Monday, January 22, 2018

A SPARK IN THE FOREST - a short story

A SPARK IN THE FOREST


ON THE FRONTIER 

Gary Loucks


MY FIRST BOOK









CONTENTS


Preface
Acknowledgments


Chapter 1          Braddock's Expedition

Chapter 2          The Leaving

Chapter 3          A Formidable Foe

Chapter 4          Journey Back Home

Chapter 5           Discovered

Chapter 6           The Rabbits and the Wolves

Chapter 7           The Enemy Seen

Chapter 8           Off To The Unknown

Chapter 9           Fort Edward, Rogers Island & 1st Mission

Chapter 10         The Reconnoiter

Chapter 11         French & Indians to Lake George

Chapter 12         Fight At The Narrows – Ambush

Chapter 13        Siege & Fall of Ft. William Henry

Chapter 14        Heading Back to Deerfield

Chapter 15        The Captive

Chapter 16        Home

Epilogue







Forward

The French and Indian War raged on from 1754 through 1763 when it was terminated at The treaty of Paris in 1763 ending one of the bloodiest and most barbaric wars the North American Continent would ever see.  The French were colonizing the North American frontier below Quebec and as far south as the Ohio River valley.  This was criticized heavily by the British governing bodies as a trespass onto British holdings and created a high degree of animosity between the two factions.  The kettle boiled over when Lt. Colonel George Washington entered into a confrontation with a French detachment of soldiers lead by Ensign Joseph Coulon de Jumonville at a little glen in Pennsylvania near a place called Great Meadows where a little fort was built out of necessity….

This short story is meant to depict how a young man leaves home to find his way in a world of shadows and uncertainty where he is caught up in a wilderness war and how his life evolves from a young farm boy to an experienced frontiersman who is self-sufficient and becomes wise in war. 

This effort is in no way meant to be a work of establishing historical facts by following history book detail, but instead is a fiction story about the adventures of a young man whose wanderlust plunges him into a world on fire and how he matures and interfaces with the uncertainty of the future of his being.  It is a story of early America that follows a historical timeline.









Rogers' Rangers Standing Orders
By Major Robert Rogers, 1759
1.      Don't forget nothing.
2.      Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute's warning.
3.      When you're on the march, act the way you would if you was sneaking up on a deer. See the enemy first.
4.      Tell the truth about what you see and do. There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don't never lie to a Ranger or officer.
5.      Don't never take a chance you don't have to.
6.      When we're on the march we march single file, far enough apart so one shot can't go through two men.
7.      If we strike swamps, or soft ground, we spread out abreast, so it's hard to track us.
8.      When we march, we keep moving till dark, so as to give the enemy the least possible chance at us.
9.      When we camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.
10.  If we take prisoners, we keep 'em separate til we have had time to examine them, so they can't cook up a story between 'em.
11.  Don't ever march home the same way. Take a different route so you won't be ambushed.
12.  No matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party has to keep a scout 20 yards ahead, twenty yards on each flank and twenty yards in the rear, so the main body can't be surprised and wiped out.
13.  Every night you'll be told where to meet if surrounded by a superior force.
14.  Don't sit down to eat without posting sentries.
15.  Don't sleep beyond dawn. Dawn's when the French and Indians attack.
16.  Don't cross a river by a regular ford.
17.  If somebody's trailing you, make a circle, come back onto your own tracks, and ambush the folks that aim to ambush you.
18.  Don't stand up when the enemy's coming against you. Kneel down. Hide behind a tree.
19.  Let the enemy come till he's almost close enough to touch. Then let him have it and jump out and finish him up with your hatchet.






Chapter 1
Braddock's Expedition
July 5, 1755
Two hundred axes slammed into tree trunks creating a constant staccato of thuds. Morning till night the sounds of men felling trees continued. Women and boys were busy hacking and pulling the cut brush as far back into the woods as possible while ten teams of oxen were hitched repeatedly to fallen trees and their groans and grunts of displeasure mingled with the sounds of axes striking wood filled every waking moment of the day. Red jackets and green shirts were thrown in disarray onto every shrub or low tree limb that would bear the weight of the garments, leaving the men swinging the axes shirtless for the most part, but many still wore their white silk undershirts. The women were wives, sweethearts, and ladies of ill repute who had been following the largest group of men since the 29Th of May. It was now July 5, 1755 and there were twenty-two hundred British and colonial soldiers with General Edward Braddock on his march to capture Fort Duquesne on the west side of the Monongahela River. The going was slow with less than two miles per day traveled. A road had to be cleared through the dense forest in order to pass canon and supply wagons onward to the point of future conflict with the French and the pace was far too slow. The closer his army moved toward the Monongahela, the greater the odds of discovery and retaliation. A meeting was held with his commanders, Charles Lee, Thomas Gage and Horatio Gates to determine the most advantageous course of action and after thirty short minutes, it was decided that General Braddock would split his forces. He would take 1500 men (a flying column) and push on ahead at great speed while Colonel Thomas Dunbar would command the supply column and baggage wagons. This supply column would fall well behind the main thrust. July 7 and 9 found the flying column being harassed by occasional rifle fire from deep in the woods, but their adversaries could not be seen, and the only indication of the enemy was the lingering puff of gray smoke from the shot. The General could now assume that the French and Indian defenders at Ft Duquesne would be alerted to their presence and a surprise siege was out of the question. The intelligence of that time indicated the fort contained approximately three hundred French regulars and seven hundred Indians comprised of Ottawa's, Ojibwas and Pottawatomie's. That small contingent of French regulars and savages would be no match for crack, seasoned British regulars and Scott's Guard troops.
July 9, 1755 found Braddock crossing the Monongahela River where he split his 1500 men yet again. He sent Colonel Thomas Gage ahead at a fast pace to try to find siege positions on the South side of the French fort. It was during this maneuver that Gage ran directly into a large party of French, Canadians and Indians who scattered left and right disappearing into the forest. Seconds later the sounds of musket and rifle fire could be heard and the associated gray puffs of smoke could be seen from whence the shots originated. The shooting began as a few occasional sharp cracks and gradually accelerated to a continuous barrage of rifle and musket fire. The French with their Indian allies had taken positions on both sides of the British column. Colonel Gage and General Braddock, both whipped the lobsterbacks into long ranks and had the men step out away from the line in groups of forty which would split again and reassemble in a line with twenty riflemen in front and twenty more directly behind them. In this way, the row of riflemen in the rear could fire a volley while their kneeling comrades in front reloaded their muskets. While this military posturing was being undertaken, the colonial militia took cover behind whatever was available and returned fire. They aimed a foot under the gray puffs of smoke that lingered above a fired enemy gun. Balls could be heard whizzing by and smacking hard into trees while sounds of Ka-Thunk, were lead balls striking human bodies. That sound was on the increase.
The British formations were being decimated with some formations of forty men being quickly reduced to ten and less as the air was thickened with the smell of burned, acrid gunpowder.  Screams could be heard from the forest as Indians were growing braver with their success and an occasional savage would run full out and into a formation of red coats swinging his tomahawk wildly, striking one or two troopers and exit out the back side of the line before anyone could react.
A commotion toward the front of the fighting!! General Braddock can be seen, left foot in a stirrup, mounting a horse. His white mare has been shot from under him and he had commandeered another. Not a heartbeat later his newly acquired gray stallion was felled by a bullet to its forehead. It lay on its side, legs thrashing near death. General Braddock was given yet another horse and mounted it from the right side in ungraceful fashion.
The British formation blocks were deteriorating and the dead and dying were many. Soon groups of red coats were breaking away from the conflict and running back toward the rear terrified!  Many more started and a general route was taking place. General Braddock and Colonel George Washington charged through the men on horseback and blocked the escape route in an attempt to turn the tide of desertion. It was here that General Braddock threw up both arms and tilted his head back, face to the sky, and fell from his horse. He was quickly picked up by four aides and carried along toward the rear of the fighting, shuffling through the hoards of frightened red coats that ran, crawled and limped as best they could away from the fray. The entire fifteen hundred-man force was in retreat and yet the Colonials held their positions, laying down heavy musket fire, to cover the British exit. 

The French pushed forward until the British units found it prudent to evacuate. They were beaten and retreated in great numbers. Many had ideas of surrender and they ran harder at that thought as they knew what becomes of prisoners taken by savage Indians. The French and Indians played a harassing game similar to mosquitoes that flit relentlessly around one's face; here, there and everywhere. Lobsterbacks were falling from the enemy rifle fire and the holes were in the backs of their red coats and not in the front. To make matters worse, the supply caravan was rushing toward the fight and was startled to be confronted by what was left of the flying column running toward them and the two groups collided on the small road. The fleeing troops instilled terror into the wagon drivers and the two columns of troops that traveled beside them. In two's and three's the wagons were stopped, backed up and joined the retreating British. Oxen pulled hard as the heavy wagons creaked back toward the southeast. Drivers were jumping off the slow-moving wagons pulled by oxen and hitching rides on the swiftly moving horse-drawn supply rigs. Soldiers tried to cling to the wagon boxes with one hand and attempted to run alongside only to fall and be run over by the wagon wheels. Their carelessness in getting away would assure their capture by the enemy as there was no time in the retreat to pick up stragglers. They prayed the French would find them before the savages. Edward Braddock lay in misery on the bed of a jostling wagon.  A rifle ball entered his body from the right side, passed through his stomach and out the other side leaving a gaping hole above his hip. He had been gut shot and was passing in and out of consciousness until finally he expired. His cadre instantly dug a grave in the middle of the wagon road, wrapped the general in white linen and laid him in the hole on his back and the grave was covered with dirt. The hope was that the wagons and horses would drive over the grave site and obliterate all traces of it from the enemy, who surely would decimate the generals remains if found.
One of the oxen pulled supply wagons became lodged between a boulder and a large spruce. The right rear wheel was broken off the axle. The driver quickly jumped off the seat and ran up to the two oxen in harness where he withdrew an especially long knife and sliced through the harness straps that secured the beasts to the wagon tongue. The proper thing to have done, per orders, was to cut the throats of the oxen in order to deprive the enemy of their use. But the young man grew up on a farm in the colonies and his father taught him to respect animals and to treat them with dignity. Animals were the earth’s fruit and they sustained human life and provided "everything" the pioneering people required to make a go of it on the frontier. Animals were revered and their lives taken only for human sustenance and he set them free. They lumbered off a short distance into the woods and started grazing. The Indians would probably feast on them tonight, but at least they were free to stand or run.
April 1755
The young man's name was Matthew Solomon. He was known as Matty for short. His father was a farmer and a blacksmith in the colonies of Central Maryland. Most children of the time would follow their father or mother's footsteps and simply continue on in life as tillers of the soil or farmers wives, but young Matty always had a wanderlust about him and spent his time in the woods hunting or tracking when he could get away from the farm crops and chores. After a few years, he would succumb to the lure of the wilderness and the unknown. He left the farm at 19 years of age and traveled over the frontier. He would work temporary, odd jobs in towns that had no names where enough money would be collected to sustain him with food, clothing and eventually a horse. His movements took him south along the Allegheny Mountains to Fort Cumberland in the colony Maryland.  It was here that he saw the poster tacked to the tailgate of a colonial militia supply wagon that read "Experienced wagon drivers wanted. Men of adventure needed. “Must be over 15 years old and healthy.  Inquire at Quarter Master's tent, first on left." Why not? There was nothing else to do so Matty tore the poster from the tailgate and sloshed through the muddy path called a straight to the quarter master’s tent.
 "Yes, sir. The pay is ten cents, colonial per day, mess provided by the king twice daily."  
It was better than nothing. Matty would report to the quartermaster in the morning to receive his wagon rig but, one thing bothered him.  Why would they want men of adventure? He would find out.
 He made his appearance at the appointed place at 6 am the next morning. There were already forty men there standing about or leaning against hitching posts or wagons. Many were older and their leathery, dark skin proved that their lives were spent in the wilderness. They were filthy and their clothes were buckskin while others were obviously straight from the farm. For the most part, they were young and, at the least, clean. A militiaman appeared with a roster and called out the names of the new hires. "Aye!" and "here!" were yelled after the names were called out. There were many names called that were followed by silence. A militiaman named Colonel George Washington appeared from a nearby tent and stepped upon a nail keg to gain the advantage of height. He stared out upon the assembled rabble and moved his head left and right with eyes unblinking and mouth tight shut. He appeared stern and quite serious. Then he spoke.
 "Men! We are about to embark on a campaign against the French and Indian at Fort Duquesne on the Monongahela. I am not at liberty at this time to state numbers, but General Edward Braddock of His Majesties' Army will lead the 32nd a foot, Royal Highlanders and a contingent of colonial militia over the Alleghenies to lay siege to the French stockade that lies where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers flow together. You men will drive the supply wagons for the venture. We depart in four hours afternoon. So, say your goodbyes to loved ones and Godspeed and stay you safe".
 So this was it. The promise of adventure made his blood hot and he felt almost giddy with excitement. Matty waited there by his wagon until the British General Dunbar directed the assemblage of teams into military order. One column of wagons, two abreast flanked by colonial militia with the lobsterbacks assembled four abreast in front of the wagons. The column of soldiers was so long that Matty could not see the beginning of it. There must be over a thousand of em, he thought. In reality, there were 2200 red coats and Colonial Militia total. The wagon drivers were extra. And so, off they went, The adventure had begun.



Chapter 2
The Leaving
Matty was 6 feet tall and weighed 195 pounds at 19 years of age. He worked hard on his father’s farm since he was ten years old and every pound of him was solid muscle. His family did not have much worldly worth and lived in a one-room log cabin affair that his father and mother, together, hastily constructed on a tract of land in North Cumberland, Maryland.  His father started the farm with two oxen, seven chickens, two pigs and a cow and the cabin had to be erected quickly because the land had to be cleared and tilled for crop planting.  In the early years, at age 6, Matty would sit astride one of the two oxen as his father plowed the soil in preparation for seeding. At age 7, Matty walked behind the plow.  His mother did her best to educate Matty in the evenings after chores, but Matty was usually exhausted and showed little interest in reading, writing, and arithmetic.  When he had time to himself, he would spend it in the forest studying plant life and animals and this usually occurred on Sundays.  Matty would watch deer, elk, otter and was especially curious about and fascinated with eagles and hawks.  He soon became a part of this wild environment and took only what he needed from it to live.  He respected the natural world and always was amazed by it. Everything seemed dependent on something else and it seemed that the lives of plants and animals were interwoven together to form a circle of life.
Matty knew that the farm could not hold him. He was 19 years old and wasn't really sure what he wanted, but he was certain it wasn't the plow. He needed to leave. The forest pulled him with the strength of oxen and he could wait no longer. It would be Sunday in three more days and he would leave then.
"What will you do and where will you go?" his mother said.
 “Your father and I have built this farm, knowing that someday you and yours would family here. How can you just leave?”
"Emily, the boy is his own master.   He can do as he pleases.   We came to this land to escape the lords who all but enslaved us into labor.    We are free to work the soil, to raise children, and to assume wealth, little that it is.  Matty is my son and I'll not be forcing him to a life he does not want.   Son, go yer own way, but set the path back to yer mother and me well in yer head."
His father's eyes were glassy and a tear trickled down from the corner of his left eye as he extended his right hand out to his son. When Matty grasped his father's hand, the old man leaped to his feet, pulling Matty toward him, released the handshake grip and threw both arms around Mattie's back and held his son tight to him.
 He whispered in Matty's ear, "I'm proud of you son.  Follow yer dream.  And remember the path home."
 Matty's mother sat in a stick chair, sobbing. She seemed small and frail all of a sudden to Matty.  Matty walked over to his mother and embraced her.
 "I'll be back mother.   I'll not be gone forever.   Maybe I'll be back in the spring.  Yes, the spring.   I'll return in the spring - no later than May.   I'll have lots of stories to tell you both."
 Sunday finally came and the sun slowly began its climb from the East.  Matty had collected a few necessaries, laid them on an open wool blanket and rolled the blanket over them into a tight cylindrical shape.  A four-foot piece of rawhide was tied to both ends of the blanket allowing the travel roll to be slung over his shoulder.  At 7:00 am Sunday morning Matty hugged his mother on the cabin porch. He used light but firm pressure to pull her against him. His father came onto the porch carrying a package wrapped in heavy paper saturated in bear grease that rendered the paper waterproof. The package was tied together with a single piece of rawhide.
His father said, "Something for your journey.  No need to open it now.   Wait till tonight."
 Matty embraced his father and then his mother. He stood back away from the porch and gave them both a long endearing stare, then turned and walked down the path and entered the woods on the South side of the farm. He didn't look back. If he did, he might lose his resolve to leave. No, he would hold his course south.  He was on his own.
By nightfall, he had happened onto a small stream that flowed north to south at the base of the Allegheny foothills. Up until now, the going had been easy. The ground was flat and lightly forested with tall, slender pines and he made good time traveling more than 23 miles since sun up.  This was a good place to camp for the night under a huge hemlock that towered above the tallest tree in view. He unrolled his blanket to spread it on the ground and lay down upon his back. He looked up through the tree, his eyes searching through the branches and found it interesting how the limbs all seemed to grow straight out from the trunk then slope downward and out at an Angle. When viewed all together as a whole, the traditional pine tree shape was created.  Amazing he thought!  He rolled onto his right side and noticed the box his father had given him and his eyes came alive.  Reaching out with his right hand, he hooked his index finger under the rawhide tie and pulled the box to him.  While untying the package, his thoughts returned to his mother and father who had tried to be strong and sympathetic with his wishes to leave home.  But he saw through their charade. His mother constantly blotted tears from her cheeks with the bottom edge of her apron and his father often looked past Matty's head to avoid eye contact while concurring with his reasons for his leaving home. The package had a heft to it.  He pulled the rawhide strap aside, tore the paper off the box and turned the box upside down dumping the contents out onto the ground. There were five pieces of jagged flint and a six inch long, 1/2 inch diameter piece of iron stock. This was perfect for fire starting. An old, worn wet stone tumbled out followed by a small tin of whale oil. There was something heavy that was wedged tightly against the sides of the interior. It would not fall out. When he turned the box over and looked inside, he saw a knife and a leather sheath. His eyes grew very wide, and he sat up to inspect this find. The blade was a good seven inches long with a stag bone handle. The top of the blade was thick and two inches from the tip was sharpened like a razor and sloped down and slightly up again to a needlepoint. The bottom edge was sharpened from the hilt all the way to the blade's tip. That edge gently curved upward to the point of the knife. A very wicked looking creation he thought.  It was of heavy steel with impeccable craftsmanship and contained a finish as smooth and bright as a mirror and an inscription was etched on the left side of the blade that read; Solomon 1750. Solomon - Father - Did his father make this blade? He must have. But when and where could he have created this beauty?  It had to have been back in England. Father only had Coopers tools good only for making barrel hoops and wagon wheel bands. Could his father have created this finely crafted knife with a hammer and anvil? He must have. It was a fine gift. He clutched it in both hands and pulled it to his chest as he lay on the blanket on his side and fell soundly asleep.
He awakened at sun up, rolled onto his back, yawned, stretched and stood up. He reached down and picked up the wicked looking knife and inserted it into the sheath which was then pushed behind his pant belt on his right side. All seemed right with the world and he felt more complete and somehow more secure with the knife at his disposal.  His belongings were gathered up and he started out in a southerly direction at a brisk pace.
Matty would stop at small homesteads and villages along his path and work at odd labor for meals and at times a few shillings. After three months he found his way to Fort Cumberland in Maryland.  Fort Cumberland was located on Wills Creek near the Potomac River where the fort was built as a depot to house and stockpile supplies on the South side of the Potomac River.  As the French and English relationship deteriorated on the frontier, there became a need for a military presence in those territories and the old depot was expanded into a formidable, defensible fortification.  It was here, at Fort Cumberland, that Matty Solomon wandered into on July 3, 1755.
"Yo, yo, hold up.  Wait!"
Matty grabbed hold of the brake arm of the wagon and pulled himself up over the side and onto the seat of the wagon.

The driver, a boy of 19 yelled, "What happened?   How close are they? 
He meant the French and Indians.
"There must be over a thousand of em to make the red coats turn tail like this," Matty replied.
The wagon driver spoke in a loud voice; "we can't cover the ground fast enough with all these soldiers all over the road."

He would whip the two horses with his buggy whip only to yell "whoa" when a group of redcoats would step in front of the wagon.  Matty and the wagon driver could hear the rifle cracks about an eighth of a mile behind them and that was too close for Matty.
Matty addressed the young wagon driver; "What's your name?"
"Boone, Daniel Boone," the young man replied.
Boone was all of 6'3". He was dressed head to toe in dirty deerskin garments. The deerskin over shirt was worn on the outside of the pant. On his feet were leather moccasins. His hands were large and his left hand held the traces that controlled the team and his right held the buggy whip.  Boone's head was bare, but a colonial Tri-corner hat lay in the bed of the wagon.  His skin appeared weathered and suntanned to the darkest brown.  Boone wore a trusting face and his gray eyes were constantly moving, constantly searching the woods trying to penetrate deep inside the tree-lined perimeter.
Boone said, "Here; take this."
 Boone's eyes fell to the rifle that leaned against his right side.  Matty grasped the rifle and laid it across his knees.
 "She's primed and all set to touch off," Boone said.

It was a beautiful long rifle of Kentucky make and origins with double set triggers. The shoulder strap of a powder horn and shot pouch were wrapped around the rifle stock. Matty had fired his father's musket but never a weapon such as this.
 Boone reached over toward Matty, touched the shot pouch and told him "reload without the patch.   Its quicker loaden and the shooten will be close range, if there is any.   Probably won't need to be dead on for long shooten."
Matty couldn't believe what he was hearing. This man in buckskin was talking about killing human beings as if it was nothing out of the ordinary.  Matty looked down at the rifle again and allowed his gaze to wander over the length of the weapon. It was constructed as a full stock rifle with the stock flowing on past the trigger guard and quickly tapering down to form a forearm (under barrel support) that extended below the barrel to the end. He noted the caliber to be.36. The inscription was on the lock plate. Someday he would own such a rifle.
Boone drove the team at a snail's pace because the path was congested with panic-stricken soldiers and terrified women. The women followed along with the supply wagons well behind the advance force.  Most of them were entrepreneurs of the battlefields and many of them had followed other military engagements and were familiar with roaming the battlefield for spoils. Those battles were fought in the traditional European style of warfare where regiments and companies of combatants align themselves parallel with each other, stand and fire into the ranks and be torn with rifle ball and grapeshot until one side called retreat. Then the women would appear for the treasures that lay about amongst the fallen. They would search each fallen man's garments for loot and it didn't matter which side was the victor as spoils of war were spoils of war.
However, the fighting here in the Americas on this frontier was vastly different as the Indian's and the French did not line up in ranks to be decimated, but would take positions of relative safety where they could lay down fire without being seen. They fought crafty skirmishes for the most part. A new style of warfare had come of age called Guerrilla fighting. The British were slow to take note, but the Colonials knew no other way of fighting. The Indians were good teachers.
The sharp cracks of rifles could be heard from behind them. The Indian's were murdering the wounded lobsterbacks and those who could not keep up were left to their own fate. A loud shriek off to the right caused Boone and Matty both to snap their heads in unison in that direction. A naked savage broke out of the forest and was running full out toward four wounded redcoats who were limping along the road. The easy prey must have proven too enticing for him. He brandished a war club with a two-foot-long handle and a round stone the size of a grapefruit bound to the business end of it. The club was raised above shoulder height as he ran down a gentle slope, jumped high over the trunk of a fallen tree screaming at the top of his lungs. He was heading for a wounded Scott's Guardsman who was leaning on the butt of his rifle, muzzle to the ground and was stationary. Blood covered his right leg, which he had lifted and bent at the knee. Matty was spellbound as he watched the painted savage charging the soldier in kilts, but he snapped out of it when he heard Boone yell,
 "Shoot, shoot now!  Hurry, now!"
Matty acted dumbfounded. He appeared at a loss for action. He felt Boone snatch the long rifle out of his hands. When he glanced over at his companion, Boone had just settled the stock of the weapon to his shoulder, pointed it and the weapon cracked loudly. The Indian shrieked, fell forward and lay still, flat on his stomach, face down as a gentle breeze blew away the gray smoke from the muzzle blast. The wagon slowed near the injured red coats and Matty jumped out to prod help them into the wagon box and then climbed back up next to Boone on the driver's seat.
 "Why didn't you shoot," exclaimed Boone?
 "I never shot at a man."
"These heathens will kill you if you don't shoot first.   And their treatment of captive whites ain't Christian if they ketch ya."
Boone had a disgusted look on his face as he spoke to Matty,
 "Don't think of em as men right off.   Think of em as the enemy.   Later, when ya git used to killen em, you can think of em as vermin."
Matty felt embarrassed that he didn't act quickly. He didn't act at all. Boone did everything. He handled the wagon team, shot the savage and saved the red coat. And even now he was reloading his long rifle and handling the leads to the horses at the same time. He had just pushed the ball home with the ramrod and slid it back into the thimbles and laid the rifle across his legs so it was within easy reach. Matty's hand gripped the handle of his knife and he felt more secure. The knife now represented something more than just a sentimental gift. It was a survival tool and a necessity to his existence on the frontier, and so would a rifle be. Some way, somehow, he would own a rifle. After witnessing Boones’ handling of his rifle, Matty realized it was mandatory he acquire one of his own - one like Boone's.
They drove till nightfall. The main contingent of French and Canadians had left the battlefield and returned to Ft Duquesne. Some Indians still followed along, keeping well-hidden and far back in the woods. An occasional shriek or whoop would sound just to keep the British and colonials nervous. The guards were posted heavy around the encampment.  Boone and Matty struck out before sun up in hopes of being in the front of the weakened column, thereby avoiding the congestion of foot soldiers, wagons and civilian women on the path. There were already dead and dying British soldiers on the road that pushed on past last night's encampment due to terror.  One of the horses went lame after only six miles. Boone jumped down to inspect the lame horse's hoof and found a large stone embedded in the pulpy part of the hoof. If allowed to continue the horse would lose its ability to walk. Boone walked to the front of the horses and stood between their shoulders grasping the harness at their jaws. He walked them off the trail a short ways into the woods, wagon and all where he withdrew his trade knife and took a step toward the animal to his left. Matty was observing the scene and immediately understood Boon's intention.
 "No, wait!", Matty yelled.
 Boone glanced his way and waited as Matty strode up to him.
 "Cut them loose," Matty exclaimed.  Their capture will not win or lose this conflict.”
Boone replied, "it's our duty to deprive the enemy of supplies."   These two horses are to be kilt.  We will go on foot."
 "No!" Matty replied.  Turn them loose now!   I can't let you kill them."
Boone took another step toward the horse and Matty grasped his knife in his clenched fist and struck Boone from behind as Boone was walking past him. By clutching the knife handle tightly in his fist, his fingers became hard against the knife handle creating a more solid fist - and a harder hitting fist. When Matty hit Boone on the back of his head, Boone fell to the ground stunned. Matty lead both animals a little further into the forest and removed the rest of the harness. Then he swatted the rump of the white horse and repeated the action with the brown one. Both horses moved out of sight back into the woods. They were safe from Boone. Passing ladies and more wounded men came over to the wagon and helped the four Britt’s climb out. Matty grasped Boone under his shoulders and hoisted him to his knees. Boone stared at the ground with unclear eyes and inquired,
 "What the hell happened?"
I couldn't let you kill them horses, Danel.   Like I say, their lives won't lose or win this fight."
 "I'll have to keep my eye on you from now on Matty Solomon", Boone replied.,
Boone slowly brought his right foot up under himself and rose to a standing position. Matty took two steps back away from him not knowing what to expect, then reached down and picked up Boone's knife.
"Here, you dropped this," and handed it handle first to his friend. Without a word, Boone walked to the wagon and picked up his rifle and possibles.
"Guess we may as well hi-tail it outa here on foot," Boone exclaimed.
"Agreed,"  Matty acknowledged. 
There were many soldiers that passed by and some were lying about while the two were working out the disposition of the horses. Most were badly wounded and some were dying.  As the two started off, Boone noticed a red coat sitting with his back against the fence. A large hole was in his red coat just above his heart and the white blouse beneath the coat was soaked with his blood. Boone walked over to him and discovered he was dead. Across his knees lay a Kings Army issue 54 Caliber Brown Bess musket. The accessories to this gun would be in the pack lying beside the fallen man. "Matty, here's your gun. This one won't be needen it no more."
Sporadic rifle cracks could be heard, and not too far away. Occasionally a singing sound could be heard from a ricocheting ball and sometimes the rifle balls could be heard passing through tree limbs and stopping with a thud in a thicker limb or tree trunk. The Indians were playing their harassment game. They would follow the retreating army and snipe at them from far back in the darkness.
 "Let's get goin", Matty said rather urgently. "The sooner we get away from here the better I'll like it."
Boone led the way and instantly fell into a sort of trot holding the rifle in his right hand straight down. Frontiersmen can keep this pace up morning till night covering as much as twenty to twenty-five miles in a single day.  Matty fell in stride behind Boone, who continuously twisted his head from side to side searching the shadows under the trees for their adversaries.  At a small creek, they stopped and drank.
 Boone exclaimed, "We'll stop for the night just over the crown of that hill there in front of us".
As they topped the small hill, both stopped simultaneously when there before them stood a small fort in the center of a meadow. Fog surrounded it and gave the old stockade a macabre appearance.  It was constructed simply by stripping the limbs from four to eight-inch diameter trees, cutting the trees to eight-foot lengths and inserting them in a dug ditch so that the cut lengths of wood stood vertically. A circle about 40 feet in diameter was created by the poles and in the center of the circle was a small one room cabin.  Mounds of dirt were created thirty feet from the stockade to provide troop protection while defenders fired on the enemy. The meadow itself was a protection as anyone attacking the small stockade would have to come out of the woods and cross the open expanse of ground between the forest and the stockade.
This was Great Meadows - better known as Fort Necessity and It was constructed quickly out of dire necessity.  George Washington and two companies of Colonials hastily threw this little fort together back in June of 54 when they discovered a large group of French and Indians closing in on them. The French laid siege to the fort, but couldn't break the will of its inhabitants. They finally sued for terms of surrender and Colonel Washington thought it in the best interest of his men to accept the terms with the result of being allowed to depart with weapons and colors.
Matty and Boone entered the stockade and decided the old cabin would do them for the night.




Chapter 3

A Formidable Foe

They were in for a cold night. No fire would be lighted for fear it could be a beacon for the Indian miscreant scouts of the French. They gathered pine boughs and lay them alongside the cabin walls to lay upon where Matty plopped down on his bed with a sigh and a groan. His legs were tired keeping pace with the frontiersman, for it seemed Boone's endurance was endless and he never grew weary. Daniel Boone set a pace and never varied from it and hour after hour they loped along, stopping only at streams for quick hands full of water, then off again. Matty slid to a sitting position, clasped his hands behind his head and rested his back against the cabin wall and watched Boone in the waning light as he carefully inspected his rifle that carried the name Tick Licker.  

Matty studied Boone's profile. The face was an honest face, a jaw cut sharp with a prominent chin. Boone's nose had the appearance of being a bit large for the narrow face, but his mouth was proportionate with everything else and his lips narrow, forming a straight line from one mouth corner to the other.  Overall, he was a handsome man, but thin and ungainly Matty thought. Boone was not an arrogant man, but Mattie noticed an aura about Boone that bespoke hidden rage even though Matty had only witnessed cool, calm responses to calamity and he wondered what it would take to unleash that rage in his companion.
"I reckon we'll head due south just before sunrise and make for Ft Ligonier. It lies just forty or so miles from us," Boone exclaimed.
 Matty acquired a puzzled look on his face, thought a bit about Boone's statement and replied,
 "Think I'll head further east and south a ways and then drop dead south and over toward Ft Cumberland. My folks live that way. They're due a visit."
 "Suit yourself.  Yer likely to run into Boosways or Potowathomes if ya don't keep watch.  They're bad folks who will roast ya alive ifen they ketch ya. Huron is the worse of the lot, but they're up Mohawk Valley way toward the Hudson River.  I’ve seen a Huron scout grab hold of a stirrup on a French officer's horse and run alongside while the horse was galloping.  They are a fine example of Indian heathen, but thars no reasonin with em.   Only one way to talk at em and that's with lead, and don't take no time a ponderen on whether to shoot or not."
 Boone was referring back to the incident in the wagon where Matty hesitated to use a Boone's rifle. Matty swore to himself that would never happen again.
The gray sky's of morning promised a wet day and the air was cold and thick with moisture. Boone commented that hard rain might be a possibility before the morning was over. It was daybreak and the sun would surely warm up the little house, but a drenching of rain would show their tracks in the softwoods soil and any Indian would be able to trail them.
They both gathered their possibles and moved to the cabin door each lowering himself to one knee, Boone on the left and Matty on the right side of the doorway. Their heads slowly moved into the door opening for a better view of the surrounding forest.
Boon said,  "I'll walk out and turn south into the woods.   You cover me from here.  Then I'll watch you when you come, and make sure that musket is primed with dry powder Matty.   Blow out the old stuff and re-prime the pan with this."
 Boone made a friendly gesture by handing Matty a goat horn filled with fine pan powder for the frizzen of his musket, even though Matty had his own. Matty did as Boone instructed and with rifles ready, Boone stood vertical and stepped through the cabin while Matty leveled the musket toward the woods, his eyes searching for any movements. Boone walked slowly and stood tall with rifle across the crook in his left arm at the elbow. The fingers of his right hand were wrapped around the slender portion of the rifle stock just behind the cocked hammer with his index finger on the trigger of Tick Licker. He wanted to appear unafraid and daring to any enemy who might be watching from the forest. Anything less than boldness would instigate an immediate hostile action from any heathen who might be watching. Like animals, the Indians always take advantage of the weak and fearful. The fittest always had a better chance of survival. Such was the way on the frontier. Boone walked casually into the woods, then turned quickly and laid his long rifle across a fallen tree trunk to cover 

Matty's exit from the cabin and the small stockade. Like Boone, Matty walked tall and took long brisk strides appearing to care little about his surroundings. He even carried his musket in his right hand, arm extended straight down at his side to indicate his unconcern for danger. The hammer, however, was back and the trigger was set on the big gun. Matty had a feeling of security at the heft of the weapon in his hand, and the knife on his waist belt that his father made him added a second layer of defense if the big musket were ever found to become empty.
A sudden rush of heat flashed over Mattie's face as adrenaline shot through his body. He heard running feet behind him;  rapid footfalls of someone running really fast toward him. As he turned to look behind him, he caught a movement off to his right. A Savage with a bow and arrow had run out into the open from the edge of the woods on the north side of the meadow. Never stopping, Matty looked behind him to see a French Boosway trotting after him at much the same speed Matty was moving. These half French half Indians were masters of the forest and a force to be reckoned with by the colonial militia. They would play havoc on the British Army through the early period of the war until a special force would later come on the scene and level the playing field. That force would be Rogers Rangers.
Matty picked up the pace as he saw the Indian gain ground on him.
"Where was Boone?   He's supposed to be covering me."
Matty felt the first stages of panic and he ran hard. The Indian to his right had run not only to him, but also to where he would intersect Matty if his arrow missed its mark and at a position parallel to Matty, the savage dropped to one knee drawing his bow in the same fluid movement. A sharp crack of a rifle sounded from the thicket ahead and the arrow launched harmlessly into the ground as the miscreant fell over onto his side.
 "Shoot, shoot now!" Boone was yelling at Matty from the woods. "Shoot now!"
 It was a recreation of the scene in the wagon from yesterday. Matty put it all together in his head instantly. Boone had taken the shot, dropped the savage and his gun was empty now and Boone knew the Canadian Boosway would be on Matty before he could finish reloading.
Without slowing down, Matty spun around, and placed the stock of the gun to his shoulder in one fluid movement. The Canadian was close and Matty could see the surprised look on his adversaries face as the Booseway looked into the end of the musket. The Canadian held a flint and ball pistol in his right hand and was raising it when Matty pulled the trigger on the big musket and felt the heavy recoil on his shoulder. Gray smoke obliterated the view in front of him. His attacker lay flat on his back, his head nearly blown off his shoulders, the skull broken in pieces and scattered alongside the body. Boone was standing at the edge of the woods waving at Matty to hurry.
 "Yer a larnen.  Yep, yer a larnen," Boone yelled!
Matty didn't understand why the Canadian hadn't shot sooner. Of course Boone had the answer.

"He had a pistol which is only good at close range.  If he'd a shot at ya and missed, you would have put him in a bad sityashon with yer musket.  He had to run up close on ya to make sure he hit ya when he shot."
Funny thing - Matty didn't feel bad. He didn't feel anything. A man tried to kill him and he killed that man and he didn't feel bad at all.
Boone looked at Matty and said, "come on.  We gotta make time.  Thar will be others a comen and we'll leave a heavy track for em in this wet soil and we ain't got time to go real careful."
Boone turned and took off at a brisk pace, outdistancing Matty, who had to exert great effort to catch up to Boone, but he quickly fell into a steady, casual run that matched Boone's pace. Matty had just fitted the ramrod back into the thimbles under the barrel of his musket after reloading while on the run and he felt pride at the accomplishment as he had never been able to reliably load a rifle on the run in the past. Necessity always makes a way…..
Boone slowed and stopped after about five miles. Matty came up beside him and went down onto his left knee to rest.
Boone said,  “I'm goin straight south from here to Fort Ligonier.   It's only a day and a half run and I'd advise you to come along Matty.  The French will have scouts out now and them scouts will be savages and Bushways both unless I miss my guess. Better come along with me to the fort."
Matty stared at the ground while still on his knee. "Nope, I"m headen for Cumberland and home.  I made a promise to my folks and I aim to keep it."
"Yep, I reckon you will," said Boone.  Alright, friend - this is where we split, " Boone said.
 Looking at Matty,  Boone calmly said,  "remember, run with the sun anywhere but in front of ya and keep the woods close so ya can duck in and hide.  Indians is like wolves that kin think.  They stick with something once they put a mind to it, and if that something’s you - well, good luck."

 "We'll meet agin, Danel," Matty said.

 "Take care of yer hair Matty."
 "Yep, take care o yourn Danel."
Matty watched as Boone disappeared into the forest. His eyes stayed on Boone's dirty brown deerskin shirt until he was out of sight completely and suddenly the realization that he was all alone hit him.
He was on his own again.





Chapter 4

Journey Back Home

Matty jogged along at a steady pace on an eastern course for two hours without stopping since leaving Boone. The musket was heavy and it was becoming an effort to carry and he would switch it back and forth from right to his left hand while moving through the woods. 

The British issue musket weighed three times that of the much sought after Pennsylvania long rifle and was only half the length, but fired a projectile twice the size of the .31 caliber ball of the more preferred weapon. Muskets were designed to be utilized in volley firing where it was desirable to throw as much lead into the opposing ranks of enemy soldiers as possible.  Here, in the Americas, accuracy was of prime concern and nothing was as accurate as the Pennsylvania long rifle which was lighter in overall weight and the most accurate shoulder weapon in existence at the time, and made these rifles the most sought after possessions of the American Frontiersman and Colonial Skirmishers.

Matty slowed to a stop at a small waterfall, laid the heavy musket down and on hands and knees, leaned over and drank heavily from the cold stream. Rising up and sitting on his haunches, he surveyed his surroundings to be certain no enemy could get close to him without the sounds of moving brush and leaves alerting him.  Matty was alone now and did not have the companionship of the frontier-wise Danel Boone to advise him, and would have to be self-reliant. The stream flowed south and east, much in the same direction he wished to go so he stepped into the cold water and proceeded to walk briskly down the stream. He would continue in this fashion until the stream meandered away from his course of travel. After an hour the little rivulet made a sharp right turn against a sandstone wall and tumbled down over a twenty-foot fall.  Matty stepped out of the water upon a fallen log and walked the length of it for thirty feet where he then stepped onto a boulder and jumped from one huge stone to another until he had moved about fifty yards from the stream and hopped down on the leaf-covered forest floor. He grasped the musket in his right hand, arm extended straight down and assumed the frontiersman's gate that would move him through the forest until nightfall.

Matty did not follow the trail, but kept to a long, shallow depression in the ground that he had been following in a southerly direction for miles that suddenly became a dry stream bed covered with bright green grass.
"Probably hasn't seen enough water in months to run full", he said out loud.

 If Matty chose this path for its ease of travel, then someone else could do as well. There were other streams nearby that ran full with clean, crystal water that would be better to camp along, but to be found at the side of one of them asleep would put him in a hard spot. It was nearly dark and Matty decided to walk up the steep hillside to his left, which turned quickly into the steep side of a mountain. After forty feet, he had to grasp hold of saplings and pull with his free hand so that his feet would not have to bear his entire weight and slip on the wet leaves that covered the nearly vertical hillside. Just then a ledge appeared that cut back into the mountainside for nearly twenty feet. It would be here that Matty would spend the night. He didn't even unroll his blanket, but laid the blanket roll on the ground against the cliffside farthest away from the edge of the hill,  flopped down onto the earth unceremoniously, put his head on the rolled wool bundle and instantly fell asleep.

Matty opened his eyes and glared at a bright moon. The white orb appeared to hang from the stubby, rotten limb on an old hickory snag that clung to the hillside above him. Something had stirred him from his sound sleep. 

He was awakened by talking.  There were men below him and they were speaking French, and an occasional muttering of unintelligible gibberish would chime in between the French from time to time confirming that Indians were also present. They were camped on the spot where Matty had started up the hillside.

 It had to be night time when they arrived so they hadn't discovered any earth scars he may have made while precipitating the climb up the mountain to this spot. The morning's light, however, may offer the French and Indians proof of his passing and they may send a scout to try and overtake him while the rest continue on their intended direction. He must leave well before daybreak and make his way carefully, moving horizontally around the steep hill he was on until he could go up over the top where it would be flat. There he could resume his speed and put distance between himself and this bunch of troublemakers. His foe should be asleep in an hour or so and he could slip away.  

A piece of good luck occurred as Matty prepared to leave his ledge when the sky became cloudy and the moon was nearly covered in a cloak of darkness. A drizzle of cold rain began to fall and made conditions perfect for Matty to get away undetected. He slung his roll over his shoulder and grabbed the big gun up in his right hand and inched over to the edge of his ledge to peer at the visitors below. He saw nothing but darkness. They had no fires, but he knew they were there. He moved out across the side of the hill as quietly as he could. The going was slow and he negotiated fallen limbs, rocks and forest debris without making a sound.  When he figured he had gone a hundred yards he turned straight up the hill until he went over the top. It was flat there and sparsely populated with huge trees. He fell into the mile eating gate that would carry him further away from his enemies.

The French and Indian camp had awakened just before sunup. The morning necessaries were administered to, weapons were gathered and soon the entire group of twenty French and Nine Seneca Indians were ready to move out. As the French hefted shoulder packs and aligned themselves in single file on this dry stream bed, the Indians appeared to arbitrarily position themselves on the sides, front and rear of the French. Two Seneca’s rapidly ran ahead of the group before it started moving. Those Indians were scouting for the formation. As the French finally started to move the column, an Indian ran quickly toward a French Lieutenant who appeared to be giving directions to the Indian contingent. At his arrival, he appeared agitated and spoke rapidly, pointing to the hillside that they camped beside. Then the Lieutenant and he both trotted over to the bottom of the hill and inspected it. The Lieutenant motioned for two savages who were approaching to look at a place on the ground that his finger was pointing to.  Each of the two Indians looked up the hill momentarily and started the ascent. The rest fell in with the French. 

It looked like Matty would be followed.

Matty's trail was easy to follow and the two Senecas had no trouble seeing the places where Matty's feet slid on the steep bank. They were expert trackers and were traveling almost as fast as Matty was.  The taller of the two Indians had a wicked belt ax held to his deerskin leggings with a length of rawhide and a trade’s knife was tucked into the waistband of his breechclout. His partner was well muscled but with shorter legs that appeared to move twice as fast as those of his peers when running.  He carried a war club made of a two-foot long piece of hickory split at the end with a round, smooth river rock fitted and tied into the split and he also carried a trade's knife on his belt. 

Occasionally they would slow down or stop to inspect some bit of information that pertained to their prey and after brief discussions, they would be off again on their mission.

Matty ran on until eleven o clock. His courses lead him out onto a triangular promontory that offered a view of a large, wide valley far below and he sat down to catch his breath allowing his eyes to scan the valley in front of him. He noticed clearings here and there and wondered if they were the work of farmers. They were sparse and hard to see, but they were there. He was not certain if he was in Pennsylvania or Cumberland territory, but he thought he surely would be in or very near Cumberland as he had traveled southeast and then south for most of the morning. He had to work his way down off this plateau to the valley floor where he could really make good travel time. There it was again.  He was hearing a strange tick, tick off in the distance from the valley far below and it was a sound he couldn't put his finger on. The ticking sounds weren't constant, but were sporadic and he didn't give them much thought. Standing up, he carefully looked about him, then set out on a slower run down the mountain, which turned into a walk and finally hand to hand from tree to tree to avoid falling down the very steep mountainside that ended hundreds of feet onto the valley floor below.  The tick, ticks were louder now. It was obvious to Matty that the ticking noise was distant gunfire.  That much gunfire on the frontier could only mean that someone was in a struggle for their life.

Matty was already heading toward the direction of the sounds so he picked up his pace to a sort of half jog, half run and began paying close attention to his immediate surroundings. He soon came to the edge of a cleared field full of tree stumps and noticed a broken plow leaning on one of the stumps that littered the weed-covered field.  It seemed a testimonial to the hard men and women who try to scratch a life for themselves out of the unforgiving land. 

The gunfire was coming from just beyond a narrow tree line on the other side of the clearing.  Matty thrust himself out into the open and ran at top speed past the broken plow and into the thicket beyond. He lay on his stomach and pulled himself forward on his elbows to just behind a fallen tree.  A one-room cabin was sitting in the center of a clearing and rifles were protruding through the front windows. Occasionally a gray puff of smoke could be seen and then a sharp report. Then the second gun would fire. Neither weapon fired simultaneously as they would both be empty at the same time. On the ground in front of the cabin lay two bodies – he could see by their clothes one was a female and the other a male.

Gray puffs of smoke appeared from just inside the tree line at the edge of the clearing where Matty guessed there were no more than two or maybe three of the miscreants in hiding. A scream was heard emanating from the cabin and shortly after, another.  Matty noted only one rifle was firing from the cabin now. If there was only one rifle firing, all the heathen had to do was wait for that rifle to fire and move quickly toward the cabin before a reload could be accomplished but no one came into the clearing. They were being cautious.

 Matty carefully crawled toward the cabin, keeping a line of boulders and rocks between him and the attackers in the woods. He stopped when he reached a position at the side of the field that placed him directly between the woods and the cabin, but still in the cover of the trees at the edge of the clearing. A shot was taken at the cabin from the combatants in the woods and a return shot emitted from the cabin. Matty saw a half-naked savage run out of the woods directly toward the cabin carrying only a tomahawk.  He ran silently to the porch and stood with his back against the log wall beside the door. Matty laid the musket across the top of a boulder and opened the frizzen. He blew out the prime powder and poured fresh flakes of the fine black dust into the flash pan. It was a fifty yard shot and the musket should prove accurate. Matty knew that there was still at least one miscreant in the thicket. He had hoped he could reload before the savage could determine the origin of his shot. Just then the second savage ran from the woods toward the cabin. A puff of gray smoke and a sharp "crack" came from the window nearest the Indian on the porch. That Indian reached out and grabbed the muzzle of the rifle and pulled it through the window. All the while the second savage was nearing the front porch. Matty carefully gazed across the sights, lead the Indian by a good foot and squeezed the heavy trigger. The big gun exploded and smoke obliterated the view. 

Matty was on his feet and running toward the cabin before he knew if his shot was true or not. He unsuccessfully attempted to reload the musket on the run, dropped it and pulled the knife from its sheath in his belt before his feet touched the clearing. A third body now lay on the ground beside the previous two. Matty noticed an Indian running into the woods as he reached the cabin porch, leaving only one to deal with inside the cabin. 

Someone was screaming in the cabin. Pottery was breaking and a woman was screaming. Without slowing down, Matty threw his weight onto the front door with his shoulder and It flew from its leather hinges and landed flat onto the floor where Matty tripped and fell onto it. He bent his body forward and rolled upon hitting the floor and came to his feet just before slamming into the cabin wall. A savage stood to his left holding a girl by the throat with his left hand while his right held a French trade knife and he was attempting to slice through the deer hide lacing's that closed the neck of the lady's dress. His head snapped around and icy, dark, cold eyes glared into Matty's. The savage tossed the girl aside and she struck her head against a wooden water keg and lay quiet. Matty upended a heavy circular table into the Seneca's legs and the big Indian bent at the waist and fell forward onto the table's top with his back exposed. In a heartbeat Matty's knife entered the savages back between his shoulder blades and the Indian's entire body twitched violently as he tried to lift his head up to look at Matty.  The Indian attempted to spit on Matty, but his bloody spittle only fell to the table and in a few short seconds he lay still.  Matty slowly approached the Indian and slapped him on the back of the head a few times to guarantee that he was dead. The vermin was pinned to the table top as a butterfly in a collection.  He then grasped the knife handle, withdrew the blade and wiped it on the Indian's breechclout, inserted the knife into its sheath and stepped to the rifle that lay on the floor and promptly reloaded it.

 When he was satisfied the gun was ready, he knelt down and pulled the hair back away from the face of a young girl. She was gently pulled to a sitting position with her back against the cabin wall. Matty tore off a piece of her dress from the bottom edge, dipped it in a water bucket and laid it against the girl's forehead. Her eyes fluttered open and then closed again. He laid her back down on the floor and placed a coat that was hanging on a wall peg under her head. He had an insatiable urge to be on the move away from here, but he couldn't leave the girl, and he wouldn't. There was a body lying just under the far window on the floor and he was a young boy of no more than fourteen or fifteen with blood on his shirt near his heart. His eyes were partially open and glazed and beside the boy lay a rifle.

 Matty's eyes opened wide and reached down to pick up a fine long rifle of superb quality. It may have been even finer than Boone's. It was a Pennsylvania long rifle of .31 caliber with a full stock of chestnut wood that flowed past the working parts up and under the barrel clear to the muzzle. Barrel and forearm were joined at the muzzle by a brass bezel and the rifle had two triggers, a set trigger, and a trigger to fire the weapon. It was a beautiful rifle. There was a pouch of lead balls for it laying on the floor that Matty tucked in his deerskin shirt after removing one of the balls and reloading the rifle.

A soft moan came from the girl on the floor and Matty quickly returned to her, bent down and cupped his hands behind her head. She seemed none the worse for wear other than the nasty lump on the side of her forehead, she received when her head hit the wall.

Matty said,  "can you hear me?  Please, wake up.   We need to git away from here."

 "Who, who are you?", the girl said feebly.

 "Matty Solomon's my name.   I just happened by and tried to lend a hand."

She lifted her head and looked around the room. Then she saw the boy.

"Tommy!  Tommy!  Oh No!"

She wept wildly. Matty could do nothing but hold her head against his leg. She grasped his hand in both her's and pushed her face against it. Matty knew they needed to move and move now.

 "They're all dead ma'am.   All of em.   Git it through yer head!.  Theres time nuff fer mornin when I git you to Ft Cumberland. What's yer name?", Matty asked.

  "Hanna.  Hanna McGiven."

 "Hanna, we got to git goin and now.   I know this is hard fer ya, but we gotta go."

 "Father; Mother!"

 "They're in the front by the porch ma'am."
 Matty knew the next question.

 "Could we bury them?"

 "No Ma'am, we can't.   We don't have time."

Then Matty thought of something. He helped Hanna outside then went back in and grabbed some clothes that looked like her's.  They walked to the edge of the clearing where he made her comfortable.

 "I'll be back quick Hanna."

Matty ran back toward the cabin, went inside and tore all the blankets and sheets off the beds and piled them against the cabin wall. He picked up a coal oil lantern and emptied it on the pile. With flint, steel and scraps of paper, he started embers burning and tossed them onto the saturated blankets. They smoldered and smoked and finally flashed into flame. Turning, he dashed outside to the bodies of Hanna's father and mother. One by one he took them inside and laid them on the top of the burning blankets and then walked out of the room. Any heathen coming this way would not find a white body to hack to pieces. They would only find one dead Indian attacker in the yard - the other burned in the cabin. Matty remembered the one who ran into the forest, but he doubted he would say a word about what he saw for fear of being called a coward for running away.  If Matty and Hanna were lucky, their trail away from the cabin would be overlooked.

Matty could not know that two pairs of eyes was watching the scene below from the ledge atop the mountain - the very ledge Matty descended to the valley from. The two savages looked briefly at each other and a sardonic smile appeared on the face of the bigger Indian.  They watched in silence as Matty and Hanna disappeared into the forest on the southeast side of the little clearing the cabin sat upon. At the edge of the forest, the new companions both turned and looked briefly at the flames shooting through the roof and engulfing the cabin. Hanna was crying hard.

 "Git yer self together girl.  We need our wits about us.  Ya can cry when we git ta Fort Cumberland.   Come on now."

 Matty practically dragged Hanna. She was devastated and seemed to have lost her will to go on. But they were moving, not as fast as Matty would like, but they were moving toward the south.

Two near naked figures silently slipped down the mountainside toward the burning cabin.







Chapter 5

Discovered

They walked for two hours without stopping.  Hanna shuffled along staring at the ground in an uncaring way.  A stop was made to drink from a narrow brook lined with wildflowers and Matty immediately sat down on a fallen log and opened his travel roll.  He pulled out a wool blanket and cut two rectangular pieces from it, then walked to a birch tree and with his knife, made two cuts entirely around the tree, 24 inches between cuts.  The bark was halved and each piece fashioned into the size and shape of the human foot.  He folded the blanket pieces over the bark and applied a hurried stitching of thin rawhide that fastened the blanket and bark together.  Hanna sat motionless as Matty fastened the new shoes to her feet and ankles.   Another foot long piece of blanket was cut and Hanna’s old leather, button-down shoes were tied one on each end of the blanket piece and both shoes were thrown high in a tree where they caught in foliage and hung out of sight.

“We gotta go, Miss,” Matty said.
Hanna didn’t answer, but acted like his words never reached her.

“Miss, we have to hurry along.  I’m sure we’ll be followed.  Our trail is plain.”

He walked over to her and slapped her across the face and Hanna snapped her head around to face him and she had tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry.  Look here miss – what’s done is done and it can’t be changed, but If we don’t hurry along we’ll be caught.  Our only chance is to keep moving until we get close to Fort Cumberland, where we’ll probably run into scouts from the fort.  Now, come on.”
Matty picked up her hand and pulled her to her feet.  They were off once again.

Two shadows moved through the forest, making no sound, silent as cats on the hunt.  The tallest Seneca, stopped abruptly and placed the palm of his hand on an invisible mark on the ground and looked up at his partner and voiced his opinion concerning the discovery.  A short conversation ensued and they both jogged off through the forest with determination on their painted faces.  An hour of constant running brought them to a narrow stream where they both squatted down and scooped up cool, refreshing water in cupped hands.  The tallest Indian jumped up excitedly and took two rapid steps to a log – the same log Matty sat on.  The shorter miscreant stood and carefully looked at his surroundings.  His head and eyes became still and a sardonic smile appeared on his face as he saw the tree with the stripped away bark.  

Matty was right when he said their trail was plain.  The two trackers instantly put all the sign together and the story unfolded to them that they were following two whites, one a woman, who were moving slowly and awkwardly through the forest.  The woman was slowing down travel as they could see that her footsteps were not uniform in spacing and she stumbled about frequently. 

Matty knew they would be found if they stopped for the night as the pursuers would be relentless and follow without rest.  Hanna and he had to make it to the fort or find a scouting party before dark as he doubted Hanna could move through the forest at night because she was exhausted even now and was near spent.   They carried on a fast walk for hours and finally came to a place where the forest was broken by a very wide swath of open land resembling a field.   Huge piles of unburned trees were stacked on the edge of the large field on the opposite side where the forest once again commenced.  

It was too late in the year to plow and plant so the field was left unattended, probably due to Indian worries, and would wait until spring.   They had to be close to a settlement and that meant Fort Cumberland was near.  Everything within him told Matty not to cross the field which would place them in plain view of all the forest edges that surrounded the big open space on three sides.  To walk around the entire field would take over two hours because of dense brush and trees that were cut and laid just inside the edge of the woods where the farmers had dragged them.  The field was shaped like a horseshoe – the open end of the horseshoe faced south and was clear of trees and brush.  They stood at the bottom of the horseshoe just inside the edge of the forest and Matty began to pace back and forth slowly, deep in thought, constantly looking at the open field.  A decision had to be made quickly as darkness was setting in.  He opened the frizzen on his rifle and blew the fine black powder out of the flash pan and replaced it with a fresh charge.

Hanna made a plea to stop there and rest a while longer.  She seemed secure in the thought that no one could possibly follow and find them here after all the miles they traveled from her home. 

Matty replied, “No miss – we can’t stop now.  I’m tellin ya there are miscreants on our back trail and they will find us unless we can keep moving.”

Hanna offered, “no one can find us.  Who would chase after the two of us all these many miles and, for what reason?  It makes no sense.  I can’t go further.”

Matty replied, “the heathen are like wolves.  They're on a blood trail and will not give up until they find the prey.  That would be us.  I don’t know everything about Indians, but I do know that when one sets his eyes on ya in bloodlust,  yer done fir.  A friend named Boone told me that ya don’t ever want to be caught by the vermin as they got unthinkable ways of torturing a white.  Now, lets git goin.”
Matty noticed the sun was going to be in front of them as they crossed the field and remembered Boone telling him back at Great Meadows to walk in any direction except into the sun.  Matty had no choice but to walk directly into the afternoon brightness.  There was no other way.


Matty helped Hanna to her feet and they stepped out into the field to hurry along to the open end of the horseshoe when halfway across the field,  Matty had a feeling about something and stopped Hanna,  turned and looked back across the area they had just come from and saw an Indian step out into the open who returned his gaze, his arms hanging down at his sides,  a tomahawk clutched in his right hand.  Not twenty feet beside him a shorter red man made his presence known.  They did not proceed toward Matty and Hanna as they could see the long rifle Matty cradled in the crook of his left arm.  All participants stood motionless sizing up the moment.




Chapter 6


The Rabbits and the Wolves

Matty felt a chill run down the back of his neck and he wished his friend Boone was here but he wasn’t.  It was all up to Matty and he wondered what Boone would do?  What would he do?  Matty understood that the two savages respected the long rifle he carried and they would want him to shoot it rendering him defenseless,  as he could not reload the weapon before they were upon him.  

It appeared to be a standoff.  Neither Indian carried a rifle or an arrow and bow.  Matty stood up as tall as he could, grabbed Hanna’s arm and turned with her to face away from the heathens and casually walked toward the opening in the long meadow away from the pair of angry faces that watched them from behind.

“Don’t turn around and look back,” Matty told Hanna.  “Don’t give em the pleasure of thinking you are afraid of em cause if they sense we fear em they will be more apt to try all the harder to kill us.”  Matty learned this from his friend Boone and he wondered how Boone became so smart.  

The taller of the two red men grew anxious.  He shifted his weight slowly from one foot to the other while his face showed anger that grew more and more by the second.  The whites were ignoring their presence as if they were meaningless bugs underfoot.  The shorter Indian watched his partner to see if he would instigate some sort of action.  The tomahawk rose up and down as the tall Indian flexed his wrist indicating that he was on the verge of some important action but seemed not to be able to implement it.  He then turned to his left and angrily uttered some idea or plan to his friend and both started to walk toward Matty and Hanna.

Matty heard the gibberish behind him and instantly knew something was afoot as he turned around quickly to see both Indians casually following them at a walk.  Matty turned back around and continued to walk slowly at a carefree pace with Hanna.
Matty said, “Take this knife and don’t let it go for nuthin.  If this goes the wrong way – don’t let em take ya, girl.  I think you know what I’m sayin.  At the least – drag it hard across yer wrist.”
Hanna took the knife in her right hand and said to Matty, “I’ve gotten you into this sir and I’m sorry for it.  You could have left me back at the cabin, but you didn’t.  For that I thank you.”

Matty looked down into her face and locked his eyes to hers and replied, “I couldn’t leave a pretty girl alone out here in the forest now, could I? ”  His tight lips turned slightly up at the corners with a smirk before he turned his face away from hers.
It wouldn’t be long before Matty and Hanna reached the space in the surrounding forest that allowed exit from the field.  Beyond that space, the forest resumed after a short distance of treeless ground.  If they could make it to the forest, they would have cover and the game of cat and mouse would become more interesting. 

A loud, shrill whoop sounded behind them and Matty turned around to see the two red men running full speed toward them.  Matty reminded Hanna of the knife, checked the flash pan and knelt down on one knee raising the long rifle to his shoulder and taking aim at the tallest man.  The two Indians instantly turned left and right and each ran toward the opposite edges of the open field, then turned and ran back across the field toward each other.  They were only 50 yards behind Matty and angling ever closer with each field crossing.  The idea was to tempt Matty into firing the rifle rendering it empty and him without a weapon.  They screamed taunting sounds at the top of their lungs.  

The sounds made Hanna cringe and she folded her shoulders inward to make herself appear as small as possible, but the loud shrieks were ignored by Matty.  He was totally focused on keeping the sights of the long rifle at the proper lead for the tall Indian crossing before him.  Twice his finger squeezed the trigger and twice he thought better of it.  The one shot contained in his rifle was the most precious thing in the world at the moment.

The two Indians ran across the field for the third time, easing closer and closer to Matty and Hanna with each passing and returned toward each other once more.  As they neared each other the tall one screamed an ear piercing order to his friend and both turned simultaneously toward Matty and Hanna at a dead run.  Their weapons were clutched in tight fists and held aloft as they closed the distance to their quarry.  Matty held the muzzle of the rifle at the ready and the long-legged Indian emitted a terrible scream when he saw the white man seem to ignore the threat that he and his red friend posed.  The entire scene was enacted in a few brief seconds.  Matty instantly snapped the rifle to his shoulder when the two attackers were a stone’s throw distance from him and he pulled the trigger.  The tall miscreant threw his arms out to his side and snapped his head straight back as the ball penetrated the center of his chest.  The short-legged fellow beside him faltered a step or two, but resumed his charge toward Matty. 

 He was shorter in stature than his fallen friend but his torso was thick and boasted strength.  He was on Matty in a flash, but  Matty simply dropped to the ground and the stalky Indian overshot Matty.   The red man was quick.  He turned around instantly and swung the war club at Matty’s head.  Matty could only pull his head directly rearward allowing the stone on the end of the war club to whisk past his face harmlessly.   The club reversed direction and a deadly backswing was attempted at which Matty ducked his head below the weapon as it passed once again near his head.  Before the Indian could recover from the swing of the weapon – Matty lunged at his legs and brought the Indian to the ground.  

They struggled, each trying to gain the upper hand on the other when finally the muscular Indian gained the advantage of sitting upon Matty's chest and pushing the blade of a vicious looking bone handled knife toward Matty's chest.  Matty gripped the Indians wrists and pushed back with all his might, and yet the point of the knife moved ever closer to making contact with Matty's chest and then struggle suddenly stopped. 

The Indian looked down into Matty's face, his eyes wide and his mouth agape in a silent scream – a trickle of blood streaming from the corners of his mouth fell upon Matty's cheek.  He rolled the Indian off his chest and jumped to his feet ready to continue the fight, but calmed himself when he saw the hilt of his knife protruding from between the Indian’s shoulder blades.   Matty glanced around the open field and then looked down at the Indian by his feet.  He kneeled down and placed his knee on the Indian’s back and grunted as he withdrew the long blade from his foe and wiped it clean on the Indian’s leggings.  He stood looking at Hanna speechless.  The long rifle lay on the ground a couple steps away and he stooped down, picked the rifle up and reloaded it. 

 Again he looked at Hanna and she raised her head up and stared back at him.  He thought how pretty she looked just then.  There was never time to see how pretty she was, and he was proud of her at the same moment because she had courage and she saved his life.  They moved toward each other and Matty's arm went around Hanna's shoulders and his hand dropped down to her waist and pressed against the small of her back, pulling Hanna in his chest while allowing his eyes to briefly rest on Hanna's face for one brief second.  Without a word, he let her go, grasped her by the arm and walked at a brisk pace toward the end of the open field and into the surrounding forest beyond where soon a terrible, bloody war would rage for more than seven years. 

Matty and Hanna would be plunged into the French and Indian War.  They had no choice.



Chapter 7

THE ENEMY SEEN


The boards creaked as the woman moved across them sweeping twigs, leaves and soil from the front porch of the two-room cabin.  It was late winter,  1757 and a pretty blond girl of 19 in a print gingham dress named Hanna was preparing to start her first spring in the recently finished log cabin that she worked so hard to build with her husband.  She and Matty Solomon had been married 2 years and they worked on the cabin through late summer last to get it done in time for winter and planting in the spring.  Hanna rested the broom against the cabin wall and stepped forward to the front edge of the porch and allowed her eyes to scan across the small meadow to the forest’s edge in search of the one man in the world that she totally trusted.  Matty had saved her life and gave her a reason to live at the same time.  They traveled here to the town of Deerfield in the Mohawk Valley near the Hudson River to take advantage of a homesteading opportunity offered by the territorial colonial governor.    The promise of a cold night was in the air and Hanna went inside to stoke up the fire in the hearth.

Matty had taken Hanna to Fort Cumberland in the Cumberland Territory after escaping the relentless pursuit of the two Seneca Indians over mountain and meadow.  He was told his father had taken refuge in Fort Cumberland to escape the violence on the frontier that would eventually blossom into the 7-year war and ignite the eastern frontier on fire.  


Matty’s mother had passed of the flux and he was devastated at the news.  His father was very ill and it is said that he was suffering from the same disease that took his wife, but Matty saw right off that he suffered because of her loss.  He remained distant toward Matty and Hannah, sometimes not even recognizing their presence,  and then one morning he was discovered lying beside a stack of hay in the stable, his pitchfork at his side.  The usual tormented look on his face was replaced with the appearance of complacency and peace.  Matty was now the last one left to carry on the Solomon name.  His father was laid to rest beside his mother and that simply was that.  A month later Matty and Hannah were married and they decided to leave this dangerous frontier county and move to a more civilized environment up north in the colony of New York.  Little did they know they were jumping out of the kettle and into the fire.

He was now 22years of age and had acquired the wisdom taught by the wilderness through experience and by befriending the many woodsmen he had met back in the days of the Braddock expedition when they marched against Fort Duquesne in Pittsburgh.  That debacle resulted in the embarrassment and the decimation of that entire British force and the loss of many companies of red and blue coats alike.   Matty often wondered what had become of his good friend and then companion Daniel Boone.  He missed that frontiersman and the easy way he moved through life, just like the way he moved through the forest – with ease and determination.  Their paths would cross again, he was sure of it.

He hefted the whitetail deer up behind his neck and settled it down upon his shoulders, reached over to pick up the rifle that stood against the tree and checked the priming in the flash pan before heading off east for home.  It was cold and there was a powder snow on the ground that was neither slippery nor offered any traction to the slick bottom moccasins he wore on his feet.  Powder snow would not hold a track and that was a desirable thing because he was on the edge of what was known as the frontier and the frontier could be a dangerous place to tarry in.  This territory was host to the Abenaki faction of the Iroquois nation and they were feared by the settlers in these parts and worse, promised allegiance to the French who had built forts far across the frontier beyond the Ohio River.   He would make a cold camp here and continue on in the morning.

The clomping of horse’s footsteps could be heard outside and Hanna froze, listening intently and finally the familiar voice of Charles Wittman called out, “anyone home?  Its Charles and Emma?”  Hanna ran to the door and swung it open, stepped out and welcomed her neighbors with an invitation to come in out of the chill and sit by her fire for a spell. 

Charles declined, stating the reason for their detour to Matty and Hanna’s cabin from the main route to Deerfield was to deliver a warning that a rather large contingent of Huron Indians had been seen crossing the Hudson River at the shoals at Bryson’s  Bend.  That was just ten miles above Hana and Matty’s place.  This was indeed reason to be concerned.  The Wittman’s asked Hanna to come along with them to Deerfield but Hanna declined, stating she had to wait for Matty. 
“All right then Hanna.  If we don’t see you by morning tomorrow we’ll send out the militia to bring you in.  Don’t worry none about Matty cause he’s sharp as a tack and I doubt there’s any Indian that can catch him iffin he gets them long legs of his churnin." 

