The Sword of Wilson Colwell

Natalie Van Dam

In the past few weeks of interning at the La Crosse County Historical Society, I have worked on and learned a lot. Some of my favorite items to work with have been the swords. We have several different swords from several different time era. One of my favorite swords to document and research was Wilson Colwell's sword from the Civil War.  

Wilson Colwell was born in 1827 and moved to La Crosse after attending Jefferson College. He was elected mayor in 1861. When the Civil War started, he enlisted and became Captain Wilson Colwell. He would fight in several battles including the First Battle of Bull Run. However, it was at the Battle of South Mountain in September of 1862 that he was wounded by a bullet and died within an hour. 

I found it very interesting to not only study a sword that had seen action in the civil war, but to also learn about the person who owned it. It also gave me a chance to learn more of the local history of La Crosse and one of the many roles it played in the past.  As I am not originally from the La Crosse area I enjoyed a chance to learn more about the history of the area.