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Bennett, Emerson, 1822-1905 [1851], The league of the Miami. (Lorenzo Stratton, Cincinnati) [word count] [eaf470T].
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Whoever is versed in the history of
the Great Miami Valley, at the date we
again open our story, 1805, will, most
probably, recollect the league of bandits,
or horse thieves, who then infested this
region of country, forming a grand chain
from below Lawrenceburgh, Indiana, and
running in a north-easterly direction, terminating
somewhere near Urbana, Ohio.
Never, in the annals of Western history,
has there been found a more bold, secret,
and daring combination of men, for outlawry
purposes, than this same League
of the Miami. Composed of persons of
wealth and influence—moving, many of
them, in the best circles of society—
living in a state of lordly luxury—they
were, as a matter of course, the last ones
on whom suspicion would fall as being
connected in such nefarious designs.
Bound by a solemn compact, which was
death to the traitor who should dare to
hint or breathe a word, be it never so

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light, that should in the least manner
draw down suspicion on the aggressors—
scattered through the whole region of
country we have named—living, most of
them, with their families—and, as before
said, moving in the best circles of society—
is it a matter of surprise that they
should earry on, undisturbed for years,
their secret depredations?

As the settlers in the great Miami
valley increased, so increased the plunder
of the League, until their actions, still
becoming more and more daring, were so
annoying to the more honest citizens, that
they, in self-defense, were obliged to
organize a band for their final extinction;
during which some rough scenes ensued,
and several of the League were shot,
wherever found; ay, shot down like
dogs! Having given this brief preliminary
as an index of the times, we shall
again proceed with our tale.

It was a calm, beautiful evening in
June; and the sun, as he gently sank
behind the western horizon, threw his
soft, golden rays; on to many a hill and
tree top, and lingered there as if loth to
bid the day farewell. On the brow of
one of these hills, one hand resting
against the trunk of a leatless tree—
whose sap had ceased to flow, whose
bark had crumbled to decay—his face
turned westward, watching the sun's
decline—was the tall, graceful figure of a
man, some thirty-seven years of age. On
his features could be traced those marks
of care and thought, interspersed with
lines of passion, that told his had not
been a life of indolence and ease. His
hair was black, and fell in profusion far
down around his neck and shoulders. His
face was somewhat shaded by a hat of
broad brim; but still, by scanning
closely, his features could be traced. His
skin was of a pale, sallow cast, forcibly
contrasting with dark, piercing eyes, and
a large, black mustache on his upper lip.
His cheek-bones rose again in contrast
with his cheeks, which, naturally hollow,
seemed a little sunken. The expression
about his mouth, and features generally
was one of unwavering firmness and
quick decision. But there was the soul
beaming through all, giving that forcible
stamp of intellect, that, good or bad, you
would pronounce him a man of no ordinary
capacity. His dress was a little
singular; and yet a casual observer
might, perhaps, have seen in it nothing
uncommon. It consisted of a check
shirt, fitting closely to his shoulders and
breast, as if to develope their fine formation;
for his breast was rcunded up full—
his shoulders were broad—back hollow—
all denoting great strength and agility.
Around his waist the shirt was enclosed
by pantaloons of dark, coarse cloth,
secured by a belt, in which were carelessly
stuck two pistols and a long hunting
knife. His feet were encased in high-top
boots, which were drawn on over the lower
part of his pantaloons. Around his neck
was a black silk neckerchief, loosely tied,
the ends hanging in a negligent, graceful
manner on the bosom of his shirt. Such
was his dress and personal appearance.

For some moments he stood gazing at
the west, with a thoughtful brow, while
occasionally a shade of melancholy would
deepen on his features, and then seem to
clear up with a brighter thought. In the
meantime the sun gradually became more
and more obscured, until a silver rim
only could be discerned, and then disappeared

“As sinks the sun behind yon western
hill,” said the stranger, in a musing tone,
“calm and peaceful, so sink the spirits of
the good and great into eternity. Happy,
happy lot is theirs. Oh! that my spirit
could thus pass away forever, and open
upon a purer, holier existence. Death to

