William Hayden English.

Conquest of the country northwest of the river Ohio, 1778-1783; and life of Gen. George Rogers Clark. Over one hundred and twenty-five illustrations. With numerous sketches of men who served under Clark .. online

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Online LibraryWilliam Hayden EnglishConquest of the country northwest of the river Ohio, 1778-1783; and life of Gen. George Rogers Clark. Over one hundred and twenty-five illustrations. With numerous sketches of men who served under Clark .. → online text (page 12 of 38)
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blissful ignorance of the fact that Hamilton had not onl}^
been in possession of Vincennes for some time, but had
sent a detachment of thirty or forty men to hover about
Kaskaskia, and the road between that place and Cahokia,
with a view of capturing Clark, if possible, or some of his
command. At the very time Clark left Kaskaskia this
force was in the Illinois country, and some of the advance
scouts had reached the road he was to follow, and were
then only a few miles from the town.

They did not, however, attack Clark's party, as they
might, perhaps, have done successfully. The Americans
were not suspecting danger, and one of the vehicles in which
the citizens were riding mired down at the crossing of a
creek, and detained the party for an hour. The British
scouts, probably, feared they were too few in numbers to


attack the Americans. At all events the}^ did not attempt
it. judging from the way Clark speaks of the affair in the
Mason letter, he evidently thought it was a close call for
his libert}-, or life, but it is not likely he knew the danger
he was in until some time afterwards.

It was known at the o-av French villao^e of Prairie du
Rocher that Clark and his party were expected there early
in the evening, and it had been arranged to honor them
with a grand ball. The ball came off accordingly, and
with all the cordiality, vigor, and vivacity for which these
Creoles were famous, especially the ladies. But about
midnight, when the enjoyment was at its height, a messenger
arrived, in hot haste, with the startling intelligence that
the British were marching on Kaskaskia, and only three
miles away.

The excitement and consternation produced at the ball
by this news was, on a smaller scale, akin to that at the
famous ball preceding the battle of Waterloo, described by
Byron, when there was ''Whispering with white lips —
The foe! They come! they come!" But, unlike Water-
loo, this proved to be a false alarm, originating presumably
from the proximity of the scouting party before referred
to. It was at the time, however, regarded by them all as a
reality of the most alarming character — not only involving
the inhabitants of the little village, which was only four-
teen or fifteen miles from Kaskaskia, but probably the life
of Colonel Clark, and the success of the American cause.
The colonel started an express at once, with orders to Cap-
tain Bowman at Cahokia to come to Kaskaskia immedi-
ately, with such forces as could be spared.


The necessity of the return of Clark to Kaskaskia, with
the least possible dehi}-, was so apparent that he braved
every danger and had the good fortune to get back safely
the same night. He proceeded immediately to put things
in readiness to receive the enemy. There was much ex-
citement and alarm in the town. Father Gibault was in
''the greatest consternation/' and not without reason, for
he had rendered such efficient services to the Americans that
he might well expect to be harshly treated, if captured by the
British. Seeing the good priest's trouble, Clark, with his
usual delicate tact, got him out of the way b^• sending him
to the Spanish side of the Mississippi, under the pretext of
looking after some important business. But Gibault had
the bad luck, in attempting to cross, to be caught in the ice
at an island, w^here he had to remain for several days in
much distress, with onl}- a servant for company.

In the meantime the enemy did not come, although con-
fidently expected. Some dwelling-houses were so close to
the fort that the)^ interfered w^ith a proper defense and Clark
unhesitatingly burned them. He relied but little on the
assistance of the inhabitants. A conference with them,
the next morning after his return, displeased him for the
time, although the poor people, in their great confusion
and distress, doubtless wished to do for the best. There
was one to whom Clark knew he could look with perfect
confidence, and that was the faithful and always reliable
Bowman. He says, ^'the only probable chance of safety
w^as Captain Bowman's joining me, which I expected the
next evening down the Mississippi." He did not expect
in vain, for a little later on he adds, 'Hhe weather clearing
away Captain Bowman arrived the following day with his


own (company) and a compan}^ of volunteers from Cohos.
We now began to make a tolerable appearance, and seemed
to defv the enemv.'' ^'

It will be noticed that this re-enforcement was made with
remarkable rapidity and success. The messenger left
Prairie du Rocher after midnight, and although the distance
to Cahokia was about forty- live miles, and the way through
a comparatively wild and unsettled country, the message
was delivered the next day. Bowman at once rallied two
companies, traveled all night, and reached Kaskaskia, over
sixty miles distant, the day following. This gallant soldier
was rapidly wearing out his life in the service of his coun-
tr}^ In less than eight months thereafter he was in his
grave, at Vincennes, the victim of excessive labor, exposure,
and an injury received at the capture of Fort Sackville.

