"How did you get your clothes so burnt?" asked the corporal, when the narrative was concluded, pointing to the scorched and powder- blackened uniform of the narrator.
"It is a wonder I escaped at all," said Sergeant Shenstone. "I was nearly caught by the explosion. I was helping a wounded comrade to escape, when, looking over the ramparts, I beheld the enemy so close that I could see their teeth as they bit the cartridges, and General Pike, on the right wing, cheering them on—so gallant and bold. I was a-feared I would be nabbed as a prisoner, and sent to eat Uncle Sam's hard-tack in the hulks at Sackett's Harbour, when, all of a sudden, the ground trembled like the earthquakes I have felt in the West Indies; then a volcano of fire burst up to the sky, and, in a minute, the air seemed raining fire and brimstone, as it did at Sodom and Gomorrah. It seemed like the judgment-day. I was thrown flat on the ground, and when I tried to get up I was all bruised and burnt with the falling clods and splinters, and my comrade was dead at my side. I crawled away as soon as I could— there was no thought then of making prisoners."
"But what gar'd the magazine blaw up? Was it an accident?" asked old Allan McPherson, the Highland piper, who had listened eagerly to the tragic story.
"No accident was it. Sergeant Marshall, of the artillery, a desperate fellow, who swore the enemy should lose more than they would gain by taking the fort, laid and fired the train. The General had already given the order to retreat, and knew nothing of it."
"God forgie him!" exclaimed the old Scotchman. "Yon's no war ava— it's rank murder. I can thole a fair and square stan up fecht, but yon's a coward trick."
"Ye'd say so," said Private McIntyre, Shenstone's comrade, "gin ye saw the hale place reeking like a shawmbles, an' the puir' wretches lying stark and scaring like slaughtered sheep. I doubt na it was a gran' blunder as weel as a gran' crime. Forbye killing some o' oor ain folk it will breed bad bluid through the hale war. I doubt na it will mak it waur for ye, for Fort George's turn mun come next."
"I hear Dearborn swore to avenge the death of General Pike. All the vessels' flags were half-mast, and the minute-guns boomed while they rowed his dead body, wrapped in the stars and stripes, to the flag-ship; and Chauncey carried off all the public property, even to the mace and Speaker's wig from the Parliament House, and the fire-engine of the town." [Footnote: These were conveyed to Sackett's Harbour and deposited in the dockyard storehouse, where they were exhibited as trophies of the conquest.]
"How did you get away with the despatches?" asked Jonas Evans. "I should think Chauncey would try to take us by surprise, but the Lord would not let him."
"To avoid capture," said Shenstone, "Sheaffe placed the Don between him and the enemy as soon as possible, and broke down the bridge behind him. There were only four hundred of us altogether. Captain Villiers, who had recovered from his wound, and Ensign Norton set out on horseback, with despatches for Fort George; and, in case they should be captured, Lieutenant Foster undertook to convey them by water, and we volunteered to accompany him. We got a fisherman's boat at Frenchman's Bay. It was a long, tough pull across the lake, I tell you. At night the wind rose, and we were drenched with spray and nearly perished with cold. After two days hard rowing against head wind, we made land, but were afraid to enter the river till nightfall. We slipped past Fort Niagara without detection, but had like to be murdered by your sentry here. We might well ask to be saved from our friends."
An unwonted stir soon pervaded the fort and camp. Again the ponderous gates yawned and the draw-bridge fell, and orderlies galloped out into the night to convey the intelligence to the frontier posts, and to order the concentration of every available man and gun at Fort George. The sentries were doubled on the ramparts and along the river front. The entire garrison was on the qui vive against a surprise. The next day Captain Villiers, with his companion, reached the fort, fagged out with their hundred miles' ride in two days—they had been compelled to make a wide detour to avoid capture. The whole garrison was in a ferment of excitement and hard work. Stores, guns, ammunition, accoutrements were overhauled and inspected. The army bakery was busy day and night. Forage and other supplies of every sort were brought in. Extra rations were made ready for issue, and every possible precaution taken against an anticipated attack, which, it was felt, could not long be delayed.
THE FALL OF FORT GEORGE.
But short respite was granted before the fall of the blow which, for a time, annihilated British authority on the frontier. On the third day after the reception of the evil tidings of the capture of York, Chauncey's fleet was seen in the offing; but for six days adverse winds prevented it from landing the American troops beneath the protection of the guns of Fort Niagara. Day after day they stood off and on, but were unable to make the land. "The stars in their courses fought against Sisera," said Jonas Evans, as he watched the baffled fleet, "and the Lord, with the breath of His mouth, fighteth for us."
At length, having landed General Dearborn and his troops, Chauncey conveyed his wounded to Sackett's Harbour, the great American naval depot on Lake Ontario, and hastened back with a strong body of re-enforcements. The gallant Colonel Vincent, commandant at Fort George, bated not a jot of heart or hope,—although he was able to muster only some 1,400 troops. Yet these, with spade and mattock, toiled day after day to strengthen its ramparts and ravelins, and to throw up new earthworks and batteries. One fatal want, however, was felt. The stock of ammunition was low, and as Chauncey, with his fleet, had the mastery of the lake, it could not be replenished from the ample supply at Fort Henry, at Kingston.
At length the fateful day arrived. On the twenty-sixth of May, at early dawn, Chauncey's ships, fifteen in number, were drawn up in crescent form off the devoted town, their snowy sails gleaming in the morning sun. On the opposite sides of the river the grim forts frowned defiance at each other, and guarded, like stern warders, the channel between them. The morning reveille seemed the shrill challenge to mortal combat. Sullen and silent, like couchant lions, through the black embrasures the grim cannon watched the opposite shores; and at length, from the feverish lips of the guns of the American fort, as if they could no longer hold their breath, leap forth, in breath of flame and thunder roar, the fell death-bolts of war. The fierce shells scream through the air and explode within the quadrangle of Fort George, scattering destruction and havoc, or, perchance, bury themselves harmlessly in the earthen ramparts. The ships take up their part in the dreadful chorus. From their black sides flash forth the tongues of flame and wreaths of smoke, and soon they get the range with deadly precision. The British guns promptly reply. The gunners stand to their pieces, though an iron hail is crashing all around them. Now one and another is struck down by a splinter or fragment of shell, and, while another steps into his place, is borne off to the bomb-proof casemates, where the surgeon plies his ghastly but beneficent calling.
For hours the deadly cannonade continues, but amid it all, the dead General, buried in a disused bastion, sleeps calmly on:
"He has fought his last fight, he has waged his last battle, No sound shall awake him to glory again."
Jonas Evans, who had been an old artilleryman, takes the place of a wounded gunner, lifts the big sixty-eight pound balls, rams them home, and handles the linstock as coolly as if on parade. "Bless the Lord!" he said to a comrade while the piece was being pointed, "I am ready to live or die; it's no odds to me. For me to live is Christ, to die is gain. Sudden death would be sudden glory. Hallelujah! I believe I am doing my duty to my country, to God and man, and my soul is as happy as it can be this side heaven."
Strange words for such a scene of blood! Strange work for a Christian man to do! It seems the work of demons rather than of men, and yet godly men have, with an approving conscience, wielded the weapons of carnal warfare. But in this much at least all will agree: An unjust war is the greatest of all crimes, and even a just war is the greatest of all calamities. And all will join in the prayer, Give peace in our time, O Lord, and hasten the day when the nations shall learn war no more!
Neville Trueman, who had a pass from Colonel Vincent to visit the Methodist troops in the fort, felt himself summoned thither, as to a post of duty, at the first sounds of the cannonade. He was soon busily engaged, skilfully helping the surgeon and ministering alike to the bodies and the souls of the wounded soldiers. He also found time to visit the ramparts and speak words of cheer and encouragement to the members of his spiritual flock. Although shot and shell screamed through the air, and fragments and splinters were flying in dangerous proximity, he felt himself sustained by the grace of God. Amid these dreadful scenes he knew no fear, and his calm serenity inspired confidence courage and in others.
The bombardment lasted a large part of the day. Fort George was severely damaged. Several of its guns were dismounted, and the whole place rendered almost untenable.
The night was one of much anxiety. The force of the enemy was overwhelming. The fate of the fortress seemed certain; but Vincent, with gallant British pluck, resolved to hold it to the last. The wearied troops snatched what refreshment and repose they could amid the confusion and discomfort and danger by which they were surrounded. At intervals during the night the American fort kept up a teasing fire, more for the purpose of causing annoyance and preventing rest than with the object of doing any serious damage. As a mere pyrotechnic spectacle it was certainly a grand sight to watch the graceful curves of the live shells through the air—a parabola of vivid brightness against the black sky, as the burning fuse, fanned by its rapid motion, glowed like a shooting- star. The loud detonation, and explosion of fiery fragments that followed, however, was rather discomposing to the nerves, and unfavourable for restful slumber to the weary warriors.
Another cruel refinement of war was still more disconcerting. In order, if possible, to ignite the barracks, the gunners of Fort Niagara kept firing at intervals red-hot cannon balls. A vigilant look-out for these had to be kept, and a fire brigade was specially organized to drown out any incipient conflagration that might occur.
A similar compliment was paid by the artillerists of Fort George. No little skill was required in handling these heavy red-hot projectiles. In order to prevent a premature explosion of the charge, a wet wad was interposed between the powder and the red- hot ball. In the walls of Fort Mississauga, at Niagara, may still be seen the fire-places for heating the shot for the purpose here described.
But, notwithstanding the tumult, the roar of the cannon near at hand, the explosion of shells, and the thud of the balls striking the casemates, or burying themselves in the earthen ramparts, the weary garrison snatched what repose was possible; for the morrow, it was felt, would tax their energies to the utmost.
