CHAPTER 7: The Military Empire
Towards The Great Lakes
Episodes of Struggle
At this point, a bloody incident reminded the French that the Foxes still blocked their path. The Cherokees, who were allies of the Foxes, ambushed and killed two young officers belonging to the new Canadian military bourgeoisie. One was the son of Governor de Ramezay and the other the son of the Baron de Longueuil. The entire colony demanded vengeance, and in May 1716, a military expedition was organized against the Foxes. Led by Sieur de Louvigny, a contingent of 225 soldiers and militiamen, accompanied by numerous Amerindian allies, set out for the present state of Wisconsin, taking with them two small cannons and a mortar. After withstanding a siege for a few days inside a large village fortified with three palisades (near the present Sill Creek, Wisconsin), the Foxes capitulated.
The French felt that they had better keep the Foxes under surveillance, and so in 1717 they built Fort La Baie and a small garrison was sent to Chagouamigon (near Ashland, Wisconsin). Meanwhile, a sergeant and some ten soldiers were sent to Fort Saint-Louis de Pimitcouy (near Utica, Illinois). Since these forts ran along the Mississippi, it was decided to annex the "Illinois country" to Louisiana. Although the people of Illinois had originally come from the banks of the St. Lawrence, this decision made geographic sense and helped to improve the defence of the region. The few Canadian soldiers posted there were relieved by a detachment of troops from Louisiana, including about 50 soldiers under an officer of Canadian origin, Pierre Dugué de Boisbriant. Having left New Orleans, these men arrived in Kaskaskia in late 1718 and in 1720 built Fort Chartres on the banks of the Mississippi. It became the administrative centre of upper Louisiana, which continued to be called "the Illinois." Thereafter, garrisons from Louisiana acted in concert with Canadian detachments in the small forts of the Northwest.
That same year, at the time of the war of the Quadruple Alliance against Spain, the system of alliances with various Amerindian nations took an unexpected turn in favour of the French. Members of the Otos and Panis tribes annihilated a Spanish military expedition from Santa Fe, New Mexico as it approached the Illinois. It was led by Villasur, who hoped to oust French traders from the prairies. This setback for the Spanish made it easier for the French to build a few forts with small garrisons west of the Mississippi, of which Fort Cavagnal (near present-day Leavenworth, Kansas) was the farthest west. Thanks to this network of forts, the French now enjoyed a certain dominance in the central plains.