The British posted their cannon and opened fire on the Virginians; then, when they fancied they had taken the spirit out of the backwoods militia, a force of grenadiers charged across the bridge, led by Captain Fordyce. He proved himself a good soldier, but he found the colonials good soldiers too. They held back their fire till the grenadiers were across the bridge and less than fifty yards away. Then the crack of rifles was heard and a line of fire flashed out all along the low breastwork. And it came from huntsmen who knew how to bring down their game.
Many of the grenadiers fell before this scorching fire. Their line was broken and thrown into confusion. Captain Fordyce at their head waved his hat, shouting, "The day is ours!" The words were barely spoken when he fell. In an instant he was on his feet again, brushing his knee as if he had only stumbled. Yet the brave fellow was mortally wounded, no less than fourteen bullets having passed through his body, and after a staggering step or two he fell dead.
This took the courage out of the grenadiers. They fell back in disorder upon the bridge, hastened by the bullets of the patriots. At every step some of them fell. The Virginians, their standard-bearer at their head, leaped with cheers of triumph over the breastwork and pursued them, driving them back in panic flight, and keeping up the pursuit till the fugitives were safe in Norfolk. Thus ended in victory the first battle for American liberty on the soil of the South.
Lord Dunmore had confidently expected his bold grenadiers to return with trophies of their victory over the untrained colonials. The news of their complete defeat filled him with fear and fury. At first he refused to believe it, and threatened to hang the boy who brought him the news. But the sight of the blood-stained fugitives soon convinced him, and in a sudden panic he took refuge with all his forces in his ships. The triumphant Virginians at once took possession of the town.
Dunmore lingered in the harbor with his fleet, and the victors opened fire with their cannon on the ships. "Stop your fire or I will burn your town with hot shot," he sent word. "Do your worst," retorted the bold Virginia commander, and bade his men to keep their cannons going. The ruthless governor kept his word, bombarding the town with red-hot shot, and soon it was in flames.
The fire could not be extinguished. For three days it raged, spreading in all directions, till the whole town was a sheet of flames. Not until there was nothing left to burn did the flames subside. Norfolk was a complete ruin. Its six thousand inhabitants, men, women, and children, were forced to flee from their burning homes and seek what scant refuge they could find in that chill winter season. Dunmore even landed his troops to fire on the place. Then, having visited the peaceful inhabitants with the direst horrors of war, he sailed in triumph away, glorying in his revenge.
The lordly governor now acted the pirate in earnest. He sailed up and down the shores of Chesapeake Bay, landing and plundering the plantations on every side. At a place called Gwyn's Island, on the western shore, he had a fort built, which he garrisoned mainly with the negroes and low whites he had brought from Norfolk. Just what was his purpose in this is not known, for the Virginians gave him no chance to carry it out. General Andrew Lewis, a famous Indian fighter, led a force of patriot volunteers against him, planting his cannon on the shore opposite the island, and opened a hot fire on the fort and the ships.
The first ball fired struck the "Dunmore," the ship which held the governor. A second struck the same ship, and killed one of its crew. A third smashed the governor's crockery, and a splinter wounded him in the leg. This was more than the courage of a Dunmore could stand, and sail was set in all haste, the fleet scattering like a flock of frightened birds. The firing continued all day long. Night came, and no signs of surrender were seen, though the fire was not returned. At daylight the next morning two hundred men were sent in boats to reconnoitre and attack the fort. They quickly learned that there was nothing to attack. Lord Dunmore had been preparing all night for flight. The fort had been dismantled of everything of value, and as the assailants sprang from their boats on the island the ships sailed hurriedly away.
The island itself was a sickening spectacle. The cannonade had made terrible havoc, and men lay dead or wounded all around, while many of the dead had been buried so hastily as to be barely covered. While they were looking at the frightful scene, a strong light appeared in the direction of the governor's flight. Its meaning was evident at a glance. Some of the vessels had grounded in the sands, and, as they could not be got off, he had set them afire to save them from the enemy.
That was almost the last exploit of Lord Dunmore. He kept up his plundering raids a little longer, and once sailed up the Potomac to Mount Vernon, with the fancy that he might find and capture Washington. But soon after that he sailed away with his plunder and about one thousand slaves whom he had taken from the plantations, and Virginia was well rid of her last royal governor. A patriot governor soon followed, Patrick Henry being chosen, and occupying the very mansion at Williamsburg from which Dunmore had proclaimed him a traitor.
THE FATAL EXPEDITION OF COLONEL ROGERS.
One of the great needs of the Americans in the war of the Revolution was ammunition. Gunpowder and cannon-balls were hard to get and easy to get rid of, being fired away with the utmost generosity whenever the armies came together, and sought for with the utmost solicitude when the armies were apart. The patriots made what they could and bought what they could, and on one occasion sent as far as New Orleans, on the lower Mississippi, to buy some ammunition which the Spaniards were willing to sell.
But it was one thing to buy this much needed material and another thing to get it where it was needed. In those days it was a long journey to New Orleans and back. Yet the only way to obtain the ammunition was to send for it, and a valiant man, named Colonel David Rogers, a native of Virginia or Maryland, was chosen to go and bring it. His expedition was so full of adventure, and ended in such a tragic way, that it seems well worth telling about.
It was from the Old Red Stone Fort on the Monongahela River, one of the two streams that make up the Ohio, that the expedition was to start, and here Colonel Rogers found the boats and men waiting for him at the end of his ride across the hill country. There were forty men in the party, and embarking with these, Rogers soon floated down past Fort Pitt and entered the Ohio, prepared for a journey of some thousands of miles in length.
It was in the summer of the year 1778 that these bold men set out on a perilous journey from which few of them were to return. But what might come troubled them little. The weather was pleasant, the trees along the stream were charming in their summer foliage, and their hearts were full of hope and joy as they floated and rowed down the "Beautiful River," as it had been named by the Indians and the French.
They needed, indeed, to be alert and watchful, for they knew well that hundreds of hostile savages dwelt in the forest depths on both sides of the stream, eager for blood and scalps. But the rough frontiersmen had little fear of the Indians, with the water beneath them and their good rifles beside them, and they sang their border songs and chatted in jovial tones as they went steadily onward, eating and sleeping in the boats, for it was nowhere safe to land. In this way they reached the mouth of the Ohio in safety and turned their prows into the broader current of the Mississippi.
The first important stopping-point of the expedition was at the spot made historic by De Soto and Marquette, at the mouth of the Arkansas River, or the Ozark, as it was then called. Here stood a Spanish fort, near the locality where La Salle, a century earlier, had spent a pleasant week with the friendly Arkansas Indians. Colonel Rogers had been told about this fort, and advised to stop there and confer with its commander. As he came near them, he notified the Spaniards of his approach by a salvo of rifle shots, firing thirteen guns in honor of the fighting colonies and as a salute to the lords of the stream. The Spanish officer in command replied with three cannon shots, the woods echoing back their report.
Colonel Rogers now landed and marched at the head of his men to the fort, over them floating the Stars and Stripes, a new-born standard yet to become glorious, and to wave in honor all along that stream on whose banks it was then for the first time displayed. As they came near the fort they were met by the Spanish commandant, Captain Devilie, with his troops drawn up behind him, and the flag of Spain waving as if in salute to the new banner of the United States. The Spaniard met Rogers with dignified courtesy, both of them making low bows and exchanging words of friendly greeting. Devilie invited his guest into the fort, and, by way of entertaining the Americans, put his men through a series of parade movements near the fort. The two officers looked on from the walls, Devilie in his showy Spanish uniform and Rogers gay with his gold-laced hat and silver-hilted sword.
These performances at an end, Colonel Rogers told his host the purpose of his expedition, and was informed by him that the war-material which he was seeking was no longer at New Orleans, but had been removed to a fort farther up the river, near the locality where the city of St. Louis now stands. If the colonel had been advised of this sooner he might have saved himself a long journey. But there was the possibility that the officer at the St. Louis fort would refuse to surrender the ammunition without orders from his superiors. Besides this, he had been directed to go to New Orleans. So, on the whole, he thought it best to obey orders strictly, and to obtain from the Spanish governor an order to the commandant of the fort to deliver the goods. There was one difficulty in the way. The English had a hold on the river at a place called Natchez, where, as Captain Devilie told the colonel, they had built a fort. They might fire on him in passing and sink his boats, or force him to land and hold him prisoner. To escape this peril Colonel Rogers left the bulk of his men at the Spanish fort, taking only a single canoe and a half-dozen men with him. It was his purpose to try and slip past the Natchez fort in the night, and this was successfully done, the canoe gliding past unseen and conveying the small party safely to New Orleans.
Our readers no doubt remember how, a century before this time, the Chevalier La Salle floated down the great river and claimed all the country surrounding it for the king of France. Later on French settlers came there, and in 1718 they laid out the town of New Orleans, which soon became the capital of the province. The settlements here did not grow very fast, and it does not seem that France valued them highly, for in 1763, after the British had taken Canada from the French, all the land west of the Mississippi River was given up by France to Spain. This was to pay that country for the loss of Florida, which was given over to England. That is how the Spaniards came to own New Orleans, and to have forts along the river where French forts had once been.
Colonel Rogers found the Spanish governor at New Orleans as obliging as Captain Devilie had been. He got an order for the ammunition without trouble, and had nothing before him but to go back up-stream again. But that was not so easy to do. The river ran so swiftly that he soon found it would be no light matter to row his canoe up against the strong current. There was also the English fort at Natchez to pass, which might be very dangerous when going slowly up-stream. So he concluded to let the boat go and travel by land through the forest. This also was a hard task in a land of dense cane-brakes and matted woodland, and the small party had a toilsome time of it in pushing through the woods. At length, however, the Spanish fort on the Ozark was reached, and the men of the expedition were reunited. Bidding farewell to Captain Devilie, they took to their boats again and rowed up-stream past the mouth of the Ohio until Fort St. Louis was reached. The colonel was received here with the same courtesy as below, and on presenting his order was given the ammunition without question. It was carefully stowed in the boats, good-by was said to the officer who had hospitably entertained them, the oars were brought into play again, and the expedition started homeward.
So far all had gone well. The journey had been slow and weeks had lengthened into months, but no misadventure had happened, and their hearts were full of hope as the deeply laden craft were rowed into the Ohio and began the toilsome ascent of that stream. It was now the month of October. There was an autumn snap in the air, but this only fitted them the better for their work, and all around them was beautiful as they moved onward with song and jest, joyful in the hope of soon reaching their homes again. They did not know the fate that awaited them in those dark Ohio woodlands.
The boats made their way upward to a point in the river near where the city of Cincinnati was to be founded a few years later. As they passed this locality they saw a small party of Indians in a canoe crossing the river not far ahead of them. These were the first of the Ohio Indians they had seen, and the sight of them roused the frontier blood of the hardy boatmen. Too many cabins on the border had been burned and their inmates mercilessly slain for a frontiersman to see an Indian without a burning inclination to kill him. The colonel was in the same spirit with his men, and the boats were at once turned towards shore in pursuit of the savages. At the point they had reached the Licking River empties into the Ohio. Rowing into its mouth the men landed and, led by the colonel, climbed up the bank to look for the foe.
They found far more than they had counted on. The canoe-load of savages was but a decoy to lure them ashore, and as they ascended the river-bank a hot fire was opened on them by a large body of Indians hidden in the undergrowth. A trap had been laid for them and they had fallen into it.
The sudden and deadly volley threw the party into confusion, though after a minute they returned the fire and rushed upon the ambushed foe, Colonel Rogers at their head. Following him with cheers and yells, the men were soon engaged in a fierce hand-to-hand conflict, the sound of blows, shots, and war-cries filling the air, as the whites and red men fought obstinately for victory. But the Indians far outnumbered their opponents, and when at length the brave Rogers was seen to stagger and fall all hope left his followers. It was impossible to regain the boats which they had imprudently left, and they broke and fled into the forest, pursued by their savage foes.
Many days later the survivors of the bloody contest, thirteen in all, came straggling wearily into a white settlement on the Kanawha River in Virginia. Of the remainder of their party and their gallant leader nothing was ever heard again. One of the men reported that he had stayed with the wounded colonel during the night after the battle, where he "remained in the woods, in extreme pain and utterly past recovery." In the morning he was obliged to leave him to save his own life, and that was the last known on earth of Colonel Rogers.
As for the ammunition for which he had been sent, and which he had been decoyed by an Indian trick into abandoning, it fell into the hands of the savages, and was probably used in the later war in the service of those against whom it was intended to be employed. Such is the fortune of war.
HOW COLONEL CLARK WON THE NORTHWEST.
On the evening of the 4th of July, 1778, a merry dance was taking place at the small settlement of Kaskaskia, in that far western region afterward known as Illinois. It must not be imagined that this was a celebration of the American Independence day, for the people of Kaskaskia knew little and cared less about American independence. It was only by chance that this day was chosen for the dance, but it had its significance for all that, for the first step was to be taken there that day in adding the great Northwest to the United States. The man by whom this was to be done was a brave Kentuckian named George Rogers Clark. He came of a daring family, for he was a brother of Captain William Clark, who, years afterward, was engaged with Captain Lewis in the famous Lewis and Clark expedition across the vast unknown wilderness between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.
Kaskaskia was one of the settlements made by the French between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. After the loss of Canada this country passed to England, and there were English garrisons placed in some of the forts. But Kaskaskia was thought so far away and so safe that it was left in charge of a French officer and French soldiers. A gay and light-hearted people they were, as the French are apt to be; and, as they found time hang heavy on their hands at that frontier stronghold, they had invited the people of the place, on the evening in question, to a ball at the fort.
All this is by way of introduction; now let us see what took place at the fort on that pleasant summer night. All the girls of the village were there and many of the men, and most of the soldiers were on the floor as well. They were dancing away at a jovial rate to the lively music of a fiddle, played by a man who sat on a chair at the side. Near him on the floor lay an Indian, looking on with lazy eyes at the dancers. The room was lighted by torches thrust into the cracks of the wall, and the whole party were in the best of spirits.
The Indian was not the only looker-on. In the midst of the fun a tall young man stepped into the room and stood leaning against the side of the door, with his eyes fixed on the dancers. He was dressed in the garb of the backwoods, but it was easy to be seen that he was not a Frenchman,—if any of the gay throng had taken the trouble to look at him.
All at once there was a startling interruption. The Indian sprang to his feet and his shrill war-whoop rang loudly through the room. His keen eyes had rested on the stranger and seen at a glance that there was something wrong. The new-comer was evidently an American, and that meant something there.
His yell of alarm broke up the dance in an instant. The women, who had just been laughing and talking, screamed with fright. All, men and women alike, huddled together in alarm. Some of the men ran for their guns, but the stranger did not move. From his place by the door he simply said, in a quiet way, "Don't be scared. Go on with your dance. But remember that you are dancing under Virginia and not under England."
As he was speaking, a crowd of men dressed like himself slipped into the room. They were all armed, and in a minute they spread through the fort, laying hands on the guns of the soldiers. The fort had been taken without a blow or a shot.
Rocheblave, the French commandant, was in bed while these events were taking place, not dreaming that an American was within five hundred miles. He learned better when the new-comers took him prisoner and began to search for his papers. The reason they did not find many of these was on account of their American respect for ladies. The papers were in Madame Rocheblave's room, which the Americans were too polite to enter, not knowing that she was shoving them as fast as she could into the fire, so that there was soon only a heap of ashes. A few were found outside, enough to show what the Americans wanted to make sure of,—that the English were doing their best to stir up the Indians against the settlers. To end this part of our story, we may say that the Americans got possession of Kaskaskia and its fort, and Rocheblave was sent off, with his papers, to Virginia. Probably his wide-awake wife went with him.
Now let us go back a bit and see how all this came to pass. Colonel Clark was a native of Virginia, but he had gone to Kentucky in his early manhood, being very fond of life in the woods. Here he became a friend of Daniel Boone, and no doubt often joined him in hunting excursions; but his business was that of a surveyor, at which he found plenty to do in this new country.
Meanwhile, the war for independence came on, and as it proceeded Clark saw plainly that the English at the forts in the West were stirring up the Indians to attack the American settlements and kill the settlers. It is believed that they paid them for this dreadful work and supplied them with arms and ammunition. All this Clark was sure of and he determined to try and stop it. So he made his way back to the East and had a talk with Patrick Henry, who was then governor of Virginia. He asked the governor to let him have a force to attack the English forts in the West. He thought he could capture them, and in this way put an end to the Indian raids.
Patrick Henry was highly pleased with Clark's plan. He gave him orders to "proceed to the defence of Kentucky," which was done to keep his real purpose a secret. He was also supplied with a large sum of money and told to enlist four companies of men, of whom he was to be the colonel. These he recruited among the hunters and pioneers of the frontier, who were the kind of men he wanted, and in the spring of 1778 he set out on his daring expedition.
