Recollections of a Tour Through Wisconsin in 1832
In the Spring of 1832, vessels were unable to reach the Upper Lakes until the first week in May. We were detained at Mackinaw a few hours, and were landed at Green Bay about the 15th of that month. The weather was cold and boisterous, which rendered the delay at Mackinaw agreeable, enabling the captain to lay in a supply of trout, and those who by reason of sea-sickness had found the stomach a very uncomfortable place, to settle that organ, and treat it to a little food. Here we found the garrison and the inhabitants in a state of the most pleasurable excitement. Our vessel and another in company were the first of the season. The ice had left that part of the Lake long since, yet no sail had made its appearance in these waters till to-day. During the winter, residents upon the Island are in a state of complete separation from the rest of the world. The postmaster at Detroit was authorized to procure a foot-mail once a month, after the swamps and rivers were sufficiently frozen, and a Frenchman sometimes succeeded in taking a letter-bag through the wilderness, but papers and pamphlets directed to this quarter spent the winter in Detroit.
The first vessel therefore brought up the arrears of news, and produced those who had escaped in the fall to enjoy life and civilization in the cities. It opened a passage for the trader who for half a year had looked out upon snow and ice, to flee to the genial south, promised a renewed communication with friends and kindred, when he who had enjoyed only the range of a barren Island, could strike across the Lakes and the States to the Sea, mingling with old comrades and new friends. When transplanted from the contact of the gleeful Canadian and the boisterous Indian, he could taste the sweets of refinement, and partake of the delicious and chastening society of accomplished women.
Such had been the delay of our arrival that the anxiety of these exiles had become intense. All had partaken of the expectation, from the officer to the voyageur, and from morning till night they lingered in little knots upon the heights about old Fort Holmes, straining their eyes to catch the first glimpse of the first topsail on the clear line of the horizon. A dim speck, the canoe of the Indian, a floating log, a fragment of ice, or even a fleeting wave, by force of imagination and hope, righted up into a mast-head and colors peeping across the convexity of the watery surface.
At length a ship makes its appearance, and under full press of sail rounds the Island of Bois Blanc, and stands in for the anchorage. The passengers from its deck may see a commotion, among the people on the brow of the hill, the swinging of hats, and the waving of handkerchiefs. But he cannot hear the acclamations, the almost frantic shouts of the Islanders.
The striped banner ascends the flag-staff of the fortress, while the American flag greets its fellow in the wavings of the breeze at the main peak, and the heaviest gun upon the works awaking from a winter's slumber, sends its heavy tones along the shore. As the first boat grazes the pebbled beach, a congregation, has clustered around the spot. Then follows the hearty gripe, the soul-felt recognition, and the silent, yet deep congratulations to which every organ) except the eye refuses utterance.
The individual who had seen Mackinaw (or according to Noah Webster, Michillimackinack) as early as 1832, had been to the verge of civilization, and was expected to produce a description in detail. By the rapid enlargement of American occupation, it has now ceased to be a point of great interest, and will soon attract attention only for the historical reminiscences that attach to the name. Always the resting place of the Indian wandering from one Northern Sea to another, his camp-fire was seldom, extinguished upon its shore.
About 1650, the countrymen of Father Hennepin and La Salle came along to dicker for furs, mingling the gibberish of the Frenchman with the gutturals of the native. Then the Englishman located himself there, with a half civil, and half military possession under the treaty of 1763. By the Revolution, the Americans acquired title, and in 1794 obtained possession of the Island.
But the red man is no longer congregated here, and the white man has gone after him to "Fond du Lac," at the extreme of Lake Superior. The garrison is therefore unnecessary, the missionary deserted by his flock removed to "Ile Point," everything points to the speedy decline, if not the abandonment of this wild spot. The
67Island is limited in extent, rocky and steep, the main land adjacent rough and mountainous, but in summer a most delightful residence.
My passage through Wisconsin resulted from employment which detained me at Green Bay till September. Not having contemplated a description of any thing which transpired, or which I saw in that region, the present observations are mere gleanings of memory, unassisted by a single note, date or memorandum. They will be impressions rather than facts, the remains of marked incidents and events not yet obliterated by subsequent affairs.
Our schooner entered the Bay during the night, nearing the mouth of Fox river, where the settlement is, before morning. Emerging from the companion-way about sun-rise, we found ourselves midway from each shore, distant five or six miles, the land sloping on either hand towards the water. During the progress of the voyage no signs of vegetation were apparent, and the unbudded trees along Lakes Huron and Michigan, still retained the bleakness of winter. The direct rays of the sun illuminated the western shore, leaving the dark shadows of morning still resting upon the east. Judge of our surprise and pleasure, when at the first glance, we saw the forests of both shores clothed with young leaves, rich in the velvet green of spring. We had left the realms of rough winds and floating ice, and were transferred in one night to calm and clear waters, and the gentle fannings of a southern breeze. Our latitude was higher than the lowest part of Lake Huron, yet the season was more than two weeks in advance of that spot. Whether the original discoverers came into this place under like circumstances and gave it a name accordingly, I am not informed, but the propriety of its title will strike every one who does.
The garrison is situated on the west side of Fox river, about one mile from its mouth. The old settlement occupies both sides of the river for about eight miles. Opposite to Fort Howard the town of Navarino had been built on paper, and some good houses were actually completed. The old village of "Shanty Town," otherwise "Menominee," already showed symptoms of a decline, being two miles further up the river. Around the head of the
68Bay, the land is wet prairie and marsh, with long grass, furnishing musketoes in inexpressible numbers. But the land on the cast of the Bay rises gradually from the water's level, covered with scattering oaks and occasional thickets of low timber. It is a limestone region, supporting a good soil, which bears in many places the marks of ancient cultivation. In the direction of Duck Creek there is some poor land. But receding from the river and the Bay on all sides, there will be found a fine agricultural country. The bottom lands are occupied by descendants of the French, who were here about a century and a half ago. Their locations are in the French style, narrow upon the river, and running back great distances. Beyond these claims, most of the country lies in a state of nature.
The Menominee Indiana had but lately held the title to most of it, for a circuit of sixty miles, raising a few patches of miserable corn, on the low grounds. About eight miles south-west, a party of Stockbridge
69than savage wretchedness. They are naturally a good natured people, and less ferocious than their Northern brethren. The Indian thirst for fire-water, however, reigned with them, even beyond the usual limit of aboriginal desire. As a consequence, murders were of common, occurrence, and when committed beyond the reach or knowledge of American authorities, were not scrupulously noticed.
In person, they are of a thick-set frame, less tall, and in better condition than most Indians, and at least equally indolent. The thief is not so common a character with them, as with many other tribes. Their attachment to the United States, has not been exceeded by any Indian people. But the gratification of a never satisfied craving for whiskey, has debased them to the lowest point of human degradation. Oshkosh was at this time hereditary chief, and about twenty-one years of age.
70or malice against her, and the blow was not repeated. The taking of life in that way, is a common occurrence, resulting from an inherent blood-thirstiness, roused into action by excessive drink.
At "Shanty Town" there was an Episcopal Mission, very ably conducted by Rev. Mr. C------. The prospect of enforcing civilization was certainly discouraging, and in examination of the school, though it exhibited the highest proofs of the perseverance, and benevolence, of its conductors, left no room to doubt the entire failure of a scheme so dear to American philanthropists. It is not necessary to determine, whether the Indian is, by a rule of heaven, destined to reject forever the blessings of education and agriculture, but it seems plain that before he will secure them, his present feeling must undergo a radical change. If it arose from a mere want of ability, or simple indifference, a hope of ultimate success might be indulged. The condition of his intellect is sound, but the inclination of his mind is adverse. There is an affected stupidity, an obstinate resistance, in relation to the reception of all learning; an innate distaste to all mental application, which hermitically seals up the talent of the race. If by any fortune, they had fallen prisoners into the hands of the ancient nations, as the spoils of conquest, and their native indolence had been overcome by servitude and the lash, as with the Helots of Greece, a few generations would have resulted in an amalgamation of blood, an exaltation of character, and the heroes, the orators, and the admirals, of the subduing nation, would have borne the mixture in their veins. Perhaps the same result would not follow a course equally rigorous and unjust, if adopted between the American and the Indian. But an entire revolution is to take place in the tendency of their present career, if, a century hence, the only living monuments of the red race, east of the Rocky Mountains, shall not be the half-breed and his descendants.
