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Recalling the War of 1812 in Wisconsin


British forces fire a cannon during the re-enactment of the historic Battle of Prairie du Chien

The story of the War of 1812 in Wisconsin, the second war with Great Britain, will be recalled and re-enacted during the War of 1812 in Wisconsin: The Battle of Prairie du Chien at the Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien on Saturday and Sunday, July 14-15. The true-to-life event will take place on the very ground where it actually took place almost 200 years ago — the only War of 1812 battle ever fought on Wisconsin soil. Though largely unknown and misunderstood, the War of 1812 was a turning point in Wisconsin history, and 2012 marks the bicentennial of the war. At the center of this epic transition was the fur trade village of Prairie du Chien.

Strategic Location Made Prairie du Chien Important to Both Sides

Located at the junction of two important trade routes, the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers, Prairie du Chien was exactly halfway between the British fur trade capital on Mackinac Island and the American settlement at St. Louis. In the hope of securing the Upper Mississippi in the summer of 1814, Americans built a small fort on an Indian Mound in the midst of Prairie du Chien. British forces on Mackinac responded by sending about 100 militia troops drawn from the ranks of fur trade voyageurs. As they journeyed through the rivers of Wisconsin more than 500 American Indian allies joined them for a joint attack on the small U.S. garrison. An attack and siege ensued with the outcome easily predicted before it ever began: the British won the battle but went on to lose the war.

Battle Re-enactments Each Day

For the re-enactment more than 100 War of 1812 living history enthusiasts will set up American and British-Canadian encampments on the lawn of the stately Villa Louis. At 7 pm on Saturday and at 2:30 pm Sunday, major events of the historic battle will be condensed into a narrated battle re-enactment highlighted with cannon fire and pyrotechnic special effects. Throughout the event re-enactors will demonstrate infantry and artillery drills, parlay with Indians, issue rum rations, skirmish, shoot muskets, cook and live out other details of early 19th-century camp life. There will also be hands-on activities for children and families.

Economy and Culture of Early 19th-Century Wisconsin

On Saturday at 1:30 pm a special lecture and talk-back will be presented by scholar in residence, Lucy Eldersveld Murphy, who will talk about the impact of the War of 1812 on the Metis and Indian women of the fur trade families that made up the economy and the culture of early 19th-century Wisconsin. Murphy's talk is funded in part by the Wisconsin Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

If You Go

The mansion, restored to its 1890s heyday, will be open for tours throughout the event, and food and beverages will be available on the grounds. For complete details on admission, hours, accessibility, location and directions, see our visitor information pages.

:: Posted July 9, 2012

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