Bryan's Station

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

We tightened stirrup; buckled rein;
Looked to our saddle-girths again;
Shook hands all round; then mounted.
The gate swung wide: we said, "Good-bye."
No time for talk had Bell and I.
One cried, "God speed!" another, "Fly!"
As out we rode to do or die,
And every minute counted.
The trail, the buffaloes had worn,
Stretched broad before us through the corn
And cane with which it blended.
We knew for miles around the gate
Hid Indian guile and Tory hate.
There was no time to hesitate.
We galloped on. We spurred like Fate,
As morn broke red and splendid.
No rifle cracked. No arrow whirred.
Above us piped a forest bird,
Then two and three together.
We 'd reached the woods. And still no shout
Of all the wild Wyandotte rout
And Shawanese had yet rung out:
But now and then an Indian scout
Flashed here and there a feather.
We rode expecting death each stride
From fallen tree or thicket side,
Where, snake-like, they could huddle:
And well we knew that renegade,
The blood-stained Girty, only stayed
His hate awhile before he played
His hand: that Fiend, who had betrayed
The pioneers of Ruddle.
And when an arrow grazed my hair
I was not startled; did not care;
But rode with rifle ready.
A whoop rang out beyond a ford
Then spawned the wood a yelling horde
Of devils, armed with tomahawk
And gun. I raised my flintlock's stock
And let 'em have it steady.
Tom followed me. And for a mile
We matched our strength with redskin guile:
And often I have wondered
How we escaped. I lost my gun:
And Tom, whose girth had come undone,
Rode saddleless. . . . The summer sun
Was high when into Lexington,
With flying manes we thundered.
Too late. For Todd at break of day
Had left for Hoy's; decoyed, they say,
By some reported story
Of new disaster. Bryan's needs
Cried"On!" Although we had done deeds,
We must do more, whatever speeds.
We had no time to rest our steeds,
Whose panting flanks were gory.
Again the trail; rough; often barred
By rocks and trees. Oh, it was hard
To keep our souls from sinking:
But thoughts of those we 'd left behind
Gave strength to muscle and to mind
To help us on on, through the blind
Deep woods, where often we would find
Our hearts of loved ones thinking.
The hot stockade. No water left.
The night attack. All hope bereft
The powder-grimed defender.
The warwhoop and the groan of pain.
All night the slanting arrow-rain
Of fire-brands from the corn and cane:
The fierce defense, but all in vain:
And then, at last, surrender.
But not for Bryan's! No! Too well
Must they remember what befell
At Ruddle's and take warning. . . .
And like two madmen, dust and sweat,
We rode with faces forward set,
And came to Boone's. The sun was yet
An hour from noon. . . . We had not let
Our horses rest since morning.
Here Ellis heard our news: his men
Around him, back we turned again,
And like a band of lions
That leap some lioness to aid,
Of death and torture unafraid,
We charged the Indian ambuscade
And through a storm of bullets made
Our entrance into Bryan's.
And that is all I have to tell.
No more the Huron's hideous yell
Whoops to assault and slaughter.
Perhaps to us some praise is due:
But we are men, accustomed to
Face danger, which is nothing new.
The women did far more for you,
Risking their lives for water.

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