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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

April 13, Fort Armstrong: Atkinson Warns Keokuk

Editor's Note:

By the time Atkinson got to Fort Armstrong, on Rock Island at the mouth of the Rock River, Black Hawk and his forces were well on their way. To prevent any other Sauk and Fox from joining them, Atkinson met with Keokuk and delivered this strong speech.

Prior to this, American demands for the Indians to move west of the Mississippi had split the Sauk and Fox tribe. While the followers of Black Hawk returned to Saukenuk, Keokuk's (1780?-1848?) followers co-operated with the Americans and peacefully moved west. Atkinson's strong language on April 13th was a clear warning to Keokuk's band to not join or aid Black Hawk.

Note that Atkinson uses the same metaphor -- crush them like dirt -- that Black Hawk had used (see the entry for April 12).

Website with history and pictures of Fort Armstrong, where this meeting took place.

Fort Armstrong Council
Rock Island 13th. April 1832

In a Council held at Fort Armstrong Rock Island by Brig: Gen. Atkinison U.S. Army on the part of the Government of the U. States, and Keokuk, and the principal friendly Chiefs of the Sac and Fox Tribes, on the part of those Bands, Brig: Genl. Atkinson spoke as follows:

"When I left home I had no information of the bad conduct of these people over here, the band of the Black Hawk. I heard of it at the lower rapids. I care nothing for it, they can be as easily crushed as a piece of dirt. If they do not recross the river, measures will soon be taken to compel them. I will not ask them to go back, I will not speak to them, until they recross to the west bank of the Mississippi. I will treat them like dogs, I am not going to call them into council, to tell me lies. Keokuk knows that his great father can cover these plains with men (yes). If Black Hawk's band strikes one white man, in a short time they will cease to exist. I want to know how many Indians have joined Black Hawk." Ans: 500. "I am going myself to Prairie du Chien to attend to the business with the Menominies. The Sacs and Foxes who have not joined the Band of Black Hawk must keep themselves away, they must not go where they are."

[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.251]

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