Black Hawk's War
April 5 - August 2, 1832




Sunday, June 24. Skirmish at Apple River Fort.
At Galena, Col. Strode sends a four-man express (George Hercleroad, Frederick Dixon, Edmund Welch, and a youth named Kirkpatrick) with dispatches to General Atkinson, then at Dixon's Ferry. The express arrives at Apple River Fort around Noon, and finds the fort's garrison consisting of some thirteen men under Captain Clack Stone (the rest of the company being absent on detached service.) The women of the post are scattered along the Apple River gathering gooseberries. The express pauses to pass the news from Galena and starts on.

Some 300 yards east of the fort, the express is fired on by a large party of Sauk warriors personally led by Black Hawk. Welch is shot in the thigh and dismounted, but he is saved when his companions ride to the rescue. The men race for the fort (which has been alerted by the firing), but the fort occupants close the gates, leaving Dixon outside. Dixon mounts his horse and rides for the nearby timber, then heads for the cabin of John McDonald. Finding McDonald's homestead full of Sauk Indians, he escapes again. Following the margin of the Apple River and travelling all night, Dixon finally reaches Galena. There, he gives word of the attack to Col. Strode, who organizes a relief column.

In the meantime, the garrison of the fort battles to repel a 150-strong Sauk war-party. Lacking water, the settlers unload a wagonload of meat and lead and prepare for a siege. Initially fearful of the odds against them, Mrs. Elizabeth Armstrong rallies the men and women of the settlement. She organizes the women into two "squads," one to mould bullets, the other to reload the muskets as they are discharged. The fighting lasts for about 45 minutes before the Sauk give up and content themselves with raiding the cabins of the settlement. The casualties consisted of George Hercelroad, shot through the neck and killed when he exposes himself over the stockade wall, and James Nutting, wounded in the head.

As night falls, the youthful Kirkpatrick resolves to ride to Galena for help-- which he does, despite the remonstrance of the people at Apple River Fort. Riding through the night, he meets Col. Strode the next morning, himself riding at the head of the relief column from Galena.

General Atkinson orders his army in pursuit of Black Hawk and his British Band. His army consists of some 400 regulars and 2,600 mounted volunteer militia; many of the militia are disabled by sickness and exposure.

In the "Mineral District," Col. Dodge and a detachment from the companies of Daniel Morgan Parkinson and James H. Gentry arrive at Mound Fort and recover the body of Lieutenant Force. Piloted by Bouchard, Dodge pursues the Indian war party to the headwaters of Sugar River, only to find that the party has scattered. The column then returns to Mound Fort.

Thursday, June 28.
General Winfield Scott departs Fortress Monroe, Virginia aboard steamers Henry Clay, Superior, Sheldon Thompson, and William Penn, at the head on nine companies of Regular Infantry and Artillery.

Friday, June 29. Boxley and Thompson Murders near Jones' Fort, Sinsinawa Mound.
Three men hoeing corn near Sinsinawa Mound are surprised by a small party of Indians, which show up between the farmers and their guns. Two of the three, James Boxley and John Thompson are murdered and savagely mutilated; the third runs for cover at the stone blockhouse of George Wallace Jones. When news of the massacre reaches Galena (some ten miles away) Captain Stephenson summons thirty men from his ranger company and starts out in pursuit of the raiding party. The chase ends at the banks of the Mississippi, which the party evidently crossed. Stephenson then turns his men back towards Galena.

Dodge issues orders for the militia to rendezvous at Fort Hamilton, in order to join Atkinson somewhere near Lake Koshkonong Eventually, word of the dual murder at Sinsinawa Mound reaches George Wallace Jones. He leaves Dodge's volunteers in order to look after his French laborers and slaves at the Mound.

Saturday, June 30.
Gen. Atkinson leads his combined army of militia and Regular infantry into the Michigan Territory at Turtle Creek (present-day Beloit, Wisconsin.)

Dodge's "Michigan Mounted Volunteers" rendezvous at Fort Hamilton, mustering some 200 effectives. A brigade of Illinois volunteers is encamped here, and a coming election for commander pits Dodge against Gen. Alexander Posey of Illinois. Dodge spars briefly with Col. Hamilton over a dispute regarding orders, even going so far as to suggest a duel. The election for brigade command favors Posey over Dodge.

Sunday, July 1.
Black Hawk leads his band of followers from the swamps surrounding Lake Koshkonong and heads north, following the general course of the Rock River. Elsewhere, Atkinson camps along Storrs Lake, east of present-day Milton, in Rock County.

Col. Dodge marches his squadron east towards the Pecatonica River and the battleground of June 16. Eventually, Dodge will move his troops by way of the Sugar River Diggings to near the first of the Four Lakes, where he is joined by White Crow and his band. Form there, the squadron heads through almost impassable swamps to the mouth of the Whitewater River.

Monday, July 2.
Atkinson's army camps on Otter Creek, in present-day northern Rock County.

Thursday, July 5.
Gen. Atkinson's army enters the "Trembling Lands" near Lake Koshkonong.

Friday, July 6.
Col. Dodge's "Michigan Mounted Volunteers" arrive at the mouth of the Whitewater River, and the supposed location of Black Hawk and his band. Here, an express arrives from General Atkinson. He orders Dodge and his squadron to join the main army on the Bark River. Dodge, certain he is close to finding the trail of the British Band, chafes under the order, but marches as instructed.

Saturday, July 7.
Encamped along the Bark River, General Atkinson finally receives Secretary Lewis Cass' communication of June 16, indicating that President Jackson has removed him from command, and replaced him with Maj. Gen. Scott. Governor Reynolds meets with his staff in his tent to discuss whether or not to give up the pursuit of Black Hawk. Atkinson puts his troops into motion at 9 a.m. They struggle north along the Bark River, amid swamps and bogs near present-day Coldspring, Wisconsin.

Monday, July 9.
Atkinson's army camps on the Rock River at "Burnt Village," a small Winnebago village burned out long before the start of the present conflict.

Tuesday, July 10.
General Atkinson sends Brig. Generals John D. Henry and Milton K. Alexander to Fort Winnebago for rations. In order to save food, Atkinson musters out many of his militia. Units like Captain Jacob Early's spy company, including Abraham Lincoln, are released from further service. Overnight, Lincoln's horse is reportedly stolen. He and companion George Harrison are forced to head south on foot. They travel by canoe and foot hundreds of miles to New Salem, Illinois.

General Winfield Scott's troops, aboard steamers Henry Clay, Superior, Sheldon Thompson, and William Penn, arrive at Fort Dearborn, Chicago. Some of the enlisted men are showing signs of Asiatic cholera.

Wednesday, July 11.
General Atkinson's troops leave Burnt Village and follow the Bark to its confluence with the Rock River. Here, Atkinson directs Dodge to have his men construct a fort, which Dodge refuses to do. Instead, Atkinson sends Dodge and his squadron to Fort Winnebago for 12 days provisions, while the Regulars begin construction on a stockade known as Fort Koshkonong. That evening, Colonel Dodge and his mounted troops arrive at Fort Winnebago after a sixty mile forced ride. His men and horses are exhausted; many of his soldiers are without mounts.

Thursday, July 12.
During the night, hundreds of militia horse stampede at Fort Winnebago. At dawn, a massive roundup begins. Some horses are found some 30 miles away. Over 100 horses are never found, while others are killed or injured. Troop movements are delayed two full days. Captain Stephenson's company of Galena Rangers arrives at Fort Winnebago and rejoins Dodge's squadron. This raises Dodge's command to about 120 effectives.

Sunday, July 15.
General Alexander's pack train moves out of Fort Winnebago, traveling southwesterly towards Fort Koshkonong. Leaving in a due east direction, towards the Rock River Rapids, is the column under General Henry and Colonel Dodge. Henry and Dodge's column is led by Pierre Paquette, local trader and interpreter, and twelve Winnebago scouts, including the White Pawnee.

Monday, July 16.
Thirty-six wagons loaded with provisions arrive from Blue Mounds. Likewise, a pack train lead by Captain Gideon Low and his Company D, 5th U. S. Infantry arrives at Fort Koshkonong. From Captain Low, Atkinson learns that General Henry and Col. Dodge have moved towards the Rock River Rapids in search of the trail of Black Hawk and his band.

In Atkinson's camp, two Frenchmen arrive with an express from Fort Dearborn. General Atkinson reads Scott's dispatch:

I have the worst news to give you. Four companies of artillery arrived here, with me, the night before last, & out of about 190 men, 80 have been infected with Asiatic cholera. Twenty odd have already died... & we shall lose many more. In short the well men are only sufficient to attend the sick & bury the dead. ...From the foregoing you will perceive that it would be that it would be improper to detach any portion of your mounted force to meet me.

Scott informs Atkinson that he has hastened a schooner laden with rations to Fort Howard, with orders to transport the supplies to Fort Winnebago. Scott concludes: "Again it is my greatest grief that I am not likely to be able to cooperate, effectively, with you."

Tuesday, July 17.
At around 2 p.m. General Alexander's pack train arrives in Atkinson's camp. Atkinson reports to Winfield Scott that Fort Koshkonong is completed. He sends the express back to Fort Dearborn by the two Frenchmen. At 2 p.m. the temperature hits 86 degrees.

Wednesday, July 18. The militia finds the trail of Black Hawk's band.
After riding in 90 degree heat, Gen. Henry's and Col. Dodge's men camp at the Rock River Rapids (present-day site of Koch's Mill, Hustisford, Wisconsin.) Here, they learn from the inhabitants of a small Winnebago village that Black Hawk's band is camped on Cranberry Lake [today's Horicon Marsh]- a half-day's ride. Elated with the news, Henry and Dodge decide to ride to Cranberry Lake at daylight and send an express to Atkinson, informing the commander of the news. Two volunteers-- Lieut. Elias H. Merryman of Col. James Collins' Fourth Regiment, and Lieut. William W. Woodbridge of Dodge's Michigan Mounted Volunteers-- are led by Little Thunder (a Winnebago guide that does not speak English) and start on the 30 mile ride to Fort Koshkonong. In the meantime, Henry and Dodge post double camp guards and double picket guards against possible night attack.

Seven miles south of the Rapids, the express party finds a very large and very fresh trail. Little Thunder indicates with signs that this is Black Hawk's Trail. Merryman and Woodbridge want to press on to Atkinson... but Little Thunder tells them via signs that they will all be killed if they follow the trail, then wheels his horse and canters north in the direction of the Rapids. Without their guide, the militia officers have no chance of finding Atkinson. Their only choice is to follow Little Thunder. The trio ride into the Rock River Camp after dark at a full gallop. A nervous sentry fires his musket at the returning party, and narrowly misses Woodbridge. Merryman and Woodbridge tell Henry and Dodge their news: the trail of the Indians has been found! Dodge and Henry determine to follow the trail at daybreak.

Thursday, July 19.
Leaving five supply wagons, tents, and other baggage behind, Henry and Dodge's mounted troops ride southwest through scrub willow, vines, dense underbrush and swampland. After 12 miles, the trail of Black Hawk is found and the soldiers follow the trail with growing enthusiasm. The trail consisted of one main track and two flanking trails. By afternoon, the command is hampered by a drenching downpour. The troops, following the Indian's trail, wade the Crawfish River near Aztalan on horseback and continue south and west. The volunteers make camp on the trail near Rock Lake (at present-day Lake Mills.)

Gen. Atkinson appoints Captain Gideon Low as commander of Fort Koshkonong. He then sends White Crow and his Winnebago guides forward in the advance of his army. Atkinson decamps Col. Zachary Taylor's Regulars and Gen. Alexander's volunteer brigade and pushes his troops ten miles up the Bark River. That night, the soldiers are deluged by a violent thunderstorm. The horses panic, then stampede, "rushing over wagons, tents, and men."

Friday, July 20.
Dodge and Henry's troops eat a breakfast of raw bacon and dough. The troops discharge their muskets, load with fresh cartridges, mount their horses and take up the pursuit. Soon, the guides find a Winnebago Indian on the trail and take him prisoner.

Expecting either attack or ambush, General Henry deploys his force and rides hard, reaching the Four Lakes region at sundown.

Two expresses from Henry and Dodge arrive at Atkinson's headquarters. One, from General Henry dated July 19, informs Atkinson that the militia has found the main trail of the British Band. The letters also contain information that Black Hawk's band are stripping the bark of trees and diggings roots and tubers for food- illustrating to Atkinson the rapidly deteriorating nature of the Sauk and Fox people.

Atkinson orders his army to return to Fort Koshkonong, where it encamps for the night.

