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The Wickedest Deed In Our History
by [?]

The Indians despised the white men for what they thought their stupidity in warfare, when they stood up in the open to be shot at, as the soldiers who were sent against them mostly did, instead of taking to trees and hiding in tall grass and hollows of the ground, as the backwoodsmen learned to do. Smith tells us that when Tecaughretanego heard how Colonel Grant, in the second campaign against Fort Duquesne, outwitted the French and Indians by night and stole possession of a hill overlooking the post, he praised his craft as that of a true warrior; but as to his letting his pipers play at daybreak, and give the enemy notice of his presence, so that the Indians could take to trees and shoot his Highlanders down with no danger to themselves, he could only suppose that Colonel Grant had got drunk over night.

The savages respected the whites when they showed cunning, and they did not hate them the more for not showing mercy in fight; but we have seen how fiercely they resented the crime of horse stealing in Kenton’s case, though they were always stealing horses themselves from the settlers; and any deed of treachery against themselves they were eager and prompt to punish, though they were always doing such deeds against their enemies. Still, it is doubtful whether with all their malignity they were ever guilty of anything so abominable as the massacre of the Christian Indians at Gnadenhutten, by the Americans; and if there is record of any wickeder act in the history not only of Ohio, but of the whole United States, I do not know of it. The Spaniards may have outdone it in some of their dealings with the Indians, but I cannot call to mind any act of theirs that seems so black, so wholly without justice and without reason. It is no wonder that it embittered the hostilities between the red men and the white men and made the war, which outlasted our Revolution ten years, more and more unmerciful to the very end.

The missionaries of the Moravian Church were more successful than any others in converting the Indians, perhaps because they asked the most of them. They made them give up all the vices which the Indians knew were vices, and all the vices that the Indians thought were virtues when practiced outside of their tribe. They forbade them to lie, to steal, to kill; they taught them to wash themselves, to put on clothes, to work, and to earn their bread. Upon these hard terms they had congregations and villages in several parts of Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, which flourished for a time against the malice of the disorderly and lawless settlers around them, but which had yielded to the persecutions of white men and red men alike when, in 1771, the chiefs of the Delawares sent messages to the Moravians and invited them to come out and live among them in Ohio. The Lenni-lenape, as the Delawares called themselves, had left the East, where they were subject to the Iroquois, and they now had their chief towns on the Muskingum. Near the place where the Tuscarawas and Walhonding meet to form the Muskingum they offered lands to the Moravians, and in 1772 the Christian Indians left their last village in Western Pennsylvania and settled there at three points which they called Schoenbrun, the Beautiful Spring, Lichtenau, Field of Light, and Gnadenhutten, the Tents of Grace.

It was in the very heart of the Western wilderness, but the land was rich and the savages friendly, and in a few years the teachers and their followers had founded a fairer and happier home than they had known before, and had begun to spread their light around them. The Indians came from far and near to see their fields and orchards and gardens, with the houses in the midst of them, built of squared logs and set on streets branching to the four quarters from the chapel, which was the peaceful citadel of each little town. It must have seemed a stately edifice to their savage eyes, with its shingled roof, and its belfry, where, ten years before any white man had settled beyond the Ohio, the bell called the Christian Indians to prayer. No doubt the creature comforts of the Christians had their charm, too, for the hungry pagans. They were not used elsewhere to the hospitality that could set before them such repasts as one of the missionaries tells us were spread for the guest at Gnadenhutten. A table furnished with “good bread, meat, butter, cheese, milk, tea and coffee, and chocolate,” and such fruits and vegetables as the season afforded could hardly have been less wonderful in the Indian’s eyes than red men with their hair cut, and without paint or feathers, at work in the fields like squaws.