Monday, October 8, 2012

WILDERNESS CONFLICT - a story revisited


I started a story a couple years ago that I never finished for some reason.  I guess I just didn't think anyone was interested in reading a book on a blog site.  It is absolutely factual except for the fictional characters I've inserted.  You'll know who they are.  But, the history is right on.  Today is cold, dark, windy and rainy and I came across my writings while saving files to an external hard drive.  I have been excited by our countries history since before I can remember.  Pennsylvania is where the French and Indian War (The 7 Year War) started at a place called Jummonsville when George Washington confronted a French and Indian contingent sent from Montreal to reinforce the French presence in the new territory.  I'm from Pennsylvania and lived about ten miles from the place George Washington pulled an unwise stunt.  This war was particularly horrible and bloody and tested the fortitude of the American settlers.  In those days men and women were made of stern stuff and hacked their lives out of the wilderness, bearing their children along the way.  I heard that line in Last of The Mohegans.  Its a true statement.  The Ohio River was the western frontier at that time and anyone venturing that direction did so at great peril.  Not only did they venture but they supplied the blood that mixed the mortar to bond the blocks forming the foundation of this great country that so many take for granted today.  The stage was being set for the American Revolution.   Anyway - I thought I would post the four chapters I completed.  If there is any interest by the readers I will continue the story.  If not - I may still continue the story.  Let me know what you think.  No - I'm not a writer by any means.  But, I like to write.  Lets see if I can get the story back up here on the blog.  Hey - its a dull day here.  As a matter of fact I just wrote chapter 5 and it is posted at the end.  10-8-12 and I made a chapter 6.  It is now at the end.

THE STORY   Chapter 1


Two hundred axes slammed into tree trunks creating a constant staccato of thuds. Morning till night the sounds of men felling trees continued. Boys and women were busy hacking and pulling the cut brush as far back into the woods as possible. Ten teams of oxen were hitched repeatedly to fallen trees. 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 on every shrub or low tree limb that would bear the weight of the garments. The men swinging the axes were 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 large group of men since the 29Th of May. It was now July 5, 1755. There were twenty two hundred men with General Edward Braddock on his march to capture Fort Duquesne on the west side of the Monongahela River. The going was slow. Less than two miles per day was made. 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. 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. 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. Colonel Thomas Dunbar would command the supply column and baggage wagons. This supply column would fall far behind the main thrust. July 7 and 9 found the flying column being harassed by occasional rifle fire from deep in the woods. Their adversaries could not be seen. The only indication of the enemy was the lingering puff of white 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 Ottawas, 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. Braddock 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. The enemy scattered left and right disappearing into the forest. Seconds later the sounds of musket and rifle fire could be heard and the associated white puffs of smoke could be seen from whence the shots originated. The shooting began as a few occasional sharp cracks had 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 lobster backs into long ranks and had the men step out away from the line in groups of forty men. These groups of forty 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 white puffs of smoke that lingered above a fired enemy gun. Balls could be heard whizzing by and smacking hard into tree wood with a sound resembling a large stone striking a tree when thrown. Sounds of Ka Thunk, were led balls striking human bodies. That sound was on the increase. The British formations were being decimated. Some formations of forty men were quickly reduced to ten and less. The air was thick with the smell of burned gun powder. It had an acrid stench to it and burned the eyes. Screams could be heard from the forest as Indians were growing eager in their success. 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 heart beat later  his newly acquired gray stallion was felled by a bullet to its forehead. It lay on its side, legs thrashing - it neared death. General Braddock was given yet another horse and mounted it from the right side in an ungraceful manner.
The British formation blocks were deteriorating. The dead and dying were many. Soon groups of red coats were breaking away from the conflict and running back toward the rear. They were 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 aids and carried along toward the rear of the fighting, shuffling through the hoards of frightened red coats who ran, crawled and limped as best they could. The entire fifteen hundred man force was in retreat. The Colonials held their positions, laying down heavy musket fire, to cover the British exit. The French pushed forward until the militia found it prudent to evacuate. They ran on and on. They were beaten. They had ideas of surrender. But they ran harder at that thought. They had heard of what becomes of prisoners taken by savage Indians. The French and Indians played a harassing game. They were like mosquitoes; here, there and everywhere. Lobster backs were falling from their rifle cracks. The holes were in the back; 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. The two groups collided on the small road. The fleeing troops instilled terror into the wagon drivers and the two columns of troops that travelled 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 South East. Drivers were jumping off the slow moving wagons pulled by oxen and hitching rides on the swift moving horse drawn supply rigs. Soldiers tried to cling to the wagon boxes with one hand and attempted to run along side only to fall and be run over by the wagon wheels. Their haste to get away would assure their capture by the enemy. 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 was gut shot. He passed 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. 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. 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. 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. So 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.
The young man's name was Matthew Solomon. He was known as Matty for short. His father was a farmer and a black smith in the colonies of Central Maryland. Most children of the time would follow their father or mother's foot steps and simply continue on in life as tillers of the soil or farmers wives. But young Matty always had a wander lust about him. He 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 travelled over the frontier. He would work temporary, odd jobs in towns that had no names. Enough money would be collected to sustain him with food, gun powder and ball for his rifle 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 tail gate of a colonial militia supply wagon. It 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. Matty tore the poster from the tail gate and sloshed through the muddy path called a street 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 quarter master in the morning to receive his wagon rig. One thing bothered him.  Why would they want men of adventure? He would find out. He made his appearance at the appointed place at 6AM 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. Others were obviously straight from the farm. For the most part they were young and, at the least, clean. A militia man 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. The militia man 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 after noon. So, say your goodbyes to loved ones and God speed and stay you safe".
 So this was it., The promise of adventure made his blood hot. He was almost giddy with excitement. He 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. The lobster backs were assembled four abreast and formed 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.


