There was never on the "Prairie des Chiens" --- never within what are now the boundaries of Crawford county --- a French military post of any kind; --- never a stockade or fortification built by the French, or while France held dominion over this region, at what is now Prairie du Chien; nor were French soldiers ever stationed here; no official French document has ever been discovered giving any account of a fort here, no traveler visiting the "prairie" during French domination in the northwest (and there were a number of them) mentions any fortification; no one has placed on record that he has been told that such was the fact by one who had seen anything like a French military post here. How then does it come to pass that writers are so emphatic in asserting that there was once a French fort on the "prairie?"
A Wisconsin historical writer of marked ability says:
"The exact time at which a military post was established at Prairie du Chien, has been the subject of much speculation, some putting it as late as 1775, while it is stated in a report of a committee of Congress, to have occurred in 1755, which was the year following the reconciliation of the French and Sacs and Foxes. The latter date may be the correct one, as the French surrendered Canada to the English in 1760; but it is very evident that there must have been a post at a much earlier date, at or near the prairie. The evidence of this early occupation is found in the official documents of the taking possession of the Mississippi valley in the name of the French King, by 'Nicholas Perrot, commanding at the post of the Naudouesioux' at the post of St. Anthony, May 8, 1689, to which documents, among the names of witnesses, was 'Mons De Borie-Guillot, commanding the French in the neighborhood of Ouiskonche, [Wisconsin] on the Mississippi.' No more suitable place could have been selected for a military post than Prairie du Chien, and from all the information thus far obtained, its location must be conceded as an established fact. Judge Geo. Gale, in his work on the Upper Mississippi says, 'We may safely infer that the country about Prairie du Chien was occupied as a French post at least as early as April 20, 1689, and possibly the previous fall.'"
It is now well known that the French were, in 1689, "on the Mississippi," it is equally well known that their post was many miles above what is now the city of Prairie du Chien. They were commanded by Mons. De Borie-Guillot. It is stated to have been "in the neighborhood" of the Wisconsin river. Any one acquainted with early French documents knows that "in the neighborhood" are words in them of extremely doubtful import as to distance; places hundreds of miles away being put down frequently as being "in the neighborhood." The writer cited also says that "it is stated in a report of a committee of Congress [that the building of the French Fort] occurred in 1775." What is here referred to is not "the report of a committee of Congress," but of one to Congress, in 1821, "concerning the land titles at Prairie des Chiens," given in full in this history in the chapter on private land claims. What that report says is this: 'It is believed that not many years after its first discovery [i. e. the first discovery of the Upper Mississippi] in 1673, by the French, a permanent establishment was made by them at the Prairie des Chiens. Vestiges of an old and a strong French Fort are still discernable there, although it is stated to have been destroyed so early as in the first years of the Revolutionary War." It will be noticed that the year 1775 is not mentioned by the commissioners. An explanation of the "vestiges of an old and a strong French Fort" will hereafter be given.
The writer previously cited, having, "as a base of operations," the report from which the extract just given is taken, goes on to say:
"In the year 1755 the government of France established a permanent military post near the mouth of the Wisconsin, in consequence of which a number of French families settled in that vicinity, and established the village of Prairie du Chien. The fort near the Wisconsin, established in 1689, had evidently been abandoned sometime previous. By the treaty of Versailles in 1763, the village and fort followed the condition of the Canadas, and the Illinois country, as it was called, passed to the Crown of England. In 1783 the events of the American Revolution again changed their condition, and June 1st, 1796, the village and fort formally surrendered to the United States."
Now, this reads like veritable history; but we have already seen that it has no foundation in fact. But, before discussing further the matter at issue it is necessary to introduce the journals of two travelers both of the name of Long. The first is that of Capt. J. Long:
"In the month of June, 1780, news was brought [to Mackinaw] from the Mississippi, that the Indian traders had deposited their furs at La Prairie des Chiens, or Dogs' Field, (where there is a town of considerable note, built after the Indian manner) under the care of Mons. Longlad [Langlade], the king's interpreter; and that the Americans were in great force at the Illinois, a town inhabited by different Nations, at the back of the Kentucky State, under the Spanish government, who have a fort on the opposite shore commanded by an officer and about twelve men, to prevent illicit trade.
"The commanding officer at Michillimackinac [Mackinaw], asked me to accompany a party of Indians and Canadians to the Mississippi, which I consented to with the utmost cheerfulness. We left the post with thirty-six southern Indians, of the Attigaumies [Fox Indians] and Sioux Nations, and twenty Canadians, in nine large birch canoes, laden with Indian presents. After a march of three days I was taken ill, which I attributed to hard living in the Nipegon country; considering, however, the urgency of the business, and that there was not any one of the party capable of acting as interpreter, I struggled with my indisposition; apprehending, also, that if I could not pursue the journey, I should be exposed to great inconveniences; and therefore I increased my endeavours, determined to risk my life at all hazards.
"The fourth day we encamped at Lac les Puans [Winnebago Lake], so called, I apprehend, from the Indians who reside on the banks being naturally filthy; here we got plenty of deer and bears, Indian corn, melons and other fruit. The southern Indians have more villages, and are better civilized than the northern, the climate being warm, and nature more prolific, which enables them to raise the fruits of the earth without much labor. Their houses are covered with birch bark, and decorated with bows and arrows, and weapons of war. Their beds are bark and matts made of rushes.
"We pursued our voyage to Ouisconsin [Wisconsin], a fine river, with a strong current for about sixty leagues, which our canoes ran down in a day and a half; and upon which we saw an immense quantity of ducks, geese and other fowl. On this river we were obliged to unload our canoes, in order to transport our goods across the portage, about two miles in length. We encamped on the banks, and intended setting off at break of day, but one of the Indians was bitten by a rattlesnake, which Mr. Adair calls the bright inhabitant of the woods, and which had fourteen rattles.
"Mr. Beatty relates that as he was preaching to the Indians and others, at a small house near Juniata river, a rattlesnake crept into the room but was happily discovered and killed; and before the people could well recover themselves, a snake of another kind was discovered among the assembly, which was also killed without any other detriment than disturbing the congregation, which surprised him very much, as it was a matter of astonishment how these reptiles could crawl into the house without being offended by some one, and which always excites them to bite.
"The Indians say that when a woman is in labor, holding the tail of a rattlesnake in her hand, and shaking the rattles, assists her delivery. It is always observable that the Indians take out the bag which contains the poison of this venomous reptile, and carry it alive in their medicine box when they go to war.
"This unfortunate accident retarded our journey till the unhappy sufferer relieved himself by cutting out the wounded part from the calf of his leg, and applying salt and gunpowder, and binding it up with the leaves of the red willow tree; he was soon able to proceed, bearing the pain with that fortitude for which the savages are so eminently distinguished.
"At the close of the next day we encamped near the river, and it rained very hard; the Indians made some bark huts. One of them walking some distance in the woods, discovered a small log house, in which he found a white man, with his arms cut off, lying on his back. We conjectured he had been settled at the spot, and killed by a bad Indian, which must have happened very recently, as he was not putrid. Before our departure we buried him.
"The next day we arrived at the forks of the Mississippi, where were 200 Indians of the Nation of the Renards or Foxes, on horseback, armed with spears, bows and arrows. They did not seem pleased with our appearance, which Warbisbar, the chief of our band, told me. Just before we landed they dismounted, and surveyed us. The Sioux asked me if I was afraid. I told them I had seen a greater number of savages before, and more wild than any of the southern Indians. Warbisbar gave orders to strike ashore. As soon as we landed, the Renards took our Indians by the hand, and invited them into their camp. In the space of an hour they prepared a feast, which consisted of five Indian dogs, bear, beaver, deer, mountain cat, and raccoon, boiled in bear's grease, and mixed with huckleberries. After the repast, the Indians danced and sung. A council was then held, when the chief of the Renards addressed Warbisbar to this effect: 'Brothers, we are happy to see you; we have no bad heart against you; although we are not the same Nation by language, our hearts are the same; we are all Indians, and are happy to hear our great Father has pity on us, and sends us wherewithal to cover us, and enable us to hunt.'
"To which Warbisbar made answer: 'It is true, my children, our great Father has sent me this way to take the skins and furs that are in the Dog's Field, under Capt. Longlad's charge, least the Great Knives, (meaning the Americans) should plunder them. I am come with the white man (meaning me) to give you wherewithal to cover you, and ammunition to hunt.'
"When the speech was finished, we immediately distributed the presents, got our canoes into the water, and left the Renards in the most friendly manner. After seven days' journey we arrived at La Prairie des Chiens, where we found the merchants' peltry, in packs, in a log house, guarded by Capt. Longlad [Langlade], and some Indians, who were rejoiced to see us. After resting sometime, we took about 300 packs of the best skins, and filled the canoes. Sixty more which remained, were burned, to prevent the enemy from taking them, having ourselves no room to stow any more, and proceed on our journey back to Michillimackinac. About five days after our departure, we were informed that the Americans came to attack us, but to their extreme mortification we were out of their reach. Seventeen days after leaving La Prairie des Chiens, we arrived at Lac les Puans, where we found a party of Indians encamped. The next day we embarked, and arrived at Michillimackinac, after an absence of eighty days. Soon after my return, I waited on the commanding officer, expecting payment for my services, but was referred for satisfaction to the Indian traders, from whom I never received any compensation."
It may be here remarked that the current tradition among the French Canadian inhabitants at Prairie des Chiens, as to a French fort having once been in existence on the "prairie" was supplemented with another tradition that it was burned in the second year of the Revolutionary War. Now this "second year," to the inhabitants, was the year 1780; that is, to the French and Canadians, but more especially to the Indians of the upper lakes; for, not until 1779, had the contest between the mother country and the colonies made much if any impression, either at Mackinaw or Green Bay. The reader should here bear in mind that it was in 1780 that the sixty packs of furs were burned, and doubtless the log house with them; as the Americans were hourly expected from below, and did actually arrive in five days from that time, to attack the place.
The other journal of which mention has been made, is that of Maj. S. H. Long, who, in 1817 made a tour to the portage of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers; returned to Prairie du Chien and made a voyage to the Falls of St. Anthony, in a six-oared skiff, accompanied by a Mr. Hempstead as interpreter, and by two young men named King and Gun, grandsons of Capt. Jonathan Carver, who were going up to the Sauteurs to establish their claim to lands granted by those tribes to their grandfather. The day after his arrival (July 23d,) he examined the country to find a location better adapted for a post than the one then in use, but did not succeed. While here he made excursions in the surrounding country, and refers to the remains of ancient earthworks above the mouth of the Wisconsin, more numerous and of greater extent than had heretofore been noticed.
The following is his description of the ancient mounds --- prehistoric earth works:
"The remains of ancient works, constructed probably for military purposes, were found more numerous and of greater extent on the highlands, just above the mouth of the Wisconsin, than any of which a description has been made public, or that have as yet been discovered in the western country. There the parapets and mounds were found connected in one series of works. Whenever there was an angle in the principal lines, a mound of the largest size was erected at the angle; the parapets were terminated by mounds at each extremity, and also at the gateways. No ditch was observed on either side of the parapet. In many places the lines were composed of parapets and mounds in conjunction, the mounds being arranged along the parapets at their usual distance from each other, and operating as flank defences to the lines.
"The Indians in the vicinity of Prairie du Chien can give no account of these ancient works, and their only mode of explaining their existence is by supposing that the country was inhabited at a period anterior to the most remote traditions, by a race of white men similar to those of European origin, and that they were cut off by their fore-fathers. It is said that tomahawks of brass and other metals, different from those in use among the present Indians, have been found under the surface of the ground, [Keating.] and stories are told of gigantic skeletons being often disinterred in the neighborhood. Mr. Brisbois, who has been for a long time a resident of Prairie du Chien, informs me that he saw the skeletons of eight persons that were found in digging a cellar near his house, lying side by side. They were of gigantic size, measuring about eight feet from head to foot. He added, that he took a leg bone of one of them, and placed it by the side of his own leg, in order to compare the length of the two, the bone of the skeleton extended six inches above his knee. None of these bones could be preserved, as they crumbled to dust soon after they were exposed to the atmosphere." 1
What bearing this extract from the journal of Maj. Long has upon the subject of the "Old French Fort" will be discerned by a careful consideration of the following from Isaac Lee, the agent appointed to receive claims to land at "Prairie des Chiens" in 1820:
"The remains of what is commonly called the 'Old French Fort' are yet  very distinguishable. Though capacious and apparently strong, it was probably calculated for defense against musketry and small arms only. None can recollect the time of the erection of the fort --- it was far beyond the memory of the oldest; nor can the time of its erection be determined by any evidence to be obtained. Some difference of opinion seems to exist there [at Prairie des Chiens] as to the question whether it was originally built by the French or by the Spanish government. It is evidently very ancient."
That "the remains of ancient works, constructed probably for military purposes," as mentioned by Maj. S. H. Long, had (in the case of one of them), been used for the purpose of erecting upon it the log house described by Capt. J. Long, seems extremely probable. The burning of this log house "in the second year of the Revolutionary War" --- in reality in 1780 --- accounts for the tradition as to the French Fort having been then burned; and "evidently very ancient" earthworks seen by Isaac Lee were manifestly one of the series of prehistoric earthworks first described by Maj. Long.
Concerning the "French Fort," the following is to be found in the "Illustrated Historical Atlas of Wisconsin," published in 1878:
"With regard to the establishment of a French post or fort at the prairie previous to the beginning of the present settlement in 1783, the only account in contemporaneous records, is that by Lieut. Long, of the trading establishment burned in 1780. The current supposition of something earlier and more important, is founded in a misconstruction of the local tradition preserved among the early inhabitants of the place, as embodied in the testimony before Isaac Lee, in 1820, and that gentleman's report in relation to the same.
The map accompanying Lee's report, locates what was commonly called the 'Old French Fort,' burned during the Revolutionary War, which he refers to 'as apparently strong, as the remains were yet very distinguishable.' The location and the circumstances and date of burning, harmonize with Long's account of the trading post; the remains of a wooden structure burned in 1780, would scarcely be distinguishable in 1820; but a contemporary account, perhaps sheds some light on the nature of these so-called remains, and shows how easily Lee might have been misled by proximity of location and current popular opinion. In 1817, Maj. Stephen H. Long, of the United States army, found at Prairie du Chien some earthworks, which he describes as of ancient construction, for military purposes, delineating their fortified lines, parapets, gateways and sally-ports. The Indians, he says, ascribed them to a race of white people like the present, from the manner in which human skeletons were found buried in them. They were, in fact, a series of interesting monuments of the labor of the pre-historic mound-builders, as subsequent investigation has shown."
The location of what the people of Crawford county called the "Old French Trading Fort" in 1824, identical with the so-called "French Fort" of 1820 and 1821, but which we have shown was not a French Fort at all, but the remains of a pre-historic earth-work on which there was erected during the first year of the Revolution a log house, used as a store house by fur traders, and burned in 1780, has been of late a matter of dispute. But its position, whatever it may have been, has no historical signification; and we shall not, therefore, attempt to fix its site.
The building of a regular fort in Crawford county, by the United States, was begun on the "prairie" in 1816. The site was that of Fort McKay, described in another chapter. Here, during that summer, four companies of United States riflemen were employed in the work. The quarters consisted of long block-houses, with shed roofs sloping outward, and arranged so as to inclose a space 340 feet square. These walls were covered at opposite corners --- the northwest and southeast --- by two square blockhouses, of two stories each, the upper story placed diagonally across the first, so as to present eight faces. These were each armed with two pieces of artillery. The remaining corners were stockaded. The works contained accommodations for five companies.
While the work was going on, James H. Lockwood arrived at Prairie du Chien; and he records the following concerning the fort:
"When I arrived at Prairie du Chien, Sept. 16, 1816, there were four companies of riflemen under command of Brevet Maj. Morgan, building a fort, which was constructed by placing the walls of the quarters and store houses on the lines, the highest outside, and the slope of the roof descending within the fort. There were block houses at two corners and large pickets at the others, so as entirely to enclose the fort. John W. Johnson, from Maryland, was United States factor, with a certain Mr. [Robert B.] Belt as assistant and book-keeper, and John P. Gates was interpreter. Col. Alexander McNair was the sutler of the fort, and his nephew, Thomas McNair, and John L. Findly, were the clerks in his employ and had charge of the business."
The work when completed was called "Fort Crawford," in honor of the (then) Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. As the name was afterwards extended to the county, it is proper that some mention should be made of the man.
a lawyer and statesman, was born in Nelson Co., Va., Feb. 24, 1772; he died near Elberton, Ga., Sept. 15, 1834. His father, Joel, in 1783, removed his family to Georgia, but died in 1788; and young Crawford, after assisting his mother to support the family by teaching, for several years, at length studied law. In 1799 he commenced practice in Lexington, Oglethorpe county, and soon became distinguished in his profession. In 1800 he was appointed, with Horatio Marbury, to revise the laws of Georgia, and compiled the first digest of her laws, which was published in Savannah, in 1802. He was a member of the State Legislature, 1803-7; United States Senator, 1807-13; and was its president pro tem in March, 1812. In this body he shone pre-eminently, soon making himself known and respected by the force of natural ability, energy and loftiness of mind. His influence was further increased by his perfect integrity and unflinching firmness. He evinced, in the consideration of many important and exciting questions, statesmanship of a high order. He was opposed to the policy of a war with Great Britain, but finally voted for it.
Having declined the war secretaryship in 1813, Mr. Crawford accepted the post of minister to France, where he remained two years, and acquired the friendship of La Fayette, who appointed him agent for his American lands, and with whom, after his return home, he carried on a confidential correspondence. On his return to the United States, he was appointed to the war department, but in October, 1816, was transferred to the treasury department, the duties of which he continued to discharge until 1825, when he became the democratic nominee for the Presidency, but was defeated. A long and severe sickness destroyed all chance of his election by the House, and removed him henceforth from the political arena. Mr. Adams offered to continue him as Secretary of the Treasury; but he declined. He was strongly opposed to the nullification movement, and was generally regarded as the greatest of the citizens of Georgia. In 1827 he was appointed judge of the northern circuit court of that State, which office he retained until his death.
