Ohio History Journal





The French were the first to discover and explore the Ohio

and Mississippi Valleys. While the English were establishing

colonial settlements between the Alle-

ghany mountains and the Atlantic

coast, the French adventurers were

locating missionary stations, military

posts and trading centers on the Great

Lakes and the river ways of the North-

west. Such lodging places in the

western wilderness were Detroit, Vin-

cennes, Kaskaskia, Cahokia and others.

The English colonies in the east were

permanent and    progressive.  The

French lodgments in the west were

thriftless and deteriorative. The Eng-

lish race thrives in colonization. The

French stock is not adapted to trans-

plantation. By the middle of the

eighteenth century the English popu-

lation in the New England colonies

was a million and two hundred thousand, while the French in-

habitants of New    France numbered but eighy thousand.        For

a century and a half these rival races, the Latin and the Teuton,

had contended for the American possessions. That rivalry cul-

The material for this article was found mainly in "Clark's Letter

to Mason;" "Joseph Bowman's Journal;" "Clark's Memoir;" and the un-

published manuscript of "Clark's Illinois Campaign," written by Consul

Wilshire Butterfield. The writer has also freely availed himself of "The

Conquest of the Northwest" by William H. English, and "The Winning

of the West," by Theodore Roosevelt. The Butterfield manuscript is a

most valuable and accurate account of the Illinois Campaign. It is now

the property of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society,

which expects to publish the same at no distant day.-E. O. R.


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minated in the dramatic battle between the forces of the in-

trepid Montcalm and the invincible Wolfe on the Plains of

Abraham before Quebec. It was the decree of destiny that the

Anglo-Saxon civilization should conquer, and by the treaty

of Paris, 1763, the French empire in North America ceased to

exist. The Northwest with its French stations became the prop-

erty of England. But this vast domain was still to be forbidden

ground to the American colonists. The British government pre-

empted the country between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi

and the Ohio and the Great Lakes, as the exclusive and peculiar

reservation of the Crown. It was to be directly administered

upon from the provincial seat of authority at Quebec. It was to

remain intact and undisturbed for the continued abode of the

Indians whom the British power thus proposed to propitiate and

secure. Thus matters stood until Dunmore's War, the prelude

to the Revolution, opened the Kentucky country to the Virginian

settlers. The exclusion of the colonists from the Northwest was

one of the causes of the revolt against the mother government.

The fire of the Revolution swept the seaboard colonies. The

Northwest was in the powerful and peaceful clutch of Great

Britain. It was almost solely inhabited by the Indians and the

few and far between French settlements, which had now become

British garrisons and supply posts. It was not only the policy

of England to hire Hessians to fight its battles on the colonial

front, but also its more dastardly determination to subsidize the

Savages of the West and bribe them to assault and massacre the

colonial settlers on the western frontier. The commander of the

British posts at the west and northwest spared no effort to insti-

gate the Indian tribes against the Americans. They armed, sent

forth and directed the hostile and merciless expeditions of the

red men. It remained for some brave and sagacious colonial

leader to comprehend the vast importance of checking and de-

stroying this British power in the Northwest and conquering that

territory for the colonial confederacy. The man to conceive that

idea, plan and carry out its execution, was George Rogers Clark.

George Rogers Clark, deservedly called the "Washington of

the West," was born in Albemarle county, Virginia, November

19, 1752. His birthplace was within two and a half miles of

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Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.               69


that of Thomas Jefferson, who was nine years the elder of Clark,

but through life his steadfast friend.     Clark's schooling was

that of the frontier boy, rude and slight, consisting mostly of

mathematics and surveying, the subjects most useful to the back-

woodsman. When but nineteen years of age he caught the

"western fever," and from Fort Pitt went down the Ohio to the

Kentucky country on an exploring and surveying tour. In 1774

he was with Dunmore's army in that famous expedition to the

Shawnee villages on the Scioto. The subsequent year (1775) he

spent mostly in the interior of Kentucky where he decided to

locate, and among the settlers of which he became a recognized

leader. It was at this time that the Henderson company under-

took to establish a political organization in this section of Ken-

tucky to be known as the state of Transylvania.*

This proposed new colonial state was, however, short lived.

The people of Kentucky not in the "Transylvania state" did

not favor it, and Virginia annulled the Henderson purchase and

plan. All Kentucky at this time was still considered part of

Fincastle county, Virginia, and the inhabitants thereof were

unrepresented at the state capital.  They desired representation,

and in June 1776, a meeting of the settlers was held at Harrods-

town, at which two delegates were chosen for the state legis-

lature. These proposed members were George Rogers Clark

and John Cabriel Jones. These delegates did not reach Wil-


*Richard Henderson, of North Carolina, with whom were associated

Daniel Boone, James Harrod, and others, purchased of the Cherokee

Indians for a few wagon loads of goods a great tract of land on the banks

of the lower Kentucky river (Madison county, Ky.) Delegates, seven-

teen in all, from Boonesboro, Harrodsburg and two other settlements

(Boiling, Spring and St. Asaph) met at Boonesboro, May 23, 1775, and

organized themselves into an assembly of a state, which they named

Transylvania, desiring that it be added to the United Colonies. They

endeavored to perfect a political organization with methods of election,

taxation, courts, et cetera, and choose one James Hogg a delegate for

Transylvania to the Continental Congress, then in session at Philadelphia.

But the claim of Virginia to the same territory was a bar to his ad-

mission. The Legislature of Virginia afterward annulled the purchase

of Henderson, and the inchoate state of Transylvania disappeared. This

state scheme is interesting as being the first organized attempt of an anglo-

American government west of the Alleghany Mountains.

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liamsburg, the Virginia state capital, seven hundred miles distant

from Harrodstown, until the legislature had adjourned. They

found, however, "much doing" in that part of the country. The

colonies had declared their Independence. The British troops

after the victory of Long Island had entered New York and later

taken Fort Washington. The tide seemed to be against the

fight for liberty. Commissioners had been sent to France to solicit

her aid. Clark was fired with the desire to assist the new, and

his, struggling nation. He conferred with the Virginia gover-

nor who was none other than the patriotic Patrick Henry. The

Legislature again met. Clark and Jones were not admitted as

members but were heard as advisors on the condition of Ken-

tucky affairs. They succeeded in securing legislation creating

the Kentucky section and its organization into a county, with

the same name and boundaries it now has as a state. This was

a great achievement for Clark. With Jones and a party of ten

he started in January 1777, from Fort Pitt (Pittsburg) down

the Ohio on their return to Harrodstown.* They had with them

a large supply of ammunition for the Kentucky settlements. It

was a perilous journey in which some of their number were

killed by the Indians. On his arrival the fort at Harrodstown

was strengthened as were the adjacent settlements. The settlers

were encouraged and enthused by the new order of things.