Matty was 6 foot tall and weighed 195 pounds at 19 years of age. He worked hard on his father’s farm since he was ten years old. 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. 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 forests. This was usually on Sundays. He was intensely interested in all animals and plant life of the woods. He would watch deer, elk, otter and was especially curious about eagles and hawks. Those high flying, soaring birds fascinated him. He soon became a part of this wild environment.  Matty 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. All things, plant and animal, 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. 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. He extended his right hand out to his son. When Matty grasped his fathers hand, the old man leaped to his feet pulling Matty toward him, released the hand shake grip and threw both arms around Matty'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 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. 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. The rawhide was just long enough to sling the travel roll over his shoulder. At 7:00 AM Sunday morning, Matty hugged his mother on the cabin porch. He used light but firm pressure to hold her against him. His father came onto the porch carrying a package wrapped in heavy paper saturated in bear grease. The bear grease would make it water proof. 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 stair. He then turned and walked down the path and entered the woods at 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 night fall he had happened onto a small stream that flowed north to south at the base of the Allegheny foot hills. Up until now the going had been easy. The ground was flat and lightly forested with tall, slender pines. In short, he made good time travelling more than 23 miles since sun up. He would camp here for the night under a huge hemlock that towered above the tallest tree in view. He unrolled his blanket and spread it on the ground and lay down upon his back. He looked up through the tree, his eyes searching through the branches. It was interesting how the limbs all seemed to grow straight out from the trunk then slope downward and out at an Angle. When viewed altogether as a whole, the traditional pine tree shape was created. Round tree, larger at the bottom, and tapering to a point on top.  Amazing,  he thought!  He rolled onto his right side and noticed the box his father had given him. 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. Both 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. The opening had a flap that was held closed by a narrow rawhide strip twisted around a wooden dowel that pushed through the box from the inside. The dowel protruded through a hole in the flap thereby holding the flap closed. He 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 needle point. 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 piece of craftsmanship he thought. It was of heavy steel with impeccable craftsmanship and contained a finish as smooth and bright as a mirror. An inscription was etched on the left side of the blade. It read; Solomon 1750. Solomon - Father - Did his father make this blade? He must have. But, when and where? It had to be back in England. Father only had Coopers tools good only for making barrel hoops and wagon wheel bands. Could his father have created this fine 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 the leather sheath. The sheathed knife was inserted behind his pant belt on his right side. All seemed right with the world. He felt more complete and somehow, more secure with the knife at his disposal. He gathered up his belongings and moved on toward the south 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. The Fort was built as a depot to house and stock pile 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. The old depot was expanded and a formidable defensible fortification was created. 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 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 red coats would step in front of the wagon. Matty and the wagon driver could hear the rifle cracks behind them. They were about an eighth of a mile back, but that was too close for Matty.
Matty addressed the young wagon driver; "What's your name?"
 "Boone, Daniel Boone."
Boone was all of 6'3". He was dressed head to toe in dirty deer skin garments. The deer skin over shirt was worn on the outside of the pant. On his feet were leather moccasins. His hands were large. 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 sun tanned 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 calibre to be .36. The inscription was on the lock plate. Someday he would own such a rifle.
Boone drove the team at a steady pace. Actually it was a snail's pace. 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. Many of them had followed other military engagements and were familiar with roaming the battle field for spoils. Those battles were fought in the traditional European style of warfare. Battles on European soil saw regiments and companies of combatants align themselves parallel with each other, stand and fire into the ranks. They would be torn with rifle ball and grape shot until one side called retreat. The women would appear for the treasures that lay about amongst the fallen. They would rifle each fallen man's garments for loot. It didn't matter which side was the victor. Spoils of war were spoils of war. However, the fighting here in the Americas on this frontier was vastly different. The Indian's and the French did not line up in ranks to be decimated. They 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. Guerrilla fighting. The British were slow to take note. The Colonials, however, knew no other way of fighting. The Indians were the teachers to all.
