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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Remarkable Adventure of Horse-Shoe and Andy

By John Pendleton Kennedy (1795–1870)

[From Horse-Shoe Robinson. 1835.—Revised Edition. 1852.]

“WHO should come in, this morning, just after my husband had cleverly got away on his horse, but a young cock-a-whoop ensign, that belongs to Ninety-Six, and four great Scotchmen with him, all in red coats; they had been out thieving, I warrant, and were now going home again. And who but they! Here they were, swaggering all about my house—and calling for this—and calling for that—as if they owned the fee-simple of everything on the plantation. And it made my blood rise, Mr. Horse Shoe, to see them run out in the yard, and catch up my chickens and ducks, and kill as many as they could string about them—and I not daring to say a word: though I did give them a piece of my mind, too.”

“Who is at home with you?” inquired the sergeant eagerly.

“Nobody but my youngest boy, Andrew,” answered the dame.

“And then, the filthy, toping rioters—” she continued, exalting her voice.

“What arms have you in the house?” asked Robinson, without heeding the dame’s rising anger.

“We have a rifle, and a horseman’s pistol that belongs to John.—They must call for drink, too, and turn my house, of a Sunday morning, into a tavern.”

“They took the route towards Ninety-Six, you said, Mistress Ramsay?”

“Yes,—they went straight forward upon the road. But, look you, Mr. Horse Shoe, you’re not thinking of going after them?”

“Isn’t there an old field, about a mile from this, on that road?” inquired the sergeant, still intent upon his own thoughts.

“There is,” replied the dame; “with the old school-house upon it.”

“A lop-sided, rickety log-cabin in the middle of the field. Am I right, good woman?”


“And nobody lives in it? It has no door to it?”

“There ha’n’t been anybody in it these seven years.”

“I know the place very well,” said the sergeant, thoughtfully; “there is woods just on this side of it.”

“That’s true,” replied the dame: “but what is it you are thinking about, Mr. Robinson?”

“How long before this rain began was it that they quitted this house?”

“Not above fifteen minutes.”

“Mistress Ramsay, bring me the rifle and pistol both—and the powderhorn and bullets.”

“As you say, Mr. Horse Shoe,” answered the dame, as she turned round to leave the room; “but I am sure I can’t suspicion what you mean to do.”

In a few moments the woman returned with the weapons, and gave them to the sergeant.

“Where is Andy?” asked Horse Shoe.

The hostess went to the door and called her son, and, almost immediately afterwards, a sturdy boy of about twelve or fourteen years of age entered the apartment, his clothes dripping with rain. He modestly and shyly seated himself on a chair near the door, with his soaked hat flapping down over a face full of freckles, and not less rife with the expression of an open, dauntless hardihood of character.

“How would you like a scrummage, Andy, with them Scotchmen that stole your mother’s chickens this morning?” asked Horse Shoe.

“I’m agreed,” replied the boy, “if you will tell me what to do.”

“You are not going to take the boy out on any of your desperate projects, Mr. Horse Shoe?” said the mother, with the tears starting instantly into her eyes. “You wouldn’t take such a child as that into danger?”

“Bless your soul, Mrs. Ramsay, there ar’n’t no danger about it! Don’t take on so. It’s a thing that is either done at a blow, or not done,—and there’s an end of it. I want the lad only to bring home the prisoners for me, after I have took them.”

“Ah, Mr. Robinson, I have one son already in these wars—God protect him!—and you men don’t know how a mother’s heart yearns for her children in these times. I cannot give another,” she added, as she threw her arms over the shoulders of the youth and drew him to her bosom.

“Oh! it ain’t nothing,” said Andrew, in a sprightly tone. “It’s only snapping of a pistol, mother,—pooh! If I’m not afraid, you oughtn’t to be.”

“I give you my honor, Mistress Ramsay,” said Robinson, “that I will bring or send your son safe back in one hour; and that he sha’n’t be put in any sort of danger whatsomedever: come, that’s a good woman!”

“You are not deceiving me, Mr. Robinson?” asked the matron, wiping away a tear. “You wouldn’t mock the sufferings of a weak woman in such a thing as this?”

“On the honesty of a sodger, ma’am,” replied Horse Shoe, “the lad shall be in no danger, as I said before—whatsomedever.”

“Then I will say no more,” answered the mother. “But Andy, my child, be sure to let Mr. Robinson keep before you.”

Horse Shoe now loaded the fire-arms, and having slung the pouch across his body, he put the pistol into the hands of the boy; then shouldering his rifle, he and his young ally left the room. Even on this occasion, serious as it might be deemed, the sergeant did not depart without giving some manifestation of that light-heartedness which no difficulties ever seemed to have the power to conquer. He thrust his head back into the room, after he had crossed the threshold, and said with an encouraging laugh, “Andy and me will teach them, Mistress Ramsay, Pat’s point of war—we will surround the ragamuffins.”

“Now, Andy, my lad,” said Horse Shoe, after he had mounted Captain Peter, “you must get up behind me. Turn the lock of your pistol down,” he continued, as the boy sprang upon the horse’s rump, “and cover it with the flap of your jacket, to keep the rain off. It won’t do to hang fire at such a time as this.”

The lad did as he was directed, and Horse Shoe, having secured his rifle in the same way, put his horse up to a gallop, and took the road in the direction that had been pursued by the soldiers.

As soon as our adventurers had gained a wood, at the distance of about half a mile, the sergeant relaxed his speed, and advanced at a pace a little above a walk.

“Andy,” he said, “we have got rather a ticklish sort of a job before us, so I must give you your lesson, which you will understand better by knowing something of my plan. As soon as your mother told me that these thieving villains had left her house about fifteen minutes before the rain came on, and that they had gone along upon this road, I remembered the old field up here, and the little log hut in the middle of it; and it was natural to suppose that they had just got about near that hut, when this rain came up; and then, it was the most supposable case in the world, that they would naturally go into it, as the driest place they could find. So now, you see, it’s my calculation that the whole batch is there at this very point of time. We will go slowly along, until we get to the other end of this wood, in sight of the old field, and then, if there is no one on the look-out, we will open our first trench; you know what that means, Andy?”

“It means, I s’pose, that we’ll go right smack at them,” replied Andrew.

“Pretty exactly,” said the sergeant. “But listen to me. Just at the edge of the woods you will have to get down, and put yourself behind a tree. I’ll ride forward, as if I had a whole troop at my heels, and if I catch them, as I expect, they will have a little fire kindled, and, as likely as not, they’ll be cooking some of your mother’s fowls.”

“Yes, I understand,” said the boy eagerly.

“No, you don’t,” replied Horse Shoe, “but you will when you hear what I am going to say. If I get at them onawares, they’ll be mighty apt to think they are surrounded, and will bellow, like fine fellows, for quarter. And, thereupon, Andy, I’ll cry out ‘stand fast,’ as if I was speaking to my own men, and when you hear that, you must come up full tilt, because it will be a signal to you that the enemy has surrendered. Then it will be your business to run into the house and bring out the muskets, as quick as a rat runs through a kitchen: and when you have done that, why, all’s done. But if you should hear any popping of fire-arms—that is, more than one shot, which I may chance to let off—do you take that for a bad sign, and get away as fast as you can heel it. You comprehend.”

“Oh! yes,” replied the lad, “and I’ll do what you want, and more too, may be, Mr. Robinson.”

“Captain Robinson,—remember, Andy, you must call me captain, in the hearing of these Scotsmen.”

“I’ll not forget that neither,” answered Andrew.

By the time that these instructions were fully impressed upon the boy, our adventurous forlorn hope, as it may fitly be called, had arrived at the place which Horse Shoe Robinson had designated for the commencement of active operations. They had a clear view of the old field, and it afforded them a strong assurance that the enemy was exactly where they wished him to be, when they discovered smoke arising from the chimney of the hovel. Andrew was soon posted behind a tree, and Robinson only tarried a moment to make the boy repeat the signals agreed on, in order to ascertain that he had them correctly in his memory. Being satisfied from this experiment that the intelligence of his young companion might be depended upon, he galloped across the intervening space, and, in a few seconds, abruptly reined up his steed, in the very door-way of the hut. The party within was gathered around a fire at the further end, and, in the corner near the door, were four muskets thrown together against the wall. To spring from his saddle and thrust himself one pace inside of the door, was a movement which the sergeant executed in an instant, shouting at the same time—

“Halt! File off right and left to both sides of the house, and wait orders. I demand the surrender of all here,” he said, as he planted himself between the party and their weapons. “I will shoot down the first man who budges a foot.”

“Leap to your arms,” cried the young officer who commanded the little party inside of the house. “Why do you stand?”

“I don’t want to do you or your men any harm, young man,” said Robinson, as he brought his rifle to a level, “but, by my father’s son, I will not leave one of you to be put upon a muster-roll if you raise a hand at this moment.”

Both parties now stood, for a brief space, eyeing each other in a fearful suspense, during which there was an expression of doubt and irresolution visible on the countenances of the soldiers, as they surveyed the broad proportions, and met the stern glance of the sergeant whilst the delay, also, began to raise an apprehension in the mind of Robinson that his stratagem would be discovered.

