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Elsie's Journey on Inland Waters By Martha Finley Characters: 24172

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Ned had begun to nod, and Elsie's eyes drooped as if she too were in need of a nap; perceiving which Grandma Elsie bade their nurse take them to their berth.

A light breeze had sprung up, and it was very pleasant on deck in the shade of the awning; while, resting upon couches or in easy chairs, they talked in a quiet way of the various interesting exhibits to which they had given their attention since leaving the yacht that morning.

"We visited the Illinois Building," said Evelyn, "and were very much interested in the wonderful grain picture there. It is an ideal prairie farm-with farmhouse, barn, stock-sheds, all made of corn-husks as well as the picket fence surrounding it; there are stock and poultry in the barnyard; there is a windmill too, and there are fields and cattle."

"Yes," said Walter, as Eva paused in her account, "and the perspective showed fields of grass and grain, pasture too, and sky effects-all made of natural grains, grasses, leaves, and berries indigenous to Illinois."

"Oh, I think I must get papa to take us to see it!" exclaimed Grace.

"There is a curtain that partly covers the picture," continued Walter; "it is made of the same materials and caught up by a rope with tassels made of yellow corn.

"We visited the Idaho Building too," he went on, "and I think you should all see it. It is really picturesque-a log-house on a foundation of lava and basaltic rock. The timbers we were told are from young cedar trees, stuffed and stained to produce the effect of age; then it has fine upper and lower balconies shaded by a projecting roof upheld by brackets of logs. I heard people remarking that it was the handsomest log-house ever built, and certainly I never saw any other nearly so handsome."

"Ah, here comes the boat again with the rest of our folks!" exclaimed Grace, and springing to his feet, Walter hastened to the side of the vessel to assist the ladies in getting on board.

"Well, Lu, have you had a good time since I left you?" asked Grace, in a lively tone, as her sister drew near.

"Yes; yes, indeed!" returned Lucilla; "we have seen and enjoyed a great deal, and I wouldn't have missed it on any account, though we are all very tired, I think. I am, I know," she concluded, dropping into a seat by Grace's side.

"As we all are," said Violet. "I am glad, mamma, that you came back to the yacht when you did."

"Yes, I thought it wiser not to allow myself to become very weary before taking rest; and we have had a pleasant, quiet time here together," returned Grandma Elsie, looking up with an affectionate smile into the face of her father, who had just drawn near and was standing by her side, regarding her with a slightly anxious look.

"I am glad you were so prudent," he said, "for you have not been over strong since that illness that made us all so anxious."

"No; and we all feel that we must be very careful of our dear mother," remarked the captain, who had just joined the little group.

"Of Gracie also," he added, smiling down into her face and laying a caressing hand for a moment on her head. "Are you feeling very tired, daughter?"

"Not so very much now, papa," she answered brightly; "we have been resting nicely here, talking over the sights and historical stories connected with them."

Then, turning to her sister, "Tell us where you have been and what you have seen since we left the party, Lu," she requested.

"Ah, I am afraid I cannot begin to tell all," returned Lucilla, in a lively tone and with a pleased little laugh, "for 'their name is legion'; the loveliest pictures and statuary in the Fine Arts Building, and a great variety of curious and interesting things in Machinery Hall. We went up to the gallery there and took a ride in the travelling crane. It is like an elevated railroad, is moved by electricity, and runs the whole length of the building, twenty or thirty feet above the floor. We stepped in at one end and sat down upon chairs ranged along the front edge, and it was really entertaining to watch the crowds of people moving along the floors below, and to get at last a glance at the exhibits."

"Exhibits!" echoed Grace. "Of what kind? Oh, machines, of course! But I should hardly expect them to be very interesting."

"Machines for making ice cream and candy would interest you, wouldn't they?" asked Lulu. "Perhaps the hot baths, too; though I suppose you wouldn't care much about printing-presses, rock-drills, sewing-machines, washing-machines, looms, and the like. I own I didn't care over much for them myself. But in the restful, cooling, breezy ride, with nothing to do but watch the goings on of other people, and a glance now and then at something interesting as we glided past it, I did find a good deal of enjoyment. Ah," drawing out her pretty little watch and glancing at its face, "I must excuse myself now and go to my stateroom; for I see it is nearly meal time, and my hair and dress certainly need some attention;" and with that she left them.

Mr. Dinsmore and the captain, wishing to look at some exhibits in which the ladies took but little interest, went ashore again early in the evening; leaving Mrs. Dinsmore, Mrs. Travilla, and the younger ones occupying the comfortable seats on the Dolphin's deck, and enjoying the cool evening breeze and the somewhat distant view of the beauties of the brilliantly illuminated White City, as well as that of the starry heavens above them.

Violet had gone down to the cabin with her children to see them safely in bed, and for some minutes no one left in the little group behind had spoken. But presently Grace broke the silence.

"I have just been thinking what a wonderful change has come over this part of our country since the war of 1812. I remember that history tells us there was only a fort and a trading post here then, where now this great city stands, and that it was destroyed. Grandma Elsie, don't you want to tell us the whole story?" she concluded in a coaxing tone.

"I am willing, if you all wish it," was the sweet-toned reply, immediately followed by an eager assent from everyone present.

"Well, then, my dears," she said, "to begin at the beginning-this spot, we are told, was first visited by a white man in 1674. He was a French Jesuit called Father Marquette. He built a cabin there and planted a missionary station. Eleven years afterward his cabin was replaced by a fort. I do not know how long that fort stood, but Lossing tells us that in 1796 a mulatto from St. Domingo found his way to that far-off wilderness, and that the Indians said of him 'the first white man who settled here was a negro.' He did not stay very long, however, and the improvements he had made fell into the hands of the next comer, who was a native of Quebec named John Kinzie.

"He was an enterprising trader with the Indians, and for twenty years the only white man in northern Illinois except a few American soldiers. It was in 1804 that he made Chicago his home, and on the Fourth of July of that year a fort our government had been building there was formally dedicated and called Fort Dearborn, in honor of the then Secretary of War. It stood on a slight elevation on the south bank of the Chicago River, about half a mile from its mouth, and directly opposite, on the north bank, stood Mr. Kinzie's dwelling. It was a modest mansion begun by Jean Baptiste, and enlarged by Mr. Kinzie. He had some Lombardy poplars planted in front within an enclosed yard, and at the back a fine garden and growing orchard.

"There he had lived in peace and prosperity, esteemed and confided in by the surrounding Indians, for eight years, when in June of 1812 war was declared by our government with Great Britain. Of course you all know and remember what were the causes of that second struggle with our mother country?"

"Indeed we do, mother," exclaimed Walter. "She interfered with our commerce, capturing every American vessel bound to, or returning from a port where her commerce was not favored; and worse still, was continually seizing our sailors and forcing them into her service; depriving us of our God-given rights and making slaves of freemen. If ever a war was justifiable on one side that one was on ours. Is it not so?"

"I think it is, my son," replied Grandma Elsie, smiling slightly at the lad's heat.

"Was Fort Dearborn strong and well built, mamma?" queried Rosie.

"Yes; it was strongly picketed, had a block-house at each of two angles on the southern side, on the north side a sally-port and covered way that led down to the river for the double purpose of obtaining water during a siege and of having a way of escape should that be desirable at any time-and was strongly picketed.

"The fort was built by Major Whistler, his soldiers dragging all the timber to the spot because they had no oxen. Some material was furnished from Fort Wayne, but so economically was the work done that the fortress did not cost the government fifty dollars.

"But to return to my story-the garrison there at the time of the declaration of war consisted of fifty-four men. The only other residents of the post at that time were the wives of Captain Heald and Lieutenant Helm, the second in command, those of some of the soldiers, a few Canadians with their wives and children, and Mr. Kinzie and his family.

