Fort Crevecoeur - built in 1680
On January 5, 1680, the eight canoes passed through the Narrows
of the Illinois River above Peoria and came upon the Peoria
Indians, camped on both sides of the Pimiteoui Lake. With LaSalles'
canoe on the right and Tonti's on the left, the eight canoes
formed a line to cover the width of the river, signalling the
Indians that they came in peace. The Indians were frightened
at first, but, upon realizing that the white men meant no harm,
welcomed them with a feast of bear meat, buffalo fat, and porridge.
LaSalle paid the Indians for the corn taken from their village
at Starved Rock, presented the chiefs with gifts of axes and
tobacco, and smoked the calumet pipe. The Indians rubbed the
bare feet of the priests with bear's grease to stimulate their
That night, the Peoria Indians were visited by
Monsoela, a chief of the Maskouten nation, who, accompanied
by a party of Miami Indians and their enemies, the Iroquois.
Frightened by the sudden change in attitude on the part of the
Peoria Indians, six of LaSalles' men deserted the camp the following
In order to reassure the Indians, LaSalle agreed to help defend
them against the Iroquois. The Illinois River had frozen over
during the night, but as soon as the river began to thaw, LaSalle
and his men began the building of Fort Crevecoeur one league
downstream and across the river from the Pimiteoui Village.
According to LaSalles' journals, translated by
"On January 15, toward evening a great thaw, wich opportunely
occurred, rendered the river free from ice from Pimiteoui as
far as there (the place destined for the fort). It was a little
hillock about 540 feet from the bank of the river; up to the
foot of the hillock the river expanded every time that there
fell a heavy rain. Two wide and deep ravines shut in two other
sides and one-half of the fourth, wich I caused to be closed
completely by a ditch joining the two ravines. I caused the
outer edge of the ravines to be bordered wtih good chevaux-de-frise
(a series of heavy timbers placed in a line, interlaced with
other diagonal timbers wich were often tipped w/ iron spikes),
the slopes of the hillock to be cut down all around, and with
the earth thrus excavated I caused to be built on the top of
a parapet capable of covering a man, the whole covered from
the foot of the hillock to the top of the parapet with long
madriers (beams), the lower ends of which were in the groove
between great pieces of wood which extended all around the foot
of the elevation; and I caused the top of these madriers to
be fastened by other long cross-beams held in place by tenons
and mortises with other pieces of wood that projected through
the parapet. In front of this work i caused to be planted, everywhere,
some pointed stakes twenty-five feet in height, one foot in
diameter, driven three feet in the ground, pegged to the cross-beams
that fastened the top of the madriers and provided with a fraise
at the top 2 1/2 feet long to prevent surprise. I did not change
the shape of this plateau which, though irregular, was sufficiently
well flanked against the savages. I caused two lodgments to
be built for my men in two of the flanking angles in order that
they be ready in case of attack; the middle was made of large
pieces of musket-proof timber; in the thrid angle the forge,
made of the same material, was placed along the curtain which
faced the wood. The lodging of the Recollects was in the frouth
angle, and I had my tent and that of the sieur de Tonti stationed
in the center of the place."
Fort Crevecoeur's Destruction
On April 15, Tonti left Fort Crevecoeur with Father Ribourde
and two other men to begin fortification of Starved Rock.
The following day, the remaining seven men at Fort Crevecoeur
pillaged the fort of all ammunition and provisions, destroyed
it, and fled back to Canada.
Two of the men who had been at the fort joined
Tonti at Starved Rock and told him of the fort's destruction.
Tonti sent messengers to LasSalle in Candada to tell him what
had happened and returned to Fort Crevecoeur to collect those
tools that had not been destroyed and take them to the Kaskaskia
Village at Starved Rock.
On the tenth of September, 1680, six hundred
Iroquois warriors, armed with guns, came upon the Kaskaskia
village. Both the Iroquois and the Illinois Indians accused
Tonti of treachery. He tried to mediate their differences and
dtain the Iroquois until the old people, women and children
could flee the village. Tonti was wounded by an Iroquois who
stabbed him with a knife, the Kaskaskia village was burned,
and the Iroquois built a fort on the site. Tonti, with his companions,
fled for Green Bay.
---Next Section: "La
Salle: The Explorer"---