Sunday, 17 March 2013


My thanks to the American Indian History blog for bringing this narrative to my attention.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Narrative of the Captivity of William Biggs
among the Kickapoo Indians in Illinois in 1788, by William Biggs

Written By Himself
This narrative of William Biggs capture shows the importance of wearing your clothing and equipment in a proper and secure manner. Had Biggs payed proper attention to the securing of his saddle and the load he was carrying, it is quite possible that he would have escaped this ambush.
Captives, By David Wright.

In the year 1788, March 28th, I was going from Bellfontain to Cahokia,
in company with a young man named John Vallis, from the State of
Maryland; he was born and raised near Baltimore. About 7 o'clock in the
morning I heard two guns fired; by the report I thought they were to the
right; I thought they were white men hunting; both shot at the same
time. I looked but could not see any body; in a moment after I looked to
the left and saw sixteen Indians, all upon their feet with their guns
presented, about forty yards distant from me, just ready to draw
trigger. I was riding between Vallis and the Indians in a slow trot, at
the moment I saw them. I whipped my horse and leaned my breast on the
horse's withers, and told Vallis to whip his horse, that they were
Indians. That moment they all fired their guns in one platoon; you could
scarcely distinguish the report of their guns one from another. They
shot four bullets into my horse, one high up in his withers, one in the
bulge of the ribs near my thigh, and two in his rump, and shot four or
five through my great coat. The moment they fired their guns they ran
towards us and yelled so frightfully, that the wounds and the yelling of
the Indians scared my horse so that he jumped so suddenly to one side of
the road, that my gun fell off my shoulder, and twisted out of my hand;
I then bore all my weight on one stirrup, in order to catch my gun, but
could not. I had a large bag of beaver fur, which prevented me from
recovering my saddle, and having no girth nor crupper to my saddle, it
turned and fell off my horse, and I fell with it, but caught on my feet
and held the mane; I made several attempts to mount my horse again; but
the Indians running up so close, and making such a frightful yelling,
that my horse jumped and pranced so that it was impossible for me to
mount him again, but I held fast to my horse's mane for twenty or thirty
yards; then my hold broke and I fell on my hands and knees, and stumbled
along about four or five steps before I could recover myself. By the
time I got fairly on my feet, the Indians were about eight or ten yards
from me--I saw then there was no other way for me to make my escape but
by fast running, and I was determined to try it, and had but little
hopes at first of my being able to escape. I ran about one hundred yards
before I looked back--I thought almost every step I could feel the
scalping knife cutting my scalp off. I found I was gaining ground on
them, I felt encouraged and ran about three hundred yards farther, and
looking back saw that I had gained about one hundred yards, and
considering myself quite out of danger. A thought then occurred to me,
that I was as safe and out of danger as I would be if I were in the City
of Philadelphia: the Indians had quit yelling and slacked their
running--but I did not know it then. It being a tolerable cold morning
and I was heavily clad, I thought perhaps the Indians would give me a
long chase, and probably that they would hold out better than I could;
although at that time I did not feel the least tired or out of breath. I
concluded to throw off my two coats and shoes, as I would then be better
prepared for a long race. I had my great coat tied around me with a silk
handkerchief pretty much worn--I recollect tying it with a slip knot,
but being in a hurry, it was drawn into a double hard knot; I tried some
little time to get it loose--the longer I tried the harder the knot
seemed to get, that stopped my running considerably; at length I broke
it by some means, I do not know how. In the morning I forgot to put on
my shot pouch before I put on my great coat, and then put it on over it.
I pulled off the sleeves of my great coat, not thinking of my shot-pouch
being over my coat, it having a very short strap, the coat got so tight
in the strap that I could not get it loose for a considerable time.
Still trying, it hung down and trailed on the ground, and every two or
three steps it would wrap around my legs and throw me down, and I would
catch on my hands and knees, it served me so several times, so that I
could make no headway at running. After some considerable time, I broke
the strap and my great coat dropped from me--I had no knife with me.


Ruthie Ann said...

Just found this site. This an interesting read.

Ruthie Ann said...

Just found this site. Interesting read. Im hooked.

Keith H. Burgess said...

Thank you Ruthie.
Regards, Keith.