History of Illinois

Native American History of Illinois

Little is known about the Pre-Columbian Native American history of Illinois. For reasons unknown to historians, this culture vanished in the 1400s. The Illiniwek Federation was the next major power in the area we now call Illinois. When French explorers visited the area in the 17th century, they interpreted this as "Illinois." This is how the state got its name. In fact, the discovery of Illinois by French explorer Louis Joliet was an important part of Illinois history. As a result of his explorations, Illinois became part of the French Empire until 1763. The City of Joliet Illinois was named after this French explorer.

Illinois History under French and British Rule

The next important period in the history of Illinois happened in 1763, when, as a result of the French and Indian War and the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain obtained control of the region. The British maintained control of what is now Illinois until 1778 when the next significant turning point in the history of Illinois occurred. That year, George Rogers Clark, a Revolutionary War hero, and his band of American colonists captured Fort Kaskaskia. As a result, Illinois country became a possession of Virginia.

State of Illinois History under American Rule

The next turning point in Illinois history happened in 1787 when it joined the Northwest Territory under the government of the United States. Kaskaskia became Illinois' first capitol in 1818. However, two years later, the seat of Illinois government was moved to Vandalia. Then, in 1839, a young legislator named Abraham Lincoln advocated moving the state capitol to Springfield. The Capitol building in modern day Springfield today dates back to 1868, when ground was broken for its construction. In 1988, Springfield Illinois celebrated the centennial of the completion of the Statehouse.

State of Illinois History in the Civil War

Perhaps the most dramatic turning point in the history of the State of Illinois happened in 1861, when Abraham Lincoln left his Springfield home to become President of the United States. Unfortunately, Southern states reacted to the election of a Republican president by seceding from the Union. As a result, the country descended into Civil War.

Although no battles were fought on the soil of Illinois, the state sent over 130,000 men to war. The residents of the southern Illinois counties provided nearly 50% more than their required quota. Illinois troops were organized in units linked to their state and locality, as opposed to the regular Army. The 45th Illinois from Galena was known as the "Lead Mine Regiment." The 34th Illinois, from Dixon was called the "Rock River Rifles." Some troops organized themselves in outfits comprised of specific ethnic groups or occupations. Illinois sent regiments of Germans, Irish, Scots and Jews. Illinois military units made up of railroad men, schoolteachers and ministers joined a "Temperance Regiment" in service.

Today, the history of Illinois is evident in many of the attractions in the state's towns and cities. An Illinois vacation is not only enjoyable. it can be an educational experience.

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