The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clark/Book 1
WHEN RED MEN RULED
A CHILD IS BORN
The old brick palace at Williamsburg was in a tumult. The Governor tore off his wig and stamped it under foot in rage.
"I'll teach them, the ingrates, the rebels!" Snatching at a worn bell-cord, but carefully replacing his wig, he stood with clinched fists and compressed lips, waiting.
"They are going to meet in Williamsburg, eh? I'll circumvent them. These Virginia delegates! These rebellious colonists! I'll nip their little game! The land is ripe for insurrection. Negroes, Indians, rebels! There are enough rumblings now. Let me but play them off against each other, and then these colonists will know their friends. Let but the Indians rise—like naked chicks they'll fly to mother wings for shelter. I'll show them! I'll thwart their hostile plans!"
Again Lord Dunmore violently rang the bell. A servant of the palace entered.
"Here, sirrah! take this compass and dispatch a messenger to Daniel Boone. Bade him be gone at once to summon in the surveyors at the Falls of the Ohio. An Indian war is imminent. Tell him to lose no time."
The messenger bowed himself out, and a few minutes later a horse's hoofs rang down the cobblestone path before the Governor's Mansion of His Majesty's colony of Virginia in the year of our Lord 1774.Lord Dunmore soliloquised. "Lewis is an arrant rebel, but he is powerful as old Warwick. I'll give him a journey to travel." Again he rang the bell and again a servant swept in with low obeisance.
"You, sirrah, dispatch a man as fast as horse or boat can speed to Bottetourt. Tell Andrew Lewis to raise at once a thousand men and march from Lewisburg across Mt. Laurel to the mouth of the Great Kanawha. Here are his sealed orders." The messenger took the packet and went out.
"An Indian war will bring them back. I, myself, will lead the right wing, the pick and flower of the army. I'll make of the best men my own scouts. To myself will I bind this Boone, this Kenton, Morgan, and that young surveyor, George Rogers Clark, before these agitators taint their loyalty. I, myself, will lead my troops to the Shawnee towns. Let Lewis rough it down the Great Kanawha."
It was the sixth of June when the messenger drew rein at Boone's door in Powell's Valley. The great frontiersman sat smoking in his porch, meditating on the death of that beloved son killed on the way to Kentucky. The frightened emigrants, the first that ever tried the perilous route, had fallen back to Powell's Valley.
Boone heard the message and looked at his faithful wife, Rebecca, busy within the door. She nodded assent. The messenger handed him the compass, as large as a saucer. For a moment Boone balanced it on his hand, then slipped it into his bosom. Out of a huge wooden bowl on a cross-legged table near he filled his wallet with parched corn, took his long rifle from its peg over the door, and strode forth.
Other messengers were speeding at the hest of Lord Dunmore, hither and yon and over the Blue Ridge.
Andrew Lewis was an old Indian fighter from Dinwiddie's day,—Dinwiddie, the blustering, scolding, letter-writing Dinwiddie, who undertook to instruct Andrew Lewis and George Washington how to fight Indians! Had not the Shawnees harried his border for years? Had he not led rangers from Fairfax's lodge to the farthest edge of Bottetourt? Side by side with Washington he fought at Long Meadows and spilled blood with the rest on Braddock's field. More than forty years before, his father, John Lewis, had led the first settlers up the Shenandoah. They had sown it to clover, red clover, red, the Indians said, from the blood of red men slain by the whites.
But what were they to do when peaceful settlers, fugitives from the old world, staked their farms on vacant land only to be routed by the scalp halloo? Which was preferable, the tyranny of kings or the Indian firestake? Hunted humanity must choose.
The Shawnees, too, were a hunted people. Driven from south and from north, scouted by the Cherokees, scalped by the Iroquois, night and day they looked for a place of rest and found it not. Beside the shining Shenandoah, daughter of the stars, they pitched their wigwams, only to find a new and stronger foe, the dreaded white man. Do their best, interests would conflict. Civilisation and savagery could not occupy the same territory.
And now a party of emigrants were pressing into the Mingo country on the upper Ohio. Early in April the family of Logan, the noted Mingo chief, was slaughtered by the whites. It was a dastardly deed, but what arm had yet compassed the lawless frontier? All Indians immediately held accountable all whites, and burnings and massacres began in reprisal. Here was an Indian war at the hand of Lord Dunmore.
Few white men had gone down the Kanawha in those days. Washington surveyed there in 1770, and two years later George Rogers Clark carried chain and compass in the same region. That meant settlers,—now, war. But Lewis, blunt, irascible, shrank not. Of old Cromwellian stock, sternly aggressive and fiercely right, he felt the land was his, and like the men of Bible times went out to smite the heathen hip and thigh. Buckling on his huge broadsword, and slipping into his tall boots and heavy spurs, he was off.
At his call they gathered, defenders of the land beyond the Blue Ridge, Scotch-Irish, Protestants of Protestants, long recognised by the Cavaliers of tidewater Virginia as a mighty bulwark against the raiding red men. Charles Lewis brought in his troop from Augusta, kinsfolk of the Covenanters, fundamentally democratic, Presbyterian Irish interpreting their own Bibles, believing in schools, born leaders, dominating their communities and impressing their character on the nation yet unborn.
It was August when, in hunting shirts and leggings, they marched into rendezvous at Staunton, with long knives in their leathern belts and rusty old firelocks above their shoulders. In September they camped at Lewisburg. Flour and ammunition were packed on horses. Three weeks of toil and travail through wilderness, swamp, and morass, and they were at the mouth of the Great Kanawha.
But where was Dunmore? With his thousand men he was to march over the Braddock Road to meet them there on the Ohio. Rumour now said he was marching alone on the Shawnee towns.
"And so expose himself!" ejaculated Lewis.
But just then a runner brought word from Lord Dunmore, "Join me at the Shawnee towns."
"What does it mean?" queried Lewis of his colonels, Charles Lewis of Augusta, Fleming of Bottetourt, Shelby and Field of Culpepper. "It looks like a trap. Not in vain have I grown gray in border forays. There's some mistake. It will leave the whole western portion of Virginia unprotected."
Brief was the discussion. Before they could cross the Ohio, guns sounded a sharp surprise. Andrew Lewis and his men found themselves penned at Point Pleasant without a hope of retreat. Behind them lay the Ohio and the Kanawha, in front the woods, thick with Delawares, Iroquois, Wyandots, Shawnees, flinging themselves upon the entrapped army.
Daylight was just quivering in the treetops when the battle of Point Pleasant began. At the first savage onset Fleming, Charles Lewis, and Field lay dead. It was surprise, ambuscade, slaughter.
Grim old Andrew Lewis lit his pipe and studied the field while his riflemen and sharp-shooters braced themselves behind the white-armed sycamores. There was a crooked run through the brush unoccupied. While the surging foes were beating back and forth, Andrew Lewis sent a party through that run to fall upon the Indians from behind. A Hercules himself, he gathered up his men with a rush, cohorns roaring. From the rear there came an answering fire. Above the din, the voice of Cornstalk rose, encouraging his warriors, "Be strong! be strong!" But panic seized the Indians; they broke and fled.
Andrew Lewis looked and the sun was going down. Two hundred whites lay stark around him, some dead, some yet to rise and fight on other fields. The ground was slippery with gore; barked, hacked, and red with blood, the white-armed sycamores waved their ghostly hands and sighed, where all that weary day red men and white had struggled together. And among the heaps of Indian slain, there lay the father of a little Shawnee boy, Tecumseh.
Cornstalk, chief of the Shawnees, Red Hawk, pride of the Delawares, and Logan, Logan the great Mingo, were carried along in the resistless retreat of their people, down and over the lurid Ohio, crimson with blood and the tint of the setting sun.
On that October day, 1774, civilisation set a milestone westward. Lewis and his backwoodsmen had quieted the Indians in one of the most hotly contested battles in all the annals of Indian warfare.
"Let us go on," they said, and out of the debris of battle, Lewis and his shattered command crossed the Ohio to join Lord Dunmore at the Shawnee towns.
"We have defeated them. Now let us dictate peace at their very doors," said Lewis. But Dunmore, amazed at this success of rebel arms, sent the flying word, "Go back. Retrace your steps. Go home."
Lewis, astounded, stopped. "Go back now? What does the Governor mean? We must go on, to save him if nothing else. He is in the very heart of the hostile country." And he pressed on.
Again the messenger brought the word, "Retreat."
"Retreat?" roared Lewis, scarce believing his ears. "We've reached this goal with hardship. We've purchased a victory with blood!" There was scorn in the old man's voice. "March on!" he said.
But when within three miles of the Governor's camp, Lord Dunmore himself left his command and hastened with an Indian chief to the camp of Lewis. Dunmore met him almost as an Indian envoy, it seemed to Lewis.
"Why have you disobeyed my orders?" thundered the Governor, drawing his sword and reddening with rage. "I say go back. Retrace your steps. Go home. I will negotiate a peace. There need be no further movement of the southern division."
His manner, his tone, that Indian!—the exhausted and overwrought borderers snatched their bloody knives and leaped toward the Governor. Andrew Lewis held them back. "This is no time for a quarrel. I will return." And amazed, enraged, silenced, Andrew Lewis began his retreat from victory.
But suspicious murmurings rolled along the line.
"He ordered us there to betray us."
"Why is my lord safe in the enemy's country?"
"Why did the Indians fall upon us while the Governor sat in the Shawnee towns?"
Andrew Lewis seemed not to hear these ebullitions of his men, but his front was stern and awful. As one long after said, "The very earth seemed to tremble under his tread."
All Virginia rang with their praises, as worn and torn and battered with battle, Lewis led his troop into the settlements. Leaving them to disperse to their homes with pledge to reassemble at a moment's notice, he set forth for Williamsburg where news might be heard of great events. On his way he stopped at Ivy Creek near Charlottesville, at the house of his kinsman, William Lewis. An infant lay in the cradle, born in that very August, while they were marching to battle.
"And what have you named the young soldier?" asked the grim old borderer, as he looked upon the sleeping child.
"Meriwether Lewis, Meriwether for his mother's people," answered the proud and happy father.
"And will you march with the minute men?"
"I shall be there," said William Lewis.
THE CLARK HOME
"What do you see, William?"
A red-headed boy was standing at the door of a farmhouse on the road between Fredericksburg and Richmond, in the valley of the Rappahannock.
"The soldiers, mother, the soldiers!"
Excitedly the little four-year-old flew down under the mulberry trees to greet his tall and handsome brother, George Rogers Clark, returning from the Dunmore war.
Busy, sewing ruffles on her husband's shirt and darning his long silk stockings, the mother sat, when suddenly she heard the voice of her son with his elder brother.
"I tell you, Jonathan, there is a storm brewing. But I cannot take an oath of allegiance to the King that my duty to my country may require me to disregard. The Governor has been good to me, I admit that. I cannot fight him—and I will not fight my own people. Heigh-ho, for the Kentucky country."
Dropping her work, Mrs. Clark, Ann Rogers, a descendant of the martyr of Smithfield, and heir through generations of "iron in the blood and granite in the backbone," looked into the approaching, luminous eyes.
"I hope my son has been a credit to his country?"
"A credit?" exclaimed Jonathan. "Why, mother, Lord Dunmore has offered him a commission in the British army!"
"But I cannot take it," rejoined George Rogers, bending to press a kiss on the cheek of his brown-eyed little mother. "Lord Dunmore means right, but he is misunderstood. And he swears by the King."
"And do we not all swear by the King?" almost wrathfully exclaimed John Clark, the father, entering the opposite door at this moment.
"Who has suffered more for the King than we self-same Cavaliers, we who have given Virginia her most honourable name—'The Old Dominion'? Let the King but recognise us as Britons, entitled to the rights of Englishmen, and we will swear by him to the end."
It was a long speech for John Clark, a man of few words and intensely loyal, the feudal patriarch of this family, and grandson of a Cavalier who came to Virginia after the execution of Charles I. But his soul had been stirred to the centre, by the same wrongs that had kindled Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. These were his friends, his neighbours, who had the same interests at stake, and the same high love of liberty.
"If the King would have us loyal, aye, then, let him be loyal to us, his most loyal subjects. Did not Patrick Henry's father drink the King's health at the head of his regiment? Did not Thomas Jefferson's grandsires sit in the first House of Burgesses in the old church at Jamestown, more than a century before the passage of the Stamp Act? And who swore better by the King? None of us came over here from choice! We came because we loved our King and would not bide his enemies."
George Rogers Clark looked approvingly at his father, and yet, he owed fealty to Lord Dunmore. Even as a stripling he had been singled out for favours.
"I see the storm gathering," he said. "If I choose, it must be with my people. But I need not choose,—I will go to Kentucky."
It was the selfsame thought of Daniel Boone.
"But here are the children!"
Nine-year-old Lucy danced to her brother, William still clung to his hand, and their bright locks intermingled.
"Three red-headed Clarks," laughed the teasing Jonathan.
More than a century since, the first John Clark settled on the James, a bachelor and tobacco planter. But one day Mary Byrd of Westover tangled his heart in her auburn curls. In every generation since, that red hair had re-appeared.
"A strain of heroic benevolence runs through the red-headed Clarks," said an old dame who knew the family. "They win the world and give it away."
But the dark-haired Clarks, they were the moneymakers. Already Jonathan, the eldest, had served as Clerk in the Spottsylvania Court at Fredericksburg, where he often met Colonel George Washington. Three younger brothers, John, Richard, and Edmund, lads from twelve to seventeen, listened not less eagerly than Ann, Elizabeth, Lucy, and Fanny, the sisters of this heroic family.
But George was the adventurer. When he came home friends, neighbours, acquaintances, gathered to listen. The border wars had kindled military ardour with deeds to fire a thousand tales of romance and fireside narrative. Moreover, George was a good talker. But he seemed uncommonly depressed this night,—the choice of life lay before him.
At sixteen George Rogers Clark had set out as a land surveyor, like Washington and Boone and Wayne, penetrating and mapping the western wilds.
To survey meant to command. Watched by red men over the hills, dogged by savages in the brakes, scalped by demons in the wood, the frontier surveyor must be ready at any instant to drop chain and compass for the rifle and the knife.
Like Wayne and Washington, Clark had drilled boy troops when he and Madison were pupils together under the old Scotch dominie, Donald Robertson, in Albemarle.
While still in his teens George and a few others, resolute young men, crossed the Alleghanies, went over Braddock's route, and examined Fort Necessity where Washington had been. They floated down the Monongahela to Fort Pitt. In the angle of the rivers, overlooking the flood, mouldered the remains of old Fort Du Quesne, blown up by the French when captured by the English. The mound, the moat, the angles and bastions yet remained, but overgrown with grass, and cattle grazed where once an attempt had been made to plant mediæval institutions on the sod of North America. As if born for battles, Clark studied the ground plans.
"Two log gates swung on hinges here," explained the Colonel from Fort Pitt, "one opening on the water and one on the land side with a mediæval drawbridge. Every night they hauled up the ponderous bridge, leaving only a dim dark pit down deep to the water."
With comprehensive glance George Rogers Clark took in the mechanism of intrenchments, noted the convenient interior, with magazine, bake-house, and well in the middle.
"So shall I build my forts." Pencil in hand the young surveyor had the whole scheme instantly sketched. The surprised Colonel took a second look. Seldom before had he met so intelligent a study of fortifications.
"Are you an officer?"
"I am Major of Virginia militia under Lord Dunmore."
With a missionary to the Indians, Clark slid down the wild Ohio and took up a claim beyond the farthest. Here for a year he lived as did Boone, beating his corn on a hominy block and drying his venison before his solitary evening fire. Then he journeyed over into the Scioto.
So, when the Dunmore war broke out, here was a scout ready at hand for the Governor. Major Clark knew every inch of the Braddock route and every trail to the Shawnee towns. When a fort was needed, it was the skilled hand and fertile brain of George Rogers Clark that planned the bastioned stockade that became the nucleus of the future city of Wheeling.
Then Dunmore came by. Like a war-horse, Clark scented the battle of Point Pleasant afar off.
"And I not there to participate!" he groaned. But Dunmore held him at his own side, with Morgan, Boone, and Kenton, picked scouts of the border. When back across the Ohio the Mingoes came flying, Clark wild, eager, restless, was pacing before Dunmore's camp.
Beaten beyond precedent by the mighty valour of Andrew Lewis, Cornstalk and his warriors came pleading for peace.
"Why did you go to war?" asked Dunmore.
"Long, long ago there was a great battle between the red Indians and the white ones," said Cornstalk, "and the red Indians won. This nerved us to try again against the whites."
But Logan refused to come.
"Go," said Lord Dunmore, to George Rogers Clark and another, "go to the camp of the sullen chief and see what he has to say."
They went. The great Mingo gave a vehement talk. They took it down in pencil and, rolled in a string of wampum, carried it back to the camp of Lord Dunmore.
In the council Clark unrolled and read the message. Like the wail of an old Roman it rang in the woods of Ohio.
"I appeal to any white man if ever he entered Logan's cabin and he gave him not meat; if he ever came cold and naked and he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as they passed and said, 'Logan is the friend of the white man.' I had even thought to have lived with you but for the injuries of one man. Colonel Cresap, last Spring, in cold blood and unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan, not even sparing my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This drove me to revenge. I have sought it; I have killed many; I have fully glutted my vengeance; for my country I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbour a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one."
One by one, half a dozen of Clark's army comrades had dropped in around the hickory flame, while the substance of Logan's tale unfolded.
"And was Cresap guilty?"
"No," answered George Rogers Clark, "I perceived he was angry to hear it read so before the army and I rallied him. I told him he must be a very great man since the Indians shouldered him with everything that happened."
Little William had fallen asleep, sitting in the lap of his elder brother, but, fixed forever, his earliest memory was of the Dunmore war. There was a silence as they looked at the sleeping child. A little negro boy crouched on the rug and slumbered, too. His name was York.
On the last day of that same August in which Meriwether Lewis was born and Andrew Lewis was leading the Virginia volunteers against the Shawnees, Patrick Henry and George Washington set out on horseback together for Philadelphia, threading the bridle-paths of uncut forests, and fording wide and bridgeless rivers to the Continental Congress.
It had been nine years since Patrick Henry, "alone and unadvised," had thrilled the popular heart with his famous first resolutions against the Stamp Act. From the lobby of the House of Burgesses, Thomas Jefferson, a student, looked that morning at the glowing orator and said in his heart, "He speaks as Homer wrote." It was an alarm bell, a call to resistance. "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third"—how the staid, bewigged, beruffled old Burgesses rose in horror!—"and George the Third may profit by their example."
"Most indecent language," muttered the Burgesses as they hurried out of the Capitol, pounding their canes on the flagstone floor. But the young men lifted him up, and for a hundred years an aureole has blazed around the name of Patrick Henry.
The Congress at Philadelphia adjourned, and the delegates plodded their weary way homeward through winter mire. From his Indian war Lord Dunmore came back to Williamsburg to watch the awakening of Virginia.
Then came that breathless day when Dunmore seized and carried off the colony's gunpowder.
The Virginians promptly demanded its restoration. The minute men flew to arms.
"By the living God!" cried Dunmore, "if any insult is offered to me or to those who have obeyed my orders, I will declare freedom to the slaves and lay the town in ashes."
Patrick Henry called together the horsemen of Hanover and marched upon Williamsburg. The terrified Governor sent his wife and daughters on board a man-of-war and fortified the palace. And on came Patrick Henry. Word flew beyond the remotest Blue Ridge. Five thousand men leaped to arms and marched across country to join Patrick Henry. But at sunrise on the second day a panting messenger from Dunmore paid him for the gunpowder. Patrick Henry, victorious, turned about and marched home to Hanover.
Again Lord Dunmore summoned the House of Burgesses. They came, grim men in hunting shirts and rifles. Then his Lordship set a trap at the door of the old Powder Magazine. Some young men opened it for arms and were shot. Before daylight Lord Dunmore evacuated the palace and fled from the wrath of the people. On shipboard he sailed up and down for weeks, laying waste the shores of the Chesapeake, burning Norfolk and cannonading the fleeing inhabitants.
Andrew Lewis hastened down with his minute men. His old Scotch ire was up as he ran along the shore. He pointed his brass cannon at Dunmore's flagship, touched it off, and Lord Dunmore's best china was shattered to pieces.
"Good God, that I should ever come to this!" exclaimed the unhappy Governor.
He slipped his cables and sailed away in a raking fire, and with that tragic exit all the curtains of the past were torn and through the rent the future dimly glimmered.
After Dunmore's flight, every individual of the nobler sort felt that the responsibility of the country depended upon him, and straightway grew to that stature. Men looked in one another's faces and said, "We ourselves are Kings."
Around the great fire little William Clark heard his father and brothers discuss these events, and vividly remembered in after years the lightning flash before the storm. He had seen his own brothers go out to guard Henry from the wrath of Dunmore on his way to the second Continental Congress. And now Dunmore had fled, and as by the irony of fate, on the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Patrick Henry became the first American Governor of Virginia, with headquarters at the palace.
THE WILDERNESS ROAD
Daniel Boone threw back his head and laughed silently.
For a hundred miles in the barrier ridge of the Alleghanies there is but a single depression, Cumberland Gap, where the Cumberland river breaks through, with just room enough for the stream and a bridle path. Through this Gap as through a door Boone passed into the beautiful Kentucky, and there, by the dark and rushing water of Dick's River, George Rogers Clark and John Floyd were encamped.
The young men leaped to their feet and strode toward the tall, gaunt woodsman, who, axe in hand, had been vigorously hewing right and left a path for the pioneers.
"They are coming,—Boone's trace must be ready. Can you help?" Boone removed his coonskin cap and wiped his perspiring face with a buckskin handkerchief. His forehead was high, fine-skinned, and white.
"That is our business,—to settle the country," answered the young surveyors, and through the timber, straight as the bird flies over rivers and hills, they helped Boone with the Wilderness Road.
It was in April of 1775. Kentucky gleamed with the dazzling dogwood as if snows had fallen on the forests. As their axes rang in the primeval stillness, another rover stepped out of the sycamore shadows. It was Simon Kenton, a fair-haired boy of nineteen, with laughing blue eyes that fascinated every beholder.
"Any more of ye?" inquired Boone, peering into the distance behind him.
"None. I am alone. I come from my corn-patch on the creek. Are you going to build?"
"Yes, when I reach a certain spring, and a bee-tree on the Kentucky River."
"Let us see," remarked Floyd. "We may meet Indians. I nominate Major Clark generalissimo of the frontier."
"And Floyd surveyor-in-chief," returned Clark.
"An' thee, boy, shall be my chief guard," said Daniel Boone, laying his kindly hand on the lad's broad shoulder. "An' I—am the people." The Boones were Quakers, the father of Daniel was intimate with Penn; his uncle James came to America as Penn's private secretary; sometimes the old hunter dropped into their speech.
But people were coming. One Richard Henderson, at a treaty in the hill towns of the Cherokees, had just paid ten thousand pounds for the privilege of settling Kentucky. Boone left before the treaty was signed and a kindly old Cherokee chieftain took him by the hand in farewell.
"Brother," he said, "we have given you a fine land, but I believe you will have much trouble in settling it."
They were at hand. Through the Cumberland Gap, as through a rift in a Holland dyke, a rivulet of settlers came trickling down the newly cut Wilderness Road.
Under the green old trees a mighty drama was unfolding, a Homeric song, the epic of a nation, as they piled up the bullet-proof cabins of Boonsboro. This rude fortification could not have withstood the smallest battery, but so long as the Indians had no cannon this wooden fort was as impregnable as the walls of a castle.
In a few weeks other forts, Harrodsburg and Logansport, dotted the canebrakes, and the startled buffalo stampeded for the salt licks.
In September Boone brought out his wife and daughters, the first white women that ever trod Kentucky soil.
"Ugh! ugh! ugh!"
A hundred Shawnees from their summer hunt in the southern hills came trailing home along the Warrior's Path, the Indian highway north and south, from Cumberland Gap to the Scioto.
"Ugh! ugh! ugh!"
They pause and point to the innumerable trackings of men and beasts into their beloved hunting grounds. Astonishment expands every feature. They creep along and trace the road. They see the settlements. It cannot be mistaken, the white man has invaded their sacred arcanum.
Amazement gives place to wrath. Every look, every gesture bespeaks the red man's resolve.
"We will defend our country to the last; we will give it up only with our lives."
Forthwith a runner flies over the hills to Johnson Hall on the Mohawk. Sir William is dead, dead endeavouring to unravel the perplexities of the Dunmore war, but his son, Sir Guy, meets the complaining Shawnees.
"The Cherokees sold Kentucky? That cannot be. Kentucky belongs to the King. My father bought it for him at Fort Stanwix, of the Iroquois. The Cherokees have no right to sell Kentucky. Go in and take the land." And so, around their campfires, and at the lake forts of the British, the Shawnee-Iroquois planned to recover Kentucky.
A BARREL OF GUNPOWDER
Scarcely was Jefferson home from signing the Declaration when back from Kentucky came little William's tall strong brother, George Rogers Clark, elected by those far-away settlers, in June of 1776, to represent them in the assembly of Virginia.
Cut by a thousand briars, with ragged clothes and blistered feet, Clark looked in at the home in Caroline and hurried on to Williamsburg.
"The Assembly adjourned? Then I must to the Governor. Before the Assembly meets again I may effect what I wish."
Patrick Henry was lying sick at his country-home in Hanover when the young envoy from Kentucky was ushered to his bedside. Pushing his reading spectacles up into his brown wig, the Governor listened keenly as the young man strode up and down his bed-chamber.
The scintillant brown eyes flashed. "Your cause is good. I will give you a letter to the Council."
"Five hundredweight of gunpowder!" The Council lifted their eyebrows when Clark brought in his request.
"Virginia is straining every nerve to help Washington; how can she be expected to waste gunpowder on Kentucky?"
"Let us move those settlers back to Virginia at the public expense," suggested one, "and so save the sum that it would take to defend them in so remote a frontier."
"Move Boone and Kenton and Logan back?" Clark laughed. Too well he knew the tenacity of that border germ. "So remote a frontier? It is your own back door. The people of Kentucky may be exterminated for the want of this gunpowder which I at such hazard have sought for their relief. Then what bulwark will you have to shield you from the savages? The British are employing every means to engage those Indians in war."
