A Biographical Sketch of
THOMAS MC CLANAHAN
Excerpts from the Legends of the War of Independence
Legends Of The War Of Independence And Of The Earlier Settlements In The West , by T. Marshall Smith, J.F. Brennan, Pub., Louisville, 1855; reprinted in Dec. 1992 by Larry D. McClanahan, Nashville, Chapters XXII - XXVI, Page 259 B 308. Reprinted with permission of Larry D. McClanahan.
Thos. McClanahan, another native Virginian--Incidents of his boyhood--His skill and perseverance as a huntsman--Chases a buck on foot six miles--Runs him into a farmer's cellar, where he is found next morning, killed and taken home in triumph--Tom, at the age of eighteen leaves his home, and joins the continental army--Travels one hundred miles on foot to whip a man who insulted his father, and having done so, immediately returns--Is engaged in the battle of Brandywine, Morristown, Monmouth, and Trenton--Returns home after the surrender of Cornwallis--Renews his acquaintance with Miss Ann Green--Courts her--Asks the consent of her brother, Col. Robert Green--Is refused.
A Youth’s dreams are but flutterings
Of those strong wings whereon the soul shall soar
In after-time to win a starry throne.
The future works out great men's destinies;
The present is enough for common souls. --Lowell
Thomas McClanahan, the oldest son of the Rev. William McClanahan of the Baptist Church, was born about the year 1754-5, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and was about eighteen years old, when the battles at Lexington and Bunker Hill were fought. His earliest indications of mind and character in future life, were those of a great devotion to all the amusements common to boys; particularly those requiring the greatest activity, adventure and hazard, and, an unabating thirst for fun, sport, and amusement. He was particularly fond of the chase, and with his pack of hounds in pursuit of the fox or deer, when only ten or twelve years old, he would follow on foot, from early day until night,--contriving, to the astonishment of all acquainted with the fact, to Acome in at the death, to use the fox hunter's phrase, as early as any of the gentleman who were mounted upon their fleetest and best trained hunters.
On one occasion, hearing his hounds upon a full cry, as he and several believed who joined in the sport, after a fox--he on foot and they well mounted,--they pursued for several hours before it was discovered they were in full chase of a deer. All the others immediately declined further following the cry, believing it was useless. But little Tom, still followed on, hissed on and encouraged his dogs,--now greatly wearied and dispirited. Still the most faithful and enduring of them, kept up the pursuit and on they went, and the bounding buck being at a little past sun set, sadly wearied and severely pressed by the pack, for safety and shelter leaped into a gentleman's cellar. Into the cellar the dogs went also; and, when their little master got up, they were yelling and terribly worrying the buck. Calling them all off, with the consent of the farmer, he closed the cellar-door, and left old antler to rest himself as well as he could in his newly chosen quarters, until morning.
That night at about eight o'clock, he reached home on foot, a distance of five or six miles from where he caged the buck, astonishing his father and mother with a detail of his wondrous feat. His father was wholly incredulous to his narrative; and being himself a man of scrupulous truthfulness, hating falsehood most cordially in any one, but especially this as he thought in his promising boy. It is very probable, but for the timely interference of the mother and her exhortations to his father, to await the discoveries he might make in the morning of the truth or falsehood of his statement, he would forthwith have shown that was not disposed to Aspare the rod and spoil the child, but practice upon the monition of Solomon and the doctrines it was designed to teach--pursuant to the wise maxim of Davy Crockett, being of a wiser practical applicability; Abe sure your are right and then go ahead, --prevailed, and the tired boy was let go to his bed that night with an unstriped night-shirt, to await the development of the morning.
At early daylight the parson set out with Tom, to seek the truth of the matter. At the house of Capt. Gibson, peeping into his cellar, they discovered his buckship by his shining eyes wide-awake, and awaiting his visitors, to the great gratification of the parental heart, and the proud triumph of the brave boy. Quickly the game was throttled and prepared, secundem artem, to be transported to the home of the mother and all the family, to give to all, not excluding the courageous pack, joy and gladness, which the latter most unmistakable evidenced in the loudest yells and howls of applause.
At school our young hero was not considered nor posted as a dunce or even a dull boy, but as dedicating all his capabilities and time, to sport of some sort or other, and in pranks and sportive tricks, upon his school fellows, which they were at perfect liberty at all times to return good humouredly without the least hazard of giving offence to him. But if one or a half-dozen of them, at a time, took offence at any of his sportive pranks or tricks, and angrily resented, or attempted retaliation in anger, woe be unto them all. No school discipline of law, or scarcely parental command and authority, could stay his vigilant hand from administering the most prompt and server punishment. An awful thrashing was the inevitable consequence, unless speedy concession or honorable reparation was made. Then, instantly, the fullest forgiveness and restoration to favor would as certainly follow.
His scholastic attainments were but small; although his sensible and judicious father, would have delighted much in extending his opportunities for learning, to the placing him in the best schools of that early day. But for study and learning he never showed the least fancy or relish. A game of play, or amusements of rough roll and tumble; a foot race, a match at fisticuffs, or fox or deer chase, ever had the greatest charms for him; and would not be foregone for the acquirements of any knowledge from books.
His parents having the ability to indulge him with time and leisure, to gratify his passion for any or all of those amusements, they constituted almost his entire employments. It was the surprise of all who were made acquainted with his wonderful feats in following his hounds, in a deer or fox chase, for whole days. When asked the way in which he bore and accomplished it, or how he had trained himself to be able to bear it, he mainly accounted for it by referring to his early habits of practicing long races, refusing to drink water or anything else, to quench the thirst that naturally occurred. He relieved thirst most readily and effectually by plucking, as he ran, (almost everywhere to be found in forest of field,) the leaves of the cornei cervinum, or white plantain, as it is commonly called--chewing them and swallowing the juice, expressed as he ran.
At the age of seventeen he went to his parents to permit him to join the service of the country. He had often before, even at the age of sixteen, urged his parents to consent; but they invariably refused him. Having now passed his seventeenth year, he insisted, as his beloved country needed his services, and as he possessed the health and constitutional vigor and activity to render the most effective aid in the glorious cause of liberty, they ought to consent. At all events, he said to his father, it is my intention to go with or without your consent, and I must employ the best means I can to procure the necessary equipage expenses to the army.
To this candid declaration of his purpose, neither of his parents replied, and left him to his own reflections. Still he was resolved to go. The more he thought of it, the more increased was his anxiety to be a soldier in his country's cause.
In a few days, therefore, having borrowed a small sum of this neighbor, Capt. Thomas Gibson, together with his saddle and bridle, he was one morning missed from home, together with his father's fine rifle and fine young blood mare. Little doubt, however, was entertained by father or mother, that he was
off in fulfillment of his determination to go to the army, somewhere. They were not mistaken. Having learned that his uncle, Col. Thomas Marshall, with his regiment, was posted at or near Williamsburg--thither he went with all practicable speed, and having made himself known to the colonel, and received the appointment of corporal, in one of his companies, became at once, somewhat noted; but more for his tricks and pranks and love of fun, that for any indications of military prowess and discretion.
In Col. Marshall's regiment, in two battles, he had fought bravely, before his family at home knew where he was. Nay, the first reliable intelligence they had of him, was brought them by a neighbor, who happened at Fredericksburg, about thirty-five miles from the home of the father, and who told young McClanahan's parents, on returning home, that he had witnessed a most bloody pitched battle between Tom and Peter McCormack; that Tom, having heard that Peter had abused, cursed, and attempted to strike his father while conducting a meeting of worshipers at the Baptist church of his neighborhood, and having sent McCormack a challenge to meet him on that particular day at Fredericksburg; they met and fought it out, Tom, giving him a most awful beating, although he had within three days before, under a brief furlough from his colonel, traveled on foot one hundred miles to reach the appointed spot at the time specified.
He very soon set out for a return to his post at Williamsburg, only addressing a brief note to his father, informing him and his mother of the meeting, the cause, and the victory, without note or comment; apologizing for his haste in returning, on the ground of the little time he had in his furlough yet to run.
A vast number of like instances could be mentioned as occurring in the life of this truly brave young man, wherein his feats of pugilism--now almost by every respectable citizen regarded as disreputable, but then looked upon, according to the prevailing fashions and customs of the country in every circle of society, as altogether praiseworthy, making the greatest and most successful bully the most respectable man--were very extraordinary. But we shall not, here at least, pursue his history further in detailing them.
In the continental service, Thomas McClanahan was esteemed one of the best of soldiers; always in battle found at his post, and in the hottest of the fight. In general, in or out of the army, his personal encounters--and they were remarkably numerous--found some palliations in the fact that they were very seldom personal to himself or on his own account, but on account of some other, whose injury he resented, or whose cause he espoused.
