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Fort Belle Fontaine
Cantonment Belle Fontaine
Fort Bellfontaine.jpg
Resort ruins in March 2005
Location Fort Belle Fontaine County Park
St. Louis County, Missouri
Built August 10, 1805
(215 years ago)
 (1805-08-10)
NRHP reference No. 16000031
Added to NRHP February 23, 2016

Fort Belle Fontaine (formerly known as Cantonment Belle Fontaine) is a former U.S. military base located in St. Louis County, Missouri, across the Mississippi and Missouri rivers from Alton, Illinois. The fort was the first U.S. military installation west of the Mississippi, in the newly acquired Louisiana Territory, and served as a starting point for many expeditions to the American West.

History

Upper Mississippi 1812
The Upper Mississippi River during the War of 1812. 1: Fort Belle Fontaine U.S. headquarters; 2: Fort Osage, abandoned 1813; 3: Fort Madison, defeated 1813; 4: Fort Shelby, defeated 1814; 5: Battle of Rock Island Rapids, July 1814 and the Battle of Credit Island, Sept. 1814; 6: Fort Johnson, abandoned 1814; 7: Fort Cap au Gris and the Battle of the Sink Hole, May 1815.

Located on the south bank of the Missouri River, in present-day Missouri, Fort Belle Fontaine was first a Spanish military post. After the Louisiana Purchase, by a treaty made between the United States Government, signed by William H. Harrison and representatives of the Native American Sac and Fox tribes (on November 3, 1804), the fort became a fur trading post of the United States Government. Rudolf Tiller served as factor and Colonel Thomas Hunt served as the military commander.

The trading post was discontinued after 1808, and from 1809 to 1826 the facility served as a United States military fort. During that time period, from about 1809 to 1815, the fort served as the headquarters of the Department of Louisiana, and was the regional Army headquarters during the War of 1812. Its sister forts were Fort Osage along the Missouri near modern Kansas City, which controlled trade with western Indians; and Fort Madison in what is now Iowa, which controlled trade of the Upper Mississippi.

Preservation

Part of the site of the fort is preserved as the Fort Belle Fontaine County Park, a unit of the park system of St. Louis County, Missouri. An archaeological site associated with the fort was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

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