On the 18th of June, 1812, the declaration of war against Great Britain was made by Congress. The protection of this part of our frontiers was considered of great importance to ourselves, as its possession was to the British. In the summer of 1814, the Government authorities at St. Louis fitted out a large keel-boat, made bullet proof, and sent it with what men could be spared, under command of Lieut. Perkins, to occupy Prairie du Chien. The troops built a stockade upon a mound, the present site of the Dousman residence. Its provisions for defense consisted of four small iron cannon besides the small arms of the garrison. The provisions and ammunition remained on the boat for want of convenient accommodations in the fort. The British traders of Mackinaw finding their communication with the Mississippi interrupted, planned the capture of the post. A strong expedition was fitted out and placed under command of Lieut. Col. William McKay, a member of the Northwest Fur Company, an enterprising man and resolute officer. He was given two companies of militia, formed among the employees of the traders. One of these companies was commanded by Joseph Rolette, of Prairie du Chien. About eighteen regular troops, under Capt. Pohlman, were assigned to the command, and Col. Dickson furnished McKay a part of his Indian force, numbering about 200 Sioux and 100 Winnebago warriors, and at Green Bay he was joined by about thirty militia and 100 Menomonees and Chippewas. The force now numbered about 150 whites and 400 Indians. Proceeding in boats up Fox river and down the Wisconsin, when within twenty-one miles of the prairie, Michael Brisbois and Augustin Grignon were dispatched in advance to procure information, and returned with the report that the garrison numbered about sixty. The invaders reached the vicinity of the fort, unperceived, about 10 o'clock Sunday morning, July 17, when its officers were upon the point of taking a ride into the country.
As soon as the British and Indians were discovered, the citizens left their houses and retired, some to the stockade, but the majority to the country. Col. McKay made an imposing display of his forces, invested the fort above and below, and summoned it to surrender. Lieut. Perkins promptly refused, where upon some forty of the Green Bay militia and Menomonees gained the island in front of the village and in the rear of the gun-boat, to annoy it while the besiegers opened on it from the land side with a brass six-pounder. One of these shots striking the boat, caused a leakage which, toward sundown, induced Capt. Yeiser, its commander, to swing her round and move down stream. The garrison called on her to stop, and, being unheeded, fired a shot to bring her round, but without effect. She escaped down the river, ignominiously leaving the garrison almost destitute of provisions and ammunition. Meanwhile, the besiegers directed an irregular fire of small arms against the fort, which was occasionally returned, but without effect on either side. The second day was spent by the besiegers in counselling, and doing some shooting at long range. That night some of the Indians commenced to mine from the bank of the river, but their progress toward the stockade was so slow that they soon gave it up. The third day passed as inactively as the second. The fourth day McKay prepared to fire the fort with hot shot, to be followed by an assault, when a white flag was raised, and two officers went out and agreed on a surrender of the post and stores, the garrison to retire unmolested down the river. The formal surrender was made the next morning. Strict orders were given the Indians against molesting the disarmed garrison, and an attempt by one of the Sioux to strike a soldier, was promptly punished by a knock down from the war club of a chief. McKay had, however, some trouble in preventing the Indians, especially the Winnebagoes, from plundering the settlers, who had by this time returned to their homes. After several days the prisoners were dispatched down the river, escorted by a squad under charge of Michael Brisbois. The Mackinaw forces then withdrew, leaving Capt. Pohlman in command of the stockade, which was named Fort McKay, and was garrisoned chiefly by militia, enrolled among the inhabitants of the village, until the following year, when, upon the ratification of peace, the British commander withdrew from the place.
Such, in brief, is the history of the war as enacted in what is now Crawford county. From it, only a general idea can be had of the many stirring events which transpired on the "prairie" during that war. Additional particulars are demanded at our hands, and we append, therefore, a recital of every event thought worthy of preservation.
Concerning McKay's expedition, James H Lockwood says:
"At this time [Sept. 1816] at Prairie du Chien the events of the War of 1812 in this quarter were fresh in the minds of every one. I learned that in the spring or summer of 1814, the United States government sent boats, made bullet proof, under a captain Yeiser, who was in command of the boats, and a company of United States troops, under Lieut. Perkins, to take and retain possession of Prairie du Chien. Perkins built a stockade on a large mound, on which Col. Dousman's house now stands, and Capt. Yeiser remained on board the boats where most of the ammunition and provisions were stored as there was no room for them within the stockade.
"Soon after the breaking out of the war, when the American officers in garrison at Mackinaw, and the citizens of that place were yet ignorant of the commencement of hostilities, but apprehensive that war had been declared, some traders were dispatched to the old British post and settlement of St. Josephs, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, for intelligence. As none of the traders returned, remaining absent so much longer than was deemed necessary, it naturally enough excited the suspicions of the commanding officer and the principal citizens of Mackinaw. Under the circumstances, a council was held, at which it was determined that immediate information must be had from St. Josephs, and the question then was, who could go there and not be suspected of being a spy. After looking around and finding none qualified to go, the late Michael Dousman, of Mackinaw, said that he had an outfit in Lake Superior that ought, by that time, to be at St. Josephs, and he thought that he could go there and look after his property without being suspected. Accordingly he volunteered his services, and late in the afternoon he left Mackinaw for St. Josephs in a canoe. About dark, at Goose island, fifteen miles from Mackinaw, he met the British troops on their way to that place, who took him prisoner, but released him on his parole that he would go back to Mackinaw, and not give the garrison any information of what he had seen, but collect the citizens together at the old still-house on the southern side of the island, where a guard would be immediately sent to protect them from the Indians. This promise Mr. Dousman faithfully performed, and was probably the cause of saving many an innocent family from being brutally murdered by the savages. The British arrived, planted their cannon during the night, and in the morning sent in to the commanding officer a copy of the declaration of war, with a demand for him to surrender, which he complied with.
"The traders in the British interest, resorting to Mackinaw as the British headquarters of the northwest, learning of the American occupation of Prairie du Chien in 1814, and anticipating, that so long as this force should remain there, they would be cut off from the trade of Prairie du Chien, its dependencies, and the Sioux country, at once set on foot an expedition for the re-capture of that place. The British officers and traders accordingly fitted out an expedition under the command of Col. McKay, of the Indian department, an old trader; and under him were, a sergeant of artillery with a brass six pounder, and three or four volunteer companies of the Canadian voyageurs, commanded by traders and officered by their clerks, all dressed in red coats, with probably 100 Indians, officered by half breeds.1 Having made a secret march they arrived on the prairie without being expected, and made the best display of red coats and Indians that they could. They made a formidable show, and the Americans not knowing of what materials they were composed, and supposing the were all British regulars, appeared to have been panic-struck. The sergeant had brought his field piece so well to bear that he hit one of the boats, I believe the one Yeiser was in. During this time the troops and Indians had made a move towards the fort, but keeping out of gun shot. On the boat being hit, Capt. Yeiser had the cable cut, and swung round down the river, ordering the others to do the same, carrying with them the provisions and ammunition of the garrison. After the boats had gone, Col. McKay summoned the fort to surrender, and having neither provisions nor ammunition they had no other alternative, and accordingly surrendered. The British took and kept possession of Prairie du Chien until peace, in 1815, thus opening the Indian trade to the traders at Mackinaw. The inhabitants of Prairie du Chien being British subjects, were ordered into service by the British government to do duty in the garrison during the war. The British sergeant of artillery for hitting the keel-boat, was promoted by his government."
Col. McKay came with his force in boats to Green Bay, where he tarried awhile to increase his numbers, and make all necessary preparations. A company of the Green Bay militia, of about thirty persons, and many of them old men unfit for service, was raised; of which Pierre Grignon was the captain, and Peter Powell and myself (Augustus Grignon,) the lieutenants. At the bay, James J Porlier, a youth of some eighteen years, and son of Jacques Porlier, was commissioned a lieutenant in the regulars, and joined Pohlman's company. 2
Here about seventy-five Menomonees, under Ma-cha-nah, or the Hairy Hand; I-om-e-tah, Kish-kon-nau-kau-hom, or the Cutting off; and Tamah's son, Mau-kau-tau-kee, and a party of about twenty-five Chippewas, mixed with the Menomonees, joined the expedition. Our entire force now consisted of 400 Indians and 150 whites --- such was the understanding at the time; if the newspapers of that day represented it much larger, it was for effect on the part of the British to impress the Americans with an idea of their great strength in the northwest; and on the part of the Americans, in palliation of their loss at Prairie du Chien.
