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9

GENERAL LESLIE COMBS

At the same time, throwing their packs upon the ox-sled, our adventurers started the terrified family in the same direction, remaining themselves some distance in the rear, to give notice of approaching danger, and as far as possible save the mother and her children, if it should come on them- selves.

Young Hensly, his Kentucky compan- ion, had a musket; Tessier, their protege, had a fusee or shot-gun, and Coombs him- self was armed with a sword and belt-pis- tols. Their march was of course very slow; but it seemed to our ardent young officer that he had never before seen oxen move with such at tardy pace. They knew not at what moment their ears would be saluted with the savage war-whoop in their rear. Thus they proceeded till the road was lost in darkness, hoping to meet Ma- jor Cotgreve’s battalion, and were forced to encamp by the road-side. They watch- ed all night, one of them acting as sentinel, about a hundred paces from the fire, on the trace towards Raisin, and at dawn they again resumed their slow retreat. They had not gone over two or three miles, when, instead of meeting an armed band which would give them comparative safety, they found Cotgreve’s baggage-sleds and artillery abandoned in the road, with all the marks of sudden and precipitate Bight. “I shall not pretend,” Combs subsequently writes, “ to describe our feelings at this un- expected sight ; but thank Heaven we did not abandon our voluntarily assumed charge, but resolved, come what would, to save them or perish with them.”

Just before sunset, they came in sight of the Maumee river, and at the same time discovered that Winchester’s camp, left in charge of General Payne, some three or four miles up the river was in flames. At first they supposed that the British and Indians had gotten ahead of them by way of the lake and river ice, and had defeated the remnant of the left wing of the army and General Harrison’s reënforcements, and that their own destiny was sealed. They were soon releived however from this painful apprehension, by discovering a wounded soldier who had made his es- cape by that route, and assured him that no enemy had passed him.

We shall only refer to so much of the mil- itary operations about this period on that                        2

frontier as may render the personal narra- tive of the subject of the memoir intelligi- ble. The two flying soldiers to whom Hens- ley had promptly abandoned his pony at Comb’s suggestion, and determined to aid the latter in bringing off the distressed family, had, it seems, communicated to Major Cotgreve the same alarming infoma- tion they had given to Combs, “that at least five thousand Indian warriors were in hot pursuit, under Tecumseh and Dixon,” and thus caused his precipitate retreat. They reached General Winchester’s old camp at the rapids, at which General Harri- son, in the mean time, had arrived with a small body-guard early on the 23d, having travelled all night, and caused him to aban- don the position north of the Maumee, set fire to the camp, and fall back to the south side of Portage river, some fifteen or twen- ty miles nearer the Ohio settlements on Hull’s trace.

Young Combs followed in his footsteps across the river on the ice, after sundown on the 23d, and arrived  on  the  opposite side of Portage river on the evening of of the 24th, with his small caravan, much to the surprise and joy of his friends, who had already numbered him among the dead. Having been mainly instrumental in saving also three of that gallant band of Kentuck- ians, who had marched to the frontier some five monthe before, with such devoted pat- riotism and buoyant hopes of military glo- ry, for the first time since he met the news of the disaster, he now felt safe from pur- suit, and gratified more than words could express that he had the nerve to do his duty.   

The weather had moderated, and the rain had been falling all day, so that the ice on the river had split near the centre and bulged upwards, rendering it difficult as well as dangerous to cross. But noth- ing could stop our young adventurer’s friends, when he came in sight, from rush- ing across to meet him. Majors Hardin and Gano conducted him to head-quarters, and introduced him to General Harrison, informing him what he had done. “ It was a proud moment for me,” writes Mr. Combs, in reference to that sight, “ thus to be presented : and while he compliment- ed me, and said I was worthy of a civic crown, his eyes were moist with tears, and mine were not dry. That tear-drop of the        

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