Sunday, May 23, 2021



Captain Samuel Jenkins and his company of New Hampshire militia were on the march. By order of the colonial Governor they were being dispatched to the western area of the colony. Rumors of raids and fighting along the Cannitticutt River were rampant. So Jenkins and his men were marching to join the detachment already on the frontier, the detachment commanded by Ensign Charles Mayberry.

Once the company had passed the town of Rumford¹ the men felt themselves to be truly in the wilderness, the road had petered out to the equivalent of a forest trail, barely wide enough for the three wagons loaded with the company's provisions and baggage to navigate. The stultifying summer heat and humidity made things worse.

"Sir, we need to stop and rest. The men are exhausted, I fear we may lose men to the heat if we continue." Lieutenant Robert Cooke begged the captain, the men were starting to straggle and the sergeants were having difficulty keeping the men in ranks.

Jenkins stopped and looked back over the column, truly the men looked worn our, "Very well, have the column halt, send out a scouting party to find a place to camp for the night."

A hunting party of the Pennacook had seen the approaching band of English soldiers. Their leader, Grey Raven, sent three of his fastest men to warn the nearby villages of the soldiers. He had heard of fighting along the Great River and he assumed that these men were heading to that area.

Though the Pennacook were nearly extinct as a tribe, there were enough left to remember the depredations of the English. Grey Raven saw this as an opportunity to hit back for past injustices. Though there were only eleven men, now that the messengers had been dispatched, they could make the English march to the west painful. Perhaps painful enough to make them turn back!

Molly Henderson was awakened in the night by a hand over her mouth and a voice in her ear telling her to be silent in French. She knew enough of that language to understand. Though the word was spelled the same in both languages, it sounded different in French.

She was terrified at first, what new calamity was about to befall her? When she was raised to a sitting position, she saw in the dim light of the dying campfire that the man who had awakened her was her captor. He gestured for her to stick her hands out, which she did, reluctantly.

When he cut the cords that bound her wrists together she moaned softly and began to rub at them, he stopped her. She then felt some sort of greasy ointment which her captor spread upon her chafed skin. Though it smelled disagreeable, it eased the pain almost immediately. She wondered what was going on.

Then the man stood and beckoned to her, indicating that she should follow him. At first she hesitated, but he was insistent. Terrified, she followed him into the night.

She stayed close to him and as they walked she realized that she could see much of the ground around her, for the moon was nearly full. She followed the man, realizing that she had no real  choice in the matter. To stay with the others was not an option, she had had a brief glimpse of how these people treated recalcitrant captives. She was determined to cooperate and live.

A day after his messengers went out, they returned with the news that more warriors were coming to join them. It was then that Grey Raven received the news that the English had destroyed an Abenaki village near the Great River. The sachems of the area were upset and were determined to destroy the English presence in the area. They had kept the peace, now the English had punished a village for the actions of others.

Now these Englishmen would pay for the actions of others. 

Abraham Parker and Jedediah Maxwell were scouting ahead of the main body of the militia. They had been chosen because both had lived on the frontier as trappers and knew the ways of the natives and the forest. Both were very nervous, something was not right.

Hissing to his compatriot, Parker said, "Jedediah, do you see that, down by the stream?"

Maxwell did indeed see something, the carcass of a deer, stripped of the better parts for eating. Maxwell knew the natives were not ordinarily wasteful of the bounty of the forest. Unless they had a need for haste.

"War party?" Maxwell suggested.

"I think so..."

Before Parker could get another word out, an arrow thumped into his back, squarely between the shoulders and piercing his heart. Maxwell turned, frantically trying to cock his firelock and bring it to bear.

The last thing he saw was the face of a painted Abenaki warrior. That warrior brought his tomahawk down on Maxwell's head, killing him instantly.

Sleeping Panther was ecstatic, he and Lone Deer had killed two of the English. After stripping the two dead men of their fire sticks, powder, and shot, the men had pulled the red coats from the two corpses. Then they had taken the scalps of the Englishmen to show their sachem that they were warriors of great courage and skill.

The two men rejoined their band within a half hour of making their kill. "Grey Raven, we have taken the eyes of the English. Their scouts are dead, here is their hair!" Sleeping Panther held the scalp he had taken above his head, threw his head back and screeched like his namesake, the panther.

Over the next hill the English column struggled to make progress. They had already abandoned one of the wagons when a wheel had shattered on a rock. The wagons that were left were overloaded but now had more oxen yoked to the teams which pulled them. Jenkins was more concerned with his men, they were exhausted, the previous night's stop had not refreshed them as he had hoped.

As he watched the column push forward, he heard the scream of a mountain lion. The hair on the back of his neck stood straight out, this wilderness terrified him at times.

At daybreak Short Bear had called a halt to their flight from the other Abenaki. Molly was glad of the stop, her legs were ready to give out. She was surprised when the Indian had given her some food and water from a skin bag.

