The site originally consisted of a high sand mound, with freshwater springs found along the marshy waterfront of the Detroit River. The first, Fort Detroit, was built by the French in 1701.This fort, constructed shortly after Cadillac landed, was manned by the French until it was surrendered to the British in 1760 during the French and Indian War.
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When Cadillac founded Fort Detroit, he also purportedly made arrangements with the local Potawatomi people to set up a small village at the site of Fort Wayne for purposes of trading; this was occupied and thriving by 1710.
The opening shots of the War of 1812 were fired in the vicinity of the fort's future site, the "sand hill at Springwells".
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The second fort, Fort Lernoult, was built by the British a few years later, and was manned by the British until 1796.