The Winning of the West, Volume 2 by Theodore Roosevelt

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[Illustration: The Colonies in 1774, when the First Continental Congress assembled. The heavy line marks roughly the extension of population westward. Based on a map by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York and London.]

[Illustration: The States in 1783, when peace was declared. Based on a map by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York and London.]



The Tribes Hold Councils at Detroit.

In the fall of 1776 it became evident that a formidable Indian war was impending. At Detroit great councils were held by all the northwestern tribes, to whom the Six Nations sent the white belt of peace, that they might cease their feuds and join against the Americans. The later councils were summoned by Henry Hamilton, the British lieutenant-governor of the northwestern region, whose head-quarters were at Detroit. He was an ambitious, energetic, unscrupulous man, of bold character, who wielded great influence over the Indians; and the conduct of the war in the west, as well as the entire management of frontier affairs, was intrusted to him by the British Government. [Footnote: Haldimand MSS. Sir Guy Carleton to Hamilton, September 26, 1777.] He had been ordered to enlist the Indians on the British side, and have them ready to act against the Americans in the spring; [Footnote: _Do_., Carleton to Hamilton, October 6, 1776.] and accordingly he gathered the tribes together. He himself took part in the war-talks, plying the Indians with presents and fire-water no less than with speeches and promises. The headmen of the different tribes, as they grew excited, passed one another black, red or bloody, and tomahawk belts, as tokens of the vengeance to be taken on their white foes. One Delaware chief still held out for neutrality, announcing that if he had to side with either set of combatants it would be with the “buckskins,” or backwoodsmen, and not with the red-coats; but the bulk of the warriors sympathized with the Half King of the Wyandots when he said that the Long Knives had for years interfered with the Indians’ hunting, and that now at last it was the Indians’ turn to threaten revenge. [Footnote: “Am. Archives,” 1st Series, Vol. II., p. 517. There were several councils held at Detroit during this fall, and it is difficult–and not very important–to separate the incidents that occurred at each. Some took place before Hamilton arrived, which, according to his “brief account,” was November 9th. He asserts that he did not send out war parties until the following June; but the testimony seems conclusive that he was active in instigating hostility from the time of his arrival.]

Lt-Gov. Henry Hamilton. Scalp Buying.

Hamilton was for the next two years the mainspring of Indian hostility to the Americans in the northwest. From the beginning he had been anxious to employ the savages against the settlers, and when the home government bade him hire them he soon proved himself very expert, as well as very ruthless, in their use. [Footnote: Haldimand MSS. Germaine to Carlton, March 26, 1777.] He rapidly acquired the venomous hatred of the backwoodsmen, who held him in peculiar abhorrence, and nicknamed him the “hair-buyer” general, asserting that he put a price on the scalps of the Americans. This allegation may have been untrue as affecting Hamilton personally; he always endeavored to get the war parties to bring in prisoners, and behaved well to the captives when they were in his power; nor is there any direct evidence that he himself paid out money for scalps. But scalps were certainly bought and paid for at Detroit; [Footnote: See the “American Pioneer,” I., 292, for a very curious account of an Indian, who by dividing a large scalp into two got fifty dollars for each half at Detroit.] and the commandant himself was accustomed to receive them with formal solemnity at the councils held to greet the war parties when they returned from successful raids. [Footnote: Haldimand MSS; _passim;_ also Heckewelder, etc.] The only way to keep the friendship of the Indians was continually to give them presents; these presents were naturally given to the most successful warriors; and the scalps were the only safe proofs of a warrior’s success. Doubtless the commandant and the higher British officers generally treated the Americans humanely when they were brought into contact with them; and it is not likely that they knew, or were willing to know, exactly what the savages did in all cases. But they at least connived at the measures of their subordinates. These were hardened, embittered, men who paid for the zeal of their Indian allies accordingly as they received tangible proof thereof; in other words, they hired them to murder non-combatants as well as soldiers, and paid for each life, of any sort, that was taken. The fault lay primarily with the British Government, and with those of its advisers who, like Hamilton, advocated the employment of the savages. They thereby became participants in the crimes committed; and it was idle folly for them to prate about having bidden the savages be merciful. The sin consisted in having let them loose on the borders; once they were let loose it was absolutely impossible to control them. Moreover, the British sinned against knowledge; for some of their highest and most trusted officers on the frontier had written those in supreme command, relating the cruelties practised by the Indians upon the defenceless, and urging that they should not be made allies, but rather that their neutrality only should be secured. [Footnote: E. g. in Haldimand MSS. Lieut.-Gov. Abbott to General Carleton, June 8, 1778.] The average American backwoodsman was quite as brutal and inconsiderate a victor as the average British officer; in fact, he was in all likelihood the less humane of the two; but the Englishman deliberately made the deeds of the savage his own. Making all allowance for the strait in which the British found themselves, and admitting that much can be said against their accusers, the fact remains that they urged on hordes of savages to slaughter men, women, and children along the entire frontier; and for this there must ever rest a dark stain on their national history.

Hamilton organized a troop of white rangers from among the French, British, and Tories at Detroit. They acted as allies of the Indians, and furnished leaders to them. Three of these leaders were the tories McKee, Elliot, and Girty, who had fled together from Pittsburg [Footnote: Haldimand MSS. Hamilton’s letter, April 25. 1778. “April the 20th-Edward Hayle (who had undertaken to carry a letter from me to the Moravian Minister at Kushayhking) returned, having executed his commission–he brought me a letter & newspapers from Mr. McKee who was Indian Agent for the Crown and has been a long time in the hands of the Rebels at Fort Pitt, at length has found means to make his escape with three other men, two of the name of Girty (mentioned in Lord Dunmore’s list) interpreters & Matthew Elliott the young man who was last summer sent down from this place a prisoner.–This last person I am informed has been at New York since he left Quebec, and probably finding the change in affairs unfavourable to the Rebels, has slipp’d away to make his peace here.

“23d–Hayle went off again to conduct them all safe through the Villages having a letter & Wampum for that purpose. Alexander McKee is a man of good character, and has great influence with the Shawanese is well acquainted with the country & can probably give some useful intelligence, he will probably reach this place in a few days.”] they all three warred against their countrymen with determined ferocity. Girty won the widest fame on the border by his cunning and cruelty; but he was really a less able foe than the two others. McKee in particular showed himself a fairly good commander of Indians and irregular troops; as did likewise an Englishman named Caldwell, and two French partisans, De Quindre and Lamothe, who were hearty supporters of the British.

The British Begin a War of Extermination.

Hamilton and his subordinates, both red and white, were engaged in what was essentially an effort to exterminate the borderers. They were not endeavoring merely to defeat the armed bodies of the enemy. They were explicitly bidden by those in supreme command to push back the frontier, to expel the settlers from the country. Hamilton himself had been ordered by his immediate official superior to assail the borders of Pennsylvania and Virginia with his savages, to destroy the crops and buildings of the settlers who had advanced beyond the mountains, and to give to his Indian allies,–the Hurons, Shawnees, and other tribes,–all the land of which they thus took possession. [Footnote: Haldimand MSS. Haldimand to Hamilton, August 6, 1778.] With such allies as Hamilton had this order was tantamount to proclaiming a war of extermination, waged with appalling and horrible cruelty against the settlers, of all ages and sexes. It brings out in bold relief the fact that in the west the war of the Revolution was an effort on the part of Great Britain to stop the westward growth of the English race in America, and to keep the region beyond the Alleghanies as a region where only savages should dwell.

All the Northwestern Tribes go to War.

All through the winter of ’76-77 the northwestern Indians were preparing to take up the tomahawk. Runners were sent through the leafless, frozen woods from one to another of their winter camps. In each bleak, frail village, each snow-hidden cluster of bark wigwams, the painted, half-naked warriors danced the war dance, and sang the war song, beating the ground with their war clubs and keeping time with their feet to the rhythmic chant as they moved in rings round the peeled post, into which they struck their hatchets. The hereditary sachems, the peace chiefs, could no longer control the young men. The braves made ready their weapons and battle gear; their bodies were painted red and black, the plumes of the war eagle were braided into their long scalp locks, and some put on necklaces of bears’ claws, and head-dresses made of panther skin, or of the shaggy and horned frontlet of the buffalo. [Footnote: For instances of an Indian wearing this buffalo cap, with the horns on, see Kercheval and De Haas.]

Before the snow was off the ground the war parties crossed the Ohio and fell on the frontiers from the Monongahela and Kanawha to the Kentucky. [Footnote: State Department MSS. for 1777, _passim_. So successful were the Indian chiefs in hoodwinking the officers at Fort Pitt that some of the latter continued to believe that only three or four hundred Indians had gone on the war path.]

On the Pennsylvanian and Virginian frontiers the panic was tremendous. The people fled into the already existing forts, or hastily built others; where there were but two or three families in a place, they merely gathered into block-houses–stout log-cabins two stories high, with loop-holed walls, and the upper story projecting a little over the lower. The savages, well armed with weapons supplied them from the British arsenals on the Great Lakes, spread over the country; and there ensued all the horrors incident to a war waged as relentlessly against the most helpless non-combatants as against the armed soldiers in the field. Block-houses were surprised and burnt; bodies of militia were ambushed and destroyed. The settlers were shot down as they sat by their hearth-stones in the evening, or ploughed the ground during the day; the lurking Indians crept up and killed them while they still-hunted the deer, or while they lay in wait for the elk beside the well-beaten game trails.

The captured women and little ones were driven off to the far interior. The weak among them, the young children, and the women heavy with child, were tomahawked and scalped as soon as their steps faltered. The able-bodied, who could stand the terrible fatigue, and reached their journey’s end, suffered various fates. Some were burned at the stake, others were sold to the French or British traders, and long afterwards made their escape, or were ransomed by their relatives. Still others were kept in the Indian camps, the women becoming the slaves or wives of the warriors, [Footnote: Occasionally we come across records of the women afterwards making their escape; very rarely they took their half-breed babies with them. De Haas mentions one such case where the husband, though he received his wife well, always hated the copper-colored addition to his family; the latter, by the way, grew up a thorough Indian, could not be educated, and finally ran away, joined the Revolutionary army, and was never heard of afterwards.] while the children were adopted into the tribe, and grew up precisely like their little red-skinned playmates. Sometimes, when they had come to full growth, they rejoined the whites; but generally they were enthralled by the wild freedom and fascination of their forest life, and never forsook their adopted tribesmen, remaining inveterate foes of their own color. Among the ever-recurring: tragedies of the frontier, not the least sorrowful was the recovery of these long-missing children by their parents, only to find that they had lost all remembrance of and love for their father and mother, and had become irreclaimable savages, who eagerly grasped the first chance to flee from the intolerable irksomeness and restraint of civilized life. [Footnote: For an instance where a boy finally returned, see “Trans-Alleghany Pioneers,” p. 119; see also pp. 126, 132, 133, for instances of the capture and treatment of whites by Indians.]

The Attack on Wheeling.

