Ben Comee by M. J. Canavan
CHAPTER I. BEN IS BORN IN LEXINGTON 1737—SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLFELLOWS
CHAPTER II. THEY TRAP MUSKRATS—BISHOP HANCOCK AND HIS GRANDSON JOHN
CHAPTER III. IN WHICH ARE DETAILS OF A GREAT FOX HUNT
CHAPTER IV. TRADING IN THOSE DAYS—BEN IS APPRENTICED—THE ENLISTING
SERGEANT—COURT DAY AT CONCORD
CHAPTER V. PIGEON TUESDAY AND ITS EXPLOITS
CHAPTER VI. A PAUPER'S FUNERAL—BEN'S FRIEND THE MINISTER, AND BEN'S VICTORY IN
CHAPTER VII. TALES FROM THE FRONTIER—MR. TYTHINGMAN AND HIS SERVICES
CHAPTER VIII. BEN AND AMOS JOIN ROGERS'S RANGERS AND MARCH TO THE WEST
CHAPTER IX. IN WHICH THE RANGERS ENGAGE WITH THE FRENCH AND INDIANS
CHAPTER X. LORD HOWE AND HIS DEATH—THE LOYALTY OF JOHN STARK
CHAPTER XI. FORT TICONDEROGA AND THE ASSAULT
CHAPTER XII. THE FIGHT AT FORT ANNE, AND THE ESCAPE OF AMOS
CHAPTER XIII. BEN COMEE HEAP BIG PALEFACE—TRAPPING BOB-CATS IN PRIMEVAL WOODS
CHAPTER XIV. A SCOUTING EXPEDITION IN THE DEAD OF WINTER
CHAPTER XV. CAMP DISCIPLINE—AMHERST'S ANGELS—A BRUSH WITH THE FRENCH, AND THE
LOSS OF CAPTAIN JACOB
CHAPTER XVI. THE RANGERS TO THE FRONT—CAPTAIN STARK'S TALE OF CAPTURE—TO ATTACK
THE ST. FRANCIS INDIANS
CHAPTER XVII. MARCH TO THE VILLAGE—THE RETREAT
CHAPTER XVIII. STARVATION—DRIFTING DOWN THE AMMONUSUC—FORT NO. 4, AND GOOD
FORTUNE AT LAST
CHAPTER I. BEN IS BORN IN LEXINGTON
1737SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLFELLOWS
If you have occasion to pass through or to visit Lexington, be sure
to put up at the tavern about a mile below Lexington Common on a little
knoll near the main road.
In front of it stand two large elms, from one of which hangs the
tavern sign. It is the best tavern in the place. You will find there
good beds, good food, and a genial host. The landlord is my cousin,
Colonel William Munroe, a younger brother of my old friend Edmund.
Sit with him under the trees. William will gladly tell you of the
fight. Lord Percy's reënforcements met the retreating British soldiers
near the tavern. Percy and Pitcairn had a consultation in the bar-room
over some grog, which John Raymond mixed for them, for John took care
of the tavern that day. After they departed, the soldiers entered and
helped themselves freely to liquor from the barrels in the shop. Some
of their officers knocked the spigots from the barrels and let the
liquor run away on the floor. The drunken soldiers became furious. They
fired off their guns in the house. You can still see a bullet hole in
William will show you the doorway where poor John Raymond, the
cripple, was shot down by the soldiers, as he was trying to escape from
the bar-room, and will point out the places near by, where houses were
burned by the British. And as you sit with William under the trees you
will see great six or eight horse teams, laden with goods from New
Hampshire, lumber along heavily over the road. Stages from Keene,
Leominster, Lunenburg, and other towns will dash up to the door and
passengers will alight for their meals. On Saturdays and Sundays herds
of cattle are driven through on their way to the Brighton cattle
market. All is bustle and activity.
[Sidenote: LEXINGTON IN EARLY TIMES]
I was born in this old house in the year 1737. In my boyhood
Lexington was a dull little village unknown to fame. But the 19th of
April, 1775, made the world familiar with the name. And since the
bridges, which were built over the Charles River a few years later,
placed the town on the main highway between Boston and the Back
Country, it is now, in this year 1812, one of the most thriving places
in the county.
In my childhood we were remote from the main travelled roads. The
Back Country hardly existed. People were just beginning to settle the
southern part of New Hampshire, and were in constant fear of Indians.
Their time was fully occupied in cutting down the forests, fighting the
redskins, and raising a scanty crop for their own support. Occasionally
a fur trader, driving a pack-horse laden with furs, passed through the
town. The huts and log houses of the first settlers were still
standing, and some of the people kept up an acquaintance and
correspondence with their relatives in the old country.
My grandfather used to take me on his knee and tell me of events
which happened far back in the seventeenth century. His father was a
Highland lad, and during the wars between King Charles and Cromwell
fought for the king in a regiment of Scotch Highlanders. At the battle
of Dunbar the king's army was defeated, and several thousand Scotch
soldiers were taken prisoners. Among them was my great-grandfather,
In a few days they were drawn up in a line, and each man was tied to
his neighbour by stout cords around their wrists. A guard of soldiers
was put over them, and they were marched to Plymouth.
There they learned that they were to be sent to the colonies, as
slaves or servants, with the right to buy back their freedom.
[Sidenote: DAVID COMEE, THE REDEMPTIONER]
David McComee and some two hundred and seventy other prisoners were
packed on board the ship John and Sara; and after a long voyage
arrived at Charlestown, where they were sold at auction. David's master
lived in Woburn, near Lexington, or, as it was then called, Cambridge
Fields. He was treated in a kindly manner. A little piece of land was
given him, on which he built a hut. He worked for his master on
alternate days. The rest of the time was his own. In a few years David
McComee had earned enough to pay back the price of his purchase money,
and was no longer a redemptioner, but a free man and his own master. By
this time, he was known as David Comee. He moved to Concord, and as he
was a thrifty, hard-working man, before long he was the owner of a snug
In 1675 the terrible war with King Philip broke out. The Indians
ravaged the land, and boasted that no white man should dare to so much
as poke his nose out of his house. We had then but a little fringe of
settlements extending a few miles back from the coast. Concord was on
the frontier. Word came that the neighbouring town of Sudbury was
attacked, and David Comee and ten companions started out to help the
My grandfather, who was then a small boy, said that after buckling
on his iron breast and back plates, his father knelt with the family
and prayed. Then he arose, kissed his wife and children, put on his
steel cap, and taking his long firelock, started off to join the other
That afternoon they were lured into an ambuscade by the Indians, and
most of them were killed. Reënforcements were sent to Sudbury. The
Indians were driven off; and the next day David Comee was found lying
in the water of the river meadow, scalped, and stripped of his armour
Another Scotch redemptioner, named William Munroe, who was shipped
to this country in the John and Sara, settled at Cambridge
Fields or Lexington. My grandfather married his daughter Martha, and
bought the place where my Cousin William now keeps the tavern.
Our family had no love for Indians. We hated them bitterly. At the
present day, as we sit in our homes safe and without fear, we are apt
to forget the constant dread in which the colonists lived. From 1690
till the end of the French war in 1763, few years passed in which the
men on the frontier were not fighting the redskins.
[Sidenote: BEN'S UNCLE JOHN KILLED]
In 1707 my Uncle John went to the Eastward in a company of
soldiers to help drive off a body of French and Indians from the
settlements in Maine. He was killed there in a fight near the town of
He was my grandfather's eldest son, just arrived at manhood. I was a
small boy when grandfather died; but I can remember how he straightened
up, and a fierce fire came in his eyes, when the talk was of Indians.
He was a strict member of the church, and never swore, but on these
occasions he made use of some Old Testament phrases and expressions
which, I thought, answered the purpose very well.
You may pride yourself on your Latin and your Greek. I never got so
far in my schooling. But turn this book upside down and read it. You
cannot and I can.
I might have become quite a scholar, if I had been properly brought
up, for I learned to do this at Millicent Mason's dame's school before
I was six years old.
She sat in a chair and held a book in her lap. We stood in front of
her. She would point out the letters with her knitting-needle and ask,
What is that letter? And that? And that? Then she would ask us what
the word was. In this way, we learned our A B C's. Then one-syllable,
and two-syllable words, and finally to read a book held upside down. I
can do it now; and occasionally, if I find a friend reading, I surprise
him by glancing over the top of the page and repeating a few lines of
As I grew older, I went to the man's school and learned to read in
the ordinary way. It was kept in a little old schoolhouse about twenty
feet square, which stood on a knoll on the common. There was a great
fireplace at one end of it; and the teacher sat in a great chair on a
platform, with a table in front of him. We paid twopence a week for
being taught reading, and threepence a week for righting and
siphering, as the town clerk entered it on his books.
[Sidenote: LEXINGTON COMMON]
Our teachers were young men just out of college, and the one who
would serve for the smallest pay was the one always chosen. We had a
new teacher every year.
At the lower end of the common was the old ramshackle meeting-house,
facing down the road.
In front of the meeting-house were a couple of horse-blocks, on
which the women dismounted as they rode to meeting on their pillions,
behind their husbands or brothers.
On either side of the door were tacked up notices of vendues,
lotteries, public proclamations, and the appointment of administrators.
Between the school and the meeting-house were two pairs of stocks, in
which we occasionally found some offender seated with his feet sticking
out through the holes.
On the opening day of school, there was a man in each of them. One
was a man who obstinately refused to go to meeting, and after being
warned several times was clapped into the bilboes by the tythingman.
The other was some poor vagrant who had tried to settle in the town,
but because he was needy and shiftless he had been warned out, and as
he did not go, was put in the stocks.
The school children gathered about them, seated on the hard boards,
with their feet sticking out through the holes in the stocks, and
discussed their crimes and punishment, and made bets as to the number
of nails in the soles of their shoes. William Munroe, the blacksmith,
came over from his shop with his leather apron on.
Come, Sam, you want to get out of there, and sit in the seats with
the righteous. It's never too late for the sinner to repent.
Oh, go away, Bill. Let me alone. It's bad enough to sit here in
these cussed stocks, till every bone in my body aches, and have the
children stare at me, without you coming over to poke fun at me. I'm
sick of it.
That's right! A change of heart will do you good. See you in
meeting next Sabbath.
The next day, Robert Harrington, the constable, drove up to the
stocks with his cart.
See here, Bob. Let me out. I give in. I'll go to meeting twice a
day for the fifty-two Sabbaths in the year, and on lecture days and any
other days that they want me to go.
[Sidenote: VAGRANTS AND SINNERS]
All right; I'll let you out, but they will expect an acknowledgment
from you of your wrong-doing, in meeting next Sabbath.
Just let me out of these stocks, and I'll do anything they ask.
Mr. Harrington released him, and then turned to the vagrant and
said, Come, old boy, you've got to move on. We can't have you on our
He took him in his cart, carried him miles away, and dumped him in
the road, just as you would an old cat that you wanted to get rid of;
and warned him never to come back.
Next Sabbath the sinner made a public relation before the meeting,
in which he confessed his grievous sins and promised to amend.
My greatest friend was my cousin, Edmund Munroe, a sturdy,
trustworthy boy with great common sense.
Then there was Davy Fiske, a son of Dr. Fiske. Davy was a lean, wiry
fellow, not much of a boy for study, but full of knowledge of the
woods. He knew when every kind of bird came and departed. Could tell
you the best place to hunt foxes. He knew what they would do and where
they would go. If a wolf had been killed, Davy could give the whole
story. If a bear had carried off a pig or a sheep, Davy would go miles
to be one of the party to follow him up.
It must be admitted that, like many other hunters, Davy had
imagination, and did not allow dull facts to hem him in when he told a
Edmund used to take his dinners with his cousin, William Munroe, the
blacksmith, whose house and shop were just below the common. I
generally brought my dinner to school in a basket, and ate it in the
school at noon time. After dinner, we would prowl about and explore. We
used to climb the stone wall of the pound, and look into it, to see
what stray cattle might be there; and wandered down Malt Lane to John
Munroe's malt house and watched him change the barley into malt, and
looked at the hams and sides of bacon that the people had brought to be
[Sidenote: THE BLACKSMITH'S SHOP]
The most interesting place to us was the blacksmith's shop. If an ox
was brought in to be shod, they drove him into a stall and fastened his
head in the stanchions at the end of it. A broad sheet of canvas hung
down on one side of the stall, and they pulled the free end of it under
the belly of the ox, and fastened it by hooks to a windlass on the
other side of the stall, about the height of one's head. William Munroe
and his son Will took a few turns at the windlass, and the ox would be
lifted off his feet. The sides of the stall were only eighteen inches
high, and were of thick plank, with a groove in the top edge. They bent
up the leg of the ox and rested his cloven hoof in the groove, and shod
each part with a piece of iron.
But beside shoeing horses and oxen, the blacksmith made all kinds of
implements, andirons, latches and hinges for doors. They fastened an
iron edge to wooden shovels, and made chains and nails.
CHAPTER II. THEY TRAP
MUSKRATSBISHOP HANCOCK AND HIS GRANDSON JOHN
One day while we were pulling over a lot of old truck in a corner of
the shop, we found some rusty muskrat traps. Edmund asked William if he
used them. No; I did considerable trapping when I was a boy. You and
Ben may have them if you want them. Your father and I, Benny, trapped
together one winter; and we used to go hunting wild turkeys too. There
were a number of them over at Mt. Gilboa and Turkey Hill. They're
pretty much all gone now. We had lots of fun with these traps, and I
hope you boys will.
There were fourteen traps. We greased them up and put them in good
condition. And one Saturday early in the fall we got Davy to go with us
to the great meadows and look the ground over. Davy said, We must find
their paths. When we found one, we looked for the best place to set a
trap. Now, see here. Here's a place where they come out of the water;
and they climb up on that old root. Take the axe, Ben, and cut a notch
in it a little under the water; and I'll smear the notch with mud so
that the rat won't notice it.
[Sidenote: TRAPPING MUSKRATS]
We opened the trap, and set it in the notch; and then fastened the
chain, which was attached to the trap, to a stick; and drove the stick
into the bank a little way up the stream. Let's put the next trap in
the path. Drive the stick into the ground, so that they can't carry the
trap off. That's right. Now set the trap and sprinkle some leaves over
it to hide it.
In some of the brooks we drove a couple of sticks into the bank, so
that the trap would rest on them, a couple of inches beneath the
surface of the water, and fastened the chain up stream. We drove a
stick into the bank about ten inches above the trap, and stuck a sweet
apple on the end of it. There, that looks real tempting. A rat will
come swimming along, and when he sees that apple, he will jump for it;
and if you are lucky, he will fall into the trap.
Who's that over on the island in the meadow?
Captain Wooton. He's girdling trees.
What's he doing that for?
To kill them off. That's the way the Indians cleared their land.
The trees die, and when they are dead, he sets them on fire in the wet
season, and burns them up. He was a sea-captain, and married one of the
Winship girls, and old Mr. Winship gave them this land.
Well, let's hurry up and set the rest of the traps. I've got to get
home to my chores.
Edmund lived on the further side of the meadows and close to them,
and in going to school passed several brooks that flowed into them. I
lived above the meadows, and had to go out of my way to reach them. So
Edmund looked after nine traps, and I took care of five. Every morning
we examined the traps, to see if we had caught anything, and to set
them again, and bait them. If a trap was not in sight, we pulled on the
chain, and generally found a muskrat in the trap, drowned, with his
hair all soaked down on his sides. Sometimes we would find one alive in
a trap in their paths, and sometimes only a foot.
[Sidenote: DAVID'S BLACK CAT]
Occasionally my little brother David went with me, and while I was
baiting a trap, would run on, to see if there was anything in the next
one. Once he came back to me, and said, Benny, some mean fellow has
been down here, and stuck a nasty black cat in the trap. The cat
turned out to be a mink with a fine fur. After we had examined the
traps, Edmund and I used to meet at a spot on Deacon Brown's farm,
which was so pretty that folks called it God's Creation; and then we
went over to the highway together, on our way to school.
We trapped muskrats till April, and got fifty-four muskrats and two
mink. Skins are like oysters, good every month in the year that has an
R in it.
How many were actually caught in our traps is another matter. A
half-breed Indian named Tony lived in a little hut by the edge of the
meadows. Frequently we found prints of his moccasins by our traps; and
they would be baited with a different kind of an apple from that we
Probably Tony needed muskrat skins more than we, or at least thought
that he did.
We disliked Tony and avoided him. We had our little scalping-parties
or war-paths and ambuscades, in imitation of the Indians, but in spite
of that we hated them heartily, and thought it a great weakness on the
part of our minister, Bishop Hancock, when he spoke a good word for
[Sidenote: BISHOP HANCOCK]
He, Bishop Hancock, was of the salt of the earth. He was very old,
but bright and strong, and as full of fun as a kitten. Old age seemed
to improve him, as it does wine, and made him ripe and mellow.
When we saw him walking down the road, with his full-bottomed white
wig, his black coat and small clothes, his black silk stockings, and
his white Geneva bands, we gathered on one side of the road, folded our
hands, ducked our heads, and made our manners.
He always had some funny or quaint remark to make to us. There was,
perhaps, nothing wonderful in what he said, but his words always had a
pleasant savour; and the day seemed brighter after he had spoken to us.
He was himself like one of those serene peaceful days that come in the
Indian summer near the close of the year.
He had so much common sense and so sure a judgment, that all the
ministers of the county ran to him for advice, if any important matter
came up. And he had such authority among them, that they called him
Bishop Hancock, for he was as a bishop to them; and they loved and
revered him as much as they would have hated a real bishop.
His grandson, John Hancock, came to live with him, and went to
school with us. Young John was of our age, bright, quick-witted, with a
kind heart, an open hand, and a full allowance of self-conceit.
He was always boasting about his Uncle Thomas, the richest man in
Boston, of his wharf and warehouses and ships, and of his new stone
house on the Beacon Hill.
And after I go to college, I'm going to live with Uncle Thomas, and
be a merchant like him, he used to proclaim.
Edmund, Davy, and I went up to Bishop Hancock's one noon with John,
and made a careful and minute survey of the premises, after the manner
of boys. We inspected the pigs beneath the barn, and got a pail of
water and scrubbed them with a broom till we were satisfied with their
appearance. Then we learned the names and good points of the cows and
horses. When we got to the loft, Davy made a great discoverya pigeon
net stowed away on the rafters. Before we left, John had obtained a
promise from his grandfather that he might use it to catch pigeons.
The next day we took it to a hill on the other side of the road, and
looked for a place to spread it. John knew as much about pigeon
catching as a hen does about skating. But he ordered us about, right
and left, till Davy objected.
See here, John! That place you chose is full of humps and hollows,
and won't do. We want a level spot, where the net will lie flat; and we
must have a good place near by, where we can hide. What's the matter
with that open place over there, with the big clump of bushes behind
[Sidenote: THEY SET A PIGEON NET]
Well, I guess that's all right.
Now, boys, said Davy, peg down one end of the net. That's it.
Spread it out. It lies like a tablecloth on a table. Fold it up, so
that the pole will be on top. Now fasten the springs into the ground.
Set them and rest the pole on them. Fasten the strings to each spring,
so that when we pull, the springs will fly up, and throw the pole
forward over the pigeons. That's right. Now let's try it.
We went back toward the bushes and pulled the strings. The springs
threw the pole forward, and the net was spread out on the ground.
How soon can we begin, Davy? asked John.
Not for three or four days. We'll fold the net up and set it; and
you must come up here every evening and bait the ground by throwing
down some grain. When the birds get used to the net, we can come up and
John reported to us daily that the birds were getting tamer, and
were not afraid of the net.
On Saturday we went up and hid in the bushes. John held the strings
of course. We could see the pigeons picking up the grain, and when a
number were together, Davy said Now, John!
John pulled the strings, and the pole was thrown forward so that the
net fell over the pigeons. We rushed up and stood on the edge of the
net. As the pigeons poked their heads up through the meshes, we wrung
We set the net three times and caught a couple of dozen of pigeons.
Then we went to the house, and John told of the pigeons he had caught.
Didn't the other boys have anything to do with it?
Oh, yes, they helped, but I pulled the strings.
[Sidenote: BISHOP HANCOCK'S DRESSING-GOWN]
I've noticed that it isn't always the man that pulls the strings
who does the real solid work, said Mr. Hancock.
We did not have many quarrels or lawsuits in his time. If any
dispute arose, he interfered, heard both sides, and settled the case.
His decision ended the matter, for the defeated person knew that every
one in town would stand by Bishop Hancock's law.
I was playing in the yard with John one afternoon, when Mr. Hancock
came to the window. He had on a gorgeous flowered silk dressing-gown,
and instead of his big white wig, wore on his head a cap or turban of
the same gorgeous silk. I hardly knew him, and stared at him.
What's the matter, Benny? Oh, it's the dressing-gown and cap. You
probably took me for some strange East India birda peacock, perhaps.
It's nothing but some finery my son Thomas sent me to put on in the
house. After wearing black all my life, it is very pleasant to move
through the rooms looking like a rainbow.
You did kind of startle me, sir. I suppose Joseph's coat must have
looked a good deal like that.
Ha, ha, Benny, I guess you're right. And it aroused envy. Mrs.
Hancock said yesterday that this would make a fine gown. I must be
careful to whom I show myself in this attire.
I hear that there is a quarrel between Sam Locke and Jesse Robinson
over the boundary line between their farms up on the old Salem road.
I want you to go up there, John, and tell them that I wish both of
them to meet me at the boundary line to-morrow afternoon at five
o'clock. You might go with him, Benny, if you have time.
We did our errand, and the two men, in rather a surly manner,
promised to meet Mr. Hancock. The next afternoon Mr. Hancock gave us a
couple of stakes, which he told us to sharpen, and then we went up to
the Salem road together. We found Sam and Jesse sitting on a stone
Mr. Hancock said: Well, neighbours, I hear that you have a dispute
over your boundaries, and that you're going to law about it. That won't
do at all. I'm not going to have you spending your money fighting this
matter in one court and then in another, till your money is gone. We
can clear up the trouble here to-day. State your cases to me, and I can
give as good a decision as any court. Go on, Sam, and tell your story.
Wait till he's through, Jesse, before you say a word. Sam told his
side of the case, and then Jesse, and then Sam had a second chance, and
after him Jesse again.
[Sidenote: BISHOP HANCOCK'S LAW]
Though Sam and Jesse were supposed to do all the talking, yet the
bishop had his say, too. And he was so sensible and genial that soon
there was a different feeling between the two men. He told stories of
their fathers when they were boys; what great friends they were, and
how they bought adjoining farms to be near each other. And as for that
onion bed which marked the southern boundary of Jesse's farm, I have a
very good idea of where it was. And probably we can see now where it
was by the difference in the grass. He walked along and said, A big
stone with a flat top stuck up about twenty feet from the edge of the
Why, that's just ahead of us, said Jesse.
I thought so. And now that I've heard your stories, and remember
the onion bed and the stone, I think that this is the boundary line.
Drive a stake down here, Benny. Now, neighbours, we've got it settled
without costing a penny, and I want you to shake hands and be as close
friends as your fathers were; for you're both good fellows.
How we did enjoy that old man! One day Edmund and John and I were
seated in his yard, near the stable, mending the pigeon net, and Bishop
Hancock was oiling a harness hanging just inside the barn, when the
gate opened, and two old fools came into the yard.
Good morning, Mr. Hancock.
Good morning, neighbour Hall and neighbour Perry. You've caught me
in a nice mess. There's nothing very ministerial about this. Quite
different from preaching a long sermon at you; and to tell the truth, I
half believe we preach too much. My friend Cotton Mather had a story of
an old Indian who was in jail, about to be hanged for some crime.
[Sidenote: WOULD-BE ELDERS]
A minister visited him in his cell and prayed with him and preached
at him till the Indian begged the jailer to hurry up the hanging. He
preferred it to any more talk.
This harness was getting about as rusty as my old bones and needed
oiling badly. And now, neighbours, is there anything I can do for you?
Well, Mr. Hancock, your remark just now about your age is to the
point. Some years ago you had the help of your good son Ebenezer, whose
loss we all deplore. And some of us have been considering your great
age, and the numerous and hard duties you perform; and we have thought
it might be well if you had some assistance and aid. We know that it
used to be common to have a couple of elders to assist the pastor; and
thought that you might find it pleasant to revive the office, and have
the help of two elders.
Mr. Hancock thought for a moment and said: That's an excellent
notion. But where can we find men ready to fulfil the duties of the
Well, Uriah and me have been talking it over, and we would be
willing to take the office, for the sake of helping you.
I suppose you know the duties of elders?
No! But you know all about it, and could tell us.
Well, gentlemen, the duties of elders have never been very clearly
defined in the church. But latterly they have settled down to this. The
younger elder is to brush down and harness the pastor's horse when he
wishes to ride out, and the elder is to accompany him, when he goes out
of town, and pay his bills. I should be glad to have you appointed.
Uriah gave a gasp, and said: Hello! It looks as if there was a
shower coming up, and my hay's out. Good-by, Mr. Hancock; we'll see you
The bishop looked after them, as they walked away, and turned round
with a twinkle in his eye. Seeing us laughing, he laughed too, and
[Sidenote: NO ELDERS IN MR. HANCOCK'S DAY]
I don't believe we shall have any elders in Lexington, boys. At
least, not in my day.
CHAPTER III. IN WHICH ARE DETAILS OF
A GREAT FOX HUNT
When the winter came there were a great many quail about our barn.
Smiling Bill Smith, who worked for us,Old Bill Smiley some folks
called him, on account of the broad grin he always wore,said to me:
Them whales, Ben, pretty near bother the life out of me. They creep
in through the cracks and crannies and eat the grain. If I go over by
the grain chest, the first thing I know, there's a whir, and a cloud of
them darts up in front of my face. Sometimes it makes my heart come
right up in my mouth. I wish there wasn't a whale round the place.
Quails, Bill. What makes you call them whales?
Whales I heard them called when I was a boy, and whales they are to
[Sidenote: CATCHING QUAIL]
Perhaps you think it was one of these whales that swallowed Jonah?
I never did think so, Benny. But if he did, it was a miracle, sure
Davy helped me make a figure-4 trap to catch them. One Saturday
morning I met Edmund down at John Buckman's store, trading some butter
and eggs for tea and sugar.
Come up to the house, Edmund. I've got a figure-4 trap; and we'll
catch some quail.
We set the trap, and put some grain under the box. Several quail
flew down, hopped about, and soon discovered the grain. While they were
pecking away at it, they sprang the trap. The box fell over them, and
we caught three.
Now, Edmund, you find some grass-seed in the barn, and sprinkle it
in a line from the door. And I'll go and get the gun, and we'll take a
raking shot at them.
