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Table of Contents > Chapter 1

The Loop (continued)

Frontier life was often dull, and Fort Dearborn stood way beyond the area of white settlement. Whiskey flowed freely between the traders and Indians, and this became a bone of contention between the fort and the settlement (See Fig. 1). In 1812 Captain Whistler and his officers were removed from the post because of feud between the Kinzie and Whistler families over whiskey and the Indian trade. Political influence was a factor even at this early date in Chicago's history. Captain Nathan Heald was sent to replace Whistle as commander of Fort Dearborn.

War clouds were gathering in the east as the British navy continued to disregard American maritime rights. Meanwhile, Tecumseh, the great Shawnee Indian chief, was gaining influence all over the old Northwest Territory. Tecumseh watched and waited as war broke out between the United States and Great Britain in June of 1812. When the American invasion of Canada failed and Fort Michilimackinac fell to the British army, thus threatening Detroit, Tecumseh sent out word that the Americans could be driven back to the Atlantic Ocean.

While the American forces in the West were retreating towards Detroit, Captain Heald was ordered to abandon Fort Dearborn and march with the settlers to aid in the defense of Detroit. On August 15, 1812 Heald led a small column of regular troops, militia, women, and children out of the fort and south along the lakefront. Indian braves attacked the column near what is today the intersection of 18th Street and Calumet Avenue. Thirty-nine men, among them Captain William Wells, two women, and twelve children were killed, score were wounded, and others were captured. American control of Chicago had ended after nine short years. The U.S. Army did not return until July 4, 1816 to rebuild Fort Dearborn at its old location near the mouth of the Chicago River.

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Figure 1: Equestrian statues of Indians.  »

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