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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

April 17: Gov. Reynolds Informs Washington

Editor's Note:

Illinois Gov. John Reynolds (1788-1865) writes here to Secretary of War Lewis Cass (1782-1866), to let Cass know what he has done and why.

The day before, Governor Reynolds had called out a large militia force without consulting Army General Henry Atkinson, who was better informed and more cautious. As the militia's front-line commander, Gov. Reynolds often lacked caution, but never enthusiasm.

The local militia was large, and difficult to supply with food and ammunition. Here Reynolds addresses the latter problem by having them rendezvous at Beardstown, but as the summer campaign progresses we will see that both sides are hampered by the difficulty in obtaining enough provisions.

Cass, who was previously governor of Michigan Territory and had traveled widely in the upper Midwest, would have been very familiar with conditions on the frontier. He also strongly supported the policy of Indian removal.

John Reynolds to Lewis Cass
State of Illinois Belleville April 17, 1832
The Hon. The Secy of War, Of the United States

Sir. The State is again invaded by the hostile Indians and the country is in imminent danger. This is made manifest to me by Official Communications, a part of which I herewith transmit to you, and by other information. The regular troops under the command of an excellent officer of the United States Army, Gen. Atkinson, is too small to pursue the Indians, as you see in his letter to me, and the frontier is in great danger.

In this situation I hesitated not a moment. I have called out a strong detachment of the militia to rendezvous near the frontier on the 22nd. Inst. Beardstown on the Illinois River is the place of Rendezvous, this is within three or four days march of the enemy, and is a place where supplies can be furnished by water. While the militia is organizing, I will hope to see Gen. Atkinson and know the precise situation and intentions of the Indians.

I am satisfied the country requires this movement and I hope the Militia will not be ordered home before these Indians are chastised.

I will march with the militia and go all lengths within my constitutional authority and the laws of the land to protect the frontier by chastising these insolent and restless Indians.

With sincere Respect, I am, Your obt Servant, John Reynolds.

[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.270]

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