Among others, the stockade at Wheeling [Footnote: Fort Henry. For an account of the siege, see De Haas, pp. 223-340. It took place in the early days of September.] was attacked by two or three hundred Indians; with them came a party of Detroit Rangers, marshalled by drum and fife, and carrying the British colors. [Footnote The accounts of the different sieges of Wheeling were first written down from the statements of the pioneers when they had grown very aged. In consequence, there is much uncertainty as to the various incidents. Thus there seems to be a doubt whether Girty did or did not command the Indians in this first siege. The frontiersmen hated Girty as they did no other man, and he was credited with numerous actions done by other white leaders of the Indians; the British accounts say comparatively little about him. He seems to have often fought with the Indians as one of their own number, while his associates led organized bands of rangers; he was thus more often brought into contact with the frontiersmen, but was really hardly as dangerous a foe to them as were one or two of his tory companions.] Most of the men inside the fort were drawn out by a stratagem, fell into an ambuscade, and were slain; but the remainder made good the defence, helped by the women, who ran the lead into bullets, cooled and loaded the guns, and even, when the rush was made, assisted to repel it by firing through the loopholes. After making a determined effort to storm the stockade, in which some of the boldest warriors were slain while trying in vain to batter down the gates with heavy timbers, the baffled Indians were obliged to retire discomfited. The siege was chiefly memorable because of an incident which is to this day a staple theme for story-telling in the cabins of the mountaineers. One of the leading men of the neighborhood was Major Samuel McColloch, renowned along the border as the chief in a family famous for its Indian fighters, the dread and terror of the savages, many of whose most noted warriors he slew, and at whose hands he himself, in the end, met his death. When Wheeling was invested, he tried to break into it, riding a favorite old white horse. But the Indians intercepted him, and hemmed him in on the brink of an almost perpendicular slope, [Footnote: The hill overlooks Wheeling; the slope has now much crumbled away, and in consequence has lost its steepness.] some three hundred feet high. So sheer was the descent that they did not dream any horse could go down it, and instead of shooting they advanced to capture the man whom they hated. McColloch had no thought of surrendering, to die by fire at the stake, and he had as little hope of resistance against so many foes. Wheeling short round, he sat back in the saddle, shifted his rifle into his right hand, reined in his steed, and spurred him over the brink. The old horse never faltered, but plunged headlong down the steep, boulder-covered, cliff-broken slope. Good luck, aided by the wonderful skill of the rider and the marvellous strength and sure-footedness of his steed, rewarded, as it deserved, one of the most daring feats of horsemanship of which we have any authentic record. There was a crash, the shock of a heavy body, half springing, half falling, a scramble among loose rocks, and the snapping of saplings and bushes; and in another moment the awe-struck Indians above saw their unharmed foe, galloping his gallant white horse in safety across the plain. To this day the place is known by the name of McColloch’s leap. [Footnote: In the west this feat is as well known as is Putnam’s similar deed in the north.]

In Virginia and Pennsylvania the Indian outrages meant only the harassing of the borderers; in Kentucky they threatened the complete destruction of the vanguard of the white advance and, therefore the stoppage of all settlement west of the Alleghanies until after the Revolutionary war, when very possibly the soil might not have been ours to settle. Fortunately Hamilton did not yet realize the importance of the Kentucky settlements, nor the necessity of crushing them, and during 1777 the war bands organized at Detroit were sent against the country round Pittsburg; while the feeble forts in the far western wilderness were only troubled by smaller war parties raised among the tribes on their own account. A strong expedition, led by Hamilton in person, would doubtless at this time have crushed them.

The Struggle in Kentucky.

As it was, there were still so few whites in Kentucky that they were greatly outnumbered by the invading Indians. They were, in consequence, unable to meet the enemy in the open field, and gathered in their stations or forted villages. Therefore the early conflicts, for the most part, took the form of sieges of these wooden forts. Such sieges, had little in common with the corresponding operations of civilized armies. The Indians usually tried to surprise a fort; if they failed, they occasionally tried to carry it by open assault, or by setting fire to it, but very rarely, indeed, beleaguered it in form. For this they lacked both the discipline and the commissariat. Accordingly, if their first rush miscarried, they usually dispersed in the woods to hunt, or look for small parties of whites; always, however, leaving some of their number to hover round the fort and watch any thing that took place. Masters in the art of hiding, and able to conceal themselves behind a bush, a stone, or a tuft of weeds, they skulked round the gate before dawn, to shoot the white sentinels; or they ambushed the springs, and killed those who came for water; they slaughtered all of the cattle that had not been driven in, and any one venturing incautiously beyond the walls was certain to be waylaid and murdered. Those who were thus hemmed in the fort were obliged to get game on which to live; the hunters accordingly were accustomed to leave before daybreak, travel eight or ten miles, hunt all day at the risk of their lives, and return after dark. Being of course the picked men of the garrison, they often eluded the Indians, or slew them if an encounter took place, but very frequently indeed they were themselves slain. The Indians always trusted greatly to wiles and feints to draw their foes into their power. As ever in this woodland fighting, their superiority in hiding, or taking advantage of cover, counterbalanced the superiority of the whites as marksmen; and their war parties were thus at least a match, man against man, for the Kentuckians, though the latter, together with the Watauga men, were the best woodsmen and fighters of the frontier. Only a very few of the whites became, like Boon and Kenton, able to beat the best of the savages at their own game.

The innumerable sieges that took place during the long years of Indian warfare differed in detail, but generally closely resembled one another as regards the main points. Those that occurred in 1777 may be considered as samples of the rest; and accounts of these have been preserved by the two chief actors, Boon and Clark. [Footnote: In Boon’s narrative, written down by Filson, and in Clark’s diary, as given by Morehead. The McAfee MSS. and Butler’s history give some valuable information. Boon asserts that at this time the “Long Knives” proved themselves superior to their foe in almost every battle; but the facts do not seem to sustain him, though the statement was doubtless true as regards a few picked men. His estimates of the Indian numbers and losses must be received with great caution.]

Boonsborough Attacked.

Boonsborough, which was held by twenty-two riflemen, was attacked twice, once in April and again in July, on each occasion by a party of fifty or a hundred warriors. [Footnote: Boon says April 15th and July 4th. Clark’s diary makes the first date April 24th. Boon says one hundred Indians, Clark “40 or 50.” Clark’s account of the loss on both sides agrees tolerably well with Boon’s. Clark’s diary makes the second attack take place on May 23d. His dates are probably correct, as Boon must have written only from memory.] The first time the garrison was taken by surprise; one man lost his scalp, and four were wounded, including Boon himself, who had been commissioned as captain in the county militia. [Footnote: Two of the other wounded men were Captain John Todd and Boon’s old hunting companion, Stoner.] The Indians promptly withdrew when they found they could not carry the fort by a sudden assault. On the second occasion the whites were on their guard, and though they had one man killed and two wounded (leaving but thirteen unhurt men in the fort), they easily beat off the assailants, and slew half a dozen of them. This time the Indians stayed round two days, keeping up a heavy fire, under cover of which they several times tried to burn the fort. [Footnote: Clark’s diary.]

Logan’s Adventures.

Logan’s [Footnote: Boon says July 19th, Clark’s diary makes it May 30th: Clark is undoubtedly right; he gives the names of the man who was killed and of the two who were wounded.] station at St. Asaphs was likewise attacked; it was held by only fifteen gunmen. When the attack was made the women, guarded by part of the men, were milking the cows outside the fort. The Indians fired at them from the thick cane that still stood near-by, killing one man and wounding two others, one mortally. [Footnote: The name of the latter was Burr Harrison; he died a fortnight afterward.–Clark.] The party, of course, fled to the fort, and on looking back they saw their mortally wounded friend weltering on the ground. His wife and family were within the walls; through the loopholes they could see him yet alive, and exposed every moment to death. So great was the danger that the men refused to go out to his rescue, whereupon Logan alone opened the gate, bounded out, and seizing the wounded man in his arms, carried him back unharmed through a shower of bullets. The Indians continued to lurk around the neighborhood, and the ammunition grew very scarce. Thereupon Logan took two companions and left the fort at night to go to the distant settlements on the Holston, where he might get powder and lead. He knew that the Indians were watching the wilderness road, and trusting to his own hardiness and consummate woodcraft, he struck straight out across the cliff-broken, wood-covered mountains, sleeping wherever night overtook him, and travelling all day long with the tireless speed of a wolf. [Footnote: Not a fanciful comparison; the wolf is the only animal that an Indian or a trained frontiersman cannot tire out in several days’ travel. Following a deer two days in light snow, I have myself gotten near enough to shoot it without difficulty.] He returned with the needed stores in ten days from the time he set out. These tided the people over the warm months.

In the fall, when the hickories had turned yellow and the oaks deep red, during the weeks of still, hazy weather that mark the Indian summer, their favorite hunting season, [Footnote: Usually early in November.–McAfee MSS.] the savages again filled the land, and Logan was obliged to repeat his perilous journey. [Footnote: Marshall, 50.] He also continually led small bands of his followers against the Indian war–and hunting-parties, sometimes surprising and dispersing them, and harassing them greatly. Moreover he hunted steadily throughout the year to keep the station in meat, for the most skilful hunters were, in those days of scarcity, obliged to spend much of their time in the chase. Once, while at a noted game lick, [Footnote: These game licks were common, and were of enormous extent. Multitudes of game, through countless generations, had tramped the ground bare of vegetation, and had made deep pits and channels with their hoofs and tongues. See McAfee MSS. Sometimes the licks covered acres of ground, while the game trails leading towards them through the wood were as broad as streets, even 100 feet wide. I have myself seen small game licks, the largest not a hundred feet across, in the Selkirks, Coeur d’Alenes, and Bighorns, the ground all tramped up by the hoofs of elk, deer, wild sheep, and white goats, with deep furrows and hollows where the saline deposits existed. In the Little Missouri Bad Lands there is so much mineral matter that no regular licks are needed. As the game is killed off the licks become overgrown and lost.] waiting for deer, he was surprised by the Indians, and by their fire was wounded in the breast and had his right arm broken. Nevertheless he sprang on his horse and escaped, though the savages were so close that one, leaping at him, for a moment grasped the tail of the horse. Every one of these pioneer leaders, from Clark and Boon to Sevier and Robertson, was required constantly to expose his life; each lost sons or brothers at the hands of the Indians, and each thinned the ranks of the enemy with his own rifle. In such a primitive state of society the man who led others was expected to show strength of body no less than strength of mind and heart; he depended upon his physical prowess almost as much as upon craft, courage, and headwork. The founder and head of each little community needed not only a shrewd brain and commanding temper, but also the thews and training to make him excel as woodsman and hunter, and the heart and eye to enable him to stand foremost in every Indian battle.

Clark Shares in the Defense of Kentucky.

Clark spent most of the year at Harrodstown, taking part in the defence of Kentucky. All the while he was revolving in his bold, ambitious heart a scheme for the conquest of the Illinois country, and he sent scouts thither to spy out the land and report to him what they saw. The Indians lurked round Harrodstown throughout the summer; and Clark and his companions were engaged in constant skirmishes with them. Once, warned by the uneasy restlessness of the cattle (who were sure to betray the presence of Indians if they got sight or smell of them), they were able to surround a party of ten or twelve, who were hidden in a tall clump of weeds. The savages were intent on cutting off some whites who were working in a turnip patch two hundred yards from the fort; Clark’s party killed three–he himself killing one,–wounded another, and sold the plunder they took, at auction, for seventy pounds. At other times the skirmishes resulted differently, as on the occasion chronicled by Clark in his diary, when they “went out to hunt Indians; one wounded Squire Boon and escaped.” [Footnote: Clark’s Diary, entry for July 9th.]

The corn was brought in from the cribs under guard; one day while shelling a quantity, a body of thirty-seven whites were attacked, and seven were killed or wounded, though the Indians were beaten off and two scalps taken. In spite of this constant warfare the fields near the forts were gradually cleared, and planted with corn, pumpkins, and melons; and marrying and mirth-making went on within the walls. One of Clark’s scouts, shortly after returning from the Illinois, got married, doubtless feeling he deserved some reward for the hardships he had suffered; on the wedding night Clark remarks that there was “great merriment.” The rare and infrequent expresses from Pittsburg or Williamsburg brought letters telling of Washington’s campaigns, which Clark read with absorbed interest. On the first of October, having matured his plans for the Illinois campaign, he left for Virginia, to see if he could get the government to help him put them into execution.

The Holston men Help Kentucky.

