Character of an Indian Chief
The Centinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) October 30 1811
History presents few instances of greater valor and magnanimity, than are displayed in the character of Opechanchanaugh, an Indian Chief. Bold, artful, insinuating, skilled in dissimulation and intrigue, he for many years kept the early settlers of Virginia in a state of continual alarm and more than once menaced them with destruction.
Although so decrepit by age as to be unable to walk, he commanded in person and directed from the litter on which he was borne, the onset and retreat of his warriors at the massacre of 1641, which almost exterminated the Colonists.
|The excessive fatigues of this campaign completed the wreck of his constitution, his
flesh wasted away and his sinews lost their elasticity; so that his eye lids hung over the balls and obscured their
sight. In this forlorn condition, bending under the weight of years and worn out by the hardships of war, he was
surprised, taken captive and carried to James Town, where he was basely shot by one of the soldiers appointed to
To the last moment his courage remained unbroken. Like the staff of Moses, it supported him in adversity and prosperity, in sickness and in death. Just before he expired, “He heard,” says the historian “unusual bustle in his prison. Having ordered his attendants to lift up his eye lids, he discovered a number of persons crowding round him for the purpose of gratifying an unreasonable and cruel curiosity. The dying chief felt this indignity with a keenness of sensibility the more violent and unforeseen. It was a burst of passion, a momentary ascendency of nature over the habits of education, and its exhibition and effect must be acknowledged to correspond with the greatness of the occasion.
Without deigning to notice the intruders, he raised himself from the earth and with a voice and tone of authority commanded that the governor should be immediately called in. When he made his appearance, Opechanchanaugh scornfully told him, “had it been his fortune to have taken Sir William Berkeley prisoner, he would not meanly have exposed him as a show to his people.”
What nobleness of spirit! What matchless heroism! At the age of an hundred years; blind, unable to stand; wounded and a captive, his courage was unsubdued. The prospect of power and incentive of example are the usual sources of splendid actions. It remains for the great soul to preserve its equanimity in the gloom of dungeons and embrace of death.
The exploits of this extraordinary man in the vigor of life are unknown to us. We saw him only for a short time on the edge of the horizon; but from the luster of his departing beams, we may easily conceive what he was in his meridian blaze.