It transpires that the Indian was shot by Hawkeye, who now advances with Uncas and Chingachgook. Hawkeye has discarded his rifle, so the fighting is hand-to-hand. Magua rushes on Chingachgook; Uncas kills one Indian with his tomahawk. Heyward and Hawkeye join the fray, and Hawkeye kills his opponent with one blow. Heyward desperately wrestles another Indian, until Hawkeye kills the Indian with a blow from the butt of his rifle. An Indian attacks Cora, but his tomahawk succeeds only in freeing her from her bonds. She rushes to Alice’s side. A Huron seizes Cora’s hair and forces her to her knees. Uncas pounces on him, Hawkeye and Heyward rush in to help, and the Huron is killed by all three of them. In the battle between Chingachgook and Magua, it appears for a while as if Chingachgook is victorious. As Magua lies on the ground, Hawkeye prepares to inflict the death blow, but Magua manages to roll away, get to his feet, and run off.
After Alice, Cora and David express their gratitude at recovering their freedom, and David sings a song of praise, it is time for the party to be on the move again. They go back down the hill, and within a few minutes they come upon the remnants of the Huron camp, where they stop to rest and eat. Hawkeye explains that he was able to arrive in the nick of time because when he left them he did not return to Fort Edward, but remained nearby, observing the movements of the Hurons. The party then moves on, the women on horseback, Hawkeye leading the way, and the Mohicans bringing up the rear.
By evening, Hawkeye has led them to an abandoned, decaying building in a clearing in the forest. It is the site where some years earlier, a battle had been fought between Mohawks and Mohicans, in which Hawkeye also participated. The burial mound of the Mohawks can still be seen, which horrifies the two women, who were inadvertently sitting on it. They all make themselves as comfortable as they can in the old building, and sleep, while Chingachgook keeps watch. Heyward also tries to keep watch, but falls asleep (again!), to his later embarrassment. Chingachgook wakes him well before dawn, saying it is time to get moving because it is a long way to Fort William Henry. But then the Mohicans sense the near presence of a Huron who has discovered their trail. They all retreat to the building and wait. They soon hear the voices of about twenty Indians from the nearby thicket. It appears that the Indians have lost the trail they were following. They disperse to find it again, but are unsuccessful, and Hawkeye and his party appear to be safe once more. But then the Hurons return. One Huron advances into the open space outside the building. Others join him, and they advance toward the building. But then they discover the burial mound and draw warily back. Then they disappear into the forest. When Hawkeye and his party are quite sure they are safe, they set off again in the woods.
With Hawkeye leading the way, they make their way through the forest in the direction of Fort William Henry. It is still night. They pass near the site of a battle that took place several years previously between the English and the French, which Hawkeye vividly recalls. They then encounter a French soldier out on patrol. Heyward speaks to him in French, and the soldier, not suspecting they are enemies, does not attempt to stop them. A few moments later they hear a groan, and then learn that Chingachgook has killed the French soldier. Heyward and Hawkeye do not approve of the act, but let it pass. They then discuss how best to reach the fort, since the French are besieging it. They decide to find a way to the mountains to the west where they can hide Cora and Alice. After a difficult journey they reach the top of the mountain, which is about a thousand feet high, and survey the scene. They can see Fort William Henry, and the encampment of ten thousand French soldiers, who are already, as it is early morning, beginning to bombard the fort with cannon fire. Iroquois warriors allied to the French fill the woods. Hawkeye decides to head for the fort, and as a thick fog descends he leads his party down the mountain, hoping to use the fog as cover. A French sentinel challenges them, and French soldiers open fire on them. None of Hawkeye’s party is hit. The French give chase, but are driven off by the sudden arrival of a detachment of English soldiers, directly under the command of Munro, who gives praise to God when he realizes that his daughters have returned safely.
At the fort, the besieged English forces are heavily outnumbered by the French. In the fifth day of the siege there is a temporary truce, during which Hawkeye, who it transpires had been captured by the French in the recent skirmish, is returned to his companions. Munro tells Heyward that Hawkeye brought news that the French had intercepted a letter from Webb at Fort Edward meant for Munro. He does not know the contents. He also tells Heyward that he cannot long resist the French bombardment. Also, Montcalm, the French commander, has requested a personal meeting with Munro. Munro suggests Heyward go in his place. The truce is still in force, so Heyward goes immediately. Montcalm receives him with great courtesy. Montcalm tells him that the time has come to surrender, and he also mentions that he cannot keep his Indian allies in check for long. Heyward claims that the English are ready to go on resisting, and says that he also has Webb’s army to call upon. But Montcalm tells him that Webb’s army will not come to their aid. Heyward tries to find out what was in the intercepted letter, but has no success. He returns to the English camp and goes straight to Munro.
Heyward, who has long been in love with Alice, makes it clear to Munro that he wishes to marry her. But Munro, who had assumed that Heyward’s interest must be in Cora, the older daughter, gets angry. He then tells his own story. As a young man in Scotland, he was in love with a girl named Alice Graham, but her father refused permission for them to marry. Munro joined the army and ended up in the West Indies, where he married a woman who was remotely descended from a slave. She gave birth to Cora. Munro now assumes that Heyward has rejected Cora because of her mixed-race ancestry. Heyward assures him that this is not so. Munro continues his story. When his wife died, he returned to Scotland and found that for twenty years Alice Graham had remained faithful to him. He married her, and she gave birth to Alice.
Heyward then relays the details of his meeting with Montcalm, including the fact that Montcalm refused to divulge the contents of the intercepted letter to anyone other than Munro himself. Accompanied by Heyward, Munro goes to meet Montcalm immediately. Montcalm shows him the letter from Webb, which makes it clear that Webb refuses to come to the aid of the Fort William Henry garrison. Munro feels betrayed. Montcalm offers extremely generous terms for the English surrender, and the dejected Munro has no option but to agree to them.
Chapter XII is notable for how it adds to the characterization of Hawkeye. His ruthlessness in pursuit of Indians (“Extarminate the varlets! no quarter to an accursed Mingo!”) is chilling, as is the way he thrusts his knife into the Indian corpses. The narrator, which we can assume is the voice of the author, points out that in matters concerning the Mingoes, Hawkeye’s “prejudices contributed so largely to veil his natural sense of justice.”
Also in Chapter XII, David Gamut reveals himself as a believer in the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. Hawkeye disputes this with him, and their debate is interesting for what it reveals about the differences between the two men. David has learned his faith through religious and devotional books, and puts his trust in what he reads in them, but Hawkeye says the only book he ever reads is the book of nature. That is enough to teach him about the existence of the one, all-powerful God.
This is an old argument, about whether God reveals himself through revelation (as for example in the stories and doctrines in the Bible or mediated through the Church) or through his works in nature. It is also the debate between the scholar (David) and the man who puts his trust in his own direct experience (Hawkeye).
If the novel as a whole is most concerned with the violence that afflicted Indian-white relations, Chapter XIV gives a glimpse of the brutality of the colonial war between the English and the French. This is the battle at the shores of Lake George, in which Hawkeye participated. Hawkeye describes an atrocity committed by a scouting party of the English the next day, when they set upon the French while the French were having their meal. The dead and dying were tossed into what Hawkeye calls the “bloody pond.”