Historical Tales The Romance of Reality
By CHARLES MORRIS
Author of "Half-Hours with the Best American Authors," "Tales from the Dramatists," etc.
IN FIFTEEN VOLUMES Volume II
J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY PHILADELPHIA AND LONDON
Copyright, 1904, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
Copyright, 1908, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
PONCE DE LEON AND THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH 7
DE SOTO AND THE FATHER OF WATERS 13
THE LOST COLONY OF ROANOKE 23
THE THRILLING ADVENTURE OF CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH 29
THE INDIAN MASSACRE IN VIRGINIA 40
THE GREAT REBELLION IN THE OLD DOMINION 49
CHEVALIER LA SALLE THE EXPLORER OF THE MISSISSIPPI 62
THE FRENCH OF LOUISIANA AND THE NATCHEZ INDIANS 76
THE KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN HORSESHOE 88
HOW OGLETHORPE SAVED GEORGIA FROM SPAIN 95
A BOY'S WORKING HOLIDAY IN THE WILDWOOD 104
PATRICK HENRY, THE HERALD OF THE REVOLUTION 113
GOVERNOR TRYON AND THE CAROLINA REGULATORS 124
LORD DUNMORE AND THE GUNPOWDER 135
THE FATAL EXPEDITION OF COLONEL ROGERS 145
HOW COLONEL CLARK WON THE NORTHWEST 153
KING'S MOUNTAIN AND THE PATRIOTS OF TENNESSEE 166
GENERAL GREENE'S FAMOUS RETREAT 171
ELI WHITNEY, THE INVENTOR OF THE COTTON-GIN 185
HOW OLD HICKORY FOUGHT THE CREEKS 193
THE PIRATES OF BARATARIA BAY 206
THE HEROES OF THE ALAMO 217
HOW HOUSTON WON FREEDOM FOR TEXAS 225
CAPTAIN ROBERT E. LEE AND THE LAVA-BEDS 231
A CHRISTMAS DAY ON THE PLANTATION 241
CAPTAIN GORDON AND THE RACCOON ROUGHS 252
STUART'S FAMOUS CHAMBERSBURG RAID 261
FORREST'S CHASE OF THE RAIDERS 277
EXPLOITS OF A BLOCKADE-RUNNER 291
FONTAIN, THE SCOUT, AND THE BESIEGERS OF VICKSBURG 302
GORDON AND THE BAYONET CHARGE AT ANTIETAM 311
THE LAST TRIUMPH OF STONEWALL JACKSON 319
JOHN MORGAN'S FAMOUS RAID 331
HOME-COMING OF GENERAL LEE AND HIS VETERANS 347
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
AMERICAN. VOLUME II.
BATTLE OF ANTIETAM Frontispiece.
ALONG THE COAST OF FLORIDA 9
DE SOTO DISCOVERING THE MISSISSIPPI 19
JAMESTOWN RUIN 54
COALING A MOVING BOAT ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER 73
OLD SPANISH FORT, ST. AUGUSTINE 98
HOME OF MARY WASHINGTON, FREDERICKSBURG, VA 108
HOME OF PATRICK HENRY DURING HIS LAST TWO TERMS AS GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA 114
ST. JOHN'S CHURCH 122
OLD MAGAZINE AT WILLIAMSBURG 138
VIEW IN THE NORTHWESTERN MOUNTAINS 155
JACKSON'S BIRTHPLACE 198
THE ALAMO 218
COTTON FIELD ON SOUTHERN PLANTATION 242
COLONIAL MANSION 262
GORDON HOUSE 316
TRIUMPH OF STONEWALL JACKSON 323
LEE'S HOUSE AT RICHMOND 348
PONCE DE LEON AND THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH.
A golden Easter day was that of the far-away year 1513, when a small fleet of Spanish ships, sailing westward from the green Bahamas, first came in sight of a flower-lined shore, rising above the blue Atlantic waves, and seeming to smile a welcome as the mariners gazed with eyes of joy and hope on the inviting arcades of its verdant forest depths. Never had the eyes of white men beheld this land of beauty before. English ships had sailed along the coast to the north, finding much of it bleak and uninviting. The caravels of Columbus had threaded the glowing line of tropic isles, and later ships had borne settlers to these lands of promise. But the rich southlands of the continent had never before been seen, and well was this unknown realm of beauty named Florida by the Spanish chief, whether by this name he meant to call it the "land of flowers" or referred to the Spanish name for Easter, Pascua Florida. However that be, he was the first of the discoverers to set foot on the soil of the great coming republic of the United States, and it is of interest that this was done within the domain of the sunny South.
The weight of half a century of years lay upon the shoulders of Juan Ponce de Leon, the discoverer, but warm hope burned in his heart, that of winning renewed boyhood and youthful strength, for it was a magic vision that drew him to these new shores, in whose depths he felt sure the realm of enchantment lay. Somewhere amid those green copses or along those liquid streams, he had been told, a living fountain sprang up clear and sparkling from the earth, its waters of such a marvellous quality that whoever should bathe in them would feel new life coursing through his veins and the vigor of youth bounding along his limbs. It was the Fountain of Youth he sought, that fabled fountain of which men had dreamed for centuries, and which was thought to lie somewhere in eastern Asia. Might not its waters upspring in this new land, whose discovery was the great marvel of the age, and which men looked upon as the unknown east of Asia? Such was the new-comer's dream.
Ponce de Leon was a soldier and cavalier of Spain in those days when Spain stood first among the nations of Europe, first in strength and enterprise and daring. Brave as the bravest, he had fought with distinguished courage against the Moors of Granada at the time when Columbus was setting out on his famous voyage over the unknown seas of the West. Drawn by the fame of the discovery of the New World, De Leon sailed with Columbus in his second voyage, and proved himself a gallant soldier in the wars for the conquest of Hispaniola, of whose eastern half he was made governor.
To the eastward lay another island, the fair tropic land ever since known as Porto Rico. De Leon could see from the high hills of Hispaniola the far green shores of this island, which he invaded and finally subdued in 1509, making himself its governor. A stern oppressor of the natives, he won great wealth from his possessions here and in Hispaniola. But, like many men in his position, his heart was sore from the loss of the youthful vigor which would have enabled him to enjoy to the full his new-found wealth.
Could he but discover the wondrous fountain of youth and plunge in its life-giving waters! Was not this the region in which it was said to lie? He eagerly questioned the Indians about it, and was told by them that they had often heard of such a fountain somewhere not far to the north. It is probable enough that the Indians were ready to tell anything, false or true, that would rid them of the unwelcome Spaniards; but it may be that among their many fables they believed that such a fountain existed. However that may be, De Leon gladly heard their story, and lost no time in going forth like a knight errant in quest of the magic fount. On March 3, 1513, he sailed with three ships from Porto Rico, and, after threading the fair Bahama Islands, landing on those of rarest tropic charm, he came on Easter Sunday, March 27, in sight of the beautiful land to which he gave the name of Florida.
Bad weather kept him for a time from the shore, and it was not until April 9 that he was able to land. It was near the mouth of the St. John River, not far from where St. Augustine now stands, that he set foot on shore, the first white man's foot to tread the soil of the coming United States since the days of the Northmen, five centuries before. He called his place of landing the Bay of the Cross, and took possession of the land for the king of Spain, setting up a stone cross as a sign of Spain's jurisdiction.
And now the eager cavalier began the search for that famous fount which was to give him perpetual youth. It is not likely he was alone in this, probably most of his followers being as eager as he, for in those days magic was firmly believed in by half of mankind, and many wild fancies were current which no one now accepts. Deep into the dense woodland they plunged, wandering through verdant miles, bathing in every spring and stream they met, led on and on by the hope that some one of these might hold the waters of youth. Doubtless they fancied that the fountain sought would have some special marks, something to distinguish it from the host of common springs. But this might not be the case. The most precious things may lie concealed under the plainest aspect, like the fabled jewel in the toad's forehead, and it was certainly wisest to let no waters pass untried.
Months passed on. Southward along the coast they sailed, landing here and there and penetrating inland, still hopeful of finding the enchanted spring. But wherever it might lie hidden, they found it not, for the marks of age which nature had brought clung to them still, and a bitterly disappointed man was Juan Ponce de Leon when he turned the prows of his ships away from the new-found shores and sailed back to Porto Rico.
The Will-o'-the-wisp he sought had baffled him, yet something of worth remained, for he had made a discovery of importance, the "Island of Florida," as he called it and thought it to be. To Spain he went with the news of his voyage, and told the story of his discovery to King Ferdinand, to whom Columbus had told his wonderful tale some twenty years before. The king at once appointed him governor of Florida, and gave him full permission to plant a colony in the new land—continent or island as it might prove to be.
De Leon may still have nourished hopes in his heart of finding the fabled fountain when, in 1521, he returned to plant the colony granted by the king. But the natives of Florida had seen enough of the Spaniards in their former visit, and now met them with arrows instead of flowers and smiles. Fierce fights ensued, and their efforts to establish themselves on the new shores proved in vain. In the end their leader received so severe an arrow wound that he withdrew and left to the victorious Indians the ownership of their land. The arrow was poisoned, and his wound proved mortal. In a short time after reaching Cuba he died, having found death instead of youth in the land of flowers.
We may quote the words of the historian Robertson in support of the fancy which led De Leon in the path of discovery: "The Spaniards, at that period, were engaged in a career of activity which gave a romantic turn to their imagination and daily presented to them strange and marvellous objects. A new world was opened to their view. They visited islands and continents of whose existence mankind in former ages had no conception. In those delightful countries nature seemed to assume another form; every tree and plant and animal was different from those of the ancient hemisphere. They seemed to be transported into enchanted ground; and, after the wonders which they had seen, nothing, in the warmth and novelty of their imagination, appeared to them so extraordinary as to be beyond belief. If the rapid succession of new and striking scenes made such impression on the sound understanding of Columbus that he boasted of having found the seat of Paradise, it will not appear strange that Ponce de Leon should dream of discovering the fountain of youth."
