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David Crockett - Marriage and Settlement

David took possession of his horse, and began to work very diligently to pay for it. He felt that now he was a man of property. After the lapse of a few weeks he mounted his horse and rode over to the Irishman's cabin to see his girl, and to find out how she lived, and what sort of people composed the family. Arriving at the log hut, he found the father to be a silent, staid old man, and the mother as voluble and nervous a little woman as ever lived. Much to his disappointment, the girl was away. After an hour or two she returned, having been absent at some meeting or merry-making, and, much to his chagrin, she brought back with her a stout young fellow who was evidently her lover.

The new-comer was not at all disposed to relinquish his claims in favor of David Crockett. He stuck close to the maiden, and kept up such an incessant chatter that David could scarcely edge in a word. In characteristic figure of speech he says, "I began to think I was barking up the wrong tree again. But I determined to stand up to my rack, fodder or no fodder." He thought he was sure of the favor of her parents, and he was not certain that the girl herself had not given him sundry glances indicative of her preference. Dark night was now coming on, and David had a rough road of fifteen miles to traverse through the forest before he could reach home. He thought that if the Irishman's daughter cherished any tender feelings toward him, she would be reluctant to have him set out at that late hour on such a journey. He therefore rose to take leave.

His stratagem proved successful. The girl immediately came, leaving her other companion, and in earnest tones entreated him not to go that evening. The lover was easily persuaded. His heart grew lighter and his spirit bolder. She soon made it so manifest in what direction her choice lay, that David was left entire master of the field. His discomfited rival soon took his hat and withdrew, David thus was freed from all his embarrassments.

It was Saturday night. He remained at the cabin until Monday morning, making very diligent improvement of his time in the practice of all those arts of rural courtship which instinct teaches. He then returned home, not absolutely engaged, but with very sanguine hopes.

At that time, in that region, wolves were abundant and very destructive. The neighbors, for quite a distance, combined for a great wolf-hunt, which should explore the forest for many miles. By the hunters thus scattering on the same day, the wolves would have no place of retreat. If they fled before one hunter they would encounter another. Young Crockett, naturally confident, plunged recklessly into the forest, and wandered to and fro until, to his alarm, he found himself bewildered and utterly lost. There were no signs of human habitations near, and night was fast darkening around him.

Just as he was beginning to feel that he must look out for a night's encampment, he saw in the distance, through the gigantic trees, a young girl running at her utmost speed, or, as he expressed it in the Crockett vernacular, "streaking it along through the woods like all wrath." David gave chase, and soon overtook the terrified girl, whom he found, to his surprise and delight, to be his own sweetheart, who had also by some strange accident got lost.

Here was indeed a romantic and somewhat an embarrassing adventure. The situation was, however, by no means so embarrassing as it would have been to persons in a higher state of civilization. The cabin of the emigrant often consisted of but one room, where parents and children and the chance guest passed the night together. They could easily throw up a camp. David with his gun could kindle a fire and get some game. The girl could cook it. All their physical wants would thus be supplied. They had no material inconveniences to dread in camping out for a night. The delicacy of the situation would not be very keenly felt by persons who were at but one remove above the native Indian.

The girl had gone out in the morning into the woods, to hunt up one of her father's horses. She missed her way, became lost, and had been wandering all day long farther and farther from home. Soon after the two met they came across a path which they knew must lead to some house. Following this, just after dark they came within sight of the dim light of a cabin fire. They were kindly received by the inmates, and, tired as they were, they both sat up all night. Upon inquiry they found that David had wandered ten miles from his home, and the young girl seven from hers. Their paths lay in different directions, but the road was plain, and in the morning they separated, and without difficulty reached their destination.

David was now anxious to get married immediately. It will be remembered that he had bought a horse; but he had not paid for it. The only property he had, except the coarse clothes upon his back, was a rifle. All the land in that neighborhood was taken up. He did not even own an axe with which to build him a log cabin. It would be necessary for him to hire some deserted shanty, and borrow such articles as were indispensable. Nothing could be done to any advantage without a horse. To diminish the months which he had promised to work in payment for the animal, he threw in his rifle.

After a few weeks of toil the horse was his. He mounted his steed, deeming himself one of the richest men in the far West, and rode to see his girl and fix upon his wedding-day. He confesses that as he rode along, considering that he had been twice disappointed, he experienced no inconsiderable trepidation as to the result of this third matrimonial enterprise. He reached the cabin, and his worst fears were realized.

The nervous, voluble, irritable little woman, who with all of a termagant's energy governed both husband and family, had either become dissatisfied with young Crockett's poverty, or had formed the plan of some other more ambitious alliance for her daughter. She fell upon David in a perfect tornado of vituperation, and ordered him out of the house. She was "mighty wrathy," writes David, "and looked at me as savage as a meat-axe."

David was naturally amiable, and in the depressing circumstances had no heart to return railing for railing. He meekly reminded the infuriate woman that she had called him "son-in-law" before he had attempted to call her "mother-in-law," and that he certainly had been guilty of no conduct which should expose him to such treatment. He soon saw, to his great satisfaction, that the daughter remained faithful to him, and that the meek father was as decidedly on his side as his timid nature would permit him to be. Though David felt much insulted, he restrained his temper, and, turning from the angry mother, told her daughter that he would come the next Thursday on horseback, leading another horse for her; and that then he would take her to a justice of the peace who lived at the distance of but a few miles from them, where they would be married. David writes of the mother:

"Her Irish was too high to do anything with her; so I quit trying. All I cared for was to have her daughter on my side, which I know'd was the case then. But how soon some other fellow might knock my nose out of joint again, I couldn't tell. Her mother declared I shouldn't have her. But I knowed I should, if somebody else didn't get her before Thursday."

The all-important wedding-day soon came David was resolved to crush out all opposition and consummate the momentous affair with very considerable splendor. He therefore rode to the cabin with a very imposing retinue. Mounted proudly upon his own horse, and leading a borrowed steed, with a blanket saddle, for his bride, and accompanied by his elder brother and wife and a younger brother and sister, each on horseback, he "cut out to her father's house to get her."

When this cavalcade of six horses had arrived within about two miles of the Irishman's cabin, quite a large party was found assembled from the log huts scattered several miles around. David, kind-hearted, generous, obliging, was very popular with his neighbors. They had heard of the approaching nuptials of the brave boy of but eighteen years, and of the wrath of the brawling, ill-tempered mother. They anticipated a scene, and wished to render David the support of their presence and sympathy. This large party, some on foot and some on horseback, proceeded together to the Irishman's cabin. The old man met them with smiles, whiskey bottle in hand, ready to offer them all a drink. The wife, however, was obdurate as ever. She stood at the cabin door, her eyes flashing fire, and quite bewildered to decide in what way to attempt to repel and drive off her foe.

She expected that the boy would come alone, and that, with her all-potent tongue, she would so fiercely assail him and so frighten her young girl as still to prevent the marriage. But here was quite an army of the neighbors, from miles around, assembled. They were all evidently the friends of David. Every eye was fixed upon her. Every ear was listening to hear what she would say. Every tongue was itching to cry out shame to her opposition, and to overwhelm her with reproaches. For once the termagant found herself baffled, and at her wits' end.

The etiquette of courts and cabins are quite different. David paid no attention to the mother, but riding up to the door of the log house, leading the horse for his bride, he shouted to her to come out. The girl had enjoyed no opportunity to pay any attention to her bridal trousseau. But undoubtedly she had contrived to put on her best attire. We do not know her age, but she was ever spoken of as a remarkably pretty little girl, and was probably about seventeen years old.

David did not deem it necessary to dismount, but called upon his "girl" to jump upon the horse he was leading. She did so. The mother was powerless. It was a waterloo defeat. In another moment they would disappear, riding away along the road, which wound through the gigantic trees of the forest. In another hour they would be married. And then they would forever be beyond the reach of the clamor of her voluble tongue. She began to relent. The old man, accustomed to her wayward humors, instinctively perceived it. Stepping up to David, and placing his hand upon the neck of his horse, he said:

"I wish you would stay and be married here. My woman has too much tongue. You oughtn't mind her."

