Page images

the day, if there be any cover-such as grass, a bush, a large clod of earth, or a stone as big as a bushel — they will avail themselves of it to approach the fort, by slipping forward on their bellies, within gunshot; and then, whoever appears first, gets the fire; while the assailant makes his retreat behind the smoke from the gun. At other times they approach the walls or palisades with the utmost audacity, and attempt to fire them or to beat down the gate. They often make feints to draw out the garrison on one side of the fort, and if practicable enter it by surprise on the other. And when their stock of provision is exhausted, this being an individual affair, they supply themselves by hunting; and again frequently return to the siege, if by any means they hope to get a scalp.

* Such was the enemy who infested Kentucky, and with whom the early adventurers had to contend. In the combat, they were brave; in defeat, they were dexterous; in victory they were cruel. Neither sex, nor age, nor the prisoner, were exempted from their tomahawk or scalping knife.. They saw their perpetual enemy taking possession of their HUNTING GROUND; to them the source of amusement, of supply, and of traffic, and they were determined to dispute it to the utmost of their means. In the most difficult times the Indians were obliged to retire into the woods; sometimes in pursuit of game; sometimes as to a place of safety; and, generally by night they withdrew to encamp at a distance. In these intervals the white men would plough their corn, or gather their crop, or get up their cattle, or hunt the deer, the bear, and buffalo, for their own food.”

In the summer of the year 1778, Colonel George Rogers Clark, a native of Albemarle county in Virginia, led a memorable expedition against the ancient French settlements about Kaskaskia, and Post Vincennes. With respect to the magnitude of its design, the valor and perseverance with which it was carried on, and the momentous results which were produced by it, this expedition stands without a parallel in the annals of the valley of the Mississippi. The particulars * of the

[ocr errors]

*Extracted from the MS. “Memoirs of Gen. George Rogers Clark, composed by him. sell at the united desire of Presidents Jefferson and Madison."

most interesting events that occurred in the progress of this remarkable enterprise, are here related in the plain style of the commander of the expedition.

“It was at this period,” [1775,] says Clark, in his memoir, " that I first had thoughts of paying some attention to the interests of this country.* The proprietors, Henderson and Company, took great pains to ingratiate themselves in the favor of the people; but, too soon for their interest, they began to raise on their lands, which caused many to complain. A few gentlemen made some attempts to persuade the people to pay no attention to them. I plainly saw that they would work their own ruin; as the greatest security they had for the country would be that of making it the interest of the people to support their claim.

I left the country in the fall of 1775, and returned in the spring following. While in Virginia I found there were various opinions respecting Henderson and Company's claim. Many thought it was good: others doubted whether or not Virginia could, with propriety, have any pretensions to the country. This was what I wanted to know. I immediately fixed on my plans; namely: that of assembling the people; getting them to elect Deputies; and sending them to treat with the Assembly of Virginia, respecting the condition of the country. If valuable conditions were procured, we could declare ourselves citizens of the state: otherwise we might establish an Independent Government; and, by giving away a great part of the lands, and disposing of the remainder we would not only gain great numbers of inhabitants, but in a good measure protect them. To carry this scheme into effect I appointed a general meeting at Ilarrodstown, on the 6th of June, 1776, and stated that something would be proposed to the people that very much concerned their interest. The reason I had for not publishing what I wished to be done, before the day, was that the people should not get into parties on the subject: and as every one would wish to know what was to be done, there would be a more general meeting. But, unfortunately, it was late in the evening of that day before I could get to the place. The people had been in some confusion; but at last concluded that the whole design was to send Delegates to the Assembly of Virginia, with a petition praying the Assembly to accept them as such; to establish a new county, &c. The polls were opened, and before I had arrived, they had far advanced in the election, and had entered with such spirit into it, that I could not get them to change the principle, that of Delegates with petitions to that of Deputies under the authority of the people. In short, I did not take much pains. Mr. Gabriel Jones and myself were elected; the papers were prepared; and in a few days we set out for Williamsburgh, in the hope of arriving before the Assembly, then sitting, should rise. * * * We proceeded on our journey as far as Bottetourt county, and there learned that we were too late; for the Assembly had already risen. We were now at a loss, for some time, to determine what to do; but concluded that we should wait until the fall session. In the meantime I should go to Williamsburgh, and attempt to procure some powder for the Kentuckians, and watch their interests. We parted. Mr. Jones returned to Holston, to join the forces that were raising in order to repel the Cherokee Indians, (as they had lately commenced hostilities, and myself proceeded to the Governor of Virginia.


