When Men Grew Tall, or The Story Of Andrew Jackson
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The General’s scouts tell him that the scattered Creeks are collecting in force at the Horseshoe. Upon this news, one bright morning the General rides out of Fort Strother, and his recuperated hunting-shirt men, two thousand strong, are at his back.
The Horseshoe is a loop-like bend in the Tallapoosa, which incloses a round one hundred heavily-timbered acres. Across the open end, three hundred and fifty yards wide, the British engineers have taught the Creeks to throw up a fortification of logs. Behind this bulwark is gathered the fighting flower of the Creeks, more than one thousand warriors in all.
Arriving in front of the log bulwark, the General, with the experienced Coffee, pushes forward to reconnoiter.
“We can thank the British for that,” says the General, tossing his indignant right hand toward the Creek defenses. “Billy Weathers-ford, even with the half-white blood that’s in him, would never have designed it.”
The astute Coffee makes a suggestion and, acting on it, the General dispatches him by a roundabout march to take the Creeks from behind. The fatuous savages flatter themselves that the wide-flowing Tallapoosa will defend their rear. All they need do, they think, is lie behind those English-log breastworks and knock over whatever obnoxious paleface shows his head. This is an admirable programme, and comforting to the cockles of the aboriginal heart. There is but one trouble; it won’t work.
As the circuitous Coffee begins to swing wide for his stealthy creep to the rear, the General covers the strategy with a brace of brawling nine-pounders. Inside the log breastworks, he hears the “tunk! tunk!” of the “medicine” drum, and the measured chant of the prophets promising victory. In the midst of the prophetic chantings and the dull thumping of the tomtoms, the nine-pounders roar and bury their shot in the log breastworks. The shot do no harm, and serve but to excite the ribald mirth of the Creeks. The latter can speak enough English for the purposes of insult, and scoff and jeer at the General, whom they describe – having in mind his lean form – as a lance shaft, harmless, because wanting a keen head. They storm at him with opprobrious epithet, and invite him, unless he be a coward, to come to them over their breastworks. The General pays no heed to the contumely of the Creeks; he is bending his ear to catch, above the din of his nine-pounders, the earliest signal of the redoubtable Coffee’s attack.
Colonel Coffee and his riflemen, horses at a walk, pick their difficult way through the woods. It is a matter of no little time before they find themselves at the toe of the Horseshoe, and in the ignorant rear of the Creeks. Between them and those one hundred tree-grown acres held by the enemy flows the Tallapoosa – turbid, wide and deep. Across, they see the canoes, which the stupidity of the Creeks has left without so much as a squaw or a papoose to guard them. In a moment, a score have thrown off their hunting shirts, and are in the river.They swim like so many Newfoundlands, and come out dripping, but happy, on the farther side. Presently each of the swimming score is upon his return trip, towing a dozen of the largest canoes.
Leaving a horse guard to look after the mounts, Colonel Coffee embarks his command in the canoes; ten minutes later, the last fighting man jack of them is on the other side. They hear the boom of the nine-pounders, and the yells and war shouts of the Creeks. Also they discover the wickiups of the Creeks, hidden away, with their squaws and papooses, in a thickety corner of the wood.
Colonel Coffee, who, for all he is a backwoodsman, is not without certain sparks and spunks of military skill, sets fire to the wickiups, as an excellent sure method of wringing the withers and distracting the attention of the fighting Creeks at the front. The flames go crackling skyward; the squaws and papooses rush yelling from the slight houses of wattled willow twigs and bark, and scuttle into the underbrush like rabbits. Unlike rabbits, being in the underbrush, they set up such a dismal tempest of howls, that those rearmost Creeks who hear it come running to learn what disaster has seized upon their households.
Before they can make extensive inquiry, Colonel Coffee and his riflemen open on them with a storm of bullets; and next, each man takes a tree. The war now proceeds Creek fashion, every man – white and red – fighting for himself. There is a difference, however; for while the hunting-shirt men are dead shots, the Creeks prove themselves such wretchedly bad marksmen – not understanding a rear sight, which article of gun furniture is a mystery to the Indian mind even unto this day – as to provoke a deal of hunting-shirt laughter.
Slowly but surely the Creeks give way before that low-flying sleet of lead. As they give way, running from one tree to another, their hunting-shirt foe presses forward – as deadly a skirmish line as ever commander threw out!
The quick ear of the General catches the firing down at the toe of the Horseshoe. It tells him that Colonel Coffee is busy with the Creek rear. Also, he gets a far-off glimpse, through the trees, of the smoke and flames from those burning wickiups, and understands the message of them.
