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Edwards, Ninian W. History of Illinois from 1778 to 1833; and Life and Times of Ninian Edwards . Springfield: Illinois State Journal Company, 1870. [format: book], [genre: history; bibliography; letter]. Permission: Northern Illinois Library
The Winnebago and Black Hawk Wars.
During Gov. Edwards' administration, as Executive of the State, the Indians upon the North-Western frontier began to be very troublesome. The different tribes not only commenced a warfare among themselves, in regard to their respective boundaries, but they extended their hostilities to the white settlements. A treaty of peace, in which the whites acted more as mediators than as a party, had been signed at Prairie du Chien, on the 19th day of August, 1825, by the terms of which the boundaries between the Winnebagoes and the Sioux, Chippeways, Sauks, Foxes, and other tribes, were defined, but it failed to keep them quiet. Their depredations and murders continued frequent, and in the summer of 1827 their conduct, particularly of the Winnebagoes, became very alarming. There is no doubt, however, that the whites, who at this period were immigrating in large numbers to the North-West, and earnestly desired their removal further westward, purposely exasperated the Indians, at the same time that they greatly exaggerated the actual hostilities committed.
According to a letter written at this time, by Gen. Street, from Prairie du Chien, to Gov. Edwards, the Winnebagoes had been soured by the conduct of the adventurers flocking to and working the lead mines of Fever River and vicinity. Of those who went there by land, by far the greatest number passed through the country occupied by the Winnebagoes, and no doubt behaved very badly towards them. As to the right of that tribe to the lands in question, there seems to have been a misunderstanding. It appears, by a treaty made by Gen. Harrison, in 1804, that all the lands between the mouths of the Wisconsin and Illinois Rivers were purchased by the United States from the Sacs and Foxes. In 1816, Gen. Clark, Col. Chouteau and Gov. Edwards, as Commissioners of the United States, ceded, with certain reservations, all those lands which lie north of a due west line from the southern extremity of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi, to the Ottaways, Chippeways and Pottawottamies, (denominated the Indians of the Illinois River,) and who therefore appeared to be the real owners of the lands. But, according to the treaty of August 19th, 1825, the Commissioners seemed to have recognized the right of the Winnebagoes
to this same land. Certainly, whether rightfully or not, the latter tribe were, and had been for years, in possession of the territory, and fully believed it belonged to them. But without regard to this claim, Mr. Thomas, the agent at the mines, freely granted permits to the miners collected there, and numerous diggings were industriously pushed far east of the line between the Winnebagoes and the Indians of the Illinois River. These trespassers procured and took away great quantities of mineral to the smelters. The Winnebagoes complained of this as an open violation of the treaty; no notice was, however, taken of their complaints. The permits continued to be given and the diggings progressed. At last the Indians attempted force, which was repelled; and very angry feelings, by consequence, were produced on both sides.
In this state of excitement some of the Indians left the neighborhood of the mines and made a journey above Prairie du Chien, for the purpose, as was supposed, of consulting some of their chiefs and influential men there, and also to invite the co-operation of the Sioux. They were there met by a Sioux Indian, called Waw-zee-kootee (he that shoots in the pine-tops), who told the Winnebagoes that the U. S. commander at Fort Snelling had delivered up several Sioux Indians to the Chippeways, by whom they had been cruelly murdered, and that at the same time two Winnebagoes, in confinement, charged with murder, had been butchered by the whites. It appears that just before this time a party of twenty-four Chippeways, while on their way to Fort Snelling, had been surprised by a band of Sioux and eight of them killed. The murderers had been captured by the U. S. commandant and turned over to the Chippeways, by whom they had been properly punished; but that there was no foundation whatever for the rest of the exaggerated story detailed to the Winnebago Indians. However, they were prevailed upon to seek revenge for the alleged murder of their two men Waw-zee-kootee promising them that the Sioux would assist them, so soon as the first blow was struck. It is further evident that Red Bird, the chief of the Sioux, (who wished to retaliate on the whites for having, in the Fort Snelling murders, sided with the Chippeways,) was at the bottom of this contemplated alliance. The plan was to kill or drive off all the whites above Rock River.
