but he was instructed to carry out the Jackson policy of transportation. He had collected so many captives at St. Augustine that he feared trouble and decided to separate them. He sent all the negroes to Tampa and the Indians to Charleston, S. C. Late in December the Indians were shipped on the steamer Poinsett. Among them were Osceola, Micanopy, Alligator and Cloud. Besides the chiefs one hundred and sixteen warriors and eighty-two women and children were sent to Fort Moultrie.[Pg 236] Osceola's two wives and little daughters were in the company. They arrived at Charleston on the first day of January, 1838, after a quiet voyage.
At Fort Moultrie, Osceola was treated with much consideration; he was allowed to walk about the enclosure and to receive visitors in his room. Still he ate little and every day grew more wan and thin. All the chiefs were so low-spirited that great efforts were made to cheer them. A very popular actress was then playing at the Charleston theater, and knowing the Indian's love of whatever is gay and spectacular, the authorities at the fort decided to take the chiefs to the theater on the sixth of January.
Public sympathy had been excited by reports of the capture, imprisonment, and failing health of the once terrible Osceola. The theater was crowded with Charleston people more anxious to see the chief than the beautiful actress. The Indians were led into the brilliantly lighted hall filled with staring men and women. They looked neither to the right nor to the left, but took their places in quiet and watched with steady eyes and unsmiling faces the entertainment provided for them. Osceola had made no objection to coming, but he sat amidst the mirth and glamor, so sad and stern that those who had brought him there and those who had come to see him felt rebuked. His trouble was too real to be easily comforted, too deep to be an amusing spectacle. The papers of the day recorded the strange scene of the captive Osceola at the play in poetry and prose.[Pg 237]
Later an incident happened in which Osceola took some interest. George Catlin, who had traveled for several years among the Indians and was regarded by them as a friend, came to the fort to paint the portraits of the chiefs for the United States government. When Mr. Catlin asked Osceola if he might paint his portrait the latter seemed greatly pleased. He arrayed himself in his gayest calico hunting shirt, his splendid plumed turban, and all his ornaments, and stood patiently while the artist worked. Mr. Catlin enjoyed painting the fine head, with its high forehead and clear eye. He made two portraits of Osceola, both of which are now in the collection of Indian portraits at the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington.
Mr. Catlin came to be well acquainted with the chiefs whose portraits he painted, and used to have them come to his room in the evenings, where they all talked with great freedom. He felt deep sympathy for Osceola, who told him all the details of his capture. When Osceola learned that Mr. Catlin had been west of the Mississippi he asked him many questions about the country and the Indians living there.
But every day Osceola's health grew more feeble and, on the day when the second portrait was finished, he became so ill that he was thought to be dying. He rallied, however, and when Mr. Catlin left a few days later, it was with the hope that Osceola would regain his health and strength. He requested the fort doctor to keep him informed about the chief's condition.[Pg 238]
The day after George Catlin left Fort Moultrie, Osceola had a severe attack of throat trouble. He refused to take the doctor's medicine. A Seminole medicine man came and gave the sick man Indian remedies. Osceola's wives nursed him tenderly, but in spite of all they could do he grew rapidly worse and died on the thirtieth of January, 1838, after three months of captivity.
Dr. Wheedon sent the following interesting account of his death to Mr. Catlin:
"About half an hour before he died, he seemed to be sensible that he was dying; and, although he could not speak, he signified by signs that he wished me to send for the chiefs and for the officers of the post, whom I called in. He made signs to his wives by his side, to go and bring his full dress which he wore in time of war; which having been brought in, he rose up in his bed, which was on the floor, and put on his shirt, his leggings and his moccasins, girded on his war belt, bullet-pouch and powder-horn, and laid his knife by the side of him on the floor.
"He then called for his red paint and looking-glass, which latter was held before him. Then he deliberately painted one half of his face, his neck, and his[Pg 239] throat with vermilion, a custom practised when the irrevocable oath of war and destruction is taken. His knife he then placed in its sheath under his belt, and he carefully arranged his turban on his head and his three ostrich plumes that he was in the habit of wearing in it.
"Being thus prepared in full dress, he lay down a few moments to recover strength sufficient, when he rose up as before, and with most benignant and pleasing smiles, extended his hand to me and to all of the officers and chiefs that were around him, and shook hands with us all in dead silence, and with his wives and little children.
"He made a signal for them to lower him down upon his bed, which was done, and he then slowly drew from his war-belt his scalping-knife, which he firmly grasped in his right hand, laying it across the other on his breast, and in a moment smiled away his last breath without a struggle or a groan."
Osceola was buried with some ceremony near the fort. Officers attended his funeral and a military salute was fired over his grave. This show of respect comforted a little the grief-stricken friends of the chief.
It is said that Osceola was not allowed to rest in peace, even in death. A few nights after his burial men of the race that despised him as a barbarian came by night, opened his grave and cut his head from his body. But openly only respect was shown to the remains of the greatest chief of the Seminoles. His grave was in[Pg 240]closed with an iron railing and marked with a stone bearing the following inscription:
Patriot and Warrior,
Died at Fort Moultrie,
January 30, 1838.
The war did not close with the death of Osceola. Wild Cat took command and the trouble continued till 1842. During the war the Seminoles lost many brave warriors; several thousand Indians and five hundred of their allies were driven from their homes in Florida to a strange land which they were obliged to share with their old enemies, the Creeks.
The white men gained the lands of the Indians, a vast and rich new territory for settlement, removed a refuge for runaway slaves, and established peace on the Southern frontier. For these gains, however, they had paid a heavy price in treasure, in human lives, and in honor.