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George Rogers ClarkGeorge Rogers Clark, the son of a farmer, was born in Virginia in 1752. He had little formal education; he became a surveyor. During Lord Dunsmore's War in 1774, he was commissioned a Captain in the Virginia Militia.

In 1778, Clark proposed to the Virginia Assembly a plan to disrupt the British supply lines from Detroit. Clark reasoned that capture of Vincennes and Kaskaskia would control Indian raids in the Old Northwest Territory, would threaten the alliance between the British and their Indian allies, and would lessen the strategic importance of Detroit to the British. Clark had dispatched spies to Vincennes and Kaskaskia. They had reported that these two garrisons were lightly defended. With this information, Clark petitioned the Virginia Assembly, which accepted his plan. Clark was commissioned a Colonel in the Virginia Militia with orders to protect the Kentucky Territory, but, unofficially however, to attack Kaskaskia and other outposts.

Lack of funds and the competition among other military units limited Clark's force to less than 200 men. Clark surrounded and captured Kaskaskia without a shot fired. The residents joined the American cause. Some accompanied Clark and his detachment to Cahokia and secured the allegiance of that outpost.

The 150 mile march to Vincennes - Clark's next objective - was marked by floods, freezing temperatures, and other miseries which tested the limits of his men. Clark's cheerfulness, determination, and ingenuity maintained the discipline and morale of the group. Details of the march are more incredible than the actual capture of Vincennes.

The outpost force at Vincennes had been reduced to about 300 men, and furthermore, the Indian allies had returned home for the winter. By deception, Clark made his force appear larger than it actually was, and Vincennes capitulated with few shots fired.

Shown is George Rogers Clark accepting the surrender of
Fort Sackville from Colonel Henry Hamilton in February 1779.

Fort Sackwell

Clark now moved upon Fort Sackville. During the attack, a group of Kickapoo warriors, returning to the fort, were caught by surprise. The prisoners were tomahawked in full view of the fort. Convinced that Clark's force was larger than his own, sensing the mood of the attacking force, and with a fifth of his men wounded, Hamilton, the commander, surrendered.


George Rogers Clark's successes established American control of the Northwest Territory. This expedition was a brilliant military accomplishment. Clark was promoted to Brigadier General by Virginia as a reward for his feats. However, he was never reimbursed for the costs of the Northwest campaign - costs he had personally assumed. Ill and broke, he became an alcoholic. He died at his sister's home in Louisville on February 13, 1818. His memoirs are at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

 Genl George Rogers Clark Chapter, ILSAR