Having thus, for a moment, arrested their departure, he stepped back to the door, where his discomfited wife stood, and entreated her to consent to their being married there. After much persuasion, common sense triumphed over uncommon stubbornness. She consented. David and his expectant bride were both on horseback, all ready to go. The woman rather sullenly came forward and said:

"I am sorry for the words I have spoken. This girl is the only child I have ever had to marry. I cannot bear to see her go off in this way. If you'll come into the house and be married here, I will do the best I can for you."

The good-natured David consented. They alighted from their horses, and the bridal party entered the log hut. The room was not large, and the uninvited guests thronged it and crowded around the door. The justice of peace was sent for, and the nuptial knot was tied.

The wedding ceremonies on such occasions were sufficiently curious to be worthy of record. They certainly were in very wide contrast with the pomp and splendor of nuptials in the palatial mansions of the present day. A large party usually met at some appointed place, some mounted and others on foot, to escort the bridegroom to the house of the bride. The horses were decorated with all sorts of caparisons, with ropes for bridles, with blankets or furs for saddles. The men were dressed in deerskin moccasins, leather breeches, leggins, coarse hunting-shirts of all conceivable styles of material, and all homemade.

The women wore gowns of very coarse homespun and home-woven cloth, composed of linen and wool, and called linsey-woolsey, very coarse shoes, and sometimes with buckskin gloves of their own manufacture. If any one chanced to have a ring or pretty buckle, it was a relic of former times.

There were no carriages, for there were no roads. The narrow trail they traversed in single file was generally a mere horse-path, often so contracted in width that two horses could not pass along abreast. As they marched along in straggling line, with shouts and jokes, and with the interchange of many gallant acts of rustic love-making between the coquettish maidens and the awkward swains, they encountered frequent obstacles on the way. It was a part of the frolic for the young men to throw obstructions in their path, and thus to create surprises. There were brooks to be forded. Sometimes large trees were mischievously felled across the trail. Grape-vines were tied across from tree to tree, to trip up the passers-by or to sweep off their caps. It was a great joke for half a dozen young men to play Indian. They would lie in ambuscade, and suddenly, as the procession was passing, would raise the war-whoop, discharge their guns, and raise shouts of laughter in view of the real or feigned consternation thus excited.

The maidens would of course shriek. The frightened horses would spring aside. The swains would gallantly rush to the rescue of their sweethearts. When the party had arrived within about a mile of the house where the marriage ceremony was to take place, two of the most daring riders among the young men who had been previously selected for the purpose, set out on horseback on a race for "the bottle." The master of the house was expected to be standing at his door, with a jug of whiskey in his hand. This was the prize which the victor in the race was to seize and take back in triumph to his companions.

The start was announced by a general Indian yell. The more rough the road--the more full of logs, stumps, rocks, precipitous hills, and steep glens, the better. This afforded a better opportunity for the display of intrepidity and horsemanship. It was a veritable steeple-chase. The victor announced his success by one of those shrill, savage yells, which would almost split the ears of the listener. Grasping the bottle, he returned in triumph. On approaching the party, he again gave forth the Indian war-whoop.

The bottle or jug was first presented to the bridegroom. He applied the mouth of the bottle to his lips, and took a dram of raw whiskey. He then handed it to his next of kin, and so the bottle passed through the whole company. It is to be supposed that the young women did not burn their throats with very copious drafts of the poisonous fire-water.

When they arrived at the house, the brief ceremony of marriage immediately took place, and then came the marriage feast. It was a very substantial repast of pork, poultry, wild turkeys, venison, and bear's meat. There was usually the accompaniment of corn-bread, potatoes, and other vegetables. Great hilarity prevailed on these occasions, with wonderful freedom of manners, coarse jokes, and shouts of laughter.

The table was often a large slab of timber, hewn out with a broad-axe, and supported by four stakes driven into auger-holes. The table furniture consisted of a few pewter dishes, with wooden plates and bowls. There were generally a few pewter spoons, much battered about the edges, but most of the spoons were of horn, homemade. Crockery, so easily broken, was almost unknown. Table knives were seldom seen. The deficiency was made up by the hunting-knives which all the men carried in sheaths attached to their hunting-shirts.

After dinner the dancing began. There was invariably some musical genius present who could play the fiddle. The dances were what were called three or four handed reels, or square sets and jigs. With all sorts of grotesque attitudes, pantomime and athletic displays, the revelry continued until late into the night, and often until the dawn of the morning. As there could be no sleeping accommodations for so large a company in the cabin of but one room, the guests made up for sleep in merriment.

The bridal party stole away in the midst of the uproar, one after another, up a ladder into the loft or garret above, which was floored with loose boards made often of split timber. This furnished a very rude sleeping apartment. As the revelry below continued, seats being scarce, every young man offered his lap as a seat for the girls; and the offer was always promptly accepted; Always, toward morning, some one was sent up into the loft with a bottle of whiskey, to offer the bridegroom and his bride a drink. The familiar name of the bottle was "Black Betty." One of the witticisms ever prominent on the occasion was, "Where is Black Betty? I want to kiss her sweet lips." At some splendid weddings, where the larder was abundantly stored with game, this feasting and dancing was continued for several days.

Such, in the main, was the wedding of David Crockett with the Irishman's daughter. In the morning the company dispersed. David also and his young bride left, during the day, for his father's cabin. As the families of the nuptial party both belonged to the aristocracy of the region, quite a splendid marriage reception was held at John Crockett's. There were feasting and dancing; and "Black Betty received many a cordial kiss. The bridegroom's heart was full of exultant joy. David writes:

"Having gotten my wife, I thought I was completely made up, and needed nothing more in the whole world."

He soon found his mistake, and awoke to the consciousness that he needed everything, and had nothing. He had no furniture, no cabin, no land, no money. And he had a wife to support. His only property consisted of a cheap horse. He did not even own a rifle, an article at that time so indispensable to the backwoodsman.

After spending a few days at David's father's, the bridegroom and bride returned to the cabin of her father, the Irishman. Here they found that a wonderful change had taken place in the mother's feelings and conduct. She had concluded to submit good-naturedly to the inevitable. Her "conversational powers" were wonderful. With the most marvelous volubility of honeyed words she greeted them. She even consented to have two cows given them, each with a calf. This was the dowry of the bride--her only dowry. David, who had not expected anything, felt exceedingly rich with this herd.

Near by there was a vacated log cabin with a few acres of land attached to it. Our boy bridegroom and bride hired the cabin at a very small rent. But then they had nothing whatever to put into it. They had not a bed, or a table or a chair; no cooking utensils; not even a knife or a fork. He had no farming tools; not a spade or a hoe. The whole capital with which they commenced life consisted of the clothes they had on, a farm-horse, two cows, and two calves.

In this emergence the good old Quaker, for whom David had worked, came forward, and loaned him fifteen dollars. In that wilderness, food, that is game and corn, was cheap. But as nearly everything else had to be brought from beyond the mountains, all tools and furniture commanded high prices. With the fifteen dollars, David and his little wife repaired to a country store a few miles distant, to furnish their house and farm. Under these circumstances, the china-closet of the bride must have been a curiosity. David says, "With this fifteen dollars we fixed up pretty grand, as we thought."

After a while, in some unexplained way, they succeeded in getting a spinning-wheel. The little wife, says David, "knowed exactly how to use it. She was also a good weaver. Being very industrious, she had, in little or no time, a fine web of cloth ready to make up. She was good at that too, and at almost anything else a woman could do."

Here this humble family remained for two years. They were both as contented with their lot as other people are. They were about as well off as most of their neighbors. Neither of them ever cherished a doubt that they belonged to the aristocracy of the region. They did not want for food or clothing, or shelter, or a warm fireside. They had their merry-makings, their dances, and their shooting-matches. Let it be remembered that this was three quarters of a century ago, far away in the wilds of an almost untamed wilderness.

Two children were born in this log cabin. David began to feel the responsibilities of a father who had children to provide for. Both of the children were sons. Though David's family was increasing, there was scarcely any increase of his fortune. He therefore decided that the interests of his little household demanded that he should move still farther back into the almost pathless wilderness, where the land was not yet taken up, and where he could get a settler's title to four hundred acres, simply by rearing a cabin and planting some corn.

