ANNE BAILEY'S RIDE
A LEGEND OF THE KANAWHA
BY CHARLES ROBB
The Army lay at Gauley Bridge,
At Mountain Cove and Sewell Ridge;
Our tents were pitched on hill and dell
From Charleston Height to Cross Lane fell;
Our camp-fires blazed on every route,
From Bed House point to Camp Lookout;
On every rock our sentries stood,
Our scouts held post in every wood,
And every path was stained with blood
Prom Scarey creek to Gauley flood.
Twas on a bleak autumnal day.
When not a single sunbeam's ray
Could struggle through the dripping skies
To cheer our melancholy eyes —
Whilst heavy clouds, like funeral palls,
Hung o'er Kanawha's foaming falls.
And shrouded all the mountain green
With dark, foreboding, misty screen.
All through the weary livelong day
Our troops had marched the mountain way;
And in the gloomy eventide
Had pitched their tents by the river's side ;
And as the darkness settled o'er
The hill and vale and river shore.
We gathered round the camp-fire bright,
That threw its glare on the misty night;
And each some tale or legend told
To while away the rain and cold.
Thus, one a tale of horror told
That made the very blood run cold ;
One spoke of suff'ring and of wrong ;
Another sang a mountain song;
One spoke of home, and happy years,
Till down his swarthy cheek the tears
Blow dripping, glistened in the light
That glared upon the misty night;
While others sat in silence deep,
Too sad for mirth, yet scorned to weep.
Then spake a hardy mountaineer—
(His beard was long, his eye was clear ;
And clear his voice, of metal tone.
Just such as all would wish to own) —
"I've heard a legend old," he said,
"Of one who used these paths to tread
Long years ago, when fearful strife
Sad havoc made of human life ;
A deed of daring bravely done,
A feat of honor nobly won;
And what in story 's most uncommon,
An army saved by gentle woman.
" 'Twas in that dark and bloody time,
When savage craft and tory crime
From Northern lake to Southern flood.
Had drenched the western world with blood.
And in this wild, romantic glen
Encamped a host of savage men.
Whose mad'ning war-whoop, loud and high.
Was answered by the panther's cry.
"The pale-faced settlers all had fled,
Or murdered were in loaely bed ;
Whilst hut and cabin, blazing high,
With crimson decked the midnight sky
I said the settlers all had fled--
Their pathway down the valley led
To where the Elk's bright crystal waves
On dark Kanawha's bosom laves,
There safety sought, and respite brief,
And in Fort Charleston found relief;
Awhile they bravely met their woes,
And kept at bay their savage foes.
Thus days and weeks the warfare waged,
In fury still the conflict raged ;
Still fierce and bitter grew the strife
Where every foeman fought for life;
Thus day by day the siege went on.
Till three long, weary weeks were gone ;
And then the moumfid word was passed
That every day might be their last ;
The word was whispered soft and slow,
The magazine was getting low.
They loaded their rifles one by one,
And then— The powder was gone !
They stood like men in calm despair,
No friendly aid could reach them there ;
Their doom was sealed, the scalping knife
And burning stake must end the strife.
One forlorn hope alone remained.
That distant aid might yet be gained
If trusty messenger should go
Through forest wild, and savage foe,
And safely there should bear report.
And succor bring from distant Fort;.
But who should go— the venture dare?
The woodsmen quailed in mute despair
In vain the call to volunteer ;
The bravest blenched with silent fear.
Each gloomy brow and labored breath,
Proclaimed the venture worse than death.
Not long the fatal fact was kept ;
But through the Fort the secret crept ,
Until it reached the ladies' hall,
There like a thunderbolt to all.
Each in terror stood amazed,
And silent on the other gazed ;
No word escaped— there fell no tear
But all was hushed in mortal fear ;
All hope of life at once had fled,
And filled each soul with nameless dread.
But one* who stood amid the rest.
The bravest, fairest, and the best
Of all that graced the cabin hall,
First broke the spell of terror's thrall.
Her step was firm, her features fine.
Of Mortal mould the most divine;
But why describe her graces fair
Her form, her mien, her stately air?
Nay, hold ! my pen, I will not dare !
'Twas Heaven's image mirrored there.
She spoke no word, of fear, or boast,
But smiling, passed the sentry post ;
And half in hope, and half in fear,
She whispered in her husband's ear,
The sacrifice her soul would make
Her friends to save from brand and stake.
A noble charger standing nigh.
