All great natural catastrophes, from the Lisbon earthquake to the New England hurricanes, have their legends, eyewitness accounts and contemporary analyses; but one of the most fascinating holocausts of the last century has been largely ignored because it occurred on the same day as another more famous--the Chicago fire. It was on October 8, 1871 that a series of Wisconsin fires, together called the ""Peshtigo fires,"" were the cause of a record number of deaths, exceeding that of any other disaster in North America. Also on that day two million acres of timber were destroyed on the lower peninsula of Michigan. Probably between 1200-1300 were killed in the Peshtigo fire; another 200 were killed the same day in Michigan, Guesses as to the cause of the fire varied from reports of exploding balloon- like objects to marsh gas and tornadoes. Recent investigations tend to blame an imbalance in atmospheric, topographical conditions, together with injudicious haphazard fire-setting. There are tales of horror and miraculous escapes. Metal is melted to a lump: a feather-bed is untouched. Among entire families one is capriciously spared. Withal, an intelligent reconstruction of a long-forgotten day of terror.