United States troops landed in Prairie du Chien, June 21, 1816, under Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Smith. Immediately, there succeeded a reign of terror.
The conduct of the commanding officer was not calculated to win the good will of the people. Choosing to regard them as intruders, he turned out the occupants of such houses as he wished to use for the purposes of the troops. Fort Crawford was commenced, as we have seen, on the site of Fort McKay, and the dwellings in the vicinity were ordered to be taken down and removed. Upon Gen. Smith's departure, he directed the officer left in command, as shown in another chapter, to destroy the settlement and send the male portion of the people under arrest to distant points to be tried for the offense of inhabiting the place, whenever he should see proper. Lieut. Col. Talbot Chambers assumed command during the following winter. One of his first acts was the arrest of Michael Brisbois upon a charge of treason for having engaged in the British service during the War of 1812. He was sent to St. Louis under arrest; but no charge being preferred against him, he was discharged. Upon some trivial pretext, Joseph Rolette was banished to an island in the Mississippi, where he was compelled to pass the winter. Citizens of the place were tried by courts martial, and sometimes publicly whipped for slight disobedience of the commanding officer's orders. Disputes between citizens upon a mere matter of property were dragged before military tribunals, whose decrees were rigidly enforced. The small beginings of civil authority previously established were thus almost altogether supplanted for a while. Perhaps, in the main, the ends of justice were practically attained in the regulation of disputes and the punishment of offenses; but there was no excuse for treating the unoffending inhabitants as a conquered people. Happily, the authority of those mentioned was brief, and their successors were men of less arbitrary proclivities.
Concerning the arbitrary acts of Gen. Smith and Col. Chambers, one of the pioneers, James H. Lockwood, says:
"Brevet General Smythe [Smith], the colonel of the rifle regiment, who came to Prairie du Chien in 1816 to erect Fort Crawford, arrived in June and selected the mound where the stockade had been built and the ground in front to include the most thickly inhabited part of the village. The ground thus selected encroached upon the ancient burying ground of the Prairie, so that the inhabitants were obliged to remove their dead to another place.
"During the winter of 1816 or early in the spring of 1817, Lieut. Col. Talbot Chambers arrived at Fort Crawford, and assumed the command, and the houses in the village being an obstruction to the garrison, in the spring of 1817, he ordered those houses in front and about the fort to be taken down by their owners, and removed to the lower end of the village, where he pretended to give them lots.
"When Gen. Smythe [Smith], first arrived at Prairie du Chien, he arrested Michael Brisbois, then the most prominent citizen of the Prairie, and placed him under a guard of soldiers for several days, charging him with treason, for having taken up arms against the United States. After keeping him in duress for several days, he was sent on board of a boat under a guard to St. Louis, Gen. Smythe refusing to let Mrs. Brisbois send her husband a package of beaver pelts to raise money in St. Louis to pay his expenses. The guard took him to St. Louis and landed him on the levee, where they left him, not having delivered him over to the civil authorities, or instituted any proceedings against him, but left him there without money or means to return home. But Mr. Brisbois was known in St. Louis, at least by reputation, and readily found friends who assisted him to return home. During his absence the commandant, who I believe was Lieut. Col. Hamilton, ordered Mrs. Brisbois and family out of her house, and took possession of it, in which to spread the contractor's flour to dry; and also took possession of Mr. Brisbois' bake-house, with about two hundred cords of dry oven wood, which was used by the commissary or contractor, for which aggressions and injuries Mr. Brisbois received no compensation.
"Although in a time of peace, and our government had received the country by treaty stipulation, the officers of the army treated the inhabitants as a conquered people, and the commandants assumed all the authority of governors of a conquered country, arraigning and trying the citizens by courts-martial and sentencing them to ignominious punishments. This was more particularly the case under the reign of Col. Chambers, who was a brave soldier in the field, but a weak man and not qualified for a commandant, as he was generally governed by some favorite officer or officers, who, not being responsible for the outrage committed by their superior, would induce him to do acts to gratify their whims or prejudices.
"Charles Menard, the husband of the notable Mary Ann, was arrested, having been charged with selling whisky to the soldiers. He was brought about five miles from his residence under a guard, tried by a court-martial, whipped, and with a bottle hung to his neck, marched through the streets, with music playing the rogue's march after him. Menard protested that he had not sold liquor to the soldiers, but that they asked him for it, and that he refused to let them have any, as he did not keep liquor for sale.
"And during Col. Chamber's reign, for some alleged immoral conduct, he banished Joseph Rolette to an island about seven miles above Prairie du Chien, where he obliged him to pass the winter, but in the spring permitted him to return to the village to attend to his business, as his outfits were coming in from the Indian country."
In 1819, Lieut. Col. Leavenworth was sent with the 5th regiment, of United States Infantry, to occupy Forts Crawford and Armstrong, and to build a fort at the mouth of the St. Peters; and, from this time onward, affairs at the first mentioned post were conducted less arbitrarily towards the citizens of Crawford county. During this year, Maj. Nathan Clarke, of the United States army, was at the fort with his wife. Here, his daughter, afterward Mrs. Charlotte O. Vancleve, was born. The next year (1820) the garrison consisted of a company of infantry, ninety-six strong, under command of Capt. Fowle. In 1826, because of high water, the troops for awhile abandoned the fort and took possession of the higher ground east of the slough. This was in May, and the water rose twenty-six feet in the Mississippi, above low water mark. Another notable flood occurred in 1828.
Fort Crawford continued to be occupied until 1826, when it was evacuated, the troops being transferred to Fort Snelling; but it was re-occupied in August, 1827, by four companies from Fort Snelling, under Maj. Fowle, in consequence of troubles with the Winnebagoes. In 1829, Maj. Stephen Watts Kearney was in command. His successor was Col. Zachary Taylor, who continued to occupy the fort until the year 1831, when the garrison was removed by him to a new fort on the "prairie," leaving the sick in the old hospital and the surgeon in the old fort. The next, however, the complete evacuation took place.
In 1833, the English traveler, Latrobe, was, as already mentioned, in Prairie du Chien. Of the first Fort Crawford, he says:
"To the north of the village an ancient quadrangular block-house, built of squared logs, and as usual, so contrived as to present eight faces; the upper part of the square standing across the angles of the lower, marks the position of the old military post." The fort was located on village lots numbered 9, 10 and 11, as marked on the map of 1820, accompanying the report of Isaac Lee, on private land claims in "Prairie des Chiens."2 It was near what is now (1884) the Dousman residence, in the fourth ward of the city of Prairie du Chien.
was born in Orange county, Virginia, 1790, and was descended from an English family who settled in that State in 1692. His father, Col. Richard Taylor, was a companion-in-arms of Washington, and bore a name dreaded in Indian warfare; his mother, as usual in the case of men who in any way distinguished themselves, was a women of high spirit and intelligence. The military life of Zachary Taylor, who was always noted for his hardihood, commenced at the out-break of the war with England in 1812, when he was commissioned as lieutenant, and sent to defend the borders against the Indians; his great exploit on this occasion was the defence of Fort Harrison on the Wabash, at the head of a garrison numbering only fifty-two men. He rose from grade to grade till he became general in the subsequent Indian wars of Florida and Arkansas, but acquired his great popularity in the invasion of Mexico, 1846, when he crossed the Rio Grande, and gained in succession the battles of Palo-Alto, Reseca-de-la-Palma, Monterey and Buena-Vista. His character is very well expressed by the nick-name of 'Rough-and-ready; given to him, according to a very natural practice on the part of a free people, of characterizing, by an expressive term, a popular favorite. Gen. Taylor was elected President in November, 1848, and entered upon office in March, 1849. He was carried off suddenly, before completing his term, by an attack of cholera, in July, 1850, and was succeeded by Vice-President Fillmore.
There are many events worthy of record which happened during the occupation of the first Fort Crawford, no one, however, more tragic or fatal in its consequences than the following, related by a person who was on the "prairie" at the time, and a soldier:
"The old Fort Crawford was then [June, 1829,] commanded by Maj. Kearney, and garrisoned by the first regiment of the United States Infantry. Among the soldiers were many persons who possessed thorough and even classical educations, whom adventure or some other motive, had enlisted in the United States army. There was a young man of this class in Fort Crawford, named Reneka. He was a favorite with both the officers and men. His strict, soldier-like attention to duty, and courteous bearing, made him many friends, and he bid fair to occupy the highest non-commissioned rank in the army. But in an unguarded moment he allowed himself to accept the proffered invitation of his comrades, to join them in a social glass, and --- fell.
"Unaccustomed to liquor, the poison soon flew to his brain, and he complained of being dreadfully sick; he immediately left his companions, and started for the barracks. Entering the sally-port with a firm but excited tread, he passed the sentry on his way to his quarters, from which he was directly afterward seen to issue with a rifle. The rifle was one which he had purchased a short time before, for the purpose of hunting, and always kept it in his quarters, ready loaded.
