Kidnapped on the Frontier

Posted on April 22, 2021

by Bob Drury & Tom Clavin

Daniel Boone heard the piercing shrieks coming from the river and recognized them as only a parent could. He was too late to see a group of Native Americans carry off his daughter Jemima and the two Callaway girls. But he knew what he had to do to get them back. Read an excerpt from Blood and Treasure, the explosive true saga of the legendary figure Daniel Boone, below!

Abduction of Boone’s Daughter, painting by Karl Ferdinand Wimar, 1855, Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
This image is in the public domain via Wikicommons.

The Indians[1] prodded the girls along at a hard pace, and after traveling close to thirty miles with only intermittent breaks, the party stopped at dusk to camp on a fork of two tributaries flowing into the Licking. Here the suddenly talkative Hanging Maw told Jemima that they were heading for the Shawnee towns on the Scioto, still one hundred miles away. He boasted that he had been among a war party of Cherokees scouting an ambush around Boonesborough for a week or so when he and his companion fell in with the three Shawnee just as they spotted the girls in the canoe. That night they again tied their captives with tugs in a sitting position, but this time allowed them to huddle together. Jemima and Fanny took turns laying down their heads and dozing on Betsy’s lap. 

Three of the cabin builders had joined Boone’s pursuit, bringing his party to eight. By early on Monday morning they had tracked the Indians to their previous night’s encampment, but from there the trail went cold. More specifically, the several trails went cold. No longer were Betsy’s heel marks acting as a beacon, and the bent and broken shrubbery seemed to be more scattered, with no sign of the shredded handkerchief bits.

Boone deduced that the Indians were not only sporadically splitting up, but also deliberately laying false sign. All the paths, in any case, led in one general direction—almost due north toward the Licking and then into Shawnee country. Boone drew his little troop together and told them that instead of running in circles they would be better off plowing ahead toward the Ohio. On several occasions they recrossed the Indian trail almost by accident. Stifling the few mild protests to follow it, Boone kept his company together at a steady jog.

By Tuesday midmorning the Indians felt confident enough in their distance from any pursuers to discharge a rifle, shooting and killing a buffalo calf. They sliced out the animal’s tongue, cut off a portion of its hump, and continued moving north to find a stream to gather water with which to boil the former. While they were butchering the beast, two of the Shawnee had made grunting noises toward the girls. Hanging Maw translated their words as “pretty squaws.” He’d then asked Jemima, described by a contemporary as “real handsome,” to remove the combs from her hair. The thirteen-year-old complied, and her long black tresses dangled about her knees as they trod on.

At close to ten o’clock Tuesday morning Boone’s troop again picked up the Indians’ trail on an old buffalo trace running parallel to the Warrior’s Path. This time they followed it, with Boone supposing that by now the raiders had let down their guard. He set a faster pace, and the group had made eight or nine miles when they came across the slaughtered buffalo, the blood still trickling from its severed hump. Boone guessed that the Indians would halt at the nearest water to cook their meal. About midday they reached the next stream, where the sign seemed to end. Boone, sensing that their quarry was near, used hand signals to divide his troop, half the men cautiously slipping downstream while he led the others up the far bank.

Daniel Boone hunting in Missouri [Engraving by Alonzo Chappel (circa 1861)].
This image is in the public domain via Wikicommons.

The pursuers were separated by no more than a few hundred yards when the northernmost point man was drawn to the smell of smoke and roasting buffalo. Peering down from a small knoll, he signaled to the others that the Indians were but some thirty yards below him. They had made camp in a secluded glen surrounded by a canebrake. One brave was lounging supine near the captives huddled together on a fallen tree, another was gathering wood. A third was kindling the cookfire, while a fourth squatted beside him lighting his pipe. All were barefoot, their wet moccasins ringing the fire to dry. There was no sign of the fifth kidnapper—Hanging Maw, as it turned out—who had returned to the stream with his kettle to scoop more water.

As the remaining seven rescuers belly-crawled toward the rise, Boone ostentatiously removed his finger from the trigger of his rifle as a silent warning that no one should shoot without his go-ahead. But before he and the others could reach the small ridge, the point man lifted his gun to his shoulder and fired. He missed.

The Indian camp was pandemonium in an instant. One of the Shawnees lunged at the girls with his war club. It narrowly missed Jemima’s head. As he drew it back a second time he fell, shot through the chest by either Boone or the surveyor Floyd, who had fired simultaneously. Another Shawnee was hit and toppled backward into the flames but somehow recovered and lurched into the thick brush. By now Boone’s entire party was descending on the camp shouting their terrible war cries. The two remaining Indians scattered into the cane.

Copyright © 2021 by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

[1]A Note from the Authors:

The spelling and pronunciation of eighteenth-century Native American names and places was, in the era, notoriously diffuse. To take just one example of many, the Indian nation referred to herein as the Shawnee was variously described by European Americans as the Shawnoe, the Shone, the Chaouenon, the Shawun, and dozens of other appellations. Within the tribe itself, members usually refer to themselves as Shawano, sometimes given as Shawanoe or Shawanese. For narrative’s sake, throughout the following text we have endeavored to present readers with the most standardized tribal designations recognized and accepted today.

Further, regarding the term Indian: as two white authors chronicling a historical epoch so crucial to the fate of America’s indigenous peoples, we relied on historical context. Indian was not only in common usage during the era we write about, but it is nearly as common today. For a previous book, The Heart of Everything That Is, we went to pains to check with our indigenous sources regarding the word. No less a personage than the late Maka Luta Win—who also went by the Anglicized name Mary Ann Red Cloud and was the great-great-granddaughter of the legendary Lakota warrior-chief known to whites as Red Cloud—personally suggested to us that Native American, American Indian, and Indian were all accepted descriptive terms.

Finally, throughout the following text we have presented the quixotic spellings, capitalizations, and punctuation in letters, journals, and military reports from the era precisely as the writers themselves put their words to paper.

Bob Drury and Tom Clavin are the #1 New York Times bestselling authors of The Heart of Everything That Is, Lucky 666, Halsey’s Typhoon, Last Men Out, and The Last Stand of Fox Company, which won the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s General Wallace M. Greene Jr. Award. They live in Manasquan, New Jersey, and Sag Harbor, New York, respectively.

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