26, George Rogers Clark was a confident frontiersman
with a vision that would nearly double the size of his
country in one stroke. A red-haired six-footer, Clark
was a knowledgeable frontiersman, an outstanding field
commander, and extremely confident of his abilities
to move and persuade anyone to do what was necessary
to succeed against formidable odds of time, money, and
Kentucky was a rich wilderness before
the American Revolution. The abundant game, meadows
and virgin forests attracted both Native Americans from
the North and frontiersmen from the East. George Rogers
Clark was one such frontiersman who described Kentucky
as a "fair land". By 1776, a few isolated
settlements had sprung up, as settlers refused to heed
Englands proclamation of 1763 that forbade such
When the Revolutionary War broke out,
the settlers found themselves caught without protection
from Indian raids that were backed and encouraged by
the British army. Ever concerned about the safety of
settlers, Clark persuaded Virginia to declare Kentucky
a county of Virginia, which entitled it to an identity,
a government and supplies. Clark then convinced Virginias
governor, Patrick Henry, to send him with a small army
to the areas north of the Ohio River to capture British
outposts there, thus reducing the Indian threat for
After the war, George Rogers Clark settled
in the rapidly growing town he had founded, Louisville.
He built a cabin on land in Indiana given to him and
his men by the government, he participated in Louisvilles
civic affairs and helped resolve problems of land grants
for his former troops. He also served on Indian commissions
because of his expert ability to negotiate with the
Later in his life, ill health resulting
from the dreadful exposures during his long march to
Vincennes began to limit his activities. Clark went
to live at Locust Grove with his sister Lucy Croghan
and her family in 1809 after undergoing an amputation
of his leg as a result of a serious burn. Clark continued
to receive visits and give advice towards the community
at large while under the care of his sisters family.
He stayed at Locust Grove until his death on February
13, 1818. He was buried in the family plot behind the
house and later reinterred at Cave Hill Cemetery in
Clarks contributions to Kentucky
and to the nation are numerous. As a military commander
he was unmatched. Locust Grove stands today as a memorial
to George Rogers Clark.
Above, portrait of George Rogers
Clark by Matthew Jouett courtesy of The Filson Historical
1775, to the Virginia Council requesting support for
"I am sorry to find that we
should have to seek protection elsewhere . . . if a
country were not worth protecting, it was not worth
Clark was requesting that Kentucky be recognized as
part of Virginia.
March 6-26, 1777, Diary excerpts
"Thomas Shores and William Ray
killed near Shawnee Spring. . . A small party of indians
killed and scalped Hugh Wilson. . .Archibald McNeil
died of wounds. . .A large party of indians. . .killed
and scalped Garret Pendergreet; killed or took prisoner
That's 6 heads of families in three weeks. There were
only about 200 people in Harrodsburg at this time.
June 24, 1778, Memoir of the
outset of the campaign:
"We left our little island and
run about a mile up the river in order to gain the main
channel, and shot the falls at the very moment of the
sun being in a great eclipse, which caused various conjectures
among the superstitious. . .The whole of our force consisted
only of four companies."
Summer, 1778, Speech to the
Indian Chiefs at Cahokia:
"Men and warriors, pay attention.
. .I carry in my right hand war, and peace in my left.
. .Here is a bloody belt and a white one. Take which
you please. Behave like men. . .if you take the bloody
path you shall leave town in safety. . . and we will
try like warriors to keep our clothes stained with blood.
. .If, on the other hand, you should take the path of
peace and. . . listen to the bad birds that may be flying
through the land, you will no longer deserve to be counted
as men but as persons with two tongues who ought to
He spoke to the Indians from a position of the power
that he didn't have in a voice they were unaccustomed
to hearing. The British gave them presents, Clark had
none to give.
February 3, 1779, To Gov. Patrick
Henry of Virginia:
"I know the case is desperate,
sir. . . no time is to be lost. Was I shoer of enforcement,
I should not attempt it. Who knows what fortune will
do for us? Great things have been affected by a few
men well conducted. Perhaps we may be fortunate."
This was to explain his subsequent winter march on Vincennes
with only approximately 180 men.
February 23, 1779, Ultimatum
to Lt. Gov. Henry Hamilton at Vincennes:
"I expect you shall immediately
surrender yourself with your garrison prisoners at discretion.
If any of the stores be destroyed or any letters or
papers burned, you may expect no mercy, for by heavens
you shall be treated as a murtherer."
This from a commander with less than 175 effective men
to a commander well fortified until spring when many
Indian reinforcements were due.
1778, Clark traveled down the Ohio River to the Falls
of the Ohio with soldiers and many families who joined
the military convoy for security and protection from
American Indian attacks. For his camp, Clark chose an
island at the Falls of the Ohio River. He named the
place Corn Island. This event, which took place on May
27, 1778, marks the founding of the settlement later
to be named Louisville.
Clark trained his troops at Corn Island
and launched a successful campaign into the lands to
the north, capturing British posts at Kaskaskia and
Cahokia on the Mississippi River and Vincennes on the
Wabash River. However, British Lieutenant Governor Hamilton
marched from Detroit and recaptured Vincennes from the
Americans. Settling in for the winter of 1778-79, Hamilton
planned to reclaim the two Mississippi posts in the
spring. Clark never gave him that opportunity.
In a daring concept, considered one of
the boldest in American military history, Clark took
fewer than 200 men on foot across 175 miles of flooded,
frozen plains to recapture the British fort at Vincennes.
This dangerous mission took almost three weeks, but
British spies never sighted Clarks men. When Clark
ordered his men to begin firing on the fort, the British
did not know how many Americans were surrounding them.
Clarks frontiersmen were deadly shots, convincing
the British that they were outnumbered. Hamilton surrendered
and Clark ensured American control of the Northwest
Territorya region that included the states of
Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.
to About George Rogers Clark
Back to Locust Grove
|At the age of nineteen, George Rogers
Clark had a land claim on Fish Creek in what is
now West Virginia.
In 1783 Thomas Jefferson asked Clark if he would
lead an expedition to explore the western part of
the continent. This endeavor was not undertaken,
but Clark later would bring younger brother William
to Jefferson’s attention.
George Rogers Clark accepted a commission in the
French Army in 1793 with the expectation that he
would lead Kentuckians against the Spanish. President
George Washington ordered Kentucky Governor Isaac
Shelby to have Clark arrested. Shelby refused.
In 1812 George Rogers Clark was awarded a $400 disability
pension from the Commonwealth of Virginia. An honorary
sword also was awarded at that time and is on exhibit
at Locust Grove.