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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

A Great Commander

Gen. George Rogers Clark Leads Armies Through County.

Victorious Companies Against Indians--He burns Their Towns and Cuts Down Hundreds of Acres of Corn--The Brave Soldier a Poor Speller--His Last Days Were Unhappy Ones.
June 4, 1908

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 26 August 2004
Source:
article from the book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow." by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

The most eminent soldier who commanded an army that marched thru Warren county was George Rogers Clark, who at the beginning of his western campaigns had been commissioned a lieutenant colonel of the Virginia militia, but rose in 1781 to the rank of brigadier general in the same service. He had two expeditions against the Shawnee Indians on the head waters of the Miamis, one in 1780, the other in 1782.
Both these expeditions were before the permanent settlements on the north side of the Ohio had been commenced. Both were campaigns of Kentuckians for the protection of Kentucky settlements. Many atrocities had been committed by the savages on the rapidly growing stations south of the Ohio. The Indians from the north side of that river shot down the men, stole horses and destroyed the homes of the whites and took women and children prisoners and tomahawked them, when they could not keep up with the rest on the march to their towns. Clark at this time made his headquarters at the Falls of the Ohio (Louisville) and he received a letter from the governor of Virginia recommending an invasion of the Indian country. He at once proceeded to Harrodsburg to enlist volunteers for his expedition. If he could not get men to volunteer he had the power to draft them. Many settlers determined to flee the country but Clark sent a force to guard the road to Virginia with instructions to stop all men who attempted to leave and to take away the arms of those who resisted.

Expedition of 1780.

The troops were ordered to assemble at the mouth of the Licking. One division of the army under Colonel Benjamin Logan, descended the Licking, while the others under Clark ascended the Ohio in boats from the Falls. When the two divisions met on the site of Cincinnati, seven years before that city was projected, the entire force consisted of about a thousand men; the exact number is given as 970. Theodore Roosevelt, who has given the best account of Clark's western campaigns in his Winning of the West, says that forty men were left at the Ohio to guard the boats. Clark had a small cannon, a three pounder, which was carried on a pack horse.
The following details of the march of the army from the Ohio to Old Chillicothe, a distance of sixty miles, and thence to the Piqua towns on Mad River and the fights there, I take from the notes of Kentucky:
On the 2nd of August, 1780, Gen. Clark took up the line of march from where Cincinnati now stands, for the Indian towns. The line of march was as follows; The first division, commanded by Clark, took the front position; the center was occupied by artillery, military stores and baggage; the second, commanded by Gen. Logan, was placed in the rear. The men were ordered to march in a line, at about forty yards distant from each other and a line of tankers on each side, about the same distance from the right and left lines. There was also a front and a rear guard, who only kept in sight of the main army. In order to prevent confusion, in case of an attack of the enemy, on the march of the army, a general order was issued that, in the event of an attack in front, the front was to stand fast and the two right lines to wheel to the right and the two left-hand lines to the left and form a complete line, while the artillery was to advance forward to the center of the line. In case of an attack on either of the flanks or side lines, these lines were to stand fast, and likewise the artillery, while the opposite lines wheeled and formed on the far extremes of those lines. In the event of an attack being made on the rear, similar order was to be observed as in an attack in front.
In this manner the army moved on without encountering anything worthy of notice until they arrived at Chillicothe (situated on the Little Miami River, in Greene County), about 2 o'clock in the afternoon of the 6th day of August. They found the town not only abandoned, but most of the houses burnt down and burning, having been set on fire that morning by the Indians. The army encamped on the ground that night, and, on the following day, cut down several hundred acres of corn; and, about 4 o'clock in the evening, took up their line of march for the Piqua towns, which were about twelve miles from Chillicothe. The army came in sight of the Indian town on the west side of Mad River, about five miles west of the site of Springfield, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon of the 8th. The Indians were concealed in the high grass of a prairie adjoining the town. A desperate battle ensued. Twenty whites were killed, but the Indians were defeated and put to flight and their town utterly destroyed.
It was estimated that at the two Indian towns, Chillicothe and Piqua, more than five hundred acres of corn were destroyed, as well as every species of etable vegetables. In consequence of this, the Indians were obliged, for the support of their women and children, to employ their whole time in hunting, which gave quiet to Kentucky for a considerable time.
The day after the battle, the 9th, was occupied in cutting down the growing corn, and destroying the cabins and fort, etc., and collecting horses. On the tenth of August, the army began their march homeward and encamped at Chillicothe that night and on the 11th, cut a field of corn, which had been left for the benefit of the men and horses on their return. At the mouth of the Licking, the army dispersed and each individual made his best way home.
Thus ended a campaign in which most of the men had no other provisions for twenty-days than six quarts of Indian corn each, except the green corn and vegetables found at the Indian towns, and one gill of salt; and yet not a single complaint was heard to escape the lips of a solitary individual. All appeared to be impressed with the belief, that if this army should be defeated, that few would be able to escape and that the Indians then would fall on the defenseless women and children in Kentucky and destroy the whole. From this view of the subject, every man was determined to conquer or die.

