in a condition to send partys to the two ferrys of Caho and Caskaskias, considering the disposition of the Indians, a good deal of cattle and some grain has been carried off, and if the gentlest methods are not used with those that stay, who are the best, we shall loose them too; 4
The "gentlest methods" that Stirling mentioned in his letter to Gage in- cluded being overcharged by the few French who had something to sell and ac- cepting it as a temporary condition, that is to say until British merchants from the East could catch up to their outpost. Purchases either for the king's ware- house or by individual troopers were always an easy source of disputes, so it was urgent for Stirling to establish some system for the hearing of common griev- ances.
During the first days in Fort de Chartres, Stirling found two French offi- cials who had remained behind. One was a judge, attorney general and guardian of the king's warehouse, and the other was a clerk and notary public, a position of great importance within the French laws.5 Unfortunately for Stirling, these two officials left also, thus eradicating the last representation of organized civil government. After talking to various members of the community, Stirling ap- pointed a judge named Legrange "to decide all disputes according to the Law and Customs of the country," with the right for plaintiff appeal to the British commandant.6 In addition, Stirling maintained in their positions the captains of militia who had been elected in each parish. The role of these captains was quite important since they held powers in their respective communities far beyond the duty to call the muster role to active service. As Royal Commissioner, a position existing under the French régime, Stirling appointed one of his own officers, Lieutenant James Rumsey.
On December 2, Captain Stirling's functions as commandant ended with the arrival of Major Farmer, who reached Fort de Chartres from Mobile with a detachment of the 34th Regiment of Foot after an incredible eight-month march. It was none too soon. Sterling's hundred men were hard put to carry out normal military duties much less patrol the area for French traders from New Orleans who seemed to be doing business as usual with the Indians. The state of the sup- plies, however, had not improved, and the arrival of additional men who carried little more than for themselves only added to the problem. Major Farmer esti- mated that even with rationing flour, the British garrison would have barely enough to hold out until the following July. Obviously, the prospect of doing business with the British was less attractive to the French than sending their foodstuffs clandestinely across or down river when not moving out themselves. One of Stirling's officers, Lieutenant Fraser, in a report included in a dispatch to General Gage, observed that the French leave: