In February, 1828, the vanguard of Creek immigrants arrived at the Creek Agency on the Verdigris, in charge of Colonel Brearley, and they and the following members of the McIntosh party were located on a section of land that the Government promised in the treaty of 1826 to purchase for them. By the treaty of May 6, 1828, the Government assigned the Cherokee a great tract of land, to which they at once began to remove from their homes in Arkansas. The movement had been under way for some months when there appeared among the Indians the remarkable figure of Samuel Houston. The biographers of Houston have told the world next to nothing of his sojourn of three or four years in the Indian country, an interesting period when he was changing the entire course of his life and preparing for the part he was to play in the drama of Texas.
Grant Foreman describes the early life in a Western Garrison; providing insights on some of the traders in the region, the deaths of Seaton, Armstrong, Wheelock and Izard, all soldiers obviously familiar to him. But he also shares the story of the elopement of Miss Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of General Taylor, to Lieutenant Jefferson Davis… yes, THAT Jefferson Davis.
An interesting section of the chapter are the references to the punishments inflicted upon the soldiers in the event of their disobedience.
Painted by Catlin in 1834, the picture attached is of Clermont, chief of the Osage Tribe. Clermont is painted in full length, wearing a fanciful dress, his leggings fringed with scalp-locks, and in his hand his favorite and valued war-club.
One of the most important Indian conferences ever held in the Southwest, occurred at Fort Gibson in 1834 for it paved the way for agreements and treaties essential to the occupation of a vast country by one hundred thousand members of the Five Civilized Tribes emigrating from east of the Mississippi; to the security of settlers and travelers in a new country; to development of our Southwest to the limits of the United States and beyond and contributed to the subsequent acquisition of the country to the coast, made known to us by the pioneers to Santa Fe and California traveling through the region occupied by the “wild” Indians who, at Fort Gibson, gave assurances of their friendship. It is true, these assurances were not always regarded, and many outrages were afterwards committed on the whites and by the whites, but the Fort Gibson conference was the beginning and basis upon which ultimately these things were accomplished.
When the treaty council with the Osage at Fort Gibson broke up in disagreement on April 2, 1833, three hundred Osage warriors under the leadership of Clermont departed for the west to attack the Kiowa. It was Clermont’s boast that he never made war on the whites and never made peace with his Indian enemies. At the Salt Plains where the Indians obtained their salt, within what is now Woodward County, Oklahoma, they fell upon the trail of a large party of Kiowa warriors going northeast toward the Osage towns above Clermont’s. The Osage immediately adapted their course to that pursued by their enemies following it back to what they knew would be the defenseless village of women, children, and old men left behind by the warriors. The objects of their cruel vengeance were camped at the mouth of Rainy-Mountain Creek, a southern tributary of the Washita, within the present limits of the reservation at Fort Sill.
Tobacco has been one of the most important gifts from the New World to the Old. In spite of the attempts of various authors to prove its Old World origin there can be no doubt that it was introduced into both Europe and Africa from America. Most species of Nicotiana are native to the New World, and there are only a few species which are undoubtedly extra- American. The custom of smoking is also characteristic of America. It was thoroughly established throughout eastern North and South America at the time of the discovery; and the early explorers, from Columbus on, speak of it as a strange and novel practice which they often find it hard to describe. It played an important part in many religious ceremonies, and the beliefs and observances connected with it are in themselves proof of its antiquity. Hundreds of pipes have been found in the pre-Columbian mounds and village sites of the eastern United States and, although these remains cannot be dated, some of them must be of considerable age. In the southwestern United States the Basket Makers, an ancient people whose remains are found below those of the prehistoric Cliff Dwellers, were smoking pipes at a time which could not have been much later than the beginning of our era.
On the 4th of November, 1791, a force of Americans under General Arthur St. Clair was attacked, near the present Ohio-Indiana boundary line, by about the same number of Indians led by Blue Jacket, Little Turtle, and the white renegade Simon Girty. Their defeat was the most disastrous that ever has been suffered by our arms when engaged against a savage foe on anything like even terms. Out of 86 officers and about 1400 regular and militia soldiers, St. Clair lost 70 officers killed or wounded, and 845 men killed, wounded, or missing. The survivors fled in panic, throwing away their weapons and accoutrements. Such was “St. Clair’s defeat.”
The utter incompetency of the officers commanding this expedition may be judged from the single fact that a great number of women were allowed to accompany the troops into a wilderness known to be infested with the worst kind of savages. There were about 250 of these women with the “army” on the day of the battle. Of these, 56 were killed on the spot, many being pinned to the earth by stakes driven through their bodies. Few of the others escaped captivity.
After this unprecedented victory, the Indians became more troublesome than ever along the frontier. No settler’s home was safe, and many were destroyed in the year of terror that followed. The awful fate of one of those households is told in the following touching narrative of Mercy Harbison, wife of one of the survivors of St. Clair’s defeat. How two of her little children were slaughtered before her eyes, how she was dragged through the wilderness with a babe at her breast, how cruelly maltreated, and how she finally escaped, barefooted and carrying her infant through days and nights of almost superhuman exertion, she has left record in a deposition before the magistrates at Pittsburgh and in the statement here reprinted.