Besieged By Starvation

: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

A hundred years before the white men set up their trading-posts on the

Arkansas and Platte, a band of mountain hunters made a descent on what

they took to be a small company of plainsmen, but who proved to be the

enemy in force, and who, in turn, drove the Utes--for the aggressors were

of that tribe--into the hills. Most of them took refuge on a castellated

rock on the south side of Bowlder Canon, where they held their own for

several days, rolling down huge rocks whenever an attempt was made to

storm the height; wherefore, seeing that the mountain was too secure a

stronghold to be taken in that way, the besiegers camped about it, and,

by cutting off the access of the beleaguered party to game and to water,

starved every one of them to death.

This, too, is the story of Starved Rock, on Illinois River, near Ottawa,

Illinois. It is a sandstone bluff, one hundred and fifty feet high, with

a slope on one side only. Its summit is an acre in extent, and at the

order of La Salle his Indian lieutenant, Tonti, fortified the place and

mounted a small cannon on it. He died there afterward. After the killing

of Pontiac at Cahokia, some of his people--the Ottawas--charged the crime

against their enemies, the Illinois. The latter, being few in number,

entrenched themselves on Starved Rock, where they kept their enemies at

bay, but were unable to break their line to reach supplies. For a time

they secured water by letting down bark vessels into the river at the end

of thongs, but the Ottawas came under the bluff in canoes and cut the

cords. Unwilling to surrender, the Illinois remained there until all had

died of starvation. Bones and relics are found occasionally at the top.

There is yet another place of which a similar narrative is

extant--namely, Crow Butte, Nebraska, which is two hundred feet high and

vertical on all sides save one, but on that a horseman may ascend in

safety. A company of Crows, flying from the Sioux, gained this citadel

and defended the path so vigorously that their pursuers gave over all

attempts to follow them, but squatted calmly on the plain and proceeded

to starve them out. On a dark night the besieged killed some of their

ponies and made lariats of their hides, by which they reached the ground

on the unguarded side of the rock. They slid down, one at a time, and

made off all but one aged Indian, who stayed to keep the camp-fire

burning as a blind. He went down and surrendered on the next day, but the

Sioux, respecting his age and loyalty, gave him freedom.