George Rogers Clark: His Life and Public Services

By Temple Bodley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
GREAT KENTUCKY IMMIGRATION: GATHERING CLOUDS

OF all the conflicts over our western country, none was more important in the nation's history than the one now to be considered. This was the resolute and often seemingly hopeless struggle of Clark and his men to hold the country they had won, and defend Kentucky during the last four years of the Revolution. That period of our western history has been little noticed, little understood, and never at all adequately treated. A few striking events of popular interest, such as expeditions against the Indians, inroads by them, and picturesque individual exploits, have been narrated with evident relish and much invention; but some important underlying conditions and events have oftenest been unnoticed, and when noticed, greatly distorted. The same is true of Clark's career during the same period and afterwards. No connected or trustworthy account of it has ever been written. The truth about him still lies almost completely buried in the unpublished writings of his time, which evidently have been seldom more than superficially investigated by those who have essayed to write of him; yet his later public services were even more strenuous and hardly less important than the earlier ones, and required far more self-sacrifice.1

Until about the time he left Vincennes for the Falls of Ohio, the lot of his men had been one of great strain and hardship,

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1
We have had a number of excellent investigators of the source materials of western history who did not write, and many more excellent writers who did not investigate. Draper was a wonderful investigator, accurate and impartial, but he wrote poorly and little. His collection of Clark papers at Madison, Wisconsin, is unique in extent and priceless in value.

The George Rogers Clark Papers (VIII, Illinois Historical Collections), by James Alton James , is an admirable collection containing most of the previously unpublished writings by and to Clark, and some others concerning him, up to October 1, 1781. A second volume of the series is promised, and it is to be hoped will be as meritorious. The present author's collection of Clark papers, besides including nearly all those published by Professor James, contains originals and transcripts of important papers not used by him, and also a great number relating to the period from October 1, 1781, to Clark's death in 1818. Most of them were gathered when the author hardly expected to be able to do more than annotate the more significant ones and leave them to some historic library for the use of later writers.

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