The snow disappeared as Matty left the forest and approached the river.  The land lost its beauty and turned to a gooey, sticky, brown mud that tried to suck the moccasins off his feet at every step.  He would cross the river at the Bryson Bend Shoals and jog northeast for three miles to the cabin and Hanna.   Matty had been ranging through the wilderness ever since the Braddock campaign and had become frontier tough because of it.  His endurance knew no limits and his strength surpassed that of others his age and size.  In short, he was a formidable frontiersman and a product of the wilderness.   

He fell into a mile eating gait that experienced frontiersmen used to travel over great distances and at the same time conserving valuable energy for emergency use if needed.  The weight of the carcass upon his shoulders amounted to nothing and went unnoticed as Matty’s legs and feet satisfied the gait required to get him home by sundown this night. The water was cold as he splashed through the shallows of the shoals and onto the opposite bank.  He never slowed and ignored the sudden stab of uncomfortable wet coldness that threatened to numb his feet.  He pushed on across the river and up the mountainside to the narrow trail that would lead him to the top and down the other side to his cabin and warmth.  Hanna would be waiting for him there. 

Then he saw something that stopped him dead in his tracks.  A trail wound up the mountainside from the river and cut across in front of him.  He reckoned there were more or less a hundred Indians in that bunch and they were moving quickly at a fast jog.  He could tell because their individual footprints were spaced wider than a man would make at a walk and worse, they were headed for Deerfield and would pass precariously close to his cabin and Hanna. 

He lifted the carcass off his shoulders and placed it on the lower limb of a tree that was sheltered by tall brush and briars.  A quick check of the flash pan was made, the rifle grasped in his right hand, arm extended straight down and he stood unmoving and barely breathing.  He listened to the sounds of the forests for some inkling of a sound that didn’t belong.  Satisfied that all was well he set out at a faster jog than normal for the top of the mountain where he could save two miles of travel time to his cabin and gain a lead on those who made the wide trail from the river.  The sun was rising fast and he made good time over the treacherous ground. 

Matty paused at the top of the ridge that overlooks his place and scanned all that was below him.  It was then that he noticed movements far down at the base of the mountain where the meadow started.  It was them, and they were moving at a very fast pace.  They passed into and out of small clearings in the forest.  He would have never known they were there if he didn’t have the vantage point of this high ridge.  He counted fifty-six miscreants and knew there was sure that many more that he couldn’t see. 

Matty started to move off his position when he saw something that made his heart stop.  A small contingent of Indians broke away from the main group and was heading into the forest to their right.  If they continued in that direction long enough, they would run onto Matty’s cabin and Hanna would be in trouble.  Without further delay, Matty leaped over the edge of the rock line that bordered the ridge in front of him and ran as fast as he safely could down the mountain,  bearing a bit to the north of east in order to avoid running afoul of the intruders he was trying to outdistance.  If all went as planned, he would reach the cabin well ahead of them.

Hanna didn’t come into the Deerfield stockade the previous night and as promised,  Charles Wittman set out in a wagon to find and bring her back,  ignoring the warnings of the militia sergeant at the stockade gate not to go alone.
Hanna was tempted to gather up some warm clothing and leave for town on her own more than a couple times, but she wanted to wait for Matty and share his company so they could make the trek of seven miles to the stockade together and catch up on the frontier news, not to mention the delight of sharing endearing moments together after being apart so long.

Matty heard a tapping sound far off in the distance.  He stopped and stood still, cocking the right side of his head in the direction of the sound.  It was rifle fire and it was a bit west of his cabin and toward Deerfield.  Matty instantly pushed forward directly toward the cabin and Hana as fast as his legs would carry him, leaping over fallen logs and jumping small streams without the slightest loss of speed.  He had one thing on his mind and that was Hanna.  She could not know of the danger that was quickly moving through the forest toward her.

Hanna laid the knit shawl on the bed and carefully folded it into a neat square and placed it on top of the other garments that lay on the rectangular piece of deerskin.  She then pulled the corners of the deerskin up and made a turn of very narrow rawhide lacing around the corners and tied the bundle tightly.  She would be ready to leave when Matty arrived.  

Rifle fire made her stop and snap her head around toward the window.  It wasn’t really close but it was not far enough away to suit her nerves.  Without thought, she pulled the 31 caliber short Kentucky rifle off the mantle and checked the prime.  Matty had cut a foot off the barrel of the gun in order to make it less wieldy for Hanna to handle and constant practice with the piece made Hanna a skilled marksman if she took her time and aimed properly.  Somehow, the rifle didn’t do much to calm her as she remembered the sight of her mother and father lying off the porch of their cabin and her brother, dead at the window leaving her alone to face certain death herself at the hands of the heathen.  That’s when Matty came into her life and has been there for her ever since.   

She shouldn’t  travel the road to Deerfield as that is the direction in which she heard the shots.   No, she would have to set out north and west for a few miles and then due west toward the town and with luck, she would go unseen if she stayed just inside the edge of the forest as much as possible.   She wasn’t sure if she determined the best route to go, but at least she had a plan and to stay here would invite desperate measures for sure.  The prepared items were gathered up and tied in a roll with a rawhide cord wrapped at each end and the bundle slung over her shoulder, leaving her hands free to carry and handle the gun, knife, powder horn and bag of shot if necessary. 

Out the door, she went, down the porch steps and across the open area in front of the cabin where she entered the forest.  It was shaded and dark under the heavy foliage, but somehow she was comforted by it because she was a frontier woman and the only thing they feared was God.  All else was just something to overcome.

Charles Wittman slowed the team as the light wagon approached the narrow stream.  The stream banks were high and he didn’t want to risk breaking a wheel, or worse an axle from hitting the embankment too hard.  The front wagon wheels eased down the creek bank and were gently pulled up the opposite side while the rear wheels followed suit.  He pulled the horses up just after the wagon was safe across the stream. 

A rifle shot rang out and he watched in horror as the right-hand horse dropped to its knees screaming out in pain and surprise.  A second shot struck the horse on the left and it jumped straight up into the air and became entangled in the harness that was in disarray from the first injured animal.  Both horses were now entangled in leather straps and harnesses and lay kicking and bellowing on the ground still tethered to the wagon tongue.  More shots punctuated by loud yelps could be heard and Charles could detect movement back in the brush across the creek off to his left.  It all happened faster than he could react.  The shots, the horses falling and screaming, the Indian war yelps were too much for the average town dweller to comprehend and Charles was frozen in terror to the seat of the wagon.  

The yelps became louder and Charles felt a panic that he never imagined.  He noticed a tap on his chest that caught his attention and when he looked down, he saw a shaft of wood protruding through his shirt.  It still didn’t register with him what had just happened.  Then, the second arrow appeared protruding from his chest beside the first one and he knew.  He wanted to scream but terror would not allow him to make a sound or even move.  Instead, he tried to smile, hoping that a friendly, non-threatening face would cause his tormentors to cease harming him.   Blood ran down over his forehead to his mouth and he determined it was his blood.  A fist appeared before his eyes and the fingers were locked tightly around a scalp that was slapped against his face repeatedly.  Charles realized it was his scalp and he knew he was lost. 

Matty kicked the cabin door open and found it empty as he expected.  The rifle was gone as well as all the possibles associated with it.  Hanna's deerskin clothing was not on the shelf and to his delight he noticed that Hanna had the presence of mind to select the heavy moccasins with leggings that would provide protection for her feet and legs if she traveled in the forest.  Hanna would never have chosen the heavy footgear if she were going to be traveling quickly over meadows.  No, she would be in the forest for certain and he knew he would be able to catch up to her.  The disconcerting thought was that if he could find her then so could the miscreants that were about. 

Matty didn’t know that the Hurons and Abenaki's were delayed at the creek where they had killed Charles Wittman and were now pillaging his belongings.  It wouldn’t be long before they would set out again, unknowingly toward Matty’s cabin.
Matty walked and half jogged along the edge of the meadow where it met the forest until he found the clue he was looking for.  There was a narrow slot through the briars that was caused by the breaking down of individual stalks by someone or thing in its passing.   Wet fallen leaves were carefully brushed aside and beneath them were found the track of the Hanna’s moccasin.   

The trail was clear now and Matty jogged faster, settling into that rapid gate that covers frontier miles like no other means.  The frontiersmen can actually travel faster on foot across the elements than a well mounted militia rider can.  He determined that Hanna couldn’t have been on the move for much longer than an hour or two and judging by the direction she was taking to avoid the enemy patrol, she would be turning to the south shortly in order to strike the Deerfield stockade.  He would turn south now and attempt to rendezvous with her at some point on her southern course.

Six Indians carefully approached the cabin from the sides and the rear while one lone individual brazenly walked across the one hundred yard clearing toward the front porch.  His rifle lay across the crook of his left arm in a non-threatening fashion, a smile stretched ear to ear across his face.  He stopped short of the steps and voiced a request to be acknowledged by those who dwelt in.  Five rifles pointed toward every window and door waiting for the occupants to emerge from the cover of the cabin.  

The lone figure in front of the house again uttered his hello and again received no acknowledgment from inside.  The smile on his face was quickly replaced by a diabolical frown as his single leap spanned every step and he landed light footed upon the porch close to the door.  A tomahawk appeared in his right hand and the ax was struck several times against the heavy planking of the door.  Two other partners joined him on the porch and together they put their shoulders to the door until it finally opened and to their dismay found no one inside.

Matty came to a little spring creek where he and Hanna were going to build a cabin and start their new life some time ago.  A bubbling spring lay just two hundred yards upstream and it was that spring where Matty hoped to run onto Hanna.  He walked around the pool of water and noted the moss depressed, close to the cold pool.  It was her footprint.  She had stopped here briefly for a drink of water and was making better time than he thought, but he would catch up to her within the half hour. 

The look on Hanna’s face was one of total relief.  Her smile was infectious and caused an ear to ear smile on Matty’s face that caused him to struggle slightly while pursing his lips for a kiss from his woman.  There was no time for endearing talk or discussing possible actions to take.  They had to press on to the stockade as fast as possible.  Across one more mountain plateau and down that short slope should put them within 30 minutes from the Deerfield stockade.  Matty turned at the edge of the plateau to have one more check on their back trail and noticed a wisp of dark smoke on the horizon. It was the cabin.  They hurriedly shuffled down off the mountain and into the meadow.  

Matty thought how much he hated to be continually trailed and chased by an Indian enemy.  This was the second time in two years that he had to run for his life and he was getting very tired of it.  The previous circumstance was much like this one.  Matty didn’t know it then, but experience and frontier wisdom would soon change all that, as he was destined to become a skilled tracker and gain a reputation with the Indians, friend and foe alike, that he was not one to be crossed and not one you would want on your trail.  

Matty figured he would run onto the volunteer guards that were posted a quarter mile on the outskirts of the stockade that protected the small population of Deerfield in emergencies.  The guard unit was created by General Nathan Landers, who was in charge of the safety of the town and its inhabitance and was created to offer the first line of defense that would allow the residences of Deerfield to reach the stockade in times of danger.

They were making good time as the fires of the town and stockade came into view.  It would be a good guess that most of the town was in the stockade judging by the volume of cooking smoke wafting into the air from all corners of the compound. 

Just then the shrieking started behind them and Matty grabbed Hanna’s hand and pulled her along as fast as he could get her to run.  Puffs of gray smoke could be seen lingering in the air accompanied by the sounds of many rifles igniting.   Matty and Hanna were getting close to the stockade and Matty could see the outline of people’s upper torsos protruding above the stockade walls as they manned the redoubts in preparation to repel what appeared to be an all-out attack.  The disconcerting fact was that Matty wasn’t sure he could get Hanna and himself to the stockade fast enough.  

Then off to his left and to his right men dressed in frontier garb appeared carrying Pennsylvania long rifles that had proved so accurate on the frontier, and muskets that spewed fire and huge chunks of lead.  These professional scouts and frontiersmen waited until Matty and Hanna closed the distance to them by another 50 yards and then opened fire on the pursuers.  Screams and shrieks of pain and anguish were heard from behind them, but Matty and Hanna never slowed until they passed behind the line of defenders that just saved their bacon.

The frontiersmen lay down a withering fire that decimated the attackers that ran out into the open behind Matty and Hanna and the Indians were turned until they disappeared into the forest.  
This was only a part of the total miscreant party and the danger was certainly still real.

Matty and Hanna entered the stockade where Hanna was fed by the Reverend Cole and his wife while Matty reported to General Landers about the Huron and Abenaki war party that was after him and Hanna.  

The general informed Matty that the French had gained strong allies with the Abenaki and Huron Indians and were providing them with supplies to wage war on English settlers up and down the Mohawk Valley and the Hudson River.  The French even offered bounties for English and Colonial scalps as well as prisoners.  

This news was disheartening as Matty and Hanna moved here from Cumberland territory to escape the very situation they now found themselves currently involved in.  At least Hanna was safe here in Deerfield.  The Indians couldn’t raise this town no matter how hard they tried, but an army of French regulars reinforced with Abenaki and Huron allies would prove a formidable foe to repulse.  It was troubling.

ROGERS

Matty arrived just in time to find a spot in the ranks of the militia formation.  They were 70 men and boys from town and they were all there was between the heathens and their future.  They did the best they could.

General Landers marched to the front and center and called, “Attention – dress right – firelocks right shoulder, move - firelocks to rest.  The men sat the butts of their rifles on the ground to their right side and stood in a relaxed position while waiting for further instructions.   Then Major Robert Rogers walked over to the general and shook his hand and both men turned to the formation and General Landers introduced Major Robert Rogers as the commander of the finest fighting force ever assembled on the eastern frontier.  

The Major stepped forward a few steps and held his hands behind his back as he quietly scanned the men before him.  His demeanor gave no indication of his opinion about what he saw.  His face was serious with piercing eyes that moved slowly back and forth across the formation of men and boys who called themselves a militia and then he took one step forward, stood as tall as he could with his chest out and exclaimed that he was here to gather men to join his fighting force at Fort Edward.  He needed to return with at least 15 able men at arms from Deerfield.  The rest would come from neighboring communities and the balance would come from the 139th a foot as General Howell at Fort Edward stated he would make up any deficiencies with British volunteers.  It was unlikely that any red coat would volunteer to be a part of a colonial militia let alone be told what to do by a colonial officer.  But, volunteer or not, the ranks of the new ranger companies would be filled by British volunteers if needed or red coat soldiers would be ordered to the ranger camp.  Either way, Major Rogers would get the men he required to fully populate his ranks..

“Men, my name is Major Robert Rogers and I’m here to seek out volunteers to join a company of rangers that will put the fear of God in the French and send the demons from hell to visit the Abenaki at St. Francis.  For two years straight the Abenaki heathen has come south to butcher, kill and take prisoner of any white person they found.  Entire families have been murdered in the most horrible way and entire towns have been destroyed by these murderin devils.  It’s well known that the French in Canada pay bounties for English and colonial scalps and prisoners delivered to the governor of Quebec bring hefty rewards for the Abenaki.  It's time to put a stop to it.  With the addition of the one hundred fifty men I will acquire on this recruitment trip I will have a total of 600 men.   Those don’t sound like many, but each man counts as five to the enemy.  The 600 man contingent will be called rangers – Roger’s Rangers.  You will be taught to fight unconventionally the same way as the French Boosways and their heathen Injun friends fight.  You will be a part of an organization that will strike terror into the hearts of the enemy.  I know most of you men are married and have farms and crops to plant and harvest.  The term of enlistment is 12 months and any man who volunteers will do so for a continuous seven month period and at the end of that time may return home to plant or harvest as the case may be.  He will then return to duty to serve out the balance of his commitment to the Crown.  A pay of $10.00 a month will be distributed to each man.  Food, clothing, knife, shot and powder will be provided for by the Crown.  Rifle and all other supplies are your responsibility.”

Low murmurings could be heard among the men in ranks and faces appeared sullen, if not disappointed.  There wasn’t a man standing there who was not touched by the horrible atrocities committed by the Abenaki’s and Huron’s.  Many lost sons, daughters, wives and some their entire reason for living.  Rogers was promising them a chance to strike at their enemy, but the compensation was mighty slim for the task they were being asked to perform.

Then Rogers called for their attention one more time.  “Oh, and one more thing.  Every man who enlists, with my Rangers and journeys to Lake George with me and serves to complete his commitment will receive an award from the Crown of 100 acres of land deeded free and clear and stamped with my name as well as General Edward Howel’s  to guarantee the gift". 
Rogers explained the land grant as if it were an afterthought in order to make it more enticing as the icing on the cake.  What say you to that men?  I need those of you who are with me to be ready to move out in the morning at sunup.  That is all.”

Matty had stood with his mouth hanging open since he heard Major Rogers inform them about the 100 acres of land.  That was more land than he ever imagined of owning and it was being awarded to him for service rendered to the crown.  He and Hanna could resume their lives together on their own place beholden to none but God.  He hurried back to the Green’s cabin to discuss the affair with Hanna but, in his heart, he knew what he was going to do – what he had to do.  He would go with this Rogers character and put his time in as required, then return home to start a new life with his bride.  Little did he know that the adventure of his life was about to unfold and he would be changed forever….

The countryside cooled during the next few weeks with few interruptions to test the nerves of the farmers and hunters of Deerfield.  The gardens were tended and fields were plowed in preparation for seed.  Matty had been asked to join the Deerfield Militia, which he readily agreed to do while Hanna stayed with Mary and Benjamin Green on their little farm just south of the Deerfield stockade.  Hanna liked the Greens and she and Mary got on like sisters, although Mary was ten years Hanna’s senior.  Hanna and Matty weren’t sure but it looked like their future would be tied to the Mohawk Valley unless future circumstances changed the course of things.

Matty and Hanna discussed what the future might hold for them as they sat by the fire in Benjamin Green’s  five-room cabin.  The home had two fireplaces and they were given the room with a fireplace to make their bedchambers.   It felt good to lie down on a real bed with an honest to goodness burlap, straw-filled mattress and wool covers.  They lay on the bed, staring into the small fire and watched the wispy smoke disappear up the chimney just above the flames.
Hanna turned her head toward Matty and asked,

 “What do you think we should do now Matty?  I mean, Deerfield is a wonderful place and the people have welcomed us with open arms.  The Greens are our best friends and have made it clear we can stay as long as it takes us to get situated in our own place.”
Matty replied, “That’s the part that’s missing Hanna – our own place.  The cabin is gone and with it all that we had.  We’ve nothing now.  I would have to work for someone a lengthy period of time, years, to earn enough money to buy a new start for us.  Chances are that you would have to sell your labor also and I don’t like that idea.  We need land and another cabin, cattle, horses and other livestock not to mention implements to work the land.  We’ve not the means to make a start of it now.  We have to stay here with the Greens.  Maybe they might have work for one of us.   I’ll ask in the morning, but for now, we better get some sleep.  It’s been a hectic day and we both are exhausted.” 

Matty embraced Hanna and they held onto each other until sleep overcame them.






Chapter 8

Off To The Unknown

June 25, 1757

Hanna would not hear of it.  She was determined to keep Matty home and she silently cursed the day Robert Rogers walked into Deerfield with all his promises of land and money.  She was adamant about Matty staying with her in Deerfield and working for the Greens.  She felt it too dangerous for him to run off with some militia to fight a war that killed her mother,  father and little brother and she didn't want that conflict to take away her husband too.  Matty decided to stay with Hanna but, he felt a strange draw to the frontier and to the unknown that waited out there,  where it was dark and the country unknown.  West of the Ohio River was the dark frontier and he found himself daydreaming about it and his dedication lay with Hanna, his wife but the blood in his veins sought adventure.  He was a frontiersman and not a farmer but he chose to work the earth to satisfy the desire he had for his wife and he didn't regret the decision.  The pay was meager working for the Greens but it was something, and Matty was of the belief that hard work never hurt anybody. 

Matty spent many late afternoons hunting with a party of three other locals to supply food for some of the families in Deerfield who did not have men to hunt for them.  Many families lost husbands and sons to the Abenaki and Huron Indians while repelling raids on their homesteads.  Just a year ago Indian raids took the lives of twelve men who had families to support.   The womenfolk were put under a great deal of stress without their men to hunt and bring in game for the winter months.  Matty and the other hunters stood in the gap for those distressed families and they provided an unending supply of meat for many women and children who lost their providers to the frontier's ravages. 

He was returning to the settlement with a deer slung over his shoulders when he saw the wagon drawn by two oxen.  They were heading in the same direction as he was and would be within hailing distance in another few moments.  The wagon wheels creaked as the beasts lumbered along grunting at their heavy labors of pulling a hickory and oak frontier wagon.  As the wagon pulled alongside, Matty put on his friendliest face and said, "welcome friends."
The reins were pulled back by the man on the seat to the right and they both turned their heads toward Matty with an indifferent look on their faces and gave a reply of "day to ya."

Matty hefted the deer from his shoulders to the ground and extended his hand to the closest man on the wagon seat who, with a look of distrust on his face,  put out his hand to grasp Matty's.   The man's tight lips turned into a shallow smile when he felt the firm, hard grasp of Matty's hand which indicated a person of character on the frontier.  They all were among friends when tension left the scene and all settled into a more cheerful attitude.

Matty said, "can I help you boys out in some way?"
The wagon driver replied, "we could sure use a slice of strap from that thar deer.  We ain't eat in a day and a half.  Been dodging Hurons on the back trail."
Matty drew his knife and skinned the deer from its rear to the center of it's back and sliced off two back straps and handed the meat up to waiting hands."
"Much in your debt – I didn't catch yer name sir."
"Name's Matty Solomon, Sir and yours?"
"Sgt. Gabe Terrel and this chear  is Pvt. Jerome Cuttler.  We're on our way up to Ft. Edward on the Hudson with dispatches from Albany and the southern New York territories.  We're part of Rogers Rangers headquartered on Roger's Island at Fort Edward.   We'd like to stop here at this little village and stock up on supplies before heading on north in the morning.  Any Idea where we could git some powder and rifle  balls and maybe get a piece of harness fixed?  We'd be needin some corn and maybe some sorghum for the animals there too."

"I can hep ya sir.  I work for a Mr. Benjamin Green who has a livery at the south end of the town.  I could meet you boys there at sun up tomorrow if ya like."
The Sgt. Replied with a smile, "right good of ya sir.  We'll see ya then.  Oh, by the way, if thar'd be any fellas would want to jine up with the Rangers, let em know they can tag along with us in the morning but they  gotta have their own truck.  Advance pay will be provided when they git to Roger's Island along with a uniform and other possibles."

"I'll ask around Sgt.  And thanks.  See ya in the morn."
Matty's heart was thumping.  He wanted to go with these two frontiersmen in the worst way.  Should he even consider leaving with them?  Would he dare to discuss his thoughts with Hanna?  His heart was beating hard as he lifted the deer up onto his shoulders and stepped lively toward the Green's place and Hanna.
Matty approached the cabin and yelled, "I'm back" before lifting the door latch and pulling open the door to step inside onto the dirt floor of the cabin.  Hanna ran to Matty and threw her arms around him and hugged him tight.  Her lips were firm on his cheek and her smile as warm as the fire looked in the hearth.  He smiled back and told her he missed her and her eyes went soft as they always did when he said sweet nothings to her.  The table was set and a delicious smelling stew was in a kettle hanging over the coals of the fire.  Hanna immediately filled a large wooden bowl with the hot stew and sat it on the table with the two empty smaller bowls and wood utensils.  The evening was chilly and the hot food relaxed stiff muscles that bore the dead weight of the deer for miles through damp cold woods.  They got  up after sup and sat together on the edge of the cot over in the corner of the cabin.  Matty sat bent forward with his head in his hands and his elbows on his knees staring at the floor.   Hanna put her arms around him and laid the side of her head on the back of his neck.

  "Whats on yer mind Matty?  I knew from the moment you came through that door somethin was botherin ya.  What ya worryin about?"
"Saw a couple fellas today headin north.  They was goin up to Fort Edward to take supplies and dispatches to Major Rogers.  It jist got me thinkin is all.  Nothin to it really."
"Yer wantin ta go ain't cha, Matty?"
Matty sat up and turned to look into her eyes and said, "I'd sure like to but I'd never leave you darling.  I couldn't."
Hanna, with tears in her eyes said, "I know you wouldn't and I would be sad if you went, but I will not tether you to a yoke you do not want to bear.  You are my love, my husband and yet there is something in me that wants you to go answer the call that only you understand.  I believe if you stay and do not go, that there would always be that something between us that was never settled.  I know this to be true.  To make you stay would prove my heart greedy.   So, go then, if you must, and with my blessing, but  know that my eyes will search the edge of the forest every morning and each night for your return."

Matty's eyes were damp and he turned his head momentarily to wipe away a stray tear.  He turned to Hanna and said, "you are the light in my life Miss, and I honor you, your courage and your understanding.  I am proud to be your husband and I promise to make you a proud wife and when I come back we will have a hundred acres and a home – our own home."

Matty held Hanna tightly in his arms all night as they lay under the blankets and he avoided putting a log on the fire to cut the late night chill for fear of waking her.   He eased the blankets from him in the morning and left the bed as quietly and softly as possible so as not to awaken Hanna.  She was breathing deeply and he didn't want to resurrect the conversation they had the previous night.  She was beautiful lying there, her golden hair spread over the pillow and he thought briefly if he was right in what he was doing.  All the tears were shed last night and all the words were said and it would do no good to wallow in the sorrow of his leaving.  He wondered why the pull to go was so great.  He would give this emotion more consideration as time passed, but for now, his course was set.  He dressed, picked up his rifle and possibles and quietly opened the cabin door and stepped through.  His truck was rolled in a blanket that was tied at both ends and stashed against the cabin wall the previous night before he went to sleep.   With rifle cradled in his left arm and his belongings slung across his shoulder, he was off to meet the good Sgt. Terrel and Pvt. Cutler at Benjamin Green's livery.  

At the sound of the closing door,  Hanna rolled over to face the cabin wall and put her hand over her mouth to quiet her audible sorrow, her eyes wide as tears moistened the pillow.  She listened intently to the sounds of Matty's moccasins as he strode away into the early morning.  She did not fully understand his leaving, but she was the wife of a frontiersman and part of her role in that position was to obey her husband's decisions – and she would do so….reluctantly.

The sun would be up in another hour and he'd have to hurry in order to meet Sgt. Terrel and Pve. Cutler at Green's livery.  It felt good to stretch one's legs and be reassured of their soundness and to know they were dependable and could be relied upon.  It has been months since Matty set out on a journey of distance and he found himself thoughtlessly falling into that familiar frontiersman's lope that covered great distance's in the shortest time.  He jogged to the summit of Carters Mountain and a quick glance down at the town of Deerfield showed a lantern's light in the window of Green's livery and gray smoke rising from the chimney.  A wagon and two oxen were tethered to the post in front of the store.  Matty carefully descended the steep mountainside and cut across the long stump cluttered field that bordered the dirt street in front of Green's.    He put his bundles down on the ground at the corner of the door and knocked.
"Come in," was the muffled answer from inside and Matty lifted the latch and put his shoulder to the door and pushed against the stubborn thing till it opened.  
"Still haven't fixed that door have ya, Benjamin?"
"Been waitin on you to do it Matty, but It looks like you'll be takin a little journey this morning with these here two Rangers."

Matty addressed the two Rangers, "good morning boys," as he removed his old tri corner hat.

Gabe Terrel asked Matty, "are ya ready to go Private Solomon?"
Private!  Matty had never been called that before and somehow it didn't set well with him , but he answered, "you bet,  just as soon as I stock up on ball and some flash powder.  Then I'm ready."

The wagon was full of cow hides, lead to make rifle balls, yarn, and all the blankets that Benjamin Green had or could get from neighboring villages.  Matty sat down on the pile of blankets and leaned back against the side of the wagon and was soon asleep to the rocking and creaking sounds the wagon made as it rolled along over the uneven ground.   He knew where he was headed, but he had no idea what he was getting himself into.  He soon would find out.




Chapter 9

Fort Edward, Roger's Island & First Mission

July 5, 1757

Fort Edward was built on what was called "The Great Carrying Place" because it was the point of the portage between the Hudson River and Lake Champlain.  Ft. Edward in conjunction with Ft. William Henry protected the New York and Pennsylvania colonies from the advancement of French and Indian contingents bent on destroying the British holdings in those territories. 

A detachment of Roger's Rangers was marching in formation near Fort Edward and crossed in front of the oxen-drawn wagon and Sgt. Terrel pulled them to a stop.   Matty had never seen a uniform like these Rangers wore.  The deerskin was dyed green and the moccasins were joined to thick deerskin by a deerskin sleeve that slid up over the foot and leg to above the knee.  This would protect legs and thigh from taking a beating while moving through forests and hills.  A long sleeve silk shirt with a button-down front that was longer than the normal shirt was encompassed around the waist with a 4" wide leather belt.  A green side,  or garrison cap was atop every head.   Each man had a tomahawk and a knife tucked behind the belt, a horn of black powder slung under his arm and a small horn of flash powder around his neck.  Every rifle was a Kentucky or Pennsylvania long rifle.  He would encounter enlisted trappers later on that had sawed several inches off their long weapons to allow easier passing through forests, but the professional frontiersmen, and Rangers in particular,  prized and protected their long rifles with their very lives.    

Matty had arrived at Roger's Island, adjacent to Ft. Edward today,  July 5th at noon and was assigned quarters with four other rangers in one of the many wooden huts that sat in alignment along the center of the narrow strip of land named after the famous colonial scout and officer, Major Robert Rogers. 

He no sooner put his belongings in the hut when a drum was heard and fifty rangers quick marched to a point in front of the rows of huts and assembled in two rows at the command, "Fall In!"  All stood tall and straight with rifles by their right sides, stocks on the ground and muzzles held against the right leg with the flat of the right hand and the left arm straight down with hand open and fingers extended and palm against the leg.   Matty followed suit and did his best to mimic his peers.

Captain Noah Johnson strolled to the front of the assemblage to address the men.
"Men,  the Major will be by in the morning to let us know of an important mission, we will be embarking on in a month or two.  I want each of you to make every effort to get yourselves fit and ready for anything the Major has in mind.  Those of you who are new to the outfit stay after this formation and see me.  I want all of you to draw 60 rifle balls from the quartermaster at Ft Edward and a fresh horn of course powder along with one horn of flash powder before supper tonight.  Extra flints and linen patch can be had from Ensign Carter at the mess here on the island.  That’s all I have for now.
"Attention!  Dismissed."  

The two lines of men shuffled about in pairs and most headed directly over the island to the fort and the quartermaster's store to get their supplies.  Matty stayed behind to see Captain Johnson as ordered.  The tall, slim Captain strode over to Matty in an easy fashion and extended his hand which Matty grasp immediately.  The grips of both men were solid and firm and a smirk appeared on both their faces indicating each was satisfied with the character of the other.  The captain removed his felt hat and told Matty to sit on one of the two stumps behind them.

"I know you are from Deerfield as I've already talked to Terrel and Cutter about you.  They are satisfied that you are a reliable lad and have a way about you that says you are not a stranger to the forest ways.  Is that true?"
"Yes sir.  It would be true.  I was a wagon driver with General  Braddock's  Expedition  In Pennsylvania territory to capture Ft. Duquesne on the Monongahela in 55."
The Captain then said, "So you are familiar with the French and Indian ways of fighting I assume."
"I am sir.  Never did understand why the British stand in rows out in the open like they did on the Braddock march.  I've seen it on a smaller scale down toward Cumberland territory in a skirmish between a Red Coat company and a French patrol that had a group of Canadian Rangers called Coureurs de Bois, I  think it was.  They sent the English a runnin."

The Captain looked down at the ground and thoughtlessly scratched an "X" in the dirt with the stick he was toying with, then looked up at Matty and said, "The Coureurs de Bois are a fierce bunch – crossed between Abenaki Indian and Canadian frontiersmen.  A mean bunch for sarten and when ya put em with Huron or Abenaki heathen they are the Devil's spawn.  There ain't no better trackers in these woods.   And I'll tell ya this; Rogers Rangers are a force that the Couriers de Bois and Indians alike fear and respect.  That ought ta tell ya somethin about who ya joined up with.  Can you track?"

Matty replied, "I can track anything anywhere."
"Good.  Every Ranger got to be a good tracker.  I want you to stick close to Ensign John Stark.   He is one of the original Rangers and has proven to be fearless in battle and one of the finest trackers in the corp.  You will have bout two weeks before we move out on a mission and I want you to work hard with drills and Ranger procedure right up to the second we ship out.  A pack and other truck will be assigned to you in the morning and you can pick it up over at the fort after mess.  Any questions son?"
"No sir."
"By the way, ever use snowshoes?"
"No Sir, I haven't ever needed to."

The little wooden hut had a hole in the roof and a fire ring on the floor under it made of stone and packed clay.  Matty lit a small woodsman's fire, wrapped his blanket around himself and lay down on the earth and fell instantly asleep.  Morning came quickly and he discovered four other rangers in the little shack with him.  They were asleep on roughly made cots.  There was room for two more cats and men, but only the four mates appeared.   Matty rolled off the blanket, got to his feet, stepped to the door and pulled the blanket that closed the opening away to one side and stepped outside.  A thick, damp fog covered the island, making it impossible to see anything but dark shadows that were huts and trees.  It wouldn't be long till the sun would burn off the mist and cold.  He turned and reached into his pack and withdrew a slab of salted jerky and cut a slice off with the knife his father gave him.  Oh, the memories.  This was the knife that pinned the Huron to the table In Hanna's house and later on it saved his life when Hanna used it on another Indian that Matty was grappling with in a fight for life.  He looked at it briefly again before shoving it into the leather sheath that hung from his belt and as in the past,  the knife offered him a sense of security just like it did the night he discovered it wrapped in the oiled cloth, a gift from his father.

Matty dipped a woolen rag into a basin of water and wiped his face, arms, and hands.  The water was cold and made him fully awake. 

The men were milling about and lighting pipes or making sloshing sounds with the basins of water as the sun became brighter causing the fog to rise in swirls from the sun's heat,  turning the brightness into a soft orange color.  It would be a good day.
Ensign Stark was passing by the huts at a fast walk instructing everyone to assemble together by the grove of hemlocks on the east side of the island. 

Matty felt a thrill of excitement as he knew some important message was about to be delivered to the rangers from their leader, the famous Major Robert Rogers.   The men picked up their green deerskin shirts  and hastily made their way over to where a single man stood, feet apart, hands on hips, watching the men as they quickly started to assemble in their double line per regulation, but Major Rogers spoke up and told them to form a half circle around him as he wanted all to hear his instructions clearly.  The men sat or stood where they could see and hear, many with faces sullen and some looked downright worried.   These men had been on previous missions with the major and they knew what it was like to have death as a sleeping mate.  But, they each trusted the Major emphatically and would follow him to the gates of hell if he asked that of them because they knew he would get them back home again.   Matty stood wide-eyed and thrilled to be a part of this famous company of woodsmen.   The Major paced back and forth and maintained a stern look of concern on his face.

Then the Major stopped in front of the semicircle of men and addressed them. 
"I know you all will be happy to hear that we have new mission men.   Our Onondaga and Mohawk scouts are reporting that the French regular infantry and Marines along with a mixed contingent of Huron and Couriers de Bois are making their way down from Quebec toward British and Colonial territories in New York and probably east of the Hudson.  Colonel Havilland and Sir William Johnson have expressed a desire to dispatch Rangers north to find and reconnoiter the enemy and report back, hopefully with a prisoner for interrogation.   And so that is our mission.  I have determined that one company of Rangers should be enough to complete the task before us.    At a point 20 miles south of Ft Carillon, Ensign Stark will take half the company and spy on that structure, noting numbers of French and Indians contained within as well as number of wagons entering the fort and Captain Brewer will continue North with the balance of the company to the Narrows of Lake Champlain to spy on the main column of French and Indians that may turn toward and threaten Fort William Henry on Lake George.  Take prisoners where ya can.  We will leave by the cover of darkness in two days on July 7.  Everyone see to your gear.  We will be using boats to travel up the Hudson and we'll split up at Sarnak Island, where Captain Brewer will continue on to the Narrows and Ensign Stark will push on to Carillon.   Good luck men.  The Major turned to leave and stopped suddenly, looking straight down at the ground, raised his face back up with a smile and said,"one more thing lads.  The Crown has authorized the dispersion of 100 acres of land to every Ranger who are currently enlisted on this island as a reward for outstanding service to the British interests in this war.  Go ahead, Captain Johnson and see to the organization of the men and gear."  Rogers chuckled to himself as if he had just pulled off the biggest joke imaginable, but what he did was to further solidify this tightly knit group of fighters by dangling a carrot in front of them, and their motivation was monumentally elevated.

The Major turned and strode away without any military protocol whatsoever.  He was a no-nonsense leader and military niceties were an unnecessary burden when common sense and Ranger training were all that was needed.
The formation was dismissed and murmurs filled with joy could be heard from every man as they went to make ready for war.  James Addison laid his hand on Matty's shoulder and said that the Captain wanted to see him.  Captain Johnson was leaning against a hickory tree working the blade of his patch knife back and forth on a sharpening stone.

"Sir, you want to see me?" 
"Yes, I want to have a word with you Solomon.  You just arrived here at camp and have no Ranger training at all.  I'm not gonna order you to come along on this little foray we're headin out on but I know you have served with Braddock in Pennsylvania and scouted and hunted for the militia down in New York and at Deerfield.  If you want to come along I'd appreciate it, however, I must insist you stay close to Captain Brewer at all times and pay close attention to how the Rangers operate.  There are no other colonial militias like these men.  So, how will you have it, young man?"
"I'll go along sir, if you'll have me.  I'll pull my weight with the doins sir."
"Good then Matty Solomon.  Come along to the Fort and we'll get you to sign the enlistment and see about getting you the green Ranger deer skin uniform.  You'll need an ax for your belt and might as well pick up the powder and ball too."

Matty was excited and at the same time was feeling remorseful for leaving his wife alone back in Deerfield.  Part of him wanted to turn and run back to the safety of the Green's homestead and his Hanna's arms, but then he thought about the 100 acres of land that would secure the future for Hanna and him.  There was something else, however, that was on Matty's mind and even reached his heart. .  He was carving out a life for Hanna and someday maybe for his children and many has had those dreams too, but watched them become dashed to dust by the French and their heathen, savage demons who murdered up and down the Hudson and beyond showing no mercy to a woman, child or man.   This struggle between the French and English had drawn the Colonials into the fray because of something that neither faction considered.  That something was freedom.

The night of July 7 was dark and moonless – perfect conditions to depart in boats unseen by French or Indian eyes. 
Rogers arranged for 4 whaleboats to carry the 40 men up the Hudson River this night toward Lake Champlain.  The oarlocks and ores were wrapped with deerskin to maintain quietness while rowing.  The men were loaded into their boats along with enough provisions to last them for two weeks.  The night was silent and black, the water dead calm as the big boats were pushed off from shore into the deeper water at the edge of the Hudson.  They would stay close to the shore so as not to become silhouettes if the moon should momentarily appear.

Matty was in the lead boat with Captain Brewer and somehow he got the feeling of being set free out here.  There was that word again – "free."  He was not confined to an island or a hut, but he was in the open air where he could breathe and move without restriction and his destiny was in his hands.  He didn't know it but he was displaying the attributes of a seasoned frontiersman.  He discovered one thing for sure and that was the fact that an ore didn't fit his hands as well as an ax or a rifle.

The boats moved silently and as quickly as possible up river until just before daylight when they have rowed ashore, pulled from the water and hidden under trees and covered with brush.  The men would sleep during the day in secret and resume their travels at sundown.  They would reach Pickwick Island the following night where they would split the company to reconnoiter north to the Narrows of Champlain and west to Ft. Carillon.


The morning of July 10 was hot and the air was heavy with moisture that could easily turn to rain.  The whaleboats were pulled back under the trees as far as possible,  turned upside down and brush was cut and laid over and against the boats to make them invisible to anyone on the river.  Two point scouts were sent ahead to range left and right in front of both columns and two were positioned at the rear of both groups.  Matty took his place beside the Captain and they all set off for their objectives.  Captain Brewer mentioned to Matty that he figured to be in a position to spy out any French near the Narrows of Lake Champlain in eight or ten days which would put them in position around July 20. This time frame would put them back at the boats by July 30 and arrival back at Roger's Island and Fort Edward on August 1st.   Ensign Stark's group of Rangers would be in the vicinity of Fr. Carillon around July 16.  If all went well and back at the boats waiting on Capt. Brewer's return from the Narrows.    But all would not go well…..



Chapter 10

The Reconnoiter

Four guards were sent out on each side of the Ranger detail as an extra precaution against ambush as they approached that 40-mile long section of water at the southern end of Lake Champlain known as the Narrows.  
Two more scouts were dispatched with orders to range 2 miles in front of the column and to maintain that guard until noon, at which time two more fresh scouts would be sent forward to relieve them.   It was 12:30 pm, July 22 and the sun was high when the Captain threw up his hand and quietly pointed to the tree line of enormous oaks and poplars indicating all should take a break in hiding.   The men quickly moved to the edge of the trees and melted into the dark shade where they lay at rest.  Captain Brewer sat down, clasped his fingers together behind his head, leaned back against the cool grass and closed his eyes.  He had not slept much at all since they left the boats hidden on the west shore of the Hudson and he was beginning to show the worse for wear over it.

 Matty sat down beside James Addison who was stretched out on his back with his ankles crossed and hands clasped together resting on his chest.

"How long you been with the Rangers James?"

James turned his head toward Matty and replied, "been with the Major fer 3 years now guess."

Matty reached over to his right and plucked a long blade of grass from a clump and placed it between his lips and said, "did ya ever see any action yet?"

Addison smiled and blew out a long breath with a slight, short whistle at the end of it and said, "Remind me to tell ya about the battle we had on snowshoes the Major got us into.  It was a hell of a scrap and we got ourselves cut up pretty bad – bout bad as it gits.  Even the Major got shot in the hand so bad he couldn't load his rifle.  We all thought we was gonners but,  I don't wanna think on that while we're out here on this hike.   Bad luck.  We can talk about it when we git back."

Matty got the idea that he resurrected some bad memories for the private so he just let it drop, laid back and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on his face.  His eyes suddenly opened wide when he remembered the question asked of him by Captain Noah Johnson:  "Ever wear snowshoes?"

THE FRENCH ON THE MOVE - August 1, 1757

Louis-Joseph de Montcalm anchored his ship in deep water off the shore of Ganoush Bay only 5 miles from Lake George.   Twelve additional French warships slowly sailed into close proximity to Montcalm's vessel, dropped anchor and offloaded whaleboats which would be rapidly filled with 3000 French regular infantry.  Montcalm tipped his head back and stared up through the sails and spars to the man in the crow's nest who had a telescope to his eye.  The telescope was laid down and the man's arms were raised straight up beside his head indicating all was well.  An overall look of satisfaction appeared on the Generals face as he turned and gazed back at the fleet and the overfull whaleboats behind him.  

Just two weeks before leaving Canada, Montcalm met with the Oneida, Onondaga, Tuscarora and Cayuga Indians to get them to accompany him in the effort to burn Forts William Henry and Edward to the ground and drive the English from their land forever.  Many promises were made to them that the General knew France would not keep.  The Indians were given firelocks, knives and belt hatchets and a thousand new wool blankets to prove friendship with the Native Americans.  The tribes bought into it lock, stock and barrel and 2000 of them set off south on foot out of Canada to meet with Montcalm's force of 3000 to converge on Forts William Henry and Fort Edward.

TROUBLE AT THE NARROWS

The guard on the Ranger's left flank came running into the makeshift camp and squatted down in front of Captain Brewer and was talking in a low voice, but it was obvious by the attentive look on the Captain's face that something serious was in the wind.  No sooner had the Captain rose to his feet and started to pick up his possibles when the forward guards both appeared at a run and addressed the Captain with rapid speech accompanied by many hands and arm gesticulations.   The Captain sent the guards around to all the rangers and told them to be ready to move in 3 minutes.  

The column formation was no longer called for and the men fanned out left and right in a single line that would sweep through the forest as they moved forward.  A scout was sent ahead to range a distance of two miles in front of the detachment with one scout on each flank with orders not to go further than a half mile from the main body.  Matty took up position on the right side of Captain Brewer.  They would be at the narrows in less than an hour.

Thirty minutes into the march the forward scout burst out of a wall of briars and thorn bushes and dropped down on one knee to catch his breath.  Captain Brewer ran to the man and told him to calm down and report. 

"Now Private Hazen - what do you have to report?"
"Sir, thar Indians ahead – lots of em and they are coming toward us.  They're right behind me."
"How many Private?"
"Sir, I counted 30 Indians and by the looks of it they be Cauyugas.  But here's the thing.  The lead one on scout is a Seneca.  Them two tribes whar agin each other fer years.  What are they doin together in the same war party?"
Captain Brewer replied, "if a Seneca and a Cayuga are together, then the French have promised em something pretty great and I'd bet they're on the way somewhere to collect on that promise."

The Captain brought the men together with hand signals and instructed all to quickly climb to higher ground on the forested mound to their left and to take cover.  With a little luck the war party would pass by and they would go unnoticed.  They were inland a quarter mile from the river and should be safely out of sight if they held tight to the top of the rolling mountain they were about to climb.

