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Chapter 11: the Black Hawk War.

The events of this period, called the “Black Hawk War,” have become so shrouded in the mists of time that a short statement of the causes will not seem inappropriate.

The name Sauke, now abbreviated to Sac, means yellow earth; Musquakee, now Fox, red earth. These two warlike tribes eventually became amalgamated; they were originally from the St. Lawrence River. The Foxes first settled at Green Bay, and the river near which they made their abode still bears their name. There they sustained a signal defeat by the united forces of the friendly Indians and French troops, and the slaughter was so great that the hill on which the engagement took place has ever since been called the “Butte des Morts.” 1 From this and various other causes the two tribes were so depleted that they joined forces, and, though still keeping their community [105] independence, became practically one tribe. The subsequent war with the Six Nations left them too weak to stand alone. La Houton speaks of a Sac village on Fox River in 1689, and Father Hennepin, in r680, speaks of them as Ortagamies, and says they were residents of the Bay of Puants, now Green Bay.

Major Forsyth said: “More than a century ago all the country commencing above Rock River and running down the Mississippi to the mouth of the Ohio, up that river to the mouth of the Warbash, thence down the Miami of the lake some distance, thence north to the St. Joseph's and Chicago, also the country lying south of the Des Moines, down perhaps to the Mississippi, was inhabited by a numerous nation of Indians who called themselves Linneway or Illini, and were called by others Minneway, signifying ‘men.’ ”

After many wars, surprises, and massacres in their contests for supremacy against the Sacs, Foxes, and their allies, the four hundred braves who met them had dwindled to thirty or forty. The savagery of these tribes is almost incredible now; among the Miamies were cannibal Indians, who fed upon their prisoners when they did not burn them at the stake.

The Sacs and Foxes held their own territory, [106] but descended the river in their bark canoes and fought their enemies with varying success and ever-increasing ferocity. The Illini confederacy claimed the territory on the east bank of the Mississippi, and lived in friendly intercourse with the villagers in the little settlement on the site of the city of St. Louis. Their enemies coveted this beautiful country for winter hunting — grounds, and determined to win it with their battle-axes.

The Sacs and Foxes owned no allegiance other than to the English, and made constant predatory, and sometimes murderous, incursions upon the white Americans and their allies, the friendly Indians. The killing of Pontiac, the Sauke chief, was the ostensible cause of their hostility ; but it was pretty satisfactorily established that the intrigues of the English were a more powerful incentive.

On Corpus Christi day, May 6, 1779, one thousand two hundred Canadians, reinforced by detachments of Ojibeways, Menomonees, Winnebagoes, Sioux, Sacs, and Foxes, commenced the attack upon the little walled town of St. Louis. The day had been observed always as a holiday, and the citizens were expected to be out looking for wild strawberries; but, fortunately, warned by the rumors of a contemplated attack, only a few had gone to inspect their crops. [107]

Some hostile Indians had been seen lying in ambush, which alarmed the inhabitants, and they insisted on the Governor calling upon the authorities at St. Genevieve for assistance. He at last yielded unwillingly to their demands, and had, on May I, 1779, returned with sixty men, who were in the town when the attack was made.

It was sudden and violent, and about twenty citizens were killed in the field before they could regain the fort. Sylvio Francisco de Cartabana, the Spanish Governor, had gone to St. Genevieve and brought the militia from that post to aid in the defence of the town. When the attack commenced neither Cartabana nor his promised force were forthcoming, but lay hidden in a garret until the foe had retired; but the citizens stationed fifteen men at each gate and scattered the rest of their force along the line. They answered the irregular fire of the Indians by grape-shot from their few artillery guns, the intrenchments were formidable, and the cannon, to which they were not accustomed, completed the discomfiture of the attacking Indians. The Lieutenant-Governor, from illness, was not able to walk down to the front of the Governor's house to superintend the spiking of the cannon that defended the approaches to the little town, but ordered a suspension [108] of hostilities, and when those engaged in defending the gates, not having heard his order, did not obey, he had a cannon fired at them which tore down a part of their wall of defence. He had previously, under the pretext of a trade proper to be made in a time of profound peace, sold all the powder and ammunition of the garrison to the Indians.

Fortunately, in a private house, eight barrels of powder were discovered, and the citizens levied upon it, in the name of the king, for their defence. Colonel John Rogers Clarke, hearing of their peril, marched from Kaskaskia with a small force to the defence of the whites, but did not cross the river, as the Governor declined their services; but the Indians retreated. It was believed by the citizens that the Governors had been bribed by the British, who did not want any settlement there, lest it should revert to America, and become a stronghold against invasion by them.

The Illini, or Illinois Confederacy, consisted of five tribes — the Kaskaskias, Cahokies, Peorians, Temorias, and Michiganians-and were numbered by the Jesuits, in 1745, at four thousand. The victorious attacks upon them by the Sacs and Kickapoos, to revenge the death of their chief Pontiac, as well as to obtain a more southern country and greater [109] facilities for hunting, finally reduced this warlike people to a few mendicant stragglers, and thus barbarism and natural forces combined to aid the early settlers to drive the Indians not only out of their possessions, but out of existence.

Environed by superior numbers on all sides, but inured to hardship and danger, the pioneers pressed forward, their feet red with the blood of both whites and Indians, and acquired acre by acre the lovely country east of the Mississippi.

The American Fur Company had their principal post at Mackinac, with outposts scattered at different points on and near the Upper Mississippi. This advance-guard of civilization became wealthy, but took their lives in their hands, and it was an even chance whether they came out with the peltries of animals with which to decorate the potentates and beauties of the old world, or left their scalps to accentuate the figures of a warrior's dance, and their bodies to feed the wild beasts. What these frontiersmen endured is, fortunately, not to be estimated by us from our vantage-ground of peace and security.

The atrocities of the Indians had rendered the whites regardless of their rights or their sufferings. Spoliation by the whites had inflamed the Indians to the greatest degree, and [110] they turned for vengeance on their oppressors.

At last the conflict became incessant because indecisive, and after many bloody engagements, treaties signed and broken as soon as ratified, followed by massacres of the most cruel character, in which every imaginable atrocity was inflicted by the Indians upon their unhappy captives, General William Henry Harrison 2 was directed by President Jefferson to make a treaty with the Sacs and Foxes, which was ratified in November, 1804, by which the United States bought the territory beginning on the Missouri River, thence in a direct line to the River Jeffreon, thirty miles from its mouth down to the Mississippi, thence up the Mississippi to the mouth of the Ouisconsin, and up that river for thirty-six miles in a direct line, thence by a direct line to where the Fox River leaves the Saukegan, thence down the Fox River to the Illinois, of which it is a tributary, and down the Illinois to the Mississippi.

This magnificent body of land, which gave free passage across the country to the Mississippi [111] from the east, watered by ever-flowing streams, where almost every cereal good for the food of man could be grown, was extorted from the Indians partly by treaty and partly by purchase, if $12,000 to be paid in yearly instalments of $I,000 per annum could be so called, when applied to the acquisition of 8,000,000 acres of land of unsurpassed fertility, extending from the upper end of Rock Island, from latitude 41° 15‘ to latitude 43° 15‘ on the Mississippi River.

Mr. Davis wrote:

The troubles on the Indian frontier, which had attracted attention in 1808, continued to increase in number and magnitude until, in 1811, General Harrison, afterward President of the United States, marched against the stronghold of the Shawnees, the most warlike of the hostile tribes, and whose chief, Tecumptha (The Walker), was first in sagacity, influence, and ambition, of the Northwestern Indians. While professing peace, he contemplated a general war between the Indians and the whites, and was said to be instigated and abetted by British emissaries. It is known that he sent out, and some suppose bore, the wampum to the Muscagees (Creeks) of Georgia. This supposition is fortified by the circumstances of his blood relationship to the Creeks, and by his absence when his brother, The Prophet, on [112] November 7, 1811, to prevent General Harrison's advance on the principal town, made a night attack on his camp at Tippecanoe. This battle, or rather the fear of its renewal, caused the Indians hastily to abandon their permanent village. General Harrison, with his numerous wounded, returned to Vincennes, and the field of his recent occupations was unoccupied.

