Dutch Johnnie

Several Choctaw companies joined Washington’s army during our Revolutionary war, and served during the entire war; some of them were at the battle of Cowpens, under General Morgan; others, at the battle of Stony Point, under General Wayne, and others, at the battle of Tilico Plains, under General Sullivan, sent by General Green to punish the Tories and northern Cherokees (at that time the only Cherokees hostile to the Americans) for the destruction of Fort Loudon, situated on the Tennessee river in the territories then of North Carolina, whom he overtook at Tilico Plains, engaged and routed, with great loss on the part of the stories and Cherokees, also securing the women and children whom they taken had prisoners in the fall of Fort Loudon, and devastating the country of the hostile Cherokees as he went, in driving them, (Tories and Cherokees) through Deep Creek Gap, in Cumberland mountains, into the now State of Kentucky; and there ending the pursuit, Sullivan returned and joined his command near Yorktown. It is said, those Cherokees never did return to their former homes, but became incorporated with other Indians in Kentucky; others, were under Washington at the capture of Yorktown, and witnessed the surrender of Cornwallis.

An amusing incident was related to me when in the Choctaw Nation in 1888, in which a Choctaw scout, under General Sullivan, previous to the defeat of the Tories and Cherokees at Tilico Plains, was the chief hero. This scout, from his short and thickset form, was given the name Dutch Johnnie, by the soldiers. Dutch Johnnie was an uncompromising enemy to the hostile Cherokees, for the reason that a scouting party of theirs had killed his wife and only child; and in revenge he had sworn, as he of ancient Carthage, eternal hatred against the Cherokees. Learning this, Gen. Sullivan appointed Dutch Johnnie as one of his chief scouts, much to the joy of Johnnie, as it gave him a broader field in which to seek and obtain the much desired revenge for the death of his wife and child. He soon became noted for his intrepidity endurance, skill, and valuable reports in regard to the enemy; and by his many noble traits also became the pet of the army. At one time, he was returning to the command from a long scout of several days’ absence, and had reached within ten or fifteen miles of the army, when night overtook him at an old and long deserted house. It had been raining all day, so the story goes, and was still raining and growing dark. As any port in a storm had long been Dutch Johnnie’s motto, he at once resolved to accept the offered hospitality of the forsaken mansion; and, without formality, entered the open space, where once had hung the door that then lay upon the ground, a wreck of its former glory, and surveyed its apartments. He found it consisted of but one room, with but one ingress or egress, one chimney of sticks and dirt, and four or five logs extending across the room above, about four feet apart, upon which were loosely laid some boards extending from one to the other.

Being a good retreat from the rain and chill without, Dutch Johnnie soon stretched himself upon the puncheon floor in his wet clothes, too considerate to build a fire in the hearth by which to dry and warm himself, and thus attract the eye of an enemy engaged in the same business as him self, and was just passing” into the shadows of the land of dreams, when his ears, ever wakeful sentinels and always on the alert, whispered “danger without.” He instantly arose to a sitting posture and heard approaching footsteps. Instantly he seized his rifle and quickly and noiselessly climbed up the wall and lay down upon the boards, and there waited future developments. The approaching footsteps grew plainer until they stopped before the house. Then all was hushed for a few moments, and then the intruder’s entered. Dutch Johnnie from above could see nothing, so in tense was the darkness; but soon learned that his visitors were a company of Tories and Cherokee warriors, who, alike with him, had sought the hospitality of the deserted house from the inclemency of the night. He understood enough English to learn much of their plans as the Tories conversed with each other. In the course of an hour all had stretched themselves upon the puncheon floor, and were shortly after wrapped in sleep; yet with a sleepless sentinel eight feet above, who could see nothing not even his hand before him but hear everything, even to the low breathing of his unwelcome visitors below Poor, entrapped Johnnie, how was he to safely get out of the dilemma? If he remained until morning some curiosity seeker might climb the wall to see what lay above, and then Dutch Johnnie’s doom was in evitable. After cogitating the matter over carefully, he finally concluded he would try and escape by noiselessly descending the wall which he had ascended; but the question arose in his mind how far from the wall in which the door way was cut was the first parallel joist over which space he discovered there were no boards when he first entered the house. When he had taken his position above he had stretched himself full length (face downward) upon the boards, with his head toward the wall he desired to descend. He began at once to reach out with his right hand into the darkness for the wall, but his arm was too short. Again and again he stretched it out, but to no avail. Anxiety, at length, overcame his prudence; for, in attempting to extend his body a little over the joist that he might be enabled, per chance, to reach the coveted wall, the boards, which were not nailed to the joist, slipped from their places and, in con fusion worse confounded, fell together with Dutch Johnnie in a promiscuous mass upon the sleepers below. The scene of confusion that then ensued may be imagined only.

The sleepers, thus suddenly aroused, were utterly be wildered, and unable to decide whether a cyclone had struck the house, earthquakes was upon them, or the knell of time was at hand. But Dutch Johnnie’s presence of mind, which had so oft brought him safely out of difficulties that tried men’s souls, forsook him not in this hour of peril, but rendered him equal to the emergency, having-, however, the ad vantage of his foes in knowing why he had made such a desperate charge, alone and in utter darkness, upon them; for he seized a board with both” hands, sprang to his feet, and began to strike, right and left in the dark, with super-human force, accompanying the act with reiterated Choctaw war-hoops intermingled with General Sullivan’s war cry in English; which at once caused the Tories and Cherokee warriors to believe that, instead of a cyclone, earthquake, or the knell of time, or all together, it was Sullivan and his troopers upon them; therefore, each one, actuated with the frantic desire of self-preservation alone, sought, in frenzied haste, the one, and only egress into the open air, jumping, tumbling, falling, rolling out, while Johnnie’s wild war-hoops uttered in both Choctaw and English, with his board wielded by his vigorous arms, whizzing through the darkness this way and that thus oft meeting in collision with heads and bodies, added wings to the retreat of his foes. Soon the house was left in possession of Dutch Johnnie alone; then to make the victory complete, he sprang to the rifles of his foes stacked in a corner of the room and then to the door, where he fired off each one in rapid succession accompanied with reiterated war-hoops, which made each flying Tory and Cherokee: believe that himself alone had escaped. As he seized a gun and fired it off, he threw it upon the floor, and sprang for another, and so continued to do until he had fired the last; then, not knowing what might still be in the house, since the pitchy darkness prevented anything being seen, he leaped out, uttered several war-hoops of victory, and sought safety amid the darkness of the forest feeling his way .as best he could. When he had gone far enough to feel safe from immediate danger, he sat down and waited for the light of the returning morning: then hastened to the encampment, where he arrived in safety about an hour after sunrise. He soon related his adventure to General Sullivan, who sent a company of troopers back with Dutch Johnnie to prove the statement of his romantic adventure, and night conflict with the enemy, over whose unknown numbers unlike Sampson with his jawbone of a donkey’s butt, but like Dutch Johnnie alone with a post-oak board, has had gained a complete victory. When the company had reached the battle ground and entered the again tenantless and silent fort, they found the fallen boards upon the floor under which lay Johnnie’s rifle sufficient proof of his rapid descent upon the enemy, while the twenty empty rifles that lay upon the floor, gave entire satisfaction, none more so than to Dutch Johnnie himself, that he had defeated his enemies as one to twenty, by his rapid de scent upon them with his shower of boards, followed by the vigorous use of one alone in his stalwart hands accompanied with his terrific war-hoops. Of course, he became the hero of the day. The twenty rifles were justly awarded to him as trophies of his victory; which he traded for various articles necessary for his comfort and protection in his anticipated future adventures. He lived through the war as an indispensable scout, proving himself fearless in battle, and oft dazzling his comrades by his daring acts.

Cushman, Horatio Bardwell. History Of The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians. Greenville, Texas: Headlight Printing House. 1899

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