THE NIGHT COURIER
The inmates of Fort Sinquefield had retired to Fort Madison. Colonel Carson at Fort Glass, it may be again stated, was the military commander between the two rivers. More than a thousand persons were now at these two neighboring stockades, Glass and Madison.
It became desirable, as great anxiety was here prevailing, to send a special communication to General Claiborne at Mount Vernon. Whether the selection was made by choice or whether it was a voluntary offer of services is not now known, but certainly a good messenger was found in the person of Jeremiah Austill, nineteen years of age, son of Captain Evan Austill, and now commencing an active and dangerous career in the service of the white settlers. Mounted on a fleet cavalry horse he set out alone in the still hours of night. It was needful to proceed cautiously so as not to lose the way and in order to avoid any lurking Indians that might spring out from some night ambush. In a straight line the distance to Fort Carney was about thirteen miles. And from Fort Carney to Mount Vernon twenty four miles. By the only route that a horse could travel the whole distance must have been more than forty miles.* The solitary and wary horseman passed on, meeting with no adventure till he reached the river bottoms, and there found himself uncertain whether he was above or below Fort Carney. Riding as near as practicable to the river bank, he gave a good imitation of an Indian war-whoop. Soon there came to his ears in quick response, the loud defying bark of some fifty dogs. He thus learned the exact location of the fort and turned his horse in that direction. It was distant about half a mile. He soon reached the gateway, announced himself, and found a warm welcome from the startled men, women, and children, who were all glad to find that the war-whoop which roused their dogs had not proceeded from Muscogee lips. After partaking of a warm supper and allowing his horse some time for rest and food, both horse and rider were ferried over the Tombigbee, and again the courier was on his way. Passing west of the Sun Flower Bend, and then of McIntosh's Bluff, in the dawn of the morning he reached Mount Vernon. General Claiborne was astonished, after receiving the dispatches, to learn that the young courier had made that night trip alone, and was disposed to blame Colonel Carson for sending no escort. But the bold, young Austill replied, that his ears were quick to catch sounds and that his eyes were keen, as quick and keen as the ears and eyes of the native Red men, and that companions would only have increased the danger; and that his own recourses and the sagacity and speed of his horse were the hopeful things on which to rely if attacked by the Indians. He bore back to Colonel Carson an order, designed, as it afterwards appeared, to be discretionary, but interpreted then as peremptory, to abandon forts Glass and Madison and retire west of the Tombigbee to St. Stephens. At this old French and Spanish station were embankments and earthworks, and it was considered, so far as the Creeks were concerned, impregnable. There was severe disappointment and there was even dismay at Fort Madison, on the reception of this order, for it seemed, to the thousand assembled there, that Claiborne was abandoning the whole body of settlers in Clarke county. Their crops needed to be gathered. Their plantations were at this time deserted, the Indians they knew were committing depredations, burning houses, driving off their cattle, turning the hogs into the corn fields that they might be well fattened for the feasts which the Indians were designing that fall to hold; and these white settlers saw before them a prospect of suffering from the want of food. A consultation was held. Some eighty citizens enrolling themselves under the two captains, Evan Austill and Samuel Dale, determined to remain with their families at Fort Madison and protect themselves and their homes. It was a sad parting as some five hundred or more set out with Colonel Carson and his troops for St. Stephens. Then those who remained at Fort Madison took additional precautions. They placed slanting pickets around on the outside of their stockade. They contrived to keep up a light, which was forty feet high, and this light--not electric--made by that fat, heavy lightwood of the long leaf pine, illumined a circle into which no Indian could step with safety.
* I passed over alone, on horseback, in the hours of a not very bright day, the first part of this same line as far as Salt Mountain, and found it to be, in the day time, a wild, long, lonesome road. T. H. B.
The following is an extract from a letter written by Judge E. Austill of Mobile, son of Major J. Austill, dated Mobile, March 6, 1894. It was written in answer to some inquires which I made.
"I have often heard my father speak of the light at Fort Madison, and have no doubt you got the account from him as to the height. I remember the particulars as follows: When the garrison of soldiers and most of the people left Fort Madison those who determined to remain elected my grandfather captain. He had a tall pine pole erected in the middle of the fort, and built around it a scaffolding with a hole in the center so that it could be raised by pushing it up the pole. On this, earth was placed so that the burning pine would not ignite the boards. On this a light was kept burning at night, and you will remember that our fat pine throws a light a long way.*
* Yes, we have hunted together in that "Bigbee" region too many nights for me to forget that. T. H. B.
This was resorted to, to prevent the necessity of putting out pickets at night and reducing the fighting men. All those pioneers were in the habit of shooting deer at night by shining their eyes,-- fire hunting, as it was called--and their aim to the limits of that lighted circle would have been deadly."
These pioneer settlers, with no troops to help them, did not mean to repeat the Fort Mims experiment of trifling with the Indians. They knew the Indians too well to despise them. Captain Austill bad been with his family for fourteen years at the Cherokee agency in Georgia, civilizing and helping the Cherokees. He knew the Indian character well. The younger Austill had grown up among the Cherokees. Captain Dale had been for years familiar with Cherokees and Creeks. He had great respect for the Indian character. The Creeks called him familiarly Big Sam. Judge Meek calls him the Daniel Boone of Alabama. These were the right kind of men to be here in command. Well has Judge Meek said of these, now pioneer citizen soldiers: "They were men well calculated, both by nature and habits of life, to meet such an emergency. With no dependence but the axe and the rifle, they had brought their families through the wilderness, and made them homes upon the table plains and rich alluvial bottoms of our two principal streams. The character and habits of the Indians they understood well, their stratagems in warfare, their guile and cunning. With a flexibility of nature that still retained its superiority, they accommodated themselves to these, and were prepared, as far as their limited numbers would go, for the necessities of either peace or war. To a spectator, the strange buckskin garb, the bunting shirt, leggings and moccasins, the long and heavy rifle, the large knife swinging by the shot-bag, the proud, erect deportment, but cautious tread, and the keen, far-seeing, but apparently passive eye, of the settler in the fork of the Alabama and Tombickbee, upon the Tensaw, or about Fort St. Stephens, would have spoken much of the moral energies and purposes of the man."
