Chapter Eight: Wandering into New Territories
Roselyn Kincade peered out from behind the tree line at the edge of the clearing and sighed deeply when she saw the telltale column of dirty gray smoke rising from beyond the next hill.
This was the second time this week she’d come across the needless carnage being wrought among the settlers during the brutal Creek War. And it was happening more and more often lately.
She’d left the small militia encampment early this morning in the hopes of finding more civilians or soldiers to aid with her nursing skills. She didn’t want people to be hurt, particularly settlers who were unfortunate bystanders in this war. But she knew enough not to let her optimism cloud reality: many out there were injured and needed her help.
War in general was tragic, but what magnified the tragedy infinitely were the countless innocent families and children who were caught between opposing forces. About ten months back, Rosie had heard of an attack on a fort near Mobile, Alabama that had resulted in the deaths of nearly five hundred settlers, both white and mixed-blood. This bloody conflict had been a major impetus in rallying more American support and recruits for the militia. In the months since, the attacks had increased. Rosie only hoped that the rising number of soldiers would help bring the war to a quicker end rather than prolong it.
She wiped the beads of sweat on her forehead with the back of her hand. The sun had passed its apex an hour ago and the heat was sweltering. Glancing from side to side, she gingerly stepped into the clearing she needed to cross to reach the valley where the trail of smoke originated.
One couldn’t be too careful. She’d had a couple of near run-ins with both angry Creek warriors—known as “Red Sticks” for their weapon of choice, clubs painted blood red—and American militia—comprising both conscripts and volunteers—and one time she’d witnessed an honest-to-goodness skirmish between the natives and the American soldiers that had taken place entirely in canoes on the Alabama River. It had been a truly terrifying sight, almost akin to her experiences in Spain several years back.
Rosie shuddered whenever she thought back to her first introduction to war. It had affected her deeply, more than she’d initially registered. Something had been crushed inside her soul that she wasn’t sure would ever be repaired. Most days she pushed aside her complicated feelings and focused intently on the task at hand. It was easier that way for now.
As she neared the site of the burning house, the acrid scent of burning wood and flesh floated into her nostrils and she involuntarily cringed. She didn’t think she’d ever get used to it. Walking closer, her heart sank at the sight of several bodies strewn in the field adjacent to the cabin. She didn’t need to closely inspect them to know that these poor souls were beyond all earthly help.
Rosie began murmuring the prayer she’d taken to chanting when she came upon scenes like this. Please, Heavenly Father, let there be at least one survivor. Please allow me to bring healing to a needy man, woman, or child.
Scanning frantically, she froze when a weak moan reached her ears. It was coming from the backside of the rough cabin! Rosie rushed around the house, her heart beating furiously all the while. When she rounded the corner, movement caught her attention.
Thank Heaven! It appeared to be a boy or young man. She hesitated but a second when she glimpsed the rougher clothing and tribal markings on his face and arms. It was a young Creek warrior.
After rapidly determining where his wounds were located, Rosie got to work. With many of the friendlier villages of the Creek nation being allied with American forces, this wasn’t the first time she’d had a native for a patient. One time she’d even cared for a prisoner from the enemy force of Creek warriors who’d been captured in a brief clash. It always made her feel a twinge of—what might she label it? Nervous thrill?—whenever she treated Creek or Cherokee warriors, mainly due to their exotic culture and strange clothes.
So many years had passed since that fateful day with her sister running from the Indian encampment. But since becoming a nurse, Rosie had expanded in her capacity for compassion and forgiveness toward these people so unlike her own. When it came to healing their bodies, Rosie saw no difference in skin color or political affinity—they were all her patients who deserved the best care she could provide them.
This boy was no different.
As she cleaned out a gaping laceration on his lower abdomen, he moaned again, louder and turned his dark-haired head toward her. His face was streaked with dirt and blood, but she could see that he was older than she’d believed—possibly nineteen or twenty years of age.
“What’s your name? Do you speak English?” she asked as she fashioned a bandage from strips torn from the hem of her dress and wrapped them across his stomach and around his back. Many Indians had learned a broken form of English, which made it much easier to care for her patients effectively.
Several minutes of silence passed and Rosie assumed her questions were not going to receive replies; then a hacking cough sounded from the young man and a weak voice uttered, “Y-yes…speak English. Name is Little Eagle.”