The morning of May 27th dawned as bright and beautiful as in Eden's sinless garden—as fair as though such a deadly evil as war were unknown in the world. The American shipping stood in closer to the shore. The bombardment was renewed with intenser fury. It was evident that an attempt was about to be made to laud a hostile force on Canadian ground. Every available man, except those required to work the guns of Fort George, and a guard over the stores, as hurried down to the beach to prevent, if possible, the landing. Boat after boat, filled with armed men, their bayonets gleaming in the morning sunshine, left the ships, and, under cover of a tremendous fire from the American fort and fleet, gained the shore. First Colonel Scott, with eight hundred riflemen, effected a landing. They were promptly met by a body of British regulars and militia, and compelled to take refuge under cover of the steep bank which lined the beach to the north of the town. From this position they kept up a galling fire on the British troops in the open field. The broadsides of the fleet also swept the plain, and wrought great havoc among the brave militia defending their native soil. To escape the deadly sweep of the cannon they were obliged to prostrate themselves in the slight depressions in the plain. Notwithstanding the inequality of numbers, the main body of the enemy were three times repulsed before they could gain a foothold on the beach.
At length, after three hours desperate struggle, a hostile force of six thousand men stood upon the plain. The conflict then was brief but strenuous. Many were the incidents of personal heroism that relieved, as by a gleam of light, the darkness of the tragedy. Jonas Evans was in the foremost files, and, as they lay upon the ground, his comrade on either side was killed by round shot from the ships, but, as if he bore a charmed life, he escaped unhurt. Loker and McKay, while bearing off a wounded militia-man, were captured, as were many others. At length the bugles sounded a retreat. Slowly and reluctantly the British troops fell back through the town. A strong rear-guard halted in the streets, seeking the shelter of the houses, and stubbornly holding the foe at bay while Vincent made his preparations for abandoning Fort George. All that valour and fidelity could do to hold that important post had been done. But how were a few hundred weary and defeated men to withstand a victorious army of six-fold greater strength? [Footnote: The details of the account above given were narrated to the author by the venerable Father Brady, for many years class-leader of the Methodist Church at Niagara, who was an actor in the events described.]
The guns of the fort were spiked and overthrown, and baggage, ammunition, and moveable stores were hastily loaded on teams volunteered for the service, to accompany the retreat of the army. With a bitter pang, Vincent ordered the destruction of the fort which he had so gallantly defended. When the last man had retired, with his own hand he fired the train which caused the explosion of the powder magazine. When the victorious army marched in, they found only the breached and blackened walls, the yawning gates, and dismantled ramparts of the fort. From the shattered flagstaff, where it still waved defiantly, though rent and seared by shot and shell, the brave red-cross flag was hauled down and replaced by the gaily fluttering stars and stripes.
Many a time has the present writer wandered over the crumbling and grass-grown ramparts of the ruined fort, where the peaceful sheep crop the herbage and the little children play. Some of the old casemates and thick-walled magazines still remain, and are occupied by the families of a few old pensioners. In these low- vaulted chambers, with their deep and narrow embrasures, once the scene of the rude alarum of war, often has he held a quiet religious service with the lowly and unlettered inmates, who knew little of the thrilling history of their strange abode.
Often at the pensive sunset hour, reclining in a crumbling bastion, has he tried to rehabilitate the past, and to summon from their lonely and forgotten graves upon the neighbouring battlefield, or in quiet church-yards, it may be, far beyond the sea, the groups of war-scarred veterans who once peopled the now desolate fort.
Again is heard, in fancy, the quick challenge and reply, the bugle-call, the roll of drums, the sharp rattle of musketry, the deep and deadly thunder of the cannonade. How false and fading is felt to be the glory of arms, and how abiding victories of peace, more glorious than those of war!
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Await alike the inevitable hour: The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
But hark! a loud report awakes the dreamer from his reverie. It is the sunset gun from old Fort Niagara; and as stern reality becomes again a presence, the gazer's glance rests on the peaceful beauty of the broad blue Lake Ontario, on which, at this quiet hour, so many eyes, long turned to dust, have rested in the years forever flown.
THE FORTUNES OF WAR.
On the evening of the evacuation of Fort George, several of the actors in the busy drama of the time were assembled in the great kitchen of Squire Drayton's hospitable house. It was no time for ceremony, so everybody met in the common living room. Captain Villiers called to bid a hasty farewell to the kind family under whose roof he had for several months abode as an invalid soldier, and especially to take leave of the fair young mistress, through whose care he had become convalescent. Neville Trueman had resolved to follow the retreating army, both to avoid the appearance of any complicity or sympathy with the invaders; and that, in the severe conflict which was impending, his spiritual services might be available to the militia, of whom a considerable number were Methodists, and to such others as would accept them. Zenas had obtained his father's consent to volunteer for the militia cavalry service in this time of his country's need, although it left the farm without a single man, except the squire himself.
"The maids and I will plant the corn and cut the wheat, too," said Kate, with the pluck of a true Canadian girl. "We'll soon learn to wield the sickle, though you seem to doubt it, Captain Villiers," she went on, looking archly at the gallant captain, who smiled rather incredulously.
"Nay, I am sure you will deserve to be honoured as the goddess Ceres of your Canadian harvest-fields, by the future generations of your country," politely answered the captain.
"I would rather serve my country in the present, than receive mythical honours in the future," replied Kate.
"We'll be back before harvest to drive the Yanks across the river, and get Sandy and Loker out of Fort Niagara," said Zenas. "Tom would gnaw his very fetters off to get free, if he wore any. But Sandy takes everything as it comes, as cool as you please. 'It was all appointed,' he says, and 'all for the best.'"
"They will not keep the prisoners there," said the squire; "it is too near the border. Chauncey will likely take them off to Sackett's Harbour, and make them work in the dock-yards."
"They won't make McKay do that," said the captain; "it would be against his conscience, and he would die first. He is the staunchest specimen of an old stoic philosopher I ever came across. Under the hottest fire to-day he was as cool as I ever saw him on parade. As he stooped to raise a wounded comrade a round shot struck and carried away his cartridge-box. Had he been standing up it would have cut him in two. He never blanched, but just helped the poor fellow off the field, when he was captured himself."
"It is something more than stoicism," said Neville. "It is his staunch Scotch Calvinism. It is not my religious philosophy; but I can I honour its effects in others. It made heroic men of the Ironsides, the Puritans, and the Covenanters; but so will a trust in the loving fatherhood of God, without the doctrine of the eternal decrees."
"We must not delay," said the captain. "The enemy's scouts will be looking up stragglers," and after a hasty meal he, with Neville and Zenas, rode away in the darkness, to join the rearguard of Vincent's retreating army.
They had scarcely been gone five minutes when a loud knocking was heard at the front door of the house, and, immediately after, the trampling of feet in the hall. A peremptory summons was followed by the bursting open of the kitchen door, when two flushed and heated American dragoons, one a comet and the other a private, stood on the threshold.
"Beg pardon, miss," said the officer, somewhat abashed at the attitude of indignant surprise assumed by Katharine. "But is Captain Villiers here? We were told he was."
"You see he is not," said the young girl, with a queenly sweep of her arm around the room; "but you may search the house, if you please."
"Oh, no occasion, as you say he is not here. I'll take the liberty, if you please, to help myself to a slight refreshment," continued the spokesman, taking a seat at the table and beckoning to his companion to do the same. "You'll excuse the usage of war. We've had a hard day's work on light rations."
"You might at least ask leave," spoke up the squire, with a sort of
"An Englishman's house is his castle, An Englishman's crown is his hat,"
Air,—"We would not refuse a bit and sup, even to an enemy."
Glad of an excuse to detain the scouts as long as possible Kate placed upon the table a cold meat-pie, of noble proportions, and a flagon of new milk.
The troopers were valiant trencher-men, whatever else they were, and promptly assaulted the meat-pie fort, as from its size and shape it deserved to be called.
"You know this Captain Villiers, I suppose?" said the dragoon subaltern at length; "I had particular instructions to secure his capture."
"Oh yes! I know him very well," answered Kate. "He was here sick for three months last winter."
"And very good quarters and good fare he had, I'll be bound," said the fellow, with an air of insolent familiarity. "And when was he here last, pray?"
"About half-an-hour ago," said Kate, knowing that by this time he must be beyond pursuit.
"Zounds!" cried the trooper, springing to his feet, "why did you not tell me that before?"
"Because you did not ask me, sir," said the maiden demurely, while her black eyes flashed triumph at her father, who sat in his arm chair stolidly smoking his pipe.
With an angry oath, the fellows hurried out of the house as unceremoniously as they had entered, when Kate and her father had a merry laugh over their discomfiture.
Next morning the troopers appeared again, in angry humour. "That was a scurvy trick you played us last night, old gentleman," said the elder.
"No trick at all," said the squire. "I hope you were pleased with your entertainment? Did you catch your prisoner?" he asked, with a somewhat malicious twinkle of his eye towards Kate, who was in the room.
"No, we didn't; but we came upon the enemy's rear-guard, and nearly got captured ourselves. But you'll have to pay for your little game, by liberal supplies for Dearborn's army."
The staunch old loyalist, who would willingly impoverish himself to aid the King's troops, stoutly refused to give "a single groat or oat," as he expressed it, to the King's enemies. It was "against his conscience," he said.
"We'll relieve you of your scruples," said the officer. "I want some of those horses in your pasture to mount my troop of dragoons," and going oat of the house he ordered the half-score of troopers without to dismount and capture the horses in the meadow. The men, after a particularly active chase, captured three out of six horses. The others defied every effort to catch them. The troopers threatened to shoot them, but the cornet forbade it, and ordered the squire to send them to head-quarters during the day—a command which he declined to obey. Such were some of the ways in which the loyal Canadians were pillaged of their property by their ruthless invaders.
The squire indeed demanded a receipt from the officer for the property thus "requisitioned."
"Oh yes! I'll give you a receipt," said that individual, "and much good may it do you," and that was all the good it did do him, for he never received a cent of compensation.
Colonel Vincent, in the meantime, had withdrawn the garrisons from the frontier forts on the Niagara river. He retreated with sixteen hundred men toward the head of the lake, and took up a strong position on Burlington Heights, near Hamilton. In the now peaceful Protestant cemetery to the west of the city may still be trace among the graves the mouldering ramparts and trenches of this once warlike camp. Dearborn despatched a force of three thousand men, with two hundred and fifty cavalry and nine field-pieces, under Generals Chandler and Winder, to dislodge the Canadian force. On the 6th of June they encamped at Stony Creek, seven miles from Vincent's lines. The position of the latter was critical. Niagara and York had both been captured. Before him was a victorious foe. His ammunition was reduced to ninety rounds. He was extricated from his peril by a bold blow. Colonel John Harvey, having reconnoitered the enemy's position, proposed a night attack. Vincent heartily co-operated. At midnight, with seven hundred British bayonets, they burst upon the American camp. A fierce fight ensued in which the enemy were utterly routed. The British, unwilling to expose their small number to a still superior force, retired before daybreak, with four guns and a hundred prisoners, including both of the American Generals. The victory, however, was purchased with the loss of two hundred men killed or missing. A venerable old lady, recently deceased, has described to the writer the dreary procession of waggons laden with wounded men that filed past her father's door on their return to the British head- quarters. The battle was fought early on Sunday morning, near the house of "Brother Gage," a good Methodist, as his appellation indicates. [Footnote: Carroll's "Case and His Cotemporaries," Vol I., p. 307.] On that sacred day, so desecrated by the havoc of war, he gathered the neighbours together and buried the slain, friend and foe, in one wide, common grave. Among the traditions of the war is one which records that the boys of the Gage family gathered up a peck of bullets which had been intercepted by the stone fence bounding the lane that led to the house.
The Americans, after destroying their camp stores and leaving the dead unburied, retreated to Forty Mile Creek, where they effected a junction with General Lewis, advancing to their aid with two thousand men. At daybreak on the 8th of June, the American camp was shelled by Commodore Yeo's fleet. The enemy retreated to Fort George, abandoning their tents and stores, which were captured by Vincent. Their baggage, shipped by batteaux to the fort, was either taken by the fleet or abandoned on the shore. [Footnote: Withrow's History of Canada, 8vo. ed., chap. xxiii.1.316]
A BRAVE WOMAN'S EXPLOIT.
Neville Trueman, found ample occupation in ministering to the sick and wounded, and in visiting his scattered flock throughout the invaded territory. He was enabled, incidentally, to render important service to his adopted country. It was toward the end of June, that one afternoon he was riding through the forest in the neighbourhood of the Beaver Dams, near the town of Thorold,—a place which received its name from the remarkable constructions of the industrious animal which has been adopted as the national emblem of Upper Canada,—where there was a small force of British troops posted. In the twilight he observed a travel-worn woman approaching upon the forest pathway, with an air of bodily weariness, yet of mental alertness and anxiety. As she drew near, he recognized a worthy Canadian matron, whom he had, more than once, seen in his congregation in the school-house at the village of Chippewa.
"Why, Mrs. Secord!" he exclaimed, reining up his horse as she attempted to pass him, furtively trying to conceal her face, "are not you afraid to be so far from home on foot, when the country is so disturbed?"
"Thank God it is you, Mr. Trueman!" she eagerly replied. "I was afraid it might be one of the American scouts. 'Home,' did you say? I have no home," she added in a tone of bitterness.
"Can't I be of some service to you? Where is your husband?" Neville asked, wondering at her distraught air.
"Haven't you heard?" she replied. "He was sore wounded at Queenston Heights, and will never be a well man again; and our house was pillaged and burned. But we're wasting time; what reck my private wrongs when the country is overrun by the King's enemies? How far is it to the camp?"
"Farther than you can walk without resting," he answered." You seem almost worn out."
"Nineteen miles I've walked this day, through woods and thicket, without a bit or sup, to warn the King's troops of their danger."
"What danger?" asked Neville, wondering if her grief had not somewhat affected her mind.
"The enemy are on the move—hundreds of them—with cannon and horses. I saw them marching past my cottage this very morning, and I vowed to warn the King's soldiers or die in the attempt. I slipped unseen into the woods and ran like a deer, through bypaths and, 'cross lots, and I must press on or I may be too late."
Not for a moment did this American-born youth hesitate as to his duty to his adopted country. Wheeling his horse he exclaimed, "You brave woman, you've nobly done your part, let me take you to the nearest house and then ride on and give the alarm."
"I hoped to have done it myself," she said. "But it is best as it is. Never mind me. Every minute is precious."
Without waiting for more words, Neville waved his hand in encouragement, and putting spurs to his horse was out of sigh in a moment. In a few minutes he galloped up to the post held by the British picket, and flung himself off his reeking steed—incurring imminent risk of being bayoneted by the sentry, because he took no notice of his peremptory challenge. Bursting into the guard-room, he called for the officer of the day, Lieutenant Fitzgibbon. A few words conveyed the startling intelligence—the alarm was promptly given—the bugle sounded the "turn cut"—the guard promptly responded—the men rushed to arms. Messengers were despatched to an outpost where Captain Ker was posted with two hundred Indians, and to Major de Heren, commanding a body of troops in the rear.
Neville, followed by two files of soldiers, returned to meet the brave Canadian matron to whose patriotic heroism was due the rescue of the little post from an unexpected attack by an overwhelming force. They found her almost fainting from fatigue and the reaction from the overstrung tension of her nerves. Leaping from his horse, Neville adjusted his cloak so as to make a temporary side-saddle, and placed the travel-worn woman thereon. Walking by her side, he held the bridle-rein and carefully guarded the horse over the rugged forest path, the two soldiers falling behind as a rear-guard. As they approached the post at Beaver Dams, the redcoats gave a hearty British cheer. The guard turned out, and presented arms as though she were the Queen; and the gallant Lieutenant Fitzgibbon assisted the lady to alight with as dignified a courtesy as he could use to royalty itself. She was committed to the care of the good wife of the farm-house which formed the head-quarters of the post, and every means taken to ensure her comfort. By such heroism as this did the stout-hearted Canadian women of those stern war times serve their country at the risk of their lives.
Vigorous efforts were now made for defence. Trees were hastily felled to blockade the road. A breastwork of logs was thrown up at a commanding position, in front of which was an abattis of young trees and brush piled up to obstruct approach. Lieutenant Fitzgibbon had only some forty-three regulars and two hundred Indiana, to oppose a force of nearly six hundred men, including fifty cavalry and two field-pieces. He must effect by stratagem what he could not effect by force. Every man who could sound a, bugle, and for whom a bugle could be found, was sent into the woods, and these were posted at considerable distances apart. The Indians and thirty-four red-coats, concealed behind trees, lined the road. Before long was heard the tramp of cavalry and rumble of the field-guns. As they came within range the buglers, with all the vigour in their power, sounded a charge, the shrill notes ringing through the leafy forest aisles. The Indians yelled their fearful war-whoop, and the soldiers gave a gallant cheer and opened a sharp fire.
The ruse was as successful as that of Gideon and his three hundred men with their trumpets and pitchers, in the wars of the Philistines. After a spirited attack, the advanced guard fell back upon the main body of the enemy, which was thrown into confusion. Some of the cavalry horses were wounded, and dashed wildly through the ranks, increasing the disorder. The artillery horses caught the infection, and, plunging wildly, overturned one of the gun- carriages in the ditch. At this moment a body of twenty Canadian militia arrived, and Fitzgibbon, to carry out his ruse of affected superiority of numbers, boldly demanded the surrender of the enemy. Colonel Boerstler, the American commander, thinking the British must be strongly supported, to Lieutenant Fitzgibbon's astonishment consented. The latter did not know what to do with his prisoners, who were twice as many as his own force, including the Indians. The opportune arrival of Major de Keren and Captain Villiers, with two hundred men, furnished a sufficient force to guard the prisoners. The chagrin of the latter, on hearing of their deception and capture by a handful of red-coats and red- skins, was intense. The name of the heroic Canadian wife, Mrs. Laura Secord, to whose timely information this brilliant and bloodless victory was due, was honourably mentioned in the military despatches of the day; and her memory should be a perpetual inspiration to patriotic daring to every son and daughter of Canada. [Footnote: A portrait of Mrs. Secord, as a venerable old lady of ninety-two, in a widow's cap and weeds, is given in Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812, page 621; also her autograph and a letter describing her exploit. The Prince of Wales, after his return from Canada in 1860, caused the sum of L100 sterling to be presented her for her patriotic service. Lieutenant Fitzgibbon was made a Knight of Windsor Castle.]
This event was one of the turning points of the campaign. Dearborn, whose forces were wasted away by disease, famine, and the fortunes of war, to about four thousand men, was beleaguered in Fort George by Vincent with less than half the number of troops. The British now assumed the offensive, and on the morning of the American national anniversary, the fourth of July, a small force of Canadian militia, under Colonel Clark, crossed at day- break from Chippewa to Fort Schlosser, captured the guard, and carried off a large quantity of provisions and ammunition, of which they were in much need.
A week later, Colonel Bishopp, with two hundred and forty regulars and militia, crossed before day from Fort Erie to the important American post of Black Rock. The enemy were completely taken by surprise, and the block-houses, barracks, dockyard, and one vessel, were destroyed; and seven guns, two hundred stand of arms, and a large quantity of provisions captured.
