The White Ghost
Copyright© 2010 by aubie56
King Philip's War was petering out as a formal thing, but that did not mean the end of fighting with Indians. Some Indians had a blood feud with the Whites, some Indians just wanted what the Whites had without paying for it, and some Indians just liked to fight, and Whites were convenient opponents.
That last group was the cause of most of the trouble for the next few months. The small community of John's Crossroads had little of value to anyone but them. Nevertheless, they suffered attacks from war parties without a real letup. In one case, a group of six men were attacked one afternoon as they were gathering firewood. Firewood was the only fuel easily available, so it was a valuable commodity, and a number of men made a living by gathering it from the surrounding woods.
This group of woodsmen were attacked by about 18 Nipmucks out for a little rough fun at the expense of the Whites. The woodsmen had their guns, but they were not of much use after that first shot except as rather inefficient clubs. Later examination of the scene suggested that an Indian was killed by a lucky shot, and this enraged the rest of the war party. The attack changed to one of deadly earnest, and the Indians attacked with tomahawks and knives. The White men realized that they did not stand a chance against the attacking Nipmucks, so they ran back toward town.
Two of the men did not escape death from tomahawks, and the rest were injured to various degrees by knife wounds. The Indians stopped chasing the Whites before they actually got to town, but the men ran to the tavern for sanctuary, anyway. The first time that John knew of the attack was when the men burst into the tavern and slammed and bolted the main door.
John served each man a mug of beer and got their story in ragged segments, but he was able to figure out what had happened. Joe was out back with Ed, Turtle, and Turtle's wives working on their latest kills from the hunting expeditions. John called Joe into the tavern and gave him a synopsis of the stories told by the men. He then pointed out that they could not let the Indians get away with such a raid, because they would only become more bold as they continued to meet little or no resistance.
Joe agreed and said that Turtle, Ed, and he would look into the matter immediately. Swift action was necessary before the Indians could get out of reach. Joe went out back and explained to his friends what they needed to do. Well, Ed was willing to do whatever Joe asked without question, and Turtle loved a good fight, so the result was that Joe had no trouble persuading either one of them to join him in punishing the raiders. The fact that they were Nipmucks did not bother Turtle, so they grabbed up their weapons and supplies which were always packed in case of an emergency.
Joe had gotten directions to the site of the fight, so they were able to find it easily. It was certainly no problem to follow the trail left by the White men as they madly scrambled to escape the Nipmucks. They found the guns lying where they had been dropped. The Indians treated the White man's guns with contempt (and Joe agreed with them), so they did not take them when they left.
The Indians had headed northeast, presumably toward their town. Turtle did not recognize any of the few artifacts dropped by the Indians, so he didn't know of any shortcuts that they could use to cut them off. The only thing left for them to do was to follow the rather obvious trail. They were concerned that such an obvious trail might be a cue that they were being lured into a trap. However, they had no choice—following the trail left by the Indians was the only way that they could hope to find them.
They took after the departed Indians at a fast jog, a pace that they could maintain for hours if they had to. The Indians had taken a relatively easy and open route, so they had no difficulty in maintaining their speed. They followed for the remainder of the day, only taking short breaks so that they would not be too tired if they caught the Indians before they expected to.
They had decided to make camp for the night as soon as they found a suitable place, and they were about ready to stop when Turtle caught sight of movement ahead of them. They stopped running and crept closer to whatever it was that Turtle had seen. Aha! The Indians they were chasing had decided to stop for the night, so they had caught their prey, if you could call them that. Joe counted 19 Indians in the party, and his first reaction was that they might have bitten off more than they could chew, since there was a manpower advantage to the Indians of more than 6:1. However, Joe remembered their previous exploits and decided that the Indians were the ones in trouble. Nevertheless, right then was when Joe wished for a gun, or a crossbow, at least.
The atlatl darts were as good as crossbow bolts as a missile, but they did not have enough darts with them to do the whole job. They would have been carrying more bolts with them if they had been using them, but there was no point in crying over something that they didn't have. They each had four darts with them, so 12 darts, if they all worked as Joe hoped, would be enough to make a significant dent in the enemy ranks. Joe was confident that the three could easily defeat the seven remaining enemy if they had the right kind of luck with their atlatls.
They retreated about 150 yards and held a council of war to plan the attack. Both of Joe's friends waited to hear his plan before they made any comments. "What do you two think of this plan? We let them settle down and go to sleep. Once that happens, we can attack the guards that they have put out. When the guards are eliminated, we can use our atlatls to attack the sleeping men. The light will be marginal, but the fact that they will be stationary targets should make up for the poor light. The number of men left alive in the camp will depend on how many guards we eliminate before we start our attack. In any case, I think that we are good enough to take care of any still alive. Do either of you have any comments or suggestions?"
Neither man had anything to offer, so they ate some of their rations and settled down to wait a few hours. Turtle had said on several occasions that Nipmucks never attacked at night if they could avoid it, so no guards were necessary on their part. Joe bowed to his superior knowledge of the habits of his own people and agreed that they should all get a couple of hours sleep. Joe had so much practice with waking up when his internal clock called him that he was not afraid of oversleeping.
They woke up about 9:00 PM, and the sky was so clear that there was enough light from the moon and stars that there was hardly less light than on a cloudy day. Joe actually had more practical experience than Turtle at this type of operation, so he led the way. The layout of the forest around the clearing where the Indians were camped dictated the most likely location for the guards, so that was where they headed first.
The first guard they found was asleep under a tree where he was leaning against the trunk. Ed wanted the honor of the first kill, so he used the spike on his tomahawk to dispose of the guard. This was a silent killing method, so the man did not have a chance to warn the camp. The other three guards spaced at approximately 90° around the camp were eliminated in pretty much the same fashion, though the other three were not actually sleeping. Turtle and Joe were able to sneak up on them without being detected, so they dispatched them with ease.
That had taken about 40 minutes, and they were now ready to assault the camp with their atlatls. The skill they had attained while hunting with the atlatls stood them in good stead as they launched their darts into the camp. These men were larger targets and not moving, so they were very easy to hit. The only poor shot was the last one that Joe launched. Joe hit his target in the belly instead of the chest, so he was able to scream for about two minutes before he died.
The last three living Indians in the camp jumped to their feet and looked around, trying to spot the reason for the man's screams. The three friends were well into the camp before they were spotted, so they really had little trouble killing the last of the enemy. In Joe's case, he swung his tomahawk low enough to catch his opponent in the side about half-way up his rib cage with the spike. Joe used that to pull the man toward himself, and when he was close enough, Joe slit his belly open with his knife.
Turtle simply drove his tomahawk spike into his opponents head. Ed's swing caught his man in the neck with his tomahawk blade and cut the carotid artery. There was a lot of blood, but the man fell dead quickly enough, so there was nothing to complain about with Ed's technique.
They looked through the camp quickly, but did not find anything worth looting, so they left for home after retrieving their darts. All of them were still high on adrenalin, so it was going to be a few hours before they calmed down enough to sleep. They were one-quarter of the way home before they were in any condition to sleep. It was about three hours to full daylight, so Joe set his internal clock for two hours, and they all went to sleep.