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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

Late May: Black Hawk Heads North

Editor's Note:

After unexepctedly defeating the militia at Stillman's Run, Black Hawk's forces escaped to the north along the Kishwaukee River. Joined by Ho-Chunk guides, the party of about 1,000 men, women and children made the slow journey northwards towards the site of present-day Madison Wisconsin.

Travelling through the swamps protected them from the mounted American army, since the horses and wagons could only move slowly through muddy wetlands. It also, however, limited the Indians' access to food, since large game such as deer were not plentiful in marshes. In late May and June, while the elderly, women and children camped in the shelter of the swamps, war parties made raids on frontier farms and isolated hunters risked discvoery on the prairies in order to obtain provisions.

Having returned to our encampment, and found that all our young men had come in, I sent out spies to watch the movements of the army, and commenced moving up Kishwacokee [Kishwaukee] with the balance of my people. I did not know where to go to find a place of safety for my women and children, but expected to find a good harbor about the head of Rock river. I concluded to go there, and thought my best route would be to go round the head of Kishwacokee, so that the Americans would have some difficulty if they attempted to follow us.

On arriving at the head of Kishwacokee, I was met by a party of Winnebagoes, who seemed to rejoice at our success. They said they had come to offer their services, and were anxious to join in. I asked them if they knew where there was a safe place for our women and children. They told us that they would send two old men with us to guide us to a good safe place.

I arranged war parties to send out in different directions, before I proceeded further. The Winnebagoes went alone. The war parties having all been fitted out and started, we commenced moving to the Four Lakes [present-day Madison, WI], the place where our guides were to conduct us.

[Source: Black Hawk's Autobiography]

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