THE BATTLE OF CREDIT ISLAND
~ Researched and Transcribed by
Davenport Democrat and Leader, July 20, 1924, page 83.
High Lights on Early History of Davenport Show How From 1814
on Civilization Unfolded.
thing that is interesting, however, is the first years of
Davenport’s existence, Major Zachary Taylor, later president,
had been in charge of the soldiers, who came on an expedition
for the purpose of establishing forts on the Upper
Three armed boats had left Cap au Gris under orders, to
destroy the Indian settlements near Rock Island.
The plan was frustrated by a combined force of Indians
Taylor retreated from a superior force that had positions of
strategic character on the neighboring island known
chronologically as Credit, Offerman’s, Grand, Suburban park
and Credit Island.”
Saturday Evening Post Burlington Iowa, November 7, 1914
BATTLE OF CREDIT ISLAND
One hundred years ago, in September, 1814, British bullets
sang through the woods not far from the present site of the
city of Davenport, when the so-called battle of Credit Island
was fought between a small company of British and Indians and
a force of Americans.
“In July,” says the writer of an article recently
published by the State Historical Society of Iowa “an American
force under Lieutenant John Campbell was checked three miles
above Rock Island by a party of Sacs and Foxes under the
command of Black Hawk, suffered a bloody repulse, and
retreated with a loss of nine killed, sixteen wounded, and one
boat of stores captured.
To destroy the village and crops of these hostile Sacs
and Foxes upon the Rock River, Major Zachary Taylor set off
from St. Louis with about 350 men in August.
On the 6th day of September, as Taylor’s
armed keel-boats were preparing to ascend Rock Rapids, an
English artillery officer with thirty men welcomed Taylor’s
force with a brass three pounder and two swivels; these were
handled so dexterously with co-operation from the Sacs and
Foxes on shore that the American boats hastily retired
Davenport Democrat and Leader, July 20, 1924, page 100.
BATTLE OF CAMPBELL’S ISLAND OVER A CENTURY AGO
OF FAMOUS LOCAL HISTORY EVENTS
Few of the Davenporters to whom Campbell’s Island is a
familiar place realize that one of the most important events
of the city’s history took place there when Lieutenant
Campbell, traveling up the river to Prairie Du Chein, was
attacked by Indians under the command of Chief Black Hawk.
The battle was one of the most exciting in the long record of
those early encounters, when the settlers warred with an
unfriendly race besides with the unfriendly elements.
Early in July, 1814, an expedition under the command of
Captain John Campbell, First United States Infantry, left St.
Louis and proceeded to Prairie du Chien to strengthen the
garrison at that place.
The expedition, consisting of 42 regulars, 66 rangers
and about 21 other persons, including boatmen, women, and the
sutler’s establishment, went up the river in three keel-boats
as far as Rock Island, near which place the expedition was
attacked by Indians and nearly destroyed.
Expedition Reaches Rock Island.
Lieutenant Campbell commanded the boat with the regulars, and
Captain Stephen Rector and Lieutenant Riggs the other two
barges manned by rangers.
The expedition reached Rock Island in peace, but the
Sac and Fox Indians, in great numbers swarmed around the boats
while still professing peace.
The barge commanded by Rector was navigated by the
French of Cahokia, who were sailors and soldiers.
During the night, while the boats lay still at Rock
Island, the Indians were making hollow professions of
of the French, knowing the Indians too well, informed
Lieutenant Campbell of their treachery.
But the Lieutenant could not be convinced that the
Indians were anything but friendly.
Not without reason were the fears of the French; the
Indians wanted them to leave the Americans and go home.
They would squeeze the hands of the French, pulling
their heads down the river, indicating to leave.
The Indians disliked to fight their old friends the
When the fleet set sail in the morning the wind above Rock
Island blew so hard that Campbell’s boat was forced on a lee
shore and lodged on a small island near the mainland, known
from the circumstance as “Campbell’s Island.”
Commanded by Black Hawk the Indians began an attack on
the boat as soon as it hit the shore.
Ahead, the boats of Rector and Riggs could see the
smoke of the fire arms but could not hear the report of the
guns. The two
ships returned to assist Campbell, but the wind was so high
that their barges were almost unmanageable; they were forced
to anchor at some distance from Campbell, unable to help him,
because the storm raged so severely.
