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Indiana Historical Bureau

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

Some time before, a party of warriors, sent by Mr. Hamilton against Kentucky, (who) had taken two prisoners, was discovered by the Kickebues, who gave information of them. A party was immediately detached to meet them, which happened in the commons; they conceived our troops to be a party sent by Mr. Hamilton to conduct them in, an honor commonly paid them. I was highly pleased to see each party whooping, hallooing and striking each other's breasts as they approached in the open fields; each seemed to try to outdo the other in the greatest signs of joy. The poor devils never discovered their mistake until too late for many of them to escape. Six of them were made prisoners, two of them scalped, and the rest so wounded, as we afterwards learned, (that) but one lived. I had now as fair opportunity of making an impression on the Indians as I could have wished for---that of convincing them that Governor Hamilton could not give them that protection that he had made them to believe he could; and, in some measure to incense the Indians against him for not exerting himself to save (their) friends, ordered the prisoners to be tomahawked in the face of the garrison. It had the effect that I expected. Instead of making their friends inveterate against us, they upbraided the English parties in not trying to save their friends, and gave them to understand that they believed them to be liars, and no warriors.

A remarkable circumstance happened that I think worthy our notice: An old French gentleman, of the name of St. Crois, lieutenant of Captain McCarty's Volunteers from Cohos, had but one son, who headed these Indians and was made prisoner. The question was put whether the white man should be saved. I ordered them to put him to death, through indignation, which did not extend to the savages. For fear he would make his escape, his father drew his sword and stood by him in order to run him through in case he should stir; being painted (he) could not know him. The wretch, on seeing the executioner's tomahawk raised to give the fatal stroke, raised his eyes as if making his last addresses to heaven, cried "O, save me!" The father knew the son's voice. You may easily guess of the agitation and behavior of these two persons, coming to the knowledge of each other at so critical a moment. I had so little mercy for such murderers, and so valuable an opportunity for an example, knowing there would be the greatest solicitation made to save him, that I immediately absconded myself; but by the warmest entreaties from his father, who had behaved so exceedingly well in our service, and some of the officers. I granted his life on certain conditions.

Mr. Hamilton and myself again met. He produced certain articles which were refused, but towards the close of the evening I sent him the following articles:

1. That Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton engages to deliver up to Colonel Clark Fort Sackville, as it is at present, with all the stores, etc.

2. The garrison are to deliver themselves up as prisoners of war, and march out with their arms and accoutrements, etc., etc.

3. The garrison to be delivered up to-morrow at then o'clock.

4. Three days' time be allowed the garrison to settle their accounts with the traders and inhabitants of this place.

5. The officers of the garrison to be allowed their necessary baggage, etc., etc.

Which was agreed to and fulfilled the next day. Knowing that Governor Hamilton had sent a party of men up the Ouabach (Wabash) to Ome (Miami Town) for stores that he had left there, which must be on their return, I waited about twelve hours for the arrival of the galley to intercept them, but, fearing their getting intelligence, dispatched Captain Helm with a party in armed boats who suppressed and made prisoners of forty, among which was Dejeane, grand judge of Detroit, with a large packet from Detroit and seven boats' load of provisions, Indian goods, etc.

Never was a person more mortified than I was at this time to see so fair opportunity to push a victory---Detroit lost for want of a few men, knowing that they would immediately make great preparations expecting me. The galley had taken upon her passage the express from Williamsburg with letters from His Excellency. Having at once all the intelligence I could wish for, from both sides, I was better able to fix my future plans of operation against Detroit. By His Excellency's letter, I might expect to have a complete battalion in a few months. The militia of Illinois I knew would turn out, did not doubt of getting two or three hundred men from Kentucky, consequently put the matter out of doubt.

I contented myself on that presumption, having almost as many prisoners as I had men. Seeing the necessity of getting rid of many of the prisoners, not being able to guard them, not doubting but my good treatment to the volunteers and inhabitants of Detroit would promote my interests there, I discharged the greatest part of them that had not been with Indian parties, on their taking the oath of neutrality. They went off huzzaing for the congress, and declared though they could not fight against the Americans they would for them. As I after this had spies constant to and from Detroit, I learned they answered every purpose that I could have wished for, by prejudicing their friends in favor of America.

So certain were the inhabitants of that post of my marching against it, that they made provisions for me in defiance of the garrison. Many of them paid dear for it since.

