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The Indian: On the Battle-Field and in the Wigwam
John Frost

The Indian: On the Battle-Field and in the Wigwam
John Frost

John Frost

The Indian: On the Battle-Field and in the Wigwam


These sketches are drawn from a great variety of sources, and are intended, not only to exhibit the Indian character in all its phases, but to comprise in a small compass a valuable collection of narratives of Indian warfare, embracing views of their peculiar methods of strategy, ambuscades, and surprises – their treatment of prisoners, and their other characteristic manners and customs.

By the aid of Mr. Croome, and other eminent artists, I have been able to illustrate the volume quite profusely with engravings. I trust that the work will be found a useful as well as interesting contribution to historical literature.


OT long after Connecticut began to be settled by the English, a stranger Indian came one day to a tavern in one of its towns in the dusk of the evening, and requested the hostess to supply him with something to eat and drink; at the same time he honestly told her that he could not pay for either, as he had had no success in hunting for several days; but that he would return payment as soon as he should meet with better fortune.

The hostess, who was a very ill-tempered woman, not only flatly refused to relieve him, but added abuse to her unkindness, calling him a lazy, drunken fellow, and told him that she did not work so hard herself, to throw away her earnings upon such vagabonds as he was.

There was a man sitting in the same room of the tavern, who, on hearing the conversation, looked up, and observing the Indian’s countenance, which plainly showed that he was suffering severely from want and fatigue, and being of a humane disposition, he told the woman to give the poor wanderer some supper, and he would pay for it.

She did so: and when the Indian had finished his meal, he turned towards his benefactor, thanked him, and told him that he should not forget his kindness. “As for the woman,” he added, “all I can give her is a story – if she likes to hear it.” The woman, being now in a rather, better temper, and having some curiosity to hear what he had to tell, readily consented, and the Indian addressed her as follows:

“I suppose you read the Bible?” The woman assented. “Well,” continued the Indian, “the Bible say, God made the world, and then he took him, and looked on him, and say, ‘It’s all very good.’ Then he made light, and took him, and looked on him, and say, ‘It’s all very good.’ Then he made dry land, and water, and sun, and moon, and grass, and trees, and took him, and say, ‘It’s all very good.’ Then he made beasts, and bird, and fishes, and took him, and looked on him, and say, ‘It’s all very good.’ Then he made man, and took him, and looked on him, and say, ‘It’s all very good.’ And last of all he made woman, and took him, and looked on: him, and he no dare say one such word.” The Indian, having told his story, departed.

Some years after, the man who had be friended the Indian had occasion to go some distance into the wilderness between Litchfield and Albany, which is now a populous city, but then contained only a few houses. Here he was taken prisoner by an Indian scout, and carried off into Canada. When he arrived at the principal settlement of their tribe, which was on the banks of the great river St. Lawrence, some of the Indians proposed that he should be put to death, in revenge for the wrongs that they had suffered from the white men; and this probably would have been his fate, had not an old Indian woman, or squaw, as they are called, demanded that he should be given up to her, that she might adopt him in place of her son, whom she had lately lost in war. He was accordingly given to her, and, as it is customary under such circumstances, was thenceforth treated in the same manner as her own son.

In the following summer, as he was one day at work in the forest by himself, felling trees, an Indian, who was unknown to him, came; up and asked him to meet him the following day at a certain spot which he described. The white man agreed to do so, but not without some apprehension that mischief was intended. During the night these fears increased to so great a degree, as effectually to prevent his keeping his appointment.

However, a few days after, the same Indian, finding him at work, mildly reproved him for not keeping his promise. The man made the best excuse he could, but the Indian was not satisfied until he had again promised to meet him the next morning at the place already agreed on.

Accordingly, when he arrived at the spot, he found the Indian already there, provided with two muskets and powder, and two knapsacks. The Indian ordered him to take one of each, and to follow him. The direction of their march was southward. The man followed without the least knowledge of what he was to do, or whither he was going, but he concluded that if the Indian intended to do him harm, he would have despatched him at the first meeting, and certainly would not have provided him with a musket and powder for defence. His fears, therefore, gradually subsided, although the Indian maintained an obstinate silence when he questioned him concerning the object of their expedition.

