The Davenport Democrat and Leader--New
Home Edition, July 17, 1924, page 19.
U. S. REGULARS BATTLE RED COATS
AND INDIANS HERE.
Credit Island, Now Greatest of
Davenport Pleasure Grounds,
Scene of Hot Battles
Between British and Indians Century Ago
CREDIT ISLAND, that beautiful Davenport
municipal pleasure ground on the Mississippi which has been
known by almost as many names as Peggy Hopkins Jones, was once
the scene of a hard-fought hand to hand battles between the
pioneer American soldiers of this vicinity and the British and
Indians in an aftermath of the War of 1812.
Today the element of competition, the less hostile,
continues in the same locale between golf partners.
Pervious to his presidency of the
United States, Zachary Taylor was a visitor to Davenport and
Credit Island, and it was he who as Major Zachary Taylor, U.
S. A. was in command of the troops at the battle of Credit
On Aug. 21, 1814, the British were
informed by the Fox Indians that an expedition larger than
preceding expeditions had left St. Louis for the upper river.
Six days later, Captain Anderson sent Lieutenant Duncan
Graham to meet this new force with a command of 20 British
soldiers, a bass three-pounder, and two swivels, with
instruction to harass the Americans and if possible compel a
return to St. Louis.
Thus was brought about an engagement within the
corporate limits of Davenport known as the battle of Credit
unwieldy nature of the keel boats, the inadequate
means of propulsion or maneuver, brought disaster to
the American arms.
These were not battle ships but rather transports, and of the
most primitive sort.
The issue of the conflict brought reproach in the
officer in command, Major Taylor, later the hero of the
Reports On the Battle
Under the date of Fort Madison Sept. 6,
1814, Major Taylor reports to General Howard:
In obedience to your orders, I left Fort Independence
on the 2d wit, and reached Rock River, our place of
destination, on the evening of the 4th inst., without meeting
a single Indian or any occurrence worthy of relation.
On my arrival at the mouth of Rock River the Indians
began to make their appearance in considerable numbers;
running up the Mississippi to the upper villages and crossing
the river below us.
After passing Rock River, which is very
small at the mouth, from an attentive and careful examination
as "I proceeded up the Mississippi I was confident it was
impossible for us to enter its mouth with our large boats.
Immediately opposite its mouth a large island
commences, which together with the western shore of the
Mississippi was covered with a considerable number of horses;
which were doubtless placed in those situations in order to
draw small detachments on shore.
But in this they were disappointed and
I determined to alter the plan which you have suggested--which
was to pass the different villages as if the object of the
expedition was Prairie du Chien--for several reasons; first,
that I might have an opportunity to viewing the situation of
the ground to enable me to select such a landing as would
bring our artillery to bear on the villages with the greatest
I was likewise in hopes a party would
approach us with a flag, from which I expected to learn the
situation of affairs at the Prairie, and ascertain in some
measure their numbers and perhaps bring them to a council,
when I should have been able to have retaliated on them for
their repeated acts of treachery; or, if they were determined
to attack us, I was in hopes to draw them some distance from
their towns toward the rapids, run down in the night and
destroy them before they could return to their defense.
But in this I was disappointed--the
wind which had been in our favor, began to shift about at the
time we passed the mouth of Rock River, and by the time we
reached the head of the island, which is about a mile and a
half long, it blew a perfect hurricane, quarterly
down the river, and it was with difficulty
we made land at a small island containing six or eight
acres covered with willows, near the middle of the river, and
about 60 yards from the upper end of the island.
In this situation I determined to
remain during the night.
If the storm continued, as I knew the anchors of
several of the boats in that event would not hold them and
there was a great probability of their being drifted on sand
bars, of which the river is full in this place, which would
have exposed the men very much in getting them off, even if
they could have prevented them filling with water.
The First Casualty.
It was about 4 o'clock in the evening
when we were compelled to land, and large parties of Indians
were on each side of the river, as well as crossing in
different directions in canoes, but not a gun was fired from
either side. The
wind continued to blow the whole night with violence,
accompanied with some rain, which induced me to order the
sentinels to be brought in and placed in the bow of each boat.
About daylight, Captain Whiteside's
boat was fired on at the distance of about 15 paces, and a
corporal who was on the outside of the boat was mortally
wounded. My orders
were if a boat was fired on, to return it, but not a
man to leave the boat without positive orders from myself.
So soon as it got perfectly light, as
the enemy continued about the boat, I determined to drum them
from the island, let their numbers be what they
might--provided we were able to do so.
I then assigned to each boat a proper guard, formed the
troops for action, and pushed thru the willows to the opposite
shore; but those fellows who had the boldness to fire on the
boats cleared themselves as soon as the troops were formed, by
wading from the island we were encamped on to the one just
Captain Whitesides, who was on the
left, was able to give them a warm fire as they reached the
island they had retreated to.
They returned the fire for a few moments when they
In this affair we had two men badly wounded.
When Captain Whitesides commenced the fire, I ordered
Captain Rector to drop down with the boat to ground and to
rake the island below with artillery, and to fire on every
canoe he should discover passing from one shore to the other
which should come in reach.
In this situation he remained about one
hour, and no Indians making their appearance, he determined to
drop down the island about 60 yards and destroy several canoes
that were laying to shore.
