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When the column of Indians and British Rangers under Captain Caldwell marched for Bryant's Station, of Kentucky, the other column, planned to invade North-Western Virginia (West Virginia), stayed behind in camp, for a while.  They were uncertain just what place to attack first, and finally had almost decided not to attack any place.

But runners came to them, with the news that after the withdrawal from Bryant's the Kentucky column had ambushed a Long Knife army including Daniel Boone men, at the lucky Blue Licks, and defeated it badly.  This was true indeed.  The victors were homeward bound laden with scalps and booty.  There was much excitement.

A vote of the chiefs determined that the march should be continued, for Wheeling.  Simon Girty and several others joined.  The column numbered three hundred Indians, and fifty "Queen's Rangers" sent by the British father from Detroit.  All were under Captain Pratt, of the Rangers, but Simon Girty was head chief.  They set onward, through the forest, to the Ohio River.

This was the first week in September, 1782.  Scout John Lynn, who was watching the trails in the Indian country northwest of the Ohio, saw them.  They seemed in a hurry.  At full speed he made for Wheeling, to give the alarm.  He swam the river, and arrived with the word just in time.  The settlers, excepting those of the Ebenezer Zane cabin, flocked into Fort Henry.  While they were still very busy, getting ready, in daylight of September 11, the enemy appeared, strong in savage array and flying their flag.

It was not quite a surprise, although nearly so.  The fort contained about twenty men and boys who could handle a rifle, and the same number of women and girls and little children.  Before dawn Captain Boggs, the fort commander, had dashed away, to get aid.  They hoped that he had escaped.  Colonel Silas Zane had been elected in his place.  Captain John Sullivan, in a dug-out boat from Fort Pitt, above, loaded with cannon-balls for Louisville, below, had scarcely landed, on a stop-over, and barely made into the fort, wounded.  The small garrison were glad to have him.  He was an experienced Indian-fighter.

Colonel Ebenezer Zane had grown tired of seeing his house burned.  He had declared that never again would he abandon it and take to the fort. It had been rebuilt, on its same site only forty yards north of the fort wall; had been made "Indian proof," and was well under the cover of the fort rifle-fire.

This time, here he stayed.  With him there were Andrew Scott, George Green, his own wife Elizabeth McColloch Zane, her sister Miss McColloch, his sister Elizabeth, her friend Molly Scott, and the slaves Sam and wife Kate.  That summed three white men and one black man; four white women and one black woman.  They were going to hold the cabin in spite of "all the copper skins from Wheeling to Sandusky."  But the program spelled a rude welcome for the young and lively Elizabeth, who had just arrived from a fashionable school in Philadelphia, to spend part of her vacation!

Advancing with the flag and his whooping Indians, Captain Pratt the British Ranger sent Simon Girty forward, to demand surrender.

"To all who will give themselves up we promise you the best protection, in the name of King George," called Girty.

"Answer the villain with a bullet," Silas Zane ordered.  "That is what talks for us."

Simon dodged away.

"You may have till to-night," he shouted.

Captain Pratt posted his forces.  In the fort and in the Ebenezer Zane cabin everybody made ready.  The women and girls molded bullets.  There were plenty of rifles; all were loaded and stacked handy to the loop-holes.  Water buckets were filled.  Food was prepared.  The fort pickets, many of which had rotted, were braced and backed.  Wheeling had no idea of surrender.  It had stood other attacks.

At sunset Girty tried again.

"Your treatment if you surrender shall be that of--"

"Colonel William Crawford!" old Captain Sullivan interrupted.  "We know you, Girty.  We know you for a dirty dog, too cowardly to be honest, and so filthy a beast that you feel yourself fit to live only among savages.  You're such a liar that you couldn't keep your promises if you wanted to.  You don't know how to tell the truth.  If you think to get us, you'll have to do better fighting than you and your sneaking Injuns have ever done yet.  We only hope you'll hang around till our messenger fetches in the reinforcements."

"Yes; and we've got your messenger safe, my crowing buck," Girty yelled.  "He'll bring you no help."

"Really got him, have you?  We want to know!  What kind of a man is he--how did he look?"

"A fine, smart, active young fellow."

"That's another of your lies," laughed Captain Sullivan.  "He was an old, gray-headed weazel and far too smart for _you_!"

Haw-haw-haw!

"Laugh while you can," Girty retorted.  "We see your wooden cannon-piece mounted on that roof.  When you hear our own pieces battering down your walls you'll laugh in a different key.  This is the last summons.  Refuse, and every soul of you will fall to bullet and hatchet."

