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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

Late May: Frightened Illinois Settlers Demand Protection

Editor's Note:

In this letter to Illinois Governor and militia commander John Reynolds, Pekin, Ill. (Tazewell County) residents request protection from a local band of Kickapoo.

This letter reflects the increasing fear of Native American uprisings that took hold after the Battle of Stillman's Run (see entries for May 14) and the Indian Creek Massacre. Whites, unable to communicate with their Indian neighbors, were uncertain about their loyalities and intentions. In fact, many Great Lakes tribes were divided over the war – although some Kickapoo warriors joined Black Hawk's forces, the majority of the tribe tried to stay neutral and preserve the peace with white neighbors. But just as American generals could not entirely control their troops, chiefs could not always prevent young men from attacking whites on their own.

In those uncertain times, settlers throughout Illinois and Wisconsin sought protection by instituting martial law and retreating to forts and towns. These civilian demands for weapons, supplies, and food throughout the entire lead mining region strained the American war effort.

Tazewell County Committee of Safety to John Reynolds
Pekin Tazwell County Ill. May 23rd: 1832

Dear Sir- We the undersigners being appointed as a Committee of Safety, for the vicinity of Pekin, and the neighbouring fronttier - after matureing, the unprotected situation, that we are placed in at this time-having no armes, fit to defend ourselves with - have this day meet at this place - and have adopted the following, articles to wit-

First - that we address a pition to the Commanding officer, of the publick ordinance, at the Arsenell, on the vicinity of Saint Louis - for five hundred Stand of armes [rifles], and two four, six pound field pieces [cannons], with their necessary ammunitions, and equippages - and allso armes to equip fifty daggons & hoeing that under the present alarmeing circumstances, that an appeal to your authority, will meet the approbation and santion of your pratronage to the above proceedings and arraingements &

And further that this Committee feel it a duty incumbant on them, to informe you that there are at this time about three hundred and Eighty wariers, Collected at the Kickapoo town on Money Creek, within twenty five miles of Bloomington...

One thousand should be ordered to move against those Indians, perhaps it would be quite sufficient – to drive them from their station, we are of the oppinions that - if those Indians are friendly - that they should be disarmed - for a terme, in order to secure the frontteer from any hostile depredations-

[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.423]

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