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The establishment, however, of fort Jefferson, formerly mentioned, provoked an attack upon it by the Chickasaws and Choctaws, on whose lands it was built, without their consent. A purchase had, however, been positively instructed to be made of the Indians, by the Governor of Virginia; though the circumstances which prevented it are now unknown. In resentment it is supposed, of this threatening intrusion, Colbert, a Scotch gentleman who had ingratiated himself with these Indians, and the ancestor of the present chiefs of that name, appeared with all his warriors before fort Jefferson, in the summer of 1781. The attack, it is said by one, who was a boy in the fort at the time, lasted five days. The Indians principally encamped on the island opposite to the fort, now known as island No. 1, just above Mayfield's creek. The garrison not exceeding thirty men, under Captain George, (two-thirds of whom were sick with the ague and fever) were reduced to the lowest extremity. Pumpkins, with the blossom yet on them, afforded their principal food. On the sixth day Colbert and George met under a flag of truce, to agree upon terms of capitulation; but they were unable to effect it. As Colbert was retiring, he received a wound from *some of the Indians, who were with our men in the blockhouses, and fell This treachery according to our own usages, enraged the Indians to the utmost pitch of exasperation: at night they collected all their forces, and made a furious assault upon the fort, endeavoring to take it by storm. When the Indians had advanced in very close order, Captain George Owen, who commanded one of the block-houses, had the swivels loaded with rifle and musket balls, and fired them in the crowd. The consequent carnage was excessive, and dispersed the enemy. At the same time General Clark, who was stationed at Kaskaskia, and had been sent for, arrived with provisions and a reinforcement, which effectually raised the siege, to the great relief of the garrison.
This fort was some time afterwards abandoned, from the difficulty of supplying such remote and detached posts. It is worthy of remark, that the State of Kentucky, goaded to madness * Captain Patton's papers.
as she has been by Indian outrages; submitted to the occupation of the south-western section of her territory by the Chickasaws, until their title was peaceably extinguished by the treaty of 1818, with that tribe. The fact offers an exemplary regard for aboriginal claims, which may well dictate a lesson of forbearance with the tribes of the forest, to all the members of the confederacy.
The opening of 1782 was marked by several successful enterprises on the part of the enemy, with more than usual fatality to the whites. They were the precursors to misfortunes of deeper dye, and more extensive calamity, than had yet befallen our harrassed countrymen. Among other calamities of the times Laughery's defeat should not be omitted. This officer was coming down the Ohio river, to join the Kentuckians with one hundred and seven men; he was attacked below the Great Miami, at a creek which still retains the name of the unfortunate commander, and the whole party was killed or captured.
*"In the month of May, a party of about twenty-five Wyandots, invested Estill's station, on the south of the Kentucky river, killed one white man, took a negro prisoner, and after destroying the cattle, retreated. Soon after the Indians disappeared, Captain Estill raised a company of twenty-five men— with these he pursued the Indians; and on Hinkston's fork of Licking, two miles below the Little Mountain, came within gunshot of them. They had just crossed the creek, which in that part is small; and were ascending one side, as Estill's party descended the other, of two approaching hills, of moderate elevation. The water course which lay between, had produced an opening in the timber and brush, conducing to mutual discovery; while both hills were well set with trees, interspersed with saplings and bushes. Instantly after discovering the Indians, some of Captain Estill's men, fired at them; at first they seemed alarmed-and made a movement like flight: but their chief, although wounded, gave them orders to stand, and fight-on which they promptly prepared for battle, by each man taking a tree, and facing his enemy, as nearly in Marshall, 1, 126.
a line as practicable. In this position they returned the fire, and entered into the battle, which they considered as inevitable; with all the fortitude, and animation of individual, and concerted bravery; so remarkable in this particular tribe.
"In the meantime, Captain Estill, with due attention to what was passing on the opposite side, checked the progress of his men at about sixty yards distance from the foe, and gave orders to extend their line in front of the Indians, to cover themselves by means of the trees-and to fire, as the object should be seen, with a sure aim. This order, perfectly adapted to the occasion, was executed with alacrity, as far as circumstances would admit, and the desultory mode of Indian fighting was thought to require. So that both sides were preparing, and ready, at the same time, for the bloody conflict which ensued: and which proved to be singularly obstinate.
