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   Chapter 3 No.3

Elsie's Journey on Inland Waters By Martha Finley Characters: 14677

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"The procession, escorted by the five hundred Pottawatomies, moved slowly along the lake shore in a southerly direction till they had reached the Sand Hills between the prairie and the beach. There the Indians filed to the right, so that the hills were between them and the white people.

"Wells and his mounted Miamis, who were in the advance, came suddenly dashing back, their leader shouting, 'They are about to attack us: form instantly!'

"The words had scarcely left his lips when a storm of bullets came from the Sand Hills. The Pottawatomies, both treacherous and cowardly, had made of those hills a covert from which to attack the little band of whites.

"The troops were hastily brought into line, charged up the hill, and one of their number, a white-haired man of seventy, fell dead from his horse, the first victim of the perfidy of the Indians hounded on by the inhuman Proctor, a worse savage than they.

"The Miamis proved cowardly and fled at the first onset. Their chief rode up to the Pottawatomies, charged them with perfidy, and brandishing his tomahawk told them he would be the first to lead Americans to punish them; then, wheeling his horse, he dashed away over the prairie, following his fleeing companions.

"Both men and women among the whites fought bravely for their lives; they could not hope to save them, but they would sell them to the savage foe as dearly as possible. It was a short, desperate, bloody conflict. Lossing tells us that Captain Wells displayed the greatest coolness and gallantry. At the beginning of the fight he was close beside his niece, Mrs. Heald.

"'We have not the slightest chance for life,' he said to her. 'We must part to meet no more in this world; God bless you!' and with that he dashed forward into the midst of the fight. Seeing a young warrior, painted like a demon, climb into a wagon in which were twelve children, and scalp them all, he forgot his own danger, and burning to avenge the dreadful deed, cried out, 'If butchering women and children is their game, I'll kill too!' at the same time dashing toward the Indian camp where they had left their squaws and papooses.

"Instantly swift-footed young warriors were in hot pursuit, firing upon him as they ran, while he, lying close to his horse's neck, occasionally turned and fired upon them. He had got almost beyond the range of their rifles when a shot killed his horse and wounded him severely in the leg.

"Yelling like fiends the young savages rushed forward to make him prisoner, intending, as he well knew, not to kill him at once, but to reserve him for a lingering and painful death by slow torture. Two Indian friends of his-Win-ne-meg and Wau-ban-see-tried to save him, but in vain; and he, knowing well for what fate he would be reserved if taken alive, taunted his pursuers with the most insulting epithets, to provoke them to kill him instantly.

"He succeeded at last by calling one of them, Per-so-tum by name, a squaw, which so enraged him that he despatched Wells at once with a tomahawk, jumped upon his body, tore out his heart, and ate a portion of it with savage delight."

"Oh, how awful!" cried Grace, shuddering with horror. "How his niece must have felt when she saw it!"

"Very possibly she did not see it," said Grandma Elsie, "so busy as she must have been in defending herself. She was an expert with the rifle and as an equestrienne, defended herself bravely, and received severe wounds; but, though faint and bleeding, managed to keep the saddle. An Indian raised his tomahawk over her and she looked him full in the face, saying, with a melancholy smile, 'Surely you would not kill a squaw!' At that his arm fell, but he took the horse by the bridle and led it toward the camp with her still in the saddle. It was a fine animal, and the Indians had been firing at her in order to get possession of it, till she had received seven bullets in her person. Her captor had spared her for the moment, but as he drew near the camp, his covetousness so overcame his better impulses that he took her bonnet from her head and was about to scalp her when Mrs. Kinzie, sitting in her boat, whence she had heard the sounds of the conflict but could not see the combatants, caught sight of them and cried out to one of her husband's clerks who was standing on the beach, 'Run, run, Chandonnai! That is Mrs. Heald. He is going to kill her. Take that mule and offer it as a ransom.'

"Chandonnai made haste to obey the order, offered the mule and two bottles of whisky in addition, and as the three amounted to more value than Proctor's offered bounty for a scalp, he succeeded, and Mrs. Heald was placed in the boat and there hidden from the eyes of other scalp-hunters."