One day, about the middle of July, a dust-begrimed, sunburnt, yet soldierly-looking young fellow, notwithstanding the weather stained and faded appearance of his dragoon uniform, rode up to The Holms. He cantered familiarly up the lane and, throwing the reins on the neck of his horse, which proceeded of its own accord to the stable, entered, without knocking, the house.
Kate was in the dairy, moulding the golden nuggets of butter with a wooden spatula. Stealing up on tip-toe, our dragoon threw his arms around the girl and gave her a hearty kiss, whose report was as loud as the smack which he instantly received on his cheek from the open palm of the astonished Katharine.
"A pretty reception you give your brother," exclaimed the young man.
"Why, Zenas!" cried Katharine, throwing her arms ground him, and giving him a kiss that more than made amends for the slap, "how you frightened me; you naughty boy. I thought it was one of those Yankee soldiers. They often come begging for cream or cherries, and get more impudent every day."
"They won't come again, very soon," said Zenas, with all his old assurance. "We will lock them up safe enough in Fort George, and soon drive them back to their own side of the river. But give us something to eat. I'm hungry as a wolf. Where's father?"
"In the ten-acre wheat field. He has to work too hard for his years, and can get no help for love or money," answered Kate, as she set before her brother on the great kitchen table a loaf of homemade bread, a pat of golden butter, a pitcher of rich cream, and a heaped platter of fragrant strawberries just brought in from the garden.
"Didn't I say I'd be back to get in the wheat? And you see I've kept my word," said the lad. "This is better than campfare," he went on, as the strawberries and cream rapidly disappeared with the bread and butter. "I have a message for you, Kate. Who do you suppose it is from?" said the rather raw youth, with a look that was intended to be very knowing.
"If it's from the camp," replied Kate, calmly, "I know no one there except Captain Villiers and Mr. Trueman. Is it from either of them?"
"Trueman is a first-rate fellow—a regular brick, you know, even if he is a preacher. You ought to have seen how he stood up for them Yankee prisoners, and got our fellows to share their rations with them, although he had helped to bag the game himself. But the message is not from him, but from the captain. He says you saved his life twice,—once nursing him when he was sick, and once by keeping those Yankee scouts here, while we got away. We heard all about your adventure. Well, he's gone to help Proctor in Michigan, and might never come back, he said, and he asked me would I give you this, in case he fell, to show that he was not ungrateful; but I had better give it to you now, or I will be sure to lose it. I can't carry such trumpery in my saddle-bags;" and he handed his sister a small jewel-case. Katharine opened it, and saw an elegant cross, set with gems, lying on a purple velvet cushion.
"He said his mother gave it to him when he was leaving home," continued Zenas. "She was kind of High Church, I guess, and they're most the same as Catholics. He said he had a sort of presentiment that he'd get killed in the war, and he didn't want some wild Indian to snatch it from his body with his scalp, and give to his dusky squaw."
Kate stood looking at the jewel, and knitting her brow in thought. At length she said, "I'll keep it for him till he comes back, as I am sure he will; and if he should not," and her voice quivered a little, for her tender woman's heart could not but shudder at the thought of a violent death,—"I will send it to his mother. I wrote to her for him when he was wounded,—Melton Lodge, Berkshire, is the address. But I will not anticipate his death in battle. I feel certain that he will come back."
As the British lines were drawn firmly around Fort George, in which, having repaired the damage caused by the explosion, the Americans were closely beleaguered, Zenas had no difficulty in obtaining leave of absence to help to harvest the wheat. Other militiamen were also available for that service, which was as important as fighting, Colonel Vincent averred, as he gave permission to considerable numbers of his yeoman soldiery to return to their farms, while the others maintained the leaguer of the fort. Soon after the ingathering of the harvest, however, Vincent was compelled, by the re-enforcement of the enemy, to raise the blockade of Fort George, and again to return to his old position at Burlington Heights.
DISASTERS AND TRIUMPHS.
But we must return to trace briefly the general progress of public events. Sir James Yeo and Sir George Prevost, with seven vessels and a thousand men had, early in the season, sailed from Kingston to destroy the American shipping and stores at Sackett's Harbour. This object was only partly achieved in consequence of the impromptitude, not to say incompetence of the commander-in-chief. It was felt that the gallant Brock had not yet found his successor.
In the month of July, Commodore Chauncey again appeared on Lake Ontario, with a largely augmented American fleet. With Colonel Scott and a force of infantry and artillery, he sailed for Burlington Heights, to destroy a quantity of British stores at that place, which was the principal depot of Vincent's army. A body of Glengury Fencibles had been sent from York to protect the depot, thus leaving the capital defenceless. Chauncey therefore sailed for York, and Scott, landing without opposition on the 23rd of July, burned the barracks, and such public buildings as had previously escaped, broke open the jail, and plundered both private and public stores. Chauncey then sailed for the Niagara. On the 8th of August, he came out of the river to give battle to Yeo's fleet of six vessels—less than half his own number. A running fight of two days' duration ensued. In endeavouring to escape from the British, two American vessels, the "Scourge," of eight, and the "Hamilton," of nine guns, capsized under press of sail, and went to the bottom with all on board, except sixteen men, who were rescued by the boats of the British fleet. Chauncey lost two other vessels by capture, and was glad again to seek refuge in Sackett's Harbour.
Stirring events were also transpiring in the West. General Harrison, notwithstanding the disastrous defeat of Winchester, was determined, if possible, to drive the British out of Michigan. For this purpose he had, early in the spring, established a rendezvous at Fort Meigs, on the Miami River, near the western extremity of Lake Erie, and formed a depot of stores and provisions. The expense of victualling his army was enormous. It is estimated that every barrel of flour cost the American Government a hundred dollars. Stores of all kinds had to be carried on the backs of pack-horses through an almost pathless wilderness, and few of the animals survived more than one journey. It is estimated that the transport of each cannon to the lakes cost a thousand dollars.
Meanwhile, two squadrons were preparing to contest the supremacy of Lake Erie. Perry, the American commodore, had nine vessels well-manned with experienced seamen, to the number of nearly six hundred, from the now idle merchant marine of the United States. Barclay, the British captain, had only fifty sailors to six vessels, the rest of the crew being made up of two hundred and forty soldiers and eighty Canadians. After alternately blockading each other in the harbours of Presqu' Isle and Amherstburg, the hostile fleets met on the 10th of September in the shock of battle, off Put-in Bay, at the western end of Lake Erie. Perry's flagship soon struck her colours, but Barclay, his own ship a wreck, could not even secure the prize. Through the lack of naval skill of the inexperienced landsmen, the British ships fouled, and were helplessly exposed to the broadside of the enemy. The heavier metal of Perry's guns soon reduced them to unmanageable hulks. The carnage was dreadful. In three hours, all their officers and half of their crews were killed or wounded. Perry dispatched to Washington the sententious message: "We have met the enemy. They are ours."
The result of this defeat was most disastrous. All the advantages resulting from Brock's victory over Hull in the previous year were forfeited, Michigan was lost to the British, not again to be recovered. Proctor, short of provisions, cut off from supplies, exposed in flank and rear, and attacked in force in front, could only retreat. He dismantled the forts at Detroit and Amherstburg, destroyed the stores and public buildings, and fell back along the Thames with eight hundred and thirty white men, and five hundred Indians under Tecumseh. Harrison followed rapidly with three thousand five hundred men, several hundred of whom were cavalry, of which Proctor had none. He fell upon the British rear-guard at Moraviantown, October 4th, and captured over a hundred prisoners, and all the stores and ammunition. Proctor was forced the following day to fight at a disadvantage, on ill-chosen ground. He had also neglected to break down the bridges behind him, or to defend his position with breastworks, and only six hundred men were brought into action against sixfold odds. The mounted Kentucky riflemen rode through and through the British ranks, dealing, death on every side. The brave Tecumseh was slain at the head of his warriors. He had fought desperately, even against the mounted riflemen. Springing at their leader. Colonel Johnson, he dragged him to the earth. The dragoons rallied around their chief, and Tecumseh fell, pierced with bullets. The rout was complete. Proctor, with a shattered remnant of his troops, retreated through the forest to
Burlington Heights, where, with two hundred and forty war-wasted men, he effected a junction with Vincent's command, which had been compelled for a time to raise the siege of Fort George, and lake up its old position. Harrison, the American general, assumed the nominal government of the western part of Upper Canada. [Footnote: See Withrow's History of Canada, pp. 318-322.]
In these stirring scenes, Captain Villiers and Zenas Drayton bore an active part. After the harvest Zenas, eager for active service, had volunteered to join Proctor in the west, and had shared his disastrous retreat and defeat. From the camp at Burlington, he forwarded by Neville Trueman a letter to his sister Kate. The writing, grammar, and spelling were not quite as good as they might have been; but the schoolmaster was not abroad in Upper Canada in the early part of the century as he is now. The following is a copy of the letter, vertatim et literatim:—
IN CAMP AT BURLINGTON HEIGHTS, October 10.
"I take my pen in hand, leastways the quartermaster's, which he lent me, to let you know that I am well and hope you are enjoying the same blessing, also father and the sorel colt, about which I am mighty particular, as my roan has fallen lame. You will have heard about the fight at Moraviantown. It was a bad bizness. We was dead-beat with marching day after day, from Fort Maiden; and Harrison,—that's the Yankee general,—had a strong body of cavalry and captured nearly all our stores and amunishun. Our kurnel seemed to have kind of lost his head, too; (leastways, that's what I heared Captain Villiers say) and never broke down a single bridge, nor blockaded the road behind us. A few of us Niagara boys could soon have felled some trees that would stop their big guns pretty quick, but we had no axes. Backwoods fighting has to be done in backwoods way, with the axe and spade as much as with the musket. But some of these red coats fit in Spain with Wellington, and think what they don't know about fighting ain't worth knowing.
