Black Hawk's return from the west side of the Mississippi, and his moving up Rock river, caused the mustering into the service of the United States, in Illinois, of about 800 volunteers, who were sent in pursuit. Gen. H Atkinson, brevet brigadier general in the United States Army, followed the militia with his regulars, but at too great a distance to afford support. On the 12th of May the volunteers reached Dixon's ferry, where they were joined by 275 men from the northern counties of the State. The latter force, however, were immediately sent out on scouting duty. But the two battalions still moved along together until Stillman's run was reached; the creek then being known as Kishwaukee, about thirty miles above the ferry.
Black Hawk now made advances for peace, but two his messengers being killed, the negotiations were broken off. That chief at this time had but forty men under his immediate command, most of his party being some ten miles away; nevertheless, with his handful of warriors, he started back to meet his pursuers. Raising the war-whoop, he rushed in upon the volunteers and scattered them in every direction. The fugitives, in the flight, did not stop until the ferry was reached. This was afterward known as "the battle of Stillman's Run," of May 14, 1832. The governor of Illinois issued a proclamation immediately after, calling for an additional force of 2000 mounted volunteers. These incidents caused throughout the west the greatest alarm. The loss of the Indians in this, the first battle of the war, was none. Of the volunteers, one major, one captain and nine of the rank and file were killed, and five men wounded.
On the 17th of May, Gen. Atkinson reached Dixon's ferry with his regulars and a supply of provisions; and on the 19th, with 2400 men, advanced up Rock river. On the 27th and 28th of the month, the volunteers were disbanded by the governor, leaving the defense of the frontiers in the hands of the regular troops and a few citizens who had volunteered temporarily. Meanwhile the savages were waging war in earnest against the exposed settlements. Their war parties were scattered from Chicago to Galena; from the Rock river to the lead mines. It was a warfare in regular Indian style; there was success first on one side, then on the other; until on the 24th of June, Black Hawk made an unsuccessful attack on Apple River Fort, near the present village of Elizabeth, Ill. Meanwhile the volunteers called out by the governor of Illinois were assembling and ordered to rendezvous at Dixon's ferry, where they were mustered into the service of the United States and formed into three brigades. The contest now began to assume somewhat the appearance of regular war. But, before we proceed to narrate the aggressive movements of the Americans up the Rock river valley in pursuit of Black Hawk and his band, it is proper to more particularly describe the incident which occurred in various localities where the savages carried on their depredations previously.
In the night of the 17th of June a volunteer company encamped near Burr Oak Grove, thirty-five miles east of Galena, was fired on by the enemy. The next morning they started in pursuit of the savages, and succeeded in killing all of them --- four in number --- with the loss on their part of only one man. However, later in the day they were attacked by the Indians in considerable force, losing two killed and one wounded; but they beat off the assailants and killed their leader.
On the 14th of June a party of men were attacked in a cornfield near the mouth of Spofford's creek, and five killed. Two days after Col. Henry Dodge, with twenty-eight men, struck the trail of the savages, overtaking them on the bank of the Pecatonica in what is now Lafayette Co., Wis. The savages numbered seventeen, and all were killed. Dodge's loss was three killed. This was, all things considered, the most spirited and effective fighting done during "the war." Capt. James W Stephenson, at the head of the Galena volunteers, being on the lookout for Indians near the head of Yellow creek, lost three of his men and was obliged to retreat. This ended what may be called the irregular fighting of the campaign. We now return to Rock river, up the valley of which Black Hawk and his force had moved and the Americans just commencing pursuit.
A battalion of spies was the first body ordered forward. They reached Kellogg's grove, and were informed on the morning of the 25th of June that a heavy trail was to be seen of the enemy not far away. Twenty-five men went out to reconnoitre, and were defeated, leaving five killed and three wounded, though the enemy's loss is said to have been nine killed. The enemy now retired up the river in the direction of Lake Koshkonong, in Wisconsin; and the fighting in Illinois was ended. The first halt made by Black Hawk was at what was afterward known as "Black Hawk Grove," just outside of the present city of Janesville, Rock Co., Wis., where his forces remained some time in camp. It must not be understood that they were now at their former homes. This was not the case. It was not then the country claimed by the Sacs, but by the Rock River Winnebagoes.
Gen. Atkinson having arrived at the mouth of the Pecatonica, in pursuit of the savages, and hearing that the Sac chief was further up Rock river, determined to follow him with the intention of deciding the campaign by a general battle if possible. Black Hawk, judging of his intentions from the report of his spies, broke up his camp and retreated still further up the river, to the foot of Lake Koshkonong, where on the west side of the river, in what is now the town of Milton, he again formed a camp. Here he remained some time, when he again moved, this time to an island in the lake, still known as Black Hawk's island. It is in the southeast corner of the town of Sumner, in Jefferson Co., Wis. Black Hawk afterward made his way still further up the valley of Rock river.
But now let us return to the army under Gen. Atkinson, in its march from the mouth of the Pecatonica to Lake Koshkonong, where he found the Sac chief had eluded him. The recital is best given in the words of one who was in the army at the time and marched under Atkinson:
"The 30th of June, 1832, we passed through the Turtle village [now the city of Beloit, Rock Co., Wis.] which is a considerable Winnebago town, but it was deserted. We marched on about a mile and encamped on the open prairie near enough to Rock river to get water from it. We here saw very fresh signs of the Sac Indians, where they had apparently been fishing on that day. Gen. Atkinson believed we were close to them and apprehended an attack that night. The sentinels fired several times, and we were as often paraded and prepared to receive the enemy, but they never came, though from the accounts given by the sentinels to the officers of the day, there was no doubt that Indians had been prowling about the camp.
"July 1. --- We had not marched but two or three miles before an Indian was seen across Rock river at some distance off, on a very high prairie, which, no doubt, was a spy, and likely was one that had been prowling about our encampment the night before. We proceeded a few miles further, and came to the place where the Indians, who had taken the two Misses Hall prisoners, had staid for several days [near the site of the present city of Janesville]. It was a strong position where they could have withstood a very powerful force. We afterward discovered they always encamped in such places. We had not marched but a few miles from this place before one of our front scouts came back meeting the army in great haste, and stated that they had discovered a fresh trail of Indians, where they had just gone along in front of us. Maj. Ewing, who was in front of the main army some distance, immediately formed his men in line of battle, and marched in that order in advance of the main army, about three-quarters of a mile. We had a very thick wood to march through, where the under-growth stood very high and thick; the signs looked very fresh and we expected every step to be fired upon from the thickets. We marched in this order about two miles, not stopping for the unevenness of the ground or anything else, but keeping in line of battle all the time, until we found the Indians had scattered; then we resumed our common line of march, which was in three divisions. Soon after we had formed into three divisions, the friendly Indians that were with us raised an alarm, by seven or eight of them shooting at a deer, some little in advance of the army. The whole army here formed for action; but it was soon ascertained that these children of the forest had been at what their whole race seems born for, shooting at the beasts of the woods.
"We here encamped by a small lake [Storr's] this night, and had to drink the water, which was very bad, but it was all that could be found. Here a very bad accident happened. One of the sentinels, mistaking another that was on post, with a blanket wrapped around him, for an Indian, shot him just below the groin, in the thick of the thigh. At first the wound was thought mortal. I understood before I left the army that the man was nearly well. Here Gen. Atkinson had, on this night, breastworks thrown up, which was easily done, as we were encamped in thick, heavy timber. This was a precaution which went to show that he set a great deal by the lives of his men, and by no means was any mark of cowardice; for generalship consists more in good management than anything else.
"July 2.---We started this morning at the usual time, but went only a few miles before Maj. Ewing, who was still in front with his battalion (of scouts), espied a very fresh trail, making off at about a left angle. He dispatched ten men from the battalion, in company with Capt. George Walker and a few Indians, to pursue it and see, if possible, where it went to. He moved on in front of his battalion a short distance further, when he came to the main Sac trail of Black Hawk's whole army, which appeared to be about two days old.
"Capt. Early, who commanded a volunteer independent company, and had got in advance this morning, called a halt; so did Maj. Ewing with his battalion. Then Maj. Ewing sent back one of his staff officers for the main army to call a halt for a few minutes. He, with Maj. Anderson, of the infantry, Capt. Early and Jonathan H Pugh, went a little in advance, when Maj. Anderson, with a telescope, took a view across the lake, as we had now got to Lake Koshkonong. [The army entered what is now Jefferson county, very nearly where, in going north, its south line is crossed by the Chicago & Northwestern Railway. The trail, after leaving the southeast quarter of section 35, in township 5 north, of range 13 east, ran nearly due north to the southeast corner of section 26, in the same township and range, where the army reached the lake in what is now the town of Koshkonong.] They then discovered three Indians apparently in their canoes.
"Maj. Ewing went himself and informed Gen. Atkinson what discovery was made, and requested Gen. Atkinson to let him take his battalion around through a narrow defile that was between two of those lakes, where we supposed the Indians were. By this time our scouts, who had taken the trail that led off on our left, returned, bringing with them five white men's scalps. They followed the Indian trail until it took them to a large Indian encampment that they had left a few days before. They reached it; the scalps were sticking against some of the wigwams; some of them were identified; but I do not recollect the names of any, except one, which was said to be an old gentleman by the name of Hall.
"Maj. Ewing then marched his battalion about a mile, where the pass on the side of the lake appeared so narrow that he dismounted his men and had the horses all tied, and a few men left to guard them. The rest of us marched on foot about one mile through a narrow defile on the (east) bank of the Koshkonong lake. This was considered a dangerous procedure, but Maj. Ewing, who was in front with Maj. Anderson, would have been first in danger. He now found that we were getting too far in advance of our horses; so Maj. Ewing sent a part of the men back for them. When we mounted our horses, we were joined by Capt. Early and his independent corps. We then marched some distance around the (Koshkonong) lake and went in between two of them, in a narrow defile until we found another deserted encampment. We now saw clearly that the Indians were gone from the Koshkonong lake; so, the next thing to be done was to find in which direction they had steered their course.
