One of several state markers along the Old Military Road
The road was built to military specifications that today seem terribly primitive. The road was to be 30 feet wide, bridges were to be built of timber across substantial rivers, streams would be filled with logs and topped with a handrail. Marshy areas were paved with bundles of sticks (corduroy) but the road was crude and mostly only passable during the winter months.
The alignment of the road followed today's US 41 in Brown County from Fort Howard, then heads east to follow the east shore of Lake Winnebago to Fond du Lac, it followed the route of today's state highway 33 to Fort Winnebago near Portage, along the route of today's US 151 to Madison, then several routes through Iowa and Grant Counties to Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien.
Behind this sign is the Military Ridge State Trail, a 40 mile recreational trail that connects Fitchburg to Dodgeville following an old Chicago & Northwestern right of way. The Military Road also followed some of the alignment along the ridge. Military Ridge is the continental divide between the Wisconsin River watershed to the north and the watershed to the south of the Pecatonica and Rock Rivers.
After 1860, the necessity of the Military Road was greatly reduced. Fort Winnebago was destroyed by fire in 1856 and not rebuilt. The road was also used by settlers and residents, but by 1860, railroads and the newer roads, built along section lines, became more common.
Wisconsin became a state in 1848.