Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit or
Detroit was a fort established
on the west bank of the
Detroit River by the French officer Antoine de
la Mothe Cadillac in 1701. The site of the former fort, north of the
Rouge River, is now within the city of
Detroit in the
U.S. state of
Michigan, an area bounded by Larned Street, Griswold Street, and the
Civic Center (now occupied by office towers). In the 18th century,
French colonial settlements developed on both sides of the river,
based on the fur trade, missions and farms.
The fort was taken over by the British after the French surrendered
Montreal in 1760 during the
French and Indian War
French and Indian War (part of the Seven
Years' War). They held it until during the American Revolutionary War,
and it was taken over by the
United States afterward, being superseded
Fort Lernoult, built to the north along the river in 1779. This was
later renamed as
Fort Shelby and was abandoned by the US military in
the 1820s. The city of
Detroit demolished the fort in 1827.
1 Background and construction
2 Military conflicts
3 British takeover the fort
United States emerges
6.2 Works cited
7 Further reading
Background and construction
Detroit built on the west side of the Detroit
River in an effort to prevent British colonists from moving into the
west, and to monopolize the fur trade in central North America. Before
Fort Detroit, Cadillac was commandant of
Fort de Buade,
another French outpost in North America.
Fort de Buade was abandoned
in 1697 due to conflicts with religious leaders over the trading of
alcohol to the Native Americans. Cadillac persuaded his superiors to
let him build a new settlement. He reached the
Detroit River on July
When he landed at the site, Cadillac held a celebration to formally
take control of the area. In honor of Louis Phélypeaux, Comte de
Pontchartrain (or his son, Jérôme), Minister of Marine to Louis XIV,
Cadillac named the new settlement as
Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit.
The storehouse and the stockade were started immediately, but the
first building completed was Ste. Anne's Catholic Church. The stockade
was the second structure completed, and was made of logs with
defensive bastions or towers in each corner.
After the fort was established, some Ottawa and Huron settled near
here for the convenience of trading with the French. A French mission
to the Huron was established across the river, developed as
L'Assomption church and the center of what became the Petite Côte
settlement of French colonists by the mid-18th century. Later part of
Sandwich (now Windsor), this was the oldest continually occupied
European settlement in what later became Ontario.
Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit in 1710
The first major conflict of
Detroit occurred in March 1706 while
Cadillac was away. The Ottawa heard a rumor about a Huron tribe
ambush. The Ottawa attacked and killed several members of the Miami
tribe. The Miami sought safety in the fort, where they were defended
by the soldiers. The French killed about 30 Ottawa warriors when they
attacked the fort. After the battle, the Miami attacked an Ottawa
village. In the conflict a French priest and sergeant were both caught
outside the walls and killed.
The fort was commanded by Étienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont.
Bourgmont was criticized for his handling of the incident. When
Cadillac returned, Bourgmont and some soldiers from the fort deserted.
The French captured one of the deserters, who testified that the
deserting party had shot and killed one of its own and cannibalized
Bourgmont remained on the lam, living with Native Americans. He took a
Native American wife and had a child with her. According to the
matrilineal kinship system of the
Odawa and related tribes, children
were considered born to the mother's people and belonged to her clan,
so mixed-race children such as Bourgmont's were brought up in the
tribal culture. Descent and inheritance were counted through the
In 1718, Bourgmont was decorated by the French government with the
Cross of St. Louis and given an order of nobility. He was recognized
as the first European to map the Missouri and Platte rivers and for
enlisting the Native Americans to side with the French against the
Cadillac was removed under accusations of corruption. In 1710,
François de la Forêt was appointed as Cadillac's successor, but sent
Jacques-Charles Renaud Dubuisson to administer his role. In 1712,
Jacques-Charles Renaud Dubuisson officially replaced Cadillac as
When the Fox heard of this change, they planned an attack on the fort
(after some of Cadillac's Native American supporters had left). They
besieged the fort in late April 1710, with a mixed force of about
1,000 Fox, Sac, and Mascoutens. The Ottawa and the Huron warriors were
out on a raid and so could not help the French. Jean Baptiste Bissot,
Sieur de Vincennes, commander of the French outpost at
Fort Wayne, Indiana) and seven fur traders reached the fort, sneaking
through Fox lines. Dubuisson sent messengers to the Ottawa and
Huron Indians, who returned to the fort's aid.
The Fox and their allies became caught between the French and their
traditional enemies; they were besieged until the end of May. They
fled to what is now Windmill Point, where the French and Huron
warriors pursued them. After four days' siege there, the Fox
surrendered in order to spare their families. The French agreed but,
after the Fox were disarmed, the French attacked and killed all of
them. This event is known in the Grosse Pointe area as the Fox Indian
Massacre. This siege of
Detroit was the opening incident in the
Detroit in 1763
British takeover the fort
After a few years the British and the French conflict over North
America, a front in the
Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War of Europe, came to a head in
the French and Indian War, which broke out in 1754.