I went after the gun, and gave it to him. We hid in the barn, and
before long some more quail flew down and began to eat the seed. When
they were well in line he fired, and killed four and wounded several.
The wounded ones hopped about, cried out, and took on piteously, and
acted like so many little children in distress.
I did not like this at all, and Edmund seemed very much troubled.
Come on, Edmund. We've got to kill those that are sure to die. The
rest we will put in a box with some hay, and perhaps they will get
We wrung the necks of three, and put the others in a box and covered
Then we looked at each other, and Edmund opened his basket, and let
those we had caught fly away.
No more quail shooting for me, Ben. They're too human. By George, I
know just how a murderer feels.
One snowy winter day, Davy came to our barn, where I was foddering
the cattle, and said:
Ben, this storm will be over to-morrow, and will make fine
snowshoeing. Amos Locke is going with me fox-hunting, and we want you
to come too.
[Sidenote: INVITATION TO A FOX HUNT]
I don't know that I can go. Let's talk it over with my brother
When John heard us he said: I guess I can fix things so that you
can get off. Pitch in, work hard, and do some of the stints that father
set you for to-morrow, and I will look after your chores.
By the time mother came to the door and blew the horn for supper, we
had done a great deal of work.
After supper I lit a big pine knot and placed it in the side of the
fireplace, so that the smoke from it would go up the chimney. It threw
a pleasant light out into the room. Father was at work on an ox-bow.
John had a rake into which he was setting some new teeth, and I sat on
a stool with a wooden shovel between my legs, shelling corn; rasping
the ears on the iron edge of the shovel, so that the kernels fell into
a big basket in front of me.
My little brother David was sitting on a bench in the side of the
great fireplace, reading that terrible poem by the Rev. Michael
Wigglesworth, called the Day of Doom, which tells all about the day
of judgment,how the sinners are doomed to burn eternally in
brimstone; and the saints are represented as seated comfortably in
their armchairs in heaven, looking down into the sulphurous pit.
I used to wonder how Mr. Wigglesworth got so thorough a knowledge of
these two places and of judgment day, and doubts crept into my mind as
to the accuracy of his description. When I thought of Bishop Hancock
seated in one of those armchairs, I knew that his soul, at least, would
be full of pity and sorrow for the poor sufferers below, and I felt
that the saints ought to be a good deal like him.
I did not envy David his book. It seemed to me that every now and
then I could see his hair rise up and his eyes bulge out with terror.
Mother stood by the woollen wheel, spinning, and my little sister
Ruhama sat near her, knitting.
The fire lit up the room and made the pewter dishes on the dresser
Above us, hanging from the rafters, were bunches of herbs,
crooked-neck squashes, and poles on which were strung circular slices
of pumpkin which were drying, to be made into sauce in the future.
[Sidenote: THE DAY OF DOOM"]
David shut up his book, went to mother, and said: Oh, mother,
mother! I'm scared to death. Do you suppose I've got to go to hell?
No, David. You're a good little boy. Just learn your catechism, go
to meeting, and be a good boy, and I guess you'll come out all right.
I remembered well how I felt as I read that book, and the hours of
anguish that it caused me. David got some apples, placed them on the
hearth in front of the fire; and, in watching them roast and sputter,
he soon forgot his fears.
John began to talk to father about old times, and soon got him
started telling stories about hunting.
Yes, I used to go after wild turkeys with Will Munroe, the
blacksmith, when I was a boy. One day we met Ben Wellington, and he
said he had just come down the Back Road, and had seen a bear in a
huckleberry patch, and if we'd go with him, we could kill him. He
borrowed a gun of Tom Fessenden, and we drew our charges, and loaded
with a bullet and some buckshot. When we got to the place, we crept
along carefully, and saw the bear stripping off the huckleberries and
eating them. He was so busy he didn't notice us, and we got quite close
to him. Will and I fired, and he rose and turned to us, and Ben fired.
We ran off a little, loaded again, and went back, and found the bear
In the winter we used to go fox-hunting. What fun we had! I vum,
I'd like to go now.
This gave John a good opening, and he said: Young David Fiske and
Amos Locke are going after foxes to-morrow, and they want Ben to go
with them. Benny worked hard to-day, and did most of the jobs that you
laid out for him to do to-morrow; and I told him that if you would let
him go, I would do his chores.
Well, said father, one can't be young but once in one's life. I
certainly did have great fun hunting when I was a boy; and if you'll do
Benny's chores, I think we can manage to let him go. But it was a
pretty sly trick of yours, John, to lead the talk around to hunting,
and get me worked up over it, before you said anything about
[Sidenote: LUXURIOUS LIVING]
I thought it would be a good idea to make you remember how much you
liked it yourself.
The clock struck nine, and we got up and put our things away. Father
read a chapter from the Bible. Then I raked up a great mass of red
coals, and covered them carefully with ashes to keep them alive till
John and I went up to the attic, where we slept; and as I undressed
and lay down in my straw bed, I could hear the wind hum and whistle as
it caught on the roof, and cold draughts swept through the attic.
I pulled the blankets and comforter closely about me, and was soon
asleep, dreaming of foxes.
When I awoke, I jumped out of bed and stepped into some snow that
had sifted in through the cracks and formed a little drift over my
leather breeches, which were frozen hard as a board. I shook the snow
off them, and, grabbing up my clothes, ran downstairs, pulled the ashes
off the coals, and fanned them till they were bright, and built a good
fire in the fireplace. I warmed my leather breeches over the fire till
they were softened so that I could get into them.
It was a little after five o'clock. The snowstorm was over, and the
moon was shining bright.
Mother came in and said, Well, Benny, you've built me a nice fire,
and I hope you'll have a good time.
She hung a pot with some hasty pudding in it over the fire, warmed
it up, and fried some pork in the skillet. I brought up a jug of cider
from the cellar, and as I was eating breakfast, father came in and took
down the gun from over the fireplace. I think I'll put a new flint in
the gun, Ben. You don't want to miss fire when you get a chance to
shoot at a fox. Be careful of the gun. You know it belonged to your
Uncle John, and he had it with him when he was killed in the Indian
fight up to York, the same time that Ben Muzzy was captivated and
carried off. I never take it down without thinking of John. He was
dreadful fond of hunting, just as you be, Benny. You put me in mind of
[Sidenote: BEN STARTS FOR THE FOX HUNT]
I pulled some long stockings that belonged to my brother John over
my own shoes and stockings, put on my woollen frock, and buckled my
belt round my waist. Father handed me the gun, and said, Give my
respects to Dr. Fiske, Benny, and good luck to ye.
When I got outdoors, I slipped my toes under the thongs of the
rackets, and shuffled along over the fields till I got to the road. The
moon was bright, and everything was distinct and clear.
I skimmed along over the snow, and William Munroe, the blacksmith,
came out of his house near the foot of the common, just as I was
Hello, Benny, you're up early to-day. Where are you bound for?
Fox-hunting with Davy Fiske.
Well, he's a good one at it, and it will be a fine day.
The meeting-house was covered with a casing of snow. As I passed by
the common I could see lights in Sam Jones's house and in old John
Muzzy's. I kept on up the road by Jonas Parker's, and when I came in
sight of Dr. Fiske's place, Davy was outside, waiting for me.
Hello, Ben! Where have you been? I've been waiting for you these
Oh, pshaw, Davy. This is plenty early. You can't see the least bit
of daylight yet, and one can't do much with foxes till the sun is well
up and warms the scent.
The doctor came to the door and said:
Don't mind David, Benny. You're early enough. But he's crazy about
hunting, and wants to be at it all the time. It would be better for him
if he spent less time at it.
Father told me to give his respects to you, sir.
All right, Benny. Now, boys, take things easy, or you'll be tired
out before you see a fox.
As Davy and I skimmed along over the snow, the day began to break.
We had only one dog with us, but he was a real good one. His name was
That's a good dog, Davy, but he's got the funniest name for a dog I
ever heard. How did he get it?
Oh, I dunno! Father gave it to him. There was a doctor in Boston
started this inoculation business for the smallpox. Folks were about
ready to tear his house down; but he kept on inoculating, his patients
didn't die, and finally people let up on him. Father thinks a heap of
this inoculation and sets a store by this Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, and
named his best horse and dog after him.
But I should think we ought to have more than one dog with us,
Well, ain't we going over to Dog Lane, to pick up little Amos
Locke? Every one over there hunts and has a dog. When we get there,
you'll find Amos walking up and down, and all the dogs of Dog Lane
following him. You won't be looking for dogs when you get there. The
question will be, how to get rid of them.
Just then Davy held up his hand. Hush, Ben, and pointed to a spot
where the snow had been shaken up. Give me a racket. I did so. He
held it over the spot, and stuck his hand under it into the snow.
Something darted up against the racket, and at the same time I was
covered with snow from head to foot, and a partridge flew off. Davy
laughed. Why didn't you catch him, Ben? I got one. He drew his hand
out with a partridge in it. He twisted its neck, and we started on
The partridges dive down into the snow, and sleep there, but I
don't see why those two went to bed so late after the storm was over.
Something must have disturbed them. If I hadn't the racket to clap over
the place, I should have lost him. I learned that trick from Amos
But there is Amos, waiting for us, with all the dogs of Dog Lane
about him. What did I tell you about dogs?
Isn't Amos rather young to go fox-hunting, Davy?
[Sidenote: AMOS LOCKE]
Sho! That's all you know about it. That little hatchet-faced fellow
is tougher than a boiled owl, and knows almost as much about foxes and
birds as I do, and that's saying a good deal. He's big, too, for his
age, and will be pretty strong, though I don't suppose he will be as
strong as you are. What do you do, Ben, to make you so strong? I could
walk the legs off of you; but you've got a terrible grip, and throw me
just as easy as nothing at all. If you keep on, you'll be as good a
wrestler as Jonas Parker; and he's the best the whole country round.
How do you get so strong?
Oh, I dunno! Father's strong, and mother's strong. Comes natural, I
Well, perhaps so. Father's a doctor, and my brothers are going to
be doctors; but I ain't. I'm going to be a hunter.
Amos shouted: Hello, Dave and Ben! Where have you been? I'd about
g-g-given you up. Amos stammered a little, except when he was stirred
up, and then he stammered a good deal.
Now, don't you get excited, sonny. We've got the whole day before
us. Do you own all these dogs?
Oh, d-darn it, Davy, I can't help it. The whole pack of them keep
following me all the time, and if I've got a gun, they stick to me like
Well! They're beauties. Regular full-blooded foxhounds, every one
Oh, get out, Dave. They may not be p-p-pretty, but they hunt almost
as g-good as Zabdiel. Come here, Zab, old boy. I've been trying to get
rid of them for the last two hours. But they seem to g-g-get out about
as fast as I p-put them in.
Well, come on over to Bear's Hill. That's the best place. Call your
We kept on past Corner Hedge and Pine Grove till we came to
Listening Hill. There the hounds struck a scent, lifted up their heads,
bayed, and started off on the trail.
At first they went along the foot of Listening Hill, then up it, and
over the top. We had to take our rackets off, for it was so rocky and
uneven that we could not use them. The rocks stuck up through the snow.
Holding our rackets under our left arms and our guns in our right
hands, we followed over the crest of the hill, along the high land, and
then down the slope. Here we put on our rackets again. The dogs were
far ahead of us. We came to low land with a brook running through it,
and in the distance could see the dogs.
[Sidenote: BEAVER HOLES]
Hold on, boys, said Davy; this won't do. That fox is too many for
us. And putting his fingers to his mouth, he gave three shrill
whistles. That will call Zab back. It won't do for us to go fooling
round on that swamp. It's full of holes, six to eight feet deep, that
they call beaver holes. I don't know why; perhaps the beaver made them
when they were here. If you get into one of them, it's all up with you,
and the snow covers everything up so smooth that we can't tell where
they are. That fox don't live here anyway, and is making straight for
home, and he may live ten miles off.
There's a nice spring of water in the side of Listening Hill. We'd
better go over to it and have something to eat, and then we can start
We went to the spring and had a good drink. Then we took out the
food that our mothers had put up for us. We munched away, and before
long Zab came back.
I wonder where those other fool dogs are, said Davy.
Oh, they're all right. They'll come to Dog Lane to-night all b-beat
out, and they'll let me alone for a week.
I tell you what it is, said Davy. We ought never to have gone on
that trail. We ought to have gone to Bear's Hill, just as we started
to. There's always some foxes at Bear's Hill that live there, and don't
want to leave home. Let's go after them.
After we had eaten our fill we threw the rest of our food on the
snow, and Zab gulped it down in no time and had a contented look,
probably thinking of those other dogs with their empty bellies.
We started off for Bear's Hill, and Davy said: This is a different
kind of a place. Foxes that you find here belong here.
[Sidenote: THE FOX HUNT]
We came on a fox track, and Zab started off on it, and we after him.
First we went along one side of the hill, then over it, and we had to
take off our rackets again. Then along the foot of the hill, and Davy
said: He lives here. We'll get him. Pull off your frock, Ben. And he
began to pull off his.
Now, Amos, you go up that lane till you come to a gap in the hill.
A stone wall crosses it, and almost always when you hunt round this
hill, the fox comes down that gully to the stone wall. Get behind a
bush near the wall; and you'll see the fox come down the hollow to it.
And he will put his fore paws up on the wall, and wait a moment to hark
for the dog. When he does that, you give it to him. Take our frocks,
and if you feel cold, put one of them on. Wait there, and keep your
eyes and ears open.
Amos went up the lane, and we followed Zab. At last he seemed to be
coming somewhat toward us.
Let's spread out a bit, Ben, and try to head the fox off.
He ran to the right, and I followed him, at some distance behind. We
could hear that Zab was coming nearer, as we ran, and at last we heard
The little cuss has got him, I'll bet you. Come on, Ben.
We ran on and came to the gully; and at the lower end of it was
Amos, with my frock on, which reached down to the ground. He was
holding up the fox, and Zab was jumping up and down.
Good boy, Amos! Now tell us about it.
Well, I did just as you t-t-told me, Davy. I went up the lane till
I c-came to the gully and saw the stone wall. I found a good b-bush
about twenty-five yards from the wall, and got behind it and waited
till I began to feel c-cold. I pulled Ben's frock on, and left the neck
of it open so that I could get the stock of the gun in to my shoulder,
and spread out your f-frock and knelt on it. Then I heard Zab, and knew
that he was c-coming toward me. I got ready and saw the fox creeping
down the g-gully, and he did just as you said he would. When he got to
the wall he p-put his fore paws upon it, p-pricked up his ears, and
moved them forward and back as he listened for Zab, and I f-fired. I
aimed at his b-b-breast and p-put two b-buckshot in his breast and one
in his neck.
[Sidenote: DR. FISKE HAS A PATIENT]
Yer done well, Amos. I couldn't a done better myself. He has a good
fur and is a mighty fine fox.
It was getting pretty well along in the afternoon, and we thought we
had had enough of hunting. I picked up the fox and carried it for Amos
till we reached Dog Lane, when he left us. We found the partridge where
we had tied it to a branch.
When we reached Dr. Fiske's, his sleigh was in front of the door.
The doctor had put on a small riding wig with an eelskin cue, and was
getting into his greatcoat.
You're just in time, Benny; old Francis Whittemore, down at the
East Village, has had a fit; and I've got to go and see what I can do
for him. The old man has too much blood, and it's gone to his head. We
must bleed him. Take the lancets, Jonathan, and the basin too, and a
bottle of Daffy's Elixir. There's nothing like it to tone up the
stomach. Now we are all ready. Tie your rackets on behind and sit in
the bottom of the sleigh, Ben.
The doctor and his son Jonathan got in, and I sat in the straw till
the doctor pulled up and let me out not far from our house.
CHAPTER IV. TRADING IN THOSE
DAYSBEN IS APPRENTICEDTHE ENLISTING SERGEANTCOURT DAY AT CONCORD
About this time my life changed a good deal. Bishop Hancock had died
during the previous winter. Young John was adopted by his Uncle Thomas,
the Boston merchant, and went to Harvard College. Edmund's mother, who
had been a widow several years, married Squire Bowman, and went to live
at his house at the south end of the town. As for myself, I was growing
up, and had my stint of work with the others. In the spring, driving
the oxen, while father held the plough. Then came sowing the land and
planting corn. Then half-hilling and again hilling it. Then helping to
hay, and to gather in the crops. In the fall, picking apples and making
cider. And as the winter came on, I helped to kill and dress a steer
and a couple of hogs, and to put them in the powdering tubs and pickle
them. Then we hung the hams and sides of bacon up in the chimney to be
cured. Beside these things the daily care of the cattle and milking
kept me busy all the time.
And it seemed to me that we got but small return for our labour. We
had a large barn full of cattle and horses, and the loft full of hay
for them. A snug home for ourselves and plenty to eat and drink. We
raised the flax and wool from which our clothes were made. When we
killed an ox or a calf, the hide was tanned to make into shoes.
But we had very little ready money. Whatever dealings we had with
our neighbours was done by exchanging goods,trading we called it.
Trading was going on all the time.
One morning, as we boys were walking up the road, and had reached
the upper end of Captain Esterbrook's land, Edmund said, Hello, Ben,
look over there. Captain Joe Esterbrook and Matthew Mead are trading.
Whenever you see one man sitting on a log and another walking up and
down with a straw in his mouth, then they're trading. And the man with
the straw in his mouth is the one anxious to have the trade go through.
See how nervous Matthew is, and Captain Joe, sitting on the log
whittling, looks just as calm and contented as a frog in a puddle. When
you trade, Ben, don't chew a straw, but sit down and whittle. Captain
Joe probably wants the trade to go through as much as Matthew does. But
the whittling keeps his hands and eyes busy, and steadies his nerves.
It gives him a chance to look as if he didn't care a snap about it.
I don't think there's any need of Captain Joe whittling, said I.
He's as keen as a razor at a trade. I was going by his place a little
while ago, and he had his old horse Bjax out in front of the stable,
showing him to a fur trader from the Back Country, whose horse had gone
'Yes,' says he, 'he's a fine horse, kind and sound, and I wouldn't
part with him for anything, if the other one hadn't died. I had a horse
called Ajax, that I got of one of the professors down to the college,
and the next one I bought I called Bjax. But now that Ajax is gone,
there don't seem to be no sense to the name. When I had Ajax, Bjax was
all right; but Bjax alone sounds sort of ridiculous, and I'll let you
have him cheap.'
His black boy, Prince, was hanging round, looking as if a funeral
was going on. He stepped up, and said, 'Oh, massa, massa. Don't sell
that horse. That's just the best horse we ever had.' Then the black
rascal went behind the man, winked at me and grinned.
Late in the fall, after we had killed off some of the cattle, father
would load a couple of pack-horses with beef and pork, which he sold in
Salem. For in those days Salem was more easily reached than Boston.
Probably not more than one or two families in the town spent over
twenty Spanish dollars in the course of the year.
Money came most readily to those who had a handicraft, and there was
hardly a house on the main road in which there was not an artificer of
[Sidenote: BEN APPRENTICED TO A BLACKSMITH]
A prudent father took care that his son learned a trade. Edmund was
sent to Concord and became a cordwainer or shoemaker. Davy Fiske was a
weaver, and soon after the fox hunt I was apprenticed to Robert
Harrington, to learn the blacksmith's trade. He was a large, strong
man, of a kindly nature, and was an excellent bass singer. As we worked
together in his shop, with his son Thaddeus, we frequently sang psalm
tunes, and his younger son Dan piped in a treble.
One day Major Ben Reed rode up, and brought his horse in to be shod.
Well, Robert, we're going to have war again with the French.
Governor Shirley's got word that they are making a settlement and
building a fort down on our eastern frontier, and has ordered Colonel
John Winslow to raise a regiment, and go down there to put a stop to
it. Captain Frye of Littleton is raising a company, and if any of the
boys want to join the expedition, they'd better enlist with him.
Davy Fiske's two older brothers, Jonathan and John, did enlist. They
joined this company, and so did Joe Locke.
The regiment went up the Kennebec, built a fort, and then half of
them went further up the river, to the Great Carrying Place, but found
no settlements, no French nor Indians, nothing but immense and terrible
swarms of black flies, midges, and bloodsucking mosquitoes; and after
considerable blood was shed on both sides, they retreated and returned
This was but the beginning of the great struggle that we had with
the French for seven long years. In the next year, 1755, early in the
spring, Colonel Winslow was again ordered to beat his drums through our
Province, and raise a regiment to proceed against Acadia; and Captain
Spikeman began to enlist a company in our county.
The captain made his headquarters in Concord at Rowe's Tavern, which
was kept by Edmund's uncle, Captain Thomas Munroe.
Several times, a sergeant, corporal, and a couple of drummers came
down to Lexington, and marched through the town, beating a rub-a-dub on
their drums. The sergeant would speak to the crowd, and try to get them
to enlist. He would promise themwell, what wouldn't he promise them?
Lands, booty, rich farms, the chance of becoming a general at least. He
was an oily-tongued fellow, and Uriah Hall's son Uriah, Phineas Parker,
and Tom Blanchard enlisted with him. He and his drummers stopped at our
shop one day, and he came in. He placed his halberd in a corner,
brushed the dust from the top of a box, and sat down.
[Sidenote: EXPEDITION TO ACADIA]
Well, which of you young men is going to serve the King? There
never was such a chance for a soldier as this. Here we are, going down
to the richest country in the world, to turn these Acadians out of
house and home; and any soldier who wants a farm can have it for the
asking. Richest soil in the world. You can raise anything there. Level
as a table, all cleared, not a stone in it, farm tools, housen and
outhousen, and everything all ready for you. Hundreds of acres for the
asking, and lots of booty besides. What better chance do you want?
Mr. Harrington, who was leaning on his hammer by the forge, asked:
But why do you turn them out? Why don't you let them alone?
Why do we turn them out? Because we must. That country has belonged
to England for forty-two years. And not one of those people will take
the oath of allegiance. They have the easiest time in the world. Not a
penny of taxes was ever asked them, and they have been treated like pet
lambs. Their priests tell them not to take the oath of allegiance, and
they expect every year that the King of France will retake the
Well, what of it? They say they are neutrals, and if you leave them
alone, and they mind their own business, and till their farms, they'll
come round all right in the end.
Will they? They're the funniest neutrals you ever saw. They are
dead set against England, and claim to belong to France. If a garrison
wants to buy food, not a bit will they sell. But when the French and
Indians make an inroad into the country, they run to them, give them
all they have, join in with them, and fight us. When the French are
driven back, they scatter and go back to their farms, as innocent as
can be. No, sir. There's no getting on with them. It has been tried
over forty years. The only way to stop this constant trouble and
fighting is to carry the whole of them out of the country, and give
their rich farms to good, honest young men like these here.
[Sidenote: THE ACADIANS MUST BE DRIVEN OUT]
Come now! Take the King's shilling. Serve his Majesty, good King
George, for a few months; and you can live like lords for the rest of
Thaddeus and I were mightily tempted by the man's talk, but Mr.
Harrington said that he could not spare us, and that we were too young,
anyhow. And very likely, boys, instead of hundreds of acres, with
housen and outhousen, and farm tools, and booty, all that you'd get
would be six feet of ground and a pine box.
The days when the court sat at Concord were holidays with us, and
the people flocked up there to see the court come in, and to watch the
trials. And this spring, Spikeman's company was there too.
On the second day of court I rode to Concord, found Edmund at the
tavern, and we went round the town together.
The court had disposed of some cases already. We saw a couple seated
on the gallows, with ropes round their necks.
Are they going to hang them, Edmund?
Not unless they tumble off and hang themselves. I suppose they put
them up there to show that hanging would be none too good for them.
Look at those fellows in the stocks. They don't belong here, and did
not leave when warned out of town by the constable.
Near by the stocks was the pillory. There was a man standing in it,
with his head and hands sticking out through the holes. Of all
humiliating punishments, this always seemed to me to be the worst. A
man in that position looks thoroughly mean and contemptible. He appears
to be put there on purpose to have something thrown at him; and it
offers a temptation that boys cannot withstand.
[Sidenote: THE PILLORY]
Bill Wheeler's been missing his hens right along. He suspected this
man, and caught him one night, and the judge sentenced him to stand in
the pillory. There's Bill over there; listen to him!
Well, you miserable thief, how do you like it now? I had a good
deal of trouble to catch you; but it was worth while. You like hens? I
wonder how you will like hen-fruit.
He turned aside, and I heard him say to a boy: Here's a shilling,
Hiram. They tell me eggs are pretty cheap up at the store, specially
The boys asked the man in the pillory all manner of impudent
questions. He resented it, and threatened them, when plump went a
couple of eggs against the boards near his head, and the yolks
spattered over his face.
Don't! Don't you do that, boys! That's mighty mean. When I get out,
won't I give you a licking!
More eggs were thrown, and as he ducked his head, one struck him on
the top of his pate. When he raised it, the yellow yolk ran down over
his cheeks. Edmund and I told the boys to stop throwing eggs.
We ain't doing nothing, and 'tain't your business, anyhow.
We stood guard over the boys till we saw the crowd turn toward the
whipping-post; and the boys went there to see a man tied to it, and
soundly thrashed on his bare back with the cat-o'-nine-tails.
I've had enough of this, Edmund. Come over to the tavern.
The drummers were beating their drums in front of the inn, and the
sergeants were telling their story of the glory, honour, and booty to
Captain Spikeman stood near by, and if he saw a likely looking man,
who seemed to be tempted, he would begin talking to him, and ask him
into the tavern to have a mug of flip. Soon after, the sergeant would
be called in to pin a cockade on his hat and give him the King's
shilling to enlist him.
Edmund knew all the officers, who lived at the tavern, and was full
of enthusiasm. Ben, I'd like to go ever so much. I've set my heart on
being a soldier. But my time isn't up, and I must serve out my
That's just my fix. But if the war lasts, we may get a chance yet.
In the afternoon I bade him good-by, and rode back home.
CHAPTER V. PIGEON TUESDAY AND ITS
Davy Fiske had become a weaver, as I said, and as there were several
David Fiskes in town, he was called Weaver David. We used to send yarn
up to him to weave, and I wore clothes made of cloth that came from his
loom. Early that same spring he came down to the blacksmith's shop with
one of his father's horses to be shod, and as I was getting ready,
said: Ben, it's awful to see the boys going off to the war, having all
this fun fighting the French and Indians, and to be shut up in that
confounded loom, listening to its clatter, when there's so much going
on. Jonathan and John have just gone off again, and I must stay at
home. But the pigeons are flying now, and next Tuesday will be Pigeon
Tuesday. They always fly on that day. And there will be rafts of them
flying down to the shore. I suppose they go to get a taste of salt, and
must have it, just like the cattle. Amos Locke and I are going after
them up on Bull Meadow Hill, and we want you to come too.
