1999 Second Fort Crawford Excavation
by: Vicki Twinde, Research
Archaeologist, Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center
This past summer and fall, the
Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center was involved with a Phase III excavation
at the Second Fort Crawford military fort in Prairie du Chien. The
foundations of this fort were found during the concrete stripping and deep water
and sewer trenching construction of Beaumont Road. Second Fort Crawford
was a large American military garrison that was established in 1829. The
fort was occupied by soldiers until approximately 1856, and was later used for
small military operations. Historically,
both Jefferson Davis and Zachary Taylor served at the fort, and the fort's
soldiers fought in the Blackhawk war.
Excavations at the fort uncovered many
different types of artifacts including ceramics, bottles, musket balls,
gunflints, old coins, nails, window glass, bone handled
materials, a large
number of animal and fish bones, and various other materials. History
books can give us a lot of information, however, they usually cannot tell us
what daily life for the soldiers would have been like. From the artifacts
recovered at the fort, archaeologists at MVAC will try to reconstruct what life
would have been like for a soldier during the early to middle part of the 19th
The artifacts from the fort also help
University of Wisconsin - La Crosse archaeology majors to learn about historic
archaeology. Research on the fort will continue well into next year.
Second Fort Crawford Rediscovered Ė exhibit dedication set for
Wednesday, May 15, 2002 in Prairie du Chien
In 1999, archaeologists from the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center (MVAC)
found portions of seven rooms of Second Fort Crawford while monitoring
construction of Beaumont Road in Prairie du Chien. Everything they discovered
and more is now part of an extensive exhibit at the Fort Crawford Museum.
The unveiling of the new exhibit took place on Wednesday, May 15, 2002, 717
South Beaumont Road, Prairie du Chien. Speakers at the event included Wisconsinís
secretary of transportation, the mayor and city planner of Prairie du Chien, and
members of the MVAC team who worked on the project.
Second Fort Crawford was used between 1829 and 1856. It was one of several
military garrisons built along the upper Mississippi in the early 1800s to
establish and protect United States interests along the advancing frontier.
The fort played a significant role in southwestern Wisconsin's history.
Soldiers participated in the 1832 Black Hawk War, Native Americans received
annual annuities there, and the soldiers were directly involved with the removal
of the Winnebago from Wisconsin to the Neutral Ground of Iowa in 1840.
Future President Zachary Taylor was the first commanding officer, and
Jefferson Davis served as a lieutenant at the fort.
MVACís team Research Archaeologist Vicki Twinde, Architectural Historian
Barbara Kooiman, and Robert "Ernie" Boszhardt worked on the project
with exhibit coordinator Bob Fay, the City of Prairie du Chien, and the Fort
Crawford Museum, and several state agencies.
According to Twinde, "An entire room is dedicated to this display and it
will highlight the Fortís history and Prairie du Chien treaty histories. Half
of the exhibit highlight artifacts we discovered during our 1999
excavation." Additional highlights include a display case focused on the
archaeological excavations, a 7x5-foot picture of MVACís excavation in
progress, and an 8x5-foot diorama of the fort and hospital
Along the sidewalks and grass boulevards bordering Beaumont Road, the
outlines of the fort are marked with limestone stamped and colored concrete
illustrating where the road crosses the fort foundations. These outlines are
based on excavation information and help observers appreciate the massive size
of the fort and its relationship and orientation to current landmarks in the
For more details about the museum contact (608) 326-6960.
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