After the Junctions of the different divisions who had destroyed the settlement, the Indians commenced their route to Canada. They took with them thirty-three prisoners and as much booty of their victim's spoils as they could possibly carry, loading ponies to their full strength, with the most burdensome loads placed upon the male prisoners as their strength would endure, beside with things making escape impossible. In the meantime, any relaxation or intermission of toil was sure to be punished. They scrupulously guarded the prisoners, especially Thomas Quick - and for what reason will be noticed in the succeeding part of this chapter. They proceeded on until the 7th day of their journey, suffering from toil and hunger. The younger prisoners receiving no direct punishment except as their captors would frequently strike them with their tomahawk handles on the head, because they could not readily understand their speech. Thus, wounds were inflicted from which scars were visible during life, inflicted at that time and age. The three prisoners Israel Baldwin, Jonathan Mosier, and Thomas Quick were doomed to death by cruel torture. The Indians designed on their way home for two of them to be mutilated on their return to crown their jubilee among the savage brethren - and Thomas Quick was chosen to be one of the two.
Every night during their encampment the wolves kept up a continual howling and screaming, which added to the horror of the prisoners, though but little noticed by the Indians. Sometimes the nocturnal howling would seem nearer and sometimes more remote. One singular incident that was noticed by the prisoners - greatly to their astonishment - was the singular movement of an old Indian belonging to the Tribe, acting in a very singular manner. He would each night lie down, seemingly to rest, and soon would start up apparently in great fright and agitation, his countenance expressing terrible horror. He would advance to the fire taking something from his belt, throwing the substance into the fire where it would flash like powder. He would then appear calmly down again and seem to rest for a while - but came another paroxysm, followed by the same movement as the preceding, and so alternately through each night. Whether this was the result of some human imagination and remorse, of which the Indian is little susceptible if at all, or for what cause, who can device?
By the seventh day of their journey the captives had trudged under grievous burdens and retained more vigor than would seem possible to those whose physical powers had never been put to the severest test. They halted about one hour before sunset, for what cause the prisoners were ignorant, but were soon convinced. The Indians soon commenced with alacrity and high glee preparing for a torture by gathering fuel of which they built a fire, about twenty rods from where the train halted. They now went to the forlorn group, took Israel Baldwin in the presence of his wife, tied him to the stake a little distance away, stuck his flesh full of pine splinters - dry and easy to ignite. They now brought blazing brands and circled their victim with fire, near enough to give severe torment, yet not set the splinters on fire with which his body was completely punctured.
The Indians now commenced their hellish pow-wow: the abominable jubilee set in earnest with their hatred of the white man now manifested by dancing around their victim singing mean songs with their wild notes leaping and exulting; exhibiting their immortal hatred of the white man with gesticulations, grimaces, and uncouth distortions of features in order to convey to the mind of the victim all the mental suffering and anguish possible, which is to be consummated to physical torture. They now set fire to the splinters, while their victim is writhing in all the agony and misery human flesh is heir to, thus continued until death comes to his relief. They now seem to be in the height of felicity: leaping, shouting, and exulting - employing their best physical powers. This all took place in a dense forest; a lonely dreary place.
When ready to commence this torture they were very particular to inform the prisoners what they were about to do; they rarely spoke to the prisoners in English, yet in this case they were very communicative in the language, in order to convey to their bosoms the most poignant grief and terror. It may be of propriety be said of them that they even refine on cruelty, in this case their greatest delight appeared to being the greatest torment and suffering of their victim.
They led Mrs. Gifford (whose husband was killed before her eyes, spoken of in the preceding chapter) with her babe of eight months to a nearby wigwam which was carpeted with ashes from previous fires and placed the infant therein, barricaded the entrance, kept the Mother within hearing distance of the child's cries, and led her there to look in three times daily until it died. The child had crept about, moaned to itself to sleep weakened by hunger, and the last time the Mother saw it, it was alive but too weak to moan, as it had been stated above.
The prisoners sustained themselves remarkably, but just for a moment contemplate their condition - especially the younger prisoners, as they had been fostered by tender parents, kind and enduring friends, and yet advancing still more remote from all they held most dear, and of which they had fresh recollection, yet having a forlorn hope of ever again enjoying and feeling sure their relations were killed, or if any living would have any knowledge of their condition, never expecting to enjoy the society of their own race again. How feeble the prospect of ever being delivered from their tormentors, bereft of all the comforts and endearments they had been accustomed to receive, surrounded by a race, but little superior to the wild beasts of the forest and completely at their mercy. Suffering from hunger and cold, sad is the reverse at their tender age. Their sufferings cannot be easily described on paper, nor easily imagined.
They proceeded on their journey after the above torture until the ninth day, where they met at a point on a small river about fifty Indians and a small number of squaws, returning from a similar invasion on some frontier settlement, who had with them a number of prisoners. They designed to torture two men on their return to their home in Canada. Here they halted for the remainder of the day; hunting and fishing provision being scarce with all. Here they obtained plenty of provision such as it was, of which all were glad to partake, as hunger had given them a zest for anything eatable.
