pages (28 - 32)
INDIAN WAR. GOV. EDWARDS AND CAPT. CRAIG
By the treaty with Great Britain made in 1783, and particularly by Jay's treaty, made in 1794, all Frenchmen in Illinois became citizens — at least subjects — of the United States, and owed allegiance to them; and when the war between Great Britain and the United States broke out in 1812, it was treason for them to aid the British, or their allies, the Indians. The French at Peoria were charged with obtaining ammunition from the British in Canada, and furnishing it to the Indians at Peoria; with murdering our people, in the southern part of the state; and John Baptiste Maillet (Capt Maillet), the chief military man at Peoria (and who was afterward rewarded by the United States for his supposed loyalty to them), was charged with stealing cattle from the Wood-River settlement, in Madison county, to feed the Indians at Peoria. These stories may not have been true; but they were plausible, and it was the duty of Gov. Edwards to inquire into them. He therefore ordered Capt. Craig, of the Illinois militia, to ascend the Illinois (there then being no roads in that part of the state) for that purpose.
That Gov. Edwards believed those stories, and was greatly alarmed, is manifest from a letter he wrote on the 4th of August, 1812, to Mr. Eustis, Secretary of War of the United States. He says, in speaking of the Indians, "Those near Peoria are now constantly killing and eating the cattle of the people of that village. . . . The Indians on the Illinois are well supplied with English powder, and have been selling some of it to the white people. A few days ago they sent some of their party with five horses to the Sac Village for lead." In a postscript he adds, "No troops of any kind have yet arrived in this territory, and I think you may count upon hearing of a bloody stroke upon us very soon. I have been extremely reluctant to send my family away; but, unless I hear shortly of more assistance than a few rangers, I shall bury my papers in the ground, send my family off, and stand my ground as long as possible."
There were in those days no steamboat's, and Craig used small row-boats. But as Capt. Craig has been greatly vilified for burning Peoria, I will let him speak for himself. After it was over, and he had returned home, he made the following report of his doings to the governor.
Shawneetown, Illinois Territory, December 10,1812.
Sir: I landed at Peoria on the 5th of November, 1812, and left that place on the 9th. * * * * Said the Indians were all gone. I believed none of the citizens, from their actions. The sentinels on board my boats could hear and see them passing through town, with candles, and hear canoes crossing the river all night, for several nights. We would land in the morning to look, and see fresh horse-tracks in town. There is no doubt but that they were Indians I am convinced the French knew of your return. They were in council every day, and did detain Governor Howard's express, against his will. . . . About midnight of the 6th of November, the wind blew so hard in the lake that we were forced to draw the boats about one-quarter of a mile below Peoria. We there cast anchor; the wind still continuing to blow with such force that it broke our cable, and drifted the armed boat on shore. It was at that time very dark, and our anchor lost. I thought myself secure, as it was impossible for the Indians to discover us before daylight, unless they were in town at the time we passed. Between the break of day and daylight, I opened my cabin-window, and was talking with the sentinel on the stern deck. We had spoke but a few words before we were fired on by, I think, ten or more guns, not more than thirty yards from the boat. The men were immediately fixed for battle, but were disappointed, as they [the Indians] made their escape immediately. We only heard them yelp after the fire. So soon as it was clear daylight, I had the boats landed about the centre of the village, and sent to know what had become of the citizens. They said they had heard nor seen nothing. I then sent to the place we were fired on. There were tracks plenty leading from that place up to the village. This was what I expected. I immediately had them all taken prisoners except Howard's express. They were all in a house with their guns. Their guns appeared to have just been fired. The most of them were empty. I gave them time to collect their property, which was done immediately.
Howard's express came on board my boat and told me that seven of the citizens went out (they said to hunt beef) the morning we were fired upon. They started about the break of day, and returned about daylight. He said perhaps there were more, for they would never let him know what they were going to do, and would talk together in his absence. We staid two days after they were taken prisoners. I made them furnish their own rations all the time I kept them. I burnt down about half the town of Peoria, and I would have burnt the whole and destroyed all the stock, but I still expected Hopkins's army to pass the place. I found four American muskets in their possession, and one keg of musket-balls, and one musket in the house, under the floor, and some brass musket-moulds. On our way down the river, they were all unarmed. I gave them permission to camp on shore, whilst I anchored in the river. They always preferred the Indian side for their camping-ground.
I have been very unwell since my return home. I can scarcely sit up to write you, but I am mending. I have the honor to be, sir.
Your humble servant,
Thos. E. Craig.*
*I received this letter from
Hon. Ninian W. Edwards, the son of Gov. Ninian Edwards, and by him I am
restricted to publish it as it is here, without the blanks being filled up; but
I presume the whole will soon appear in a forthcoming History of Illinois, which
he is about to publish. I know not his motive for withholding from me a full
copy, unless it is an apprehension that it might affect the sale of his book.
I have not been able to find the authority by which said Craig took those troops to Peoria; but that he did the business under Gov. Edwards's order, and to his satisfaction, is presumable, from the fact that the governor afterward appointed him colonel of the militia, and also judge of Gallatin county.
Prev Table of Contents Next
Submitted by your Host
Any contributions, corrections, or suggestions would be deeply appreciated!
Copyright © Janine Crandell
All rights reserved
Updated March 1, 2005