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The New York Times, May 9, 1887:

THE CITY OF THE STRAITS

A BATTLE GROUND FOR TWO CENTURIES AT LEAST.

FORTS AND FIGHTS OF FRENCH, BRITISH, AND AMERICANS—
A COMBINATION AGAINST THE INDIAN.


    Detroit, Mich., May 6.—...The Algonquins called Detroit Yondotiga, "The Great Village." By the Wyandots it was named Tyschsarondia, from the course of the river, which makes a sharp bend near the site of the old town. The Hurons called it Karontaen, "The Coast of the Strait." By the French it was named Pontchartrain in honor if the Count of that name, who was Colonial Minister of Marine in the early days of Gallic supremacy.

    In 1802 it was incorporated as a town under the name of Detroit, six years after its evacuation by the English, though it had been known under that cognomen for many years previous to that date. Long ago as the seventeenth century the French recognized the advantages of the present site of Detroit as a military post, and in 1686 Commander de Luth, of Fort Mackinaw, received orders from the Governor of New France to establish a fort on "The Detroit of Lake Erie."

    These orders resulted in the construction of Fort de Luth, or Fort St. Joseph, for it was known under both names. It was built close to the site of Fort Gratiot, and American institution. Fort St. Joseph was short lived, however, and was abandoned after a couple of years of occupancy, and until 1701 the passage between Lakes Erie and Huron was without defense, and the red man in the vicinity was lord of all he surveyed.

    But there was trouble in store for him. The French had thoroughly explored the passage between the lakes and recognized the value of a fort at the narrowest part of the river. They were, besides, enchanted with the beauty of the country, a charm that has not yet departed from it.

    In the Summer of 1701, and on a glorious day, if the chronicles are veracious, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac sailed up the sparkling river and pitched his tent on a modest bit of Detroit's present site. Cadillac is accorded the honor of founding Detroit, and a boulevard bears the honor of his name. He carried a grant of land supposed to represent 15 acres square. Naturally he did not confine his authority to such narrow limits. He saw that land was plentiful and owners, except Indians, whom he did not recognize, few. He therefore claimed the entire strait... He seemed aware that in one sense he had no title to the land, and excused himself in his appropriation on the ground that by building a fort at Detroit he would prevent the perfidious English from encroaching westward.

    Cadillac was delighted with the country. The river borders he described as vast praries, blessed with eternal verdure through the presence of the noble stream. The praries were bordered by long and broad rows of apple trees and masses of heavy clustered vines. Through the broad walks and under the shade of giant oaks, pines, and vast stretches of walnut, ash, cotton, and other woods, hundreds of timid deer fled at the approach of the stranger. The woods and open were alive with golden pheasants, woodcock, quail, partridge, and doves. Buffaloes of magnificent size and in great herds grazed almost within gunshot of the first settlers.

    The islands, too, were stocked with great flocks of fowl and other game, and Michigan and the islands that nestle in its bays and rivers still continue on of the finest hunting grounds in America...

    But to such matters Cadillac devoted only his spare moments. He was kept busily employed in planning and watching the construction of the stockade, behind the shelter of which he and his fellow-Frenchmen might be able to preserve their scalps intact.

    The stockade was named Fort Pontchartrain. It was built on the ridge that overlooks the Detroit river. The Merchant's Exchange of the present day stands on a bit on the old site...

    The Detroiter of to-day claims that more tonnage passes his city than enters the Thames. The river is as glorious a stream to-day and the volume of water that passes through it is as large as when Cadillac sailed upon its silvery tide in 1701. Its broadest extent is three miles and it has an average depth of 34 feet, being navigable for vessels of the largest class. From Lake Erie, almost 20 miles away, to Detroit, its depth ranges from 10 to 60 feet. It drains Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, St. Clair, and Green and Saginaw and Georgian Bays, over 80,000 square miles of lake surface. Its maximum current is 2? miles and hour and it is estimated that over 200,000 cubic feet of water pass the city every second. A greater volume of fresh water is carried through it, it is said, than through any other river, except the Niagara and the St. Lawrence.

    The charm of its blue-white surface is increased by the emerald tinted islands that stud the river... Isle La Perche—Isle of the fishes—at the head of the river, on the Canadian side, was the Summer home of Pontiac.

    It was once decided to build Detroit on Grosse Isle, and many years after this design was surrendered a plan for constructing Fort Wayne on it was almost adopted. Its high banks caught the fancy of the engineers, but the mainland eventually won the day, and Fort Wayne now frowns upon the island from the river bank. Grosse Isle is reserved for residences, and is a terminus for the Canada Southern Railroad.

    As late as 1810 there were Indian earthworks on Fighting Island. This island was sold to Canada for the benefit of the Wyandots. In 1742 there was a Huron village on Bois Blanc Isle. There are no Hurons there now, nor on Mama Juda, Tawa, Elba, and many others, once used by them as hunting and fishing grounds.

    When the British evacuated Detroit in 1796 they constructed a blockhouse on Bois Blanc. During the fight in which Commodore Perry vanquished his British opponent Bois Blanc was occupied by Tecumseh and his Indians. It was a heavily wooded island and in 1838, in order to obtain a better range for their cannon, the Americans denuded it of its timber.

    Belle Isle, one of the lovliest isles of the group, has been purchased by the city of Detroit and will soon be one of the handsomest parks in the country.