With a force of about one hundred and fifty men Colonel Clark floated down the Ohio River in boats, landing at length about fifty miles above the river's mouth and setting off through the woods towards Kaskaskia. It was a difficult journey, and they had many hardships. Their food ran out on the way and they had to live on roots to keep from starvation. But at length one night they came near enough to hear the fiddle and the dancing. How they stopped the dance you have read.
Thus ends the first part of our story. It was easy enough to end, as has been seen. But there was a second part which was not so easy. You must know that the British had other strongholds in that country. One of them was Detroit, on the Detroit River, near Lake Erie. This was their starting-point. Far to the south, on the Wabash River, in what is now the State of Indiana, was another fort called Vincennes, which lay about one hundred and fifty miles to the east of Fort Kaskaskia. This was an old French fort also, and it was held by the French for the British as Kaskaskia had been. Colonel Clark wanted this fort too, and got it without much trouble. He had not men enough to take it by force, so he sent a French priest there, who told the people that their best friends were the Americans, not the British. It was not hard to make them believe this, for the French people had never liked the British. So they hauled down the British ensign and hauled up the Stars and Stripes, and Vincennes became an American fort.
After that Colonel Clark went back to Kentucky, proud to think that he had won the great Northwest Territory for the United States with so little trouble. But he might have known that the British would not let themselves be driven out of the country in this easy manner, and before the winter was over he heard news that was not much to his liking. Colonel Hamilton, the English commander at Detroit, had marched down to Vincennes and taken the fort back again. It was also said that he intended to capture Kaskaskia, and then march south and try and win Kentucky for the English. This Hamilton was the man who was said to have hired the Indians to murder the American settlers, and Clark was much disturbed by the news. He must be quick to act, or all that he had won would be lost.
He had a terrible task before him. The winter was near its end and the Wabash had risen and overflowed its banks on all sides. For hundreds of square miles the country was under water, and Vincennes was in the centre of a great shallow lake. It was freezing water, too, for this was no longer the warm spring time, as it had been in the march to Kaskaskia, but dull and drear February. Yet the brave colonel knew that he must act quickly if he was to act at all. Hamilton had only eighty men; he could raise twice that many. He had no money to pay them, but a merchant in St. Louis offered to lend him all he needed. There was the water to cross, but the hardy Kentucky hunters were used to wet and cold. So Colonel Clark hastily collected his men and set out for Vincennes.
A sturdy set of men they were who followed him, dressed in hunting-shirts and carrying their long and tried rifles. On their heads were fur caps, ornamented with deer or raccoon tails. They believed in Colonel Clark, and that is a great deal in warlike affairs. As they trudged onward there came days of cold, hard rain, so that every night they had to build great fires to warm themselves and dry their clothes. Thus they went on, day after day, through the woods and prairies, carrying their packs of provisions and supplies on their backs, and shooting game to add to their food supply.
This was holiday work to what lay before them. After a week of this kind of travel they came to a new kind. The "drowned lands" of the Wabash lay before them. Everywhere nothing but water was to be seen. The winter rains had so flooded the streams that a great part of the country was overflowed. And there was no way to reach the fort except by crossing those waters, for they spread round it on all sides. They must plunge in and wade through or give up and go back.
We may be sure that there were faint hearts among them when they felt the cold water and knew that there were miles of it to cross, here ankle- or knee-deep, there waist-deep. But they had known this when they started, and they were not the men to turn back. At Colonel Clark's cheery word of command they plunged in and began their long and shivering journey.
For nearly a week this terrible journey went on. It was a frightful experience. Now and then one of them would stumble and fall, and come up dripping. All day long they tramped dismally on through that endless waste of icy water. Here and there were islands of dry land over which they were glad enough to trudge, but at night they often had trouble to find a dry spot to build their fires and cook their food, and to sleep on beside the welcome blaze. It was hard enough to find game in that dreary waste, and their food ran out, so that for two whole days they had to go hungry. Thus they went on till they came to the point where White River runs into the Wabash.
Here they found some friends who had come by a much easier way. On setting out Colonel Clark had sent Captain Rogers and forty men, with two small cannon, in a boat up Wabash River, telling them to stop at the White River fork, about fifteen or twenty miles below Vincennes. Here their trudging friends found them, and from this point they resumed their march in company. It was easy enough now to transport the cannon by dragging or rowing the boat through the deep water which they had to traverse.
The worst of their difficult journey lay before them, for surrounding the fort was a sheet of water four miles wide which was deeper than any they had yet gone through. They had waded to their knees, and at times to their waists, but now they might have to wade to their necks. Some of them thrust their hands into the water and shivered at the touch, saying that it was freezing cold. There were men among them who held back, exclaiming that it was folly to think of crossing that icy lake.
"We have not come so far to turn back now," said Colonel Clark, sternly. "Yonder lies the fort, and a few hours will take us there. Follow me," and he walked boldly into the flood. As he did so he told one of his officers to shoot the first man who refused to follow. That settled the matter; they all plunged in.
It was the most frightful part of their journey. The water at places, as we have said, came at times almost to their necks. Much of it reached their waists. They struggled resolutely on, almost benumbed with the cold, now stumbling and catching themselves again, holding their guns and powder above their heads to keep them from becoming wet, and glad enough when they found the water growing shallower. At length dry land was reached once more, and none too soon, for some of the men were so faint and weak that they fell flat on the ground. Colonel Clark set two of his men to pick up these worn-out ones and run them up and down till they were warm again. In this way they were soon made all right.
It was now the evening of the 18th of February, 1779. They were near enough to the fort to hear the boom of the evening gun. This satisfied the colonel that they were at the end of their journey, and he bade his men to lie down and sleep and get ready for the work before them. There was no more wading to do, but there was likely to be some fighting.
Bright and early the next morning they were up and had got their arms and equipments in order. They were on the wrong side of the river, but a large boat was found, in which they crossed. Vincennes was now near at hand, and one of its people soon appeared, a Frenchman, who looked at them with as much astonishment as if they had dropped down from the sky. Colonel Clark questioned him about matters in the fort, and then gave him a letter to Colonel Hamilton, telling the colonel that they had come across the water to take back the fort, and that he had better surrender and save trouble.
We may be sure that the English colonel was astounded on receiving such a letter at such a time. That any men on earth could have crossed those wintry waters he could hardly believe, and it seemed to him that they must have come on wings. But there they were, asking him to give up the fort, a thing he had no notion of doing without a fight. If Colonel Clark wanted the fort he must come and take it.
Colonel Clark did want it. He wanted it badly. And it was not long before the two cannon which he had brought with him were loaded and pouring their shot into the fort, while the riflemen kept them company with their guns. Colonel Hamilton fired back with grape-shot and cannon-balls, and for hour after hour the siege went on, the roar of cannon echoing back from woodland and water. For fourteen hours the cannonade was kept up, all day long and far into the night, the red flashes from cannon and rifle lighting up all around. At length both sides were worn out, and they lay down to sleep, expecting to begin again with the morning light.
But that day's work, and the sure shooting of the Kentucky riflemen, had made such havoc in the fort as to teach Colonel Hamilton that the bold Kentuckians were too much for him. So when, at day dawn, another messenger came with a summons to surrender, he accepted as gracefully as he could. He asked to be given the honors of war, and to be allowed to march back to Detroit, but Colonel Clark wrathfully answered, "To that I can by no means agree. I will not again leave it in your power to spirit up the Indian nations to scalp men, women, and children."
Soon into the fort marched the victors, with shouts of triumph, their long rifles slanting over their shoulders. And soon the red cross flag of England came down and the star-spangled banner of America waved in its place. Hamilton and his men were prisoners in American hands.
There was proof enough that this English colonel had been busy in stirring the Indians up to their dreadful work. His papers showed that. And even while the fight was going on some of the red demons came up with the scalps of white men and women to receive their pay. The pay they got was in bullets when they fell into the hands of the incensed Kentuckians. Colonel Hamilton and his officers were sent as prisoners to Williamsburg, Virginia, and were there put in fetters for their murderous conduct. It would have served them right to hang them, but the laws of war forbade, and they were soon set free.
We have told this story that you may see what brave men Virginia and Kentucky bred in the old times. In all American history there is no exploit to surpass that of Colonel Clark and his men. And it led to something of the greatest importance to the republic of the United States, as you shall hear.