They were careful not to disturb the forest litter and grass as they climbed the hillside to the top and each lay behind fallen trees or to the left and right side of standing timber.  Matty dumped the flash powder out of the frizen and filled it back with fresh.  His heart was beating fast and hard.   He had proven in the past to be calm and steady in times of dire necessity, but those times were over a year ago.  He hoped that the frontier skills he learned since the Braddock days would serve him well here with the Rangers and gain him their respect.  He wouldn't have long to find out…..

The ground between the bottom of the mountain and the river that ran up and became the Narrows of Champlain was covered with tall grass as high as a man's shoulders with a narrow four foot wide stream that stemmed off from the main waterway and meandered through this grass-covered meadow and went to,  who knew where?  With any luck the Indian party would find this shallow little creek and use it as an easier trail to pass through the tall grass and thorns that covered the huge meadow separating mountain from river, and the Ranger's position. 

The Rangers didn't know it, but the 30 Indians that were seen by the Ranger scout was a vanguard for a 2000 man force moving toward Lake George to link up with the Marque de Montcalm.  It would take the Marque one day to organize his assault force and to make ready to move out toward Fort William Henry and engineer siege proceedings.  The 2000 warriors would arrive at the meeting place on the north end of Lake George and link up with the French for the assault on the British forts. 

THE RANGERS AT CARILLON

July 21 found Ensign John Stark lay on his stomach with Corporal Elisha Bennett high on a wooded mountainside and together they were watching supply wagons and scout patrols come and go into Ft. Carillon.  Both the Ensign and Corporal had watched the French regulars and Marines drill just outside the fort's gate for two hours and they counted 200 troops.   The troop count was as expected and a plan was concocted to capture a French prisoner to take back to Ft. William Henry for interrogation.  It was decided to move their men down to the foot of the mountain and hide behind the large timber that stood very close beside the horse trail.  It would be an easy task to grab a dispatch rider or scout off his horse and scurry away with him unseen into the forest.  They were ready to drop down low on the mountain when the Corporal excitedly called out to the Ensign and pointed down toward the fort.   The two dropped to their knees and crawled to the fallen log they had been hiding behind all morning and looked over.  Both their faces took on very concerned looks as they watched large groups of Indians jog out of the fort.  When the last one was at the meadow Corporal Bennett said, "I figure tween 200 and 300.  The Ensign agreed it was over 250 at least and they were jogging on the horse trail that the Rangers had planned to hijack their prisoner from.  The Rangers were safe and would go unnoticed from their vantage point on the mountain and Ensign Stark decided to follow this column of miscreants for a while to determine what they were up to .  The Rangers kept pace with the Indians and stayed out of sight by following from high up on the mountainside behind the scrub and brush.  Eventually, the terrain became boulder covered and they could not keep up and it was decided to send three rangers down the mountain to follow at a safe distance on the horse trail behind the heathen, and if luck would present itself, they could put the grab on a miscreant and bring him in for interrogation. 

The rear guard Ranger came running up to Ensign Stark to notify him that four horses and riders had just left the fort and were on the horse road at a gallop and would catch up to the Indian horde in moments.  The Ensign worried that they would come upon the three scouts on foot he sent to follow the Indian miscreants, but there was nothing he could do about it now.  The Rangers would be down off the mountain on the horse road behind the Indians and too far ahead to be notified of the danger approaching at their backs. 

The detachment on the mountain could peer down and see the horse road through the tree limbs and could make out the horses as they suddenly slowed down to drink from the little stream of water.  This may give the three Rangers behind the Indians an opportunity to discover the danger rapidly approaching them.  Two of the riders were French regulars, but the other two rode bent over the horse's neck.  They were Couriers de Bois and the finest trackers the French had.  They surely would not pass by the Ranger scouts without seeing them.  They mounted and proceeded down the horse road until one of the French Booshway threw up his hand and stopped his horse.  He pointed to something ahead of him and they all kicked their horses into a gallop.  The three Rangers were in trouble.  They were seen running into the timber, but would not climb the mountain toward their brother's in arms.  There lay potential safety, but running to their comrades would possibly lead the enemy to the detachment and there weren't enough Rangers to hold them off.  So they ran parallel to the horse road and stayed in the trees.    The horses ran full gallop along the tree line trying to catch a glimpse of the Ranger spy's and then a shot rang out.  One of the horsemen drew and fired his pistol from the running horse and the three Rangers could still be seen running just inside the tree line.  Then another shot and a riderless horse peeled away from the remaining three.   A ranger stopped, turned, kneeled,  took aim and shot one of the riders off his horse and took off running after his friends while reloading his rifle at a full run.  Then two of the scouts turned, kneeled and fired together hitting the same man.  But, now there were only two riders behind them and they had a chance.

The detachment of Rangers watched the events unfold from the edge of the mountain helpless to assist their friends below.   They watched as the two riders swerved away from the tree line and rode out into the meadow where they would not be such good targets.  Then nine Indians appeared running back on the horse trail following the sounds of the shots.  They stopped briefly to understand what the situation was and the two French riders pointed to the trees and the Indians instantly understood the task at hand.  Five of the Indians ran directly into the trees and the other four followed along the tree line at the edge of the meadow putting the Rangers in between them.  The Rangers couldn't turn and run back the way they came and they couldn't run out of the tree line across the meadow and they would be too slow trying to run up the mountainside to their right.  They took the only option available to them that might give them a chance.  The dropped down behind fallen trees and prepared to sell their lives dearly.  More Indians appeared on the trail at the sound of the shots and there clearly were an additional 20 more of the heathen now running up to the woods and the sound of firing.  Then all became quiet and the Rangers on the mountain knew.  It was a mighty loud quiet.

The Indians below evidently thought the three Rangers were spies and alone because they gave no consideration that there might be more Rangers close by.  Three of the Indians jogged down out of the woods each with a rifle they didn't have earlier and all turned down the horse road and proceeded on.  Ensign Stark called a rest until dark when he would move the men down the mountain, across the field and make an attempt to work their way back to the whaleboats and down river to Fort William Henry.   One Ranger, Private Jerome Cutler -  (Matty's friend in the wagon at Deerfield), would be tasked with determining where this large band of renegades was headed by following them and report the news  to Ensign Stark who would be at the whaleboats with his men.  Ensign Stark and Corporal Bennett discussed their options and decided that it was necessary to immediately return to Fort William Henry to inform Colonial George Monro of the massive Indian movements heading toward the Hudson River and the New York colonies.  One other concern was that Fort William Henry sat on Lake George, situated on the west shore of the Hudson River.  Little did the Ensign know that the focus of the entire French army in the new world and Canada was descending upon Fort William Henry for the purpose of destroying it, thereby removing the British obstacle in the way of French and Indian progress to the New York territories via the Hudson River.

THE SCOUT


Private Jerome Cutler followed the procession of Indians at a safe out of sight distance.  A blind pilgrim could follow the plain trail they were leaving at night.  He wondered about the lack of care they displayed in their passing as if they didn't care whether they were discovered or not.  Their trail headed due south and did not wander left or right.  The Private came to the only logical conclusion possible for their lack of care and that was their hurried effort to join forces with the French for an attack upon the New York colonies.  Perhaps this bunch would join their Huron relations down east of the Hudson or maybe even the Abenaki who have pledged allegiance to the French.  The Private decided to break off the surveillance and head east to the Hudson River and the whaleboats.  He figured he would be at the boats far ahead of Stark and Bennett with the Rangers and if so, decided to continue on with haste to alert Forts Edward and William Henry of the encroaching danger.





Chapter 11

French & Indians Move South To Lake George

July 20, 1757

Captain Brewer and Private Hazen watched the 29 Cayuga Indians slow to a walk below them in the valley of tall grass.  The column was followed by two Indians that held back approximately 50 yards as rear guards.  The Rangers watched the back trail of the Indians for a good half hour and determined that all had passed.   The Captain figured this to be an opportune time to drop down off the mountain with his detachment and put a sneak on the last two men in the procession and snatch one or both of them to take back to Ft. Edward for interrogation.  He had hoped to capture a Frenchman, but a heathen or two from the Narrows would suffice.   The plan was hatched and the Captain lead the Rangers down the steep hill to the edge of the tall grass at the foot of the mountain and proceeded to jog parallel to the shallow creek that only 30 minutes earlier gave passage to the enemy.  They would capture their prisoners and immediately proceed south and east to the whaleboats on the Hudson, wait there for Ensign Stark and his Rangers before heading south down the Hudson to Lake George.

AMBUSH


The Captain moved his Rangers at a fast pace behind the Indians and actually caught up and almost ran into the rear guard before slowing his small 20 man force to a stop.  Two Rangers were selected to move up behind the Indians with haste and take at least one prisoner and return to this spot where the Captain would be waiting for them in the tall grass with the rest of the Rangers.  Then, they all would immediately set off for the whaleboats and the Hudson.

An hour past and Private Hazen came through the grass to report that the two Rangers were returning with a prisoner.  The Indian was tall,  thin and had the appearance of being wiry and treacherous and required continual watching by the two guards who brought him in.  His mouth was filled with a wad of cloth held in place by a one-inch wide strip of rawhide tied at the back of his head and his hands were tied tightly behind his waist.  There was no time to interrogate him as he surely would be missed and a search of their back trail would soon be underway.  The Rangers headed back toward the mountain in order to gain the safety of height and foliage for their backtrack to the river.  They had just made it to the base of the mountain when one of the forward Ranger scouts came running in as fast as his legs would carry him and alerted Captain Brewer of a large contingent of Indians that would be on them in minutes.  Brewer instantly made a sweeping movement with his arm indicating for all to move with haste up the side of the hill but, it was too late.  

Shots were heard close from their north, but no enemy could be seen.  Then the grass could be heard moving and the stomping of moccasin covered feet on the soft earth grew louder and the Rangers ran as fast as they could to gain the highest ground possible for the oncoming struggle they each knew was about to unfold.  They didn't realize it at the moment, but they were about to be run over by 1500 Indians and French Booshways moving south to connect with the French General Marque de Montcalm on Lake George for the purpose of raising Fort William Henry.  The Rangers would very soon be in a fight for their lives.

They pushed up the hillside as far as they dare to keep their backs to the enemy.  Captain Brewer formed his men in two lines across the hill, the front line kneeling with a second line standing directly behind the first.  The second line of Rangers would hold its fire while those kneeling in front would send their volley downfield.  Then those men with empty rifles would fall back and those who were loaded and ready to fire would send their shots into the enemy.  This process would be repeated over and over as long as it remained effective.    Matty was kneeling and was the very last man on the right flank.  He felt oddly at ease with the event that was certainly about to happen.  James Addison was beside him and Matty could see the sweat running down his friend's cheek and the nervous twitch at the corner of his left eye.  He had a right to be nervous.  Captain Brewer gave the command to attach bayonets to firelocks and the order was instantly obeyed.  They were as ready as they could be.  

The screaming started below them as war cries and personal insults were thrown at their unseen enemy somewhere up on the side of the mountain.   The French and Indians still hadn't seen their foe and had no idea what they were running into, nor did they care.  Their numbers were many.  Fallen tree wood could be heard cracking under fast-moving enemy feet and the dry grass emitted a sound as though a large herd of deer was passing through it as slick, red bodies crushed the brittle stems and dried blades to the ground, ignoring any danger but bent on confronting whatever enemy lay before them.

THE FORTS ARE WARNED

Private Jerome Cutler pushed his endurance as he ran through the forest toward the Hudson River where he had planned to follow the western shoreline of Lake George and eventually Fort William Henry and Fort Edward to inform the commanders of the larger movement of French and Indians that were moving south toward Lake George.   Private Cutler did not visit the place where the whaleboats were hidden, but followed along the Hudson and broke away inland on what was known to scouts and frontiersmen as the Warrior's Trail that was a direct route to the colonies in New York.  The path bypassed Lake George but came in close proximity to Fort Edward and it was Fort Edward he would press toward.   As he approached the north end of Lake George he began to see signs of Indian presence on the trail and he decided to move off the path and run parallel to it among the trees and heavy foliage.  It was then he came upon the edge of a high mountain ledge that looked out over the north end of Lake George and the Hudson River.  He could see all the way to Lake Champlain.  His eyes stopped when he saw the French warships anchored in the river and the many, many colored uniforms collected at the edge of the water near the forest.  Among the colored uniforms were scores of Indians.  No, hundreds of Indians with uncountable canoes filled with the miscreants dotting the water as they approached the shoreline.  The Private felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck as he slowly backed away from the edge of the precipice, turned and ran full out toward the Hudson's shoreline.  It would be a dangerous run out in the open, but he had to make time.  It seemed to him that the end of the world was at hand and he was the bearer of bad tidings to the defenders of the gate to the colonies south of the northern frontier. 

His path along the river brought him in sight of ten canoes filled with Herons who fired their guns at him but were well out of range, their effort wasted.  A change of course inland allowed access to the Warriors Path once again and the Private increased his pace until he found that place where endurance and efficiency became as one and energy was endless.  Fort Edward was just ahead..
The forward field guards stopped him and one of them accompanied the Private into the fort where he would gain counsel with Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Web.
The Highlander Guardsman who accompanied Private Cutler knocked on the great oak door and "enter" was heard on the other side.

Colonel Daniel Webb sat behind a great desk of smooth oak In a high back pivoting wooden chair elegantly upholstered in tanned and polished leather of fine texture, dyed gloss black.  The colonel sat up from his desk and folded his hands together, fingers clasp as he gave his full attention to the Ranger scout who stood before him.  He leaned slightly forward as he welcomed the Private who stood bedraggled before him.

"Private," the Colonel said.  "I understand that you are with the detachment of Rangers we sent north to acquire information about the French at the Narrows of Lake Champlain and Ft. Carillon.  What news then Private?"

Private Cutler replied, "Sir.  The French are at the doors of both Fort William Henry and Fort Edward.  They are assembled on the North Shore of Lake George even as we speak.  They appear to number more than six thousand."   Web instantly stood up from behind his desk and the chair spun around and crashed into the wall behind him.

"Six thousand?  Impossible!  Are you sure Private?  Are your's the only eyes to see this great mass of enemy?"

"Yes, sir.  I have followed a big bunch of Cayuga's and Herons from the Narrows of Lake Champlain and ran onto a large number of French warships anchored off the shore of Lake George on the St Lawrence on my way here." 

Major Robert Rogers was in Albany and had no idea about the situation at hand or the peril of the forts, but the colonel wished he were present at Ft. Edward..

Colonel Web called in the guard and told him to get Major Israel Putnam from Roger's Island here immediately.   "Private Cutler, get yourself refreshed and you have my gratitude for your genuine efforts and service to the crown."

Private Cutler took his leave and headed for the mess.   The ordeal had totally drained him for the Private had covered over two hundred miles in three and a half days on foot – an amazing accomplishment. 

PREPARATION


Colonial Web addressed Major Israel Putnam with authority and sincerity.

"Major, we are soon to be under attack by a massive buildup of French and Indians that are, I'm certain, intending to raise both Forts, William Henry and Edward.  They are at Lake George as we speak and will no doubt be at our gates within days.  I want you to gather 600 Rangers and reinforce Colonel Monro at William Henry immediately.  His total force will be raised to 2100.  I doubt it is enough, but that is all I can give him.  Fort Edward will be left garrisoned with only 1700 regulars.  Colonial volunteers have been called upon and are on the way but their numbers are unknown at this time.   I expect you to leave at sundown.  The darkness should help cover your movements.   I will have letters for Colonial Monro delivered to you before your departure."

Israel Putnam filed his Rangers into Fort William Henry on August 2nd and sent a scout north to spy on the enemy.  The scout reported even greater numbers of the enemy than reported by Private Cutler.  He had tallied as many as 7 or 8000 enemy total including Indians of which he had difficulty counting and guessed at least 2000 of the devils were with the French. 


The morning of August 3, 1757 was the start of a bleak moment in history for the British presence on the Hudson River and the New York colonies.  Eight thousand French and Indians had appeared from Canada and the dark frontier to lay siege to Fort William Henry, and a deadly struggle would soon be underway.



Chapter 12

Fight At The Narrows - Ambush


Captain Brewer had placed his Rangers on the hillside among oak and hickory timber assuring that his men would have cover.  A one hundred foot space of bare forest floor lay in front of the Rangers that would serve as a killing field because all French and Indians would have to cross that open land to get to the Rangers on its upper side.  

Then suddenly a tall red man leaped out of the tree line and stopped.  He was six feet tall with a muscular form, slightly bent at the waist, moccasins and breechclout his only garments.  A bow with an arrow fitted to the string was held in his left hand.   His head suddenly tilted back and his nostrils flared continuously as if sniffing the air to scent the enemy and in reality, that was exactly what he was doing.   The Indian's head lowered and he faced directly toward the line of trees ahead of him and an evil, contorted look appeared on his face as he suddenly realized the mistake he made stepping out onto this bare spot he now found himself on,  which left him vulnerable.  He took a slow step backward in an attempt to reach the trees and brush that he carelessly stepped out of only a moment ago.  Suddenly a rifle sounded and the Indian's head snapped back, his legs crumpled and he fell to the ground, a red dot in the center of his forehead where the lead ball found its mark.  Captain Brewer already had the powder charge and ball rammed down his rifle barrel and was pushing the rod back through the thimbles, ready for the next shot before the miscreant hit the ground. 


Red bodies began to appear behind trees and boulders below the Rangers and they were beginning to fire their muskets uphill into the tree line at the antagonists they still could not see.  All were hesitant to cross the open area between the tree lines where one red body now laid, a reminder of the rewards for carelessness.  

The Rangers held their fire and with nerves of steel waited until the Indians would not be able to hold back any longer and feel compelled by short patience and tempers to run forward and carry their fury to an enemy they still haven't seen.  The Booshways and Indians still did not know that they were facing Roger's Rangers,  and were reluctant to commit to an all-out attack and therefore were satisfied to taunt and tease the enemy into showing themselves.  The Rangers waited in silence, their bayonets attached to rifles all pointing down the mountain in a line reminiscent of Spartan spears at the Hot Gates at Thermopile.  Captain Brewer figured that if he could maintain the Ranger's position during the coming fight for an hour until night, he and his men could possibly slip away under the blanket of darkness and work past the enemies left flank and make haste for the Hudson River and the whaleboats.  But luck would not hold.  A whistle blew loudly and the shrill sound seemed to hang in the air for the longest time.

The edge of the forest before the Rangers suddenly burst alive as the savage enemy thrust themselves forward out of the trees and into the clearing toward the indistinct line of men in green who blended superbly into their surroundings.  The front line of Rangers held their fire until the Indian hoard reached the center of the clearing when Captain Brewer's order to "FIRE", could be distinctly heard.  The crack of ten rifles sounded as one and the thick smoke shielded the line of Rangers as they fell back behind the men at their rear and instantly reloaded while ten more rifles sounded and the process was repeated twice more.   So far not a ranger was down but, the clearing to their front was littered with groaning bodies, some attempting to crawl away and some lying still as stones.  Four Herons ran furiously toward the line of Rangers and were met by long,  sharp bayonets.   A deathly quiet ensued, but it spoke loudly of treachery.   The enemy's attack was costly to them and it told a story of how many Red Coats they were facing.  They were facing none.   The men above them were Rangers – Roger's Rangers, and they would not relinquish the field as probably would a lesser force.   One French Booshway, using sign, commented to a Huron chief how well hidden the British were as he did not see a red garment of any sort during the skirmish before or after.  Green was the color in judgment that afternoon.

Captain Brewer knew that the savages received reinforcements and hopes were slim that his small detachment could hold out against what he suspected was a very large group of Indians.  He was thankful that the savages didn't try to overrun them with the first attack and was aware that they probably would have had they known how few Rangers they faced, but now they knew and he feared the worst for the safety and success of his men.  He pulled the men together and gave them instructions to split up into four groups of five men each and at his signal rush to the top of the mountain where they would go in four different directions with the purpose of getting back to the whaleboats on the Hudson.

Matty and James joined up with Privates Richard Boyce, Benjamin Bridge and Matthew Christopher that made up Captain Brewer's group.  They were set to move out when the Captain suddenly turned away and left them, lifted his hatchet from his belt with his right hand and strode quickly toward Private Hazen and his prisoner.  The Private turned at the sound of the Captain's footfalls and was stunned to see the hatchet raised and slammed down onto the smiling savage's head and felling him like a tree.   The ax was removed from the Indian's skull, wiped upon the breechclout of the shuddering savage and reinserted into the frontiersman's belt all in an instant.  The prisoner would have been a liability and a danger to carry along and guard, and to free him would be just one more enemy to deal with later.

The four groups of Rangers spread out wide as they raced to the top of the mountain where they would disburse in four directions down the other side.  Savage screams were following behind them and were getting close.  Captain Brewer told his group of five Rangers to make a line and to fire on the first savages that appeared and then immediately reload while scrambling to the top.  He wanted to slow the onslaught to give his men more time to reach the summit of the mountain where they could rush down the other side and evaporate into the briars, brambles and scrub that always grows on the sides of mountains.  Matty felt extremely calm as he knelt leaning against a tree with his left shoulder as he waited for the action to unfold, and unfold it did.  

 A line of four savages raced up the mountain at them screaming their war sounds and closing fast.   The Rangers took aim and as Matty began to squeeze the trigger, he noticed movement to his left in his peripheral vision.  One Indian made his approach up the mountain quietly, aside from the main group of attackers and upon reaching a point directly in line with the Rangers began to run at top speed,  hatchet in hand, directly toward Matty, who instantly swung his rifle to the left and squeezed off the shot as the rifle barrel passed in front of the oncoming savage and continued on its swing past the struck Huron.  The rushing Indian curled over, fell forward, grabbed his stomach and thrashed about on the ground screaming in agony.  Matty had the next ball rammed down tight in the barrel and powder in the flash pan and ready for the next shot before the Indian actually knew what happened to him.   The Rangers to Matty's right put two more attackers on the ground and the others fell back, giving the Captain time to rush with his men to the top of the mountain where they would attempt to angle down the other side keeping in a southerly direction.  If all went well they could rendezvous with the others at the whaleboats by tomorrow noon. 

They were charging down the mountainside when rifle shots were heard in the distance from the top of the ridge.   The Captain held his arm out to the side to indicate for the men to stop.   He fixed the position of their pursuers and his sudden start down the mountain was all that was needed to get the men moving once again.  The enemy was approaching from the rear where they were spread out across the mountainside in a long line and the Rangers had to put the slip on them.  The Captain suddenly stopped once more and ordered the men to turn sharply right for a ways and take up positions behind a line of large boulders which would allow them to ambush their pursuers as they passed in front of them.  Their ambush location was only feet from their path of flight down the mountain.  It wasn't long before seven Indians appeared above them jogging down the mountain almost exactly on the footprints of the Rangers who had made the trail only minutes before.   The Rangers waited until the savages were directly across from their hiding place when they arose and fired almost simultaneously dropping all but two with their volley.  Private Addison drew a wicked looking knife back behind his head with his right hand and snapped it forward driving the seven-inch long blade into the escaping Indian's back severing his spine.   Six savages lay dead, meaning that one made good his escape.   

