The Hidden Children HTML version

Chapter 17. The Battle Of Chemung
Toward sundown we hailed our bullock guard below the ruins of Old Chemung, and
passed forward through the army to the throat of the pass, where the Rifles lay.
The artillery was already in a sorry mess, nine guns stalled and an ammunition wagon
overturned in the ford. And I heard the infantry cursing the drivers and saying that we
had lost thousands of cartridges. Stewart's bullock-guard was in a plight, too, forty head
having strayed.
At the outlet to the pass Major Parr met us, cautioning silence. No fires burned and the
woods were very still, so that we could hear in front of us the distant movement of men;
and supposed that the enemy had come down to Chemung in force. But Major Parr told
us that our scouts could make nothing of these incessant noises, reporting only a boatload
of Sir John Johnson's green-coated soldiers on the river, and a few Indians in two canoes;
and that he had no knowledge whether Sir John, the two Butlers, McDonald, and Brant
lay truly in front of us, or whether these people were only a mixed scalping party of blue-
eyed Indians, Senecas, and other ragamuffin marauders bent on a more distant foray, and
now merely lingering along our front over night to spy out what we might be about.
Also, he informed us that a little way ahead, on the Great Warrior trail, lay an Indian
town which our scouts reported to be abandoned; and said that he had desired to post our
pickets there, but that orders from General Hand had prevented that precaution until the
General commanding arrived at the front.
Some few minutes after our appearance in camp, and while we were eating supper, there
came a ruddy glimmer of torches from behind us, lighting up the leaves overhead; and
Generals Sullivan, Clinton, Hand, and Poor rode up and drew bridle beside Major Parr,
listening intently to the ominous sounds in front of us.
And, "What the devil do you make of it, Major?" says Sullivan, in a low voice. "It sounds
like a log-rolling in March."
"My scouts give me no explanation," says Parr grimly. "I think the rascals are terrified."
"Send Boyd and that young interpreter," said Sullivan curtly.
So, as nobody could understand exactly what these noises indicated, and as headquarters'
scouts could obtain no information, Lieutenant Boyd and I, with my Indians, left our
supper of fresh roast corn and beans and went forward at once. We moved out of the
defile with every precaution, passing the throat of the rocky pass and wading the little
trout-brook over which our trail led, the Chemung River now lying almost south of us.
Low mountains rose to the north and west, very dark and clear against the stars; and