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All is Lost

    Here is another excerpt from the historical novel "Swift."  As a matter of historical fact John Finley had a trading operation going on with the Shawnee at Eskippakithiki in 1752-1753. His trading "post" or store was never really described but he had somehow developed a friendly relationship with the Shawnee. Disaster came in the winter of 1753 when the Shawnee village was viciously attacked by another group of Indians. Most believe it was the Iroquois and was probably over the hunting rites of the Kentucky frontier. Other historical accounts related to an on going dislike between the two groups. What ever the reason the town was completely destroyed along with Finley's operation. History offers no details to the events of that fateful day. One can only imagine a chaotic time and we do know this single event forced the surviving Shawnee to relocate north to their final location of southeastern Ohio country. After this event, no permanent settlement of Native peoples ever again inhabited the eastern two thirds of Kentucky. This excerpt deals with the events of that day in 1753 and what might have happened.




All Is Lost




      In January, 1753, John Swift, once again, chose to return to the wilderness. The good life on the coast took a great deal of money to support. A stroke of luck saw that January had been unusually warm. This made the trip easier for John Swift. He spent the fall, and the first part of the winter, in Charleston choosing a more desirable climate. However, with the weather much warmer in January and low on cash, Swift needed to replenish. He had gradually moved north up the coast until he reached Virginia. Swift headed down the Ohio River, as he had many times before, but this time he traveled by horse rather than by river raft. Traveling alone, Swift needed the extra carrying power of the horses to help him on this latest wilderness expedition. When he reached the crossing point of the Warriors Path on the Ohio, he turned South. Swift followed the familiar path southward toward the Shawnee town. After about a day and a half, Swift arrived on a low hill he had seen on previous visits to the area. The Shawnee town became visible from this vantage point. What John Swift witnessed came as a complete surprise: the town was gone! He didn't notice anyone milling about the area he knew to be the town, and any remaining dwellings were little more than barely husks of charred rubble. Swift set out on a much faster pace down to the town. As he approached, it became increasingly clear that something terrible had happened. Most of the houses had been burned to the ground. Tools and family belongings appeared in disarray scattered about. There were no people. Everything was destroyed.
      John Finley’s store had not escaped the destruction. The once thriving business had been utterly eradicated, and John Finley, like all the other souls of Eskippakithiki was gone; vanished. What had happened? Swift wondered. Where had everyone gone? Had they been killed, and if so, where are the bodies? Swift looked around on the ground near the Finley store to see if there remained any evidence of what had happened. A few beads and items were scattered about but most everything was either burned or gone. Swift thought hanging around out here in the open was not an especially wise plan. He carefully moved back toward the Warriors Path and decided he should get back into the woods and out of sight. He went directly east to the first big creek. This location put him well off the Warriors Path and directly east of the burned Shawnee town. Swift considered heading west toward his treasure cave, but since the Shawnee trail to the Falls headed that direction, he thought it might not be safe. As darkness approached, Swift made camp on a gravel bar along the meandering creek.
      During his restless night at the campsite, Swift pondered the fate of the Shawnee town. He remembered he had not met a single Shawnee -no one in fact- as he came down the Warriors Path. This was an unsettling situation he had encountered, the full gravity of which he did not fully comprehend. He simply did not have enough information to know what had happened in the few months since he had been gone. Swift kept a small fire going but wondered if he was being watched by some unknown and yet-to-be-determined enemy. Even though he let the fire go out, Swift slept little.
      Morning turned much colder. The low clouds and occasional snowflake announced the imminent arrival of a winter storm. Swift thought he ought to ride out the storm in the rock shelter camp on the mountain. Being close to the shelter and the likelihood of a blizzard arriving, this seemed like the best option for the remainder of the day. He had not been back to the shelter since he left his partner George Mundy there. He probably should check on the rock camp anyway, he thought. This would also provide the opportunity to observe and assess the Shawnee town as well as the surrounding area. Swift took great precaution when he made his trips to his precious silver, and insisted George Mundy do the same. Sometimes they would split up and come from different directions to the place that was so important to Swift and Mundy. The two of the them could retrieve in a single visit enough silver riches for both men to live rather extravagant life styles back in Charleston. They claimed, of course, that they hunted furs and hunting was so good they developed a very lucrative business. Neither man actually hunted, though. They made a couple trips each year, wandered around killing time so as to give the appearance of hunting. In this way, friends and acquaintances on the coast never became suspicious. Luckily, however, both men were loners, so being around people on a constant basis was not necessary for either. About noon Swift finally reached the summit of the mountain. He and George had begun to call the high vantage point Pilot Knob. This high point reminded the two seamen of the perch, the pilot of boat would use to navigate inter-coastal waters. This lofty mountain offered a clear and excellent view of the countryside in all directions.
