Fort de Chartres

Fort de Chartres was a French fortification first built in 1720 on the east bank of the Mississippi River in present-day Illinois. It was used as an administrative center for the province. Due generally to river floods, the fort was rebuilt twice, the last time in limestone in the 1750s in the era of French colonial control over Louisiana and the Illinois Country.

A partial reconstruction exists of this third and last fort. The site is now preserved as an Illinois state park and is four miles (6 km) west of Prairie du Rocher in Randolph County, Illinois. It is south of St. Louis, Missouri in the floodplain area that became known as the American Bottom. The site and its associated buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a National Historic Landmark on October 15, 1966,[1] and it was named one of the contributing properties to the new French Colonial Historic District in 1974, along with other area French-influenced sites such as the Creole House, the Pierre Menard House, the Kolmer Site (a former Indian village), and the site of Fort Kaskaskia.[3]

The name of the fort honored Louis, duc de Chartres, son of the Regent of France. The fort's stone magazine, which survived the gradual ruin that overtook the rest of the site, is considered the oldest building in the state of Illinois. The state historic site today hosts several large re-enactments at the fort of colonial-era civil and military life each summer.

Fort de Chartres
Fort de Chartres 02Aug2007-32
The gatehouse of Fort de Chartres was reconstructed in the 1930s.
Fort de Chartres is located in Illinois
Fort de Chartres
Fort de Chartres is located in the United States
Fort de Chartres
LocationRandolph County, Illinois, USA
Nearest cityPrairie du Rocher, Illinois
Coordinates38°05′04″N 90°09′28″W / 38.08444°N 90.15778°WCoordinates: 38°05′04″N 90°09′28″W / 38.08444°N 90.15778°W
AreaAmerican Bottom
Architectural styleColonial French Fortification
Part ofFrench Colonial Historic District (#74000772)
NRHP reference #66000329[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966
Designated NHLOctober 09, 1960[2]


Ft de Chartres-bastion-1
A bartizan at the corner of one of the reconstructed bastions

French rule

On January 1, 1718, the French government granted a trade monopoly to John Law and his Company of the West. Hoping to make a fortune mining precious metals, the company built a fort to protect its interests. The original wooden fort was built in 1718–1720 by a French contingent from New Orleans, led by Pierre Dugué de Boisbriand. When administration of the Illinois Country was moved from Canada to New Orleans, governance was transferred to the Company of the Indies. The fort was built to be the seat of government and to control the Indians of the region, particularly the Fox. The original fort was a palisade of logs with two bastions at opposite corners.

Within five years, flooding from the Mississippi had left the original fort in bad condition. Construction of a second fort further from the river, but still on the flood plain, began in 1725. This fort was also made of logs and had a bastion at each of the four corners.

The second wooden fort deteriorated somewhat less rapidly but by 1742 was in bad repair. In 1747 the French garrison moved to the region's primary settlement 18 miles (29 km) to the south at Kaskaskia. The French debated where to rebuild the fort. When rule of the area reverted to the French crown in the 1730s, officials began to discuss construction of a stone fortress. The government in New Orleans wanted to move the garrison permanently to Kaskaskia, but the local commandant argued for a location near the original site.

A plan of the several villages in the illinois country
1778 map of the settlements near the fort in the Illinois County

The government decided to rebuild a fort in stone near the first forts rather than at Kaskakia. Construction began in 1753 and was mostly completed in 1756; however, construction continued at the site for another four years. The limestone fort had walls 15-ft (3 m)-high and 3-ft (1 m)-thick, enclosing an area of 4 acres (16,000 m²). The stone for construction was quarried in bluffs about two or three miles (4 km) distant and had to be ferried across a small lake.

British rule

In 1763 the Treaty of Paris was signed following the Seven Years' War (French and Indian War) and the French transferred control of the Illinois Country east of the Mississippi to Great Britain. (Spain had been granted the western part of the Illinois Country—also known as Upper Louisiana—in the 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau.) The stone fort had served as center of French administration of the region for only twenty years.

