George Rogers Clark

George Rogers Clark

Death 13 Feb 1818 (aged 65)
Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA
Memorial Site* Metropolis, Massac County, Illinois, USA

* A structure erected in honor of someone whose remains lie elsewhere.

Memorial ID 143763651 · View Source
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Revolutionary War Militia General. He is best known for his military activities in what was then known as the British Northwest Territory during the Revolutionary War, which was ceded to the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, and was commonly referred to as the "Conqueror of the Old Northwest," or the "Washington of the West." He was born near Charlottesville, Virginia, the second of ten child of John and Ann (Rogers) Clark. Around 1756, after the outbreak of the French and Indian War (part of the worldwide Seven Years' War), his family relocated away from the frontier to a plantation in Caroline County, Virginia. He received a common education as well as being tutored at home, and was taught to survey land by his grandfather. In 1771 he embarked on his first surveying trip into western Virginia and a year later, he journeyed into Kentucky, as settlers were entering this area as a result of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix of 1768 between the British and the Iroquois Nation Native Americans. In 1774 he was preparing to lead an expedition down the Ohio River when war broke out (referred to as Lord Dunmore's War) with the Native American tribes living in Ohio who were not a party to the Fort Stanwix Treaty and used Kentucky as their hunting grounds. He served during this war as a captain in the Virginia militia. When the American Revolutionary War erupted, Kentucky's sovereignty came into dispute because Richard Henderson, a judge and land speculator from North Carolina, had illegally purchased in a scheme organized under the name of the Transylvania Land Company, a vast majority of Kentucky from the Cherokee Native Americans via the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, with the intent of creating his own proprietary colony known as Transylvania. A majority of Kentucky's settlers objected and in June 1776, they sent Clark and John Gabriel Jones to the Virginia General Assembly in Williamsburg, requesting Virginia to extend its boundaries to include Kentucky. The request was granted and Kentucky County, Virginia, was created and Clark was appointed a major in the Kentucky County militia. In 1777 the Revolutionary War intensified in Kentucky with the Native Americans attacking Kentucky settlers, encouraged by British lieutenant governor Henry Hamilton at Fort Detroit. The Colonial Army could spare no men or supplies and weapons to aid the settlers, and Clark was left to defend Kentucky with men and weapons within its own population. He proposed to then Virginia Governor Patrick Henry to lead a secret expedition against the British outposts north of the Ohio River in the Illinois Country to reduce their influence on the Native Americans. Henry agreed and he raised a force of about 175 men, crossing the Ohio River at Fort Massac, and marched to Fort Kaskaskia, taking it on July 4, 1778. He subsequently captured Cahokia, Fort Vincennes, and several other villages and forts without firing a shot because most of the French-speaking and Native American inhabitants were unwilling to fight for the British. However, Henry Hamilton soon retook Fort Vincennes with a small force and in February 1779, Clark returned in a surprise winter expedition and recaptured it, including Hamilton. His ultimate goal was to capture Fort Detroit but he could not recruit enough men to attempt it. In June 1780 a mixed force of British soldiers and Native Americans invaded Kentucky territory, capturing two fortified settlement and taking hundreds of prisoners. Two months later, Clark led a force that defeated the enemy at the Shawnee village of Peckuwe, near present-day Springfield, Ohio. Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson promoted Clark to brigadier general and command of all the militia in the Kentucky and Illinois territories and he again prepared to capture Fort Detroit. General George Washington had transferred a small group of soldiers to assist, but they were defeated in August 1781 before meeting up with Clark and the campaign was terminated. In August 1782 another British-Native American force defeated the Kentucky militia at the Battle of Blue Licks. While Clark was not present at the battle, he was severely criticized by the Virginia Council for the defeat. He responded with another military expedition into the Ohio country and destroyed several Native American towns along the Great Miami River in the last major expedition of the Revolutionary War. After the war, he served as the superintendent-surveyor for Virginia's war veterans from 1784 until 1788. In 1785 he assisted in the negotiations for the Treaty of Fort McIntosh and the Treaty of Fort Finney in 1786 with the Native American tribes north of the Ohio River. However, Native American raids against the Kentucky settlers continued in spite of the treaties and in 1786, he led a military expedition of 1,200 men against the Native American towns along the Wabash River, one of the first actions of the Northwest Indian War. The campaign lacked supplies and, faced with the mutiny of about 300 men, he withdrew but was able to negotiate a ceasefire with the Native Americans. He was accused of being drunk on duty during this campaign and to clear his name, he demanded an official inquiry be made, but it was declined by the Governor of Virginia and the Virginia Council condemned his actions. With his reputation tainted, he never again led men into battle and he left Kentucky, relocating to the Indiana frontier near Clarksville. Afterwards, he was plagued with financial difficulties, having borrowed money to finance his military campaigns and was unable to obtain relief from his creditors by the state of Virginia or the US Congress due to his poor record keeping. Virginia did award him 150,000 acres of land in the southern Indiana frontier for his military services but he could not afford to earn any money from it. On February 2, 1793, he offered his military services to Edmond-Charles Genet, the controversial ambassador of revolutionary France, in hopes of earning money to manage his estate. As a part of France's war against Spain, he proposed to lead an expedition to drive the Spanish out of the Mississippi Valley by capturing the Mississippi River towns of Saint Louis, New Madrid, Natchez, and New Orleans. Genet agreed and appointed Clark a major general and commander-in-chief of the French army on the Mississippi River. However, in 1794 President George Washington issued a proclamation, forbidding Americans from violating American neutrality and threatened to send General Anthony Wayne to Fort Massac to stop the expedition. Genet was subsequently recalled back to France and Clark's plan soon collapsed, and he was unable to convince the French to reimburse him for money that he spent up front for the required supplies. Eventually, he lost all of his land to his creditors and he was left only with a small plot of land where he built and operated a small gristmill. In 1809 he suffered a severe stroke and fell into an operating fireplace, burning one of his legs so severely that it had to be amputated. Without any immediate family to support him, he was taken to live with his brother-in-law, Major William Croghan, who was a planter at the Locust Grove Farm near Louisville, Kentucky. In 1812 the Virginia General Assembly granted him a $400 annual pension along with a ceremonial sword for his services. In February 1818 he suffered a second stroke and died, and was originally buried in Locust Grove Cemetery. On October 29, 1869, his remains were exhumed and reburied at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville. Ironically, several years after his death, the state of Virginia granted his estate $30,000 as partial payment for debts owed to him. They uncovered more debts over the years, with the last payment made to his estate in 1913. His youngest brother, William Clark, achieved fame as part of the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark expedition of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: genielady2012
  • Added: 15 Mar 2015
  • Find a Grave Memorial 143763651
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for George Rogers Clark (19 Nov 1752–13 Feb 1818), Find a Grave Memorial no. 143763651, citing Fort Massac State Park, Metropolis, Massac County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .