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

Chapter II: early lumbering operations,   pp. 7-19

Page 12

men to proceed to the pineries on Menomonee River, there to cut logs, hew square
timber, 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, Lieut. Gardinier, Segt.
Melvin, and myself as pilot. Lieut. Gale was the senior officer, and had 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 heading against the current, kept together ad-
mirably, and the men felt vigorous under the influence of the pure, bracing atmos-
phere. Officers and men were in good spirits, and we passed along swimmingly
until we reached Wa-ba-shaw'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 alwavs 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 to-
gether, 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 appointing 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 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 sand-bar that I had guessed as much, for Gardenier was far
behind when 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 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 the blood in circulation, they had tapped two
of the wiskey casks, and were circulating the liquor-every soldier was allowed a
certain amount of wiskey per diem, at that time called "wiskey 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 pro-
visions, safely landed in the Chippewa Bottoms. After the fires were made, I

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