Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

LJ Idol - Week 19 - Blankets for Peace

   Blanket wrapped around himself on a cool summer evening, Blehtiyata squinted down the barrel of his musket towards the British fort across the river. A breeze gently rustled through the trees. Every now and then shots were fired, but it was mostly a waiting game. Time was on the indians' side, as Fort Pitt was far from the English colonies’ cities. Blehtiyata’s leader, Guyasuta, knew personally the difficulties the English would have reaching the fort -– he had been a guide for the British force under Washington which had come to assault the fort here nine years ago and started the war.
   The British had eventually driven the French out and built their own fort here at the fork where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers come together. But unlike the French, the British made no effort to appease the Indians. They had shown the indians nothing but contempt. And so Blehtiyata, and many other warriors of the Seneca, had switched sides and joined the alliance of tribes led by chief Pontiac against the British invaders.

   Blehtiyata lifted his gun as he caught sight of the red coat of a British soldier on the battlements of the fort in a vulnerable position. Before he could take the shot though the soldier was back behind a bastion wall. The British had been refusing to sell ammunition to indians for a while prior to the hostilities, so one had to be very conservative about which shots to take.

   Blehtiyata was thankful though that they’d captured some supplies from a shed just outside the fortress. The British had neglected to evacuate its contents into the fort or guard it properly and an indian raiding party had managed to loot it for supplies. Though there wasn’t anything exciting like ammunition in the shed, there had been a large number of blankets which would make the siege much more comfortable for the indians.

   Blehtiyata was particularly grateful of the blanket tonight, as he felt like he was coming down with a fever. Getting a cold was certainly far from the worst thing that could happen at war, but it could critically dull your abilities in battle. Blehtiyata pulled the warm blanket around himself to stay warm and healthy.

Two months later:

   Colonel Bouquet stood at the rampart and surveyed the opposing banks through a spyglass.
   “They’ve definitely all withdrawn sir,” reported Captain Ecuyer. “We’ve sent scouts all over the surrounding area, the only indians left are dead of smallpox.
   “I guess we’ve achieved the desired effect then,” mused Bouquet, “have some prisoners collect and burn those bodies, and then release those prisoners back to their people.”
   “What should I write about this strategy in the official report?” asked Ecoyer. Bouquet thought about it seriously. It might not go over well with the stuffy intellectuals back East.
   “Probably best you make no mention of it. Erase what you’ve already written about it in the log … blank it.

   The year is 1763. The location is what would eventually become Pittsburgh. The concept of settlers giving the Native Americans smallpox infected blankets has become embedded in our concience. The Siege of Fort Pitts is the only known alleged instance. Its known it was discussed and that the indians involved suffered an outbreak of smallpox, but whether it was purposefully givin to them or not is debated (it actually hinges on the meaning of "desired effect" in a diary entry).
   I must admit in the historical record it was two blankets givin as gifts to indian leaders during unsuccessful negotiations to end the siege. I took literary liberties with that because two blankets didn’t seem that impressive, but it didn’t seem reasonably to suggest a whole LOT of blankets were givin as presents while the siege was ongoing.
   And in case you didn’t get what the connection of the prequel to this, it’s the same location nine years later – British Fort Pitt replaced and was built over French Fort Duquesne (which replaced and was built over British Fort St George).
Tags: historical fiction, lj idol, lj idol entry, native american historical fiction
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