There about sunset a quarrel commenced about who should hold Thomas Quick as their prisoner. Each tribe claimed him, and as he had been made prisoner by the first party, they wished to retain him. Both of these tribes strongly suspected that he had killed several Indians, which was the cause of strife between the two tribes. He being an athletic and remarkably stout young man, and answering well his name, his nimbleness and agility could hardly be equaled, and a vote of the Indians ensued. The strife athletically waged as the last party outnumbered the first, and perceiving how it was likely to eventuate, one of the weaker party came to Quick and asked him if he would assist them if they let him loose. Quick told him if he would treat him more kindly he would, to which the Indian agreed and let him loose. Being nimble of foot he soon left them, and as soon as his flight was known the two tribes pursued.
They returned after midnight bringing neither prisoner or scalp, being good evidence with the prisoners that he had escaped. The Indians seemed sad and downcast, and they manifested their disappointment by more severe treatment of the prisoners, and whether from uncertainty who should eventually hold Quick their prisoner, they made no further effort for his recovery. The quarrel ceased and they very amiably pursued their journey together clear through.
The second day after the junction of the two tribes, the stronger party who contended for Quick, in order to allay their thirst for cruelty and torture which they meant to enjoy to satiety in the immolation of Quick which they failed, not contented themselves with ovation in causing the two prisoners they had in reserve to run the gauntlet between the files of Indians, for which they all halted about 2 o'clock P. M. on an open smooth piece of ground where they formed two files about six feet apart and extending forty rods. An Indian stood with a tomahawk at each end, one about halfway each side with a spear, some placed along the files with clubs.
They now brought forward the prisoners stripped stark naked; causing them to run back and forth with their utmost speed. They ran one way and back, and received no punishment except being pricked with spears to increase their speed. Now, cruel torture commenced and continued until death closed the scene - some would strike them with clubs, and receiving awful wounds from their spears in this manner, treated as to afford but little sport for their tormentors.
They now, on reaching one end of the files, the Indians there placed tomahawks and scalped them in the twinkling of an eye - the other on approaching the other end met with the same fate. The above performance afforded the most delight for the savages, which they manifested in a manner peculiar to their race; revolting to humanity.
This finished, they proceeded to a dark, dense forest where they encamped for the night. Here, the wolves, as they had every night during their encampment, howled and screamed yet more frightfully than usual, seeming to approach very near their camp.
Next day they proceeded on their route and continued until five days travel of their settlement; encamping every night in the wood; nothing transpiring since the last torture more than usual experience during their dreary march. The prisoners suffered from hunger and cold - a reiteration of same treatment so far received from their inhuman captors.
Seventeenth day of their captivity, when within five days march from their settlement in Canada, Jonathan Mosier, the only man left among the prisoners of both tribes, became so feeble - his strength so exhausted from hard fare, being bound and carrying a load beyond his strength to endure - was able to advance, but slowly retarded their progress. Not that they felt the least sympathy in his sufferings but wished to prolong his life that they might have one to sacrifice when they arrived home, as he was the last victim to torture, for which they extended their utmost care for him.
They unbound his limbs and did their best to sustain him, now partially relieved, when near night the second day of his failure, they halted to gather grapes, and when all were busily engaged, not thinking of his even making an attempt to escape, a chance soon offered. As they had no special eye on him of which he made the best use - which was not noticed until they were gathering to leave, when immediate search was made.
They designed to encamp that night on the other side of the river, which was near, and all were on the alert until the next morning, when they came without prisoner or scalp. All seemed vexed and disappointed, which caused more surliness in the Indians and dread of the captives. When they left in search of the escape just noticed, they took a direction toward a windfall which they had passed that day, where the timber had been blown by a vein of wind of considerable breadth, making it difficult to pass, thinking the prisoner had escaped there for shelter.
They now started on about ten o'clock A. M., crossed the river where canoes appeared to have been left by them. Here they encamped for the remainder of the day and night, hunting and fishing, replenishing their camp with plenty of provisions - which was very acceptable to all, and much revived the spirits of the captives.
The nocturnal hideous screams and yells of the wolves seemed to surpass that of any preceding night, making the woods resound with their dreaded howl - which seemed more intense than ever, and near proximity to the camp, which kept up until the break of day.
The next morning all proceeded in canoes for about fifteen miles, then left the stream and entered the forest. Providence had so ordered that they should not be gratified in the torture of those intended to be immolated on their return.
They now proceeded on the 22nd day of their journey, when they arrived to the settlement of their tribe - who took captive Sarah and Johanna Utter; so frequently named in the narrative, having encamped in the woods twenty-one nights, the tribe accompanying them on their return, tarried with them on the night of the twenty second day of their journey and the day and night following, then went their place of abode more interior.
The Wyoming Valley Massacre of 1757, Part Four.