As has been observed, the original white settlers of the valley of the Fox river were French. In point of refinement and enterprise, they were advanced a degree above the aborigines with
71whom they intermarried. They are a very brisk, lively people, who dance, sing, drink, and run horses, in winter drawing a meagre sustenance from the soil and the fur trade. There are now, however, some very respectable and educated persons in that vicinity, of Indian and French parentage.
During the spring, the "British Band" of the Sacs and Foxes returned to their grounds on Rock River, in Illinois, which gave rise to a border war. The circumstances of the affair have been so variously stated, that it is difficult to come at the truth. An important matter, to be settled on the part of the United States, by the expedition, was at that time considered to be, the punishment for murders committed at Fort Snelling the fall previous, by a party of Sauks and Foxes upon a body of Menominees. The assailants, ancient enemies of the Menominees came up the river silently during the night, and sprang upon the lodges so secretly that the sentinels of the fort, though within cannon range, had no notice of their approach till the butchery began. It was near day light in the morning, and the offending party escaped before a force could reach the spot. The Menominees were faithful friends of the United States, and considered themselves, under their protection. Justice required the interposition of our government to punish the murderers, and good policy demanded that those two Indian tribes, full of the bitterest enmity, should not be suffered to wage war among our frontier settlements. The Menominees were restrained in executing their vengeance, and promised that the murderers should be obtained, and tried. The Sauks refused to deliver them up, a measure which of itself would probably have led to a conflict if persisted in.
In the meantime, the return of Black Hawk took place, and the Illinois militia made an attack upon him at the Sycamore Creek. The defeat of the whites at this place encouraged the Indians and exasperated the frontier-men, putting an end to all hopes of an amicable arrangement. If this rash affair had not happened, there is very little doubt but a reconciliation might have been effected. Black Hawk was opposed to war. He had seen the
72power of the whites, but his young men had not. He was over-ruled by them, sustained as they were by Nahpope the Head Chief, and the Prophet,
When the Sauks and Foxes had retreated as far up Rock river as Lake Koshkonong, the settlement at Green Bay began to feel apprehensions. The picketing at Fort Howard had become rotten, and much of it was removed. There were but two companies in the garrison, one of which left for Fort Winnebago about mid-summer.
Preparations were made for receiving the citizens and their property within the stockade, having been patched out, by horizontal timbers, across the curtains. There was very 1ittle cause, however, for alarm, surrounded as we were by Menominees, who could master a respectable band of warriors, and only waited for permission to do so. But the settlement was kept in a state of anxiety, during most of the summer, by false news, business and travel being in a measure suspended.
During this year, no steam boat came to the Bay, and vessels
73reached there but seldom. The troops under General Scott, who were expected to enter the country through this point, engaged most of the Upper Lake craft, and instead of proceeding by way of the Fox river, landed at Chicago. Under these circumstances time passed slowly.
About the first of September, after procuring horses and equipments, a stock of provisions, blankets, coffee, and liquor, a company of four took their departure for the Portage. The road since constructed between Forts Howard and Winnebago, not being then laid out, our route lay along the Fox river. The station we had just left, though sufficiently endowed by nature, had nothing in its then condition to cause regret on leaving it. Had the contrary been the case, the pleasant scenery of the river and the singular mixture of civilization and barbarism exhibited by the few people we saw; the unusual combination of valley and hill, of prairie and woodland, that distinguished the country, would have banished all regret. During the second day, we passed some most lovely situations on the banks of the river. The moat romantic boarding-school miss never imagined a more enchanting display of nature. The country was elevated into rolling meadows fifty or sixty feet from the bed of the stream, and covered with scattered oaks, beneath which the coarse grass flourished in high luxuriance.
This river is obstructed by four considerable falls, beside rapids, but the only communication for goods, provisions, &c., to the military and trading posts in that quarter, is by navigation on this stream. At high water, a small river boat, of fifteen to twenty tons, is pushed against the current, till it comes to a fall, or "chute;" the cargo is here taken out until the "voyageurs" can force the craft up the rapid by main strength. In low water, it is with difficulty a bark canoe will swim. An Indian farm showed itself occasionally on its banks, but our path generally lay through a wild pasture, well stocked with the prairie hen. Near night we passed the "Little Butte des Morts," or Hill of the Dead, where the treaty of 1827
74was held. It is a large mound apparently artificial, on the summit of which still stood the flag-staff of the American, commissioners. The mound is reputed to contain the relics of departed warriors. Early in the day, we had crossed an open space of a few acres, where the Sauks once met the French in battle; which contained several small mounds, but apparently the result of winds acting upon a light soil. We slept at a hut on the southern shore of Lake Winnebago, near where the Fox river empties into it. From the rapids below the Lake to the Portage, this stream is sluggish, and though crooked, is sufficient depth for transportation of boats. It is rather a succession of shallow lakes than a continuous river, bearing the wild rice in endless profusion. This plant strongly resembles the southern rice in the kernel, and somewhat in taste, furnishing excellent food for ducks and Indians. Where the water is still, it comes up from a depth of ten to fifteen feet, extending above the surface, in a dense green mass, about as high as grown flax. In the fall and winter, the Indian pushes his canoe through it, and shakes out the seed over the gunwale into his boat. It also serves to shelter him in his insidious designs against the wild ducks, who congregate among it, and lay claim to what they wish to eat. After pushing our way in a flat through a thick growth of this vegetable, about two miles, we were on the opposite shore of the river, near the spot where the father of "Grizzly Bear" is said to have lived, raised pumpkins and entertained the whites.
Here commences a low, rolling prairie that continued about fifty miles. The trail passed two Winnebago villages, one of which was called Yellow Thunder, from its chief. The Winnebago is the reverse of a Menominee. Tall in figure, haughty in his mien, proud of his nationality, and ever ready for war, he indulges in less drink and idleness than his neighbor, practices theft and murder, and repulses the advance of the white man. We had too often seen their treachery and duplicity, to be anxious to spend much time with them, and would have been quite willing that they had dispensed with following us out of the village on horseback.
75Though professedly friendly, they had acted as purveyors and spies to the Sauks and Foxes during the entire campaign. For this reason, they had been refused admittance into the forts at Green Bay and Winnebago, which apparently grieved them very much. But they only waited for a safe opportunity to appear as belligerents among Black Hawk's band, and if they had succeeded in entering Fort Winnebago, were to remain till an assault could be made from without, and join in the fight. The rations dealt out occasionally to friendly Indians, at the frontier posts by order of the government, were by them carried into the Sauk camp. Many of the murders charged to the latter, were actually committed by them, and particularly the catt1e and goods so frequently stolen from the settlers by supposed enemies, were in truth appropriated by these professed friends.
We arrived at Fort Winnebago late at night, having made one hundred and forty miles in two and a half days. Fifty miles of this day's travel lay in a rolling prairie, over which a two-horse carriage travelled in company, although no road had been constructed. Nothing occurred to hinder the progress of a vehicle except an occasional marsh. On the right of our track lay at irregular distances the Fox river, and "Opukwa" or Rice Lakes, which were distantly seen as we rose the swells of the country. The garrison is at the portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, on a handsome rise, overlooking the immediate valley of both streams. This valley is a meadow or swamp about half a mile across, over which the waters of both channels mingle in time of flood, floating boats from the valley of the Mississippi to the valley of the Lakes. Goods destined for posts on the Upper Mississippi from the east, are here carted across and committed to the current of the Wisconsin. This river has capacity for steamboat navigation, but is filled with moveable sand bars from the portage to its mouth.
