Incidents in the Black Hawk War.
History is the recital of events transpiring, or the record of facts from the knowledge and memory of individuals; therefore, persons relating their experience of by-gones may be allowed to speak of self without becoming egotists.
The writer left Detroit October 3, 1831, for that portion of Michigan Territory lying west of Lake Michigan, now the state of Wisconsin, with a United States surveying party, composed of John Mullett, surveyor, and Utter, Brink, Peck, and Jerome, with a French pony team and a buffalo wagon to carry our tent, camp equippage, blankets, etc. The first day's march on a graded road brought us to Ypsilanti, where we found good fare and a choice of the softest boards in the bar-room floor for our beds during the night. We obtained but little sleep, but did get tender spots at the knee, hip, and shoulder joints, or wherever a bone protruded. The second day we had a worked road beyond the village of Saline; then came turnpike jobbers, some clearing, some ploughing and scraping, and jobs not yet commenced on the newly laid out Chicago turnpike, putting up at Clinton with similar fare as at Ypsilanti, adding another night's torment to our bruised joints. From here our road became a wagon track or Indian trail, usually finding a house or Indian trader's hut to put up at until within a few miles of the southeast corner of Lake Michigan. Learning there was neither inhabitant or road around the lake, we had recourse to its beach near where Michigan City now stands, traveling 40 miles on the sandy shores and camping one night on the sand beach. The next day we reached the far-famed city of
49Chicago, in a fierce and pelting rain storm; this lasted without abatement until 12 o'clock next day, discharging a vast amount of water for so short a period. We sought and put up at the only first-class hotel in the city, it being a small U. S. fort, garrisoned by a few soldiers and commanded by a noble, generous-hearted officer, whose name has escaped my memory. His warm hospitality, which gave us the use of a blazing kitchen fire — where the soldiers cooked their rations — to dry ourselves, and the floor on which to stretch our weary limbs and toast our feet, will be gratefully remembered as long as life lasts in any of that party.
Besides this fort the city contained five or six log houses on French claims, all standing on the Chicago river within a distance of three or four miles from the lake, valued by the owners at fifty cents per acre. At one o'clock we started with a bright sunshine, ferried the Chicago river in a small scow, waded in the water — frequently knee deep — about nine miles in the direction of Napier's, the last house on the outskirts of civilization, to a ridge, where we camped without supper or tent, for want of wood or poles. The next day we called on our former neighbor, Capt. Napier, and obtained one and a half days' rations for man and beast; a full supply, as we thought, to carry us to Rock river ferry. On the third day, wearied by storms and swollen streams, periling life each day in fording we passed Paw Paw Grove, then famous as the empty city of Black Hawk. There were numerous birch bark tents, splendidly adorned with native drawings, among them the first Mississippi steamer we ever saw afloat. Leaving this most delightful spot, we missed the trail as directed by our friend Napier, following a circuitous route around the south of the big Winnebago swamps, putting up one night at a log house afterwards made historic by the murder of the proprietor, a Mr. Hall, and family, also a neighbor and family, in all fifteen, and the captivity of the two Misses Hall, subsequently ransomed by the government. This act by the Indians inaugurated and set in full blaze the Black Hawk war of 1832. Owing to some troublesome streams, and missing our way, the one and a half days' journey came to an end on the sixth, and need I say the end of our provisions? Our large-hearted ferryman, comprehending the situation, gave us a bountiful "square meal," embellished with a five or six-quart dish full of crab-apple sauce, thoroughly sweetened with Indian mocock sugar. Thus, with full stomachs, our journey was vigorously prosecuted to our headquarters in Galena in just 28 full days. Our survey commenced and was prosecuted two days, then an extreme cold night froze the prairie too deep for raising the requisite mound for a landmark, and the survey was abandoned, to be renewed April 1,1832. The Hon. Lucius Lyon was prosecuting a job of surveying from the Illinois State line northward and adjoining the fourth principal meridian. Our work was founded on his, running east to the Indian boundary line at Sugar river. At each tier of townships Mr. Lyon left a letter on the northeast corner post of the town, telling us of the progress of his work and the progress of the Indian war. The day after the memorable Stillman battle with Black Hawk, we were crossing the Blue Mounds with a town line leading us near the residence of Mr. Brigham, meeting here an Indian half-chief who had just arrived from the Menominee camp with the details of the battle, stating the slain to be three Indians and eleven whites. The long shaking of hands and the extreme cordiality of the Indian alarmed Mullett for our safety, but he locked the fact in his own bosom, and went nearly five miles east with our line and camped; the next
50morning we went two and a half miles south and brought up an unfinished line, and formed and built a mound for a town corner.
