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Copyright 1999-2013,
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History of the
Settlement and Indian Wars
of Tazewell County, Virginia.

By Geo. W. L. Bickley, M. D. (1852)

  
 

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CHAPTER VI

HARMAN AND PEMBERTON FIGHTS---BATTLE BETWEEN THE HARMANS AND SEVEN INDIANS

In the fall of 1784, Henry Harman and his two sons, George and Matthias, and George Draper left the settlement, to engage in a bear hunt on Tug river.  They were provided with pack-horses, independent of those used for riding, and on which were to be brought in the game.  The country in which their hunt was to take place, was penetrated by the "war-path" leading to, and from the Ohio river; but as it was late in the season, they did not expect to meet with Indians.

Arriving at the hunting-grounds in the early part of the evening, they stopped and built their camp; a work executed generally by the old man, who might be said to be particular in having it constructed to his own taste.  George and Matthias loaded, and put their guns in order, and started to the woods, to look for sign, and perchance kill a buck for the evening's repast, while Draper busied himself in hobbling and caring for the horses.

In a short time, George returned with the startling intelligence of Indians! He had found a camp but a short distance from their own, in which the partly consumed sticks were still burning.  They could not, of course, be at any considerable distance, and might now be concealed near them, watching their every movement.  George, while at the camp, had made a rapid search for sign, and found a pair of leggins, which he showed the old man.  Now old Mr. Harman, was a type of frontiermen, in some things, and particularly that remarkable self-possession, which is so often to be met with in new countries, where dangers are over in the path of the settler.  So taking a seat on the ground, he began to interrogate his son on the dimensions, appearances, etc., of the camp.  When he had fully satisfied himself, he remarked, that "there must be from five to seven Indians," and that they must pack up and hurry back to the settlement, to prevent, if possible, the Indians from doing mischief; and, said he, "if we fall in with them, we must fight them."

Matthias was immediately called in, and the horses repacked.  Mr. Harman and Draper, now began to load their guns, when the old man observing Draper laboring under what is known among hunters as the 'Buck Ague,' being that state of excitement, which causes excessive trembling, remarked to him, "My son, I fear you cannot fight."

The plan of march was now agreed upon, which was, that Mr. Harman and Draper should lead the way, the packhorses follow them, and Matthias and George, bring up the rear.  After they had started, Draper remarked to Mr. H., that he would get ahead, as he could see better than Mr. H., and that he would keep a sharp lookout.  It is highly probable that he was cogitating a plan of escape, as he had not gone far before he declared he saw the Indians, which proved not to be true.  Proceeding a short distance further, he suddenly wheeled his horse about, at the same time crying out, "Yonder they are---behind that log:" as a liar is not to be believed, when he speaks the truth, so Mr. Draper was not believed this time.  Mr. Harman rode on, while a large dog, he had with him, ran up to the log and reared himself up on it, showing no signs of the presence of Indians.  At this second, a sheet of fire and smoke from the Indian rifles, completely concealed the log from view, for Draper had really spoken the truth.

Before the smoke had cleared away, Mr. Harman and his sons were dismounted, while Draper had fled with all the speed of a swift horse.  There were seven of the Indians, only four of whom had guns; the rest being armed with bows and arrows, tomahawks and scalping-knives.  As soon as they fired, they rushed on Mr. Harman, who fell back to where his two sons stood ready to meet the Indians.

They immediately surrounded the three white men, who had formed a triangle, each man looking out, or, what would have been, with men enough, a hollow square.  The old gentleman bid Matthias to reserve his fire, while himself and George fired, wounding, as it would seem, two of the Indians.  George was a lame man, from having had white swelling in his childhood, and after firing a few rounds, the Indians noticed his limping, and one who had fired at him, rushed upon him thinking him wounded.  George saw the fatal tomahawk raised, and drawing back his gun, prepared to meet it.  When the Indian had got within striking distance, George let down upon his head with the gun, which brought him to the ground; he soon recovered, and made at him again, half bent and head foremost, intending, no doubt, to trip him up.  But as he got near enough, George sprang up and jumped across him, which brought the Indian to his knees.  Feeling for his own knife, and not getting hold of it, he seized the Indian's and plunged it deep into his side.  Matthias struck him on the head with a tomahawk, and finished the work with him.