With this understanding the Winnebagoes, on the 24th of July, killed two whites, in the vicinity of Prairie du Chien, and on the 30th of the same month they attacked two keel boats, which were conveying military stores to Fort Snelling in which attack two of the crew were killed and four severely wounded. These murders greatly alarmed the frontier settlements at Galena and the mining country around that post.
As soon as intelligence of the hostile attitude which the northern Indians were manifesting, towards the whites, reached Gov. Edwards, and even
before any blow was struck, as early as the 14th of July he issued an order to the commandants in Gen. Hanson's brigade, located on the east side of the Illinois River, (except the Twentieth Regiment,) commanding them to take immediate steps for detaching into service one-fourth of their respective regiments. Should any part of the frontier south of Rock River be found to be invested by the savages, the officer in command of the detachment was directed, with the least possible delay, to march to the support of any point attacked, without further orders.
On the same day he wrote to Col. Thomas M. Neale, of the Twentieth Regiment, mostly from the Sangamon country, in the course of which he said:
You will accept the services of any number of mounted volunteers, not exceeding 600, who will equip themselves, find their own subsistence, and continue in service thirty days unless sooner discharged. They will rendezvous, as soon as possible, at Fort Clark, where you will organize and take the command of them, and march, with all possible expedition, to the assistance of our fellow-citizens at Galena, where, if you find an officer of the United States army entitled to superior command to yourself, you will report to him and receive his orders. In your progress you will avoid rashly exposing your men to unequal contests, but it is expected that you will not overlook any proper opportunity of repelling any hostile incursions of the savages.
You will order the officer next you in command to take immediate steps for drafting from your regiment, according to law, and with the least possible delay, six companies of infantry, which are to be held in readiness to march, at a moment's warning, to any frontier that may be invaded; in which event, he is immediately to march them to the support of the point attacked, without further orders. None of the citizens, however, in the vicinity of the immediate frontier, are to be drafted.
On the 9th of August, Gov. Edwards wrote to Gen. Clark as follows:
There being the strongest reason for believing that the Pottawottamies of the Illinois River have been depredating upon the property of some of the citizens of this State, and the official communication of Dr. Wolcott, Indian agent at Chicago, leaving no doubt of their hostile dispositions, it is my duty to inform you that, if any future depredations should be committed by them, and immediate reparation refused, I will not hesitate to drive them from their present residence, which you know they have no right to occupy.
On the 20th of August, Gov. Edwards wrote to the Secretary of War as follows:
Gen. Cass, and other officers of the United States of great respectability, and with the best of opportunities of forming correct opinions on the subject, all concurring in the belief that the neighboring Indians intended making war upon us, and these Indians having committed several daring robberies and other depredations between Peoria and Galena, and commenced actual war in other parts, I have felt it my duty to call out about five hundred mounted volunteers to defend our frontiers.
I suppose not less than 1,500 men have been driven by these acts from the vicinity of Galena; and, but for the measures I adopted, several other parts of our frontier, from their defenceless situations, would have been depopulated. I, therefore, beg
My power to act in such cases is limited to sudden emergencies. The defense of every State belongs to the General Government. I now beg leave to ask, in behalf of this State, of the President of the United States such measures of protection to our extensive frontier as its peculiar weakness demands. The measures adopted by Gen. Atkinson are, I presume, sufficient to insure safety to our western boundary; but they are not the least calculated, nor has he the kind of troops necessary to protect these settlements, which extend from the mouth of the Illinois River to Chicago.
I need scarcely remark to you what all experience has proved, that whenever the Indians have once made up their minds to commit hostilities, or have actually committed such as deserve chastisement, their pacific dispositions never can be safely relied upon until they have begged for peace and begged it so earnestly as to leave no doubt of their sincerity. Nothing of this kind has yet occurred. The latter part of next month is, of all others, the most favorable time for concentrating their forces and striking the most formidable blow. I will add that I should be very happy to render, on the present occasion, any services that would be acceptable to the President.
