Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

History

Date of Defense

6-23-2010

Graduate Advisor

J. Frederick Fausz

Committee

J. Frederick Fausz

Peter Acsay

Robert J. Moore, Jr.

Abstract

“Fighting for Family” exposes an often overlooked and incomplete history behind the Battle of St. Louis in 1780, and the retaliatory raids on Fort St. Joseph in 1780-1781. Scholars have long interpreted these events as minor skirmishes of the American Revolution, or focused on Spain’s motives in trying to lay claim to the Great Lakes in postwar treaty negotiations. However, this thesis adds a crucial new perspective regarding those events. Utilizing genealogical records and personal correspondences, “Fighting for Family” argues that the vitality of French kin networks in the Illinois Country, which included members of key Indian nations, played a more compelling role than previously acknowledged. The French familial ties between the inhabitants of the Mississippi River Valley and Lake Michigan region defied British policies, eroded their trade, confounded their military maneuvers, and ultimately ruined British efforts to dominate the West in the late stages of the American Revolution. Drawing on connections between family members around Fort St. Joseph and those in St. Louis, “Fighting for Family” proves that the widely-dispersed residents of French descent–people without a country–used family ties to impact political events on their frontier in the 1780s.

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