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Title: Stories of Later American History

Author: Wilbur F. Gordy

Release date: June 19, 2006 [eBook #18618]

Language: English

Credits: E-text prepared by Barbara Tozier, Bill Tozier, and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team (



E-text prepared by Barbara Tozier, Bill Tozier, and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team (



A man carries a rifle. He is on a broad plain, surrounded by wagons and people.

Pioneers on the Overland Route, Westward.







Copyright, 1915, by


This book, like “Stories of Early American History,” follows somewhat closely the course of study prepared by the Committee of Eight, the present volume covering the topics outlined for Grade V, while the earlier one includes the material suggested for Grade IV.

It was the plan of that committee to take up in these grades, largely in a biographical way, a great part of the essential facts of American history; and with this plan the author, who was a member of that committee, was in hearty accord. This method, it is believed, serves a double purpose. In the first place, it is the best possible way of laying the foundation for the later and more detailed study of United States history in the higher grammar grades by those pupils who are to continue in school; and in the second, it gives to that large number of pupils who will leave school before the end of the sixth grade—which is at least half of all the boys and girls in the schools of the country—some acquaintance with the leading men and prominent events of American history.

It is without doubt a great mistake to allow half of the pupils to go out from our public schools with almost no knowledge of the moral and material forces which have made this nation what it is to-day. It is an injustice to the young people themselves; it is also an injury to their country, the vigor of whose life will depend much upon their intelligent and patriotic support.

With this conviction, it has been the author’s desire to make the story of the events concrete, dramatic, and lifelike by centring them about leaders, heroes, and other representative men, in such a way as to appeal to the imagination and to influence the ideals of the child. In so doing, he has made no attempt to write organized history—tracing out its intricate relations of cause and effect. At the same time, however, he has aimed to select his facts and events so carefully that the spirit of our national life and institutions, as well as many of the typical events of American history, may be presented.

It is confidently hoped that the fine illustrations and the attractive typographical features of the book will help to bring vividly before the mind of the child the events narrated in the text.

Another aid in making the stories vivid will, it is intended, be found in “Some Things to Think About.” These and many similar questions, which the teacher can easily frame to fit the needs of her class, will help the pupil to make real the life of days gone by as well as to connect it with the present time and with his own life.

In conclusion, I wish to acknowledge my deep obligations to Mr. Forrest Morgan, of the Watkinson Library, Hartford, and to Miss Elizabeth P. Peck, of the Hartford Public High School, both of whom have read the manuscript and have made many valuable criticisms and suggestions.

Wilbur F. Gordy.

Hartford, Conn.,
April 15, 1915.



  1. Patrick Henry
  2. Samuel Adams
  3. The War Begins near Boston
  4. George Washington in the Revolution
  5. Nathanael Greene and Other Heroes in the South
  6. John Paul Jones
  7. Daniel Boone
  8. James Robertson
  9. John Sevier
  10. George Rogers Clark
  11. The New Republic
  12. Increasing the Size of the New Republic
  13. Internal Improvements
  14. The Republic Grows Larger
  15. Three Great Statesmen
  16. The Civil War
  17. Four Great Industries
  18. Index







Return to Table of Contents

The Last French War had cost England so much that at its close she was heavily in debt.

“As England must now send to America a standing army of at least ten thousand men to protect the colonies against the Indians and other enemies,” the King, George III, reasoned, “it is only fair that the colonists should pay a part of the cost of supporting it.”

The English Parliament, being largely made up of the King’s friends, was quite ready to carry out his wishes, and passed a law taxing the colonists. This law was called the Stamp Act. It provided that stamps—very much like our postage-stamps, but costing all the way from one cent to fifty dollars each—should be put upon all the newspapers and almanacs used by the colonies, and upon all such legal papers as wills, deeds, and the notes which men give promising to pay back borrowed money.

A kingly fellow draped in ermine.

George III.

When news of this act reached the colonists they were angry. “It is unjust,” they said. “Parliament is trying 2to make slaves of us by forcing us to pay money without our consent. The charters which the English King granted to our forefathers when they came to America make us free men just as much as if we were living in England.

“In England it is the law that no free man shall pay taxes unless they are levied by his representatives in Parliament. 3We have no one to speak for us in Parliament, and so we will not pay any taxes which Parliament votes. The only taxes we will pay are those voted by our representatives in our own colonial assemblies.”

They were all the more ready to take this stand because for many years they had bitterly disliked other English laws which were unfair to them. One of these forbade selling their products to any country but England. And, of course, if they could sell to no one else, they would have to sell for what the English merchants chose to pay.

Another law said that the colonists should buy the goods they needed from no other country than England, and that these goods should be brought over in English vessels. So in buying as well as in selling they were at the mercy of the English merchants and the English ship owners, who could set their own prices.

But even more unjust seemed the law forbidding the manufacture in America of anything which was manufactured in England. For instance, iron from American mines had to be sent to England to be made into useful articles, and then brought back over the sea in English vessels and sold to the colonists by English merchants at their own price.

Do you wonder that the colonists felt that England was taking an unfair advantage? You need not be told that these laws were strongly opposed. In fact, the colonists, thinking them unjust, did not hesitate to break 4them. Some, in spite of the laws, shipped their products to other countries and smuggled the goods they received in exchange; and some dared make articles of iron, wool, or other raw material, both for their own use and to sell to others.

“We will not be used as tools for England to make out of us all the profit she possibly can,” they declared. “We are not slaves but free-born Englishmen, and we refuse to obey laws which shackle us and rob us of our rights.”

So when to these harsh trade laws the Stamp Act was added, great indignation was aroused. Among those most earnest in opposing the act was Patrick Henry.

Let us take a look at the early life of this powerful man. He was born in 1736, in Hanover County, Virginia. His father was an able lawyer, and his mother belonged to a fine old Welsh family.

But Patrick, as a boy, took little interest in anything that seemed to his older friends worth while. He did not like to study nor to work on his father’s farm. His delight was to wander through the woods, gun in hand, hunting for game, or to sit on the bank of some stream fishing by the hour. When not enjoying himself out-of-doors he might be heard playing his violin.

Of course the neighbors said, “A boy so idle and shiftless will never amount to anything,” and his parents did not know what to do with him. They put him, when fifteen 5years old, as clerk into a little country store. Here he remained for a year, and then opened a store of his own. But he was still too lazy to attend to business, and soon failed.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Patrick Henry.

When he was only eighteen years old, he married. The parents of the young couple, anxious that they should do well, gave them a small farm and a few slaves. But it was the same old story. The young farmer would not take the trouble to look after his affairs, and let things drift. So before long the farm had to be sold to pay debts. Once more Patrick turned to storekeeping, but after a few years he failed again.

He was now twenty-three years old, with no settled occupation, and with a wife and family to support. No doubt he seemed to his friends a ne’er-do-well.

About this time he decided to become a lawyer. He borrowed some law-books, and after studying for six months, he applied for permission to practise law. Although he passed but a poor examination, he at last was started on the right road.

He succeeded well in his law practice, and in a few years had so much business that people in his part of Virginia began to take notice of him. In 1765, soon after 6the Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament, he was elected a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, a body not unlike our State Legislature.


History gives us a vivid picture of the young lawyer at this time as he rides on horseback along the country road toward Williamsburg, then the capital of Virginia. He is wearing a faded coat, leather knee-breeches, and yarn stockings, and carries his law papers in his saddle-bag. Although but twenty-nine, his tall, thin figure stoops as if bent with age. He does not look the important man he is soon to become.

When he reaches the little town of Williamsburg, he finds great excitement. Men gather in small groups on the street, talking in anxious tones. Serious questions are being discussed: “What shall we do about the Stamp Act?” they say. “Shall we submit and say nothing? Shall we send a petition to King George asking him for justice? Shall we beg Parliament to repeal the act, or shall we take a bold stand and declare that we will not obey it?”

Not only on the street, but also in the House of Burgesses was great excitement. Most of the members were wealthy planters who lived on great estates. So much weight and dignity had they that the affairs of the colony 7were largely under their control. Most of them were loyal to the “mother country,” as they liked to call England, and they wished to obey the English laws as long as these were just.

A man orates to a crowd of other men.

Patrick Henry Delivering His Speech in the Virginia House of Burgesses.

So they counselled: “Let us move slowly. Let nothing be done in a passion. Let us petition the King to modify 8the laws which appear to us unjust, and then, if he will not listen, it will be time to refuse to obey. We must not be rash.”

Patrick Henry, the new member, listened earnestly. But he could not see things as these older men of affairs saw them. To him delay seemed dangerous. He was eager for prompt, decisive action. Tearing a blank leaf from a law-book, he hastily wrote some resolutions, and, rising to his feet, he read them to the assembly.

We can easily picture the scene. This plainly dressed rustic with his bent shoulders is in striking contrast to the prosperous plantation owners, with their powdered hair, ruffled shirts, knee-breeches, and silver shoe-buckles. They give but a listless attention as Henry begins in quiet tones to read his resolutions. “Who cares what this country fellow thinks?” is their attitude. “Who is he anyway? We never heard his voice before.”

It is but natural that these men, whose judgment has been looked up to for years, should regard as an upstart this young, unknown member, who presumes to think his opinion worth listening to in a time of great crisis like this.

But while they sit in scornful wrath, the young orator’s eyes begin to glow, his stooping figure becomes erect, and his voice rings out with fiery eloquence. “The General Assembly of Virginia, and only the General Assembly of Virginia,” he exclaims, “has the right and the power of laying taxes upon the people of this colony.”

9These are stirring words, and they fall amid a hushed silence. Then the debate grows hot, as members rise to speak in opposition to his burning eloquence.

A head-and-shoulders sketch.

William Pitt.

But our hero is more than a match for all the distinguished men who disagree with him. Like a torrent, his arguments pour forth and sweep all before them. The bold resolutions he presents are passed by the assembly.

It was a great triumph for the young orator. On that day Patrick Henry made his name. “Stick to us, old fellow, or we’re gone,” said one of the plain people, giving him a slap on the shoulder as he passed out at the close of the stormy session. The unpromising youth had suddenly become a leader in the affairs of the colony.

Not only in Virginia, but also in other colonies, his fiery words acted like magic in stirring up the people against the Stamp Act. He had proved himself a bold leader, willing to risk any danger for the cause of justice and freedom.

You would expect that in the colonies there would be strong and deep feeling against the Stamp Act. But perhaps you will be surprised to learn that even in England many leading men opposed it. They thought that George III was making a great mistake in trying to tax the colonies 10without their consent. William Pitt, a leader in the House of Commons, made a great speech, in which he said: “I rejoice that America has resisted.” He went on to say that if the Americans had meekly submitted, they would have acted like slaves.

Burke and Fox, other great statesmen, also befriended us. And the English merchants and ship owners, who were losing heavily because the Americans refused to buy any English goods as long as the Stamp Act was in force, joined in begging Parliament that the act be repealed. This was done the next year.

Other unjust measures followed, but before we take them up, let us catch another glimpse of Patrick Henry, ten years after his great speech at Williamsburg.


The people of Virginia are again greatly aroused. King George has caused Parliament to send English soldiers to Boston to force the unruly people of Massachusetts to obey some of his commands, against which they had rebelled. Virginia has stood by her sister colony, and now the royal governor of Virginia, to punish her, has prevented the House of Burgesses from meeting at Williamsburg.

But the Virginians are not so easily kept from doing their duty. With a grim determination to defend their rights as free men, they elect some of their leaders to act for them at this trying time.

11These meet in Richmond at old St. John’s Church, which is still standing. Great is the excitement, and thoughtful people are very serious, for the shadows of the war-cloud grow blacker hour by hour.

The Virginians have already begun to make ready to fight if they must. But many still hope that all disagreements may yet be settled peaceably, and therefore advise acting with caution.

An interior view of a church

St. John’s Church, Richmond.

Patrick Henry is not one of these. He believes that the time has come when talking should give place to prompt, decisive action. The war is at hand. It cannot be avoided. The colonists must fight or slavishly submit.

So intense is his belief that he offers in this meeting a resolution that Virginia should at once prepare to defend herself. Many of the leading men stoutly oppose this resolution as rash and unwise.

At length Patrick Henry rises to his feet, his face pale, and his voice trembling with deep emotion. Again we see the bent shoulders straighten and the eyes flash. His voice rings out like a trumpet. As he goes on with increasing power, men lean forward in breathless interest. Listen to his ringing words:

12“We must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us! They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our hands…. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable—and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!

“… Gentlemen may cry peace, peace—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”

13What wonder that the audience sways to his belief!

He was a true prophet, for in less than four weeks the first gun of the Revolution was fired in the quiet town of Lexington, Massachusetts. Undoubtedly Patrick Henry’s fiery spirit had done much to kindle the flame which then burst forth.

Not long after this, he was made commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces (1775), and the next year was elected governor of Virginia.

When the war—in the declaring of which he had taken so active a part—was over, Patrick Henry retired at the age of fifty-eight (1794), to an estate in Charlotte County called “Red Hill,” where he lived a simple and beautiful life. He died in 1799.

Without doubt he was one of the most eloquent orators our country has ever produced, and we should be grateful to him because he used his great gift in helping to secure the freedom we now enjoy.

Some Things to Think About

  1. What was the Stamp Act? Why did Parliament pass it, and why did the colonists object to it?

  2. What did Patrick Henry mean by saying that the General Assembly of Virginia, and only the General Assembly of Virginia had the right and the power of laying taxes upon the people of that colony?

  3. Have you in your mind a picture of young Patrick Henry as he rode on horseback along the country road toward Williamsburg? Describe this picture as clearly as you can.

  4. 14What did William Pitt think of the Stamp Act? Why did Parliament repeal it?

  5. Can you explain Patrick Henry’s power as an orator? When did he make a great speech in St. John’s Church, Richmond?

  6. What do you admire in Patrick Henry?

  7. Do not fail to locate every event upon your map.




Return to Table of Contents

While Patrick Henry was leading the people of Virginia in their defiance of the Stamp Act, exciting events were taking place in Massachusetts under another colonial leader. This was Samuel Adams. Even before Virginia took any action, he had introduced in the Massachusetts Assembly resolutions opposing the Stamp Act, and they were passed.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Samuel Adams.

This man, who did more than any one else to arouse the love of liberty in his colony, was born in Boston in 1722. His boyhood was quite different from that of Patrick Henry. He liked to go to school and to learn from books, and he cared little for outdoor life or sport of any kind.

As he grew up, his father wished him to become a clergyman, but Samuel preferred to study law. His mother opposing this, however, he entered upon business life. This perhaps was a mistake, for he did not take to business, and, like Patrick Henry, he soon failed, even losing most of the property his father had left him.



But although not skilful in managing his own affairs, he was a most loyal and successful worker for the interests of the colony. In fact, before long, he gave up most of his private business and spent his time and strength for the public welfare.

His whole income was the very small salary which he received as clerk of the Assembly of Massachusetts. This was hardly sufficient to pay for the food needed in his household. But his wife was so thrifty and cheerful, and his friends so glad to help him out because of the time he gave to public affairs, that his home life, though plain, was comfortable, and his children were well brought up.

Poor as he was, no man could be more upright. The British, fearing his influence, tried at different times to bribe him with office under the King and to buy him with gold. But he scorned any such attempts to turn him aside from the path of duty.

The great purpose of his life seemed to be to encourage the colonists to stand up for their rights as freemen, and to defeat the plans of King George and Parliament in trying to force the colonists to pay taxes. In this he was busy night and day. In the assembly and in the town meeting all looked to him as an able leader; and in the workshops, on the streets, or in the shipyards men listened eagerly while he made clear the aims of the English King, and urged them to defend their rights as free-born Englishmen.

17Even at the close of a busy day, this earnest, liberty-loving man gave himself little rest. Sometimes he was writing articles for the newspapers, and sometimes urgent letters to the various leaders in Massachusetts and in the other colonies. Long after midnight, those who passed his dimly lighted windows could see “Sam Adams hard at work writing against the Tories.”

A drawing of people surrounding a pile of burning paper

Patriots in New York Destroying Stamps Intended for Use in Connecticut.

Had you seen him at this time, you would never have thought of him as a remarkable man. He was of medium size, with keen gray eyes, and hair already fast turning white. His head and hands trembled as if with age, though he was only forty-two years old and in good health.

He was a great power in the colony. Not only did he 18rouse the people against the Stamp Act, but he helped to organize, in opposition to it, societies of patriots called “Sons of Liberty,” who refused to use the stamps and often destroyed them. In Massachusetts, as in Virginia and elsewhere, the people refused to buy any English goods until this hateful act was repealed.

At the close of a year, before it had really been put into operation, the act was repealed, as we have already seen. But this did not happen until many resolutions had been passed, many appeals made to the King, and after much excitement. Then great was the rejoicing! In every town in the country bonfires were lighted, and every colonial assembly sent thanks to the King.

But the obstinate, power-loving George III was not happy about this repeal. In fact, he had given in very much against his will. He wanted to rule England in his own way, and how could he do so if he allowed his stubborn colonists in America thus to get the better of him?

So he made up his mind to insist upon some sort of a tax. In 1767, therefore, only one year after the repeal of the Stamp Act, he asked Parliament to pass a law taxing glass, lead, paper, tea, and a few other articles imported into the colonies.

This new tax was laid, but again the colonists said: “We had no part in levying it, and if we pay it, we shall be giving up our rights as freemen. But how can we help ourselves?”

19Samuel Adams and other leaders answered: “We can resist it just as we did the Stamp Act—by refusing to buy any goods whatever from England.” To this the merchants agreed. While the unjust tax was in force, they promised to import no English goods, and the people promised not to ask for such goods.

Then many wealthy people agreed to wear homespun instead of English cloths, and to stop eating mutton in order to have more sheep to produce wool for this homespun, thus showing a willingness to give up for the cause some of the luxuries which they had learned to enjoy.

Of course, this stand taken by the colonists angered the King. He called them rebels and sent soldiers to Boston to help enforce the laws (1768).

From the first the people of Boston felt insulted at having these soldiers in their midst, and it was not long before trouble broke out. In a street fight at night the troops fired upon the crowd, killing and wounding a number of men.

This caused great excitement. The next day, under the leadership of Samuel Adams, the citizens of Boston demanded that all the soldiers should be removed. Fearing more serious trouble if the demand was disregarded, the officers withdrew the soldiers to an island in the harbor.

Still the feeling did not die down. The new taxes were a constant irritation. “Only slaves would submit to such an injustice,” said Samuel Adams, and his listeners agreed. 20In Massachusetts and in other colonies the English goods were refused, and, as in the case of the Stamp Act, the English merchants felt the pinch of heavy losses, and begged that the new tax laws be repealed.


Feeling grew stronger and matters grew worse until at length, after something like three years, Parliament took off all the new taxes except the one on tea. “They must pay one tax to know we keep the right to tax,” said the King. It was as if the King’s followers had winked slyly at one another and said: “We shall see—we shall see! Those colonists must have their tea to drink, and a little matter of threepence a pound they will overlook.”

It would have been much better for England if she had taken off all the taxes and made friends with the colonists. Many leaders in that country said so, but the stubborn King was bent upon having his own way. “I will be King,” he said. “They shall do as I say.”

Then he and his followers worked up what seemed to them a clever scheme for hoodwinking the colonists. “We will make the tea cheaper in America than in England,” they said. “Such a bargain! How can the simple colonists resist it?” Great faith was put in this foolish plan.

But they were soon to find out that those simple colonists were only Englishmen across the sea, that they too had strong wills, and that they did not care half so much 21about buying cheap tea as they did about giving up a principle and paying a tax, however small, which they had no part in levying.

King George went straight ahead to carry out his plan. It was arranged that the East India Company should ship cargoes of tea to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.

In due time the tea arrived. Then the King’s eyes were opened. What did he find out about the spirit of these colonists? That they simply would not use this tea. The people in New York and Philadelphia refused to let it land, and in Charleston they stored it in damp cellars, where it spoiled.

But the most exciting time was in Boston, where the Tory governor, Hutchinson, was determined to carry out the King’s wishes. Hence occurred the famous “Boston Tea Party,”—a strange tea-party, where no cups were used, no guests invited, and no tea drunk! Did you ever hear of such a party? Let us see what really happened.

It was on a quiet Sunday, the 28th of November, 1773, when the Dartmouth, the first of the three tea ships bound for Boston, sailed into the harbor. The people were attending service in the various churches when the cry, “The Dartmouth is in!” spread like wild-fire. Soon the streets were alive with people. That was a strange Sunday in Puritan Boston.

The leaders quickly sought out Benjamin Rotch, the 22owner of the Dartmouth, and obtained his promise that the tea should not be landed before Tuesday. Then they called a mass meeting for Monday morning, in Fanueil Hall, afterward known as the “Cradle of Liberty.”

A drawing of a building exterior

Fanueil Hall, Boston.

The crowd was so great that they adjourned to the Old South Church, and there they overflowed into the street. There were five thousand in all, some of them from near-by towns. Samuel Adams presided. In addressing the meeting, he asked: “Is it the firm resolution of this body not only that the tea shall be sent back, but that no duty shall be paid thereon?” “Yes!” came the prompt and united answer from these brave men.

So the patriots of Boston and the surrounding towns, with Samuel Adams at their head, were determined that the tea should not be landed. Governor Hutchinson was equally determined that it should be. A stubborn fight, therefore, was on hand.

The Boston patriots appointed men, armed with muskets and bayonets, to watch the tea ships, some by day, others 23by night. Six post-riders were appointed, who should keep their horses saddled and bridled, ready to speed into the country to give the alarm if a landing should be attempted. Sentinels were stationed in the church belfries to ring the bells, and beacon-fires were made ready for lighting on the surrounding hilltops.

Tuesday, December 16, dawned. It was a critical day. If the tea should remain in the harbor until the morrow—the twentieth day after arrival—the revenue officer would be empowered by law to land it forcibly.

A drawing of the exterior of a church

Old South Church, Boston.

Men, talking angrily and shaking their fists with excitement, were thronging into the streets of Boston from the surrounding towns. By ten o’clock over seven thousand had assembled in the Old South Church and in the streets outside. They were waiting for the coming of Benjamin Rotch, who had gone to see if the collector would give him a “clearance,” or permission to sail out of the port of Boston with the tea.

Rotch came in and told the angry crowd that the collector refused to give the clearance. The people told him that he must get a pass from the governor. Then the meeting adjourned for the morning.

24At three o’clock in the afternoon a great throng of eager men again crowded the Old South Church and the streets outside to wait for the return of Rotch. It was an anxious moment. “If the governor refuses to give the pass, shall the revenue officer be allowed to seize the tea and land it to-morrow morning?” Many anxious faces showed that men were asking themselves this momentous question.

A drawing of some rowboats sidling up to a larger ship

The “Boston Tea Party.”

But while, in deep suspense, the meeting waited for Rotch to come they discussed the situation, and suddenly John Rowe asked: “Who knows how tea will mingle with salt water?” At once a whirlwind of applause swept through the assembly and the masses outside. A plan was soon formed.

The afternoon light of the short winter day faded, and darkness deepened; the lights of candles sprang up here and there in the windows. It was past six o’clock when Benjamin Rotch entered the church and, with pale face, said: “The governor refuses to give a pass.”

An angry murmur arose, but the crowd soon became 25silent as Samuel Adams stood up. He said quietly: “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.”

These words were plainly a signal. In an instant a war-whoop sounded outside, and forty or fifty “Mohawks,” or men dressed as Indians, who had been waiting, dashed past the door and down Milk Street toward Griffin’s Wharf, where the tea ships were lying at anchor.

It was then bright moonlight, and everything could be plainly seen. Many men stood on shore and watched the “Mohawks” as they broke open three hundred and forty-two chests, and poured the tea into the harbor. There was no confusion. All was done in perfect order. But what a strange “tea party” it was! Certainly no other ever used so much tea or so much water.

Soon waiting messengers were speeding to outlying towns with the news, and Paul Revere, “booted and spurred,” mounted a swift horse and carried the glorious message through the colonies as far as Philadelphia.


The Boston Tea Party was not a festivity which pleased the King. In fact, it made him very furious. He promptly decided to punish the rebellious colony. Parliament therefore passed the “Boston Port Bill,” by which the port of Boston was to be closed to trade until the people paid for the tea. But this they had no mind to do. They stubbornly refused.

Not Boston alone came under the displeasure of King 26George and Parliament. They put Massachusetts under military rule, with General Gage as governor, and sent more soldiers. The new governor gave orders that the colonial assembly should hold no more meetings. He said that the people should no longer make their own laws, nor levy their own taxes. This punishment was indeed severe.

With no vessels allowed to enter or leave the harbor and trade entirely cut off, the people of Boston soon began to suffer. But the brave men and women would not give in. They said: “We will not pay for the tea, nor will we tell the King we are sorry for what we have done.”

When the people of the other colonies heard of the suffering in Boston, they sent wheat, cows, sheep, fish, sugar, and other kinds of food to help out. The King thought that by punishing Boston he would frighten the other colonies. But he was mistaken, for they said: “We will help the people of our sister colony. Her cause is our cause. We must all pull together in our resistance to King George and the English Parliament.” So his action really united the colonies.

In order to work together to better advantage, the colonies agreed that each should send to a great meeting some of their strongest men to talk over their troubles and work out some plan of united action. This meeting, which was called the First Continental Congress, was held at Carpenters’ Hall, Philadelphia (1774).

Samuel Adams and his cousin, John Adams, were two 27of the four men that Massachusetts sent. They began their journey from Boston in a coach drawn by four horses. In front rode two white servants, well mounted and bearing arms; while behind were four black servants in livery, two on horseback and two as footmen. Such was the manner of colonial gentlemen.

A photograph of a building

Carpenters’ Hall, Philadelphia.

As they journeyed through the country the people honored them in many ways. From some of the larger towns officials and citizens rode out on horseback and in carriages to meet them and act as escort; and on reaching a town they were feasted at banquets and greeted by gleaming bonfires, the ringing of bells, and the firing of cannon. These celebrations showed honor not to the men alone but to the cause.

28The First Continental Congress, to which these messengers were travelling, urged the people to stand together in resisting the attempt of King George and Parliament to force them to pay taxes which they had had no share in laying. They added: “We have the right not only to tax ourselves, but also to govern ourselves.”

With all these movements Samuel Adams was in sympathy. He went even further, for at this time he was almost or quite alone in his desire for independence, and he has well been called the “Father of the Revolution.” Perhaps we think of him especially in connection with the Boston Tea Party, but his influence for the good of his country lasted far beyond that time.

Till the close of his life he was an earnest and sincere patriot. He died in 1803, at the age of eighty-one years. Not an orator like Patrick Henry, but a man of action like Washington, he had great power in dealing with men. Truly his life was one of great and heroic service to his country.

Some Things to Think About

  1. In what respects were Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry unlike as boys?

  2. Tell why Samuel Adams had great power over men.

  3. What kind of man was George III? Why did he so strongly desire that the colonists should be compelled to pay a tax to England?

  4. What was the tax law of 1767, and why did the colonists object to paying the new taxes?

  5. 29What led up to the “Boston Tea Party”? Imagine yourself one of the party, and tell what you did.

  6. In what way did George III and Parliament punish Boston for throwing the tea overboard? How did the colonies help the people of Boston at this time?

  7. What was the First Continental Congress, and what did it do?

  8. What do you admire in Samuel Adams?




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When Parliament passed the Boston Port Bill, the King believed that such severe punishment would not only put a stop to further rebellious acts, but would cause the colonists to feel sorry for what they had done and incline them once more to obey him. Imagine his surprise and indignation at what followed!

A head-and-shoulders sketch

John Hancock.

As soon as General Gage ordered that the Massachusetts Assembly should hold no more meetings, the colonists made up their minds they would not be put down in this manner. They said: “The King has broken up the assembly. Very well. We will form a new governing body and give it a new name, the Provincial Congress.”

And what do you suppose the chief business of this Congress was? To make ready for war! An army was called for, and provision made that a certain number of the men enlisted should be prepared to leave their homes at a minute’s notice. These men were called “minute-men.”

31Even while the patriots, for so the rebellious subjects of King George called themselves, were making these preparations, General Gage, who was in command of the British troops in Boston, had received orders from England to seize as traitors Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were the most active leaders.

A drawing of a large house

John Hancock’s Home, Boston.

Of Samuel Adams you already know. John Hancock was president of the newly made Provincial Congress.

General Gage knew that Adams and Hancock were staying for a while with a friend in Lexington. He had learned also through spies that minutemen had collected some cannon and military stores in Concord, twenty miles from Boston, and only eight miles beyond Lexington.

The British general planned, therefore, to send a body of troops to arrest the two leaders at Lexington, and 32then to push on and capture or destroy the stores at Concord.

A drawing of a man with a long rifle

A Minuteman.

Although he acted with the greatest secrecy, he was unable to keep his plans from the watchful minutemen. We shall see how one of these, Paul Revere, outwitted him. Perhaps you have read Longfellow’s poem which tells the story of the famous “midnight ride” taken by this fearless young man.

Paul Revere had taken an active part in the “Boston Tea Party,” and the following year, with about thirty other young patriots, he had formed a society to spy out the British plans. I fancy that the daring and courage called for in this business appealed to the high spirits and love of adventure of these young men. Always on the watch, they were quick to notice any strange movement and report to such leaders as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Doctor Joseph Warren.

On the evening of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and his friends brought word to Doctor Warren that they believed General Gage was about to carry out his plan, already reported to the patriots, of capturing Adams and Hancock, and of taking or destroying the military stores at Concord.

33Doctor Warren quickly decided that Paul Revere and William Dawes should go on horseback to Lexington and Concord and give the alarm. He sent them by different routes, hoping that one at least might escape the British patrols with whom Gage had carefully guarded all the roads leading from Boston.

A drawing of a church and the street leading up to it

Old North Church.

Soon Dawes was galloping across Boston Neck, and Paul Revere was getting ready for a long night ride.

After arranging with a friend for a lantern signal to be hung in the belfry of the Old North Church to show by which route the British forces were advancing, “one if by land and two if by sea,” he stepped into a light skiff with two friends who rowed him from Boston across the Charles River to Charlestown.

Upon reaching the other side of the river, he obtained 34a fleet horse and stood ready, bridle in hand, straining his eyes in the darkness to catch sight of the signal-lights. The horse waits obedient to his master’s touch, and the master stands eagerly watching the spot where the signal is to appear.

A drawing of a man rushing about on a horse

Paul Revere’s Ride.

At eleven o’clock a light flashes forth. Exciting moment! Then another light! “Two if by sea!” The British troops are crossing the Charles River to march through Cambridge!

35No time to lose! Springing into his saddle and spurring his horse, he speeds like the wind toward Lexington.

Suddenly two British officers are about to capture him. He turns quickly and, dashing into a side-path, with spurs in horse he is soon far from his pursuers.

Then, in his swift flight along the road he pauses at every house to shout: “Up and arm! Up and arm! The regulars are out! The regulars are out!”

Families are roused. Lights gleam from the windows. Doors open and close. Minutemen are mustering.

When Lexington is reached, it is just midnight. Eight minutemen are guarding the house where Adams and Hancock are sleeping. “Make less noise! Don’t disturb the people inside,” they warn the lusty rider. “Noise!” cries Paul Revere. “You’ll have noise enough before long. The regulars are out!”

Soon William Dawes arrived and joined Revere. Hastily refreshing themselves with a light meal, they rode off together toward Concord, in company with Samuel Prescott, a prominent Son of Liberty whose home was in that town. About half-way there, they were surprised by mounted British officers, who called: “Halt.”

Prescott managed to escape by making his horse leap a stone wall, and rode in hot haste to Concord, which he reached in safety; but Paul Revere and William Dawes both fell into the hands of the British.



Meantime, the British troops numbering eight hundred men, under Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, were on their way to Lexington. But before they had gone far they were made aware, by the ringing of church-bells, the firing of signal-guns, the beating of drums, and the gleaming of beacon-fires from the surrounding hilltops, that their secret was out, and that the minutemen knew what was going on.

Sketch of a rock engraved with a memorial to the Minutemen

Monument on Lexington Common Marking the Line of the Minutemen.