From the fort there were travelled roads leading to the Mississippi at Prairie du Chien, or Fort Crawford, at the mouth of Fever River near Galena, and at other points. After two days rest, we
76took the route for Galena by way of the "Blue Mounds." At the distance of about fifteen-miles in a south-westerly direction, the traveller discovers that he has imperceptibly attained an elevation commanding the timbered valley of the Wisconsin, and from which the stockade and white houses of the garrison are distinctly visible. On the cast and north-east the Baribou hills rise out of the flat woodland and stretch away northwardly towards Lake Superior. He stands upon an eminence of five hundred feet, sloping gently down on all sides, covered with waving grass. On the east and south as far as the eye can distinguish, he perceives a succession of similar hills, their rounded summits ranging irregularly around, not a tree, nor a stone, nor any fixed object, to be seen in the whole prospect. In the spacious valleys that intervene, millions of small flowers mingle their bright colors with the green of the meadows, chastening and ruralizing the scene. An excitable person would exclaim at the sublimity of such a prospect, having the grandeur of a mountain without its loftiness, and the command of the sea without its monotony. A painter would pass from the grand outlines and dwell with delight upon the beauty of its details.
It was through such a country, varied by a few small lakes, that we spent this day. We started a plenty of grouse, and frequently saw the deer quietly feeding on, the hill sides, secure from our rifles in the distance. The sight of a prairie wolf was not an uncommon thing. This animal differs materially from the common wolf, being less in size, of a gray color, and wanting in speed. It feeds upon the mice and small animals of the low prairie, seldom assaulting the farm yard. He is less ferocious than the fox-tailed wolf, and may be soon overtaken with a fleet horse. Their uniform practice in regard to us, after running away at a moderate step a couple of hundred yards, was, to face about and examine the company. There were no Indians along the route. The Winnebagoes, following their established customs, had abandoned their allies after their defeat at the "Bad Axe" about four weeks previous, and were in pursuit of the fugitives who had made off northwardly during the engagement, towards the Sioux country.
At night we slept upon the ground occupied by a war-party of the Menominees a fortnight previous, on the banks of a clear little brook. The transparency of running water in the prairie districts, is a matter of general surprise. A glass of this liquid taken from Apple Creek, a stream about sixty links wide, which puts into the Mississippi from the east, twelve or fifteen miles below Galena, would not suffer by a comparison of its purity and clearness, with the water of Lake Huron. The war party had left a good supply of odd fire-brands and chunks, for the purposes of our cookery and evening comfort. They had beaten down the grass, making a smooth place for our blankets, upon which were deposited our bodies, after the Indian fashion.
This tribe, though not in a war-like mood, had become impatient of the delay attending the subjugation and punishment of their late murderous and ancient foes, the Sauks. They had collected their warriors at the Agency, three miles up the Fox river from Fort Howard, anxious to avenge themselves. Col. Stambaugh, the agent, had at length promised them, if the war was not ended by a certain date, that they might march under his direction to the Wisconsin and take part in the work of our troops. Their progress en route was about twenty miles a day, marching in a single file, which of course left a distinct trail upon the ground. Our own men made twenty-seven miles a day on foot over the same country. About sun-down the Indian soldiers would collect themselves at a convenient spot, generally near a thicket, and always near water. They build fires, and set up a row of posts or crotches in front, and lay poles from one to the other, as a protection against the enemy. After the evening meal, they frequently hold a dance about the leading chief, accompanied by a due proportion of songs, and threats against the foe. Then all compose themselves in perfect security about the fires, entrusting the guardianship of the camp to the watchfulness of their little dogs. Sentinels were sometimes persuaded to take post a few yards in advance; but they also betook themselves to their blankets, and slept till day-light.
It was now early in September, and everything conspired to nerve the system and animate the senses. The sky had not shown a cloud for many days; the air was cooled by an ever moving breeze; countless flowers shone in purple and gold about us, and wherever we chose to move, the ground was firm and smooth as a turnpike. A new and unmingled pleasure diffused itself through the company, of which even the animals seemed to partake.
