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 13 of 38)
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letter from Mr. Rochblave written some little time before his
imprisonment mentioned there being four English frigates
in the entrance of the Mississippi."

In the ''short account,'' which he wrote at the suggestion
of Lord George Germain, he fixes the 6th of August as
the day of Maisonville's arrival with the discouras^ino^ news
from the Illinois country, and says: ''Expresses were dis-
patched with all possible speed to inform the commander-
in-chief at Quebec, Lieutenant-Colonel Bolton, command-
ant at Niagara, and Captain De Peyster, commandant at
^lichilimackinac. No time was lost in making prepara-
tions for executing the orders of the commander-in-chief
should he approve of an attempt to dislodge the rebels.''
On the 15th of September word was received that the com-
mander-in-chief approved of Hainilton's plan.

The next three weeks were devoted to preparing for a
vigorous campaign to recover the Wabash and Illinois
countr}^ The aid of the Indians seemed to be looked for
as a matter of course, and the authorities did not hesitate
to set the savages on the white Americans, denominated as
''rebels." Hamilton says: ''The Indians being found
well disposed, and messengers sent to the different nations
resorting to Detroit, apprising them of my design, and ex-



horting them to send out frequent parties upon the fron-
tiers, the day was fixed for our departure."

''On the 7th of October,'' he continues, ''the various
necessaries for a winter movement of six hundred miles
being provided by tlie activity and good-will of Captains
Lemoult and Grant, the latter of whom had attended to
ever^'thing afloat, and by the assistance of Major Hay and
Mr. Filming, the commissary, we struck our tents and
embarked with one field piece which was all could be
spared from the garrison.'' The force he started with he
gives as one hundred and sevent3^-nine, which is about the
same force Clark had when he left the falls of the Ohio.
But the ""rebels," a little later on, got possession of all
his papers and he gives the number ''from recollec-
tion." It was probably an underestimate. As he gives
it, forty-one were of the king's Eighth Regiment of regu-
lars, eight irregulars, seventy thoroughly trained militia,
and sixty Indians, making with himself, one hundred and
eighty, but this number was increased on the way, by the
addition of Indians, until the aggregate reached at least
five hundred.

Before leaving Detroit the articles of war were read to-
the troops, the oath of allegiance "renewed," and a bless-
ing bestowed by Pere Potier, a Catholic priest; but this
was counterbalanced b}^ the blessing similarly conferred
upon the American troops by Pere Gibault later on.

At the time Hamilton wrote his "account" he was prob-
ably smarting under the charges that he was responsible
for many Indian atrocities. At all events there is a seem-
ing desire to show that nothing of the kind was true,


and that they were rather exemplary characters. lie
says, '"the Indians camped and decamped as regularly as
could be wished, and that amono^ them not a sino-le in-
stance of drunkenness or quarreling occurred for seventh-
two days; nor the least repining at the fatigues of the
journey or the hardships of the season."

But he had no liking for some of the white people, judg-
inor from a letter he wrote Ilaldimand a short time before
starting on this expedition, in which he said:

''For the French inhabitants, at all the outposts, I
firmly believe there is not one in twenty whose oath of
alleg^iance would have force enousch to bind him to his du-
ty, added to this that the greatest part of the traders
amono; them who are called Eng^lish are rebels in their
hearts. Mr. de Rochblave havino' fallen into the hands of
the rebels is an unfortunate circuinstance for His Maiest3^'s
interest in those parts, his understanding, experience and
authority over a troublesome set of people rendered him
thoroughly capable of managing such subjects. No intelli-
gence from the Illinois or Post Vincennes has been commu-
nicated since my last by express, but I shall not be surprised
to hear that the rebels are driven away, nor shall I be sur-
prised to hear they are well received. The Indians are
very well able to effect the first, the French very capable of
the last, and they would gladly receive the idea of a French
father with the Indians, though they have enjoyed advan-
tages under an English government they were formerly
strangers to."

