The related markers, located at the intersection of Michigan & Wacker, include:
1)City of Chicago plaque on the NW corner
"Ft. Dearborn served as the major western garrison of the United States until destroyed during an Indian uprising in August of 1812. A second fort, erected on the same site in 1816, was demolished in 1856. Designated a Chicago landmark on September 15, 1971 by the City Council of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, major. Commission on Chicago Historical and Architectural Landmarks."
2)Site of Fort Dearborn borders in the ground, spanning Michigan Avenue & Wacker Drive. (Remember though that the fort was at ground level at that time and these makers are placed in the street which is well above the ground.)
3)Bronze relief over the doorway at the SW corner.
"This building is erected on the site of Fort Dearborn. Fort Dearborn destroyed 1858; office building erected 1922."
4)Plaque at 360 N. Michigan Avenue (SW corner)
"Here stood Old FOrt Dearborn 1803-1812"
5)Relief and engraving on the SW Michigan Ave. bridge pylon (NW corner of intersection) entitled "Defense."
"Defense - Fort Dearborn stood almost on this spot. After an heroic defense in eighteen hundred and twelve, the garrison together with women and children was forced to evacuate the fort. Led forth by Captain Wells, they were brutally massacred by the Indians. They will be cherished as martyrs in our early history. - Erected by the Trustees of the B.F. Ferguson Monument Fund - 1928."
History overview of Ft. Dearborn
As a part of the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, the U.S. government acquired a parcel of land at the mouth of the Chicago River from Native Americans. Strategically important, the area became even more so after the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory in 1803. In that year Capt. John Whistler arrived in Chicago to build a fort named after Henry Dearborn, President Thomas Jefferson's secretary of war. It was located at what is now the intersection of Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue at the foot of the Magnificent Mile.
In 1810, Whistler was recalled to Detroit, MI and was succeeded by Captain Nathan Heald. Heald brought his wife, and there were other women now at the fort as well, all wives of the men stationed there. Within two years, there were 12 women and 20 children at Fort Dearborn.
The first threat came to the fort with the War of 1812, a conflict that aroused unrest with the local Indian tribes, namely the Potawatomi and the Wynadot. The effects of the war brought many of the Indian tribes into alliance with the British for they saw the Americans as invaders into their lands. After the British captured the American garrison at Mackinac, General William Hull ordered that Heald should abandon Fort Dearborn and leave the contents to the local Indians, on the grounds that the fall of Mackinac made Ft. Dearborn’s defense untenable.
Hull’s evacuation orders
SANDWICH July 29th 1812
Capt. Nat. Heald.
Sir: It is with regret I order the Evacuation of your Post owing to the want of Provisions only a neglect of the Commandant of [word illegible-possibly Detroit]. You will therefore Destroy all arms & ammunition, but the Goods of the Factory you may give to the Friendly Indians who may be desirous of Escorting you on to Fort Wayne & to the Poor & needy of your Post. I am informed this day that Makinac & the Island of St. Joseph will be Evacuated on acct of the scarcity of Provision & I hope in my next to give you an acct. of the Surrender of the British at Maiden as I Expect 600 men here by the beginning of Sept.
I am Sir
Brigadier Gen. Hull.
Addressed; Capt. Nathan Heald, Commander Fort Dearborn by Express.
Early on the morning of August 15th, a procession of soldiers, civilians, women and children left the fort headed for Fort Wayne, IN. The infantry soldiers, headed by Capt. Wells, led the way, followed by a caravan of wagons and mounted men. The column traveled south a short distance along the then Lake Michigan shoreline. There was a sudden milling about of the scouts at the front of the line and then a shout came back that the Indians were attacking. A line of Potawatomi appeared over the edge of the sand ridge and fired down at the column. Totally surprised, the officers nevertheless managed to rally the men into a battle line, but it was of little use. So many of them fell from immediate wounds that the line collapsed. The Indians overwhelmed them with sheer numbers, flanking the line and snatching the wagons and horses.
This became known as the Fort Dearborn Massacre. The Potawatomi captured Heald and his wife and ransomed them to the British. Of the 148 soldiers, women and children who evacuated the fort, 86 were killed in the ambush.
After this attack, Native Americans burned the fort and the area was little inhabited until 1816 when the U.S. army returned to rebuild. Soldiers and traders returned to the area. The new fort was the center for military activity during the Black Hawk War, and area residents took refuge there as well. By 1840, the fort had outlived its military usefulness, but it was not demolished until 1857. Its last remnants burned in the Great Fire of 1871.
The site of the fort (this waymark) is now a Chicago Landmark and part of the Michigan-Wacker Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places (see my waymark WM4KXV.) There are numerous markers at the site (included in the Gallery) such as the relief entitled “Defense” on the bridgehouse, the plaques on the London (ironic!) Guarantee Insurance Building at 360 N. Michigan Avenue and the outline of the fort on the intersecting Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive street corners.
The site of the Massacre is about 1¾ miles south of the fort location - an area where 16th Street and Indiana Avenue are now located. The shoreline has been pushed eastward over the years through landfill and now Soldier Field stands to the east of where the massacre took place. There used to be a statue and marker at the site of the massacre, but these have been removed to storage.
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