"It is supposed that, on reaching his room, the liquor he drank had made him crazy, for taking his rifle he rushed out into the parade, and raving like a maniac, he whirled the heavy rifle around his head. Aroused by the disturbance, the officer of the day, Lieut. Mackenzie 3 came out of his quarters at the further end of the long parade, and calling to the corporal of the guard, told him to "take that fellow to the guard-house." Hardly had the order escaped his lips, when Reneka observed him, and instantly poising his rifle, shot Mackenzie through the brain. It was a long shot, but a deadly one. In making it, Reneka had killed his bosom friend. He was arrested and confined in the guard-house, and when he became sane, and learned he had killed his best friend, no words of mine can picture the heart-rending agony of remorse that seized him. But he was delivered over to the civil authorities, convicted of murder, and sentenced to be hung and brought back here to be executed.
"The gallows was erected over the slough, and the day of execution arrived. I did not go to see him hung, but it is said he made an affecting speech to his comrades, warning them against strong drink. He showed up his own case in the strongest light, and described the grief of his mother when she should hear of her boy's disgrace. Many an old veteran shed tears when Reneka was swung off into eternity. But this is not an isolated instance where youth, talent, hope --- all, were sacrificed to king alcohol. The army and early history, present a multitude of such victims; even now, none are exempt from the baleful effects of the curse; every individual feels, or has felt, personally or socially, its injurious influence."
In 1829, a daughter of Col. Taylor was married in the fort to Dr. A. C. Wood. The marriage of another daughter to Jefferson Davis has been the cause of much speculation and a good deal of romancing. Concerning this marriage a recent writer says:
"Many are the historical reminiscences given of the early days of Fort Crawford, and many are the incidents and adventures of the men who subsequently became conspicuous in the annals of our history. Perhaps none figure more conspicuously, or so often, as does Jeff. Davis. Here [in Fort Crawford] he first received his first initiation into the vigor of military life on the frontier; but, as he remained here but a short time, being ordered to Fort Winnebago as speedily as possible by Col. Taylor, who disliked him heartily, we cannot credit that he figured in all the incidents related of him, as it would have necessitated a continual season of wakefulness and fasting, neither of which are leading characteristics of our Jeff.
"In Fort Crawford it was, so it is said, that he surreptitiously wooed and won the fair Noxie Taylor, and the consequent ill-will of pater familas, Old Zack! This has passed into history; and the window through which she escaped, and the rope by which she descended to the arms of her lover, would be shown as evidence of the truthfulness of the romance, had the house been left standing and the rope preserved; but unfortunately for posterity, they are numbered among the things that were, and inasmuch as she was but twelve and he twenty when he was stationed here, and they did not marry for over four years after this, and then in Louisiana, the faithful chronologist is forced to write, upon the authority of one who learned his first words in english from Jeff., that the whole story, or rather all the stories of the elopement are of the purest fiction."
A correspondent of The Teller, in 1883, writing from Mississippi, reports an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Jeff. Davis, from which we clip the following regarding his reputed elopement with Gen. Taylor's daughter:
"When he mentioned the Gazette, I felt that my time had come, and that it was now, or never about that elopement from Prairie du Chien. You see it was only a year or so ago that 'Johannes Factotum,' (who is no other than Geo. W. Perrigo, the genial editor of the Gazette) wrote for the Globe-Democrat of St. Louis, a long yarn about that elopement --- a yarn which the amiable Johannes contradicted the very next week and which elicted from Mr. Davis a private letter to a friend in relation to the matter in hand. Parts of this letter have been published, and the part that concerns us at present is here inserted, being an authoritive answer to my question. 'Did you or did you not, Mr. Othello Davis, steal away that old man's daughter at the barracks at Fort du Chien and marry her against the consent and wishes of her friends and kindred?'
"Mr. Davis doth 'a round, unvarnished tale deliver' about the whole business and here we have it: 'The story of my elopement with Gen. Taylor's daughter is as unfounded as the rest. I was one of the two officers selected from the First Infantry for promotion in the new regiment of dragoons, organized in March, 1833, which separated us from Col. Taylor's regiment. In 1835 I went to Kentucky, where Miss Taylor was with her father's sister, near Louisville, and there married her in the presence of Gen. Taylor's brother, sister, his son-in-law and daughter (Dr. and Mrs. Wood), with many other members of the family. I served under Taylor in the siege of Monterey and was one of the commissioners to arrange for its capitulation. Every incident in the letter of 'Johannes Factotum' is totally destitute of the least foundation in truth. That letter placed me at Prairie du Chien in 1834, when I was serving in the First Dragoons, U.S.A., of Arkansas.'
"It seems a pity to have that nice little elopement story torn into threads and patches in this cold-blooded, unromantic day, but the truth about these things we must have, no matter what the cost of ink and paper and in wear and tear of tender sensibilities."
A soldier named Barrette was killed in 1831, by J. P. Hall, an officer, who struck the man on his head with a pitch-fork handle, and broke his skull. Hall was acquitted.
In the year 1829, Col. Zack Taylor arrived and took command of old Fort Crawford. Col. Taylor was a brave man and a good officer. It was about this time that large bodies of recruits were coming on, would stop here a few days, and then continue up or down the river, as they might be ordered. The army regulations then admitted of enlisting for a term of three or five years. Taking advantage of this, I enlisted in April, of 1829, for a term of three years, previous to the rescinding of the article permitting that term of enlistment. Under the command of Taylor I was a corporal, and attained the rank of quarter-master's sergeant. Having a natural turn for such things, I had acquired a good knowledge of military tactics, and being then free from the prevailing habit of drinking liquor, an evil common to the soldier, I, perhaps, (if the truth is known,) stood high in the estimation of my superior officers. I said that Taylor was a brave officer, and now repeat it, asserting that he was ignorant of fear. On one occasion when all the soldiers were mustered for "dress parade," Taylor came sauntering in from the quarters, and running his eye along the front rank, observed a large stout German recruit out of line. The German was a raw recruit, anxious to do his duty, but did not understand the English language. So when the order was given to "dress," the soldier remained as before. Col. Taylor remarked this, and thinking it an act of wilful neglect on the soldier's part, walked up to him and after one or two trials, got hold of his ears, and shook the fellow severely. This treatment was called "worling," a favorite mode of punishment with Taylor, but the German not knowing how to appreciate it, nor why it was inflicted upon him, had no sooner got his head free than drawing back, he struck Taylor a blow that felled him to the ground like a log. This was mutiny, and the officers and guards would have cut him down, if Taylor had not rose up and said, "let that man alone, he will make a good soldier," and the German was allowed to go back to his place and never got punished for his insubordination. After he could speak our language, I found him an intelligent man, and an agreeable companion. He afterwards became one of the most faithful soldiers in the garrison, was promoted, and served in the Black Hawk War of 1832.
A depredation had been committed by the Fox and Sauk Indians on the whites at the mines. A number of horses were stolen, and word was received at the fort that assistance from the troops was necessary to recover them. Lieut. Gardenier was immediately put in command of a body of soldiers, and sent down the river to Dubuque, where the Indians were said to be encamped. I accompanied Lieut. Gardenier 5 as pilot of the line. We arrived at the mouth of the slough, after dark one night, and encamped. It rained hard all night, and next day, and though the bluffs where Dubuque is buried, and all the country was thoroughly searched, yet no Indians were discovered, and we got neither horses nor glory on that occasion, but I got a better knowledge of the mineral region than I had previous to this expedition. At Dubuque, the country was rough, wild and wooded, with few indications of civilization; and across the Mississippi at Galena, the face of the country was rugged and rocky, but the discovery of mineral had caused an excitement that brought emigrants there in swarms, who, on their arrival would go prospecting, frequently making fortunes, but oftener failing to make anything.
It was during Taylor's command, in the year 1829, that the present Fort Crawford was commenced. It was known that I came down the Wisconsin river, and therefore Taylor chose me to pilot the men up along that river to a given point, where they were to cut timber for building the fort. I guided them as far as where Helena now is. We found such timber as was needed, and the men commenced cutting down the trees, and preparing the logs to raft down stream. I returned to the fort, having performed the duty allotted me, to the satisfaction of the commandant. This apparently raised me in favor, for I was appointed to do much outside duty, and frequently had a file of men under me. Many a time was I sent out on special duty, which none would have been entrusted with but such as could command the implicit confidence of Old Zack himself. In an early stage of the fort's erection, Col. Taylor sent for me, to know where would be the best place to burn lime. I told him that the stone along the bluff, to the eastward was of a sandy formation, but I was sufficiently acquainted with the west side of the river, to know that plenty of good limestone existed there. He then gave me directions to take a file of men, and go over and find a convenient spot to make a kiln. It was an easy matter to have told of several with certainty, but it was always my motto to "obey orders, if you break owners," so, following his directions, I took two men and started across the Mississippi in a piroque. This species of water-craft was a dug-out made from the trunk of a mammoth pine. In the center of this large canoe was rigged a mast, with a large square sail. There was no wind, so we had to propel it with paddles. On reaching the west side, below where the town of McGregor now is, we turned the dug-out down stream, and running along the bluff until we reached the coulee where old Jack Frost then lived, and there landed. Near this coulee, (at the present day known as Limestone Coulee,) we soon found suitable stone in abundance. There was no difficulty in doing this, for a better quality of stone or more of it, cannot be found, even at this day, than is in the bluffs south of McGregor. The place picked out, we had nothing more to do but return to the fort.