On the following June, of 1812, war was declared against England, and this increased the widespread and not unfounded fears of Indian invasion which existed in the valley of the Wabash. To protect Vincennes from a sudden assault, Captain Z. Taylor was ordered to Fort Harrison, a stockade on the river above Vincennes, and with his company of infantry, about fifty strong, made preparation to defend the place. He had not long to wait. A large body of Indians, knowing the small size of the garrison, came, confidently counting on its capture; but, as it is a rule in their warfare to seek by stratagem to avoid equal risk and probable loss, they tried their various strategetic expedients, which were foiled by the sound judgment, vigilance, and courage of the commander; and when the final attack was made, the brave little garrison repulsed it with such loss to the assailants that when, in the following October, General Hopkins came [113] to support Fort Harrison, no Indians were to be found thereabout. For the defence of ‘ Fort HarrisonCaptain Taylor received the brevet of major, an honor which had seldom if ever before been conferred for service in Indian war.

In the following November Major Taylor, with a battalion of regulars, formed part of the command of General Hopkins in the expedition against the hostile Indians at the head waters of the Wabash. In 1814, with his separate command, being then a major by commission, he made a campaign against the hostile Indians and their British allies on Rock River, which was so successful as to give subsequent security to that immediate frontier.

At the time of the treaty made by the Indians with General Harrison, the desire to make the transfer was not unanimous, and the friendly, politic, and aspiring chief, Keokuk, and some dissipated Sacs and Foxes, who were half drunk, united in placating the Winnebagoes present, who were so enraged at the inadequate sum offered, as well as at the constrained sale, that they wished to massacre the whole party of whites.

Black Hawk's village was on a lovely neck of land made by the union of the Rock with the Mississippi River. Gentle slopes, covered [114] with lush grass and adorned by fine trees, stretched out to join “a chain of beautifully rounded hills, over which trees are thinly scattered, as if planted to embellish the scene.” In the front of the landscape is Rock Island, on the southern point of which is Fort Armstrong.

A slight stirring of the ground served, when planted, to bring corn and vegetables, which the squaws and children raised during the absence of the braves on their hunting-grounds. The Indians had built more than a hundred lodges, apportioned their land, and buried their dead there.

This latter circumstance was a great factor in the unwillingness of the Indians to be removed to another dwelling-place. As a paramount religious duty, they feed the spirits of their relations at stated times, for whose use to light these ghostly banquets they believed the moon to have been made. The Indians decorate and make moan over the graves as long as they live. To be separated, therefore, from the final resting-place of those they love, is more agonizing to them than even to civilized peoples. Whatever sense of home and permanence a savage felt, was centred there.

When the contract to sell the land was made, Black Hawk was off on a hunting expedition, [115] and when he returned, and the Sacs and Foxes with him heard the treaty had been concluded, they coincided with the Winnebagoes that the price was ridiculously small. However, he gave a qualified, and to some extent a forced consent, to the treaty at Portage des Sioux in 1816, all the while protesting that the Indians had been previously made drunk who had signed it. He had never allied himself closely with the Americans, and did not pretend to like them. Having united with the British in the War of 1812, he served under them as a general, and exhibited courage not inferior to any. He declined, after the war, to relinquish the medals bestowed by the British upon him; he said he would take medals from both countries and have “two fathers.” His sturdy allegiance to the English, and the fact, pretty well established, that he had been instigated by them to most of his hostile acts, caused his force to be called the “British band.”

While smarting under a sense of the injustice done him, Black Hawk and his band perpetrated many outrages upon the whites.

