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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

April 24, Fort Armstrong: Gen. Atkinson Writes to Black Hawk

Editor's Note:

Although Governor John Reynolds had already called out the militia in Illinois on April 16 (see previous entries), General Atkinson still tried to prevent a war with this appeal to Black Hawk.

Black Hawk's belief that the British would support him had been encouraged by his advisor, The Winnebago Prophet, and was, as Atkinson stated, mistaken.


"Great father" here refers to the President of the US, Andrew Jackson.


"Peatcheny & Wacomme" were two young Sauk chiefs who delivered this message to Black Hawk. For a detailed account of the beliefs and values of a Sauk warrior, see this 1823 account in William Keating's 1824 narrative of a trip through the upper Mississippi Valley.

Henry Atkinson to Black Hawk
Fort Armstrong, 24th. April 1832.


To Black Hawk and the Chiefs & Braves of his Band.

I am sorry to learn that you have taken your Band across the Mississippi and carried them up on Rock river contrary to the treaty you made last year with general Gaines & Governor Reynolds. Your great father will be angry with you for doing so. I advise you to come back and recross the Mississippi without delay. It is not too late to do what is right -- and what is right, do at once. If you do not come back and go on the other side of the great river, I shall write to your great father & tell him of your bad conduct. You will be sorry if you do not come back.


Some foolish people have told you that the British will assist you -- do not believe it -- you will find when it is too late that it is not true.

If your hearts are good I will send an officer to talk with you in three or four days.

Send an answer to my words by Peatcheny & Wacomme.

H. Atkinson Br. Genl. U.S.



[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.301]

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