Thursday, December 1, 2016

Fort de Crévecoeur in the Illinois Country.

On January 5, 1680, eight canoes passed through the Narrows of the Illinois River above Peoria and came upon the Peoria Indians camped on both sides of the Pimiteoui Lake. With LaSalles' canoe on the right and Tonti's on the left, the eight canoes formed a line to cover the width of the river, signaling the Indians that they came in peace. The Indians were frightened at first, but, upon realizing that the white men meant no harm, welcomed them with a feast of bear meat, buffalo fat, and porridge. 
Antique French map of North America in 1681 by Claude Bernou, showing Fort de Crevecoeur location.
Click for a jumbo sized map.
LaSalle paid the Indians for the corn taken from their village at Starved Rock, presented the chiefs with gifts of axes and tobacco, and smoked the calumet pipe. The Indians rubbed the bare feet of the priests with bear's grease to stimulate their fatigued muscles.

That night, the Peoria Indians were visited by Monsoela, a chief of the Maskouten nation, who, accompanied by a party of Miami Indians and their enemies, the Iroquois. Frightened by the sudden change in attitude on the part of the Peoria Indians, six of LaSalles' men deserted the camp the following day.

Fort de Crévecoeur
In order to reassure the Indians, LaSalle agreed to help defend them against the Iroquois. The Illinois River had frozen over during the night, but as soon as the river began to thaw, LaSalle and his men began the building of Fort Crévecoeur one league downstream and across the river from the Pimiteoui Village.

According to LaSalles' journals, translated by Pierre Margry, "On January 15, toward evening a great thaw, which opportunely occurred, rendered the river free from ice from Pimiteoui as far as there (the place destined for the fort). It was a little hillock about 540 feet from the bank of the river; up to the foot of the hillock the river expanded every time that there fell a heavy rain. 

Two wide and deep ravines shut in two other sides and one-half of the fourth, which I caused to be closed completely by a ditch joining the two ravines. I caused the outer edge of the ravines to be bordered with good chevaux-de-frise (a series of heavy timbers placed in a line, interlaced with other diagonal timbers which were often tipped w/ iron spikes), the slopes of the hillock to be cut down all around, and with the earth thus excavated I caused to be built on the top of a parapet capable of covering a man, the whole covered from the foot of the hillock to the top of the parapet with long madriers (beams), the lower ends of which were in the groove between great pieces of wood which extended all around the foot of the elevation; and I caused the top of these madriers to be fastened by other long cross-beams held in place by mortise and tenon with other pieces of wood that projected through the parapet. 

In front of this work I caused to be planted, everywhere, some pointed stakes twenty-five feet in height, one foot in diameter, driven three feet in the ground, pegged to the cross-beams that fastened the top of the madriers and provided with a fraise at the top 2 1/2 feet long to prevent surprise. I did not change the shape of this plateau which, though irregular, was sufficiently well flanked against the savages. I caused two lodgments[1] to be built for my men in two of the flanking angles in order that they be ready in case of attack; the middle was made of large pieces of musket-proof timber; in the third angle the forge, made of the same material, was placed along the curtain which faced the wood. The lodging of the recollects was in the fourth angle, and I had my tent and that of the sieur de[2] Tonti stationed in the center of the place."

Fort de Crévecoeur's Destruction
On April 15, 1680, Tonti left Fort Crévecoeur with Father Ribourde and two other men to begin fortification of Starved Rock. The following day, the remaining seven men at Fort Crévecoeur pillaged the fort of all ammunition and provisions, destroyed it, and fled back to Canada.

Two of the men who had been at the fort joined Tonti at Starved Rock and told him of the fort's destruction. Tonti sent messengers to LaSalle in Canada to tell him what had happened and returned to Fort Crévecoeur to collect those tools that had not been destroyed and take them to the Kaskaskia Village at Starved Rock.

On the tenth of September 1680, six hundred Iroquois warriors, armed with guns, came upon the Kaskaskia village. Both the Iroquois and the Illinois Indians accused Tonti of treachery. He tried to mediate their differences and detain the Iroquois until the old people, women and children could flee the village. Tonti was wounded by an Iroquois who stabbed him with a knife. The Kaskaskia village was burned and the Iroquois built a fort on the site. Tonti, with his companions, fled for Green Bay.

[1] A place in which a person or thing is located, deposited, or lodged.
[2] Sieur de; {French}; French nobility.


FURTHER READING:
Fort Crévecoeur By Arthur Lagron, Civil Engineer and Ex-Officer of the French Genie Militaire. (This article was published in the early 1900's and in an Historical Journal housed at the Peoria Library. Transcribed by Kim Torp) 

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal™ is rated PG-13. Please comment accordingly.
Comments not on the posts topic will be deleted as will advertisements.