The sharp cracks of rifles could be heard from behind them. The Indian's were murdering the wounded lobster backs. Those who could not keep up were left to their own fate. A loud shriek off to the right caused Boone and Matty to both snap their heads in unison in that direction. A naked savage broke out of the forest and was running full out toward four wounded red coats who were limping along the road. The easy prey must have proven too enticing for him. He brandished a war club in his right hand. An awesome weapon! It had a two foot long handle with a round stone the size of a grape fruit bound to the business end of it. He raised the club 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. He was stationary. Blood covered his right leg which he had lifted and bent at the knee. Matty was spell bound as he watched the painted savage charging the soldier in kilts. He snapped out of it when he heard Boone yell,
 "shoot, shoot now!  Hurry, now!"
Matty acted dumb founded. 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, and fell forward and lay still, flat on his stomach, face down. A gentle zephyr blew away the white smoke from the fritzen and the muzzle blast. The wagon slowed near the injured red coats and Matty jumped out to assist them into the wagon box. He 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 men will kill you if you don't shoot first.   And there methods ain't Christian if they ketch ya."
Boone had a disgusted look on his face when he told Matty,
 "Don't think of em as men right off.   Think of em as vermin.   Later, when ya git used to killen em, you can think of em as enemy men."
Matty felt embarrassed. He did not act quickly. He didn't act at all. Boone did it all. 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 ram rod and slid it back into the thimbles. Then Boone sat the rifle, butt first, onto the wagon box floor so that it was propped beside him 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. It was necessary to his existence on the frontier. And so would a rifle be. Some way, some how, 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 night fall. The main contingent of French and Canadians had left the battle field and returned toward Ft Duquesne. Some Indians still followed along keeping well hidden 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 who 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. A large stone was embedded in the pulpy part of the hoof. If allowed to continue the horse would lose its ability to walk. Boon 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. He withdrew his trades 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 "its our duty to deprive the enemy of supplies."   These two horses are to be killed.   We will go on foot."
 "No!" Matty replied.  Turn em 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 harnesses. 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 helped the four Britt’s climb down out of the wagon. 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. Matty 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 sitting and lying about while the two worked out the disposition of the horses. Most were badly wounded. 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 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 zinging sound could be heard from a ricochet ball. Sometimes the rifle balls could be heard passing through tree limbs and stopping with a thud in a thicker piece of tree wood. The Indians were playing their harassment game. They would follow the retreating army and snipe at them from far back in the darkness.
 "Lets get goin", Matty said rather urgently.
 Boone lead 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 forty to fifty miles in a single day. Matty fell in stride behind Boone. He continuously twisted his head from side to side searching the shadows under the trees for their adversaries. At a small creek Boone stopped and they 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. 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 vertical. A circle about 40 feet in diameter was created by the poles. In the center of the circle was a small one room cabin. Mounds of dirt were created thirty feet from the stockade to provide troops protection while they fired on the enemy. The meadow itself was protection as anyone attacking the small stockade would have to come out of the woods and cross the open expanse of ground between forest and stockade. This was Great Meadows -  better known as Fort Necessity. It was constructed quickly out of dire necessity. George Washington and two companies of Colonials hastily threw this little fort together in winter two years ago when they discovered a large contingent of French and Indians closing in on them. The French laid siege to the fort but could not break the will of its inhabitants. They finally sued for terms of surrender and Colonel Washington and his men were 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
They were in for a cold night. No fire would be lighted for fear it would be a beacon for the Indian miscreant scouts of the French. They gathered pine boughs and laid them along side the cabin walls to lie upon. Matty plopped down on his bed with a sigh and a groan. His legs were tired keeping pace with the frontiersman. It seemed Boone never grew weary. His endurance seemed endless. Boone set a pace and never varied from it. 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. He watched Boone in the waning light as Boone carefully inspected his rifle that carried the name Tick Licker. Matty studied Boone's profile. The face was an honest face, the jaw cut sharp with a prominent chin. Boone's nose had the appearance of being a bit large for the narrow face. The mouth was proportionate with everything else and his lips narrow. When Boone was in deep thought, those lips would close tightly together forming what appeared to be a straight horizontal line under Boone's nose. Overall a handsome man, but a bit ungainly, Matty thought. Boone was not an arrogant man but Matty noticed an ere about Boone that bespoke hidden rage. Matty wondered what it would take to unleash that characteristic in his companion.
"I reckon we'll head due south just before sun rise 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 on Boone's statement and replied,