During the summer parties of backwoods militia from the Holston settlements–both Virginians and Carolinians–came out to help the Kentuckians in their struggle against the Indians; but they only stayed a few weeks, and then returned home. In the fall, however, several companies of immigrants came out across the mountains; and at the same time the small parties of hunters succeeded in pretty well clearing the woods of Indians. Many of the lesser camps and stations had been broken up, and at the end of the year there remained only four–Boonsborough, Harrodstown, Logan’s station at St. Asaphs, and McGarry’s, at the Shawnee Springs. They contained in all some five or six hundred permanent settlers, nearly half of them being able-bodied riflemen. [Footnote: The McAfee MSS. give these four stations; Boon says there were but three. He was writing from memory, however, and was probably mistaken; thus he says there were at that time settlers at the Falls, an evident mistake, as there were none there till the following year. Collins, following Marshall, says there were at the end of the year only one hundred and two men in Kentucky,–sixty-five at Harrodstown, twenty-two at Boonsborough, fifteen at Logan’s. This is a mistake based on a hasty reading of Boon’s narrative, which gives this number for July, and particularly adds that after that data they began to strengthen. In the McAfee MSS. is a census of Harrodstown for the fall of 1777, which sums up: Men in service, 81; men not in service, 4; women, 24; children above ten, 12; children under ten, 58; slaves above ten, 12; slaves under ten, 7; total, 198. In October Clark in his diary records meeting fifty men with their families, (therefore permanent settlers), on their way to Boon, and thirty-eight men on their way to Logan’s. At the end of the year, therefore, Boonsborough and Harrodstown must have held about two hundred souls apiece; Logan’s and McGarry’s were considerably smaller. The large proportion of young children testifies to the prolific nature of the Kentucky women, and also shows the permanent nature of the settlements. Two years previously, in 1775, there had been, perhaps, three hundred people in Kentucky, but very many of them were not permanent residents.]

Boon Captured.

Early in 1778 a severe calamity befell the settlements. In January Boon went, with twenty-nine other men, to the Blue Licks to make salt for the different garrisons–for hitherto this necessary of life had been brought in, at great trouble and expense, from the settlements. [Footnote: See Clark’s Diary, entry for October 25, 1777.] The following month, having sent three men back with loads of salt, he and all the others were surprised and captured by a party of eighty or ninety Miamis, led by two Frenchmen, named Baubin and Lorimer. [Footnote: Haldimand MSS. B., 122, p. 35. Hamilton to Carleton, April 25, 1778. He says four-score Miamis.] When surrounded, so that there was no hope of escape, Boon agreed that all should surrender on condition of being well treated. The Indians on this occasion loyally kept faith. The two Frenchmen were anxious to improve their capture by attacking Boonsborough; but the fickle savages were satisfied with their success, and insisted on returning to their villages. Boon was taken, first to Old Chillicothe, the chief Shawnee town on the Little Miami, and then to Detroit, where Hamilton and the other Englishmen treated him well, and tried to ransom him for a hundred pounds sterling. However, the Indians had become very much attached to him, and refused the ransom, taking their prisoner back to Chillicothe. Here he was adopted into the tribe, and remained for two months, winning the good-will of the Shawnees by his cheerfulness and his skill as a hunter, and being careful not to rouse their jealousy by any too great display of skill at the shooting-matches.

Hamilton was urging the Indians to repeat their ravages of the preceding year; Mingos, Shawnees, Delawares, and Miamis came to Detroit, bringing scalps and prisoners. A great council was held at that post early in June. [Footnote: _Do._, June 14, 1778.] All the northwestern tribes took part, and they received war-belts from the Iroquois and messages calling on them to rise as one man. They determined forthwith to fall on the frontier in force. By their war parties, and the accompanying bands of tories, Hamilton sent placards to be distributed among the frontiersmen, endeavoring both by threat and by promise of reward, to make them desert the patriot cause. [Footnote: Do., April 25, 1778.]

Boon Escapes and Makes a Foray.

In June a large war party gathered at Chillicothe to march against Boonsborough, and Boon determined to escape at all hazards, so that he might warn his mends. One morning before sunrise he eluded the vigilance of his Indian companions and started straight through the woods for his home where he arrived in four days, having had but one meal during the whole journey of a hundred and sixty miles. [Footnote: Boon’s Narrative.]

On reaching Boonsborough he at once set about putting the fort in good condition; and being tried by court-martial for the capture at the Blue Licks, he was not only acquitted but was raised to the rank of major. His escape had probably disconcerted the Indian war party, for no immediate attack was made on the fort. After waiting until August he got tired of the inaction, and made a foray into the Indian country himself with nineteen men, defeating a small party of his foes on the Sciota. At the same time he learned that the main body of the Miamis had at last marched against Boonsborough. Instantly he retraced his steps with all possible speed, passed by the Indians, and reached the threatened fort a day before they did.

Boonsborough again Beseiged.

On the eighth day of the month the savages appeared before the stockade. They were between three and four hundred in number, Shawnees and Miamis, and were led by Captain Daigniau de Quindre, a noted Detroit partisan [Footnote: Haldimand MSS. Aug. 17, 1778, Girty reports that four hundred Indians have gone to attack “Fort Kentuck.” Hamilton’s letter of Sept. 16th speaks of there being three hundred Shawnees with de Quindre (whom Boon calls Duquesne).]; with him were eleven other Frenchmen, besides the Indian chiefs. They marched into view with British and French colors flying, and formally summoned the little wooden fort to surrender in the name of his Britannic Majesty. The negotiations that followed showed, on the part of both whites and reds, a curious mixture of barbarian cunning and barbarian childishness; the account reads as if it were a page of Graeco-Trojan diplomacy. [Footnote: See Boon’s Narrative.] Boon first got a respite of two days to consider de Quindre’s request, and occupied the time in getting the horses and cattle into the fort. At the end of the two days the Frenchman came in person to the walls to hear the answer to his proposition; whereupon Boon jeered at him for his simplicity, thanking him in the name of the defenders for having given them time to prepare for defence, and telling him that now they laughed at his attack. De Quindre, mortified at being so easily outwitted, set a trap in his turn for Boon. He assured the latter that his orders from Detroit were to capture, not to destroy, the garrison, and proposed that nine of their number should come out and hold a treaty. The terms of the treaty are not mentioned; apparently it was to be one of neutrality, Boonsborough acting as if it were a little independent and sovereign commonwealth, making peace on its own account with a particular set of foes. At any rate, de Quindre agreed to march his forces peaceably off when it was concluded.

Boon accepted the proposition, but, being suspicious of the good-faith of his opponents, insisted upon the conference being held within sixty yards of the fort. After the treaty was concluded the Indians proposed to shake hands with the nine white treaty-makers, and promptly grappled them. [Footnote: Apparently there were eighteen Indians on the treaty ground, but these were probably, like the whites, unarmed.] However, the borderers wrested themselves free, and fled to the fort under a heavy fire, which wounded one of their number.

The Indians then attacked the fort, surrounding it on every side and keeping up a constant fire at the loop-holes. The whites replied in kind, but the combatants were so well covered that little damage was done. At night the Indians pitched torches of cane and hickory bark against the stockade, in the vain effort to set it on fire, [Footnote: McAfee MSS.] and de Quindre tried to undermine the walls, starting from the water mark. But Boon discovered the attempt, and sunk a trench as a countermine. Then de Quindre gave up and retreated on August 20th, after nine days’ fighting, in which the whites had but two killed and four wounded; nor was the loss of the Indians much heavier. [Footnote: De Quindre reported to Hamilton that, though foiled, he had but two men killed and three wounded. In Haldimand MSS., Hamilton to Haldimand, October 15, 1778. Often, however, these partisan leaders merely reported the loss in their own particular party of savages, taking no account of the losses in the other bands that had joined them–as the Miamis joined the Shawnees in this instance. But it is certain that Boon (or Filson, who really wrote the Narrative) greatly exaggerated the facts in stating that thirty-seven Indians were killed, and that the settlers picked up 125 pounds’ weight of bullets which had been fired into the fort.]

This was the last siege of Boonsborough. Had de Quindre succeeded he might very probably have swept the whites from Kentucky; but he failed, and Boon’s successful resistance, taken together with the outcome of Clark’s operations at the same time, ensured the permanency of the American occupation. The old-settled region lying around the original stations, or forts, was never afterwards seriously endangered by Indian invasion.

Ferocious Individual Warfare.

The savages continued to annoy the border throughout the year 1778. The extent of their ravages can be seen from the fact that, during the summer months those around Detroit alone brought in to Hamilton eighty-one scalps and thirty-four prisoners, [Footnote: Haldimand MSS. Letter of Hamilton, September 16, 1778. Hamilton was continually sending out small war parties; thus he mentions that on August 25th a party of fifteen Miamis went out; on September 5th, thirty-one Miamis; on September 9th, one Frenchman, five Chippewas, and fifteen Miamis, etc.] seventeen of whom they surrendered to the British, keeping the others either to make them slaves or else to put them to death with torture. During the fall they confined themselves mainly to watching the Ohio and the Wilderness road, and harassing the immigrants who passed along them. [Footnote: McAfee MSS.]

Boon, as usual, roamed restlessly over the country, spying out and harrying the Indian war parties, and often making it his business to meet the incoming bands of settlers, and to protect and guide them on the way to their intended homes. [Footnote: Marshall, 55.] When not on other duty he hunted steadily, for game was still plentiful in Kentucky, though fast diminishing owing to the wanton slaughter made by some of the more reckless hunters. [Footnote: McAfee MSS.] He met with many adventures, still handed down by tradition, in the chase of panther, wolf, and bear, of buffalo, elk, and deer. The latter he killed only when their hides and meat were needed, while he followed unceasingly the dangerous beasts of prey, as being enemies of the settlers.

Throughout these years the obscure strife, made up of the individual contests of frontiersman and Indian, went on almost without a break. The sieges, surprises, and skirmishes in which large bands took part were chronicled; but there is little reference in the books to the countless conflicts wherein only one or two men on a side were engaged. The west could never have been conquered, in the teeth of so formidable and ruthless a foe, had it not been for the personal prowess of the pioneers themselves. Their natural courage and hardihood, and their long training in forest warfare, [Footnote: The last point is important. No Europeans could have held their own for a fortnight in Kentucky; nor is it likely that the western men twenty years before, at the time of Braddock’s war, could have successfully colonized such a far-off country.] made them able to hold their own and to advance step by step, where a peaceable population would have been instantly butchered or driven off. No regular army could have done what they did. Only trained woodsmen could have led the white advance into the vast forest-clad regions, out of which so many fair States have been hewn. The ordinary regular soldier was almost as helpless before the Indians in the woods as he would have been if blindfolded and opposed to an antagonist whose eyes were left uncovered.

Much the greatest loss, both to Indians and whites, was caused by this unending personal warfare. Every hunter, almost every settler, was always in imminent danger of Indian attack, and in return was ever ready, either alone or with one or two companions, to make excursions against the tribes for scalps and horses. One or two of Simon Kenton’s experiences during this year may be mentioned less for their own sake than as examples of innumerable similar deeds that were done, and woes that were suffered, in the course of the ceaseless struggle.

Simon Kenton’s Adventures.

Kenton was a tall, fair-haired man of wonderful strength and agility; famous as a runner and wrestler, an unerring shot, and a perfect woodsman. Like so many of these early Indian fighters, he was not at all bloodthirsty. He was a pleasant, friendly, and obliging companion; and it was hard to rouse him to wrath. When once aroused, however, few were so hardy as not to quail before the terrible fury of his anger. He was so honest and unsuspecting that he was very easily cheated by sharpers; and he died a poor man. He was a staunch friend and follower of Boon’s. [Footnote: See McClung’s “Sketches of Western Adventure,” pp. 86-117; the author had received from Kenton, and other pioneers, when very old, the tales of their adventures as young men. McClung’s volume contains very valuable incidental information about the customs of life among the borderers,] and about Indian warfare; but he is a very inaccurate and untrustworthy writer; he could not even copy a printed narrative correctly (see his account of Slover’s and McKnight’s adventures), and his tales about Kenton must be accepted rather as showing the adventures incident to the life of a peculiarly daring Indian fighter than as being specifically and chronologically correct in Kenton’s individual case. Once, in a fight outside the stockade at Boonsborough, he saved the life of his leader by shooting an Indian who was on the point of tomahawking him. Boon was a man of few words, cold and grave, accustomed to every kind of risk and hairbreadth escape, and as little apt to praise the deeds of others as he was to mention his own; but on this occasion he broke through his usual taciturnity to express his thanks for Kenton’s help and his admiration for Kenton himself.

Kenton went with his captain on the expedition to the Scioto. Pushing ahead of the rest, he was attracted by the sound of laughter in a canebrake. Hiding himself, he soon saw two Indians approach, both riding on one small pony, and chatting and laughing together in great good-humor. Aiming carefully, he brought down both at once, one dead and the other severely wounded. As he rushed up to finish his work, his quick ears caught a rustle in the cane, and looking around he saw two more Indians aiming at him. A rapid spring to one side on his part made both balls miss. Other Indians came up; but, at the same time, Boon and his companions appeared, running as fast as they could while still keeping sheltered. A brisk skirmish followed, the Indians retreated, and Kenton got the coveted scalp. When Boon returned to the fort, Kenton stayed behind with another man and succeeded in stealing four good horses, which he brought back in triumph.

Much pleased with his success he shortly made another raid into the Indian country, this time with two companions. They succeeded in driving off a whole band of one hundred and sixty horses, which they brought in safety to the banks of the Ohio. But a strong wind was blowing, and the river was so rough that in spite of all their efforts they could not get the horses to cross; as soon as they were beyond their depth the beasts would turn round and swim back. The reckless adventurers could not make up their minds to leave the booty; and stayed so long, waiting for a lull in the gale, and wasting their time in trying to get the horses to take to the water in spite of the waves, that the pursuing Indians came up and surprised them. Their guns had become wet and useless; and no resistance could be made. One of them was killed, another escaped, and Kenton himself was captured.

The Indians asked him if “Captain Boon” had sent him to steal horses; and when he answered frankly that the stealing was his own idea, they forthwith proceeded to beat him lustily with their ramrods, at the same time showering on him epithets that showed they had at least learned the profanity of the traders. They staked him out at night, tied so that he could move neither hand nor foot; and during the day he was bound on an unbroken horse, with his hands tied behind him so that he could not protect his face from the trees and bushes. This was repeated every day. After three days he reached the town of Chillicothe, stiff, sore, and bleeding.

Next morning he was led out to run the gauntlet. A row of men, women, and boys, a quarter of a mile long, was formed, each with a tomahawk, switch, or club; at the end of the line was an Indian with a big drum, and beyond this was the council-house, which, if he reached, would for the time being protect him. The moment for starting arrived; the big drum was beaten; and Kenton sprang forward in the race. [Footnote: For this part of Kenton’s adventures compare the “Last of the Mohicans.”] Keeping his wits about him he suddenly turned to one side and darted off with the whole tribe after him. His wonderful speed and activity enabled him to keep ahead, and to dodge those who got in his way, and by a sudden double he rushed through an opening in the crowd, and reached the council-house, having been struck but three or four blows.

He was not further molested that evening. Next morning a council was held to decide whether he should be immediately burnt at the stake, or should first be led round to the different villages. The warriors sat in a ring to pass judgment, passing the war club from one to another; those who passed it in silence thereby voted in favor of sparing the prisoner for the moment, while those who struck it violently on the ground thus indicated their belief that he should be immediately put to death. The former prevailed, and Kenton was led from town to town. At each place he was tied to the stake, to be switched and beaten by the women and boys; or else was forced to run the gauntlet, while sand was thrown in his eyes and guns loaded with powder fired against his body to burn his flesh.

Once, while on the march, he made a bold rush for liberty, all unarmed though he was; breaking out of the line and running into the forest. His speed was so great and his wind so good that he fairly outran his pursuers; but by ill-luck, when almost exhausted, he came against another party of Indians. After this he abandoned himself to despair. He was often terribly abused by his captors; once one of them cut his shoulder open with an axe, breaking the bone.

His face was painted black, the death color, and he was twice sentenced to be burned alive, at the Pickaway Plains and at Sandusky. But each time he was saved at the last moment, once through a sudden spasm of mercy on the part of the renegade Girty, his old companion in arms at the time of Lord Dunmore’s war, and again by the powerful intercession of the great Mingo chief, Logan. At last, after having run the gauntlet eight times and been thrice tied to the stake, he was ransomed by some traders. They hoped to get valuable information from him about the border forts, and took him to Detroit. Here he stayed until his battered, wounded body was healed. Then he determined to escape, and formed his plan in concert with two other Kentuckians, who had been in Boon’s party that was captured at the Blue Licks. They managed to secure some guns, got safely off, and came straight down through the great forests to the Ohio, reaching their homes in safety. [Footnote: McClung gives the exact conversations that took place between Kenton, Logan, Girty, and the Indian chiefs. They are very dramatic, and may possibly be true; the old pioneer would probably always remember even the words used on such occasions; but I hesitate to give them because McClung is so loose in his statements. In the account of this very incident he places it in ’77, and says Kenton then accompanied Clark to the Illinois. But in reality–as we know from Boon–it took place in ’78, and Kenton must have gone with Clark first.]

Boon and Kenton have always been favorite heroes of frontier story,–as much so as ever were Robin Hood and Little John in England. Both lived to a great age, and did and saw many strange things, and in the backwoods cabins the tale of their deeds has been handed down in traditional form from father to son and to son’s son. They were known to be honest, fearless, adventurous, mighty men of their hands; fond of long, lonely wanderings; renowned as woodsmen and riflemen, as hunters and Indian fighters. In course of time it naturally came about that all notable incidents of the chase and woodland warfare were incorporated into their lives by the story-tellers. The facts were altered and added to by tradition year after year; so that the two old frontier warriors already stand in that misty group of heroes whose rightful title to fame has been partly overclouded by the haze of their mythical glories and achievements.



Kentucky had been settled, chiefly through Boon’s instrumentality, in the year that saw the first fighting of the Revolution, and it had been held ever since, Boon still playing the greatest part in the defence. Clark’s more far-seeing and ambitious soul now prompted him to try and use it as a base from which to conquer the vast region northwest of the Ohio.

The Country beyond the Ohio.

The country beyond the Ohio was not, like Kentucky, a tenantless and debatable hunting-ground. It was the seat of powerful and warlike Indian confederacies, and of clusters of ancient French hamlets which had been founded generations before the Kentucky pioneers were born; and it also contained posts that were garrisoned and held by the soldiers of the British king. Virginia, and other colonies as well, made, it is true, vague claims to some of this territory. [Footnote: Some of the numerous land speculation companies, which were so prominent about this time, both before and after the Revolution, made claims to vast tracts of territory in this region, having bought them for various trinkets from the Indian chiefs. Such were the “Illinois Land Company” and “Wabash Land Company,” that, in 1773 and 1775, made purchases from the Kaskaskias and Piankeshaws. The companies were composed of British, American, and Canadian merchants and traders, of London, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Quebec, etc. Lord Dunmore was in the Wabash Company. The agents of the companies, in after years, made repeated but unsuccessful efforts to get Congress to confirm their grants. Although these various companies made much noise at the time, they introduced no new settlers into the land, and, in fact, did nothing of lasting effect; so that it is mere waste of time to allude to most of them. See, however, the “History of Indiana,” by John B. Dillon (Indianapolis, 1859), pp. 102-109, etc.] But their titles were as unreal and shadowy as those acquired by the Spanish and Portuguese kings when the Pope, with empty munificence, divided between them the Eastern and the Western hemispheres. For a century the French had held adverse possession; for a decade and a half the British, not the colonial authorities, had acted as their unchallenged heirs; to the Americans the country was as much a foreign land as was Canada. It could only be acquired by force, and Clark’s teeming brain and bold heart had long been busy in planning its conquest. He knew that the French villages, the only settlements in the land, were the seats of the British power, the head-quarters whence their commanders stirred up, armed, and guided the hostile Indians. If these settled French districts were conquered, and the British posts that guarded them captured, the whole territory would thereby be won for the Federal Republic, and added to the heritage of its citizens; while the problem of checking and subduing the northwestern Indians would be greatly simplified, because the source of much of both their power and hostility would be cut off at the springs. The friendship of the French was invaluable, for they had more influence than any other people with the Indians.

Clark Sends Spies to the Illinois.

In 1777 Clark sent two young hunters as spies to the Illinois country and to the neighborhood of Vincennes, though neither to them nor to any one else did he breathe a hint of the plan that was in his mind. They brought back word that, though some of the adventurous young men often joined either the British or the Indian war parties, yet that the bulk of the French population took but little interest in the struggle, were lukewarm in their allegiance to the British flag, and were somewhat awed by what they had heard of the backwoodsmen. [Footnote: The correctness of this account is amply confirmed by the Haldimand MSS., letters of Hamilton, _passim_; also Rocheblave to Carleton, July 4, 1778; and to Hamilton, April 12, 1778.] Clark judged from this report that it would not be difficult to keep the French neutral if a bold policy, strong as well as conciliatory, was pursued towards them; and that but a small force would be needed to enable a resolute and capable leader to conquer at least the southern part of the country. It was impossible to raise such a body among the scantily garrisoned forted villages of Kentucky. The pioneers, though warlike and fond of fighting, were primarily settlers; their soldiering came in as a purely secondary occupation. They were not a band of mere adventurers, living by the sword and bent on nothing but conquest. They were a group of hard-working, hard-fighting freemen, who had come in with their wives and children to possess the land. They were obliged to use all their wit and courage to defend what they had already won without wasting their strength by grasping at that which lay beyond. The very conditions that enabled so small a number to make a permanent settlement forbade their trying unduly to extend its bounds.

He Goes to Virginia to Raise Troops.

Clark knew he could get from among his fellow-settlers some men peculiarly suited for his purpose, but he also realized that he would have to bring the body of his force from Virginia. Accordingly he decided to lay the case before Patrick Henry, then Governor of the State of which Kentucky was only a frontier county.

On October 1, 1777, he started from Harrodsburg, [Footnote: In the earlier MSS, it is called sometimes Harrodstown and sometimes Harrodsburg; but from this time on the latter name is in general use.] to go over the Wilderness road. The brief entries of his diary for this trip are very interesting and sometimes very amusing. Before starting he made a rather shrewd and thoroughly characteristic speculation in horseflesh, buying a horse for L12, and then “swapping” it with Isaac Shelby and getting L10 to boot. He evidently knew how to make a good bargain, and had the true backwoods passion for barter. He was detained a couple of days by that commonest of frontier mischances, his horses straying; a natural incident when the animals were simply turned loose on the range and looked up when required. [Footnote: This, like so many other incidents in the every-day history of the old pioneers, is among the ordinary experiences of the present sojourner in the far west.] He travelled in company with a large party of men, women, and children who, disheartened by the Indian ravages, were going back to the settlements. They marched from fifteen to twenty miles a day, driving beeves along for food. In addition the scouts at different times killed three buffalo [Footnote: One at Rockcastle River, two at Cumberland Ford.] and a few deer, so that they were not stinted for fresh meat.