At length the expedition moved forward up Fox river, the whites in six boats or barges and the Indians in canoes, and carrying their craft over the Portage, they descended the Wisconsin. Reaching the old, deserted Fox village, on the Wisconsin, twenty-one miles from Prairie du Chien, the force stopped, while Michael Brisbois, myself, a Sioux and a Winnebago Indian were dispatched to Prairie du Chien in the night to obtain a citizen and bring him to Col. McKay, from whom to obtain intelligence. Descending the river to where the ferry has since been located, some five or six miles from Prairie du Chien, we went thence across by land and reached the place without difficulty. We saw the sentinel on duty at the fort. We went to Antoine Brisbois, the uncle of Michael Brisbois, of one party, who lived three miles above the town, and took him to where we left our canoe at the ferry place, then called Petit Gris. There we awaited the arrival of Col. McKay and his force and they made their appearance the next morning, when the sun was about an hour high. Antoine Brisbois reported the American strength in the garrison at sixty. We then continued down to the mouth of the Wisconsin, and thence up almost to Prairie du Chien through a channel or bayou between a continuous number of islands and the Mississippi. We reached the town about 10 o'clock unperceived. As this was Sunday and a very pleasant day the officers of the garrison were getting ready to take a pleasure ride into the country, and had McKay been an hour or two later, the garrison would have been caught without an officer. 3
Nicholas Boilvin had directed a man named Sandy to go out and drive up his cattle, as he wished to kill a heifer that day, and have some fresh meat. Sandy went out and soon discovered the British approaching, and knew from the red coats worn by the regulars and Capts. Rolette and Anderson, for none of the rest had any, and the dozen British flags displayed by the Indians, that it was a British force. Sandy returned cooly to Boilvin and said there were "lots of red cattle" at such a place, and invited him to go with him and see. Boilvin went and scarcely crediting his own eyes, asked earnestly "What is that?" "Why, it is the British!" replied Sandy; when Boilvin, who was the American Indian agent at Prairie du Chien,4 hastened to his house and conveyed his family and valuables to the gun-boat for safety. All the citizens now left their houses and fled from the impending danger, some to the fort, but mostly to the country.
Upon arriving at the town, making a very formidable display for that quiet place Rolette and Anderson, with their companies, the Sioux and Winnebago Indians, were directed to take post above the fort, while Col. McKay himself, with the Green Bay company, the regulars, the Menomonees and Chippewas, encompassed it below. A flag was sent in, borne by Capt. Thomas Anderson, demanding the surrender of the garrison, with which demand Lieut. Perkins, the commandant of the post, promptly declined to comply. The six-pounder, under the management of the regulars, was now brought to bear on the gun-boat of the Americans; the first shot, however, fired by the six-pounder, was a blank charge, intended as a sort of war-flourish or bravado. But our men did not take a very near position; I should say they were half a mile from the gun-boat, if not more, and hence the firing upon the boat by the cannon, and the firing by guns or cannon from the boat, was generally ineffectual. When the firing first commenced on the gun-boat, Capt. Grignon, with a part of his company and several Menomonees, some thirty or forty altogether, were directed to cross the river in two boats, and take a position on land so as to annoy and aid to drive off the gun-boat, the position of which was at first near the middle of the stream, but when fired upon, had moved over nearer the western shore. During the day the gun-boat was at least once or twice struck by the balls of the six-pounder, and caused a bad leakage, which, when the sun was about half an hour high, induced its commander to move down stream. Seeing this movement, the Americans in the fort called out to them not to go off; but this being unheeded, they fired their cannon at the boat to stop it. Meanwhile Capt. Grignon and his party over the river5 had been annoying the boat. As the boat passed down the river, one six-pounder was made three times to hit her, twice on the side and once in the stern, but it soon got beyond our reach. Had we manned some of our boats and pursued, we could undoubtedly have taken it, as we afterward learned that it leaked so badly that the Americans had to stop at the mouth of the Wisconsin and repair it. The only injury the firing of the gun-boat did was a ball, before noon, striking a fence post, some of the slivers of which inflicted a flesh wound in the thigh of one of the Menomonees.
While this contest was progressing with the gun-boat, McKay's party of whites and Indians, on all sides of the fort, kept up an irregular firing of small arms, which, from their great distance from the fort, was harmless; and thus if they did no harm, they were out of the way of receiving any in turn. At length towards noon, Col. McKay order his men to advance over the Marais St. Freol, a swampy spot, and take position much nearer the fort --- not more than a quarter of a mile distant. This was obeyed by those on the lower side of the fort, who had a sufficiency of houses to shield them from the guns of the garrison. From this new position, the firing was somewhat increased; but the men under Rolette and Anderson, with the Sioux and Winnebagoes, on the upper side of the fort, kept at a safe distance, fully half a mile off, but they really needed no protection at that distance against small arms. In the fort were four iron cannon, somewhat larger than six-pounders, and these were occasionally fired.6 Whenever Capt. Rolette would see the flash of the cannon, he would give the rather unmilitary order of "Down, my men, down!" A couple of Winnebagoes discovering that there were some hams in a house, which had been deserted, and to which they could not gain an entrance, mounted upon the roof, intending to tear off some shingles, when they were espied from the fort, and each wounded in the thigh, when they quickly retreated from their exposed situation.
The second day the men and Indians amused themselves with some long shooting, but Col. McKay and his officers spent the day in counselling as to the best course of procedure. It was pretty much resolved to make an assault, and towards evening assembled the leading Indian chiefs, and laid the plan of an assault before them, when the Winnebago chief Sar-cel, or The Teal, remarked that he and his people remembered too well taking part with the Shawanoes in assaulting an American fort, and were beaten back with terrible slaughter, --- probably alluding to the attack on Fort Recovery,7 in Wayne's Indian war in 1793, --- and they would not like to resort to so hazardous an experiment; but proposed a better and safer way --- to spring a mine from the river bank and blow up the garrison. Col. McKay did not waste words unnecessarily, but simply replied, "Go at it." Teal and his Winnebagoes spent a part of the evening digging but found their progress in undermining was slow, and after penetrating a dozen or fifteen feet, they gave it up as a bad job. As the fort was several hundred feet from the river bank, it would have been an interminable operation for the Indians to have attempted to prosecute their scheme to completion.
Nothing of moment occurred the third day, --- as usual some little firing was done. Col. McKay sent into the country about three miles for a load of straw, which was made up into small bundles to have in readiness to place in the darkness of night, with kegs of powder near the fort, and fire a train of straw leading to the powder, and thus make a breach in the enclosure. But this was only designed as a dernier resort. During this day or the preceding one, a Fox Indian received a spent ball which lodged between his scalp and skull; it was cut out, and the wound was so slight as to prove no obstacle to his sharing in the further events of the siege.
The fourth day Col. McKay resolved to accomplish something more decisive. About 3 o'clock in the afternoon, with his troops properly stationed, and cannon balls heated red hot in a blacksmith's forge, I was sent to go round and specially direct the interpreters to order the Indians not to fire on the fort till the cannon should commence playing the hot shot, and the fort should be set on fire; then to use their muskets as briskly as possible. Scarcely had these directions been given, when the Americans, probably seeing from indications that a severe assault of some kind was about to be made, raised the white flag. Two officers now came out and met Col. McKay --- strict orders having been given to the Indians not to fire on these Americans, on the pain of being themselves fired on by the British troops. The result was, a surrender was agreed on; Col. McKay should have possession of the fort and public stores, and the Americans be permitted to retire unmolested in boats down the river. By this time it was too late to go through with a formal surrender, which was postponed till the next morning.
A little before the appointed time to give up their arms, one of the Winnebagoes seeing a soldier in the fort, made a motion to him to shake hands; the soldier reached his hand through a port-hole, when the Winnebago seized it and cut off one of his fingers, and ran off with his singular trophy. As Lieut. Perkins and his men marched out from the fort to lay down their arms, a Sioux warrior attempted to strike one of the soldiers, when a chief, a son-in-law of Wau-ba-shaw, knocked down his treacherous countryman with his war-club. Col. McKay had given such strict orders to the Indians against massacreing or molesting the Americans, and to the regulars and militia to keep the Indians in awe, that nothing more, so far as I know, transpired, that had the least appearance of treachery on the part of the Indians.
When the American flag was hauled down, Col. McKay was the first to observe the singular fact, that though it was completely riddled elsewhere with balls, the representation of the American eagle was untouched. The Indians, during the whole four days had directed many shots at the flag and had shot off one of the cords, which let the banner part way down the flag staff, and there it remained till the surrender. The flag staff was planted near the center of the fort.
Several days elapsed before arrangements were completed by which to send the prisoners down the river. When they took their departure, they escorted Michael Brisbois, with a suitable guard, as I had previously left. I understood Col. McKay gave the Americans their arms as they started down the river; but I have no knowledge of their being followed by the Indians.
Capt. Pohlman, with his regulars, remained in command, with the two Mackinaw companies under Capt. Anderson and Lieut. Duncan Graham, who was now promoted to the captaincy of his company, as Capt. Rolette had been sent with dispatches to Mackinaw immediately after the surrender.
McKay had much difficulty in managing his Sioux and Winnebago allies, particularly the latter. At the first investment of the place, when these Indians were placed with the Mackinaw militia above the fort, they had in the most wanton manner, shot down a number of horses and cattle belonging to the citizens, much to the regret and vexation of the British commander; and after the surrender, the Winnebagoes swarmed around among the settlers, to openly plunder them of anything they might desire; and McKay was under the necessity of threatening to turn his troops against them, if they did not instantly desist, and go off home. The Indians once off, Col. McKay, the Green Bay troops, Menomonees and Chippewas took their departure.
Capt. Rolette at length with his boat hove in sight of Mackinaw. Large numbers thronged the shore, anxiously waiting to learn the tidings from Prairie du Chien. "Capt. Rolette, what is the news?" "A great battle --- a sanguinary contest," responded Rolette, with an air of great solemnity and importance. "How many were killed?" "None!" "How many wounded?" "None!" "What a bloody contest!" vociferously shouted the crowd, as they escorted the hero from the boat to the garrison.