He had one old horse, and a couple of colts, each two years old. The colts were broken, as it was called, to the halter; that is, they could be led, with light burdens upon their backs, but could not be ridden. Mrs. Crockett mounted the old horse, with her babe in her arms, and the little boy, two years old, sitting in front of her, astride the horse's neck, and occasionally carried on his father's shoulders. Their few articles of household goods were fastened upon the backs of the two colts. David led one, and his kind-hearted father-in-law, who had very generously offered to help him move, led the other. Thus this party set out for a journey of two hundred and fifty miles, over unbridged rivers, across rugged mountains, and through dense forests, whose Indian trails had seldom if ever been trodden by the feet of white men.

This was about the year 1806. The whole population of the State then amounted to but about one hundred thousand. They were generally widely dispersed through the extensive regions of East Tennessee. But very few emigrants had ventured across the broad and rugged cliffs of the Cumberland Mountains into the rich and sunny plains of Western Tennessee. But a few years before, terrible Indian wars desolated the State. The powerful tribes of the Creeks and Cherokees had combined all their energies for the utter extermination of the white men, seeking to destroy all their hamlets and scattered cabins.

At a slow foot-pace the pioneers followed down the wild valley of the Holston River, often with towering mountains rising upon each side of them. If they chanced, at nightfall, to approach the lonely hut of a settler, it was especial good fortune, as they thus found shelter provided, and a fire built, and hospitable entertainment ready for them. If, however, they were overtaken in the wilderness by darkness, and even a menacing storm, it was a matter of but little moment, and caused no anxiety. A shelter, of logs and bark, was soon thrown up, with a crackling fire, illuminating the wilderness, blazing before it. A couch, as soft as they had ever been accustomed to, could speedily be spread from the pliant boughs of trees. Upon the pack-colts there were warm blankets. And during the journey of the day they had enjoyed ample opportunity to take such game as they might need for their supper and their morning breakfast.

At length they reached the majestic flood of the Tennessee River, and crossed it, we know not how. Then, directing their steps toward the setting sun. they pressed on, league after league, and day after day, in toilsome journey, over prairies and through forests and across mountain-ridges, for a distance of nearly four hundred miles from their starting-place, until they reached a small stream, called Mulberry Creek which flows into the Elk River, in what is now Lincoln County.

At the mouth of Mulberry Creek the adventurous emigrant found his promised land. It was indeed a beautiful region.

The sun shines upon none more so. The scenery, which, however, probably had but few attractions for David Crockett's uncultivated eye, was charming. The soil was fertile. The streams abounded with fish and waterfowl; and prairie and forest were stocked with game. No family need suffer from hunger here, if the husband had a rifle and knew how to use it. A few hours' labor would rear a cabin which would shut out wind and rain as effectually as the gorgeous walls of Windsor or Versailles.

No jets of gas or gleam of wax candles ever illumined an apartment more brilliantly than the flashing blaze of the wood fire. And though the refectories of the Palais Royal may furnish more scientific cookery than the emigrant's hut, they cannot furnish fatter turkeys, or more tender venison, or more delicious cuts from the buffalo and the bear than are often found browning before the coals of the log cabin. And when we take into consideration the voracious appetites engendered in those wilds, we shall see that the emigrant needed not to look with envy upon the luxuriantly spread tables of Paris or New York.

Upon the crystal banks of the Mulberry River, David, aided by his father-in-law, reared his log cabin. It is a remote and uncultivated region even now. Then it was an almost unbroken wilderness, the axe of the settler having rarely disturbed its solitude.

A suitable spot for the cabin was selected, and a space of about fifteen feet by twenty feet was marked out and smoothed down for the floor. There was no cellar. Trees near by, of straight trunks, were felled and trimmed, and cut into logs of suitable length. These were piled one above another, in such a way as to enclose the space, and were held in their place by being notched at the corners. Rough boards were made for the roof by splitting straight-grained logs about four feet long.