The men who were with me were both stone-masons. One was known by the name of Dunbar, a lively, fearless fellow, ready for any mischief; the other, as Baird, a timid person, who was afraid of Indians, of dying, drowning --- in fact anything that had any affinity to danger. It was a warm, sultry day, and we continued to loiter in the cool shade, 'neath the bluffs, conversing, lolling on the grass, occasionally jerking a piece of rock out on the mirror-like surface of the Mississippi (that being the way we worked for the government) until about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. I had prophesied a storm that day, on account of the calm; but my predictions sometimes failed, and no attention was paid to my remark, until we heard a deep, distant rumble, and Baird jumped up and said, "what's that?" I knew that it was the coming storm, for lying on the ground, I heard the thunder distinctly, and looking up, I saw the fleecy clouds borne on the wind over the bluffs; but winking at Dunbar, he suggested the howling of wolves. This was very probable, for wolves were more common than they are now, and the wildness of the place gave weight to the idea; but to increase his fright, I attempted to account for the growing darkness and roaring thunder on some volcanic principle. A new terror seized him, and casting a hasty glance up at the wild, rugged, precipitous bluffs, he implored us to hasten back, and made off in double quick time. It was not time to think of returning, and going down to the piroque, found Baird crouched in the bottom, shivering with fear. We told him to get in the bow, and trimming the sail, Dunbar took charge of it, while I sat in the stern to steer. We waited for the storm to burst upon us.
Drops of rain commenced falling, the river became ruffled, the thunder sounded nearer, at last the storm burst with terrific fury. This was our time; putting out from the shelter of the bluff, the wind struck us, and away went the piroque, plowing through the waves, dashing the spray from its bows, and leaving a foaming wake astern. With the wind blowing a perfect hurricane, and with the thunder, lightning, rain and water on a general tear, Dunbar and I were in our element. But how was it with Baird? Poor fellow! He sat in the canoe, praying us to take down the sail (the piroque would have instantly filled had we done so), but seeing we did not answer his prayers, and thinking he was certainly to be drowned, he appealed to Heaven. One exclamation of his was, "Oh, Lord, if I must die let the gallows claim its own!" We laughed at his fear as he continued to curse, pray, blaspheme, and finally to threaten us, when Dunbar told him to stop his noise. This made him cower down, but when the canoe struck the government landing he was standing in the bow, and the sudden jerk pitched him headlong, a distance of twenty feet out on shore. He recovered himself, and taking to his heels, ran to the fort, never once halting until he was safe in his quarters. I made my report to quarter-master Garland, and was afterwards sent back with a body of men to make lime; but poor Baird did not go with us, for he could never be induced to go boating on the Mississippi again.
It was in the fall of 1829, while the present Fort Crawford was building, that Col. Z. Taylor ordered a body of men to proceed to the pineries on Menomonee river, there to cut logs, hew square timbers, make plank and shingles to be used in the construction of the fort and its defences. The number of soldiers drafted for the purpose was seventy, besides three officers and myself. Col. Taylor himself came to me as he had done before, and did afterward, and said he wanted me to pilot that expedition. It was late in the season, and I did not like to bear the responsibility, and told him so; but Taylor had more confidence in me than I had in myself, and nothing would do but I must go. We left here in seven Mackinaw boats, with ten men in each boat. The officers accompanying the expedition were Lieut. Gale,6 Lieut. Gardenier, Sergt. Melvin, and myself as pilot. Lieut. Gale was the senior officer, and had the command. I was put in command of the advance boat, Gale in the third boat, Melvin in the fifth, and Gardenier in the rear boat, with orders to keep the boats well up, and see that they reached shore together at night.
The weather was fine for that season of the year; cold nights and clear, frosty mornings. The boats made good headway against the current, kept together admirably, and the men felt vigorous under the influence of the pure, bracing atmosphere. Officers and men were in good spirits, and we passed along swimmingly until we reached Wabashaw's Prairie. As we entered Lake Pepin floating ice was encountered, the current was swifter, and the cold intense. Now, instead of the men being in good spirits, good spirits got into the men, and from that moment we had trouble. Lieut. Gale would get ashore with his gun and a couple of men, to kill some of the geese and ducks for our mess, and always left orders for the boats to keep together. One afternoon, when we had entered the Chippewa river, Gale landed on the northwest shore to shoot brant geese, that were very plenty, leaving Lieut. Gardenier in command, with strict orders to keep all the boats together, and at night to land them in a body, so the men might form one camp. This was necessary for the sake of convenience, and because it kept the men from getting separated, in case the river should close suddenly.
After Gale went ashore, I took his boat, which was the flag-boat of the expedition, and appointed one of the men to take temporary command of mine, continued up the river. Chippewa river is a very crooked stream, and the channel is worse. Often only one or two of the boats would be in sight, on account of the bends and abrupt turns in the river. At sun-down we had arrived to within fifteen miles of the mouth of the Menomonee river, and only three boats in company. I decided to encamp, and wait for the other four boats.
Selecting a place on the southeast side of the river, the men prepared to camp, and I sent a skiff to the opposite shore to bring over Lieut. Gale and one soldier named Earl, who had come down stream opposite to the camp. Gale saw the other boats were missing, and sent me down in the skiff to find them and hurry them up. Some distance below, I met Melvin with two of the boats. He said Gardenier had run aground on the sandbar that I had carefully warned him (Melvin) to look out for. I had guessed as much, for Gardenier was far behind when the other boats were warned. The channel near the bar, ran across the river at right angles with the course of the stream. Lieut. Gardenier was not aware of this, and when his boats struck the bar the men tried to force them over into the deep water of the channel just above, but this made matters worse, for the boats were heavily laden with stores, and the quicksand closing around them, soon made it impossible to move back or forwards. Between the boats and the shore on either side, the swift, icy water was too deep to wade, and the only alternative was to remain where they were until the other boats took them off. So when I got down to the bar, there they were tight enough --- in more respects than one. It was very cold, and to keep their blood in circulation, they had tapped two of the whisky casks, and were circulating the liquor --- every soldier was allowed a certain amount of whisky per diem, at that time called "whisky rations" --- this article of the soldier's rations was abolished during Jackson's administration, and coffee and sugar substituted.
On arriving alongside of the boats, I saw it was useless to think of getting them off that night, so telling all who could to tumble into the skiff, I pulled for the shore, and after three or four trips, had all the men together with their blankets and provisions, safely landed in the Chippewa bottoms. After the fires were made, I got into the skiff and rowed back to the main camp, where Melvin had arrived before me. I reported to Lieut. Gale, and sitting down regaled myself on roasted goose. Next morning we went to Lieut. Gardenier's to inquire into the matter of running the boats aground. A council was held, and resulted in Lieut. Gardenier's being sent back. There was an effort to attach the blame on me, but it fell through. The day following was spent in unloading the boats, and fruitless attempts to get them off the sand bar. On the third night the Chippewa river closed, and while the ice was getting stronger, we made sleds to draw the stores on the ice fifteen miles up to the point on the Menomonee river, where we were to cut timber. By the time the sleds were made, the ice on the river was strong enough to bear a team, and the sleds were loaded with casks of whisky, blankets and provisions, and we drew them up to the proper place on the Menomonee river, where Gale remained with two men to watch the stores, while I returned with the men and sleds for another lot.
It seems that soon after I left, Gale discovered a war party of Chippewas on the path, looking for Sioux, and, having a natural fear of Indians, he made off through the wooded bottoms at the top of his speed. The chief of the party sent a couple of his swiftest runners to bring Gale back, but they could not overtake him. The warriors had no idea of disturbing anything, but seeing the liquor and goods lying around without a guard, they were tempted to help themselves, and took some of the goods and filled everything they had that was capable of holding whisky, and then departed. It is seldom war parties are out after snow has fallen; I have only noticed it among the Sioux and Chippewas, who were always warring against each other. I arrived the second day with more goods, and learned from the two men that Lieut. Gale had been gone almost sixty hours from camp. I sent men in the direction he had taken, and discharged guns every moment, and stationed a look-out on the high ground that commanded an extensive view of the Chippewa flats. The day passed without our finding the Lieutenant. On the third day, the oldest chief of the war party paid us another visit, returning all the things they had taken except the whisky, which they promised to pay for with venison.
