Mary Waithe sat down and held the letter in her grasp and looked at the heavy wax seal. The ivory linen paper trembled slightly as her excitement got the best of her. She had not heard head nor tail from her brother in over a month and she had been frightfully worried that something terrible had befallen him. What foolishness had driven him to join St. Claire in the wilderness of Ohio? Home and safe was where he belonged, not tramping around in the forests chasing Little Turtle and his band of savages.
William's early missives overflowed with excitement as he anticipated the adventure ahead of him. He would spend his ink and paper describing the men that had joined them. Admiration and expectation had clearly been upon his mind.
His last post had been more down to earth as if the varnish of his new life had begun to wear thin with the exhaustion brought on by endless treks, hard labour and boredom. Mary's heart wanted to beg him to come home, while her hand had written words of encouragement. Perhaps this letter would bring better news. Could she hope that he had come to his senses and had decided to return home?
Fort Jefferson, Ohio
November 6th, 1791
My dearest sister,
I received your letter of the 14th of October and have read it many times this day. Until tonight, I have not had the opportunity to return your warm and encouraging words as we have been unable to make Fort Jefferson until yesterday evening. I know that you are near death with worry from my imposed silence and would remove that fear immediately. I am well enough given the disastrous turn that our fortunes have taken. I assure you that I am well, though you will suffer for hearing our tale.
After much delay and desertion our army was encamped upon the Wabash river in the Ohio territory on the third of this month. Throughout the evening we had glimpses of the Miamee and Shawnee that have been harassing us since we left Fort Washington. The savages have been devilishly sly and refused to give battle, instead using ambuscade to bleed us as would leaches on an infected wound.
We were in the midst of breaking fast on the morning of the 4th when Little Turtle's men finally decided to stand and fight, attacking us with more than a thousand men. Our pickets were overwhelmed in an instant and the whooping, screaming devils were amongst us before we could prepare a defense. Those worthless cowards of the Kentucky militia fled instantly, while Genl St Clair struggled to rally the rest of us. That worthy leader would have three horses shot out from beneath him before we would quit the pasture that had been a quiet camp the night before. I cannot allow my thoughts to dwell on the wretched dead and wounded that we left lying for the not so tender mercies of our enemies. Those deamons pursued us hotly for many hours until turning back to begin the molestation of our unfortunate brothers.
Of our force of more than one thousand, we now number scantly more than two hundred souls. Less than a handful can be counted as unscathed. I must confess that I am bandaged about the head. Do not worry as I have suffered more at your own hands while pinching a cookie from your dish. I fear that I cannot offer good news of young John Miles as none have had any view of him since breakfast of that calamitous morning. I fear that he is lost and know that his mother and sisters will suffer greatly at this news.
We expect to return to Fort Washington soon and from there to be disbanded. With the strength of our Lord at my side, I shall be home before the new year.
As ever your devoted brother,
The ink stained letter sliped from her hand to the table as Mary's limp form slumped in her chair. Though her dear brother William would be home soon, the details surrounding the news was too much for her to take in and she became overwhelmed by emotions. Mary would spend the following day abed before strength would return to her limbs once more.