      The overcast sky had surrendered to scattered clouds with sunshine patches darting about over the landscape as Swift rested on the mountain. He saw the light plumes drifting upwards from his campsite near the creek below. Smoke from another campsite a little farther down the creek from the place he camped the night before caught his attention. Swift was unaware that anyone had camped nearby. He thought he might hang around before he headed out to his treasure cave. If someone saw him, tracked him, they could follow him. Swift could not allow that to happen.
      After a couple hours Swift was beginning to get tired of just waiting so he thought he might return back to the creek and go check on the other campsite. He needed to know who else was in the area, especially since the Shawnee town was gone. Looking west he could see the abandoned town. While he had no particular affection for the Shawnee, as long as they were in the region few white men would venture into the area and this would mean fewer people would have the opportunity to stumble upon his secret. By mid afternoon Swift reached his previous night’s campsite and he kept on walking down the lazy creek that meandered around until he came upon the site. Swift moved into the trees up from the creek. The campfire still burned and he could see a man sitting by the fire. Swift came on out into the open since he was sure it was a white man. As he got closer he recognized the man he saw.
      “John? John Finley, is that you?” Swift yelled out.
      “John, yes,” John responded dazed and confused, not yet knowing who approached him.
      “What are you doing here?” Swift asked, noticing John didn’t bother to get up.
      “John Swift? I’m real glad to see you.” John sounded relieved, though dazed and a bit disoriented. He was obviously very happy to see a familiar face.
      “What happened, John?”
      “I’m hurt. Real bad I think. Oh, man, it hurts.”
      Swift could see that Finley was in pain. He also noticed the blood stains on his clothing. He could not tell what the extent of the injury was but he reasoned that this must have something to do with the destruction of the Shawnee town.
      “Here, let me a look at your wound.”
      Swift carefully pulled back the flaxen cloth trousers and saw the heavy gash in the leg just above the knee. He figured the wound was at least three inches long and was deep into the leg muscle.
      “Ohooo! Yeeaaww!” Finley groaned and complained.
       “How did you get this?”
      “Two of those Iroquois warriors came running up the hill and toward my cabin. The village was being destroyed, so I knew for sure they aimed to kill me. I shot one in the doorway. Before I could reload the other one popped through the door and jabbed at me, aiming to hit my heart, I suspect. I jumped away and he caught me in the leg with his spear. That dang stone spear blade was sharp.”
      “Wonder why he didn’t finish you off?”
      “I grabbed an ax head and whopped him up on the side of the head. I was falling away as I swung so I didn’t have much control of the ax. But, enough to knock him senseless for a minute or two.”
      “That’s when you got away?”
      “Slicker than bear grease. I knew there would be more in a minute, so I took off in this direction as fast as I could. I was bleeding badly and the farther I came the weaker I got. I made it here stumbling, running, sometimes crawling by the time I got to the creek.”
      “John, you are lucky to have survived, you know that?”
      “I know and my luck just keeps getting better. Look here, you just happen to come along.”
      Swift tore some strips of cloth from Finley’s trousers and made some new bandages. He could see that Finley had rubbed something and placed dried leaves on the wound. The bleeding had stopped but Swift could see that the spear had cut deep into the flesh, nearly to the bone.
      “It’s gone, the store, the furs the whole damn town is gone, burned to the ground,” Finley rambled on. It was obvious to Swift that John Finley was still in a state of shock from the ordeal.
      “What about the Iroquois? What happened to the Shawnee?”
      “Three days ago the whole damn Iroquois nation attacked the town, killing all they could and burning everything else. It was an awful mess.”       
      “Why in the world would the Iroquois do that? Why would they go to the trouble of coming down here?”
      “I don’t know. It sure came as a surprise to those Shawnee and to me, for that matter.”
      “I went to the village; there is nothing left. It’s all gone, John,” Swift replied.
      “I escaped up into the woods and kept running until I got to this creek. I followed the creek until I got here and I just couldn’t go on any further. I’ve been here for the last few days, three I think, without any food.” During his fortunate escape from the attack, John, wincing in pain with each step, managed to limp along but finally dropped from shear exhaustion to the ground to crawl to the cold, muddy creek. A pile of drift wood and debris near him made a rough shelter and managed to crawl into the pile and stayed there the first night. The natural shelter had accumulated on a shallow gravel bar in a bend in the creek. Year after year the spring rains would cause the creek to flood its banks, picking up dead limbs and debris along the stream. On this gravel bar the creek made a sharp turn, thus leaving trapped logs, sticks, and leaves which had allowed John to hole up like a wounded animal.
      “I still don’t understand why the Iroquois would attack the Shawnee? They speak the same language and always traded with them.”
      “Ah, I don’t know, but before the attack some of the warriors talked about how some other warriors killed a high-ranking Iroquois chief. This might have really made them mad and this attack was a revenge attack.”
      “The whole town, those who survived, fled up the trail and left. I don’t know if they are even back,” Finley added.
      “I didn’t see any bodies at the village. They must have come back and collected their dead the next day,” Swift remarked. “I’ve not seen a Shawnee or any other Indian since I’ve been here in these parts,” Swift added.            
