The Home of Black Hawk.
The western boundary of the state of Illinois is formed by the Mississippi river. The course of this river past, and for many miles above, the city of Rock Island is southwest. Just below the city Rock river enters the Mississippi. The course of Rock river is also southwest, but at such an angle as to bring it into conjunction with the larger stream at the point named. In the Mississippi, three and one-half miles northeast from the mouth of Rock river, is the island of Rock Island -- the present site of the extensive United States government works known as the Rock Island Arsenal. On the north bank of Rock river, a mile east from its mouth, was located for many years (perhaps a hundred) preceding its destruction in 1831 by the Illinois militia, the large Indian town of Saukenuk. The date of the founding of this town is undetermined. Black Hawk, the Sauk chief, in his autobiography, puts it as far back as 1731. Others put it as late as 1783 -- the approximate date of the abandonment by
306the Sauks of their village on the Wisconsin river, which Augustin Grignon found deserted in 1795, but which Jonathan Carver, the English traveller, had found inhabited in 1766.
The founders of the town -- the Sauk Indians -- were an Algonquin tribe, inhabitants originally, along with other tribes, of the region about Montreal, Canada; extremely warlike in disposition, and possessing a history abounding in incidents both romantic and terrible. As early as 1720, according to Charlevoix, the pioneer historian of New France, they occupied the territory bordering upon Green Bay in what is now the state of Wisconsin; their village being on the Fox river thirty-seven miles above the bay, at the place afterwards called the little Butte des Morts. Here, it was one of their practices to demand tribute from the Indian traders as the latter passed up the Fox river on their Wisconsin portage, pillaging, maltreating, and even killing any who should make bold to deny them. Enraged at this a daring French trader and captain, LaPerriere Marin by name, resolved to put a stop to it. Waiting till the ice was sufficiently out of Fox river, in the spring of 1730, to permit the passage of boats, Capt. Marin ascended the stream with eight or ten Mackinaw craft filled with soldiers and Menomonee Indian allies. When within a mile of the Sauk village, he landed his boats, disembarked the Menomonees and half of his soldiers, and ordered them to gain the rear of the Sauks. The remainder of the party disposed themselves in the bottoms of a few of the boats, beneath the canvas covers with which it was customary to protect the lading from the weather, and the expedition proceeded. As the boats came opposite the village, only Marin and the usual number of voyageurs were in sight. The shore was crowded with the dusky forms of the Indian warriors, women and children, who had gathered to receive the anticipated gift of goods and whiskey. Nothing could have been less sinister than the aspect of the boats. On they came, the clear tones of the voyageurs rising in the familiar boat song:
"Tous les printemps,
Tant de nouvelles,
tous les amants
Changent de maitresses.
Le bon vin m' endort:
L'amour me reveille"
"Skootay wawbo! Skootay wawbo!" [fire water] yelled the Indians. "Fire!" cried Marin; and immediately the canvas coverings were thrown aside and the
307Indians smitten by a volley from more than a hundred rifles. Hearing the attack in front, the party which had been sent to cut off flight to the rear also attacked, and in a very short time the entire population of the village was destroyed, and the village itself reduced to ashes.
Prostrated by this and other disasters inflicted on their nation by the French,
"It is a large town and contains about three hundred families. The houses are well built, after the Indian manner, and pleasantly situated on a very rich soil from which they [the inhabitants] raise every necessary of life in great abundance. This town is the great mart where all the adjacent tribes, and even those who inhabit the most remote branches of the Mississippi, annually assemble, about the latter end of May, bringing with them their furs to dispose of to the traders."
The town of Saukenuk was a much larger and much more important centre of Indian population than was Prairie du Chien. Its site was one of the most beautiful in the Mississippi valley. Northwest of it was the Mississippi, dotted with islands, foremost among which was Rock Island, abounding in fruits and birds, and presided over by a local divinity dwelling in a great cave at its north-west extremity. Immediately south and at one side of the town ran Rock river, a less imposing stream than the Father of Waters, but of silvery clearness, and broken by rippling shallows and gentle falls -- a stream making always a pleasant noise in the ears of the dusky wanderers along its banks.
308The general configuration of the town of Saukenuk was that of a right-angled triangle of unequal sides; the shorter side lying parallel with Rock river and extending down the river from the vertex of the right angle; the longer side extending north toward the Mississippi. It was defended by a brush palisade with gates for entrance. The lodges of the Indians were rectangular houses, from thirty to one hundred feet in length by from sixteen to forty feet in width. They were made by placing a covering or sheeting of elm bark over a frame work of poles, the bark being fastened to the poles by buckskin thongs. A doorway, three feet in width by six in height, was left in the two ends of each lodge, before which was usually suspended a skin of the buffalo. The interior was broken into compartments on either side of a hallway extending from end to end of the structure. At intervals, down the middle of this hallway, were fire pits, provision being made for the escape of the smoke from the fires by openings left in the roof directly over the pits. The compartments were used as sleeping rooms, the couch consisting of skins thrown over an elevated framework of elastic poles.
