Fort Detroit, Michigan - 1701.

Old Arsenal, Corner Jefferson Ave. And Wayne St.

The desirability of locating a fort at or near Detroit was perceived at an early date.

In no other way could the French secure the control of the river and the fur trade of the Northwest; and only by its possession could they prevent the English from gaining access to, and trafficking with, the western tribes.

A fort was also necessary as a substantial evidence of the French occupancy of the soil, and to protect the various tribes of friendly Indians from the Iroquois, who constantly warred against them.

It was intended to concentrate the French soldiers, traders, and friendly Indians at one place, and thus establish a permanent post.

In pursuance of this general policy a rude fort had been erected at Mackinaw in, or prior to, 1671; and in June, 1686, M. du Luth, then in command at Fort Mackinaw, received orders from M. de Nonville, the Governor of New France, to establish a fort on the Detroit of Lake Erie.

In accordance with these orders, Fort St. Joseph, also called Fort du Luth, was built near what is now Fort Gratiot.

The fort was abandoned within two years after its erection, and the passage between Lakes Erie and Huron was left undefended until 1701.

The ambition of the French, changes in government, and various exigencies caused the erection of no less than four different forts under six different names in or near the present city of Detroit.

The first was named Fort Pontchartrain in honor of the French Colonial Minister of Marine.

The stockade was hardly deserving of so formidable a title, being intended to overawe rather than to defend.

It was located on the first rise of ground from the river, and, using the present names of streets, was between Jefferson Avenue and Woodbridge Street, occupying the western half of the block between Griswold and Shelby Streets, probably including also Shelby Street, and a part of the ground now occupied by the Michigan Exchange.

This space was enclosed by wooden pickets, or sharp pointed logs, driven into the ground as closely as possible, forming a very substantial fence, ten feet high.

At the four corners were bastions, but these were of irregular shape, and the angles of two of them were so small that they were of little value.

Further particulars as to this fort are contained in a letter of the Chevalier de Calliere, Governor of New France, dated October 4, 1701, which tells of the arrival of Lieutenant Chacornacle from Detroit with five men, and letters from Cadillac, one of which letters showed that he had built a fort with four bastions of good oak pickets fifteen feet long, sunk three feet in the ground.

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That he placed this fort three leagues from Lake Erie, and two from Lake St. Clair, in the narrowest part of the river, to the west southwest.

He commenced by making a storehouse to put his effects under cover; that he had worked at the necessary lodgings, which were not yet very far advanced, which obliged him to keep almost all his people at work trying to finish them before winter.

A street, averaging twelve feet in width, surrounded the buildings just inside the line of pickets.

If the pickets needed renewing at any time, the inhabitants whose premises reached to the line were required to supply them, and when the houses were sold the pickets were sold with them.

In 1703 the fort was set on fire by the Indians and partially destroyed.

In 1716 and 1717 it was in very poor condition, and in 1718 Tonty rebuilt the fort, making it one of the strongest in the country.

In 1748 it was repaired with oak pickets fifteen feet long, with a diameter of at least six inches at the small end.

One picket was allowed for each foot of ground.

In 1749 a number of immigrants arrived from France; and soon after the stockade for the first time was enlarged.

In 1751 additional troops came, and from this time the post was known as Fort Detroit.

In 1754, 1755, and 1758 the stockade was extended and additional ground enclosed.

On November 29, 1760, it was surrendered to the English, and soon after was enlarged to include about eighty houses.

The pickets at this time were round, and about twenty-five feet high.

There were bastions at each corner; and over the two gates on the east and west sides, blockhouses were built for observation and defense.

Each of the large wooden gates had a wicket gate to allow single persons to pass through.

The main gates were opened at sunrise and closed at sunset; the wickets were open until nine o'clock.

If Indians entered, all their arms were taken from them at the gate, and returned when they left.

The ground then enclosed, designated by present street lines, included all between Griswold Street and a point fifty feet west of Shelby Street, and all south of the alley between Jefferson Avenue and Larned Street to Woodbridge Street.

At the time of the Pontiac Conspiracy the fort was garrisoned by one hundred and twenty-two men of the Eightieth Regiment, with eight officers, under command of Major Gladwin, and was provided with one three-pounder and three mortars.

An armed schooner, the Beaver, protected the waterfront.

In 1766 there was a garrison of two hundred men.

An old letter from the inhabitants to the commandant, formerly in possession of A. D. Fraser, indicates how repairs were then provided for; it reads as follows:

The third year Colonel Gladwin continued the same taxes.

The following year, being 1762,1 the tax within the Fort alone amounted to one hundred and eighty-four pounds, thirteen Shillings and four Pence.