A recent historian has rescued the following gallant deed of General George W. Jones, of Iowa, from obscurity, and thereby given us a glimpse of the horrors the whites endured. General Jones verifies the story. [116]

“During the Black Hawk war word reached Galena that a brother-in-law of the general, named St. Vrain, who was agent for the Sacs and Foxes at Rock Island, was murdered by the Indians, some forty miles east of Galena. The general happened to be in Galena at the time, and notwithstanding the protestations of the people against the foolhardiness of attempting the rescue of his brother-in-law, if found alive, or the rescue of his body if dead, he mounted his horse, and under whip and spur dashed into the country alone in hot pursuit of his fallen comrade. He found his friend and relative dead, and horribly mutilated. Both hands were cut off, his feet amputated, his head severed from his body, and his heart cut out; and, as subsequently learned from an old squaw, the heart was divided into several parts and distributed among the youth of the band, with the assurance that the one who could swallow the largest slice of the white man's heart would be acknowledged superior as a ‘ brave.’ ”

For some of these atrocious acts Black Hawk and his sons, with Red Bird and several of the leaders engaged with him, were given up by the Winnebagoes in answer to the demand of General Atkinson at the head of the Second, Fifth, and Sixth Regiments of the United States Army, and he and his son [117] Kanonecan, or the Youngest of the Thunders, with Red Bird's son, were only released because the witnesses could not be produced to prove their undoubted guilt. On this occasion General Albert Sidney Johnston was present, and gave a fine description of Red Bird,3 who was somewhat over six feet in height, and of an ideal form.

“Although, after seeing the Sacs, Foxes, Menomonees, Sioux, etc., my romantic ideas of the Indian character had vanished, I must confess that I consider Red Bird one of the noblest and most dignified men I ever saw. When he gave himself up, he was dressed after the manner of the Sioux, of the Missouri, in a perfectly white hunting-shirt of deerskin, and leggings and moccasons of the same, with an elegant head-dress of feathers. He held a white flag in his right hand, and a beautifully ornamented pipe in the other. He said, ‘I have offended, I sacrifice myself to save my country.’ If the introduction of this gallant figure be deemed irrelevant, let the fact that he died in prison waiting for a trial be my excuse, for I long to present him to some ‘white faces’ who will turn a kindly glance upon him.”

Black Hawk fretted dreadfully during his [118] confinement, in which the participation of his son probably did not prove a solace. He considered the Americans interlopers, himself a victim, and came out of prison far more bitter in his hostility than hitherto.

A merciless beating, which was given to him while hunting on Two Rivers, by the white settlers, who suspected him of theft, rankled all his life. Another reason for his hatred to the Americans he has touchingly related himself.

Black Hawk's last service under the British was in 1813, when Major Croghan repulsed the attack on Fort Stephenson made by Colonel Dixon and the “British band.” Previous to joining Colonel Dixon, Black Hawk had visited the lodge of an old friend, whose son he had adopted and taught to hunt. He was anxious that this youth should go with him and his band to join the British standard, but the father objected on the ground that he was dependent upon his son for game, and, moreover, that he did not wish him to fight against the Americans, who had always treated him kindly. He had agreed to spend the following winter near a white settlement, upon Salt River, one of the tributaries of the Mississippi which enter that stream below the Des Moines, and intended to take his son with him. As Black Hawk was approaching [119] his village on Rock River, after his campaign on the lakes with Dixon, he observed a smoke rising from a hollow in the bluff of the stream. He went to see who was there. Upon drawing near the fire he discovered a mat stretched, and an old man of sorrowful aspect sitting under it alone, and evidently humbling himself before the Great Spirit by fasting and prayer. It proved to be his old friend, the father of his adopted son. Black Hawk seated himself beside him and inquired what had happened, but received no answer, for indeed he seemed scarcely alive. Being revived by some water, he looked up, recognized the friend of his youth, and in reply to Black Hawk's inquiry said, in a feeble voice:

Soon after your departure to join the British I descended the river with a small party, to winter at the place I told you the white man had requested me to come to. When I arrived I found a fort built, and the white family that had invited me to come and hunt near them had removed to it. I then paid a visit to the fort, to tell the white people that myself and little band were friendly, and that we wished to hunt in the vicinity of their fort. The war chief, who commanded it, told me that we might hunt on the Illinois side of the Mississippi, and no person would trouble us. That the horsemen [120] only ranged on the Missouri side, and he had directed them not to cross the river. I was pleased with this assurance of safety, and immediately crossed over and made my winter's camp. Game was plenty; we lived happy and often talked of you. My boy regretted your absence, and the hardships you would have to undergo. We had been here about two moons when my boy went out as usual to hunt. Night came on and he did not return. I was alarmed for his safety and passed a sleepless night. In the morning my old woman went to the other lodges and gave the alarm, and all turned out in pursuit. There being snow on the ground, they soon came upon his track, and after pursuing it some distance found that he was on the trail of a deer that led to the river. They soon came upon the place where he had stood and fired, and found a deer hanging upon the branch of a tree, which had been skinned. But here also were the tracks of white men. They had taken my boy prisoner, their tracks led across the river, and then down toward the fort. My friends followed them, and soon found my boy lying dead. He had been most cruelly murdered. His face was shot to pieces, his body stabbed in several places, and his head scalped. His arms were tied behind him.


The old man ceased his narrative, relapsed into a stupor from which he had been aroused, and in a few minutes expired. Black Hawk remained by his body during the night, and next day buried it upon the peak of the bluff. Shocked at the cruel fate of his adopted son, and deeply touched by the mournful death of his old comrade, he was roused to vengeance against the Americans, and after remaining a few days at the village, and raising a band of braves, prepared for offensive operations upon the frontier.

Having narrated to his band the murder of his adopted son, they began to thirst for blood, and agreed to follow Black Hawk wheresoever he might lead.

Now the winter of Black Hawk's discontent drew on apace, and want came upon him “like an armed man.” The Indian agents at Fort Armstrong, seeing the friction between the Indians and the white settlers grow with the latter's craving for the promised land that lay flaunting its waving corn-fields in their longing eyes, recommended the removal of the Indians to the west side of the Mississippi River.

Keokuk was that most unsafe of all leaders, a compromise man, and was in favor of going quietly to the Iowa River. Black Hawk stood firm in his assertion of the right to occupy the [122] land belonging to his tribe, but the ground was rich, and the prospect was enticing. It was the same old encroachment enacted again, that of might against right.

Spurred on by the counsels of Neopope, the Prophet, the nephew of Black Hawk, an astute and bitterly hostile Indian, Black Hawk was more determined not to move his village. He appealed from one agent to another until he had exhausted all the known means of redress, and finally, under some vague promises, went back to his hunt, only to return in the spring and find the whites had taken entire possession of the Sauk village. Fences were built through his corn-fields, many of his lodges burned, the ornaments on the graves of his dead children had been removed, and this was the insupportable grief and offence to him, as he thought their lonely and hungry spirits roamed around disconsolate among his enemies. This had been the chief village of the Sauks for sixty or seventy years. Tamely to submit to ejectment by force would have been considered cowardly.

Black Hawk was not intemperate in drinking, and objected strenuously to the whites bringing whiskey to the Indians, for under its influence they became uncontrollable and murderous, and he saw his braves being thus steadily degraded. Once, before the traders [123] could dispose of it, he seized, broke a barrel, and wasted the whiskey intended for his people.

Added to these wrongs were acts of personal outrage. He said: “At one time a white man beat one of our women cruelly for pulling a few suckers of corn out of his field to suck when hungry; at another time one of our young men was beat with clubs by the white men for opening a fence which crossed our road to take his horse through. His shoulder — blade was broken, and his body badly bruised, from which he soon after died. . . The whites were complaining at the same time that we were intruding upon their rights.”

He was the first American socialist who denied the right of private property in land. He said: “My reason teaches me that land cannot be sold. The Great Spirit gave it to his children to live upon, as far as is necessary for their subsistence, as long as they occupy and cultivate the soil; but if they voluntarily leave it, then another people have a right to settle upon it. Nothing can be sold but such things as can be carried away.”

With such wide divergence of opinion, and so many causes of mutual irritation, affairs reached a point where some decisive step must be taken to avoid a conflict. Finally the [124] whites took the matter in their own hands, and to expedite the removal of the band set fire to and burned about forty of the lodges. This and many other barbarities were practised upon the Indians.

