J. P Hodge.

Vincennes in picture and story. History of the old town, appearance of the new. Full colonial history, including George Rogers Clark's own account of the capture of the village online

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Online LibraryJ. P HodgeVincennes in picture and story. History of the old town, appearance of the new. Full colonial history, including George Rogers Clark's own account of the capture of the village → online text (page 5 of 26)
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well supplied by those gentlemen.

"The Tobacco's son, being in town with a
number of warriors, immediately mustered
them and let us know he wanted to join us,
saying that by the morniing he would have a
hundred men. He received for answer that we
would counsel on the subject in the morning;
and as we knew that there were a number of
Indians in and near the town, that were our
enemies, some confusion might happen if our
men should mix in the dark; but hoped that
we might be favored with his counsel and
company during the night which was agree-
able to him.

"The garrison was soon) completely surround-
ed, and the firing continued without intermis-
sion (except about fifteen minutes a little be-
fore day), until about nine o'clock the follow-
ing morning. It was kept up by the whole of
the troops joined by a few young mem of the
town who got permission, except fifty men kept
as a reserve. * * * I had made myself ful-
ly acquainted with the situation of the fort
and town, and the parts relative to each. The
cannon of the garrison was on the upper floors
of strong blockhouses, at each angle of the
fort, eleven; feet abore the surface, and the
ports so badly cut that many of our troops lay
under the fire of them within twenty or thirty
yards of the walls. They did no damage, ex-
cept to the buildings of the town, some of
which they much shattered, and their mus-
ketry, employed against woodsmen, covered by
houses, palings, ditches, the banks of the river,
etc., was but of little avail, and did no injury

*"The town immediately surrendered with joy, and assisted nt the siege." Letter, dated Kaskaskia, III.
April 29, 1779. from Colonel Clark to the Governor of Vii-j*inia.J



to us except wounding a man 1 or two. As we
could not afford to lose men, great care was
taken to preserve them sufficiently covered,
and to keep up a hot fire in order to intimidate

they were opened, that men could not stand to
the guns seven or eight of them in a short
time got cut down. Our troops would frequent-
ly abuse the enemy in order to aggravate them

the enemy as well as to destroy them. The
embrasures of their cannon were frequently
shut, for our riflemen, finding the true direc-
tion of them, would pour in such volleys when

to open their ports and fire their cannon, that
they might have the pleasure of cutting them
down with their rifles, fifty of which, perhaps,
would be leveled the moment the port flew



open; and I believe that if they had stood at
their artillery, tln> greater part of them would
have been destroyed in the course of the night,
as the greater part of our men lay within thirty
yards of the walls; and in a few hours were
covered equally to those within the walls, and
much more experienced in that mode of fight-
ing. * * * Sometimes an irregular fire, as
hot as possible, from different directions was
kept up for a few minutes, and then only a
continual scattering fire at the ports as usual,
and a great noise and laughter immediately
commenced in different parts of the
town by the reserved parties, as if they
had only fired on the fort a few minutes for
amusement, and as if those continually firing
at the fort were only regularly relieved. Con-
duct similar to this kept the garrison' constant-
ly alarmed. They did not know what moment
they might be stormed or (blown up), as they
could plainly discover that we had thrown >ip
some intrenchments across the streets, and ap-
peared to be frequently very busy under the
bank of the river which was within thirty feet
of the walls. The situation of the magazine
we knew well. Captain Bowman began some
works in order to blow it up in case our ar-
tillery shouM arrive, but as we knew that we
were daily liable to be overpowered by the
numerous bands of Indians on ths river, in
case they had again joined the enemy (the cer-
tainty of which we were acquainted with), we
resolved to lose no time, but to get the fort
in our possession as soon as possible. If the
vessel did not arrive before the ensuinig night,
we resolved to undermine the fort, and fixed on
the spot and plan of executing this work,
which we intended to commence the next day.
The Indians of different tribes that were
iminical. had left the town and neighborhood.
Captain Lamotte continued to hover about it,
in order, if possible, to make his way good in-
to the fort. Parties attempted in vain to sur-
prise him. A few of his party were taken, one
of which was Maisonville, a famous Indian
partisan. Two iads that captured him, tied
him to a post in the street and fought from
behind him as a breastwork supposing that
the enemy would not fire at them for fear of
killing him. as he would alarm them by his
voice. The lads were ordered, by an officer
who discovered them at their amusement, to
untie their prisoner and take him off to the
guard, which they did; but were so inhuman