Saturday, July 21. Battle of Wisconsin Heights.
Dawn breaks over the militia camp of Henry and Dodge. After a meager breakfast, the men saddle their horses and take up the pursuit through the Four Lakes region. After a movement of about five miles, Dr. Addison Philleo, surgeon of the Michigan Mounted Volunteers and Galena newspaper editor, returns from the advance guard to report he has seen and scalped an Indian. Philleo tells the story of the elderly Sauk being shot, and Philleo himself scalping the Sauk with his own knife.

Following ever freshening signs of the Saul/Fox retreat, Dr. Philleo and the advance guard come upon two more Indians, left behind by the fast-moving band. Philleo and a Mr. Sample Journey shoot and kill both. However, one "in the act of falling after he was shot, fired, and shot three balls into a gentleman who was himself in the act of shooting at him." The soldier hit is Private Isham Hardin of Captain Benjamin Clark's Company, Col. Dodge's squadron.

At around 3 p.m., the British Band rear-guard makes two feigned attacks. The militia advance guard quickly forms, then the Indians mount and ride off, further delaying the militia. Col. Dodge reports that the rear-guard of the Indians "showed themselves frequently on the surrounding hills to divert our attention, our spies met with three and pursued them within a mile of their camp, our men were pursued in turn by the enemy on horseback."

Finally, Dodge's spy company locates scouts of what must be the main body of Black Hawk's followers. Black Hawk personally leads 50 of his Sauk warriors against the militia's advance guard. Dodge repels this attack, then forms his companies along with Major Ewing’s Spy Battalion. Musket and rifle fire crackle in the chilly, humid air.

Black Hawk himself, mounted on a white horse, leaves the immediate direction of the fighting to lesser warriors and rides to the top of a prominent peak behind his line of warriors. After about a half-hour, General Henry’s battalions straggle into line and open fire against the Indians on the nearby Heights. The action continues for some twenty minutes. Wet grass and humid conditions slows the rate of fire from both sides. Dodge writes:

After consulting Genl Henry we determined to charge the enemy . . . . we dislodged him from his position & drove him down the height into the high grass in the swamp. Our fire was so heavy he soon gave way . . . . the enemy then gave way in every direction retreating to the river. The Winnebagoes scalped eleven Indians killed by the whites, and the whites took thirteen scalps last night--eight were found today and three were killed in the chase. The enemy were seen to carry a number from the field during the action, so that the numbers killed cannot fall short of forty (perhaps more) many were wounded but the number is not known.

The casualties included one killed, Private Thomas Jefferson Short, of Captain Josiah Brigg's Company, Col. Gabriel Jones' Third Regiment, and seven wounded.

Losses sustained by Black Hawk's warriors remain unclear. Dodge consistently reports some 30 to 40 killed, based on scalps taken by Pierre Pauquette and his Winnebagos, and the militia. In his autobiography, Black Hawk claims only six warriors killed.

The battle sputters out around 7 p.m. Dodge consults with Gen. Henry, and the pair decides not to pursue the fleeing Indians to the heavily wooded bank of the river. His troops return to the battleground and Winnebago scouts move among the Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo dead, scalping as they go. Seeing his task done, Pierre Paquette and the scouts depart after dark and return to Fort Winnebago. The remaining soldiers bivouac on the sodden ground. Henry determines take up the chase in the morning.

From Fort Koshkonong, General Atkinson directs Col. Taylor and Gen. Alexander to march their commands in the direction of Mound Fort. The movement is conducted in the midst of a heavy rain, which continues all day and all night.

Sunday, July 22.
At dawn, "the troops were paraded and put in battle order on foot, except Colonel Fry's regiment, and took up the line of march to the river; leaving Col. Collins' regiment to guard the horses and baggage and take care of the wounded" according to Wakefield. A scout by General Henry's troops reveals that the British Band has slipped across the Wisconsin by night. Girded trees, large piles of camp equipage, and ground soaked with the pooling blood of the wounded mark the crossing points. Dodge writes:

We marched from our position to the river early in the day, and found he had crossed the river, he had left his camp in much hurry & confusion, from the appearance of the trees, bark canoes had been prepared for the purpose of crossing the Wisconsin when they might arrive there with the main body.

General Henry and Colonel Dodge allow their men a day of rest on the battlefield, and take the opportunity to bury Thomas Short. The men kindle fires and dry their clothes, "which then had been wet for several days." The patrol returns, and reports smoke issuing from the opposite side of the river.