Clark had secured a regularly organized government for Ken-

tucky and a supply of ammunition. Thus far his effort had

been for preparation and defense. He next turned his thoughts

to an aggressive warfare against the enemies of his young

country. In the fall, winter and spring of 1776-7, the British

authorities were active in the Northwest, preparing to prosecute

the war in that region. Henry Hamilton was the British lieu-

tenant-governor of the northwestern region with headquarters

at Detroit. The conduct of the war in the west, as well as the

entire management of frontier affairs, was intrusted to him. He

was ambitious, energetic, unscrupulous and cold-blooded. From

the beginning he was anxious to engage the Indians against the

American settlers. He summoned great councils of the North-

western tribes, persuading them by every possible means to

*Harrodstown was later, and now, known as Harrodsburg.

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Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.          71


espouse the British cause and combine in hostility to the "rebels"

as he called the colonist settlers. He openly offered premiums

to the Redmen for every white rebel scalp they would bring to

Detroit. Naturally the backwoodsmen held him in peculiar ab-

horrence and called him the "hair-buyer" general. Hamilton in

all this brutal, but thoroughly British business, was sustained,

if not actually directed, by Sir Guy Carleton, governor-general

of the Province of Quebec and even by Lord George Germain

(Viscount Sackville) Colonial Secretary in the British cabinet

and appointed by George III to superintend the British forces

during the Revolutionary War. Surely the settlers in the Ohio

country were facing a war more appalling and savage than that

waged against the colonists east of the Alleghanies. On the

Pennsylvania and Virginia frontier the panic was wide spread.

They fled to their village centers and block-houses and defended

themselves as best they could. The Indians armed by the British,

and roused to fury with rum and urged on with bribes, scoured

the forests far and near for their prey. Their deeds of atrocity

baffle description. The events that were being enacted in the

thirteen colonies, had for their background, this great North-

west wilderness with its scenes of terror, rapine and savagery,

to which civilized warfare was not to be compared.

Clark proposed to strike this monstrous power in its very

heart. He proceeded to organize his military expedition for the

conquest of the Northwest. He would march to Detroit by way

of the chief British strongholds, capturing them as he went. It

was a bold and brave undertaking. It was the project of a

courageous general and a far-seeing statesman. In the fall of

1777 he again visited Williamsburg. The Revolution in the east

had assumed a more hopeful aspect. The battles of Trenton,

Princeton and Bennington in the winter, spring and summer of

1777 had brought victory to the American arms. The defeats

at Brandywine and Germantown were followed by the surrender

of Burgoyne at Saratoga in October.* In November the articles

of confederation of the United States were adopted by Congress.

*Trenton, December 26, 1776; Princeton, January 3, 1777; Benning-

ton, August 6, 1777; Brandywine, September 11, 1777; Germantown, Oc-

tober 4, 1777; Saratoga, October 17, 1777.

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It was in December that Clark presented his deep laid plans to

Governor Patrick Henry. The latter called in as counsellors

Thomas Jefferson, George Wythe and George Mason. This il-

lustrious trio appreciated the dangers and the extent of the

enterprise, but also comprehended its importance and possibility.*

They approved the proposed campaign, for they had confidence

in Clark's ability and hardihood to succeed. On their approba-

tion the Virginia Legislature authorized the governor "to or-

ganize an expedition to march against and attack any of our

western enemies, and give the necessary orders for the expe-


Governor Henry gave Clark the commission of Colonel and

authorized him to raise seven companies, each of fifty men, who

were to act as militia, and be paid as such. But these soldiers

were to be raised solely from the frontier counties west of the

Blue Ridge, "so as not to weaken the people of the seacoast

region in their struggle against the British." Colonel Clark's

troops did not belong to the regular Continental Army. His

"regiment" was authorized and entirely paid for by Virginia,

though some of the soldiers were from      Pennsylvania. Many

were from the Kentucky country, which it must be remembered

was at this time a county of Virginia.+

As a further incentive to recruits for Clark's regiment, it

was held out by the Virginia authorities that in case of success

each volunteer would be given three hundred acres of land, and

officers in proper proportion, "out of the lands which may be

conquered in the country now in the possession of the Indians."++


* Clark's plans were fully and minutely thought out. He had weighed

the consequences and, moreover, had in the summer of 1777 sent two spies

through the Illinois and Wabash country to get information of the

enemies' situation and strength.

+ The main burden of the expedition was on Clark's shoulders.

He is rightfully entitled to the whole glory. It was an individual, rather

than a state or national enterprise.- Roosevelt.

++ The Virginia Legislature in 1781-3 set aside 149,000 acres located in

Clark, Floyd and Scott counties, Indiana. This is the "Clark's Grant,"

and was divided among 300 soldiers, including officers, according to their

rank. Clark received 8,000 acres.

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.           73


Clark estimated it would require at least five hundred men to

successfully carry out this campaign. He only succeeded in rais-

ing about one hundred and fifty, which were divided into three

companies respectively under captains Joseph Bowman, second in

command, Leonard Helm and William Harrod. All three had

seen much frontier service and had been associated with Clark in

his Kentucky experience. They were worthy subordinates of

the doughty colonel.

Governor Henry gave Clark the sum of twelve hundred

pounds and an order on the authorities at Pittsburg for boats,

supplies and ammunition. With this outfit the "army" that was

to conquer the Northwest, a territory of 2,400,000 square miles,

inhabited by countless savages and occupied at various points

by British garrisons, set out May 12, 1778 from Redstone on the

Monongahela.    His expedition comprised "those companies"

- named above -"and a considerable number of families and

private adventurers." * Touching at Pittsburg and Wheeling to

get his supplies, "his flotilla of clumsy flat boats, manned by tall

riflemen" floated down the Ohio.

His voyage down the Ohio occupied about two weeks when

he landed at the Falls, where the river broke into great rapids

of swift water. He selected as his camping ground an island in

the center of the stream widely known as "Corn Island," located

immediately opposite the present site of Louisville, Kentucky.+

At this point a fourth company under Captain John Mont-

gomery, was added to Clark's forces, which still numbered, all

told, less than two hundred.++ Simon Kenton, the famous scout

and Indian fighter was one of Clark's new recruits. The ap-

parent insufficiency of his army was a severe disappointment,


In the whole I had about one hundred and fifty men collected and

set sail for the falls. - Clark's Memoirs.

+ This island, which has since disappeared, was about four-fifths of

a mile in length and five hundred yards wide at its greatest breadth.

Several of the families who came with Clark permanently settled on the

island. Some of these islanders moved over to the Kentucky shore and

thus Clark was the real founder of Louisville (1778), thus named at

the time in recognition of the friendly ally, the French King Louis XVI.

++ Actual number said to be 179. Butterfield says about 180.

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though not a decisive discouragement to Colonel Clark. His

heart was never faint. "I knew," he wrote, "my cause was des-

perate but the more I reflected on my weakness the more I was

pleased with the enterprise." His bravery was further buoyed

by the reception of the news that the American colonies had

formed an alliance with France. He realized this would have

great and favorable influence with the French in the garrison

towns which he proposed to occupy.




Clark remained on Corn Island about a month getting a

"good ready," when on June 24 he embarked in big flat boats

prepared to transport his force down the Ohio. Their setting

forth and shooting the river rapids was signalized by the singular

event of an almost total eclipse of the sun. But these backwoods

soldiers were too hard-headed and steady nerved to give way to

any superstitious foreboding. Rather did they regard it as a

propitious omen. Doubtless they jested that it meant the sun

which the British boasted never set on Britain's domain was at

last to be obscured by the new American nation. They valiantly

pushed on, double manned their oars and proceeded day and night

until they ran into the mouth of the Tennessee river. Here he

was met by a small party of hunters who had left Kaskaskia

but a week before and who imparted much information as to

the condition of that post. They desired to join Clark's forces.

He cautiously received them "after their taking the oath of al-

legiance" and one, John Saunders, was chosen by Clark as his

guide to Kaskaskia. Rejecting all unnecessary luggage, Clark

now crossed the Ohio to the north side at about the site of Fort

Massac, and after "reposing themselves for the night," set out

in the morning upon their route for Kaskaskia. The little army

had boldly struck into the northwest wilderness nearly a thou-

sand miles from their base of supplies. Did any Continental regi-

ment in the east display greater hardihood or patriotism?  Rey-

nolds in his Pioneer History of Illinois says; "Clark's warriors

had no wagons, pack horses or other means of conveyance of

their munitions of war or their baggage other than their robust

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.         75


and hearty selves.* Colonel Clark himself was nature's favorite

in his person as well as mind." He adds that "the country be-

tween Fort Massacre (Massac) and Kaskaskia at that day (1778)

was a wilderness of one hundred and twenty miles, and contained,

much of it, a swamp and difficult road." On the 4th of July,

according to Clark's Memoirs, he arrived within three miles of

the town of Kaskaskia, having the river of the same name to cross

in order to reach the town. Having made themselves ready for

anything that might happen they marched after night to a farm

that was on the same side of the river about a mile above the town,

took the family prisoners, and found plenty of boats to cross in,

and in two hours transported themselves to the other shore with

the greatest silence. Preparing to make the attack he divided

his little army into two divisions, ordered one to surround the

town, with the other he broke into the fort and secured the Gov-

ernor, Phillip Rochblave. In Mason's letter Clark reports, "In

fifteen minutes had every street secured, sent runners through the

town, ordering the people, on pain of death, to keep close to

their houses, which they observed, and before daylight had the

whole town disarmed." Curious capture and seldom, or never,

one so important in so brief a time, and in so bloodless a manner.

Not a gun was fired, not a man was injured, no property de-

stroyed. A town of twenty-five hundred inhabitants, a fort in

prime condition, well equipped with soldiers, cannon and pro-

visions - a garrison "so fortified that it might have successfully

fought a thousand men" -taken in silence at night by less than

two hundred worn and weary, footsore and hungry backwoods-

men with no accoutrements, but their trusty rifles. They had been

four days on the river rowing day and night, and six days march-

ing through a dense and almost trackless wilderness, picking their

way slowly but steadily through thickets and swamps. This

strategic seizure was not without its romantic touches. One ac-

count+ relates that the night of the capture the lights in the

fort were ablaze, and through the windows came the sound of


* Butterfield says they had no tents or other camp equippage and not

a horse.

+ Memoir of Major Denny who claimed to get the story from Clark


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revelry. The officers of the fort were giving a dance, and the

merry makers were tripping the "light fantastic" to the tune

of violins in which the unsuspecting sentinels, deserting their

posts, were taking part.   Clark, some recounters state, unob-

served entered the room of the revellers and stood "silently and

with folded arms," gazing at the scene.      His discovery was

made known by the war whoop of an Indian, creating instant dis-

may and dire confusion, but Clark bade them dance on, only to

remember they were now dancing to Virginia and not Great

Britain. At any rate then fell Kaskaskia.*

Its commander was Governor Philip Rochblave a defiant but

evidently careless officer, devoted to the British cause. He was

peacefully sleeping by the side of his wife when Clark and some

of his officers entered his bedroom and aroused+ him with the

startling news that he and his quarters were in the hands of the

Americans. He was promptly sent, under escort, as a prisoner to

Williamsburg, where he was paroled and whence he escaped to

New York. His family were retained in Kaskaskia, and his slaves

and property, of which he had a goodly amount, were sold and the

proceeds distributed among Clark's soldiers.

Naturally the surprise and consternation of the Kaskaskians

was great when they became fully aware of the fact that the

Americans had "met" them and won them. They were moreover

in mortal terror as the British officers had made them believe that

Americans were little better than savage brutes, and would inflict

untold indignities. They plead most piteously for mercy. Among

* Kaskaskia had a memorable history. It is situated upon the Kas-

kaskia river five miles above its mouth, but owing to the river's bend,

but two miles from the Mississippi. From the days of La Salle (1682),

during the dominion of France, England and Virginia, it was the capital

of the Illinois country. The flags of three nations respectively, floated from

the battlements of its block fort. It was the leading town of the North-

west Territory from its organization to 1800, and then of Indiana ter-

ritory to 1809. It was the capital of Illinois during the territorial period

and for sometime after the organization of that state. It was a Jesuitical

stronghold. In 1721 it became the seat of a Jesuit Monastery and Col-

lege. Kaskaskia was, so to speak, a western metropolis before Pittsburgh,

Cincinnati or New Orleans sprang into existence.

+ Other authorities say Simon Kenton "woke up" Rochblave. Very

likely he was with Clark.

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.         77


their number was the illustrious Father Pierre Gibault++ who for

ten years had been their trusted and devoted spiritual advisor.

Father Gibault, with many followers, waited upon Colonel Clark

and requested that the captive citizens be permitted to assemble in

their church to confer together on "their desperate condition and

to hold religious services." Colonel Clark graciously assented

and took occasion to correct their mistaken ideas of the intentions

and character of their American captors, and to assure them of

courteous and generous treatment. He explained to them the po-

litical situation, the cause of the American Revolution, the friendly

alliance between the United Colonists and France. It was a wel-

come revelation to them. They were convinced, and appeased.

Clark announced that those who chose "were at liberty to leave the

country with their families." From those who decided to re-

main he should require the "oath of fidelity." They were given

a few days to ponder and conclude this matter. In all this Colonel

Clark displayed great tact, diplomacy and knowledge of human

nature. The French were not only persuaded to his cause, but be-

came his personal adherents, admiring his bravery and humanity,

and confiding in his integrity. Father Gibault, of all others,

quickly understood and appreciated the noble qualities of the

sturdy and straightforward Clark, and was thenceforth, not only

the warm and steadfast friend of the colonel, but of the American

nation, and his subsequent loyal and sacrificing services were of

greatest value to the promotion of Clark's plans and purpose.

Gibault was to be a conspicuous and unique figure in the events

leading to the conquest of the Northwest.




The ulterior destination of Clark was Detroit, but the more

immediate point for attack and occupancy was Vincennes on the

Wabash river. Before entering upon the movement to secure that

important station be decided to take possession of the French vil-

lages up the Mississippi, and especially Cahokia, which was then

a place of one hundred families on the east side of that river, a few

miles below where St. Louis is now located, and some seventy

++ Butterfield says Gibault was Vicar-General of the Bishop of Quebec

for the Illinois and adjacent countries.

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miles from Kaskaskia. Colonel Clark remained in Kaskaskia to

hold matters in the proper level and still further win the inhabi-

tants to his side. He detailed Captain Joseph Bowman for the

Cahokia expedition. The captain was assigned thirty mounted

men. They were weary from fatigue and loss of sleep, but it was

thought no time should be lost in hastening upon the French vil-

lages before the citizens of the latter could hear of the capture of

Kaskaskia and prepare to defend themselves. Captain Bowman

and his chosen "cavalrymen" therefore set out the evening of the

first day that Kaskaskia was occupied. Bowman wrote a very

concise account of this trip.* His company in the journey to Ca-

hokia was three successive nights and days. The first town they

reached was Prairie du Rocher about fifteen miles distant from

Kaskaskia. "Before they (the inhabitants) had any idea of our

arrival we had possession of the town. They seemed a good deal

surprised and were willing to come to any terms that were re-

quired of them."+ Bowman then hastened on to St. Phillips about

nine miles higher up. It was a small town and straightway capit-

ulated to the invader. Bowman says: "Being in the dead time of

the night they seemed scared almost out of their wits, as it was im-

possible they could know my strength." From St. Phillips, Bow-

man hurried on to Cahokia where he arrived on the third day, and

riding up to the Commander's house demanded a surrender. The

commandant and all the citizens promptly complied, whereupon

Bowman stated they must take "the oath to the states," or he

would still treat them as enemies. They waited till the next morn-

ing to consider. That night Bowman's force "lay on their arms"

to prevent surprise, a precaution well justified as one of the inhab-

itants proposed "to raise one hundred and fifty Indians" and rush

on Bowman. The next morning, however, the Cahokians were

compelled to swear allegiance to the American cause. And so

Cahokia was added to the peaceful captures of Clark's army. Ca-

hokia was at that date a town of much importance. It is a site

with a past reaching into the realms of the pre-historic, for here

are located some remarkable earthworks of the Mound Builders.


* This account of Bowman is copiously quoted from as found in

English's conquest of the Northwest.

+ Bowman's account.

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.         79


It is claimed by some authors that Cahokia was the location also

of the earliest white settlement on the Mississippi river, the name

at first being Cohos, indeed Clark so spoke of it in his letter to

Mason describing Bowman's capture. In 1764, when the terri-

tory passed from France to England and the last French com-

mandant withdrew to give way to the English occupancy, many

French families at Cahokia and the other towns removed west or

south out of the British jurisdiction in order to escape being sub-

ject to English rule. The population still remaining at these

points was mainly French or French descent and maintained an

antipathy to their Great Britain conquerors. They therefore

readily "fell into the hands" of Clark's forces and espoused the

side of the united Colonies in their contest with the mother but

oppressing country. Both Kaskaskia and Cahokia were not only

French settlements and British posts, but also rallying places for

the Indian tribes of the adjacent country. Generally the Indians

were in greater or less force at these stations receiving aid or

advice from the British commanders. At the time of Clark's in-

vasion of the towns named the redmen happened to be mostly

absent and thus the savages could not be summoned to Clark's

discomfiture. The reception of Clark's forces were rendered

therefore not only bloodless but really sympathetic. In view of

these facts the procedure of Clark's troops from Fort Massac to

Cahokia has, by some writers, been described as an expedition

without peril and without any credit to Clark. The danger, how-

ever, was there, the well equipped garrisons, the lurking savages,

the roadless country, the fatiguing forced march. Be that as it

may, Clark took complete possession of the country as he pro-



Clark had secured without diminution of his number or

detriment to his project all the towns of the white people in the

Illinois country west of the Wabash. "Post St. Vincent, a town

about the size of Williamsburg was the next object in my view,"

wrote the hopeful Colonel. Vincennes was next to Detroit, the

greatest stronghold of the enemy in the Northwest. Father Gi-

bault had become the warm friend and ally of Clark. From the

faithful priest the Colonel learned that Edward Abbott, the Brit-

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ish governor of the town, had left Vincennes shortly before

Clark's entrance into the enemy's country, and that both fort and

town were then almost exclusively in the possession and con-

trol of the French settlers.  Father Gibault believed that he

could "win over" Vincennes by proceeding there without martial

accompaniment, or warlike demonstration and by presenting to

the citizens the true inwardness of the situation. He could tell

them of the French and American alliance, give them assurance of

their security under and friendly treatment by the Americans, and

that if this logic was not sufficient, gently remind them that Clark

had an army and might, if compelled, use arguments other than

those of reason. Clark says, "the priest (Gibault) gave me to

understand that although he had nothing to do with temporal busi-

ness, yet he would give them (people of Vincennes) such hints

in a spiritual way, that would be very conducive to the business."

Evidently the Jesuitical disciple of the Prince of Peace was as

"foxy" in his methods as were his more distinguished papal proto-

types Wolsey and Richelieu. The plan was immediately accepted

by Clark. Pierre Gibault, accompanied by one Doctor Jean Le-

font, as a "temporal and political agent," with a few compan-

ions who served as a retinue and confidential observers for Col-

onel Clark, started out on the 14th of July carrying a pronun-

ciamento of Clark to the people of Vincennes authorizing them

to garrison their own town themselves, which concession was

well calculated to convince them of the implicit confidence the

American Colonel had in them. Father Gibault and escort safely

reached Vincennes and diplomatically made known their peculiar

errand. The few emissaries, left by the British commander Ab-

bott, naturally resisted the proposal, but being helpless were al-

lowed to leave the town, the French inhabitants of which readily

acceded to Gibault and all "went in a body to the church, where

the oath of allegiance was administered to them in the most sol-

emn manner" by Father Gibault. The people at once proceeded

"to elect an officer, the fort was immediately garrisoned," says

Clark in his Memoir, "and the American flag displayed to the

astonishment of the Indians, and everything settled far beyond

our most sanguine hopes. The people immediately began to put

on a new face and to talk in a different style, and to act as perfect

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.         81


freemen. With a garrison of their own and with the United

States at their elbow, their language to the Indians was immedi-

ately altered. They began as citizens of the state, and informed

the Indians that their (people of Vincennes) old Father the

King of France, was come to life again and joined the Big Knives

(Americans) and was mad at them (Indians) for fighting for

the British; that they advised the Indians to make peace with

the Americans as soon as possible or they might expect the land

to be very bloody," and then Clark laconically adds, "the Indians

began to think seriously." Father Gibault and his party returned

to Kaskaskia about the first of August with the welcome news

of the tranquil occupation of Vincennes and the transfer of that

station from British to American control. Clark's advance and

achievements seemed to be under the star of propitious fate.

But at this point in his proceedings the plucky Colonel faced a

serious situation. He was master of a vast territory and many

posts with but a bare handful of soldiers. He was hundreds of

miles from the nearest station harboring any American troops,

and still farther from the seat of government. It would be

months before he could get any re-enforcements. He was without

instructions or authority as to further action. He had to rely en-

tirely upon his own resources and judgment. His soldiers were

getting restless and dissatisfied. Their time of service had ex-

pired, and they were ready and anxious to return home. Clark

was beset with troubles. But he was resourceful and determined.

His perplexities only served to test the strength of his character

and the qualities of his mind. He could not abandon the country;

that would be to relinquish all he had so adroitly gained. He re-

solved to "usurp authority" and continue unflinchingly in his

plans. He at once, by presents and promises, succeeded in re-en-

listing most of his soldiers on a new basis for eight months. He

then publicly threatened to leave "the French station to their

fate to which they naturally remonstrated and renewed their al-

legiance and offers of assistance." He thereupon commissioned

some French officers and recruited a sufficient number of ad-

venturous young creoles to fill up his four companies to their ori-

ginal complement. He established a garrison at Cahokia under


6 Vol. XII.

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Captain Bowman. He placed Captain Williams in command of

Kaskaskia, Captain Montgomery was dispatched to the Virginia

capital, Williamsburg, to report to the governor the result of the

expedition and ask for re-enforcements and supplies.  Captain

Helm, with a contingent of French volunteers and friendly In-

dians, was sent to assume direction of Post Vincennes. Clark

now gave his attention to strengthening his situation. He drilled

his men, both Americans and French, entered into friendly rela-

tions with the Spaniards of the scattered creole towns on the op-

posite side of the Mississippi.  The Spanish were hostile to the

British and readily sympathized with the Americans. Clark now

took up the more difficult task of pacifying the various Indian

tribes, the "huge horde of savages" who roamed the forests

from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi.  Clark followed the

tactics of Hamilton at Detroit. He summoned the chiefs and

their braves to Cahokia for a council. "It was," he says, "with

astonishment that he viewed the amazing number of savages that

soon flocked into the town of Cohos to treat for peace and to

hear what the Big Knives had to say." They came from all over

the Illinois and Wabash country, some of them from a distance

of five hundred miles; "Chipaways, Ottoways, Potowatomies,

Misseogies, Puans, Sacks, Foxes, Sayges, Tauways, Maumies

and a number of other tribes, all living east of the Mississippi,

and many of them at war against us." Clark in handling these

treacherous redmen showed great alertness, shrewdness, ability

and tact. Some Indian leaders conspired to capture Clark. He

learned of the plot, promptly seized the chiefs of those guilty and

put them in irons, though the town was then swarming with the

savages. He taught them to fear him and to trust him. His suc-

cessful treatment of the Indians was notably remarkable for the

fact that he was wholly destitute of presents for the children of

the forest, and presents they had always received in profusion

from the British. Clark under all the adverse circumstances sur-

rounding him secured treaties of peace with a dozen different

tribes. He knew the Indians, however, and secretly sent spies

throughout all the Indian country, even as far as Detroit, toward

which he "was now casting a wistful eye."    The result of

Clark's policy with the tribes was to secure peace in the Illinois

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.          83

country. The Indians remained friendly for a long time and the

French were of course more than ever attached to the American


Clark's expedition thus far had been so stealthily, swiftly

and skillfully executed that the British authorities scarcely knew

of it until its success was complete. On the 8th of August,

however, a French missionary reached Detroit and imparted to

Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton the startling intelligence that the

American "rebels" had invaded the Illinois country, captured

Kaskaskia and Cahokia and were approaching Vincennes. The

British at once began to bestir themselves. Hamilton hurried

the news on to the commander-in-chief at Quebec, Governor Guy

Carleton, to Lieutenant Colonel Bolton, Commandant at Niagara

and to Captain De Puyster, Commandant at Michilimackinac. The

order was speedily passed around that the American soldiers must

be dislodged from the Illinois and Wabash country, and the In-

dians set upon the warpath to devastate the American frontier



On October 7 Hamilton set out from Detroit for a journey

of six hundred miles to Vincennes with a force less than two

hundred, indeed, just about the same number as Clark had

started with on his expedition from the Ohio Falls to Kaskaskia.*

Hamilton provided himself with some fifteen boats well

loaded with food, clothing, ammunition and presents for the

Indians. With this armament Hamilton went down the Detroit

river, thence thirty miles across lake Erie to the mouth of the

Maumee, up which he proceeded arriving at the "Miami Town"

(site of Fort Wayne) on the 24th. Here several parties of

Indians were met and united to the army. From the head-

waters of the Maumee (or Miami as then called) they fol-

lowed the portage, a distance across land of nine miles, to a

stream called the Little River, one of the sources of the Wabash.

* Hamilton gave his number on leaving Detroit as 179. There were

41 of the Kings Eighth Regiment of regulars, 8 "irregulars;" 70 trained

militia and 60 Indians, altogether with himself, 180. This number was

increased by Indians on the way until he had 500 on reaching Vincennes.

