Originally Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2013, 8:50 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 20, 2013, 9:15 pm

Davenport OKs archaelogical survey of War of 1812 battle site

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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

Davenport aldermen have approved an archaeological survey of the War of 1812 battle site at Credit Island.

On Wednesday, aldermen voted to pay Commonwealth Cultural Resources Group Inc., of Jackson, Mich., up to $46,007.84 for the survey.Last year the city received a battlefield preservation grant from the National Park Service.

Davenport's role in the War of 1812 is important, said CCRG regional director Chris Espenshade. Part of the war's western campaign, the Credit Island battle included the Sauk leader Black Hawk, he said.

The archaeological survey could lead to signs identifying battle sites at Credit Island, Mr. Espenshade said. Already listed on the Davenport Register of Historic Properties and Local Landmarks, the island is a likely candidate for the National Register of Historic Places, he said, with the survey helping to define boundaries for such a designation.

Credit Island has had several names over the years, with its current name coming from the island's use as a fur trading post in theearly 1800s, according to River Action Inc.

According to Mr. Espenshade, in September 1814 the U.S. had eight large boats trying to get upstream in an effort to win back control of the area from the British. TheAmericans, led by Maj. Zachary Taylor -- who later would become president -- neared Credit Island before the wind shifted.

"The wind was blowing to the south, and they couldn't go further upstream," Mr. Espenshade said. "They stopped for the night at the head of Willow Island (near Credit Island). They were having anchor issues with a couple of their boats."

Mr. Espenshade said the Americans tried to clear Willow Island of Indians. The Indians reportedly fled back to Credit Island and the British fired on the American boats, forcing the Americans to move south to take care of their wounded.

"Accounts (of the battle) vary," he said. "We are hopeful we will find intact deposits.

"There would have been British 3-pounder cannon balls (with) the Indians out there both firing and being fired upon," Mr. Espenshade said."There could be small-arm musket balls, buttons, equipment, gun parts. We may see bits out there knocked off the boats."

In the battle, the Americans were outnumbered by British soldiers and Sauk and Fox Indians, Mr. Espenshade said. The most reported battle statistics list three Americans killed and 11 wounded.

"On the other side, some reports say one or two Indians were killed and no British casualties," he said.

As part of the survey, CCRG staff will interview historians and reach out to anyone who has found artifacts with the hopes of photographing the artifacts, Mr. Espenshade said. By summer, CCRG wants to have its work completed so it may present its findings to the public.

"We would like to have one or two meetings at the local library and have people bring in artifacts or pictures," he said. "We'll do more archival research and a military terrain analysis, where you're looking at the battlefield from a soldier's perspective."

"We're also hoping to do a meeting for local school teachers so they can use this information as a teaching opportunity," Mr. Espenshade said. "It's a great resource."