A Walk in the Swamp

The Napoleon Road was constructed by drawing a line south from the Maumee shore opposite the city of Napoleon and then clearing the trees from it to a distance of twenty paces. Part of the trunks have been pushed to the side; the others remain where they have fallen. There has been no thought of removing the stumps, but here and there the various creeks have been bridged and the knee-deep mudholes filled. So the road is passable for wagons only in dry weather. After a continuing rain it becomes completely bottomless. From a farm, where we stopped at noon, this so called road curved into the forest; from now until approaching darkness we walked through a wilderness in which nothing but the road and the surveyor’s marks on the tree trunks reminded us that it had been frequented by any living beings other than deer and bear. If the road had been a test of patience until now, it became more so with each of the ten remaining miles. The quotations with which Cousin Theodore had earlier consoled himself when, balancing on the edge of a mud puddle, he had lost his equilibrium and had sunk into the morass above his boot tops, now gave way to a selection of the best German oaths when, with a similar gymnastic trick, he fell into the cool mud up to his thighs. I, too, could not restrain myself from a few blasphemies when, in order to avoid a similar undesired mud-bath, I climbed across a fallen oak trunk, and crash! plunged into flying mud and slimy decay up to the chest. So we did gymnastics and stormed on, until we found our good humor again in a repeated falling into a hollow tree, from which an opossum sprang up and away.

Justice in the Black Swamp

As recalled by Moritz Busch, 1851

Justice in the Black SwampIn Napoleon, after a long search in the pitch-black night, we found comfortable lodging in an inn kept by a certain Alex Craig. “Judge Craig” was the owner of one of the more pretentious houses of the town. He was a tailor by trade, but he was elected sheriff of the county for a couple of terms, and served as associate judge, from which service he received his title. In the morning we attended a court scene in which our good judge became so absorbed in the peeling of an apple that, at the conclusion of their philippics, he had to ask the lawyers (by whom oratorical fire and tobacco juice were spit forth alternately) what they had actually said.

INDEX – “Stories from the Great Black Swamp”

• Julius Hermann Moritz Busch – the author
• The Legendary "Johnny Appleseed”
• A Walk in the Swamp
• Justice in the Black Swamp
• The Sharpshooters
• The Black Swamp Hotel
• Westward Ho! – “The Movers”
• 1851 – A North-western Ohio Train Ride
• Through the eyes of Thoreau
• The Demoniac Pleasure of Extermination

“The Sharpshooters”

a backwoodsman and friend

The Eyewittness Testimony of Moritz Busch

Another rider had joined us at a farm. Hung over his shoulders he wore a leather bullet pouch and a powder horn, and he carried a long rifle. He accompanied us over the ridge and down into a second basin where, behind a large blockhouse, we found several other riflemen gathered. We dismounted with him and tied our horses to a fence. The Major wanted to pay a short visit to the families living here, and we wanted to watch for a little while the shooting match which was about to begin. The group consisted of ten young and old men, all of them tall and well built.

They had set up a four-cornered target on a half charred stump that stood in the cleared field. In the center of it a three-inch nail had been hammered in up to about two-thirds of its length, and the skill which was being tested here was to hit the nail so that it would be driven into the board up to its head, as by a well-placed hammer blow. A shot that bends the nail counts for less; a shot that doesn’t touch it at all is greeted with great laughter. The distance from the fence upon which the rifle was rested to the target might have amounted to sixty paces. Surprising was the small amount of powder used in loading. I saw no one take more than just enough to cover the small ball placed in the left hand, and I was told that even at a distance of a hundred yards no greater quantity was required. The results proved the correctness of this assertion, for already at the second shot the nail was driven into the board. This seemed to be regarded as nothing extraordinary, for a dozen more nails were ready, and Westfeld remarked later that on the average, one out of three shots would hit in this manner. When all had fired, those who had been successful fired a second round among themselves, and as soon as the winner had been determined, the amount of the entry fee was handed over to him (usually a small amount), and he treated the group to whiskey or brandy.

1850 Kentucky rifle

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