About twelve months before the treaty of peace between the colonies and the parent government, and the acknowledgement of their independence, but subsequent to the capture of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, where McClanahan was present and took part in that most crowning feat of the revolution--this young soldier left the army and returned to his home at his father's, in Culpepper county, Virginia. From a small boy he had been acquainted with Miss Nancy Green, the orphaned sister of Col. Robert Green, of revolutionary notoriety, a gallant officer, generally regarded as wealthy, nevertheless proud and haughty in temperament, and who had reared his sister as his own child from very tender years. With Miss Green the young soldier, early after his return to the neighborhood, renewed his acquaintance,--having from his boyhood felt the greatest attachment for her, even when they were at school. While he was in the army, often, very often, she was the subject of his most cherished meditations and the object of his purest affections.
The bold soldier was not long in soliciting her hand in matrimony, though he was yet in his minority, and she only seventeen. To their union her brother was bitterly opposed. To the refusal of this brother and guardian, our hero coolly responded, that it was at least his duty and altogether respectful for him to ask his consent; but if Miss Nancy was the woman he judged her to be, they would be married shortly, the colonel's objection to the contrary notwithstanding.
Young McClanahan informs his mother of his determination and requests her assistance--She breaks the subject to her husband, and they agree to provide their son with funds to consummate his object--Miss Nancy and her lover fix upon the course they intend to adopt.
When daylight was yet sleeping under the billow,
And stars in the heavens still lingering show,
Young Kitty, all blushing, rose up from her pillow,
The last time she e'er was to press it alone;
For the youth whom she treasured her heart and her soul in
Had promised to link the last tie before noon;
And when one the young heart of the maiden is stolen,
The maiden herself will steal after it soon!
As she look'd in the glass, which a woman ne'er misses,
Nor ever wants time for a sly glance or two,
A butterfly, fresh from the night-flower's kisses,
Flew over the mirror, and shaded her view.
Enraged with the insect for hiding her graces,
She brushed him--he flew, alas! never to rise.
Ah! such, said the girl, is the pride of our faces,
For which the soul's innocence too often dies. --Moore.
In the evening of the day on which he had received the haughty repulsed of her brother, Thomas McClanahan, sought and obtained an interview with the blushing young maiden; revealed to her the reception he had received; and told her the defiant answer he had made to him. In all the calmness he could command, protesting his undying attachment for her, he asked her if she would make good his prediction of her course, and elope with him across the Potomac and marry him as soon as he could make all necessary arrangements? She blushed and wiped from her rosy cheeks a few pearly drops; then, with a timid glance at her lover's manly visage, fully expressive of the fervency of his affection for her; owned he had for many years occupied and possessed her highest regards, and said to him: I will fulfill your prediction to my brother. Choose your own time and I will not disappoint your expectations.
On his return home that evening, he related to his mother his engagement to Miss Green; the refusal to their union on the part of her brother, dwelling with some emphasis upon the abrupt and disparaging manner in which he had given it--pretty directly basing his objections upon the ground that his sister was of a family, so much superior to him or any of his connections in rank, if not fortune. His mother with dignified calmness listened to his relation; and, seeming to meditate awhile on all that he said in relation to what touched families replied:
I am surprised my son, at what you are stating. I had not dreamed that young as you are, with all your passionate fondness for sport and fun you had ever bestowed
a thought upon matrimony, or the ladies; but did Bob. Green, dare to intimate that the Greens claimed the respectability of the Marshalls and Markhams, from whom your mother is directly descended? Well to me that gives no little surprise! But his impudence and presumption is only verifying what I said to your father but a few days since--that this revolution would not only produce a wonderful change in the political affairs of the country, but give to the poorest and most plebian families of the colony the right to claim equality and equal respectability with the first families of the land; even though such families as my own, were descended from the dukes and duches, and barons of England! And, warming still more and more as she spoke, she said, ANow Thomas, my son, I assure you, I almost ready to say I am altogether opposed to your connecting yourself in any such way with any such newly fledged pretenders to respectability as the Greens are; and if your father, Parson McClanahan, would join me, I would forbid it altogether if I did not admire the dear girl so much myself.
But my son, what will you do--will you give it up? I am satisfied that the vulgar pride of Green, will make him persevere in his opposition, and then what will you do?
Still have my own way, mother, he responded. AThere is only one difficulty in the way, and that is a few hundred dollars are wanted.
What for? asked his mother.
Miss Green, mother, has already said she would be mine, and go with me to Kentucky, or anywhere I wished, when we were married; but that can only be accomplished by a trip across the Potomac and out of this province; as her brother who is her guardian will not consent to our license here, and more than I now have will be necessary for our equipage and expenses.
Never fear about that, Thomas, your father will, I am sure, attend to that. If, however, he will not, you mother, since Bob. Green, has chosen to put his objections upon the grounds of family respectability, will see that it shall not be wanting,--a few hundred pounds will suffice and show to that accidental Col. Green, that in her veins runs the blood of the Marshalls and Markhams, the descendants of England's proudest dukes, lords, and barons!
Now tom was fully satisfied he had touched the right chord of his mother's usually unimpassioned mind, and confidently believed what she had told him on the subject of his getting the money requisite, from one or both of his parents. Of his father's generous impulses he was rather doubtful unless he could obtain the aid of his mother, who like every prudent wife always held and upon an emergency could exercise an overweening influence upon her husband, and, in such matters, a power quite irresistible. AAnd now, he said to himself, ACol. Green, will find I made no vain boast, when I told him I should carry my point in spite of him.
But what is better than all I shall prove to my Nancy, that she is giving her and plighting her fidelity in marriage to no mere beardless boy, as her brother impudently hinted this morning.
That night, according to his anticipations, his mother had a regular sitting with the sober and dignified old parson her husband. She with no small degree of earnest feeling, detailed to him their son's engagement; his appeal to the brother and guardian for his consent to the union; and with much of scorn and emphasis becoming the proprieties of a true Virginia matron, told him of Col. Bob. Green, that Thomas' family and family connections were not so respectable as the Greens, impudently calling our manly soldier, a beardless boy!
A beardless boy, did he say? replied the parson, and, after a slight interval he repeated Aa beardless boy? Ha-ha-haw-haw! Now Molly, I'll just say to you, for I would not like for Tommy to know that I said so, or thought it, if Col. Green thinks him a beardless boy and stands much in his way hereafter, large and haughty as his colonelship, Bobby Green is, he'll find himself, one of these days, terribly thrashed by the beardless boy. I should regret it, even if he provokes it, yet you may be sure of what I tell you. But did you not say that Green cast reflections upon the respectability of Tommy's family and his father and mother? and rather grounded his refusing his consent on that reason? Well, that takes me altogether by surprise? For I have always thought few of the first families of Virginia-no, not even the Fairfaxes, the Dunsmores, Amblers, Keiths, or Randolphs, could hold their heads above the Marshalls or Markhams, your kin here, and in Europe. As for mine, they are, except a very few, all in Europe also, they having hitherto had so little sense, it is true, as to refuse to come to this beautiful free country--yet I suppose loving and ready to fight, according to the old Scotch Church covenant, for the king and his babies.
Yet I have always heard they were honest. But, what does Tommy intend to do now!
Why, said the lady, Awhat would you expect, Mr. McClanahan, he would do? Did you ever know him turned from what he had deliberately determined to accomplish? I love him for it; only he does not deliberate as he ought before he acts. But I'll tell you what he said to the colonel's impudent refusal. He just calmly told him he was determined to marry his sister in spite of all he had said or could do, and so left him. He told me such was still his purpose, but that he had not money to bear his expenses to Dumfrieze, and then across into Maryland with his pretty bride. Now, husband, this is what I want particularly to talk to your about. You may be sure he will contrive to take away the girl, someway, even though he has to hazard his own or Bob. Green's life, and I can't bear the idea of his going of to get married dependent upon Green or anybody. For you may be sure he loves the pretty girl too much to be turned now. And besides, she is a good child, as I know. The very best of all the Greens.
Well now, wife, replied the worthy parson, AI am not a proud man, I believe, but I feel pretty much like you about this matter, and as Col. Green is pleased to put on these airs, I will give the boy one hundred pounds, anyway, and if I had my tobacco sold I would make one hundred fifty pounds; but I reckon that'll do for the present with what he has of his own, and you can tell him so. Yet don't hint to him what I said about his whipping Green. He might suppose I wished him to do it.
And, said the old lady, AI'll give the boy--what I please.
All this she hastened to communicate to her son, and had the pleasure to witness the joy it imparted to him.
He thanked and kissed his mother again and again, and exclaimed, O, my Nancy! I have long since resolved to make you all my own if I lived to get back from the army; and now I'll do it, stand who will in the way.
The next day he visited his kind old friends and neighbors, the Gibsons, enlisted the generous husband and wife in his behalf, and they dispatched a servant girl to the colonel's with a secret message to Miss Green, to visit them to tea that evening. Promptly she complied with the request, and to her equal, at least, if not surpassing gratification to that of her young and ardent lover, she found him there. It was not long ere the young lovers embraced an opportunity, in a walk to, and along the banks of the Rappahannock--which beautifully coursed its busy tide near to, and almost around, the fertile farm of their friends--to enter into a mutual detail of the events which had occurred since last they met, and sweetly commune on the prospects before them. Young McClanahan said:
Come, tell me, dear Nancy, what the colonel, your brother, has said to you in respect to our marriage; and whether he seems to be as much opposed as ever?
