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Indiana Historical Bureau

George Rogers Clark > Letter from George Rogers Clark to his Friend George Mason > Letter - Part Eight Letter - Part Eight

In a few weeks great numbers came in to St. Vincent and treated for peace, being laughed at by those that had strictly adhered to their former treaty with me. After fixing every department so as to promise future advantage---sending letters to (the) county lieutenant of Kentucky, soliciting him to make some preparatory strokes towards joining me, when called on, with all his force he could raise, leaving a sufficient garrison---on the 20th of March I set out for Kaskaskia, by water, with a guard of eighty men, spending much time in making some observation at different places; consequently, arrived too late to have hindered a war that commenced between a few Delawares residing in this part of the world and the inhabitants. A few of them that had joined the British party, knowing what had happened, went to Kaskaskia, as was supposed, to compromise matters, but getting drunk with some loose young fellows, gave some threats on each side. One of the Indians snapping a gun at a woman's breast, two of them were immediately killed; the rest, pursued by the townsmen some distance down the river, one killed and some others wounded. The war was carried on pretty equal, on both sides, for several months, but they at last thought proper to solicit a peace. During my absence, Captain Robert George, commanding the company formerly Captain Willing's, had arrived from Orleans, taking charge of the garrison, which was a considerable reinforcement to our little party. Everything having the appearance of tranquillity, I resolved to spend a few weeks in diversions, which I had not done since my arrival in the Illinois, but found it impossible when I had any matter of importance in view. The reduction of Detroit was always uppermost in my mind, not from a motive of applause, but from the desire I had of establishing a profound peace on our frontiers. Being so well acquainted with its situation, strength and influence, that, in case I was not disappointed in the number of troops I expected, I even accounted Detroit my own.

Receiving letters from Colonel (John) Bowman, at Kentucky, informing me that I might expect him to reinforce me with three hundred men whenever I should call on him, if it lay in his power, at the same time receiving intelligence from Colonel Montgomery, I now thought my success reduced to a certainty, (and) immediately set about making provision for the expedition, to be ready against the arrival of troops, to give the enemy as little time as possible to complete the new fortifications I knew they were about.

I sent an express to Colonel Bowman, desiring him to join me on the 20th of June at St. Vincent with all the force he possibly could raise, agreeable to his letters to me; sent out Captain--------[name illegible in the manuscript] among the different nations of Indians to receive their congratulations on our late success, receive the submission of those who resolved to desert the English, etc., as well as to get fresh intelligence from Detroit.

The civil department in the Illinois had heretofore robbed me of too much of my time that ought to be spent in military reflection. I was now likely to be relieved by Colonel John Todd, appointed by government for that purpose. I was anxious for his arrival, and happy in his appointment, as the greatest intimacy and friendship subsisted between us, and on the----day of May had the pleasure of seeing him safely landed at Kaskaskia, to the joy of every person. I now saw my self rapidly rid of a piece of trouble that I had no delight in.

In a few days Colonel Montgomery arrived. To my mortification, found that he had not half the men I expected, (but) immediately receiving a letter from Colonel Bowman, with fresh assurances of a considerable reinforcement, (and) the officers in general being anxious for the expedition, resolved to rendezvous according to appointment, and, if not deceived by the Kentuckians, I should still be able to complete my design, as I only wanted men sufficient to make me appear respectable in passing through the savages, by which means I could, on the march, command those friendly at my ease, and defy my enemies. Three hundred men being at this time sufficient to reduce the garrison at Detroit, as the new works were not complete, nor could not be, according to the plan, before my arrival. The gentlemen of Detroit not being idle (having sufficient reason to be convinced that they were in no danger from the department of Pittsburg, always suspicious of my attacking them, sensible of my growing interest among the savages, in order to give themselves more time to fortify by making some diversion on the Illinois), engaged a considerable number of their savages to make an attempt on St. Vincent. Those Indians who had declared for the American interest, in order to show their zeal, sent word to them that if they had a mind to fight the Bostonians at St. Vincent, they must first cut their way through them, as they were big knives too. This effectually stopped their operation. Knowing that the expedition depended entirely on the Kentuckians turning out, I began to be suspicious of a disappointment on hearing of their marching against the Shawnee towns, which proved too true, for, on my arrival at St. Vincent, the first of July, instead of two or three hundred men that I was promised, I found only about thirty volunteers; meeting with a repulse from the Shawnees, got discouraged, consequently not in the power of the commander to march them as militia. Being for some time (as I hinted below) suspicious of a disappointment I had conducted matters so as to make no ill impression on the minds of the savages, in case I should not proceed, as the whole had suspected that my design was against Detroit. Several nations solicited me to go, and suffer them to join me. Various were the conjectures respecting the propriety of the attempt with the troops we had---about three hundred and fifty. At a council of war, held for the purpose, there were only two casting voices against it, and I pretended it was on account of General Sullivan's marching on Niagara, which we just heard, that stopped us; that there was no doubt of his success---Detroit will fall, of course, and consequently was not worth our while marching against it; although I knew at the same time Detroit would not fall with Niagara, as they had an early communication with Montreal, through another channel, by way of the Grand river.

