The French commandant in Illinois had orders to withdraw all garrisons from the province except for a small detachment that an officer would maintain at Fort de Chartres until the arrival of the British troops. Between the French who left the area for the glimmer of New Orleans and those who went across the river to create the future Saint Louis, Nouvelle Chartres where forty families had lived at the close of the war, was now deserted. In Prairie du Rocher, twenty-five families had remained; in Cahokia, sixty. In Kaskaskia, records show about 600 people, but already the village of Sainte Geneviève, directly across the river counted seventy families.
On October 9 1765, Captain Stirling and 100 men of the 42nd Regiment of Foot - the Black Watch Regiment - reached Fort de Chartres after a long jour- ney. The next day, the French commandant officially handed over the fort, bringing to an end the last remnant of French control in Illinois.
From the very first day of his command over Illinois, Captain Stirling was confronted with difficult circumstances: 1) food supplies were very short; 2) all local administrative and judicial personnel had disappeared; 3) the exit of the French continued; and 4) the overt hostility of the Indians.
Aside from the article of the Treaty of Paris concerning the cessation of Il- linois to the English and the guarantees granted to the Canadian population, Stir- ling's general guideline, which served as his only source of political instructions as well, was the text of General Gage's "Proclamation to His Majesty's New Sub- jects." When Stirling went to Kaskaskia a week after his arrival, he found out that this was not sufficient to deal with immediate demands: there the French presented him with a petition protesting the eighteen months given them to de- cide either to take an oath to the British crown or leave. Eighteen months from the date of General Gage's proclamation (December 1764), the petition argued, meant that they would have to make up their minds on the spot. They wanted another eighteen months. Stirling's initial reaction was to refuse since his mis- sion was to carry out measures, not to take them. Nevertheless, realizing that unless some kind of compromise were not immediately devised, the French population would leave en masse within a few days, he offered them the possi- bility of taking a temporary oath with a final decision no later than March 1766, which they accepted. Months later, General Gage read and approved the report. Thus was inaugurated in Illinois a policy of makeshift legal and administrative decisions, promulgated and implemented by British line officers.
When Stirling left Kaskaskia to return to Fort de Chartres, he had hoped that few people would cross the river but as he wrote shortly after:
I have found since that, that was only a blind, for many of them drove off their cattle in the night and carried off their Ef- fects and grain, which I did everything to prevent but I was not