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Successful Courage

( Originally Published 1851 )



The narrations of a frontier circle, as they draw round their evening fire, often turn upon the exploits of the old race of men, the heroes of the past days, who wore hunting-shirts, and settled the country. In a boundless forest full of panthers and bears, and more dreadful Indians, with not a white within a hundred miles, a solitary adventurer penetrates the deepest wilderness, and begins to make the strokes of his axe resound among the trees. The Indians find him out, ambush, and imprison him. A more acute and desperate warrior than themselves, they wish to adopt him, and add his strength to their tribe. He feigns contentment, uses the savage's insinuations, outruns him in the use of his own ways of management, but watches his opportunity, and, when their suspicion is lulled, and they fall asleep, he springs upon them, kills his keepers, and bounds away into unknown forests, pursued by them and their dogs. Ile leaves them all at fault, subsists many days upon berries and roots, and finally arrives at his little clearing, and resumes his axe. In a little palisade, three or four resolute men stand a siege of hundreds of assailants, kill many of them, and mount calmly on the roof of their shelter, to pour water upon the fire which burning arrows have kindled there, and achieve the work amidst a shower of balls. A thousand instances of that stern and unshrinking courage which had shaken hands with death, of that endurance which had defied all the inventions of Indian torture, are recorded of these wonderful men. The dread of being roasted alive by the Indians called into action all their hidden energies and resources.

I will relate one case of this sort, because I knew the party, by name Baptiste Roy, a Frenchman, who solicited, and, I am sorry to say, in vain, a compensation for his bravery from Congress. It occurred at " Côte sans Dessein," on the Missouri. A numerous band of northern savages, amounting to four hundred, beset the garrison-house, into which he, his wife, and another man, had retreated. They were hunters by profession, and had powder, lead, and four rifles in the house; they immediately began to fire upon the Indians. The wife melted and moulded the lead, and assisted in loading, occasionally taking her shot with the other two. Every Indian that approached the house was sure to fall. The wife relates, that the guns would soon become too much heated to hold in the hand; water was necessary to cool them. It was, I think, on the second day of the siege that Roy's assistant was killed. He became impatient to look on the scene of execution, and see what they had done.

He put his eye to the port-hole, and a well-aimed shot destroyed him. The Indians perceived that their shot had taken effect, and gave a yell of exultation. They were encouraged, by the momentary slackening of the fire, to approach the house, and fire it over the heads of Roy and his wife. Ile deliberately mounted the roof, knocked off the burning boards, and escaped untouched from the shower of balls. What must have been the nights of this husband and wife? After four days of unavailing siege, the Indians gave a yell, exclaimed that the house was a" grand medicine," meaning that it was charmed and impregnable, and went away. They left behind forty bodies to attest the marksmanship of the besieged, and a peck of balls collected from the logs of the house. Flint's Mississippi.

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