More adventures of the struggle for the flaming border of the early frontier
During the eighteenth century the American frontier traversed the eastern woodlands, mountains and lakes of the continent. The 'flaming border' was a hostile land populated by the tribes of the Shawnees, Wyandots, Delaware's and others—fierce warrior peoples determined to maintain their dominance to stem the encroachment of the early European pioneers. These settlers were a new people, determined to cut back the wilderness, to create communities and farm the fertile soil. Ever since the 'white man' had set foot in the New World the dispute had raged in seemingly endless bloodshed. The French and their Indian allies had fought and lost their bid for the continent, but still the war between 'white' and 'red' raged. The border moved inexorably Westward and the land about the great Ohio and Mississippi Rivers was where the struggle would continue. Among the vanguard of the white men were intrepid backwoodsmen, scouts, trappers, hunters and those who—for adventure or vengeance—brought the fight to their Indian and renegade foes. Among these are this series' principal characters, Henry Ware, Paul Cotter and their companions. These novels by Joseph Altsheler—sometimes referred to as 'The Young Trailers' series—chronicle these extraordinary times as the background to the adventures of these remarkable young men. Altsheler was well regarded for high adventure set in American history and accurately encompassing actual personalities and real events. This Leonaur collection is available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket. Altsheler's 'Civil War' series and his 'French and Indian War' series are also available from Leonaur.
Adventure five and six of the time when the American nation was spreading westward into the wilderness. This book contains The Free Rangers and The Riflemen of the Ohio.
“Do you think we’ll ever break through, Sol?” asked Paul. <br>
“Shorely,” replied the shiftless one. “Henry’s got the plan, and we’re goin’ to cut through like a wedge druv through a log. Something’s got to give. Up, Paul, with your gun! Here she goes ag’in!”<br>
The battle suddenly burst forth afresh and with greater violence. All the American twelve pounders were now in a row at the head of the fleet, and one after another, from right to left and then from left to right and over and over again, they began to fire with tremendous rapidity and accuracy at the schooner. All the best gunners were around the twelve pounders. If one fell, another took his place. Many of them were stripped to the waist, and their own fire lighted up their tan faces and their brown sinewy arms as they handled rammer and cannon shot.<br>
The fire of the cannon was supported by that of scores and scores of rifles, and the enemy replied with furious energy. But the supply fleet was animated now by a single purpose. The shiftless one’s simile of a wedge driven into a log was true. No attention was paid to anybody in the hostile boats and canoes. They could fire unheeded. Every American cannon and rifle sent its load straight at the schooner. All the upper works of the vessel were shot away. The men of Alvarez could not live upon its decks; they were even slain at the port holes by the terrific rifle fire; cannon shot, grape shot, and rifle bullets searched every nook and corner of the vessel, and her desperate crew, one by one, began to leap into the water and make for the shores.<br>
A shout of exultation rose from the supply fleet, which was now slowly moving forward. Flames suddenly burst from the schooner and ran up the stumps of her masts and spars, reaching out long arms and laying hold at new points. The cannon shots had also reached the inside of the ship as fire began to spout from the port holes, and there was a steady stream of men leaping from the schooner into the water of the bayou and making for the land.<br>
The American shout of exultation was repeated, and the forest gave back the echo. The Indians answered it with a fierce yell of defiance, and the forest gave back that, too.<br>
But Adam Colfax had been watching shrewdly.<br>
In his daring life he had been in more than one naval battle, and when he saw the schooner wrapped and re-wrapped in great coils and ribbons of flame he knew what was due. Suddenly he shouted in a voice that could be heard above the roar of the battle:<br>
“Back! Back, all! Back for your lives!”<br>
It reached the ears of everybody in the American fleet, and whether he understood its words or not every man understood its tone. There was an involuntary movement common to all. The fleet stopped its slow advance, seemed to sway in another direction, and then to sit still on the water. But all were looking at the schooner with an intense, fascinated, yet horrified gaze.<br>
Nobody was left on the deck of the vessel but the dead. The huge, intertwining coil of fiery ribbons seemed suddenly to unite in one great glowing mass, out of which flames shot high, sputtering and crackling. Then came an awful moment of silence, the vessel trembled, leaped from the water, turned into a volcano of fire and with a tremendous crash blew up.<br>
The report was so great that it came rolling back in echo after echo, but for a few moments there was no other sound save the echo. Then followed a rain of burning wood, many pieces falling in the supply fleet, burning and scorching, while others fell hissing in the forest on either shore. Darkness, too, came over land and water. All the firing had ceased as if by preconcerted signal, though the combatants on either side were awed by the fate of the vessel. The smoke bank came back, too, thicker and heavier than before, and the air was filled with the strong, pungent odour of burnt gunpowder.<br>
But the schooner that had blocked the mouth of the bayou was gone forever and the way lay open before them. Adam Colfax recovered from the shock of the explosion.<br>
“On, men! On!” he roared, and the whole fleet, animated by a single impulse, sprang forward toward the mouth of the bayou, the cannon blazing anew the path, the gunners loading and firing, as fast as they could. But the simile of the shiftless one had come true. The wedge, driven by tremendous strokes, had cleft the log.<br>
The Indian fleet, many of the boats containing white men, too, closed in and sought to bar the way, but they were daunted somewhat by their great disaster, and in an instant the American fleet was upon them cutting a path through to the free river. Boat often smashed into boat, and the weaker, or the one with less impulse, went down. Now and then white and red reached over and grasped each other in deadly struggle, but, whatever happened, the supply fleet moved steadily on.<br>
It was to Paul a confused combat, a wild and terrible struggle, the climax of the night-battle. White and red faces mingled before him in a blur, the water seemed to flow in narrow, black streams between the boats and the pall of smoke was ever growing thicker. It hung over them, black and charged now with gases. Paul coughed violently, but he was not conscious of it. He fired his rifle until it was too hot to hold. Then he laid it down, and seizing an oar pulled with the energy of fever.<br>
When the boats containing the cannon were through and into the river, they faced about and began firing over the heads of the others into the huddled mass of the enemy behind. But it was only for a minute or two. Then the last of the supply fleet; that is, the last afloat, came through, and the gap that they had made was closed up at once by the enemy, who still hung on their rear and who were yet shouting and firing.<br>
The Americans gave a great cheer, deep and full throated, but they did not pause in their great effort. Boats swung off toward either bank of the bayou’s mouth. The skirmishers in the bushes who had done such useful work must be taken on board. Theirs was now the most dangerous position of all, pursued as they certainly would be by the horde of Indians and outlaws, bent upon revenge.<br>
The boat containing the five was among those that touched the northern side of the bayou’s mouth, and everyone of them, rifle in hand, instantly sprang ashore.