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 Beautiful Belmont, Part 32 -- A Visit With Grandfather.

by John Salisbury Cochran.

See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 31 -- The Trip Home.

One evening, at Minerva's request, we took a stroll to our grandfather's house, out along the sandy road a few hundred yards east of the tavern. He was glad to see us and invited us to have seats with him on the front porch. At this time our grandfather was nearing his ninety-ninth year, but his memory seemed clear and remarkable. He was a man of powerful build, stood six feet three inches in his stockings, was remarkably erect, with broad chest, muscular limbs, and a large head that appeared a little elongated. He had very piercing gray eyes, and his broad forehead seemed to me magnificent. His face had a genial glow and warmed into attractiveness when greeting an acquaintance or animated by friendly discussion. He was a man of remarkable self-control, dignified and deferential, carrying with him at all times that strange, commanding, indefinable influence characteristic of a long line of educated ancestry, incapable of being destroyed even by the hardships and privations of a pioneer life into which he had been cast.

Grandfather was well fixed in life, owning a large landed estate and other property. In my long acquaintance with him, I remember having seen him really angry only once. To me his appearance on that occasion was indescribably awe-inspiring. In fact it was terrible. His rosy lips took on a deathlike pallor and knit themselves with unspeakable determination, tightening over a set of teeth as fine as I have ever beheld. This pallor seemed for a time to be at war with the normal red flush of his cheeks, but they ultimately blended into that happy expression of calm determination indicative of the mastery of mind over matter. At that point, his face became a study. It spoke of awareness of a victory won -- a victory over self -- and yet, not a word had fallen from his lips.

Our grandfather never spoke when angered. No rasping words or high-handed insult could provoke him to speak until he had full control of himself. In this he took great satisfaction. I think the injury to his pride from the loss of such a victory would have deeply humiliated him. It was always after such a triumph he appeared most grand; to me he then seemed magnificent, and I never beheld a nobler example of physical manhood and moral strength. No one could mistake the logical and irresistible force that would necessarily accompany such deliberate behavior. His judgment was always correct, fair, and liberal, and he had no room in his soul for narrow or selfish thought. He was generous to a foe and liberal to a friend.

He seemed to possss the legendary Highland chivalry of his ancestral Scotland, and he took a commendable pride in relating the heroic achievements of the Campbells, the most powerful clan in Scotland, from which he had sprung and through which he traced a long line of daring ancestry. He was cousin to Sir Thomas Cochran, tenth Earl of Dundonald. The family motto of this house is "Virtue et Labore" (by virtue and labor), and he took a just pride in living up to it. The life and achievements of Sir Thomas Cochran were the most chivalrous and daring of any naval character in the history of the whole British Empire.

"We have come to ask you, grandfather," I said, after Minerva and I had been seated, "if you would tell us the incidents connected with the killing of your father, William Cochran, by the Indians at the time of the siege and battle of Fort Henry at Wheeling on 11 September 1782. You were then a young man, then, I believe?"

"Yes," he replied, "that battle lasted until the morning of September 13. I was then past twenty. My father -- your great grandfather -- was the most athletic man I ever knew, and was noted for being the fastest runner on that part of the frontier. He was a good surveyor and had done some civil engineering. There was no better shot with the rifle, and in his pioneer life he became thoroughly conversant with the characteristics of Indian warfare. He was a good scout, and his fleetness of foot had saved him more than once from capture while on perilous expeditions for the government forces. Louis Wetzel, with whom I was well acquainted, regarded him as one of the swiftest men on foot he had ever met, and Wetzel himself had never previously met his match at this."

My grandfather went on to explain that his father had owned a tract of land near Forts Vanmeter and Shephard. At the time of the battle all the settlers, with their families, flocked to the forts. An attempt was made to reinforce Fort Henry, but it failed. Those at Forts Vanmeter, West Liberty, and Shepherd feared the whole garrison at Wheeling had been massacred and were desirous of learning their fate and of extending aid if it could be done. It was decided to send two scouts to determine the situation, and my great grandfather and "Billy" Boggs were selected for the job. They made their way past my great grandfather's farm, but had gone only a short distance when they encountered some forty Indians, a portion of the force which, after the failure to capture the fort at Wheeling, had broken up into bands and were pillaging the whole countryside for a number of miles east of it.

Great grandfather and Boggs each killed an Indian, and with their guns empty started to run. The Indians attempted to surround them in order to capture them. They were especially interested in capturing my great grandfather, for they knew him as an intrepid hunter and a dangerous enemy. He was too fast for them, however, and soon outdistanced their fastest runners. Boggs and he took different directions in order to divide the force of Indians. Great grandfather had moved so far ahead of them that he was soon out of rifle range, but he made the fatal mistake of attempting to go over a very steep projecting point instead of keeping along the creek and going around it. While he was climbing the steep bank, the Indians ran downhill on the other side across the stream and thus gained on him so as to bring him into shooting range -- just as he was passing over the top of the embankment. Had he kept down the stream and around the point, they never could have overtaken him. Only one shot of all those fired struck him, but it killed him instantly.

"They scalped my father and his body was recovered and buried the next day," said grandfather. "Boggs was captured, and when the Indians subsequently struck him in the face with the bloody scalp of your great grandfather, he knew what had been the fate of his companion. Taking Boggs with them, the Indians pushed on quite rapidly to the Ohio River, crossing it at Mingo Bottom, some six miles above Wheeling. When they arrived at the Ohio they stripped Boggs naked, and forming two lines face to face, made him run the gauntlet between these, beating him with switches and small clubs as he ran. Boggs knocked one of them down, broke through their ranks and jumped from a high bank into the Ohio River. He was an expert swimmer, and struck out into and down the river with all his power. The Indians were taken completely by surprise, and ran for their guns, following him down the riverbank while trying to shoot him as he rose to the surface occasionally for air. Dusk was coming on and he escaped, though the bullets came so close to him at times that they splashed water in his face. He turned up at the fort at Wheeling that night, bringing the first definite news as to what had become of the Indians."

After a further short talk with grandfather, we thanked him for a nice evening and returned to Minerva's home.

See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 33 -- The Abolitionist Movement.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.

This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
CO-AUTHOR: Schultheiss, Tom. (Asst. Editor)

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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