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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

April 26: Black Hawk's Envoy Replies to Gen. Atkinson

Editor's Note:

This is the response of the chiefs of Black Hawk's band to General Atkinson's April 24th letter insisting they recross the Mississippi.

Neapope, here spelled Napope, was a mixed blood Ho-Chunk and Sauk chief who had supported Black Hawk's return to Rock River. He led Black Hawk to believe the British and other tribes would come to his assistance if war broke out.

The Prophet was a Ho-Chunk chief who invited Black Hawk's band to his village at modern Prophetstown, Ill., on the Rock River. His promise of Ho-Chunk support in a possible war against the Americans encouraged Black Hawk to return. This support, like that of the British, never materialized.

The reported 1,000 warriors was an exaggeration, perhaps meant to intimidate the American audience. No mention is made of the hundreds of women, children and elderly Indians who intended to re-establish their home east of the Mississippi. Black Hawk expected that, once settled, the women would return to their corn crops and men to the hunt. His band was less like a war party than a colony. This misunderstanding added to the hardships of the coming war.

Answer of Black Hawk and His Band to Henry Atkinson
[Fort Armstrong, April 26, 1832]:
Wa-com-me [Atkinson's Sauk messenger] delivered the answers as follows.

To wit: Napope, now the principal chief, said: We have no bad feelings, why do they send to us to tell us to go back -- we will not look back, we will go on. I had no bad intention when I came up Rock river. I was invited by the Winnebagoes at Peketolica to go and live with them.

Black Hawk said: Why do the whites enquire of me the reason of my coming here. I do not command the Indians. The Village belongs to the Chiefs. Why do they want to know my feelings. I have no bad feelings. My opinion goes with my Chiefs. I will follow them up Rock river, and my braves are all of the same mind...

When asked what those Indians had to eat, Wa-ka-me replied they had a little corn, and some of them hunted...

On Wa-ke-ma being asked whether he supposed they were going to the British or not -- He said they would not tell where they were going, further than that they were going up the stream where they were invited to go... When they were told the words of Gen. Atkinson, that they would get no assistance from the British, they would not listen to them.

Wa-ka-me thought about 1,000 warriors had assembled at the Prophet's Village, but perhaps not so many. He states that the whole assemblage including the Prophet and his Band, were to start to day up Rock river.

[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.312]

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