The statistics given by Roosevelt vary in detail but make the aggregate

about the same.

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Over this portage they were obliged to carry their boats and

baggage. The journey down the Wabash-- (Ouabache) -was

beset with many difficulties and obstacles. The water was shal-

low and often frozen over with a thin layer of ice, and the boats

had to be lifted over or carried around the shoal places. When

within a few days' journey of Vincennes they were met by a

scouting party sent out from Fort Sackville, the fort lying

partly within and protecting the town of Vincennes. Captain

Helm was therefore warned of the enemy's approach. Helm's

force, less than fifty soldiers, only two of whom were Americans,

was utterly inadequate to defend the fort and town against the

attack of Hamilton. The fort was a "wretched, miserable stock-

ade without a well, barrack, platform for small arms, or even lock

to the gate. Helm knowing he could not make a successful de-

fense, determined to play a brave part, and this he did to an

astonishing degree. Major Hay with a company advanced to

the fort. Demanding admittance Captain Helm pointing a loaded

cannon at the enemy ordered them to halt, exclaiming, "No man

shall enter here until I know the terms." The reply was given,

"You shall have the honors of war," whereupon Captain Helm

surrendered and Fort Sackville and Vincennes was once more

in the possession of the British. This was on December 17, 1778,

seventy-two days after Hamilton had left Detroit. Two days

after the occupation Hamilton required the inhabitants* to fore-

swear the oath of allegiance they had taken a few months before

to the American cause, and to renew their fealty to the British.

Thus the French victims of Vincennes were shifted from side

to side as the fortunes of circumstances demanded. And to this

shifting they seemed easily adjusted. They readily fell in with

the winning party. Hamilton restored the Fort to good condi-

* The citizens of all ages in Vincennes at this time were estimated

by Hamilton to be 621, of whom 217 were qualified for military service.

The oath to which they were obliged to subscribe was as follows: "We

the undersigned, declare and aver that we have taken the oath of allegiance

to Congress, and, in so doing, we have forgotten our duty towards God

and have failed towards men. We ask the pardon of God, and we hope

for the mercy of our legitimate sovereign, the King of England, and

that he will accept our submission and take us under his protection as

good and faithful subjects, which we promise and pray to be able to

become before God and before men."-Butterfield manuscript.

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.          85


tion; built a guard house and barracks; sunk a well, erected

two large blockhouses and embrasures above for five pieces of

cannon. Hamilton now rested securely on his laurels. He felt

no uneasiness over the situation. He knew Clark's force was

paltry and widely scattered, he (Hamilton) with five times the

number of Clark was safely intrenched at Vincennes which lay

directly in the path between Clark's posts and his source of

supplies in Virginia or Kentucky. In due time he could move on

to the towns occupied by Clark and retake them.



Colonel Clark clearly understood that Hamilton would in

due time move upon the American garrison at Kaskaskia and

Cahokia. With Napoleonic nerve he decided to move on Vin-

cennes. It was the extreme of bold determination. He had only

about one hundred American soldiers. His French soldiers num-

bering about the same were uncertain in their courage and sta-

bility. The French settlers of the Illinois towns were scared

and "shaky" in their allegiance. The Indians were wavering and

susceptible of influences from the British. The way to Vincennes

was long and the country flooded with the winter waters. None

but a leader of indomitable pluck and consecrated patriotism

would have entered upon such an undertaking against such des-

perate odds.*

His resolve to push on to Vincennes was strengthened by

the arrival of Francis Vigo from Vincennes. Vigo was an Ital-

ian, who had been a soldier in a Spanish regiment and was now

a trader among the French, British and Indians and resided at

St. Louis. He was made a prisoner by Hamilton and paroled. He

hastened to Kaskaskia+ and offered his services to Clark, in-

* Clark's soldiers and the citizens of both Cahokia and Kaskaskia

were constantly in more or less of a panic, caused by rumors that Ham-

ilton was coming. Clark was at a ball in Cahokia when the alarm was

sounded that the British were without the city. A few days later similar

false reports caused him to resolve to burn the fort at Kaskaskia, and

he did tear down some of the adjacent buildings. At another time while

going to Cahokia he barely escaped being captured by a party of Ottowas

and Canadians - scouts from Vincennes.

+Vigo arrived at Kaspaskia January 27, 1779. He was caught by

Hamilton's scouts while on his way to take supplies to Captain Helm,

not then knowing Hamilton had repossessed Vincennes.

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forming the latter that Hamilton proposed to rest on his

oars till spring and had sent his Indian allies out about

the country in various foraging and devastating parties. Clark

must start instanter. He summoned Captain, now Major Bow-

man, from Cahokia, who was to be second in command. He

marshalled his land forces Into three companies officered re-

spectively by Captains Richard M'Carty, John Williams and

Francis Charleville, the latter a Frenchman, with a company of

Kaskaskia recruits.+ This army was augmented by a "navy"

consisting of "a large boat prepared and rigged, mounting two

four pounders (each), four large swivels with a fine company

commanded by Lieutenant John Rogers."++

This "gunboat" was named the Willing and was manned by

forty-six soldiers. "The vessel," says Clark, "when complete was

much admired by the inhabitants as no such thing had been seen

in the country before."  The Willing was loaded with supplies

and was to be rowed down the Kaskaskia river to its mouth at

the Mississippi, thence up the Ohio and the Wabash to a desig-

nated point below Vincennes, probably the mouth of the White

river and there await further orders. On the afternoon of Feb-

ruary 4, (1779), the Willing cast her moorings and dropped

down the river amid the cheers of her "crew" and the shouts

of the soldiers on shore and the excited populace of Kaskaskia.

On the 5th Colonel Clark with his force of one hundred and

seventy men marched out of Kaskaskia, with Father Gibault's

blessing, and the farewells of the citizens. It was to be a tedious

tramp of two hundred and forty miles, as the route was selected,

it being what was then known as the St. Louis trail or trace.*

Both Clark and Bowman wrote accounts of this marvelous march.

It is to be recalled that it was conducted in the late winter or

early spring when the streams were swollen, the rains frequently

interspersed with sleet and snow. The land was everywhere

water soaked and more or less ice crusted. The fatigues, hard-


+ Bowman's old company was probably captained by one of the

Worthingtons, Edward or William, it is not certain which.

++ Description from Clark's letter to Mason.

* It led through the later sites of Sparta, Coultersville, Oakdale,

Nashville, Walnut Hill, Salem. Olney and Lawrenceville.