"Gen. Atkinson having been re-enforced by Gen. Alexander, took up his line of march, arriving at the burnt village on the 6th of July. That evening, Gen. Posey's brigade, in company with Col. Dodge's squadron, joined Atkinson. Col. John Ewing and his regiment came within a mile and a half of the main army and encamped. On the 10th, Gen. Atkinson sent Col. Ewing with his regiment down Rock river to Dixon's; Gen. Posey, with the rest of his brigade, was dispatched to Fort Hamilton; while Col. Henry and his brigade, Gen. Alexander's brigade and Col. Dodge's squadron were sent to Fort Winnebago, now Portage, Columbia Co., Wis., for provisions. Atkinson dropped down a short distance from the burnt village and built a stockade fort, which he called Fort Koshkonong. It was located on the south side of Rock river in the eastern outskirts of the present village of Fort Atkinson, Jefferson Co., Wis. Alexander returned from Fort Winnebago by the direct route, while Dodge and Henry took a more easterly one, striking Rock river at a point where there was a small Winnebago village, now Hustisford, Dodge county, which point was reached July 18. Information was here obtained that Black Hawk was at Cranberry lake, farther up the river. This was believed to be reliable, and an express was started down the stream at once, to inform Gen. Atkinson of the Sac chief's whereabouts. The express came very unexpectedly, at a distance not more than eight miles from the starting point, upon the trail of Black Hawk, making his way down the river. The express returned to the army with the news, and the next morning, July 19, the pursuit began."
In the march in pursuit of the enemy, the Americans crossed the Crawfish near what is now Aztalan, in Jefferson Co., Wis., and were of course soon in what is now Dane county. But the account of the march is best told by one who participated in the pursuit:
"July 19, 1832.---This day we had for about twelve miles, the worst kind of a road. To look at it appeared impossible to march an army through it. Thickets and swamps of the worst kind we had to go through, but the men had something now to stimulate them. They saw the Sac trail fresh before them, and the prospect of bringing our campaign to an end. There was no murmuring, no excuses were made, none getting on the sick report. If we came to a swamp that our horses were not able to carry us through, we dismounted, turned our horses before us and stepped in ourselves, sometimes up to our arm-pits in mud and water. In this way we marched with great celerity. In the evening of this day, it commenced thundering, lightning and raining tremendously. We stopped not, but pushed on. The trail appeared to be still getting fresher and the ground better, which still encouraged us to overcome every difficulty found in the way. It continued raining until dark, and, indeed, until after dark. We now saw the want of our tents, a great number of us having left this necessary article behind in the morning, in order to favor our horses.
"The rain ceased before day, and it turned cold and chilly. In the morning we rose early, at the well-known sound of the bugle, and prepared in a very short time our rude breakfast, dried our clothes a little, and by 7 o'clock, [July 20th], were on the march at a quick pace. On this day some of our scouts took an Indian as a prisoner. On examination he was found to be a Winnebago. He stated that Black Hawk was but a little distance ahead of us; and that he had seen some of his party not more than two miles ahead. But it was a bad piece of conduct on our part that this Indian was not kept as a prisoner of war, but was set at liberty and let go, no doubt, that he might inform the Sacs of our pursuit.
"We halted and the order of battle was formed as we expected we would overtake them this evening. The order was as follows: Gen. Dodge and Maj. Ewing was placed in the center with his spy battalion, Capt. Gentry and Capt. Clark's companies on our right, and Capt. Camp and Capt. Parkinson on our left. Our own battalion [Maj. Ewing's] was reduced to two companies [as Capt. Wells and his company had been left at Fort Dixon]; Capt. Lindsay, of our own battalion, was placed on the right and Capt. Huston's company on the left; Col. Fry and his regiment on the right, and Col. Jones, with his regiment, on the left, and Col. Collins in the center. In this order we marched in quick time, with all possible speed, in hope that we would overtake the enemy on that evening. We were close to the Four lakes (in what is now Dane Co., Wis.) and we wished to come up with them before they could reach that place, as it was known to be a stronghold for the Indians; but the day was not long enough to accomplish this desirable object.
"We reached the first of the Four lakes [now known as Lake Monona, or Third lake] about sun-down. Gen. Henry here called a halt and consulted with Pouquet [Peter Pauquette], our pilot, as to the country we were approaching. Pauquette, who was well acquainted with this country, told him he could not get through after night; that we had to march close to the margin of the lake for some distance, as the underwood stood so thick one man could not see another ten steps. Gen. Henry concluded to encamp here until the break of day. Gen. Dodge sent Capt. Dixon on ahead with a few men to see if they could make any discovery of the enemy, who returned in a very short time and stated that they had seen the enemy's rear guard about one mile and a half distant. Gen. Henry gave strict orders for every man to tie up his horse, so as to be ready to start as soon as it was daylight. The order was strictly obeyed; and after we took our frugal supper all retired to rest except those who had to mount guard, for we had marched a great way that day, and many were still wet by the rain that fell the preceding night; but being very much fatigued, we were all soon lost in sleep, except those on guard.
"July 21, at the break of day, the bugle sounded, and all were soon up and in a few minutes had breakfast ready, and, after taking a little food, we mounted our horses and again commenced the pursuit. We soon found that the pilot had told us no lie, for we found the country that the enemy was leading us into to be worse, if possible, than what he told us. We could turn neither to the right nor left, but were compelled to follow the trail the Indians had made, and that, too, for a great distance at the edge of the water of the lake. We had not marched more than five miles before Dr. Philleo came back, meeting us, with the scalp of an Indian. He had been on ahead with the front scouts, and came on this Indian, who had been left as a rear guard to watch our movements. There were several shots fired at him, from the number of bullet holes that were in him; but Dr. Philleo had scalped him, so he was called Philleo's Indian, which reminds me of the hunters: 'He who draws the first blood is entitled to the skin, and the remainder to the carcass, if there are several in the chase,' which was the case at this time."
Leaving our journalist for a moment, we will describe the particulars of the march from the time the Catfish creek, or rather the Yahara, as it is legally called, was reached until the army left the Fourth lake, the most northerly of the Four lakes, properly called Lake Mendota. In the timber skirting the Yahara, the Americans overtook the rear guard of the flying foe, where an Indian was wounded, who crept away and hid himself in the thick willows, where he died. A scouting party of fourteen men was sent forward and preceded the main body about two miles. When they arrived at the point now the site of Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, an Indian was seen coming up from the water's edge, who seated himself upon the bank, apparently indifferent to his fate. In a moment after his body was pierced with bullets, one of which passed in at the temple and out of the back part of his head. On examination it was found that he was sitting upon a newly made grave, probably that of his wife, who had perhaps died of fatigue, hunger and exhaustion, and her disconsolate companion had resolved to await the advancing foe and die there also. The trail was followed around the southern end of Lake Mendota (or Fourth lake), passing a little north of what is now the Capital Park, and along the lake across the University grounds. A few miles brought them to what appeared an admirable position for a battle field with natural defenses and places of ambush. It had been chosen by the enemy and here they had lain apparently the previous night. This spot was afterward laid out as the city of Four Lakes. It is about three-fourths of a mile north of the present village of Pheasant Branch, in Dane county. We now return to the journal, from which we broke off to relate these particulars.
"But I am not done with Dr. Philleo yet. I will show you that he is a good soldier, and something of an Indian fighter. The signs now began to get very fresh, and we mended our pace very much. We had not proceeded more than ten or fifteen miles further before our fighting doctor ran afoul of two more Indians; he showed his bravery by assisting to kill them. I suppose he killed one and Sample Journey the other, so there was a scalp for each. But one of those miserable wretches sold his life as dear as possible. He, in the act of falling, after he was shot, fired and shot three balls into a gentleman who himself was in the act of shooting at him. The balls were all small; one went through his thigh, one through his leg, and the other through his foot. I am sorry I have forgotten the gentleman's name; he belonged to Gen. Dodge's squadron.
"We now doubled our speed, all were anxious to press forward, and as our horses were nearly worn out, we carried nothing, only what was actually necessary for us to eat; camp kettles and many such articles were thrown away. The trail was now literally, in many places, strewn with Indian trinkets, such as mats, kettles, etc., which plainly told us that they knew we were in pursuit. We, too, saw from the face of the country that we were drawing close to the Wisconsin river, and our object was to overtake them before they reached it; so now we went as fast as our horses were able to carry us. But this was too severe for our poor horses; they began to give out. But even this did not stop a man. Whenever a horse gave out, the rider would dismount, throw off his saddle and bridle and pursue on foot, in a run, without a murmur. I think the number of horses left this day was about forty. The rear guard of the enemy began by this time [about 3 o'clock P. M.] to make feint stands; and as the timber stood thick, we did not know but what the whole army of Black Hawk was forming for action; in consequence of which we got down and formed as often as twice, before we found out that their object was to keep us back until they could gain some strong position to fight from. Our front scouts now determined not to be deceived any more; but the next they came to, they stopped not for their feigned maneuver, but pursued them to the main body of the enemy. They returned to us in great haste and informed Gen. Henry that the Indians were forming for action.
"We all dismounted in an instant. The line of battle was then formed in the same order that it had been laid off the preceding day, Gen. Dodge's corps and Maj. Ewing's spy battalion still in front. The horses were left and every fourth man detailed to hold them; which gave seven horses to each man to hold. We had scarcely time to form on foot before the Indians raised the war-whoop, screaming and yelling furiously, and rushed forward meeting us with a heavy charge. Gen. Dodge and Maj. Henry met them also with a heavy charge, which produced a halt on the part of the enemy. Our men then opened a tremendous volley of musketry upon them, and accompanied it with the most terrific yells that ever came from the head of mortals, except from the savages themselves. They could not stand this. They now tried their well known practice of flanking; but here they were headed again by the brave Col. Jones and his regiment, who were on our left, where he met them in the most fearless manner, and opened a heavy fire upon them. Col. Fry was placed on the extreme right. They tried his line, but were soon repulsed. Their strong position was on the left, or near the center, where Cols. Jones, Dodge and Ewing kept up a constant fire upon them for something like half an hour.
"The enemy here had a strong position. They had taken shelter in some very high grass, where they could lie down and load and be entirely out of sight. After fighting them in this position for at least thirty minutes, during which time Col. Jones had his horse shot from under him, and one of his men killed and several wounded, Cols. Dodge, Ewing and Jones all requested Gen. Henry to let them charge upon them at the point of the bayonet, which Gen. Henry readily assented to, and gave the order "Charge!" which was obeyed by both men and officers in a most fearless manner. All were intent upon the charge. We had to charge up a rising piece of ground. When we got on to the top, we then fired perfectly abreast. They could not stand this. They had to quit their hiding place and made good their retreat. When they commenced retreated we killed a great number.
"Their commander, who, it was said, was Napope, was on a white pony on the top of a mountain in the rear of his Indians; he certainly had one of the best voices for command I ever heard. He kept up a constant yell, until his men began to retreat, when he was heard no more. Col. Collins was kept, during the engagement, in the rear, as a reserve, and to keep the enemy from flanking and coming in upon us in the rear, which was a very good arrangement of Gen. Henry. It was now nearly sun-down, and still raining, as it had been all the evening, but so slow that we made shift to keep our guns dry. The enemy retreated toward the river with considerable speed. The ground they were retreating to, appeared to be low and swampy, and on the bank of the river there appeared to be a heavy body of timber, which the enemy could reach before we could bring them to another stand. So Gen. Henry concluded not to pursue them any further that night, but remain on the battle ground until next morning, and then he would not be in danger of losing so many of his men, knowing that in the dark, he would have to lose a number; for the Indians would have the timber to fight from while we would have to stand in the open prairie. [The battle ground was on the east side of the northeast quarter of section 24, in what is now the town of Mazomanie, Dane Co., Wis.]