"Well, at Moraviantown was an Indian church, built by a Dutch missionary from Pennsylvany, and a few houses, and our kurnel gave the word to halt and make a stand against the enemy. But the ground along the River Thames was black and mucky, almost like a swamp, and we was soon fagged out. Afore we knowed it almost, the Kentucky mounted rifles was on us a-shouting like mad. They rid right through our lines, cutting and hacking with their heavy sabres, and then they formed behind us and began firing with their muskets. Our line was completely broken, and badly cut up, and most of our fellows threw down their arms and surrendered on the spot. They could'nt do much else.
"But Tecumseh never showed the white feather a bit. He and his braves was all painted and plumed, and he wore on his naked breast the King George's medal Crock gave him, and they emptied a good many saddles from behind the trees. When they saw it going so hard with our fellows, they yelled their war-whoop and rushed at the dragoons. Tecumseh pulled their kurnel off his horse, and was fighting like a wild cat when a dozen mounted rifles spurred to the spot, and riddled him with bullets. We'll never see his like again, Kate. No white man or red-skin ever was a better soldier. He died for his country like a hero, as he was. He should long be remembered, Captain Villiers says, by every Canadian as the bravest of the brave. [Footnote: An attempt was made in 1877, to identify his grave in order to pay fitting honours to his bones, but without success. His chief memorial has been the giving of his name to a township of that Canada for which he gave his life.
An American poet has thus commemorated Tecumseh's last conflict with Colonel Johnson;
"The moment was fearful; a mightier foe Had ne'er swung his battle-axe o'er him; But hope nerved his arm for a desperate blow. And Tecumseh fell prostrate before him. He fought in defending his kindred and With a spirit most loving and loyal, And long shall the Indian, warrior sing The deeds of Tecumseh the royal."]
"Captain Villiers rallied a couple of companies and brought us off after a smart skermish. You'd think the Captain was in love with death, he was so reckless of his life. We made forced marches almost day and night, till we got to Ancaster; and, I tell you, glad men we was when we saw Vincent's lines. We're kind of rested now. Trueman was as good as a surgeon at dressing wounds and the like, and he had enough of it to do, besides his preaching and praying, and writing letters for the men. I got a scratch myself, but I thought I'd try and write to you. But I have to sit on the ground and write on a drum head, and its kind of tiresome.
"No more at present from your loving brother,
"Captain Villiers has asked me to add a post-scriptum, sending his polite regards."
This was the first letter Kate had ever received in her life, for in these days His Majesty's mails were not heavily burdened with private correspondence; and she had never been further from home than to York once with her father in a schooner, to see the opening of the Parliament. She read her letter eagerly in her room, and then rushed back to the parlour exclaiming,
"O Mr. Trueman, is he badly hurt?"
"Zenas, do you mean?" asked the young preacher. "Well nothing dangerous if he keeps quiet; but he has a pretty severe sabre cut on his sword arm. But he's well cared for. Captain Villiers looks after him like a brother."
"How kind of him," said Kate, with tears of gratitude in her eyes.
"It is only paying a debt he owes you, I am sure," replied Neville; but as if unwilling to detract a particle from his merit, he added, "He behaved very bravely in the late action, and his praise is in every body's mouth at Vincent's camp."
"Who? Zenas? I am sure of that," replied Kate proudly.
"Zenas played a gallant part too. His wound is proof of that," answered Mr. Trueman, "but I was speaking of the Captain."
"Of course," said Kate, somewhat coldly, "but he is not my brother you know," and the conversation turned in another channel.
We now proceed to notice briefly the progress of the war elsewhere. The Americans having overrun so large a part of Upper Canada, were free to concentrate their efforts on the reduction of Kingston and Montreal. Wilkinson, Commander-in-Chief of the forces on the Niagara and Upper St. Lawrence frontiers, received instructions to effect a junction with the "Army of the North" about to advance from Lake Champlain for the subjugation of Lower Canada. There were comparatively few British troops in the lower province, and only three thousand active militia, under General Sheaffe, for the protection of a thousand miles of frontier.
In pursuance of the American plan of invasion, on the 24th of October, an army of nine thousand men, with ample artillery, under General Wilkinson, rendezvoused at Grenadier Island, near Sackett's Harbour; but the stone forts of Kingston, garrisoned by two thousand men under De Rottenburg, protected that important naval station from attack even by a fourfold force. Wilkinson, therefore, embarking his army in three hundred batteaux, protected by twelve gun-boats, in the bleak November weather threaded the watery mazes of the Thousand Islands in his menacing advance on Montreal. A British "corps of observation," eight hundred strong, under Colonel Morrison, followed the enemy along the river bank. A number of gun-boats also hung on the rear of the American flotilla, and kept up a teasing fire, to their great annoyance and injury. Wilkinson slowly made his way down the St. Lawrence, halting his army from time to time, to repel attack. Near Prescott, his flotilla of batteaux suffered considerably by a cannonade from the British batteries, as they were passing that place on a moonlight night. The molestation that he received from Morrison's corps and from the loyal local militia was so great that he was forced to land strong brigades on the Canadian shore in order to secure a passage for his boats. At the head of the Long Sault Rapids, Wilkinson detached General Boyd with a force of over two thousand men, to crush the opposing British corps. The collision took place at Chrysler's Farm,—a name thenceforth of potent memory. The battle-ground was an open field, with the river on the right, the woods on the left. For two hours the conflict raged. But Canadian valour and discipline prevailed over twofold odds, and the Americans retreated to their boats, leaving behind one of their guns captured by the British. Their loss in this engagement was over three hundred killed and wounded,—more than twice that of their opponents. Wilkinson's disorganized force precipitately descended the Long Sault Rapids, and awaited at St. Regis the approach of Hampton's army. It was destined to wait in vain.
The invasion of Lower Canada by way of Lake Champlain had also been attended with serious disasters. Early in September, General Hampton, with a well appointed army of five thousand men, advanced from Plattsburg on that lake, with a view to a junction with Wilkinson's army, and a combined attack on Montreal. On the 21st of October he crossed the border, and pushed forward his forces along both sides of the Chateauguay River. Sir George Prevost called for a levy of the sedentary militia, who rallied loyally for the defence of their country. Colonel De Salaberry, with four hundred Voltigeurs,—sharpshooters every one,—took up a strong position at the junction of the Chateanguay with the Outarde, defended by a breastwork of logs and abattis. General Izzard, with a column three thousand five hundred strong, attempted to dislodge him. The Voltigeurs held the enemy well in check till they were in danger of being surrounded by sheer force of numbers. By a clever ruse, De Salaberry distributed his buglers widely through the woods in his rear, and ordered them to sound the charge. The enemy, thinking themselves assailed in force, everywhere gave way, and retreated precipitately from the field. Hampton soon retired across the borders to his entrenched camp at Plattsburg. Wilkinson, sick in body and chagrined in mind, learning the shameful defeat of the "Grand Army of the North," abandoned the idea of further advance on Montreal, scuttled his boats and batteaux, and retired into winter quarters on the Salmon River, within the United States boundary. Here he formed an entrenched camp, and sheltered his defeated army in wooden huts all the following spring.
Thus the patriotism and valour of some fifteen hundred Canadian troops hurled hack from our country's soil two invading armies of tenfold strength, and made the names of Chrysler's Farm and Chateanguay memories of thrilling power, and pledges of the inviolable liberty of our land. [Footnote: See Withrow's History of Canada, 8vo. ed, pp. 322-325.]
ELDER CASE IN WAR TIME.
We now return to trace the progress of events in Upper Canada. After the British disasters on Lake Erie, and at Moravian Town, Sir George Prevost instructed Vincent to fall back on Kingston, abandoning the western peninsula to the enemy—a desperate resolve, only to be adopted in the last extremity. At a council of war held at Burlington Heights, however, it was wisely decided by Vincent and his officers to stand their ground as long as possible. Colonel McClure, the commandant of the American force, was strongly posted at Twenty Mile Creek, and his foraging parties ravaged the country, and pillaged the inhabitants.
The season for active operations in the field having now passed, the Canadian militia were dismissed to their homes with instructions to hold themselves in readiness for immediate action should necessity demand their aid. Zenas Drayton had returned to The Holms, quite recovered of his wound and covered with glory by the distinction it had conferred upon him. He strode about with a martial air, to the undisguised admiration of the maids of the household and of all the damsels of the neighbourhood. His father's eyes followed him sometimes with a look of pride, but oftener with one of glistening wistfulness, for in these troublous times pre-eminence of merit was pre-eminence of peril. But Kate lavished all the love and homage of her woman's heart upon her brother, as the ideal hero of her dreams. The lad was in a fair way to be spoiled, if he was not also pretty sure to have the conceit taken, out of him in the stern school of adversity.
One evening, early in December, the family were sitting around their kitchen fire, which snapped and roared up the wide chimney throat as merrily as though such a thing as war had never been known. The squire and Zenas sat on opposite sides of the hearth comparing the old soldier's reminiscences of the Revolutionary War with the boy's recent military experiences. Between them sat Kate as she had sat on that memorable evening, more than a year before, on the eve of the fatal fight of Queenston Heights. How much she had lived in that short time! The outbreak of the war had found her a light-hearted girl; she had now the graver mien and sometimes the thought-weighted expression of a woman. But to- night, a look of happy contentment rested on her face an she gazed musingly on the glowing embers, or occasionally took part in the conversation of her father and brother.
Suddenly was heard without the fierce harking of the mastiff watch-dog, which as suddenly subsided and was followed by a quick, joyous yelp of recognition. Shuffling feet were then heard in the outer kitchen, stamping off the snow.
"Who can that he?" asked the squire.
"Some of the neighbours, I suppose," said Kate, for the hospitable hearth presented rare attractions to the rustic swains of the vicinity.
"Some of Kate's admirers I should say," laughed Zenas, as he rose to open the door, "only they don't hunt in couples."