I have not had any conversation with him since, but one, and that was not long.
But, dear girl, said he, Ado you see you have not answered my question? Did your brother say anything to you about my asking his consent to our union and my answer to his objections? Please let me know what he said so I may be better able to shape my course in the future.
O! she said, I really can't remember all he said about it. I confess, Thomas, I feel under obligations from the relation, even now existing between us, and from the reason you have just assigned, for your wishes to know what my brothers says, and how he feels in reference to our engagement. To speak in great candor to you, though it be to expose my own brother's follies, but I am not assured of your prudence in bearing it.
If you will promise to be counseled by me in respect to him, and will at all times restrain and control your resentment and too great an impulsiveness of feeling and action, I will tell you all I recollect of what he said about us.
Well, Miss Green, I promise upon the honor of a gentleman all you require.
I know, Mr. McClanahan, your natural sensitiveness and the usual promptitude with which you are likely to resent injury or insult; I will, nevertheless, confide in your word, and I must tell you, my impetuous brother seems to entertain the bitterest hatred towards you, and the most irreconcilable objection to our marriage. Here let me stop, and please do not require me to say more. My brother has always been tender, affectionate and kind to me, from my earliest childhood; and never, that I remember, before last night, looked at me or ever spoke in tones of disapprobation or reproof; but O! my God --------
Here her voice ceased, and she wept silently for several minutes. Wiping away her tears, however, presently in a calmer spirit she said:
I have told you, sir, sufficient to show his continued opposition, and all, in substance, that you asked to know; except one thing, which, perhaps, you ought to be informed of.
And what, dear Nanny, is that?
He said if I did not then promise totally to discard you, he would in a short time take me where you should never find me.
And did you promise him? he quickly asked.
O! Thomas, can you suspect I did? Is not the freedom with which I have spoken of our engagement, the speed with which I hastened to attend our dear Mrs. Gibson's invitation to tea this evening, assurance enough that I did not, and could not so promise? No,--no! I made no such promise.
As she said this he drew the gentle maid closer to him, gently pressed her panting bosom to his own and kissed, more than once, her blushing cheeks and ruby lips.
But, dear Nancy, did he say where he would take you, and when?
Nothing, she replied. He left me soon after he made the threat, and when he found I would give no such promise, but spoke with firmness of my determination to fulfill my engagement with you, O! how dreadfully and bitterly he stormed and raved, and talked of vengeance. But, my dear friend, you must remember your promise! Remember it is his sister, who feels for him a sister's love and a thousand obligations for favors she received at his hands, notwithstanding his errors, who pleads for him.
Dear, affectionate, and grateful heart! said he, I love and prize you the more for this exhibition of your generous nature; and shall hope to profit by your discreet example. For your brother's safety and entire escape from all my vengeance, for his unjust insults and personal abuse, an angel pleads, and makes the wolf a lamb, at whose feet the lion, at your bidding, will meekly crouch.
Yet, dear girl, we have not said a word on the subject of our marriage--or when and where you will be made wholly mine? Your brother and guardian will, I am now convinced, never yield consent. Nay, will, instead thereof, studiously labor to make it impossible, as you have already declared, and, doubtless, he has ere this, resolved to place your secretly beyond my reach, and will speedily attempt to execute his plans. I fear not, though he can ultimately succeed, or ever hide you from my love. But as even in the assurance of certain ultimate victory and success, the discreet general will still choose between the various means, to avoid the incidents of postponement and expense, I think we had better marry at once, and put an end to all his schemes to thwart our wishes.
I have already, she replied, promised to subordinate to your wishes in that regard.
I have no choice as to when or where. But, Thomas, you have not yet said anything as to the mind of your own respected parents, who, so far as I know, still, as your natural guardians, hold a legal and reasonable control over you, while under age. Are they willing to receive me, the defenseless and almost penniless orphan, as their daughter-in-law?
Aye, dearest girl, most willingly. Indeed, only fancy how my mother's sweet words in your praise, when I first mentioned our engagement to her, thrilled my soul with delight! She spake of her knowledge and respect for your long lost mother ere your birth and up to her death--that she had always known and lover her little orphaned Nancy for her mother's and her own sake; and when I told her of your brother's objections and the grounds he suggested for his opposition, the true mother's heart, with the strongest impulses beat, and she told me, at once, not to fear--a mother's and a father's liberal hand should be stretched forth to supply me in all necessary aids. Today she told me she had spoken to my father in regard to it, and my wants, and delivered my father's message that he would
Dear and most generous friends! May Heaven's smiles ever rest upon them, she exclaimed; and did you kind mother, the friend of my long sainted parent, say that she knew and loved her for her virtues? O! these words shed bright sunshine into my sometimes darkened and lonely soul, and drop the sweetest and richest aroma, as it were, into a heart that has often almost desponded! All is well, then, dear friend. Your mother's kindness to me has long been known and greatly prized to appreciated; but yet I trembled lest I might be regarded as an intruder into her family.
Oh! in that light I am sure she could never regard you, dear Nancy. But let us, dear girl, determine upon our future course; you are willing that I shall direct the time and place, you say, of our marriage?
It remains, therefore, for us to determine the means by which we may escape your brother's interference. We must elope to some one or other of the adjoining States; in this we cannot obtain license. To elope to Maryland--about forty miles distant, we must now settle how we shall affect it. My opinion is, to avoid difficulty with the colonel, your brother, we must not let many days pass ere we go. For my part, I can be ready by next Sunday, which is now four days off. Can you consent to that time, and will you suggest where on that day--morning, noon, or night--you will meet me? For I should not be able to come to your brother's for you, as I might have to encounter his insults and personal interference, and do not wish to come into collision with him, as I hope to keep my pledge to you in regard to him. I could not trust myself in that case. I even fear you will be so closely watched that you will not be in future permitted to visit your kind friend, Mrs. Gibson, unguarded. When, then, will be meet, prepared to set out? Of course, you will be accompanied by some lady friend in the trip. I shall get young Jonathan James to accompany us.
O! Mr. McClanahan, these are things of which I have scarcely thought before, and am much at a loss now to answer your questions. But I will endeavor to do so. I will meet you at the back of my brother's barn, which is, you know, near to the grove of pines that skirt the western side of his farm; and do not doubt I can bring along with me the beautiful Miss Polly Wright. We will meet, if you please, at the hour of seven in the evening.
Very well, Nancy, at the appointed hour I will be there; and I like your selection of Miss Wright as quite fortunate, as she is the flame of my friend James. I believe he has been courting her ever since he got home from the army.
O, it fits finely every way, for she will be the more ready to accompany us, said Nancy, when she learns her lover is to be one of the party.
Thus conversing, the lovers entered the parlor of the family from whose house they had half an hour before walked.
The lovers consummate their marriage--A description of the bride's person--Col. Green's chagrin and disappointment--His wife's sensible advice, and the colonel's final reconcilement to what he could not help.
There are gold--bright scenes in worlds above,
And blazing gems in worlds below;
Our world has love and only love,
For living warmth and jewel glow:
God's love is sunlight to the good,
And woman's pure as diamond sheen,
and friendship's mystic brotherhood
In twilight beauty lies between. --R. M. Milnes.
Love, passionate young love, how sweet it is
To have the bosom made a paradise
By thee, life lighted with thy rainbow smile! --Landon.
Then doubt me not--the season
Is o'er when Folly made me rove,
And now the vestal, Reason
Shall watch the fire awak'd by Love, --Moore.
Shortly after the young lovers entered the parlor of Gibson's dwelling, as stated at the close of the last chapter, they were invited to meet the inmates of the house at tea, and soon thereafter, the young soldier took leave of Miss Green, hastily whispering in her ear,
Remember the place and hour; and if life is spared me, I shall be there to meet you;--till then farewell! --and bowing to Mr. and Mrs. G., hurried home.
He then addressed a brief note to his friend, Jonathan James, informing him of the contemplated trip across the Potomac into Maryland, and requesting a visit from him early on the next day to consult, arrange and prepare for the trip.
This note he sealed and placed in the hands of his father's faithful old body servant, Toby, directing him to deliver it to his friend, and none other; and at the hazard of his life suffer no one to take it or get possession of it, till he found Mr. James. Aye, neber mine, Mas Tommy,--ole Tob never lib dis long in ole Vaginy an' know nuttin. Nobody neber gits dis'patch noway, mine I tells you. Mas Tommy, aint dis de berry way Ginel. Washinton, sent dat 'spach by dat Maj. Creg, I hear masser read 'bout in de big newspaper, and de Britisher neber done gits dis 'spach fom dis ole nigger.
