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3

GENERAL LESLIE COMBS

the Western pioneer settlers and the native tribes of those regions, who, as was well known, were continually instigated and paid by British agents to harrass and devastate our infant settlements. Hence the national animosity against the mother country ex- cited by the War of Independence, so far from having been allayed or effaced in those parts, as was the case to a considerable ex- tent in the East, by the lapse of thirty years of peace, nominal as regarded the Western frontier, had, on the contrary, been gradually increasing and becoming intensified down to the very moment of the declaration of war in 1812. This feeling reached its acme when that same power whose agents had so long been inciting the savages to ruthless forays on the defenceless and peaceful set- tlements, now entered into alliances with them, and, by offering premiums for the scalps of men, women, and children, incited them to redoubled zeal in the prosecution of their instinctive and inhuman mode of warfare.

A series of revolting atrocities perpetrated early in the war by the savages, many of them under the very eye, and with the ap- proval or connivance of the commanders of their British allies, especially of the noto- rious Colonel, and for these his acts pro- moted or breveted General Proctor, whose memory the voice of outraged humanity will consign to eternal infamy, aroused the whole Western country to a pitch of intense excitement, which manifested itself in a universal cry for revenge, and a spontane- ous rush to the field.*


* “ Exasperated to madness by the failure of their attempt, September 4, 1812, on Fort Har- rison, [defended by Captain Zachary Taylor,] a considerable party of Indians now made an irrup- tion into the settlements on the Pigeon Roost fork of White river, where they barbarously massacred twenty-one of the inhabitants, many of them wo- men and children. The children had their brains knocked out against trees; and one woman, who was pregnant, was ripped open, and her unborn infant taken from her, and its brains knocked out. However, this was but a small matter; it amounted to no essential injury; it was all for the best, as it was done by the disciples of the Wabash Pro- phet, who was in a close and holy alliance with George the Third, defender of the faith, and legi- timate sovereign of the Bible Society nation, which is the bulwark of our most holy religion. Yet it excited the indignation of the uncivilized republican infidels in the neighboring settlements of Indiana and Kentucky.”—McAfee. History of the late War in the Western Country, pp. 154—5.      

It cannot therefore be wondered at, that the son of an old soldier and hunter, who had often listened of a winter evening to his father’s thrilling details of Indian fights, and ambuscades, and hairbreadth escapes,should be infected with the contagion, and long, boy as he was, to throw away his pen and seize some implement of war.

Young Leslie Combs had just passed his eighteenth birthday, and was, by law, sub- ject to militia duty, although he had not been inscribed on any muster’roll. Kentucky was called upon for several thousand troops, and he hoped to be one of the soldiers enlisted in the great cause of “sailors’ rights and free trade with all the world,” in defiance of Bri- tain’s proud, insulting claim, as mistress of the seas, to insult our Hag and seize our sea- men. He accordingly borrowed a fowling piece, and set himself to work to acquire the manual exercise as taught by Baron Steu- ben, then the only approved master in such matters. It was supposed that a draft would be necessary, but, instead of that, there were more volunteers than were re- quired to fill the quota of Kentucky, and young Leslie’s parents objected to his going, inasmuch as two of his elder brothers had previously joined the troops ordered to the northern frontier, under General Win- chester. It was not long after they march- ed, however, before his continued and earnest importunities, sometimes urged with tears in his eyes, prevailed upon them to let him go. Equipping himself as a private of cavalry as speedily as possible, about a month after the army marched from Georgetown, Kentucky, he started alone on their track, hoping to overtake them in time to partake of their glorious triumphs in Canada, for, like the rest, he never dreamed of disaster and defeat. “I shall never forget,” to quote his words in after years, “the parting scene with my beloved and venerated mother, in which she reminded me of my father’s history, and her own trials and dangers in the ear- ly settlement of Kentucky, and closed by saying to me, ‘ as I had resolved to become a soldier, I must never disgrace my parents by running from danger —to die rather than fail to do my duty’ This injunction was ever present to me afterwards, in the midst of dangers and difficulties of which I had then formed no idea, and stimulated me to deeds that I might otherwise, per-        

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