Capt.Suggs & Lt.Snipes' court martial
By reference to memoranda, contemporaneously taken, of incidents to be recorded in the memoirs of Captain Suggs, we find that we have reached the most important period in the history of our hero----his assumption of a military command. And we beg the reader to believe, that we approach this portion of our subject with a profound regret at our own incapacity for its proper illumination. Would that thy pen, O! Kendall, were ours! Then would thy hero and ours----the nation's Jackson and the country's Suggs-go down to far posterity, equal in fame and honors, as in deeds! But so the immortal gods have not decreed! Not to Suggs was Amos given! Aye, jealous of his mighty feats, the thundering Jove denied an historian worthy of his puissance! Would that, like Caesar, he could write himself! Then, indeed, should Harvard yield him honors, and his country-justice!
Early in May of the year of grace-and excessive bank issues---- 1836, the Creek war was discovered to have broken out. During that month several persons, residing in the county of Tallapoosa, were cruelly murdered by the "inhuman savages;" and an exceedingly large number of the peaceful citizens of the state----men, women and chil- dren----excessively frightened. Consternation seized all! "Shrieks in- human" rent the air! The more remote from the scenes of blood, the greater the noise. The yeomanry of the country----those to whom, as we are annually told, the nation locks with confidence in all her perils----packed up their carts and wagons, and "incontinently" departed for more peaceful regions! We think we see them now, "strung along the road," a day or two after the intelligence of the massacres below had reached the "settlement" of Captain Suggs! There goes old man Simmons, with his wife and three daughters, together with two feather beds, a few chairs, and a small assortment of pots and ovens, in a cart drawn by a bob-tail, gray pony. On the top-most bed, and forming the apex of this pile of animate and inanimate "luggage," sits the old tom-cat, whom the youngest daughter would not suffer to remain lest he might come to harm. "Who knows," she exclaims, "what they might do to the poor old fellow?" On they toil! the old man's head, ever and anon, turned back to see if they are pursued by the remorseless foe; while the wife and daughters scream direfully, every ten minutes, as they discover in the distance a cow or a hog-"Oh, they'll kill us! they'll skelp us! they'll tar us all to pieces! Oh, Lord! daddy! oh, Lord!" But the old tom-cat sits there, gravely and quietly, the very incarnation of tom philosophy!
It was on Sunday that the alarm was sounded in the "Suggs settle- ment," and most of the neighbours were in attendance upon the "preaching of the word" by brother Snufflenosey, at Poplar Spring meeting-house, when the "runner" who brought the woful tidings, disclosed them at old Tom Rollins', by yelling, as he sat on his horse before the door,-"the Injuns is a-killin everybody below! I aint got time to stop! tell the neighbours!" Now, old Mr. Rollins and the "gals" were already at meeting, but the old lady, having stayed behind "to fix up a leetle," was, at the identical moment of the messenger's arrival, en chemise before a very small glass set in a frame of red paper, preparing to adorn her person with divers new articles of apparel, inclusive of a new blue-and-red-calico gown. But no sooner did her mind comprehend the purport of the words from without, than she sprang out of the house, "accoutred as she was," shrieking at every bound, "the Injuns! the Injuns!"----nor stopped until with face, neck, and bosom crimson as a strutting gobbler's snout, she burst into the meeting-house, and having once more screamed "the Injuns!" fell exhausted, at full length, upon the floor. "Will any of the breethring lend me a horse?" asked the Reverend Mr. Snufflenosey, wildly, as he bounded out of the pulpit, in very creditable style----"Wont none of you lend me one?" he repeated emphatically; and obtaining no answer, dashed off precipitately afoot! Then went up to Heaven the screams of fifty frightened women, in one vast discord, more dreadful than the war-squalls of an hundred cats in fiercest battle. Men, too, looked pale and trembled; while, strange to relate, all of the dozen young babies in attendance silently dilated their astonished eyes---- struck utterly dumb at being so signally beaten at their own peculiar game!
