It was such a beautiful autumn day. Except for the robust singing of the marching soldiers it would have been an equally quiet day. The voices were not particularly soothing to the ear, not that the birds were complaining. Moments before, the birds suddenly took flight from their tree roosts and flew away.
The suddenness of the flight caused the men to pause. Silence hung in the air as the troops waited in dread expectation.
Thus the flight of a single arrow and its impact on soft flesh was heard by all.
The 134th Regiment had been marching through the Ohio woods with each soldier trying his best to keep pace and stay in line. Yesterday, they were in southwestern Pennsylvania, leaving in high spirits with songs in their hearts, as well as on their lips. The idea of war sparked their imagination, each man thinking in terms of honor, glory, and fame.
Now, on the second day of marching, the songs having ceased, subdued with a quiet unease, the silence was broken by the sound of the arrow striking flesh and then a sudden barrage of arrows and bullets assailed them. A sense of panic filled the air with the men looking about for a place to run.
As whooping Indians on horseback charged out of the nearby forest, the officers began shouting orders. The sound of their voices, calm and demanding settled the soldiers' nerves.
“Indians! Defensive formation!”
The soldiers quickly formed two lines.
The soldiers in the first line raised their muskets, each man taking aim at a charging Indian.
A volley of shots rang out over the fields with many Indians shot from their horses. Then the first line stepped backward and the second line moved forward.
Fortunately these soldiers were used to shooting, some were actual woodsmen. The Indian attack had been sudden, violent and noisy, but the soldiers returned fire with a vengeance, breaking the attack before it really got started. The second line, now the first, fired.
Many of the Indians were shot off their horses, mortally wounded. Some had their horses shot from under them, forcing them to flee on foot. But when their chief was shot point blank, the remaining Indians turned and fled. As they rode away, many reached down and grasped the outstretched hands of their fellow Indians, who immediately leaped with fluid grace upon the backs of the horses. Peace once again settled over the Ohio fields.
The air was filled with smoke and one could smell the mixture of gun powder and death that hung in the air about them. The soldiers began the task of locating the dead and wounded.
The Indians were not the only ones to have wounded warriors. Several soldiers had been wounded as well. Even so, all but one of them were able to get up, rejoin their fellow soldiers, and resume the march. But the one fallen soldier did not move. Laying still, barely conscious, he sensed them moving away.
“Where’s James?” he whispered.
Turning his head, he immediately felt dizzy. Everything looked hazy to him as he looked for his older brother. Trying to lift himself up, he saw the familiar shape approaching. Then everything turned dark.
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When James spotted his wounded brother, he ran over and knelt beside him.
“Will. William Riddle, do you hear me?”
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