When they got out of the wilderness he parted from his companions and rode off alone. He now stayed at the settler’s house that was nearest when night overtook him. At a large house, such as that of the Campbell’s, near Abingdon, he was of course welcomed to the best, and treated with a generous hospitality, for which it would have been an insult to offer money in return. At the small cabins he paid his way; usually a shilling and threepence or a shilling and sixpence for breakfast, bed, and feed for the horse; but sometimes four or five shillings. He fell in with a Captain Campbell, with whom he journeyed a week, finding him “an agreeable companion.” They had to wait over one stormy day, at a little tavern, and probably whiled away the time by as much of a carouse as circumstances allowed; at any rate, Clark’s share of the bill when he left was L1 4_s_. [Footnote: The items of expense jotted down in the diary are curious. For a night’s lodging and board they range from 1s. 3d. to 13s. In Williamsburg, the capital, they were for a fortnight L9 18s.] Finally, a month after leaving Harrodsburg, having travelled six hundred and twenty miles, he reached his father’s house. [Footnote Seventy miles beyond Charlottesville; he gives an itinerary of his journey, making it six hundred and twenty miles in all, by the route he travelled. On the way he had his horse shod and bought a pair of shoes for himself; apparently he kept the rest of his backwoods apparel. He sold his gun for L15 and swapped horses again–this time giving L7 l0_s_. to boot.]

After staying only a day at his old home, he set out for Williamsburg, where he was detained a fortnight before the State auditors would settle the accounts of the Kentucky militia, which he had brought with him. The two things which he deemed especially worthy of mention during this time were his purchase of a ticket in the State lottery, for three pounds, and his going to church on Sunday–the first chance he had had to do so during the year. [Footnote: When his accounts were settled he immediately bought “a piece of cloth for a jacket; price, L4 15_s_; buttons, etc., 3_s_.”] He was overjoyed at the news of Burgoyne’s surrender; and with a light heart he returned to his father’s house, to get a glimpse of his people before again plunging into the wilds.

Clark and Patrick Henry.

After a week’s rest he went back to the capital, laid his plans before Patrick Henry, and urged their adoption with fiery enthusiasm. [Footnote: Clark has left a full MS. memoir of the events of 1777, 1778, and 1779. It was used extensively by Mann Butler, the first historian who gave the campaign its proper prominence, and is printed almost complete by Dillon, on pp. 115-167 of his “Indiana.” It was written at the desire of Presidents Jefferson and Madison; and therefore some thirty or forty years after the events of which it speaks. Valuable though it is, as the narrative of the chief actor, it would be still more valuable had it been written earlier; it undoubtedly contains some rather serious errors.] Henry’s ardent soul quickly caught flame; but the peril of sending an expedition to such a wild and distant country was so great, and Virginia’s resources were so exhausted, that he could do little beyond lending Clark the weight of his name and influence. The matter could not be laid before the Assembly, nor made public in any way; for the hazard would be increased tenfold if the strictest secrecy were not preserved. Finally Henry authorized Clark to raise seven companies, each of fifty men, who were to act as militia and to be paid as such. [Footnote: Henry’s private letter of instructions, January 2, 1778.] He also advanced him the sum of twelve hundred pounds (presumably in depreciated paper), and gave him an order on the authorities at Pittsburg for boats, supplies, and ammunition; while three of the most prominent Virginia gentlemen [Footnote: Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and George Wythe.] agreed in writing to do their best to induce the Virginia Legislature to grant to each of the adventurers three hundred acres of the conquered land, if they were successful. He was likewise given the commission of colonel, with instructions to raise his men solely from the frontier counties west of the Blue Ridge, [Footnote: 3 Butler, p. 48; but Henry’s public instructions authorized Clark to raise his men in any county.] so as not to weaken the people of the seacoast region in their struggle against the British.

Clark alone Organizes the Expedition.

Thus the whole burden of making ready the expedition was laid on Clark’s shoulders. The hampered Virginian authorities were able to give him little beyond their good-will. He is rightfully entitled to the whole glory; the plan and the execution were both his. It was an individual rather than a state or national enterprise.

Governor Henry’s open letter of instructions merely ordered Clark to go to the relief of Kentucky. He carried with him also the secret letter which bade him attack the Illinois regions; for he had decided to assail this first, because, if defeated, he would then be able to take refuge in the Spanish dominions beyond the Mississippi. He met with the utmost difficulty in raising men. Some were to be sent to him from the Holston overland, to meet him in Kentucky; but a combination of accidents resulted in his getting only a dozen or so from this source. [Footnote: Four companies were to be raised on the Holston; but only one actually went to Kentucky; and most of its members deserted when they found out about the true nature of the expedition.] Around Pittsburg the jealousy between the Virginians and Pennsylvanians hampered him greatly. Moreover, many people were strongly opposed to sending any men to Kentucky at all, deeming the drain on their strength more serious than the value of the new land warranted; for they were too short-sighted rightly to estimate what the frontiersmen had really done. When he had finally raised his troops he was bothered by requests from the different forts to aid detachments of the local militia in expeditions against bands of marauding Indians.

He Starts Down the Ohio.

But Clark never for a moment wavered nor lost sight of his main object. He worked steadily on, heedless of difficulty and disappointment, and late in the spring at last got together four small companies of frontiersmen from the clearings and the scattered hunters’ camps. In May, 1778, he left the Redstone settlements, taking not only his troops–one hundred and fifty in all [Footnote: Clark’s letter to George Mason, Nov. 19, 1779. Given in “Clark’s Campaign in the Illinois” (Cincinnati, 1869), for the first time; one of Robert Clarke’s excellent Ohio Valley Historical Series.]–but also a considerable number of private adventurers and settlers with their families. He touched at Pittsburg and Wheeling to get his stores. Then the flotilla of clumsy flatboats, manned by tall riflemen, rowed and drifted cautiously down the Ohio between the melancholy and unbroken reaches of Indian-haunted forest. The presence of the families shows that even this expedition had the usual peculiar western character of being undertaken half for conquest, half for settlement.

He landed at the mouth of the Kentucky, but rightly concluded that as a starting-point against the British posts it would be better to choose a place farther west, so he drifted on down the stream, and on the 27th of May [Footnote: This is the date given in the deposition, in the case of Floyd’s heirs, in 1815; see MSS. in Col. Durrett’s library at Louisville. Clark’s dates, given from memory, are often a day or two out. His “Memoir” is of course less accurate than the letter to Mason.] reached the Falls of the Ohio, where the river broke into great rapids or riffles of swift water. This spot he chose, both because from it he could threaten and hold in check the different Indian tribes, and because he deemed it wise to have some fort to protect in the future the craft that might engage in the river trade, when they stopped to prepare for the passage of the rapids. Most of the families that had come with him had gone off to the interior of Kentucky, but several were left, and these settled on an island near the falls, where they raised a crop of corn; and in the autumn they moved to the mainland. On the site thus chosen by the clear-eyed frontier leader there afterwards grew up a great city, named in honor of the French king, who was then our ally. Clark may fairly be called its founder. [Footnote: It was named Louisville in 1780, but was long known only as the Falls. Many other men had previously recognized the advantages of the place; hunters and surveyors had gone there, but Clark led thither the first permanent settlers. Conolly had laid out at the Falls a grant of two thousand acres, of which he afterwards surrendered half. His grant, covering much of the present site of the city, was on July 1, 1780, declared to be forfeited by a jury consisting of Daniel Boon and eleven other good men and true, empanelled by the sheriff of the county. See Durrett MSS. in “Papers Relating to Louisville, Ky.”]

Clark at the Falls.

Here Clark received news of the alliance with France, which he hoped would render easier his task of winning over the habitants of the Illinois. He was also joined by a few daring Kentuckians, including Kenton, and by the only Holston company that had yet arrived. He now disclosed to his men the real object of his expedition. The Kentuckians, and those who had come down the river with him, hailed the adventure with eager enthusiasm, pledged him their hearty support, and followed him with staunch and unflinching loyalty. But the Holston recruits, who had not come under the spell of his personal influence, murmured against him. They had not reckoned on an expedition so long and so dangerous, and in the night most of them left the camp and fled into the woods. The Kentuckians, who had horses, pursued the deserters, with orders to kill any who resisted; but all save six or eight escaped. Yet they suffered greatly for their crime, and endured every degree of hardship and fatigue, for the Kentuckians spurned them from the gates of the wooden forts, and would not for a long time suffer them to enter, hounding them back to the homes they had dishonored. They came from among a bold and adventurous people, and their action was due rather to wayward and sullen disregard of authority than to cowardice.

When the pursuing horsemen came back a day of mirth and rejoicing was spent between the troops who were to stay behind to guard Kentucky and those who were to go onward to conquer Illinois. On the 24th of June Clark’s boats put out from shore, and shot the falls at the very moment that there was a great eclipse of the sun, at which the frontiersmen wondered greatly, but for the most part held it to be a good omen.

Clark had weeded out all those whom he deemed unable to stand fatigue and hardship; his four little companies were of picked men, each with a good captain. [Footnote: The names of the four captains were John Montgomery, Joseph Bowman, Leonard Helm, and William Harrod. Each company nominally consisted of fifty men, but none of them was of full strength.] His equipment was as light as that of an Indian war party, for he knew better than to take a pound of baggage that could possibly be spared.

He Meets a Party of Hunters.

He intended to land some three leagues below the entrance of the Tennessee River, [Footnote: At the old Fort Massac, then deserted. The name is taken from that of an old French commander; it is not a corruption of Fort Massacre, as has been asserted.] thence to march on foot against the Illinois towns; for he feared discovery if he should attempt to ascend the Mississippi, the usual highway by which the fur traders went up to the quaint French hamlets that lay between the Kaskaskia and the Illinois rivers. Accordingly he double-manned his oars and rowed night and day until he reached a small island off the mouth of the Tennessee, where he halted to make his final preparations, and was there joined by a little party of American hunters, [Footnote In his “Memoir” he says “from the States”; in his letter to Mason he calls them “Englishmen,” probably to show that they were not French, as they had just come from Kaskaskia. He almost always spoke of the English proper as British.] who had recently been in the French settlements. The meeting was most fortunate. The hunters entered eagerly into Clark’s plans, joining him for the campaign, and they gave him some very valuable information. They told him that the royal commandant was a Frenchman, Rocheblave, whose head-quarters were at the town of Kaskaskia; that the fort was in good repair, the militia were well drilled and in constant readiness to repel attack, while spies were continually watching the Mississippi, and the Indians and the coureurs des bois were warned to be on the look-out for any American force, if the party were discovered in time the hunters believed that the French would undoubtedly gather together instantly to repel them, having been taught to hate and dread the backwoodsmen as more brutal and terrible than any Indians; and in such an event the strength of the works and the superiority of the French in numbers would render the attack very hazardous. But they thought that a surprise would enable Clark to do as he wished, and they undertook to guide him by the quickest and shortest route to the towns.

The March to Kaskaskia.

Clark was rather pleased than otherwise to learn of the horror with which the French regarded the backwoodsmen. He thought it would render them more apt to be panic-struck when surprised, and also more likely to feel a strong revulsion of gratitude when they found that the Americans meant them well and not ill. Taking their new allies for guides, the little body of less than two hundred men started north across the wilderness, scouts being scattered out well ahead of them, both to kill game for their subsistence and to see that their march was not discovered by any straggling Frenchman or Indian. The first fifty miles led through tangled and pathless forest, the toil of travelling being very great. After that the work was less difficult as they got out among the prairies, but on these great level meadows they had to take extra precautions to avoid being seen. Once the chief guide got bewildered and lost himself; he could no longer tell the route, nor whither it was best to march. [Footnote: Even experienced woodsmen or plainsmen sometimes thus become lost or “turned round,” if in a country of few landmarks, where they have rarely been before.] The whole party was at once cast into the utmost confusion; but Clark soon made the guide understand that he was himself in greater jeopardy than any one else, and would forfeit his life if he did not guide them straight. Not knowing the man, Clark thought he might be treacherous; and, as he wrote an old friend, he was never in his life in such a rage as when he found his troops wandering at random in a country where, at any moment, they might blunder on several times their number of hostile Indians; while, if they were discovered by any one at all, the whole expedition was sure to miscarry. However, the guide proved to be faithful; after a couple of hours he found his bearings once more, and guided the party straight to their destination.

