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4 Leadership Lessons From George Rogers Clark | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

4 Leadership Lessons From George Rogers Clark

George Rogers Clark is an unsung hero of the American Revolution. Few know the tale of how he led his army on an impossible mission and defeated the British at Fort Vincennes in Indiana. Because of his victory in the frontier, the militia could focus on defeating the British in the colonies.

Clark and his men walked from near St. Louis, Missouri, across Illinois, to Vincennes, Indiana in the middle of winter in 18 days. They walked through a record-breaking flood, doing without food, and wading for entire days in waist or higher water. When they reached Vincennes, they tricked the British into surrendering without a battle. How did Clark achieve such success?

  • Inspiration. Clark said if you gave troops a cause to believe in, a song to sing, and a joke to laugh at, they could accomplish anything. Have you given those around you the same?
  • Vision of the Big Picture. In those days when his men struggled through cold, flooded plains, Clark had his drummer boy ride on a soldier’s shoulders near the front to keep the men marching. He would call the whole time they just had a little further to go. He kept the men focused on going just a little longer until they had reached the other side of a flooded shore. Do you encourage those around you to keep going when they are cold, hungry, and exhausted?
  • Savvy Choice of Battles. Clark did not rush into battle just to fight. If he could finagle a surrender with a bluff instead, he did. When you face a confrontation, do you decide when to go head on and when to do an end run?

Sadly, the fourth lesson from George Rogers Clark does not have as happy an ending.

  • Paperwork Matters. As Clark outfitted his troops, he signed personal guarantees to merchants for supplies. Unfortunately, when he submitted the receipts for reimbursement to Washington, D.C., they were lost in transit and never reimbursed. He was held personally responsible for those debts by merchants who had extended credit. Clark and his family, including his famous brother, William Rogers Clark, spent the rest of his life trying to clear Clark of his debts and restore his good name. Pay attention to rules, regulations, receipts, and paperwork, or bad things happen.

Nevertheless, all Americans owe Clark a debt of gratitude. He’s the best example I’ve ever found of how a boy who could not sit still in school channeled his talents and helped others in extraordinary ways.

If you would like to learn more about George Rogers Clark, visit his memorial in Vincennes, Indiana. Each Memorial Day weekend, they host a Rendezvous of reenactments and live demonstrations. I highly recommend it.


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