It was not long after that time that the war ended and the freedom of the colonies was gained. When the treaty of peace was made the question arose, "What territory should belong to the new republic and what should still be held by England?" It was finally decided that the land which each country held at the end of the war should be held still. In that way England held Canada. And it would have held the great country north of the Ohio, too, if it had not been for George Rogers Clark. His capture of Kaskaskia and his splendid two weeks' march through the "drowned lands" of the Wabash had won that country for the United States, and when the treaty was signed all this fine country became part of the territory of the United States. So it is to George Rogers Clark, the Virginian and Kentuckian, that this country owes the region which in time was divided up into the great States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, and perhaps Kentucky also, since only for him the British might have taken the new-settled land of Daniel Boone.
KING'S MOUNTAIN AND THE PATRIOTS OF TENNESSEE.
Never was the South in so desperate a plight as in the autumn months of that year of peril, 1780. The British had made themselves masters of Georgia, and South Carolina and North Carolina were strongly threatened. The boastful Gates had been defeated at Camden so utterly that he ran away from his army faster than it did from the British, and in three days and a half afterward he rode alone into Hillsborough, North Carolina, two hundred miles away. Sumter was defeated as badly and rode as fast to Charlotte, without hat or saddle. Marion's small band was nearly the only American force left in South Carolina.
Cornwallis, the British commander, was in an ecstasy of delight at his success. He felt sure that all the South was won. The harvest was ready and needed only to be reaped. He laid his plans to march north, winning victory after victory, till all America south of Delaware should be conquered for the British crown. Then, if the North became free, the South would still be under the rule of George the Third. There was only one serious mistake in his calculations: he did not build upon the spirit of the South.
Cornwallis began by trying to crush out that spirit, and soon brought about a reign of terror in South Carolina. He ordered that all who would not take up arms for the king should be seized and their property destroyed. Every man who had borne arms for the British and afterward joined the Americans was to be hanged as soon as taken. Houses were burned, estates ravaged, men put to death, women and children driven from their homes with no fit clothing, thousands confined in prisons and prison-ships in which malignant fevers raged, the whole State rent and torn by a most cruel and merciless persecution. Such was the Lord Cornwallis ideal of war.
Near the middle of September Cornwallis began his march northward, which was not to end till the whole South lay prostrate under his hand. It was his aim to fill his ranks with the loyalists of North Carolina and sweep all before him. Major Patrick Ferguson, his ablest partisan leader, was sent with two hundred of the best British troops to the South Carolina uplands, and here he gathered in such Tories as he could find, and with them a horde of wretches who cared only for the side that gave them the best chance to plunder and ravage. The Cherokee Indians were also bribed to attack the American settlers west of the mountains.
But while Cornwallis was thus making his march of triumph, the American patriots were not at rest. Marion was flying about, like a wasp with a very sharp sting. Sumter was back again, cutting off strays and foragers. Other parties of patriots were afoot and active. And in the new settlements west of the Alleghanies the hardy backwoodsmen, who had been far out of the reach of war and its terrors, were growing eager to strike a blow for the country which they loved.
Such was the state of affairs in the middle South in the month of September, 1780. And it leads us to a tale of triumph in which the Western woodsmen struck their blow for freedom, teaching the over-confident Cornwallis a lesson he sadly needed. It is the tale of how Ferguson, the Tory leader, met his fate at the hands of the mountaineers and hunters of Tennessee and the neighboring regions.
After leaving Cornwallis, Ferguson met with a small party of North Carolina militia under Colonel Macdowell, whom he defeated and pursued so sharply as to drive them into the mountain wilds. Here their only hope of safety lay in crossing the crags and ridges to the great forest land beyond. They found a refuge at last among the bold frontiersmen of the Watauga in Tennessee, many of whom were the Regulators of North Carolina, the refugees from Governor Tryon's tyranny.
The arrival of these fugitives stirred up the woodsmen as they had never been stirred before. It brought the evils of the war for the first time to their doors. These poor fugitives had been driven from their homes and robbed of their all, as the Regulators had been in former years. Was it not the duty of the freemen of Tennessee to restore them and strike one blow for the liberty of their native land?
The bold Westerners thought so, and lost no time in putting their thoughts into effect. Men were quickly enlisted and regiments formed under Isaac Shelby and John Sevier, two of their leaders. An express was sent to William Campbell, who had under him four hundred of the backwoodsmen of Southwest Virginia, asking him to join their ranks. On the 25th of September these three regiments of riflemen, with Macdowell and his fugitives, met on the Watauga, each man on his own horse, armed with his own rifle, and carrying his own provisions, and each bent on dealing a telling blow for the relief of their brethren in the East.
True patriots were they, risking their all for their duty to their native land. Their families were left in secluded valleys, often at long distances apart, exposed to danger alike from the Tories and the Indians. Before them lay the highest peaks of the Alleghanies, to be traversed only by way of lofty and difficult passes. No highway existed; there was not even a bridle-path through the dense forest; and for forty miles between the Watauga and the Catawba there was not a single house or a cultivated acre. On the evening of the 30th the Westerners were reinforced by Colonel Cleveland, with three hundred and fifty men from North Carolina who had been notified by them of their approach.
Their foe was before them. After Ferguson had pursued Macdowell to the foot of the mountains he shaped his course for King's Mountain, a natural stronghold, where he established his camp in what seemed a secure position and sent to Cornwallis for a few hundred more men, saying that these "would finish the business. This is their last push in this quarter." Cornwallis at once despatched Tarleton with a considerable reinforcement. He was destined to be too late.
Ferguson did not know all the peril that threatened him. On the east Colonel James Williams was pursuing him up the Catawba with over four hundred horsemen. A vigilant leader, he kept his scouts out on every side, and on October 2 one of these brought him the most welcome of news. The backwoodsmen were up, said the scout; half of the people beyond the mountains were under arms and on the march. A few days later they met him, thirteen hundred strong.
Not a day, not an hour, was lost. Williams told them where their foes were encamped, and they resolved to march against them that very night and seek to take them by surprise. It was the evening of October 6 when the two forces joined. So prompt were they to act that at eight o' clock that same evening nine hundred of their best horsemen had been selected and were on the march. All night they rode, with the moon to light them on their way. The next day they rode still onward, and in the afternoon reached the foot of King's Mountain, on whose summit Ferguson lay encamped.
This mountain lies just south of the North Carolina border, at the end of a branching ridge from, the main line of the Alleghanies. The British were posted on its summit, over eleven hundred in number, a thousand of them being Tories, the others British regulars. They felt thoroughly secure in their elevated fortress, the approach up the mountain-side being almost a precipice, the slaty rock cropping out into natural breastworks along its sides and on its heights. And, so far as they knew, no foe was within many miles.
The Americans dismounted; that craggy hill was impassable to horsemen. Though less in number than their foes, and with a steep mountain to climb, they did not hesitate. The gallant nine hundred were formed into four columns, Campbell's regiment on the right centre and Shelby's on the left, taking the post of greatest peril. Sevier, with a part of Cleveland's men, led the right wing, and Williams, with the remainder of Cleveland's men, the left, their orders being to pass the position of Ferguson to right and left and climb the ridge in his rear, while the centre columns attacked him in front.
So well was the surprise managed that the Westerners were within a quarter of a mile of the enemy before they were discovered. Climbing steadily upon their front, the two centre columns quickly began the attack. Shelby, a hardy, resolute man, "stiff as iron," brave among the bravest, led the way straight onward and upward, with but one thought in his mind,—to do that for which he had come. Facing Campbell were the British regulars, who sprang to their arms and charged his men with fixed bayonets, forcing the riflemen, who had no bayonets, to recoil. But they were soon rallied by their gallant leader, and returned eagerly to the attack.
For ten or fifteen minutes a fierce and bloody battle was kept up at this point, the sharp-shooting woodsmen making havoc in the ranks of the foe. Then the right and left wings of the Americans closed in on the flank and rear of the British and encircled them with a hot fire. For nearly an hour the battle continued, with a heavy fire on both sides. At length the right wing gained the summit of the cliff and poured such a deadly fire on the foe from their point of vantage that it was impossible to bear it.
Ferguson had been killed, and his men began to retreat along the top of the ridge, but here they found themselves in the face of the American left wing, and their leader, seeing that escape was impossible and resistance hopeless, displayed a white flag. At once the firing ceased, the enemy throwing down their arms and surrendering themselves prisoners of war. More than a third of the British force lay dead, or badly wounded; the remainder were prisoners; not more than twenty of the whole were missing. The total loss of the Americans was twenty-eight killed and sixty wounded, Colonel Williams, a man of great valor and discretion, being among the killed.