Clark knew there was powder at Pittsburg. One hundred and thirty-six kegs had just been brought up by Lieutenant William Linn with infinite toil from New Orleans, the first cargo ever conveyed by white men up the Mississippi and Ohio.
"We will lend you the powder as to friends in distress, but you must be answerable for it and pay for its transportation."
Clark shook his head,—"I cannot be answerable, nor can I convey it through that great distance swarming with foes."
"We can go no farther," responded the Council, concluding the interview. "God knows we would help you if we could, but how do we even know that Kentucky will belong to us? The assistance we have already offered is a stretch of power."
"Very well," and Clark turned on his heel. "A country that is not worth defending is not worth claiming. Since Virginia will not defend her children, they must look elsewhere. Kentucky will take care of herself."
His words, that manner, impressed the Council. "What will Kentucky do?"
To his surprise, the next day Clark was recalled and an order was passed by the Virginia Council for five hundred pounds of gunpowder, "for the use of said inhabitants of Kentucki," to be delivered to him at Pittsburg. Hardly a month old was the Declaration of Independence when the new nation reached out to the west.
"Did you get the powder?" was the first greeting of young William Clark as his brother re-entered the home in Caroline.
"Yes, and I fancy I shall get something more."
"What is it?" inquired the little diplomat, eager as his brother for the success of his embassy.
"Recognition of Kentucky." And he did, for when he started back Major Clark bore the word that the Assembly of Virginia had made Kentucky a county. With that fell Henderson's proprietary claim and all the land was free.
With buoyant heart Clark and Jones, his colleague, hastened down to Pittsburg. Seven boatmen were engaged and the precious cargo was launched on the Ohio.
But Indians were lurking in every inlet. Scarce were they afloat before a canoe darted out behind, then another and another.
With all the tremendous energy of life and duty in their veins, Clark and his boatmen struck away and away. For five hundred miles the chase went down the wild Ohio. At last, eluding their pursuers, almost exhausted, up Limestone Creek they ran, and on Kentucky soil, dumped out the cargo and set the boat adrift.
While the Indians chased the empty canoe far down the shore, Clark hid the powder amid rocks and trees, and struck out overland for help from the settlements. At dead of night he reached Harrod's Station. Kenton was there, and with twenty-eight others they set out for the Creek and returned, each bearing a keg of gunpowder on his shoulder.
THE FEUDAL AGE
What a summer for the little forts! Dressed in hunting shirt and moccasins, his rifle on his shoulder, his tomahawk in his belt, now leading his eager followers on the trail of the red marauders, now galloping at the head of his horsemen to the relief of some beleaguered station, Clark guarded Kentucky.
No life was safe beyond the walls. Armed sentinels were ever on the watchtowers, armed guards were at the gates. And outside, Indians lay concealed, watching as only Indians can watch, nights and days, to cut off the incautious settler who might step beyond the barricades. By instinct the settlers came to know when a foe was near; the very dogs told it, the cattle and horses became restless, the jay in the treetop and the wren in the thorn-hollow chattered it. Even the night-owl hooted it from the boughs of the ghostly old sycamore.
In this, the feudal age of North America, every man became a captain and fought his own battles. Like knights of old, each borderer, from Ticonderoga to Wheeling and Boonsboro, sharpened his knife, primed his flintlock, and started. No martial music or gaudy banner, no drum or bugle, heralded the border foray. Silent as the red man the stark hunter issued from his wooden fort and slid among the leaves. Silent as the panther he stole upon his prey.
But all at once the hill homes of the Cherokees emptied themselves to scourge Kentucky. Shawnees of the Scioto, Chippewas of the Lakes, Delawares of the Muskingum hovered on her shores.
March, April, May, June, July, August,—the days grew hot and stifling to the people cooped up in the close uncomfortable forts. There had been no planting, scarce even a knock at the gate to admit some forest rover, and still the savages sat before Boonsboro. Clark was walled in at Harrodsburg, Logan at Logansport.
Ammunition was failing, provisions were short; now and then there was a sally, a battle, a retreat, then the dressing of wounds and the burial of the dead.
Every eye was watching Clark, the leader whose genius consisted largely in producing confidence. In the height of action he brooded over these troubles; they knew he had plans; the powder exploit made them ready to rely upon him to any extent. He would meet those Indians, somewhere. Men bound with families could not leave,—Clark was free. Timid men could not act,—Clark was bold. Narrow men could not see,—Clark was prescient. More than any other he had the Napoleonic eye. Glancing away to the Lakes and Detroit, the scalp market of the west, he reasoned in the secrecy of his own heart:
"These Indians are instigated by the British. Through easily influenced red men they hope to annihilate our frontier. Never shall we be safe until we can control the British posts."
Unknown to any he had already sent scouts to reconnoitre those very posts.
"And what have you learned?" he whispered, when on the darkest night of those tempestuous midsummer days they gave the password at the gate.
"What have we learned? That the forts are negligently guarded; that the French are secretly not hostile; that preparations are on foot for an invasion of Kentucky with British, Indians, and artillery."
"I will give them something to do in their own country," was Clark's inward comment.
Without a word of his secret intent, Clark buckled on his sword, primed his rifle, and set out for Virginia. With regret and fear the people saw him depart, and yet with hope. Putting aside their detaining hands, "I will surely return," he said.
With almost superhuman daring the leather-armoured knight from the beleaguered castle in the wood ran the gauntlet of the sleeping savages. All the Wilderness Road was lit with bonfires, and woe to the emigrant that passed that way. Cumberland Gap was closed; fleet-winged he crossed the very mountain tops, where never foot of man or beast had trod before.
Scarce noting the hickories yellow with autumn and the oaks crimson with Indian summer, the young man passed through Charlottesville, his birthplace, and reached his father's house in Caroline at ten o'clock at night.
In his low trundle-bed little William heard that brother's step and sprang to unclose the door. Like an apparition George Rogers Clark appeared before the family, haggard and worn with the summer's siege. All the news of his brothers gone to the war was quickly heard.
"And will you join them?"
"No, my field is Kentucky. To-morrow I must be at Williamsburg."
The old colonial capital was aflame with hope and thanksgiving as Clark rode into Duke of Gloucester Street. Burgoyne had surrendered. Men were weeping and shouting. In the mêlée he met Jefferson and proposed to him a secret expedition. In the exhilaration of the moment Jefferson grasped his hand,—"Let us to the Governor."
Crowds of people were walking under the lindens of the Governor's Palace. Out of their midst came Dorothea, the wife of Patrick Henry, and did the honours of her station as gracefully as, thirty years later, Dolly Madison, her niece and namesake, did the honours of the White House.
Again Patrick Henry pushed his reading spectacles up into his brown wig and scanned the envoy from Kentucky.
"Well, sirrah, did you get the powder?"
"We got the powder and saved Kentucky. But for it she would have been wiped out in this summer's siege. All the Indians of the Lakes are there. I have a plan."
"Unfold it," said Patrick Henry.
In a few words Clark set forth his scheme of conquest.
"Destroy Detroit, Vincennes, Kaskaskia, and you have quelled the Indians. There they are fed, clothed, armed, and urged to prey upon us. I have sent spies to reconnoitre, and have received word that assures me that their capture is feasible."
The scintillating blue eyes burned with an inward light, emitting fire, as Patrick Henry leaned to inquire, "What would you do in case of a repulse?"
"Cross the Mississippi and seek protection from the Spaniards," answered the ready chief. With his privy council, Mason, Wythe, and Jefferson, Patrick Henry discussed the plan, and at their instance the House of Delegates empowered George Rogers Clark "to aid any expedition against their western enemies."
"Everything depends upon secrecy," said the Governor as he gave Clark his instructions and twelve hundred pounds in Continental paper currency. "But you must recruit your men west of the Blue Ridge; we can spare none from here."
Kindred spirits came to Clark,—Bowman, Helm, Harrod and their friends, tall riflemen with long buckhorn-handled hunting-knives, enlisting for the west, but no one guessing their destination.
Despite remonstrances twenty pioneer families on their flat-boats at Redstone-Old-Fort joined their small fleet to his. "We, too, are going to Kentucky."
Jumping in as the last boat pulled out of Pittsburg, Captain William Linn handed Clark a letter. He broke the seal.
"Ye gods, the very stars are for us! The French have joined America!"
With strange exhilaration the little band felt themselves borne down the swift-rushing waters to the Falls of the Ohio.
Before them blossomed a virgin world. Clark paused while the boats clustered round. "Do you see that high, narrow, rocky island at the head of the rapids? It is safe from the Indian. While the troops erect a stockade and blockhouse, let the families clear a field and plant their corn."
Axes rang. The odour of hawthorn filled the air. Startled birds swept over the falls,—eagles, sea gulls, and mammoth cranes turning up their snowy wings glittering in the sunlight. On the mainland, deer, bear, and buffalo roamed under the sycamores serene as in Eden.
"Halloo-oo!" It was the well-known call of Simon Kenton, paddling down to Corn Island with Captain John Montgomery and thirty Kentuckians.
"What news of the winter?"
"Boone and twenty-seven others have been captured by the Indians."
"Boone? We are laying a trap for those very Indians," and then and there Major Clark announced the object of the expedition.
Some cheered the wild adventure, some trembled and deserted in the night, but one hundred and eighty men embarked with no baggage beyond a rifle and a wallet of corn for each.
The snows of the Alleghanies were melting. A million rivulets leaped to the blue Ohio. It was the June rise, the river was booming. Poling his little flotilla out into the main channel Clark and his borderers shot the rapids at the very moment that the sun veiled itself in an all but total eclipse at nine o'clock in the morning.
It was a dramatic dash, as on and on he sped down the river, bank-full, running like a millrace.
Double manned, relays of rowers toiled at the oars by night and by day.
"Do you see those hunters?"
At the mouth of the Tennessee, almost as if prearranged, two white men emerged from the Illinois swamps as Clark shot by. He paused and questioned the strangers.
"We are just from Kaskaskia. Rocheblave is alone with neither troops nor money. The French believe you Long Knives to be the most fierce, cruel, and bloodthirsty savages that ever scalped a foe."
"All the better for our success. Now pilot us."
Governor Rocheblave, watching St. Louis and dreaming of conquest, was to be rudely awakened. All along the Mississippi he had posted spies and was watching the Spaniard, dreaming not of Kentucky.
Out upon the open, for miles across the treeless prairies, the hostile Indians might have seen his little handful of one hundred and eighty men, but Clark of twenty-six, like the Corsican of twenty-six, "with no provisions, no munitions, no cannon, no shoes, almost without an army," was about to change the face of three nations.
Twilight fell as they halted opposite Kaskaskia on the night of July 4, without a grain of corn left in their wallets.
"Boys, the town must be taken to-night at all hazards."
Softly they crossed the river,—the postern gate was open.
"Brigands!" shouted Governor Rocheblave, leaping from his bed at midnight when Kenton tapped him on the shoulder. It was useless to struggle; he was bound and secured in the old Jesuit mansion which did duty as a fort at Kaskaskia.
"Brigands!" screamed fat Madame Rocheblave in a high falsetto, tumbling out of bed in her frilled nightcap and gown. Seizing her husband's papers, plump down upon them she sat. "No gentleman would ever enter a lady's bed-chamber."
"Right about, face!" laughed Kenton, marching away the Governor. "Never let it be said that American soldiers bothered a lady."
In revenge Madame tore up the papers, public archives, causing much trouble in future years.
"Sacred name of God!" cried the French habitants, starting from their slumbers. From their windows they saw the streets filled with men taller than any Indians. "What do they say?"
"Keep in your houses on pain of instant death!"
"Keep close or you will be shot!"
In a moment arose a dreadful shriek of men, women, and children,—"The Long Knives! The Long Knives!"
The gay little village became silent as death. Before daylight the houses of Kaskaskia were disarmed. The wild Virginians whooped and yelled. The timid people quaked and shuddered.
"Grant but our lives and we will be slaves to save our families." It was the pleading of Father Gibault, interceding for his people. "Let us meet once more in the church for a last farewell. Let not our families be separated. Permit us to take food and clothing, the barest necessities for present needs."
"Do you take us for savages?" inquired Clark in amaze. "Do you think Americans would strip women and children and take the bread out of their mouths? My countrymen never make war on the innocent. It was to was to protect our own wives and children that we have penetrated this wilderness, to subdue these British posts whence the savages are supplied with arms and ammunition to murder us. We do not war against Frenchmen. The King of France is our ally. His ships and soldiers fight for us. Go, enjoy your religion and worship when you please. Retain your property. Dismiss alarm. We are your friends come to deliver you from the British."
The people trembled; then shouts arose, and wild weeping. The bells of old Kaskaskia rang a joyous peal.
"Your rights shall be respected," continued Colonel Clark, "but you must take the oath of allegiance to Congress."
From that hour Father Gibault became an American, and all his people followed.
"Let us tell the good news to Cahokia," was their next glad cry. Sixty miles to the north lay Cahokia, opposite the old Spanish town of St. Louis. The Kaskaskians brought out their stoutest ponies, and on them Clark sent off Bowman and thirty horsemen.
"The Big Knives?" Cahokia paled.
"But they come as friends," explained the Kaskaskians.
Without a gun the gates were opened, and the delighted Frenchmen joyfully banqueted the Kentuckians.
The Indians were amazed. "The Great Chief of the Long Knives has come," the rumour flew. For five hundred miles the chiefs came to see the victorious Americans.
"I will not give them presents. I will not court them. Never will I seem to fear them. Let them beg for peace." And with martial front Clark bore himself as if about to exterminate the entire Indian population. The ruse was successful; the Indians flocked to the Council of the Great Chief as if drawn by a magnet.
Eagerly they leaned and listened.
"Men and warriors: I am a warrior, not a counsellor."
Holding up before them a green belt and another the colour of blood, "Take your choice," he cried, "Pea ce or War."
So careless that magnificent figure stood, so indifferent to their choice, that the hearts of the red men leaped in admiration.
"Peace, Peace, Peace," they cried.
From all directions the Indians flocked; Clark became apprehensive of such numbers,—Chippewas, Ottawas, Pottawattamies, Sacs, Foxes, Maumees.
"The Big Knives are right," said the chiefs. "The Great King of the French has come to life."
Without the firing of a gun or the loss of a life, the great tactician subjugated red men and white. Clark had no presents to give,—he awed the Indians. He devoted great care to the drilling of his troops, and the nations sat by to gaze at the spectacle. The Frenchmen drilled proudly with the rest.
While Clark was holding his councils Kenton had gone to Vincennes. Three days and three nights he lay reconnoitring. He spoke with the people, then by special messenger sent word, "The Governor has gone to Detroit. You can take Vincennes."
Clark was ready.
"Do not move against Vincennes," pleaded Father Gibault, "I know my people. Let me mediate for you."
Clark accepted Gibault's offer, and the patriot priest hastened away on a lean-backed pony to the Wabash. With his people gathered in the little log church he told the tale of a new dominion. There under the black rafters, kissing the crucifix to the United States, the priest absolved them from their oath of allegiance to the British king.
"Amen," said Gibault solemnly, "we are new men. We are Americans."
To the astonishment of the Indians the American flag flew over the ramparts of Vincennes.
"What for?" they begged to know.
"Your old father, the King of France, has come to life again. He is mad at you for fighting for the English. Make peace with the Long Knives, they are friends of the Great King."
The alarmed Indians listened. Word went to all the tribes. From the Wabash to the Mississippi, Clark, absolute, ruled the country, a military dictator.
But the terms of the three-months militia had expired.
"How many of you can stay with me?" he entreated.
One hundred re-enlisted; the rest were dispatched to the Falls of the Ohio under Captain William Linn.
"Tell the people of Corn Island to remove to the mainland and erect a stockade fort." Thus was the beginning of Louisville.
Captain John Montgomery and Levi Todd (the grandfather of the wife of Abraham Lincoln) were dispatched with reports and Governor Rocheblave as a prisoner-of-war to Virginia.
On arrival of the news the Virginia Assembly immediately created the county of Illinois, and Patrick Henry appointed John Todd of Kentucky its first American Governor.
THE SPANISH DONNA
In the year that Penn camped at Philadelphia the French reared their first bark huts at Kaskaskia, in the American bottom below the Missouri mouth. Here for a hundred years around the patriarchal, mud-walled, grass-roofed cabins had gathered children and grandchildren, to the fourth and fifth generation. Around the houses were spacious piazzas, where the genial, social Frenchmen reproduced the feudal age of Europe. Gardens were cultivated in the common fields, cattle fed in the common pastures, and lovers walked in the long and narrow street. The young men went away to hunt furs; their frail bark canoes had been to the distant Platte, and up the Missouri, no one kno ws how far.
Sixty miles north of Kaskaskia lay Cahokia, and opposite Cahokia lay St. Louis.
Now and then a rumour of the struggle of the American Revolution came to St. Louis, brought by traders over the Detroit trail from Canada. But the rebellious colonies seemed very far away.
In the midst of his busy days at Kaskaskia, Colonel Clark was surprised by an invitation from the Spanish Governor at St. Louis, to dine with him at the Government House.
Father Gibault was well acquainted in St. Louis. He dedicated, in 1770, the first church of God west of the Mississippi, and often went there to marry and baptise the villagers. So, with Father Gibault, Colonel Clark went over to visit the Governor.
"L'Americain Colonel Clark, your Excellency."
The long-haired, bare-headed priest stood chapeau in hand before the heavy oaken door of the Government House, at St. Louis. Then was shown the splendid hospitality innate to the Spanish race.
The Governor of Upper Louisiana, Don Francisco de Leyba, was friendly even to excess. He extended his hand to Colonel Clark.
"I feel myself flattered by this visit of de Señor le Colonel, and honoured, honoured. De fame of your achievement haf come to my ear and awakened in me emotions of de highest admiration. De best in my house is at your service; command me to de extent of your wishes, even to de horses in my stable, de wines in my basement. My servant shall attend you."
Colonel Clark, a man of plain, blunt speech, was abashed by this profusion of compliment. His cheeks reddened. "You do me too much honour," he stammered.
All his life, the truth, the plain truth, and nothing but the truth, had been Clark's code of conversation. Could it be possible that the Governor meant all these fine phrases? But every succeeding act and word seemed to indicate his sincerity.
"My wife, Madam Marie,—zis ees de great Americain General who haf taken de Illinoa, who haf te rrified de sauvages, and sent de Briton back to Canada. And my leetle children,—dees ees de great Commandante who ees de friend of your father.
"And, my sister,—dees ees de young Americain who haf startled de world with hees deeds of valour."
If ever Clark was off his guard, it was when he thus met unexpectedly the strange and startling beauty of the Donna de Leyba. Each to the other seemed suddenly clothed with light, as if they two of all the world were standing there alone.
What the rest said and did, Clark never knew, although he replied rationally enough to their questions,—in fact, he carried on a long conversation with the garrulous Governor and his amiable dark-haired wife. But the Donna, the Donna—
Far beyond the appointed hour Clark lingered at her side. She laughed, she sang. She could not speak a word of English, Clark could not speak Spanish. Nevertheless they fell desperately in love. For the first and only time in his life, George Rogers Clark looked at a woman. How they made an appointment to meet again no one could say; but they did meet, and often.
"The Colonel has a great deal of business in St. Louis," the soldiers complained.
"Le great Americain Colonel kiss te Governor's sister," whispered the Creoles of St. Louis. How that was discovered nobody knows, unless it was that Sancho, the servant, had peeped behind the door.
Clark even began to think he would like to settle in Louisiana. And the Governor favoured his project.
"De finest land in de world, Señor, and we can make it worth your while. You shall have de whole district of New Madrid. Commandants, bah! we are lacking de material. His Majesty, de King of Spain, will gladly make you noble."
"And I, for my part," Clark responded, "can testify to all the subjects of Spain the high regard and sincere friendship of my countrymen toward them. I hope it will soon be manifest that we can be of mutual advantage to one another."
Indeed, through De Leyba, Clark even dreamed of a possible Spanish alliance for America, like that with France, and De Leyba encouraged it.
Boon companion with the Governor over the wine, and with the fascinating Donna smiling upon him, Colonel Clark became not unbalanced as Mark Antony did,—although once in a ball-room he kissed the Donna before all the people.
But there was a terrible strain on Clark's nerves at this time. His resources were exhausted, they had long been exhausted, in fact; like Napoleon he had "lived on the country." And yet no word came from Virginia.
Continental paper was the only money in Clark's military chest. It took twenty dollars of this to buy a dollar's worth of coffee at Kaskaskia. Even then the Frenchmen hesitated. They had never known any money but piastres and peltries; they could not even read the English on the ragged scrip of the Revolution.
"We do not make money," said the Creoles, "we use hard silver." But Francis Vigo, a Spanish trader of St. Louis, said, "Take the money at its full value. It is good. I will take it myself."
In matters of credit and finance the word of Vigo was potential. "Ah, yes, now you can haf supplies," said the cheerful Creoles, "M'sieur Vigo will take the money, you can haf de meat an' moccasin."
Colonel Vigo, a St. Louis merchant who had large dealings for the supply of the Spanish troops, had waited on Colonel Clark at Cahokia and voluntarily tendered to him such aid as he could furnish. "I offer you my means and influence to advance the cause of liberty."
The offer was gratefully accepted. When the biting winds of winter swept over Kaskaskia, "Here," he said, "come to my store and supply your necessities." His advances were in goods and silver piastres, for which Clark gave scrip or a check on the agent of Virginia at New Orleans.
Gabriel Cerré in early youth moved to Kaskaskia, where he became a leading merchant and fur trader. "I am bitterly opposed to les Américains," he said. Then he met Clark; that magician melted him into friendship, sympathy, and aid.
"From the hour of my first interview I have been the sworn ally of George Rogers Clark!" exclaimed Charles Gratiot, a Swiss trader of Cahokia. "My house, my purse, my credit are at his command."
Clark could not be insensible to this profusion of hospitality, which extended, not only to himself, but to his whole little army and to the cause of his country.
The Frenchmen dug their potatoes, gathered the fruits of their gnarled apple-trees, and slew the buffalo and bear around for meat. Winter came on apace, and yet the new Governor had not arrived.
Colonel Clark's headquarters at the house of Michel Aubrey, one of the wealthiest fur traders of Kaskaskia, became a sort of capitol. In front of it his soldiers constantly drilled with the newly enlisted Frenchmen. All men came to Clark about their business; the piazzas and gardens were seldom empty. In short, the American Colonel suddenly found himself the father and adviser of everybody in the village.
"I will dispossess these Americans," said Governor Hamilton at Detroit. "I will recover Vincennes. I will punish Kentucky. I will subdue all Virginia west of the mountains." And on the seventh of October, 1778, he left Detroit with eight hundred men,—regulars, volunteers, and picked Indians.
The French habitants of Vincennes were smoking their pipes in their rude verandas, when afar they saw the gleam of red coats. Vincennes sank without a blow and its people bowed again to the British king.
"I will quarter here for the winter," said Governor Hamilton. Then he sent an express to the Spanish Governor at St. Louis with the threat, "If any asylum be granted the rebels in your territory, the Spanish post will be attacked."
In their scarlet tunics, emblem of Britain, to Chickasaw and Cherokee his runners flew. At Mackinac the Lake Indians were to "wipe out the rebels of Illinoi'." Far over to the Sioux went presents and messages, even to the distant Assiniboine. Thousands of red-handled scalping knives were placed in their hands. Emissaries watched Kaskaskia. Picked warriors lingered around the Ohio to intercept any boats that might venture down with supplies for the little Virginian army.
New Year's dawned for 1779. Danger hovered over Clark at Kaskaskia.
"Not for a whole year have I received a scrape of a pen," he wrote to Patrick Henry. Too small was his force to stand a siege, too far away to hope for relief. He called his Kentuckians from Cahokia, and day and night toiled at the defences of Kaskaskia. How could they withstand the onslaught of Hamilton and his artillery?
But hark! There is a knocking at the gate, and Francis Vigo enters. Closeted with Clark he unfolds his errand.
"I am just from Vincennes. Listen! Hamilton has sent his Indian hordes in every direction. They are guarding the Ohio, watching the settlements, stirring up the most distant tribes to sweep the country. But he has sent out so many that he is weak. At this moment there are not more than eighty soldiers left in garrison, nor more than three pieces of cannon and some swivels mounted."
With inspiration born of genius and desperate courage Clark made his resolve. "If I don't take Hamilton he'll take me; and, by Heaven! I'll take Hamilton!"
But it was midwinter on the bleak prairies of Illinois, where to this day the unwary traveller may be frozen stark in the icy chill. Clark's men were almost entirely without clothing, ammunition, provisions. Can genius surmount destitution? Clark turned to Vigo.
"I have not a blanket, an ounce of bread, nor a pound of powder. Can you fit me out in the name of Virginia?"
Francis Vigo, a Sardinian by birth but Republican at heart, answered, "I can fit you out. Here is an order for money. Down yonder is a swivel and a boatload of powder. I will bid the merchants supply whatever you need. They can look to me for payment."
In two days Clark's men were fitted out and ready. Clad in skins, they stepped out like trappers.
On the shore lay a new bateau. Vigo's swivel was rolled aboard, and some of the guns of Kaskaskia.
"Now, Captain John Rogers," said Colonel Clark to his cousin, "with these forty-eight men and these cannon you go down the Mississippi, up the Ohio, and enter the Wabash River. Station yourself a few miles below Vincennes; suffer nothing to pass, and wait for me."
On the 4th of February the little galley slid out with Rogers and his men.
"Now who will go with me?" inquired Clark, turning to his comrades. "It will be a desperate service. I must call for volunteers."
Stirred by the daring of the deed, one hundred and thirty young men swore to follow him to the death. All the remaining inhabitants were detailed to garrison Kaskaskia and Cahokia. The fickle weather-vanes of old Kaskaskia veered and whirled, the winds blew hot and cold, then came fair weather for the starting.
It was February 5, 1779, when George Rogers Clark set out with his one hundred and thirty men to cross the Illinois. Vigo pointed out the fur-trader's trail to Vincennes and Detroit. Father Gibault blessed them as they marched away. The Creole girls put flags in the hands of their sweethearts, and begged them to stand by "le Colonel."
"O Mother of God, sweet Virgin, preserve my beloved," prayed the Donna de Leyba in the Government House at St. Louis.
Over all the prairies the snows were melting, the rains were falling, the rivers were flooding.
Hamilton sat at Vincennes planning his murders.
