George Rogers Clark

1752–1818

George Rogers Clark
GEORGE ROGERS CLARK
George Rogers Clark, elder brother of famous explorer William Clark, was born in Virginia, and at age nineteen, he took a surveying job that allowed him to travel into the westernmost part of the colony. He later continued on into Kentucky, where thousands of colonists were settling in the aftermath of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. Unfortunately, many of those living in the area were soon attacked by Indians who used Kentucky for hunting grounds and were unaware of the treaty. These conflicts culminated in Lord Dunmore’s War, during which Clark served as captain in the Virginia militia.

In 1775, while the American Revolution was being waged along the east coast, those in Kentucky were having their own difficulties: a land speculator from North Carolina had illegally purchased Kentucky property and wished to create a new colony. Disagreement arose, and Clark, along with John Gabriel Jones, was chosen to deliver a petition to the Virginia General Assembly asking that Kentucky lands might be incorporated into Virginia. The petition passed, and Clark was appointed a major in the Kentucky County militia. By the time of his return, the Revolutionary War had intensified in the west, and British governors led squadrons of Native Americans in raids on the settlers. With the Continental Army still preoccupied in the east, Clark relied on local men to defend the colony. He determined that their best hope of success lay in seizing British outposts, and he did so in 1778 and ‘79, taking the first of two important villages on the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Declaration if Independence. Several other victories quickly followed, as the Indian soldiers were unwilling to defend their European leaders. His ultimate goal lay in taking Detroit from British hands, but while he attempted the journey on several occasions, he never succeeded. He was, however, instrumental in nearly doubling the size of colonial land, and after the war he was hailed as the “Conqueror of the old Northwest.”

Clark was only thirty at the end of the Revolutionary War, but his greatest achievements were already behind him. Settlers poured into Kentucky, and despite several treaties drawn up by Clark and others, violence between colonists and Indians continued. Clark later led a campaign against several Native American towns, but he met with little success, and after rumors began circling about his drinking while on duty, his reputation was greatly tarnished and he left Kentucky for Indiana. While he had earned money for his military career, he was only able to claim a portion of it, and he lived the rest of his life with financial difficulties. With his career seemingly over and desperate for money, Clark offered his services to the French ambassador Edmond-Charles Genêt. Clark used $4,700 of his own money to fund an expedition to the Mississippi River, where he planned to drive out the Spanish and take the river for America. Before he could achieve this, however, he was recalled by an order from President Washington, who would not have him threaten U.S. neutrality. Genêt returned to France, and Clark was never reimbursed. Soon debtors seized Clark’s lands, and, nearly penniless, he returned to Kentucky.

In 1809, Clark suffered a severe stroke, falling into a fireplace and burning his leg so badly that it later had to be amputated. Unable to work, Clark moved in with his brother-in-law. Luckily, he was finally as this time recognized for his work in the Revolutionary War effort, and he was granted a pension of $400 per year. After a second stroke, Clark died in February 1818.


Key events during the life of George Rogers Clark:


Year
Event
1752
1771
Travelled into western Virginia as a surveyor.
1774
Served as captain during Lord Dunmore’s War.
1776
Brought a petition to Virginia asking the colony to extend its boundaries to include Kentucky.
  Was appointed a major in the Kentucky County militia.
1778
Captured Kaskaskia in Illinois.
1779
Captured Vincennes, Indiana.
1784-88
Served as superintendent-surveyor for Virginia’s war veterans.
1786
Led an expedition against Indian towns on the Wabash River.
  Moved to Indiana.
1793
Put together a campaign to wrest the Mississippi from Spanish control.
1809
Suffered a stroke and fell into a fireplace, severely burning one leg.
  Moved in with his brother-in-law in Locust Grove, Kentucky.
1818
Died.

Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
Clark and His Men  in  Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans  by  Edward Eggleston
How Clark won the Northwest  in  Historical Tales: American II  by  Charles Morris


Image Links


Again in Kentucky, having walked there alone
 in Conquest of the Old Northwest

You may go on with your fun,' said Clark
 in Conquest of the Old Northwest

We trust that you will not separate parents from their children.'
 in Conquest of the Old Northwest

George Rogers Clarke
 in Indian History for Young Folks

George Rogers Clark
 in Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans

Wade in', cried Clark, 'and follow me!'
 in America First—100 Stories from Our History

Captains Lewis and Clark were much puzzled at this point
 in Trails of the Pathfinders

Clark's March
 in Story of the Thirteen Colonies

George Rogers Clark
 in Four American Indians


Contemporary
Short Biography
William Clark Led an expedition up the Missouri River, map-making, gathering information, and looking for a passage to the Pacific Ocean.
Francis Marion Revolutionary War leader whose used guerilla tactics against the Tories in the Southeast marshes.
John Stark 'Hero of Bennington' during the American Revolution. Fought with Rogers' Rangers during French Indian War.
Simon Kenton Leading settler of the Ohio and Kentucky valleys. Fought on various Indian wars and the Revolutionary war.