Bloody clash of First Nations tribes is brought to life in historical novel

Posted: September 30, 2015 in Into the Americas
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In our true-life adventure novel Into the Americas, we relate how young Englishman John Jewitt and his fellow hostage Jonathan Thompson accompany their Mowachaht captors on a raid into the territory of the fierce Haachaht tribe of the Northwest Pacific.

Nootka Sound…Home to the proud Mowachaht tribe of Vancouver Island.

In the following excerpt from our novel, the Mowachaht raiders are ambushed by the Haachahts as they paddle up a river:

Callicum, the Haachaht chief, and three hundred of his warriors waited in ambush in the trees on the far bank. Most wore the distinctive and frightening wolf’s brow-mask, and all carried bows, spears, tomahawks and other traditional weapons. There wasn’t a musket in sight. However, what they lacked in fire-power they made up for in manpower and ingenuity.

On the near bank, directly opposite Callicum and his men, another hundred Haachahts waited. They, too, wore brow-masks and were similarly armed. Within their ranks, two strong, well-built bowmen stood some twenty yards apart. Each held a bow almost as long as himself. Their arrows resembled slim spears and were close to six foot long. A line trailed from each of their shafts. The lines were tied to the front edge of a huge, reinforced fishing net, which lay spread out on the ground between the two bowmen.

Both groups of Haachahts were visible to each other, but the dense undergrowth and foliage still hid them from the raiders even though their canoes were almost level with them.

At a signal from Callicum, the two bowmen opposite lay down on their backs, their knees bent and their moccasined feet raised skyward. After positioning their feet against the inside of their bows, they each loaded a long arrow and prepared to loose it toward the opposite bank. Even though they each used both hands to draw the mighty bows, the tremendous effort required caused their muscular arms to tremble. Their eyes were focused on a headman who stood midway between them and whose eyes, in turn, were focused on Callicum on the opposite bank.

The Haachaht chief now had his tomahawk raised high above his head. As the lead canoe drew level with his position, Callicum brought his tomahawk down.

At a nod from the headman opposite, the two bowmen gratefully released their long arrows in synch. Nearby, two more bowmen prepared to send a second net toward their enemies.

In the lead canoe, John and his fellow paddlers looked up as the huge net sailed above them, trailing behind the two spear-like arrows. The arrows buried themselves in the ground on the opposite bank and the net slowly floated down. It narrowly missed the lead canoe, settling over the one following and entangling its occupants.

Terrifying Haachaht war cries shattered the silence, and arrows and spears rained down on the Mowachahts. Most of those entangled in the net were quickly struck down as they struggled to disentangle themselves. Several scrambled overboard and tried to swim downstream, but they were quickly picked off by well-placed arrows. The canoe’s captain, Quasoot, was among the casualties.

The Mowachahts’ first thought was to use their muskets to fight off their enemies. They instinctively discarded their paddles and frantically began priming their muskets. As a result, the canoes bumped into each other and began drifting aimlessly in the current, their surprised occupants sitting targets.

Callicum had anticipated this and urged his bowmen to pick the disorganized Mowachahts off before they could wreak havoc with their muskets.

Maquina saw the danger immediately and exhorted his warriors to forget about their muskets for the moment and to paddle to the left bank where Callicum and his warriors happened to be. They responded straight away, retrieving their paddles and paddling furiously.

At the same time, another net sailed over the river and settled on a second canoe – this one captained by Toowin. Fortunately for Toowin and his fellow paddlers, one of the two arrows used had been misdirected, and so the net didn’t completely envelope the craft. Even so, the disruption it caused resulted in at least half the canoe’s occupants being killed or wounded. Toowin himself suffered a flesh wound when an arrow creased his chest.

As the remaining canoes closed with the far bank, they were met by a hailstorm of spears and arrows. Callicum’s warriors were trying to finish their enemies off before they could reach the shore. Mowachaht casualties mounted. Some of those who had been killed floated off downstream with arrows, and in one case a spear, protruding from them. Blood stained the water around them.

For one long moment, Maquina’s eyes locked with Callicum’s. The Mowachaht chief stood upright in the prow of his canoe. Ignoring the arrows that flew around him, he cursed his opposite. “Callicum, you treacherous dog!” he shouted. “I will personally cut out your heart!”

Callicum shouted something unintelligible back at his opposite.

Maquina was first to disembark. With no apparent concern for his own safety, he ran directly at Callicum, musket in one hand and club in the other. He used the latter weapon to effortlessly swat aside two Haachahts who made the mistake of not getting out of his way.

John and Thompson were among the next to disembark. As they scrambled up the bank, they fired their muskets at near point-blank range at the nearest Haachahts. Their hands were a blur as they primed their muskets and fired again. Identifying their enemy was made easy by the wolf brow-masks most of the Haachahts wore.

In anticipation of close-quarter fighting, Maquina had wisely ordered his fellow raiders to use shot, or pellets, as opposed to musket balls. John and Thompson were thankful for that as they loosed shot after shot at their enemies: each shot felled two or more Haachahts, so tightly were they congregated and so effective were the deadly pellets directed their way.

The whites were quickly joined by their fellow raiders who brought their own muskets into play. More Haachahts were struck down.

Chaos reigned. War cries, musket shots, curses, agonized screams, shouted orders and insults mingled in one deafening cacophony of sound; smoke from the constant discharge of muskets hung in the air, its acrid smell instantly recognizable; spears, arrows, tomahawks, axes and knives flew through the air as warriors grappled with their enemies in the woods, along the riverbank and even in the river; and all the while bodies piled up along the bank and in the shallows, and still more floated downriver.

You have been reading an excerpt from INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story). The book is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Americas-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B00YJKM51E/

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)

 

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