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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

April 16: Gov. Reynolds Calls Out the Militia

Editor's Note:

As soon as he learned from Gen. Atkinson that Black Hawk and his followers had crossed the Mississippi, Governor John Reynolds (1788-1865) called out the equivalent of today's Illinois National Guard.

By law, all men aged eighteen to forty-five were required to join the militia. If possible they brought their guns and horses with them. Joining the militia in April had dire consequences for farmers, who would miss the spring planting season, which could mean no harvest in the fall and food shortages all year.

Within the week militiamen formed companies and met at Beardstown, in west-central Illinois, where they were organized, issued weapons, and prepared to march 150 miles north and force Black Hawk's warriors back across the Mississippi.

John Reynolds to the Militia of the Northwestern Section of the State
April 16, 1832


Your country requires your services. The Indians have assumed a hostile attitude, and have invaded the State, in violation of the Treaty of last summer.

The British band of Sacs and other hostile Indians, headed by the Black Hawk, are in possession of the Rock River country, to the great terror of the frontier inhabitants. I consider the settlers on the frontier in imminent danger.

I am in possession of the above information, from gentlemen of respectable standing, and from Gen. Atkinson, whose character stands so high in all classes. . .

In possession of the foregoing facts and information, I hesitated not as to the course I should pursue. No citizen ought to remain quiet when his country is invaded, and the helpless part of community is in danger. I have called out a strong detachment of the Militia, to rendezvous at Bairdstown, on the 22d inst. Provisions for the men, and corn for the horses will be furnished in abundance.

I hope my countrymen will realize my expectations, and offer their services heretofore, with promptitude and cheerfulness, in defence of their country.
John Reynolds, Commander in Chief.

[Source: John Reynolds, My Own Times: Embracing Also the History of My Life. (Chicago: Fergus Printing Company, 1879) p.224]

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