The Making of an American Frontier

in The Sangamo Frontier

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780226514246
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226514239 | DOI:
The Making of an American Frontier

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In the late winter of 1778, two years into the American Revolution, Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark began planning an attack on a British post in the far western Illinois Country. Clark and his men descended the Ohio River from Fort Pitt until they reached the Illinois shore at the site of an abandoned French fort known as Fort Massac. Here, they climbed the bluffs into the forests of southern Illinois and began a 120-mile overland march to Kaskaskia, which was situated in the Mississippi valley. They crossed the Kaskaskia River in the darkness, surrounded the small village, and captured the British post without firing a shot. Clark surprised the alarmed villagers with a simple offer: in exchange for an oath of fidelity, the French residents of Illinois would receive the same freedoms and privileges enjoyed by the Americans who now occupied their village. Their land and personal property would remain theirs, and most importantly, the activities of the Catholic churches in the colony would not be disturbed. Gradually, the old village began to be populated with American families—primarily Virginians of Scotch–Irish or English descent. Kaskaskia would serve as the seat of government as Illinois became an American county, and then an American territory.

Keywords: Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark; British post; Illinois Country; Kaskaskia; Catholic churches; American county; American territory

Chapter.  5922 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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