One of the largely unsung heroes of the American Revolution is George Rogers Clark. The campaign that he fought in Illinois and Indiana secured to America a claim to these territories that was recognized in the treaty ending the war.
In 1778 Virginian Clark, at 25, was already a seasoned veteran of the savage warfare that raged on the Kentucky frontier throughout the Revolution. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Hamilton, known to the patriots as “Hair-buyer” Hamilton, from Detroit constantly aided the Indians war against the settlers in Kentucky, and paid generous bounties to the Indians for the prisoners and scalps they brought him.
Clark realized that the best way to stop the raids into Kentucky was for the patriots to go on the offensive and seize British outposts north of the Ohio river. Recruiting 150 men to form what he called the Illinois regiment, Clark, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Virginia militia, led his force into Illinois and took Kaskaskia on July 4, 1778. The men of the Illinois regiment received an enthusiastic reception from the French, largely due to the efforts of Father Pierre Gibault, Vicar General of the Illinois Country, and Frenchwomen soon busied themselves sewing flags for the regiment. Cahokia and Vincennes were taken without firing a shot, and British power in Illinois and Indiana seemed to vanish over night.
Hamilton did not take long to respond. He raised a force of 30 regulars, 145 French Canadian militiamen and 60 Indians, marched from Detroit and re-took Fort Sackville at Vincennes on December 17, planning to stay there for the winter and then retake Illinois in the spring of 1779.