Read CHAPTER IV of The Adventures of Daniel Boone: the Kentucky rifleman , free online book, by Uncle Philip, on

It was now the season of autumn; the trees had not yet shed their leaves, and the forests were still beautiful. Mrs. Boone felt happy as she looked upon her new home. Winter came, and glided rapidly and joyously away. With their axes and rifles, the men in the settlement brought in constant and ample supplies of fuel and game, and around the blazing hearth of Daniel Boone there was not one in the family who sighed for the old home on the Yadkin. Boone naturally supposed that a fear of the Indians would be the principal trouble with his wife; and well she might dread them, remembering the loss of her son formerly in the pass of the mountains. Fortunately, however, she did not see an Indian through the season. But one white man was killed by them during the winter, and he lost his life by unfortunately wandering away from the fort unarmed. After this, the other settlers were more prudent; they never went without the pickets for fuel without taking their rifles.

When spring opened, they were soon very busy. A small clearing without the pickets was first made for a garden-spot. Mrs. Boone and her daughter brought out their stock of garden-seeds, and commenced cultivating this, while the men went on earnestly in the work of preparing for their fields. They were calculating that they were making their homes for life. Day after day the neighborhood resounded with the crash of falling trees, as these hardy men levelled the forests. While they were thus engaged, they were made happy by a new arrival. Colonel Calloway, an old companion of Boone’s, led by the desire of finding his old friend and a new country, came out to the settlement this spring, and brought with him his two young daughters. Here, then, were companions for Boone’s daughter. The fathers were happy, and the mother and girls delighted.

Spring had not passed away, however, before they were in sorrow about these children. When the wild flowers began to bloom in the woods, the girls were in the habit of strolling around the fort and gathering them to adorn their humble homes. This was an innocent and pleasant occupation; it pleased the girls as well as their parents. They were only cautioned not to wander far, for fear of the Indians. This caution, it seems, was forgotten. Near the close of a beautiful day in July, they were wandering, as usual, and the bright flowers tempted them to stroll thoughtlessly onward. Indians were in ambush; they were suddenly surrounded, seized, and hurried away, in spite of their screams for help. They were carried by their captors to the main body of the Indian party, some miles distant. Night came, and the girls did not return; search was made for them, and they were nowhere to be found. The thought now flashed upon Boone that the children were prisoners; the Indians had captured them. The parents were well nigh frantic: possibly the girls were murdered. Boone declared that he would recover his child, if alive, if he lost his own life in the effort. The whole settlement was at once roused: every man offered to start off with the two fathers in search of the children. But Boone would not have them all; some must remain behind, to protect the settlement. Of the whole number he chose seven; he and Calloway headed them; and, in less time than I have been telling the story, laden with their knapsacks and rifles, they were off in pursuit.

Which way were they to go? It was a long time before they could find a track of the party. The wily Indians, as usual, had used all their cunning in hiding their footprints and breaking their trail. Covering their tracks with leaves; walking at right angles occasionally from the main path; crossing brooks by walking in them for some time, and leaving them at a point far from where they entered: all this had been practised, and I presume that the fathers never would have got on the track if the girls had not been as cunning as their captors. After wandering about for some time, they came at length to a brook, and waded along it for a great while in search of footprints. They looked faithfully far up and down the stream, for they knew the Indian stratagem. Presently Calloway leaped up for joy. “God bless my child!” cried he; “they have gone this way.” He had picked up a little piece of riband which one of his daughters had dropped, purposely to mark the trail. Now they were on the track. Travelling on as rapidly as they could, from time to time they picked up shreds of handkerchiefs, or fragments of their dresses, that the girls had scattered by the way. Before the next day ended, they were still more clearly on the track. They reached a soft, muddy piece of ground, and found all the footprints of the party; they were now able to tell the number of the Indians. The close of the next day brought them still nearer to the objects of their search. Night had set in; they were still wandering on, when, upon reaching a small hill, they saw a camp-fire in the distance. They were now delighted; this surely was the party that had captured the girls. Everything was left to the management of Boone. He brought his men as near the fire as he dared approach, and sheltered them from observation under the brow of a hill. Calloway and another man were then selected from the group; the rest were told that they might go to sleep: they were, however, to sleep on their arms, ready to start instantly at a given signal. Calloway was to go with Boone; the other man was stationed on the top of the hill, to give the alarm, if necessary. The two parents now crept cautiously onward to a covert of bushes not far from the fire. Looking through, they saw fifteen or twenty Indians fast asleep in the camp; but where were the girls? Crawling to another spot, they pushed the bushes cautiously aside, and, to their great joy, saw in another camp the daughters sleeping in each other’s arms. Two Indians with their tomahawks guarded this camp. One seemed to be asleep. They crept gently around in the rear of this. They were afraid to use their rifles: the report would wake the other camp. Calloway was to stand ready to shoot the sleeping Indian if he stirred, while Boone was to creep behind the other, seize, and strangle him. They were then to hurry off with the children. Unfortunately, they calculated wrong: the Indian whom they supposed to be sleeping was wide awake, and, as Boone drew near, his shadow was seen by this man. He sprang up, and the woods rang with his yell. The other camp was roused; the Indians came rushing to this. Boone’s first impulse was to use his rifle, but Calloway’s prudence restrained him. Had he fired, it would have been certain destruction to parents and children. They surrendered themselves prisoners, pleading earnestly at the same time for their captive daughters. The Indians bound them with cords, placed guards over them, and then retired to their camp. The poor girls, roused by the tumult, now saw their parents in this pitiable condition. Here they were, likewise made captives, for their love of them.