Wakefield writes:

We continued this day on the battle ground, and prepared litters for the wounded to be carried on. We spent this day in a more cheerful manner than we had done any other day since we had been on the campaign. We felt a little satisfaction with our toils, and thought that we had no doubt destroyed a number of the very same monsters that had so lately been imbruing their hands with the blood of our fair sex--the helpless mother and unoffending infant. Late in the evening, some of our men, who had been out to see if there were any signs of the Indians still remaining near us, returned, and stated that they saw smoke across the river.

Gen. Henry prepares his camp carefully against surprise attack. Large sentry fires are kindled forty yards from the bivouac line, and a strong picket line established. There is a horse stampede.

About an hour and a half before dawn, an Indian voice is heard from the mountain from where Black Hawk directed the action of two days ago. General Henry parades in order of battle, in front of the tents, and woods up the campfires. He then addresses his men (here as substantially remembered by Wakefield):

My brave soldiers, now is the critical and trying moment; hear your enemy on the same mountain from which you drove them only on the evening before last, giving orders for a charge upon you: there is no doubt but that they have mustered all their strength at this time: now let every mother's son be at his post. Yes my brave soldiers, you have stemmed the torrent of every opposition; you have stopped not for rivers, swamps, and one might say impenetrable forests; suffered through the beating storm of night, amidst the sharpest peals of thunder, and when the heavens appeared a plane of lightening. My brave boys, hear their yells; let them not daunt you; remember the glory you have won on the evening before last; be not now the tarnishers of your reputation, that you are so justly entitled to: remember that they are a set of demons, who have lately been taking the lives of your helpless and unoffending neighbors. Stand firm my brave Suckers until you can see the whites of their eyes, before you discharge your muskets, and then meet them with a charge, as you have before done, and that too with great success.

The voice speaks in Winnebago, yet few if any can interpret the meaning, since Paquette the interpreter is gone. A couple of soldiers approach General Henry, certain that they know enough Winnebago to hear that the voice is pleading for the safe escape of the Indians. Henry brushes such talk aside. He orders his command paraded and gives the men a stirring speech. The voice continues until just before dawn, when it stops. The soldiers stand in line of battle until daybreak.

Elsewhere, Atkinson's troops crossed the ford below Lake Koshkonong, near present-day Indainford, Rock County, Wisconsin and continue until they stop to make camp eight miles south of the "river of the Four Lakes"

Monday, July 23. Henry and Dodge march to Mound Fort.
General Henry orders his exhausted command to break camp. Litters are prepared for the transport of the wounded. The column winds its way south through rugged terrain and numerous streams south toward Mound Fort, near Brigham's Diggings (the Blue Mounds are a prominent landmark in the region.) The exhausted men push their mounts some twenty-five miles to the fort, where they arrive around 7 p.m. An express is waiting for Henry and Dodge. It is from Gen. Posey, who has marched from Fort Hamilton to Helena, where he intends to build rafts for his wagons once General Atkinson arrives.

Atkinson breaks his camp and marches toward the Blue Mounds to within two miles of the Davitt settlement.

Tuesday, July 24.
Realizing there are rations enough only for Gen. Henry's men, Dodge orders his companies to disperse to their respective forts. He tells his officers to be ready to rendezvous at Helena upon the arrival of Gen. Atkinson and the main army. Dodge rides to Fort Union, where he arrives later in the day.

That morning, Atkinson receives expresses from Henry and Dodge, informing him of the engagement at Wisconsin Heights. Both officers claim between 30 and 40 Sauk killed. Atkinson's troops arrive at Mound Fort by evening.

Wednesday, July 25.
Atkinson orders Taylor's Regulars, along with the brigades of Alexander and Henry, to march west some sixteen miles towards the Wisconsin River. The army camps on a large creek some three miles from the settlement of Helena.

Thursday, July 26.
The army moves three miles to Helena, near the Wisconsin River. There, Atkinson links up with General Posey's brigade, already engaged in raft building. The building materials come from the hand-hewn timber homes of the abandoned Helena settlement.

Friday, July 27. Atkinson crosses the Wisconsin River.
Atkinson begins to raft his Regular Infantry and three brigades of volunteers across the Wisconsin River. Col. Dodge arrives with six companies of his Michigan Mounted Volunteers. While the crossing is in progress, Atkinson drafts numerous letters and correspondence, including "Order No. 65," which reports "the result of the action between the Volunteer troops under Genls. Henry & Dodge, and the enemy on the evening of the 21st inst. ..." Atkinson announces "the thanks of the Comdg. Genl are due to all, which he offers with much gratification."

