Sunday, July 8, 2018

The History of Fort Kaskaskia, also known as Fort of the Kaskasquias, Fort Gage and Fort Clark.

Fort Kaskaskia was first established by the French in 1733.

French Fort History - Fort Kaskaskia (1733-1766)
First erected as a rough wooden stockade by the French in 1733 and known as "Fort of the Kaskasquias." A more substantial fortification was built in 1759 by the French during French & Indian War that included a heavy stockade with four blockhouses at the corners. This incarnation of the fort was named Fort Kaskaskia and it remained until destroyed in 1766 by the citizens of Kaskaskia to to prevent British occupation.
British Fort History - Fort Gage (1772-1776)
In 1772 the British were forced to leave their headquarters at Fort de Chartres because it was eroding into the Mississippi River (the Indians called the Mississippi River, "Sinnissippi," meaning "rocky waters") and they chose to fortify the old Jesuit 1703 stone-built French Seminary was fortified at Kaskaskia. Named "Fort Gage" in honor of General Thomas Gage. The British occupied the area until they were ordered to withdraw to Fort Detroit in 1776.

American Fort History - Fort Clark (1776-1807)
The Americans captured the town and unoccupied post on July 4, 1778 and renamed it Fort Clark in honor of General Rodgers Clark. After the war settler John Dodge illegally "ruled" the area from here until 1790. A Federal Army post was garrisoned here 1802 - 1807, known as Post at Kaskaskia, which was located 300 meters north of the old French fort. The American forces remained throughout the Revolutionary War.
View of the Mississippi from the Fort.
There are letters from William Henry Harrison Sr., the 9th President of the United States, dated 1807 requiring all settlements to have a small fort or blockhouse constructed. The town became the Territorial capital in 1809 and the first State capital in 1818. 

The original town site was obliterated in floods of 1844, 1881 and 1910. The flood of 1881 resulted in the town being located on the west side of the Mississippi River. The fort itself, however, is still located on the east side of the river. The remains of Fort Kaskaskia include the outline of long earthworks forming a rough square, with bastions at the corners which is a part of Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site, Ellis Grove, Randolph County, Illinois.
In the flood of April 1881 the Mississippi divided its channel and broke into the lower Kaskaskia River below this bluff forming Kaskaskia Island. The historic town of Kaskaskia lay directly in its path, and was eventually destroyed. Thus the role played by Kaskaskia in the great drama of history closed in tragedy.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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