French & Indian War Assemblage
Prairie du Rocher, Illinois

October 12 - October 13, 2019



Location: Fort De Chartres State Historic Site, 4 miles west of Prairie du Rocher on IL-155

Date: October 12 - October 13, 2019

     Saturday: 10 am - 4 pm
     Sunday: 10 am - 2 pm

From the late 1600's on, France and Great Britain fought a series of wars hoping to establish dominance in Europe as well as in colonies across the globe. In North America, the Ohio Country was the principal cause of a conflict, the French and Indian War, which began in 1754. Both nations claimed this land west of the Appalachian Mountains and beginning in the 1740s, both engaged in the lucrative fur trade which was fueled by the fashion of the time - hats. By the 1750s, English colonists, especially those who had invested in the Ohio Company, moved into the area hoping to convert this wilderness area into farmland.
After French soldiers captured several English trading posts and built Fort Duquense (modern-day Pittsburgh) to defend their territory, the future President of the United States, George Washington, led a small force of Virginia militiamen into the Ohio Country to drive out the French. Hoping to capture Fort Duquesne, he quickly realized the fort was too strong and retreated a few miles to build Fort Necessity to establish a British presence in the area. On July 3, 1754 a combined force of French soldiers and their native allies overwhelmed Fort Necessity starting the French and Indian War although Great Britain would not officially declare war until 1756.
Although no battles were fought in the Illinois Country, the region played a part in the conflict and the result of the war had a profound influence on the future of the region. French militia troops from Fort de Chartres joined neighboring militiamen and helped defeat Washington’s troops at Fort Necessity. Although the Native Americans traded with both colonial powers, they feared the growing size of British colonists, numbering 2 million compared with the approximately 60,000 French settlers, and most non-Iroquois tribes, including the Illinois, sided with the French. After a series of initial successes by the French, the tide of battle turned for the British and the war ended with signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 where the French ceded to Great Britain all its territory east of the Mississippi River including the Illinois Country. Control of French settlements in North America by the British culminated when St. Ange de Belle Rive delivered the keys of Fort de Chartres to British troops of the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment on October 10, 1765.
Recreating History at Fort de Chartres
Every fall reenactors at the restored Fort de Chartres in southwestern Illinois portray this time period. Military drills and competitions form the major part of the event. Teams from around the Midwest compete against each other in different military skills common to soldiers of the era. There are individual and team black powder shoots from varying distances, officers reenact pistol duels against an imaginary opponent, and the men attempt to skewer targets in thrust and parry contests. A variety of teams portraying French (such as Regiment du Guyenne Grenadier Company 2nd Battalion led by John Francis, photo right,) British, and militia units take part in these activities that culminate in a mock battle on Sunday.
Not all the activities at the Assemblage are of a military nature and the activities of daily life are well represented. Terri Bauer of Webster Groves, Missouri (photo left) demonstrates weaving on a box tape loom. Using a replica ridge heddle loom built by her husband Lon, she demonstrates a domestic chore that was usually performed by women to make tapes (straps) that would be used to assemble carrying bags, powder horns, ribbons, and occasionally larger items. Although weaving was commonly practiced during the French Colonial era, it was actually an illegal activity, as all raw materials were meant for export back to France. Although the French colonists preferred to use imported cloth because of its superior quality, necessity sometimes dictated homemade goods.
Vignettes portraying aspects of life during the era are acted out in the Marquee tent at the Assemblage. Take the case of Claude Chetivau. Chetivau was a prisoner sent to the Illinois Country as punishment in the early 1700's when the area was considered a minor prison colony. In 1725, this neer do well was accused of cheating at cards. In a vignette, narrated by Fort de Chartres Site Manager Darrell Duensing (photo left,) the actual trial is reenacted. Since no record of the outcome exists, the audience is asked to deliver a verdict. Is Chetivau innocent of the charges or is he a scoundrel in need of justice? Other activities such as period Creole music are also carried out at this venue. 
The French and Indian War was a departure from the conventional type of warfare usually associated with European powers at the time. Although conventional battles were fought, there many engagements where each side used its Native American allies to supplement it’s forces and many times used guerilla tactics such as the using trees for cover, not wearing clothing that stood out, and not using standard formations. These tactics made this war especially brutal. Reenactors such as Dean Evans of Granite City, IL (photo right) whose heritage includes Shawnee and Cherokee roots attend the event to explain the Native American perspective of the war.


For more information call 618-284-7230.

Directions: Fort de Chartres State Historic Site is located 4 miles west of Prairie du Rocher. Take IL-3 to Ruma. Turn west on IL-155 and follow this road through Prairie du Rocher to the site.

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