Saturday, July 28. Atkinson completes the crossing of the Wisconsin River.
Atkinson's army completes the crossing of the Wisconsin River, which has taken longer than planned due to the small size of the rafts constructed by Posey's men. By Noon, about 400 regulars and 900 mounted volunteers march upriver along the north bank. Their destination is the ground opposite the battlefield of Wisconsin Height-- where General Atkinson expects to pick up the trail of Black Hawk's band. Spirits are low-- Black Hawk and his followers have nearly a week's head start. But when the lead elements find the Indian's trail after only five miles, morale soars. The column turns west, covers twelve more miles, then halts and camps for the night.

Monday, July 30. Starting early, the mounted volunteers ride north, bridge a small creek, and after about three miles come across Black Hawk's abandoned camp. The evidence on the ground shows that the hungry Sauk and Fox are killing their horses to eat. Atkinson's advance scouts discover the bodies of members of the band marked with gunshot wounds. Other corpses show signs of starvation. Some eleven dead are recorded, along with trail litter consisting of kettles, traps, blankets, and mats. The trail signs become more fresh as the cohesion of the retreat disintegrates. Atkinson's march continues for some fifteen more miles before he calls a halt for the night.

At Prairie du Chien, Captain Loomis charters the new steamboat Warrior.He orders Lieutenant and Quartermaster James W. Kinsbury to take charge of a detachment of fifteen soldiers and five volunteers, load a six pounder cannon and ammunition on board, and steam north on the Mississippi to the village of the Sioux chief Wa-ba-shaw. Kingsbury is to inform Wa-ba-shaw that the "Sacs and Foxes were flying before the Americans and were expected to cross the Mississippi into their Country, which we hoped to prevent." The goal is to enlist the influential Wa-ba-shaw to bring warriors south on the west side of the Mississippi to prevent the escape of Black Hawk's followers should they cross the river. Captain Joseph Throckmorton commands Warrior, which he pilots the 120 miles north on the Mississippi River to Wa-ba-shaw's village.

Tuesday, July 31.
Atkinson's army moves northwest through mountainous country, with little forage for the horses. After a march of some fifteen miles, the troops halt within six miles of the Kickapoo River.

Wednesday, August 1. The “Warrior” Incident.
By morning, Black Hawk and the Prophet reach the east bank of the Mississippi some two miles south of the confluence of the Bad Axe River, having been guided by Winnebago relatives from the Prophet's own family. Black Hawk holds a council, and advises the 500 or so surviving followers to head north along the river and find refuge among the Winnebago. Few are willing to do this, preferring to raft across the Mississippi and return to the villages of Keokuk. The people immediately begin to construct rafts.

Atkinson takes up the chase early in the morning. The scouts find several more dead from the British Band lying along the trail, along with dead horses, consumed by the starving Indians. By 9 a.m., his troops cross the Kickapoo River at a shallow ford. They then find plentiful prairie grasses, and turn their horses out to graze for several hours (at present-day Soldier Grove, Wisconsin.) By one o'clock, the volunteers resume the saddle and take up the chase at a quicker pace. By sunset, Atkinson's men arrive at Black Hawk's camp, just abandoned that morning. The fires still smolder. Amid the site, a dead warrior is found within a log and bark bier. Having died from a gunshot wound, the body was placed in a sitting position against a tree, his arms folded and his body painted red. The volunteers are deeply impressed by the sight.

Further on, men of Captain Dickson's Spy Company come upon an old Sauk Indian by the side of the trail, so weak from hunger he cannot stand. Speaking in English, he tells Dickson that Black Hawk is at the Mississippi River, and intends to cross the next morning. After providing the location of the nearest water, the militiamen hesitate, and try to decide what to do with him. Rather than let him starve, they reason, it would be better to kill him. They shoot the elderly Indian to death (near a pond one-mile northeast of present-day Retreat, Wisconsin.) The main body of Black Hawk's band is less than ten miles away.

