About Alice of Old Vincennes . . .
The story of Alice Roussillon and the town of Vincennes during the Revolutionary War is told in the context of George Rogers Clark’s actual capture of Fort Sackville from the British, under the command of Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton, in February 1779. The young woman Alice Roussillon is the central character of a romance novel by Maurice Thompson, published in 1900. The musical Alice of Old Vincennes combines history and fiction.
In the late eighteenth century, Vincennes (pronounced va’-sen, “va” as in “van” and “sen” as in “send”) is a frontier town in the Northwest Territory (present-day Indiana), primitive by European standards. At the same time, it has been a crucial trading center for the Native Americans (mostly Miami-Piankashaw) for generations: the first Catholic missionaries from Vincennes, France, chose to settle here to convert the Natives who were already established residents. By the 1770s, there is a strong commercial bond between the Natives and the French pioneers; evidence exists of inter-marriage between some Native women and Frenchmen. French and Native dialects are predominant, even though the British established a fort at Vincennes that was used during the French and Indian War. As in all small towns, some people get along with everyone, and others only like “their own kind.” It is not unusual to note easy interaction between some Natives and French, and tension between others. Notably, Gaspard, Alice, and Madame Roussillon have a good relationship with the local Indians, especially those who are their neighbors in Vincennes. Rene and Jazon are distrustful of all Natives. Hamilton sees the Natives as thugs for hire; according to his biographers, Hamilton actually sympathized more with the Natives than with the French. Long Hair and some of the younger Native men resent the presence of whites, but Long Hair is sympathetic to Alice (who lived among the Indians for a while). At the same time, Long Hair and his friends are willing to trade scalps for whiskey provided by Hamilton.
The time is Fall and Winter, 1778-1779.
The place is the town (with simple houses and an open market place), the fort (along the Wabash River with a large cherry tree outside) and the surrounding wilderness area around Vincennes.