At first she was repulsed by the smell of what appeared to be dried meat with berries and some sort of grain mashed together with the meat. But she was ravenous so she forced herself to eat, the taste was surprisingly pleasant. She actually smiled at the Indian as she ate.

She was surprised again when the man smiled back at her, offering her more water. She drank deeply until the water was gone. She looked rather sheepish as she handed the empty skin back to the man. He stood, then loped off into the brush, leaving her all alone.

She wasn't sure what to do next, the man seemed to mean her no harm, but she wondered what he had planned for her. She couldn't run as she had no idea where she was, she also knew that the man could track her down with ease. So she decided to wait.

The man returned shortly thereafter and she could see that he had filled the skin with more water. She wondered why they hadn't camped nearer to the stream, which she could hear in the near distance. Then it struck her, others no doubt used that stream and where better to find people fleeing than near a source of water?

Then the man grunted and they were moving again, though at a more relaxed pace. The man obviously knew this area and had no fear of his surroundings, perhaps they were near his home, she thought. But then what? What would become of her when they reached his home?

The first attacks came on the rear of the column. Quick strikes by screaming warriors who came out of the woods, attacked, then disappeared into the forest again. Already three men were down, two dead and one knocked unconscious by a club.

Jenkins had the men surround the wagons, taking up defensive positions in a circle around the wagons. Had it been possible he would have set the wagons in a defensive box, but there was no room to maneuver them off of what passed for a road.

The injured man was treated by one of the men who had been a butcher in civilian life. He knew anatomy at least, human and animal. He looked at Jenkins and shook his head, "He's a goner, Sir, skull is pushed in. I doubt he'll last another hour.

So they waited.

Grey Raven had pulled his warriors back, leading them in the only direction the soldiers could go, along the forest road. Of course, had the Englishmen opted to turn around and go home, that was fine with Grey Raven. His mission was to slow their progress to the west until more warriors could be gathered.

The Abenaki had taken the path to war, they would sweep the English away from the Great River so that the tribe could resume it's peaceful pursuits of farming and hunting. The sachems also thought that inflicting a defeat on their English allies might make their Mohican  enemies seek to trouble someone else.

Private William Jones died shortly before sunset. He had never regained consciousness.

"Sergeant Major Jacobs!" Jenkins wanted to get the casualties buried. He would give the men the night to rest, but he wanted the dead in the ground first. "Take a party and dig a grave for Jones, Hopkins, and Allenby, just off the road should be sufficient. I doubt the natives will attack us tonight. They don't like to fight at night, but we should be ready for them come first light."

"Would you say a few words over the dead, Sir?"

"Certainly Sarn't Major, now get to it, it will be dark soon."

When the sun rose the English were ready to set off once more. They waited for a while, expecting the Indians to attack them in the dawn's light, but they didn't come. So they prepared to move out.

Reluctantly, Jenkins had decided to leave the wagons behind. They could make better time if they traveled light. He had the men load up on provisions and cautioned them to eat sparingly, it was at least three more days to the river.

"What about the oxen, Sir?" Jacobs wanted to know.

One of the junior sergeants, one Moses Donoghue, suggested that they use the animals to carry ammunition and other supplies. They could lead the animals rather than have them pull the wagons.

"Right, excellent idea Sergeant, see to it. We march in one hour."

"Lieutenant Cooke!"


"I want you to command the rear of the column, take ten men and act as rear guard, stay alert." Jenkins ordered.

"After yesterday? You can count on it Sir." Cooke answered, his voice betrayed his fear. Jenkins wondered if his own voice didn't sound much the same.

More warriors joined Grey Raven's war band, including a senior war chief named Bull Elk. Grey Raven deferred to the war chief who quickly approved of what Grey Raven and his band had been doing.

"Now we will stand and let the English come to us. We have many firesticks we received from les français and my men know how to use them. Will you consent to attack the rear of the English while we hold them in front?" Bull Elk wanted to confuse the soldiers, this plan seemed likely to do just that, so Grey Raven assented.

They would let the English travel unmolested this day, let them grow overconfident. The Abenaki would watch the column, shadowing their every move. Only when the English entered the Tangled Ravine would they strike.

The forest road passed through a ravine through which a small stream ran. One year there had been much rain and the stream had become a torrent, washing many trees away. The ravine was now choked with dead trees and offered many places to attack from and better yet, the English would have to stay on the road once they had advanced far enough.

Bull Elk hoped to leave no survivors, let the English sachems wonder what had happened to the warriors they had sent into the forest. It might dissuade them from sending more.

¹ Present day Concord.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. Natives knowing the lay of the land, able to selesct ambush sites, and now even with some muskets from French... looks like that small convoy of Englishmen is in big trouble. And few skilled scouts on English side are already dead...