Aside from warring with the Sioux, the chief occupation of the Sauks was agriculture. They cultivated some eight hundred acres of the land adjacent to their village, raising thereon good crops of corn, beans and pumpkins. For an Indian town, the population of Saukenuk was very large -- Governor Ford, in his history of Illinois, estimating it at from six to seven thousand, while other estimates put it at not less than ten thousand persons. Wrote Major Thomas Forsyth, of the United States army, to Governor Clark, of Missouri, in
3091817: "Indeed I have seen many Indian villages, but I never saw such a large one or such a populous one. They (the Sauks) appear stationary there, and their old lodges are repaired and some new ones built and others building." Here, in this savage London or Paris, was the centre of the Sauk national life, its gaieties and its serious deliberations.
On the level ground west of the town might frequently have been seen, in the early summer time and autumn, hundreds of brawny Indians engaged in their favorite sports of horse racing and ball playing. In either case the play was for stakes, and these always high -- two or three horses, a fine rifle or war club. Their game of ball, which Black Hawk mentions as very popular, was played in this wise: A tall post was erected at either extremity of the play ground, and the players divided into rival parties. The object of each was to defend its own post and drive the ball to that of its adversary. "Hundreds of lithe and agile figures" says Parkman, describing this game as played by the Sauks and Ojibways near Michillimackinac in June, 1763, "are leaping and bounding upon the plain; each is nearly naked, his loose black hair flying in the wind; and each bears in his hand a bat of a form peculiar to this game. At one moment the whole are crowded together, a dense throng of combatants, all struggling for the ball; at the next they are scattered again, and running over the ground like hounds in full cry; each in his excitement yells and shouts at the height of his voice. Rushing and striking, tripping their adversaries or hurling them to the ground, they pursue the animating contest." Or, if our attention be directed to the town itself on the proper occasion, we may behold the great national dance of the Sauks. The large open square with which
310the town is provided is swept clean. The chiefs and old warriors take seats on mats which have been spread on the upper end of the square. Next come the drummers and singers; the braves and women gather on the sides. The drums beat and the singing commences. A warrior enters the square, keeping time to the music. He describes the way in which a war party was formed, the enemy approached, the tomahawk buried in the brain, of a victim, or his scalp torn from his head. The women loudly applaud, while the young men who have never killed any enemy stand back ashamed. Another warrior then steps forward and recounts his exploits, until all have done so, and a veritable frenzy of excitement seizes upon the assembly.
At a distance of half a mile east of the site of the Indian town rises the bold promontory known as Black Hawk's Watch-Tower. Rock river flows at its base, -- two hundred sheer feet from the apex in which the promontory culminates. Of this place Black Hawk himself says in his autobiography: "This tower, to which my name has been applied, was a favorite resort, and was frequently visited by me alone, where I could sit and smoke my pipe and look with wonder and pleasure at the grand scenes that were presented by the sun's rays even across the mighty water (the Mississippi). On one occasion a Frenchman, who had been making his home in our village, brought his violin with him to the tower to play and dance for the amusement of our people who had assembled there, and while dancing with his back to the cliff, accidentally fell over and was killed by the fall. The Indians say that always, at the same time of the year, soft strains of the violin can be heard near the spot."
The two most remarkable individuals (and they were truly remarkable) at any time born in Saukenuk were Black Hawk and Keokuk, both war chiefs of the Sauks. The date of the birth of Black Hawk or, as the name is in the Sauk tongue, Makataimeshekiakiak, is given in the autobiography as 1767, If this date be accepted, the conclusion is inevitable that the Sauks must have removed from the Wisconsin to the Rock river region immediately after the visit to them of Carver in 1766. But there are those who, governed by statements made by Black Hawk some years after the publication of his autobiography, fix the date of his birth as 1775. This later date approximates that already named (to wit, 1783) as the possible time at which Saukenuk was founded.
In respect to personal character, Black Hawk was a man of marked strength and nobility. A savage by birth, he was yet singularly without the instincts of the savage. Although polygamy was practiced by his people, he never had but one wife. He realized the peculiarly demoralizing effect of intoxicants upon the Indian, and rarely, if ever, could be induced to depart from his rule of abstinence. He respected the helpless women and children of an enemy, and showed clemency even to male captives. A striking instance of his clemency to such a captive, is related by the scout, Elijah Kilbourn. In the war of 1812, Kilbourn was attached to the American
311army. Black Hawk and a band of Sauk warriors were serving in the ranks of the British. After the repulse of the British and Indians at Fort Stephenson in August, 1813, Black Hawk became disgusted with the ill fortune just then attending the British arms and took summary leave for Rock river. Kilbourn with a party was sent by the Americans to follow him. The pursuit was continued until the party becoming confused by a multiplicity of trails, and being in the midst of Indian settlements, was forced to break up, each man looking out for his own safety. Suddenly, on emerging from a thicket one day, Kilbourn saw at a distance an Indian on his hands and knees slaking his thirst at a spring. Instinctively the scout leveled his rifle and pulled the trigger. The flint was shivered against the pan, but the priming failed to ignite. By this time the Indian had recovered himself and was leveling his rifle at the scout. He did not fire, however, but advanced upon Kilbourn and made him prisoner. Being ordered to march ahead of his captor, Kilbourn soon found himself in an Indian camp. Here, gaining a closer look, he recognized his captor as none other than Black Hawk himself. "The white mole digs deep, but Makataimeshekiakiak flies high and can see far off," said Black Hawk to the scout. After some words to his band, Black Hawk informed Kilbourn that he had decided to adopt him into the Sauk tribe. Accordingly, he was taken to Saukenuk, dressed and painted and formally received into the Sauk fellowship. Constantly watchful for a chance to escape, at length, after three years, he found it and regained civilization. But this was not all -- nor, had it been all, would it have been perhaps so very remarkable; for an Indian has not infrequently been known to spare a captive, through caprice, and adopt him as a brother. What followed Kilbourn's escape, however, is remarkable. During the Black Hawk war of 1832, he was again a scout in the service of the government, and was captured by Black Hawk at the battle (so called) of Stillman's Run. He nerved himself for the torture which he felt certain must now await him. Nor was he reassured in the least when Black Hawk, passing close to him, said in a low tone, "Does the mole think that Black Hawk forgets?" But, just before sunset of the day of his capture,
312Black Hawk again came to him, loosed the cords that bound him to a tree and conducted him far into the forest. Pausing, the Indian said, "I am going to send you back to your chief, though I ought to kill you for running away a long time ago, after I had adopted you as a son; but Black Hawk can forgive as well as fight."
The cause of Black Hawk's friendship for the British, as against the Americans, is plain; the British were careful to keep all their engagements with the Indians, while the Americans were not. The British Indian department was officered by men of long experience in Indian affairs, and proved a most potent instrumentality for enlisting the Indians on the side of the British whenever occasion required. In contrast to this, the American Indian department was largely in the hands of men who had never seen an Indian until they met him in the difficult and delicate relations of Indian agent. When, therefore, on the breaking out of the war of 1812, Col. Robert Dickson of the British Indian department sent word to the Sauks at Rock river to meet him at Green Bay, preparatory to moving against the Americans, they complied with alacrity. Black Hawk personally participated in the fight at the River Raisen, near Maiden, on January 22d, 1813, where he interposed to keep his warriors from joining in the massacre of American prisoners which was going on. Later, on May 5th, he was at the siege of Fort Meigs; and finally, on August 2d, took a hand in the attack on Fort Stephenson. Many years ago, a writer in the Baltimore American, to whose credibility the editor of the paper bore testimony, stated that Black Hawk had told him that he had also fought in the battle of the Thames. "During a residence of several years in what is now the territory of Iowa," says this writer, "I had many opportunities of seeing and conversing with Black Hawk . . . In the course of our talk, I asked him if he was with Tecumseh when he was killed. ‘I was,’ said Black Hawk, ‘and I will now tell you all, about it.’" Then follows a circumstantial narrative of the battle, ending in these words:
"At the first discharge of their [Americans'] guns, I saw Tecumseh stagger forwards over a fallen tree near which he was standing, letting his rifle drop at his feet. As soon as the Indians discovered he was killed, a sudden fear came over them, and, fearing that the Great Spirit was displeased, they fought no longer."
Besides the foregoing, W. Henry Starr, Esq., of Burlington, Iowa Territory, wrote as follows, on March 21st, 1839:
"In the autumn of 1838, Black Hawk was at the house of an Indian trader in the vicinity of Burlington, when I became acquainted and frequently conversed with him in broken English, and through the medium of gestures and pantomime . . . On one occasion, I mentioned Tecumseh to him, and he expressed the greatest joy that I had heard of him; and, pointing away to
the east and making a feint as if aiming a gun, said: ‘Chemokaman [white man] nesso [kill]’; from which I have no doubt of his being personally acquainted with Tecumseh; and I have been since informed, on good authority, that he was in the battle of the Thames and in several other engagements with that distinguished chief."
These would seem to be strong evidences that Black Hawk did not sever his connection with the British army until October, 1813, when the battle of the Thames was fought. Nevertheless, in the autobiography, it is explicitly stated by Black Hawk that he and twenty of his warriors quietly left the British camp immediately after the repulse at Fort Stephenson. If this were not the fact, it is hard to understand why it is stated so to be in the autobiography, which in essentials is a trustworthy recital.
The occurrence which caused the name of Black Hawk to become universally known in America was the Black Hawk War of 1832.
On June 30th, a formal engagement was entered into, between Black Hawk and General Gaines and Governor Reynolds, that the Sauk and Fox nations should at all times thereafter reside and hunt on the west side of the Mississippi river, and not return to the east side without the express consent of the president of the United States or of the governor of Illinois. This engagement Black Hawk failed to keep. Just what actuated him most in breaking it is perhaps not clear, but among the motives at work stand out prominently an unconquerable love for the place of his birth and a desire there to spend the declining years of his life. Viewed from his standpoint, the Rock river country had never rightfully passed from the control of the Sauks; it was the scene of the chief events in the life of that nation since their expulsion from Wisconsin; nature, moreover, had made it very beautiful. In returning to it, to reclaim it, if possible, -- that is, if the Winnebagoes and the Pottawattomies should join him, and the British render efficient aid, as he believed they would, -- Black Hawk showed himself inspired in no small degree by the same spirit of patriotism that in ancient
314days made a hero of Epaminondas, and in modern days of Washington.
The re-appearance of the Sauks on Rock river produced, it is needless to say, a great commotion. Again the militia were called out, and the regulars, this time under command of General Atkinson, re-enforced Fort Armstrong. Many murders were committed by Indians in different parts of Illinois; almost all of them, however, by the cowardly Winnebagoes, -- none by Black Hawk's band. But there were no considerable accessions to the invading force, which at the start numbered only about two hundred partially armed braves and warriors. Beginning at length to realize the futility of the attempt he was making, Black Hawk sent a flag of truce to Major Stillman, who was in command of the advance guard of the militia, and who with his men was at this time (May 15th, 1832) encamped near a small stream since known everywhere as Stillman's Run. The bearers of this flag were taken into custody by some of Stillman's men, and soon after a general rush was made by the whole command upon a small party of Black Hawk's warriors that was descried in the distance. Having succeeded
Ai nan-ni ta co-si-ya-quai, na-katch ai she-ke she-he-nack, hai-me-ka-ti ya-quai ke-she-he-nack, ken-e-chawe-he-ke kai-pec-kien a-cob, ai-we-ne-she we-he-yen; ne-wai-ta-sa-mak ke-kosh-pe kai-a-poi qui-wat. No-ta-wach-pai pai-ke se-na-moh nan-ni-yoo, ai-ke-kai na-o-pen. Ki-me-to sai-ne-ni-wen, ne-ta-to-ta ken ai mo-he-man ta-ta-que, ne-me-to-sai-ne-ne-wen.
Nin-a-kai-ka poi-pon-ni chi-cha-yen, kai-ka-ya ha-ma-we pa-she-to-he-yen. Kai-na-ya kai-nen-ne-naip, he-nok ki-nok ke-cha-kai-ya, pai-no-yen ne-ket-te-sim-mak o-ke-te-wak ke-o-che, me-ka ti-ya-qnois na-kach mai-quoi, a-que-qui pa-che-qui ke-kan-ni ta-men-nin. Ke-to-ta we-yen, a-qne-ka-ni-co-te she-tai-hai yen, nen, chai-cha-me-co kai-ke-me-se ai we-ke ken-ne-ta-mo-wat ken-na-wa-ha-o ma-co-qua-yeai-quoi. Ken-wen-na ak-che-man wen-ni-ta-hai ke-men-ne to-ta-we-yeu, ke-kog-hai ke-ta-shi ke-kai na-we-yen, he-na-cha wai-che-we to-mo-nan, ai pe-che-qua-chi mo-pen ma-me-co, mai-che-we-ta na-mo-nan, ne-ya-we-nan qui-a-ha-wa pe-ta-kek, a que-year tak-pa-she-qui a-to-ta-mo-wat, chi-ye-tuk he-ne cha-wai-chi he-ni-nan ke-o-chi-ta mow-ta-swee-pai che-qua-que.
He-ni-cha-hai poi-kai-nen na-na-so-si-yen, ai o-sa-ke-we-yen, ke-pe-me-kai-mi-kat hai-nen hac-yai na-na-co-si-peu, nen-a-kai-ne co-ten ne-ca-ten ne-ka chi-a-quoi ne-me-cok me-to-sai ne-ne wak-kai ne-we-yen-nen, kai-shai ma-ni-to-ke ka-to-me-nak ke-wa-sai-he co-wai mi-a-me ka-chi-pai-ko-tai-hear-pe kai-cee wa-wa-kia he-pe ha-pe-nach-he-cha, na-na-ke-na-way ni-taain ai we-pa-he-wea to-to-na ca, ke-to-ta-we-yeak, he-nok, mia-ni ai she-ke-ta ma-ke-si-yen, nen-a-kai na-co-ten ne-ca-he-nen e-ta-quois, wa-toi-na-ka che-ma-ke-ken na-ta-cae tai-hai-kea ai mo-co-man ye-we-yeu ke-to-towe. E-nok ma-ni-hai she-ka-ta-ma ka-si-yen, wen-e-cha-hai nai-ne-mak, mai-ko-ten ke ka-cha ma-men-na-tuk we-yowe, keu-ke-nok ai she-me ma-na-ni ta-men-ke-yowe.
Ma-taus-we Ki-sis, 1833.
Dedication of Black Hawk's Autobiography as suggested to Black Hawk, and rendered in the Sauk tongue by Antoina Le Claire.
in killing two of these, the militiamen pushed forward till, falling into an ambuscade hastily set them by Black Hawk himself, they were put to wild ignominious fight. The story is told by Governor Ford, in his History of Illinois, that in Stillman's command was a member of the legal profession just returned from riding the circuit. He had with him a pair of saddle-bags containing a change of under-garments and several law books. These fell into the hands of the Indians, and the learned barrister used to relate with much vexation that Black Hawk "had decked himself out in his finery, appearing in the wild woods, amongst his savage companions, dressed in a ruffled shirt drawn over his deer-skin leggins, with a volume of ‘Chitty's Pleadings’ under each arm."
The fight at Stillman's Run was followed by others, notably those of Peckatonica Creek and Wisconsin Heights, both very disastrous to the Indians; until, finally, their whole force was scattered, killed or captured at the battle of Bad Axe. Black Hawk, together with his old friend, Winneshiek, the prophet, fled to the Big Dells, Wisconsin, where, in August, 1832, he was discovered by the Winnebago chiefs, Chaeter and the One-Eyed De Caury, and taken to General Street at Prairie du Chien. From Prairie du Chien, he was sent to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. After some months spent there in confinement, he was taken east, with a number of other Indians (among them Keokuk), and shown the great cities and wonderful resources of the American people. He made a second visit to the east in 1837, and died, in October, 1838, at his lodge on the Iowa river, near Iowaville, to which locality he had removed shortly after his return from his first visit to the east.
It was just after this first eastern visit, that Black Hawk prepared and dictated his autobiography -- by far his greatest achievement of any kind, and destined to make not merely his name, but his thoughts and his feelings, known to distant times. It reveals him as possessed of lofty instincts; a man of action, but still more a man of observation and reflection; a savage rising superior to the plane of savage existence, yet illustrating and illuminating the ways of civilization by bringing them to the test of primitive standards. It is, moreover, thoroughly unique -- the only true autobiography of an Indian extant. The manner of its production and publication is interesting. Black Hawk, having conceived the idea of putting in writing the reasons for his course in returning to Rock river, after the expulsion of his tribe in 1831, made it known to Antoine Le Claire, the United States Indian interpreter at Rock Island. Le Claire engaged the services of a young printer, J. B. Patterson by name, as amanuensis, and the task was begun; -- Black Hawk dictating to Le Claire, Le Claire translating to Patterson, and Patterson committing to paper. After the whole was finished, Le Claire read it all carefully over to Black Hawk, to make sure of its accuracy. It was then officially certified to by Le Claire and printed by Patterson, the original edition being in small, crude volumes bound in covers of common pasteboard. Le Claire was until 1861, when he died, a highly respected resident of Davenport, Iowa, and Patterson has in the last year (1891) died, at an advanced age, in Oquawka, Illinois, where he has long lived and where he has ever been known as a man of the strictest honor. There can, therefore, be no doubt of the authenticity of the record which these men were the means of placing before the public. Besides, the internal evidence of authenticity is convincing. Says William J. Snelling (a son of Colonel Snelling of the United States Army, after whom Fort Snelling, Minnesota, was named), in the North American Review for January, 1835:
"That this [Black Hawk's Autobiography], is the bona fide work of Black Hawk, we have the respectable testimony of Antoine Le Claire, the government interpreter for the Sacs and Foxes, and what (as we have not the honor of being acquainted with that gentleman) we deem more conclusive, the intrinsic evidence of the work itself. We will venture to affirm (and, having long dwelt among the aborigines, we conceive ourselves entitled to do so) that no one but a Sac Indian could have written or dictated such a composition. No white man, however great his ability may be, could have executed a work so thoroughly and truly Indian."
In the autobiography, Black Hawk expresses opinions upon many subjects, -- among them, marriage, land ownership, rotation in office, the savage as contrasted with the civilized mode of warfare, the American Indian establishment, the colonization of the negroes. As to land ownership, he was a precursor of Henry George, saying:
"My reason teaches me that land cannot be sold. The Great Spirit gave it to his children to live upon and cultivate, as far as necessary for their subsistence, and so long as they occupy and cultivate it they have a right to the soil, but if they voluntarily leave it then any other people have a right to settle on it. Nothing can be sold but such things as can be carried away."
His conclusion on politics, as he had seen the game manipulated, was that --
"The white people seem never to be satisfied. When they get a good father, they hold councils at the suggestion of some bad, ambitious man, who wants the place himself, and conclude among themselves that this man, or some other equally ambitious, would make a better father than they have, and nine times out of ten they don't get as good a one again." "He would recommend," he said, "to his Great Father (the President) the propriety of breaking up the present Indian establishment (under which new and inexperienced men were constantly sent to deal with the Indians) and creating a new one; making the commanding officers at the different frontier posts the agents of the government for the different nations of Indians."
In this recommendation, which is quite as apropos to-day as when made by Black Hawk in 1833, most disinterested persons will heartily concur. On the then absorbing question of negro slavery, his views were unique.
"I find," he says, "that a number of states admit no slaves, whilst the remainder hold the negroes as slaves and are anxious, but do not know how, to get clear of them. I will now give my plan, which when understood I hope will be adopted. Let the free states remove all the negroes within their limits to the slave states; then let our Great Father buy all the female negroes in the slave states between the ages of twelve and twenty, and sell them to the people of the free states for a term of years, -- say, those under fifteen until they are twenty-one, and those of and over fifteen for five years; and continue to buy all the females in the slave states as soon as they arrive at the age of twelve, and take them to the free states and dispose of them in the same way as the first; and it will not be long before the country is clear of the black skins, about whom, I am told, they have been talking for a long time, and for whom they have expended a large amount of money. I have no doubt but our Great Father would do his part in accomplishing this object for his children, as he could not lose much by it, and would make them all happy. If the free states did not want them all for servants, we would take the remainder in our nation to help our women make corn."