The door was made by cutting or sawing the logs on one side of the hut, about three feet in width. This opening was secured by upright pieces of timber pinned to the end of the logs. A similar opening was left in the end for the chimney, which was built of logs outside of the hut. The back and jambs of the fireplace was of stone. A hole about two feet square constituted the window. Frequently the floor was the smooth, solid earth. A split slab supported by sticks driven into auger-holes, formed a table. A few three-legged stools supplied the place of chairs. Some wooden pins, driven into holes bored in the logs, supported shelves. A bedstead was framed by a network of poles in one corner.

Such was the home which David and his kind father reared in a few days. It will be perceived that it was but little in advance of the wigwam of the Indian. Still it afforded a comfortable shelter for men, women, and children who had no aspirations above a mere animal life; who thought only of warmth, food, and clothing; who had no conception of intellectual, moral, or religious cravings.

The kind-hearted father-in-law, who had accompanied his children on foot upon this long journey, that he might see them settled in their own home, now bade them adieu, and retraced the forest trails back to his own far-distant cabin. A man who could develop, unostentatiously, such generosity and such self-sacrifice, must have possessed some rare virtues. We regret our inability to record the name of one who thus commands our esteem and affection.

In this humble home, David Crockett and his family resided two years. He appears to have taken very little interest in the improvement of his homestead. It must be admitted that Crockett belonged to the class of what is called loafers. He was a sort of Rip Van Winkle. The forest and the mountain stream had great charms for him. He loved to wander in busy idleness all the day, with fishing-rod and rifle; and he would often return at night with a very ample supply of game. He would then lounge about his hut, tanning deerskins for moccasins and breeches, performing other little jobs, and entirely neglecting all endeavors to improve his farm, or to add to the appearance or comfort of the miserable shanty which he called his home.

He had an active mind, and a very singular command of the language of low, illiterate life, and especially of backwoodman's slang. Though not exactly a vain man, his self-confidence was imperturdable, and there was perhaps not an individual in the world to whom he looked up as in any sense his superior. In hunting, his skill became very remarkable, and few, even of the best marksmen, could throw the bullet with more unerring aim.

At the close of two years of this listless, solitary life, Crockett, without any assigned reason, probably influenced only by that vagrancy of spirit which had taken entire possession of the man, made another move. Abandoning his crumbling shanty and untilled fields, he directed his steps eastwardly through the forest, a distance of about forty miles, to what is now Franklin County. Here he reared another hut, on the banks of a little stream called Bear's Creek. This location was about ten miles below the present hamlet of Winchester.

An event now took place which changed the whole current of David Crockett's life, leading him from his lonely cabin and the peaceful scenes of a hunter's life to the field of battle, and to all the cruel and demoralizing influences of horrid war.

For many years there had been peace with the Indians in all that region. But unprincipled and vagabond white men, whom no law in the wilderness could restrain, were ever plundering them, insulting them, and wantonly shooting them down on the slightest provocation. The constituted authorities deplored this state of things, but could no more prevent it than the restraints of justice can prevent robberies and assassinations in London or New York.

The Indians were disposed to be friendly. There can be no question that, but for these unendurable outrages, inflicted upon them by vile and fiend-like men, many of whom had fled from the avenging arm of law, peace between the white man and the red man would have remained undisturbed. In the extreme southern region of Alabama, near the junction of the Alabama River with the almost equally majestic Tombeckbee River, there had been erected, several years before, for the protection of the emigrants, a fort called Mimms. It consisted of several strong log huts, surrounded by palisades which enclosed several acres. A strongly barred gate afforded entrance to the area within. Loop-holes were cut through the palisades, just sufficiently large to allow the barrel of a musket to be thrust through, and aim to be taken at any approaching foe.

The space within was sufficient to accommodate several families, who were thus united for mutual protection. Their horses and other cattle could be driven within the enclosure at night. In case of a general alarm, the pioneers, occupying huts scattered through the region for miles around, could assemble in the fort. Their corn-fields were outside, to cultivate which, even in times of war, they could resort in armed bands, setting a watch to give warning of any signs of danger.

The fort was in the middle of a small and fertile prairie. The forest-trees were cut down around, and every obstacle removed which could conceal the approach of a foe or protect him from the fire of the garrison. The long-continued peace had caused vigilance to slumber. A number of families resided in the fort, unapprehensive of danger.