On the completion of this mound, Mullett gave the first hint of his fears by raising himself to full height, saying, "Boys, I'm going in; I'll not risk my scalp for a few paltry shillings." This laconic speech was a frightful electric spark to the whole company. My own sensation was as if every hair of my head instantly became a porcupine quill, raising my hat in air, myself from the ground, my head sore as a boil.
The Indian trail from Galena to Fort Winnebago passed here, which Mullett instantly struck into on a dog trot, followed by his frightened men, seeing a foe in every imaginary sound or rustle of prairie grass, bounding involuntarily to right or left to avoid the rushing legions of Indians. Five miles brought us back to Brigham's. The peaceful hamlet of the day before was all bustle, with a large number of families gathered from the surrounding country, and a large log fort was fast approaching completion.
A short distance farther on we met Governor Dodge with fifty mounted horsemen, going to the Menominee camp to have a talk where the city of Madison now stands. Arriving at Willow Springs we found the neighborhood congregated for self-defense; regular guards were set for the night, who attested their vigilance two or three times during the night by seeing large bands of Indians approaching, firing into their midst, rushing into the stockade, and demanding a forlorn hope to go out and investigate the case.
The next day we arrived at Oak Springs, and found the neighborhood stockading the fort with pickets twelve feet high, split from trees and set in a trench, making a formidable defense. The guards were set, the fires extinguished in the stockade, and every man, woman and child camped down as best they might; and just as all had become hushed as the house of death, the loud report of a gun from one of the sentinels sounded the alarm, and the fort instantaneously became a bedlam. Impromptu officers hauled us about, jammed us against the pickets, bidding us stand there while they sought the stock of arms, knocked open the barrel of cartridges and distributed them. In the darkness and fright I cannot say how many cartridges found the inside of our muskets, but all was pronounced in perfect defensive order. The faithful guard was brought into council, and testified that sixty Indians came over the fence a few rods from the fort, the butts of their guns rattling on the top-rail. A volunteer forlorn hope was obtained to investigate the situation. They found the unyoked oxen used for hauling picketing had jumped over and were feeding in the corner of the fence. All became quiet, but soon another sentinel came rushing in; he was crawling along a fence, watching for Indians, and another was doing the same thing from an opposite direction, and on spying him, had, as a faithful guardian, snapped his piece at him, and he escaped death only by the missing of a firelock.
Next day we arrived at Galena, and found part of the town picketed. A guard was set as usual, and at about eleven o'clock came the crack of a gun and a sentinel rushed in at the gate. He had been watching in the bushes at the brow of the hill overhanging the north side of the town; a cautious crawling and crackling of bushes approached him; he leveled his piece and watched for some time the approach of the Indian till he at length sighted him on all fours, took deliberate aim, fired, and all became silent. A forlorn hope, piloted to the spot by our faithful guard, found his unerring aim had planted a ball in the brain of a two-hundred pound porker.
The Galena Rangers, a company of eighty horsemen, thoroughly equipped by the government, were dispatched to Atkinson camp at Rock river ferry. On arriving near nightfall at Buffalo Grove, twelve miles from Rock river, it was deemed unsafe to pass through before morning; therefore they camped on the open prairie about two miles from timber. Near midnight one of the guard fired, and reported a large band of Indians just crossed near the camp. Notwithstanding the earnest protestations of the next sentinel that they passed by him and consisted of three deer, this valiant band by one o'clock were in their saddles in full retreat for Galena, riding the entire distance — near eighty miles — and arriving at four o'clock in the afternoon, roguishly reporting that Black Hawk was coming in rear with 5,000 Indians, and would spare none. In five minutes the intense fright of the country was manifested in the screeching and screaming of women and children from one extremity of the town to the other. One man, catching the report, ran home ten miles into the country, hurried his family and a neighbor's down a lead-mine shaft 30 feet deep, having a good side drift. After two days' incarceration, hearing no outside noise, he ventured his head to the top, and seeing a man traveling, learned from him that the story was a canard.
The friendly Blue Mound Menominee half-chief, true to the instincts of his nature, sent nine of his tribe to slaughter us; they killed two men traveling near our last landmark. Here lived Phileo, a mail contractor, who the public journals of the country dubbed the scalping editor, owing to an article published in his seven-by-nine paper, giving an account of a hand-to-hand fight of eleven white men against eleven Indians, in which he boasted of having scalped two Indians. The nightly alarms and astounding hairbreadth escapes continued during our twenty days' stay in Galena. Still, in the midst of all this fright, the good people of Galena found time for revelry and for homicide.
While here the writer witnessed the levee given by the Hon. Lucius Lyon that secured his election to Congress by giving him the 600 votes of the lead mine district. I also witnessed the shooting of Kelsey by McKoy, his examination and discharge for the homicide.