"Next morning, July 22, the troops were paraded and put in battle order on foot, except Col. Fry's regiment, and took up the line of march to the river, leaving Col. Collins, regiment to guard the horses and baggage, and take care of the wounded. We marched down to the river, which was about one mile and a half off; but, before we reached the banks, we had a very bad swamp to go through, fifty or sixty yards on this side the timber, which stood very high on the bank of the river. We now saw that Gen. Henry had acted very prudently. If he had attempted to follow them the evening before, he would have lost a great many of his men. When we got to the bank, we found they had made their retreat across the river during the night, leaving a great many articles of trumpery behind. We also saw a good deal of blood, where their wounded had bled. We now returned to the camp, seeing there was no chance to follow them this day across the river.
"We, in this battle (known in history as the Battle of Wisconsin Heights), were very fortunate indeed. We had only one man killed and eight wounded; and we have learned since the battle that we killed sixty-eight of the enemy (but Black Hawk declared afterward that he lost only six), and wounded a considerable number, twenty-five of whom they report died soon after the battle. We were now nearly out of provisions, and to take up the line of march against them, in the condition our horses were in, told us plainly that we would suffer for something to eat before we could get it. We buried the brave young man, who was killed, with the honors of war. It was stated that he had just shot down an Indian when he received the mortal wound himself. His name was John Short, and he belonged to Capt. Briggs' company from Randolph Co., Ill. He had a brother and a brother-in-law in the same company, who witnessed his consignment to the mother earth. The wounded were all well examined and none pronounced mortal. We continued this day on the battle ground and prepared litters for the wounded to be carried on. We spent this day in a more cheerful manner than we had done any other day since we had been on the campaign. We felt a little satisfaction for our toils, and thought we had, no doubt, destroyed a number of the very same monsters that had so lately been imbruing their hands with the blood of our fair sex, the helpless mother and unoffending infant. We dried our clothes, which then had been wet for several days. This day we spent in social chat between men and officers. There were no complaints made; all had fought bravely; each man praised his officers, and all praised our general. Late in the evening, some of our men, who had been out to see if there were any signs of the enemy remaining near us, returned and stated that they saw smoke across the river."
From this time until the Wisconsin river was crossed there were not many incidents of importance worthy of record; so we leave the journal, from which we have been copying, to relate only such events as will preserve the chain of our narrative until that time. On the 23d of July the army was put in motion, not in pursuit of Black Hawk, but to go to the Blue Mounds for supplies of provisions. And just here we must go back in our relation to the time when the army left the Rock river, July 19. On this day, the same express that had discovered the trail of Black Hawk the day previous, again started for Gen. Atkinson's camp, or Fort Koshkonong, where the general was with his infantry. That officer, as soon as he was informed that Black Hawk's trail was discovered, directed the same express to return at once to Gen. Henry with orders to the latter to pursue on the trail of the Sac chief until he could overtake him, and to defeat or capture him. However, before these orders had reached Gen. Henry, they had been anticipated. Black Hawk had been pursued, overtaken and defeated, but not captured. Gen. Atkinson also notified Gen. Henry that he would start himself with the infantry and Gen. Alexander's brigade; that the rest of the volunteers who were with him would be left to guard the fort; and that he would go by way of Blue Mounds. He also directed Gen. Henry, if he got out of provisions, to go to that place for a supply. This explains why the army, after the battle of Wisconsin Heights, marched for the Blue Mounds. Not only Gen. Henry's command, but also those of Gen. Atkinson, reached the Blue Mounds without any mishap; so, also, a part of Gen. Posey's brigade from Fort Hamilton, who passed on to Helena, in what is now Iowa Co., Wis., where the Wisconsin river was to be crossed by the whole army. By the 26th of June all the commands had reached that place and preparations were made to cross the stream on rafts made for that purpose.
On the 27th and 28th of July, Gen. Atkinson with his select body of troops, consisting of the regulars under Col. Taylor, 400 in number, part of Henry's, Posey's, and Alexander's brigades, and Dodge's battalion of mounted volunteers, amounting in all to 1300 men, crossed the Wisconsin river and immediately fell upon the trail of the enemy. They were in what is now Sauk Co., Wis. Pursuing this trail first down the river, then to the northward, they finally struck off in a west-northwest direction through what is now Richland county, until the Kickapoo river was reached near the present Soldier's Grove, in what is now Crawford county.
Before entering upon the particulars of the march through Vernon county, as given in the journal from which extracts have already been so liberally made, it will be well to glance at the route taken from the Kickapoo to the Mississippi. After the Kickapoo was crossed, Black Hawk, followed closely by Gen. Atkinson, was soon in what is now Vernon county, passing, in a direction north of west, near the farm at present owned by Anson G. Tainter, in the town of Franklin; thence across West Prairie to the brakes or ravines leading into the head of Battle creek; thence down that creek through sections 2 and 3, in township 11, range 7, in the town of Wheatland, to the point where he was overtaken and compelled to fight the battle known in history as the battle of Bad Ax. Keeping this general description of the flight of the savages through Vernon county and the pursuit of them by the Americans in view, the following narrative will prove of interest to the reader:
"About 12 o'clock this day (August 1, 1832), we came to a small river called the Kickapoo. We here found that the country was about to change. A short distance before we got to this stream, we came to a beautiful body of pine timber, which was tall and large. As soon as we crossed this stream, we found the mountains were covered with prairie grass. We here found the Indian trail was getting fresher. They had encamped at this creek. We had now been three days in those mountains and our horses had lived on weeds, except those that became debilitated and were left behind; for a great number had become so, and were left to starve in this dreary waste. We here for the first time in three days had an opportunity of turning our horses out to graze. Accordingly we left them to graze for about an hour, which they made good use of and during which we took a cold lunch. About 1 o'clock we started, at a faster gait than usual. We found from the face of the country that we were not a great way from the Mississippi. The country was still hilly, but hills of a small size, and almost barren; so we could get along with more speed. It gave the men new spirits. We now saw that our horses would not have to starve, as we had begun to think it probable that they would.
"On this evening, we came across the grave of an Indian chief, who was buried in the grandest style of Indian burials; painted and otherwise decorated as well as those wretched beings were able to do. He was placed on the ground, with his head resting against the root of a tree; logs were placed around him and covered over with bark; and on the top of which, green bushes were laid; so intended that we might pass by without discovering the grave. He was examined and found to have been shot. It was now late in the evening, and we had proceeded but a short distance from here, before some of our front spies came across an Indian that had been left behind from some cause or other. The spies interrogated him about Black Hawk and his band. He stated that they would get to the river that day and would cross over on the next morning. The old sinner then pleaded for quarters; but that being no time to be plagued with the charge of prisoners, they had to leave the unhappy wretch behind, which appeared to be a hard case. But, no doubt, he had been at the massacre of a number of our own citizens, and deserved to die for the crimes which he had perpetrated in taking the lives of harmless and unoffending women and children.
"We this day made a tolerable push, having marched until 8 o'clock at night before we stopped. We then halted and formed our encampment. But it was for a short time only. Gen. Atkinson gave orders for all to confine their horses and be ready to march by 2 o'clock in pursuit of the enemy. We were now all tired and hungry and something to eat was indispensibly necessary. We had a long way to go after water, and the worst kind of a precipice to go down and up to procure it. All was now a bustle for awhile, to prepare something to sustain nature, and to do it in time to get a little rest before we would have to march. About 9 o'clock the noise began to die away, so that by 10 o'clock all were lost in sleep but the sentinel, who was at his post.
"At the appointed hour [2 o'clock in the morning of August 2] the bugle sounded; all were soon up and made preparations for a march at quickstep, moving on to complete the work of death upon those unfortunate children of the forest. Gen. Atkinson this morning had the army laid off and arranged in the following manner: Gen. Dodge, with his squadron, was placed in front, the infantry next, the second brigade next, under the command of Gen. Alexander; the first brigade next, under the command of Gen. Posey; the third brigade next, under command of Gen. Henry.
"In this order the march had commenced. We had not proceeded more than four or five miles before there was a herald sent back, informing us that the front spies had come in sight of the enemy's rear guard [in reality their outpost]. The intelligence was soon conveyed to Gen. Atkinson, and then to all the commanders of the different brigades. The celerity of the march was then doubled and it was but a short time before the firing of the front spies commenced, about half a mile in front of the main army. The Indians retreated towards the Mississippi, but kept up a retreating fire upon our front spies for some time, until Gen. Dodge, who commanded, began to kill them very fast. The Indians then retreated more rapidly and sought refuge in their main army, which was lying on the bank of the Mississippi [which river they had, in fact, reached the day before]."
While Black Hawk and his band and their pursuers were traversing the rugged country across what is now Richland county into Vernon, intelligence was conveyed to Prairie du Chien, by express, of the battle of Wisconsin Heights and of the retreat of the enemy across the Wisconsin river. The commander of the American forces at Prairie du Chien at once came to the conclusion that the savages would soon reach the Mississippi, and by crossing that stream escape the army in pursuit of them; so he engaged a steamboat, placed some regulars upon it and a six-pounder, with orders to cruise up and down the Mississippi to cut off the retreat of the Sac chief and his people. The steamer proving to be a slow one was withdrawn and a faster one armed in its place --- the Warrior.
On the 1st of August, the Warrior discovered the Indians on the bank of the Mississippi where they had just arrived, not far below the mouth of the Bad Ax, making preparations to cross to the west side. A flag raised by Black Hawk was not respected by the Warrior, but a fire was opened from the boat upon the Indians with not only the small arms of the regulars but the six-pounder. The fire was returned by Black Hawk's party. The contest was kept up until the steamboat was compelled to drop down the river to Prairie du Chien for fuel. The loss of the enemy was twenty-three killed. On board the Warrior none were killed and but one wounded. But the presence of the steamboat and the firing of course wholly interrupted the preparations of the savages to cross the river, while Atkinson and his army were marching rapidly upon their rear.
It was the next morning, as we have already seen, that the Americans under Gen. Atkinson came in sight of what was supposed by them to be the rear guard of the Indians, but which was, in reality, one of their outposts. It appears that the savages raised a white flag for the purpose of surrendering, which was either not seen or was not regarded, and the firing on both sides soon became spirited, the Indians retiring slowly to their main force on the bottom of the river, where the latter were busily employed transporting their women and children and the aged and infirm across the Mississippi [the Warrior not having returned to again cut off their retreat].