All reloaded their rifles and moved on down the mountain, maintaining a southerly course.   James Addison reached down and grasped the handle of his knife and pulled it from the Indian's back as he passed by without breaking stride as they all settled into a mile eating run down the hillside.   Rifle fire could be heard coming from the base of the mountain and all readied themselves for the unexpected.
Dark was coming on fast as the Rangers neared the bottom of the mountain where  Matty noticed heavy Indian sign as did James Addison.   Matty jogged up beside Captain Brewer and notified him of an Indian presence and the Captain said they needed to cover as many miles as they could before dark and would have to continue on where the forest was more open.  

 Just then Matty and Captain Brewer both came to an instant halt as both stared at the object lying on the ground.  Rifles were moved to the ready as all eyes searched the forest for some unseen adversary.  On the ground lay the head of Private William Aker.  He was one of a group of four that departed over the mountain when the detachment split into groups.   Private Addison whistled and made a motion to come where he was standing.  All silently rushed over to see the butchered body of Private Aker laying bent over a felled tree, his arms and legs severed from his body, scalped and disemboweled.   Matty knew Bill Akers and felt his stomach turn over in revulsion and he became saddened, but only momentarily.  The sadness changed to anger and at that moment Matty formed an opinion about the French and their Abenaki Indian compatriots.   He despised them for all their lack of respect and cowardly treatment of a fallen adversary and what he saw before him this day created a fury that would live in Matty's heart for many years until one day an event would present itself that would have cost him his life except for the intervention of a Mohawk Indian. 

The Captain said to leave the Private undisturbed as he was found and had the men step off the open area they stood upon and move up the side of the mountain a hundred yards to a flat ledge on the slope and make rest until dark.
The forest below the Rangers became noisy two hours after dark.  They were making ready to put the slip on their pursuers and quietly disappear into the night when the sound of a great many people moving through the forest was heard.  But they were heading in a northerly direction and not south to do battle with the British at the New York colonies.  What was this?  The Rangers knew that the Indian hoard was moving away from their desired direction of travel,  and the Captain decided to sit tight.  They held the high ground and their situation could ask for no more than that.

Matty asked James Addison, "Why you think them Injuns are headin north all of a sudden.  We seen em by the hundreds headin south and now all of a sudden there they go back north?"

Private Addison replied, "We been out here runnin around and hiding for three days now so maybe them injuns got to where they was a goin, did what they was a goin to do and are headin back north."

Matty said, "Never thought about it that way Jim.  Guess we have been out on the mountain a long time.  I sure can't wait to get back and I'll tell ya one thing,  I'm done with this rangerin, hundred acres or not.  I ain't got enough time in for the land but, I'm done with it anyway."

The Private replied, "Well, I got enough time in to collect on the land and If you don't care about it I guess we can call it quits if we want to."
Matty looked over at Private Addison, smiled and reached over with his right hand and plucked a blade of wide, green grass from a clump and placed it between his lips.

Two hours passed by and the Captain suggested to the men that they should go back down the mountain and continue traveling on the flat ground as he felt that all the Indians had passed them.  He said he'd leave it up to them.  All looked at one and other and the consensus was to go down the mountain.  The morning of August 10 puts them at the top of Lake George where the grass was beaten down flat in every direction and deep ruts were cut in the earth where wheels bearing enormous weight rolled under the labor of oxen.   A pair of worn out French soldier's shoes was found by Matty when he went to the river for water and chips of flint on knapping stones lay here and there and a heavy wagon wheel lay against a boulder where it broke off in the center stream.   A large military force accompanied by Indians passed this way moving south along the shoreline of Lake George.  All five Rangers looked at each other wide-eyed with surprise written all over their faces and without a word each picked up his gear and saw to the charge of their rifles and headed off at a fast jog toward Fort William Henry.  

Richard Boyce hollered,  "Yo!" and pointed at the same time to a cloud high in the southern sky.  They all looked at the gray colored cloud and noticed a second cloud rising up from the top of the tall grass.  It was smoke.  They hurriedly moved out toward the fort with a sick feeling in their stomachs.

STARK & CUTLER RETURN FROM FORT CARILLON August 8

Sending Jerome Cutler to scout on the French and savage contingent from Carillon was all Ensign Stark could be expected to do.  It was his responsibility now to see his Rangers safely home to Fort Edward and report the events he and his men had witnessed concerning the huge force of Indians and French that appeared to be making their way toward the New York colonies.  His hopes were that Private Cutler would arrive at Ft. Edward with news and information while he was struggling to get his men down the Hudson in the slow-moving whaleboats.

They had been carefully walking along the edge of the forest, keeping the river to their left when Private Hazen, who was on scout ahead of the group returned and excitedly told of hearing conversations ahead of him and the voices seemed to be coming from the water.  Ensign Stark moved the men further back into the forest and directed Private Hazen to take him to the place where he heard the voices.  Corporal Bennett was given instruction to move the men even further back into the trees and to keep them moving in a southerly direction if he and Private Hazen weren't back in an hour.

The private raised his right hand and the two dropped to hands and knees and crept forward to the edge of the tall weeds on the river's bank where they heard French voices.  One of the Frenchmen talked with a broken French dialect combined with Ottawa tongue not heard before by the two Rangers.  The Ensign understood the French language, but not this drivel.  Then he heard a name.   Monsieur de Langlade. 
The Ensign's eyes opened wide and he whispered to himself under his breath, "could it be him?  Hardly here in this wilderness?  But, it must be.

Monsieur Charles de Langlade

Monsieur Charles de Langlade was the son of a French trader and an Ottawa squaw.  In 1752 he led 250 Chippewa warriors to Picauillany Town to destroy the village.  He did so and in the process boiled the village chief alive and ate him.

Langlade organized and led the French and Indian force against General Edward Braddock when Braddock attempted to capture Fort Duquesne  (later Ft. Pitt, now Pittsburgh, Pa) back in the summer of 1755.

The two Rangers quietly moved back away from the river and into the darkness of the woods.   The information was coming together for Ensign Stark.  The hundreds of Indians and French at Carillon and now this demon Charles de Langlade all clustered together in close proximity to the only bastions that guard the gates to the colonies of New York, Forts William Henry and Edward and with the demise of those two forts, the New York colonies would be vulnerable to the French without suitable resistance..
Ensign Stark and Private Hazen returned with their news and waited for nightfall when they moved out at a jog along the banks of the Hudson. 

Morning found them at the point where they stashed the whaleboats and found the boats weren't there.   The men found plenty of Indian sign and French boot prints all across the embankment.  The thieves sure weren't taking any precautions to hide their presence.  Sounds of thunder could barely be heard far off to the south and a few men turned their faces toward the sky to look for dark clouds as they moved out at a rapid pace.   Thunder?





Chapter 13

The Siege And Fall Of Fort William Henry



August 4, 1757.  General Marque de Montcalm watched from the top of a gentle rise in the plain of the southwest shoreline of Lake George as his siege cannons were wheeled toward the British Fort William Henry which sat on the extreme southern end of the lake.  He had come from Canada in ships with a 6000 man army in conjunction with 2000 Indians to lay siege to the fort with intentions to burn it to the ground.  He watched as rows of trenches were dug in the direction of the fort for the purpose of moving men and cannon safely toward William Henry.  Horses and wagons drove this way and that carrying shot, powder and fuses to the siege canon positions as well as food and water for the army.  A 2000 man contingent of Indians milled around the fort keeping to the tall grass and woods, firing shots at the redcoats within.   

Colonel George Monro sent several runners south the 17 miles to Fort Edward to ask General Daniel Webb to immediately send reinforcements to support his current, anemic command of 2500 men inside Fort William Henry.   Israel Putnam with 600 rangers was all the reinforcements Webb would send.  After all, General Webb could not risk reducing his forces of 1600 red coats and leave that bastion undermanned any more than it already was.  The British in Fort William Henry awoke on the morning of August 6 to a bombardment from the French cannonade that more than concerned even the bravest of them.  They had ample reason for concern because Fort William Henry's walls would soon be no more.

August 7, 1757.    The French General Marquis de Montcalm sat upon a white stallion as he watched Colonial George Monro walk across the bridge that spanned the dry moat in front of the fallen gates to William Henry.  Monro's color guard carried the British banner as they all marched in a dignified manner to meet the Marquis on the field of battle for the purpose of surrendering the Fort.  Colonial Monro submitted his terms of surrender to the General and Masseur de Montcalm cordially accepted them along with Monro's sword and the surrender was complete.  Colonial Monro was permitted to leave the fort with the British colors, their weapons and was to be protected from the Indians by a French guard.  The wounded in the fort were to be treated by French surgeons and carried to Canada via Fort Crown Point as prisoners of war, later to be bargained for by British negotiators for release.
August 8.   The inhabitants of the fort moved in a loose formation out the front gate of the fort and onto the wagon track through the meadow that leads directly to Fort Edward. 

The Indians were told of the capitulation by the British and they were astonished that they would be deprived of the spoils of war they were promised.   Many went into the demolished fort and eventually found rum and whiskey and became drunk, which lead to a further decline in civility.  The discontent became contagious and the Indians as a whole became unruly, contemptuous and resorted to their savage character and began an unimaginable slaughter never before seen on the frontier.  The miscreants sought out the wounded fort defenders and tortured, scalped and dismembered them.  Not one wounded British Red Coat in the fort was spared.  

Colonial Monro accused General Montcalm of dereliction toward his promises for a British surrender of Fort William Henry and the General expressed his dismay and disgust toward the red heathen,  but stated there was nothing he could do lest he insight them to turn against his troops.

The savages then followed the mass of civilian men, women,  children and Red Coats who left the fort headed for Fort Edward.  They kept to the forest and screamed insults at the former Fort William Henry inhabitants.  The heathen moved closer and closer to the slowly moving group of immigrants until they were walking within arm's reach away from them, constantly spewing insults and spitting on those who stumbled along on the outside edge of the formation.  Women and children were moved into the center of the shuffling mass of people to protect them from any Indian trickery. 

Then the Indians suddenly started running into the rear of the formation swinging hatchets and bashing in the heads with their war clubs.  Red Coats armed with rifles held Indians back here and there, but for the most part were ineffective at protecting the masses.  Children were torn from their mother's arms and dashed against rocks while women, young boys and girls were pulled out of the formation, hands tied and moved off to the edge of the action later to be taken to Canada as prisoners to be sold or traded to the French government and in turn the French would sell them back to the British colonies for a profit.

The French officers tried to barter with the savages to allow the horribly treated British wretches to go on to Fort Edward in peace.  The barter process finally entailed liquor, rifles and powder and eventually the chiefs were able to calm the savage heart enough to allow the remainder of the British to escape with their lives.  1600 British and Colonial men, women and children lay dead and butchered by the heathen savages who the French General Marque de Montcalm called brothers.  It was the end of the darkest day on the eastern frontier since the 7 year war began.
                                                                   
August 6 - STARK AND CUTLER

Jerome Cutler came to a sudden stop as he heard the rifle and canon fire ahead of him in the direction of William Henry.   He knew he was too late with his warning for the fort and he wondered if any of his Ranger friends were on the ramparts.  He faced a southerly direction and continued on his way toward the chaotic sounds in hopes of making it back to Roger's Island where he could join up with his Ranger Company. 
There was nothing more Ensign Stark could do but get his men back to Fort Edward.  It was obvious the French were laying siege to William Henry and to try and break through the French Army and Indians just to die inside those walls was meaningless.  He saw with his own eyes the vast number of Indians and French that were pushing toward Lake George.  No, he would try to get back to Edward and Roger's Island to join up with the main body of Rangers.. 

The Ensign would indeed make it back to Roger's Island but he would find it sparsely inhabited because Roger's and his full force of 1700 Rangers was sent to Fort Crown Point in eastern Canada on the New York border to scout and investigate that fort's ability to resist a British attempt to destroy it.  The only Rangers left behind were 600 in number and under the command of Israel Putnam, and they were dispatched to Fort William Henry by General Webb to bolster the defenses there.

August 11 - CAPTAIN BREWER'S RANGERS AT THE SITE OF FORT WILLIAM HENRY

The whaleboats were gone.  Ensign Stark and his men wouldn't have taken them all so the obvious conclusion was that the French stole them and more than likely took them out on the lake and sunk them.  Captain Brewer disbursed the men into a small grove of pines well back from the shoreline of Lake George and decided to wait until noon to see if any of the other Rangers from the detachment would make the trek back from the ambush.   At noon it was decided none would arrive and the Captain sent Matty out ahead to scout the way while the men prepared for travel.  All noticed the smell of charred or burnt wood and the vaguely familiar stench of carrion carried on the breeze.

Matty could see ahead of him and off to the west as far as the forest's edge which allowed him to lower his caution and proceed at a rapid jog down the shoreline of the Lake.  He noticed moccasin prints that were old and almost washed out by recent rains and judged them to be two or maybe three days old.  He did not notice anything of immediate concern and continued on his scout.   The grass here was as tall as his head where the earth turned wet and swampy in places and he had to slow down in order to place his steps more carefully on the soft ground.   The smell of burning wood became overwhelming to his senses as he took deep breaths, put his head down and pushed his way through the mud and tall grass until with a sweep of his extended arm, he moved aside the last barrier of tall river grass, stepped out of the soft swampy muck onto solid turf and raised his head.  Matty's face instantly portrayed disbelief at what he saw causing his lips to press tight together forming a straight line and his eyes to narrow with concern.   He reacted instantly to the scene before him by immediately stepping back into the tall grass and dropping down onto one knee while checking the prime of his rifle.  Before him lay acre after acre of scorched, brown, smoldering earth and burnt timbers.  Fort William Henry was no more.  He could see where the ground was piled up in long, long rows of piled up earth,  indicating that the trenches were dug around the fort, and closer inspection showed broken canons,  carts and wagons here and there that were destroyed by the fort's defenses.  This explains the movement of the Indians toward the north at the Narrows.  They had completed their task of destruction and the Abenaki's were returning north to St. Francis and the French to Quebec. 

Matty returned to Captain Brewer and reported his findings.  The Rangers kept to solid ground as they ran with all haste to a point where they could study the scene of destruction.  Not a soul could be seen moving, only crows and vultures flitting about through the carnage and alighting upon the rotting forms left scattered about.      
The little band of Rangers left the tall grass and cautiously moved toward the charred ruins of Fort Henry smoldering in the afternoon sun with parts of it still ablaze.  Hundreds of swollen bodies lay about dismembered and scalped – the burnt bodies of the wounded still lying in the medical room of the destroyed fort.  Private Addison counted 30 dismembered and scalped Rangers, together on the ground, just outside the medical wing of the fort, no doubt doing their best to defend the sick and wounded from the Abenaki hoard.    Enough was enough and they moved on toward Fort Edward and found the bodies of hundreds of the fort's inhabitants murdered, most without weapons or any means of self-defense.  Women and children were brutally killed and dismembered and even body parts were boiled and eaten.  The Rangers had seen many things in war, but nothing to compare with this carnage.   

Matty and the Captain moved cautiously down the service road and away from the dry moat that surrounded Fort George and followed down the supply wagon trail as it wound its way through the dense hardwood forest on both sides toward Fort Edward.  The swelled and decomposing bodies of a few men, women and children could be seen lying beside the road in the tall grass as well as on the trail itself.  Most were bludgeoned to death and all were scalped and dismembered.   They continued to follow the wagon tracks, rounded a bend in the road and entered a dark, shady glade where they were instantly stopped by the macabre sight that lay before them.  James Addison and Benjamin Bristol ran out of the tall grass, up to the Captain and started to report what they were seeing but stopped in mid-sentence when they noticed the carnage that lay before them on the road.  Private  Addison dropped his rifle and fell to his knees, arms at his sides in disbelief at what his eyes were seeing.  Even the war-hardened Captain Brewer stood staring with his mouth open, speechless and appearing daft. 

Matty walked over to the edge of the wagon road and knelt beside the body of a young mother lying with her headless baby still clutched tightly in her arms, her face crushed by a tomahawk and refusing to let go of her child even in death.  Matty silently swore an oath that he would make these heathen pay a terrible price for their treachery, and would forever be a terrible force for them to reckon with if they crossed his path in the future.  He stood up and wiped his eyes and nose on his sleeve and returned to the Captain.  Captain Brewer sent Privates Bristol and Addison ahead into the forest with orders to remain out of sight, but follow and scout the road to Fort Edward could be seen.  Matty and the Captain continued to walk through and around the dead bodies until they couldn't stand the stench any longer and turned into the wind and entered the forest on the north side of the road.  Matty noticed a bible lying on the ground at the fingertips of a young girl who had been scalped and worse.  He reached down, picked up the bible and opened it to the first bloodstained page and read:  to Daughter Emily from Mother and Father.   Matty started to push the bible into his shirt, but stopped short and looked down at the young girl whose life was tragically ended.   He squatted down beside her, laid his rifle on the ground and lifted her bloody hand up to tuck the bible under her palm.  He whispered softly, "yer in good hands now Miss."

The air was cool and sweet smelling as they walked off the pathway of death and into the forest.   Fallen Indians were occasionally found just inside the forest's edge indicating that the massacred put up the best defense they could.

The rest of their 17-mile journey to Fort Edward from the destruction of William Henry was without event and they arrived on the morning of the 12th.  Captain Brewer reported to General Webb and was informed that Major Rogers was on scout at Fort Crown Point and Rogers Island was almost deserted of Rangers.  Ensign Stark and his men came into Fort Edward yesterday and were sent to the Island and a Private Cutler had come in this morning and had asked about the Captain and his men.  They were to report to Captain Elisha Bennet on the island and all could be found there.
A day had passed since the men returned to Roger's Island and no more Rangers came in from the field and were considered lost.   




Chapter 14


HEADING BACK TO DEERFIELD

August 20, 1757



The morning of August 18, 1757 was cold, dark and rainy as Matty walked across the muddy parade ground of Rogers Island headed for Captain Elisha Bennet's shack, knocked on the door and was told to enter.  Matty removed his service cap and stood at attention until told to relax by the Captain.  Coffee was offered and Matty accepted.  The hot cup felt good as he encircled his cold fingers around the hot clay and lifted it to his lips with both hands and slurped the brown liquid without shame or care for manners. 

"Ah, that’s good sir," Matty exclaimed.

The Captain then said, "I guess you're wonderin why I asked you over here so early this morning and the fact is that I heard you were planning on leaving for home in a couple days and I felt like I needed to say a few words to you while I had the opportunity.  I want you to know that your service has been exemplary and I'm told you stood your ground side by side with your fellow Rangers in the face of disaster and shirked no task and even saved one of the wounded men from a ghastly end.  These are qualities that are required of a Ranger and not all men can exhibit them to expectations, but I've been told that you have not only met the challenge but have exceeded it.  

What I'm about to say and do is not meant to influence your decision to go home or stay and it is a requirement that I am pleased and obliged to undertake because you have earned the consideration.  Therefore Private Matty Solomon, I hereby delete your present rank as Private and award you a promotion to the rank of Corporal in the Colonial Ranger Scouts.  Furthermore I must inform you that you have not carried out your assignment to full term and have fallen short of the requirements that would award you 100 acres of land.  However, I am forgoing that requirement and signing the promissory note for the land anyway.  I would appreciate that you keep this between yourself and me.  

If you elect to stay on you will report to Captain Israel Putnam for assignment and if you decide to leave the Rangers, go with the army's gratitude and the knowledge that you are welcome to return to the Ranger ranks at any time in the future as long as a need presents itself.  Here are your furlough papers and a receipt you'll sign sayin you got your last pay.  Give that to the quartermaster when you draw yer money.  

There's a promissory note for 100 acres of land in New York near the Hudson River given for service to the crown and it is cosigned by Major Robert Rogers.  That’s all I have to say Corporal except that you will be missed if you leave. "  

Matty's heart was beating hard and fast because he never imagined he would be appreciated to this extent and he certainly didn't expect to receive a promotion.  He joined up to get the 100 acres of land for Hanna and himself to start a new life planting roots deep in the soil he fought for.  Now, he was feeling guilty as if he were running out on friends, his brothers that he fought side by side with.  Would he ever see them again?  He remembered that tall, lanky Danel Boone from the Braddock days. 
"Watch yer hair," Boone said on that day they parted company
"Yep, watch yorn,"  Matty replied.  And, their paths never crossed since. 

He felt mighty low as he walked back through the drizzle to his shack.  He lit the oil lantern and sat down at the rough cut pine bench and tossed the unrolled scroll of paperwork given to him by Captain Bennett out onto the table and stared at the proclamation that assigned him 100 acres of riverside land and he smiled broadly.  The face of a pretty girl named Hanna came into his mind and his heart suddenly swelled as joyful tears ran down over his cheeks and instantly he felt secure and comfortable in the decision he had made to leave.  As he began to roll the papers up his eyes fell briefly on the paragraph that mentioned furlough and he wondered why they weren't discharge papers.  Furlough – hmm, now that’s an odd way to sever duty with the army..
 HEADIN HOME


The morning of August 20, 1757, had a chill in the air and the day held promise to be a good one for traveling.   Matty placed his kit on a woolen blanket that he rolled up and tied at both ends with a long length of rawhide that would allow it to be slung over his shoulder.  He would leave for home in much the same fashion in which he arrived.  The addition of a small leather Ranger backpack would hold heavier gear such as a spare knife, sharpening stones, rifle ball mold, and bee's wax as well as any other odd and end he might elect to take along, like the wicked tomahawk he took from an Abenaki who didn't need it any longer.  The Mess Sergeant gave Mattie a deer backstrap and some bacon that would hold him over for the greater portion of his trip home.   


He had said his goodbyes the previous evening and was ready to head south toward the colonies and Hanna In Deerfield.   He stood in front of the canoe that would take him from Roger's Island to the western shoreline, and turned toward the ranger huts for a last look.  A smile appeared on his face when he saw James Addison standing tall on a high mound under the British flag, waving his arms back and forth in farewell.  Matty waved back, turned and stepped into the birch bark canoe and paddled to the opposite shore where he stepped onto dry land, pulled the frail boat up onto the grass and without looking back immediately moved out holding the rifle low in his right hand and finding that mile-eating pace he was so familiar with.  He would follow the shoreline of the Hudson River South as long as possible and then navigate the old Indian trails across the floodplain to Deerfield.  He would use caution as Abenaki war parties were embedded in the hills and low mountains along the New York /Canada border and south along the east bank of the Hudson almost as far as Albany.  The primary thoughts on his mind now, however, were Hanna's pretty face, her golden hair and those sweet arms that would welcome him home for good.






