America First—100 Stories from Our History by Lawton B. Evans

An Indian Trick That Failed

THE Indians were full of all kinds of devices to deceive their enemies; and they would often resort to many methods to get within striking distance of their victims. They could imitate the sounds of the forest, the call of birds, the cry of wild beasts, the very noises of nature herself; one could scarcely tell the difference.

During the Revolution, a regiment of soldiers was so placed that a large guard was needed to protect the main body from surprise. There was one special post where sentinels were placed on guard, and where a most singular mystery occurred. The sentinels were constantly found missing, leaving no trace behind them, not even firing off their guns as an alarm.

For several successive days, a sentinel was placed at this post, and told to give warning of the slightest approach of danger. When the time came for him to be relieved, there was no sign or trace of any one having been on guard. The sentinel had vanished, leaving the entire regiment more mystified than ever.

At first, many of the soldiers thought the sentinels had deserted, while others thought the Indians were guilty.

At last, when three men had disappeared in succession,—men, whose patriotism and courage were not doubted,—the soldiers became stricken with superstitious terror.

"If it were the Indians, our men would have fired off their guns, or fought them, or run back to camp. We cannot believe they deserted. It may be the devil is after us," some of the soldiers said. None of them wanted to be assigned to the strange post.

At last, the Colonel declared, "I will ask no man to guard that post against his will. If there is any one here who is not afraid, let him come with me."

Only one soldier stepped forward. He saluted the Colonel and said, "I will not be taken alive by the Indians. I am not a deserter. I do not believe the devil has anything to do with it. You shall hear from me at the least sound. I will fire my gun if a crow chatters or a leaf falls."

They went to the mysterious post, and the Colonel left him standing by a tree, his gun in hand and his eyes watching in all directions. He was a brave man, but he could hardly keep from feeling a sensation of dread, wondering what was going to happen to him.

For an hour nothing occurred. At every rustle in the bush the soldier raised his gun, at every falling leaf he was ready to fire. He took no chances. But, as time wore on, he began to think he would escape undisturbed.

At length he saw, not far away, a hog feeding on some acorns. There were plenty of hogs in the neighborhood, and especially around the camp. He had seen many of them rooting in the ground, and had often heard them grunting and munching acorns. This hog was like all the others, and he paid no attention to it.

In a few minutes the hog began to make his way back of the sentinel to a small clump of bushes where there were plenty of acorns. He grunted and rooted and munched as he went, always getting a little nearer the sentinel, of whom he seemed to take no notice. Still the soldier thought he was just a big hog, and kept his eyes on other sights, his ears on other sounds.

But, as the hog gained the clump of bushes back of the post, not more than twenty feet away, the sentinel suddenly turned, and thought he saw some unusual and ungainly movement on the part of the animal.

"I may as well kill that hog. We need meat anyway, and if the camp comes running it will do no harm." So saying, the sentinel raised his gun and fired at the animal standing sideways towards him. The bullet struck him full in the side. What was the sentinel's surprise to see the hog leap into the air, hear a dreadful Indian yell, and then to see a painted savage, with a tomahawk in his hand, fall dead at his feet.

In a short while, the soldier's comrades arrived. He showed them the Indian—explanation of the mysterious disappearance of the other sentinels. The crafty Indian, acting so like a wild hog that no one could fail to be deceived, had gradually approached the sentinels, and, while they were not looking, had tomahawked them and borne them away before they could cry out or even fire off their guns.

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