"Better to die that way, fighting, than to surrender and be butchered like dogs, the Colonel Crawford way," Silas Zane answered.

The attack was launched furiously.  In a howling mob the Indians charged gates and loop-holes.  They despised the threat of the little French cannon-piece upon the roof of the headquarters cabin.  It looked to be the same "dummy" of seven years ago: a wooden cannon.

Captain Sullivan had climbed up.  He stood with a fire-brand over the touch-hole, waiting.

The Indians jeered and gestured.

"Boom!  Boom!" they challenged.  "Make noise!"

They were massed, capering and mocking.  Captain Sullivan lowered the fire-brand.  The little "bull-dog" belched smoke.

"Boom!"  A hail of grape-shot tore through the painted ranks, leaving a bloody path.  Captain Pratt rushed in, waving his sword.

"Stand back!  Stand back, you fools!" he bawled.  "By Jupiter, there's no wood about _that_!"

And there wasn't.  It was the genuine article.

The Indians had wildly scampered for safety.  Simon Girty and the other chiefs white and red rallied them and divided them into parties, with due care for the cannon-piece.  From every exposed side they volleyed at the fort and the Zane cabin.  They charged and fell back and charged again.  In fort and cabin the rifles, deftly loaded by the fast-working women and girls, waxed hot.

With darkness the general firing died down.  Under the cloak of night an Indian crept to the kitchen end of the cabin, to start a blaze.  The cabin had proved a great hindrance to the attack on the fort.

He rose to his knees, to wave his torch for an instant and rekindle it--

"Crack!"  This kitchen, added to the cabin, was the fort of Negro Sam and Negress Kate.  Sam had eyes and ears that equaled any Indian's, by day or night either.

"Hi yah!  How you like that, you Injun man!"

The firebug managed to crawl away, but he left his torch and the kitchen too.

Morning dawned.  The Indians seemed busy at something.  They had ransacked the dug-out and were carrying the cannon-balls in shore, to the hill slope before the fort.  Had their cannon come?  Yes!  No!  But look!  There it was--they were propping it up, to load it and aim it. A long, dangerous piece, too.

What did it have around it?  Chains, by thunder!  And hoop-iron!  A log, split and hollowed out, and bound together with stuff from Reichart's blacksmith shop!  Haw-haw!

Watch, everybody!  Could the blamed thing possibly stand fire?  Hope not.  They were ramming into it powder by the horn full.  A ball from their pile followed.  They rammed that also, and wadded it.  One of them hastened with a smoking stick.  They pretended to take good aim. They yelled and shook their guns and hatchets, as they stood aside to make way for the ball from the muzzle.

Now!

"Flash-whang!"

A great cloud of smoke veiled the spot.  No ball issued; only shrieks and shouts, and from the edges figures dived into the open and thence into the brush.  The smoke cleared.  The wooden cannon had disappeared, but the spot was covered with dead and wounded Indians.

"Help yourselves to more cannon-balls," jeered Captain Sullivan.  "We wish you a dozen such guns."

Reinforcements had set out from Shepherd's Fort, six miles distant. When they drew near, they saw that they had no hope of entering the fort, so thick and angry were the attackers.  They voted to return and get recruits; then try again.  But that was not to the mind of the lad Francis Duke--Colonel Shepherd's son-in-law, aged not much over twenty, and rashly brave.

"I've come too far to turn my back on a place that needs help as badly as this does.  I'm going in, or die for it."

They could not stop him.  He spurred at a mad run, straight as an arrow, hoping to take the enemy by surprise.

"Open the gate!  Open the gate!" he shouted, as he neared.

He was seen, and heard.  The gate swung for him.  Would he make it?  He waved his hat and flourished his rifle--hurrah!  He was almost there; a few strides more--but to a burst of smoke from the outlying cabins and copse he fell headlong, dead.  His horse galloped riderless.

The cannon accident had infuriated the Indians to the last degree. They were especially bent upon taking the Zane cabin, which held them off.  Within the cabin matters were tightening up.  The powder was getting low.  The drain upon it had been constant.

"We must have powder, boys," spoke Colonel Zane.  "The fort will supply us.  Who'll go and fetch it on the run?"

There were looks.  Betty Zane heard and stepped forward.

"I'll go, brother Eb.  You can't spare a man."

"No, you sha'n't, Betty.  It's man's work.  Besides, you're not fast enough on your feet, child."

Her black eyes flashed.  She was a splendid girl, high-spirited and active; had been raised on the frontier and was a pet of her brothers.

"I _shall_ go.  I can run like a deer, you've often said, and I can't be of any better use.  If I get hurt, that'll make no difference; but if you lose a man, you lose a rifle.  Tell me what to do."

"Betty!"  He really didn't know what to have her do.  Everybody pleaded and objected.  She stamped her foot.

"I _shall_ go.  We're wasting time.  But first I'll have to take off some of these clothes."  So she dropped her skirt and stood in her short petticoat.  "There!"  And she fastened her hair tighter in a coil.

Her friend Molly Scott sprang forward.

"Betty!  Let me go instead!  I'm not afraid.  Please!"

"No.  You can go next time, Molly.  I'm the older."

Accounts state that Molly Scott did make such a trip, either first or last.  Lydia, the daughter of Captain Boggs, was in the fort, and says that she helped pour the powder into Molly Scott's apron.  Whether Molly and Betty both served in this siege, or served separately in two sieges, is still a question.  At any rate, the deed was done, and well done.

"All right, Betty.  God bless you for a brave lass.  You're a true Zane," Colonel Zane uttered chokingly.  "Have them pour a keg of powder into this tablecloth.  We'll signal them you're coming.  We'll do our best to cover you.  No red devil shall get near you.  Tell the fort we've got to have powder, or my house will fall and the fort'll be hard pressed from the new vantage."

 

Betty nodded.  Her eyes were snapping, her cheeks were red.  The cabin was protected in front and on the flanks by a little stockade.  Her brother himself opened the gate, in the side, for her.  With a bound she was out, her slim ankles twinkling as she ran.

 

The Indians stared, puzzled.  They laughed and jeered.

 

"Ho!  Squaw!  Heap run!  Squaw heap run!"

 

And Betty darted in through the gateway of the fort.  Five minutes passed, while the cabin garrison waited nervously.  Here she came, out again, the table-cloth tied around her waist and baggy with the precious powder.

 

The enemy guessed.  They laughed no longer--they opened fire, the fort and cabin replied rapidly.  Betty!  Betty!  Was she down?  Had she been hit?  No; not yet.  Open the gate!  The gate!  Let her in--keep those Injuns off!  Here she was, plunging breathless, panting, laughing, into the extended arms.  Not a ball had touched her.

 

Now the cabin would hold out.  It had to hold out, after a deed like that, by a girl.  Shame on it if it yielded!

 

The Indians, urged by the white chiefs and by the British Rangers, raged.  Twenty times they reached the stockades with bundles of hemp, and tried to fire the pickets.  The hemp was damp and refused to burn. They tried with wood.  They did not succeed.  Under the hail of bullets a portion of the rotted pickets gave way, in a corner; but by great good fortune several peach-trees there concealed the hole.

 

All this day the hot attacks continued.  They lessened only slightly during the night.  Toward morning a figure was espied craftily slinking for the fort's sally gate.  A rifle bullet stopped it.  There were groans and pleadings for water; a weak voice kept asking to be taken in.  Two of the men bolted out, grabbed the figure and hustled him inside.  He was a negro--claimed that he had just deserted from the Indians.

 

They hand-cuffed him, and stationed Lydia Boggs, aged seventeen, over him with a tomahawk, to kill him if he tried any tricks.  She would have done it, too.

 

The day dawned; the sun rose.  The scene without was fearful.  The Indians were shooting the cattle; the settlement cabins were burning. Was it to be another day of stress?  Where were the reinforcements? Had Captain Boggs really been captured?  If so, he had been killed, or else the enemy would have displayed him, to show the fort that it could not hope for help.

 

The sun was an hour high, when--listen!  An Indian whoop sounded, in the distance; a long, quavering, peculiar whoop.  In fort and cabin the men cheered.

 

"The alarm whoop, boys!  Hurrah!  Their spies have sighted something!"

 

And--

 

"Yes!  There they go!  There the bloody rascals go, hoof and foot! Boggs got through and he's coming back!"

 

With astonishing speed the enemy had decamped--were streaming for the river.  The siege had been lifted.  The two garrisons might take breath, and relax, while keenly alert.  Were they actually saved?  Had the enemy gone in earnest--or might it be a feint, an ambush?

 

But not an Indian was in sight when, in less than an hour more, sturdy old Captain Boggs, Colonel Andrew Swearingen and Major David Williamson trotted up the hill, leading seventy mounted men.