I dispatched off Captain Williams and company with Governor Hamilton, his principal officers and a few soldiers, to the falls of Ohio, to be sent to Williamsburg, and, in a few days, sent my letters to the governor.

Having matters a little settled, the Indian department became my next object. I knew that Mr. Hamilton had endeavored to make them believe that we intended at last to take all their lands from them, and that in case of success, we should show no greater mercy for those who did not join him than those who did. I endeavored to make myself acquainted (with) the arguments he used, and calling together the neighboring nations---Peankeshaws, Kickepoes, and others that would not listen to him---endeavored to undeceive them. I made a very long speech to them in the Indian manner; extolled them to the skies for their manly behavior and fidelity; told them that we were so far from having any design on their lands that I looked upon it that we were then on their land where the fort stood; that we claimed no land in their country; that the first man that offered to take their lands by violence must strike the tomahawk in my head; that it was only necessary that I should be in their country during the war and keep a fort in it to drive off the English, who had a design against all people; after that I might go to some place where I could get land to support me. The treaty was concluded to the satisfaction of both parties. They were much pleased at what they heard, and begged me to favor them the next day with my company at a council of theirs. I accordingly attended---greatest part of the time spent in ceremony. They at last told me that they had been meditating on what I had said the day before; that all the nations would be rejoiced to have me always in their country as their great father and protector, and as I had said I would claim no land in their country, they were determined that they would not lose me on that account and resolved to give me a piece, but larger than they had given to all the French at the village, and laying down what they would wish me to do, etc. I was well pleased at their offer as I had then an opportunity to deny the acceptance and further convince them that we did not want their land. They appeared dejected at my refusal.

I waived the discourse upon other subjects---recommended a frolic to them that night, as the sky was clearer than ever, gave to them a quantity of taffy* [Clark meant taffia, a popular liquor of that day.] and provisions to make merry on, and left them. In a few days some Chipoways and others, who had been with Mr. Hamilton, came in and begged me to excuse their blindness and take them into favor. After the warmest solicitations for mercy, I told them that the big knives were merciful, which proved them to be warriors; that I should send belts and a speech to all the nations; that they, after hearing of it, might do as they pleased, but must blame themselves for future misfortunes, and dispatched them. Nothing destroys your interest among the savages so soon as wavering sentiments or speeches that show the least fear. I consequently had observed one steady line of conduct among them. Mr. Hamilton, who was almost deified among them, being captured by me, it was a sufficient confirmation to the Indians of everything I had formerly said to them, and gave the greatest weight to the speeches I intended to send them---expecting that I should shortly be able to fulfill my threats with a body of troops sufficient to penetrate into any part of their country---and by reducing Detroit bring them to my feet. I sent the following speech to the different tribes near the lakes that were at war with us, to wit:

To the Warriors of the Different Nations:

MEN AND WARRIORS---It is a long time since the big knives sent belts of peace among you, soliciting of you not to listen to the bad talk and deceit of the English, as it would, at some future day, tend to the destruction of your nations. You would not listen, but joined the English against the big knives and spilled much blood of women and children. The big knives then resolved to show no mercy to any people that hereafter would refuse the belt of peace which should be offered, at the same time one of war. You remember last summer a great many people took me by the hand, but a few kept back their hearts. I also sent belts of peace and war among the nations to take their choice; some took the peace belt, others listened to their great father (as they call him) at Detroit, and joined him to come to war against me. The big knives are warriors, and look on the English as old women, and all those that join him, and are ashamed when they fight them because they are no men.

I now send two belts to all the nations, one for peace and the other for war. The one that is for war has your great English father's scalp tied to it; and made red with his blood. All you that call yourselves his children, make your hatchets sharp, and come out and revenge his blood on the big knives; fight like men, that the big knives may not be ashamed when they fight you---that the old women may not tell us that we only fought squaws. If any of you are for taking the belt of peace, send the bloody belt back to me, that I may know who to take by the hand as brothers, for you may be assured that no peace, for the future, will be granted to those that do not lay down their arms immediately. It's as you will. I don't care whether you are for peace or war, as I glory in war and want enemies to fight us, as the English can't fight us any longer, and are become like young children, begging the big knives for mercy and a little bread to eat. This is the last speech you may ever expect from the big knives; the next thing will be the tomahawk. And you may expect, in four moons, to see your women and children given to the dogs to eat, while those nations that have kept their words with me will flourish and grow like the willow trees on the river banks, under the care and nourishment of their father, the big knives.