Clark wanted next to march against Fort Vincennes, but he had not men enough. There was a French Catholic priest named Father Gibault at Kaskaskia, and Clark's kindness to him had made him their friend. He said, I will go to Vincennes for you, and I will tell the French, who hold the fort for the British, that the Americans are their real friends, and that in this war they are in the right. He went; the French listened to him, then hauled down the British flag and ran up the American flag in its place. The next year the British, led by Colonel Hamilton of Detroit, got the fort back again. When Clark heard of it he said, "Either I must take Hamilton, or Hamilton will take me." Just then Francis Vigo, a trader at St. Louis, came to see Clark at Kaskaskia. Hamilton had held Vigo as a prisoner, so he knew all about Fort Vincennes. Vigo said to Clark, "Hamilton has only about eighty soldiers; you can take the fort, and I will lend you all the money you need to pay your men what you owe them."
Clark, with about two hundred men, started for Vincennes. The distance was nearly a hundred and fifty miles. The first week everything went on pretty well. It was in the month of February, the weather was cold, and it rained a good deal, but the men did not mind that. They would get wet through during the day; but at night they built roaring log fires, gathered round them, roasted their buffalo meat or venison, smoked their pipes, told jolly stories, and sang jolly songs. But the next week they got to a branch of the Wabash River. Then they found that the constant rains had raised the streams so that they had overflowed their banks; the whole country was under water three or four feet deep. This flooded country was called the "Drowned Lands": before Clark and his men had crossed them they were nearly drowned themselves.
For about a week the Americans had to wade in ice-cold water, sometimes waist deep, sometimes nearly up to their chins. While wading, the men were obliged to hold their guns and powder-horns above their heads to keep them dry. Now and then a man would stub his toe against a root or a stone and would go sprawling headfirst into the water. When he came up, puffing and blowing from such a dive, he was lucky if he still had his gun. For two days no one could get anything to eat; but hungry, wet, and cold, they kept moving slowly on. The last part of the march was the worst of all. They were now near the fort, but they still had to wade through a sheet of water four miles across. Clark took the lead and plunged in. The rest, shivering, followed. A few looked as though their strength and courage had given out. Clark saw this, and calling to Captain Bowman,—one of the bravest of his officers,—he ordered him to kill the first man who refused to go forward.
At last, with numbed hands and chattering teeth, all got across, but some of them were so weak and blue with cold that they could not take another step, but fell flat on their faces in the mud. These men were so nearly dead that no fire seemed to warm them. Clark ordered two strong men to lift each of these poor fellows up, hold him between them by the arms, and run him up and down until he began to get warm. By doing this he saved every one.
After a long and desperate fight Clark took Fort Vincennes and hoisted the Stars and Stripes over it in triumph. The British never got it back again. Most of the Indians were now glad to make peace, and to promise to behave themselves. By Clark's victory the Americans got possession of the whole western wilderness up to Detroit. When the Revolutionary War came to an end, the British did not want to give us any part of America beyond the thirteen states on the Atlantic coast. But we said, The whole west, clear to the Mississippi, is ours; we fought for it; we took it; we hoisted our flag over its forts, and we mean to keep it. We did keep it.
There is a grass-grown grave in a burial-ground in Louisville, Kentucky, which has a small headstone marked with the letters G. R. C., and nothing more; that is the grave of General George Rogers Clark, the man who did more than any one else to get the west for us—or what was called the west a hundred years ago.
Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper: