La Crosse in La Crosse County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Sidewheel Riverboat War Eagle
—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
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
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.
Erected by Wisconsin Historical Society, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Wisconsin’s Maritime Trails marker series.
Location. 43° 49.1′ N, 91° 15.367′ W. Marker is in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in La Crosse County. Marker is on East Veterans Memorial Dr. 0.2 miles north of State Street, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Located at the north end of Riverside Park, next to Riverside Museum. Marker is at or near this postal address: 410 E Veterans Memorial Dr, La Crosse WI 54601, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow Spence Park (approx. ¼ mile away); Original Home Built By Gottlieb and Johanna Heileman (approx. one mile away); Losey Memorial (approx. one mile away); Red Cloud Park (approx. 1.6 miles away); Our Lady of Sorrows Chapel (approx. 2.1 miles away); History of Flagpole (approx. 2.3 miles away); First Complete Service of Christian Divine Worship (approx. 2.3 miles away); Campbell Cemetery G.A.R. Memorial (approx. 2.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in La Crosse.
Also see . . .
1. Steamboat War Eagle Tragedy. La Crosse Public Library Archives (Submitted on June 1, 2015.)
2. The Wreck of the Steamship War Eagle. Big River magazine (Submitted on June 1, 2015.)
Additional keywords. Shipwrecks
Categories. • War, US Civil • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 27, 2015, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 284 times since then and 54 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on May 27, 2015, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.