Windham Life and Times – September 27, 2019

Nutfield 300

Jamie Cochran: The Indian Captive

This week I am presenting the poem, “Jamie Cochran: The Indian Captive” by Robert Dinsmoor, The Rustic Bard. Next week, I will follow up with the actual accounts of his exploits, for Colonel Westbrook’s Letters, which were recorded at the time that this event happened. This line of the Cochran family left Maine and settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire, among the Scotch-Irish community there.

Give ear, my friends, and let me here relate
A tale which now appears of ancient date.
The hero of my tale is Indian Jamie,
His history I’ll give lest you should blame me.
In Ulster Province, Erin’s northern strand,
Five shiploads joined to leave that far off land.
They had their ministers to pray and preach
These twenty families embarked in each.
Here I would note and have it understood,
Those emigrants were not Hibernian blood,
But sturdy Scotsmen true, whose fathers fled
From Argyleshire, where Protestants had bled
In days of Stuart Charles and James second,
Where persecution was a virtue reckoned.
They found a shelter on the Irish shore
In Ulster, not a century before.
Four of those ships at Boston harbor landed;
The fifth, by chance, at Casco Bay was stranded.

*A tale of 1728; occurrences of 170 years ago, and
narrated by the “Rustic Bard” Feb. 28, 1833, 105 years
after they took place

But there those stout old Scotsmen knelt and sang
Jehovah’s praise till sea and desert rang.
There they gave up, in one united prayer,
Themselves and children to th’ Almighty’s care.
In seventeen hundred eighteen, August fourth,
Our ancestors received their freedom’s birth.
Some came to Nutfield, since called Londonderry,
The others chose just where they were to tarry.
And one of them was of the Cochran name,
Of no small note, who with those settlers came.
On the main land this father settled down,
The place is now called Brunswick of renown.
From Bowdoin College, a few rods is seen
The caved-in cellar where his house had been.
Where famed McKeen* his pupils led,
And by his lore profound made science spread.
The Cochran’s eldest son was James,
But eight years old, which now our notice claims.
When Jamie’s blood had felt the heat
Of sixteen summers, high his pulses beat.
He then from bears could guard his father’s corn,
Armed with his gun, shot-bag, and powder horn.
The howling wolf that he was wont to hear
And catamount made music to his ear.

* Rev. Joseph McKeen, D. D., of Londonderry, N. H.,
an old schoolmaster of Robert Dinsmoor, as early as
1775 (see “The Sleepy Shepherd”), who first presided as
President over Bowdoin College, at Brunswick, Maine,
which stood only a few rods from ” the caved-in cellar”
of the old Cochran home of 1728.

The sly marauding bear at dead of night
Came like a thief who likes to shun the light;
The thrifty hills he levelled with his paw,
Then stretching down, soon filled his hungry maw.
Jamie discerned the beast, as moping there,
He hobbled off to loiter in his den.
His proper course not far from Jamie led,
Whose gun was leveled at the felon’s head,
Then sprung the lock his father oft had fired;
The shot was fatal, and the thief expired.
As deeds of valor add to courage strength,
So this young hero proved it out at length.
Like that young Hebrew stripling, when he slew
A bear and lion — more courageous grew
And fearless, fought and killed Goliath too.
When stretched upon his bed of straw
He, in his dream, an awful vision saw:
A forest wild, extending far and wide,
Where beasts of all descriptions seek to hide;
And now and then upon his ear there fell
A shriek terrific and a hideous yell.
But all at once, to close the scene,
A fiend, like man of dark and ghastly mien,
Armed with a hatchet, and a knife and gun,
Ten more, armed like him, followed on the run.
Swiftly they sped their way, and passed him by,
“But oh! Alas! He heard an infant cry.
Horror now seized our youth, and in his dream
He surely thought he heard his mother scream.
Her bitter cries he could distinctly hear,
“My Jamie’s lost, my Jamie’s lost, I fear.”
At this he woke, for all did real seem,
And found the whole a fleeting dream.
Then to their labor all by order went,
But Jamie was on special errand sent,
O’er hills and fens he ne’er had seen before,
With musket armed and ammunition store;
His mother placed a knapsack on his back,
With things convenient, not a cumbrous pack.
He through the marshes sought his destined creek
Of which he’d heard the Indian hunters speak.
At length he found the little rolling river,
Which, when he forded, scarcely made him shiver,
And soon Magusit bay began to quiver.
A flock of ducks, through the thick air above,
With whistling wings, all lighted in a cove
Within short distance; Jamie cocked his gun
And made towards his game upon the run.
His fire was true, and plainly he could tell
Some lay dead, and others wounded fell.
He left his musket on the shore,
His powder horn, shot-bag, and all his store;
With ducks and drakes his knapsack soon was filled,
No matter then, how many he had killed.
With success flushed he turned toward the shore
And lo! He saw an armed Sagamore
Take up his gun, powder horn, and shot;
Ten Indian warriors stood there on the spot.
Our hero, now advancing near the shore,
Could recognize the ancient Sagamore,
The very phiz he’d often seen before
When hunger drove him to his father’s door.
James reverently approached him from the strand,
Bowed, called him father, offered him his hand,
And humbly asked him to give back his gun.
He frowned ; “Me no your father, you no be my son.”
In vain he plead, and urged his parent’s sorrow,
Said he’d go back, and come again tomorrow.
” No, me no trust you,” was the short reply,
” You no come back, you white men all will lie.
You shoot our bears, the Indians want their grease,
You shoot our ducks, and carry off our geese;
You kill our moose and deer, no heed our speeches,
Eat up their flesh and wear their skins for breeches;
You take our fish, and carry off our clams,
Indian no cross great water to catch your lambs;
You no be here again, you great pappoose,
To shoot our ducks and carry off our goose,
You be our captive now, yourself the cause,
Your life be forfeit, by our Indian laws;
We take you Canada*, and there you sell,

* The Indians, often took the colonists to the French in
Canada, who would buy the captives, or pay for the
scalps of the English colonists, as France was often at war with England.

