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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

April 25, Rock River: Black Hawk Stands His Ground

Editor's Note:

For General Atkinson's first letter to Black Hawk, see the previous entry. This second appeal came via Wisconsin resident and Ho-Chunk Indian agent Henry Gratiot (1789-1836), who traveled to the Prophet's Village to deliver it.

Black Hawk rebuffed both letters, thinking that he had the right to accept The Prophet's invitation to grow corn at Prophetstown and that the British and other tribes would come to his aid if war did break out. Unfortunately, this would be Black Hawk's last chance for peace.

Having met with no opposition, we moved up Rock river leisurely for some distance, when we were overtaken by an express from White Beaver [Gen. Atkinson], with an ORDER for me to return with my band and recross the Mississippi again. I sent him word that "I would not, (not recognizing his right to make such a demand,) as I was acting peaceably, and intended to go to the prophet's village at his request, to make corn."

The express returned. We moved on and encamped some distance below the prophet's village. Here another express came from the White Beaver [through Henry Gratiot], threatening to pursue us and drive us back, if we did not return peaceably! This message roused the spirit of my band, and all were determined to remain with me and contest the ground with the war chief, should he come and attempt to drive us.

We therefore directed the express to say to the war chief "if he wished to fight us, he might come on." We were determined never to be driven, and equally so, not to make the first attack, our object being to act only on the defensive. This we conceived to be our right.

[Source: Black Hawk's Autobiography]

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