All we need say farther is that the first attempt to colonize the shores of the great republic of the future years ended in disaster and death. Yet De Leon's hope was not fully amiss, for in our own day many seek that flowery land in quest of youthful strength. They do not now hope to find it by bathing in any magic fountain, but it comes to them by breathing its health-giving atmosphere and basking in its magic clime.
DE SOTO AND THE FATHER OF WATERS.
America was to the Spaniards the land of gold. Everywhere they looked for the yellow metal, more precious in their eyes than anything else the earth yields. The wonderful adventures of Cortez in Mexico and of Pizarro in Peru, and the vast wealth in gold found by those sons of fame, filled their people with hope and avarice, and men of enterprise began to look elsewhere for great and rich Indian nations to subdue and plunder.
North of the Gulf of Mexico lay a vast, mysterious region, which in time to come was to be the seat of a great and mighty nation. To the Spaniards it was a land of enchantment, the mystic realm of the unknown, perhaps rich in marvels and wealthy beyond their dreams. It was fabled to contain the magic fountain of youth, the hope to bathe in whose pellucid waters lured Ponce de Leon to his death. Another explorer, De Ayllon, sailed north of Florida, seeking a sacred stream which was said to possess the same enchanted powers. A third, De Narvaez, went far into the country, with more men than Cortez led to the conquest of Mexico, but after months of wandering only a handful of his men returned, and not a grain of gold was found to pay for their suffering.
But these failures only stirred the cavaliers of Spain to new thirst for adventure and gain. They had been told of fertile plains, of splendid tropical forests, of the beauty of the Indian maidens, of romantic incidents and hair-breadth escapes, of the wonderful influence exercised by a white man on tribes of dusky warriors, and who knew what fairy marvels or unimagined wealth might be found in the deep interior of this land of hope and mystery. Thus when Hernando de Soto, who had been with Pizarro in Peru and seen its gold-plated temples, called for volunteers to explore and conquer the unknown northland, hundreds of aspiring warriors flocked to his standard, burning with love of adventure and filled with thirst for gold.
On the 30th of May, 1539, De Soto, with nine vessels and six or seven hundred well-armed followers, sailed into Tampa Bay, on the Gulf coast of Florida. Here they at once landed and marched inland, greedy to reach and grasp the spectral image of gold which floated before their eyes. A daring but a cruel man was this new adventurer. He brought with him blood-hounds to hunt the Indians and chains to fetter them. A drove of hogs was brought to supply the soldiers with fresh meat. They were provided with horses, with fire-arms, with cannon, with steel armor, with everything to overawe and overcome the woodland savages. Yet two things they needed; these were judgment and discretion. It would have been wise to make friends of the Indians. Instead, by their cruelty, they turned them into bitter and relentless enemies. So wherever they went they had bold and fierce foes to fight, and wounds and death marked their pathway across the land.
Let us follow De Soto and his men into the realm of the unknown. They had not gone far before a strange thing happened. Out of a crowd of dusky Indians a white man rode on horseback to join them, making gestures of delight. He was a Spaniard, Juan Ortiz by name, one of the Narvaez band, who had been held in captivity among the Indians for ten years. He knew the Indian language well and offered himself as an interpreter and guide. Heaven seemed to have sent him, for he was worth a regiment to the Spaniards.
Juan Ortiz had a strange story to tell. Once his captors had sought to burn him alive by a slow fire as a sacrifice to the evil spirit. Bound hand and foot, he was laid on a wooden stage and a fire kindled under him. But at this moment of frightful peril the daughter of the chieftain begged for his life, and her father listened to her prayer. Three years later the savage captors again decided to burn him, and again the dusky maiden saved his life. She warned him of his danger and led him to the camp of another chief. Here he stayed till the Spaniards came. What became of the warm-hearted maiden we are not told. She did not win the fame of the Pocahontas of a later day.
Many and strange were the adventures of the Spaniards as they went deeper and deeper into the new land of promise. Misfortune tracked their footsteps and there was no glitter of gold to cheer their hearts. A year passed over their heads and still the land of gold lay far away. An Indian offered to lead them to a distant country, governed by a woman, telling them that there they would find abundance of a yellow metal. Inspired by hope, they now pushed eagerly forward, but the yellow metal proved to be copper instead of gold, and their high hopes were followed by the gloom of disappointment and despair. But wherever they went their trail was marked by blood and pillage, and the story of their ruthless deeds stirred up the Indians in advance to bitter hostility.
Fear alone made any of the natives meet them with a show of peace, and this they repaid by brutal deeds. One of their visitors was an Indian queen—as they called her—the woman chief of a tribe of the South. When the Spaniards came near her domain she hastened to welcome them, hoping by this means to make friends of her dreaded visitors. Borne in a litter by four of her subjects, the dusky princess alighted before De Soto and came forward with gestures of pleasure, as if delighted to welcome her guests. Taking from her neck a heavy double string of pearls, she hung it on that of the Spanish leader. De Soto accepted it with the courtly grace of a cavalier, and pretended friendship while he questioned his hostess.
But he no sooner obtained the information he wanted than he made her a prisoner, and at once began to rob her and her people of all the valuables they possessed. Chief among these were large numbers of pearls, most of them found in the graves of the distinguished men of the tribe. But the plunderers did not gain all they hoped for by their act of vandalism, for the poor queen managed to escape from her guards, and in her flight took with her a box of the most valuable of the pearls. They were those which De Soto had most prized and he was bitterly stung by their loss.
The adventurers were now near the Atlantic, on ground which had been trodden by whites before, and they decided to turn inland and explore the country to the west. After months more of wandering, and the loss of many men through their battles with the Indians, they found themselves in the autumn of 1540 at a large village called Mavilla. It stood where stands to-day the city of Mobile. Here a large force of Indians was gathered.
The Indian chief or cacique met De Soto with a show of friendship, and induced him and a few of his men to follow him within the palisades which surrounded the village. No sooner had they got there than the chief shouted some words of insult in his own tongue and darted into one of the houses. A minor chief got into a dispute with a Spanish soldier, who, in the usual Spanish fashion, carried forward the argument with a blow from his sword. This served as a signal for hostilities. In an instant clouds of arrows poured from the houses, and before the Spaniards could escape nearly the whole of them were slain. Only De Soto and a few others got out with their lives from the trap into which they had been beguiled.
Filled with revengeful rage, the Spanish forces now invested and assailed the town, and a furious conflict began, lasting for nine hours. In the end the whites, from their superior weapons and organization, won the victory. But theirs was a costly triumph, for many of them had fallen and nearly all their property had been destroyed. Mavilla was burned and hosts of the Indians were killed, but the Spaniards were in a terrible situation, far from their ships, without medicine or food, and surrounded by brave and furious enemies.
The soldiers felt that they had had enough adventure of this kind, and clamored to be led back to their ships. De Soto had been advised that the ships were then in the Bay of Pensacola, only six days' journey from Mavilla, but he kept this a secret from his men, for hopes of fame and wealth still filled his soul. In the end, despite their entreaties, he led the men to the north, spending the winter in a small village of the Chickasaw Indians.
When spring opened the adventurers resumed their journey into the unknown. In his usual forcible fashion De Soto seized on Indians to carry his baggage, and in this way he brought on a violent battle, in which the whites met with a serious defeat and were in imminent danger of annihilation. Not a man of them would have lived to tell the tale if the savages had not been so scared at their own success that they drew back just when they had the hated Spaniards in their power.
A strange-looking army was that which the indomitable De Soto led forward from this place. Many of the uniforms of the men had been carried off by the enemy, and these were replaced with skins and mats made of ivy-leaves, so that the adventurers looked more like forest braves than Christian warriors. But onward still they trudged, sick at heart many of them, but obeying the orders of their resolute chief, and in the blossoming month of May they made that famous discovery by which the name of Hernando de Soto has ever since been known. For they stood on the banks of one of the mightiest rivers of the earth, the great Father of Waters, the grand Mississippi. From thousands of miles to the north had come the waters which now rolled onward in a mighty volume before their eyes, hastening downward to bury themselves in the still distant Gulf.
A discovery such as this might have been enough to satisfy the cravings of any ordinary man, but De Soto, in his insatiable greed for gold, saw in the glorious stream only an obstacle to his course, "half a league over." To build boats and cross the stream was the one purpose that filled his mind, and with much labor they succeeded in getting across the great stream themselves and the few of their horses that remained.
At once the old story began again. The Indians beyond the Mississippi had heard of the Spaniards and their methods, and met them with relentless hostility. They had hardly landed on the opposite shore before new battles began. As for the Indian empire, with great cities, civilized inhabitants, and heaps of gold, which Be Soto so ardently sought, it seemed as far off as ever, and he was a sadly disappointed man as he led the miserable remnant of his once well-equipped and hopeful followers up the left bank of the great stream, dreams of wealth and renown not yet quite driven from his mind.
At length they reached the region of the present State of Missouri. Here the simple-minded people took the white strangers to be children of the Sun, the god of their worship, and they brought out their blind, hoping to have them restored to sight by a touch from the healing hands of these divine visitors. Leaving after a time these superstitious tribes, De Soto led his men to the west, lured on still by the phantom of a wealthy Indian realm, and the next winter was passed near where Little Rock, Arkansas, is now built.
