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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

A Lift from Black Hawk

Editor's Note:

Black Hawk and his adult son had been the chief architects of the Sauk resistance during the 1832 Black Hawk War, and had often been vilified in the frontier press. Rev. Marsh was therefore surprised to discover, and at pains to note, how courteous and warm they were in person.

On this day Marsh was heading with Black Hawk's entourage down the Mississippi to Phelps' trading post at modern Oquawka, Ill., where he would stay for the next several days, and interview Black Hawk.

Fri. [Aug.] 15th

Quite early was called for to start. When I arrived found a passage provided for me on board Bl. Hs. [Black Hawk's] large canoe. And here I also met with his son. There were 5 canoes and perhaps 40 or 50 men, women and children. As I passed along, was often most amused with the jokes and pranks of Bl. H's son. He is remarkably tractable, can imitate almost any sound of human voice or any other creature, and soon comprehends an idea.

He has learnt considerable English and some words speaks very plain. I could not but admire his noble appearance, his vivacity, and playfulness, which seemed to have nothing of malice or cruel intention, and the kindness of his disposition.

When we arrived within two or three miles [of the trading post] they stopped, scoured their spears in the sand, put on their ornaments and painted their faces, etc. and Bl. H. put on his best suit, which was mostly English.

About 10 o'clock arrived at the Yellow Banks (Ah-quah-wuh-keck). Here met with Dr. Russell with [whom] I became acquainted when here before and was kindly received by himself and family. Ascertained that the chiefs of the Sacs and Foxes would be absent for some days at Rock Island.

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