      “What about my leg? How bad do you think it is?” Finley winced as he positioned his leg so Swift could see better.
      “It’s a fairly deep wound and it’s what I call proud flesh but I’ve seen worse.”
      “It’s starting to look a little angry but I don’t believe the infection has spread just yet.”
      “Like I said, it’s bad but I’ve seen worse. Do you think you can walk?” Swift asked.
      “I’ll give it a try but lord have mercy, it hurts. I don’t know. I get real tired out though.” John Finley was near exhaustion. Swift knew that if John didn’t get him some food the cold air would take him. Finley needed sustenance and they both needed to move away from the Warriors Path and the destroyed Shawnee town.
      “Here, eat some of this,” as Swift handed John a piece of jerky.
      John took the jerky and ate the first food he had had in three days. Immediately the nourishment had an effect on John. He was glad that this miracle of a chance encounter with his new friend, John Swift, had happened at this time. Otherwise, John figured he would be dead in another day or two, either by starvation or by the hands of hostile Indians.
      “You need to keep up your strength and we’ve got to get you out away from this creek.” Swift knew they were much too close to the Warriors Path and it would only be a matter of time before some warriors, be it Shawnee or Iroquois, would be coming down the path. The Warriors Path was the most traveled route by the Natives in the entire region. The Great Falls of the Ohio Trail met up with the Warriors Path here near the Shawnee town. This was what made it such a great trading location for John Finley. It was just an issue that Swift always had to be aware of and deal with during his many trips back into the wilderness to retrieve more of his treasure. As long as the two men stayed around in the area of this creek they were vulnerable to the same savage attacks that had just happened to the Shawnee Town.
      “We’ve got to get going and move to another location so you can rest up, build your strength and get out of this country. I hate to say it but your trading this year is over.”
      “I know. I’ve lost everything. There is nothing left.”
      Swift extinguished the small fire that John had managed to keep going from the large pile of dried drift wood beside his resting place.
      “Can you stand up?”
      “I’ll try. You might need to help me here.” John struggled but couldn’t put much weight on the injured leg.
      Snow flakes began to fall lightly from the overcast sky. Swift pushed John onto one of the horses and Swift climbed on the other one. As the day went on the two men slowly moved toward the mountain Swift had just come down earlier. He needed to get his friend back to the rock shelter camp. As darkness neared they had climbed a good portion of the mountain. Swift intended to get John up next to the giant cliff and under the rock overhang for shelter. The snow was coming down heavier by the hour and getting much colder. Swift wondered how John Finley had even survived the past three days cold and wet and with no food to sustain energy. Finley was indeed lucky to have survived.
      By dark they reached the base of the cliff and worked their way around to a very nice rock shelter that provided plenty of overhang to keep out the snow and rain. There was plenty of dry, dead wood. Swift and Mundy had used this shelter before and had stockpiled plenty of fire wood for situations like this.
      “I’ll get a fire going. You need to eat some more jerky. Tomorrow I will kill us some fresh meat,” Swift told John.
      “Give me a day or two and I’ll be okay. I just need some food to get my strength back,” John said.
      “I’ll be back in a little while. I need to take the horses on top of the hill above us. There is a clearing with some dried grass there.”
      “Oh, I won’t be going anywhere.”
      “You’ll be fine and ready to go in a few days,” Swift replied.
      John Finley was about to get the first restful night’s sleep he had in the last three days. Swift made his way to the top of the mountain and turned the horses out in the mountain-top pen he had built on a previous trip. The mountain top was unusually flat and had a good growth of buffalo grass. Only one narrow escape route from the little pasture offered added protection. Swift skillfully tied possum grape vines to small trees, forming a fence and gate system.
      John Swift sat by the fire and kept it stoked and wondered if he should tell his friend his amazing secret, and if so, how he would tell him. He also knew he had to take care of John Finley’s wound.
      “John, we need to burn that wound.”
      “I know. It’s the only way,” John acknowledged.
      Finley, gazing into the fire, noticed that John Swift had already placed his knife blade in the fire and paled in anticipation. This was going to hurt real bad so he braced himself. Swift focused intently on the knife laying on a rock with the blade extending over hot coals. This crude process had proven time and again to be an effective way to sterilize a wound. Most every hunter has undergone such ordeals.
      "Now then, here we go," Swift calmly announced retrieving the red hot knife.
      "Oh boy, Umm, I dread this you know," John miserably protested.
      "This is only going to hurt for a couple of seconds. Here bite on this stick." Before John could get his mind off placing the small stick in his mouth Swift laid the searing hot knife squarely on the infected wound. John bit hard on the stick, grunting and screaming through his teeth. The putrid smell of burning flesh surrounded the two men.




If you like this story why not visit my website and get your copy of the complete historic novel Swift.  You can purchase the book or if you have a Kindle, the eBook version can be downloaded at half the cost of a paper book.  The site is secure and ready to take your order. Just click here. Of course you can find the book at Amazon.com and most bookstores.



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