Spring returned at length, and the weary wanderings of the devoted band were resumed. Depressed, worn-out, hopeless, they trudged onward, hardly a man among them looking for aught but death in those forest wilds. Juan Ortiz, the most useful man in the band, died, and left the enterprise still more hopeless. But De Soto, worn, sick, emaciated, was indomitable still and the dream of a brilliant success lingered as ever in his brain. He tried now to win over the Indians by pretending to be immortal and to be gifted with supernatural powers, but it was too late to make them credit any such fantastic notion.
The band encamped in an unhealthy spot near the great river. Here disease attacked the men; scouts were sent out to seek a better place, but they found only trackless woods and rumors of Indian bands creeping stealthily up on all sides to destroy what remained of the little army of whites.
Almost for the first time De Soto's resolute mind now gave way. Broken down by his many labors and cares, perhaps assailed by the disease that was attacking his men, he felt that death was near at hand. Calling around him the sparse remnant of his once gallant company, he humbly begged their pardon for the sufferings and evils he had brought upon them, and named Luis de Alvaredo to succeed him in command. The next day, May 21, 1542, the unfortunate hero died. Thus passed away one of the three greatest Spanish explorers of the New World, a man as great in his way and as indomitable in his efforts as his rivals, Cortez and Pizarro, though not so fortunate in his results. For three years he had led his little band through a primitive wilderness, fighting his way steadily through hosts of savage foes, and never yielding until the hand of death was laid upon his limbs.
Fearing a fierce attack from the savages if they should learn that the "immortal" chief of the whites was dead, Alvaredo had him buried secretly outside the walls of the camp. But the new-made grave was suspicious. The prowling Indians might dig it up and discover the noted form it held. To prevent this, Alvaredo had the body of De Soto dug up in the night, wrapped it in cloths filled with sand, and dropped it into the Mississippi, to whose bottom it immediately sank. Thus was the great river he had discovered made the famous explorer's final resting-place.
With the death of De Soto the work of the explorers was practically at an end. To the Indians who asked what had become of the Child of the Sun, Alvaredo answered that he had gone to heaven for a visit, but would soon return. Then, while the Indians waited this return of the chief, the camp was broken up and the band set out again on a westward course, hoping to reach the Pacific coast, whose distance they did not dream. Months more passed by in hopeless wandering, then back to the great river they came and spent six months more in building boats, as their last hope of escape.
On the 2d of July, 1543, the scanty remnant of the once powerful band embarked on the waters of the great river, and for seventeen days floated downward, while the Indians on the bank poured arrows on them incessantly as they passed. Fifty days later a few haggard, half-naked survivors of De Soto's great expedition landed at the Spanish settlement of Panuco in Mexico. They had long been given up as lost, and were received as men risen from the grave.
THE LOST COLONY OF ROANOKE.
In the year 1584 two wandering vessels, like the caravels of Columbus a century earlier, found themselves in the vicinity of a new land; not, as in the case of Columbus, by seeing twigs and fruit floating on the water, but in the more poetical way of being visited, while far at sea, by a sweet fragrance, as of a delicious garden full of perfumed flowers. A garden it was, planted not by the hand of man, but by that of nature, on the North Carolinian shores. For this was the first expedition sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh, the earliest of Englishmen to attempt to settle the new-discovered continent, and it was at that season as truly a land of flowers as the more southern Florida.
The ships soon reached shore at a beautiful island called by the Indians Wocokon, where the mariners gazed with wonder and delight on the scene that lay before them. Wild flowers, whose perfume had reached their senses while still two days' sail from land, thickly carpeted the soil, and grapes grew so plentifully that the ocean waves, as they broke upon the strand, dashed their spray upon the thick-growing clusters. "The forests formed themselves into wonderfully beautiful bowers, frequented by multitudes of birds. It was like a Garden of Eden, and the gentle, friendly inhabitants appeared in unison with the scene. On the island of Roanoke they were received by the wife of the king, and entertained with Arcadian hospitality."
When these vessels returned to England and the mariners told of what they had seen, the people were filled with enthusiasm. Queen Elizabeth was so delighted with what was said of the beauty of the country that she gave it the name of Virginia, in honor of herself as a virgin queen. The next year a larger expedition was sent out, carrying one hundred and fifty colonists, who were to form the vanguard of the British dominion in the New World.
They found the land all they had been told. Ralph Lane, the governor, wrote home: "It is the goodliest soil under the cope of heaven; the most pleasing territory in the world; the continent is of a huge and unknown greatness, and very well peopled and towned, though savagely. The climate is so wholesome that we have none sick. If Virginia had but horses and kine, and were inhabited by Englishmen, no realm in Christendom were comparable with it."
But they did not find the natives so kindly disposed as in the year before, and no wonder; for the first thing the English did after landing on Roanoke Island was to accuse the Indians of stealing a silver cup, for which they took revenge by burning a village and destroying the standing corn. Whether this method was copied from the Spaniards or not, it proved a most unwise one, for at once the colonists found themselves surrounded by warlike foes, instead of in intercourse with confiding friends.
The English colonists had the same fault as those of Spain. The stories of the wonderful wealth of Mexico and Peru had spread far and wide over Europe, and the thirst for gold was in all hearts. Instead of planting grain and building homes, the new-comers sought the yellow evil far and wide, almost as if they expected the soil to be paved with it. The Indians were eagerly questioned and their wildest stories believed. As the natives of Porto Rico had invented a magic fountain to rid themselves of Ponce de Leon and his countrymen, so those of Roanoke told marvellous fables to lure away the unwelcome English. The Roanoke River, they said, gushed forth from a rock so near the western ocean that in storms the salt sea-water was hurled into the fresh-water stream. Far away on its banks there dwelt a nation rich in gold, and inhabiting a city the walls of which glittered with precious pearls.
Lane himself, whom we may trust to have been an educated man, accepted these tales of marvel as readily as the most ignorant of his people. In truth, he had much warrant for it in the experience of the Spaniards. Taking a party of the colonists, he ascended the river in search of the golden region. On and on they went, finding nothing but the unending forest, hearing nothing but the cries of wild beasts and the Indian war-cries, but drawn onward still by hope until their food ran out and bitter famine assailed them. Then, after being forced to kill their dogs for food, they came back again, much to the disappointment of the Indians, who fancied they were well rid of their troublesome guests.
As the settlers were not to be disposed of by fairy-stories of cities of gold, the natives now tried another plan. They resolved to plant no more corn, so that the English must either go away or starve. Lane made matters worse by a piece of foolish and useless cruelty. Wisdom should have taught him to plant corn himself. But what he did was to invite the Indians to a conference, and then to attack them, sword in hand, and kill the chief, with many braves of the tribe. He might have expected what followed. The furious natives at once cut off all supplies from the colonists, and they would have died of hunger if Sir Francis Drake, in one of his expeditions, had not just then appeared with a large fleet.
Here ended the first attempt to plant an English colony in America. Drake, finding the people in a desperate state, took them in his ships and sailed with them for England. Hardly had they gone before other ships came and the missing colonists were sought for in vain. Then fifteen men were left on the island to hold it for England, and the ships returned.
In 1587 Raleigh's last colony reached Roanoke Island. This time he took care to send farmers instead of gold-seekers, and sent with them a supply of farming tools. But it was not encouraging when they looked for the fifteen men left the year before to find only some of their bones, while their fort was a ruin and their deserted dwellings overgrown with vines. The Indians had taken revenge on their oppressors. One event of interest took place before the ship returned, the birth of the first English child born in America. In honor of the name which the queen had given the land, this little waif was called Virginia Dare.
Now we come to the story of the mysterious fate of this second English colony. When the ships which had borne it to Roanoke went back to England they found that island in an excited state. The great Spanish Armada was being prepared to invade and conquer Elizabeth's realm, and hasty preparations were making to defend the British soil. The fate of the Armada is well known. England triumphed. But several years passed before Raleigh, who was now deep laden with debt, was able to send out a vessel to the relief of his abandoned colonists.
When the people sent by him landed on the island, they looked around them in dismay. Here were no happy homes, no smiling fields, no bustling colonists. The island was deserted. What had become of the inhabitants was not easy to guess. Not even their bones had been left, as in the case of the hapless fifteen, though many relics of their dwelling-places were found. The only indication of their fate was the single word "Croatan" cut into the bark of a tree.
Croatan was the name of an island not far from that on which they were, but it was the stormy season of the year, and John White, the captain, made this an excuse for not venturing there. So he sailed again for home with only the story of a vanished colony.
From that time to this the fate of the colony has been a mystery. No trace of any of its members was ever found. If they had made their way to Croatan, they were never seen there. Five times the noble-hearted Raleigh sent out ships to search for them, but all in vain; they had gone past finding; the forest land had swallowed them up.
It has been conjectured that they had mingled with a friendly tribe of Indians and become children of the forest like their hosts. Some tradition of this kind remained among the Indians, and it has been fancied that the Hatteras Indians showed traces of English blood. But all this is conjecture, and the fate of the lost colonists of Roanoke must remain forever unknown.
THE THRILLING ADVENTURE OF CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH.
For those who love stories of the Indians, and the strange and perilous adventures of white men in dealing with the forest tribes, we cannot do better than give a remarkable anecdote of life in the Virginia woodlands three centuries ago.
On a day near the opening of the winter of 1608 a small boat, in which were several men, might have been seen going up the James River under the shadow of the high trees that bordered its banks.
They came at length to a point where a smaller stream flowed into the James, wide at its mouth but soon growing narrow. Into this the boat was turned and rowed briskly onward, under the direction of the leader of the expedition. They were soon in the heart of the wildwood, whose dense forest growth clustered thickly on either bank of the stream, which ran in a narrow silver thread through the green wilderness. The stream they pursued is that now known as the Chickahominy River, so called from an Indian tribe of that name, the most daring and warlike of all the savages of the region.