One evening, a negro boy, who had been out into the forest at some distance from the fort in search of cattle, came back saying that he saw far in the distance quite a number of Indians, apparently armed warriors. As it was known that the Creek Indians had been greatly exasperated by recent outrages inflicted upon them, this intelligence created some anxiety. The gate was carefully closed. A guard was set through the night, and some slight preparations were made to repel an assault, should one be made.

Thus several days were passed, and there was no attack, and no signs of Indians being near. The general impression was that the timid negro boy was the victim of his own fears. Many jokes were perpetrated at his expense. With wonted carelessness, all precautions were forgotten, and the men sallied thoughtlessly forth to disperse through the fields in their labors.

But after several days, the boy was again sent out into the woods upon the same errand as before. He was a timid little fellow, and had a great dread of the Indian. Tremblingly and cautiously he threaded the paths of the forest for several miles, keeping a vigilant lookout for any signs of the savage foe, when his eye fell upon a sight which appalled him. At but a short distance, as he stood concealed by the thickets through which he was moving, he saw several hundred Indian warriors, plumed and painted, and armed to the teeth. They had probably just broken up from a council, and were moving about among the trees. His fears magnified their numbers to thousands.

Terror-stricken, he turned for the fort, and with almost the fleetness of a deer entered the gate with his tidings. Even his black face was pallid with fright, as he breathlessly told his story. "The Indians," said he, "were as many, and as close together as the trees. There were thousands." The alarm was sounded in the garrison. All the outsiders were called in. The sun shone serenely, the gentle breeze swept over the fertile prairie; not a sight was to be seen but what was peaceful, not a sound came from the forest but the songs of birds.

It was generally believed that the silly, cowardly boy had given a false alarm. They cross-examined him. He was so frightened that he could not tell a straight story. The men, indignant at being thus a second time duped, as they supposed, actually tied the poor boy to the whipping-post and commenced whipping him. But a few lashes had left their bloody marks upon his back when the uplifted arm of the executioner was arrested.

The awful Indian war-whoop, the precursor of blood and flame and torture, which even the boldest heart could seldom hear without terror, burst as it were simultaneously from a hundred warrior lips. The wary savages had provided themselves with sharpened sticks. Rending the skies with their yells, they rushed forward from the gloom of the woods upon the totally unprovided garrison, and very speedily plugged up the loop-holes, so that not a musket could be discharged through them.

Then with their hatchets they commenced cutting down the palisades. The bewilderment and consternation within was indescribable. A few of the assailants hewing at the barricades were shot down, but others instantly took their places. Soon a breach was cut through, and the howling warriors like maddened demons rushed in. There was no mercy shown. The gleaming tomahawk, wielded by hundreds of brawny arms, expeditiously did its work. Men, women, and children were indiscriminately cut down and scalped. It was an awful scene of butchery. Scarcely an individual escaped.

One athletic boy, after having seen his father, mother, four sisters, and four brothers tomahawked and scalped, pursued by the savages, with frantic energy succeeded in leaping the palisades. Several Indians gave chase. He rushed for the woods. They hotly pursued. He reached a sluggish stream, upon the shore of which, half-imbedded in sand and water, there was a mouldering log, which he chanced to know was hollow beneath. He had but just time to slip into this retreat, when the baffled Indians came up. They actually walked over the log in their unavailing search for him. Here he remained until night, when he stole from his hiding-place, and in safety reached Fort Montgomery, which was distant about two miles from Fort Mimms.

Back to: Biography of David Crockett

Source: David Crockett: His Life and Adventures by John S. C. Abbott

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Access Genealogy
One of the largest websites online providing free genealogy. A must see for Native American research!

Find Your Ancestors at SurnameWeb
The oldest, most complete listings of surnames and related websites online.

Free Family Tree
Family Tree Guide is a quick, simple and free way for you to share your family history. Within minutes, you can have a dynamically driven website that creatively portrays your family tree.

Free Genealogy Charts
These free genealogy charts will enable you to begin development of a notebook in which you can track your ancestry as you research it.

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