"I think you were right, Grandma Elsie, in calling that Proctor a worse savage than those Indians! bribing them as he did to murder men, women, and children!" exclaimed Lucilla, her eyes flashing with indignation.

"Is it quite certain that he did?" asked Grace.

"Quite," replied Grandma Elsie. "Lossing tells us that Proctor had offered a liberal sum for scalps, and that in consequence nearly all the wounded men were killed, their scalps carried to him at Malden, and such a bounty paid for them as is given for the destruction of so many wolves. In a footnote Lossing gives an extract from Niles' Weekly Register of April 3, 1813, in which it is stated that Mrs. Helm had arrived in Buffalo, and in the narrative she gave of her sufferings at and after the massacre at Chicago said, 'Colonel Proctor, the British commander at Malden, bought the scalps of our murdered garrison at Chicago,' and thanks to her noble spirit, she boldly charged him with the infamy in his own house."

"Did he deny it?" asked Evelyn.

"We are not told that he did; but no doubt he was angered, for he afterward treated both her and her husband with great cruelty, causing them to be arrested and sent across the wilderness from Detroit to Niagara frontier, in the dead of a Canadian winter. The writer also stated that Mrs. Heald had learned from the tribe with whom she was a prisoner, and who were the perpetrators of those murders, that they intended to remain true, but received orders from the British to cut off our garrison whom they were to escort.

"In our wars with England many British officers have shown themselves extremely cruel,-not a whit behind the savages in that respect,-but it would be very wrong to judge of the whole nation by their conduct; for there were in the mother country many who felt kindly toward America and the Americans. And I think," she added, with her own sweet smile, "that there are many more now."

"It seems Mrs. Helm too escaped with her life," said Walter; "but she was wounded, I presume, mother, since you just spoke of her sufferings both at and after the massacre."

"Yes, a stalwart young Indian attempted to scalp her; she sprang to one side, and the blow from his tomahawk fell on her shoulder instead of her head; at the same instant she seized him around the neck and attempted to take his scalping-knife, which hung in a sheath on his breast. Before the struggle was ended another Indian seized her, dragged her to the margin of the lake, plunged her in, and to her astonishment held her there in a way to enable her to breathe; so that she d

id not drown. Presently she discovered that he was the friendly Black Partridge, and that he was engaged in saving instead of trying to destroy her life.

"The wife of a soldier named Corbord fought desperately, suffering herself to be cut to pieces rather than surrender; believing that, if taken prisoner, she would be reserved for torture. The wife of Sergeant Holt was another brave woman. At the beginning of the engagement her husband was badly wounded in the neck, and taking his sword she fought like an Amazon. She rode a fine, spirited horse, which the Indians coveted, and several of them attacked her with the butts of their guns, trying to dismount her, but she used her sword with such skill that she foiled them; then suddenly wheeling her horse, she dashed over the prairie, a number of them in hot pursuit and shouting, 'The brave woman! the brave woman! don't hurt her!'"

"Did they overtake her?" asked Grace.

"Yes, at length; when a powerful savage seized her by the neck and dragged her backward to the ground while several others engaged her in front."

"Oh, I hope they didn't kill her!" exclaimed Grace.

"No," replied Mrs. Travilla; "she was afterward ransomed. But to go on with my story. Presently the firing ceased; the little band of whites who had escaped death succeeded in breaking through the ranks of the assassins-who gave way in front-and rallied on the flank, and gained a slight eminence on the prairie near a grove called the Oak Woods. The Indians gathered upon the Sand Hills and gave signs of a willingness to parley. Two-thirds of the whites had been killed or wounded; only 28 strong men remained to cope with the fury of nearly 500 savages-they had lost but 15 in the conflict. To prolong the contest would be little better than madness. Captain Heald, accompanied only by a half-breed boy in Mr. Kinzie's service, went forward and met Black-Bird on the open prairie to arrange terms of surrender.

"It was agreed that all the whites who had survived the conflict should become prisoners of war, to be exchanged as soon as practicable. With this understanding captors and captives all started for the Indian camp near the fort. On arriving there another terrible scene ensued. The Indians did not consider the wounded to be included in the terms of surrender, and immediately proceeded to kill and scalp nearly all of them."

