Of the notable personages who left an ineradicable imprint on the pages of the stirring history of old Harrod’s Station and of early Kentucky, none towed more grandly, more heroically than the incomparable George Rogers Clark. His transcendent deeds, in fact, provided a bright chapter even in the nation’s history.
It was at Harrod’s Fort that Clark, a young man under 25, assumed military command of Kentucky; this is the historic year 1776. Here too he brought to maturity plans for his greatest contribution to statecraft. At old Harrodsburg also he developed his brilliant design for conquest of the Old Northwest.
The land “Kentucke,” fascinated and delighted this young pioneer. “A richer and more beautiful country than this,” he wrote, “has never been seen in America.” He was determined to make the “new found paradise” his home. He was economically free. To affect this, he persuaded the General Assembly of Virginia to establish Kentucky County in 1776. Thus Clark was the political “father” of Kentucky.
At that time, the “dark and bloody ground” was in the throes of the Revolutionary War. Savage red men, fiendishly bent upon pillage, arson torture and murder lurked seemingly everywhere in the troubled land. But more was at stake than even the lives of the rugged settlers. This outpost jutting boldly into the wilderness, constituted America’s bright hope for western empire. Too, while it held out, the East was in little danger of attack from the West. But if it were overrun, national tragedy would result.
As the terrible year 1777 wore on, more and more men, women and children were killed and scalped. Attacking parties directed by British and Tory officers appeared in greater and greater number, and every station was besieged. Crops were destroyed, animals killed or driven off, supplies scarce, the people hungry. It seemed that the thinly manned stations must fall.
It was at this critical time that Clark planned the bold campaign to relieve Kentucky. He would strike the enemy in the heart of his territory. He would win through bold, swift silent movement and magnetic, flawless leadership.
The intrepid leader could raise few more than 150 backwoodsmen, but no matter, he trained them to be virtually supermen. Kaskaskia and Cahokia, near the Mississippi in Illinois territory, was his without firing a shot. Then came the heroic, well-nigh super-human march to Vincennes on the Wabash, 180 miles to the east.
It was in the dead of winter. The terrible march was over drowned, frozen land, through freezing water often with a sheet of ice, and mile after dreary mile knee to shoulder deep; no camp fires, little food, wet, freezing clothes night and day; exhaustion, near starvation. But the incredible march reached its goal and brilliant victory.