Capt. Pohlman continued in command at Prairie du Chien till after the peace, which ensued the following year, when the fort was evacuated. I may mention one incident of the winter after my departure. A couple of Frenchmen, named Dubois and Chaupanie, the former a half-breed Sioux, and brother-in-law of Capt. Rolette, were sent to a Sioux camp to obtain some venison for Rolette. While at the camp, a Sioux Indian demanded first, a gun, and then some ammunition, which being refused, he concluded to accompany them on their return to Capt. Rolette, saying that Rolette would let him have what he wanted. While the two men were asleep before their camp-fire in the night, the Sioux, who lay on the opposite side of the fire, got up, took the only gun, and shot them both at the same discharge, killing Chaupanie on the spot, and mortally wounding the other. The Indian now ran off, and Dubois, though distant a day's journey, reached Prairie du Chien, and died shortly after. The Sioux chief of that band was taken and detained till the murderer was brought in, who was tried and shot. He was a bad Indian, and was much feared by his own people.
Of Col. McKay, I can only state in addition, that after the war he retired to Montreal, where he long since ended his days. He was a fine looking, tall, well proportioned man, but was regarded as strict, and sometimes severe over those in his employ in the Indian trade. I knew Col. Robert Dickson from his first coming from England, as I think, and engaging in the Indian trade. He commenced his career as a trader about the year 1790, and traded principally with the Sioux, and continued till the war; after the war he did not renew the business. He was very humane to American prisoners during the war, rescuing many from the Indians; and in after years he several times received letters from such, enclosing presents of money, as tokens of their gratitude. He was a large man, of full face, tall and commanding. He had a Sioux wife and four children.
Wednesday, August 10, 1814. --- Col. McKay set off at 10 o'clock in the morning; would not allow any guns to be fired. In the afternoon a few Renards (Foxes) arrived from the Riviere au D'Inde, and brought word that they had seen the two barges that had went adrift from this place. The Tonnerre Noir, or Black Thunder, a Yankee Indian passed on his way above, unperceived.
Thursday, August 11. --- Gave out some few articles of goods to the Michigan Volunteers, by Col. McKay's orders previous to leaving. Gave out twelve carrots of tobacco to be distributed among the troops in general. This was done because it is customary to allow the people of this place to smoke as a preventive to sickness. The want of provisions obliges me to give every assistance to the farmers to get in their grain as fast as possible. I, therefore, allow all the volunteers that are not on duty, to go and work for them in the day-time. Employed the sergeant of artillery men, with some of the Michigans, in making leaden three-pound balls. Appointed a patrol to go about at night in order to detect stragglers, if any such persons should be found, that they may give an account of themselves.
Friday, August 12. --- Sent off twelve men with an interpreter, and two Indians for the barges that drifted away from this place. One of the volunteers by the name of Aslin, having refused to go on fatigue, and having absented himself without leave, I put in close confinement, and allow him one and one half pounds of bread, and two quarts of water per day, till further orders. At 3 in the afternoon, eight canoes of Renards came, and landed at the entrance of the Marais, a little below the Prairie. From there the chief with another came up and asked leave to offer some scalps they had brought. I gave them leave, and they returned for their canoes. This being the Prince Regent's birthday, put off practicing at the cannon till to-morrow. The small store of powder we have here, prevented our firing the customary salute on this day. At 4, the canoes arrived, and asked to speak with me. I told the Indians to repair to the house lately belonging to Mr. Boilvin. The head man, not a chief, got up and gave me his hand, saying: "My father, we are ashamed to present you with these scalps (holding four scalps in his hand,) because we did not kill them ourselves; but got three of them from our friends, the Sauks, and one we picked up on our way here --- a man, that we supposed your guns had killed, in the gunboat where you fought; he was lying on a sand bank." Then presenting me with a few articles of American clothing, said: "We give you these things, to wish you a good day, as they came from the enemy, hoping you will give us some assistance." Another Indian rising and showing me his leather breech-cloth: "My father, I beg of you some little assistance; you see how miserable I am off, being obliged to wear a leather petticoat."
To these requests I gave the following answer: "I am happy to see you, but am much chagrined that I have not a mouthful of provisions to give you. As for powder, tobacco, and goods, you need not speak of these articles, for your father" (alluding to Col. McKay,) "after the battle of the Rapids, and previous to his departure gave to the Sauks and Renards twenty kegs of gunpowder and fourteen bales of goods to be distributed among such Indians of these Nations as we knew to be good subjects, and must support. But in the space of twenty or twenty-five days there will be a strong re-inforcement of troops here, and plenty of ammunition and other goods. Those Indians that merit support, will have it amply; but those that are attached to the Americans, as many of the Renards are, will be treated as we treat bad dogs."
At half past 4 o'clock Lieut. Brisbois arrived, having been below the rapids of the Riviere des Moines, with the prisoners. He brought nothing new. At sun-down the fatigue party I sent for the barges arrived, with the two barges, having received no injury.
Saturday, August 13, 1 p.m. --- A Sioux canoe arrived from above, bringing word that Feuille's band, in drinking their rum, fought much, but without arms, among themselves. They were about to kill the Aile Rouge, or Red Wing, but he ran away. At 4, the Renards, that gave me four scalps yesterday, assembled, and requested of me to return them the scalps, observing that they were the enemies' scalps that we have killed with our little cannon; but that I did not want such trophies, as we never took off the scalps of our enemies. Speaking of their loyalty, I answered them that it was not possible to depend upon their Nation in general; that I knew that there were some good subjects among them, but many bad ones. That when they saw Robert Dickson, how they came and cried to him for support; and as soon as their English Father was fond of his children he always assisted them; but their misfortune was, that as soon as his back was turned, and they saw the Americans, some among them immediately raised their war clubs over our heads. I am sorry to speak to you in this way, but necessity requires it, as I do not know the good from the bad. When your English Father speaks to his well-known good children, he does it with an open hand and heart; but when he knows he speaks to bad subjects, he does it with an arm in his hand. But the time is drawing near when a fire will be kindled, as in a meadow where there are stout trees. The bad hay will be burned down, and the fire will protect the stout trees and leave them to grow without being annoyed.
Sunday, August 14, 12 o'clock. --- Went out to the farms to inquire about mills, in order to get some flour made immediately. The mills are in bad order, but they will get them repaired; and as soon as the harvest gets in they will begin to grind the wheat. At 3, returned and found two of the Michigans drunk. They had stolen rum out of a keg that had been issued for a party going for a gun-boat of the enemy, being a little above Fort Madison. When I arrived they were lying drunk. I ordered them into the guard-house. They were very insolent to the sergeant, and in fact rushed out of the block-house where they were confined, having no sentry over them, and behaved with violence, taking up clubs to defend themselves from the guard, when I ordered them a second time to be kept close. Having only one pair of fetters, I had them put on to one of them; the other I had tied.
Monday, August 15. --- At 9, seven canoes, Renards from the Riviere au D'Inde, arrived. Having received a letter in French, from Capt. Grignon, on the 12th inst., the difficulty of deciphering it prevented my inserting till to-day, as follows:
Fort McKay, Aug. 12, 1814. Capt. T. G. Anderson, Com'g Fort McKay:
Sir --- I beg you to take into consideration the request which I made of Lieut. Col. McKay, which he accepted. As I do not intend to act in anything that would be disagreeable to you; and knowing your intelligence, I hope that you will take everything into consideration. My only object is to prove as much as my feeble knowledge permits, to submit my views of public matters, which are founded upon truth, and which are of the greatest importance to make known, and should be understood everywhere, being interested for the service of His Majesty, etc.
1. The provisions which are absolutely indispensable, and which it would be a failure not to recognize [are wanting]. You know that the inhabitants of Green Bay are without help for their harvest, and that it is impossible for them to gather their crops without assistance. A mill there stands idle for lack of workmen. It is important for them to be provided with flour, unless affairs at Mackinaw should permit the furnishing an immediate supply, or I should not be allowed to return home (the people there must suffer).
It would be possible to send the powder you need, from that place; I myself could furnish 250 pounds. Here you need to be provided with the munitions of war; you have not enough for the force you have, and what is the need of us Green Bay people here? Without additional supplies you will be unable to defend the place; it is like a body without a soul. If permitted to return to the bay, and you should have information of the approach of the enemy, I think that, receiving notice, I could come to your assistance as soon as the (Indian) Nations nearest here; and the Nations of Fox river would come more promptly with me than by sending a message to them, which would only be met by procrastination, as usual.
2. The provisions which are being consumed here by so many, it would be better, in my opinion, to husband in part, for another time (when the enemy should threaten and re-inforcements should be needed). It is costly to transport supplies for so many men from Mackinaw. As there are not sufficient munitions for those here, it has been my intention to obtain leave to go to the Illinois with some volunteers. I have tried to raise the Sacs and Foxes, in order to embroil them with the enemy. Such were the intentions of your servant, and more.
I need say nothing further. I hope for a furlough, and not transportation, as early as possible, with a letter of recommendation to the commander at Mackinaw, if agreeable to you to grant it.