The path wound around the northern shores of the Four Lakes, from which Gen. Dodge, with a band of mounted militia of the mining district, had lately driven the remnant of Black Hawk's force. The scattering trails of the retreating Indians were still distinct. Sometimes they would all converge into one broad and plain track, then again radiate in different directions, continually branching and spreading over the country, dwindling to a mere trace. This resulted from their method of travel, sometimes in a body, then in classes, these again subdivided, and so on, for the double purpose of deceiving their pursuers in regard to their true route, and also of dispersion and escape in case of attack. It proved one of the greatest annoyances and hindrances of the expedition. In the present instance, delay on the part of General Dodge became a matter of life and death. From April till the latter part of July, they had evaded the white forces. During this period, they had been driven but little over an hundred miles, that is, from the Sycamore Creek to the Four Lakes. Much of the time their exact position could not be known. They were now suffering by famine, and found it necessary to cross the Wisconsin into the timber country north of that stream, for subsistence. Probably there is not a known instance where attachment to a cause and to a leader has continued under circumstances of such discouragement. They were encumbered with women and children, and had been so closely watched for two months, that little opportunity occurred to fish or to hunt. They had lived upon roots, boiled grass, bark of trees, anything capable of sustaining life, before they would kill the horses upon which the squaws and papooses rode. They were now reduced to a state of utter
79starvation, with thirty miles of country to be traversed, and the whites had discovered their camp-fires the night previous across a small lake. If they could cross the Wisconsin before an attack was made, the fish of the stream would furnish them a meal, and the river itself a protection. The militia were in motion at day-light, and within a few miles of the forlorn band. Along the trail lay the bodies of famished men, women and children; some dead, others helpless and exhausted to the last degree by fatigue and hunger. These wretched and worn-out creatures, if still living, were bayonetted upon the spot. The exasperated frontierman now finding his victim within reach, imbibed the ferocity of his enemy, dealing instant death to every one that fell in his power. In fact, early in the season, Gen. Atkinson had found it necessary to place a guard over his Indian prisoners, in order to save their lives.
An instance is known of a decrepid old man, to whom a loaf of bread had been given, and he suffered to depart. He had not passed out of hearing, when he was dispatched by the bayonet, and his food distributed among the murderers. At a fight near the Mississippi, just previous to the final action at the Bad Axe, a fine young chief about fourteen years of age, was taken, with silver bracelets on his arm. The militia-man who captured him was only prevented from butchering him on the spot, by a threat from a lieutenant of the regular service, that his own life should instantly answer for that of the prisoner.
In such plight were the fugitives, and with, such a spirit, their pursuers were rapidly approaching. The foremost of the mounted men fell in with the scattered divisions, of the enemy about two miles from the river. The party attacked fought desperately. The mounted squaws, provided with rifles, joined in the engagement, and the main body succeeded in crossing, with the loss of about thirty. Their fate is well known.
On the second day we passed the foot of the Blue Mound. It is a high hill of regular ascent, overlooking the country, and serves as a beacon to the traveller thirty miles distant. At night we slept in a Block-House in the mining district. Within sight of the
80station, a newly made grave lay at the road-side in the midst of a solitary prairie. The person over whom it was raised had ventured too far from the house, and approached a thicket of bushes. Suddenly a band of concealed Indians sprang upon him, with the fatal whoop on their tongues; his scalp, heart, and most of his flesh, were soon stripped from the body, and a savage dance performed about the remains.
The country is still prairie, with scattering tufts of inferior timber. The huts of the miners had been deserted on account of the difficulties now terminated, and the business of making lead was about to re-commence. Occasionally a farm might be seen running out from an island of timber, and supplied with comfortable buildings. But most of the improvements were of a temporary nature, consisting of a lead furnace and the cabins adjacent. The process of reducing lead ore is very simple and rapid. The furnace is a face wall, about two feet thick, located upon a gentle slope of the ground, with an arch or passage through the center; on each side of the arched opening, and in the rear or up-hill side, two wing walls run out transversely to the face wall, between which the wood is laid. The ore is placed upon it, and a continual fire kept up. The lead gradually separates from the dross, and runs into a cavity in front of the arch.