Detroit was far
removed from the main areas of conflict and was not involved in
combat. Two months after the capitulation in 1760 of the French at
Montreal, on November 29, 1760,
Detroit was turned over to the
British Army's Rogers' Rangers.
British rule differed in several major ways from French rule. The
British required greater taxes and confiscated weapons from settlers
they classified as "unfriendly", a category they used for many French
Canadians. The British refused to sell ammunition to the French
Canadians or to the Native Americans who had been trading with the
French. The French traders had armed many of their trading partners
with guns for years, beginning with the Iroquois nations in New York.
The British changes limited the ability of the Native Americans to
trap and hunt, as well as rendering them less of a threat. The British
colonists did not emphasize maintaining good relationships with the
Native Americans. But the French Canadians had formed many families
through intermarriage and knew about the custom of giving gifts.
After the French left the conflict, Pontiac war-leader of the Ottawa,
rallied several tribes in Pontiac's Rebellion. He attempted to capture
Detroit from the British on May 7, 1763. They failed to capture the
fort, as the British were forewarned of the attack, but did lay siege
to it (see the Siege of
The British force in the fort, commanded by Henry Gladwin, consisted
of 130 soldiers with two 6-pound cannons, one 3-pound cannon, and
three mortars. The 6-gun schooner Huron was anchored nearby in the
Detroit River. Two months into the siege, on July 29, 1763, the
British brought a large relief force into the area. Skirmishing in the
area, including the Battle of Bloody Run, continued until mid-November
when the Indians dispersed.
During the American Revolutionary War,
Detroit was far to the west of
the main areas of action. The British used the fort to arm American
Indian raiding parties, who attacked rebel colonial settlements to the
southeast. American revolutionaries, particularly George Rogers Clark,
hoped to mount an expedition to
Detroit in order to neutralize these
operations, but could not raise enough men to make the attempt. Clark
did capture Henry Hamilton, the Lieutenant-Governor and Superintendent
of Indian Affairs of the Province of Quebec and senior officer at Fort
United States emerges
In late 1778, while Hamilton was still being held as a prisoner of
war, Captain Richard B. Lernoult began construction on a new
fortification situated a few hundred yards to the north of the
original fort. It was named
Fort Lernoult on October 3, 1779. This new
fort largely superseded the original fort and was often referred to as
United States gaining independence in the Revolution,
the government made the
Treaty of Greenville
Treaty of Greenville in 1795 with several
Indian tribes. They ceded several blocks of land to the United States
that were beyond the Greenville Treaty Line and within the Indians'
Article 3, Item 12 notes:
The post of Detroit, and all the land to the north, the west and the
south of it, of which the Indian title has been extinguished by gifts
or grants to the French or English governments: and so much more land
to be annexed to the district of Detroit, as shall be comprehended
between the river Rosine [known today as the River Rouge], on the
south, lake St. Clair on the north, and a line, the general course
whereof shall be six miles distant from the west end of lake Erie and
On July 11, 1796, under terms negotiated in the Jay Treaty, the
Fort Lernoult, and the surrounding
settlement to the Americans, 13 years after the Treaty of Paris ended
the war and ceded the area to the United States.
Some accounts say that only
Fort Lernoult survived the 1805 fire that
destroyed most of Detroit. It appears that no part of the original
Detroit remained after this time.
Fort Lernoult was officially
Detroit in 1805, then renamed
Fort Shelby in 1813.
Soon after its use by the military ended, the fort was demolished by
the City of
Detroit in 1827.
The second Hotel Pontchartrain, now named the Crowne Plaza Detroit
Downtown Riverfront, is located on the site. The
Fort Pontchartrain is located at the southwest corner of
the Crowne Plaza, at Jefferson Ave. and Washington Blvd.
New France portal
^ a b Hechenberger, Dan. "Etienne de Véniard sieur de Bourgmont: A
Timeline Compiled by Dan Hechenberger". The Lewis and Clark Journey of
Discovery. National Park Service. Archived from the original on
September 11, 2009.
^ Burton, Clarence Monroe; Stocking, William & Miller, Gordon K.
(1922). The city of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922. 1. S.J. Clarke.
^ "Vincennes, Sieur de (Jean Baptiste Bissot)". The Encyclopedia
Americana. 28. Danbury, CT: Grolier. 1990. p. 130.
^ "Treaty of Greenville". August 3, 1795 – via Wikisource.
^ Lossing, Benson (1868). The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812.
Harper & Brothers, Publishers. p. 266.
Dunnigan, Brian Leigh (2001). "Fortress Detroit, 1701–1826". In
Skaggs, David Curtis & Nelson, Larry L. The Sixty Years' War for
the Great Lakes, 1754–1814. East Lansing:
Michigan State University
Press. pp. 167–185.
Fort Detroit: British Rule, 1760–1796". HistoryDetroit.com.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit.
Farmer, Silas (1884). The History of
Detroit and Michigan, or, The
Metropolis Illustrated: A Chronological Cyclopaedia of the Past and
Present, Including a Full Record of Territorial Days in Michigan, and
the Annuals of Wayne County – via Open Library.
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