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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, March 23, 2012

We Are Really in The Midwest Now!

We've crossed the Missouri, the Mississippi and last night the Wabash. The West is far behind us and things are looking and feeling more and more like home. The one thing that is different is the profusion of pink flowered trees in the woods--redbuds? They are so beautiful as you can see from the pictures I keep taking of them. I have been unusually tired the last couple of days and have fallen asleep on the road for a few minutes. I finally realized we've had two time changes in three days and I think my poor body is more confused than usual! When we crossed the Wabash into Indiana last night we re-entered the EST so my computer and I are on the same page once more!

Today was heavenly--actually sunny and moderate. Such a wonderful change from the rain we've been experiencing and such a mood lifter.  Our first stop was the George Rogers Clark National Monument and Historical Park.  George has been sort of eclipsed by his younger brother, William, who with Merriweather Lewis comprised the Lewis and Clark expeditionary force sent by Jefferson to check out the West. Had it not been for George's capture of Kaskaskia, Cahokia and Vincennes from the British commander, Hamilton, the Mississippi, Ohio and Wabash Rivers would have been in British hands. Controlling those rivers would have made a significant difference to the outcome of the Revolutionary War. Would we have lost? Maybe not, the British did have supply problems and the Long Knives of Virginia and Kentucky were pretty fearsome fighters. But it may have been a different type of victory and William may not have had American territory to explore.

Interestingly, the whole military action of Clark was highly secret and his men were not told of the mission until just before the attack on these villages. The inhabitants were primarily French and once Clark assured Father Pierre Gibault that he wasn't interested in harming them or interfering with their lives the French gladly supported the Americans and surrendered Vincennes to them. The Indians of the area were operating as British mercenaries but they were peaceful  traders with the French and, impressed by Clark's prowess in capturing the French towns , some of them adopted an attitude of neutrality.

When word reached Hamilton at Fort Detroit, which was Clark's ultimate goal, of the success of these upstarts, he gathered up a small British force, which was swollen with hundreds of Indians who still hoped to keep these Americans from taking over their land. With these warriors he attacked and overwhelmed the Americans and French at Vincennes and Clark's man in charge surrendered the town to them.

Winter arrived, Hamilton allowed most of the Indians and French militia to go home. A merchant and trader, Francis Vigo sent word to Clark of the reduced force and once more in grueling icy water and cold conditions, the patriots marched 180 miles to once more attack Vincennes and Fort Sackville. Clark threatened to storm the undermanned fort and give no quarter, forcing Hamilton to formally surrender in Feb of 1779.

While Clark never did capture Fort Detroit, he did weaken the British control west of the Appalachians. This decided the future of a vast new territory and ultimately added an area to the US that was as large as all of the original 13 colonies!  Lafayette considered Clark second only to Washington in military prowess. Yet, for over 150 years this man was all but forgotten by American historians. In the mid 1920's when the 150 th anniversary of the Revolution was being celebrated the people of Vincennes, Knox County and Indiana wanted this man's accomplishments acknowledged and so began the plans for this massive Monument built on the banks of the Wabash on the site of Fort Sackville.

Next door to the Monument is St Francis Xavier Cathedral--the oldest parish in Indiana. The original church was built in 1749 and the present structure dates to 1826. Since it was noon and Mass was being celebrated we did not tour the inside. Two other famous men from Vincennes, William Henry Harrison and Red Skeleton also had homes here. Harrison's a mansion; Skeleton's a small cottage that his mother and brothers left upon his father's death at 26. Actually, he died two months before Red's birth. We did not take the time to explore these or the Lincoln statue across that beautiful Lincoln Bridge on the Illinois side.

We continued on Eastward with an eye to the sky since, though sunny, thunderheads were building all around us. Bill wanted to check out French Lick, the home of Larry Bird. The road was truly twisting and turning but simply beautiful. Seeing how far into the country the town is, it was easy to understand why a truly poor boy from here would have disliked going to the University of Indiana in Bloomington. Indeed, why even going to Terre Haute could be intimidating. I could find no reference to him anywhere!

 The town is basically the French Lick Resort which is comprised of two old hotels dating to the 1800's. The French Lick Hotel was the home of Pluto Water--a cloudy liquid with a red devil's head as a logo. I remember my Dad had it at home as a laxative. Little did I know from whence it came. The other hotel is the West Baden Springs Hotel, which also had curative waters. Their heyday was pre-1929 and both of them fell on hard times. Eventually, they both needed restoration and a family from Bloomington

We returned to Rte 56 and headed into Madison. I dozed off , waking when Bill stopped for a red light in a town--took a picture, made sure he was still on 56 and dozed off again. LOL  We did come to a town whose Church has a board in front saying Chelsea, Marysville and Henryville--you are in our prayers. I looked at the map and we were only 8 miles north of the path taken earlier this month by a tornado that wiped those towns away. We chose not to go to see the damage--too heart-breaking.

Tonight we discovered that just before we arrived in Madison, a tornado touched down just north of us in Lawrenceburg--about 30 miles north. Now they are hitting about 50 miles south of us in Louisville. And we are under severe thunderstorm warning until 8 pm.  Well, it is 815 now, so hopefully we are going to be okay--I just heard thunder. Just pray no tornadoes--especially now that it is dark--Ugh!  Adding another two pix if you already looked--the front outside our window.  Good night--tomorrow Ohio and the Ohio River. Later.WARNING EXTENDED TO 9 PM!

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