The "Mining District" east of the Mississippi, must include ten thousand square miles. Galena or lead ore is found in veins or threads, more often in a square form, of various sizes, and running in all directions with the horizon. They are liable to disappear suddenly, to enlarge and diminish in size, to combine with other materials, rendering the operations of mining very uncertain. Their course is generally straight and not curved, seldom exceeding a foot in breadth. The analysis yields 85 to 90 per cent. of lead, of which the first smelting of the furnace extracts about 75 per cent. It requires skill and experience to discover the vein, but very little of either to work it when discovered. The limestone formation of Green Bay and Lake Michigan extends to this region, embracing copper ore at "Mineral Point," and at other
81places. At this time the government leased the ground to practical miners, who rendered a proportion of the product in kind. In consequence of the derangements of the times, although the supply was small, lead was then dull at three cents per pound. The supply appears to be inexhaustible. In one respect, this region differs from the mineral regions of other countries. There are but few veins that justify a pursuit to great depths, and although they are very numerous, the pits and trenches are easily filled up, and the rich soil left capable of cultivation. The great drawback upon the agricultural prospects of the Mining District, arises from the consumption of the little timber that grows there, in melting the lead. How long the presence of this mineral has been known, and its value understood, is not exactly known; but there are mines which were worked by the French, soon after they ascended the Mississippi. The Indians could scarcely have found use for it before the introduction of fire-arms among them.
Arriving at Galena, we found the place crowded with people. The mineral riches of the Dubuque country were well known, and it was expected that General Scott would secure the title to a considerable tract west of the river, including the richest mines. The negotiation was still pending at Rock Island relative to the purchase. Thousands of adventurers lined the eastern shore of the Mississippi, ready to seize upon the possession and pre-emption rights in the new territory the moment they became perfect. In this case as in many others, guards of soldiers were necessary to keep the whites from taking unlawful occupancy of Indian lands. It has become fashionable to abuse the government for its conduct towards the red man. My observation has, on the contrary led me to admire rather than to condemn the folly and practice of the Federal authority in this respect, believing, that in general, its magnanimity, kindness, and protection, demand the lasting gratitude of the Indian race. But with the frontier settler it is otherwise. The wrongs of the Indian are individual, not national offenses. When the pioneer crosses the boundary line agreed upon by the two people, through their proper agents, he is a trespasser, and his
82life taken within their jurisdiction is not cause of quarrel, if he persist in usurping occupation. We may admire his enterprise in pushing forward beyond the range of his fellow-men, but must condemn that morality which allows a forcible seizure and detainer of property to be right. Parties of men, such as locators and surveyors on Indian ground, may be considered beyond the protection of the government, and if killed while persisting in maintaining possession, contrary to the will of the owners, their loss is not the subject of retaliation. But beyond the lines mutually established, the red man ought not to push his revenge, and the early massacres within the acknowledged limits of our jurisdiction, made it a duty in the government to preserve the integrity of its territory. Murders committed by whites upon Indians, either in their own country or otherwise, have been the crying enormities resulting from the contact of civilization with barbarism. If it can be shown that our authorities could have prevented these individual outrages of its citizens, it will then be connected with the primitive encroachments of one race upon the other. That it should enforce agreements and cessions, entered into in good faith, and retain territory acquired by just war, can scarcely be considered a national sin. Is the government of the United States in fault because the Aborigine is unable to secure his own territory against individual intrusion?---or because, in his thirst for whiskey and baubles, he chooses to barter his patrimony for a drink or a bread? The intelligent Indian himself draws a distinction between the official act of the nation, and the unauthorized proceedings of traders and speculators. On the part of the former, they have to acknowledge that they have been permitted to occupy grounds long after they had agreed to depart; that their dissatisfaction with compacts was not shown till after the presents were received, and sometimes not until after payment had been made; that the compensation has been faithfully tendered, and implements, schools, and artisans provided free of expense. They would be forced to admit, that gratuities and presents, above the stipulated price, have been bestowed to purchase peace, and to obtain the
83fulfillment of their previous engagements; and to acknowledge, that after the receipt of the increase, they still forced the United States to war to obtain what they had bargained and paid for.
The fate of the Indian cannot fail to raise a deep sympathy in the mind. But to maintain that it is not the duty of the government to secure, by all upright means, the title to those lands, is equivalent to the proposition that the earth was designed to produce game, and not the bread of life, to sustain but one human being upon a square mile capable of maintaining one hundred.