[Sidenote: WILD PIGEONS]
I'll go, Davy, if I can get off.
After I had shod the horse, I spoke to Mr. Harrington about it. He
said: You won't need but half a day, Ben. The shooting will be all
over by nine o'clock, and you can come back and work in the afternoon.
In the spring flights of pigeons came north very early. They lived
in the woods and swamps, and as soon as it began to be light flew down
to the shore.
As they came along, we used to toll them down with our decoys. The
flight was almost always over by nine o'clock.
When they returned in the evening, they paid no attention to decoys,
but made straight for their roost.
Tuesday morning, I was at Davy's house a couple of hours before
sunrise and, as usual, found him grumbling because I had not come an
There was a bright moon, and we had plenty of light as we walked
over the fields, and Davy told me wonderful stories of his hunting. He
was full of superstitions, and had settled on this day as the one
particular day in the year when there would be a great flight of
Pigeon Hill, off there to our right, is a pretty good place for
pigeons. It's on our land, and I've got a pigeon rig up there. But Bull
Meadow Hill is higher and a good deal better. It belongs to Amos's
folks. He has a pigeon rig and pole on it, and it will be all ready.
Amos says Bull Meadow got its name because a bull was drowned in a
ditch there nigh on to a hundred years ago.
We reached Bull Meadow and went up the hill. Amos was there waiting
Where have you fellows b-been? I've been at work here for an hour
and have got things pretty near ready. I put some new boughs on the
booth so that it l-looks all r-right, and I've got a couple of flyers
and a flutterer in that basket.
We entered the booth from the rear. The front was open from the
covering to within three feet of the ground, so that we could stand up
and shoot, and when we crouched down, would be hidden.
[Sidenote: THE PIGEON RIG]
In front of the booth was a post about four feet high, in one side
of which the end of a pole about five feet long was fastened so that it
worked as if on a hinge. A string was tied to the pole and ran over the
top of the post. By pulling the string, the further end of the pole
could be raised or lowered by a person in the booth. Further from the
booth the top and branches of a small tree had been cut off, leaving a
standard twelve feet high, and to this a pole about twenty feet long
had been fastened, so that it looked a good deal like a well sweep.
The end of the pole pointed toward the hut, but not directly. It
slanted a little to one side in order that when the pigeons lighted on
the pole we could get a good raking shot at them. Our pigeons had soft
pads of leather called boots sewed round each leg to protect them from
the strings which we fastened to them. We tied the strings to the boots
of a pigeon, sewed a bandage over his eyes, and tied him to the further
end of the pigeon stool. This was the stool pigeon. We also called him
the flutterer or hoverer.
Now give us the flyers.
Amos took out two more pigeons, and we tied long and strong strings
to their boots.
Now they're ready. But there's hardly enough string for the long
flyer. We ought to let him go up at least forty feet.
Cut a little off the string of the short flyer then, and tie it on
to the other. The strings were the same length.
We looked round, to see if any pigeons were flying, but none were in
There don't seem to be any about. I'm afraid, Davy, Pigeon Tuesday
won't be a success this time.
You wait. They'll be here by and by.
They're f-flying well now. I was f-fishing in Swithin Reed's mill
p-pond, yesterday afternoon, and Venus Roe came over and said that
Swithin shot a lot of pigeons in the m-morning.
[Sidenote: A FLIGHT IN SIGHT]
Venus Roe! Who's she?
D-don't you know? She's a little n-nigger girl about twelve years
old, and belongs to Swithin. Some one in B-Boston gave her to him when
she was a baby.
Oh, yes! I remember now. I've heard father tell of meeting Swithin
riding out from Boston, with a keg of rum in one saddle bag, and out of
the other was sticking the head of a three-year-old nigger.
Here comes a flight. Send up your long flyer, Amos.
Amos threw the flyer up. We watched the pigeons. They seemed to be
coming toward us.
Now send up the short flyers.
They're coming to us. Pull the flyers down and keep hidden. Pull
away at the string, Ben, and work the pole, so that the hoverer will
keep his wings fluttering. Keep on, Ben. They see him.
The pigeons flew toward the flutterer, made a swirl in the air, and
began to light on the pigeon pole. We took up our guns, and as they
were hovering about the pole, trying to get a foothold, we fired, and
ran out and picked up twenty-nine pigeons.
That isn't bad, said Davy. I tell you, Pigeon Tuesday is the day.
There will be more along soon.
The sky was all crimson and gold in the east. We looked toward Mt.
Gilboa; the red face of the sun began to show itself. As it rose above
the hill, we heard the stroke of the bell.
Some one's d-dead.Hark! Only one stroke. It's a child. One for a
c-child, two for a woman, and three strokes for a man.
I know who it is. Father was called up to Sam Hadley's last night.
Little Benoni Mead was very poorly, and they didn't think he'd last
through the night.
Poor little Benoni! His father, Cornelius Mead, had died of camp
fever in the war; his mother and he had come on the town for support,
and had been boarded with her brother, Sam Hadley, not far from Bull
Meadow Hill. Benoni had always been ailing, and of late had failed
[Sidenote: ANOTHER FLIGHT OF PIGEONS]
Well, boys, said Davy, let's get back to work. It won't do Benoni
any good to be mooning round.
We watched for pigeons again, and another small flight came along.
We worked our decoys and got twenty.
After that we waited a long time,till nearly nine o'clock. Then
Davy and I gave it up, and decided to go home. Davy had some work to
do. But Amos said he would stay a little while longer. We made a
division of our pigeons, and Davy and I started for home.
We had not gone more than half a mile when we saw a terrible big
I wonder if Amos will get a shot at them, Ben. Let's get back as
quick as we can. We may be in time.
We threw down our pigeons, and made through the woods as fast as we
could. As we were running up the hill, we heard a bang.
Confound the luck, said Davy, we're just too late! Let's hurry up
and help Amos.
When we got to the top of the hill Amos was running round, twisting
the necks of the wounded pigeons. As soon as he saw us, he stood up and
H-H-He But he was too excited, and couldn't get the words out.
He pointed to the pigeons, and kept on catching them and twisting their
necks. We did the same. When we got through, Davy asked, What was it
that you were saying to us when we got here? I didn't quite catch it.
No! It sort er st-stuck on the way; 'h-help me' is pretty hard to
say sometimes. I t-t-tell you, b-boys, there was millions of 'em,
an-and I guess I shot a barrel full. When I saw that b-big flight
coming, I wished you were here, and then I was g-glad you were not. For
I w-wanted to see h-how many I should get. They came just like a b-big
cloud, and began to light on that p-pole, and the air was just f-full
of them. You c-couldn't see anything but pigeons. I blazed away, and
the ground was c-covered with them.
I was t-tickled enough to see you fellows jump in and help me. I
w-wonder how many there are. Let's count them.
[Sidenote: AMOS MAKES A GREAT SHOT]
We gathered them up, and there were fifty-two.
Hurrah! One f-for every week in the year!
Amos had a good many adventures in his life afterward, fighting with
the French and Indians. But that shot was the one particular thing that
made life a joy to him.
CHAPTER VI. A PAUPER'S FUNERALBEN'S
FRIEND THE MINISTER, AND BEN'S VICTORY IN WRESTLING
When I returned to the shop, Mr. Harrington said: I'm glad you're
back, Ben. The rest of the selectmen have left the care of Benoni
Mead's funeral to me, and I've got a lot of things to do. We must have
some gloves and scarves for the bearers, and you'll have to ride down
to Charlestown to buy them.
I mounted a horse and rode through Menotomy and over the Plains.
There was a sharp breeze blowing; and as I neared the Neck, I heard a
creaking as if a rusty hinge was being turned.
Looking to the left, I saw a negro hanging in gibbets at the foot of
a ledge. The wind made the body sway to and fro, and the grating of the
chains caused the noise. The sight made cold shivers go up my back, and
I hurried on till I reached Cheever's store near the Boston ferry and
bought the gloves and scarves.
[Sidenote: BENONI'S FUNERAL]
On the next day little Benoni was buried. Days on which there were
funerals were half-holidays, that every one might attend. When I
arrived at the Hadley house, there were a number of men near the door,
and others leaning on the fence. The town bier stood in front of the
house, and the pall was over it.
I went into the house and looked at Benoni. His thin little face was
peaceful and happy as if he had found rest and an end of pain. Old Seth
Green slouched in after me. Winter pig we used to call him, he was so
sleek and fat. He looked at Benoni with a woe-begone expression, and,
turning away, helped himself to some liquor which stood on a table.
I followed him out and heard him say to Amos Muzzy: Have you been
in to see Benoni? Looks real sweet and pretty. Mighty good rum the town
provided. Some of Buckman's best. Poor little fellow! I think I'll go
in and take another look at him.
The minister, Mr. Clark, now came. He made a short prayer, and then
the coffin was placed on the bier and covered with the pall. Some of
the most prominent men in the town were the pall-bearers. They placed
the bier on their shoulders, and the procession followed them. As we
passed the meeting-house, the bell tolled. When we reached the
burying-yard, the coffin was lowered into the grave. The minister made
another short prayer. Earth was thrown on the coffin, the grave was
filled in, and we departed.
I say the minister, Mr. Clark. For some time after the death of Mr.
Hancock we had no settled pastor. Ministers came and preached awhile
for us and then departed. We had become so accustomed to the old bishop
that it seemed as if no one could satisfy us or fill his place. It was
not till late in the previous year that we found the man who suited.
Mr. Jonas Clark, a young college graduate, preached to us, and we
were mutually pleased. The town voted to request him to become our
pastor. He accepted, and was ordained in November. The town voted one
hundred pounds for the celebration. The Governor's Council came out
from Boston. Deputations were sent from the surrounding towns, and we
had a great time, hours of preaching and hours of feasting. People
loved Mr. Hancock for his great common sense, his bluff, hearty, jovial
manner, and the wit and humour that abounded in him at a time when most
ministers thought it their duty to look as solemn as a gravestone.
[Sidenote: THE NEW MINISTER]
Mr. Clark became as much beloved and respected as Mr. Hancock, and
yet he did not resemble him. His manners were elegant. He was learned,
able, and very polite. Neat as wax, he made us feel ashamed of our
slovenly ways. He was not the bluff, hale fellow the old bishop was,
who compelled us to do what he knew was right.
Mr. Clark had a kind heart, a keen, clear mind. Though he guided us
with a firm hand, it was done in such a gentle and polite manner, that
we rarely felt how completely we were under his control.
And though he was a student and his tastes were delicate, still he
did not frown upon our rude sports, provided they were not low or
brutal. They make the body erect and supple and give strength and
elasticity to the muscles. The body should be cultivated as well as the
mind. What we want is a sound mind in a sound body.
Wrestling was the great sport in those days, and I was always fond
of it. I was very strong naturally, and my trade as blacksmith had
toughened my muscles wonderfully.
Our strongest man and best wrestler was Jonas Parker. You would
hardly have suspected it; for though he had rather a grim, determined
look, he was a quiet, staid, religious man and a great lover of
A few years before, he had bought some land of Dr. Fiske and built a
house not far from Bishop Hancock's and constantly borrowed and read
He was also a great lover of wrestling, knew all the tricks, and had
the reputation of being the best man in our county at it.
[Sidenote: BEN PRACTISES WRESTLING]
He watched me wrestling with the other boys, and one day said to me:
Ben, you've got the making of a great wrestler in you. Come up to my
house when you can, and I'll teach you what I know about it.
On holidays and whenever I got a chance, I went up to his place, and
we would walk down to a grove back of his barn and wrestle. We kept
this up all the spring and summer, and he taught me the different
He said: You're coming on at a great rate, Ben. When you get your
full strength, I think you'll be as good or a better wrestler than I
am, and there's not such a great difference even now. I don't think we
had ever better wrestle in earnest, for it might make bad blood between
us. We can wrestle together for practice and leave it undecided which
is the better man.
After wrestling we would go into the house, and he would take out a
book of plays by William Shakespeare and read from it to me. We were
both religious men and did not believe in play acting. But plays like
these could do no harm. Jonas loved this man's writings next to the
Bible, and I saved up money and bought a copy of the book myself. Mr.
Clark had the same love for Shakespeare, and often when we stopped
wrestling, as it began to grow dark, Jonas would say that Mr. Clark had
asked him to come down to his house with me, and he would read to us.
The plays seemed much finer as he read them in his clear voice and
explained them to us, for by ourselves we only saw a portion of their
Jonas and I were at his house one August evening of this year, 1757,
and Mr. Clark had just begun to read, when Dr. Fiske rode up, and
pulling up his horse, called out: Mr. Clark! Mr. Clark! There's bad
newsvery bad news from the army. Colonel Brattle has received word
from General Webb that the French army were advancing to attack Fort
William Henry, and he was afraid it would be taken. Good-by!
Mr. Clark shut up the book and said: This is no night for
Shakespeare. Let us pray for the safety of our army.
[Sidenote: BAD NEWS FROM THE ARMY]
Two days afterward, another messenger rode up to our shop.
There has been a great disaster. Fort William Henry is taken, and
the garrison has been massacred.
Go on! How did it happen?
Colonel Munro was at the fort with a small force. Montcalm advanced
with his army to attack it. Munro sent to Webb for reënforcements. He
promised to send them and did send a few. Munro again asked for more
men, but Webb didn't let a man go. Montcalm attacked the fort, battered
it to pieces, and finally the garrison was compelled to surrender. They
were to deliver up their arms and then were to be allowed to march off
to the English army. They gave up their guns and started back to Webb,
but before they got far they were set upon by the Indians and most of
them massacred. Some few escaped to Webb's army.
And what was Webb doing all this time?
Shaking in his shoes, I guess. He is now; for he has sent
messengers everywhere for reënforcements.
The miserable coward! We'll send him men, but he ought to be
The next day a number of men set out under Captain Blodgett.
I wished to go very much, but Mr. Harrington said: It's too late in
the season for them to do anything. They will just sit down and watch
each other. Your time is up next spring, and if you want to go then,
I'll let you off early.
So I stayed at home, and it was well I did, for the company only got
as far as Springfield, where they were met by messengers from Webb, who
had got over his fright, telling them to return. They came back to
Lexington, having been out only twelve days.
When they returned, we had a great jollification. The company
marched to the training-field, and went through the exercises. Crowds
gathered round and ate gingerbread and drank beer.
A lot of worthless fellows used to wander round the country, and
pick up a living by wrestling and betting on themselves. Such a man
appeared on the training-field that day.
[Sidenote: THE ESSEX COUNTY CHAMPION]
Here I am, boys, at your service,Sam Sloan, the champion wrestler
of Essex County. I've wrestled with the best men of every town in the
county,Newburyport, Ipswich, Gloucester, Marblehead, Salem,and
thrown them all. I've been from one end of the county to the other, and
not a man can stand up against me. I hear you've got the best man in
Middlesex in this town, and I've come to throw him. If you think I
can't, make your bets. I've got ten pounds with me, and I want to bet
every penny of it.
He found plenty of men who were ready to bet with him, for all had
confidence in Jonas.
Some one ran after Jonas and brought him to the place where this man
So, you're Jonas Parker, the best man in Middlesex? Well, you look
as if you could wrestle a bit, but you'll know more about it, after I
get through with you.
Jonas said nothing, but took off his jacket and waistcoat, and
looked at him quietly, with a grim smile.
Then they grappled each other, and I watched them anxiously. It did
not seem to me that Jonas was exerting himself fully or doing his very
best. But the man from Essex was laid on the ground in a short time.
He jumped up furious. That was an accident. Just a piece of bad
luck. My foot slipped on something in the grass. It wasn't a fair
wrestle. Come on and try it again. I can throw you as easy as tumbling
off a log.
Wait a minute, said Jonas; pay your bets, and then we'll talk.
The man pulled out his wallet, paid his bets, and said, Now, come
on, and I'll show you what wrestling is.
Wait a bit, said Jonas; don't hurry! You talk big. But you must
first prove that you are a wrestler. There's a likely lad here, and if
you wrestle him, and show that you can wrestle, you can take an hour's
time to get fresh, and I'll try you again.
The man blustered; but Jonas turned away, and coming to me, said:
Now, Ben, I want you to show these people what there is in you. You
can throw him if you only make up your mind to it. You are very strong
in the arms, and if I were you, I'd give him a grip at first just to
show him your strength, and to put a little fear into him.
[Sidenote: A LIKELY LAD]
Father stepped up, and said: Jonas, what are you up to? Ben can
never wrestle that man.
Neighbour Comee! You don't know what Ben can do at wrestling, and I
do. And faith! I have a suspicion he's the best wrestler in the
Then Jonas led me to the man. This is the lad.
Lad! Why, he's as big as you be. How old are you?
Well, come on.
We caught hold of each other, and I gave him a grip that made him
gasp. We broke away, and he looked at me, panting, and said:
What be ye, anyhow? You've got a hug like a black bear.
Oh, that's nothing. That's just a little love squeeze to show you
how much I like you.
Well, come on again; I'll show you what wrestling is.
He was not so strong as I, and I hustled him round in a lively way;
but he knew a good deal about wrestling, and kept his feet well. We
struggled for a while, and I squeezed him and shook him up, and then
tried Jonas's pet throw. He went to the ground like a log, and lay
I was scared at first, for I thought I had killed him, but Jonas
said: He's all right, Ben. Just stand back, boys, and give him a
He came to in a short time, sat up, and after looking about him got
up and said: A likely lad! I should say so. A kind of mixture of bear,
wildcat, and greased lightning. I must get out of this town quick, or
you'll be setting some child at me, and I don't know what would
He jammed his hat on his head, took his coat and waistcoat under his
arm, and hurried away.
Of course, I got great credit and praise, for no one but Jonas knew
that I was a first-class wrestler; and the men all felt proud to have
another man in the town almost as good at it as Jonas.
[Sidenote: BEN WARNED AGAINST FALSE PRIDE]
Amos and Davy had been staring at me, open-mouthed. Both of them
came up and shook hands with me in a most respectful manner. Father
took me by the arm and walked home with me, giving me a lecture all the
way on the vanity of foolish games and warning me to beware of a false
pride in my strength.
But when I had taken the basin, and was washing my face and hands by
the back door, I could hear him telling mother about it, as jubilant as
one of those old Hebrews over the fall of his enemies.
Goodness! If I had displayed the vanity and false pride that he
showed over me, I don't know what punishment he would not have given
When I came in, he bottled himself up, and looked at me in a sad,
reproving manner. But I knew he was as happy as a man could be. Mother
did not like it, and I had to assure her again and again that I was not
hurt. She began to talk about giving me some herb tea, and I got out of
the house as quickly as possible.
CHAPTER VII. TALES FROM THE
FRONTIERMR. TYTHINGMAN AND HIS SERVICES
This long war was a terrible strain on our Province. Some man from
almost every family in town was with the army at Lake George. The value
of our currency had fallen, and nearly one-half of what we earned and
produced went to pay the heavy taxes.
The Provinces did not work well together. There were rivalries and
dissensions among them. The French were united, and their army was led
by an able commander, the Marquis Montcalm.
Our generals were mostly incompetent men who owed their positions to
influence at court.
We kept up the bitter struggle, hoping that at last we should have a
general capable of coping with Montcalm.
[Sidenote: EDMUND ENLISTS]
It was a gloomy time, but we kept pegging away in a resolute manner,
for it was a question whether we or the French should be masters of
this country; whether we should keep our farms and have a roof over our
heads or should be overrun by murderous Indians. And arrangements were
made to have a larger army in the field than ever before.
About the middle of January, Edmund sent me word from Concord that
Captain Robert Rogers was enlisting men for a new company in his corps
of Rangers. He said: I have joined the company and have been made
sergeant. Rogers will return to Boston by the way of Lexington and will
stay over night at Jonathan Raymond's tavern. Come up there sure and
As father and I were working in the barn, I said to him: Father, I
think the time has come when I ought to go to the war. You promised
that I might enlist in the spring. But I'd a good deal rather go with
this man Rogers and do some fighting than sit round doing nothing and
die of camp disease as the rest of the army have been doing.
He kept on for a while pitching the hay down in front of the cattle,
and then leaned on his pitchfork.
Well, Ben, I suppose you really ought to go. One man out of every
four in the Province is in the army, and we should do our share. I am
too old. John has just got married, and David is but a boy. You're the
right age and the one to go. I think as you do, that it's better to do
some fighting, and take one's chances of being killed by a bullet
rather than by camp fever.
Those French and Indians killed and scalped my brother John, and
since this war began I have often wanted to have a hand in it myself,
to get even with them, but I'm too old.
You can go, Ben. There's lots of miserable wretches and immorality
and profanity among the regulars. I want you to remain a good boy, as
you always have been. I need not tell you to be brave. You will be
Ben, I scolded you about that wrestling match, but I was awful
proud of you and happy over it.
[Sidenote: THE RAYMOND TAVERN]
I knew that, father. Do you suppose I didn't notice you chuckling
to yourself when you thought no one saw you?
Well, I suppose you did, you young rascal; I couldn't help it, I
was that surprised and delighted. To think of Jonas Parker telling me
he didn't know but that you were a better wrestler than he. And to see
you hustle that man about and throw him made me so proud that I felt
ashamed and humbled. And when you thought I was scolding you, I was
really reproving my own sinful vanity and pride.
After supper we went up to the Raymond Tavern. Quite a crowd of men
were in the bar-room. They were seated in front of a great fire of logs
and peat. Captain Rogers was in their midst.
Edmund came up, and made us acquainted with the captain. He shook
hands with me, and turning to father, said:
This is a likely young fellow, Mr. Comee. I wish I could have him
with me in my corps.
It is possible, said father. We have had some slight talk about
it. We will think it over.
Rogers was a big man, over six feet high, well proportioned, and
apparently very strong. Later on I learned that his strength was
wonderful. His features were prominent, strong, but not agreeable. His
eyes were not good eyes. At times, a hard, cruel look came into his
He seemed to be a man of great hardihood, of great presence of mind,
keen and unscrupulous,a man I should not wish for a neighbour.
In answer to a remark that he must find his present life quite
different from his former life, as a farmer, he said:
Not a bit! I never was a farmer. I was brought up in the woods on
the frontier among wild animals and Indians. My father was a hunter and
trapper. One day he went out hunting and toward night started to visit
another hunter at his hut in the woods. His friend mistook him in the
twilight and shot him. All my life has been spent in the woods, either
hunting or trading with the French and Indians, or else fighting them.
[Sidenote: A BOWL OF FLIP]
Hepzibah Raymond came in with a bowl of flipthe proper mixture of
rum, malt beer, and brown sugar.
She set it down on the hearth, and her son John, a cripple, who was
seated in the fireplace, drew one of the iron loggerheads out of the
fire, where half a dozen of them were always being heated. He hit it
against the andiron to knock the ashes off, and plunged it into the
mixture. A pleasant smell arose from it; he waited till it foamed up,
and then drew the loggerhead out. Hepzibah passed the bowl to Captain
Here's to good King George and confusion to his enemies!
He took a long draught at it, and then the bowl was passed round.
A man of middle age came into the room, with a whip in his hand, and
his hat jammed well on his head.
Good evening, Ephraim.
Captain, this is Ephraim Winship. He knows something about Indian
fighting. Show him your head, Ephraim.
Ephraim took off his hat, and lifted his wig from his head. He had
but one eye. There were two bare red spots on top of his head, and
between them a fringe of hair ran back from his forehead. It gave him a
Hello! said Rogers. You've been among the Indians, haven't you?
How did you lose your scalp or scalps? For I see you have lost two.
The men made room for Ephraim. He put on his wig and sat down.
I have to keep those spots pretty well covered up these winter
nights, or I have all sorts of trouble with my head.
I had been living down on the Eastern Frontier for some years at a
place called New Marblehead. We had plenty of scares, but no real
trouble with the Indians, till this war broke out. It was in May, two
years ago. I went out with Ezra Brown, to do some work on his farm,
which was a mile from the garrison house where we lived. We had a guard
of four men and four lads. Ezra and I were ahead. As we were walking
through some woods, the Indiansthere were fifteen to twenty of
themfired at us. I felt a twinge in my shoulder and a terrible pain
in my eye. Then came a thump on my head. When I came to, I was in bed
at the garrison house, with my scalp, or rather scalps, gone, for I
have two bumps on top of my head, and they took a scalp from each bump.
My right eye was gone, and I had a bullet in the shoulder.
[Sidenote: EPHRAIM'S ADVENTURE]
Poor Ezra was killed at the first volley and scalped. An Indian hit
me on the head with his tomahawk; but I have a good thick skull, and
the blow glanced, and only stunned me.
Some of our men ran to the fort, but my boy Gershom rallied the
rest, and they fought the Indians, who were double their number. Both
parties got behind trees, and tried to pick each other off.
Old Poland, their chief, fired, and in reloading exposed himself,
and was shot. Then the Indians gave an infernal screech and ran over to
As they did so, our men shot two more of them, and they picked up
their dead and carried them off.
You had a narrow squeak of it, that time, said Rogers. I never
was scalped, but I've been near it times enough.
Hepzibah brought in more bowls of flip, and we watched John plunge
the red-hot loggerheads in, till the foam arose, and the bitter-sweet
smell filled the room.
We were passing the bowls round, and drinking the flip, when Matthew
Mead, the tythingman, came in. He sat down and watched us. Then he went
over to John Perry, and said: Don't drink any more, John. You have had
John let the bowl go by, for if he had disobeyed the warning of the
tythingman, he would have been punished by the magistrate, or would
have been reprimanded publicly in meeting.
Oh, come now, Mr. Tythingman, said Rogers. Don't spoil the sport.
A little flip does no one any harm. Sit down and join us.
[Sidenote: THE TYTHINGMAN]
There's no doubt, said Matthew, as they passed him the bowl, and
he took a long swig at it, that flip is a good drink. I like it, and
so does neighbour John Perry. But it must be allowed that it's a most
insinuating drink, sweet and treacherous. And neighbour John has had
enough. But the rest of the company can drink a little longer. We have
heard great stories of your adventures, captain, and would like to have
you tell us some of them.
Then Rogers told us tales of hair-breadth escapes, and of encounters
with the enemy, that made our hearts beat quick, as we listened to him.
Of scouts through the woods, in which they inspect the enemy's forts
and make plans of them. How they crept up close to the fort and
captured a vedette within two gun-shots of the gate. How they hauled
whaleboats over a mountain, embarked at the lower end of Lake
Champlain, rowed down the lake at night, and after hiding in the
daytime, attacked the enemy's boats, and sunk them.
He told of an expedition he made the previous January, with Captain
Spikeman, Lieutenant John Stark and seventy-four men.
