A council was held, and it was deemed best to divide their forces. Major Childs took one-half of the army and retraced their steps westward, directing their course toward Baton Rouge, where they hoped to find General Jackson with a portion of the army with which he was returning from New Orleans. The other division, under Major Russel, pressed forward, as rapidly as possible, nearly north, aiming for Fort Decatur, on the Tallapoosa River, where they expected to find shelter and provisions. Crockett accompanied Major Russel’s party. Indian sagacity was now in great requisition. The friendly savages led the way through scenes of difficulty and entanglement where, but for their aid, the troops might all have perished. So great was the destitution of food that the soldiers were permitted to stray, almost at pleasure, on either side of the line of march. Happy was the man who could shoot a raccoon or a squirrel, or even the smallest bird. Implicit confidence was placed in the guidance of the friendly Indians, and the army followed in single file, along the narrow trail which the Indians trod before them.
Crockett, in this march, had acquired so much the confidence of the officers that he seems to have enjoyed quite unlimited license. He went where he pleased and did what he would. Almost invariably at night, keeping pace with the army, he would bring in some small game, a bird or a squirrel, and frequently several of these puny animals. It was a rule, when night came, for all the hunters to throw down what they had killed in one pile. This was then divided among the messes as equitably as possible.
One night, Crockett returned empty-handed. He had killed nothing, and he was very hungry. But there was a sick man in his mess, who was suffering far more than he. Crockett, with his invariable unselfishness and generosity, forgot his own hunger in his solicitude for his sick comrade. He went to the fire of Captain Cowen, who was commandant of the company to which Crockett belonged, and told him his story. Captain Cowen was broiling, for his supper, the gizzard of a turkey. He told Crockett that the turkey was all that had fallen to the share of his company that night, and that the bird had already been divided, in very small fragments, among the sick. There was nothing left for Crockett’s friend.
On this march the army was divided into messes of eight or ten men, who cooked and ate their food together. This led Crockett to decide that he and his mess would separate themselves from the rest of the army, and make a small and independent band. The Indian scouts, well armed and very wary, took the lead. They kept several miles in advance of the main body of the troops, that they might give timely warning should they encounter any danger. Crockett and his mess kept close after them, following their trail, and leaving the army one or two miles behind.