Gateway to the Classics: Davy Crockett by Frank Lee beals
Davy Crockett by  Frank Lee beals

Davy Becomes an Army Scout

I T WAS four o'clock in the morning. The camp was quiet but Davy was ready to leave on his first scouting trip. Everything was in place in his saddlebags. As he oiled his rifle he said to himself, "You have done a lot of hunting, but now you are starting on a real hunt." By the time Major Gibson and the other men were ready, Davy had saddled his horse and was waiting.

Major Gibson called twelve men to him and said, "We are starting on a dangerous trip. We are the advance scouts and we are heading straight into the territory of the hostile Creek Indians. Crockett, you take five men and go ahead. Remember your job is to secure information, not to fight. If you see any Indians, halt and send back word. All ready! Let's mount and go!"

Davy and his five men moved well out in front. They were out of sight before Major Gibson and the rest of the scouts left camp.

After fording the Tennessee River, Davy and his scouts rode through the forest. When night came Davy halted his advance scouts. Some of his men started to gather logs.

"No campfires," said Davy.

"Why not?" asked one of the men.

"Because we are in Creek territory."

Suddenly the sound of horses' hoofs could be heard. Every man stiffened and listened.

"Indians!" exclaimed one of the men.

"No," said Davy. "There is only one horse and if it were being ridden by an Indian you would not hear him approaching."

"Hello!" Davy called. "Who are you?"

The answer came back, "Hello! I am John Haynes."

In a few moments a white man rode into the camp and dismounted. It was not long before Major Gibson and his party of scouts rode into camp.

"Have you seen any Creek warriors recently?" Major Gibson asked Haynes.

"No, I have not," answered Haynes. "But I am an Indian trader and I know the country well. I will be glad to go with you to help locate the Indians. However, I think it is best to divide into two parties."

"Very well," said Major Gibson. "We will camp here tonight and you go ahead with Crockett and his scouts in the morning. Later I will follow with my party."

Davy and his scouts traveled until noon when they reached the lodge of a Cherokee Indian named Radcliff.

"I cannot tell you anything," he said, "but my friend Jack Thompson may help you."

Davy and his men moved on until they found Jack Thompson's lodge. He was half white and half Indian. He was anxious and ready to help the scouts.

"I will go with you," he said to Davy. "I am glad to help you. I may be part Indian, but I am also part white. You stay here to eat. My squaw will cook for you."

When the meal was over Jack Thompson said to Davy, "Take your men and go on ahead. Follow the trail until nightfall, but do not camp on the trail. There are many Creek war parties in this part of the country. Watch out for them."

"And where will you meet us?" asked Davy.

"At just about nightfall you will come to a deep ravine," said Jack Thompson. "Make your camp well off the trail but light no fires. When I come near your camp I will give the owl signal. When you hear an owl hoot three times you will know that am coming. The forest is full of owls. If the Creek are near and hear my signal they will not be suspicious. Can you hoot like an owl?" he asked.

"Yes, I can imitate almost any bird or animal you can name," said Davy with a laugh.

Davy and his scoouts pushed on. They scoured the trails for signs of Indians. They moved forward until it was almost dark. They came to the deep ravine. They moved well off the trail and tied their horses. The men lay down to rest and to wait for Thompson. All that the men had to eat was some cold meat which they carried in their saddlebags. The hours passed slowly and it grew dark.

"Keep awake," said Davy to his men. "We must be on the alert until we learn from Thompson whether or not he has seen any Indians nearby."

Frequently the hoot of an owl was heard. Davy listened but did not give the return signal. At last Davy heard a hoot that was repeated twice. Davy repeated the signal. The signals were called back and forth. The hoot from the distance grew nearer with each call. Finally Jack Thompson crept quietly into the group of waiting men.

"Crockett," said Thompson, "you sounded so much like an owl that I thought for sometime that it was an owl."

"You sounded like a real owl, too," laughed Davy.

"I have found no signs of the Indians," said Thompson.

"Then we will stay here for the night," said Davy. "Major Gibson and his party may be here by morning."

In the morning just at dawn, Davy called his scouts.

"Come on," said Davy. "Let's get our horses and be on our way."

"We are not going with you," said one of the scouts. "Major Gibson and his men are not here. We have gone far enough into the Creek territory with such a small number of men."

"You men," said Davy, "were selected for this job because you were thought to be brave men. Now is your chance to prove whether you are brave or whether you are not. You say you want to turn back?"

"But there are only seven of us," said one of the scouts. "What if we meet a war party of Creek Indians?"

"What if we do meet them? We can fight, can't we? If any of you men want to go back, pull out now. I am going on with those who will go with me."

One of the scouts stepped over to where Davy was standing and said, "Crockett's right. I am going on with him."

Another scout stepped over and stood beside Davy. "I am going with him, too," he said.

Then the scouts who wanted to turn back said, "Then we will all go on with you."

"That's better," said Davy. "Let's go."

The scouts saddled their horses and in a short time were riding through the dense forest. The trail was so narrow that Davy ordered, "Ride in single file. No talking." Davy led the way.

Cautiously the scouts rode on. During the day they passed several lodges belonging to friendly Cherokees. The Cherokees gave them no information about the Creek Indians.

As night came on, Davy and his scouts approached a small Indian village. They proceeded cautiously, watching for signs of whether or not the Indians would be friendly. The fire of the Indian camp could now be seen. As the scouts came nearer they could see that the Indians were dancing about the fire.

"Thompson," called Davy, "ride into camp. If they are friendly Indians tell them that we want to spend the night in their camp. Then ride back here with the answer. I will be waiting for you."

The men in the party could see that Thompson was welcomed by the Indians. Standing in the firelight he waved to Davy and his men to come into camp. The Indians were so friendly that he did not bother to ride back to tell Davy.

The Indians were very kind to their visitors. The young braves took the horses and tied them for the night and fed them. The squaws hurried about to prepare food for the visitors.

After they had eaten, some of the braves brought out their bows and arrows and challenged the white men to a shooting match. The champion of the Indians stepped out, aimed his arrow and let fly. It struck the center of the target which had been set up. Then they invited the white men to see what they could do. Davy stepped forward and said, "Let me use your bow."

The brave who had shot the first arrow gave Davy his bow and a new arrow. Davy asked him to remove his arrow from the target. Davy took steady aim. The light from the fire brought out clearly the mark on the target made by the brave's arrow. Davy let his arrow go. It struck in the center of the mark made by the first arrow.

All were amazed by Davy's marksmanship. "He is a great brave," called one of the Indians.

After more target shooting with bows and arrows, the Indians wandered away to their lodges for the night.

The chief of the Cherokees said to Thompson, "You and your friends are welcome. But if a Creek war party should come to our camp tonight and find the white scouts here with us, they would kill us all." Thompson immediately reported this to Davy.

"We will leave the camp," said Davy. "We cannot endanger the lives of our friends."

But before Davy could round up his scouts and secure the horses, a shrill cry came from the deep woods. Davy grabbed his rifle and rallied his scouts.

"Get your squaws and children out of the way," Davy said to the Indians. "You men lie down along the edge of the camp," he said to his scouts. Turning to the chief of the Cherokees he ordered, "Have all of your braves ready to fight. Keep them back of your lodges until I call for them." Then he joined his men at the edge of the camp.

The sound of soft footsteps could be heard. Davy listened carefully. "It's an Indian," said Davy, "and there is only one." In a short time a Cherokee runner came into the clearing. Davy and Thompson ran to him.

Between deep breaths the runner said, "There are nearly a thousand Creek warriors on their way to surprise the white soldiers. They have crossed the Coosa River only a few miles from here."

Davy turned toward the camp, but already the Indians had heard what the runner had said. They were breaking camp and preparing to flee.

"My orders," said Davy, "are to get information concerning the Indians back to Colonel Coffee. Saddle your horses. We are going back to report to Colonel Coffee."

It was only a few minutes until Davy and his scouts were heading back toward the main body of troops. All through the night Davy and his men pushed their way over the ground which they had covered the day before. By morning their horses were so exhausted that Davy ordered a halt. After the horses had rested the men mounted and were once more on their way. When they reached Colonel Coffee's camp Davy went directly to the colonel and reported.

"Where is Major Gibson?" asked Colonel Coffee.

"We missed him the second night out," said Davy. "Isn't he here?"

"No. He has not returned," said the colonel.

"I will wait for a report from him before I decide what to do."

"There is no time to lose, Colonel," Davy urged. "A thousand Indians are headed this way."

It was not until the following day that Major Gibson reached the camp. He had secured the same information that Davy had already reported. At once Colonel Coffee ordered preparations for defense. He put the soldiers to work building breastworks around the camp. A messenger was dispatched to give the information to General Andrew Jackson. General Jackson and his militia had moved up and were camped some miles away.

The next day Jackson marched his foot-weary soldiers into Colonel Coffee's camp and at once took command.

"We must have more information," he said. "We must not wait for the Indians to attack. We must attack them. Eight hundred volunteers go forward and make the attack. Colonel Coffee, you are to command this detachment."

When Colonel Coffee had completed the organization, he sent for Crockett.

"Crockett," said Colonel Coffee, "the general has ordered an attack. You are to lead the advance scouts. Eight hundred men are depending on you."

* * * * * *

Can You Tell?

1. Why the scouts were so important to the army?

2. What you would have to know in order to be as good a scout as Davy?

3. What the Cherokee runner told Davy?

4. What Davy did? Why?

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