The British had difficulty getting a regiment to their newly acquired fort, but on October 10, 1765, a small detachment of the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment commanded by Captain Thomas Stirling took control of the fort and surrounding area. The 42nd was shortly replaced by the 34th Regiment. French Canadian settlers were ordered to leave or get a special license to remain. Many Canadien settlers moved to the more congenial culture of St. Louis.[4][5] The 34th Regiment of Foot renamed the installation Fort Cavendish, after its colonel. However, the post was known as Ft. Chartres from 1768 on, after the 34th were replaced by the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment under the command of Lt. Col. Wilkins. The British abandoned the post in May 1772 when the majority of the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment was ordered back to Philadelphia. A small party under Capt Hugh Lord remained at Kaskaskia until May 1776.[6]


The Mississippi continued to take its toll after the fort was abandoned. In 1772 the south wall and bastion fell into the river. The remaining walls deteriorated, and visitors noted trees growing in them by the 1820s. Locals carted away stones for construction over the years. By 1900 the walls were gone. The only part of the original fort that remained was the stone building that had served as the powder magazine.


The fort's powder magazine prior to restoration, from photograph in 1906.
Fort de Chartres powder magazine 1-02Aug07
The fort's powder magazine, here restored, is thought to be the oldest standing building in Illinois.

The State of Illinois acquired the ruins in 1913 as a historic site and restored the powder magazine in 1917. The powder magazine is thought to be the oldest existing building in the state of Illinois. In the 1920s the foundations of the fort's buildings and walls were exposed. In the late 1920s and through the 1930s, the US WPA rebuilt the gateway and two stone buildings.

A combination museum and office building, constructed in 1928 on the foundation of an original fort building, houses exhibits depicting French life at Fort de Chartres. The large stone "Guards House," reconstructed in 1936, contains a Catholic chapel furnished in the style of the 1750s, along with a priest's room, a gunner's room, an officer-of-the-day room, and a guard's room. Also on the grounds are an operating bake oven, a garden shed built of upright logs in French Colonial poteaux-sur-sol (French: "post on sill") construction, and a kitchen garden with raised beds of produce typical of French 18th-century Illinois.

Partial reconstruction of the fort's walls on the original foundations followed in 1989.[7] The frames of some additional buildings were erected as a display of the post-and-beam construction techniques used for the originals. Other buildings' foundations and cellars were exposed for educational display as well.

Today the site has a museum and small gift shop. It plays host each June to a Rendezvous that is said to be one of the largest and oldest in the country, celebrating frontier French and Indian culture.[8]

The site is protected by modern levees, but the Mississippi River is still an occasional menace. The flood of 1993 breached the levee and sent waters fifteen feet deep to lap at the top of the walls.

See also

External links


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2006-03-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ "Fort de Chartres". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
  3. ^ Brown, Margaret K. National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: French Colonial Historic District. National Park Service, n.d., 6.
  4. ^ "At Home on the French Frontier", Illinois State Museum Website, Retrieved October 27, 2004.
  5. ^ "The Expedition to Fort Chartres", 42nd Royal Highlanders, Inc., of Lafayette, IN website, Retrieved October 27, 2004.
  6. ^ "Fort de Chartres State Historic Site", Official website, Retrieved on January 24, 2008
  7. ^ "Fort de Chartres", Illinois Historic Preservation Agency site, Retrieved on January 24, 2008
  8. ^ "39th Annual Rendezvous". Fort de Chartres State Historic Site. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
Chickasaw Campaign of 1739

The Chickasaw Campaign of 1739 was a continuation of the Chickasaw Wars pursued by the French in Louisiana. In 1739 the French prepared extensively, but failed to engage the Chickasaw beyond some half-hearted skirmishing, and finally accepted a negotiated peace.

