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Massacre at Bad Axe

Massacre at Bad Axe

In the spring of 1832 a band of Sac and Fox Indians following the warrior Black Hawk crossed the Mississippi River, moving eastward from present-day Iowa to their ancestral lands in northern Illinois' Rock River valley. The Indians disputed the 1804 treaty that had seemingly ceded these lands to the United States, and found that they could not live among unfriendly tribes and poor farm lands west of the Mississippi. Black Hawk and his followers soon found that their presence caused an uproar in Illinois. State militia and federal troops quickly massed to destroy them. After several encounters in which the two parties' inability to communicate with one another prevented Black Hawk's intended surrender, he led his band on a desperate flight across central and western Wisconsin. Hoping to retreat to the Mississippi's western banks, the Sac and Fox instead found themselves trapped on its eastern shore near Bad Axe, Wisconsin. American troops attacked their camp from the east, and hostile Sioux, long the enemies of the Sac and Fox and aligned with the U.S. Government, waited for them across the river. To make matters worse, the steamboat U.S.S. Warrior, a privately owned craft chartered by the U.S. Army for a mission to the Sioux, came upon the unfolding conflict. Patrolling the Mississippi's channel, the Warrior's artillery piece subjected Indians, from men attempting to cross the Mississippi on rafts to women swimming with children on their backs, to fatal fire. In the end, the massacre at Bad Axe decimated the small band of Sac and Fox and ended the brief conflict known as the Black Hawk War.

Permission: Minnesota Historical Society
©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project