as to take part of his scalp on the way. There
happened to be no other damage. As almost
the whole of the persons who were most ac-
tive in the department of Detroit, were either
in the fort or with Captain Lamotte, I got ex-
tremely uneasy for fear that he would not fall
into our power knowing that he would go off
if he could not get into the fort in the course
of the night. Finding that, without some un-
forseen accident, the fort must inevitably be
ours, and that a reinforcement of twenty men,
although considerable to them, would not be
of great moment to us in the present situation
of affairs, and knowing that we had weaken-
ed them by killing or wounding many of their
gunners, after some deliberation we concluded
to risk the reinforcement in) preference of his
going again among the Indians; the garrison
had at least a month's provision, and if they
could hold out, in the course of that time he
might do us much damage. A little before day
the troops were withdrawn from their positions
about the fort, except a few parties of observa-
tion, and the nring totally ceased.

"Orders were given, in) case of Lamotte's ap-
proach, not to alarm or fire on him, without a
certainty of killing or taking the whole. In
less than a quarter of an hour he passed with-
in ten feet of an officer and a party that lay
concealed. Ladders were flung over to them,
and as they mounted them our party shouted.
Many of them fell from the top of the walls
some within), and others back; but as they
were not fired on, they all got over much to
the joy of their friends. But, on considering
the matter, they must have been convinced
that it was a scheme of ours to let them in,
and that we were so strong as to care but lit-
tle about them or the manner of their getting
into the garrison. * * * The firing imme-
diately commented on both sides with double
vigor, and I believe that more noise could not
have been made by the same number of men
their shouts could not be heard for the fire-
arms, but a continual blaze was kept around
the garrison, without much being done until
about daybreak, when our troops were drawn
off to posts prepared for them, about sixty or
seventy yards from the fort. A loophole then
could scarcely be darkened, but a rifle ball
would pass through it. To have stood to their
cannon would have destroyed their men, with-
out a probability of doing much service. Our
situation was nearly similar. It would have



been imprudent in either party to have wasted
their men, without some decisive stroke re-
quired it.

"Thus the attack continued until about nine
o'clock of the twenty-fourth. Learning that
the two prisoners they had brought in the day
before had a considerable number of letters
with them. I supposed it an express that we
expected about this time, which I knew to be
of the greatest moment to us, as we had not
received one since our arrival in the country

Photo by Shores

impending storm that now threatens you, I or-
der you immediately to surrender yourself,
with all your garrison, stores, etc., etc. For
if I am obliged to storm, you may depend on
such treatment as is justly due a murderer.
Beware of destroying stores of any kind, or
any papers or letteis that are in your possess-
ion, or hurting one house' in town for, by
heavens! if you do, there shall be no mercy
shown you.
(Signed) G. R. CLARK."


and not being fully acquainted with the char-
acter of our eniemy, we were doubtful that
those papers might be destroyed to prevent
which, I sent a flag (with a letter) demanding
the garrison.."

Following is a copy of the letter which was
addressed by Colonel Clark to Lieutenant
Governor Hamilton on this occasion:

"Sir: In order to save vourself from the

The British commandant immediately re-
turned the following answer:

" 'Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton begs leave
to acquaint Colonel Clark, that he and his gar-
rison are not disposed to be awed into any
action unworthy British subjects.'

"The firing then commenced warmly for a
considerable time, and we were obliged to be
careful in preventing our men from exposing



themselves too much, as they were now much
animated having been refreshed during the
flag. They frequently mentioned their wishes
to storm the place and put an end to the busi-
ness at once. * * * The firing was heavy
through any crack that could be discovered in
any part of the fort. Several of the garrison
got wounded, and no possibility of standing
near the embrasures.

'Toward the evening a flag appeared with
the following proposals:

" 'Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton proposes to
Colonel Clark a truce for three days, during
which time he promises there shall be no de-
fensive works carried on in the garrison, on
condition that Colonel Clark shall observe, on
his part, a like cessation of any defensive
work: that is, he wishes to confer with Colonel
Clark as soon as can be, and promises that
whatever may pass between them two, and
another person, mutually agreed upon to be
present, shall remain secret till matters be fin-
ished, as he wishes that whatever the result
of the conference may be, it may tend to honor
and credit of each party. If Colonel Clark
makes a difficulty of coming into the fort, Lieu-
tenant-Governor Hamilton will speak to him
by Ihe gate.


24th February. 1179.'

"I was at a great loss to conceive what rea-
son Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton could have
for wishing a truce of three days, on such
terms as he proposed. Numbers said it was a
scheme to get me into their posession. I had
a different opinion, and no idea of his possess-
ing such sentiments; as an act of that kind
would infallibly ruin him. Although we had
the greatest reason to expect a reinforcement
in less than three days, that would at. once put
an end to the siege, I yet did not think it pru-
dent to agree to the proposals, and sent the
following answer:

" 'Colonel Clark's compliments to Lieutenant-
Governor Hamilton, and begs leave to inform
him that he will not agree to any terms other
than his surrendering himself and garrison
prisoners at discretion. If Mr. Hamilton is
desirous of a conference with Colonel Clark, he
will meet him at the church, with Captain

(Signed) G. R. CLARK.'

February 24th, 1779.'

"We met at the church, about eighty yards

from the fort, Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton,
Major Hay, Superintendent of Indian affairs,
Captain Helm, their prisoner, Major Bowman
and myself. The conference began. Hamil-
ton produced terms of capitulation 1 , signed, that
contained various articles, one of which was
that the garrison should be surrendered on
their being permitted to go to Pensacola on
parole. After deliberating on every article, I
rejected the whole. He then wished that 1
would make some proposition. I told him
that I had no other to make than what I had
already made that of his surrendering as pris-
oners at discretion. I said that his troops had
behaved with spirit that they could not sup-
pose that they would be worse treated in con-
sequence of it that if he chose to comply with
the demand, though hard, perhaps, the sooner
the better that it was in vain to make any
proposition to me that he, by this time, must
be sensible that the garrison would fall; that
both of us must (view) all blood spilt for the
future, by the garrison, as murder; that my
troops were already impatient anid called aloud
for permission to tear down and storm the
fort, if such a step was taken, many, of course,
would be cut down, and the result of an en-
raged body of woodsmen breaking in, must be
obvious to him; it would be out of the power
of an American officer to save a single man.
Various altercations took place for a consider-
able time. Captain Helm attempted to mod-
erate our fixed determination. I told him he
was a British prisoner, and it was doubtful
whether or not he could, with propriety, speak
on the subject. Hamilton then said that
Helm was from that moment liberated, and
might use his pleasure. I informed the cap-
tain that I would not receive him on such
terms; that he must return to the garrison, and
await his fate. I then told Lieutenant-Gover-
nor Hamilton that hostilities should not com-
mence until five minutes after the drums gave
the alarm. We took our leave, and parted but
a few steps, when Hamilton stopped and po-
litely asked me if I would be so kind as to
give him any reasons for refusing the garrison
on any other terms than those I had offered.
I told him I had no objections in giving my
real reasons, which were simply these: that I
knew the greater part of the principal Indian
partizans of Detroit were with him; that I
wanted an excuse to put them to death, or
otherwise treat them as I thought proper; that






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the cries of the widows and the fatherless, on
the frontiers, which they had occasioned, now
required their blood from my hands, and that
I did not choose to be so timorous as to diso-
bey the absolute commands of their author-
ity, which I looked upon to be next to divine;
that I would rather lose fifty men, than not
to empower myself to execute this piece of
business with propriety; that if he chose to
risk the massacre of his garrison for their
sakes, it was his own pleasure, and that I
might, perhaps, take it iato my head to send
for some of those widows to see it executed.
Major Hay, paying great attention, I had ob-
served a kind of distrust in his countenance,
which in a great measure influenced my con-
versation during this time. On my concluding,
'Pray sir,' said he, 'who is it that you call In-
dian partizans?' 'Sir I replied, 'I take Major
Hay to be one of the principal.' I never saw
a man in the moment of execution so struck as
he appeared to be, pale and trembling, scarcily
able to stand. Hamilton blushed, and, I ob-
served, was much affected at bis behavior.
Major Bowman's countenance sufficiently ex-
pressed his disdain for the one, and his sorrow
for the other. * * * Some moments elapsed
without a word passing on either side. From
that moment my resolutions changed respect-
ing Hamilton's situation. I told him that we
would return to our respective posts; that I
would consider the matter and let him know
the result: no offensive measures should be
taken in the meantime. Agreed to, and we
parted. What had passed, being made known
to our officers, it was agreed that we should
moderate our resolutions."