We went down Lake George on skates, and then through the woods back
of Fort Ticonderoga on snowshoes. When we got to Lake Champlain, we lay
in wait for the enemy's sleds, which were coming up the lake loaded
with provisions. We captured three sleds and seven prisoners, but some
of the French escaped. We learned that the fort had been reënforced,
and knew that they would have notice of our presence. Our guns were
wet, for it had been raining, and we went back to our fires and dried
them. Then we marched hastily toward Fort William Henry. About noon we
were waylaid by a large party of the enemy. We fought all the
afternoon, till nightfall, when we separated and escaped through the
woods to Lake George. I received two wounds in the fight. I sent
messengers to the fort for help, for many could go no further.
Forty-eight of us out of seventy-four got back with our prisoners. You
may think, friends, that this was a bad defeat, but we learned
afterward that we fought against two hundred and fifty men, and killed
one hundred and sixteen of them. Your old friend Captain Spikeman was
killed in the fight.
[Sidenote: A SUCCESSFUL DEFEAT]
The bowls of flip had been going round while Rogers was talking, and
finally Matthew Mead said:
Well, neighbours, I think we are getting toward the state where
neighbour John was when I came, and we'd better all go home.
As we rose, Rogers said: I want some of you fellows with me this
coming campaign, and we'll make things lively for the French up around
Fort Ti and have some fun. I count on you, Comee.
CHAPTER VIII. BEN AND AMOS JOIN
ROGERS'S RANGERS AND MARCH TO THE WEST
A few days after this Amos and I went up to Concord and enlisted in
the Rangers. We had no showy uniform. Our clothes were of strong
homespun of a dull colour that would not attract attention in the
woods. We brought our own guns, and they gave each of us a blanket, a
greatcoat, a hatchet, and a wooden bottle in which to carry our drink.
We were also given rackets and skates.
We waited till the end of January, when Rogers marched into town
with five companies of men whom he had collected in New Hampshire. Most
of them were rough, stern frontiersmen from the Amoskeag Falls, skilled
in Indian fighting.
The recruits from Middlesex were distributed among these companies,
and Edmund had us placed in his squad. On my right in the ranks was
McKinstry, a grizzled old trapper, and to the left was John Martin, a
hardy fellow a few years older than myself. Both of them had served
before with Rogers.
[Sidenote: ROGERS INSTRUCTS THE RANGERS]
Four of the companies set sail from Boston for Cape Breton, to take
part in the siege of that place, and our company, under Rogers, started
on the march for Fort Edward. The snow was deep, and we travelled on
snowshoes. Rogers made us march in single file, with a man some
distance ahead, and another behind. On either side were flankers to
detect the enemy. As we shuffled along over the snow he taught us how
to act in a hostile country.
Don't crowd up together. Keep several paces apart. Then if the
enemy fires at you, one shot will not hit two men. When you come to
low, marshy ground, change the order of your march and go abreast, for
if you went in single file, you would wear a path in the ground that
the enemy could follow. If you are to reconnoitre a place, make a stand
in a safe spot when you get near it, and send a couple of men ahead to
look the ground over. If you have to retreat and come to a river, cross
it anywhere but at the usual ford, for that is where the enemy would
hide on the farther side ready to pick you off. If your march is by a
lake or river, keep at some distance from it, that you may not be
hemmed in on one side and caught in a trap. When you go out, always
return by a different way, and avoid the usual travelled paths.
Thus, as we marched along, Rogers kept talking to us, instructing us
in the methods of wood-fighting.
We went through Worcester, Brookfield, and Northampton to Pontoosuc
Fort, where a party of Mohegan Indians from Stockbridge joined us,
under their chief Jacob. Then to a Dutch settlement called Kinderhook,
and to the Hudson River. The weather was very cold, and the river was
frozen over. Rogers told us to put on our skates, and we skated up the
river to Fort Edward.
This was a very strong fort, with much artillery. The fort was on
the left shore, and a very strong blockhouse was on the right bank. The
Rangers' camp was on an island in the Hudson. Their barracks were made
of logs, with bark roofs, and their camp was not in bad condition.
[Sidenote: HATRED OF INDIANS]
The Rangers were mostly frontiersmen from New Hampshire, who had
lived in the woods all their lives, and had fought against wild beasts
and Indians. The life they were now leading was simply their old life
on a larger scale. Most of them were dressed in deerskin. They were
rough, stern men, who had been so much exposed to danger, and were so
used to it, that they seemed to have no fear. They looked upon the
French and Indians as a dire plague, to be wiped off the earth by any
means. They had heard the war-whoop at their own homes, and had seen
their close relatives scalped by Indians. No wonder they classed the
redskins with wolves and snakes, as a plague to be wiped off the earth.
Living in the woods so much, they seemed to have acquired the keen
senses that wild animals have. They were ever on the alert. Their eyes
and ears noticed all the signs and sounds of nature. They had fought
savages for years, and their own ways were savage. Many of them took
I do not believe that a bolder or more adventurous set of men than
these Rangers ever existed.
As I looked them over and saw what a lot of keen, fearless, and
self-reliant men I was among, I was very proud to think that I was one
of this chosen corps.
McKinstry said: They're a tough set, Ben. But when you get in your
first fight, you'll be glad you're with a tough set. Not much school
learning among them; but they know all about the woods and Injun
fighting, and that's what we want here.
Every evening at roll-call we formed on parade, equipped with a
firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet, and were
inspected, that we might be ready at a minute's warning. The guards
were arranged and the scouts for the next day appointed.
After we had been at the camp a couple of days Rogers came out of
his hut and said to me:
Come, Comee, I'm going over to the fort and may want some one to
bring back a few things.
[Sidenote: THE BLACK WATCH]
We crossed the ice to the shore and went up to the fort. It was a
great sight for me to see the regulars in their bright scarlet coats,
the Scotch Highlanders with their kilts and tartans, and our own
provincial troops in blue, though there were not many of them, as they
had mostly gone home for the winter.
Rogers walked up to the headquarters of Colonel Haviland, the
I shall be busy here some time. Come back in an hour and wait for
I went over to the Scotch regiment, the Black Watch it was called,
and listened to them talking their curious language.
One of the men turned to me and asked if I was looking for any one.
Well, I'm of Scotch descent, and I thought I'd see if there were
any McComees or Munros among you.
He looked over to another group and shouted: Hector! Hector Munro!
Here's one of your kinsmen. A strong, active fellow of some
twenty-eight or thirty years came over.
How's that? I didn't know that any of our kin were over here.
My grandmother was a Munro, and her father was taken prisoner while
fighting for King Charles the First, and was sent to America.
Hear that now! My brother Donald and myself were out with Charlie
in forty-five, and we had a hard time of it afterward, hunted about
till they made up their minds to form some Highland regiments and give
pardon to those who enlisted, and here we are fighting for King
He led me to his brother and made me acquainted with him. We went to
their quarters, and I learned more about the clan in a short time than
I ever heard before or since. It seemed as if most of the great
generals in almost every army were Munros, and they traced their
ancestry back to the time of Noah.
At last I said that I must go to headquarters to meet Captain
[Sidenote: ROGERS ASSUMES ENGLAND'S DEBT]
So you belong to the Rangers? They're a braw set of men, and
there's many a gude Scotchman among them. We'll come over and see you.
I returned and waited for Rogers, and when he came out, he said:
Come over to the sutler's hut; I want to buy some things we haven't
got on the island.
Rogers made some purchases and then listened to two English officers
who were seated at a table, drinking. They had reached a maudlin state,
and were bewailing the fate of England.
This is a sad day for old England, my boy.
Yes, the country will never be able to stand up under the great
debt that we have incurred for these miserable Provinces.
Rogers went over to them and said:
Don't let that trouble you, my friends. Make yourselves easy on
that score, for I will pay half the national debt, and my good friend
here says he will take the other half on his shoulders, and the nation
will be rid of her difficulties.
By Gad! I'm blessed if you're not fine fellows. Sit down and have a
drink with us.
Rogers introduced me to them as the Earl of Middlesex. They took off
their hats to me and ordered some grog for us. I barely tasted mine,
for I had no heart to drink with the besotted fools. We bade them
good-by, I took up the things which Rogers had bought, and we walked
Well, Comee, we've settled the nation's debt. That's one good thing
off our hands. There's another thing I wish we could get rid of as
easily. The old country has sent us over some curious commanders. There
was Braddock, who threw away his army and his life; Webb, who was a
coward; Loudon, our present commander, is always running hither and
thither, giving orders, but effecting nothing. He is like the pictures
of St. George on the tavern signs,always on horseback, but never
getting anywhere. But this Colonel Haviland, the commandant here, beats
them all hollow. A worse specimen of stupidity or rascality I never
saw. Captain Israel Putnam of the Connecticut troops was sent out on a
scout a week ago. Before he went Haviland said publicly that on his
return he should send me out against the French with four hundred men.
One of Putnam's men deserted to the enemy and one of the Rangers was
captured, so that the enemy knew all about it. Putnam says there are
about six hundred Indians near Ticonderoga; and now this Haviland sends
me out, not with four hundred men, but with one hundred and eighty, all
told. You will see all the fighting you want inside the next week and I
hope we may both get through it alive.
[Sidenote: A PLEASANT PROSPECT]
When I returned to the island, I told Edmund and Amos what Rogers
had said, and we felt pretty glum. It looks to me, said Edmund, as
if the rest of the campaign wouldn't interest us very much.
CHAPTER IX. IN WHICH THE RANGERS
ENGAGE WITH THE FRENCH AND INDIANS
On the 10th of March we set forth on snowshoes and travelled through
the thick forest. That night we encamped at a brook. The Rangers built
shelters of boughs in a short time. Big fires were made, and after we
had our suppers and a pull at the pipe, we rolled ourselves up in our
blankets and went to sleep.
The next morning we reached Lake George, and saw the blackened ruins
of Fort William Henry, where the massacre had taken place some eight
Of course I knew the story, but Martin had been there, and told me
how the fort was besieged by Montcalm; and after it was battered to
pieces, the garrison surrendered. They had given up their arms and were
marching back to the English army, when the drunken Indians set upon
them and killed and scalped most of the force. Martin caught up a
little boy whose parents had been killed, and escaped through the dense
[Sidenote: AN ALARM]
We marched down the lake in three files, threading our way among the
islands and skirting the steep cliffs. The lake stretched out before
us, covered with thick ice. On the further side were the woods and
We camped near the First Narrows that night. The next day we turned
away from the lake and went to a cape called Sebattis Point.
What's the matter, Martin? Why do we halt?
Didn't you see a dog run across the lake, some distance down?
Yes, I saw something go across.
Well, it was a dog, and if there was a dog, there were probably
Indians with him. What would a dog be doing out here alone?
We camped in the woods, and after it was dark skated down the lake.
Our advanced guard sent back word that they thought they had seen a
fire on an island. We hid our hand-sleighs and packs and went there,
but could find no signs of a fire.
Rogers said that very likely it was the light from some old rotten
stumps, but Martin was not of this opinion.
There was a fire there. First we see the dog, and then the fire.
The fire could be put out, and it would be difficult to find the burnt
sticks in the dark. If it were the light from old wood, some one of all
this party would have seen it. The French are no fools. They knew we
were coming, and some Indians are watching us. We'll have a hot time
before we get back.
We now left the lake, lest we should be seen, and marched through
the woods back of the mountain which overlooked Fort Ticonderoga. At
noon we halted.
Rogers said: We are about two miles from the advanced guard of the
French. We will wait here a couple of hours, and then go on. When night
comes, we will make an ambush in the paths, and capture some of the
guards as they come out in the morning.
[Sidenote: AN AMBUSCADE]
We started on again, with a brook on our left and a steep mountain
on our right.
We kept a sharp watch on the brook, for the enemy would probably
travel on it, as the snow was four feet deep.
Our advanced guard came back and reported that the enemy were ahead.
That there were ninety of them, mostly Indians. They were coming down
the brook. The bank of the brook was higher than the ground where we
were, and Rogers gave the order:
Come, boys! Stretch out in a line behind the bank. Lie down and
keep hidden. Wait till I give the signal by firing my gun, and then
jump up and give it to them.
Rogers hid in a clump of bushes, from which he could look over the
bank. We lay without stirring, till Rogers fired and shouted, Now,
We jumped up and fired at them. It was the first time I had seen
Indians, and very hideous they looked, as I stood up and saw them on
the brook, dressed in moccasins, leggings, and breech clout, with a
mantle or cloak of skins over their shoulders, a feather in the
scalp-lock, and their faces and breasts painted with stripes of red and
When we fired, a great number of them fell, and the rest ran away.
We supposed that they were defeated, and pursued them. But we got into
a hornets' nest. For this was only the advanced guard, and as we ran
after them, several hundred more French and Indians came up, fired at
us, and killed nearly fifty of our men. I could hear the bullets
whistle by me, and men dropped at my side.
We rallied and retreated; and having reloaded, poured a volley into
them that drove them back again.
What do you think about that fire on the island, Ben? asked
They came on a third time, in front and on both sides of us. We kept
up a continual fire and drove the flanking parties back, and they
retreated once more.
[Sidenote: WARM WORK]
When that great body of French and Indians appeared and their fierce
war-whoops sounded through the woods, when the firing began and the men
fell down close by me, I must confess I was nervous and frightened. But
I looked on either side, and there stood the grim, stern frontiersmen
picking off their men as cool as if they were at a turkey shoot. This
brought my confidence back at once, and as the fight became hot, I
found myself filled with an angry rage. I wanted to kill, to kill as
many as I could, and pay off the old score.
We backed up against the steep mountain. The Indians now tried to go
up it on our right, but a party was sent out and repulsed them. Another
party attempted to ascend on our left. They, too, were driven back.
Edmund, Amos, and I were with the main body, fighting, loading, and
shooting as fast as we could. No time for talk. Sometimes the Indians
were twenty yards from us, and at times we were all mixed up with them,
fighting hand to hand.
When I had fired, I pulled out my hatchet, and as these
devilish-looking savages in their red and black paint rushed at me, I
cut and hacked with my hatchet in my right hand, and holding my
firelock in my left, warded off the blows with it. A blow on my arm
knocked the hatchet from my hand. Then I used my gun as a club. It was
a long, heavy, old firelock, and anger and excitement added to my
strength, so that it was a terrible weapon. I smashed away with it till
nothing was left but the bent barrel.
When we drove them back, I picked up a French gun and a hatchet.
There were plenty of them, for dead and dying men lay in heaps on the
We struggled with them an hour and a half, during which time we lost
over one hundred men.
Rogers was in the thick of the fight most of the time. Yet he saw
what was going on round us, and directed our movements. Toward dark he
cried out: It's no use, boys; we must get out of this place. Follow
We ran up the mountain to a spot where Lieutenant Phillips and some
men were fighting a flanking party of Indians, and there we had another
lively scrimmage. We went along the side of the mountain. I had lost my
rackets. One couldn't think of them and fight, as we had been fighting,
[Sidenote: AN ENCOUNTER]
Rogers shouted: Scatter, boys! Every man for himself. Meet at the
I loaded my gun and floundered along in the deep snow, making all
Looking behind, I saw that an Indian on snowshoes was following me.
I started up a side hill, where his rackets would not give him an
He fired, but missed me. I turned and shot him, as he raised his
hand to throw his tomahawk. He fell and was quite dead by the time I
It's no pleasant sight to look on the face of a man you have just
killed, even though you have right on your side, and he be only a
One glance at that face and the staring eyes was enough. I felt weak
and guilty as I knelt by him, and picked up his rackets, gun, and
ammunition. I took his fur mantle, too, for I had thrown away my
blanket, and knew that I should be cold before the night was over.
I wandered through the woods till the moon rose, and gave me the
direction to take. Then I came to the lake and went out on it, and at
last got to the Narrows, where I found what was left of our party.
Edmund and Amos were with them. Rogers had sent a messenger for
Over two-thirds of our party were killed or missing. And of those
who remained, there were but few who did not have some cut or bullet
We were exhausted. The men had thrown away their blankets, and the
night was bitter cold.
We could not have fires, as they would have been beacon lights to
the enemy, showing them where we were.
We huddled together like sheep for warmth, and I gave my mantle to a
poor fellow who was badly wounded.
[Sidenote: THEY RETURN TO FORT EDWARD]
When the day began to break, we marched up the lake, and were met by
Captain Stark with reënforcements, and sleds for our wounded, and then
proceeded to Fort Edward.
The next day, as Edmund, Amos, and I were talking the fight over,
Rogers came to us. He laughed, and said: Well, boys! You haven't been
here long. But you've had lots of fun, haven't you?
Yes, sir. Plenty! We are satisfied. We can stand a long spell of
dull times now.
The Rangers lost so heavily in this fight that but little was
required of them for some time. A few scouting-parties were sent out,
but they were of little consequence.
CHAPTER X. LORD HOWE AND HIS
DEATHTHE LOYALTY OF JOHN STARK
Early in the spring, Lord Loudon was recalled, and General
Abercrombie was appointed in his stead, with young Lord Howe as second
Abercrombie was the kind of English general to which we were
accustomed,a dull, heavy man, who owed his position to influence at
court. We put little faith in him. But Lord Howe gained our hearts and
confidence at once.
It was well understood in the army that Lord Howe was sent over to
furnish the brains and ability in this campaign, and was to direct the
fighting, and that General Abercrombie was to reap the benefit.
Lord Howe spent much of his time among the Rangers, and went out
with us on scouting-parties. He showed none of the arrogance and
conceit so common to British officers, and appeared to be an apt, quick
[Sidenote: LORD HOWE]
Rogers and Stark were delighted with his military instincts and the
keen intelligence with which he made himself master of what was to him
a new method of fighting.
When he lived with us, he was as one of us. He washed his own linen
at the brook, and ate our coarse fare with his jack-knife. He cut off
the skirts of his coat, and had his men do the same, that they might
not be impeded by them in the woods. He made them wear leggings and
brown the barrels of their guns, that they should not glitter in the
sun, and to prevent them from rusting. He had his men cut their hair
short, and each of them carried thirty pounds of meal in his knapsack,
so that they could go on a long expedition without a wagon-train.
He had great talents as a soldier. Any one who talked with him felt
it at once. And with it all he was simple in his habits and manners,
living like one of us, and making his officers lead the same plain
The days he spent with the Rangers were days of pride and pleasure
to us, for we not only saw his greatness as a soldier, but the bearing
of the man was so modest, so genial and lovable, that every one was
greatly attached to him. He liked best of all to talk with John Stark,
and to get him to tell of Indians and their habits and ways of
fighting. And here he showed his keen insight. For Captain Stark was
the best man in the Rangers. Rogers got the credit for what the Rangers
did. But much of their success was due to Stark. He was a man whose
judgment was sure, who did not make mistakes.
After our defeat in March, Rogers went to Albany to see about
getting recruits. While there he was given his commission as Major of
the Corps of Rangers.
On the way from Concord to Fort Edward he became well acquainted
with Edmund, whose business-like ways and attention to details pleased
Rogers so much that when he was made major he appointed Edmund adjutant
of the Rangersa very responsible position for so young a man. It was
his duty to record the paroles and countersigns, the various orders for
the next day, and to see that they were attended to.
[Sidenote: THE PROVINCIAL LEVIES]
In May the new provincial troops began to come in. We had been long
enough in the army to become disciplined, though not in the manner that
the regulars were, and had grown accustomed to seeing regiments dressed
in uniforms; so that when the new levies came in, we felt some of the
amusement of the regulars at their green and awkward ways. Gathered
together from country villages, they came in the clothes they wore at
home, and put me in mind of Falstaff's soldiers. Some wore long coats,
some short coats, and some no coats at all. All the colours of the
rainbow were there. Some wore their hair cropped close. Others had
their hair done up in cues, and every man in authority wore a wig. All
kinds of wigs could be seen,little brown wigs and great,
full-bottomed wigs hanging down over their shoulders.
But they were a sturdy set. When you looked at each of them, you saw
a man used to hard work from boyhood, more or less accustomed to the
woods, and almost without exception a fair shot. Handsome is as
handsome does. As the war went on, the regulars found that the rabble
were as brave as themselves, more expert in wood-fighting, and far
But the ridicule that was heaped upon them at first caused a bitter
feeling which lasted and prepared the way for the Revolution.
Toward the end of May, it was evident that the army would soon make
an advance on the enemy; for every one was called in, and no furloughs
We had by this time a great army of nine thousand provincial troops,
six thousand regulars, and six hundred Rangers. Many of the regulars
were old veterans from European battlefields; and we had not the least
doubt but that, when we started, we should go straight through to
Canada. Montcalm's little army of thirty-five hundred men at
Ticonderoga could offer but slight resistance.
Several scouting-parties from the Rangers were sent out to inspect
Ticonderoga, and capture prisoners in order to get information from
Stark went through the woods to the west of Ticonderoga and brought
back six prisoners. Captain Jacobs, with some of his Indians, went down
the east side of Lake Champlain. He had a fight with some of the
French, and returned with ten prisoners and seven scalps. Rogers, with
our party, went through the woods till we were opposite Crown Point,
where we had a little fight and killed one Frenchman, and captured
three, whom we brought back.
At the end of May, Lord Howe sent fifty of us under Rogers to
inspect the landing-place at the lower end of Lake George, and to make
a map of it. We were also to report upon the paths to Ticonderoga, and
to find out the number of the French army.
We went down the lake in boats, and while some of the officers were
making plans, the rest of us proceeded toward Ticonderoga. We marched,
as usual, in single file, along the path we had taken in our trip in
Amos said, I have no p-pleasant recollection of this place, and
feel as if we should have some more b-bad luck.
Rogers halted us and went forward with three men, to take a look at
the fort. As he was returning, a large party of the enemy set upon us,
and we had a lively fight.
Captain Jacob ran off with his Indians, crying out to us: Come on!
Follow me! No good stay here. Heap French! Heap Injun!
That's Injun all over, said Martin. If he gets the upper hand,
he'll fight like fury. But if the odds are against him, he'll run like
We got behind trees and logs, and kept the enemy back. Rogers came
round through the woods; and as the attention of the enemy was given
entirely to us, he and his party made a rush and joined us.
The enemy had us pretty well surrounded, but we broke through them,
losing eight men. We rallied at our boats, and returned home.
[Sidenote: THE ARMY EMBARKS FOR TICONDEROGA]
By the 28th of June the whole army under General Abercrombie had
arrived at Lake George. A great deal of time seemed to be wasted. But
on the 5th of July the whole army of nearly sixteen thousand men
embarked in boats and batteaux for Ticonderoga. The advanced guard was
up and out on the lake before daylight,the light infantry on the
right, our Rangers on the left, and Colonel Bradstreet's batteaux men
in the centre.
Then came the main body of the army,the provincials, dressed in
blue with red facings, on the right and left wings. In the centre were
the regulars, in scarlet with white facings, and the 42d Regiment, the
Black Watch, in kilts and tartans. Behind them came the rear guard of
The whole army was on the lake as the sun rose, breaking up the mist
on the hillsides. The lake was calm and without a ripple.
It was a sight I shall never forget,the beautiful lake covered by
over a thousand boats, the various coloured uniforms, the gun-barrels
glittering in the sun, the flags of the different regiments, the
bagpipes and bands playing, the pretty islands, the green hills and
mountains, the mist rising and floating away.
The army rowed till twilight, when we reached Sabbath Day Point,
where we rested and ate some food; at ten we started again, and at
daybreak the Rangers reached the lower part of the lake. We landed, and
received orders from Captain Abercrombie, one of the general's
aides-de-camp, to gain the top of a mountain a mile from the landing,
and from there to march east to the river that flows into the falls,
and get possession of some rising ground there. When we had done this,
we were to wait for the army to come up. In an hour's time we got to
the rising ground, and found quite a large body of French in front of
us. We waited for further orders.
At noon some provincial troops under Colonels Fitch and Lyman came
up. And while Rogers was talking to them we heard a sharp firing in the
rear of these troops.
Rogers led us round to the left, and we met a force of the enemy who
were fighting our men, and had thrown them into confusion. We engaged
with them, and killed many. Lord Howe, with Major Israel Putnam and his
men, came up on the other side of the French, who were thus surrounded,
and almost all of them were killed or captured.
[Sidenote: LORD HOWE'S DEATH]
It was a party of some four hundred Canadians, who had been sent out
to watch us, and though they were good woodsmen, they had lost their
way in the dense forest, and had wandered into the middle of our army.
There seemed to be a great commotion among Lord Howe's men. I ran
over to them with Captain Stark; and there we saw Lord Howe stretched
out on the grounddead.
John Stark is not a man easily stirred. I remember at the battle of
Bunker's Hill, when a man rushed up to him, and told him that his son
was killed,which was a mistake, for he is alive at this day,John
turned to the man and said: Back to your post. This is no time to
think of our private affairs.
But when he saw that brilliant soldier, that man whose virtues,
accomplishments, and genial, lovable nature showed us what a man might
be, lying there, dead, he knelt down beside him, and the tears ran down
his cheeks. All of us were overcome with grief, we loved the man so
Stark took his hand, bent over, and kissed his forehead.
Good-by, my dear friend. God bless you and have mercy on us. He
rose, and I walked away with him.
Comee, the life is departed out of Israel. I have no further faith
in this expedition. Our sun is set.
We mourned his loss a long time, and our Province raised the money
for a great monument, which was erected to him in Westminster Abbey, in
memory of the affection her officers and soldiers bore to his
After Lord Howe was killed, everything fell into disorder. The army
became all mixed up in the thick woods, and was sent back to the
CHAPTER XI. FORT TICONDEROGA AND THE
The following morning the Rangers were sent to the front, to the
place we occupied the day before. Captain Stark with Captain
Abercrombie and Mr. Clark, the engineer, went with two hundred Rangers
to Rattlesnake Hill to reconnoitre the French works.
Fort Ticonderoga was at the southern end of the narrow strip of land
which lies between Lake Champlain and the outlet of Lake George. A
half-mile to the north of the fort, a little ridge runs across the
peninsula. As we looked down from the hill, we saw the French hard at
work on a strong breastwork of logs which they had nearly completed. At
either end of it was low, marshy ground, difficult to pass. The
breastwork zigzagged along the ridge in such a manner that if troops
attacked it, the French could rake them with grapeshot, and it was too
high to climb over.
How are we going to get over that breastwork, Edmund? There's no
slope to it, and we can't reach within two feet of the top.
Oh, we'll knock it to pieces with cannon, and then we can rush over
it. Our officers will know what to do.
There won't be any rushing through that mass of sharpened stakes
that they have driven into the ground in front of the works.
No. That's so. There's a regular thicket of them with the points
sticking out toward us. They'll have to be cut off or torn up, and the
French will be raking us all the time.
See those Canadians cutting down the forest just beyond the stakes.
The tops of the trees fall outward, and the branches are matted
together. If Abercrombie thinks his army can march up to the
breastwork, he's greatly mistaken.
Yes; it will be a piece of work to scramble through those branches;
and then comes the abattis of stakes; and then a wall eight feet high.
Montcalm knows his business, Ben. I wish he were on our side. We shall
have no easy task. It looks tough to-day, and it will be worse
[Sidenote: THEY INSPECT TICONDEROGA]
We shall lose a good many men. Possibly we may go through the
swamp, at the ends of the breastwork.
We looked round and saw Amos, with his back turned toward us. He
seemed deeply interested.
What is it, Amos? What are you looking at?
I tell you, boys, I think this hill's about the best place for
p-pigeons I ever saw. There's a good spot for a booth, and that little
tree would make a fine standard for a p-pigeon p-pole.
Hang your pigeons! You may be dead to-morrow. Look down the lake,
Edmund. See the reënforcements of French regulars with their white
coats rowing up Champlain. They'll be at Fort Ti in half an hour.
We were told to get ready to go back. I overheard Mr. Clark say:
Oh, we can take a place like that by an assault with small arms.
We'll give them a taste of the bayonet. We don't need cannon.
Stark replied: I don't think so. Bring some cannon up here, and you
can rake the breastwork and drive them out; or take cannon round in
front, and you can knock the breastwork to pieces in half an hour, and
then you can easily take the place by assault; but otherwise you
Oh, I assure you, my dear sir, we can carry a place like that by an
assault easily. You provincials have no idea what British officers and
British regulars can do.
I know what Braddock did, said Stark.
We came down the mountain and joined the rest of the Rangers. Stark
went with Clark to report to General Abercrombie. He returned and said
that Abercrombie had agreed with Clark on an attack with small arms
To-morrow you'll see a sad sight. You'll see the finest army there
ever was in America killed off by the stupidity of its commanding
officer. Why couldn't poor Lord Howe have been spared two days longer,
to win everlasting renown? We talked this over as we lay on our
bearskins at Sabbath Day Point; and if he were alive, there would be no
such tomfoolery and murder.
[Sidenote: THE ARMY ADVANCES]
We lay down in the woods by the river, and slept on our arms. The
sun rose the next morning clear and bright. We received orders to
advance. We crept through the forest till we came to the open place,
where the great trees lay on the ground with their tops toward us.
About two hundred of the French were concealed in the mass of
boughs, and fired at us. We got behind trees and logs and returned
Bradstreet's batteaux men now formed on our left, Gage's light
infantry on our right, and three regiments of provincials came up
behind us. We exchanged a scattering fire with the enemy. Then we
pushed into the mass of boughs and drove the French back into their
Colonel Haldiman and the grenadiers now came up in solid formation.
We separated and let them pass. They struggled through the trees. The
Highlanders of the Black Watch followed them; and I caught sight of
Hector, as he went by us, looking very grim and determined. I waved my
cap at him, but he was too intent on the work ahead to see me.
What a jaunty, ugly, devil-may-care set of fellows they were! Their
uniforms set off their figures to advantage. Their faces showed they
were eager for the fight. Their bayonets were fixed, for they had been
ordered to take the works by a bayonet charge. When they got through
the trees, their formation was completely broken up; but they advanced
to the abattis of sharpened stakes, and were met by a terrible fire of
grape and musket shot that mowed them down. They stood at the abattis,
hacking away at the stakes, falling in heaps before the shower of
grapeshot. They took off their bayonets and fired at the enemy. Some
got through the abattis, and went up to the breastwork, eight feet
high. They tried to scale it, but could not. Unwilling to retreat, they
stood in front of it, exchanging shots with the French, shaking their
guns at them, and cursing them in Gaelic.
[Sidenote: THE REGULARS REPULSED]
They're b-brave enough, Ben, and hang on like bulldogs; but they
can't get over that b-breastwork, unless they grow a couple of feet in
a m-mighty short time.
We watched this attack with great interest, for we had wonderful
expectations as to what the regulars would do; and they had ridiculed
the provincials and lauded themselves so long, that their confidence
became unbounded. How they were to take the breastwork in this way, we
could not see. But we waited in the hope of seeing the impossible
occur. At last the few who were left were driven back.
As they returned, we saw Hector supporting his brother Donald. We
ran out from the fallen trees, and helped him through the branches.
'Deed, man, that was the hottest place I ever was in, and I'm well
out of it with naught but a bit of lead in my leg. I dinna envy the
poor fellows who have to go in there again.
After this attack there was a lull. Abercrombie, who was in a safe
place two miles away, ordered another attack. Some of the provincial
regiments were with them. They rushed into the space, like so many
cattle into an enclosure, where they were knocked over without a chance
to get at their enemy.
We were eager for the Rangers to join in this assault, and asked:
Why don't we advance? Why doesn't Rogers order us to attack? We
ought to help those men and be in the thick of the fight.
Old McKinstry said: Don't you see, boys, why we don't advance?
Because it's all nonsense and folly. We have no orders to go ahead, and
Rogers knows it's nothing but murder to put us up before that wall to
be shot down. We're doing the best work where we are. See me take off
that officer with the white coat. He fired, and the officer fell back.
There, if you can knock over three or four of them, you've done your
He's right, after all, Ben. We're killing more men by picking them
off than the regulars are.
[Sidenote: THEY RESCUE A BRAVE MAN]
I felt easier in my mind after this talk. We stood among the
branches, and fired at the heads that appeared above the breastwork.
These assaults were kept up all the afternoon. At five the most
determined one took place, and some of the Highlanders succeeded in
getting over the breastwork, only to be immediately bayoneted. Colonel
Campbell was killed in the fort, and Major Campbell was badly wounded.
While this attack on the right was going on, we saw a provincial who
had crept close to the breastwork, and was picking off the Frenchmen.
He was seen by them, and a man fired and wounded him. But he jumped
up and brained the man with his hatchet. Then he fell down. It was a
pity to let such a brave man lie there to be killed and scalped by the
I turned to Edmund and said, Can't we get that man out of there?
I will do what you will.
I shouted to our men to cover us as well as they could by their
fire, and we ran forward.
The Rangers advanced a little, and opened fire at every head that
showed above the breastwork.
Edmund and I got through the abattis and ran up to the wall. We
joined hands. The man sat on them, put his arms around our necks, and
we ran off with him.
Some of the enemy fired at us, but the Highlanders were taking most
of their attention, and our men were good marksmen, so that but few
showed their heads above the breastwork. Still, the bullets whistled
about us in a most uncomfortable manner.
We found that the man we had saved was a Rhode Island provincial,
named William Smith. He was boiling over with wrath against the French,
swore at them like a pirate, and though badly wounded would have crept
back if we had not prevented him.
Amos listened to him with wonder, and said: Your f-friend Smith,
Ben, couldn't have b-been raised when there were tythingmen, or he'd
have just lived in the stocks. He must have great natural g-gifts to be
able to swear like that.
Here come the regulars again.
[Sidenote: A PANIC]
They passed through the fallen trees, marched up to the breastwork,
and again made an attempt to scale it. The French raked them with
grapeshot, and soon they came running back nearly frantic with fear. We
let them pass and gazed at them with astonishment.
That's human nature, boys, said McKinstry. Those men have fought
here for six hours, a foolish, hopeless battle. They hung to it like
bulldogs. No men could have been braver. All of a sudden the idea
strikes them that they are beaten, and they run away in a panic. It's
strange. It's mighty strange, but it's human nature.
Rogers shouted: Stay where you are, boys. Hold your ground and keep
The Rangers and provincials remained among the fallen trees,
exchanging shots with the enemy till dusk. Then we went up to the
abattis and picked out some of the wounded from among the heaps of dead
men. This was the hardest part of the day for me, stumbling over the
dead, picking up the poor wounded fellows and hearing them moan and cry
as we carried them off.
CHAPTER XII. THE FIGHT AT FORT ANNE,
AND THE ESCAPE OF AMOS
When night came on, we retreated with the wounded we had saved. The
next morning the whole army reëmbarked and rowed up Lake George to the
ruins of Fort William Henry and landed. This time we were not admiring
the beauty of the scene. We were filled with sorrow and dismay at the
failure of the expedition and our terrible disaster. We lost nearly two
thousand men. The French lost only about three hundred.
The whole army, regulars and provincials, were indignant with our
cowardly and incompetent general, Abercrombie, or Mrs. Nabby Crombie,
as the soldiers nicknamed him. We knew that the battle had been badly
conducted. We wished to have the cannon brought to the front to batter
down the breastworks, and were willing and eager to fight again. But
Abercrombie began to entrench, and sent most of his artillery to
Albany, lest it should fall into the hands of the enemy.
[Sidenote: THE RANGERS SENT AGAINST THE ENEMY]
The Rangers heard little of this grumbling and dissatisfaction; for
as soon as we returned from Ticonderoga we were sent out scouting near
the south end of Lake Champlain, and very nearly fell into the hands of
a large force of French and Indians. Fortunately we saw them in time to
A few days later, a wagon-train was attacked and one hundred and
seventy-six men were killed, of whom sixteen were Rangers. The news of
this disaster came in the night, and at two in the morning Rogers
started out with a large party of regulars, provincials, and Rangers to
head off the enemy. We rowed down Lake George at the top of our speed,
and then marched over the mountain to the narrow waters of Lake
Champlain. But though we made all possible haste, so did the enemy, and
we missed them by a couple of hours.
We rested for a time; for we were much exhausted by our efforts, and
were about to march back, when a messenger arrived, who gave us orders
to go to Fort Anne at Wood Creek, and cut off a party of French and
Indians who were near Fort Edward.
We had about five hundred men, eighty of whom were Rangers. The rest
was made up of some of Gage's light infantry and Connecticut troops,
under Major Israel Putnam.
On the 7th of August we reached the spot where old Fort Anne had
stood, and camped there.
The forest for a mile around the old fort had been cut down and
burned years before. But the fort had rotted away, and the clearings
had become overgrown with bushes, with here and there an open space.
Early the next morning we began our march. Putnam and his men were
in front, the light infantry in the centre, and the Rangers in the
Rogers had been shooting at a mark that morning with Lieutenant
Irwin of the regulars. The enemy had overheard the firing and
Putnam was leading his men. As he left the clearing, and entered the
forest, the yelling and firing began. Several Indians rushed at him.
His gun missed fire, and he with three or four men was captured by the
[Sidenote: BEN WRESTLES WITH AN INDIAN]
The redskins forced the Connecticut men back, the light infantry
held their ground, and we of the Rangers struggled through the bushes
as best we could, to get to the front.
Every one fought for himself. I had fired my gun just as I reached
an open space, and seeing a number of men on the other side, I started
to run across to them.
Of course I should have reloaded before I attempted this; but one
does not always do the right thing, especially in a hot fight. I had
gone but a short distance when an Indian fired at me from the bushes,
and then ran at me with a tomahawk.
I turned, parried the blow with my gun, and the tomahawk was struck
from his hand.
We grappled each other. He was a fine, large man, decked out with
feathers and warpaint, and was the strongest and most active man I ever
got hold of. He seemed to be made of steel springs. As I struggled with
him, I couldn't help thinking, What a splendid wrestler you would make
if you only knew the tricks! I gave him Jonas Parker's best throw, and
we came down together, and I on top.
The fall knocked the wind out of him and partly stunned him. I got
hold of my hatchet and brained him. I had not noticed or thought of
anything but him. But now I heard a crack! crack! zip! zip!
As I started to run I felt a pain in my left arm, and also in my
left leg. But I got off to our men among the bushes, and they bound my
arm up, and put a bandage round my leg.
I saw an Indian leap in among the regulars, and kill two men with
his hatchet. Then he jumped on a log and taunted our men. A soldier
struck at him with his gun and made him bleed. The Indian was returning
the blow with his tomahawk, when Rogers shot him.
I was still able to load and shoot. We fought some two hours before
they gave way. At last they broke up into little parties and ran off.
We remained and buried our dead.
[Sidenote: BEN WOUNDED]
We lost about fifty men. The French and Indians left over one
hundred dead on the field; and their loss was much heavier, for they
carried off most of their dead.
My wounds now made me so lame and stiff that I could not walk, and
was carried on a litter of branches.
Rogers came alongside, and said: That was a mighty pretty wrestle,
Comee. Big stakes up too; glad you won. But I believe if that Indian
had been taught the tricks like a Christian, you would have met your
That's just what I was thinking myself, major, all the time I was
wrestling with him. It's an awful pity to have to kill a man like
Oh, pshaw, nothing but a cussed redskin. That makes one less of the
vermin. All of us on both sides round that clearing watched you and
him, and did not pay much attention to each other till it was over.
When you killed him, and got up, they fired at you, and we began to
fire at them again. But for a short time all of us watched you. He must
have been a big Injun among them.
Major, where is Amos Locke?
I don't know. I don't think he was among the killed or wounded; and
if he isn't with our party here, he's probably a prisoner, perhaps
roasted and scalped by this time.
Edmund came up later. I'm afraid, Ben, we shan't see Amos again. He
and I were together for a while. But in running through the bushes we
got separated, and I can't find him among our men. If he were with our
party, he would have come to us by this time.
Poor fellow! I can't bear to think of him in the woods, dead; or
worse still, being tortured by the Indians. He may turn up again, after
When we arrived at camp at Lake George, we found that it had been
The camp was dirty and filthy, particularly the portion occupied by
the provincials, for our officers were ignorant in such matters.
On the way to and from Ticonderoga the men had drunk a good deal of
lake water, and this with the grief over our defeat and the filthy
state of our camp had caused much sickness.
[Sidenote: PROVINCIALS BEAT REGULARS SHOOTING]
Having been out in the woods on scouts, I was in good condition, and
my wounds began to heal quickly. Edmund took me over to see the man we
had rescued at Ticonderoga. We found him doing well, cursing the
French, and aching to get at them again. We looked up our kinsmen
Hector and Donald and struck up a great friendship with the men of the
Black Watch. Hector and Donald were both God-fearing men, and went with
us several times to hear Parson Cleveland of Bagley's regiment preach.
He gave us sermons full of meat, and we enjoyed them.
The regulars and provincials did not get on well together. The
Englishmen looked down on the provincial officers and men, and this
caused much hard feeling. One day in August, the regulars and
provincials practised firing with great guns at a target in the lake,
and our men beat the regulars thoroughly. That pleased us and made the
old country men feel pretty glum. Although the regulars scorned the
provincials, yet they held the Rangers in high esteem.
Why is it, Donald, I asked, that the regulars think so well of
us, and laugh at the rest of the provincials?
Well, man, one reason is, because you're no province soldiers at
all, being in the direct pay and service of the King, like ourselves.
And then you're a braw set of men, and ken this fighting in the woods a
deal better than we do, and we know it. But the provincials are gawks
from country towns, without discipline, and with no more knowledge of
the woods than we have.
But Edmund and I are from a town like them.
You've keppit gude company, since you've been with the Rangers, and
have been long enough with them to look and act like the rest of them.
One would take you for hunters and woodsmen.
But the provincials were the last to leave the field at
I'm no denying it. They fought well.
And for country greenhorns, they did pretty well with the cannon
the other day.
Aye, man, I'm no saying they didn't. I'm a truthful man, and I maun
say I was sair disappointed when they beat us shooting. And he changed
[Sidenote: LAKE GEORGE]
Though our camp was foul, yet the lake was the fairest spot I have
ever seendotted with islands and hemmed in by mountains. Even Hector
and Donald said it was a bonny place, just for all the world like old
We used to row on the lake, among the pretty islands, or lie in the
boat and gaze at the mountains and the clouds floating over them. It
seemed absurd that two great bodies of men should come to such a
serene, peaceful place, and occupy their time killing each other.
About two weeks after the Fort Anne fight, Edmund and I had a chance
to get away from camp for several hours, and started off with 'Bijah
Thompson of Woburn, whom we found in Colonel Nichols's regiment.
We pulled out on the lake, went in swimming, and then rowed slowly
along with our fish-lines trailing behind. But the fish didn't bite. We
cut across the upper part of the lake, and as we approached the further
side, Edmund said: What's that over on the shore, Ben? There's some
one there who seems to be making motions to us.
We rowed in that direction, and saw a man waving his arms, and heard
That's no Frenchman. That's one of our men who has got lost in the
woods, or who has escaped from the French.
As we came nearer, we saw that he was almost naked. We pulled toward
the shore, and beheld a pitiful, haggard fellow, with nothing on him
but a pair of ragged breeches and a tattered shirt. We were about to
ask him some questions, when he exclaimed:
B-B-Ben and Edmund, and 'B-Bijah Thompson too, by gum! An-An-And
ain't I glad to see you?
Amos Locke! And we're glad to see you, too. Where have you been?
B-Been? I've been in h-hell. Say, have you got anything to eat? I'm
We had a lot of rye and Injun bread, cheese, and boiled beef with
us. We brought it out, and Amos gulped away at it like a hungry dog. We
also had a wooden bottle into which we had poured our rations of rum,
and then filled it up with water. We passed it to Amos, and he took a
long swig at it. As he took it away from his mouth, a happy grin came
over his face.
[Sidenote: AMOS COMES BACK]
B-Boys, that goes to the spot. I'm not a rum-drinker, but when a
fellow's been frozen, and starved, and water-logged, he does sort of
hanker after something that has a t-tang to it.
He put down the bottle, and went to work at the food again. In a
short time our dinner had disappearedand we had put up what we
considered was an ample supply for three hearty men.
I picked up my jacket and handed it to him to put on; for though it
was a warm day, he looked cold and peaked. His feet were badly cut, and
were done up in bandages of cloth. Then I filled my pipe, and taking
out my flint and steel, lit it and gave it to him.
This isn't b-bad. Now row to the place where the victuals are.
Edmund and 'Bijah rowed, while I questioned Amos.
Well, I was running through the b-bushes, just a little behind you,
Edmund, when my foot caught in a root or vine, and over I went
ker-flummux. My gun flew out of my hands, and as I was g-getting up,
two Frenchmen grabbed me and p-pulled me off through the woods. When
they had gone quite a distance, they t-tied me to a tree, and went back
to fight. I heard the firing and tried to get loose, but couldn't.
A young Injun came along and had some f-fun throwing his tomahawk
at the tree, just over my head, seeing how near he could come to it
without hitting me.
After he had done this half a dozen times, he stood in front of me,
and said, 'Ugh! Me big Injun.' I said, 'Yes, you big Injun. Big Injun
better go fight.' He went away, and in about an hour my two Frenchmen
came running back with more men. They untied me, and fastening a line
around my neck, one led and the other drove me, hitting me with his
loaded gun, punching the muzzle into my b-back. When they got to the
place where they had left their packs, they p-pulled off my jacket and
waistcoat, t-tied a heavy pack on my back, and drove me along again.
[Sidenote: ISRAEL PUTNAM HAS A WARM TIME]
Every now and then I sank down, and thought I c-couldn't go any
further; but the man behind put his gun to my head, r-r-ripped out a
lot of oaths at me, and told me he would blow my head off if I didn't
get up and hustle.
Oh, no, I don't know their lingo; but I could understand just what
he said, and what's m-more, I know he m-meant it. I didn't want to be a
c-cold corpse out there in the woods, so I got up and struggled on
At last they camped for the night. They laid me on my back and
t-tied my hands and feet to stakes d-driven into the ground.
I saw Major P-Putnam, who had been captured by some Injuns. They
took his pack off, and he looked as if he would drop. They r-rushed at
him, stripped him, t-tied him to a tree, piled dry branches and brush
about him, and set them on fire. Then they formed a ring around him,
and taunted and insulted him. A shower came up and put the fire out.
They g-got more branches and lighted the fire again. The fire was
burning well, and P-Putnam was squirming away from the heat, when a
French officer ran up, k-kicked the branches aside, cut the cords, told
the Injuns to stand back, and led P-Putnam away. I heard afterward that
this man's name was Morin, and that he was the leader of the
The next morning at daybreak we got into the b-batteaux and canoes,
and rowed down Wood Creek. I was in a b-batteau. They gave me an oar,
and made me work for all I was worth. If I let up for a minute, they
hit me and threatened to k-kill me. That ugly fellow who swore at me
the day before was in the boat, and I c-could understand him. He made
things very clear, as he jabbed the m-muzzle of his gun into my ribs,
and h-held his finger on the trigger.
They were in a hurry to get out of the way of any f-force of our
men that might be sent to cut them off. We reached T-Ticonderoga that
night. They turned us prisoners out into a pasture with some scrubby
trees in it, and p-put a guard around us. And there they k-kept us,
giving us hardly anything to eat, t-till at last we grew so hungry that
we p-pulled the bark off the b-black birches, and ate it to stay our
stomachs. I thought considerable of home while I was b-browsing round
in that p-pasture, and of what I used to do. Not so m-much of
pigeon-shooting and fox-hunting as of things I disliked, p-ploughing in
the spring, hilling corn till my back ached, cutting logs into lengths
for firewood till my arms were t-tired out and my hands b-blistered.
[Sidenote: FOND RECOLLECTIONS]
These were all unpleasant, but I remembered the comfortable home
and the supper that came after the work, and how I used to eat my fill
in safety. And here I was, likely to be scalped or burned to death, and
my innards just a griping and a yearning for a b-bit of solid food.
There were some four thousand Frenchmen in the fort, Canadians,
Indians, and the regulars in their white coats.
I was bound to get away if I could, and watched for a chance. We
were not f-far from the breastwork.
Sentinels walked up and down on the inner side, and I knew that I
could not c-crawl over it, without being seen. They did not pay so much
attention to the swampy ground at either end. I made up my mind to
g-get to the low land, and pass by the end of the breastwork.
After we had been there six days, a storm began in the afternoon.
The rain came down in torrents, and the wind b-blew hard.
We were out in the wet, soaking. When the French had gone to sleep,
I walked to the f-fence which was round our pasture, and waited for the
sentinel to pass. Then I crept under the fence, and crawled along till
I got to the swamp, and went into the edge of it and walked toward the
end of the breastwork. The f-fall of rain had made the swamp worse than
As I walked along in the mire, I felt that I was sinking, and
caught hold of a t-tree and pulled myself out, but left my shoes
behind. Then I kept close to the edge of the swamp, and went along
carefully, t-till I got near the breastwork.
[Sidenote: A STROLL THROUGH THE WOODS]
I heard the sentinel c-coming my way, and lay down till he t-turned
and walked away from me.
I passed by the end of the breastwork, and kept along the edge of
the forest, t-till I felt there was an opening, which I knew must be
the path we travelled over on our way from Lake George. It was blind
going, p-pitch dark. Every now and then I found myself wandering from
the path, b-but luckily the passage of our large army had t-trodden it
down into a road, so that I k-kept my way, though it was with great
As it began to grow light, I reached a point where a ledge came
down to the road; and I thought this would be a good place to leave the
path, because if the Indians searched for me, they would lose my trail
on the r-rocks.
I walked on the rocks for over an hour, t-till the sun rose, and
the rain ceased. I came across a blueberry patch, and ate my fill. It
was good to be free and to have something to eat.
I found a hollow where I would not be seen, and where the sun would
shine on me, and I lay down and slept. When I w-woke up, and was
thinking what to do, a rabbit came hopping along, feeding. I kept quiet
until he had passed me, and rose up and c-cried out, Hooh! He sat up on
his hind legs, pricked up his ears, and I knocked him over with a stone
and ate him. Then I came to the brook where we had our f-first fight,
but it was so full from the rain that I had to wait a day before I
could cross it. It ran like a m-mill-race. My feet were all cut up, and
I tore off the arms of my shirt and bound the cloth round my feet. I
didn't d-dare to follow the paths, but kept through the woods t-till I
struck the lake. I only travelled in the morning and afternoon, for
when the sun was overhead I c-couldn't tell where I was going; so I ate
berries and slept at midday. I reached the lake above the Narrows and
went back to the path. I didn't care m-much if I were caught or not. I
don't want to eat another b-berry in my life. Several times I saw boats
on the lake and tried to get their attention, but c-couldn't. D-Didn't
I feel happy when I saw you coming toward me! And when I knew who it
was, I felt as if I were at home again m-milking the cows or up on old
B-Bull Meadow shooting fifty-two pigeons at a clip. Have you heard
anything from Davy Fiske?
[Sidenote: NEWS FROM WEAVER DAVID]
Well, yes; 'Bijah here came out late, and he says Davy has been
telling him some story about killing a bear in Grimes's cornfield up on
the Billerica road.
That must have b-been before we left and we didn't hear anything
about it. How was it, 'Bijah?
I met Davy early this spring over in the woods by Listening Hill,
and he told me about hunting a bear in Bill Grimes's young corn, which
was about three feet high. He and Bill chased the bear; the bear ran
off, climbed over a stone wall, and got stuck in a snowdrift, and they
came up and killed him.
That's D-Davy all over. He's m-mighty careless about those hunting
yarns of his. Pretty soon the bears will be wearing rackets in the
summer to k-keep out of his way. And now, boys, if you don't mind, I'll
stretch out in the bottom of the boat and get a little nap. I haven't
had a good sleep I don't know when, and the f-food and the warm sun
make me terrible sleepy.
Amos lay down, and we rowed till we reached the shore.
CHAPTER XIII. BEN COMEE HEAP BIG
PALEFACETRAPPING BOB-CATS IN PRIMEVAL WOODS
When we arrived at camp we had something to eat. Rogers came to us
and questioned Amos, first as to the number of troops at Fort
Ticonderoga, and how they were arranged, and afterward he inquired
about his adventures. When Amos told how Morin rushed in and freed
Major Putnam, Rogers said:
Morin? I know him well. I scalped him and carved my name on his
breast with my knife.
Well, I wished you h-hadn't. Then he m-might have given us
something to eat.
Rogers turned and went off.
Ugh! I don't like that man. You remember the time Lord Howe was
k-killed. Well, that day I saw Rogers hit a poor wounded Frenchman on
the head with his hatchet. It was the meanest thing I ever saw done by
a white man, and I can't abide him.
No, he's cruel and hard as nails. I wish John Stark was the
commander of the Rangers. He has all Rogers's good points as a fighter,
is a better man, and has better judgment. He never makes mistakes.
Hello! said Amos. There's old Captain Jacob. I thought I'd
n-never want to see an Injun again. But it's kind of good to see the
old fellow. I wonder what makes him seem different from the Injuns on
the other side.
Probably because he's a Christian Indian.