"Next year," he exulted, "there will be the greatest number of savages on the frontier that has ever been known. The Six Nations have received war belts from all their allies."
But Clark and his men were coming in the rain. Eleven days after leaving Kaskaskia they heard the morning guns of the fort. Deep and deeper grew the creeks and sloughs as they neared the drowned lands of the Wabash. Still they waded on, through water three feet deep; sometimes they were swimming. Between the two Wabashes the water spread, a solid sheet five miles from shore to shore. The men looked out, amazed, as on a rolling sea. But Clark, ever ahead, cheering his men, grasped a handful of gunpowder, and with a whoop, the well-known peal of border war, blackened his face and dashed into the water. The men's hearts leaped to meet his daring, and with "death or victory" humming in their brains, they plunged in after.
On and on they staggered, buffeting the icy water, stumbling in the wake of their undaunted leader. Seated on the shoulders of a tall Shenandoah sergeant, little Isham Floyd, the fourteen-year-old drummer boy, beat a charge. Deep and deeper grew the tide; waist deep, breast high, over their shoulders it played; and above, the leaden sky looked down upon this unparalleled feat of human endeavour. Never had the world seen such a march.
Five days they passed in the water,—days of chill and whoops and songs heroic to cheer their flagging strength. The wallets were empty of corn, the men were fainting with famine, when lo! an Indian canoe of squaws hove in sight going to Vincennes. They captured the canoe, and—most welcome of all things in the world to those famished men—it contained a quarter of buffalo and corn and kettles! On a little island they built a fire; with their sharp knives prepared the meat, and soon the pots were boiling. So exhausted were they that Clark would not let them have a full meal at once, but gave cups of broth to the weaker ones.
On the sixteenth day Clark cheered his men. "Beyond us lies Vincennes. Cross that plain and you shall see it."
On February 22, Washington's birthday, fatigued and weary they slept in a sugar camp. "Heard the evening and morning guns of the fort. No provisions yet. Lord help us!" is the record of Bowman's journal.
Still without food, the 23d saw them crossing the Horseshoe Plain,—four miles of water breast high. Frozen, starved, they struggled through, and on a little hill captured a Frenchman hunting ducks.
"No one dreams of your coming at this time of year," said the duck-hunter. "There are six hundred people in Vincennes, troops, Indians, and all. This very day Hamilton completed the walls of his fort."
Clark pressed his determined lips. "The situation is all that I can ask. It is death or victory." And there in the mud, half frozen, chilled to the marrow, starved, Clark penned on his knee a letter:
"To the Inhabitants of Post Vincennes:
"Gentlemen,—Being now within two miles of your village with my army, determined to take your fort this night, and not being willing to surprise you, I take this method to request such as are true citizens to remain still in your houses. Those, if any there be, that are friends of the King, will instantly repair to the fort, join the hair-buyer general, and fight like men. If any such do not go and are found afterwards, they may depend on severe punishment. On the contrary, those who are the friends of liberty may depend on being well treated, and I once more request them to keep out of the streets. Every one I find in arms on my arrival I shall treat as an enemy.
George Rogers Clark."
"Take this. Tell the people my quarrel is with the British. We shall be in Vincennes by the rising of the moon. Prepare dinner."
The messenger flew ahead; upon the captured horses of other duck-hunters Clark mounted his officers. It was just at nightfall when they entered the lower gate.
"Silence those drunken Indians," roared Hamilton at the sound of guns. But the Frenchmen themselves turned their rifles on the fort.
Under the friendly light of the new moon Clark and his men threw up an intrenchment, and from behind its shelter in fifteen minutes the skilled volleys of the border rifle had silenced two of the cannon.
"Surrender!" was Clark's stentorian summons at daylight.
Hamilton, with the blood of many a borderer on his head,—what had he to hope? Hot and hotter rained the bullets.
"Give me three days to consider."
"Not an hour!" was Clark's reply.
"Let me fight with you?" said The Tobacco's son, the principal chief on the Wabash.
"No," answered Clark, "you sit back and watch us. Americans do not hire Indians to fight their battles."
Amazed, the Indians fell back and waited.
The fort fell, and with it British dominion in the northwest territory. Then the galley hove in sight and the flag waved above Vincennes.
"A convoy up de rivière on its way with goods, from le Detroit," whispered a Frenchman. Directly Clark dispatched his boatmen to capture the flotilla.
"Sur la feuille ron—don don don," the voyageurs were singing.
Merrily rowing down the river came the British, when suddenly out from a bend swung three boats. "Surrender!"
Amid the wild huzzas of Vincennes the Americans returned, bringing the captive convoy with fifty thousand dollars' worth of food, clothing, and ammunition, and forty prisoners.
With a heart full of thanksgiving Clark paid and clothed his men out of that prize captured on the Wabash.
"Let the British flag float a few days," he said. "I may entertain some of the hair-buying General's friends."
Very soon painted red men came striding in with bloody scalps dangling at their belts. But as each one entered, red-handed from murder, Clark's Long Knive s shot him down before the face of the guilty Hamilton. Fifty fell before he lowered the British flag. But from that day the red men took a second thought before accepting rewards for the scalps of white men.
"Now what shall you do with me?" demanded Hamilton.
"You? I shall dispatch you as a prisoner of war to Virginia."
THE CITY OF THE STRAIT
Clark was not an hour too soon. Indians were already on the march.
"Hamilton is taken!"
Wabasha, the Sioux, from the Falls of St. Anthony, heard, and stopped at Prairie du Chien.
"Hamilton is taken!"
Matchekewis, the gray-haired chief of the Chippewas, coming down from Sheboygan, heard the astounding word and fell back to St. Joseph's.
The great Hamilton carried away by the rebels! The Indians were indeed cowed. The capture of Hamilton completed Clark's influence. The great Red-Coat sent away as a prisoner of war was an object-lesson the Indians could not speedily forget.
Out of Hamilton's captured mail, Clark discovered that the French in the neighbourhood of Detroit were not well-affected toward the British, and were ready to revolt whenever favourable opportunity offered.
"Very well, then, Detroit next!"
But Clark had more prisoners than he knew what to do with.
"Here," said he, to the captured Detroiters, "I am anxious to restore you to your families. I know you are unwilling instruments in this war, bu t your great King of France has allied himself with the Americans. Go home, bear the good news, bid your friends welcome the coming of their allies, the Americans. And tell Captain Lernoult I am glad to hear that he is constructing new works at Detroit. It will save us Americans some expense in building."
The City of the Strait was lit with bonfires.
"We have taken an oath not to fight the Virginians," said the paroled Frenchmen.
The people rejoiced when they heard of Hamilton's capture; they hated his tyranny, and, certain of Clark's onward progress, prepared a welcome reception for "les Américains."
"See," said the mistress of a lodging house to Captain Lernoult. "See what viands I haf prepared for le Colonel Clark." And the Captain answered not a word. Baptiste Drouillard handed him a printed proclamation of the French alliance.
Everywhere Detroiters were drinking, "Success to the Thirteen United States!"
"Success to Congress and the American arms! I hope the Virginians will soon be at Detroit!"
"Now Colonel Butler and his scalping crew will meet their deserts. I know the Colonel for a coward and I'll turn hangman for him!"
"Don't buy a farm now. When the Virginians come you can get one for nothing."
"See how much leather I am tanning for the Virginians. When they come I shall make a great deal of money."
"Town and country kept three days in feasting and diversions," wrote Clark to Jefferson, "and we are informed that the merchants and others provided many necessaries for us on our arrival." But this the Colonel did not learn until long after.
Left alone in command, with only eighty men in the garrison, Lernoult could do nothing. Bitterly he wrote to his commander-in-chief, "The Canadians are rebels to a man. In building the fort they aid only on compulsion."
Even at Montreal the Frenchmen kept saying, "A French fleet will certainly arrive and retake the country"; and Haldimand, Governor General, was constantly refuting these rumours.
"Now let me help you," again pleaded The Tobacco's son to Clark at Vincennes.
"I care not whether you side with me or not," answered the American Colonel. "If you keep the peace, very well. If not you shall suffer for your mischief."
Such a chief! Awed, the Indians retired to their camps and became spectators. To divert Clark, the British officers urged these Indians to attack Vincennes.
The Tobacco's son sent back reply, "If you want to fight the Bostons at St. Vincent's you must cut your way through them, as we are Big Knives, too!" Their fame spread to Superior and the distant Missouri.
"In the vicinity of Chicago the rebels are purchasing horses to mount their cavalry."
"The Virginians are building boats to take Michilimackinac."
"They are sending belts to the Chippewas and Ottawas."
"The Virginians are at Milwaukee."
So the rumours flew along the Lakes, terrifying every Briton into strengthening his stronghold. And this, for the time, kept them well at home.
"Had I but three hundred I could take Detroit," said Clark. Every day now came the word from the French of the city, "Come,—come to our relief."
"But Vincennes must be garrisoned. My men are too few."
Then a messenger arrived with letters from Thomas Jefferson, now Governor of Virginia, with "thanks from the Assembly for the heroic service you have rendered," and the promise of troops.
Now for the first time were the soldiery made aware of the gratitude of their country. Tumultuous cheers rent the air. The Indians heard, and thought it was news of another victory.
"Let us march this day on Detroit," begged the sol diers, few as they were. Half the population of Vincennes, and all the Indians, would have followed.
"Too many are ill," Clark said to himself. "Bowman is dying, the lands are flooded, the rains are falling. An unsustained march might end in disaster. For five hundred troops, I would bind myself a slave for seven years!"
To the soldiers he explained, "Montgomery is coming with men and powder. Let us rendezvous here in June and make a dash at Detroit."
Leaving a garrison in the fort, in answer to imperative call, Clark set out with six boatloads of troops and prisoners for a flying trip to Kaskaskia.
But every step of the way, day and night, "Detroit must be taken, Detroit must be taken," was the dream of the disturbed commander. "I cannot rest. Nothing but the fall of Detroit will bring peace to our frontiers. In case I am not disappointed, Detroit is already my own."
A PRISONER OF WAR
"A prisoner of war? No, indeed, he is a felon, a murderer!" exclaimed the Virginians, as weary, wet, and hungry the late Governor of Detroit sat on his horse in the rain at the door of the governor's palace at Williamsburg, where Jefferson now resided. The mob gathered to execrate the "hair-buyer general" and escort him to jail.
There were twenty-seven prisoners, altogether, brought by a band of borderers, most of the way on foot.
Every step of the long journey Captain John Rogers and his men had guarded the "hair-buyer general" from the imprecations of an outraged people.
It was the first news of Vincennes, as the startled cry ran,—
"Governor Hamilton, charged with having incited I ndians to scalp, torture, and burn, is at the door,—Hamilton, who gave standing rewards for scalps but none for prisoners; and Dejean, Chief Justice of Detroit, the merciless keeper of its jails, a terror to captives with threats of giving them over to savages to be burnt alive; Lamothe, a captain of volunteer scalping parties; Major Hay, one of Hamilton's chief officers, and others."
"Load them with heavy fetters and immure them in a dungeon," said Governor Jefferson. "Too many of our boys are rotting in British prison ships." This from Jefferson, so long the humane friend of Burgoyne's surrendered troops now quartered at Charlottesville!
The British commanders blustered and protested, but Jefferson firmly replied, "I avow my purpose to repay cruelty, hangings, and close confinement. It is my duty to treat Hamilton and his officers with severity. Iron will be retaliated with iron, prison ships by prison ships, and like by like in general."
Washington advised a mitigation of the extreme severity, but Jefferson's course had its effect. The British were more merciful thereafter.
And with the coming of Hamilton came all the wonderful story of the capture of Vincennes. And who can tell it? Who has told it? Historians hesitate. Romancers shrink from the task. Not one has surpassed George Rogers Clark's own letters, which read like fragments of the gospel of liberty.
Before the home fire at Caroline, John Rogers told the tale. A hush fell. The mother softly wept as she thought of her scattered boys, one in the west, two with Washington tracking the snows of Valley Forge, one immured in a prison ship where patriot martyrs groaned their lives away.
Little William heard the tale, and his young heart swelled with emotion. John Clark listened, then spoke but one sentence.
"If I had as many more sons I would give them all to my country."
All the way from Kentucky Daniel Boone was sent to the Virginia legislature. He said to Jefferson: "I doubt these charges against Governor Hamilton. Last Spring I was captured by the Shawnees and dragged to Detroit. Governor Hamilton took pity on me and offered the Indians one hundred dollars for my release. They refused to take it. But he gave me a horse, and on that horse I eventually made my escape."
"Did that prevent Governor Hamilton from sending an armed force of British and Indians to besiege Boonsboro?" inquired Jefferson.
Boone had to admit that it did not. But for that timely escape and warning Boonsboro would have fallen.
But Boone in gratitude went to the dungeon and offered what consolation he could to the imprisoned Governor.
The fact is, that Daniel Boone carried ever on his breast, wrapped in a piece of buckskin, that old commission of Lord Dunmore's. It saved him from the Indians; it won Hamilton.
TWO WARS AT ONCE
The sunbeams glistened on the naked skin of an Indian runner, as, hair flying in the wind, from miles away he came panting to Clark at Kaskaskia.
"There is to be an attack on San Loui'. Wabasha, the Sioux, and Matchekewis—"
"How do you know?"
"I hear at Michilimackinac,—Winnebagoe, Sauk, Fox, Menomonie."
Clark laughed and gave the messenger a drink of taffia. But the moment the painted savage slid away the Colonel prepared to inform his friends at St. Louis.
"Pouf!" laughed the careless commandant, drinking his wine at the Government House. "Why need we fear? Are not our relation wit de Indian friendly? Never haf been attack on San Luis, never will be. Be seat, haf wine, tak' wine, Señor le Colonel."
"Pouf!" echoed the guests at the Governor's table. "Some trader angry because he lose de peltry stole in de Spanish country. It never go beyond threat."
An attack? The very idea seemed to amuse the Governor in his cups. But Father Gibault looked grave. "I, too, have heard such a rumour."
"It may be only a belated report of Hamilton's scheming," replied Clark. "Now he is boxed up it may blow over. But in case the English attempt to seize the west bank of this river I pledge you all the assistance in my power."
"T'anks, t'anks, my good friend, I'll not forget. In de middle of de night you get my summon."
But, unknown to them, that very May, Spain declared war against Great Britain. And Great Britain coveted the Mississippi.
Madame Marie and the charming Donna had been listeners. Colonel Clark handed the maiden a bouquet of wild roses as he came in, but spoke not a word. All the year had she been busy, embroidering finery for "le Colonel." Such trifles were too dainty for the soldier's life—but he wore them next his heart.
While the dinner party overwhelmed the victor with congratulations and drank to his health, Clark saw only the Donna, child of the convent, an exotic, strangely out of place in this wild frontier.
"I am a soldier," he whispered, "and cannot tarry. My men are at the boats, but I shall watch St. Louis."
Her eyes followed him, going away so soon, with Father Gibault and De Leyba down to the river. As he looked back a handkerchief fluttered from an upper window, and he threw her a kiss.
"I am not clear but the Spaniards would suffer their settlements to fall with ours for the sake of having the opportunity of retaking them both," muttered Clark as he crossed the river, suspicious of De Leyba's inaction.
At Kaskaskia forty recruits under Capt ain Robert George had arrived by way of New Orleans. Then Montgomery, with another forty, came down the Ohio.
They must be fed and clothed directly. In the midst of these perplexities appeared John Todd, the new Governor.
"Ah, my friend," Clark grasped his hand. "Now I see myself happily rid of a piece of trouble I take no delight in. I turn the civil government over to you. But our greatest trouble is the lack of money."
"Money? Why, here are continental bills in abundance."
"Worth two cents on the dollar. 'Dose British traders,' say the habitants, 'dey will not take five huntert to one. Dey will have nought but skins.' This has brought our Virginia paper into disrepute. They will not even take a coin unless it is stamped with the head of a king."
"What have you done?"
"Done? Purchased supplies on my own credit. Several merchants of this country have advanced considerable sums and I have given them drafts on our Virginian agent in New Orleans. They come back, protested for want of funds. Francis Vigo has already loaned me ten thousand dollars in silver piastres."
"But Virginia will pay it,—she is bound to pay it. The service must not suffer." Thus reassured that his course had been right, Colonel Clark continued:
"Four posts must be garrisoned to hold this country,—Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Vincennes, and the Falls of the Ohio,—not one has sufficient defence. Colonel Montgomery's force is not half what I expected. But if I am not deceived in the Kentuckians I shall yet be able to complete my designs on Detroit. I only want sufficient men to make me appear respectable in passing among the savages."
The cautious French settlers were a trial to Clark. Father Gibault tried to persuade them, parting with his own tithes and horses to set an example to his parishioners to make equal sacrifices to the American cause. Altogether, Father Gibault advanced seve n thousand eight hundred livres, French money, equal to fifteen hundred and sixty dollars,—his little all.
Governor Todd said, "If the people will not spare willingly, you must press it."
"I cannot press it," answered Clark. "We must keep the inhabitants attached to us by every means in our power. Rather will I sign notes right and left on my own responsibility to procure absolute necessities to hold Illinois, trusting to Virginia to make it right."
Then after a thoughtful pause,—"I cannot think of the consequences of losing possession of the country without resolving to risk every point rather than suffer it."
The bad crops of 1779 and the severity of the winter of 1780 made distress in Illinois. Nevertheless the cheerful habitants sold their harvests to Clark and received in payment his paper on New Orleans.
"You encourage me to attempt Detroit," Clark wrote to Jefferson. "It has been twice in my power. When I first arrived in this country, or when I was at Vincennes, could I have secured my prisoners and had only three hundred men, I should have attempted it, and I since learn there could have been no doubt of my success. But they are now completing a new fort, too strong I fear for any force that I shall ever be able to raise in this country."
Then he hurried back to Vincennes. Thirty only were there of the three hundred expected. An Indian army camped ready to march at his call.
"Never depend upon Injuns," remarked Simon Kenton, reappearing after an absence of weeks.
"Kenton? Well, where have you been? You look battered."
"Battered I am, but better, the scars are almost gone. Captured by Shawnees, made to run the gauntlet twice, then dragged to St. Dusky to be burnt at the stake."
"How did you escape?"
"One of your Detroit Frenchmen, Pierre Drouillard, late interpreter for your captured Hamilton, told them the officers at Detroit wanted to question me about the Big Knife. Ha! Ha! It took a long powwow and plenty of wampum, and the promise to bring me back."
"Did he intend to do it?"
"Lord, no! as soon as we were out of sight he told me, 'Never will I abandon you to those inhuman wretches,' A trader's wife enabled me to escape from Detroit."
"Do you think I can take Detroit?"
"Take it, man? As easy as you took Vincennes. Only the day of surprise is past. A cloud of red Injuns watch the approaches. You must have troops."
Troops! Troops! None came. None could come. What had happened?
Taking with him one of Hamilton's light brass cannon to fortify the Falls of the Ohio, Clark discovered that at the very time of his capture, Hamilton had appointed a great council of Indians to meet at the mouth of the Tennessee.
"The Cherokees have risen on the Tennessee settlements, and the regiments intended for you have turned south."
The sword and belt of Hamilton had done their work. America was fighting two wars at once.
THE KEY OF THE COUNTRY
"The Falls is the Key of the Country. It shall be my depot of supplies. Here will I build a fort. A great city will one day arise on this spot." And in honour of the King who had helped America, Clark named it Louisville.
Axes, hammers, and saws made music while Clark's busy brain was planning parks and squares to make his city the handsomest in America. But, ever disturbing this recreation, "Detroit" was in his soul. "Public interest requires that I reside here until provision can be made for the coming campaign."
"Since Clark's feat the world is running mad for Kentucky," said the neighbours in Caroline. Through all that Autumn, emigrants were hurrying down to take advantage of the new land laws of Virginia.
"A fleet of flatboats!" shouted the workmen at the Falls. Down with others from Pittsburg, when the autumn rains raised the river, came Clark's old comrade, John Floyd, and his brothers and his bride, Jane Buchanan. One of those brothers was Isham Floyd, the boy drummer of Vincennes.
"I, too, shall build a fort," said John Floyd to his friends, "here on Bear Grass Creek, close to Louisville."
Still emigrants were on their way, when a most terrific winter set in. Stock was frozen, wild beasts and game died. The forests lay deep with snow, and rivers were solid with ice.
The cabins of Louisville were crowded, the fort was filled with emigrants. Food gave out, corn went up to one hundred and fifty dollars a bushel in depreciated continental currency. Even a cap of native fur cost five hundred dollars.
The patient people shivered under their buffalo, bear, and elk-skin bedquilts, penned in the little huts, living on boiled buffalo beef and venison hams, with fried bear or a slice of turkey breast for bread, and dancing on Christmas night with pineknot torches bracketed on the walls.
"Did you not say the conquerors of Vincennes waded through the drowned lands in February?" asked a fair one of her partner at the dance.
"Yes, but that was an open winter. This, thank God, is cold enough to deter our enemies from attempting to recover what they have lost."
"But Colonel Clark said the weather was warm?"
"Warm, did you say? Who knows what Clark would have called warm weather in February? The water up to their armpits could not have been warm at that time of year."
The spring waters broke; a thousand emigrants went down the Ohio to Louisville. And carcasses of bear, elk, deer, and lesser game floated out of the frozen forests.
During the June rise more than three hundred flatboats arrived at the Falls loaded with wagons; for months long trains were departing from Louisville with these people bound for the interior. Floyd's fort on the Bear Grass became a rendezvous; the little harbour an anchorage for watercraft.
"We must establish a claim to the Mississippi," wrote Jefferson to Clark. "Go down to the mouth of the Ohio and build a fort on Chickasaw Bluff. It will give us a claim to the river."
While Clark was preparing, an express arrived from Kaskaskia,—
"We are threatened with invasion. Fly to our relief."
Without money save land warrants, without clothing save skins, depending on their rifles for food, Clark's little flotilla with two hundred men set down the Ohio, on the very flood that was bringing the emigrants, to clinch the hold on Illinois.
"I have now two thousand warriors on the Lakes. The Wabash Indians have promised to amuse Mr. Clark at the Falls." De Peyster, the new commandant at Detroit, was writing to General Haldimand at Quebec. Even as Clark left, a few daring savages came up and fired on the fort at Louisville.
"She is strong enough now to defend herself," said Clark as he pulled away.
Colonel Bird, working hard at Detroit, started his Pottawattamies. They went but a little way.
"Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Long Knives coming!" Pell-mell, back they fell, to be fitted out all over again.
"These unsteady rogues put me out of all patience!" exclaimed the angry Colonel Bird. "They are always cooking or counciling. Indians are most happy when most frequently fitted out."
"Such is the dependence on Indians without troops to lead them," sagely remarked De Peyster. "But without them we could not hold the country."
"It is distressing," wrote Governor Haldimand, "to reflect that notwithstanding the vast treasure lavished upon these people, no dependence can be had on them."
"Amazing sum!" he exclaimed when th e bills came in. "I observe with great concern the astonishing consumption of rum at Detroit. This expense cannot be borne."
However, the Pottawattamies sharpened their hatchets and, newly outfitted, set out for the rapids of the Ohio.
"Bring them in alive if possible," was the parting admonition of De Peyster, warned by the obloquy of Hamilton. Vain remonstrance with four hundred and seventy-six dozen scalping knives at Bird's command!
From every unwary emigrant along the Ohio, daily the Delawares and Shawnees brought their offerings of scalps to Detroit, and throwing them down at the feet of the commander said, "Father, we have done as you directed us; we have struck your enemies."
The bounty was paid; the scalps were counted and flung into a cellar under the Council House.
And De Peyster, really a good fellow, like André, a bon vivant and lover of books and music, went on with his cards, balls, and assemblies, little feeling the iron that goes to the making of nations.
"Kentuckians very bad people! Ought to be scalped as fast as taken," said the Indians.
BEHIND THE CURTAIN
"We must dislodge this American general from his new conquest," said the British officers, "or tribe after tribe will be gained over and subdued. Thus will be destroyed the only barrier which protects the great trading establishments of the Northwest and Hudson's Bay. Nothing could then prevent the Americans from gaining the source of the Mississippi, gradually extending themselves by the Red River to Lake Winnipeg, from whence the descent of Nelson's River to York Fort would in time b e easy."
Another strong factor in this decision was the dissatisfaction of the British traders with the new movement that was deflecting the fur trade down the Mississippi. The French families of Cahokia and Kaskaskia sent their furs down to New Orleans, greatly to the displeasure of their late English rulers, who wanted them to go to Canada, by the St. Louis trail to Detroit.
"Why should it not continue over the old Detroit trail to Montreal?" they questioned. "Is our fur trade to be cut off by these beggarly rebels and Spaniards? It belongs to Canada, Canada shall have it!" So all North America was fought over for the fur trade.
"I will use my utmost endeavours to send as many Indians as I can to attack the Spanish settlements, early in February," said Pat Sinclair, the British commander at Michilimackinac.
"I have taken steps to engage the Sioux under their own Chief, Wabasha, a man of uncommon abilities. Wabasha is allowed to be a very extraordinary Indian and well attached to His Majesty's interest."
And Wabasha, king of the buffalo plains above the Falls of St. Anthony, was an extraordinary Indian. In old days he fought for Pontiac, but after De Peyster brought the Sioux, the proudest of the tribes, to espouse the English cause, every year Wabasha made a visit to his British father at Michilimackinac.
On such a visit as this he came from Prairie du Chien after hearing that Hamilton was taken, and was received with songs and cannonading:
"Hail to great Wabashaw!
Cannonier—fire away, Hoist the fort-standard, and beat all the drums;
Ottawa and Chippewa,
Whoop! for great Wabashaw! He comes—beat drums—the Sioux chief comes.
"Hail to great Wabashaw!
Soldiers your triggers draw, Guard,—wave the colours, and give him the drum!
Choctaw and Chickasaw,
Whoop for great Wabashaw! Raise the port-cullis!—the King's friend is come." < /div>
By such demonstrations and enormous gifts, the Indians were held to the British standard.
It was Wabasha and his brothers, Red Wing and Little Crow, who in 1767 gave a deed to Jonathan Carver of all the land around St. Anthony's Falls, on which now stand the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, but no government confirmation of the deed has ever been discovered.
"The reduction of St. Louis will be an easy matter, and of the rebels at Kaskaskia also," continued Sinclair. "All the traders who will secure the posts on the Spanish side of the Mississippi have my promise for the exclusive trade of the Missouri."
The Northwest red men were gathering,—Menomonies, Sacs, Foxes, Winnebagoes,—at the portage of the Wisconsin and Fox Rivers, collecting all the corn and canoes in the country, to set out on the tenth of March. Again Sinclair writes, "Seven hundred and fifty men set out down the Mississippi the second of May."
Another party assembled at Chicago to come by the Illinois,—Indians, British, and traders.
"Captain Hesse will remain at St. Louis," continued Governor Sinclair. "Wabasha will attack Ste. Genevieve and the rebels at Kaskaskia. Two vessels leave here on the second of June to attend Matchekewis, who will return by the Illinois River with prisoners."
Very well De Peyster knew Matchekewis, the puissant chief who
"At foot-ball sport With arms concealed, surprised the fort,"
at Michilimackinac in Pontiac's war. It was Matchekewis himself who kicked the ball over the pickets, and rushing in with his band fell on the unprepared ranks of the British garrison. On the reoccupation of Mackinac, Matchekewis had been sent to Quebec and imprisoned, but, released and dismissed with honours and a buffalo barbecue, now he was leading his Chippewas for the King.
All this was part of a wider scheme, devised in London, for the subjugation of the Mississippi.
THE ATTACK ON ST. LOUIS
Scarce had Clark time to set his men to work on Fort Jefferson, on the Chickasaw Bluffs overlooking the Mississippi, before he received two other expresses, one from Montgomery, one from the Spanish Governor himself,—"Haste, haste to our relief."
Not wishing to alarm his men, Clark picked out a strong escort,—"I shall be gone a few days. Finish the fort. Keep a constant guard."
They thought he had gone to Kentucky.
All through the year 1779 the Frenchmen remembered Clark's warning. At last, so great became the general apprehension, that the people themselves, directed by Madame Rigauche, the school-mistress, erected a sort of defence of logs and earth, five or six feet high, and posted a cannon in each of the three gates.
"Pouf! Pouf!" laughed the Governor. But he did not interfere.
But so many days elapsed, so little sign of change appeared in the accustomed order of things, that the reassured Frenchmen went on as usual digging in their fields, racing their horses, and clicking their billiard balls. Night after night they played their fiddles and danced till dawn on their footworn puncheon floors.
And all the while the Lake Indians of the North were planning and counselling. All through the Spring they were gathering at rendezvous, paddling down Lake Michigan's shore into the Chicago River, and then by portage into the Illinois, where they set up the cry, "On to St. Louis!"
So long had been the fear allayed, so much the rumour discredited, that when old man Quenelle came back across the river, white with excitement, the people listened to his tale as of one deranged.
"What? Do you ask? What?" His teeth chattered. "Ducharme, Ducharme the absconder, meet me across te river an' say—'Te Injun comin'!' Fifteen huntert down te river of te Illinois!"
Terrified was the old man. Hearers gathered round plying him with questions. The incredulous laughed at his incoherence. "What? What?" he gasped. "You laugh?" Some believed him. Dismay began to creep over the more timid ones.
"What is it?" inquired the burly Governor De Leyba, bustling up. "What? That same old yarn to frighten the people? Quenelle is an old dotard. Take him to prison." Thus reassured, again the people went on with work, games, festivity.
But now the people of Cahokia became excited. Early in March Colonel Gratiot sent a boatload of goods for trade to Prairie du Chien. It was captured by Indians on the Mississippi. Breathless half-breed runners reported the apparition upon the waters,—"All te waves black with canoes. A great many sauvages."
"Clark," was the spoken and unspoken thought of all. "Clark, the invincible, where is he?"
Some said, "He is camped with his Long Knives in the American Bottom."
"No, he is building a fort at the Chickasaw Bluffs."
Hurriedly the villagers prepared an express for Clark. Charles Gratiot was sent, the brainiest man in Cahokia, one who could speak English, and, moreover, a great friend of Clark.
On the swiftest canoe Charles Gratiot launched amid the prayers of Cahokia. Down he swept on the Mississippi with the precious papers calling for succour. Safely he passed a thousand snags, safely reached the bluffs of Chickasaw, and saw the fort. Toiling up he gave his message.
"Colonel Clark? He is gone. We think he left for Louisville." Without delay a messenger was dispatched to follow his supposed direction.
Meanwhile, Clark and his soldiers, joining Montgomery by land, had hurried to Cahokia. Immediately h e crossed to St. Louis. It was the feast of Corpus Christi, May 25. Service in the little log chapel was over.
"Come," said the people in holiday attire, "Let us gather strawberries on the flowery mead."
From their covert, peeped the Indians. "To-morrow!" they said, "to-morrow!"
Out of the picnic throng, with lap full of flowers, the beautiful Donna ran to greet her lover.
"So long"—she drew a sigh—"I haf watched and waited!" Love had taught her English. Never had the Donna appeared so fair, with shining eyes and black hair waving on her snowy shoulders.
With tumultuous heart Colonel Clark bent and kissed her. "Vengeance I swear on any Indian that shall ever mar this lovely head!" Then crushing her hand with the grip of a giant,—"Wait a little, my dear, I must see your brother the Governor."
Outside the maiden waited while Clark entered the Government House.
At last Don Francisco De Leyba was come to his senses: "I fear, but I conceal from de people. I sent for Lieutenant Cartabona from de Ste. Genevieve. He haf arrived with twenty-five soldier. Will you not command of both side de river? I need you. You promised."
De Leyba wore a long scarf of crape for his lately deceased wife. Clark had never seen him look so ill; he was worn out and trembling. The ruffle at his wrist shook like that of a man with palsy.
Clark took the nervous hand in his own firm grasp.
"Certainly, my friend, I will do everything in my power. What are your defences?"
"We haf a stockade, you note it? De cannon at gates? I assure de people no danger, de rumour false; I fear dey scarce will believe now." Together they went out to review Cartabona's soldiers and the works of defence.
"Le Colonel Clark! Le Colonel Clark!" the people cheered as he passed. "Now we are safe!"
De Leyba had sent out a hunter to shoot ducks for the Colonel's dinner. And while the Governor and Clark were in discussion, the hunter met a spy.
"Who commands at Cahokia?" inquired the stranger.
"Colonel Clark; he has arrived with a great force."
"Colonel Clark! Oh, no," answered the spy in amazement, "that cannot be! Clark is in Kentucky. We have just killed an express with dispatches to him there."
"I don't know about that," answered the hunter, in his turn surprised. "Colonel Clark is at this moment in St. Louis, and I have been sent to kill some ducks for his dinner."
The stranger disappeared.
Clark was in St. Louis about two hours. "Cartabona is here. I shall be ready to answer his slightest signal. Be sure I shall answer." He turned to go.
"Going? No, no, Señor Colonel, I cannot permit—" The hands of Governor De Leyba shook still more. "I expect you to dine,—haf sent a hunter for ducks."
But when did George Rogers Clark ever stop to eat when there was fighting on hand? Hastily recrossing the river, he put Cahokia into immediate defence.
The next day dawned clear and bright, but the people, wearied with all-night dancing, slumbered late. Grandfather Jean Marie Cardinal had not danced. He was uncommonly industrious that morning. Hastening away in the dewy dawn, he went to planting corn in his slightly plowed fields. Gradually others strolled out on the Grand Prairie. It was high noon when an Indian down by the spring caught the eye of Grandfather Jean Marie Cardinal.
"He must not give the alarm," thought the savage, so on the instant he slew and scalped him where he stood.
Then all was tumult. The people in the village heard the sound of firearms. Lieutenant Cartabona and his garrison fired a gunshot from the tower to warn the scattered villagers in the fields. Erelong they came stumbling into the north gate half dead with fright and exhaustion.
"The Chippewas! The Chippewas!"
They had crossed the river and murdered the family of François Bellhome.
"Sacre Dieu! le Sauvage! la Tour! la Tour!' '" cried the frantic habitants, but the tower was occupied by Cartabona and his coward soldiers.
Every man rushed to the Place des Armes, powder-horn and bullet-pouch in hand.
"To arms! To arms!" was the terrified cry.
"Where is the garrison? Where is the Governor?"
But they came not forth. Cartabona and his men continued to garrison the tower. The Governor cowered in the Government House with doors shut and barricaded. Women and children hid in the houses, telling their beads.
It was about noon when the quick ear of Clark, over in Cahokia, heard the cannonading and small arms in St. Louis. He sent an express.
"Here, Murray and Jaynes, go over the river and inquire the cause."
Slipping through the cottonwood trees, the express met an old negro woman on a keen run for Cahokia. She screamed, "Run, Boston, run! A great many salvages!"
All together ran back, just in time to meet Colonel Clark marching out of the east gate. In the thick woods of Cahokia Creek he caught a view of the foe. "Boom!" rang his brass six-pounder,—tree-tops and Indians fell together.
Amazed at this rear fire the Indians turned in confusion. One terrified look,—"It is the Long Knife! We have been deceived. We will not fight the Long Knife!" With one wild whoop they scurried to their boats. The handful of traders, deserted, raised the siege and retired.
It was the period of the spring rise of the powerful and turbulent Mississippi, which, undermining its shores, dumped cottonwood trees into the river.
"The whole British army is coming on rafts!" In terror seeing the supposed foe advancing, Cartabona's soldiers began firing at the white-glancing trees on the midnight waters. On, on came the ghostly flotilla.
"Cease firing!" demanded De Leyba emerging from his retreat.
"De cowardly, skulking old Goffner! hide heself! abandon de people!" In wrath they tore t oward him, sticks and stones flying. The Governor fled, and the daft Spaniards, watching the river, spiked the cannon, preparing to fly the moment the British landed.
Cahokia trembled all night long. There were noises and howls of wolves, but no Indians. Clark himself in the darkness made the rounds of his sentinels. Even through the shadows they guessed who walked at night.
"Pass, grand round, keep clear of my arms and all's well," was the successive cry from post to post in the picket gardens of old Cahokia.
With the first pale streak of dawn the sleepless habitants looked out. All was still. The Indians were gone, but over at St. Louis seven men were found dead, scalped by the retreating foe. Many more were being carried off prisoners, but Clark's pursuing party rescued thirty.
The prisoners, dragged away to the north by their captors, suffered hardships until restored at the end of the war, in 1783.
When Clark heard of the incompetence of De Leyba he was furious. On his way to the Government House, he saw the lovely Donna at her casement. Her hair was dishevelled, her eyes wet with tears. She extended her hand. Clark took one step toward her, and then pride triumphed.
"Never will I become the father of a race of cowards," and turning on his heel he left St. Louis forever.
In one month De Leyba was dead, some said by his own hand. He knew that Auguste Chouteau had gone to complain of him at New Orleans,—the people believed he had been bribed by Great Britain; he knew that only disgrace awaited him, and he succumbed to his many disasters and the universal obloquy in which he was held. He was buried in the little log chapel, beneath the altar, by the side of his wife, where his tomb is pointed out to this day.
And the beautiful Donna De Leyba? She waited and wept but Clark came not. Then, taking with her the two little orphan nieces, Rita and Perdita, she went down to New Orleans. Here for a time she lingered among friends, and at last, giving up all hope, retired to the Ursuline convent and became a nun.
Presently Auguste Chouteau returned from New Orleans with the new Governor, Don Francisco de Cruzat, who pacified fears and fortified the town with half-a-dozen circular stone turrets, twenty feet high, connected by a stout stockade of cedar posts pierced with loopholes for artillery. On the river bank a stone tower called the Half Moon, and west of it a square log tower called the Bastion, still stood within the memory of living men.
"Next year a thousand Sioux will be in the field under Wabasha," wrote Sinclair to Haldimand, his chief in Canada.
But the Sioux had no more desire to go back to "the high walled house of thunder," where the cannon sounded not "Hail to great Wabashaw!"
Their own losses were considerable, for Clark ordered an immediate pursuit. Some of the Spaniards, grateful for the succour of the Americans, crossed the river and joined Montgomery's troops in his chase after the retreating red men.
"The Americans are coming," was the scare-word at Prairie du Chien. "Better get up your furs."
With Wabasha's help the traders hastily bundled three hundred packs of their best furs into canoes, and setting fire to the remaining sixty packs, burned them, together with the fort, while they hurried away to Michilimackinac. Matchekewis went by the Lakes. "Two hundred Illinois cavalry arrived at Chicago five days after the vessels left," is the record of the Haldimand papers.
The watchfulness and energy of Clark alone saved Illinois; nevertheless, De Peyster felt satisfied, for he thought that diversion kept Clark from Detroit.
After the terror was all over, long in the annals of the fireside, the French of St. Louis related the feats of "l'année du coup."
"Auguste Chouteau, he led te defence, he and he brother."
"No, Madame Rigauche, te school-meestress, she herself touch te cannon."
"Well, at any rate, we hid in te Chouteau garden, behind te stone wall."
With a wrench at his hot heart stifled only by wrath and determination, Clark strode from St. Louis. At Cahokia French deserters were talking to Montgomery.
"A tousand British and Indians on te march to Kentucky with cannon."
"When did they start?" thundered Clark. The Frenchman dodged as if shot.
"Dey start same time dis. Colonel Bird to keep Clark busy in Kentucky so Sinclair get San Loui' an' brak up te fur trade."
For once in his life Clark showed alarm. "I know the situation of that country. I shall attempt to get there before Bird does."
Drawing Montgomery aside, he said, "And you, Colonel, chase these retreating Indians. Chase them to Michilimackinac if possible. Destroy their towns and crops, distress them, convince them that we will retaliate and thus deter them from joining the British again."
Without pausing to breathe after the fatigue of the last few days, with a small escort Clark launched a boat and went flying down to Chickasaw Bluffs. Disguised as Indians, feathered and painted, he and a few others left Fort Jefferson.
Clark's army the year before had carried glowing news of Illinois. Already emigration had set in. On the way now he met forty families actually starving because they could not kill buffaloes.
A gun?—it was a part of Clark. He used his rifle-barrelled firelock as he used his hands, his feet, his eyes, instantly, surely, involuntarily. He showed them how to strike the buffalo in a vital part, killed fourteen, and hurried on, thirty miles a day, fording stream and swamp and tangled forest to save Kentucky.
Kentucky was watching for her deliverer. Into his ear was poured the startling tale. With Simon Girty, the renegade, and six hundred Indians, down the high waters of the Miami and up the Licking, Bird came to Ruddle's station and fired his cannon. Down went the wooden palisades like a toy blockhouse before his six-pounders.
"Surrender!" came the summons from Colonel Bird.
"Yes, if we can be prisoners to the British and not to the Indians."
Bird assented. The gates were thrown open. Indians flew like dogs upon the helpless people.
"You promised security," cried Captain Ruddle.
"I cannot stop them," said Bird. "I, too, am in their power."
Madly the Indians sacked the station and killed the cattle. Loading the household goods upon the backs of the unfortunate owners, they drove them forth and gave their cabins to the flames.
The same scenes were enacted at Martin's Station. The Indians were wild for more. But Bird would not permit further devastation. He could easily have taken every fort in Kentucky, not one could have withstood his artillery; but to his honour be it said, he led his forces out.
Loaded with plunder, the wretched captives, four hundred and fifty men, women, and children, were driven away to Detroit. Whoever faltered was tomahawked.
Clark immediately called on the militia of Kentucky. Hastening to Harrodsburg he found the newcomers wild over land entries.
"Land!" they cried, "you can have all you can hold against the Indians."
It was a grewsome joke. The Indians would not even let them survey. Like a military dictator, Clark c losed the land office,—"Nor will it be opened again until after this expedition."
Immediately a thousand men enlisted. Logan, Linn, Floyd, Harrod, all followed the banner of Clark. Boone and Kenton set on ahead as guides, into the land they knew so well.
"Is it not dangerous to invade the Shawnee country?" inquired one.
"I was not born in the woods to be scared by an owl," was Clark's sententious reply.
All the provisions they had for twenty-five days was six quarts of parched corn each, except what they got in the Indian country.
Canoeing down the Licking, on the first day of August they crossed the Ohio. Scarce touching shore they heard the scalp halloo. Some fell. Within fifteen minutes Clark had his axes in the forest building a blockhouse for his wounded. On that spot now stands Cincinnati.
On pressed Clark in his retaliatory dash,—before the Shawnees even suspected, the Kentuckians were at Old Chillicothe. They flew to arms, but the Long Knives swooped down with such fury that Simon Girty drew off.
"It is folly to fight such madmen."
Chillicothe went down in flames; Piqua followed; fields, gardens, more than five hundred acres of corn were razed to the level of the sod.
Piqua was Tecumseh's village; again he learned to dread and hate the white man.
"That will keep them at home hunting for a while," remarked Clark, turning back to the future Cincinnati.
"DETROIT MUST BE TAKEN"
Again George Rogers Clark sped through Cumberland Gap, fair as a Tyrolean vale, to Virginia. And dashing along the same highway, down the valley of Virginia, came the minute men of the border, in green hunting shirts, hard-riders and sharp-shooters of Fincastle.
"Hey and away, and what news?"
The restless mountaineers of the Appalachians, almost as fierce and warlike as the Goths and Vandals of an earlier day, answered:
"We have broken the back of Tarleton's army at King's Mountain, Cornwallis is facing this way, and cruisers are coming up into the Chesapeake."
"Marse Gawge! Marse Gawge!"
This time it was little York, the negro, who, peeping from the slave quarters of old York and Rose, detected the stride of George Rogers Clark out under the mulberry trees.
The long, low, Virginia farmhouse was wrapped in slumber, an almost funeral pall hung over the darkened porch, as John Clark stepped out to grasp the hand of his son.
"Three of my boys in British prisons, we looked for nothing less for you, George. William alone is left."
"Girls do not count, I suppose," laughed the saucy Lucy, peeping out in her night-curls with a candle in her hand. "Over at Bowling Green the other day, when all the gallants were smiling on me, one jealous girl said, 'I do not see what there is so interesting about Lucy Clark. She is not handsome, and she has red hair.' 'Ah,' I replied, 'I can tell her. They know I have five brothers all officers in the Revolutionary army!'"
"What, Edmund gone, too?" exclaimed George. "He is but a lad!"
"Big enough to don the buff and blue, and shoulder a gun," answered the father. "He would go,—left school, led all his mates, and six weeks later was taken prisoner along with Jonathan and the whole army."
That was the fall of Charleston, in the very May when Clark was saving St. Louis.
"We are all at war," spoke up Elizabeth, the elder sister, sadly. "Even the boys drill on mimic battlefields; all the girls in Virginia are spinning and weaving clothes for the soldiers; Mrs. Washington keeps sixteen spinning-wheels busy at Mount Vernon; mother and all the ladies have given their jewels to fit out the army. Mrs. Jefferson herself led the call for contributions, and Mrs. Lewis of Albemarle collected five thousand dollars in Continental currency. Father has given up his best horses, and Jefferson impressed his own horses and waggons at Monticello to carry supplies to General Gates. All the lads in the country are moulding bullets and making gun-powder. We haven't a pewter spoon left."
"An' we niggers air raisin' fodder," ventured the ten-year-old York.
York had his part, along with his young master, William. Daily they rode together down the Rappahannock, carrying letters to Fielding Lewis at Fredericksburg. It was there, at Kenmore House, that they met Meriwether Lewis, visiting his uncle and aunt Betty, the sister of Washington. "And when she puts on his chapeau and great coat, she looks exactly like the General," said William.
"What has become of my captured Governors?" George asked of his father.
"I hear that Hamilton was offered a parole on condition that he would not use his liberty in any way to speak or influence any one against the colonies. He indignantly refused to promise that, and so was returned to close captivity. But I think when Boone came up to the legislature he used some influence; at any rate Hamilton was paroled and went with Hay to England. Rocheblave broke his parole and fled to New York."
The five fireplaces of the old Clark home roared a welcome that day up the great central chimney, and candles gleamed at evening from dormer window to basement when all the neighbours crowded in to hail "the Washington of the West."
"Now, Rose, you and Nancy bake the seed cakes and have beat biscuit," said Mrs. Clark to the fat cook in the kitchen. "York has gone after the turkeys."
"Events are in desperate straits," said George at bedtime; "I must leave at daylight." But earlier yet young William was up to gallop a mile beside his brother on the road to Richmond, whither the capital had been removed for greater safety.
"Is this the young Virginian that is sending home all the western Governors?" exclaimed the people. An ovation followed him all the way.
"What is your plan?" asked Governor Jefferson, after the fiery cavalier had been received with distinction by the Virginia Assembly.
"My plan is to ascend the Wabash in early Spring and strike before reinforcements can reach Detroit, or escape be made over the breaking ice of the Lakes. The rivers open first."
George Rogers Clark, born within three miles of Monticello, had known Jefferson all his life, and save Patrick Henry no one better grasped his plans. In fact, Jefferson had initiative and was not afraid of untried ventures.
"My dear Colonel, I have already written to Washington that we could furnish the men, provisions, and every necessary except powder, had we the money, for the reduction of Detroit. But there is no money,—not even rich men have seen a shilling in a year. Washington to the north is begging aid, Gates in the south is pleading for men and arms, and not a shilling is in the treasury of Virginia."
"But Detroit must be taken," said Clark with a solemn emphasis. "Through my aides I have this discovery: a combination is forming to the westward,—a confederacy of British and Indians,—to spread dismay to our frontier this coming Spring. We cannot hesitate. The fountain head of these irruptions must be cut off, the grand focus of Indian hostilities from the Mohawk to the Mississippi."
Even as he spoke, Jefferson, pen in hand, was noting points in another letter to Washington.
"We have determined to undertake it," wrote Jefferson, "and commit it to Clark's direction. Whether the expense of the enterprise shall be defrayed by the Continent or State we leave to be decided hereafter by Congress. In the meantime we only ask the loan of such necessaries as, being already at Fort Pitt, will save time and expense of transportation. I am, therefore, to solicit Your Excellency's order to the commandant at Fort Pitt for the articles contained in the annexed list."
Clark had the list in hand. "It is our only hope; there is not a moment to be lost."
On fleet horses the chain of expresses bore daily news to the camp of Washington, but before his answer could return, another express reined up at Richmond.
"Benedict Arnold, the traitor, has entered the Capes of Virginia with a force of two thousand men."
It was New Year's Eve and Richmond was in a tumult. On New Year's day every legislator was moving his family to a place of safety. The very winds were blowing Arnold's fleet to Richmond.
Virginia had laid herself bare of soldiers; every man that could be spared had been sent south.
And Arnold? With what rage George Rogers Clark saw him destroy the very stores that might have taken Detroit,—five brass field-pieces, arms in the Capitol loft and in waggons on the road, five tons of powder, tools, quartermaster's supplies. Then the very wind that had blown Arnold up the river turned and blew him back, and the only blood shed was by a handful of militia under George Rogers Clark, who killed and wounded thirty of Arnold's men.
"I have an enterprise to propose," said the Governor to Clark on return. "I have confidence in your men from the western side of the mountains. I want to capture Arnold and hang him. You pick the proper characters and engage them to seize this greatest of all traitors. I will undertake, if they are successful, that they shall receive five thousand guineas reward among them."
"I cannot, Arnold is gone, I must capture Detroit."
More determined than ever, Clark and Jefferson went on planning. "Yes, you must capture Detroit and secure Lake Erie. You shall have two thousand men, and ammunition and packhorses shall be at the Falls of the Ohio, March 15, ready for the early break of the ice."
Washington's consent had come, and orders for artillery. With Washington and Jefferson at his back, Clark made indefatigable efforts to raise two thousand men to rendezvous March 15.
Up the Blue Ridge his agents went and over to the Holston; he wrote to western Pennsylvania; he visited Redstone-Old-Fort, and hurried down to Fort Pitt. Fort Pitt itself was in danger.
The Wabash broke and ran untrammelled, but Clark was not ready. Cornwallis was destroying Gates at Camden; De Kalb fell, covered with wounds; Sumter was cut to pieces by Tarleton. The darkest night had come in a drama that has no counterpart, save in the Napoleonic wars that shook Europe in the cause of human liberty.
War, war, raged from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. The land was covered with forts and blockhouses. Every hamlet had its place of refuge. Mills were fortified, and private houses. Every outlying settlement was stockaded. Every log house had its pickets and portholes. Chains of posts followed the river fords and mountain gaps from Ticonderoga to the Mohawk, from the Susquehanna to the Delaware, to the Cumberland, to the Tennessee. Anxious sentinels peered from the watchtowers of wooden castles. Guns stood on the ramparts. The people slept in barracks. Moats and drawbridges, chained gates and palisades, guarded the sacred citadels of America.
"And what if England wins?" said one to Washington.
"We can still retire to the Ohio and live in freedom," for, like the last recesses of the Swiss Alps, it was thought no nation could conquer the Alleghanies.
In desperation and unaware of the Virginian crisis behind him, George Rogers Clark embarked four hundred men, all he could get of the promised two thousand. Only a line he sent to Jefferson, "I have relinquished all hope," but Jefferson at that hour was flying from Tarleton, Cornwallis was coming up into Virginia, and Washington with his ragged band of veteran Continentals was marching down to Yorktown. There was no time to glance beyond the mountains.
All the northwest, in terror of Clark, was watching and fearing. If a blow was struck anywhere, "Clark did it." Shawnees and Delawares, Wyandots at the north, Choctaws and Chickasaws and Cherokees at the south, British and Indians everywhere, were rising against devoted Kentucky.
As Clark stepped on his boats at Pittsburg word flew to remotest tribes,—
"The Long Knives are coming!"
The red man trembled in his wigwam, Detroit redoubled its fortifications, and Clark's forlorn little garrisons in the prairies of the west hung on to Illinois.
In those boats Clark bore provisions, ammunition, artillery, quartermaster's stores, collected as if from the very earth by his undying energy,—everything but men, men! Major William Croghan stood with him on the wharf at Pittsburg, burning, longing to go, but honour forbade,—he was out on parole from Charleston.
Peeping, spying, gliding, Indians down the Ohio would have attacked but for fear of Clark's cannon. The "rear guard of the Continental army" little knew the young Virginian, the terror of his name. For him, Canada staid at home to guard Detroit when she might have wrested Yorktown.
With shouts of thanksgiving Louisville greeted Clark and his four hundred; the war had come up to their very doors. Never had the Indians so hammered away at the border. Across the entire continent the late intermittent cannon shots became a consta nt volley.
