"We observed wood fit for every use. There were the most beautiful cedars in the world. There was one kind of tree which shed an abundance of gum, as pleasant to burn as the best French pastilles. We also saw fine hemlocks and other large trees with white bark. The cottonwood-trees were very large. Of these the Indians dug out canoes, forty or fifty feet long. Sometimes there were fleets of a hundred and fifty at their villages. We saw every kind of tree fit for ship-building. There is also plenty of hemp for cordage, and tar could be made in abundance.
"Prairies are seen everywhere. Sometimes they are fifty or sixty miles in length on the river front and many leagues in depth. They are very rich and fertile, without a stone or a tree to obstruct the plough. These prairies are capable of sustaining an immense population. Beans grow wild, and the stalks last several years, bearing fruit. The bean-vines are thicker than a man's arm, and run to the top of the highest trees. Peach-trees are abundant and bear fruit equal to the best that can be found in France. They are often so loaded in the gardens of the Indians that they have to prop up the branches. There are whole forests of mulberries, whose ripened fruit we begin to eat in the month of May. Plums are found in great variety, many of which are not known in Europe. Grape-vines and pomegranates are common. Three or four crops of corn can be raised in a year."
From all this it appears that the good Father was very observant, though his observation, or the information he obtained from the Indians, was not always to be trusted. He goes on to speak of the tribes, whose people and customs he found very different from the Indians of Canada. "They have large public squares, games, and assemblies. They seem mirthful and full of vivacity. Their chiefs have absolute authority. No one would dare to pass between the chief and the cane torch which burns in his cabin and is carried before him when he goes out. All make a circuit around it with some ceremony."
THE FRENCH OF LOUISIANA AND THE NATCHEZ INDIANS.
The story of the American Indian is one of the darkest blots on the page of the history of civilization. Of the three principal peoples of Europe who settled the New World,—the Spanish, the British, and the French,—the Spanish made slaves of them and dealt with them with shocking cruelty, and the British were, in a different way, as unjust, and at times little less cruel. As for the French, while they showed more sympathy with the natives, and treated them in a more friendly and considerate spirit, their dealings with them were by no means free from the charge of injustice and cruelty. This we shall seek to show in the following story.
When we talk of the Indians of the United States we are very apt to get wrong ideas about them. The word Indian means to us a member of the savage hunting tribes of the North; a fierce, treacherous, implacable foe, though he could be loyal and generous as a friend; a being who made war a trade and cruelty a pastime, and was incapable of civilization. But this is only one type of the native inhabitants of the land. Those of the South were very different. Instead of being rude savages, like their Northern brethren, they had made some approach to civilization; instead of being roving hunters, they were settled agriculturists; instead of being morose and taciturn, they were genial and light-hearted; and instead of possessing only crude forms of government and religion, they were equal in both these respects to some peoples who are classed as civilized.
If any feel a doubt of this, let them read what La Salle and the intelligent priest who went with him had to say about the Indians of the lower Mississippi, their government, agriculture, and friendliness of disposition, and their genial and sociable manner. It is one of the tribes of Southern Indians with which we are here concerned, the Natchez tribe or nation, with whom La Salle had such pleasing relations.
It may be of interest to our readers to be told something more about the customs of the Southern Indians, since they differed very greatly from those of the North, and are little known to most readers. Let us take the Creeks, for instance,—a powerful association made up of many tribes of the Gulf region. They had their chiefs and their governing council, like the Northern Indians, but the Mico, who took the place of the Sachem of the North, had almost absolute power, and the office was hereditary in his family. Agriculture was their principal industry, the fields being carefully cultivated, though they were active hunters also. The land was the property of the tribe, not of individuals, and each family who cultivated it had to deposit a part of their products in the public store-house. This was under the full control of the Mico, though food was distributed to all in times of need.
Their religion was much more advanced than that of the Northern tribes. They had the medicine man and the notions about spirits of the North, but they also worshipped the sun as the great deity of the universe, and had their temples, and priests, and religious ceremonies. One of their great objects of care was the sacred fire, which was carefully extinguished at the close of the year, and rekindled with "new fire" for the coming year. While it was out serious calamities were feared and the people were in a state of terror. There was nothing like this in the North.
The most remarkable of the United States Indians were the Natchez, of whom we have above spoken. Not only La Salle, but later French writers have told us about them. They had a different language and were different in other ways from the neighboring Indians. They worshipped the sun as their great deity, and had a complete system of temples, priests, idols, religious festivals, sacred objects and the like, the people being deeply superstitious. Their temples were built on great mounds, and in them the sacred fire was very carefully guarded by the priests. If it should go out fearful misfortunes were expected to ensue.
Their ruler was high priest as well as monarch. He was called the Sun and was believed to be a direct descendant of the great deity. He was a complete autocrat, with the power of life and death over the people, and his nearest female relative, who was known as the woman chief, had the same power. On his death there were many human sacrifices, though it was not his son, but that of the woman chief, who succeeded to the throne. Not only the ruler, but all the members of the royal caste, were called Suns, and had special privileges. Under them there was a nobility, also with its powers and privileges, but the common people had very few rights. On the temple of the sun were the figures of three eagles, with their heads turned to the east. It may be seen that this people was a very interesting one, far advanced in culture beyond the rude tribes of the North, and it is a great pity that they were utterly destroyed and their institutions swept away before they were studied by the scientists of the land. Their destruction was due to French injustice, and this is how it came about.
Louisiana was not settled by the French until about twenty years after La Salle's great journey, and New Orleans was not founded till 1718. The French gradually spread their authority over the country, bringing the Mississippi tribes under their influence. Among these were the Natchez, situated up the river in a locality indicated by the present city of Natchez. The trouble with them came about in 1729, through the unjust behavior of a French officer named Chopart. He had been once removed for injustice, but a new governor, M. Perier, had replaced him, not knowing his character.
Chopart, on his return to the Natchez country, was full of great views, in which the rights of the old owners of the land did not count. He was going to make his province a grand and important one, and in the presence of his ambition the old inhabitants must bend the knee. He wanted a large space for his projected settlement, and on looking about could find no spot that suited him but that which was occupied by the Indian village of the White Apple. That the natives might object to this appropriation of their land did not seem to trouble his lordly soul.
He sent to the Sun of the village, bidding him to come to the fort, which was about six miles away. When the chief arrived there, Chopart told him, bluntly enough, that he had decided to build a settlement on the site of the White Apple village, and that he must clear away the huts and build somewhere else. His only excuse was that it was necessary for the French to settle on the banks of the rivulet on whose waters stood the Grand Tillage and the abode of the Grand Sun.
The Sun of the Apple was taken aback by this arbitrary demand. He replied with dignity that his ancestors had dwelt in that village for as many years as there were hairs in his head, and that it was good that he and his people should continue there. This reasonable answer threw Chopart into a passion, and he violently told the Sun that he must quit his village in a few days or he should repent it.
"When your people came to ask us for lands to settle on," said the Indian in reply, "you told us that there was plenty of unoccupied land which you would be willing to take. The same sun, you said, would shine on us all and we would all walk in the same path."
Before he could proceed, Chopart violently interrupted him, saying that he wanted to hear no more, he only wanted to be obeyed. At this the insulted chief withdrew, saying, with the same quiet dignity as before, that he would call together the old men of the village and hold a council on the affair.
The Indians, finding the French official so violent and arbitrary, at first sought to obtain delay, saying that the corn was just above the ground and the chickens were laying their eggs. The commandant replied that this did not matter to him, they must obey his order or they should suffer for their obstinacy. They next tried the effect of a bribe, offering to pay him a basket of corn and a fowl for each hut in the village if he would wait till the harvest was gathered. Chopart proved to be as avaricious as he was arbitrary, and agreed to accept this offer.
He did not know the people he was dealing with. Stung with the injustice of the demand, and deeply incensed by the insolence of the commandant, the village council secretly resolved that they would not be slaves to these base intruders, but would cut them off to a man. The oldest chief suggested the following plan. On the day fixed they should go to the fort with some corn, and carrying their arms as if going out to hunt. There should be two or three Natchez for every Frenchman, and they should borrow arms and ammunition for a hunting match to be made on account of a grand feast, promising to bring back meat in payment. The arms once obtained, the discharge of a gun would be the signal for them to fall on the unsuspecting French and kill them all.
He further suggested that all the other villages should be apprised of the project and asked to assist. A bundle of rods was to be sent to each village, the rods indicating the number of days preceding that fixed for the assault. That no mistake might be made, a prudent person in each village should be appointed to draw out a rod on each day and throw it away. This was their way of counting time.
The scheme was accepted by the council, the Sun warmly approving of it. When it was made known to the chiefs of the nation, they all joined in approval, including the Grand Sun, their chief ruler, and his uncle, the Stung Serpent. It was kept secret, however, from the people at large, and from all the women of the noble and royal castes, not excepting the woman chief.
This it was not easy to do. Secret meetings were being held, and the object of these the female Suns had a right to demand. The woman chief at that time was a young princess, scarce eighteen, and little inclined to trouble herself with political affairs; but the Strong Arm, the mother of the Grand Sun, was an able and experienced woman, and one friendly to the French. Her son, strongly importuned by her, told her of the scheme, and also of the purpose of the bundle of rods that lay in the temple.
Strong Arm was politic enough to appear to approve the project, but secretly she was anxious to save the French. The time was growing short, and she sought to have the commandant warned by hints of danger. These were brought him by soldiers, but in his supercilious self-conceit he paid no heed to them, but went on blindly towards destruction. He went so far as to put in irons seven of those who warned him of the peril, accusing them of cowardice. Finding this effort unavailing, the Strong Arm secretly pulled some rods out of the fatal bundle, hoping in this way to disarrange the project of the conspirators.
Heedless of all that had been told him, Chopart and some other Frenchmen went on the night before the fatal day to the great village of the Natchez, on a party of pleasure, not returning till break of day, and then the worse for his potations. In the mean time the secret had grown more open, and on his entering the fort he was strongly advised to be on his guard.
The drink he had taken made a complete fool of him, however, and he at once sent to the village from which he had just returned, bidding his interpreter to ask the Grand Sun whether he intended to come with his warriors and kill the French. The Grand Sun, as might have been expected, sent word back that he did not dream of such a thing, and he would be very sorry, indeed, to do any harm to his good friends, the French. This answer fully satisfied the commandant, and he went to his house, near the fort, disdaining the advice of the informers.
It was on the eve of St. Andrew's Day, in 1729, that a party of the Natchez approached the French settlement. It was some days in advance of that fixed, on account of the meddling with the rods. They brought with them one of the common people, armed with a wooden hatchet, to kill the commandant, the warriors having too much contempt for him to be willing to lay hands on him. The natives strayed in friendly fashion into the houses, and many made their way through the open gates into the fort, where they found the soldiers unsuspicious of danger and without an officer, or even a sergeant, at their head.
Soon the Grand Sun appeared, with a number of warriors laden with corn, as if to pay the first installment of the contribution. Their entrance was quickly followed by several shots. This being the signal agreed upon, in an instant the natives made a murderous assault on the unarmed French, cutting them down in their houses and shooting them on every side. The commandant, for the first time aware of his blind folly, ran in terror into the garden of his house, but he was sharply pursued and cut down. The massacre was so well devised and went on so simultaneously in all directions that very few of the seven hundred Frenchmen in the settlement escaped, a handful of the fugitives alone bringing the news of the bloody affair to New Orleans. The Natchez completed their vengeance by setting on fire and burning all the buildings, so that of the late flourishing settlement only a few ruined walls remained.
As may be seen, this massacre was due to the injustice, and to the subsequent incompetence, of one man, Chopart, the commandant. It led to lamentable consequences, in the utter destruction of the Natchez nation and the loss of one of the most interesting native communities in America.
No sooner, in fact, had the news of the massacre reached New Orleans than active steps were taken for revenge. A force, largely made up of Choctaw allies, assailed the fort of the Natchez. The latter asked for peace, promising to release the French women and children they held as prisoners. This was agreed to, and the Indians took advantage of it to vacate the fort by stealth, under cover of night, taking with them all their baggage and plunder. They took refuge in a secret place to the west of the Mississippi, which the French had much difficulty to discover.
The place found, a strong force was sent against the Indians, its route being up the Red River, then up the Black River, and finally up Silver Creek, which flows from a small lake, near which the Natchez had built a fort for defence against the French. This place they maintained with some resolution, but when the French batteries were placed and bombs began to fall in the fort, dealing death to women and children as well as men, the warriors, horrified at these frightful instruments of death, made signals of their readiness to capitulate.
Night fell before terms were decided upon, and the Indians asked that the settlement should be left till the next day. Their purpose was to attempt to escape, as they had done before during the night, but they were too closely watched to make this effective. Some of them succeeded in getting away, but the great body were driven back into the fort, and the next day were obliged to surrender at discretion. Among them were the Grand Sun and the women Suns, with many warriors, women, and children.
The end of the story of the Natchez is the only instance on record of the deliberate annihilation of an Indian tribe. Some have perished through the event of war, no other through fixed intention. All the captives were carried to New Orleans, where they were used as slaves, not excepting the Strong Arm, who had made such efforts to save the French. These slaves were afterward sent to St. Domingo to prevent their escape, and in order that the Natchez nation might be utterly rooted out.
Those of the warriors who had escaped from the fort, and others who were out hunting, were still at large, but there were few women among them, and the nation was lost past renewal. These fugitives made their way to the villages of the Chickasaws, and were finally absorbed in that nation, "and thus," says Du Pratz, the historian of this affair, "that nation, the most conspicuous in the colony, and most useful to the French, was destroyed."
Du Pratz was a resident of New Orleans at the time, and got his information from the parties directly concerned. He tells us that among the women slaves "was the female Sun called the Strong Arm, who then told me all she had done in order to save the French." It appears that all she had done was not enough to save herself.
THE KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN HORSESHOE.
On a fine day in the pleasant month of August of the year 1714 a large party of horsemen rode along Duke of Gloucester Street, in the city of Williamsburg, Virginia, while the men, women, and children of the place flocked to the doors of the houses cheering and waving their handkerchiefs as the gallant cavaliers passed by. They were gayly dressed, in the showy costumes worn by the gentlemen of that time, and at their head was a handsome and vigorous man, with the erect bearing and manly attitude of one who had served in the wars. They were all mounted on spirited horses and carried their guns on their saddles, prepared to hunt or perhaps to defend themselves if attacked. Behind them followed a string of mules, carrying the packs of the horsemen and in charge of mounted servants.
Thus equipped, the showy cavalcade passed through the main streets of the small town, which had succeeded Jamestown as the Virginian capital, and rode away over the westward-leading road. On they went, mile after mile, others joining them, as they passed onward, the party steadily increasing in numbers until it reached a place called Germanna, on the Rapid Ann—now the Rapidan—River, on the edge of the Spotsylvania Wilderness.
No doubt you will wish to know who these men were and what was the object of their journey. It was a romantic one, as you will learn,—a journey of adventure into the unknown wilderness. At that time Virginia had been settled more than a hundred years, yet its people knew very little about it beyond the seaboard plain. West of this rose the Blue Ridge Mountains, behind which lay a great mysterious land, almost as unknown as the mountains of the moon. There were people as late as that who thought that the Mississippi River rose in these mountains.
The Virginians had given this land of mystery a name. They called it Orange County. There were rumors that it was filled with great forests and lofty mountains, that it held fertile valleys watered by beautiful rivers, that it was a realm of strange and wonderful scenes. The Indians, who had been driven from the east, were still numerous there, and wild animals peopled the forests plentifully, but few of the whites had ventured within its confines. Now and then a daring hunter had crossed the Blue Ridge into this country and brought back surprising tales of what was to be seen there, but nothing that could be trusted was known about the land beyond the hills.
All this was of great interest to Alexander Spotswood, who was then governor of Virginia. He was a man whose life had been one of adventure and who had distinguished himself as a soldier at the famous battle of Blenheim, and he was still young and fond of adventure when the king chose him to be governor of the oldest American colony.
We do not propose to tell the whole story of Governor Spotswood; but as he was a very active and enterprising man, some of the things he did may be of interest. He had an oddly shaped powder-magazine built at Williamsburg, which still stands in that old town, and he opened the college of William and Mary free to the sons of the few Indians who remained in the settled part of Virginia. Then he built iron-furnaces and began to smelt iron for the use of the people. Those were the first iron-furnaces in the colonies, and the people called him the "Tubal Cain of Virginia," after a famous worker in iron mentioned in the Bible. His furnaces were at the settlement of Germanna, where the expedition made its first stop. This name came from a colony of Germans whom he had brought there to work his iron-mines and forges.
After what has been told it may not be difficult to guess the purpose of the expedition. Governor Spotswood was practical enough to wish to explore the mysterious land beyond the blue-peaked hills, and romantic enough to desire to do this himself, instead of sending out a party of pioneers. So he sent word to the planters that he proposed to make a holiday excursion over the mountains, and would gladly welcome any of them who wished to join.
We may be sure that there were plenty, especially among the younger men, who were glad to accept his invitation, and on the appointed day many of them came riding in, with their servants and pack-mules, well laden with provisions and stores, for they looked on the excursion as a picnic on a large scale.
One thing they had forgotten—a very necessary one. At that time iron was scarce and costly in Virginia, and as the roads were soft and sandy, as they still are in the seaboard country, it was the custom to ride horses barefooted, there being no need for iron shoes. But now they were about to ride up rocky mountain-paths and over the stony summits, and it was suddenly discovered that their horses must be shod. So all the smiths available were put actively at work making horseshoes and nailing them on the horses' feet. It was this incident that gave rise to the name of the "Knights of the Golden Horseshoe," as will appear farther on.