In the day time they shot and cooked as much game as they required, and at night they kindled a fire by which they slept. After a fatiguing journey through the forest for many days, they came one morning to the top of a hill from which there was the prospect of a cultivated country, interspersed with several snug farm-houses.

“Now,” said the Indian to his joyful companion, “do you know where you are?”

“Yes,” replied he, “we are not ten miles from my own village.”

“And do you not remember a poor Indian at the tavern? – you feed him – you speak kind to him – I am that poor Indian; – now go home.” Having said this, he bade him farewell, and the man joyfully returned to his own home.


OME of the earlier settlers of Virginia acted in the most barbarous manner towards their Indian neighbors, and it is, therefore, not wonderful that they sometimes received a terrible punishment. But though revenge was usually uppermost in the breasts of the injured ones, instances occurred in which the sacred feeling of friendship triumphed over that passion and the prejudice of the race.

On one occasion, Colonel Bird was employed by the English government to transact some business with the tribe of Cherokees. It unfortunately happened that a short time before he went among them, some white people had seized two Indians, who had given them some trifling offence, and had put them to death; and the Indians, indignant at the outrage, determined to take revenge whenever the opportunity offered. The appearance of Colonel Bird presented the wished-for opportunity, and consultations were held as to the most effectual means of getting him into their power, and of making him the sacrifice.

Colonel Bird perceived their intentions, and felt that he had just cause for alarm, as he was in their country, without the means of escape. Among the neighboring Cherokees, was one named Silouee, celebrated as a chief and pow-wow, or medicine man. He had known Colonel Bird for some time, had eaten with him, and felt a deep friendship for him. Silouee told Colonel Bird not to be alarmed, and even assured him that the Indians should not injure him. At length, in a general council of the chiefs and old men of the tribe, it was determined in spite of Silouee’s earnest remonstrances, that Colonel Bird should be put to death in revenge for the loss of their countrymen.

Two warriors were despatched to Colonel Bird’s tent, to execute the cruel sentence. Silouee insisted on accompanying them. On reaching the tent, Silouee rushed in before them, threw himself on the bosom of his friend, and as the warriors approached, he exclaimed, “This man is my friend; before you take him, you must kill me.”

Awed by Silouee’s determined magnanimity, the warriors returned to the council, and related what had occurred. Indians generally respect a faithful friend as much as they esteem one who is implacable in his revenge. The consultation was reversed. Silouee’s noble conduct altered their purpose. They therefore released Colonel Bird, and bade him go to his home in peace. Silouee acted as his guide and protector until Colonel Bird came in sight of his tent. As they parted, the Indian’s last words to his friend were, “When you see poor Indian in fear of death from cruel white men, remember Silouee.”

Some years after Colonel Bird’s life had been saved by Silouee, he became a Virginia planter, and took up his residence near the James river. Silouee retained his friendship for him, becoming his near neighbor. Like many of his nation, he had, by intercourse with the whites, acquired a great taste for “strong waters,” or ardent spirits, and the dignity of the chief was frequently lowered by drunkenness. On one occasion, Colonel Bird had gone to another part of the country, on business, and had left the care of his plantation to his overseer. The tobacco had obtained some size, and a long drought coming on, there was a prospect that the crop would be much injured. We have stated that Silouee was a pow-wow, or Indian medicineman and conjurer. One day when he came to the plantation, the overseer expressed his opinion that the tobacco crop would be entirely lost, if rain did not soon fall.

“Well,” said the Indian, “what will you give me if I bring rain?”

“You bring rain,” said the overseer, laughing.

“Me can,” said the Indian. “Give me two bottles of rum – only two, and me bring rain enough.”

The overseer cast his eye towards the heavens, but could discern no appearance that foretold rain. To gratify the Indian, he promised to give him the two bottles of rum when Colonel Bird arrived, in case the rain should come speedily and save the crop of tobacco.

Silouee now fell to pow-wowing with all his might, making grimaces, contorting his body, and uttering strange, unintelligible ejaculations.