Surprised and disturbed by these signs that the colonists were on the alert, Colonel Smith sent Major Pitcairn ahead with a picked body of troops, in the hope that they 37might reach Lexington before the town could be completely aroused. He also sent back to Boston for more men.

The British commander would have been still more disturbed if he had known all that was happening, for the alarm-signals were calling to arms thousands of patriots ready to die for their rights. Hastily wakened from sleep, men snatched their old muskets from over the door, and bidding a hurried good-by to wife and children, started for the meeting-places long before agreed upon.

Just as the sun was rising, Major Pitcairn marched into Lexington, where he found forty or fifty minutemen ready to dispute his advance.

“Disperse, ye rebels; disperse!” he cried, riding up. But they did not disperse. Pitcairn ordered his men to fire, and eighteen minutemen fell to the ground.

Before the arrival of Pitcairn the British officers who had captured Revere and Dawes returned with them to Lexington, where, commanding Revere to dismount, they let him go. Running off at full speed to the house where Samuel Adams and John Hancock were staying, he told them what had happened, and then guided them across the fields to a place of safety.

Leaving the shocked and dazed villagers to collect their dead and wounded, Colonel Smith hastened to Concord. He arrived about seven in the morning, six hours after Doctor Prescott had given the alarm.

There had been time to hide the military stores, so the 38British could not get at those. But they cut down the liberty-pole, set fire to the court-house, spiked a few cannon, and emptied some barrels of flour.

About two hundred of them stood guard at the North Bridge, while a body of minutemen gathered on a hill on the opposite side. When the minutemen had increased to four hundred, they advanced to the bridge and brought on a fight which resulted in loss of life on both sides. Then, pushing on across the bridge, they forced the British to withdraw into the town.

A map of the Boston area

Map: Boston and Vicinity.

The affair had become more serious than the British had expected. Even in the town they could not rest, for an ever-increasing body of minutemen kept swarming into Concord from every direction.

By noon Colonel Smith could see that it would be unwise to delay the return to Boston. So, although his men had marched twenty miles, and had had little or no food for fourteen hours, he gave the order for the return march.

But when they started back, the minutemen kept after 39them and began a deadly attack. It was an unequal fight. The minutemen, trained to woodland warfare, slipped from tree to tree, shot down the worn and helpless British soldiers, and then retreated only to return and repeat the harassing attack.

A drawing of a shady lane leading to a bridge

Concord Bridge.

The wooded country through which they were passing favored this kind of fighting. But even in the open country every stone wall and hill, every house and barn seemed to the exhausted British troops to bristle with the guns of minutemen. The retreating army dragged wearily forward, fighting as bravely as possible, but on the verge of confusion and panic.

They reached Lexington Common at two o’clock, quite overcome with fatigue. There they were met by one thousand two hundred fresh troops, under Lord Percy, whose timely arrival saved the entire force from capture. Lord 40Percy’s men formed a square for the protection of the retreating soldiers, and into it they staggered, falling upon the ground, “with their tongues hanging out of their mouths like those of dogs after a chase.”

After resting for an hour, the British again took up their march to Boston. The minutemen, increasing in numbers every moment, kept up the same kind of running attack that they had made between Concord and Lexington until, late in the day, the redcoats came under the protection of the guns of the war vessels in Boston Harbor.

The British had failed. There was no denying that. They had been driven back, almost in a panic, to Boston, with a loss of nearly three hundred men. The Americans had not lost one hundred.

But the King was not aroused to the situation. He had a vision of his superb regiments in their brilliant uniforms overriding all before them.

And how did the Provincials, as the British called the Americans, regard the situation? They saw clearly and without glamour the deadly nature of the struggle upon which they had entered and the strength of the opposing army against which they must measure their own strength.

The people of Massachusetts for miles around Boston were now in a state of great excitement. Farmers, mechanics, men in all walks of life flocked to the army, and within a few days the Americans, sixteen thousand strong, were surrounding the British in Boston.

41While the people of Massachusetts were in the midst of these stirring scenes, an event of deep meaning to all the colonies was taking place in Philadelphia. Here the Continental Congress, coming together for the second time, was making plans for carrying on the war by voting money for war purposes and by making George Washington commander-in-chief of the Continental army, of which the troops around Boston were the beginning. Thus did the colonies recognize that war had come and that they must stand together in the fight.

A drawing of a man orating to a crowd of men

President Langdon, the President of Harvard College, Praying for the Bunker Hill Entrenching Party on Cambridge Common Just Before Their Departure.

Meantime more British troops, under the command of 42General Howe, arrived in Boston, making an army of ten thousand men. Believing they could be forced to leave the town by cannon planted on Bunker Hill, the Americans decided to occupy it.

On the night of June 16, therefore, shortly before midnight, twelve hundred Americans marched quietly from Cambridge and, advancing to Breed’s Hill, which was nearer Boston than Bunker Hill, began to throw up breastworks.

A drawing of a man walking above a trench that is being dug with a pick.

Prescott at Bunker Hill.

They worked hard all night, and by early morning had made good headway. The British, on awaking, were greatly surprised to see what had been done. They turned the fire of their war vessels upon the Americans, who, however, kept right on with their work.

General Howe, now in command of the British army, thought it would be easy enough to drive off the “rebels.” 43So about three o’clock in the afternoon he made an assault upon their works.

The British soldiers, burdened with heavy knapsacks, and suffering from the heat of a summer sun, had to march through tall grass reaching above their knees and to climb many fences.

Behind their breastworks the Americans watched the scarlet ranks coming nearer and nearer. Powder was low, and must not be wasted. Colonel William Prescott, who was in command, told his men not to fire too soon. “Wait till you see the whites of their eyes,” he said.

Twice the British soldiers, in their scarlet uniforms, climb the slope of the hill and charge the breastworks. Twice the Americans drive them back, ploughing great gaps in their ranks.

A sketch of a tall obelisk

Bunker Hill Monument.

A third time they advance. But now the Americans do not answer the charge. There is good reason—the powder has given out! A great rush—and the redcoats have climbed over. But it is no easy victory even now, and there is no lack of bravery on the part of the Americans. With clubbed muskets they meet the invaders.

44The British won the victory, but with great loss. “Many such,” said one critic, “would have cost them their army.”

On the other hand, the Americans had fought like heroes, and news of the battle brought joy to every loyal heart. Washington heard of it when on his way to take command of the army.

“Did the Americans stand fire?” was his first question.

“Yes,” was the answer.

“Then,” said he, “the liberties of the country are safe.”

Some Things To Think About

  1. Impersonating Paul Revere, tell the story of his famous ride. What do you think of him?

  2. Why did the British troops march out to Lexington and Concord?

  3. Imagine yourself at Concord on the morning of the battle, and tell what happened.

  4. Why did the Americans fortify Breed’s Hill? What were the results of the Battle of Bunker Hill?

  5. What did Washington say when he heard that the Americans had stood their ground in face of the British assault?




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In electing George Washington commander-in-chief of the Continental army, the Continental Congress probably made the very wisest choice possible. Of course, this was not so clear then. For even leaders like Samuel Adams and John Adams and Patrick Henry did not know Washington’s ability as we have come to know it now. But they had learned enough about his wonderful power over men and his great skill as a leader in time of war to believe that he was the man to whom they might trust the great work of directing the army in this momentous crisis.

A head-and-shoulders sketch of a young man

George Washington.

We have already learned, in a previous book, something of Washington’s boyhood, so simple and free and full of activity. We recall him, as he grew up, first as a youthful surveyor, then as the trusted messenger of his colony, Virginia, to the commander of the French 46forts west of the Alleghanies, and afterward as an aide of General Braddock when the war with the French broke out.

In the discharge of all these duties and in all his relations with men, whether above him in office or under his command, he had shown himself trustworthy and efficient, a man of clear mind and decisive action—one who commanded men’s respect, obedience, and even love.

After the last battle of the Last French War Washington had returned to his home at Mount Vernon, on the banks of the Potomac, and very soon (1759) married Mrs. Martha Custis, a young widow whom he had met at a friend’s house while he was on the way to Williamsburg the year before. With the addition of his wife’s property to his own, he became a man of much wealth and at one time was one of the largest landholders in America.

But with all his wealth and experience Washington had the modesty which always goes with true greatness. In the Virginia House of Burgesses, to which he was elected after the Last French War, he was given a vote of thanks for his brave services in that war. Rising to reply, Washington, still a young man, stood blushing and stammering, unable to say a word. The speaker, liking him none the less for this embarrassment, said, with much grace: “Sit down, Mr. Washington. Your modesty equals your valor, and that surpasses the power of any language I possess.”

Some years rolled by and the home-loving young planter lived the busy but quiet life of a high-bred Virginia gentleman. 47Meanwhile the exciting events of which we have been speaking were crowding upon one another and leading up to the Revolution; and in this interval of quiet country life Washington was unconsciously preparing for the greater task for which he was soon to be chosen.

Three men ride on horseback.

Washington, Henry, and Pendleton on the Way to Congress at Philadelphia.

In the events of these days Washington took his own part. He was one of the representatives of Virginia at the first meeting of the Continental Congress, in 1774, going to Philadelphia in company with Patrick Henry and others. He was also a delegate to the second meeting of the Continental Congress, in May, 1775.

He filled well each place of trust; and what more natural than that the Congress should choose as commander-in-chief of the American army this gentleman, young, able, and already tried and proven? He was chosen unanimously.

48On being elected, Washington rose and thanked Congress for the honor, adding modestly: “I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.” No doubt in the dark days of war to follow he often felt in this way, but as the task had fallen to him, he determined to do his best and trust in a higher power for the outcome.

A photograph of a park and a large tree

The Washington Elm at Cambridge, under which Washington took Command of the Army.

He refused to accept any salary for his services, but said he would keep an account of his expenses. The idea of gain for himself in the time of his country’s need was far removed from this great man’s heart!

On the 21st of June, Washington set out on horseback from Philadelphia, in company with a small body of horsemen, 49to take command of the American army around Boston. This journey, which can now be made by train in a few hours, took several days.

Soon after starting, Washington was much encouraged, as we have seen in a preceding chapter, by the news of the brave stand the provincials had made at the battle of Bunker Hill.

After three days, he reached New York, about four o’clock on Sunday afternoon, and was given a royal welcome. Nine companies of soldiers on foot escorted him as he passed through the streets in an open carriage drawn by two white horses. All along the route the streets were lined with people who greeted him with cheers.

Continuing his journey, on July 2 he reached the camp in Cambridge, and there officers and soldiers received him with enthusiasm.


Next day under the famous elm still standing near Harvard University, Washington drew his sword and took command of the American army.

He was then forty-three years old, tall and manly in form, noble and dignified in bearing. His soldiers looked upon him with pride as he sat upon his horse, a superb picture of strength and dignity. He wore a three-cornered hat with the cockade of liberty upon it, and across his breast a broad band of blue silk. The impression he made 50was most pleasing, his courteous and kindly manner winning friends immediately.

Washington at once began the labor of getting his troops ready to fight, as his army was one only in name. For although the men were brave and willing, they had never been trained for war, and were not even supplied with muskets or powder.

Fortunately, the British did not know how badly off the American army was, and were taking their ease inside their own defenses. The autumn and the winter slipped by before Washington could make the attempt to drive the British out of Boston.

At last, by the first of March, some cannon and other supplies arrived in camp. Many of them had been dragged over the snow from Ticonderoga on sledges drawn by oxen. This gave Washington his opportunity to strike.

One night, while the cannon of the American army, which was just outside of Boston, were firing upon the British for the purpose of concealing Washington’s plan, he sent troops to seize and fortify Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston on the south.

Next morning when the astonished British commander, Howe, realized what the Americans had done, he saw clearly that he must drive them from the Heights or else leave Boston himself. But before he could send a force across the bay, a violent storm came up and delayed the attack.

In the meantime the Americans had made their earthworks 51so strong that Howe decided not to molest them. He remembered too well the Bunker Hill affair. So with all his army he sailed away to Halifax, leaving behind much powder and many cannon, which you may be sure the Americans lost no time in seizing.

Washington believed that after leaving Boston the British would try to take New York in order to get control of the Hudson River and the middle colonies. To outwit them his men must get to New York first. This they did.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Sir William Howe.

He had not gone far in putting up defenses there when an event of profound importance took place in Philadelphia. This was the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress. Up to the summer of 1776, it was for their rights as free-born Englishmen that the colonists had been fighting. But now that King George was sending thousands of soldiers to force them to give up these rights, which were as dear to them as their own lives, they said: “We will cut ourselves off from England. We will make our own laws; we will levy our own taxes; we will manage our affairs in our own way. We will declare our independence.”

52So they appointed a committee, two of whom were Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, to draw up the Declaration of Independence. This was signed July 4, 1776.

A drawing of a man looking at a paper by candlelight.

Thomas Jefferson Looking Over the Rough Draught of the Declaration of Independence.

It was a great day in American history, and worthy of celebration. After that, the thirteen colonies became States, and each organized its own government.

53This act, no doubt, gave Washington good heart for the difficult work he had in hand, but the task itself was no easier. While he was waiting at New York for the enemy’s attack, he had only an ill-assorted army of about eighteen thousand men to meet them. General Howe, who soon arrived, had thirty thousand men and a large fleet as well. Yet Washington pluckily made plans to defend the city.

When Brooklyn Heights, on Long Island, had been fortified, he sent General Putnam with half the army across East River to occupy them.

On August 27 General Howe, with something like twenty thousand men, attacked a part of these forces and defeated them. If he had attacked the remainder at once, he might have captured the full half of the army under Putnam’s command—and even Washington himself, who, during the heat of the battle, had crossed over from New York. But, as we have seen, the British were apt to “put off till to-morrow.” And very fortunate it was for the Americans.

Possibly General Howe could have ended the war at this time if he had continued his attack. But of course he did not know that the Americans were going to escape, any more than he had known that they were going to capture Boston. His men had fought hard at the end of a long night march and needed rest. Besides, he felt so sure of making an easy capture of the remainder of the army that there was no need of haste. For how could the Americans 54get away? Did not the British fleet have them so close under its nose that it could easily get between them and New York and make escape impossible?

A dark scene with cannon and smoke.

The Retreat from Long Island.

This all seemed so clear to the easy-going General Howe that with good conscience he gave his tired men a rest after the battle on the 27th. On the 28th a heavy rain fell, and on the 29th a dense fog covered the island.

But before midday of the 29th, some American officers riding down toward the shore noticed an unusual stir in the British fleet. Boats were going to and fro as if carrying orders.

“It looks as if the English vessels may soon sail up between New York and Long Island and cut off our retreat,” 55said these officers to Washington. The situation was perilous. At once Washington gave orders to secure all the boats possible, in order to attempt escape during the night.

It was a desperate undertaking. There were ten thousand men to be taken across, and the width of the river at the point of crossing was nearly a mile. It would hardly seem possible that such a movement could be made in a single night without being discovered by the British troops, who were lying in camp within gunshot of the retreating Americans.

But that which seemed impossible was done, for the army was transferred in safety.

The night must have been a long and anxious one for Washington, who stayed at his post of duty on the Long Island shore until the last boat-load had pushed off. The retreat was as brilliant as it was daring, and it saved the American cause.

But even after he had saved his army from capture and once more outwitted the British, the situation was still one of great danger. No sooner had the Americans made their perilous escape from Long Island than the British seized Brooklyn Heights. So just across the river from New York were the British troops, and just below them in the harbor lay the British fleet.



With forces so unequal, a single unwise movement might bring disaster. If only Washington could learn the plans of the British! The only way to do this was to send a spy over into their camp. He called for a volunteer to go inside the enemy’s line and get information. Now, you know that spying is dangerous business, for if captured the man will be hanged; and none but a brave man will undertake it.

Probably many of you boys and girls know the name of the hero whom Washington selected for this delicate and dangerous task. It was Nathan Hale.

Perhaps you ask why he was chosen, and why he was willing to go.

We can answer those questions best by finding out something about his life.

Nathan Hale was born in Coventry, a little town in Connecticut, in 1755. His parents, who were very religious people, had taught him to be always honest, brave, and loyal.

Nathan was bright in school and fond of books. He was also fond of play. Although he was not very strong as a small boy, he grew sturdy and healthy by joining in the sports of the other boys. They liked him, because, like George Washington, he always played fair.

Later he went to Yale College, where he studied hard 57but yet had time for fun. He became a fine athlete, tall, and well-built. He sang well, and his gentlemanly manner and thoughtfulness of others made him beloved by all who knew him.

After he left college, he taught school with much success, being respected and loved by his pupils. He was teaching in New London, Connecticut, when the Revolutionary War broke out.

He felt sorry to leave his school, but believing his country needed the service of every patriotic man, he joined the army and was made a captain.

When he learned that his commander needed a spy, he said: “I am ready to go. Send me.”

He was only twenty-one, hardly more than a boy, yet he knew the danger. And although life was very dear to him he loved his country more than his own life.

A full-length view of the patriot.

Nathan Hale.

His noble bearing and grace of manner might easily permit him to pass as a Loyalist, that is, an American who sympathized with England—there were many such in the British camp—and Washington accepted him for the mission.

He dressed himself like a schoolmaster, so that the British would not suspect that he was an American soldier.

Then, entering the enemy’s lines, he visited all the 58camps, took notes, and made sketches of the fortifications, hiding the papers in the soles of his shoes. He was just about returning when he was captured. The papers being found upon him, he was condemned to be hanged as a spy before sunrise the next morning.

The marshal who guarded him that night was a cruel man. He would not allow his prisoner to have a Bible, and even tore in pieces before his eyes the farewell letters which the young spy had written to his mother and friends.

But Nathan Hale was not afraid to die, and held himself calm and steady to the end. Looking down upon the few soldiers who were standing near by as he went to his death, he said: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” All honor to this brave and true young patriot!


But the death of Nathan Hale was only one of the hard things Washington had to bear in this trying year of 1776. We have seen that when the Americans left the Long Island shore, the British promptly occupied it. On Brooklyn Heights they planted their cannon, commanding New York. So Washington had to withdraw, and he retreated northward to White Plains, stubbornly contesting every inch of ground.

In the fighting of the next two months the Americans lost heavily. Two forts on the Hudson River with three 59thousand men were captured by the British. The outlook was gloomy enough, and it was well for the Americans that they could not foresee the even more trying events that were to follow.

A map showing Maryland to New York

The War in the Middle States.

In order to save himself and his men from the enemy, Washington had to retreat once more, this time across New Jersey toward Philadelphia. With the British army, in every way stronger than his own, close upon him, it was a race for life. Sometimes there was only a burning bridge, which the rear-guard of the Americans had set on fire, between the fleeing forces and the pursuing army.

To make things worse, Washington saw his own army becoming smaller every day, because the men whose term of enlistment had expired were leaving to go to their homes. When he reached the Delaware River he had barely three thousand men left.

60Here again Washington showed a master-stroke of genius. Having collected boats for seventy miles along the river, he succeeded in getting his army safely across at a place a little above Trenton. As the British had no boats, they had to come to a halt. In their usual easy way, they decided to wait until the river should freeze, when—as they thought—they would cross in triumph and make a speedy capture of Philadelphia.

To most people in England and in America alike, the early downfall of the American cause seemed certain. General Cornwallis was so sure that the war would soon come to an end that he had already packed some of his luggage and sent it to the ship in which he expected to return to England.

But Washington had no thought of giving up the struggle. Others might say: “It’s of no use to fight against such heavy odds.” General Washington was not that kind of man. He faced the dark outlook with all his courage and energy. Full of faith in the cause for which he was willing to die, he watched eagerly for the opportunity to turn suddenly upon his overconfident enemy and strike a heavy blow.


Such an opportunity came soon. A body of British troops, made up of Hessians (or Germans mainly from Hesse-Cassel, hired as soldiers by King George), was stationed 61at Trenton, and Washington planned to surprise them on Christmas night, when, as he knew, it was their custom to hold a feast and revel.

With two thousand four hundred picked men he prepared to cross the Delaware River at a point nine miles above Trenton. The ground was white with snow, and the weather was bitterly cold. As the soldiers marched to the place of crossing, some of them whose feet were almost bare left bloody footprints along the route.

A group of soldiers, one on horseback.

British and Hessian Soldiers.

At sunset the troops began to cross. It was a terrible night. Angry gusts of wind, and great blocks of ice swept along by the swift current, threatened every moment to dash in pieces the frail boats.

62From the Trenton side of the river, General Knox, who had been sent ahead by Washington, loudly shouted to let the struggling boatmen know where to land. For ten hours boat-load after boat-load of men made the dangerous crossing. A long, long night this must have been to Washington, as he stood in the midst of the wild storm, anxious, yet hopeful that the next day would bring him victory.

It was not until four in the morning that the already weary men were in line to march. Trenton was nine miles away, and a fearful storm of snow and sleet beat fiercely upon them as they advanced. Yet they pushed forward. Surely such courage and hardihood deserved its reward!

The Hessians, sleeping heavily after their night’s feasting, were quite unaware of the approaching army. About sunrise they were surprised and most of them easily captured after a brief struggle.

Like a gleam of light in the darkness, news of this victory shot through the colonies. It brought hope to every patriot heart. The British were amazed at the daring feat, and Cornwallis decided not to leave America for a time. Instead, he advanced with a large force upon Trenton, hoping to capture Washington’s army there.

At nightfall, January 2, 1777, he took his stand on the farther side of a small creek, near Trenton, and thought he had Washington in a trap. “At last,” said Cornwallis, “we have run down the old fox, and we will bag him in the morning.” In the morning again!

63But Washington was too sly a fox for Cornwallis to bag. During the night he led his army around Cornwallis’s camp and, pushing on to Princeton, defeated the rear-guard, which had not yet joined the main body. He then retired in safety to his winter quarters among the hills about Morristown.

A drawing of three artifacts.

Powder-Horn, Bullet-Flask, and Buckshot-Pouch Used in the Revolution.

During this fateful campaign Washington had handled his army in a masterly way. He had begun with bitter defeat; he had ended with glorious victory. The Americans now felt that their cause was by no means hopeless. It was well that they had this encouragement, for the year that began with the battle of Princeton (1777) was to test their courage and loyalty to the uttermost.


It had become plain to the British that if they could get control of the Hudson River, thus cutting off New England from the other States, they could so weaken the Americans as to make their defeat easy. So they adopted this plan: Burgoyne with nearly eight thousand men was to march from Canada, by way of Lake Champlain and Fort Edward, to Albany, where he was to meet a small force of 64British, who also were to come from Canada by way of the Mohawk Valley. The main army of eighteen thousand men, under General Howe, was expected to sail up the Hudson from New York. They believed that this plan could be easily carried out and would soon bring the war to a close.

And their plan might have succeeded if General Howe had done his part. Let us see what happened.

Howe thought that before going up the river to meet and help Burgoyne, he would just march across New Jersey and capture Philadelphia. This, however, was not so easy as he had expected it to be. Washington’s army was in his pathway, and, not caring to fight his way across, he returned to New York and tried another route, sailing with his army to Chesapeake Bay. The voyage took two months, much longer than he expected.

When at length he landed and advanced toward Philadelphia, he was again thwarted. Washington’s army grimly fronted him at Brandywine Creek, and a battle had to be fought. The Americans were defeated, it is true, but Washington handled his army with such skill that it took Howe two weeks to reach Philadelphia, which was only twenty-six miles away from the field of battle.

Howe was thus kept busy by Washington until it was too late for him to send help to Burgoyne.

Moreover, Burgoyne was disappointed also in the help 65which he had expected from the Mohawk Valley, for the army which was to come from that direction had been forced to retreat to Canada almost before reaching the valley at all.

A copy of a painting of two men -- one is bowing to the other.

General Burgoyne Surrendering to General Gates.

Burgoyne was now in a hard place. The Americans were in front of him, blocking his way, and also behind him, preventing him from retreating or from getting powder and other greatly needed supplies from Canada. He could move in neither direction.

66Thus left in the lurch by those from whom he expected aid and penned in by the Americans, there was nothing for him to do but fight or give up.

Like a good soldier, he fought, and the result was two battles near Saratoga and the defeat of the British. In the end Burgoyne had to surrender his entire army of six thousand regular troops (October 17, 1777).

Such was the way in which the British plan worked out. Of course the result was a great blow to England.

On the other hand, the victory was a great cause of joy to the Americans. It made hope stronger at home; it won confidence abroad. France had been watching closely to see whether the Americans were likely to win in their struggle, before aiding them openly. Now she was ready to do so, and was quite willing to make a treaty with them, even though such a course should lead to war with England.

To bring about this treaty with France, Benjamin Franklin did more than any other man. After signing the Declaration of Independence—and you will remember that he was a member of the committee appointed to draft that great state paper—he went to France to secure aid for the American cause. He must have been a quaint figure at the French court, his plain hair and plain cloth coat contrasting strangely with the fashion and elegance about him. Yet this simple-hearted man was welcomed by the French people, who gave feasts and parades in his honor and displayed 67his picture in public places. By his personal influence he did very much to secure the aid which France gave us.


Even before an open treaty was signed France had secretly helped the cause of the Americans. She had sent them money and army supplies and, besides this, able Frenchmen had come across the Atlantic to join the American army. The most noted of these was the Marquis de Lafayette.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Marquis de Lafayette.

The circumstances under which he came were quite romantic. Lafayette was but nineteen when he heard for the first time at a dinner-party the story of the American people fighting for their liberty. It interested and deeply moved him. For in his own land a desire for freedom had been growing, and he had been in sympathy with it. Now he made it his business to find out more about this war, and then he quickly decided to help all he could.

He belonged to one of the noblest families of France, and was very wealthy. He had a young wife and a baby, whom he regretted to leave. But he believed that his 68duty called him to join the cause of freedom. His wife was proud of the lofty purpose of her noble husband, and encouraged him to carry out his plan.

But Lafayette found it very hard to get away, for his family was one of influence. His relatives and also the men in power were very angry when he made known his purpose, and they tried to prevent his going.

Two men stand at an elegant table covered with books.

Lafayette Offering His Services to Franklin.

But he bought a ship with his own money and loaded it with army supplies. Then, disguising himself as a postboy, he arrived at the coast without being found out.

After a long, tiresome voyage he reached the United States and went to Philadelphia.

69There Congress gave him the rank of major-general, but in accepting it Lafayette asked that he might serve without pay.

A warm friendship at once sprang up between Washington and the young Frenchman, and a feeling of confidence as between father and son. The older man made the young major-general a member of his military family, and Lafayette was always proud to serve his chief. He spent his money freely and risked his life to help the cause of American liberty. We can never forget his unselfish service.

At the close of the year 1777 Washington took his army to a strong position among the hills at Valley Forge, about twenty miles northwest of Philadelphia, there to spend the winter.

It was a period of intense suffering. Sometimes the soldiers went for days without bread. “For some days past,” wrote Washington, “there has been little less than famine in the camp.” Most of the soldiers were in rags, only a few had bed clothing. Many had to sit by the fire all night to keep warm, and some of the sick soldiers were without beds or even loose straw to lie upon. Nearly three thousand of the men were barefoot in this severe winter weather, and many had frozen feet because of the lack of shoes. It makes one heart-sick to read about what these brave men passed through during that wretched winter.

70Yet, in spite of bitter trials and distressing times, Washington never lost faith that in the end the American cause would triumph. A beautiful story is told showing the faith of this courageous man while in the midst of these pitiful scenes at Valley Forge.

A drawing of a snowy scene, with cannon and cold-looking men.

Winter at Valley Forge.

One day, when “Friend Potts,” a good Quaker farmer, was near the camp, he saw Washington on his knees, his 71cheeks wet with tears, praying for help and guidance. When the farmer returned to his home, he said to his wife: “George Washington will succeed! George Washington will succeed! The Americans will secure their independence.”

“What makes thee think so, Isaac?” inquired his wife.

“I have heard him pray, Hannah, out in the woods to-day, and the Lord will surely hear his prayer. He will, Hannah; thee may rest assured He will.”

Many events happened between this winter at Valley Forge and the surrender of Cornwallis with all his army at Yorktown, but these we shall take up in a later chapter. Washington had led his army through the valley of despair, and never again while the war lasted was the sky so dark.

At the close of the war Washington was glad to return to Mount Vernon and become a Virginia planter once more. But, as we shall learn further on, he was not permitted to spend the remainder of his days in the quiet rural life which he liked so well. For his countrymen had come to honor and trust him as their leader, and the time was not far away when they would again seek his firm and wise guidance.

Some Things to Think About

  1. What kind of army did Washington have when he took command at Cambridge?

  2. What was the Declaration of Independence, and when was it signed?

  3. 72 How did Washington show his ability as a general at New York? What great mistake did General Howe make at that time?

  4. What did Nathan Hale do? What do you think of him?

  5. Imagine yourself with Washington in the attack upon Trenton, and tell what happened.

  6. What were the results of the capture of Burgoyne?

  7. Who was Lafayette, and what did he do for the American cause?

  8. Describe as well as you can the sufferings of the Americans at Valley Forge.

  9. Are you making frequent use of the map?




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We have given a rapid glance at the part which Washington took in the Revolution. He, as commander-in-chief, stands first. But he would have been quick to say that much of the credit for the success in that uneven struggle was due to the able generals who carried out his plans. Standing next to Washington himself as a military leader was Nathanael Greene.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Nathanael Greene.

As you remember, the first fighting of the Revolution was in New England near Boston. Failing there, the British tried hard to get control of the Hudson River and the Middle States, as we have just seen. Again they were baffled by Washington.

One course remained, and that was to gain control of the southern States. Beginning in Georgia, they captured Savannah. Two years later in May (1780), they captured General Lincoln and all his 74force at Charleston, and in the following August badly defeated General Gates, at Camden, South Carolina, where with a new army he was now commanding in General Lincoln’s place.

The outlook for the patriot cause was discouraging. One thing was certain. A skilful general must take charge of the American forces in the south, or the British would soon have everything in their own hands. Washington had great faith in General Greene, and did not hesitate to appoint him for this hard task. Let us see what led the commander-in-chief to choose this New England man for duty in a post so far away.

Nathanael Greene was born in Warwick, Rhode Island, in 1742. His father, who on week-days was a blacksmith and miller, on Sundays was a Quaker preacher. Nathanael was trained to work at the forge and in the mill and in the fields as well. He was robust and active and, like young George Washington, a leader in outdoor sports. But with all his other activities he was also, like young Samuel Adams, a good student of books.

We like to think of these colonial boys going to school and playing at games just as boys do now, quite unaware of the great things waiting for them to do in the world. Had they known of their future, they could have prepared in no better way than by taking their faithful part in the work and honest sport of each day as it came.

Greene, being ten years younger than Washington, was 75about thirty-two years old when the Boston Tea Party and those other exciting events of that time occurred.

A map shoing Georgia to Virginia

The War in the South.

Although news did not travel so rapidly then as now, Greene was soon aware that war was likely to break out at any time, and he took an active part in preparing for it. He helped to organize a company of soldiers who should be ready to fight for the American cause, and made the trip from Rhode Island to Boston to get a musket for himself. In Boston he watched with much interest the British regulars taking their drill, and brought back with him not only a musket, hidden under some straw in his wagon, but also a runaway British soldier, who was to drill his company.

When news of the battle of Bunker Hill passed swiftly over the country, proving that the war had actually begun, Rhode Island raised three regiments of troops and placed Greene at their head as general. He marched at once to Boston, and when Washington arrived to take command 76of the American troops, it was General Greene who had the honor of welcoming him in the name of the army.


At this time Greene was a man of stalwart appearance, six feet tall, strong and vigorous in body, and with a frank, intelligent face. At once he won the friendship and confidence of Washington, who always trusted him with positions calling for courage, ability, and skill. It was not long before he was Washington’s right-hand man. So you can easily see why Washington chose him in 1780 as commander of the American army in the south.

When General Greene reached the Carolinas, it was December, and he found the army in a pitiable condition. There was but a single blanket for the use of every three soldiers, and there was not food enough in camp to last three days. The soldiers had lost heart because of defeat, they were angry because they had not been paid, and many were sick because they had not enough to eat. They camped in rude huts made of fence rails, corn-stalks, and brushwood.

A weak man would have said: “What can I do with an army like this? The task is impossible. To remain here is to fail, so I will resign.”