This he effected, and just on getting his men on board
the British commenced a fire on our boats with a six, a four ,
and two swivels, from behind a knoll that completely covered
The boats were entirely exposed to the
artillery, which was distant about 350 paces from us.
So soon as the first gun fired, I ordered a six-pounder
to be brought out and placed, but on recollecting a moment I
found the boat would be sunk before any impression could be
made on them by our cannon, as they were completely under
cover and had already brought their guns to bear on our
boats--for the round-shot from their six passed thru
boat and shattered her considerably.
The Attack Continues.
I then ordered the boats to drop down,
which was done in order, and conducted with the greatest
coolness by every officer, altho exposed to a constant fire
from their artillery for more than half a mile.
So soon as they commenced firing
from their artillery the Indians raised the yell and
commenced firing on us in every direction, whether they were
able to do us any damage or not, from each side of the river.
Captain Rector, who was laying to the shore of the
island, was attached the instant the first gun was fired, by a
very large party, and in a close and well contested engagement
of about 15 minutes they drove them, after giving three rounds
of grape from his three-pounder.
Captain Whitesides, who was nearest to
Captain Rector, dropped down and anchored nigh him, and gave
the enemy several fires with his swivel; but the wind was to
hard downstream as to drift his anchor.
Captain Rector at that moment got his boat off, and we
were then exposed to the fire of the Indians for two miles,
which was returned with interest from our small arms, and
small pieces of artillery, whenever we could get them to bear.
I was compelled to drop down about three miles before a
proper place presented itself for landing, as but few of the
boats had anchors sufficient to stop them in the river.
Here I halted for the purpose of having the wounded
attended, and some of the boats repaired, as some of them had
been injured by the enemy's artillery.
They followed us in their boats until we halted on a
small prairie and prepared for action, when they returned in
as great a hurry as they followed us.
3 to 1.
I then collected the officers together
and out the following questions to them:
Are we able, 334 effective men--officers,
non-commissioned men, and privates--to fight the enemy with
any prospect of success and effect, which is to destroy their
villages and corn?
They were of the opinion the enemy was at least three men to
one, and that it was not practicable to effect either object.
I then determined to drop down the river to the Lemoine
without delay, as some of the ranging(?) officers informed me
their men were short of provisions and execute the principle
object of the expedition in erecting an fort to command the
river. This shall
be effected as soon as practicable with the means in my power,
and should the enemy attempt to descend the river in force
before the fort can be completed, every foot of the way from
the fort to the settlements shall be contested.
In the affair at Rock River I had 11 men badly wounded,
three mortally, of whom one has since died.
I am indebted to the officers for their prompt
obedience to orders, nor do I believe a braver set of men
could have been collected than those who composed this
Sir, I conceive it would have been madness in me, as well as a
direct violation of orders to have risked the detachment
without a prospect of success.
I believe I should have been fully able to accomplished
your views, if the enemy had not been supplied with artillery,
and so advantageously posted as to render it impossible for us
to have dislodged him without imminent danger of the loss of
the whole detachment.
Major, Commanding, Dement
The larger of the two islands referred to in the
communication by General Zachary Taylor, a short time after
the battle referred to by him had attached to it the name of
"Credit" Island, which name has subsequently been often
changed to suit the whims or fancies of its several owners.
Just below Davenport, Mr. Downer
continues, this beautiful island is situated and contains some
200 acres, one well wooded and now partially farmed (Mr.
Downer's history was published in 1910).
It is a very creditable sort of island, indeed
well-known all the country around.
It's a queer sort of name for an island; yet nothing
discreditable as to name or condition.
It came honestly enough by it and this is how:
In the early days of this section, as
far back as 1815 to 1830, the Great American Fur Company, did
a thrifty business in this locality, selling goods to the
Indians and taking pay in peltries.
It was the custom of the Indians to go on "tick".
They were good pay masters, it is said, but giving cash
down was no part of their commercial training.
As a matter of fact, it is a good deal so with people
of today who are not purely savage.
It was the custom of the noble red man, as soon as his
delicate wives had gotten the corn, beans, and papooses
gathered in the fall, to put out on their annual winter hunt
after furred animals, but they had not ammunition at that time
of year, having used it all the previous season.
Besides, their personal wardrobe was out of repair and
their squaws and daughters desired something stunning for the
Under the circumstances what could an Indian or even a
white savage do but "run his face"?
What would you do
would not sue your credit if you had any; so did the Indian.
It was the custom of the traders to appear along in
September, and for the better protection of their goods and
chattels and horses from unforeseen stampeding; invasion they
almost invariably betook themselves to the island in question.
There they were visited in canoes by the Indians, who
swarmed, hither from all the country round about to trade.
The traders would erect temporary stores in which were
exposed for sale or barter vast quantities of goods in every
description--dry, hard, and liquid--that were considered
useful or ornamental in the proud savage's home.
The average Indian's word was considered gilt-edged,
and on four and six
months' promises, generally bought all the powder, lead, guns,
traps and dry goods desired, conditioned upon paying a rousing
good price in peltries.
So the business, was all one on credit, and from the
long duration of the custom here recited "the beautiful island
below Davenport gained the well-known name of Credit Island.
On the 24th of December, 1814, peace was concluded at
Ghent in Europe; but the act was not known for some months
Governor Reynolds later saw at St. Louis the boats that were
in Taylor's battle--riddled with the cannon balls, which were
made of lead.