History From America's Most Famous Valleys
of Tryon County;
Border Warfare of New York,
During the Revolution.
By William W. Campbell
New York; Printed and Published by J. & J. Harper 1831
Dr. Younglove, after his return from captivity, wrote a poem describing some of the scenes which he had witnessed, and detailing his wanderings and sufferings. I shall make some extracts from this poem, not that they contain many poetic beauties, but because they delineate some striking customs of the Indians. The poem comes from the pen of the hero himself, who might with truth exclaim "pars magna fui." The first extract is a description of the battle of Oriskany.
time and place of our unhappy fight,
To you at large were needless to recite:
When in the wood our fierce inhuman foes,
With piercing yell from circling ambush rose:
A sudden volley rends the vaulted sky;
Their painted bodies hideous to the eye;
They rush like hellish furies on our bands,
Their slaughter weapons brandish'd in their hands.
Then we with equal fury join the fight,
E'er Phebus gain'd his full meridian height:
Nor ceas'd the horrors of the bloody fray,
Till he had journey'd half his evening way.
Now hand to hand, the contest is for life,
With bay'net, tom'hawk, sword, and scalping knife:
Now more remote the work of death we ply,
And thick as hail the show'ring bullets fly:
Full many a hardy warrior sinks supine,
Yells, shrieks, groans, shouts, and thund'ring volleys join;
The dismal din the ringing forest fills,
The sounding echo roars along the hills.
Our friends and foes lie struggling in their blood,
An undistinguish'd carnage strew the wood;
And ev'ry streamlet drinks the crimson flood.
True valor, stubbornness, and fury here,
There fell revenge, despair, and spite appear;
Long rag'd surrounding death, and no deliv'rance near,
While mangled friends, not fated yet to die,
Implore our aid in vain with feeble cry.
Of two departments were the assailing foes;
Wild savage natives lead the first of those;
Their almost naked frames, of various dies,
And rings of black, and red, surround their eyes:
On one side they present a shaven head;
The naked half of the vermilion red;
In spots the party-color'd face they drew,
Beyond description horrible to view;
Their ebon locks in braid, with paint o'erspread;
The silver'd ears depending from the head;
Their gaudry my descriptive pow'r exceeds,
In plumes of feathers, glitt'ring plates, and beads.
With them, of parricides a bloody band,
Assist the ravage of their parent land:
With equal dress, and arms, and savage arts;
But more than savage rancour in their hearts.
These for the first attack their force unite;
And most sustain the fury of the fight;
Their rule of warfare, devastation dire,
By undistinguish'd plunder, death, and fire;
They torture man and beast, with barb'rous rage,
Nor tender infant spare, nor rev'rend sage.
O'er them a horrid monster bore command,
Whose inauspicious birth disgrac'd our land,
By malice urg'd to ev'ry barb'rous art;
Of cruel temper; but of coward heart.
The second was a renegado crew,
Led by a chief who bore the first command;
Who arm, and dress as Christian nations do,
A bold invader of his native land.
Such was the bloody fight: and such the foe:
Our smaller force return'd them blow for blow,
By turns successfully their force defy'd;
And conquest wav'ring seem'd from side to side.
The following is a description of a scene the night after the battle:--
half the savages return'd from fight;
They to their native wilds had sped their flight:
Those that remain'd a long encampment made,
And rising fires illunin'd all the shade:
In vengeance for their num'rous brothers slain,
For torture sundry pris'ners they retain;
And three fell monsters, horrible to view,
A fellow-pris'ner from the sentries drew;
The guards before receiv'd their chiefs command,
To not withhold us from the slaughtering band;
But now the sufferer's fate they sympathize,
And for him supplicate with earnest cries.
I saw the Gen'ral slowly passing by,
The sergeant on his knees, with tearful eye,
Implor'd the guards might wrest him from their hands,
Since now the troops could awe their lessen'd bands;
With lifted cane the Gen'ral thus replies,
(While indignation sparkles from his eyes)
"Go, sirrah! mind your orders giv'n before!
And for infernal rebels pleas no more!"
For help the wretched victim vainly cries,
With supplicating voice and ardent eyes;
With horror chill'd, I turn away my face,
While instantly they bear him from the place.
Dread scene! with anguish stung I inly groan,
To think the next hard lot may be my own:
And now I poring sit, now sudden start,
Through anxious agitation of my heart;
In ev'ry bush the coming foe appear,
Their sound in ev'ry breeze I seem to hear.
Nocturnal shades at length involve the sky,
The planets faintly glimmer from on high;
When through the grove the flaming fires arise:
And loud resound the tortur'd pris'ners' cries;
Still as their pangs are more or less extreme,
The bitter groan is heard, or sudden scream:
But when their natures fail'd, and death drew near,
Their screeches faintly sounded in the ear.
Tremendous night of woe beyond compare!
I beg for death, in anguish of despair;
No gleam of hope! no rest my soul could find;
Approaching torture gnawing on my mind;
Until Aurora purpled o'er the skies,
Then gentle slumber seal'd awhile my eyes;
But troubled dreams arising in my head,
My fancy to the scene of battle led;
The fatal wood, my weeping eyes survey,
Where pale in death my slaughter'd neighbors lay:
A long adieu, I cry'd, my brethren slain!
No more to joy my longing soul again!
Who shall protect your wives, with guardian care,
And babes abandon'd to the rage of war?
Decrepit parents, with the feeble groan,
Shall wail your fate, their country's and their own:
While, lost to all, you here unburied lay,
To feast the ravens and the beasts of prey:
Yet, by your slaughter, safe arriv'd on shore,
The storms of war shall break your peace no more;
Each honest soul your mem'ry shall revere;
And pay the tribute of a tender tear:
O had I too partook your calm repose;
In safe retreat, beyond the pow'r of foes,
I had avoided, by a milder fate,
Dread horrors past! and tortures that await.
