University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Curtiss-Wedge, F.; Jones, Geo. O. (ed.) / History of Dunn County, Wisconsin

Chapter III: The Jefferson Davis myth,   pp. 20-26

Page 24

published in vol. 8 Wis. Hist. Coils., pp. 309and 310, as to the whereabouts of Davis
from 1828 to 1831. He says: "The same season, 1828, the first infantry was
ordered to the Portage to build a fort, to be called Fort Winnebago."  Again, "Of
the officers stationed at Fort Winnebago from 1828 till the 5th of July, 1831, only
two survive, to-wit: General William Harney and Lieut. Jeff Davis. Harney at
that time was a captain, and Davis his subaltern."
It should be remembered that the Army Register before cited shows the First
Infantry to be Davis' regiment.
This statement of Clark is supplemented by Morgan L. Martin in a narrative
published in 11 Wis. Hist. Colls., where he states that in the autumn of 1828, he
met Maj. Twiggs and Lieut. Davis with three companies of soldiers going to es-
tablish a garrison at Ft. Winnebago. Morgan met them on the Fox River and they
were going to the Portage of the Wisconsin.
Although Davis does not mention being at Ft. Winnebago in the fall of 1828,
but says that he went there in 1829, these statements of Clark and Martin show him
to have been there in 1828. Confirming this is a report of Maj. Twiggs of the First
Infantry, dated at Ft. Winnebago, September 30, 1828, in which he says that he
had that day arrived with his command and selected a site for temporary barracks.
Again in December, 1828 he reports progress in getting up the temporary barracks
and states that the timber has been and is being procured in the vicinity not more
than 9 toll1 miles away . These reports are given in 14 Wis. Hist. Colls. pp. 73, and 74.
It will be noted that in his letter, Davis in connection with this statement that
he went to Ft. Winnebago in 1828, says; "than a stockade."  This shows a prior
occupancy, that of the year before, according to Clark, Morgan and Maj. Twiggs,
and Davis there.
The report of the secretary of war for 1828 with an accompanying report of the
engineer in charge, shows that old Fort Crawford was not to be kept up, and that
it was recommended that a fort be established on a bluff opposite Prairie du Chien,
on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Detailed plans for the proposed fort
were submitted with the report. This report is dated, December, 1828.
The county records of Crawford County, book "A" in the office of the regis-
ter of deeds, page 84 and other pages, show that the United States did not pur-
chase the site of the second Fort Crawford until in May, 1828.
John H. Fonda, an early resident of Prairie du Chien, in reminiscences published
in Vol. 5, Wisconsin Historical Collections, says that he enlisted in the United
States army in April, 1829, at Fort Crawford, then in command of Col. Zachary
Taylor; that in that year the second Fort Crawford was commenced; that he was
sent by Taylor to show a force of men where to get timber with which to build the
fort; that he took them up the Wisconsin River to where Galena was afterward
built, and that timber was there cut and rafted down the Wisconsin River; that in
the fall of 1829, Taylor ordered a force of seventy men under the command of Lieu-
tenant Gale, having under him, Lieutenant Gardenier and Sergeant Melvin "to
proceed to the pineries of the Menomonie River, there to cut logs, hew square
timber, and make planks and shingles to be used in the construction of the fort and
its defense. Fonda was sent on this expedition as general utility man.  He gives
a very circumstantial account of the expedition, in its going to Menomonie, its
operations there during the winter of 1829-30, and of its return to Prairie du Chien
in the spring of 1830.
Some things stated by him are very noticable, when read in connection with the
traditions and accounts given by others of Jefferson Davis' operations on this river.
The commander, Gale, in fear of a Chippewa war party left his temporary encamp-
ment and to save his scalp, as he supposed, went in hiding in the Chippewa bottoms,
and nearly perished there from cold and want of food. Fonda further states that
Sergeant Melvin later built stockades and placed guards to protect his men from
the savages and that Lieutenant Gardenier recklessly or carelessly ran the raft under
his command into Beef Slough where it was lost among the wreckage with which
the slough was filled. Fonda's account is "I cried to Gardenier to either make
fast above me or pull for the point opposite the slough. He heard me and tried

Go up to Top of Page