Ah! now, Tob, this is your way, replied his young master: you are always talking about the army or something happened there; and will have your talk out, no matter how great the furry you ought to be in. Don't you see you are losing too much time, and you've yet got to go five miles to Mr. James', and back tonight.
Neber mine, Mas Tom, dis ole nigger gwyne do it, an no mistake. And so he started.
In a few minutes his mother sent for him to come to her room and placed in his hands one hundred and fifty pounds--one hundred sent to him by his father, and fifty contributed by herself. AHere, my son, said she, Awe hope this will do for the resent; more shall come, when needed,
With grateful acknowledgements he received the bills and a few doubloons, making the sum, put them in his greasy buckskin army purse; stuck his hands a kimbo, and said,
Now let Bobby Green come along.
Well, said his mother, you'd better say young man, now Tommy Mac., go along;' for from what I was told today, by one of our lady neighbors, you will have pretty hard work, to get hold of the sweetheart in a few days.
Ah, what did she say, mother? She replied she had heard Bob and his wife talking of Nancy's foolishness, and heard him say he was going to some city in a few days; and she was sure he is going to take the dear girl with him. Are you going to run away with her Thomas, and when and how will you fix it?
He then told his mother of the interview that evening, and of the plans they had adopted: that he had just written to Jonathan James, by Toby, to go with them; and Miss Green, expected Miss Wright, to be her bridesmaid.
Yes--yes, she replied, Athat is the reason why Capt. Gibson's old Harry stopped here a few minutes, enquiring of your father the way to Maj. Wright's over in Fauquier. Did you leave her at Capt. Gibson's when you left there?
Ah! yes that's the way of it. He said he had to carry a letter there. But he wouldn't say who from or who to.
We pass over many amusing incidents that occurred in connection with the hurried preparations of the lovers and their attendants, in the trip to Maryland. Engaging the patience of our respected readers no farther for the present, in regard to the marriage of Thomas McClanahan, of whom we shall, hereafter, in detailing some of the events of the earlier settlements of the West, have much more to day, only to remark that the young and beautiful Miss Green, with her equally interesting brides-maid, Miss Wright, met the two young soldiers, McClanahan and James, at the time and place agreed upon, by the lovers, upon the banks of the Rappahannock, and without delay or difficulty, most pleasantly the gallants journeyed with their respective intended wives to Dumfries. There at Rose Hill, the beautiful residence of Rev. Dr. Thomas Bonnell Thornton, they engaged the services of that venerable gentleman. He accompanied them across the broad Potomac, to the fisherman's hut on the Maryland bank, and there were the sacred rites of matrimony solemnized between the runaways, according to the ordinance of God, and the forms of the old English Church, of which the reverend gentleman was an unfashionable, though intelligent and truly pious minister.
We would present to the reader a more particular introduction to Miss Nancy Green, just made the bride of our young patriot, Thomas McClanahan, as we have seen, and of her no less beautiful bride-maid, Miss Mary Wright. They were within a few months of the same age; the bride, a little the oldest, and both a little over eighteen years. To the former, the connoisseur in beauty of form and symmetry of features, would probably accord the palm; to the latter would be ascribed the greatest approbation and attraction in sprightliness of temperament, quickness of perception and justness of judgment. The young bride in person exhibited a mould remarkably attractive. A skin white as alabaster; a neck an bosom--in short an entire bust, full and expansive; portraying nature's fashioning, in her most artistic handy-work; and indicating a fine adaptation for heath and endurance of pain and suffering; soft deep blue eyes, adorned the expression of her face, shaded with jet black eye-lashes, and a full flowing suit of hair, dark as ebony, hanging in clustering ringlets down a beautiful neck. Her height was a little above usual, and altogether she was possessed of a fine person. The distinctive qualities of her mind was that of continued quietude and sunshine. Never greatly buoyant with hope, nor depressed with sorrow or despair; sensible ever to passion's touch, quickly shown in vermilion blushes unaccompanied by any other ebullition of passion; and when sorrows and suffering came, as oft they did in after life, she exhibited a fortitude equaled only by that of suffering Viola, smiling at grief. Of her pretty brunette, bride-maid, little more here need be said, as the reader may be fully assured she was in person and mind everything her enraptured lover, Capt. Jonathan James, could thing or wish in a bride.
Of the effects produced upon Col. Green, and his very amiable and kind lays, who had most tenderly reared and educated her sister-in-law, Miss Green, from a very tender age--affectionally supplying the place of a mother, we need not particularly remark, on account of her elopement. We only say that with the colonel, who was not a little inexorable in his prejudices, however hastily and indiscreetly formed, seemed greatly discomforted when he discovered in the morning his pretty bird had flown.
Why Amelia, she said to his wife, you have nourished and reared that disobedient sister of mine, to a poor purpose!--to marry that wild adventurer and be dragged in a year or two I suppose to the wilderness, or God knows where--among the Indians in Kentucky or any place he pleases. O, I wish I had him here now, he'd never again run on foot another race with the hounds after another deer fox or anything else--a mere beardless boy!
Husband! husband! said his lady, hear me but just a minute. Your sister, it is true, is yet quite young, and I cannot say that she has been prudent in the choice of a husband, but I am sure it is by this time too late to remedy it. Nor will I pretend to say Thomas McClanahan is not worthy of her and will not make her a good and worthy husband. I am sure he is a very brave and heroic young man. His superior officers say he is a brave soldier, and you know he is able to take his own part with any body, though he is a beardless boy, as you call him.
Well--well, wife I am perhaps, a little to hasty, but I don't like to be overcome in the way by that young man. Why, if you could only have seen how he looked me in the face, when I told him he should not have her, and replied he would in spite of me, you'd have hated yourself to see me so outdone.
Ah! husband, it is over now, rely upon it, too late to make the thing any better, and as your pride of character is only a little touched, in the affair, I thin its best now to let is pass, and receive them when they come back, as friendly as we can and make the best of it. The least said, the soonest mended.
I don't know yet what I shall do, responded the colonel, I love my sister, and it was my duty to protect her. What I shall purpose hereafter, may depend on circumstances; but I hate to be thus headed by a mere boy.
O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, we it esteem,
For that sweet odor which doth in it live. --Shakespeare.
Nor steel, nor fire itself hath power
Like woman in her conquering hour,
Be thou but fair,--mankind adore thee!
Smile,--and a world is weak before thee! --Moore.
McClanahan removes to New River--Is famed for his pugilistic encounters and victories--A conspiracy to whip him--Seven men undertake to do so, but after five of them being by him nearly killed, the other two run and leave him victor--He, with his family, emigrated to Kentucky--Reach and reside at Boone's Station--McClanahan's intimacy with Daniel Boone--Has several severe combats with Indians--Delights in the occupation--Boone makes him commander of a company of rangers, and sends him to the settlements on the Ohio to watch the Indians--His success.
Give me a look, give me a face,
That makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free;
Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all the alduteries of art:
These strike mine eyes, but those my heart. --Ben. Jonson.
In the foregoing notices of the early life of Thomas McClanahan, we are aware that the incidents are not remarkable calculated to distinguish him from the thousands of the young and chivalric sons of the colonies, in the days of the revolution; but as constituting an initiatory and appropriate introduction to the entire narrative of his whole life. They also serve to confirm us in the opinion heretofore ventured in this work, and still adhered to, that the time and the circumstances by which the heroes of that glorious struggle were finally successful in achieving our liberty, and were, necessarily, in the nature of things and the providence of the Ruler of the universe, certain of final victory. We, therefore, are induced to believe that the future of this somewhat daring and adventurous young man will increase the interest of the reader, and therefore we will now give a narrative of his
pioneer character and proceed to exhibit his after life, both before and after his emigration to the West.
In a few months after his marriage and return to his home with his pretty young bride, his father made him a deed of conveyance to a valuable tract of land which he owned on New River, not very distant from Abington, at that day very sparsely populated; to which, in the course of a few months later, he moved and settled, with his family. There was at that time no portion of the State of Virginia east of the Allegheny Mountains as little inhabited or less known. It was, not many years previous to his removal, that the hunting herds of Cherokees, Creeks, and other Indians then inhabiting the entire valley of the Mississippi, South and West, had ceased to penetrate into that region, and as might have been expected, he found living in his vicinity those not far in advance of them in civilization.
They had brought with them all the wild and vicious practices, habits, fashions, and homely customs, which were found in that early day everywhere prevailing, more or less, in all the better portions of the country from which they had recently emigrated leaving behind them nearly everything calculated to adorn, enlighten and ameliorate the asperities of social life. The men were almost universally swearers, gamblers and bullies; some renegades from justice and the just animadversions of the laws of civil society.
Game was very plenty. Deer, bear, wild turkies, and other desirable game, were very abundant; inviting and alluring to the hunters. It will, therefore, not surprise any who have read of his early habits and delights, that hunting at once chiefly engaged the fancy and engrossed the time of young McClanahan. Neither will anybody be surprised when they are informed that he was soon found engaged in the most desperate trials of his pugilistic skill and tact, and set down as the most dangerous and successful bully in all the land.
