1812 – Arrows and Broken Promises, Chapter One

A spy gets close

April 1st, 1812

Cold and damp. Lying in wait, like a big cat watching its prey, Ned was burrowed deep into the rain-soaked leaves of the forest floor. The view offered good sight lines up and down the river and directly across to the Huron Indians camp. The frightening sounds of war drums echoing from deep in the woods filled the air.

A wide brimmed black hat pulled down low to hide his face, felt heavy, soaked from the rains and his own sweat on his brow. Nervous eyes scanning the enemy shore 500 yards away. Adrenalin seemed to rush to his head each time something or someone moved. Over there, what was that? Not sure.

During the last two hours activity had picked up in plain view for him to observe. Four more canoes loaded with Indian warriors had arrived. That made twenty six that he could see. Then a solitary canoe pulled up having travelled the shoreline from the direction of the British fort. Two men jumped ashore, a white man clothed in buckskins from head to toe and an Indian brave wearing a British army issue red coat. What was that all about?

Over there, more canoes. Staring through a collapsible bronzed telescope the American scout tried to keep a count in his head.

Every Indian brave arrived ready for war. Carrying darkened tomahawks on one hip, long hunting knives in brown leather sheaths on the other, they unloaded and dragged their birch bark canoes ashore. Those that did not carry a rifle had a full quiver of newly feathered arrows shouldered on their backs and a taught bow in hand. Most headed towards the sounds of the nearby drums and the council of war. Two stayed close to the shore as sentries.

Who was the April Fool this day Ned thought to himself? They say never be the one to volunteer. Nineteen year old Ned Clawson had a history of learning things the hard way. He hoped this lesson would not cost him his life.

Eager to prove he belonged on the Michigan frontier, Clawson was the only one to raise his hand that morning when the new officer with the Irish accent asked for someone to take on an important mission.

Before he knew it, Ned had been hustled into the commanding officer’s quarters. The door closed with a bang. He stood silently while the officer, Major O’Shea, inspected him up and down. Being taller than most his age, Ned easily fit in with the older men who signed on with the Michigan Militia. His innocent and youthful gaze met that of the officer and never swayed.

The 10 foot by 10 foot space doubled as the major’s home and duty post. What caught Ned’s eye was the polished Kentucky long rifle hanging on the opposite wall. His Pa had owned one of the legendary weapons.

Clawson snapped out of his momentary trance when the major motioned for him to come over to a rectangular light oak table set off to one side of the room. The exchange between them had been brief.

O’Shea rolled out a scroll-like map and told Ned to commit it to memory. He traced a route with the tip of a dry feather quill that had been close at hand, ending at the Isle de Pierre on the southern end of the Detroit River, tapping the quill several times on the final destination.

“This is the closest vantage point to the British and those heathens” said Major O’Shea. “Get yourself there, observe and report back to me.”

Ned’s dark brown eyes grew large as saucers. He remembered focusing on the map, visually soaking up every line, every symbol, every marking etched in ink. This was the first time he had seen one of the area and he was anxious to learn as much as he could. The position of Fort Detroit just to the right of some letters the major told him spelled out Michigan Territory.

Ned never have much schooling. Learning to read had not been that important working on a farm. Now he wished his new friend had had taught him more than just the letters of the alphabet. No matter he would ask her when he got back. He knew he had an eye for observing things and a quick mind at remembering details. Two lakes, one to the north, a larger one to the south called Erie, he knew this one, or part of it where he and his family used to go fishing. One thin line seemed to squiggle like a lazy worm on hot day. The River Road, as the officer named it, stretched from where they were now in Fort Detroit southwards to the Ohio Territory.

Clawson could remember the inbound march just a week after he had joined up. Weaving in and around the many marshes that dotted the land, there were a lot of hiding places for an ambush. His newly formed unit had marched up this same road on the journey north from the muster point in Ohio. Last but not least on the map was the string of long narrow islands that seemed to fill most of the river between the Michigan Territory and Upper Canada. Odd name he thought to himself, the enemy’s land was the farthest south on the map. No matter, that’s where those Indians were camped out.

Growing up on the farm in eastern Pennsylvania before moving to Ohio, there wasn’t much time to learn how to read. Ned had picked up a bit here and there but he could read a map, capture the image in his mind and recall things later with great detail. Quietly he studied the symbols and images on the rolled paper as he got his briefing from the Irish officer.

