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Taking Fort Sackville

From Clark's Memoir:

". . . Mr. Gibault, the priest, was inclined to the American interest . . . . He had great influence over the people . . . and Post Vincennes was under his jurisdiction. . . . he informed me . . . that . . . he would take this business on himself, and had no doubt of his being able to bring that place over to the American interest without my . . . marching against it . . . .

". . . Mr. Gibault and his party [left Cahokia July 14] . . . after their spending a day or two in explaining matters to the people . . . went in a body to the church, where the oath of allegiance was administered . . . . and the American flag displayed, to the astonishment of the Indians, and everything settled."

[Clark assigned Captain Leonard Helm to command the fort; Helm went there around mid-August.]

Gibault Wins French Allegiance at Vincennes

Helm's "Flag"

Account book of François Bosseron, Lasselle Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library. Actual size is 7.75 x 12.75 inches. The Lasselle Collection is an extremely valuable collection of early French material.

Although Father Gibault raised an American (Congressional) flag at Vincennes before he left, Captain Helm apparently felt the need for his own colors at the fort.

The page of François Bosseron's account book reproduced here above, is headed (in French) "Furnished to Captain Helm for the Account of the States, as follows." The entries for November 12, 1778 (two-thirds down the page) indicate that red and green cloth were used in making a "pavillon."

The translation of "pavillon" is more appropriately "colors" or "standards." Clark uses the term colors in his Memoir, referring to the many "flags" used by the men to create the illusion of more troops attacking Fort Sackville.

Specifically, the entries for November 12 (in French) record the following three transactions:

Paid to S[ain]te Marie for 5. ells red sergefor the colors 9# [for: livres or pounds] 45.

Paid to Mr. Dajenet for 3.3/4 ells green serge at 10# 37.10

Paid to Mrs Goderre for the making of the colors 25


Helm's "flag" reproduced above was based on the available information; the small "flag" used for this reproduction is commercially available. Note that there are more red stripes than green and there was more red material purchased. The thirteen stripes apparently signify the thirteen colonies/states.

Thanks to Liliane Krasean, Indianapolis, for her help with translation of this material and the meanings of certain words.

Information about Bosseron and a transcription and translation of the account book is available in Janet P. Shaw, "Francis Bosseron," Indiana Magazine of History (September 1929), 25:204-41.

Thanks also to Frank Doughman, chief ranger, George Rogers Clark Historical Park, National Park Service, for sharing his research and insights.

225th Anniversary Exhibit