« PreviousContinue »
BATTLE OF BLOODY BROOK.
A PASSAGE IN AMERICAN HISTORY.
What hallows ground where heroes sleep?
Their turf may bloom.'
Every incident connected with the early history of our country, in which the valor of our forefathers was signally displayed, comes down to us with all the interest of self-love, and all the freshness of romance. We love to dwell, for reasons better felt than explained, on the deeds of our sires, and the times that tried their souls. There is something hallowed in the associations which gather around us, while reflecting on those instances of devotedness and chivalrous patriotism which distinguished their acts - a feeling almost of devotion. Too many of those deeds have gone down to oblivion “unhonored and unsung; and if perchance a fragment of the past is snatched from the grasp of Time, it excites in us sentiments the more sacred from the lapse of years.
But there was a period in our country's story, beyond that in which our forefathers struggled to make us a free and happy people — a time whose history is but faintly chronicled — when the sufferings of our pioneer ancestors were unwept and unrequited. That epoch would seem to have been swallowed up in the interest of the events which followed; yet those earlier periods afford us examples of unparalleled sufferance and unmatched heroism.
It was a gloomy era, when the fair face of our country was every where a dark wilderness — when our pilgrim fathers were at all times surrounded by the beasts and the savages of the forest and when all was rude and cheerless. In the progress of scenes, from that time forward, many and dangerous were the vicissitudes by which they were marked. The eternal solitude which gave place to the busy hand of the settler, and the umbrageous darkness that disappeared from around his humble domicil, were yet the stilly haunts of the Indian. As the plain, in time, was made to yield support for the new-comer, and the cabins of the white men began to thicken along the valley, the red man reluctantly retired to the mountain. His pleasant places on the uplands, beside the rivers, stocked with the scaly tribes yielding to him sustenance, had become occupied. The level patches where he raised his corn, with the beautiful hills where his tribe loved to congregate, were in the possession of the stranger. His nearer hunting grounds were disturbed, and his game began to disappear. Thus dispossessed of his inheritance, and disquieted in his neighbouring solitudes, the primitive and rightful lord of ihe soil deeply fostered a secret hate against the cause of his grievances. As he gathered around his council-fire, and reflected on the stranger's encroachments, or listened to the complaints of his brethren, and the exciting eloquence of his chiefs, his soul began to kindle within him, and his bosom to swell with rage. Already had the num. bers of the pale faces become alarming, and their hold hardihood inspired a spirit of dread. The fearful missiles which the stranger so dexterously used, above all, excited his fears, and deterred him from manifesting his resentment. Continued irritation, however, overcomes apparent impossibilities, and gradually wears away the most obstinate objections. The cunning of the savage was deemed a match for his enemy; his fleetness, his distant retreats, and his poisoned arrows, were presented by the orators to force up his courage to the determined point. Nor-was it long before the Indian's festering hate broke forth. The war-song now resounded along the mountain-side. The fearful yell is heard in the distance, and each settler prepares himself for the worst. And now it was, that the direful note of death rang along the Connecticut valley, and deeds of blood began to desolate the land.
For many years was this pleasant valley the scene of heroic struggles — of suffering, and of death. Long did the hardy white man sustain himself against the superior numbers and the wily arts of the savage; but sadly did he pay the cost of his attachment to the land of his choice, and the endearing associations of home. Frequent and deadly were the conflicts in which he engaged with his implacable enemy. Deep and lasting was the mutual hate of the combatants, and as deep and as artful were their schemes of destruction. Victory often crowned the untiring efforts of the foe, when painful captivity or indiscriminate slaughter ensued. To tell of the many murderous deeds and the deep agonies which marked the triumphs of the embittered savage, would long employ the pen, and harrow up the feelings of the soul. To the cruel perseverance of the Indian, in this war of extermination, were added the secret promptings of base cupidity. The Canadian Frenchmen now urged on the brutal force of the not less barbarous foe, by their liberal rewards and legalized bounties for captives and for scalps. Still more powerful motives actuated the red men, while large numbers of the reckless whites joined them in the execution of their most desperate deeds; and it was said that the cruelty and brutality of the Frenchman far exceeded those of the savage wild man.