In the course of the afternoon of the 24th,
the following articles were signed, and the
garrison capitulated:

"(1) Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton engages
to deliver up to Colonel Clark, Fort Sackville,
as it is at present with all the stores, etc.

"(II) The garrison are to deliver themselves
as prisoners of war; and march out with their
arms and accouterments, etc.

"(Ill) The garrison to be delivered up at ten
o'clock to-morrow.

"(IV) Three days' time to be allowed the
garrison to settle their accounlts with the in-
habitants and traders of this place.

"(V) The officers of the garrison to be al-
lowed their necessary baggage, etc.

"Signed at Post St. Vincent (Vincennes), 24th
Feb'y., 1779.

"Agreed for the following reasons: The re-
moteness from succor; the state and quality of
provisions, etc., unanimity of officers and men
in its expediency, the honorable terms allowed,
and lastly, the confidence in a generous enemy.


Lieut.-Gov. and Superintendent."

"The business being now nearly at an end,
troops were posted in several strong houses
around the garrison, and patroled during the
night to prevent any deception that might be
attempted. The remainder on duty lay on their
arms, and, for the first time for many days
past, got some rest. During the siege I got
omly one man wounded, not being able to lose
many I made them secure themselves well.
Seven were badly wounded in the fort, through
ports. * * * Almost every man had conceived
a favorable opinion of Lieutenant-Governor
Hamilton I believe what affected myself,
made some impression on the whole and I
was i>appy to find that he never deviated, while
he stayed with us, from that dignity of con-
duct that became an officer in his situation. The
morning of the 25th approaching, arrangements
were made for receiving the garrison, (which
consisted of seventy-nine men,) and about ten
o'clock it was delivered in form; and every-
thing was immediately arranged to the best
advantage. * * * On the 27th, our galley ar-
rived, all safe the crew much mortified, al-
though they deserved great credit for their dili-
gence. They had, on their passage, taken up
William Myres, express from government. The
dispatches gave much encouragement: Our own
battalion was to be completed, and an addi-
tional one to be expected in the course of the


On the 26th of February, the next day after
the surrender of Governor Hamilton, Clark,
having information of the approach of a de-
tachment with clothing and provisions from
Detroit which was coming by boats down the
Wabash. dispatched sixty men under command
of Captain Helm, Major Boseron and Major Le-
Gras to intercept and capture them. This
force proceeding in three armed boats about



120 miles up the Wabash, surprised and cap-
tured the enemy wifh their supplies in seven
boats. These boats, containing supplies to the
value of about $50,000, were manned by forty
men who were made prisoners.

Col. Clark states that the goods, with the ex-
ception of about $4,000 worth, were divided

Photo by Shores.


among the soldiers, that amount being retained
to clothe an expected reinforcement.

Clark's eyes now turned longingly 'toward
Detroit, which he knew to be in a poor state
of defense, and he was anxious to organize an
expedition for its capture, but, embarrassed by

his prisoners, doubtful as to the attitude of
many tribes of Indians, he was in a auandary.
However, the Indians soon began to show a
pacific disposition and a number of the tribes
came to him. with overtures of peace, and
treaties were concluded.