Of this class were the eighty men at Fort Madison, proposing to defend against Muscogee warriors their families and their homes.
Some two weeks after the departure of the troops, General Claiborne went up to St. Stephens, and seeing the situation of the settlers between the rivers, he sent Colonel Carson and his men back to Fort Madison.
Such was the lone night ride, in the early autumn, of the young Austill, and such its results; and although the message borne was not so momentous, the ride itself, not yet immortalized by any bard, was one of greater danger and over a much wilder region than was, in April of 1775, that "midnight ride of Paul Revere."
NOTE--Captain Evan Austill who settled in that Fort Madison neighborhood in 1812 died in October the 18th 1818 forty nine years of age "from exposure in Florida in the Indian strife." A marble slab stands by the roadside near the site of Fort Madison and the plain inscription upon it tells the passing traveller the place of the repose of his dust. It was for him a fitting burial place. Long may those few acres of land remain undisturbed by axe or spade or plow. T. H. B.
INCIDENTS OF THE WAR IN THE FORK
It was not unusual for the inmates of the forts in the Fork to go out occasionally to visit their farms and bring back with them supplies for their immediate use. These visits were always attended with danger, for small Creek war parties were continually travelling over the country, committing all kinds of depredations. It was often noticed as a singular and unaccountable fact that when the farmers housed their corn in cribs in the fields it was almost invariably burned by these predatory parties; but when stored in the regular cribs near their residences it was never disturbed.
On the morning of the sixth of September, a man named Josiah Fisher, with his three sons, left Fort Madison and went out to his farm, situated on the Alabama River about a quarter of a mile above Sizemore's ferry. Fisher had married a Creek woman and had a half-breed family. About sunset, Ben, one of the sons, while shelling pease in the yard, was shot in the back. Instantly springing up, he made his escape to the woods. His father, then in the cane, came running out, in a stooping position, to learn the cause of the firing, when he also was shot, the ball entering his breast and coming out at the back. He likewise fled to the forest. As he started to run a warrior shouted to him in the Muscogee tongue, with which Fisher was familiar, "That is the way to do it." The other two Fishers being in different parts of the field, fled to the fort and reported the death of their father and brother. The next morning Ben came in, bleeding from his wounds, from which he happily recovered. It was now supposed that the elder Fisher was dead. But on the afternoon of the succeeding day some of the people who happened to be outside of the fort, saw a man afar off, in a stooping position, coming up the ridge road. As he came nearer they recognized him as Fisher and went forward to meet him. His wound was, indeed, a most desperate one. Drury Allen, one of the party, remarked to him: "Fisher, I do not wish to discourage you, but you will die of that wound." "No," was Fisher's reply, "if it was going to kill me I would have died before now." He then told them the cause of his long delay in reaching the fort; that when he exerted himself too much in walking it caused a flow of blood which almost strangled him; consequently, he was compelled to walk very slowly and cautiously and in a stooping position.
Fisher recovered from his wound, but it ultimately caused his death. Some two or three years after the war he had a corn-shucking at his house. Happening to engage in a friendly tussle with one of the corn-shuckers, he ruptured a blood vessel in the region of the old wound and died immediately from the hemorrhage.
Moses Savel was an inmate of Fort Madison and the owner of a mill on Savel's Branch, a small tributary of Bassett's Creek. About the last of September a detail of twelve men was sent from Fort Madison to this mill to get some corn ground. Late in the afternoon, when the work was finished, the party started out on their return, leaving behind a negro, named Phil Creagh, to close up the mill, but telling him to overtake them as soon as he could. When the parts arrived at the fort, it was noticed that the negro was not with them. Five days afterwards, he made his appearance with a tale of captivity and escape. he stated that while he was adjusting the things in the mill, a party of Indians entered and seized him. They took their captive up the Alabama River to a point several miles below Lower Peach Tree, where they had a canoe concealed. Here they crossed over to their camp, which was occupied by their families. It may here be stated that the Creeks did not regard captured negroes in the same light that they did white prisoners. Instead of putting them to death, their custom was to keep them as slaves. The frontier negroes were aware of this fact. Phil stayed with the Indians four days, and was kindly treated by them, being fed bountifully on venison and honey. Of the latter, the Indians had a large supply, kept in deer skins. Phil manifested no apparent disposition to make his escape, but seemed content with his situation, thus completely lulling his captors' suspicions. Every morning the men went out hunting, leaving their captive in camp with their families. Phil, meanwhile, was patiently biding his time. On the morning of the fifth day, he saw his opportunity. When the hunters had been gone about half an hour, he quietly slipped off to the river, took the canoe, and paddled across. Just as he reached the other shore, some of the women saw him and shouted the alarm. Phil heard it and knew that some of the hunters must have heard it too; so he began his retreat as fast as his legs would carry him. He struck after a while the ridge path and hurried along in it until he was completely exhausted. He then went out to one side, about fifty yards from the path, and laid himself down behind a log to rest. In, perhaps, about an hour, he saw four Indians coming along the path in hot pursuit. They passed him without discovering that he had abandoned the path and continued their onward pursuit. Phil thought it best to still lie close. In about an hour, as it seemed to him, he saw the Indians returning, having evidently given up the pursuit. After they had completely disappeared from sight, he arose, resumed his flight, and about sunset, arrived safe and sound at Fort Madison. Phil was satisfied with his Indian experience.
One morning, not long after the above incident, an inmate of Fort Madison, named Miller, employed a boy about sixteen years of age, named Ben Arundel, a brother-in-law of James Smith, one of the heroes of the canoe fight, to go out to his farm, situated about a mile and a half above the present Suggsville, and dig some potatoes for him. Several persons, among these Ben's own father, endeavored to dissuade him from going, telling him he ran a great risk from parties of Indians that might be in the country. But Ben was obstinate, swearing that he was not born to be killed by an Indian. Miller mounted Ben on his mare, lent him his musket and bayonet, and Ben went out to Miller's farm, whence he never returned. During the day Ben's father became very uneasy, mounted his horse and went out to find him; but he returned about sunset without his son. He told his friends that he knew that Ben was killed; for while on the way to Miller's house, he came across the tracks of two or three Indians going in the same direction, and soon he heard the report of a gun. He now knew that his son was killed, and be thought it prudent to return to the fort. The next morning Miller's mare returned, doubtless having broke loose from the fence where she was tied when the gun was fired. Lieutenant Bradberry then went with his company out to the farm. They found Ben lying in the pototo patch dead and scalped and the bayonet of his musket thrust in his throat. The Indians had taken the musket and the ammunition. The party buried Ben and then marched back to the fort.