There was no more sleep in the Indian camp that night. Till the dawn of the day they were talking of what should be done to the new prisoners: some were for burning them at the stake; others objected to this. Boone and Calloway were to be killed, but they were too brave to be killed in this way. Some proposed making them run the gauntlet. At last it was decided (in pity for the girls, it is said) that the parents should be killed in a more decent and quiet way. They were to be tomahawked and scalped, and the girls were still to be kept prisoners. With the morning’s light they started out to execute the sentence. That the poor girls might not see their parents murdered the men were led off to the woods, and there lashed to two trees. Two of the savages stood before them with their tomahawks, while the rest were singing and dancing around them. At length the tomahawks were lifted to strike them; at that instant the crack of rifles was heard, and the two Indians fell dead. Another and another report was heard: others fell, and the rest fled in dismay. Boone’s companions had saved them. All night long they had waited for the signal: none had been given; they had heard the Indian yell; they feared that they were taken. They had watched the camp with the greatest anxiety, and now had delivered them. They were instantly untied; the girls were quickly released, and in the arms of their parents; and they all started joyously homeward. Mrs. Boone was delighted to see them. The party had been so long gone, that she feared her husband and child were alike lost to her for ever.

It is not surprising that when men found out that a settlement had been made in Kentucky, others were soon ready to start off for that fertile region. Accordingly, we find many arriving this year, and settling themselves in the country. Harrod, Logan, Ray, Wagin, Bowman, and many other fearless spirits, now threw themselves, like Boone, into the heart of the wilderness, and made their forts, or stations, as they were called. These were just like the home of Boone nothing more than a few log cabins, surrounded by pickets. Indeed, the country began now to assume so much importance in the eyes of men, that the Governor of Virginia thought proper to take some notice of it. When the legislature met, he recommended that the southwestern part of the county of Fincastle which meant all the large tract of country west of the Alleganies now known as Kentucky should be made into a separate county, by the name of Kentucky. The legislature thought it well to follow his advice. The new county was made, and had the privilege of sending two members to the Virginia legislature.

Nor is it surprising that the Indians began now to be more violent than ever in their enmity. They had been unwilling before that a white man should cross their path as they roamed over their hunting-grounds; but now, when they saw clearings made, and houses built, they felt that the whites meant to drive them for ever from that region. Their hatred consequently increased now every hour. Another circumstance at this time served to rouse them the more against the settlers. If you will think of the period of which I am speaking (the year 1776), perhaps you may guess what it was. The colonists of America in that year, you will remember, declared themselves independent of Great Britain. In the war which followed (known among us always as the Revolutionary War), England struggled hard to subdue them; nor was she always choice as to the means which she used for the purpose. She did not hesitate even to rouse the red men of the forests, and give them arms to fight the colonists. They were not only turned loose upon them with their own tomahawks and scalping-knives, but were well supplied with British rifles and balls. All the new settlements in the land were troubled with them, and Kentucky had to bear her part of the sorrow. These Indians would scatter themselves in small parties, and hang secretly for days and nights around the infant stations. Until one is acquainted with Indian stratagems, he can hardly tell how cunning these people are. By day they would hide themselves in the grass, or behind the stumps of trees, near the pathways to the fields or springs of water, and it was certain death to the white man who travelled that way. At night they would creep up to the very gateway of the pickets, and watch for hours for a white man. If any part of his person was exposed, he was sure to catch a rifle-ball. It was impossible to discover them, even when their mischief was done. They would lie in the grass flat on their bellies for days, almost under the very palisades. Sometimes an Indian yell would be heard near one point of the fort, startling all the settlers a yell raised only to draw them all in one direction, while the Indians did their mischief in another. In this sneaking mode of warfare, men, women, and children, were killed in many places; and not unfrequently whole droves of cattle were cut off.

At length, to the great joy of the settlers, the Indians began to show themselves more boldly: for anything was better than these secret ambushes of the savages; an open enemy is not so much to be dreaded as a secret one. Boonesborough and Harrodsburgh (a settlement made by James Harrod, a bold adventurer from the banks of the Monongahela) were now the principal stations. Toward these, new emigrants were from time to time moving, and against these stations, as being the strongest, the Indians felt the greatest hatred, and directed their principal attacks. Early in the spring of 1777, a party was moving toward Harrodsburgh: fortunately, the Indians attacked them; for, though two whites were killed, the attack probably saved the settlement. It was only four miles from the place, and the Indians were now on their way there. One young man escaped in the midst of the fight to give the alarm at Harrodsburgh. The station was instantly put in a state of defence. Ere long, the Indians appeared. A brisk firing at once commenced on both sides; the savages saw one of their men fall, and finding that they were not likely to gain any advantage, soon scattered for the woods. The whites lost one man also, and three were slightly wounded.

On the 15th of April, a party of one hundred savages appeared boldly before Boonesborough. Every man of them was armed with his gun, as well as bow and arrows. Boone, however, was prepared for them, and gave them a warm reception so warm, that they soon gladly retreated. How many of their men were killed it was impossible to tell, for they dragged away their dead with them. In the fort one man was killed, and four were badly wounded.

Their loss this time only served to make them more revengeful. In July following they again came against Boonesborough, resolved upon vengeance. They numbered this time more than two hundred. To prevent any of the white settlements from sending aid to Boonesborough, they had sent off small parties to molest them, and keep them busy. The savages now commenced their attack, and for two days a constant firing was kept up. At last, finding their efforts again idle, they raised a loud yell, and returned to the forests. The whites could now count their slain and wounded as they dragged them off: seven were killed, and numbers wounded, while in the fort only one white man was slain. In spite of their numbers and their cunning, they did but little harm: for Boone was never found sleeping; he knew that Indians were his neighbors, and he was always ready for them. After this, they learned to dread him more than ever. He now went by the name of the “Great Long Knife.”

Attacks of this kind were made from time to time openly against the settlements, but especially against these two principal stations. They all ended very much in the same way, and it would only weary you if I should attempt to speak of them. It is enough for you to know that the whites were always on the lookout, and that Boone was regarded as their principal leader and protector. We will pass on, therefore, to something more interesting.

I have already stated that the stations of these settlers were usually built, for comfort’s sake, in the neighborhood of salt licks or springs; and near such a lick, as you will remember, Boonesborough stood. The supply of salt, however, was not sufficient; new settlers were often arriving, and it became necessary to seek a place which would afford more of that article. Boone was the father of the settlement, and he undertook to find it. Having selected thirty men as his companions, on the 1st of January, 1778, he started for the Blue Licks, on Licking river a stream, as you know, emptying itself into the Ohio opposite where Cincinnati now stands. Upon reaching this spot, the thirty men were soon very busy in making salt. Boone, having no taste for the work, sauntered off to employ himself in shooting game for the company. He had wandered some distance from the river one day, when suddenly he came upon two Indians armed with muskets. It was impossible for him to retreat, and the chances were against him if he stood. His usual coolness did not forsake him; he instantly jumped behind a tree. As the Indians came within gun-shot, he exposed himself on the side of the tree: one savage immediately fired, and Boone dodged the ball. One shot was thus thrown away, and this was just what he desired. Exposing himself immediately in precisely the same way, the other musket was discharged by the other Indian, to as little purpose. He now stepped boldly out; the Indians were trying hard to load again; he raised his rifle, and one savage fell dead. He was now on equal terms with the other. Drawing his hunting-knife, he leaped forward and placed his foot upon the body of the dead Indian; the other raised his tomahawk to strike but Boone, with his rifle in his left hand, warded off the blow, while with his right he plunged his knife into the heart of the savage. His two foes lay dead before him. If you should ever visit Washington city, you will see a memorial of this deed. The act is in sculpture, over the southern door of the rotundo of the capitol.