The services of the men I have called out will expire in a few days, and until I hear from you I shall not adopt any other measures, but leave it to the General Government to provide for such protection and safety as the people have a right to expect from it.
In this crisis, Col. Abner Field, a gentleman of much intelligence and high respectability, was deputed by the population of Fever River Mines to apply to Gov. Edwards for further assistance to repel the hostilities of the Indians, with which they considered themselves daily threatened. He arrived at Belleville on the 2d of September, bringing very unfavorable news from the exposed frontier, which was fully confirmed by another express which arrived the next day from Peoria.
It appeared that the Winnebagoes had ultimately refused to come to any arrangements with Gov. Cass and Col. McKenney; that information had been received, which was believed, that a part at least of the Pottawottamies had determined to unite with the Winnebagoes in the war; and it was apprehended that the people of Fever River would be attacked before it would be possible to send them any aid; that Gen. Atkinson had sent an express to that place asking for all the mounted riflemen that could be spared from it, and had marched towards Green Bay with about 600 infantry and 130 mounted riflemen, to attack those Indians. Upon this information, Gov. Edwards wrote to the Secretary of War, on the 5th of September, as follows:
No doubt Gen. Atkinson will accomplish all that can be effected with the force under his command; but it is much to be regretted that he has not more mounted men; for if the hostile Indians are as numerous as Gov. Cass supposes, it is not possible that he can march such a distance through their own country, without having
I learn from Col. Field that about 3,000 men have been driven from the mines, and but for the measures I adopted upon the first alarm, it is scarcely to be doubted that other parts of our frontier would have been entirely depopulated. I need not, I am sure, attempt to point out to a gentleman of your practical knowledge and experience the immense losses and sacrifices that must have resulted, both to individuals and the State, from this state of things.
My authority to act being limited to a sudden emergency, my measures were adopted with a view to such duration only as would be sufficient to enable the Government to get its own into operation; and I have now only between sixty and seventy men in service. Nor had I intended, under any circumstances, to have done more on my own responsibility, in consequence of there being no money in our State treasury; the impossibility of doing without it and the risk of pecuniary embarrassment, of which I had some experience during the late war, being greater than I have felt under any obligations to encounter. These views, however, have never been communicated to a single individual; and looking to consequences to the administration from adhering to them, which can scarcely escape your sagacity, I have concluded, should actual hostilities be committed on our frontier, immediately to repair to it, make it my headquarters, and endeavor, with my own funds and at my own risk, to provide subsistence for such volunteers as I may be able to call to my aid until I can receive your answer to my letter of the 20th ult. Whatever that may be, if it only shall afford reasonable ground to expect I shall be sustained, I will continue to do the best in my power until I receive your answer to this letter; otherwise, unless all danger shall entirely have disappeared, I shall be compelled to convene the Legislature and lay the case just as it is before them.
I beg leave to observe that the experience of three years' hard service on our frontiers, during the last war, has convinced me that no other force of any reasonable amount is available for such protection as they require than that of mounted riflemen. Tour infantry on the Wisconsin is too remote to afford the least assistance. It would be scarcely less available to us if it were at Washington City.
On the strength of the information communicated by Col. Field, on the same day (5th of September), Gov. Edwards issued a further order to Brig. Gen. Hanson, commanding him immediately to take all legal measures necessary for enrolling in the militia all persons subject thereto, on Fever River or in the vicinity of the mines, and for organizing them according to law.