“Mr. Henry, the Governor, lay sick at his seat in Hanover, where I waited on him, and produced my vouchers. He appeared much disposed to favor the Kentuckians, and wrote by me to the Council, on the subject. I attended them. My application was for five hundred pounds of powder, to be conveyed to Kentucky, as an immediate supply. After various questions and consultations, the Council agreed to furnish the supply; but as we were a detached people, and not yet united to the state of Virginia, and uncertain, until the sitting of the Assembly, whether we should be, they would only lend us the ammunition as friends in distress; but that I must become answerable for it, in case the Assembly should not receive us as citizens of the state. I informed them that it was out of my power to pay the expense of carriage and guards necessary for those supplies — that the British officers on our frontiers were making use of every effort to engage the Indians in the war— that the people might be destroyed for the want of this small supply—and that I was in hopes they would consider these matters, and favor us by sending the ammunition at public expense. They replied that they were really disposed to do every thing for us in their power, consistent with their office -- which I believed. After making use of many arguments to convince me that even what they proposed was a stretch of power, they informed me that they could venture no farther. An order was issued to the keeper of the magazine to deliver me the ammunition. I had for twelve months past reflected so much on the various situations of things, respecting ourselves and the continent at large, that my resolution was formed before I left the Council Chamber. I resolved to return the order I had received, and immediately repair to Kentucky, knowing that the people would readily fall into my first plan; as what had passed had almost reduced it to a certainty of success. I wrote to the Council, and enclosed the order, informing them that I had weighed the matter, and found that it was out of my power to convey those stores at my own expense, such a distance through an enemy's country - that I was sorry to find we should have to seek protection elsewhere, which I did not doubt of getting - that if a country was not worth protecting, it was not worth claiming, &c. What passed on the reception of this letter, I cannot tell. It was, I suppose, nothing more than what might be expected by a set of gentlemen zealous in the welfare of their country, and fully apprised of what they might expect to take place in Kentucky. I was sent for. Being a little prejudiced in favor of my mother country, I was willing to meet half way. Orders were immediately issued, dated August 23d, 1776, for conveying those stores to Pittsburgh, and there to await further orders from me.

“ Things being amicably settled, I wrote to Kentucky, giving information of what I had done; and recommended them to send to Pittsburgh, and convey the ammunition by water to

their own country. This they never received. I waited until the fall session, when I was joined by my colleague, Mr. Jones. We laid our papers before the Assembly. They resolved that we could not take our seats as members; but that our business should be attended to. Colonel Henderson, one of the purchasers of the Cherokees, being present, retarded our business. Colonel Arthur Campbell, one of the members, being also opposed to our having a new county, wished us annexed to the county on the frontiers of which we lay, and which he represented. This caused it to be late in the session * before we got a complete establishment of a county by the name of Kentucky. * The commandants of the different towns of the Illinois and Wabash, I knew were busily engaged in exciting the Indians. Their reduction became my first object; expecting, probably, that it might open a field for further action. I sent two young hunters to those places in the summer of 1777] as spies, with proper instructions for their conduct, to prevent suspicion. Neither did they, nor any one in Kentucky ever know my design until it was ripe for execution. They

December 7, 1776.

Silas Deane, who early in 1776 was commissioned by authority of Congress to go to France as a political and commercial agent, wrote as follows to the Committee of Secret Correspondence:

"PARIS, 1st December, 1776. "To effect any considerable loan in Europe is perhaps difficult. * * * It is obvious, that let the loan be made when it will, it must have a day fixed for payment, and respect to some fund appropriated to that purpose. The relying on future taxes is holding up to the people a succession of distresses and burthens wliich are not to cease even with the war itself; whereas, could they have a prospect of paying the expenses of the war at the close of it, and enjoying the remainder of their fortunes clear of incumbrance, it must greatly encourage and animate both the public and private spirit in pushing it on with vigor. * * * The good and wise part, the lovers of liberty and human happiness, look forward to the establishment of American freedom and independence as an event, which will secure to them and their descendants an asylum from the effects and violence of despotic power, daily gaining ground in every part of Europe. From these and other considerations on which I need not be minute, emigration from Europe will be prodigious, immediately on the establishment of American independence. The consequence of this must be the rise of the lands already settled ; and a demand for new or uncultivated Jand. On this demand I conceive a certain fund may now be fixed. * * * I trace the river Ohio from its junction to its head, thence north to Lake Erie, on the south and west of that lake to Fort Detroit, which is in the latitude of Boston ; thence a west course to the Mississippi, and return to the place of my departure. These three lines, of near one thousand miles each, include an immense lerritory in a fine climate, well watered, and by accounts exceedingly fertile: it is not in.

« PreviousContinue »