Fort Madison and the War of 1812

Fort Madison Trunk Contents Overview

Fort Madison is one of the most important historic archaeological sites in Iowa. It was the first military fort that the United States government built in the Upper Mississippi River valley, and also the location of the only major battle of the War of 1812 that was fought west of the Mississippi River. In September of 1812, Black Hawk and his warriors attacked Fort Madison. 

Fort Madison was burned to the ground by the army when it was abandoned in 1813. The area remained relatively isolated until Iowa was officially opened to settlers in 1832. In 1965, 152 years after the fort was burned, construction workers at the Shaffer Pen Company in the town of Fort Madison encountered a stone foundation underneath the company’s parking lot. Archaeological fieldwork took place in 1965, then again in 2009. The archaeologists learned a lot about how the fort was built. Artifacts from the excavation gave a glimpse into what life was like at the fort for soldiers, women, and children. 

The trunk includes nearly 30 frontier-era replicas and reproductions, books and maps, an extensive background on archaeology and Fort Madison, as well as five lessons that focus on artifacts, maps and scales, context, and frontier life.

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Note: There is a $25 service fee for all trunks borrowed from the Office of the State Archaeologist. This service fees covers staff time to maintain the traveling trunk program, including processing requests, preparing trunks for shipping, inventorying and replacing items, and making upgrades to trunk contents and lessons. We cover shipping to the trunk's destination, but it is the responsibility of the borrower to return the trunk to OSA via shipping or drop-off.