La Crosse, WI Steamer WAR EAGLE Fire & Sinking, May 1870

The steamers Keokuk and Mollie Mohler, which were lying alongside of the War Eagle when the fire broke out, barely escaped by having steam enough at the time to get out of the way. Both of these boats were badly scorched.

The wharf shed between the War Eagle and the railroad depot communicated the fire to the depot, and soon swung around to the grain elevator, consuming both of these large buildings and their contents. There were in the lower warehouse, on the south end of the depot, between forty and fifty tons of merchandise for La Crosse and various points on the river. In the upper warehouse, or north end of the depot, there was little or no freight stored. On the dock were about twenty reapers and little miscellaneous freight. In the elevator there were between five and six thousand bushels of wheat.

About 100 tons of miscellaneous freight were on board the War Eagle.

The empty barge Webb, which the Keokuk had just brought down from the boat-yard to the War Eagle, was destroyed.

Nothing outside of the two iron safes in the depot was saved, and the loss of books, records [illegible] cannot be estimated.

Railroad and steamboat tickets, to the extent of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, representing nearly all the principal lines in the United States, were also consumed.
The Cashier’s safe at the railroad depot has been opened, and Mr. Rockwood found its contents in good order. The safe of Captain Moulton, the agent of the M. & St. P. Railroad, is out of the water, and opened good.

The Fire Department of La Crosse was promptly on hand, and at work within fifteen minutes after the top of the bell, and first attempted to save the elevator; but finding that a hopeless task, and the fire driving them from their position, they directed their efforts toward saving the express passenger train, which arrived at midnight, and by their efforts the two finest cars belonging to the company were saved. A second-class coach, the mail, express, and baggage car were consumed. Six freight cars, which had just been unloaded, were also destroyed.

Captain Moulton, who was in Milwaukee on Saturday, reached La Crosse Sunday Morning at 8 o’clock. He was, we regret to state, unfortunate enough to lose $25,000 worth of salt, besides some other personal property.

Captain Thomas Cushing, and the officers and crew of the War Eagle, are entitled to great praise for their noble exertions to save the lives of passengers, and none saved any clothes except such as were on their backs.

The total value of property destroyed cannot be less than a quarter of a million dollars.

Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL 17 May 1870