At Germanna Governor Spotswood had a summer residence, to which he retired when the weather grew sultry in the lower country. Colonel William Byrd, a planter on the James River, has told us all about this summer house of the governor. One of his stories is, that when he visited there a tame deer, frightened at seeing him, leaped against a large mirror in the drawing-room, thinking that it was a window, and smashed it into splinters. It is not likely the governor thanked his visitor for that.
After leaving Germanna the explorers soon entered a region quite unknown to them. They were in high spirits, for everything about them was new and delightful. The woods were in their full August foliage, the streams gurgling, the birds warbling, beautiful views on every hand, and the charm of nature's domain on all sides. At mid-day they would stop in some green forest glade to rest and pasture their horses, and enjoy the contents of their packs with a keen appetite given by the fresh forest air.
To these repasts the hunters of the party added their share, disappearing at intervals in the woods and returning with pheasant, wild turkey, or mayhap a fat deer, to add to the woodland feast. At night they would hobble their horses and leave them to graze, would eat heartily of their own food with the grass for table-cloth and a fresh appetite for sauce, then, wrapping their cloaks around them, would sleep as soundly as if in their own beds at home. The story of the ride has been written by one of the party, and it goes in much the way here described.
The mountains were reached at length, and up their rugged sides the party rode, seeking the easiest paths they could find. No one knows just where this was, but it is thought that it was near Rockfish Gap, through which the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad now passes. There are some who say that they crossed the valley beyond the Blue Ridge and rode over the Alleghany Mountains also, but this is not at all likely.
When they reached the summit of the range and looked out to the west, they saw before them a wild but lovely landscape, a broad valley through whose midst ran a beautiful river, the Shenandoah, an Indian name that means "daughter of the stars." To the right and left the mountain-range extended as far as the eye could reach, the hill summits and sides covered everywhere with verdant forest-trees. In front, far off across the valley, rose the long blue line of the Alleghanies, concealing new mysteries beyond.
The party gazed around in delight, and carved their names on the rocks to mark the spot. A peak near at hand they named Mount George, in honor of George I., who had just been made king, and a second one Mount Alexander, in honor of the governor, and they drank the health of both. Then they rode down the western slope into the lovely valley they had gazed upon. Here they had no warlike or romantic adventures, fights with Indians or wild beasts, but they had a very enjoyable time. After a delightful ride through the valley they recrossed the mountains, and rode joyously homeward to tell the people of the plain the story of what they had seen.
We have said nothing yet of the Golden Horseshoe. That was a fanciful idea of Governor Spotswood. He thought the excursion and the fine valley it had explored were worthy to be remembered by making them the basis of an order of knighthood. He was somewhat puzzled to think of a good name for it, but at length he remembered the shoeing of the horses at Williamsburg, so he decided to call it the Order of the Golden Horseshoe, and sent to England for a number of small golden horseshoes, one of which he gave to each of his late companions. There was a Latin inscription on them signifying, "Thus we swear to cross the mountains." When the king heard of the expedition, he made the governor a knight, under the title of Sir Alexander Spotswood, but we think a better title for him was that he won for himself,—Sir Knight of the Golden Horseshoe.
HOW OGLETHORPE SAVED GEORGIA FROM SPAIN.
On the 5th day of July, in the year 1742, unwonted signs of activity might have been seen in the usually deserted St. Simon's harbor, on the coast of Georgia. Into that sequestered bay there sailed a powerful squadron of fifty-six well-armed war-vessels, one of them carrying twenty-four guns and two of them twenty guns each, while there was a large following of smaller vessels. A host of men in uniform crowded the decks of these vessels, and the gleam of arms gave lustre to the scene. It was a strong Spanish fleet, sent to wrest the province of Georgia from English hands, and mayhap to punish these intruders in the murderous way that the Spaniards had punished the French Huguenots two centuries before.
In all the time that had elapsed since the discovery of America, Spain had made only one settlement on the Atlantic coast of the United States, that of St. Augustine in Florida. But slow as they were in taking possession, they were not slow in making claims, for they looked on Florida as extending to the Arctic zone. More than once had they tried to drive the English out of Charleston, and now they were about to make a similar effort in Georgia. That colony had been settled, only ten years before, on land which Spain claimed as her own, and the English were not there long before hostilities began. In 1739 General Oglethorpe, the proprietor of Georgia, invaded Florida and laid siege to St. Augustine. He failed in this undertaking, and in 1742 the Spaniards prepared to take revenge, sending the strong fleet mentioned against their foes. It looked as if Georgia would be lost to England, for on these vessels were five thousand men, a force greater than all Georgia could raise.
Oglethorpe knew that the Spaniards were coming, and made hasty preparations to meet them. Troops of rangers were raised, the planters were armed, fortifications built, and a ship of twenty-two guns equipped. But with all his efforts his force was pitifully small as compared with the great Spanish equipment. Besides the ship named, there were some small armed vessels and a shore battery, with which the English for four hours kept up a weak contest with their foes. Then the fleet sailed past the defences and up the river before a strong breeze, and Oglethorpe was obliged to spike the guns and destroy the war-material at Fort St. Simon's and withdraw to the stronger post of Frederica, where he proposed to make his stand. Not long afterward the Spaniards landed their five thousand men four miles below Frederica. These marched down the island and occupied the deserted fort.
There may not seem to our readers much of interest in all this, but when it is learned that against the fifty-six ships and more than five thousand men of the Spaniards the utmost force that General Oglethorpe could muster consisted of two ships and six hundred and fifty-two men, including militia and Indians, and that with this handful of men he completely baffled his assailants, the case grows more interesting. It was largely an example of tactics against numbers, as will be seen on reading the story of how the Spaniards were put to the right about and forced to flee in utter dismay.
On the 7th of July some of the Georgia rangers discovered a small body of Spanish troops within a mile of Frederica. On learning of their approach, Oglethorpe did not wait for them to attack him in his not very powerful stronghold, but at once advanced with a party of Indians and rangers, and a company of Highlanders who were on parade. Ordering the regiment to follow, he hurried forward with this small detachment, proposing to attack the invaders while in the forest defiles and before they could deploy in the open plain near the fort.
So furious was his charge and so utter the surprise of the Spaniards that nearly their entire party, consisting of one hundred and twenty-five of their best woodsmen and forty-five Indians, were either killed, wounded, or made prisoners. The few fugitives were pursued for several miles through the forest to an open meadow or savannah. Here the general posted three platoons of the regiment and a company of Highland foot under cover of the wood, so that any Spaniards advancing through the meadow would have to pass under their fire. Then he hastened back to Frederica and mustered the remainder of his force.
Just as they were ready to march, severe firing was heard in the direction of the ambushed troops. Oglethorpe made all haste towards them and met two of the platoons in full retreat. They had been driven from their post by Don Antonia Barba at the head of three hundred grenadiers and infantry, who had pushed through the meadow under a drifting rain and charged into the wood with wild huzzas and rolling drums.
The affair looked very bad for the English. Forced back by a small advance-guard of the invaders, what would be their fate when the total Spanish army came upon them? Oglethorpe was told that the whole force had been routed, but on looking over the men before him he saw that one platoon and a company of rangers were missing. At the same time the sound of firing came from the woods at a distance, and he ordered the officers to rally their men and follow him.
Let us trace the doings of the missing men. Instead of following their retreating comrades, they had, under their officers, Lieutenants Sutherland and MacKay, made a skilful detour in the woods to the rear of the enemy, reaching a point where the road passed from the forest to the open marsh across a small semicircular cove. Here they formed an ambuscade in a thick grove of palmettos which nearly surrounded the narrow pass.
They had not been there long when the Spaniards returned in high glee from their pursuit. Reaching this open spot, well protected from assault as it appeared by the open morass on one side and the crescent-shaped hedge of palmettos and underwood on the other, they deemed themselves perfectly secure, stacking their arms and throwing themselves on the ground to rest after their late exertions.
The ambushed force had keenly watched their movements from their hiding-place, preserving utter silence as the foe entered the trap. At length Sutherland and MacKay raised the signal of attack, a Highland cap upon a sword, and in an instant a deadly fire was poured upon the unsuspecting enemy. Volley after volley succeeded, strewing the ground with the dead and dying. The Spaniards sprang to their feet in confusion and panic. Some of their officers attempted to reform their broken ranks, but in vain; all discipline was gone, orders were unheard, safety alone was sought. In a minute more, with a Highland shout, the platoon burst upon them with levelled bayonet and gleaming claymore, and they fled like panic-stricken deer; some to the marsh, where they mired and were captured; some along the defile, where they were cut down; some to the thicket, where they became entangled and lost. Their defeat was complete, only a few of them escaping to their camp. Barba, their leader, was mortally wounded; other officers and one hundred and sixty privates were killed; the prisoners numbered twenty. The feat of arms was as brilliant as it was successful, and Oglethorpe, who did not reach the scene of action till the victory was gained, promoted the two young officers on the spot as a reward for their valor and military skill. The scene of the action has ever since been known as the "Bloody Marsh."
The enterprise of the Spaniards had so far been attended by misfortune, a fact which caused dissention among their leaders. Learning of this, Oglethorpe resolved to surprise them by a night attack. On the 12th he marched with five hundred men until within a mile of the Spanish quarters, and after nightfall went forward with a small party to reconnoitre. His purpose was to attack them, if all appeared favorable, but he was foiled by the treachery of a Frenchman in his ranks, who fired his musket and deserted to the enemy under cover of the darkness. Disconcerted by this unlucky circumstance, the general withdrew his reconnoitering party; reaching his men, he distributed the drummers about the wood to represent a large force, and ordered them to beat the grenadier's march. This they did for half an hour; then, all being still, they retreated to Frederica.
The defection of the Frenchman threw the general into a state of alarm. The fellow would undoubtedly tell the Spaniards how small a force opposed them, and advise them that, with their superior land and naval forces, they could easily surround and destroy the English. In this dilemma it occurred to him to try the effect of stratagem, and seek to discredit the traitor's story.
He wrote a letter in French, as if from a friend of the deserter, telling him that he had received the money, and advising him to make every effort to convince the Spanish commander that the English were very weak. He suggested to him to offer to pilot up their boats and galleys, and to bring them under the woods where he knew the hidden batteries were. If he succeeded in this, his pay would be doubled. If he could not do this, he was to use all his influence to keep them three days more at Fort St. Simon's. By that time the English would be reinforced by two thousand infantry and six men-of-war which had already sailed from Charleston. In a postscript he was cautioned on no account to mention that Admiral Vernon was about to make an attack on St. Augustine.
This letter was given to a Spanish prisoner, who was paid a sum of money on his promise that he would carry the letter privately and deliver it to the French deserter. The prisoner was then secretly set free, and made his way back to the Spanish camp. After being detained and questioned at the outposts he was taken before the general, Don Manuel de Mantiano. So far all had gone as Oglethorpe hoped. The fugitive was asked how he escaped and if he had any letters. When he denied having any he was searched and the decoy letter found on his person. It was not addressed to any one, but on promise of pardon he confessed that he had received money to deliver it to the Frenchman.
As it proved, the deserter had joined the English as a spy for the Spaniards. He earnestly protested that he was not false to his agreement; that he knew nothing of any hidden battery or of the other contents of the letter, and that he had received no money or had any correspondence with Oglethorpe. Some of the general's council believed him, and looked on the letter as an English trick. But the most of them believed him to be a double spy, and advised an immediate retreat. While the council was warmly debating on this subject word was brought them that three vessels had been seen off the bar. This settled the question in their minds. The fleet from Charleston was at hand; if they stayed longer they might be hemmed in by sea and land; they resolved to fly while the path to safety was still open. Their resolution was hastened by an advance of Oglethorpe's small naval force down the stream, and a successful attack on their fleet. Setting fire to the fort, they embarked so hastily that a part of their military stores were abandoned, and fled as if from an overwhelming force, Oglethorpe hastening their flight by pursuit with his few vessels.
Thus ended this affair, one of the most remarkable in its outcome of any in the military history of the United States. For fifteen days General Oglethorpe, with little over six hundred men and two armed vessels, had baffled the Spanish general with fifty-six ships and five thousand men, defeating him in every encounter in the field, and at length, by an ingenious stratagem, compelling him to retreat with the loss of several ships and much of his provisions, munitions, and artillery. In all our colonial history there is nothing to match this repulse of such a formidable force by a mere handful of men. It had the effect of saving Georgia, and perhaps Carolina, from falling into the hands of the Spanish. From that time forward Spain made no effort to invade the English colonies. The sole hostile action of the Spaniards of Florida was to inspire the Indians of that peninsula to make raids in Georgia, and this annoyance led in the end to the loss of Florida by Spain.
A BOY'S WORKING HOLIDAY IN THE WILDWOOD.
We wish to say something here about a curious old man who lived in Virginia when George Washington was a boy, and who was wise enough to see that young Washington was anything but a common boy. This man was an English nobleman named Lord Fairfax. As the nobles of England were not in the habit of coming to the colonies, except as governors, we must tell what brought this one across the sea.
It happened in this way. His grandfather, Lord Culpeper, had at one time been governor of Virginia, and, like some other governors, had taken care to feather his nest. Seeing how rich the land was between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, when he went home he asked the king to give him all this land, and the king, Charles II., in his good easy way of giving away what did not belong to him, readily consented, without troubling himself about the rights of the people who lived on the land. A great and valuable estate it was. Not many dwelt on it, and Lord Culpeper promised to have it settled and cultivated, but we cannot say that he troubled himself much about doing so.
When old Culpeper died the Virginia land went to his daughter, and from her it descended to her son, Lord Fairfax, who sent out his cousin, William Fairfax, to look after his great estate, which covered a whole broad county in the wilderness, and counties in those days were often very large. Lord Fairfax was not much concerned about the American wildwood. He was one of the fashionable young men in London society, and something of an author, too, for he helped the famous Addison by writing some papers for the "Spectator."
But noblemen, like common men, are liable to fall in love, and this Lord Fairfax did. He became engaged to be married to a handsome young lady; but she proved to be less faithful than pretty, and when a nobleman of higher rank asked her to marry him, she threw her first lover aside and gave herself to the richer one.
This was a bitter blow to Lord Fairfax. He went to his country home and dwelt there in deep distress, vowing that all women were false-hearted and that he would never marry any of them. And he never did. Even his country home was not solitary enough for the broken-hearted lover, so he resolved to cross the ocean and seek a new home in his wilderness land in America. It was this that brought him to Virginia, where he went to live at his cousin's fine mansion called Belvoir, a place not far away from the Washington estate of Mount Vernon.
Lord Fairfax was a middle-aged man at that time, a tall, gaunt, near-sighted personage, who spent much of his time in hunting, of which he was very fond. And his favorite companion in these hunting excursions was young George Washington, then a fine, fresh, active boy of fourteen, who dearly loved outdoor life. There was a strong contrast between the old lord and the youthful Virginian, but they soon became close friends, riding out fox-hunting together and growing intimate in other ways.
Laurence Washington, George's elder brother, who lived at Mount Vernon, had married a daughter of William Fairfax, and that brought the Mount Vernon and Belvoir families much together, so that when young George was visiting his brother he was often at Belvoir. Lord Fairfax grew to like him so much that he resolved to give him some important work to do. He saw that the boy was strong, manly, and quick-witted, and anxious to be doing something for himself, and as George had made some study of surveying, he decided to employ him at this.
Lord Fairfax's Virginia estate, as we have said, was very large. The best-known part of it lay east, but it also crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains, and ran over into the beautiful valley beyond, which the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe had visited more than thirty years before. This splendid valley was still largely in a wild state, with few inhabitants besides the savage Indians and wild beasts. Before it could be fairly opened to settlers it must be measured by the surveyor's chain and mapped out so that it would be easy to tell where any tract was located. It was this that Lord Fairfax asked young Washington to do, and which the active boy gladly consented to undertake, for he liked nothing better than wild life and adventure in the wilderness, and here was the chance to have a delightful time in a new and beautiful country, an opportunity that would warm the heart of any live and healthy boy.
This is a long introduction to the story of Washington's wildwood outing, but no doubt you will like to know what brought it about. It was in the early spring of 1748 that the youthful surveyor set out on his ride, the blood bounding warmly in his veins as he thought of the new sensations and stirring adventures which lay before him. He was not alone. George William Fairfax, a son of the master of Belvoir, went with him, a young man of twenty-two. Washington was then just sixteen, young enough to be in high spirits at the prospect before him. He brought his surveyors' instruments, and they both bore guns as well, for they looked for some fine sport in the woods.
The valley beyond the mountains was not the land of mystery which it had been thirty-four years before, when Governor Spotswood and his gay troop looked down on it from the green mountain summit. There were now some scattered settlers in it, and Lord Fairfax had built himself a lodge in the wilderness, which he named "Greenway Court," and where now and then he went for a hunting excursion.
Crossing the Blue Ridge at Ashby's Gap and fording the bright Shenandoah, the young surveyors made their way towards this wildwood lodge. It was a house with broad stone gables, its sloping roof coming down over a long porch in front. The locality was not altogether a safe one. There were still some Indians in that country, and something might stir them up against the whites. In two belfries on the roof hung alarm-bells, to be rung to collect the neighboring settlers if report of an Indian rising should be brought.