A number of Indians visited me at this time, renewing the chain of friendship, etc., to all of whom I gave general satisfaction, except that of my refusal of a tract of land that their chief had formerly offered me. I inquired of several gentlemen acquainted with them why they were solicitous about it. Their opinion was that the Indians, being exceedingly jealous of their lands being taken without their consent, being told by the English that I had a design on their country, by my accepting a tract from them as a present would prove sufficiently to them that what they had been told was false. Being satisfied in this, they also had a desire of my remaining in their country as their chief and guardian, and that my refusal had given them suspicion. In order to remove it I made a suitable speech to them, which gave general satisfaction, and in a few days they, with a great deal of ceremony, presented me the following deed of gift:

By the Tobacco's Son, Grand Chief of all the Peankeshaw nations and all of the tribes; grand door to the Ouabache as ordered by the Master of Life, holding the tomahawk in one hand and peace in the other, judging the nations, giving entrance for those that are for peace and making then a clear road, etc.

DECLARATION.

Where as, for many years past this once peaceable land hath been put in confusion by the English encouraging all people to raise the tomahawk against the big knives, saying that they were a bad people, rebellious, and ought to be put from under the sun, and their names to be no more.

But as the sky of our councils was always misty and never clear, we still were at a loss to know what to do, hoping that the Master of Life would, one day or other, make the sky clear and put us in the right road. He, taking pity on us, sent a father among us (Colonel George Rogers Clark), who has cleared our eyes and made our paths straight, defending our lands, etc., so that we now enjoy peace from the rising to the setting of sun, and the nations even to the heads of the great river (meaning the Mississippi), are happy and will no more listen to bad birds, but abide by the councils of their great father, a chief of the big knives that is now among us.

And, whereas, it is our desire that he should long remain among us that we may take his counsel and be happy; it being also our desire to give him lands to reside on in our country, that we may at all times speak to him, after many solicitations to him to make a choice of a tract, he choosing the lands adjoining the falls of Ohio, on the west side of said river.

I do hereby, in the name of all the great chiefs and warriors of the Wabash and their allies, declare that so much land at the falls of Ohio, contained in the following bounds, to wit: Beginning opposite the middle of the first island below the falls, bounded upwards by the west bank of the river so far as to include two leagues and a half on a straight line from the beginning; thence at right angles with said line two leagues and a half in breadth, in all its parts, shall hereafter and ever be the sole property of our great father (Colonel Clark), with all things thereto belonging, either above or below the earth, shall be and is his, except a road through said land to his door, which shall remain ours, and for us to walk on to speak to our father. All nations from the rising to the setting of the sun, who are not in alliance with us, are hereby warned to esteem the said gift as sacred and not to make that land taste of blood; that all people either at peace or war may repair in safety to get counsel of our father. Whoever first darkens that land shall no longer have a name. This declaration shall forever be a witness between all nations and our present great father; that the said lands are forever hereafter his property.

In witness whereof, I do, in the name of all the great chiefs and warriors of the Wabash, in open council, affix my mark and seal done at St. Vincent, this 16th day of June, 1779.

(Signed) FRANCIS, SON OF TOBACCO

Which deed I accepted, and endeavored to convince them how much I prized so liberal a gift, etc. As I had no idea of having property in the lands myself, knowing the laws of my country justly against it, I chose it at the falls of Ohio, suspecting that I might hereafter find it necessary to fortify that place for the convenience of free intercourse. Having a number of supernumerary officers, I sent them into the settlement recruiting, finding the interest of the department required me to spend a few months at the falls of Ohio----being also induced with the hopes of giving the Shawnees a drubbing in case a sufficient force could be again raised at Kentucky. After giving proper instruction for the direction of the commanders of the different posts, I set out for the falls, where I arrived safe on the 20th day of August. I received an express from His Excellency, much to my satisfaction, having fresh assurance of a sufficient reinforcement and his intention of erecting a fortification at or near the mouth of Ohio----so much the desire of every person, it being a place of great importance, and by having a strong fortification, etc., it would immediately be the mart and key of the western country. All my expectations in my being here have been disappointed (except laying up a considerable quantity of beef ), by lowness of the Ohio, which (is) so remarkable that it would be worth recording, few being able to navigate it with the smallest canoes for several months past.

I shall not, for the future, leave it in your power to accuse me for a neglect of friendship, but shall continue to transmit to you whatever I think worth your notice.

I am, sir, with esteem, yours,

N. B.---As for the description of the Illinois country, which you seem so anxious for, you may expect to have it, by the ensuing fall, as I expect, by that period, to be able to give you a more general idea of it. This you may take for granted: that it's more beautiful than any idea I could have formed of a country almost in a state of nature; everything you behold is an additional beauty. On the river you'll find the finest lands the sun ever shone on. In the high country you will find a variety of poor and rich lands, with large meadows, extending beyond the reach of your eyes, variegated with groves of trees, appearing like islands in the sea, covered with buffaloes and other game. In many places, with a good glass, you may see all those that (are) on their feet in half a million of acres, so level is the country, which, some future day, will excel in cattle.

The settlements of the Illinois commenced about one hundred years ago by a few traders from Canada. My reflections on that head, its situation, the probability of a flourishing trade, the state of the country at present, what (it) is capable of producing, my opinion respecting the cause of those extensive plains, etc., the advantages arising by strong fortifications and settlements at the mouth of Ohio, the different nations of Indians, their traditions, numbers, etc., you may expect in my next.

G. R. CLARK