Chapter 15

The Captive

August 1757



Wolf Island was situated dead center in the Hudson and preceded a set of shoals that could prove hazardous to whaleboats and rafts that displaced much more water than did canoes.  But, the sign on the shoreline indicated that four bark canoes were beached here since sun-up and the moccasin prints in the soft soil told Matty that eight Abenaki Indians pulled their canoes out of the river to portage around the shoals, and then put the boats back in the water and continued on their way.  He wondered where they were going, and how bold they were to travel in broad daylight this far down the Hudson!  Matty thought it in his best interest to detour east into the tree cover of the hills and continue on south for a day, staying off all the main roads and trails and attempt to strike Deerfield by turning west. This plan would cost him a day in travel time but the alternative was to possibly run onto the eight miscreants from the canoes and he could not stand his ground facing all eight at once.  He would err on the side of caution and find himself a place to camp on the high ground late this afternoon and stay for the night.  He needed a full day to get within shoutin distance of Deerfield and he figured he would be there by late tomorrow afternoon if he could depart well before sunup in the morning.

Matty broke camp before daylight on August 28 and moved along carefully just inside the forest's edge as long as he could, until late afternoon.  He had to leave the tree cover and started crossing the naked river plain that he knew was located just off the north slope of a low mountain range known as Sawyers Hump. This would put him nine miles north of Deerfield which lay just to the south of the Hump.  Matty quickened his pace.  

There it was again – that sound his mother used to make with a brass bell when she called dad and him to supper, only this sound was sort of dull and clunky sounding.  He slowed his jog down to a walk and turned his head left and right to position his ears for the best reception.  Again, the bell sounded.  It came from over there to his right.  Moving his rifle to the crook of his left arm, he crouched forward and carefully moved ahead through the tall cane that obliterated his view.  He relaxed, straightened up and uttered, "Well, I'll be", under his breath,

There before him stood a brown and white milk cow with a wide strap of leather around her neck, holding a square brass cowbell dangling down and clunking every time the old girl moved her head left or right.
He whispered out loud, "Now, just where did you come from, old girl!"  The cow turned her head and stared at Matty with an unconcerned look on her face then lowered her head down to grab another mouthful of rich green moss.  Matty knew she couldn't have been out here for long or the Indians would surely have found her with that bell clanging , and she wasn't showing signs of stress and hunger. That would mean she wasn't lost for long and her owner might possibly be out here looking for her.  It wouldn't take long to have a quick look-around and Matty started backtracking on the cow's footprints in the soft soil. 

She had walked here from the south and that was the direction Matty had to travel anyhow to get home.  The tracks were deep and the cow was not in a hurry, but suddenly Matty noticed the footprints spaced further apart and deeper in the soil.  The cow was running here and slowed back down.  He continued down the cow's back trail for another two hundred feet, signs of the cow running the entire time,  and then Matty stopped suddenly when he saw the moccasin tracks.  They were Abenaki and there were two of them.  He flicked open the frizzen, dumped the flash powder and poured fresh into the pan and slapped it shut. The rifle was cradled in the crook of his left arm and at the ready.  But there was another pair of footprints beside the cow tracks heading back south toward Deerfield.   Those tracks were made by leather boots and small ones at that.  A boy made them.  The tracks told the story plain.  The cow had disappeared at milking time and the boy had lit out after it following her tracks.  He caught up to her and was making his way back home when the Indians appeared out of the cane.  They had to hear that bell around the cow's neck.  The sudden shock of their appearance startled the cow which ran away to the north, while the boy turned and bolted south toward home with both Indians after the boy.  The cow would be easy pickens later.  But, why was the cow still here and where was the boy?  A kid surely couldn't outrun two Abenaki miscreants, but there was no body or sign they caught him.  Matty continued south following the trail. 

The boy was a fast runner who had a long stride and it was plain the Indians had to work in order to catch up with him but catch up they did.  Matty saw where the wet ground was churned up with signs of a scuffle where they finally caught the boy.  The tracks moved out in a westerly direction and it was clear the boy was with them and was not going willingly.  He was being taken to the canoes where the other six Abenaki's were no doubt waiting.  The earth was moist and hadn't started to dry yet and Matty figured they took the boy only an hour before he found the cow.  These warriors were acting like spies, but what were they spying on?  It had to be Deerfield.  Surely the French and Indians would not figure on attacking Deerfield with Fort Edward so close to the north, but then, who thought they would burn Fort William Henry to the ground?  Matty decided to give chase and see if he could overtake the two Abenaki's and the boy before they reached their friends at the beached canoes. 

There was a brace of shoals on the river that were treacherous to float over if one wasn't familiar with the waterway and Matty figured the canoes would be landed there.  He had a good chance to catch up before his quarry reached the river.   He felt that once on the water the boy would be lost forever.

The river cane was thick and tall all the way to the river and Matty wanted to move as fast as his legs would carry him but had to use care not to run up onto the spies and alert them to his presence.  One does not run through cane fields and Matty detoured south as fast as he could along the seam created where the cane fields met the baron river plain.  The thick growth of cane would soon diminish and he could cut east along the bottom edge of the river and hopefully get ahead of the miscreants and their captive. 

Matty had run for over half an hour and was fast approaching the shallows of the river where the canoes and the other six Abenaki's must be waiting for the two Indians that had the boy.  He leaned forward and kept low as he slowly and carefully moved toward the edge of the cane at the river' edge.  There were no canoes on the shoreline.  Where were they?  He had no time to worry about it.  They weren't there and that was that.  Matty slowly made his way north, creeping at times on hands and knees just inside the jumble of cane stalks where they grew to the edge of the water.  He was looking for a path made by the two Indians when they entered the cane field after being left off at the shoals.  Where were those canoes?  Then it hit him.  These two Abenaki's were a rear guard for the others who portaged their canoes around the shoals and continued on down river to complete their scout.  He had to get to Deerfield and warn the militia that foul play was afoot.  

Then he noticed broken cane and it was apparent this was the point where the two had entered the cane field before continuing inland.  No doubt they heard the cowbell and followed it to claim the unexpected prize of the farm boy who would bring a hefty price when sold back to the English, if they didn't kill him first.  Matty figured they would return to the river over the path of least resistance and that would be where they broke down the cane with their first passing.  He would lay in wait for them just off this path where the thick cane would give him an edge.  He checked the prime of his rifle and reached to his belt with his right hand and traced the sharp edge of the tomahawk's blade with his forefinger.   The knife that already had saved his life twice was poised for action in its sheath under the belt on his left side.  He would now wait quietly.

Matty thought it odd that a whippoorwill would be calling at this time of day and what was more curious was that another from further up the river bank was answering.  Then the sound of a commotion off to his left, far back into the cane alerted him they were coming, breaking the thick cane stalks as they dragged the boy along with them.  Another whippoorwill call and another answer came from just north of him back in the cane field.  Then the distinct sound of something being dragged over the ground and through the cane was evident.  A rush came over Matty as he suddenly realized that the other six Abenaki's did not pass on downstream.  They pulled their canoes back inside the edge of the river cane and waited in hiding for the two that went in search of the cowbell and now they were bringing the canoes back to the water making ready to disembark at the arrival of their two friends.

He heard murmurings and cane breaking near him and suddenly he could see their broken outlines moving toward him.  The cane and grass was tall and thick here and they should pass by without them seeing him.  His heart pounded hard against his chest.  If they noticed him, he was done for.   A shout came from a hundred yards upstream and was answered by the two miscreants near Matty, who suddenly increased their efforts to meet up with their friends.  Matty could see them plainly now through the cane as they stood jabbering to each other on the edge of the water.  

The boy was about six foot tall, blond hair and thin as a rail.  His hands were tied behind his back and the rope had a long tail left on it that one of the miscreants, a Huron, held onto.  Four of the Indians upstream pushed the canoes half into the water while the other two came down to greet the ones with the prisoner.  It was apparent that all were delighted with the catch and showed an increased desire to be off with their prize.  No matter how much he wanted to rescue that boy, he could see no way.  There were too many Indians for him to handle.  Matty watched as the boy was put in the center of one of the boats and all pushed off from the shore and paddled upstream against the water flow.


It was hard for Matty to watch helplessly as these savages stole a young man's life with a good probability of torturing him to death when they reached their destination, which was probably Odonak, better known as St. Francis located at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.   Odonak was the huge Abenaki town where war parties were launched up and down the Hudson against the British colonies of New York, Pennsylvania and as far south as Vermont.  It was a hornet's nest supported and supplied heavily by the French and a prize the British would like to see destroyed.  The boy would meet a horrible, painful end if the Abenaki squaws got hold of him.  They were supremely skilled in the arts of torture.

He watched with disappointment as the canoes were paddled hard upriver against the current. Once beyond the shoals a half mile upstream, they would be impossible to catch by anyone he could send from Deerfield.  Fort Edward was to the north, but farther away than Deerfield and no one could physically run unseen passed the canoes all the way to Edward in time to dispatch help for the captive.  No, there was nothing to be done for the boy.

Matty thought as he stared at the ground and suddenly an idea came to him.  The canoes would stay midstream all the way to the shoals for two reasons.  The first was that center stream afforded protection from ambush by allowing them to retreat to the opposite side if set upon by an enemy.   Also, the water was deep and fast just below the upstream portage place and the canoes would no doubt stay midstream where the canoes could not touch bottom.  They would paddle all the way to the shoals before turning toward the shoreline to disembark for portage.   If he could fire upon them when all the canoes were in deep water below the portage place, he may be able to drive them to the opposite shoreline and an opportunity to grab the boy might present itself.  He'd have to reload his rifle quickly and hopefully make the Abenaki's think there was a party of scouts firing on them and not just one man.  If they came to shore on Matty's side of the river, he would be in big trouble, and he figured so would they.  If anything was to be done about the boy it had to be now.

The only way he could get ahead of the canoes was to run back the way he came through the cane and turn north hidden behind the maze of tall cane stalks to a point below the shoals of the river where he could position himself for an ambush on the canoes.  He ran as fast as he could along the edge of the flat plain displaying all the attributes of a seasoned frontiersman.  He was more than that.  He was the only chance a young boy had to live and he was about to deliver retribution to an enemy.
Matty continued along the northern edge of the cane, slowed to a jog and headed for the river where there was heavy brush and three large boulders that would afford him cover.  It would be here directly beside the shoals where he'd await his prey.   A glance downstream showed the canoes slowly approaching two hundred yards away and they were center stream as Matty had predicted. He tried to control his heavy breathing as he knelt down at a spot where two boulders met forming a notch that offered a good line of fire toward the river.  He blew out the old powder from the flash pan and replaced it with new, pulled the hickory ramrod from the thimbles, stood it against the rock face and finally withdrew three rifle balls from his pouch and held them in his left hand.  He would have to reload very quickly and would not use cotton patch material over the powder in the barrel.  He'd ram the rifle ball down the long barrel and seat it against the powder charge as fast as he could after each shot.  A quick look down river proved that the four canoes were still in the deeper water midstream.  Matty was set.

All four boats approached the shoals two by two.  The boy was in the canoe closest to Matty with an Indian in the rear and another in the front paddling toward the shoal.  The young lad sat squarely between them in the center of the boat and he still had his hands tied behind his back.  The water at center stream would be four or five feet deep and under normal circumstances, a person could get himself to shore, but this was not a normal circumstance and the boy didn't have his hands free.  

Matty felt the weight of the three lead balls in his left hand and put them in his mouth as he took careful aim at the chest of the Indian sitting in the rear of the boat that held the captive.  He was remarkably calm as he squeezed the trigger on the long rifle until the rifle cracked loudly and the Indian yelped, dropped the paddle overboard, threw his arms up in the air and tumbled over the side of the canoe emptying all into the water including the Indian in the front and the boy.  Matty quickly primed the flash pan and put his lips over the hole in the end of the long barrel and pushed a lead ball into the hole with his tongue, slapped the side of the barrel with his hand and pushed the ball home with the ramrod.  He was ready for the second shot in under six seconds.  The Indian in the water started for shore and Matty put a ball in his chest.  He crumpled forward and disappeared downstream.  Matty was loaded again and ready for his third shot.  The Indians in the canoes were looking at the shoreline as the long rifle sounded a third time and the ball hit the lead Indian in the second canoe low in the chest and he made a horrid scream and fell forward in the canoe.  The miscreant in the rear of the boat saved it from toppling over.  He paddled hard for the far shoreline, but the rifle hidden behind the boulders sent death, his way with another loud crack and the lead ball found its mark between his shoulder blades.  His head snapped up straight and his upper body suddenly shuttered and then he sat there quietly in the rear of the canoe as it floated gently downstream toward the rocky shoals below.  

The remaining two canoes quickly turned their boats around and paddled as hard as they could back downstream to distance themselves from what they knew was a deadly long rifle and a frontiersman who knew how to use it.  The boy was floundering in the deeper water, but managing to keep his head above the surface.  Matty finished reloading and ran to the river's edge,  gently laid the long rifle down and splashed into the water and grabbed the boy by the arm and pulled him back to the shore where they both stumbled and fell onto the sand.  Matty had his knife out before they left the water and cut the bindings on the young man's wrists. 
Matty asked the boy, "are you alright and can you run? We best get away from here fast as we can before they figure out there's only one of me here."

"I reckon I can.  You mean you're by yourself,"  the boy replied.

"Yep, and we gotta make tracks away from the river and get across this flat plain and into them trees over there."  Matty pointed to a thin line of poplar and oak trees.  It wasn't thick cover, but it would have to do.

"Come on now, you been restin a long time in that canoe and its time to stretch out them long legs."

Matty checked the rifle's prime and started off across the river's plain with the sandy headed boy hot on his heals.
They ran on through the narrow row of hardwoods to the other side and turned south headed for Deerfield.  There was no discussion or small talk of any kind.  The idea was to get as far away from this place and as far south as they could before sundown – and so they ran on.    




 Chapter 16

HOME

Matty slowed the rapid pace to that steady mile eating jog that all seasoned men of the frontier possess.   He was totally aware of his surroundings not missing anything that might be out of the ordinary and the one sound that definitely was out of the ordinary was the panting and gasping for breath coming from the boy that was behind him.  Matty stopped, looked behind him and saw that the boy was standing, bent at the waist with his hands on his knees breathing hard.  It was past time for a break anyhow, and they both moved behind some scrub bushes, sat down and leaned back against a large boulder.

Matty asked the boy, "What's your name lad?"

The boy looked up, wiped his nose with the palm of his hand and answered, "Jasper, Jasper Cook."
"Sorry I didn't tell you my name earlier.  I guess I'm just all messed up after what happened.  If it weren’t for you I'd probably be a goner by now.  Thank you, Mister, ah, Mister"---

"Names Matty Solomon and I'm from Deerfield.  You live in Deerfield too, I'd reckoned?"

"I reckon I do," Jasper replied.

Matty thought a moment and asked Jasper if he knew Benjamin and Mary Green.
Jasper said that he did know the Greens and that Mr. Green passed away a little more than a month ago.

Matty suddenly sat forward, looked directly at Jasper and asked, "do you know a girl named Hanna who stays with the Greens?  Is she alright?"
Jasper replied, "yes, I guess I do remember the girl.  She lives in the Green cabin at the south end of town with Mrs. Green.  My father and I went to the Green's livery to get oats for the horses and Mrs. Green and the girl Hanna were tending the store."

"Hanna is my wife, Jasper," Matty blurted out.  "What took Benjamin Green?  A flux or some other sickness?"

Jasper suddenly turned to face Matty with a startled look on his face and asked, "you're one of Roger's Rangers ain't cha?   Father did say that one of the militiamen in town went up north to Lake George to join the Rangers.  You're him then.   My, my we hear about the Rangers every week from the Whitman news press down in Albany.  The paper comes a week late but at least we get the news about what's goin on around here and especially with the Indians and the French.  I'm sorry.   As I heard it, Mr. Green just sat down on a crate of potatoes and started makin strange sounds and slobberin and all.  Then he just keeled over and that was it.  He's buried in the churchyard.  Sorry to give ya that news."

Matty tensed his jaws and said, "we'd best be movin on now.  If we keep movin we should be in Deerfield by morning.  How do ya feel bout that?"
Jasper grinned and looked at Matty and said, "lets go.  My home is one mile this side of Deerfield and we can stop for some victuals if you like.  My mother would be real happy about you savin me and would feed you pretty good I'd say."
Matty said, "thanks, but I'll just keep right on going to Deerfield.  I was away a long time and I miss my woman pretty bad.  So, you just go ahead and peel off when we get close to your place and we'll meet up in town sometime later I'm sure."
They got up and walked away from the boulder and Matty instantly fell into that all familiar jog that would put him back with Hanna in Deerfield by sun up.  Jasper kept up even though he was tired, but he wouldn't let a member of Roger's Rangers know that he was totally worn out.  No, sir.  He would keep up the pace if it killed him.

The horizon showed the outline of the burned out barn and cabin that belonged to the Fosters.   The Emit Foster farm was two miles north of Deerfield and they were warned it was too far from the Militia if help was needed.  They wouldn't listen and built the cabin and barn in one season.  Abenaki and French Marines raided up and down the Hudson the following year and burned them out, killed them both and took their nine-year-old daughter along with them too, and it was suspected they took her to the Abenaki town of St Francis in Quebec.

It was a half mile past the Foster place that Jasper Cook yelled out the simple words, "see ya," turned to the right and started out across an open field toward a very distant, tiny yellow glow on the horizon.

Matty entered the north end of town as the sun started to light the familiar places that he knew so well and only now discovered how much he missed, this place he called home.  He slowed to a walk and savored every footstep as he moved down the narrow dirt street toward the last cabin in town and Hanna. 


A light shined through the cabin window and softly lighted the porch and Matty could see a shadow moving past the dimly lit, distorted glass of the kitchen window.  He approached the cabin's porch and put his foot on the first step when the door opened and there stood his lovely Hanna.  She stopped, stared in disbelief at the vision before her, dropped the pan of water and potatoes onto the porch and ran into his arms, sobbing continuously and kissing his neck, cheeks and finally their lips met and they embraced tighter until Matty was afraid he'd hurt this beautiful girl he held so tightly in his arms.   He had practiced over and over what he would say to Hanna when he saw her but he found himself without words.  

He pushed her back a bit so he could see her pretty face and she was all smiles and tears.  All the words ever spoken couldn't say what her face told him at that moment.  Then Hanna wiped her eyes, looked at Matty and asked, "you hungry"?  They both smiled and walked hand in hand up the steps and into the house, taking care not to awaken Mrs. Green.

July 10, 1759

Matty loved it when it rained and a gentle warm rain fell all night long.  He enjoyed the special moments with his beautiful wife and the rain just made the feelings special for some reason.  He lingered with her this morning longer than he should have.  He got up, dressed himself and looked down at Hanna's golden hair all wispy, covering her pretty face.  He smiled.  Matty walked out onto Mrs. Green's porch to watch the morning sun come up.

Mrs. Green suffered from an ailment that caused her to constantly cough day and night.  Her strength was fading and she asked Matty and Hannah to stay in the cabin with her and take over the livery business.  This suited Matty as he still had a hard time with the idea of being a farmer.  Oh, he'd do what he had to do for the woman he loved more than his own life but, he just had a difficult time with it.  He had a hundred acres of bottomland up along the Hudson that he eventually wanted to build on and make a home for Hanna and himself, and he would one day, but he felt he owed the Greens a lot.  They were there when his place was burned down and Benjamin gave him work and Mrs. Green allowed Hanna to help at the livery store.  No, he'd see it through here and watch over Mrs. Green's business and keep repairs on the cabin and store.  Matty had built an addition onto the back of the cabin with the help of Jasper Cook, the boy he rescued from the Abenaki's up on the river last season..  Jasper was a fair woodworker for being the son of a homesteader and the addition went up in short time.

A rooster crowed somewhere behind the house and Matty swung his legs over the side of the bed in answer to its call, put his hands down on the mattress and leaned back on them.  Hanna walked in from outside and immediately turned away from Matty, went back out and dry heaved over the porch railing.  This activity of retching every morning became a routine for Hanna over the past week and it concerned Matty to no end.  It always stopped quickly and Hanna was fine for the rest of the day.  Matty took her hand and pulled her down to sit beside him.  It never grew old, this romance they seemed to eternally share.  Each day started the tender feelings anew and it never got stale.  They just fell asleep at the end of the day and it all started back up the next morning and both were happier than they ever figured they could be.  

Matty took Hanna's hand and they walked out onto the porch and over to the railing where he backed against it,  pulling Hanna tight to his chest.  He leaned his head back and looked up at the sky and said to her with a smile on his face, "looks like is gonna rain agin darlin."




EPILOGUE
The French and Indian war had started in a little Glenn in Pennsylvania that later would be named Jumonville Glen in memory of the historic event that took place there.  In late May of 1754, A Young colonial officer named Lieutenant Colonel George Washington along with 40 soldiers had made a camp at a clearing In the forest called Great Meadows.  Shortly after securing this base of operations, Washington heard of a French detachment in the area and decided to investigate.  He and a Mohawk Indian named Half King surrounded the French and during this process, a shot was fired that instigated a struggle that left 13 French soldiers dead and 21 captured.  One Frenchman escaped and headed for Fort Duquesne.  The French officer in charge was Ensign Joseph Coulon de Jumonville.   As the Ensign and Washington approached each other to discuss terms, Half King rushed up behind the Ensign and struck him on top the head with a belt ax, cleaving him to his shoulders. The shot fired in haste at Jumonville was considered to be the first shot of the Seven Year War on the North American Continent.

Washington went back to Great Meadows and eventually was reinforced by and additional 300 men, many South Carolinians.  Ditches were built and a wooden stockade, Fort Necessity, was thrown up rather quickly.  On July 3, The brother of Jumonville, Commander Louis Coulon de Villers with 600 French and 100 Indians attacked the small fortress, fought against the colonials throughout a rainstorm all that day,  and found the enemy to be quite formidable. The British took casualties but gave the same as they received until finally, de Villers sued Washington for surrender which Washington accepted.

Rogers Rangers would be held in high esteem by British as well as the French and a force to reckon with by the Indians who were friendly to the French and their cause.  The Rangers were heralded as masters at forest warfare and continued to be what the French and Indians were afraid of in the night.

The frontier east of the Ohio River was a dark and dangerous place where the mettle of men and women were tested daily and only the brave and strong survived.  The war between the French and the English would continue until 1763 and would be forever known as the spark in the forest that ignited a flame for freedom that fueled an American Revolutionary War.

Matty and Hanah would carry on with their lives in Deerfield while the frontier and the war continued to throw peril and uncertainty their way.  There was talk that Rogers Rangers might be sent on a mission that would chastise the Abenaki Indians and limit their ability to raid into the New York territory and maybe end their terror forever once and for all.  It was just a rumor but word was that Major Rogers would be recruiting men again from New York and Pennsylvania colonies to increase the Ranger ranks.


Matty leaned back until the front legs of the chair lifted off the porch floor and his shoulders touched the cabin wall and he closed his eyes and saw his good friend James Addison standing under the British flag on top that little hill at Rogers Island, waving his arms back and forth in a farewell gesture to Matty.  And a smile came to Matty's face as he wondered what his old friend, Daniel Boone was up to.  He'd sure like to find out.  Yep, he sure would like to find out, and maybe he'd just do that.  Just maybe………