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Captain William Wells was a noted hunter and ranger in the western country. He was captured by the Indians when but a child, and raised among them. When the Indians defeated the United States troops, who were under the command of Generals Harmer and St. Clair, Captain Wells fought among the red men, and distinguished himself by his courage and skill. But when General Wayne was placed at the head of the United States forces in the west,
Captain Wells came over to the side of the whites, and received the command of a company of rangers, or woodmen, who acted as spies and scouts for General Wayne. The captain performed many daring exploits, and caused the Indians to feel that in losing him they had gained a terrible enemy.
Captain Wells was desperate in battle, but he often displayed much kindness and generosity. On one of his excursions with a party of rangers, through the Indian country, he came to the bank of the river St. Mary, and discovered some Indians in canoes coming across the stream. The captain dismounted, and concealed his men near the bank of the river, while he went to the bank in open view, and called to the Indians to come over. As he was dressed nearly in the Indian style, and spoke to them in their own language, the Indians, without suspicion of danger came across the river. The moment the first canoe struck the shore, Wells heard the clicking of the locks of his comrades' rifles, as they prepared to shoot the Indians. But who should be in the canoe, but his Indian father, mother, and their children! As his comrades were coming forward with their rifles cocked, ready to pour in the deadly storm, Wells called upon them to hold their hands. He then informed them who the Indians were, and solemnly declared, that the man who would attempt to injure one of them should receive a ball in his head. He continued, "That family fed me when I was hungry, clothed me when I was naked, and kindly nursed me when I was sick. In every respect they were as kind and affectionate to me as they were to their own children. No one belonging to them shall be hurt." But four men were with the Indian party, and they did not attempt hostility. The short, pathetic speech of Captain Wells found its way to the hearts of his comrades. They entered into his feelings, threw down their rifles and tomahawks, went to the canoe, and shook hands with the trembling Indians in the most friendly manner.
Captain Wells assured the red men that they had nothing to fear from him, and after talking with them to dispel their dread, he said, that General Wayne was approaching with an overwhelming force; that the best thing that the Indians could do was to make peace; that the white men did not wish to continue the war. He urged his Indian father to keep out of danger for the future. The Indians appeared very grateful for his clemency. After the captain bade them farewell, they pushed off their canoe, and went down the river as fast as they could paddle.
Wells's conduct on this occasion proved him to be as generous as he was brave. This famous ranger was killed near Chicago, at the commencement of the war of 1812, in an attempt to save an American garrison. At that time sixty-four whites were attacked by four hundred red men, and all killed or captured. The Indians were very glad to get the scalp of Captain Wells. He was as wild a spirit as ever shouldered a rifle or wielded a tomahawk.
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