Plamilton, with his troops, went down the Detroit river
in boats, and thence thirty-six miles across the lake to the


mouth of the Aliamis river (Maumee). The crossing was
made on a dark night in a snow storm, and not without
considerable hazard. They had the good fortune, how-
ever, to o-et on shore about a mile from the mouth of the
river, but it was swampy ground and the wind blew so
fiercely that they ''could not put up a tent or strike a fire,"
and so they shivered in the cold, on the damp ground in
the open air. The army proceeded up the Maumee, ar-
riving at the rapids the iith of October, and ''Miami
town" (site of Fort Wayne), on the 24th, where, the
"account'' says, "we met several tribes of the Indians
previousl}' summoned to meet here, and held several con-
ferences, made them presents, and dispatched messengers
to the Shawnees as well as the nations on our route, invit-
ing them to join us, or, at least, watch the motions of the
rebels on the frontiers, for which purpose I sent them am-

It was a season of unusually low water, and this made
the trip up the Maumee slow and very fatiguing. It v/as
even worse from the iNIiami villages to the deep waters of
the Wabash, but advantage was taken of the remarkable
work of the beavers which Hamilton describes in this in-
teresting way: "Having passed the portage of nine miles
we arrived at one of the sources of the Ouabache, called
the Petite Riviere. The waters were so uncommonly low
that we should not have been able to have passed but that
at the distance of four miles from the landing place the
beavers had made a dam which kept up the water; these
we cut through to give a passage to our boats, and having
taken in our lading at the landing passed all the boats.


The beaA^er are never molested at that place by the traders
or Indians, and soon repair their dam, which is a most
serviceable work upon this difficult communication."

The journey was continued with o-reat labor and he says,
'Sve next passed a swamp called Les Volets, bevond which
the little Riviere a Boete joins the one we had made our
wav throuo'h. The shallowness of the water obli^'ed us to
make a dam across both rivers to back the \\ ater into the
swamp, and when we jud^'ed the water to be sufficiently
raised cut our dyke and passed with all our craft. The
same obstacle occurred at the Riviere a TAuglais, and the
same work was to be raised. In our progress down the
Ouabache difficulties increased, the setting in of the frost
lowered the river, the floating ice cut the men as they
worked in the water to haul the boats over shoals and
rocks, our batteaux were damaged and had to be repeat-
edly unloaded, caulked and paved; ninety-seven thousand
pounds of provisions and stores to be carried by the men,
in which the Indians assisted cheerfully, when the boats
were to be lightened. It was sometimes a day's w^ork to
get the distance of half a league. It was necessar}' to stop
frequently at the Indian villages to have conference with
them, furnish them with necessaries, and engage a few to
accompany us. At length we got into a good depth of
water, a fall of rain having raised the river; this advantage
was succeeded by fresh difficulties, the frost becoming so
intense as to freeze the river quite across."

They overcame these difficulties, however, and arrived
within a few days' journey of Vincennes, when a scouting
party, that had been sent out in advance, brought in four


prisoners, a lieutenant and three men, who had been sent
out from Fort Sackville to look out for the approach of
the enemy. They made the discovery in a way not
creditable to the vigilance of the Americans. In fact it
is a little remarkable that the approach of this large body
of men under Hamilton was not sooner discovered by them,
as Clark frequently mentioned having spies out in the
direction of Detroit, but, as already shown, he did not even
know of the British reganiing possession of Fort Sackville
until weeks after it occurred. Because of the limited num-
ber of his force, and their being at places widel}^ distant
from each other, where garrisons were necessar}-, it is
doubtful whether he could have resisted Hamilton had he
sooner known of his approach, but it is quite probable he
would have made the attempt. Had he done so and failed
again inspires the thought of what might have been the
northern and western boundaries of the United States.

A letter which Clark wrote Governor Henry, September
16, 1778, shows that he expected to keep the British out of the
Illinois country that 3^ear, but he intimated that it was not
so certain thereafter, unless re-enforced; plainly evidencing
that he fully comprehended the situation. The letter says:

''General Hamilton of Detroit has of late been at great
pains and expense to get a body of Indians to retake the
Illinois, but above half the Indians that he had at his com-
mand has treated with me, and I believe the rest very
willing to be quiet except those toward Fort Pitt; in short
his officers among them have bad success, as I often hear
from them having spies in the same towns. I think I shall


keep His Excellency out of possession of it this year; as for
the next you are the best judge."