I guess not. I d-don't think his religion struck in very deep, and
it don't worry him much. And when you come to that, they say those
French Indians are Christian Indians too. I n-never noticed m-much
religion about them. I guess we like him because he's on our side and
shows his good points to us, and those other Injuns are agin us and
show their ugly natures. It makes all the difference in the world
whether the Injun's with you or agin you.
[Sidenote: BEN SENDS PRESENTS]
I had been feeling bad about the Indian that I wrestled with. He was
such a fine fellow. How Jonas Parker would have delighted in him. Just
a bundle of steel springs. There must have been a great deal that was
good in a man like that.
I walked over to Captain Jacob, and said: I had a wrestle with an
Indian in that Fort Anne fight, Captain Jacob, and I killed him. I'm
sorry, for he was a fine fellow.
Yes, I heard! Big fight. Big Injun.
Well, I should like to show those Indians that I thought well of
him, and want also to do something for his wife and children, if he has
any. Now, I have ten Spanish dollars. I should like to buy some
present, and send it to them, and tell them how much I thought of him
and that I'm sorry I killed him.
Oh, yes! Me send Injun. Me send what you call 'emInjun flag of
truce. Me send presents. Tell 'em you heap sorry. Me tell 'em you think
him heap big Injun.
That's it. That's the talk, Captain Jacob. Here's the ten dollars.
Buy what you think are the right presents for his wife and children,
and I shall be much obliged to you.
All right! Me do it!
Some days later, Captain Jacob came to me and said:
All right, Ben Comee. Me send Injun. He see them Injuns. He give
'em your words. Injuns feel heap proud. They say that Injun, him big
chief of Canawaugha Injuns. His name Gray Wolf. Best man they have.
They feel glad you think heap of him. My Injun give 'em presents for
his squaw and children. Give 'em rum, tobacco, and chocolate.
Rum, tobacco, and chocolate?
Yes, heap rum, heap tobacco, heap chocolate!
Well, that was a mighty good idea, Jacob. There's lots of comfort
in all three of those things. But I should never have thought of giving
them to the widow and the orphans.
Injuns ask, 'What that man's name?' 'Ben Comee in Captain Rogers's
company. They give my Injun, pipe, wampum, and powder horn with carving
on it for you.' They say: 'Ben Comee heap big paleface to kill Gray
Wolf. We think as much of his scalp as of Captain Rogers's or John
[Sidenote: LOUISBURG FALLS]
Edmund and Amos, who were standing near by, grinned, and Edmund
You seem to be pretty popular with those Indians, Ben. Don't get
stuck-up over it.
I don't see anything very funny about it, and hope that all three
of us shall pass through the fiery furnace, like Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego, without a hair of our heads being touched.
While we were being whipped by the French at Ticonderoga, another
army under General Amherst and General Wolfe was besieging the fortress
of Louisburg, on the island of Cape Breton. That army had good
generals; and on the 28th of August we heard that the fortress had
surrendered. Edmund came out of Rogers's hut. We were waiting for him.
Come along with me. Louisburg has fallen, and I've got to take some
orders to the officers, about to-night. The four companies of Rangers
with that army did well. Rogers is mightily pleased over it, and is
going to celebrate their good behaviour. Rangers to be at the
breastworks at six, and fire a salute. There's going to be high jinks
to-night. I've got to go in here and see Stark.
The regiments were all under arms at the breastworks at six o'clock.
It was the King's birthday, and the Royal Artillery began with a royal
salute of twenty-one guns. Then the regiments fired in turn, till all
had fired three times. After that the ranks were broken, and the fun
More good news came soon after, and this time our own army had a
success. For Colonel Bradstreet with two thousand men had set out on an
expedition against Fort Frontenac, and early in September he sent back
word that he had taken and destroyed the fort.
These victories put new life into our men, and they became cheerful,
and did not continually harp on our defeat.
Through Hector and Donald we came to know the men of the Black Watch
well, and spent much of our leisure time with them, listening to their
tales of cattle-lifting and of fighting in the Border.
[Sidenote: BORDER TALES]
Most of their talk was about the Rebellion of 1745, for the regiment
was largely made up of Highlanders that had been out with Charlie.
And when they drank the King's health, it was to King James they drank,
and not to King George.
Their conversation was very interesting to Edmund and to me, for our
family had lived together like a clan in Lexington, and the older
people still kept certain Scotch customs and used queer expressions. As
the Highlanders talked, a strange feeling would occasionally come over
us, as if we had led that life and seen those sights at some dim,
In our own camp with the Rangers we heard stories of adventures in
the woods with Indians, bears, and lucivees.
Old Bill McKinstry said, I wish we had some good strong traps, and
we could go off and trap bob-cat.
And why shouldn't we have traps? What am I a blacksmith for? Just
find me some old iron, and I will get the use of the armourers' forge.
They procured the iron, and I made eight big traps with strong jaws
and a chain for each trap.
McKinstry, John Martin, Amos, and I got a furlough for a week, and
so did Hector Munro, whom we asked to go with us. We packed up our
traps and provisions on an Indian sled.
The winter had set in. The river was frozen over, and the snow was
deep. We fastened on our rackets and started to the southwest, where
there was little likelihood that we should be disturbed by Indians. We
went down the river, and turned off into a path that led to the west,
and followed it till well into the afternoon, when we came to a
good-sized pond. On the way, we shot several rabbits with which to bait
the traps. McKinstry killed a hedgehog, which he said was just what he
wanted. We chose a place where there were a couple of good-sized
saplings, some twelve feet apart in a level and sheltered spot, not far
from the pond.
[Sidenote: BUILDING A CAMP]
We cleared away the brush behind them, and fastened a pole from one
tree to the other, some eight feet from the ground. Then we cut a
number of long poles, and laying one end of them on the cross pole, and
the other on the ground, made the skeleton of a lean-to hut. McKinstry
had built a fire. He threw the hedgehog into it, and let him stay till
the quills were well singed. Then he pulled him out and tied a string
What are you doing that for?
For a scent. I'll show you.
McKinstry and I set out with the traps and bait, leaving our
companions to cut fir boughs, with which to thatch the roof and sides
of the hut, and make a bed. He held the hedgehog up by the string, and
we walked down to the pond, and along the edge of it.
There's tracks enough, Ben. Must be game here. I'll scoop out a
little snow, and you open the trap, and lay it in the hollow. Now,
we'll cover it with twigs and leaves, to hide it. Cut up a rabbit, and
lay the pieces on the twigs for bait. Bring me that log over there, and
I'll fasten it to the chain for a clog. He'd gnaw, or pull his foot
off, if we tied the trap to a tree. He'll haul the clog along, but he
won't get many miles with it. Now we'll drag the hedgehog round, and
the burnt quills will make a strong scent on the snow. That will do.
We'll go on and pull the hedgehog through the snow behind us. When the
animals strike that trail, they'll be apt to follow it to a trap.
We set all our traps along the edge of the pond, at quite a distance
from each other; and at the last trap, cut up the hog, and baited the
trap with it.
When we got back to camp, we found the roof and sides of the hut
well thatched with boughs, and a good thick layer of them on the ground
for a bed. The boys had collected a lot of wood, and piled it up near
by. In front of the hut was a fire, at which Martin was baking some rye
and Injun bread, and frying a large mess of pork.
When we had eaten our supper, it was solid comfort to sit in our
hut, after our long day's work, to look at the fire blazing in front,
to feel the heat, and watch the smoke curl up through the tree. On the
further side of the fire they had built up a wall of green logs, so
that the heat was thrown into the hut. We were snug and warm.
[Sidenote: JOHN McNEIL]
Boys, said McKinstry, when we get through with this war, you must
come to the Amoskeag Falls, and visit your old friends. We've got some
fine men there,one's a great wrestler. I don't think your Jonas
Parker could have stood up very long against him. His name is John
McNeil. He is six feet six inches high, and used to be strong as a
bull. He is a North of Ireland man, and had a quarrel with some big
Injun over there, who came along on horseback, and struck at him with
his whip. John pulled him off his horse, gave him a pounding, and had
to leave the country. He settled at the Falls, and no man, white or
red, could stand up against him for a minute. His wife, Christie, is a
good mate to him, a big, brawny woman. One day a stranger came to the
house and asked: 'Is Mr. McNeil at home?'
'No,' says Christie; 'the gude man is away.'
'That's a pity; for I hear that McNeil is a very strong man, and a
great wrestler; and I've come a very long distance to throw him.'
'Troth, man,' says she, 'Johnny is gone. But I'm not the woman to
see ye disappointed, and I think if ye'll try me, I'll thraw ye
The man didn't like to be stumped by a woman and accepted the
challenge. Christie threw him, and he cleared out without leaving his
That's a braw couple, says Hector. I hope there were no quarrels
in that household.
No, indeed; as nice, peaceable, and respectable a couple as you
could find in the whole Province. It's a fine sight to see the old man
and his wife seated in front of the fire, smoking their pipes, and
their big sons around them.
I'd like to see them. But what I do want to see is a panther or
catamount. There's very little game left in Lexington. Now and then a
bear, but the catamounts went long before my day. I suppose you have
[Sidenote: A HAZARDOUS ADVENTURE]
Yes, I've killed some; but Martin's brothers did about the best
thing in that way that I know of. Tell them about it, Martin.
All right. We lived on the Merrimac, at a ferry that they called
after us, Martin's Ferry. Father died when we were little chaps. Mother
was strong, and we got along farming, hunting, and running the ferry.
One day in winter, when I was about thirteen years old, my brothers,
Nat and Ebenezer, went up to Nott's Brook, to see if they could find
some deer yarded in the swamp. They came on a big track, followed it,
and saw a catamount eating a deer it had killed. Nat had an axe, and
Eben a club. Nat said, 'Let's kill him, Eben.'
'All right. It's a pretty slim show, but I'm in for it. How'll we
'You go up in front of him and shake your club to take his
attention, and I'll creep up behind and hit him with the axe.'
'I don't think there's much fun shaking a club in a panther's face;
but if you're sure you'll kill him, I'll try it.'
Eben walked up in front with his club, and Nat crept up behind.
When the cat saw Eben, it growled and switched its tail round, and
raised up the snow in little clouds. It lay there with its paws on the
deer and its head raised, growling at Eben, who felt pretty shaky. Nat
crept up behind the cat and gave it a blow with his axe that cut its
backbone in two.
That was an awful p-plucky thing to do.
It was a most unfortunate thing for my mother.
Why, it made me just wild to go bear-hunting with them. I kept
plaguing mother to let me go. She used to say, 'Pshaw, boy, you'd run
if you saw a bear.' One night I had been pestering her worse than
usual. She left the room, and soon after I heard something bumping
round outside. The door flew open, and in walked a bear, which came at
me, growling. I grabbed a pine knot that was handy and hit the beast on
the head, and over it rolled. The bearskin fell off, and there lay my
mother stretched out on the floor. I was afraid I had killed her, and
ran and got a pail of water and threw it on her. She came to, and sat
up in a kind of a daze.
[Sidenote: MARTIN'S MOTHER PLAYED BEAR]
'What's the matter? Have I been in the river?'
'No, mother, you played you was a bear, and I hit you over the
head; I'm awful sorry.'
'Don't say a word more, Johnny. Don't say a word more. I was an old
fool. Serves me right.'
She got up, threw the bearskin in the corner, and went about her
work. In the morning I asked her again if I could go bear-hunting with
She put her hands on her hips, looked at me, and laughed to
herself, and then she said:
'Yes, Johnny, you can go. But be sure and take a club with you. I
think you'll be a great help.'
Just as Martin had finished his story we heard a series of the most
terrific screeches and caterwauls.
Heavens and earth, man, said Hector, what's that? That must be
the father of all cats.
That's just what he is, and you'll think so to-morrow when you see
him. That is, if he don't get away. That's what we call a bob-cat. The
French call them lucivees; and he's the biggest cat in the country,
except the catamount. It's just as well to leave him alone over-night.
We don't want to go fooling round him in the dark.
Weel, mon, generally speaking I have nae fear of a cat; but if this
one has claws and teeth like his screech, I think we'd better defer our
veesit till the morrow. And it's surprising to me how comfortable we
all are out here in the forest in the dead of winter. 'Deed, if Donald
and I were out here alone, we'd be freezing; and here we are as happy
Yes, and a bagpiper at hand with his music.
Now, Benny, don't run the bagpipes down. They're a grand
instrument. Our friend down there does very well in his way; but he
hasna the science. And I was thinking that all we'll be wanting is a
little gude peat in the fire. The peat makes a bonny fire. We're no so
wasteful of wood as you are.
[Sidenote: THE LAIRD OF INVERAWE]
Well, Hector, we burn peat in our fires at Lexington, too.
Then you're more civilized than I thought.
Oh, all we really lack are the bagpipes and some of those
second-sight men and Scotch ghosts, who foretell what is going to
happen. It's strange some of them didn't tell Nabby Crombie he ought to
take his cannon with him when he attacked Ticonderoga.
We kenned more about Ticonderoga than you think, Comee. Didn't
every mother's son in the Black Watch know that our major, Duncan
Campbell, would meet his death there? He had his warning years ago.
A wise man don't do anything great if he tells a soldier that he's
likely to be killed some time. But as you seem to think there is
something remarkable in your story, you'd better give us a few solid
facts. We might not look at it just as you do.
Duncan Campbell was the laird of Inverawe Castle in the Highlands,
and with us was called, from his estate, Inverawe. One evening he heard
a knocking at his door, and, opening it, saw a stranger with torn
clothes and his hands and kilt smeared with blood. He said that he had
killed a man in a quarrel and that men were after him in order to slay
him. He asked for shelter. Inverawe promised to conceal him. The man
said, 'Swear it on your dirk,' and Inverawe did so. He hid the man in a
secret room in his castle. Soon after there was a knocking at his gate,
and two men entered.
'Your cousin Donald has just been murdered, and we are looking for
the murderer.' Inverawe couldna go back on his oath, and said he kenned
naught of the fugitive; and the men kept on in pursuit. He lay down in
a dark room, and went to sleep. Waking up, he saw the ghost of his
cousin Donald by his bedside, and heard him say:
'Inverawe! Inverawe! Blood has been shed. Shield not the murderer.'
When the morning came, he went to the man and told him he could conceal
him no longer.
'You have sworn on your dirk,' the man replied. The laird didna
know what to do. He led the man to a mountain, and hid him in a cave,
and told him he wouldna betray him.
[Sidenote: INVERAWE'S FATE FORETOLD]
The next night his cousin Donald appeared to him again, and said,
'Inverawe! Inverawe! Blood has been shed. Shield not the murderer.'
When the sun came up, Inverawe went to the cave, but the man was
gone. That night the ghost appeared again, a grewsome sight, but not so
stern. 'Farewell! Farewell! Inverawe!' it said. 'Farewell till we meet
Inverawe joined the Black Watch. They were hunting us down in the
Highlands, after we had been out with Charlie. When this war came on,
the King granted us a pardon if we would enlist; and right glad we were
to get out of the country. We reached here and learned that we were to
attack Ticonderoga. All of us knew the story. When we reached there,
the officers said: 'This is not Ticonderoga. This is Fort George.' On
the morning of the battle, Inverawe came from his tent, a broken man,
and went to the officers, ghastly pale. 'I have seen him. You have
deceived me. He came to my tent last night. This is Ticonderoga; I
shall die to-day.'
But he didn't die that day, said Martin. He was hit in the arm,
and didn't die till ten days after.
If you're going to split straws about it, said McKinstry, the
ghost didn't tell him he would be killed there. He got his death wound,
at any rate; that was near enough. A good deal better guess than you
could make. Between the yelling of that bob-cat and Hector's grisly
story, we're likely to have a good night's sleep. I think we'd better
frighten the ghosts off, and then turn in.
In the morning, Hector, Amos, and I wanted to go to the traps at
once to examine them; but Martin said, It may be hours before we get
back, and if you were to start without your breakfast, you might be
calling yourselves pretty hard names later in the day.
We cooked breakfast, and after we had eaten it, took our guns, and
went to the pond. Our first trap was gone; but there was a big trail
where the clog had been dragged through the snow and bushes.
We followed it for nearly half a mile, till Martin stopped us and
said, There he is.
[Sidenote: THEY KILL A BOB-CAT]
We looked into a clump of bushes, and saw a pair of fierce blue
eyes, which looked like polished steel. As we gazed, they seemed to
grow larger and flash fire.
'Deed, mon, said Hector, a more wicked pair of eyes I never saw.
Martin raised his gun and fired at the bob-cat; but though he
wounded it, the cat jumped at us, pulling the clog after it. McKinstry
gave it another shot, which knocked it over. It died hard.
When the animal was dead, we examined it. It was over three feet
long and about two feet high. Its tail was about six inches long. Its
head was about as big as a half-peck measure. Its ears were pointed,
with little black tassels at the ends. It had whiskers on its cheeks
and smellers like a cat. The fur was gray, except that on the belly,
which was white.
Hector was looking at its claws, which were nearly two inches long.
McKinstry, what do these animals eat?
Well, if you were alone here in the woods, I think likely they'd
eat a Scotchman.
I was a thinking that same thing myself.
We skinned the bob-cat, and cut off some of his flesh with which to
bait the trap, and then we carried the trap back, and set and baited it
We found nothing in our other traps till we came to the spot where
the seventh one had been, and that had disappeared.
We followed the trail, and finally saw the cat on a stump among some
bushes. McKinstry shot it. It jumped at us, but fell dead.
It was like the other, and weighed something over thirty pounds,
though it looked much heavier on account of its long fur.
We skinned it, and set and baited the trap again. The last trap had
not been touched.
As we were going back, Amos said: What a p-pity Davy Fiske
c-couldn't have been with us. He'd have talked of this all his life.
Well, the only difference is, that Amos Locke will, instead.
Just before we left the pond, we saw that an animal had turned in on
our tracks, and had followed them up toward the camp.
[Sidenote: A FISHER]
That's a black cat or fisher, said Martin. His tracks look like a
little child's. I'd like to get him, for a black cat's fur is worth
The tracks kept along with ours, and when we got to the camp, we
found that he had eaten up one of three partridges we had left there.
I'll fix him, said McKinstry, and the next day he brought up a
trap and set it near the hut, and baited it with partridge. The
following day, while we were away, the black cat came again, passed by
our trap and bait, and though there was a fire burning, went to the hut
and ate some baked beans which were there. He made two more calls on
us, but scorned the trap.
On the second day out, Martin shot a deer, so that we had plenty of
fresh meat; and we cut holes in the ice on the pond and caught
When the week was up, we had eight bob-cats and an otter. We packed
our traps and skins on the sled, started back, and reached Fort Edward
in the evening.
Edmund had been unable to go with us on this trip, as Major Rogers
was at Albany, and Edmund's duties as adjutant kept him in camp.
CHAPTER XIV. A SCOUTING EXPEDITION
IN THE DEAD OF WINTER
One day about the end of February, Edmund came out of Rogers's hut,
Rogers is going on a scout, boys, down to Ticonderoga, and will
take your company. Johnson is going to send over fifty Mohawk Indians
under Captain Lotridge, and there'll be a number of regulars, too.
There will be about three hundred and fifty men in the party, so that
there won't be much chance of your being treated as we were in our
first expedition. An engineer lieutenant named Bhreems is going with
you, and will make sketches of the fort. You are to try and take some
prisoners to bring back information.
We set out on the third of March, 1759.
The snow was deep, and the Rangers and Indians were on snowshoes.
The regulars followed us, plodding along heavily through the snow. We
reached Halfway Brook that night, and the next day got over to Lake
George. We waited till it was dark and then marched down the lake to
the First Narrows, which we reached about two in the morning.
It was bitter cold, and already some of the men were so badly
frost-bitten that twenty of them had been sent back to Fort Edward.
Now, boys, said Rogers, we must keep under cover all day and hide
till night comes on. You can't have any fires. Get into sheltered spots
and huddle together to keep warm, and shift round now and then to give
every one a fair chance.
We huddled together like sheep and covered ourselves with our
blankets. Occasionally we rose, stamped our feet and beat our hands,
and then crouched down again.
When it was dark we put on our rackets and set out again. By
daybreak we reached the landing-place. Rogers sent scouts to see if any
of the enemy were out. They reported that there were two parties of
them cutting wood on the east side of Lake Champlain.
[Sidenote: FRENCH WOODCUTTERS]
Rogers now marched with fifty Rangers and as many Indians down to
the isthmus, and we went up the same hill from which John Stark and
Engineer Clark made their observations the year before. Everything
looked different in the winter. We were acting as a guard to Mr.
Bhreems, who went up to the crest of the hill and made sketches of the
fort. Amos and I crept along the sidehill to where a few Indians and
Rangers were watching some Frenchmen at work on the other side of the
lake. They were cutting down trees and chopping them up into firewood.
I suppose we've got to go over and capture some of those men,
Yes; seems a p-pity, too, to attack men cutting wood. It puts me in
mind of home. That's what I'd be doing now if I were there.
Rogers left a few scouts to watch these men, and the rest of us
returned with the engineer.
The weather grew colder and colder. All this time we could have no
fires. We watched each other to see if an ear or a nose were getting
frost-bitten. I told Amos that his right ear looked pretty white, and
that he had better see if there were any feeling in it.
He took off his mittens and pinched it.
It don't hurt a bit. There isn't a mite of feeling.
I gave it a good rubbing, and he soon had feeling enough in it.
That comes from wearing such long ears, my boy.
His toes felt numb, and he went to a place that was bare of snow,
took off his rackets, and stamped to get some life into his feet.
The regulars suffered much more than we did, for they had no
rackets, and had been wallowing along in the deep snow. So many were
frost-bitten that Rogers sent all the regulars back to Sabbath Day
Point, and thirty Rangers with them.
Amos went with this party. They were told to build fires to keep
themselves warm, and to wait for us.
[Sidenote: THEY CAPTURE SOME PRISONERS]
At three in the morning the rest of us started out, Rogers, three
lieutenants, one regular, and forty Rangers, and Captain Lotridge with
forty-six Mohawk Indians.
We went southward to avoid being seen, and crossed South Bay about
eight miles south of the fort. Here we came upon the trail of a large
party of Indians who had gone toward Fort Edward; and Rogers sent off a
couple of scouts to notify the men at the fort.
Then we turned and marched north in a couple of files, till we got
within half a mile of the place where the French were cutting wood.
Two Rangers and two Indians were sent forward to scout. They
returned and reported that about forty Frenchmen were at work opposite
Now, boys, said Rogers, get ready.
We threw down our blankets, and crept up silently till we were near
them. Then we rushed on them and took several prisoners. Many others
were killed by our Indians.
The French over at Fort Ticonderoga saw what was going on, and some
eighty Canadians and Indians ran out of the fort followed by about one
hundred and fifty regulars.
They pursued us.
Spread out, boys, into a line abreast. Don't let them get a raking
shot at you. Make for that rising ground over there.
I thought the old man wouldn't clear out without giving them a
little fun, said McKinstry. 'Twouldn't be neighbourly after all the
trouble they are taking to entertain us.
We retreated till we reached the rising ground, and then made a
stand. The Canadians and Indians had snowshoes, and were a good deal
ahead of the regulars. As they approached us, McKinstry said: I wonder
what kind of a shot you can make, Ben, with that French gun you've got.
I'll take that big Frenchman over there with the blue shirt on.
Well, then, I'll take the fellow next to him on the left.
They ran up toward us, and began to fire. We waited till they got
close, and returned their fire. As the smoke blew away, McKinstry
[Sidenote: A WARM RECEPTION]
Both of our men are down. You did well, Ben. It's a good deal
easier to shoot a partridge than it is to shoot a man who is running at
you with a gun in his hand.
The French fell back and waited for the regulars, and we started on
We reached a long ridge, and crossing to the further side of it,
They came close to us, and McKinstry and I again chose our men. The
Rangers poured a hot fire into them. We could not see till the smoke
Your man is down, Ben; and I can see my man running away, but he
His toes may be frost-bitten, Mac.
They weren't five minutes ago.
Our last fire completely routed the French, and they gave up the
Two Rangers were killed; one of them was next to me as he fell. The
regular who went with us was shot, and an Indian was wounded.
Of the enemy, some thirty were killed. We had the advantage in
position, being sheltered by the ridge.
We kept on the go till twelve o'clock that night, having marched
over fifty miles since we started in the morning. This, together with
our three small scrimmages, might be considered an ample day's work.
The snow was about four feet deep, and many of the party had their feet
frozen, for it was bitter cold.
When we got to Sabbath Day Point, we found the rest of our men
there, and a number of good fires. We warmed ourselves at them, and our
companions brought us some warm food and drink.
Amos's ear was puffed up, and his toes were so sore he could hardly
We were very tired, and rolled ourselves up in our blankets near the
fires, and had a sound sleep.
The next day we marched as far as Long Island, and camped there that
At sunrise one of our Indians brought word that a large herd of deer
was on the lake near the west side.
[Sidenote: A HERD OF DEER]
McKinstry, Martin, Amos, and I got leave to go after them with some
other Rangers and Indians. Amos started with us too.
This is f-fun, Ben. A whole herd of d-deer waiting to be knocked
over. Oh, my feet!
He limped along, and the sweat stood out on his face. It's no use,
Ben. I can't do it. I call that t-tough luckto be cheated out of the
best chance for hunting I ever had. Good-by.
He felt as bad over it as a boy of twelve would to lose Thanksgiving
We divided into two parties. A half a dozen Indians walked up the
lake beyond the deer, so as to drive them toward us; and the rest of us
went to the west side of the lake and up into the woods, till we were
hidden from the lake.
We walked along on a path that was near the shore of the lake, till
we were opposite the deer, and the Indians were already in a line on
the further side of them.
Now, boys, said McKinstry, spread out, so that they can't run to
the shore, and in this going we ought to get them all.
We went down on the ice and drove them toward the Indians and then
formed a circle around them.
As we had rackets on, and the snow was deep, we could outrun the
deer, and we killed the whole herdtwelve in all. Most of us shot our
deer, but the Indians ran alongside of them and killed their deer with
No more salt beef for us for a week or so, said McKinstry. I've
been longing for a bit of venison.
We cut up our deer, and making some rude sleds out of bark, placed
our venison on them, and soon overtook the rest of our party, for they
Rogers had sent word to Fort Edward that many of the men were
frost-bitten and unable to walk; and one hundred men with a number of
Indian sleds were sent to us and met us on the lake. Amos got on one of
these sleds, and we marched back to Fort Edward.
CHAPTER XV. CAMP
DISCIPLINEAMHERST'S ANGELSA BRUSH WITH THE FRENCH, AND THE LOSS OF
In the spring the provincial troops began to meet at Albany. Some of
our officers had been recruiting during the winter, and they returned
with their men.
John Stark had gone home in the fall to get married, and he brought
back one hundred men whom he had enlisted at Amoskeag Falls. Two
companies of Stockbridge Indians also joined us. There were fifty men
in each of these companies.
By the first of June Amherst arrived at Fort Edward with part of the
army, and Gage came up the river with the rest in boats. He brought the
artillery and provisions with him.
The river was so high that the men could not use setting poles, and
it took them two weeks to row up against the swift current.
Most of the provincial troops were without uniforms, and, as I have
said, were ignorant of military life and discipline. Their officers
wore a uniform of blue faced with scarlet, with metal buttons, and had
laced waistcoats and hats. They were sober, sensible men.
When the provincials reached Fort Edward, they were drilled daily
and taught to fire by platoon and to shoot at a mark. They were sent
into the woods to learn how to fight.
One company from each regiment of the regulars was fitted out as
light infantry and clothed lightly. Plenty of powder and ball was given
to these men, and we used to go into the woods with them and give them
an idea of wood-fighting. We had a good deal of fun out of all this. It
was solid comfort to go out with a batch of conceited fellows and show
them how very green they were.
The soldiers were sent in bathing daily. The sick, if they had
sufficient strength, had to go to the doctor for their medicines and to
the river to wash and bathe. Amherst thought that spruce beer was a
remedy against scurvy and made great quantities of it. We could have
all we wanted at the rate of half a penny for a quart.
[Sidenote: MILITARY PUNISHMENTS]
Discipline was very rigid. Men were constantly being flogged. And
one sometimes saw the drummers give a man two or three hundred stripes
with the cat-o'-nine-tails, at the head of his regiment. Every now and
then the drummers would rest, and a surgeon would examine the man to
see if he could endure the remainder of the punishment. Some were
punished by riding the wooden horse, and a couple were hanged for
The woods along the path from Fort Edward were cut down for quite a
distance on either side of the path, that the enemy might not ambuscade
our parties. And little forts were built every three or four miles
along the road. No one died of idleness that spring.
Our old uniforms were pretty well used up. When a jacket or a pair
of breeches gave out, we replaced them with a deerskin shirt or
breeches, which we made ourselves.
In the spring General Amherst gave the Rangers a new uniform. It was
a blue cap or bonnet, such as the Highlanders wore, and a waistcoat and
short jacket of black frieze lapelled with blue. There were no arms to
the waistcoat or jacket, only armholes, and on the shoulders were
little wings, such as the drummers and grenadiers wore. Hector called
us Amherst's angels. The buttons were of white metal. We had drawers of
linen or light canvas, and over them leggings of black frieze reaching
to the thighs. From the calf down, they were buttoned with white metal
buttons, and came over the feet like splatterdashes. At our waist was
fastened a short kilt of blue stuff, which reached nearly to the knees.
Our dress was much like that of the Highlanders.
Most of the regulars who had joined us since the last campaign came
from Louisburg, and had been sufficiently long in the land to lose a
portion of that feeling of immense superiority which Englishmen have
when fresh from the old country. Still they laughed heartily at the
awkward appearance of the green provincial troops. And no one could
help it who had experience in military life.
[Sidenote: YANKEE DOODLE"]
Ben, said Donald, just listen to the green gawks singing and
whistling that 'Yankee Doodle.' They think it is the finest tune on
earth, and the latest martial music from England. I remember the bit of
a surgeon who wrote that in fun two years ago, just to make sport of
Well, Donald, I like it myself; and as our boys have taken it up,
they're apt to fight well under it.
'Deed, man, they'll no do anything with it. It's just a poor
How little we foresaw the popularity of that air. For years the
bands of the British regiments played it in derision of the
provincials. Percy's troops marched to Lexington to this music. They
did not play it on their return. During the Revolution our men played
it whenever the British were defeated, and the tune gradually became
unpopular in the British army.
Donald, our men may be green and awkward, but they are God-fearing
men, most of them, members of the church; and they don't drink like
fish, nor swear like pirates, as these newcomers do, whose conceit and
overbearing ways are hard to endure.
You're right there, Ben. It's no bad thing to have a gude opinion
of oneself, provided it's not altogether too gude. And I maun say that
these men put themselves too high. And a man should have a bridle on
his tongue, and not be drinking too much of this nasty rum.
They laugh at our ways of speaking, and say we speak through our
noses. You of the Black Watch talk differently from them. I heard a
captain, the other day, telling of pumpkins, which he called pompions.
'Yes,' he said, 'the pompion is a good vegetable, and an excellent
succedaneum to the cabbage, in the latter part of the winter.' What do
you think of succedaneum, Donald?
'Deed, I think it's a fine word. I don't know what it means, but it
has a grand sound. I'll manage to bring it in, in the future, when I
hear people using big words. Benjamin, I'm obliged to you.
A few days later, I heard this captain talking about the fogs in
Nova Scotia, which he said, 'are owing to the steamy breath of fish and
sea animals.' I put that down at once. If I could only hear him talk
right along, I think I'd learn a good deal about nature. How do you
[Sidenote: THE ARMY MARCHES TO LAKE GEORGE]
He's a grand talker, Ben, and has an uncommon gude grip on the
language. But I think his philosophy's gone to his head. He never lived
among our Scotch mists, or he wouldn't be so befogged in his ideas.
When General Gage reached Fort Edward, he was sent over to Lake
George with part of the army. Three companies of Rangers, under Captain
Stark, went with him. The other three companies, under Rogers, remained
On the 20th of June the rest of the army, under Amherst, marched to
Our three companies of Rangers, under Rogers, formed the advanced
guard, and threw out flanking parties to scour the woods near by. The
artillery and baggage brought up the rear.
Then nearly a month was consumed in building boats and rafts to
carry the artillery, in raising boats which had been sunk the previous
fall, and in digging up cannon and stores that had been buried.
Amherst wished for information about the French, and Captain Jacob
was sent on a scout to Lake Champlain. At the same time Rogers,
McKinstry, Martin, and I set out to see what force the enemy had at
We put our birches into the water after dark. As I stepped into our
birch, Jacob said: Good-by, Ben Comee! Never see you again. Heap
Canawaugha Indians at Crown Point. Gray Wolf's friends. All want Ben
Comee's scalp. Me heap sorry.
Good-by, Jacob. Take care you don't lose your own hair.
The Indians went along the south shore, and we struck across for the
other side. The enemy had several batteaux on the lake, and we paddled
quietly in the dark till we reached the other shore. As it became
light, we lifted our canoe from the water, and hid it in the bushes.
Rogers started off through the woods, and we followed him in a file.
We climbed a mountain near Ticonderoga and had a good view of the fort.
We stayed there for a couple of hours, counting the different bodies of
soldiers. There seemed to be about three thousand men in the
garrison,regulars, Canadians, and Indians. Then we came down and went
north to Crown Point. We ascended a hill, and looked down on the fort.
It was deserted. The French had concentrated all their men at
[Sidenote: CAPTAIN JACOB IN HOT WATER]
McKinstry called out: Look up the lake. Captain Jacob is in hot
water. Those two birches that are being chased are his, certain.
Yes; he and his men are in those two, and there are seven birches
after them. About thirty men. It's a pretty slim chance he's got. Now
Both parties were shooting at each other. As they neared the shore,
we lost sight of them behind a point, but could still hear them popping
Rogers said: Captain Jacob is in a fix. Presence of mind is a good
thing, but absence of body is a great deal better in a case like this,
and we'd better light out of here at once, and get out of the way
before they run across our trail. There's too few of us to help him. We
must look out for our own scalps. Hurry up.
We went back into the woods a long distance before we turned south
to go to Lake George. We reached camp the next evening, and on the
following day a wounded Indian came in and said that Captain Jacob and
the other four Indians were captured.
There was a report that he was sent to Montreal, but it is more
likely that he was tortured and sang his death-song at the stake.
At last the rafts were ready for the artillery, and on the 21st day
of July the army embarked and moved down the lake in four columns. The
Rangers headed the column on the right. To the left of us was a column
of two brigades of regulars. The third column was mainly made up of
boats and rafts carrying the artillery and provisions, and the
provincials formed the fourth column.
[Sidenote: THE ARMY EMBARKS]
A raft called the Invincible Radeau, which carried nine
twelve-pounders, led the army, and the Halifax sloop brought up
From these, signals were displayed which informed us what to do. The
weather was hazy. There was a strong wind which made quite a sea, and
put the artillery in considerable danger. Whenever the wind was
favourable, we spread our blankets for sails, which helped us very
much. There were in all about eleven thousand men,regulars and
CHAPTER XVI. THE RANGERS TO THE
FRONTCAPTAIN STARK'S TALE OF CAPTURETO ATTACK THE ST. FRANCIS
We reached the outlet at night, and remained in the boats, tossed
about on the water, which was quite rough. The Rangers were the first
to land. We marched by the portage path to the sawmills, and crossed
the bridge to the rising ground on the further side.
A party of the enemy met us there, but we killed some of them, drove
them off, and took several prisoners. Soon after, the grenadiers and
light infantry came up, and were followed by the rest of the army,
which remained over-night at the sawmills. The Canadians and Indians
crept up again, and fired on us from the bushes.
S-Some of your Canawaugha friends, B-Ben, come to pay you a call.
[Sidenote: RANGERS ADVANCE TO LAKE CHAMPLAIN]
We got behind trees and bushes, and we and the French picked each
other off till night came.
Several of our men were wounded. How much the enemy suffered I do
not know, as the Indians drag off their dead. This would seem to be a
matter of no consequence, but I can assure you, that after you have
been four or five hours behind a tree, and heard the bullets plug into
it, or zip through the grass and bushes, close by, it's a great
downfall when the enemy have been driven off, to search the ground in
front of you, and find no dead or wounded, when you could take your
oath that you had hit three or four.
On the 23d, the Rangers were sent across the plain, to take a
position on the cleared land, next to Lake Champlain, near the
When we got there, we found ourselves close to a small intrenchment,
and the men in it opened fire on us.
There's no sense, Ben, in standing here, to be shot at, said
No; let's drive them out of that intrenchment, and get behind it
ourselves. Come on, boys.
We ran toward this earthwork, firing as we advanced, and the French
cleared out as we were climbing over the bank.
The army now came over to the lake, and the artillery was brought up
by the provincials. Although the breastworks had been greatly
strengthened, the enemy abandoned them, and withdrew to the fort. The
breastworks afforded a good shelter for our men.
Our army began to throw up earthworks, and at night the Rangers were
sent into the trenches to pick off the enemy, and distract their
attention from the workmen.
All of our cannon had now been brought over; and on the night of the
twenty-fourth Bourlemaque, the French commander, abandoned the fort
with most of his army, and rowed down the lake, leaving four hundred
men to defend the place.
As soon as our guns were in place, a sharp cannonade began from both
Amherst wished to know what the soldiers under Bourlemaque were
doing, and a number of Rangers had been sent down the lake to watch
them, and some of them were constantly returning with news of the
movements of the enemy.
[Sidenote: THE FRENCH ABANDON TICONDEROGA]
A batteau and two whaleboats had been brought over from Lake George;
and on the night of the twenty-fifth Rogers ordered sixty of the
Rangers to embark in these boats, to cut a boom which the French had
placed across the lake, just above the fort.
When we were halfway to the boom, we saw lights moving at the fort,
and the enemy ran down to the shore, and began to get into their boats.
Rogers cried out: They're getting ready to leave. Go for them,
Our boats attacked some of the enemy's batteaux which were separated
from the main body. We rowed among them and fired right and left. One
of the crews showed fight, but we killed three or four of them, and the
rest jumped overboard and swam ashore. Rogers sent our boat after
another boat. I was in the bow, and kept firing at them, till at last
they turned to the shore, and escaped into the woods. At about ten
o'clock, while we were still fighting, the fort blew up with a
We remained at this place, and in the morning took possession of the
boats that we had driven ashore. They contained a large quantity of
baggage,fifty kegs of powder, and a number of cannon ball. Later in
the day I examined the fort. It was completely destroyed by the
explosion of its powder magazine.
Two hundred Rangers, under Captain Brewer, were sent to watch the
enemy at Crown Point. The rest of us were sent to the sawmills, to look
out for flying parties of the enemy. We remained there two weeks.
On the 12th of August we were ordered to the front of the army, and
the whole army marched to the fort at Crown Point, which had been blown
up and destroyed by the enemy.
I had not had a chance to talk to Captain Stark for a long time, and
when we camped at Crown Point, I went over to his quarters. He took me
into his hut and gave me a pipe.
[Sidenote: A FOOLISH ERRAND]
I'm glad to see you, Comee. It's been some time since we met, and I
shall not see you again this campaign. I received orders to-day to take
two hundred men and cut a path through the woods to Fort No. 4. I am
very glad of it, for it will take me out of a fix I should have been
in, if I had remained here.
How's that, Captain John?
General Amherst has sent Captain Kennedy and some other officers to
try and gain over the St. Francis Indians. I think it is a foolish
errand, which will breed trouble. I don't want to fight them. That is,
I don't mind fighting them, if they come down here, spoiling for a row.
But I don't want to go and attack them in their own region, for I am a
member of that tribe: I was adopted by them. You never suspected that I
was a full-fledged Indian warrior, did you, Ben?
No, indeed. How in the world can that be?
When I grew up, I went trapping and hunting at Baker's River, in
the spring of 1752, with David Stinson, Amos Eastman, and my brother
William. We made a camp with bark and boughs. There was plenty of game,
and we trapped over £500 worth of furs before the first of April. On
the twenty-seventh day of that month we saw the tracks of Indians, and
decided to get out of that region at once. I was twenty-three years
old, the youngest of our party, and was sent to take up the traps.
Seems to me, Captain John, if I had £500 of furs, and saw tracks of
Indians, I'd have lit out with my furs, and not waited to pick up
That would have been the right thing to do. That's what a sensible
man would have done. But if you had been there, you'd probably have
been just as big a fool as we were. You see if we had come back without
our traps, some one in the settlements would have been sure to laugh at
the scare we had over nothing. And we were young idiots, and took the
Just about sunset, I was stooping over the water, taking up a trap,
when I heard a sound like 'O whish!' I looked up, and saw several
redskins pointing their guns at me.
[Sidenote: THE CAPTIVES]
They asked me where our camp was, and I led them two miles away
from it up the river.
As I did not return to camp, the boys began to fire their guns to
call me back. The Indians ran through the woods, and got below them on
the river in order to head off the canoe as it came down.
Eastman was on shore, and Stinson and my brother William were in
the canoe. Just after daybreak they caught Eastman as he was walking
along the bank. The Indians told me to hail the others, and call them
to the shore. I shouted to them: 'The Indians have got Eastman and me.
Go down the further shore.' They paddled away, and the Indians rose and
fired. I knocked up the muzzles of the guns of those near me, and as
the rest fired, I hit all the guns I could. One shot killed Stinson,
and a bullet went through the paddle which my brother held.
I cried out, 'They've all fired, Bill. Get away as quick as you
can.' He paddled off, and the Indians gave me a good pounding, for
which I could not blame them.
They must have been pretty angry with you.
They were just boiling over, and at the same time they kind of
liked me for it, too.
They were St. Francis Indians. There were ten of them under their
chief, Francis Titigaw. They took us up to the Connecticut River, where
we were joined by two Indians who had been left there. Then we went to
the upper Coos Intervale. Three of the Indians were sent with Eastman
to the village of St. Francis. The rest of us hunted on a small creek.
They let me do a little trapping, and gave me the skins of a couple of
beavers that I killed.
Early in June we arrived at St. Francis, and they made Eastman and
me run the gauntlet. The young Indians formed two lines, and we were to
run down between them. Each Indian had a club or stick, and they gave
Eastman and me two poles about eight feet long, with the skin of an
animal or bird tied to the end.
They taught us some words to sing as we passed down the line, and
pretty sassy words they were. Eastman sang, 'I'll beat all your young
men.' This made the young braves angry and every one struck at him, so
that he was pretty well used up when he got through the lines.
[Sidenote: RUNNING THE GAUNTLET]
When my turn came, I sang, 'I'll kiss all your young women.' I had
a good, strong pole, and made up my mind that I would not be the only
one who got the blows. As I ran through the lines, I whacked away,
right and left, and this surprised them so much that I got through with
but little harm. Perhaps you think, as others do, that there is no fun
in an Indian. But the old men who sat near by were immensely tickled as
their young men went down, and they showed their pleasure.
The first man who struck me was a young fellow eighteen or nineteen
years old. I knocked him down, and he felt so small about it that I did
not see him again while I was with them.
An Indian doesn't work. He makes his squaws and prisoners do that.
They set me at work with the squaws, hoeing corn. I hoed up the corn
instead of the weeds. They tried to make me hoe the right way. But I
made up my mind that if they wouldn't hoe corn, I wouldn't. I threw my
hoe into the river, and told them that I was a warrior and not a squaw
to hoe corn.
Instead of being angry with me, they liked me for this, and the old
chief adopted me.
They called me the young chief and treated me well. I learned
something of their language and ways of fighting that has been of
advantage to me. I never saw any prisoner of war treated with so much
kindness as I was by those St. Francis Indians. After I had been at the
village five weeks, Mr. Wheelwright, of Boston, and Captain Stevens, of
No. 4, came to Montreal, to redeem some Massachusetts prisoners. But
not finding them, they bought Eastman and me, and we returned with them
by the way of Albany. I worked hard afterward, and paid off my debt to
the Massachusetts Province. If there is to be any fight with these
Indians, I shall be glad if I am at work cutting out a road to Fort No.
Early in September we heard that Captain Kennedy, who had been sent
to these St. Francis Indians, to persuade them to abandon the French
and make peace with us, had been made a prisoner by them with the men
who accompanied him, and had been sent to Montreal.
[Sidenote: CAPTAIN KENNEDY MADE PRISONER]
General Amherst was very angry at their treachery. On the afternoon
of September 13 we received orders to be in readiness to explore the
country west of us. We were told that we should go a short distance in
boats and then strike out to the west.
This seems a silly trip, Ben, said Martin. Fooling about in the
woods where there is no enemy. Our army ought to be following the
French, driving them down to the St. Lawrence. Then we could join our
forces with Wolfe's, and finish up the war.
Sergeant Munro tells me that Amherst thinks he should restore the
fort and build some boats and ships first.
Maybe, maybe; I'm not a general, but I believe that when you've got
the enemy on the run, you ought to keep them on the run till they give
in, and not sit down and give them a chance to get strong again.
That night we embarked in whaleboats. There were about two hundred
men in our party. It was made up of a few of Gage's light infantry,
under Captain Dunbar, and the rest were Rangers, among whom were fifty
Mohegan Indians from Stockbridge. We rowed over to the east shore and
went down the lake. Several canoes were sent ahead to warn us if any of
the enemy were out. Cloth was wound round our oars where they rested in
the rowlocks. We had orders not to utter a word, to make no noise.
The boats moved in single file close to the shore where it was
darkest. Before daybreak we landed and lifted the boats from the water
and carried them into the woods. We lay hidden there during the day. We
did not believe that we were going to the west, but could not guess the
purpose of the expedition.
The next night we embarked again, and rowed slowly in perfect
silence with an advanced guard of canoes.
Night after night we did this, always keeping in the shadow of the
shore; and as we got toward the lower part of the lake, we did not
start till late at night, and pulled our boats up into the bushes long
before the day began to break. Several times our scouts came back and
whispered that the enemy's boats were out. Then we went in close to the
shore and waited till they were out of hearing distance.
[Sidenote: A MYSTERIOUS EXPEDITION]
We were not allowed to make fires, and as we approached the lower
end of the lake and lay hidden in the woods, we could see sloops and
boats of the enemy out on the lake in the daytime. We had to proceed
slowly and with the utmost caution.
If we had not been on a perilous expedition into the enemy's country
to some unknown point and for some mysterious purpose, about which we
were worrying, this trip down the lake would have been delightful. The
leaves were just changing colour. The days were perfect. The lake was
beautiful, and we should have gazed with pleasure at the boats that we
saw, had we not known that they were full of enemies who would have
been well pleased to take our scalps and roast us at the stake.
On the fifth day out, by some accident there was an explosion of
gunpowder, and several of the men were burned and had to be sent back.
Some were sick, and returned with them, so that by the time we reached
Missisquoi Bay at the lower end of the lake our force was reduced to
one hundred and forty-five men.
It was apparent that this was no expedition to the west, and we were
astonished as we advanced night after night into the enemy's country
and close to their camp.
Edmund knew where we were going, but he was as close-mouthed as an
What in the w-world are we up to? Are we going to attack the French
army with one hundred and fifty men? I don't like these expeditions of
Major Rogers. I wish we had a good safe commander like that c-colonel
who was sent out on the lake to stop a party of French and Indians, and
landed on an island and formed his men in a circle round him, and
p-p-prayed that the Lord would send us a long war and a b-b-bloodless
war, and kept on praying till the enemy went by. A fellow has some
chance to keep his hair on his head with a g-good c-careful commander
like that; but this Rogers don't care where he g-goes or how many get
k-killed, so long as he can do something startling. What in time are we
[Sidenote: AMOS PREFERS A CAREFUL COMMANDER]
I had been thinking over my talk with Captain Stark, and said:
I know what Rogers is about to do. We are going right up into
Canada to the St. Lawrence River, to attack the St. Francis Indians who
made Captain Kennedy and his men prisoners.
As I said this, Edmund laughed, and I knew that I had hit it.
By the g-great Horn Spoon! That b-beats anything that Weaver David
ever dreamed of. Is that it, Edmund?
I can't tell you where we are going, but don't say a word of what
you suspect; for if any of our party were caught and knew where we were
going, it would be sure death for the rest of us; so just hold your
mouth and don't talk.
CHAPTER XVII. MARCH TO THE
We landed at Missisquoi Bay and pulled our boats up into the woods.
Near them we hid the provisions for our return. We distributed the rest
of the food among us, put it on our backs in sacks, and started off to
We left behind us a couple of Stockbridge Indians to watch the boats
and give us notice if they were discovered. We had only marched two
days when these two Indians caught up with us.
Frenchmen and Indians find boats. Heap big party follow us. Three
Rogers said: Boys, we are out to punish some Indians, and the only
course for us is to outmarch the enemy, do our work, and get out of the
We plodded along day after day, from daybreak to dark, most of the
time through spruce bogs where the water was sometimes ankle-deep, and
at times up to our thighs. We were wet all the time, and our shoes
began to rot and go to pieces.
[Sidenote: DAMP WALKING]
At night we cut down trees, laid boughs from one tree to another,
and slept on them to keep out of the water. Nine days we marched and
slept in this manner. It was a terrible strain even to hardy men such
as we were, accustomed to forest life.
Amos said: We're just like a procession of cold, miserable frogs,
h-hopping along through the water. This is the biggest fool trip I ever
Think of the glory, Amos, of going into the heart of the enemy's
country and punishing these Indians.
Glory be h-hanged! I wish I was with Davy, hunting foxes and
listening to his big stories of what he did do, or would have done if
something hadn't happened.
But when you get back, Amos, you can crush him by telling of this
Yes, when I g-get back. When I get back! I should rather be b-back
without the story. L-Looks to me as if Davy's chance of hearing it is
On the tenth day after we left Missisquoi Bay we reached a river.
Rogers said: Boys, this is the St. Francis River. You have of
course guessed by this time that we are going to punish the St. Francis
Indians for making Captain Kennedy and his companions prisoners when
they went to them with a flag of truce. I did not tell you before,
because it was not safe to do so. If any of you had been waylaid, it
was better he should not know where the party was going, for the
Indians would torture him to make him tell all he knew, and then the
French and Indians would be warned. Now they can only guess where we
are to strike. The village of St. Francis is on the St. Lawrence River,
at the mouth of this river, and on the further side. It is some fifteen
miles from here. We shall attack them in the night. You need have no
feelings of pity for them or mercy. They are the tribe who have been
harassing our frontier for the past ninety years. I know that they have
killed four or five hundred good New England men, beside the women and
children they have slain and carried off. This river has a swift
current, and we must put our packs on our shoulders and join arms, with
the tallest and strongest up the river, so as to help each other. Come,
Martin, and you, Comee, let's see how you can keep your legs to-day.
[Sidenote: CROSSING THE RIVER]
Rogers put me near the head of the line, as I was considered a
strong man. We went into the water with arms locked, and struggled
against the current. Though the river was over four feet deep, we got
across with few accidents.
Several men were swept off their feet, and some guns were lost, but
we arrived safely at the further shore.
We made a small raft, put our powder-horns on it, and pulled it to
and fro across the stream till all were carried over.
Scouts were sent ahead, and flanking parties were thrown out. We
advanced cautiously in three files. I did not like this kind of an
expedition, and said so to Martin, who was next to me.
I can't bear this sneaking up on the Indians, and jumping on them
in the dead of night when they are sound asleep. I like a good square
fight of give and take.
Don't be a fool, Ben. Those Indians have killed and scalped two of
your family. If you had lived on the frontier all your life as I have,
you would be glad to pay them back in their own coin, eye for eye,
tooth for tooth, scalp for scalp. I have had so many friends killed by
them, good quiet people, who never harmed any one. Almost every year,
and sometimes several times a year, I have gone with others to help
drive these devils away from some fort or town. And the sights that I
have seen make me hate the redskins worse than poison. And, Ben, you
know enough of them yourself. How many Rangers have been tormented by
them and scalped? Remember John McKeen! How he was stripped and tied to
a tree; then the red devils danced around him, howled at him, taunted
him, and threw their knives at him till he was full of holes from head
to foot. Have you forgotten what they did then? Put a pine splinter in
every wound he had, set them on fire and made a living torch of him.
[Sidenote: McKINSTRY'S SCORE]
Yes, Martin, one does not forget such things, nor how they tortured
others, and then made them run the gauntlet, hacked at them with knives
and tomahawks till they fell, and then scalped them. They deserve to be
killed like snakes, but I don't like to do it. No matter how mean or
treacherous my enemy, I want a good stand-up fair fight. I am a
soldier. I am under orders, and I shall do the work; but I hate it.
You needn't be squeamish, Ben. They are double our number, and if
we don't kill them by a surprise, they will kill us.
McKinstry had been listening, and said: It's plain, Ben, that you
have never lived where there were Injuns. Your injuries are too far
off. They don't touch you. I have a score to pay that I have been
wiping off for the past thirty years. Here's my tally-stick. Look at
He pulled at a string that was round his neck, and showed me a
little stick with seventeen notches in it.
I have killed that number of Indians. Every notch I have added made
my heart feel lighter. Every chance I have to kill a St. Francis
Indian, awake or asleep, makes me happy. I want to see the whole tribe
wiped off the earth.
The land on this side of the river was higher than the region
through which we had been travelling, and we were not so much troubled
by mosquitoes, which had nearly driven us crazy in the swamps.
