Page images

of the Big Knife, and their friends, to take possession of all the towns possessed by the English in this country; and to watch the motions of the Red People: to bloody the paths of those who attempt to stop the course of the river; but to clear the roads from us to those who desire to be in peace--- that the women and children may walk in them without meeting any thing to strike their feet against. I am ordered to call upon the Great Fire for warriors enough to darken the land, and that the Red People may hear no sound, but of birds who live on blood. I know there is a mist before your eyes. I will dispel the clouds, that you may clearly see the cause of the war between the Big Knife and the English: then you may judge, for yourselves, which party is in the right: and if you are warriors, as you profess to be, prove it by adhering faithfully to the party which you shall believe to be entitled to your friendship; and do not show yourselves to be squaws.

“The Big Knives are very much like the Red People; they don't know how to make blankets, and powder, and cloth. They buy these things from the English, from whom they are sprung. They live by making corn, hunting, and trade, as you and your neighbors, the French, do. But the Big Knives daily getting more numerous, like the trees in the woods, the land became poor, and hunting scarce; and having but little to trade with, the women began to cry at seeing their children naked, and tried to learn how to make clothes for themselves. They soon made blankets for their husbands and children; and the men learned to make guns and powder. In this way we did not want to buy so much from the English. They then got mad with us, and sent strong garrisons through our country; as you see they have done among you on the lakes, and among the French. They would not let our women spin, nor our men make powder, nor let us trade with any body else. The English said we should buy every thing from them; and, since we had got saucy, we should give two bucks for a blanket, which we used to get for one: we should do' as they pleased ; and they killed some of our people, to make the rest fear them. This is the truth, and the real cause of the war between the

the war

English and us, which did not take place for some time after this treatment.

“But our women became cold and hungry, and continued to cry. Our young men got lost for want of counsel to put them in the right path. The whole land was dark. The old men held down their heads for shame; because they could not see the sun: and thus there was mourning for many years over the land. At last the Great Spirit took pity on us, and kindled a Great Council Fire, that never goes out, at a place called Philadelphia. He then stuck down a post, and put a war tomahawk by it, and went away. The sun immediately broke out: the sky was blue again: and the old men held up their heads, and assembled at the fire. They took up the hatchet— sharpened it — and put it into the hands of our young men -ordering them to strike the English as long as they could find one on this side of the great waters. The young men immediately struck the war post, and blood was shed. In this way began; and the English were driven from one place to another, until they got weak; and then they hired you Red People to fight for them. The Great Spirit got angry at this, and caused your old father, the French King, and other great nations to join the Big Knives, and fight with them against all their enemies. So the English have become like deer in the woods; and you may see that it is the Great Spirit that has caused your waters to be troubled, because you have fought for the people he was mad with. If your women and children should now cry, you must blame yourselves for it, and not the Big Knives.

“ You can now judge who is in the right. I have already told you who I am. Here is a Bloody Belt and a White one; take which you please. Behave like men: and don't let your being surrounded by the Big Knives, cause you to take up the one belt with your hands, while your hearts take up the other. If you take the bloody path you shall leave the town in safety, and may go and join your friends, the English. We will then try, like warriors, who can put the most stumbling blocks in each other's way, and keep our clothes longest stained with blood. If, on the other hand, you should take the path of peace, and be received as brothers to the Big Knives, with their friends, the French, should you then listen to bad birds that may be flying through the land, you will no longer deserve to be counted as men; but as creatures with two tongues, that ought to be destroyed without listening to any thing you might say. As I am convinced you never heard the truth before, I do not wish you to answer before you have taken time to counsel. We will, therefore, part this evening: and when the Great Spirit shall bring us together again, let us speak and think like men with but one heart and one tongue.”