“Shall I let loose upon them, captain?” said Andrew Ramsay, now appearing, most unexpectedly to Robinson, at the door of the hut. “Come on, boys!” he shouted, as he turned his face to the field.

“Keep them outside of the door—stand fast,” cried the doughty sergeant, with admirable promptitude, in the new and sudden posture of his affairs caused by this opportune appearance of the boy. “Sir, you see that it’s not worth while fighting five to one; and I should be sorry to be the death of any of your brave fellows; so, take my advice, and surrender to the Continental Congress and this scrap of its army which I command.”

During this appeal the sergeant was ably seconded by the lad outside, who was calling out first on one name, and then on another, as if in the presence of a troop. The device succeeded, and the officer within, believing the forbearance of Robinson to be real, at length said:—

“Lower your rifle, sir. In the presence of a superior force, taken by surprise, and without arms, it is my duty to save bloodshed. With the promise of fair usage, and the rights of prisoners of war, I surrender this little foraging party under my command.”

“I’ll make the terms agreeable,” replied the sergeant. “Never doubt me, sir. Right hand file, advance, and receive the arms of the prisoners!”

“I’m here, captain,” said Andrew, in a conceited tone, as if it were a mere occasion of merriment: and the lad quickly entered the house and secured the weapons, retreating with them some paces from the door.

“Now, sir,” said Horse Shoe to the Ensign, “your sword, and whatever else you mought have about you of the ammunitions of war!”

The officer delivered up his sword and a pair of pocket pistols.

As Horse Shoe received these tokens of victory, he asked, with a lambent smile, and what he intended to be an elegant and condescending composure, “Your name, sir, if I mought take the freedom?”

“Ensign St. Jermyn, of his Majesty’s seventy-first regiment of light infantry.”

“Ensign, your sarvent,” added Horse Shoe, still preserving this unusual exhibition of politeness. “You have defended your post like an old sodger, although you ha’n’t much beard on your chin; but, seeing you have given up, you shall be treated like a man who has done his duty. You will walk out, now, and form yourselves in line at the door. I’ll engage my men shall do you no harm; they are of a marciful breed.”

When the little squad of prisoners submitted to this command, and came to the door, they were stricken with equal astonishment and mortification to find, in place of the detachment of cavalry which they expected to see, nothing but a man, a boy, and a horse. Their first emotions were expressed in curses, which were even succeeded by laughter from one or two of the number. There seemed to be a disposition on the part of some to resist the authority that now controlled them; and sundry glances were exchanged, which indicated a purpose to turn upon their captors. The sergeant no sooner perceived this, than he halted, raised his rifle to his breast, and, at the same instant, gave Andrew Ramsay an order to retire a few paces, and to fire one of the captured pieces at the first man who opened his lips.

“By my hand,” he said, “if I find any trouble in taking you, all five, safe away from this here house, I will thin your numbers with your own muskets! And that’s as good as if I had sworn to it.”

“You have my word,” said the Ensign. “Lead on.”

“By your leave, my pretty gentleman, you will lead, and I’ll follow,” replied Horse Shoe. “It may be a new piece of drill to you; but the custom is to give the prisoners the post of honor.”

“As you please, sir,” answered the Ensign. “Where do you take us to?”

“You will march back by the road you came,” said the sergeant.

Finding the conqueror determined to execute summary martial law upon the first who should mutiny, the prisoners submitted, and marched in double file from the hut back towards Ramsay’s—Horse Shoe, with Captain Peter’s bridle dangling over his arm, and his gallant young auxiliary Andrew, laden with double the burden of Robinson Crusoe (having all the fire-arms packed upon his shoulders), bringing up the rear. In this order victors and vanquished returned to David Ramsay’s.

“Well, I have brought you your ducks and chickens back, mistress,” said the sergeant, as he halted the prisoners at the door; “and, what’s more, I have brought home a young sodger that’s worth his weight in gold.”

“Heaven bless my child! my brave boy!” cried the mother, seizing the lad in her arms, and unheeding anything else in the present perturbation of her feelings. “I feared ill would come of it; but Heaven has preserved him. Did he behave handsomely, Mr. Robinson? But I am sure he did.”

“A little more venturesome, ma’am, than I wanted him to be,” replied Horse Shoe; “but he did excellent service. These are his prisoners, Mistress Ramsay; I should never have got them if it hadn’t been for Andy. In these drumming and fifing times the babies suck in quarrel with their mother’s milk. Show me another boy in America that’s made more prisoners than there was men to fight them with, that’s all!”