04 July 2012

Happy Independence Day!

This is a great day in American history!  America's Birthday!  Please bear with me as I once again digress from homesteading topics to another post about our great country's history.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit an actual Revolutionary War site, right here in SW Indiana!  Yep, on 05 February of 1779, Col. George Rogers Clark led a band of 170 frontier-tough soldiers from Ft. Kaskaskia on the Mississippi River in Illinois.  The campaign was undertaken to secure the Old Northwest Territory (based and governed from Vincennes, Indiana) from the English and put it in American control.  Fort Sackville, at Vincennes, was under the charge of Lt. Governor and General Henry "Hairbuyer" Hamilton.

The trek took Clark and his men wading through freezing weather and the winter-flooded bottomlands of Illinois and into Indiana.  They crossed at least two rivers, the Embarras and the Wabash, and some accounts note that during the cold, wet march, some of the troops awoke in the mornings to find their buckskins frozen to the ground.  They wound up crossing the flooded Wabash River into Indiana in groups by using two canoes.  On 21 February, they arrived on Indiana soil at the site pictured below, known as "Clark's Advance".

The marker along the gravel road noting the site where Col. George Rogers Clark arrived with his troops on Indiana Soil.

On the high ground at Clark's Advance.  I felt I was standing on hallowed ground.

Two days later, guards captured five Frenchmen who gave them information and agreed to guide them to Vincennes.  Clark realized that his men would have to cross an area of neck-high water to reach their next camp.  To inspire them, he blackened his face with gunpowder, gave a war whoop, and headed into the water.  Stunned by the display of commitment and leadership, his men followed.  Clark ordered singing, all joined in, and the men went, as Clark wrote, "chearfully."

The French sided with the Americans and one of the returning Frenchmen reported that 1,000 Americans were camped outside of town and more were coming.  After a series of dramatic events and a refused opportunity to surrender, Hamilton finally did just that and on the morning of 25 February 1779, he and his men marched out of the fort to find only Clark's small and ragged band of frontiersmen and not the army of a thousand soldiers as he had expected.  Stunned, the vanquished officer reportedly asked: "Colonel Clark, where is your army?"

General Henry "Hairbuyer" Hamilton surrenders to Colonel George Rogers Clark and his ragged army of 170 tough frontiersmen at Ft. Sackville.
Note:  For a very good accounting of George Rogers Clark, including this important campaign, read "Long Knife" by James Alexander Thom.  It is a great book.

In the end, the capture of Ft. Sackville and the Northwest Territories was an important chapter in the Revolutionary War.  The gaining of control of the region would prevent the British and their Indian allies from attacking the colonies from the west and would also help protect the young settlements that Virginia had established in Kentucky.  Clark's capture of Fort Sackville enabled the Americans to control the Northwest Territory and affected the outcome of the Revolutionary War.

From here in Revolutionary Indiana...Happy Independence Day!  God Bless America!

No comments:

Post a Comment