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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

May 1, Beardstown, Ill.: The Militia Moves Out

Editor's Note:

Dr. William Headen (1800-1863) was a native Virginian who moved to Shelbyville, Ill., with his family in 1829, where he practiced medicine until his death. During the Black Hawk War he served as a surgeon.


In this letter he describes to his brother the confusion and bustle of the rendezvous at Beardstown, Illinois, where Governor Reynolds had called the militia to muster before pursuing Black Hawk and his followers. "Hunger, fatigue and wet" would plague the unwieldy militia for the entire war.



Headquarters, Beardstown, May 1st. 1832.


Dear Brother: We have just arrived at headquarters and have been mustered into service. All is confusion and bustle. Fifteen hundred men were just equipped and ferried across the Illinois river at this place. The last of them went over this morning. We will draw provisions this evening for five days, be armed with Harpers Ferry muskets and take up the line of march again in the morning. I believe from every circumstance that we will have fighting to do. The men and horses are all well. We have suffered a great deal with hunger, fatigue and wet since we started. There are one thousand volunteers from the military tract and six hundred regulars which will meet at Fort Armstrong, the whole force amounting to thirty-two hundred.

Yours &c.
Wm. Headen.

P.S. -- I will write to you from Fort Armstrong in a few days.



[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.341]

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