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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

April 7, St. Louis: Gen. Atkinson Takes Command

Editor's Note:

General Henry Atkinson (1782-1842), who commanded the army in Illinois, was initially called upon to resolve the growing feud between the Sauk and Fox and their enemies, the Sioux and Menominee (see previous entries).


This letter shows that he originally thought he was going north to keep the peace between warring tribes, and did not expect he would have to fight Black Hawk. His initial orders, however, were quickly overshadowed by Black Hawk's return to Saukenuk in defiance of American demands that he stay west of the Mississippi.


Atkinson and Black Hawk both had distinguished military careers behind them, and they came to have great respect for one another as the war unfolded over the next four months.


For more information on the commander of the U.S. forces during the war, see the entry on Henry Atkinson in the Dictionary of Wisconsin History.

Henry Atkinson to Alexander Macomb
Head Qrs R. Wing W. Dept 7th. April 1832


General
The transports will be down this evening, & I shall embark the command in the morning, & proceed without delay to Rock Island. Thence in person to Fort Crawford, for the purpose of taking such steps, as may be necessary to prevent the Sioux & Menominies from moving against the Sacs & Foxes.


I enclose herewith a communication from Major Bliss detailing what information he has as to the views and feelings of the Sacs and Foxes. It is not probable that Black Hawk has any serious intention of reoccupying his old Village. If he has, I shall try and prevent it.


It is probable from recent accounts from above [i.e., upriver] that I shall have more trouble in adjusting the difficulties in that quarter, than I first anticipated. I can only say that I shall do the most with the means placed at my disposal to effect the objects you have pointed out, that my judgment and ability will admit of, and I hope soon to give you a satisfactory account of my operations.

General Atkinson to Major Gen: Macomb.



[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.232]

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