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reproduce the writings of Davis himself are, of course, of, prime importance, but even these have been handled in such fashion that the reader is frequently at a loss to know what to make of them. As for the author's contribution, she had little knowledge of the geography involved and less, if possible, of the sequence of events. Events of 1832 are jumbled indifferently with those which actually occurred in 1827, and the author's pen wanders from the forests of Wisconsin to the parched prairies of the Southwest and back again without even knowing, oftentimes, that such a seven-league journey has been taken. Mrs. Davis was, indeed, aware to some extent of the shortcomings of this portion of her work, and one one occasion she conscientiously apologizes for it, characterizing it as "very mixed and at times nearly unintelligible;" pleading, in extenuation, that with the meager sources of information at her command she could do no better. To subject such a narrative to critical analysis is as needless as it would be ungracious ;5 but unfortunately those who have since assumed to write of Davis' career have been less mindful of the defects of the Memoir than was Mrs. Davis herself; in the general absence of other sources it has been made the quarry even of trained historians, and hence has become a fruitful source of error about the early years of the man whose career it was written to memorialize.
We will have occasion to return to Mrs. Davis' narrative, but having gained some conception of its character we may endeavor to consider in due order the events of Davis' northwestern career. The Prairie du Chien to which he came near the close of 1828 was a straggling village, already of considerable antiquity, with a nondescript population in which were represented all degrees of social development from sheer savagery to a highly cultured civilization. Fort Crawford, built in 1816 and abandoned for a period of several months during 1827 and 1828, but regarrisoned following the Winnebago War of the latter year, was a decaying structure of logs commanded by Colonel Willoughby Morgan of the First U. S. Infantry. From time immemorial Prairie du Chien had been a natural center for trade and intercourse among the red men, and between them and the whites. It was, therefore, a place of considerable commercial and governmental importance. In the summer of 1829 it was the scene of a notable Indian treaty, to conclude which hundreds of white and red skins assembled, for the second gathering of its kind within the space of four years. These things aside, it was a veritable frontier of civilization, the life at which for the cultivated West Point officers must have been dull to the point of distraction.
ample) have failed to take account of the scholarly tenuosity of_this portion of the memoir, and of the difference in authority with which Mrs. Davis writes of these early years as compared with the later ones. In making these observations I purposely waive the question, which I think might fairly be raised of the extent to which the Memoir is actually the product of Mrs. Davis' pen, rather than that of some unnamed collaborator.
* Memoir, I, 143-44.
6 For the evidence in support of my general charcterization of it, I refer the reader to the first 160 pages of the Memoir itself.
Caleb Atwater, who visited Prairie du Chien in 1829 as one of the commissioners to negotiate the treaty of that year, protests feelingly against the practice of the War Department of keeping officers continuously on the frontier. All, he thought, who had been there ten years or longer ought instantly to be relieved. For them and their wives, who reared families and maintained the processes of civilization in these isolated posts under every conceivable discouragement, Atwater has only words of warmest praise and admiration. The testimony of Latrobe, the English traveler, and Charles Fenno Hoffman, the New York author and editor, both of whom visited Fort Crawford about the close of Davis' stay there, is of similar purport to that of Atwater. That Davis did his part during his first sojourn at Fort Crawford in upholding this reputation of the officers' circle for social cheer and charm may safely be taken for granted; that he performed creditably the duties which fell to him as a junior officer of the garrison may also be presumed. But his stay at Fort Crawford was soon interrupted, and saving certain stories of a reminiscent character which were handed down as family tradition and found their way into print at various times subsequent to the Civil War, we have practically nothing concerning him that certainly pertains to this period.
The Winnebago outbreak of 1827 had opened the eyes of the authorities at Washington to the fact that the existing garrisons in the Northwest (Fort Armstrong, on Rock Island, Fort Snelling, near modern St. Paul, and Fort Howard at Green Bay) were inadequate to control the vast extent of
country west of Lake Michigan and north of St. Louis. The forts at Chicago and Prairie du Chien were regarrisoned, therefore, and it was determined in addition to build a new fort at the Fox-Wisconsin portage in the heart of the Winnebago country. Accordingly, in September, 1828, Major David E. Twiggs led three companies of troops from Green Bay to the Portage, and began the erection of temporary quarters. We learn from a letter written by this officer on December 29, fol. lowing that nothing had as yet been done toward erecting the permanent quarters, although considerable lumber and other material had been gotten out. Presumably the work of construction was prosecuted the following season, for Major Twiggs, in the letter alluded to, expressed confidence in his ability to complete the work in November, 1829, and Mrs. Kinzie, who came to the fort to reside in the autumn of 1830, seems to have found the structure complete.'
