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Potluck: Bicentennial of The Siege of Fort Madison

Ft. Madison

Four Days in September

Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner
and Mary Gottschalk

The War of 1812 reached Iowa soil in September. In what is now known as the Siege of Fort Madison, the 36 soldiers who manned the fort held off some 200 Winnebago and Sauk warriors for four days.

The siege occurred as part of an offensive orchestrated by Chief Tecumseh to attack Fort Madison and two Indiana forts, all within 10 hours of each other. Tecumseh allied with the British during the war in an attempt to reclaim control of the upper Mississippi River and regain the land for native tribes.

“It’s surprising how well they could coordinate war movements without any of our modern communication technology,” says Dr. Eugene Watson, Old Fort Madison site manager. “They sent messages by men on foot and in canoes.”

War of 1812 reenactors — including soldiers, native warriors, and fur traders — will gather in Fort Madison this September to demonstrate maneuvers, tactics, and skirmishes used during the siege.

Prior to the fort’s abandonment in 1813, Fort Madison housed as many as 100 soldiers. Many veterans moved to Iowa after the war. The graves of more than 480 War of 1812 veterans have been identified across the state.

The 200th anniversary of the 1812 siege will be observed September 8–9 in Fort Madison’s Riverview Park. Learn more online at and — C.B.

Photo courtesy Ted Kolbet.

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