It was thus with our forefathers, when an attack was anticipated from combined forces of the Indians on the little nucleus of farm-houses at the present beautiful village of Deerfield, in Massachusetts. A little army had collected at Hadley, composed of the hardy peasantry of the valley, determined on decisive and desperate efforts against the common enemy. The produce which had been gathered and housed at Deerfield, was necessary for the support of this band of determined yeomanry, and for the affirighted families who had there congregated; nor was it desirable that so much valuable substance should fall into the hands of the Indians, the more effectually to enable them to continue their bloody warfare. It was therefore resolved, that one hundred choice young men, justly denominated the flower of the country,' should be selected to go with teams, in the face of danger, and transport the rich products of the soil from Deerfield to Hadley. The expedition was cheerfully undertaken by the requisite number of brave youths. Already were their teams loaded and on their way to the place of destination. The watchful enemy had, however, obtained intelligence of the expedition, and, with the greatest secrecy and celerity, collected in fearful numbers on a neighboring hill, shut out from view by the dense forest with which it was crowned.
Here their eloquent chiefs encouraged them, by every effort of lan
guage and of gesture, to deeds of bravery and desperation Their plans were matured, and every means devised, which power and strategy could suggest, to destroy the devoted band, and to capture the treasures in their charge. And now their royal leader, with all the force and enthusiasm which had characterized the most potent warrior and consummate general that the history of savage life had ever revealed, broke forth, and thus revealed his great and impassioned mind :* Warriors ! see you the treasures of the pale faces — the richest stores of the longknives? See you the young men, few and feeble, that yonder carelessly stroll in the valley? See you our numbers, and the brave warriors that stand around you, and feel not your hearts strong? Is not your arm powerful, and your soul valiant ? And who is he that goes before you? Who will direct you in the ambush and the fight? Is it not he who never knew fear ? whose heart is like the mountain, and his arm like the forest oak ? - the great chief of the Naragansetts, whose people are like the leaves, and whose warriors are the terror of the pale faces ? Follow him, and all is yours! Each hatchet give a fatal aim - sink deep these knives ? — these arrows drink their blood! Away! – to death! our fathers and our homes!'
The wild spirit of the proud and lofty Phillip ran like electricity through the savage horde. Each burned for the affray, and quickly sprang into the trail of his great captain. Silently he glided from the mountain, and cowered along the meadow land that lay in a vale by the road side.
Here, deeply immersed in the luxuriant wild grass, shrink one thousand warriors, fiend-like exulting in the anticipated victory and slaughter. Now came the train of teams, cautiously guarded, as they had been thus far, by the chosen corps, and descended the small hill which conducted them into the green vale traversed by the road, and near which lay concealed the foe, ready to dart on their prey. Tradition says that here the noble youths, dreaming little of danger from the enemy, rested for the moment, and gathered grapes from the clustering vines that hung thick with their rich fruit by the road. When, 'sudden as the spark from smitten steel,' the thousand savage forms sprang from their ambush, and with hideous yells rushed to the onslaught. The vigorous youths, unterrified by the sudden assault, the yells, or the fearful numbers of the enemy, instantly rallied, and as quickly brought their rifles to their shoulders. They had received the cloud of arrows, as the savages approached within bow-shot of their victims, but now, in turn, the fatal lead from a still more deadly weapon made many a warrior bite the ground. The certain aim of the young band had told death to as many of the savage clan. Still onward they pressed, over their dead, and ihickly hurled their missiles. Again, with deadly aim, the fire of the little and determined group of whites brought down the foremost of the desperate foe, and threw confusion into their ranks.
* History makes no mention of King Phillip being in this part of the country, either at this or any other time; but, from a tradition among the Indians themselves, i am enabled to state, with confidence, that this great sachem both contrived and led on this attack. Added to this, is the historical fact, that he was absent from his seat at Mount Hope about this time, no doubt for the purpose of enlisting other tribes în a warfare against the English; and he probably took advantage of the occasion to display to the tribes hereabout his success in planning, and his prowess in battle.
A gleam of hope broke through the fearful prospect, and for a moment relieved the doubts which the overwhelming numbers and fierce desperation of the savages had inspired. But quickly in front was heard the animating voice of their valiant chieftain, and as quickly did they rally and return the destructive fire. The noble youths, though with half their numbers slain, resolved to sell their lives at fatal cost. Nor was a nerve thrilled with fear, or a heart disposed to falter, as their ultimate fate now became too plainly apparent. Still onward, with brutal force, wrought to madness by the example and the thundering voice of the gigantic Phillip, pressed the exulting foe.
To utmost deeds brave Lathrop now inspired the daring band, as each had caught from him the thrilling cry: Our God! homes ! - our country, and our sires !! But in an instant, pierced with many arrows, he falls among the slain. The heroic captain, 'the bravest of the brave,' now fallen, the enemy express their fiendish joy in loud and terrific yells. The fight thickens, and man conflicts with man. The dying groans of the Christian nerves each youthful arm, which still deeper returns successive blows.
