AKA Fort Shelby and Fort McKay
A Federal Stockade, known as Fort Shelby, located on St Feriole Island at Prairie du Chien was the first known for at Prairie du Chien. In 1814, two months after it was built the British captured the fort and renamed it Fort McKay. At the end of the war in 1815, the British destroyed the fort. Villa Louis in Dousman Park now sits on the site of the fort.
The first Fort Crawford was built in 1816 near the river. It was named for William H Crawford, Secretary of War under James Madison. Being in a flood plain, each spring, the fort was flooded, causing the wooden walls to rot. In addition, diseases such as malaria and dysentery were prevalent. In 1825, one of the largest Native American Councils, with over 5000 representing a dozen tribal nations gathered to sign the Treaty of Prairie du Chien. In 1826, following the spring flood, the soldiers were sent to reinforce Fort Snelling in Minnesota and the fort was abandoned.
While no troops were in residence, Chief Red Bird led a band of his Ho Chunk warriors and murdered a family near the abandoned fort. This prompted a return of troops in 1828. However, the wooden fort was considered unhabitable and construction began on the second Fort Crawford. This time made of limestone on higher ground.
Col Zachary Taylor commanded the building of the second fort, which began in 1829. This fort was built on a small hill on the east side of the Mississippi River in Prairie du Chien. The soldiers were able to inhabit the new barracks in 1832, although the fort wasn't completed until 1835.
Soldiers from Fort Crawford were used throughout the Winnebago War until Red Bird's surrender. Red Bird died in confinement and others in his band were executed. Tensions continued between the Native Americans and the settlers throughout the region, but were held at bay for a couple of years.
During this time, Army Dr William Beaumont conducted 56 of his experiments on digestion. These experiments allowed Dr Beaumont to draw conclusions on the effects of temperature and emotions on digestion.
When the Black Hawk War broke out in 1832, soldiers at Fort Crawford were called in. After the Battle of Bad Axe, Chief Black Hawk surrendered at Fort Crawford. He was held there until he was escorted by Lt Jefferson Davis to the Jefferson Barracks in Missouri.
During the 1840s, the garrison was used to construct a road between Fort Crawford and Fort Winnebago. This road followed the route which is used today as US Highway 18. The road went over a crest commonly referred to as "Military Ridge" because of the military road that went over it.
With the completion of the road and the Native American tribe removal, the purpose of Fort Crawford went away. However, when rumors of an impending Indian Uprising circulated in 1855, the fort was reoccupied. When no such incident occured, the fort was abandoned 9 Jun 1856.
During the Civil War, the fort was used as both a recruitment center and a hospital. Following the Civil War, the fort was abandoned.
In 1933, the Daughters of the American Revolution, began clearing away parts of the dilapidated fort for development, while restoring the fort's hospital. The hospital was transformed into a Medical Museum, concentrating on Dr Beaumont's experiments but also featuring other aspects of early medicine. It was run by the Wisconsin Medical Society until 1995. The Prairie du Chien Historical Society purchased the museum and expanded it to include other parts of the areas history. The hospital building is a National Historic Landmark.
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