As they went on the stream grew narrower still, and in time became so shallow that the boat could go no farther. As they sat there in doubt, debating what had better be done, the bushes by the waterside were thrust aside and dusky faces looked out upon them through the leaves. The leader of the whites beckoned to them and two men stepped out of the bushy thicket, making signs of great friendliness. They pointed to the large boat, and indicated by gestures that they had smaller craft near at hand and would lend one to the whites if they wished to go farther up. They would go along with them and show them the way.
The leader of the party of whites was named John Smith. This is a very common name, but he was the one John Smith who has made the name famous in history. He had met many Indians before and found most of them friendly, but he had never seen any of the Chickahominies and did not know that they were enemies to the whites. So he accepted the offer of the Indians. The boat was taken back down the stream to a sort of wide bay where he thought it would be safe. Here the Indians brought him one of their light but strong canoes. Smith wanted to explore the stream higher up, and, thinking that he could trust these very friendly looking red men, he got into the canoe, bidding two of his men to come with him. To the others he said,—
"Do not leave your boat on any account. These fellows seem all right, but they are never to be trusted too far. There may be more of them in the woods, so be wide awake and keep your wits about you."
The two Indians now got into the canoe with Smith and his men and began to paddle it up the stream, keeping on until they were miles from the starting-point. Undergrowth rose thickly on the banks and vines hung down in green masses from the trees, so that the boat they had left was quickly lost to sight. Soon after that the men in the large boat did a very foolish thing. Heedless of the orders of their leader, they left the boat and strolled into the woods. They had not gone far before a party of savages came rushing at them with wild cries, and followed them fiercely as they turned and ran back to their boat. One of them was caught by the savages, and as the fugitives sprang into their boat they were horrified to see the hapless fellow killed by his captors. This lesson taught them not to leave the boat again.
Ignorant of all this, Smith went on, the boat being paddled here under a low canopy of vines, there through open spaces, until far up the stream. At length, as passage grew more difficult, he bade his guides to stop, and stepped ashore. Taking one of the Indians with him, he set out, carbine on shoulder, saying that he would provide food for the party. He cautioned his two followers, as he had done those in the large boat, to keep a sharp look-out and not let themselves be surprised.
But these men proved to be as foolish and reckless as the others. The air was cool and they built a fire on the bank. Then, utterly heedless of danger, they lay down beside it and soon were fast asleep. As they lay slumbering the Indians, who had started up the stream after killing their prisoner at the boat, came upon them in this helpless state. They at once killed the foolish pair, and then started into the woods on the trail of Smith.
Daring and full of resources as Captain John Smith was, he had taken a dangerous risk in thus venturing alone into those forest depths, peopled only by prowling and hostile savages. It proved to be the most desperate crisis of his life, full of adventure as this life had been. As a youthful soldier he had gone through great perils in the wars with the Turks, and once had killed three Turkish warriors in single combat between two armies, but never before had he been in such danger of death as he was now, alone with a treacherous Indian while a dozen or more of others, bent on his death, were trailing him through the woods.
He was first made aware of his danger when a flight of arrows came from the low bushes near by. Then, with fierce war-whoops, the Indian braves rushed upon him with brandished knives and tomahawks. But desperate as was his situation, in the heart of the forest, far from help, surrounded by foes who thirsted for his blood, Smith did not lose his courage or his coolness. He fired his pistol at the Indians, two of them falling wounded or dead. As they drew back in dismay, he seized his guide and tied him to his left arm with his garter as a protection from their arrows, and then started through the woods in the direction of the canoe. Walking backward, with his face to his pursuers, and keeping them off with his weapons, he had not taken many steps before he found his feet sinking in the soft soil. He was in the edge of the great swamp still known in that region, and before he was aware of the danger he sank into it to his waist and his guide with him. The other Indians held back in fear until he had thrown away his weapons, when they rushed upon him, drew him out of the mud, and led him captive to the fire where his two companions lay dead.
Smith's case now seemed truly desperate. He knew enough of the savages to have very little hope of life. Yet he was not inclined to give up while a shadowy chance remained. Taking from his pocket a small compass, which he carried to aid him in his forest journeys, he gave it to the Indian chief, showing him how the needle always pointed to the north. But while the chief was looking curiously at this magic toy, as it seemed to him, the other Indians bound their captive to a tree, and bent their bows to shoot him. Their deadly purpose was prevented by the chief, who waved the compass in the air and bade them stop. For the time the mystery of the compass seemed to have saved the captive's life.
Smith was now taken through the woods, the journey ending at an Indian village called Orapakes. Here the dusky women and children took the captive in hand, dancing wildly around him, with fierce cries and threatening gestures, while the warriors looked grimly on. Yet Smith bore their insults and threats with impassive face and unflinching attitude. At length Opechancanough, the chief, pleased to find that he had a brave man for captive, bade them cease, and food was brought forth for Smith and his captors.
While they were in this village two interesting examples of the simplicity of Indian thought took place. Smith wrote a message to Jamestown, the settlement of the whites, sending it by one of the Indians, and receiving an answer. On his reading this and speaking of what he had learned from it, the Indians looked on it as the work of enchantment. They could not comprehend how "paper could talk." Another thing was the following: They showed him a bag of gunpowder which they had somehow obtained, saying that they were going to sow it in the ground the next spring and gather a crop of this useful substance. After spending some days in this and other villages, the captive was taken into the woods, his captors making him understand that they were going on a long journey.
Whither he was being taken or what was to be his fate Smith was not aware. The language of gestures, which was his only way of conversing with the savages, soon reached its limit, and he was quite ignorant of what they proposed to do with him, though his heart must have sunk as they went on day after day, northward through the forest. On they walked in single file, Smith unbound and seemingly free in their midst, but with a watchful Indian guard close beside him, ready to shoot him if he made any effort to escape. Village after village was passed, in each of which the women and children danced and shrieked around him as at Orapakes. It was evident they knew the value of their prisoner, and recognized that they had in their hands the great chief of the Pale Faces.
In fact, the Chickahominy chief felt that his captive was of too much importance to be dealt with hastily, and was taking him to the village of the great chief Powhatan, who ruled like an emperor over a powerful confederation of tribes. In summer his residence was near the Falls of the James River, but he was in the habit of spending the winter on the banks of York River, his purpose being to enjoy the fish and oysters of the neighboring Chesapeake. Wesowocomoca was the name of this winter residence, and here the captive was at length brought, after the long woodland journey.
Captain Smith had met the old Indian emperor before, at his summer home on the James River, near where the city of Richmond now stands. But that was as a freeman, with his guard around him and his hands unbound. Now he was brought before him as a captive, subject to his royal will or caprice.
He found the famous lord of the tribes in his large wigwam, with his wives around him, and his vigilant guard of warriors grouped on the greensward outside, where the Indian lodges stretched in a considerable village along the stream. Powhatan wore a large robe made of raccoon skins. A rich plume of feathers ornamented his head and a string of beads depended from his neck. At his head and feet sat two young Indian girls, his favorite wives, wearing richly adorned dresses of fur, with plumes in their hair and necklaces of pearls. Other women were in the room, and a number of the leading warriors who sat around gave the fierce war-cry of the tribe as the captive was brought in.
The old chieftain looked with keen eyes on his famous prisoner, of whose capture he had been advised by runners sent before. There was a look of triumph and malignity in his eyes, but Captain Smith stood before him unmoved. He had been through too many dangers to be easily dismayed, and near death's door too often to yield to despair. Powhatan gave an order to a young Indian woman, who brought him a wooden basin of water that he might wash his hands. Then she presented him a bunch of feathers to serve as a towel. This done, meat and corn-bread were placed before him. As he ate Powhatan talked with his warriors, consulting with them, the captive feared, upon his fate. But he finished his meal with little loss of appetite, trusting to the Providence which had saved him more than once before to come to his aid again.
As he ate, his vigilant eyes looked heedfully around the room. Many who were there gazed on him with interest, and one of them, a young Indian girl of twelve or thirteen years of age, with pity and concern. It was evident that she was of high rank in the tribe, for she was richly dressed and wore in her hair a plume of feathers like that of Powhatan, and on her feet moccasins embroidered like his. There was a troubled and compassionate look in her eyes, as she gazed on the captive white man, a look which he may perhaps have seen and taken comfort from in his hour of dread.
No such feeling as this seemed to rest in the heart of the old chief and his warriors. Their conference quickly ended, and, though its words were strange to him, the captive could read his fate in their dark and frowning faces. They had grown to hate the whites, and now that their leader was a captive before them, they decided to put him to death.
There was no loss of time in preparation for the execution of the fatal decree. At an order from Powhatan the captive was seized and securely bound, then he was laid on the floor of the hut, with his head on a large stone brought in from outside. Beside him stood a stalwart savage grasping a huge war-club. A word, a signal from Powhatan, was alone needed and the victim's brains would have been dashed out.
At this critical moment Smith's good angel watched over him. A low cry of pity was heard, and the young girl who had watched him with such concern sprang forward and clasped her arms around the poor prisoner, looking up at the Indian emperor with beseeching eyes. It was Pocahontas, his favorite daughter. Her looks touched the old man's heart, and he bade the executioner to stand back, and gave orders that the captive should be released. Powhatan soon showed that he was in earnest in his act of mercy. He treated the prisoner in a friendly fashion, and two days later set him free to return to Jamestown.
