CANAL SKIRMISH - Fountain County INGenWeb Project

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Between Attica & Covington

Source: Unknown but thanks so much to T. Dewlen for this fab piece of history :)

Left High and Dry by Fenton Stewart It was Abraham Lincoln who contended that nobody wins a war and if he had been speaking specifically about the Attica War of western Indiana, he couldn't have hit the nail more squarely. The year was 1846, and the hottest bit of news in Indiana was the Wabash and Erie Canal which was slowly being pushed downstate toward Evansville. Irish laborers already had dug it tediously by hand all the way from Toledo, Ohio to Lafayette, which was considered the head of steamboat navigation on the Wabash. Now it was reaching toward Terre Haute and as far as Attica, the slender ditch was in full use. Below Attica, excavation had been completed to Covington, seat of Fountain County, but not a drop of water had been turned in to it. The canal was as dry as the parched fields through which it ran and Covingtonians grew justifiably vexed. Water was scarce that dry summer, but no one with an ounce of sense could argue that it was THAT scarce. AND WHILE Covington ranted and fumed, Attica enjoyed a bonanza. It as head of navigation on the canal and every boat that plied the waterway loaded and unloaded at Attica. her merchants, in their wildest canal dreams, hadn't envisioned such prosperity. Deck hands, masters and passengers began or ended their voyages here and Attica determined to keep her hold on the canal business as long as possible. Finally patience ran out in Covington. The canal managers were requested to open the locks, but they were unable to. They explained, hesitantly, that Attica citizens were in full control and that they were determined that no water should reach Covington. Covington sent a delegation to reason with the Atticans. But there was no agreement. So the delegation returned, ready for battle. Early the following morning, about 50 of Covington's finest started for Attica, 14 miles up the river. Some were afoot, others on horseback, some in wagons. Some were unarmed. Others carried clubs or similar simple weapons. All bore sharp tempers. But Attica had not been sleeping. Its closed its businesses, mobilized its people and sent a small army down the river road to meet the invaders. The Covingtonians quickly surrounded their foe, disarmed them and proceeded upriver to Attica, where they found most able-bodied citizens out to defend to the last drop their precious supply of canal water. The invaders battled briefly but effectively. E. M. McDonald, the Attica leader, fell before a blow and went spinning into the very canal water he battled to preserve. Demoralized, the defenders fell back and the fighting ended quickly. Covingtonians, flushed with victory, leaped happily for the canal lock controls and soon the water was rushing and gurgling through the lower section toward Covington. But, it was Attica that had the last laugh, although a bitter one. Water flowed freely, filling the lower section to normal depth. Covington gleefully envisioned itself head of navigation until the awful truth struck. To fill the lower section, it had drained the upper section and boats above Attica were left stranded in the sticky mud of the canal bottom. Covington had won the battle, but it had lost the war.
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