Ledger books from Fort Winnebago, 1831-1851

Fort Winnebago Orderly Book, 1834-1836, and Fort Winnebago Ledger, 1831-1851

When the American Revolution ended in 1783, Wisconsin became part of the United States. Most residents, however, maintained much closer ties to the British in Montreal than they did to Washington. For the next 30 years, Wisconsin's white settlers and Indian nations were much more likely to consider themselves part of Canada than of the U.S. After the War of 1812, the U.S. government established firmer control. American traders throughout the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley asked the government to erect military outposts along the Canadian border and down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Three forts were constructed in Wisconsin: Fort Howard at Green Bay, which functioned 1816-1852; Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien, which operated 1816-1856; and Fort Winnebago at Portage, which was staffed 1828-1845.

Soldiers and officials stationed at these forts preserved the peace, protected American commerce from Canadian interlopers, negotiated treaties with Indian nations, and constructed Wisconsin┐s first roads. Military personnel also provided social, legal, medical and educational services to settlers living near them. To Yankees relocating westward, the forts were cherished bastions of civilization in a hostile wilderness. To the French fur traders, the outposts were unwelcome intrusions, bringing competition for trade and military commanders opposed to French-Canadian land claims and culture. To Native Americans, the forts represented both commercial opportunity and military oppression.

The first of the two volumes given here is an orderly book (Wis Mss 1CL) covering September 24, 1834, to September 6, 1836. It was given to the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1897 by the widow of Lt. Horatio Phillips Van Cleve, who was acting adjutant of the Fifth Infantry at the time. Its 160 pages contain details of official proceedings at the garrison such as courts martial for drunkenness, disorderly conduct, crossing the Fox River without permission, and introducing liquor into the fort. Excerpts from it were printed in Wisconsin Historical Collections, Volume XIV (1898).

The second volume is a financial ledger covering the years 1831-1851, identified on its front free-endpaper as the quartermaster's book. It records business transactions between military personnel and outsiders who provided services, rented space, or had other commercial dealings with the fort officials. It also contains a few rosters of soldiers employed on extra duties, a few sketches and drawings, and so many miscellaneous notes that a previous owner as written in the front, "It is a scandle how this book is scribbled on..."

Related Topics: Territory to Statehood
Early U.S. Settlement
Creator: United States. Army.
Pub Data: Digitized from the original unpublished manuscripts in the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, call no. Wis Mss CL (vol. 4) and XXXX
Citation: United States. Army. Fort Winnebago Orderly Book, 1834-1836, and Fort Winnebago Ledger, 1831-1851. Online facsimile at:  http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=1730; Visited on: 4/25/2018