Before, however, this order was fully executed, intelligence was received that Gen. Atkinson, who had marched into the Winnebago country, in pursuit of the offending Indians, had returned to Prairie du Chien with Red Bird, a chief of much prominence, and six other Indians, among whom was Black Hawk, who became famous afterwards. They were all committed to jail, under the criminal charge of having committed the murderous attack upon the boats. They were kept in jail many months, awaiting their trial, and many threats were made by the Indians that if Red Bird should be executed, it would be the signal for a general uprising among the different tribes. In regard to Red Bird's capture and imprisonment, a letter from Gen. Street to Gov. Edwards, dated at Prairie du Chien, December 28th, gives the following account:
Red Bird is a favorite with his people and had obtained a high reputation among the whites previous to the late unprovoked murders. You, I doubt not, have had a particular account of his voluntary surrender of himself. This manly, chivalric act, his open, free and high bearing at the time, has something more than ordinary in it. Dressed in his Yanctonuni form of white, uusoiled skins, with a fine, white, dressed-skin robe cast loosely across his shoulder, and mounted on a fine mettlesome horse, with a white flag in his hand, and marching into the camp of Whistler, unconfined, with a pleasant, unclouded brow, to deliver himself up us a murderer, is a little out of the ordinary course of such things amongst us. You perhaps have seen him. He is a tall, well-made, straight Indian, about thirty or forty years old, and has a very pleasant countenance. There is nothing remarkable about the six other prisoners, if you except Red Bird's son, a lad of twelve or fifteen. He is a pleasant, smiling boy. Confinement goes hard with Red Bird, and he does not have good health, but if a white man calls to see him, all the nobility of a great savage appears to light up his fine and intelligent features, and a stranger would point to him as no every-day character.
I wish the trial and execution of the murderers was over. If a strong force is not present when Red Bird is to be hanged, if convicted, (of which I see no reason to doubt,) I shall not feel free of apprehensions of danger. There is an opinion prevalent at St. Louis, and amongst some here, that the Winnebagoes are greatly alarmed at the late events. They were much alarmed at the time Gen. Atkinson and the Illinois volunteers were in their country. The movement was sudden, beyond what the Indians had been accustomed to, and the expected reinforcements from Illinois, under your order for one-fourth the militia, was calculated to take them by surprise, and at the time it had its effect. Since then the Indians seem to be gradually awakening, as it were, from a deep sleep, until their fears are given to the winds and there is dead stillness a portentious calm that all my secret endeavors cannot interpret. They cannot be induced to talk on the subject, and they come and go, ask no questions
But before his trial took place, the chief, Red Bird, whose lofty spirit could not brook confinement, died in prison. Of the other prisoners, a part were acquitted and a part convicted and hung. Their execution took place on the 26th of December, of the following year. Black Hawk, who was one of those acquitted, afterwards acknowledged his guilt and openly boasted of it.
With the death of Red Bird ended the Winnebago war. The tribe seemed to be thoroughly humbled by the result of the campaign; and although fears of further hostilities from them were for sometime after entertained, they continued peaceable. In regard to the lands, about which the difficulty with them originated, until the question of ownership could be adjusted amicably, they promised to keep away from the mines entirely. In regard to their disposition at this time, a letter from Gen. Street to Gov. Edwards says:
The chiefs who have visited me proffer their friendship, but anxiously inquire when they may expect their Great Father will settle the line, and mark it, between their country and the whites at the mines. They say they have left their country to keep their young men from having anything to do with the people at the mines, until they hear from their Great Father. "This," say they, "is our promise to Gen. Atkinson, and we will keep it." They add, "Gen. Atkinson promised us that next summer persons should come from our Great Father to consult with us about this matter, and we will wait and see them."
A talk was subsequently held with them, in which they abandoned all the country south of the Wisconsin River. After this there was a general peace with the Indians throughout the Western frontier.