Every family had its lost ones,—"My father, my mother, my wife, my child, they slaughtered, burned, tortured,—I will hunt the Indian till I die!"
Detroit, Niagara, Michilimackinac—the very names meant horror, for there let loose, the red bloodhounds of war, the most savage, the most awful, with glittering knives, pressed close along the Ohio. The buffalo meat for the expedition rotted while Clark struggled, anguished in spirit, a lion chained, "Stationed here to repel a few predatory savages when I would carry war to the Lakes."
But troops yet behind, "almost naked for want of linen and entirely without shoes," were trying to join Clark down the wild Ohio. Joseph Brandt cut them off,—Lochry and Shannon and one hundred Pennsylvanians,—not one escaped to tell the tale.
Clark never recovered, never forgot the fate of Lochry. "Had I tarried but one day I might have saved them!" In the night-time he seemed to hear those struggling captives dragged away to Detroit,—"Detroit! lost for the want of a few men!" For the first time the over-wrought hero gave way to intoxication to drown his grief,—and so had Clark then died, "Detroit" might have been found written on his heart.
Despair swept over Westmoreland where Lochry's men were the flower of the frontier. Only fourteen or fifteen rifles remained in Hannastown,—the Indians swooped and destroyed it utterly.
ON THE RAMPARTS
In all his anguish about Detroit, with the energy of desperation Clark now set to work making Louisville stronger than ever.
"Boys, we must have defences absolutely impr egnable; we know not at what moment cannon may be booming at our gates."
A new stronghold was founded, and around it a moat eight feet deep and ten feet wide; surrounding the moat itself, was built a breastwork of log pens, filled with earth and picketed ten feet high on top of the breastwork. An acre was thus enclosed, and in that acre was a spring that bubbles still in the streets of Louisville. Within were mounted a double six-pounder captured at Vincennes, four cannon, and eight swivels, and heaped around were shells, balls, and grapeshot brought for the Detroit campaign. With bakehouse and blockhouse, bastion and barrack, no enemy ever dared attack Fort Nelson.
"General Clark is too hard on the militia," the soldier boys complained, but the hammering and pounding and digging went on until Louisville was the strongest point beyond the Alleghanies.
Back and back came the Indians, in battles and forays, and still in this troublous time settlers were venturing by flatboat and over the Wilderness Road into the Blue Grass country. They seemed to fancy that Clark had stilled the West, that here the cannon had ceased to rattle.
Emigrants on packhorses bound for the land of cane and turkeys saw bodies of scalped white men every day. Logan and his forest rangers, like knights of old, guarded the Wilderness Road. Kenton and his scouts patrolled the Ohio, crossing and recrossing on the track of marauding savages. Boone watched the Licking; Floyd held the Bear Grass.
Fort Nelson was done,—its walls were cannon-proof. Clark's gunboat lay on the water-front when a messenger passed the sentinel with a letter.
In the little square room that Clark called his headquarters, the envoy waited. The young commandant read and bowed his head,—was it a moment of irresolution? "Who could have brought this letter?"
"Any Indian would bring it for a pint of rum," answered a well-known voice. Pulling off a mask, Connolly stood bef ore him.
It was as if Lord Dunmore had risen from the floor,—Connolly had been Lord Dunmore's captain commandant of all the land west of the Blue Ridge. What was he saying?
"As much boundary of land on the west bank of the Ohio as you may wish, and any title under that of a duke, if you will abandon Louisville. I am sent to you by Hamilton."
"What!" gasped Clark. "Shall I become an Arnold and give up my country? Never! Go, sir, before my people discover your identity."
Resolved to lock the secret in his own heart, Clark spoke to no one. But that same night a similar offer was made to John Floyd on the Bear Grass. He mentioned it to Clark.
"We must never tell the men," they agreed; "starving and discouraged they might grasp the offer to escape the Indian tomahawk." But years after Clark told his sister Lucy, and Floyd told his wife, Jane Buchanan,—and from them the tale came down to us.
As if enraged at this refusal, British and Indians rallied for a final onslaught.
"The white men are taking the fair Kain-tuck-ee, the land of deer and buffalo. If you beat Clark this time you will certainly recover your hunting-grounds," said De Peyster at the council fire.
In unprecedented numbers the redmen crossed the Ohio,—station after station was invested; then followed the frightful battle of Blue Licks where sixty white men fell in ten minutes. Kentucky was shrouded in mourning.
Again Clark followed swift with a thousand mounted riflemen.
Among the Indians dividing their spoils and their captives there sounded a sharp alarm, "The Long Knives! The Long Knives!"
"A mighty army on its march!"
Barely had the Shawnees time to fly when Clark's famished Kentuckians entered Old Chillicothe. Fires were yet burning, corn was on the roasting sticks, but the foe was gone.
"The property destroyed was of great amount, and the quantity of provisions burned surpassed all idea we had of the Indian stores," Clark said in after years.
This second destruction of their villages and cornfields chilled the heart of the Indians. Their power was broken. Never again did a great army cross the Ohio.
But standing again on the ruins of Old Chillicothe, "I swear vengeance!" cried the young Tecumseh.
And Clark, the Long Knife, mourned in his heart.
"This might have been avoided! this might have been avoided! Never shall we have peace on this frontier until Detroit is taken!"
"The boy cannot escape me!"
Lafayette was all that lay between Cornwallis and the subjugation of Virginia. The lithe little Frenchman, only twenty-three years old, danced ever on and on before him, fatiguing the redcoats far into the heats of June.
The Virginia Legislature adjourned to Charlottesville. In vain Cornwallis chased the boy and sent Tarleton on his raid over the mountains, "to capture the Governor."
Like a flash he came, the handsome, daring, dashing Colonel Tarleton, whose name has been execrated for a hundred years.
Virginia was swept as by a tornado. Never a noise in the night, never a wind could whistle by, but "Tarleton's troop is coming!"
"Tarleton's troop!" Little John Randolph, a boy of eight, his mother then lying in childbed, was gathered up and hurried away ninety miles up the Appomattox.
"Tarleton's troop!" Beside the dead body of her husband sat the mother of four-year-old Henry Clay, with her seven small children shuddering around her. Standing on a rock in the South Anna River, the great preacher had addressed his congregation in impassioned oratory for the last time, and now on a bier he lay lifeless, while the gay trooper raided the lands of his children.
Even Tarleton was moved by the widow's pallor as he tossed a handful of coins on her table. She arose and swept them into the fireplace,—"Never will I touch the invaders' gold."
"Tarleton's troop!" Back at Waxhaw, South Carolina, a lad by the name of Andrew Jackson bore through life the scars of wounds inflicted by Tarleton's men. At that very hour, alone on foot his mother was returning from deeds of mercy to the patriots caged in prison pens by Tarleton. But the streams were cold, the forests dark; losing her way, overworn and weary, sank and died the mother of Andrew Jackson.
"Tarleton's troop!" Jack Jouett at the Cuckoo Tavern at Louisa saw white uniforms faced with green, and fluttering plumes, and shining helmets riding by.
The fiery Huguenot blood rose in him. Before daylight Jack's hard-ridden steed reined up at Monticello.
"Tarleton's troop, three hours behind me! Fly!"
There was panic and scramble,—some of the legislators were at Monticello. There was hasty adjournment and flight to Staunton, across the Blue Ridge.
Assisting his wife, the slender, graceful Mrs. Jefferson, into a carriage, the Governor sent her and the children under the care of Jupiter, the coachman, to a neighbouring farmhouse, while he gathered up his State papers.
"What next, massa?" Martin, the faithful body-servant, watching his master's glance and anticipating every want, followed from room to room.
"The plate, Martin," with a wave of the hand Jefferson strode out from his beloved Monticello.
With Cæsar's help Martin pulled up the planks of the portico, and the last piece of silver went under the floor as a gleaming helmet hove in sight. Dropping the plank, imprisoning poor Cæsar, Martin faced the intruder.
"Where is your master? Name the spot or I'll fire!"
"Fire away, then," answered the slave. The trooper desisted.
Tarleton and his men took food and drink, but destroyed nothing. The fame of Jefferson's kindness to Burgoyne's captured army had reached even Tarleton, for in that mansion books and music had been free to the imprisoned British officers.
"An' now who be ye, an' whar are ye from?"
An old woman peered from the door of a hut in a gorge of the hills, late in the afternoon.
"We are members of the Virginia Legislature fleeing from Tarleton's raid."
"Ride on, then, ye cowardly knaves! Here my husband and sons have just gone to Charlottesville to fight for ye, an' ye a runnin' awa' wi' all yer might. Clar out; ye get naething here."
"But, my good woman, it would never do to let the British capture the Legislature."
"If Patterick Hennery had been in Albemarle, the British dragoons would naever ha' passed the Rivanna."
"But, my good woman, here is Patrick Henry."
"Patterick Hennery? Patterick Hennery? Well, well, if Patterick Hennery is here it must be all right. Coom in, coom in to the best I have."
But Daniel Boone and three or four others were captured, and carried away to Cornwallis to be released soon after on parole.
"Tarleton's troop!" cried little Meriwether Lewis, seven years old.
Sweeping down the Rivanna came the desperado to the home of Colonel Nicholas Lewis, away in the Continental army.
"What a paradise!" exclaimed Tarleton, raising his hands.
"Why, then, do you interrupt it?" inquired Mrs. Lewis, alone at home with her small children and slaves.
The trooper slept that night in his horseman's cloak on the kitchen floor. At daylight Mrs. Lewis was awakened by a clatter in her henyard. Ducks, chickens, turkeys, the troopers were wringing their nec ks. One decrepit old drake only escaped by skurrying under the barn.
Bowing low till his plume swept the horse's mane, Tarleton galloped away.
The wrath of Aunt Molly! "Here, Pompey, you just catch that drake. Ride as fast as you can, and present it to Colonel Tarleton with my compliments."
On flying steed, drake squawking and flouncing on his back, the darkey flew after the troopers.
"Well, Pompey, did you overtake Colonel Tarleton?" was Aunt Molly's wrathful inquiry.
"What did he say?"
"He put de drake in his wallet, and say he much obleeged!"
Little Meriwether, sitting on the gate-post, laughed at his aunt's discomfiture.
The roll of a drum broke the stillness of Sabbath in the Blue Ridge.
"Tarleton's troop!" By the bed of her sick husband sat a Spartan mother at Staunton. Her sons were in the army at the north, but three young lads, thirteen, fifteen, and seventeen were there.
Placing their father's old firelock in their hands, "Go forth, my children," she said, "repel the foot of the invader or see my face no more."
But Tarleton did not force the mountain pass,—the boys went on down to join Lafayette.
From farm and forest, children and grandsires hurried to Lafayette. The proud earl retired to the sea and stopped to rest at the little peninsula of Yorktown, waiting for reinforcements.
Down suddenly from the north came Washington with his tattered Continentals and Rochambeau's gay Frenchmen, and the French fleet sailed into the Chesapeake. Cornwallis was bottled up at Yorktown.
The boy, Lafayette, had simply put the stopper in the bottle and waited.
Seventy cannon rolled in on Yorktown. George Rogers Clark, all the West, was appealing to Washington, but the great chief unmoved kept his eye on Lord Cornwallis.
On the 19th of October, 1781, the aristocratic marquis, who had commenced his career as aide-de-camp to a king, surrendered to the rebels of America.
"'Wallis has surrendered! surrendered! surrendered!"
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark flung up their caps with other boys and shouted with the best of them, "'Wallis has surrendered!"
After the surrender of Cornwallis, Washington and Lafayette and the officers of the French and American armies went to Fredericksburg to pay their respects to Mary, the mother of Washington. The entire surrounding country was watching in gala attire, and among them the old cavalier, John Clark of Caroline.
On his white horse Washington passed the mulberry trees. Quick as a flash little William turned,—"Why, father, he does look like my brother George! Is that why people call our George the 'Washington of the West'?"
A provisional treaty was signed at Paris, November 30, 1782, a few days after the return of George Rogers Clark from that last Chillicothe raid. Slowly, by pack-horse and flatboat, the news reached Kentucky.
The last of the British army sailed away. Washington made his immortal farewell, and went back to his farm, arriving on Christmas Eve. Bonfires and rockets, speeches, thanksgiving and turkey, ended the year 1782.
But with his return from the last scene at Yorktown, the father of Meriwether Lewis lay down and died, a martyr of the Revolution.
THE OLD VIRGINIA HOME
Back over Boone's trace, the Wilderness Road he had travelled so many times, went General George Rogers Clark sometime in the early Spring of 1783, past the thrifty fields of Fincastle and the Shenandoah Germans, with their fat cattle and huge red barns. Every year the stout Pennsylvanians were building farther and farther up. Year by year the fields increased, and rosy girls stacked the hay in defiance of all Virginian customs across the Ridge.
But the man who a thousand miles to the west held Illinois by the prowess of his arm and the terror of his name, sprang not with the buoyant step of six years before when he had gone to Virginia after the gunpowder. His thoughts were at Kaskaskia, Vincennes, Louisville, where his unsustained garrisons were suffering for food and clothing.
"Peace, peace, peace!" he muttered. "'Tis but a mockery. Must Kentucky lie still and be scalped?"
Still the savages raided the border, not in numbers, but in squads, persistent and elusive. Isham Floyd, the boy drummer of Vincennes, had been captured by the savages and three days tortured in the woods, and burnt at the stake.
"My boy-brother in the hands of those monsters?" exclaimed the great-hearted John Floyd of the Bear Grass. A word roused the country, the savages were dispersed, but poor Isham was dead. And beside him lay his last tormentor, the son of an Indian chief, shot by the avenging rifle of John Floyd.
Riding home with a heavy heart on the 12th of April, a ball struck Colonel Floyd, passed through his arm, and entered his breast. Behind the trees they caught a glimpse of the smoking rifle of Big Foot, that chief whose son was slain. Leaping from his own horse to that of his brother, Charles Floyd sustained the drooping form until they reached the Bear Grass.
"Charles," whispered the dying man, "had I been riding Pompey this would not have happened. Pompey pricks his ears and almost speaks if a foe is near."
At the feet of Jane Buchanan her brave young husband was laid, his black locks already damp with the dew of death.
"Papa! Papa!" Little two-year-old George Rogers Clark Floyd screamed with terror. Ten days later the stricken wife, Jane Buchanan, gave birth to another son, whom they named in honour of his heroic father.
With such a grief upon him, General George Rogers Clark wended his lonesome way through the Cumberland Gap to Virginia. Now in the night-time he heard young Isham cry. Not a heart in Kentucky but bewailed the fate of the drummer boy. And John Floyd, his loss was a public calamity.
"John Floyd, John Floyd," murmured Clark on his lonely way, "the encourager of my earliest adventures, truest heart of the West!"
Lochry's men haunted him while he slept. "Had I not written they would not have come!"
His debts, dishonoured, weighed like a pall, and deep, deep, down in his heart he knew at last how much he loved that girl in the convent at New Orleans. At times an almost ungovernable yearning came over him to go down and force the gates of her voluntary prison-house.
In May he was at Richmond. A new Governor sat in the chair of Jefferson and Patrick Henry. To him Clark addressed an appeal for the money that was his due.
But Virginia, bankrupt, impoverished, prostrate, answered only,—"We have given you land warrants, what more can you ask?"
With heavy heart Clark travelled again the road to Caroline.
There was joy in the old Virginia home, and sorrow. Once more the family were reunited. First came Colonel Jonathan, with his courtly and elegant ar my comrade Major William Croghan, an Irish gentleman, nephew of Sir William Johnson, late Governor of New York, and of the famous George Croghan, Sir William's Indian Deputy in the West.
In fact young Croghan crossed the ocean with Sir William as his private secretary, on the high road to preferment in the British army. But he looked on the struggling colonists, and mused,—
"Their cause is just! I will raise a regiment for Washington."
While all his relatives fought for the King, he alone froze and starved at Valley Forge, and in that frightful winter of 1780 marched with Jonathan Clark's regiment to the relief of Charleston. And Charleston fell.
"Restore your loyalty to Great Britain and I will set you free," said Major General Prevost, another one of Croghan's uncles.
"I cannot," replied the young rebel. "I have linked my fate with the colonies."
Nevertheless General Prevost released him and his Colonel, Jonathan Clark, on parole. Lieutenant Edmund was held a year longer.
Directly to the home in Caroline, Colonel Jonathan brought his Irish Major. And there he met—Lucy.
Then, with the exchange of prisoners, Edmund came, damaged it is true, but whole, and John, John from the prison ships, ruined.
At sight of the emaciated face of her once handsome boy, the mother turned away and wept. Five long years in the prison ship had done its work. Five years, where every day at dawn the dead were brought out in cartloads. Stifled in crowded holds and poisoned with loathsome food, in one prison ship alone in eighteen months eleven thousand died and were buried on the Brooklyn shore. And then came the General, George Rogers, and Captain Richard, from the garrison of Kaskaskia where he had helped to hold the Illinois.
In tattered regimentals and worn old shirts they came,—the army of the Revolution was disbanded without a dollar.
"And I, worse than without a dollar," said General George Rogers. "My private property has been sacrificed to pay public debts."
But from what old treasure stores did those girls bring garments, homespun and new and woolly and warm, prepared against this day of reunion? The soldiers were children again around their father's hearth, with mother's socks upon their feet and sister's arms around their necks.
Jonathan, famous for his songs, broke forth in a favourite refrain from Robin Hood:—
"And mony ane sings o' grass, o' grass,
And mony ane sings o' corn, And mony ane sings o' Robin Hood
Kens little where he was born.
"It wasna in the ha', the ha',
Nor in the painted bower, But it was in the gude greenwood
Amang the lily flower."
"And you call us lily flowers?" cried Fanny, the beauty and the pet. "The lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin; and here have we been spinning for weeks and weeks to dress you boys again."
"And what has William been doing?"
"Learning to follow in the footsteps of my brothers," answered the lad of thirteen. "Another year and I, too, could have gone as a drummer boy."
"Thank God, you'll never have to," ejaculated the General solemnly.
The old house rang with merriment as it had not in years. The negroes, York and old York and Rose his wife, Jane and Julia and Cupid and Harry, and Nancy the cook, were jubilantly preparing a feast for welcome.
Other guests were there,—Colonel Anderson, aide-de-camp of Lafayette, who was to wed Elizabeth, the sister next older than William; and Charles Mynn Thruston, son of the "Fighting Parson," and Dennis Fitzhugh, daft lovers of the romping Fanny.
Since before the Revolution Jonathan had been engaged to Sarah Hite, the daughter of Joist Hite, first settler of the Shenandoah. Thousands of acres had her father and hundreds of indentured white servants. Joist Hite's claim overlay that of Lord Fairfax; they fought each other in the courts for fifty years. Should Hite win, Sarah would be the greatest heiress in Virginia.
From the sight of happy courtship George Rogers turned and ever and anon talked with his parents, "solemn as the judgment," said Fanny.
A few blissful days and the time for scattering came. Again the old broad-porticoed farmhouse was filled with farewells,—negro slaves held horses saddled.
"But we shall meet in Kentucky," said old John Clark the Cavalier.
George Rogers bade them good-bye, waved a last kiss back, whipped up his horse, and entered the forest.
In October John died. A vast concourse gathered under the mulberry trees where the young Lieutenant lay wrapped in the flag of his country, a victim of the prison ship. Great was the indignation of friends as they laid him away.
And now preparations were rapidly carried forward for removal to Kentucky.
DOWN THE OHIO
There was truce on the border. The wondering redmen heard that the great King had withdrawn across the Big Water and that the Long Knives were victors in the country.
With wondering minds Shawnee and Delaware, Wyandot and Miami, discussed around their council fires the changed situation. Very great had the redcoats appeared in the eyes of the savages, with their dazzling uniforms, and long, bright, flashing swords. But how terrible were the Virginians of the Big Knives!
The continental armies had been dispersed, but now from their old war-ravaged homes of the Atlantic shore they looked to the new lands beyond the Alleghanies. Congress would pay them in these lands, and so the scarred veterans of a hundred battles launched on the emigrant trail.
In the Clark home there was busy preparation. Out of attic and cellar old cedar chests were brought and packed with the precious linen, fruit of many a day at the loom. Silver and pewter and mahogany bureaus, high-post bedsteads and carved mirrors, were carefully piled in the waggons as John Clark, cavalier, turned his face from tidewater Virginia.
Neighbours called in to bid them farewell. Mrs. Clark made a last prayer at the grave of her son, the victim of the prison ship.
"William, have you brought the mulberry cuttings?" called the motherly Lucy.
"William, have you the catalpa seeds?" cried Fanny.
Leaving the old home with Jonathan to be sold, the train started out,—horses, cattle, slaves, York riding proudly at the side of his young master William, old York and Rose, Nancy, Jane, Julia, Cupid and Harry and their children, a patriarchal caravan like that of Abraham facing an earlier west two thousand years before.
Before and behind were other caravans. All Virginia seemed on the move, some by Rockfish Gap and Staunton, up the great valley of Virginia to the Wilderness Road, on packhorses; others in waggons, like the Clarks, following the Braddock route down to Redstone-Old-Fort on the Monongahela, where boats must be built.
And here at Redstone was George Rogers Clark, come up to meet them from the Falls. In short order, under his direction, boatbuilders were busy. York and old York took a hand, and William, in a first experience that was yet to find play in the far Idaho.
The teasing Fanny looked out from her piquant sun-bonnet. Lucy, more sedate, was accompanied by her betrothed, Major Croghan.
"My uncle, George Croghan, has lately died in New York and left me his heir. I shall locate in Louisville," was the Major's explanation to his friend's inquiry.
"And what is the news from Virginia?"
"Your old friend Patrick Henry is Governor again. Jonathan visited him last week," was William's reply.
"And Jonathan's wife, Sarah Hite, bids fair to secure her fortune," added Fanny. "You see, when old Lord Fairfax heard of Cornwallis's surrender he gave up. 'Put me to bed, Jo,' he said, 'it is time for me to die,' and die he did. Now his lands are in the courts."
"Mrs. Jefferson, who was ill, died as a result of the excitement of the flight from Tarleton," said Lucy. "To get away from his sorrow, Mr. Jefferson has accepted the appointment of minister to France to succeed Dr. Franklin, and has taken Martha and Maria with him. They will go to school in Paris."
George Rogers Clark was a silent man. He spoke no word of his recent trip to Philadelphia, in which Dr. Franklin had grasped his hand and said, "Young man, you have given an empire to the Republic."
"General Washington has just returned from a horseback journey down into this country," added Major Croghan. "He has lands on the Ohio."
"And have you no word of yourself or of Kentucky?"
General Clark handed his father a notification from the Assembly of Virginia. He read it aloud.
"The conclusion of the war, and the distressed situation of the State with respect to its finances, call on us to adopt the most prudent economy. You will, therefore, consider yourself out of command."
"And you are no longer in the army?"
"No, nor even on a footing with the Continentals. I was simply a soldier of the Virginia militia, and, as such, have no claim even for the half pay allotted to all Continental officers."
"But Virginia has ceded her western territories to Congress with the distinct stipulation that expenses incurred in subduing any British posts therein, or i n acquiring any part of the territory, shall be reimbursed by the United States."
"Is there any hope there? What has Congress? An empty treasury. And who is to pay the bills incurred in the Illinois conquest? Shall I, a private individual?"
"That would be impossible," commented the father.
"But I am not disheartened," continued George Rogers. "When the Indians are quiet, my men hope to build a city on the land granted us opposite the Falls. And here is something from Jefferson, written before he left for Europe."
William stood attentive while the letter was read.
Annapolis, December 4, 1783. Dear Sir,—I find they have subscribed a very large sum of money in England for exploring the country from the Mississippi to California. They pretend it is only to promote knowledge. I am afraid they have thought of colonising into that quarter. Some of us have been talking here in a feeble way of making an attempt to search that country, but I doubt whether we have enough of that kind of spirit to raise the money. How would you like to lead such a party? Though I am afraid our prospect is not worth the question.
Your friend and humble servant,
"Does he want you to lead an exploring party to the Pacific Ocean?" inquired William with intense interest.
"That is the substance of it. And I should want you to accompany me."
Little did either then dream that William Clark would lead that party, with another.
The boats were ready. Surmounted by the Stars and Stripes of the "old thirteen" they started on their journey. Suddenly the Monongahela closed with ice and locked them at Pittsburg, where flurries of snow set the sleigh-bells ringing.
Through deep drifts, under the guns of Fort Pitt, files of Philadelphia traders were buying up skins and tallow, to carry back over the mountains in their p acksaddles that had come out loaded with salt and gunpowder. Squaws were exchanging peltries for the white man's tea and sugar. A great concourse of emigrants was blocked for the winter. Every cabin was crowded.
After great exertions George had secured quarters quite unlike the roomy old Virginian home.
"I must be gone to make peace with those Indians who have been acting with the British, and take steps toward securing titles beyond the Ohio."
Accompanied by two other commissioners, General Clark set out for Fort McIntosh. It was January before the Indians gathered with Pierre Drouillard, interpreter now for the United States.
"By the treaty of peace with England this land belongs to the Thirteen Fires," was the basis of argument. "You have been allies of England, and now by the law of nations the land is ours."
"No! No!" fiercely cried Buckongahelas.
"But we will divide with you. You are to release your white captives, and give up a part of your Ohio lands. The rest you can keep. Detroit and Michilimackinac belong to the Thirteen Fires." Then boundaries were drawn.
"No! No!" cried Buckongahelas. Clark heeded not.
After deliberation the chiefs signed,—Wyandot, Ottawa, Chippewa,—all but Buckongahelas. "I am a friend of Great Britain!" roared the Delaware King. Then to the surprise of all, suddenly striding past the other commissioners, the swarthy chief took the hand of General Clark. "I thank the Great Spirit for having this day brought together two such warriors as Buckongahelas and the Long Knife." Clark smiled and returned the compliment.
"Will the gorge break?" every frontiersman was asking when George returned to Pittsburg.
Piled back for seventy miles the Alleghany was a range of ice, heaped floe on floe. Where the muddy Monongahela blends with the crystal Alleghany the boats lay locked with a hundred others, awaiting the deluge.
Suddenly the melting snows of the Alleghanies burst; the ice loosened, tearing and cutting the branches of trees overhanging the river; and slowly, with the ice, moved the great fleet of flatboats.
Ever narrower and deeper and swifter, the Ohio leaped with tremendous rush down its confined channel. The trees on the uninhabited shores, never yet cut away, held the embankment firm, and racing down on the perilous flood came the Clarks to the Falls of the Ohio, in March of 1785.