All that he asked in return was that the whites should send him two of their great guns and a grindstone. Smith readily consented, no doubt with a secret sense of amusement, and set out for the settlement, led by Indian guides. Rawhunt, a favorite servant of Powhatan, was one of the guides, and on reaching Jamestown Smith showed him two cannon and a grindstone, and bade him carry them home to his master. Rawhunt tried, but when he found that he could not stir one of the weighty presents from the ground, he was quite content to take back less bulky presents in their place.
So runs the story of Captain Smith's remarkable adventure. No doubt it is well to say here that there are writers who doubt the whole story of Pocahontas and her deed of mercy, simply because Captain Smith did not speak of it in his first book. But there is no very good reason to doubt it, and we know that things like this happened in other cases. Thus, in the story of De Soto we have told how Juan Ortiz, the Spanish captive, was saved from being burned alive by an Indian maiden in much the same way.
Pocahontas after that was always a friend of the English, and often visited them in Jamestown. Once she stole away through the woods and told her English friends that Powhatan and his warriors were going to attack them. Then she stole back again. When the Indians came they found the English ready, and concluded to defer their attack. Later, after she had grown up, she was taken prisoner and held in Jamestown as a hostage to make her father quit threatening the English. While there a young planter named John Rolfe fell deeply in love with her, and she loved him warmly in return.
In the end Pocahontas became a Christian and was baptized at Jamestown under the name of Rebecca. Then she and John Rolfe were married and went to live in England, where she was known as the "Lady Rebecca" and treated as if she were indeed a princess. She met John Smith once more, and was full of joy at sight of her "father," as she called him. But when he told her that she must not call him that, and spoke to her very respectfully as Lady Rebecca, she covered her face with her hands and began to weep. She had always called him father, she said, and he had called her child, and she meant to do so still. They had told her he was dead, and she was very glad to learn that this was false, for she loved him as a father and would always do so.
That was her last meeting with Captain Smith. In less than a year afterward she was taken sick and died, just as she was about to return to her beloved Virginia.
THE INDIAN MASSACRE IN VIRGINIA.
Friday, the 22d of March, of the year 1622, dawned brightly over a peaceful domain in Virginia. In the fifteen years that had passed since the first settlers landed and built themselves homes at Jamestown the dominion of the whites had spread, until there were nearly eighty settlements, while scattered plantations rose over a space of several hundred square miles. Powhatan, the Indian emperor, as he was called, had long shown himself the friend of the whites, and friendly relations grew up between the new-comers and the old owners of the soil that continued unbroken for years.
Everywhere peace and tranquillity now prevailed. The English had settled on the fertile lands along the bay and up the many rivers, the musket had largely given place to the plough and the sword to the sickle and the hoe, and trustful industry had succeeded the old martial vigilance. The friendliest intercourse existed between the settlers and the natives. These were admitted freely to their houses, often supplied with fire-arms, employed in hunting and fishing, and looked upon as faithful allies, many of whom had accepted the Christian faith.
But in 1618 the mild-tempered Powhatan had died, and Opechancanough, a warrior of very different character, had taken his place as chief of the confederacy of tribes. We have met with this savage before, in the adventurous career of Captain John Smith. He was a true Indian leader, shrewd, cunning, cruel in disposition, patient in suffering, skilled in deceit, and possessed of that ready eloquence which always had so strong an influence over the savage mind. Jealous of the progress of the whites, he nourished treacherous designs against them, but these were hidden deep in his savage soul, and he vowed that the heavens should fall before he would lift a hand in war against his white friends. Such was the tranquil and peaceful state of affairs which existed in Virginia in the morning of March 22, 1622. There was not a cloud in the social sky, nothing to show that the Indians were other than the devoted allies and servants of the whites.
On that morning, as often before, many of the savages came to take their breakfast with their white friends, some of them bringing deer, turkeys, fish, or fruit, which, as usual, they offered for sale. Others of them borrowed the boats of the settlers to cross the rivers and visit the outlying plantations. By many a hearth the pipe of peace was smoked, the hand of friendship extended, the voice of harmony raised.
Such was the aspect of affairs when the hour of noontide struck on that fatal day. In an instant, as if this were the signal of death, the scene changed from peace to terror. Knives and tomahawks were drawn and many of those with whom the savages had been quietly conversing a moment before were stretched in death at their feet. Neither sex nor age was spared. Wives were felled, weltering in blood, before the eyes of their horrified husbands. The tender infant was snatched from its mother's arms to be ruthlessly slain. The old, the sick, the helpless were struck down as mercilessly as the young and strong. As if by magic, the savages appeared at every point, yelling like demons of death, and slaughtering all they met. The men in the fields were killed with their own hoes and hatchets. Those in the houses were murdered on their own hearth-stones. So unlooked-for and terrible was the assault that in that day of blood three hundred and forty-seven men, women, and children fell victims to their merciless foes. Not content with their work of death, the savage murderers mutilated the bodies of their victims in the most revolting manner and revelled shamelessly in their crimes.
Yet with all their treacherous rage, they showed themselves cowardly. Wherever they were opposed they fled. One old soldier, who had served under Captain John Smith, was severely wounded by his savage assailants. He clove the skull of one of them with an axe, and the others at once took to flight. In the same way a Mr. Baldwin, whose wife lay bleeding from many wounds before his eyes, drove away a throng of murderers by one well-aimed discharge from his musket. A number of fugitive settlers obtained a few muskets from a ship that was lying in a stream near their homes, and with these they routed and dispersed the Indians for a long distance around.
The principal settlement, that of Jamestown, was a main point for the proposed Indian assault. Here the confidence and sense of security was as great as in any of the plantations, and only a fortunate warning saved the settlers from a far more terrible loss. One of the young converts among the Indians, moved by the true spirit of his new faith, warned a white friend of the deadly conspiracy, and the latter hastened to Jamestown with the ominous news. As a result, the Indian murderers on reaching there found the gates closed and the inhabitants on the alert. They made a demonstration, but did not venture on an assault, and quickly withdrew.
Such was the first great Indian massacre in America, and one of the most unexpected and malignant of them all.
It was the work of Opechancanough, who had laid his plot and organized the work of death in the most secret and skilful manner. Passing from tribe to tribe, he eloquently depicted their wrongs, roused them to revenge, pointed out the defenceless state of the whites, and worked on their passions by promises of blood and rapine. A complete organization was formed, the day and hour were fixed, and the savages of Virginia waited in silence and impatience for the time in which they hoped to rid the land of every white settler on its soil and win back their old domain.
While they did not succeed in this, they filled the whole colony with terror and dismay. The planters who had survived the attack were hastily called in to Jamestown, and their homes and fields abandoned, so that of the eighty recent settlements only six remained. Some of the people were bold enough to refuse to obey the order, arming their servants, mounting cannon, and preparing to defend their own homes. One of these bold spirits was a woman. But the authorities at Jamestown would not permit this, and they were all compelled to abandon their strongholds and unite for the general defence.
The reign of peace was at an end. A reign of war had begun. The savages were everywhere in arms, with Opechancanough at their head. The settlers, as soon as the first period of dread had passed, marched against them, burning for revenge, and relentless slaughter became the rule. It was the first Indian war in the British settlements, but was of the type of them all. Wherever any Indian showed himself he was instantly shot down. Wherever a white man ventured within reach of the red foe he was slain on the spot or dragged off for the more dreadful death by torture. There was no truce, no relaxation; it was war to the knife.
Only when seed-time was at hand did necessity demand a temporary pause in hostilities. The English now showed that they could be as treacherous and lacking in honor as their savage enemy. They offered peace to the savages, and in this way induced them to leave their hiding-places and plant their fields. While thus engaged the English rushed suddenly upon them and cut down a large number, including some of the most valiant warriors and leading chiefs.
From that time on there was no talk or thought of peace. Alike the plantation buildings of the whites and the villages of the Indians were burned. The swords and muskets of the whites, the knives and tomahawks of the red men, were ever ready for the work of death. For ten years the bloody work continued, and by the end of that time great numbers of the Indians had been killed, while of the four thousand whites in Virginia only two thousand five hundred remained.
Exhaustion at length brought peace, and for ten years more the reign of blood ceased. Yet the irritation of the Indians continued. They saw the whites spreading ever more widely through the land and taking possession of the hunting-grounds without regard for the rights of the native owners, and their hatred for the whites grew steadily more virulent. Opechancanough was now a very aged man. In the year 1643 he reached the hundreth year of his age. A gaunt and withered veteran, with shrunken limbs and a tottering and wasted form, his spirit of hostility to the whites burned still unquenched. Age had not robbed him of his influence over the tribes. His wise counsel, the veneration they felt for him, the tradition of his valorous deeds in the past, gave him unquestioned control, and in 1643 he repeated his work of twenty-one years before, organizing another secret conspiracy against the whites.
It was a reproduction of the former plot. The Indians were charged to the utmost secrecy. They were bidden to ambush the whites in their plantations and settlements and at a fixed time to fall upon them and to spare none that they could kill. The conspiracy was managed as skilfully as the former one. No warning of it was received, and at the appointed hour the work of death began. Before it ended five hundred of the settlers were ruthlessly slain. They were principally those of the outlying plantations. Wherever the settlers were in a position for effective resistance, the savages were routed and driven back to their forest lurking-places.
Their work of death done, the red-skinned murderers at once dispersed, knowing well that they could not withstand their foes in open fight. Sir William Berkeley, the governor of Virginia, hastily called out a strong force of armed men and marched to the main seat of the slaughter. No foes were to be found. The Indians had vanished in the woodland wilderness. It was useless to pursue them farther on foot, and the governor continued the pursuit with a troop of cavalry, sweeping onward through the tribal confines.
The chief result of the expedition was the capture of the organizer of the conspiracy, the hoary leader of the tribal confederacy, who was found near his place of residence on the Pamunky. Too feeble for hasty flight, his aged limbs refusing to bear him and his weakened sight to aid him, he was easily overtaken by the pursuers, and was carried back in triumph to Jamestown, as the very central figure of Indian hostility.