 "Think I'll head further east and south to drop dead south and over toward Ft Cumberland. My folks live that way. They're due a visit."

 "Suit yerself.  Yer likely to run into Boushways or Pottawatomie's 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 of a French officer's horse and run along side 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 weather to shoot or not."

 Boone was referring to the incident back in the wagon where Matty hesitated to use Boone's rifle. Matty swore to himself that would never happen again.
The gray sky's of morning promised a wet day. The air was cold and thick with moisture. Boone commented that snow might be a possibility. It was day break and the sun would surely warm up the latter hours.
They both gathered their possibles and moved to the cabin door. Each lowered himself to one knee, Boone on the left and Matty on the right side of the door way. Their heads slowly moved into the door opening for a better view of the surrounding forest. This caution was necessary for obvious reasons.

 "I'll walk out and turn south into the woods.   You cover me from here.  Then I'll watch you when you come," said Boone.  Make sure that musket is primed with dry powder Matty.   Blow out the old stuff and re prime the pan with this."

 Boone handed Matty a goat horn filled with fine pan powder for the fritzen of his musket. Matty did as Boone instructed. With rifles ready, Boone stood vertical and exited the cabin through the door while Matty leveled the musket toward the woods whence they came. 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 as it was 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 disconcert for danger. The hammer, however, was back and the trigger set on the big gun. Matty had a feeling of security at the heft of the weapon in his hand.
A sudden rush of heat flushed over Matty's face as adrenalin shot through his body. He heard running feet behind him; a rapid thud, thud of someone running really fast toward him. As he turned to look behind him he caught a movement off to his right. A Savage had run out into the open from the edge of the woods at the north side of the meadow. Never stopping, Matty looked behind him to see a French Boucheway 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 Roger's Rangers.
Matty picked up the pace as he saw the Indian reach behind him to a quiver and withdraw an arrow and fit it to his bow.
 "Where was Boone?   He's supposed to be covering me."