While the party were in the camp, the lookout reported that he could see some object moving on the marsh, about three miles distant. Two soldiers were sent out who succeeded in creeping on Lieut. Gale, and catching him before he could get away. He had been wandering three days and three nights, and exposure had deranged his mind, and he did not recognize his friends. He was brought in, and, on examination, I found his feet and legs were frozen up to the knees. A hole was cut in the ice, and the Lieutenant's limbs thrust through. After the frost was out of the frozen parts, they were greased with melted deer-fat, and wrapped up in blankets. In a few hours Gale had come to his senses, especially that of feeling, and ordered us to carry him down to Prairie du Chien. We made him as comfortable as possible on a sled, and with three men started to draw him to the Prairie, leaving sergt. Melvin, who was my senior, and ranked me, in command of the men. Lieut. Gale endured great pain, for every motion was torture, but when we came within sight of the Indian lodges on Wabashaw Prairie, he forgot his pain and wanted us to avoid meeting the Indians. This would have been a difficult thing to accomplish, so we marched into the village, and Wa-ba-shaw came out of his wigwam to welcome us. Upon learning the condition that Gale was in, the chief had him carried into his lodge and treated after the Indian manner with a concoction of white oak bark and poultice of roots. To these remedies Gale owed his perfect recovery, if not his life. We left Wabashaw Prairie and arrived safe at Prairie du Chien, and the Lieutenant was placed under the care of Dr. Beaumont.7 I was immediately ordered up the river again with the three men, and had to drive two yoke of oxen back. When we arrived at the camp on Menomonee river, the men had a log cabin almost finished, and were drawing the goods into it.
We had only been there a short time, when one of he men who was drawing a sled, slipped down and broke his lower jaw. Sergt. Melvin was a severe disciplinarian and believed in flogging a soldier for an accident. He ordered the man to strip and prepare to receive a few lashes. It was brutal to scourge a man who was already suffering with pain, so I told the man to keep his coat on. The sergeant glared at me, but perhaps he discovered something in the expression of the men's faces, for he kept silent, and the man was put on the sick list. The men were divided into three gangs, two of thirty men each, one gang commanded by Melvin, another by me; and the third gang of ten men, remained in camp. It was my first duty to build a large flat-boat, and having selected a piece of timber suitable for the gunwales, we erected scaffolds and prepared pulley's and ropes to raise the log upon them.
This preparation attracted the attention of Melvin, and he supposed the men were about to hang him. Fear had previously caused him to have built a small block-house in which he had placed all the arms and ammunition, and where he now unnecessarily shut himself up. He gave me orders through a loop hole, but would never come out to see if they were faithfully executed.
The work progressed steadily until the river opened. Trees had been felled, timber hewn, stuff for the flat-boat got out, and we had divided the log with whip-saws, and the parts were being hewed into proper shape for gunwales, when one of the men laid his thigh open to the bone with a broad-ax. It was necessary that the man should have medical aid, so Melvin made out his report of the work done, also a charge against me for creating mutiny, and appointed me to carry the documents and two wounded men --- the man who broke his jaw was unfit for duty --- in a dug-out down to headquarters. I paddled down the river without accident, and entered the slough north of the fort, one evening after dusk, and was surprised to hear the bugles playing the "Dead March." I had the men put in the hospital as soon as I landed, and then repaired to Maj. Garland's office, when I found Taylor and his officers, holding a council. They were deliberating on the removal of Lieut. McKenzie's body from the old burying ground near the mound, where Col. Dousman's dwelling stands, to the officers grave-yard north of the new fort. It was to be done with the honors of war, and the musicians were practicing for the occasion, which accounts for the music I heard. I delivered the papers to quarter-master Garland, and after perusing them in silence, he began to read Melvin's charge against me in his droll tone, that convulsed all present with laughter. Garland asked me if we intended to hang the sergeant. I told him we hadn't thought of such a thing, and then gave a straight forward account of all that had transpired from the departure of the seven boats, up to my leaving the camp on the Menomonee in the dug-out. I was not court-martialed.
Lieut. Gardenier, Boisley, myself and seven men, returned to the pineries to bring down the rafts. We found on our arrival, that the men had worked well, and had got out a large quantity of square timber, with any amount of shingles, and the flat-boat was put together and nearly finished. Two rafts were soon formed of the timber, and I was put in command of one, and Lieut. Gardenier took the other. My raft was the largest, but it drew less water, and, therefore, all the provisions for the men of both rafts were placed on it, except a barrel of whisky. Melvin was left with some of the men, to bring down the shingles in the flat-boat as soon as it was launched.
The rafts were run out of the Menomonee down into Chippewa river smooth enough. One night I made fast to the shore, just above the head of Boeuf slough, on the Chippewa, and was waiting for the other raft. It presently appeared in sight and I noticed that something unusual was going on, for the raft floated rail-fence fashion, first against one shore and then against the other, bumping along as though it was intoxicated, perhaps that whisky barrel leaked. I cried out to Gardenier to either make fast above me, or pull for the point opposite the slough. He heard me, and tried to make the opposite shore, but owing to the strong current or some mismanagement, the raft was sucked into the slough, without touching, and was carried down some distance, and struck on a small tow-head or island. I thought it best to wait until morning before going to them, and quietly ate my supper which Boiseley had prepared. The principle dish of this meal, was a hedgehog that I had shot. It was cooked by throwing it into the fire whole, and after being perfectly roasted, taken out and all the quills and hair scraped off, and the entrails taken out. After it had undergone this process, it looked as nice as any roasted pig I ever saw, and with proper seasoning, it tasted better.
In the morning, I put some food in Boisley's canoe, and went down to the raft. The men were glad to get the grub, for they had had nothing to eat but whisky, all night and you may believe they were not in the best working order. I saw how matters stood, and suggested that the raft be "broke," and towed out of the slough piece-meal. Gardenier didn't approve of the plan, for he said such a large stream of water must have an outlet somewhere, and he would follow it, and take his risk of getting through to the Mississippi river.
At the entrance of this slough, the Chippewa river forms an elbow, the acute angle of which is the mouth of the slough. This slough was indeed a pretty stream of water, wide and deep, with fine banks, and had I not learned better, I would probably have made the same error that the lieutenant did. I told him, that when we drove oxen through the frozen bottoms, I found out where the slough spread out into a wide marsh, and following it up to the Chippewa, we often came to large piles of drift-wood, that would certainly stop the raft.
It was decided, however, that the raft should go down the slough, and orders were given to swing her off the island, and bidding me goodbye, they were swept down the stream. I went along down the Chippewa into Lake Pepin, without seeing anything of Gardenier's party, and feeling anxious about them, for they had been absent four days without provisions. I got into the canoe with Boisley, and taking our guns and something to eat, started to find them. I knew very near where the raft would bring up, so putting into a slough that has its rise in big marsh, we paddled the little canoe through the water at a good rate, until unfortunately we run on a sunken log and were upset. Boisley siezed the guns and carried them ashore, but all our food and ammunition was damaged or lost. I turned the canoe right side up, and getting in, we continued up the slough, came to the marsh, and, as I expected, found the raft jammed against a pile of drift wood in the slough, some distance above. The raft was deserted by everything except the whisky barrel, and that was empty. Bosley said the men had been gone from the raft at least two days, and knowing that they would head off my raft, somewhere below, we did not try to find them, but started to return to our party. We had gone back some distance, when, passing close to a small island covered with willows, a band of young Sioux braves jumped up and gave a war-whoop. The Indians told us to come to them, and even waded towards us, but preferring to keep our guns, blankets, and canoe, in our own possession, we paddled away through the islands, and soon got out of their reach.
In our haste to leave the Indians, we missed our way, and wandered around in the marsh for two days before we reached the Mississippi river, far above our raft. We were hungry, for our provisions gave out two days previous, our guns were wet, and all the powder spoiled, so we could not shoot any game for food. Landing on an island in the river, we hauled the canoe up, and went to sleep without a fire. Next morning the wind blew so, we dared not leave the island. I had been so long without eating, that I did not care if I ever saw food again. I had a hot, bitter sensation in my stomach. Late in the afternoon of that day we saw a canoe, with two Indians in it, coming down the western shore. I told Boisley, we must meet that canoe if we wanted to live. Shoving the canoe out, we got in, and by paddling and drifting, made the west shore, where we were picked up by the Monomonee chief, Wa-ba-naw, and his squaw. I asked the chief for food, and told him how long we had been without. He landed and made camp and his squaw cooked some hominy. This was given to us in very small quantities at first, and no entreaty or threat could make the Indian increase the dose, until it suited his pleasure. He continued to feed us at intervals, little by little, until our appetites became ravenous, and then he made us lie down, and we feel asleep. Wa-ba-naw's squaw aroused us at midnight, and set before us a kettle of thick bouillon, made of hominy and meat, and told us to eat. We eat all the soup, went to sleep, and awoke in the morning as well as ever. Old Mrs. Wa-ba-naw called me her son ever after, and I always gave her a present of snuff, when she came to see me. She lives on the island opposite Prairie du Chien, and she says she has seen twice fifty years, but that falls short of her real age. She is blind and lives in a wigwam with her son, who, with another Indian, murdered an old white man, and was pardoned the same year I came to Prairie du Chien. Mother Wa-ba-naw knows many traditions of the country.