It was the clement purpose of the governor to send the old chief to England as a royal captive, there to be held in honorable custody until death should close his career. But this purpose was not to be achieved. A death of violence awaited the old Indian chieftain. A wretched fellow of the neighborhood, one of the kind who would not have dared to face an Indian in arms, slipped secretly behind the famous veteran and shot him with his musket through the back, inflicting a deadly wound.
Aged and infirm as Opechancanough was, the wound was not instantly mortal. He lingered for a few days in agonizing pain. Yet to the last moment of his life his dignity of demeanor was preserved. It was especially shown when a crowd of idlers gathered in the room to sate their unfeeling curiosity on the actions of the dying chief.
His muscles had grown so weak that he could not raise his eyelids without aid, and, on hearing the noise around him, he motioned to his attendants to lift his lids that he might see what it meant. When he saw the idle and curious crowd, a flash of wounded pride and just resentment stirred his vanished powers. Sending for the governor, he said, with a keen reproach that has grown historic, "Had I taken Sir William Berkeley prisoner, I would not have exposed him as a show to my people." Closing his eyes again, in a short time afterward the Indian hero was dead.
With the death of Opechancanough, the confederacy over which Powhatan and he had ruled so long came to an end. It was now without a head, and the associated tribes fell apart. How long it had been in existence before the whites came to Virginia we cannot say, but the tread of the white man's foot was fatal to the Indian power, and as that foot advanced in triumph over the land the strength of the red men everywhere waned and disappeared.
THE GREAT REBELLION IN THE OLD DOMINION.
The years ending in "'76" are remarkable in America as years of struggle against tyranny and strife for the right. We shall not soon forget the year 1776, when the famous rebellion of the colonies against Great Britain reached its climax in the Declaration of Independence. In 1676, a century before, there broke out in Virginia what was called the "Great Rebellion," a famous movement for right and justice. It was brought about by the tyranny of Sir William Berkeley, the governor of the colony of Virginia, as that of 1776 was by the tyranny of George III., the King of England. It is the story of the first American rebellion that we are about to tell.
Sir William had ruled over Virginia at intervals for many years. It was he who took old Opechancanough prisoner after the massacre of 1643. In 1676 he was again governor of the colony. He was a man of high temper and revengeful disposition, but for a long time he and the Virginians got along very well together, for the planters greatly liked the grand style in which he lived on his broad estate of "Green Springs," with his many servants, and rich silver plate, and costly entertainments, and stately dignity. They lived much that way themselves, so far as their means let them, and were proud of their governor's grand display.
But what they did not like was his arbitrary way of deciding every question in favor of England and against Virginia, and the tyranny with which he enforced every order of the king. Still less were they pleased with the fact that, when the Indians in the mountain district began to attack the settlers, and put men, women, and children to death, the governor took no steps to punish the savage foe, and left the people to defend themselves in the best way they could. A feeling of panic like that of the older times of massacre ensued. The exposed families were forced to abandon their homes and seek places of refuge. Neighbors banded together for work in the field, and kept their arms close at hand. No man left his door without taking his musket. Even Jamestown was in danger, for the woodland stretched nearly to its dwellings, and the lurking red men, stealing with noiseless tread through the forest shades, prowled from the mountains almost to the sea, like panthers in search of prey.
At that time there was a man of great influence in Virginia, named Nathaniel Bacon. He was a new-comer, who had been in America less than three years, but he had bought a large estate and had been made a member of the governor's council. He was a handsome man and a fine speaker, and these and other qualities made him very popular with the planters and the people.
Bacon's plantation was near the Falls of the James River, where the city of Richmond now stands. Here his overseer, to whom he was much attached, and one of his servants were killed by the Indians. Highly indignant at the outrage, Bacon made up his mind that something must be done. He called a meeting of the neighboring planters, and addressed them hotly on the delay of the governor in coming to their defence. He advised them to act for themselves, and asked if any of them were ready to march against the savages, and whom they would choose as their leader. With a shout they declared that they were ready, and that he should lead.
This was very much like taking the law into their own hands. If the governor would not act, they would. As a proper measure, however, Bacon sent to the governor and asked for a commission as captain of the force of planters. The governor received the demand in an angry way. It hurt his sense of dignity to find these men acting on their own account, and he refused to grant a commission or to countenance their action. He went so far as to issue a proclamation, in which he declared that all who did not return to their homes within a certain time would be held as rebels. This so scared the planters that the most of them went home, only fifty-seven of them remaining with their chosen leader.
With this small force Bacon marched into the wilderness, where he met and defeated a party of Indians, killing many of them, and dispersing the remainder. Then he and his men returned home in triumph.
By this time the autocratic old governor was in a high state of rage. He denounced Bacon and his men as rebels and traitors, and gathered a force to punish them. But when he found that the whole colony was on Bacon's side he changed his tone. He had Bacon arrested, it is true, when he came to Jamestown as a member of the House of Burgesses, but this was only a matter of form, to save his dignity, and when the culprit went down on one knee and asked pardon of God, the king, and the governor, Berkeley was glad enough to get out of his difficulty by forgiving him. But for all this fine show of forgiveness Bacon did not trust the old tyrant, and soon slipped quietly out of Jamestown and made his way home.
He was right; the governor was making plans to seize him and hold him prisoner; he had issued secret orders, and Bacon had got away in good time. Very soon he was back again, this time at the head of four hundred planters. As they marched on, others joined them, and when they came into the old town, and drew up on the State-house green, there were six hundred of them, horse and foot.
The sight of this rebel band threw old Berkeley into a towering rage. He rushed out from the State-house at the head of his council, and, tearing open his ruffled shirt, cried out, in a furious tone:
"Here, shoot me! 'fore God, fair mark; shoot!"
"No," said Bacon, "may it please your honor, we will not hurt a hair of your head, nor of any other man's. We are come for a commission to save our lives from the Indians, which you have so often promised; and now we will have it before we go."
Both men were in a violent rage, walking up and down and gesticulating like men distracted. Soon Sir William withdrew with his council to his office in the State-house. Bacon followed, his hand now touching his hat in deference, now his sword-hilt as anger rose in his heart. Some of his men appeared at a window of the room with their guns cocked and ready, crying out, "We will have it; we will have it."
This continued till one of the burgesses came to the window and waved his handkerchief, calling out, "You shall have it; you shall have it."
Hearing this, the men drew back and rested their guns on the ground and Bacon left the chamber and joined them. The matter ended in Bacon's getting his commission as general and commander-in-chief, while an act was passed by the legislature justifying him in all he had done, and a letter to the same effect was written to the king and signed by the governor, council, and assembly. Bacon had won in all he demanded.
His triumph was only temporary. While he was invading the country of the Pamunky Indians, killing many of them and destroying their towns, Berkeley repudiated all he had done. He proclaimed Bacon a rebel and traitor and issued a summons for the train-bands to the number of twelve hundred men, bidding them pursue and put down Bacon the rebel. The men assembled, but when they heard for what they were wanted they broke out into a shout of "Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!" and dispersed again, leaving the old tyrant and his attendants alone. News of these events quickly reached Bacon and his men in the field. He at once turned and marched back.
"While I am hunting wolves which are destroying innocent lambs," he exclaimed, indignantly, "here are the governor and his men after me like hounds in full cry. I am like one between two millstones, which will grind me to powder if I do not look to it."
As he came near Jamestown the governor fled, crossing Chesapeake Bay to Accomac, and leaving Bacon in full possession. A new House of Burgesses was called into session and Bacon's men pledged themselves not to lay down their arms. Sir William had sent to England for soldiers, they said, and they would stand ready to fight these soldiers, as they had fought the governor. A paper to this effect was drawn up and signed, dated August, 1676. It was the first American declaration of independence.
The tide of rebellion was now in full flow. The movement against the Indians had, by the unwarranted behavior of the governor, been converted into civil war, nearly the whole colony supporting Bacon and demanding that the tyrant governor should be deposed.
But, while this was going on, the Indians took to the war-path again, and Bacon at once marched against them, leaving Sir William to his own devices. His first movement was against the Appomattox tribe, which dwelt on the river of the same name, where Petersburg now stands. Taking them by surprise, he burned their town, killed many of them, and dispersed the remainder. Then he marched south and attacked other tribes, driving them before him and punishing them so severely as quite to cure them of all desire to meddle with the whites.
From that time forward Eastern Virginia was free from Indian troubles, and Bacon was looked upon as the deliverer of the colony. But lack of provisions forced him to return and disband his forces, only a few men remaining with him. He soon learned that he had a worse enemy than the Indians to fight at home. Some of his leading supporters in Jamestown, Lawrence, Drummond, Hansford, and others, came hastily to his camp, saying that they had been obliged to flee for safety, as Sir William was back again, with eighteen ships in the river and eight hundred men he had gathered in the eastern counties.
The affair had now come to a focus. It was fight, or yield and be treated as a traitor. Bacon resolved to fight, and he found many to back him in it, for he soon had a force collected. How many there were we do not know. Some say only one hundred and fifty, some say eight hundred; but however that be, he marched with them on Jamestown, bringing his Indian captives with him. Rebels and Royalists the two parties were now called; people and tyrant would have been better titles, for Bacon was in arms for the public right and had the people at his back.
The old governor was ready. While in Accomac he had taken and hung two friends of Bacon, who had gone there to try and capture him. He asked for nothing better than the chance to serve Bacon in the same way. His ships, armed with cannon, now lay in the river near the town. A palisade, ten paces wide, had been built across the neck of the peninsula in which Jamestown stood. Behind it lay a strong body of armed men. Berkeley felt that he had the best of the situation, and was defiant of his foes.