Fascinated by the rush of waves, fourteen-year-old William poled like a man. Could he dream what destruction lay in their course? "L'année des grandes eaux," 1785, is famous in the annals of the West as the year of great waters. The floods came down and drowned out old Ste. Genevieve and drove the inhabitants back to the higher terrace on which that village stands to-day. Above, the whole American Bottom was a swift running sea, Kaskaskia and Cahokia were submerged by the simultaneous melting of the snows, and nothing but its high bold shore of limestone rock saved St. Louis itself. Paddling around in his boat, Auguste Chouteau ate breakfast on the roofs of Ste. Genevieve.
At Louisville barely could boats be pulled in to the Bear Grass. Below, waves foamed and whirled among the rocks, that to-day have been smoothed by the hand of man into a shallow channel.
Guided by skilful hands, many a trader's boat that year took the chute of the Falls like an arrow; over the ledges that dammed the water back, down, down they slid out of sight into that unknown West, where William knew not that his brother had paved the way to Louisiana.
"Have you found us a tract?" inquired the anxious mother.
"Land, mother? I own a dukedom, my soldiers and I, one hundred and fifty thousand acres, on the Indian side of the river. We have incorporated a town there, Clarksville they call it. It will be a great city,—but Louisville is safer at present."
That Spring they lived at Fort Nelson, with watchmen on the ramparts.
"But we saw no Indians in coming down!"
"True enough, the flood was a surprise so early in the year. Wait a little, and you will hear more of this terrifying river-route, where in low water it takes seven weeks to run from Redstone to the Bear Grass. Then the murderous clutches of the Indians have free play among the helpless emigrants. Let us be thankful for what you escaped."
Almost while they were speaking a band of Indians glided out of the woods not far away, snatched a boy from a fence, and shot his father in the field.
"Don't kill me, just take me prisoner," said little Tommy, looking up into the warrior's face.
At that instant an elder brother's rifle felled the Indian, and the boy was saved to become the father of Abraham Lincoln.
On a beautiful eminence three miles south of Louisville, John Clark built his pioneer Kentucky home. Louisville itself consisted of but a few log cabins around a fortification built by George Rogers Clark.
This family home, so far from the centre, was stockaded by itself, a double log house, two and a half stories high, with hall through the middle.
Every night a negro stood sentinel, there were portholes in the pickets, and Indians hid in the canebrakes. Once while the young ladies were out walking an Indian shot a little negro girl and they carried her back wounded, behind the pickets at Mulberry Hill.
The floor of the long dining-room was of wood, hard as a bone, and over the seven-foot mantel stag-horns and swords of the Revolution were lit by the light of the cavernous fireplace.
Rigid economy and untiring industry had been the rule at the old Clark home in Caroline, and not less was it here. There were no pianos, but until midnight the hum of the wheel made music.
Enchanted the young people listened to tale and song and hum of wheel, while down the great chimney top calmly smiled the pensive stars.
Little thought they of bare walls, low rafters, or small windows. After the boys hauled in the logs on a hand-sled, and built up a great flame, the whole world seemed illuminated. The pewter basins shone like mirrors, and while their fingers flew in the light of the fire, stories were told of Kaskaskia, Vincennes, St. Louis. But the Donna? Clark never spoke of her. It was a hidden grief that made him ever lonely. When he saw the lovelight all around him and sometimes left the room, the mother wondered why sudden silence came upon the group.
At Mulberry Hill Lucy was married to Major Croghan, who, on a farm five miles out, built Locust Grove, an English mansion of the olden style, in its day the handsomest in Louisville. And Fanny? She was the belle of Kentucky. In powdered wig and ruffles many a grave Virginian tripped with her the minuet and contra dances of the Revolution.
More and more young William became enamoured of the Indian dress, and went about gaily singing the songs of Robin Hood and hacking the meat with his hunting knife.
Out over the game-trails of Kentucky, like the beaten streets of Fredericksburg, the only city he ever knew, young William went with the Boones, Kenton, and his own famous brother, George Rogers Clark, in peltry cap and buckskin hunting-shirt girded with a leathern belt.
Led by them, with what eagerness he shot his first buffalo, deep in the woods of Kentucky. Not much longer could bears, deer, and buffalo retreat to the cane. With the coming of the Clarks an emigration set in that was to last for a hundred years.
Even amusements partook of sportive adventure. Now it was the hunter's horn summoning the neighbou rs to a bear chase in the adjoining hills. William surpassed the Indian himself in imitating the bark of the wolf, the hoot of the owl, the whistle of the whippoorwill.
Daniel Boone came often to Mulberry Hill in leggings and moccasins, ever hunting, hunting, hunting beaver, bear and coon, wolves and wild-cats, deer and foxes, and going back to trade their skins in Maryland for frontier furniture, knives and buttons, scissors, nails, and tea.
Upon his shot-pouch strap Boone fastened his moccasin awl with a buckhorn handle made out of an old clasp-knife, and carried along with him a roll of buckskin to mend his mocassins. While the grizzled hunter stitched deftly at his moccasins, William and York sat by, engaged in the same pastime, for wherever William went, York was his shadow.
"Since poor Richard's uncertain fate I can never trust the boy alone," said his mother. "York, it is your business to guard your young master." And he did, to the ends of the earth.
When "Uncle Daniel," rolled in a blanket, threw himself down on a bed of leaves and slept with his feet to the fire to prevent rheumatism, York and William lay down too, sleeping by turns and listening for Indians.
At daylight, loosely belting their fringed hunting shirts into wallets for carrying bread, a chunk of jerked beef, or tow for the gun, with tomahawk on the right side and scalping knife on the left, each in a leathern case, again they set off under the reddening forest.
Skilled in the lore of woodcraft, watchful of clouds and stars and sun, an intimate student of insect life and own brother to the wily beaver, bear, and buffalo, William Clark was becoming a scientist.
Returning from the chase with the same sort of game that graced the Saxon board before the Norman conquest, he sat down to hear the talk of statesmen. For when Clark's commission was revoked, Kentucky, unprotected, called a convention to form a State.
Affairs that in European lands are left to kings and their ministers, were discussed in the firelight of every cabin. Public safety demanded action. Exposed on three sides to savage inroads, with their Virginia capital hundreds of miles beyond forest, mountains, and rivers, no wonder Kentucky pleaded for statehood.
In a despotic country the people sleep. Here every nerve was awake. Discussion, discussion, discussion, made every fireside a school of politics; even boys in buckskin considered the nation's welfare.
Before he was seventeen William Clark was made an ensign and proudly donned the eagle and blue ribbon of the Cincinnati, a society of the soldiers of the Revolution of which Washington himself was president. Educated in the backwoods and by the cabin firelight, young William was already developing the striking bearing and bold unwavering character of his brother.
"What can have become of Richard?" Every day the mother heart glanced down the long avenue of catalpas that were growing in front of Mulberry Hill.
Of the whole family, the gentle affectionate Richard was an especial favourite. He was coming from Kaskaskia to see his mother, but never arrived. One day his horse and saddlebags were found on the banks of the Wabash. Was he killed by the Indians, or was he drowned? No one ever knew.
Again George Rogers Clark was out making treaties with the Indians to close up the Revolution, but British emissaries had been whispering in their ears, "Make the Ohio the boundary."
At last, after long delays, a few of the tribes came in to the council at the mouth of the Great Miami, some in friendship, some like the Shawnees, rudely suggestive of treachery.
"The war is over," explained General Clark as chairman; "we desire to live in peace with our red brethren. If such be the will of the Shawnees, let some of their wise men speak."
There was silence as they whiffed at the council pipes. Then a tall chief arose and glanced at the handful of whites and at his own three hundred along the walls of the council house.
"We come here to offer you two pieces You know what they mean. Choose." Dropping the beaded emblems upon the table the savage turned to his seat by the wall.
Pale, calm as a statue, but with flashing eye, Clark tangled his slender cane into the belts and—flung them at the chiefs.
Every Indian was up with knife unsheathed, every white stood with hand on his sword. Into their very teeth the Long Knife had flung back the challenge, "Peace, or War."
Like hounds in leash they strained, ready to leap, when the lordly Long Knife raised his arm and grinding the wampum beneath his heel thundered,—
"Dogs, you may go!"
One moment they wavered, then broke and fled tumultuously from the council house.
All night they debated in the woods near the fort. In the morning, "Let me sign," said Buckongahelas.
Smiling, Clark guided the hand of the boastful Delaware, and all the rest signed with him.
FOR the first time in their stormy history, the front and rear gates of the Kentucky forts lay back on their enormous wooden hinges, and all day long men and teams passed in and out with waggon loads of grain from the harvest fields. So hushed and still was the air, it seemed the old Indian days were gone for ever. At night the animals came wandering in from the woods, making their customary way to the night pens. Fields of corn waved undisturbed around the forts.
But the truce was brief. Already the Cherokees were slaughtering on the Wilderness Road, and beyond the nd the Ohio, Shawnee and Delaware, wild at the sight of the white man's cabin, rekindled the fires around the stake.
Thousands of emigrants were coming over the mountains from Carolina, and down the Ohio from Pittsburg social boats lashed together rode in company, bark canoes, pirogues, flatboats, keelboats, scows, barges, bateaux and brigades of bateaux, sweeping down with resistless English, Scotch, Irish, Germans, Huguenots, armed for the battle of the races.
Still the powerful fur traders of Quebec and Montreal hung on to Detroit and Mackinac, still De Peyster opposed giving up the peninsulas of Michigan.
"Pen the young republic east of the Alleghanies," said France, Spain, England, when the Peace Treaty was under consideration. But Clark's conquest compelled them to grant the Illinois.
Before the ink was dry on the documents, Kentucky was trading down the great river of De Soto.
"The West must trade over the mountains," said the merchants of Philadelphia and Baltimore.
"The West will follow its rivers," answered Kentucky.
"Spain is Mistress of the Mississippi," said the Spanish King to John Jay, the American minister at Madrid.
In vain flatboatmen with wheat and corn said, "We are from Kentucky."
"What Kaintucke?" brayed the commandant at Natchez. "I know no Kaintucke. Spain own both side de river. I am ordered to seize all foreign vessel on de way to New Orleong."
Without the Spaniard the trip was sufficiently hazardous. Indians watched the shores. Pirates infested the bayous. Head winds made the frail craft unmanageable,—snags leered up like monsters to pierce and swallow. But every new settler enlarged the fields, and out of the virgin soil the log granaries were bursting.
"Carry away our grain, bring us merchandise," was the cry of expanding Kentucky.
But to escape the Indian was to fall into the hands of the Spaniard, and the Spaniard was little more than a legalised pirate.
Even the goods of the Frenchmen were seized with the warning, "Try it again and we'll send you to Brazil."
The Frenchmen resented this infringement on their immemorial right. Since the days of the daring and courageous Bienville who founded New Orleans, no man had said them nay. A tremendous hatred of the Spaniard grew up in the hearts of the Frenchmen.
In the midst of these confiscations there was distress and anarchy in the Illinois. The infant republic had not had time to stretch out there the strong arm of law. Floods and continental money had ruined the confiding Frenchmen; the garrisons were in destitution; they were writing to Clark:—
"Our credit is become so weak among the French that one dollar's worth of provisions cannot be had without prompt payment, were it to save the whole country."
"And why has our British Father made no provision for us," bewailed the Indians, "who at his beck and call have made such deadly enemies of the Long Knives? Our lands have been ravaged by fire and sword, and now we are left at their mercy."
"Let us drive the red rascals out," cried the infuriated settlers.
"No," said Washington, who understood and pitied the red men. "Forgive the past. Dispossess them gradually by purchase as the extension of settlement demands the occupation of their lands."
But five thousand impoverished Indians in the Ohio country kept thirty thousand settlers in hot water all the time. No lock on a barn door could save the horses, no precaution save the outlying emigrant from scalping or capture. Red banditti haunted the streams and forests, dragging away their screaming victims like ogres of mediæval tragedy.
Clark grew sick and aged over it. "No commission, no money, no right to do anything for my suffering country!"
"Your brother, the General, is very ill," said old John Clark, coming out of the sick chamber at Mulb erry Hill. In days to come there were generals and generals in the Clark family, but George Rogers was always "the General."
Into ten years the youthful commander had compressed the exposure of a lifetime. Mental anguish and days in the icy Wabash told now on his robust frame, and inflammatory rheumatism set in from which he never recovered.
"The Americans are your enemies," emissaries from Detroit were whispering at Vincennes. "The Government has forsaken you. They take your property, they pay nothing."
"We have nothing to do with the United States," said the French citizens, weary of a Congress that heeded them not. "We consider ourselves British subjects and shall obey no other power."
Even Clark's old friend, The Tobacco's Son, had gone back to his British father, and as always with Indians, dug up the red tomahawk.
A committee of American citizens at Vincennes sent a flying express to Clark.
"This place that once trembled at your victorious arms, and these savages overawed by your superior power, is now entirely anarchical and we shudder at the daily expectation of horrid murder. We beg you will write us by the earliest opportunity. Knowing you to be a friend of the distressed we look to you for assistance."
Such a call could not be ignored. Kentucky was aroused and summoned her favourite General to the head of her army. From a sick bed he arose to lead a thousand undisciplined men, and with him went his brother William.
The sultry sun scorched, the waters were low, provisions did not arrive until nine days after the soldiers, and then were spoiled. Fatigued, hungry, three hundred revolted and left; nevertheless, the Indians had fled and Vincennes was recovered.
Just then up the Wabash came a Spaniard with a boatload of valuable goods. Clark promptly confiscated the cargo, and out of them paid his destitute troops.
"It is not alone retaliation," said Clark, "It is a warning. If Spain will not let us trade down the river, she shall not trade up."
Kentucky applauded. They even talked of sending Clark against the Spaniards and of breaking away from a government that refused to aid them.
"General Clark seized Spanish goods?" Virginia was alarmed and promptly repudiated the seizure. "We are not ready to fight Spain."
Clark's friends were disturbed. "You will be hung."
Clark laughed. "I will flee to the Indians first."
"We have as much to fear from the turbulence of our backwoodsmen," said Washington, "as from the hostility of the Spaniards."
But at this very time, unknown to Washington, the Spaniards were arming the savages of the south, to exterminate these reckless ambitious frontiersmen.
Louisiana feared these unruly neighbours. Intriguers from New Orleans were whispering, "Break with the Atlantic States and league yourself with Spain."
Then came the rumour, "Jay proposes to shut up the Mississippi for twenty-five years!"
Never country was in such a tumult.
"We are sold! We are vassals of Spain!" cried the men of the West. "What? Close the Mississippi for twenty-five years as a price of commercial advantage on the Atlantic coast? Twenty-five years when our grain is rotting? Twenty-five years must we be cut off when the Wilderness Road is thronged with packtrains, when the Ohio is black with flatboats? Where do they think we are going to pen our people? Where do they think we are going to ship our produce? Better put twenty thousand men in the field at once and protect our own interests."
The bond was brittle; how easily might it be broken!
Even Spain laughed at the weakness of a Union that could not command Kentucky to give up its river. And Kentucky looked to Clark. "We must conquer Spain or unite with her. We must have the Mississippi. Will you march with us on New Orleans?"
Then, happily, Virginia spoke out for t he West. "We must aid them. The free navigation of the Mississippi is the gift of nature to the United States."
The very next day Madison announced in the Virginia Assembly, "I shall move the election of delegates to a Constitutional Convention." The stability of the Union seemed pivoted upon an open river to the Gulf.
Veterans of the Revolution and of the Continental Congress met to frame a constitution in 1787. After weeks of deliberation with closed doors, the immortal Congress adjourned. The Constitution was second only to the Declaration of Independence. Without kings or princes a free people had erected a Continental Republic.
The Constitution was adopted, and all the way into Kentucky wilds were heard the roaring of cannon and ringing of bells that proclaimed the Father of his Country the first President of the United States.
"We must cement the East and the West," said Washington. But that West was drifting away—with its Mississippi.
About this time young Daniel Boone said, "Father, I am going west."
Just eighteen, one year older than William Clark, in the summer of 1787, he concluded to strike out for the Mississippi.
"Well, Dannie boy, thee take the compass," said his father.
It was the old guide, as large as a saucer, that Lord Dunmore gave Boone when he sent him out to call in the surveyors from the Falls of the Ohio thirteen years before.
Mounted on his pony, with a wallet of corn and a rifle on his back, Boone rode straight on westward thirty days without meeting a single human being. Pausing on the river bank opposite St. Louis he hallooed for an hour before any one heard him.
"Dat some person on de oder shore," presently said old René Kiercereaux, the chorister at the village church.
A canoe was sent over and brought back Boone. As if a man had dropped from the moon, French, Spanish, and Indian traders gathered. He spoke not a word of French, but Auguste Chouteau's slave Petrie could talk English.
"Son of Boone, de great hunter? Come to my house!"
"Come to my house!"
The hospitable Creoles strove with one another for the honour of entertaining the son of Daniel Boone. For twelve years he spent his summers in St. Louis and his winters in western Missouri, hunting and trapping.
"The best beaver country on earth," he wrote to his father. "You had better come out."
"Eef your father, ze great Colonel Boone, will remove to Louisiana," said Señor Zenon Trudeau, the Lieutenant-Governor, "eef he will become a citizen of Spain, de King will appreciate de act and reward him handsomely."
"Kentucky! Kentucky! I hear nothing else," exclaimed the Fighting Parson of the Revolution, who had thrown aside his prayer-book and gown to follow the armies of Washington. "If this western exodus continues Virginia bids fair to be depopulated." Even Jack Jouett, who had ridden to warn Jefferson of Tarleton's raid, had gone to become an honoured member of Kentucky's first legislature.
"Father, let me go."
Charles Mynn Thruston, the son of the Fighting Parson, had long desired to follow Fanny Clark, but his father held him back. Smiling now at the ardour of his son, he said, "You may go, my boy. I am thinking of the western country myself."
Preparations were immediately made, business affairs settled, and a farewell dinner brought friends to historic Mount Zion, the famous Shenandoah seat of the Fighting Parson.
"A strangah desiahs to know, sah, if he can get dinnah, sah," announced black Sambo.
"Certainly, certainly." Parson Thruston was the soul of hospitality. "Bring him at once to the table, Sambo."
The stranger seated himself and ate in silence.
"I perceive," remarked the Parson after the courses had been removed, "I perceive that you are a traveller. May I inquire whence you come?"
Every ear was intent. "From Kentucky, sir," answered the stranger.
"Ah, that is fortunate. I am about to leave for that country myself," exclaimed young Thruston, "and shall be glad to hear such news as you may have to communicate."
The stranger smiled and pondered. "The only interesting incident that I recall before my departure from Louisville, was the marriage of the Kentucky belle, Miss Fanny Clark, to Dr. O'Fallon."
As if struck by a bolt from heaven, Charles Mynn Thruston fell unconscious to the floor.
Dr. O'Fallon was a young Irish gentleman of talent and learning. An intimate friend of the Governor of South Carolina, just before the Revolution he had come to visit America, but espousing the cause of the colonists, the Governor promptly clapped him into prison.
"Imprisoned O'Fallon!" The people of Charleston arose, liberated him, and drove the Governor to the British fleet in the harbour.
Dr. O'Fallon enlisted as a private soldier. But surgeons were needed,—he soon proved himself one of skill unexcelled in America. General Washington himself ordered him north, and made him Surgeon-General in his own army. Here he remained until the close of the war, and was thanked by Congress for his services.
And now he had visited Kentucky to assist in securing the navigation of the Mississippi, and met—Fanny. With the charming Fanny as his wife, Dr. O'Fallon rode many a mile in the woods, the first great doctor of Louisville.
Other emigrants were bringing other r omances, and other tragedies. "Ohio! Ohio! We hear nothing but Ohio!" said the people of New England.
One rainy April morning the "Mayflower," a flatboat with a second Plymouth colony, turned into the Muskingum and founded a settlement.
"Marie, Marie Antoinette,—did she not use her influence in behalf of Franklin's mission to secure the acknowledgment of American independence? Let us name our settlement Marietta."
So were founded the cities of the French king and queen, Louisville and Marietta. A few months later, Kentuckians went over and started Cincinnati on the site of George Rogers Clark's old block-house.
Into the Ohio, people came suddenly and in swarms, "institutional Englishmen," bearing their household gods and shaping a state.
"These men come wearing hats," said the Indians. Frenchmen wore handkerchiefs and never tarried.
Squatting around their fires, with astonishment and fear the Indians watched "the white man's devil," squinting over his compass and making marks in his books. Wherever the magical instrument turned all the best lands were bound with chains fast to the white man.
The Indians foresaw their approaching destruction and hung nightly along the river shore, in the thick brush under the sycamores, stealing horses and sinking boats. With tomahawk in hand, a leader among them was young Tecumseh.
"The Ohio shall be the boundary. No white man shall plant corn in Ohio!" cried the Indian.
"Keep the Ohio for a fur preserve," whispered Detroit at his back.
While wedding bells were ringing at Mulberry Hill, Marietta was suffering. The gardens were destroyed by Indian marauders, the game was driven off, and great was the privation within the walled town.
That was the winter when Governor St. Clair came with his beautiful daughter Louisa, the fleetest rider in the chase, the swiftest skater on the ice, and, like a ll pioneer girls, so skilled with the rifle that she could bring down the bird on the wing, the squirrel from the tree.
Creeping out over the crusty February snow, every family in the settlement had its kettle in the sugar orchard boiling down the maple sap. Corn-meal and sap boiled down together formed for many the daily food.
But with all the bravado of their hearts, men and women passed sleepless vigils while the sentinel stood all night long in the lonely watchtower of the middle blockhouse. At any moment might arise the cry, "The Indians! The Indians are at the gates!" and with the long roll of the drum beating alarm every gun was ready at a porthole and every white face straining through the dark.
When screaming wild geese steering their northern flight gave token of returning spring, when the partridge drummed in the wood and the turkey gobbled, when the red bird made vocal the forest and the hawthorn and dogwood flung out their perfume, then too came the Indian from his winter lair.
"Ah," sighed many a mother, "I prefer the days of gloom and tempest, for then the red man hugs his winter fire."
Always among the first in pursuit of marauding Indians, William Clark as a cadet had already crossed the Ohio with General Scott, "a youth of solid and promising parts and as brave as Cæsar," said Dr. O'Fallon.
Joseph Brant, Thayendanegea, presented a memorial to Congress insisting upon the Ohio as the Indian boundary. His son came down to Marietta.
"Ah, yes," was the whispered rumour at Marietta, "young Brant, the educated son of the famous Mohawk leader, aspires to the hand of Louisa St. Clair." But the Revolutionary General spurned his daughter's dusky suitor.
The next day after New Year's, 1791, the Indians swept down on Marietta with the fiendish threat, "Before the trees put forth their leaves again no white man's cabin shall smoke beyond the Ohio."
"Capture St. Clair alive," bade the irate Mohawk chieftain. "Shoot his horse under him bu t do not kill him." Did he hope yet to win consent to his marriage with Louisa?
The next heard of St. Clair was when the last shattered remnant of his prostrate army fell back on Cincinnati, a defeat darker, more annihilating, more ominous than Braddock's.
"My God," exclaimed Washington, "it's all over! St. Clair's defeated—routed; the officers are nearly all killed, the men by wholesale; the rout is complete—too shocking to think of—and a surprise into the bargain."
No wonder Secretary Lear stood appalled as the great man poured forth his wrath in the house at Philadelphia.
Fifteen hundred went out from Cincinnati,—five hundred came back. A thousand scalps had Thayendanegea.
The news came to Mulberry Hill like a thunderbolt. Kentucky, even Pittsburg, looked for an immediate savage inundation,—for was not all that misty West full of warriors? The old fear leaped anew. Like an irresistible billow they might roll over the unprotected frontier.
From his bed of sickness General Clark started up. "Ah, Detroit! Detroit! Hadst thou been taken my countrymen need not have been so slaughtered."
At Marietta, up in the woods and on the side hills, glittered multitudes of fires, the camps of savages. Hunger added its pangs to fear. The beleaguered citizens sent all the money they could raise by two young men to buy salt, meat, and flour at Redstone-Old-Fort on the Monongahela. Suddenly the river closed with ice; in destitution Marietta waited.
"They have run off with the money," said some.
"They have been killed by Indians," said others. But again, as suddenly, the ice broke, and early in March the young men joyfully moored their precious Kentucky ark at the upper gate of the garrison at Marietta.
THE SWORD OF "MAD ANTHONY" WAYNE
" Another defeat will ruin the reputation of the government," said Washington, as he sent out "Mad Anthony" Wayne, the uproarious Quaker general, with ruffles, queue, and cocked hat, the stormer of Stony Point in the Revolution.
In vain Wayne sent commissioners to treat with the Indians. Elated with recent victories, "The Ohio shall be the boundary," was the defiant answer.
An Indian captured and brought to Wayne said of the British: "All their speeches to us are red, red as blood. All the wampum and feathers are painted red. Our war-pipes and hatchets are red. Even the tobacco is red for war."
"My mind and heart are upon that river," said Cornplanter, an Indian chief, pointing to the Ohio. "May that water ever continue to be the boundary between the Americans and the Indians."
Commissioned by Washington First Lieutenant of the Fourth Sub-Legion, on the first of September, 1792, William Clark crossed the Ohio and spent the winter at Legionville where Wayne was collecting and drilling his army.
"I will have no six months men," said Wayne. "Two years will it take to organise, drill, and harden them before we think of taking the field."
"We are certain to be scalped," whispered timorous ones, remembering St. Clair's slaughter. Hundreds deserted. The very word Indian inspired terror.
But horse, foot, and artillery, he drilled them, the tremblers took courage, and the government, at last awakened, stood firmly behind with money and supplies.
"Remember, Stony Point was stormed with unloaded muskets. See! You must know the use of the dsword and of the bayonet, a weapon before which the savages cannot stand."
At work went "Mad Anthony" teaching his men to load and fire upon the run, to leap to the charge with loud halloos, anticipating all possible conditions.
"Charge in open order. Each man rely on himself, and expect a personal encounter with the enemy." The men caught his spirit. Wayne's Legion became a great military school.
Now he was drilling superb Kentucky cavalry, as perfectly matched as the armies of Europe, sorrel and bay, chestnut and gray, bush-whacking and charging, leaping ravines and broken timber, outdoing the Indians themselves in their desperate riding.
