Use the smaller-sized text Use the larger-sized text Use the very large text

Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

A Timeline of the Black Hawk War, 1832

Editor's Note:

Here, for handy reference, is a chronological list of the war's major events. You may want to refer back to it as you read the eyewitness accounts posted day-by-day in subsequent entries


Here, too, is a reference map of the war showing Black Hawk's route and the locations of major engagements.

Email us using the link below, when you have questions.



1832, April 5-6: Black Hawk's band crossed the Mississippi near the mouth of the Des Moines River (at the Iowa-Missouri border). It moved north up the Illinois shore, intending to make a stand at Saukenuk or move up the Rock River to join forces with the supposed Indian and British allies.

1832, April 8: U.S. troops started up from St. Louis by boat, passing Black Hawk's band on the 11th.

1832, April 13: Black Hawk's band arrived at Saukenuk.

1832, April 24: U.S. officers sent emissaries to Black Hawk's band giving them one last chance to withdraw across the Mississippi, but it was rejected. Black Hawk, at the village of the Winnebago Prophet, a few miles up the Rock River, learned that most of the Ho-Chunk would not, in fact, support him.

1832, April 25: Black Hawk's band began moving east up the Rock River to join forces with the Potawatomi, as well as British forces rumored to be coming to Milwaukee.

1832, April 28: Black Hawk's band arrived at Dixon's Ferry, Ill., seeking help from the Potawatomi.

1832, May 10: U.S. troops and militia started in pursuit, burning a Ho-Chunk village a few miles upriver from Saukenuk and reaching Dixon's Ferry, Ill. Black Hawk's band had moved 25 miles further upriver, to the mouth of the Kishwaukee. There Black Hawk learned that the Potawatomi would not support him either, and that no British allies were coming.

1832, May 13: Battle of Stillman's Run. About 10 miles southwest of modern Rockford, Ill., militia camped close behind the Sauk. Black Hawk sent three emissaries under a white flag of truce to invite the militia leader to meet and discuss a surrender. Despite the white flag, the troops attacked, killing one of the emissaries and charging the Sauk camp. In the ensuing battle, 40 Sauk warriors repulsed 275 militia, who fled in fear and confusion.

1832, May 14-20: Convinced that the whites would not obey the conventions of warfare and fearing extermination, Black Hawk's band went up the Kishwaukie River south of modern Rockford. Two sympathetic Ho-Chunk Indians offered to guide them up the Rock River into Wisconsin.

1832, May 21: Potawatomi and Sauk warriors seeking supplies for the retreating band massacred white settlers at Indian Creek, 12 miles north of modern Ottawa, Ill.

1832, June 16: Battle of the Pecatonica. 22 militia soldiers defeated a Sauk raiding party of 11 warriors who were foraging for supplies. The main body of Black Hawk's band was north of Lake Koshkonong at the time.

1832, July 1: U.S. troops and militia reached the site of modern Beloit, Wis. On July 3 they arrived at Lake Koshkonong, near modern Fort Atkinson, Wis., but discovered the Indians had gone.

1832, early July: The Sauk and their allies had run out of food and begun to starve. Many elders and children would die of starvation, exhaustion, and exposure before the war's final military engagement 30 days later.

1832, July 11: Black Hawk's band reached the head of the Rock River at Hustisford, Wis., and paused at modern Horicon Marsh to consider their options.

1832, July 18: U.S. troops and militia stumbled across the Indians' trail 12 miles south of Hustisford.

1832, July 21: Troops and militia chased the retreating Sauk through the isthmus that would become downtown Madison, around Lake Mendota, and to the Wisconsin River across from modern Prairie du Sac, killing sick and elderly stragglers who could not keep up due to weakness.

1832, July 21: Battle of Wisconsin Heights. Ca. 60 Sauk warriors held off 700 troops under Henry Dodge while the Indian non-combatants crossed the river to safety. Before dawn, Sauk leader Neapope, concealed in a tree, verbally offered to negotiate a surrender; the troops lacked an interpreter and ignored him.

1832, July 28: The main body of troops and militia crossed the Wisconsin further downriver at Helena, Wis., and resumed the pursuit.

1832, Aug. 1: Black Hawk's band reached the Mississippi at the mouth of the Bad Axe River, in modern Vernon County between Prairie du Chien and LaCrosse. While they were preparing to cross, the steamboat Warrior appeared. Ignoring their white flag of truce, its captain fired cannon indiscriminately at the Sauk, killing 23. Black Hawk and his closest supporters decided to continue upriver but most of the Indians prefered to attempt to cross the Mississippi the next morning.

1832, Aug. 2: Massacre at Bad Axe. Overnight, U.S. troops caught up with the Sauk and charged them at dawn from the bluffs, firing indiscrimately at warriors, women, children, and the elderly. The steamboat Warrior returned to the scene about 10:00 a.m,, firing its cannon at the Indians who vainly sought cover on the riverbank and the islands until by noon only a small number were left alive. About 90 Sauk made it across the Mississippi, where 68 were killed by the Sioux (allied with the U.S.).

1832, Aug.: Sauk chief Keokuk, who had oppposed Black Hawk's plan from the start, turned over Neapope to white authorities on the 20th. Ho-Chunk warriors One-eyed Decorah and Chaetar caught Black Hawk at Wisconsin Dells and turned him over to authorities a few days later.


[Source: Wyman, Mark. The Wisconsin Frontier (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998). Hagan, William T. The Sauk and Fox Indians (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1958).]

  • Questions about this page? Email us
  • Email this page to a friend
select text size Use the smaller-sized textUse the larger-sized textUse the very large text