Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

imprudence that was little less than criminal in their situation, amused himself by a trial of skill with a British officer in firing at a mark.

The result was almost fatal. Molang, the celebrated French partisan, had hastily left Ticonderoga with five hundred men, on hearing of the presence of this scouting party of provincials, and was now near at hand. The sound of the muskets gave him exact information as to the position of their camp. Hastening forward, he laid an ambuscade on the line of march of his foes, and awaited their approach.

Onward through the thicket came the unsuspecting provincials. They had advanced a mile, and were on the point of emerging from the dense growth into the more open forest, when yells broke from the bushes on both sides of their path, and a shower of bullets was poured into the advance ranks.

Putnam, who led the van, quickly bade his men to return the fire, and passed the word back for the other divisions to hasten up. The fight soon became a hand-to-hand one. The creek was close by, but it could not be crossed in the face of the enemy, and Putnam bade his men to hold their ground. A sharp fight ensued, now in the open, now from behind trees, in Indian fashion. Putnam had discharged his piece several times, and once more pulled trigger, with the muzzle against the breast of a powerful Indian. The piece missed fire. Instantly the warrior dashed forward, tomahawk in hand, and by threat of death compelled his antagonist to surrender. Putnam was immediately disarmed and bound to a tree, and his captor returned to the fight.

The battle continued, one party after the other being forced back. In the end, the movements of the struggling foes were such as to bring the tree to which Putnam was bound directly between their lines. He was like a target for both parties. Balls flew past him from either side. Many of them struck the tree, while his coat was pierced by more than one bullet. So obstinate was the contest that for an hour the battle raged about him, his peril continuing extreme. Nor was this his only danger. During the heat of the conflict a young Indian hurled a tomahawk several times at his head, out of mischief more than malice, but with such skilful aim that the keen weapon more than once grazed his skin and buried its edge in the tree beside his head. With still greater malice, a French officer of low grade levelled his musket at the prisoner's breast and attempted to discharge it. Fortunately for Putnam it missed fire. The prisoner vainly solicited more merciful treatment. The heartless villain thrust the muzzle of his gun violently against the captive's ribs, and in the end gave him a painful blow on the jaw with the butt-end of his piece.

The battle ended at length in the triumph of the provincials. They drove the French from the field. But they failed to rescue Putnam. Before retiring, the Indian who had made him captive untied him, and forced him to accompany the retreating party. When a safe distance had been reached, the prisoner was deprived of his coat, vest, shoes, and stockings, his shoulders were loaded with the packs of the wounded, and his wrists were tied behind him as tightly as they could be drawn. In this painful condition he was forced to walk for miles through the woodland paths, until the party halted to rest.

By this time his hands were so swollen from the tightness of the cord that the pain was unbearable, while his feet bled freely from their many scratches. Exhausted with his burden and wild with torment, he asked the interpreter to beg the Indians either to loose his hands or knock him on the head, and end his torture at once. His appeal was heard by a French officer, who immediately ordered his hands to be unbound and some of his burden to be removed. Shortly afterwards the Indian who had captured him, and who had been absent with the wounded, came up and expressed great indignation at his treatment. He gave him a pair of moccasins, and seemed kindly disposed towards him.

Unfortunately for the captive, this kindly savage was obliged to resume his duty with the wounded, leaving Putnam with the other Indians, some two hundred in number, who marched in advance of the French contingent of the party towards the selected camping-place. On the way their barbarity to their helpless prisoner continued, culminating in a blow with a tomahawk, which made a deep wound in his left cheek.

This cruel treatment was but preliminary to a more fatal purpose. It was their intention to burn their captive alive. No sooner had they reached their camping-ground than they led him into the forest depths, stripped him of his clothes, bound him to a tree, and heaped dry fuel in a circle round him.

hundred in nugent of the partheir barbarit,

While thus engaged they filled the air with the most fearful sounds to which their throats could give vent, a pandemonium of ear-piercing yells and screams. The pile prepared, it was set on fire. The flames spread rapidly through the dry brush. But by a chance that seemed providential, at that moment a sudden shower sent its rain-drops through the foliage, extinguished the increasing fire, and dampened the fuel.

No sooner was the rain over than the yelling sav. ages applied their torches again to the funeral pilo of their living victim. The dampness checked their efforts for a time, but at length the flames caught, and a crimson glow slowly made its way round the circle of fuel. The captive soon felt the scorching heat. He was tied in such a way that he could move his body, and he involuntarily shifted his position to escape the pain,-an evidence of nervousness that afforded the higbest delight to his tormeutors, who expressed their exultation in yells, dances, and wild gesticulations. The last hour of the brave soldier seemed at hand. He strove to bring resolution to his aid, and to fix his thoughts on a happier state of existence beyond this earth, the contemplation of which might aid him to bear without flinching a short period of excruciating pain.

At this critical moment, when death in its most horrid form stared him in the face, relief came. A French officer, who had been told of what was in progress, suddenly bounded through the savage band, kicked the blazing brands to right and left, and with a stroke of his knife released the imperilled captive. It was Molang himself. An Indian who retained some instincts of humanity had informed him of what was on foot. The French commander reprimanded his barbarian associates severely, and led the prisoner away, keeping him by his side until he was able to transfer him to the care of the gigantic Indian who had captured him.

This savage seemed to regard him with feelings of kindness. He offered him some biscuits, but finding that the wound in his cheek and the blow he had received on the jaw prevented him from chewing, he soaked them in water till they could be swallowed easily. Yet, despite his kindness, he took extraordinary care that his prisoner should not escape. When the camp was made, he forced the captive to lie on the ground, stretched each arm at full length, and bound it to a young tree, and fastened his legs in the same manner. Then a number of long and slender poles were cut and laid across his body from head to foot, on the ends of which lay several of the Indians.

Under such circumstances escape could not even be thought of, nor was a moment's comfort possible. The night seemed infinitely extended, the only relief that came to the prisoner, as he himself relates, being the reflection of what a ludicrous subject the group, of which he was the central figure, would have made for a painter.

The next day he was given a blanket and moccasins, and allowed to march without being loaded with packs. A little bear's meat was furnished him, whose juice he was able to suck. At night the party

« AnteriorContinuar »