But General Greene said nothing of the kind. He set to work with a will, for he believed that the right was on his side. By wise planning, skilful handling of the army, and hard labor, he managed, with the forces at hand, to 77ward off the enemy, get food supplies, and put new spirit into his men.

A drawing showing a man raising his hat to another man.

The Meeting of Greene and Gates upon Greene’s Assuming Command.

Soon he won the confidence and love of both officers and soldiers. A story is told that shows us the sympathy he had for his men and their faith in him. On one occasion Greene said to a barefoot sentinel: “How you must suffer from cold!” Not knowing that he spoke to his general, the soldier replied: “I do not complain. I know I should have what I need if our general could get supplies.”



It was indeed fortunate for General Greene that in this time of need his men were so loyal to him. Among them was one who later became noted for his brilliant, daring exploits. This was Daniel Morgan, the great rifleman. You will be interested to hear of some of his thrilling experiences.

When about nineteen years old, Morgan began his military career as a teamster in Braddock’s army, and at the time of Braddock’s defeat he did good service by bringing wounded men off the battle-field. It was about this time that he became known to Washington, who liked and trusted him. The young man was so dependable and brave that he was steadily promoted.

When he was twenty-three, he had an exciting adventure which brought him the only wound he ever received. It was during the Last French War. With two other men, he was sent to carry a message to the commanding officer at Winchester. They had still about a mile to ride when a party of French and Indians who were hiding in the woods near the roadside fired upon them. Morgan’s comrade fell dead instantly. He himself was so severely wounded in the neck by a musket-ball that he came near fainting and believed he was going to die. But he managed to cling to his horse’s neck and spurred him along the forest trail.

One Indian, hoping to get Morgan’s scalp, ran for a 79time beside the horse. But when he saw that the animal was outstripping him, he gave up the chase, hurling his tomahawk with an angry yell at the fleeing man. Morgan was soon safe in the hands of friends.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Daniel Morgan.

During the Revolution his services were, in more than one critical situation, of great value to the American cause. In the campaign which ended with Burgoyne’s defeat, for instance, his riflemen fought like heroes. General Burgoyne, after his surrender, exclaimed to Morgan: “Sir, you command the finest regiment in the world.”

Indeed, it was regarded at that time as the best regiment in the American army, and this was largely due to Morgan’s skill in handling his men. He made them feel as if they were one family. He was always thoughtful for their health and comfort, and he appealed to their pride but never to their fear.

He was a very tall and strong man, with handsome features and a remarkable power to endure. His manner was quiet and refined, and his noble bearing indicated a high sense of honor. He was liked by his companions because he was always good-natured and ready for the most daring adventure.

General Greene made good use of this true patriot, 80and not long after taking command of the army he sent Morgan with nine hundred picked men to the westward to threaten the British outposts. General Cornwallis, in command of the British army in the south, ordered Colonel Tarleton to lead a body of soldiers against Morgan.

Early in the morning of January 17, 1781, after a hard night march, Tarleton, overconfident of success, attacked Morgan at Cowpens, in the northern part of South Carolina. The Americans stood up bravely against the attack and won a brilliant victory. The British lost almost their entire force, including six hundred prisoners.

Cornwallis was bitterly disappointed, for his plan, undertaken in such confidence, had ended in a crushing defeat. However, gathering his forces together, he set out to march rapidly across country in pursuit of Morgan, hoping to overwhelm him and recapture the six hundred British prisoners before he could join Greene’s army.

But Morgan was too wary to be caught napping, and, suspecting that this would be Cornwallis’s game, he retreated rapidly in a northeasterly direction toward that part of the army under Greene.

Meantime Greene had heard the glorious news of the American victory at Cowpens, and he too realized that there was great danger of Morgan’s falling into the hands of Cornwallis. To prevent this, and at the same time draw Cornwallis far away from his supplies at Wilmington, he decided to go to Morgan’s relief.

81Sending his army by an easier, roundabout route, he himself with a small guard rode swiftly a distance of one hundred and fifty miles across the rough country and joined Morgan on the last day of January.

Morgan was cleverly retreating with Cornwallis in hot pursuit. For ten days the race for life continued, with the chances in favor of Cornwallis, for his army was larger, besides being trained and disciplined.

This was a famous retreat. It covered a distance of two hundred miles through the Carolinas, across three rivers whose waters, swollen by recent rains, rose rapidly after the Americans had crossed, and checked the British in their pursuit. When the last river, the Dan, was forded, the chase was so close that the rear of the retreating army had a skirmish with the van of the pursuers. Yet Greene was so alert and skilful that he escaped every danger and saved his army.

In this trying campaign valuable aid was given by “partisans” in the south. These were private companies, not part of the regular army. Such companies had been formed in the south by both sides, and that is why they were called “partisans.”


Perhaps the most noted partisan leader was Francis Marion, of South Carolina. He was born in Georgetown, South Carolina, in 1732, and was therefore the same age as 82Washington. Although as a child he was very frail, he became strong as he grew older. As a man he was short and slight of frame, but strong and hardy in constitution.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Francis Marion.

When the British began to swarm into South Carolina, Marion raised and drilled a company of neighbors and friends, known as “Marion’s Brigade.” These men were without uniforms or tents, and they served without pay. They did not look much like soldiers on parade, but were among the bravest and best fighters of the Revolution. Their swords were beaten out of old mill-saws at the country forge, and their bullets were made largely from pewter mugs and other pewter utensils. Their rations were very scant and simple. Marion, their leader, as a rule, ate hominy and potatoes and drank water flavored with a little vinegar.

The story is told that one day a British officer came to the camp with a flag of truce. After the officers had talked, Marion, with his usual delicate courtesy, invited the visitor to dinner. We can imagine the Englishman’s surprise when, on a log which made the camp table, there was served a dinner consisting only of roasted sweet potatoes 83passed on pieces of bark! The officer was still more amazed to learn that even potatoes were something of a luxury.

Marion’s brigade of farmers and hunters seldom numbered more than seventy, and often less than twenty. But with this very small force he annoyed the British beyond measure by rescuing prisoners, and by capturing supply-trains and outposts.

A battle scene, with men on horses charging some wagons.

Marion Surprising a British Wagon-Train.

One day a scout brought in the report that a party of ninety British with two hundred prisoners were on the march for Charleston. Waiting for the darkness to conceal his movements, Marion with thirty men sallied out, 84swooped down upon the British camp, capturing the entire force and rescuing all the American prisoners.

It was the custom of Marion’s men, when hard pressed by a superior force, to scatter, each man looking out for himself. Often they would dash headlong into a dense, dark swamp, to meet again at some place agreed upon. Even while they were still in hiding, they would sometimes dart out just as suddenly as they had vanished, and surprise another squad of British which might be near at hand. “Swamp Fox” was the name the British gave to Marion.

With the aid of such partisan bands, and with skilful handling of his army, Greene was more than a match for Cornwallis. He was not strong enough just yet for a pitched battle, but he kept Cornwallis chasing without losing his own army. That was about all he could hope to do for a while.

But when he received recruits from Virginia, he thought it wise to strike a blow, even though he could not win a victory. Turning, therefore, upon his enemy, he fought a battle at Guilford Court House, North Carolina (March, 1781).

He was defeated, but came off as well as he expected, and so crippled the British army that Cornwallis had to retreat. He went to the coast to get supplies for his half-starved men. Like the battle of Bunker Hill, it was a dearly bought victory for the British.

85Cornwallis now saw clearly that he could not hope longer for success in the south, and having taken on fresh supplies, he marched northward to try his luck at Yorktown, Virginia.

Washington, with an army of French and American troops, was at the time in camp on the Hudson River, waiting for the coming of the French fleet to New York. That city was still in the hands of the British. As soon as this fleet should arrive, Washington expected to attack the British army in New York by land, while the fleet attacked it by sea.

But the French fleet was well on its way to the Chesapeake instead of to New York as expected. When this information came to Washington, he worked out a bold and brilliant scheme. It was to march his army as quickly and as secretly as possible to Yorktown, a distance of four hundred miles, there join the American army under Lafayette, and, combining with the French fleet on its arrival, capture the British under Cornwallis.

This daring scheme succeeded so well that Cornwallis surrendered his entire army of eight thousand men on October 19, 1781. This important event, which practically ended the war, we shall speak of again.

The surrender at Yorktown ended the fighting, although the treaty of peace was not signed until 1783. By that treaty the Americans won their independence from England. The country which they could now call their own 86extended from Canada to Florida, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River.

After the treaty of peace was signed, and the army disbanded, General Greene went home. In 1785 he moved with his family to a plantation which the State of Georgia had given him. Here he lived in quiet and happiness, but only a short time, for he died of sunstroke at the age of forty-four. His comrade Anthony Wayne, voiced the feeling of his countrymen when he said: “I have seen a great and good man die.”

Some Things to Think About

  1. Tell what you can about General Greene’s early life.

  2. What was the condition of his army when he took command in the South? How did he prove his strength at that time?

  3. What kind of man was Daniel Morgan, and what do you think of him?

  4. Tell all you can about Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” and his ways of making trouble for the British.

  5. When did the Revolution begin? When did it end? What did the Americans win by the treaty? What was the extent of our country at that time?




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While the Revolution was being fought out on the land, important battles were taking place also at sea. Until this war began, the Americans had had no need of a navy because the mother country had protected them. But when unfriendly feeling arose, Congress ordered war vessels to be built. These were very useful in capturing British vessels, many of which were loaded with arms and ammunition intended for British soldiers. Powder, as you will remember, was sorely needed by Washington’s army.

A head-and-shoulders sketch.

John Paul Jones.

Among the men who commanded the American war vessels were some noted sea-captains, the most famous of whom was John Paul Jones.

He was of Scottish birth. His father, John Paul, was a gardener, who lived on the southwestern coast of Scotland. The cottage in which our hero spent his early boyhood 88days stood near the beautiful bay called Solway Firth, which made a safe harbor for ships in time of storm.

Here little John Paul heard many sailors tell thrilling stories of adventure at sea and in far-away lands. Here, also, to the inlets along the shore, the active lad and his playmates took their tiny boats and made believe they were sailors, John Paul always acting as captain. Sometimes when he was tired and all alone, he would sit by the hour watching the big waves rolling in, and dreaming perhaps of the day when he would become a great sea-captain.

When he was only twelve, he wished to begin his life as a real sailor. So his father apprenticed him to a merchant at Whitehaven who owned a vessel and traded in goods brought from other lands. Soon afterward John Paul went on a voyage to Virginia, where the vessel was to be loaded with tobacco. While there he visited an older brother, who owned a plantation at Fredericksburg.

For six years John Paul remained with the Whitehaven merchant, and during this time he learned much about good seamanship. After the merchant failed in business, John Paul still continued to follow a seafaring life, and in a short time became a captain. But when his brother in Virginia died, John Paul went to Fredericksburg to manage the plantation his brother had left.

It was now his intention to spend the rest of his life here, but, like Patrick Henry, he failed as a farmer. In fact, it would seem that he was born to be a sailor.

89In the meantime he had come to be a loyal American, and when the Revolution broke out he determined to offer his services to Congress. When he did so, he changed his name to John Paul Jones. Just why, we do not know.

A copy of a painting showing a sea battle between two ships in choppy waters.

Battle Between the Ranger and the Drake.

Congress accepted his services by appointing him first lieutenant. He proved himself so able that in the second year of the war he was put in command of two vessels, with which he captured sixteen prizes in six weeks.

In the following year he was appointed captain of the Ranger and sent to France with letters to Benjamin Franklin, who was then American commissioner at the French court, trying to secure aid for the American cause.

90At that time English vessels were annoying American coasts by burning and destroying property. Jones got permission from Franklin to attack British coasts in the same way, and he was allowed to sail from France in his vessel with that purpose in view.

His plan was to sail along the western coast of England and set fire to the large shipping-yards at Whitehaven, with which harbor, you remember, he had become familiar in boyhood. He meant to burn all the three hundred vessels lying at anchor there. Although he succeeded in setting fire to only one large ship, he alarmed the people all along the coast. The warning was carried from town to town: “Beware of Paul Jones, the pirate!”

An English war vessel, the Drake, was sent out to capture the Ranger. As the Drake carried two more guns and a crew better drilled for fighting, it was thought she would make short work of the American ship in a fight. But it was just the other way, for after a battle of a single hour the English vessel surrendered, having lost many men. The American loss was only two men killed and six wounded.

After this brilliant victory the young captain put back to France. There he found great rejoicing among the people, whose good-will was more with America than with England. And as war had already broken out between France and England, the French King was quite willing to furnish Jones with a considerable naval force.



Accordingly, in August, 1779, Captain Jones put to sea once more, this time with a fleet of four vessels. He named his flag-ship Bon Homme Richard (bo-nom′-rē-shär′), after the Richard of Poor Richard’s Almanac, which you will remember Benjamin Franklin had written.

In this ship, which was old, he set out to cruise along the western coast of Ireland, in order to capture English merchant vessels. After reaching the southern point of Ireland, he cruised northward around Scotland and down its eastern coast. Then he sailed up and down the eastern coast of England, looking for merchant vessels.

At noon on the 23d of September Jones sighted a fleet of forty-two merchantmen, guarded by two English ships of war, all sailing from the north. He at once decided to make an attack. This took place early in the evening, the action being mainly between the Richard and the English man-of-war Serapis, which was a large ship, new and swift, and very much better than the Richard.

During the first hour the American vessel got the worst of the fight and “was leaking like a basket.” The English captain, feeling sure of victory, called out: “Has your ship struck?” Our hero, Paul Jones, shouted back: “I have not yet begun to fight!”

As the British vessel came alongside his own for a more deadly struggle, Jones with his own hands lashed the two 92together. Soon both were badly leaking, but the fighting went on as fiercely as ever. Presently both caught fire.

A copy of a painting showing two ships battling.

The Fight Between the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis.

Then Jones turned his cannon upon the mainmast of the Serapis, and when it threatened to fall the English captain surrendered. So after all it was the English ship and not the American that “struck” the flag. But the Richard could not have held out much longer, for even before the surrender she had begun to sink.

When the English captain gave up his sword to John Paul Jones, he said: “It is very hard to surrender to a man who has fought with a halter around his neck.” You see, 93Captain Jones would have been hanged as a pirate, if taken. Jones replied: “Sir, you have fought like a hero. I hope your King will reward you.”

This was a desperate sea duel, and it lasted from half past seven in the evening until ten o’clock. It was important also in its results, for it won much needed respect for our flag and gave a wonderful uplift to the American cause. The victor, John Paul Jones, who was loaded with honors, from that day took rank with the great sea-captains of the world.

Some Things to Think About

  1. Tell all you can about the early life of John Paul Jones.

  2. Why did the English call him a pirate when he was sailing along the British coasts in order to destroy property?

  3. What was the outcome of the desperate sea duel between the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis?

  4. What do you admire about John Paul Jones?

  5. Do not fail to locate every event upon the map.




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You remember that when the Last French War began, in 1756, the English colonists lived almost entirely east of the Alleghany Mountains. If you will look at your map, you will see how small a part of our present great country they occupied.

Even up to the beginning of the Revolution the Americans had few settlers west of the Alleghanies, and had done very little there to make good their claims to land.

Yet at the close of the war we find that their western boundary-line had been pushed back as far as the Mississippi River. How this was done we shall see if we turn our attention to those early hunters and backwoodsmen who did great service to our country as pioneers in opening up new lands.

One of the most famous of these was Daniel Boone. He was born in Pennsylvania, and, like many of the heroes of the Revolution, he was born in the “thirties” (1735).

As a boy, Daniel liked to wander in the woods with musket and fishing-rod, and was never so happy as when alone in the wild forest. The story is told that while a mere lad he wandered one day into the woods some distance 95from home and built himself a rough shelter of logs, where he would spend days at a time, with only his rifle for company.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Daniel Boone.

As he was a “good shot,” we may be sure he never went hungry for lack of food. The game which his rifle brought down he would cook over a pile of burning sticks. If you have done outdoor camp cooking, you can almost taste its woodland flavor. Then at night as he lay under the star-lit sky on a bed of leaves, with the skin of a wild animal for covering, a prince might have envied his dreamless slumber.

This free, wild life made him thoroughly at home in the forests, and trained him for the work he was to do later as a fearless hunter and woodsman.

When Daniel was about thirteen years old his father removed to North Carolina and settled on the Yadkin River. There the boy grew to manhood. After his marriage, at twenty, he built himself a hut far out in the lonely forest, beyond the homes of the other settlers.

But he was a restless man and looked with longing toward the rugged mountains on the west. Along the foothills other pioneer settlers and hunters had taken up their 96abode. And young Boone’s imagination leaped to the country beyond the mountains, where the forest stretched for miles upon miles, no one knew how far, to the Mississippi River. It was an immense wilderness teeming with game, and he wanted to hunt and explore in it.

He was twenty-five when he made the first “long hunt” we know about. At this time he went as far as what is now Boone’s Creek, in eastern Tennessee.

Other trips doubtless he made which increased his love for wandering; and in 1769, nine years after his first trip, having heard from a stray Indian of a wonderful hunting-ground far to the west, he started out with this Indian and four other men to wander through the wilderness of Kentucky.

For five weeks these bold hunters threaded their way through lonely and pathless mountain forests, facing many dangers from wild beasts and Indians.


But when, in June, they reached the blue-grass region of Kentucky, a beautiful land of stretching prairies, lofty forests, and running streams, they felt well repaid for all the hardships of their long journey. It was indeed as the Indian had said, alive with game. Buffaloes, wolves, bears, elk, deer, and wild beasts of many kinds abounded, making truly a hunter’s paradise.

They at once put up a log shelter, and for six months 97they hunted to their hearts’ content. Then one day two of the party, Boone himself and a man named Stewart, while off on a hunting expedition, were captured by an Indian band. For several days the dusky warriors carefully guarded the two white captives. But on the seventh night, having eaten greedily of game they had killed during the day, they fell into a sound sleep.

A drawing of a man in frontier garb crouching over a sleeping man.

Boone’s Escape from the Indians.

Then Boone, who had been watching for this chance, arose quietly from his place among the sleeping Indians and gently wakened Stewart. The two crept stealthily away until out of hearing of the Indians, when, rising to their feet, they bounded off like deer through the dark woods to their own camp. But they found no one there, for the rest of the party had fled back home.

However, Boone and Stewart stayed on, and some 98weeks later they were pleasantly surprised when Daniel’s brother, Squire Boone, also a woodsman, unexpectedly arrived with another man and joined the camp. The four were quite contented, living and hunting together, until one day Stewart was shot by an Indian and killed. His death so frightened the man who had come over the mountains with Squire Boone, that the woods lost their charm for the poor fellow and he went back home.

So only the two brothers were left. They remained together three months longer in a little cabin in the forest. Then, as their powder and lead were getting low, Squire Boone returned to North Carolina for a fresh supply, leaving his brother to hold the hunting-ground.

Now Boone was left all alone. His life was continually in danger from the Indians. For fear of being surprised, he dared not sleep in camp, but hid himself at night in the cane-brake or thick underbrush, not even kindling a fire lest he should attract the Indians.

During these weeks of waiting for his brother, he led a very lonely life. In all that time he did not speak to a single human being, nor had he even a dog, cat, or horse for company. Without salt, sugar, or flour, his sole food was the game he shot or caught in traps.

How gladly he must have welcomed his brother, who returned at the end of two months, bringing the needed supplies! Other hunters also came from time to time, and Boone joined one party of them for a while.

99After two years of his life in the woods he returned to his home on the Yadkin to bring out his wife and children.

By September, 1773, he had sold his farm and was ready with his family to go and settle in Kentucky. He had praised the new land so much that many others wished to go with him. So when he started there were, besides his wife and children, five families and forty men driving their horses and cattle before them. This group was the first to attempt settlement far out in the wilderness, away from the other settlers.

But while still on its way, the little company was set upon by a band of Indians near a narrow and difficult pass in the mountains. Six men were killed, among them Boone’s eldest son, and the cattle were scattered. This misfortune brought such gloom upon the party that all turned back for a time to a settlement on the Clinch River.

But Daniel Boone was one of those who would not give up. He said of himself that he was “ordained of God to settle the wilderness,” and in the end he carried out his unflinching purpose to make his home in the beautiful Kentucky region.

This region had already become well known by report east of the mountains. The Indians called it “a dark and bloody ground,” for, as an old chief told Boone, many tribes hunted and fought there, and the Indians had roamed over it for hundreds of years.

But none of the tribes really owned the land. So it 100was not possible to buy any part of it outright. Yet, to avoid strife, a friend of Boone’s, Richard Henderson, and a few others made treaties with the most powerful tribe, the Cherokees, who said that they might settle there.

As soon as it became certain that the Indians would not make trouble, Henderson sent Boone, in charge of thirty men, to open a pathway from the Holston River through Cumberland Gap to the Kentucky River.

With their axes the men chopped out a path through the dense undergrowth and cane-brakes broad enough for a pack-horse. You will be interested to know that this bridle-path was the beginning of the famous “Wilderness Road,” as it is still called. Later the narrow trail was widened into a highway for wagons, and it was along this way, rightly called a “wilderness road,” that in later years so many thousand settlers led their pack-trains over the mountains into Kentucky and Tennessee.

But that is taking a long look ahead! Just now we are thinking about the very first of these settlers, Daniel Boone and his company.


When they reached the Kentucky River, Boone and his followers built a fort on the left bank of the stream and called it Boonesborough. Its four walls consisted in part of the outer sides of log cabins, and in part of a stockade, some twelve feet high, made by setting deep into the ground 101stout posts with pointed tops. In all the cabins there were loopholes through which to shoot, and at each corner of the fort stood a loophole blockhouse. There were also two strong wooden gates on opposite sides of the fort.

A bird's-eye-view drawing of a fort, showing the surrounding stockade wall.


After the fort was built, Boone went back to the Clinch River and brought on his wife and children. When they settled, it was springtime, and Kentucky was at its best. Trees were in leaf, the beautiful dogwood was in flower, and the woods were fragrant with the blossoms of May. Do you wonder that they loved their new home?

At first the cattle and horses were always driven into the fort at night. Later, however, every settler had a cabin in his own clearing, where he lived with his family and took care of his own stock. But even then in time of great danger all went to the fort, driving their animals inside its walls. This fort, with the outlying cabins, made the first permanent settlement in Kentucky.

102Boone was a man you would have liked to know. Even the Indians admired him. He was tall and slender, with muscles of iron, and so healthy and strong that he could endure great hardship. Though quiet and serious, his courage never shrank in the face of danger, and men believed in him because he believed in himself, while at the same time his kind heart and tender sympathy won him lasting friendships. These vigorous and sterling qualities commanded respect everywhere.

As a rule he wore the Indian garb of fur cap, fringed hunting-shirt, moccasins and leggings, all made from the skins of wild animals he had taken. This dress best suited the wilderness life.

Of course, this life in a new country would not be without its exciting adventures. One day, some months after Boone’s family had come to Boonesborough, Boone’s daughter, with two girl friends, was on the river floating in a boat near the bank. Suddenly five Indians darted out of the woods, seized the three girls, and hurried away with them. In their flight the Indians observed the eldest of the girls breaking twigs and dropping them in their trail. They threatened to tomahawk her unless she stopped it. But, watching her chance, from time to time she tore off strips of her dress and dropped them as a clew for those she knew would come to rescue them.

When the capture became known, Boone, accompanied by the three lovers of the captured maidens and four other 103men from the fort, started upon the trail and kept up the pursuit until, early on the second morning, they discovered the Indians sitting around a fire cooking breakfast. Suddenly the white men fired a volley, killing two of the Indians and frightening the others so badly that they beat a hasty retreat without harming the girls.

Another exciting experience, which nearly caused the settlement to lose its leader, came about through the settlers’ need of salt. We can get salt so easily that it is hard to imagine the difficulty which those settlers, living far back from the ocean, had in obtaining this necessary part of their food. They had to go to “salt-licks,” as they called the grounds about the salt-water springs. The men would get the salt water from the springs and boil it until all the water evaporated and left the salt behind.

Boone with twenty-nine other men had gone, early in 1778, to the Blue Licks to make salt for the settlement. They were so successful that in a few weeks they were able to send back a load so large that it took three men to carry it. Hardly had they started, however, when the men remaining, including Boone, were surprised by eighty or ninety Indians, captured, and carried off to the English at Detroit.

For we must not forget that all this time, while we have been following Boone’s fortunes west of the Alleghanies, on the east side of those mountains the Revolution was being fought, and the Indians west of the Alleghanies were fighting on the English side. They received a sum of 104money for handing over to the English at Detroit any Americans they might capture, and that is why the Indians took Boone and his companions to that place.

But, strangely enough, the Indians decided not to give Boone up, although the English, realizing that he was a prize, offered five hundred dollars for him. The Indians admired him because he was a mighty hunter, and they liked him because he was cheerful. So they adopted him into the tribe and took him to their home.

Boone remained with them two months, making the best of the life he had to lead. But when he overheard the Indians planning to make an attack upon Boonesborough, he made up his mind to escape if possible and give his friends warning.

His own words tell the brave story in a simple way: “On the 16th of June, before sunrise, I departed in the most secret manner, and arrived in Boonesborough on the 20th, after a journey of one hundred and sixty miles, during which I had but one meal.” He could not get any food, for he dared not use his gun nor build a fire for fear his foes might find out where he was. He reached the fort in safety, and was of great service in beating off the attacking party. This is only one of the many narrow escapes of this fearless backwoodsman.

Another incident illustrates his quick wit. One day, while he was in a shed looking after some tobacco, four Indians with loaded guns appeared at the door. They 105said: “Now, Boone, we got you. You no get away any more. You no cheat us any more.” While they were speaking Boone had gathered up in his arms a number of dry tobacco leaves. Rubbing them to dust, he suddenly flung it into the faces of the Indians, filling their eyes and nostrils. Then, while they were coughing, sneezing, and rubbing their eyes, he escaped.

A drawing of a man in frontier garb throwing tobacco at two recoiling Indians.

Boone Throwing Tobacco into the Eyes of the Indians Who Had Come to Capture Him.

These are but a few of Boone’s dangerous adventures. From them all he came out safe and for years continued to be the able leader of the settlers at Boonesborough.

There he remained until after Kentucky was admitted as a State into the Union (1791). Four years later he moved still farther west, led on by love for the wild, lonely life of the forest, a life which never lost its charm for him, even down to his last days.

106He died in 1820, eighty-five years old, his long life covering a period of very great change in the growth of our country. By that time we had become a nation with broadly expanded boundaries.

It has been said that but for Daniel Boone the settlement of Kentucky could not have been made for several years. However this may be, we know that he was one of those fearless and daring men whose courage helped to establish that part of our country long known as “the West.”

Some Things to Think About

  1. What kind of boyhood had Daniel Boone?

  2. Imagine yourself to have been in his place during the weeks when he was alone in the Kentucky forests; give an account of what happened.

  3. Tell about his second capture by the Indians and his escape. Why did they admire him?

  4. What did he do for Kentucky? What kind of man was he?




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Another pioneer who lived in Boone’s day was James Robertson. Like Boone, he came from North Carolina, and he led the way for the settling of Tennessee very much as Boone did for Kentucky. The story of those days shows that he was one of the most forceful and successful of the early English pioneers who led out settlements west of the Alleghanies.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

James Robertson.

Born in 1742, Robertson was ten years younger than Washington. But this boy’s early life was very different from young George Washington’s, for little James was born in a backwoods cabin, and his father and mother were too poor to send him to school. So he grew up to manhood without being able to read and write.

But he wanted to study, and was persevering and brave enough to learn the letters of the alphabet and how to spell and to write after he had grown to manhood. We can be sure, therefore, that James was the right sort of boy, and that he would have mastered books if he had been given the chance, just as he mastered the wilderness in later life. But 108it is as a backwoodsman that we first come to know Robertson and learn why he was trusted and followed so willingly.

Although not tall, he was vigorous and robust, having fair complexion, dark hair, and honest blue eyes that met one’s glance squarely. His frank, serious face, his quiet manner, and his coolness and daring in the midst of danger gave him a mastery over others such as it is given but few men to have.

Like Boone, he was noted as a successful hunter; but hunting and exploring were not with him the chief motives for going into the wilderness. He was first of all a pioneer settler who was seeking rich farming lands with near-by springs, where he could make a good home for his family and give his children advantages which he himself had never enjoyed.

Led by this motive, he left his home in North Carolina to seek his fortune among the forest-clad mountains, whose summits he could see far-away to the west. With no companion but his horse and no protection but his rifle, he slowly and patiently made his way through the trackless woods, crossing mountain range after mountain range, until he came to the region where the rivers flowing westward had their beginning.

Much to his surprise, he found here on the Watauga River some settlers from Virginia, who gave him a kindly welcome. He stayed long enough to plant a crop of corn and see it grow up and ripen.

109Then, late in the autumn, having decided that this was a good place for his family, he started back home. His faithful horse was his only companion. Some corn in his leather wallet was all the food he carried. He trusted his rifle for the rest.

A map of the area bounded by the Appalacian Mountains, the Mississippi River, and the Wabash River.

Early Settlements in Kentucky and Tennessee.

All went well for a time, but in the depth of the pathless forest he missed his way, and the mountains became so steep and rough that his horse could not get across. Imagine his sorrow when, to save his own life, he had to part from his dumb friend and start on alone.

Other misfortunes befell him. The little store of corn that he had brought with him gave out, and his powder became so wet that it was useless for shooting game. So almost his only food for fourteen days was such nuts and berries as he could gather in his desperate search.

He was near death by starvation when he chanced to 110meet two hunters. They gave him food and asked him to join them. Then, allowing him to take turns in riding their horses, they helped him to reach home in safety.

You might think that this bitter experience would have made Robertson unwilling to risk another journey back through the wilderness. But, as we have said, he was not easily thwarted, and the thought of what lay beyond the mountains made him hold the cost light.

He gave such glowing accounts of the wonderful country he had seen that by spring sixteen families were ready to go with him to make their home there.


Let us in imagination join this group of travellers as it starts out to cross the mountains. Each family has its pack-horse—perhaps a few families have two—carrying household goods. These are not so bulky as ours to-day, for pioneer life is simple, and the people have at most only what they need. There are, of course, some rolls of bedding and clothing, a few cooking utensils, a few packages of salt and seed corn, and a flask or two of medicine. The pack-horse carries also the mother and perhaps a very small child or two. The boys who are old enough to shoulder rifles march in front with their father, ready to shoot game for food or to stand guard against Indians. Some of the older children drive the cows which the settlers are taking along with them.

111After reaching the place selected for their settlement, the younger children are set to clearing away the brush and piling it up in heaps ready for burning. The father and the elder sons, who are big enough to wield an axe, lose no time in cutting down trees and making a clearing for the log cabin. All work with a will, and soon the cabin is ready.

A drawing of a log cabin interior. A woman spins while a dog lies on the floor. It is a very crowded room.

Living-Room of the Early Settler.

The furniture, like the cabin itself, is rude and simple. A bedstead is set up in a corner, a washstand is placed near by, and a few three-legged stools are put here and there; and of course there is a table to eat at. Places are quickly found for the water bucket, used to bring water from the stream, the gourd dipper with which to fill it, and 112other small utensils; while pegs driven into the wall in convenient places hold clothes, rifles, skins, and the like.

A man operates a barrel-sized mill by holding a long stick. The corn is coming out of the side of the barrel.

Grinding Indian Corn.

If our pioneers are well-to-do, there may be tucked away in some pack a wool blanket, but usually the chief covering on the bed is the dried skin of some animal: deer, bear, or perhaps buffalo.

There is plenty of food, though of course it is plain and simple, consisting mostly of game. Instead of the pork and beef which are largely eaten in the east, we shall find these settlers making their meal of bear’s meat or venison.

For flour corn-meal is used. Each family has a mill for grinding the kernels into meal, while for beating it into hominy they use a crude mortar, made perhaps by burning a hole in the top of a block of wood.

Bread-making is a simpler matter with them than with us, for a dough of corn-meal is mixed on a wooden trencher and then either baked in the ashes and called ash-cake or 113before the fire on a board and called johnny-cake. Corn-meal is also made into mush, or hasty pudding; and when the settler has cows, mush-and-milk is a common dish, especially for supper.

For butter the settlers use the fat of bear’s meat or the gravy of the goose. Instead of coffee, they make a drink of parched rye and beans, and for tea they boil sassafras root.

Every backwoodsman must be able to use the rifle to good effect, for he has to provide his own meat and protect himself and his family from attack. He must be skilful also in hiding, in moving noiselessly through the forests, and in imitating the notes and calls of different beasts and birds. Sharp eyes and ears must tell him where to look for his game, and his aim must be swift and sure.

But most important of all, he must be able to endure hardship and exposure. Sometimes he lives for months in the woods with no food but meat and no shelter but a lean-to of brush or even the trunk of a hollow tree into which he may crawl.

Deer and bear are the most plentiful game; but now and then there is an exciting combat with wolves, panthers, or cougars, while prowling Indians keep him ever on his guard. The pioneer must be strong, alert, and brave.

Each family depends upon itself for most of the necessaries of life. Each member has his own work. The father is the protector and provider; the mother is the housekeeper, 114the cook, the weaver, and the tailor. Father and sons work out-of-doors with axe, hoe, and sickle; while indoors the hum of the spinning-wheel or the clatter of the loom shows that mother and daughters are busily doing their part.

There are some articles, however, like salt and iron, which the settlers cannot always get in the backwoods. These they must obtain by barter. So each family collects all the furs it can, and once a year, after the harvest is gathered, loads them on pack-horses, which are driven across the mountains to some large trading town on the seacoast. There the skins are traded for the needed iron or salt.

Often many neighbors plan to go together on such a journey. Sometimes they drive before them their steers and hogs to find a market in the east.

A bushel of salt costs in these early days a good cow and calf. Now, that is a great deal to pay; and furthermore, as each small and poorly fed pack-animal can carry but two bushels, salt is a highly prized article. Since it is so expensive and hard to get, it has to be used sparingly by the mountaineers. Therefore the housewife, instead of salting or pickling her meat, preserves or “jerks” it by drying it in the sun or smoking it over the fire.

The Tennessee settler, like Boone’s followers in Kentucky, dresses very much like the Indians, for that is the easiest and most fitting way in which to clothe himself 115for the forest life he leads. And very fine do many stalwart figures appear in the fur cap and moccasins, the loose trousers, or simply leggings of buckskin, and the fringed hunting-shirt reaching nearly to the knees. It is held in by a broad belt having a tomahawk in one side and a knife in the other.

A drawing of the exterior of a log cabin.

A Kentucky Pioneer’s Cabin.

While this free outdoor life develops strong and vigorous bodies, there is not much schooling in these backwoods settlements. Most boys and girls learn very little except reading and writing and very simple ciphering, or arithmetic. If there are any schoolhouses at all, they are log huts, dimly lighted and furnished very scantily and rudely.

The schoolmaster, as a rule, does not know much of books, and is quite untrained as a teacher. His discipline, though severe, is very poor. And he is paid in a way that may seem strange to you. He receives very little in cash, and for the rest of his wages he “boards around” with the families of the children he teaches, making his stay longer or shorter according to the number of children in school.

In many ways, as you see, the life of the pioneer child, while it was active and full of interest, was very different 116from yours. He learned, like his elders, to imitate bird calls, to set traps, to shoot a rifle, and at twelve the little lad became a foot soldier. He knew from just which loophole he was to shoot if the Indians attacked the fort, and he took pride in becoming a good marksman. He was carefully trained, too, to follow an Indian trail and to conceal his own when on the war-path—for such knowledge would be very useful to him as a hunter and fighter in the forests.


Such was the life of these early woodsmen and their families, and to this life Robertson and those who went out with him soon became accustomed. On their arrival at the Watauga River the newcomers mingled readily with the Virginians already on the ground.

Robertson soon became one of the leading men. His cabin of logs stood on an island in the river, and is said to have been the largest in the settlement. It had a log veranda in front, several rooms, a loft, and best of all, a huge fireplace made of sticks and stones laid in clay, in which a pile of blazing logs roared on cold days, making it a centre of good cheer as well as of heat. To us it would have been a most inviting spot for a summer holiday.

Robertson was very prosperous and successful at Watauga; but in 1799, after ten years of leadership at this settlement, a restless craving for change and adventure 117stole over him, and he went forth once more into the wilderness to seek a new home still deeper in the forest.

The place he chose was the beautiful country lying along the great bend of the Cumberland River, where Nashville now stands. Many bold settlers were ready and even eager to join Robertson in the new venture, for he was a born leader.

A small party went ahead early in the spring to plant corn, so that the settlers might have food when they arrived in the autumn. Robertson and eight other men, who made up the party, left the Watauga by the Wilderness Road through Cumberland Gap, crossing the Cumberland River. Then, following the trail of wild animals in a southwesterly direction, they came to a suitable place.

Here they put up cabins and planted corn, and then, leaving three men to keep the buffaloes from eating the corn when it came up, the other six returned to Watauga.

In the autumn two parties started out for the new settlement. One of these, made up mostly of women and children, went by water in flatboats, dugouts, and canoes, a route supposed to be easier though much the longer of the two. Whether it was easier, we shall see. The other party, including Robertson himself, went by land, hoping thus to reach the place of settlement in time to make ready for those coming by water.

Robertson and his men arrived about Christmas. Then began a tedious four months of waiting for the others. It 118was springtime again, April 24, when they at last arrived. Their roundabout route had taken them down the Tennessee River, then up the Ohio, and lastly up the Cumberland. The Indians in ambush on the river banks had attacked them many times during their long and toilsome journey, and the boats were so slow and clumsy that it was impossible for them to escape the flights of arrows.

But when they arrived, past troubles were soon forgotten, and with good heart, now that all were together, the settlers took up the work of making homes.

However, difficulties with the Indians were not over. The first company of settlers that arrived had been left quite unmolested. But now, as spring opened, bands of Indian hunters and warriors began to make life wretched for them all. There is no doubt that the red men did not like to have the settlers kill the game, or scare it off by clearing up the land; but the principal motive for the attacks was the desire for scalps and plunder, just as it was in assailing other Indian tribes.

The Indians became a constant terror. They killed the settlers while working in the clearings, hunting game, or getting salt at the licks. They loved to lure on the unwary by imitating the gobbling of a turkey or the call of some wild beast, and then pounce upon their human prey.

As the corn crop, so carefully planned, had been destroyed by heavy freshets in the autumn, the settlers had 119to scour the woods for food, living on nuts and game. By the time winter had set in, they had used up so much of their powder and bullets that Robertson resolved to go to Kentucky for more.


He went safely, though quite alone, and returned on the evening of January 15 (1780) with a good supply of ammunition. You may be sure he had a hearty welcome in the fort, where all were gathered. There was much to talk about, and they sat up till late into the night. All went to bed, tired and sleepy, without any fear. For at that season of the year the red men seldom molested them; and no sentinels were left on guard.

Soon all were in deep slumber except Robertson, whose sense of lurking danger would not let him sleep. He kept feeling that enemies might be near. And he was right. For just outside the fort, prowling in the thick underbrush and hidden by the great trees, there lay in ambush a band of painted warriors, hungry for plunder, eager for scalps.

They creep forward to their attack. They are very cautious, for a bright moon lights up the blockhouses and the palisaded fort.

Suddenly a moving shadow falls upon the moonlit clearing outside the fort. An Indian is stealthily crossing from the dark woods to the wall. There he crouches close, to be out of sight of the inmates of the fort. Another crouching 120figure, and another. One by one every feathered warrior crosses and keeps close to the palisade.

The next move is to slide cautiously the strong bar and undo the chain which fastens the gate. It is done skilfully enough, but the chain clanks or the hinges creak. The wakeful Robertson springs quickly to his feet. His keen eyes catch sight of the swift, dark figures, moving stealthily into the fort.

“Indians!” he shouts, and off goes his rifle. Instantly every settler has snatched the gun lying at his side. In a second the shots ring out; and the Indians flee through the gate to disappear into the leafy woods. But they have lost one man, whom Robertson has shot, and have killed or wounded three or four of the settlers. Robertson, by keen watchfulness, has saved the fort from capture and his comrades from probable torture or death.

This was only one of many occasions in which Robertson’s leadership saved the day. After the Revolution ended (1783) the Indians were not so unfriendly, for the English were no longer paying them for scalps. People, therefore, became less timid about crossing the mountains, and a large number migrated from Virginia and North Carolina to the Tennessee settlement and made their homes at Nashville. As numbers grew larger, dangers became less.

By this time Robertson had become well known through the successful planting of his two settlements, and for the wisdom and bravery with which he managed them. As a 121reward for his valuable services, Washington later on (1790) made him a general in the army. In 1814 he died.

He is the kind of man we like to think of as a pioneer in the making of our history. Sturdy and self-reliant, strong and fearless, he cheerfully faced the unending struggle with the hard conditions of those early days. Though his life was narrow, it cut deep in its loyalty to friends and country.

Some Things to Think About

  1. What can you tell of Robertson’s boyhood?

  2. Imagine yourself as one of a group of travellers on the way to Kentucky or Tennessee, and tell all you can about the journey.

  3. Tell all you can about the food, clothing, shelter, and other conditions of life in these backwoods settlements.

  4. What sort of training did the pioneer boy receive in school and at home?

  5. Why did Robertson plant a settlement at the place where Nashville now stands?

  6. How did he save this settlement from the Indians? What do you admire about him?

  7. Are you making frequent use of the map?




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Another daring leader who did much to build up the settlements in Tennessee was John Sevier.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

John Sevier.

Born in 1745, Sevier was but three years younger than Robertson, and was closely associated with him in later life. Sevier’s birthplace was in the western part of Virginia, but while he was still a young boy, the family was driven from their home by the Indians and went to Fredericksburg, Virginia. There he went to the same school which George Washington had attended not many years before.

John’s mother had taught him to read, and at school he learned some useful things; still he was not fond of books, and learned most from people and what was going on about him.

He left school when he was sixteen and married before he was seventeen. About six miles from his father’s house he put up a building which was dwelling, storehouse, and fort all in one. Here on the frontier he carried on a thriving 123trade with settlers and Indians, and was so successful that by the time he was twenty-six he was looked upon as a rich man.

He was attractive in appearance, being tall, slender, and erect, with frank blue eyes, fair skin, and brown hair. He was a man of commanding presence, and his athletic figure seemed well suited to the fringed hunting-suit which every pioneer wore.

His merry disposition and great charm of manner easily won many friends; and these he kept by his natural kindness and courtesy. He was never happier than when entertaining generously those who came to his home. Yet these gentle and lovable qualities did not prevent him from being a brave and skilful warrior, who could carry terror to the hearts of his foes.

It was while he was engaged in his trading business that Sevier heard of Robertson’s settlement in the west, and became interested in it as a possible home for himself and his family. In 1772 he decided to ride through the forests to the Watauga settlement and find out what kind of place it was.

Alone over the mountains and through the woods he made the journey. At the journey’s end, when he met Robertson, they became friends at once, for in spirit and aims they were much alike. Both were brave and fearless, and both were seeking better homes for their families.

Sevier decided to join the settlement on the Watauga, 124and went back to bring his wife and two children. Returning with them, he entered heartily into the common life of the frontier, with its many hardships and pleasures, and soon became a prominent man in the little colony.

For a time after their arrival the settlement was not much troubled by the Indians. The Cherokees had given their consent to have the land taken up, and all went well for a period.

But, as we have already seen in the case of Boone, the breaking out of the Revolution, and the action of the British in arming the Indians with guns and rewarding them for bringing in captives, disturbed this peace and stirred up the tribes against the backwoodsmen.

The Cherokees then broke their agreement with the settlers and in large numbers made bold and murderous attacks upon the many back-country settlements in southwestern Virginia, the eastern Carolinas, northwestern Georgia, and what is now eastern Tennessee.

As Watauga was the nearest settlement to the Cherokee towns and villages, it was likely to suffer most from the attack. Robertson commanded the fort, with Sevier as his lieutenant. Only forty or fifty men were in the fort when it was attacked, although it was crowded with women and children. But these few men were resolute, well armed, and on their guard.

It was in the gray light of the early morning that the Indians stole up for the attack. But a friendly squaw had 125given warning of danger, and the settlers were ready. The loopholes opened upon the Indians and they were at once beaten back with loss. This was the beginning of a long, dreary siege. As the stockade was too strong to be taken by an assault, the Indians tried to starve the colonists out. For about three weeks they lurked about so that the people within the fort dared not go outside for food, and had to live mostly on parched corn.

It was a weary time. As you may imagine, all became very tired of that diet and very impatient at being kept shut up within the palisades for so long, and from time to time some one would venture out, heedless of warning and of danger. In running this risk, three or four men were shot by the Indians, and one boy was carried off to an Indian village and burned at the stake. A woman also was captured.

You will be interested in the thrilling experience of another woman. Her name was Kate Sherrill. She was tall and beautiful, graceful and gentle in manner, and, as we shall see, not lacking courage.

One day, taking a pitcher to get water from the river, she had ventured some distance from the fort, when Indians dashed out of the forest and sprang toward her. Seeing her danger, she darted swiftly back, with her bloodthirsty foes close at her heels.

It was a race for life, and she knew it. There was not time to reach the gate; so she ran the shortest way to the 126fort, caught hold of the top of the pickets, and, by an almost superhuman effort sprung over to the other side. She did not fall to the ground as she expected, but into the arms of John Sevier, for he was standing at a loophole close by, and caught her. He had witnessed her danger and helped her to escape by shooting the Indian closest in the chase. A romance is connected with this, for we are told that John Sevier, who was then a young widower of thirty-one, married Kate Sherrill during the siege.

Although the Indian braves were eager for the scalps of the Watauga settlers, they failed to capture the fort and finally went away, just as they did from the neighboring settlements. For a while, but only for a while, the pioneers were left free from Indian ravages.


In spite of the danger, however, daring men kept coming to join the pioneers at the Watauga settlements. Sevier continued to be a leading man in that backwoods region, and when, some years later, Robertson, as you remember, left Watauga to go to the Cumberland valley, Sevier became the most prominent man in the colony.

He was so prosperous that he could surround himself with much comfort. He built a rambling, one-story house on the Nolichucky Creek, a branch of the French Broad River. It was the largest in the settlement and was noted for the lavish entertainments given there, for Sevier was 127the same generous host as of old. His house consisted of two groups of rooms connected by a covered porch. Sevier with his family lived in one of the groups, and housed his guests in the other. There were large verandas and huge fireplaces, in which, during cold weather, cheerful wood-fires blazed.

A drawing of an outdoor gathering of people; a big roasts on a spit over a fire.

A Barbecue of 1780.

Here to all, rich and poor alike, and especially to the men who had followed him in the many battles against the Indians, Sevier gave a hearty welcome. Rarely was his hospitable home without guests, and the table was heaped with such plain and wholesome food as woods and fields afforded.

It was Sevier’s delight at weddings or special merrymakings to feast all the backwoods people of the neighborhood at a barbecue, where an ox was roasted whole over the 128fire, and where, in fair weather, board tables were set under the trees. These were loaded with wild fowl, bear’s meat, venison, beef, johnny-cakes, ash-cakes, hominy, and applejack. Should you not like to have been one of the guests?

During one of these merrymaking feasts (1780) news was brought that Major Ferguson, one of the ablest officers in Cornwallis’s army, was threatening to make an attack on the back-country settlements. At once Sevier, along with Isaac Shelby and others, set out to raise an army of frontiersmen to march against Ferguson. Soon a thousand men were riding through the forests to find the British force, of which every man except the commander was an American Tory.

They came upon it in a strong position on King’s Mountain. Without delay the Americans made a furious attack. They fought with great heroism, charging up the steep mountainside with reckless bravery.

They were divided into three bodies, one on the right of the British, one on the left, and another in front. Sevier commanded the division on the left. At just the right moment he led his men in a resistless rush up the mountainside and made victory certain for the Americans. The British raised the white flag of surrender. All of Ferguson’s soldiers who had not been killed or wounded were made prisoners.

By this victory the backwoods hunters greatly weakened the British cause in the south and made easier General 129Greene’s victory over Cornwallis, of which we have already learned. Thus they took their part in winning the nation’s liberty.

A copy of a painting showing a battle in a forest.

Battle of King’s Mountain.

On returning from King’s Mountain to their homes, these pioneer warriors had to meet the Cherokees again in stubborn warfare. In his usual way Sevier struck a swift, crushing blow by marching to the mountain homes of his savage foes, where he burned a thousand of their cabins and destroyed fifty thousand bushels of their corn.

In spite of this defeat, however, the Indians kept on fighting. So Sevier determined to strike another blow. At the head of one hundred and fifty picked horsemen, he 130rode for one hundred and fifty miles through the mountain wilds and completely surprised the Indians, who did not think it possible for an enemy to reach them. After taking the main town, burning two other towns and three villages, capturing two hundred horses, destroying a large quantity of provisions, and doing other damage, he withdrew and returned home in safety. He had made the Indians afraid, and they were quiet for a time.

These glimpses into the life of John Sevier must help you to understand why he became a hero among all the people of the frontier. They admired him for his brilliant leadership; they were grateful for his protection; and they loved him as a friend. They fondly called him “Nolichucky Jack”; and when, later, the settlements became the State of Tennessee, again and again they elected him governor, and sent him to Congress.

Without doubt few men of his day were his equal as a fighter against the Indians. It is said that in all his warfare with them he won thirty-five victories and never lost a battle. As we have seen, he moved with great swiftness in attacking his foes. Through his able scouts he learned the strength and weakness of his enemies and, before they realized what was going on, with a wild shout he and his bold followers swept down upon them like a hurricane, striking terror to the hearts of even the bravest.

Sevier was active in public interests even to the last years of his long life. When eighty years old, he was at 131the head of a body of men who were marking the border line between Georgia and the lands of the Indians. The labor proved too great for his bodily strength, and the aged man died (1815), in his tent, with only a few soldiers and Indians around him.

He was buried where he died, and a simple slab, with the two words, “John Sevier,” inscribed upon it, indicates the spot where his body rests.

In the homes of eastern Tennessee stories of his brave deeds are still told to eager, listening children, for his memory is held dear in the hearts of old and young alike. Tennessee owes much to this brave, loyal, and high-minded man, who played a large part in shaping her destiny.

Some Things to Think About

  1. Why did Sevier go with his family to the Watauga settlement?

  2. Imagine yourself in the Watauga Fort when the Cherokees were trying to capture it, and give an account of what happened.

  3. Describe Sevier’s hospitable home, and tell something about the kind of feast he prepared for a wedding there.

  4. What kind of Indian fighter was Sevier?

  5. Tell all you can about his personal appearance. What do you admire about him?




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Among the foremost of those who promoted the westward growth of our country stands George Rogers Clark. He was born near Monticello, Virginia, November 19, 1752. He came of a good family and he received fairly good training in school. But he learned much more from life than from books.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

George Rogers Clark.

When twenty years old he was already a woodsman and surveyor on the Upper Ohio, and did something also at farming. About two years later, with measuring rod and axe, he moved on to Kentucky, where he continued his work as a surveyor.

A deadly struggle was going on here, you remember, with the Indians, who had been roused by the British against the backwoodsmen, and in this struggle Clark became a leader.

Why it was that in hardly more than a year’s time this young man of twenty-four rose to a position of leadership among the settlers, and was chosen one of their lawmakers, 133we shall understand when we come to see more of his sterling qualities.

Nature had given him a pleasing face which men trusted. His forehead was high and broad under a shock of sandy hair, and honest blue eyes peered out from under heavy, shaggy eyebrows. His strong body could endure almost any hardship, and his splendid health was matched by his adventurous spirit. His fearless courage was equal to any danger, and his resolute purpose would not give way in the face of almost insurmountable difficulties.

His great task would have been impossible except as he possessed these qualities, and we know that one does not come by them suddenly. They grow by bravely conquering the fears of every-day life and not giving in to difficulties. It was in this way that the fearless hunters of Kentucky quickly recognized in him a master spirit.

Clark, as you may imagine, was not content to remain in Kentucky merely as a skilful hunter and bold leader of war parties sent out to punish Indian bands. His keen mind had worked out a brilliant plan, which he was eager to carry through. It was nothing less than to conquer for his country the vast stretch of land lying north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi, now included in the present Great Lake States.

In this vast region of forest and prairie the only settlements were the scattered French hamlets, begun in the early days of exploration, when the French occupied the 134land and traded with the Indians for fur. These hamlets had passed into the hands of the English after the Last French War and were made the centres of English power, from which, as we have seen, the English commanders aroused the Indians against the backwoodsmen remote from their home settlements.

These few villages or trading-posts, which were defended by forts, were scattered here and there at convenient places along the river courses, the three strongest forts being at Vincennes, on the Wabash, at Kaskaskia, and at Detroit.

Over all the rest of the wild territory roamed hostile Indian tribes, hunting and fighting against one another as well as against the frontiersmen.

Clark saw that if this region should be conquered the spreading prairies could be opened up for settlement.

As the first step in carrying out his plan, he needed to secure aid from Patrick Henry, the governor of Virginia. Early in October, 1777, he started out on horseback from Harrodsburg, one of the Kentucky settlements, to ride through the forests and over the mountains to Williamsburg, then the capital of the State. So urgent was his haste that he stopped on the way but a single day at his father’s house, the home of his childhood, and then pressed on to Williamsburg. It took a whole month to make this journey of six hundred and twenty miles.

Patrick Henry at once fell in with Clark’s plan. He arranged that the government should furnish six thousand 135dollars. But as it was needful that the utmost secrecy should be preserved, nothing was said about the matter to the Virginia Assembly. Clark was to raise his own company among the frontiersmen. The whole burden of making the necessary preparations rested upon him.


With good heart he shouldered it, and in May, 1778, was ready with one hundred and fifty-three men to start from the Redstone Settlements, on the Monongahela River. He stopped at both Pittsburg and Wheeling for needed supplies. Then his flatboats, manned by tall backwoodsmen in their picturesque dress, rowed or floated cautiously down the Ohio River.

They did not know on how great a journey they had entered, for even to his followers Clark could not tell his plan.

Toward the last of the month, on reaching the falls of the Ohio, near the present site of Louisville, they landed on an island, where Clark built a fort and drilled his men. Some of the families that had come with him, and were on their way to Kentucky, remained there until autumn, planting some corn and naming the island Corn Island.

When about to leave, Clark said to the men: “We are going to the Mississippi.” Some were faint-hearted and wished to turn back. “You may go,” said Clark, for he wanted no discontented men among his number. From 136those remaining he carefully picked out the ones who seemed robust enough to endure the extreme hardships which he knew awaited them.

A map showing the length of the Ohio River from Pittsburg to the Mississippi River.

George Rogers Clark in the Northwest.

As the success of the enterprise depended upon surprising the enemy, it was extremely important that he press forward as secretly and as speedily as possible. Accordingly, the men rowed hard, night and day, until they came to an island off the mouth of the Tennessee River. Here it was their good fortune to meet with a small party of hunters who had been at the French settlements not long before. These men cheerfully joined Clark’s party, agreeing to act as guides to Kaskaskia.

“If you go by the water-route of the Mississippi,” said these hunters, “the French commander at Kaskaskia will get news of your coming, through boatmen and hunters 137along the river, and will be ready to defend the fort against you. The fort is strong and the garrison well trained, and if the commander knows of your approach he will put up a good fight.”

A copy of a painting showing a man with a long rifle standing on a bluff over a river.

Clark on the Way to Kaskaskia.

So it was decided to go by land. At one time the guide lost his way, and Clark was angry, for he feared treachery. But after two hours they found the right course again.

On the evening of July 4 the Kaskaskia was reached. The fort was only three miles away, but it was across the stream. Remaining in the woods until dusk, they rested; then, as night fell, they pushed on to a little farmhouse only a mile from the fort. Here Clark obtained boats and silently, in the darkness, conveyed his men across the stream.

138After two hours all was ready for the attack. Clark divided the men into two bodies: one to surround the town and prevent the escape of the fugitives, and the other, led by himself, to advance to the walls of the fort.

A man in frontier clothing looks on at a group of dancers.

Clark’s Surprise at Kaskaskia.

A postern gate on the side facing the river had been pointed out by a captive, and Clark stationed his men so as to guard it. Then he went inside along to the entrance of the large hall where public gatherings were held.

It was brilliantly lighted, and floating through the windows came the music of violins. The officers of the fort were giving a dance, and young creole men and maidens 139were spending a merry evening. Even the sentinels had left their posts in order to enjoy the festal occasion.

Alone, Clark passed through the doorway and stood with folded arms, in grim silence, coolly watching the mirthful dancers. Lying upon the floor just inside the door was an Indian brave. As he raised his eyes to the face of the strange backwoodsman standing out clearly in the light of the torches, he sprang to his feet with a piercing war-whoop. The music broke off suddenly; a hush fell. Then the women screamed, and there was a wild rush for the door.

Without stirring from the place where he stood, Clark quietly said: “Go on with your dance; but remember that you now dance under Virginia, and not under Great Britain.” Scarcely had he uttered these words when his men, seeing the confusion, rushed into the forts and seized the officers, among whom was the French commander.

Then Clark sent runners throughout the town to order the people to remain within their houses. The simple-hearted Frenchmen were in a panic of fear.

The next morning some of their chief men, appearing before Clark, begged for their lives. “We will gladly become slaves,” they cried, “if by so doing we may save our families.” “We do not wish to enslave you,” Clark answered, “and if you will solemnly promise to become loyal American citizens you shall be welcome to all the privileges of Americans.”

140On hearing these words the French people were so carried away with joy that they danced and sang and scattered flowers along the street. By his kind way of dealing with them, Clark made the people of the town his friends instead of his enemies.

A little later the people of Vincennes also solemnly promised to be loyal citizens, and, taking down the English flag, they raised the American stars and stripes over their fort.


You will enjoy a glimpse of the life in these old French villages, for it is quite different from that of the settlements we have visited. There are many little hamlets, like Kaskaskia and Vincennes, on the western frontier. They have been in existence for years, but have not increased much in strength or size.

The French people living there have never mingled with the American backwoodsmen. They have kept by themselves, remaining for the most part half-homesick emigrants. Many of them are engaged in the fur trade; some are adventure-loving wood rovers and hunters, but the most of them are farmers on a small scale.

Their little villages, composed of hovels or small log cottages, are guarded by rough earthworks. A few roomy buildings serve as storehouses and strongholds in times of danger. There are also little wine-shops, as in 141the old country, which the French love, and in which they are always entertained by the music of violins.

There is much gay color on the streets of these hamlets, for the Frenchmen are dressed in bright-colored suits, made of Indian blankets. And lounging about in cheap paint or soiled finery are lazy Indians, begging at times and at times idly watching the boats rowing up and down the river.

We see, too, now and then, the familiar red-and-buff uniforms of the British army officers, which are regarded with awe whenever they appear. For you must remember that after 1763 all the French hamlets were in British hands, and the English officers were the great men of this country north of the Ohio.


Although the life was gayer and easier in these French villages than in the frontier settlements, and although the taking of Kaskaskia and Vincennes had been easy, Clark still had a hard task before him. His small force was made up of men who were in the habit of doing as they pleased, and over them he had no control except through their personal liking for him.

Furthermore, he was so many hundred miles from Virginia that he could not hope to get any advice or help from the government for months, or perhaps for an entire year. He must rely entirely upon himself. And we shall see that he was equal to the situation.

142Outside the villages, roaming over the great region he was hoping to conquer, were thousands of Indians. They were hostile, bloodthirsty, and ready to slaughter without pity. When they heard what Clark and his backwoodsmen had done, they crowded to Kaskaskia to see for themselves. Lurking back of their gloomy faces were wicked thoughts. Clark was in great danger from these Indians.

But he proved himself their master also. Though carefully on his guard in any dealings he might have with them, he always appeared to them quite unafraid and confident that he could take care of himself. His boldness and firmness, even when surrounded by red warriors greatly outnumbering his own small force, had a profound effect upon them.

A drawing of a beaded belt, showing two figures holding hands.

Wampum Peace Belt.

Once he told them that he could appeal to the Thirteen Council-Fires—meaning, of course, the thirteen States—and that they could send him men enough to darken the land. The Indians began to fear him and to look upon him as a mighty warrior, and when he held up to them the red wampum belt of war and the white of peace for them to choose which they would have, they chose peace and left the settlement.

But there was still another very serious difficulty which Clark had to face. It caused even greater anxiety than the 143danger from the Indians, for it was within his own company. You remember that when his men started out they did not know that they were to go so far away from home. Now, when their time of service was up, they threatened to leave him and return to their homes. By means of presents and promises Clark persuaded about a hundred to stay eight months longer. The others left for home.

A weaker man might have been quite helpless if left with so small a force. Not so Clark. He had wonderful power over people, and soon the creoles of the French villages had become so loyal that their young men took the places of the woodsmen who went away. Clark thoroughly drilled them all until they were finely trained for any service he might ask.

It was well he did so. For Colonel Hamilton, the British commander at Detroit, who had charge of the British forces throughout the vast region which Clark was trying to conquer, was a man of great energy. Soon after getting news of what Clark had done at Kaskaskia and Vincennes, he began preparing for an expedition against the latter place.

Early in October (1779) he set out from Detroit with one hundred and seventy-seven soldiers and sixty Indians. By the time he had reached Vincennes so many other Indians had joined him that his entire force numbered about five hundred. The fort at Vincennes, as you remember, contained only a handful of men, and it easily fell into Hamilton’s hands (December 17, 1779).

144If Hamilton had at once marched on to Kaskaskia, he might have captured Clark or driven him out of the northwest. But that same tendency to “put off,” which had already cost the British many a victory, here again saved the day for the Americans. Because the weather was so cold, the route so long, and the other difficulties in his way so great, Hamilton resolved to wait until spring before going farther.

And not expecting to need his soldiers before spring, he sent back to Detroit the greater part of his force. He kept with him about eighty of the white soldiers and about the same number of Indian allies.

About six weeks later Clark learned from an Indian trader how small the garrison was at Vincennes. You may be sure that he did not wait for seasons to change. Quick to realize that this was his chance, he gathered a force of one hundred and seventy men—nearly half of them creoles—and in seven days he was on his way to Vincennes.


The route, two hundred and forty miles in length, led eastward across what is now Illinois. As often happens at this season, the weather had grown so mild that the ice and snow had thawed, causing the rivers to overflow, and the meadows and lowlands which lay along a large part of the route were under water from three to five foot deep.

When we remember that there were no houses for shelter, 145no roads, and no bridges across the swollen streams, we can imagine something of the hardships of this midwinter journey. Only very strong men could endure such exposure.

Knowing that cheerfulness would help greatly in keeping his men well and willing, Clark encouraged feasting and merrymaking as all were gathered at night around the blazing logs. There the game killed during the day was cooked and eaten, and while some sang and danced, according to creole custom, others sat before the huge fires and told exciting stories about hunting and Indian warfare. Then, warmed and fed, all lay down by the fire for the night’s rest.

As long as this lasted the journey was by no means hard; but by the end of a week conditions had changed, for they had reached the drowned lands of the Wabash.

Coming first to the two branches of the Little Wabash, they found the floods so high that the land between the two streams was entirely under water, and they were facing a mighty river five miles wide and at no point less than three feet deep, while, of course, in the river beds it was much deeper.

But Clark was resourceful. He at once had his men build a pirogue, or dugout canoe. In this he rowed across the first branch of the river, and on the edge of the water-covered plain put up a scaffold. Then the men and the baggage were ferried across in the pirogue, and the baggage 146was placed on the scaffold. Last of all, the pack-horses swam the channel, and standing by the scaffold in water above their knees, received again their load of baggage.

A copy of a painting showing men wading up to their waists in a river in a forest.

Clark’s Advance on Vincennes.

All then proceeded to the second channel, which was crossed in the same way. It took three days to build the pirogue and cross the two branches of the river.

During this time hunger was added to the other sufferings of the men, for the flood had driven all the wild animals away, so that there was no longer any game to shoot. Advance was slow and extremely tiresome, for the men had to march from morning till night up to their waists in mud and water. They were nearing the Great Wabash River.

147On February 20 the men were quite exhausted. There had been nothing to eat for nearly two days. Many of the creoles were so downcast that they began to talk of going home. Clark, putting on a brave face, laughed and said: “Go out and kill a deer.”