On the forest road leading to Greenway Court a white post was planted, with an arm pointing towards the house, as a direction to visitors. As the post decayed or was thrown down by any cause another was erected, and on this spot to-day such a post stands, with the village of White Post built around it. But when young Washington and Fairfax passed the spot only forest trees stood round the post, and they rode on to the Court, where they rested awhile under the hospitable care of Lord Fairfax's manager.
It was a charming region in which the young surveyors found themselves after their brief term of rest, a land of lofty forests and broad grassy openings, with the silvery river sparkling through their midst. The buds were just bursting on the trees, the earliest spring flowers were opening, and to right and left extended long blue mountain-ranges, the giant guardians of the charming valley of the Shenandoah. In those days there were none of the yellow grain-fields, the old mansions surrounded by groves, the bustling villages and towns which now mark the scene, but nature had done her best to make it picturesque and beautiful, and the youthful visitors enjoyed it as only those of young blood can.
Up the banks of the Shenandoah went the surveyors, measuring and marking the land and mapping down its leading features. It was no easy work, but they enjoyed it to the full. At night they would stop at the rude house of some settler, if one was to be found; if not, they would build a fire in the woods, cook the game their guns had brought down, wrap their cloaks around them, and sleep heartily under the broad blanket of the open air.
Thus they journeyed on up the Shenandoah until they reached the point where its waters flow into the Potomac. Then up this stream they made their way, crossing the mountains and finally reaching the place which is now called Berkeley Springs. It was then in the depth of the wilderness, but in time a town grew up around it, and many years afterward Washington and his family often went there in the summer to drink and bathe in its wholesome mineral waters.
The surveyors had their adventures, and no doubt often made the woodland echoes ring with the report of their guns as they brought down partridge or pheasant, or tracked a deer through the brushwood. Nothing of special note happened to them, the thing which interested them most being the sight of a band of Indians, the first they had ever seen. The red men had long since disappeared from the part of Virginia in which they lived.
These tenants of the forest came along one day when the youths had stopped at the house of a settler. There were about thirty of them in their war-paint, and one of them had a fresh scalp hanging at his belt. This indicated that they had recently been at war with their enemies, of whom at least one had been killed. The Indians were given some liquor, in return for which they danced their war-dance before the boys. For music one of them drummed on a deer-skin which he stretched over an iron pot, and another rattled a gourd containing some shot and ornamented with a horse's tail. The others danced with wild whoops and yells around a large fire they had built. Altogether the spectacle was a singular and exciting one on which the boys looked with much interest.
While they had no serious adventures, their life in the forest was not a very luxurious one. In many ways they had to rough it. At times they were drenched by downpours of rain. They slept anywhere, now and then in houses, but most often in the open air. On one occasion some straw on which they lay asleep caught fire and they woke just in time to escape being scorched by the flames.
"I have not slept above three or four nights in a bed," wrote George to a friend, "but after walking a good deal all the day I have lain down before the fire on a little straw or fodder, or a bear-skin, whatever was to be had, with man, wife, and children, like dogs and cats; and happy is he who gets the berth nearest the fire."
Their cooking was often done by impaling the meat on sharp sticks and holding it over the fire, while chips cut with their hatchet took the place of dishes. But to them all this was enjoyment, their appetites were hearty, and anything having the spice of adventure was gladly welcomed. It was the event of their young lives.
It was still April when they returned from their long river ride to Greenway Court, and here enjoyed for some time the comforts of civilization, so far as they had penetrated that frontier scene. Spring was still upon the land, though summer was near by, when George and his friend rode back across the Blue Ridge and returned to Belvoir with the report of what they had done. Lord Fairfax was highly pleased with the report, and liked George more than ever for the faithful and intelligent manner in which he had carried out his task. He paid the young surveyor at the rate of seven dollars a day for the time he was actually at work, and half this amount for the remaining time. This was worth a good deal more then than the same sum of money would be now, and was very good pay for a boy of sixteen. No doubt the lad felt rich with the first money he had ever earned in his pocket.
As for Lord Fairfax, he was in high glee to learn what a valuable property he had across the hills, and especially how fine a country it was for hunting. He soon left Belvoir and made his home at Greenway Court, where he spent the remainder of his life. It was a very different life from that of his early days in the bustle of fashionable life in London, but it seemed to suit him as well or better.
One thing more we have to say about him. He was still living at Greenway Court when the Revolutionary War came on. A loyalist in grain, he bitterly opposed the rebellion of the colonists. By the year 1781 he had grown very old and feeble. One day he was in Winchester, a town which had grown up not far from Greenway, when he heard loud shouts and cheers in the street.
"What is all that noise about?" he asked his old servant.
"Dey say dat Gin'ral Washington has took Lord Cornwallis an' all his army prisoners. Yorktown is surrendered, an' de wa' is ovah."
"Take me to bed, Joe," groaned the old lord; "it is time for me to die."
Five years after his surveying excursion George Washington had a far more famous adventure in the wilderness, when the governor of Virginia sent him through the great forest to visit the French forts near Lake Erie. The story of this journey is one of the most exciting and romantic events in American history, yet it is one with which most readers of history are familiar, so we have told the tale of his earlier adventures instead. His forest experience on the Shenandoah had much to do with making Governor Dinwiddie choose him as his envoy to the French forts, so that it was, in a way, the beginning of his wonderful career.
PATRICK HENRY, THE HERALD OF THE REVOLUTION.
There was a day in the history of the Old Dominion when a great lawsuit was to be tried,—a great one, that is, to the people of Hanover County, where it was heard, and to the colony of Virginia, though not to the country at large. The Church of England was the legal church in Virginia, whose people were expected to support it. This the members of other churches did not like to do, and the people of Hanover County would not pay the clergymen for their preaching. This question of paying the preachers spread far and wide. It came to the House of Burgesses, which body decided that the people need not pay them. It crossed the ocean and reached the king of England, who decided that the people must pay them. As the king's voice was stronger than that of the burgesses, the clergy felt that they had an excellent case, and they brought a lawsuit to recover their claims. By the old law each clergyman was to be paid his salary in tobacco, one hundred and sixty thousand pounds weight a year.
There seemed to be nothing to do but pay them, either in cash or tobacco. All the old lawyers who looked into the question gave it up at once, saying that the people had no standing against the king and the clergy. But while men were saying that the case for the county would be passed without a trial and a verdict rendered for the clergy, an amusing rumor began to spread around. It was said that young Patrick Henry was going to conduct the case for the people.
We call this amusing, and so it was to those who knew Patrick Henry. He was a lawyer, to be sure, but one who knew almost nothing about the law and had never made a public speech in his life. He was only twenty-seven years of age, and those years had gone over him mainly in idleness. In his boyhood days he had spent his time in fishing, hunting, dancing, and playing the fiddle, instead of working on his father's farm. As he grew older he liked sport too much and work too little to make a living. He tried store-keeping and failed through neglect of his business. He married a wife whose father gave him a farm, but he failed with this, too, fishing and fiddling when he should have been working, and in two years the farm was sold. Then he went back to store-keeping, and with the same result. The trouble was his love for the fiddle and the fishing-line, which stood very much in the way of business. He was too lazy and fond of good company and a good time to make a living for himself and his wife.
The easy-going fellow was now in a critical situation. He had to do something if he did not want to starve, so he borrowed some old law-books and began to read law. Six weeks later he applied to an old judge for a license to practise in the courts. The judge questioned him and found that he knew nothing about the law; but young Henry pleaded with him so ardently, and promised so faithfully to keep on studying, that the judge gave him the license and he hung out his shingle as a lawyer.
Whatever else Patrick Henry might be good for, people thought that to call himself a lawyer was a mere laughing matter. An awkward, stooping, ungainly fellow, dressed roughly in leather breeches and yarn stockings, and not knowing even how to pronounce the king's English correctly, how could he ever succeed in a learned profession? As a specimen of his manner of speech at that time we are told that once, when denying the advantages of education, he clinched the argument by exclaiming, "Nait'ral parts are better than all the larnin' on airth."
As for the law, he did not know enough about it to draw up the simplest law-paper. As a result, he got no business, and was forced, as a last resort, to help keep a tavern which his father-in-law possessed at Hanover Court-House. And so he went on for two or three years, till 1763, when the celebrated case came up. Those who knew him might well look on it as a joke when the word went round that Patrick Henry was going to "plead against the parsons." That so ignorant a lawyer should undertake to handle a case which all the old lawyers had refused might well be held as worthy only of ridicule. They did not know Patrick Henry. It is not quite sure that he knew himself. His father sat on the bench as judge, but what he thought of his son's audacity history does not say.
