This blog includes updates from the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project sponsored by Western Michigan University in partnership with the City of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Support the Fort, Inc. and other community groups. The Project is dedicated to archaeological research, education, community service learning, and intensive public outreach. The Principal investigator of the Project is Dr. Michael Nassaney.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Hello everyone, my name is Devon and I am another student in
the Anthropology in the Community course held by Dr. Michael Nassaney at
Western Michigan University. This semester has been a new experience for me. My
minor in anthropology has never taken me to the lengths that this course has.
It has been an informative semester and awesome experience for me to be a part
of this research into the forts of the Great Lakes region. I never knew much
about the French influence in North America, nonetheless how prominent and
influential the forts they built were to the region.
My topic and contribution to this project was the
architecture of military structures. The forts of New France and the Great
Lakes region were multi-purpose structures that were essential to the purpose
of the French Fur Trade also having military functions. Fort design, which is
highlighted by my partner Joe Puntasecca’s post on fortifications, was
essential to the military function of these forts. The fortified wall and
bastion system was pivotal in the defense of these French posts.
Another defining military feature of the forts were the
barracks that housed a garrison of soldiers. Based on my research, the amount of
soldiers found at forts varied from site to site and numbers estimate anywhere
from 20 soldiers, which we know was the approximate number housed at Fort St.
Joseph, to upwards of hundreds. My research on military structures brought me
to information on Fort de Chartres located in Illinois. Fort de Chartres has
been described as one of the more prominent military forts in New France and
was a great reference point for me to be able to divulge this topic. The
barracks here are described as being built in rows and side by side, with each
row measuring approximately 128 ft. long. Officers and soldiers had separate
rooms measuring 22’X22’ with small passages between them. The barracks also
contained lofts used for storage of weapons and supplies.
reconstruction at Ft. Massac in Illinois
Storage of gun powder used for artillery was stored in a
powder magazine. The powder magazine at Fort de Chartres measured 38’ long and
13’ high. Its walls are estimated to be 4’ thick and was rounded at the top to
support an arched vault. The floor was made of stone that sat below the surface
of the ground and cement was used to cover the walls. It was important that
this structure be heavily built in order to secure the essential goods of
defense from any sort of attack. The powder magazine was typically placed on
the opposite side of the fort away from the barracks and commanders house, for
reasons of safety.
Magazine at Ft. Massac (reconstruction)
Archaeological excavations at Fort St. Joseph have yet to
find evidence of these military structures. We know that Fort St. Joseph was
probably not as large as Fort de Chartres, but by using information found at
other French forts across the area, we are given a great reference point as to
what may have existed at the fort in Niles. As I said it has been an exciting
and unique opportunity to be a part of this project and add to the workings of
this amazing project that has brought so much pride and excitement to the city
of Niles, Michigan.