Meanwhile, however, Gov. Edwards, who placed no confidence in Indian promises or Indian friendship, was not idle in his endeavors to rid the State of the different Indian tribes still within its borders. Having got rid of the Winnebagoes, he continued with much persistency to urge upon the War Department the pressing necessity for removing all the Indians beyond the State. He saw very clearly, from the events of the last few years, that the red and white men could not live together, in the same vicinity, without committing reprisals upon each other and provoking hostile feelings. His first communication to the Department, on the subject of the removal of the Indians, was written as early as the 4th of September, 1827, in the course of which he said that "the occupancy, by the different tribes, of the ceded lands, and their constantly traversing every part
of it at their pleasure, without any right to do so, could no longer be submitted to." He particularly mentioned the Pottawottamies who resided near Peoria, on lands which had not only been coded but actually granted by the Government to individuals. He regarded it as "a grievance inconsistent with the rights of the State," and the respect of the President for those rights ought not to permit him to hesitate to do his duty in the premises.
The Indians who resided at this time on the ceded lands, within the State, were the Kickapoos, Pottawottamies, Ottaways and Chippeways, of the Illinois River, and the Sacs and Foxes. These Indians, and occasionly large parties of Shawnees and Delawares, were in the habit of hunting extensively through the settled parts of the State, to the great annoyance of the citizens. They not only in a great measure exterminated all the wild game, or drove it from the State, but in their marauding expeditions they did not hesitate to kill the tame animals belonging to the settlers.
The Kickapoos were within the agency of Major R. Graham of Missouri. The Pottawottamies, Ottaways and Chippeways of the Illinois River were within the sub-agency of Mr. Peter Menard, Jr. The Sacs and Foxes were within the agency of Thomas Forsyth of St. Louis. The Shawnees and Delawares were within the sub-agency of Major Peter Menard of Kaskaskia; and the whole were within the superintendency of Gen. William Clark.
On the 13th of September, 1827, Gov. Edwards addressed a confidential letter to President Adams, on this subject, and proceeded to show that the Indians had no right, either by treaty or otherwise, to any of the lands in the State, and proceeded to assure the President that "their removal could not fail to give the greatest satisfaction to the people of the State, as being both popular and right."
On the 29th of October, following, Gov. Edwards received a letter from the Secretary of War, Gen. Barbour, informing him that "Gov. Cass had been instructed to take such measures as would fulfill the wishes of the State in reference to the removal of the Indians occupying the ceded lands." The order, he said, was that "the Indians should be removed with the least possible delay, consistent with humanity," and in case of insuperable difficulties he was to report forthwith to the Department.
Gov. Edwards replied, acknowledging the prompt attention on the part of the General Government to the interests and tranquillity of the State; but, at the same time, on account of the remoteness of Gov. Cass' residence and the Indians not being within his superintendency, he doubted if the proposed measure promised as speedy a redress of the grievance complained of as seemed to be anticipated or was desirable. He wrote that the people of Illinois would hope much more from the interposition of the Indian
agents on the spot, or from General Clark (the Indian Superintendent for Illinois), than from that of any one at so great a distance from the State as Gov. Cass.
The measures adopted by the Government resulted almost as Gov. Edwards had predicted. The Indians still remained in the State, and kept up their marauding incursions through the settlements. On the 25th of May, of the following year, he wrote to Gen. Clark, Indian Superintendent, inquiring whether any and what arrangements had been made for removing the Indians in pursuance of the directions of the War Department the letter of the Secretary having given the people of Illinois reason to believe that that measure would have been accomplished long before. The continued delay caused much indignation, and Gov. Edwards wrote, "the General Government has been applied to long enough for its own action to have freed us from so serious a grievance. If it declines acting with effect, it will soon learn that those Indians will be removed, and that very promptly."
Gen. Clark, (as would appear, also wearied with the want of energy displayed by Gov. Cass, or rather the General Government) had begun to use his personal exertions to prevail upon the Indians to remove, as the best means, in the excitement which prevailed, of preserving tranquillity between them and the citizens, and he did all he could to that end without using actual coercion. They continued to promise to go, but still remained. Gov. Edwards argued that as pursuasion would not accomplish it, force should be substituted. He wrote again to Gen. Clark, on the 29th, that "however justifiable might be a temporizing course on the part of the Government, were Illinois one of its territories, it has no right to authorize or permit, even temporarily, an invasion of the rights of a sovereign and independent State."