After the 1736 disasters of Ogoula Tchetoka and Ackia, Upper and Lower Louisiana were still separated by the obstinate Chickasaw. The Choctaw applied relentless pressure by ambushing hunting parties and traffic on the trading path to South Carolina. Alternately, the Choctaw devastated croplands and livestock after using superior numbers to force the Chickasaw into their forts. Under orders, Bienville immediately began to prepare a second grand expedition. Determined to remedy the lack of siege weapons and of coordination that had ruined his first, he obtained artillery, engineers and miners, and more soldiers. He planned for horses, meat on the hoof, forts for staging of men and supplies, and roads to carry the army and its accouterments.

Bienville selected a route up the Mississippi River this time, after receiving assurance from an engineering survey that artillery could be transported overland from there to the Chickasaw villages. A supply depot was built on the western bank of the Mississippi River at the mouth of the St. Francis River. Fort de l'Assumption was built across the Mississippi on the fourth Chickasaw Bluff, at the Margot (present day Wolf) River, to receive men from throughout New France.

Three detachments reached the rendezvous in August, 1739: de Noyau with a vanguard from New Orleans, de la Buissioniere from Fort de Chartres with militia and two hundred Illinois, and Céloron with a 'considerable number of Northern Indians' and a company of cadets from Canada. As in 1736 the southern force was slow. Bienville finally arrived in November and reviewed the force which numbered 1200 Europeans and 2400 Indians, roughly twice the men available in 1736.

But the army had already suffered greatly from sickness. To this was added short rations, discontent and desertion during the 'imbecility' of the coming months. 120 miles remained to reach the Chickasaw villages, an easy march for men with rifles, but a different matter for a siege train. As soldiers built carts and wagons, Bienville ruled that the route laid out by the engineer was too low, and that rains had made it impassable. By January 1740 a highland route was blazed, but in the meantime high water interrupted the supply of provisions and the position at Fort de l'Assumption was becoming untenable. Even then the army remained, until in February a council of war decided that they could not march 'without hazarding the reputation of the king's arms'.

Finally, in March, Céloron struck out with his corps of cadets, one hundred regulars, and four or five hundred Indians. Traveling light, and following much the same route as d'Artaguette in 1736, this force quickly reached the villages. Céloron allowed his Indians to

do what they would, and meanwhile remained open to any offers of peace. After several days of useless skirmishing, negotiations were opened. Suffering under steady Choctaw pressure, and impressed by the massive preparations at Fort de l'Assumption, the Chickasaws had long been giving hints that they would be reasonable. The French demanded that all remaining Natchez be bound over. The Chickasaw replied that most of the Natchez were hunting or had left their lands permanently, but with delivery of several Natchez and French prisoners, peace was confirmed.

The Chickasaw were quiet for several years afterward, but continued their trade with the British and had nothing to lose by resuming their aggression. A heavy army with siege equipment could not reach them through the wilderness. A light army could reach them, but was useless against their fortified villages.

Bienville lamely claimed victory, and if it were not a victory, at least he had taken all possible precautions. But the expedition had cost more than three times the normal yearly expenses of the entire colony of Louisiana with no visible result. Hundreds of men had been lost to disease - including 500 of the 1200 Europeans at Fort de l'Assumption. The incredible months-long delay there lacks definitive explanation, although internal politics and a reluctance to engage without heavy equipment have been advanced as possible reasons.

French Colonial Historic District

The French Colonial Historic District is a historic district that encompasses a major region of 18th-century French colonization in southwestern Illinois. The district is anchored by Fort de Chartres and Fort Kaskaskia, two important French settlements and military posts in what was then the Illinois Country. The Kaskaskia village site is also included within the district; it includes the Pierre Menard House, the only surviving building from Illinois' first state capital. Over a dozen French houses in Prairie du Rocher are also part of the district, including the poteaux-sur-sol Creole House and the 1735 Meilliere House. In addition to the French sites, the district also includes several Native American archaeological sites, such as the Modoc Rock Shelter, the Kolmer Site, the Waterman Site, and the Henke Site.The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 3, 1974.

Illinois Country

The Illinois Country (French: Pays des Illinois, lit. "land of the Illinois (plural)", i.e. the Illinois people) — sometimes referred to as Upper Louisiana (French: la Haute-Louisiane; Spanish: Alta Luisiana) — was a vast region of New France in what is now the Midwestern United States. While these names generally referred to the entire Upper Mississippi River watershed, French colonial settlement was concentrated along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers in what is now the U.S. states of Illinois and Missouri, with outposts in Indiana. Explored in 1673 from Green Bay to the Arkansas River by the Canadien expedition of Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, the area was claimed by France. It was settled primarily from the Pays d'en Haut in the context of the fur trade. Over time, the fur trade took some French to the far reaches of the Rocky Mountains, especially along the branches of the broad Missouri River valley. The French name, Pays des Illinois, means "Land of the Illinois [plural]" and is a reference to the Illinois Confederation, a group of related Algonquian native peoples.

Up until 1717, the Illinois Country was governed by the French province of Canada, but by order of King Louis XV, the Illinois Country was annexed to the French province of Louisiana, with the northeastern administrative border being somewhat vaguely on or near the upper Illinois River. The territory thus became known as "Upper Louisiana." By the mid-18th century, the major settlements included Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Chartres, Saint Philippe, and Prairie du Rocher, all on the east side of the Mississippi in present-day Illinois; and Ste. Genevieve across the river in Missouri, as well as Fort Vincennes in what is now Indiana.As a consequence of the French defeat in the Seven Years' War, the Illinois Country east of the Mississippi River was ceded to the British, and the land west of the river to the Spanish. Following the British occupation of the left bank (when heading downstream) of the Mississippi in 1764, some Canadien settlers remained in the area, while others crossed the river, forming new settlements such as St. Louis.

Eventually, the eastern part of the Illinois Country became part of the British Province of Quebec, while the inhabitants chose to side with the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Although the lands west of the Mississippi were sold in 1803 to the United States by France—which had reclaimed possession of Luisiana from the Spanish in the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso—French language and culture continued to exist in the area, with the Missouri French dialect still being spoken into the 20th century.Because of the deforestation that resulted from the cutting of much wood for fuel during the 19th-century age of steamboats, the Mississippi River became more shallow and broad, with more severe flooding and lateral changes in its channel in the stretch from St. Louis to the confluence with the Ohio River. As a consequence, many architectural and archaeological resources were lost to flooding and destruction of early French colonial villages originally located near the river, including Kaskaskia, St. Philippe, Cahokia, and Ste. Genevieve.

Illinois Route 155

Illinois Route 155 is an east–west state highway in southwestern Illinois. It runs from Fort de Chartres – outside of Prairie du Rocher – to Illinois Route 3 in Ruma. This is a distance of approximately 10.81 miles (17.40 km).

Illinois Route 3

Illinois Route 3 (IL 3) is a major north–south arterial state highway in southwestern Illinois. It has its southern terminus at Cairo Junction (about four miles (6.4 km) north of Cairo) at the intersection of Interstate 57 (I-57) and U.S. Route 51 (US 51), and its northern terminus in Grafton at IL 100. This is a distance of 187.44 miles (301.66 km).

List of National Historic Landmarks in Illinois

There are 87 National Historic Landmarks in Illinois, including Eads Bridge, which spans into Missouri and which the National Park Service credits to Missouri's National Historic Landmark list. Also included are two sites that were once National Historic Landmarks before having their designations removed. All National Historic Landmarks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

List of commandants of the Illinois Country

The Illinois Country was governed by military commandants for its entire period under French and British rule, and during its time as a county of Virginia. The presence of French military interests in the Illinois Country began in 1682 when Robert de La Salle built Fort St. Louis du Roche on the Illinois River. The commandant of the fort was the top French official in the region and was responsible to the Governor General of New France. In 1718 Illinois was transferred to Louisiana and renamed Upper Louisiana. The new seat of government was Fort de Chartres, located in what is now southeastern Illinois among the growing French settlements of Cahokia, Kaskaskia and Prairie du Rocher.

