Sidetracked on the way to the Land of Lincoln

Published 9:51 pm Sunday, April 5, 2009

Last time, I talked about my great Midwestern baseball journey that would take me to Chicago, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. A travel motivator was to visit major sights related to President Abraham Lincoln. Things were progressing nicely and the itinerary was shaping up until I opened a map.

Yes I know that I violated “guy code” and asked for (really plotted) directions.

While performing this map recon and trying to figure out my route from Santa Claus Indiana I noticed that Vincennes Indiana was along the way.

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The name Vincennes awoke some fuzzy long term memories so I took a break in place and decided to research this destination.

Someone in a history class or in a conversation had mentioned this southwestern Indiana city nestled along the Wabash River.

I can’t blame my colleague and good friend Bob Leith because I’ve never been his student but there is a teacher or history buff out there that had planted this kernel of knowledge.

Researching Vincennes as a destination I was quickly reminded of its early American frontier history that included George Rogers Clark, William Henry Harrison, other early pioneers and Native Americans.

A very little known story of the American Revolution is George Rogers Clark and his force of 170 Americans and Frenchmen mission to capture British forces in the West. His “army” made an epic 18-day trek through the freezing flood waters of the then Illinois country.

At times in icy water up to their shoulders, it was Clark’s leadership that brought them through this incredible journey and incredible victory at Fort Sackville near present day Vincennes.

The British flag would not be raised above the fort on Feb. 25, 1779, as at 10 a.m. the garrison surrendered to Clark.

The National Park Service ( interprets and honors Clark and his men so it’s a worthy detour.

I’m dating myself but this tale may have been recreated in a Spencer Tracy movie.

This was the frontier region of the early United States and the country’s expansion westward was in progress.

Another remarkable treasure Vincennes treasure dating to this period is an elegant house called Grouseland (

This is a Georgian style home built in 1803 by William Henry Harrison when he was Governor of the Indiana Territory. Today it is a National Historic Landmark filled with a rich history of the period.

The house was more than a residence: it was the center of government for the Indiana Territory and also served as a fortress in times of unrest. Harrison was elected ninth President of the United States in 1840, so the home is a Presidential site and exhibits contain colorful campaign memorabilia.

I could spend a couple of days here exploring the area but I’ve got to keep heading west.

For more information on the region contact the Vincennes Convention and Visitors bureau at (800)886-6443 or

Got travel questions? Contact or call 740.533.4559.