When the day for the trial came there was a great crowd at Hanover Court-House, for the people were much interested in the case. On the opening of the court the young lawyer crossed the street from the tavern and took his seat behind the bar. What he saw was enough to dismay and confuse a much older man. The court-room was crowded, and every man in it seemed to have his eyes fixed on the daring young counsel, many of them with covert smiles on their faces. The twelve men of the jury were chosen. There were present a large number of the clergy waiting triumphantly for the verdict, which they were sure would be in their favor, and looking in disdain at the young lawyer. On the bench as judge sat John Henry, doubtless feeling that he had a double duty to perform, to judge at once the case and his son.
The aspiring advocate, so little learned in the law and so poorly dressed and ungainly in appearance, looked as if he would have given much just then to be out of the court and clear of the case. But the die was cast; he was in for it now.
The counsel for the clergymen opened the case. He dwelt much on the law of the matter, whose exact meaning he declared was beyond question. The courts had already decided on that subject, and so had his sacred majesty, the king of England. There was nothing for the jury to do, he asserted, but to decide how much money his clients were entitled to under the law. The matter seemed so clear that he made but a brief address and sat down with a look of complete satisfaction. As he did so Patrick Henry rose.
This, as may well be imagined, was a critical moment in the young lawyer's life. He rose very awkwardly and seemed thoroughly frightened. Every eye was fixed on him and not a sound was heard. Henry was in a state of painful embarrassment. When he began to speak, his voice was so low that he could hardly be heard, and he faltered so sadly that his friends felt that all was at an end.
But, as he himself had once said, "Nait'ral parts are better than all the larnin' on airth;" and he had these "nait'ral parts," as he was about to prove. As he went on a change in his aspect took place. His form became erect, his head uplifted, his voice clearer and firmer. He soon began to make it appear that he had thought deeply on the people's cause and was prepared to handle it strongly. His eyes began to flash, his voice to grow resonant and fill the room; in the words of William Wirt, his biographer, "As his mind rolled along and began to glow from its own action, all the exuviae of the clown seemed to shed themselves spontaneously."
The audience listened in surprise, the clergy in consternation. Was this the Patrick Henry they had known? It was very evident that the young advocate knew just what he was talking about, and he went on with a forcible and burning eloquence that fairly carried away every listener. There was no thought now of his clothes and his uncouthness. The man stood revealed before them, a man with a gift of eloquence such as Virginia had never before known. He said very little on the law of the case, knowing that to be against him, but he addressed himself to the jury on the rights of the people and of the colony, and told them it was their duty to decide between the House of Burgesses and the king of England. The Burgesses, he said, were their own people, men of their own choice, who had decided in their favor; the king was a stranger to them, and had no right to order them what to do.
Here he was interrupted by the old counsel for the clergy, who rose in great indignation and exclaimed, "The gentleman has spoken treason."
We do not know just what words Henry used in reply. We have no record of that famous speech. But he was not the man to be frightened by the word "treason," and did not hesitate to repeat his words more vigorously than before. As for the parsons, he declared, their case was worthless. Men who led such lives as they were known to have done had no right to demand money from the people. So bitterly did he denounce them that all those in the room rose and left the court in a body.
By the time the young advocate had reached the end of his speech the whole audience was in a state of intense excitement. They had been treated to the sensation of their lives, and looked with utter astonishment at the marvellous orator, who had risen from obscurity to fame in that brief hour. Breathless was the interest with which the jury's verdict was awaited. The judge charged that the law was in favor of the parsons and that the king's order must be obeyed, but they had the right to decide on the amount of damages. They were not long in deciding, and their verdict was the astounding one of one penny damages.
The crowd was now beyond control. A shout of delight and approbation broke out. Uproar and confusion followed the late decorous quiet. The parsons' lawyer cried out that the verdict was illegal and asked the judge to send the jury back. But his voice was lost in the acclamations of the multitude. Gathering round Patrick Henry, they picked him up bodily, lifted him to their shoulders, and bore him out, carrying him in triumph through the town, which rang loudly with their cries and cheers. Thus it was that the young lawyer of Hanover rose to fame.
Two years after that memorable day Patrick Henry found himself in a different situation. He was now a member of the dignified House of Burgesses, the oldest legislative body in America. An aristocratic body it was, made up mostly of wealthy landholders, dressed in courtly attire and sitting in proud array. There were few poor men among them, and perhaps no other plain countryman to compare with the new member from Hanover County, who had changed but little in dress and appearance from his former aspect.
A great question was before the House. The Stamp Act had been passed in England and the people of the colonies were in a high state of indignation. They rose in riotous mobs and vowed they would never pay a penny of the tax. As for the Burgesses, they proposed to act with more loyalty and moderation. They would petition the king to do them justice. It was as good as rebellion to refuse to obey him.
The member from Hanover listened to their debate, and said to himself that it was weak and its purpose futile. He felt sure that the action they proposed would do no good, and when they had fairly exhausted themselves he rose to offer his views on the question at issue.
Very likely some of the fine gentlemen there looked at him with surprise and indignation. Who was this presumptuous new member who proposed to tell the older members what to do? Some of them may have known him and been familiar with that scene in Hanover Court-House. Others perhaps mentally deplored the indignity of sending common fellows like this to sit in their midst.
But Patrick Henry now knew his powers, and cared not a whit for their respectable sentiments. He had something to say and proposed to say it. Beginning in a quiet voice, he told them that the Stamp Act was illegal, as ignoring the right of the House to make the laws for the colony. It was not only illegal, but it was oppressive, and he moved that the House of Burgesses should pass a series of resolutions which he would read.
These resolutions were respectful in tone, but very decided in meaning. The last of them declared that nobody but the Burgesses had the right to tax Virginians. This statement roused the house. It sounded like rebellion against the king. Several speakers rose together and all of them denounced the resolutions as injudicious and impertinent. The excitement of the loyalists grew as they proceeded, but they subsided into silence when the man who had offered the resolutions rose to defend them.
Patrick Henry was aroused. As he spoke his figure grew straight and erect, his voice loud and resonant, his eye flashed, the very sweep of his hand was full of force and power. He for one was not prepared to become a slave to England and her king. He denounced the islanders who proposed to rob Americans of their vested rights. In what way was an Englishman better than a Virginian? he asked. Were they not of one blood and born with the same right to liberty and justice? What right had the Parliament to act the tyrant to the colonies? Then, referring to the king, he bade him in thundering tones to beware of the consequences of his acts.
"Caesar had his Brutus," he exclaimed, in tones of thrilling force, "Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third——"
"Treason! Treason!" came from a dozen excited voices, but Henry did not flinch.
"May profit by their example." Then, in a quieter tone, he added: "If this be treason, make the most of it!"
He took his seat. He had said his words. These words still roll down the tide of American history as resonantly as when they were spoken. As for the House of Burgesses, it was carried away by the strength of this wonderful speech. When the resolutions came to a vote it was seen that Henry had won. They were carried, even the last and most daring of them, by one vote majority. As the Burgesses tumultuously adjourned, one member rushed out in great excitement, declaring that he would have given five hundred guineas for one vote to defeat the treasonable resolutions. But the people with delight heard of what had passed, and as Henry passed through the crowd a plain countryman clapped him on the shoulder, exclaiming,—
"Stick to us, old fellow, or we are gone."
Ten years later, in the old church of St. John's, at Richmond, Virginia, standing not far from the spot where the old Indian emperor, Powhatan, once resided, a convention was assembled to decide on the state of the country. Rebellion was in the air. In a month more the first shots of the Revolution were to be fired at Lexington. Patrick Henry, still the same daring patriot as of old, rose and moved that Virginia "be immediately put in a state of defence."
This raised almost as much opposition as his former resolutions in the House of Burgesses, and his blood was boiling as he rose to speak. It was the first speech of his that has been preserved, and it was one that still remains unsurpassed in the annals of American eloquence. We give its concluding words. He exclaimed, in tones of thunder,—
"There is no retreat but in submission and slavery. Our chains are forged, their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston. The war is inevitable; and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come! It is in vain to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace. The war is actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field. What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"
His motion was passed, and Virginia told the world that she was ready to fight. A month later there came from the north "the clash of resounding arms;" the American Revolution was launched.
"It is not easy to say what we would have done without Patrick Henry," says Thomas Jefferson. "His eloquence was peculiar; if, indeed, it should be called eloquence, for it was impressive and sublime beyond what can be imagined. After all, it must be allowed that he was our leader. He left us all far behind."
GOVERNOR TRYON AND THE CAROLINA REGULATORS.
The first blood shed by "rebels" in America, in those critical years when the tide of events was setting strong towards war and revolution, was by the settlers on the upper waters of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. A hardy people these were, of that Highland Scotch stock whose fathers had fought against oppression for many generations. Coming to America for peace and liberty, they found bitter oppression still, and fought against it as their ancestors had done at home. It is the story of these sturdy "Regulators" that we have here to tell.