But meanwhile his men, acting under orders, had built three canoes, and on the morning of the 22d the entire force was ferried across the Wabash.

Once on the side of the river where Vincennes stood, they began to feel more cheerful, for by night they expected to be at the fort.

It was well that they did not know what awaited them, for they had yet a bitter experience to pass through. Almost all the way was under water, and as they went slowly on they often stepped into hollows where the water came up to their chins. But, guided by their bold leader, they pressed forward until they reached a hillock, where they spent the night.

During the long hours of this trying day Clark had kept up the spirits of his men in every way he could. In telling about it later, he said: “I received much help from a little antic drummer, a boy with such a fun-loving spirit that he made the men laugh, in spite of their weariness, at his pranks and jokes.”

On starting out again the next morning some were so weak and famished that they had to be taken in the canoes. Those who were strong enough to wade came to water too 148deep to walk through, and, painfully struggling, began to huddle together as if all hope had fled.

Then Clark had to do something to rouse them. Suddenly he blackened his face with gunpowder and, sounding the war-whoop like an Indian brave, fearlessly sprang forward. His men plunged in after him without a word.

By dusk they were still six miles from Vincennes. Their clothing was drenched, their muscles ached with weariness, and they were well-nigh exhausted from lack of food. To make matters worse, the weather that day was bitterly cold. Yet the worst experience of the whole trying march was to come.

For before them stretched a shallow lake, four miles in extent. With something like a score of the strongest men just behind him, Clark plunged into the ice-cold water, breast-deep. When they had gone about half-way across some of them were so cold and weak that they could not take another step. So the canoes were kept busy rescuing them and getting them to land.

Those who, though weak, were still able to keep their feet, clung to the strong and plodded forward. When they had finally reached the woods bordering the farther side of the lake, they had not strength enough to pull themselves out, but clung desperately to the bushes and logs on the shore until the canoes could pick them up.

On reaching land some were so exhausted that they fell upon the ground with their faces half buried in the water. 149But the stronger ones built fires and fed them broth made from some venison they had taken from squaws in an Indian canoe which happened along. With food and warmth courage returned.

In the afternoon they set out again. After crossing a narrow lake in the canoes and marching a short distance, they reached a tree-covered spot from which they could see the town and the fort. There they made a stop and, hidden by the trees, made ready for the attack.

There was some fighting that night, and it was continued the next day. Then Clark demanded the surrender of the fort. Hamilton at first refused, but, as he had only a small number of men, he had to give up both fort and garrison. He himself was sent a prisoner to Virginia.

Clark’s capture of Vincennes was the finishing stroke of his conquest. He had succeeded in one of the boldest enterprises ever undertaken in America. All the vast region he had set out to conquer remained under American control until the end of the Revolution, when, by treaty, it formally became a part of our country.

In carrying out his plans Clark had not only risked his health and life, but he had used up all his property. In spite of the great service he had done his country, his last years were spent in poverty. For a while he lived alone in a rude dwelling on Corn Island, but later his sister took him to her home near Louisville. Here, in 1818, came to an end the life of this heroic soldier and loyal American.


Some Things to Think About

  1. What was Clark’s brilliant plan?

  2. Imagine yourself with him on the evening when he captured the fort at Kaskaskia, and tell as fully as you can what happened. Tell something of his hard task in the days that followed.

  3. Can you explain how it was that he had such a powerful influence over men?

  4. In imagination go with Clark on his wonderful march from Kaskaskia to Vincennes and give an account of your trials and sufferings.

  5. How do you account for Clark’s remarkable success? What do you admire about him?

  6. Are you making frequent use of the map?




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At the end of the Revolution Washington, as we have already noted, returned to his beautiful home, Mount Vernon, overlooking the Potomac. Here he again took up the many-sided duties which his large plantation made necessary for him. His busy day began when he arose at four o’clock in the morning and ended when he went to bed at nine o’clock in the evening. But his life was not so quiet as we might think. For he had so many visitors that at the end of two years he wrote in his diary one day: “Dined with only Mrs. Washington, which I believe is the first instance of it since my retirement from public life.”

The familiar head-and-shoulders portrait.

George Washington.

When the States, after securing their independence, united under the Constitution to form the nation called the United States of America, they needed a President. It was but natural that again all eyes should turn to George Washington, and he was elected without opposition.

152In his modesty he felt himself unfit to lead the American people in times of peace. In fact, this new service was for him perhaps the hardest that he had ever tried to render his country. Yet, as he believed with all his heart in the new government, he decided to accept the office. He was willing to give up his own comfort for the sake of trying to bring new life and prosperity to his countrymen.

A photograph of a stately mansion.

Washington’s Home, Mount Vernon.

On April 16, 1789, two days after being informed of his election, he said good-by to Mount Vernon and started out as a plain citizen in a private carriage on a seven days’ journey to New York, which was then the capital city of the United States.

He wished to travel as quietly as possible, but the 153people were so eager to show their love for him and their trust in him that they thronged to meet and welcome him at every stage of the journey. When he passed through Philadelphia, under an escort of city troops, he rode a prancing white steed, and a civic crown of laurel rested upon his head.

A drawing of a parade, with women throwing roses before G. Washingon (who is on his horse and carrying a flag).

Tribute Rendered to Washington at Trenton.

But the most touching tribute of all he received at Trenton. On the bridge spanning the little creek which he had crossed more than once when thirteen years before he was battling for his country’s freedom was a floral arch. Under this a party of matrons and young girls 154carrying baskets of flowers took their stand. As Washington passed beneath the arch the girls sang a song of welcome and strewed flowers in the road before him. On the arch was the motto: “The Hero Who Defended the Mothers Will Protect the Daughters.”

When he arrived on the New Jersey side of the North River he was met by a committee of both houses of Congress. They escorted him to a handsomely equipped barge, manned by thirteen pilots, all dressed in white uniforms. Landing on the New York side, he rode through the streets amid throngs of shouting people, with salutes thundering from war-ships and from cannon on the Battery, and bells joyfully ringing from church-steeples, to give him a welcome.

The inauguration took place on April 30. A little after noon Washington left his house, and under a large military escort made his way to Federal Hall, which was the Senate Chamber.

From there he was escorted out to the balcony overlooking a large space in the streets below, which were thronged with people. He took his seat by the side of a crimson-covered table, on which lay a Bible.

As Washington stood up face to face with the chancellor of New York State, who was to give the oath, a deep hush fell on the multitude below. “Do you solemnly swear,” asked Chancellor Livingston, “that you will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, 155and will, to the best of your ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States?”

A drawing of a group of men on a balcony, overlooking a crowd. G. Washington has his hand on a book.

Washington Taking the Oath of Office as First President, at Federal Hall, New York City.

“I do solemnly swear,” said Washington, “that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Then with deep earnestness he bent and kissed the Bible held before him, with the whispered prayer: “So help me God!”

“Long live George Washington, President of the United States!” exclaimed Livingston, and the excited throng took up the cry, shouting with wild enthusiasm. Thus was inaugurated our first President.

Returning to the Senate Chamber, Washington there 156delivered a short address. He was very much agitated, for he had a deep sense of the responsibility which had been put upon him. After he had given his address he attended service in St. Paul’s Church, and then went to his new home in New York City.

His life as President was one of dignity and elegance. It was his custom to pay no calls and accept no invitations, but between three and four o’clock on every Tuesday afternoon he held a public reception. On such occasions he appeared in court dress, with powdered hair, yellow gloves in his hands, a long sword in a scabbard of white polished leather at his side, and a cocked hat under his arm. Standing before the fireplace, with his right hand behind him, he bowed formally as each guest was presented to him.

A drawing of a wooden armchair with upholstered seat.

Washington’s Inaugural Chair.

The visitors formed a circle about the room. At a quarter past three the door was closed, and Washington went around the circle, speaking to each person. Then he returned to his first position by the fireplace, where each visitor approached him, bowed, and retired.

One of his first public duties was the choosing of strong men to form his cabinet and help him in his new tasks as President. Thomas Jefferson was made Secretary of State; Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury; Henry 157Knox, Secretary of War; and Edmund Randolph, Attorney-General. John Jay was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The new government had to settle more than one important question. One of these related to the method of paying the State debts which had been the outcome of the Revolutionary War. The northern States were in favor of having the National Government take care of these debts. Washington himself wished in this way to unite the interests of all the States as well as have them feel that they had a share in the new government. The southern States, however, were bitterly opposed to this plan, but they, in their turn, were eager to have the national capital located on the Potomac River.

Alexander Hamilton, by a clever arrangement, persuaded the opposing interests to adopt a compromise, or an agreement by which each side got a part of what it wished. The northern States were to vote for a southern capital if the southern States would vote that the National Government should look after the State debts.

This plan was carried out; and so it was decided that the capital of the United States should be located in the District of Columbia, on the Potomac River, and should be called Washington, after George Washington.

In 1789, the seat of government was in New York; from 1790 to 1800, it was in Philadelphia; and in 1800 it was transferred to Washington, where it has ever since remained.



One of the most noteworthy events which occurred during Washington’s administration was the invention of the cotton-gin by Eli Whitney. Whitney was born in Massachusetts. While yet a boy he was employed in making nails by hand, for there was no machine for making them in those days. Later, when he entered Yale College, his skilful use of tools helped him to pay his college expenses.

A head-and-shoulders sketch.

Eli Whitney.

After being graduated from Yale he went south, where he became a tutor in the family of General Greene’s widow, then living on the Savannah River, in the home which, you remember, Georgia gave her husband. While he was in Mrs. Greene’s home he invented for her an embroidery-frame which she greatly valued.

One day, while she was entertaining some planters, they began to talk about the raising of cotton. One of her guests said that it did not pay well because so much time was needed to separate the seeds from the fibre. He added that if a way could be found to do this more quickly the profits would be far greater.

“Gentlemen,” said Mrs. Greene, “tell this to my young 159friend, Mr. Whitney. Verily, I believe he can make anything.” As a result of this conversation, in two or three months Eli Whitney had invented the cotton-gin (1793), although in so doing he had to make all his own tools.

The cotton-gin brought about great changes. Before its invention it took a slave a whole day to separate the seed from five or six pounds of cotton fibre. But by the use of the cotton-gin he could separate the seed from a thousand pounds in a single day.

A drawing of a mechanical device.

Whitney’s Cotton-Gin.

This, of course, meant that cotton could be sold for very much less than before, and hence there arose a much greater demand for it. It meant, also, that the labor of slaves was of more value than before, and hence there was a greater demand for slaves.

As slavery now became such an important feature of southern life, let us pause for a glimpse of a southern plantation where slaves are at work. If we are to see such life in its pleasantest aspects, we may well go back to Virginia in the old days before the Civil War. There the slaves led a freer and easier life than they did farther south among the rice-fields of South Carolina or the cotton-fields of Georgia.

160If we could visit one of these old Virginia plantations as it used to be, where wheat and tobacco were grown, we should see first a family mansion, often situated on a hilltop amid a grove of oaks. The mansion is a two-story house, perhaps made of wood, and painted white. With its vine-clad porch in front, and its wide hallway inside, it has a very comfortable look.

Not far away is a group of small log cabins. This cluster of simple dwellings, known as “the quarters,” is the home of the slaves, who do the work in the house and fields.

On the large plantations of the far south, there were sometimes several slave settlements on one plantation, each being a little village, with the cabins set in rows on each side of a wide street. Each cabin housed two families; belonging to each was a small garden.

The log cabins contained large fireplaces, and it was not unusual for the master’s children to gather about them when the weather was cold enough for fires, to hear the negroes tell quaint tales and sing weird songs. The old colored “mammies” were very fond of “Massa’s chillun” and liked to pet them and tell them stories.

Sometimes the cooking for the master’s family was done in the kitchen of the “big house,” but more often in a cabin outside, from which a negro waitress carried the food to the dining-room. The slaves had regular allowances of food, most of which they preferred to cook in their own cabins. Their common food was corn bread and ham or bacon.

161Some of the slaves were employed as servants in the master’s house, but the greater part of them worked in the fields. They went out to work very early in the morning. It often happened that their breakfast and dinner were carried to them in the fields, and during the short rest which they had while eating their meals they would often sing together.

A man looks over his domain. A large house is in the background.

A Colonial Planter.

The slaves had their holidays, one of them being at the time of hog-killing, which was an annual festival. In some parts of the south, in November or December, corn-husking bees were held, just as the white people held them on the frontier. When the corn was harvested, it was piled up in mounds fifty or sixty feet high. Then the slaves from 162neighboring plantations were invited to come and help husk the corn. One negro would leap up on the mound and lead the chorus, all joining lustily in the singing.

A drawing showing three small cabins and a dark-skinned boy.

A Slave Settlement.

Other holidays were given the slaves on the Fourth of July and at Christmas time. One negro tells us about the barbecue which his master gave to him and the other slaves. “Yes, honey, dat he did gib us Fourth of July—a plenty o’ holiday—a beef kilt, a mutton, hogs, salt, pepper, an’ eberyting. He hab a gre’t trench dug, and a whole load of wood put in it an’ burned down to coals. Den dey put wooden spits across, an’ dey had spoons an’ basted de meat. An’ we ’vite all de culled people aroun’, an’ dey come, an’ we had fine times.”

The life of the slaves was sometimes hard and bitter, 163especially when they were in charge of a cruel overseer on a large plantation. But it was not always so. For it is pleasant to think that when they had good masters, there were many things to cheer and brighten their lives. We know that household slaves often lived in the most friendly relations with their owners.

We must pass over many of the events which took place while Washington was President, but you will very likely take them up in your later study. After serving with marked success for two terms, he again returned (1797) to private life at Mount Vernon. Here, on December 14, 1799, he died at the age of sixty-seven, loved and honored by the American people.

Let us always remember with grateful hearts the noble life of the great man who has rightly been called the “Father of his Country.”

Some Things to Think About

  1. How did the people express their feeling for Washington when he was on his way to New York to be inaugurated as President?

  2. Describe one of his public receptions.

  3. Who were the men Washington chose to help him in his new task as President?

  4. What effects did the invention of the cotton-gin have upon slavery?

  5. In imagination visit some old plantations and tell what you can about slave life there.

  6. Why has Washington been called the “Father of his Country”?




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As with reverent thought we turn from the closing days of George Washington’s life, our interest is drawn to the career of another national hero, with whom we associate the most remarkable expansion in the area of our country.

A head-and-shoulders sketch.

Thomas Jefferson.

Already through the achievements of early pioneers and settlers, such as Daniel Boone in Kentucky, John Sevier and James Robertson in Tennessee, and George Rogers Clark in the region of the Great Lakes, the country lying between the Alleghany Mountains and the Mississippi River had come to be a part of the United States.

But now in a very different and much easier way the territory lying beyond the Mississippi and stretching westward to the Rocky Mountains was added to the national domain. This we obtained, not by exploration or settlement, but by purchase; and the man who had most to do with our getting it was Thomas Jefferson.

165The story of the purchase is most interesting, but hardly more so than the story of Thomas Jefferson himself.

He was born in 1743 near Charlottesville, Virginia, on a plantation of nearly two thousand acres. As a boy he lived an out-of-door life, hunting, fishing, swimming, or paddling his boat in the river near his home, and sometimes riding his father’s horses. He was a skilful and daring rider, and remained to the end of his long life fond of a fine horse.

A photograph of a domed building.

“Monticello,” the Home of Jefferson.

He was a most promising lad. At five he entered school, and even at that early age began his lifelong habit of careful reading and studying. While still but a boy 166he was known among his playmates for his industry and the thorough way in which he did his work.

At seventeen he entered William and Mary College at Williamsburg, Virginia. Here he worked hard, sometimes studying fifteen hours a day. But for his sound body and strong health he must have broken down under such a severe strain.

Yet this hard-working student was no mere bookworm. He was cheerful and full of life, and was very much liked by his fellow students. Among other friends made during his college days was the fun-loving Patrick Henry, who with his jokes and stories kept every one about him in good humor. In time their friendship became so intimate that when Patrick Henry came to Williamsburg as a member of the House of Burgesses, he shared Jefferson’s rooms. Both were fond of music, and spent many a pleasant hour playing their violins together.

We have a description of Jefferson as he appeared at this time. He was over six feet tall, slender in body, but with large hands and feet. His freckled face was topped by a mass of sandy hair, from beneath which looked out keen, friendly gray eyes. He stood erect, straight as an arrow, a fine picture of health and strong young manhood.

Thus we may imagine him as he stood one day while a law student at Williamsburg, in the doorway of the courthouse, earnestly listening to his friend Patrick Henry as he delivered his famous speech against the Stamp Act. 167The fiery words of the eloquent speaker made a deep impression upon young Jefferson’s quick, warm nature.

Both young men were earnest patriots, but they served their country in different ways. To Patrick Henry it was given to speak with the silver tongue of the orator; while Jefferson, who was a poor speaker, wrote with such grace and strength that he has rightly been called “The Pen of the Revolution.”

Before taking up his public life, it will be of interest to us to see how he helped his countrymen in other ways. Two valuable and lasting improvements have come down from him. The first of these was the system of decimal currency, which replaced the clumsy system of pounds, shillings, and pence used in colonial days. When you are called upon to work out examples in English currency, be grateful to Thomas Jefferson that we have instead the much simpler system of dollars and cents.

The second improvement—which was for the benefit of agriculture, in which Jefferson always felt a deep interest—had, perhaps, even greater importance, for it was not merely a convenience but a means of increasing wealth. It was a new form of plough, which, sinking deeper into the soil, vastly increased its productive power, and has been of untold value to the people not only of our country but of the whole world.

Jefferson showed his interest in the work of the farm in another way. While he was in France as American minister 168to the King he found that, although the French ate a great deal of rice, especially during Lent, very little of it came from the United States, because rice raised here was thought to be of an inferior quality. The best rice came from Italy.

A photograph of a farm field.

A Rice-Field in Louisiana.

Wishing to help American rice-growers, Jefferson, therefore, went to Italy to study the Italian method of growing it. He found that in both countries the hulling and cleaning machine was the same. “Then,” thought he, “the seed of the Italian rice must be better.”

So, doing up some small packages of the best seed rice he could find, he sent them to Charleston. The seeds were 169carefully distributed among the planters, who made good use of them, and from those seeds as a beginning some of the finest rice in the world is now produced in our own States.


But valuable as these services were to his countrymen, Jefferson’s great work in the world was that of a statesman. He first came into prominence in the Second Continental Congress, when, you recall, the brave men representing the several colonies decided that the time had come for the American people to declare themselves free and independent of England. Here Jefferson’s ability as a writer did good service; for of the committee of five appointed to draw up the Declaration of Independence Jefferson was a member, and it fell to him to write the first draft of that great state paper.

Congress spent a few days in going over this draft and making some slight changes in it. In the main, however, it stands as Jefferson wrote it.

After filling many of the high offices in the country, in 1801 Jefferson became the third President of the United States. In this lofty position history gives us another striking picture of the man. It shows that he was simple in his tastes, and that he liked best those plain ways of living which are most familiar to the common people.

On the day of his inauguration he went on foot to the 170Capitol, dressed in his every-day clothes and attended only by a few friends. It became his custom later, when going up to the Capitol on official business, to go on horseback, tying his horse with his own hands to a near-by fence before entering the building. He declined to hold weekly receptions, as had been the custom when Washington and Adams were Presidents, but instead he opened his house to all on the Fourth of July, and on New Year’s Day. In these ways he was acting out his belief that the President should be simple in dress and manner.

Many things which Jefferson did proved that he was an able statesman, but the one act which stands out above all others as the greatest and wisest of his administration, was the “Louisiana Purchase.”

Let us see how this purchase came to be made. Before Jefferson became President many pioneers, we know, had already settled west of the Alleghany Mountains. Most of them lived along the Ohio and the streams flowing into it from the north and the south. In the upland valleys of the Kentucky and Tennessee Rivers settlers were especially numerous.

These lands were so fertile that the people living there became very prosperous. As their harvests were abundant, they needed a market in which to sell what they could not use.

We have seen how in the autumn it was their custom to load the furs on pack-horses, and driving the cattle before 171them along the forest trail, to make the long journey over the mountains to cities and towns along the Atlantic coast.

A drawing of men floating on a river on a boat that is broad and flat.

A Flatboat on the Ohio River.

But to send their bulky products by this route was too expensive. Water transportation cost much less. Such produce as corn-meal, flour, pork, and lumber had to go on rafts or flatboats down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. Here the cargo and the boat were sold, or the cargo sold and loaded on ocean vessels, which in time reached the eastern market by a cheaper though longer route than that by land. Thus the Mississippi River, being the only outlet for this heavy produce, was very necessary to the prosperity of the west.

But Spain at this time owned New Orleans and all the land about the mouth of the Mississippi River; and as the river became more and more used for traffic Spanish officers at New Orleans began to make trouble. They even went so far as to threaten to prevent the sending of produce to that port.

This threat greatly troubled and angered the western farmers. They proposed wild plans to force an outlet for their trade. But before anything was done, news came 172that Napoleon, who was then at the head of affairs in France, had compelled Spain to give up Louisiana to France.

Then the westerners grew still more alarmed about their trade. It was bad enough to have a weak country like Spain in control of Louisiana. But it might be far worse to have France, the greatest military power in the world at that time, own it. All this was very plain to Jefferson, and he knew that Napoleon was planning to establish garrisons and colonies in Louisiana.

In view of the possible dangers, he sent James Monroe to France to aid our minister there in securing New Orleans and a definite stretch of territory in Louisiana lying on the east side of the Mississippi River. If he could get that territory, the Americans would then own the entire east bank of the river and could control their own trade.

When Monroe reached France, he found that Napoleon not only was willing to sell what Jefferson wanted, but wished him to buy much more. For as Napoleon was about to engage in war with England, he had great need of money. Besides, he was afraid that the English might even invade and capture Louisiana, and in that case he would get nothing for it. He was satisfied, therefore, to sell the whole of the Louisiana territory for fifteen million dollars.

This purchase was a big event in American history, for you must remember that what was then called Louisiana was a very large stretch of country. It included all 173the region between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, from Canada down to what is now Texas. Look at your map and you will see that it was larger than all the rest of the territory which up to that time had been called the United States.

A colored map of the United States.



The people of that day did not realize the importance of their purchase. For the most part the territory was a wild region, uninhabited except for scattered Indian tribes, and almost unexplored. The place most alive was New Orleans, which would have interested you keenly had you been a pioneer boy or girl. New Orleans has been called a Franco-Spanish-American city, for it has belonged to all three nations in turn and been under French control twice. You remember that the French settled it. Let us imagine ourselves pioneers of 1803, and that we have just brought a cargo down the river.

A two-story house behind a wall.

House in New Orleans Where Louis Philippe Stopped in 1798.

We find New Orleans to be one of the chief seaports of America. We see shipping of all sorts about the town—barges 174and flatboats along the river bank, merchant vessels in the harbor, and farther down some war-ships.

There are buildings still standing which are unchanged parts of the earlier French town—for instance, the government house, the barracks, the hospital, and the convent of the Ursulines. We notice that the walls and fortifications, built partly by the French and partly by the Spaniards, are but a mere ring of grass-grown ruins about the city.

An ornate two story building with colonnades.

A Public Building in New Orleans Built in 1794.

But the city is very picturesque with its tropical vegetation, always green, and its quaint houses, many of them raised several feet above the ground on pillars. The more pretentious mansions are surrounded by broad verandas and fine gardens, and scattered here and there among the houses of the better class are those of the poor people.

The streets are straight and fairly wide, but dirty and ill-kept. The sidewalks are of wood, and at night we need to take our steps carefully, for only a few dim lights 175break the darkness. Beyond the walls of the city we see suburbs already springing up.

Three-fourths of the inhabitants are creoles—that is, natives of French and Spanish descent, who speak in the French tongue. We do not understand them any more than if we were in a really foreign city. They seem a handsome, well-knit race. But they are idle and lacking in ambition, and for that reason are being crowded out of business by the active, thrifty American merchants, to whom, we observe, they are not quite friendly.

Such was the New Orleans of 1803, a human oasis in a waste of forest, which made up the greater part of the new territory. There were, to be sure, in this trackless wilderness a few French villages near the mouth of the Missouri River. Traders from the British camps in the north had found their way as far south as these villages, but the great prairies had not been explored, and the Rocky Mountains were yet unknown.


Before the purchase was made Jefferson had planned an expedition to explore this region, and Congress had voted money to carry out his plan. Two officers of the United States army, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark, brother of George Rogers Clark, were put in command of the expedition.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Meriwether Lewis.

They were to ascend the Missouri River to its head and 176then find the nearest waterway to the Pacific coast. They were directed also to draw maps of the region and to report on the nature of the country and the people, plants, animals, and other matters of interest in the new lands.

In May, 1804, the little company of forty-five men left St. Louis and started up the Missouri River, passing the scattered settlements of French creoles. After eleven days they reached the home of Daniel Boone, the last settlement they passed on the Missouri. Leaving that, they found no more white settlers and very few Indians. But the woods were alive with game, so there was no lack of food.

A head-and-shoulders sketch.

William Clark.

Late in October they arrived at a village of Mandan Indians situated at the great bend of the Missouri River, in what is now known as North Dakota. Deciding to winter here, they built huts and a stockade, calling the camp Fort Mandan. The Mandans were used to white men, as the village had been visited often by traders from both north and south.

177Although the Indians gave them no trouble, the explorers suffered greatly from cold and hunger, game being scarce and poor in the winter season.

When spring came the party, now numbering thirty-two, again took up the westward journey. All before them was new country. They met few Indians and found themselves in one of the finest hunting-grounds in the world. Sage-fowl and prairie-fowl, ducks of all sorts, swans, and wild cranes were plentiful, while huge, flapping geese nested in the tops of the cottonwood-trees.

A drawing of an Indian shooting a buffalo from horseback.

Buffalo Hunted by Indians.

Big game, such as buffalo, elk, antelope, whitetail and blacktail deer, and big-horned sheep, was also abundant. It happened more than once that the party was detained for an hour or more while a great herd of buffalo ploughed their way down the bank of a river in a huge column.

Many of the animals in this region were very tame, for they had not learned to fear men. Yet among them the explorers found some dangerous enemies. One was the 178grizzly bear, and another the rattlesnake. But the greatest scourges of all were the tiny, buzzing mosquitoes, which beset them in great swarms.

The second autumn was almost upon them when they arrived at the headwaters of the Missouri, and their hardest task was yet to be accomplished. Before them rose the mountains. These, they knew, must be crossed before they could hope to find any waterway to the coast. The boats in which they had come thus far, now being useless, were left behind, and horses were procured from a band of wandering Indians.

Then they set out again on their journey, which presently became most difficult. For nearly a month they painfully made their way through dense forests, over steep mountains, and across raging torrents, whose icy water chilled both man and beast. Sometimes storms of sleet and snow beat pitilessly down upon them, and again they were almost overcome by oppressive heat.

Game was so scarce that the men often went hungry, and were even driven to kill some of their horses for food.

But brighter days were bound to come, and at last they reached a river which flowed toward the west. They called it Lewis, and it proved to be a branch of the Columbia, which led to the sea. With fresh courage they built five canoes, in which the ragged, travel-worn but now triumphant men made their way down-stream. The Indians whom they met were for the most part friendly, welcoming them 179and providing them with food, though a few tribes were troublesome.

Before the cold of the second winter had set in they had reached the forests on the Pacific coast, and here they stayed until spring, enduring much hunger and cold, but learning many things about the habits of the Indians.

A copy of a painting showing a man standing atop a rock, looking over a river.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition Working Its Way Westward.

The next March, as soon as travel was safe, they gladly turned their faces homeward, and after a fatiguing journey of about three months, reached the Great Plains.

Then the party separated for a time into two companies, Clark following the course of the Yellowstone River, and Lewis the Missouri, planning to meet where the two rivers united.

180This they succeeded in doing, though both parties were troubled somewhat by Indians. The Crow Indians stole horses from Clark’s party, and eight Blackfoot warriors attacked Lewis and three of his men. But Lewis got the better of them and captured four of their horses.

The explorers suffered no further injury, and in September, 1806, about two years and four months after starting out, they were back in St. Louis, with their precious maps and notes. They had successfully carried out a magnificent undertaking, and you may be sure they received a joyful welcome from their friends. I wonder if any of you can tell which of our world’s fairs commemorated the leaders of this expedition.

Through the efforts of these explorers the highway across the continent became an established fact. When you think of the great trunk lines of railroad, over which fast trains carry hundreds of passengers daily, stop a moment and remember that it was little more than a hundred years ago that we first began to know much about this region!


The next addition made to our expanding nation was in the extreme southeast, and with it we associate the name of another of our Presidents, Andrew Jackson. The story of how Florida came to be a part of the United States will be more interesting if we know something of the career of the picturesque hero who brought about its purchase.

181Andrew Jackson was born in Union County, North Carolina, in 1767, of poor Scotch-Irish parents, who about two years before had come from Ireland. In a little clearing in the woods they had built a rude log hut and settled down to hard work.

But Andrew’s father soon died, and his mother went with her children to live in her brother’s home, where she spun flax to earn money. She was very fond of little Andrew and hoped some day to make a minister of him.

A head-and-shoulders sketch.

Andrew Jackson.

With this in view, she sent him to school, where he learned reading, writing, and a little ciphering. But the little fellow loved nature better than books and did not make great progress with lessons. You must remember, however, that he was far from idle and that he did many hard and brave tasks, worth being put into books for other boys to read.

“Mischievous Andy,” as he was called, was a barefooted, freckle-faced lad, slender in body, with bright blue eyes and reddish hair, and was full of life and fun. Although not robust, he was wiry and energetic, and excelled in running, jumping, and all rough-and-tumble sports. If, when wrestling, a stronger boy threw him to the ground, he was so agile that he always managed to regain his feet.

While he was yet a lad the Revolution broke out, and 182there was severe fighting between the Americans and the British near his home. He was only thirteen when he was made a prisoner of war.

One day, soon after his capture, a British officer gave him a pair of muddy boots to clean. The fiery youth flashed back: “Sir, I am not your slave. I am your prisoner, and as such I refuse to do the work of a slave.” Angered by this reply, the brutal officer struck the boy a cruel blow with his sword, inflicting two severe wounds.

Andrew was kept in a prison pen about the Camden jail. As he was without shelter and almost without food, the wounds refused to heal, and in his weak and half-starved condition he fell a victim to smallpox. His mother, hearing of her boy’s wretched plight, secured his release and took him home. He was ill for months, and before he entirely recovered his mother died, leaving him quite alone in the world.

In time, however, these early hardships passed, and some years later we see Andrew, a young man of twenty-one, now become a lawyer. He is over six feet tall, slender, straight, and graceful, with a long, slim face, and thick hair falling over his forehead and shading his piercing blue eyes. He has crossed the mountains with an emigrant party into the backwoods region of Tennessee.

The party arrived at Nashville, where their life was very much like that of Daniel Boone in Kentucky.

Young Jackson passed through many dangers without 183harm, and by his industry and business ability became a successful lawyer and in time a wealthy landowner.

After his marriage he built, on a plantation of one thousand one hundred acres, about ten miles from Nashville, a house which he called “The Hermitage.” Here he and his wife kept open house for visitors, treating rich and poor with like hospitality. His warm heart and generous nature were especially shown in his own household, where he was kind to all, including his slaves.

A photograph of a stately mansion.

“The Hermitage,” the Home of Andrew Jackson.

To the end of his life he had a childlike simplicity of 184nature. But we must not think of him as a faultless man, for he was often rough in manner and speech, and his violent temper got him into serious troubles. Among them were some foolish duels.

A drawing of a man pointing a sword over the heads of battling men.

Fighting the Seminole Indians, under Jackson.

Yet, with all his faults, he was brave and patriotic and did splendid service as a fighter in Indian wars. After one of his duels, with a ball in his shoulder and his left arm in a sling, he went to lead an army of two thousand five hundred men in an attack on the Creek Indians, who had risen against the whites in Alabama. Although weak from a long illness, Jackson marched with vigor against the Creeks, and after a campaign of much hardship, badly defeated them at Horseshoe Bend, in eastern Alabama. He thus broke for all time the power of the Indians south of the Ohio River.

