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History of Lieutenant-Colonel George Rogers Clark's conquest of the Illinois and of the Wabash towns from the British in 1778 and 1779, with sketches of the earlier and later career of the conqueror online

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Online LibraryConsul Willshire ButterfieldHistory of Lieutenant-Colonel George Rogers Clark's conquest of the Illinois and of the Wabash towns from the British in 1778 and 1779, with sketches of the earlier and later career of the conqueror → online text (page 28 of 57)
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not only because of the large amount of stores secured,
but because of the capture of "Grand Judge" Dejean
and Commissary St. Martin. Such of the prisoners
as were inhabitants of Vincennes were at once set at

Of the "spoils" secured, Clark divided as gifts
among his men a considerable amount of such things
as were thought suitable for them, only retaining for
himself and his officers a small quantity of needed

been left at Fort Miami by Hamilton. His words to Gov.
Henry of April 'iO, 1779, are nearer the truth; "Hearing of
a convoy of goods from Detroit," ^tc,


clothing. There was set aside for a specific purpose
what was judged to be of the value of eight hundred
pounds sterling, in addition to the foregoing.*

On the same day that Helm reported his success
to Colonel Clark, the latter discharged a number of the
Illinois volunteers, consisting of the whole of Cap-
tain Charleville's company and a part of Captain Mc-
Carty's. Cheerfully, of course, they started for their
homes. Meanwhile, it seems, Clark had sent men
down the Wabash to bring up to Vincennes, the horses
which had been left below the mouth of the Embar-
rass on the march out.f

Hamilton, not many hours after he became a pris-
oner, if we may credit his account, feared he had
placed himself in the power of a tyrant. "The even-
ing of the day we capitulated," he subsequently as-
sure.] General Haldimand, "Colonel Clark ordered
neck-irons, fetters and hand-cuffs to be made, which,
in our hearing, he declared were designed for those of-
ficers who had been employed as partisans with the In-
dians. I took him aside and reminded him that these
prisoners were prisoners of war included in the capit-
ulation which he had so lately set his hand to. He
said his resolution was formed ; that he had made a

* "Bowman's Journal." Clark to the Governor of Vir-
ginia, April 29, 1779 — Jefferson's Works, vol. I, p. 222 n.
Jefferson to Captain Lernoult, July 22, 1779 — Calendar of
Virginia State Papers, vol. I, p. 321. Clark to Mason, Nov.
19, 1779 — Clark's Campaign in the Illinois, p. 75. Hamilton
to Haldimand, July 6, 1781 — Haldimand MSS. Butler's
Kentucky, p. 87. Clark's Memoir — Dillon's Indiana (ed. of
1859), pp. 157, 158. Appendix to our narrative, Note CVII.

t Such is the inference from a letter written by Clark to
Gov. Henry, March 9, 1779, to be found in the Haldimand
MSS. [See Appendix, Note CXXV(l)].


vow never to spare man, woman or child of the In-
dians or those who were employed with them."

"I observed to him," continued the Lieutenant-
Governor, "that these persons having obeyed my or-
ders were not to be blamed for the execution of them ;
that I had never known that they had acted contrary
to those orders, by encouraging the cruelty of the sav-
ages ; and that, if he was determined to pass by the
consideration of his faith and that of the public,
pledged for the performance of the articles of capit-
ulation, I desired he might throw me into prison, or
lay me in irons, rather than the others. He smiled
contemptuously, turned away, and ordered three of
these persons to the guard till the irons should be

But the British commander had other causes of
complaint. "The scalps of the slaughtered Indians
were hung up by our tents," he indignantly declared to
his Commander-in-Chief; "and a young man of the
name of Ramboult was brought into the fort with a
halter about his neck ; and only for the interposition of
the volunteers from the Illinois (some of whom were
his relations) he would infallibly have been hanged
without any crime laid to his charge but his having
been with a scouting party. He was half strangled
before he was taken from the tree."*

Hamilton fails to explain what was implied by the
culprit being out "with a scouting party;" fails to
make known that it meant the killing of men, women

■ * Hamilton to Haldimand, July 6, 1781. — Germain MSS.
(.See Appendix to our narrative, Note CVIII.)

* Hamilton to Haldimand, July 6, 1781. — Germain MSS.



and children indiscriminately at their homes in the
Kentucky settlements.

"Besides the provision, clothing and stores be-
longing to the King, all the private baggage of the
officers fell into the possession of Colonel Clark," is
the lugubrious assertion of Hamilton, . . . "Col-
onel Clark being arbiter of that article of the capitula-
tion by which the officers were to take their necessary
baggage."'* But private baggage was one thing;
necessar}^ baggage, quite another.