    Cadillac, though he had an eye for the beautiful in nature, also had an eye to his own advantage. He used all diligence in the construction of Fort Pontchartrain... The stockade was situated between Jefferson-avenue and Woodbridge street of the present city. It was 10 feet high and the stakes were sharpened at the top in order that the suffering of any Indian who might manage to climb up and be impaled should be as brief as possible.

    Fort Pontchartrain was square in form. At each corner there was a bastion from which the holders could drop a variety of missiles upon the attacking force. Inside the stockade a street, twelve feet wide, ran parallel with it. Inside the street again were the houses of the inhabitants and the soldier's barracks. The people whom the stockade afforded shelter were expected to keep it in repair and good order. The fort thrived until 1703. Then the Indians paid it a visit... They simply stood off at a distance and shot arrows that carried bits of blazing hemp at the stockade. They succeeded in partially destroying it... The stockade was repaired, but it remained an unsubstantial sort of an affair until 1716, when it was rebuilt. It was then considered one of the strongest forts in the country.

    In 1748 the old stockade was torn down and replaced by a much finer one, the stakes of which were 15 feet high and 6 inches in diameter at the small end. Each stake occupied a foot of ground... A couple years later, the garrison was largely increased and the stockade was much strengthened. The name was also changed from Fort Pontchartrain to Fort Detroit.

    After occupying the ground for over 60 years, and just about the time that Fort Detroit had become a place of some importance and reputation, the French were invited to surrender by the English. This happened in 1760. The invitation was accepted... The successors of Cadillac had not built to the satisfaction of the British, who ripped up the 15-foot-high stockade and planted one 25 feet high... The main gate of Fort Detroit was not opened after sunset and no Indidan was allowed to enter the fort except unarmed.

    In 1766 the fort was double its original size, and under British rule the inhabitants began to murmur at the taxes. They considered a rental of a shilling a foot for lots within the stockade and 10 shillings an acre outside the walls too high...

    The stockade was again enlarged in 1780 and was furnished with four gates and three blockhouses. Each of the latter was armed with four 6-pounders. Two batteries of six guns each faced the Detroit River and a barrack that accommodated 400 men was built. The citadel stood at Jefferson-avenue and Wayne-street. Between it and the river was a space of 40 feet.

    ...Fort Lernoult or Shelby occupied the two blocks between Griswold and Wayne streets and Fort and Lafayette streets. It wss built in 1782 by Major Lernoult through fear of an attack on Detroit by "one Broadhead," who had advanced as far as the Tuscarawas, 90 miles from Lower Sandusky, with 3,000 men...

    It was a far more pretentious affair than Fort Detroit. After outlining its proportions he piled tree upon tree, with the sharpened ends outward, to a height of 4 feet. Above these and projecting further outward, their sharp points elevated at a high angle, other trees were laid. The whole was surmounted by an earthen embankment 11 feet high and 26 feet broad at the base. Surrounding this chevaux de fris? was a ditch 6 feet deep and 12 feet broad at the surface. In the ditch was placed a row of heavy stakes sharpened at the top. The entrance was through the lower layer of stakes. In a subterranean passageway, dug between the citadel and the fort, was the powder magazine. A 24-pounder ornamented each side of the entrance. In 1779 Fort Lernoult was garrisoned by 400 British troops. In 1782 the garrison was increased to 450, and there were 26 cannon and mortars in the fort. Eleven years later the garrison consisted of one company of artillery and another of grenadiers. In the river lay the brigs Chippewa and Ottawa, of eight guns each; the brig Dunmore, of six guns, and the sloop Felicity, armed with two swivels.

    Fort Lernoult was surrendered by the British to the Americans on July 11, 1796, and was at once garrisoned with 300 Continentals commanded by Col. Hambrack. In 1802 it contained two regiments. Meanwhile the town had been growing, and the population without the walls was greater than that within...

    In 1812 it fell into the hands of the British. It was surrendered to Gen. Hull, and among the captured arms were two brass field pieces captured from the British by Capt. Stark at Bennington Vt., one piece taken from Burgoyne at Saratoga, and several cannon captured at Yorktown upon the surrender of Cornwallis. The fort was held by the British until Sept 28, 1813, when they evacuated it after taking precautions to fire it. The flames were extinguished and the fort was rechristened Fort Shelby in honor of the Governor of Ohio. The fort was thoroughly repaired and garrisoned in 1815 by 1,400 American troops...

    Fort Shelby and the ground surrounding it were given to the city of Detroit by Congress in 1826. The old barrack was then razed, and in the following year the stockade was removed and the fort demolished...

    Detroit's youngest as well as most important fortification is Fort Wayne, named after "Mad Anthony." It fronts the only bend in the river and its narrowest part. Its guns command both city and river. The distance between Fort Wayne and the City Hall is three and a half miles... ground was broken in 1843 on the site of the rendezvous of the troops who took part in the Black Hawk war. Gen. Meigs was intrusted with its construction which was finished in 1851... it was a square bastioned fort, with earth embankments and cedar scarps. In 1864 the latter was replaced with brick work 7? feet thich and 22 feet high, backed by a mass of concrete 6 feet in thickness. The original fort cost $150,000 and the improvements $250,000.

    Fort Wayne is garrisoned by several companies. It might not prove a serious impediment to an attacking force furnished with Krupp's new gun, but for all that is considered quite able to protect this part of Uncle Sam's dominions against all probable invasion...

T.B.F.



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