After Bowman's arrival spies were sent in every direc-
tion to locate the enemy, hoping, Clark says, that ''we
might get some advantage of them, choosing, for many
important reasons, to attack them, two to one, in the field,
rather than suffer them to take possession of the town,
which, by the form and manner of picketing the yards
and gardens, was very strong. . . . Our spies return-
ing found that the great army that gave the alarm consisted
of only about forty whites and Indians, making their re-
treat, at fast as possible, to St. Vincents — sent for no other
purpose, as we found after, than to take me. We were
now sensible that St. Vincents was in possession of the En-
glish, and consequently we might shortly expect an attack,
though in no danger at present, and had some time to make

*Letter to Mason.




Hamilton an instigator of Indian raids against American frontiers — Contrast
between Clark and Hamilton as to employing Indians — News of Clark's in-
vasion received at Detroit — Campaign to regain possession determined upon —
Forces to be used mainlj Indians — Departure of expedition — Hamilton de-
fends character of Indians, but assails the French — Incidents of the journej- —
Americans taken by surprise — Surrender to vastly superior numbers — Ludi-
crous incidents connected therewith — Detachments of British and Indians
sent to other points — Hamilton praises the sobriety and good conduct of his
Indians — Little apparent reason for the claim — Drinking common at that
period — Liquor part of army suoplics — Charge that Clark was at this time a
hard drinker not substantiated — Hamilton requires inhabitants of \"incennes
to take oath of allegiance to the British — Greatly strengthens the fort — Sends
detachment to mouth of Wabash — ISlakes extensive plans to drive olf the
Americans and attack their frontiers in the spring — Relies upon inclemency
of season and remoteness of American forces, and settles down at Vincennes
for the winter in fancied security.

^^^~^^(T the time of Clark^s invasion of the IHinois countiy,
Colonel Henry Hamilton was the British lieu-

I Nji,*-'^!

tenant-governor of Detroit. He was in some respects an
able officer, but was particularly obnoxious to the Ameri-
cans because of a belief that he had instigated Indian bar-
barities. Clark called him the ''hair-buyer general/'
because he was believed to have given rewards for the
scalps of Americans brought to Detroit by the Indians.
The author has found no evidence that he did this directly,



but he was an instiij;ator of Indian raids upon the exposed
American frontiers, which not only led to taking scalps, but
to every other form of brutal atrocity that could be devised
by savage fiends. This despicable business was begun be-
fore Clark's campaign against the British posts north of
the Ohio river.

In the campaign made by the British General Burgoyne
in 1777, it is said, ^'not much short of one thousand Indian
warriors, certainly more than eight hundred, joined the
white brio'ade of Saint-Leo'er.'' Mr. Bancroft says, in his
History of the United States, that, ''in addition to these,
Hamilton, the lieutenant-governor of Detroit, in obedience
to the orders from the secretary of state, sent out fif-
teen several parties, consisting in the aggregate of two
hundred and eight^'-nine red braves with thirty white officers
and rangers, to prowl on the frontiers of Pennsylvania and
Virginia.'' "^

Because Mr. Bancroft says in this extract that Hamilton was
acting '' in obedience to the orders of the secretary of state,"
it should not therefore be inferred that the responsibility for
these Indian raids against the American frontiers rested
upon the secretary more than upon Mr. Hamilton, for he
shows elsewhere, f and the evidence is now positive, that
Hamilton first proposed to the higher authorities that the
raids be made, and the higher authorities ordered them
made upon Hamilton's own suggestions. Hamilton was
therefore the prime mover in causing the Indians to be sent
''to prowl on the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia,"
as stated in the extract, and is not entitled to an}^ relief

*\'ol. 5, p. 584. f See foot note p. 21S posi.


from the odium of the transaction because he acted ^'in
obedience to the orders of the secretar}- of state." That
the proposition came from Hamilton is shown in the veiy
lirst paragraph of the official letter ordering the raids to be
made, written by Lord George Germain, secretary of state,
to General Guy Carleton, governor of Canada, March 26,
1 7 77, which reads as follows: ''Sir: In the consideration of
the measures proper to be pursued in the next campaign,
the making a diversion on the frontiers of Vir^-inia and
Pennsylvania by parties of Indians conducted by proper
leaders as proposed by Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton
has been maturely weighed,'' etc."^ Then follows the order
directing, in the name of the king, that Hamilton should
assemble the Indians of his district and send them against
the frontiers.