Let us now return to the American army in keen pursuit of the fugitives. It will be remembered that Gen. Henry had early in the morning been put in the rear, but he did not remain there long. Maj. Ewing, who commanded the spy battalion, sent his adjutant back to the general informing him that he was on the main trail; he at the same time formed his men in order of battle and awaited the arrival of the brigade which marched up in quick time. When they came up, Gen. Henry had his men formed as soon as possible for action; he placed Col. Jones and Maj. Ewing in front. Gen. Atkinson called for a regiment from Gen. Henry's brigade to cover his rear. Col. Collins formed on the right of Col. Jones and Maj. Ewing, when all were dismounted and marched on foot in the main trail, down the bluff into the bottom. Soon the fire was opened on the main force of the enemy, at which time Gen. Henry sent back an officer to bring up Col. Fry with his regiment. Col. Collins was by this time in the heat of the action with his regiment. Capt. Gentry, from Gen. Dodge's corps, was by this time also up, and opened a heavy fire. He fell into the lines of Col. Jones and Maj. Ewing. Capts. Gruer and Richardson, from Gen. Alexander's brigade, with their companies and a few scattering gentlemen from Gen. Dodge's corps, were also up; who all joined Gen. Henry and fought bravely. Col. Fry obeyed the call of his general and was soon where the conflict raged with his regiment. By this time the savages were falling rapidly.
It was about half an hour after the battle commenced before Col. Zachary Taylor with his infantry and Gen. Dodge with his squadron got on the ground and joined in the battle. They had been thrown on the extreme right, by following the enemy's rear guard as was supposed, but which was, as already explained, their retreating outpost. Gens. Posey and Alexander had been stationed up the river on the extreme right, in order to prevent the Indians from making their escape in that direction, so they did not participate in the slaughter of the savages. The victory, of course, with such overpowering numbers, was complete; but those of the Indians who escaped death from the Americans had most of them made good their retreat to one of the islands in the river, when, at an opportune moment for the attacking parties the Warrior appeared in the river and opened fire upon the fugitives with her cannon, at the same time sending her two boats to the shore to transport troops to the island also, to attack the now distressed savages. Col. Taylor sent a detachment in the boats and the Indians were soon all killed on the island but one. There were of Black Hawk's entire force, besides a few who had succeeded in reaching the west side of the Mississippi, only himself and ten warriors with thirty-five women and children who made their escape. About 150 were killed. The loss of the Americans was twenty-seven killed and wounded. Such was the battle of Bad Ax. Black Hawk was soon brought in a prisoner by the Winnebagoes, and the war was ended.
Headquarters, 1st Army Corps, ) Northwestern Army, Prairie du Chien, > August 5, 1832. )
"The horses of the volunteer troops being exhausted by long marches, and the regular troops without shoes, it was not thought advisable to continue the pursuit. Indeed a stop to the further effusion of blood seemed to be called for, until it might be ascertained if the enemy would not surrender.
"It is ascertained from our prisoners, that the enemy lost in the battle of the Ouisconsin [Wisconsin Heights], sixty-eight killed, and a very large number wounded. His whole loss does not fall short of 300. After the battle of the Ouisconsin, the enemy's women and children, and some who were dismounted, attempted to make their escape by descending that river, but judicious measures being taken here by Capt. Loomis and Gen. Street, an Indian agent, thirty-two women and children, and four men have been captured, and some fifteen killed by the detachment under Lieut. Ritner.
"The day after the battle on this river I fell down with the regular troops to this place by water, and the mounted men will join us to-day. It is now my purpose to direct Keokuk to demand the surrender of the remaining principal men of the hostile party; which, from the large number of women and children we hold as prisoners, I have every reason to believe will be complied with. Should it not, they should be pursued and subdued; a step Maj. Gen. Scott will no doubt take on his arrival.
"I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the regular and volunteer forces engaged in the last battle [Bad Ax], and the fatiguing march that preceded it.
"As soon as the reports of the officers of brigades and corps are handed in, they shall be submitted with further remarks.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
H. Atkinson, B't. Brig. Gen U.S.A. Maj. Gen. Macomb, Commander-in-Chief, Washington City.
In May, 1831, Joseph M. Street, Indian agent at Prairie du Chien, left the agency in care of sub-agent, Thomas P Burnett. The latter reported to Gen. William Clark, superintendent of Indian affairs, at St. Louis, on the 18th of that month, that "the Indian relations among the different tribes of this quarter, have not a very amicable appearance. The threatenings of the Sauks and Foxes, and occasional acts of mischief committed by them against the whites in the vicinity of Rock Island, have doubtless been communicated to you before this time.
"The Sioux chief, Wabashaw, and a considerable number of his tribe, are now here [at Prairie du Chien]. A small party of them who came across the country from Red Cedar, state that within their country north of the line of the purchase of last summer, they came upon a war road of the Sauks and Foxes. They followed the trail leading out of the country several days, and from the signs remaining at their camps, they have no doubt, that three or more of the Sioux have been murdered by the Sauks and Foxes! Among other appearances that confirmed them in this belief, was a painted buffalo robe, such as no Indians in this quarter but the Sioux make or use, cut in pieces at one of their camps. They pursued their trail until they came upon their camp, a few miles north of the old Red Cedar fort; but finding them double their own number, did not make an attack. They say that they have made peace and promised to keep it, and will not in any case be the aggressors.
"Col. Morgan informed me, two days since, that he had sent down to the Sauks and Foxes to send up ten or twelve of their men to see him, and have a talk with him. They were expected here on yesterday, but have not yet arrived. The Sioux are waiting their arrival, and are, I believe, ready to meet them, either as friends or enemies. When they were informed that the Foxes were coming, they put their arms in order. They say that if the Sauks and Foxes come and deport themselves peaceably, they will not molest them, but if they see any hostile manifestations, they will strike them. My own opinion is that if the Sauks and Foxes have had a war party out against the Sioux, they will not come here upon Col. Morgan's invitation, knowing as they do, that the Sioux always visit this place about this season in considerable numbers.
"A part of the Menomonees have been to see me since Gen. Street's departure. They renewed their promise not to go against the Chippewas for the present, but to wait a while longer to hear from their Great Father.
"The squally appearance of Indian affairs called for the watchful attention alike of agents and officers of the army. But it became a question of etiquette, which should take the lead in the matter. The military seems to have claimed that right, while the agents claimed at least to know what had been done in the premises, both being then under the superintendence of the war department, the military considered the Indian department as subordinate to theirs. But Mr. Burnett thought otherwise, claiming that each branch of the public service had its appropriate duties with which the other should not interfere, while in case of necessity one should assist the other, both acting in unison. And as the Sauks and Foxes alluded to in his letter to Gen. Clark, did come to the place, with whom Col. Morgan held a council, without the knowledge or co-operation of the agent, Mr. Burnett claimed to be informed of the nature and extent of the proceedings, and addressed a note dated May 23, 1831, to Col. Morgan, as follows:
"Sir:-I was informed yesterday that you held, on the morning of that day, a council with a party of Sioux and a party of Fox Indians which you had assembled in the village of Prairie du Chien. As the acting Indian agent at this place, it properly concerns me to know what takes place at this post in relation to Indian affairs. I should therefore be glad to be informed of the circumstances that required such council. The objects to be effected and the results accomplished; also the names of the chiefs or men of influence of either tribe, who were present. Will you please to communicate to me as early as may be convenient, the desired information, and likewise whether Gen. Street was apprised previous to his departure, of the contemplated meeting of those Indians."
This brought from Col. Morgan the following tart reply, and raised the question of prerogative:
"Sir---I acknowledge in you no right to call on me to render an account of my proceedings to you, though if you will do me the favor to call at my quarters on my return from St. Peter's, for which place I am just about to set out. I will explain to you the object of the council and tell you what passed. You were apprised yourself of the Foxes having been invited and you knew they had arrived. Why stay four or five miles off? I stated to the Indians that you should have been to the council if you had been there."
Mr. Burnett informed Gen. Clark of the transaction of Col. Morgan, May 28, 1831: "In my letter of the 18th inst., I informed you that Col. Morgan had sent for the Sauks and Foxes to visit this post. On the 21st inst., about fifteen men of the Foxes, of Dubuque mines, arrived at the village, and on the next day Col. Morgan held a council with them and the Sioux, who were here. I presume that whatever took place at the council, or was affected by the meeting of the Indians, of any importance, will be communicated to you through the proper channel, by Col. Morgan who acted alone in the measure.
"The Sioux had been waiting the arrival of the Foxes for several days. The Foxes landed at the village on Saturday evening, not later I think than 4 o'clock. The council was opened the next morning, as I am informed, at 10 o'clock; yet no intimation of either time or place of meeting, or that my presence was at all desired, was given, although there was ample time to do so. Throughout the transaction, there has been no consultation had, or co-operation had with the agency. The only communication upon the subject previous to the council and departure of the Indians, was the simple fact that he had sent for the Foxes, of which I apprised you. I suppose that if anything occurred of sufficient importance to found a report upon, he will communicate the facts, and in that case, it must appear that the measure was undertaken and carried through without any connection or co-operation with this agency. I have, therefore, given the above statement of facts to show that the absence of co-operation in this affair was not from neglect of duty or inattention on the part of this agency."
The information that I have collected on the subject, is this: "Some fifteen Foxes from Dubuque mines, all young men except one or two, came up and had a talk with the Sioux and Col. Morgan, in which each expressed a desire to continue the peace which had been concluded between them the last year. The Foxes denied any knowledge of a war party having gone against the Sioux. They said they wished to be at peace, and would not do any act of hostility, but they could not answer for those below --- they spoke for themselves only. They smoked and danced together and parted in apparent friendship and harmony.
"The extent of the frontier and the number of tribes within the agency kept up an almost incessant excitement as to their affairs, and to keep the government advised of all their movements, required constant vigilance and the writing of numerous letters. Under date of June 13, 1831, Mr. Burnett writes to Gen. Clark: 'I have received since the last mail from this place information which I consider entitled to credit, that a war party of Sioux is now being organized among Washaba's band to go against the Chippewas, by a warrior of some note in that band. I have also understood that there are a few Menomonees, relatives of those who were killed by the Chippewas in the fall and winter past, now with the band of Sioux. But I have not been able to learn whether they intend joining the Sioux in their expedition or not, but think it probable that some of them will do so.'
