Early on in the American Revolutionary War, George Rogers Clark was a captain of the Virginia militia tasked with organizing the defence of settlers in Kentucky, who were threatened by Indian raids, incited and armed by the British and their lieutenant-governor, Henry Hamilton, based at Fort Detroit. Chafing at a passive role, Clark proposed a counterattack to Virginia’s governor. Given authority, he set out in July 1777, swiftly capturing Kaskaskia, Cahokia and Fort Sackville (the non-native inhabitants were mainly French and not well disposed to the British). Stung, Hamilton set out in person, recapturing Fort Sackville in December, and settling down there to overwinter. A hardy frontiersman, Clark was not attuned to seasonal campaigning conventions, and forged through February snow to seize Fort Sackville, capturing a startled Hamilton into the bargain. Washington eulogized Clark’s heroism and initiative, particularly appreciating Clark’s use of his own money to fund the expedition.
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