Fort Dearborn

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Fort Dearborn, named in honor of Henry Dearborn, was a United States fort built on the Chicago River in 1803 by troops under Captain John Whistler. The site of the fort is now a Chicago Landmark, part of the Michigan–Wacker Historic District in the City of Chicago, Illinois.


Early history

Fort Dearborn was located at what is now the intersection of Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue in the Loop community area of Chicago at the foot of the Magnificent Mile.

In 1810, when Whistler was recalled to Detroit, Michigan, he was succeeded by Captain Nathan Heald. During the War of 1812, General William Hull ordered the evacuation of Fort Dearborn in August 1812. Heald oversaw the evacuation, but on August 15 the evacuees were ambushed by about 500 Potawatomi Indians in the Fort Dearborn Massacre. The Potawatomi captured Heald and his wife, Rebekah, and ransomed them to the British. Of the 148 soldiers, women and children who evacuated the fort, 86 were killed in the ambush. The Potawatomi burned the fort to the ground the next day. Following the war, a second Fort Dearborn was built in 1816. This fort consisted of a double wall of wooden palisade, officer and enlisted barracks, a garden, and other buildings.

Alexander Beaubien

Alexander Beaubien was said to have been the first child of European ancestry born in Chicago. His mother was Josette La Framboise, herself half Native American, and his father was Jean Baptiste Beaubien, an agent of John Jacob Astor, who bought furs from the natives. The boy was born in Fort Dearborn on January 28, 1822. He saw Chicago grow to become the second largest city in the country before dying on March 25, 1907, after a long illness.[1]

Later years and legacy

The American forces garrisoned the fort until 1823, when peace with the Indians led the garrison to be deemed redundant. This temporary abandonment lasted until 1828, when it was regarrisoned following the outbreak of war with the Winnebago Indians. Closed briefly before the Black Hawk War of 1832, part of the fort was demolished to make way for a new channel for the Chicago River. By 1837, the fort was being used by the Superintendent of Harbor Works.

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