On the 17th of June he again addressed the Secretary of War, in which he stated that the former promises of that Department had justified a reasonable expectation, on the part of the people, that the energies of the Government would long before that time have been exerted to protect the State from further annoyance. He concluded by saying: "This grievance still continuing, and aggravated as it has become by recent occurrences, of which I am bound to presume you are informed, I feel it my duty to ask you what further measures, in regard to this matter, may be expected from the General Government."
It appears that, upon the urgent request of the Indians who made all manner of fair promises twelve months further time, within which to remove from the State, was accorded to them by the General Government. This extension was greatly deprecated by Gov. Edwards, who did not believe the Indians would, even at the end of that time, remove, without the
employment of force; and he wrote to Gen. Clark that, at any rate, if any act of hostility should be committed on the frontiers, he [Edwards] would not hesitate to remove them on his own responsibility, as Governor of the State.
About this time the President issued his proclamation, according to law, and, in pursuance thereof, all the country above the mouth of Rock River (the ancient seat of the Sauk nation) was sold to American families, and in the year following it was taken possession of by them. To avoid difficulty with the tribes another treaty, confirming previous ones, was made with the Sacs and Foxes, on the 15th of July, 1830, by the provisions of which they were to remove peacefully from the Illinois country. A portion of the Sacs, with their principal chief, Keokuk, at their head, quietly retired across the Mississippi. With those who remained in the village at the mouth of Rock River, an arrangement was made by the Americans who had purchased the land, by which they were to live together as neighbors, the Indians still cultivating their old fields as formerly. Black Hawk, however, a restless and uneasy spirit, who had ceased to recognize Keokuk as chief, and who was known to be still under the pay of the British, emphatically refused either to remove from the lands or to respect the right of the Americans to them. He insisted that Keokuk had no authority for making such a treaty, and he proceeded to gather around him a large number of the warriors and young men of the tribe, who were anxious to distinguish themselves as "braves," and placing himself at their head, he determined to dispute with the whites the possession of the ancient seat of his nation. He had conceived the gigantic scheme, as appears by his own admissions, of uniting all the Indians, from the Bock Kiver to the Gulf of Mexico, in a war against the United States, and he made use of every pretext for gaining accessions to his party.
In the spring of 1831, he recrossed the river, at the head of five hundred warriors of his own tribe, besides some allies from the Pottawottamies and Kickapoos, and, bringing with him his women and children, he declared his intention of re-establishing himself on the ancient hunting-grounds and in the principal village of his nation. He ordered the whites to leave, and, destroying their fields, tearing down their fences, and killing or driving off their cattle, he threatened the settlers with instant death if they remained.
The whites complained to the Governor, who thereupon declared the acts of the Indians to be a hostile invasion of the State, and he immediately called upon Gen. Gaines for troops to protect the Illinois frontier. At the same time, he ordered out seven hundred of the militia of the State, to be mounted, and report themselves immediately for service. They were placed under the command of Gen. Joseph Duncan, who marched them directly
to Rock River, where they arrived on the 25th of June. Six companies of regular troops were also dispatched, by Gen. Gaines, from Jefferson Barracks, to the Sauk village, early in the same month.
Black Hawk and his party, alarmed at this formidable array of troops, fled across the river, and on the 26th the army took possession of the village without firing a gun. On the next day the Indians sent over a flag of truce. A parley ensued, and a treaty of peace was made on the spot by the terms of which the Indians promised to remain forever on the west bank of the river, and the Americans guaranteed to them the payment of a large supply of corn in lieu of that which they were compelled to abandon in their fields.
But the trouble did not end here. Notwithstanding the treaty, early in the spring of 1832 Black Hawk recrossed the Mississippi, and commenced his march up Rock River Valley. Gen. Atkinson, who was stationed at Fort Armstrong, warned him against this aggression. His aim was to reach the countries of the Pottawottamies and Winnebagoes and make them his allies.
