War Eagle (1854)
photograph of the luxurious interior of the War Eagle
Side scan sonar imagery of the War Eagle shipwreck site
By The Numbers
Lives Lost
Depth (ft)
Service History

The War Eagle was built in 1854 in Fulton, Ohio. She was a 296 ton, sidewheel steam vessel with a 219 foot long oak hull and had 46 staterooms. The War Eagle was purchased in 1866 by the LaCrosse & St Paul Packet Company to be used to transport passengers and freight between Galena and St. Paul. During the Civil war the War Eagle functioned as a troop and supply carrier and during non-war periods she would carry general freight such as mail, passengers, farm implements, grain, tools, and china.
Final Voyage

"While unloading freight at the Milwaukee Railroad depot in LaCrosse, the War Eagle's carpenter attempted to repair a leaking cask of kerosene. The carpenter's lantern apparently ignited the kerosene, which rapidly spread to the vessel, the adjoining pier and depot, and to nearby railroad cars and vessels. The ensuing fire destroyed the War Eagle and much of the adjacent pier and railroad depot. Seven passengers are reported to have died in the fire. The vessel's machinery was salvaged by the owners in 1870-1871."

A section of the hull remains which consists of approximately 100 feet of keel as well as some framing and planking. This lies in a north south orientation running parallel to shore. There is a wide variety of items both from the wreck and the Milwaukee Road railroad depot scattered about the site, but due to it's shallow depth much has been removed during low water and by scuba divers "The location of the War Eagle has always been known. It has been repeatedly looted since the fire. Portions of the vessel were exposed by low water in the 1930's. Dredging work for the nine foot channel also directly impacted the vessel. Despite all of these very damaging factors, the War Eagle yielded a large amount of data and material culture."
Confirmed Location     Unconfirmed location
© 2019 - Wisconsin Sea Grant, Wisconsin Historical Society