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NARRATIVE

OF THE

LIFE OF GENERAL LESLIE COMBS,

OF KENTUCKY,

EYBRACING INCIDENTS IN THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE NORTH-WESTERN TERRITORY.

The biography of men in the Republic and fearless race; and leading the free and who have raised themselves by their own untrammeled life of the backwoods, and unaided talents and energies above the level breathing from infancy the atmosphere of of the general mass of the community in unrestrained freedom and independencewhich their lot has been cast, must be both hence a frank, generous, hospitable race, entertaining and instructive to their fellow- endued with an upsophiscated and plain countrymen. Doubly instructive and pro- sense of right, with a ready disposition to fitable, in a more extended view, are these uphold and protect it, as well as a keen napersonal histories, when they relate to the tive sense of wrong, and a impulsive instinct lives and fortunes of those who may be to repel and redress it; the men of this race regarded as representative men-types of have ever been foremost, whether in extendclasses that constitute essential or important ing the area of civilization and of the Reelements in our national character, and public, by felling the forest and subduing which, though somewhat heterogeneous in the rank prairie, or in defending our nationtheir origin and diverse in their features, al rights and avenging our national wrongs have yet become, through the harmonizing on the field of battle. and fostering influences of our republican It was this race, represented by and institutions, consolidated and blended into speaking through a Henry Clay and others & congruous whole, known and recognized of that stamp, which aroused our Governthroughout the world, distinctively as the ment to a declaration of war, to vindicate American character.

our violated national rights on the ocean, Vor are these essential and characteristic early in the present century; and it was elements referable solely to peculiar nation- this race themselves, who, at the call of al origins. On the contrary, local and other their country, rushed with an unexampled circumstances, irrespective of nationalities, unanimity and alacrity to the field, while, have formed some of the most distinctive, in some parts of the country, but too many and, in a national point of view, impor- of the more immediate neighbors and kin tant of these elements. Of this kind were dred of those citizens whose rights of perthe circumstances attending the early settle- son or property on the sea had been outment of our Western country; circumstances raged, not only refused to respond to this which overbore and nearly obliterated all national call, but sought to thwart the purdistinctions of national origin, blending and poses of the Government, by opposing its consolidating all such elements in the com- measures adopted for the purpose of obtainprehensive, distinctive national one, rep- ing redress, in some instances, by acts little resented by the Western hunter, pioneer short of treason. And it is to the descendand settler, as combined in the same indi- ants of this race, already numbering milvidual.

lions of hardy, unflinching republicans, to Nurtured amidst stirring scenes, and ac- which our country must look for a patriotic customed from early childhood to a life of and generous support of its institutions, as activity, hardship, exposure, and thrilling ad- a united whole, whenever the violence of venture-hence a hardy, enterprising, bold, I ultra factions in the extreme North or South,

impelled by whatever motives, shall seek to Seven only of his children survived him; overturn the institutions established by our among whom was divided his hundred-acre revolutionary forefathers. It is then that farm in Clarke county, which had furnished the people of the great West, the descend- his only support in raising his large famants of the pioneer, hunter race, will—as ily. Of course their means and oppor.unione of her representatives declared in his ties of education were limited; but, fortuplace in a late Congresshave something to nately for the subject of this memoir, when say on the final question of union or disu- he was but ten or eleven years of age, the nion.

Rev. John Lyle, a Presbyterian clergyman, As being a worthy representative of this opened a school of a higher order than was race, and also one whose early life and ad- usual in the country in those days; and in ventures are intimately connected with an it he was taught the Latin language, as interesting and instructive, but now almost well as English grammar, geograplay, and forgotten portion of our national history, as the lower branches of mathematics. His relating to the West, we shall depart some-progress in all his studies was rapid, and what from our ordinary practice, and allow he soon became the pet of his venerable inourselves more space and latitude than usual, structor, as he was the pride of his aged in detailing the personal narrative of the sub- parents. ject of the present memoir.