Drawing off the futile nine-pounders, the General orders a charge, the amateur artillerists taking up their rifles with the others. At the word, the hunting-shirt men rush forward, and go over the log breastworks like cats.
The one earliest to scale the breastworks – quick as a panther, strong as a bear – is Ensign Sam Houston. The Southwest will hear more of him before all is done. That lively youth, however, is not thinking of the future; for an arrow, excessively of the present, has just pierced his thigh, and is demanding his whole attention. Shutting his teeth like a trap to control the pain, he snaps the shaft and draws the arrow from the wound. A moment later, the surgeon bandages it.
The General is standing near, and waxes conservative touching Ensign Sam Houston.
“Don’t go back!” commands the General shortly. “That arrow through your leg should be enough.”
Ensign Sam Houston says nothing, but the moment his commander’s back is turned rushes headlong over those log breastworks again. Later he is picked up with two bullets in him, which serve to keep him quiet for nigh a fortnight.
Once the hunting-shirt men are across the log breastworks, a slow and painstaking killing ensues. Not a Creek asks quarter; not a Creek accepts it when tendered. It is to be a fight to the death – a fight unsparing, relentless, grim!
“Remember Fort Mims!” shout the hunting-shirt men, working away with, rifle and axe and knife.
The Creeks, caught between the General and Colonel Coffee, hide in clumps of bushes or behind logs. From these slight coverts, the hunting-shirt men flush them, as setters flush birds, and shoot them as they fly. Once a Creek is down, out flashes the ready hunting knife and a Creek scalp is torn off; for the hunting-shirt men, on a principle that fights Satan with fire, have adopted the war habits of their red enemy.
The hunting-shirt men range up and down, quartering those one hundred acres of Horseshoe wood like hounds, killing out in all directions. Now and then a warrior, sorely crowded, leaps into the Tallapoosa, and strikes forth for the opposite shore. His feather-tufted head is seen bobbing on the muddy surface of the river. To gentlemen who, offhand, make nothing of a turkey’s head at one hundred yards, those brown bobbing feather-tufted Creek heads are child’s play. A rifle cracks; the shot-pierced Creek springs clear of the water with a death yell, and then goes bubbling to the bottom. Sometimes two rifles crack; in which double event the Creek takes with him to the bottom two bullets instead of one.
The slaughter moves forward slowly, but satisfactorily, for hours. It is ten o’clock in the night when the last Creek is killed, and the hunting-shirt men, hungry with a hard day’s work, may think on supper. Of the red one thousand and more who manned those British-built fortifications in the morning, not two-score get away. It is the Creek Thermopylae.
The General’s triumph at the Horseshoe puts the last paragraph to the last chapter of the Creek wars. Also, it disappoints certain English prospects, and defeats for all time those savage hopes of a general race battle against the paleface, the fires of which the dead Tecumseh so long supported by his eloquence and fed with deeds of valor. By way of a finishing touch, from which the hue of romance is not wanting, the terrible Weathersford rides in, on his famous gray war horse, and gives himself up to the General.
“You may kill me,” says Weathersford. “I am ready to die, for I have beheld the destruction of my people. No one will hereafter fear the Creeks, who are broken and gone. I come now to save the women and little children starving in the forest.”
The hunting-shirt men, not at all sentimental, lift up their voices in favor of slaying the chief. At that the General steps in between.
“The man who would kill a prisoner,” he cries, “is a dog and the son of a dog. To him who touches Weathersford I promise a noose and the nearest tree.”
The General leads his hunting-shirt men by easy marches back to that impatient plenty which awaits their coming on the Cumberland. The public welcomes him with shout and toss of hat, while the blooming Rachel gives her hero measureless love and tenderness. The General’s one hundred and fifty slaves, agog with joy and fire water, make merry for two round days. They would have enlarged that festival to three days, but the stern overseer intervenes to recall them to the laborious realities of life.
As the General begins to have the better of his fatigue and sickness – albeit that Benton-wounded left arm is still in a sling – a note is put in his hands. The note is from the War Department in Washington, and reads: “Andrew Jackson of Tennessee is appointed Major General in the Army of the United States, vice William Henry Harrison, resigned.”
CHAPTER X – FLORIDA DELENDA EST
THE General, at the behest of the blooming Rachel, rests for three round weeks, which seem to his fight-loving soul like three round years. Then the Government sends him to Fort Jackson to dictate terms of peace to the broken Creeks.
The latter assemble, war paints washed off, in a deeply thoughtful, if not a peaceful, mood.
The General proposes terms which well nigh amount to a wiping out of the Creek landed possessions. The Creeks go into secret council, as it were executive session, and bemoan their desperate lot. They curse the English who urged them to that butchery of Fort Mims and then deserted them. Beyond relieving their minds, however, the curses accomplish no Creek good. They must still face the inveterate General, whose word is, “Your lives or your lands!”