In 1763, at the conclusion of the Seven Years' War, the entire area of Louisiana was divided, with Great Britain receiving the lands east of the Mississippi and Spain claiming the lands west of it. The new city of St. Louis, in present-day Missouri, became the seat of government of Spanish Upper Louisiana. The government of the British side, present-day Illinois, remained in the hands of military commandants at Fort de Chartres; upon that fort's abandonment the seat of government moved to Kaskaskia. British rule in Illinois was ad hoc and unsystematic. The Quebec Act of 1774 would have organized a government for the region, but before it could be put into effect Illinois was captured by Virginia militia in the Illinois Campaign.After 1787 Illinois received a civil government as part of the Northwest and Indiana Territories before becoming a distinct Illinois Territory in 1809. The United States acquired the rest of Upper Louisiana in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803; military rule continued for a few months before it was transferred to civilian government, first under the Indiana Territory, and then as the Louisiana Territory in 1805.

List of windmills in Illinois

This is a list of traditional windmills in the American state of Illinois.

Louis Groston de Saint-Ange de Bellerive

Louis Groston de Saint-Ange de Bellerive (1700–1774), was an officer in the French marine troops in New France.


Mitchigamea or Michigamea or Michigamie were a tribe in the Illinois Confederation. Not much is known about them and their origin is uncertain. Originally they were said to be from Lake Michigan, perhaps the Chicago area. Mitchie Precinct, Monroe County in Southwestern Illinois takes its name from their transient presence nearby, north of the French Fort de Chartres in the American Bottom along the Mississippi. One of their villages in the American Bottom, inhabited from 1730 until 1752, is one of the region's premier archaeological sites; it is known as the "Kolmer Site".It is suggested that the people later moved to Arkansas under pressure from the Iroquois. Their best-known chief was Agapit Chicagou. Benjamin Drake, writing in 1848, records that the Michigamie, along with the other bands in the Illinois Confederation, had been attacked by a general confederation of the Sauk, Fox, Sioux, Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatamies, along with the Cherokee and Choctawa from the south. The war continued for a great many years until the Illinois Confederation was destroyed. Drake records that by 1826 only about 500 members of the Confederation remained.

Drake implies that the war came about due to the cruelty of the Illini towards their prisoners, frequently burning them, and even feasting on their flesh when killed.The Jesuit Relations say: "At 5 miles from the village, I found the Tamaroa, who have

taken up their winter quarters in a fine Bay, where they await the Mitchigamea, -- who are

to come more than 60 leagues to winter there, and to form but one village with them."

Philip François Renault

Philippe François Renault (c. 1686 – April 24, 1755) was a French politician, businessman, explorer, metallurgist, and favorite courtier of King Louis XV of France, who left his native Picardy in 1719 for the Illinois Country, Upper Louisiana, in French North America.

Renault was an important contributor to early efforts at mining, especially for lead, in the French colonies, which began in earnest when he transported African slaves from Saint-Domingue to settlements on the Mississippi River. More successful than his lead mines was his concession of land on the east bank of the river, on which he founded St. Philippe, an early agricultural community. The village quickly became prosperous by exporting surpluses to other settlements on the river.

PierCarlo Di Lietto

Pierre-Charles de Liette (born PierCarlo Di Lietto) was an Italian who moved to French North America and enrolled there as French soldier. He served as aide to Henri de Tonti, as commandant at Fort Saint-Louis and Chécagou, and as a captain in the colonial regular troops from 1687 to 1729. He was also Commander of the Illinois Country.