It was not the tyranny of king or parliament with which these liberty-lovers had to deal, but that of Governor Tryon, the king's representative in this colony, and one of the worst of all the royal governors. Bancroft has well described his character. "The Cherokee chiefs, who knew well the cruelty and craft of the most pernicious beast of prey in the mountains, ceremoniously distinguished the governor by the name of the Great Wolf." It was this Great Wolf who was placed in command over the settlers of North Carolina, and whose lawless acts drove them to rebellion.
Under Governor Tryon the condition of the colony of North Carolina was worse than that of a great city under the rule of a political "Boss." The people were frightfully overtaxed, illegal fees were charged for every service, juries were packed, and costs of suits at law made exorbitant. The officers of the law were insolent and arbitrary, and by trickery and extortion managed to rob many settlers of their property. And this was the more hateful to the people from the fact that much of the money raised was known to go into the pockets of officials and much of it was used by Governor Tryon in building himself a costly and showy "palace." Such was the state of affairs which led to the "rebellion" in North Carolina.
Many of the people of the mountain districts organized under the name of "Regulators," binding themselves to fight against illegal taxes and fees, and not to pay them unless forced to do so. The first outbreak took place in 1768 when a Regulator rode into Hillsborough, and Colonel Fanning wantonly seized his horse for his tax. It was quickly rescued by a mob armed with clubs and muskets, some of which were fired at Fanning's house.
This brought matters to a head. Supported by the governor, Fanning denounced the Regulators as rebels, threatened to call out the militia, and sent out a secret party who arrested two of the settlers. One of these, Herman Husbands, had never joined the Regulators or been concerned in any tumult, and was seized while quietly at home on his own land. But he was bound, insulted, hurried to prison, and threatened with the gallows. He escaped only by the payment of money and the threat of the Regulators to take him by force from the jail.
The next step was taken after Governor Tryon had promised to hear the complaints of the people and punish the men guilty of extortion. Under this promise Husbands brought suit against Fanning for unjust imprisonment. At once the governor showed his real sentiment. He demanded the complete submission of the Regulators, called out fifteen hundred armed men, and was said to intend to rouse the Indians to cut off the men of Orange County as rebels.
In spite of this threatening attitude of the governor, Husbands was acquitted on every charge, and Fanning was found guilty on six separate indictments. There was also a verdict given against three Regulators. This was the decision of the jury alone. That of the judges showed a different spirit. They punished Fanning by fining him one penny on each charge, while the Regulators were each sentenced to fifty pounds fine and six months' imprisonment. To support this one-sided justice Tryon threatened the Regulators with fire and sword, and they remained quietly at home, brooding moodily over their failure but hesitating to act.
We must now go on to the year 1770. The old troubles had continued,—illegal fees and taxes, peculation and robbery. The sheriffs and tax-collectors were known to have embezzled over fifty thousand pounds. The costs of suits at law had so increased that justice lay beyond the reach of the poor. And back of all this reigned Governor Tryon in his palace, supporting the spoilers of the people. So incensed did they become that at the September court, finding that their cases were to be ignored, they seized Fanning and another lawyer and beat them soundly with cowhide whips, ending by a destructive raid on Fanning's house.
The Assembly met in December. It had been chosen under a state of general alarm. The Regulators elected many representatives, among them the persecuted Herman Husbands, who was chosen to represent Orange County. This defiant action of the people roused the "Great Wolf" again. Husbands had been acquitted of everything charged against him, yet Tryon had him voted a disturber of the peace and expelled from the House, and immediately afterward had him arrested and put in prison without bail, though there was not a grain of evidence against him.
The governor followed this act of violence with a "Riot Act" of the most oppressive and illegal character. Under it if any ten men assembled and did not disperse when ordered to do so, they were to be held guilty of felony. For a riot committed either before or after this act was published any persons accused might be tried before the Superior Court, no matter how far it was from their homes, and if they did not appear within sixty days, with or without notice, they were to be proclaimed outlaws and to forfeit their lives and property. The governor also sent out a request for volunteers to march against the "rebels," but the Assembly refused to grant money for this warlike purpose.
Governor Tryon had shown himself as unjust and tyrannous as Governor Berkeley of Virginia had done in his contest with Bacon. It did not take him long to foment the rebellion which he seemed determined to provoke. When the Regulators heard that their representative had been thrown into prison, and that they were threatened with exile or death as outlaws, they prepared to march on Newbern for the rescue of Husbands, filling the governor with such alarm for the safety of his fine new palace that he felt it wise to release his captive. He tried to indict the sturdy Highlander for a pretended libel, but the Grand Jury refused to support him in this, and Husbands was set free. The Regulators thereupon dispersed, after a party of them had visited the Superior Court at Salisbury and expressed their opinion very freely about the lawyers, the officials, and the Riot Act, which they declared had no warrant in the laws of England.
As yet the Regulators had done little more than to protest against tyranny and oppression and to show an intention to defend their representative against unjust imprisonment, yet they had done enough to arouse their lordly governor to revenge. Rebels they were, for they had dared to question his acts, and rebels he would hold them. As the Grand Jury would not support him in his purpose, he took steps to obtain juries and witnesses on whom he could rely, and then brought charges against many of the leading Regulators of Orange County, several of whom had been quietly at home during the riots of which they were accused.
The governor's next step was to call the Grand Jury to his palace and volunteer to them to lead troops into the western counties, the haunt of the Regulators. The jurymen, who were his own creatures, hastened to applaud his purpose, and the Council agreed. The Assembly refused to provide funds for such a purpose, but Tryon got over this difficulty by issuing a paper currency.
A force of militia was now raised in the lower part of the colony and the country of the Regulators was invaded. Tryon marched at the head of a strong force into Orange County, and proceeded to deal with it as if it were a country conquered in war. As he advanced, the wheat-fields were destroyed and the orchards felled. Every house found empty was burned to the ground. Cattle, poultry, and all the produce of the plantations were seized. The terrified people ran together like sheep pursued by a wolf. The men who had been indicted for felony at Newbern, and who had failed to submit themselves to the mercy of his packed juries and false witnesses, were proclaimed outlaws, whose lives and property were forfeit. Never had the colonies been so spoiled on such slight pretence.
Thus marching onward like a conquering general of the Middle Ages, leaving havoc and ruin in his rear, on the evening of May 14, 1771, Tryon reached the great Alamance River, at the head of a force of a little over one thousand men. About five miles beyond this stream were gathered the Regulators who had fled before his threatening march. They were probably superior in numbers to Tryon's men, but many of them had no weapons, and they were principally concerned lest the governor "would not lend an ear to the just complaints of the people." These "rebels" were certainly not in the frame of mind to make rebellion successful.
The Regulators were not without a leader. One of their number, James Hunter, they looked upon as their "general," a title of which his excellent capacity and high courage made him worthy. On the approach of Tryon at the head of his men James Hunter and Benjamin Merrill advanced to meet him. They received from him this ultimatum:
"I require you to lay down your arms, surrender up the outlawed ringleaders, submit yourselves to the laws, and rest on the lenity of the government. By accepting these terms in one hour you will prevent an effusion of blood, as you are at this time in a state of war and rebellion."
Hopeless as the Regulators felt their cause, they were not ready to submit to such a demand as this. There was not an outlaw among them, for not one of them had been legally indicted. As to the lenity of the government, they had an example before their eyes in the wanton ruin of their houses and crops. With such a demand, nothing was left them but to fight.
Tryon began the action by firing a field-piece into the group of Regulators. At this the more timid of them—perhaps only the unarmed ones—withdrew, but the bold remainder returned the fire, and a hot conflict began, which was kept up steadily for two hours. The battle, at first in the open field, soon shifted to the woodland, where the opponents sheltered themselves behind trees and kept up the fight. Not until their ammunition was nearly gone, and further resistance was impossible, did Hunter and his men retreat, leaving Tryon master of the field. They had lost twenty of their number besides the wounded and some prisoners taken in the pursuit. Of Tryon's men nine were killed and sixty-one wounded. Thus ended the affray known as the battle of the Alamance, in which were fired the first shots for freedom from tyranny by the people of the American colonies.
The victorious governor hastened to make revengeful use of his triumph. He began the next day by hanging James Few, one of the prisoners, as an outlaw, and confiscating his estate. A series of severe proclamations followed, and his troops lived at free quarters on the Regulators, forcing them to contribute provisions, and burning the houses and laying waste the plantations of all those who had been denounced as outlaws.
On his return to Hillsborough the governor issued a proclamation denouncing Herman Husbands, James Hunter, and some others, asking "every person" to shoot them at sight, and offering a large reward for their bodies alive or dead. Of the prisoners still in his hands, he had six of them hung in his own presence for the crime of treason. Then, some ten days later, having played the tyrant to the full in North Carolina, he left that colony forever, having been appointed governor of New York. The colony was saddled by him with an illegal debt of forty thousand pounds, which he left for its people to pay.
