Lincoln/Net: The Black Hawk War

In May of 1832 Sac and Fox Indians under the leadership of Black Hawk left the Iowa territory and returned to their homes across the Mississippi River in northern Illinois. These Native Americans had lost their Illinois lands in a disputed treaty signed in St. Louis in 1804. Their return to northern Illinois sparked widespread panic among white settlers, and Illinois Governor Reynolds quickly called up the militia, which included a young Abraham Lincoln.

Both the militia and regular army troops proved unable to locate the elusive Indians at first, but by July they had begun to pursue Black Hawk's band across northern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin, engaging them in a major conflict at Wisconsin Heights before finally routing the Indians at Bad Axe on the Mississippi River.

Use the links in the column on the left to examine searchable primary source materials describing the Black Hawk War of 1832, an autobiography of Black Hawk, American soldiers' first-hand accounts and reminiscences, and treaties and other government documents. These materials are part of the larger Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project and its attempts to use the events of Lincoln's life as a lens through which to interpret and understand broader themes of antebellum American history.