Who Is George Rogers Clark?

Hailed as the “Conqueror of the Old Northwest,” George Rogers Clark was an American surveyor, defense lawyer, soldier, and military officer. Clark was born on November 19. 1752 in Virginia. His brother is William Clark from the famous duo Lewis and Clark.

Prior to the revolutionary war, Clark spent his time in Kentucky surveying the land with the intention of annexing it as a country for Virginia. However, settlers in Kentucky were involved in a dispute about who owned the land. Richard Henderson from North Carolina entered into an illegal treaty with the Cherokee Indians. In June 1776, Kentucky residents asked for Clark to petition to the Virginia assembly to officially include Kentucky in its boundaries.

After the war began, Kentucky was a hotbed of activity. British armed forces at Fort Detroit were attacking Kentucky settlers in hopes to take control over the land. Clark asked for assistance from Virginia to defend Kentucky and attack British controlled villages such as Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes in the Illinois country. Clark’s victories in Illinois reached General George Washington and was praised. Virginia officially took claim of the formerly British controlled land and officially named it Illinois County, Virginia.

As the war dwindled, Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson promoted Clark to the senior military officer of the militia in Kentucky and Illinois counties. He set his sites on taking over Fort Detroit but never had the manpower to take over the British controlled base. When the war ended, much thanks to this conquest, Britain relinquished control of all their strongholds in Illinois County through the Treaty of Paris (1783). This nearly doubled the size of the original thirteen colonies.

After the Revolutionary War, Clark continued to negotiate treaties between Native Americans and Kentucky settlers. However, there were still many skirmishes between the Indians and settlers in the area. Clark led a group of men against the Native American tribes near the Wabash River in 1786. This action was one of the first battles of the Northwest Indian War. However, this fight was not successful and caused over 300 men to mutiny against Clark due to lack of supplies. Many accused Clark of being drunk on duty. Despite asking for an official inquiry, the government of Virginia condemned him and he never served in the military again.

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