Footprints of the Brave

by Harley Bonham

It was on February 12,1779, when a little band Revolutionary War soldiers marched across what we now know as Clay County. It was the Illinois Regiment of Virginia State Militia led by Colonel George Rogers Clark, with Captain Bowman as second in command, under the orders of the Governor of Virginia, Patrick Henry.

This was a forced march of 130 heroes, benumbed by the cold and constant rain, in nearly freezing temperatures with no shelter, but yet determined they were to attack the British fort at Vincennes (Fort Sackville) and free themselves from British tyranny.

They followed the Vincennes-Kaskaskia Trace that passed through the center of present day Flora. On this weary trek, which lasted over two weeks, there was no doubt that each step became an obstacle.

Somewhere in this area, pack horses were unloaded and mounted men rode northward on the prairie to hunt buffalo for much needed food. According to Captain Bowman’s journal, the company marched onward and it was late at night before the hunters were able to rejoin the main body. It was then that two precious days were spent crossing the flooded Little Wabash River. Enduring great hardships, Clark and his men would receive the surrender of General Hamilton on the 25th of February, 1779.

As we ponder the deeds of this little band of patriots who once passed our way, it seems like a miracle that the venture was successful. In the conquest of the Northwest Territory, they managed to wrest from the British Empire the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and part of Minnesota.

If ever there is a roll call of the brave, these patriots should answer. They were some of the finest soldiers who ever walked the face of the Earth. May they always be properly remembered.