When in New York, he had witnessed a balloon ascension, and, concerning this, remarks:
"We had seen many wonderful sights . . . large villages, the great national road over the mountains, the rail-road, steam carriages, ships, steamboats, and many other things; but we were now about to witness a sight more surprising than any of these. We were told that a man was going up in the air in a balloon. We watched with anxiety to see if this could be true; and, to our utter astonishment, saw him ascend in the air until the eye could no longer perceive him. Our people were all surprised, and one of our young men asked the prophet [Winneshiek] if he was going up to see the Great Spirit."
He and his party were also treated to a display of fire-works at Castle Garden, on which he makes the shrewd yet characteristically Indian comment that "it was an agreeable entertainment, but to the whites who witnessed it less magnificent than would have been the sight of one of our large prairies when on fire." The American women whom he met treated him handsomely, giving him small presents, and he condescends to say of them that they were "very kind, very good, and very pretty -- for pale faces."
Black Hawk's defense of his course in the Black Hawk war constitutes the principal part of the autobiography, and is plausible, -- in many respects just. The line of it has already been intimated, however, and more is not necessary here.
Next to Black Hawk, Keokuk is the leading figure among the Sauks. He was younger than Black Hawk, having been born about 1788, and was descended, on his mother's side, it is said, from the noted Captain Marin.
317word came that the Sauks must remove from the Rock river, he promptly obeyed and sought a new abode on the Iowa. For his compliance in this and other things, he was recognized by the United States government as head chief of his nation, a proceeding which gave mortal offence to Black Hawk.
Of Keokuk's wit a striking instance has been preserved. It seems that on one occasion after the removal of the Sauks west of the Mississippi, they were summoned to a conference with the Mormons at Nauvoo, Illinois, by Joe Smith, the Mormon prophet. The object of the wily old prophet in seeking the conference was to persuade the Indians into relinquishing to him certain lands which he coveted for the church. He accordingly prepared with great care the plea which he should make to them. At the appointed time, Keokuk and the prophet, each in his best attire and attended by an imposing retinue, met in the Mormon temple. In concluding his address, the prophet said that it had been divinely communicated to him that the Indian tribes of North America were the lost tribes of the House of Israel. He had, moreover, been commissioned from on high to assemble such of them as were near him and to remove them from where they were to a new land, -- a land flowing with milk and honey. To this Keokuk listened very attentively, and after a respectful interval rose with much dignity to reply. As to whether or not the American Indians were the lost tribes spoken of by the prophet he said he would not attempt to determine. This, however, he would say: of milk his people were not fond, -- they much preferred water; and as for honey, it was to be had in ample quantities in the land they then occupied. Could not the prophet enter more fully into particulars? Did the government, in this land to which he desired the Indians to move, pay large annuities? and was there a plentiful supply of whiskey? The conference, it need hardly be told, came to an abrupt termination.
Keokuk's most remarkable gift was his eloquence. This, according to all contemporary accounts, was in the highest degree stirring and effective. It brought him into great prominence both among the Indians and in councils between them and the Americans. When Black Hawk was inciting Keokuk's band to return with him to Illinois and join his own braves in the struggle they were about to make to re-possess the ancient home of the Sauks, the eloquence and address of Keokuk were put to a severe test. He knew that the attempt must end in disaster, but the passions of his followers were aroused and were difficult to allay. His first words to them, therefore, were of sympathy with their alleged wrongs. He told them that they had been unjustly treated, and were hence entitled to revenge. He even offered to lead them against their foe, "but," said he,
"upon this condition: that we first put our wives and children and our aged men gently to sleep in that slumber which knows no waking this side the spirit land . . . for we go upon the long trail which has no turn."
At the conclusion of his address, the desire of his young men for war was considerably abated.
After the surrender of Black Hawk, in August, 1832, a treaty was entered into between the Sauks and the United States, whereby the latter acquired the whole of eastern Iowa. This treaty was negotiated on the part of the United States by Gen. Winfield Scott, and provided, at the request of the Indians,
"that there should be granted to Antoine Le Claire, interpreter, a part Indian, one section of land opposite Rock Island,
and one section at the head of the first rapids above said Island, within the country ceded by the Sauks and Foxes."
At the negotiation of the treaty, Keokuk was the principal speaker on the part of the Indians. His death occurred in the State of Kansas, whither the remnant of his tribe was ultimately removed. It was comparatively ignoble, being the result of too strong potations.
