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The Packhorseman

Charles Hudson

Publication Year: 2009

In April 1735, twenty-year-old William MacGregor, possessing little more than a bottle of Scotch whiskey and a set of Shakespeare’s plays, arrives in Charles Town, South Carolina, to make his fortune in the New World. The Scottish Highlands, while dear to his heart, were in steep economic decline and hopelessly entangled in dangerous political intrigue. With an uncle in Carolina, the long ocean voyage seemed his best chance for a new start. He soon discovers that the Jacobite politics of Scotland extend to Carolina, and when his mouth gets him in trouble with the Charles Town locals, dimming his employment opportunities, he seizes the one option still open for him and takes a job as a frontier packhorseman.
Soon young MacGregor is on the Cherokee trail to Indian country, where he settles in as a novice in the deerskin trade. Along the way William learns not only the arts of managing a pack train and trading with the Indians, but of reading the land and negotiating cultural differences with the Cherokee—whose clan system is much different from the Scottish clans of his homeland. William also learns that the Scottish enlightenment he so admires has not made much headway in the Carolina backcountry, where the real challenges are to survive, day to day, during the tense times after the Yamasee War and to remember that while in Indian country . . . it is their country.
A scholar of the native Southeast, Charles Hudson has turned his hand to this work of historical fiction, bringing to life the packhorsemen, Indian traders, and southeastern Indians of the early 18th-century Carolina. With a comfortable and engaging style, Hudson peoples the Carolina frontier with believable characters, all caught up in a life and time that is historically well-documented but little-known to modern popular readers.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Series: Alabama Fire Ant

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This book is much the better for having been read in an early draft by friends and relatives who blessed me with encouragement and criticism: Kathryn Braund, Mary Jo Magee-Brown, Robbie Ethridge, Peggy Galis, Gene Hodges, Jim Hudson, Terry Kay, David Liden, Ron Rhody, and Leah Sullins. It was also I am grateful to a long list of scholars and readers who generously gave me ...

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1. Highland Born

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pp. 1-18

William stood at the rail of the Cecilia as she sailed into Charles Town harbor on an April afternoon in 1735. The Carolina sky was as blue as the day God made it. Barely twenty years old, William was medium tall, thick through the neck, shoulders, and chest, with arresting blue eyes and a head of unruly blonde hair. In his boyhood imaginings he had Vikings in his ancestry, but the grimy, ...

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2. The Indian Trade

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pp. 19-36

The sun was well up in the sky when William began to come awake. He was surprised to fi nd himself in a bed that was clean, comfortable, and stationary—no grimy, swaying hammock in the middle of the ocean. Again he had to make an effort to remember where he was—his uncle’s tavern. He looked around and found he even had the luxury of no roommates, for a night at least. The three ...

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3. Charles Town

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pp. 37-46

Feeling under the weather from the night of drinking and intense conversation, William slept long past sunrise. When at last he entered the dining room for “Good morning, ...

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4. How to Pack a Horse

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pp. 47-56

Sam Long opened the gate, and William followed him into the dusty horse-pen. To William it looked like half a forest had been cut down to build the stout post-and-rail fence that ...

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5. Jim-Bird

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pp. 55-69

Because he was sharing lodging with Sam Long at the Packsaddle, William gained a degree of familiarity with the Charles Town end of the Indian trade. On and off throughout his stay in Charles Town, Sam had been bargaining with James Crockatt, his main supplier and creditor for the trade goods he packed into Cherokee country, gradually working his way through the list of ...

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6. The Road North

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pp. 70-81

When they awoke the next morning, the sky was overcast and the air was heavy. After a quick bite of food, William, Thomas, and John went to pack their horses. As they approached the area where they had hung up their gear, William was chagrined to see that at least half of his had fallen from the limbs “You’ll have to do better than that next time,” said John, shaking his head. ...

