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
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.
(Madison Julius Cawein)
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Based on Keywords: boone, buffaloes, depended, lexington, war-whoop, renegade, hoy, palisades, heroically, stockade, besieging
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