This order, issued by Lord Germain on Hamilton's sug-
gestion, speaks of these Indian raids as ''making a diver-
sion, and exciting an alarm upon the American frontiers,"
but what that meant to bands of ferocious sava^'es was
shown by the bloody sequel. The only restraint advised
in the letter is "from committing violence on the well-
affected and inoffensive inhabitants," which meant the
Tories and British partisans, a list of the leading ones on
the frontiers of Virginia being enclosed in the letter as
having been ''recommended by Lord Dunmore for their
loyalty," and these were expected to assist the British and
Indians in making "a diversion and exciting an alarm upon

*The author is indebted to Mr. Bayard, United States ambassador to Eng-
land, and Mr. Stevens, United States government dispatch agent, for copy of this
letter and other papers from the British Public Records, London. The letter is
also in "Haldimand Papers," and Michigan Pioneer Collections, Vol. 9.


the American frontiers," the character of which will be
shown further on.

A letter from General Guy Carleton to Hamilton, dated
September 26^ i777? shows that the management of the
war on the frontier had been taken entirely out of the
hands of Carleton by Lord Germain and assigned to Ham-
ilton. Another letter written to Hamilton by Carleton,
INIarch 14, 1778, sa3'S, ''the instructions sent out last suin-
mer by Lord George Germain were so pointed, taking the
management of the war on all sides out of my hands, that
I can not give you any directions relative to the offensive
measures you agitate." ^ So upon Hamilton seems to rest
the chief responsibility. f

A letter written by him, April 25, 1778, to Carleton,
shows that he was then encouraging the Indians ''who had
gone to war towards the Ohio," by sending them "am-
munition and arms." It also discloses that he knew
thoroughly the condition of the Wabash and Illinois coun-
try, had a contempt for the French inhabitants, who, in
turn, had no love for the English. The letter says:
*'The Indians in remote posts are poisoned by the falsehoods

* Haldimand Papers, B. 121, pp. 21 and 22.

t Early in September (1776), Hamilton, the lieutenant-governor of Detroit,
wrote from his district directly to the secretary of state, promising that small
parties "of the savages assembled" by him "in council," "chiefs and warriors
from the Ottawas, Chippewas, Wyandots and Pottawatomies," with the Senecas,
would "fall on the scattered settlers on the Ohio" and its branches; and he
checked every iinpulse of mercy towards the Americans by saying that " their
arrogance, disloyaltv and imprudence had justly drawn upon them this deplorable
sort of war." The British people were guiltless of these outrages; it was Ger-
maine and his selected agents who hounded on the savages to scalp and mas-
sacre the settlers of the new country, enjoined with fretful restlessness the exten-
sion of the system along all the border from New York to Georgia, and chid
ever\- commander who showed signs of relenting. Bancroft's History United
States, Vol. 5, p. 423. Edition Little, Brown & Co., 1876,


and misrepresentations of the French. As to the Indians
of the Ouabash,the}' have been out of the way of knowing-
the power of the English, and from a presumption of their
own importance will be arrogant and troublesome. Mon-
sieur de Celoran writes me w^ord from Ouiattonong, that
some parties to the number of tiftv men, partly Qui-
quaboes, Mascontainges and Ouiattanongs, are gone to
war towards the Ohio; their success is not vet known. I
have sent him some ammunition and arms, and to gratify
those among them who behave well. x\ll parties going to
war are exhorted to act with humanitv, as the means of
securing a sincere peace when His Majesty shall be pleased
to order the hatchet to be buried.''

