Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

mg degree ; particularly as the secrecy indispensable to success, forbade the communication of the plan to the Legislature.

The Governor held several private conferences on this interesting subject with several gentlemen of high character, who inquired minately into Clark’s plans, and particularly into his proposition of Tetreating to the Spanish possessions, on the west side of the Mississippi, in case of a repulse, which seems to have been anticipated quite saturally.

The result of these deliberations was a full approbation of the shole scheme; and in order to encourage men to enlist in the expedition some patriotic gentlemen*, like worthy sons of the ancient unterrified Dominion, pledged themselves by an instrument of writing to exert their influence to obtain from the Legislature a bounty of 300 acres of land for every person in the expedition.

The Executive and Council now entered so warmly into the scheme, that everything was expedited with “very little trouble to Clark."

On the 2d of January, 1778, he received two sets of instructions;t one public, directing him to proceed to Kentucky for its defence; the other secret, ordering an attack on the British post at “Kaskaskia.” The humane and enlarged spirit in which these instructions of the great Henry are penned, reflect honor on the councils of Virginia amid the provocations of a relent'ess enemy. They form a monument of durable glory in the revolutionary annals of that noble State. Twelve bundreå pounds (in depreciated paper it is presumed,) were advanced to Col. Clark, with orders on the Virginia officer at Fort Pitt, (still in the possession of Virginia,) for ammunition, boats and other necessary equipment. Major William B. Smith was dispatched to the settlement on Holston in the south-western part of Virginia, to obtain recruits; Captains Leonard Helm, of Fauquier, Joseph Bowman, of Frederick, William Harrod, and several others, to other quarters. It was desirable that the troops should be raised west of the Blue Ridge, so as not to weaken the defence of the Atlantic coast.

Clark set off on this most adventurous and daring expedition, on the 4th of February, 1778, "clothed with all the authority he could wish."

Messrs. Geo. Wythe, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson in a letter to George Rogers Clark, Esq., January 30, 1778.

† Appendix.

At Fort Pitt, he met with some difficulties arising from the disputed dominion between Pennsylvania and Virginia over that point. Many thought the detachment of troops even to Kentucky, was a wanton dispersion and division of the strength of the State. The secrecy of the real destination of the expedition and the ostensible one of Kentucky, led some to declare that it were better to remove the Kentuckians, than to weaken the country by their defence. Little did these objectors know the innate vigor and indomitable energy of the backwoodsmen of Kentucky and the West, which had led them to these outposts in the wilderness, when they talked of removing them, like so many dead chattels, out of the country selected by their heroism.

At this very time, Clark received letters from Kentucky informing him of their increased strength since he had left them; and from Major Smith, that he had raised four companies for the expedition, among the people in Holston. This intelligence together with the knowledge that Capts. Helm and Bowman's companies would join him at Redstone, (the present Brownsville, on the Monongahela,] rendered Col. Clark less strenuous in urging his levies about Fort Pitt.

It was late in the season, before he could depart with three companies, and “a considerable number of families and private adventurers.' The voyage was prosecuted, as it required, with

great caution.

At the mouth of the Great Kenhawa, Col. Clark was pressed by a Capt. Arbuckle commanding the fort at that point, to join him in pursuit of a party of 250 Indians, who had attacked him the day before, and who had now directed their course against the settlements on Greenrbiar river in Virginia. The temptation of probable success was great; but the importance of his own expedition was greater, and fortunately for his country, Clark knew his duty too well, and discharged it too faithfully, to be diverted from the execution of his orders. He continued his course to the mouth of the Kentucky river; here he landed, and at first, thought of fortifying a post at the mouth of that river. Looking, however, to his more western destination, he very judiciously abandoned this intention for a more desirable position at the Falls of Ohio. Here, the craft employed in the river traffic, would be compelled to stop, in order to prepare for the passage of the Rapids; and which without fortification would be much exposed to the hostilities of the Indians. At the former point, Clark had the mortification to bear, that but one company had arrived in Kentucky of four promised by Major Smith. He immediately wrote to Col. Bowman, informing him of his intention to fix a post at the Falls; and requesting him to bring on the men raised by Smith with as many others as could be spared from the interior stations. Clark proceeded with his troops to the Falls ; where he selected and fortified Corn Is. land, opposite to the present flourishing city of Louisville.

On the arrival of Col. Bowman's party, the forces of the country were found too small, to justify taking many soldiers from Kentucky. Clark therefore engaged but one company, and part of another from this quarter, expecting them to be replaced by the troops of diajor Smith. Now the real destination of the expedition to Kaskaskia was disclosed to the troops; and most honorably to the gallant feelings of the times, the plan was ardently concurred in, by all but one company. The boats were ordered to be well secured, and sentries were placed where it was supposed the men might wade across to the main shore. These precautions did not prevent the desertion of one whole company, which was visited with the indignation of the country and great personal distress to themselves.

On the 24th of June, 1778, when the sun was in a total eclipse, the boats passed the Falls.* This circumstance divided the opinions of the men in their prognostications, but without the terror and alarm that are read of in many ancient armies and states. Our backwoodsmen were either too sensual, or too spiritual, to entertain these imaginary terrors. All the baggage, except that which was necessary to equip the party in the barest Indian man. ner, was left behind in the fort, or station on Corn Island. This was necessary as the commander had determined, in order to mask his operations to march to Kaskaskia by land from the nearest point on the Ohio river.

Col. Clark had for sometime meditated a blow at St. Vincents, now better known as Vincennes on the Wabash, but on reviewing his little body, after a rigid selection, he found it to consist of but four companies, under Capts. Jo. Montgomery, Leonard Helm, Joseph Bowman and William Harrod. This weakness determined our hero to persevere in his original destination. The facility of retreat to the Spanish possessions, as well as the dispersed

• This date is verified by Ferguson's Tables of Solar Eclipses.

state of the French settlements in the Illinois, as it was called, seems to have had great weight in adopting this resolution. Το this was added a hope, that he might attach the French to the American interest, whose influence over the Indians throughout the remote regions of the north-west, had been strengthened by time, and maintained with a tact and versatility, which two centuries have not diminished. To this day, our Indian interpreters, our spies, and many of the subordinate Indian agents are Frenchmen who discharge their duties with unrivalled success. Spaniards have always been much despised by the Indians, and are so still on the Mexican frontier; the English are not much regarded ; our own countrymen are hated and dreaded; but the French are beloved. They have more successfully amalgamated with the natives of the forest, than any other European nation; moreover they have not aimed at the conquest and possession of the Indian hunting grounds like the English and ourselves.

On the passage down the river, Col. Clark most fortunately received a letter from Col. Campbell of Fort Pitt, formerly mentioned, informing him of the French alliance, an event of the utmost importance to these operations against the ancient rivals and en emies of the French name.

The party proceeded successfully on their adventurous way; when they had reached the mouth of the Tennessee, they were overtaken by one John Duff with a party of hunters. These persons though Americans had recently come from Kaskaskia, and communicated the important information, that M. Rocheblave commanded at that place, and kept the militia in good order; that spies were stationed on the Mississippi, and that all Indians and hunters were ordered to keep a sharp look out for the rebels. The fort they reported to be kept in good order, as a place of retreat, but without a regular garrison; and the military defence to be kept up as a matter of parade, rather than from any expectation of a necessity to guard against attack. Indeed, who could have expected a military expedition from Kentucky at that day of feebleness; and still less from the remoter parts of Virginia ? Still, if this should be anticipated, the force of the place was capable of giving the Americans a warm reception; the inhabitants were said to be led by the British to entertain the most horrid apprehensions of the Bostonais (as our countrymen were called by the French) as more barbarous than the Indians themselves. But, said these informants, if the place could be surprised, there could be no doubt of our capturing it; they moreover offered their services to effect this result, and even solicited to be employed. The offer was readily accepted; the intelligence was most opportune, indeed, in the absence of any other, since the return of Clark's spies during the previous year.

One portion of this information particularly pleased Col. Clark, and which determined him to employ it to promote his purposes ; it was the dread and horror, in which our countrymen were held by the inhabitants. Ia consequence of this apprehension, he thought the more violent the shock might be, which bis arrival should produce, the stronger would be the sensibility to his lenity so little to be expected from the notorious barbarians, they were represented to be. In fact, Col. Clark determined to turn the national prejudice, which had been excited by the enemy, in his own favor, and employ it as an auxiliary to bis diminutive force.

Everything being ready for the march, the boats were dropped down a short distance above the site of Fort Massac, below the mouth of the Tennessee, forty miles above the mouth of the Ohio, (contracted it is said by some, from Massacre,) where they were concealed; and the party took up their toilsome march through swamp, and over deep and muddy creeks with their commander at their head, sharing in every respect the condition of his men. They pursued a north-west direction through the south-western portion of the present State of Illinois, to the ancient French village of Kaskaskia. The march was attended by little that was unusual in these times of privation, beyond the ordiuary sufferings of expeditions through the forest and the wilderness. Game and water were, however, scarce ; but this did not affect these hardy men so much, as the bewilderment of their guide.

On the third day's march, John Saunders, the principal guide, became so confused that he had lost all recollection of the features of the country. This excited immediate suspicion, and a general cry arose among the men, to put the traitor to death. He solicited permission of the Colonel, to go into a prairie, which was full in view, to try and recover himself. His application was granted; but some men were sent with him, to prevent his escape, and he was sternly told, that if he did not conduct the detachment into the hunters' road, which led into Kaskaskia from the east, and which he had frequently described and travelled. leading through

« ZurückWeiter »