In the year 1764, the taxes came to one hundred and fifty-eight Pounds, New York Currency.

In the year 1765 you was pleased to signify by Messrs. Babee and Shappooton that the taxes for the future should be the same as in the French Government, which, as we have said before, was two sol per foot for the lots within the Fort.

The farmers were subject to a quit rent of two Shillings and eight pence New York Currency, and one-fourth bushel wheat per acre in front, which was accordingly paid to Mr. Shappooton, who was appointed to receive the same.

After this, we could not help being surprised at the tax for the current year, viz one Shilling per foot in front for lots within the Fort, and ten Shillings per acre for the farmers in the country.

The heaviness of this tax is most severely felt, as you may judge by the delay and difficulty the people had in paying it.

This letter clearly shows that then, as now, taxes were deemed a burden.

A few years prior to 1778 the stockade was again enlarged, and provided with four gates on each side, with blockhouses over them on the east, west, and north sides, each blockhouse having four six-pounders.

There were, also, two batteries of six guns each, facing the river.

The citadel, on what is now the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Wayne Street, was surrounded with a row of pickets, and contained barracks for three or four hundred men, a brick storehouse, a hospital, and a guardhouse.

The stockade, in 1778, included that part of the city lying between Griswold and Cass Streets, Larned Street, and the river.

On the river side of the fort the bank was quite steep, and between it and the water's edge was a space of level ground forty feet wide.

Fort Lernoult or Shelby.

The history of this fort is thus detailed by Captain A. Bird of the Eighth Regiment, in a letter to Brigadier General Powell, dated August 13, 1782:

Late in the fall of 1778 we were alarmed by the approach of the enemy under one Brodhead, who with two or three thousand men had actually advanced as far as Tuscarowas, about ninety miles from the lake at Lower Sandusky, and were employed in building a large picketed Fort.

Major Lernoult, at a conversation with the officers at Detroit on the above alarm, concluded Detroit incapable of making a defense that might reflect honor on the defendants, it being of great extent, only picketed, and in a manner under a hill.

By his orders on the same evening, I traced a redoubt on the hill.

The plan was left to me.

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We began, I think, early in November, and worked without intermission until February, at which time the Indians declaring an intention of attacking Colonel Brodhead's post of four hundred then at Tuscarowas I joined them.

In the meantime Lieutenant Duvernet returned from Post Vincent and was appointed engineer ; the work was then too far advanced for him to alter the form of it.

It was made by surrounding an interior space with trees piled up four feet high, with their sharpened butts projecting outwards.

On top of the trees, and projecting over them seven or eight feet, at an angle of forty-five degrees, was a tier of sharpened stakes, the whole surmounted with an earth embankment eleven feet high.

The thickness of the top of the parapet was twelve feet; the banquette for infantry was raised six feet from the foundation or level of the fort; the width of the ramparts at their base was twenty-six feet.

The embankment was surrounded by a ditch five or six feet deep, and twelve feet wide at the surface, having in it a row of cedar pickets eleven or twelve feet high, fastened together with a rib.

Detroit, Aug. 7th, 1766. To John Campbell^ Esq,^ Lieut, Col, and Commandant at

Detroit and its dependencies: Sir,—

We have taken your order of the 3rd. instant respecting the furnishing of materials by us for repairing this fort, into consideration ; and find it absolutely impossible to comply with it.

The requisition made of us per individuals would amount at least to four thousand pounds, New York Currency,—a sum by far too great for the whole settlement, and all the trading people from different places now residing here, to pay.

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We find, Sir, that till the year 1750 the fort was about half the extent it is now.

The inhabitants till then were obliged to furnish one picket for each foot of ground they possessed in front within the fort, and to pay annually two sols per foot to the Crown, by way of quit rent.

It was with difficulty that the circumstance of this place could accomplish the payment of their dues to the French King, of which he proved his sensibility by easing the inhabitants of the heavy burthen of furnishing pickets; for from that time the Fort was enlarged upon an entirely new plan, at the sole expense of the Crown.

The annual tax of two sol per foot, in front, was continued till the surrender of this country to the English, since which the service has required such taxes of us that they have been almost insupportable.

Permit us, Sir, to mention them, and you will see that we stand in greater need of assistance than to be obliged to pay any new demands.

Captain Campbell, the first English commandant at Detroit, on his arrival here levied a tax on the proprietors in the Fort, for lodging the troops, which amounted to a very considerable sum; besides, each of the farmers were obliged to pay a cord of wood per acre in front.