The idea of oivins^ arms and ammunition to savas^es
raiding a frontier, coupled with an admonition that thev
were to be humane and behave w^ell, is absurd. Hamilton
must have known perfectly well that Indians were strangers
to humanity on such occasions, and that to ''behave well,''
in their estimation, meant to take as many scalps as pos-

To furnish arms and ammunition, and to encourage In-
dians by presents and otherwise to make raids upon the
frontier settlements, meant the practice of every enormity
savage ingenuity could devise, and there was but little
difference discernible between the guilt of the actual perpe-
trators and those who sent the Indians on such expeditions.
Thomas Jefferson believed there was no difference. Re-
ferring to the subject, he said, "he who employs another to
do a deed makes the deed his own. If he calls in the hand
of an assassin, or murderer, himself becomes the assassin


or murderer/' These raids, insti^^ated or encourao^ed h\
Hamilton, soon brought legitimate results, and his own ad-
missions show the falsity of the pretense that the}^ were con-
ducted with humanity. He wrote General Carleton, early
in 177JS, that the Indians had ""brought in seventy-three
prisoners alive, twent}' of which they presented to me, and
one hundred and twenty-nine scalps," and on the i6th of
September of that year he wTote to General Haldimand
who in the meantime had succeeded Carleton as governor,
that ''since last May the Indians in this district have taken
thirty-four prisoners, seventeen of which the}^ delivered up,
and eighty-one scalps, several prisoners taken and adopted
not reckoned in this number.""^ Eighty-one scalps and
thirt3'-four prisoners show the kind of ''humanity" prac-
ticed bv Hamilton's Indians.

That Hamilton was guilty of encouraging these Indian
expeditions is manifest and mere prett}^ speeches about fa-
vorins: humanity could not relieve him from the odium of
the usual savagery of such raids. Hence the animosit}' of
Clark and the Americans towards him was natural, and
not at all surprising.

While this estimate of his conduct was apparently just, it
should be remembered that he was following the directions
of his superior officers, although the policy was prompted
by him, and that the odium of these Indian raids upon the
frontier settlements includes also some high in British
authority. The following letter upon this subject was
written to Hamilton, b}' his superior officer, General Haldi-
mand, August 26, 1778:

^Canadian Archives — Haldimand Papers, B. 122, p. 26, and B. 122, p. 156.


''Your letter of the 6th instant enclosino- Mr. Roch-
blave's and your other of the 8th have been reeeivecl. In
the present circumstances of the affairs you relate, it be-
comes highly necessar}' to employ every means which offer,
if not to retrieve the injury done, at least to stop its further
progress, in which it is not so much the expense itself as
the care to prevent its being in vain and thrown aw^ay
which ought to be attended to. The expediency of sup-
porting the Ouabash Indians is very evident and I can not
therefore bvit approve of such steps as you shall find neces-
sary to take for this purpose. And I inust observe that,
from the great expense to which government had been
put for the Indians in general, it might be expected that
some of them might easily be induced to undertake expedi-
tiously to clear all the Illinois of these invaders, and if the
efforts of the parties, which you send out and have pro-
posed to send out to the Ohio, were properly- directed, the
retreat of the rebels, and especially the communication and
intercourse which they want to establish by that river with
the French and Spaniards might be so disturbed, if not en-
tirely cut off, as to render that object of their expedition
and attempts upon this occasion entirely fruitless, and I
think that unless your parties shall be able to fall upon the
vessels, boats and parties of the rebels as they pass there
is no other important service which they can render to gov-
ernment in that part.

^'The situation of the Ouabash Indians is very favorable for
this design, to which all the parties you sent out from E>e-
troit would also contribute best, as it appears to me, by
acting in concert with those, as they might together fill all



the lower parts of the Ohio with bodies of savages that
such constantly succeeds each other, and at no time leave
the river without a force which would be ready to fall upon
all the rebels that appear there ; and as a resource from
whence the greatest benefit may arise, I must recommend
to you to endeavor by cipher and every means in your
power to communicate with INIr. Stuart or some of his
assistants among the Cherokee and Chaktaw nations, as, if
the southern nations could be eno:a2fed to enter into the
same views, the object of all the Indians directed to one
point, there would be little doubt of their succeeding ; and
that the most essential services mio'ht be derived from the
efforts of the savages, which when unconnected and upon
uncertain and different plans can never reasonably be ex-
pected from them.''