In 1829 Black Hawk appealed to Governor Coles and Judge Hill. He said:

I then told them that Quash-qua-me and his party denied positively having ever sold my village, and that I had never known them to lie. I was determined to keep it in possession . .. Neither of them could do anything for us, but both evidently appeared very sorry .. I learned .. . . that our Great Father had exchanged a small strip of the land that was ceded by Quash-qua-me and his party with the Pottowatamies for a portion of their land near Chicago, and that the object of this treaty was to get it back again; that the United States had agreed to give them $16,000 a year for ever for this small strip of land, it being less than the twentieth part of that taken from our nation for $I,000 a year. ...

Here again I was puzzled to find out how the white people reasoned, and began to doubt whether they had any standard of right or wrong. . . . Our pastimes and sports had been laid aside for the past two years. We were a divided people, forming two parties, Keokuk being at the head of one, willing [125] to barter our rights merely for the good opinion of the whites, and cowardly enough to desert our village to them. I was at the head of the other. . . . I refused to quit my village. It was here I was born, and here lie the bones of many friends and relations. For this spot I felt a sacred reverence, and never would I consent to leave it.

This moving recital of the destruction of his tribe, who were most of them then “dead at the feet of wrong,” was made in his old age, when he had been manacled, imprisoned, exhibited in his humiliation before thousands of triumphant spectators, who viewed him with that most painful of all petty inflictions, an observation which was not sympathy.

From 1827 until 1829 the lands were still claimed, and, in fact, belonged to the Indians. In 1830, as before stated, the band came home from a hunt to find their lands apportioned into private holdings. Black Hawk protested strongly until 1831, and finally agreed to move for $6,000. This sum was refused, and the old story of the wolf and the lamb was re-enacted. The whites complained that the Indians were interlopers and committed outrages. The Governor promised, in answer to the memorial, to remove the Indians “dead or alive.” On May 28, 1831, the Governor wrote to General Gaines that he [126] could bring his seven hundred militia troops to meet a supposititious Indian invasion of the territory of Illinois; but brave old General Gaines replied, the next day, that it was not necessary; he had ordered six companies of United States troops from Jefferson Barracks to Rock Island, and four from Prairie du Chien, and did not deem any greater force necessary.

On the 7th of June, 1831, General Gaines held a council on Rock Island. Black Hawk and his band, in full panoply of war, singing their war-songs, “to show they were not afraid,” went to the appointed place, but refused to enter the council-room and occupy it with others not immediately interested in the business of the meeting. In compliance with their demand only a few were allowed to remain with Keokuk and Wapello.

General Gaines opened the council with a speech, in which he urged the band to remove west of the Mississippi.

I replied, ‘That we had never sold our country, . . . and we are determined to hold on to our village.’

The War Chief, apparently angry, rose and said, ‘Who is Black? Who is Black Hawk?’

I responded, ‘I am a Sac. My forefather was a Sac, and all the nation call me a Sac. Ask these young men, who have [127] followed me in battle, and you will learn who Black Hawk is. Provoke our people to war, and you will learn who Black Hawk is.’

The council broke up without any definite agreement, but in a letter to General George W. Jones, Mr. Davis said, many years afterward:

It was in consequence of the council held at Rock Island that Black Hawk went to the west side of the Mississippi. When, in 1832, he returned to the east side of the river, it was regarded as a violation of the agreement of the previous year, and as indicating a purpose to repeat his claim to the village of Rock River. This led to the expedition under Stillman, and that inaugurated the war of 1832. In 1831 the Sauks sent a war party against the Sioux, and this breach of peace they feared would bring upon them punishment by the United States; such, at least, was then understood to be the cause of their abandonment of their settlement at the lead mines of Dubuque.

This encounter between General Gaines and Black Hawk is a reminder of one in which the general was equally unfortunate in his intercourse with the dignitaries of the Sac nation.

There were, at preconcerted times, several “councils” with the belligerent Indians. The [128] place of meeting was generally designated by the Indians. Their abundant caution made them agree to the conference only where there was a ready way of escape in case of treachery.

