The Names of Fort de Chartres

Fort de Chartres Panorama

Fort de Chartres Panorama

After having just returned home from our annual trip to Fort Chartres, it’s growing closer to the 250th anniversary of the 42nd’s 1765 expedition to take possession of the fort.

Each year during the opening ceremonies, Drum Major Malcolm Duncan comments

The British, not wanting to own a fort named after the King of France’s brother, renamed the Fort “Cavendish”.

Chartres Front Gate

At what point did this change occur? Did it stick? Why “Cavendish”?

It is clear from communications from the Fort back to the British leadership, that the Fort was  renamed “Cavendish” for some period of time, in honor of Lord Frederick Cavendish, a British officer and politician. After serving as a brigadier general under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick in the European theater of the 7 years war, during the period of the relief of Fort Chartres, he was a member of Parliament and most importantly, the Colonel of the 34th Regiment of Foot , a regiment posted to Florida, Mobile, and Louisiana following the French and Indian War.

The 34th of Foot

Headquartered in Mobile, the 34th Regiment of Foot was tasked since the peace in 1763 with taking possession of Fort Chartres. After dealing with some more pressing concerns along the Gulf coast, the 34th turned its attention to the north and Fort Chartres.

In March of 1764, (still during Pontiac’s Rebellion)  Major Arthur Loftus and the 22nd of Foot traveled up the Mississippi to Chartres, only to be beaten back by Indian attacks, an embarrassing retreat.

In  May of 1765, Major Robert Farmar himself and the 34th travelled very slowly up the Mississippi, this time greasing the rails of the trip (whereas Loftus had not) by bringing Indian presents. In August, the 34th arrived in Natchez, MS, and when the expedition passed the Arkansas river, they were overtaken by French traders on the way to Chartres. Farmar arranged for one of the French to send back provisions, as the expedition had nearly run out!

Major Robert Farmar

When provisions from Chartres reached Farmar at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi in November, he learned that Stirling and the 42nd had come down the Ohio and taken Chartres in October.

Farmar took command of Chartres, and, now relieved by the 34th, the 42nd travelled to New Orleans in the winter of 1765. Were it not for the difficulties coming up from Mobile, the 42nd would haver have travelled to the Illinois on the Stirling expedition, and history of the Midwest and our regiment would have been quite different.

Dispatches from the Illinois Country

From the time that Stirling and the 42nd took possession of the Fort, there were many communications between the Fort and General Gage, the commander in North America, as well as between other individuals such as Croghan; Stuart, the Superintendant of Indian Affairs; the supply company Baynton, Wharton, and Morgan, Viscount Barrington in London; Major Farmar and his successor in command at Chartres John Reed; among others.

  • Chartres: Eddington to ???, October 17, 1765
  • Chartres: Stirling to Gage, October 18, 1765
  • Chartres: Croghan to B. Franklin, December 12, 1765
  • Chartres: Stirling to Gage, December 15, 1765
  • Cavendish: Major Farmar ‘s Letter to [Superintendant of Indian Affairs] Stuart dated Fort Cavendish Illinois 16th Decr 1765.
  • Chartres: Stuart to the Lords of Trade, July 10, 1766
  • Chartres: Gage to Conway, January 16, 1766
  • Cavendish: Proclamation of Farmar to the residents of the Illinois country, February 13, 1766
  • Cavendish: Receipt of Farmar, March 4, 1766
  • Chartres: Baynton, Wharton, and Morgan to Gage, March 7, 1766
  • Chartres: Gage to Johnson, March 9, 1766
  • Chartres: Barrington to Conway, March 17, 1766
  • Cavendish: Farmar to Barrington (actually Gage), March 19, 1766
  • Chartres: Gage to Conway, March 28, 1766
  • Chartres: Johnson to Gage, April 4, 1766
  • Chartres: Gage to Croghan, April 16, 1766
  • Chartres: Barrington’s Plan for the West, May 10, 1766
  • Chartres: Gordon’s Journal, May 8, 1766-December 6, 1766
  • Chartres: Baynton to his Daughter, Mary Morgan, July 11, 1766
  • Chartres: Gage to Conway, July 15, 1766
  • Chartres: Clarkson ‘s Diary, August 6, 1766-April 16, 1767
  • Chartres: Receipt of Baynton, Wharton, and Morgan, August 22, 1766
  • Chartres: Deed of a House by Smallman to Cole, September 8, 1766 (signed by John Reed, Farmar’s successor in the 34th)
  • Chartres: Croghan to Johnson, September 10, 1766
  • Chartres: Gage to Reed, 1766
  • Chartres: Indian Expenditures, September 25, 1766 (Edward Cole, Commissary for Indian Affairs in Illinois)
  • Chartres: Cole to Van Schaack, November 15, 1766
  • Chartres: Johnson to Gage, January 2, 1767
  • Chartres: Gage to Johnson, January 19, 1767
  • Chartres: Croghan to B. Franklin, January 27, 1767
  • Cavendish: Kirkwood’s diary [5], says that Farmar renamed the Fort Cavendish, “by which it has been since known”.