Of spirit fine, and metal high,
Was saddled well, and girted strong,
With cord, and loop, and leathern thong,
For her was led in haste from stall.
Upon whose life depended alL
Her friends she gave a parting brief.
No time was there for idle grief;
Her husband's hand a moment wrung
Then lightly to the saddle sprung ;
And followed by the prayers and tears,
The kindling hopes, and boding fears
Of those who seemed the sport of fete.
She dashed beyond the opening gate ;
Like birdling free, on pinion light,
Commenced her long and weary flight.
The foemen saw the op'ning gate.
And thought with victory elate
To rush within the portal rude.
And in his dark and savage mood
To end the sanguinary strife
With tomahawk and scalping-knife.
But lo ! a lady ! fair and bright.
And seated on a charger light.
Bold — and free— as one immortal —
Bounded o'er the opening portal.
Each savage paused in mute surprise,
And gazed with wonder-staring eyes;
' A squaw! a squaw! ' the chieftain cries,
('A squaw ! a squaw ! ' the host replies :)
Then order gave to 'cross the lawn
With lightning speed and catch the fawn/
Her pathway up the vaUey led.
Like frightened deer the charger fled,
And urged along by whip and rein,
The quick pursuit was all in vain.
A hundred bended bows were sprung;
A thousand savage echoed rung—
But far too short the arrows fell
All harmless In the mountain dell;
'To horse ! to horse!' the chieftain cried.
They mount in haste and madly ride.
Along the rough, uneven way,
The pathway of the lady lay ;
Whilst long and loud the savage yell
Re-echoed through the mountain fell.
She heeded not the dangers rife,
But rode as one who rides for life ;
Still onward in her course she bore
Along the dark Kanawha's shore,
Through tangled wood and rocky way,
Nor paused to rest at close of day.
Like skimming cloud before the wind
Soon left the rabble far behind.
From bended tree above the road
The flying charger wildly trode,
Amid the evening's gathering gloom,
The panther's shriek, the voice of doom
In terror fell upon the ear,
And quickened every pulse with fear.
But e'en the subtle panther's bound,
To reach his aim too slow was found ;
And headlong felling on the rock.
Lay crushed and mangled in the shock.
The prowling wolf then scents his prey.
And rushing on with angry bay.
With savage growl and quickening bound
He clears the rough and rugged ground ;
And closing fast the lessening space
That all too soon must end the race,
With sharpened teeth that glittered white
As stars amid the gloomy night—
With foaming jaws had almost grasped
The lovely hand that firmly clasped,
And well had used the whip and rein.
But further effort now were vain ;
Another bound — a moment more —
And then the struggle all were o'er
'Twas in a steep and rocky gorge
Along the river's winding verge,
Just where the foaming torrent falls
Far down through adamantine halls.
And then comes circling round and round,
As loth to leave the enchanted ground.
Just there a band of wandering braves
Had pitched their tents beside the waves
The sun long since had sunk to rest,
And long the light had faded west—
When all were startled by the sound
Of howling wolf and courser's bound,
That onward came, with fearful clang,
Whose echoes round the mountain rang;
The frightened wolf in wild surprise
A moment paused— with glaring eyes
In terror gazed upon the flame.
Then backward fled the way he came
Each wondering savage saw with fear
The charger come like frightened deer ;
With weary gait, and heavy tramp,
The foaming steed dashed through the camp
And onward up the valley bear
His queenly rider, brave and fair.
Btill on, and on, through pathless wood—
They swim the Gauley's swollen flood,
And climb Mount Tompkins' lofty brow,
More wild and rugged far than now,
Still onward held their weary flight
Beyond the Hawks Nests Giddy Height
And often chased through lonely glen
By savage beast or savage men—
Thus like some weary, hunted dove
The woman sped through Mountain Cove
The torrent crossed without a bridge,
And scaled the heights of Sewell Bidge,
And still the wild, beleaguered road
With heavy tramp the charger trode
Nor paused amid his weary flight
Throughout the long and dreary night.
And bravely rode the woman there,
Where few would venture, few would dare
Amid the cheering light of day
To tread the wild beleaguered way;
And as the morning sunbeams fall
Over hill and dale, and sylvan hall.
Far in the distance, dim and Wue,
The friendly Fort* arose to view.
Whose portal soon the maiden gains
With slackened Speed and loosened reins
And voice whose trembling accents tell,
Of journey ridden long and well.
" The succor thus so nobly sought.
To Charleston Fort was timely brought ;
Whilst Justice, on the scroll of fame,
In letters bold, engraved her name."