Fort Crawford was one of a chain of forts constructed along the Upper Mississippi River and Fox-Wisconsin waterway in Wisconsin. The forts were to project a United States presence on the frontier. The garrisons were engaged mainly in keeping peace between white settlers and the Native Americans.
In 1829, Fort Crawford was relocated from an island to the mainland of Prairie du Chien, with construction directed by Colonel Zachary Taylor. Lieutenant Jefferson Davis assisted him. At this time, Dr. William Beaumont was post surgeon at Fort Crawford. While in Prairie du Chien, Beaumont conducted fifty-six of his experiments on the human digestive system.
The second Fort Crawford was fully occupied in 1832. That year the Black Hawk War broke out, and troops from Fort Crawford participated. After the Battle of Bad Axe, Black Hawk surrendered to Col. Taylor, and Lt. Davis escorted Black Hawk to imprisonment in St. Louis, Missouri.
During the 1840s the Fort Crawford garrison assisted in the construction of the Military Road linking Fort Crawford to Fort Winnebago at the portage.
After the Mexican War, there was little need for Fort Crawford, and the post was abandoned in 1856. During the Civil War, the post was used as a recruiting center. The hospital became part of the Swift United States Army General Hospital. In September 1865, the buildings became empty, and the barracks were demolished in the 1870s.
The Hospital remained and has been restored. It is the only Fort Crawford building still standing.
The Second Fort Crawford was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark on August 21, 1935.
The Fort Crawford Museum is open from May to October. Tours are self-guided, and it takes around 1 to 1½ hours to explore all three buildings. Guided group tours are also available by appointment.
Features and Exhibits
The Fort Crawford Museum encompasses three buildings of exhibits on local and medical history, and won the 2013 Museum Exhibit Award from the Wisconsin Historical Society for a new exhibit on the Swift U.S. Army Hospital and the Civil War. Regular tours are self-guided, with information available in the visitor center.
Fort Crawford Military Hospital
The Military Hospital is the only remaining structure from the second Fort Crawford. It offered care for sick and wounded soldiers beginning in 1831. Dr. William Beaumont, the post surgeon, helped found the modern study of medicine when he researched digestion at the fort during the 1830s. Although the fort buildings fell into disrepair in the late nineteenth century, a portion of the hospital building was reconstructed with original materials on its original foundations during the 1930s. It is a registered National Historic Landmark. The building contains several exhibits, including:
- An 1830s Ward Room explaining Dr. Beaumont's experiments
- Artifacts Discovered at the Fort Barracks
- The Military History of Fort Crawford
- The History of Medical Progress
- An antique pharmacy and dentist office.
- Swift United States Army General Hospital and the Civil War (Winner of the 2013 Museum Exhibit Award from the Wisconsin Historical Society!)
School and group tours receive discounted admission. Guided tours are available. Please contact us for more information and to reserve a date.
GUIDED TOURS of the Fort Crawford Military Cemetery are available with prior reservation.
The Fort Crawford Museum includes a gift shop, restrooms, and picnic tables
Seasons and hours of operation and entrance fees below
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