BIO - Elijah Clarke

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Data Description:BIO - Elijah Clarke
Submitter: John C. Grier
Date Posted:16 July 2001
File Size: 4 kb

Elijah Clarke (Biographical Sketch)

CLARKE, ELIJAH (I733-Jan. 15, I799), Revolutionary soldier, adventurer, 
was born in Edgecombe County, S. C. He was probably of Scotch-Irish 
origin, and had the characteristics of a pioneer; he was strong and 
active, brave and resolute, uneducated, but a leader in stirring times. 
In 1774 he had removed to Wilkes County, Ga., and when the war shifted 
to the South, he became one of the leading partisan commanders. He was 
colonel of militia, serving at times under Pickens, and was brigadier-general
in I78I-83. His name occurs in various skirmishes of the far South, at 
Alligator Creek in I778 where he was wounded; at Kettle Creek in I779, 
where he shared with Pickens the credit of the victory, displaying foresight 
in occupying the higher ground; at Musgrove's Mill in August 1780, where 
he was severely wounded and had a narrow escape; at Fish Dam and Blackstocks 
in October I780; at Long Cane, where he was again wounded; and at Beattie's 
Mill, where he defeated the British leader Dunlap. He served at both sieges 
of Augusta--in September I780 when he was repulsed, and the next year when 
he cooperated with Pickens and Lee in the reduction of the town. In 
recognition of his services Wilkes County and the legislature of Georgia 
granted him an estate.

After the war Clarke by turns negotiated with the Indians and fought
against them, inflicting a defeat at Jack's Creek, Walton County, Ga.,
in I787. In 1793 he became involved in the schemes of Ghent, the
intriguing minister of France, directed against Spain. Clarke entered
the French service and received a commission as major-general, a salary
of $10,000, and some means for the carrying out of the plans. It was his
part to enlist Georgians, Creeks, and Cherokees, but there was little
fighting, Ghent was soon recalled, and Fauchet his successor stopped the

The next year Clarke was implicated in a still more serious
affair. He led a force into Creek territory across the Oconee River. His
motives, according to a biographer, were "not quite clear." But the
Georgians were "land-hungry"; they were irritated with the Creeks and
with the attitude of the Federal government, and Clarke claimed to be
defending the rights of his state. A few forts were erected, and some
towns were laid out. These proceedings brought him to the notice of the
law, but he was popular with Georgians, and was acquitted by a Wilkes
County tribunal. He continued his project, and the "Trans-Oconee State"
received a constitution and a committee of safety. The Federal
government, through a letter from Hamilton to the governor of Georgia,
then made representations. A blockade along the Oconee was established
by Georgia troops, and Clarke, deserted by most of his followers,

At a time subsequent to 1794 he was accused (probably without foundation) 
of scheming, with British encouragement, against Florida. He was also 
charged with complicity in the Yazoo land frauds. His general reputation 
in the state did not suffer, however, in consequence of these events. On 
his death, Wilkes County, the commander of militia issued a general order 
for mourning. A county in the state bears his name, and a monument at Athens 
stands in his honor. He was married to Hannah Arrington and was the father 
of John Clark. 

(From the Dictionary of American Biography)

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