It was at the end of a September day when Bacon and his small army of "rebels" arrived. Springing from his horse, he led the tired men up to the palisades and surveyed the governor's works of defence. Then he ordered his trumpeter to sound defiance and his men to fire on the garrison. There was no return fire. Sir William knew that the assailants were short of provisions, and trusted to hunger to make them retire. But Bacon was versed in the art of foraging. At Green Spring, three miles away, was Governor Berkeley's fine mansion, and from this the invading army quickly supplied itself. The governor afterwards bitterly complained that his mansion "was almost ruined; his household goods, and others of great value, totally plundered; that he had not a bed to lie on; two great beasts, three hundred sheep, seventy horses and mares, all his corn and provisions, taken away." Evidently the "rebels" knew something about the art of war.
This was not all, for their leader adopted another stratagem not well in accordance with the rules of chivalry. A number of the loyalists of the vicinity had joined Berkeley, and Bacon sent out small parties of horse, which captured the wives of these men and brought them into camp. Among them were the lady of Colonel Bacon, Madame Bray, Madame Page, and Madame Ballard. He sent one of these ladies to the town, with a warning to the husbands not to attack him in his camp, or they would find their wives in front of his line.
What Bacon actually wanted these ladies for was to make use of them in building his works. He raised by moonlight a defensive work of trees, brushwood and earth around the governor's outwork of palisades, placing the ladies in front of the workmen to keep the garrison from firing on them. But he had the chivalry to take them out of harm's way when the governor's men made a sortie on his camp.
The fight that took place may have been a hard one or a light one. We have no very full account of it. The most we know is that Bacon and his men won the victory, and that the governor's men were driven back, leaving their drum and their dead behind them. Whether hard or light, his repulse was enough for Sir William's valor. Well intrenched as he was and superior in numbers, his courage suddenly gave out, and he fled in haste to his ships, which set sail in equal haste down the river, their speed accelerated by the cannon-balls which the "rebels" sent after them.
Once more the doughty governor was a fugitive, and Bacon was master of the situation. Jamestown, the original Virginia settlement, was in his hands. What should he do with it? He could not stay there, for he knew that Colonel Brent, with some twelve hundred men, was marching down on him from the Potomac. He did not care to leave it for Berkeley to return to. In this dilemma he concluded to burn it. To this none of his men made any objection. Two of them, indeed, Lawrence and Drummond, who had houses in the place, set fire to them with their own hands. And thus the famous old town of John Smith and the early settlers was burned to the ground. Old as it was, we are told that it contained only a church and sixteen or eighteen houses, and in some of these there were no families. To-day nothing but the ruined church tower remains.
Bacon now marched north to York River to meet Colonel Brent and his men. But by the time he got there the men had dispersed. The news of the affair at Jamestown had reached them, and they concluded they did not want to fight. Bacon was now master of Virginia, with the power though not the name of governor.
What would have come of his movement had he lived it is impossible to say, for in the hour of his triumph a more perilous foe than Sir William Berkeley was near at hand. While directing his men in their work at the Jamestown trenches a fever had attacked him, and this led to a dangerous dysentery which carried him off after a few weeks' illness. His death was a terrible blow to his followers, for the whole movement rested on the courage and ability as a leader of this one man. They even feared the vindictive Berkeley would attempt some outrage upon the remains of the "rebel" leader, and they buried his body at night in a secret place. Some traditions assert that he was dealt with as De Soto had been before him, his body being sunk in the bosom of the majestic York River, where it was left with the winds and the waves to chant its requiem.
Thus ended what Sir William Berkeley called the "Great Rebellion." Its leader dead, there was none to take his place. In despair the men returned to their homes. Many of them made their way to North Carolina, in which new colony they were warmly welcomed. A few kept up a show of resistance, but they were soon dispersed, and Berkeley came back in triumph, his heart full of revengeful passion. He had sent to England for troops, and the arrival of these gave him support in his cruel designs.
All the leading friends of Bacon whom he could seize were mercilessly put to death, some of them with coarse and aggravating insults. The wife of Major Cheeseman, one of the prisoners, knelt at the governor's feet and pitifully pleaded for her husband's life, but all she got in return from the old brute was a vulgar insult. The major escaped the gallows only by dying in prison.
One of the most important of the prisoners was William Drummond, a close friend of Bacon. Berkeley hated him and greeted him with the most stinging insult he could think of.
"Mr. Drummond," said he, with a bitter sneer, "you are very welcome; I am more glad to see you than any man in Virginia. Mr. Drummond, you shall be hanged in half an hour."
And he was. His property was also seized, but when the king heard of this he ordered it to be restored to his widow.
"God has been inexpressibly merciful to this poor province," wrote Berkeley, with sickening hypocrisy, after one of his hangings. Charles II., the king, took a different view of the matter, saying: "That old fool has hung more men in that naked province than I did for the murder of my father." More than twenty of Bacon's chief supporters were hung, and the governor's revenge came to an end only when the assembly met and insisted that these executions should cease.
We have told how Bacon came to his end. We must do the same for Berkeley, his foe. Finding that he was hated and despised in Virginia, he sailed for England, many of the people celebrating his departure by firing cannon and illuminating their houses. He never returned. The king was so angry with him that he refused to see him; a slight which affected the old man so severely that he soon died, of a broken heart, it is said. Thus ended the first rebellion of the people of the American colonies.
CHEVALIER LA SALLE, THE EXPLORER OF THE MISSISSIPPI.
There are two great explorers whose names have been made famous by their association with the mighty river of the West, the Mississippi, or Father of Waters,—De Soto, the discoverer, and La Salle, the explorer, of that stupendous stream. Among all the rivers of the earth the Mississippi ranks first. It has its rivals in length and volume, but stands without a rival as a noble channel of commerce, the pride of the West and the glory of the South. We have told the story of its discovery by De Soto, the Spanish adventurer; we have now to tell that of its exploration by La Salle, the French chevalier.
Let us say here that though the honor of exploring the Mississippi has been given to La Salle, he was not the first to traverse its waters. The followers of De Soto descended the stream from the Arkansas to its mouth in 1542. Father Marquette and Joliet, the explorer, descended from the Wisconsin to the Arkansas in 1673. In 1680 Father Hennepin, a Jesuit missionary sent by La Salle, ascended the stream from the Illinois to the Falls of St. Anthony. Thus white men had followed the great river for nearly its whole length. But the greatest of all these explorers and the first to traverse the river for the greater part of its course, was the Chevalier Robert de la Salle, and to his name is given the glory of revealing this grand stream to mankind.
Never was there a more daring and indefatigable explorer than Robert de la Salle. He seemed born to make new lands and new people known to the world. Coming to Canada in 1667, he began his career by engaging in the fur trade on Lake Ontario. But he could not rest while the great interior remained unknown. In 1669 he made an expedition to the west and south, and was the first white man to gaze on the waters of the swift Ohio. In 1679 he launched on the Great Lakes the first vessel that ever spread its sails on those mighty inland seas, and in this vessel, the Griffin, he sailed through Lakes Erie, Huron, and Michigan.
La Salle next descended the Illinois River, and built a fort where the city of Peoria now stands. But his vessel was wrecked, and he was forced to make his way on foot through a thousand miles of wilderness to obtain supplies at Montreal. Such was the early record of this remarkable man, and for two years afterward his life was full of adventure and misfortune. At length, in 1682, he entered upon the great performance of his life, his famous journey upon the bosom of the Father of Waters.
It was midwinter when La Salle and his men set out from the lakes with their canoes. On the 4th of January, 1682, they reached the mouth of the Chicago River, where its waters enter Lake Michigan. The river was frozen hard, and they had to build sledges to drag their large and heavy canoes down the ice-closed stream. Reaching the portage to the Illinois, they continued their journey across the bleak and snowy waste, toilsomely dragging canoes, baggage, and provisions to the other stream. Here, too, they found a sheet of ice, and for some days longer trudged down the channel of the silent and dreary stream. Its banks had been desolated by Indian wars, and where once many flourishing villages rose there were to be seen only ashes and smoke-blackened ruins.
About the 1st of February they reached Crevecoeur, the fort La Salle had built some years earlier. Below this point the stream was free from ice, and after a week's rest the canoes were launched on the liquid surface. They were not long in reaching the point where the Illinois buries its waters in the mighty main river, the grave of so many broad and splendid streams.
Past the point they had now reached the Mississippi poured swiftly downward, its waters swollen, and bearing upon them great sheets of ice, the contribution of the distant north. It was no safe channel for their frail birch-bark canoes, and they were obliged to wait a week till the vast freightage of ice had run past. Then, on the 13th of February, 1682, they launched their canoes on the great stream, and began their famous voyage down its mighty course.
A day's journey brought them to the place where the turbulent Missouri pours its contribution, gathered from thousands of miles of mountain and prairie, into the parent stream, rushing with the force and roar of a rapid through a channel half a mile broad, and quickly converting the clear Mississippi waters into a turbid yellow torrent, thick with mud.
La Salle, like so many of the early explorers, was full of the idea of finding a short route across the continent to the Pacific Ocean, and he found the Indians at the mouth of the Missouri ready to tell him anything he wanted to know. They said that by sailing ten or twelve days up the stream, through populous villages of their people, he would come to a range of mountains in which the river rose; and by climbing to the summit of these lofty hills he could gaze upon a vast and boundless sea, whose waves broke on their farther side. It was one of those imaginative stories which the Indians were always ready to tell, and the whites as ready to believe, and it was well for La Salle that he did not attempt the fanciful adventure.
