Fort Wilkinsonville (1801-1802) - A U.S. Army fort/cantonment established in 1801 near present day Metropolis, Pulaski County, Illinois. Named Fort Wilkinson after General James Wilkinson. Abandoned in 1802. Also known as Cantonment Wilkinsonville and Cantonment Wilkinson.
History of Fort Wilkinson
Established by Colonel David Strong in January 1801 at Metcalf landing on the lower Ohio River at the head of the Grand Chain. The post was a large open plan fortification with no defensive structures only sentries guarded the perimeter. At its peak in the summer of 1801 it housed some 1,500 troops plus the civilian camp followers (laundresses, families and sutlers).
The post overlooked the Ohio River at the head of the Grand Chain, a shallow point where large rocks in the river made navigation difficult. This point was also located at a large sweeping bend in the river that allowed a grand view in both directions.
The post itself is described as a number of log huts (perhaps 200-300 in number) laid out as a small post with regular streets and support buildings including quartermaster buildings, hospital, bakery, powder magazine and the commanding officer’s quarters.
On 14 Nov 1801 Lewis and Clark deliberately passed the fort on the far side of the river, not stopping. They were worried about the motives of General Wilkinson who was later determined to be in the pay of the Spanish Government.
The spot proved to be unhealthy and in the summer of 1801 an epidemic swept the post killing some 70 troops. The post commander, Colonel Strong also died during this period and was succeeded in command by Major Jonathan Williams. Colonel Strong and the 70 epidemic victims were buried in the post cemetery, the location of which is now unknown. The majority of the troops were temporarily moved to other locations and only about half of them returned to the post in the fall.
The post seems to have been abandoned about April 1802 and some of the abandoned structures later became the small community of Wilkinsonville. Many of the structures may have been burned down by Cherokee who occupied the site for a time.
Archeological remains only in Pulaski County, Illinois. The actual site is not marked. One hard to find marker exists along Hwy 37. The map point is approximate and not accurate.