Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ascending the river; it soon arrived, bearing an express, who brought intelligence that a British' trader had landed at Rock Island with two boats loaded with goods, and requested us to come up immediately, because he had good news for us, and a variety of presents. The express presented us with tobacco, pipes and wampum. The news ran through our camp like fire on a prairie. Our lodges were soon taken down, and all started for Rock Island. Here ended all hopes of our remaining at peace, having been forced into the war by being deceived.".

He joined the British, who flattered him, styled him "General Black Hawk," decked him with medals, excited his jealousies against the Americans, and armed his band; but he met with defeat and disappointment, and soon abandoned the service and came home.

With all his skill and courage, Black Hawk was unable to lead all the Sacs and Foxes into hostilities to the United States. A portion of them, at the head of whom was Keokuk ("the Watchful Fox”), were disposed to abide by the treaty of 1804, and to cultivate friendly relations with the American people. Therefore, when Black Hawk and his band joined the fortunes of Great Britain, the rest of the nati in remained neutral, and, for protection, organized, with Keokuk for their chief. This divided the nation into the “War and Peace Party.

Black Hawk says he was informed, after he had gone to the war, that the nation, which had been reduced to so small a body of fighting men, were unable to defend themselves in case the Americans should attack them, and having all the old men and women and children belonging to warriors who had joined the British on their hands to provide for, a council was held, and it was agreed that Quash-qua-me (the Lance) and other chiefs, together with the old men, women and children, and such others a3 chose to accompany them, should go to St. Louis, and place themselves under the American chief stationed there. They accordingly went down, and were received as the "friendly band” of the Sacs and Foxes, and were provided for and sent up the Missouri River. On Black Hawk's return from the British army, he says Keokuk was introduced to him as the war chief of the braves then in the village. He inquired how he had become chief, and was informed that their spies had seen a large armed force going toward Peoria, and fears were entertained of an attack upon the village; whereupon a council was held, which concluded to leave the village and cross over to the west side of the Mississippi. Keokuk had been standing at the door of the lodge where the council was held, not being allowed to enter on account of never having killed an enemy, where he remained until Wa-co-me came out. Keokuk asked permission to speak in the council, which Wa-co-me obtained for him. Keokuk then addressed the chiefs; he remonstrated against the desertion of the village, their own homes and the

He mar

graves of their fathers, and offered to defend the village. The council consented that he should be their war chief. shaled his braves, sent out spies, and advanced on the trail leading to Peoria, but returned without seeing the enemy. The Americans did not disturb the village, and all were satisfied with the appointment of Keokuk.

Keokuk, like Black Hawk, was a descendant of the Sac branch of the nation, and was born on Rock River, in 1780. He was of a pacific disposition, but possessed the elements of true courage, and could fight, when occasion required, with a cool judgment and heroic energy. In his first battle, he encountered and killed a Sioux, which placed him in the rank of warriors, and he was honored with a public feast by his tribe in commemoration of the event.

Keokuk has been described as an orator, entitled to rank with the most gifted of his race. In person, he was tall and of portly bearing; in his public speeches he displayed a commanding attitude and graceful gestures; he spoke rapidly, but his enunciation was clear, distinct and forcible; he culled his figures from the stores of nature, and based his arguments on skillful logic. Unfortunately for the reputation of Keokuk as an orator, among white people, he was never able to obtain an interpreter who could claim even a slight acquaintance with philosophy. With one exception only, his interpreters were unacquainted with the elements of their mother-tongue. Of this serious hindrance to his fame, Keokuk was well aware, and retained Frank Labershure, who had received a rudimental education in the French and English languages, until the latter broke down by dississipation and died. But during the meridian of his career among the white people, he was compelled to submit his speeches for translation to uneducated men, whose range of thought fell below the flights of a gifted mind, and the fine imagery drawn from nature was beyond their power of reproduction. He had sufficient knowledge of the English language to make him sensible of this bad rendering of his thought, and often a feeling of mortification at the bungling efforts was depicted on his countenance while speaking. The proper place to form a correct estimate of his ability as an orator was in the Indian council, where he addressed himself exclusively to those who understood his language, and witness the electrical effect of his eloquence upon his audience.

