Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents Elizabeth Zane Frontier Heroine

The region watered by the upper Ohio and its tributary streams was for fifty years the battle-ground where the French and their Indian allies, and afterwards the Indians alone, strove to drive back the Anglo-Saxon race as it moved westward. The country there was rich and beautiful, but what made its possession especially desirable was the fact that it was the strategic key to the great West. The French, understanding its importance, established their fortresses and trading-posts as bulwarks against the army of English settlers advancing from the East, and also instructed their native allies in the art of war.

The Indian tribes in that region were warlike and powerful, and for some years it seemed as if the country would be effectually barred against the access of the Eastern pioneer. But the same school that reared and trained the daughters and grand-daughters of the Pilgrims, and of the settlers of Jamestown, and fitted them to cope with the perils and hardships of the wilderness, and to battle with hostile aboriginal tribes, also fitted their descendants for new struggles on a wider field and against more desperate odds. The courage and fortitude of men and women alike rose to the occasion, and in those scenes of danger and carnage, the presence of mind displayed by women especially, have been frequent themes of panegyric by the border annalists.

The scene wherein Miss Elizabeth Zane, one of these heroines, played so conspicuous a part, was at Fort Henry, near the present city of Wheeling, Virginia, in the latter part of November, 1782. Of the forty-two men who originally composed the garrisons, nearly all had been drawn into an ambush and slaughtered. The Indians, to the number of several hundred, surrounded the garrison which numbered no more than twelve men and boys.

A brisk fire upon the fort was kept up for six hours by the savages, who at times rushed close up to the palisades and received the reward of their temerity from the rifles of the frontiersmen. In the afternoon the stock of powder was nearly exhausted. There was a keg in a house ten or twelve rods from the gate of the fort, and the question arose, who shall attempt to seize this prize? Strange to say, every soldier proffered his services, and there was an ardent contention among them for the honor. In the weak state of the garrison, Colonel Shepard, the commander, deemed it advisable that only one person could be spared; and in the midst of the confusion, before any one could be designated, Elizabeth Zane interrupted the debate, saying that her life, was not so important at that time as any one of the soldiers, and claiming the privilege of performing the contested services. 

The Colonel would not at first listen to her proposal, but she was so resolute, so persevering in her plea, and her argument was so powerful, that he finally suffered the gate to be opened, and she passed out. The Indians saw her before she reached her brother's house, where the keg was deposited; but for some cause unknown, they did not molest her until she reappeared with the article under her arm. Probably, divining the nature of her burden, they discharged a volley as she was running towards the gate, but the whizzing balls only gave agility to her feet, and herself and the prize were quickly safe within the gate.

The successful issue of this perilous enterprise infused new spirit into the garrison; reinforcements soon reached them, the assailants were forced to beat a precipitate retreat, and Fort Henry and the whole frontier was saved, thanks to the heroism of Elizabeth Zane!

Compiled from sources in the public domain.

 A Tryst In Time: A Complimentary Shadows In A Timeless Myth Short Story

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

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