As for the fugitive Regulators, there was no safety for them in North Carolina, and the governors of South Carolina and Virginia were requested not to give them refuge. But they knew of a harbor of refuge to which no royal governors had come, over which the flag of England had never waved, and where no lawyer or tax-collector had yet set foot, in that sylvan land west of the Alleghenies on which few besides Daniel Boone, the famous hunter, had yet set foot.
Here was a realm for a nation, and one on which nature had lavished her richest treasures. Here in spring the wild crab-apple filled the air with the sweetest of perfumes, here the clear mountain-streams flowed abundantly, the fertile soil was full of promise of rich harvests, the climate was freshly invigorating, and the west winds ripe with the seeds of health. Here were broad groves of hickory and oak, of maple, elm, and ash, in which the elk and the red deer made their haunts, and the black bear, whose flesh the hunter held to be delicious beyond rivalry, fattened on the abundant crop of acorns and chestnuts. In the trees and on the grasses were quail, turkeys, and pigeons numberless, while the golden eagle built its nest on the mountain-peaks and swooped in circles over the forest land. Where the thickets of spruce and rhododendron threw their cooling shade upon the swift streams, the brook trout was abundant, plenty and promise were everywhere, and, aside from the peril of the prowling savage, the land was a paradise.
It was not in Kentucky, where Boone then dwelt alone, but in Tennessee that the fugitive Regulators sought a realm of safety. James Robertson, one of their number, had already sought the land beyond the hills and was cultivating his fields of maize on the Watauga's fertile banks. He was to become one of the leading men in later Tennessee. Hither the Regulators, fleeing from their persecutors, followed him, and in 1772 founded a republic in the wilderness by a written compact, Robertson being chosen one of their earliest magistrates. Thus, still defiant of persecution, they "set to the people of America the dangerous example of erecting themselves into a separate state, distinct from and independent of the authority of the British king."
Thus we owe to the Regulators of North Carolina the first decided step in the great struggle for independence so soon to come. And to North Carolina we must give the credit of making the earliest declaration of independence. More than a year before Jefferson's famous Declaration the people of Mecklenburg County passed a series of resolutions in which they declared themselves free from allegiance to the British crown. This was in May, 1775. On April 12, 1776, North Carolina authorized her delegates in the Continental Congress to declare for independence. Thus again the Old North State was the first to set her seal for liberty. The old Regulators had not all left her soil, and we seem to hear in these resolutions an echo of the guns which were fired on the Alamance in the first stroke of the colonists of America for freedom from tyranny.
LORD DUNMORE AND THE GUNPOWDER.
In the city of Williamsburg, the old capital of Virginia, there still stands a curious old powder magazine, built nearly two centuries ago by Governor Spotswood, the hero of the "Golden Horseshoe" adventure. It is a strong stone building, with eight-sided walls and roof, which looks as if it might stand for centuries to come. On this old magazine hinges a Revolutionary tale, which seems to us well worth the telling. The story begins on April 19, 1775, the day that the shots at Lexington brought on the war for independence.
The British government did not like the look of things in America. The clouds in the air, and the occasional lightning flash and thunder roar, were full of threat of a coming storm. To prevent this, orders were sent from England to the royal governors to seize all the powder and arms in the colonies on a fixed day, This is what Governor Gage, of Massachusetts, tried to do at Concord on April 19th. In the night of the same day, Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia, attempted the same thing at Williamsburg.
Had this been done openly in Virginia, as in Massachusetts, the story of Lexington would have been repeated there. Lord Dunmore took the patriots by surprise. A British ship-of-war, the "Magdalen," some time before, came sailing up York River, and dropped its anchor in the stream not far from Williamsburg. On the 19th of April Lord Dunmore sent word to Captain Collins, of the "Magdalen," that all was ready, and after dark on that day a party of soldiers, led by the captain, landed from the ship. About midnight they marched silently into the town. All was quiet, the people in their beds, sleeping the sleep of the just, and not dreaming that treachery was at their doors. The captain had the key to the magazine and opened its door, setting his soldiers to carry out as quietly as possible the half-barrels of gunpowder with which it was stored. They came like ghosts, and so departed. All was done so stealthily, that the morning of the 20th dawned before the citizens knew that anything had been going on in their streets under the midnight shadows.
When the news spread abroad the town was in an uproar. What right had the governor to meddle with anything bought with the hard cash of Virginia and belonging to the colony? In their anger they resolved to seize the governor and make him answer to the people for his act. They did not like Lord Dunmore, whom they knew to be a false-hearted man, and would have liked to make him pay for some former deeds of treachery. But the cooler heads advised them not to act in haste, saying that it was wiser to take peaceful measures, and to send and tell Dunmore that their powder must be returned.
This was done. The governor answered with a falsehood. He said that he had heard of some danger of an insurrection among the slaves in a neighboring county, and had taken the powder to use against them. If nothing happened, he would soon return it; they need not worry, all would be right.
This false story quieted the people of Williamsburg for a time. But it did not satisfy the people of Virginia. As the news spread through the colony the excitement grew intense. What right had Lord Dunmore to carry off the people's powder, bought for their defence? Many of them seized their arms, and at Fredericksburg seven hundred men assembled and sent word that they were ready to march on Williamsburg. Among them were the "minute men" of Culpeper, a famous band of frontiersmen, wearing green hunting-shirts and carrying knives and tomahawks. "Liberty or Death," Patrick Henry's stirring words, were on their breasts, and over their heads floated a significant banner. On it was a coiled rattlesnake, with the warning motto, "Don't tread on me!"
Prompt as these men were, there was one man in Virginia still more prompt, a man not to be trifled with by any lordly governor. This was Patrick Henry, the patriotic orator. The instant he heard of the stealing of the powder he sent word to the people in his vicinity to meet him at Newcastle, ready to fight for Virginia's rights. They came, one hundred and fifty of them, all well armed, and without hesitation he led them against the treacherous governor. It looked as if there was to be a battle in Virginia, as there had been in Massachusetts. Lord Dunmore was scared when he heard that the patriots were marching on him, as they had marched on Lord Berkeley a century before. He sent word hastily to Patrick Henry to stop his march and that he would pay for the powder.
Very likely this disappointed the indignant orator. Just then he would rather have fought Dunmore than take his money. But he had no good excuse for refusing it, so the cash was paid over, three hundred and thirty pounds sterling,—equal to about sixteen hundred dollars,—and Henry and his men marched home.
Lord Dunmore was in a towering rage at his defeat. He did what Berkeley had done against Bacon long before, issuing a proclamation in which he said that Patrick Henry and all those with him were traitors to the king. Then he sent to the "Magdalen" for soldiers, and had arms laid on the floors of his lordly mansion ready for use when the troops should come.
All was ripe for an outbreak. The people of Virginia had not been used to see British troops on their soil. If Lord Dunmore wanted war they were quite ready to let him have it. Arms were lacking, and some young men broke open the door of the magazine to see if any were there. As they did so there was a loud report and one of the party fell back bleeding. A spring-gun had been placed behind the door, doubtless by Lord Dunmore's orders.
The startling sound brought out the people. When they learned what had been done, they ran angrily to the magazine and seized all the arms they could find there. In doing so they made a discovery that doubled their indignation. Beneath the floor several barrels of gunpowder were hidden, as if to blow up any one who entered. While they were saying that this was another treacherous trick of the governor's, word was brought them that the troops from the "Magdalen" were marching on the town. With shouts of fury they ran for their arms. If Lord Dunmore was so eager for a fight, they were quite ready to accommodate him and to stand up before his British soldiers and strike for American rights. A few words will end this part of our story. When the governor saw the spirit of the people he did as Berkeley before him had done, fled to his ships and relieved Williamsburg of his presence. The Virginians had got rid of their governor and his British troops without a fight.
This ends the story of the gunpowder, but there were things that followed worth the telling. Virginia was not done with Lord Dunmore. Sailing in the "Magdalen" to Chesapeake Bay, he found there some other war-vessels, and proceeded with this squadron to Norfolk, of which he took possession. Most of the people of that town were true patriots, though by promises of plunder he induced some of the lower class of whites to join him, and also brought in many negro slaves from the country around. With this motley crew he committed many acts of violence, rousing all Virginia to resistance. A "Committee of Safety" was appointed and hundreds of men eagerly enlisted and were sent to invest Norfolk. But their enemy was not easy to find, as they kept out of reach most of the time on his ships.
On December 9, 1775, the first battle of the Revolution in the South took place. The patriot forces at that time were at a place called Great Bridge, near the Dismal Swamp, and not far from Norfolk. Against them Dunmore sent a body of his troops. These reached Great Bridge to find it a small wooden bridge over a stream, and to see the Americans awaiting them behind a breastwork which they had thrown up across the road at the opposite end of the bridge. Among them were the Culpeper "minute men," of whom we have spoken, with their rattlesnake standard, and one of the lieutenants in their company was a man who was to become famous in after years,—John Marshall, the celebrated Chief Justice of the United States.