Hamilton does not give the names of the captured scouts
but he jj-leaned valuable information from them in rela-
tion to the condition of things at Vincennes, and, acting
thereon, immediatel}', ''sent off parties to lie upon the
roads from thence to the Illinois and to the falls of the
Ohio, where the rebels had a fort and a number of families
lately come to settle; their orders were to intercept any
messengers, secure them and their letters, but not suffer any
s'iolence to be offered to their persons. They executed their
orders and took prisoners t\A'o men sent off by the officer
commanding for the rebels at Fort Sackville with letters to
Colonel Clark acquainting him of our arrival. Major Hay
was detached with orders to fall down the river, and sent
to the principal inhabitants of St. Vincennes acquainting
them that unless they quitted the rebels and laid down their
arms there was no mercy for them. Some chiefs accom-
panied him to conciliate the Peau Kashaa Indians residing
at St. Vincennes, and to show the French what they might
expect if they pretended to resist."

B}' this time Captain Leonard Helm, who was in com-
mand at Fort Sackville, had heard of the approach of the
British, but his force was utterly inadequate to defend it
ascainst Hamilton's force of five or six hundred. Flamil-
ton fixes the number of men in the garrison, under Helm,
at seventy, which is believed to have been an overesti-
mate; but even if seventy, it referred to the original full
garrison before the approach of the enem}^, for Hamilton
admits that ''the fort was deserted by officers and men"


on his approach. He also speaks of the fort as ''wretched,"
''a miserable stockade without a well, barrack, platform
for small arms, or even lock to the gate." But he says,
''there were two cannon, two swivels, some ammunition
and thirt3'-four horses.''

The truth is that the men numbered as belonging to the
srarrison were nearlv all Creole inhabitants of Vincennes,
and as soon as the great difference in numbers made it cer-
tain that a successful defense of the fort or the town could
not be made, and doubtless would not be attempted, they
gradualh' dropped out, and, making a virtue of necessity,
joined the other inhabitants in making the best terms they
could with the eneni}', doing whatever was required of
them, but, in all likelihood, with mental reservations and
without any change of convictions or attachments, because
under duress and the compulsion of irresistible circum-
stances. They probabl}' had no particular love for either
of the contending parties, but, as between the two, they
preferred the Americans; and there was nothing in their
conduct inconsistent with this position.

Captain Helm did not get information of the approach
of the British army of live or six hundred men until they
were within three miles of Vincennes. There is positive
evidence of this and other important facts in a letter to
Colonel Clark, which he wrote and sent off by a messenger,
as the army was about to enter Vincennes. The messenger,
however, was killed, and the important letter, or the copy,
found its way finally to the Canadian Archives. Douglas
Bremner, Esq., the custodian, kindly furnished the author
a copy which follows:


[Canadian Archives, Series B, Vol. 122, p. 250.]

''Dear Sir — At this time there is an arm}- within three
miles of this place; I heard of their coming several days
beforehand. I sent spies to lind the certainty — the spies
being taken prisoners I never got intelligence till they got
within three miles of the town. As I had called the militia
and had all assurances of their integrity' I ordered at the
firing of a cannon everv man to appear, but I saw butfe\A'.
Captain Buseron behaved much to his honor and credit,
but I doubt the certaint (conduct) of a certain gent. Ex-
cuse haste as the arm^- is in sight. My determination is to
defend the garrison, though I have but twenty-one men but
w^hat has left me. I refer ^ou to the Mr. Wmes ( ?) for
the test (rest). The arm^- is in three hundred vards of
villao'e. Vou must think how I feel; not four men that I
can really depend upon; but am determined to act brave —
think of mv condition. I know it is out of my power to
defend the town, as not one of the militia will take arms,
though before sight of the arm>' no braver men. There is
a flag at a small distance. I must conclude.

''Your humble servant,

"Leo'd Helm.

"Must stop.
"To Colonel Clark."

Endorsed — "Copy of Helm's letter commanding for the
rebels at Post Vincennes, enclosed in Lieutenant-Governor
Hamilton's letter of the i8th of December, marked De-
troit 25."

