Caroline had the opportunity to visit a fort from her own era! This is an accurate replica built near the location of the original Fort Madison on the Mississippi River, near my hometown. The fort stood from 1808 to 1813 and was the first fort built on the upper Mississippi. It was first called Fort Belleview, then was permanently named after President James Madison.
The fort was established for several reasons, all of which came back to the bottom line of controlling Native Americans. It was established as a factory/trading post accompanied by military personnel, who worked to prevent French or British traders from trading with the Native Americans. The local Sauk tribe was displeased by the presence of the fort from the very beginning as the land was disputed despite a treaty signed several years earlier and began attacking almost immediately. The fort was more or less doomed as it was positioned directly below a bluff and above a ravine, allowing the attackers ideal vantage points and hiding spots. The Sauk allied with the British during the war of 1812 in hopes of driving the U.S. troops off of their land. The fort was under constant siege for weeks starting in July of 1813; the U.S. soldiers could not leave the fort at all. The famous Chief Black Hawk, who dictated a best-selling autobiography, took part in these attacks. Eventually the U.S troops snuck away in the dead of night, burning the fort as they left. This was the only War of 1812 Battle fought West of the Mississippi.
This part reminds me of Caroline’s stories very much. Imagine burning down your own home just so someone else can’t have it! This scenario is much different than the one that took place in Sacket’s Harbor, though, in my opinion. Having to burn your own shipyard to protect your freedom and liberty from the British is not the same as stealing land from Native people, defending it for months as they rightfully attack, and then sneaking away under the cover of darkness. It is interesting to me that during my childhood I remember someone telling me the reason the original fort no longer stood was “because the Indians burned it down”. That is not what happened at all, but isn’t it funny how prejudice so affects our perception of reality?
On a lighter note, it was really fun to take pictures of Caroline here because I think that she probably would have seen a similar fort in Sacket’s Harbor. A young girl like herself would never have actually seen this fort, though, because only soldiers and tradesmen lived here. The town itself was not established until several years later, and was named Fort Madison after the ruins of the fort. Caroline and I peeked through the gaps in the wall (it wasn’t open when we were there, but I have visited before) and tried to imagine what life would have been like inside over 200 years ago. What an adventure!