Rosie met his eyes in surprise. His dark ones, exceptionally keen for his injured state, were fixed on her face. She stared in mild astonishment, mouth slightly agape, before stuttering out a reply. “Little Eagle. My name is Rosie. I have bandaged your wound and will assist you in getting to a safe place. Can you sit up?”
As Rosie attempted to help Little Eagle come to an upright position, the pounding of horses’ hooves sounded from close by; too close, she decided, but before she could make a move to do what she knew not, a group of blue-coated soldiers rode determinedly into the clearing opposite her. Instinctively, Rosie leaned over the young brave protectively. He was friendly, but who knew what they might do. Stories had been told of Americans committing terrible acts even upon the allied Indians.
They spotted her quickly and approached. The leader dismounted, followed by two lieutenants. His long stride closed the distance and Rosie looked up at his austere face. He had a striking figure: tall stature, grim lips, and a prominent nose. A curved sword hung at his waist. She guessed him to be a general by his livery and comportment. He looked down at her and then over at the wounded man, and she wanted to shrink under his commanding presence.
“We saw the smoke. Are you all right, madam? What is happening here? Who is this Indian?”
Rosie hesitated, which must have given the impression that she was in distress, and the general motioned to his first lieutenant. The other man moved forward, but Rosie rose to her feet before he could reach them.
“Wait! See the pendant he is wearing?” She gestured to the distinctive silver medallion resting on his chest; it bore a likeness of Thomas Jefferson. “He is an ally; he tells me he is from a Lower Creek town near here. You can trust him.”
The general’s features relaxed, but then a slight sneer crossed his face. “When is a Red Skin truly trustworthy?” he muttered.
“General Jackson?” his lieutenant questioned uncertainly.
General Jackson waved him back. “It appears our help is not required here.”
They turned to leave. “If I may, Sir,” Rosie called out. The general stopped and regarded her evenly. Rosie blinked and glanced at the ground, then raised her eyes to meet his unflinchingly. “With all due respect, Sir, this land was theirs before it was ours. I—I ask you to deal kindly with them when this war is all over.”
General Jackson’s eyes narrowed severely and Rosie felt she had overstepped her bounds. But she refused to cower from the conviction she held strongly in her heart.
He seemed to look at her more closely, as if for the first time, and with a final “I will take that into consideration,” the general swiveled on his feet and marched off without another look back, his men following in like fashion.
Rosie let out a long deep breath. She could only hope that her words, meager though they were, might pierce a heart as stoic as Andrew Jackson’s.
General Jackson Claims Overwhelming Victory Over British in Miraculous Battle of New Orleans!!
A mere few months have passed since the celebrated victory of General Andrew Jackson over the Red Stick Indians and the subsequent relinquishment of 23 million acres of Indian Territory over to the United States Government in the Treaty of Fort Jackson, and our esteemed General Jackson has successfully secured for our great nation yet another miraculous conquest, this one over the British forces who would invade our Lands from the South. Our Star-Spangled Banner yet waves o’er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave! No longer must we wait to see justice served upon the British troops who laid waste to the Capital city of Washington, D.C., burning the White House and wreaking havoc in our fair Land.
It was in the final hours of the battle raging in the heart of New Orleans, that many devout nuns and residents of the city gathered for a nightlong vigil to implore the God of Heaven for His hand to intercede, lest the great city be captured by invading forces. It is reported that a courier ran into the chapel during communion with the wondrous tidings that the British had been defeated! It is also said that our marvelous General Jackson “Old Hickory” himself visited the convent where the vigil had taken place to thank the congregants for their prayers. His very words were recorded as the following: “By the blessing of Heaven, directing the valor of the troops under my command, one of the most brilliant Victories in the annals of War was obtained.”
Diana clucked her tongue thoughtfully as she read over the galley proof of the front-page article that would be going to the presses for tomorrow morning’s newspaper.
“It’s accurate enough to the facts, if not a bit…excessively fawning over the good General,” she mused, more to herself. The young apprentice standing before her desk squirmed, his face reddening slightly. “It’s just too bad, seeing that the war had in actuality been ended by treaty eighteen days preceding, that this so-called ‘miraculous victory’ served no practical purpose in the war against Britain, is it not?” she continued. “There is something to be said about the virtues of establishing more effective communication between America and her European kin. Ah, well; perhaps the engineers and inventors of our country will someday find a means of supplementing those particular shortcomings against which we now struggle.”