It will be seen by this that he attributes his lack of knowl-
edge of the approach of the British troops to the capture of


the scouts; and that, at the time they were in sight of the
fort, all his men had left { he does not say deserted ) except
twenty-one, and he evidently realized that most of these
would leave before the British took possession of the fort,
for he adds that he had ''not four men that I can really
depend upon." These were Moses Henry, "^^ an Indian
agent, and probably one or two of Clark's original soldiers.

Captain Helm knew that he could not make a successful
defense, but he was ''determined to play a brave part," and
make the best terms he could with the enemy; and this he
did with notable success.

He had a cannon, loaded in the most effective manner
to be destructive, wheeled to the entrance of the fort, and
a soldier, probably Henry, placed in proper position ready
to tire it on command, AVhen the British party approached
and demanded a surrender. Helm, with an oath, ordered
them to "halt,'' exclaiming ''no man shall enter here until
I know the terms." The repl}^ was given, "you shall have
the honors of war." "Then," said Helm, "I surrender the
fort on that condition;" and thus Fort Sackville and the
ancient town of Vincennes again came into the possession
of the British on the 17th day of December, 177S, after a
march of six hundred miles, lasting seventy-two days.
Hamilton's account is silent as to the incidents at the gate,
which is not surprising. He was writing that account to
justify his own conduct, and it was natural that he should

* Moses Henry has generally been given as the name of tlie soldier wlio was
with Captain Helm at the time of the surrender, but that name is not on the roll
of persons who received land for services in the Illinois campaign. The nanus
of four Henrys are on the roll, David, Hugh, Isaac and John, but no Moscs.
Clark's memoir speaks of "Moses Henry, Indian agent" in 1779. Presumably
Moses did not receive because he was acting in a civil and not military capacit\ .

ha:\iilton praises his Indians. 235

avoid confessing that Helm had overreached him. The
incidents are understood to have occurred, substantial!}-, as
here related. His narrative shows a continued and natu-
rally to be expected effort to color events to shield his rep-
utation. This is particularly' true in his pictures of the
Indians as models of orood conduct, knowins^ that he was
already censured for using them against white people, He
admits that his force had increased to five hundred by the
time he reached Vincennes, most of them Indians, but
''such WHS the moderation and good order observed by the
Indians that not a single person had the slenderest cause
of complaint, not a shot was tired nor any inhabitant in-
jured in person or property/' These three or four hundred
savage exemplars of ''moderation and good order" were
the same w-ho, on other occasions, devastated the .Vmeri-
can frontiers and mercilessl}- butchered helpless women
and children.

Again he says: ''The Indians camped and decamped
as reo^ularlv as could be wished, and that anions: them not
a single instance of drunkenness or quarreling occurred for
seventy-two da}'s, though rum was delivered out on every
occasion when the fatigues or bad weather made it
necessary." This is a statement difficult of belief as to
Indians in general without the most convincing proof, but
if true in this case as to drunkenness, it was probably be-
cause they were not permitted to get enough of the rum
to make them drunk. It is hardly reasonable to believe
that these particular Indians were so good and forbearing
that they would not take scalps, or get drunk, after the


manner of their fellow-savages, when opportunity pre-

The blame attached to Hamilton is, as already stated,
for employing these savages to make war on civilized white
people. As for giving liquor to his soldiers, or drinking it
himself, for that matter, that was a coinmon practice at
that period and it was not then regarded as anything rep-
rehensible."^ Clark did both, and unfortunately drank
more himself, in the latter part of his life, than was good
for him. Hamilton was, in all probability, much better
supplied with such ''military stores," but exactly to what
extent the author does not know; however, there is abun-
dant evidence that the British found the use of liquor ''in-
dispensable" in obtaining the favor and assistance of the
Indians, and they undoubtedl}- used it to a much greater
extent than the Americans, because the}^ had greater abilit}^
to procure it, and were using the savages in warfare, while
the Americans were not. Here is one of many items
which might be adduced: The British captain, Brehm,
wrote from Detroit, July 8, 1779, to General Haldi-
mand, that "the indispensable expenditure of rum has
been till now about fort3'-eight gallons per da^', but is
increasing as the number of Indians auginent; it may be
computed to about sixty gallons per da}. If therefore
Your Excellency could possibly get it supplied from Mon-
treal it will diminish considerably the public expenses. "f

*In Hamilton's account against tlie British government, tor expenditures
during his captivity in Virginia, which will be found in the appendix, is this
item: "July (17S0). Cash paid for clothing and liquor for the prisoners of war
£116 IIS 6d." There were only twentj'-six "prisor-ers of war"' including Ham-

tHaldimand Papers, B. 99, p. 95.