It is clear that the overwhelming majority of those concerned with the occupation of the Illinois country continued to refer to the Fort as Chartres – at a rate of over 5 to 1! 4 of the 5 uses of “Cavendish” were from the hand of Major Farmar, and the 5th from a private soldier in the 42nd who was present when Farmar renamed it.

McCulloch [5] and Rea [6] both assert that Stirling was a little put off by Farmar’s attempt to rename the Fort – as he was the first senior officer to occupy the post and earned that privilege. Further, they note that Stirling’s preference would have been to rename the Fort after Gage himself!

I should note that that I’ve not seen the reference to “Fort Gage”  in a primary source with my own eyes.

Other Sources

  • Chartres: Map: Course of the river Mississippi, from the Balise to Fort Chartres; taken on an expedition to the Illinois, in the latter end of the year 1765. By Lieut. Ross of the 34th regiment
  • Cavendish: A draught of the river Missisippi. From the Balise to Fort Cavendish : Taken in the months of June, July, August, September, October, and November on a passage to the Illinois with his majesty’s Thirty fourth Regiment in the year 1765 / by Philip Pittman lieutenant of the 15 [sic] th Regiment
  • Chartres: Philip Pittman’s The present state of the European settlements on the Mississippi: with a geographical description of that river : illustrated by plans and draughts   – published in 1770, describes “Fort Chartres” on p. 45. The book also includes the published version of his map above, now referring to “Chartres” rather than “Cavendish”.

The Verdict

It’s clear that in late 1765, Major Farmar of the 34th did indeed rename Fort Chartres to “Cavendish” in honor of his regiment’s colonel – but it appears to not have stuck past Farmar’s own presence in Illinois. In fact, letters from Lt. Col. Reed (Farmar’s superior officer in the 34th, and the next commandant of Chartres after Farmar returned to Mobile) use “Chartres” – as did the rest of the world.


[1] Alvord, Clarence Walworth: The critical period, 1763-1765, Volume 10 (Springfield, 1915)
[2] Alvord, Clarence Walworth: The New Regime, 1765-1767 (Springfield, 1916)
[3] Carter, Clarence E: Documents Relating to the Occupation of the Illinois Country by the British (Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Library for the year 1907, Illinois, Volume 12, 1)
[4] Carroon, Robert G.: Broadswords and bayonets : the journals of the expedition under the command of Captain Thomas Stirling of the 42nd Regiment of Foot, Royal Highland Regiment (the Black Watch) to occupy Fort Chartres in the Illinois Country, August 1765 to January 1766 (Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Illinois, 1984)
[5] McCulloch, Ian Macpherson: Through So Many Dangers: The Memoirs and Adventures of Robert Kirk, Late of the Royal Highland Regiment (Purple Mountain Press, 2004)
[6] Robert Right Rea: Major Robert Farmar of Mobile

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