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Ldot Vets - The American Revolution 1775-1783

George Rogers Clark and The Battle of Vincennes

February 23, 1779

King George III's Proclamation of 1763 gave the Indians the land west Appalachian Mountains for their Hunting Grounds. The British used this to their advantage. Colonel Henry Hamilton of the British Army paid the Indians for any colonist scalps. This, of course, encouraged the Indians to attack the white colonists and at the same time protected the British because they did not want to lose the money they were receiving. Colonel Hamilton's nickname was "hair buyer."

Colonel Hamilton was in command of Detroit, but Kaskaskia and Vincennes were two other towns with a lot of British power. In all three towns the British would supply the Indians with arms and ammunition that would be used against the Colonists. George Rogers Clark convinced the Virginia assembly to give him money to put a militia together to capture these three British strongholds.

On June 24, 1778, Clark and 120 men left Redstone, Virginia and arrived at Kaskaskia on July 4th. Without firing a shot, Clark was able to take control of Kaskaskia and all the French Canadians living there pledged allegiance to the Colonies. Clark was able to convince Father Gibault, the French priest of Kaskaskia, to travel to Vincennes and ask the people there to also pledge allegiance to the Colonies. Father Gibault told the residents of Vincennes of the spiritual value in uniting with the Colonists. Somehow, he was able to get all the residents to pledge allegiance to the Colonies and soon an American flag was flying in every home.

Soon Colonel Hamilton in Detroit heard how Kaskaskia had fallen to the Colonists and then how the Vincennes' residents had turned against Britain. He left Detroit in December 1778 with thirty soldiers, fifty French volunteers and four hundred Indians and had taken back control of the Fort.

Clark was in Kaskaskia, Indiana just east of the Mississippi River. It was 240 miles almost directly eastward to reach Vincennes. The winter was cold and Clark knew that the Wabash River would probably be flooded, but in early February Clark and his men set out for Vincennes with forty-six men.

On February 23, 1779 Clark and his group were within three miles of the Fort at Vincennes. They were able to take a British prisoner who told them everything they needed to know. Clark knew he was outnumbered, so he devised a plan to make it seem that there were a lot more men than forty-seven storming the Fort. Vincennes sat on the top of a mountain. He had his men march around in a circle around the fort. The British and the Indians thought there were thousands of soldiers outside. The Indians ran for their safety. That left about 150 British soldiers inside the fort.

Finally, Clark sent in a flag of truce and asked Colonel Hamilton to surrender. Clark would not accept Hamilton's terms, because he thought Hamilton to be a barbarian. To convince Hamilton that surrendering would be his only choice, he took two Indian prisoners and with a tomahawk killed them in front of the Fort. Colonel Hamilton and his men surrendered. One of Clark's French volunteers from Kaskaskia, St. Croix, was put in charge of killing the prisoners sentenced to death. When St. Croix lifted the tomahawk to kill a prisoner, a boy cried out "Save me." St. Croix recognized the voice of his son, who was covered with Indian war paint. George Rogers Clark spared his life.

George Rogers Clark was a young man, who was more of a frontiersman than a soldier, but he led his small Army to a victory that would prevent the British from ever having control over the Midwest.

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July 15, 1779 - The Battle of Stony Point

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