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In The Shadow of the Cumberland Gap


We beg leave to insert here parts of a letter recently received from a member of the Virginia Regiment who had occassion to journey down the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road and visit the renowned Cumberland Gap that opens the way for settlers to move into Kentucke and beyond.  It has been many years since the fall of Fort Duquesne, but some of the great men we remember from the French and Indian War have made fortunes by opening the lands to the west of the mountains.

"Dear Friends of the Regiment,

    It has been quite a few years since the disastrous defeat of General Braddock, but several men who were at that unfortunate occassion have made names for themselves and perhaps fortunes in opening the verdant lands of the great Kentuck we heard from Indian lore.

    

Daniel Boone, who like Daniel Morgan was a wagoneer for Gen. Braddock, and Dr. Thomas Walker have been instrumental in developing lands to the west for themselves and the New River and Transylvania Land Companies.  You will recall that Dr. Walker survived Braddock's disaster and became one of Col. Washington's Commissaries for the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War.

Recently I had the honor to visit as Mr. Boone and Dr. Walker were gathering many people to travel with them into the new lands to the west.  They had some surveyors to survey plots and land dealers to sell title to the land.

  
A surveyor from Williamsburg and a land agent doing good business.

 

Also on hand were many craftsmen and women preparing to set up shop in the new lands or to sell supplies to the settlers.

    
A blacksmith was making horse shoes,
                                          a skinner was cleaning hides and
                                                                   a potter was making cups and plates.
 

  
A spinner at her wheel, a woman washing clothes and a slave dreaming of the promised land.

 


Of course, there was an herbalist with many natural remedies and some new fangled instruments to fix all the ailments that one might encounter in a far away place.  Everyone was invited to stock up on all the herbs and other items they might need. I am sure that our Regimental Surgeon, Dr. James Craik, would be impressed with the collection that was available here.

Along side of these purveyors that one might find in any of our larger towns were some, shall we say, plainer folk from the backwoods plying their trades:

  
A backwoods herbalist with native plants and an Indian trading for white man's goods.


I was most amused to watch some of these unlearned folk from the mountains.  Can you guess how many backwoods men it takes to saddle a cow?

    
It seems that it takes no less than four of these simple folk for one simple cow!

 

For those more used to higher forms of amusement, there was no shortage of music.  Some seemed very impromptu, but everyone was most delighted with the entertainment and the multitude of instruments.

    

  


Professor Bodkin made wonderful music on his water glasses; it was a most interesting exhibition of what a little ingenuity and a few common items can do. The bagpipes reminded me of some of our regular British Highland units that stir the heart, but the mandolin player standing against the backdrop of those wonderful Kentucke mountains made me pray that all these settlers would find safety and contentment in their new homes.
 


 
 In the best tradition of the Virginia Regiment Mr. Boone and Dr. Walker were apparently training a younger set of soldiers to guard the frontier. Their fort may not stand an attack by cannon, but their zeal is most obvious. I am sure that they can defend their homes against most any enemy and most obviously against boredom.

 
 
 
 


Looking at the faces in the crowd, one must be struck by how varied are the stories of these lives. Some are filled with joy and expectation about the life to come on the western frontier and others seem pensive, perhaps thinking of loved ones left behind or family who have passed to their heavenly reward and whose fields are far more furtile than any here on earth on the western lands.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 


  But I could not remain here in this beautiful mountain gap forever even amongst these pleasant folk filled with wonderous hopes and expectations. As I prepared to leave many were packing the wagons and heading west to the land of promise they know as Kentucke.

  
I bid farewell to Daniel Boone and Dr. Walker and prepared to head back up the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road to Winchester were business called me before I could return to my beloved Hampshire County were so many of us faced the trials and fears of the War. But as we overcame those fears and trials, so shall these stalwart people who have placed their trust in the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills... even on Kentucke hills.

        Sir, I remain your humble servant....
 

 

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