Wa-ba-naw went down to the raft with us, from which we had been gone six days. The men were glad to see us safe, and getting the raft into the current, we floated down, keeping a good lookout for any signs of Gardenier's party. Second day after my return to the raft, a signal was discovered on an island below us. It proved to be the missing party. They had been absent eleven days, and had eat nothing but acorns and roots. We treated them according to Wa-ba-naw's direction, for they were almost famished, and would have killed themselves, had they been allowed to eat all their appetites craved. They took the high land after leaving the raft, and traveling ahead of us, made a raft of drift-wood that carried them to the island. The wind broke up their raft, and it was swept away, making them prisoners on the island. There they remained without eating, until we took them off. They had resolved to kill and eat a man named Austin Young, who was resigned to his fate, and had gone down to the river for water, while his comrades loaded a musket and cast lots who should shoot him. He filled the kettle with water, and was about to go back, when he saw the raft coming, and told his companions. Our appearance at that time saved his life.
Putting the weakest of the party into a Mackinaw boat we had picked up, I sent them down to the Prairie with a couple of men. The boat must have got down a long time ahead of the raft, for when we arrived at Point Rock, I met Lieut. Gardenier looking well as ever, and he promised me something handsome if I would not give the particulars in my report, as to how the raft was lost. But I knew Taylor hated a liar as bad as he did a drunkard, so when I arrived at the fort I stated all the facts just as they were; and it was well I did, for Col. Taylor would soon have found out the truth. Besides, I secured the respect of Lieut. Gardenier by so doing, for he was an honorable man. His wife sleeps in the officer's grave yard, where the slabs that mark the resting place of those who died at that early day, may now be seen.
I think it was in the year 1830 that I witnessed a murder in the garrison of Fort Crawford, without being able to prevent it. One Coffin, a provost sergeant, whose duty it was to spy on the men, make arrests and report everything that occurred, was shot by one Beckett, a soldier. The facts of the transaction as I recollect them, are these:
Provost Coffin had discovered the soldier Beckett in the act of leaving the fort through one of the windows, from which a couple of iron bars had been removed. It was one night after tattoo. Coffin was on the watch, and he caught the man just as he got out, and kicked, beat and otherwise injured him, until he was nearly dead, and then had him dragged to the guard-house. The soldier was in a dangerous condition, and the physician had him put in the hospital, where he laid sick a long time. He asked and received permission to go back to his company as soon as he was able to be up. He had ever been a favorite with his comrades, and they all expressed their joy at his return; but he replied to their kind welcome with a strange quiet in his manner that left an impression of dark foreboding on the minds of his friends. He continued in a state of morbid taciturnity, in spite of efforts made to cheer him.
One day while acting quarter-master's sergeant, I was going out with a file of men to see to butchering some cattle, when an officer named Green hailed me and said the pay-master was at the quarter-master's department, and I had better go there soon, if I wanted my pay. I then had all the money I needed, and not being afraid to trust Uncle Sam, I went on with the men. When I got back I went into the quarter-master's office to make my report, and found the pay-master gone. The only persons present, was Coffin, who had a little desk in the office, at which he was writing, and the soldier Beckett, who had come in and was standing with his musket near the stove. I noticed something strange in Beckett's appearance, and, knowing his disposition, it instantly occurred to me, that he intended to shoot Coffin, who stood with his back towards us.
Without speaking, I walked towards Beckett, hoping to approach near enough to snatch the musket; when designing my purpose, he warned me off, and quickly shot Coffin --- a cartridge of three buck-shot and a ball passed through him, and he fell dead without a groan.
Beckett was arrested, and confined in the guard-house. He was ironed with great care --- his hands and feet confined with irons, an iron collar around his neck, with a bar connected, extending through the shackles of his hands and feet. He laid in a stone cell, on the floor made of square timber eighteen inches thick, to which he was confined by a band of iron passing over his body and fastened firmly on either side. A guard was placed over him, but with all this precaution he managed to escape.
He got away as far as Cassville, and went to work in the mines somewhere south of that place, and was found by Capt. Billy Harris,8 who was down there hunting for deserters. He was carried to Mineral Point, tried by the civil authorities, convicted, brought back here, and hung like a dog. The sheriff who sent his soul into eternity, barely escaped on a fleet horse with his life, for the soldiers were enraged at the indignities shown to their unfortunate comrade, and tried to kill him.
The building of the second Fort Crawford was commenced in 1829, occupied by the garrison in 1831, and completed in 1832. It was located upon the main land below the village as then existing, upon the site of several ancient mounds, already referred to, now occupied by a convent. It was constructed of stone, quadrangular in shape. The north and south sides were officer's quarters, each 35x242 feet. The east and west sides were each filled by two buildings, 175 feet long, separated by a sally-port. These four faces embraced in all an inclosure of about 250x400 feet and consisted of an elevated basement and one story above. They were designed to accommodate a regiment. The commandant's residence and headquarters and the hospital were upon the outside.
A recent writer says:
"Owing to the high waters of '21, '26 and '28, it was decided by Col. Zachary Taylor to erect a new fort on higher ground. The cite chosen was Pike's Hill, a high, projecting bluff, three miles below, on the Iowa side, because of its commanding both the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers, but after two years successive failure to build a road that could not be affected by the disastrous floods of the region, it was abandoned, and a position on the main land, which is about forty feet higher than the island, was selected and in 1832 new Fort Crawford was completed and occupied."
"The north quarter of the new fort," says Mr. Fonda, "was completed in the summer of 1830. The powder magazine, at the southeast corner of the fort, was built the same year. It took four men ten months (the way we worked for government) to build it. The walls are of rock, three feet thick, and each rock matched into another, like flooring, and cemented together.
"In building the fort, we disturbed an Indian mound. It was a common burying place of the Indians, and we took out cart-loads of bones.
"Col. Zachary Taylor (afterward President of the United States) was in command of the last Fort Crawford from its first occupation until in the fall of 1836, when he was succeeded by Gen. Brooks, who was followed by Gen. Wilson in 1843, and he by Col. Davenport in 1845."
The cholera raged terribly among the troops in the year of 1832. 100 soldiers died at Fort Crawford in two weeks. They were buried on the prairie south of the old Dagoon stable. Only four citizens died of the cholera, and these in one house.
Charles J. Latrobe, the English traveler, was at the new fort in 1833. He says:
"Within these few years [the first Fort Crawford] has been superceded by a large spacious range of stone barracks, built on the gentle swell on the opposite side of the bayou. An Indian mound, round which the new buildings were constructed, was removed in leveling the square, and forty-eight bodies, some enclosed in wooden or bark coffins, were removed. Fort Crawford, as the new erection is called, is calculated to afford quarters to the entire regiment, though only a few companies were there at the time of our visit."
Charles Fenno Hoffman, in his "Winter in the West" says: "On the 12th of November, 1834, he arrived at the prairie, and was entertained by Col. Z. Taylor at the fort. He remained two weeks. The garrison consisted of five companies of the 1st infantry. Says the village is a half mile from the fort, with antique looking timber houses, containing an amphibeous population of voyaguers and hunters, half French and half Indian. Visits the mounds and fortifications on the bluffs."
Rev. R. Caddle, of the P. E. Church, came to Prairie du Chien as a missionary in 1836, but was shortly after appointed chaplain at Fort Crawford, where he continued until 1841, when he resigned and entered the missionary service in another part of the territory. While here he organized Trinity Church.
In the fall of this year Col. Z. Taylor, with his regiment, left this fort for Florida, and Gen. Brooke assumed command. As "new lords make new laws" so a little incident connected with this change shows how the public money is sometimes disposed of. Gen. Brooke thought the house in which Col. Taylor, with a large family, had lived for many years, was not good enough for him, and he applied to the department of war for a new house. The answer was, "no, can't afford it; repair the old one." To do this the old house was entirely removed, or torn down, except the cellar, and over this a new building was erected, costing $7,000, under the head of repairs. This house, with all the government land, was subsequently sold, being bought by John Lawler, the house remodeled and the grounds improved.
Many humorous anecdotes are related of Taylor and his method of punishing slight offences, while in command of Fort Crawford. The method was styled "wooling," and consisted in taking hold of the man's ears and shaking him. A soldier named Brady made a wager with a comrade that the colonel would not "wool" him. The man greased his ears well and during parade put himself in the way of punishment. Taylor rushed at him, caught him by the ears, but they slipped from his grasp, again and again he attempted to clutch them, but in vain, he could no more hold them than he could hold an eel, and he gave up the effort in disgust. Brady won his wager, escaped the "wooling," but his ruse gained him the guard house.
S. A. Palmer, of Pottsville, Pa., was here in 1836, and relates that there were 300 troops at the fort, four substantial stone buildings, each 200 feet long, forming a square; a few mean houses, tenanted by a miserable set of French and Indians.
Capt. F. Marryat, the English novelist, came from Green Bay to Fort Winnebago in June, 1837, and from the latter place to Prairie du Chien with a party bringing provisions for the fort. While here he visited the mounds. He remained a week at the fort, which he says is a mere enclosure, intended to repel the attacks of Indians, but is large and commodious, and the quarters of the officers are excellent, built of stone, which is not the case at Fort Winnebago or Fort Howard.