Pierre D'Artaguiette

Pierre d'Artaguiette or d'Artaguette (died 1736), said to be a Canadian, was the younger brother of Diron d'Artaguette. As an officer in the French Army in 1730, Pierre was mentioned in dispatches for 'brilliant valor' during the Natchez war (Gayarre p. 441), after which Périer appointed him to rebuild Fort Rosalie (Wallace p. 288). In 1734 Bienville sent him to Fort de Chartres with the rank of Major to command the Illinois District of the Province of Louisiana. In 1736 d'Artaguiette led a force of French and Illini against the formidable Chickasaw during the Chickasaw Wars. His impetuous attack at Ogoula Tchetoka on 25 March 1736 was crushed. Some accounts say d'Artaguiette died on the battlefield; others state D'Artaguiette was captured with eighteen other Frenchmen, and burned alive in the Indian fashion.

Pierre Dugué de Boisbriand

Pierre Dugué de Boisbriand (21 February 1675 – 7 June 1736) was a Canadian who commanded several areas in North America colonized by France in the early 18th Century, rising to become the fourth governor of the French colony of Louisiana.

Prairie du Rocher, Illinois

Prairie du Rocher ("The Rock Prairie" in French) is a village in Randolph County, Illinois, United States. Founded in the French colonial period in the American Midwest, the community is located near bluffs that flank the east side of the Mississippi River along the floodplain often called the "American Bottom". The population was 604 at the 2010 census.Prairie du Rocher is one of the oldest communities in the 21st century United States that was founded as a French settlement. About four miles to the west, closer to the Mississippi River, is Fort de Chartres, site of a French military fortification and colonial headquarters established in 1720. Some buildings were reconstructed after falling into ruins, and the complex is now a state park and historical site. The fort and town were a center of government and commerce at the time when France claimed a vast territory in North America, New France or La Louisiane, which stretched from present-day Louisiana and the Illinois Country to Canada.

The village was founded in 1722 by French colonists, mostly migrants from Canada.

Robert Farmer

Robert or Bob Farmer may refer to:

Bob Farmer (born 1947), Australian rules footballer

Robert Farmer (ice hockey) (born 1991), British ice hockey forward

Robert Farmer (Paralympian), Australian Paralympic lawn bowler

Bob Farmer, columnist for the magazine Genii

Robert Farmer (officer), commandant at Fort de Chartres, see List of commandants of the Illinois Country

Robert Farmer (American football) (born 1974), NFL player

Sir Thomas Stirling, 5th Baronet

Sir Thomas Stirling, 5th Baronet, of Ardoch (1733–1808), had a long, active military career in the British Army largely as commanding officer of the Black Watch.

In 1758 he came to America and served in the French and Indian War in the Canadian campaign. After the French and Indian War, the British Empire took control of the land between the British colonies west to the Mississippi River, north of the Ohio River. Captain Thomas Stirling departed Fort Pitt going down the Ohio River to Fort de Chartres to take possession of the Illinois for the Crown in October 1765.

In 1767 Stirling went back to England, but returned to America later to serve with the British forces during the Revolutionary War. Before his death he achieved the rank of General and served as the Colonel of The 41st Regiment of Foot from 1790 until his death.He was a great uncle to Waite Stirling, who would become the first Anglican Bishop of the Falkland Islands.

St. Philippe, Illinois

St. Philippe is a former village in Monroe County, Illinois, United States. The settlement was founded in 1720 by Frenchman, Philip Francois Renault, during the French colonial period. St. Philippe was strategically located near the bluffs that flank the east side of the Mississippi River in the vast Illinois floodplain known as the "American Bottom". The village was located three miles north of Fort de Chartres. Because of many decades of severe seasonal flooding, St. Philippe and the fort were both abandoned before 1765. After the British takeover of this area following their victory in the Seven Years War, many French from the Illinois country moved west to Ste. Genevieve, Saint Louis, and Missouri

Towns and
War and peace
Lists by state
Lists by insular areas
Lists by associated state
Other areas

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.