Thom Versus Original Account Essay, Research Paper
Thom versus Original Account
Humanities 1704, 12:30 T.?Th.
Thom versus Original Account
Follow the River, written by James Alexander Thom, was based on the capture of Mary Draper Ingles by a group of Shawnee Indians and the escape that followed her captivity. It was a somewhat accurate account of the events that may have happened during her long journey to and from the Shawnee village. These similarities are very beneficial because it gives the reader a sense of the factual side of the journey. Thus, the reader is able to understand how hard a life the frontier people had to live. However, there are a few deviations that Thom makes. These differences may be small, but they have a major impact on the understanding of the factual account of Mary?s journey. In this paper, I will attempt to describe some of the similarities and deviations between Follow the River and the original accounts by John Hale and John Ingles, Sr. and describe how this distorts the understanding of the true account.
After reading the original accounts of Mary Ingles? escape, I found that Thom?s version of the event is similar in many ways to the actual account. Thom was very accurate in his description of the actual massacre that occurred at Draper?s Meadow. In the account written by John Ingles, Sr., he names the people that were either taken captive of killed by the Indians. He writes that his mother and her two children, Thomas and George, his Aunt Draper, and Henry Leonard were taken prisoner by the Shawnees. John Ingles also states in his narrative that Colonel Patton, Casper Barger, his Grandmother
Draper and child were killed (8). In Follow the River, Thom describes the same people either being killed or taken captive by the Shawnee Indians.
Another similarity between the two accounts was the escape of Mary?s spouse William. In the original account, William discovers the massacre and watches helplessly at the edge of a field. After standing there for a minute, William is noticed by two of the Indians. William runs for the woods and the Indians follow him. While running through the thick woods, William attempts to jump a fallen tree. He trips over the tree and falls to the ground. The Indians did not notice that William had fallen and continued down the valley. William rose to his feet and headed in the opposite direction to try to get some help in chasing his family that had been taken captive (8). In Follow the River, the same chase is portrayed by Thom.
The most amazing factual similarity in Thom?s account was that of Mary giving birth on the trail. John Hale writes of this event in his account. On the night of the third day out, the course of nature was fulfilled and Mrs. Ingles, with only a curtain of black darkness around her, gave birth to an infant daughter (28). This birth is written about in Follow the River. This event is very beneficial to the reader. It sets a picture of an immortal woman in their mind. This then helps the reader to believe some of the deviations that Thom made.
Yet another similarity that I found worthy of noting was the running of the gauntlet by the prisoners at the Shawnee village. This event was one that I had a hard time believing when I read Follow the River. However, John Ingles, Sr. writes that the prisoners of the Shawnee village did have to go through the Indian custom. He states that the men, women, and children that inhabited the village would form two rows and each one of them would be armed with a stick. The prisoners would then have to run between the two rows while taking the punishment from the Indians. Ingles also states that his mother was exempt from this act of torture (10). Thom also writes about this strange custom in his account. This event also sets the picture of a hard life in the reader?s mind.
The last similarity that I will note involves the actual escape of Mary and the Dutch woman. In all three accounts, the two French men take Mary and the Dutch woman down the Ohio River to the Big Bone Lick. During their stay at the lick, they enjoyed more freedom than at the Shawnee village. Also, there were not as many Indians to track the two if they did try to escape. The two women took advantage of this and made their escape one day while gathering nuts and berries for the men. Ingles, Thom, and Hale portray this event in similar manners (Ingles 11, Thom 156, Hale 38).
There were a few minor details of the journey that are similar between the accounts that may not have much bearing on the understanding of the book, but are still worth noting. One of the details that Thom had in Follow the River was the bell that the
Dutch woman wore around her neck. He wrote that shortly after their escape from the lick, they came across a horse and decided to take it along on their journey. During the journey they lose the horse when they tried to cross the river on a make-shift bridge and it fell through the logs. However, before the horse was swept down the river, the Dutch woman took the bell off of the horse and wore it around her neck for the duration of the final miles (200). John Ingles, Sr. writes of the same event in his account. He notes the fact that the beast had a bell around its? neck when the two women discovered it and then the strangeness of the fact that the Dutch woman took the bell from the horse when they were obliged to leave it in the drift (18). One final detail that may seem hard to believe in Thom?s account was the implorations by Mary to find the Dutch woman after her rescue by Adam Harmon (374). One may think that this was not true because of the many attempts of the Dutch woman to kill Mary. However, Ingles and Hale both write of the request (Ingles 18, Hale 77).
There were also many differences in the two accounts. The deviations that Thom makes from the original account were done to make the book more interesting to the reader. These deviations have a major impact on the understanding of the factual events that occurred during Mary Ingles? ordeal. The most noticeable deviations that Thom makes involves the intimate feelings that Mary and Captain Wildcat apparently have for one another. Thom describes the feelings that Mary has for Captain Wildcat as feelings of
lust and need. He even describes dreams that Mary has of intimate encounters that she and Captain Wildcat would enjoy (119). These feelings were probably not true. Mary probably had no feelings for the chief except for feelings of hate (Ingles 10). This deviation makes Mary look like a very unfaithful person. In Thom?s account, Mary
practically gives up her husband for Captain Wildcat. She seems to replace the love and affection that she had for William with the growing love for Captain Wildcat.
Another deviation that Thom makes has to do with Mary?s two older children. In Follow the River, the two boys stay in the same village as Mary. Thom describes that Mary is not allowed to communicate with them very often, but that she occasionally sees them. In Hale?s account, he writes that George was taken somewhere in the interior and Thomas was taken to Detroit (33). Thom portrays the children as still being with her so that when she leaves the village, she will seem emotionally sound. She was able to leave her two sons behind and leave without much remorse.
Another deviation that I will mention is Indian squaw in Follow the River. In both of the original accounts the squaw is non-existent. I believe that Thom added this for the same reason that he added the part about her two older children.
The deviations that Thom puts in his account of Mary Draper Ingles? escape from the Shawnee village hinder the understanding of the actual escape. Thom adds these deviations to make certain characters seem to be superhuman. He accomplishes this very
readily. With the many hardships that Mary and the Dutch woman encountered on the journey home, they still managed to return to civilization with no harm to themselves except for exhaustion.
While reading Follow the River, I did not pay very much attention to these deviations and similarities. I was under the impression that most of the events that Thom
described were factual. After reading the actual account, I noticed some major differences and similarities between the two accounts. The similarities helped me to appreciate the courage of the frontier people and especially Mary Ingles. The deviations had a major impact on the way that I judged Mary and the other characters. I am glad that I was able to enjoy the factual account of the truly amazing story. Whether it is Thom?s version, or the actual account, I believe that everyone should be introduced to Mary Draper Ingles.
Thom, James Alexander. Follow the River. New York: Ballantine Books, 1981.
Steele, Roberta Ingles and Andrew Lewis Ingles, eds. Escape from Indian Captivity: The
Story of Mary Draper Ingles and son Thomas Ingles. Radford, VA, 1969.
Hale, John P. Trans-Allegheny Pioneers. Charleston, W.Va.: The Kanawha Valley
Publishing, Co., 1931.