There was a knock at the door followed by the officer’s command to enter. A burly sergeant came into the room, handed Ned an extra powder horn, a small burlap shoulder sack with some dried meat and two loaves of rye bread, and a pat on the back.

Ned was more than a little excited by it all. First time he had volunteered for a special duty since joining the Michigan Militia three months ago. He remembered his heart pounding as he tried to take it all in. The map, the officer, the mission.

Right, the mission, his orders. Clawson was the scout assigned to spy on the Indian camp near the British fort. Not hard to find they said, just listen for the sound of the drums. They were right about that.

Major O’Shea had thanked him with a generous handshake and a promise of a Kentucky long rifle when he returned.

The Irish officer told him to head to the livery stable where a horse would be waiting for him. Ten minutes later the volunteer was leading a speckled grey by the halter towards the front gate.

Passing the main barracks he recognised a buckskin clad militia officer. His scraggly black beard and bushy moustache that covered his upper lip made him look older than he was. He had been talking to some of the militia soldiers in hushed voices, stopped, turned and stepped towards Ned and his horse. Their eyes met as if fused by a blacksmith’s hammer.

“You keep your scalp long enough so you can hold your prize one day young pup,” he scowled and gave a nod.

“Be seein’ you shortly Uncle George” replied Ned as he nodded to his favourite kin.

With that Clawson mounted up, gave a tug on the horse’s reins. A strong kick to the sides of the grey, Ned headed out the south gate at a gallop.

Sentries in the elevated fort blockhouses watched as horse and rider crossed the open clearing before the trail disappeared into the woods.

The last scout that took the trail leading south had not returned. What kind of trouble would Ned find ahead? The kind of trouble he could not yet imagine.

*******

Hidden from sight just inside the tree line, three Wyandot Indians watched intently as the rider emerged from the fort. They were here to spy on the Americans. Muskingho and two others from his tribe were still lean from the winter hunt. These white man had taken their land, their food, their way of life. Mud covered faces watched as the rider on the grey horse headed south.

With hearts full of malice towards the white man, they had concealed themselves here for two days, waiting for a moment like this. Nervous hands of the younger braves twitched as their fingers slid down the shaft of blood stained tomahawks wedged into leather belts.

Muskingho saw this and placed his firm hand on the wrist of the painted warrior. To the other his widening and expressive eyes gave a silent command to stop. He brought them close to him. Pointing at the rider with his left hand and towards them with his right, the Indian chief silently signalled them to follow the horseman.

With the back of his hand his waved them to go now. This is the one they had waited for. Without a sound the two warriors shifted into crouch positions, backs arched like cats waiting to pounce, nodded to the other and moved off in pursuit. They broke into a run as they headed to the river.

Muskingho stayed in his hiding spot, his eyes turned back to the American fort. He waited for another.

What Survival Food Can You Find on the Trail? Plants – Part 2

Additional plants that you will want to learn to identify include burdock, cattail, wild onions and leeks. Burdock has wavy arrow shaped leaves and can reach up to 6 ft tall. Burdock can have pink or purple flower clusters and a large fleshy root. It is often used to relief the sting from nettles. Strip the stalks and eat them raw or cook them up in water. The roots can be boiled or baked. The leaves can be eaten in the spring but may require boiling to soften.

Cattails are grass-like plants that can grow to 6 feet tall. The leaves are 0.5 to 2″ in width. Cattails are found around the edge of water. The tender shoots can be eaten but you should boil them in water to kill any protozoa. The roots are starchy and can be pounded, to remove the starch and create flour. The green cattail flowers can be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob. The brown cattails can be broken apart and used as insulation in a light jacket, or turned into a pillow. The cattail fluff also makes good tinder for starting a fire.

Wild onions and garlic can be easily identified by their distinctive odor. The tender shoots and bulbs can be eaten raw or boiled like a vegetable in soups or to flavor meat. The plants can be found in sunny areas. Do not eat bulbs that do not have an onion smell as they could be poisonous. Wild leeks are found in eastern woodlands and can be gather easily when the ground is soft.

To avoid being poisoned stay away from plants you don’t recognize. A general rule of thumb is to avoid plants that have any of the following:
• Milky or discolored sap.
• Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods.
• Bitter or soapy taste.
• Spines, fine hairs, or thorns.
• Dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsley like foliage.
• An almond scent which indicates cyanide, in any of the woody parts and leaves.
• Any grain heads with pink, purple, or black spurs.
• 3-leaf growth patterns.

This list might eliminate some useful foods but you are better to be safe than sorry.

If you are by the ocean you should not overlook seaweed as a good source of food. Find living plants attached to rocks or floating free. You don’t want to use seaweed that has washed ashore as it may be spoiled or decayed. Thin and tender varieties of seaweed can be dried in the sun or over a fire until crisp. Some species can be eaten raw, others will need to be boiled to make them more palatable as a vegetable or in a soup.

In large quantities seaweed can have a laxative effect, so eat seaweed in moderation at first. Seaweed is a valuable source of iodine and vitamin C. There are also some fresh water varieties that can be eaten. As with making water safe anything collected from fresh water sources should be boiled in water to kill any protozoa that may be present.

Seaweed species you might want to learn to identify include:
• Dulse (Rhodymenia palmata)
• Green seaweed (Ulva lactuca)
• Irish moss (Chondrus crispus)
• Kelp (Alaria esculenta)
• Laver (Porphyra species)
• Mojaban (Sargassum fulvellum)
• Sugar wrack (Laminaria saccharina)

What Survival Food Can You Find On the Trail? Animals – Part 2

Reptiles such as turtles and snakes are relatively easy to catch for food. Avoid box turtles as they eat poisonous mushrooms and those toxins can build up in their flesh. Avoid poisonous snakes, alligators, crocodiles as they can be dangerous to the health of a survivor. Cook to kill any parasites.

Fish are another good source of protein and don’t require the expenditure of a lot of energy. If you didn’t pack a few hooks and 15 LB. test fishing line in your survival kit, hopefully you packed some 550 parachute cord and possibly a few safety pins. The 550 parachute cord can be broken down into individual strings that can be tied together to form a line. The safety-pin can be turned into a hook. You can also use a pin, nail or a piece of wire to create a hook.

A piece of hard wood can be sharpened at each end with a notch in the middle where you tie the string. This is called a gorge. Bait is placed along the length of the gorge. When a fish swallows the bait it also swallows the gorge which will get lodged in the fish when you pull on the line. There are no poisonous freshwater fish, but you may have to avoid bones. Cook all freshwater fish to kill any parasites or protozoa. Bon appetite!

A few hooks, some tippet line, 15 LB test fishing line, a couple of sinkers, and maybe a couple of ring hooks don’t weigh a lot and don’t take up much room in your survival kit. You also might want to pack a couple of artificial flies like an elk hair caddis and a couple of zebra midges. Sorry, the fly fisherman in me is coming out.

There are several saltwater fish that you will need to avoid including porcupine fish, triggerfish, cowfish, thorn fish, oilfish, red snapper, jack, and puffer. These fish can have poisonous flesh which in some cases occurs seasonally. Any saltwater fish caught within a reef or near a source of fresh water should be cooked to kill any parasites.

Birds are another source of food, including their eggs. All birds are edible, although some are going to taste better than others. During the nesting season some birds will not leave their nests, even when approached. Pigeons can be removed by hand from their roosts at night. Birds will typically have a pattern that they follow, going from roosts, to water to sources of food. Knowing these patterns can help you set up nets across their flyways to capture the birds. You can use snares and traps around watering holes and roosts as another means of capture.

Mammals are the most recognized food source, but require a lot more effort to be successful unless you have a slingshot, crossbow, bow and arrow, or a small-caliber weapon. Using some of these will require a bit of practice to become an effective hunter. Another option might be to utilize traps to capture your prey.

You can set up multiple traps and check them once a day. You will need to learn the art of snaring as it is one of the more effective means of catching small animals like squirrels and rabbits. Remember to pack some fine wire in your survival kit to use when constructing snares. Don’t set your sights on hogs or deer unless you have a rifle. You will expend way too much energy if you set your sights too high.

Hopefully this article has given you some options in case you find yourself in a survival situation. Always be prepared by packing some of the essential survival equipment in your wilderness survival kit.