Davis, Jefferson

Jefferson Davis Gets His Due

In 1830 future president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis was part of the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Winnebago located in present day Portage, Wisconsin. While there, Davis was attracted to a lovely young local woman. He became very jealous wherever she was concerned. Mr. Davis got it into his head that a fellow soldier named Mr. Stewart was also interested in the lady, and in a fit of anger Mr. Davis said, “I swear by all the buttons on my coat that I will cowhide that miserable Yankee out of his skin.”

So Davis lay in wait for Stewart, and when his rival appeared began whipping him without any explanation. It seems, however, that Davis failed to consider that Stewart might fight back – and Stewart was bigger. Davis only got in two lashes before Stewart threw two punches, knocked Davis down, and began applying punishment of his own.

Stewart demanded that Davis keep away in the future, especially as he had no reason to be jealous; Stewart insisted there was nothing between himself and the woman in question. After publicly tweaking the proud Southerner’s nose and amusing himself by slapping and pinching Davis, Stewart extracted a promise from Davis to leave him alone. Davis later remarked that he had “never received two such blows from a man or a horse.” So Wisconsin became the first place that Jefferson Davis suffered a defeat at the hands of a Yankee.

Information provided by the Wisconsin State Historical Society, edited by Bruce Gardow

Mr. Randall's history, published in 1874, tells a story about the first lumber raft run down the Chippewa River in 1835. Lt. Jefferson Davis, fresh out of West Point and stationed at Fort Crawford (Prairie du Chien) was sent upriver to obtain lumber to rebuild it. The Red Cedar mills filled the order and sent the materials in strings to the confluence with the Chippewa, where the strings were assembled into larger rafts. Davis and his soldiers boarded the rafts and they embarked. All went well until they reached the head of Beef Slough where the river widens out. An old French voyageur was the pilot in charge and ordered, "to de right, hard!" Lt. Davis shouted, "You villain, what are you doing? You are running the raft right to hell. I say, pull to the left where the main river is." The crew obeyed his orders. According to the historian, the raft was broken up and the soldiers returned to Fort Crawford without the goods.

Lois Barland, Sawdust City, p.37 edited by Dan Fisher