Two Indians had attacked the old man with bows, and were maneuvering around him, to get a clear fire at his left breast.  The Harmans, to a man, wore their bullet-pouches on the left side, and with this and his arm he so completely shielded his breast, that the Indians did not fire till they saw the old gentleman's gun nearly loaded again, when one fired on him, and struck his elbow near the joint, cutting one of the principal arteries.  In a second more, the fearful string was heard to vibrate, and an arrow entered Mr. Harman's breast and lodged against a rib.  He had by this time loaded the gun, and was raising it to his face to shoot one of the Indians, when the stream of blood from the wounded artery flew in the pan, and so soiled his gun that it was impossible to make it fire.  Raising the gun, however, had the effect to drive back the Indians, who retreated to where the others stood with their guns empty.

Matthias, who had remained an almost inactive spectator, now asked permission to fire, which the old man granted.  The Indian at whom he fired appeared to be the chief, and was standing under a large beech tree.  At the report of the rifle, the Indian fell, throwing his tomahawk high among the limbs of the tree under which he stood.

Seeing two of their number lying dead upon the ground, and two more badly wounded, they immediately made off; passing by Draper, who had left his horse, and concealed himself behind a log.

As soon as the Indians retreated, the old man fell back on the ground exhausted and fainting from loss of blood.  The wounded arm being tied up and his face washed in cold water, soon restored him.  The first words he uttered were, "We've whipped, give me my pipe."  This was furnished him, and he took a whiff, while the boys scalped one of the Indians.

When Draper saw the Indians pass him, he stealthily crept from his hiding-place, and pushed on for the settlement, where he reported the whole party murdered.  The people assembled and started soon the following morning to bury them; but they had not gone far before they met Mr. H. and his sons, in too good condition to need burying.

Upon the tree, under which the chief was killed, is roughly carved an Indian, a bow, and a gun, commemorative of the fight.  The arrows which were shot into Mr. Harman, are in possession of some of his descendants.

PEMBERTON'S FIGHT

Richard Pemberton, the hero of this battle, lived in the Baptist valley, about five miles from Jeffersonville.  In addition to a small farm around his cabin, he cultivated a field, now owned by William O. George, about one and a half miles from his dwelling. 

On a Sabbath morning late in August, 1788, he started to his field accompanied by his wife and two children, to see that his fences were not down, and to repair any breach that might have been made.  According to the custom of the times, Mr. Pemberton had taken with him his gun, which was his constant companion.  After satisfying himself that his crops were safe, the little party started back.  They had gone but a few hundred yards, however, when two Indians, armed with bows and arrows, knives, and tomahawks, came yelling toward them at full speed.  In a instant the pioneer's gun was leveled and the trigger pulled; it missed fire, and in his hurry to spring the lock again, he broke it, and of course could not fire.  Seeing him raise his gun to shoot, caused the Indians to halt, and commence firing arrows at him.  Keeping himself between his wife and children and the Indians, he ordered them to get on as fast as possible and try to reach a house at which a Mr. Johnson lived, and where several men were living.  This house was some half mile distant, but he hoped to reach it, and save those whom he held dearest---his wife and children.  The Indians made every possible attack to separate him from his family, all of which proved vain.  They would retreat to a respectful distance, and then come bounding back like so many furies from the regions of indescribable woe.  When they came too near, he would raise his gun as if he was really reserving his fire, which would cause them to halt and surround him.  But at every attack they shot their arrows into his breast, causing great pain.

For nearly an hour this running fight was kept up; still the blood-thirsty savages pressed on; at last, he was sufficiently near to Johnson's house to be heard, and he raised his powerful voice for succor; he was heard, but no sooner did the men at the house her the cry of "Indians," than they took to their heels in an opposite direction.  At last he arrived at the house, closely pursued by the Indians, and entering after his family, barred up the door, and began to make preparations for acting more upon the offensive, when the Indians made a rapid retreat.  Pemberton reached his own house the following day, where he resided many years, an eyesore to those who had so ingloriously fled from his assistance.  Many arrow points which entered his breast, were never removed, and were carried to the end of life, as the best certificate of his bravery, and devotion to his family.

 

 

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