"The numbers were equal; some have said, exactly twentyfive on each side-others have mentioned, that Captain Estill, upon seeing the Indians form for battle, dispatched one or two of his men, upon the back trail, to hasten forward a small reinforcement, which he expected was following him; and if so, it gave the Indians, the superiority of numbers, without producing the desired assistance, for the reinforcement never arrived.
"Now were the hostile lines within rifle shot-and the action become warm and general to their extent. Never was battle more like single combat, since the use of fire-arms; each man sought his man-and fired only when he saw his markwounds and death were inflicted on either side-neither advancing nor retreating. The firing was deliberate with caution they looked, but look they would for the foe; although life itself was often the forfeit. And thus both sides firmly stoodor bravely fell-for more than one hour: upwards of one-fourth of the combatants had fallen never more to rise, on either side, and several others were wounded. Never, probably, was the native bravery or collected fortitude of men, put to a test more severe. In the clangor of an ardent battle, when death is forgotten, it is nothing for the brave to die-when even cowards die like brave men-but in the cool and lingering expectation L
of death, none but the man of true courage can stand. Such were those engaged in this conflict. Never was manoeuvering more necessary, or less practicable. Captain Estill had not a man to spare from his line, and deemed unsafe any movement in front, with a view to force the enemy from their ground; because in such a movement he must expose his men, and some of them would inevitably fall, before they could reach the adversary. This would increase the relative superiority of the enemy-while they would receive the survivors with the tomahawk in hand; in the use of which they were practiced and expert. He clearly perceived that no advantage was to be obtained over the Indians, while the action was continued in their own mode of warfare. For although his men were probably the best shooters, the Indians were undoubtedly the most expert hiders—that victory itself, could it have been purchased with the loss of his last man, would afford but a melancholy consolation for the loss of friends and comrades; but even of victory, without some manœuvre, he could not assure himself. His situation was critical; his fate seemed suspended upon the events of the minute; the most prompt expedient was demanded; he cast his eyes over the scene; the creek was before him, and seemed to oppose a charge on the enemy-retreat he could not. On the one hand, he observed a valley running from the creek, toward the rear of the enemy's line; and immediately combining this circumstance with the urgency of his situation, rendered the more apparently hazardous, by an attempt of the Indians to extend their line, and take his in flank; he determined to detach six of his men by this valley, to gain the flank or rear of the enemy; while himself, with the residue, maintained his position in front.
"The detachment was accordingly made under the command of Lieutenant Miller; to whom the route was shown, and the order given, conformably to the above mentioned determination; unfortunately, however, it was not executed. The Lieutenant, either mistaking his way, or intentionally betraying his duty, his honor, and his Captain, did not proceed with the requisite dispatch and the Indians, attentive to occurrences,
finding out the weakened condition of their adversaries, rushed upon them and compelled a retreat, after Captain Estill and eight of his men were killed. Four others were badly wounded, who, notwithstanding, made their escape; so that only nine fell into the hands of the savages, who scalped and stripped them of course.
"It was believed by the survivors of that action, that one-half of the Indians were killed, and this idea was corroborated by reports from their towns.
"There is also a tradition that Miller, with his detachment, crossed the creek-fell in with the enemy-lost one or two of his men-and had a third or fourth wounded before he retreated.
"This action is said to have lasted two hours, and there seems to be nothing wanted in its circumstances but numbers, with the pomp and tactics of modern war, to make it memorable. Memorable it will be to those friends of the brave defenders of their country, whose heart received the pang given by the report of this event-memorable it will be to the few who survived it-whether by absconding with the Lieutenant, in a moment of dismay, they forfeited the praise which they had previously merited-or by standing with their Captain until his fall, they yielded to superior numbers, a victory which was due to their courage and fidelity—and which a superior force alone could have extorted from them. Memorable it will also be in the simple annals of Kentucky, for the equality of the opposing numbers-for the great fortitude with which it was maintained-for the uncommon proportion of the slainfor the error of the Lieutenant-and for the death of the Captain. In grateful remembrance of the personal bravery and good conduct of Captain Estill, a county of the Commonwealth perpetuates his name.
"In reviewing the incidents of this battle, the conduct of the Indians cannot fail of commanding attention. Their determined bravery, their obstinate perseverance, the promptitude with which they seized on the absence of the detachment to advance on their enemy; and thus by a step not less bold than judicious, to ensure to themselves a victory of immortal renown: conduct