General Gaines arranged a conference with the chiefs and braves of the Allied Indians--the Sauks, Foxes, Iowas, and others, and on this occasion the place designated was at the foot of a rocky eminence in the fastnesses of which the Indians had their braves, squaws, and children. Treachery had been suggested as it was far from the fort, but it was not in General Gaines's dauntless temper to hesitate or retire before taking a personal risk. He therefore not only agreed to the rendezvous, but to inspire confidence he took with him only Lieutenant Davis of his staff, an interpreter named Paquette, and a file of two soldiers. Some of the boys of the tribe and a few of the younger women were sauntering about around the base of the mountain when the general rode in with his escort.

The warriors, decked in war-paint and feathers, scowling and silent, were seated in the tent in a half-circle when the general entered. Their arms were stacked near by. At their head was a dark old woman, shrunken to a mere skeleton, clothed in a white woollen garment, gathered about the [129] neck, with no sleeves. The difference between her dress and that of other Indian women attracted Mr. Davis's attention, and the majesty of her mien impressed him.

General Gaines began the council in his deliberate, halting manner. One and another of the Indian dignitaries interrupted the speech by a grunt or a remark to his neighbor; but as the general proceeded to explain that it was necessary for the Indians to move on, that the white men would give them a good territory, but must have the one they now occupied, the old squaw became greatly excited and began speaking with much vehemence, which Paquette, the Sac interpreter, explained as a declaration that the Sauks would die on their own hunting-grounds. The warriors became much excited under the harangue, and the general rose to reply. Showing considerable irritation, he told the interpreter, “Tell her — a — that — a — women — a — were not expected to interfere — a — between-the --a white and Indian braves. She — a — really — a — must — be — a — silent.”

The squaw arose from her seat with an air of great majesty, stretched her skinny arms above her head with a wild gesture and responded, her voice rising cracked and shrill above the angry grunts of the warriors: “Does he call me a woman; does he say I [130] am to be silent in the councils of my people? In these veins runs the blood of the last of the Sauk kings. It is my right to speak, who shall prevent me?” The men rose and closed about her, gesticulating angrily, while the interpreter translated the speech to the general. The most inexperienced person now saw that trouble impended, and the whites were far outnumbered by the Indians. The general was a very calm and imperturbable man in moments of great danger. He listened until he had the gist of her speech, then rose with a sweep of his hand to command silence, and said: “Mr. Interpreter, a-tell her-a-that-my mother — was a woman.” This revelation of the general's brought grunts of satisfaction from the audience, and the frankness of the statement seemed to mollify the old princess. Mr. Davis said his sympathy for her, in conjunction with the bathos of the oration, made him feel oppressed, and he strolled out of the lodge. Just then a boy that had come with the general's party was toying with a pistol, and it went off. The interpreter rushed out, crying, “Everybody get into the tent; there is going to be trouble;” and the whole party of Indians ran pell-mell toward the mountain, supporting the princess between them. The squaws and children scampered off at once [131] out of sight. However, after the interpreter had explained for a quarter of an hour, they again re-entered the lodge, but the officers and Indians, throughout the conference, held their arms ready for use. Such a condition of things one would imagine might be productive of great suaviter in modo on both sides.

The temper in which Black Hawk retired from the conference induced General Gaines to reconsider his refusal of the militia troops, and he thought it best to impress the Indians with his overwhelming forces, that he might avoid bloodshed. He therefore called upon the Governor of Illinois for the militia. Sixteen hundred mounted men answered the call; but in the night the whole village crossed the river and raised the white flag, and the forces took possession.

There must have been many dramatic occurrences during this period, and the scene is peopled by the ghostly semblance of the men who have fought and died since that day.

The Rev. Dr. Harsha, of Omaha, said:

General Winfield Scott, when a young man, was stationed at Fort Snelling-at that day perhaps the remotest military outpost in the country. When the Black Hawk War was begun some Illinois militia companies proffered their services. Two lieutenants were sent by Scott to Dixon, Ill., to muster the [132] new soldiers. One of these lieutenants was a very fascinating young man, of easy manners and affable disposition; the other was equally pleasant but extremely modest. On the morning when the muster was to take place, a tall, gawky, slab-sided, homely young man, dressed in a suit of blue jeans, presented himself to the lieutenants as the captain of the recruits, and was duly sworn in.

