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|Combs &c. - Narrative of the life of|
General Leslie Combs
GENERAL LESLIE COMBS
hero of Tippecanoe fell upon my heart; and my untiring support of him in 1840, when he was a candidate for the Presiden- cy, cannot be wondered at, although my first choice then and ever had been Henry Clay.”
“I had no time,” he continues, “on my perilous retreat, to weep for my murdered friends and fellow-soldiers at Raisin. My eyes were dry and my nerves seemed rigid as iron until personal danger was over, and all under my charge in safety.” Of over nine hundred officers and soldiers engaged in that disastrous battle, only thirty-three escaped; all the rest were killed on the field, massared, or led into captivity. The news filled the whole country with the deepest grief; Kentucky was clad in mourning, and General Harrison himself overwhelmed with sorrow and disappoint- ment. Very soon afterwards, the remnant of the Kentucky regiments engaged in the conflict were discharged; but the subject of this memoir declined to leave for some time, not knowing that the invasion of Upper Canada was abandoned for the win- ter, till after Fort Meigs was erected, and General Harrison himself, in a complimen- tary note, advised him of the fact, and per- mitted him to return to Kentucky, with the expectation of again joining him in the spring with other volunteers. Thus ended his first campaign.
When he arrived at home, with his clothes much worn and badly soiled, his mother met him with a tear and a smile, remarking in jest, that she was surprised to see him so soon, as he had told her he would net return until they had taken Can- ada. His reply was, “that he had only come home to get a clean shirt.” And she very soon found he was in earnest.
The defeat at Raisin, and the discharge of the remainder of the Kentucky troops, made the situation of General Harrison, and the whole north-western frontier, ex- tremely critical. Of our old forts there remained in our possession Forts Wayne and Harrison. Fort Winchester had been erected on the site of old Fort Defiance, and General Harrison had built Fort Meigs at the foot of the Maumee Rapids, on the south side of the river, The latter was the only place at all prepared for an attack by heavy artillery; and it was to be expected that as soon as the ice on the lake and riv-
er broke up in the spring, the British, hav- ing command on the waters, and entire possession of Michigan Territory, would assail that position. It was of the first importance, therefore, to have General Harrison reënforced as soon as possible, for the fall of Fort Meigs would expose the whole north-western frontier to fire and desolation. For this purpose, Gen. Green Clay, marched from Kentucky, early in April, with two regiments of volunteers, taking the same route which General Win- chester had done. Having made the no- cessary preparations, Combs started him- self soon afterwards to rejoin General Har- rison at Fort Meigs, as he had promised to do, and overtook General Clay at Dayton. Totally unprovided as that general was with maps of the vast wilderness into which he was about to plunge, the prac- tical information which young Combs had obtained on the previous campaign, as to the geography of the country, its water- courses, newly cut roads, Indian villages, &c., &c., was deemed of much importance; and before the expedition reached Piqua, he tendered young Combs the appoint- ment of Captain of Spies, with the privi- lege of selecting his company from Colo- nel Dudley’s regiment. He had not ex- pected a position so high or responsible, and felt much diffidence of his ability to discharge its dangerous duties.
The next day, another company was or- ganized in Colonel Boswell’s regiment, commanded by an old Indian fighter un- der Wayne, named Kilbreath ; and by way of distinction afterwards, our young volunteer was called the boy captain. Their pay was thirty dollars per month ex- tra; and he had no difficulty therefore, in filling his company with active gallant riflemen, but one or two of whom however had seen service.
When they reached St. Mary’s block- house, General Clay divided his brigade, sending Colonel Dudley’s regiment across to the Auglaise river, and descending the St. Mary’s himself, with Colonel Boswell’s, intending to unite them again at old Fort Defiance. Captain Combs was attached to the former; and on their march down the Auglaise, an express reached them from Fort Meigs, with the intelligence that General Harrison was in daily expectation of an attack, and urging them to proceed
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