IN.gov - Skip Navigation

Note: This message is displayed if (1) your browser is not standards-compliant or (2) you have you disabled CSS. Read our Policies for more information.

Indiana Historical Bureau

George Rogers Clark > 225th Anniversary Exhibit > The Fort under Siege - February 24, 1779 The Fort under Siege - February 24, 1779

Around 9 a.m., Clark demanded Hamilton's surrender; he refused. Later Hamilton tried to negotiate. Hamilton and Clark arranged a meeting to discuss terms of surrender.

From Clark's Memoir:

"We met at the church, about eighty yards from the fort-- . . . Governor Hamilton produced articles of capitulation . . . . I rejected the whole."

[After further discussion, Clark explained his position.]

"I told him . . . that I knew the greater part of the principal Indian partisans of Detroit were with him; that I wanted an excuse to put them to death, or otherwise treat them, as I thought proper; that the cries of the widows and the fatherless on the frontiers, which they had occasioned, now required their blood from my hands."

Hamilton Tries to Negotiate
Hamilton Tries to Negotiate

A Commemorative History of the George Rogers Clark Bicentennial Exhibit (Indianapolis: Indiana State Museum Society, 1976), p. 48.

Hamilton's proposition to Clark
February 24, 1779

"Lt Govr Hamilton proposes to Col. Clark a truce for three days . . . . that he wishes to confer with Col. Clark as soon as can be . . . . If Col. Clark makes a difficulty of comeing into the fort Lt Govr Hamilton will speak to him before the Gate 24th Feb'y 1779."

Clark's answer to Hamilton
February 24, 1779

"Col. Clarks compliments to Mr Hamilton and begs leave to inform him that Col. Clark will not agree to any other terms than that, of Mr Hamiltons surrendering himself and Garrison Prisoners at discretion if Mr Hamilton is desirous of a conference with Col. Clark he will meet him at the Church with Capt. Helms. 24th Feb'y 1779."

From Bowman's Journal, James Alton James, ed., George Rogers Clark Papers, 1771-1781 (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1912), p. 161.

Clark Demands Surrender
Morning, February 24, 1779

From Bowman's Journal:

"[February 24] . . . about 9 O Clock [a.m.] the Col. sent a flag to Govr Hamilton the firing then ceased

. . . . Col. Clarks letter as follows--

"Sir In order to save yourself from the Impending Storm that now Threatens you I order you to Immediately surrender yourself up with all your Garrison Stores &c. &c. for if I am obliged to storm, you may depend upon such Treatment justly due to a Murderer beware of destroying Stores of any kind or any papers or letters that is in your possession or hurting one house in the Town for by heavens if you do there shall be no Mercy shewn you.

signed G. R. Clark.

Answer from Govr Hamilton--

Govr Hamilton begs leave to acquaint Col. Clark that he and his Garrison are not disposed to be awed into any action Unworthy of British subjects.

H. Hamilton"

"The firing then began very hot on both sides."

After Hamilton determined his answer, he realized that the French soldiers in his Garrison would not support him in a fight:

From Hamilton's Journal:

". . . with so small a number as were well affected [the British soldiers] it would be absurd to think of holding out . . . . I determined from that moment to accept honorable terms if I could procure them."

Bowman's Journal, James Alton James, ed., George Rogers Clark Papers, 1771-1781 (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1912), pp. 160-61. Hamilton's Journal, John D. Barnhart, ed., Henry Hamilton and George Rogers Clark in the American Revolution with the Unpublished Journal of Lieut. Gov. Henry Hamilton (Crawfordsville, Ind.: R. E. Banta, 1951), p. 181.

Village of Vincennes
Village of Vincennes

Clark's Men Capture British and Indians Returning after a Raid
Clark's Men Capture British and Indians Returning after a Raid

A Commemorative History of the George Rogers Clark Bicentennial Exhibit
(Indianapolis: Indiana State Museum Society, 1976), p. 48.

The topic of this illustration introduces one of the most controversial elements of Clark's campaign.

There are several versions of the incident, in which five of the captured Indians were brutally tomahawked in view of the townspeople and the fort. Clark's versions indicate that he knew what was going on and used the incident as an opportunity to turn the Indians against the British. Hamilton's versions (one very detailed and gory told to him by a townsperson) indicate that Clark himself participated in the killing.

In Captain Bowman's Journal --probably the closest in time to the incident--is the following version:

". . . during which time there came a party of Indians down the hills behind the Town, who had been sent by Govr Hamilton to get some Scalps and Prisoners from the falls of Ohio. Our Men having got news of it, pursued them kill'd two on the Spot wounded three took 6 Prisoners Brought them into Town two of them proving to be White men That they took Prisoners, we releas'd them and brought the Indians to the Main Street before the Fort Gate there tomahawked them and threw them into the River--During which time Govr Hamilton and Col. Clark met at the Church--"

James Alton James, ed., George Rogers Clark Papers, 1771-1781 (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1912), pp. 161-62.

225th Anniversary Exhibit