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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

May 1: Black Hawk Discovers the Truth

Editor's Note:

About the first of May, Black Hawk suddenly found himself without allies, standing alone against the much larger American Army. His plan to fight, if necessary, in order to re-occupy his village at Rock Island, or to settle near The Prophet's Ho-Chunk village, depended on the support of his former British allies and other Great Lake tribes. Despite earlier assurances from Neapope and The Prophet, Black Hawk now discovered that he had no allies and decided to give up.

Without food, ammunition, or friends willing to fight, Black Hawk realized that a war would be futile and disastrous and he would soon attempt to negotiate peace with General Atkinson. He was camped a few miles southwest of modern Rockford, Illinois, when he came to this realization.

Having ascertained that White Beaver would not permit us to remain where we were, I began to consider what was best to be done, and concluded to keep on up the river, see the Pottowattomies and have a talk with them. Several Winnebago chiefs were present, whom I advised of my intentions, as they did not seem disposed to render us any assistance. I asked them if they had not sent us wampum during the winter, and requested us to come and join their people and enjoy all the rights and privileges of their country. They did not deny this; and said if the white people did not interfere, they had no objection to our making corn this year, with our friend The Prophet, but did not wish us to go any further up.

The next day, I started with my party to Kish-wa-co-kee... Finding that all our plans were defeated, I told The Prophet that he must go with me, and we would see what could be done with the Pottowattomies. On our arrival at Kish-wa-co-kee an express was sent to the Pottowattomie villages. The next day a deputation arrived. I inquired if they had corn in their villages? They said they had a very little and could not spare any! ... I asked them if they had received any news from the British on the lake? They said no. I inquired if they had heard that a chief of our British Father was coming to Milwaukee to bring us guns, ammunition, goods and provisions? They said, no! I told them what news had been brought to me, and requested them to return to their village and tell the chiefs that I wished to see them and have a talk with them.

After this deputation started, I concluded to tell my people that if White Beaver [Gen. Atkinson] came after us, we would go back, as it was useless to think of stopping or going on without more provisions and ammunition. I discovered that the Winnebagoes and Pottowattomies were not disposed to render us any assistance.

[Source: Black Hawk's Autobiography]

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