Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

this purpose, had marched and transported their provisions and ammunition for one thousand three hundred miles, by land and water, through a wild and inhospitable region, inhabited by the allies and mercenaries of England.

Having with a handful of trusty followers penetrated into the heart of a hostile country, Col. Clarke, considering his situation rather delicate, since he had no prospect of being speedily relieved or reinforced in case of need, and being aware that the position he now occupied would be unsafe as long as Fort Vincennes, which impeded his communication with Virginia, was in the hands of the British, determined to reduce this fort. As a preliminary step, wishing to conciliate to. himself the favors of the Illinoisians, he organized courts, held by French judges elected by the people, with a right of appeal to himselfwhich courts became very popular and aided essentially in increasing his influence; and further, besides instructing his soldiers to speak of the troops at Kaskaskia as a detachment only from the main body, stationed somewhere at the Ohio, he caused the rumor to be circulated, that reinforcements were hourly expected to arrive. The warm attachment of the Kaskaskians to him rendered these measures of precaution superfluous, for when Col. Clarke prepared in earnest for an expedition against Fort Vincennes, Mr. Gibault, the Roman Catholie priest at Kaskaskia, offered, if it met with his approbation, to take the whole business on himself, assuring him “that he had no doubt of being able to bring that place over to the American interest without the trouble of sending a military force against it.” The offer being accepted, the priest set off for Vincennes. On his arrival he explained the object of his mission to the inhabitants, who, two days afterwards, threw off their allegiance to the British king, and in a solemn assembly at their church, proclaimed their political union with the Commonwealth of Virginia, The American flag being hoisted, and a Provisory Commandant elected, the priest returned to Kaskaskia with the agreeable intelligence, that Vincennes had gone over to the Americans. On hearing this, Col. Clarke appointed Leonard Helm commandant at Vincennes, and agent for Indian affairs in the department of the Wabash. He also sent a detailed report of his campaign to the Legislature of Virginia, urging the same to appoint a civil commandant to take charge of the political affairs of the region

which had now submitted to his arms: whereupon in October, 1778, the said Legislature passed an act to establish " as the county of Illinois,” all that part of Virginia west of Obio, surpassing in its dimensions the whole of Great Britain, and appointed Col. John Todd Civil Commandant and Lieutenant Colonel of the said county.

Having established a garrison at Kaskaskia and another at Cakokia, as also a military post at the Falls of the Ohio, on the site of Louisville, the present great commercial emporium of Kentucky, Col. Clarke exerted himself to the utmost to bring about a good understanding between the Indians and Americans, and being perfectly well acquainted with the Indian character, with the most consummate skill (indicating also a deep knowledge of human nature) induced them to abandon the British cause, and to conclude treaties of peace and of alliance with him.

On the 29th of January, much to the dissatisfaction of Col. Clarke, intelligence was received at Kaskaskia, that Gov. Hamilton, of Detroit, had subjected Fort Vincennes once more to British sway, and that, but for the lateness of the season, he would have marched against Kaskaskia; that he contemplated, however, at any rate, opening early in the spring a grand campaign against Kaskaskia.

At the time Gov. Hamilton had arrived with a considerable force before Vincennes, Capt. Helm and one soldier, by the name of Henry, constituted the whole of its garrison. No sooner had Gov. Hamilton approached within speaking distance of the fort, than Capt. Helm, standing with a lighted match by the side of a well-charged cannon, then placed in the open gateway, halloed out at the top of his voice, “ Halt!” Gov. Hamilton immediately halted, and on seeing the cannon in the gateway, peremptorily demanded the surrender of the place. Uttering a frightful oath, Capt. Helm exclaimed, “No man enters here until I know the terms.” Hamilton at once replied, “You. shall have the honors of war,” whereupon Helm surrendered the fort, and the whole garrison, to the unspeakable mortification of the warlike British, consisting of one officer and one private, marched out with the honors of war.

On hearing this, and on being further informed, that Gov. Hamilton had then only eighty men at Vincennes, and was impatiently awaiting the arrival of about 700 Indian auxiliaries, Col. Clarke, who