After this he continued his hunting excursions as usual, for the benefit of his party; but he was not so fortunate the next time he met with Indians. On the 7th of February, as he was roaming through the woods, he saw a party of one hundred savages on their way to attack Boonesborough. His only chance for escape now was to run. He instantly fled, but the swiftest warriors gave chase, and before a great while he was overtaken and made a prisoner. He was, of all men, the one whom they desired to take; they could now gain, as they thought, some information about Boonesborough. They now carried him back to the Blue Licks. As they drew near, Boone, knowing that it was idle to resist, made signs to the salt-makers to surrender themselves. This they did, and thus the savages soon had in their possession twenty-eight captives. Fortunately for themselves, three of the men had started homeward with a supply of salt, and thus escaped.

Now was the time for the savages to have attacked Boonesborough; for, with the loss of so many men, and Boone their leader, we may readily suppose that the station might have surrendered. Flushed, however, with the capture of their prisoners, they seem not to have thought of it any longer.

The prisoners were marched immediately to Old Chilicothe, the principal Indian town on the Little Miami, where they arrived on the 18th. There was great rejoicing over them when they reached this old settlement of the savages, though Boone says they were “treated as kindly as prisoners could expect.” Early in the next month Boone with ten of his men was marched off to Detroit by forty Indians. Here Governor Hamilton, the British commander of that post, treated them with much kindness. The ten men were soon delivered up for a small ransom. But when the Governor offered them one hundred pounds to give up Boone, that he might allow him to return home, they refused to part with him; they looked upon him as too dangerous an enemy to be allowed to go free upon any terms. Several English gentlemen were moved with pity when they saw Boone thus a helpless prisoner, and offered to supply his wants. He thanked them for their feeling, but refused to receive any aid, stating that he never expected to be able to return their kindness, and therefore was unwilling to receive it. The truth was, he was not disposed to receive assistance from the enemies of his country.

With no other prisoner than Boone, the party now started again for Old Chilicothe. As they drew near, after a very fatiguing march, Boone thought he understood why they had refused to part with him. Before they entered the village, they shaved his head, painted his face, and dressed him like themselves; they then placed in his hands a long white staff, ornamented with deers’ tails. The chief of the party then raised a yell, and all the warriors from the village answered it, and soon made their appearance. Four young warriors commenced singing as they came toward him. The two first, each bearing a calumet, took him by the arms and marched him to a cabin in the village; here he was to remain until his fate was made known to him. Of all strange customs of the Indians (and he had seen many of them), this was the strangest to him. It is not wonderful that he thought he was now to die.

Yet this was a common custom (it is said) among the Shawanese, who inhabited this village. Prisoners were often thus carried to some cabin, and then the Indian living in the cabin decided what should be done whether the prisoner should die, or be adopted into the tribe. It happened that in this cabin lived an old Indian woman, who had lately lost a son in battle. She, of course, was to decide Boone’s fate. She looked at him earnestly, admired his noble bearing and cheerful face, and at length declared that he should live. He should be her son, she said; he should be to her the son whom she had lost. The young warriors instantly announced to him his fate, and the fact was soon proclaimed through the village. Food was brought out and set before him; and every effort, which Indian love could think of, was used to make him happy. He was fairly one of the tribe; and the old woman who was to be his mother was especially delighted.