"Under date of June 29th he wrote: 'I am informed by Maj. Langham, who arrived here from below a few days since, that the Winnebagoes of the Prophet's village on Rock river, have united with the Sauks and Foxes. The Winnebagoes of the Wisconsin and Upper Mississippi are still peaceable. They are most likely waiting to see the first results of the movements below, and intend to act afterwards according to circumstances.
"Until within two or three weeks pasts, very few of those Indians have visited this place for a length of time, fewer, I am told, than usual at this season of the year. Lately a great many of them have been here, the most of whom came down the Wisconsin and have gone up the Mississippi. A great portion of them are old men, women and children. They continue to pass by daily. Many rumors are in circulation as to their present disposition and intention; very few of which are, perhaps, entitled to implicit belief. They have served, however, to give considerable alarm to many of the inhabitants of the prairie, and many of them begin to think themselves in danger. I have spared no pains to ascertain the disposition of the Winnebagoes here and have found no evidence of a disposition to hostilities on their part, unless their sending so many of their old men, women and children up the river and purchasing powder in larger quantities than usual for ordinary hunting, should indicate something of the kind.
"I also learned a few days since that the one-eyed Decori had left his village at Prairie La Crosse and gone down to the Sauks and Foxes. This was accidentally communicated to my informant by a Winnebago and is probably true. Decori was down about two weeks since and called to see me on his return home. His deportment was as usual; I saw no change. In fact, I have not discovered any change in the deportment or appearance of any of them that I have seen. They all appear to be perfectly friendly. None of the traders here think they have any hostile intentions.
"Col. Morgan left the fort for Rock Island on the morning of the 27th inst., with two companies from his post, and two more from Fort Winnebago, under Maj. Twiggs. He had previously called in all fatigue parties and put his whole force under a course of training. Much alarm prevails in the mines. The people are arming and preparing for their defense. I do not consider that there is any immediate danger either here or in this vicinity. Much, however, will doubtless depend on the result below. The Sioux and Menomonees are certainly friendly, and against the Sauks and Foxes, would willingly unite with the whites if permitted to do so. I have heard nothing since my last of a war party of those Indians against the Chippewas.
"In February, 1832, Mr. Burnett was in Kentucky, when Gen. Street wrote him that 'the Menomonees and Sioux are preparing for a retalitory war against the Sauks and Foxes in the spring. The Menomonees have made peace with the Chippewas, in order to have no fears from that quarter. The two tribes met above the mill on the Chippewa and made their peace. I have advised the superintendent so as to have the earliest interference, if any is intended. The Sauks and Foxes, I learn, expect retaliation and will be prepared to meet them. If the government is not early in stopping them, they will certainly go in considerable force, and a bloody contest may be expected."
About the 1st of April Mr. Burnett received instructions, while yet in Shelbyville, to "proceed to the agency at Prairie du Chien, by way of St. Louis, and call on Gen. Clark for the funds allotted to the agency for 1832, or such portion thereof as he shall determine to forward. The receipts will be forwarded to you at St. Louis as soon as a conveyance by steamboat shall occur." Mr. Burnett reached the agency about the 1st of May. At that time the Sauks and Foxes under Black Hawk were in hostile movements on Rock river, with Gen. Atkinson in pursuit. To aid in the defense of the country, Gen. Atkinson, from Dixon's ferry, May 26, 1832, addressed Gen. Street as follows:
"Sir: --- I have to request that you send me at this place, with as little delay as possible, as many Menomonee and Sioux Indians as can be collected, within striking distance of Prairie du Chien. I want to employ them in conjunction with the troops against the Sauks and Foxes, who are now some fifty miles above us in a state of war against the whites. I understand the Menomonees, to the number of 300 warriors, who were with you a few days ago, are anxious to take part with us. Do encourage them to do so, and promise them rations, blankets, pay, etc. I have written to Capt. Loomis to furnish them some arms, if they can be spared, and ammunition. If there are none at Prairie du Chien, I must procure some in this quarter. Col. Hamilton, who has volunteered his services to lead the Indians to this place, will hand you this letter; and if the Indians can be prevailed on to come, will perform the duty. I have to desire that Mr. Marsh may be sent with Col. Hamilton and the Indians, and an interpreter of the Menomonee language." In accordance with this requirement, Gen. Street gave, on May 30, to Mr. Burnett the following instructions:
"Sir: --- You will please proceed with John Marsh, who goes express to the nearest Sioux village, and render him such aid as may be necessary in obtaining as many Indians as possible, to come down with you, and proceed under the command of Mr. Marsh to join Gen. Atkinson. The letter of Gen. Atkinson will be your guide in the business. Use every means to expedite the object; and hasten your return, as much depends upon the expedition."
The nearest Sioux village was 130 miles up the river from the seat of the agency, which had to be ascended in canoes, there being no steamer then to be had. Yet in six days after receiving the order, Mr. Burnett made the following report to Gen. Street:
"Sir: --- In obedience to your order of the 30th ult., I set out immediately from this place, in company with Mr. Marsh, in a canoe, with eight hands, to visit the nearest village of the Sioux Indians. From recent indications among the Winnebagoes of the upper Mississippi of a disposition to engage in hostilities with the Sauks and Foxes, Mr. Marsh and myself thought best to call at their village on the river La Crosse, and invite so many as might be disposed to join us on our return, and go with the Sioux and Menomonees to join Gen. Atkinson's army on Rock river. We arrived at the Winnebago village on the evening of the next day after leaving this post, and that night had a talk with the chiefs and braves upon the subject. Win-o-a-she-kan was opposed to the measure, and declined having anything to do with it. He said the Sauks had twice, this season, presented the red wampum to the Winnebagoes at Portage, and that they had as often washed it white, and handed it back to them; that he did not like that red thing, he was afraid of it. Waudgh-ha-ta-kan took the wampum, and said that he, with all the young men of the village, would go; that they were anxious to engage in the expedition, and would be ready to accompany us on our return.
"The next day we reached Prairie Aux Ailes [Wabasha], and found the Sioux extensively anxious and ready to go against the Sauks and Foxes. They were intending to make a descent upon them in a few days, if they had not been sent for. They engaged with alacrity in their preparations, but we found it necessary to wait till Monday morning to give them time. We left their village on our return, at 9 o'clock in the forenoon, accompanied by the whole effective force of the band, and at La Crosse were joined by twenty warriors of the Winnebagoes, the remainder of their village to follow the next day, and reached this place to-day, at 2 o'clock P.M., with 100 warriors, eighty of whom are Sioux, and twenty, Winnebagoes. I think, from the disposition manifested by the Winnebagoes, that fifty or sixty more of them will be here before the expedition leaves the prairie, making a force of 130 or 140. The Indians with whom I have met appear well effected towards the whites, are in fine spirits and seem anxious to engage with the Sauks and Foxes.
"I made the promise authorized to the Indians of subsistence, pay, etc., and told them that their families should be supplied with provisions during their absence from home. The most of the families of the warriors have accompanied them thus far to take a supply of provisions home with them, when the expedition shall have left this place. It is due to Mr. Marsh to say that he has displayed great zeal and energy in effecting the object of our visit, and that his exertions had the effect of bringing out the greatest possible force from the bands we have called upon."
Mr. Burnett greatly desired and strongly urged Gen. Street to allow him to accompany these Indians and take part in the war. But the general thought his services were needed at and near the agency, and, therefore, declined to comply with the request.
In the meantime the Sauks and Foxes retreated from the Rock river to the Wisconsin, where they were routed, "horse, foot and dragoons." The news of this defeat of the Indians soon reached Prairie du Chien, and it was thought probable that if the Sauks and Foxes could get canoes, or even rafts, that they would attempt to escape from their pursuers by descending the Wisconsin river. To prevent this, some volunteer troops were stationed on that rive at the ferry, now Barrett's. But the Indians took across the country towards Bad Ax.
As soon as it was ascertained that the hostile Indians under Black Hawk were wending their way to the Mississippi, after the battle of Wisconsin Heights, Joseph M Street, Indian agent, wrote to Thomas P Burnett, sub-Indian agent, with a view to adopt means to intercept the savages, the following letter, on the 25th of July, 1832:
"Sir:---You will proceed up the Mississippi to the Winnebagoes, twenty-five or thirty miles above this place, and inform them of the crossing of the Sauks to the north side of the Wisconsin, and that their chiefs, Carramana and Decori are here, and that I want all of the Winnebagoes to come down with you immediately; tell them it is the wish of their chiefs also. One object of this is, to get them out of the way with their canoes, to prevent their crossing the Sauks over the river. Send on word, if you can, to the upper villages, that the Sauks have been defeated, and have crossed the Wisconsin. And should the Winnebagoes hesitate, tell them if they do not come, I will not pay the annuity to any who refuse. The time is now near and they will lose their money. Hasten back as soon as possible."
The next day, July 26, Mr. Burnett reported: "Sir:---In obedience to your order of yesterday, I set out from this place in a bark canoe late last evening to visit the Winnebagoes, supposed to be encamped twenty-five or thirty miles above Prairie du Chien. This morning before day the steamboat Enterprise, with a military command, came by my encampment and took myself and crew on board. Before arriving at the place where the Indians had been encamped, we found that they had been gone for several days, and had removed some distance above.
"We therefore continued on up a considerable distance, passing several lodges at different points until we came to the principal camp, on the east side of the river, supposed to be sixty miles above Prairie du Chien. I communicated your message to all the Indians I saw on the way, who readily promised to obey your instructions.
"At the principal camp I found Washington Decori with a considerable part of the tribe from the Wisconsin and Kickapoo river. I immediately informed them of your request, and desired them to get ready as soon as possible and go to the agency. They manifested entire willingness to do so, but said some of their party were out hunting, and would be in at night, for whom they wished to wait, so that all might come together. They promised very positively, that they would start as soon as the hunters should arrive, and would certainly see you by the middle of the afternoon to-morrow. After some conversation about their starting this evening, and their still objecting to do so until the hunters came in, Lieut. Abercrombie told them that he would wait until sunset for them to get ready, and if they did not start by that time, he would take all their canoes and bring them down with the steamboat. About two hours after this they concluded to start and let the hunters come on after them; and after seeing all the canoes move off, we started on our return, and reached this place at 9 o'clock this evening. The Indians whom I saw will be here to-morrow by 12 o'clock. They had not heard of the battle on the Wisconsin, but appeared to be highly gratified and pleased at the news."
The next day, July 27, Gen. Street ordered Mr. Burnett to "proceed with Washington Decori to La Crosse, and such other points as you may deem important, and tell the Winnebagoes I wish to see them at the agency. I wish Winneshiek certainly to come. Much must be left to your own judgment in the case. The object is to get what information you can relative to the Sauks and Foxes, and to draw all the Winnebagoes from the Upper Mississippi, and with them the means of passing the river. If you can, extend the news to the Sioux."