Driven ashore by the wind, Campbell’s men began cooking their
breakfast. But in
spite of the sentinels that Campbell had placed out, the enemy
rushed in on them by the hundreds, killing many on the spot.
The survivors took rescue in the boat where, on and
around it, the warriors kept up a continuous attack until they
succeeded in setting the boat on fire.
Rector to the Rescue.
Campbell’s men had almost ceased firing when Rector and his
men came to the rescue.
The bottom of the burning boat was covered with the
dead and the wounded.
Campbell himself lay wounded in the midst of his men.
Rector and his men, unable to remain inactive
spectators to the destruction of Campbell and his men, had
raised their anchor in a tempest of wind and, in the face of
almost a thousand Indians, had imperiled their lives to rush
to the scene of action.
During the rest of the war in the west, no act of daring and
bravery surpassed the rescue of Campbell.
The French rangers under Rector were well acquainted
with managing a boat in such a crisis, while neither the
commander nor his men lacked in chivalry and patriotism.
Rector’s boat had first been lightened by casting overboard
quantities of provisions.
Many of the crew then actually got out of the boat into
the water, and leaving the vessel between them and the fire of
the enemy, pushed their boat against fire, the entire
distance to Campbell’s boat, which was in the possession of
Rector and his 40 men made a steady advance until, forcing
their barge to the burning boat they faced nearly a thousand
of the enemy and carried the wounded and living soldiers,
together with their commander, to safety.
Return to St. Louis.
his superior knowledge of the management of a vessel, a
saltwater sailor by the name of Doadley did gallant service in
the daring enterprise.
Rector took all the live men from Campbell’s boat into his,
while his men, in the water, hauled their own boat out into
the stream. The
Indians fasted on the abandoned boat of Campbell.
With his boat crowed with wounded and dying, Rector rowed
night and day until they reached St. Louis.
The boat of Riggs was supposed to have been captured by
the enemy, but the vessel, strongly fortified, lay in the
hands of the enemy for several hours, the enemy in possession
of the outside, the whites the inside.
In the evening the wind subsided so that Riggs got his
boat off, leaving the Indians in the lurch.
There was a general jubilee in St. Louis when Riggs, without
losing many men, arrived in safety.
But Rector and Riggs, with their troops, presented a
distressing sight, those who were not wounded were worn down
to skeletons by labor and fatigue.
Iowa, The First Free State in the Louisiana Purchase:
Discovery To The Admission of the State Into the Union,
William Salter, Chicago A. C. McClure & Co 1905, pages 94-96.
order to break up a nest of British traders and hostile
Indians on the upper Mississippi, Governor Clark early in May,
1814, went up the river with a gunboat and barges, and one
hundred and fifty volunteers and sixty regulars, and built a
fort at Prairie du Chien.
The Governor returned to St. Louis, leaving the troops
to hold the fort; but an overwhelming force of British and
Indians compelled its capitulation on the seventeenth of July.
About the same time, troops on the way up the river
with reinforcements and supplies, under Captain John Campbell,
met with a furious assault form the Sacs and Foxes at Rock
savages were marshaled by Black Hawk, and swarmed about the
boats on both sides of the river.
They killed nine, wounded sixteen of the Americans,
captured one of the boats with its stores, and compelled a
British commander at Prairie du Chien reported it as “perhaps
the most brilliant action fought by Indians only, since the
commencement of the war.”
chastise those Indians and destroy their villages and
corn-fields, another force was sent from St. Louis in August
under Major Zachary Taylor.
Approaching Rock Island, a British flag was seen
flying, and a cannon-shot that struck Major Taylor’s boat gave
him the first warning that a British force would dispute his
Lieutenant from Prairie du Chien had come in answer to an
appeal from the Indians, bringing a brass three-pounder and
two swivels. They
were posted on the west side of the river.
At the same time bands of Foxes, Winnebagoes, and Sioux
came down the Mississippi to help the Sacs.
Black Hawk again marshaled the Indians on both sides of
the river. The
guns were well handled.
The Indians dragged them from one position to another
with high glee, and drowned each report of the guns with yells
After fatal skirmishing (eleven men were badly wounded, three
mortally), finding it impossible to dislodge the enemy without
endangering his whole command, Major Taylor retired down the
river. This was
on the sixth of September, 1814.