It was a hot, close day, and it so happened that towards evening, the sky, which had been clear for some weeks, clouded over, and the appearance of the heavens was strongly in favor of rain. Before midnight thunder was heard, and heavy showers of rain watered the colonel’s plantation thoroughly; while it was remarked that the showers were so partial that the neighboring plantations were left almost as dry as they were before. The Indian waited quietly till the rain was over, and then walked away. A few days after, the colonel returned to the plantation, and, when Silouee heard of his arrival, he went immediately to visit him.

“Master Bird,” said he, “me come for my two bottles of rum.”

“Your two bottles of rum,” exclaimed the colonel, pretending not to know any thing of the matter; “pray do I owe you two bottles of rum?”

“You do,” replied the Indian.

“How so?” inquired the colonel.

“Me bring you rain – me save your crop,” said the Indian.

“You bring rain,” said the colonel; “no such thing.”

“Me did,” persisted the Indian; “me loved you; me tell overseer to give me two bottles of rum, and then me bring rain. Overseer say he would; me bring cloud, then rain; now me want rum.”

“You saw the cloud,” said Colonel Bird; “you are a sad cheat.”

“Me no cheat,” said the Indian; “me saw no cloud; me bring cloud.”

“Well, well,” said the colonel, “you are an old friend, and you shall have the rum, since you beg so hard for it. But mind you, it is not for the rain. The Great Spirit sent the rain, not you.”

“Well,” said the Indian, “your tobacco had rain upon it – why others have none? Answer that, colonel, if you can.”


NSTANCES are recorded in which white children have been captured and brought up by the Indians, and have so far forgotten early associations as to become identified in habits and manners with their red captors. In most of these cases, the adopted Indian could not be induced to return to the haunts of civilization and the friends of his or her race; which fact would seem to prove that, either the life of the Indian is happier than that of the civilized white man, or, the qualities of our nature may be altered by the power of habit.

In 1778, the family of Mr. Jonathan Slocum, near Wilkesbarre, (Campbell’s Wyoming,) Pennsylvania, was attacked by Indians. Within the house were two girls, aged nine and five years, a son of thirteen, a little boy of two and a half, and their mother. The men were working in the field, and two youths were in the porch grinding a knife. One of the latter was shot and scalped with his own knife. The eldest sister seized the little boy and ran with him towards the fort. The Indians took the boy who had been turning the grindstone, young Slocum, and his sister Frances, and prepared to depart. Little Slocum being lame, they set him down, and proceeded on their way. One of the Indians threw the little girl over his shoulder, and her weeping face was the last object of the mother’s gaze.

About a month afterwards, the savages returned, murdered the aged grandfather, shot a ball into the leg of the lame boy, and then plunging into the woods were heard of no more. Years passed away; the mother died of grief for her lost child. The two remaining brothers, grown to manhood, resolved to ascertain the fate of their sister. They made every inquiry, travelled through the west and into the Canadas, but all in vain; and for fifty-eight years, the captive’s fate was unknown.

At length, in 1836, accident discovered what inquiry could not. The Hon. G. W. Ewing, United States agent to Indian Territory, while travelling on the banks of the Mississiniwa, lost his way and was benighted, and compelled to take shelter in an Indian wigwam. The agent was kindly received, and after supper, entered into conversation with the hostess. He was soon surprised by observing that her hair was fine and flaxen-colored, and that, under her dress, her skin appeared to be white. Upon inquiry, she informed him that she was the daughter of white parents, that her name was Slocum, that when five years old she had been carried captive, by Indians, from a house on the Susquehanna. All else was forgotten.

On reaching home, Ewing wrote an account of the affair, and sent it to Lancaster for publication. Through neglect, however, it was not published for two years afterwards; but it was then seen by Mr. Slocum, of Wilkes-barre, the little boy who had been saved by the girl, sixty years before. He immediately started for Indiana, accompanied by the sister who had saved him, at the same time writing to his brother to meet him at the wigwam. The incidents connected with this visit have been preserved, and are interesting.
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