"They were all on the most friendly terms with the principal tribes of Indians in that neighborhood-the Pottawatomies and Winnebagoes, yet they could not win them from their attachment for the British, who yearly made them large presents as bribes to secure their alliance. Portions of their tribes had been engaged in the battle of Tippecanoe, fought the previous autumn, and since that some of the leading chiefs had seemed sullen, and suspicions of intended hostility on their part at times troubled the minds of the officers of the fort.

"One day in the spring of 1812 two Indians of the Calumet band were at the fort, and seeing Mrs. Helm and Mrs. Heald playing at battledore, one of them, named Nan-non-gee, turned to the interpreter with the remark, 'The white chiefs' wives are amusing themselves very much; it will not be long before they will be living in our cornfields.'"

"Oh!" cried Grace, "I should think that ought to have been enough to warn the officers of the fort to make every preparation to repel an assault by the Indians."

"Yes," said Grandma Elsie, "but Heald seems to have been strangely blind and deaf to every kind of warning.

"On the evening of the 7th of April, 1812, Mr. Kinzie sat by his fireside playing his violin, his children dancing to the music, when their mother, who had been attending a sick neighbor, a Mrs. Burns, living half a mile above the fort, came rushing wildly in crying out: 'The Indians! the Indians!' 'What? where?' exclaimed her husband. 'Up at Lee's, killing and scalping!' she gasped in reply, and went on to tell that the alarm had been given by a boy, the son of Mr. Lee, and a discharged soldier who had been working for them. They had shouted the dreadful tidings across the river to the Burns family, as they ran down the farther side, Mr. Lee's place being between two and three miles farther up the stream.

"Not a moment was to be lost. Mr. Kinzie hurried his family into two pirogues moored in front of his house, and hastened with them across the river and into the fort. The alarm had reached there also, and a scow with Ensign Ronan and six men started at once up the river to rescue the Burns family. Also a cannon was fired to give notice of danger to a party of soldiers who were out fishing. Mrs. Burns and her family, including an infant not yet a day old, were taken safely to the fort."

"I hope those soldiers got back safely too," said Grace.

"Yes; they were two miles above Lee's; it was already dark when they returned, and in passing his house they came upon the bodies of murdered and scalped persons, which were the next day recovered and buried near the fort. It was afterward learned that the scalping party were Winnebagoes from

Rock River, who had come with the intention of killing every white person outside of the fort, but were frightened away by the sound of the cannon before they had finished their fiendish work; so fled back to their homes.

"In those days an agency house stood upon the esplanade, about twenty rods west from the fort, and in it all the whites not belonging to the garrison now took refuge. It was an old-fashioned log-house, with a passage through the centre, and piazzas in front and rear extending the whole length of the building. These were planked up, port-holes cut in the barricades and sentinels were posted there every night.

"Hostile Indians hovered around the post for some time, helping themselves to whatever they could lay their hands upon, but at length disappeared, and for a while there was no further alarm.

"On the 7th of August, toward evening, a friendly Pottawatomie chief, named Win-ne-meg, or the Catfish, came to Chicago from Fort Wayne as the bearer of a despatch from General Hull to Captain Heald. In that despatch Hull told of the declaration of war with England, the invasion of Canada, and the loss of Mackinack. It also ordered Captain Heald to evacuate Fort Dearborn, if practicable; and if he did so to distribute all the United States property there among the Indians in the neighborhood."

"Including guns, powder, and balls with which to kill the whites!" said Lucilla. "I think I should have concluded from such an order that Hull must be either a traitor or an idiot."

"His idea," said Grandma Elsie, "seems to have been to make a peace-offering to the savages to induce them to refrain from joining the British, then menacing Detroit.

"Win-ne-meg, who had some knowledge of the contents of the missive he brought, begged Mr. Kinzie, with whom he was intimate, to advise Captain Heald not to evacuate the fort, assuring him it would prove a difficult and dangerous movement; for the Indians had already received information from Tecumseh of the disasters to the American arms and the withdrawal of Hull's army from Canada, and were growing insolent and restless. The fort was well supplied with ammunition and provisions sufficient to last for six months; by the end of that time relief might be sent, and why not hold out till then? But if Heald was resolved to evacuate, it had better be done at once, before the Indians should be informed of the order, and so be prepared to make an attack.