The following day Mr. Burnett reported to Gen. Street: "In obedience to your order of yesterday, I went on board the steamer Enterprise last evening, and started for La Crosse. We arrived early this morning at the entrance of the lower mouth of Black river and found the Winnebagoes encamped on the shore. I took Wekon Decori, and went on shore immediately to see the Indians. I found the one-eyed Decori, and the Little Thunder at the lodges, but found that most of the band had left the village sometime since. Winneshiek and Waumarnarsar, with about fifteen men and their families, had been gone near a month to hunt and dry meat about fifty miles up La Crosse and Black rivers. The rest of the band were in the camp. I told them that you wished to see them immediately; that the Americans under Gen. Dodge had defeated the Sauks and Foxes on the Wisconsin, and after killing a great many, had driven them across the river; that the defeated Indians were endeavoring to make their escape to the Mississippi for the purpose of crossing it and regaining their own country; and that it was probable they would attempt to reach that point, that they might get the Winnebago canoes to cross in, and that they must get away from that place before the Sauks and Foxes arrived.
"They said they would come down immediately on the return of the absent party; that they were afraid of the Sauks, and did not wish to leave a small part of their band behind, who were too few to resist if they would meet them. I then told them to send two of their best young men on horseback to bring in the hunting party. They very promptly complied, and in a short time the young men were mounted and on their way. I charged the express to carry to the absent Indians the message I had delivered, and to tell Winneshiek especially, that his presence was required at the agency. The chiefs present told me that they thought they would all be here certainly in six days, and probably sooner. I told them it was of great importance to them to come as soon as possible, and bring all their canoes on the river; that if the Sauks should come to that point they were not strong enough to prevent them from taking their canoes (if they did not kill them), and crossing over the river; that should they effect a passage to the west side of the river, at any point above this place, within their country, they would be suspected of assisting them, and if it should be known that they had done so, they would lose their annuities and be treated as allies of the Sauks and Foxes. The promised to start for this place on the return of the absent party and bring all their canoes with them. From their apparent anxiety, I think they will be here in three or four days at the farthest, though they said it might be six.
"The Sioux chief, L'Ark, who left this place on the evening of the 25th inst., passed Black river this morning before our arrival, and will reach his people with the news (which he received from here) to-day. Having done all we could, we left La Crosse at 10 A.M., and reached this place at 3 P.M., making ninety miles in five hours."
It was but a few days after this the 2d of August, 1832, that Gen. Atkinson over-hauled the broken fragments of Black Hawk's army, fatigued, hungry and dispirited, and attacked them on the bottoms of the Mississippi, a few miles below the mouth of Bad Ax river, about forty-five miles above Prairie du Chien, and totally defeated and scattered them, as related in a previous chapter. Black Hawk was soon after taken prisoner by a company of Winnebagoes.
Mr. Burnett met them soon after the capture, to whom Black Hawk gave a piece of red ribbon which was tied to his hair.
As soon as the battle was over, all the wounded were collected to one place, and, with those of our enemy, were examined and their wounds dressed; there was no difference here between our men and our enemy. The different surgeons did their best for both. They were no longer able to do us any harm, but were in our power and begging for mercy, and we acted like a civilized people, although it was with the worst kind of enemies, and one that had done so much mischief and taken away so many of the lives of our fellow citizens.
We had killed and wounded a great many of these wretched wanderers, that have no home in the world, but are like the wild beasts, more than man, wandering from forest to forest, and not making any improvement in the natural mind. All their study is how to proceed in the chase, or take scalps in time of war. But, although they are a miserable race of people, and live a wretched life, they are much frightened when they see death staring them in the face, which was the case at this time. When we came upon the squaws and children, they raised a scream and cry loud enough to affect the stoutest man upon earth. If they had shown themselves they would have come off much better, but fear prevented them, and in their retreat, trying to hide from us, many of them were killed, but contrary to the wish of every man, as neither officer nor private intended to have spilt the blood of those squaws and children. But such was their fate; some of them were killed, but not intentionally by any man, as all were men of too much sense of honor and feeling to have killed any but those who were able to harm us. We all well knew the squaws and children could do us no harm and could not help what the old Black Hawk and the other chiefs did.
The prisoners we took seemed to lament their ever having raised arms against the United States, and appeared to blame the Black Hawk and the Prophet for the miserable condition that their tribe was then in, but at the same time appeared to rejoice that they were prisoners of war, which plainly showed that they had some faith in our humanity and that they would exchange the life they were then living for any other. They appeared to manifest every token of honesty in their examination. They stated that Black Hawk had stolen off up the river at the commencement of the battle, with some few of his warriors and a few squaws and children. I think the number of warriors was ten, and thirty-five women and children, or, in other words, four lodges, which is the Indian phrase, as they do not know how to count by numbers. They were examined respecting the first battle we had with them on the Wisconsin and they stated that we killed sixty-eight on the field of action, and that twenty-five had died since from their wounds, making in all ninety-three that we are certain we killed in that battle, besides a number more that there is no doubt still lingered and died with their wounds.
Putting together what were killed in the two battles, and all the little skirmishes, we must have destroyed upwards of 400 of these unhappy and miserable beings, which was occasioned, no doubt by the superstitious ideas which were instilled into their minds by the Prophet. Although I have already stated that those unhappy wanderers make no improvement in the natural mind, they still, by instinct, believe in an over-ruling Providence, and are the most credulous people upon earth. They pay much attention to their dreams, and if one of their Nation dreams much, he soon takes the name of prophet, as they believe it to be a visitation of the Great Spirit. One morning I chanced to rise very early, and taking a walk through the encampment, accidentally wandered to where the Indians were encamped. It was just at the dawn of day, and they were just beginning their morning worship of the Great Spirit. I had often heard that these uninformed children of the forest believed that there was a God, and tried to worship Him, which made me call a halt to see if what I had heard respecting this unhappy people was true. They commenced by three of them standing up with their faces to the east; one of them commenced a kind of talk, as though he was talking to some person at a distance, at the same time shaking a gourd, which from the rattling, I should have taken to be full of pebbles or beans. The other two stood very still, looking towards the east; the others were all sitting around in the most perfect silence, when the old prophet, priest, or whatever they called him, commenced a kind of song, which I believe is the common one sung by the Indians on all occasions. It was as near as I could make it out, in the following words: "He-aw-aw-he-aw-how-he-aw-hum," with a great many elevations and falls in their tone, and beating time with the gourd of pebbles. When this song was sung, they commenced a kind of prayer, which I thought the most solemn thing I had witnessed. It was a long monotonous note, occasionally dropping by a number of tones at once, to a low and unearthly murmur. When he had done he handed the gourd of pebbles to one of the two that stood by him, who went, as near as I could ascertain through the same ceremony, still shaking the gourd. When he had done he handed it to the third, who went through the same motions, and making use of the same words that the first two had done, which I suppose was a supplication or prayer to the Great Spirit to give them plenty to eat, and strength to conquer their enemies. It is stated by those who are acquainted with this race of people, that they are very much afraid of offending the Great Spirit. If they have bad luck in hunting, they think it is caused by their having offended the Great Spirit, and they make an atonement, by offering up or making sacrifice of something that they set much store by, such as burning their tobacco, or something else that they dote upon very much, but there is nothing in this world that they think more of than tobacco, as smoking they think is almost as indispensibly necessary as eating.
I must now return to the battle ground with my subject. After the battle was all over, and the wounded all attended to the prisoners and the wounded of both parties were put on board of the steamboat Warrior, and taken down to Prairie du Chien, where the wounded were taken to the hospital and the prisoners put in confinement.
The boat returned to us the next morning. We are still at the battle ground, or near it; whilst we lay there our men were still picking up scattering Indians. They brought in an old chief who was wounded. He was very poor was between six and seven feet high, what hair was on his head was gray, but that was not much, as the most of it was shaved off, just leaving enough for hand-hold to scalp him by, as these supertitious beings think it would be a mark of cowardice to cut off this tuft of hair, which they call their scalp. These superstitious being believe that if they are maimed or disfigured in this world they will appear in the same form, which is the reason they scarcely ever bury their dead. If he should chance to lose his scalp they think that it would show in the next world that he had been conquered and scalped by an enemy which would go to show that he was not a great warrior.
Gen. Atkinson now thought he had taken just retribution for the blood these Indians had spilt on our frontiers, and saw that it would be useless to cross the river in pursuit of those wretched beings for they were now scattered and hid in the swamps, so that it was an impossible thing to take many of them. He finally came to the conclusion to drop down to Prairie du Chien and have a talk with the Winnebagoes, for it was now manifest that they had been allies to the Sacs and Foxes for the prisoners that we took in this action put all doubts to rest on this score. We had a long time believed that they were acting treacherously and Gen. Atkinson now thought that it was time to bring them to an account for their conduct. He accordingly on the second day after the battle, which was the 4th of August, took up the line of march for Prairie du Chien, but before Gen. Atkinson left the battle ground he provisioned a number of Sioux and some Winnebagoes and sent them in search of Black Hawk to see if they could not capture him, and bring him in as a prisoner, which the Sioux appeared to be anxious to do as the Sacs and they had been at variance a long time and they saw that there was no chance of taking revenge for the many injuries the Sacs had done them. Gen. Atkinson and the infantry went down on the steamboat Warrior and reached Prairie du Chien the same day we started. The mounted men, baggage and all went down by land and reached Prairie du Chien the next day, which was the 5th of August. On entering the settlement of Prairie du Chien we witnessed a very novel scene. The Monomonee Indians were rejoicing at the defeat of the Sacs and Foxes, and were expressing it by music and dancing. They had obtained several scalps, amongst which were some of the squaws, which they always gave to their squaws. They had given their squaws several of them and were making music for them to dance around them. It was, as near as I could observe, in the following way: The men all stood in a row with gourds in their hands, shaking them in a very regular order, while one old fellow was beating on the head a kind of drum, which is generally a deer skin stretched over a hollow gum, sawed to the length of our drums. They never use but one stick and that very slow. The squaws were all paraded in front of the men, facing them, and the squaws, who were related to those whom the Sacs and Foxes killed in 1831, held scalps of the Sacs and Foxes squaws; on long poles and stood in the center between the two lines, shaking them while the other squaws and the men danced around them, apparently trying to keep time with the rattling of the gourds and the sound of the drum and all at the same time singing the song usually sung by all Nations of Indians, consisting only of a few simple words that I have already repeated; but they rise and fall very singularly and always beat time to the song with their feet; when the song gets to the highest pitch they jump up very high and sometimes stamp with their feet. They generally bend forward toward each other, sometimes with their noses so close as to touch. The squaws appeared to exert all the power they were master of in shaking the scalps, and using their feet at the same time with the drummer and the gourd shaker, and from their countenances they appeared to be perfectly happy.
