Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War
May 9, Rock Island: A Militia Major Writes Home
Nathaniel Buckmaster (1787-1855) was a Madison County entrepreneur, brick and stonemason, and Democratic politician. A Maryland native, in 1818 he settled with his family in Edwardsville, IL where two years later he was elected to the Ilinois House of Representatives. He was the sheriff of Madison County 1822-1834 and 1836-1838. He served as a major in the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War. Although his prose is awkward and full of errors, Buckmaster probably was more literate than many of the common soldiers he commanded.
Buckmaster's complaints to his wife about the "drudgery" of militia life were a common sentiment. Most militia volunteers never fought Black Hawk's warriors, but suffered intensely from mosquitoes, mud, and lack of food. Buckmaster summed up the lack of enthusiasm for the war in another May 17 letter to his wife, where he wrote, "I will make you one promis, I will stay with you in the future for this thing of being a soldier is not so comfertable as it might be."
Nathaniel Buckmaster to Harriet Ann Buckmaster
Head querters Western Department Mouth of Rock River
Campt No 8 May 9h 1832.
Dear Wife Yesterday we was musterd in to servis of the united States, General Atkinsen, and will to morrow Morning start to the prophets village & perhaps from thence to Dickson Ferry, on Rock River, where it is believed the hostile Imdians are, and should they Remove before our arrivial it is the collustation [conclusion?] to follow them untill we ceth [catch] the old he biddey hawk and Capter all the young warie[r]s and as to your inquiry Respecting my manner of Living we have a bundance and that of the best -Broiled meet & ashes I have bean much exposed seince I left home. It is my fate from some Curse borne or a'bread to have to performe all the drudgery of what ever department I may be thrown into. The duties asigned me in this Expediton is ardeous in the extreem but it is my fate so what end by murmurs. I expect to come home by way of fort Cla[r]k but at what season of the year is uncertain, so do not look for me untill you see me but I intend to return aecedants accepted. And [it] affords me greate pleasure when I reflect that you and grand maugh has the meanes of enjoying your selves untill I Returne
Should the clerk Run levy Call on pricket Atwarter Meeker &c all of whom will supply you with articles mony &c.
I know of no opp[o]rt[u]n[it]y for you to w[r]ite, for it will [be] uncertian abought our movements, but shall write the first oppert[un]i[t]y that presents it selfe Sey to Sa[w]yer Bush [Burk ?] and all my friend to watch over ny [my] interest untill I retu[r]ne
Should I not get home be fore the Election [on Aug. 6, 1832] I shall I hope after wards. Give my love to grand maugh and permit me to say to you have the warmest place in my affections.
Mrs. H. A. Buckmaster
NB -- I will not Look over this for fear I will tore it up
[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.361]