Two accounts of Indian warfare in 18th century America
The French and Indian War—the conflict between the British and French in the New World has many enthusiastic students. It was shortly followed by the American War of Independence, but the British Army and its Provincial troops were engaged in the interim in conflicts with the indigenous Indian tribes of the Ohio river region as the colonial frontier pushed its way inexorably westwards into the continental heartland. Colonel Bouquet, an able Swiss professional soldier engaged in British service was a key figure of this momentous struggle. He fought against Pontiac and other renowned warriors in a conflict without mercy which included the battle at Bushy Run with which he and his Highland Regiment troops will be forever associated. This Leonaur edition includes two contrasting accounts of the man, his times and his campaigns.
With the first gray streaks of dawn came those incessant savage yells preluding a fierce assault on every side. Soon from every tree and bush that could conceal an enemy, a galling fire was poured upon the devoted forces of Bouquet. The colonel himself, with his bright uniform, was a conspicuous mark, and the balls whizzed about him so thick that he concluded to change his dress. While doing so, behind a large tree, no less than fourteen bullets struck it. As on the previous day, the savages made frequent impetuous onsets in order to break through the line of defence. But they were firmly met and gallantly repulsed at every point. The gleam of the bayonets would cause them to retire swiftly to the bushes, but the moment the charge ceased they were back again with their demoniac yells, popping away at every exposed soldier. The long march and hard fight of the previous day, added to their burning thirst, “more intolerable than the enemy’s fire,” as Bouquet puts it, left the troops in rather sorry plight to contend with such alert and daring assailants.<br>
The Indians had every advantage on their side in the way of shelter from the fire of the troops and being without any encumbrance they could attack and retreat with the greatest ease and rapidity. The savages marked the increasing fatigue and distress of the troops and, confident of speedy triumph, derided them in bad English and vulgar ribaldry. Kukyuskung, a Delaware chief, who had taken part in the murder of Colonel Clapham and his family, and who was a ringleader in getting up the conspiracy in general, was conspicuous in this kind of work throughout the morning, as he had been also on the previous night. His taunts were all the more provoking, as he bellowed them forth from behind a large tree, because he had, in times past, received many favours from Colonel Bouquet and the Royal Americans, when on his visits to Fort Pitt.<br>
The interior of the camp was in great confusion owing to the fright of horses on account of the terrific war whoops resounding on all sides and the hurts received from Indian bullets. The cowardly behaviour of the pack horse men added to the danger and tumult. They forsook the poor brutes and hid themselves in terror among the bushes, from which no command or entreaty could draw them to a discharge of duty. Breaking away from the convoy many of the horses dashed madly through the woods, and through the lines of the contending forces.<br>
The crisis was fearful and only a cool head, fertile in resources and a brave heart unapalled by any danger, could meet the emergency. The heat, the toil, the thirst, the increasing and more audacious assaults of the savages began to tell seriously upon the strength and spirits of the soldiers They were growing weaker and falling rapidly while their relentless foes were every moment growing stronger and bolder.<br>
It was a crisis requiring the highest kind of military genius combined with indomitable resolution. Bouquet was equal to the ordeal and from the very jaws of defeat, disaster and death he snatched the most brilliant victory ever won over the Indians.<br>
A Captain or, Lieutenant Barret, commanding it is said a small Maryland detachment of provincial rangers, pointed out to Bouquet a place where a large body of the boldest of the Indians might be taken on the flank and rear by a well directed bayonet charge around the hill and up a hollow or ravine. Andrew Byerly was with Bouquet at the time and heard Barret make the suggestion, which me Colonel quickly put into execution on a large scale by a masterly piece of strategy.<br>
Immediately Major Campbell was directed to make a rapid circuit through the woods on the right flank of the savages around the hill aforesaid, taking them in flank and rear. Captain Basset of the Royal Engineers was directed to arrange the other companies, so as to co-operate promptly with the strategic movement at the right moment. The thin line of troops that took the place of the two companies withdrawn from the front, gave away before the impetuous onset of the exultant savages and fell back upon the convoy, where they presented a line of bristling steel. The Indians fell completely into the snare and rushed with demoniac fury into the camp, certain that the fight was won.<br>
But just as they supposed themselves masters of the field the Highlanders charged in with a wild battle cry upon their right flank. A volley was fired upon the amazed and huddled savages, but they stood their ground with wonderful intrepidity, not willing to lose a decisive victory and the great booty of stores and scalps which a moment before they felt was within their grasp. It is agreed on all hands that on this occasion, not only in the attack and the assault, but in meeting the unexpected charge on their flank and rear, the Indians displayed unusual courage and firmness.<br>
But a well directed bayonet charge no body of Indians ever did or will stand. Here Bouquet had them at last where he wanted them, at close quarters where there could be no dodging or popping from behind the trees. The Highlanders were at home with the bayonet and only too glad to get a good chance at the painted villains who had skulked behind trees while they shot their brave comrades during the past two days. but the savages struggled in hope of gaining the day, but the shock was irresistible and, perceiving that they had been caught in a trap, they fled in tumultuous disorder. In doing so they were obliged to pass in front of the companies brought up on the opposite side by Captain Basset, from whom they received another volley. The four companies now vied with each other in driving the savages through the woods beyond Bushy Run without giving them time to reload their empty rifles. Many of their chief warriors were killed and the rest utterly routed. Among others, Kukyuskung, the ungrateful and blatant blackguard, and the famous war chief called “The Wolf,” were slain.