 Matty felt the first stages of panic. He ran hard. The Indian to his right had run not only toward him but also to where he would intersect Matty if his arrow missed its mark. 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. 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 re-creation of the scene in the wagon from yesterday. Matty put it all together in his head instantly. Boone had taken the shot and dropped the savage. His gun was empty now and Boone knew the Canadian Boucheway would be on Matty before Boone 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. Matty could see the surprised look on his adversaries face as the boucheway 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 turned. Matty pulled the trigger and the big 58 caliber musket recoiled back into his shoulder. White smoke obliterated the view in front of him. His attacker lay flat on his back, his face covered by a bloody mess, 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 said.

Matty didn't understand why the Canadian didn't shoot sooner. Of course Boone had the answer.

"He only had a pistol. Only good at close range.  If he'd a shot at ya and missed, you would have put him in a bad sityeaton 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. No, 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 cause we ain't got time to go careful."

At that Boone turned and took off running. He quickly fell into a steady, casual run. Matty had just fitted the ram rod back into the thimbles under the barrel of his musket after reloading. He quickly closed the gap Boone had gained and fell into the identical pace of his companion.
Boone slowed and stopped after about five miles. Matty came up beside him and went down on to his left knee at rest.

Boone said,  “I'm goin straight south from here to Fort Ligonier.   It's only a day and a half run.   I'd advise you to come along Matty.  The French will have scouts out now.   Them scouts will be savage 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 recon you will," said Boone.  Alright friend - this is whar we split; " Boone said.
 Looking at Matty Boone said,  "remember, run with the sun anywhere but in front of ya and keep the woods close so ya can run and hide.  Indians is like wolves with a brain.  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 deer skin shirt until he was out of sight completely. Suddenly the realization that he was all alone hit him. He was on his own again.


Journey Back
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. He would switch it 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. It was only half the length of a long rifle 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. It was desirable to throw as much led toward the lines of enemy soldiers as possible. Its use was incorporated primarily in the European theater of battle where combatants fought in a gentlemanly fashion. Here, in the Americas, accuracy was of prime concern. Nothing was as accurate as the  Pennsylvania long rifle. These weapons contained rifling in the barrels. When the powder charge in the breach of the rifle was ignited, the patched ball would rotate down the barrel due to contact between the patch and the rifling's in the barrel. The result would be a rotating projectile that would exit the muzzle. The result is a highly accurate shot out to 150 yards. The British musket in comparison was primarily a fifty yard weapon with a ten to twelve inch impact zone at that distance. A long rifle in the hands of an expert frontiersman could consistently hold to a half inch impact area at a hundred yards. Lighter weight and the most accurate shoulder weapons in existence at the time make these rifles the most sought after possessions by the American Frontiersman and Colonial Skirmishers. They were designed for the very light .31 caliber ball, but were useful, due to their accuracy, in shooting any wild game on the Eastern frontier, including humans.
Matty slowed to a stop at a small waterfall. He laid the heavy musket down and on hands and knees, leaned down and drank heavily from the cold stream. Rising up and sitting on his haunches he surveyed his surroundings. He was certain no enemy could get close to him without the sounds of moving brush and leaves. It was very dense with foliage here. He was uneasy though. He remembered the occurrences of the morning. Then he had Boone as a companion. He would be self reliant now. It would be prudent to show care in his travels. The stream flowed south and east much in the direction he wished to go. He stepped into the icy water and proceeded to walk briskly down the stream. He would continue in this fashion until the stream meandered in a non desirable direction. He travelled in the very shallow stream for an hour. Suddenly 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. He then stepped off the log onto a boulder and jumped from one huge stone to another until he had moved about fifty yards from the stream. Upon standing on forest soil once again, he grasped the musket in his right hand; arm extended straight down, and assumed the frontiersman's gate that would carry him to nightfall.
Matty did not follow the trail but there was a natural strip of low grass that grew out of a depression in the ground that he had been following in a southerly direction for miles. It was a now dry stream bed that had grown up in bright green grass.

