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CHAPTER XVII.

CLARK OBTAINS POSSESSION OF VINCENNES—TREATIES WITH THE INDIANS–VINCENNES FALLS INTO THE HANDS OF THE ENGLISH, AND IS RE-CAPTURED BY CLARK.

Clark now turned his attention to the British post of St. Vincents (Vincennes), the subjugation of which would not only extend the dominion of his native State, but from its contigtity render his own position and government more seeure. He, therefore, sent for M. Gibault, who, being the Catholic priest both of Vincennes and Kaskaskia, could give him any information he desired. He informed Clark that Governor Abbot had lately gone on business to Detroit, and that a military expedition against the place was wholly unnecessary.

Desirous of having his parishioners free from the violence of war, he offered to induce the people to transfer their allegiance to the Americans without the assistance of troops. This proposition was readily accepted, and DeLafont and a spy were selected to accompany him. The embassy set off for Vincennes, and after a full explanation between the priest and his flock, the inhabitants concluded to sever their relations with the British government and take the oath of allegiance to the commonwealth of Virginia. A temporary governor was appointed, and the American flag immediately displayed over the fort, to the great surprise of the Indians. The savages were told that their old father, the king of France, had come to life and was angry with them because they fought for the English, and that if they did not wish the land to be bloody with war they must make peace with the Americans. M. Gibault and party returned about the 1st of August, with the joyful intelligence that everything was peaceably adjusted at Vincennes in favor of the Americans.

This pews was both a source of astonishment and gratification, as such a result was hardly to be expected.

The 3 months for which Clark's men had enlisted was now terminated, and his instructions being indefinite, he was at first at a loss how to proceed. If the country was abandoned at this juncture, the immense advantages already gained would be sacriticed, and, therefore, acting upon the discretion which necessity demanded, he re-enlisted as many of his own men as were willing to continue in the service, and commissioned French officers to raise a company of the inhabitants. He established a garrison at Kaskaskia, under the command of Captain Williams, another at Cahokia under Captain Bowman, and selected Captain Sims, who had accompanied the expedition as a volunteer, to take charge of the men who wished to return. The latter officer was also intrusted

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with orders from Clark for the removal of the station from Corn Island, at the Falls of the Ohio, to the main land, and a stockade fort was erected where Louisville, the metropolis of Kentucky, has since been built. Captain John Montgomery, in charge of Rocheblave and the bearer of dispatches, was sent to Richmond, which had become the capital of Virginia. It had been the intention to restore to the British commander his slaves, which had been seized as public property, and he and some of his friends were invited to dine with Clark and his officers, when the restitution was to take place. M. Rocheblave, however, called them a set of rebels and exhibited such bitterness of feeling, that it was necessary to send him to the guard-house and finally a prisoner to Virginia. The generous idea of returning the slaves to their former owner having been frustated by this provocation, they were subsequently sold for 500 pounds, which was divided among the troops as prize money.

The government of Virginia in the meantime was informed of the reduction of the country and Clark desiring that a civil government might be instituted, an act was passed in October, 1778, organizing the county of Ilinois which included all the territory of the commonwealth west of the Ohio river. This immense region, exceeding in superficial extent the whole of Great Britain and Ireland, was at that time the largest county in the world, and contained the best section of farming lands on the continent. A bill was also passed to raise 500 men for opening communication with New Orleans, for the benefit of the isolated settlements, and Col. John Todd was appointed the principal officer in the government of the new county, and justice was for the first time administered under the authority of Virginia.

About the middle of August, Clark appointed Capt. Helm commandant of Vincennes and Indian agent for the department of the Wabash. His great prudence and intimate knowledge of Indian character eminently qualified him for the duties of this important trust. It was also the intention of Col. Clark to place a strong detachment under his coinmand as soon as reinforcements should arrive from Virginia.

