7/6/09 - daniel boone's daughter

In today's excerpt - Daniel Boone rescues his daughter near the tiny and remote settlement of Boonesborough, Kentucky. In 1776, wandering too far from their home, thirteen-year-old Jemima Boone and her friends, fourteen-year-old, Fanny Callaway, and her sixteen-year-old sister, Betsy, were captured by a war party of five Indians. The Indians were hostile because of the settlers' encroachment on their lands and their mercenary efforts in the service of the British. The rescue electrified imaginations throughout America, and contributed to Boone's path toward placement in the pantheon of early American heroes:

"Led by Boone [a group of] settlers pursued. On the second day Boone became concerned that they were not gaining on the Indians because the captors' trail was hard to follow. There was also the risk that if the settlers followed in the Indians' footsteps, the Indians would hear them coming and have time to tomahawk, the girls before the settlers could get to them. The tracks told Boone that the Indians intended to cross the Licking River at the Upper Blue Licks. Boone decided not to follow the tracks but to head directly to where he thought the Indians were likely to cross. As [Nathan] Reid remembered it, 'Paying no further attention to the trail, [Boone] now took a straight course through the woods, with increased speed, followed by the men in perfect silence.' Later in the day the settlers once again came upon the tracks of the Indians, which renewed their confidence in Boone's woodcraft. Mid-morning on the third day Boone and his men came upon a creek. Boone paused Reid said 'and remarked that from the course [the Indians] had traveled, he was confident they had crossed the stream a short distance below.' The men went downstream 'and strange to say, we had not gone down more than 200 yards before we struck the trail again. ' ...

"Boone started jogging, and the other men followed. The pace was dauntingly fast, and they had already covered over thirty miles. Some of the men were quite young—Samuel Henderson was thirty, John Floyd around twenty-six, Nathan Reid twenty-three—but Boone, who was setting the pace, was forty-one. There were more frequent signs now—a wounded and dying snake, the carcass of a recently killed buffalo calf, blood still trickling down from its back where part of its hump had been cut off. Boone was sure the Indians would stop to cook the buffalo meat at the first water they reached. ...

"[Indian leader] Hanging Maw admired Jemima's looks, especially the long black hair that fell nearly to her knees. On that morning he asked Jemima to dress his hair and 'look over his head'—that is, check for lice, as the girls regularly did for each other. Jemima did so. (Many years later Jemima's niece, hearing Rebecca tell the story, said 'I wouldn't have done it, look at a lousy Indians head, not I.' 'Oh yes, you would,' Jemima told her. 'Every such thing tended to delay their progress, and that was what we studied every art to effect, for we felt sure father and friends would exert every nerve for our rescue.')

"Betsy Callaway sat on a log not far from the fire. After Jemima had finished with Hanging Maw's hair, Jemima and Fanny Callaway knelt near Betsy Callaway, the oldest of the three girls. Betsy began 'opening their hair, lousing their heads, and shedding a torrent of tears.' Jemima heard a sound in the woods, looked up and saw her father a hundred yards away 'creeping upon his breast like a snake.' She kept still. Fanny Callaway, who was looking at an Indian standing by the campfire, saw blood spurt from the Indian's chest before she heard the gun that shot him.' 'That's Daddy' Jemima cried out. ...

"Boone, John, Floyd and the others raised the war whoop and charged the camp. The Indians fled, as Floyd put it, 'almost naked, some without their mockisons and not one of them with so much as a knife or tomahawk.' Betsy Callaway ran toward the rescuers, disheveled, her dress cut short, her dark hair loose. One of the rescuers, thinking she was an Indian, raised his just-fired rifle to club her. Boone yelled out 'For God's sake, don't kill her when we've traveled so far to save her!' Boone's cry stopped the man just before he brained her.

"The girls' clothes were torn to shreds; their legs were bleeding. Boone covered them with blankets. 'Thank Almighty Providence,' he said 'for we have the girls safe. Let's all sit down by them now and have a hearty cry.' Jemima remembered that 'there was not a dry eye in the company.' "


Meredith Mason Brown


Frontiersman: Daniel Boone and the Making of America


Louisiana State University Press


Copyright 2008 by LSU Press


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