It will be recollected by those who are acquainted with those days, that even in the most civilized circles, frequent meetings for the trial of strength and prowess in boxing and fighting matches were among the choice of their entertainments at gatherings for musters, log-rolling, corn-shucking, shooting matches, etc. The fashion was to consider and treat him as the greatest and most distinguished man in all the land, who had conquered the greatest number of his fellows in the games of hardest fend-off and fisticuff. The reader will not, therefore, be surprised to learn that young McClanahan was, after his settlement on New River, plunged into these fashionable employments, the results of some of which were, that while he invariably boasted, as truly he could, of the most unquestionable victories in every trial, though not without a few black eyes and red noses, together with a few weighty verdicts for damages and bills of costs for his sports in bruising; yet so notorious did his name and fame become for such feats, that prided bullies of counties and neighborhoods fifty and sixty miles distant from his residence, came to his house, sought an interview, and made a trial of his skill in turning out bruises and perfectly satisfying their desires for such distinctions. None ever came for a second trial! So remarkably expert were his exploits in this line, and so frequent had been the occasions in which he had taught that description of combatants for the bully's fame, that it began to be rumored and fully believed that he was, in fact, a sort of super-human being. Some said he was certainly a direct descendant from Lucifer upon the principle of the modern doctrine of a small fragment of the Baptist church, called the Two seed Baptists. Others who had heard the tales that spread throughout the land of the celebrated Peter Francisco, of revolutionary wonders--swore he was the son of that giant, they were certain; and others said if one could not be found in all the country to conquer him, yet they were sure if a number would join in, they could accomplish it.
Accordingly it was so determined on. He had to be whipped some way. Seven men (a prophetic number) were therefore selected out of a Captain's company, who were understood to embrace the next muster or some other general gathering of the country, to accomplish it. No such meeting came till the muster. In the mean time, some one who had heard of the conspiracy, informed McClanahan of it. He determined to prepare, as well as he could, for the trial. Visiting a blacksmith's shop, he had a couple of steel plates made to fit exactly his shoe, or boot heels, so that when with screws these plates were fixed on his heels, an edge jutted over the hind part of the heel taps, the eighth of an inch, which was keenly sharpened as the edge of a knife. With these weapons, over and above those furnished him by nature alone, he went for the muster, suffered himself to be decoyed by the seven bullies into a room, and the door to be locked upon him. Quickly the contest began. But even while the resolution of the seven was being told him, he sprang at one of them, seized him by the neck, ears, or some other part, threw himself upon his back, dragging him upon himself, and with the entire strength of his uncommonly muscular arms hugging him tightly, began with his heels the work of raking him from his shoulders to his posteriors in a most butcherous style. Meanwhile the other associates stood by, seeing that their comrade was uppermost, and as they supposed, all the time making fight, shouting hurrah, John or Jim or George (as the case may be) Agive it to him, whip him! -- until it suited McClanahan to let him loose and spring and grab another of them and use him in the same way; leaving the first stretched on the floor dead or dying as it seemed, bleeding and helpless, at least; and so he passed on to the third, fourth, and fifth, using them up, each in turn, till the sixth and seventh, taking the hint that their time for a like fate was at hand, hastily unlocked the door, and ingloriously fled, carrying the entire balance of fight, in the select seven heroes, out of harm's way, and leaving McClanahan victor of the gory field, booted and spurred to ride over another seven select militia.
After this extraordinary demonstration, great and distinguished honors met him and sere shown him at every public gathering. At all log-rollings, house-raisings, corn-shuckings, foot races, quiltings and weddings, by all the country, male and female. O, poor human nature! The consequence was, with our young hero, in the exuberance of his love of fun and sociability, joined with the flattering attentions shown him by his neighbors, luring too many evils and costly escapes, beset him, till his liberal patrimony melted away like the drifted snow before the direst rays of the mid-day sun, leaving himself and interesting family subject to the narrowest means of comfort.
About the year 1782, joining in with a company of some twenty or thirty men with five or six families of women and a number of small children coming to Kentucky, all on pack-horses; (for to cross the mountains and pass the wilderness then with wagons or other carriages, was altogether impracticable,) he, with his family, set forth for Kentucky. Few incidents in the way occurred worthy of note till the company reached what is called Powell's Valley, where their camp was attacked in the earliest dawn of the day, and one man and one woman killed, and one man and a little boy severely wounded. The men instantly sprang to their guns, loaded and prepared for battle, rushed forth into the woods from whence they understood the report of the Indian guns came, and discovering some Indians at a distance, some behind trees and others retreating in a run, fired and killed one Indian and wounded two others. The number of Indians was supposed to be about fifty warriors, and a few squaws. There were also supposed to be Cherokees.
In a few days more the cavalcade moved on to Boone's Station and Harrods. McClanahan and a dozen or two went to Boone's.
They had not been there but a few days before the Indians attacked and besieged Boone's Station, which lasted ten days. Ordinary men coming into the country and in so short a time after being subjected to so severs a trial as that station suffered on that occasion, would have felt great alarm. But to our young soldier there was presented, though a new scene, one which above all others seemed to be suited to his adventurous nature, and the theatre on which his native genius was best enabled to show its superiority of prowess and energy.
Soon after his arrival at the station and he was known to Daniel Boon, who is known by all familiar with his history that among his other peculiar traits of character, he was distinguished for his power in looking in the face of the most entire strangers and immediately forming the most reliable opinions of them. Being thus gifted, Boon saw at once the moral courage, integrity of purpose and probable usefulness, every way, of our here, in resisting the incursions of the savages. It may not, therefore, surprise any who have become acquainted with his history in the preceding pages, that young McClanahan was immediately taken into favor and enjoyed the greatest confidence of that extraordinary leader in the conflicts with the savages in the first settlement of the valley of the Mississippi. The writer well remembers to have heard him often say, when narrating many of the feats of enterprise and bravery of that extraordinary man in fighting, pursuing and destroying the wily savages, that he, above all others, was the greatest natural man he had ever known, and the most perfect woods-man; with the most ready and useful knowledge of the savage character ever seen.
Sometimes in the hunting expeditions, when provision became scarce in the station and want of food was likely to become extreme; when the greatest danger and terror existed; and when it was well known
that the surrounding forests were filled with savages of the most ferocious character, McClanahan, at the break of day would leave the fort alone and travel for miles in hunt of game, and almost always returned laden with supplies, composed of the most choice portions of deer, sometimes the tongues only of deer and buffalo, and sometimes three or four fine turkeys.
On one of those occasions, his headiness in a fight as well as fleetness of foot, were put to the severest test. The weather was warm, and he had glided through the forest till he had gone the distance of two or three miles from the station. An opportunity presented of a shot at a beautiful young doe. He shot at it, hung it up upon a sapling, removed the intestines to lessen the burthen of taking it on his back. This was just on the declivity of a small sink, at the bottom of which he espied a small stream of water issuing forth. Being considerably heated and thirsty by reason of his walk and the heat of the day, he descended to the bottom, set his gun against a tree at hand, and kneeling, drank from a small pool. He slaked his thirst. But as he rose from his knees and straightened to an erect position, a large Indian warrior, making the significant booh of the Indian, pitched at him as if to seize and take him prisoner. As he plunged, McClanahan most dexterously met him with a stroke of the tomahawk he scabbarded on his left side, striking him on the right side of his savage head, felled him to the ground; with his left hand he snatched his rifle from the tree and with all his wonted speed fled up the small rise of the sink, ran towards the fort about two hundred yards, took a tree and looked back for a minute to see the result. Assured in his mind the Indian he had knocked down was not distant from others, perhaps many, and if he paused but for a moment to put an end to him, they would come upon him and probably kill him, he fled as stated. But when he looked from behind the tree, he found his conjecture true; for he saw two Indians running in pursuit with their rifles a little elevated and ready to shoot.
He stood still, covered by the tree, till they came within seventy or eighty yards, took sight, and one them, at the crack of his gun, fell. The other stopped a moment to look at his kicking companion; but fearing when the Indian yelled and started again toward him, he would be down upon him before he could possibly reload, our hero set forth again with his accustomed speed, loading as he ran. After running the fourth of a mile, finding he had greatly the advantage in speed over the savage, he took another tree, and when the Indian got within a hundred yards from him, let slip at him; but whether he hit or he never knew. To the station then he made his way without farther adventure.
Next morning he and four others of the men in the fort, stealthily crept to the ground, found his deer still hanging, but found no Indian, dead or alive,--saw much blood, and where it seemed some one had be dragged. They bore his game to the station.
Frequently he was out on expeditions as one of a company of spies sent forth to range along the banks of the Ohio river, principally on the south, and often on the northern side of that stream; very frequently encountered considerable numbers of Indians seeking to make incursions into the feeble settlements of Kentucky for purposes of murder and rapine. On several of these spy expeditions, McClanahan was in command of the company; ever intrepid and daring. Having under his authority at one time forty young and hardy soldiers, and when on the Ohio river, he learned that a number of the Mississinawa, and perhaps a few Pottawatami Indians had, within a few weeks, attacked two boats coming down with emigrants, near the mouth of the little Miami, killed six or sevenCtwo men, two women, three children and took off, as prisoners, two young ladies of very respectable familiesCLucy Smith and Harriet Land. They were tracked from the river, some distance towards the north and in the direction of the Mississinawa towns.