Keokuk seems to have possessed a more sober judgment, and to have had a more intelligent view of the great strength and resources of the United States, than his noted and restless cotemporary, Black Hawk. He knew from the first that the reckless war which Black Hawk and his band had determined to carry on could result in nothing but defeat and disaster, and used every argument against it. The large number of warriors whom he had dissuaded from following Black Hawk became, however, greatly

excited with the war spirit after Stillman's defeat, and but for the signal tact displayed by Keokuk on that occasion, would have forced him to submit to their wishes in joing the rest of the warriors in the field. A war-dance was held, and Keokuk took part in it, seeming to be moved with the current of the rising storm. When the dance was over, he called the council to prepare for war. He made a speech, in which he admitted the justice of their complaints against the Americans. To seek redress was a noble aspiration of their nature. The blood of their brethren had been shed by the white man, and the spirits of their braves, slain in battle, called loudly for vengeance. "I am your chief," he said, "and it is my duty to lead you to battle, if, after fully considering the matter, you are determined to go. But before you decide on taking this important step, it is wise to inquire into the chances of success." He then portrayed to them the great power of the United States, against whom they would have to contend, that their chances of success was utterly hopeless. “But," said he,

if you do determine to go upon the war-path, I will agree to lead you, on one condition, viz.: that before we go, we will kill all our old men and our wives and children, to save them from a lingering death of starvation, and that every one of us determine to leave our homes on the other side of the Mississippi.”

This was a strong but truthful picture of the prospect before them, and was presented in such a forcible light as to cool their ardor, and cause them to abandon the rash undertaking.

But, during the war of 1832, it is now considered certain that small bands of Indians, from the west side of the Mississippi, made incursions into the white settlements, in the lead mining region, and committed some murders and depredations.

When peace was declared between the United States and England, Black Hawk was required to make peace with the former, and entered into a treaty at Portage des Sioux, September 14, 1815, but did not "touch the goose-quill to it until May 13, 1816, when he smoked the pipe of peace with the great white chief," at St. Louis. This treaty was a renewal of the treaty of 1804, but Black Hawk declared he had been deceived; that he did not know that by signing the treaty he was giving away his village. This weighed upon his mind, already soured by previous disappointment and the irresistible encroachments of the whites; and when a few years later, he and his people were driven from their possessions by the military, he determined to return to the home of his fathers.

It is also to be remarked that in 1816, by treaty with various tribes, the United States, relinquished to the Indians all the lands lying north of a line drawn from the southermost point of Lake Michigan west to the Mississippi, except a reservation five leagues square, on the Mississippi River, supposed then to be sufficient to include all the mineral lands on and adjacent to Fever River, and one league square at the mouth of the Wisconsin River.

THE BLACK HAWK WAR. The immediate cause of the Indian outbreak in 1630 was the occupation of Black Hawk's village, on the Rock River, by the whites, during the absence of the chief and his braves on a hunting expedition, on the west side of the Mississippi. When they returned they found their wigwams occupied by white families, and their own women and children were shelterless on the banks of the river. The Indians were indignant, and determined to repossess their village at all hazards, and early in the spring of 1831 recrossed the Mississippi and menacingly took possession of their own cornfields and cabins. It may be well to remark here that it was expressly stipulated in the treaty of 1804, to which they attributed all their troubles, that the Indians should not be obliged to leave their lands until they were sold by the United States, and it does not appear that they occupied any lands other than those owned by the Government. If this was true, the Indians had good cause for indignation and complaint. But the whites, driven out in turn by the returning Indians, became so clamorous against what they termed the encroachments of the natives, that Gov. Reynolds, of Illincis, ordered Gen. Gaines to Rock Island with a military force to drive the Indians again from their homes to the west side of the Mississippi. Black Hawk says he did not intend to be provoked into war by anything less than the blood of some of his own people; in other words, that there would be no war unless it should be commenced by the pale faces. But it was said and probably thought by the military commanders along the frontier, that the Indians intended to unite in a general war against the whites, from Rock River to the Mexican borders. But it does not appear that the hardy frontiersmen themselves had any fears, for their experience had been that, when well treated, their Indian neighbors were not dangerous. Black Hawk and his band had done no more than to attempt to repossess the old homes of which they had been deprived in their absence. No blood had been shed. Black Hawk and his chiefs sent a flag of truce, and a new treaty was

