The date was Nov. 14, 1813. British Colonel Robert Dickson arrived on Lake Winnebago’s Garlic Island, and established an encampment with his group of 27 fighting men. Dickson’s goal as an “Indian Agent” for the British in the War of 1812 was to recruit the support of Native Americans against the Americans in the battle that basically was over the fur trade. Dickson’s goal was to use gifts and merchandise to gain support with tribes located in the corridor from Green Bay to Prairie du Chien.
Weather conditions prevented this group from completing their travel to Prairie du Chien that cold November, so Dickson and his troops set up camp on Garlic Island. Nearby on the mainland was a Menominee village that soon became reliant on Colonel Dickson for goods and supplies.
As winter pressed on, conditions became more difficult. Supplies from Green Bay were not able to get through, creating a serious situation for Dickson, his men and the local Menominee’s. “Although Dickson and his men were themselves often on the edge of starvation, both his natural humanity and strategic considerations compelled him to feed the Indians as well as he was able” (source: Illinois in the War of 1812).
Letters from Colonel Dickson to his lieutenants and others describe the rapidly deteriorating conditions. On March 15 he wrote, “…I am heartily sick and tired of this place. There is no situation more miserable than to see objects around you dying with hunger, and unable to give them but little assistance. I have done what I can for them, and will in consequence starve myself. With best wishes. Yours truly, R. Dickson” (source: Garlic Island War Letters, 1813-1814, Colonel Robert Dickson).
It was soon after, provisions arrived as spring allowed travel routes to become more accessible. Dickson and his men eventually continued their trek southward.
The result of the War of 1812 as stipulated in the Treaty of Ghent is that American forces prevailed.
Here, on Nov. 14, 2013, the 200th Anniversary of the arrival of Colonel Dickson, a few local citizens joined the Winnebago County Historical and Archaeological Society to commemorate this historic occasion on Garlic Island. On hand for the dedication was Richard Keene of Neenah, Archaeologist Richard Mason of Neenah and Randy Domer of the Winnebago County Historical and Archaeological Society. Two flags were hoisted onto the flagpole located near the waters edge. First, the American flag followed by the British flag. The flags were raised by Keene and Mason, followed by a commemoration read by Domer.
Historic Garlic Island is located on Lake Winnebago near its west shoreline, north of Asylum Bay between Oshkosh and Neenah.