Fort de Chartres

You're not really expecting a stone French fort to appear on the flat Mississippi River floodplain in central Illinois.

On the Illinois side of the Mississippi, just west of Prairie du Rocher, is the site of the third, and last, Fort de Chartres.  The first two forts were wooden and built in the 1720’s, the third, built in the 1750’s,  was made of stone; all three were built by the French and served as the French seat of government and the chief French military installation in the Illinois county.  Of course there’s a Dodge connection.  It’s a good story — click on this link to read it.

The history of the forts, built to give the French control of the Mississippi river and the Illinois Country.

On the site now is what the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency calls an “imaginative reconstruction” of parts of the third Fort de Chartres, some of it built by CCC labor in the 1930’s.  Although the reconstruction may not be completely authentic, it is definitely on the actual site.  John, the volunteer, and Darrel, the site director were friendly and helpful and their small museum was very well done.  We had a great visit.

Each corner of the Fort had a sentry box.

The sentry box on the inside of the walls.

The Fort from inside the walls. Note the gun ports are wider on the inside; you had a surprisingly wide view of the area in front of the Fort, from inside. I think the ports were spaced so that the view from one overlapped with the view from its neighbors, providing an effective field of fire.

The guards' building and chapel, within the walls of the Fort.

The powder magazine, reconstructed on the remnants of the original, which was still standing in the 1930's.

Inside the powder magazine.

The fort is sited on the broad American Bottom -- go ahead and laugh, that's what it's called. It was the 18th century name for the settlements on the rich alluvial flood plain, on the east side of the Mississippi. Le Grand Champ was its counterpart on the western side.


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