Volume 2 of the American Fights and Fighters series
Cyrus Brady's, 'Fights and Fighters' series became popular after its fourth volume, Indian Fights and Fighters captured the public imagination and brought focus to his other works. Brady was a prolific author of fiction and non-fiction often calling on his extensive knowledge of his own country, the United States of America as inspiration. He has maintained his own consistent standard for the delivery of immediate and entertaining prose in volume two of the series—Revolutionary Fights and Fighters. In fact, some might claim that the subject matter of this book goes somewhat beyond his title, though not in ways that are likely to cause complaint among its readers. Certainly the first hundred pages describe highly interesting events in the American revolutionary period 1775-1783. These include the defence of Fort Sullivan, the Saratoga Campaign, Greene's campaign in the Carolinas and several of the lesser known naval actions of the conflict. From this point Brady takes his reader upon St. Clair's notorious and catastrophic campaign against the Indian tribes of the North West in 1791-4. The war with France 1798-1800 is described followed by a riveting account of the war with Tripoli focussing on Decatur, the Philadelphia and the Barbary pirates. The book concludes with the War of 1812 covering several notable engagements on sea and on land. Available in softcover and hardcover with dustjacket.
On the third of November the army camped in the evening on the east fork of the Wabash, at this point a little stream scarcely twenty yards wide and fordable anywhere. It was St. Clair’s design, as he was near the principal Miami villages, to throw up another fortification, leave the sick and all except absolutely necessary baggage in it, and push on to destroy the towns, and then, after leaving strong garrisons in the various forts, return to the Ohio for the winter. He did not have a chance to put his plan in operation. The army, now reduced to about fourteen hundred men, including camp followers and about thirty wretched women, was camped in a clearing on a narrow rise of ground about three hundred and fifty feet long. The place was surrounded by dense virgin woods, through which they had been compelled to cut a narrow road. The main body, consisting of the regulars and the levies, was drawn up in two lines facing out, with the batteries in the centre and the cavalry on either flank, making a sort of elongated hollow square. On the other side of the creek the militia and a small scouting party were thrown forward.<br>
The officer in charge of the scouts came back to headquarters in the night and told St. Clair that he had discovered signs of large bodies of Indians. He was thanked for his information and told to return to his post, the matter would be looked into in the morning; the tired soldiers were plunged in slumber and could not be disturbed for rumours of this kind—for most of them there was to be a dreadful awakening in that coming day. The men were paraded as usual at sunrise, and had just been dismissed to prepare their breakfast, when rifle shots rang out in the cold, raw morning. It was the thing they had been warned against, a surprise! There was a slight snow on the ground, which was very wet and muddy, and the little pools were covered with a thin coating of ice, which soon melted away as the day advanced. The firing in the front at once became general.<br>
After the briefest possible stand and a volley or two, the advance party of the militia were routed by the charging Indians, and came running back pell-mell across the stream and plunged into the regiments in camp, which were hastily reassembling to the long roll of the drums, causing much disorder and confusion.<br>
Such was the impetuosity of the Indians’ pursuit, as they rushed forward through the creek, and so close were they on the heels of the craven militia that they almost broke through the startled lines of the camp, and a stampede was with difficulty averted by the officers. One or two hasty volleys from the first line of the regulars, however, drove the savages out of the open to seek shelter in the thick and almost impenetrable woods. At the same moment the army found itself surrounded and assailed from every side. Every tree trunk, every fallen log, every clump of bushes hid a crouching foe, and the bullets fairly rained in among the exposed men in the clearing, who sent volley after volley in every direction without doing any perceptible damage. The artillery was unlimbered and the guns were served with furious energy; so that the army was soon covered with clouds of its own smoke through which the men fired aimlessly in the greatest bewilderment.<br>
The officers strove with the greatest courage to re-form the lines which had been broken and disorganized by the fleeing militia. St. Clair in person took command of one line, Butler the other. One likes to think of the old general walking calmly up and down the line, his gray hairs floating in the wind, striving to encourage the men; it somewhat redeems the man after all, so splendid a virtue is courage. For a time they stood their ground manfully under a hail of bullets from their concealed foe—pushed to the wall, even the most craven and ignoble will fight in the last extremity. But the situation was more than they could stand; the poor frightened outcast from the towns firing blindly into the smoke suddenly would be appalled by the sight of a feather-crowned head, a pair of burning eyes gleaming fiercely upon him from out a painted face; and before his terror-dried throat could frame a shriek, with a wild cry screamed in his ears, the tomahawk would be buried in his brain, the scalping knife circling his head. The groaning wounded were given sudden relief from their agonies by the thrust of a gleaming knife in the hand of some crawling, stealthy prowler who had made his way unnoticed into the camp in the awful confusion.<br>
But the Indians had grown bolder from their own immunity, and noting the numbers of those who fell, from time to time they advanced from the underbrush and under cover of the smoke rushed recklessly upon the Americans, a thing most unusual for them. Whenever they could be seen in force, they were met with the most determined courage and repelled time and again by furious bayonet charges. Again and again the officers led their men forward. The Indians, however, would never remain to face the advancing detachments, but would melt away on every side and when the charging party had gone a little way from the camp it would be necessary to execute a return charge to get back through the interposing bodies of the foe, and in these little retreats more would be lost than had been gained in the charge. Particular attention was paid by the Indians to the artillery. Every officer and most of the men connected with it were soon killed or wounded. Every officer in the only regular regiment remaining met a like fate.<br>
Several times the Indians succeeded, under cover of the smoke, in breaking through the lines in force, killing and scalping the wounded wherever they were, and were only prevented by heroic efforts from capturing the camp. General Butler, who was shot in the arm in the early part of the action, walked up and down cheering on his men until another bullet brought him down. As he lay on the ground he was tomahawked by one of the Indian attacking parties.