The second year the proprietors paid again for quartering the troops, and the farmers furnished double the quantity of wood they did the year before.

(This date is evidently a mistake, as, according to this statement, 1762 would be the fourth year of English possession, when, in fact, the fort was surrendered in 1760.)

The entrance was towards the town, through a passageway underneath the trees, with a drawbridge over the ditch.

Between the citadel and the fort there was a subterranean passage, the powder-magazine being on the route.

On each side of the entrance was an iron twenty-four-pounder; each side of the fort was defended with two twenty-four-pounders, and at each bastion four cannons were placed.

The fort was entirely outside of the stockade, and a long distance from the settled portion of the town, on what was known as the second terrace. Designated by streets as they now exist, it lay between Fort and Lafayette Streets, including both streets and the two blocks between Griswold and Wayne Streets.

Shortly after it was built, the old stockade was extended to the fort, intersecting the two southern bastions, and enclosing the military gardens indicated in the map of 1796.

On March 16, 1779, Colonel George Rogers Clark, having just captured Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton and his forces at Vincennes, writing to Major Lernoult at Detroit, enclosing letters from prisoners to their friends, says, "I learn by your letters to Governor Hamilton that you were very busy making new works.

I am glad to hear it, as it saves the Americans some expense in building."

Unfortunately, Colonel Clark's plans miscarried, and the work went on, but not for the benefit of the Americans.

On May 16, 1780, Colonel De Peyster, who had succeeded Major Lernoult, in a letter to Colonel Bolton at Niagara, said:

The new Fort will give constant employment for this Garrison for some time to come, the ditches filling faster than we can sod, owing to severe weather, and springs breaking out in all parts, which brings down the earth in great clods.

On the conclusion of the treaty of peace, work on the fort ceased, and on August 5, 1784, Lieutenant Governor Hay wrote from Detroit to General Haldimand as follows:

As all public works are ordered to cease here, it is my duty to inform your Excellency that the front and rear of this town are open, the pickets having been taken down by order of LieutenantColonel De Peyster, and the continuation of the lots to the river given to the proprietors, saving a cart road to the water's edge, by which means a discontented Indian may, any night, set fire to the town.

The ground given by Colonel De Peyster, as above mentioned, was formerly the wood yard, but now the barrack master is obliged to pile his wood at so great a distance on each side of the town that no sentry from the garrison can take charge of it.

Captain Bird, acting engineer, has reported to me that part of Fort Lernoult has been much damaged this spring and summer by heavy rains, and if not repaired will soon not be defensible; but I shall not allow a sixpence upon either without your Excellency's orders.

In October, 1779, the following troops were stationed here: One hundred and eighty of the King's Regiment, one hundred and thirty-eight of the Forty-seventh Regiment, fifty Rangers, and thirteen of the Royal Artillery,—a total of three hundred and eighty-one.

On August 23, 1782, there was a total of twenty-six cannon and mortars fit for service, with thirteen soldiers of the Royal Artillery, two hundred and forty-six of the King's or Eighth Regiment, seventy-one of the Forty-seventh Regiment, and one hundred and twenty Rangers,—a total of four hundred and fifty besides the officers.

On September 24, 1782, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Hope arrived at Detroit from Mackinaw on a tour of inspection.

He remained until the evening of the 26th.

General Powell had been here but a short time before.

In 1793, the fort was garrisoned with one company of artillery and one of grenadiers; there were also two new brigs, the Chippewa and the Ottawa, with eight guns each, the brig Dunmore with six guns, and the sloop Felicity with two swivels.

After the evacuation by the English, on July 11, 1796, Colonel Hamtramck, with a garrison of three hundred soldiers, were stationed here.

At this time, there was great difficulty in supplying the troops with provisions, and Samuel Henley, acting quartermaster at Greenville, sent the following letters to General Wilkins, quartermaster-general at Detroit:

Greenville, August 4, 1796. Mr. Jones leaves here this day, from the cursed arrangements at fort Hamilton, with my heart full of sorrow he leaves me without corn.

"If I can assist Mr. Jones with corn on his way to you, by Heaven, it shall be done without a moment's delay.

Greenville, August 13, 1796.

I wrote to you the Commissary-General gave thirty dollars for the transportation of one barrel of flour.

I am told he gives this price from Fort Washington to Fort Wayne. "

I am well convinced that our public wagon-makers are a poor set of drunken men.

These difficulties soon passed away, and the following letter shows that social enjoyments were not forgotten:

Greenville, December 9, 1796.

"I hope ere long to have the honor to see you in Detroit there to enjoy the pleasure of your agreeable company, each of us in good health.