"Win-ne-meg's advice in that case was to leave the stores as they were, allowing them to make distribution for themselves; for while they were engaged in that business the white people might make their way in safety to Fort Wayne.

"Mr. Kinzie perceived that this was wise advice, as did the officers of the fort, with the exception of Heald, who would not listen to it, but expressed himself as resolved to yield strict obedience to Hull's orders as to evacuation and the distribution of the public property.

"The next morning Hull's order was read to the troops, and Heald took the whole responsibility of carrying it out. His officers expected to be summoned to a council, but they were not. Toward evening they called upon the commander and remonstrated with him. They said that the march must necessarily be slow on account of the women, children, and infirm persons, therefore, under the circumstances, exceedingly perilous. They reminded him that Hull's order left it to his discretion to go or to stay; adding that they thought it much wiser to strengthen the fort, defy the savages, and endure a siege until help could reach them.

"But Heald replied that he should expect the censure of the government if he remained, for special orders had been issued by the War Department that no post should be surrendered without battle having been given by the assailed; and his force was entirely too small to hazard an engagement with the Indians. He added that he had full confidence in the professions of friendship of many chiefs about him, and he would call them together, make the required distribution, then take up his march for Fort Wayne."

"And did the other officers submit to him then, Grandma Elsie?" asked Grace.

"Yes; my dear, he was in authority, and I presume they were too loyal to oppose him. But being determined to abandon the fort, he should have done so at once; for delay was certainly increasing the danger, the Indians becoming more unruly every hour; yet he procrastinated and did not call them together for the final arrangements for two or three days.

"At last that was done and they met near the fort on the afternoon of the 12th, when Heald held a farewell council with them. He invited his officers to join him in that, but they refused. In some way they had been informed that treachery was intended on the part of the Indians, that they had planned to murder them and then destroy those who were in the fort. Therefore they remained inside the pickets and opened a port-hole of one of the block-houses so that the Indians could see a cannon pointing directly toward their group, thus protecting Captain Heald. It had the desired effect; no effort was made by the savages to carry out their treacherous design, they professed friendship, and accepted Heald's offers to distribute among them the goods in the public store-blankets, calicoes, broadcloths, paints, and other things such as Indians fancy."

"Beads among them, I presume," remarked Rosie.

"Very likely," said her mother, "as they have always been a favorite ornament with the Indians. The distribution of those goods, the arms and ammunition and such of the provisions as would not be needed by the garrison, was to take place next day; then the whites were to leave the fort and set out upon their journey through the wilderness, the Pottawatomies engaging to furnish them with an escort, on condition of being liberally rewarded on their arrival at Fort Wayne."

"Oh, but I should have been afraid to trust them!" exclaimed Grace, shuddering at the very thought of the risk.

"Mr. Kinzie, who knew the Indians so well, was of your opinion," said Grandma Elsie, "and earnestly remonstrated with Captain Heald; telling him they were not to be trusted in the face of such temptations. Especially he urged him not to put arms and ammunition in their hands, as that would fearfully increase their ability to carry on the murderous raids which had become so frequent and caused so great terror in the frontier settlements.

"He succeeded in convincing Heald that he had been very foolish in making that promise, and he resolved to violate his treaty so far as the arms and ammunition were concerned. That very evening something occurred that certainly ought to have opened Heald's eyes and led him to shut the gates of the fort and defend it to the last extremity. Black Partridge, a chief who had thus far always been friendly to the whites, and who was a man of great influence too, came to Heald in a quiet way and said, 'Father, I come to deliver to you the medal I wear. It was given me by the Americans, and I have long worn it in token of our mutual friendship. But our young men are resolved to imbrue their hands in the blood of the white people. I cannot restrain them, and I will not wear a token of peace while I am compelled to act as an enemy.'"