185Some three years later (1817) General Jackson, as he was now called, was sent with a body of troops down to southern Georgia, to protect the people there from the Seminole Indians, who lived in Florida. At this time Florida belonged to Spain. Its vast swamps and dense forests made a place of refuge from which outlaws, runaway negroes, and Indians all made a practice of sallying forth in bands across the border into southern Georgia. There they would drive off cattle, burn houses, and murder men, women, and children without mercy.

A map of Alabama and its surroundings.

Jackson’s Campaign.

When Jackson pursued these thieves and murderers, they retreated to their hiding-places beyond the boundaries of Florida. But it was more than Jackson could endure to see his enemy escape him so easily. And, although he was exceeding his orders, he followed them across the border, burned some of their villages, and hanged some of the Indian chiefs. He did not stop until he had all of Florida under his control.

186This was a high-handed proceeding, for that territory belonged to Spain. However, serious trouble was avoided by our buying Florida (1819). This purchase added territory of fifty-nine thousand two hundred and sixty-eight square miles to the United States. It was only six thousand square miles less than the whole area of New England.

By studying your map you can easily see how much the area of the United States was extended by the purchase of Louisiana and of Florida. The adding of these two large territories made America one of the great nations of the world in landed estate.

Some Things to Think About

  1. Tell all you can about Jefferson’s boyhood. What kind of student was he in college?

  2. How did he help his countrymen before taking up his public life?

  3. Why did the Westerners wish the Mississippi to be open to their trade?

  4. Why was Napoleon willing to sell us the whole of Louisiana? Use your map in making clear to yourself just what the Louisiana Purchase included.

  5. Why did Jefferson send Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition? What were the results of this expedition?

  6. What kind of boy was Andrew Jackson? What kind of man?

  7. What part did he take in the events leading up to the purchase of Florida?




Return to Table of Contents

After the purchase of Louisiana and the explorations of Lewis and Clark, the number of settlers who went from the eastern part of the country to find new homes in the West kept on increasing as it had been doing since Boone, Robertson, and Sevier had pushed their way across the mountains into Kentucky and Tennessee, twenty-five or thirty years earlier.

These pioneers, if they went westward by land, had to load their goods on pack-horses and follow the Indian trail. Later the trail was widened into a roadway, and wagons could be used. But travel by land was slow and, hard under any conditions.

Going by water, while cheaper, was inconvenient, for the travellers must use the flatboat, which was clumsy and slow and, worst of all, of little use except when going down stream.

The great need both for travel and for trade, then, was a boat which would not be dependent upon wind or current, but could be propelled by steam. Many men had tried to work out such an invention. Among them was John Rumsey, of Maryland, who built a steamboat in 1774, and 188John Fitch, of Connecticut, who completed his first model of a steamboat in 1785.

In the next four years Fitch built three steamboats, the last of which made regular trips on the Delaware River, between Philadelphia and Burlington, during the summer of 1786. It was used as a passenger boat, and it made a speed of eight miles an hour; but Fitch was not able to secure enough aid from men of capital and influence to make his boats permanently successful.

The first man to construct a steamboat which continued to give successful service was Robert Fulton. Robert Fulton was born of poor parents in Little Britain, Pennsylvania, in 1765, the year of the famous Stamp Act. When the boy was only three years old his father died, and so Robert was brought up by his mother. She taught him at home until he was eight, and then sent him to school. Here he showed an unusual liking for drawing.

A head-and-shoulders sketch.

Robert Fulton.

Outside of school hours his special delight was to visit the shops of mechanics, who humored the boy and let him work out his clever ideas with his own hands.

A story is told of how Robert came into school late one morning and gave as his excuse that he had been at a shop beating a piece of lead into a pencil. At the same time he 189took the pencil from his pocket, and showing it to his teacher, said: “It is the best one I have ever used.” Upon carefully looking at the pencil, the schoolmaster was so well pleased that he praised Robert’s efforts, and in a short time nearly all the pupils were using that kind of pencil.

A drawing of a small boak on a river.

Fulton’s First Experiment with Paddle-Wheels.

Another example of Robert’s inventive gift belongs to his boyhood days. He and one of his playmates from time to time went fishing in a flatboat, which they propelled with long poles. It was hard work and slow, and presently Robert thought out an easier way. He made two crude paddle-wheels, attached one to each side of the boat, and connected them with a sort of double crank. By turning this, the boys made the wheels revolve, and these carried the boat through the water easily. We may be sure that Robert’s boat became very popular, and that turning the crank was a privilege in which each boy eagerly took his turn.

190While still young, Robert began to paint pictures also. By the time he was seventeen he had become skilful in the use of his brush and went to Philadelphia to devote his time to painting portraits and miniatures. Being a tireless worker, he earned enough here to support himself and send something to his mother.

At the age of twenty-one his interest in art led him to go to London, where he studied for several years under Benjamin West. This famous master took young Fulton into his household and was very friendly to him.

After leaving West’s studio Fulton still remained in England, and although continuing to paint he gave much thought also to the development of canal systems. His love for invention was getting the better of his love for art and was leading him on to the work which made him famous. He was about thirty when he finally gave up painting altogether and turned his whole attention to inventing.

He went from England to Paris, where he lived in the family of Joel Barlow, an American poet and public man. Here he made successful experiments with a diving boat which he had designed to carry cases of gunpowder under water. This was one of the stages in the development of our modern torpedo-boat.

Although this invention alone would give Fulton a place in history, it was not one which would affect so many people as the later one, the steamboat, with which his name is more often associated.

191Even before he had begun to experiment with the torpedo-boat Fulton had been deeply interested in steam navigation, and while in Paris he constructed a steamboat. In this undertaking he was greatly aided by Robert R. Livingston, American minister at the French court, who had himself done some experimenting in that line. Livingston, therefore, was glad to furnish the money which Fulton needed in order to build the boat.

It was finished by the spring of 1803. But just as they were getting ready for a trial trip, early one morning the boat broke in two parts and sank to the bottom of the River Seine. The frame had been too weak to support the weight of the heavy machinery.

Having discovered just what was wrong in this first attempt, Fulton built another steamboat soon after his return to America, in 1806. This boat was one hundred and thirty feet long, eighteen feet wide, with mast and sail, and had on each side a wheel fifteen feet across.

On the morning of the day in August, 1807, set for the trial of the Clermont—as Fulton called his boat—an expectant throng of curious onlookers gathered on the banks of the North, or Hudson, River, at New York. Everybody was looking for failure. For though Fitch’s boats had made trips in the Delaware only some twenty years earlier, the fact did not seem to be generally known. People had all along spoken of Fulton as a half-crazy dreamer and had called his boat “Fulton’s Folly.” “Of course, the 192thing will not move,” said one scoffer. “That any man with common sense well knows,” another replied. And yet they all stood watching for Fulton’s signal to start the boat.

A photograph of a paddle-wheel boat.

The “Clermont” in Duplicate at the Hudson-Fulton Celebration, 1909.

The signal is given. A slight tremor of motion and the boat is still. “There! What did I say?” cried one. “I told you so!” exclaimed another. “I knew the boat would not go,” said yet another. But they spoke too soon, for after a little delay the wheels of the Clermont began to revolve, slowly and hesitatingly at first, but soon with more speed, and the boat steamed proudly off up the Hudson.

193As she moved forward, all along the river people who had come from far and near stood watching the strange sight. When boatmen and sailors on the Hudson heard the harsh clanking of machinery and saw the huge sparks and dense black smoke rising out of her funnel, they thought that the Clermont was a sea-monster. In fact, they were so frightened that some of them went ashore, some jumped into the river to get away, and some fell on their knees in fear, believing that their last day had come. It is said that one old Dutchman exclaimed to his wife: “I have seen the devil coming up the river on a raft!”

The men who were working the boat had no such foolish fears. They set themselves to their task and made the trip from New York to Albany, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles, in thirty-two hours. Success had at last come to the quiet, modest, persevering Fulton. After this trial trip the Clermont was used as a regular passenger boat between New York and Albany.

The steamboat was Fulton’s great gift to the world and his last work of public interest. He died in 1815.

But the Clermont was only the beginning of steam-driven craft on the rivers and lakes of our country. Four years afterward (1811), the first steamboat west of the Alleghany Mountains began its route from Pittsburg down the Ohio, and a few years later similar craft were in use on the Great Lakes.



But while steamboats made the rivers and lakes easy routes for travel and traffic, something was needed to make journeys by land less difficult. To meet this need, new highways had to be supplied, and this great work of building public roads was taken up by the United States Government. Many roads were built, but the most important was the one known as the National Road.

A copy of a painting showing a group of people surrounded by festooning.

From the painting by C.Y. Turner in the DeWitt Clinton High School, New York.

The Opening of the Erie Canal in 1825.

It ran from Cumberland, on the Potomac, through Maryland and Pennsylvania to Wheeling, West Virginia, on the Ohio River. From there it was extended to Indiana 195and Illinois, ending at Vandalia, which at that time was the capital of Illinois. It was seven hundred miles long, and cost seven million dollars.

This smooth and solid roadway was eighty feet wide; it was paved with stone and covered with gravel. Transportation became not only much easier but also much cheaper. The road filled a long-felt need and a flood of travel and traffic immediately swept over it.

A copy of a painting showing a crowd watching a man pour water into a river.

From the painting by C.Y. Turner in the DeWitt Clinton High School, New York.

The Ceremony Called “The Marriage of the Waters.”

Another kind of highway which proved to be of untold value to both the East and the West, was the canal, or artificial waterway connecting two bodies of water.

The most important was the Erie Canal, connecting the 196Hudson River and Lake Erie, begun in 1817. This new idea received the same scornful attention from the unthinking as “Fulton’s Folly.” By many it was called “Clinton’s Ditch,” after Governor DeWitt Clinton, to whose foresight we are indebted for the building of this much-used waterway. The scoffers shook their heads and said: “Clinton will bankrupt the State”; “The canal is a great extravagance”; and so on.

But he did not stop because of criticism, and in 1825 the canal was finished. The undertaking had been pushed through in eight years. It was a great triumph for Clinton and a proud day for the State.

When the work was completed the news was signalled from Buffalo to New York in a novel way. As you know, there was neither telephone nor telegraph then. But at intervals of five miles all along the route cannon were stationed. When the report from the first cannon was heard, the second was fired, and thus the news went booming eastward till, in an hour and a half, it reached New York.

Clinton himself journeyed to New York in the canal-boat Seneca Chief. This was drawn by four gray horses, which went along the tow-path beside the canal. As the boat passed quietly along, people thronged the banks to do honor to the occasion.

When the Seneca Chief reached New York City, Governor Clinton, standing on deck, lifted a gilded keg filled 197with water from Lake Erie and poured it into the harbor. As he did so, he prayed that “the God of the heaven and the earth” would smile upon the work just completed and make it useful to the human race. Thus was dedicated this great waterway, whose usefulness has more than fulfilled the hope of its chief promoter.

A photograph of a waterway.

Erie Canal on the Right and Aqueduct over the Mohawk River, New York.

Trade between the East and the West began to grow rapidly. Vast quantities of manufactured goods were moved easily from the East to the West, and supplies of food were shipped in the opposite direction. Prices began to fall because the cost of carrying goods was so much less. It cost ten dollars before the canal was dug to carry a barrel of flour from Buffalo to Albany; now it costs thirty cents.

The region through which the canal ran was at that time mostly wilderness, and for some years packets carrying passengers as well as freight were drawn through the canal by horses travelling the tow-path along the bank.

198When travelling was so easy and safe, the number of people moving westward to this region grew larger rapidly. Land was in demand and became more valuable. Farm products sold at higher prices. Villages sprang up, factories were built, and the older towns grew rapidly in size. The great cities of New York State—and this is especially true of New York City—owe much of their growth to the Erie Canal.


A photograph of a very small locomotive, with a man standing on its platform.

“Tom Thumb,” Peter Cooper’s Locomotive Working Model. First Used Near Baltimore in 1830.

The steamboat, the national highways, and the canals were all great aids to men in travel and in carrying goods. The next great improvement was the use of steam-power to transport people and goods overland. It was brought about by the railroad and the locomotive.

In this country, the first laying of rails to make a level surface for wheels to roll upon was at Quincy, Massachusetts. This railroad was three miles long, extending from the quarry to the seacoast. The cars were drawn by horses.

A facsimile of a poster showing the times between Albany and Buffalo

From an Old Time-table (furnished by the “A B C Pathfinder Railway Guide”).

Railroad Poster of 1843.

Our first passenger railroad was begun in 1828. It was 199called the Baltimore and Ohio and was the beginning of the railroad as we know it to-day. But those early roads would seem very strange now. The rails were of wood, covered with a thin strip of iron to protect the wood from wear. Even as late as the Civil War rails of this kind were in use in some places. The first cross-ties were of stone instead of wood, and the locomotives and cars of early days were very crude.

In 1833, people who were coming from the West to attend President Jackson’s second inauguration travelled part of the way by railroad. They came over the National Road as far as Frederick, Maryland, and there left it to enter a train of six cars, each accommodating sixteen persons. The train was drawn by horses. In this manner they continued their journey to Baltimore.

In the autumn of that year a railroad was opened between 200New York and Philadelphia. At first horses were used to draw the train, but by the end of the year locomotives, which ran at the rate of fifteen miles an hour, were introduced. This was a tremendous stride in the progress of railroad traffic.

A photograph of two trains; one pulls cars that look like horse-drawn carriages, and is half the height as the 'modern' locomotive.

Comparison of “DeWitt Clinton” Locomotive and Train, the First Train Operated in New York, with a Modern Locomotive of the New York Central R.R.

To be sure, the locomotives were small, but two or more started off together, each drawing its own little train of cars. Behind the locomotive was a car which was a mere platform with a row of benches, seating perhaps forty passengers, inside of an open railing. Then followed four or five cars looking very much like stage-coaches, each having three compartments, with doors on each side. The last car was a high, open-railed van, in which the baggage of the whole train was heaped up and covered with oilcloth. How strange a train of this sort would look beside one of 201our modern express-trains, with its huge engine, and its sleeping, dining, and parlor cars!

You will be surprised that any objection was raised to the railroad. Its earliest use had been in England, and when there was talk of introducing it in this country some people said: “If those who now travel by stage take the railroad coaches, then stage-drivers will be thrown out of work!” Little could they foresee what a huge army of men would find work on the modern railroad.

In spite of all obstacles and objections, the railroads, once begun, grew rapidly in favor. In 1833 there were scarcely three hundred and eighty miles of railroad in the United States; now there are more than two hundred and forty thousand miles.


The next stride which Progress made seemed even more wonderful. Having contrived an easier and a quicker way to move men and their belongings from one place to another, what should she do but whisper in the ear of a thinking man: “You can make thought travel many times faster.” The man whose inventive genius made it possible for men to flash their thoughts thousands of miles in a few seconds of time was Samuel Finley Breese Morse.

He was born in 1791, in Charlestown, Massachusetts. His father was a learned minister, who “was always thinking, always writing, always talking, always acting”; and 202his mother was a woman of noble character, who inspired her son with lofty purpose.

When he was seven he went to Andover, Massachusetts, to school, and still later entered Phillips Academy in the same town. At fourteen he entered Yale College, where from the first he was a good, faithful student.

A head-and-shoulders sketch of a long-bearded man.

S.F.B. Morse.

As his father was poor, Finley had to help himself along, and was able to do it by painting, on ivory, likenesses of his classmates and professors, for which he received from one dollar to five dollars each. In this way he made considerable money.

At the end of his college course he made painting his chosen profession and went to London, where he studied four years under Benjamin West. Though for some years he divided his time and effort between painting and invention, he at last decided to devote himself wholly to invention. This change in his life-work was the outcome of an incident which took place on a second voyage home from Europe, where he had been spending another period in study.

On the ocean steamer the conversation at dinner one day was about some experiments with electricity. One of the men present said that so far as had been learned from 203experiment electricity passes through any length of wire in a second of time.

“Then,” said Morse, “thought can be transmitted hundreds of miles in a moment by means of electricity; for, if electricity will go ten miles without stopping, I can make it go around the globe.”

A mechanical-looking device

The First Telegraph Instrument.

When once he began to think about this great possibility, the thought held him in its grip. In fact, it shut out all others. Through busy days and sleepless nights he turned it over and over. And often, while engaged in other duties, he would snatch his notebook from his pocket in order to outline the new instrument he had in mind and jot down the signs he would use in sending messages.

It was not long before he had worked out on paper the whole scheme of transmitting thought over long distances by means of electricity.

And now began twelve toilsome years of struggle to plan and work out machinery for his invention. All these years he had to earn money for the support of his three motherless children. So he gave up to painting much time that he would otherwise have spent upon his invention. His progress, therefore, was slow and painful, but he pressed forward. He was not the kind of man to give up.

204In a room on the fifth floor of a building in New York City he toiled at his experiments day and night, with little food, and that of the simplest kind. Indeed so meagre was his fare, mainly crackers and tea, that he bought provisions at night in order to keep his friends from finding out how great his need was.

A photograph of a large office filled with men sitting at tables.

Modern Telegraph Office.

During this time of hardship all that kept starvation from his door was lessons in painting to a few pupils. On a certain occasion Morse said to one of them, who owed him for a few months’ teaching: “Well, Strothers, my boy, how are we off for money?”

“Professor,” said the young fellow, “I am sorry to say I have been disappointed, but I expect the money next week.”

“Next week!” cried his needy teacher; “I shall be dead by next week.”

205“Dead, sir?” was the shocked response of Strothers.

“Yes, dead by starvation!” was the emphatic answer.

“Would ten dollars be of any service?” asked the pupil, now seeing that the situation was serious.

“Ten dollars would save my life,” was the reply of the poor man, who had been without food for twenty-four hours. You may be sure that Strothers promptly handed him the money.

But in spite of heavy trials and many discouragements, he had by 1837 finished a machine which he exhibited in New York, although he did not secure a patent until 1840.

A photograph of a railroad and telegraph wires running next to it.

The Operation of the Modern Railroad is Dependent upon the Telegraph.

Then followed a tedious effort to induce the government at Washington to vote money for his great enterprise. Finally, after much delay, the House of Representatives passed a bill “appropriating thirty thousand dollars for a trial of the telegraph.”

As you may know, a bill cannot become a law unless 206the Senate also passes it. But the Senate did not seem friendly to this one. Many believed that the whole idea of the telegraph was rank folly. They thought of Morse and the telegraph very much as people had thought of Fulton and the steamboat, and made fun of him as a crazy-brained fellow.

Up to the evening of the last day of the session the bill had not been taken up by the Senate. Morse sat anxiously waiting in the Senate Chamber until nearly midnight, when, believing there was no longer any hope, he left the room and went home with a heavy heart.

Imagine his surprise the next morning, when a young woman, Miss Ellsworth, congratulated him at breakfast upon the passage of his bill. At first he could scarcely believe the good news, but when he found that she was telling him the truth his joy was unbounded, and he promised her that she should choose the first message.

By the next year (1844) a telegraph-line, extending from Baltimore to Washington, was ready for use. On the day appointed for trial Morse met a party of friends in the chambers of the Supreme Court at the Washington end of the line and, sitting at the instrument which he had himself placed for trial, the happy inventor sent the message selected by Miss Ellsworth: “What hath God wrought!”

The telegraph was a great and brilliant achievement, and brought to its inventor well-earned fame. Now that success had come, honors were showered upon him by many 207countries. At the suggestion of the French Emperor, representatives from many countries in Europe met in Paris to decide upon some suitable testimonial to Morse as one who had done so much for the world. These delegates voted him a sum amounting to eighty thousand dollars as a token of appreciation for his great invention.

In 1872 this noble inventor, at the ripe age of eighty-one, breathed his last. The grief of the people all over the land was strong proof of the place he held in the hearts of his countrymen.

Some Things to Think About

  1. Tell all you can about John Fitch’s steamboats.

  2. Give examples which indicate young Fulton’s inventive gifts. Imagine yourself on the banks of the North River on the day set for the trial of the Clermont, and tell what happened.

  3. What and where was the National Road?

  4. In what ways was the Erie Canal useful to the people?

  5. Describe the first railroads and the first trains.

  6. Tell what you can about Morse’s twelve toilsome years of struggle while he was working out his great invention. How is the telegraph useful to men?

  7. What do you admire about Morse?

  8. Are you making frequent use of your map?




Return to Table of Contents


In a preceding chapter you learned how the great territories of Louisiana and Florida came to belong to America. We are now to learn of still other additions, namely, the great regions of Texas and California.

The most prominent man in the events connected with our getting Texas was Sam Houston.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Sam Houston.

He was born, of Irish descent, in 1793, in a farmhouse in Virginia. When he was thirteen years old the family removed to a place in Tennessee, near the home of the Cherokee Indians. The boy received but little schooling out in that new country. In fact, he cared far less about school than he did for the active, free life of his Indian neighbors.

So when his family decided to have him learn a trade he ran away from home and joined the Cherokees. There he made friends, and one of the chiefs adopted him as a son. We may think of him as enjoying 209the sports and games, the hunting and fishing, which took up so much of the time of the Indian boys.

On returning to his home, at the age of eighteen, he went to school for a term at Marysville Academy. In the War of 1812 he became a soldier and served under Andrew Jackson in the campaign against the Creek Indians. In the battle of Horseshoe Bend he fought with reckless bravery. During that fearful struggle he received a wound in the thigh. His commander, Jackson, then ordered him to stop fighting, but Houston refused to obey and was leading a desperate charge against the enemy when his right arm was shattered. It was a long time before he was well and strong again, but he had made a firm friend in Andrew Jackson.

Later Houston studied law and began a successful practice. He became so popular in Tennessee that the people elected him to many positions of honor and trust, the last of which was that of governor. About that time he was married, but a few weeks later he and his wife separated. Then, suddenly and without giving any reason for his strange conduct, he left his home and his State and went far up the Arkansas River to the home of his early friends the Cherokee Indians. The Cherokees had been removed to that distant country, beyond the Mississippi, by the United States Government.

About a year later Houston, wearing the garb of his adopted tribe, went in company with some of them to 210Washington. His stated purpose was to secure a contract for furnishing rations to the Cherokees.

But another purpose was in his mind. He had set his heart on winning Texas for the United States. Perhaps he talked over the scheme with his friend, President Jackson. However that may be, we know that some three years afterward Houston again left his Cherokee friends and went to Texas to live. His desire to secure this region for his country was as strong as ever.

A map of the Texas coast on the Gulf of Mexico

Scene of Houston’s Campaign.

At that time Texas was a part of Mexico. Already before Houston went down to that far-away land many people from the United States had begun to settle there. At first they were welcomed. But when the Mexicans saw the Americans rapidly growing in numbers they began 211to oppress them. The Mexican Government went so far as to require them to give up their private arms, which would leave them defenseless against the Indians as well as bad men. Then it passed a law which said, in effect, that no more settlers should come to Texas from the United States, so that the few thousand Americans could not be strengthened in numbers.

A drawing of a flag with one star right in the middle of it.

Flag of the Republic of Texas.

Of course, the Texans were indignant, and they rebelled against Mexico, declaring Texas to be an independent republic. At the same time they elected Houston commander-in-chief of all the Texan troops. This began a bitter war. The Mexican dictator, Santa Anna, with an army four or five thousand strong, marched into Texas to force the people to submit to the government.

The first important event of this struggle was the capture of the Alamo, an old Texan fortress at San Antonio. Although the garrison numbered only one hundred and forty, they were men of reckless daring, without fear, and they determined to fight to the last.


Among these hardy fighters was David Crockett, a pioneer and adventurer who had led a wild, roving life. He 212was a famous hunter and marksman and, like some of our other frontiersmen, was never happier than when he was alone in the deep, dark forests.

Born in eastern Tennessee, in 1786, he received no schooling, but he was a man of good understanding. His amusing stories and his skill with the rifle had made him many friends, who chose him to represent their district in the Tennessee Legislature and later in Congress.

A head-and-shoulders sketch.

David Crockett.

Like Sam Houston, he had served under Andrew Jackson in the war with the Creek Indians, and when the struggle with Mexico broke out he was one of the many brave backwoodsmen who left their homes and went down to help the Texans.

After a long journey from Tennessee, in which more than once he came near being killed by the Indians or wild beasts, he at last reached the fortress of the Alamo. He knew he was taking great risks in joining the small garrison there, but that did not hold him back. In fact, he liked danger.

The Mexican army, upon reaching San Antonio, began firing upon the Alamo. Their cannon riddled the fort, making wide breaches in the weak outer walls through which from every side thousands of Mexicans thronged into it. The Americans emptied their muskets and then fought 213with knives and revolvers. They fought with desperate bravery until only five of the soldiers were left.

A copy of a painting showing a battle surrounding a building.

The Fight at the Alamo.

One of these was David Crockett. He had turned his musket about and was using it as a club in his desperate struggle with the scores of men who sought his life. There he stood, his back against the wall, with the bodies of the Mexicans he had slain lying in a semicircle about him. His foes dared not rush upon him, but some of them held him at bay with their lances, while others, having loaded their muskets, riddled his body with bullets. Thus fell brave David Crockett, a martyr to his country’s cause.

A few weeks after the tragedy of the Alamo, Santa Anna’s army massacred a force of five hundred Texans at Goliad. The outlook for the Texan cause was now dark enough. But Sam Houston, who commanded something like seven 214hundred Texans, would not give up. He retreated eastward for some two hundred and fifty miles. But when he learned that Santa Anna had broken up his army into three divisions and was approaching with only about one thousand six hundred men Houston halted his troops and waited for them to come up. On their approach he stood ready for attack in a well-chosen spot near the San Jacinto River, where he defeated Santa Anna and took him prisoner.

The Texans now organized a separate government, and in the following autumn elected Houston as the first President of the Republic of Texas. He did all he could to bring about the annexation of Texas to the United States and at last succeeded, for Texas entered our Union in 1845. It was to be expected that the people of Mexico would not like this. They were very angry, and the outcome was the Mexican War which lasted nearly two years.

In 1846 Texas sent Houston to the United States Senate, where he served his State for fourteen years. When the Civil War broke out he was governor of Texas and, although his State seceded, Houston remained firm for the Union. On his refusal to resign, he was forced to give up his office. He died in 1863.


Still another man who acted as agent in this transfer of land from Mexico was John C. Frémont. He helped in securing California.

215He was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1813. His father died when he was a young child, and his mother went to Charleston, South Carolina, to live, and there gave her son a good education. After graduating from Charleston College he was employed by the government as assistant engineer in making surveys for a railroad between Charleston and Cincinnati, and also in exploring the mountain passes between North Carolina and Tennessee.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

John C. Frémont

He enjoyed this work so much that he was eager to explore the regions of the far western part of our country, which were still largely unknown. Accordingly, he made several expeditions beyond the Rocky Mountains, three of which are of special importance in our story.

His first expedition was made in 1842, when he was sent out by the War Department to explore the Rocky Mountains, especially the South Pass, which is in the State of Wyoming. He made his way up the Kansas River, crossed over to the Platte, which he ascended, and then pushed on to the South Pass. Four months after starting he had explored this pass and, with four of his men, had gone up to the top of Frémont’s Peak, where he unfurled to the breeze the beautiful stars and stripes.

The excellent report he made of the expedition was 216examined with much interest by men of science in our own country and in foreign lands.

In this and also in his second expedition Frémont received much help from a follower, Kit Carson. Kit Carson was one of the famous scouts and hunters of the West, who felt smothered by the civilization of a town or city, and loved the free, roaming life of the woodsman.

A man riding mule-back along a ridge, followed by several pack animals.

Frémont’s Expedition Crossing the Rocky Mountains.

Before joining Frémont, Kit Carson had travelled over nearly all of the Rocky Mountain country. Up to 1834 he was a trapper, and had wandered back and forth among the mountains until they had become very familiar to him. During the next eight years, in which he served as hunter for Bent’s Fort, on the Arkansas River, he learned to know the great plains. He was, therefore, very useful to Frémont as a guide.

217He was also well acquainted with many Indian tribes. He knew their customs, he understood their methods of warfare, and was well liked by the Indians themselves. He spoke their chief languages as well as he did his mother tongue.

After returning from his first expedition, Frémont made up his mind to explore the region between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific. He succeeded in getting orders from the government to do this, and set out on his second expedition in May, 1843, with thirty-nine men, Kit Carson again acting as guide.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Kit Carson.

The party left the little town of Kansas City in May and, in September, after travelling for one thousand seven hundred miles, they reached a vast expanse of water which excited great interest. It was much larger than the whole State of Delaware, and its waters were salt. It was, therefore, given the name of Great Salt Lake.

Passing on, Frémont reached the upper branch of the Columbia River. Then pushing forward down the valley of this river, he went as far as Fort Vancouver, near its mouth. Having reached the coast, he remained only a few days and then set out on his return (November 10).

His plan was to make his way around the Great Basin, a vast, deep valley lying east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 218But it was not long before heavy snow on the mountains forced him to go down into this basin. He soon found that he was in a wild desert region in the depths of winter, facing death from cold and starvation. The situation was desperate.

Frémont judged that they were about as far south as San Francisco Bay. If this was true, he knew that the distance to that place was only about seventy miles. But to reach San Francisco Bay it was necessary to cross the mountains, and the Indians refused to act as guides, telling him that men could not possibly cross the steep, rugged heights in winter. This did not stop Frémont. He said: “We’ll go, guides or no guides!” And go they did.

It was a terrible journey. Sometimes they came to places where the snow was one hundred feet deep or more. But they pushed forward for nearly six weeks. Finally, after suffering from intense cold and from lack of food, they made their way down the western side of the mountains, men and horses alike being in such a starved condition that they were almost walking skeletons.

At last they reached Sutter’s Fort, now the city of Sacramento, where they enjoyed the hospitality of Captain Sutter. After remaining there for a short time, Frémont recrossed the mountains, five hundred miles farther south, and continued to Utah Lake, which is twenty-eight miles south of Great Salt Lake. He had travelled entirely around the Great Basin.

219From Utah Lake he hastened across the country to Washington, with the account of his journey and of the discoveries he had made.

In 1845 Captain Frémont—for he had now been promoted to the rank of captain by the government—started out on his third expedition, with the purpose of exploring the Great Basin and then proceeding to the coast of what is now California and upward to Oregon.

A map of the US from Ohio to California. The path of Frémont is shown from Kansas to Oregon Territory to California.

Frémont’s Western Explorations.

Having explored the basin, he was on his way to Oregon, when he learned that the Mexicans were plotting to kill all the Americans in the valley of the Sacramento River. He therefore turned back to northern California, and with a force made up in part of American settlers gathered from the country round about, he took possession of that region, marched as fast as possible to Monterey, and captured that place also. Within about two 220months he had conquered practically all of California for the United States.

Frémont then made his home in California. On the 4th of the following July he was elected governor of the territory by the settlers then living there. Eleven years later the Republican party of the United States nominated him for President, but failed to elect him. He died in 1890. He has well been called “the Pathfinder.”

Frémont’s conquest of California was, in effect, a part of the Mexican War, which began in 1846. After nearly two years of fighting a treaty of peace was signed, by which Mexico ceded to the United States not only California but also much of the vast region now included in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.

This region, which is called the Mexican Cession, contained five hundred and forty-five thousand seven hundred and eighty-three square miles, while Texas included five hundred and seventy-six thousand one hundred and thirty-three square miles. These two areas together were, like Louisiana, much larger than the whole of the United States at the end of the Revolution. With the addition of Louisiana in 1803, of Florida in 1819, of Texas in 1845, and of this region in 1848, the United States had enormously increased her territory.



On the same day on which the treaty of peace was signed with Mexico (February 2, 1848), gold was discovered in California.

Captain Sutter, a Swiss pioneer living near the site of the present city of Sacramento—at Sutter’s Fort, where Frémont stopped on his second expedition—was having a water-power sawmill built up the river at some distance from his home. One day one of the workmen, while walking along the mill-race, discovered some bright yellow particles, the largest of which were about the size of grains of wheat. On testing them, Captain Sutter found that they were gold.

A drawing of a river area with a few houses in the distance.

Sutter’s Mill.