Gen. Atkinson, on the second day after we arrived at Prairie du Chien, had the principal chiefs of the Winnebagoes, and a few of the Menomonees, at Gen. Street's, the Indian agent at Prairie du Chien, and had a talk with them. He told them that they had given him reason to think they were not true to him, as he had caught them in many lies, which they tried to deny. He then accused Winneshiek of aiding the Sacs, and inquired of him where his two sons were. The answer of Winneshiek was, that he did not know where they were. Gen. Atkinson then asked him if they were not with Black Hawk. His answer was that one had been with him, but he did not know where he was then. Gen. Atkinson then ordered him to be put in prison until his sons could be produced. He then had a talk with the Menomonees, who had never been at war with the United States. They professed all the friendship in the world for our government; and stated that they had never done us any harm, and did not tell lies, and that if they wanted to do any harm now that they would not know how. This was a little Menomonee chief, whose name I do not recollect. Gen. Atkinson talked very friendly to him and advised him to pursue the same friendly course towards the United States, and they would be well treated. When this chief was done he made a request of Gen. Atkinson, whom he termed father, to give each of his young men a pair of shoes, and stated that their feet were worn out with walking. He then went on to explain that when he said shoes he meant horses, and stated that his young men had been promised a horse apiece, and had not got them. Gen. Atkinson promised that they should have them, or that he would see to it, I do not recollect which. On the next day, about 11 o'clock, Winneshiek's sons were brought in, both badly wounded, which went to confirm that he and his sons were allies to the Sacs and Foxes. They had been wounded in the battle on the Mississippi. They were put in confinement August 7.
Gen. Scott and suite arrived this morning in the steamboat Warrior, and assumed the command of the whole army, to which station he had been appointed some time previous, but was unable to come on sooner, in consequence of cholera breaking out in his army. He came past several posts and discharged the men wherever he found them.
Gen. Scott concluded to discharge the army (or the mounted volunteers) that were then in the field, and demanded Black Hawk, of Keokuk, as both men and horses were nearly worn out with fatigue. Accordingly, on the 8th day of August, we left the tented fields and took up our line of march to Dickson's, on Rock river, the place appointed for us to be discharged at (or mustered out of the service of the United States). All now were eager to press forward. We had turned our faces toward our respective homes, and notwithstanding that we, as well as our horses, were nearly worn out with the fatiguing marches, through swamps and over the mountains, yet all were cheerful, and every heart seemed to leap for joy, at the thought of being free from the toils and hardships of a soldier, to return again to the embraces of a wife and children, or a father and mother, brothers and sisters, and to mingle, once more, in the walks and society of the fair sex, which appears to be a sovereign balm to man in all his afflictions.
On this day, just at night, we met about 300 Menomonee Indians in company of an American officer from Green Bay, coming to join in pursuit of the Sac and Fox Indians. We happened to meet them in a prairie. The officer advanced and met us, or we certainly would have fired upon them. When we came up to them they appeared almost to lament that they had not got in before we had the last battle, in order that they could have had an opportunity of assisting us in the work of death to our common enemy. For they are, as I have already stated, great enemies to the Menomonee Indians. When they left us they seemed to press forward with more vigor, as it was their object to pursue the balance of the Sacs and Foxes, who had made their escape.
On the next day we began to reach the settlements in the mining country. This was again a solemn scene. The farms had mostly been sown in grain of some kind or other. Those that were in small grain were full ripe for the sickle; but behold! the husbandman was not there to enjoy the benefits of his former labor by thrusting in the scythe and sickle and gathering in his grain; which was fast going to destruction. All appeared to be solitary, and truly presented a state of mourning. But as we advanced a little further into the more thickly settled parts we would occasionally see the smoke just beginning to make its appearance from the tops of the chimneys; as some of the inhabitants thought that it would be as well to risk dying by the tomahawk and scalping knife as to lose their grain and die by famine; and others had received information that we had slain in battle their troublesome enemy, who had driven them from their homes and slain many of their neighbors. Whenever we approached a house there is no telling the joy it would give to the desolate man who had lately emerged from some fort, and had left his wife and children still in it while he ventured to his home to save something for them to subsist upon.
I must confess that it filled my heart with gratitude and joy to think that I had been instrumental, with many others, in delivering my country of those merciless savages, and restoring those people again to their peaceful homes and firesides, there to enjoy in safety the sweets of a retired life; for a fort is to a husbandman what a jail is to a prisoner. The inhabitants of this district of country had been shut up in forts for the last three months, through fear of becoming a prey to Indian barbarity.
Nothing very interesting occurred on our march to Dixons. Lieut. Anderson, of the United States army, met us at this point, and by the 17th of August mustered us all out of the service of the United States. We sheathed our swords and buried our tomahawks and each man again became his own commander and shaped his own course towards his home, to enjoy the social society of his relatives and friends, in the pursuit of their different avocations in life.
After the battle of Bad Ax, when Black Hawk's band was totally defeated, Brevet Brigadier-General H. Atkinson, of the United States army, and Joseph M Street, agent for the Winnebagoes at Prairie du Chien, told the principal chiefs of that Nation, that if they would bring in the Black Hawk and the Prophet, it would be well for them, and that the government of the United States would hold them in future as friends and treat them kindly, and that they would not, by so doing, be considered any longer the friends of the hostile Sacs and Foxes.
On this declaration, the one-eyed chief, called the Decori, and Cheater took some of their men with them and went in pursuit of these Sac chiefs, in order, if possible, to take them prisoners and bring them and deliver them up to the Indian agent at Prairie du Chien. On the 27th of August, these two Winnebago chiefs returned, bringing with them the Black Hawk and the Prophet, the principal movers and instigators of the war. The interview with them at Prairie du Chien, I have been told, was a very interesting scene. I will give the reader the substance of their talk with Indian Agent Street and Col. Zachary Taylor, which will go to show how vigilant and with what perseverence these Winnebago chiefs acted to take these prisoners. They were upwards of twenty days gone, after they left Prairie du Chien, before they returned with them.
When they arrived, Black Hawk desired to speak to Indian Agent Street. The amount of what he said was, that he was not the originator of the war; that he was going where he would meet Keokuk, and then he would tell the truth; that he would then tell all about this war which had caused so much trouble; that there were chiefs and braves of the Nation who were the cause of the continuance of the war; that he did not want to hold any council with him; that when he got where Keokuk was he would tell the whole of the origin of the difficulties and of those who committed it; that he wanted to surrender long ago, but others refused; that he wanted to surrender to the steamboat Warrior, and tried to do so until the second fire; that he then ran and went up the river and never returned to the battle ground; and his determination then was to escape if he could; that he did not intend to surrender after that, but that when the Winnebagoes came upon him, he gave up; and that he would tell all about the disturbance when he got to Rock Island.
The one-eyed Decori and the Cheater both in like manner addressed Mr. Street, whom they term their father; which almost all the Indians do their agents. The one-eyed Decori rose first and addressed him in the following manner:
"My father, I now stand before you. When we parted I told you we would return soon; but I could not come any sooner. We had to go a great distance [to the dales, dells, on the Wisconsin river above the portage]; you see we have done what you sent us to do. These are the two you told us to get (pointing to Black Hawk and the Prophet). We always do what you tell us to do, because we know it is for our good. My father, you told us to get these men, and it would be the cause of much good to the Winnebagoes. We have brought them, but it has been very hard for us to do it. That one --- Macatamish Kakacky --- was a great way off. You told us to bring them alive; we have done so. If you had told us to bring their heads alone, we would have done so; and it would have been less difficult for us to do, than what we have done. My father, we deliver these men into your hands; we would not deliver them even to our brother, the chief of the warriors, but to you, because we know you and believe you are our friend. We want you to keep them safe. If they are to be hurt, we do not wish to see it; wait until we are gone before it is done. My father, many little birds have been flying about our ears of late, and we thought they whispered to us that there was evil intended for us; but now we hope the evil birds will let our ears alone.
"My father, we know you are our friend, because you take our part; this is the reason we do what you tell us to do. My father, you say you love your red children; we think we love you as much or more than you love us. My father, we have been promised a great deal if we would take these men, that it would do much good for our people; we now hope to see what will be done for us. My father, we have come in haste, and are tired and hungry; we now put these men in your hands. We have done all you told us to do."
Mr. Street, the agent of the Winnebagoes then said:
"My children! you have done well. I told you to bring these men to me, and you have done so. I am pleased at what you have done. It will tend to your good; and, for this reason, I am well pleased. I assured the great chief of the warriors that, if these men were in your country, you would find them and bring them to me; that I believed you would do what I directed you to do. Now I can say much for your good. I will go down to Rock Island with the prisoners; and I wish you who have brought these men especially to go with me, and such other chiefs and warriors as you may select. My children! the great chief of the warriors, when he left this place, directed me to deliver these and all other prisoners to the chief of the warriors, Col. Taylor, who is by my side.
"Some of the Winnebagoes on the south side of the Wisconsin river have befriended the Sacs, and some of the Indians of my agency have given them aid; this was wrong and displeased the great chief of the warriors and your great father, the President, and was calculated to do much harm. My children! your great father, the President at Washington, has sent a great war chief from the far east --- Gen. Scott --- with a fresh army of soldiers, who is now at Rock Island.
"Your great father has sent him and the governor of Illinois to hold a council with the Indians at Rock Island; he has sent a speech to you; and he wishes the chiefs and warriors of the Winnebagoes to meet him in council on the 10th of September next. I wish you to be ready to go along with me to Rock Island.
"My children! I am well pleased that you have taken Black Hawk and the Prophet and so many others, because it will enable me to say much for you to the great chief of the warriors and your great father the President. I shall now deliver these two men, Black Hawk and the Prophet, to the chief of the warriors here, Col. Taylor, who will take good care of them until we start to Rock Island."
Col. Taylor then said:
"The great chief of the warriors told me to take the prisoners when you should bring them and sent them to Rock Island to him. I will take them and keep them safe, but use them well, and will send them by you and Mr. Street when you go down to the council, which will be in a few days. Your friend, Mr. Street advised you to get ready and go down soon, and so do. I tell you again, I will take the prisoners and keep them safe, but will do them no harm. I will deliver them to the great chief of the warriors, and he will do with them in such manner as he may do with them in such manner as he may be ordered by your great father, the President."
Cheater, a Winnebago, said to Mr. Street, the agent:
"My father! I am young and don't know how to make speeches. This is the second time I ever spoke to you before the people. My father! I am no chief, I am no orator, but I have been allowed to speak to you. My father! If I shall not speak as well as others, still you must listen to me.
