Page images
PDF
EPUB

38. George

Rogers
Clark's

capture of
Vincennes,

SIR,

Passy, December 17, 1782

I received the letter your Excellency did me the honor of writing to me on the 15th instant. . . . Nothing has been agreed in the preliminaries contrary to the interests of France; and no peace is to take place between us and England, till you have concluded yours. Your observation is, however, apparently just, that in not consulting you before they were signed, we have been guilty of neglecting a point of bienséance [courtesy]. But as this was not from want of respect for the King, whom we all love and honor, we hope it will be excused, and that the great work, which has hitherto been so happily conducted, is so nearly brought to perfection, and is so glorious to his reign, will not be ruined by a single indiscretion of ours. And certainly the whole edifice sinks to the ground immediately, if you refuse on that account to give us any further assistance. . . .

It is not possible for anyone to be more sensible than I am of what I and every American owe to the King, for the many and great benefits and favors he has bestowed upon us. All my letters to America are proofs of this; all tending to make the same impressions on the minds of my countrymen, that I felt in my own. And I believe, that no Prince was ever more beloved and respected by his own subjects, than the King is by the people of the United States. The English, I just now learn, flatter themselves they have already divided us. I hope this little misunderstanding will therefore be kept a secret, and that they will find themselves totally mistaken. With great and sincere respect, I am, Sir, &c. B. Franklin

THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR

Among the little group of intrepid men who made the wonderful midwinter march from the Mississippi to the Wabash with George Rogers Clark in 1779, was Captain February 24, Joseph Bowman, whose journal of the expedition first appeared in print in the Louisville Literary News of November 24, 1840, from an original manuscript in the

1779

[126]

possession of the Kentucky Historical Association. The journal covers the period from January 27, when Clark at Kaskaskia heard the news of Governor Hamilton's seizure of Vincennes, to March 20, when the six boats conveying Clark's band and their British captives, "after rejoicing, were run out of sight" down the river on their return journey to the Mississippi post.

Jan. 27 [1779]. Mr. Vigo, a Spanish subject, who has been at Post St. Vincent [Vincennes] on his lawful business, arrived and gave us intelligence that Governor Hamilton, with thirty regulars and fifty volunteers and about four hundred Indians, had arrived in November and taken that post, with Captain Helm and such other Americans who were there with arms . . . and disarmed the settlers and inhabitants, on which Colonel Clark called a council of his officers, and it was concluded to go and attack Governor Hamilton at St. Vincent.

Jan. 31st. Sent an express to Cahokia for volunteers and other extraordinary things.

Feb. 1st. Orders given for a large batteau [boat] to be repaired and provisions got ready for the expedition concluded on.

5th. Raised another company of volunteers, under the command of Capt. Francis Charleville, which, added to our force, increased our number to one hundred and seventy men .... about three o'clock we crossed the Kaskaskia with our baggage, and marched about a league from town. Fair and drizzly weather. Began our march early. Made a good march for about nine hours. The road very bad with mud and water. Pitched our camp in a square, baggage in the middle, every company to guard their own squares.

8th. Marched early through the waters, which we now began to meet in those large and level plains, where from the flatness of the country [the water] rests a considerable time before it drains off; notwithstanding which our men were in great spirits, though much fatigued. . . .

12th. Marched across Cot plains; saw and killed a number of buffaloes. The road very bad from the immense quantity of rain

that had fallen. The men much fatigued. . . . Now twenty-one miles from St. Vincent. . . .

15th. Ferried across the two Wabashes, it being then five miles in water to the opposite hills, where we encamped. Still raining. Orders not to fire any guns for the future, but in case of necessity. 16th. Marched all day through rain and water; crossed Fox river. Our provisions began to be short. . . .

22d. Colonel Clark encourages his men, which gave them great spirits. Marched on in the waters.... Heard the evening and morning guns from the fort. No provisions yet. Lord help us!

