Literary Thoughts edition presents The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clark by Eva Emery Dye ------ "The Conquest: The true Story of Lewis and Clark", a 1902 novel by American writer Eva Emery Dye (1855-1947), tells the Lewis and Clark Expedition from the perspective of Lemhi Shoshone Indian woman Sacajawea (or Sacagawea). All books of the Literary Thoughts edition have been transscribed from original prints and edited for better reading experience. Please visit our homepage www.literarythoughts.com to see our other publications.
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Transscribed and Published by Jacson Keating (editor)
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The author hereby acknowledges obligation to the Lewis and Clark families, especially to William Hancock Clark of Washington, D.C., and John O'Fallon Clark of St. Louis, grandsons of Governor Clark, and to C. Harper Anderson of Ivy Depot, Virginia, the nephew and heir of Meriwether Lewis, for letters, documents, and family traditions; to Mrs. Meriwether Lewis Clark of Louisville and Mrs. Jefferson K. Clark of New York, widows of Governor Clark's sons, and to more than twenty nieces and nephews; to Reuben Gold Thwaites of the University of Wisconsin, for access to the valuable Draper Collection of Clark, Boone, and Tecumseh manuscripts, and for use of the original journals of Lewis and Clark which Mr. Thwaites is now editing; to George W. Martin of the Kansas Historical Society at Topeka, for access to the Clark letter-books covering William Clark's correspondence for a period of thirty years; to Colonel Reuben T. Durrett of Louisville, for access to his valuable private library; to Mr. Horace Kephart of the Mercantile Library, and Mr. Pierre Chouteau, St. Louis; to the Historical Societies of Missouri, at St. Louis and Columbia; to Mrs. Laura Howie, for Montana manuscripts at Helena; to Miss Kate C. McBeth, the greatest living authority on Nez Percé tradition; to the descendants of Dr. Saugrain, and to the families and friends of Sergeants Pryor, Gass, Floyd, Ordway, and privates Bratton, Shannon, Drouillard, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; also to the Librarian of Congress for copies of Government Documents.
E. E. D. Oregon City, Oregon, September 1, 1902.
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.
"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. "Cæsar 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.
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.
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.
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 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, "Peace 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.
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 knows 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 terrified 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."
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