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7. MacDonald’s Cowpen

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pp. 82-91

The day dawned clear, the light so bright that everything in sight seemed to have sharp edges. The men were still at their breakfast when Sam told them to start packing—he wanted to cover good distance on this day to make up for lost time. They wolfed down the last of their food and got ...

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8. Border Country

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pp. 92-104

When William began to come awake the next morning, it was with the memory of how tired he had been the night before. From the way he lay, he seemed not to have moved a muscle the whole night ...

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9. Macbeth

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pp. 105-116

The next morning began with no surprises. William’s gear was fi rmly in place on limbs above the ground. A few horses had strayed into a canebrake during the night, but the packhorsemen easily ...

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10. Keowee

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pp. 117-130

The train of weary horses plodded down the sloping path, worn deep by heavy use and years of eroding rains, until they came to a broad expanse of bottom-land. Now the path was bordered on both sides by stands of mature ...

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11. The Trading House

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pp. 131-141

William awoke to darkness in Sam’s winter house. Looking around for the door, he saw the faint glow of early dawn. No sound came from Jim-Bird’s bed, but it was too dark to see if he was still there. William dozed a little and then awoke again. Now there was enough light to see that...

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12. Otter Queen

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pp. 142-157

William settled in at Keowee. In September the summer heat abated, though not so much as it would have done in Scotland. The mornings were cool enough, but midday breezes felt warm on his face, and by afternoon...

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13. Marriage Bed

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pp. 158-172

In his new life with Otter Queen, William went to bed earlier at night and stayed in it later in the morning than had ever been his habit. Privacy was scarce in Keowee, and this was one place where he and...

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14. Verona

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pp. 173-179

As William read the final pages of Romeo and Juliet, tears came to his eyes. Otter Queen saw it happen.

“How could words on paper bring a man to tears?” she asked. “It is time for you to tell me this story. It must be a terrible one if it makes you...

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15. Cause of Death

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pp. 180-187

When William came home at midday to eat a bite of food, Otter Queen did not greet him with her ....

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16. Tugalo

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pp. 188-200

“Old Hawk’s Mother will never give me any peace,” said Otter Queen. “My life in Keowee is misery.” ....

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17. How to Skin a Deer

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pp. 201-208

They awoke early the next morning, glad for a clear dawn and the prospect of a sunny day. Their first order of business was to build a shelter that would keep them dry and tolerably warm during their stay...

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18. Uktena

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pp. 209-215

The next day the wind was blustery and none of the hunters went out. William and Jim-Bird spent most of the day on the Gunsmith’s side of the camp. As a gift, William took along a small portion of the cane ...

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19. Bloody Mouth

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pp. 216-224

Otter Queen put on her matchcoat, once blue but now after so many weeks in the woods, darkly soiled with grime and deer blood. As she tied her pack-basket about her shoulders and picked up...

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20. The Devil’s Piss

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pp. 225-229

As they bundled their deerskins and packed their gear to return to Keowee, Otter Queen’s melancholy ....

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21. “The Sun for Sorrow Will Not Show His Head”

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pp. 230-240

On the next morning after their return, William went to the trading house carrying one of the two bundles of skins belonging to himself and Otter Queen. Sam and Jim-Bird were already at work, preparing for a busy day of ....

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22. Do Witches Exist?

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pp. 241-247

The Wolves buried Otter Queen’s body beneath the bed she and William had shared in her house, just as she had once told him it was their custom to do. But though she was dead and buried, the matter of her death was not at an end. The ...

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23. Just Sing

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pp. 248-261

In late March the weather began to warm. The nights were still cool, but during the day Sam’s crew seldom wore their hunting coats over their linen shirts. The water in the river was too cold for swimming, but the men could tolerate it ...


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pp. 263-264

Selected References

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pp. 265-266

E-ISBN-13: 9780817382407
E-ISBN-10: 0817382402
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817355401
Print-ISBN-10: 0817355405

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 1
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Alabama Fire Ant