On the 7th of March a detachment of twenty-
five men, under com-
mand of Captains
Williams and Rog-
ers, set out with the
British officers and.
eighteen privates to
conduct them to
Kentucky, whence
they were forwarded
to Virginia under
command of Captain
Rogers, who re-
ceived orders after
he reached the Falls.
Relieved in some
measure by the de-
parture of a part of
prisoners, Clark took
every possible means
to organize his de-
sired expedition
against D e t r o i t.
Promised reinforce-
ments were delayed
and Clark was con-
fronted with the
necessity of postpon-
ing his enterprise.
He made the best
possible use of the
time, however, pre-
paring the minds of
the French people of
Detroit for his ap-
pearance. The com-
pany of French vol-
unteers from De-
troit, who had been
made prisoners with
Hamilton, and who
expected to be sent
into the states and held as prison-
ers of war, w r ere lectured and paroled,
supplied with boats, arms and provisions and
told to return 'home. They did -so and so pleased
were they with their treatment that they be-
came loud in' the praise of the Americans and

Mayor Greene in Rear



created at Detroit a strong pro-American senti-

By a masterful strategy Clark had contrived
to create an exceedingly strong sentiment at the
Old rost in favor of the Detroit expedition,
while assuming an attitude of indifference or
disapproval, with a view to preventing prema-
ture knowledge of his intentions reaching that
post. In furtherance of this design, on the 20th
Df March he "set sail" on board his galley and
five armed boats, with seventy men, for Kas-
kaskia, where he arrived safely a few days
later. Lieutenant Brashear was left in com-
mand of the garrison of forty picked men, Cap-
tain Helm commandant of the town, superin-
tendent of Indian affairs, etc.

From Kaskaskia Clark directed war to be
made from Vincennes against the Delawares,
who were settled at the forks of the White
River and who had become troublesome and
had committed a number of murders. Deter-
mined to give them a lesson that would im-
press all the tribes, he ordered that no quarter
should be shown the warriors, but that women
and children should be spared. So merciless
and vigorous was the campaign that the Dela-
wares were quickly brought to terms, but, hav-
ing once broken their treaty, Clark refused to
treat with them unless they could induce some
of the neighboring Indians to become sureties
in 1 their behalf. This the Tobacco's son agreed
to do, and peace was restored.

A rendezvous had been appointed for Vin-
cennes in June, against which time it was
hoped a sufficient force would have been re-
cruited in Kentucky and Virginia for the ac-
complisihmenit of his designs against Detroit.
But in this Colonel Clark was doomed to bitter
disappointment. Less than half the expected
reinforcements arrived. The depression of the
continental currency gave him great trouble in
securing supplies. Clark returned with his
forces to Vincennes, but was compelled on ac-
count of the paucity of his resources to aban-
don the proposed expedition, and retired soon
afterward to Louisville ("the Falls") as the
most convenient spot from which to direct the
operations of the forces anid posts in the newly
acquired territory.

The conquest of the territory northwest of the
Ohio by General Clark was soon followed by
a considerable influx of emigrants from the
states, and it is stated that in the spring of
1780 no less than three hundred large "family

boats" arrived at the Falls of the Ohio, and it
may be fairly surmised that Post Vinceunes
came ini for its full share of the new popula-
tion. n the spring of 1779 Colonel John Todd,
\vlio had been appointed county lieutenant of
Illinois county, which embraced all the terri-
tory covered by Clark's conquests, visited Vin-
cennes and Kaskaskia and took steps to organi-
ize local governments suitable to the require-
ments of the people. One of his first acts was
to issue a proclamation designed to forestall the
location of all the best lands by greedy specu-
lators and adventurers. The proclamation for-
bade the location of claims in the rich lands
in the river valleys or within a league of these
lands, "unless in manner and form of settle-
ments as heretofore made by the French in-
habitants, until further orders herein given."
The proclamation also required every claimant
of lands to file with an officer, to be appointed
in each district, a description of his claim, the
name of the original grantee, with date of
grant, with vouchers, "deducing the title
through the various occupants to the present
owner." Depositions were required to estab-
lish ownership when no vouchers could be pro-

A court of civil and criminal jurisdiction,
composed of several magistrates, with Colonel
J. M. P. Legras as president, was established
at Vincennes, in the month of June, 1779. The
members of this court assuming that they were
vested with authority to grant lands, soon be-
gan to make grants in various amounts "from

Online LibraryJ. P HodgeVincennes in picture and story. History of the old town, appearance of the new. Full colonial history, including George Rogers Clark's own account of the capture of the village → online text (page 5 of 26)