“The next day after this Speech, a new fire was kindled with more than usual ceremony; an Indian Speaker came forward and said, "They ought to be thankful that the Great Spirit had taken pity on them, and opened their ears and their hearts to receive the truth. He had paid great attention to what the Great Spirit had put into my heart to say to them, They believed the whole to be the truth; as the Big Knives did not speak like any other people they had ever heard. They now saw they had been deceived, and that the English had told them lies, and that I had told them the truth-just as some of their old men had always told them. They now believed that we were in the right: and as the English had forts in their country, they might, if they got strong enough, want to serve the Red People as they had treated the Big Knives. The Red People ought, therefore, to help us; and they had, with a cheerful heart, taken up the Belt of Peace, and spurned that of War. They were determined to hold the former fast; and would have no doubt of our friendship, from the manner of our speaking—so different from that of the English. They would now call in their warriors, and throw the tomahawk into the river, where it could never be found, They would suffer no more bad birds to fly through the land, disquieting the women and children. They would be careful to smooth the roads for their brothers, the Big Knives, whenever they might wish to come and see them. Their friends should hear of the good talk I had given them; and they hoped I would send chiefs among them, with my eyes, to see myself that they were men and strictly adhered to all they had said at this great fire, which the Great Spirit had kindled at Cahokia, for the good of all people who would attend it."

The sacred pipe was again kindled, and presented, figuratively, to the heavens and the earth, and to all the good Spirits as witness of what had been done. The Indians and the white men then closed the council, by smoking the pipe, and shaking hands. With no material variation, either of the forms that were observed, or of the speeches that were made at this council, Colonel Clark and his officers, concluded treaties of peace with the Piankeshaws, Ouiatenons, Kickapoos, Mlinois, Kaskaskias, Peorias, and branches of some other tribes that inhabited the country between Lake Michigan and the river Mississippi.

Governor Henry soon received intelligence of the successful progress of the expedition under the command of Clark. The French inhabitants of the villages of Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Post Vincennes, having taken the oath of allegiance to the state of Virginia, the General Assembly of that state, in October, 1778, passed an act which contained the following provisions, viz:- All the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia “who are already settled or shall hereafter settle on the western side of the Ohio, shall be included in a distinct county, which shall be called Illinois county: and the Governor of this Commonwealth, with the advice of the Council, may appoint a County Lieutenant, or Commandant-in-chief in that county, during pleasure, who shall appoint and commission so many Deputy Commandants, Militia officers, and Commissaries, as he shall think proper in the different Districts, during pleasure; all of whom, before they enter into office, shall take the oath of fidelity to this Commonwealth, and the oath of office, according to the form of their own religion. And all civil officers to which the inhabitants have been accustomed, necessary for the preservation of the peace, and the administration of justice, shall be chosen by a majority of the citizens in their respective Districts, to be convened for that purpose, by the County Lieutenant or Commandant, or his Deputy, and shall be commissioned by the said County Lieutenant or Commandant-in-chief.”

Before the provisions of this law were carried into effect, Henry Hamilton, the British Lieutenant Governor of Detroit, collected an army consisting of about thirty regulars, fifty French volunteers, and four hundred Indians. With this force he passed down the river Wabash, and took possession of Post Vincennes on the 15th of December, 1775. No attempt was made by the population to defend the town. Captain Helm * was taken and detained as a prisoner, and a number of the French inhabitants were disarmed.

Soon after the reduction of Post Vincennes, the situation of Colonel Clark became perilous. . Detached parties of hostile Indians began to appear in the neighborhood of his forces in the Illinois. He ordered Major Bowman to evacuate the fort at Cahokia, and join him at Kaskaskia. “I could see,” says Clark,“ but little probability of keeping possession of the country; as my number of men was too small to stand a siege, and my situation too remote to call for assistance. I made all the preparation I possibly could for the attack, and was necessitated to set fire to some of the houses in town, to clear them out of the way. But, on the 29th of January, 1779, in the height of the hurry, a Spanish merchant, [Francis Vigo] who had been at Post Vincennes, arrived and gave the following intelligence: That Mr. Hamilton had weakened himself by sending his Indians against the frontiers, and to block up the Ohio; that he had not more than eighty men in garrison, three pieces of cannon, and some swivels mounted; that the hostile Indians were to meet at Post Vincennes in the spring, drive us out of

The following anecdote is related in Butler's History of Kentucky, p. 80.--"When Governor Hamilton entered Vincennes, there were but two Americans there, Capt. Helm, the commandant, and one Henry. The latter had a cannon well charged, and placed in the open fort gate, wbije Helm stood by it with a lighted match in his band. When Ham ilton and his troops got within hailing distance, the American officer in a loud voice, cried out. Halt!' This stopped the movements of Hamilton, wbo, in reply, demanded a surrender of the garrison. Helm exclaimed, with an oath, • No man shall enter until I know the terms.' Hamilton answered, “You shall have the honors of war;' and then the fort was eurrendered with its garrison of one officer and one privale."

« PreviousContinue »