This year, 1846, and the succeeding year, Fort Crawford was garrisoned by a company of volunteers under Capt. Wiram Knowlton, the regular troops having gone to Mexico. Concerning this occupancy, Mr. Fonda says:
"It was this same year  that the affairs with Mexico came to a head; war was declared, and volunteers were raised throughout the country. Orders were received from the secretary of war to raise a company to occupy Fort Crawford during the trouble with Mexico. A company was enlisted under Brevet Maj. A. S. Hove. 9
"Wiram Knowlton was captain, Charles Brisbois, first lieutenant; and on the 3d day of September, 1836, I received a second lieutenant's commission from Gov. Henry Dodge. The inferior officers were sergts. D. Gary, F. N. Grouchy and E. Warner; and corporals W. R. Curts, A. Tilow, B. Fox and J. A. Clark; the whole number of men in the company was seventy-three. The men were a little aristocratic, and they all wanted to wear officers's uniform; but after the one year (which was the term of enlistment) had expired, a new company was mustered by Major Garland, and placed under the command of Capt. Knowlton, who maintained the strictest of military discipline. This company was styled the Dodge Guards, and was commanded by the officers of the first company."
On the 20th of June, 1847, two ejectment suits were tried in the circuit court involving title to farm lots 33 and 34, heretofore held and supposed to be owned by the United States government, and on which Fort Crawford is situated. The suit was brought by Ira B. Brunson, B. W. Brisbois and Cyrus Woodman, against a tenant of the United States, the government taking up the defense. The suits were decided in favor of the plaintiffs.
The following appeared in the Patriot of August, 1847:
"Of congestive chills, at Fort. Crawford, on Friday evening, the 13th inst., Charles Brisbois, first lieutenant of the volunteers, stationed at this post, aged forty-nine years, five months and thirteen days. The disease of which Mr. Brisbois died, was contracted when on a visit to St. Louis, and in the fatal termination, the community has lost one of the most valuable citizens, and society an honored member. He was born and educated in the western country, and from youth to manhood had been engaged in the fur trade, connected with the Hudson Bay Fur Company. Residing in a country where there was no law, he had ever acted upon principles of right, and formed a character, which in later years, in his intercourse with men, had won for him the confidence and respect of all. In July, last year, he became second lieutenant of the Dodge Guards, and has since been promoted to first lieutenant, which office he filled at the time of his death. As a soldier, his upright and impartial conduct had secured the confidence of his superiors in rank, and the respect of all under his command; as a citizen, he was liberal and active; as a friend, faithful, generous and kind. He has left a wife and family, and a large number of relatives and friends to mourn their loss. His funeral took place on Saturday evening, with military honors, and a large concourse of people were in attendance, and joined in the solemn ceremony that consigned to their last resting place, the earthly remains of an esteemed friend, a kind husband and father and a worthy citizen."
"At a meeting of the officers of Fort Crawford, Wisconsin Territory, agreeable to previous notice: Maj. A. S. Hove, was chosen chairman, Dr. S. S. Beach, secretary. Capt. Wiram Knowlton presented the following preamble and resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:
"Whereas, We have been, by all-wise Providence, deprived of our estimable friend and officer, first lieut. Charles Brisbois, whose loss we feel in common with his bereaved wife, children and friends, to be irreparable to his family, his relatives, his home and country.
"Therefore, resolved. That we will wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days, in token of our sincere respect to his memory.
"Resolved, That we deeply sympathize with his family, who have been deprived by an all-wise Ruler, of a kind and affectionate husband, father and protector, who was an honest, just and upright man, as well as a worthy citizen and officer, who was beloved by all who knew him, and above all suspicion of wrong and an irreparable loss, both to his country, which he had volunteered to serve during the war with Mexico.
[Signed] A. S. Hove, Brevet Major, U. S. A. Wiram Knowlton, Capt. Wis. Vol. S. S. Beach, Acting Ass't Surgeon. J. H. Fonda, 2d Lieut. Wis. Vol."
Concerning Charles Brisbois, Mr. Fonda says:
"On the 13th day of August, 1847, first lieut. Charles Brisbois, died at his post, from a disease contracted while on a visit to St. Louis, and in its fatal termination the community lost one of its most valuable citizens, and society an honorable member. He was born and educated in the western country, and from youth to manhood had been engaged in the fur trade connected with the Hudson Bay Fur Company. Residing in a country where there was no law, he ever acted upon the principles of right, and formed a character, which in his intercourse with his fellow-man, had won for him the confidence and respect of all. As a soldier, his upright and impartial conduct had secured him the confidence of his superiors in rank, and the respect of all under his command; as a citizen he was liberal and active; as a friend, faithful, generous and kind. He left a wife and family, and a large number of relatives and friends. We buried him in the old Catholic burying ground, with military honors, and a large concourse of the people were in attendance, and joined in the solemn obsequies that consigned to the last resting place, the earthly remains of Lieut. Charles Brisbois.
"After Brisbois died, I was promoted to the first lieutenancy in the volunteer company of Dodge Guards, and received my commission dated from the 13th day of August, 1847. I took an active part in the affairs of the post, often performing duties that belonged more properly to the commanding officer, while Capt. Knowlton, being a superior disciplinarian, took much pride in drilling the men."
On the 14th of September, 1847, Major Hove, commandant, at Fort Crawford received orders to repair to Baton Rogue, and left immediately.
"In the year 1848 a society was formed at Fort Crawford" says Mr. Fonda "called the 'Fort Crawford Temperance Society.' The object of the society was to promote the cause of temperance. All that was requisite to become a member was to sign a pledge to abstain from the use of liquor as a common beverage, for six months, a year, or any length of time a person joining might see fit to set opposite his name. The society met each Saturday night, and so long as the interest was kept up, its influence may have been beneficial; but like many such societies, it was short lived and its effects forgotten.
"It is an impossibility to keep liquor out of the garrison, if the men are determined to have it. No matter how vigilant and watchful the officers may be, the soldiers will smuggle it in some way. Maj. Garland had arrived at Fort Crawford, and was stopping at my quarters, and was expected to inspect the men. So strict orders were given to prevent the men passing in and out with suspicious packages, and to search all such, to see if they had whisky about them. Trusty sentinels were put on guard at all the sally-ports, and when the first review came off, every man was in his place, and after Capt. Knowlton had drilled them awhile, the major was perfectly satisfied with their discipline and equipments, and complimented the officers on the fine appearance of the men. That same evening, after supper, Maj. Garland proposed a stroll through town. It was a nice, moonlight night, and we remained out some time after tattoo. When we reached the gate that opened into the grounds that surrounded the fort, something attracted the major's attention, and he pointed an object out to men, and asked: 'Is that a cat going towards the fort?' I looked in the direction, and supposing it was only a cat creeping across the green, I paid no more attention to it. When we were about to enter the little private wicket in the northeast gate, Maj. Garland spoke and said: 'See, that cat is making in this direction; it moves strange, let us see what's the matter with it.' So passing along under the wall, we reached a little ditch paved with rock, that carried off the water from the inside of the fort, here we discovered a string stretching out towards the cat, that still continued to approach us. Stepping on this string the major cut it, and all at once the cat stopped within a few feet of us. It was evident the string governed the motions of the cat, and taking hold of one end, we drew the apparent cat up to us; but on close examination, it proved to be a cat's skin, stuffed with a bladder full of whisky! The major had just been speaking of the unusual sober appearance of the volunteers, while I had lauded the reforming influence of the temperance society. He little suspected that the patrol guard we passed in our walk, had the barrels of their guns charged with fire-water, warranted to kill forty rods; but it was even so.
"On the 6th day of September, 1848, I obtained 'my honorable discharge' from the 'Dodge Guards,' and returned to citizen, but not to private, life; for soon my friends offered me the office of justice, which I accepted and held for a number of years; since which time, all matters of interest have been noticed by many other persons, who have made the public familiar with them. I will merely remark, that I have witnessed the gradual progress of civilization in the west for fifty years; came to Prairie du Chein when it was the most extreme settlement in the northwest; have seen the dawning of a new epoch, since the introduction of railroads and the electric telegraph, and being yet strong and robust, I may live to enjoy a share of their benefits."
On the 12th of June, 1856, the government officers and troops departed with stores and provisions, on the steamer War Eagle, for Fort Snelling. The garrison consisted of four companies of United States rifles. The local newspapers expressed the desire that the fort would not be used again as such, and the grounds should be brought into market.
The Fort Crawford military lands were purchased of J. H. Lockwood and James D. Doty, by the United States, in the year 1829 and covered the front and main portions of farm lots numbered 33 and 34, of the private land claims at Prairie du Chien, and comprised about 160 acres. Fort Crawford, as we have seen, was built on this tract in 1829, 1830 and 1831. There was also a reservation of section 18, township 7, in range 4 west, in what is now the town of Wauzeka, near the present village of Wauzeka. This section has its southeast corner at the mouth of the Kickapoo river; the tract was generally known as the "Cattle Guard." On the 17th of November, 1864, the acting commissioner of the general land office, by order of the war department, offered for sale at public auction, at La Crosse, the government land at Fort Crawford, which had been surveyed and sub-divided into town lots, 80x140 feet, with streets sixty-five feet and alleys twenty feet wide, conforming to the plat of the village of Prairie du Chien. Then and subsequently all these lots were sold and the United States were thus divested of all interest in the military lands and reservation in Crawford county.