To Fort Winnebago late in 1829, according to Mrs. Davis and Professor Dodd, came Jefferson Davis for a stay which extended until some time in the year 1831. In several of the biographies Davis is represented as the builder of the fort, and this is cited as an evidence of his ability, and of its early recognition by his commanding officer. The fact is clear, however, that whatever credit attaches to the building of Fort Winnebago belongs to Major Twiggs, who was in command of the post from the beginning. Equally clear is the part taken by Davis in the enterprise. A subordinate officer of the garrison (he was a brevet lieutenant at the time) he had the immediate oversight of a party of soldiers which was sent out to procure logs for the work. Davis himself in 1872, in response to an
6 A convenient summary of the history of Fort Winnebago is given by Andrew J. Turner in Wis. Hist. Colls., XIV, 65-102.
7 Mrs. John H. Kinzie, Wau Bun, The Early Day in the Northwest (New York, 1856).
& Other evidence points to a somewhat earlier date for Davis' transfer to Fort Winnebago. General David Hunter in 1881 told John Wentworth that he first saw Davis at Chicago in October, 1829, the latter having come from_Fort Winnebago in search of deserters. Fergus Historical Series, No. 16, 28. Davis himself says in a letter to James D. Butler in 1885, preserved in the Wisconsin Historical Library : "Fort Winnebago had been occupied but a short time before my arrival there and I think nothing was known to the garrison about the Four Lakes before I saw them.” In the same letter he fixes this date as “the summer of 1829.” Both Hunter and Davis, speaking after the lapse of half a century, may easily have been mistaken in such a matter as a date; but in line with their recollection is the clear testimony (to be noted later) that Davis aided in getting out logs for the construction of the Fort, and this work seems to have been carried out in the season of 1829.
inquiry from his old-time friend, Senator George W. Jones of Dubuque, wrote a clear and interesting account of his share in the work, in a letter which seems to have eluded the search of all his biographers. “In 1829,” it states, “I went to Fort Winnebago and was put in charge of the working parties to obtain material for the construction of blockhouses, barracks and stores. Gen. (then Capt.) W. S. Harney was sent with his company to the pine forest high up the Wisconsin River, another party was sent to the maple, ash, and oak forest on the Baraboo River, both parties used the whip saw, and being among wild Indians were, doubtless, objects of wonder. When the timber procured on the Wisconsin was brought down to the portage of the Wisconsin and Fox, the former river was so full that its waters overflowed its banks, and ran in a broad sheet into the Fox River. Taking advantage of the fact, we made rafts suited to the depth of the water and floated the lumber across to the site of the fort, on the east bank of the Fox River.”'
Of the life at Fort Winnebago during the years Davis was stationed there many records have been preserved. The garrison circle numbered during the next two years a surprisingly large proportion of men who like Davis won distinction in after years. Buried in this obscure wilderness post they little foresaw as they raised their voices in the chorus of Benny Havens, the old West Point melody,
In the army there's sobriety,
Promotion's very slow the opportunities for promotion and fame that the Mexican and Civil Wars would open to them.
Perhaps the most interesting description of life at Fort Winnebago in this period is the one contained in Mrs. Kinzie's book, Wau Bun. The author, a talented New England woman, came as a bride to the place in 1830 and the contents of her book, which was published a quarter of a century later, chiefly pertain to her three years' residence here. But little is said by Mrs. Kinzie which directly concerns Davis; one interesting item, however, describes the furniture which had been fashioned under his direction for the rooms of the officers' quarters. In the sleeping room was a huge bedstead, “of proportions amply sufficient to have accommodated Og, the king of Bashan, with Mrs. Og and the children into the bargain.” More interesting still was a three-compartment structure of marvelous architecture which had been designed to supply the absence of clothespress, china closet, and storeroom. In honor of its projector this was christened by those who used it a "Davis.”
9 This letter, written January 5, 1872 I have found printed in the Mitroaukee Sentinel of February 3, 1891 and there credited to the Le Mars (Iowa) Sentinel. The editorial introduction states that about twenty years before, an article had appeared in the Dubuque Times entitled “Jeff Davis the first lumberman in Wisconsin," Jones evidently sent a copy of this to Davis with the request that he comment on its accuracy, and the letter before us is his response to this request. The remainder of its contents will be noted farther on in this article.
A question of some interest, in view of the character of certain stories set afloat in Wisconsin thirty years later, pertains to Davis' personal habits and conduct. "There was some drinking and much gambling “at Fort Winnebago” writes Mrs. Davis, “but Mr. Davis never did either.” If Davis actually told his young wife this, the recording angel, let us hope, has long since forgiven him. More to the point is the statement of Turner, the historian of the fort:20 “I have heard it remarked by those who knew him here that he had no liking for the amusements to which officers, as well as private soldiers, resort to relieve the tedium of camp life; but that he was ever engaged, when not in active service, in some commendable occupation.”
More interesting still is a suggestion contained in the diary of Rev. Cutting Marsh, the missionary to the Stockbridge
, Indians “Wrote to Lieut. Davis Fort Winnebage. Contents of t(he) letter: First, t(he) bill of the Bibs &c. Secnd, urged t(he) importance of his inquiring whether he could not do something for t(he) moral renovation of t(he) soldiers at t(he) Ft. Love & gratitude to t(he) Sav(ior) sh (oul)d induce it immediately. Although alone, he sh (oul) d not feel a sufficient excuse for declining to make an effort. David went alone against his foe, & t(he) defier of the army of Israel, but in t(th) name of t(he) Ld. of hosts, & he conquered. God has something without doubt for you to do in thus bringing you, as you hope, to t(he) knowledge & to t(he) acknowledgement of t(he) truth as it is in Jesus. It was but a few years ago when Christians began to make t(he) inquiry respecting sea
10 Wisconsin Historical Collections, XIV, 75. 11 This diary is preserved in the Wisconsin Historical Library at Madison.