Upon being informed of the movements of Black Hawk, Gov. Reynolds issued an order for a thousand mounted volunteers, from the Central and Southern parts of the State, to rendezvous at Beardstown, on the Illinois River. In a short time (April 15th, 1832) a brigade, armed and equipped for service, under the command of Gen. Samuel Whiteside, accompanied, also, by Gov. Reynolds, commenced their march directly for Rock Island, where they joined Gen. Atkinson, with about four hundred regular troops under his command. From that point the mounted volunteers proceeded at once up Rock River, on the south side, by way of the Prophet's town, which, although deserted, they burned on their march. At the same time Gen. Atkinson ascended the river with the regulars, in boats, taking with him supplies for the entire army; but not reaching Dixon's Ferry as soon as the command under Gen. Whiteside, the latter were for several days entirely destitute of provisions, which rendered their position most embarrassing.
At Dixon's Gen. Whiteside was reinforced by a body of volunteers from the counties of Peoria, Tazewell, etc., under the command of Major Stillman. Immediately upon being mustered into service, at their own request, they were permitted to start on a tour of observation several miles up the river, but instead of returning to the encampment, as they were directed to do, they continued their "hunt for Indians" some twelve miles still further up. On the evening of the 14th of May, while making preparations to encamp, they discovered a body of a party of Indians, five in number. Black Hawk says they were the bearers of a white flag, but this is denied.
However this may be, Stillman's men immediately charged upon them in grand style; but just as they came up with them, a band of warriors, numbering several hundred, who were lying in ambush, with a terrible war-whoop suddenly sprang up, with Black Hawk at their head, and gave fight with so much energy and determination, that the whites faced directly about and fled in utter consternation and confusion, not stopping till they reached Gen. Whiteside's encampment, thirty miles distant leaving their tents, camp equipage, baggage wagons, ammunition, and some of them even their saddles and bridles, to whomsoever chose to appropriate them. In this hasty and shameful retreat eleven whites were killed and several wounded. The Indians lost four or five killed.
Gen. Whiteside, convinced, from the exaggerated stories of the panic-stricken men, that an Indian force a thousand or two strong must be in the vicinity, immediately called a council of war, and determined to march forthwith to the fatal field of the previous evening's disaster. But although scouting parties were dispatched in all directions, no track or trace of the Indians could be found. The whole command then returned to Dixon, being almost famished from want of provisions. Here, after another day, Gen. Atkinson arrived with the boats, bringing reinforcements and supplies.
The affair at "Stillman's run" exaggerated as it was, alarmed the whole State, and Gov. Reynolds forthwith issued orders for three thousand volunteers, to rendezvous at Hennepin, "to subdue the Indians and drive them out of the State."
Peace was now hopeless, and both sides prepared for retaliation and reprisals. On the 21st of May, a party of Indians attacked the Indian Creek settlement, in LaSalle county, killed fifteen men, and took two young women prisoners. The latter were, however, afterwards, through the interposition of the Winnebagoes, given up. On the following day a party of spies were attacked and four of them slain. A number of other murders and outrages followed, in rapid succession; and several engagements between the Indians and armed bodies of whites took place at different points.
Gen. Whiteside marched immediately towards Ottawa, but the term of service of his brigade having expired, they were discharged, and Gen. Atkinson was compelled to await the arrival of the three thousand militia ordered by Gov. Reynolds.
On the 20th of June, the new army rendezvoused near Peru, and were organized into three brigades, of about a thousand men each, under the charge, respectively, of Gen. Henry, Gen. Alexander, and Gen. Posey. They marched forward directly to Rock River, where they were joined by the United States troops the whole being under the command of Gen. Atkinson. Congress, also, in June, ordered out six hundred mounted men, to be raised for the defense of the frontier; while Gen. Scott, with nine
companies of artillery, hastened from the seaboard, by way of the lakes, to Chicago.