The case of the Sauks and Foxes has been recently quoted, as a strong instance of the injustice practised by the American nation, upon Indian tribes. The assault upon Black Hawk at the Sycamore Creek, was the act of frontier men under arms; and if acting under any authority, derived the same from the Executive of Illinois. It was the result of a border feeling, which permits the destruction of an Indian upon the same principle that it does the wolf. No murders had been perpetrated upon the whites, or other acts committed that called for summary punishment. The attack was a rash and unprovoked affair. But it is equally true, that the party assailed were in force in a country they had ceded to the United States, and had agreed to abandon. After this transaction, General Atkinson, who commanded the regular troops assembled upon the Mississippi, made every effort, to induce them to return peaceably, and confine themselves to the territory allotted them, and accepted as their home. Their prompt refusal left no alternative. The generalship of their chief prolonged the contest five months, without any offers of surrender on the part of Black Hawk and his brave band. They resisted until starvation and force compelled them to do that which had been urged upon them from the outset, to retreat towards the Mississippi. When at last overtaken upon its banks, reduced in numbers, emaciated by hunger, worn down by incessant toil, they still fought with their little remaining strength, till their force was either killed or captured. It is also to be recollected, that this band had always been among our opponents in war, when an opportunity
84occurred; always attached to the British interests, and received British presents. They were taken as prisoners by military force, arms in hand, fighting to the last, and breathing vengeance in the prison after their capture. Under such circumstances, what rights were left this people, as a tribe or nation. Their miraculous attachment to their chief, and to each other; their wonderful endurance under hardships and privation; boldness, skill and bravery in fight, must command our admiration. But their political rights, which might have been retained by complying with the offered terms, were lost by resistance and conquest.
The treatment of Black Hawk and other prisoners, has often been matter of animadversion. Of all the men, women and children captured by our regular troops, only eighteen were put in confinement. These constituted the influential men of the tribe, who never flagged in their efforts against the government. Black Hawk, it is true, from motives of prudence, being well cognizant of our power, was in favor of peace. He was also an Indian who had a sense of honor, as well as policy; a man in whom those who knew him confided. But he had exerted all his influence and skill against us in the campaign just closed; and however patriotic towards his own people, he was decidedly a dangerous enemy of ours. Wisheet, one of the chiefs in confinement, continued to fire his rifle from behind a few logs, till he was secured and sent to the rear; and his only regret, during confinement, seemed to be that he had not been able to kill more whites. The enmity of the Prophet is well known. Nahpope, the ruling chief, was only second to Wisheet in his fury against the white man, and always counseled for resistance. The two sons of Black Hawk were perhaps less harmless in the forests than in the cities, but their detention ensured the good conduct of the father and tribe. With the exception of Black Hawk, they spent their time at Jefferson Barracks, with a ball and chain on one leg--a precaution, the necessity of which was never doubted by those acquainted with the circumstances. That personage, fond of multiplying his wrongs, has charged us with loading chains upon him during his detention
85upon the Mississippi. I am unable to say in what condition he was brought from the Sioux country, when he was taken to Jefferson Barracks, where he was lodged in the guard-house with his confederates. But late in the period of his confinement at that post, he had not been shackled, as I was informed by those on duty at the time, having faith in his pledged word not to escape. Four of the eighteen were transported to Fortress Monroe, from which they were soon liberated, and escorted to their homes, where they met their fellow prisoners, and such of their brethren and sisters, as had survived the war. Their band was merged in that of Keokuk, and their nationality forever gone. There remained, however, life, hunting-grounds, and annuities, as before.
Galena lies about seven miles east of the Mississippi, on the north side of Fever river, up which stream boats come to town in high water. Block houses against Indians were standing on the heights overlooking the place, which may have contained 2,000 inhabitants. It had all the business air of an old place, though sadly deficient in cleanliness and comfort. The quiet of its people was again most completely destroyed by the appearance of the Asiatic cholera, the night previous to our arrival; and the first victim, a young lady, was borne along the street on a bier, as we entered.