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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

May 5, Yellow Banks: Feeding the Militia

Editor's Note:

Gov. Reynolds wrote this from Yellow Banks, a region about 50 miles below the mouth of the Rock River on the Mississippi, on the east (Illinois) bank. The militia were on their way north towards Rock Island.

Supplying the militia with food, ammunition, and other necessities would be one of the most challenging aspects of the war for the Americans. Supplies could be transported on the Wisconsin and Illinois rivers, the super-highways of 1830s America, and on the lower parts of the Rock and Galena rivers, in small steamboats.

Supplies were also a major problem for the Indians, who made many raids on outlying farms to secure food. In the end, many of the children and elderly non-combatants who followed Black Hawk would die of diseases caused by malnutrition and exposure.

John Reynolds to Henry Atkinson
Camp at Yellow Banks May 5 1832
To Gen. Atkinson, or other officer commanding at Fort Armstrong

Sir -- The Steam Boats which were to meet the mounted volunteers at this place on the 3rd inst have not yet arrived and the army will be this day out of provisions. I hoped the Java S. B. which is above would have reached this point before this time, so I could have ordered it to the fort for supplies. But it has not yet arrived.

We will want to start out with at least ten days provisions & some before we start. Whether you can furnish us with whole or a part is for you to judge, taking into consideration, the means you have for conveyance and the speed which is neccessary to be observed on this occasion. We will be in need absolutely on tomorrow morning. Therefore should the express reach you tonight-- I will expect some boat, even a small one to start in the night -- so that the provisions may reach here early in the day tomorrow. In twenty four hours we will be out But I hope the Boat from St Louis will soon arrive -- and when they do arrive, the provisions which you furnish from the Fort Can be returned

I am your obt servant John Reynolds

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

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