Abbildungen der Seite

quence : all the low men and the weakly hung to the trees, and floated on the old logs, until they were taken off by the canoes. The strong and tall got ashore and built fires. Many would reach the shore, and fall with their bodies half in the water, not being able to support themselves without it.

While resting at a spot of dry timbered land, a canoe of Indian squaws and children was discovered and captured together with nearly half a quarter of buffalo, some corn, tallow, kettles, &c. This was indeed a grand prize. Broth was immediately made and served out to the most weakly with great care; most of the men got a little; but a great many gave their part to the weakly, jocosely saying something cheerful to their comrades. This little refreshment and fine weather by the afternoon gave new life to the whole. Crossing a narrow deep lake in the canoes, and marching some distance, we came to a copse of timber, called the Warrior's Island. We were now in full view of the fort and town, not a shrub between us, at about two miles distance. Every man now feasted his eyes, and forgot that he had suffered anything — say. ing that all that passed was owing to good policy, and nothing but what a man could bear, and that a soldier had no right to think."*

Several men were observed out on horseback shooting ducks within half a mile of the American party; one of these was taken prisoner by some Frenchmen who had been sent to decoy one of them without alarming the rest. The information we got from this prisoner corresponded with what we had got from others on the river, except that the British had just completed that evening the wall of the fort, and that there were a good many Indians in town. “Our situation,” says Clark, “was now truly critical-10 possibility of retreating in case of defeat-and in full view of a town that had, at this time, upwards of six hundred men in it, troops, inhabitants and Indians." “Our fate was to be determined probably in a few hours. We knew that the most daring conduct could alone secure success. I knew that a number of the inhabitants wished us well—that a number was lukewarm to the interest of either.” “These were favorable circumstances; and as there was little probability of our remaining until dark undiscoversed, I determined to begin the career immediately; and wrote a letter directed to the inhabitants of the Post, informing them that “I would take possession of their fort this night, and requesting

• Clark's Memoir.

the true friends of liberty to remain still in their own houses; and those who are friends to the King to repair to the fort join the hair buying general and fight like men; or if any such should afterwards be discovered, they might depend on severe punishment.' The inhabitants were again requested to keep out of the streets. “For every one I shall find in arms on my arrival,” said Clark, "I shall treat as an enemy."

Seldom has frank notice been given to an enemy of an intended attack, and choice afforded to retire to his friends. It was resorted to in hopes that its imposing character would add to American friends, and increase the dismay of their enemies. So much did it operate in this way, that the expeditiou was believed to be from Kentucky, so impossible was it deemed in the condition of the waters, that it could come from Illinois. This idea was confirmed by several messages under the assumed name of persons known to be in Kentucky to their acquaintances in St. Vincents. Nor would the presence of Clark be credited, until his person was pointed out by one who knew him.

To mask the weakness of the American force, the soldiers had their instructions to frame their conversation before strangers, so as to lead them to believe they were at least a thousand men. There was one circumstance, which occasioned much surprise to our countrymen, which was that although a great deal of bustle was perceived in the streets of the town, and great numbers running or riding into the commons, to view the invaders; yet not a drum was heard, nor a gun was fired from the fort. In fact, as was afterwards learned, even the friends of the British were afraid to give the garrison notice of Clark's presence.

About sunset, on the 28th of February, 1779, the American party set off "in full view of the town crowds gazing at us,” to take possession of St. Vincents, marching and countermarching round some heights and displaying several sets of colors which had been brought by the French volunteers, and were now raised on poles procured for that purpose. These might be seen, yet the elevations in the plain and their oblique direction completely prevented the troops from being numbered.” “In this manner we moved and directed our march in such a way as to suffer it to be dark before we had advanced more than half way to the town: we then suddenly changed our direction, crossed ponds where we could not have been expected, and about 8 o'clock gained the heights back of the town.' Still there was no hostile demonstration on the part of the British, and the impatience of the Americans to unriddle the mystery was extreme.

For this purpose, Lieut. Bayley with fourteen men was sent to command an attack on the fort; still the fire of this party was at first attributed to some drunken Indians, who frequently saluted the fort in this manner, until a man was shot down through a port hole, when the engagement began in good earnest on both sides. The main body of the Americans had moved in a different direction, and taken possession of the strongest part of the town. Reinforcements were sent to the attacking party, while other arrangements were making in town. During the fire on the fort, when the American amunition began to grow scarce, owing to reliance upon the stores in the galley, a fortunate disclosure of both роту. der and balls was made by the owners Colonel Legras and Major Bosseron and others. This had been buried to keep it out of the hands of the British, who had threatened to take the whole of the goods in the town, for the king's use, giving bills for the same. This store well supplied our wants. The son of Tobacco, a powerful chief and a warm friend to the Long Knife, and particularly of Capt. Helm, then a British prisoner, offered his services together with a hundred warriors. The offer was, however, declined, for fear of confounding them with the hostile Indians known to be in town; but his presence and counsel were desired and readily given.