I am, sir, etc., etc., Pierre Grignon, Capt.
My answer was as follows:
Fort McKay, August 15, 1814.
Sir. --- In answer to your letter of the 12th inst. I have to say that as to the request you say you made of Col. McKay, I know nothing about it. Summing up the contents of your letter, I find you want permission to return home, a request I cannot take upon myself to grant, for two reasons: first, that it was optional with you, previous to the colonel's departure, to remain here, or return to your home; secondly, you are on the list with those to do garrison duty here till the re-inforcement arrives from Mackinaw. As to provision, the less said on this subject the better. The object of our coming here was to make use of our arms, etc.
As to your good intentions, and wish to go and burn St. Louis,9 I conceive it to be out of the question to harbor any such idea, with any number of the Indians, and perhaps forty or fifty volunteers that you with difficulty could muster. Attacking and totally destroying so formidable a place as that, is in my opinion, absurd. I am much obliged to you for your offer of powder, and am sorry it is out of reach. Having answered the principal subjects of your letter, I am sir, your humble servant,
Thos. G. Anderson, Capt. Comd'g.
At 10, Lieut. Graham went off to try and get the gun-boat, as mentioned in yesterday's orders. At 6 p.m. a violent thunder storm, with rain and much lightning. The firmament was as if in a continual blaze, from 7 till 10.
Tuesday, August 16th. --- At 10 called up the Michigans that were confined on Sunday. When they proved that they got the rum, with which they got drunk on Sunday, from one of the volunteers, I sent for him, liberated the two Michigans deserved, perhaps, to be more rigorously punished; but their corps being my principal support, would not admit of my being too strict with them for the present. At 5, a canoe of Puants arrived from their village on the Ouisconsin. Kept a party at work making swivel bullets. Finished covering the house. At half past 8 the volunteer in the guard house was on the point of, and threatening to break out, when I ordered him to be put in irons.
Wednesday, August 17th. --- Got the artificers at work widening the passage through the fort, but could not complete it entirely. At 9 p.m. the Feuille, or Leaf, arrived with five of his young men. He had heard by the Renards that the Americans were coming up, and that cannon had been heard firing below the Rock river lately, and that a barge had arrived from Mackinaw. The report of the firing of the cannon we knew to be false. Lieut. Brisbois has just come from there, and if a barge had arrived from Mackinaw, no doubt we would have had letters from there. Those vagabonds made this news in hopes to make themselves pass for friendly Indians.
Thursday, August 18th. --- At 10 the Feuille came to the fort, when I told him the talk I had held with the Renards, the whole of which, he agreed, was perfectly right. I gave him the four scalps I got from the Renards. He told me, that in the course of a few days, he would send down to hear the news, and after that, he would come down himself with the men of his band to wait the arrival and command of his father, Robert Dickson. I gave him a few loaves of bread, and he went off. At 2 o'clock this morning, John Campbell, of the volunteers, having repeatedly refused to do duty, I sent the corporal of the guard with two men, and brought him up. In questioning him and asking him his reasons for his not attending, he said he would not mount guard as long as he could get work to gain anything by. I told him he had better do his turn of duty with the others. He immediately mounted his high horse, and began to talk in a high tone, when I commanded him to be silent. He became insolent, and told me he did not care a d--n for me. I ordered him to the guard house. Kennet, who was put in irons on Tuesday, continues in the guard-house with his irons on him; is very abusive, and threatens every person in the garrison without exception. The fort door, and well completed.
Friday, August 19th. --- The officers, etc., took two lessons at the gun, and got on very well. Let John Campbell out of the guard-house. A heavy shower in the morning. Got word that the Renards above had found the Indian that got drowned while going up with the Little Corbeau. They say he had his feet tied together. Got the carpenter to work making a scaffold, on which for a sentry to stand high, and see over the pickets. One of the swivels well mounted, and in the blacksmith's hands, to be bound, and ironed completely. Gave out a second to be mounted.
Saturday, August 20th. --- At 6, practiced at the gun till a quarter past 8. Went around to arrange with the farmers for flour. They will begin to thrash out their wheat on Monday. I promised them every assistance. At 10, the Michigans were drilled. At 2 p.m., got the other three-pounder mounted, and went out in brigade at 4 o'clock, practicing sham fighting till 6, when we returned to the fort. At half past 3 p.m., three young Renards arrived with a pipe, they say, from the Sauks, who send me word that the Americans were on their way up here in barges. They say they do not deceive me, three different couriers having seen the barges above the Cap au Gris ten days ago. The Sauks request me to go down to the rapids with all the forces here, and meet the enemy there, and at the same time take them ammunition and guns. I told them I could give them an answer in the morning, as they told me this news at 7 o'clock in the evening. I cannot put faith in this report. The couriers cannot inform me the number of the enemy's barges, nor can they tell me the number of young Sauks that brought the pipe to the Renard village. They ask for ammunition and guns, two articles they have been repeatedly told that we have none; and Col. McKay, when he gave the Epervier Noir, or Black Sparrow Hawk, the last present, told him positively he need not expect any further supply of powder till the re-inforcement came out. All these circumstances considered, I conceived it to be a made up story of the Renards and Aile Rouges or Red Wings, to get us away from this, perhaps to destroy the place, or else to get us, as they suppose, into their power below this, and, as in such a case we would not suspect them, to get us into a council, and then do our business. Be this as it may, I treat the couriers well, and do not give the smallest idea that I doubt the truth of their report. On the contrary, I will encourage them to be on the lookout, etc. If there is any truth in their assertions, we shall know it in the course of three or four days by Lieut. Graham. The enemy will not reach this point, if the report is true, before twenty days.
Sunday, August 21st. --- Answer to the young Renards that brought the pipe, and news of the approach of the Americans: "You will tell the Sauks, that I thank them for having sent a pipe as a token of the certainty of the enemy's approach. I also thank you for having been so expeditious in bringing the news here. You will tell the Sauks that my orders will not admit of my leaving this place for the present, having been left here to defend the post. At any rate, knowing that there are a number of bad Indians both above and below me, I fear were they to find that I had left the village unguarded, they might come and insult and destroy the inhabitants of the place."
I was careful to prevent their learning that we had only one half barrel of flour on hand. As to ammunition and guns, I sent word to the Sauks, that they well knew I had none to spare, having on hand only what would be necessary for twenty days in case of an attack, --- this was designed, in case the Sauks should give information to the enemy, to make them believe that we are not short of supplies. The Sauks, Renards, etc., ought to be well supplied, having got, previous to Col. McKay's leaving here, twenty kegs of gunpowder, and having taken a number of guns from the enemy, they are well enabled to stand a strong attack.
I advised the Indians below "to keep a good look out, and not allow themselves to be surprised, and in case the Americans should come on horseback, as you say, try and decoy them into the bush, and surround them. Men on horseback, in a thick bush, cannot do much; and in case they get past your village in barges, follow them up here, with a party on each side of the river, and annoy them if they debark to camp, to get wood, or otherwise; and by the time they reach here, I will have a strong re-inforcement of Indians. Before they can reach here, the re-inforcement will perhaps be out from Mackinaw, when you, our Sauk friends, will be all well supplied with ammunition and everything else.
"I am very sorry I cannot take upon myself to furnish the Sauks with any more ammunition; but let them take courage, and act as bravely as they did when they drove back the American gun-boats, and they may depend upon ample support, perhaps more than they can possibly expect, when the re-inforcement comes out. When Black Hawk and the Sauk chiefs send expresses in the future, send people that can give the particulars of anything that is going on , and not young men that can give no information at all. The young men that brought me the pipe could neither tell me where the enemy were seen, their number of boats, nor anything more than merely they were coming. The pipe, you say, the Sauks sent to be left with me. I will keep it as a token of their good intentions, and will deliver it to their father, the Red Head,10 as soon as he arrives."
At 12, the Sauk chief, Thomas, arrived. Two canoes having left the village previous to the arrival of this news there, he could give me no further assurance. He met Lieut. Graham within a few miles of the Rock river, and says he will be back here to-morrow or next day.
Monday, August 22d. --- At 6 in the morning, it began to rain hard, and thundered a good deal. Rainy weather all day. At 8 in the evening a Sioux canoe arrived with one man and three women; nothing new. Issued thirty-seven pairs Indian shoes to the volunteers, and drilled the people.
Tuesday, August 23d. --- Got a number of men threshing wheat. At 7 in the evening, Lieut. Graham arrived bringing Indian news, that the Americans were coming up. Nothing certain as to their force, or where they were seen. On the 20th, while Lieut. Graham was preparing to proceed from Rock river to go and destroy the gun-boat (the Sauks having refused to go and assist in getting her up), two young men arrived express from the Sauks on the Missouri, reporting that white people from the Illinois, they do not know who, sent word to the Sauks on the Missouri to inform those on the Rock river to be on their guard, as the Americans were to leave the Illinois on the 4th inst., in a strong detachment, to cut off the Sauks. No other certain news of their approach.