23d. Set off to cross the plain called Horse-shoe Plain, about four miles long, all covered with water breast high. Here we expected some of our brave men must certainly perish, having frozen in the night and so long fasting. Having no other resource but wading this plain, or rather lake, of waters, we plunged into it with courage, Colonel Clark being first, taking care to have the boats try to take those that were weak and numbed with the cold into them. Never were men so animated with the thought of avenging the wrongs done to their back settlements as this small army was. About one o'clock we came in sight of the town. We halted on a small hill of dry land called Warren's Island, where we took a prisoner, hunting ducks, who informed us that no person suspected our coming at that season of the year. Colonel Clark wrote a letter by him to the inhabitants, in the following manner:

To the Inhabitants of Post St. Vincent:

Gentlemen: Being now within two miles of your village with my army, determined to take your fort this night, and not being willing to surprize you, I take this method to request such of you as are true citizens, and willing to enjoy the liberty I bring you, to remain still in your houses, and those, if any there be, who are friends to the king, will instantly repair to the fort and join the Hair-buyer General1 and fight like men. And if any such as do not go to the fort shall be discovered afterwards, they may depend on severe punishment. On the contrary, those who are true friends to liberty may depend

1 Governor Hamilton had offered rewards to the Indians for the scalps of Americans.

on being well treated; and I once more request them to keep out of the streets, for every one I find in arms on my arrival I shall treat as an enemy. G. R. Clark

After wading to the edge of the water breast high we mounted the rising ground the town is built on about eight o'clock [p.m.]. Lieutenant Bailey, with fourteen regulars, was detached to fire on the fort while we took possession of the town. . . . The cannon played smartly. Not one of our men wounded. Men in the fort badly wounded. Fine sport for the sons of Liberty.

...

24th. As soon as daylight, the fort began to play her small arms very briskly. One of our men got slightly wounded. About nine o'clock the colonel sent a flag with a letter to Governor Hamilton. The firing then ceased, during which time our men were provided with a breakfast, it being the only meal of victuals since the 18th inst.

Colonel Clark's Letter, as follows:

SIR: In order to save yourself from the impending storm that now threatens you I order you to surrender yourself, with all your garrison, stores, etc., etc., etc. For, if I am obliged to storm, you may depend on such treatment as is justly due to a murderer. Beware of destroying stores of any kind, or any papers or letters that are in your possession; for, by heaven, if you do, there shall be no mercy shown you. G. R. Clark

Answer from Governor Hamilton:

Governor Hamilton begs leave to acquaint Colonel Clark that he and his garrison are not disposed to be awed into an action unworthy of British subjects.

The firing then began very hot on both sides. None of our men wounded; several of the men in the fort wounded through the port-holes, which caused Governor Hamilton to send out a flag with the following letter:

Governor Hamilton proposes a truce for three days. . . . He wishes to confer with Colonel Clark as soon as can be.... If Colonel Clark makes a difficulty of coming into the fort, Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton will speak to him by the gate. Henry Hamilton

Colonel Clark's Answer

Colonel Clark's compliments to Governor Hamilton, and begs to inform him that he will not agree to any other terms than that of Mr. Hamilton's surrendering himself and garrison prisoners at discretion. If Mr. Hamilton is desirous of a conference with Colonel Clark, he will meet him at the church with Captain Helm.

G. R. C.

The messenger returned with the above answer, during which time came a party of Indians down the hill behind the town, who had been sent by Governor Hamilton to get some scalps and prisoners from the falls of the Ohio. Our men having got news of it pursued them, killed two on the spot, wounded three, took six prisoners — brought them into town. . . brought them to the main street before the fort gate, there tomahawked them and threw them into the river, during which time Colonel Clark and Governor Hamilton met at the church. Governor Hamilton produced certain articles of capitulation, with his name signed to them, which were refused. The Colonel told him he would conIsult with his officers and let him know the terms he would capitulate on. Terms as follows:

1. The Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton engages to deliver up to Colonel Clark Fort Sackville as it is at present, with all the stores, etc., etc., etc.

2. The garrison are to deliver themselves as prisoners of war, and march out with their arms and accoutrements etc., etc.

3. The garrison to be delivered up at 10 o'clock tomorrow. . . . Signed at Post St. Vincent, 24th February, 1779.

Agreed to, for the following reasons: The remoteness from succor, the state and quantity of provisions; unanimity of officers and men in its expediency, the honorable terms allowed, and, lastly, the confidence in a generous enemy.

Henry Hamilton

25th. About ten oclock Capt. Bowman's and Capt. McCarty's companies paraded on one side of the fort gate. Governor Hamilton and his garrison marched out, while Colonel Clark, Capt. William's and Worthington's companies marched into the

« PreviousContinue »