The fire on the fort continued without intermission, except for about fifteen minutes, a little before day. Our men would lie within twenty or thirty yards of the fort untouched by the enemy's cannon, owing to the awkward elevation of the platforms. They did no damage except to the buildings of the town, some of which they much shattered, while their musketry employed against men covered by houses, pailings, ditches and the banks of the river, was of no avail.

While on the other hand, no sooner was a port hole opened by the enemy, or even darkened, than our riflemen finding its true direction would pour such volleys into it, that the men could not stand to their guns. Seven or eight of them were cut down, and Clark says, that I believe, if they had stood to their artillery, the greater part of them would have been killed in the course of the night. By this terribly concentrated fire, the garrison became discouraged. Thus the attack continued until about nine o'clock in the morning of the 24th, when learning that two prisoners whom the enemy had brought in the day before, had a considerable number of letters with them, Clark supposed it might be an express, which was expected about this time. Fearful of their destruction, he sent a fierce demand of capitulation and threats of vengeance for destroying papers or letters which might be in possession of the British officer, or hurting one house in town. Lieut. Gov. Hamilton firmly replied to this unmilitary demand, “that he and his garrison are not disposed to be awed into any action unworthy of British subjects.” Our men were eager for a storm of the fort; Clark sternly repelled such rashness. The firing was heavy through every crack that could be discovered in any part of the fort. Sev. eral of the garrison were wounded, and there was no possibility of standing at the embrasures.

In the evening, the British officer finding his cannon useless, and apprehensive for the result of being taken at discretion, sent a flag desiring a truce of three days. This Clark thought imprudent to grant; although he himself daily expected a reinforcement with artillery by the arrival of his galley. He proposed in return, that the British garrison should be surrendered prisoners at discretion, and that Hamilton should with Capt. Helm meet him, at the church about eighty yards from the fort. In consequence of this cffer, the British commandant, Major Hay, Superintendent of Indian affairs, and Capt. Helm, their prisoner, met Col. Clark and Major Bowman. Terms were proposed by Lieut. Gov. Hamilton, one of which stipulated that the garrison should be surrendered on them being permitted to go to Pensacola, on parole. After some deliberation, they were rejected by Clark, who told the British officer, that his troops were impatient and called aloud for permission to tear down and storm the fort. “If such a step was taken many of course would be cut down, and the result of an enraged body of woodsmen breaking in must be obvious to him; it would be out of the power of an American officer to save a single man. Capt. Helm attempting to moderate the excited feelings of Colonel Clark, was reminded by him that he was a British prisoner, and he doubted whether he could with propriety speak on the subject. The British commander then said, that Capt. Helm was liberated from that moment; but Clark refused to accept his release on such terms; he must return to the garrison and meet his fate. The


Clark's Memoir.

British commander was then informed, that hostilities should not begin, until five minutes after the drums had given the alarm.

The officers were taking their course to their respective quarters, when Gov. Hamilton called to Col. Clark and politely inquired of him, what his reasons were for rejecting the surrender on the liberal terms which had been proposed to him. The American officer then with affected severity told him, “I know the principal Indian partizans of Detroit are in the fort, and I only want an honorable opportunity of putting such instigators of Indian barbarities to death: the cries of the widows and orphans made by their butcheries require such blood at my hands. So sacred,” continued Clark, “do I consider this claim upon me for punishment, that I think it next to divine; and I would rather lose fifty men, than not execute a vengeance demanded by so much innocent blood. If Governor Hamilton chooses to risk the destruction of his garrison for the sake of such miscreants, it was at his own pleasure.” Upon this, Maj. Hay enquired, “Who is it that you call Indian partizans ?” Clark keenly and promptly replied, “I consider Maj. Hay one of the principal ones.' The change in Hay's countenance was instantaneous, like one on the point of execution, “pale and trembling. scarcely able to stand.” Gov. Hamilton blushed for his behavior ; while Capt. Bowman's countenance expressed as much respect and sorrow for the former, as contempt for the latter. Some minutes elapsed without a word passing on cither side. From that moment, "my resolution,” says Clark, “changed respecting Hamilton. I told him, we would return to our respective posts ; that I would reconsider the matter and let him know the result by a flag. No offensive measures should be taken in the meantime. This was agreed to on both sides, and the officers parted.

On submitting the terms to the American officers, it was agreed that we should moderate our terms. They ware immediately com. municated to Gov. Hamilton, and acceded to by him.

This capitulation surrendered Fort Sackville to the Americans on the 24th of February, 1779; the garrison was to be considered "as prisoners of war, and march out with their arms and accoutrements." On the next day, the fort was taken possession of by Col. Clark, at the head of the companies of Capts. Williams and Witherington, while Capts. Bowman and McCarty received the prisoners. The stars and stripes were again hoisted over Fort Sackville which had first been elevated by Capt. Helm during the

« ZurückWeiter »