Madison Julius Cawein Poems >>
How They Brought Aid To Bryan's Station

During the siege of Bryan's Station, Kentucky, August 16, 1782, Nicholas
Tomlinson and Thomas Bell, two inhabitants of the Fort, undertook to
ride through the besieging Indian and Tory lines to Lexington, Ky., for
aid. It happened also during this siege that the pioneer women of the
Fort, when the water supply was exhausted, heroically carried water from
a spring, at a considerable distance outside the palisades of the
Station, to its inmates, under the very guns of the enemy.

 With saddles girt and reins held fast,
 Our rifles well in front, at last
  Tom Bell and I were mounted.
 The gate swung wide. We said, "Good-bye."
 No time for talk had Bell and I.
 One said, "God speed!" another, "Fly!"
 Then out we galloped. Live or die,
  We felt each moment counted.

 The trace, the buffaloes had worn,
 Stretched broad before us; and the corn
  And cane through which it wended,
 We knew for acres from the gate
 Hid Indian guile and Tory hate.
 We rode with hearts that seemed to wait
 For instant death; and on our fate
  The Station's fate depended.

 No rifle cracked. No creature stirred,
 As on towards Lexington we spurred
  Unflinchingly together.
 We reached the woods: no savage shout
 Of all the wild Wyandotte rout
 And Shawanese had yet rung out:
 But now and then an Indian scout
  Showed here a face and feather.

 We rode expecting death each stride
 From thicket depth or tree-trunk side,
  Where some red foe might huddle--
 For well we knew that renegade,
 The blood-stained Girty, had not stayed
 His fiends from us, who rode for aid,--
 The dastard he who had betrayed
  The pioneers of Ruddle.

 And when an arrow grazed my hair
 I did not turn, I did not spare
  To spur as men spur warward:
 A war-whoop rang this side a rock:
 Then painted faces swarmed, to block
 Our way, with brandished tomahawk
 And rifle: then a shout, a shock--
  And we again rode forward.

 They followed; but 'twas no great while
 Before from them by some long mile
  Of forest we were sundered.
 We galloped on. I'd lost my gun;
 And Bell, whose girth had come undone,
 Rode saddleless. The summer sun
 Was up when into Lexington
  Side unto side we thundered.

 Too late. For Todd had left that day
 With many men. Decoyed away
  To Hoy's by some false story.
 And we must after. Bryan's needs
 Said, "On!" although our gallant steeds
 Were blown--Enough! we must do deeds!
 Must follow where our duty leads,
  Be it to death or glory.

 The way was wild and often barred
 By trees and rocks; and it was hard
  To keep our hearts from sinking;
 But thoughts of those we'd left behind
 Gave strength to muscle and to mind
 To help us onward through the blind
 Deep woods. And often we would find
  Ourselves of loved ones thinking.

 The hot stockade. No water left.
 The fierce attack. All hope bereft
  The powder-grimed defender.
 The war-cry and the groan of pain.
 All day the slanting arrow-rain
 Of fire from the corn and cane.
 The stern defence, but all in vain.
  And then at last--surrender.

 But not for Bryan's!--no! too well
 Must they remember what befell
  At Ruddle's and take warning.
 So thought we as, all dust and sweat,
 We rode with faces forward set,
 And came to Station Boone while yet
 An hour from noon ... We had not let
  Our horses rest since morning.

 Here Ellis met us with his men.
 They did not stop nor tarry then.
  That little band of lions;
 But setting out at once with aid,
 Right well you know how unafraid
 They charged the Indian ambuscade,
 And through a storm of bullets made
  Their entrance into Bryan's.

 And that is all I have to tell.
 No more the Huron's hideous yell
  Sounds to assault and slaughter.--
 Perhaps to us some praise is due;
 But we are men, accustomed to
 Such dangers, which we often woo.
 Much more is due our women who
  Brought to the Station--water.