Impelled with fury at the destruction which was yet making in their ranks by the almost superhuman efforts of the brave whites, they strove, with all the brutality of fiends, to complete their deadly work. length the number of the valiant youths was reduced to a solitary few; when the foremost of these, on turning to animate his comrades, saw himself supported by seven only of his associates. These, finding all efforts at victory hopeless, and that longer warfare would but add to the scalps of the victors, dashed their weapons in the face of the foe, and attempted to escape. The two who stood last in this unequal contest the most athletic of the chivalrous corps — bounding over the slain, took a direction toward the Deerfield river, followed by two hundred Indians, hurling with almost deadly precision their arrows and hatchets. The whizzing of these missiles urged the powerful remnant to their utmost speed. One of these, plunging into the stream, vainly attempted to reach its opposite bank; pierced by the arrows of the savages, he sank lifeless to its bottom, while the other, running along the shore, screened by the under-brush on its banks, silently sank into the water. Here, amid a thick and dark cluster of weeds and bushes, he supported himself by the trunk of an old tree lying on the edge of the stream, with his face sufficiently elevated to admit of respiration, until the Indians had relinquished their search for him, continually hearing, near by him, their hasty tramp, and fearful yells of disappointment. When all was still, and during the darkness of night, he swam across the river; and, stiff and cold, began his march for Hadley, where he arrived on the following day, the last and only living witness, as tradition says, of the battle of Bloody Brook. Reader, this youth was the writer's grandfather!
Returning to the spot which history has so justly designated as Bloody Brook,' the barbarous enemy, on completing their destruction of life, began that of the dead. The busy scalping-knife was doing its frightful office, and the naked heads, severed from the lifeless trunks, were dancing high in air on the points of poles. The sickening sight made the less savage foe revolt. Death had not done its last kind duties, when this infernal sport commenced. The convulsive
throe still showed the struggle between life and death. The spouting blood, still warm with life, was seen to gush forth from the gaping wounds and, trickling along the green-sward, find a repository in the gurgling brook near by. The gory rills were fast purpling the little stream, and transporting the red tide down to oblivion — the
, richest flood that ever rivulet bore. All around was horror, torture, and death; when suddenly appeared, on the crown of the hill, a large company of white men, who had come from Greenfield, with all possible haste, to the succor of their brethren. But, alas! it was too late ! The scene we have described was presented instead. Filled with rage and madness, this furious band rushed down the hill upon the brutal force, yet gloating in blood, and falling like lions among them, made terrible havoc. Alarmed at this furious and unexpected assault, the savages sprang, with fear and desperate fleetness, from the scene, striving only to escape the death which their barbarity so justly merited. But full many a warrior fell by the strong arm of the vengeful white man. Flight alone saved the few remaining enemy.
A sad duty now devolved on the final victors. They dug on the spot the sepulchre which to this day contains the commingling dust of their youthful brethren, and over its mouth is to be seen a smooth flat stone, the only humble testimonial of posterity. Yes, there by the side of the road leading from the pretty villages we have mentioned, and near the little brook destined to give immortality to the event, may the curious traveler, as he passes through the green fields of the Connecticut valley, see the mound which designates the place where fought and sleep the un honored brave. Peace to thy manes, heroic youths ! Thy country's history shall preserve thy memory!
It is not a little curious, among the phenomena of mind, to mark the effect of external objects in recalling long-lost impressions. While standing on the spot thus hallowed by deeds of bravery, and while dwelling on the scenes which the imagination was picturing before me, I was all at once overwhelmed, as if by a sudden rush of light from the darkness of the past. Circumstances, localities — the realities, in
- , all the vividness with which they were related to me, when but eight years of age, by my grandsire — started fresh into life. More than thirty years have elapsed since memory recalled one of those impressions, and yet every word that was dropped from the lips of that venerated man his actions - his very look, while relating to me the affray at · Bloody Brook,' came back upon me more freshly than a dream of yester-night. Every incident of that sanguinary fight, than which none in the history of our country was more fatally decisive, came up from the abyss of tiine, with all the vigor and clearness of present vision. He was then but eighteen years of age — of powerful mould, and great muscular
. activity. The thrilling particulars which he described in his venerable age, thus presented themselves to my mind, a short time since, on the consecrated spot, to which neither history nor tradition has yet done justice.