de, by which Black Hawk and his band agreed to remain forever on the Iowa side and never recross the river without the permission of the President or the Governor of Illinois. Whether the Indians clearly understood the terms of this treaty is uncertain. As was usual, the Indian traders had dictated terms on their behalf, and they had received a large amount of provisions, etc., from the Government, but it may well be doubted whether the Indians comprehended that they could never revisit the graves of their fathers without violating their treaty. They undoubtedly thought that they had agreed never to recross the Mississippi with hostile intent. However this may be, on the 6th day of April, 1832, Black Hawk and his entire band, with their women and children, again recrossed the Mississippi in plain view of the garrison of Fort Armstrong, and went up Rock River. Although this act

was construed into an act of hostility by the military authorities, who declared that Black Hawk intended to recover his village, or the site where it stood, by force; yet it does not appear that he made any such attempt, nor did his appearance create any special alarm ainong the settlers. They knew that the Indians never went on the war-path encumbered with the old men, their women and their children.

The Galenian, printed in Galena, of May, 2d, 1832, says that Black Hawk was invited by the Prophet and had taken possession of a tract about forty miles up Rock River; but that he did not remain there long, but commenced his search up Rock River. Captain W. B. Green, who served in Captain Stevenson's company of mounted rangers, says that “Black Hawk and his band crossed the river with no hostile intent, but that his band had had bad luck in hunting during the previous winter, were actually in a starving condition, and had come over to spend the summer with a friendly tribe on the head waters of the Rock and Illinois Rivers, by invitation from their chief." Other old settlers who all agree that Black Hawk had no idea of fighting, say that he came back to the west side expecting to negotiate another treaty, and get a new supply of provisions. The most reasonable explanation of this movement, which resulted so disastrouly to Black Hawk and his starving people, is that, during the fall and winter of 1831–32, his people became deeply indebted to their favorite trader at Fort Armstrong (Rock Island), they had not been fortunate in hunting, and he was likely to lose heavily, as an Indian debt was vutlawed in one year. if, therefore, the Indians could be induced to come over, and the fears of the military could be sufficiently aroused to pursue them, another treaty could be negotiated, and from the payments from the Government the shrewd trader could get his pay. Just a week after Black Hawk crossed the river, on the 13th of April, 1832, George Davenport wrote to Gen. Atkinson: “I am informed that the British hand of Sac Indians are determined to make war on the frontier settlements.

From every information that I have received, I am of the opinion that the intention of the British band of Sac Indians is to commit depredations on the inhabitants of the frontier." And yet, from the 6th day of April, until after Stillman's men commenced war by firing on the flag of truce from Black Hawk, no murders nor depredations were committed by the British band of Sac Indians.

It is not the purpose of this sketch to detail the incidents of the Black Hawk war of 1832, as it pertains rather to the history of the State of Ilinois. It is sufficient to say that, after the disgraceful affair at Stillman's Run, Black Hawk, concluding that the whites, refusing to treat with him, were determined to exterminate his people, determined to return to the Iowa side of the Mississippi. He could not return by the way

he came, for the army

« ForrigeFortsett »