Incidentally, mention has already been made of the island of Rock Island, which is situated in the Mississippi river, not far from the site once occupied by Saukenuk. This island is noteworthy on two
318accounts: its natural beauty and its romantic history. Its extreme length is two and seven-eighths miles, and its extreme width four-fifths of a mile. Its area is eight hundred acres, and originally it was covered by a dense growth of the oak, black-walnut, elm and basswood. Its substructure is rock, and it stands twenty feet above the highest freshets. In the eyes of the Indians, it was not only a spot of surpassing loveliness, but was invested with a certain sacred charm. Says Black Hawk:
"It was our garden, like the white people have near their big villages, which supplied us with strawberries, blackberries, gooseberries, plums, apples and nuts of different kinds. Being situated at the foot of the rapids, its waters supplied us with the finest fish. In my early life, I spent many happy days on this island. A good spirit had charge of it, which lived in a cave in the rocks immediately under the place where the fort now stands. This guardian spirit has often been seen by our people. It was white, with large wings like a swan's, but ten times larger. We were particular not to make much noise in that part of the island which it inhabited, for fear of disturbing it. But the noise at the fort has since driven it away, and no doubt a bad spirit has taken its place."
Rock Island made its first considerable appearance in history as far back as the war of 1812. At that time the whole Northwest was practically a dense wilderness. There were trading settlements of log huts and wigwams at Detroit and Michillimackinac, in what is now the state of Michigan, and at Green Bay, Prairie du Chien and Milwaukee, in what is now the state of Wisconsin. Fort Madison had been built and abandoned within the present limits of Iowa, and a few primitive abodes marked the present site of Chicago, Illinois. On the lower Mississippi were the old French posts, Kaskaskia, Cahokia and St. Louis. The inhabitants of these various places were fur traders and Canadian voyageurs, the latter a most interesting and picturesque class, improvident and light hearted to a degree, spending the winter in hard labor, on a diet of corn and tallow, and lounging through the summer. Among the traders was a very remarkable man -- one who exerted the greatest influence over the Sauk and Fox tribes. This man was Colonel Robert Dickson. He was an Englishman, who had come to America in 1790 to traffic with the Indians, sacrificing to this end a good social connection and the comforts of civilization.
In the spring of 1814, Governor William Clark of Missouri sent an expedition to take possession of Prairie du Chien and erect a fort there. The fort was placed on a small elevation back of the settlement, mounted with six cannons and garrisoned by a force of seventy men under Lieutenant Joseph Perkins. It was named Fort Shelby. Suddenly, on July 17th, there appeared before it a motley force of British traders' clerks and Indians, six hundred and fifty in all, from Michillimackinac, under Lieutenant Colonel William McKay; and, after a spirited interchange of cannon balls, the fort capitulated. Meanwhile, under the direction of General Benjamin Howard, of the United States army, an expedition was fitting out at St. Louis to re-enforce the garrison at Fort Shelby. This expedition, consisting of three barges carrying a force of regular troops and rangers, under the command of Captain John Campbell, of the 1st United States Infantry, started for Prairie du Chien on July 18th, ignorant, of course, of the fact that Fort Shelby had capitulated the day before. All went well until Rock Island was reached. Here the boats cast anchor for the night. The Indians swarmed about them in great numbers, making loud professions of friendship, but quietly signifying to the French boatmen in charge that they desired them to abandon their American comrades and return down the river. This the Indians did by seizing the hands of the Frenchmen and gently pulling them in a down stream direction. It was evident that the Indians meant to attack the boats, but did not wish to injure their old-time friends, the French.
319Rector and Lieutenant Riggs, respectively, of the other two. The wind had risen and become so fierce that, just above Rock Island, Campbell's boat was driven on a large island near the mainland, ever since known as Campbell's Island. Sentinels were placed, and the men debarked and began cooking their breakfast. But in a moment the Indians, in hundreds, were upon them, delivering a deadly fire. Many were killed and wounded. Those who were unharmed took refuge in the boat. Among the wounded was Campbell himself. To add to the peril of the situation, the boat took fire. Black Hawk, who commanded the Indians in the attack, explains that this was due to fire arrows prepared by himself and shot by him against the sail.
In the meantime, the other two barges, which had drawn far ahead of that commanded by Campbell, had succeeded with the greatest difficulty in returning to his aid. Rector's men, who were good sailors, first lightened their boat by casting overboard a large quantity of provisions, and then, leaping into the water on the side furthest from the Indians, pushed it broadside on against the burning boat of Campbell. The unharmed and the wounded were quickly transferred to Rector's boat, which, having been got back into the stream, was rowed night and day until it reached St. Louis. The boat of Riggs was outwardly in the possession of the Indians for some hours, but, being well fortified, the Indians were unable to injure those within it, and finally withdrew. It then followed Rector's boat down the river.
