Exploring Around Home Before it was Cool

The way things are in the world right now, I think it is fairly common for people to be exploring around their own areas since distance travel is inadvisable or even impossible. However, that was not the reason my son and I traveled around to some of the National Park Service areas in Indiana way back in 2013.

At the time my son was mildly… no, let’s be straight with each other… he was completely obsessed with being a Junior Ranger – going to the different sites operated by the National Park Service and getting a badge. He became very discouraged when he found out that many of them were very far away, and it would take us quite some time to save up the money to go to Mesa Verde in Colorado. To him it was as easy as jumping in an airplane, but for a single teacher, the cost of two airline tickets, car rental, food and housing for a trip that (let’s face it) my son might not remember as an adult seemed a little silly.

Consequently we started a bit more locally.¬† I write about our first trip to St. Louis (here), and then we went on to Kentucky (here and here). After our big trip with my parents to the Grand Canyon (here), we decided to keep it local, and sure enough… there were three sites operated by the National Park Service in Indiana: Indiana Dunes National Shoreline (which is now officially a “park”), George Rogers Clark National Monument, and Lincoln’s Boyhood Home.

The Dunes are way up at Lake Michigan, but the other two parks, were relatively close (by midwestern standards), so we decided to do a quick long weekend there over fall break.

Our first stop was in Vincennes, Indiana to learn about George Rogers Clark!

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The memorial looking south (the Wabash River is just to the west out of frame)

The outside of the memorial is relatively simple, but very beautiful. It was constructed on the site of Fort Sackville, where Clark (at age 25) lead American forces to capture the fort and claim the area for the Americans.

Inside the memorial is a large statue of Clark in his military regalia.

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The statue stands in the center of a rotunda

Around the statue are seven paintings that depict the taking of the fort and the aftermath of that venture.

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Clark (white horse) leading militia men

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Clark offering an alliance with the Native Americans 

The history behind this second painting is quite interesting – the Native Americans had forged an alliance with the British military, but Clark went to several tribes without guns and severely out-manned to offer peace. The Native American chiefs were impressed with his bravery and accepted the white sash of peace (not the red sash of war).

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Clark and his men crossing the Wabash River (in the winter) to surprise the British

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The taking of the fort

Clark was a crafty leader. He had a small number helping him, but he told his men to fire as rapidly as possible and to make a lot of noise so it sounded like there were more of them. He also had sharp shooters fire at the cannon holes in the fort walls so that they could not fire the cannons.

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The surrender

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Winthrop Sargent reading the ordinance dividing the northwest territory into Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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The last painting is of the founding of St. Louis Рwithout Clark this exploration would not have been possible. 

Clark and his men helped the American cause – and that is why he is honored in Vincennes, Indiana.

A quote around the rotunda reads:

“Great things have been affected by a few men well conducted.” – George Rogers Clark in a letter to Patrick Henry

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Facing north while standing on the monument steps

Tune in later this week for more about our adventures in southern Indiana!