Most of you have heard of The French and Indian War, the time period in Through the Fire, but there were others. (Chief) Pontiac’s War followed on the heels of the French and Indian and is the time frame of Red Bird’s Song. Lord Dunmore’s War took place a decade later–all occurring in the colonial frontier. Actually, life in the frontier was continually unsettled up through and even after The American Revolution had drawn to a close and warfare a reality. The boundaries of the frontier just kept shifting farther west.
Although Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans is an adopted Mohican, his lifestyle and behavior is that of a colonial frontiersman. The more rugged of these men dressed as he did, much in the Indian way. They hunted and fought with muskets, tomahawks, and their famous knives. Indians acquired these knives as well. They blended traditional weapons and ways of living with new found tools and weapons of Western man. A highly adaptable people.
Wicomechee, the hero in Red Bird’s Song, is based on the Shawnee warrior by that name who lived early in the nineteenth century and to whom I have ties. The Moffett’s, an early Valley family I’m related to, include a reference to him in their genealogy. Wicomechee’s father, John Moffett, was captured in Kentucky by the Shawnee at the age of eight and adopted into the tribe. It’s said he was a boyhood companion to the great chief Tecumseh, a chief for whom I have enormous admiration. The accounts of John Moffett and Wicomechee are recorded by Waddell. It’s also noted that during the Black Hawk Wars, Wicomechee recovered the captive daughters of a Dr. Hull and brought them safely into camp, which reminds me of Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans. I’ve included more on this amazing warrior at the end of the novel as a bonus for those who read it.
The same sort of capture and subsequent lack of information occurred to the sister of my great grandmother a number of greats back. Both of these women may have made new lives with the Indians. There are records of women who married into the tribes and did not want to leave their warrior husbands and adopted people. Tragically, some those captives who wished to remain were later forced to return to their white families through treaties, causing great heartache. There are also accounts of captives who couldn’t get out fast enough! One such captive was Daniel Boone.
Charity’s cousin Emma in Red Bird’s Song is based on the young, very pregnant wife carried off in that original attack. In the actual account it’s uncertain whether or not her husband survived his injuries. His last name was Estelle, as it is in the story, and we have early Estelle’s in our family tree. However, that name is no longer common in the Shenandoah Valley but has vanished into the mist of time along with a mostly forgotten era and its people. Few remember or care. Perhaps you will come to.
Although Eastern woodland Indians had a reputation for brutality, once a captive was adopted they were well treated and regarded as equals. Warriors were unpredictable and didn’t always behave in a certain manner anymore than all European men acted alike. Warriors could be unexpectedly gentle or sadistic.
I’ve read accounts of braves getting up in the night to stir up the campfire and cover captive women and children with blankets, even delay their journey while a woman gave birth. These men protected and fed their captives while other warriors burnt them at the stake. It all depended on who took you captive and why as to what your fate would be, and whether they kept, traded, or sold you. Or killed you in retribution for a love one lost at the hands of the English. Of course, some braves didn’t take captives. Just scalps. The warriors most feared in the Shenandoah Valley were the Shawnee, regarded as the fiercest of all. The more I studied these remarkable people, the more engrossed I became, especially as they figure into our family roots.
Red Bird’s Song is available from The Wild Rose Press in print and digital download (ebook), and Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers. Your bookstore and library can order it in. Click here to read excerpts from the novel. Visit Beth Trissel at www.bethtrissel.com