And with all this drill, Wayne was erecting and garrisoning forts. In the fall of 1793, Lieutenant Clark was dispatched to Vincennes.
"It appears that all active and laborious commands fall on me," he wrote to his brother Jonathan, in Virginia. "Not only labour, but I like to have starved,—was frozen up in the Wabash twenty days without provisions. In this agreeable situation had once more to depend on my rifle."
After several skirmishes with Indians, Lieutenant Clark returned to Fort Washington (Cincinnati) in May, to be immediately dispatched with twenty-one dragoons and sixty cavalry to escort seven hundred packhorses laden with provisions and clothing to Greenville, a log fort eighty miles north of Cincinnati.
The Shawnees were watching. Upon this rich prize fell an ambuscade of sixty Indians. Eight men were killed, the train began to retreat, when Clark came dashing up from the rear, put the assailants to flight, and saved the day. For this he was thanked by General Wayne.
Washington, Jefferson, the whole country impatiently watched for news of Wayne on the Ohio.
Drill, drill, drill,—keeping out a cloud of scouts that no peering Indian might discover his preparations, Wayne exercised daily now with rifle, sabre, and bayonet until no grizzly frontiersman surpassed his men at the target, no fox-hunter could leap more wildly, no swordsman more surely swing the sharp steel home. At the sight young Tennesseeans and Kentuckians, Virginians of the border and Pennsylvanians of lifetime battle, were eager for the fray.
About midsummer, 1794, Wayne moved out with his Legion, twenty-six hundred strong, and halted at Fort Greenville for sixteen hundred Kentucky cavalry. Brigades of choppers were opening roads here and there to deceive.
"This General that never sleeps is cutting in every direction," whispered the watchful Shawnees. "He is the Black Snake."
For a last time Wayne offered peace. His messengers were wantonly murdered.
The issue at Fallen Timbers lasted forty minutes,—the greatest Indian battle in forty years of battle. Two thousand Indians crouching in the brush looked to see the Americans dismount and tie their horses as they did in St. Clair's battle,—but no, bending low on their horses with gleaming sabres and fixed bayonets, on like a whirlwind came thundering the American cavalry.
"What was it that defeated us? It was the Big Wind, the Tornado," said the Indians.
Matchekewis was there from Sheboygan with his warriors, the Black Partridge from Illinois, and Buckongahelas. The Shawnees had their fill of fighting that day; Tecumseh fell back at the wild onset, retreating inch by inch.
William Clark led to the charge a column of Kentuckians and drove the enemy two miles. But why enumerate in this irresistible legion, where all were heroes on that 20th of August, 1794.
Wayne's victory ended the Revolution. Ninety days after, Lord St. Helens gave up Ohio in his treaty with Jay, and England bound herself to deliver the northwestern posts that her fur traders had hung on to so vainly.
Niagara, Michilimackinac, Detroit, keys to the Lakes, entrepôts to all the fur trade of the Northwest, w ere lost to Britain for ever. It was hardest to give up Detroit,—it broke up their route and added many a weight to the weary packer's back when the fur trade had to take a more northern outlet along the Ottawa.
It was ten o'clock in the morning of July 11, 1796, when the Detroiters peering through their glasses espied two vessels. "The Yankees are coming!"
A thrill went through the garrison, and even through the flag that fluttered above. The last act in the war of independence was at hand.
The four gates of Detroit opened to be closed no more, as the drawbridge fell over the moat and the Americans marched into the northern stronghold. It was Lernoult's old fort built so strenuously in that icy winter of 1779-80, when "Clark is coming" was the watchword of the north. Scarce a picket in the stockade had been changed since that trying time. Blockhouse, bastion, and battery could so easily have been taken, that even at this day we cannot suppress a regret that Clark had not a chance at Detroit!
Barefooted Frenchmen, dark-eyed French girls, and Indians, Indians everywhere, came in to witness the transfer of Detroit. At noon, July 11, 1796, the English flag was lowered and the Stars and Stripes went up where Clark would fain have hung them seventeen years before.
And the old cellar of the council house! Like a tomb was its revelation, for there, mouldered with the must of years, lay two thousand scalps, long tresses of women, children's golden curls, and the wiry locks of men, thrown into that official cellar in those awful days that now were ended.
The merry Frenchmen on their pipestem farms,—for every inhabitant owned his pathway down to the river,—the merry Frenchmen went on grinding their corn by their old Dutch windmills, went on pressing their cider in their gnarled old apple orchards. They could not change the situation if they would, and they would not if they could. The lazy windmills of Detroit swung round and round as if it had been ever thus. S till the Indians slid in and out and still the British traders lingered, loath to give up the fur trade of the Lakes.
The next year after Wayne's victory the last buffalo in Ohio was killed, and in 1796 the first American cabins were built at Cleveland and Chillicothe. For the first time the Ohio, the great highway, was safe. Passenger boats no longer had bullet-proof cabins, no longer trailed cannon on their gunwales. In that year twenty thousand emigrants passed down the Ohio. Astonished and helpless the red men saw the tide. By 1800 there were more whites in the Mississippi valley than there were Indians in all North America.
Early in April of 1793 a company of French merchants sat at a dinner in New Orleans. Before them magnolias bloomed in the plaza. Out in the harbour their vessels were flying the Spanish flag.
"Spain has declared war against France. A French frigate is sailing for the Gulf."
Like a bomb the announcement burst in their midst.
The fine and handsome face of Charles De Pauw was lit with determination. He had come over with Lafayette, and had invested a fortune in the new world.
"My ships are in danger. I will haul down the Spanish colours and float the American flag. Long enough have the Frenchmen of Missouri and Illinois endured the Spanish yoke. Long enough have our cargoes been confiscated and our trade ruined by unnecessary and tyrannical restrictions."
"But America will not help us."
"The Kentuckians will," answered De Pauw. "Already they are begging George Rogers Clark to march o n New Orleans."
A huzza rang round the table. "We shall be here to help him."
"Every settlement that borders the Mississippi will join with us. Spain rules to Pittsburg, dictates prices, opens and closes markets. Will Americans endure that? From New Orleans to British America, Spain stretches an invisible cordon, 'thus far and no farther.' All beyond is the private park of Don Carlos IV."
"What will Congress do?"
"Congress?" echoed another. "What does it matter to those people beyond the Alleghanies? They are very far away. Europe is not so remote. Our interests lie with Mississippi and the sea."
"But that would dismember the Union."
"Will it dismember the Union for the Louisianians to break their fetter from Spain and thereby give us a market clear of duty? The Kentuckians, equally with us, are irritated at the Spanish Government. We have a right to strike Spain."
Charles De Pauw renamed his schooner the "Maria" and sailed out of the Gulf under the Stars and Stripes. On the way to New York he met the frigate returning that brought the French minister, Charles Genet, to Charleston.
Acres of flatboats lay freighted on the dimpling Ohio. Corn, wheat, oats, rye,—the worn-out tobacco lands of Virginia knew nothing like it. But the Spaniard stood at the gate and locked up the river.
"A King?" Americans laughed at the fancy. "A King to check or hinder us in our rights? Who shall refuse us? Are we not Americans?"
"The Mississippi is ours," cried Kentucky. "By the law of nature, by the authority of numbers, by the right of necessity. If Congress will not give it to us, we must take it ourselves."
And now France—
George Rogers Clark was profoundly moved by the French crusade for liberty. "We owe it to France to help her. Was not France our friend in the time of trouble?"
Then he wrote to the French minister, tendering his services to France in her arduous struggle:
"I would begin with St. Louis, a rich, large, and populous town, and by placing two or three frigates within the Mississippi's mouth (to guard against Spanish succours) I would engage to subdue New Orleans, and the rest of Louisiana. If farther aided I would capture Pensacola; and if Santa Fé and the rest of New Mexico were objects—I know their strength and every avenue leading to them, for conquest.—All the routes as well as the defenceless situation of those places are perfectly known to me and I possess draughts of all their defences, and estimates of the greatest force which could oppose me. If France will be hearty and secret in this business my success borders on certainty.—The route from St. Louis to Santa Fé is easy, and the places not very distant.... To save Congress from a rupture with Spain on our account, we must first expatriate ourselves and become French citizens. This is our intention."
On its errand of good or ill the letter sped to the French minister to the United States, and lo! that minister was Genet, just landed at Charleston.
Genet had come from Revolutionary France, at this moment fighting all Europe, so frightfully had upblazed the tiny spark of liberty borne back by the soldiers of Rochambeau.
André Michaux was instructed to hasten to the Falls of the Ohio with this message to George Rogers Clark:
"The French minister has filled out this blank commission from his Government making you a Marshal of France, Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the French Legion on the Mississippi."
Thus had Genet answered the letter.
New Orleans was watching. "The Americans are threatening us with an army assembling on the Ohio," wrote Carondelet in alarm to Spain.
"Ill-disposed and fanatical citizens in this Capital," he added, "restless and turbulent men infatuated with Liberty and Equality, are increased with every vessel that comes from the ports of France."
He begged Spain to send him troops from Cuba. He begged the Captain General of Cuba to send him troops from Havana.
Gayoso put his fort at Vicksburg in defence and Carondelet sent up a division of galleys to New Madrid and St. Louis.
But Carondelet, the Governor of Louisiana, had his hands full. Frenchmen of his own city were signing papers to strike a blow for France. He would build defences,—they opposed and complained of his measures. Merchants and others whose business suffered by the uncertainties of commerce took no responsibility as the domineering little Baron endeavoured to fortify New Orleans with palisaded wall, towers, and a moat seven feet deep and forty feet wide.
"It may happen that the enemy will try to surprise the plaza on a dark night," said the Baron.
All the artillery was mounted. Haughty Spanish cavaliers with swords and helmets paced the parapets of the grim pentagonal bastions. Watchmen with spears and lanterns guarded the gates below. The city was in terror of assault. At every rise of the river Carondelet looked for a filibustering army out of the north. By every ship runners were sent to Spain.
News of the intended raid penetrated even the Ursuline Convent. Sister Infelice paled when she heard it, gave a little gasp, and fainted.
"Clearly she fears, the gentle sister fears these northern barbarians," remarked the Mother Superior. "Take her to her chamber."
And St. Louis,—not since 1780 had she been so alarmed. The Governor constructed a square redoubt flanked by bastions, dug a shallow moat, and raised a fort on the hill. Seventeen grenadiers with drawn sabres stood at the drawbridge.
"Immediately on the approach of the enemy, retreat to New Madrid," was the order of this puissant Governor.
George Rogers Clark, who had planned and executed the conquest of Illinois, burned now for the conquest of Louisiana. And the West looked to h im; she despised and defied the Spaniard as she despised and defied the Indian. They blocked the way, they must depart.
Clark's old veteran officers Christy, Logan, Montgomery, sent word they would serve under his command. The French squadron at Philadelphia was to set sail for the Gulf.
Major Fulton and Michaux, Clark's right-hand men, travelled all over the West enlisting men, provisions, and money. De Pauw engaged to furnish four hundred barrels of flour and a thousand-weight of bacon, and to send brass cannon over the mountains. In December Clark's men were already cutting timber to build boats on the Bear Grass. Five thousand men were to start in the Spring, provided Congress did not oppose and Genet could raise a million dollars.
In despair Carondelet wrote home, saying that if the project planned was carried into effect, he would have no other alternative but to surrender.
"Having no reinforcements to hope for from Havana, I have no further hope than in the faults the enemy may commit and in accidents which may perhaps favour us."
Carondelet gave up. In March he wrote again, "The commandant at Post Vincennes has offered cannon for the use of the expedition."
Early in January Clark was writing to De Pauw, "Have your stores at the Falls by the 20th of February, as in all probability we shall descend the river at that time."
Montgomery reported, "arms and ammunition, five hundred bushels of corn and ten thousand pounds of pork, also twenty thousand weight of buffalo beef, eleven hundred weight of bear meat, seventy-four pair venison hams, and some beef tongues."
With two hundred men Montgomery lay at the mouth of the Ohio ready to cross over. Not ninety Spaniards of regular troops were there to defend St. Louis, and two hundred militia, and the Governor had only too much reason to fear that St. Louis would open her ga tes and join the invader. All that was lacking was money. Hundreds of Kentuckians waited the signal to take down their guns and march on New Orleans.
But the ministers of Spain and of Great Britain had not been quiet. They both warned Washington. Could he hold the lawless West? It was a problem for statesmen.
Jefferson wrote to Governor Shelby of Kentucky to restrain the expedition.
"I have grave doubts," Governor Shelby answered, "whether there is any legal authority to restrain or to punish them. For, if it is lawful for any one citizen of the state to leave it, it is equally so for any number of them to do it. It is also lawful for them to carry any quantity of provisions, arms, and ammunition.—I shall also feel but little inclination to take an active part in punishing or retaining any of my fellow citizens for a supposed intention only, to gratify the fears of the ministers of a prince who openly withholds from us an invaluable right, and who secretly instigates against us a most savage and cruel enemy."
Washington promptly issued a proclamation of neutrality and requested the recall of Genet. From the new Minister of France Clark received formal notice that the conquest of Louisiana was abandoned. But Spain had had her fright. She at once opened the river, and the mass of collected produce found its way unimpeded to the sea.
In June Congress passed a law for ever forbidding such expeditions.
"I have learned that the Spaniards have built a fort at Chickasaw Bluff, on this side of the river," said General Wayne, one night in September, 1795, summoning William Clark to his headquarters. "I desire you to go down to the commanding officer on the west side and inquire his intentions."
Why, of all that army, had Wayne chosen the young lieutenant of the Fourth Sub-Legion for this errand? Was it because he bore the name of Clark? Very well; both knew why Spain had advanced to the Chickasaw Bluff.
As Washington went forty years before to inquire of the French, "Why are you building forts on the Ohio?" so now William Clark, on board the galiot, "La Vigilante," dropped down to New Madrid and asked the Spaniard, "Why are you building forts on the Mississippi?"
Down came Charles De Hault De Lassus, the Commandant himself. "I assure you we have been very far from attempting to usurp the territory of a nation with whom we desire to remain in friendship," protested the courtly Commandant with a wave of his sword and a flutter of his plume. "But the threats of the French republicans living in the United States,"—he paused for a reply.
"Calm yourself," replied Lieutenant Clark. "Read here the pacific intentions of my country."
None better than William Clark understood the virtues of conciliation and persuasion. "I assure you that the United States is disposed to preserve peace with all the powers of Europe, and with Spain especially."
With mutual expressions of esteem and cordial parting salvos, Lieutenant Clark left his Spanish friends with a mollified feeling toward "those turbulent Americans."
Nevertheless George Rogers Clark had opened the river, to be closed again at peril.
Among the soldiers at Wayne's camp that winter was Lieutenant Meriwether Lewis, "just from the Whiskey Rebellion," he said. Between him and William Clark, now Captain Clark, there sprang up the most intimate friendship.
"The nature of the Insurrection?" remarked Lewis in his camp talks with Clark. "Why, the Pennsylvania mountaineers about Redstone-Old-Fort refused to pay the whiskey tax, stripped, tarred, and feathered the collectors! 'The people must be taught obedience,' said General Washington, and, after all peaceable means failed, he marched fifteen thousand militia into the district. The thought that Washington was coming at the head of troops made them reconsider. They sent deputations to make terms about the time of Wayne's batt le. We built log huts and forted for the winter on the Monongahela about fifteen miles above Pittsburg."
"And so the Spaniards have come to terms?" queried Lewis as Clark still remained silent.
"Yes, they have opened the river."
"I came near being in the midst of that," continued Lewis. "Michaux came to Charlottesville. I was eighteen, just out of school and eager for adventure. Michaux was to explore the West. Mr. Jefferson had a plan for sending two people across the Rocky Mountains. I begged to go, and probably should, had not Michaux been recalled when the new French minister came in."
"Rest assured," replied Clark solemnly, "no exploration of the West can ever be made while Spain holds Louisiana."
"My claim is as just as the book we swear by."
The hero of the heroic age of the Middle West was discussing his debts for the conquest of Illinois. "I have given the United States half the territory they possess, and for them to suffer me to remain in poverty in consequence of it will not redound to their honour. I engaged in the Revolution with all the ardour that youth could possess. My zeal and ambition rose with my success, determined to save those countries which had been the seat of my toil, at the hazard of my life and fortune.
"At the most gloomy period of the war when a ration could not be purchased on public credit, I risked my own credit, gave my bonds, mortgaged my lands for supplies, paid strict attention to every department, flattered the friendly and confused the hostile tribes of Indians, by my emissaries baffled my internal enemies (the most dangerous of all to public interest), and carried my point.
"Thus at the end of the war I had the pleasure of seeing my country secure, but with the loss of my manual activity. Demands of very great amount were not paid, others with depreciated paper. Now suits are commenced against me, for those sums in specie. My military and other lands, earned by my services, are appropriated for the payment of these debts, and demands yet are remaining, to a considerable amount more than the remains of a shattered fortune will pay.
"This is truly my situation. I see no other recourse remaining but to make application to my country for redress."
Brooding over his troubles, George Rogers Clark had built himself a little cabin at the Point of Rock, overlooking the Falls of the Ohio, and gone into a self-chosen St. Helena. The waves dashed and roared below and the mist arose, as he looked out on Corn Island, scene of his earliest exploit.
A library of handsome books was the principal ornament the house contained. Reading, hunting, fishing, he passed his days, while the old negro servants attended to the kitchen and the garden.
"I have come," answered his brother William, "I have retired from the army, to devote myself to you. Now what can be done?"
"Done? Look at these bills. Gratiot's is paid, thank God, or he would have been a ruined man. Monroe helped him through with that. And Menard's? That is shelved at Richmond for fifty years." General Clark turned the leaves of his note-book.
"And Vigo? But for him I could never have surprised Vincennes. He was the best friend I had, and the best still, except you, William."
A singular affection bound these two brothers. It seemed almost as if William took up the life of George Rogers where it was broken off, and carried it on to a glorious conclusion.
"Virginia acknowledges Vigo's debt, certifies that it has never been paid but she has ceded those lands to the Government. Who then shall pay it but Con gress? The debt was necessary and lawful in contracting for supplies for the conquest of Illinois. Could I have done with less? God knows we went with parched corn only in our wallets and depended on our rifles for the rest. Tell him to keep the draft, Virginia will pay it, or Congress, some time or other, with interest."
Again, at William's persuasion, the General came home to Mulberry Hill. An expert horseman, everybody in Louisville knew Captain Clark, who, wrapped in his cloak, came spurring home night after night on his blooded bay, with York at his side, darkness nor swollen fords nor wildly beating storms stopping his journey as he came bearing news to his brother.
"I have ridden for brother George in the course of this year upwards of three thousand miles," wrote the Captain to his brother Edmund, in December, 1797, "continually in the saddle, attempting to save him, and have been serviceable to him in several instances. I have but a few days returned from Vincennes attending a suit for twenty-four thousand dollars against him."
These long journeys included tours to St. Louis, Vincennes, Kaskaskia, among the General's old debtors, proving that the articles for which he was sued were for his troops, powder and military stores.
"The General is very ill again," said father Clark, walking up and down the entry before the chamber door. The old man's severe countenance always relaxed when he spoke of "the General." Of all his children, George Rogers was the one least expected to fall into dissipation, but now in rheumatic distress, old before his time, George Rogers sometimes drank.
"Cover him, shield him, let not the world witness my brother's weakness," William would say at such times, affectionately detaining him at Mulberry Hill.
Glancing into the dining-room, the white-haired cavalier noticed Fanny and her children and others sitting around the table. Preoccupied, the old man approached, and leaning over a chair delivered an impressive grace.
"Now, my children, you can eat your dinner. Do not wait for me," and again he took up his walk in the entry outside the chamber door. A smile wreathed the faces of all; there was no dinner; they were simply visiting near the table.
With children and grandchildren around him, the house at Mulberry Hill was always full. At Christmas or Thanksgiving, when Lucy came with her boys from Locust Grove, "Well, my children," father Clark would say, "if I thought we would live, mother and I, five years longer, I would build a new house."
But the day before Christmas, 1798, the silky white hair of Ann Rogers Clark was brushed back for the last time, in the home that her taste had beautified with the groves and flowers of Mulberry Hill.
More and more frequently the old cavalier retired to his rustic arbour in the garden.
"I must hunt up father, he will take cold," William would say; and there on a moonlight night, on his knees in prayer, the old man would be found, among the cedars and honeysuckles of Mulberry Hill.
"Why do you dislike old John Clark," some one asked of a neighbour when the venerable man lay on his death-bed.
"What? I dislike old John Clark? I revere and venerate him. His piety and virtues may have been a reproach, but I reverence and honour old John Clark."
By will the property was divided, and the home at Mulberry Hill went to William.
"In case Jonathan comes to Kentucky he may be willing to buy the place," said William. "If he does I shall take the cash to pay off these creditors of yours."
"Will you do that?" exclaimed George Rogers Clark gratefully. "I can make it good to you when these lands of mine come into value."
"Never mind that, brother, never mind that. The honour of the family demands it. And those poor Frenchmen are ruined."
"Indians are at the Falls!"
Startled, even now the citizens of Louisville were ready to fly out with shotguns in memory of old animosities.
Nothing chills the kindlier impulses like an Indian war. Children age, young men frost and wrinkle, women turn into maniacs. Every log hut had its bedridden invalid victim of successive frights and nervous prostration. Only the stout and sturdy few survived in after days to tell of those fierce times when George Rogers Clark was the hope and safety of the border. To these, the Indian was a serpent in the path, a panther to be hunted.
"Hist! go slow. 'Tis the Delaware chiefs come down to visit George Rogers Clark," said Simon Kenton.
In these days of peace, remembering still their old terror of the Long Knife, a deputation of chiefs had come to visit Clark. In paint and blankets, with lank locks flapping in the breeze, they strode up the catalpa avenue, sniffing the odours of Mulberry Hill. General Clark looked from the window. Buckongahelas led the train, with Pierre Drouillard, the interpreter.
Drouillard had become, for a time, a resident of Kentucky. Simon Kenton, hearing that the preserver of his life had fallen into misfortune since the surrender of Detroit, sent for him, gave him a piece of his farm, and built him a cabin. George Drouillard, a son, named for George III., was becoming a famous hunter on the Mississippi.
"We have come," said Buckongahelas, "to touch the Long Knife."
Before Clark realised what they were doing, the Indians had snipped off the tail of his blue military coat with their hunting knives.
"This talisman will make us great warriors," said Buckongahelas, carefully depositing a fragment in his bosom.
Clark laughed, but from that time the Delaware King and his braves were frequent visitors to the Long Knife, who longed to live in the past, forgetting misfortune.
But George Rogers Clark was not alone in financial disaster. St. Clair had expended a fortune in the cause of his country and at last, accompanied by his devoted daughter, retired to an old age of penury.
Boone, too, had his troubles. Never having satisfied the requirements of law concerning his claim, he was left landless in the Kentucky he had pioneered for civilisation. Late one November day in 1798 he was seen wending his way through the streets of Cincinnati, with Rebecca and all his worldly possessions mounted on packhorses.
"Where are you going?" queried an old-time acquaintance.
"Too much crowded, too many people. I am going west where there is more elbow room."
"Ze celebrated Colonel Boone ees come to live een Louisiana," said the Spanish officers of St. Louis. The Stars and Stripes and the yellow flag of Spain were hung out side by side, and the garrison came down out of the stone fort on the hill to parade in honour of Daniel Boone.
No such attentions had ever been paid to Daniel Boone at home. He dined with the Governor at Government House and was presented with a thousand arpents of land, to be located wherever he pleased, "in the district of the Femme Osage."
Beside a spring on a creek flowing into the Missouri Boone built his pioneer cabin, beyond the farthest border settlement.
"Bring a hundred more American families and we will give you ten thousand arpents of land," said the Governor.
Back to his old Kentucky stamping ground went Boone, and successfully piloted out a settlement of neighbours and comrades. Directly, Colonel Daniel Boone was made Commandant of the Femme Osage District. His word became law in the settlement, and here he held his court under a spreading elm that stands to-day, the Judgment Tree of Daniel Boone.
THE MAID OF FINCASTLE
In the autumn days as the century was closing, William Clark set out for Virginia, as his brother had done in other years. Kentucky was filled with old forts, neglected bastions, moats, and blockhouses, their origin forgotten. Already the builders had passed on westward.
The Boone trace was lined now with settlements, a beaten bridle-path thronged with emigrant trains kicking up the dust. Through the frowning portals of Cumberland Gap, Captain Clark and his man York galloped into Virginia.
From the southern border of Virginia to the Potomac passes the old highway, between the Alleghanies and the Blue Ridge. Cantering thoughtfully along under the broad-leaved locusts and laurels, a melody like the laugh of wood-nymphs rippled from the forest.
"Why don't he go?" cried a musical feminine voice. "Oh, Harriet, Harriet!" With more laughter came a rustling of green leaves. Parting the forest curtain to discover the source of this unusual commotion, Captain Clark descried two girls seated on a small pony, switching with all their slender energy.
"His feet are set. He will not move, Judy."
Leaping at once from his saddle, the Captain bowed low to the maidens in distress. "Can I be of any assistance?"
The sudden apparition of a handsome soldier in tri-cornered hat and long silk hose quite took their breath away.
"Thank you, sir knight," answered the blonde with a flush of bewitching colour. "Firefly, my pony, seems to object to carrying two, but we cannot walk across that ford. My cousin and I have on our satin slippers."
The Captain laughed, and taking the horse's bridle easily led them beyond the mountain rill that dashed across their pathway.
"And will you not come to my father's house?" inquired the maiden. "It is here among the trees."
Clark looked,—the roof and gables of a comfortable Virginian mansion shone amid the greenery. "I fear not. I must reach Colonel Hancock's to-night."
"This is Colonel Hancock's," the girls replied with a smothered laugh.
At a signal, York lifted the five-barred gate and all passed in to the long green avenue.
"The brother of my old friend, General George Rogers Clark!" exclaimed Colonel Hancock. "Glad to see you, glad to see you. Many a time has he stopped on this road."
The Hancocks were among the founders of Virginia. With John Smith the first one came over "in search of Forrest for his building of Ships," and was "massacred by ye salvages at Thorp's House, Berkeley Hundred."
