The New Student's Reference Work/Clark, George Rogers

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Clark, George Rogers. This great pioneer and soldier was born at Monticello, Va., in 1752. Previous to the Revolutionary War he had gained experience as a land-surveyor and also as an Indian-fighter. At the opening of the war he moved to Kentucky, and was returned as a member of the first legislature of Virginia, Kentucky being then part of that state. In 1778 he organized and commanded the campaign to conquer what was known as the Illinois country, the woods and prairies around the great Illinois River. He drove the French as well as English settlers from the country or compelled them to submit to the authority of the Continental Congress. He captured and, later, recaptured the fort of Kaskaskia, taking many British troops prisoners. At the end of the war he still was in possession of this vast territory. And this fact was probably the chief argument that led the English and French to extend the domain of the newly-formed nation up to and beyond the Mississippi. But for Clark it is not unlikely that the Northwest Territory would have been handed over to England or Spain in the treaty of 1783. The legislature of Virginia created Clark a brigadier-general, and gave him 8,049 acres of land in what is now the state of Indiana, not far from Louisville. Twice he was presented with a sword. But after the war his energy led him astray. He led an unsuccessful campaign against the Wabash Indians, and tried to organize an expedition to open the Mississippi River to navigation against the authority of the Spanish, with whom we were at peace. He spent the last years of his life in poverty on the land that Virginia had granted him. He died in 1818. Clark Street, Chicago, is named in his honor.