He tried to keep the discovery a secret, but it was impossible to prevent the news from spreading. “Gold! 222Gold! Gold!” seemed to ring through the air. From all the neighboring country men started in a mad rush for the gold-fields. Houses were left half built, fields half ploughed. “To the diggings!” was the watchword. From the mountains to the coast, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, settlements were abandoned. Even vessels that came into the harbor of San Francisco were deserted by their crews, sailors and captains alike being wild in their desire to dig for gold.

Within four months of the first discovery four thousand men were living in the neighborhood of Sacramento. The sudden coming together of so many people made it difficult to get supplies, and they rose in value. Tools of many kinds sold for large prices. Pickaxes, crowbars, and spades cost from ten dollars to fifty dollars apiece. Bowls, trays, dishes, and even warming-pans were eagerly sought, because they could be used in washing gold.

It was late in the year before people in the East learned of the discovery, for news still travelled slowly. But when it arrived, men of every class—farmers, mechanics, lawyers, doctors, and even ministers—started West.

The journey might be made in three ways. One was by sailing-vessels around Cape Horn. This route took from five to seven months. Another way was to sail from some Eastern port to the Isthmus of Panama, and crossing this, to take ship to San Francisco. The third route was overland, from what is now St. Joseph, Missouri, and required three or four months. This could not be taken 223until spring, and some who were unwilling to wait started at once by the water-routes.

Men were so eager to go that often several joined together to buy an outfit of oxen, mules, wagons, and provisions. They made the journey in covered wagons called “prairie-schooners,” while their goods followed in peddlers’ carts. It often happened that out on the plains they missed their way, for there was no travelled road, and a compass was as necessary as if they had been on the ocean.

A drawing of men sluicing sandy water.

Placer-Mining in the days of the California Gold Rush.

Journeying thus by day, and camping by night, they suffered many hardships while on the way. Disease laid hold of them. Four thousand died from cholera during the first year, and many more for lack of suitable food. 224In some cases they had to kill and eat their mules, and at times they lived on rattlesnakes. The scattered bones of men and beasts marked the trail; for in the frantic desire to reach the diggings the wayfarers would not always stop to bury their dead.

When the gold region was reached, tents, wigwams, bark huts, and brush arbors served as shelter. The men did their own cooking, washing, and mending, and food soared to famine prices. A woman or a child was a rare sight in all that eager throng, for men in their haste had left their families behind.

It was a time of great excitement. Perhaps you have a grandparent who can tell you something of those stirring days. The gold craze of ‘49 is a never-to-be-forgotten event in our history. As the search for nuggets and gold-dust became less fruitful, many of the men turned homeward, some enriched and some—alas!—having lost all they possessed.

Some Things To Think About

  1. What kind of boy was Houston? What kind of man? What did he do for Texas?

  2. Tell about David Crockett’s heroism at the Alamo.

  3. When reading about Frémont’s explorations look up on the map every one of them. What do you think of him?

  4. Who was Kit Carson, and how did he help Frémont?

  5. Locate on your map every acquisition of territory from the end of the Revolution to 1848.

  6. Imagine yourself going to California across the plains and mountains in 1849, and give an account of your experiences.




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The territory which we obtained from Mexico added much to the vastness of our country. But it led to a bitter dispute between the North and the South over slavery. For the North said: “All this territory shall be free.” The South said: “It must all be open to slavery.”

A head-and-shoulders sketch.

John C. Calhoun.

The trouble over slavery was no new thing. It had begun to be really serious and dangerous many years before the Mexican War. To understand why, a year or two after the close of this war, there should be such deep and violent feeling over the question of making the territory free or opening it to slavery, we must go back to some earlier events in the history of the Union.

In doing so, we shall find it simpler to follow the careers of three great statesmen, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster, who took each a prominent part in the events.

226John C. Calhoun, born in South Carolina in 1782, was the youngest but one of a family of five children. His father died when he was only thirteen, and until he was eighteen he remained on the farm, living a quiet, simple out-of-door life, ploughing, hunting, riding, and fishing.

Then his brother, who had observed John’s quickness of mind, persuaded him to get an education. After studying two years and a quarter in an academy, he entered the junior class at Yale College. Graduating in 1804, he at once took a course in the law school at Litchfield, Connecticut, and then returned home to complete his studies for the bar.

A drawing of the interior of a room with a table and chair, bookcase and fireplace.

Calhoun’s Office and Library.

Calhoun’s conduct in school was above reproach, and as a man he was always steady and serious-minded. During the early years of his public life he won much praise for his close attention to work, his stately speeches, and his courteous manners. His slender and erect form, his dignified bearing, and his piercing dark eyes made him an impressive figure; while, as a speaker, his powerful voice and winning manner were sure to command attention.

In 1808 he entered the South Carolina Legislature. This 227was the beginning of his long public career of more than forty years. During this time he served his country as a representative in Congress, Secretary of War, Vice-President of the United States, Secretary of State, and United States senator.

In all these many years he was a prominent leader, especially in those events which concerned the slave-holding Southern planter. This we shall see later, after we have made the acquaintance of the second of the powerful trio of great statesmen, Henry Clay.


Henry Clay was born near Richmond, Virginia, in 1777, in a low, level region called “the Slashes.” He was one of seven children. His father was a Baptist clergyman, of fine voice and pleasing manner of speaking. He died when little Henry was four years old, leaving but a small sum for his family to live upon.

Henry went, like the other boys of “the Slashes,” to a tiny log school without windows or floor. The schoolmaster, who knew very little himself, taught the boys to read, write, and cipher. But that was all.

Outside of school hours Henry shared in the farm work. He helped with the ploughing and often rode the family pony to the mill, using a rope for a bridle and a bag of corn, wheat, meal, or flour for a saddle. For this reason he has been called “the Mill Boy of the Slashes.”


A head-and-shoulders sketch

Henry Clay.

When fourteen years old he was given a place as clerk in a Richmond drug store. But he was not to stay there long, for about this time his mother married again, and his stepfather became interested in him. Realizing that Henry was a boy of unusual ability, he secured for him a place as copying clerk in the office of the Court of Chancery at Richmond.

A drawing of a small story-and-a-half brick house

The Birthplace of Henry Clay, near Richmond.

Henry was fifteen years old, tall, thin, and homely, when he entered this office. The other clerks were inclined to jeer at his awkwardness and his plain, home-made, ill-fitting clothes. But Henry’s sharp retorts quickly silenced them, and they soon grew to respect and like him. He was an earnest student. He stayed indoors and read in the evenings, while the other young fellows were idling about the town. He was eager to do something in the world. His opportunity 229soon came in the ordinary course of his daily work. His fine handwriting attracted the notice of the chancellor, a very able lawyer. This man was wise and kindly and had a deep influence on his young friend.

A one-room log schoolhouse

The Schoolhouse in “the Slashes.”

Clay joined the Richmond Debating Society and soon became the star speaker. He improved his speaking by studying daily some passage in a book of history or science, and then going out into a quiet place and declaiming what he had learned.

The chancellor knew about this, and it pleased him. He advised Henry Clay to study law, and within a year after his studies began, when he was only twenty-one years old, he was admitted to the bar.

To begin his law practice, he went to Lexington, Kentucky, which was then a small place of not more than fifty houses; but Clay very soon built up a good practice. Although he had arrived with scarcely a penny, within a year and a half he had been so successful that he was able to marry the daughter of a leading family. He soon owned a beautiful estate near Lexington, which he called “Ashland,” and with it several slaves.

230He became a great favorite among the people of the State, largely because he was absolutely truthful and honest in all his dealings. He was also talented, good-natured, and friendly to all. It is said that no man has ever had such power to influence a Kentucky jury as Clay.

Twice he was sent to the United States Senate to fill seats left vacant by resignation, and here his power as a speaker was so marked that when it was known that he would address the Senate the galleries were always full.

Such was the beginning of his life as a statesman. It lasted some forty years, and during this long period he was a prominent leader in the great events having to do with the country’s future.

He filled various national offices. He was Speaker of the House of Representatives for many years, was four years Secretary of State, and during much more than half of the time between 1831 and 1852 he was in the United States Senate. Three times he was a candidate for President, but each time he failed of election.

He would not swerve by a hair’s breadth from what he considered his duty, even for party ends. “I would rather be right than be President,” he said, and men knew that he was sincere.

Living in a Southern State, he would naturally have the interests of the South at heart. But he did not always take her part. While Calhoun was apt to see but one side of a question, Clay was inclined to see something of both sides 231and to present his views in such a way as to bring about a settlement. Therefore he was called “the Great Peacemaker.”

His most important work as a peacemaker had to do with the Missouri Compromise (1820), the compromise tariff (1833), and the Compromise of 1850—all of which we look into a little farther on, after we come to know something about the last and perhaps the greatest of our three statesmen, Daniel Webster. For all three were interested in the same great movement.


Daniel Webster was born among the hills of New Hampshire, in 1782, the son of a poor farmer, and the ninth of ten children. As he was a frail child, not able to work much on the farm, his parents permitted him to spend much of his time fishing, hunting, and roaming at will over the hills. Thus he came into close touch with nature and absorbed a kind of knowledge which was very useful to him in later years.

He was always learning things, sometimes in most unusual ways, as is shown by an incident which took place when he was only eight years old. Having seen in a store near his home a small cotton handkerchief with the Constitution of the United States printed upon it, he gathered up his small earnings to the amount of twenty-five cents and eagerly secured the treasure. From this unusual copy 232he learned the Constitution, word for word, so that he could repeat it from beginning to end.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Daniel Webster.

Of course, this was a most remarkable thing for an eight-year-old boy to do, but the boy was himself remarkable. He spent much of his time poring over books. They were few in number but of good quality, and he read them over and over again until they became a part of himself. It gave him keen pleasure to memorize fine poems and also noble selections from the Bible, for he learned easily and remembered well what he learned. In this way he stored his mind with the highest kind of truth.

When he was fourteen his father sent him to Phillips Exeter Academy. The boys he met there were mostly from homes of wealth and culture. Some of them were rude and laughed at Daniel’s plain dress and country manners. Of course, the poor boy, whose health was not robust and who was by nature shy and independent, found such treatment hard to bear. But he studied well and soon commanded respect because of his good work.

After leaving this school he studied for six months under a private tutor, and at the age of fifteen he was prepared to enter Dartmouth College. Although he proved 233himself to be a youth of unusual mental power, he did not take high rank in scholarship. But he continued to read widely and thoughtfully and stored up much valuable knowledge, which later he used with clearness and force in conversation and debate.

After being graduated from college Daniel taught for a year and earned money enough to help pay his brother’s college expenses. The following year he studied law and in due time was admitted to the bar. As a lawyer he was very successful, his income sometimes amounting to twenty thousand dollars in a single year. In those days that was a very large sum.

But he could not manage his money affairs well and, no matter how large his income, he was always in debt. This unfortunate state of affairs was owing to a reckless extravagance, which he displayed in many ways.

Indeed, Webster was a man of such large ideas that of necessity he did all things on a large scale. It was vastness that appealed to him. And this ruling force in his nature explains his eagerness to keep the Union whole and supreme over the States. This we shall soon clearly see.


Having taken this glimpse of our three heroes, let us see how the great events of their time were largely moulded by their influence. All of these events, as we are soon to 234learn, had a direct bearing on slavery, and that was the great question of the day.

Up to the Revolution there was slavery in all the thirteen colonies. Some of them wished to get rid of it; but England, the mother country, would not allow them to do so, because she profited by the trade in slaves. After the Revolution, however, when the States were free to do as they pleased about slavery, some put an end to it on their own soil, and in time Pennsylvania and the States to the north and east of it became free States.

Many people then believed that slavery would by degrees die out of the land, and perhaps this would have happened if the growing of cotton had not been made profitable by Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton-gin.

After that invention came into use, instead of slavery’s dying out, it took a much stronger hold upon the planters of the South than it had ever done before.

This fact became very evident when Missouri applied for admission into the Union. The South, of course, wished it to come into the Union as a slave State; the North, fearing the extension of slavery into the Louisiana Purchase, was equally set upon its coming in as a free State.

The struggle over the question was a long and bitter one, but finally both the North and the South agreed to give up a part of what they wanted; that is, they agreed upon a compromise. It was this: Missouri was to enter the Union as a slave State, but slavery was not to be allowed 235in any part of the Louisiana Purchase which lay north or west of Missouri. This was called the Missouri Compromise (1820).

It was brought about largely through the eloquence and power of Henry Clay, and because of his part in it he was called “the Great Peacemaker.” But Calhoun was one of the men who did not think the Missouri Compromise was a good thing for the country. He therefore strongly opposed it.

The next clash between the free States and the slave States was caused by the question of the tariff, or tax upon goods brought from foreign countries. Not long after the Missouri Compromise was agreed upon, Northern manufacturers were urging Congress to pass a high-tariff law. They said that, inasmuch as factory labor in England was so much cheaper than in this country, goods made in England could be sold for less money here than our own factory-made goods, unless a law was passed requiring a tax, or duty, to be paid upon the goods brought over. Such a tax was called a protective tariff.

Calhoun, who voiced the feeling of the Southern planters, said: “This high tariff is unfair, for, while it protects the Northern man, it makes us of the South poorer, because we have to pay so high for the things we do not make.”

You understand, there were no factories in the South, for the people were mostly planters. With the cheap slave labor, a Southern man could make more money by raising 236rice, cotton, sugar, or tobacco than he could by manufacturing. Also, it was thought that the soil and climate of the South made that section better fitted for agriculture than for anything else.

“So the South should be allowed,” said Calhoun, “to buy the manufactured goods—such as cheap clothing for her slaves, and household tools and farming implements—where she can buy them at the lowest prices.”

A drawing of a large three-story home with several additions.

The Home of Daniel Webster, Marshfield, Mass.

But in spite of this bitter opposition in the South, Congress passed the high-tariff law in 1828, and another in 1832.

The people of South Carolina were indignant. So, under the guidance of Calhoun, some of the leading men there met in convention and declared: “We here and now nullify the tariff laws.” By these words they meant that the laws should not be carried out in South Carolina. Then they added: “If the United States Government tries to enforce these laws on our soil, South Carolina will go out of the Union and form a separate nation.”

237Andrew Jackson was at that time President of the United States. Although he himself did not favor a high tariff, he was firm in his purpose that whatever law Congress might pass should be enforced in every State in the Union. When the news came to him of what South Carolina had done, he was quietly smoking his corn-cob pipe. In a flash of anger he declared: “The Union! It must and shall be preserved! Send for General Scott!” General Scott was commander of the United States army, and “Old Hickory,” as President Jackson was proudly called by many of his admirers, was ready to use the army and the navy, if necessary, to force any State to obey the law.

In this bitter controversy Daniel Webster, then senator from Massachusetts, had taken a bold stand for the Union. He said: “Congress passed the tariff law for the whole country. If the Supreme Court decides that Congress has the power, according to the Constitution, to pass such a law, that settles the matter. South Carolina and every other State must submit to this and every other law which Congress sees fit to make.”

This shows clearly that Daniel Webster’s belief was that the Union stood first and the State second. His deep love for the Union breathes all through his masterly speeches, the most famous of which is his “Reply to Hayne.” Hayne, a senator from South Carolina, was on the side of the South and set forth its views in a public debate. He had declared that the State was first and the Union second, and 238so powerful seemed his arguments that many doubted whether even Daniel Webster could answer them.

But he did answer them. In a remarkable speech of four hours he held his listeners spellbound, while he argued, with wonderful eloquence and power, that the Union was supreme over the States.

Again the great peacemaker, Henry Clay, brought forward a plan of settling the trouble between the two sections. By this compromise the duties were to be gradually lowered. This plan was adopted by Congress (1833), and again there was peace for a time.


The next dangerous outbreak between the North and the South came at the end of the Mexican War. Then arose the burning question: “Shall the territory we have acquired from Mexico be free or open to slavery?” Of course, the North wanted it to be free; the South wanted it to be open to slavery.

Henry Clay tried again, as he had tried twice before—in 1820 and in 1833—to pour oil upon the troubled waters. Although he was now an old man of seventy-two and in poor health, he spoke seventy times in his powerful, persuasive way, to bring about the Compromise of 1850, which he hoped would establish harmony between the North and the South and save the Union.

On one occasion when he was to speak he had to enter 239the Capitol leaning upon the arm of a friend, because he was too weak to climb the steps alone. After entering the Senate Chamber that day, the great speech he made was so long that his friends, fearing fatal results, urged him to stop. But he refused. Later he said that he did not dare to stop for fear he should never be able to begin again.

A copy of a painting showing a man speaking before a group of men.

Henry Clay Addressing the United States Senate in 1850.

Calhoun was no less ready to do all he could. Early in March, 1850, the white-haired man, now in his sixty-eighth year and, like Clay, struggling with illness, went to the Senate Chamber, swathed in flannels, to make his last appeal in behalf of the slaveholders. The powerful speech he made, which was intended as a warning to the North, expressed the deep and sincere conviction of the aged statesman that the break-up of the Union was at hand. He made a strong plea that the agitation against slavery should stop, and that the South, which, he said, was the weaker section, should be treated fairly by her stronger antagonist, the North.

Having made this last supreme effort in defense of the 240section which he loved as he loved his own life, the pro-slavery veteran, supported by two of his friends, passed out of the Senate Chamber.

But in spite of Calhoun’s opposition, the Compromise of 1850 passed. “Let California come in as a free State,” it said. This pleased the North. “Let the people in all the rest of the territory which we got from Mexico decide for themselves whether they shall have slavery or freedom.” This pleased the South. It also adopted the Fugitive Slave Law, which said: “When slaves run away from the South into the Northern States, they shall be returned to their masters; and when Northern people are called upon to help to capture them, they shall do so.”

A month after his speech on this compromise Calhoun died. The last twenty years of his life had been largely devoted to trying to secure what he regarded as the rights of the slaveholders and of the whole South. He was honest in his views. He was also sincere in his convictions that the South was not receiving fair treatment from the North.

Henry Clay also died in 1852. Some of the qualities that gave him his rare power over men were his magical voice, which was so deep and melodious that many people of his time said it was the finest musical instrument they had ever heard; his cheerful nature, which made him keenly enjoy life and delight to see others enjoy it; and above all else his never-swerving sincerity and honesty, which commanded the respect and confidence of all who knew him. 241Men believed that Henry Clay was a true man. His popularity grew in strength as he grew in years. His many followers proudly called him “Gallant Harry of the West.”

Webster’s power as an orator was still more remarkable. His voice was wonderful, his style was forceful, and his language was simple and direct. But after all, it was his striking personal appearance which made the deepest impression upon the men and women who heard him speak. It is told that one day when he was walking through a street of Liverpool, a navvy said of him: “That must be a king!” On another occasion Sydney Smith exclaimed: “Good heavens, he is a small cathedral by himself!” He was nearly six feet tall. He had a massive head, a broad, deep brow, and great, coal-black eyes, which once seen could never be forgotten.

He, too, was faithful in his devotion to his country. To the day of his death he showed his deep affection for the flag, the emblem of that Union which had inspired his noblest efforts. During the last two weeks of his life he was troubled much with sleeplessness. While through his open window he gazed at the starlit sky, his eyes would sometimes fall upon a small boat belonging to him, which floated near the shore not far away. By his direction a ship lantern had been so placed that its light would fall upon the stars and stripes flying there. At six in the evening the flag was raised and was kept flying until six in the morning up to the day of Webster’s death.

242He died in September, 1852, only a few weeks after his great compeer, Henry Clay. His was a master spirit, and the sorrow of his passing was well expressed by the stranger who said, when he looked at the face of the dead: “Daniel Webster, the world without you will be lonesome.”

Some Things to Think About

  1. What can you tell about the early life of John C. Calhoun? Of Henry Clay? Of Daniel Webster?

  2. Why was Clay called “the Great Peacemaker”?

  3. Why were the people of South Carolina opposed to the high tariff laws of 1828 and 1832?

  4. What was Webster’s idea of the Union, and in what way did it differ from Hayne’s?

  5. What was the Missouri Compromise? What was the Compromise of 1850?

  6. What do you admire about each of the three great statesmen?

  7. Are you making frequent use of your maps?




Return to Table of Contents


It was thought by many that the Compromise of 1850 would put an end to the bitter and violent feeling over the spread of slavery, but it did not. For in the North the opposition to its extension into new States became so powerful that in five years there had grown up a great political party—the Republican party—whose main purpose was to oppose the spread of slavery.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Abraham Lincoln.

One of its ablest and most inspiring leaders was Abraham Lincoln. He was born in a rough cabin in Kentucky, February 12, 1809. When he was seven years old, the family moved to Indiana, and settled about eighteen miles north of the Ohio River. The journey to their new home was very tedious and lonely, for in some places they had to cut a roadway through the forest. It took them three days to travel the last eighteen miles.

Having arrived safely in November, all set vigorously 244to work to provide a shelter against the winter. The seven-year old boy was healthy, rugged, and active, and from early morning till late evening he worked with his father, chopping trees and cutting poles and boughs for their “camp,” the rude shelter in which they were to live until spring.

This “camp” was a mere shed, only fourteen feet square and open on one side. It was built of poles lying one upon another and had a thatched roof of boughs and leaves. As there was no chimney, there could be no fire within the enclosure, and it was necessary to keep one burning all the time just in front of the open side.

A sketch of a log cabin

Lincoln’s Birthplace.

During this first winter in the wild woods of Indiana the little boy must have lived a very busy life. There was much to do in building the cabin which was to take the place of the “camp,” and in cutting down trees and making a clearing for the corn-planting of the coming spring.

After spending the winter in the “camp,” the Lincoln family, in the following spring, moved into the newly built log cabin. This had no windows, and no floor except the bare earth. There was an opening on one side, which was used as a doorway, but there was no door, nor was there so much as an animal’s skin to keep out the rain or the snow or to protect the family from the cold wind.

In this rough abode the rude and simple furniture was 245very much like what we have already seen in the cabins of the Tennessee settlers. For chairs there was the same kind of three-legged stools, made by smoothing the flat side of a split log and putting sticks into auger holes underneath. The tables were as simply made, except that they stood on four legs instead of three. The crude bedsteads in the corners of the cabin were made by sticking poles in between the logs at right angles to the wall, the outside corner where the poles met being supported by a crotched stick driven into the ground. Ropes were then stretched from side to side, making a framework upon which shucks and leaves were heaped for bedding, and over all were thrown the skins of wild animals for a covering. Pegs driven into the wall served as a stairway to the loft, where there was another bed of leaves. Here little Abe slept.

Abraham Lincoln’s schooling was brief—not more than a year in all, and the schools he attended were like those we became acquainted with in the early settlements of Kentucky and Tennessee. During his last school-days he had to go daily a distance of four and one-half miles from his home, with probably no roadway except the deer path through the forest. His midday lunch was a corn dodger, which he carried in his pocket.

In spite of this meagre schooling however, the boy, by his self-reliance, resolute purpose, and good reading habits, acquired the very best sort of training for his future life. He had no books at his home, and, of course, there were but 246few to be had in that wild country from other homes. But among those he read over and over again, while a boy, were the Bible, “Æsop’s Fables,” “Robinson Crusoe,” “Pilgrim’s Progress,” “A History of the United States,” and Weems’s “Life of Washington,” all books of the right kind.

A drawing of a young man lying by fire and reading.

Lincoln Studying by Firelight.

His stepmother said of him: “He read everything he could lay his hands on, and when he came across a passage that struck him, he would write it down on boards, if he had no paper, and keep it before him until he could get paper. Then he would copy it, look at it, commit it to memory, and repeat it.”

When night came he would find a seat in the corner by 247the fireside, or stretch out at length on the floor in front of it, and by the firelight write, or work sums in arithmetic, on a wooden shovel, using a charred stick for a pencil. After covering the shovel, he would shave it off and use the surface over again.

The way in which he came to own a “Life of Washington” is interesting. Having borrowed the book, he took it to bed with him in the loft and read until his candle gave out. Then, before going to sleep, he tucked the book into a crevice of the logs in order that he might have it at hand as soon as daylight would permit him to read the next morning. But during the night a storm came up, and the rain beat in upon the book, wetting it through and through. With heavy heart Lincoln took it back to its owner, who gave it to him on condition that he would work three days to pay for it. Eagerly agreeing to do this, the boy carried his new possession home in triumph. This book had a marked influence over his future.

But his time for reading was limited, for until he was twenty his father hired him out to do all sorts of work, at which he sometimes earned six dollars a month and sometimes thirty-one cents a day. Money was always sorely needed in that household, the poor farm yielding only a small return for much hard work. For this reason, just before Abraham Lincoln came of age, his family, with all their possessions packed in a cart drawn by four oxen, moved again toward the West. For two weeks they travelled across 248the country into Illinois, and finally made a new home on the banks of the Sangamon River.

A drawing of a young man using an axe to split a log down its length.

Lincoln Splitting Rails.

On reaching the end of the journey (in the spring of 1830), Abraham helped to build a log cabin and to clear ten acres of land for planting. This was the last work he did for his father, as he was now some months over twenty-one and was quite ready to go out into the world and work for himself. When he left his father’s house he had nothing, not even a good suit of clothes, and one of the first things he did was to split rails for enough brown jeans to make him a pair of trousers. As he was six feet four inches tall, three and one-half yards were needed! For these he split 1400 rails.

At times throughout life he was subject to deep depression, 249which made his face unspeakably sad. But as a rule he was cheerful and merry, and on account of his good stories, which he told with rare skill, he was in great demand in social gatherings and at the crossroads grocery store. He was a giant in strength and a skilful wrestler. This helped to make him popular.

A drawing of a young man steering a barge.

Lincoln as a Boatman.

For some months after leaving his father’s home Lincoln worked in the neighborhood, most of the time as a farmhand and rail-splitter. But he desired something different. From time to time he had watched the boats carrying freight up and down the river and had wondered where the vessels were going. Eager to learn about the life outside his narrow world, he determined to become a boatman. As soon as he could, therefore, he found employment on a flatboat that carried corn, hogs, hay, and other farm produce down to New Orleans.

But tiring at length of the long journeys, he became clerk in a village store at New Salem, Illinois. Many stories are told of Lincoln’s honesty in his dealings with the people in this village store. It is said that on one occasion a woman, in making change, overpaid him the trifling sum of six cents. When Lincoln found out the mistake he 250walked three miles and back that night to give the woman her money.

In less than a year the closing of this village store left him without employment, and after this he had a varied experience, first in a grocery store of his own, next as postmaster in New Salem, and then as a surveyor.


After many trials at various occupations, he decided at last to become a lawyer, and after being admitted to the bar, he opened an office at Springfield, Illinois. He succeeded well in his chosen profession, and also took a keen interest in the larger affairs of his community and State.

In this wider field of action certain qualities of mind and heart greatly aided him. For, in spite of scant learning, he was a good public speaker and skilful debater, because he thought clearly and convinced those who heard him of his honesty and high purpose. Such a man is certain to win his way in the world. In due time he was elected to Congress, where his interest in various public questions, especially that of slavery, became much quickened.

On this question his clear head and warm heart united in forming strong convictions that had great weight with the people. He continued to grow in political favor and, in 1858, received the nomination of the Republican party for the United States Senate. His opponent was Stephen 251A. Douglas, known as the “Little Giant,” on account of his short stature and powerful eloquence as an orator.

The debates between the two men, preceding the election, were followed with keen interest all over the country. Lincoln argued with great power against the spread of slavery into the new States, and although he lost the election, he won such favorable notice that two years later a greater honor came to him. In 1860, the Republican National Convention, which met at Chicago, nominated him as its candidate for President, and a few months later he was elected to that office.

The agitation over slavery was growing more and more bitter, and when Lincoln was elected some of the Southern States threatened to go out of the Union. They claimed that it was their right to decide for themselves whether they should secede. On the other hand, the North declared that no State could secede without the consent of the other States.

Before Lincoln was inaugurated seven of the Southern States had carried out their threat to secede, calling themselves the Confederate States of America.** Jefferson Davis was chosen president and Alexander H. Stephens vice-president. The seven cotton States hoped that they would be joined by the other eight slave States, but only four of these eight seceded. Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri remained loyal to the Union. The excitement everywhere was intense. Many people regretted that a man of larger experience than Lincoln had not been chosen to be at the head of the government. They were anxious 252lest this plain man of the people, this awkward backwoodsman, should not be able to lead the nation in those dark and troubled days. But, little as they trusted him, he was well fitted for the work that lay before him.

His inauguration was but a few weeks over when the Civil War began. We cannot here pause for full accounts of all Lincoln’s trials and difficulties in this fearful struggle. During those four fateful years, 1861-1865, his burdens were almost overwhelming. But, like Washington, he believed that “right makes might” and must prevail, and this belief sustained him.

Although his whole nature revolted against slavery, he had no power to do away with it in the States where it existed, for by his office he was sworn to defend the Constitution. “My great purpose,” he said, “is to save the Union, and not to destroy slavery.”

But as the war went on he became certain that the slaves, by remaining on the plantations and producing food for the Southern soldiers, were aiding the Southern cause. He therefore determined to set the slaves free in all the territory where people were fighting to break up the Union, just as far as it was conquered by Union troops. “As commander-in-chief of the Union armies,” he reasoned, “I have a right to do this as a war measure.” The famous state paper in which Lincoln declared that such slaves were free was called the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863).

253This freeing of a part of the slaves not only hastened the end of the war but led, after its close, to the final emancipation of all the slaves. We should remember that the man who did most to bring about this result was Abraham Lincoln, whose name has gone down in history as the great emancipator.

A copy of a charcoal sketch showing a shadowy Lincoln standing next to a bed-ridden man.

Lincoln Visiting Wounded Soldiers.

Passing over the events of the war, which we shall consider later in connection with its great generals, let us look ahead two years.

On April 9, 1865, General Lee, as we shall see a little later, surrendered his army to General Grant at Appomattox Court House. By this act the war was brought to a close, and there was great rejoicing everywhere.

But suddenly the universal joy was changed into universal sorrow, for a shocking thing happened. Five days after Lee’s surrender, Lincoln went with his wife and friends to see a play at Ford’s Theatre, in Washington. In the 254midst of the play, a Southern actor, John Wilkes Booth, who was familiar with the theatre, entered the President’s box, shot him in the back of the head, jumped to the stage, and rushed through the wings to the street. There he mounted a horse in waiting for him and escaped, soon, however, to be hunted down and killed in a barn where he lay in hiding.

The martyr President lingered during the long hours of the sad night, tenderly watched by his family and a few friends. When, on the following morning, he breathed his last, Secretary Stanton said with truth: “Now he belongs to the ages.”

The people deeply mourned the loss of him who had wisely and bravely led them through four years of heavy trial and anxiety. We are all richer because of the life of Abraham Lincoln, our countryman, our teacher, our guide, and our friend. And the loss to the South was even greater than to the North. For he was not only just but also kind and sympathetic; and only he could have saved the South from its calamities for years afterward.


Having followed a few of the leading events in the remarkable career of our martyr President, let us turn our thoughts to the Civil War, through which it was Lincoln’s great work to guide us, as a nation. It was a struggle that tested the manhood, quite as much as the resources, of the 255warring sections, and each side might well be proud of the bravery and skill of its officers and soldiers. Certainly each side had among its generals some of the greatest military leaders of all time.

A colored map of the US


One of the ablest generals commanding the Confederate troops was Robert E. Lee. He was born in Virginia, January 19, 1807, his father being the Revolutionary general known as “Light-Horse Harry.” Although the records of his boyhood days are scanty, we know that when little Robert was about four years old the Lees removed from Stratford to Alexandria, in order to educate their children. Here the boy was prepared for West Point Academy, which he entered when he was eighteen. At this military school he made such a good record as a student that he was graduated second in his class.

A head-and-shoulders sketch.

Robert E. Lee.

Two years later he married Miss Custis, who was a great-granddaughter of Mrs. George Washington, and through this marriage he shared with his wife the control of large property, which included plantations and a number of slaves.

Immediately after leaving West Point, he entered the army as an engineer, and during the Mexican War distinguished himself for his skill and bravery. A few years 256later (1852), he was appointed superintendent of West Point Academy, where he remained three years.

At the outbreak of the Civil War he was so highly esteemed as an officer in the United States army, that he would have been appointed commander of the Union armies if he had been willing to accept the position. He loved the Union, and was opposed to secession, but when Virginia, his native State, seceded he felt that it was his duty to go with her.