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the good is a happy change; when tired
with the follies and vexations of life, they
pass to the rest of the grave without a
repining thought. Not so with me; I
long for that sleep, yet dread the awful
change—dread to think of death and
what may follow after. I have a strange
presentiment of my end, and I shudder
while I contemplate. I have done some
good acts, and yet the evil placed in the
balance would weigh me down. Well,
well, one year more and I am free. Oh!
that the time were now! Little do those I
govern know what feelings try my heart!
Five years have I been to them a leader,
bold and daring as they could wish. In
one year more my time expires; and
then I will away—away with one—no,
mo! she will be too pure for me—no, I
must alone wander forth, and I will never
see her more, for fear I could not keep my
resolution, and tear me from her; but
she shall feel my bounty. Gods!” exclaimed
he, suddenly striking his clenched
fist against his head, “I have forgotten;
the time, the time has run over three
months! I will attend to it this night.
Ha! some one comes! Now am I Gerolstein.
Captain of the League, muser no

As he spoke, a figure might be seen
mearing him.

“How now, Jarvis?” said he, sternly,
as the other approached.

“The League await their Captain,”
replied the other, bowing with deference.

“ 'Tis well. Have they all assembled.

“Enough for the ceremony, Captain.”

“Lead on!”

The other, a short, thick-set man, with
a full, round face, large gray eyes, turned
at the word, and descended the hill in an
easterly direction, followed at a short
distance by the Captain. In this manner
they proceeded some considerable time,
until they reached the foot of the hill,
which, being sloping, extended a goodly
way, when the foremost struck a sort of
path, turned short round to the left, and
presently entered a deep, flat wood,
heavily shaded. By this time it had
grown very duskish without the wood,
while within it was already night.
Moving steadily on without speaking,
like men well acquainted with their
ground, Jarvis and Gerolstein at length
paused in a little, open space, some thirty
feet in diameter, which had, apparently,
been cleared of brush and trees for some
particular purpose; when the latter,
placing his fore and middle fingers into
his mouth, gave a low shrill whistle.

In an instant, as if by magic, the surrounding
wood seemed suddenly alive;
for dark figure after figure stalked quickly
forward into the open space; softly, and
mute, as the spirits of tradition, until the
Captain stood in the center of a solid

“Sezmond!” called out Gerolstein, in
a deep, heavy voice.

“Here, Captain,” was the answer.

“How many are here?”


“I bade thee notify seventy-nine,
Sezmond, and specified, by names, the

“One I did not find, sir! Three are
away in attendance upon the stranger,
who wishes to become a member of our

“Whom did you not find, Sezmond?”


“Ha!” exclaimed Gerolstein, “I fear
he is playing treacherous!”

“Then shall he die!—death to the
traitor!” shouted a chorus of voices,
while the bright blades of fifty knives
gleamed in the air.

“Gentlemen, you have said,” returned
Gerolstein—“this must be looked
to. If Arnold Melven be suspected of

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treachery—and he is—he must clear all
points in his character, or by our laws
suffer death. Jarvis! I charge you to
arrest—secure him in the cave—and
await further orders.”

“It shall be done, Captain.”

“Our slightest laws,” continued Gerolstein,
must be enforced to the strongest
penalty, or our band will become disorganized.
We have been almost too lenient
of late, and already have our bold
deeds struck terror to the hearts of many
of the citizens of the valley—who, I
learn, are making preparations to resist—
to attack us. If we are true to ourselves,
we are safe: but if one proves treacherous,
our case will become desperate—we
shall be lost. Yet shall he not escape—
no! by the eternal gods! I swear to follow
him through fire, and water, till my
knife shall drink his heart's blood!”

A murmur of applause ran through the
crowd, with cries of, “Long live Gerolstein,
Captain of the League!”

“Have those last horses been disposed
of, sir treasurer?”

“They have, Captain,” answered a

“Well disposed of?”

“Middling, only.”

“How much funds have you undivided?”

“Eight thousand dollars.”

“ 'Tim well; there must be a division
this night!”

“This night! Captain?” said the
same voice, in a tone of surprise; “I
thought it was to have run till next quarter.”

“Silence! Roberts; I have said. Ha!
do you grumble?” added he, quickly, in
a voice of thunder—as the other muttered
something in a low tone. “Silence! or
by heavens I'll make an example of you!
Where is the stranger who wishes to join

“Waiting your pleasure, without the
grove,” answered Sezmond.


“Your will, Captain.”

“Inform him, speedily, we are ready.”

“Ay, ay, Captain”—and, with the
bound of the antelope, the last speaker
left the group.

