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The Renegades
by [?]

Simon Girty, who tried so hard to save Kenton’s life at Wapatimika, was the most notorious of those white renegades who abounded in the Ohio country during the Indian wars. The life of the border was often such as to make men desperate and cruel, and the life of the wilderness had a fascination which their fierce natures could hardly resist. Kenton himself, as we have seen, might perhaps have willingly remained with the Indians if they had wished him to be one of them, though he was at heart too kindly and loyal ever to have become the enemy of his own people, and if he had been adopted into an Indian family he would probably have been such an Indian as Smith was. But in the sort of backwoodsman he had been there was such stuff as renegades were made of. Like him these desperadoes had mostly fled from the settlements after some violent deed, and could not have gone back to their homes there if they would. Yet they were not much worse than the traders who came and went among the Indians in times of peace, and supplied them with the weapons and the ammunition they might use at any moment against the settlers.

Indeed, wherever the two races touched they seemed to get all of each other’s vices, and very few of each other’s virtues; and it is doubtful if the law breakers who escaped from the borders to the woods were more ferocious than many whom they left behind. Neither side showed mercy; their warfare was to the death; the white men tomahawked and scalped the wounded as the red men did, and if the settlers were not always so pitiless to their prisoners or to the wives and children of their warriors, they were guilty of many acts of murderous treachery and murderous fury. One of the best and truest friends they ever had, the great Mingo chief Logan, who was at last the means of Kenton’s escape from the stake, bore witness to these facts in his famous speech; for in spite of his friendship for the whites, he had suffered the worst that they could do to the worst of their foes. When such white men as butchered Logan’s kindred sided with the Indians, they only changed their cause; their savage natures remained unchanged; but very few of these, even, seem to have been so far trusted in their fear and hate for their own people as to be taken by the Indians in their forays against the whites.

The great Miami chief Little Turtle, who outgeneralled the Americans at the defeat of St. Clair, used to tell with humorous relish how he once trusted a white man adopted into his tribe. This white man was very eager to go with him on a raid into Kentucky, and when they were stealing upon the cabin they were going to attack, nothing could restrain his desire to be foremost. When they got within a few yards, he suddenly dashed forward with a yell of “Indians, Indians!” and left his red brethren to get out of the range of the settlers’ rifles as fast as they could.

But Simon Girty led many of the savage attacks, and showed himself the relentless enemy of the American cause at every chance, though more than once he used his power with the Indians to save prisoners from torture and death. He was born in Pennsylvania, and he was captured with his brothers, George and James, during Braddock’s campaign. They were all taken to Ohio, where George was adopted by the Delawares, James by the Shawnees, and Simon by the Senecas. George died a drunken savage; James became the terror of the Kentucky border, and infamous throughout the West by his cruelty to the women among the Indians’ captives; he seems to have been without one touch of pity for the fate of any of their prisoners, and his cruelties were often charged upon Simon, who had enough of his own to answer for. Yet he seems to have been the best as well as the ablest of the three brothers whose name is the blackest in Ohio history. Many of the stories about him are evidently mere romance, and they often conflict. As he was captured when very young, he never learned to read or write; and it is said that he was persuaded by worse and wiser men to take sides with the British in the Revolution. But we need not believe that he was so ignorant or so simple as this in accounting for his preference of his red brethren and their cause. In fact, several letters attributed to him exist, though he may have dictated these, and may not have known how to write after all.