However much the Lieutenant-Governor may
have deprecated the conduct of Clark toward his
(Hamilton's) savage allies, he had really no cause of
complaint after his surrender, because of bad treat-
ment of himself or his officers from the Colonel, who,
it is evident, did not carry out his scheme of ironing
such as were partisans. On the first day of March, all
were given the freedom of the town on their signing
a parole not to go beyond its limits. f The one signed
by Hamilton (and those by the other officers were of
like tenor) was in these words :

* Id. What Lieut. Schieffelin also wrote concerning the
failure of Clark to carry out the stipulation of the surrender
relative to the "necessary baggage" of the officers, was this:
"The rebel officers plundered the British of their baggage,
etc., contrary to the faith pledged by them, by virtue of
which they yielded their arms." (Loose Notes — Magazine
of American History, vol. I, p. 187. But, it is clear, that the
right to determine what was "necessary baggage" was one
of the prerogatives of Clark.

t Schieffelin : Loose Notes. "Bowman's Journal" under
date of March 1. A copy of Hay's parole is in the Haldimand
MSS. ; that of Schieffelin is printed in his Loose Notes. But
the letter gives the impression that they were paroled the
next morning after the surrender, which is error.


"ViNCENNES, March 1, 1779.

"This certifies that I have given my parole of honor to
Col. George Rogers Clark, commanding the American forces
here, that I will not attempt to make my escape from this
place, nor will I by word or action, behave unbecoming a
prisoner at large ; neither will I in any manner convey intel-
ligence to the subjects of his Britannic Majesty in arms
against the States of America.

"In witness wherof, I hereunto sign my name without
compulsion. ..H^^^y Hamilton,

"Lieu. Gov. and Stifcriiitciident."

But Hamilton, as a prisoner, was ill at ease.
"Our soldiers" are his subsequent words, "told us that
some of the rebels had solemnly sworn to destroy
Major Hay and myself the first opportunity. As we
could not guard against any attempt in the situation
we then found ourselves, we thought it best to appear
imacquainted with any such resolution, but we were
twice in the night obliged to fly for security to Col-
onel Clark's quarters in the fort, — two men that were
intoxicated and whose names had been given us at-
tempting to shoot us in our tent. The attempt was
proven, but no punishment ensued. f

Soon after his surrender, the British commander
had been informed by Clark that he and his officers
and perhaps others of the prisoners were to be sent
east over the mountains to Williamsburg. When this
would happen the Colonel wisely declined to give any
one a hint. "We were kept in the dark," says the
Lieutenant-Governor, "as to the day of our departure,
although I had repeatedly asked it that we might have
bread baked and other necessary preparations made."*

t Hamilton to Haldimand, July 6, 1781. — Grmain MSS.
(See Appendix to our narrative, Note CIX.)

* Hamilton to Haldimand, July 6, 1781. — Germain MSS.


On the seventh, Captain Williams and Lieutenant
Rogers, with twenty-five men, set off for the Falls of
the Ohio, with Hamilton, Dejean, Lieutenant Schief-
felin, Dr. McBeath, Francis Maisonville, Mr. Belle-
fiuille. Major Hay, Captain Lamothe, Adhemar St.
Martin, and eighteen other prisoners (who had made
themselves especially obnoxious by going out with
Indian war parties) to be sent to Williamsburg, — to
which place Lieutenant Rogers had orders to guard
them from the Falls.f

The prisoners were "under guard of two armed
boats" and furnished with ten days' rations of pork
and flour to last them until their arrival "at the Falls
-fort, on the Ohio (400 miles) to row against a strong
current."! Fourteen gallons pi spirits were sent
along for the prisoners and their guard. §

Before starting, the Lieutenant-Governor and
Major Hay, by consent of Colonel Clark, wrote each
to Captain Lernoult at Detroit, asking him to allow a
Mr. Cournailler, who proposed to go to that place on
his private aflfairs, to return to Vincennes.|l

The tenth, in the afternoon," says the Lieutenant-
Governor, "we reached the Ohio, whose waters were
out in an uncommon and astonishing degree. The

t "Bowman's Journal" in the Department of State MSS.,
where several of their names are misspelled and Adhemar
St. Martin's is omitted. The spelling in the same in Clark's
Campaign in the Illinois, p. 109, is yet wider of the mark;
and there also St. Martin's name is not mentioned. (See
Appendix to our narrative, Note CX.)