The homely young man was Abraham Lincoln. The bashful lieutenant was he who afterward fired the first gun from Fort Sumter, Major Anderson. The other lieutenant, who administered the oath, was, in after years, the President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis.

Dr. Harsha was in Carter Brothers' book store, in New York City, where he chanced to repeat this story to a friend. An elderly gentleman, who was sitting near by listening, arose and remarked that he was happy to be able to confirm the facts, as he was the chaplain at Fort Snelling at the time, and was fully able to corroborate each statement. A bystander then gave the additional testimony that he had often heard Mr. Lincoln say that the first time that he had ever taken the oath of allegiance to the United States it was administered by Jefferson Davis.”

Mr. Davis remembered swearing in some [133] volunteers, but could not substantiate what seems a probable story.

Goaded by a sense of injury, Black Hawk and his band crossed the river several times, making predatory incursions either upon the friendly Indians or the whites.

Of this General A. C. Dodge wrote:

In 1832 we became associated in the famous Black Hawk War, he (Lieutenant Davis) as lieutenant of infantry, and I as aide-de-camp to General Henry Dodge, commanding the militia of Michigan Territory. I often accepted his invitation to partake of his hospitality, as well as that of General (then Captain) William S. Harney and Colonel Zachary Taylor, who often divided their rations with me, as we volunteers were frequently in want of suitable food.

The regulars were much better provided for than we volunteers were at that time. They were not only furnished with better rations and more of them, but they had tents, while we had none; and I shall never forget the generous hospitality of Lieutenant Davis, Colonel Zachary Taylor, Captain W. S. Harney, and others of my brave and generous comrades of those days.

In this campaign Lieutenant Davis was thrown with two remarkable men. Colonel Boone, a son of the celebrated Daniel Boone, [134] and Major Jesse Bean, the courage and integrity of both of whom was above question. They were noted for their thorough knowledge of woodcraft which was of inestimable service to their companions in arms. Of the two Colonel Boone was the superior in the matter of education, and his acquired knowledge was supplemented by a sixth sense-a faculty for finding water. He would often turn off suddenly in another direction from the one in which they had been travelling through the pathless prairies, saying that they would come to water before nightfall, and was never mistaken although this country was totally unknown to him, and the distance of the water from the point of divergence was so great, that one could not have accounted for his wonderful capacity except by supposing that he shared the Kaffir's faculty of smelling water at a distance. In fact he was as unable to tell why he took a particular road as any one else could have been. On being questioned he simply said, the water must be there.

Jesse Bean was a man of a different mould; but though he had not received the educational advantages of Colonel Boone, the exigencies of frontier life and his natural capacity had made up for the deficiency. Lieutenant Davis used often to talk to Major [135] Bean about the phenomena of nature, and tell him the scientific theory of cause and effect, and received an ample compensation for what he imparted, for Major Bean was a shrewd man and close observer of human nature.

One day, however, Major Bean's faith in the subaltern's learning was seriously shaken. Lieutenant Davis was explaining the laws that governed the solar system, the Major looked doubtful and said: “I did not think, Lieutenant, that you would try to make fun of an old man. As for that story of the earth moving and the stars standing still, I don't believe it, for many a night as I have lain listening for my beaver traps, I have watched one star rise in the East, pass over the sky and set in the West again. No man can convince me that the stars stand still.”

1 This was modified by an old frontier settler, Mrs. Arndt, into “Betty Mores.”

2 The same in whose honor I had in childhood seen many dough log-cabins baked and carried in procession, flanked by barrels of hard cider, to barbecues in the groves about Natchez, where rousing Whig speeches electrified “the party.” It was in praise of him, too, that the little children piped “For Tippecanoe, and Tyler too,” as they ran after the cortege.

3 Life of General Albert Sidney Johnston, by his son

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