Two Clark Brothers. Two Expeditions. Two New American Frontiers.
The French and Indian War
So, what does the French and Indian War have to do with Once Again, my story about the Garretson family in 1788? After all, that war had ended twenty-five years previous in 1763. Well, the Proclamation of 1763 at the end of the French and Indian War led to a chain of events that directly impacted James Garretson and his family. Do you know about the Proclamation of 1763? I didn’t. You learn something new every day. It was an interesting document. Here’s how one historian explains it:
The end of the French and Indian War in 1763 was a cause for great celebration in the colonies, for it removed several ominous barriers and opened up a host of new opportunities for the colonists. The French had effectively hemmed in the British settlers and had, from the perspective of the settlers, played the “Indians” against them. The first thing on the minds of colonists was the great western frontier that had opened to them when the French ceded that contested territory to the British. The royal proclamation of 1763 did much to dampen that celebration. The proclamation, in effect, closed off the frontier to colonial expansion. The King and his council presented the proclamation as a measure to calm the fears of the Indians, who felt that the colonists would drive them from their lands as they expanded westward. Many in the colonies felt that the object was to pen them in along the Atlantic seaboard where they would be easier to regulate. No doubt there was a large measure of truth in both of these positions. However the colonists could not help but feel a strong resentment when what they perceived to be their prize was snatched away from them. The proclamation provided that all lands west of the heads of all rivers which flowed into the Atlantic Ocean from the west or northwest were off-limits to the colonists. This excluded the rich Ohio Valley and all territory from the Ohio to the Mississippi rivers from settlement.
I was surprised to find myself wanting to applaud that old tyrant King George for being concerned with Indian land rights. (I’ll be writing about that in a future novel.)
At the same time, I can see how the colonists must have felt, especially when the British started sending Indian war parties against those settlers who ignored the proclamation line. Sir Henry Hamilton, commander of the British Fort Detroit, became known as “The Hair Buyer,” because he paid bounties for American scalps. He had a sliding scale for women and children on up to military age men.
Fast forward to 1778 and meet the first of the Clark brothers.
General George Rogers Clark
In 1778, he was 26-year-old lieutenant colonel in the Virginia army who took it upon himself to do something about the situation.
George Rogers Clark organized the Kentucky militia to defend against these raids. Clark was not content to wait for the attacks. He decided that a major offensive campaign was needed. He took his plan to Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia, and gained approval. Clark’s plan was to lead a force of frontiersmen into the Illinois country and strike at the source of the Indian raids.
With everyone else focusing on the war raging in the thirteen colonies, it was Clark who realized that if Vincennes, Kaskaskia, and Cahokia could be taken, America could remove the British from the western frontier. And he saw his opportunity after his spies informed him that several hundred British troops had been transferred from Kaskaskia to defend Fort Detroit.
Clark and a small band of soldiers floated down the Ohio River by boat, landed at Fort Massac in southernmost Illinois, marched overland to Fort Kaskaskia, and defeated a British garrison stationed there. His men overtook posts at Prairie du Rocher and Cahokia before marching to Vincennes and surprising and defeating a second British garrison. Clark’s victories gave the young American nation claim to the northwest territory (Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois) which opened it up to settlers from the east.
That bare summary doesn’t do justice to Clark’s amazing victory. The men endured tremendous hardship, and the forts were captured with zero bloodshed through Clark’s clever manipulation of the situation.
Every American should know about George Rogers Clark. You can download the cool old book pictured here. Or you can read about Clark in Captains of the Wilderness by Carl R. Baldwin, in Lewis and Clark in the Illinois Country by Robert E. Hartley, or on various websites, including the ones given above.
Captain William Clark
George Rogers Clark’s younger brother William is more familiar to most people. He made his fame with another heroic expedition you may have heard of. The winter of 1803, twelve years after the setting of Once Again, he and his colleague Captain Merriweather Lewis also led a contingent of men down the Ohio River. But they continued on up the Mississippi to present day Hartford, Illinois, where they built their winter camp. (Today it’s about an hour’s drive north of where the Garretson blockhouse once stood.)
It was Captain Clark who chose the spot for Camp River Dubois, having known about the Illinois Country from his older brother George’s campaign and his own visit there in 1797. During that visit he spent one night at Nathaniel Hull’s Tavern and another “at the residence of Shadrach Bond, Sr., also known as “gentleman Bond” [who] . . . had a long history of service with George Rogers Clark.” (Hartley, p 57)
That winter at Camp River Dubois Captains Lewis and Clark gathered supplies, gathered intelligence from locals, and trained their rough frontier recruits to be a cohesive team able to survive their journey up the Missouri River and into the unknown western lands. See a reconstruction of their camp HERE. Unclaimed Legacy, book 2 in the series, is set at Camp River Dubois. You can buy it HERE.
In Once Again, Merri remembers (finally) the significance of Fountain Creek to the history of the American Bottom. On December 5, 1803, on his way to Camp River Dubois, Captain Clark and the men stopped at the mouth of Fountain Creek. They camped there that night, waiting to receive provisions from a Kaskaskia merchant. (Hartley, p 88) Twelve miles up the creek was Bellefontaine, which by 1803 was a settlement of about 300 people.
Of course, it’s not really likely that Merri Randall, historian though she is, would remember such a small nugget of historical trivia. But I do, because I am a fan of Lewis and Clark, and because Bellefontaine evolved into Waterloo, my hometown.
It would be so nice of you to share!