At around 4 p.m., Warrior steams south on its return leg to Prairie du Chien. Someone on board spots the Sauk and Fox on the shore constructing rafts. Throckmorton brings the boat closer, and drops anchor. Black Hawk tell his warriors not to shoot, "as I intended going on board, so that we might save our women and children, I knew the captain... and was determined to give myself up to him." He sends for his white flag, and then makes signs for a parley to the troops on board Warrior. With his white flag in hand, Black Hawk calls out to the boat "I am Black Hawk-and I wish to come and shake hands with you" then tells the women on shore "don't run-I will save you and the children by going on board and giving myself up." The men on the boat call to the Sauks, saying if they were Winnebago to send two persons to board Warrior. From the steamer, the Sauk and Fox appear to delay and appear to be making signs for the soldiers to land instead. Shortly, the soldiers aboard Warrior see some 150 unarmed Indians on shore, but behind them "the movements of some in the rear, who could be seen preparing their guns & selecting trees to cover them" cause the troops to suspect a trick. The soldier's interpreter is asked to call out and inquire if they are Sauks or Winnebago. Upon hearing they are Sauks, Lt. Kingsbury orders the six pounder loaded with canister and fired. A voice from the boat calls out to "run and hide; the whites are going to shoot!" The cannon is fired, and is followed by a volley of musketry from Warrior, "which [is] instantaneously returned by the Indians from above & below, along the shore, when the boat was anchored." The cannon is fired twice more, killing or wounding some 25 of Black Hawk's band, while aboard Warrior, one soldier was wounded in the leg. More than fifty lead balls hit the steamer. Throckmorton calls off the battle at around 6 p.m., when he realizes he is running out of firewood for his boiler. He raises anchor and steams south to Prairie du Chien, while the Indian people seeks shelter in the woods.

That evening, Black Hawk advises the council that he is heading to the Chippewa country and will depart that night. Before he leaves, he devises a strategy to draw off Atkinson's troops to the north, allowing the remainder of the band to escape across the river. Twenty picked warrior are sent to a meadow east of the camp to await the arrival of Atkinson. Only three lodges accompany Black Hawk north; the rest will attempt to cross the Mississippi or wait until morning to cross. Wee-sheet later recalls: "None of us liked the Prophet and Black Hawk leaving us as they did. We said, 'now they have brought us to ruin, and lost us our women and children, they have run to save their own lives.'"

General Atkinson orders a halt at 8 p.m. (The camp located at the latter-day Hunt Farm, Section 3 of Township 11 North, Range 6 East, 4th Meridian.) He then sends an express to Captain Loomis at Fort Crawford, requesting that he send the steamboat up river with 60 barrels of flour, 30 barrels of pork, a six-pounder cannon with a "sufficient quantity of fixed ammunition" and 5,000 rounds of musket cartridges. William Deviese, a veteran of the Battle of Bloody Pond (Pecatonica) and John Marsh, take the message to Prairie du Chien. Atkinson is not aware of the recent exchange of fire between Black Hawk's band and Warrior.

Gen. Atkinson directs his troops to hold themselves in readiness for a march at 2 a.m. Unfortunately, Generals Henry and Alexander do not receive the word. Instead they allow their troops to unsaddle and turn their horses out to graze.

Thursday, August 2. Battle of the Mississippi (Bad Axe.)
At 2 a.m. the bugle sounds in Atkinson's Camp. The march is delayed for Henry's and Alexander's brigades until it is light enough for them to recover their horses and saddle them. The order of battle, Dodge's Michigan Mounted Volunteers in front, followed by the Regulars, then Generals Henry, Posey, and Alexander in the rear, is already problematic.

Col. Dodge calls for 20 volunteer spies to go forward with Captain Dickson, while the army forms for action. After three miles, Dickson and his volunteers contacts the twenty-man party of warriors, and a spirited gun battle ensues. Atkinson redeploys his forces and sends Generals Posey and Alexander to the right, so as to cut off potential escape to the north. The Regulars, commanded by General Hugh Brady with Zachary Taylor second in command, drive directly at the suspected Sauk/Fox position, while Dodge's squadron is to push south, to the left flank of the Regulars. The Regulars discard their knapsacks and push forward in a line of battle and in “extended order.”

The Sauk rear-guard retire to the north through heavily wooded ravines, drawing Dickson's men with them. Unfortunately, they lose fourteen of their number, with the volunteers losing Sergeant George Willard, privates Smith, Hood, Lowry, Skinner, and Payne, and Captain Dickson, wounded in the ankle.