This state of things continued about three GENERAL LESLIE Combs is descended, years, when Mr. Lyle removed to a neighon the side of his mother, whose maiden boring county ; and for a time our young name was SARAH RICHARdson, from a re- scholar was compelled to remain at tiome, spectable Quaker family of Maryland, con- and assisted in cultivating the farm. The nected by blood with the Thomases and great anxiety, however, of both his parents Snowdens. His father was by birth a Vir- to give him as liberal an education as possiginian, and served as a subaltern officer in ble, was soon gratified by their being able the revolutionary army under Washington, to place him in the family of a French genat the siege of Yorktown and capture of tleman residing near Ashland, whose lady Lord Cornwallis. He soon afterwards emi- taught a few scholars, and under whose ingrated to Kentucky, and was engaged in struction he remained for a year; his time all those dangerous and sometimes bloody being mainly devoted to the acquisition of scenes which resulted in driving out the In- her native language. That admirable lady dians, and devoting that rich and beautiful is yet alive, and still residing in her humble region to the cause and purposes of civiliza- home, one of her daughters having married tion.

a son of Henry Clay. Both his parents have been dead for sev- Shortly after returning home, he was eral years; and as their youngest of twelve placed as the junior deputy in the clerk's children, he has erected over their humble Office of Hon. S. H. Woodson, in Jessamine graves, within a few miles of Boonesboro, county, and was residing there, when the appropriate tombstones. On his father's are last war was declared against Great Britain. inscribed the simple facts, that he was a The excitement in Kentucky, on the occur"Revolutionary Officer and a Hunter of rence of that event, pervaded all ages and Kentucky.A simple, affecting, and sug- classes. gestive tribute to the unpretending but Even those who are old enough to resterling worth of one of that class of men member the events of those times, but who which has impressed its characteristic traits were born and have always lived in the :28 honorably as it has indelibly on our na- eastern portions of the country, can have tional character: "a hunter of Kentucky;" | little idea of the intensity of feeling aroused one of that fearless, enterprising, self-relying, by this event among the hardy inhabitants frank and generous race, which, as the hardy of Kentucky and the frontier portions of the pioneer of civilization in our Western sav- north-western country. In that region, the age wilds, has extended the area of the Re- interval between the close of the war of the public over those once almost illimitable Revolution and the declaration of the secforests and prairies, and, by its valor and ond war with the same power, had witnessed .devotion to country, has contributed so much an almost uninterrupted struggle between to our national greatness and fame. the Western pioneer settlers and the native tribes of those regions, who, as was well It cannot therefore be wondered at, that known, were continually instigated and paid the son of an old soldier and hunter, who by British agents to harass and devastate had often listened of a winter evening to his our infant settlements. Hence the nation- father's thrilling details of Indian fights, and al animosity against the mother country ambuscades, and hairbreadth escapes, should excited by the War of Independence, so far be infected with the contagion, and long, from having been allayed or effaced in those boy as he was, to throw away his pen and parts, as was the case to a considerable ex- seize some implement of war. tent in the East, by the lapse of thirty years Young Leslie Combs had just passed his of peace, nominal as regarded the Western eighteenth birthday, and was, by law, subject frontier, had, on the contrary, been gradually to militia duty, although he had not been inincreasing and becoming intensified down to scribed on any muster-roll. Kentucky was the very moment of the declaration of war called upon for several thousand troops, and in 1812. This feeling reached its acme he hoped to be one of the soldiers enlisted when that same power whose agents had so in the great cause of " sailors' rights and free long been inciting the savages to ruthless trade with all the world,” in defiance of Briforays on the defenseless and peaceful set- tain's proud, insulting claim, as mistress of tlements, now entered into alliances with the seas, to insult our flag and seize our seathem, and, by offering premiums for the men. He accordingly borrowed a fowlingscalps of men, women, and children, incited piece, and set himself to work to acquire the them to redoubled zeal in the prosecution of manual exercise as taught by Baron Steuben, their instinctive and inhuman mode of war- then the only approved master in such matfare.

ters. It was supposed that a draft would be neA series of revolting atrocities perpetrated cessary, but, instead of that, there were more early in the war by the savages, many of volunteers than were required to fill the them under the very eye, and with the ap- quota of Kentucky, and young Leslie's paproval or connivance of the commanders of rents objected to his going, inasmuch as two their British allies, especially of the noto of his elder brothers had previously joined rious Colonel, and for these his acts pro- the troops ordered to the northern frontier, moted or brevetted General Proctor, whose under General Winchester. It was not long memory the voice of outraged humanity will after they marched, however, before his conconsigu to eternal infamy, aroused the whole tinued and earnest importunities, sometimes Western country to a pitch of intense excite-urged with tears in his eyes, prevailed upon ment, which manifested itself in a universal them to let him go. Equipping himself as cry for revenge, and a spontaneous rush to a private of cavalry as speedily as possible, the field.*

about a month after the

army marched from Georgetown, Kentucky, he started alone on

their track, hoping to overtake them in time * “ Exasperated to madness by the failure of to partake of their glorious triumphs in Cat1 eir attempt, September 4, 1812, on Fort Har nada, for, like the rest, he never dreamed of rison, (defended by Captain Zachary Taylor,) a considerable party of Indians now made an irrup disaster and defeat. “I shall never forget," tion into the settlements on the Pigeon Roost fork to quote his words in after years, of White river, where they barbarously massacred ing scene with my beloved and venerated twenty-one of the inhabitants, many of them wo. men and children. The children had their brains father's history, and her own trials and dan

