Sunday, July 8, 2018

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

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 the "Fort of the Kaskasquias." A more substantial fortification was built in 1759 by the French during the French & Indian War, including a heavy stockade with four blockhouses at the corners. This incarnation of the fort was named Fort Kaskaskia, and it remained until it was destroyed in 1766 by the citizens of Kaskaskia 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, and they chose to fortify the old Jesuit 1703 stone-built French Seminary 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.

The word "Mississippi" comes from the Ojibwe Indian Tribe (Algonquian language family) word "Messipi" or "misi-ziibi," which means "Great River" or "Gathering of Waters." French explorers, hearing the Ojibwe word for the river, recorded it in their own language with a similar pronunciation. The Potawatomi (Algonquian language family) pronounced "Mississippi" as the French said it, "Sinnissippi," which was given the meaning "Rocky Waters."

View of the Mississippi from the Fort.
The original town site was obliterated in 1844, 1881 and 1910 floods. The flood of 1881 resulted in the town being located on the west side of the Mississippi River. However, the fort 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, 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 is closed in tragedy.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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