But we no know, your scalp may do as well.”
Our hero, fixed as Indian captives are
Whom they take prisoners in a time of war,
Was placed between two warriors armed as guard,
Who both seemed proud that they this honor shared.
The old grey Sachem, Tested with command,
Gave order, “March to Canada,” offhand,
But bade all “steer for the great waterfall,
For at the Wigwam there we all must call,
Who knows but there we’ll have more English boys
To make us rich and to increase our joys.”
Now Jamie tried his masters to obey,
Nor made the least attempt to run away.
He seemed to place his life in their protection,
And by hypocrisy gained their affection.
As they grew intimate, he seemed contented ;
They lived like brothers when they got acquainted.
But, faithful to their charge, kept him in sight,
And made him sleep between them every night.
Such confidence they in their prisoner put,
He access had to all within their hut ;
To keep their guns and ammunition dry,
He careful was to set or lay them by.
And Jamie’s mind absorbed in deep reflection,
Besought his father’s God for his protection.
And then he thought on his prophetic dream,
Where, ominous, he heard his mother scream ;
In desert wild, of all his friends forsaken,
He was the infant that was taken.
like bees attracted to their wonted hive,
Straight as a line they to their hut arrive.
They gathered sticks and soon struck up a fire,
And fixed the wigwam as they did desire.
But Jamie’s mind on his escape was bent,
That to accomplish was his whole intent.
While here and there the busy Indians run,
They mind him not, till he secures each gun ;
And while he did their other weapons hide
He placed a hatchet slyly by his side.
It was his part to give the fire fuel,
Nor did they think that Jamie’s heart was cruel.
What Sachem told him he remembered still,
” We take you Canada, and there you sell,
But we no know, your scalp may do as well.”
“ My God,” said Jamie, ” must this be my doom
Unless that I an awful act assume ?
I am compelled the adage old to try,
“To desperate cases, desperate means apply.*
The hour is come, defenseless now they lie,
The blows I strike must kill them or I die.”
When rising up to give the fatal stroke,
By accident a small dry stick he broke.
And when it snapped, one of the Indians woke,
And asked him, what he wanted. Jamie said,
‘*’ The fire wants fuel “; the stick he on it laid,
Then down he laid as if to rest the better.
The Indian thought that nothing was the matter,
And fell asleep more soundly than before,
And soon they both began to wheeze and snore.
Again he rose while they were sleeping sound,
And at one blow killed one upon the ground;
Then for the other drew a stroke far bolder,
But missed his head, and hit him on the shoulder.
The Indian then arising to his feet
In fearful rage did Jamie’s hatchet meet,
Which soon dispatched him, there he fell
Nor knew not then who hurt him nor could tell.
Our hero then soon left this dire abode
And frantic ran some miles, nor sought a road;
How far he’d gotten from the Indian hut,
He could not tell, as he was light of foot.
His mind, still frenzied, sometimes reasoned well;
He said, “I die, sure as those Indians fell,
I cannot live, deprived of all subsistence,
What means have I to keep me in existence?
What have I gained, if I must die of hunger?
I must go back, I’ll think upon’t no longer.
There’s guns and hatchets, and some good provision
Placed in my knapsack, with some ammunition.”
Then back he went, as fast as he could go,
And found some light, although the fire was low,
He roused it up. There the two Indians lay ;
He scalped them both, and bore their spoil away.
A load for him packed up as Indians do,
And homeward then he did his course pursue.
But a small river running cross his way
Caused him to stop and make a short delay.
Then on the river’s brink he soon espied
A tall slim pine, to which he soon applied
The Indian’s hatchet to its body well,
Full soon the tree across the water fell.
With cautious hands and feet on it he crossed,
But there by chance an Indian gun he lost.
He marked the place it in the water fell,
Went back and got it, some the story tell.
But scarcely had he gotten safely o’er
He saw the Indians on the other shore.
The forest hid him from their savage sight,
And they despaired to catch him in the night.
Soon Jamie found the Androscoggin’s tide*,
Which led him, safely as a faithful guide,
To George’s fort , near which his father dwelt,
And oh ! what joy to see’t our hero felt.
But when he hailed it, this poor Scottish boy
Was taken for an Indian false decoy.
In quest of food, he had no need to roam,
His pack supplied him to his father’s home,
Where parents mourned as dead their favorite boy.
There they embraced him with ecstatic joy.

* Androscoggin river.

Gladly they saw the trophies he had won,
While he returned the knapsack and the gun.
The Indian scalps proved Jamie’s victory grand,
As did Goliath’s head in David’s hand.