He determined to hazard the great danger and take the responsibility if his men would agree to go with him, endeavor to find their way to the nearest of the villages, and, if possible, rescue the unfortunate girls.
He called a sort of counsel of war,--told the men what he wished to do and had determined with their consent to do. Taking the vote, all went for it, except one and the captain dismissed him form the company, proffering, however, to put him across the river, for they were camped on the northern side, if he chose to return to the station from which he came; saying, he did not, as they were certain to have some pretty hard fighting, what any one to go into that business, unless he was willing to go his death. He name was Turner, and when he was told by two of the men they were ready to put him across the Ohio.
Well, now, says he, bursting into a loud camp laugh, boys you see my name is Turner, and I turn toward that hunt for them gals as heartily as any on you,--so go as soon as you pleaseCI'm up to the hub for it.
They raised a great laugh and shout in the camp, and all set about a preparation for the trip; some in jerking up a good store of venison and preparing deer tongues, and the like. They were then encamped, as we have said, on the northern bank of the river, near the mount of the Big Miami; having recently received a good supply of ammunition from Forth Washington, just a little before established, now Cincinnati, while some engaged in molding an additional stock of bullets, etc.
The distance to the Mississinawa villages none of them knew, nor the exact direction, and there was neither road nor trace to direct their course or travel; but the next day they set out on the expedition. Capt. McClanahan had derived some idea of the locality of the Mississinawa Indians by conversations with several of the men that were out on Gen. George Rogers Clark's expedition to Kaskaskia and Vincennes.
He was himself a fine woodsman, but one of his men, Bland Ballard, was believed to be unexcelled in all the West. Added to his experience as a great hunter, was that of the most towering love adventure, and above all the most irresistible moral courage, beautifully commingled with the kindest and most generous sympathies for his fellow men. Of the bravery and almost superhuman powers of endurance of this man, we have much to narrate and will do so in an appropriate part of this book. In one of his recent tramps along on the Ohio, he had accidentally met with a young man in a thick forest, entirely bewildered, lost and nearly famished for want of food; having eat nothing but the bar of the spice wood bushes, broken off as he wandered, and the tendered buds of the hickory branches found in his way. He was one of the men on board of one of the boats attacked as above mentioned, and the only one known to have escaped, except Harriet Lane his sister. They were with their father and mother and a few of the children, (who were all killed by the Indians,) emigrating from Maryland to settle at Harrod's station.
After sharing with young Lane, a portion of his jerked venison and dried buffalo tongue, and waiting by his side till with these refreshments, rest and sleep, his wearied and emaciated companion was revived and refreshed, young Lane communicated these further particulars of the capture of the boats. They were a little before sundown gliding quietly down the stream within fifty or sixty yards of the northern shores and passing an abrupt bend in the river, below which and within a few steps on the north side, a creek mouthed in which were hid two Indian canoes, from which and from a number of Indians on the bank, the boats were suddenly fired upon. The two men working the oars, on this father's boat, were instantly killed; also his mother and father. He himself jumped into the river and swan to the same shore above the point unobserved by the Indians; landed and crept into the hollow of a very large sycamore, close to the water's edge, and hid himself.
He saw a part, at least, from the hollow in which he was hidden, of the killing of those remaining on the boats and saw them take and tie the two girls. Those from the canoes took possession of the boats, managed to land them below the mouth of the creek, where all of the savages got on board and pushing them again out into the river, in the midst of the most horrid yells and screams, sailed out of this sight. In the hollow of the friendly sycamore he continued during the night after the dreadful catastrophe. At light in the morning he crept forth, and along down the river a few miles, undetermined whither to direct his steps for safety; wholly unarmed, but having some indistinct and undefined hope of discovering the destiny of his sister and Miss Smith, as well as the fate of the boats. Near evening he came to a place where he discovered a fresh bank of ashes and beneath a little fire still lingering. This place evidently was recently deserted by many persons, as the grass and leaves seemed recently trodden down for a large space around the fire. Still looking more closely, he discovered a small wooden tray, split at one end, used by his mother on the boat in kneading dough. This he remembered; whilst near by, he also discovered a small portion of a middling of bacon, which seemed cut from the balance with a knife and thrown in the edge of the water. He also saw or thought he saw one corner of a boat sunk out in the river yet near enough to the shore and surface of the water to be seen. He further discovered that the track made through the beaten grass led off from the fire in a plainly marked course directly northward, and in following it for a half mile or more he found the garter of his sister which he readily recognized, and doubted not his sister had dropped it as she was dragged or driven along by her captors, into the wilderness. This he picked up and had still preserved in all his ramblings. He then returned to the river, but being unable to cross to the Kentucky shore, and utterly ignorant of the entire country, starving and distracted, he rambled off from it, became bewildered and lost, when he was found by Mr. Ballard.
After that generous young pioneer of the West had fed and nursed young Lane for two days, supposing he could now make his way to the station called Drennon's, and dividing with him his store of provisions, they parted. Ballard steered in a course to bring him to the Ohio, near the mouth of the Big Miami, before agree upon by the spy company as the place for their next encampment and general rendezvous for a time, and until it should be agreed to be changed. There is the evening of the day he found the entire company, related to Capt. McClanahan, the foregoing adventure and narrative of young Lane proposed to him the effort to overtake if possible the savage captors of the two young ladies and rescue them at all hazards; and the heart felt gratification to find a ready and willing acquiescence in that affair. On the second day the company started on the expedition, in pursuit of the Indians, and to find the Mississinawa villages.
Know that pride,
How'er disguised in it own majesty,
True dignity abides with him alone,
Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,
Can still respect and reverence himself
In lowliness of heart.
Are often those the noisy world
Hears least. --Wordsworth
The party overtakes the Indians. After destroying forty of them, they release Miss Lucy Smith and Harriet Lane, and conduct them in triumph to Forth Washington, new Cincinnati Lucy Smith is married to one of the Rangers. The first wedding ever celebrated at Cincinnati.
Heaven alone is just! Men in adulation record,
The inflated warrior's or statesman's reward
Whilst woman's sweeter virtues, and patient sacrifice of days,
On earth pass, without a thought, without a word of praise!
O! I would not live always here. Leila
Nothing very strikingly interesting occurred with Capt. McClanahan and his brave company of rangers or spies for five days after they, as we have seen, marched from the banks of the Ohio, to find and deliver the two unfortunate girls, captured and borne off by the Mississinawa Indians. Almost of the company were young, active, and very athletic; not one of then was more than twenty-eight years old, and none was under the age of twenty-two. Great cheerfulness was depicted in every countenance and their almost boyish hilarity and sportiveness were so great as to preclude nearly entirely the maintenance of necessary discipline, and the caution indispensable to safety and success, in the country of their wily savage enemies. Having learned from a man who had been captured at Drennon's Station a year before, by a roving gang of Shawanee Indians, carried by them through the Mississinawa villages, and who had ultimately escaped when well nigh the head waters of the Wabash river, that these villages were situated chiefly between the sources of the Big Miami and those of the Wabash, they were little at a loss in directing their course through the trackless wilds which they had to pass.
The weather was clear, calm, and pleasantly warm; the nights unclouded and serene. The north star therefore, as to the mariner upon the bosom of the trackless deep, meekly and truly pointed out their course. Onward in vigilance and cheerfulness they wended their way, till the evening of the fifth day, when, arming at the bank of a small stream, they were about to build a fired and encamp for the night, when they heard the sharp crack of a rifle, and, in somewhat suppressed tones, the Indian yell was heard down the stream, appearing to be within the distance of a quarter mile.
At once convinced there were savages at hand, a counsel of war took place, and Ballard and Basey were ordered in the most stealthy manner to examine in the direction they heard the explosion, for Indians, etc. In a few minutes they reported the discovery of an Indian fire, surrounded by at least fifty, and also two white girls, who were apparently tied by a hand each, together, and bound to a tree. Quickly a slight retreat was resolved upon, and executed in the most silent and secret manner, to the distance of four or five hundred yards, and to a very advantageous position, covered by a bend of the creek and high cliff. Here they kindled a small fire, sent out a sufficient guard, and determined to wait till it was entirely dark as an unclouded night was likely to be; and then act in the way best favoring success in reclaiming and releasing the captive maidens.
