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Iowa History Daily: February 14 - The Closing of Fort Atkinson

Iowa History Daily: On February 14, 1849, the last company of infantry soldiers left Fort Atkinson. The United States Army called Fort Atkinson on the Turkey River home from 1940 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 during May of 1840. Company B of the 1st United States Dragoons arrived during 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 of 1842. Hosting 196 soldiers at an 1842 peak, the fort 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 during June of 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 the military presence in the region waned. By February of 1849 the last soldiers departed and left the site abandoned. The state of Iowa obtained the fort site in 1921, and in 1958 reconstruction allowed the site to serve as a geological, archeological and historical state preserve. Home to the annual Fort Atkinson Rendezvous, the site continues to offer a view into Iowa’s past. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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