The mournful, beaten Creeks come forth from executive session, and the great formal conference begins. The council is called on the flat field-like expanse in front of the General’s imposing marquee – for he has come to this mission with no little of pompous style, to the end that the Creek mind be impressed.
The Creek chiefs, blanketed to the ears, feathered to the eyes, sit about, crosslegged like tailors, in a half circle, their only weapon a sacred red-stone pipe. The General, blazing in a new uniform, comes out of his marquee. With him are Colonel Coffee, Colonel Hawkins, and lastly, Colonel Hayne, the brother of him who will one day cross blades in Senate debate with the lion-faced Webster, and have the worst of it.
As the General steps forward an orderly leads up his great war horse, as though the conference might lapse into battle, and he must be ready to mount and fight. To the rear, his hunting-shirt men, one thousand strong, are drawn out, as following forth those precautions which produce the General’s war horse. The Creeks, at these evidences of suspicious alertness, never move a bronze muscle; they pass the sacred redstone pipe with gravity unmoved, and puff away as though the last thing they suspect is suspicion.
Big Warrior makes a speech, and is followed by She-lok-tah, the tribal Demosthenes. The General shakes his grim head at their protests; there is no help for it, they must give him his way or fight. The Creeks bow to the inevitable, and give the General his way; which bowing submission is the less disgraceful, since both the Spanish at Pensacola and the English at New Orleans, in a brief handful of months, under pressures less stringent than are those which now and here in front of the Generali great marquee bear down the broken hopeless Creeks, will follow their abject example.
Having made peace with the Creeks on the Tallapoosa, the General lets his angry, warseeking eye rove in the direction of Florida. Many of the hostile Creek Red Sticks have fled to cover there, where they are made welcome by the Spanish Governor Maurequez, and petted and pampered by Colonel Nichols and Captain Woodbine of the English. The besotted Governor Maurequez has permitted these latter to land an English force, and, inspired by his native hatred of Americans and the sight of British ships of war in Pensacola harbor, has surrendered to them the last stitch of Florida control.
The General guesses these things and sends out scouts to make discoveries. Meanwhile, he marches his hunting-shirt men to Mobile, which his instincts – never at fault in war – warn him will be the next English point of attack. Word has reached him of the downfall of Napoleon, and he foresees that this will release against America the utmost energies of England, who in thirty odd years has not forgotten Yorktown nor despaired of its repair.
The General’s scouts are a sleepless, observant, close-going set of gentlemen, and fairly enter Pensacola. Presently, they are back with the news that two flags float in friendly partnership on the battlements of Fort St. Michael, one English and one Spanish. Also, seven English war ships ride in the harbor.
They likewise say that the popinjay Colonel Nichols is issuing proclamations to “The People of Louisiana,” demanding that, as “Frenchmen, Spaniards, and English,” they arise and “throw off the American yoke”; that Captain Woodbine is assembling the fugitive Red Sticks by scores, and reviving their drooping spirits with English gold, English guns, English gin, and English red coats.
Captain Woodbine, it appears, is so dull as to think he may make regular soldiers of the untamed Red Sticks, and drills them in the Pensacola plaza, where they handle their new muskets much as a cow might a cant hook, and look like copper-colored apes in those gorgeous red coats. The tactical, yet tactless, Captain Woodbine even makes his red command a speech, and is so unguarded as to refer to “General Jackson.” This is a blunder, since instantly half the assembled Red Sticks desert, taking with them the guns, gin, and jackets which have been conferred upon them. The oratorical Captain Woodbine is deeply impressed by the awful effect of the General’s name upon his red recruits, and their terror communicates itself to him. He has difficulty in restraining himself from deserting with them, but takes final courage and remains. Only he is at pains to delete “General Jackson” from subsequent eloquence, and never again mentions that paladin of the Cumberland in the quaking presence of a Red Stick Creek.
By way of adding to these hardy doings, the wordy popinjay, Colonel Nichols, fulminates new proclamations, comic in their ignorance and bombast. He believes that the formidable General can be whipped by manifestoes. As against this belief, however, most careful preparations move forward aboard the English ships, looking to the destruction of Fort Bowyer and the capture of Mobile; for Captain Percy of the Hermes, who has command of the fleet, is altogether a practical person, and pins no faith to proclamations and Indians in red coats when it comes to bringing a foe to his knees.
All these interesting items are laid before the General by his painstaking scouts, and he is peculiarly struck with the word about Captain Percy and Mobile. He sends back his scouts for another bagful of news, and begins to strengthen and stiffen Fort Bowyer, thirty miles below the town.
