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A Fire-Side Scene
By Betsey (Guppy) Chamberlain

Page Created March 2000

WARNING: This story is satirical. It contains very graphic images of death, which some of our Friends may not wish to read.

A huge rock-maple fire was burning brightly on the old kitchen hearth, which was nicely swept with a new hemlock broom, and surrounded by a group of smiling boys and girls, with uncle David in their midst.

"Come, uncle David," said Frank, "tell us about burning the Miami Indians."

Uncle David gave a shrug with his shoulders, scratched his head, rolled the tobacco over and over in his mouth, gave a deep sigh, and said, "Oh, that was a horrid affair! The Miamis had the most beautiful fields of corn my eyes ever beheld; it was then in the milk, -- just fit to roast, -- and our army destroyed the whole."

"But," said Frank, "that is not what I asked you to tell -- tell us about burning the Indians."

"Well, Frank, I suppose I must tell you something about it," said uncle David, "but I would rather not, for the thoughts which the remembrance of that horrid massacre sets afloat, curdle the blood in my veins. I am glad the Indians were heathen -- had they been Christians, I should dread meeting their souls in another world. -- It was the 20th of August 1794, that our army met the Indians on the banks of the Miami, and gained a complete victory over them. We lost something like an hundred of our men, and to revenge our loss, we managed matters so adroitly that we surrounded their villages, set them on fire, and every Indian that tried to escape was driven with the point of the bayonet back into the flames, and burned up alive. Yes, we burned them all up -- women, children, and all. Oh, their horrid yells and groans! how many times I have heard them in my dreams. I am glad the Indians were heathen."

"And what else did you do, uncle David," said Frank, "besides massacring the poor Indians, burning their villages, and all such cruel things?"

"Oh," said uncle David, "we roasted the Indians hogs and corn, and our army had fine picking, I assure you."

"Uncle David," said Frank, after a long pause, "do you think Uncle Sam is a Christian, to give you a pension for being in that scrape?"

"Why -- yes -- sartain," said uncle David, with evident perturbation, "they were heathen, boy -- they were heathen -- wheugh -- wheugh -- Frank, draw Uncle David a mug of cider to clear the cobwebs from his throat, and he will sing, Hail Independence."

TABITHA

Perspective

This story is satirical and harshly critical of U.S. government treatment of Native people. She was saying that the U.S. government was anything BUT Christian in its dealings with Native people. I think that Betsey Guppy was very courageous for contributing that piece to the periodical. I think people in her time (1842) would have understood that.

Although Betsey does not identify the battle, a crucial battle in Native history did take place on August 20, 1794: the Battle of Fallen Timbers. At Fort Miami on the Maumee River (in present-day Ohio), Michikinikwa/Little Turtle (Miami/Mahican), and Weyapiersenwah/Blue Jacket (Shawnee), led a confederation of Miami, Ojibwa, Delaware, Potawatomi, Shawnee, and Ottawa bands against federal troops headed by General "Mad" Anthony Wayne. The Indians' defeat led to their loss of huge portions of the Northwest Territory.

As a young person, Betsey Guppy may well have had to endure hearing stories of such Indian massacres around the firesides of her Wolfeboro neighbors. Many New Hampshire soldiers fought with the U.S. Army at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. In writing this piece, she may be voicing some of the anger and pain she had felt as a young person.

- Judith Ranta

Source: Lowell Offering (Lowell, Ma.) 2 (1842): 214-17
Contributed by: Judith Ranta