Credit Island: The Unknown Battlefield

In May of this year, the city of Davenport received a grant from the State Historical Society of Iowa to conduct an archaeological study of one of the Mississippi River islands near the Iowa shoreline.  The eventual goal is to get Credit Island listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

And what makes this particular patch of river real estate historically significant?

A couple of things.

Name aside, the War of 1812 actually ended in 1815 and spread out farther west than one might think.  In August of 1814, future president Zachary Taylor battled British troops on or around the island.  The archaeological study will try to determine whether any part of the battle was fought on land.  Regardless, Taylor and his men were outnumbered and lost badly.*

It may be that the Sac chief Black Hawk took part in that battle—it took place in his people’s territory, and although Black Hawk had promised the United States to remain neutral in exchange for winter supplies on credit, no supplies were forthcoming.  The British stepped in with supplies and promises to get the Americans out of the area, and Black Hawk agreed to fight with them.   The partnership didn’t last for long—according to Black Hawk’s autobiography, the Sac warriors didn’t think much of British battle tactics.

Once the war ended, a trading post was established on the island.  It offered credit to the local tribes to be repaid during hunting seasons and when the crops were harvested.

Much later, the island was purchased by private owners, renamed Suburban Island, and was used as a recreational spot for swimming and sports prior to World War I.  The city of Davenport bought the island in 1918, and held a naming contest:  Credit Island was the clear winner.   A golf course eventually replaced the picnic grounds and swimming facilities.**

It seems obvious to us that Credit Island should be included in the National Register and perhaps eventually placed in the American Battlefield Protection Program.   We hope that this will be obvious to the National Park Service as well.

The grant was the brainchild of the late Ken Oestreich, a city-employee and friend of the Special Collections Staff.  He will be missed.


*For those who are keeping track, the Americans lost just as badly to Black Hawk’s men at the nearby Battle of Campbell’s Island about a month earlier. 

**Originally, this was an 18-hole course, until flooding drowned the back nine in 1965.


Black Hawk. Autobiography of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak or Black Hawk. (Rock Island, Illinois: J. B. Patterson), 1833.

Gaul, Alma. “Credit Island: A Battlefield Trading Post.” Quad-City Times, July 13, 2010, C1.

Svendsen, Marlys A.  Davenport, a pictorial history 1836-1986.  ([S.L.]: G. Bradley Publishing Inc.), 1985.

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4 Responses to Credit Island: The Unknown Battlefield

  1. Dave Westhouse says:

    Thank you for the background information on this island. I have been doing research on the war for a current project and have chosen the name of the Battle of Credit Island over what most refer to as the Battle of Rock Island Rapids. I hope you are successful in achieving designation for the site. It is important to keep these site not just for history but to ensure open spaces for generations to come.

    • Scott Hughes Myerly says:

      If you still are interested in the battle of Credit Island feel free to get in touch with me; I left my email on the website. SHM

  2. Sara Childers says:


    I agree whole hardly about nominating to the National Battlefield Protection Program.
    What saddens me is the lack of Native involvement. The lack of dialogue the researchers and historians have had with the Tribes involved in the battle. The tribes have a big influence these days on nominating battle sites as well. And there are laws now in place to notify and work with the tribes on projects like this one. I encourage you to contact each tribes Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Sauk & Fox, Dakota, Winneabago to name the three that were definitely involved in the battle at Credit Island and at Campbells Island.

    Sara Childers
    Dakota Historical Researcher for the Dakota Tribes and Dakota NAGPRA Coalition

  3. Scott Hughes Myerly says:

    A lot more has appeared in print on the battle of Credit Island. The “British troops” were mainly Sac & Fox (Musquaqi) & some other Native Americans. The British unit was some Other Ranks of the Michigan Fencibles plus men of another frontier unit. Almost all the Whites were French Canadians. The British were commanded by Serg. James Keating of the Royal Artillery who had a 3 pound cannon & 2 swivel guns (these were often used long after for duck hunting). The Wisconsin State Historical Society “Proceedings” has published & republished the appropriate documents from the British side. Taylor later published a lot to try to savage his reputation. If any one wants to get touch with me my email is:

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