"...I trusted in the Almighty… I knew I could only be killed once,
and I had to die sometime."
-Anne Bailey, 1823

Saturday, December 25

Hunting III of III

3 December

Darkness fell upon us while dense grey clouds blotted out both sun and moon as the sky above transitioned from day into night. We would have found a bed of boughs beneath one of the many tall pines had not the import of our messages necessitated carrying on. Lieutenant Colonel Williamson had entrusted a packet of letters to us to be delivered personally into the hands of Lord Manningham, thought to be traveling near the Big Raccoon River. Lord Manningham had confessed to Lt.Col. Williamson his interest and curiosity in the ways of the savages and the men who traded with them in this new frontier which was so unlike his own. Thus Manningham had departed from his regiment, servants, and all who knew him, to join company with an Indian trader; Captain Jacobs. Having traveled a time or two with Captain Jacobs ourselves, Williamson had known we could be trusted to find the pair out in this bleak wilderness. Huge snowflakes began to descend with unbelievable rapidity and soon the ground beneath our horse’s hooves was covered in white.

We traveled onward knowing Captain Jacobs was well familiar with this land and would likely be found afore much longer. Alongside the river a small encampment was spied, a tiny fire with a lone figure huddled beneath his matchcoat gave indication my destination had been reached. Quite surprised were we when just a bit further we spotted a solitary Indian lodge lit from within with the warm orange glow of a fire. Tired, wet and cold as we were, the warmth of either looked inviting. The lodge opened to reveal an Indian man who approached cautiously. In reasonably good English he addressed himself as Makinak, friend of Lord Manningham and Captain Jacobs, known also by the whiteman’s name of LeRoy.

Although our natural inclination is of intense hatred and distrust of all red men, we recognized this man’s sincerity and goodness of heart. Further, he indicated by hand sign and word it was Lord Manningham’s request and wish we join company with these men for a hunt upon the morrow. Even as we spoke, Captain Jacobs came forward and added his welcome to the camp. Immediately we were comforted and convinced to join this small company in their intent. As there was plenty of room within Mackinac’s warm lodge we were welcomed to stow our bedroll and small belongings within and make ourselves comfortable. Moisture had permeated nearly every fiber of our clothing during the heavy snow and the warmth of a fire and the dryness of his lodge enticed us to set aside our natural inclinations.

Lord Manningham returned from his explorations and immediately we placed Williamson’s correspondences into his hands. A dark look passed over Manningham’s countenance as he read news from Captain Peter Hogg of additional desertions. Manningham nearly tossed the letter into the fire at the nerve of Hogg to submit additional receipts for Beeves to Mr. Walker, who is now appointed Commissary for Washington’s Expeditions. Once we passed these dark moments the remainder of evening passed quickly, and soon the quiet outside and the reflection of the fire upon the walls of the lodge lulled us to sleep.

4 December

Teeth chattering with cold and an intense desire for the warmth of hot coffee we awoke to complete and total darkness. Feeling around in the darkness we came upon a few pieces of wood, tossed them upon the scant bed of coals and blew them to life. Not creating sufficient light nor warmth another piece of wood was placed upon the small beginnings of our fire. While tending to the necessities for coffee an unusual smell came to our nose, when suddenly Makinak sprung from his sleeping pallet and lifted from the now roaring fire a flaming piece of wood, lifted the lodge door and flung the offending piece out into the snow. Not comprehending the intentions of these sudden movements we reached for the comfort of a cold knife handle at our belt. Lord Manningham too was reaching for a weapon when Makinak began laughing for all the world as though the funniest thing ever had happened. We are most embarrassed and ashamed to admit WE were the source of Makinak’s humor. For it seems in our haste to make a fire for our desperately needed coffee we had somehow mistaken our friend Makinak’s moccasin for a piece of firewood!

Manningham roared with laughter and Makinak nearly fell over holding his stomach laughing and complaining loudly wanting to know why the noble crazy woman wanted to burn his moccasin? Was this a new whiteman tactic to slow the red man? Was it not possible for the mad woman to know the difference between a moccasin and piece of firewood?

We huddled into the warmth of our blankets wishing only to pull them up over our head completely! Gads! How was it possible we had mistaken the moccasin for wood?? We thought back just a few moments passed and wondered, had not that particular piece felt somehow different?? Nay, in our befuddled, cold and coffee deprived early morning state one piece had felt entirely the same as any other! Suddenly fear crept into our heart – would the man have any other footwear? By the glimpse out the lodge door it was clear the snow was easily four to five inches deep!

Fortunately our friend had two more pair of heavy winter moccs, those burned being merely an old pair used to slip on easily in the night for a call of nature. Rarely had we ever been more pleased for the comfort of a red man! Nay, he would not go about into the woods for our hunt shoeless, thank the merciful heavens!

Our morning thus begun with good humor, t’was destined to prevail throughout the day. Upon completion of our scant breakfast we set upon the woods in search of future meals. The night’s snow had made land and sky nearly the same color with only the bleak forest trees as relief between the two. Even the trees carried a load of snow upon every branch and stray leaf. Together Manningham, Makinak and I set off carrying our weapons loaded and ready. In the night another traveler had joined our small group; Robert of the Virginia Light Horse brigade. Having risen earlier than ourselves he had already set upon a deer trail in hopes of success.

As we slogged our way through the deepening snow the warmth of camaraderie was the only relief from the cold. After a few hours we caught sight of a lovely buck as he lifted his head from browsing, however he was quicker than I and he ran off afore our riflegun was fully lifted to shoulder. Not being certain of the distance of the shot in any case, we were none to upset by his quick departure. We attempted to head him off by trudging up a nearly vertical hillside, yet he was indeed much faster than I and we only found his tracks.

Shortly after this bit of excitement we determined twas surely a good time to return to the warmth of the lodge for a bit of a meal and to check in with our friends Rob and Captain Jacobs. None had known success afield and all were wet through to the skin. Fire, food and coffee did much to revive both stomach and spirit and soon enough we were once more afield. Captain Jacobs and Rob accompanied us up an enormous hillside which gave cause for serious concern were one to begin a sliding! Though the area was most clearly used as a corridor for the deer we so vehemently sought, none were willing to show themselves regardless of our stealth or desire. Upon the setting sun we returned once more to the warmth of the lodge empty handed but for my fine riflegun.

5 December

The morning sun found us within the trees, hidden beneath a well used cedar marked heavily with a buck’s favor. The sparkling of the sun’s rays twinkled over every snowflake giving the appearance of a fairy land, all quiet but for the rustling of bird, squirrel and mouse. Hours passed, a chill set in and once more t’was time to return to our home. Taking leave of these men whom I so admire was trying, yet the knowledge that we would again join forces was comforting. Alone and homeward bound we found ourselves laughing once more at the great moccasin mishap! T’is times such as these which will surely warm our hearts over the long and cold winter.

Edited to reflect the correct spellings of our dear friend Makinak/LeRoy's name.