In the meantime, Atkinson mistakes the rear-guard action for the main body of the Sauk and Fox. He calls a halt and shuffles his regiments into five parallel lines. His troops march by the head of companies and follow Dickson's line of advance to the northwest toward the Bad Axe River and away from the Sauk camp... just as Black Hawk planned.

Gen. Henry followed Atkinson's orders and moved due west. As luck would have it, his lead elements find the main Indian trail. They follow the track down the bluff to a small coulee that would be come known as "Battle Hollow." Henry is joined by Dickson’s spies, who march to the floodplain and the main camp of the British Band (present day Black Hawk Recreation Area.) Intense musket fire ensues as Henry's troops engage the main body of the Sauk. The gunfire draws Atkinson's attention, as the survivors of the twenty man party disperse into the scrub. He realizes he has followed a ruse... and hurries his men to the sound of the firing.

Pinned by musketry from Gen. Henry, the Regulars and Dodge's squadron arrive at around 9 a.m. and fall upon the flank of the Sauk. Indiscriminate shooting of Indians begins. The dense brush and forest, fallen trees, backwater sloughs and thick marsh grass offered concealment for Sauk/Fox people and slow the attacking forces. Unfortunately, confusion mingles with the frenzy of battle, in which the army kills a number of women and children.

At 10 a.m. Warrior steams into view, and opens fire with the six-pounder cannon. Indian people are trapped against the riverbank, shot while in the water, or riddled while hiding in the brush near the riverbank. Some Sauk attempt to swim or raft to a small island in the Mississippi. Warrior rakes this island and smaller islands in the main channel with canister. The sound of cannon fire mingles with intense musketry and the shrieks of braves, women and children. Lieutenant Albert Sidney Johnson, Atkinson's Aide de Camp, writes:

...Many of the men, women and children fled to the river and endeavored to escape by swimming in this situation. Our troops arrived on the bank and threw in a heavy fire which killed great numbers, unfortunately some women and children, which was much deplored by the soldiers..."

The battle is essentially over by Noon. Throckmorton ferries detachments of Taylor's Regulars and some militia over to the island where the soldiers essentially hunt for survivors of the engagement. The troops kill several Indians, and a number of women and children captured. Lt. Johnson writes:

[T]hey were now completely overthrown and beaten with the loss of 150 killed, 40 women and children taken prisoners and their baggage and about 100 horses killed and captured with a loss on our part of five regular killed and four wounded, six [actually seven] of Dodges battalion wounded, six of Henry's wounded; one mortally and one of Posey's brigade, this action was decisive, the remnant of the band fled to the west of the Mississippi...

The water of the Mississippi is perceptively tinged with blood. For days afterwards, bodies are seen floating in the channel or wash up or shore or catch in snags.

For those that survive the crossing of the Mississippi, Wa-ba-shaw and about 150 Sioux warriors are waiting. Days later, he presents Atkinson with 68 scalps. The Sioux spares only 22 women and children. Another 150 or so of the Sauk/Fox elude the Sioux and Atkinson's army-- barely 13% of Black Hawk's original group.

Atkinson establishes his headquarters on the east bank of the river, and authorizes a rudimentary aid station or “surgery” for the care of the wounded. Among the doctors laboring with both army and Sauk casualties is Dr. Addison Philleo. Atkinson ordered the wounded and the prisoners sent to Fort Crawford. Five army dead and one Menomonie Indian ally mistakenly killed in the engagement were buried on the battle ground. The rest of the army send the afternoon and the next day recovering their mounts, capturing Indian ponies, rifling through the camp, and collecting valuables and souvenirs.

Friday August 3.
Gen. Winfield Scott arrives in Galena. Upon learning of the victory on the banks of the Mississippi, he sends an express to Atkinson, and directs him to discharge his militia.

Saturday, August 4.
Atkinson orders his army to Prairie du Chien: the Regulars aboard Warrior; the militia on horseback, following the eastern floodplain of the river.

August 20. Ne-a-pope Captured.
Keokuk captures Ne-a-pope and turns him over to Captain Loomis at Fort Crawford. A few days later Winnebago chief One-Eyed Decorah and Chaeter turn over Black Hawk and his son Whirling Thunder to the authorities at Fort Crawford. The Sauk leaders are sent to Jefferson Barracks in irons.

[Note: To read Black Hawk's surrender speech, click here. ]




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