At length an understanding was somehow effected, that Taylor's store, five miles thence, should be the place of rendezvous, for that night at least; and then Mr. Snufflenosey's congregation tumbled itself forth as expeditiously as was possible.
Simon was "duly" at the store with his family, when the wagon, cart, and pony loads of "badly-scared" mortality began to arrive in the afternoon. He was there of course, and he was in his element. Not that Suggs is particularly fond of danger---albeit, he is a hero--- but because he delighted in the noise and confusion, the fun and the free drinking, incident to such occasions. And he enjoyed these to the uttermost now, because he was well informed as to the state of feeling of the Indians, in all the country for ten miles around, and knew there was no danger. But Simon did not disclose this to the terrified throng at the store. Not he! Suggs was never the man to destroy his own importance in that sort of way. On the contrary, he magnified the danger, and endeavoured to impress upon the minds of the miscellaneous crowd "then and there" assembled, that he, Simon Suggs, was the only man at whose hands they could expect a deliv- erance from the imminent peril which impended.
"Gentlemen," said he impressively, "this here is a critercle time; the wild savage of the forest are beginnin' of a bloody, hostile war, which they're not a-gain' to spar nither age nor sek----not even to the women and children!"
"Gracious Lord above! what is a body to do!" exclaimed the portly widow Haycock, who was accounted wealthy, in consideration of the fact that she had a hundred dollars in money, and was the undisputed owner of one entire negro---"we shall all be skelped, and our truck all burnt up and destroyed! What shall we do!"
"That's the question," remarked Simon, as he stooped to draw a glass of whiskey from a barrel of that article---the only thing on sale in the "store"---"that's the question. Now, as for you women- folks"-here Suggs dropped a lump of brown sugar in his whiskey, and began to stir it with his finger, looking intently in the tumbler, the while-"as for you women-folks, it's plain enough what you've got to do"-here Simon tasted the liquor and added a little more sugar -"plain enough! You've only got to look to the Lord and hold your jaws; for that's all you kin do! But what's the 'sponsible men"-tak- ing his finger out of the tumbler, and drawing it through his mouth- "of this crowd to do? The inemy will be down upon us right away, and before mornin'"---Simon drank half the whiskey---"blood will flow like---like"---the Captain was bothered for a simile, and looked around the room for one, but finding none, continued---"like all the world! Yes, like all the world"---an idea suggested itself---"and the Tallapussey river! It'll pour out," he continued, as his fancy got rightly to work, "like a great gulpin ocean!-d-d if it don't!" And then Simon swallowed the rest of the whiskey, threw the tumbler down, and leaked around to observe the effect of this brilliant exordium.
The effect was tremendous!
Mrs. Haycock clasped her hands convulsively, and rolled up her eyes until the "whites" only could be seen. Old Mrs. Rollins-who by this time was fully clothed-and her two daughters had what Simon termed the "high-strikes" in one corner of the room, and kicked up their heels at a prodigious rate; while in another, a group of young women hugged one another most affectionately, sobbing hysterically all the time. Old granny Gilbreth sat in the middle of the floor, rocking her body back and forth, striking the palms of her hands on the planks as she bent forward, and clapping them together as she re-attained the perpendicular.
"My opinion," continued Simon, as he stooped to draw another tumbler of whiskey; "my opinion, folks, is this here. We ought to form a company right away, and make some man capting that aint afeard to fight----mind what I say, now----that-aint-afeard-to-fight!---- some sober, stiddy feller"-here he sipped a little from the tumbler ----"that's a good hand to manage women and keep 'em from hollerin ----which they're a-needin' somethin' of the sort most damdibly, and I eech to git holt o' that one a-making that devilish racket in the corner, thar"----the noise in the corner was suddenly suspended----"and more'n all, a man that's acquainted with the country and the ways of the Injuns!" Having thus spoken, Suggs drank off the rest of the whiskey, threw himself into a military attitude, and awaited a reply.