mother, in which she reminded me of my knocked out against trees; and one woman, who was pregnant, was ripped open, and her unborn infant gers in the early settlement of Kentucky, and taken from her, and its brains knocked out. Huw. closed by saying to me, as I had resolved to ever, this was but a small matter; it amounted to become a soldier, I must never disgrace my no essential injury; it was all for the best, as it was done by the disciples of the Wabash Prophet, parents by running from danger;—to die who was in a close and holy alliance with George rather than fail to do my duty. This inthe Third, defender of the faith, and legitimate junction was ever present to me afterwards, sovereign of the Bible Society nation, which is in the midst of dangers and difficulties of the bulwark of our most holy religion. Yet it ex- which I had then formed no idea, and stimcited the indignation of the uncivilized republican ulated me to deeds that I might otherwise, infidels in the neighboring settlements of Indiana and Kentucky.”—McAfee

. History of the Late perhaps, have hesitated to undertake and War in the Western Country,pp. 154-5.

perform."

" the part

Here properly closes what may be termed a month earlier, and Chicago had been the first chapter of his personal history ; be- abandoned on the 15th of August, and its cause from this time he threw off boyhood, garrison murdered or captured by a large and entered upon a career more befitting force of Indians who had received news of manhood.

Hull's retreat from Canada, and thereupon Before proceeding with the personal nar- resolved to unite with the British against rative of our subject, and in order to enable us, as they had been previously urged to do the reader the better to understand the scenes by Tecumseh, then rising into power among of danger and suffering through which be the northern tribes on this side of the Amepassed during the unfortunate campaigns of rican and British boundary line. 1812–13, we will briefly sketch the situation Thus our whole frontier from Lake Erie to of the great North-western Territory, nor the Mississippi river was left utterly undecomposing some six or seven sovereign States fended except by two small forts— Wayne of this great republican confederacy. From and Harrison-one at the junction of the just beyond Urbana and Dayton, in western St. Joseph and St. Mary rivers, forming the Ohio, to the northern lakes in one direction, Maumee of the Lake, the other on the and the Mississippi river in another, was one far-distant Wabash. Both were defended by unbroken wilderness, inhabited only by In- block-houses and wooden pickets, both were dians and wild beasts, with the exception of attacked by the Indians at about the same a few scattering settlements on some of the time, and Captain Zack Taylor, defending principal rivers, at great distances from each Fort Harrison, as we have before intimated, other. There was a small fort at Detroit, with most unflinching heroism, laid the founone at Mackinac, and one at Chicago, besides dation of that subsequent career of military Forts Wayne and Harrison, each garrisoned glory and self-devotion, which finally elevated by a few regular troops. William Hull him to the Presidential office. was Governor of the Territory of Michigan, Three regiments of Kentucky volunteers, and William Henry Harrison of Indiana. under the command of Colonels Scott, Lewis, In view of the growing difficulties with Great and Allen, and one regiment of regulars, Britain in the spring of 1812, Governor Hull under Colonel Wells, had, in the mean time, received the appointment of Brigadier-Gen- been ordered to the north-western frontier, to eral in the army of the United States, and reënforce General Hull. The former rendezwas sent to Ohio to take command of the voused at Georgetown on the 16th of August, forces ordered to Detroit to protect that fron- and after being addressed by the old veteran, tier in case of war. These consisted of the General Charles Scott, then Governor of Kenfourth regiment of regulars, under Colonel tucky, and by Henry Clay, were mustered Miller, and three regiments of Ohio vol into the service of the United States. The unteers, under Colonels Duncan McArthur, best blood of Kentucky, the sons of the old Lewis Cass, and James Findlay. War was hunters and Indian fighters, could be found in declared on the 18th June, 1812, while Gen- this little army. Two members of Congress eral Hull was on his tardy march through were among the privates in the ranks. Litthe northern swamps of Ohio towards De- tle did they imagine, while listening to the troit. His baggage, which liad been sent by soul-stirring appeals of the great Kentucky way of the lake, was captured in attempt. orator, that, instead of marching to Canada ing to pass Malden, at the mouth of the De- to aid in its conquest, on that very day troit river. IIe himself soon afterwards the white flag of disgraceful surrender bad reached Detroit, issued bis famous procla- been hung out by the coward or the traimation, and talked largely of overrunning tor Hull from the battlements of Detroit; Upper Canada, for effecting which object he and that their own career of anticipated vichad ample forces under his command; in- tories and glory would terminate in disaster, stead of doing which, however, he very soon as it did, on the bloody battle-field of Raisin, retreated back to the American shore, and on the following 22d day of January. Genon the 16th August disgracefully surrender-eral James Winchester had command of this ed his army and the whole of Michigan force, and marched on the 17th by way of CinTerritory to General Brock, commanding the nnati, (then a small town on the Ohio river, British forces on that frontier,

opposite to Newport,) towards the northMackinaw had been forced to capitulate I western frontier; and it was not until they

had passed the Kentucky border that the Wayne, distant about sixty miles, through news of Hull's surrender reached them. an unbroken wilderness, infested with hostile

Gorernor Harrison had acquired very savages; and there found the troops in moconsiderable fame by his glorious victory at tion towards Old Fort Defiance, at the juncTippecanoe the preceding November, and tion of the Maumee and Anglaise rivers, and was in Kentucky at that time on a visit. So was attached by general orders as a cadet to soon as the events just above related were the first regiment of Kentucky Volunteers, communicated to the Government at Wash- under Colonel Scott. In this capacity he ington, three or four additional regiments of continued to do duty the remainder of the volunteers were ordered from Kentucky, campaign, going out on all scouting-parties, and the Governor of Kentucky prevailed on and thus becoming well acquainted with the Governor Harrison to accept the office of whole surrounding country. Some of them Major-General, and to hasten with the forces were attended with great hazard, and all of then in the field, and a large body of mount- them with extra fatigue and hardship, even ed Kentucky militia, to the relief of Fort when compared with the starved and naked Wayne.

condition of all that wing of the army. This, it will be remembered, he accom- As these events have no doubt long since plished, and forced the Indians and their passed from the memories of those not imBritish auxiliaries to retreat precipitately to- mediately connected with them, and the wards Canada, without daring to engage him principal history of them, written by Colonel in battle.

McAfee, is nearly out of print, we take leave By selling a small piece of land (all he to quote from his authentic work, “The had on earth) devised to him by a deceased History of the late War in the Western Counelder brother, he soon completed his outfit try," printed in 1816, the following pasas a volunteer, and, armed with holsters and sages, first remarking that the left wing of broadsword, with only fifteen dollars in his the north-western army, under General pocket, he started for the north-western Winchester, (General Harrison having some arıny, which was then marching with all pos- weeks before received the appointment of sible speed towards the frontiers of Ohio, in Major-General from the President of the order to reënforce General Hull. Never United States, and assumed the chief comhaving been forty miles from home before mand,) was encamped six miles below Old this time, young and inexperienced as he Fort Defiance, on the Maumee : was, nothing but his burning zeal for the cause to which he had devoted him

“About the first of November they became exself could have sustained him against all the lence, so that sometimes three or four would die in a

tremely sickly. The typhus fever raged with vio. perils and hardships of his long journey. day. Upwards of three hundred were daily on the When he arrived at Piqua, beyond Dayton, sick-list; and so discouraging was the prospect of he found crowds of Indians, men, women, advancing, that about the first of December they and children, principally from the neighbor- tion. Many were so entirely destitute of shoes and

were ordered to build huts for their accommoda. ing Shawanee villages, who were besieging other clothing, that they must have frozen if they the commissary's and quartermaster's apart- had been obliged to march any distance ; and ments for food, blankets, and ammunition. sometimes the whole army would be for many days He had never before seen such an array of entirely without flour.”. (Pp: 183-4.)

"From the 10th to the 22d of this month, (Deyellow skins, and was gratified to find at the cember,) the camp was without flour, and for some same place several companies of mounted time before they had only half rations : poor beef thirty-day volunteers, hastening to the fron- and hickory roots were their only subsistence. At tiers after the news of Hull's surrender reach the same time, fevers and other diseases raged in

almost ed Ohio and Kentucky; in company

with

every tent, in which the sick were exposed

not only to hunger, but to the inclemency of the whom he proceeded through the wilderness

(Vide pp. 185-8.) to St. Mary's, distant twenty or thirty miles. At that place he met General Harrison on General Winchester had received orders his return from the relief of Fort Wayne, from General Harrison, as soon as he had aiter turning over his command to General | accumulated twenty days' provisions, to adWinchester, of the regular arıy. The next vance to the rapids, forty-four miles lower day and night, in company with three or down the river than his present camp, and to four friends, he made the journey to Forti commence building huts, to induce the enemy

season.

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