Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy



Sketch of George Rogers Clark

From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 333


The name of this able and daring officer is so intimately connected with the name and location of this county that a sketch of his career is given as a necessary part of the history thereof. While there are a few historic names better known in the annlas of Western frontier life, there is yet a great deal of obscurity to a portion of his labors. The following is quoted from Collins' "Historical Sketches of Kentucky:"

"Gen. George Rogers Clark was born in the county of Albemarle, in the State of Virginia, November 19, 1752. Of his early years and education, but little is known. In his youth, he engaged in the business of land surveying. How long he was thus engaged is not known. He commanded a company in Dunmore's war, and was engaged in the only active operations of the right wing of the invading army against the Indians. At the close of the war, he was offered a commission in the English service, which, on account of the troubled aspect of affairs between England and the Colonies, he declined. In the spring of 1775, he came to Kentucky, drawn hither by that love of adventure which distinguished him through life. During his visit, he was temporarily placed in command of the irregular militia of the settlements. In the following spring (1776), he again visited Kentucky, with the intention of making it his permanent home. From this time, his name is closely associated with the progress of the Western settlements in power and civilization. He had been early impressed with the importance of this frontier country to the security of the present State of Virginia, and his reflections on this subject led him to percieve the importance of a more thoroughly organized system of public defense, and a more regular plan of military operations than the slender resources of the Colonies had yet been able to offer. With the view of accomplishing this design, he waited on Gov. Patrick Henry, of Virginia, and stated the object of his journey.

Passing over that series of private and solitary adventures in which he embarked after his return to Kentucky, we find him planning an expedition against the British posts of Kaskaskia and Vincennes, and sending spies to learn and report upon the situation.

"In December, 1777, Maj. Clark submitted to the Executive of Vriginia a plan for the reduction of these posts. The result was a full approbation of the scheme, and every arrangement was soon made, which resulted in the capture of the entire chains of British outposts. Vincennes was surrendered to Col. Clark on the 24th of February, 1779. The stars and stripes were hoisted, and thirteen guns fired to celebrate the victory. Soon after this, Louisville was founded, and he made it his headquarters. In 1780, he built Fort Jefferson, on the Mississippi. In June, 1780, 600 Canadians and Indians, under the British Col. Byrd, made a raid from Detroit against the settlements of Kentucky. The expedition was accompanied by two pieces of field artillery, and, on the 22d of June, Ruddell's Station was obliged to capitulate. Martin's Station soon shared the same fate, and the inhabitants, loaded with the spoil of their own dwellings, were driven to Canada as prisoners of war. A prompt retaliation was required, and Col. Clark, being ever ready for a row with the Indians, called on the settlers for volunteers to accompany his little regiment on an errand of punishment. The point of rendezvous was the mouth of the Licking River. Clark, with his regiment proper and some field pieces (variously stated at from one to three guns), came up the river from the falls; when all had assembled, the force was about one thousand men. The Indian town was reached before the enemy was aware of his approach. A sharp conflict ensued, in which seventeen savages were slain, and an equal number of whites. The town was burned and the crops destroyed, Clark's forces returned and were disbanded, and the Indians remained quiet for that season.*

"He was commissioned a Brigadier General in 1781. In 1782, he led another expedition, composed of mounted riflemen, against the Indian towns on the Miami and Scioto Rivers. The Indians fled before them; five of their towns were destroyed and their provisions burned. The effect of this was that no formidable party of Indians ever after invaded Kentucky. This practically closed his career as a public man.

"Gen. Clark was never married. He was long in infirm health, and severley afflicted with a rheumatic affection, whcih terminated in paralysis and deprived him of the use of one limb. This finally caused his death, in February, 1818. He died and was buried at Locust Grove, near Louisville." Soon after his return to Louisville, he communicated to Hon. George Mason, of Gunston Hall, Virginia, a letter, wherein he related at length the many experiences of his campaign in the Illinois country. This letter was published in 1869, and it is now the principal source of information respecting him. From the press notices of the book we clip the following:

Col. George Rogers Clark's Sketches of his campaign in the Illinois in 1778-79, with an Introduction by Hon. Henry Pirtle, of Louisville, Ky., and an Appendix containing the Public and Private Instructions to Col. Clark and Maj. Bowman's Journal of the Taking of Post St. Vincents.

"A little of the romance which belongs to all French colonial history hangs about Col. Clark's unconscious page, and his sketch affords here and there a glimpse of the life of the habitans in the old seventeenth-century settlements of the French at Kaskaskias, Cahokia and St. Vincents; but for the most part it is a plain and summary account of the military operations, and depends for its chief interest upon the view it affords of the character of as brave and shrewd a solder and as bad a speller as ever lived. Some of his strokes of orthography are unrivaled by the studied grotesqueness of Artemus Ward or Mr. Yellowplush; he declares with perfect good faith that on a certain occasion he was very much "adjutated;" and it is quite indifferent to him whether he write privilidge, happiniss, comeing, attacted, adjutation, sucksess, leathergy, intiligence, silicit, acoutriments, fefutial, and anctious, or the more accepted forms of the same words, as like a bona fide bad speller, he is quite apt to do.

"The letter is now printed for the first time. We heartily commend it to all who love to taste history at its sources, or who enjoy character. It is a curious contrast to the polite narrative of Col. Bouquet, but it is quite as interesting, and the deeds it records have turned out of vastly greater consequence than those which the brave Swiss performed." — Atlantic Monthly.

From the Nation: "A very original and striking Revolutionary character is portrayed by himself in 'Col. George Rogers Clark's Sketch of his Campaign in the Illinois in 1778-79.' Clark's military capacity was certainly of a high order, and it is seldom one reads of a commander possessing such boldness, resources and tact. He understood perfectly, for military purposes, the Indian nature, and how to exhibit at the right time courageous defiance and magnanimity. The operations at Kaskaskias and Vincennes are described in a very graphic but truly modest manner — the march from the former post to take the latter being one of extraordinary hardship and enterprise. The odd spelling of the French, Spanish and Indian names mentioned by Clark, and his ordinary orthography, too, make his narrative quite amusing. Some persons may guess what 'Messicippa,' 'La prary de rush' (La Prairie du Rocher), 'Canoweay' (Kanawha), 'adjutated' and 'adgetation' stand for.' The notes of the editor of this volume add very much to its readableness and historical completeness."



* - This was the battle of Piqua, which see for a more detailed account; also the article, Clark-Shawnee Centennial, for various remarks and conclusions regarding the same battle.