The clear, crisp air dried our clothes before nightfall, and we
slept sound, breathing in the clean smell of the fir balsams.
On the next day, the twenty-second, after we left Crown Point, we
made a cautious advance. Rogers halted us and climbed a tree. He said
that he could see the village about three miles off.
Rogers went ahead with Lieutenant Turner and Ensign Avery to inspect
the village, and we lay down and waited. The moon was about
three-quarters full. He returned at two in the morning, and said:
We crawled up close to their village. The Indians are having a
great frolic. They have a keg of rum and are drinking it, and are
dancing round the fires. I think there must be a wedding going on. They
will sleep sound.
[Sidenote: THEY ATTACK THE VILLAGE]
At three o'clock we crept up to within five hundred yards of the
village, and laid aside our packs and prepared for the fight. We had
one hundred and forty-two men, all told.
We lay concealed in the forest till the Indians were asleep. Rogers
divided us into three parties, and about an hour before daylight
ordered us to attack the village on three sides. The St. Lawrence River
was on the fourth side. We rushed into the village, through its lanes,
kicking the yelping dogs aside, and stationed ourselves before the
huts. Above the doors were poles, from which dangled rows of scalps, as
if they were garlands of flowers.
I stood by the door of a hut, and as an Indian came out I shot him;
and when the next appeared, with a dazed, frightened look on his face,
I brained him with the butt of my gun, and then pulled out my hatchet
and chopped away at them as they ran by. Martin, Edmund, and Amos were
near me. Sometimes several Indians made a rush, and we closed up and
It was cruel, bloody butchery. But the sight of the poles with the
scalps of English men, women, and children hanging from them made us
mad with rage, and we killed the Indians like rats as they dashed out
of their huts. Some reached the canoes, but were followed and cut down.
Few escaped. Some squaws were killed too. We were all mixed up. It was
impossible to spare them. They fought like wildcats with knives and
hatchets, and we had to kill them or be killed ourselves.
By sunrise the bloody work was over. Almost all the Indians had been
slain. As we looked round and saw nearly six hundred English scalps
dangling in front of the huts, we felt no sorrow for what we had done.
Still, it was a grim, dreadful piece of work. The dead Indians lay
around in the lanes between the huts, in some places in heaps,
stiffening in death, smeared with blood, and the Stockbridge Indians
were already at work scalping them.
[Sidenote: A GRIM PIECE OF WORK]
We ourselves were covered with blood, and looked like butchers from
the shambles. It was not all Indian blood. They were not lambs, and
gave us many a wound before we got the better of them. Edmund and Amos
came to me.
How did you get through it, Ben?
All right, but a few cuts. I hope I don't look as villanous as you
I d-don't know how I look. B-But if I saw you or Edmund round my
place looking as you d-do now, I'd shoot you at sight.
Rogers ordered us to set fire to all the houses except those which
were storehouses for corn. One house was a mass-house with pictures
hanging up inside. We found some silver cups and plates in it, and a
silver image some ten inches high. In the other houses we found many
things which they had carried off from the settlements.
Most of the Rangers had lost relatives and friends in these Indian
fights, and were examining the scalps carefully. McKinstry was looking
them over with an intense, eager air. Seeing me, he said: It's a
foolish search. Thirty years have passed since they killed my
sweetheart and ruined my life. I was looking for a lock of hair like
He pulled a little pouch from his breast, opened it, and unfolding
some fine cloth, showed me a lock of golden hair.
The Indians surprised the garrison house where she lived and killed
all but her. We got word of it soon. We started out with a large party
and pursued them. We followed them day and night, and as they were
being overtaken they killed and scalped her. I found her dead body on
the ground, and from that day to this I have sought revenge. Last night
was the happiest I have had for years. The tribe that killed her is
wiped out, and I killed six of them myself.
Rogers had been questioning some of the prisoners. He turned to us
Hurry up, boys; we must get out of this place quick. There's no
time to go back after our packs. There's a party of three hundred
French and Indians four miles below, on the St. Lawrence, looking for
us, and two hundred Frenchmen and sixteen Indians went to Wigwam
Martinac a few days ago, expecting we would attack that place. They
will all be after us soon. Load yourselves up with corn from the corn
houses. Take all you can, for we shall have little else to live upon,
as the game is scanty in the country through which we shall pass.
[Sidenote: THE VILLAGE IN FLAMES]
We put the corn in our pockets and in any sacks that we could find,
placed them on our backs, and left the village a mass of flames.
We must strike through the woods to the head waters of the
Connecticut River, and follow it down to Fort No. 4. We can't go back
by the way we came, for the French and Indians could easily collect a
force that would overpower us. I sent word to Amherst to have plenty of
provisions for us at the mouth of the Ammonusuc River, and we can get
there all right.
We released all our prisoners but a couple of boys, and started off,
taking with us six Englishmen whom we found in captivity. Edmund
I'm glad to leave this place. It's too much like a slaughter-house.
Orders are orders, and we have to execute them. But faith! I can't see
but that we have been doing just what these Indians have done for the
last ninety years.
The work had to be done, and we did it. I can't say I feel proud of
it either. I wonder how we are going to get out of this scrape.
At the l-little end of the h-horn. It seems that we shall starve in
the region th-through which we shall travel; and we should all be
killed if we w-went in any other direction; and I guess these Indians
will follow us p-pretty sharp, whichever way we go.
We marched in a body to the southeast at the top of our speed. At
night we stopped, parched our corn and ate it. In the morning at
daybreak we started on again.
In eight days we reached Lake Memphremagog. The corn was giving out,
and Rogers separated us into small parties, each with a guide who had
been up the Connecticut River. He told the different parties to keep
away from one another, that they might the more readily find sufficient
game to support them, and to meet at the Coos Intervale land at the
mouth of the Ammonusuc River. That was the place to which he had
requested Amherst to send the supplies.
[Sidenote: THE AMBUSCADE]
Our Mohegan Indians left us, and went south toward their home, for
they thought the hunting would be better in that direction and the risk
no greater. They reached home without losing a man.
Edmund, McKinstry, Amos, and I were with Rogers's party. The Indians
pursued us closely. We came to a narrow valley, and Rogers said:
We'll try an ambuscade on them, and see how they like it. After you
enter the valley, get up into the woods on either side. Don't fire till
they are well in the valley.
The rear portion of our party were exchanging shots with the
Indians, dodging from tree to tree. They came down the valley followed
by the redskins. When they were well in the trap, we opened fire on the
Indians and killed a number. They began to run back. We reloaded
hastily, and, after pouring a second volley into them, rushed on them.
McKinstry knocked an Indian down, but was shot by another, whom I
killed with my hatchet. I turned to McKinstry. He lay on the ground
gasping for breath, shot through the body.
It's all up with me, Ben.
I tried to staunch the blood.
It's no use; I feel I'm dying. I always liked you, Ben. May your
life be happy. Good-by.
He closed his eyes, and his breast heaved hard as he drew short,
quick breaths. Presently he opened his eyes again. He did not notice
me, but seemed to see something above him. A smile came over his face,
and he said:
Yes, Mary, I'm coming, dear.
Then his breathing ceased. We buried him in the valley, levelled the
grave, threw wood on it, and burnt the brush around that the ashes
might conceal the spot where he was laid. Then we hurried on again.
Three days later two of Ensign Avery's men joined us, and reported
that some of them had been captured by the Indians, and that several
had been tortured and burnt at the stake. These two had escaped in the
night, while the Indians were dancing round their companions. The next
day the few who were left of Avery's party met us.
[Sidenote: A CHOICE MORSEL]
We marched along, keeping a sharp lookout for squirrels, chipmunks,
or any kind of animal that might serve as food. Thus we travelled over
rocky mountains and through wet swamps, pursued by Indians, faint from
hunger, worn out with fatigue and exposure, hardly able to walk. We had
no blankets or shelter. The nights were cold and frosty, and when it
rained we were soaked and chilled to the bone.
We found almost no game. Edmund had the luck to shoot a big white
owl. We plucked it, cut it up, and drew lots for the different
portions. I got a leg. It was toughalmost as tough as our fate. But
after one has been chewing leather straps for sustenance, an old owl's
leg tastes good. I would not have sold it for its weight in the most
I shall not tell all the horrors of that march,the pangs of hunger
that we suffered, the greed for food, the sights that I saw, nor what
men did in their despair. Some things had better remain unwritten.
CHAPTER XVIII. STARVATIONDRIFTING
DOWN THE AMMONUSUCFORT NO. 4, AND GOOD FORTUNE AT LAST
At last we arrived at the Ammonusuc River, where our provisions were
to meet us, and found nothing.
Fires were still burning which showed us that the relief party had
been there, and had left just before we arrived. We shouted and fired
our guns, but got no response. We learned afterward that the lieutenant
who had brought the supplies had waited two days for us, and then
quitted the place two hours before we arrived, taking the provisions
with him. He heard our guns, but thought that they were fired by
Indians, and kept on his way down the river.
Our condition was terrible. We had been stumbling along, feeble,
gaunt, half crazed by hunger and fatigue. But the expectation of food,
the certainty that we should find plenty at the Ammonusuc, had nerved
us up to the effort to reach it, and now it was gone. It had been there
and was gone. We broke down completely and cried and raved. Some became
I have already said that I did not like Rogers for several good
reasons. But he was a man of tremendous nerve, energy, and resource.
Though his great strength had been wasted by starvation, so that he
could hardly walk, he still remained the leader, and said:
Don't lose your courage, men. I'll save all of you. It is sixty
miles from here to Fort No. 4. Bring some dry logs. Hurry up. I am
going to make a raft, and float down to No. 4 and fetch back food and
We brought logs and made a raft.
You can find enough lily-roots and ground-nuts to keep you alive
till I return. If any of you do not know how to clean and cook them,
Captain Grant will show you. I promise you I will have all the food you
want at this place in ten days.
He got on the raft with Captain Ogden, an Indian boy and Martin, who
had been over the river before. They poled and paddled it to the middle
of the river, and drifted down the stream out of sight.
The next day two more men crept into camp and reported that the
Indians had attacked their party several days before, and had killed
Lieutenant Turner of the Rangers, Lieutenant Dunbar of Gage's light
infantry, and that of all their party they alone had escaped.
It was horrible to see the wild, haggard men stagger in, and to
witness their despair when they received nothing to eat but such
lily-roots and ground-nuts as we could find and boil. There was but
little nourishment in them.
Ben Bradley left camp with three companions. They put on their
packs. Ben looked at his compass, and said:
Good-by, boys. In three days we shall be at home.
They were never afterward seen alive. Several years later some
hunters from the Merrimac found a skeleton in the White Mountains. They
knew it was Bradley's from the hair, and the peculiar leather strap
with which his cue was tied.
After Rogers had been gone three days, I said to Edmund:
I can't stand this any longer. This place is like a mad-house. We
shall go crazy if we stay here. Let us get some logs, make a raft, and
drift down the river.
We talked it over that afternoon, and the next morning began
building a raft. It was a rickety little affair. We finished it in one
day, but were so feeble that we found it hard work. We cut a couple of
saplings for poles, and took some wood, from which we whittled a couple
One of the men, who had been over the river before, said:
Look out for a waterfall and rapids, some twenty miles down, boys.
Don't get carried over them, or you'll be lost. And there's another bad
fall and rapids below that.
We poled the raft into the current, and let it drift. Toward night
we paddled to the shore and camped there.
[Sidenote: THE RAFT IS LOST]
In the morning we shot a squirrel, and during the day got another.
Toward evening we heard the sound of the falls, and poled to the shore.
The night was cold. We had no shelter. It rained heavily. We were
drenched and almost frozen. In the morning our little strength was
gone. We got on our raft, and poled it along till we were close to the
falls; and then put in to the shore. Amos held the raft, while Edmund
and I went below, in the hope that it might not be badly broken, as it
came over, and that we could save it. We waded into the cold water, and
Amos let the raft go. It was dashed on the rocks, as it passed over the
falls, and was completely broken up. The logs drifted out of our reach.
Thoroughly chilled, exhausted, and discouraged, we climbed the bank. We
saw that fires had been made and trees burnt down, and then burnt into
This is some of Rogers's work, said Edmund.
He must have lost his raft as we did, and burned the trees to get
logs of the right lengths to make a new raft.
I hope he didn't spend much time over it. For I can't go any
further, and B-Ben is all of a shake, and looks mighty poor.
I guess last night did for me, Amos. I've got some kind of fever
coming on. Start a fire if you can, and let us try to warm ourselves.
The ground was wet, but Amos and Edmund collected an armful of dry
wood from sheltered spots. We rubbed some gunpowder into a rag, and
sprinkled more over it. We held it near the lock of the gun, and
flashed some powder in the pan. This lighted the rag, and we covered it
with fine shavings which we had whittled, and made a fire.
A canoe from below ought to reach here by to-morrow. I can keep up
Hush! I heard a p-partridge, and I've g-got strength enough to go
after him. The tough, wiry fellow took his gun, and went into the
[Sidenote: WELCOME VISITORS]
We heard a bang, and he came out with a partridge, which we roasted
and divided among us. It only served to sharpen our hunger.
There must be more of these p-partridges in there. I'm g-going to
try again. I feel b-better.
I will go too, said Edmund.
They walked into the woods, and in half an hour I heard a couple of
shots, and they came out with two birds. We roasted them, ate them, and
felt that we were saved. We kept a good fire going, built a rough
shelter of boughs, and slept quite comfortably that night, though the
fever troubled me somewhat. The next morning we made an attempt to find
more birds, but were unsuccessful. A little after noon we saw a birch
coming up the stream with three men in it. They waved their hands to
us, and landed where we were at the foot of the falls. They shook
hands, and one of them said:
You look pretty peaked, boys. I guess a little food and drink won't
We ate greedily, and the food put warmth and life into us. We asked
He's at No. 4. His raft was swept over these falls, and he and his
men had a narrow escape. Then he made a new raft and was nearly lost at
the falls below. We'd like to stop longer with you, boys, but can't.
We're carrying food to the fellows up the river.
You must get there as quick as you can. We left about seventy men
up there, starving and going mad for want of food.
Some more birches are to follow us in a couple of days, and you'll
meet them on your way down.
They gave us some food and then made the carry, up by the falls, and
left us. We ate and drank some more, and then slept for an hour. When
we woke up, we felt much stronger, and went to work making another
raft. The next day we completed the raft early in the morning; and
drifted down to the waterfall of which they had spoken. We kept our
ears and eyes open, and went ashore in time to avoid it. We had built a
fire and were making a shelter, when three more canoes came up, and we
camped together with the men. We had all that we could eat and it was
delightful to us to meet these clean, healthy, robust men, full of
[Sidenote: FORT NO. 4]
In the morning they helped us lower our raft down the fifty feet of
rapids. They gave us some nails, and we added to our raft and made it
stronger, and then poled it out into the river, and drifted down with
the current. We arrived at Fort No. 4 at sunset. It was the 9th of
November. We had spent two months in that dreadful, barren wilderness.
When we came in sight of the fort, and poled our raft to the shore, men
and women in good Christian dress came running down to meet us. Our
hearts rose up in our throats. We could not speak from our happiness.
The tears rolled down our cheeks and we sobbed from joy.
How fine they looked, those men with their clean-shaven faces, and
their hair neatly done up in cues! And how beautiful and kind the
Such few clothes as we still had were in rags. Our hair and beards
were long and matted together; our faces and hands black from exposure
and dirt and grime. We felt ashamed of our appearance and would gladly
have sneaked in unseen. But they made of us as if we had been three
prodigal sons. And the flesh-pots, the fatted calf, and the honey were
all offered to us.
Rogers claimed us for a short time, to get news from the camp, and
told us he was going up the next morning.
We had a supper of the best there was in the fort, and you can guess
how it looked and tasted to men who had lived for weeks on corn and
leather straps and nothing; and who had watched with greedy eyes the
cutting up of an old white owl.
They gave us a room, with soap and tubs of warm water, and we got
rid of some of the grime, cut off our beards, shaved our faces, and put
on the clothes they left for us. Amos said:
B-Ben, I feel as if No. 4 must be p-pretty near h-heaven.
Yes! But it isn't up the river.
When we came out, the men crowded round to hear our adventures. Amos
started to tell the story, and when he got hung up on a word, Edmund
would go on with the tale.
[Sidenote: BEN HAS A FEVER]
I felt hot and feeble and sick. My head ached. I became dizzy, and
finally asked some one to take me to a room where I could lie down, and
I went to bed. I haven't any clear idea of what happened afterward. I
have a faint recollection of Edmund and Amos bending over me, saying
good-by. But I do remember that Indian who tried again and again to
scalp me. John Stark drove him off several times, but he kept coming
back, and at last caught me by the hair, ran his knife round my head,
braced his foot on my shoulder, pulled, and I felt my scalp go. Then I
knew nothing more till I opened my eyes, and saw the rafters above, and
the bedclothes about me.
I smelt smoke, and heard the wood snap and crackle. Beside the
fireplace a girl was seated, knitting. Such a pretty girl, the
loveliest I had ever seen. I watched her knit, and then stop and count
the stitches. How beautiful she was, with her light brown hair, the
pretty side face, with the fresh colour in it! Her figure was lithe,
supple, full of grace. I thought at once of Shakespeare's Rosalind. My
heart went out to her. As I gazed, she looked up, and turned a pair of
big brown eyes at me. I had never been in love before. But, as she rose
and came over to the bed, I said to myself:
This is she. This is the one for whom I have waited.
She smiled, and a little dimple came in her cheek.
Ah! I'm glad you've come to your senses again. How do you feel?
Perfectly content and happy. I seem to be in a pleasant dream.
That's good. You've had dreams enough, in the last month, that
didn't seem pleasant. You must keep quiet. I'll be back in a minute.
She returned with her mother, who gave me some medicine, and a drink
of broth, and I fell asleep. When I awoke, the pretty girl was knitting
by the fire. She got me some broth, and after I had drunk it brought a
flax-wheel and sat down by it. I was sick and weak, but the joy of
Michael Wigglesworth's saints in heaven was nothing compared to mine.
That is, until the dreadful thought occurred that she might have been
already sought and won by some one else. But I said: Keep your courage
up, Ben. She isn't over seventeen. I'm sick, and she's here, and I
won't get well in a hurry.
How well I remember her, sitting by the flax-wheel, spinning,even
the pepper and salt homespun dress, the blue and white checked apron,
the little shoes with the silver buckles, and the glimpse of gray
Will you please tell me your name?
Ruth. Ruth Elliot.
Ruth? That's the sweetest name of all. It suits you too. But where
am I, and what good fortune brought me here?
You are at Fort No. 4, or Charlestown as they call it now. You were
with Rogers in the woods, and floated down the river with Sergeant
Munro and Amos Locke. You have been out of your head with a fever for
nearly a month.
Yes, yes. I remember now. How many of the Rangers got back?
About one hundred. They came in at different places. Twelve days
after you arrived, Rogers came down with those who were at the
Ammonusuc. Some were insane, and some had died before he reached them.
It was good to see them back again. But they were terribly wasted and
worn. After they had been here a few days, they started for Crown
Point, over the road which Captain Stark has just cut through the
One hundred out of one hundred and forty-five? Well, it might have
been worse. And what news is there of General Wolfe and his army? When
I last heard of them, they were on their way up the St. Lawrence to
Quebec is taken.
That's good. General Wolfe will get great praise and reward for
If he were alive, he might, but there was a desperate fight, and
Wolfe was killed in it, and Montcalm too.
Both dead? They were brave men and skilful soldiers. Cut off in
their prime like Lord Howe. And what is Amherst doing?
[Sidenote: BEN TELLS HIS ADVENTURES]
Amherst is rebuilding the fort at Crown Point. He will do nothing
more this year. It is too late. In the spring he will go down and take
Montreal, and end the war.
And the Rangerswhat about them?
Most of them have gone home. Sergeant Munro and Mr. Locke passed
through here a few days ago. They would have stopped, but the fort is
full of sick soldiers, and as they could be of no help, they went on
When she had given me the news, it was her turn to question, and
mine to answer. I had to tell her all of our adventures during the war,
and she laughed and cried over them. I grew more and more deeply in
love. I was in no haste to get well, but nature was against me. Every
bit of food she gave me seemed to have some wonderful life-giving power
in it and my health came back in bounds. After it returned, I nearly
fell sick again from the dreadful fear that I might lose her. As the
time for my departure approached, our conversation would halt and stop,
and we sat in silence. I felt down-hearted and hadn't the courage to
test my fate, till one day I saw the tears gather in her eyes and
trickle down her cheeks. Then we soon had an understanding, and our
light-heartedness came back.
Oh, Ben, I couldn't bear to have you leave, and now I'm so happy.
But she was a wilful thing, and though her name was Ruth, she
objected to following the example of her namesake in the Bible.
I may be Ruth, but you're not Boaz.
I stoutly asserted that I was baptized Benjamin Boaz Comee, but I
could not bring her to see that she should leave all and follow me.
No, no, Benjamin Boaz. You're a pretender, and times have changed.
I might not like your people, and they might not like me. Father thinks
a deal of you, and mother loves you as if you were her own son. And you
repay their love by trying to steal me away from them. Is that fair to
them, Boaz? Don't you think they would miss their little girl? And that
their life would be gloomy without me? And besides, Ben, you told me
that they had all the blacksmiths in Lexington that were needed, and
that your chances would be poor. And here we're just pining for another
blacksmith. The new road through the woods puts us on the main highway
to Canada, and there's no better place for a blacksmith than this. Now
that the Indians are gone, you could take up some of that intervale
land up the river, that they talk about, and then I'm here, and if
Benjamin Boaz Comee wants Ruth, he must follow her. Ben, I like my own
[Sidenote: WANTED: A BLACKSMITH]
I like your own way too, and will live wherever you please,
provided it be with you.
I returned home, and found Amos telling Davy of our adventures. For
a time Davy had little to say about his hunting stories.
I went back to No. 4, opened a blacksmith's shop, and in the fall
married Ruth. We have lived here ever since, and have prospered. Much
of my success is due to my wife's clear head and wonderful common
sense. Folks regard Colonel Comee as a very shrewd and able business
man. But my friends laugh, and say:
Colonel Ben's just a figure-head. He never takes an important step
without talking it over with Aunt Ruth.
John Stark and I have always remained close friends. When he was a
colonel at Bunker's Hill, I was a lieutenant in his regiment, and
served under him throughout the Revolution. He became a general, and
showed the ability that we recognized in the French War.
By the end of the Revolution I had risen to the rank of colonel.
Hardly a year has passed since that time that one of us has not made
the other a visit of a few days. He has always retained a great
admiration and tender affection for Lord Howe.
After the French War was over, Rogers was appointed to the command
of the post at Michilimackinac. His accounts did not come out right. He
always had that failing, and he went to England to explain matters.
While over there, he was riding one night in a stage-coach over
Hounslow Heath, when a masked highwayman stopped the coach, and
thrusting his pistols in at the window, told the passengers to hand
over their money and watches. They were doing so, when Rogers, who was
wonderfully strong, quickly reached out, grabbed the highwayman by the
collar of his coat, pulled him into the coach, sat on him, took away
his pistols, tied him up, and delivered him over to the authorities. He
was an old offender, for whose apprehension a reward of £50 had been
offered, which Rogers claimed and received.
[Sidenote: A SURPRISED HIGHWAYMAN]
Rogers remained in England till the Revolution, and then came over
here, and after a while offered his services to Washington. He came to
Stark's headquarters at Medford, and John and I had a long talk with
Stark believed he would be true to us, and so did I. But he had been
on such close terms of intimacy with the British that Washington
distrusted him and would not give him a command.
Soon after he received a commission from the British, and raised the
Queen's Rangers, who were badly defeated in a fight in Connecticut.
Rogers then returned to England, and led a rather shady life; and I
believe was finally killed while fighting in Algiers. He was a curious
compound. If he had only been a man of honour, he would have become a
great man. But his tricky, unscrupulous nature was his ruin.
Edmund Munro served again at Crown Point in 1762-63, as a
lieutenant, and as adjutant of the four provincial regiments stationed
I met him often in the Revolution. He was captain of the Lexington
company. Poor fellow, he was killed by a cannon ball at Monmouth, at
the head of his company. He died poor, and his widow had a hard time
till the little ones grew up.
Of our old playmate, John Hancock, you have all heard, how he
inherited the wealth of his Uncle Thomas, and in his turn was the
richest man in Boston, and lived in the stone house on Beacon Hill.
You remember how he risked his great fortune and his head, and sided
with his countrymen. His bold signature heads the signers of the
Declaration of Independence. Riches and honours came to him. Year after
year he was chosen governor of Massachusetts.
[Sidenote: GOVERNOR HANCOCK]
I did not meet him from the time I went to the French War till some
ten years after the Revolution.
I called on him in Boston, and he was glad to see me, and had me up
to his house to dinner and to spend the night.
Everything was magnificent. John was kind, but
condescendingsomething like a great mogul receiving an inferior.
I had no favour to ask of him. I saw no reason why I should look up
to and revere him. I had played my own part in life well and boldly and
stood firm on my feet. When John found I was not in awe of his rank and
magnificence, he gave up his grand airs and was again the bright,
lively fellow I knew as a boy.
Hector and Donald Munro remained in this country. After the French
War was over, they visited their kinsmen in Lexington, and then went to
Rehoboth, where there is another branch of the family, and settled in
My old wrestling-master, Jonas Parker, was killed on the common at
Lexington, on the 19th of April, 1775. He had said in his grim way,
Some may run from the British, but I won't budge a foot.
He was in the front rank of the minutemen. He laid his hat on the
ground before him, and in it placed his powder-horn and bullets.
When the British fired, he was wounded, and fell to his knees. He
returned their fire, and was reloading, when the regulars ran forward
and killed him with their bayonets.
Amos and Davy were in the Revolution, too. They never got over their
love for fox-hunting and pigeon-shooting.
As I finish this record, sixty years have passed since we had the
pigeon shoot on Bull Meadow Hill. Those of us who survive are old, but
some of us are still hale and hearty.
[Sidenote: AMOS HAS A STORY, TOO]
I received a letter the other day from a friend in Lexington, in
which he says:
About a week ago I saw your old friend, Amos Locke, ploughing in a
field which joins on to my farm. I walked over to the wall. When he saw
me, he left his plough, came to the wall, and said,
'Morning! M-mighty good day to go after p-pigeons. P-Puts me in
mind of the d-day I was with Weaver David and B-Ben Comee, up on Bull
Meadow Hill, and shot fifty-two p-pigeons at one shot. One for every
week in the year. I'll t-tell you about it.'
Printed in the United States of America.