"Probably hasn't seen nuf water in two years 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 near by that ran full with clean, crystal water that would be good to camp along. But to be found at the side of one of them asleep would be a death sentence. It was nearly dark and Matty stepped onto a log that had fallen across the dry stream bed and carefully walked off his path to the tree's uprooted trunk. The land climbed rapidly at that point and Matty decided to walk up the steep hill side. After forty feet he had to grasp hold of saplings with his free hand so that his feet would not bear his entire weight and slip on the near vertical ground. Just then a ledge appeared that cut back into the hillside nearly twenty feet. It would be here that Matty would spend the night. He didn't even unroll his blanket. He laid the blanket roll on the ground against the bank farthest away from the edge of the hill and flopped down onto the earth unceremoniously and put his head on the rolled wool bundle and instantly fell asleep.
Matty opened his eyes and glared into a bright moon. The white orb appeared to hang from the stubby, rotten limb on an old hickory snag that was clinging to the hillside above him. Something had stirred him from his sound sleep. There it was again. Talking. There were men below him and they were speaking French. 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 hillside. Morning's light, however, may offer the French and Indians proof of his passing. They may send a scout to try and overtake him while the rest continue on in their intended direction. He must leave well before day break. He would carefully move 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 the French. The French and Indians 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. The sky became cloudy and the moon was nearly covered in a cloak of darkness. A drizzle of cold rain began to fall. These were perfect conditions 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 they were there. He moved out across the side of the hill as quietly as he could. The going was slow. He could not afford to slip and cause any noise. 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.

Just before sun up the French and Indian camp had awakened. The morning necessaries were administered to and weapons were gathered. The entire group of twenty French and Nine Seneca Indians were ready to move out in less than ten minutes. The sun was coming up fast though. 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 scouts 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 direction to the Indian contingent. At his arrival, he spoke rapidly and pointed to the hill side where they camped. Then they both trotted over to the site to inspect it. The Lieutenant motioned to two savages who were approaching and pointed to the ground. Each of the two Indians looked up the hill momentarily and started the ascent. The rest fell in with the French. It looks like Matty would be followed.

Matty's trail was easy to follow. The two Senecas had no trouble seeing the places where Matty's feet slid on the steep bank. They were expert trackers and were travelling almost as fast as Matty was. They both carried French muskets, a horn full of rifle powder and another smaller horn filled with fine flash powder. The taller of the two Indians had a wicked tomahawk held to his deer skin leggings with a length of rawhide. A trade’s knife was tucked into the waistband of his breech clout. His partner was well muscled but with shorter legs. When running it appeared his legs were moving twice as fast as his taller peer. Occasionally they would slow or stop to inspect some bit of information that pertained to their prey. After brief discussions they would be off again on their mission.

Matty ran on until eleven o clock. His course lead him out onto a triangular promontory that offered a view of a large valley far below. He sat down to catch his breath and allowed 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, but they were there. He was not certain if he was in Pennsylvania or Cumberland territory. He thought he assuredly would be in or very near Cumberland. He had travelled southeast and then south for most of the morning. He must work his way down off this plateau to the valley floor where he could really make good travel time. He was hearing a strange tick, tick off in the distance. It didn't sound anything like he had ever heard. The sounds weren't constant. They were sporadic. He didn't give them much thought. Standing up, he carefully looked about him, then set out on a slower run down the mountain toward the valley. The mountain side became very steep. Matty slowed to a walk and clung to trees and boulders as he carefully chose his foot placement. The tick, ticks were louder now. It was obvious it was gun fire Matty heard. That much gunfire on the frontier could only mean someone was in a struggle for their life. Matty was already heading toward the direction of the sounds. 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. Someone made an attempt to plow it but must have given up. The broken wooden plow sat at the far edge of the little clearing - a testimonial to the very rocky soil. The gun fire 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 rotten stump. A cabin was sitting well in the center of a clearing. It had to be a one room affair due to its small size. Rifles were protruding through the front windows. Occasionally a white 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. One a female and the other a male. White puffs of smoke would appear from just inside the tree line at the edge of the clearing. Matty guessed there were no more than two or maybe three of the enemy. A scream was heard emanating from the cabin. Then another.  Matty noted only one rifle was firing from the cabin now. If there were 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. 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 people in the woods. He stopped when he reached a position 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. The Indian carried 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 fritz en. 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. The musket should prove accurate. Matty knew that there was still 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 white smoke and 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. He lead the Indian by a good foot and squeezed the heavy trigger. The big gun exploded and white 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 had pulled the knife from its sheath in his belt before his feet touched the clearing. A third body lay on the ground beside the previous two. Someone was screaming in the cabin. Pottery was breaking and a woman was crying. Without slowing down, Matty threw his weight onto the front door with his shoulder. It flew from its leather hinges and landed flat onto the floor and 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. His right held a French trade’s knife. 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 shoved a heavy circular table across the seven foot of floor into the Seneca's legs. The big Indian fell forward onto the table with his back exposed. Matty's knife entered the savages back between his shoulder blades. The Indian's entire body twitched violently. He tried to lift his head up to look at Matty and to spit upon him. But his spittle only fell to the table. And in a few short seconds he spat blood. And then he lay still. Matty slowly approached the Indian and slapped him on the back of the head a few times to guarantee that his 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 breach clout. He inserted the knife into its sheath and stepped to the rifle that lay on the floor. He 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. He couldn't leave the girl, and he wouldn't. There was a body lying just under the far window on the floor. It was a young boy of no more than fourteen or fifteen. There was blood on his shirt near his heart. His eyes were partially open and glazed. Beside the boy lay a rifle. Matty's eyes opened wide. He reached down and picked it up. A fine long rifle of superb quality. It may have been finer even than Boone's. It was a full stock Pennsylvania long rifle of .31 caliber. The wood was chestnut and the stock 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. It had two triggers. The rear trigger or set trigger, would allow the front trigger to contact the sear. When the front trigger was squeezed the sear would trip the mainspring which would drive the hammer that held the flint into the fritz en. This would create a spark that would ignite the flash powder in the flash pan and send a spark through the touch hole and into the main charge of powder behind the patched ball. It was a beautiful rifle. There was a pouch of led balls for it lying on the floor. Matty tucked the pouch in his deer skin shirt after removing one of the balls. He then loaded and primed the rifle.
A soft moan came from the girl on the floor. 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 mam.   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 mam".

 Matty knew the next question.

 "Could we bury them?"

 "No Hanna, 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 hers.  He then walked to the edge of the clearing and 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. These he tossed 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. He walked out of the room. Any heathen coming this way would not find a white body to hack to pieces. They would find two dead Indian attackers. If Matty and Hanna were lucky, their trail away from the cabin would be overlooked. Matty could not know that two pair of eyes were 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 man. 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 cabin. Flames were shooting through the roof. 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 mountain side toward the burning cabin.

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 wild flowers. 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. He 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 s 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 deep.”
He walked over to her and slapped her across the face. Hanna snapped her head around to face him and she had tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry. Looky here miss – what’s done is done and it can’t be changed. If we don’t hurry along we’ll be caught. Our only chance is to keep moving until we get close to Fort Cumberland. 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, a Huron, stopped abruptly and placed the palm of his hand on an invisible mark on the ground and looked up at the shorter of the two, a Seneca, and voiced his opinion concerning the find. 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 Seneca jumped up excitedly and took two rapid steps to a log – the same log Matty sat on. The Huron stood up 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 deep. The two trackers instantly put all the sign together and the story unfolded to them that they were following two whites who were moving slowly and – awkwardly through the forest – their environment.

