George Rogers Clark

George Rogers Clark Who was George Rogers Clark? This is probably a question most people in America couldn’t answer. The reason is very simple, George Rogers Clark was a hero in an age of heroism. He simply could not compare with the legends of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other Revolutionary War heroes. Clark nevertheless is very important, especially to the people of Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana who became apart of the United States of America because of his great leadership and bravery in military campaigns at Kaskaskia, Illinois and Vincennes, Indiana during the Revolutionary War. George Rogers Clark was born in Albermale County, Virginia on November 19, 1752 to John and Ann Rogers Clark.

The Clark family consisted of six boys and four girls living on a four hundred acre plantation. George Rogers Clark was not even the most famous person in his family, his younger brother William later came to fame with his good friend Merriwether Lewis for exploring Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase. The Clark family was very well to do and influential, which enabled them to send young George to very good school, and have him tutored by some of the great minds in the region, like George Mason. George Rogers Clark had three friendships as a child that forever changed and shaped his future as a leader and revolutionary war hero. Thomas Jefferson’s father owned a nearby plantation, though there was a nine year age difference between Thomas Jefferson and George Rogers Clark, the two enjoyed a life long friendship. He was also a classmate of James Madison, who would later be a strong supporter of George Rogers Clark and his military campaigns. Last, George Mason, a future Revolutionary war statesman and member of the continental Congress was a close friend of the family, and mentor to Clark.

Thus, George Rogers Clark was born in a hotbed of heroes whose influences, along with the love and support of his family, helped to make him a courageous leader. As a young man, Clark dreamed of going to the unknown, beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mere ten-minute walk from the Clark Plantation. Clark accomplished this dream by becoming a surveyor just as his personal hero George Washington had been. In 1775, Clark began founding settlements and leading settlers into a region of the back-country claimed by Virginia, today known as Kentucky. George Rogers Clark estabilished five settlements in Kentucky and fought off Indian attacks at every single one of the settlements.

For this reason, he demanded Virginia give him support in the way of ammunition, so he could continue to protect the Kentuckians from the many Indian attacks. With the help of Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, the bill to make Kentucky a county of Virginia was created on December 7th 1776, making George Rogers Clark the founder of the commonwealth of Kentucky. George Rogers Clark was a leader and hero to all of the Kentuckians he protected from both Indian and possible British attacks. After the Revolutionary War broke out, he decided to attack the British army at their forts in Kaskaskia, Vincennes, and Detroit. George Rogers Clark who had four brothers fighting in war wanted desperately to be a part of it. Clark later wrote, It was at this period that I first though of paying some attention to the interest of the country.

And attention he did pay, from this point on he became one the greatest military leaders in American history. George Rogers Clark left Kentucky on October 1st, 1777 on his long journey back to Williamsburg Virginia to explain his plans to Governor Patrick Henry and the Virginia Legislature. He arrived on December 1st , spent one day with his parents and then set to meet with Governor Henry. Governor Henry loved Clark’s idea, and was willing to support him in any way possible, but knowing the plan was risky he only gave part of the plan to the legislature. The legislature approved a vague plan to march against and attack any of our western enemies.

Governor Henry then gave Clark two sets of instructions. The public order authorised Clark to enlist seven company’s of fifty men, he gave Clark 1200 dollars in currency,promoted him to lieutenant, and told him to proceed to Kentucky and await instructions from Governor Henry. The second, private order gave Clark total control of the troops. Though he felt it would take 500 men to make his campaign a success Clark returned to Kentucky on January 2nd with no more than 180 soldiers. The journey was very tranquil, with no attacks from Indians along the way, and on May 12, 1778 they arrived close to the Kentucky shore on Corn Island a small island of about seventy acres that lied in the middle of the Ohio River. It was here that they cut down trees and set up camp, building two rows of cabins for the troops and their families to live in and two blockhouses to store ammunition and provisions .

Corn Island was very important to the Clark’s campaign because it provided complete safety, surrounded by rushing water and trees they were protected from attacks of any kind. It allowed Clark and his soldiers to relax before going to battle. On June 24th, 1778 at 9:00 am under a total eclipse of the sun Clark and his four companies began a four day trip down the Ohio River to the mouth of the Tennessee River. The men continued on foot to the Kaskaskia River where they Procured a sufficiency of vessels to cross the Kaskaskia River to the British Fort Gage in the city of Kaskaskia. On the night of July 4th, 1778 Clark and his men took possession of the fort without firing a shot.

The story of what Clark did is much more interesting than the plain fact that they took the fort. On that night after all the inhabitants of the fort had been disarmed Clark proceeded to the British Governor’s home where Mr. Rocheblave, the acting Governor was having a party. According to the legendary account, Clark stood up in the middle of the ballroom and told all the party goers to continue with their dance, but they were now dancing under Virginia’s flag, not England’s. The importance of Clark and his small force being able to secure Kaskaskia without bloodshed is that they did not lose any soldiers or waste any of their limited supplies, but as important was the fact that Clark got the citizens of Kaskaskia to take an oath to America because he was willing to allow them the freedoms that the British never had. Thus, the residents of Kaskaskia, including Father Pierre Gibault and Francis Vigo Were very important allies to Lieutenant Clark for the remainder of his campaign.

After conquering Kaskaskia George Rogers Clark had to turn his plans to the trip to and conquering of Vincennes. Before he could get to Vincennes however, he would have to deal with the fifteen or more Indian Tribes that inhabited the valley between Kaskaskia and Vincennes, some peaceful, some warlike and some on the British payroll. Clark met with many of these Indians during his time in Kaskaskia, and it was in these meetings that Clark showed his diplomatic ability. General Clark held a conference with most of the Indians in the region. Clark and the small group he brought along were vastly outnumbered by the Indians. During this meeting George Rogers Clark gave a very eloquent and persuasive speech to the Indians, telling them of his plans to thwart the British, and states that he has no problems with them as long as they leave his men and the residents of Kaskaskia alone.

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 whichever you please. Behave like men and don’t let you present situation, being surrounded by the Big Knives(white American soldiers), cause you to take up the one belt with your hands when your hearts drink up the other.

In this statement Clark was giving the Indians the choic …