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11

GENERAL LESLIE COMBS

with all possible dispatch. Colonel Dud- ley immediately summoned a council of officers to meet at his quarters, where it was unanimously resolved that General Harrison ought to be apprised of their ap- proach, and his orders, as to the time and manner, received. How this was to be ac- complished was then the question. It was fifty miles from Fort Defiance, where they expected to meet General Clay, to Fort Meigs ; and it was deemed extremely haz- ardous for any one to attempt to open a communication between the two points, especially as no one present, except Cap- tain Combs, knew the exact position of Fort Meigs, or had any knowledge of the intervening country. He had remained silent during the consultation, but now all eyes were turned upon him, and he felt bound to speak. “ Colonel Dudley,” said he “ General Clay has thought proper to in- trust me with an important coinniand, at- tached to your regiment. When we reach Fort Defiance, if you will furnish me a good canoe, I will carry your dispatches to General Harrison, and return with his or- ders. I shall only require four or five vol- unteers from my own company, and one of my Indian guides to accompany me.” As may be supposed, his offer was joyful- ly accepted, and the Colonel specially complimented him fbr his voluntary pro- position, as he said he should have had great reluctance in ordering any officer upon such an expedition.

The troops encamped at Fort Defiance on the afternoon of the first of May. General Clay, meanwhile, had not arrived. Captain Combs immediately prepared for his peril- ous trip. The two Walkers, Paxton, and Johnson, where to accompany him, as well as the young Shawnee warrior, Black Fish. As they pushed off from shore at the mouth of the Auglaise, the bank was covered with their anxious fellow-soldiers; and Major Shelby remarked, looking at his watch, “ Remember, Captain Combs, if we never meet again, it is exactly six o’clock when we part;” and he has since told Mr. Combs that he never expected to see him again alive.

Captain Combs would have started some hours earlier, could his frail craft have been gotten ready; for he knew it would re- quire hard work, even with the aid of a strong current, to reach Fort Meigs before       

daylight the next morning. Placing his Shawanee in the stern, with a steering-oar, and two men at the side-oars, alternately relieving each other, the Captain took his position in the bow, to take care of their rifles and direct the course to be pursued; keeping as nearly as possible in the centre of the stream, for fear of Indians on either side. By dark they had come within distinct hearing of the distant roar of heavy artil- lery in their front, and knew that General Harrison’s apprehensions of an early assault upon his enfeebled position were verified. These sounds were new to their ears and highly exciting. It was late in the night when they struck the head of the rapids, and it seemed every moment as if their light canoe would be dashed in pieces. By lying flat on his face, the Captain could form some idea of the course ofthe deep channel, amid the war of waters which nearly deafened them, by seeing the foaming breakers glist- ening in the starlight. When they ap- proaced Roche débout, where they were in- formed there was a considerable perpendi- cular fall in low water, they were forced to land and haul their bark along the margin of the southern bank till they had passed the main obstruction ; and daylight dawned upon them before they were again afloat. They were still some seven or eight miles above the fort, and well knew that the surrounding forests were alive with hostile savages.

When the frightful appearance of the swollen river first presented itself to the view of our voyagers, one of the men urged Captain Combs to land, and endeavor thus to get to the fort; but this plan was not to be thought of Three other alternatives re- mained to him; to return and report the reason of his failure to go any further; to remain where he was during the day, and make an attempt to enter the fort the next night; or to proceed at once. The first plan would have been most prudent; and if he had been an old and experienced officer, of established reputation for courage, perhaps it ought to have been adopted ; but he was, as he has since expressed himself, a mere boy, with but little military experience, in- trusted with a most important duty at his own instance; and his aged mother’s last injunction was fresh in his heart, as well as in his recollection; he could not retreat. If he should determine to remain where he        

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