History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Volume II, Page 314. -- A Sentinel Kills an Indian At Fort Windecker. -- One some occasion in the summer of 1780, when a part of Capt. Putman's company of rangers was going from Fort Plain to Fort Herkimer, as the neighborhood was alarmed, it halted overnight at the stockade called Fort Windecker, at what is now Mindenville; when the following incident occurred there: A piquet was often stationed at night outside the palisade of small frontier posts, it being thought advisable to hazard one person for the greater security of its inmates. On the night in question, Cobus (James) Mabee, named elsewhere as a pioneer settler of Fairfield, was posted without the enclosure. About midnight, when nature seemed quietly slumbering, except a pair of katydids and this sentinel, he observed some object in the uncertain light approaching his station, proceeding at intervals along a rail fence near the woods. Pretending not to have noticed the advancing figure, he paced his limited distance back and forth several times and saw on facing the form that it had advanced at each time a rail's length of the zigzag fence, and fallen back within its shade.
He had at first thought his visitant a four-footed beast, perhaps a calf, but convinced it was an enemy, he resolved not to be caught napping. At a moment when by the make of the land the act would be concealed from the object, he placed his coat and hat upon a stump near his position so as to make a tolerable effigy, and stepping back a few feet he laid down behind a log with his rifle across it ready for action, and aimed in the direction of his visitor. The latter kept stealing nearer and nearer to his concealment, advancing with the utmost caution until the fence would no longer shelter him; and leaving it with his rifle poised he approached his supposed victim with the silent step of a panther. When within some 20 or 30 feet he fired, snatched his hatchet from his girdle and was running up to sink it into the brain of his supposed victim, when lo! crack went another rifle, the uplifted hatchet fell unrestrained and with a guttural "O-wah!" its owner sank down beside the sharpened steel, in the agonies of death.
As the reader may imagine, the sudden discharge of two guns at that hour when only one sentinel was posted there, caused the inmates of the little fortress to turn out in hot haste. Several half clad soldiers ran out calling: "Cobus! Cobus! are you alive?"
"I am," replied, biting off the end of a cartridge.
"Have you shot anything?" asked a friend.
"I guess so," said he, "come and see!" On going to see him they found sure enough, that his powder had not been wasted. Not a few sentinels were picked off at American outposts in that war by a crafty foe; but the vigilant Mabee, who became a lion in the camp, was not to be thus surprised. The carcass of the Indian, a remarkably large fellow, was left unburied for a time, and the boys about the fort took turns in playing Indian (so they termed it), with the tomahawk of its former possessor; each running up and giving the head a hack with a tinny war-whoop. Such were some of the juvenile pastimes upon our frontiers. The carcass was finally buried, and but for the tenacious memory of my worthy informant, Jacob Shew, a soldier who witnessed the midnight confusion and saw the dead Indian; time would have buried this novel incident in oblivion, with thousands of that war already past recall.
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