Page images

than any they had passed. Some of the men hesitated, but Colonel Clark sternly bade them to go on.

“Yonder lies the fort,” he said. “We have come too far to turn back. Follow me.” He plunged into the cold water, telling one of his officers to shoot any man who refused to follow. His example and threat were enough; they all plunged in.

The tramp before them was a frightful one. Much of the water reached to their waists. Some of it came to their necks. Yet they trudged resolutely on, holding their guns and powder above their heads to keep them dry. When dry land at length was reached some of the men were so worn out that they fell to the ground, and had to be raised and made to run up and down on the land till animation was restored.

A night's rest was here taken and the next morning, February 19, 1779, they set out for the fort, crossing the river in a boat they found and soon coming near. Meeting a Frenchman, who stared at them as at men dropped from the skies, they sent him with a letter ta Colonel Hamilton, telling him that they had come to take the fort and that he had better surrender and save trouble.

The colonel was utterly astounded. Where had these men come from? That they had crossed those miles of icy water seemed impossible. But whoever they were, he had no notion of surrendering and sent back a defiance. Soon the fort was surrounded, Clark's two cannon were thundering at it, and the Kentucky sharpshooters were making havoc with their rifle balls. All day long and far into the night this work was kept up, the wooden stronghold being much the worse for the bombardment, and early the next morning Hamilton surrendered. He asked permission to march back to Detroit, but this Clark refused, saying:

"I will not again leave it in your power to spirit up the Indian nations to scalp men, women and children."

Such was the outcome of this wonderful adventure, one of the strangest in American annals. Colonel Hamilton's papers showed that Clark was right and that he had been stirring up the Indians to their dreadful work. Even while the fight was going on some of these red demons came up with the scalps of white men and women to receive their pay. They received it in the form of bullets from the furious Kentuckians. Hamilton and his officers were sent as prisoners to Virginia, where they were confined in fetters for their work of murder.

At the end of the war, which came a few years later, it was decided that all the land which each country then held should be theirs still. The English held Canada, and they would have held the great Northwest Territory if it had not been for George Rogers Clark. To him this country owes that splendid region, out of which several large States have since been made.

This was not the end of Colonel Clark's work. A strong force of Canadians and Indians afterwards invaded Kentucky, and Clark retaliated by leading a thousand men into the Ohio country and destroying one of the Indian towns. In December, 1780, he made plans for the capture of Detroit, but the invasion of Virginia by the British prevented him from carrying them out. He was however made a brigadier-general, and in 1782, after a battle with the Indians at the Blue Licks, Kentucky, he marched against the Indians of the Miami and the Scioto, destroying five of their towns.


In 1782 he took part in an expedition against the Indians on the Wabash and about 1794 he accepted from Genet, the French minister to the United States, a commission as major-general in the French army, to conduct an expedition against the Spanish settlements on the Mississippi. Nothing came of this, and in later years infirm health put an end to General Clark's activity. He continued to live in feebleness and poverty, dying in his sixty-sixth year near Louisville, Kentucky, February 13, 1818.



THROUGH two of our country's wars, those with Great Britain in 1812-15 and with Mexico in 1847, Winfield Scott proved himself one of the ablest of soldiers, and his name stands high in the annals of military fame, as being for many years the most distinguished of American generals. He was a native of the Old Dominion, being born near Petersburg, Virginia, June 13, 1786. Of Scotch descent, he came from a family of soldiers, his grandfather being one of that brave band of Highlanders who sought to place Prince Charles, the grandson of James II., on the English throne. After the disastrous defeat of the Highlanders at Culloden, in which his elder brother was killed, he made his way to the safer land of America, becoming a lawyer in Virginia. His son William married Ann Mason, a lady of good Virginia family, Winfield Scott being the younger of their two


William Scott died when his son was five years old and the mother when he was seventeen. The boy meanwhile was sent to school in Richmond and afterwards entered William and Mary College, Virginia's oldest institute of education. Here he studied the law, and at twenty was admitted to the bar, but his early efforts at practice were not profitable and he soon left the law for the army.

Those were the days when English war vessels were seizing seamen on American merchant ships, on the pretence of their being British subjects, an injustice that roused much warlike feeling in this country. In 1807, after the attack on the frigate “Chesapeake," President Jefferson issued a proclamation closing the ports of the United States against British warships, and young Scott volunteered in a troop of horse called out under this proclamation.

In the following year the army was increased and Scott was appointed a captain in the artillery service. As such he was ordered in 1809 to New Orleans to join the division under General Wilkinson, whose duty it was to protect the frontiers of the new territory of Louisiana from British aggression. Here the youthful captain, who had not yet reached years of discretion, got himself into trouble through lack of wisdom. Wilkinson had commanded in the Southwest at the time of the treasonable acts of Aaron Burr, and Scott openly gave vent to his opinion that Wilkinson had been connected with Burr in his conspiracy.

For this indiscreet freedom of speech Scott was arrested, tried by court-martial for disrespect to his superior officer and punished by being suspended from the army for

one year. It was a well-deserved punishment and taught him a useful lesson in military discipline. But as for his year of disgrace, he made excellent use of it, entering earnestly upon the study of military art and laying the foundation of that thorough knowledge of his profession for which he afterwards became distinguished.

The war which had been long foreseen broke out in 1812, and the young soldier, then twenty-six years of age, was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and stationed upon the Canada frontier. Here began the long record of his military service.

« PreviousContinue »