Wednesday, August 24th. --- Having deliberated on the news Lieut. Graham brought from the Sauks, and taking into consideration the promises made Indians in general by the Government, through Robert Dickson, and Col. McKay previous to his leaving here, of giving them every assistance, and supporting them against the invading enemy, I think it my duty to send an expedition to the Sauks for that purpose, in order to convince them that promises made by British officers are inviolable, and will be fulfilled, even under the most inconvenient circumstances. I, therefore, ordered that an expedition to the Rock river would be in readiness to march on the 27th inst. The forces are mentioned in the orders of the 24th. I also ordered that Mr. Renville leave here early to-morrow morning for the Sioux, that is the friendly band, to ask their chief, with as many as he can spare of his young men, to go on the same expedition, and at the same time to tell the Feuille or Leaf, to send word to the Little Corbeau to proceed with all the warriors of the lake,11 and when they get to the Prairie La Crosse, to wait there till they send me word, and get further orders what to do. Lieut. Graham brought intelligence that the Sauks were all assembling at the Rapids of Rock river, and had sent word to the Puants, etc., and that he believed that before our expedition reaches them, there will be about 1200 warriors assembled there. They promised they would fight to the last man, and sent me word that their fields of corn were open to the troops that I might send, as well as to all Indians going to their aid.
Thursday, August 25th. --- The guns are in a fair way; the brass three-pounder finished at 3 in the afternoon. A Renard canoe arrived from above. There are eight men, with Le Jeune Homme chief. They arrived very much dejected, and were ashamed to hold up their heads. They did not offer to speak to me. The commissary got in 500 weight of flour.
Friday, August 26th. --- At 10 the Jeune Homme assembled his young men, and asked to speak with me. I went and found them in Boilvin's house. They had a pipe of peace, an otter sack, and a painted elk skin, with a few pieces of dried meat to give me. When he arose to speak, he offered me his hand; but I refused to give him mine. He then began a discourse that had no sense in it. His principal strain was, that he had always wished to follow his father, the Red Head's advice; but the Americans had turned his head, and he had behaved ill. And was sorry for it. In entering into the room, I, knowing he had a British silk flag, and had not hoisted it when he arrived here, told him, before he spoke a word, to show me his flag, for I feared he had given it to his friends, the Americans. He sent and had it brought. I would have taken it from him, but fearing it might be improper, he having received it from the superintendent. On that account I said nothing about it.
When he had finished his speech, his war chief got up with the pipe in his hand, and said: "I made use of all the sense the mother of life gave me, in order to induce you to smoke my pipe; if I have done wrong, it is because I have been advised to it by my chief;" and having concluded his remarks, and about to light the pipe, I told him to save himself the trouble, as I would not smoke with them. He laid down the pipe, etc., at my feet.
I then replied to them thus: "You ought not to be surprised that I treat you in this way. You are of an age not to be foolish. You ought to have sense. I cannot, therefore, attribute your bad conduct, to us, to have risen from a want of knowing better. But I attribute it to a real inclination of wishing to be American subjects. If you were ashamed to expose your English flag to view, why did you not act as men, and arrive here with your American father's mark of distinction? The time is over for British officers to flatter, beg and pray of the Indians to follow the good road. Your father the Red Head, is tired of using these means to Indians that come crying to him, when he is here, to get a blanket to cover themselves, or a charge of powder to kill wherewith to eat; and then as soon as his back is turned, to raise their war club over our heads, and ask, with flattering stories, the same assistance from the enemy. None but dogs can be guilty of such conduct.
"The time is drawing near when the sun will be eternally hid from the bad Indians, and will be three times larger than now for good ones. Let every one who wishes well to his women and children, lose no time in showing his true colors; for I think when the great chief, the Red Head arrives, his good children will appear bold and walk in good spirits, with their heads up. But the bad Indians will be like dogs almost starved to death. Everything that you have said, and my answer, I have marked on this piece of paper (holding up a sheet of paper), and will keep it till the great chief, the Red Head, arrives, and show it to him, that he may know our discourse. Your pipe and sack you will keep, and when he arrives, as he has the command of all the Indians, he will do as he pleases; but as for me, I cannot make peace with the Americans."
Never were Indians, perhaps, more dejected, and perhaps none ever so sincerely regretted their past folly. The Jeune Homme was the man that, when they got word of the Americans coming here last spring, got J. M. Cardinal, an inhabitant of this place, to write the Americans the situation of the country, and sent some of his young men with it to the enemy, and afterwards offered his services to go to war against us, and was instrumental in delivering up, with the Aile Rouge, or Red Wing, this place to the enemy. I conceived it my duty to talk to them in this strain, to convince them that the British wished all the Indian Nations well, and would support them as long as they followed their good advice; but, at the same time, put them at defiance, and despised any threats from those that chose to join the Americans.
Fort McKay, Aug. 26, 1814.To Lieut. Graham. ---
Sir: --- The expedition for the Rock river under your command, being now in readiness, you will march to-morrow morning at 8 o'clock, and proceed with all haste to your place of destination. On your arrival there, you will assemble the Indians, and explain to them that the intention of the expedition is to support them in defending their lands, and women and children, according to promises made to them by their father, Robert Dickson, and Lieut. Col. McKay; and that in case of any attack, they must support and defend the guns as long as they have a man standing. That they must not amuse themselves, during the action, in taking scalps. They must destroy the enemy as much as possible, except prisoners. Those they will treat well, and not, as is generally the case, use them barbarously; but on the contrary, if they use them as we always do our prisoners, and bring them here, they shall be well recompensed for it. You will, in case of being successful, and should be fortunate in making prisoners, use every means in preventing their being insulted, or ill-used by the Indians; and by all means act in every way towards them as becoming a British officer. You will not proceed below the Rock river until you find it necessary to take advantage of a commanding situation. If the enemy do not reach Rock river in six days after your arrival there, you will decamp and return here, unless you get information of their being at hand. But in case you find the enemy's forces to be absolutely too strong to risk an engagement, you will retreat here will all possible haste, leaving the Indians and a few of your men to follow up the enemy, and annoy them as much as possible until they reach here. Having full confidence in you, and the troops under your command, I trust to your judgment to arrange all necessary matters as occasion may require, and trusting to a deliberate and prudent conduct in you, I wish you a successful and safe return.
I am, sir, etc., Thos. G. Anderson, Capt. Comd'g.
Saturday, August 27th. --- At 8, the expedition for the Rock river, marched. We gave them three shots from the six pounder. At 2, the Feuille, or Leaf, with fifty Sioux, arrived, on their way to join the expedition. Shortly after, forty Renards arrived for the same purpose. I gave them fifteen loaves of bread, and sent to procure a beef that I knew was for sale, but the owner sent me word if I would send him two milch cows, I might get his ox. I then inquired of Mr. Brisbois, from whom I have had every assistance he could possibly give, even to the distressing of his own family. He furnished a pair of two year old bulls, which I gave to the whole of the warriors. The Feuille brought word that he had met a Renard canoe with two men in it, who informed him, that a Renard messenger was sent from the Illinois by the Americans, with a notice to the Indians, that they, the Americans, were on their way up here mainly to take possession of their fort [at Prairie du Chien], and not to hurt the Indians. That they, the Indians, were requested to keep out of the way. That the Americans, like hunters in the wood, had wounded a deer; they had wounded the English, and were following the track till they should ruin or destroy the whole. The Feuille heard this report too late to authorize him to take the Renard. The Feuille does not understand the Renard language himself, but this was interpreted to him some time after passing the Renard canoe.
Sunday, August 28th. --- Gave the Feuille ten bushels of wheat to take him, with the Renards, to the Rock river. A young lad of this place, by the name of Antoine Du Bois, volunteered his service, and embarked with the Sioux interpreter. I gave the Feuille a few articles he was absolutely in want of. Fifty Sioux, of the Feuille band, with forty-five Renards, left this place at 2 o'clock singing the war song; and at 6, about sixteen Puants arrived from above, debarked at the upper end of the village, and walked down to the lower end, singing the war-song, then immediately embarked and went off. Wrote a note to Capt. Grignon to prepare himself to go off express to Mackinaw to-morrow at 10 o'clock.
Monday, August 29th. --- Finished the dispatches at 10, and Capt. Grignon being detained in expectation of Mr. Antoine Brisbois arriving from below, did not set off till 4 in the afternoon. Mr. Brisbois did not arrive.
Prairie du Chien, Fort McKay, Aug. 29, 1814.
To Lieut. Col. McDouall. ---
Sir: --- The command of this post having been left to me by Lieut. Col. McKay, I have the honor to communicate to you, that on the 27th inst., I sent off a small detachment under the command of Lieut. Graham, of the Indian department, for the Rock river, consisting of thirty men, one brass three-pounder, and two swivels. Having sent Lieut. Graham to that place on the 15th inst., in order to get a party of Sauks to proceed with him to within two miles of the enemy's abandoned Fort Madison, to take possession of, and, if possible, bring away a gun-boat that the enemy had got sunk, by the fall of a tree, last spring, on their way up here; and, at the same time, to get information of the enemy.
But the Sauks, having got repeated information, by scouting parties, that the Americans were on the point of leaving St. Louis for this place, they were afraid, and would not go. Lieut. Graham, therefore, determined to proceed, with his small party of volunteers, to burn the gun-boat, in order to prevent its falling into the enemy's hands. As he was on the point of embarking for that purpose, two young Sauks arrived from the Sauks on the Missouri (where there are still ten lodges --- say 100 men) express, with news that a courier had been sent by some French gentlemen, from St. Louis, to the Sauks on the Missouri, to notify them that a strong detachment of the enemy was to march from St. Louis on or about the 12th inst., to cut off the Indians at Rock river.
