Our latest short story is “The Canoe Fight” by George Cary Eggleston. It is subtitled “An Incident of the Creek War” and first appeared in Eggleston’s Strange Stories from History for Young People. Eggleston had a knack of finding little-known incidents and heroes to highlight in his stories. This story is set in the War of 1812. The British had enlisted Indian tribes to wreak havoc on frontier settlements. This included the Creek Indians in the Alabama / Mississippi area. Frontier families often took refuge in forts, abandoning their farms to depradations.
In the story, word that the Indians are preparing to lay waste to crops causes Capt. Sam Dale to lead a force of 72 frontiersmen to preempt the Indians. Dale was already a noted figure in the region. He was well acquainted with the Indians, having spent a lot of time with them. There can be no doubt where his loyalties lay, however. His mission was to inflict pain on the Creek. “The smallest naval battle ever fought in the world” took place when most of Dale’s men crossed the Alabama River and the rearguard led by Dale were caught on the opposite bank by a large body of warriors. Vastly outnumbered, things got much worse when a large canoe carrying eleven Indians suddenly appeared to take them from behind. Believing the best defense is a good offense, Dale and three others went to meet the huge canoe in a much smaller vessel. The ensuing battle became the stuff of legend.
This is the third story by Eggleston in the readalong. It is much simpler than the other two because he has chosen a minor incident. It makes for an exciting little tale that comes off as being fictional, but in fact is factual. Dale was a fascinating individual and had a colorful life. Although Eggleston plays up Dale’s friendship with the Indians, his career was anything but friendly toward the Indian cause. Since the story was originally published in 1888, it is a look back to a time when Indian fighters were unambiguously the heroes. Although I hope for more fictional stories in the future selections, I do appreciate Eggleston introducing me to an interesting historical event and personage that I was not aware of.
GRADE = C
Next month's selection: "Chasing a Major-General"