Barracks at Fort Atkinson

The main barracks consisted of the commissioned officer;’ quarters, built of stone, the non-commissioned officers’ quarters. built of logs hewn flat, one soldiers’ quarters (including hospital rooms), built of stone, and another soldiers’ quarters (including church and school rooms), built of flat hewn logs. The soldiers’ quarters were 250 feet long. These four main buildings enclosed a parade- and drill-ground (with a flag-staff at one end), and in turn were enclosed by a stockade twelve feet high and made out of logs hewn flat and set on end in a narrow trench. The top of the stockade consisted of spikes driven into the sharpened ends of the logs. Port holes were cut at about every four feet.

In two corners of the stockade were located cannon-houses; and in the other two corners, the Quartermasters, store house (adjoined by the Sutler’s store) and the magazine, or powder-house. The guard-house was near the Sutler’s store, and a sentinel’s beat was constructed near the powder-house. The platform of the sentinel’s beat was about three feet below the top of one side of the stockade and extended nearly its whole length. At one end, by the magazine house, was constructed a small shelter for the protection of the sentinel during inclement weather. The outer walls of the (quartermaster’s store extended somewhat outside the stockade.

Alexander states 1 : “The material of which it was built was prepared at Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, Wis., and the cost of making a wagon-road, the same ever since known as the Old Military road, and transporting the material to its destination, brought the cost of building the fort to $93,000.” However, all the material was not prepared at Fort Crawford, as Mr. Goddard says “The government had a sawmill at Old Mission, where all the hardwood used in the fort was cut. The stone used was quarried in the immediate vicinity of the fort. The pine lumber and other material was brought from Fort Crawford.”

Alexander says 1 “The first blacksmith in Winneshiek county was Harmon Snyder. He came from Prairie du Chien with the force (of about 50 mechanics) detailed to build the fort, and was employed, chiefly, in work for the garrison. At the same time he did a great deal of work for the Indians. They would stand around and watch him while at his work, with wonder and admiration.”

Antoine Grignon, who aided in the removal of the Winnebagoes in 1848, says, “Fort Atkinson was quite a lively place when I was there; there was a company of cavalry there at that time.” Concerning the Indian agency which was established in connection with the fort, Mr. Kingsley relates that, “The Winnebagoes were given food, clothing, gold, and silver. In money they received $46.00 per head, twice a year. The head of the family represented his family by the number of sticks in his hand, and the annuity was disbursed to him accordingly. I have heard my mother say that she was a young girl, about fourteen years old, the time of the Turkey river reservation days; her father, being a sub-chief, drew a portion of the supplies; these were tied up in a buffalo robe and put on a pony that she rode. The cash amounted to between $1,000 and $2,000.”

February 24, 1849, the post was finally abandoned. It was turned over to the Secretary of the Interior for disposition January 10 1851. At the present time all that is still standing of the fort is the cannon-house of the southwest corner.

“Orders No. 9.
Headquarters 6th Military Department. St. Louis, Missouri, February l0th, 1849.

In pursuance of General Orders No. 3, of the 23d ultimo, for the abandonment of Fort Atkinson, the Company of the 6th Infantry stationed there will be withdrawn to Fort Crawford, and will form a part of the garrison of that post.

The public stores at Fort Atkinson will be removed or sold. as may be found expedient under the circumstances.
By order Bvt. Major General Twiggs

D. C. Buell,
Asst. Adjt. Gen.

Although the military appearance was no longer kept up, the fort was not entirely abandoned as a post. A discharged soldier of the regular army, named Alexander Faulkner, who held the rank of first sergeant, was appointed by the government to look after it. Josiah Goddard, who, with his family, moved from Wisconsin to this section in 1849, spent the winter of 1849-50 in the old fort when it was in charge of Mr. Faulkner. Soon after, Faulkner was relieved by Geo. Cooney, whom Alexander says, 1 “was a well-known citizen of the county, who lived in the vicinity of the old fort.” The fort became useless as government property, and was sold at public auction to one J. M. Flowers for $3,521. The reservation is described as containing 7,920 acres. This land was finally disposed of under the provisions of the acts of Congress of July 30, 1856, and June 7, 7860.

Of the officers who served at this post, six, namely: Captain John J. Abercrombie and Lieutenants Schuyler Hamilton, John H. King, and Joseph B. Plummer, of the 1st Infantry, and Captain Edwin V. Summer and Lieutenant Alfred Pleasanton, of the 1st Dragoons, attained to the rank of general officers in the U. S. Army in the Civil War.

Assistant Surgeon William S. King was retired as an Assistant Surgeon General. Captain Osborne Cross of the 1st Infantry was transferred to the Quartermaster’s Department and became Assistant Quartermaster General with the rank of Colonel. Captain Sidney Burbank of the 1st Infantry commanded his regiment, 2d U. S. Infantry, during the Civil War and was breveted for gallantry.

Lieutenants Simon B. Buckner and Henry Heth of the 6th Infantry, and Abraham Buford and Alexander W. Reynolds of the 1st, resigned their commissions at the outbreak of the Civil War and became general officers in the Confederate service. Assistant Surgeon Charles H. Smith served in the medical department of the Confederate army. A. R. Young, father of Frank Young of Decorah, was a soldier at Fort Atkinson, and left with other troops for Mexico, but returned soon after the country was opened to settlers.

The first death of a white man in Winneshiek county was that of a government teamster named Howard, frozen to death October 4, 1840, near Castalia, while driving from Fort Crawford to Fort Atkinson. He was buried at the latter place. The first white child born in the county was Miss Mary Jane Tapper, born at the fort January 16, 1841.Citations:

  1. In his history of the county.[][][]

History, Winnebago,

Hexom, Charles Philip. Indian History of Winneshiek County. Decorah: A. K. Bailey & Don, Inc. 1913.

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