The above incidents were related to the writer several years ago by the Rev. Josiah Allen and his brother Henry, both of whom were inmates of Fort Madison and knew well all the parties mentioned The incident of the Fishers can also be seen in Pickett's history, but here given more in detail from the recollections of the Allens. H. S. H.
CHOCTAWS AND CHICKASAWS JOIN THE AMERICAN ARMY
In 1813. the nation of the Choctaws occupied that portion of the present State of Mississippi extending from the old counties of Wayne and Hancock on the south to Line Creek and Tallahatchie River, on the north and from the Tombigbee River on the east to the Mississippi River and Bayou Pierre on the west. The traditional policy of this tribe, from time immemorial, had been that of steadfast friendship towards the whites. In the exciting crisis of 1813, tampered with by British and Spanish emissaries, some slight temporary disaffection, may, possibly, have arisen among the more ignorant classes; but the bulk of the nation, influenced, as they were, by their great Mingoes, and by the noted Indian countrymen in their midst, Pitchlyn, Leflore, Juzan, and others, did not swerve from their fidelity to the whites, and remained firm in their adhesion to the Federal Government. It is true, that on one or two occasions, during the troubled times of the fall of 1813, many persons believed that the Choctaws would join the Creeks, and, in consequence, one or more great panics occurred; but subsequent events proved that these panics and apprehensions of the frontier people were altogether groundless and unnecessary.
The Choctaw people, at this time, as subsequently, were living in three districts or fires, (ulhti), each district governed by its own Mingo. The southeastern district was governed by Pushmataha, the western by Puckshenubbee, and the northeastern by Moshulitubbee. These Mingoes were independent of each other and sovereign in their respective districts, and only acted in concert in national affairs, when the whole nation assembled in council to decide on questions of peace and war. In each district there were thirty subordinate Mingoes or captains, who managed and directed the local affairs of their respective towns or beats.
In the early part of August, with a view of ascertaining the precise attitude of the Choctaws with regard to the war, General Claiborne despatched Major Ballenger to the Choctaw nation. Ballenger had an interview with Pushmataha, on the fifteenth, at Pierre Juzan's either at Coosha or Chunky, but unfortunately died there three days afterwards. What effect or influence this visit had on the mind of the Choctaw Mingo, we have no information. But it is certain that Pushmataha, who was the most enlightened and influential of all the Choctaw Mingoes, was desirous that the Choctaw people should take an open and active stand on the side of the Federal Government. With this object in view, early in September, he rode to St. Stephens and proposed to Captain George S. Gaines to raise several companies of Choctaws fort he American army. Gaines was greatly pleased with the proposition, and accompanied by the chief, he hastened to Mobile and laid the matter before General Flournoy; but the General, from some cause, declined to receive the Choctaws as United States troops. Deeply mortified at the result, Gaines and Pushmataha returned to St. Stephens. Just as they arrived into the town, and were surrounded by the citizens, who were giving vent to their indignation against Flournoy for his folly, a courier was seen in the distance riding rapidly towards them. The rider bore a message from General Flournoy, who had reconsidered the matter, and now authorized Gaines to go into the nation and raise troops. The people forthwith shouted and rejoiced greatly. All apprehensions of Choctaw hostility were now removed, and it was believed that through the influence of Pushmataha, the Choctaws would actually assist the Americans in the war against the Creeks.
Pickett writes: "In company with Colonel Flood Mrs. Grew and the Chief, Gaines departed immediately for the Choctaw country, with no other provisions than some jerked beef. Colonel John McKee, agent of the Chickasaws, met them at Pitchlyn's house, situated at the confluence of Oktibbeha and Tombigbee, where they held a consultation, while Pushmataha went home to assemble his people in council. Having transacted his business, Gaines left Pitchlyn's and in a few days reached the council ground, where over five thousand Choctaws were encamped. Pushmataha harangued them in a long speech, full of eloquence and ingenuity, in which, [as interpreted], he said among other things: 'You know Tecumseh He is a bad man. He came through our nation, but he did not turn our heads. He went among the Muscogees, and got many of them to join him. You know the Tensaw people. They were our friends. They played ball with us. They sheltered and fed us, whenever we went to Pensacola. Where are they now? Their bodies rot at Sam Mims' place. The people at St. Stephens are also our friends. The Muscogees intend to kill them too. They want soldiers to defend them. (He here drew out his sword and flourishing it, added:) 'You can all do as you please. You are all free men. I dictate to none of you. But I shall join the St. Stephens people. If you have a mind to follow me, I will lead you to glory and to victory.' A warrior rose up, slapped his hand upon his breast, and said: 'I am a man! I am a man! I will follow you.' All of them now slapped their breasts, a general shout went up, and Gaines was filled with joy at the result."
We supplement the above narrative of Pickett's with a few facts gleaned from Choctaw tradition. The tradition of the old Choctaws is that this council took place in Neshoba County, at Kooncheto village, situated about a mile and a half west of Yazoo Old Town. This place was selected as being the most central point of rendezvous for the warriors of the nation. Puckshenubbee and Pushmataha were present, but Moshulitubbee, from some cause, failed to attend. Pushmataha, Puckshemebbee, and a subchief, named Tapenahoma, all made speeches favoring a military alliance with the Americans against the Creeks. At the close of Pushmataha's speech, a number of warriors arose, slapped their breasts, and exclaimed: "Nakni sia hokat! Chi iakaiyat ia lashkel" "I am a man! I will go and follow you!"
