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Chouteau,) of St. Louis, the principal merchant of Kaskaskia, was, at that time, one of the most inveterate enemies of the Americans. This gentlemen had left the town before Clark had captured it, and was now at St. Louis, on his way to Quebec, whence he had lately returned, in the prosecution of extensive commercial operations: his family, and an extensive assortment of merchandise were in Kaskaskia. By means of these pledges in his power, Colonel Clark thought to operate upon M. Cerre, whose influence was of the utmost consequence in the condition of the American interest, if it could be brought to be exerted in its favor. With the view of gaining this gentleman, a guard was immediately placed round his house, and seals placed on his property, as well as on all the other merchandise in the place. On the fifth, the troops were withdrawn from the town to different positions around it; during these movements, as all intercourse with the soldiers had been forbidden under heavy punishment, and even those who were sent for by Clark, had also been ordered to have no communication with the rest; distrust and terror overspread the town. In possession of an enemy, of whom the inhabitants entertained the most horrid apprehensions, and all intercourse either with one another, or with their conquerors sternly prohibited, the anticipations of the inhabitants might well be gloomy. In this state of things, after the removal of the troops, the people were permitted to walk about freely; when finding they were busy in conversation with one another, a few of the principal militia officers were apprehended by orders of Clark, and put in irons without assigning any reason, or suffering any defence. This immediately produced general consternation, and the worst consequences were expected from the enemy, whom their suspicions had invested with such terrors. Yet these measures were taken from no wanton cruelty, for of all men, Colonel Clark enjoyed the mildest and most affectionate disposition, and he severely felt, as he says, every hardship, he believed himself compelled to inflict. After some time M. Gibault, the priest of the village, got permission, with five or six elderly gentlemen, to wait on Colonel Clark. Shocked as the citizens had been by the sudden cap
ture of their town, and by such an enemy as their imaginations had painted, this party were still more evidently shocked when they entered Clark's quarters, at the appearance of him and his officers. Their clothes dirty and torn by the briars, their others left at the river, the appearance of the chiefs of this little band was indeed frightful and savage, as Clark himself admits, to any eyes. How much more so to this deputation, may be easily conceived by those who are acquainted with the refinement and delicacy of the ancient French. It was some time after entering the room where Clark and his officers were seated, before they could speak; and not then, until their business was demanded; they asked which was the commander; so effectually had this backwoods expedition confounded the differences of rank. The priest then said, that the inhabitants expected to be separated, perhaps never to meet again; and they begged through him, to be permitted to assemble in the church, to take leave of each other. Clark, aware they suspected their very religion to be obnoxious to our people, carelessly told him, that he had nothing to say against his church, it was a matter Americans left for every man to settle with his God; that the people might assemble at church if they would; but at the same time if they did, they must not venture out of town. Some further conversation was attempted on the part of the Kaskaskia gentlemen, but it was repelled by saying there was no longer leisure for further intercourse, in order that the alarm might be raised to its utmost height. The whole town assembled at the church, even the houses were deserted by all who could leave them. Orders were honorably given to prevent any soldiers from entering the vacant buildings; the people remained in the Ichurch for a considerable time, after which the priest, accompanied by several gentlemen, waited on Colonel Clark, and expressed in the name of the village, "their thanks for the indulgence they had received." The deputation then begged leave, at the request of the inhabitants, to address their conqueror on a subject, which was dearer to them than any other; they were sensible, they said, "that their present situation was the fate of war, and they could submit to the loss of their property; but
they solicited that they might not be separated from their wives and children; and that some clothes and provisions might be allowed for their further support." These gentlemen assured Colonel Clark that their conduct had been influenced by their commandants, whom they considered themselves bound to obey, nor were they sure, that they understood the nature of the contest between Great Britain and the United States; as the opportunities of this remote region were very unfavorable to accurate information. Indeed many of the inhabitants had frequently expressed themselves in favor of the Americans, as much as they durst. The utmost hope of this close repetition of the case of the citizens of Calais, with ropes about their necks, at the mercy of the third Edward of England, was, for favor to their wives and children. In this distress of the villagers, Clark, who had now wound up their terrors to the desired