Sidewheel Riverboat War Eagle

Sidewheel Riverboat War Eagle (HM1KUP)

Location: La Crosse, WI 54601 La Crosse County
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Country: United States of America
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N 43° 49.1', W 91° 15.367'

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Historic Shipwreck

— Wisconsin's Maritime Trails —

Type: Wooden sidewheel riverboat
Built: 1854, Fulton, Ohio
Sank: May 14, 1870
Length: 219' Beam: 29'
Cargoes: Mail, package freight, passengers, troops
Propulsion: Paddlewheel
Depth of Wreckage: 10'
Determined Eligible for National Register of Historic Places

Just up the Black River from this point lie the remains of the sidewheel riverboat War Eagle. Built in Fulton, Ohio, in 1854, she boasted 46 staterooms, fine velvet carpets, luxurious furniture, and onboard barbershops. During the Civil War, the War Eagle transported troops and supplies. Her only casualty was a stray bullet that pierced her smokestack in 1862.

After the war, the War Eagle again carried passengers and freight between the bustling towns along the Mississippi River. Connections between steamships and trains made ports like La Crosse important transportation hubs for settlers moving to the western frontier.

On the night of May 14, 1870, the War Eagle was docked at the Milwaukee Road Railroad Depot, just across the river from this spot. The ship's carpenter was tightening the bands of a leaking barrel of kerosene. His lantern burst, the kerosene caught fire, and soon the ship's deck was ablaze. The flames engulfed the dock, the depot, and several warehouses and grain elevators. A nearby barge was lost, and two steamers were damaged. Seven passengers, attempting to save their worldly belongings, perished in the fire or drowned.

Many artifacts have been removed from the area of the wreck site, but the hull structure of the War Eagle remains among a tangle of wood, metal and bricks from the burned buildings. Visibility in the river is near zero.

Background Image: Bird's-eye view of riverboats at the Milwaukee Road Railroad Depot in La Crosse, about 1870.
Series This marker is part of the Wisconsin: Wisconsin's Maritime Trails series
Placed ByWisconsin Historical Society, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, June 1st, 2015 at 10:02am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)15T E 640241 N 4853173
Decimal Degrees43.81833333, -91.25611667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 43° 49.1', W 91° 15.367'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds43° 49' 6" N, 91° 15' 22.02" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)608
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling West
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 410 E Veterans Memorial Dr, La Crosse WI 54601, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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