It will be seen that this letter recommends not only that
the Wabash Indians "be induced to undertake expeditions
to clear all the Illinois of these invaders" (Clark's forces),
but that such a union of various Indian tribes should be
secured as would fill the Ohio river border with savages,
"ready to fall upon all the rebels that appear there.''
Here was a proposal for destruction by the wholesale!
Even on the line claimed by Hamilton that the Indians
were advised to be humane it amounted to this, in sub-
stance, that all the rebels appearing on the Ohio were to be
killed after the Indian fashion — but with humanity. The
wrong was the employment of savages for such purposes at
all, well knowing that under certain circumstances it was
impossible to restrain them from brutal barbarities utterly
inconsistent with warfare between civilized peoples.


The contrast between the British officers and Colonel
Clark, who refused to employ the Indians against his white
enemies, must ever stand to his credit in the estimation of
posterity. When he had Hamilton ''shut up like a rat in
a trap'' at Fort Sackville, and it was not certain but an
assault on the fort would be resorted to, Tobacco, son of a
chief of the Piankashaws, offered the assistance of a hun-
dred of his tribe, but Clark, in an adroit manner, avoided
accepting the offer. On another occasion, when Indian
assistance w^as offered by Lajes, another Indian chief, Clark
replied, ''We never wished the Indians to fight for us, all we
wished them to do was for them to sit still and look on." *
His fame is not tarnished with settino^ a savag^e and heathen
race against a civilized and Christian people.

It must not be inferred, however, that all the English
officers favored the policy advised by Hamilton of employ-
ins^ the Indians to make raids ao'ainst the American fron-
tiers. t Lieutenant-Governor Edward Abbott wrote General
Carleton from Detroit, June 8, 1778, advising against
Hamilton's policy. He said: ''Your Excellency will
plainly perceive the emplo3'ing Indians on the rebel frontiers
has been of great hurt to the cause, for many hundreds
would have put themselves under Ilis Majesty's protection
was there a possibility; that not being the case these poor
unhappy people are forced to take up arms against their
sovereign, or be pillaged and left to starve; cruel alternative.
This is too shocking a subject to dwell upon. Your Ex-
cellency's known humanity will certainly put a stop if pos-
sible to such proceedings, as it is not people in arms that

*Scc further account in Clark's memoir.
+ See Hinsdale's Old JSTortliwcst, p. 149.


Indians will ever daringly attack; but the poor inoffensive
families who fly to the deserts to be out of trouble, and
who are inhumanly butchered, sparing neither woinen or
children. It may be said it is necessary to employ Indians
to prevent their sending our enemies. I will be bold to say,
their keeping a neutrality will be equally, if not more,
serviceable to us, as their going to w^ar, for the reason I
have already given; and surely the presents will prevent
their acting against us.'' These honorable and humane
suggestions, however, were not heeded. The policy of the
extreme and violent partisans like Hamilton prevailed, over
the humane policy Governor Abbott advised for the En-
g^lish and Colonel Clark followed for the Americans.

On the 8th of August, 1778, a messenger, Francis Mai-
sonA^ille by name, reached Governor Hamilton at Detroit
with the startling intelligence that the, so-called, '"'rebels"
had invaded the Illinois country, captured Kaskaskia and
Cahokia, and were about taking possession of Vincennes.
This was important news indeed, and Hamilton hastened
to communicate it to his superiors. On the same day he
wrote General Guy Carleton that "an express is arrived
from the Illinois, with an account of the arrival of a party
of rebels, in number about three hundred, who have taken
jNIr. de Rochblave prisoner, have laid him in irons, and
exact an oath from the inhabitants binding them to obedience
to the congress, etc.

"There is an officer with thirt}^ men detached by the rebels
to Cahokia to receive the allegiance of the people at that
post, and I have no doubt that b}^ this time they are at St.
Vincennes, as when the express came away one Gibault, a


French priest, had his horse ready saddled to go thither
from Cahokia to receive the submission of the inhabitants
in the name of the rebels. 'Tis now but twent3'-one days
since the rebels got possession of Kaskaskias. Monsieur
de Celeron sets off this day with belts for the Ouabash In-
dians whose deputies went from this not long since, well
satisfied with their reception, and took three war belts. A

Online LibraryWilliam Hayden EnglishConquest of the country northwest of the river Ohio, 1778-1783; and life of Gen. George Rogers Clark. Over one hundred and twenty-five illustrations. With numerous sketches of men who served under Clark .. → online text (page 12 of 38)