The courier from St. Louis was sent to the Indians on the Missouri, that they might immediately give information to those on Rock river to be on their guard. Lieut. Graham, believing this report to be true, returned here on the 23d inst., but previous to his return, exclusive of circulating reports, the Indians at the Rock river sent word to me, and to the Indians above this, through the medium of a pipe, to inform me of the enemy's being on their way here and begged that I would send them some ammunition, with one or two guns and a few soldiers, to assist them in defending their lands, women and children.
On Lieut. Graham's arrival, I called together all the officers to have their opinions on the subject, and they universally agreed that it was absolutely necessary to send a small detachment, not only for the preservation of the post, but to retain the Indians in our favor. This small detachment, together with the aid they get from the Feuille with forty of his young men, will greatly encourage the Indians on the lower Mississippi, and prevent their joining the enemy which necessity might otherwise compell them to do.
The Sauks, Renards and Kickapoos that were about the entrance of Rock river when Lieut. Graham was there, formed about 800 men, though, with the re-inforcements that will join them by the time the detachments from this reaches them, I am well persuaded will reach from 1200 to 1500 men. Upwards of 100 men, Sioux, Puants and Renards, from above this, passed here yesterday on their way to join the detachment. Ammunition, arms and tobacco are the principal articles the Indians are really in distress for.
I beg leave to remark that the critical situation of the country here at present absolutely requires that Robert Dickson should be here with the re-inforcements of troops asked for by Lieut. Col. McKay. The volunteer privates from Mackinaw and the bay, though willing to serve their country, are becoming weary of garrison duty, and as the time for which they volunteered their services having expired, they hope to be soon relieved. I sent Capt. Grignon, of the bay express, with this communication. I have the honor to be, etc.,
Thos. G. Anderson, Capt. Commanding.
Tuesday, August 30th --- At 12 o'clock the Bourgue, a Puant chief, arrived, and reports that he heard that Robert Dickson had left Mackinaw some time since for this post.
Wednesday, August 31st --- Requested of Mr. Brisbois to repair Mr. Fisher's store, a convenient place to put part of the public goods. The Feuille having assured me that he had sent off two young men from his village to inform the Little Corbeau, I did not send an interpreter, as ordered on the 28th inst. The Feuille gave me this information on the 29th inst., in the morning.
Thursday, Sept. 1st, 1814 ---
To Mr. Frenier: You will leave this immediately, with three men in a wooden canoe, and proceed with all haste up the Mississippi till you fall in with the Little Corbeau. You will tell him the enemy are on their way up here. That Robert Dickson, from Indian reports, will be here in a very short time, and that it is requested that the principal part of his band will remain above this, not higher up than the Prairie La Crosse, to hunt, till further orders.
Yours, etc., Thomas G. Anderson, Capt. Commanding.
Mr. Frenier went off at 10 o'clock. Showers of rain all day.
Friday, September 2d --- Two letters that I wrote Lieut. Graham when he went down to the Rock river in quest of the American gunboats, having been omitted, are inserted as follows:
Fort McKay, Aug. 14, 1814.To Lieut. Graham:
Sir --- You will leave this to-morrow morning at 10 o'clock, with one interpreter and six men, in a canoe. You will proceed immediately to the Rock river, unless you get certain news of the enemy's approach. On your arrival there you will call together the Sauk chiefs, soldiers and braves, and give them a carrot of tobacco, as a present, and a request to them to go with you to assist in obtaining the object of your voyage, which is, to bring up an American gunboat that is lying a short distance above Fort Madison. In case you are successful in getting the boat, you will use your endeavors in getting the Indians to assist you in bringing her up here; but if you cannot get that assistance, you will run her up into the Rock river where she will be safe till she can be sent for from here. If your best exertions fail in getting off the boat you will burn her, to prevent her falling into the enemy's hands.
In case you get certain information of the enemy's approach; or if you find it necessary on any other occasion to send an express here by land, you will order the Indians bearing it, to show themselves on the hills opposite this place. On their arrival, they will halloo a few shouts, then fire one gun, and shortly after they will fire three shots. This will be a signal to let me know who they are. In asking assistance from the Indians, you will tell them if they go with you and bring up the boat, they will be amply recompensed when the re-inforcement arrives from Mackanaw. Wishing you a short and successful passage, I am, sir, etc.,
Thos. G. Anderson, Capt. Com'd'g.
Fort McKay, Aug. 21, 1814.
Sir --- Last evening three Renards arrived here with a pipe, sent, they say, by the Sauks, to tell me the Americans were on their way up here; but the express could [not] tell me what number of barges were coming, nor where they were seen. I will thank you to make particular inquiry of the Sauks, where the pipe came from; and tell them if they send in future, to send people that can be depended upon to give every information. They asked for ten kegs of gunpowder, and guns --- two articles that they are already well supplied with. I, therefore, gave them none.
Get certain and particular information before you send or return. You will tell the Indians, in case the enemy are coming up, to follow them by land, on each side of the Mississippi, and annoy them as much as possible; at the same time not to waste their ammunition in firing random shots. They requested me to go down and meet the enemy at the Rock river. This being impossible, for several reasons, I refused them positively. If you cannot get the gun-boat, use every means to destroy it. Yours, etc.,
Thos. G. Anderson, Capt. Com'd'g.
At 4 a.m., a Puant arrived with Francois La Pointe's horse, that had been stolen by the Puants.
Saturday, Sept. 3d. --- A cool pleasant morning, but foggy.
To Lieut. Graham:
Sir: --- You will receive by interpreter Grignon, 520 pounds of flour, all that I can possibly muster. Indian report says, that Robert Dickson left Mackinaw a long time ago for this place. I have been waiting now three days, in hopes of certain information on that head, to no purpose. If you think it necessary, you can remain a few days longer than the term mentioned in your instructions of the 26th ult. I am very anxious to hear from you. I refer you to Mr. Grignon for further particulars. In hopes shortly to receive flattering news from you, I am, sir, etc.,
Thos. G. Anderson, Capt. Comd'g.
Sunday, Sept. 4th. --- At 10 the militia assembled as usual. I thanked the inhabitants of St. Friole, by way of encouraging them, for having furnished what little flour they had done. Having heard a rumor that the volunteers were about to take their discharge when on parade, I represented to them the disgrace that would attend such a step, etc. They made no reply, and continued their duty for the present. At 3 a.m. two Renard canoes arrived, with six men and several women and children. By way of getting provisions and ammunition, they fabricated a story that the detachment gone below had surrendered to the Americans. Knowing this to be a base falsehood, I abused the cowardly villains, as they deserved, and gave them nothing. This afternoon a canoe of Renards from above was seen by old La Pointe, to go down the river behind the island. He did not give me notice till late in the evening.
Monday, Sept. 5th. --- The Renards that arrived yesterday, went off above.
Tuesday, Sept. 6th. --- Finding that one Fontaine had a mare and a young colt here, and that he had been in the Illinois three years, I ordered the mare to be taken (the colt being only this spring's) and broke in for the King's service.
Wednesday, Sept. 7th. --- At 4 o'clock four Sauks, old men arrived from the Rock river, bringing the following communications from Lieut. Graham:
Rock River, Sept. 3, 1814.Capt. Thos. G. Anderson:
Sir. --- Agreeably to your orders of the 26th of last month, I proceeded with all expedition for this place, which I reached on the 29th of the same month. Although there is no apparent danger, our coming here has given more satisfaction to the Sauks than if all the goods in the King's store in Mackinaw had been sent them, as they are now firmly convinced that their English Father is determined to support them against the ambition and unjust conduct of their enemies. I made known to them the intention of the expedition, to which they answered that, if we should come to action, they would stand by us to the last man. One hundred and twenty-two men, Sioux, Renards and Puants, arrived here the day before yesterday. The whole of the Indians appear to be much animated to meet the enemy, and I think with what force we have to be able to repulse any party that the enemy will be able to send this way.
I have not been able to obtain any satisfactory information of the enemy coming up. Four days ago, five Indians that went down on discovery, returned. They were as far as Cap au Gris. They say at that point there is a small fort, which I suppose to be Fort Independence. There was a considerable number of men in and around it, with two large gun-boats at anchor before it. Whether this force is stationed there to guard their frontiers, or for collecting for an expedition to come this way, is uncertain. I detained this letter three or four days, waiting the return of five Indians that had been gone about twelve days, in hopes to obtain from them more certain information; but finding their stay too long, I send off this, as I know you are impatient to hear from this place.
Eight Indians went off, three days ago, to find out what detained the others. To them I gave orders to burn the boat, as I thought it would be impossible to send the number of men it would require to bring her up in case of an attack. As there is continually a number of Indians on the look-out, we cannot be surprised on the least notice of their coming. We shall take our position on the island,12 which is the best place for defense that I know on the Mississippi. I beg you will pay attention to those that go up with this, as we are dependent on them here for provisions. As soon as the discovering party returns, if there is no appearance of the enemy coming up, I shall of course return. I hope ere this you have news from Mackinaw.
Sir, I am, etc., (Signed). Duncan Graham, Lieut. Indian Dept.
(P.S.) Having finished this at 10 o'clock at night, in the morning the discovering party arrived. They saw, yesterday morning three large gun-boats under sail on their way up, about thirty leagues from here. It seems their fears prevented them from knowing their exact number. Before this reaches you, we shall, I hope, decide the business. As soon as it is daylight, I will send Lieut. Brisbois with a canoe well manned, if possible to know their strength. Should we be attended with success, you shall soon hear. I expect them after to-morrow. Nothing further at present. The 4th of September about 1 o'clock in the morning.
(signed) Duncan Graham.
At five, a canoe arrived from the above; three Iroquois from the Riviere des Sotrax 13 having left their families on that river, and came here to get some ammunition, as they were quite destitute of that article.
Fort McKay, Sept. 7, 1814.To Lieut. Graham ---
Sir: --- I received your communication of the 3d and 4th inst., and from the enemy's apparent force, I hope ere this the business is decided in our favor. I am much gratified to have it in my power to give a most flattering detail of the good conduct of the Sauks, etc., to Lieut. Col. McDouall, who I am well persuaded will be highly pleased with them. No news from Mackinaw, but hourly expected. The express for Mackinaw left here on the 29th ult., also an express for the Sioux on the 1st inst., not yet returned. In case of your being successful, and take any prisoners, use every effort to preserve them; and if your stock of provisions will admit, bring such prisoners up here, to be sent on to Mackinaw. I am, sir,
Thos. G. Anderson, Capt. Commanding.
N. B. You will receive this by the return of the Sauks you sent up here, who leave here tomorrow morning. T. G. A.
Thursday, Sept. 8th. --- The Sauks that arrived with the communication from Lieut. Graham, set off with dispatches at 8 o'clock in the morning. Previous to their setting out, I gave them each a blanket, a breech-clout, and a knife, they being four in number. They went off highly pleased.
Friday, Sept. 9th --- At 3 o'clock in the afternoon, six Puant canoes arrived from the Ouisconsin, with La Gruness, and the Old Wolf. They brought word that a Folle Avoine woman from Mackinaw brought news to the bay, that when she left the post, the American fleet was in sight of Mackinaw. How long since, or what was their force, she knew nothing about.
Saturday, Sept. 10th --- At 1 o'clock p.m., five Sioux arrived from the Rock river, bringing news that Lieut. Graham, with the detachment under his command, and the Indians, had attacked and defeated eight large American gun-boats at the Rock river; had taken neither prisoners nor anything else. At 5 o'clock in the afternoon, a young Sauk, who had set off from the Rock river express with two Sioux and a Renard, but having tired them out, arrived here alone with dispatches from Lieut. Graham, as follows:
Rock River, Sept. 7, 1814.Capt. Thomas G. Anderson ---
Sir: --- I mentioned to you in my letter of the 4th inst., by the information I had from the Indians, that the enemy were within thirty leagues of this place on their way up. As soon as I found out their strength, I concluded the place of their destination must be La Prairie du Chien. The rapids was the only place where we could attack such a force to any advantage. On the 5th inst., we moved to the westside of the island, and took our position at the narrowest part of the channel, the only place where they could pass at that point. We were determined to dispute the road with them, inch by inch.
They appeared in sight at 4 o'clock p.m., with a strong fair wind. There were eight large boats, four of which were equal in size to the one that made her escape from the Prairie. The largest of them had a white flag flying at her mast head. When they came to the head of Credit island, about two miles from us, a storm of rain, thunder and lightning came on, and the wind shifted to the opposite point of the compass, which compelled them to pass the remainder of the day, and that night there. All the women and children were sent to the island. (It) took all the Sioux with us to cover the guns in case of being obliged to retreat, as they promised they would rather be killed to the last man than give up the guns.
I told the Sauks, in case the enemy should attempt to land at their village, to retreat to the island, and then we would return altogether and attack them. The 6th, at break of day, some of the Sauks came to us, and requested that we should attack them immediately, as the wind was against them, and some of their boats were aground. We crossed to the main land at the Foxes' village. There we left our boats, and went as quick as possible through the prairie unperceived by the enemy until we were on the beach opposite to them. Here we had a close view of them. I had no idea of the enormous size of their boats before. They lay with their broad sides close to a low sandy beach. The largest of them had six port-holes open on the side next to us. The channel was about 600 yards broad.
We were on an elevated spot, but no covering. I requested the Indians not to waste their ammunition firing at the boats, and save it in case the enemy should attempt to land. They did so. Finding they could not make up matters with the Sauks, as they had killed one of their sentinels in the night, they took down the white flag, and put up the bloody flag in its place, which I believe to be a signal of no quarters. It was then 7 o'clock in the morning. Everything being ready, we opened a brisk fire, from the three-pounder, and two swivels, on their boats. In about three quarters of an hour the largest of their boats, which was ahead of the others, after having about fifteen shots through her, began to push off, and dropped astern of the rest, and made the best of her way down the current. The others soon followed her. We kept firing at them along the bank, as far as the ground would permit us to drag the guns; but they soon got out of our reach.
They went on about a league, and put to shore. I thought they might intend to throw up some breast-works, and make a stand at that place. I sent immediately for the boats to go with all the Indians, to endeavor to dislodge them from there. By the time we were ready to embark, some of the Indians that followed, returned and informed us, that it appeared to them that the Americans had committed the bodies of some of their men to a watery grave, well knowing if they buried them on shore, they would be torn to pieces. They then got up their sails, the wind being fair, and made the best of their way off. As the enemy landed at that place, the Indians say they were about 1000 men. I think their number to be between 600 and 800.
If we had had a larger supply of ammunition and provisions, we might have harassed them as far as the rapids of the Riviere des Moines; but having only a scanty supply of the one, and entirely destitute of the other, we were obliged to give up pursuing them any further. Although we have not been able to capture any of their boats, they have been completely repulsed, and I have every reason to believe with a considerable loss, as out of fifty-four shots that we fired at them, there was only three or four that did not go through their boats. The action lasted about an hour. One of the swivels was served by Lieut. Brisbois, and the other by Colin Campbell, which they executed with credit to themselves; and all attached to the expedition behaved themselves in a manner worthy of veteran troops, for they seemed to vie with each other who would be the foremost, notwithstanding they were entirely exposed to the enemy's shot, and I am happy to say that not a man was hurt. It is to the skill and courage of Sergt. Keating, on whom everything depended, that we owe our success, and no praise of mine can bestow on him what he deserves. As the Indians had no communication with the enemy, I have not been able to find out who commanded the American expedition.
Sir, I am, etc.
Duncan Graham, Lieut. Indian Dept.
Sunday, Sept. 11th. --- The Indians from the Rock river detachment continued arriving in small bands.
Monday, Sept. 12th. --- The remainder of the Sioux, Puants and Renards arrived from the detachment below. At 4 o'clock a wooden canoe arrived from the portage, with interpreter Bester and Lance Corporal Haywood, and their men, bringing with them one case ordnance stores and one keg of powder. The conductor of the boat from Mackinaw, not being active, did not get the boat over the portage, therefore the ordnance stores, etc., were left there till I can send for them. I received letters as follows:
Michillimackanac, Aug. 21, 1814.To Capt. Anderson, or officer commanding Fort McKay:
Sir: --- I have great pleasure in returning you my thanks for your judicious and spirited conduct during operations which ended in the capture of Fort McKay. I doubt not that whenever another opportunity presents, you will again distinguish yourself by such praise worthy conduct. I beg you will take the earliest opportunity of expressing my entire satisfaction with the good conduct and spirit evinced by all ranks employed upon the expedition; but in particular to mention my obligations to Capts. Dease and Grignon, and Lieuts. D. Graham and Brisbois, and the interpreters, St. Germain, Renville, Honore and Grignon, of the Indian department. I likewise request you to return to Sergt. Keating, particularly, my thanks for the bravery and good conduct which he so conspicuously displayed, and also to the detachment of the Michigan Fencibles and to the volunteers and militia, for their spirited and exemplary behavior. You will convey to the garrison in general my firm belief that the fort which they so gallantly won, they will as gallantly defend.
In the event of Col. McKay's having left the fort, you will command them until further orders, making every possible exertion to strengthen your post, and omitting no precaution which may be necessary for its defense. I have sent Lance Corporal Heywood, of the 10th Veteran Battalion, in charge of some ordnance stores. He is to remain with you, and be employed at the artillery, under Sergt. Keating, whom I have appointed ordnance store keeper at Fort McKay.
You will see the obvious necessity of cultivating the best possible understanding with the Indians, particularly with our allies, the Sauks and Renards. You will signify to them how highly I am pleased with their conduct, and that everything in my power shall be done to supply their wants. You will signify to the Leaf and Little Corbeau my approbation of the assistance which they have afforded, and my hope that, if another attack is threatened this fall, that they will bring down the whole of their warriors to your assistance. Point out to them of what consequence it is to them to keep the enemy at their present distance. You may assure them that great efforts are making by the King in their behalf; and that the ministry are determined to make no peace till the lands plundered from the Indians are restored. To attain this purpose, great re-inforcements of troops are coming out.
As Lieut. Grignon, of the Indian department, is to reside for some time at Green Bay, you will communicate with me through him, by every possible opportunity, taking care to acquaint me with every consequence that occurs. If our post is likely to be attacked, you will also call upon him to collect whatever Folles Avoines, Winnebagoes and militia from Green Bay that he can, and repair with the utmost expedition to your assistance. I am not without hopes of being able, by and by, to send a detachment of troops to re-inforce your garrison.
It will be necessary that some regular system should be adopted for victualing the troops, which Capt. Rolette will undertake. They must be supplied with game and deer, and what beef can be got. We have not any pork to spare, and, indeed the only chance of our being able to keep a fort at Prairie du Chien, is by the country being able to feed and support that garrison, without making any demand upon this post for provisions, which is out of the question for me to grant. Capt. Dease and yourself must make the best arrangements you can for supplying the troops, taking care that the utmost regularity and correctness appear in your accounts and disbursements. Col. McKay mentions his finding Mr. Honore, of the Indian department, a very useful commissary, and you had better still employ him in that capacity.
On Capt. Rolette's return he will take with him the proper form, according to which your monthly pay-lists are to be made out. On the 24th of each month, the troops to be regularly mustered, and the men all present or their absence accounted for. You will always be upon your guard, and take the necessary precautions to become acquainted, through the Sauks, with all the motions of the enemy; and endeavor to ascertain, as early as possible, if they have intentions of attacking you, that you may, in due time, be prepared for a most determined and vigorous defense. With the assistance of your Indians, I doubt not you will be able to repel any attempt of the enemy; but above all things, be constantly in readiness for it. I have the honor to be, etc.,
(Signed) R. McDouall, Lieut. Col. Commanding.
Point au Ecorce, Aug. 24, 1814.
My Dear Anderson:
As soon as the boat arrives, you will send down ten kegs of powder to the Sauks, etc. I need not tell you to put the place in the best state of defence, and get all the Indians from above, etc. Yours, etc.
(Signed) Wm. McKay, Lieut. Col., etc.
Besides these, I received other letters from my friends.
Tuesday, September 13. --- Lieut. Brisbois arrived early in the morning in a canoe, with interpreter Grignon, and the men that went down with the first supplies of provisions. At 12 o'clock the weather cleared up, having rained successively two days and nights. At half past six Lieut. Graham arrived with the whole detachment under his command, all well, after having driven off eight large gun-boats, with about 100 men in each of them. We were obliged to give a good deal of bread and some wheat to the warriors from below. The Puants drove off and killed one of Capt. Rolette's oxen. Notwithstanding his men saw them drive the ox away, they neither attempted to rescue him out of their hands, nor come and give information, in order to get assistance from me.
Wednesday, September 14. --- Began to write dispatches to Mackinaw. Finished at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. To Lieut. Col. McDouall, as follows:
Prairie du Chien, Fort McKay, Sept. 14, 1814.
Sir --- I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your obliging favor of the 21st ult., which I received on the 12th inst., in the evening, with one case of fixed shot and one keg of powder, the conductor of the boat, not, as he says, having been able to drag the boat across the portage. I sent off a boat this afternoon to bring away the ammunition, and the one from Mackinaw will return immediately from there to Green Bay with these dispatches, directed to Lieut. Grignon, for him to forward.
I have the honor most graciously to thank you for myself, and in the name of all the troops, etc., attached to this garrison, for your condescending approbation of their conduct in the late engagement at this place, under our undaunted and able commander, Lieut. Col. McKay, to whose judicious management the inhabitants of this place, and the Indian tribes on the Mississippi, acknowledge a happy and easy deliverance from an enemy that absolute necessity obliged them for a moment to countenance. I beg you may be assured every particular of your orders shall be strictly attended to, and put in execution without delay. I am happy in having your approbation of Capt. Dease's able assistance to act in conjunction with me. I shall only take the liberty to remark, the only change that can at present be made about the garrison, is to put in comfortable quarters in which to lodge the troops; and as for provisions, in my opinion, the cheapest and most convenient means would be to send a detachment from here taking the Sauks, etc., on their way, and bring from some distance above St. Louis, a drove of cattle, where the Indians report that there are vast droves running about American abandoned settlements. In this case, and even in the event of depending upon the Indians, a quantity of salt would be necessary.
Lieut. Graham having arrived last evening with the detachment from Rock river, I have the honor to communicate to you, that on leaving here the 27th ult., they made the best of their way, and arrived at the Rock river on the 29th; and soon got certain information that the enemy were near at hand, but could not know their strength till eight large gun-boats hove in sight on the 5th inst., at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The foremost being the largest, and a finely painted boat, was supposed to be the commanding officer's. She had a white flag hoisted at her mast-head. This was supposed to be with an intent either to deceive the Indians, or to use every means to gain them over to their side. Our people kept themselves concealed, expecting the enemy would attempt to ascend the rapids, when they would have had a fair opportunity to capture the whole. The enemy had no communication with the Indians, but lay quietly at anchor.
In the course of the night, contrary to Lieut. Graham's orders, some of the Indians shot two of the sentries from off their boats, and the next morning the enemy struck the white flag, and, to their confusion be it said, hoisted a scarlet one in its place, a signal for no quarters. Lieut. Graham, finding their intentions were to remain there some time, and as the Indians became ungovernable, it became necessary to commence a fire upon them, which was done with much honor to those who commanded the guns. They having fired about fifteen rounds into the front boat, she turned her stern to the current, and sailed down as fast as possible, the seven others immediately following. The guns played upon them as long as they could be dragged along the beach.
Lieut. Brisbois commanded one of the swivels, Sergt. Keating the three-pounder, and Sergt. Colin Campbell, of the fencibles or volunteers, the other swivel. The shots were well directed, for out of fifty-four that were fired, not more than three missed doing execution. The enemy were thrown into such a consternation on seeing a few red coats, that they could do nothing with their guns, and in fact did not fire more than fifteen shots till they recovered their senses, and then they were too far off to do execution, but kept up a brisk random firing. Notwithstanding about 1200 Indians, and the detachment from this place were the number present, and every man displayed the greatest courage and good conduct, yet the battle was fought by only about twenty men that manned the guns.
If the officers and men of this garrison have merit for their conduct on the 17th of July last, surely the detachment to the Rock river excel, and deserve every praise. The gun-boats were supposed to have 800 men on board, and some of them were pierced for twelve guns. I beg to mention particularly Lieut. Graham's judicious conduct in the command of the detachment, and Lieut. Brisbois, Sergt. Keating, and Sergt. Colin Campbell of the volunteers, for their courage and well managed firing. On this head too much cannot be said of Sergt. Keating.
The satisfaction afforded the Indians from their having had this assistance, can only be imagined. Their shouts and acclamations of joy at every shot from our guns, drowned the report of the guns, and notwithstanding the only assistance they could give was to drag about the guns, they displayed the greatest courage, and promised to die to a man with their fathers. The Feuille with his warriors were particularly active in this duty. The Sauks have, without repeating their gallant conduct in the field, behaved in a manner foreign to Indian Nations. They, having large fields or corn, strove one with another, who would be the most obliging, and furnish the most of that article to the detachment.
Not being well acquainted with the duties of a commanding officer, I dreaded reproach by leaving the garrison, is the reason why I did not go myself with the detachment below; but should any other opportunity present itself, I will risk the leaving the garrison in charge of some militia, to go and meet the enemy with all the force I can muster, unless I receive contrary orders. The iron three-pounder, we took with Fort McKay, is without any elevating screw, a necessary part of the gun we cannot get made here. I take the liberty to refer you to letters written to and received from Lieut. Graham during his absence with the detachment to the Rock river, which will afford you a more minute detail of the whole management.
That worthy soldier, Sergt. Keating, begs of me to request you will do him the favor to accept his warmest acknowledgments for the honor you have shown him. From his behavior since he left Mackinaw, I have not the smallest doubt but he will continue to deserve your approbation of his conduct. I have the honor, etc.,
Thos. G. Anderson, Com'd'g.
Sent a barge off for the portage to bring away the ammunition, and at the same time to take the dispatches there and forward them by the barge that came from Mackinaw to Lieut. Grignon at Green Bay, and for him to forward to Mackinaw.
Thursday, Sept. 15th. --- Nothing material happened till the afternoon at 6 o'clock, when interpreter Frenier arrived from above, with news that the Sioux would all leave their villages on the 14th inst., to come and wait at the place I told them till further orders, except the Little Corbeau with his lodge, who would come and camp here. This chief sent word to the Renards above this, that his Father had told him to destroy the Americans as much as lay in his power, and he knew these Renards to be Americans; but at the same time they were related to the Sioux, on which account he warned them to be out of his way when he should come down. That he would be down with a detachment, and intended to hunt Americans all winter; and that whatever of that description came in his sight he would cut down. When the Americans were here, they sent a carrot of tobacco to each village except his, saying they knew him to be too good an Englishman to be induced to join them. The Little Corbeau said he was quite proud of the honor they did him; but as it was done with a view to despise him, he could not forget it on that account, and the only means of retaliation he had, was to make his young men take a few scalps, which he would have done before the spring.