George Rogers Clarke’s Campaign
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It was evident that these attacks were inspired, and munitions supplied, by the British stationed at Kaskaskia and Vincennes. George Rogers Clarke, who had visited Kentucky in 1775, had taken in the situation from a military standpoint, and had conceived a plan by which the infant settlements of Kentucky might be freed from this additional source of danger. He communicated it to Gov. Henry of Virginia, and had no difficulty in impressing him with the advantages of its successful prosecution. But the colony was then in common with the other twelve engaged in the stirring scenes of the Revolution. This struggle demanded every resource of the Revolutionists, and however attractive the plan might appear, the means for its accomplishment was felt to be a serious addition to the already great burden imposed by the war. The Governor gave his _support to the plan, however, and by June, 1778, Major Clarke had reached the Falls of the Ohio with 153 men composed of the Virginia line and Kentucky scouts. Proceeding down the river in the latter part of this month he disembarked on the Illinois shore and marched thence through the wilderness to Kaskaskia, a distance of 120 miles. The expedition was a complete success; the English force, completely surprised, surrendered without a shot on July 4, and two days later Cahokia furnished another bloodless victory. While engaged in securing the fruits of his victory here, Clarke learned that preparations were going forward to launch another expedition against the Kentucky frontier from Vincennes. Learning also that the post at that season was greatly weakened by the dispersion of the English’ forces, he by agents secured the voluntary capitulation of the post, and leaving a garrison he completed the occupation of the territory, which was erected into a county under the direction of Col. John Todd. Clarke then re-tired to Louisville where a fort was erected and his command rendezvoused. In December of 1778, Gov. Hamilton, the English Commandant at Detroit, made a descent upon Vincennes and captured it. In the following February, Clarke with 170 men recaptured the post together with eighty-one prisoners and $50,000 worth of military store. This victory decided the contest in this direction, and with Clarke at Louisville, no further danger was apprehended from the Illinois country.
But peace was not to be so cheaply gained. The Indian stronghold in northwestern Ohio was still accessible to the English, and the savages accurately forecasting the inevitable result of the advancing tide of immigration needed less incentive from without titan ever before. Indian attacks were returned by counter invasions only to cease’ with the treaty of peace in 1782. In May, 1779, occurred the unfortunate expedition of Col. Bowman against. Old Chillicothe; in October of the same year the Indians avenged the attack by the surprise and slaughter of fifty out of a party of seventy men bringing military supplies down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh; June, 1780, Col. Byrd, of the English Army, with six pieces of artillery and 600 Indians and Canadians captured Ruddle’s and Martin’s Stations; in July Col. Clarke with two regiments of troops surprised and destroyed the Indian towns of Chillicothe, Piqua, and Laramie’s store; in 1781 the Chickasaws and Choctaws attacked Fort Jefferson, in Ballard County, but were repulsed with terrible slaughter; in 1782, Indian hostilities were unusually early and active. In May, a party of twenty-five Wyandots invaded Kentucky and committed some shocking depredations in sight of Estill’s Station some three miles southeast of Richmond in Madison County. Capt. Estill collected a force and pursued them, when ensued one of the most deadly encounters known to the annals of Indian. warfare. It resulted in a drawn fight, but is generally known as Estill’s defeat. There were a number of other minor collisions between the two antagonizing forces, but these, though fatal to more or less engaged, were only the pattering drops which precede the tempest. In August, an army of 500 Indian warriors, made up of contingents from all the northwestern tribes, rapidly and secretly traversed northern Kentucky, and appeared before Bryant’s Station, near Lexington, as unexpectedly as if they had risen by the hand of a magician from the soil. The garrison was about to march to the succor of a neighboring station and throw open the gates of the stockade to march out when the Indians discovered themselves. Aid was summoned from Lexington, which fell into an ambuscade and sustained a considerable loss. The garrison, however, protected by their palisades suffered little, while inflicting a terrible punishment upon the savages, who made an attempt to force one of the gates. Fearful that the whole country would rise and fall upon them, the Indians hastily decamped on the following morning without having effected. their object. Soon after their retreat, 160 men had assembled from the neighboring stations. Col. Boone headed a strong party from Boonesboro; Col. Trigg brought up a force from the neighborhood of Harrodsburg, and Col. John Todd commanded the militia around Lexington. Others who held rank in this flower of the frontier militia were Majors Harlan, McBride, McGary, Levi Todd; Captains Bulger and Gordon. Gen. Logan had collected a strong force in Lincoln County, and the force assembled, assured that he would soon join them, began to clamor to be led against the retreating savages. The officers, quite as eager, decided to bring the Indians to bay, and regardless of facts which should have urged them to the greatest caution, the force moved on with-out waiting for the forces under Gen. Logan. Boone, who was outranked by others, held a subordinate command. but impressed by the evidences of the Indians’ desire for a fight counseled caution, which, however, the eagerness of the officers and troops failed to regard. The whites were caught in an ambuscade and cruelly repulsed with the loss of sixty men, among whom were Cols. Todd and Trigg. The repulse became a disorderly rout, each man finding his way back to Bryan’s Station as best he could. In the following November Col. George Rogers Clarke led 1,000 riflemen into the heart of the Indian country. No resistance was offered. Their towns were reduced to ashes, their corn destroyed and the whole country laid waste. From this time forward Kentucky was free from Indian invasions, and only occasional depredations of minor importance kept alive the fear and hatred of the redskins.