I Schieffelin : Loose Notes.

§ Hamilton to Haldimand, July 6, 1781. — Germain MSS.

II Hamilton to Lernoult and Major Hay to same. — Haldi-
mand MSS. Hamilton's letter, although written on the 7th of
March, is dated the 8th.


depth above the banks [was] eighteen feet, with such
a swift current as made it very fatiguing to row, which
we all did in turn, while our guard was distributed in
four light boats. At night, we were obliged to lie in
our boat, making it fast to a tree; for the flood ex-
tended as far in the woods as the eye could reach.
We made a miserable shift with our mast and oars to
throw a cover overhead to keep out the rain, and lay
like swine, closely jammed together, having not room
to extend ourselves."

"We presently found the discipline of our guards
such," continues the Lieutenant-Governor, "as would
have enabled us to seize their arms and escape to the
Natches ; this was agitated among us, but the idea
was given up on the persuasion that our companions
left in the hands of the rebels at Vincennes would be
sufferers for it. We fell in with four Delaware In-
dians who were hunting, having only their bows and
arrows. Our escort obliged them to accompany us
part of the way, but they disappeared one day ; and we
were given to understand they were quietly knocked
on the head."*

The Falls of the Ohio was reached on the thir-
tieth when the prisoners were "marched to the Falls
fort, commanded by Captain [William] Harrod. Lit-
tle or no refreshments were to be had."t This is not
surprising. The emigrants, as well as the original
settlers upon the island, who had moved to the main-
land, and had located around the fort found it diffi-
cult to supply themselves with necessaries. Their

* Hamilton to Haldimand, July 6, 1781. — Germain MSS.

t Schieffelin : Loose Notes. The Lieutenant gives the
day of arrival at the Falls fort as the 31st; but Hamilton
says it was the 30th. I have followed the Lieutenant Governor.


new settlement which had taken the name of "White
Home," clustered around the fortification.*

Hamilton found at the Falls, as he remarks, with
much truthfulness, "a number of settlers who live in
log houses, in eternal apprehensions from the In-
dians ;"t — "the cause of all which anxiety," he could,
with truth, have added, "was, because I chose to obey
the behests of my superiors, however barbarous, rather
than resign my office ; and because I had shut my eyes
to the awful scenes of destruction and death which I
knew were constantly occurring in the Kentucky set-
tlements from these savage visitations."

The news that Fort Sackville had fallen into the
hands of the British on the seventeenth of December,
had only reached the Falls the day before the arrival
there of the prisoners, J so vigilant had been the parties
sent out from Vincennes by Hamilton ; and great, of
course, was the astonishment of the borderers to find
by ocular demonstration, that the Fort had already
been re-taken, and that before them was a number of
the enemy who had surrendered to the heroic Clark
and his gallant Americans.

From the "Falls fort," the Lieutenant-Governor
and his fellow prisoners were marched through the
woods on foot, under a heavy guard, with their nec-
essaries and provisions about one hundred miles, to
Harrodstown, which they reached on the eighth of
April. The post there they found commanded by Col-
onel John Bowman, county-lieutenant of Kentucky

* R. T. Durrett, in the Louisville Courier-Journal, August
2, 1883.

t Hamilton to Haldimand, July 6, 1781. — Germain MSS.
I Id,


county, "who treated them as well as his abilities
would admit." There they remained ten days when
they again started, "depending," says one of the pris-
oners, "on Providence for provisions" and "insulted
by every dirty fellow as they passed through the coun-
try ;* "In our long march," afterward declared the
Lieutenant-Governor, "we had frequently hunger and
thirst to encounter as well as fatigue. "f

According to Hamilton, Colonel Clark had prom-
ised to send fifteen horses to the Falls for his (Ham-
ilton's) use and those of the other officers, on their
march thence; but that promise, he declares, "never
was performed." "He had apprized us," are the Lieu-
tenant-Governor's words, "that there was but little
chance of escaping with our lives, the people on the
frontiers were so exasperated by the inroads of the
Lidians ; and, in this, we found he had told us the
truth, being often threatened upon the march and way-
laid at different places. Our guard, however, be-
haved very well, protected us and hunted for us, else
we must have starved, for our rations were long since
expended, and our allowance of bear's flesh and In-
dian meal was frequently very scanty."

"The people at the forts," Hamilton added, "were
in a wretched state, obliged to enclose their cattle
every night within the pickets, and carry their rifles to
the field when they went to plow of cut wood."| Why
these particulars should have been related by the
Lieutenant-Governor afterward, to his superior officer
can only be accounted for on the presumption that he

* Schieffelin : Loose Notes.

t Hamilton to Haldimand, July 6, 1781. — Germain MSS.



delighted in recounting them and in the remembrance
that he, of all others, had most promoted such wretch-
edness and distress to the "rebels" — men, women
and children.

As the prisoners and their guard passed out of
Kentucky, the Lieutenant-Governor, who, for over
three years had governed Detroit and its dependencies
always in a turbulent manner (and sometimes des-
potically), was forced from the West, in a bad pHght.
His capture, wherever it had become known in the
American frontier settlement, was hailed with delight ;
for the backwoodsmen all knew who it was that fitted
out many war-parties of savages carrying destruction
and death to the distracted border.

Without any suspicions of the stirring events
which had in the previous month transpired at Vin-
cennes, — without any knowledge of Clark's march
and the capture of Hamilton — without any informa-
tion of the latter being then on his way to the Vir-
ginia capital a prisoner of war, — Governor Henry,
on the sixteenth of March, wrote Washington, that
Virginia militia had full possession of the Illinois and
the post (Vincennes) on the Wabash; that he was not
without hopes the same militia might overawe the In-
dians as far as Detroit ; that these troops were inde-
pendent of General Mcintosh whose numbers al-
though upward of two thousand, he thought could not
make any great progress on account, as he had heard,
of the route they took and the lateness of the season ;
that the conquest of the Illinois and Wabash towns
was effected with less than two hundred men, who
would soon be reinforced ; and that then these mill-


tiamen, he hoped, by holding posts on the back of the
Indians, might intimidate them.*

On the eighteenth of May, the Governor of Vir-
ginia, having received information of the capture of
Hamilton, announced it to the House :

"I have enclosed a letter for the perusal of the
Assembly, from Colonel Clark, at the Illinois. This
letter, among other things, informs me of an expedi-
tion which he had planned and was determined to ex-
ecute, in order to recover Fort Vincennes, which had
been formerly taken from the British troops and gar-
risoned by those under the Colonel's command. This
enterprise has succeeded to our utmost wishes; for
the garrison commanded by Henry Hamilton, Lieu-
tenant-Governor of Detroit, and consisting of British
regulars and a number of volunteers, were made pris-
oners of war. Colonel Clark has sent the Governor,
with several officers and privates under guard, who
have by this time arrived at New London, in the
county of Bedford. Proper measures will be adopted
by the Executive, for their confinement and se-


"At length," says Hamilton, "we gained the set-
tled country, and at Lynch's ferry, on James river,
were put into canoes and continued our progress by
water." On the twentieth of May, being on shore to

* Henry's Patrick Henry, vol. Ill, p. 230.

■\ Calendar of Virginia State Papers, vol. I, pp. 315, 316;
Henry's Patrick Henry, vol. Ill, pp. 240, 241. The letter
mentioned by Gov. Henry as having been received from Clark
was the one dated at Kaskaskia Feb. 3, 1779. He of course
only got from that letter the Colonel's determination to go
against Vincennes. The residue of the information he ob-
tained, doubtless, from some person or persons who had
come on with the prisoners.


get refreshments, the Lieutenant-Governor was agree-
ably surprised to find himself at Brigadier Hamilton's
quarters, "who endeavored," the Lieutenant-Governor
afifirms, "by his ,kindness and hospitality to make
us forget our hardships." "The same evening," he
states further, "halting at the house of a rebel. Col-
onel Lewis, we had the good fortune to see two ofScers
of the Convention army. Captain Freeman, aid-de-
camp to General Reidezel was so obliging as to be the
bearer of a letter from me to General [William] Phil-
lips." He also sent one to General Haldimand, con-
taining the capitulation and some returns. On the
twenty-sixth, the prisoners were marched by a "rebel"
captain with a small force, from Beaver Dam to Rich-
mond ; thence, they were taken to Chesterfield Court
House, being "kept to its limits under a strong

B'y the middle of June, the Virginia Council had
determined to put Hamilton, Dejean and Lamothe in
irons, and confine them in the dungeons of the public
jail, — to be "debarred the use of pen, ink and paper,
and excluded all converse, except with their keeper."

"The Board proceeded to the consideration of the
letters of Colonel Clark, and other papers relative to
Henry Hamilton, Esq., who has acted for some years
past as Lieutenant-Governor of the settlement at and
about Detroit, and commandant of the British garri-
son there, under Sir Guy Carleton, as Governor-in-
chief ; Philip Dejean, justice of the peace for Detroit,
and William Lamothe, captain of volunteers, — pris-
oners of war taken in the county of Illinois."

* Hamilton to Haldimand, July 6, 1781. — Germain MSS.
Schieffelin : Loose Notes — Magazine of American History,
vol. I, p. 188. (See Appendix to our narrative, Note CXI.)


"They find," says the Board, "that Governor
Hamihon has executed the task of inciting Indians to
perpetrate their accustomed cruelties on the citizens of
the United States without distinction of age, sex or
condition, witli an eagerness and avidity which evince,
that the general nature of his charge harmonized
with his particular disposition. They should have
been satisfied from the other testimony adduced, that
these enormities were committed by savages acting
under his commission ; but the number of the procla-
mations which, at different times, were left in houses,
the inhabitants of which were killed or carried away
by the Indians, one of which proclamations is in pos-
session of the Board, under the hand and seal of
Governor Hamilton, puts this fact beyond a doubt."

"At the time of his captivity," continues the
Council, "it appears he had sent considerable bodies of
Indians against the frontier settlements of these states,
and had actually appointed a great council of Indians
to meet him at [the mouth of the] Tennessee, to con-
cert the operations of this present campaign. They
find that his treatment of our citizens and soldiers,
taken and carried within the limits of his command has
been cruel and inhuman ; that in the case of John
Dodge, a citizen of these States, which has been par-
ticularly stated to this Board, he loaded him with
irons threw him into a dungeon, without bedding,
without straw, without fire, in the dead of winter and
severe climate of Detroit ; that, in the state, he wasted
him with incessant expectations of death ; that when
the rigors of his situation had brought him so low that
death seemed likely to withdraw him from their power,
he was taken out and somewhat attended to, until a


little mended; and before he had recovered ability to
walk, was again returned to his dungeon, in which a
hole was cut seven inches square only, for the admis-
sion of air, and the same load of irons again put on
him; that appearing, a second time in imminent dan-
ger of being lost to them, he was again taken from
his dungeon in which he had lain from Janu-
ary till June, with the intermission of a few weeks
only, before mentioned ; that Governor Hamilton gave
standing rewards for scalps, but offered none for pris-
oners, which induced the Indians, after making their
captives carry their baggage into the neighborhood of
the fort [Detroit], there to put them to death, and
carry in their scalps to the Governor, who welcomed
their return and success by a discharge of cannon;
that when a prisoner, brought alive, and destined to
death by the Indians, the fire already kindled, and him-
self bound to the stake, was dexterously withdrawn,
and secreted from them by the humanity of a fellow
prisoner, a large reward was ofifered for the discovery
of the victim, which having tempted a servant to be-
tray his concealment, the present prisoner, Dejean, be-
ing sent with a party of soldiers, surrounded the
house, took and threw into jail the unhappy victim and
his deliverer, where the former soon expired under the
perpetual assurances of Dejean, that he was to be
again restored into the hands of the savages, and the
- latter, when enlarged, was bitterly reprimanded by
Governor Hamilton."

"It appears to them," the Council adds, "that the
prisoner, Dejean, was on all occasions, the willing and
cordial instrument of Governor Hamilton, — acting
both as judge and keeper of the jails, and instigating


and urging him, by malicious insinuations and un-
truths, to increase, ratlier than i-elax his severities,
liightening tlie cruelty of his orders by the manner ol
executing them ; offering, at one time, a reward to one
man [a prisoner] to be the hangman of another,
threatening his life on refusal; and taking from his
prisoners the little property their opportunities en-
abled them to acquire."

"It appears that the prisoner, Lamothe," says the
Council further, "was a captain of the volunteer scalp-
ing parties of Indians and whites, who went, from time
to time, under general orders to spare neither men,
women, nor children." Then, to begin their summing
up, the Council say :

"From this detail of circumstances which arose in
a few cases only, coming accidentally to the knowl-
edge of the Board, they think themselves authorized
by fair deduction to presume what would be the hor-
rid history of the sufferings of the many who have ex-
pired under their miseries (which, therefore, will re-
main forever untold), or who have escaped from them

Online LibraryConsul Willshire ButterfieldHistory of Lieutenant-Colonel George Rogers Clark's conquest of the Illinois and of the Wabash towns from the British in 1778 and 1779, with sketches of the earlier and later career of the conqueror → online text (page 28 of 57)