National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program:
George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, Knox County, Indiana

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

 

[Photo]George Rogers Clark National Historical Park
Photo by henskechristine via Flickr and Creative Commons

"Our cause is just . . . our country will be grateful" George Rogers Clark

George Rogers Clark National Historic Park, Vincennes, Knox County, Indiana
At 10 a.m., February 25, 1779, the British garrison at Fort Sackville, in what is today Vincennes, Indiana, surrendered to American Colonel George Rogers Clark and his force of approximately 170 Americans and Frenchmen. Clark and his men had marched through freezing floodwaters to gain this victory, retaking the fort that had fallen into British hands on December 17, 1778. The fort’s capture assured United States claims to the frontier, an area nearly as large as the original 13 states.

Today, George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, situated on the approximate site of Fort Sackville, during the American Revolution, commemorates the expedition under Clark in 1778-79 and its decisive consequences in securing the Northwest for the American cause during the American Revolution.  With the surrender of Fort Sackville to the Americans on February 25, 1779 British options for the possession of the Northwest Territory were decisively ended. Important in these events were the actions of the native French settlers, who under the leadership of Father Pierre Gibault and Francis Vigo, chose to align themselves against the British during the summer of 1778.   

The fort had left British hands for American ones during the summer of 1778, but was retaken on December 17th by British Lt. Gov. Henry Hamilton, with a mixed force of English soldiers; French volunteers and militia; and Indian warriors. However, Hamilton made a fateful decision, allowing most of his force to return to their homes for the winter. Unaware that the fort was in British hands, Francis Vigo, set out from his St. Louis home for Vincennes. As he approached the settlement, he was taken prisoner and was held for several days. His captors failed to realize Vigo's involvement with the Americans and Hamilton allowed him to leave.  Vigo provided valuable information concerning the military situation in Vincennes while informing Clark of the British intent to attack in the spring.  Determined to capture Hamilton, Clark and his force struck in the winter, arriving in Vincennes after nightfall on Feb. 23, 1779. The local French settlers warmly greeted Clark's men, providing food and dry gunpowder. Hamilton's garrison now consisted of approximately 40 British soldiers and a similar number of French volunteers and militia from Detroit and Vincennes. The fort surrendered.

[Photo]
George Rogers Clark National Historical Park
Photo by OZinOH via Flickr and Creative Commons

Although unable to achieve his ultimate objective of capturing Detroit, Clark successfully countered British and Indian moves during the remainder of the conflict. The young Virginian had prevented the British from achieving their goal of driving the Americans from the Trans- Appalachian frontier. As a result of Clark's brilliant military activities, the British ceded to the United States a vast area of land west of the Appalachian Mountains called the Northwest Territory during the Treaty of Paris in 1783. That territory now includes the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and the eastern portion of Minnesota. Four years later, the Northwest Ordinance was passed to organize the territory, establishing the basic legal framework for further territorial expansion in the next century. 

Most of the park’s significance lies in marking the site where the fall of Fort Sackville took place. The fort, despite extensive archeological investigation, has never been positively located although it is certain the park represents the original site. The primary focus of the park is the George Rogers Clark Memorial, constructed by the State of Indiana with Federal financial assistance in the early 1930s. The memorial is perhaps the last major Classical style memorial built in this country, and one of the largest and finest examples of such a memorial outside of Washington, DC. Located at the northwest corner of Vincennes, Indiana, the approximately 24 acres of George Rogers Clark National Historic Park consists of formally landscaped grounds planted with evergreen shrubs and various deciduous trees. 

During the 1920s interest in commemorating Clark’s victory grew with the approaching sesquicententennial of the Clark campaign. The result was a series of monetary appropriations from the state, county, city and federal government. The finished landscape was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 14, 1936. The memorial as a whole was largely the conception of noted landscape architect William E. Parsons, of the firm of Bennet, Parsons and Frost in Chicago. Serving as the design consultant to the George Rogers Clark Sesquicentennial Commission, Parsons in 1929 outlined a concept for the memorial that began by insuring the redesign of the bridge about to be constructed over the Wabash River into what became the Lincoln Memorial Bridge. The architectural firm of Hirons and Mellor of New York City won the architectural competition in 1930.

[Photo]George Rogers Clark National Historical Park
Photo by cindy4752 via Flickr and Creative Commons

Within the park are the following historic structures:
The Clark Memorial Building: A circular granite building on a raised stylobate provides the foundation for the 16 Doric columns of the Clark memorial Building.  In 1966, Congress made the building and grounds a part of the National Park Service. The Clark Memorial is more than 80 feet high and is 90 feet across at the base. The walls are two feet thick. Towering over the entrance is an eagle with outspread wings. Above the 16 Doric columns is an inscription which reads: "The Conquest of the West - George Rogers Clark and The Frontiersmen of the American Revolution." Three of Clark's quotations are inscribed in the memorial: "Great things have been affected by a few men well conducted;"  "Our cause is just . . . our country will be grateful;" and "If a country is not worth protecting it is not worth claiming."

The Francis Vigo Statue: The Francis Vigo statue depicts the fur trader seated with his arm resting on a bale of furs. Executed by John Angel in 1934, it measures 4’ x 9’ x11’ high.

 

[Photo]
George Rogers Clark National Historical Park - Gibault Statue
Photo by Mingusboodle via wikipedia, and is in the public domain

Gibault Statue: This is a copper statue located on the plaza in front of the old cathedral. Executed by Albin Polasek in 1934, it measures 3’-0’ x 3’-4 x 11’-6 high and is set on a 6’-0”x5-7”x91/2” high base of polished dark green granite.

Lincoln Memorial Bridge Approach and Esplanade:  A flagpole, surrounded by monumental steps, terraces, walls and planters is located on the northeast side of Vigo Street. Opposite the flagpole across Vigo Street is a series of monumental steps, terraces, walls, and planters focused on three large wall plaques inscribed with appropriate quotations. The material used on both sides of Vigo Street is gray granite, as are the high pylons flanking the approach of the Lincoln memorial bridge and carved by Raoul Jossel into bas-relief American Indians.

Wabash River Floodwall: This is a 945’ long poured concrete retaining wall, 15’ high on the northwest side and 4’ high facing the park.  It is 1’-6” wide at the top. At its center, near the Vigo statue, there is a ramp leading down to the riverbank. Its design is Classical with rusticated buttresses.

War Memorial: This is a 5’-2”x 2’-8”x7’-22” high limestone memorial on a high concrete base with two bronze plaques on either side, honoring the Knox County soldiers who were killed in World War I. It is located northeast of Vigo Street.

Headquarters Site Marker: Placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1954, this marker locates the probable site of Clark’s headquarters north of Vigo Street.  It consists of a bronze plaque on a gray granite wedge.

Fort Sackville Site Memorial: Located in the north corner of the memorial Building area, this marker was erected in 1905, moved in 1931, and re-moved in 1971. Non-historic structures in the park include the Visitors Center, which was built in 1976.

The George Rogers Clark National Historical Park was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

--Taken from
1: History & Culture, George Rogers Clark National Historic Park, Indiana, retrieved April 18, 2012 from http://www.nps.gov/gero/historyculture/index.htm
2: David Arbogast, George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, Indiana SHPO, June 11, 1976.

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