“I have learned,” continued the Captain,
“from the messenger who has just
left us, that there are several fine horses
in the vicinity of Venice, and so up along
the Miami to Hamilton, which, from our
being of late employed in another quarter,
had nearly escaped our observation.
With the news of this, Pottenger also informs
me, that in, and about the vicinity
of Venice, we shall have to move with
great care and prudence, or we shall get
troubled; for many of them have not
forgotten the trick we played them last
year; one in particular—living on the
bottom, near the river, a new settler, late
from the East, by the name of Butterman—
swears he will have revenge for
the horses he was so unceremoniously
deprived of at the time in question. However,
I fear not such an idle threat; having
mentioned it, merely, to put you on
your guard, and that you may move with
greater caution. I think the first dark,
stormy night, we had better commence
operations, each one having first been
assigned his post. Is this your mind?”

“Ay, ay,” responded fifty voices.

“ 'Tis well. But hush, here comes the
group with the stranger.”

As he spoke, one part of the ring
opened, and five persons marched into
the center; and as it again closed, Gerolstein
called out:


In an instant four lights, from dark
lanterns—from four different parts of the
crowd—flashed full upon the stranger,
who was standing alone, blind-folded, in

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[figure description] Page 025.[end figure description]

the center; all having moved back, leaving,
for a short distance around him, an
open space. In stature he was only
middling—graceful in formation; his
features undiscernable by reason of the
bandage over his eyes. His dress was
very coarse and plain; and, to judge
from the soft hand on which was a heavy
gold ring, it was a dress of disguise. Such
thoughts, most probably, entered the
mind of Gerolstein; for he scrutinized
the hand and ring very closely, and then
put the following interrogation:

“Sir stranger! do you wish to join the

“I do,” answered the stranger, in a
calm, firm voice.

“Do you know who, and what we are?”

“I do. Gentlemen of honor, without
the law, daring and brave.”

“ 'Tim well. Your age?”


“Your name?”

The stranger hesitated a moment, and
then replied:

“I decline answering.”

“ 'Tim our law!” said Gerolstein,

“Then call me Burrand.”

“Your whole name, sir?”

“Aaron Burrand.”

Gerolstein, and several of the party,
started; they had divined the man. Being
bandaged, Burrand did not see this
sudden movement, and Gerolstein cooly

“Your former occupation, Burrand?”

“A tiller of the soil.”

“ 'Tim false! that ring and hand belie
you, sir!”

Burrand started—he had not expected
this—and then quickly made answer:

“A gentleman at large.”

“ 'Tis better, though an indefinite
term,” returned Gerolstein, dryly. “Your
object in joining us?”

“Because I like your mode of life.”

“False again, I say, Colonel Burrand!”

“Ha! you know me then!” exclaimed
the other, quickly, in a tone of surprise,
raising his hands to tear off the bandage.

“Hold!” exclaimed Gerolstein, springing
forward and arresting the action;
“remove that, and you are a dead man!
You divine rightly; we do know you.”

“Then I am lost,” sighed the other.

“Not so; you can be reconducted
whence you came, by first taking a solemn
oath never to molest us, or you can
join us still.”

The other paused a moment, and then

“I choose the latter.”

“ 'Tim well. Proceed, men, with the

In an instant the three men who had
conducted the stranger (or Burrand)
hither, sprang forward, and, ere he had
time to comprehend their design, he was
completely disorbed—in a state of nudity—
and his arms pinioned to his body.
We say in a state of nudity—we except
the bandage around his eyes, which still
remained. Raising the body carefully,
placing it on their shoulders, the trio
started forward into the wood, followed
next by the light-bearers, who held, as
before said, dark-lanterns, which, throwing
their light far ahead, enabled the
foremost to see their way clearly. Next
came Gerolstein, Captain of the band,
followed by the officers in single file, and,
lastly, the whole party, two by two. In
this manner they procceded some quarter
of a mile, in a westerly direction, when
they emerged from the wood into an open
field, the ground of which was undulating,
and stony. The stars threw down
their twinkling light on to their dark,
shadowy forms, as in silence, with slow,
solemn, steady pace, they still moved