At that time there lived in the vicinity of Vincennes a chief of the Piankashaw Indians, who possessed great influence over his people. He was complimented by his countrymen with the appellation of the Grand Door of the Wabash, in imitation of the title of Pontiac, who was styled the Grand Door of St. Joseph. Clark had exchanged messages with him through Gibault, the catholic priest, and he instructed Helm to secure his influence, as nothing could be done within the Indian confederacy of the Wabash without his approbation. The American agent arriving safe at Vincennes, and being received with acclamation by the inhabitants, he immediately invited the Grand Door to a conference. The proud and pompous chief was pleased with the courtesies of Capt. Helm, who, in a friendly talk, communicated to him an invitation from Clark to unite with the “Long Knives" aud his old master, the King of France. In reply to this invitation, he said that he was glad to see a chief of the “Long Knives” in town, but with the caution peculiar to Indian character, declined giving a definite answer, until he could confer with the principal men of his tribe. In all their intercourse, the Grand Door observed the ceremonies of the most courtly dignity, and the American, to operate on his vanity, exhibited the same pomposity, till after several days the interview was concluded. Finally, Capt. Helm was invited to attend a council of chiefs, in which the Grand Door informed him, in a strain of Indian eloquence, that “the sky had been very dark in the war between the ‘Long Knives' and English, but now the clouds were brushed away he could see the ‘Long Knives’ were in the right, and if the English conquered them, they might also treat thé Indians in the same way.” He then jumped up, struck his hands against his breast, and said, "he had always been a man and a warrior, and now he was a ‘Long Knife and would tell the

' red people to bloody the land no longer for the English.” He and his red brethren then took Capt. Helm by the hand, and during the remainder of his life, he remained the staunch friend of the Americans. Dying two years afterward, at his request he was buried with the honors of war, near the Fort of Cahokia.

Many chiefs south of Lake Michigan followed the example of the Grand Door, and the British influence, which had caused great mischief to the frontier settlements, daily declined. Much of the success attending these negotiations was due to the influence of the French, for the Indians, relying implicitly upon their statements, became greatly alarmed at the growing power of the Americans. Clark's method of effecting treaties with them was attended with remarkable success. He had studied the French and Spanish methods of intercourse, and thought their plan of urging them to make treaties was founded upon a mistaken estimate of their character. He was of opinion that such overtures were construed by the savages as evidence of either fear or weakness, and there. fore studiously avoided making the first advances. Unlike the English, who endeavored to win their good will by freely granting them presents, he either bestowed them reluctantly, or fought them until they were compelled to seek refuge in treaties as a means of self-preservation. The ceremonies attending his councils with these sons of the forest, as they illustrated their character, are worth recording. The first convocation of this kind in which Colonel Clark was present, met at Cahokia about the 1st of September. The various parties had assembled, and as the Indians were the solicitors, one of the chiefs approached the table where Colonel Clark was sitting, bearing three belts, one of which was emblematical of peace, another contained the sacred pipe, and a third the fire to light it. After the pipe was lighted, it was first presented to the heavens, then to the earth, next forming a circle, it was offered to all the spirits, invoking them to witness their proceedings, and finally to Colonel Clark and the other members of the council. At the conclusion of these formalities, a chief arose and spoke in favor of peace, after which he threw down the bloody belt and flay, which had been given to him by the English, and stamped on them, as evidence of their rejection. Clark coldly replied that he would consider what he had heard and give them an answer on the following day. He however intimated that their existence as a nation depended on the determination of the coun. cil, and as peace was not concluded, he cautioned the chief not to let any of his countrymen shake hands with the white people, saying it would be time to give the hand when the heart also could be given with it. When he had ceased speaking, one of the chiefs remarked that such sentiments were like men who had but one heart and who did not speak with a forked tongue. The council then adjourned till the next day, and when, at the appointed time the Indians reassembled, Clark thus addressed them:

"MEN AND WARRIORS : Pay attention to my words. You informed me yesterday that you hoped the Great Spirit had brought us together for good. I have the same hope, and trust each party will strictly adhere to whatever is agreed upon, whether it be peace or war, I am a man and warrior, not a councilor. I carry war in my right hand, peace in my left. I am sent by the great council of the Long Knives and their friends, to take possession of all the towns occupied by the English in this country, and to watch the red people; to bloody the paths of those who attempt to stop the course of the rivers, and to clear the roads for those who desire to be in peace. I am ordered to call upon the Great Fire for warriors enough to darken the land, that the red people may hear no sound but of birds which live on blood. I know there is a mist before your eyes. I will dispel the clouds that you may clearly see the causes of the war between the Long Knives and the English; then you may judge which party is in the right, and if you are warriors, as you profess, prove it by adhering faithfully to the party which you shall believe to be entitled to your friendship."