Two snow-besprinkled, travel-stained men, came in out of the darkness and stood revealed in the glowing fire-light as Sandy McKay and Tom Loker.
"Welcome home! However did you get here?" asked the squire warmly shaking their hands, and making room for them at the fire. "We thought you were prisoners in the hulks at Sackett's Harbour."
"So we were," replied Tom Loker with all his old sang froid, "longer than we wanted."
"How did you like picking oakum for the Yankees, Sandy?" asked Zenas.
"Nae oakum picked I," said Sandy with an air of grim determination. "It was clean against ma conscience to gi' aid or comfort to the King's enemies in ony way."
"What did they say to that?" asked the squire. "I thought they had a way of overcoming scruple's of that sort."
"They could na owercome mine," said Sandy.
"They jest clapped him in the bilboes and kept him there for one while," interjected Tom. "For me, I'd rather pick all day at the tarred rope though it was hard on the fingers."
"Did they use you well otherwise?" asked Kate with commiseration in her voice.
"Prisoners can na be choosers, Miss Katharine," responded Sandy. "I suppose our treatment was naithing by ordinair. We hadna thae oaten bannocks and hot kale ye aftens gave us. But warst o' a' was bein' pent in the close hot hulks 'tween decks, whaur ye couldna stan' upricht wi'out knocking your heid again the timmers, and whaur ye gat na a sough o' the blessed air o' heaven save what stole in through the wee port-holes. How we tholed it sae lang I dinna ken. We faured better after yon Methody parson came."
"Ay, he wor a good un, he wor," said Tom.
"Who was he?" asked Kate with much interest.
"He wuzzn't much to look at," continued Tom; "that is, there wuzzn't much of him. But he had a heart big as a mountain; ther wuz nothin he wouldn't do for them poor prisoners. 'He wuz come to preach salvation,' he said, 'to them that wuz bound.' Case wuz his name,—a leettle man, but worth mor'n a dozen ornary men. I remember one day he came 'long side with a boat load of tea, coffee, sugar, and several jars of milk for the prisoners; and he preached, and prayed, and exhorted so long that it seemed as if he couldn't tear hisself away."
We may be allowed here to quote, in illustration of the labours of that heroic man, Elder Case, to whom Canadian Methodism owes such a debt of gratitude, extracts of two of his letters written about this period:
"I was present," he says, "a few hours after the battle of Sackett's Harbour, where I witnessed a scene of death and carnage more moving than ever I saw before. Numbers lay cold in death. Many were groaning with their wounds and bleeding in their gore. Myself and two preachers were in Rutland, about ten miles from the Harbour, and were about to commence clearing off a camp-ground, but on hearing the cannon and constant roll of small arms we gave up the idea of work and betook ourselves to prayer. Such sensations I never realized before. We knew many of our acquaintances were there, among whom were brethren in the Lord. We thought on the condition of the women whose husbands and sons were exposed; the welfare of the country, where so much was at stake, and the honour of the nation concerned; but more than this a thousand times—the immortal interests of the thousands who were engaged in the contest, Americans and Englishmen, all of one creation—alike the subjects of redeeming blood, all accountable to the King of kings, and deserving the same condemnation. With these reflections we immediately called the household and fell upon our knees in prayer, and the Lord poured on us the spirit of supplication. We wept aloud and prayed most fervently to the Ruler of nations and Saviour of men that He would pardon our national crimes, save men from death, and have mercy on the souls of those constantly falling in battle. You may suppose that the constant sound of the instruments of death gave weight to our concern, and ardency to our petitions, with all that grace could inspire.
"We then mounted our horses and set out for the scene of action, that, if possible, we might afford some assistance as ministers, and administer consolation to the wounded and dying. When we reached the Harbour the British had retreated to their shipping, leaving part of the dead and wounded upon the field of battle. These, with the others, were brought in from the field; the dead were stretched side by side in rows, and the wounded on beds and straw in as comfortable a condition as could be expected. We were conducted by a friend to the several hospitals, where I saw the distress of about eighty wounded. I cannot describe my feelings to hear the groans of the wounded and dying, some pierced through the body, others through the head, some bruised by the falling of timbers, others with broken bones, and one whose face was shot away (save his under jaw) by a grape-shot. He was yet breathing strong. This was a shocking view. Some were in such pain they could not be conversed with; others being fatigued and broken of their rest were asleep, but we conversed with many who manifested seriousness, whom we pointed to the suffering, bleeding Saviour, and exhorted them to look to Him for mercy. Here I saw how useful a faithful and feeling chaplain might be. The best opportunity would present itself in alleviating the miseries of men in some degree, by procuring such things as the distressed most needed, and by comforting them in their afflictions; and here he might be heard though at another time his counsel might be slighted.
"Having been without bread for a long time, many of the militia were very hungry. Some wanted coffee, some milk, some bread. We gave them the biscuits we carried down, but could procure no milk for them. I really desired to stay with them; my heart thirsted to do them good.
"On leaving the Harbour, we called on some brethren, who, with their neighbours, carried down several gallons of milk, and distributed it among the wounded. We also represented their case to the congregation at the close of the camp-meeting, when twenty- five dollars were contributed and put into proper hands, who purchased coffee, sugar, and other delicacies which they much needed, and from time to time distributed among them. For this they were very thankful, and both English and American blessed me with many good wishes when I again visited the hospital, four weeks ago.
"Our preachers on the lines have frequent opportunities of preaching to the soldiers, who are very fond of hearing. We find it necessary to avoid all political discussions, both in public and in private.
"Having been kindly indulged by Col. Larned, commandant to the prisoners, we most joyfully embraced the privilege of proclaiming to them the sweet liberty of the Gospel. They were called together by their officers, and a more attentive congregation I never expect to address again. As soon as we began to sing there was weeping; and immediately on our kneeling to prayer they all knelt down, and here and there we heard the voice of 'Amen' to our petition for their salvation. I could not solve this till after the service. To my great surprise and mingled grief and joy, several brethren and acquaintances from Canada came and made themselves known unto us; they were militia in arms, and were taken near Fort George. Among these were Messrs. George Lawrence, leader at Four-Mile Creek; William Clinton, from the head of the lake, and Russel Hawley, brother of David Hawley, of the Bay of Quinte. Their captivity was an affliction which made friends more consoling." [Footnote: Carroll's Case and his Cotemporaries. Vol. I., pp. 316-20.]
On this statement, Dr. Carroll thus comments:
"Mr. Case says the Canadian prisoners 'were militia in arms,' but Mr. Lawrence was an exception. The reader will remember that he was one of the Methodist Palatine stock, and brother of John Lawrence, the second husband of Mrs. Philip Embury. In the war- time he was so advanced in years as to be exempt from militia duty, although his sons bore arms, and one of them was wounded the day his father was taken prisoner. Mr. Lawrence, senior, kept about the peaceful avocations of his farm, and continued to meet his little class in his own house in those stormy times. He was made a prisoner at his own door at Cross-Roads. [Footnote: About four miles west of Niagara.] The writer, though only a child of four years, was there, and remembers well his arrest, as he does, all events consecutively since the battle of Niagara. The Americans were then in the occupancy of Fort George, and a portion of the British army were entrenched at the Cross-Roads, about half a mile from Mr. Lawrence's residence. A general skirmish Lad taken place all that morning between the pickets and advanced guards of the two armies. A body of only ten American Indians, or white men disguised like Indians, advanced toward Mr. Lawrence's, where an officer's mess was kept and a guard of thirty soldiers posted.
"The cowardly officer of the guard, one McLeod (let his name go down to posterity), threatened to 'cut off the first man's head who fired a shot;' and they fled to the camp, leaving the women and children to the mercy of the savages. These latter, when they came up, shot a corporal of the Glengaries, a Mr. Smith, who chanced to be there, and who boldly stood on his defence. Mr. Lawrence thinking the matter some emeute between the soldiers and our own Indians, passed through the front gate into the road and gave one of the savages his hand, who took and held it, while another came up with an angry countenance and grasped the old gentleman by the neck-cloth, and made him a prisoner. He and poor Smith, whom only the courage of a woman, Mrs. Cassaily, kept the savages from killing outright in the house, whither he had crawled, were led; away from our sight. Smith died on the road. The alarm was given before any one had broken last. We all fled. The writer's mother and her four youngest children, passing the camp, found the army preparing for march, and an elder son and brother just mounting his horse with a view to coming to our rescue. We followed the retreating army through the Black Swamp road all that weary day, and broke a twenty-four hours' fast at sunset. We had the supreme felicity of extending the hospitalities of our humble house in York to Mr. Lawrence, whom we all revered and loved as a father, towards the close of the war, on his way back from captivity." [Footnote: Case and his Cotemporaries. pp. 320-22.]
We return from this digression to the group at the fire-side of the Holms.
"How did you get away?" asked Zenas.
"Tam here gied 'em French leave," replied Sandy, "He just droppit oot o' a port-hole into the water after the guard made his rounds and got awa in the mirk; I wonner he was na droonded."
"So I wuz e'en a'most. But wuss still was that villian of a sentry blazing away at me. It's lucky the night wuz so dark. But I thought I'd have to give up afore I got to land. I had to lie on the beach panting like a dying mackerel. Well, I walked all night to Cape Vincent, and at daybreak I just borrowed one of Uncle Sam's boats and paddled across to Wolfe's Island, and soon after got to Kingston."
"How much longer did you stay, Sandy?" asked the squire, who said the story reminded him of the adventures of the Yankee prisoners in the Jersey hulk during the old war.
"Weel Tam here helped me tae win oot, as I may say," replied Sandy. "He hadna eneuch of fechtin', sae he mun join thae yoemanry corps that followed Wilkinson's army doun the St Lawrence, and took part in the battle o' Windmill Point. They took a hantle o' preesoners there, and sune cam a' cartel' they ca' it, offering an exchange. We did garrison duty at Fort Henry awhile, and learned the big gun drill; it may come in useful yet."
