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Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans by  Edward Eggleston


 

 

CLARK AND HIS MEN

AT the time of the Revolution there were but few people living on the north side of the Ohio River. But there were many Indians there. These Indians killed a great many white people in Kentuck-y.

The Indians were sent by British officers to do this killing. There was a British fort at Vincennes in what is now Indiana. There was another British fort or post at Kaskaskia in what is now the State of Illinois.

George Rogers Clark was an American colonel. He wanted to stop the murder of the settlers by the Indians. He thought that he could do it by taking the British posts.

He had three hundred men. They went down the [73] Ohio River in boats. They landed near the mouth of the Ohio River. Then they marched a hundred and thirty miles to Kaskaskia.

Kaskaskia was far away from the Americans. The people there did not think that the Americans would come so far to attack them. When Clark got there, they were all asleep. He marched in and took the town before they waked up.

The people living in Kaskaskia were French. By treating them well, Clark made them all friendly to the Americans.

When the British at Vincennes heard that Clark had taken Kaskaskia, they thought that they would take it back again. But it was winter. All the streams were full of water. They could not march till spring. Then they would gather the Indians to help them, and take Clark and his men.

But Clark thought that he would not wait to be taken. He thought that he would just go and take the British. If he could manage to get to Vincennes in the winter, he would not be expected.

Clark started with a hundred and seventy men. The country was nearly all covered with water. The men were in the wet almost all the time. Clark had hard work to keep his men cheerful. He did everything he could to amuse them.

They had to wade through deep rivers. The [74] water was icy cold. But Clark made a joke of it. He kept them laughing whenever he could.

At one place the men refused to go through the freezing water. Clark could not persuade them to cross the river. He called to him a tall soldier. He was the very tallest man in Clark's little army. Clark said to him, "Take the little drummer boy on your shoulders."

The little drummer was soon seated high on the shoulders of the tall man. "Now go ahead!" said Clark.

The soldier marched into the water. The little drummer beat a march on his drum. Clark cried out, "Forward!" Then he plunged into the water after the tall soldier. All the men went in after him. They were soon safe on the other side.


[Illustration]

At another river the little drummer was floated over on the top of his drum. [75] At last the men drew near to Vincennes. They could hear the morning and evening gun in the British fort. But the worst of the way was yet to pass. The Wabash River had risen over its banks. The water was five miles wide. The men marched from one high ground to another through the cold water. They caught an Indian with a canoe. In this they got across the main river. But there was more water to cross. The men were so hungry that some of them fell down in the water. They had to be carried out.

Clark's men got frightened at last, and then they had no heart to go any farther. But Clark remembered what the Indians did when they went to war. He took a little gunpowder in his hand. He poured water on it. Then he rubbed it on his face. It made his face black.

With his face blackened like an Indian's, he gave an Indian war-whoop. The men followed him again.

The men were tired and hungry. But they soon reached dry ground. They were now in sight of the fort. Clark marched his little army round and round in such a way as to make it seem that he had many men with him. He wrote a fierce letter to the British commander. He behaved like a general with a large army.

After some fighting, the British commander gave [76] up. Clark's little army took the British fort. This brave action saved to our country the land that lies between the Ohio River and the Lakes. It stopped the sending of Indians to kill the settlers in the West.


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