The young man stammered and closed his mouth again, apparently unsure how to respond. Diana set the sheet down and met his nervous eyes. “Relax, Thomas. I cannot complain. You’ve done well for your first major assignment. I can count on you to begin a regular contribution to our front-page news from now on, can I not?”
He froze and eyes widened to round discs that made her want to snort in laughter, but she just barely held it in. “Y-yes, Miss Kincade. Yes, indeed!”
After he left, Diana stood and walked to the window of her second story office that overlooked one of the countless bustling streets of New York City. In the past couple of years, she had worked her way through the ranks of the newspaper staff until she’d reached the coveted position of Associate Editor, just below her boss, Mr. Barlow, the Senior Editor of their middling print shop.
Despite the fact of her gender, which would have held other women back, Diana had fought determinedly for this, accomplishing what most might label as foolhardy, improper, or, worse, shamelessly scandalous. But she was here, and nothing and no one would take it from her. And she had plans for this newspaper. Mere dreams as yet, but plans, nonetheless.
Her mind wandered to her far-flung brother and sisters. Chadwick was reported to be somewhere up in Indiana territory after the promise of abundant, cheap farmland. Flower had sent word of her newest young one that was to be born in the autumn, joining Will and Flower’s eldest daughter Hope, namesake of their dearly departed mother, and now an energetic toddler.
And Rosie…Diana sighed. Her impetuous, brave, adventurous sister was off in distant lands doing great deeds for God and humanity that Diana could only write about. She wondered if the time would ever come when she would accomplish a deed half as monumental.
Movement on the street below caught her eye; a boy with tousled brown hair and ocean-blue eyes dashed into the building. Soon, quick steps sounded on the wooden slats coming toward her office, and a smile bloomed on her face.
“Mama Di, Mama Di!”
“What is it, Owen?”
His face was flushed and he barely got the words out before he was forced to gulp air.
“Slow down, sweetheart. Catch your breath, then tell me your news.”
He allowed only a couple breaths before plowing forward. “Mama Di, Auntie Rosie is an Indian Princess!”
“What? Owen, dear, whatever are you talking about?”
“Auntie Rosie! She’s here!”
Diana’s heart jumped into her throat. Rosie, her brave, reckless little sister, was here? But her last letter told of being on some mission of mercy down in the everglades of Florida. How could she…? Well, that letter was dated more than six months ago. Perhaps…
Diana leaped from her position by the window toward the door of her office, but footsteps approaching on the stairs below made her stop.
Seconds later, two figures stood in the doorway.
It was Rosie, who, were it not for her blue eyes and bright golden tresses, could be mistaken for an Indian princess. She wore a dress made of soft leather hides and matching moccasins. Her hair was done in intricate plaits with feathers and beads interwoven throughout.
In a word: scandalous. And those gossipy townspeople had thought they had something to talk about with Diana. This would get those mouths flapping double time.
Then she saw the dark-haired, young Indian man, likewise dressed in moccasins but otherwise wearing European-style clothing, standing beside her.
“Hello, Di,” said Rosie.
Diana opened her mouth but could not think of what to say.
Rosie gestured to her companion. “I want you to meet Little Eagle, or Peter, the English name he has chosen to be called while amongst the more civilized city folk.”
Diana nodded faintly. “Ah, Peter—erm, Little Eagle—uh, forgive me, where are my manners?” She smiled at him and curtsied. “How do you do?”
He nodded curtly, but did not speak.
“And he is…?” Diana prompted.
“Ah, yes.” Rosie said. “He is my husband.”
June 24th, 1816
I have been traveling and exploring the territories of Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri for the better part of a year now. How I wish you could join me. I have begun to learn to see the beauty and wonder of our great country again, but I still wrestle against the despairs and pain I knew so intimately on my maiden journey West. I am searching for a place which I would be proud to call my home and raise my future babes to full maturity as did our beloved Mother and Father, but I have yet to find it. I will know it when I see it.
Always, I remain
Your loving brother,