"To gain the bounty offered by that-human, or inhuman fiend Proctor!" exclaimed Walter. "I wonder how he viewed that transaction when he came to die."

"I am sure that in the sight of God he was a wholesale murderer," said Rosie; "a murderer not of men only, but of innocent women and children also."

"Yes," said her mother, "there were twelve children killed, besides Captain Wells, Surgeon Van Voorhees, Ensign Ronan, and twenty-six private soldiers.

"Toward evening the family of Mr. Kinzie were permitted to return to their own home, where they found the friendly Black Partridge waiting for them. Mrs. Helm, the daughter of Mrs. Kinzie, you will remember was his prisoner. He placed her in the house of a Frenchman named Ouilmette. But the Kinzies and all the prisoners were in great danger from a freshly arrived band of Pottawatomies from the Wabash, who were thirsting for blood and plunder. They thoroughly searched Mr. Kinzie's house for victims; but some friendly Indians arrived just in time to prevent the carrying out of their bloodthirsty intentions. These were led by a half-breed chief called Billy Caldwell. Black Partridge told him of the evident purpose of the Wabash Indians, who had blackened their faces and were sitting sullenly in Mr. Kinzie's parlor, no doubt intending presently to start out and engage in the savage work they had planned. Billy went in and said in a careless way, as he took off his accoutrements: 'How now, my friends! A good-day to you! I was told there were enemies here, but I am glad to find only friends. Why have you blackened your faces? Is it that you are mourning for your friends lost in battle? Or is it that you are fasting? If so, ask our friend here (indicating Mr. Kinzie) and he will give you to eat. He is the Indians' friend, and never yet refused them what they had need of.'

"Hearing all this the Wabash Indians were ashamed to own what their intention had been, and so the threatened massacre did not take place. The prisoners were divided among the captors and finally reunited or restored to their friends and families."

"But they must have had a great deal to endure before that happy consummation," sighed Evelyn. "Oh, I think we can never be thankful enough that we live in these better times!"

"So do I," said Grace. "How very dreadful it must be to fall into the hands of savages and meet with a death so awful and sudden! I wish I knew that they were all Christians and ready for heaven."

"I can echo that wish," said Grandma Elsie, in tones full of sadness; "but I very much fear that they were not. Some we may hope were, but it is said, on what seems good authority, that Mrs. Helm, in telling of that terrible scene near the Sand Hills, spoke of the terror of Dr. Van Voorhees. He had been wounded badly, and his horse shot under him, when he asked her, 'Do you think they will take our lives?' and then spoke of offering a large ransom for his. She advised him not to think of that, but of inevitable death. 'Oh, I cannot die! I am not fit to die!' he exclaimed. 'If I had only a short time to prepare for it-death is awful!'"

"'Look at that man! at least he dies like a soldier,' she said, pointing to Ensign Ronan. 'Yes,' gasped the doctor, 'but he has no terror of the future-he is an unbeliever.'

"Just then Mrs. Helm's struggle with the young Indian who attempted to tomahawk her began, and directly afterward she saw the dead body of Van Voorhees."

"Oh, poor, poor fellow!" exclaimed Grace, tears starting to her eyes. "One would think that, in such circumstances as theirs had been for months, every man and woman would have been careful to make sure work for eternity."

"Yes, but Satan is ever tempting men to delay, and perhaps more souls are, in Christian lands, lost through procrastination than from any other cause," sighed Grandma Elsie. "'Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.'"

There was a moment of silence, broken by Evelyn.

"I remember when I was a very little girl, papa used to talk to me about being a Christian, and that once I answered him, 'I would, papa, if I only knew how,' and he said, 'It is very simple, daughter; just to believe in the Lord Jesus, take him for your Saviour, and give yourself to him-soul and body, time, talents, influence-all that you have or ever shall have, to be his forever, trusting in him with all your heart, sure that he meant all that he said in speaking to Nicodemus-'God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' And that other, 'Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.' Those two texts seem to me to make the way very simple and plain."

"They do indeed," said Grandma Elsie, "and anyone who has the Bible and will study it faithfully, with earnest prayer to God for help to understand and obey its teachings, can hardly fail to find the way."

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