The American Revolution
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British settlers in Wisconsin who remained after the area was made part of British Quebec Province under the Quebec Act of 1774 stood resolutely loyal to the British crown but remained out of the American Revolution other than scattered attempts by both sides to enlist the Indians.
The 1781 surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown cost Britain a great part of its holdings, including the Northwest Territory, which included Wisconsin, yet practical British influence remained in the state until after the War of 1812.
British commercial interests had little desire to abandon the still-lucrative beaver trade, and the Indians had grown, if not loyal to, then at least tolerant of, the British. When hostilities broke out in 1812, the British, aiming to create a buffer zone of Indian alliances in Indiana and Illinois, quickly befriended the Indians—an easy venture, as the Natives were already inflamed over the first of many U.S. government snake-oil land treaties.
The Northwest, including Wisconsin, played a much larger role in this new bellicosity than it had in the Revolution; British loyalists and American frontiersman fought for control of the Natives as well as of the water-route forts of the French and British. British forts, now occupied (and undermanned) by U.S. troops, were easily overwhelmed by English and Indian confederates. However, Commodore Perry’s victory on Lake Erie in 1813 swung the momentum to the American side. Treaties signed upon reaching a stalemate in 1814 allowed the United States to regain preexisting national boundaries. Almost immediately, John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company set up operations in Wisconsin, but by this time the golden age of beaver trade in the area was over.
Though not yet even a territory and despite both the intractability of the Indians and the large populations of British and French, Wisconsin was fully part of the United States by 1815. In 1822, the first wave of immigration began, with thousands of Cornish and other miners burrowing into the hillsides of southwestern Wisconsin to search for lead (the origin of the Badger State moniker). As miners poured into Wisconsin to scavenge lead, speculators multiplied, land offices sprang up, and the first banks opened; everyone was eager to make money off the new immigrants. Before the area achieved territorial status, in 1836, more than 10,000 settlers had inundated the southern part of the state.
© Thomas Huhti from Moon Wisconsin, 5th Edition