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Following the Drum

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Following the Drum
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Author(s): Teresa Griffin Vielé
Date Published: 2010/01
Page Count: 144
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-951-0
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-952-7

A view of the early Texan frontier from a female view point

Teresa Viele was a strong minded woman with clear cut views. Fate would dictate that her life would not be defined by her experiences as an army wife, but in this book she has left us a significant insight into the activities of the officers, soldiers and families of a United States Infantry regiment on the Texas frontier in the pre-Civil War period. Her account encompasses everything that came under her eye and into her active mind—from travel, landscape, flora, fauna and food. Less domestically, she turned her thoughts and pen to the subject of Mexicans and United States political relations with Mexico, the omnipresent threat of Comanche raiders and the ability and capacity of the army to fulfil its border protection duties. Viele also provides an interesting perspective on Jose Maria Jesus Carbajal and the Merchants War. This is an unusual female viewpoint on life on the early South Western American frontier and is an important chronicle of a woman in Texas during the pioneer period. Available in soft cover and hard back with dust jacket for collectors.

Harry became quite an adept in Indian scouting while in Texas, and frequently accompanied parties of government troops. On these expeditions he seemed to know the trail almost intuitively. A crushed blade of grass, or some other slight signal, led him on their track for miles, until some unmistakable token of their recent presence proved that his conjectures had not been without good foundations.<br>
On the occasion of the scout to which I now allude, the trail had been lost for several days, and it seemed almost impossible to find any trace of it. The men had shown symptoms of insubordination for some weeks before starting from camp, and a few hours after the officers had divided forces, it was discovered that they were commencing to exhibit signs of intoxication. Their canteens were examined, and found to contain whiskey instead of water, which had been surreptitiously introduced after inspection previous to starting.<br>
Summary measures had to be immediately taken. There was no time to pause in the midst of a lonely prairie, with the Camanche foe lurking near, and only a band of half intoxicated men to oppose them. They did not dare to disobey the order to empty their canteens, although no promptness was shown, and it was done with muttered curses and murmurs of disapproval. One man, more bold and intoxicated than the rest, refused, and showed such flagrant symptoms of disrespect and disobedience, that very prompt measures were called for. So he was seized by order of the officer by his sullen and unwilling companions and tied with a rope to his horse, who dragged him so for nearly a mile. This sobered the rest almost instantly, and they rode forward, knowing they had no alternative but strict observance of their duties.<br>
The rope finally broke, and the man was soon lost to the view of his companions. He eventually recovered from the effect of his whiskey and bruises, and found his way back on foot, telling some of his messmates, with great gusto, what a sight it was to see his lieutenant, when he got his pluck up! This event, instead of producing dislike on the soldiers’ part, seemed to add to their respect. The uneducated mind unconsciously and innately yields to mental sway, where decision and firmness combine to force their will, and “Private Jackson” after this was always a model specimen of military discipline. No other course but sacrificing the chances of life in one of them could have been pursued under the circumstances. There was no alternative for the preservation of the rest; prompt and decided measures were absolutely requisite.<br>
The morning after these occurrences, the party came in sight of the encampment of the Indians, at a distance of several miles. With a wild shout, the men put spurs to their horses, and dashed over the prairie, with the speed of the wind. As they neared the camp their excitement increased, for the Indians, so suddenly surprised, abandoning their wigwams, horses, and everything, scattered in all directions, seeking safety in the densely tangled chaparral. The soldiers followed them into the thicket, tearing their flesh and their garments at every step; horses and riders were pierced and bleeding from the thorns, which the Indians saved themselves from by crawling on the ground like snakes.<br>
It was impossible to trace or follow them, as the horses, maddened with pain, refused to further breast the thorns. Some trophies were secured from the camp, consisting of robes, head-dresses, ponchos, &c, and the pursuit continued by skirting the chaparral.<br>
On the following day the guide struck the trail of the retreating Indians, and, as it was very fresh, the party had strong hopes of soon overtaking them on the open prairie, where they could make up for the disappointment of the day before. About noon some figures in the far distance revived the excitement of the men, when, on nearing the expected foe, they discovered that it was Lieutenant H.’s party.<br>
But what a sight met their view! The ground was strewn with dying men, and Lieutenant H., pierced with five arrows, was lying under the shelter of a low bush, in the last agonies of death. The story was soon told. The Indians who had left their encampment pursued by the U. S. soldiers, had met with a mounted party of their tribe whom they had joined, and thinking only of the party in pursuit had neglected the usual precautions, and came suddenly upon the party of Lieutenant H. The fight was brief but desperate.<br>
In the midst of it, Lieutenant H. pointed his revolver at one of them, who immediately commenced to cry and shed tears copiously, thus betraying her to be a squaw, which from her dress and weather-beaten old face he would never have imagined. His innate sense of gallantry revolted at fighting even with a woman warrior, and he lowered his pistol. She seized on this advantage, suddenly veered her horse (which she rode astride) to his rear, and treacherously pierced him through with a poisoned spear. They said that he fell without a struggle. His infuriated soldiers, led on by the sergeant, who immediately took command, paid them in bloodshed for the loss they had sustained by killing eight of their party, the old heathen matron among them crying and screaming to the last over her mortal wounds! This is but one of the tragic deeds which History does not record and Fame does not trumpet, that are annually occurring on our frontier.
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