Savage settlements were numerous along the Mississippi, as De Soto had found a century and more earlier. About thirty miles below the Missouri they came to another village of peaceful natives, whose souls they made happy by a few trifling gifts which were of priceless worth to their untutored minds. Then downward still they went for a hundred miles or more farther, to the mouth of another great stream, this one flowing from the east, and as noble in its milder way as the Missouri had been in its turbulent flow. Unlike the latter, this stream was gentle in its current, and its waters were of crystal clearness. It was the splendid river which the Indians called the Wabash, or Beautiful River, and the French by the similar name of La Belle Riviere. It is now known as the Ohio, the Indian name being transferred to one of its tributaries. This was the stream on whose waters La Salle had gazed with admiration thirteen years before.
The voyagers were obliged to proceed slowly. Unable to carry many provisions in their crowded canoes, they were often forced to stop and fish or hunt for game. As the Indians told them they would find no good camping-grounds for many miles below the Ohio, they stopped for ten days at its mouth, hunting and gathering supplies. Parties were sent out to explore in various directions, and one of the men, Peter Prudhomme, failed to return. It was feared that he had been taken captive by the Indians, traces of whom had been seen near by, and a party of Frenchmen, with Indian guides, was sent out on the trails of the natives. They returned without the lost man, and La Salle, at length, reluctantly giving him up, prepared to continue the journey. Just as they were entering the canoes the missing man reappeared. For nine days he had been lost in the forest, vainly seeking his friends, and wandering hopelessly. His gun, however, had provided him with food, and he reached the stream just in time.
Once more the expedition was launched on the swift-flowing current, eight or ten large birch canoes filled with Indians and Frenchmen in Indian garb, and laden with supplies. The waters bore them swiftly onward, there was little labor with the paddles, the wintry weather was passing and the air growing mild, the sky sunny, and the light-hearted sons of France enjoyed their daily journey through new and strange scenes with the warmest zest.
About one hundred and twenty miles below the Ohio they reached the vicinity of the Arkansas River, the point near which the voyage of Marquette had ended and that of the followers of De Soto began. Here, for the first time in their journey, they met with hostile Indians. As the flotilla glided on past the Arkansas bluffs, on the 3d of March, its people were startled by hearing the yells of a large body of savages and the loud sound of a drum, coming from behind the bluff. The natives had taken the alarm, supposing that a war party of their enemies was coming to attack them.
La Salle ordered his canoes at once to be paddled to the other side of the stream, here a mile wide. The party landing, some intrenchments were hastily thrown up, for across the river they could now see a large village, filled with excited and armed warriors. Preparations for defence made, La Salle advanced to the water's edge and made signs of friendship and amity. Pacified by these signals of peace, some of the Indian chiefs rowed across until near the bank, when they stopped and beckoned to the strangers to come to them.
Father Membre, the priest who accompanied the expedition, entered a canoe and was rowed out to the native boat by two Indians. He held out to them the calumet, or pipe of peace, the Indian signal of friendship, and easily induced the chiefs to go with him to the camp of the whites. There were six of them, frank and cordial in manner, and seemingly disposed to friendship. La Salle made them very happy with a few small presents, and at their request the whole party embarked and accompanied them across the river to their village.
All the men of the place crowded to the bank to receive their strange visitors, women and children remaining timidly back. They were escorted to the wigwams, treated with every show of friendship, and regaled with the utmost hospitality. These Arkansas Indians were found to be a handsome race, and very different in disposition from the northern tribes, for they replaced the taciturn and often sullen demeanor of the latter with a gay and frank manner better suited to their warmer clime. They were also much more civilized, being skilled agriculturists, and working their fields by the aid of slaves captured in war. Corn, beans, melons, and a variety of fruits were grown in their fields, and large flocks of turkeys and other fowls were seen round their dwellings.
La Salle and his party stayed in the village for some two weeks, and before leaving went through the form of taking possession of the country in the name of the king of France. This proceeding was conducted with all the ceremony possible under the circumstances, a large cross being planted in the centre of the village, anthems sung, and religious rites performed. The Indians looked on in delight at the spectacle, blankly ignorant of what it all meant, and probably thinking it was got up for their entertainment. Had they known its full significance they might not have been so well pleased.
Embarking again on the 17th of March, the explorers continued their journey down the stream, coming after several days to a place where the river widened into a lake-like expanse. This broad sheet of water was surrounded with villages, forty being counted on the east side and thirty-four on the west. On landing in this populous community, they found the villages to be well built, the houses being constructed of clay mixed with straw, and covered with dome-like roofs of canes. Many convenient articles of furniture were found within.
These Southern Indians proved to be organized under a very different system from that prevailing in the North. There each tribe was a small republic, electing its chiefs, and preserving the liberty of its people. Here the tribes were absolute monarchies. The head-chief, or king, had the lives and property of all his subjects at his disposal, and kept his court with the ceremonious dignity of a European monarch. When he called on La Salle, who was too sick at that time to go and see him, the ceremony was regal. Every obstruction was removed from his path by a party of pioneers, and the way made level for his feet. The spot where he gave audience was carefully smoothed and covered with showy mats.
The dusky autocrat made his appearance richly attired in white robes, and preceded by two officers who bore plumes of gorgeously colored feathers. An official followed with two large plates of polished copper. The monarch had the courteous dignity and gravity of one born to the throne, though his interview with La Salle was conducted largely with smiles and gestures, as no word spoken could be understood. The travellers remained among this friendly people for several days, rambling through the villages and being entertained in the dwellings, and found them far advanced in civilization beyond the tribes of the North.
Father Membre has given the following account of their productions: "The whole country is covered with palm-trees, laurels of two kinds, plums, peaches, mulberry, apple, and pear-trees of every variety. There are also five or six kinds of nut-trees, some of which bear nuts of extraordinary size. They also gave us several kinds of dried fruit to taste. We found them large and good. They have also many varieties of fruit-trees which I never saw in Europe. The season was, however, too early to allow us to see the fruit. We observed vines already out of blossom."
Continuing their journey down the stream, the adventurers next came to the country of the Natchez Indians, whom they found as friendly as those they had recently left. La Salle, indeed, was a man of such genial and kind disposition and engaging manners that he made friends of all he met. As Father Membre says, "He so impressed the hearts of these Indians that they did not know how to treat us well enough." This was a very different reception to that accorded De Soto and his followers, whose persistent ill-treatment of the Indians made bitter enemies of all they encountered.
The voyagers, however, were soon to meet savages of different character. On the 2d of April, as they floated downward through a narrow channel where a long island divided the stream, their ears were suddenly greeted with fierce war-whoops and the hostile beating of drums. Soon a cloud of warriors was seen in the dense border of forest, gliding from tree to tree and armed with strong bows and long arrows. La Salle at once stopped the flotilla and sent one canoe ahead, the Frenchmen in it presenting the calumet of peace. But this emblem here lost its effect, for the boat was greeted with a volley of arrows. Another canoe was sent, with four Indians, who bore the calumet; but they met with the same hostile reception.
Seeing that the savages were inveterately hostile, La Salle ordered his men to their paddles, bidding them to hug the opposite bank and to row with all their strength. No one was to fire, as no good could come from that. The rapidity of the current and the swift play of the paddles soon sent the canoes speeding down the stream, and though the natives drove their keen arrows with all their strength, and ran down the banks to keep up their fire, the party passed without a wound.
A few days more took the explorers past the site of the future city of New Orleans and to the head of the delta of the Mississippi, where it separates into a number of branches. Here the fleet was divided into three sections, each taking a branch of the stream, and very soon they found the water salty and the current becoming slow. The weather was mild and delightful, and the sun shone clear and warm, when at length they came into the open waters of the Gulf and their famous voyage was at an end.
Ascending the western branch again until they came to solid ground, a massive column bearing the arms of France was erected, and by its side was planted a great cross. At the foot of the column was buried a leaden plate, on which, in Latin, the following words were inscribed:
"Louis the Great reigns. Robert, Cavalier, with Lord Tonti, Ambassador, Zenobia Membre, Ecclesiastic, and twenty Frenchmen, first navigated this river from the country of the Illinois, and passed through this mouth on the ninth of April, sixteen hundred and eighty-two."
La Salle then made an address, in which he took possession for France of the country of Louisiana; of all its peoples and productions, from the mouth of the Ohio; of all the rivers flowing into the Mississippi from their sources, and of the main stream to its mouth in the sea. Thus, according to the law of nations, as then existing, the whole valley of the Mississippi was annexed to France; a magnificent acquisition, of which that country was destined to enjoy a very small section, and finally to lose it all.
We might tell the story of the return voyage and of the fierce conflict which the voyagers had with the hostile Quinnipissa Indians, who had attacked them so savagely in their descent, but it will be of more interest to give the account written by Father Membre of the country through which they had passed.
"The banks of the Mississippi," he writes, "for twenty or thirty leagues from its mouth are covered with a dense growth of canes, except in fifteen or twenty places where there are very pretty hills and spacious, convenient landing-places. Behind this fringe of marshy land you see the finest country in the world. Our hunters, both French and Indian, were delighted with it. For an extent of six hundred miles in length and as much in breadth, we were told there are vast fields of excellent land, diversified with pleasing hills, lofty woods, groves through which you might ride on horseback, so clear and unobstructed are the paths.
"The fields are full of all kinds of game,—wild cattle, does, deer, stags, bears, turkeys, partridges, parrots, quails, woodcock, wild pigeons, and ring-doves. There are also beaver, otters, and martens. The cattle of this country surpass ours in size. Their head is monstrous and their look is frightful, on account of the long, black hair with which it is surrounded and which hangs below the chin. The hair is fine, and scarce inferior to wool.