on this occasion remarks in his journal, “I knew, that if I did not take him, he would take me,” at once resolved to carry the war into Africa. Having fitted out a large Mississippi boat as a galley, he put six pieces and forty-six men, under the command of Capt. John Rogers, on board of it, and ordered the men to ascend the Ohio and enter the Wabash as far as the White River, where they were to await further instructions. He then raised, with the utmost dispatch, two companies of militia in Kaskaskia and Cahokia, which, his own force included, amounted to about 170 men, and before eight days had elapsed, was on his way to Vincennes. After a most toilsome march through woods, and over marshy, swampy prairies, he and his men came in sight of Fort Vincennes, and advanced within fifty yards of it. Col. Clarke, notwithstanding bis galley, laden with ammunition and military stores, had not yet arrived, ordered his men to open a fire of musketry upon the British soldiers at their guns, which was done with such effect, that Gov. Hamilton found it impossible to keep them at their cannon, which, moreover, from their elevated position, had done no damage to the Americans. The rest of the tale is soon told. Gov. Hamilton, who knew what kind of an enemy he had to fight, finding all further resistance useless, surrendered the fort on the 24th of February, and the whole garrison, consisting of 79 men, and thirteen pieces of cannon, and half a million of dollars' worth of military goods and stores, fell into the hands of the victors, who for the second time, on the ramparts of the fort, destined to remain American, un- . furled the star-spangled banner, the ensign of freedom, to the breeze. Col. Clarke appointed Capt. Helm once more commandant of the fort, and embarking on his galley, which had now come up, returned to Kaskaskia.

Such was the renown Col. Clarke had acquired by this successful expedition, and the rapid conquest of the territories between the Mississippi and Ohio, that Buckongahelas, the head warrior of the Delawares, on a day in which he bappened to meet Col. Clarke in council, " thanked the Great Spirit for having brought together two such great warriors as Buckongahelas and Col. Clarke !” .

The surrender of Cornwallis with his whole army on the 19th of October, 1781, to the Americans, spreading terror and consternation throughout Great Britain, a treaty of peace was signed between Eng.

land and the United Colonies, in virtue of which the independence of the latter was fully recognised, and all the land east of the Mississippi, and south of Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, Superior, and the Lake of the Woods, including therefore Illinois, was ceded to the Americans. That portion of the western lands which constituted what was then called the “Northwestern Territory," including the present States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, was claimed wholly by the State of Virginia, and in part by New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut; but in consideration of the all-important object, to secure harmony among the States of the Confederacy, which were then without any special bond of union, the people of the States, which claimed to have a title to the said “Northwestern Territory,” moved by a poble spirit of patriotism, ceded all their right and title to the Federal Government. Soon after these cessions had been made, Congress, in the summer of 1787, passed an ordinance “for the government of the territory of the United States north-west of the River Ohio.” A governor was appointed by Congress for three years, and a secretary for four. A Court, consisting of three judges, was organized, and the governor and judges authorized to adopt and publish such laws of the original States as were necessary and best suited to the circumstances of the territory. As soon as there should be 5000 free male inhabitants of full age in any district, they were authorized to elect representatives for two years to a General Assembly. The Governor, Legislative Council, consisting of five members appointed by Congress, and a House of Representatives, could make any laws, provided they were not contrary to the ordinance of Congress. The Legislature were also authorized to elect by joint ballot a delegate to Congress.

Arthur St. Clair, an officer of the Revolutionary army, who had served with some distinction, was appointed the first Governor and Commander-in-chief of the Territory.

The white population of the Territory was but small : that of Illinois had remained stationary. Struck with the fertility of the soil of Illinois, several of the soldiers of Col. Clarke settled in that country. They were the earliest American settlers in Illinois. They lived mostly in stations, or block-house forts, which they had been compelled to erect for their protection, since the Indians committed great depredations on the habitations of the new settlers. The general construction of these block-house forts was about this : The lowest order of these forts was a single house, strongly built, a story and a half or two stories high. The lower story was provided with port-holes to „shoot through, and also with substantial puncheon doors, three or four inches thick, with strong bars, to prevent the Indians from entering. The second story projected over the first three or four feet, and had holes in the floor, outside the lower story, to shoot down at the Indians attempting to enter.

Another higher grade of pioneer fortifications was made thus : Four large, strong block-houses, fashioned as above, were erected at the four corners of a square lot of ground, as large as the necessities of the people required. The intervals between these block-houses were filled up with large timbers, placed deep in the ground, and extending twelve or fifteen feet above the surface. Within these stockades were cabins built for the families to reside in. A well of water, or a spring, was generally found to be necessary in these forts. In perilous times the horses were admitted into the forts for safe keeping. Generally there were two strong gates to these garrisons, with bars in proportion, to secure the doors against the savages. Port-holes were cut in the stockade at about seven feet high, and platforms raised to stand on when shooting.

The timber in the vicinity of these forts was carefully cleared off, 80 as to afford no hiding-places to the Indians. In the mornings it was often dangerous to open the gates and walk out. The Indians frequently attacked the milking parties and others first going out of the fort. Sentinels were kept up all night in dangerous times. .

Emigrants from the remotest parts of the Union and of Europe would come together in these forts. Many were the quarrels, which such a mixed state of society would naturally lead to. The property of one man was often so contiguous to that of another as to excite strong temptations in the mind of the latter to annex it to his own; por does it appear, that the women were an exception to this rule. Whenever a violation of the sixth commandment took place, in which case, owing to the extremely limited space, detection was sure to follow, the grave old ladies would put on their spectacles and hypocriti

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »