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 Flight of General Atkinson and Friends

Flight of General Atkinson and Friends

In the spring of 1832 General Henry Atkinson received orders to lead a detachment of federal troops from Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri to Fort Armstrong in Rock Island, Illinois. Hostile Sioux on the western banks of the Mississippi had attacked the Fox and Sac tribes who had left their lands in Illinois to make way for new white settlers in 1831, and federal officials dispatched Atkinson to avert a war between them. Upon his arrival in Rock Island, Atkinson discovered that Black Hawk and a band of Sac and Fox had crossed the Mississippi, returning to their ancestral lands in northern Illinois. He immediately assumed that Black Hawk's intentions were hostile, and requested reinforcements. Among these reinforcements were Illinois militia companies, including Captain Abraham Lincoln. Black Hawk quickly discerned that his return to Illinois had produced a large American response, and attempted to retreat back across the Mississippi. But Atkinson's men had begun a determined chase of their Indian foes, and few spoke the Sac and Fox dialect. Thus they often failed to understand Black Hawk's attempts to surrender. Atkinson's pursuit of Black Hawk's band ended with the Bad Axe Massacre in early July of 1832. In this encounter Atkinson's troops fired upon surrendering and fleeing Indians, largely solving the problem of what to do with the displaced Sac and Fox by destroying them.

Permission: Illinois State University
©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project