Beanery Online Literary Magazine

October 7, 2009

AT FORT LIGONIER: Excerpt from book, WARPATH



An excerpt from WARPATH

Charles R. Martin & Sara Mitchell Martin

An excerpt from the book WARPATH, a self-published historical novel set in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

     When the French and Indian war ended in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris, John Martin heard that some of the Ohio Indians were coming to Fort Ligonier to discuss treaties. He was already in Bedford Village and decided to go, without hesitation, to the fort. It was some days hike away, but he arrived in time to see that there were Delaware Indians present. Fort Ligonier was large and strong and well manned. The Indians were camped a half mile away, having teepees and horses.

     After first making himself known to the red-coated soldiers at the Fort, John asked the soldier who seemed most in charge if he knew the Indians.

     “Yes. They have been coming around lately, being fairly friendly. We give them what we can of our stores to try to build some sort of relationship. Do you talk Indian?”

     “Well, I used to be able to make myself understood. That was a while back. They took my family: my wife and five of my children.”

     “I am sorry to hear about that. Did you get any back yet?”

     “Yes, my wife, she is just an incredible person. She made her way back with the youngest, a little girl. They had quite an adventure. The Indians still have two sons and a daughter. That’s why I’m here. George Croghan and Colonel Bouquet thought I might be able to talk to them.”

     “You will have to leave any weapons here with me,” said the soldier. John looked quizzical and the soldier said, “They aren’t supposed to be armed while they are here. But be careful.”

     John tried to assemble his thoughts on just how to approach the savages.

     “Well, good luck,” said the soldier, and went back to his work.

     John left the fort and approached the Indians, who had been watching him. They were not dressed for war. They dressed much like John in fringed buckskins. John had a simple hand made leather hat and the Indians had a few decorative feathers in their hair.

     “My name is John Martin.”

     The Indians nodded all around, and grunted.

     “Your name?” asked John.

     “Me Chief Tuscarawas,” answered the most imposing one. John didn’t catch the others names. He figured this one would understand best. He stood in front of the Chief and looked him in the eyes and said: “I look for sons. Two sons. One is sixteen and the other fourteen. They blonde. Like me.” John tugged on his own hair, which wasn’t as blonde as it had been, and then pointed to his eye.

     “Blue. Blue, like my eyes. Jimmy and Willie. They with Indians eight years. Great Cove! Children from Great Cove! Shingas took children, seven years ago!”

     He tried not to yell to help them understand. They talked together a bit, and then Tuscarawas said: “Yes. We have sons. Very good young braves. Strong. Good with axe.”

     John’s heart pounded even more than it had.

     “I am very happy. Happy. Yes. I am happy.”

     The Indians smiled ever so slightly. They started to walk away.

     “NO. Don’t go.” John followed them further from the fort and toward what appeared to be their teepee. “You might have my daughter. Her name is Martha! She is young woman. Eighteen. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Girl.”

     Tuscarawas shrugged and kept walking.

     “Do you have my daughter? I want to know if you have my daughter.” John was trying to keep his temper in check.

     Tuscarawas kept walking toward the teepee. John said, “Please stop. Stop. Please.”

     The chief turned and with an angry face said: “Yes, we have daughter. Red face, red hair girl.”

     “Red hair? Red face?” asked John. “My daughter?”

     “Girl paint face red. Paint hair red. Good squaw but…” He shrugged his shoulders and inclined his head to indicate that the girl was hard to understand.

     John felt another jolt of joy. Now he grinned widely.

     “That is good. That is very good. I want two sons and daughter to come home.”

     The chief motioned for his pals to come close and they had a spirited discussion. Finally, the chief nodded with satisfaction and, rubbing his hands together, went back to John.

     “We live in peace with your sons, daughter, many years. They strong. They good. And therefore you pay much wampum. We bring back.”

     John’s joy took a quick downturn. Suddenly the rage he felt for years welled up, and without thinking it through, he answered indignantly: “I don’t remember hiring you to take care of my family!”

     Tuscarawas looked shocked, as if John had slapped him. He reached for the tomahawk that usually hung from his belt that he used to dispatch the likes of this white man. It wasn’t there because of the deal with the soldiers that they would not carry weapons. He turned to the two of his braves and motioned for them to grab John.

     John took off running with a speed that he didn’t know he possessed. The two Indians missed him and instead of chasing him on foot, started to look around for their horses, running in the opposite direction. John headed for the woods and was soon out of sight.

     The custom of these Indians was to tie little bells on their horses so they could find them while they were out grazing in the forest. John looked back and was cheered to see that running for their horses made the horses nervous, and they moved away, to the annoyance of the Indians. A sentry at the fort noticed the action and shouted to someone in the fort. John figured that by the time the soldiers could get themselves organized to help him, he would be beyond help. He ran as if he were a young fellow. He was fifty-one. The Indians, he remembered, looked to be around his own age, and perhaps they too might not be as swift as they had been in their youth.

     Since he had just come down Laurel Ridge, he knew that if he stayed away from the Forbes Road, he might just be able to make his way through the masses of laurel and rhododendron thickets and lose them. While dashing and zigzagging breathlessly up the mountain for what seemed like hours, he would pause to listen for the horse bells. The Indians on horseback were held up (stalled?) by the undergrowth and rough collections of grey, lichen covered rocks that could destroy a horse. When John finally reached the top of the mountain and could no longer hear the breaking branches and whooping yells of the angry Indians, and the bells on their horses, he gave thanks that his life had bee spared. There was a wide area at the top and he was able to rest from his aching body. He stopped to lie down by a creek and put his face in the cool water. 

To view of picture of the authors, click on:

Photo caption: Sara Mitchell Martin (left) and Charles R. Martin of Jones Mills, the authors of “Warpath,” are joined by Westmoreland County Historical Society member Hazel Rugh, during the 100th birthday of Westmoreland County Historical Society.
Kim Stepinsky/For The Tribune-Review

The Martins’ book is available at the Second Chapter Bookstore, 209 E. Main Street, Ligonier, PA. 

To purchase online, click on:

Indian captivity narratives are listed at this site:







1 Comment »

  1. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just
    wanted to say fantastic blog!

    Comment by — January 25, 2014 @ 11:09 am | Reply

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