"My father! when you made the speech to the chiefs, Waugh-kan-decorri, Carimanee, the one-eyed Decorri, and others, the other day, I was there. I heard you. I thought what you said to them you also said to me. You said if these two (pointing to Black Hawk and the Prophet) were taken by us and brought to you there would never any more a black cloud hang over your Winnebagoes. My father! your words entered into my ears, into my brain and into my heart. I left here that very night, and you know you have not seen me since, until now. My father! I have been a great way. I had much trouble; but when I remembered what you said I knew you were right. This made me keep on and do what you told me. Near the dale [dells] on the Wisconsin river I took Black Hawk. No one did it but me. I say this in the ears of all present, and they know it; and now I appeal to the Great Spirit, our Grand Mother, for the truth of what I say. My father! I am no chief, but what I have done is for the benefit of my own Nation, and I hope for the good that has been promised us. My father! that one, Waboki-shick, is my relation. If he is to be hurt I do not wish to see it. My father! soldiers sometimes stick the ends of their guns [bayonets] into the back of Indian prisoners when they are going about in the hands of the guard. I hope this will not be done to these men."
Black Hawk was sent as a prisoner from Prairie du Chien to Jefferson barracks, under charge of Lieut. Jefferson Davis --- then in the United States army at Prairie du Chien, and thirty years later President of the Confederate States. Black Hawk was kept a close prisoner until April, 1833, when he was taken to Washington, together with some of his family and the Prophet. After an interview with President Jackson, and being emphatically told by him that the government would compel the red men to be at peace, they were sent as prisoners to Fortress Monroe, for "levying war," as Davis was, thirty-two years later, for the same offense. On June 4, 1833, by order of the President, Black Hawk and his fellow prisoners were liberated and sent home, under officers appointed to conduct them through the principal cities of the Union, in order to impress them with a proper sense of the power of the whites and of the hopelessness of any conflict on the part of the Indians with the government of the United States. Black Hawk ever after remained quiet. He died Oct. 3, 1838, and was buried on the banks of the Mississippi, in the State of Iowa, near the head of the Des Moines rapids, where the village of Montrose is located.
The Black Hawk war commenced this year, . Some of Dodge's recruiting officers were drumming around here. I met and got acquainted with one, named White, and enlisted during the war. A quartermaster was up here buying horses. He purchased near 500 head, and I went with them down to the mouth of Rock river, where the army under Atkinson was encamped.
I was under Dodge's command of Illinois volunteers, and a wilder, more independent set of dare-devils I never saw. They had a free-and-easy, devil-may-care appearance about them, that is never seen in the regulars, and Gen. Dodge of all others, was the officer to lead them. A number of Sioux, Winnebagoes and some Menomonees joined the forces on Rock river. I was in the ranks, and my opportunities for knowing and seeing the movements of the army, from the encampment on Rock river to the Four lakes, and to the Wisconsin bluffs, were limited.
Gens. Atkinson, Dodge, Henry and Alexander, lead the different commands. The force under Dodge, consisted of 200 or 300 men, and we proceeded to the lakes, through the swamps towards Black Hawk's camp on Rock river. Gen. Dodge was impatient to engage the Indians, and urged the men on; but orders came for our men to proceed to head quarters, where we immediately went.
From Gen. Atkinson's camp we were marched to Fort Winnebago, from where we started in pursuit of the Indians, who there held the two Hall girls prisoners, and were camped at Rock River Rapids. Gen. Henry's and Dodge's men reach the Rapids, but the Indians had retreated. Information was received that the Indians were making westward, and getting on their trail, we followed them rapidly for two days; the scouts discovered many Indians on the second day about camp near the lake. The pursuit was renewed on the day after reaching the lakes, where one or more of the Indians was killed. Our men led the chase, next after the scouts, who were continually firing at the Indians. The Indians continued to retreat, until they reached the Wisconsin river, where some made a stand and showed fight, while the others crossed the river. Here we were fired on by the Indians, and one man was killed and several wounded. We returned their fire with effect, and then charged them, killing a good many, all of whom were scalped by the wild Sucker volunteers.
Soon after the skirmish on Wisconsin bluffs, Gen. Atkinson came up, and the entire army crossed the river at Pine Bend, (Helena), and took the trail on the opposite side, and followed it seven or eight miles, in the direction of Prairie du Chien. When it was discovered that the Indians were making for the Mississippi, Gen. Atkinson sent me with little Boiseley to carry a dispatch to Fort Crawford, that the inhabitants might be ready to prevent the Indians crossing in any canoes or boats belonging to the citizens. Boiseley and I traveled day and night, and arrived at the fort without seeing an Indian. Black Hawk and his people, with the army in pursuit, had turned northward, intending to ford the Kickapoo high up.
It was on the 1st day of August when Boiseley and I reached the Sugar Loaf, at the south end of the prairie. As we were taking a look over the prairie, previous to starting for the fort, we saw the smoke and steam of a boat coming up the river, just off the mouth of the Wisconsin. We hastened on, and reached the fort as the steamer Warrior made the government landing. I reported myself to Capt. Loomis, and was directed to go up the river in the boat. I assisted to get a six-pounder from the fort on to the Warrior, which cannon was managed by five other persons and myself, and was the only cannon fired at the Indians --- if not the only one aboard.
The steamboat Warrior was commanded by Thockmorton, and Lieut. Kingsbury was aboard with a body of regulars. The cannon was placed on the forward part of the boat, without a defense of any kind; and I have the names of the five persons who assisted to manage it, for they got on at the prairie when I did.
The boat steamed up stream with all on board anxious to get a pop at the Indians. Just above where Lansing is, we picked up a soldier, who had been discharged from Fort Snelling, and was coming down the river in a canoe. He had come down the west channel, on the Minnesota side opposite Bad Ax, and, fortunately for him, he did not meet the Indians. We came in sight of the Indians south of the Bad Ax river; they were collected together on a bench of the land close to the Mississippi, and were making efforts to get their women across.
Capt. Dickson's scouts had not come up yet, and the Indians raised a white flag and endeavored to induce the boat to approach the east shore, and succeeded in bringing her close enough to pour a shower of balls into her. The cannon sent a shower of canister amongst the Indians, which was repeated three times, each time moving a swath clean through them. After discharging the gun three times, (there was only three charges of canister shot aboard), the Indians retreated to the low ground back from the shore, where, lying on their bellies, they were safe from us.
A continual firing of small arms was kept up between the persons on board the boat and the Indians ashore, until the fire-wood gave out, when we were obliged to put back to Prairie du Chien to wood up --- for there were no woodyards on the Mississippi as now. The village was roused to carry wood aboard, and we soon had a sufficient quantity of that article. A lot of Menomonee Indians were also taken on, and then, under a full head of steam, we put back to the scene of the battle.
Before we rounded the island, and got within sight of the battle-ground, we could hear the report of musketry, and then it was that I heard Thockmorton say: "Dodge is giving them h_ll!" And he guessed right, for as we reached the scene of action, the wild volunteers under Gen. Dodge were engaged in a fierce conflict with the Indians. The Indians were driven down to the river edge; some of them under shelter of the bank were firing at the volunteers, who had command of the bluffs. The Suckers and Hoosiers, as we called them, fought like perfect tigers, and carried everything before them.
The troops and Indians on board the Warrior kept up a brisk fire on the Indians ashore, who fought with a desperation that surpassed everything I ever saw, during an Indian fight, and I have seen more than one. The Indians were between two fires; on the bluffs above them were Dickson and his rangers, and Dodge leading on his men, who needed no urging; while we kept steaming back and forth on the river, running down those who attempted to cross, and shooting at the Indians on shore.
The soldier we picked up helped to man the gun, and during the engagement he was wounded in the knee by a rifle ball. The Indians' shots would hit the water or patter against the boat, but occasionally a rifle ball sent with more force, would whistle through both sides. Some of the Indians, naked to the breech-cloth, slid down into the water, where they laid, with only their mouth and nostrils above the surface; but by running the boat closer in to the east shore our Menomonees were enabled to make the water too hot for them. One after another, they jumped up, and were shot down in attempting to gain cover on the bank above. One warrior, more brave than the others, or, perhaps, more accustomed to the smell of gun-powder, kept his position in the water until the balls fell around him like hail, when he also concluded to pugh-a-shee,1 and commenced to creep up the bank. But he never reached the top for Thockmorton had his eye upon him, and drawing up his heavy rifle, he sent a ball through the ribs of the Indian, who sprang into the air with an ugh! and fell dead. There was only one person killed of those who came up on the Warrior, and that was an Indian. The pilot was fired at many times, but escaped unharmed, though the pilot house was riddled with balls.
One incident occurred during the battle that came under my observation, which I must not omit to relate. An old Indian brave and his five sons, all of whom I had seen no the prairie and knew, had taken a stand behind a prostrate log, in a little ravine, midway up the bluff; from whence they fired on the regulars with deadly aim. The old man loaded the guns as fast as his sons discharged them, and at each shot a man fell. They knew they could not expect quarter, and they sold their lives as dear as possible; making the best show of fight, and held their ground the firmest of any of the Indians. But they could never withstand the men under Dodge, for as the volunteers poured over the bluff, they each shot a man, and in return, each of the braves were shot down and scalped by the wild volunteers, who out with their knives, and cutting two parallel gashes down their backs, would strip the skin from the quivering flesh, to make razor strops of. In this manner I saw the old brave and his five sons treated, and afterward had a piece of their hide.
After the Indians had been completely routed on the east side, we carried Col. Taylor and his force across the river, to islands opposite, which we raked with grape and round shot. Taylor and his men charged through the islands to the right and left, but they only took a few prisoners; mostly women and children. I landed with the troops, and was moving along the shore to the north, when a little Indian boy, with one of his arms shot most off, came out of the bushes and made signs for something to eat. He seemed perfectly indifferent to pain, and only sensible of hunger, for when I carried the little naked fellow aboard, some one gave him a piece of hard bread, and he stood and ate it, with the wounded arm dangling by the torn flesh; and so he remained until the arm was taken off.
Old Wa-ba-shaw, with a band of his warriors and Menomonees, were sent in pursuit of those of Black Hawk's people who crossed the Mississippi, and very few of the Sauk and Fox Indians ever reached their own country. The Warrior carried down to the Prairie, after the fight, the regular troops, wounded men and prisoners; among the latter was an old Sauk Indian, who attempted to destroy himself by pounding his own head with a rock, much to the amusement of the soldiers.
Soon after Black Hawk was captured, the volunteers were discharged, and I received a land warrant for my two month's service, settled down and got married.