Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Siege of Fort Sackville ~The Revolutionary War in Indiana

As we celebrate America’s independence from Britain, thoughts turn to the war that won our country’s freedom. Generally, we think of the great battles of the American Revolution fought along the United States’ eastern seaboard. But did you know that one of the more important battles of that war took place as far west as Indiana?


The battle of Fort Sackville, which took place at Vincennes, Indiana along the Wabash River, determined the fate of British domination in America’s western frontier and doubled the size of the United States.


Originally a French Canadian trading post called Fort Vincennes, the now British fortress had fallen
into disrepair and neglect by the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

In 1774, the British Parliament passed the Quebec Act, enlarging the Providence of Quebec, and i.e. British holdings, to include the land along the Mississippi River on the west to the Appalachian Mountains on the east and south to the Ohio River. Despite being the garrison charged with the defense of this large land mass, Fort Sackville, like most frontier outposts, was not well maintained by the British government. Parliament instead focused its resources on established towns and settlements to the east. Edward Abbot, the commander assigned to Fort Sackville tried to built up the garrison, but he soon resigned citing lack of support from the British government. His departure left the place in the hands of the local French Canadian residents.    


Father Pierre Gibault
In the summer of 1778 a French priest, Father Pierre Gibault, arrived in Vincennes with the news that France had aligned with the United States in the war for Independence. The French speaking residents took control of the fort for America. Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark sent an American officer to command the fort, but inexplicably left him without additional troops to defend it. The following December, the fort was easily retaken by the British under the command of Lieutenant-Governor Henry Hamilton.


The loss of Fort Sackville to the notorious Henry “Hairbuyer” Hamilton was a particularly bitter one for Colonel Clark. I can imagine that the colonel felt a significant amount of regret and responsibility for having left the garrison without adequate defense. Hamilton, Fort Sackville’s new commander, had earned his nickname by paying bounties to local Indians for American scalps; five dollars for the scalp of a man and three dollars for the scalp of a woman or child. Clark was determined to take back Fort Sackville for the United States and put “the hairbuyer” out of business.



Lt. Colonel George Rogers C
In February of 1779, Colonel George Rogers Clark returned to Vincennes with 170 men under his command. With the help of local French Canadian settlers and Indian allies, Clark and his men surrounded the fort.


Siege of Fort Sackville

By unfurling an unusually large number of flags and having his men fire their muskets in rapid succession, Clark tricked Hamilton into believing the fort was under siege by a much larger army. During the siege, one of Hamilton’s Indian raiding parties returned to the fort and was captured by Clark’s men. Clark had five of the Indians publically executed in site of the fort, convincing Hamilton to surrender.

Surrender of Fort Sackville to Colonel

Clark renamed the fortress for the governor of Virginia, Patrick Henry. By wresting the obscure frontier outpost from British hands, Clark had effectively doubled the size of the United States.



Fort Patrick Henry was abandoned at the end of the Revolutionary War, but visitors to the George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes, Indiana can visit the site and learn about the man who secured the western frontier for the United States of America.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Ramona Cecil's latest historical romance novel, Heart's Heritage

Ramona K. Cecil is a poet and award-winning author of historical fiction for the Christian market. A proud Hoosier, she often sets her stories in her home state of Indiana.

Check out her website at



  1. Thanks for the interesting post and I never heard of "the Hairbuyer" what a horrible nickname. Would love to read your book - thanks for the chance!! truckredford(at)Gmail(dot)com

  2. Hi, Eliza! The scalp-buying practice was indeed horrific and it also happened during the War of 1812. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck in the drawing!

  3. Ramona, Thank you for your most interesting post. I love to visit here for the information it brings. Thank you for your giveaway. Keeping my fingers crossed!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

    1. Hi, Melanie! Glad you enjoyed the post. Good luck in the drawing!

  4. I did not know about the Revolutionary War in Indiana and was interested to read your post. Thanks. sharon wileygreen1ATyahooDOTcom

    1. Hi, Sharon! I think a lot of folks outside Indiana are unaware of George Rogers Clark and Indiana's involvement in the Revolutionary War. Glad you liked the post. Good luck in the drawing!

  5. Thank you! Interesting character, this "hair buyer"! Love learning about history!

    1. Hi, Claudia! I agree---creepy, but interesting. LOL I love history, too, even the more unsavory parts. Glad you liked the post and good luck in the drawing!

  6. Hello Ramona. Very interesting post. I love learning our history from our authors. So much that I was never taught. And the way you tell it is so much more interesting than what we were taught. So, I now love history. Had never heard of this particular war. Awful what this Commander did paying for American scalps. Hope this man is no ancestor of my children. I would love to win this book. I don't have a book of yours yet. Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <