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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

April 28: "War is declared, send out expresses"

Editor's Note:

John Dixon (1784-1876) left New York with his family in 1820 for Peoria County, Illinois. Here he took over the ferry on Rock River, founding what became present day Dixon, Illinois.


Because of Dixon's central location between forts at Chicago, Rock Island, and Peoria, Gen. Atkinson built Fort Dixon here and used it as the central command post for the Black Hawk War. Today in Dixon you can see a statue of Abraham Lincoln (who served in the war) and a giant statue of Black Hawk overlooking the Rock River.


John Dixon to Isaiah Stillman
Dixons Ferry April 28th 1832


Genl Stillman Sir, I have a moment to say that this morning Black Hawk & his band came here & most of them have gone up the River -- destination about 20 miles above this place. About 500 horses & about 100 canoes have passed this, said to be more to come -- About 500 men besides women & children, they profess to be friendly, but I do not know their object. They say they are going to raise corn & build a town on the Pottawattimies land, whose line is within 12 miles of me on this side of the River


I got a letter yesterday from Mr Gratiot from the Sack Village below. It was dated Black Hawk's Camp 26th inst. He has gone to Rock Island .This morning I rec'd a slip of paper from Mr Gratiot & which was written an hour later -- "War is declared, send out expresses." I have time to write no more.

Respectfully Yr Ob Sert
John Dixon



[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.325]

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