The battle ended, a thirst for vengeance arose. Among the Tory prisoners were known house—burners and murderers. Among the victors were men who had seen their cruel work, had beheld women and children, homeless and hopeless, robbed and wronged, nestling about fires kindled in the ground, where they mourned their slain fathers and husbands. Under such circumstances it is not strange that they seized and hanged nine or ten of the captives, desisting only when Campbell gave orders that this work should cease, and threatened with severe punishment all who engaged in it.
The victory of the men of the backwoods at King's Mountain was like the former one of Washington at Trenton. It inspired with hope the despairing people and changed the whole aspect of the war. It filled the Tories of North Carolina with such wholesome dread that they no longer dared to join the foe or molest their patriot neighbors. The patriots of both the Carolinas were stirred to new zeal. The broken and dispirited fragments of Gates's army took courage again and once more came together and organized, soon afterward coming under the skilled command of General Greene.
Tarleton had reached the forks of the Catawba when news of Ferguson's signal defeat reached him and caused him to return in all haste to join Cornwallis. The latter, utterly surprised to find an enemy falling on his flank from the far wilderness beyond the mountains, whence he had not dreamed of a foe, halted in alarm. He dared not leave an enemy like this in his rear, and found himself obliged to retreat, giving up his grand plan of sweeping the two Carolinas and Virginia into his victorious net. Such was the work done by the valiant men of the Watauga. They saved the South from loss until Morgan and Greene could come to finish the work they had so well begun.
GENERAL GREENE'S FAMOUS RETREAT.
The rain was pouring pitilessly from the skies. The wind blew chill from the north. The country was soaked with the falling flood, dark rain-clouds swept across the heavens, and a dreary mist shut out all the distant view. In the midst of this cheerless scene a solitary horseman stood on a lonely roadside, with his military cape drawn closely up, and his horse's head drooping as if the poor beast was utterly weary of the situation. In truth, they had kept watch and ward there for hours, and night was near at hand, the weary watcher still looking southward with an anxiety that seemed fast growing into hopeless despondency.
At times, as he waited, a faint, far-off, booming sound was heard, which caused the lonely cavalier to lift his head and listen intently. It might have been the sound of cannon, it might have been distant thunder, but whatever it was, his anxiety seemed steadily to increase.
The day darkened into night, and hour by hour night crept on until midnight came and passed, yet the lone watcher waited still, his horse beside him, the gloom around him, the rain still plashing on the sodden road. It was a wearing vigil, and only a critical need could have kept him there through those slow and dreary hours of gloom.
At length he sharply lifted his head and listened more intently than before. It was not the dull and distant boom this time, but a nearer sound that grew momentarily more distinct, the thud, it seemed, of a horse's hoofs. In a few minutes more a horseman rode into the narrow circle of view.
"Is that you, sergeant?" asked the watcher.
"Yes, sir," answered the other, with an instinctive military salute.
"What news? I have been waiting here for hours for the militia, and not a man has come. I trust there is nothing wrong."
"Everything is wrong," answered the new-comer. "Davidson is dead and the militia are scattered to the winds. Cornwallis is over the Catawba and is in camp five miles this side of the river."
"You bring bad news," said the listener, with a look of agitation. "Davidson dead and his men dispersed! That is bad enough. And Morgan?"
"I know nothing about him."
Sad of heart, the questioner mounted his impatient steed and rode disconsolately away along the muddy road. He was no less a person than General Greene, the newly-appointed commander of the American forces in the South, and the tidings he had just heard had disarranged all his plans. With the militia on whose aid he had depended scattered in flight, and no sign of others coming, his hope of facing Cornwallis in the field was gone, and he was a heavy-hearted man when he rode at length into the North Carolina town of Salisbury and dismounted at the door of Steele's tavern, the house of entertainment in that place. As he entered the reception-room of the hotel, stiff and weary from his long vigil, he was met by Dr. Read, a friend.
"What! alone, General?" exclaimed Read.
"Yes; tired, hungry, alone, and penniless."
The fate of the patriot cause in the South seemed to lie in those hopeless words. Mrs. Steele, the landlady, heard them, and made all haste to prepare a bountiful supper for her late guest, who sat seeking to dry himself before the blazing fire. As quickly as possible a smoking hot supper was on the table before him, and as he sat enjoying it with a craving appetite, Mrs. Steele again entered the room.
Closing the door carefully behind her, she advanced with a look of sympathy on her face, and drew her hands from under her apron, each of them holding a small bag of silver coin.
"Take these, general," she said. "You need them, and I can do without them."
A look of hope beamed on Greene's face as he heard these words. With a spirit like this in the women of the country, he felt that no man should despair. Rising with a sudden impulse, he walked to where a portrait of George III. hung over the fireplace, remaining from the old ante-war time. He turned the face of this to the wall and wrote these words on the back: "Hide thy face, George, and blush."
It is said that this portrait was still hanging in the same place not many years ago, with Greene's writing yet legible upon it, and possibly it may be there still. As for Mrs. Steele, she had proved herself a patriot woman, of the type of Mrs. Motte, who furnished Marion with arrows for the burning of her own house when it was occupied by a party of British soldiers whom he could not dislodge. And they two were far from alone in the list of patriot women in the South.
The incident in General Greene's career above given has become famous. And connected with it is the skilful military movement by which he restored the American cause in the South, which had been nearly lost by the disastrous defeat of General Gates. This celebrated example of strategy has often been described, but is worth telling again.
Lord Cornwallis, the most active of the British commanders in the war of American Independence, had brought South Carolina and Georgia under his control, and was marching north with the expectation of soon bringing North Carolina into subjection, and following up his success with the conquest of Virginia. This accomplished, he would have the whole South subdued. But in some respects he reckoned without his host. He had now such men as Greene and Morgan in his front, Marion and Sumter in his rear, and his task was not likely to prove an easy one.
As for Morgan, he sent the rough-rider Tarleton to deal with him, fancying that the noted rifleman, who had won undying fame in the North, would now meet fate in the face, and perhaps be captured, with all his men. But Morgan had a word to say about that, as was proved on the 17th of January, 1781, when he met Tarleton at the Cowpens, a place about five miles south of the North Carolina line.
Tarleton had the strongest and best appointed force, and Morgan, many of whose men were untried militia, seemed in imminent danger, especially when the men of the Maryland line began to retreat, and the British, thinking the day their own, pressed upon them with exultant shouts. But to their surprise the bold Marylanders suddenly halted, turned, and greeted their pursuers with a destructive volley. At the same time the Virginia riflemen, who had been posted on the wings, closed in on both flanks of the British and poured a shower of bullets into their ranks. The British were stunned by this abrupt change in the situation, and when the Maryland line charged upon them with levelled bayonets they broke and fled in dismay.
Colonel Washington commanded the small cavalry force, so far held in reserve and unseen. This compact body of troopers now charged on the British cavalry, more than three times their numbers, and quickly put them to flight. Tarleton himself made a narrow escape, for he received a wound from Washington's sword in the hot pursuit. So utter was the rout of the British that they were pursued for twenty miles, and lost more than three hundred of their number in killed and wounded and six hundred in prisoners, with many horses, wagons, muskets, and cannon. Tarleton's abundant baggage was burned by his own order to save it from capture. In this signal victory Morgan lost only ten men killed and sixty wounded.
And now began that famous retreat, which was of more advantage to the Americans than a victory. Morgan, knowing well that Cornwallis would soon be after him to retrieve the disaster at the Cowpens, hastened with his prisoners and spoils across the Catawba. Cornwallis, furious at his defeat and eager to move rapidly in pursuit, set fire to all his baggage and wagons except those absolutely needed, thus turning his army into light troops at the expense of the greater part of its food-supply and munitions.
But when he reached the Catawba, he found it so swollen with the rains that he was forced to halt on its banks while Morgan continued his march. Meanwhile, General Greene was making earnest efforts to collect a force of militia, directing all those who came in to meet at a certain point. Such was the situation on the 1st of February when Greene waited for weary hours at the place fixed upon for the militia to assemble, only to learn that Cornwallis had forced the passage of the river, dispersing the North Carolina militia left to guard the ford, and killing General Davidson, their commander. He had certainly abundant reason for depression on that wet and dreary night when he rode alone into Salisbury.
The Catawba crossed, the next stream of importance was the Yadkin. Hither Morgan marched in all haste, crossing the stream on the 2d and 3d of February, and at once securing all boats. The rains began to fall again before his men were fairly over, and soon the stream was swelling with the mountain floods. When Cornwallis reached its banks it was swollen high and running madly, and it was the 7th of February before he was able to cross. It seemed, indeed, as if Providence had come to the aid of the Americans, lowering the rains for them and raising them for their foes.
Meanwhile, the two divisions of the American army were marching on converging lines, and on the 9th the forces under Greene and Morgan made a junction at Guilford Court-House, Cornwallis being then at Salem, twenty-five miles distant. A battle was fought at this place a month later, but just then the force under Greene's command was too small to risk a fight. A defeat at that time might have proved fatal to the cause of the South. Nothing remained but to continue the retreat across the State to the border of Virginia, and there put the Dan River between him and his foe.
To cover the route of his retreat from the enemy, Greene detached General Williams with the flower of his troops to act as a light corps, watch and impede Cornwallis and strive to lead him towards Dix's ferry on the Dan, while the crossing would be made twenty miles lower down.
It was a terrible march which the poor patriots made during the next four days. Without tents, with thin and ragged clothes, most of them without shoes, "many hundreds of the soldiers tracking the ground with their bloody feet," they retreated at the rate of seventeen miles a day along barely passable roads, the wagon-wheels sinking deep in the mud, and every creek swollen with the rains. In these four days of anxiety Greene slept barely four hours, watching every detail with a vigilant eye, which nothing escaped. On the 14th they reached the ford, hurrying the wagons across and then the troops, and before nightfall Greene was able to write that "all his troops were over and the stage was clear."
General Williams had aided him ably in this critical march, keeping just beyond reach of Cornwallis, and deceiving him for a day or two as to the intention of the Americans. When the British general discovered how he had been deceived, he got rid of more of his baggage by the easy method of fire, and chased Williams across the State at the speed of thirty miles a day. But the alert Americans marched forty miles a day and reached the fords of the Dan just as the last of Greene's men had crossed. That night the rear guard crossed the stream, and when Cornwallis reached its banks, on the morning of the 15th, to his deep chagrin he found all the Americans safe on the Virginia side and ready to contest the crossing if he should seek to continue the pursuit.
That famous march of two hundred miles, from the south side of the Catawba to the north side of the Dan, in which the whole State of North Carolina was crossed by the ragged and largely shoeless army, was the salvation of the Southern States. In Greene's camp there was only joy and congratulation. Little did the soldiers heed their tattered garments, their shoeless feet, their lack of blankets and of regular food, in their pride at having outwitted the British army and fulfilled their duty to their country. With renewed courage they were ready to cross the Dan again and attack Cornwallis and his men. Washington wrote to General Greene, applauding him highly for his skilful feat, and even a British historian gave him great praise and credit for his skill in strategy.
Shall we tell in a few words the outcome of this fine feat? Cornwallis had been drawn so far from his base of supplies, and had burned so much of his war-material, that he found himself in an ugly quandary. On his return march Greene became the pursuer, harassing him at every step. When Guilford Court-House was reached again Greene felt strong enough to fight, and though Cornwallis held the field at the end of the battle he was left in such a sorry plight that he was forced to retreat to Wilmington and leave South Carolina uncovered. Here it did not take Greene long, with the aid of such valiant partisans as Marion, Sumter, and Lee, to shut the British up in Charleston and win back the State.
Cornwallis, on the other hand, concluded to try his fortune in Virginia, where there seemed to be a fine chance for fighting and conquest. But he was not long there before he found himself shut up in Yorktown like a rat in a trap, with Washington and his forces in front and the French fleet in the rear. His surrender, soon after, not only freed the South from its foes, but cured George III. of any further desire to put down the rebels in America.
ELI WHITNEY, THE INVENTOR OF THE COTTON-GIN.
In the harvest season of the cotton States of the South a vast, fleecy snow-fall seems to have come down in the silence of the night and covered acres innumerable with its virgin emblem of plenty and prosperity. It is the regal fibre which is to set millions of looms in busy whirl and to clothe, when duly spun and woven, half the population of the earth. That "cotton is king" has long been held as a potent political axiom in the United States, yet there was a time when cotton was not king, but was an insignificant member of the agricultural community. How cotton came to the throne is the subject of our present sketch.
In those far-off days when King George of England was trying to force the rebellious Americans to buy and drink his tea and pay for his stamps, the people of Georgia and South Carolina were first beginning to try if they could do something in the way of raising cotton. After the war of independence was over, an American merchant in Liverpool received from the South a small consignment of eight bags of cotton, holding about twelve hundred pounds, the feeble pioneer of the great cotton commerce. When it was landed on the wharves in Liverpool, in 1784, the custom-house officials of that place looked at it with alarm and suspicion. What was this white-faced stranger doing here, claiming to come from a land that had never seen a cotton-plant? It must have come from somewhere else, and this was only a deep-laid plot to get itself landed on English soil without paying an entrance fee.
So the stranger was seized and locked up, and Mr. Rathbone, the merchant, had no easy time in proving to the officials that it was really a scion of the American soil, and that the ships that brought it had the right to do so. But after it was released from confinement there was still a difficulty. Nobody would buy it. The manufacturers were afraid to handle this new and unknown kind of cotton for fear it would not pay to work it up, and at last it had to be sold for a song to get a trial. Such was the state of the American industry at the period when the great republic was just born. It may be said that the nation and its greatest product were born together, like twin children.
The new industry grew very slowly, and the planters who were trying to raise cotton in their fields felt much like giving it up as something that would never pay. In fact, there was a great difficulty in the way that gave them no end of trouble, and made the cost of cotton so great that there was very little room for profit. For a time it looked as if they would have to go back to corn and rice and let cotton go by the board.
The trouble lay in the fact that in the midst of each little head of cotton fibres, like a young bird in its nest, lay a number of seeds, to which the fibres were closely attached. These seeds had to be got out, and this was very slow work. It had to be done by hand, and in each plantation store-house a group of old negroes might be seen, diligently at work in pulling the seeds out from the fibres. Work as hard as they could it was not easy to clean more than a pound a day, so that by the time the crop was ready for market it had cost so much that the planter had to be content with a very small rate of profit. Such was the state of the cotton industry as late as 1792, when the total product was one hundred and thirty-eight thousand pounds. In 1795 it had jumped to six million pounds, and in 1801 to twenty million pounds. This was a wonderful change, and it may well be asked how it was brought about. This question brings us to our story, which we have next to tell.
In the year 1792 a bright young Yankee came down to Georgia to begin his career by teaching in a private family. He was one of the kind who are born with a great turn for tinkering. When he was a boy he mended the fiddles of all the people round about, and after that took to making nails, canes, and hat-pins. He was so handy that the people said there was nothing Eli Whitney could not do.
But he seems to have become tired of tinkering, for he went to college after he had grown to manhood, and from college he went to Georgia to teach. But there he found himself too late, for another teacher had the place which he expected to get, so there he was, stranded far from home, with nothing to do and with little money in his purse. By good fortune he found an excellent friend. Mrs. Greene, the widow of the famous General Greene of the Revolution, lived near Savannah, and took quite a fancy to the poor young man. She urged him to stay in Georgia and to keep up his studies, saying that he could have a home in her house as long as he pleased.
This example of Southern hospitality was very grateful to the friendless young man, and he accepted the kindly invitation, trying to pay his way by teaching Mrs. Greene's children, and at the same time studying law. But he was born for an inventor, not a lawyer, and could not keep his fingers off of things. Nothing broke down about Mrs. Greene's house that he did not soon set working all right again. He fitted up embroidery frames for her, and made other things, showing himself so very handy that she fancied he could do anything.
One day Mrs. Greene heard some of the neighboring planters complaining of the trouble they had in clearing the cotton of its seeds. They could manage what was called the long-staple cotton by the use of a rough roller machine brought from England, which crushed the seeds, and then "bowed" or whipped the dirt out of the lint. But this would not work with short-staple cotton, the kind usually grown, and there was nothing to do but to pick the hard seeds out by hand, at the rate of a pound a day by the fastest workers. The planters said it would be a splendid thing if they only had a machine that would do this work. Mrs. Greene told them that this might not be so hard to do. "There is a young man at my house," she said, "who can make anything;" and to prove it, she showed them some of the things he had made. Then she introduced them to Eli Whitney, and they asked him if he thought he could make a machine to do the work they so badly wanted.
"I don't know about that," he replied. "I know no more about cotton than a child knows about the moon."
"You can easily learn all there is to know about it," they urged. "We would be glad to show you our fields and our picker-houses and give you all the chance you need to study the subject."
Mr. Whitney made other objections. He was interested in his law studies, and did not wish to break them off. But a chance to work at machinery was too great an attraction for him to withstand, and at length he consented to look over the matter and see if he could do anything with it.
The young inventor lost no time. This was something much more to his liking than poring over the dry books of the law, and he went to work with enthusiasm. He went into the fields and studied the growing cotton. Then he watched the seed-pickers at their work. Taking specimens of the ripe cotton-boll to his room, he studied the seeds as they lay cradled in the fibre, and saw how they were fastened to it. To get them out there must be some way of dragging them apart, pulling the fibres from the seed and keeping them separate.
The inventor studied and thought and dreamed, and in a very short time his quick genius saw how the work could be done. And he no sooner saw it than he set to work to do it. The idea of the cotton-gin was fully formed in his mind before he had lifted his hand towards making one.
It was not easy, in fact. It is often a long road between an inventor's first idea and a machine that will do all he wants it to. And he had nothing to work with, but had to make his own tools and manufacture his own wire, and work upward from the very bottom of things.
In a few months, however, he had a model ready. Mrs. Greene was so interested in his work and so proud of his success that she induced him to show the model and explain its working to some of her planter friends, especially those who had induced him to engage in the work. When they saw what he had done, and were convinced of the truth of what he told them,—that they could clean more cotton in a day by his machine than in many months by the old hand-picking way,—their excitement was great, and the report of the wonderful invention spread far and wide.
Shall we say here what this machine was like? The principle was simple enough, and from that day to this, though the machine has been greatly improved, Whitney's first idea still holds good. It was a saw-gin then, and it is a saw-gin still. "Gin," we may say here, is short for "engine."
This is the plan. There is a grid, or row of wires, set upright and so close together that the seeds will not go through the openings. Behind these is a set of circular saws, so placed that their teeth pass through the openings between the wires. When the machine is set in motion the cotton is put into a hopper, which feeds it to the grid, and the revolving saws catch the fibre or lint with their teeth and drag it through the wires. The seeds are too large to follow, so the cotton is torn loose from them and they slide down and out of the way. As the wheel turns round with its teeth full of cotton lint, a revolving brush sweeps it away so that the teeth are cleaned and ready to take up more lint. A simple principle, you may say, but it took a good head to think it out, and to it we owe the famous cotton industry of the South.
But poor Whitney did not get the good from his invention that he deserved, for a terrible misfortune happened to him. Many people came to see the invention, but he kept the workshop locked, for he did not want strangers to see it till he had it finished and his patent granted. The end was, that one night some thieves broke into the shop and stole the model, and there were some machines made and in operation before the poor inventor could make another model and secure his patent.
This is only one of the instances in which an inventor has been robbed of the work of his brain, and others have grown rich by it, while he has had trouble to make a living. A Mr. Miller, who afterward married Mrs. Greene, went into partnership with Whitney, and supplied him with funds, and he got out a patent in 1794. But the demand for the machines was so great that he could not begin to supply them, and the pirated machines, though they were much inferior to his perfected ones, were eagerly bought. Then his shop burned with all its contents, and that made him a bankrupt.
For years after that Whitney sought to obtain justice. In some of the States he was fairly treated and in others he was not, and in 1812 Congress refused to renew the patent, and the field was thrown open for everybody to make the machines. Nearly all he ever got for his invention was fifty thousand dollars paid him by the Legislature of South Carolina.
In later years Whitney began to make fire-arms for the government, and he was so successful in this that he grew rich, while he greatly improved the machinery and methods. It was he who first began to make each part separately, so it would fit in any gun, a system now used in all branches of manufacture. As for the cotton industry, to which Eli Whitney gave the first great start, it will suffice to say that its product has grown from less than one thousand bales, when he began his work, to over ten million bales a year.
HOW OLD HICKORY FOUGHT THE CREEKS.
Shall we seek to picture to our readers a scene in the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, less than a century ago, though it seems to belong to the days of barbarism? Two groups of men, made up of the most respectable citizens of the place, stood furiously shooting at each other with pistols and guns, as if this was their idea of after-dinner recreation. Their leaders were Colonel Thomas H. Benton, afterward famous in the United States Senate, and General Andrew Jackson, famous in a dozen ways. The men of the frontier in those days were hot in temper and quick in action, and family feuds led quickly to wounds and death, as they still do in the mountains of East Tennessee.
Some trifling quarrel, that might perhaps have been settled by five minutes of common-sense arbitration, led to this fierce fray, in the midst of which Jesse Benton, brother of the colonel, fired at Jackson with a huge pistol, loaded to the muzzle with bullets and slugs. It was like a charge of grape-shot. A slug from it shattered Jackson's left shoulder, a ball sank to the bone in his left arm, and another ball splintered a board by his side.
When the fight ended Jackson was found insensible in the entry of a tavern, with the blood pouring profusely from his wounds. He was carried in and all the doctors of the town were summoned, but before the bleeding could be stopped two mattresses were soaked through with blood. The doctors said the arm was so badly injured that it must be taken off at once. But when Old Hickory set his lips in his grim way, and said, "I'll keep my arm," the question was settled; no one dare touch that arm.
For weeks afterward Jackson lay, a helpless invalid, while his terrible wounds slowly healed. And while he lay there a dreadful event took place in the territory to the south, which called for the presence of men like Old Hickory, sound of limb and in full strength. This was the frightful Indian massacre at Fort Mimms, one of the worst in all our history.
It was now the autumn of the year 1813, the second year of the war with England. Tecumseh, the famous Indian warrior and orator, had stirred up the savages of the South to take the British side in the war, and for fear of an Indian rising the settlers around Fort Mimms, in southern Alabama, had crowded into the fort, which was only a rude log stockade. On the morning of August 30 more than five hundred and fifty souls, one hundred of them being women and children, were crowded within that contracted space. On the evening of that day four hundred of them, including all the women and children, lay bleeding on the ground, scalped and shockingly mangled. A thousand Creek Indians had broken into the carelessly guarded fort, and perpetrated one of the most horrid massacres in the history of Indian wars. Weathersford, the leader of the Indians, tried to stop the ferocious warriors in their dreadful work, but they surrounded him and threatened him with their tomahawks while they glutted to the full their thirst for blood.
Many days passed before the news of this frightful affair in the southern wilderness reached Nashville. The excitement it created was intense. The savages were in arms and had tasted blood. The settlements everywhere were in peril. The country might be ravaged from the Ohio to the Gulf. It was agreed by all that there was only one thing to do, the Indians must be put down. But the man best fitted to do it, the man who was depended upon in every emergency, lay half dead in his room, slowly recovering from his dreadful wound.
A year before Jackson had led two thousand men to Natchez to defend New Orleans in case the British should come, and had been made by the government a major-general of volunteers. He was the man every one wanted now, but to get him seemed impossible, and the best that could be done was to get his advice. So a committee was appointed to visit and confer with the wounded hero.
When the members of the committee called on the war-horse of the West they found him still within the shadow of death, his wounds sore and festering, his frame so weak that he could barely raise his head from the pillow. But when they told him of the massacre and the revengeful feeling of the people, the news almost lifted him from his bed. It seemed to send new life coursing through his veins. His voice, weakened by illness, yet with its old ring of decision, was raised for quick and stern action against the savage foes who had so long menaced Tennessee. And if they wanted a leader he was the man.
When the committee reported the next day, they said there was no doubt that "our brave and patriotic General Jackson" would be ready to lead the men of war by the time they were ready to march. Where Jackson led there would be plenty to follow. Four thousand men were called out with orders to assemble at Fayetteville, eighty miles south of Nashville, on October 4, just one month from the day when Jackson had received his wounds. From his bed he took command. By his orders Colonel Coffee rode to Huntsville, Alabama, with five hundred men. As he advanced volunteers came riding in armed and equipped, till he was at the head of thirteen hundred men.
On the 7th of October Jackson himself reached the rendezvous. He was still a mere wreck, thin as a shadow, tottering with weakness, and needing to be lifted bodily to his horse. His arm was closely bound and in a sling. His wounds were so sensitive that the least jar or wrench gave him agony. His stomach was in such a state that he was in danger of dying from starvation. Several times during his first two days' ride he had to be sponged from head to foot with whiskey. Yet his dauntless spirit kept him up, and he bore the dreadful ride of eighty miles with a fortitude rarely equalled. So resolute was he that he reached Fayetteville before half the men had gathered. He was glad there to receive news that the Creeks were advancing northward towards Tennessee.
"Give them my thanks for saving me the pain of travelling," he said. "I must not be outdone in politeness, and will try to meet them half-way."
