Teacher's Parlor

Major Stillman's Account

This account, written by Major Stillman, was published in "The Missouri Republican" on July 10th, 1832, two months after the incident known as "Stillman's Run" took place.

"To the Editors of the Missouri Republican: Gentlemen--I have this day discovered in your paper of the 22d ult. an account of the engagement between the men under my command and the hostile Sac and other Indians on the Rock River. Finding that statement altogether incorrect, I take the liberty to give an outline of the transaction, which I am compelled to do in the utmost haste.

"On the 12th I received orders from His Excellency, John Reynolds, Commander-in-Chief, etc., to march immediately from Dixon's Ferry to what is commonly known as Old Man's Creek, about 30 miles distant, and coerce the said hostile Indians into subjection. We took up our march on the 13th, and on the 14th, at 2 o'clock, one of our spies discovered two Indians on our left. The Indians immediately fired on him, and undertook to make their escape by swimming Rock River; this, however, they did not succeed in; our spy brought his gun to bear on the forward one, who was tumbled into the river--the horse immediately turned his course and swam back, the surviving Indian being, from the unmanageable disposition of his horse, compelled to follow until he shared the fate of his companion. Both horses were brought in. We reached our camping ground on the north side of Old Man's Creek about 6 o'clock, after having used every precaution to guard against being deceived by the Indians, having kept out the most experienced spies and a very strong guard front, rear and flank, during the day. Soon after our arrival we discovered a small party of men in our advance, supposed at this time to be a part of our front guard. Lieutenant Gridley being then mounted, passed up a ravine for the purpose of ascertaining. It was soon after, however, ascertained that our spies with the whole of our advance guard had come in. Captain Covell with a party detached, followed. On the approach of Lieutenant Gridley, while rising the bluff, the Indians faced and leveled their guns. When prudence directed a return, the Indians pursued and were met by Captain Covell at nearly the same moment, when the fire was exchanged without effect. The Indians retreated and were pursued. Three were killed and three taken, with a loss of one of our men (as supposed). Our men were all immediately formed and took their march in the direction of Sycamore Creek, five miles above. After marching about three miles an Indian appeared and made signs of peace. I was informed of the fact, and orders were given for a halt. Myself, together with most of the field and staff officers advanced with Captain Eads as interpreter. We were soon informed that the Indians would surrender in case they would be treated as prisoners of war. This was promised them, and they returned with the intelligence, after promising to meet us at a specified point. On arriving at that point, however, no Indians appeared to make the proposed treaty, which convinced us of treachery.

"Directions were immediately given for our men to advance, while Captain Eads proceeded a few yards alone to make further discoveries. On reaching Sycamore Bluff, the Indians were discovered in martial order; their line extended a distance of nearly two miles, and under rapid march. Their signals were given for battle--war-whoops were heard in almost every direction--their flanks extending from one creek to the other. Orders were given for a line of battle to be formed on the south of the marsh between the two creeks, while the Indians were advancing with the utmost rapidity; their fire was tremendous, but on account of the distance, of little effect. Night was closing upon us in the
[p. 138]
heart of an Indian country, and the only thing to brighten our prospects, the light of our guns. Both officers and men conducted themselves with prudence and deliberation, until compelled to give ground to the superior foe, when the order for a retrograde movement was given, and our men formed in Old Man's Creek. Here a desperate attempt was made by the Indians to outflank us and cut off our retreat, which proved ineffectual, some clubbing with their fire-locks, others using their tomahawks and spears.

"A party of our men crossed the creek, and with much difficulty silenced their fire, which made a way for the retreat of our whole party, which was commenced and kept up, with few exceptions, in good order.

"Many of our officers and men having been in the battles of Tippecanoe, Bridgewater, Chippewa and Ft. Erie, have never faced a more desperate enemy. Having had the advantages of ground, the enemy being on an eminence, operated much in our favor. In passing Old Man's Creek many of them got their guns wet and were deprived of the use of them. Our force consisted of 206 men; that of the Indians not known, but consisting of a whole hostile band. Eleven of our men were killed, 5 wounded, with a loss of 34 to the enemy. From report, their encampment consisted of 160 lodges. Our men mostly arrived at Dixon's Ferry about 3 o'clock a. m., and it is to be hoped that in a short time the number of troops stationed at that point and elsewhere will be able to bring them into subjection, and relieve our frontier from a much dreaded foe.

"I am, with much respect, your obedient servant,
"I. Stillman,
"Brig.-Gen. 5 Brig., Ill. Mil. and Act. Maj. N. Ill. Vol.
"In Camp, 19 June, 1832"

Stevens, Frank. The Black Hawk War (Chicago: Frank E. Stevens, 1903) 137-138.

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