The inexorable drive westward was to be the course of the American nation until it had firmly established itself from the Atlantic to the Pacific. For many, however, ‘the West’ has come to mean the great plains of the interior with their herds of buffalo and mounted and feathered Indian tribes like the Sioux and Cheyenne. No less interesting is the period when the dangerous frontier between settlements and the wilderness with all its perils lay in what is now consider the eastern part of the USA. The period around the closing stages of the Revolutionary Wars of the 18th century and the turn of the 19th century was especially turbulent and is the subject of this book. Within these pages are accounts of Bouquet and the action at Bushy Run, Sam Brady the Ranger, Ferguson and Kings Mountain, Boone, the heroism of Bryan’s station and the tragedy of Blue Licks, the bloody conflicts with the Red Stick Creeks of Alabama and the fierce Indians of the Florida Everglades, the Seminoles. Border Fights & Fighters contains riveting and rarely told accounts of George Rogers Clark, the great Tecumseh, George Croghan, the massacre on Raisin River and the heroic defence of Fort Stephenson. Brady’s third volume in his American Fights and Fighters series concludes with the retelling of the struggle for the creation of the Texas Republic, of Travis, Crockett, Huston, the iconic Alamo and victory at San Jacinto. Those familiar with Brady’s writing will be pleased to learn that this volume is one of his best and will be a highly rewarding reading experience for those interested in frontier America.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Corporal Stephen Mars of Kentucky, the sentry whose beat extended farthest in the woods to the northwest, had detected dark bodies creeping noiselessly through the underbrush toward his post. He fired upon them instantly and then turned and dashed for the camp, shouting in alarm as he ran. The Indians who had approached thus near the lines with wonderful skill, saw that concealment was at an end. They shot Mars dead before he had gone a dozen paces, and then, shouting their war-cries, rushed upon the regulars and Kentuckians who were posted on either side of that angle. Almost before the startled men, so suddenly awakened, were aware of their situation, the red warriors burst upon them.<br>
Seizing their weapons, after a single discharge of rifle or musket, there being no time for reloading, a desperate hand-to-hand conflict ensued, with rifle butt and bayonet against tomahawk and scalping knife. Such was the dash of the Indian attack that the two companies gave ground, as the savages in apparently countless numbers came leaping upon them out of the darkness.<br>
Meanwhile the whole camp had sprung to arms. The men stood in line, peering out into the black dark woods surrounding them, awaiting the next development, which was not long in coming, for presently along the whole front and extending around the right flank the crackle of rifles and muskets was heard, so that the entire camp, save for the space protected by the creek, was simultaneously assailed.<br>
Up in the northwest corner the condition of affairs was indeed critical. In spite of the heroic efforts of the troops, the Indians effected an entrance in the camp, and if they could maintain their position the lines would be taken in the rear while they were attacked in the front, and the result would be annihilation. Major Baen of the regulars was mortally hurt, Captain Geiger of the Kentuckians wounded, and many other officers and men were killed or wounded, and the line was giving away in great confusion. Some of the Indians who had broken through stopped to plunder the tents. It had all happened in a few moments.<br>
Harrison was equal to the emergency, however. He acted with true military promptness. Not stopping for anything he had run from his tent at the first shot. The horses were plunging wildly at their halters in the excitement and confusion. Just as the general reached them, his own horse, a white stallion, broke his halter and escaped in the darkness. Harrison sprang to the back of the next one, which happened to be a dark bay, and to this fortunate circumstance he probably owed his life. His principal aide, Major Owen, was mounted upon a white horse, his own. The Indians had marked Harrison’s white horse at the meeting of the evening before, and as the general and his aide galloped to the northwest corner, the savage marksmen singled out the man on the white horse conspicuous in the firelight. He was shot and instantly killed.<br>
Harrison arrived at the angle just as the regulars and Kentuckians broke. He ordered Peters’ regular and Cooke’s Indiana militia companies up from the rear, the only face unassailed, formed them across the gap, and charged forward with them with great spirit and success, the shaken troops rallying upon them and reoccupying their old places. Not an Indian who had entered the lines was left alive when the lines were re-established. The first dash had failed, but the Indian fire was kept up with unabated vigour and the camp was furiously assailed everywhere.<br>
Meanwhile Jo: Daviess with the cavalry in the opposite angle was greatly desirous of distinguishing himself. As the fighting continued and the enemy drew closer he sent a messenger to Harrison requesting permission to charge. The general, in the thick of the fray at the time, directed Daviess to be patient, that he would give him opportunity enough to distinguish himself before the battle was over. Patience, however, was not one of Daviess’ qualities. He sent a second time, and received the same answer, and finally a third time, whereupon Harrison replied, “Tell Major Daviess he has had my opinion twice. He may now use his own discretion.”<br>
Daviess instantly gave the order to charge. Instead of going out in line abreast he led his force through his own lines in single file, and made a rush for the woods. According to some accounts he was on horseback, at any rate he was conspicuous from a white blanket coat which he wore. He was shot through the body before he had gone ten paces, and his men retreated carrying him with them. The Indians attempted a counter-charge, but the dragoons rallied and the attack was easily beaten off.<br>
The plateau was now encircled with fire. The troops standing near the edge were plainly visible to the Indians by the light cast by the remains of the huge fires back of them, while the savages could not be seen by the Americans, who could only fire at the flashes in the darkness. Every assailable point was hotly attacked again and again.<br>
Harrison rode up and down the fines freely exposing himself, his clothing torn by bullets, heartening and cheering the men, throwing a little reserve now here, now there, to re-enforce a weak spot, doing everything that a brave and efficient officer could do to insure success. The steadiness of the militia was marvellous. They stood in the darkness after a time and fought like heroes, for the fires were extinguished by Harrison’s orders as soon as the exigency permitted. Men fell on every side, yet there was no thought of retreat or giving back.