Matty knew they would be found if they stopped for the night. The pursuers would be relentless and follow without rest. Hanna and he had to make it to the fort or find a scout party before dark. He doubted Hanna could move through the wilderness at night. She was exhausted even now. 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. It was a field. Huge piles of unburned trees were piled on the edge of the huge field on the opposite side where the forest once again commenced. It was too late in the year to plow and plant and the field was left unattended, probably until spring. They had to be close to a settlement and that meant that 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’s edges that surrounded the big open space on three sides. To walk around the entire field would take over two hours. The brush was dense and many trees were 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. Matty paced back and forth slowly, deep in thought, constantly looking at the open field. A decision had to be made, and quickly. Darkness was setting in. He opened the fritzen on his rifle and blew the fine black powder out of the flash pan. Fresh priming powder was poured into the pan and the fritzen closed.

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 these many miles from her skirmish with the Indians at the cabin.
“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,” Matty said.

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. Their 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 blood lust – yer don fur. A friend named Boone told me once 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. Boone told him to walk in any direction except into the sun back at Great Meadows. Matty had no choice. They would have to walk directly into the afternoon sun. there was no other way.

Matty helped Hanna to her feet and they stepped out into the field to hurry along toward the open end of the horseshoe.

Half way across the field, Matty stopped Hanna. He turned and looked back across the area they had just come from. An Indian stepped out into the open and looked back at him, 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 as they could see the long rifle Matty cradled in the crook of his left arm. All participants stood motionless sizing up the moment.


Matty felt a chill run down the back of his neck.  He wished his friend Boone was here but – he wasn’t.  It was all up to Matty.  What would Boone 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.  Then he would be 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 grabbed Hanna’s arm and turned her to face away from the heathens.  Then Matty stood up as tall as he could, turned toward the opening in the long meadow and the two proceeded to slowly walk 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.  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.  How did Boone become so smart?

The taller of the two red men grew anxious.  He shifted his weight from one foot to the other.  His face showed anger that grew more and more by the second.  The whites were ignoring their presence as if they were invisible.  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.  He was on the verge of some important action but seemed not to be able to implement it.  He turned to his left and angrily uttered some direction to his friend.   Then they both started to walk toward Matty and Hanna.

Matty heard the gibberish behind him and instantly knew something was afoot.  He turned around quickly to see both Indians casually following them at a walk.  Matty turned back around and continued to walk on at a casual 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 in 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 on the tallest man.  The two Indians instantly turned left and right and each ran toward the opposite edges of the open field.  They then turned and ran back across the field toward each other.  They were only 50 yards behind Matty.  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 upon 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 and returned toward each other once more.  As they approached 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 lowered the muzzle of the rifle 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.  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 back swing 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.  He then quickly pulled himself up the man’s body until they were face to face.  Matty held the wrists of his opponent. The red man was powerful and Matty could not hold his position on top of him.  Matty could not keep the hands from closing upon his throat and his breath was leaving him.  He struggled but could not dislodge the imp.  Then the pressure on his neck relaxed and breath came once again.  Matty drew in deep breaths but his lungs cried for more.  His eyes looked into the miscreants face and he saw a face with a surprised look on it.  The Indian toppled over and off Matty.  Matty jumped to his feet ready to continue the fight.  It was then that he saw the hilt of his knife protruding from the back of the red man.  Hanna had plunged the terrible weapon into the Indian’s back between his shoulder blades.

Matty glanced around the open field and looked down at the Indian at his feet.  He reached down and grunted as he withdrew the long blade from the back of his foe and wiped it clean on the Indians leggings.  He stood looking at Hanna speechless.  The long rifle laid on the ground a couple steps away and he stooped down, picked the rifle up and reloaded it.  Again he looked at Hanna.  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.  They moved toward each other and Matty embraced her and pulled her tight to himself.  His hand gently cradled the back of her head and drew it to his chest.  The arm around her back pulled her to him in a gentle squeeze.  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.