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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

May 15: Gov. Reynolds Calls for 2,000 More Troops

Editor's Note:

One of the consequences of the exaggerated reports of Stillman's Run was this proclomation from Illinois Governor John Reynolds, which calls for 2,000 more militia recruits, in addition to the 1,600 already in the field. The American force in the field would then total about 3,600 militia and 360 regular troops, outnumbering Black Hawk's 500 warriors more than 4 to 1.

The first militia recruits were demoralized and anxious to return home after the defeat at Stillman's Run, and Governor Reynolds feared they would not hold together long enough to capture Black Hawk. By mid-May many (if not most) of the Illinois volunteers prefered the safety of home to the hardships of campaigning in the forests, prairies, and swamps under the hot summer sun.

Reynolds' decision to raise additional troops probably confounded General Atkinson, who only the day before had written, "...we may conclude to reduce the number of volunteers considerably." Atkinson considered the militia a dubious asset: they were a great challenge to feed, were untrained and undisciplined, and had proved themselves incompetent in their only battle.

Although Reynolds' assertion that the Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk had joined Black Hawk was completely mistaken, it caused a wave of fear and terror throughout the frontier. Although some small war parties from both tribes did attack settlers and assist Black Hawk, both tribes had, in reality, actually aided the Americans. The war was more complex than a simple race conflict between Indians and whites; most Indian communities in the region remained neutral or even helped the Americans. Reynolds' disregard for these facts reflects an attitude held by most frontier whites at the time, who lumpted all Native Americans together as a common foe and did not understand their tribal identities, diplomatic alliances, or political concerns.

John Reynolds: Proclamation
To the Militia of the State of Illinois
Dixons on Rock River. [May 15, 1832]

It becomes my duty again to call on you for your services in the Defence of your country, the State is not only Invaded by The hostile Indians but many of your citizens have been Slain in battle. A detachment of mounted volunteers commanded by major Stillman of about .275. in number was overpowered by the hostile Indians on Sycamore Creek distant from this Place 30 miles, and a considerable number were killed

This is an act of hostility which can not be misunderstood. I am of opinion that the Pottawotamies and winnebagoes [Ho-Chunk] have Joined the hostile Sacs and all may be considered as waging war against the United States To Subdue these Indians and to drive them out of the State, it will Require a force of at least two thousand mounted Volunteers more, in addition to the troops already in the field. I have made the necessary requisitions on the proper officers for the above number of mounted men and have no doubt the Citizens Soldiers of State will obey the call of their country they will meet at Hennipin on the Illinois River in companies of fifty men Each on the 10th of June next to be Organised into a Brgade

John Reynolds Commander in Chief Illinois Militia
May 15th 183[2]

[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.373]

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