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George Rogers Clark

.. e of going to battle with him and his troops, or having peaceful relationship. The Indians chose the white belt of peace and they and Clark’s forces smoked from the peace pipe and partied all night. After this act of diplomacy, George Rogers Clark and his forces had no further problems with the Indians from this area. Now Clark could give all his attention to attacking Hamilton and his British Troops at Fort Sackville in Vincennes. Upon hearing of the conquering of Kaskaskia Governor Hamilton and about 500 troops came to Vincennes from Detroit to secure Fort Sackville. Clark hearing of this and Hamilton’s plan to attack Kaskaskia, capture him and join the British forces in the East was pushed into a very tough decision.

With his limited troops and ammunition there was no way his force could fend off an attack from the British. Also, many of his troops service was up, so Clark was going to have to convince his army to stay and get as many of the Kaskaskians to join him as he could. In a speech to the troops that were free to leave Clark thanked them for the care they had of my person and told them it was the fate of war that a good soldier never out to be afraid of his life where there was a probability of his doing service by venturing of it. Again Clark’s diplomacy was very important, he was able to get some of the troops to stay and more importantly got many of the Kaskaskians to join America’s cause. Next, Clark had to procure supplies and ammunition for the trip to do this he went to his trader friend Francis Vigo who gave him all the supplies he needed in exchange for bills of credit from Virginia which Clark himself indorsed.

On February 4th 1779 Clark and his small band of no more than 170 troops began the long 200 miles journey to Vincennes, after receiving absolution from Father Pierre Gibault, the priest of Kaskaskia. What made Clark’s plan both ingenious and desperate was that Hamilton and his troops were planning to leave during the spring to attack Kaskaskia. In order to prevent this from happening Clark and his men would have to arrive at Fort Sackville before the British left to attack them. This meant an almost impossible 200 mile journey through flooded valleys during the dead of winter. The plan to attack during the winter was a stroke of genius, the fact that he had no other choice is what made it a last ditch desperate attempt that would either succeed in the taking of Vincennes or fail with the death of everyone involved.

On the night of February 23rd Clark and his men were within a league of Fort Sackville. Clark had to make his final decision on how to attack Hamilton and his troops. I resolved to appear as darring as possible so that the enemy might conceive by our behaviour that we were very numerous and probably discourage them. Before marching on to Vincennes Clark sent a letter to Vincennes ahead of him telling the inhabitants of the town that he was going to attack the British Garrison, he warned them to stay in their homes, and if they didn’t they would be dealt with harshly after his victory. On the twenty-fourth of February 1779 Clark and his men made their attack on Fort Sackville.

The Attack was so well planned and shocked the British so much that they didn’t believe it was an attack until one of their men was shot dead. Instead they thought the gunfire was from a group of drunken Indians returning home from a hunting party. For the next eighteen hours Clark’s troops had the Garrison surrounded so well that whenever one of the British soldiers tried to man the cannon, or peek out they were immediately shot by one of Clark’s sharpshooters. Knowing he was losing the battle and thinking that Clark had a large army, General Hamilton asked for a meeting with Clark to discuss a truce. Clark agreed to a meeting at the town church located about eighty feet from the fort.

At this meeting the two discuss terms of a possible surrender. Clark asked for an unconditional surrender where all the British troops would become prisoners at discretion, and he also demanded Indian Partisians which meant that Clark had the right to kill all the Indians that assisted the British in any way. General Hamilton refuses these very harsh terms and returns to the fort to continue the battle, briefly. It was only a short time after the meeting had concluded that some of Clark’s men captured a Warrior party of Indians that were returning to Vincennes, the group was hooting and hollering with their newly acquired scalps in their hands. Clark’s men attacked the Indians killing several of them in the field and capturing six of them. The prisoners were then taken to George Rogers Clark, who decided to make examples out of them.

Six of Clark’s men each took one of the Indian’s to the front of Fort Sackville, lining them up in front of the Garrison they gruesomely tomahawked them right in front of General Hamilton and all his troops. General Hamilton immediately met with Clark and gave him his unconditional surrender on February 25th, 1779. This was a very Historical conquest for America, as a result of George Rogers Clark’s victory at Fort Sackville Virginia gained the territories of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. It is also a historical belief that these gains made the acquisition of the Louisiana purchase possible for Clark’s good friend Thomas Jefferson. Unfortunately for Clark this turned out to be the end of his military career, and in some ways the end of his life. Most of the Revolutionary War heros like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry were revered and remembered fondly in history, this is not the case for George Rogers Clark.

Clark spent the remaineder of his life financially ruined and in ill health. He was left financially ruined because the bonds he endorsed to Francis Vigo and other traders were not paid for by Virginia, instead they took all of Clark’s land and the military pay he had earned during his campaigns to pay off the debts. Clark was also left with ill health, during the remaining years of his life he suffered from rheumatism, nueritis, and eventually paralasis from all the time he spent in the harsh conditions of Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana. Even with all the ingratitude shown towards him George Rogers Clark never regreted what he did for his country, But a country was at stake; and if it was imprudence, I suppose I should do the same, should I again have a similar field to pass through(excerpt from a letter to Thomas Jefferson) This to me was very reminisasnt of Nathan Hales, famous speech, only far less famous. George Rogers Clark died on February 13th 1818 in Locust Grove Kentucky.

Sadly he died a tortured and broken soul because of the ingratitude the country he loved had showed him. His debts were cleared and all his land was paid to his remaining family twenty years after his death, but as was the case with Jim Thorpe’s gold medals this was a little to late to show a great man the respect he deserved. When we learn about Revolutionary war history in school we learn about George Washington, Patrick Henry, and even Nathan Hale. But never is a word spoken about the accomplishments of George Rogers Clark and his small band of soldiers who assisted to the victory in east with their victories at Kaskaskia and Vincennes. Their has not been a serious work written on George Rogers Clark in nearly fifty year, and in schooling he is completely neglected. All of this is wrong, Clark was very important to the Revolutionary War victory and even more vital to opening the gateway to the west.

For this reason his legacy and story should not die but instead be passed down to future generations along with the legends of Washington, Henry, Jefferson and all other Revolutionary War hero’s without whom we may not be where we are today. American History.