A spy battalion of one hundred and fifty men, sent forward from Dixon's, under the command of Major Dement, in advancing towards Galena, was, on the 25th of June, attacked near Buffalo Grove by a party of two hundred warriors, under Black Hawk. The fight was hotly contested, and at one time the Americans were driven back, but, getting possession of the block-house, they finally made a stand against the Indians and after a fierce struggle, in which great bravery was displayed, they compelled them to retreat; but not being sufficiently strong they did not pursue them. In the fight several were killed on both sides.
The army continued its march up Rock River, near the sources of which it was represented that the main body of the Indians were collected. As provisions and army stores were scarce and difficult to convey in such a country, a detachment of a hundred and sixty men was sent, under the charge of Gen. Henry, to Fort Winnebago, at the portage between the Wisconsin and Fox Rivers, to procure supplies. This detachment, learning that Black Hawk's army was encamped up on the Whitewater, thirty miles distant, resolved to start in immediate pursuit, and overtook them on the evening of the 21st of July, near "Blue Mounds." Gen. Henry formed his troops into a hollow square, the opening being in the rear, and in this manner received the attack of the Indians. The latter first charged upon the right (Col. Fry's battalion), where, being repulsed, they attempted to break through the left (Col. Collins'), where they were again repulsed. The whole line was then ordered to charge the Indians, which order was promptly executed, both sides rushing to the rencounter with terrible yells and war whoops. The Indians were immediately driven from the field, leaving fifty-two of their number dead upon the spot, while only one American was killed and eight wounded. It being now quite dark, the Americans encamped upon the field without pursuing the enemy. The next day they marched to Blue Mounds, twenty-five miles distant, and two days after they were joined by Gen. Atkinson and the main body of the troops Gen. Henry having, before the action, sent them word of his movements. On the 28th of July, the entire army crossed the Wisconsin River in pursuit of Black Hawk, who, with his forces, was hastily retiring towards the Mississippi. Upon the banks of that river, nearly opposite the Upper Iowa, the Indians were, on the 2d of August, again overtaken.
Here a decisive action, called the battle of "Bad Axe," took place, which resulted again in the defeat of the Indians. Gen. Atkinson, in his official account of the battle, says the loss of the Indians was about one hundred and fifty killed and thirty-nine women and children taken prisoners. The whites lost eighteen men. The remnant of the enemy, cut up
and disheartened, crossed to the opposite side of the river and fled into the interior. This battle entirely broke the power of Black Hawk. He attempted to make his escape, but was seized by the Winnebagoes, (who, during the war, were allies of the Americans,) and, on the 27th, delivered up to the officers of the United States at Prairie du Chien. He and his family were afterwards sent as hostages to Fort Monroe, in the Chesapeake, where they were retained till June, 1833.
In September, the Indian troubles were closed by a treaty, which relinquished to the whites thirty millions of acres of land, constituting what is the eastern portion of the State of Iowa. For this, stipulated annuities were to be paid, though it was well understood at the time that the Sacs and Foxes had no rightful claim to the land. Thus ended the Black Hawk war and the Indian troubles in the State of Illinois. The various tribes yet remaining found homes beyond the west bank of the Mississippi River.
The "Sangamon Journal," at Springfield, Illinois, published a letter of Gov. Edwards to our Senators in Congress, of June 5th, 1832, in reference to the distressed situation of the frontier settlements during this war with the Indians, accompanied with the following notice: "We give the communication of Gov. Edwards, above referred to. It shows that he is alive to the welfare of the State. Would to God that she could boast of more of such men, who are willing and able to sustain her rights. The citizens of this State, and more especially of those of the northern counties, will feel themselves deeply indebted to Gov. Edwards for the able and independent manner in which he has stated to our Senators in Congress the distressed situation of our frontier settlements, and the causes of those distresses."
Edwards, Ninian W. History of Illinois from 1778 to 1833; and Life and Times of Ninian Edwards . Springfield: Illinois State Journal Company, 1870. [format: book], [genre: history; bibliography; letter]. Permission: Northern Illinois Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwardsillinois.html