I should be very much gratified with the amusements of Detroit this winter, but must dispense with that pleasure, as I hope to have the opportunity next winter of seeing my friends in Boston.

I wish all the ladys in the world happy."

Sami„ Henley. Peter Audrain, Esq., DeJ>. Q. M. GenL, Detroit.

In June, 1800, two regiments were here.

In 1803, the stockade was in very bad condition, and on April 28, 1804, a town meeting was held to vote on the question of its repair.

The vote stood twelve in favor of, and thirteen against repairing.

In 1806, it was decided to repair the pickets, and in October Pierre Chesne was paid "fifty-eight pounds, sixteen shillings, for finishing the stockade."

In 1807 an entirely new stockade was erected by Governor Hull.

It included all the grounds between the Cass and Brush Farms and extended to the fort.

There were gates and blockhouses on each side at Jefferson Avenue.

For the purpose of building this stockade it was ordered on August 9, 1807, that fifty officers and men be detailed from the First Regiment, and fifty from the Legionary Corps to be "marched to the works at eight a. M."

On August 17 following, James May, the adjutant-general, directed that the First Regiment should "prepare and set up three hundred yards of pickets, and the Legionary Corps, one hundred and fifty yards."

These pickets were fourteen feet high, with loop-holes to shoot through.

The fort was surrendered by General Hull on August 16, 1812.

Officers Quarters at Fort Wayne

Among the brass field-pieces delivered up were two taken by General Stark at Bennington, one captured from General Burgoyne at Saratoga, and several obtained from Cornwallis at Yorktown.

The fort was evacuated by the British on September 28, 1813; when they left, some of the troops set fire to the barracks, but the inhabitants speedily quenched the flames.

General McArthur first occupied the fort on September 29.

Up to this time it had retained the name of Lernoult, but now it was christened Fort Shelby in honor of the brave governor of Kentucky.

While the English were in possession, all of the pickets on the west and some on the east were cut off close to the ground, and in the winter of 1813-1814 the soldiers of Harrison's army dug out the ends and used them for fuel.

The walls of the fort, at this time, were closely lined with log huts, occupied by the army. Just prior to April 25, 1814, four lines of pickets were erected in place of those destroyed in 1813.

The fort was also newly mounted with cannon, and fourteen hundred troops were then stationed here.

On August 9, 1815, Major William H. Puthuff, of the Second United States Rifle Regiment, who had been in command at Detroit, retired from the army, and was presented by the citizens with a complimentary address.

In September, 1815, nearly thirteen hundred soldiers were stationed here, and quartered in what was called the cantonment, built just west of the fort in that year.

It consisted of four rows of one-story log buildings arranged in quadrangular form.

The west row stood directly on the east line of the Cass Farm.

At this time the gates of the town were guarded by sentinels, and no one could enter or leave without a pass.

On Saturday, September 6, 1815, Major General Brown and suite, who had been at Detroit on a tour of inspection, left for Buffalo on the brig Niagara.

The arsenal on the northwest corner of Jefferson Avenue and Wayne Street was built under the direction of Colonel R. L. Baker, in 1816, and was torn down late in the summer of 1867.

The yard in the rear, with its stores of cannon balls, was in charge of Captain Perkins, who kept it in the best of order.

The garrison, during a part of 1816, consisted of fifteen hundred regular troops; in the following year it varied from one hundred and fifty to four hundred.

On April 19, 1818, the flag-staff was blown down during a storm, and two days after the Gazette contained this notice:

The flag-staff on which, in August, 1812, General Hull displayed his signal of disgraceful submission, fell during the storm last Wednesday evening.

No flag had waved on it since 1812, but it stood a monument of the cowardly surrender of Detroit.

It was possibly this very staff that the council, in 1827, proposed to convert into ladders for the use of the firemen.

In the spring of 1873, while a cellar for the residence of John Owen on Fort Street West was being excavated, the stump of the staff was found; a plate suitably inscribed was placed upon it, and on April 26, 1877, it was presented to the Public Library.

On July 25, 1818, Colonel John E. Wool arrived, and remained two days.

In 1820, a full regiment was stationed here.

On Wednesday, May 3, of this year, Captain J. Farley, of the United States Artillery, and Lieutenant Otis Fisher, of the Fifth Regiment, went to Sandwich, and fought a duel, Fisher being instantly killed.

On June 4, 1821, General Alexander Macomb, who had been in command here for many years, being about to leave, was presented by the citizens with several engravings, and also with a silver tankard made by Mr. Rouquette.

In this year, Fort Shelby was in a dilapidated condition, and without a single mounted piece of artillery; the pickets and abattis also were badly decayed.

