John Tanner: Growing Up a Captive, Part II

John had been kidnapped. He could plainly see his father’s house and they had laughed as they pulled him away. He hoped to find a way to escape. After the Indians had eaten a little, they began to ascend the Big Miami dragging him along, they took his shoes as they seemed to think he could run better without them, he knew he was being closely watched but he still had hope for escape. John tried to notice objects that would serve as landmarks on his way back, he also tried to leave footprints in any soft ground and had thoughts about being able to skulk away after dark. When night came, they lay down placing John between them so close together that the same blanket covered all three, he was so fatigued he did not wake up until sunrise the next morning and by then the Indians were up and ready to proceed on their journey. They journeyed for four days, the Indians hurrying him on and John continuing to hope he might escape, but every night he was overpowered by sleep. John’s bare feet were often wounded and became much swollen, the old Indian man examined his feet one day removing a great many thorns and splinters from them and gave him a pair of moccasins, which provided him some relief. Most commonly he traveled between the old Indian and his son and they often made him run until his strength was quite exhausted.

One day, they came to a considerable river, it was wide and so deep he could not wade across, the old man took him on his shoulders and carried him the water nearly up to his armpits and it was at that time that he gave up all hope of immediate escape. John was very hungry and as they stopped to eat the old man came running up and said something to the others in a low tone, John inferred from the talk that they were being pursued and later understood that was the case. The Indians dispersed themselves in the woods and two of them urged him forward to the utmost of this strength. It was a day or so later that they met a party of twenty or thirty Indians, the old man had much to say to them, they received information about the whites who were in pursuit and subsequently a severe skirmish happened between them in which numbers were killed on each side. Their journey through the woods was tedious and painful and it might have been ten days after they met the war party when they arrived at the Maumee River, the Indians selected a hickory tree, stripped off the bark and made a canoe and they then embarked and descended the river until they came to a large Shawnee village at the mouth of the river. After landing, a great number of the Indians came about and one young woman came directly towards John and struck him on the head as some of her friends had been killed by the whites, many of the Shawnee showed a disposition to kill him but the old man and his son interposed and prevented them. John knew he was often the subject of conversation, but he could not understand what was being said. The old man knew a few words of English which he used to direct John to bring water, make a fire, or perform other tasks which then became required.

After a few days at the Shawnee village, they proceeded on their journey by canoe and not very far from the village they came to a trading post where there were three or four men who could speak English and they spoke much with John. The men wished to have purchased him, that he might be returned home but the old man would not consent to part with him, the traders told him that he must be content to go with the Indians and to become the old man’s son to take the place of the one he had lost. When John found out he was compelled to leave with the Indians he began to cry for the first time since he was taken. John had little recollection of anything after that until they arrived at Detroit and near shore he saw a white woman and several white men and heard them talk but he could not understand as they spoke what he took to be French. They paddled on.

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