Page images
PDF
EPUB

Since then Mrs. Motte has been classed among the distinguished heroines of the Revolution.

During the remainder of the war Marion was untiring in vigilance and activity. He rendered good service in the battle of Eutaw Springs, pursued the British in their retreat to Charleston, and took care that no detachments should be sent out from that city with impunity. He disbanded his brigade after the withdrawal of the British in 1782, taking a tender leave of his followers, who dearly loved their commander, and returned to his farm almost in a state of poverty. He was subsequently elected to the State Senate, and in 1790 was a member of the convention for framing a new State Constitution. He died in 1795, South Carolina's most famous warrior.

GEORGE ROGERS CLARK, THE WINNER

OF THE NORTHWEST

THERE were two brothers of the name of Clark, brave sons of Virginia, who won fame in the history of our country. One of these was Captain William Clark, who took part in the celebrated Lewis and Clark expedition, the first to cross the wide range of mountains and plains from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. The other was George Rogers Clark, an older brother of William. It is with his exploits that we are here concerned.

George Rogers Clark was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, November 19, 1752. Like Washington, he began his career as a land-surveyor, and like him also was soon engaged in military services, since he was captain of a company of militia in Governor Dunmore's war with the Indians in 1774. Before that time his love of adventure had led him to the wilderness of Kentucky, three years after Daniel Boone's first visit, and while it was still the "dark and bloody ground” of Indian warfare. He went there again in 1775. A few settlers had now made their homes there and for a short time Clark commanded a small body of them in their war with the Indians.

In 1776 he returned to Kentucky, now determined to make that thinly-settled wilderness his home and he soon called together at Harrodsburg a convention of the people, by whose votes he and Gabriel Jones were elected members of the Virginia assembly.

88794

He did not know whether they would be admitted to that aristocratic body, for the position of Kentucky was still an anomalous one and its people were looked upon as semibarbarous frontiersmen. They were correct in supposing that the assembly would not open its doors to representatives of the Wild West, but Patrick Henry, who was then governor of Virginia, received them kindly, and took steps for the formation of Kentucky into a county of Virginia. As such some provision for its defence was deemed necessary, and a supply of gunpowder was sent to Pittsburg and thence down the Ohio, reaching its destination after running the gauntlet of hostile Indians on both banks of the river.

Meanwhile the war of the Revolution, which was proceeding actively in the East, began to make itself felt in the West. The Indians north of the Ohio had become murderously hostile and Clark was satisfied that the British garrisons at the forts in the West were instigating them to this dreadful work, supplying them with arms and ammunition and paying them for scalps. Clark, when assured that this was the case, determined to do what he could to stop it.

There were three military posts—Detroit, on the lakes, and Vincennes and Kaskaskia, in the interior country, which were centres of the Indian incursions. Formerly French settlements, these now were under British control, and there was excellent reason to believe that their new masters were at the bottom of the cruel raids on the settlers.

Major Clark, to give him the title which he now bore, believed that these forts could be captured, and his spirit of adventure led him to undertake the enter

prise. Hitherto, while the war had been going on in the East, he had been engaged in surveying, his leisure time being employed in hunting excursions with Boone and others of the settlers, but his ambition was now aroused in the interest of his struggling country.

Making his way back to Virginia, he called on his former friend, Governor Henry, told him about his plan and how hopeful it was, and asked his aid in an expedition against the British forts. Patrick Henry, a stalwart patriot, was highly pleased with the plan, and knew enough of Clark to be satisfied that he would make a suitable leader. He therefore supplied him with the necessary funds, and commissioned him as colonel, instructing him to recruit four companies among the daring hunters and pioneers of the frontier. His orders were to “proceed to the defence of Kentucky,” this being a ruse to keep his real purpose a secret. Clark made all haste in his work and in the spring of 1778 set off with one hundred and fifty men in boats down the Ohio. When about fifty miles above the river's mouth the party left their boats and started on a long and difficult wilderness journey towards Kaskaskia.

On the 4th of July of that year, the second anniversary of American independence, a merry dance was going on in the fort at that border settlement. It was thought so far away and so safe that its defence had been left to a French officer and a company of French soldiers, and these light-hearted fellows were dancing gayly away to the sounds of a fiddle and by the light of torches thrust into the chinks of the wall. On the floor lay an Indian, looking on with lazy eyes.

Suddenly the savage sprang to his feet with a shrill war-whoop. He had seen a tall young man, dressed in a woodland garb that was evidently not French, enter the door, and in an instant suspected something wrong. The dancers huddled together with alarm as the wild cry broke out, some of them running for

their guns.

“ Don't be scared. Go on with your dance," said the stranger quietly. “But remember that you are dancing under the rule of Virginia and not of England.”

As he spoke a number of men dressed like himself glided into the rooms, spread quickly about, and laid hands on the guns of the soldiers. The fort had been taken without a blow. The French officer, Rocheblave, was in bed while this was going on. But his wife was wide awake and was quick to learn what was afoot, and hastened to thrust his papers into the fire. Enough of them was found, however, to prove what Clark suspected, that the English were seeking to stir up the Indians against the settlers. The papers were sent to Virginia, and with them went Rocheblave and perhaps his wide-awake wife.

The capture of Kaskaskia was but the beginning of Clark's enterprises. About one hundred and fifty miles to the east, in what is now the State of Indiana, was another fort called Vincennes. It lay on the Wabash River, far to the south of Detroit.

Colonel Clark wanted this fort, too, but had not men enough to take it by force, so he tried the effect of stratagem. By the aid of a French priest he persuaded the people of Vincennes that they would find the Americans better friends than the English. This they were ready enough to believe, for they had not much love for the English, who had conquered them not many years before. Persuaded by the priest, they

« PreviousContinue »