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Taking Kaskaskia

From Clark's Memoir:

"I had fully acquainted myself that the French inhabitants in those western settlements had great influence among the Indians . . . .

"On the 4th of July, [1778] in the evening, we got within a few miles of the town [Kaskaskia] . . . and took possession of a house . . . on the bank of the Kaskaskia river . . . . We soon procured a sufficiency of vessels . . . to convey us across the river, (and) formed the party into three divisions. . . .

"With one of the divisions, I marched to the fort and ordered the other two into different quarters of the town. . . . In a very little time we had complete possession, and every avenue was guarded to prevent any escape . . . ."

[Clark then peacefully won over the inhabitants of the town, assuring a favorable reception from the other French towns.]

Clark Reassures French at Kaskaskia
Clark Reassures French at Kaskaskia

A Commemorative History of the George Rogers Clark Bicentennial Exhibit (Indianapolis: Indiana State Museum Society, 1976), p. 33.

Clark explained in his Memoir how he peacefully won over the inhabitants of Kaskaskia.

"After some time, the priest [Father Pierre Gibault] got permission to wait on me. . . . The priest informed me . . . that, as the inhabitants expected to be separated, never, perhaps, to meet again, they begged, through him, that they might be permitted to spend some time in the church, to take their leave of each other. . . . I . . . told him . . . that he might go there if he would . . . . They remained a considerable time in church, after which the priest and many of the principal men came to me to return thanks for the indulgence shown them, and begged permission to address me farther . . . that the loss of their property they could reconcile, but were in hopes that I would not part them from their families; and that the women and children might be allowed to keep some of their clothes and a small quantity of provisions. . . .

". . . I asked them very abruptly whether or not they thought they were speaking to savages . . . . Did they suppose . . . that we would . . . make war on the women and children or the church? It was to prevent the effusion of innocent blood . . . that caused us to visit them . . . that as the king of France had joined the Americans, there was a probability of there shortly being an end to the war . . . . They were at liberty to take which side they pleased, without any dread of losing their property or having their families destroyed. As for their church, all religions would be tolerated in America . . . . They retired, and, in a few minutes, the scene was changed . . . to that of joy in the extreme - the bells ringing, the church crowded, returning thanks."

Father Pierre Gibault
Father Pierre Gibault

A Commemorative History of the George Rogers Clark Bicentennial Exhibit (Indianapolis: Indiana State Museum Society, 1976), p. 53.

Father Pierre Gibault was born in Montreal, Canada in 1737. Little is known about his childhood except that he had been well-educated. Gibault was thirty years old when he was ordained a priest on March 19, 1768. Within months, he was sent into the Illinois country as a missionary for the isolated frontier French settlements. Gibault's missionary career lasted over thirty years. Gibault died on August 16, 1802 at New Madrid, Illinois.

Joseph P. Donnelly, Pierre Gibault, Missionary, 1737-1802 (Chicago: Loyola University Press, [c. 1971]), pp. 33, 34, 36, 38, 148.


Today, two vestiges of George Rogers Clark's Illinois campaign can still be visited at Kaskaskia.

The Liberty Bell of the West
The Liberty Bell of the West

"The Liberty Bell of the West" still hangs in a small brick building built at the Kaskaskia Bell State Historic Site in Kaskaskia, Illinois. The 650-pound bell, cast in 1741, was a gift to The Mission of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and the town's citizens from King Louis XV of France. This bell was rung after Clark's capture of Kaskaskia, July 4, 1778.

Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site
Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site

At Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site, there are remnants of the earthen-work and timber fortification that was Fort Kaskaskia. It was built by the French in the mid-1700s, on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. The low, protective stone wall and dry moat are still visible.

Kaskaskia's Liberty Bell and Fort Kaskaskia Remains

225th Anniversary Exhibit