On the 11th a new advance was made to Huntsville, the troops riding six miles an hour for five hours, a remarkable feat for a man in Jackson's condition. Many a twinge of bitter pain he had on that march, but his spirit was past yielding. At this point Colonel Coffee was joined, and the troops encamped on a bend of the Tennessee River. A false alarm of the advance of the Indians had caused this hasty march.
Jackson and his men—twenty-five hundred in number with thirteen hundred horses—now found themselves threatened by a foe more terrible than the Indians they had come to meet. They were in the heart of the wilderness of Alabama, far away from any full supply of food. Jackson thus describes this foe, in a letter written by his secretary:
"There is an enemy whom I dread much more than I do the hostile Creeks—I mean the meagre monster Famine. I shall leave this encampment in the morning direct for the Ten Islands, and yet I have not on hand two days' supply of bread-stuffs."
A thousand barrels of flour and a proportionate supply of meat had been purchased for him a week before. But the Tennessee River was low, the flatboats would not float, and the much-needed food lay in the shallows three hundred miles up-stream. There was nothing to do but to live on the country, and this Colonel Coffee had swept almost clear of provisions on his advance movement.
Under such circumstances Jackson ran a great risk in marching farther into the Indian country. Yet the exigency was one in which boldness seemed necessary. A reverse movement might have brought the Indians in force on the settlers of Tennessee, with sanguinary results. Keeping his foragers busy in search of food, he moved steadily southward till the Coosa River was reached. Here came the first encounter with the savages. There was a large body of them at Tallushatches, thirteen miles away. At daybreak on the morning after the Coosa was reached the Indian camp was encircled by Colonel Coffee with a thousand men. The savages, taken by surprise, fought fiercely and desperately, and fell where they stood, fighting while a warrior remained alive. All the prisoners were women and children, who were taken to the settlements and kindly treated. Jackson himself brought up one of the boys in his own family.
Four days afterward news came that a body of friendly Creeks, one hundred and fifty in number, were at Talladega, thirty miles away, surrounded by a thousand hostile Indians, cut off from their water-supply and in imminent danger of annihilation. A wily chief had dressed himself in the skin of a large hog, and in this disguise passed unsuspected through the hostile lines, bringing his story to Jackson twenty-four hours later.
At that moment the little army had only one day's supply of food, but its general did not hesitate. Advancing with all the men fit to move, they came within hearing of the yelling enemy, and quickly closed in upon them. When that brief battle ended two hundred of the Indian braves lay dead on the field and Colonel Coffee with his horsemen was in hot pursuit of the remainder. As for the rescued Indians, their joy was beyond measure, for they had looked only for death. They gathered around their preserver, expressing their gratitude by joyful cries and gestures, and gladly gave what little corn they had left to feed the hungry soldiers.
The loss of the whites in this raid was fifteen men killed and eighty-six wounded. The badly wounded were carried in litters back to Fort Strother, where the sick had been left, and where Jackson now fully expected to find a full supply of food. To his acute disappointment not an ounce had arrived, little in the shape of food being left but a few half-starved cattle. For several days Jackson and his staff ate nothing but tripe without seasoning.
And now, for ten long weeks, came that dread contest he had feared,—the battle with famine. With a good supply of provisions he could have ended the war in a fortnight. As it was, the men had simply to wait and forage, being at times almost in a starving state. The brave borderers found it far harder to sit and starve than it would have been to fight, and discontent in the camp rose to the height of mutiny, which it took all the general's tact and firmness to overcome.
Part of his men were militia, part of them volunteers, and between these there was a degree of jealousy. On one occasion the militia resolved to start for home, but when they set out in the early morning they found the volunteers drawn up across the road, with their grim general at their head. When they saw Jackson they turned and marched back to their quarters again. Soon afterward the volunteers were infected with the same fancy. But again Jackson was aware of their purpose, and when they marched from their quarters they found their way blocked by the militia, with Jackson at their head. The tables had been turned on them.
As time went on and hunger grew more relentless, the spirit of discontent infected the entire force, and it took all the general's power to keep them in camp. On one occasion, a large body of the men seized their arms, and, swearing that they would not stay there to be starved, got ready to march home. General Jackson, hot with wrath, seized a musket, and planting himself before them, swore "by the Eternal" that he would shoot the first man that set a foot forward. His countenance was appalling in its concentrated rage, his eyes blazed with a terrible fire, and the mutineers, confronted by this apparition of fury, hesitated, drew back, and retired to their tents.
But the time came at length in which nothing would hold them back. Persuasion and threats were alike useless. The general used entreaties and promises, saying,—
"I have advices that supply-wagons are on the way, and that there is a large drove of cattle near at hand. Wait two days more, and if then they do not come, we will all march home together."
The two days passed and the food did not arrive. Much against his will, he was obliged to keep his word. "If only two men will stay with me," he cried, "I will never give up the post."
One hundred and nine men agreed to remain, and, leaving these in charge of the fort, Jackson set out at the head of the others, with their promise that, when they procured supplies and satisfied their hunger, they would return to the fort and march upon the foe. The next day the expected provision-train was met, and the hungry men were well fed. But home was in their minds, and it took all the general's indomitable will and fierce energy to induce them to turn back, and they did so then in sullen discontent. In the end it was necessary to exchange these men for fresh volunteers.
When the dissatisfied men got home they told such doleful tales of their hardships and sufferings that the people were filled with dismay, volunteering came to an end, and even the governor wrote to Jackson, advising him to give up the expedition as hopeless and return home.
Had not Andrew Jackson been one man in a million he would not have hesitated to obey. A well man might justly have despaired. But to a physical wreck, his shoulder still painful, his left arm useless, suffering from insufficient food, from acute dyspepsia, from chronic diarrhoea, from cramps of terrible severity—to a man in this condition, who should have been in bed under a physician's care, to remain seemed utter madness, and yet he remained. His indomitable spirit triumphed over his enfeebled body. He had set out to subdue the hostile Indians and save the settlements from their murderous raids, and, "by the Eternal," he would.
He wrote a letter to Governor Blount, eloquent, logical, appealing, resolute, and so convincing in its arguments that the governor changed his sentiment, the people became enthusiastic, volunteers came forward freely, and the most earnest exertions were made to collect and forward supplies. But this was not till the spring of 1814, and the lack of supplies continued the winter through. Only nine hundred discontented troops remained, but with these he won two victories over the Indians, in one of which an utter panic was averted only by his courage and decision in the hour of peril.
At length fresh troops began to arrive. A regiment of United States soldiers, six hundred strong, reached him on February 6. By the 1st of March there were six thousand troops near Fort Strother, and only the arrival of a good food supply was awaited to make a finishing move. Food came slowly, despite all exertions. Over the miry roads the wagon-teams could hardly be moved with light loads. Only absolutely necessary food was brought,—even whiskey, considered indispensable in those days, being barred out. All sick and disabled men were sent home, and the non-combatants weeded out so thoroughly that only one man was left in camp who could beat the ordinary calls on the drum. At length, about the middle of March, a sufficient supply of food was at hand and the final advance began.
Meanwhile, the hostile Creeks had made themselves a stronghold at a place fifty-five miles to the south. Here was a bend of Tallapoosa River, called, from its shape, Tohopeka, or the "Horseshoe." It was a well-wooded area, about one hundred acres in extent, across whose neck the Indians had built a strong breastwork of logs, with two rows of port-holes, the whole so well constructed that it was evident they had been aided by British soldiers in its erection. At the bottom of the bend was a village of wigwams, and there were many canoes in the stream.
Within this stronghold was gathered the fighting force of the tribe, nearly a thousand warriors, and in the wigwams were about three hundred women and children. It was evident that they intended to make here their final, desperate stand.
The force led against them was two thousand strong. Their route of travel lay through the unbroken forest wilds, and it took eleven days to reach the Indian fort. A glance at it showed Jackson the weakness of the savage engineering. As he said, they had "penned themselves in for destruction."
The work began by sending Colonel Coffee across the river, with orders to post his men opposite the line of canoes and prevent the Indians from escaping. Coffee did more than this; he sent swimmers over who cut loose the canoes and brought them across the stream. With their aid he sent troops over the bend to attack the savages in the rear while Jackson assailed them in front.
The battle began with a fierce assault, but soon settled down to a slow slaughter, which lasted for five or six hours,—the fierce warriors, as in the former battles, refusing to ask for quarter or to accept their lives. Their prophets had told them that if they did they would be put to death by torture. When the battle ended few of them were left alive. On the side of the whites only fifty-five were killed and about three times as many wounded.