The Surprise of Kaskaskia.

On the evening of the fourth of July [Footnote: So says Clark; and the Haldimand MSS. contains a letter of Rocheblave of July 4th. For these campaigns of 1778 I follow where possible Clark’s letter to Mason as being nearly contemporary; his “Memoir,” as given by Dillon, comes next in authority; while Butler, who was very accurate and painstaking, also got hold of original information from men who had taken part in the expedition, or from their descendants, besides making full use of the “Memoir.”] they reached the river Kaskaskia, within three miles of the town, which lay on the farther bank. They kept in the woods until after it grew dusk, and then marched silently to a little farm on the hither side of the river, a mile from the town. The family were taken prisoners, and from them Clark learned that some days before the townspeople had been alarmed at the rumor of a possible attack; but that their suspicions had been lulled, and they were then off their guard. There were a great many men in the town, but almost all French, the Indians having for the most part left. The account proved correct. Rocheblave, the creole commandant, was sincerely attached to the British interest. He had been much alarmed early in the year by the reports brought to him by Indians that the Americans were in Kentucky and elsewhere beyond the Alleghanies. He had written repeatedly to Detroit, asking that regulars could be sent him, and that he might himself be replaced by a commandant of English birth; for though the French were well-disposed towards the crown, they had been frightened by the reports of the ferocity of the backwoodsmen, and the Indians were fickle. In his letters he mentioned that the French were much more loyal than the men of English parentage. Hamilton found it impossible to send him reinforcements however, and he was forced to do the best he could without them; but he succeeded well in his endeavors to organize troops, as he found the creole militia very willing to serve, and the Indians extremely anxious to attack the Americans. [Footnote: Haldimand MSS. Carleton to Hamilton, May 16, 1777; Rocheblave to Carleton, February 8, 1778; Rocheblave to Hamilton, April 12, 1778; Rocheblave to Carleton, July 4, 1778.] He had under his orders two or three times as many men as Clark, and he would certainly have made a good fight if he had not been surprised. It was only Clark’s audacity and the noiseless speed of his movements that gave him a chance of success with the odds so heavily against him.

Getting boats the American leader ferried his men across the stream under cover of the darkness and in profound silence; the work occupying about two hours. He then approached Kaskaskia under cover of the night, dividing his force into two divisions, one being spread out to surround the town so that none might escape, while he himself led the other up to the walls of the fort.

Inside the fort the lights were lit, and through the windows came the sounds of violins. The officers of the post had given a ball, and the mirth-loving creoles, young men and girls, were dancing and revelling within, while the sentinels had left their posts. One of his captives showed Clark a postern-gate by the river-side, and through this he entered the fort, having placed his men round about at the entrance. Advancing to the great hall where the revel was held, he leaned silently with folded arms against the door-post, looking at the dancers. An Indian, lying on the floor of the entry, gazed intently on the stranger’s face as the light from the torches within flickered across it, and suddenly sprang to his feet uttering the unearthly war-whoop. Instantly the dancing ceased; the women screamed, while the men ran towards the door. But Clark, standing unmoved and with unchanged face, grimly bade them continue their dancing, but to remember that they now danced under Virginia and not Great Britain. [Footnote: Memoir of Major E. Denny, by Wm. H. Denny, p. 217. In “Record of the Court of Upland and Military Journal of Major E. Denny,” Philadelphia, 1860 (Historical Society of Penn.). The story was told to Major Denny by Clark himself, some time in ’87 or ’88; in process of repetition it evidently became twisted, and, as related by Denny, there are some very manifest inaccuracies, but there seems no reason to reject it entirely.] At the same time his men burst into the fort, and seized the French officers, including the commandant, Rocheblave. [Footnote: It is worth noting that these Illinois French, and most of the Indians with whom the French fur traders came in contact, called the Americans “Bostonnais.” (In fact the fur traders have taught this name to the northern tribes right across to the Pacific. While hunting in the Selkirk Mountains last fall, the Kootenai Indian who was with me always described me as a “Boston man.”) Similarly the Indians round the upper Ohio and thence southward often called the backwoodsmen “Virginians.” In each case the French and Indians adopted the name of their leading and most inveterate enemies as the title by which to call all of them.]

Immediately Clark had every street secured, and sent runners through the town ordering the people to keep close to their houses on pain of death; and by daylight he had them all disarmed. The backwoodsmen patrolled the town in little squads; while the French in silent terror cowered within their low-roofed houses. Clark was quite willing that they should fear the worst; and their panic was very great. The unlooked-for and mysterious approach and sudden onslaught of the backwoodsmen, their wild and uncouth appearance, and the ominous silence of their commander, all combined to fill the French with fearful forebodings for their future fate. [Footnote: In his “Memoir” Clark dwells at length on the artifices by which he heightened the terror of the French; and Butler enlarges still further upon them. I follow the letter to Mason, which is much safer authority, the writer having then no thought of trying to increase the dramatic effect of the situation–which in Butler, and indeed in the “Memoir” also, is strained till it comes dangerously near bathos.]

Clark’s Diplomacy.

Next morning a deputation of the chief men waited upon Clark; and thinking themselves in the hands of mere brutal barbarians, all they dared to do was to beg for their lives, which they did, says Clark, “with the greatest servancy [saying] they were willing to be slaves to save their families,” though the bolder spirits could not refrain from cursing their fortune that they had not been warned in time to defend themselves. Now came Clark’s chance for his winning stroke. He knew it was hopeless to expect his little band permanently to hold down a much more numerous hostile population, that was closely allied to many surrounding tribes of warlike Indians; he wished above all things to convert the inhabitants into ardent adherents of the American Government.

So he explained at length that, though the Americans came as conquerors, who by the laws of war could treat the defeated as they wished, yet it was ever their principle to free, not to enslave, the people with whom they came in contact. If the French chose to become loyal citizens, and to take the oath of fidelity to the Republic, they should be welcomed to all the privileges of Americans; those who did not so choose should be allowed to depart from the land in peace with their families.

The Creoles Espouse the American Cause.

The mercurial creoles who listened to his speech passed rapidly from the depth of despair to the height of joy. Instead of bewailing their fate they now could not congratulate themselves enough on their good-fortune. The crowning touch to their happiness was given by Clark when he told the priest, Pierre Gibault, in answer to a question as to whether the Catholic Church could be opened, that an American commander had nothing to do with any church save to defend it from insult, and that by the laws of the Republic his religion had as great privileges as any other. With that they all returned in noisy joy to their families, while the priest, a man of ability and influence, became thenceforth a devoted and effective champion of the American cause. The only person whom Clark treated harshly was M. Rocheblave, the commandant, who, when asked to dinner, responded in very insulting terms. Thereupon Clark promptly sent him as a prisoner to Virginia (where he broke his parole and escaped), and sold his slaves for five hundred pounds, which was distributed among the troops as prize-money.

A small detachment of the Americans, accompanied by a volunteer company of French militia, at once marched rapidly on Cahokia. The account of what had happened in Kaskaskia, the news of the alliance between France and America, and the enthusiastic advocacy of Clark’s new friends, soon converted Cahokia; and all of its inhabitants, like those of Kaskaskia, took the oath of allegiance to America. Almost at the same time the priest Gibault volunteered to go, with a few of his compatriots, to Vincennes, and there endeavor to get the people to join the Americans, as being their natural friends and allies. He started on his mission at once, and on the first of August returned to Clark with the news that he had been completely successful, that the entire population, after having gathered in the church to hear him, had taken the oath of allegiance, and that the American flag floated over their fort. [Footnote: Judge John Law’s “Address on the Colonial History of Vincennes,” P 25.] No garrison could be spared to go to Vincennes; so one of the captains [Footnote: Leonard Helm. Vol. II.] was sent thither alone to take command.

The priest Gibault had given convincing proof of his loyalty. He remarked to Clark rather dryly that he had, properly speaking, nothing to do with the temporal affairs of his flock, but that now and then he was able to give them such hints in a spiritual way as would tend to increase their devotion to their new friends.

Clark’s Difficulties.

Clark now found himself in a position of the utmost difficulty. With a handful of unruly backwoodsmen, imperfectly disciplined and kept under control only by his own personal influence, he had to protect and govern a region as large as any European kingdom. Moreover, he had to keep content and loyal a population of alien race, creed, and language, while he held his own against the British and against numerous tribes of Indians, deeply imbittered against all Americans and as blood-thirsty and treacherous as they were warlike. It may be doubted if there was another man in the west who possessed the daring and resolution, the tact, energy, and executive ability necessary for the solution of so knotty a series of problems.

He was hundreds of miles from the nearest post containing any American troops; he was still farther from the seat of government. He had no hope whatever of getting reinforcements or even advice and instruction for many months, probably not for a year; and he was thrown entirely on his own resources and obliged to act in every respect purely on his own responsibility.

Governor Patrick Henry, although leaving every thing in the last resort to Clark’s discretion, had evidently been very doubtful whether a permanent occupation of the territory was feasible, [Footnote: In his secret letter of instructions he orders Clark to be especially careful to secure the artillery and military stores at Kaskia, laying such stress upon this as to show that he regarded the place itself as of comparatively little value. In fact, all Henry’s order contemplated was an attack on “the British post at Kaskasky.” However, he adds, that if the French are willing to become American citizens, they shall be fully protected against their foes. The letter earnestly commands Clark to treat not only the inhabitants, but also all British prisoners, with the utmost humanity.] though both he, and especially Jefferson, recognized the important bearing that its acquisition would have upon the settlement of the northwestern boundary, when the time came to treat for peace. Probably Clark himself had not at first appreciated all the possibilities that lay within his conquest, but he was fully alive to them now and saw that, provided he could hold on to it, he had added a vast and fertile territory to the domain of the Union. To the task of keeping it he now bent all his energies.

Clark Prepares for Defence.

The time of service of his troops had expired, and they were anxious to go home. By presents and promises he managed to enlist one hundred of them for eight months longer. Then, to color his staying with so few men, he made a feint of returning to the Falls, alleging as a reason his entire confidence in the loyalty of his French friends and his trust in their capacity to defend themselves. He hoped that this would bring out a remonstrance from the inhabitants, who, by becoming American citizens, had definitely committed themselves against the British. The result was such as he expected. On the rumor of his departure, the inhabitants in great alarm urged him to stay, saying that otherwise the British would surely retake the post. He made a show of reluctantly yielding to their request, and consented to stay with two companies; and then finding that many of the more adventurous young creoles were anxious to take service, he enlisted enough of them to fill up all four companies to their original strength. His whole leisure was spent in drilling the men, Americans and French alike, and in a short time he turned them into as orderly and well disciplined a body as could be found in any garrison of regulars.

He also established very friendly relations with the Spanish captains of the scattered creole villages across the Mississippi, for the Spaniards were very hostile to the British, and had not yet begun to realize that they had even more to dread from the Americans. Clark has recorded his frank surprise at finding the Spanish commandant, who lived at St. Louis, a very pleasant and easy companion, instead of haughty and reserved, as he had supposed all Spaniards were.

Dealings with the Indians.

The most difficult, and among the most important, of his tasks, was dealing with the swarm of fickle and treacherous savage tribes that surrounded him. They had hitherto been hostile to the Americans; but being great friends of the Spaniards and French they were much confused by the change in the sentiments of the latter, and by the sudden turn affairs had taken.

Some volunteers–Americans, French, and friendly Indians–were sent to the aid of the American captain at Vincennes, and the latter, by threats and promises, and a mixture of diplomatic speech-making with a show of force, contrived, for the time being, to pacify the immediately neighboring tribes.