height, resolved to try the force which the lenity his whole heart had all along intended to grant, might receive from the sudden contrast of feelings. For this purpose, he abruptly asked these gentlemen, "do you mistake us for savages? I am almost certain you do, from your language. Do you think that Americans intend to strip women and children, or take the bread out of their mouths?" "My countrymen," said Clark, "disdain to make war upon helpless innocence; it was to prevent the horrors of Indian butchery upon our own wives and children, that we have taken arms and penetrated into this remote strong hold of British and Indian barbarity; and not the despicable prospect of plunder. That now the king of France had united his powerful arms with those of America, the war would not, in all probability, continue long; but the inhabitants of Kaskaskia were at liberty to take which side they pleased, without the least danger to either their property or families. Nor would their religion be any source of disagreement; as all religions were regarded with equal respect in the eye of the American law, and that any insult which should be offered it, would be immediately punished. And now, to prove my sincerity, you will please inform your fellow-citizens, that they are quite at liberty to conduct themselves as usual, without the least ap
prehension; I am now convinced from what I have learned since my arrival among you, that you have been misinformed and prejudiced against us by British officers; and your friends who are in confinement shall immediately be released." The agitation and joy of the village seniors, upon hearing this speech of Clark, may well be conceived; they attempted some apology for the implied imputation of barbarians, under the belief, that the property of a captured town belonged to the conquerors; Clark gently dispensed with this explanation, and desired them to relieve the anxieties of the inhabitants immediately, requiring them to comply strictly with the terms of a proclamation, which he would shortly publish. The contrast of feeling among the people upon learning these generous and magnanimous intentions of their conquerors, verified the sagacious anticipations of Colonel Clark. In a few moments the mortal dejection of the village was converted into the most extravagant joy; the bells were set a ringing, and the church was crowded with the people, offering up thanks to Almighty God for their deliverance from the horrors they had so fearfully expected. Perfect freedom was now given to the inhabitants to go or come as they pleased; so confident were our countrymen, that whatever report might be made, would be to the credit and success of the American arms. Some uneasiness was still felt respecting Cahokia, whose capture, Colonel Clark determined to attempt, and gain in the same way, if possible, as he had taken Kaskaskia. For this purpose, Major Bowman was ordered to mount his company on horses, with part of another, proceed to Cahokia, and take possession of the village for the State of Virginia. Upon this intention being known, several of the Kaskaskia gentlemen very handsomely offered their services to join our men, and effect any thing Colonel Clark desired. They assured him, that the people of Cahokia were their relations and friends; and they entertained no doubt of prevailing upon them to unite in the same political attachments, so soon as the circumstances in which they were placed should be fully explained to them. This offer Clark readily embraced; it indeed very fortunately presented itself, in the weakness of his small
corps; and a detachment, little inferior in strength to that which had invaded the country, departed for this new conquest; if such acquisitions by mutual consent, can well be called so. The French party were commanded by their former militia officers, and all set off in high spirits at this new mark of confidence under the free government of Virginia. On the 6th of July, the expedition reached its destination before it was discovered by the inhabitants; their surprise, as might well be expected, was great, at this visit in hostile attitude. The cry of the Big Knife (the formidable appellation of the Virginians at that time) being in town, spread dreadful alarm among the helpless part of the little community; this, however, was soon allayed, when the gentlemen from Kaskaskia had an opportunity of narrating what had taken place at their own village, and the conduct of the Americans. The alarm of the people was soon converted into huzzas for freedom and the Americans; and Major Bowman took possession of the British fort of Cahokia. The inhabitants in a few days took the oath of allegiance, and every thing promised the utmost harmony. This visit of our countrymen soon dispersed a body of Indians, who were encamped in the neighborhood of Cahokia, at that time a place of considerable trade.
Plan against St. Vincents-Thanks of Virginia-St. Vincents revolts from the BritishM. Girault-Illinois county-Negotiations with New Orleans-Indian negotiations.
But though Colonel Clark had met with a success so much beyond his means, and almost beyond his expectations; although the country was entirely subjected, and even attached, to the American government, yet his uneasiness was great. He was fully aware of the critical delicacy of his situation, and the necessity of exerting all the address he was master of, to maintain his position with service to his country, and honor to himself. A close understanding was cultivated with the Spanish