"How got you here?" asked the squire. "you never marched from Kingston at this time of year, surely."
"No," said Tom Loker, "the ten-gun brig William and Mary, Captain Richardson, master, wuz a-carrying stores to Colonel Vincent at Burlington, and we got leave to take passage in her. We reached there last night and walked all day to get here, and glad we are to get back to our old quarters, the best we've seen since we left them." [Footnote: Captain Richardson afterwards became a distinguished minister and bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada, and was for many years Agent of the Upper Canada Bible Society. He was under fire at the taking of Oswego, and while engaged rigging a pump, a round shot carried away his arm. We have heard him say in his own parlor, picking up a carpet ball, "It was a ball like this that took off my arm." He became, on recovery from his wound, sailing master of Sir James Yoe's flag ship the St Lawrence, a position requiring much nautical skill, as the huge kraken drew twenty-three feet of water, and carried something like a hundred guns. Few men were better known or more esteemed in Canada than Bishop Richardson. He died in 1875, full of years and full of honours, beloved and regretted by all classes of the community.] By this time Kate had a hearty supper ready for the wanderers, to which they did ample justice before returning with grateful hearts to their old lodgings in the capacious attic. By such privations and sufferings on the part of her faithful yeomanry, were the liberties of Canada maintained in those stormy days of war and conflict.
A DARK TRAGEDY—THE BURNING OF NIAGARA.
The victory of the British arms in Lower Canada led to vigorous efforts to drive the American invaders out of the upper province. Lieutenant-General Drummond assumed command, and at once resolved to regain possession of Fort George. Early in December he despatched Colonel Murray from Burlington Heights with a force of five hundred regulars and Indians to drive in the marauding bands of the enemy that were pillaging the country. McClure, the American general, fell back on Niagara and Fort George, and, fearing an attack in force, and his garrison being much reduced, resolved to evacuate the fort and abandon the country. But before doing so he resolved, in obedience to instructions from the War Department at Washington, to perpetrate an act of inhuman barbarity which shall hand down his name to infamy so long as the story shall be told. In order to deprive the British troops of winter quarters he determined to burn the town of Niagara, leaving the innocent and non-combatant inhabitants, helpless women and little children, the sick and infirm, homeless and shelterless amid the rigours of a Canadian winter.
It is one of the dread results of international conflict that the inhabitants of the hostile frontiers, who may have previously dwelt in good fellowship and neighbourly helpfulness, are often changed to deadly enemies, and even claim for their bitter hostility the sanctions of duty. There was one conspicuous exception on the banks of the Niagara. Mary Lawson, the daughter of the village miller and merchant of the little hamlet of Youngstown, that nestled under the wing of Fort Niagara on the American side of the river, was as blithe and bonnie a lass of eighteen summers as ever gladdened a father's heart. Admirers Mary had in plenty, but the must eligible of them all, in the opinion of the village gossips, was young Ensign Roberts, attached to the American forces at the Fort.
Not so, however, thought Mary. The favoured of her heart was a smart young Canadian, who for some time had acted as clerk in her father's store, and had shortly before opened a small establishment of his own on the opposite side of the river, in the thriving village of Niagara. Every Sunday young Morton crossed in his own light skiff to attend church with Mary; and on summer evenings many were the pleasant sails they had upon the shining reaches of the river, watching the sun go down in golden glory in the bosom of blue Ontario, and the silver moon bathe in its pale light the bosky foliage of the shores, beneath which, dark and heavy, crouched the stealthy shadows, while the river rippled calmly by.
With the outbreak of the war, however, these pleasant sails and visits ceased. George Morton naturally espoused the cause of his native country, with which, too, all his commercial interests were identified. This brought him at once under the ban of Mary's father, and his visits were interdicted. Ensign Roberts took advantage of the absence of his rival to press his suit, which Squire Lawson favoured as being likely, he thought, to wean Mary from her forbidden attachment to one who was now her country's foe. But he little knew the depth and the strength of a woman's affection. The more her royalist lover was aspersed and maligned, the more warmly glowed her love, the more firm was her resolve to be faithful unto death.
In the action which led to the British evacuation of Fort George, young Morton took an active part in endeavouring to repel the invasion of his country. As barge after barge transferred to the shore, under cover of a heavy fire, the hostile force from the crescent-shaped fleet that lay moored on the blue bosom of the lake before the town, he with the militia company to which he was attached, was lying in a hollow near the beach, to check if possible the advance of the foe. A round shot from the fleet struck the ground in front of him, covering him with earth and breaking the arm with which he was loading his musket. At the same moment a bullet from the enemy struck his nearest comrade, passing right through his body as he lay upon the ground. A slight quiver convulsed his frame, and then it was at rest forever. As the foe advanced in force, driving back the British, George, unable to retreat as rapidly as the rest, was taken prisoner and with others sent across to the American fort.
Personally, George Morton received every kindness from the officer and surgeons of the American hospital; and in the gentle ministrations of Mary Lawson, which he shared with the rest of the wounded, he found a compensation for all his sufferings. Upon his partial convalescence he was released on parole, and returned to Niagara to look after his disorganized and partially ruined business. By his skill and industry, aided by the fictitious prosperity caused by the presence of a numerous army, before the winter it had become again exceedingly flourishing, but only to be ruthlessly and completely destroyed.
Amid the active preparations made for the transfer of the American forces and materiel of war across the river, preparatory to the destruction of Niagara, intelligence of the atrocious design came to the knowledge of Mary Lawson, chiefly through the indignant dissent and remonstrance of some of McClure's own officers against the unsoldier-like cruelty. The intrepid girl's resolve was taken on the instant. She determined under cover of the night to give the alarm to Morton, and through him to the inhabitants, that they might, if possible, frustrate the infamous design, or at least rescue their moveable property from destruction.
It required no small courage to carry out her purpose. The winter had set in early and severe. The river was running full of ice, which rendered crossing, especially by night, exceedingly perilous. To this was added the danger of being challenged, and it might be shot, by the sentries of the American camp. But when did true love in man or woman stop to calculate chances, or hesitate to encounter danger or even death for the beloved one?
It was on the 9th of December—a bleak, cold, cloudy night—that Mary, having secured the aid of her father's faithful servant, Michael O'Brian, a jolly but rather stupid Irishman, who knew no fear, escaped through the window of her room after the family had retired to rest, which was not till near midnight, and set forth on her perilous mission of mercy. In order to avoid the American sentries they attempted to cross about a mile above the camp, and in the murky darkness, fearlessly launched their little boat, steering by the lights in the town, slumbering unconscious of its fate, where some patient watcher kept her vigil beside a sick bed.
The dark water eddied and gurgled amid the ice-floes, from which a ghastly gleam was reflected, like that from the face of a corpse dimly seen amid the dark. Occasionally a huge fragment of ice would grate, and crash, and crunch against the frail ribs of the boat, as if eager to crush it and frustrate the generous purpose of its passengers. But the strong arm of O'Brian pushed a way through the ice, while Mary sat wrapped in her cloak and in busy meditation in the bottom of the boat.
But they had not calculated on the strength, of the current, and the resistance of the ice. In spite of every effort they were being rapidly borne down the stream. Another danger stared them in the face. Should they be carried into the lake with the floating ice, they might before morning be drifted out of sight of land and perish miserably of cold or hunger; or be dashed upon the ice- bound shore, where they could hear the waves roar harshly, like sea-beasts howling for their prey.
But the bitter north wind, which had been such a source of discomfort, now proved their salvation from this imminent danger. Blowing fresher every moment it arrested the ice-drift, and formed a solid barrier from shore to shore and extending far up the river. But this in turn effectually prevented the progress of the little boat which had almost readied the Canadian shore; and worse still, the dim grey light of morning began to dawn.
Suddenly the sight of a black object in the middle of a white field of now dense ice, and the sound of O'Brian's oar striving to force a passage through, caught the watchful eye and ear of the sentry near whose beat they had unfortunately drifted.
"Halt!" rang out sharp and clear on the frosty air the challenge of the sentry.
"Faith an' it's halted fast enough I am," answered Mickey.
"Who goes there?" repeated the sentry's voice.
"Sure I don't go at all, that's what's the matther," said the boatman, unconsciously anticipating a slang phrase of later times.
"Advance and give the countersign," exclaimed the enraged soldier, who in martinet obedience to discipline, would challenge a drowning man before trying to save him.
"It's that same I would if I could," replied the bewildered Irishman, "but I can't walk on wather, and this ice-slush isn't much betther." "Unless you answer, I'll fire," shouted the sentry, to whom Mickey's maunderings, half drowned by the crashing ice and gusty wind, were unintelligible.
"Au' that same is the very thing I want, for it's starved wid the cowld I am," said the shivering creature, who with characteristic ingenuity had failed to apprehend the meaning of the menace addressed to him. But a sudden flash and the dull thud of a bullet against the ice beside him interpreted to his sluggish brain the danger in which he stood.
"The saints be betune us an' harm," he exclaimed, devoutly crossing himself. "Oh, sure ye won't murder a body in cowld blood who's kilt entirely already. It's half drownded and froze I am, without being riddled like a cullender wid your bullets as well."
"Why, Mickey O'Brian!" exclaimed the astonished soldier, who had by the gun-flash recognized the familiar features of a quondam friend; "why on earth didn't you tell your name, man? I might have killed you as dead as a door-nail."
"An' a purty thrickit 'ud be for ye, too, Tommy Daily. It's not ashamed of my name I am, an' if I'd know'd it was you, I'd tould ye before. But help us out of this an' I'll bear ye no malice whativer."
