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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

A Historic Battlefield

Editor's Note:

In this entry Marsh commented on two of southern Wisconsin's historic landmarks.


Sac Prairie: " is about 16 square miles in area. It is bounded on the north by the Baraboo bluffs, a chain of high steep bluffs also extend along its western side, and on the south and east is the Wisconsin river. Its surface is undulating, soil good, and a considerable portion is cultivated. It is based (as we suppose all genuine prairies must be) upon a diluvial strata. There are several other smaller prairies in the county, from one to five miles in extent, but as there is such a great uniformity, it is unnecessary to go into detail." -- John W. Hunt's 1853 Wisconsin Gazetteer


Battle: The Battle of Wisconsin Heights, on July 21, 1832. Soldiers led by Henry Dodge caught up with Black Hawk's band near the Wisconsin River, across from present-day Sauk City. According to one participant, "about one hundred and twenty half-starved" Sauk warriors held off 3,000 American troops all day, allowing the Indian women and children to flee across the Wisconsin River until nightfall. Modern scholars estimate the numbers to have been more like 70 warriors outnumbered ten-to-one by 700 troops. The next morning, the American soldiers discovered that the Sauk warriors had vanished, having quietly forded the river in the darkness. The scene is pictured here.


Shot Tower: now a state park; we'll have more to say about it tomorrow.


Blish and Whitney: Daniel Whitney (1795-1862) came to Wisconsin in 1819 and over the next few decades became involved in a large number of business ventures in the Fox-Wisconsin waterway, from Green Bay to Prairies du Chien. A short biography is here. Mr. Blish is unidentified.



June 21, 1834

At an early hour we were on our way and after running a number of miles stopped at what is called Sac Prairie and breakfasted. At this prairie a battle was fought [in] 1832 between the Sacs, Foxes and U.S. forces in which it was reckoned that about 14 of the former were killed. The battle continued until the dark of even. and then each army retired to their camps.

At eve. we arrived at the Shot Tower on what is called the Pine Bend in the Wis. River [modern Helena], where [?] we put up for the Sab[bath] at Mr. Blish's residence, Mr. Whitney's agent. By him we were treated very kindly indeed and as our bed clothing was wet with the showers which fell last eve. that we had opportunity to dry them and prepare for the Sab[bath]. Here I met with Mr. D[?] an Indian trader who traffics with the Indians and sells strong drink etc. Saw Me-na-ca (Earth), the new chief of the Winnebagoes [Ho-Chunk], a very old man and who wore two silver medals, one before and the other behind.




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