US1<: OF l.IQUOR C^OMiSK^N W ITl [ l^OTI { l\\R^riES. 237

In another letter he says ''the}^ (the Indians) are constantly
debauched with liquor, and to procure which they sell their
presents and get them replaced perhaps three or four
times/' *^ Many other instances might be given.

There is no doubt, however, but the Americans also used
liquor quite freel}' at that period. The author has now
before him the account of Clark's expenditures in the
Illinois campaign which is liberally interspersed with such
items as the following:

''March 30, 1778 — For a treat at rendezvous $13.20
April 25, 1778 — For a treat to Captain

Helm's company - 6.60

April 30, 1778 — For a treat to Captain

Bowman's company - S-OO
August I, 1778 — For rum per Captain

Worthington's receipt - 19.00
August 14, 1778 — To Mr. Murray for rum

for the troops - - 29.40."

Clark seems to have had an idea that a little liquor was
not only good for raising the spirits of his troops, but for
raising other things as well, as is shown by the following
item: ''Half gallon tafiia, delivered fatigue party for rais-
ing a boat." It is hardly necessary to add, that "taffia"
was a popular liquor of that day, resembling rum, and was
brought from the West Indies b}^ the way of New Orleans.
Neither did he think it a bad thing after a defeat, as we
may infer from this item: "October 9, 1799 — For one
gallon taflia, as treat to Colonel Rogers'c men after their
defeat." He had no love for Indians as allies in war, and

^Haldimand Papers, B. 97-2, p. 307.


never set them against white people; but he was not so
unsocial or impolitic as to associate with them in efforts to
maintain peace without giving' them a drop of ''tire-water
to gladden their hearts/' as shown by this further item:
''To Charles Charleville for fiftv-six grallons taffia delivered
to Indians, at sundry councils and treaties, at four (dollars)
per gallon, two hundred and twent3'-four dollars."

It must not be supposed from these items that Clark's
account was like Falstaff's, where there was very little
bread and an enormous quantity of "sack/' for the ex-
penditure for liquor was but a small part of his very large
account, as will be seen by reference to it in the appendix.
Besides the prices stated were probably in the greatly
depreciated paper money of that day. Clark was open
and direct as to the items in his liquor account; plainly
called a treat "a treat/' told the quantit}^ purchased, the
kind of liquor, and what it cost; clearly indicating that he
did not regard it as a thing to be ashamed of or to be con-

But it must not consequentl}' be inferred that Clark him-
self was at that time a hard drinker in the extreme sense,
for all the indications are that he was not. The com-
plete success which attended all his operations, from the
beginning to the end of his conquest of the Illinois and
Wabash countr}^, shows his brain was not then clouded nor
his arm weakened by dissipation.

It is true that in his old age, when depressed in mind
because of neglect and disappointments, when his body
was wrecked with neuralgia, rheumatism, partial paral3/sis,
and the various ills brought upon him by his great exposure


in the service of his country, such as marching- twelve miles
in mid-winter through water often to his armpits, to con-
quer a public enemy and win an empire, he did sometimes
go too far in attempting to drown the pains and depressions
of declining 3'ears in the flowing bowl, but it can well be
excused, or at least forgiven, by a generous posterity, who
share the glor}^ of his fame and the great public benefits
which have resulted from his services.

The quaint remark credited to President Lincoln about
the brand of liquor General Grant v/as accused of drinking
might here be appropriately recalled. When some com-
plaint was made, after the success at Vicksburg, about
Grant's drinkino- it is said Lincoln made the sip^niticant
remark, that it might be a good idea to send the same brand
of liquors to some other generals who had been less suc-
cessful. Whether based upon fact or not the story can
be appreciated in this connection.

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 13 of 38)