A GUNPOWDER STORY
BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE (ADAPTED)
 IN the autumn of 1777 the English decided to attack Fort
Henry, at Wheeling, in northwestern Virginia. This was an
important border fort named in honor of Patrick Henry, and
around which had grown up a small village of about
twenty-five log houses.
A band of Indians, under the leadership of one Simon Girty,
was supplied by the English with muskets and ammunition, and
sent against the fort. This Girty was a white man, who, when
a boy, had been captured by Indians, and brought up by them.
He had joined their tribes, and was a ferocious and
bloodthirsty leader of savage bands.
When the settlers at Wheeling heard that Simon Girty and his
Indians were advancing on the town, they left their homes
and hastened into the fort. Scarcely had they done so when
the savages made their appearance.
The defenders of the fort knew that a desperate fight must
now take place, and there seemed little probability that
they would be able to hold out against their assailants.
They had only
forty-  two fighting men, including old men and boys, while the
Indian force numbered about five hundred.
What was worse they had but a small amount of gunpowder. A
keg containing the main supply had been left by accident in
one of the village houses. This misfortune, as you will soon
see, brought about the brave action of a young girl.
After several encounters with the savages, which took place
in the village, the defenders withdrew to the fort. Then a
number of Indians advanced with loud yells, firing as they
came. The fire was returned by the defenders, each of whom
had picked out his man, and taken deadly aim. Most of the
attacking party were killed, and the whole body of Indians
fell back into the near-by woods, and there awaited a more
favorable opportunity to renew hostilities.
The men in the fort now discovered, to their great dismay,
that their gunpowder was nearly gone. What was to be done?
Unless they could get another supply, they would not be able
to hold the fort, and they and their women and children
would either be massacred or carried into captivity.
Colonel Shepherd, who was in command, explained to the
settlers exactly how matters stood. He also told them of the
forgotten keg of powder
 which was in a house standing about sixty yards from the
gate of the fort.
It was plain to all that if any man should attempt to
procure the keg, he would almost surely be shot by the
lurking Indians. In spite of this three or four young men
volunteered to go on the dangerous mission.
Colonel Shepherd replied that he could not spare three or
four strong men, as there were already too few for the
defense. Only one man should make the attempt and they might
decide who was to go. This caused a dispute.
Just then a young girl stepped forward and said that she was
ready to go. Her name was Elizabeth Zane, and she had just
returned from a boarding-school in Philadelphia. This made
her brave offer all the more remarkable, since she had not
been bred up to the fearless life of the border.
At first the men would not hear of her running such a risk.
She was told that it meant certain death. But she urged that
they could not spare a man from the defense, and that the
loss of one girl would not be an important matter. So after
some discussion the settlers agreed that she should go for
The house, as has already been stated, stood about sixty
yards from the fort, and Elizabeth hoped to run thither and
bring back the powder
 in a few minutes. The gate was opened, and she passed
through, running like a deer.
A few straggling Indians were dodging about the log houses
of the town; they saw the fleeing girl, but for some reason
they did not fire upon her. They may have supposed that she
was returning to her home to rescue her clothes. Possibly
they thought it a waste of good ammunition to fire at a
woman, when they were so sure of taking the fort before
long. So they looked on quietly while, with flying skirts,
Elizabeth ran across the open, and entered the house.
She found the keg of powder, which was not large. She lifted
it with both arms, and, holding the precious burden close to
her breast, she darted out of the house and ran in the
direction of the fort.
When the Indians saw what she was carrying they uttered
fierce yells and fired. The bullets fell like hail about
her, but not one so much as touched her garments. With the
keg hugged to her bosom, she ran on, and reached the fort in
safety. The gate closed upon her just as the bullets of the
Indians buried themselves in its thick panels.
The rescued gunpowder enabled the little garrison to hold
out until help arrived from the other settlements near
Wheeling. And Girty, seeing that there were no further hopes
of taking Fort Henry, withdrew his band.
 Thus a weak but brave girl was the means of saving strong
men with their wives and children. It was a heroic act, and
Americans should never forget to honor the name of Elizabeth
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