After Clark had explained in detail the cause and effect of the war existing beween the English and the colonies, he thus concluded:

"The whole land was dark; the old men held down their heads for shame, because they could not see the sun; and thus there was mourning for many years over the land. At last the Great Spirit took pity on us, and kindled a great council fire at Philadelphia, planted a post, put a tomahawk by it and went away. The sun immediately broke out, the sky was blue again, and the old men held up their heads and assembled at the fire. They took up the hatchet, sharpened it, and immediately put it in the hands of our young men, ordering them to strike the Engfish as long as they could find one on this side of the Great Water. The young men immediately struck the war post and blood was shed. In this way the war began, and the English were driven from one place to another, until they got weak, and then hired the red people to fight for them. The Great Spirit got angry at this, and caused your old father, the French King, and other great nations to join the Long Knives, and fight with them

against all their enemies. So the English have become like deer in the woods, and you can see that it was the Great Spirit that troubled your waters, because you have fought for the people with whom he was displeased. You can now judge who is in the right. I have already told you who I am. Here is a bloody belt, and a peace belt; take which you please ; behave like men, and do not let your being surrounded by Long Knives cause you to take up one belt with your hands while your hearts take up the other. If you take the bloody path, you can go in safety and join your friends, the English. We will then try like warriors who can stain our clothes the longest with blood. If, on the other hand, you take the path of peace, and are received as brothers by the Long Knives, and then listen to bad birds that are flying through the land, you cannot longer be considered men, but creatures with two tongues, which ought to be destroyed. As I am convinced that you never heard the truth before, I do not wish you to answer me before you have taken time for consideration. We will therefore part this evening, and when the Great Spirit shall bring us together again, let us speak and think as men with but one heart and one tongue.

On the following day, the council fire was kindled with more than ordinary ceremony, and one of the chiefs came forward and said:

“We have listened with great attention to what the chief of the Long Knives told us, and are thankful that the Great Spirit has opened our ears and hearts to receive the truth. We believe you tell us the truth,

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for you do not speak like other people, and that our old men are right, who always said the English spake with double tongues. We will take the belt of peace, and cast down the bloodly belt of war; our warriors shall be called home; the tomahawk shall be thrown into the river, where it can never be found; and we will carefully smooth the road for your brothers whenever they wish to come and see you. Our friends shall hear of the good talk you have given us, and we hope you will send chiefs among our countrymen, that they may see we are men, and adhere to all

we have promised at this fire, which the Great Spirit has kindled for the good of all who attend."

The pipe was again lighted, the spirits were called on to witness the transactions, and the council concluded by shaking hands.

In this manner alliances were formed with other tribes, and in a short time Clark's power was so well established that a single soldier could be sent in safety as far north as the head waters of the streams emptying into the lakes. In the vicinity of the lakes the British retained their influence, some of the tribes being divided between them and the Americans. This sudden and extensive change of sentiment among the Indians, was due to the stern and commanding influence of Colonel Clark, supported by the alliance of the French with the colonies, and the regard which the Indians still retained for their first Great Father. It required great skill on the part of Clark, while in cominand of such diminutive forces, to keep alive the impression which had originally been made respecting the arrival of forces from the Falls of the Ohio. To create a favorable impression, the fees connected with the administration of justice were abated. The maintenance of friendly intercourse with the Spanish authorities, and the permission of trade among the inhabitants on both sides of the Mississippi, was also productive of good will.

In his negotiation with the Indians, an incident occurred about this time which, from its romantic character, is worthy of mention. A large reward was offered the Meadow or Mascoutin Indians, who accompanied the other tribes to the council, to assassinate the American commander. For this purpose they pitched their camp on the same side of Cahokia creek occupied by Clark, distant 100 yards from the fort and the American headquarters. It was arranged that a part of their number should cross the creek, which could easily be waded, fire in the direction of the Indian encampment, and then flee to the quarters of Clark, where, under the pretense of fear, they were to obtain admission and put the garrison to death. The attempt was made about 1 o'clock in the morning. The flying party having discharged their guns in such a manner as to cast suspicion upon the Indians on the opposite side of the creek, started directly to the American encampment for protection. Clark was still awake with the multiplied cares of his situation, and the guards being stronger than had been anticipated, presented their pieces and compelled the fugitives to halt. The town and garrison were immediately under arms; the Mascoutins, whom the guard had recognized by moonlight, were sent for, and being interrogated respecting their conduct, declared that they had been fired upon by enemies on the opposite side of the creek, and that they had fled to the Americans for refuge. The French, however, understanding them better than their conqnerors, called for a light, and on examination discovered that their leggings and moccasins were wet and muddy, which was evidence

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