    1. They are indeed in big trouble.

    2. Natives knowing the lay of the land... A tactic used by partisans and guerillas from Day 1 of Warfighting. In a few years, the same tactic would be used against the English by the 'new' Americans... right near Concord, come to think of it.

    3. Different Concord, the one in this story is in New Hampshire.

    4. Still, roughly same tactics though different Concord.

  2. Sarge, one of the descriptions I remember from the Battle of the Monongahela was how thick the forest was described as and how they could not get wagons or even really large bodies of troops through. Very well captured.

    As Pawel notes, the difference between knowing the land well and blundering in.

  3. Hey AFSarge;

    Another Good Story; I still remember Braddock blundering in the Forest during the French and Indian Wars and the Indians cut him to ribbons, he was using the European Tactics against people that didn't fight like Europeans and his Hubris for not listening to the American Officers who did know the ways of the Indians set the stage of his defeat and massacre because the Indians habitually don't take Warriors Prisoners, it is against their way of war, they kill them, Healthy Male Prisoners cause trouble for them and their society ain't organized for something like that. I still remember watching "Last of the Mohicans", it described the battle style well and the fighting and massacre of the British Soldiers by the Indians.

  4. I know it’s a different Jenkins, but he’d better mind his ears.

  5. Excellent story, and shows the clash of cultures that existed in 'The New World' at the time. Different strokes for different folks, so to speak.

    And now for some good old fashioned Beans pontificatin'. Started to do this under Mr. G and realized I was bloviating a tad bit for just a comment to a comment.

    Killing the healthy males of a losing side has, like knowing the lay of the land, been a tactic used by many cultures since Day 1 of Warfighting.

    Killing the males (down to 10yoa) and old women, and subjugating the remaining, well, not a 'civilized' way of warfighting, according to the Europeans. Of course, the European rules of warfighting were considered not civilized right back. I mean, give up when someone puts a breach in your defenses? Nope... And thus, the Sack of Jerusalem...

    This is referring to the Euro three step rule of the Siege - Step 1) Enemy pulls up and calls to surrender, little more than a few people captured or ransomed and a (large but overall small) amount of loot or ransom and the town is now under control of the conquerors. Step 2) Outside people pop a hole in defenders' defenses, call for surrender, some more people captured or ransomed, maybe a few 'city leaders' hanged or killed, more ransom for the town, some looting or pillaging, but under control because place is now under control of the victor. Step 3) Oh, didn't give up? Defenders killed or captured, defenders' location given the 3 step Pillage, Loot, Burn method, and woe be unto the next group who didn't get the message. For some strange reason, a lot of other civilizations just didn't and still don't understand the European way of fighting. But, once you look at Europe, you understand it's due to a wish to not have to repopulate and rebuild an area every time there's a conflict, which is how you get places in Europe where you have a Roman Villa still being lived in that is right next to some ultra-sleek modern monstrosity while the streets are still Medieval-wide...

    It's why we, as a nation, still have problems with cultures who just won't surrender, or who use surrendering as a weapon (like, well, Hamas. Gee, yet another cease-fire so they can rearm and reequip... Good going there, SloJo...) We still expect, when kicking an enemy in the teeth, hard, and them giving up, for them to actually, well, give up and call it quits. And that to be the end of it.

    Like, well, the Mexican-American War. The Mexicans got stroppy, we were more stroppy than them, we won, war reparations included the US paying for a lot of the land seized during the war (Yes, La Raza, we paid for California, Arizona, New Mexico et al. Want it back? Well, show us the pesos, baby.) We could have basically kept everything from the current border down to Mexico City, but, no, we were nice. Mexico can't handle all this excess land and now it's ours but we pay Mexico for it. A perfect example of European Civilized Warfare.

    Back on the topic, yes, great movie, beautiful cinematography, fabulous sound track, very hard to watch because it is so darned dark. A 'watch occasionally' movie, not quite "Saving Private Ryan" good (definitely a watch once movie even though it's so great) but still, a 10 year or so movie.

  6. I suspect the early colonial militia was less disciplined when called up than depicted here. Motivated by existential threats, certainly. Eager to serve, not really, they had farms to work, and marching across the colony on an Indian alarm was not a welcome interruption. I doubt they "marched" in any semblance of formation, more like shambling along, in a motley state of dress with nary a bit of uniform. Use of rank when addressing others was less likely than calling them by first names, assuming that officers and NCOs achieved that status by election more than appointment or ability.

    At least that is my assumption, based on pretty good familiarity with the U.S. militia forces circa 1792-1860.

    Still, a compelling and interesting tale being told, bringing to life a forgotten, but vital era in our nation's growth and development of our culture.
    John Blackshoe

    1. In the days leading up to the French and Indian Wars the various Governors raised militia units for longer service than the later colonial militias of the Revolution. Some participated in the battles in Canada as well. Still and all, they certainly weren't as well-disciplined (or equipped) as the units of the British Army.

      Some however, were quite good. Rare yes, non-existent? Not quite.


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