Old Fort Madison – Fort Madison, Iowa

oldftmadison.jpgOld Fort Madison – Fort Madison, Iowa

The Louisiana Territory opened up and Fort Madison was built. Today it is remembered with an accurate reconstruction of the first military fort on the upper Mississippi.

Discover military life on the rugged frontier of the Louisiana Territory. Learn the exciting heritage of Iowa before it was a state and of its involvement in the War of 1812.

The historic garrison was home to the 1st Regiment U.S. Infantry from 1808-1813.

Take a tour of the Fort and get a feeling for what life was like at a military garrison. You will be greeted by guides dressed in era appropriate clothing, they will encourage you to participate with hands-on experience of trying a fresh-baked morsel, dipping a candle, hefting a Springfield musket, or just interacting with interpreters.

In part, the fort served to protect the government "factory," or trading post, where area Sauk and Fox could exchange furs and lead for hunting knives, animal traps, blankets, iron tools, fishhooks and other manufactured goods. The post was also intended to secure the American frontier in that region.

Following the outbreak of the War of 1812, British agents from Canada incited Black Hawk (Sauk warrior) and his allies against the Americans. In September, 1812, hostile bands of Sauk and Fox besieged Fort Madison, killed one soldier caught outside the stockade, slaughtered the garrison cattle, and burned several nearby cabins.

Faced with constant harassment, Lt. Thomas Hamilton, the post commander, ordered the fort abandoned in September, 1813. Under cover of darkness, the men of the garrison slipped away downriver in boats, having set fires as they departed, which left the fort engulfed in flames.

When the town of Fort Madison was settled in 1833, only the partly open cellars of some of the buildings marked the site. One hundred and thirty-two years later, in 1965, part of the cellar of the burned middle blockhouse was uncovered by chance in the parking lot of the W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company. This discovery led to excavations at the fort site by the Office of the Iowa State Archaeologist, which uncovered remains of two blockhouses, an officers’ quarters and enlisted men’s barracks.

Proposals to reconstruct a full-scale replica of Old Fort Madison had been voiced since 1936. Only in 1983, however, when the city of Fort Madison received the first of two government grants administered by the Bureau of Historical Preservation, Iowa State Historical Society, did the project begin. Replicas of major buildings (except the guardhouse, tail blockhouse and kitchens) were fabricated from oak timbers by inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary, who volunteered to assist on the project. After completion at the prison, the log structures were dismantled and re-erected in Riverview Park at a point several blocks from the historic fort site, but in the same close proximity to the Mississippi River as the original fort.

Site Location: Riverview Park & Hwy 61, Fort Madison, Iowa.

Hours of Operation: Spring & Fall: Open weekends only in May and September, 9:30-5pm
Summer & Fall: Open every day but Monday and Tuesday, June 1 – August 31

Admission: Adults: $5.00 Children (14 & under): $2.50 Under 5: Free

Throughout the year, several exciting special event weekends are conducted to enhance the living history program.
For information on events, call 1-800-210-TOUR.

Phone – 319-372-6318 In Season or 319-372-7700 Off Season. 


  1. Looking forward to the Candlelight re-enactment on October 22, 2011. I hope they can put it together. The city of Fort Madison should support and advertise this event better.

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