In 1832 the warrior Black Hawk led the combined Sac and Fox peoples eastward,
from their reservation in Iowa toward their tribal lands in northern Illinois.
In the War of 1812 Black Hawk had led Sac and Fox fighters to join the
British forces in hopes of checking Americans' westward expansion. This
activity earned Black Hawk and his followers the moniker "the British
band," and perhaps Black Hawk believed that the British would come from
Canada to his aid when he returned to Illinois' Rock River valley. Black
Hawk's march violated an 1804 treaty that he, like most Indians, considered
patently invalid. But it did quickly spur Illinois and federal officials
to assemble troops to put down what they perceived to be a serious uprising.
Quickly realizing that the British were not coming and that the Americans
aimed to crush his small band, Black Hawk sought to return to Iowa. But
American forces pursued him and his group across central and western Wisconsin,
finally dealing them a punishing defeat in the Battle of Bad Axe, on the
banks of the Mississippi in western Wisconsin. A federal gunboat shelled
many of Black Hawk's band as they sought to cross the Mississippi to Iowa.
Black Hawk himself was taken prisoner. His captors brought him to Washington
for inspection by federal officials and public audiences, and Black Hawk
told his story through an English translator. It provides one of the only
first-person narratives of American Indian removal told from the Native
American point of view.
For more information about the Black Hawk War, please see our companion site, The Black Hawk War of 1832.