Sunday, November 19, 2017

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: November 19, 1752 - George Rogers Clark

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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
George Rogers Clark, soldier and pioneer, was born into an Established church household on November 19, 1752, near Monticello, Albemarle County, Virginia. He was the son of John and Ann (Rogers) Clark. Donald Robertson, a renowned Scottish educator in King and Queen County, Virginia, tutored Clark, who became proficient in mathematics. He studied geography, history, and natural history as well. George Mason, a friend of the Clark family, tutored him informally. At the age of twenty, Clark purchased surveyor's instruments and a copy of Euclid's Elements and initiated his practice as a surveyor.

In 1774 Clark took part in Cresap's War, McDonald's expedition against the Shawnee, and Lord Dunmore's War, in which he was captain of the militia of Pittsburgh and its dependencies. Clark then returned to surveying for the Ohio Company in Kentucky. In 1775, in association with Col. Hancock Lee, Clark helped lay out the community of Leesburg, now a part of Frankfort, Kentucky. He was elected a delegate from Harrodsburg to go to Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1776 and promote the creation of Kentucky County out of Virginia's Fincastle County. Kentucky County came into being on December 31, 1776. Clark returned to Kentucky with five hundred pounds of gunpowder for the defense of the newly created county of Virginia.

Returning to Virginia in 1777 after the start of the Revolutionary War, Clark sought from Gov. Patrick Henry approval of a secret expedition against the British-held posts north of the Ohio River -- Kaskaskia, Vincennes, and Detroit. Henry approved Clark's plans, appointing him lieutenant colonel and authorizing him to raise seven companies to carry out the secret mission. Clark moved down the Ohio River to the Falls of the Ohio, where he established a small post at Corn Island. After receiving a few additional soldiers, Clark left for Kaskaskia on June 24, 1778, shooting the falls during a full solar eclipse, "which caused various conjectures among the superstitious," according to Temple Bodley 's biography. The small army of 175 men arrived at the mouth of the Tennessee River, proceeded overland on a northwesterly route for the remainder of the trip, and arrived undetected at the community of Kaskaskia on the evening of July 4, 1778. Kaskaskia was captured without the loss of a single life.

British Lt. Gov. Henry Hamilton subsequently left Detroit for Vincennes to counter Clark's move to Kaskaskia. Arriving late at Vincennes, on December 17, 1778, Hamilton decided he would not pursue Clark until the following spring. In the interim, Clark mounted an unexpected attack against Hamilton. Clark raised an army of 170 men (110 American and sixty French) and divided his forces into two groups. One accompanied him 240 miles across the flooded and partially frozen Illinois country. The other forty men traveled by boat with Capt. John Rogers down the Mississippi River and up the flooded Ohio and Wabash rivers, to await Clark and his land party at the mouth of White River. Clark's party arrived at Vincennes before Rogers's company. Although Clark's men had suffered greatly from exposure to the elements and from the lack of food, Clark did not wait to attack. To the astonishment of Hamilton and his British soldiers, Clark's forces were victorious. On February 25, 1779, Hamilton agreed to the conditions of surrender. Clark was at the peak of his military career.

On April 19, 1780, Clark began the construction of Fort Jefferson , near the mouth of the Ohio River . In May he traveled north to Pancore (now St. Louis) and Cahokia to assist the Spanish in repelling attacking British and Indian forces. In August of that year Clark led a major assault against the Shawnee, who were firm allies of the British. The Shawnee had on many previous occasions crossed the Ohio River , raided Kentucky settlements, and returned north with scalps and prisoners. Clark, accompanied by regulars from Fort Jefferson and militia from the central Kentucky stations, traveled north to attack the Shawnee at their major village of Piqua, near present-day Springfield, Ohio. The Shawnee escaped unharmed, having had advance warning of Clark's approach, but Clark's army destroyed the Shawnee village and their winter's supply of corn.

On January 22, 1781, Clark was appointed brigadier general by Virginia Gov. Thomas Jefferson. Clark established a garrison, Fort Nelson , at the Falls of the Ohio. Late in 1782 he again led a retaliatory raid against the Shawnee for their part in the Battle of Blue Licks in central Kentucky. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the Revolutionary War was officially over. At that time, the state of Virginia owed Clark more than $20,000. Clark received 18,049 acres of land for his service, and 2,193 pounds sterling back pay for five years as a colonel and brigadier general. Most of that money, however, went to pay off debts to the Illinois battalion that he had organized to support Virginia's war effort. From that point on, Clark's career faltered. In 1783 reports circulated of Clark's overindulgence in liquor.

On August 7, 1784, Clark laid out the town of Clarksville, Indiana, and was granted the right to erect the first saw- and gristmill in the region. That privilege, however, was retracted by the Virginia Assembly. In September 1786, while leading a retaliatory raid against hostile Indians in the Wabash region, Clark confiscated supplies and boats from three Spanish merchants in Vincennes. This episode appeared to tie Clark to the Spanish Conspiracy, and was rebuked by Virginia's Governor Randolph. Clark was innocent of the charge of conspiracy.

Clark was subsequently offered a military commission from France through Citizen Genet to attack Spanish-held New Orleans. He was given the title major general in the armies of France and commander-in-chief of the French Revolutionary Legions on the Mississippi River. In June 1798 Clark was informed by the United States government that he must resign this position or be arrested.

In 1803 Clark moved to Clark's Point in Clarksville, which overlooks the Falls of the Ohio. In 1804 he proposed that a canal be made to circumvent the falls to facilitate trade and commerce. By 1805 Clark was described as "frail and helpless." In 1809 he had a stroke and fell unconscious in front of his fireplace, burning one of his legs so badly that it had to be amputated. Clark was then moved to Locust Grove, the home of his younger sister, Lucy (Clark) Croghan, near Louisville, where he remained for nine years. In 1813 a second stroke left him paralyzed. On February 13, 1818, Clark suffered a third stroke, which took his life. Clark was initially buried in the Croghan family cemetery at Locust Grove, but his remains were exhumed in 1869 and buried in Louisville's Cave Hill Cemetery.

Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Carstens, K., & Son Carstens, N. (2004). The life of George Rogers Clark, 1752-1818 : Triumphs and tragedies (Contributions in American history, no. 203). Westport, Conn.: Praeger.
E207.C5 J3, Young Library - 4th Floor

Tapp, H. (1955). George Rogers Clark, 1752-1818 : A brief biographical sketch (Bulletin (George Rogers Clark Memorial Foundation)). Louisville, Ky.: S.n.
B C548ta, Special Collections Research Center - Biography Collection

Isenberg, J., & Hutton, J. (1957). George Rogers Clark : Fort Harrod's pioneer hero of the American Revolution (4th ed. / revised by Jane Bird Hutton.. ed.). Harrodsburg, Ky.: D. Hutton.
B C548i 4th ed. Special Collections Research Center - Biography Collection

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