EIGHTEEN FOR MERCY: OVERVIEW
Written by Donald Williams Jr. Author of historical novel Eighteen for Mercy
All rights reserved
It is the author’s purpose to write a capsulized overview of the historical novel “Eighteen for Mercy” to assist a potential reader in enjoying the series short stories that will follow the novel. These short stories are offered in lieu of a full sequel to the novel. The stories will be unedited, and therefore the writer apologizes for any mistakes in grammar. Done in a sequence, beginning shortly after the close of the novel in March 1783, these short story offerings will be a continuance of the saga of the Chalfont siblings – Etienne (Black Cloud) – French Mary – and Stone Catcher.
This overview will allow the potential reader of the short stories to have a framework to better experience these stories in their relation to the original novel. This overview, done in narrative form, is intended to allow those who haven’t read the novel to still benefit from the short stories, while at the same time not “giving away” so much information as to make it not worthwhile to read the novel itself. Therefore, the outcomes and resolutions of some of the conflicts and underlying dramatic situations will not be set forth in this narrative as they are not necessary to meet the purpose of this narrative.
Both the novel Eighteen for Mercy and the subsequent short stories related to it are all works of fiction. Although some of these are based on actual historical events, and with some characters being actual historical persons, these writings are not intended to be used as a history book. The original novel “Eighteen for Mercy” utilized three real historical events around which the fictional story was woven. These were the defeat of Colonel Archibald Lochry by Native American forces under Joseph Brant on the Ohio River; the Massacre of the Christian Moravian Indians at Gnadenhutten on the Tuscarawas River; and the ill-fated Crawford Campaign against the Sandusky tribes.
In the telling of these stories, the identification of different peoples will be done using the common language of the times which has, in some cases, changed in our world of today. Example: Native Americans were referred to as Indian. Lenape tribe were called Delaware.
STORY LINE NARRATIVE:
In August of the year 1781, the Christian Moravian Indians were living in their three towns of Schoenbrunn, Salem, and Gnadenhutten on the Tuscarawas River in Ohio Country. In that month those Christian Indians and their Moravian “teachers” were forced to abandon their cabins and productive farms and remove to a desolate village near Upper Sandusky. This forced removal was caused by the machinations of the three infamous frontier Tories, Alexander McKee, Matthew Elliott, and the white savage Simon Girty. They, along with the Half-King of the Wyandot and Captain Pipe of the Munsee had convinced the British Commandant at Detroit that the Christian Indians were spying for and supplying the Americans. Although the American Revolutionary war was at its zenith, The Christian Indians had been living peaceably and remaining neutral under the leadership of their beloved Missionary teachers, Reverend David Zeisberger and his immediate assistant, Reverend John G. Heckewelder. Neither the British nor the American frontiersman trusted them.
The exodus from the mission towns on the Tuscarawas to the desolate, abandoned Indian village near Upper Sandusky had been perilous, and the newly arrived congregation now found themselves living in want, freezing, and on the verge of starvation in the town they dubbed Captive Town.
Blaming these unbearable conditions on the British and their allies Captain Pipe of the Munsee Delaware, and Dunquat, the Half-King of the Wyandot, French Mary was more than outspoken against them. Her former sachem, Captain Pipe, had become the particular recipient of her ire. French Mary was of mixed blood, her mother being a Munsee Delaware and her father a French-Canadian trader who had been murdered by a member of the Ottawa tribe. Raised until age eleven in Montreal, a devout Roman Catholic, she was returned to her tribe where Captain Pipe had dubbed the young Marie Chalfont with the name French Mary. While still in her youth, the light-haired, fiercely independent, and fiery French Mary was coerced by her mother to join the Moravian Christian community, which she dutifully and reluctantly agreed to, while never truly embracing their particular viewpoint. She had married a Christian Delaware who was murdered by freebooters out of Fort Pitt area. This left her raising three children, of which two were her own and one the son of her widowed brother, Etienne. She remained a clandestine Roman Catholic. This would be a source of conflict for her.
During the deep winter freeze by her brother Etienne. She had not seen him in a while, and their contact had been seldom ever since Etienne abandoned the Moravian way of life which he had reluctantly entered at the insistence of his young wife who later died in childbirth. Leaving his son Little James to be raised by French Mary and the Moravians, Etienne returned to his tribe at Pipe’s Town where he was known as Black Cloud, the well renowned Munsee war captain. He had undergone a Youth Vigil at age twelve which resulted in a great vision which he pursued throughout his life as a warrior. Both Etienne and his sister, French Mary, had their beginnings in Captain Pipe’s old village of Cussewago. They had a half-brother, a Shawnee warrior named Stone Catcher.
While visiting at Captive Town, Etienne was appalled and frightened by the conditions. He promised to seek help, as his family refused to leave the place due to his mother’s obstinance. During the visit he had an encounter with Daniel, the pious, arrogant, and self-righteous husband of Ruth. Ruth, a devout Christian Mohegan woman, was Mary’s closest confidant, a circumstance Daniel hated. He mistreated Ruth because of it. Ruth had once been the object of Etienne’s romantic notions, some of which remained. Daniel was abusive to Ruth, and always attempted to place French Mary in a negative light in front of the congregation. During this visit, Etienne delivered a physical beating to Daniel and a warning to stop mistreating the women. Etienne left the village wondering if his family, including his son, would survive.
In the late fall just prior, a raid against mission villages on the Tuscarawas was organized by Colonel David Williamson, commander of the Washington County, Pennsylvania, militia. Williamson and the settlers of the Monongahela River basin held a special hatred toward the native tribes who were allies of the British out of Detroit. These tribes included the Munsee Delaware, Wyandot, Shawnee, and Mingo, all who participated in attacks and committing atrocities against these settlers, with it all escalating since the outbreak of the American Revolution. Colonel Williamson, along with others, firmly believed that the “so called” neutral, passive, Christian Indians were not what they claimed to be, but rather, were harboring war parties in their towns, and participating in raids themselves. Williamson wanted them out of the way, one way or the other. When the militia arrived at the Moravian towns, they found them abandoned, not knowing they had been removed to Upper Sandusky a few months prior by the British and Wyandot.
Jubal Blackburn, owner of a tavern and trading post on the Monongahela River, served as a militia captain under Williamson, and accompanied him on this mission. His hatred for all things Indian was fueled by the murder of his fifteen-year-old son, along with his older brother. Jubal, a large-framed, rough, uncouth but intelligent frontier family man and business owner, had sworn revenge on one particular Munsee warrior; the warrior who killed his son. That warrior was Etienne Chalfont – Black Cloud. Jubal was disappointed when the militia had to withdraw from the Tuscarawas empty handed. He had hoped to have an opportunity to discover Black Cloud and satisfy his revenge.
In the depts of the winter, February 1782, starvation and deprivation had come to the point where the Christian Indians, out of desperation, begged permission from the Commandant at Detroit and the Half-King of the Wyandot, to allow a party to return to the Tuscarawas towns and gather the corn that had been left on the stalks at the time they had been forced to leave. They were granted permission to go. As the group of Christian Indians made their way back toward their former towns on the Tuscarawas, Etienne and his half-brother Stone Catcher lead a large war party toward the Kentucky frontier. He had no knowledge that his sister, his own son Little James, along with Mary’s five-year-old son Simon were on their way to their former towns. Also, among the entourage heading to pick corn was Ruth, her father Thomas Red Snake, and her husband Daniel.
Having been informed that the mission towns on the Tuscarawas were once again inhabited, Colonel Williamson again organized a campaign to march against the towns. He wasn’t certain who occupied them, but he felt strongly it was occupied by war parties, and perhaps Christian Indians who were aiding warriors, and participating in attacks. Quickly joined by Jubal Blackburn and his sons, the party rode toward the mission towns. On the way they discovered the murdered bodies of the Wallace family, furthering fueling their rage.
Upon arrival in the towns, the residents of Salem and Gnadenhutten were rounded up, disarmed, and made hostages of. Those gathering corn at Schoenbrunn were overlooked. While at Gnadenhutten, the dress of Mrs. Wallace was discovered being worn by one of the Christian Delaware. A trial was held, and Colonel Williamson called for a vote. Out of one hundred and fifty militia, eighteen voted for mercy. The Christian Indians were to die. This vote was held on March 7, 1782. The following morning, March 8, with the use of mallets and scalping knives, ninety-six men, woman, and children of the Christian Indian congregation were put to death, and their bodies burned. Only French Mary, Ruth, and two other boys who were rescued by the warrior Snow Hunter managed to escape. They fled toward Schoenbrunn, and finally caught up with the fleeing residents of that town. French Mary begged them to take their guns and go back to save their friends and families from the militia. They National Assistants of Schoenbrunn refused, and, although they were unaware, it was too late. Daniel, in the meantime, had seen the attack coming and had run off to save himself before the attack occurred. It was once they joined the escaping group from Schoenbrunn that French Mary learned that Simon had been killed. She underwent a complete transformation, and now vowed revenge, refusing the Moravian’s attitude of forgiveness.
Etienne had been alerted to the militia’s presence at the mission towns, and of his sister’s presence there, and he and a mounted war party rode desperately to save them. They arrived too late. He believed that the among the murdered were his sister, her children, and his own son. He later learned the truth. He, along with his Shawnee half-brother Stone Catcher, swore revenge for the loss of their family members and their Munsee kinsman who were converts to the Moravians.
Unbeknownst to Etienne, a plot had been carried out by Jubal Blackburn to lure him to his death. Little James, Etienne’s son, was not killed at Gnadenhutten, but was instead kidnapped by Jubal Blackburn and used to entice Etienne to come and rescue him. Blackburn would seize that opportunity to kill Etienne.
Arriving at Captive Town, Etienne learned that his sister had survived, and so had Ruth. Daniel had returned, making excuses for having run off, when he possibly could have warned the people of Salem and Gnadenhutten of their impending doom. Again, he was warned by Etienne never to physically harm Ruth, or tarnish the name of French Mary. While at Captive Town, French Mary announced to Etienne that she was leaving the Moravian congregation and coming back to her original people with him. She could not remain because she wanted revenge for the death of her son, and she could not forgive them for failing to confront the militia. She knew the tribes would be pursing vengeance toward those who murdered the kinsman. Mary also told her brother of her romantic feelings for Jonathan Symes, a sergeant in Butler’s Rangers she had become familiar with. Etienne then told Mary of his Chickamauga wife Awinita and their child, something Mary knew nothing of. The withholding of this information about his new family was all part of Etienne’s entangled emotions over Ruth. The issue of Etienne’s prior romantic feelings toward Ruth were discussed at length by him and French Mary as they traveled to Pipe’s Town.
After Etienne returned, along with French Mary, to Pipe’s Town, he was met at a later point by two Cherokee emissaries sent by Jubal Blackburn. Etienne learned the truth of Little James being alive, and of Etienne’s need to surrender himself to Jubal in order to free the boy. Etienne killed one of the messengers and sent the other back to the Monongahela Basin to tell Blackburn he would come on his own terms.
However, before Etienne could mount a rescue party for little James, the Washington County militia joined forces with Colonel Crawford of Virginia and a large militia headed for the native towns at Upper Sandusky for “finish the job.” Crawford’s second in command was Colonel David Williamson, now hailed as a hero for the murders of the Christian Indians at Gnadenhutten. Accompanying Williamson was Captain Jubal Blackburn and his one-eyed murderous minder, Mingo John. Blackburn hoped to meet Etienne on the battlefield.
Several days of fighting took place between the militia and forces of the British and their native allies. Two of the major war captains were Etienne – Black Cloud – and Stone Catcher. They were also joined by Butler’s Rangers with Sergeant Jonathan Symes taking a major role in the combat.
As the militia began to suffer a massive defeat, and a retreat being underway, Jubal Blackburn did encounter Etienne on the battlefield. A brief scuffle ended in Blackburn being wounded by an arrow the Spirit Bow, Etienne’s sacred weapon. Blackburn retreated, along with his men, to the Monongahela. He would await Etienne’s attempt to rescue Little James.
A captive, formerly warrior in Captain Pipe’s village turned traitor, now being a scout for Blackburn, was captured and returned to Pipe’s Town. A former suitor of French Mary, he must now to suffer torture for his role in Gnadenhutten. French Mary stepped up and requested to be given the privilege.
At the village of Upper Sandusky, Stone Catcher discovered the Ottawa who had killed their father. Stone Catcher called upon this Ottawa to engage in mortal combat. This was all witnessed by Machiawip, the white captive David Adams who had become Stone Catcher’s adopted son. David’s sister Betsy was also adopted into this family. Machiawip, meaning Red Arrow, now fought with the Shawnee as one of their warriors.
With Crawford’s militia defeated, a rescue party was now put together which included Etienne, Stone Catcher, Degataga the Chickamauga, French Mary, Bartholomew Davis the British spy, Jonathan Symes, and others. Etienne, along with Bartholomew Davis, concocted a means of tricking Blackburn. They put this plan into deadly effect. Little James was rescued. The outcome of the attack at Mingo Creek was staggering.
Etienne and those who remained, along with the freed African slaves they “rescued,” returned to Pipe’s Town to find that Ruth, her husband Daniel, and other Moravian families now resided there. The Half-King had expelled them from Captive Town.
Ultimately word was received from the Commandant of Detroit that lands had been made available to them by the Chippewa on the Huron River, north of Detroit. The Christian Indians at Pipe’s Town prepared to leave. Daniel, in a fit of anger at his wife Ruth, accosted her verbally while she was in the pretense of Awinita, Etienne’s wife. Awinita stepped in, and Daniel struck her. She sent for Etienne.
Daniel fled but was captured. He now had to face the famous skilled warrior Black Cloud in a contest to the death for his misdeeds against the women.
Ruth begged for mercy for Daniel. Etienne asked her if she wanted to keep him as a husband. Daniel begged Etienne to stop beating him and not to kill him.
The outcome of Daniel’s punishment, the attack against Blackburn’s compound to rescue Little James, the ongoing romantic struggle between Etienne and Ruth, and the mortal combat between Stone Catcher and the Ottawa warrior will be left to those who read the actual book. The writer of this narrative does not want to spoil the endings for those reading the book. What has been offered in this narrative is a most sufficient overview to allow readers to benefit from and enjoy the short stories, and to continue one’s interest in the saga of the Chalfont siblings.
Don Williams, Author