The moment for action speedily came. All were ready and all anxious for the fight. In a few minutes they had a full view of the savages, and also of the unhappy captives, seated on the ground, side by side, and discovered them to be in the range of the shots from the spies, from the position in which they stood. Quickly, at a whisper to his men by the captain, they changed their position and at a given signal, all firedCten or twelve savages instantly fell! Those not killed or wounded seized their guns and great confusion and disorder, and commenced shooting at random;
as they could not see the whites who stood in the woods, until their fire was put out. The spies loaded and fired the second roundCshot somewhat in the dark also, killing some more, however, and wounding others; then, according to the plan of attack, all rushed forward with their tomahawks drawn in their right hands, their rifles in their left, and contending with the Indians for a minute or so, drove them or killed all that remained to fight.
The two girls seemed at first frightened into an almost demented condition. As soon, however, as a torch was lighted and they were enabled to see and find themselves surrounded by white men, imagination alone can measure the grateful transports of joy, that filled their tried and trembling hearts. This was exhibited now in almost distracted exclamations and supplications to the men in the most pathetic terms, for mercy and protection, and anon in triumphant shouts of joy, when assured by the captain, that they were their friends, that I was for their rescue they ad come, and they should be restored to their friends.
The ground was for a distance around the fire was kindled surprisingly covered with dead or dying Indians, but with much pain and regret they discovered also among the slain, a small French lady that had also been brought off the Indians from Heckerwelder, the Moravian town, situated near the Mushingum river. The body of the young woman, the rangers, if they had anything with which to excavate a grave, would have buried. But nothing of the kind had they or could they procure.
O! how deplorable a thing is war, bloodshed, and carnage, even with poor heartless and infuriated savages! Still they are human beingsCtheir bodies human bodies! Their spirits or souls, though untutored and undeveloped by science or civilization, are human spirits or souls, for which the red current of atoning-blood as freely flowed as for those of the civilized man.
And not the least of the corrupting and brutalizing of war's effects upon the hearts and minds of even civilized men, are its tendencies to excite, cultivate and cherish the degrading and iniquitous thirst for human blood; to shut up all the generous sympathies of our nature, and demonize our noblest attributes of mercy and charity. Modern European laws of warfare have greatly ameliorated, it is true, the terrific co incidents of international conflicts, by respecting the right of private property, and extending humanity and kindness to the sick, wounded and captured. Nor less do such demonstrations of human sympathy and Christian feeling obtain and control the conduct of the government officers and soldiers of civilized America. Nay, indeed, it may be truly said, they are more cherished, and maintain a more universal respect and widespread control here than in any other portion of the civilized world. But it must be confessed that these ameliorations of war's asperities and cruelties, are due to civilization alone. War naturally teaches no such mixture of mercy with its wonted and congenial cruelties. In man's primitive and unchristianized state, since his corruption by the fall, he knows no object in his wars, but the extermination of his enemies, by death or captivity. Such characterized the wars of the Jews, in the palmist days of national existence! Such those of the Greeks and Romans, at the zenith of their highest boasts of semi-civilization and science. Unfortunately, however, for American honor and character, our people, in these respects, in all their wars, have had in every case, with savages to endure their accustomed practices and cruel examples in war, such as the slaughter of prisoners and the indiscriminate murder of women and children! While in all other of our warsCtwice with Britain, once with France, and lastly with Mexico, the most savage and ferocious tribes of Indians in every instance have been armed not only with guns, but tomahawks and scalping knives!Cand brought into the conflicts;
encouraged, inspired and improved, so far as British, French, and
Spanish artistic inventions, the boasts of their civilization, could be made to bear, in new modes of savage cruelty and ferocity.
And although in reference to the savages that those European nations, while at war with us, employed and encouraged in their savage cruelties toward us, yet towards Britons, French, and Spanish, we acted in strict conformity to usages and rules of civilized nations at war. It is the regret of every right minded and philanthropic citizen that regard to the barbarisms, we have been tempted, in the spirit of the Alex talionis, or law of retaliation, to follow in some instances their examples and practices of savage cruelty and malignity; and visit upon them the rage of war of extermination, and not merely of conquest! We would be God, that for the honor of our beloved United States, its civilized and christianized reputation, among the nations of earth, such items as those of the far famed Nickajack victory; and distinction of the Georgia assumption of territory, governmental possession and authority, over the lands the homes and graves of the fathers and mothers, brothers, and sisters, of the Cherokee Indians; and of the conduct of McClanahan and his intrepid fellow rangers, in the fight we have just described; as well as a thousand other occurrences in disregard to and in outrage of the most common sympathies of our nature, did not stand forth to bedim and blacken the fair and beautiful pages of our country's history.
We have said that, at the two fires of Capt McClanahan and his men upon the Mississinawa Indians, when they rushed upon them, tomahawk in hand, and killed and wounded them all, or nearly so, strewing the ground with the dead and dying, but we mean not to say, by work or thought, in the foregoing reflections, there was any wrong. For if in moral combat and war unto death with our enemies, there can be justification (and we certainly do not doubt it),
this is a case in which nothing could be more just, nothing more deserving of the highest approbation than such a rescue of the captured girls.
But to explain our meaning, and to fix the application of this case with others referred to, with the view we have been taking of wars of all kinds, but especially with barbarians or savage tribes or nations, it will be recollected that beside the dead and dying found by our rangers, strewing the ground, there were twelve or fifteen only wounded or disabled; and who, if it had been possible to have taken care of them and treated them according to the dictates of humanity, as civilization teaches, might have lived, gone home to their wives and little papooses and furnished them with food. But these also our pioneer Kentuckians, coolly put to death, and left them and all the others to feed the wolf, the panther, and the vultures of the wilderness!
History, however, scarcely furnishes an instance of a ware between a nation civilized and one barbarian, in which the former did not, to a greater or less extent, adopt the warfare of the barbarian. Our wars with England and France, toward whom we observed with unwavering strictness, the humanity of civilized warfare, must not constitute the ground of blame on us alone. Sometimes, in reference to the savages whom those nations prompted and employed and brought to the conflicts, they did nothing to restrain their barbarous excesses and cruelties. The blame is at their doors respectively. The cruelty was all their own.
But to return to the completion of the incidents of Capt. McClanahan's excursions to rescue the captive girls. Often did the writer witness in the latest days of the old soldier, with what pleasure he would recur to this incident in the history of his public service, as giving him more pleas sure to remember and recount than any other portion of his active life. Often when relating it, and speaking of the wild transports of joy and
delight manifested by the girls when they found themselves delivered, and surrounded by, and under the protection of their white American brethren, the big tears would roll down form his eyes and chase each other down his aged and time furrowed cheeks. Ah! tis sweet, when we have passed far down the hill of life, to be able to look back on life and know that for others, as well as ourselves, we have not lived in vain, that we have sometimes, at least, relived the distressed, bound up then broken heart, chases away the sorrow from the afflicted, and imparted joy to a suffering soul.
All united in treating the poor girls, in their return to Fort Washington (now the splendid city of Cincinnati), with the most respectful regard and politeness. At night, there being buy very few blankets among the, the best pallet practicable was made for them in the best place; and when they would accept of two or three of the soldiers' coats or hunting shirts thrown over them, the donors were cordially delighted. Thus in seven days they reached the fort and placed the orphan strangers under the care of Gov. St. Clair and his most accomplished lady, living in the garrison, and went forth to renew with their accustomed vigilance their duty as rangers along the banks of the Ohio. In this trip they were absent fourteen days, and had slain forty-two Indian warriors, and in return, but one of the party receiving a slight wound in his leg.
At parting with the two young captives, all were quite affected. While the girls wept and expressed in very touching terms their gratitude to each of the company for their deliverance, not a few tears were seen to steal down the manly and hardy cheeks of the brave pioneer soldiers. The pretty Lucy Smith, whose gentle manner, beautiful black eyes, bright auburn hair, and skin fair as health's rosy tints could paint, even though exposed as she had been during her captivity and return, was truly captivating. She at first seemed very deeply melted in
tears, and almost inconsolable. But when the noble young ranger, Charles Wilson, looking upon her with silent but fixed attention and admiration, approached her, took her hand, softly pressing it, and said to her in whispering tones, she should not long be left at the Fort wholly among strangers, for in two weeks, by her leave, he would see her again at Fort Washington, the despair of her pretty fact changed to its usual cheerfulness and smiles. Then they parted. He in his heart saying
From this hour the pledge is given
From this hour my soul is thane;
Come what will, from earth or Heaven
Weal or Woe, thy fate be mine.CMoore.
While with equal power she felt, and seemed to say:
Farewell, and blessings on thy way,
Where'er thou goest, beloved stranger;
Better to sit and watch the ray,
And think thee safe when far away,
Than have thee near me, and in danger. Lalla Rookh.
The reader will be pleased to learn that in fulfillment of his promise, young Wilson, in less than three weeks, did return to Fort Washington; sued for and obtained her hand in marriage, and with the consent of Gov. St. Clair and lady, they were in a few days the first pair united in marriage at Fort Washington.
We may also gratify the reasonable solicitude of the reader to follow further the results of this matrimonial exploit in the wilderness, and remark, that the generous young soldier having obtained his discharge from his captain, he withdrew from the spy service, returned with his pretty bride to visit her relatives, to the eastern shore of Maryland, and there and afterwards when they returned to the West, laudable gave to their country a lively flock of young Americans.