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.          87


ships and privations of those plucky, patient, persistent and patri-

otic soldiers are not surpassed by the annals of any similar expedi-

tions in history. It was the Valley Forge of the American Revo-

lution in the Northwest, and of Clark's men, Bancroft might have

written as he did of Washington's soldiers: "Love of country,

attachment to their general, sustained the army under unparalleled

hardships. Under any other leader the armies would have dis-

solved and vanished." Day after day for nearly three weeks

they waded the creeks, the swamps, and the flooded districts,

sleeping on the water-soaked or hard frozen ground; without

sufficient food, often without any, frequently submerged to their

waists and sometimes almost to their armpits, they struggled on.

Clark, in his own account, says: "It was a difficult and very

fatiguing march. My object was to keep the men in spirits. I

suffered them to shoot game on all occasions and to feast on it

like Indian war dancers. Each company by turns invited the

others to the feasts, which was the case every night, as the com-

pany that was to give the feast was always supplied with horses

to lay up a sufficient store of wild meat in the course of the day,

myself and personal officers betting on the woodsmen, shouting

now and then and running as much through the mud and water

as any of them. Thus insensibly, without a murmer, were those

men led on to the banks of the Little Wabash which was reached

on the 15th through incredible difficulties far surpassing any-

thing that any of us had ever experienced." Often in wading

the streams or wide fields of water is was necessary to stop and

make boats or rafts with which they could transport their bag-

gage and accoutrements. Captain Bowman, in his Journal, has

the following: "16th. Marched all day through rain and water,

crossed Fox river, our provisions began to be short. 17th.

Marched early, crossed several runs very deep. Sent Mr. Ken-

nedy our Commissary with three men to cross the river Embar-

rass,* if possible and proceed to a plantation opposite to Fort

Vincennes in order to steal boats or canoes to ferry us across the

Wabash. About an hour by sun we got near the river Embarrass,

found the country all overflowed with water. We strove to


* Embarrass was a stream running southeast and emptying into the

Wabash about three miles below Vincennes.

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find the Wabash, traveling till eight o'clock (at night) in mud

and water but could find no place to encamp on. Still kept

marching on. After some time, Mr. Kennedy and his party

returned. Found it impossible to cross Embarrass river. We

found the water fallen from a small spot of ground; stayed

there the remainder of the night. Drizzly and damp weather.

And 18th. At break of day heard Governor Hamilton's morn-

ing gun; set off and marched down the river. About two

o'clock came to the bank of the Wabash. Made rafts for four

men to cross and then up to town and steal boats, but they spent

a day and night in the water to no purpose and there was not

one foot of dry land to be found.  19th. * * * Captain

M'Carty's company made a canoe which was sent down the river

to meet the batteau (the Willing) with orders to come on day

and night that being our last hope and we starving. No pro-

visions now of any sort for two days."

On the 21st, the whole army was transported across the

river "rain all day and no provisions," the continued exposure

without suitable food, shelter or rest began to wear out the

men, especially the French. Clark resorted to every ingenuity

to keep up the spirits and strength of the soldiers. The sea of

water seemed to be unending. Upon one occasion Clark em-

ployed the following amusing expedient. In Bowman's com-

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.         89


pany was a little fourteen year old drummer boy, also a giant

sergeant, six feet two inches in his stockings. Clark mounted

the little drummer on the shoulders of the stalwart sergeant and

gave orders to him to advance into the half-frozen water. He

did so, the little drummer beating the charge from his lofty

perch, while Clark with sword in hand followed them, giving

the command forward march as he threw aside the floating ice.

Elated and amused at the scene, the men promptly obeyed, hold-

ing their rifles above their heads, and in spite of all obstacles

reached the high land opposite them, taking care to have the

boats try to take those who were weak and numbed with the

cold, into them.*  Other expedients were employed to stimulate

the dejected and despairing soldiers, such as blacking the face

with powder, raising the Indian warwhoop, joining in patriotic

songs, etc., but after all the most potent and least jocose per-

suasion was no doubt Clark's order to Captain Bowman, who

was his second self, to keep in the rear twenty-five picked men

with orders to shoot down anyone refusing to march, or attempt-

ing to desert. But the flood, like Tennyson's brook, went on

forever. It grew worse as they neared Vincennes. Clark him-

self says: "This last day's march (the 21st) through the water

was far superior to anything the Frenchmen had an idea of.

The nearest land to us was a small league called the Sugar Camp.

A canoe was sent off and returned with signs that we could pass.

I sounded the water and found it as deep as my neck. We had

neither provisions nor horses. Finally they found a sort of a

path or elevated ridge of earth which they followed and upon

which they walked, though even above that the water was nearly

waist deep. That night was the coldest fight we had, the ice

in the morning was from a half to three-fourths of an inch thick.

I addressed the soldiers after breakfast, such as it was, telling

them that beyond the immediate woods they would come in full

view of the town which they would reach in a few hours. They

gave a cheer and courageously stepped into the water once

more. They still continued to be waist deep. A canoe with a

few inmates was sent forward with instructions to cry out

'land' when they found a dry lodging place. Many of the men

*English's Northwest.

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were so weak they had to be supported by companions and had

to be literally carried out of the water. Some of them hung to

trees and floated on the old logs. Finally dry land was reached

at last."*

One of the most remarkable forced marches on record which

had lasted fourteen days was at an end. Hamilton had had no

intimation of the approach, indeed was entirely disarmed by the

idea that no troops could reach the Fort through the watery

surroundings, therefore when Clark's soldiers appeared before

Fort Sackville, Hamilton was as startled and amazed as if he

had received an electric shock. Clark's men had halted "on a

delightful dry spot of ground of about ten acres."  They found

that the fires which they built had little or no effect upon the men

who were literally water-soaked and cold-benumbed.    The weak

ones had to be walked about and their limbs exercised by the

stronger ones. They took what little refreshment they had, and

* The strong and the tall got ashore and built fires. Many on reach-

ing the shore fell flat on their faces, half in the water, and could come

no farther. It was found the fires did not help the very weak, so every

such a one was put between two strong men who run him up and down

by the arms, and thus made him recover. - Clark's Memoirs.

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.          91

faced the attack upon the Fort. They were in a truly critical

condition no prospect of retreat presented itself in case of defeat.

They faced in full view a town that had some six hundred men in

it, troops, inhabitants and Indians. Clark, with the bravery of

Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga, wrote out and sent to the Fort the

following proclamation: "To the inhabitants of Fort Vincennes,

Gentlemen: Being now within two miles of your village with my

army determined to take your fort this night and not being able

to surprise you I take this method to request such of you as are

true citizens and willing, to enjoy the liberty I bring you to

remain still in your houses -and those if any there be that are

friends to the King will instantly repair to the Fort and join

the Hair Buyer General and fight like men, and if any such as

do not go to the Fort shall be discovered afterward they may

depend on severe punishment. On the contrary those who are

true friends to liberty may depend on being well treated and I

once more request them to keep out of the streets. For every one

I find in arms on my arrival I shall treat him as an enemy. Signed

G. R. Clark." The sending of this proclamation was followed

by a bold advance upon Fort Sackville and the town, in full view

of the inhabitants. They made themselves appear as formidable

as possible, marching and countermarching in such a manner as

to apparently double the number of the soldiers, and nearly all of

them had flags which they waved in such a manner as to dis-

guise their actual number, and increase the formidableness of

their appearance. The land just before the village lay in ridges

so that the soldiers as they scrambled over them would appear

above and then dissappear in the declivities. This aided them

again in appearing to be far more numerous than they really

were.* They reached the space immediately in front of the

Fort walls on the evening of February 23d. The drums were

beat and the firing upon the Fort commenced. At the same time

portions of the force entered the town, where they received im-

mediate assistance from friendly inhabitants who furnished them

with ammunition, and Tobacco's son, Chief of the Piankeshaw

* This account of Clark's advance upon Vincennes is from the

Memoir of Clark supposed to have been written about 1791. Many state-

ments in it have been discredited. Roosevelt, in his "Winning of the

West," particularly doubts the accuracy of this Vincennes parade.

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tribe, promptly mustered his warriors and offered his services

to Colonel Clark. This Indian assistance was diplomatically de-

clined with thanks as Clark was afraid to allow the Indians any

license, not wishing to be responsible for savage barbarities upon

the British. The siege of the Fort and town continued during

the night. Clark's men had decidedly the advantage of position,

for they could conceal themselves behind the houses and fire upon

the Fort from all directions without being injured or even seen.

On the morning of the 24th Colonel Clark sent a flag of truce

to Governor Hamilton with a message which read as follows:

"In order to save yourself from the impending storm that now

threatens you I order you to immediately surrender yourself with

all your garrison, stores, etc. For if I am obliged to storm, you

may depend on such treatment as is justly due to a murderer.

Beware of destroying stores of any kind or any papers or letters

that are in your possession, or hurt one house in town; for by

heavens if you do, there shall be no mercy shown you. Signed

G. R. Clark." Hamilton replied: "Lieut. Governor Hamilton begs

leave to acquaint Colonel Clark that he and his garrison are not

disposed to be awed into any action unworthy of British sub-

jects." The firing was resumed and was continued for some time

when a second exchange of messages was made. Governor Ham-

ilton with an aid then held a consultation with Colonel Clark and

Captain Bowman in St. Xavier's Church. While the negotia-

tions were ensuing a party of Indians friendly to the British

approached the Fort, were captured by the Americans and toma-

hawked, and their bodies thrown into the river in full view of the

British occupants of the Fort. This horrifying spectacle was

reluctantly enacted by the men under Clark in order to terrorize

the British soldiers. It was successful, and Lieutenant Governor

Hamilton promptly surrendered upon the conditions laid down

by Clark. The soldiers, seventy-nine in all, marched out of the

Fort and delivered themselves as prisoners of war.*                          The cam-

paign and siege of Fort Vincennes was at an end.+                             Two days

* Hamilton subsequently acknowledged, in a letter, his chagrin in

having to yield "to a set of uncivilized Virginian woodsmen armed with


+ Clark had but one man wounded. Six or eight of Hamilton's

force were killed or severely wounded.

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest

Clark's Conquest of the Northwest.         93


after the capture the batteau "The Willing" which had come by

water arrived with her forty-six men. It was the extinguish-

ment of the British domination in the Wabash and Illinois country.

Captain Leonard Helm immediately proceeded up the Wabash

river, where at a point about one hundred and twenty miles from

Vincennes, they surprised and captured seven British boats

manned by forty men and loaded with valuable goods and pro-

visions intended for Fort Sackville, and sent from Detroit. If

Clark had then been in a condition to march against Detroit he

would probably have been successful, but his soldiers were so ex-

hausted that for the present he abandoned the idea. Hamilton and

his principal officers were sent as prisoners to Virginia where they

were paroled. Hamilton later served the British government in

important stations. Most of the British prisoners taken by Clark

remained at Vincennes under oath of neutrality. A few joined

Clark's regiment. The French citizens were again sworn to the

American cause. By this time they had become adepts in the

practice of oath taking. During Clark's expedition to Vincennes

his messengers had reached Williamsburg and reported the doings

of the intrepid Colonel. He was complimented by the Virginia

Legislature and that same body, on March 10, 1779, passed an

act organizing the Illinois country into the County of Illinois.

Further legislation provided for the appointment by the gover-

nor and council of Virginia of a county lieutenant or command-

ant, who was authorized to appoint deputies and military officers

requisite for the proper organization and control of the county.

In the summer of 1779 this county government was established

at Vincennes with Colonel John Todd, Jr., as Lieutenant or

Commandant of the county. The Virginia legislature also di-

rected that some five hundred men be enlisted, properly officered

and ordered to the Illinois county to garrison the forts therein.

But a portion of that number, however, were forthcoming. Thus

was the Northwest occupied and secured to the American Colon-

ists. It was almost a bloodless and battleless conquest, but a sub-

jugation nevertheless of the most far reaching character. It pre-

vented the western country from being a vast field for the rendez-

vous of the British troops and the arena for the centralization and

confederation of Indian tribes against the colonial frontiers of

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Pennsylvania, Virginia and the southern states. Clark checkmated

the British scheme to attack and destroy the colonies from the

rear. More than all Clark saved to the Union the Northwest

Territory. Had it not been for him and his little band of back-

woodsmen, although the armies of Washington were victorious,

without doubt in the settlement of the result between the two

countries, the Illinois and the Wabash country, including Ohio,

would have been retained as British territory, precisely as was

Canada. Had it not been for Clark the colonial western frontier

would have been the Alleghany range.    Clark changed the des-

tiny of the United States and perhaps the destiny of the English

speaking race.*


* Clark himself, towards the end of 1779, took up his abode at the

Falls of the Ohio, where he served in some sort as a shield both for

Illinois and Kentucky, and from whence he hoped some day to march

against Detroit. That was his darling scheme, which he never ceased

to cherish. Through no fault of his own, the day never came when he

could put it into execution. - Roosevelt.