Monday, June 2, 2014

The Tragic Expedition of Commodore Ulysses L. Gruffudd


June second, 1800
Oh great day, bringing forth such prosperous ambitions & stunning prospects! It is the commencement of our journey into the heart of the vast & dangerous wilderness known as the Indiana Territory, with our purpose being to map the region in its entirety and to gather an idea as to the extent of the savage population, this latter goal being most important & paramount to achieving a successful venture. The most honorable Virginian and territorial governor William Henry Harrison has tasked myself and my bosom friend Colonel William T. Whittaker with this most monumental of feats, and it is my sincere hope that we will be able to live up to the lofty expectations of Governor Harrison, for I gather that he is a hard to please man, which is, I estimate, an attribute of all Virginians, their race forever living in the shadow of such superlative men such as General Washington, founder of our great nation and country. Mr. Harrison, gruff in demeanor as always, sends us off at Cincinnatus, where we and our party of forty begin the arduous journey down the Ohio river, moving our great boats by pole and mule. Colonel Whittaker comments that perhaps we have overloaded our crafts with too many weapons, gesturing as he speaks toward the pivoting cannon that rests in the bow of my chief vessel. "The savages are fierce, and most unpredictable," I tell him, "and we will need that weapon, as well as the thousands of rounds of ammunition we carry, before this trip has reached its conclusion." The man does not take me seriously, I fear; he rolls his eyes and smokes his pipe like a machine. I do wonder if the Colonel has the stomach for our undertaking; he lacks the shrewdness of an individual such as myself, and his abstention from violence and its necessity have me wondering if the man is not a secret Quaker. All the same, I consider him a bosom friend, as well as my closest confidante, the men on this venture being, for the most part, low-born savages little better than the Indian. They will do their part, however, as we all will.

June third
We spied a bear on the shore early in the morning, and the men did make much noise and gather such arms as to riddle the creature full of musket balls. The Colonel and I tried to make clear the need to preserve our ammunition, but the men, possessing a unreasonable amount of fear for bears, paid us no heed. Beauchamp, a French-Canadian and a man of most despicable character, presents himself to me and states that bears are most unnatural creatures, capable of great mischief and deplorable violence, and if not killed outright upon being seen, will descend down into the hell of the heathen and communicate our position to the Indian using a most ill and incomprehensible dialect. I tell the man that he makes little sense, and asks if he truly believes that bears are in league with the savage. He confirms my fears, giving me a most unsightly grin, clutching at the coon-skin cap that covers his louse-ridden scalp. Beauchamp was brought along for his experience in this country, yet I fear his addition to our crew as been a most egregious error.

June Fourth
A curious incident occurred as we settled on the bank in the evening to cook our meal of venison and bear meat. The men, being incorrigible alcoholics, dipped into the whiskey without the permission of the Colonel or myself, and after much consumption of the stuff, did make a great ruckus. Caesar, our colored cook, did procure a banjo from some hidden compartment, and the men did make merry, taking each other in their arms and dancing and howling in a most unnatural manner that I did fear our position to be compromised. I expressed such fears to the Colonel, but he dismissed me with a wave and shrug of his shoulders. I fear the Colonel has plebeian sympathies; his blood is muddied, the rumor being that he is an illegitimate son of his father. If such a deplorable rumor is true, I must admit that it would explain much. Anyways, the merry-making continued well into the night until Beauchamp started pointing at the trees, seizing the attention of all with his bizarre sounds and heathen gestures. "Bears!" he says, his rotten teeth visible, "bears in the trees!" The men did panic and grab their weapons, and I fear that much ammunition was wasted upon the foliage. Some did throw themselves into the water, drunkenly paddling for the safety of the boat. No bears were found in the morning, yet we did discover the corpse of one of our mulemen lying face down in the river. The men claim he was a victim of the bears. The Colonel and I believe him to be drowned by his own foolishness.

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