The rough handling which Campbell's expedition had received at the hands of the Sauk and Fox tribes naturally excited much resentment at St. Louis, and early in September an expedition was started for their villages to soundly chastise them, and also to establish a fort on Rock Island. In this instance, the expedition consisted of three hundred and thirty-four officers and men, in several large barges armed with cannon, and was in command of Major Zachary Taylor, of the regular service. But the Indians had kept the British at Fort Shelby (now Fort McKay) informed of the approach of the Americans, and a warm reception had been prepared for them. Capt. Thos. G. Anderson, to whom the command of the fort had been turned over after its capture, had sent down to Rock Island a detachment of thirty men with three pieces of artillery. The artillery had been planted on the west side of the island near the foot of the rapids, it being supposed that Taylor's expedition was for the recapture of the fort at Prairie du Chien and must, therefore, pass up the narrow channel between the island and what is now the Iowa shore. But when the boats came to anchor (as they did by stress of the wind) some distance below the foot of Rock Island, the guns had to be dragged to a position further down stream. This, however, was successfully done, and on the morning of Sept. 6th, 1814, a brisk and well directed fire was opened, which after a short time so riddled the barges that they were obliged to drop down stream out of range. A council of war was then called by Taylor, and it being the unanimous opinion that the enemy was too strong to be overcome by the force at hand, the whole expedition set sail for Fort Madison, where it landed, and where Major Taylor wrote to General Howard his official report of what had transpired. It was the least glorious contest in which the future hero of Buena Vista and Monterey was destined to be engaged.
Finally, nearly two years after the conclusion of peace with Great Britain, the United States government was able to place Rock Island under military control. In May, 1816, Gen. Thos. A. Smith landed at the island without opposition, left the 8th United States Infantry, under Colonel Lawrence, with orders to erect a fort, and himself pushed on to establish a post (now Fort Snelling) near the Falls of St. Anthony. Selecting the extreme northwest point of the island, Colonel Lawrence laid off a rectangular space, four hundred feet each way, and surrounded it by walls of hewn timber resting upon a substructure of stone. At the northeast, southeast, and southwest angles, he caused block houses to be built, and these he provided with cannon. On the interior, against one side of the square,
320were erected the soldiers' barracks. They were of hewn timber, the roofs being made to slope inward, that it might be difficult for the Indians to set them on fire. When completed, the work was christened Fort Armstrong, in honor of the then Secretary of War. Coming suddenly into the view of the lonely voyager up the Mississippi, its whitewashed walls and towers appeared, it has been said, not unlike the outworks of one of "those enchanted castles in an uninhabited desert so well described in the Arabian Nights Entertainments."
Fort Armstrong (long since demolished) was never subjected to the ordeal of an Indian attack, but only narrowly escaped it on two occasions. The first was not long after its erection. One day, while most of the men were at some distance from the walls felling trees, a party of warriors headed by Nekalequot landed on the north side of the island and asked permission to dance in front of the commandant's headquarters. About the same time, another party of warriors, headed by Keokuk, was discovered approaching the fort from the south side of the island. Suspecting treachery, the Colonel immediately had the recall sounded for the men and the cannon run out. The Indians were then ordered to disperse, which they did with some precipitation.
With Colonel Lawrence, there came to Rock Island, as contractor for supplies for the post, a very striking character -- Col. Geo. Davenport. Colonel Davenport was a native of England, had been first a sailor and then a soldier, in the latter capacity having served on the American side in the war of 1812. He built a house on the island near the fort, and engaged in trade with the Indians. In time he became very popular with them, and was freely consulted by them. Black Hawk especially reposed great confidence in him, and makes frequent reference to him in the autobiography. It was perhaps due to his presence on the island that the second projected attack upon the fort was not made. However that may be, in April, 1832, Black Hawk, having recrossed the Mississippi to the Illinois shore, came up opposite the island with his two hundred warriors at early evening and, after meditatively surveying it for some time, crossed to it at one of the fords. The fort was feebly garrisoned at the time, and crowded with panic stricken settlers; as also was the stockade with which Colonel Davenport had surrounded the log store and dwelling built by him in 1818, one half mile northeast of the fort But the Indians did nothing, and by dawn a steamboat had arrived from Jefferson Barracks, bringing a reinforcement to the fort. On July 4, 1845, Colonel Davenport was murdered in his house (a later and more pretentious structure than that of 1818) by a band of outlaws, during the absence of his family at a picnic gathering. The object of the miscreants was money, but they got little. Since then this house has been abandoned, and now stands a picturesque ruin on the banks of the Mississippi.
With the incident last related, the history of Rock Island ceases to be romantic. In 1862, the United States government passed an act establishing there a national arsenal. The work was begun by General Rodman, and was continued under his able successor, Gen. D. W. Flagler. Ten immense shops of stone have been erected, and when all is completed it is estimated that from this arsenal alone can be armed, equipped and supplied an army of 750,000 men. Nor have the aesthetic possibilities of the island been lost sight of. It is still, as it was in the days of Black Hawk, a charmed spot. Its woodland has been left largely intact, and the phebe, the oriole, the cuckoo, and a host of other birds flit among the branches; while beneath, from one's too intrusive feet, scud away, the pheasant, the rabbit and the squirrel. It is intersected by quiet and secluded drives and walks, and abounds in dim loitering places. But its greatest charm is that with which it forever has been invested by the words and deeds of the noted chieftain, now, like Hiawatha, departed
"To the Islands of the Blessed,
To the land of the Hereafter."
Brines so much that's new,
All the fickle lovers
Changing sweethearts, too.
The good wine soothes and gives me rest,
While love inspires and fills my breast.