Primary tabs



A correspondent of the Chicago Tribune having questioned the statement in the text that Mr. Lincoln ever served as a private in the Black-Hawk War, I annex the following letter from Capt. Elijah Iles:

SPRINGFIELD, ILL., December 7, 1868.

MR. I. N. ARNOLD — Dear Sir: I have yours, making the inquiry whether Mr. Lincoln was a member of my company in the Black-Hawk War, and the incidents of the campaign. In reply, I answer that he was a member of my company a portion of the time, before the close of the war, and received an honorable discharge. The incidents are about as follows: In the spring of 1832, Gov. Reynolds made a call for volunteers, which call was promptly answered. Mr. Lincoln was captain of one of the companies from Sangamon (as I am informed, but do not recollect). * * * * * The term of Governor Reynolds' first call being about to expire, he made a second call — the first was then disbanded. We then raised several companies from the disbanded troops, to remain and protect the frontier, until the new levies could be brought to the field. I was elected captain of one of the companies, without opposition. I had, as members of my company, General James D. Henry (candidate for sheriff), John T. Stuart, Achilles Morris, and A. Lincoln (candidates for State legislature). Stuart and Morris were elected, and Lincoln badly beaten. At the next regular election, Lincoln was elected by an overwhelming majority. At that election we had seven representatives and two senators, who, being all tall men, were dubbed the "long nine." Mr. Lincoln did us good service in aiding to procure the State Capitol at Springfield. A number of hardy young men from Sangamon county, together with several officers from disbanded companies of other counties, were in my company. I was proud of the men, and had confidence that I had a company that could be relied upon. We were mustered into the service on the 29th day of May, 1832,


by Robert Anderson, Asst. Inspector General. Several of the companies were put on duty forthwith, to range so as to protect the frontier settlers. One of the captains, being more anxious than others to undertake a hazardous trip, was ordered to proceed to Dixon's Ferry, and report to Col. Z. Taylor (late President Taylor), who was stationed at Dixon's, with two companies of U. S. troops, and thence to Galena; but before the company got to Col. Taylor's station, Mr. Savre, the Indian agent, the mail carrier, and several others, were murdered, within twenty miles of Col. Taylor's quarters, and all communication cut off from Galena. On the arrival of the company at Dixon, Col. Taylor ordered the captain, who was a brave man, to proceed to Galena; but the men became frightened, and could not be controlled by their captain, and returned to headquarters at Ottawa, helter-skelter.

Up to this time, my company was held in camp as a reserve. Gen. Atkinson then called on me, and stated that he was exceedingly anxious to find out the whereabouts of the Indians, by the time the new levies would arrive; and wished to know how many in my company I could take, well mounted and well armed, and at what time I could be ready to march, on a trip to Dixon's Ferry, and to report to Col. Taylor for further orders. I said to the General that I could give him an answer within an hour. I then paraded my men, explained the matter, and found the men anxious for the trip; and within the hour I reported to the general that I had fifty men in my company, well mounted and well armed, and that we wanted one day to prepare for the trip. This was at night. The next day was a busy day with the boys — cleaning guns, running bullets, picking flints, etc., etc.; (we used the old flint lock at that day). Most of the company had doubled-barreled guns, and the U. S. officers furnished us with holster and belt pistols. We expected to have to fight our way from Dixon to Galena, and took no camp equipage or stores, other than a blanket, a tin cup, and a wallet of bread and bacon.

At Dixon, we found Col. Taylor entrenched on the north bank of the river. We encamped on the south bank for that night. I reported to him, and he said he wished me to proceed to Galena, and to call for my orders and rations, which would be prepared for us in the morning. Our rations consisted of bread, boiled ham, and bacon. My orders were, to proceed to Galena, collect and bury the remains of Savre and others who had been killed by the Indians, make a careful search for the signs of Indians, take the Gratiot road going and the Apple river road returning from Galena, find out, if possible, whether the Indians had crossed the road toward the Mississippi, below Galena, and to gain all possible information at Galena of the whereabouts of the Indians. (I know Col. Taylor thought it a perilous trip for my small command.) John Dixon and a U. S. lieutenant named Harris accompanied us from Dixon's Ferry.

The first evening after we left Dixon our scouts came in under whip and reported a large number of Indians coming directly toward us. It was just at sunset, while we were at lunch, and from our position we could see them


one and a half miles off. All eyes were turned to John Dixon, who, after they came over a hill into a valley out of sight, pronounced "Indians" (but they proved to be General Dodge's command of one hundred and fifty men on their way to find out what had become of General Atkinson and the troops under his command). I ordered the horses driven back to a valley out of sight, and paraded the company and stationed it in the bed of a dry ravine at the crossing of the road, which hid us from view until they could get within fifty yards of us. I then told General Henry to take command. His answer was, "Stand to your post." He passed along the line talking to the men in a low, calm voice. Lieutenant Harris appeared much agitated; he ran up and down the line, but after seeing the effect of General Henry's talk to the men, whispered to me, "There is no danger, we can whip five hundred." Our arms were all re-primed, flints re-picked, and the holster pistols laid at our feet, when the advance of General Dodge's company, instead of Indians, got within fifty yards of us. Our men raised the yell and ran back to their lunch. One-third of the company was put on guard every night; the others slept on their arms, and were called up and drilled four or five times every night. The houses on our outward trip were vacated, and standing, but on our return were most all burned down. On our return to General Atkinson's headquarters, and on the arrival of the new troops, my company was mustered out by Lieutenant Robert Anderson. My company was again re-organized as a spy company, and Dr. Early elected Captain without opposition. Mr. Lincoln remained with the company to the close of the war. You ask for the incidents, and I have spun them out unreasonably.

Respectfully yours, etc.,