George Rogers Clark: His Life and Public Services

By Temple Bodley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
CAPTURE OF KASKASKIA

COLONEL CLARK, after a month's stay on Corn Island drilling his men and awaiting a rise in the Ohio which would permit his little boats to pass over the Falls, was ready to embark for his venture into the enemy's country. The Ohio is here about a mile wide. The main current, which passes north of the island and is very swift and tortuous, is impossible to navigate except at flood stage, and even then the passage is perilous. 'Every preparation,' said Clark, 'was now made for our departure. After spending a day of amusement, in pastime with our friends of Kentucky, -- they to return to the defense of their country and we in search of new adventures, -- on the 24th of June 1778 we left our little island and ran about a mile up the river, in order to gain the main channel, and shot the falls at the very moment of the Sun's being in a great eclipse, which caused various conjectures among the superstitious.' Of the one hundred and seventy or eighty men who made the little army, many, in their buckskin clothes and coonskin caps, no doubt made a rough looking lot; but history hardly records a braver. As they entered the boiling rapids, the sun's eclipse -- certainly one of nature's most appalling events -- darkened the world like an omen of evil; yet on they went -- how absurd it seems -- to conquer an empire!

'As I knew [said Clark] that spies were kept on the river below the towns of the Illinois, I had resolved to march part of the way by land, and of course left the whole of our baggage, except such as would equip us in the Indian mode. The whole of our force, after leaving such as were judged not competent to the expected fatigue, consisted only of four companies -- captains Jno. Montgomery, Jos. Bowman, Leonard Helm, and Wm. Harrod.''We doublemanned our oars and proceeded, day and night, until we ran into the mouth of the Tennesee River.'

'I had fully acquainted myself that the French inhabitants in those western settlements had great influence among the Indians in general, and [were] more beloved by them . . . than any other Europeans; that their commercial intercourse was universal throughout the west and northwest country: and [that] the governing interests on the lakes was mostly in the hands of the English, not

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