General Hancock, the father of the present Colonel, equipped a regiment for his son at the breaking out of the Revolution. On Pulaski's staff, the young Colonel received the body of the illustrious Pole as he fell at the siege of Savannah.
From his Sea Island plantations and the sound of war in South Carolina, General Hancock, old and in gout, set out for Virginia. But Pulaski had fallen and his son was a prisoner under Cornwallis. Attended only by his daughter Mary and a faithful slave, the General died on the way and was buried by Uncle Primus on the top of King's Mountain some weeks before the famous battle.
Released on parole and finding his fortune depleted, Colonel George Hancock read Blackstone and the Virginia laws, took out a license, married, and settled at Fincastle. Here his children were born, of whom Judy was the youngest daughter. Later, by the death of that heroic sister Mary, a niece had come into the family, Harriet Kennerly. These were the girls that Captain Clark had encountered in his morning ride among the mountains of Fincastle.
"Your brother, the General, and I journeyed together to Philadelphia, when he was Commissioner of Indian affairs. Is he well and enjoying the fruits of his valour?" continued the Colonel.
"My brother is disabled, the result of exposure in his campaigns. He will never recover. I am now visiting Virginia in behalf of his accounts with the Assembly,—they have never been adjusted. He even thought you, his old friend, might be able to lend assistance, either in Virginia or in Congress."
"I am honoured by the request. You may depend upon me."
Colonel George Hancock had been a member of the Fourth Congress in Washington's administration, and with a four-horse family coach travelled to and from Philadelphia attending the sessions.
Here the little Judy's earliest recollections had been of the beautiful Dolly Todd who was about to wed Mr. Madison. Jefferson was Secretary of State then, and his daughters, Maria and Martha, came often to visit Judy's older sisters, Mary and Caroline.
Judy's hair was a fluff of gold then; shading to brown, it was a fluff of gold still, that Granny Molly found hard to keep within bounds. Harriet, her cousin, of dark and splendid beauty, a year or two older, was ever the inseparable companion of Judy Hancock.
"Just fixing up the place again," explained Colonel Hancock. "It has suffered from my absence at Philadelphia. A tedious journey, a tedious journey from Fincastle."
But to the children that journey had been a liberal education. The long bell-trains of packhorses, the rumbling Conestogas, the bateaux and barges, the great rivers and dense forests, the lofty mountains and wide farmlands, the towns and villages, Philadelphia itself, were indelibly fixed in their memory and their fancy.
Several times in the course of the next few years, William Clark had occasion to visit Virginia in behalf of his brother, and each time more and more he noted the buddinggraces of the maids of Fincastle.
THE PRESIDENT'S SECRETARY
The funeral bells of Washington tolled in 1800. President Washington was dead. Napoleon was first Consul of France. The old social systems of Europe were tottering. The new social system of America was building. The experiment of self-government had triumphed, and out of the storm-tossed seas still grandly rode the Constitution. Out of the birth of parties and political excitement, Thomas Jefferson came to the Presidency.
The stately mansion of Monticello was ablaze with light. Candles lit up every window. Not only Monticello, but all Charlottesville was illuminated, with torches, bonfires, tar-barrels. Friends gathered with congratulations and greeting.
As Washington had turned with regret from the banks of the Potomac to fill the first presidency, and as Patrick Henry, the gifted, chafed in Congressional halls, so now Jefferson with equal regret left the shades of Monticello.
"No pageant shall give the lie to my democratic principles," he said, as in plain citizen clothes with a few of his friends he repaired to the Capital and took the oath of office. And by his side, with luminous eyes and powdered hair, sat Aaron Burr, the Vice-President.
Jefferson, in the simplicity of his past, had penned everything for himself. Now he began to feel the need of a secretary. There were many applicants, but the President's eye turned toward the lad who nine years before had begged to go with Michaux to the West.
"The appointment to the Presidency of the United States has rendered it necessary for me to have a private secretary," he wrote to Meriwether Lewis. "Your knowledge of the western country, of the army and of all its interests, has rendered it desirable that you should be engaged in that office. In point of profit it has little to offer, the salary being only five hundred dollars, but it would make you know and be known to characters of influence in the affairs of our country."
Meriwether was down on the Ohio. In two weeks his reply came back from Pittsburg. "I most cordially acquiesce, and with pleasure accept the office, nor were further motives necessary to induce my compliance than that you, sir, should conceive that in the discharge of the duties, I could be serviceable to my country as well as useful to yourself."
As soon as he could wind up his affairs, Captain Lewis, one of the handsomest men in the army, appeared in queue and cocked hat, silk stockings and knee buckles, at the President's house in wide and windy Washington to take up his duties as private secretary.
From his earliest recollection, Meriwether Lewis had known Thomas Jefferson, as Governor in the days of Tarleton's raid, and as a private farmer and neighbour at Monticello. After Meriwether's mother married Captain Marks and moved to Georgia, Jefferson went to France, and his uncle, Colonel Nicholas Lewis, looked after the finances of the great estate at Monticello.
Under the guardianship of that uncle, Meriwether attended the school of Parson Maury, the same school where Jefferson had been fitted for college.
He remembered, too, that day when Jefferson came back from France and all the slaves at Monticello rushed out and drew the carriage up by hand, crowding around, kissing his hands and feet, blubbering, laughing, crying. How the slaves fell back to admire the young ladies that had left as mere children! Martha, a stately girl of seventeen, and little Maria, in her eleventh year, a dazzling vision of beauty. Ahead of everybody ran the gay and sunny Jack Eppes to escort his little sweetheart.
Both daughters were married now, and with families of their own, so more than ever Jefferson depended on Meriwether Lewis. They occupied the same chamber and lived in a degree of intimacy that perhaps has subsisted between no other president and his private secretary.
With his favourite Chickasaw horses, Arcturus and Wildair, the President rode two hours every day, Meriwether often with him, directing the workmen on the new Capitol, unfinished still amid stone and masonry tools.
Washington himself chose the site, within an amphitheatre of hills overlooking the lordly Potomac where he camped as a youth on Braddock's expedition. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, riding ever to and from Mount Vernon, Monticello, and Montpelier, discussed the plans and set the architects to work. Now it fell to Jefferson to carry on what Washington had so well begun.
Thomas Jefferson was a social man, and loved a throng about him. The vast and vacant halls of the White House would have been dreary but for the retinue of guests. Eleven servants had been brought from Monticello, and half-a-dozen from Paris,—Petit, the butler, M. Julien, the cook, a French chef, Noel, the kitchen boy, and Joseph Rapin, the steward. Every morning Rapin went to the Georgetown market, and Meriwether Lewis gave him his orders.
"For I need you, Meriwether, not only for the public, but as well for the private concerns of the household," said the President affectionately. "And I depend on you to assist in entertaining."
"At the head of the table, please," said the President, handing in Mrs. Madison. "I shall have to request you to act as mistress of the White House."
In his own youth Jefferson had cherished an affection for Dolly Madison's mother, the beautiful Mary Coles, so it became not difficult to place her daughter in the seat of honour.
There were old-style Virginia dinners, with the art of Paris, for ever after his foreign experience Jefferson insisted on training his own servants in the French fashion. At four they dined, and sat and talked till night, Congressmen, foreigners, and all sorts of people, with the ever-present cabinet.
James Madison, Secretary of State, was a small man, easy, dignified, and fond of conversation, with pale student face like a young theologian just out of the cloister. Dolly herself powdered his hair, tied up his queue, and fastened his stock; very likely, too, prescribed his elegant knee breeches and buckles and black silk stockings, swans' down buff vest, long coat, and lace ruffles. "A very tasty old-school gentleman," said the guests of the White House.
Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury, born and bred a scholar, was younger than either Madison or Jefferson, well read, with a slightly Genevan accent, and a prominent nose that marked him a man of affairs.
But everything revolved about Jefferson, in the village of Washington and in the country at large. Next to General Washington he filled the largest space in public esteem.
Slim, tall, and bony, in blue coat faced with yellow, green velveteen breeches, red plush waist-coat and elaborate shirt frill, long stockings and slippers with silver buckles,—just so had he been ever since his Parisian days, picturesquely brilliant in dress and speech, talking, talking, ever genially at the White House.
Before the "Mayflower" brought the first Puritans to New England the Jeffersons had settled in Virginia. The President's mother was a Randolph of patrician blood. A hundred servants attended in Isham Randolph's, her father's house. Peter Jefferson, his father, was a democrat of democrats, a man of the people. Perhaps Thomas had felt the sting of Randolph pride that a daughter had married a homely rawboned Jefferson, but all the man in him rose up for that Jefferson from whom he was sprung. Thomas Jefferson, the son, was just such a thin homely rawboned youth as his father had been. Middle age brought him good looks, old age made him venerable, an object of adoration to a people.
Always up before sunrise, he routed out Meriwether. There were messages to send, or letters to write, or orders for Rapin before the round disk of day reddened the Potomac.
No woman ever brushed his gray neglected hair tied so loosely in a club behind; it was Jeffersonian to have it neglected and tumbled all over his head. Everybody went to the White House for instruction, entertainment; and Jefferson—was Jefferson.
Of course he had his enemies, even there. Twice a month Colonel Burr, the Vice-President, the great anti-Virginian, dined at the White House. Attractive in person, distinguished in manner, all looked upon Colonel Burr as next in the line of Presidential succession. He came riding back and forth between Washington and his New York residence at Richmond Hill, and with him the lovely Theodosia, the intimate friend of Dolly Madison and Mrs. Gallatin.
Lewis understood some of the bitter and deadly political controversies that were smothered now under the ever genial conversation of the President, for Jefferson, the great apostle of popular sovereignty, could no more conceal his principles than he could conceal his personality. Everything he discussed,—science, politics, philosophy, art, music. None there were more widely read, none more travelled than the President.
But he dearly loved politics. Greater, perhaps, was Jefferson in theory than in execution. His eye would light with genius, as he propounded his views.
"Science, did you say? The main object of all science is the freedom and happiness of man, and these are the sole objects of all legitimate government. Why, Washington himself hardly believed that so liberal a government as this could succeed, but he was resolved to give the experiment a trial. And now, our people are throwing aside the monarchical and taking up the republican form, with as much ease as would have attended their throwing off an old and putting on a new suit of clothes. I am persuaded that no Constitution was ever before so well calculated as ours for extensive empire."
To Jefferson it had fallen to overthrow church establishment and entail and primogeniture in Virginia, innovations that were followed by all the rest of the States.
"At least," pleaded an opponent, "if the eldest may no longer inherit all the lands and all the slaves of his father, let him take a double share."
"No," said Jefferson, "not until he can eat a double allowance of food and do a double allowance of work. Instead of an aristocracy of wealth, I would make an opening for an aristocracy of virtue and talent."
"But see to what Mr. Jefferson and his levelling system has brought us," cried even John Randolph of Roanoke, as one after another of the estates of thousands of acres slid into the hands of the people.
He prohibited the importation of slaves, and, if he could have done it, would have abolished slavery itself before it became the despair of a people.
"Franklin a great orator? Why, no, he never spoke in Congress more than five minutes at a time, and then he related some anecdote which applied to the subject before the House. I have heard all the celebrated orators of the National Assembly of France, but there was not one equal to Patrick Henry."
And then, confidentially, sometimes he told a tale of the Declaration of Independence. "I shall never cease to be grateful to John Adams, the colossus of that debate. While the discussion was going on, fatherly old Ben Franklin, seventy years old, leaning on his cane, sat by my side, and comforted me with his jokes whenever the criticisms were unusually bitter. The Congress held its meetings near a livery stable. The members wore short breeches and thin silk stockings, and with handkerchief in hand they were diligently employed in lashing the flies from their legs. So very vexatious was the annoyance, and to so great impatience did it arouse the sufferers, that they were only too glad to sign the Declaration and fly from the scene."
Two visits every year Jefferson made to his little principality of two hundred inhabitants at Monticello, a short one early in the Spring and a longer one in the latter part of Summer, when he always took his daughter Martha and family from Edge Hill with him, for it would not seem home without Martha to superintend.
Here Jefferson had organised his slaves into a great industrial school, had his own carpenters, cabinet-makers, shoe-makers, tailors, weavers, had a nail forge and made nails for his own and neighbouring estates,—his black mechanics were the best in Virginia. Even the family coach was made at Monticello, and the painting and the masonry of the mansion were all executed by slaves on the place.
On the Rivanna Jefferson had a mill, where his wheat was manufactured into flour and sent down to Richmond on bateaux to be sold for a good price, and cotton brought home to be made into cloth on the plantation. No wonder, when the master was gone, so extensive an industrial plant ceased to be remunerative.
Jefferson was always sending home shrubbery and trees from Washington,—he knew every green thing on every spot of his farm; and Bacon, the manager, seldom failed to send the cart back laden with fruit from Monticello for the White House.
While the President at Monticello was giving orders to Goliah, the gardener, to Jupiter, the hostler, to Bacon and all the head men of the shops, Lewis would gallop home to visit his mother at Locust Hill just out of Charlottesville.
Before the Revolution, Meriwether's father, William Lewis, had received from George III. a patent for three thousand acres of choice Ivy Creek land in Albemarle, commanding an uninterrupted view of the Blue Ridge for one hundred and fifty miles. Here Meriwether was born, and Reuben and Jane.
"If Captain John Marks courts you I advise you to marry him," said Colonel William Lewis to his wife, on his death-bed after the surrender of Cornwallis. In a few years she did marry Captain Marks, and in Georgia were born Meriwether's half brother and sister, John and Mary Marks.
Another spot almost as dear to Meriwether Lewis was the plantation of his uncle Nicholas Lewis, "The Farm," adjoining Monticello. It was here he saw Hamilton borne by, a prisoner of war, on the way to Williamsburg, and here it was that Tarleton made his raid and stole the ducks from Aunt Molly's chicken yard.
A strict disciplinarian, rather severe in her methods, and very industrious was Aunt Molly , "Captain Molly" they called her. "Even Colonel 'Nick,' although he can whip the British, stands in wholesome awe of Captain Molly, his superior in the home guards," said the gossiping neighbours of Charlottesville.
As a boy on this place, Meriwether visited the negro cabins, followed the overseer, or darted on inquiry bent through stables, coach-house, hen-house, smoke-house, dove cote, and milk-room, the ever-attending lesser satellites of every mansion-house of old Virginia.
"Bless your heart, my boy," was Aunt Molly's habitual greeting, "to be a good boy is the surest way to be a great man."
A tender heart had Aunt Molly, doctress of half the countryside, who came to her for remedies and advice. Her home was ever open to charity. As friends she nursed and cared for Burgoyne's men, the Saratoga prisoners.
"Bury me under the tulip tree on top of the hill overlooking the Rivanna," begged one of the sick British officers. True to her word, Aunt Molly had him laid under the tulip tree. Many generations of Lewises and Meriwethers lie now on that hill overlooking the red Rivanna, but the first grave ever made there was that of the British prisoner so kindly cared for by Meriwether Lewis's Aunt Molly.
"Meriwether and Lewis are old and honoured names in Virginia. I really believe the boy will be a credit to the family," said Aunt Molly when the President's secretary reined up on Wildair at the gate. The Captain's light hair rippled into a graceful queue tied with a ribbon, and his laughing blue eyes flashed as Maria Wood ran out to greet her old playfellow. Aunt Molly was Maria's grandmother.
"Very grand is my cousin Meriwether now," began the mischievous Maria. "Long past are those days when as a Virginia ranger he prided himself on rifle shirts faced with fringe, wild-cat's paws for epaulettes, and leathern belts heavy as a horse's surcingle." Lifting her hands in mock admiration Maria smiled entrancingly, "Indeed, gay as Jefferson h imself is our sublime dandy, in blue coat, red velvet waistcoat, buff knee breeches, and brilliant buckles!" and Meriwether answered with a kiss.
Maria Wood was, perhaps, the dearest of Meriwether's friends, although rumour said he had been engaged to Milly Maury, the daughter of the learned Parson. But how could that be when Milly married while Meriwether was away soldiering on the Ohio? At any rate, now he rode with Maria Wood, danced with her, and took her out to see his mother at Locust Hill.
The whole family relied on Meriwether at Locust Hill. While only a boy he took charge of the farm, and of his own motion built a carriage and drove to Georgia after his mother and the children upon the death of Captain Marks.
Back through the Cherokee-haunted woods they came, with other travellers journeying the Georgia route. One night campfires were blazing for the evening meal, when "Whoop!" came the hostile message and a discharge of arms.
All was confusion. Paralysed mothers hugged their infants and children screamed, when a boy in the crowd threw a bucket of water on the fire extinguishing the light. In a moment all was still, as the men rushed to arms repelling the attack. That boy was Meriwether Lewis.
"No brother like mine," said little Mary Marks. "Every noble trait is his,—he is a father to us children, a counsellor to our mother, and more anxious about our education than even for his own!"
Charles de St. Memin, a French artist, was in Washington, engraving on copper.
"May I have your portrait as a typical handsome American?" he said to the President's secretary.
Meriwether laughed and gave him a sitting. The same hand that had so lately limned Paul Revere, Theodosia Burr, and the last profile of Washington himself, sketched the typical youth of 1801. Lewis sent the drawing to his mother, the head done in fired chalk and crayon, with that curious pink background so peculiar to the St. Memin pictures.
THE PRESIDENT TALKS WITH MERIWETHER
Hours by themselves Jefferson sat talking to Lewis. With face sunny, lit with enthusiasm, he spoke rapidly, even brilliantly, a dreamer, a seer, a prophet, believing in the future of America.
"I have never given it up, Meriwether. Before the peace treaty was signed, after the Revolution, I was scheming for a western exploration. We discussed it at Annapolis; I even went so far as to write to George Rogers Clark on the subject. Then Congress sent me to France.
"In France a frequent guest at my table was John Ledyard, of Connecticut. He had accompanied Captain Cook on his voyage to the Pacific Ocean, and now panted for some new enterprise. He had endeavoured to engage the merchants of Boston in the Northwest fur trade, but the times were too unsettled. 'Why, Mr. Jefferson,' he was wont to say, 'that northwest land belongs to us. I felt I breathed the air of home the day we touched at Nootka Sound. The very Indians are just like ours. And furs,—that coast is rich in beaver, bear, and otter. Depend upon it,' he used to say, 'untold fortunes lie untouched at the back of the United States.'"
"I then proposed to him to go by land to Kamtchatka, cross in some Russian vessel to Nootka Sound, fall down into the latitude of the Missouri, and penetrate to and through that to the United States. Ledyard eagerly seized the idea. I obtained him a permit from the Empress Catherine, and he set out; went to St. Petersburg, crossed the Russian possessions to within two hundred miles of Kamtchatka. Here he was arrested by order of the Empress, who by this time had changed her mind, and f orbidden his proceeding. He was put in a close carriage, and conveyed day and night, without ever stopping, till they reached Poland; where he was set down and left to himself. The fatigue of this journey broke down his constitution, and when he returned to me at Paris his bodily strength was much impaired. His mind, however, remained firm and he set out for Egypt to find the sources of the Nile, but died suddenly at Cairo. Thus failed the first attempt to explore the western part of our northern continent.
"Imagine my interest, later, to learn that after reading of Captain Cook's voyages the Boston merchants had taken up Ledyard's idea and in 1787 sent two little ships, the 'Columbia Rediviva' and the 'Lady Washington' into the Pacific Ocean.
"Barely was I back and seated in Washington's cabinet as Secretary of State, before those Boston merchants begged my intercession with the Court of Spain, for one Don Blas Gonzalez, Governor of Juan Fernandez. Passing near that island, one of the ships was damaged by a storm, her rudder broken, her masts disabled, and herself separated from her companion. She put into the island to refit, and at the same time to wood and water. Don Blas Gonzalez, after examining her, and finding she had nothing on board but provisions and charts, and that her distress was real, permitted her to stay a few days, to refit and take in fresh supplies of wood and water. For this act of common hospitality, he was immediately deprived of his government, unheard, by superior order, and placed under disgrace. Nor was I ever able to obtain a hearing at the Court of Spain, and the reinstatement of this benevolent Governor.
"The little ships went on, however, and on May 11, 1792, Captain Robert Gray, a tar of the Revolution, discovered the great river of the west and named it for his gallant ship, the 'Columbia.'
"In that very year, 1792, not yet having news of this discovery, I proposed to the American Philosophical Society that we should set on foot a subscription to engage some competent person to explore that region, by ascending the Missouri and crossing the Stony Mountains, and descending the nearest river to the Pacific. The sum of five thousand dollars was raised for that purpose, and André Michaux, a French botanist, was engaged as scientist, but when about to start he was sent by the French minister on political business to Kentucky."
Meriwether Lewis laughed. "I remember. I was then at Charlottesville on the recruiting service, and warmly solicited you to obtain for me the appointment to execute that adventure. But Mr. André Michaux offering his services, they were accepted."
Both were silent for a time. Michaux had gone on his journey as far as Kentucky, become the confidential agent between Genet and George Rogers Clark for the French expedition, and been recalled by request of Washington.
"Meriwether," continued the President, "I see now some chance of accomplishing that northwest expedition. The act establishing trading posts among the Indians is about to expire. My plan is to induce the Indians to abandon hunting and become agriculturists. As this may deprive our traders of a source of profit, I would direct their attention to the fur trade of the Missouri. In a few weeks I shall make a confidential communication to Congress requesting an appropriation for the exploration of the northwest. We shall undertake it as a literary and commercial pursuit."
"And, sir, may I lead that exploration?"
"You certainly shall," answered the President. "How much money do you think it would take?"
Secretary Lewis spent the next few days in making an estimate.
"Mathematical instruments, arms and accoutrements, camp equipage, medicine and packing, means for transportation, Indian presents, provisions, pay for hunters, guides, interpreters, and contingencies,—twenty-five hundred dollars will cover it all, I think."
Then followed that secret message of January 18, 1803, dictated by Jefferson, penned by Lewis, in which the President requested an appropriation of twenty-fi ve hundred dollars, "for the purpose of extending the external commerce of the United States."
Congress granted the request, and busy days of preparation followed.
The cabinet were in the secret, and the ladies, particularly Mrs. Madison and Mrs. Gallatin, were most interested and sympathetic, providing everything that could possibly be needed in such a perilous journey, fearing that Lewis might never return from that distant land of savages. The President's daughters, Mrs. Randolph and Mrs. Eppes, were there, handsome, accomplished, delicate women, who rode about in silk pelisses purchasing at the shops the necessaries for "housewives," pins, needles, darning yarn, and the thousand and one little items that women always give to soldier boys.
Dolly Madison, in mulberry-coloured satin, a tulle kerchief on her neck and dainty cap on her head, stitched, stitched; and in the streets, almost impassable for mud, she and Martha, the President's daughter, were often mistaken for each other as they went to and fro guided by Dolly's cousin, Edward Coles, a youth destined to win renown himself one day, as the "anti-slavery governor" of Illinois.
In his green knee pants and red waistcoat, long stockings and slippers, the genial President looked in on the busy ladies at the White House, but his anxiety was on matters of far more moment than the stitchery of the cabinet ladies.
Alexander Mackenzie's journal of his wonderful transcontinental journey in 1793 was just out, the book of the day. It thrilled Lewis,—he devoured it.
Before starting on his tour Alexander Mackenzie went to London and studied mathematics and astronomy. "It is my own dream," exclaimed Lewis, as the President came upon him with the volumes in hand. "But the scientific features, to take observations, to be sure of my botany, to map longitude—"
"That must come by study," said Jefferson. "I would have you go to Philadelphia to prosecute your studies in the sciences. I think you had better go at once to Dr. Barton,—I will write to hi m to-day."
And again in the letter to Dr. Barton, Meriwether's hand penned the prosecution of his fortune.
"I must ask the favour of you to prepare for him a note of those lines of botany, zoölogy, or of Indian history which you think most worthy of study or observation. He will be with you in Philadelphia in two or three weeks and will wait on you and receive thankfully on paper any communications you may make to him."
Jefferson had ever been a father to Meriwether Lewis, had himself watched and taught him. And Lewis in his soul revered the great man's learning, as never before he regretted the wasted hours at Parson Maury's when often he left his books to go hunting on Peter's Mount. But proudly lifting his head from these meditations:
"I am a born woodsman, Mr. Jefferson. You know that."
"Know it!" Jefferson laughed. "Does not the fame of your youthful achievements linger yet around the woods of Monticello? I have not forgotten, Meriwether, that when you were not more than eight years old you were accustomed to go out into the forest at night alone in the depth of winter with your dogs and gun to hunt the raccoon and opossum. Nor have I forgotten when the Cherokees attacked your camp in Georgia." The young man flushed.
"Your mother has often told it. It was when you were bringing them home to Albemarle. How old were you then? About eighteen? The Indians whooped and you put out the fire, the only cool head among them. A boy that could do that can as a man lead a great exploration like this.
"Nor need you fret about your lack of science,—the very study of Latin you did with Parson Maury fits you to prepare for me those Indian vocabularies. I am fortunate to have one so trained. Latin gives an insight into the structure of all languages. For years, now, I have been collecting and studying the Indian tongues. Fortune now permits you to become my most valued coadjutor."
And so Lewis noted in his book of memorandum, "Vocabularies of Indian languages."
"You ought to have a companion, a military man like George Rogers Clark. I have always wished to bring him forward in Indian affairs; no man better understands the savage."
"But Clark has a brother," quickly spoke Lewis, "a brave fellow, absolutely unflinching in the face of danger. If I could have my choice, Captain William Clark should be my companion and the sharer of my command."
Two years Lewis had been Jefferson's private secretary, when, appointed to this work, he went to Philadelphia to study natural science and make astronomical observations for the geography of the route. This youth, who had inherited a fortune and every inducement to a life of ease, now spent three months in severest toil, under the instruction of able professors, learning scientific terms and calculating latitude and longitude.
Early in June he was back at Washington. Already the President had secured letters of passport from the British, French, and Spanish ministers, for this expedition through foreign territory.
"The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River, and such principal streams of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado, or any other river, may offer the most direct and practicable water-communication across the continent, for the purpose of commerce."
Far into the June night Jefferson discussed his instructions, and signed the historic document.
"I have no doubt you will use every possible exertion to get off, as the delay of a month now may lose a year in the end."
Lewis felt the pressure; he was packing his instruments, writing to military posts for men to be ready when he came down the river, and hurrying up orders at Harper's Ferry, when a strange and startling event occurred, beyond the vision of dreamers.