"Suggs is the man," shouted twenty voices.
"Keep close to him, and you'll never git hurt," said a diminutive, yellow-faced, spindle-legged young man.
"D'ye think so now?" exclaimed Simon furiously, as he "planted" a tremendous kick on that part of the joker's person at which the boot's point is most naturally directed. "D'ye think so, now? Take that along, and next time keep your jaw, you slink, or I'll kick more clay outen you in a minute, than you can eat again in a month, you darned, little, dirt-eatin' deer-face!"
"Keep the children outen the way," said the little fellow, as he lay sprawling in the farthest corner of the room; "ef you don't, Cap'en Suggs will whip 'em all. He's a sight on children and people what's got the yaller janders!"
Simon heeded not the sarcasm, but turning to the men he asked-
"Now gentlemen, who'll you have for capting?"
"Suggs! Suggs! Suggs!" shouted a score and a half of masculine voices.
The women said nothing----only frowned.
"Gentlemen," said Simon, a smile of gratified, but subdued pride playing about his mouth; "Gentlemen, my respects----ladies, the same to you!"---and the Captain bowed---"I'm more'n proud to serve my country at the head of sich an independent and patriotic cumpany! Let who will run, gentlemen, Simon Suggs will allers be found sticking thar, like a tick under a cow's belly---"
"Whar do you aim to bury your dead Injuns, Capten?" sarcastically inquired the little dirt-eater.
"I'll bury you, you little whifflin fice," said Captain Suggs in a rage; and he dashed at yellow-legs furiously.
"Not afore a body's dead, I reckon," replied the dirt-eater, running round the room, upsetting the women and trampling the children, in his efforts to escape. At last he gained the door, out of which he bounced and ran off.
"Darn the little cuss," said the Captain, when he saw that pursuit would be useless, "I oughtent to git aggrawated at him, no how. He's a poor signifiken runt, that's got the mark of the hackle-berry ponds on his legs yit, whar the water come to when he was a-getherin 'em, in his raisin' in Northkurliny. But I must put a stop to sich, and that right away;" and striding to the door, out of which he thrust his head, he made proclamation: "Oh yes! gentlemen! Oh yes! This here store-house and two acres all round is now under martial law! If any man or woman don't mind my orders, I'll have 'em shot right away; and children to be whipped accordin' to size. By order of me, Simon Suggs, Capting of the"----the Captain paused.
"Tallapoosy Vollantares," suggested Dick Cannifax.
"The Tallapoosy Vollantares," added Suggs, adopting the suggestion; "so let everybody look out, and walk the chalk!"
Thus was formed the nucleus of that renowned band of patriot soldiers, afterwards known as the "FORTY THIEVES"----a name in the highest degree inappropriate, inasmuch as the company, from the very best evidence we have been able to procure, never had upon its roll, at any time, a greater number of names than thirty-nine!
As became a prudent commander, Captain Suggs, immediately after the proclamation of martial law, set about rendering his position as strong as possible. A rude rail fence near by was removed and made to enclose the log store, and another building of the same sort, which was used as a stable. The company was then paraded, and a big drink dealt out to each man, and five men were detailed to serve as sentinels, one at each corner of the enclosure, and one at the fence in front of the store door. The Captain then announced that he had appointed Andy Snipes, "fast lewtenant," Bird Stinson "sekkunt ditto," and Dave Lyon "sarjunt."
The guard was set, the women summarily quieted, the mass of the company stowed away in the stable for the night; and the Captain and "Lewtenant Snipes" sat down, with a bottle of bald-face between them, to a social game of "six cards, seven up," by a fire in the middle of the enclosure. About this time, the widow Haycock desired to possess herself of a certain "plug" of tobacco, wherewithal to supply her pipe during the watches of the night. The tobacco was in her cart, which, with a dozen others, stood in the road twenty steps or so from the front door. Now, as the widow Haycock was arrayed rather grotesquely-in a red-flannel wrapper, with a cotton handkerchief about her head----she did not wish to be seen as she passed out. She there- fore noiselessly slipped out, and, the sentinel having deserted his post for a few moments to witness the playing between his officers, suc- ceeded in reaching the cart unobserved. As she returned, however, with the weed of comfort in her hand, she was challenged by the sentinel, who, hearing a slight noise, had come back to his post.
"Stand!" said he, as the old lady was climbing the fence.
"Blessed Master!" exclaimed Mrs. Haycock; but the soldier was too much frightened to observe that she spoke English, or to recognize her voice.
"Give the counter-sign or I'll shoot," said he, bringing his gun to a "present," but receding towards the fire as he spoke.
Instead of the counter-sign, Mrs. Haycock gave a scream, which the sentinel, in his fright, mistook for the war-whoop, and instantly fired. The widow dropped from the fence to the ground, on the out- side, and the sentinel ran to the Captain's fire.
In a moment was heard the thundering voice of Captain Suggs:
"Turn out, men! Kumpny fo-r-m!"
The women in the store screamed, and the company formed imme- diately in front of the door. The Captain was convinced that the alarm was a humbug of some sort; but keeping up the farce, kept up his own importance.
"Bring your guns to a level with your breasts, and fire through the cracks of the fence!" he ordered.
An irregular volley was fired, which brought down a poney and a yoke of steers, haltered to their owner's carts in the road; and frightened "yellow-legs," (who had slyly taken lodgings in a little wagon), nearly to death.
"Over the fence now! Hooraw! my galyunt voluntares!" shouted the Captain, made enthusiastic by the discharge of the guns.
The company scaled the fence.
"Now charge baggonets! Hooraw! Let 'em have the cold steel, my brave boys!"
This manoeuvre was executed admirably, considering the fact, that the company was entirely without bayonets or a foe. The men brought their pieces to the proper position, ran ten steps, and finding nothing else to pierce, drove the long, projecting ram-rods of their rifles deep in the mellow earth!
"Pickle all them skelps`,Capten Suggs, or they'll spile!" said a derisive voice, which was recognized as belonging to Yellow-legs, and a light form flitted from among the wagons and carts, and was lost in the darkness.
"Somebody kill that critter!" said Suggs, much excited. But the "critter" had "evaporated."
A careful examination of the field of battle was now made, and the prostrate bodies of the pony, the oxen, and the widow Haycock dis- covered, lying as they had fallen. From the last a slight moaning proceeded. A light was soon brought.
"What's the matter, widder----hurt?" inquired Suggs, raising up one of Mrs. Haycock's huge legs upon his foot, by way of ascertaining how much life was left.
"Only dead-that's all;" said the widow as her limb fell heavily upon the ground, with commendable resignation.
"Pshaw!" said Suggs, "you aint bad hurt. Whar-abouts did the bullet hit?"
"All over! only shot all to pieces! It makes no odds tho'----kleen through and through----I'm a-goin' mighty fast!" replied the widow, as four stout men raised her from the ground and carried her into the house, where her wounds were demonstrated to consist of a contusion on the bump of philo-progenitiveness, and the loss of a half square inch of the corrugated integument of her left knee.
Captain Suggs and Lieutenant Snipes now resumed their game.
"Lewtenant,"----said Suggs, as he dealt the cards----"we must---- there's the tray for low----we must court-martial that old 'oman in the mornin'."
"'Twon't do, Capting----the tray I mean----to be sure we must! She's vierlated the rules of war!"
"And Yaller-legs, too!" said Suggs.
"Yes, yes; and Yaller-legs too, ef we kin ketch him," replied Lewtenant Snipes.
"Yes, d--d ef I don't!----court-martial 'em both, as sure as the sun rises---drum-head court-martial at that!"