He was now as free as the rest; his only sorrow was that he had to live among them. He knew, too, that if he should be caught trying to make his escape, it would be certain death to him. He pretended, therefore, to be cheerful and happy; and fortunately his old habits enabled him to play his part well. Like them, he was a man of the woods, and as fond of hunting as any of them. They all soon became attached to him, and treated him with the utmost confidence.

Sometimes large parties would go out to try their skill at their sports of racing and shooting at a mark. Boone was always with them; he knew, however, that in trials of this kind the Indians were always jealous if they were beaten, and therefore he had to act very prudently. At racing, they could excel him; but at shooting, he was more than a match for any of them. Still, when the target was set up, he was always certain to be beaten. If he shot too well, they would be jealous and angry; if he shot badly, they would hold him in contempt: and therefore he would manage to make good shots, and yet never be the successful man. He knew too much of Indians not to conduct himself properly.

Sometimes they would start out upon hunting parties. Here Boone was at home; there was no jealousy when he brought down a buffalo or a deer with his rifle-ball. He might do his best; they were true hunters themselves, and were delighted with every successful shot. Returning to the village, Boone would always visit the Shawanese chief, and present him a portion of his game. By this kindness and civility he completely won the heart of the chief, and was not unfrequently consulted by him on important matters. Thus he passed his time, joining in all their modes of living; he was beloved by the old woman, the chief, and all the tribe: and none suspected that he was not contented and happy.

On the 1st of June, a large party was starting from the village for the salt-licks on the Scioto, to make salt. Boone pretended to be indifferent whether he went or not. The truth was, however, that he was very anxious to go, for he thought it would afford a fine opportunity for him to escape. He seemed so indifferent about the matter, that the party urged him to accompany them, and off he started. For ten days most of them were busy making salt, while Boone and two or three of the best marksmen hunted for the benefit of the rest. He watched his chance for escape, but none occurred; he was closely observed, it was impossible for him to attempt it. To his great sorrow, he was forced to return home with the salt-makers.

They had scarcely got back, when the whole village was summoned to the council-house, to attend a council of war. Boone, as belonging to one of the principal families, went to this council. Here he met four hundred and fifty armed Indians, all gayly painted. One of the oldest warriors then struck a large drum, and marched with the war-standard three times round the council-house: this was the sure signal that they were about to make war upon some enemy. But who was the enemy? What was Boone’s surprise when it was announced that they meant to attack Boonesborough! He resolved now that he would escape, even at every hazard, and alarm the settlement. Still his prudence did not forsake him.

The old warriors at once commenced gathering together a supply of parched corn, and beating up more recruits for the expedition. All the new men (Boone among the rest, for he was forced to join them) were then marched off to the “winter-house” to drink the war-drink. This was a mixture of water and bitter herbs and roots, and was to be drank steadily for three days, during which time no man was to eat a morsel. Even if a deer or buffalo passed by, no man was to kill it; the fast must be kept. In fact, no man was allowed even to sit down, or rest himself by leaning against a tree. This was done by the old men to purify the young warriors, as they said, and to gain the favor of the Great Spirit. All this was a common practice with the tribe before they went to battle; and the more strictly the fast was kept, the greater (as they supposed) were the chances of success. During these three days, Boone, like the rest, kept the fast, drank the war-drink, and did not even leave the “medicine-ground.”

The fast being over, they fired their guns, yelled, danced, and sang; and in the midst of this noise the march commenced. The leading war-chief, bearing the medicine-bag, or budget (as it was called), went before; the rest followed in single file. Nothing but shouting and yelling, and the noise of guns, was heard, as they passed through the village. When they reached the woods, all the noise ceased; they were fairly on their march, and that march was to be made after the Indian fashion, in dead silence. For several days this dead march was kept up, Boone looking every hour for his chance of escape. At length, early one morning, a deer dashed by the line. Boone leaped eagerly after him, and started in pursuit. No sooner was he out of sight of the Indians, than he pressed for Boonesborough. He knew they would give chase, and therefore he doubled his track, waded in streams, and did everything that he could to throw them off his trail. Every sound startled him; he thought the Indians were behind him. With no food but roots and berries, and scarcely time to devour these, he pushed through swamps and thickets for his old home. Now or never was his chance for liberty, and as such he used it. At length, after wandering nearly two hundred miles, on the fourth day he reached Boonesborough in safety.