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Fort Atkinson: Iowa Time Machine June 20, 1846

Iowa Time Machine ⏰: On June 20, 1846, the United States Army sent orders to Fort Atkinson for the garrison to prepare to depart for service in the Mexican-American War. Temporarily staffed by volunteers from the Iowa militia, The United States Army called Fort Atkinson on the Turkey River home from 1840 until abandonment in the winter of 1849.

The Multinational Treaty of Prairie du Chien in 1830 created a 40-mile-wide strip stretching from Lacrosse, Wisconsin, into north central Iowa to serve as a ‘Neutral Ground’ between the Sauk and Meskwaki and the Dakota. As the government dispossessed the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) from Wisconsin, officials decided the tribe would occupy the ‘Neutral Ground.’ To help monitor and protect the tribe, the United States founded Fort Atkinson on the Turkey River.

Captain Lynde led Company F, 5th United States Infantry, to the site in May 1840. Company B of the 1st United States Dragoons arrived in June to assist in Ho-Chunk resettlement. Named for the government official, Henry Atkinson, charged with dispossessing the Ho-Chunk, construction of the fort took place until June 1842.

At its peak in 1842, the fort hosted 196 soldiers and represented American power in the region as settlement spread west. A base point for exploratory expeditions on the edge of America during the 1840s, the fort saw the garrison depart to serve in the Mexican-American War in June 1846. The following month, Morgan’s Iowa Volunteer Infantry arrived to staff the fort for the duration of the conflict.

When the government pushed the Ho-Chunk out of Iowa and into Minnesota during 1848, the need for a military presence in the region waned. By February 1849, the last soldiers had departed and left the site abandoned. The state of Iowa obtained the fort site in 1921, and in 1958, reconstruction allowed it to serve as a geological, archeological, and historical state preserve. Home to the annual Fort Atkinson Rendezvous, the site offers a view into Iowa’s past. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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