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onward. At length the foremost entered
a cluster of bushes and disappeared in a
cave, near the bottom of the hill—followed
by the light-bearers, the Captain,
and all the civic officers—the others remaining
without. This cave, somewhat
large, was used by the League for various
purposes—among which, coining money
was not the least—and was known by the
name of Hamilton's Den. On one side
was a large flat stone, on which they now
deposited the body of Colonel Burrand,
requesting him to take a kneeling position,
which he did, with his back to the
wall. Placing the lanterns in a manner
to throw as much light as possible on his
face, and the upper part of his body,
they ranged themselves in due order
around him—the Captain standing directly
in front. At a signal from him, each
drew a knife and pistol from the belt
around his waist—for each on an occasion
like this, wore a belt—and holding the
knives, the points of which were painted
red, in their right hands, in an attitude to
strike, the points all turned toward the
kneeling man's breast—their heads turned
away from him—their left hands grasping
pistols, pointed in like manner—like
statuary, they awaited their Captain's
administration of the oath. Holding in
his left hand a scroll, which he had received
since entering the cave, in his
right a pistol, the muzzle about two feet
from Burrand's breast, Gerolstein thus

“Aaron Burrand! in the name of all
you hold dear, in the past, in the present,
in coming time; by all you hold sacred
on earth, in time—in heaven, in eternity—
or dread in hell!—by the help of
God! by Mary the mother of God! and
by all the holy angels! you freely, sacredly,
solemnly swear to become a true,
a loyal member of this League; swearing
to assist and uphold them, right, or wrong;
to pay due allegiance to the leader, or
captain, in all he shall command not contrary
to the constitution; doubly swearing
never to betray, or attempt to betray, by
word, or thought, or deed or sign, collectively
or separately, the band, or any
individual of the band; on the contrary,
to assist in screening them from the oppression
of the civil law, if in your power;
to aid them in every manner to the extent
of your abilities wherever placed—to the
full and final staking of your life on your
integrity in this—and forfeiture in failure—
you swear! by kissing this seroll,
now held to your mouth, and signing
your name within it in your own blood!

As he concluded, Burrand pressed his
lips to the scroll, in token of his assent
to the oath. At the same instant Jarvis
sprang forward—cut the cord which
bound his arms—cut the bandage around
his head; and, as it fell, Burrand started
in amazement, while the strong light
flashing in his eyes, for the moment completely
blinded him. Well might he
start in amazement, to see those stalwart
forms around him; their faces turned
away—their knives and pistols gleaming
in the light, all pointed at his heart.

“Emblem is this, you see,” said Gerolstein,
“that if you prove false to your
oath, each man will turn from mercy—
from pity—while his knife shall gleam
in the light, dripping with your heart's
blood. The constitution—sign!”

As he spoke, Gerolstoin gave his arm
a sudden fling, and the parchment, held
in his hand, unrolled—displaying to the
eyes of Burrand the constitution of the
League, written in red—each man's
name signed in his own blood. Jarvis
again stepped forward, and taking the
left hand of Burrand, suddenly pricked
it on the back, with a small instrument
made for the purpose; and as the blood

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started forth, caught sufficient in a pen,
which he then handed to the other, and
peremptorily repeated, “sign!” Burrand
took the pen, and bending forward to the
stone on which he still knelt, with a pale
cheek, and slightly trembling hand, wrote
his name upon the scroll. “'Tis done!”
said a heavy voice, while a gong struck
in another part of the cave, echoed
through its vaulted chamber with such
a terriffic sound, that Burrand fairly
sprang to his feet in terror. He had, in
the moment, fancied it the echoes of Hell

The Captain now took the right hand
of Burrand in his own—shook it heartily—
welcoming him as a brother of the
League; while each of the others, in
regular succession, did the same. This
through, the clothes of Burrand were
passed to him, and in a few minutes he
was habited as before. The secret counter-sign
was now explained to him, and
he was told he could remain and join in
the coming revelry of the night, or was
at liberty to go where he pleased; he
chose the latter, and disappeared. In the
course of our story we shall have occasion
to speak of this individual again,
when his personal appearance will be
more fully described. At a slight tap on
the gong the party without entered the
cave; and after some business transactions
(unnecessary to detail here, among
which was the division of the spoils, or
money,) had taken place, wine was
brought, and the whole company united
in a scene of boisterous merriment.
During this time Gerolstein placed a
purse in the hands of Jarvis, whispered
something in his ear, and then added,

“Remember Melven—secure him
here!” and, seating himself at a little
distance from the rest, he gazed, in a
sad, absent mood, upon the revelers,
who kept up a half drunken, hilarious excitement,
till the first streak of morning
bade them disperse to their several places
of abode.

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Bennett, Emerson, 1822-1905 [1851], The league of the Miami. (Lorenzo Stratton, Cincinnati) [word count] [eaf470T].
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