The troops raised by Pushmataha, who was commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel, consisted of four companies, the entire force, inclusive of the chief and the other commissioned officers, being one hundred and thirty-five men. The commissioned officers of the first company were Mingo Hopaii, (Prophet Chief), Captain, and Tapena ishtaya (Rod-carrier), First Lieutenant, with fifty-one non-commissioned officers and privates. The second company, commanded by Slim King, First Lieutenant, with Nukpallichabi (the one who entices and kills) as Second Lieutenant, had twenty-two non-commissioned officers and privates. The third company, Edmond Folsom, Captain, Red Fort, First Lieutenant, Chukkaba (House above), Second Lieutenant, Okchaya homma (Red Life), Third Lieutenant, had forty noncommissioned officers and privates. The fourth company, commanded by Captain Thluko, who bore the rank of First Lieutenant, was composed of twelve non-commissioned officers and privates.*
* The Continental sound must be given to the vowels in the above Choctaw names including that of Pushmataha and the accent must be placed on the penult. H. S. H.
With this force, Pushmataha reported to General Claiborne, at St. Stephens, perhaps, early in October. He was treated with great distinction by the general and his officers, and soon became a favorite with all. During his entire connection with the army, a social grade corresponding to his rank was accorded to the Choctaw chief on all public, social, or official occasions. Whenever an officer gave a dining, Pushmataha was always an invited guest. The Mingo, on the other hand, was very careful not to compromise his dignity as a great man and a warrior. He would only associate with officers of higher grade, from captain upward. If a private, a non-commissioned officer, or even a commissioned officer of lower grade should accost him and attempt to enter into conversation with him, he would wave him aside with great dignity, saying in his imperfect English: "I no talk with little Mingo; I talk with big Mingo."
A story is related that a short time after the fall of Fort Mims--perhaps the time when he was tendering the services of his warriors to General Flournoy--Pushmataha visited General Claiborne's camp. When he approached the general's tent, he was received by the lieutenant on guard, who invited him to drink with him. Pushmataha answered only by a look of scorn. He recognized no officer with one epaulette. When the general came in, the red warrior shook him by the hand, and said, proudly, as to an equal, "Chief, I will drink with you."
Some of the officers at St. Stephens were married men, and had their families with them. During pleasant weather, these officers were in the habit of taking an evening promenade with their wives. Pushmataha noticed this custom of his brother white officers, and not to be outdone he sent for his own wife from the nation. Upon her arrival, every evening when the officers and their wives engaged in their usual walk, Pushmataha and his homely spouse--she was not considered a handsome woman--arm in arm, would imitate their example. This act afforded much merriment to the officers, and especially to the ladies; but they were very careful to suppress their mirth when within earshot of the chief.
Although these little incidents seemed amusing to General Claiborne's officers, they had, nevertheless, a high regard for Pushmataha, and considered his warriors good allies. The Choctaw Mingo was a rigid disciplinarian. he seemed to realize that to make his warriors efficient troops, they must, to a great extent, conform to the requirements of the military service of the white man, and the wild independence of the Indian warrior must be restrained. He accordingly exacted from his men implicit obedience to his orders.
The agent of the Chickasaws, Colonel John McKee, mentioned above, was in Nashville, when a messenger arrived from Captain Gaines bearing letters to Governor Blount and General Jackson, giving an account of the massacre of Fort Mims. This must have been about the twelfth of September. General Jackson at once directed Colonel McKee to return immediately to the Indian country and "get out" as many Choctaw and Chicasaw warriors as practicable, and then march against the Creek to town, situated at the Falls of the Black Warrior, under the rule of the chieftain, Oseeochee Emathla. Colonel McKee reached Pitchlyn's the very same day that Gaines and his party arrived there. The Colonel had no difficulty with the aid of Major Pitchlyn, in raising as many warriors as he desired for the expedition, and began his march a few days after his arrival. When he reached the Falls he found that Oseeochee Emathla and his people had made their escape and there was nothing left for the Choctaw and Chickasaw warriors to do but to burn the deserted cabins and return home. According to Pickett, when the returning warriors reached Pitchlyn's, they separated, one party going to their homes and the other party going to St. Stephens to join Claiborne's army.
The union of the Choctaws and the Chickasaws with the whites was now secured and thus was gained a great point for the protection of the Mississippi Territory. And to Captain Gaines and Colonel McKee must be accorded the chief honor of bringing the warriors of these tribes into the military service of the United States during the Creek War of 1813.
The materials for the above chapter are drawn from Pickett's History of Alabama, the Alabama Historical Reporter of May, 1884, Claiborne's life of Sam Dale, the records of the Department of the Interior, Choctaw traditions, and conversations, in 1877, with the venerable Captain S. P. Doss, of Pickensville, Alabama, who, in early life, was an intimate friend of Pushmataha. H. S. H.
THE BASHI SKIRMISH
A steed comes at morning; no rider is there;
But its bridle is red with the sign of despair.
It is not certain when the events bearing this name took place. An intelligent citizen of Clarke county says, before Fort Easeley was evacuated. Pickett says early in October. The inmates of Fort Easeley and of Turner's Fort came for greater security to Fort St. Stephens, probably early in September, and from this neighborhood Colonel William McGrew, with some twenty-five mounted men, had gone up the river, into the Wood's Bluff neighborhood, to look after the Indians who among the various tenantless and exposed plantations were committing depredations. Before this small band of horsemen had reached a little stream called Bashi, that flows into the Tombigbee a mile or two north of Wood's Bluff, they suddenly found themselves among concealed Creek warriors. They were ambushed. A turkey tail was raised above a log by one of the concealed Indians, and this was the signal for attack. The Indians who had guns instantly fired from their places of concealment and the white leader, who had taken part in the Burnt Corn engagement, fell from his horse. Edmund Miles was also killed, and Jesse Griffin severely wounded. Colonel McGrew's men returned the fire of the Indians, but without much effect. The Indians from their places of ambush had largely the advantage of the mounted men, and these found it needful to make good their retreat. Besides the commanding officer three of the men were missing Edmund Miles, Jesse Griffin, and David Griffin. These two Griffins were twins. One of them on the morning of that fatal day seemed to expect some calamity, and they agreed to stand by each other, the one not to leave the other in case of danger. They came into the world together, and they proposed, if need should be, to stand or fall side by side, and go out of the world together. According to the best information Jesse Griffin was shot through the thigh and, being unable to retreat with the others, his brother David, according to their agreement, staid by him while life remained. It is one tradition that the two kept up a fire upon the Indians, as fast as they could load their guns, until seven of the Indians were killed; but, however that may be, it is very sure that among the few whites and the Indians slain the body of David Griffin was not found. His son, William Griffin, born at Wood's Bluff in 1812, and at this time with his mother either in Fort Easeley or at St. Stephens, a resident at Bashi in 1879, states, as the account that was given to him, that the last sight which his comrades had of his father, as the Indians were still firing upon them in their retreat, showed him in the act of loading his gun, himself then with a broken limb, but resolute in appearance, as determined to fight to the last moment of his life. William Griffin, was informed by those who hold a right to know that the body of his father was surely never found. All that was found as a trace of him on that skirmish field was the breech of his gun. The barrel was not there. His body, like the body or person of the young Kimbell boy, disappeared, how, none of his friends ever knew.