His own day of trial and suffering at length came on, and he thus describes it:--
did the dreadful morn at length arise,
And Sol through mists reluctant climb'd the skies,
When savages, for horrid sport prepar'd,
Demand another pris'ner from the guard.
We saw their fear'd approach, with mortal fright,
Their scalping-knives they sharpen'd in our sight,
Beside the guard they sat them on the ground,
And view'd, with piercing eyes, the pris'ners round:
As when a panther grim, with furious eye,
Surveys the tender lad he dooms to die;
The lad beholds him, shiv'ring with affright,
Sees all resistance vain; despairs of flight:
So they on me their glaring eye-balls roll:
And such the feelings of my shudd'ring soul.
At length one rising seiz'd me by the hand;
By him drawn forth, on trembling knees I stand;
I bid my fellows all along adieu,
With answ'ring grief, my wretched case they view.
They led me bound, along the winding flood,
Far in the gloomy bosom of the wood,
There (horrid sight!) a pris'ner roasted lay,
The carving knife had cut his flesh away.
Against a tree erect I there was bound,
While they regal'd themselves upon the ground;
Their shell of spirits went from hand to hand,
Their friends collecting still, a num'rous band.
So pass'd the day: What terrors in me reign!
I supplicate for instant death in vain.
I think upon this breach of nature's laws,
My family, my friends, my country's cause;
Around me still collect my bloody foes;
Still in my mind approaching torture rose;
The skeleton in open prospect lay:
Chaos of woeful thought employ'd my wretched day.
Now on a neighb'ring green, high jutting o'er,
Where underneath the rapid waters roar,
There round a fire, their heaps of fuel rise,
Nocturnal shadows thick'ning in the skies.
Beside the fire I tremble at the stake,
The num'rous herd a spacious circle make;
And as the flames advancing rise in air,
Within the ring my torturers repair;
With whoop, and dance, they tune the deathful song:
Along the margin crowd the sportive throng;
When lo! the failing bank beneath the load,
Broke short and plung'd us headlong in the flood:
In transport down the stream my course I made;
The floating stake adhering by a thong,
With nose above the stream I steal along.
Through all the vale a fruitless search they made,
And fearful howlings rung along the shade.
When to the camp again their way they steer,
Their distant clamour murm'ring in my ear,
Far down the stream, where lies a naked strand,
With shiv'ring limbs, I softly crept to land:
The stake upon the shore I trail'd along;
Then joyfully unbound each fett'ring thong
And for the neighb'ring road in haste depart;
The hope of freedom dawning in my heart.
Through gloomy thickets far, I grope my way,
And bri'ry heaths, where pines extended lay;
Now thoughts of home my ravish'd soul delight;
Now distant savage yells my mind affright;
Still I my way with all my pow'r pursu'd;
Still did the road my anxious search elude.
Long time I grop'd the rough uncertain way,
Through erring course, I wander'd far astray,
Nor moon, nor star, would lend a friendly ray;
Then laid me down, dejected and forlorn;
To rest my weary limbs, and wait the morn,
E'er long my leafy couch I there had press'd,
Exhausted nature sunk to quiet rest.
He was retaken and carried to the far west by a different tribe. The following is a description of the arrival of the tribe at their village, and of his running the gantlet:--
glad return through all the place was told;
Next morning they convene both young and old:
The band equipt in all their war parade,
Into the town a formal entry made,
They led me up, truimphing with delight,
With all their spoils and trophies of the fight,
Except the scalps, for these they had their pay,
From British agents ere they came away.
They end their march, where high upon the green,
A num'rous crowd of ev'ry age was seen:
The hoary parent bowing down with years
The mother with her tender train appears,
The youthful archer bends his little bow,
And sportive striplings gambol in the row,
Warriors, and hunters trick'd in best array,
And youthful maids their tawny charms display,
With scarlet cloth, rings, beads, and ribbons gay.
I trembled when I to the crowd was brought,
The stake, and flames arising in my thought;
But soon my guard approaching to my ear,
Bid me confide in him, and nothing fear.
There in a spacious hut, on either hand,
Two lengthy rows with sticks and weapons stand,
Then stripp'd I was to pass between the rows,
And each inflict at pleasure wounds and blows;
My keeper gently struck, then urg'd my flight,
Between the ranks I fled with all my might.
As when some farmer blest with plenteous yield,
His crop of buckwheat thrashes in the field,
The men and boys with flail in hand around,
Clap after clap loud constant clatt'rings sound;
The straw all crush'd in broken pieces lie;
The grains around the thrashers' faces fly:
So as with naked frame I pass along,
Resound the strokes of all the furious throng;
So by their blows my mangled skin is broke,
And so the sputt'ring blood pursues the stroke.
Two female furies at the further end,
Their brother slain in fight, my death intend;
Enrag'd, they maul with clubs my bleeding head,
And doubtless would e'er long have laid me dead,
But quickly did their father interpose,
And then my keeper fended off their blows;
I blest the thought that once his death withstood;
And check'd my hand, when rais'd to shed his blood.
The aged sire adopts me for his son:
Rejoic'd I put the savage habit on;
With honorary paint, in blanket dress'd;
I stand install'd an Indian with the rest.
The sire in gayest fashion shav'd my head,
Then to his home, rejoicing I was led.
They us'd me tenderly, my wounds they heal'd,
But deeper wounds within remain conceal'd;
My wife, my country, friends, and blooming child;
Exhang'd for captive bands in regions wild;
These thoughts incessant did my bosom rend,
And often did the painful tear descend.
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