"And did Heald actually disregard such a warning as that?" exclaimed Evelyn Leland. "I really do not see how it could have been made plainer that the purpose was to attack and murder all in the fort as soon as they were fairly in their power."

"Nor do I," said Grandma Elsie; "yet Heald seems to have paid no more attention to it than to the previous warnings.

"The next morning, August 13, was bright and cool. The Indians came in great numbers to receive their promised presents. Only the goods in the store were distributed that day, and in the evening Black Partridge said to Mr. Griffith, the interpreter, 'Linden birds have been singing in my ears to-day; be careful on the march you are going to take.' This was repeated to Captain Heald, but solemn warning as it evidently was, he paid no more attention to it than he had to previous ones. He seems to have been perfectly infatuated, and how he could ever forgive himself in after years I cannot see. He went steadily on in the execution of his plans, of which, as I have told you, all the other officers, Mr. Kinzie, and friendly Indian chiefs disapproved. That night he had all the guns but such as his party could make use of in their journey-gunscrews, flint, shot, and everything belonging to the use of firearms-thrown into the well. This was done at midnight, when the sentinels were posted and the Indians in their camp; at least, they were supposed to be, but the night was dark, Indians can move noiselessly, and some whose suspicions had been aroused crept to the spot and made themselves acquainted with what was going on. Liquor and powder, too, were poured into the well, and a good deal of alcohol, belonging to Mr. Kinzie, into the river; also a portion of the powder and liquor of the fort was thrown into a canal that came up from the river far under the covered way. But the water of the river was sluggish, and so great a quantity of liquor had been thrown into it that in the morning it was like strong grog; and powder could be seen floating on the surface."

"And of course the Indians, who loved liquor, were angry when they saw how it had been wasted, instead of given to them," remarked Grace.

"Yes; their complaints and threats were loud, and now the little garrison had no choice but to brave the danger of exposing themselves to their vengeance, for it was no longer possible to hold the fort, and they must set out upon their perilous journey. Ah! if Heald had but been less obstinately bent upon having his own way-more willing to listen to the advice and remonstrances of his officers, Kinzie, who understood the Indians so well, and the warning of the friendly chiefs, much suffering might have been averted and valuable lives saved.

"Mrs. Heald had an uncle, the brave Captain William Wells, who had passed most of his life among the Miami Indians and been made one of their chiefs. He had heard at Fort Wayne of Hull's order to evacuate Fort Dearborn, and knowing of the hostility of the Pottawatomies, had made a rapid march across the country with a party of his Miamis to reinforce Heald and help him to hold and defend the fort. But he arrived just too late; the means of defence had already been destroyed, and there was no choice but to attempt the perilous march through the wilderness.

"Nine o'clock of the 15th was the hour set for the evacuation, and it was already evident that the Indians intended to massacre the whites-men, women, and children. Nor could they entertain any hope of being able to defend themselves, so overwhelming was the number of their savage foes, 500 warriors against 54 soldiers, 12 civilians, and 3 or 4 women."

"But there were the Miamis with Wells, mamma," remarked Rosie.

"Who proved of no assistance," returned Grandma Elsie. "Lossing tells us that when, at nine o'clock, the gates were thrown open, and the march began, it was like a funeral procession. The band struck up the Dead March in 'Saul.' Captain Wells, with his friendly Miamis, took the lead, his face blackened with gunpowder in token of his impending fate. His niece, Mrs. Heald, with her husband, came next, while the others, I presume, followed in the order of their rank."

"Were the Kinzies with them?" asked Grace.

"Mr. Kinzie was, hoping by his personal influence to be able to soften, if not avert their impending fate. His family had left in a boat, in charge of a friendly Indian who was to take them to his other trading station, where Niles, Mich., now stands. Poor Mrs. Kinzie! having a daughter among the seemingly doomed ones, how terribly anxious and distressed she must have been!" added Grandma Elsie in tones tremulous with feeling. A moment of silence followed, then she went on with her narrative.

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