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THE following story illustrates the historical period, of which I take the Rifle for the symbol.
As early as the year 1790, the blockhouse and stockade, just above the mouth of the Hockhocking River, constituted a frontier post for the hardy pioneers of the Northwestern territory. Among the most luxuriant of the many beautiful prairies of that region, were those which lay along the Hockhocking valley, and especially that portion of it in which the town of Lancaster now stands. This neighbourhood, on account of its beauty, richness of soil, and picturesque scenery, had been selected as the site of an Indian village. It afforded a suitable place for the gambols of the Indian children, as well as the central point for assembling the Indian warriors. Here the tribes of the west and north met in council, and from this spot they went forth upon the war-path in different directions. Upon one of those occasions, when the war-spirit moved mightily among those sons of nature, when the tomahawk leaped in its belt, and the spirits of their friends, slain on the field of battle, visited the warrior in his night-vision, and called upon him to rouse and avenge them, it was ascertained at the garrison above the mouth of the Hockhocking, that the Indians were gathering in great numbers for the purpose of striking a blow on some part of the frontiers. To meet this crisis, two of the most skilful and
WHITE AND MCCLELLAND.
indefatigable spies were despatched to watch their movements and report.
White and McClelland, two of the most experienced scouts at the post, on a balmy Indian summer day, took leave of their fellows, and set out on this hazardous enterprise. With stealthy step they skirted the prairies, and successfully prosecuted their hidden march, until they reached that remarkable prominence, now known as Point Pleasant, which stretches, an isolated promontory, into the valley, from the eastern side; its western termination rising abruptly from the river's edge, in a perpendicular cliff several hundred feet high, and its bare and lofty summit commanding a wide prospect over the extensive bottom. This point being gained, the spies could see every movement of the savages in the valley below. From their hiding-place, on the crest of the bluff, they daily looked down upon the Indian village in the meadows near the northern base, and upon the booths around it, erected for the use of the war parties, successively arriving. They watched the younger warriors, engaged in horse-racing, foot-racing, leaping, tomahawk-throwing, or performing the wild ceremony of the war-dance; while the sachems and old men looked on with Indian indifference, the squaws passed to and fro on the errands of their usual drudgery, and the children ran and gambolled hither and thither among the huts. The whoops and shouts of the young men rose to their ears, mingled with the musical laughter of the more youthful squaws, and the shrill and dissonant voices of the feminine elders. The arrival of every new war-party was greeted with terrific yells, which, striking the mural face of Mount Pleasant, were driven back by the various indentations of the bluffs beyond the valley, producing reverberations and echoes as if ten thousand fiends were gathered at a festival.
Such yells would have struck terror to the hearts of those unaccustomed to Indian revelry. To our spies, however, they were but martial music; strains which waked their watchfulness, and newly strung their veteran courage. From their early youth they had been on the frontier, and were well practised in all the subtleties of Indian warfare. They were, therefore, not likely to be ensnared by their cunning, nor, without a desperate conflict, to fall victims to the scalping-knife or tomahawk. On several occasions small parties left the prairie, and ascended the mount from the eastern side. At such times the spies secreted themselves in the deep fissures of the rocks on the west, coming forth from their hiding places when their unwelcome visitors had disappeared.
For food, they depended on jerked venison and cornbread, with which their knapsacks were well stored. They dared not kindle a fire; and the report of one of their guns would have brought upon them the entire force of the Indians. For drink, they used the rain water which stood here and there in the hollows of the rocks; but in a short time this store was exhausted, and McClelland and White found that they must abandon their enterprise or obtain a new supply. McClelland, being the eldest, resolved to make the dangerous attempt; and with his rifle in his hand, and their two canteens strung across his shoulders, he cautiously descended, by a circuitous route, to the prairie, skirting the hills on the north; under cover of the hazel bushes, he reached the river, and turning a bold point of a hill, found a beautiful spring within a few feet of the bank, now known by the name of "Cold Spring." He speedily filled his canteens and returned in safety to his companion. It was hereupon determined to have a fresh supply of water every day, and the duty of bringing it was performed alternately.
THE FEMALE CAPTIVE.
One day, after White had filled his canteens, he sat a few moments watching the limpid element as it came bubbling out of the bosom of the earth, when the light sound of footsteps caught his practised ear, and upon turning round, he saw two squaws within a few feet of him. Upon turning the point of the hill, the eldest squaw, seeing him, gave one of those far-reaching whoops peculiar to Indians. White at once comprehended his perilous situation. If the alarm should reach the camps or the town, he and his companion must inevitably perish. Self-preservation compelled him to inflict a noiseless death upon the squaws, and in such manner, if possible, as to leave no trace behind. Rapid in thought, and prompt in action, he instantly sprang upon his victims, and, grasping the throat of each, jumped into the river. He thrust the head of the eldest under water; but while making strong efforts to submerge the other, who powerfully resisted him, what was his astonishment to hear her address him in his own language, though in almost inarticulate sounds. Releasing his hold, she informed him that she had been a captive for ten years, and was taken from below Wheeling; that the Indians had killed all her family, and that her brother and herself were taken prisoners, but that he succeeded in making his escape on the second night after he was taken. During this narrative, White had drowned the elder squaw, and had let her float off with the current. He then directed the girl to follow him, and pushed rapidly for the mount. They had scarcely gone half-way, when they heard the alarm-cry a quarter of a mile down the stream. A party of Indians, returning from a hunting excursion, had reached the river just as the body of the squaw floated by. White and the girl succeeded in reaching the summit, where McClelland had been no indifferent spectator of the commotion among the Indians.
Parties of warriors had struck off in all directions; and White and the girl had scarcely arrived, before a band of about twenty had reached the eastern declivity of the mount, and had commenced the ascent, cautiously keeping under cover. The spies watched their swarthy foes as they glided from tree to tree, and rock to rock, until their position was surrounded, except on the perpendicular side to the westward, and all hope of escape was cut off. In this perilous condition nothing was left but to sell their lives as dearly as possible, and this they resolved to do; advising the girl to escape to the Indians and tell them that she had been taken prisoner. This, however, she refused to do, and insisted upon remaining with them, assuring them that she was a good shot, and begging to be furnished with a rifle, which, however, they were unable to supply.
The two spies, though so far outnumbered, were admirably posted. The very rocky and broken surface of the summit of the hill, served to prevent the Indians from discovering the number of men that held it; while, from the nature of the ground below, no savage could advance beyond a certain line without becoming exposed to the aim of the unknown marksmen above. Beyond this space the warriors availed themselves of the rocks and trees in advancing; but in passing from one side of it to the other, they must be exposed for a short time: and a moment was enough for the unerring rifles of the spies. The Indians, being entirely ignorant of the number of their adversaries in ambuscade, were the more cautious in their approach.
While bravely maintaining the fight in front, and keeping the enemy in check, the whites discovered a new danger. The foe were evidently preparing to attack them on the flank; which could most successfully be done by reaching an isolated rock lying in one of the ravines on