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6

GENERAL LESLIE COMBS

sistence. At the same time, fevers and other diseases raged in almost every tent, in which the sick were exposed not only to hunger, but to the  inclemency  of  the  season.”    (Vide  pp. 185-6.)

General Winchester had received orders from General Harrison, as soon as he had accumulated twenty days’ provisions, to advance to the rapids, forty-four miles lower down the river than his present camp, and to commence building huts, to induce the enemy to believe he was going into winter-quarters. It was indispensable to occupy the rapids, the subsequent site of Fort Meigs, with a force sufficiently strong to protect the provisions, stores, and mun- itions of war, which were to be forwarded from the other wings of the army, located at Fort McArthur and Upper Sandusky, previous to a contemplated rapid move- ment upon Malden and Detroit. From the 22d to the 30th of December, active pre- parations were being made tor this change of position, which was to bring the Ameri- can forces so much nearer to the enemy. The river being frozen over, they were obliged to take the baggage on their backs, or on rickety sleds, to be hauled by the men, for all their horses which had not been sent into the interior in October or November, had starved to death.

“Having provided for the sick, and assigned, guards to attend and protect them, the march for the rapids was commenced on the 30th De- cember. At the same time, Mr. Leslie Combs, a young man of intelligence and enterprise from Kentucky, who had joined the army as a volun- teer on its march from Fort Wayne to Fort Defiance, accompanied by Mr. A. Riddle, as a guide, was sent with dispatches to inform they commander-in-chief (General Harrison) of this movement, in order that provisions and rein- forcements might be forwarded as soon as pos- sible. General Winchester expected to be met by these at the rapids by the 12th of January. This, however, was prevented by an immense fall of snow, which, as Mr. Combs had to tra- verse on foot a pathless wilderness of more than one hundred miles in extent, retarded him for four or five days longer in reaching even the first point of destination, (Fort McArthur,) than would otherwise have been necessary to preform the whole route.” —McAfee, p. 201.

These dispatches consisted of a brief note, introducing young Combs to General Har- rison, “ as a youth whose information as to the intended movements of General Win- chester could be entirely relied upon ;” and at the same time he was fully possessed by General Winchester, confidentially, of all        

his intentions, which it was deemed unsafe to intrust to paper, inasmuch as his journey was to be through a region full of savages, who might take his scalp and capture his papers. These confidential communica- tions, intrusted to him alone, and by him duly made to General Harrison, enabled him, in 1840, to vindicate the old hero of Tippecanoe with entire success, before the American people, against the foul asper- sion cast upon him by his enemies in refer- ence to the subsequent disastrous defeat of General Winchester at the river Raisin, on the 22d January, 1813.

What he suffered on this tramp may be imagined, but cannot well be described. He had been accustomed only to wear his sword, after sending his horse to the in- terior, and their daily marching had ceased for some two months. He was on this oc- casion loaded with a heavy musket and accoutrements, in addition to a blanket and four days’ provisions on his back. The snow commenced falling on the morning of the 31st December, and continued with- out intermission two days and nights, so that on the third day of their journey, young Combs and his companion found it over two feet deep. They were in a dense forest, without path or compass, and only guided by the unerring skill of his com- panion, who had been some fifteen years in early life a captive among the Indians in this region, and was well skilled in all their ways and customs. Several nights they encamped in the black swamp, and could not find a place to lie down and rest, even on the snow, but were compelled to sit up all night with a small fire at their feet, made of such old brush as they could collect, and, wrapping themselves in their blankets, shivering through the long hours till daylight enabled them again to resume their tiresome march. On the sixth day, their four days’ provision was entirely ex- hausted, and they had early put them- selves on short allowance. Young Combs was extremely ill nearly all night, so much so, that it was concluded that. Riddle must leave him in the morning to his fate, and for himself make the best of his way to the nearest settlement or fort, and endeavor to save Combs, if he should survive till his return. Fortunately for our young volun- teer, his natural strength of constitution, and, it may be added, his unflinching re-          

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