Having patched up this redoubt to his taste, the General puts Major Lawrence in command, and tells him to fight his batteries while a man remains alive. Major Lawrence says he will; and, not having a ship, but a fort, to defend, he follows as nearly as he may the motto of his heroic relative, and issues the watchword, “Don’t give up the Fort!” Leaving Major Lawrence in this high vein, the General goes back to Mobile to concert plans for its protection.
Captain Percy of the Hermes is a gallant man, but a bad judge of Americans. He tells the proclaiming Colonel Nichols that he will take four ships and capture Fort Bowyer in twenty minutes. Colonel Nichols has so little trouble in believing this that he conceives the deed of conquest already done. Full of hope and strong waters – for the English have not given the thirsty Red Sticks all their gin – he is so far worked upon by Captain Percy’s turgid prophecies as to issue a new proclamation, declaring Fort Bowyer taken, and showing how, presently, the English intend doing likewise at New Orleans. Having taken time so conspicuously by the forelock, the anticipatory Colonel Nichols – who has never been in the chicken trade, and therefore knows nothing of what perils attend a count of poultry noses before the poultry are hatched – goes aboard the Hermes, with Captain Woodbine and others of his staff; for he would be on the ground, when Fort Bowyer and Mobile succumb, ready to assume control of those strongholds.
It is no mighty voyage from Pensacola to Mobile, and a half day’s sail will bring Colonel Nichols and Captain Percy within point-blank range of Fort Bowyer. Taking a bright, cool morning for it, Captain Percy lets fall his topsails, and forges seaward, followed by the cordial wishes of Governor Maurequez who, glass in hand, drinks “Good voyage!” from the ramparts of St. Michael.
“All I regret is,” cries the valorous Governor Maurequez, in the politest phrases of Castile, “that you brave English will destroy these vagabonds, and thus deprive me and my heroic soldiery of the pleasure of their obliteration, when they shall have invaded our beloved Florida.”
Away go the English war ships in line, like a quartette of geese crossing a mill pond, the Hermes, Captain Percy, in the van. The fleet rounds the lower extremity of Mobile Point, out of range from Fort Bowyer, and lands Colonel Nichols with a force of foot soldiers and a howitzer. This military feat accomplished, the fleet, still like geese in line, bear up until abreast of the Fort, which is a musket shot away.
There is no time wasted. The Hermes lets go her anchors and swings broadside-on to the Fort. The others follow suit. Then, with a crashing discharge of big guns by way of overture, the fight is on.
Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes go by; shots fly and shells burst, and Major Lawrence still holds the fort. Evidently Captain Percy cut his time too fine! Then, one hour, two hours follow, and Major Lawrence’s twenty-four pounders are making matches of the Hermes.
As the merry war progresses, Colonel Nichols, with much ardor and no discernment, drags his howitzer to a strategic sand hill, and fires one shot at Fort Bowyer. It is a badly considered movement, the instant effect being to draw the Fort’s horns his way. The southern battery of the Fort opens upon him like a tornado, and he and his fellow artillerists retire – without their howitzer. The most discouraging feature is that a stone, sent flying from the strategic sand hill by a cannon ball, knocks out one of Colonel Nichols’s eyes. After this exploit, the one-eyed proclamationist, much saddened, but with wisdom increased, is content to stand afar off, and leave the down-battering of Fort Bowyer to the fleet.
This down-battering Captain Percy and his sailormen do their tarry best to bring about. But, as hour after hour drifts to leeward in the smoke of their broadsides, and the stubborn Lawrence continues to send his hail of twenty-four-pound shot aboard, it begins to creep upon Captain Percy, like mosses upon stone, that Fort Bowyer is a nut beyond the power of even his iron teeth to crack. As a red-hot shot sets fire to the Hermes and explodes her magazine, the impression deepens to apprehension, which, when the Sophia is reported sinking, ripens rapidly into conviction. Major Lawrence, with his “Don’t give up the Fort!” all but blots Captain Percy – who has tenfold his force – off the face of the Gulf, and he does it with a loss of eight men killed and wounded to an English loss of over three hundred.
Captain Percy, whipped and broken-hearted, shifts his flag and what is left of his Hermes’’ crew to the Sophia, and, pumps clanking hysterically to keep-himself afloat, goes limping back to Pensacola, lighted on his defeated way by the flare and glare from the blazing Hermes. As the English pass the extreme southern tip of Mobile Point, as far from the unmannerly batteries of Fort Bowyer as the lay of the land permits, they pick up the one-eyed proclamationist, Colonel Nichols, and his howitzerless men.
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