Clark took upon himself the greater task of dealing with a huge horde of savages, representing every tribe between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi, who had come to the Illinois, some from a distance of five hundred miles, to learn accurately all that had happened, and to hear for themselves what the Long Knives had to say. They gathered to meet him at Cahokia, chiefs and warriors of every grade; among them were Ottawas and Chippewas, Pottawatomies, Sacs, and Foxes, and others belonging to tribes whose very names have perished. The straggling streets of the dismayed little town were thronged with many hundreds of dark-browed, sullen-looking savages, grotesque in look and terrible in possibility. They strutted to and fro in their dirty finery, or lounged round the houses, inquisitive, importunate, and insolent, hardly concealing a lust for bloodshed and plunder that the slightest mishap was certain to render ungovernable.

Fortunately Clark knew exactly how to treat them. He thoroughly understood their natures, and was always on his guard, while seemingly perfectly confident; and he combined conciliation with firmness and decision, and above all with prompt rapidity of action.

For the first two or three days no conclusion was reached, though there was plenty of speech-making. But on the night of the third a party of turbulent warriors [Footnote: “A party of Puans and others.”–Clark’s letter to Mason.] endeavored to force their way into the house where he was lodging, and to carry him off. Clark, who, as he records, had been “under some apprehensions among such a number of Devils,” was anticipating treachery. His guards were at hand, and promptly seized the savages; while the townspeople took the alarm and were under arms in a couple of minutes, thus convincing the Indians that their friendship for the Americans was not feigned.

Clark and the Savages.

Clark instantly ordered the French militia to put the captives, both chiefs and warriors, in irons. He had treated the Indians well, and had not angered them by the harshness and brutality that so often made them side against the English or Americans and in favor of the French; but he knew that any signs of timidity would be fatal. His boldness and decision were crowned with complete success. The crestfallen prisoners humbly protested that they were only trying to find out if the French were really friendly to Clark, and begged that they might be released. He answered with haughty indifference, and refused to release them, even when the chiefs of the other tribes came up to intercede. Indians and whites alike were in the utmost confusion, every man distrusting what the moment might bring forth. Clark continued seemingly wholly unmoved, and did not even shift his lodgings to the fort, remaining in a house in the town, but he took good care to secretly fill a large room adjoining his own with armed men, while the guards were kept ready for instant action. To make his show of indifference complete, he “assembled a Number of Gentlemen and Ladies and danced nearly the whole Night.” The perplexed savages, on the other hand, spent the hours of darkness in a series of councils among themselves.

Next morning he summoned all the tribes to a grand council, releasing the captive chiefs, that he might speak to them in the presence of their friends and allies. The preliminary ceremonies were carefully executed in accordance with the rigid Indian etiquette. Then Clark stood up in the midst of the rings of squatted warriors, while his riflemen clustered behind him in their tasselled hunting-shirts, travel-torn and weather-beaten. He produced the bloody war-belt of wampum, and handed it to the chiefs whom he had taken captive, telling the assembled tribes that he scorned alike their treachery and their hostility; that he would be thoroughly justified in putting them to death, but that instead he would have them escorted safely from the town, and after three days would begin war upon them. He warned them that if they did not wish their own women and children massacred, they must stop killing those of the Americans. Pointing to the war-belt, he challenged them, on behalf of his people, to see which would make it the most bloody; and he finished by telling them that while they stayed in his camp they should be given food and strong drink, [Footnote: “Provisions and Rum.” Letter to Mason. This is much the best authority for these proceedings. The “Memoir,” written by an old man who had squandered his energies and sunk into deserved obscurity, is tedious and magniloquent, and sometimes inaccurate. Moreover, Dillon has not always chosen the extracts judiciously. Clark’s decidedly prolix speeches to the Indians are given with intolerable repetition. They were well suited to the savages, drawing the causes of the quarrel between the British and Americans in phrases that could be understood by the Indian mind; but their inflated hyperbole is not now interesting. They describe the Americans as lighting a great council-fire, sharpening tomahawks, striking the war-post, declining to give “two bucks for a blanket,” as the British wanted them to, etc.; with incessant allusions to the Great Spirit being angry, the roads being made smooth, refusing to listen to the bad birds who flew through the woods, and the like. Occasional passages are fine; but it all belongs to the study of Indians and Indian oratory, rather than to the history of the Americans.] and that now he had ended his talk to them, and he wished them to speedily depart.

Not only the prisoners, but all the other chiefs in turn forthwith rose, and in language of dignified submission protested their regret at having been led astray by the British, and their determination thenceforth to be friendly with the Americans.

In response Clark again told them that he came not as a counsellor but as a warrior, not begging for a truce but carrying in his right hand peace and in his left hand war; save only that to a few of their worst men he intended to grant no terms whatever. To those who were friendly he, too, would be a friend, but if they chose war, he would call from the Thirteen Council Fires [Footnote: In his speeches, as in those of his successors in treaty-making, the United States were sometimes spoken of as the Thirteen Fires, and sometimes as the Great Fire.] warriors so numerous that they would darken the land, and from that time on the red people would hear no sound but that of the birds that lived on blood. He went on to tell them, that there had been a mist before their eyes, but that he would clear away the cloud and would show them the right of the quarrel between the Long Knives and the King who dwelt across the great sea; and then he told them about the revolt in terms which would almost have applied to a rising of Hurons or Wyandots against the Iroquois. At the end of his speech he offered them the two belts of peace and war.

The Indians Make Peace.

They eagerly took the peace belt, but he declined to smoke the calumet, and told them he would not enter into the solemn ceremonies of the peace treaty with them until the following day. He likewise declined to release all his prisoners, and insisted that two of them should be put to death. They even yielded to this, and surrendered to him two young men, who advanced and sat down before him on the floor, covering their heads with their blankets, to receive the tomahawk. [Footnote: I have followed the contemporary letter to Mason rather than the more elaborate and slightly different account of the “Memoir.” The account written by Clark in his old age, like Shelby’s similar autobiography, is, in many respects, not very trustworthy. It cannot be accepted for a moment where it conflicts with any contemporary accounts.] Then he granted them full peace and forgave the young men their doom, and the next day, after the peace council, there was a feast, and the friendship of the Indians was won. Clark ever after had great influence over them; they admired his personal prowess, his oratory, his address as a treaty-maker, and the skill with which he led his troops. Long afterwards, when the United States authorities were endeavoring to make treaties with the red men, it was noticed that the latter would never speak to any other white general or commissioner while Clark was present.

After this treaty there was peace in the Illinois country; the Indians remained for some time friendly, and the French were kept well satisfied.



Hamilton, at Detroit, had been so encouraged by the successes of his war parties that, in 1778, he began to plan an attack on Fort Pitt [Footnote: Haldimand MSS. Hamilton to Carleton, January, 1778.]; but his plans were forestalled by Clark’s movements, and he, of course, abandoned them when the astounding news reached him that the rebels had themselves invaded the Illinois country, captured the British commandant, Rocheblave, and administered to the inhabitants the oath of allegiance to Congress. [Footnote: _Do_. Hamilton’s letter of August 8th.] Shortly afterwards he learned that Vincennes likewise was in the hands of the Americans.

Hamilton Prepares to Reconquer the Country.

He was a man of great energy, and he immediately began to prepare an expedition for the reconquest of the country. French emissaries who were loyal to the British crown were sent to the Wabash to stir up the Indians against the Americans; and though the Piankeshaws remained friendly to the latter, the Kickapoos and Weas, who were more powerful, announced their readiness to espouse the British cause if they received support, while the neighboring Miamis were already on the war-path. The commandants at the small posts of Mackinaw and St. Josephs were also notified to incite the Lake Indians to harass the Illinois country. [Footnote: Hamilton to Haldimand, September 17, 1778.]

He led the main body in person, and throughout September every soul in Detroit was busy from morning till night in mending boats, baking biscuit, packing provisions in kegs and bags, preparing artillery stores, and in every way making ready for the expedition. Fifteen large bateaux and pirogues were procured, each capable of carrying from 1,800 to 3,000 pounds; these were to carry the ammunition, food, clothing, tents, and especially the presents for the Indians. Cattle and wheels were sent ahead to the most important portages on the route that would be traversed; a six-pounder gun was also forwarded. Hamilton had been deeply exasperated by what he regarded as the treachery of most of the Illinois and Wabash creoles in joining the Americans; but he was in high spirits and very confident of success. He wrote to his superior officer that the British were sure to succeed if they acted promptly, for the Indians were favorable to them, knowing they alone could give them supplies; and he added “the Spaniards are feeble and hated by the French, the French are fickle and have no man of capacity to advise or lead them, and the Rebels are enterprising and brave, but want resources.” The bulk of the Detroit French, including all their leaders, remained staunch supporters of the crown, and the militia eagerly volunteered to go on the expedition. Feasts were held with the Ottawas, Chippewas, and Pottawatomies, at which oxen were roasted whole, while Hamilton and the chiefs of the French rangers sang the war-song in solemn council, and received pledges of armed assistance and support from the savages. [Footnote: _Do_. Hamilton to Haldimand, September 23, October 3, 1778.]

He Starts against Vincennes.

On October 7th the expedition left Detroit; before starting the venerable Jesuit missionary gave the Catholic French who went along his solemn blessing and approval, conditionally upon their strictly keeping the oath they had taken to be loyal and obedient servants of the crown. [Footnote: Haldimand MSS., Series B., Vol. 123, p. 53. Hamilton’s letter of July 6, 1781, containing a “brief account” of the whole expedition, taken from what he calls a “diary of transactions” that he had preserved.] It is worthy of note that, while the priest at Kaskaskia proved so potent an ally of the Americans, the priest at Detroit was one of the staunchest supporters of the British. Hamilton started with thirty-six British regulars, under two lieutenants, forty-five Detroit volunteers (chiefly French), who had been carefully drilled for over a year, under Captain Lamothe; seventy-nine Detroit militia, under a major and two captains; and seventeen members of the Indian Department (including three captains and four lieutenants) who acted with the Indians. There were thus in all one hundred and seventy-seven whites. [Footnote: _Do_., Series B., Vol. 122, p. 253, return of forces on Dec. 24th.] Sixty Indians started with the troops from Detroit, but so many bands joined him on the route that when he reached Vincennes his entire force amounted to five hundred men. [Footnote: _Do_. Hamilton’s letter of July 6, 1781, the “brief account.” Clark’s estimate was very close to the truth; he gave Hamilton six hundred men, four hundred of them Indians. See State Department MSS., No. 71, Vol. I., p. 247. Papers Continental Congress. Letter of G. R. Clark to Gov. Henry, April 29, 1779. This letter was written seven months before that to Mason, and many years before the “Memoir,” so I have, where possible, followed it as being better authority than either.]

Difficulties of the Route.

Having embarked, the troops and Indians paddled down stream to Lake Erie, reaching it in a snowstorm, and when a lull came they struck boldly across the lake, making what bateau men still call a “traverse” of thirty-six miles to the mouth of the Maumee. Darkness overtook them while still on the lake, and the head boats hung out lights for the guidance of those astern; but about midnight a gale came up, and the whole flotilla was nearly swamped, being beached with great difficulty on an oozy flat close to the mouth of the Maumee. The waters of the Maumee were low, and the boats were poled slowly up against the current, reaching the portage point, where there was a large Indian village, on the 24th of the month. Here a nine miles’ carry was made to one of the sources of the Wabash, called by the voyageurs “la petite riviere.” This stream was so low that the boats could not have gone down it had it not been for a beaver dam four miles below the landing-place, which backed up the current. An opening was made in the dam to let the boats pass. The traders and Indians thoroughly appreciated the help given them at this difficult part of the course by the engineering skill of the beavers–for Hamilton was following the regular route of the hunting, trading, and war parties,–and none of the beavers of this particular dam were ever molested, being left to keep their dam in order, and repair it, which they always speedily did whenever it was damaged. [Footnote: Haldimand’s MSS. Hamilton’s “brief account.”]