The guard had turned out at the report of the gun, and getting such planks as were available laid them on the floating ice; but still they could not reach the boat. Tommy Daily with fertile ingenuity tying some twine to his ramrod fired it over the skiff, when it was easy to send out a strong fisherman's line, which Mick tied to the thwarts, and a dozen strong arms drew the boat ashore. [Footnote: The present writer witnessed the rescue of a shipwrecked crew, in the manner here described, near this very spot.]
The benumbed form of Mary was borne to the guard-room, and Ensign Roberts, the officer of the night, immediately sent for.
"Why, Miss Lawson!" he exclaimed with astonishment, "to what can we owe your presence at such a time and place as this?"
"To the inhumanity of your commander, and to my desire to rescue an innocent people from its consequences."
"I regret, Miss Lawson, that my military duty prevents my permitting you to carry out your generous purpose. You will be entertained hero as comfortably as our rude accommodation will allow till the river clears, when you will be sent safely home."
"Is this your generosity to a fallen foe, Mr. Roberts?" she exclaimed; but, too proud to ask a favour from a discarded suitor, she relapsed into haughty silence.
But Colonel McClure was not without plain-spoken remonstrance against his contemplated act of inhumanity. In the prosecution of his spiritual functions Neville Trueman had free access to the people of the town of Niagara, many of whom were members, of his church or congregation. Among these a large number of American soldiers were billeted, and very burdensome and unwelcome guests they were. From the unusual commotion and covert threats and hints dropped by the soldiers on the eve of the evacuation, Trueman apprehended some serious disaster to the towns-people. With the prompt energy by which he was characterized, he resolved to proceed to head-quarters and to intercede for the devoted town. He was received by Colonel McClure with a cold and repellent dignity, and obtained only evasive answers. As he was about to leave the presence of that officer, the Colonel said in a constrained manner,—
"Mr. Trueman, I respect your calling, and respect your character; I therefore advise you if you have any personal effects in the town to secure them at once, or I will not be answerable for the results."
"I have only a few books and clothes," said Neville, "but there are families here who have much at stake. Surely no evil can be intended those innocent and non-combatant people."
"There exist reasons of military necessity which I cannot expect you to appreciate," said the Colonel, stiffly.
"There are no reasons that can justify inhumanity," replied Neville, stoutly," and inhumanity of the gravest character it would be to injure the persons or the property of these defenceless people."
The gallant Colonel seemed rather to wince under these words, but, as if anxious to exculpate himself, he replied, "An officer has no option in carrying out the instructions received from the military authorities."
"That will not remove from you, sir, the responsibility of the act, if, as I infer, the wanton destruction of this town is intended," replied Neville, with significant emphasis. "I make bold to affirm that the act will be as unwise as it will be cruel. It will provoke bitter retaliation. It will tenfold intensify hostile feeling. I know these people. I have travelled largely through this province, and mingled with all classes. They are intensely loyal to their sovereign. They would die rather than forswear their allegiance. They will fight to the last man and last gun before they will yield. If wanton outrage be inflicted on this frontier, I predict that fire and sword shall visit your cities, and a heritage of hatred shall be bequeathed to posterity, that all good men, for all time, will deplore."
"Young man, I admire your zeal, although I may not appreciate your sympathy for a country which I understand is not your own," answered the officer, haughtily. "I am, however, responsible for my acts not to you, but to the War Department at Washington. This interview is fruitless. I see no advantage to be gained by prolonging it."
"Sir," said Neville, solemnly, as he rose to leave, "you are responsible to a higher tribunal than that at Washington. I have not learned to limit my sympathies and my instincts of humanity by a boundary line. You are a scholar, sir, and perhaps you remember the words of the Latin poet: 'Homo sum; humani nihil a me alien um puto.' I have the honour to wish you good day," and he bowed himself out.
As he returned to the town he beheld soldiers going from house to house warning the people to turn out and remove their property, and proceeding, with inhuman alacrity, to set the buildings on fire. Then might be seen the women—most of the men were away with the troops—hastily gathering together their own and their children's clothing and a few treasured heirlooms, and with tears and bitter lamentation leaving their sheltering roof, going forth like the patriarch, not knowing whither they went The frost had set in early and severe. The snow lay deep upon the ground. Yet at thirty minutes' warning, of a hundred and fifty houses in Niagara, all were fired save one. There was scarce time to rescue the nursling babe, and the aged and infirm, from the doomed dwellings. The wife of Counsellor Dickson lay on a sick bed. Her husband was a prisoner on the American side of the river. The unfortunate lady "was carried, bed and all, and placed in the snow before her own door, where, shivering with cold, she beheld her house and all that was in it consumed to ashes."[Footnote: Jaines. Quoted by Auchinleck.] Of the valuable library, which had cost between five and six hundred pounds sterling, scarcely a book escaped.
Late into the night burned the fires, reddening the midnight heavens with the lurid flames of comfortable homesteads, well- filled barns and is stacks of grain. Herds of affrighted cattle rushed wildly over the adjacent meadows, the kine lowing piteously with distended udders for the accustomed hands of their milkers at eventide. Of the hundred and fifty dwellings fired, only two or three escaped by accident, one of which still remains; and four hundred women and children were left to wander in the snow or seek the temporary shelter of some remote farm-house or Indian wigwam in the woods. Some wandered for days in the adjacent dismal "Black Swamp," feeding on frost-bitten cranberries, or on a casual rabbit or ground-hog.
But a swift avenging followed the dastardly outrage. In two days the British re-occupied the site of the smouldering town, now but a waste; of blackened embers, which the Americans had, evacuated— horse, foot, and artillery—not a hoof being left behind. So precipitate had been their retreat, however, that a large quantity of stores, together with the barracks and tents, were left, which fell into the hands of the British. As the old red-cross flag was run again on the flag-staff of Fort George, an exultant cheer went up to heaven, and not a few eyes of those hardy militiamen were filled with tears. Their homes were but heaps of ashes, it was true; but their country remained; its soil was relieved from the foot of the invader, and their loyal allegiance to their sovereign had been shown by their costly sacrifice.
A STERN NEMESIS—A RAVAGED FRONTIER.
On the evening of that eventful day, again a family gathering took place at The Holms—for so closely had trial, adventure, and suffering for a common cause knit together the guests and inmates, that they seemed like a family group. The sword of the grandfather, above the mantel, was now crossed by the cavalry sabre of Zenas, and the old Brown Bess was flanked by the dragoon's carbine. Good cheer in abundance spread the board, for the broad acres of the farm and the kindly ministries of nature had not stinted their yield on account of the red battle-year. But an air of pensiveness, almost of dejection, broken by sharp outbursts of indignation marked the social converse. Many incidents of privation and suffering, in consequence of the burning of the town, were told. Indeed the resources of the household had been taxed to the utmost to relieve the pressing distress, and every room and guest-chamber was filled with houseless refugees from the inclemency of the weather.
"There will be a grim revenge for this, before long," said Captain Villiers, who had embraced the earliest opportunity to renew his homage at a shrine that had almost unconsciously become very dear.
"In which I hope to take part," interjected Zenas, with a fierce gesture.
"We must carry war into Africa," continued the Captain. "Hitherto, for the most part, we have acted on the defensive. The time has come when we must repay invasion by invasion, and outrage by retaliation." So does the cruel war-spirit grow by that on which it feeds.
"That 'ere fort with its big guns a-grinnin' an' growlin' like mastiffs in their kennels, has bullied us long enough," said Tom Loker, who availed himself of the democratic simplicity of the times to express his opinion.
"It wadna be sae muckle a job to tak it, I'm thinkin'," said Sandy McKay, looking up from his musket that he was oiling and cleaning; "it's no sae strang as it luiks. I ken its rayelins and demilunes unco weel, bein' sax weeks a prisoner wi'in thae walls. Gin your ance ower thae brig and inside the outworks it wad be easy eneuch tae win au' haud the fort."
"That's the rub," said the squire, "to gain a footing and win the outworks. If they keep a vigilant watch it would be a difficult task. The only way would be to surprise the garrison. A few stout- hearted men, well supported, might overpower the guard. That's the way Ethan Allen took Ticonderoga, in the old war."
"Father," said Zenas, with enthusiasm, "It can be done, and must be done, and I must help do it. I claim a place in the forlorn hope. I'd like to be the first man in."
The old man winced a little at the awful contingency of death and danger for his soldier boy, so close at hand; and Kate gazed at him, with tears of sympathy filling her eyes and the blood mantling her cheek.
"As God wills, my son," answered the sire. "I said the time might come when you should bear the battle's brunt. If your heart calls you I will not say nay. I gave you to your country, and dare not hold you back."
"Young maister," said McKay, with Scottish fidelity, "whaur ye gae, I'll gae. I'm an auld mon, noo, an' how better could I gi' ma life, gin sae it's written, than for my King? Forbye I ken weel the place, an' sae God wills, I can guide ye intill it by nicht as weel as ithers could by day."
"I'm not the man to shirk the call to arms when the bugle sounds," remarked Tom Loker, "but I must say I've no stomach for this going before I'm sent. It's a sheer temptin' o' Providence, seems to me."
"Hoot, mon," said Sandy, "what is to be, is to be. Gin ye're to fa', ye'll fa' at the rear o' thae column as sune as at the heid o' it, an' I'm gey sure the first is the mair honourable place." "Had I two score gallant fellows like you and Zenas," broke in Captain Villiers, grasping the hilt of his sword, "with a couple of companies to support us, I'd guarantee the fort would he taken before a week. Something more will come of this, I warrant"
Full of this daring scheme, the very next day he proposed to Colonel Murray the bold plan. That officer sent for McKay, questioned him thoroughly as to the fort and its defences, and had him draw a rude plan of its approaches, curtains, and bastions. He heartily fell in with the idea and made immediate preparation for its execution.