Colonel McGrew's horse, like the dark gray charger of Mamilius in Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome, started for his home.
Says Alexander Carleton, Esq., of Clarke County, "On the next morning after the battle, the Colonel's horse was at St. Stephens, thirty miles distant, with signs of blood on the saddle, and only one pistol in his holster."
Some days afterwards, General Claiborne crossed the river from St. Stephens, and advanced into this Wood's Bluff and Bashi region. The bodies of Colonel McGrew, of Edmund Miles, and of Jesse Griffin were found and were buried with military honors. These men fell "about five miles east of Wood's Bluff, near the present Linden and Coffeeville road, and about a half mile south-west of the Bashi bridge."*
* One frosty morning I passed this spot alone on horseback and the road was lonely enough then for Indians to have easily ambushed a traveller. A "frail memorial" had been erected there but it was decayed and no longer of use. T. II. B.
General Claiborne spent a few days scouring this wild region. He found some Indians. Several of his men were wounded in the skirmish engagements. Among those severely wounded was Captain William Bradberry, another of those officers who had fought at Burnt Corn. Says Hon. E. S. Thornton of West Bend, he was shot "about two miles above the Lewis Mitchell place, and five miles above West Bend, on the old Coffeeville and Wood's Bluff river road." His wound proved to be fatal.
Claiborne and his men returned to Jackson below St. Stephens, on the east side of the river, then commonly called Pine Level, and there for a time they camped, hoping to receive orders or permission from General Flournoy to cross the Alabama and proceed into the Creek country.
BEARD AND TANDY WALKER
During September and October, 1813, many depredations were committed by small parties of Indians in the Fork, and occasionally some of the settlers were killed. About the last of October, one of Carson's men, named Beard, was killed near Fort Madison. The circumstances of his death, as detailed to the writer several years ago by the Rev. Josiah Allen and his brother Henry, both of whom knew Beard well, were as follows: Early one morning, two wagons, one driven by Jim Dale, the other by Malachi Sharbrough, with a detail of soldiers, were sent a mile or so above Fort Madison to get a supply of corn for the garrison. Not long after their departure, Beard, who was on the sick list and temporarily boarding with the family of Micajah Benge, borrowed the latter's horse, and equipped with sabre and holster pistols, left the fort and started out to Benge's farm to get a supply of potatoes and collards. A short distance from the fort, he met one of the soldiers of the detail, who had received permission to return to get more cartridges, as he found out that he had only a few in his cartridge box. Benge's collard and potato patch, comprising about two acres, was situated on the ridge, about half a mile north of the fort. At the southwest corner of the patch, there had stood three large pines. As these trees shaded the patch too much, Benge cut them down. They had fallen down the western slope of the ridge, their trunks lying parallel and their tops interlocking. The road leading northward from the fort--the road which the soldiers and the wagon had taken--had once run along the western string of the fence, but on account of the fallen trees at this point, it had been turned somewhat to the left, passing along by the tree tops and entering the original road near the northwest corner of the patch. Five Creek warriors, bent upon some hostile deed, had secreted themselves in these tree tops. As the wagons came along they saw that there were too many soldiers to venture an attack, so they lay close. After awhile, when the wagons had disappeared from sight, Beard came up. He rode along by the pine stumps, in the original road, between the Indians and the fence. He dismounted near the northwest corner of the patch, tied his horse by the reins to the fence, then climbed over and began to cut some collards. He had retained his sword, but left his pistols in the holsters. Meanwhile, the soldier, whom Beard had met, having replenished his cartridge box, was hastening back on the road to overtake the wagons. The soldier had arrived within about two hundred yards of the patch, when be saw two Indians spring out of the tree tops, run and leap over the fence, and with a loud war-whoop rush towards Beard. Beard dropped his collards, and ran to the eastern string of the fence, which he crossed, with the warriors close at his heels. He then ran along the string of the fence to the southeast corner, and there took a hog trail which led out into the main road near where the soldier stood, for the latter had halted on seeing the Indians. The soldier threw his musket to his shoulder, but feared to fire lest he might kill Beard, who was just in front of the Indians, and on a line with them. At last Beard came to where the trail ran somewhat to the right, in the midst of some postoak runners. Here the Indians shot him down, crushed his skull with lightwood knots, scalped him, took his sword and then ran away at full speed towards the east. All this occurred in the space of a few minutes, and within two hundred yards of the soldier, who afterwards said that the postoak runners were so thick at the spot where Beard was killed that he could not see the Indians, and they were out of sight before he could get a good aim at them. Just after Beard was killed the soldier said that he saw the three other Indians spring from their lair in the tree tops, and flee at great speed across the potato patch in the same direction taken by their comrades. Lieutenant Bradberry's company had just left the fort for an excursion when they heard the firing, and instantly wheeling, they came to the place at full gallop, David Glass being the first man to reach the spot where Beard lay. Soon afterwards the wagons with the detail, coming back at full speed, arrived on the ground, for they too heard the firing. Bradberry's troopers, after hearing the statement of the soldier, made an excursion eastward in search of the Creek warriors, but failed to find them. Beard's body was placed on one of the wagons, brought back to the fort and there buried. His horse, frightened by the Indian war-whoop, had fortunately broken loose, and returned to the fort. Beard was about thirty-five years old, and was said to have come to the Mississippi Territory from Illinois or Missouri.
During the occupation of Fort Madison, many excursions were made by the citizens and soldiers, sometimes, perhaps, merely in quest of adventure, and sometimes to gain information in regard to the movements of the enemy. The most noted of these excursions was one made under the lead of Tandy Walker, once government blacksmith at St. Stephens, recorded, with some slight conflict of statement, in both the narratives of Pickett and Meek, but more in detail by the latter. This party, consisting of Tandy Walker, George Foster, an expert hunter and a bold quadroon mulatto named Evans, left Fort Madison, early in November, crossed the Alabama river, and advanced, says Pickett, to the battle ground of Burnt Corn, but Meek, whose statement we prefer, says they advanced to the destroyed residence of James Cornells, at Burnt Corn Spring. We quote Judge Meek's narrative: "When near the place, Evans dismounted, and, leaving his horse with his companions, stealthily approached to make observations. In a field, he saw an Indian, at a short distance, digging potatoes. He at once shot him, and, after some minutes, not seeing any other Indians, he entered the field and took the scalp of his victim. Returning to his companions, they examined the premises and found, on the opposite side of the field, the camp and baggage of a considerable party of Indians who had fled at the sound of Evans' gun. With this booty, the three adventurers now hastened towards the Alabama. At Sizemore's deserted old place, near the river, they found a field of corn, nearly ripe, with plenty of fine grass. Though they saw many moccasin tracks and other signs of Indians, they determined to stop here to feed their horses and to pass the night. They accordingly went a short distance into the field, and, as it was a cool November evening, kindled a small fire and lay down to sleep. In the night, Foster had a strange and alarming dream, or 'vision,' as he termed it, which awoke him and filled him with apprehension. Arousing his comrades and telling his dream, he urged them to leave the spot, as he felt they were in danger there from the Indians. They made light of his fears, and lapsed back into slumber. He, however, arose, and going still farther into the field, threw himself down in the high grass and went to sleep. At the dawn of the day he was aroused by a volley of guns fired upon his companions, and fled with all haste into a neighboring cane-brake. through which he made his way to the river, and, swimming it, he safely reached the fort.
After two days, Tandy Walker came in, severely wounded, his arm being broken by several balls, and his side badly bruised by a ball which struck a butcher knife in his belt. It appeared that the Indians had waited until the first faint light of day to make their attack. They then fired some five or six guns and rushed for yard with their knives. Evans was killed; but Walker, though wounded, sprang from the ground and ran through the corn and high grass. Being very swift of foot, he outstripped his pursuers and soon got into the canebrake, where he lay concealed till night, suffering greatly from his wounds. Then he proceeded to the river, and making a raft of canes, to which he hung by his well arm, he swam across. He was so feeble from the loss of blood and from pain, that it took him all that night and the next day to reach Fort Madison."
Pickett gives the 5th of November as the date of this affair on the Alabama. As a slight supplement to the story, we will state on the authority of one of Walkers old friends, that after he had taken refuge in the cane-brake, the Creeks searched for him a long time, several times they came very near his hiding place; but finally, to Walkers great relief, a note or signal sounded on a powder charger caused them to abandon the search.
THE CANOE FIGHT
The North American Indian has, with good reason, when on what is called the war path, been dreaded by the white inhabitants of the frontiers; for he was cunning, quick, sagacious, often merciless. He knew how to come unexpectedly upon exposed households, to strike fierce and murderous blows, and to make good his retreat, taking with him scalps and even helpless women and children. But in the earliest settlement of the Atlantic coast it was proved that, with all his shrewdness, and powers of endurance, and forest bravery, he was not, after all, a match, even handed, for the cultivated white man. In more ways than one, even in meeting them on their own ground, those words were proved true, that "the anointed children of education have been too powerful for the tribes of the ignorant."
The most noted hand-to-hand conflict between white men and Indians, in New England history, is the encounter between Captain Miles Standish, with three of his Plymouth comrades, and Pecksnot, Wetawamat, and two other Indian chiefs, all heads of a conspiracy formed to exterminate Weston's colony and then massacre the Pilgrims. Standish had gone among the Indians and waited for his opportunity. It soon came. The four Indian conspirators were "all entrapped in one cabin." The door was secured. The four white men were also within, and as a witness the friendly Habbamak. "A terrific death-grapple at once ensued. There were no shrieks, no cries, no war-whoops. Nothing was heard save the fierce panting of the combatants and the dull thud of the blows given and returned Habbamak stood quietly by and meddled not. Soon the Englishmen were successful; each slew his opponent," Standish himself killing Pecksnot, "an Indian of immense muscular size and strength," who had said not long before to the captain, "You are a great officer but a little man; **. I possess great strength and courage."* Here there were four against four, shut in by cabin walls.
* Martyn's "Pilgrim Fathers," page 188.
The Alabama-River Canoe Fight was a conflict where the whites, apparently, had greatly the disadvantage. There were not four against four, nor yet, as in the old Latin story of the Horatii and Curiatii, three against three, but three against nine.
The well attested facts are these: (The month is November.) Small parties of the hostile Creeks were committing depredations among the Alabama River settlements--they were wanting food, were foraging,--when Captain Dale obtained permission from Colonel Carson, commanding at Fort Madison, to drive the Indians at least to the east side of the river. He had a force of thirty Mississippi volunteers under Lieutenant Montgomery, and forty militia of Clarke county, under Lieutenant G. W. Creagh. With ten more men than, according to Mrs. Hemans, the Cid, the noted Campeador of Spain had, when
" For wild sierras and plains afar,
He left the lands of his own bivar,"
Captain Dale and his two lieutenants left Fort Madison on an expedition which was to enroll at least three of their names among our noted Indian fighters. During the first day's march northward among the unoccupied plantations they found no Indians. The second day they went in a south-easterly direction to the river, crossed it by means of two canoes, at French's landing, then called Brazier's, and camped on the bank. The night was cool, the men thinly clad The next morning, when the warm sun arose, they resumed their march, Jeremiah Austill, "Night Courier," son of Captain Evan Austill, having charge of the two canoes, and with six men to aid him, commenced to pass up the river abreast of Dale and his company who were marching along the eastern bank. Soon a canoe load of Indians was seen descending the river, but these Indians on being discovered paddled immediately back and passed from sight in the dense cane at the mouth of Randon's Creek. The men on the bank also met with Indians who retreated when the guns of Dale's men were fired upon them. One Indian was killed and several were wounded. It was soon found difficult to proceed further along the eastern bank and orders were given to recross to the western side. When all had crossed over but twelve men, among them Dale, Smith, Austill, Creagh, Elliott, and Brady. and while these were preparing a late breakfast and roasting sweet potatoes in a little field, an alarm of "Indians!" came from the western bank. Leaving their breakfast they siezed their guns and reached the river bank. They soon saw descending the river "a large canoe containing a chief and ten painted warriors." The Indians back of them, on the eastern side, who had occasioned the alarm, for some reason made no attack on these twelve men, and they gave their whole attention to the large approaching canoe. Soon two cautious warriors sprang out and made for the shore. One of them Smith shot. The other made good his retreat eastward. The canoe man-of-war with the nine warriors continued to descend the river, and as only one small canoe, with a colored man named Caesar in charge, was on the eastern shore, Dale ordered the larger canoe to be manned and brought over. Eight men started out to obey the order, but alarmed, as it appeared, by the threatening attitude of the nine warriors in their large canoe, these eight returned to the western shore. Captain Dale was vexed and proposed to his men to attack that canoe load with their own little dug-out. Besides Caesar, who paddled, it would carry but three, and Dale stepped in followed immediately by Smith and Austill, the latter taking his position in the prow. Those who have ever attempted to stand up, or even to sit, in one of these little river canoes can appreciate something of the disadvantage, on the side of the whites, for three men, in such a frail support, to undertake a life or death grapple with nine stout Indian warriors in a much more stable boat, a canoe, so called, that could carry eleven or more men. The expectant Indians awaited the attack as their boat floated on, and Caesar, at Dale's command, with the vigorous strokes of his paddle, sent the small canoe directly towards the large one.
THE "CANOE FIGHT" ACTION OPENS
The three Americans with their guns in their hands attempted first to pour in a broadside, but one gun only was discharged, and that with little effect, the priming having been dampened in the other two. Caesar was now ordered to pull up along side, and then the real conflict began. It was the twelfth day of November, a day to be remembered in Alabama Indian border strife, when on the beautiful Alabama in that noted river bend, with nine American spectators on one bank and sixty-one on the other, and how many concealed Indians in the dense canes none knew--Judge Meek says nearly three hundred--this conflict of three against nine was waged. Neither Americans nor Indians could help their fellows. They could only await the issue of this unequal encounter. It was a perilous moment as the little canoe closed upon the other, with Austill, a young man of nineteen in the prow, watching how or where the first blow might fall. He was not left in uncertainty long, for as the prow of the American canoe touched the other, and before he could strike a blow or grapple with a red warrior, the rifle of the chief who, when the canoes were about two feet apart, had exclaimed in English words, "Now for it, Big Sam," came like lightning heavily down upon his head. That the blow did not kill him is strange. Dale and Smith sprang instantly to his rescue, and with their heavy rifles and strong arms soon dispatched the powerful chief. His words of challenge were his last. Cesar then brought the canoes side by side, and so held them during the remainder of the sharp but short fight. It was give blows and take in rapid succession, Austill having immediately regained his feet and his prowess, and doing his part in the fearful fray. In the thick of this fierce onset he was again struck down, now by an Indian war-club, but was rescued by Dale, and once more regaining his feet he wrenched the war-club from the Indian warrior and with it dashed him into the river. Smith performed his full part in the conflict, and soon every Indian warrior was slain. Eight dead bodies were cast into the flowing waters of the Alabama when this "tiger strife was over," and Austill with the war-club had already sent one warrior adrift upon the river.
THE CANOE FIGHT WAS OVER
It was difficult at the time, it is impossible and needless now, to detail the part performed by each of these three heroic men in that conflict. Like the old "dauntless three," Hearts, Parties, and Herminius, who kept the bridge so well in the days of ancient Rome, these three "border men, true representatives of one variety of American heroism, share together the fame of their exploit, as that day they stood together in their small boat in the confusion of the desperate struggle." That they should all survive, and that nine brave Indian warriors, with the apparent advantages all on their side, should perish, shows again what was exemplified in the days of Captain Miles Standish, that the American Indian, dreaded though he well may be as a foe, is not a match even handed for the bold and hardy pioneer white man.
" Samuel Dale was at this time forty-one years of age, was about six feet and two inches in height, and weighed one hundred and ninety pounds. He possessed a large, muscular frame, and had no superfluous flesh."
"James Smith was now twenty-five years of age, five feet and eight inches in height, very stout and finely proportioned, weighing one hundred and sixty-five pounds.
" Jeremiah Austill was nineteen years of age, six feet, two and one-fourth inches in height, very sinewy, with no surplus flesh, and weighed one hundred and seventy-five pounds.
" Such, physically, were the men who proved their superiority," when, to them, fighting seemed to be a duty, "over red warriors of the brave Creek nation, men who, in a hand-to-hand conflict, shared the advantages which were needful for ancient heroes and for knights in the Middle Ages, of well trained and hardy muscle."*
* "Clarke County" page 168.
Two or three score of such men, springing as "boarders" upon the deck of a British man-of-war, with or without such a leader as John Paul Jones or Commodore Perry, would soon have cleared the deck and brought the colors down.
By means of the captured canoe the nine men on the east side, now crossed the river. The men all went as far up the river as Cornell's Ferry, and finding no more Indians, returned that night to Fort Madison. The canoe fight was ready to go into American history along with Perís victory on Lake Chaplain gained two months before.*
* The nearest parallel to the Canoe Fight which I have found occurred near the opening of the "Pequod War". John Gallup was sailing on the Connecticut "in his little shallot of twenty tons" with one man and two boys when he discovered John Oldhams pinnace off Block Island, which the Indians had lately captured, and fourteen of them were on the deck. Martyn says "Pilgrim Fathers", "Then one of the most remarkable instances of gallantry recorded in the annals of border warfare occurred." Gallup steered directly for the pinnace with a fresh wind struck it "stem foremost nearly upset it" and six frightened Indians "jumped overboard and were drowned". He did the same thing again and four more jumped and sank. Four only remained. He drowned two of these and two finally escaped.
Whether the Connecticut River action or the Alabama Riser action displayed the more daring the reader must judge.--T.H.B.
Of the three men engaged in this conflict, from whose hands one only, of the eleven at first seen in the canoe, escaped, some further notice may justly be given. Of James Smith but little seems to be known. He was born in Georgia, was a pioneer settler in the river region, is described as a very brave and daring man, and is credited with having "contributed very materially to the success of the canoe engagement." He removed to East Mississippi and there died.
Of Samuel Dale, known as Captain Dale and then General Dale, abundant material for a life record exists. He was evidently a remarkable man. A brief abstract of events in his life is all that can here be given. Claiborne, with some flowers of rhetoric, has written his life very fully. He was born in Virginia in 1772. In 1784 his father removed to Georgia and occupied a farm near the Creek Indians. In a few years his father and mother both died leaving to him the care of seven children younger than himself. He became a trader among the Indians, then a guide and mover of families to the river settlements. Before the "Creek War " he himself removed to the Alabama River region. After that war he held office not a little. In 1816 he was a member of the convention to divide the Territory. In 1817 he was a member of the Alabama Territorial Assembly. He represented Monroe county, which for some time extended west of the Alabama to the water-shed, in the years 1819, 1820, 1821; 1823, 1824; 1826, 1828, 1829. In 1824 he was a member of the committee to escort Gen. La Fayette to Alabama's capital. The Alabama Legislature conferred on him the rank of brigadier general. In 1830 he was appointed by the Secretary of War one of the commissioners to remove the Choctaws. In 1831 he removed to Mississippi. In 1836 he represented Lauderdale county. He died at Daleville, Mississippi, in May, 1841. Such were some of the positions held by the man who suggested and led the canoe fight. He is represented as having declared that in every hour of danger he was cheered by a firm trust in God.
Jeremiah Austill, known as Major Austill in all the later years of his life, was also a much more than ordinary man. Born in South Carolina in 1794, spending several years of his youth among the Cherokees, when eighteen years of age he came with his father's family into the Mississippi Territory. After the Creek war closed he became a clerk at St. Stephens, in the store of his uncle, Colonel David Files, then Quarter Master for the army. After the death of his uncle, in 1820, he became Deputy Marshal. He removed to Mobile and was appointed Clerk of the Court of Mobile. He was also appointed city weigher. He represented Mobile in the state legislature. In 1824 he commenced business as commission merchant. In 1837, in that great financial crash, he closed, having then four hundred customers, and finding himself involved in a loss amounting to one hundred and seventy thousand dollars. He reasoned in regard to his customers from his knowledge of Indian character, but he found, to his loss, "that in similar circumstances the white man would not deal like an Indian." He admired the Indian business characteristics as he had learned them among the Cherokees. He bought in 1840 the Tombigbee River plantation on or near which was located Fort Carney. He made his home there, on the upland, among the pines, a mile or two from the river, in 1844.
His marriage was preceded by circumstances somewhat romantic. This quotation is from "Clarke and Its Surroundings," p. 464.
"When on that memorable night in 1813, as bearer of dispatches to General Claiborne, he entered Fort Carney, the gate was opened by John Eades, and a daughter of his, a young, dark-eyed maiden--she was then eight years of age--glanced at the tall youth who took his supper with them, and who was so boldly performing a perilous enterprise."--His keen eyes must have fallen, at least for a moment, upon her bright face---"This maiden afterwards attended the academy at St. Stephens, and there as a school girl she met the young clerk, who thought to himself that one day she would surely, become his wife. But another maiden came in between them and through a combination of circumstances to her young Austill was married. Before many years had passed she died and left no child to represent her. Again the tall sharer of the honors of the canoe fight met with her, whom he had seen in the fort and who as a school girl had stolen his first affections, and before long they were married. A long and happy, but changeful life they have spent together. They have had two sons and three daughters."
In receiving or forming mental impressions Major Austill was peculiar. In 1818 he was in New York city for his health, having recovered from an attack of yellow fever in New Orleans which had reduced his weight from one hundred and eighty pounds to ninety-six. While in New York he had a presentiment that his father was dead. He hastened home, making the return trip in twenty three days, which was then considered a speedy transit. He found that his father was really dead. Again, in 1841, when residing in Cottage Hill, near Mobile, at three o'clock in the morning a stranger appeared to him in vision or dream saying "Dale is dead. He died this morning at three o'clock." Several days afterward he received a letter from a stranger containing these words.*
* I am unable to account for these and similar impressions. I was well acquainted with Major Austill. I am sure of his trustworthiness and I had this account from his own lips in 1877. T. H. B.
As that young girl in Fort Carney in 1813 has had a special mention of whose well ordered home in 1854 I was myself an inmate it will surely not be unfitting to append here this note. The notice that follows was written by that editor friend, Isaac Grant of Grove Hill and published in his paper June 19, 1890.
"Mrs. Margaret E. Austill late of Singleton this county died in Mobile last Saturday the 14th., in the eighty-sixth year of her age. She was the widow of the late Jerry Austill of this county, one of the heroes of the celebrated Canoe Fight on the Alabama River during the Creek Indian War. She was the mother of Ex-Chancellor Austill of Mobile. One by one the links connecting the present generation with that of our territoryís early settlement are being broken. Only a few of them remain."
After carrying on his plantation for many years Major Austill died December 8, 1879, in the eighty-sixth year of his age, "possessed of the respect and confidence of all the people, and revered for the long life of usefulness, honor, and patriotism he had lived on the soil of Alabama."