George Rogers Clark: His Life and Public Services

By Temple Bodley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
BRITISH WESTERN FORCES AND PLANS

LEAVING Clark at Corn Island on his journey down the Ohio, it will be well here to take a survey of the British side of the war in the west. Governor Hamilton's white forces varied much in number from year to year. At Detroit, during the most critical time, he had over eight hundred troops, including Canadian militia and volunteers and eighty British regulars of the ' King's Own Regiment.'1 Besides a number of pirogues plying the lakes there were six armed vessels on Lake Erie, three being schooners carrying eight or ten guns each.2 At Mich-i-li-Mackinac (now Mackinaw City), Vincennes, Kaskaskia, and Cahokia were militia garrisons of uncertain numbers. At Vincennes, late in 1778, Hamilton enlisted two hundred and fifty militiamen, and said there were three hundred men there used to fire arms as hunters.'3 At Kaskaskia, which had about eight hundred inhabitants,4 the commandant, Philip de Rochblave, was a violent enemy of the Americans. A company of British regulars was stationed there, but had been called to Canada. Cahokia, nearly opposite St. Louis, contained perhaps four hundred people,5 and was a favorite trading place for the Indians from the upper Mississippi and Missouri.

____________________
1
British Museum, Add. MSS. 24320, f., 1-6. At the end of September 1778, when about to march against Clark, Hamilton reported his troops as follows:
Garrison, rank and file fit for duty, 188, sick 11, artillery 18, total217
Militia, captains 5, lieutenants 20, privates 540, total565
Volunteers Company: fit for duty 36, sick 3, imprisoned 1, absent 2, total42
Grand total824

Soon afterwards eighty British regulars of the 'King's Own Regiment' from Niagara seems to have increased this total to 904 men. (Id.)

2
See Quaife interesting Royal Navy an the Upper Lakes, Burton's Historical Collection Leaflets vol. 2, no. 5. For census of upper lake government boats 1759-1778 see Wisconsin Historical Collection, XI, 198, et seq.
3
Hamilton to Haldemand, Dec. 18, 1778. Illinois Historical Collections, I, 227-36.
4
"250 families", Maj. Bournan's letter to Hite: Author's MSS. and Illinois Historical Collections, VIII, 615.
5
The population of these towns varied greatly from time to time and was differently reported in different years, so that no definite figures can be given with confidence. The census of Detroit April 26, 1778, showed 2144. ( Michigan Pioneer Collection, IX, 469) on March 31, 1779, it was 2651, including 400 prisoners. (Id., X, 312-26.)

-53-

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