It proved as difficult to go down the Wabash as to get up the Maumee. The water was shallow, and once or twice in great swamps dykes had to be built that the boats might be floated across. Frost set in heavily, and the ice cut the men as they worked in the water to haul the boats over shoals or rocks. The bateaux often needed to be beached and caulked, while both whites and Indians had to help carry the loads round the shoal places. At every Indian village it was necessary to stop, hold a conference, and give presents. At last the Wea village–or Ouiatanon, as Hamilton called it–was reached. Here the Wabash chiefs, who had made peace with the Americans, promptly came in and tendered their allegiance to the British, and a reconnoitering party seized a lieutenant and three men of the Vincennes militia, who were themselves on a scouting expedition, but who nevertheless were surprised and captured without difficulty. [Footnote: _Do._ The French officer had in his pocket one British and one American commission; Hamilton debated in his mind for some time the advisability of hanging him.] They had been sent out by Captain Leonard Helm, then acting as commandant at Vincennes. He had but a couple of Americans with him, and was forced to trust to the creole militia, who had all embodied themselves with great eagerness, having taken the oath of allegiance to Congress. Having heard rumors of the British advance, he had dispatched a little party to keep watch, and in consequence of their capture he was taken by surprise.

Hamilton Captures Vincennes.

From Ouiatanon Hamilton dispatched Indian parties to surround Vincennes and intercept any messages sent either to the Falls or to the Illinois; they were completely successful, capturing a messenger who carried a hurried note written by Helm to Clark to announce what had happened. An advance guard, under Major Hay, was sent forward to take possession, but Helm showed so good a front that nothing was attempted until the next day, the 17th of December, just seventy-one days after the expedition had left Detroit, when Hamilton came up at the head of his whole force and entered Vincennes. Poor Helm was promptly deserted by all the creole militia. The latter had been loud in their boasts until the enemy came in view, but as soon as they caught sight of the red-coats they began to slip away and run up to the British to surrender their arms. [Footnote: _Do._ Intercepted letter of Captain Helm, Series B., Vol. 122, p. 280.] He was finally left with only one or two men, Americans. Nevertheless he refused the first summons to surrender; but Hamilton, who knew that Helm’s troops had deserted him, marched up to the fort at the head of his soldiers, and the American was obliged to surrender, with no terms granted save that he and his associates should be treated with humanity. [Footnote: Letter of Hamilton, Dec. 18-30, 1778. The story of Helm’s marching out with the honors of war is apparently a mere invention. Even Mann Butler, usually so careful, permits himself to be led off into all sorts of errors when describing the incidents of the Illinois and Vincennes expeditions, and the writers who have followed him have generally been less accurate. The story of Helm drinking toddy by the fire-place when Clark retook the fort, and of the latter ordering riflemen to fire at the chimney, so as to knock the mortar into the toddy, may safely be set down as pure–and very weak–fiction. When Clark wrote his memoirs, in his old age, he took delight in writing down among his exploits all sorts of childish stratagems; the marvel is that any sane historian should not have seen that these were on their face as untrue as they were ridiculous.] The instant the fort was surrendered the Indians broke in and plundered it; but they committed no act of cruelty, and only plundered a single private house.

Measures to Secure his Conquest.

The French inhabitants had shown pretty clearly that they did not take a keen interest in the struggle, on either side. They were now summoned to the church and offered the chance–which they for the most part eagerly embraced–of purging themselves of their past misconduct by taking a most humiliating oath of repentance, acknowledging that they had sinned against God and man by siding with the rebels, and promising to be loyal in the future. Two hundred and fifty of the militia, being given back their arms, appeared with their officers, and took service again under the British king, swearing a solemn oath of allegiance. They certainly showed throughout the most light-hearted indifference to chronic perjury and treachery; nor did they in other respects appear to very good advantage. Clark was not in the least surprised at the news of their conduct; for he had all along realized that the attachment of the French would prove but a slender reed on which to lean in the moment of trial.

Hamilton had no fear of the inhabitants themselves, for the fort completely commanded the town. To keep them in good order he confiscated all their spirituous liquors, and in a rather amusing burst of Puritan feeling destroyed two billiard tables, which he announced were “sources of immorality and dissipation in such a settlement.” [Footnote: _Do._] He had no idea that he was in danger of attack from without, for his spies brought him word that Clark had only a hundred and ten men in the Illinois county [Footnote: _Do._ “Fourscore at Kaskaskia and thirty at Cahokia.”]; and the route between was in winter one of extraordinary difficulty.

He Goes into Winter Quarters.

He had five hundred men and Clark but little over one hundred. He was not only far nearer his base of supplies and reinforcements at Detroit, than Clark was to his at Fort Pitt, but he was also actually across Clark’s line of communications. Had he pushed forward at once to attack the Americans, and had he been able to overcome the difficulties of the march, he would almost certainly have conquered. But he was daunted by the immense risk and danger of the movement. The way was long and the country flooded, and he feared the journey might occupy so much time that his stock of provisions would be exhausted before he got half-way. In such a case the party might starve to death or perish from exposure. Besides he did not know what he should do for carriages; and he dreaded the rigor of the winter weather. [Footnote: Haldimand MSS.; in his various letters Hamilton sets forth the difficulties at length.] There were undoubtedly appalling difficulties in the way of a mid-winter march and attack; and the fact that Clark attempted and performed the feat which Hamilton dared not try, marks just the difference between a man of genius and a good, brave, ordinary commander.

He Plans a Great Campaign in the Spring.

Having decided to suspend active operations during the cold weather, he allowed the Indians to scatter back to their villages for the winter, and sent most of the Detroit militia home, retaining in garrison only thirty-four British regulars, forty French volunteers, and a dozen white leaders of the Indians [Footnote: _Do._ B. Vol. 122, p. 287. Return of Vincennes garrison for Jan. 30, 1779.]; in all eighty or ninety whites, and a probably larger number of red auxiliaries. The latter were continually kept out on scouting expeditions; Miamis and Shawnees were sent down to watch the Ohio, and take scalps in the settlements, while bands of Kickapoos, the most warlike of the Wabash Indians, and of Ottawas, often accompanied by French partisans, went towards the Illinois country. [Footnote: Hamilton’s “brief account,” and his letter of December 18th.] Hamilton intended to undertake a formidable campaign in the spring. He had sent messages to Stuart, the British Indian agent in the south, directing him to give war-belts to the Chickasaws, Cherokees, and Creeks, that a combined attack on the frontier might take place as soon as the weather opened. He himself was to be joined by reinforcements from Detroit, while the Indians were to gather round him as soon as the winter broke. He would then have had probably over a thousand men, and light cannon with which to batter down the stockades. He rightly judged that with this force he could not only reconquer the Illinois, but also sweep Kentucky, where the outnumbered riflemen could not have met him in the field, nor the wooden forts have withstood his artillery. Undoubtedly he would have carried out his plan, and have destroyed all the settlements west of the Alleghanies, had he been allowed to wait until the mild weather brought him his hosts of Indian allies and his reinforcements of regulars and militia from Detroit.

Panic among the Illinois French.

But in Clark he had an antagonist whose far-sighted daring and indomitable energy raised him head and shoulders above every other frontier leader. This backwoods colonel was perhaps the one man able in such a crisis to keep the land his people had gained. When the news of the loss of Vincennes reached the Illinois towns, and especially when there followed a rumor that Hamilton himself was on his march thither to attack them, [Footnote: The rumor came when Clark was attending a dance given by the people of the little village of La Prairie du Rocher. The Creoles were passionately fond of dancing and the Kentuckians entered into the amusement with the utmost zest.] the panic became tremendous among the French. They frankly announced that though they much preferred the Americans, yet it would be folly to oppose armed resistance to the British; and one or two of their number were found to be in communication with Hamilton and the Detroit authorities. Clark promptly made ready for resistance, tearing down the buildings near the fort at Kaskaskia–his head-quarters–and sending out scouts and runners; but he knew that it was hopeless to try to withstand such a force as Hamilton could gather. He narrowly escaped being taken prisoner by a party of Ottawas and Canadians, who had come from Vincennes early in January, when the weather was severe and the travelling fairly good. [Footnote: Haldimand MSS. Hamilton’s letter January 24, 1779.] He was at the time on his way to Cahokia, to arrange for the defence; several of the wealthier Frenchmen were with him in “chairs”–presumably creaking wooden carts,–and one of them “swampt,” or mired down, only a hundred yards from the ambush. Clark and his guards were so on the alert that no attack was made.

Clark Receives News concerning Vincennes.

In the midst of his doubt and uncertainty he received some news that enabled him immediately to decide on the proper course to follow. He had secured great influence over the bolder, and therefore the leading, spirits among the French. One of these was a certain Francis Vigo, a trader in St. Louis. He was by birth an Italian, who had come to New Orleans in a Spanish regiment, and having procured his discharge, had drifted to the creole villages of the frontier, being fascinated by the profitable adventures of the Indian trade. Journeying to Vincennes, he was thrown into prison by Hamilton; on being released, he returned to St. Louis. Thence he instantly crossed over to Kaskaskia, on January 27, 1779, [Footnote: State Department MSS. Letters to Washington, 33, p. 90.] and told Clark that Hamilton had at the time only eighty men in garrison, with three pieces of cannon and some swivels mounted, but that as soon as the winter broke, he intended to gather a very large force and take the offensive. [Footnote: State Department MSS. Papers of Continental Congress, No. 71, Vol. I., p. 267.]

Clark Determines to Strike the First Blow.

Clark instantly decided to forestall his foe, and to make the attack himself, heedless of the almost impassable nature of the ground and of the icy severity of the weather. Not only had he received no reinforcements from Virginia but he had not had so much as “a scrip of a pen” from Governor Henry since he had left him, nearly twelve months before. [Footnote: _Do._] So he was forced to trust entirely to his own energy and power. He first equipped a row-galley with two four-pounders and four swivels, and sent her off with a crew of forty men, having named her the Willing. [Footnote: Under the command of Clark’s cousin, Lt. John Rogers.] She was to patrol the Ohio, and then to station herself in the Wabash so as to stop all boats from descending it. She was the first gun-boat ever afloat on the western waters.

His March against Vincennes.

Then he hastily drew together his little garrisons of backwoodsmen from the French towns, and prepared for the march overland against Vincennes. His bold front and confident bearing, and the prompt decision of his measures, had once more restored confidence among the French, whose spirits rose as readily as they were cast down; and he was especially helped by the creole girls, whose enthusiasm for the expedition roused many of the more daring young men to volunteer under Clark’s banner. By these means he gathered together a band of one hundred and seventy men, at whose head he marched out of Kaskaskia on the 7th of February. [Footnote: Letter to Henry. The letter to Mason says it was the 5th.] All the inhabitants escorted them out of the village, and the Jesuit priest, Gibault, gave them absolution at parting.

The route by which they had to go was two hundred and forty miles in length. It lay through a beautiful and well watered country, of groves and prairies; but at that season the march was necessarily attended with the utmost degree of hardship and fatigue. The weather had grown mild, so that there was no suffering from cold; but in the thaw the ice on the rivers melted, great freshets followed, and all the lowlands and meadows were flooded. Clark’s great object was to keep his troops in good spirits. Of course he and the other officers shared every hardship and led in every labor. He encouraged the men to hunt game; and to “feast on it like Indian war-dancers,” [Footnote: Clark’s “Memoir.”] each company in turn inviting the others to the smoking and plentiful banquets. One day they saw great herds of buffaloes and killed many of them. They had no tents [Footnote: State Department MSS. Letters to Washington, Vol.