Expedition of 1782.

The effect of the destruction of their towns and growing crops was to compel the Indians to devote their energies to support their women and children and to leave them little time for marauding expeditions and for a year the Kentucky settlements suffered less. In the year 1782 marauding and murdering incursions from the north side of the Ohio were resumed and Gen. Clark was called on again to lead an army against the savages. This time the object of his expedition was the destruction of the Indian towns on the Great Miami, now in Miami county.
Again there were two divisions of the army, one under Col. Logan and the other under Col. Floyd. Again the two divisions met opposite the mouth of the Licking where Gen. Clark took supreme command. The strength of the army is given as 1050 rifle men. Marching northward from the site of Cincinnati the army probably followed the trace of 1780 for one or two days, but somewhere in Warren county diverged from it and passed west of Lebanon and crossed Mad River near Dayton.
The army started from the Ohio on November 4, and reached the Indian towns on the 10th. The Indians fled to the woods and there was no general engagement. Ten Indians were killed and seven prisoners taken. Of Clark's men only one was killed and one wounded. All the houses of the Indians were burned and a great quantity of their corn and provisions were destroyed, a severe loss to them at the approach of winter. After this severe blow the savages never again organized a large force to harass the Kentucky settlements and tho there continued to be incursions by small parties of savages there was a rapid inflow of immigration beginning in 1783.
Daniel Boone was in this expedition. He had no command, but served as a spy in advance of the army.

The Commander.

No frontier soldier of the revolutionary period rendered more valuable services to our country than Gen. Clark. In the opinion of many historians, had it not been for Clark's conquest of Kaskaskia and Vincennes in 1778 and 1779 the whole of the territory northwest of the Ohio would probably have passed either to England or Spain. He was undoubtedly a great commander and perhaps a great man. The title of "the Hannibal of the West," I think was first given him by John Randolph. Roosevelt describes him as "a square built, heavy set man, with high forehead, sandy hair and unqualified blue eyes that looked out from under heavy shaggy brows." When he led his first army up the Miami valley he was twenty-eight.
In recognition of his services Virginia in 1783 granted him a tract of 8000 acres on the Ohio opposite Louisville. This tract was known as Clark's Grant and is situated in Clark county, Indiana, named in his honor.
In 1799 Judge Jacob Burnet visited the distinguished soldier living near the Falls of the Ohio and found him in impaired health, but, says Burnet, "he had the appearance of a man born to command and fitted by nature for his destiny. There was a gravity and solemnity in his demeanor, resembling that which eminently distinguished the venerated father of his country."
In 1805 my great uncle, Josiah Espy, found Clark living in a lonely cabin on Clark's grant. Espy had served as a clerk in the War Department in the first administration of Washington and had often seen the first president. He wrote: "General Clark has now become frail and rather helpless, but there are the remains of great dignity and manliness in his countenance, person and deportment and I was struck on seeing him with, perhaps a fancied likeness to the great and immortal Washington."
The general was a brother of William Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition. His surname has sometimes been written Clarke, but neither the general nor any of his family wrote the name with the final "e," and the counties in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, named in honor of the general should be written Clark and not Clarke.
Clark, like Jackson, was a poor speller, His spelling, indeed, was worse than Jackson's. Some one has said that he was a brave a soldier and as poor a speller as ever lived. He met with success as a commander, but he would sometimes spell success "sucksess." The following are examples of his peculiar orthography--Messicippa (Mississippi), Canoweay (Kanawha), anctions, adjutated, hapiniss, leathergy, silicit, comeing, acoutriments, refutial, privilidge, intiligince. But there was no method in his bad spelling and he might write either "adjutation" or "adgetation.
Clark was intemperate in his later years. Had it not been for this failing he very probably would have been selected to lead the armies against the Indians which were commanded by St. Clair and Wayne. When the country was looking about for a commander in 1791, Jefferson wrote on March 7 of that year concerning Clark: "I know the greatness of his mind and am the more mortified at the cause which obscures it. Had not this unhappily taken place there is nothing he might not have hoped. No man alive rated him higher that I did."
Like many other frontiersmen he was greatly afflicted with rheumatism and in his case it resulted in partial paralysis. His last years seem to have been unhappy ones and he seems to have thought his country had neglected him and permitted him to live in poverty and obscurity. Yet his home had been given him by his native state of Virginia and around it were evidences of the gratitude of his countrymen. He lived on Clark's Point, at Clarksville, on Clark's Grant, in Clark County, Indiana. Josiah Espy in 1805 described his home as a beautiful spot, commanding a full and delightful view of the Falls of Ohio, and capable of being made one of the handsomest seats in the world.
He died Feb. 13, 1818, in his 66th year and was buried near Louisville.


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