A photograph of a colonnaded mansion.

Lee’s Home at Arlington, Virginia.

His struggle in making the decision was a painful one, as was made plain in a letter he wrote to a sister, then living in Baltimore. “With all my devotion to the Union,” he said, “and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I know you will blame me, but you must think as kindly of me as you can, and believe that I have endeavored to do what I thought right.”

Soon after he decided that he must go with Virginia in the great struggle which was to follow, he accepted the command of the Virginia State forces, and within a year from 257that time became military adviser of Jefferson Davis, who was President of the Confederacy.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Jefferson Davis.

In 1862, the second year of the war, Lee took command of the leading Confederate army in Virginia. General McClellan, who commanded a large Union army, had been trying to capture Richmond, the capital of the Confederate States. After fighting a series of battles, he approached so close to Richmond that his soldiers could see the spires of the churches. But as the city was strongly fortified he retreated to the James River. During this retreat, which lasted a week, were fought what were known as the “Seven Days’ Battles.”

Having thus saved Richmond from capture, Lee marched north into Maryland, expecting the people to rise and join his forces. But they were loyal to the Union and refused. The terrible battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg was fought (September, 1862), and Lee was obliged to retreat to Virginia.

A few months later (December, 1862), Lee repulsed an attack of the Union army at Fredericksburg with fearful slaughter, and in the following May he won a victory at Chancellorsville.



A head-and-shoulders sketch

Thomas J. Jackson.

In all these battles Lee’s most effective helper was General Thomas J. Jackson, “Stonewall” Jackson, as he was called. Jackson won his nickname at the battle of Bull Run. One of the Confederate generals, who was trying to hearten his retreating men, cried out to them: “See, there is Jackson, standing like a stone wall! Rally round the Virginians!” From that hour of heroism he was known as Stonewall Jackson, and for his bravery in this battle he was made a major-general. He was such a stubborn fighter, and so furious in his enthusiasm that “his soldiers marched to death when he bade them. What was even harder, they marched at the double-quick through Virginia mud, without shoes, without food, without sleep.” They cheerfully did his bidding because they loved him. The sight of his old uniform and scrawny sorrel horse always stirred the hearts of his followers.

A flag showing three stripes and eleven stars.

A Confederate Flag.

Jackson was a deeply religious man. In spirit he was so much of a Puritan that it caused him great regret to march or to fight on a Sunday.

259He was devoted to Lee and placed the greatest confidence in him. “He is the only man I would follow blindfold,” he said, and on his death-bed he exclaimed: “Better that ten Jacksons should fall than one Lee!”

Stonewall Jackson was shot at the battle of Chancellorsville, but not by the enemy. He and his escort had ridden out beyond his line of battle, when, being mistaken for the enemy, they were fired upon by some of their own soldiers, and Jackson was mortally wounded. His death was a great loss to the Southern army.


Another of General Lee’s very able helpers was General Stuart. He wrote his name J.E.B. Stuart. So his admirers called him “Jeb.”

A head-and-shoulders sketch.

J.E.B. Stuart.

He was absolutely fearless. “He would attack anything anywhere,” and he inspired his men with the same zeal. He was noted for falling into dangerous situations and then cleverly getting himself out. His men were used to this. They trusted him completely and without question. They loved him, too, for his good comradeship. For although he preserved the strictest discipline, he frolicked with his officers like a boy, playing at snowballs, or marbles, or whatever they chose, and enjoying it all heartily.

260He was so fond of gay, martial music that he kept his banjo-player, Sweeney, always with him, and worked in his tent to the cheerful accompaniment of his favorite songs, now and then leaning back to laugh and join in the choruses.

A drawing of a camp scene.

Confederate Soldiers.

His gay spirit found expression also in the clothes he wore. Listen to this description of him: “His fighting jacket shone with dazzling buttons and was covered with gold braid; his hat was looped up with a golden star and decorated with a black ostrich plume; his fine buff gauntlets reached to the elbow; around his waist was tied a splendid yellow sash, and his spurs were pure gold.” These spurs, of which he was immensely proud, were a gift from Baltimore women. His battle-flag was a gorgeous red one, 261which he insisted upon keeping with him, although it often drew the enemy’s fire.

Stuart was very proud of his men and their pluck. He knew by name every man in the first brigade.

It was his strong desire that he might meet his death while leading a cavalry charge, and he had his wish. For he was struck down near Richmond, in 1864, while he was leading an attack against Sheridan.

He died when he was only thirty-one, deeply mourned by all his men.


But to return to General Lee. After winning the two important battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, he decided that he would again invade the North (1863). He believed that a great victory north of the Potomac River might lead to the capture of Philadelphia and Washington and thus end the war.

Having marched boldly into Pennsylvania, he met the Union army, under General Meade, at the little town of Gettysburg, not far from the southern border of the State. There for three days the most terrible battle of the war, and in its results, one of the greatest battles of all history, took place. After three days of fighting, in which the loss on both sides was fearful, Lee was defeated and forced to retreat to Virginia.

The defeat of Lee’s army at Gettysburg was a crushing 262blow to the hopes of the South. Lee himself felt this to be true. And, grieving over the heavy loss of his men in the famous Pickett’s Charge, he said to one of his generals: “All this has been my fault. It is I that have lost this fight, and you must help me out of it the best you can.”

But even in the face of this defeat his officers and soldiers still trusted their commander. They said: “Uncle Robert will get us into Washington yet.”

A drawing of soldiers ready for battle.

Union Soldiers.

But the surrender of another division of the army, fighting far away on the Mississippi River, added defeat to defeat. For the day following the battle of Gettysburg, General Grant captured Vicksburg, the greatest Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. The South could no longer hope for victory.


Before going on with the story of the war, let us pause for a little in order to catch a glimpse of Ulysses S. Grant, 263the remarkable man who was the greatest general that the North produced throughout the war.

He was born in a humble dwelling at Point Pleasant, Ohio, in April, 1822. The year following his birth the family removed to Georgetown, Ohio, where they lived many years.

The father of Ulysses was a farmer and manufacturer of leather. The boy did not like the leather business, but he did like work on the farm. When only seven years old, he hauled all the wood which was needed in the home and at the leather factory from the forest, a mile from the village.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Ulysses S. Grant.

From the age of eleven to seventeen, according to his own story as told in his “Personal Memoirs,” he ploughed the soil, cultivated the growing corn and potatoes, sawed fire-wood, and did any other work a farmer boy might be expected to do. He had his good times also, fishing, swimming in the creek not far from his home, driving about the country, and skating with other boys.

He liked horses, and early became a skilful rider. A story is told of him which indicates not only that he was a good horseman, but that he had “bulldog grit” as well. One day when he was at a circus, the manager offered a 264silver dollar to any one who could ride a certain mule around the ring. Several persons, one after the other, mounted the animal, only to be thrown over its head. Young Ulysses was among those who offered to ride, but, like the others, he failed. Then, pulling off his coat, he got on the animal again. Putting his legs firmly around the mule’s body and seizing it by the tail, Ulysses rode in triumph around the ring amid the cheers of the crowd.

A photograph of a cottage.

Grant’s Birthplace, Point Pleasant, Ohio.

Although he cared little for study, his father wished to give him all the advantages of a good education and secured for him an appointment to West Point. After graduating, he wished to leave the army and become an instructor in mathematics at his alma mater. But, as the Mexican War broke out about that time, he entered active service. Soon he gave striking evidence of that fearless bravery for which he was later to become noted on the battle-fields of the Civil War.

At the close of the Mexican War, Grant resigned from the army and engaged in farming and business until the outbreak of the Civil War.

265With the news that the Southern troops had fired on the flag at Fort Sumter, Grant’s patriotism was aroused. Without delay he rejoined the army and at once took an active part in getting ready for the war. First as colonel, and then as brigadier-general, he led his troops, and his powers as a leader quickly developed.

The first of his achievements was the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, in Tennessee, the centre of a strong Confederate line of defense. At Fort Donelson he received the surrender of nearly fifteen thousand prisoners, and by his great victory compelled the Confederates to abandon two of their important strongholds, Columbus and Nashville.

After the loss of Fort Donelson the Confederates fell back to a second line of defense and took position at Corinth. General Grant’s army was at Pittsburg Landing, eighteen miles away; not far off was the village of Shiloh, from which the battle is now generally named. Here, early on Sunday morning (April 6, 1862), Grant was attacked by Johnston, and his men were driven back a mile and a half toward the river.

It was a fearful battle, lasting until nearly dark. Not until after midnight was Grant able to rest, and then, sitting in the rain, with his back against the foot of a tree, he slept a few hours before the renewal of battle on Monday morning. With reinforcements he was able on the second day to drive the enemy off the field and win a signal victory.

266By this battle Grant broke the Confederates’ second line of defense. Although they fought bravely and well to prevent the Union troops from getting control of the Mississippi River, by the close of 1862 the South had lost every stronghold on the river except Port Hudson and Vicksburg.

A photograph of a seated man and a standing boy and woman.

General and Mrs. Grant with Their Son at City Point, Virginia.

Vicksburg was so strongly defended that the Confederates believed that it could not be taken. A resolute effort to capture it was made by General Grant in 1863. After a brilliant campaign of strategy, by which he got around the defenses, he laid siege to the city itself. For seven weeks the Confederate army held out. During that time the people of Vicksburg sought refuge from the enemy’s shells in caves and cellars, their only food at times consisting of rats and mule flesh. But on July 4, 1863, the day after General Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg, Vicksburg surrendered to General Grant. Four days later Port Hudson, 267some distance below, was captured, and thus the last stronghold of the Mississippi came under control of the North.

General Grant had become the hero of the Northern army. His success was in no small measure due to his dogged perseverance. While his army was laying siege to Vicksburg, a Confederate woman, at whose door he stopped to ask for a drink of water, inquired whether he expected ever to capture Vicksburg. “Certainly,” he replied. “But when?” was the next question. Quickly came the answer: “I cannot tell exactly when I shall take the town, but I mean to stay here till I do, if it takes me thirty years.”

General Grant having by his capture of Vicksburg won the confidence of the people, President Lincoln, in 1864, put him in command of all the Union armies of the East and the West. In presenting the new commission, Lincoln addressed him in these words: “As the country herein trusts you, so, under God, it will sustain you.”


In the spring of that year the Confederates had two large armies in the field. One of them, under General Lee, was defending Richmond. The other, under General Joseph E. Johnston, was in Tennessee, defending the Confederate cause in that region. General Grant’s plan was to send General Sherman, in whom he had great confidence, against General Johnston, with orders to capture Atlanta, which 268was now the workshop and storehouse of the Confederacy. Grant himself was to march against Lee and capture Richmond. The two great watchwords were: “On to Atlanta!” and “On to Richmond!”

A head-and-shoulders sketch

William Tecumseh Sherman.

Early in May both Grant and Sherman began their campaigns. Starting from Chattanooga, in Tennessee, Sherman began to crowd Johnston toward Atlanta. In order to keep his line of supplies open from Nashville Sherman kept his army close to the railroad, and to hinder him as much as possible, the Confederates sent back bodies of troops to the rear of the Union army to tear up the railroads. But so quickly were they rebuilt by Sherman’s men that the Confederates used to say: “Sherman must carry a railroad on his back.” His advance was slow but steady, and on September 2 he captured Atlanta.

A little later Sherman started on his famous march “From Atlanta to the Sea,” with the purpose of weakening the Confederate armies by destroying their supplies and their railroads in Southern Georgia. His army marched in four columns, covering a belt of territory sixty miles wide. Four days before Christmas he captured Savannah and sent to President Lincoln the famous telegram: “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 269one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition; also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.” Sherman’s “March to the Sea” was a wonderful achievement.

A drawing of several men on horseback following a large contingent of footsoldiers.

Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Let us make the acquaintance of this remarkable man. He was at this time forty-four. Standing six feet high, with muscles of iron and a military bearing, he gave the impression of having great physical endurance. And no matter whether he was exposed to drenching rain, bitter cold, or burning heat, he never gave signs of fatigue. Many nights he slept only three or four hours, but he was able to fall asleep easily almost anywhere he happened to be, whether lying upon the wet ground or on a hard floor, or even amid the din and roar of muskets and cannon.

In battle he could not sit calmly smoking and looking 270on, like General Grant. He was too much excited to sit still, and his face reflected his thoughts. Yet his mind was clear and his decisions were rapid.

A map including the area from the Atlantic Ocean to Tennesee, showing Sherman's movements from Chattanooga to Savannah

Route of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

His soldiers admired him and gave him their unbounded confidence. One of his staff said of him while they were on the “March to the Sea”: “The army has such an abiding faith in its leader that it will go wherever he leads.” At Savannah the soldiers would proudly remark as their general rode by: “There goes the old man. All’s right.”

During the trying experience of this famous march, Sherman’s face grew anxious and care-worn. But behind the care-worn face there were kind and tender feelings, especially for the young. Little children would show their trust in him by clasping him about his knees or by nestling in his arms. While he was in Savannah, large groups of 271children made a playground of the general’s headquarters and private room, the doors of which were never closed to them.

While General Sherman, in Georgia, was pushing his army “On to Atlanta” and “On to the Sea,” Grant was trying to defeat Lee and capture Richmond. With these aims in view, Grant crossed the Rapidan River and entered the wilderness in direct line for Richmond. Here fighting was stern business. The woods were so gloomy and the underbrush was so thick that the men could not see one another twenty feet away.

Lee’s army furiously contested every foot of the advance. In the terrible battles that followed Grant lost heavily, but he pressed doggedly on, writing to President Lincoln his stubborn resolve: “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.”

It did take all summer and longer. Moreover, Grant found that he could not possibly capture Richmond from the north. So he crossed the James River and attacked the city from the south. Yet when autumn ended Lee was still holding out, and Grant’s army settled down for the winter.


At this time one of Grant’s most skilful generals and ablest helpers was Philip H. Sheridan, who was a brilliant cavalry leader. As a boy he had a strong liking for books, 272and especially those which told of war and the lives of daring men. When he read of their brave deeds perhaps he dreamed of the days when he might be a great soldier.

At the time when he came into most prominent notice—in the summer and autumn of 1864—he was only thirty-three years old. He was short, and as he weighed but one hundred and fifteen pounds, he was not at all impressive in appearance, except in the heat of battle, when his personality was commanding and inspiring.

A head-and-shoulders sketch

Philip H. Sheridan.

No matter how trying the situation might be, he never lost self-control and was always kind and friendly toward those working with him. But perhaps his finest quality was a stern devotion to duty. He said, in effect: “In all the various positions I have held, my sole aim has ever been to be the best officer I could and let the future take care of itself.” Such a man, whether civilian or soldier, is a true patriot.

It was early in August, 1864, that General Grant placed Sheridan in command of the Union army in the Shenandoah valley, with orders to drive the enemy out and destroy their food supplies.

Sheridan entered the valley from the north, destroyed large quantities of supplies, and after some fighting went 273into camp on the north side of Cedar Creek, in October. A few days later he was called to Washington. Returning on the eighteenth, he stayed overnight at Winchester, about fourteen miles from Cedar Creek.

About six o’clock the next morning, a picket on duty reported to him before he was up that cannon were being fired in the direction of Cedar Creek. At first Sheridan paid little attention. Then he began to be disturbed. He writes: “I tried to go to sleep again, but grew so restless that I could not and soon got up and dressed myself.” Eating a hurried breakfast, he mounted his splendid coal-black steed, Rienzi, and started for the battle-field of Cedar Creek, where his army was. This was the ride that afterward became famous as “Sheridan’s Ride.”

A drawing of a man on horseback charging with his sword

Sheridan Rallying His Troops.

As he rode forward he could hear the booming of cannon. Then he saw a part of his army in full retreat, and fugitives told him that a battle had been fought against General Early’s Confederates and everything lost.

With two aides and twenty men the gallant Sheridan 274dashed forward to the front as fast as his foaming steed could carry him. On meeting a retreating officer who said, “The army is whipped,” Sheridan replied: “You are, but the army isn’t.”

As he pushed ahead he said to his soldiers: “If I had been with you this morning this disaster would not have happened. We must face the other way. We must go back and recover our camp.”

As soon as his troops caught sight of “Little Phil,” as they liked to call him, they threw their hats into the air and, with enthusiastic cheers, shouldered their muskets and faced about. Sheridan brought order out of confusion and in the battle that followed drove Early’s army from the field in utter rout.

Great was the rejoicing in the North over this victory, and Sheridan himself was raised to the rank of major-general.

This victory was largely due to Sheridan’s magnetic influence over his men. The following incident illustrates this remarkable power of “Little Phil”: At the battle of Five Forks, which took place near Richmond the next spring (1865), a wounded soldier in the line of battle near Sheridan stumbled and was falling behind his regiment. But when Sheridan cried out, “Never mind, my man; there’s no harm done!” the soldier, although with a bullet in his brain, went forward with his fighting comrades till he fell dead.



Let us now return to Grant. After remaining near Petersburg all winter, in the spring of 1865 he pressed so hard upon the Confederate army that Lee had to leave Richmond and move rapidly westward in order to escape capture. For a week Grant closely followed Lee’s troops, who were almost starving; all they had to eat was parched corn and green shoots of trees, and the outlook was so dark that many had deserted and started for home.

A drawing of a two story house.

The McLean House, Where Lee Surrendered.

There was but one thing left for Lee to do. That was to give up the struggle, for he knew the Southern cause was hopeless. An interview, therefore, was arranged with Grant. It was held on Sunday morning, April 9, in a house standing in the little village of Appomattox Court House.

Grant writes in his “Personal Memoirs”: “I was without a sword, as I usually was when on horse-back on the field, and wore a soldier’s blouse for a coat, with the shoulder-straps of my rank to indicate to the army who I was…. General Lee was dressed in a full uniform, which was entirely new, and was wearing a sword of considerable value—very likely the sword which had 276been presented by the State of Virginia…. In my rough travelling suit, the uniform of a private with the straps of a lieutenant-general, I must have contrasted very strangely with a man so handsomely dressed, six feet tall, and of faultless form.”

A map showing Virginia, including the Chesapeake Bay

The Country Around Washington and Richmond.

The result of the interview was the surrender of General Lee and his army. When this took place General Grant showed clearly his great kindness of heart and his delicate feeling. He issued orders that all the Confederates who owned horses and mules should be allowed to take them home. “They will need them for the spring ploughing,” 277he said. He also had abundant food at once sent to the hungry Confederate soldiers. Never did General Grant appear more truly great than on the occasion of Lee’s surrender.

He was indeed a remarkable man in many ways. While in the army he seemed to have wonderful powers of endurance. He said of himself: “Whether I slept on the ground or in a tent, whether I slept one hour or ten in the twenty-four, whether I had one meal or three, or none, made no difference. I would lie down and sleep in the rain without caring.” This, as you remember, he did at Pittsburg Landing.

Yet his appearance did not indicate robust health. He was only five feet eight inches tall, round-shouldered, and not at all military in bearing or walk. But his brown hair, blue eyes, and musical voice gave a pleasing impression. He was of a sunny disposition and of singularly pure mind. Never in his life was he known to speak an unclean word or tell an objectionable story. In manner he was quiet and simple, and yet he was always ready for the severest ordeal he might have to face.

While the two great commanders, Grant and Lee, were much unlike in personal appearance, they had certain qualities in common, for they were both simple-hearted and frank and men of deep and tender feelings.

April 9 was a sad day for General Lee. As he stepped out of the door of the house where the terms of surrender had been agreed upon and stood in silence, waiting for his 278horse to be brought to him, he clasped his hands together as if in deep pain and looked far away into the distance. Then, mounting his steed, he rode back to the Confederate camp, where his officers and men awaited his coming.

A drawing of a man on his horse, facing right.

General Lee on His Horse, Traveller.

On his approach they crowded about their beloved chief in their eagerness to touch him, or even his horse. Looking upon his veteran soldiers for the last time, Lee said, with saddened voice: “We have fought through the war together; I have done the best I could for you. My heart is too full to say more.” Then he silently rode off to his tent.

These simple, heartfelt words to his “children,” as he called his soldiers, were like the man who spoke them. For during the entire war he was always simple in his habits. Rarely did he leave his tent to sleep in a house, and often his diet consisted of salted cabbage only. He thought it a luxury to have sweet potatoes and buttermilk.

The gentleness and kindness of General Lee was seen also in his fondness for animals. When the war was over his iron-gray horse, Traveller, which had been his faithful companion throughout the struggle, was very dear to him. 279Often, when entering the gate on returning to his house, he would turn aside to stroke the noble creature, and often the two wandered forth into the mountains, companions to the last.

Within a year after the close of the war General Lee was elected President of Washington College, at Lexington, Virginia—now called Washington and Lee University. There he remained until his death, in 1870. His countrymen, in all sections of the Union, think of him as a distinguished general and a high-minded gentleman.

Three years after the close of the war (1868) General Grant was elected President of the United States and served two terms. Upon retiring from the presidency, he made a tour around the world, a more unusual thing in those days than now. He was everywhere received, by rulers and people alike, with marked honor and distinction.

His last days were full of suffering from an illness which proved a worse enemy than ever he had found on the field of battle. After nine months of brave struggle, he died on July 23, 1885. Undoubtedly he was one of the ablest generals of history.

The war, in which these two distinguished commanders had led opposing sides, had cost the nation not only thousands of men, the vast majority in the prime of their young manhood, but millions of dollars. But it had two striking results: it preserved the Union, for it was now clear that no State could secede at will; and it put an end to slavery. 280The Emancipation Proclamation had set free only those slaves in the States and parts of States which were under the control of Union armies; but after the war the Thirteenth Amendment set free all the slaves in all the States in the Union for all time. These were the benefits purchased by the terrible sacrifice of life.

If we count those who were slain on the field of battle and those who died from wounds, disease, and suffering in wretched prisons, the loss of men was equal to seven hundred a day during the four long years of the war.

When it was over, a wave of intense relief swept over the country. In many homes were glad reunions; in others, saddened memories. But at least a united nation was cause for a new hope, and a patriotism which in time was to bind all sections into closer union.

Some Things to Think About

  1. Tell what you can about Lincoln’s early life. What kind of boy was he?

  2. What was the Emancipation Proclamation? Why did not Lincoln set the slaves free when he became President? What do you admire about him?

  3. Why did Lee go with Virginia when this State seceded?

  4. Tell as much as you can about Lee, Jackson, Stuart, Sherman, and Sheridan.

  5. What kind of boy was Grant? What kind of man? What do you admire about him?

  6. What were some of the important results of the Civil War?

  7. When did this war begin, and when did it end?

  8. Are you locating every event upon the map?




Return to Table of Contents


Thus far we have been considering mainly the men engaged in exploration, in invention, or in the great national struggles through which our country has passed. But while only a small fraction of the people, as a rule, take an active and prominent part in the stirring events of history, many more work hard and faithfully to furnish all with food, clothing, and other things needful in every-day living. What these many laborers accomplish in the fields of industry, therefore, has a most important bearing upon the life and work of men, leaders and followers alike, in other fields of action. With this thought in mind, let us take a brief glance at a few of our great industries.

First, go with me in thought to the South, where the cotton, from which we make much of our clothing, is raised. Owing to the favorable climate of the Southern States, it being warm and moist, the United States produces more cotton and cotton of a better quality than any other country in the world.

No crop, it is said, is so beautiful as growing cotton. The plants are low, with dark-green leaves, the flowers, 282which are yellow at first, changing by degrees to white, and then to deep pink. The cotton-fields look like great flower-gardens.

As the blossoms die they are replaced by the young bolls, or pods, which contain the seeds. From the seeds grow long vegetable hairs, which form white locks in the pods. These fibres are the cotton. When the pods become ripe and open, the cotton bursts out and covers them with a puff of soft, white down.

A photograph of a field.

Cotton-Field in Blossom.

The height of the picking season is in October. As no satisfactory machine for picking cotton has been invented, it is usually done by hand, and negroes for the most part are employed. Lines of pickers pass between the rows, gathering the down and crowding it into wide-mouthed sacks hanging from their shoulders or waists. At the ends of the rows are great baskets, into which the sacks are emptied, and then the cotton is loaded into wagons which carry it to the gin-house.

283If damp, the cotton is dried in the sun. The saw-teeth of the cotton-gin, as we have seen, separate the cotton fibre from the seeds. Then the cotton is pressed down by machine presses and packed into bales, each usually containing five hundred pounds, after which it is sent to the factory.

Various processes are employed to free the cotton from dirt and to loosen the lumps. When it is cleaned, it is rolled out into thin sheets and taken to the carding-machine. This, with other machines, prepares the cotton to be spun into yarn, which is wound off on large reels. The yarn is then ready to be either twisted into thread or woven into cloth on the great looms.

The United States produces an average of eleven million bales of cotton every year, and this is nearly sixty-seven per cent of the production of the whole world. Cotton is now the second crop in the United States, the first being Indian corn.


Another great industry is the growing of wheat, which is the foundation of much of our food. Wheat is a very important grain and is extensively cultivated.

There are a great many varieties, the two main kinds found in the United States being the large-kernel winter wheat, grown in the East, and the hard spring wheat, the best for flour-making, which is grown in the West.

284Minnesota is the largest wheat-producing State, and I will ask you to go in thought with me to that Middle-West region. The farms there are very level, and also highly productive. The big “bonanza” farms, as they are called, range in size from two thousand to ten thousand acres. Some of these are so large that even on level ground one cannot look entirely across them—so large, indeed, that laborers working at opposite ends do not see one another for months at a time.

A photograph of a field of gathered wheat.

A Wheat-Field.

During the planting and harvesting seasons temporary laborers come from all over the country. They are well housed and well fed. The farms are divided into sections, and each section has its own lodging-house, dining-hall, barns, and so on. Even then, dinner is carried to the workers in the field, because they are often a mile or two 285from the dining-hall. The height of the harvest season is at the end of July.

In the autumn, after the wheat has been harvested, the straw is burned and the land is ploughed. In the following April when the soil is dry enough to harrow, the seeds, after being carefully selected and thoroughly cleaned, are planted. For the harvesting a great deal of new machinery is purchased every year. One of these huge machines can cut and stack in one day the grain from a hundred acres of land. Then the grain is threshed at once in the field, before the rain can do it harm.

A photograph of a large building next to the waterside.

Grain-Elevators at Buffalo.

Through the spout of the thresher the grain falls into the box wagon, which carries it to the grain-elevator, or building for storing grain. Here it remains until it is loaded automatically into the cars, which take it to the great elevator centres. The wheat is not touched by hands from the time it passes into the thresher until it reaches private kitchens in the form of flour.

286The great elevator centres are Duluth, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Buffalo. Some elevators in these centres can store as much as a million or more bushels each. They are built of steel and equipped with steam-power or electricity. The wheat is taken from grain-laden vessels or cars, carried up into the elevator, and deposited in various bins, according to its grade. On the opposite side of the elevator the wheat is reloaded into cars or canal-boats.

In 1914 the United States produced nine hundred and thirty million bushels, or between one-fourth and one-fifth of all the wheat produced in the world.


The third great industry is that of cattle-raising. To find the ranches we will go a little farther west, perhaps to Kansas. A wide belt stretching westward from the one-hundredth meridian to the foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains is arid land. It includes parts of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. Although the rainfall here is mostly too light to grow corn and wheat without irrigation, these dry plains have sufficient growth to support great herds of sheep and cattle, and supply us with a large part of our beef. Cattle by the hundred thousand feed on these vast unfenced regions.

On the great ranches of this belt, which, we are told, are fast disappearing, there are two important round-ups of the cattle every year. Between times they roam free over 287vast areas of land. In the spring they are driven slowly toward a central point. Then the calves are branded, or marked by a hot iron, with the owner’s special brand. These brands are registered and are recognized by law. This is done in order that each owner may be certain of his own cattle. In July or August the cattle are rounded up again, and this time the mature and fatted animals are selected that they may be driven to the shipping-station on the railroad and loaded on the cars.

A drawing of a large herd of cattle grazing on a vast plain.

Cattle on the Western Plains.

The journey to the stock-yards often requires from four to seven days. Once in about thirty hours the cattle are released from the cars in order to be fed and watered. Then the journey begins again.

At the stock-yards the cattle are unloaded and driven into pens. From there the fat steers and cows are sent directly to market. The lean ones go to farmers in the 288Middle West who make a specialty of fattening them for market, doing it in a few weeks.

In the year 1910 there were ninety-six million six hundred and fifty-eight thousand cattle in the United States. This means that there was one for every human being in the whole country. But the number of beef-cattle is decreasing, as the larger ranches where they graze are disappearing, as we have said, and are being divided into small farms.


By means of these three industries—cotton, wheat, and cattle—we are provided with food and clothing. But besides these necessaries, we must have fuel. We need it both for heat in our households and for running most of our engines in factories and on trains. Our chief fuel is coal.

To see coal-mining, western Pennsylvania is a good place for us to visit. Were you to go into a mine there you might easily imagine yourself in a different world. In descending the shaft you suddenly become aware that you are cut off from beautiful sunlight and fresh air. You find that to supply these every-day benefits, which you have come to accept as commonplace, there are ventilating machines working to bring down the fresh air from above, and portable lamps, which will not cause explosion, to supply light, and that, where there is water, provision has been made for drainage.

289The walls of the mine, also, have to be strongly supported, in order that they may not fall and crush the workers or fill up the shaft. In deep-shaft mines, coal is carried to the surface by cages hoisted through the shaft. It is sorted and cleaned above ground.

One of the largest uses of coal is found in the factories where numerous articles of iron and steel are made. The world of industry depends so much upon iron that it is called the metal of civilization.

A photograph of a factory exterior.

Iron Smelters.

The iron and coal industries are closely related, for coal is used to make iron into steel. If you stay in Pennsylvania you may catch a glimpse of the process by which iron is made usable.

As it comes from the mine it is not pure, but is mixed with ore from which it must be separated. In the regions 290of iron-mines you will see towering aloft here and there huge chimneys, or blast-furnaces, at times sending forth great clouds of black smoke and at times lighting the sky with the lurid glow of flames. In these big blast-furnaces, the iron ore and coal are piled in layers. Then a very hot fire is made, so hot that the iron melts and runs down into moulds of sand, where it is collected. This process is called smelting.

The iron thus obtained, though pure, is not hard enough for most purposes. It must be made into steel. Steel, you understand, is iron which has again been melted and combined with a small amount of carbon to harden it.

At first this was an expensive process, but during the last century ways of making steel were discovered which greatly lowered its cost. As a result, steel took the place of iron in many ways, the most important being in the manufacture of rails for our railroad systems. Since steel rails are stronger than iron, they make it possible to use larger locomotives and heavier trains, and permit a much higher rate of speed and more bulky traffic. All this means, as you can easily see, cheaper and more rapid transportation, which is so important in all our industrial life.

Steel has an extensive use, also, in the structure of bridges, of large buildings, of steamships and war vessels, as well as in the making of heating equipment, tools, household utensils, and hundreds of other articles which we are 291constantly using in our daily life. If you should write down all the uses for this metal which you can think of, you would be surprised at the length of your list.

These four great industries give us a little idea of how men make use of the products of the farm, the mine, and the factory in supplying human needs. Each fulfils its place, and we are dependent upon all. That means that we are all dependent upon one another. There would be little in life for any one if he were to do without all that others have done for him.

A photograph of huge piles of ore next to rail cars.

Iron Ore Ready for Shipment.

There is something which each member of a community can do to make life better for others. If he does this willingly and well, he co-operates with his fellow men and assists in the great upbuilding of the nation. And the amount 292of service the man or woman, boy or girl can render those about him is the measure of his worth to his neighborhood, his State, or his country.

It is good for us to ask ourselves this question: How can I be helpful in the community where I live, which has done so much for me? If we try to give faithful service, working cheerfully with others, we are truly patriotic. Are you a patriot?

Some Things To Think About

  1. What are the four great industries taken up in this chapter? Can you tell in what ways each of these is of special value to us?

  2. Use your map in locating the cotton region; the wheat-growing region; the cattle-raising region.

  3. In what ways are coal, iron, and steel especially useful?

  4. How are we all dependent upon one another? How may we be truly patriotic?

The End