“I know General Wayne was a whole soldier,” observed Davenport.
“Did any of you ever hear or read an account of the night-attack on General Wayne, near Savannah, just before the close of the war?” enquired Colson.
“I have read something about it, and know it was a warm struggle,” said Kinnison.
“One of Parker’s Light Infantry told me all about it,” said Colson. “He says that General Wayne, with eight hundred men—infantry, artillery and dragoons—were encamped at Gibbons’ Plantation, about five miles from Savannah, where the British were posted. It was the early part of February. General Wayne had no idea that an enemy was nearer than Savannah. But the brave Creeks had been taken into the pay of the British, and their chief, Gurestessego, formed a plan to surprise the Continentals. Never was an attack better planned; our men were sleeping with a feeling of security, when, about midnight, the Creeks fell upon the camp. The sentinels were captured and the Indians entered the camp, and secured the cannon; but while they were trying to make the cannon serviceable, instead of following up their success, Wayne and his men recovered from their surprise and were soon in order for battle. Parker’s Infantry charged with the bayonet and after a short struggle recovered the cannon. Gunn, with his dragoons, followed up the charge, and the Creeks were forced to give way. General Wayne encountered the chief Gurestessego in hand-to-hand combat—the General with sword and pistols, and the chief with musket, tomahawk and knife. The struggle was fierce but short. The chief was killed, and Wayne escaped without any serious injury. Seventeen of the Creeks fell and the rest escaped in the darkness, leaving their packhorses and a considerable quantity of peltry in the hands of the victors. Wayne conjectured at once that the Indians would not have dared to make an attack, without being assured of the approach of the British or Tories to support them, and a rumour spread that Colonel Browne was marching towards the camp for that purpose. In the fight, Wayne had captured twelve young warriors, whom he doomed to death to prevent them joining the enemy. This was a rash act. The rumour of Browne’s approach was false; but the young warriors had been sacrificed before this was known. General Wayne felt many a pang for this rash command, as he was a man who never would shed blood without it was necessary in the performance of his duty.”
“Why didn’t he send the Indians to Greene’s camp, or some other American post?” enquired Hand.
“There was no time or men to spare if the rumour had been true,” said Colson. “Most commanders would have acted as Wayne did, under the circumstances. Though I think the execution of the order might have been delayed until the enemy came in sight.”