Six hundred and twenty-five  dollars were paid for filling in the old ditch around the fort, and in May, six thousand pickets, forming part of the fort and stockade, were sold at from two dollars to three dollars per hundred.

Fort Wayne.

This fortification, named after General Anthony Wayne, is located in the township of Springwells, three and one half miles from the City Hall, at the only bend in the river, and also at its narrowest point.

It commands the city and the river channel.

Its site was the camping-ground of the troops rendezvousing for the Black Hawk War, also of the forces engaged in the Patriot War of 1838.

The first appropriation of $50,000 for its construction was made on August 4, 1841; in 1842 the Government purchased twenty-three acres, and in 1844 an additional forty-three acres was procured.

On Tuesday, October 19, 1824, General Gaines arrived from a tour of inspection of the northern posts.

He left the next day. On July 12, 1825, General Solomon Van Rensselaer visited the city, and was given a public dinner at Woodworth's Hotel, Colonel J. E. Wool being also present.

On May 27, 1826, the two companies of infantry which had been stationed here departed for Green Bay, leaving the city, probably for the first time, without any troops.

During this year, the fort and its grounds were given to the city by Congress, and most of the old barracks were sold and moved away.

In the spring of 1827 the stockade was removed and the fort demolished.

The fort was begun in 1843, and completed about 1851, at a cost of nearly $150,000.

General Meigs had entire charge of the construction.

It was originally a square-bastioned fort, with sand embankments, and red cedar scarp with embrasures of oak.

The cedar was brought from Kelley's Island, some three hundred workmen being sent thither for the purpose.

Both the cedar and the oak were kyanized, and it was thought they would be very durable.

In 1864, under the superintendence of General T. J. Cram, the cedar scarp was removed, and replaced with brickwork, seven and one half feet thick and twenty-two feet high, with a brick facing of about eighteen inches, back of which is six feet of concrete.

The top of the scarp wall extends about six feet above the former woodwork, and there is an empty space between it and the embankment.

In case the top of the wall should be shot away, this space would serve as a receptacle for the falling brick and mortar, which would be very nearly as serviceable as a sand embankment in resisting the destructive effect of solid shot. The entire cost of these improvements was nearly $250,000.

Fort Croghan or Fort Nonsense.

Early in the century the Indians near the city were continually killing cattle, driving off horses, and committing depredations of various kinds.

To intimidate them, and to protect the stock which grazed on the commons, this fort was erected.

The following official order had reference to the work of erection:

Headquarters Detroit, 6 June, 1806.

It is hereby ordered, that the three following companies of the First Regiment, by and under the command of their respective captains, shall furnish the following quota of men each, to assist in erecting the public works on the Common above the fort, viz.: Captain Campau six men, Captain Tuttle six men, and Captain Anderson eight men each day, to attend precisely at seven o'clock in the morning at said work, to be there under the direction and control of the commandant, already appointed in General orders to superintend the erection of said works, and subject to the command of the officer of the day.

The officers of the three companies aforesaid will be liable to be called upon, from time to time, to serve as officers of the day.

(Signed) Stanley Gkiswold,

Acting Governor and Commander-in-Chief.

The fort was located near what is now the northeast corner of Park and High Streets, and was eventually called Fort Croghan, also Fort Nonsense.

It was circular in form, about forty feet in diameter, and consisted of an earth embankment about ten feet high, and two feet wide on top, surrounded by a ditch.

It was mounted with a few pieces of artillery.

The soldiers used to practice firing into it from Fort Shelby so as to be able to drive out the Indians in case they attempted to occupy it.

In later times it was a favorite place of resort for the boys, who would choose sides and battle for its possession, and they, probably, gave it its best-known name.

Detroit Barracks.

As early as September, 1830, the Government obtained possession, partly by purchase and partly by lease of a large portion of the Mullett Farm, fronting on Gratiot Street, near the present Russell Street; barracks were erected thereon, and the Government continued to occupy the ground for nearly twenty-five years.

During most of this time, a large number of soldiers were quartered there.

As an event in which military officers of Detroit felt much interest, it may be noted that the cornerstone of the Arsenal at Dearborn was laid on July 30, 1833, under the supervision an(^ management of Colonel Joshua Howard.

The ceremonies commenced at 12 M., with prayer by Rev. Mr. Searle, of Detroit, followed by an address by Major Henry Whiting, and a dinner.

On August 11, 1845, an order arrived for the three companies of the Fifth Regiment, then in Detroit, to rendezvous at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., preparatory to going to Texas; and on the 16th, a complimentary dinner was given to the officers at the Exchange.