McClanahan's account of Harmar's defeat, His own miraculous escape from death, Makes his way back to camp, much to the surprise of his comrades, who had given him up for lost..
But strew his ashes to the wind
Whose sword or voice has saved mankind
And is he dead, whose glorious mind
Lifts their's on high?
To live in hearts we leave behind,
Is not to die.
Is't death to fall for freedom's right?
He's dead alone, that lacks her light!
And murder sullies in Heaven's sight,
The sword he draws:--
What can alone ennoble fight?
A noble cause? Moore
In pursuing further the incidents of Capt. Thomas McClanahan's life, we have but few to narrate fraught with much interest, either in regard to his public or private service, until the expedition to the Miama towns or villages, in the Fall of 1790, under command of Gen. Harmar, and when that officer, by the order of Gov. St. Clair, as the immediate medium of Congress and the President, was sent to quell, if possible, the incursions of the confederate tribes of Indians, within and bordering, upon the boundaries of the northwestern territory. He was upon that campaign, holding the lieutenancy of a militia or volunteer company from Kentucky. He was at the fight with the Indians at the junction of St. Joseph and St. Mary's rivers when the defeat, commonly called Harmar's defeat, took place. As this venerable old gentleman, when near seventy years of age, several times detailed these facts to the
writer, he made at the time a written statement of the same, which he asks for permission to transcribe in the old captain's own language:
I was, on the day of Harmar's defeat, more properly called Hardin's defeat, one of the Kentucky militia, and in that unfortunate battle with the Maumees. There was a small creek that mouthed in the river St. Joseph just above the junction of that river with the St. Mary. The army occupied the best position, as it was supposed by the field officers, to fire successfully on the Indians, who were by them at that time, believed to be principally embodied about three hundred yards back from said creek, but covered from our view by some large timber and a considerable amount of tall sedge grass. The army was then directed to cross the creek, which they did. The company of militia of which I was lieutenant and Millen captain, marched and crossed in front, the federal or regular soldiers commanded by Maj. Wyllys in the center, which one or two companies of militia were to bring up the rear. Our company had barely reached the opposite shore of the creek before the Indians, rising from a bank formed by a sort of lagoon, a very short distance in front (a position they had taken unobserved), began to fire will all vengeance and effect upon us, and particularly upon the regulars, now in the act of crossing. In a very few minutes, as well as I could judge, they killed and badly wounded the whole of them, insomuch that on looking back, the creek seemed perfectly dammed up with the dead or dying, and red with their blood.
We all rushed forward, notwithstanding the Indians were thick before us, nay, indeed, almost surrounding us, taking to trees. Near me, and in full view, my captain was shot down; a ball striking him hear the center of his forehead and a little above his eyes. Finding myself now again with Indians all around me, I sought a better position, ran a few yards farther out in the woods, and had to leap a large fallen poplar across my way. Placing my left hand on its top, with my rifle in my right, I
leaped it. At the time I sprang, I have reasons to think many shot at me; as the bark of the poplar was knocked up into my eyes and all around me, yet I was untouched. Two pair of extra moccasins tied around my waist must have been, at the time, shot through with more that one bullet, as I found afterwards three distinct holes in them. They could not have been made at any other time without striking my body.
Again I took my position behind a tree, from whence I loaded and fired twice. But again finding myself surrounded by the enemy, who had for a time ceased firing, and in every direction seemed closing in upon us, with their tomahawks waving high over their heads, I started on a run in the direction I saw the fewest of them. In doing so I met a tall old Indian, quite gray, decorated like a chief, with a young warrior on each side, all with uplifted tomahawks waving over their heads. These I had to pass; and rushing up to the old chief, jabbed the muzzle of my rifle against his naked abdomen and fired, seeing the powder burn all over it; I clubbed the gun, instantly knocked down the young ones by his side, right and left, and jumped over them. At that instant a small Irishman, of our company, ran past me, saying:
Och! lutennon, and what shall we do now?
I said, run like the devil.'
On he scudded, with might and main, but I never saw him more. I ran myself, about a half a mile, as well as I can now judge, up the creek, loading and firing once before I reached the place where I leaped down the bank, and imperfectly concealed myself under its low clay bank, which had been, when the water was high and the current strong, carved out in the clay, leaving, as it was, at this time, at a low ebb, a small cluster of water willows growing on a small sand bank directly between me, as I lay in the curve, and the main current there flowing. There, as incredible as it may seem, I was at the
mercy of an overruling Providence, almost miraculously kept undiscovered the keen lynx eyes of a dozen, at least, of the savages, who, in full view, came and dipped water, and some of them waded past me up the stream.
I am not superstitious. For many years, both before and since that time, notwithstanding what I had from my earliest boyhood read in the Bible and been taught by my pious parents, I believed in no spiritual existences, neither Heaven or hell. But it is due to mercy and truth for me to say, in this narrative, of that alarming condition in which I then laid, stretched along the bank, that I was induced to choose that place, and seek safety there from the hosts of savages, by having plainly presented to my natural or mental vision, a hand, the appearance of which I can never forget; pointing directly to that spot for safety.
As the Indians waded into, and past me, in the stream, resting at full length on my right elbow, nevertheless with my gun cocked and ready determined to fire if I discovered one looking at me, and put his eye out. But great was my surprise and absolute bewilderment, as I heard over my head, by the jarring of the ground, Indians walking up and down the bank, and giving water to their wounded, as it seemed, from their groans and screams. For when the step would appear to be a little beyond and above my head, supposing that from thence it would be perfectly easy to see it, and imagining sometimes I felt the deadly ball twisting into my crown; yet strange as it may seem, I tell with truth the stranger circumstance, that while in that state of alarm, such was my fatigue of body and mind, I fell asleep, and did not awake till it was quite dark.
With the utmost caution, however, I rose, first resting on my knees, then stood up, listening to every whispering breeze and rustling leaf; then slowly and cautiously directing my steps to the ground on which the battle commenced feeling, that from thence, I could best direct my course back to the
camp, at which we had left Gen. Harmar and the largest portion of his troops, two hours before day. The moon was about an hour high, and by its light I stealthily crept, entered the field of death, went to the spot where I had seen my captain fall, turned his body over and put my finger into the hole in his forehead where the ball with which he was killed, entered. I knew, even by that light, many of the slain of my company; although their features were greatly distorted in the agonies of death. All were scalped, and rifled of their arms and accoutrements, as well as much of their apparel.
While thus passing about in this awful and solemn scene, to the relief of my troubled thoughts, upon the subject of finding my way back to the camp, I heard the booming roar of the cannon, fired at camp, to direct the return of any straggling soldiers, through the dense forests, through which they must pass. Thus it was fired at the end of each hour through the night. I was aware, that to catch such and put them to death, would be the effort of the Indians, and therefore resolved not to travel on the route along which the army had in the morning come, but at the distance of some hundreds of yards, occasionally turning to it to be assured I was steering the proper course. Once so returning to the track or road made in the morning, I came in sight of Indian fires, and just before me saw lying on the ground of two men, who appeared to be asleep. I knew, therefore, if they were Indians, as I thought them to be, and I attacked them and to kill them, a noise from shooting by me or them, or a yell by them, would be at once bring hundreds of the savages about me, and death would be inevitable. I, nevertheless; thought it was so fine an opportunity to give two of the infuriated destroyers of my friends on the hapless day, their quietus, I would try anyway. In preparing for my frontier campaigns against the Indians,
Having been accustomed to the use of the bayonet and the musket, I at a neighboring blacksmith's shop procured a butcher's knife wrought, handle and blade, of steelCthe handle made to fit exactly my large-bored rifle, so as to do very well on an occasion of need as a bayonet, and when pushed down pretty well, answered very well as such. So with my gun in my left hand, my tomahawk in my right, one of the Indians I could pin to the ground, and cleave the head of the other at the same instant with my axe in my right hand. Thus armed, I crept to within a step of them, paused again to reflect upon the danger to which I should be exposed by a failure, concluded it was too hazardous, and began slowly and cautiously to retreat, walking backwards till I reached near thirty yards, and then turned and ran at no slow pace out into the woods and resumed my travel for Harmar's camp, which I reached at about eleven o'clock at night,--spoke to the sentinel, who knew my voice, and admitted me within the lines.
Among my numerous friends in the camp much apprehension, I found, had been entertained by them of my being among the slain. One had agreed he would that this, and another that article to my wife at home, of my small store of camp equipage and clothing. I had the pleasure, however, easily to convince them all, I was not killed, and to permit me to take charge of my property without let or hindrance.
Night closed around the conqueror's way,
And lightnings showed the distant hill,
Where those who lost that dreadful day,
Stood few and faint, but fearless still.
The soldier's hope, the patriot's zeal,
Forever dimm'd, forever crossed?
Oh! who shall say what heroes feel,
When all but life and honor's lost? --Moore