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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

June 1, Blue Mounds: The Hall Sisters Are Returned

Editor's Note:

This account is from the memoirs of Esau Johnson, a volunteer at the Blue Mounds Fort

Rachel and Sylvia Hall, 17 and 19 years old, were captured by a band of about 30 Potawatomi, who massacred their family and neighbors at their farm on Indian Creek on May 21 [see this previous entry]. Black Hawk credited the intervention of two Sauk warriors with saving the girls' lives at the time of the massacre. The warriors brought the young women to Black Hawk's camp, where the Halls were well taken care of. Two old Sauk women adopted them, clothed and fed them, and slept beside them each night.

Meanwhile, General Henry Atkinson made plans to ransom the Hall ssters, whose story had gained widespread publicity throughout Illinois and Michigan Territory. Indian agent Henry Gratiot commisioned a band of Ho-Chunk to retrieve the sisters from Black Hawk's camp and return them to the settlements [See this previous entry].

On the ninth day of their capture, Ho-Chunk chief White Crow negotiated the release of the young women and took them to the fort at Blue Mounds, on the western edge of modern Dane Co. On June 1, 11 days after the attack on their farm at Indian Creek, Rachel and Sylvia Hall were ransomed from the Ho-Chunk for $2,000 dollars.

Some sources say that the return of the young women occured on June 3, 1832, but the article linked at left establishes the correct date. It also supplies further details about this event.

After the many failures of the Americans in the first month of the war, the successful recovery of the Hall sisters was an important symbolic victory.

...there was eight of us went out to them got the Girls and brought them in and my Wife dressed them in some of her clothes Their Uncle Charles Hall came out and met us as we were comeing in with the Girls That was a time that I cant describe the tears flowed from the Eyes both of the Girls and their Uncle for grief and for joy -- for joy to meet each other and for grief that their parents and were no more [sic]

The girls said the Indians gave them in charge of two old Squaws [women] and the old Squaws kept them from each other onely once in each day they would let them be together about one hour in each day The old Squaws said when the Indians killed off all the White men they should marry the Indians and raise Corn & Potatoes for them and the Indians would kill Bear Deer and Turkeys Elk and Buffalew for them

Three days after the Indians brought the Girls General Dodge came with his Brigade of Iowa Michigan Volunteers got the Girls The Girls wore my Wife's Clothes off The Indian had cut their dresses off above the knees At Galena Jo Daviess County they got cloth[es] and sent back my wife's cloth[e]s. They ate their first meal at my table.

[Source: Albert O. Barton. "Echoes of the Black Hawk War," (Wisconsin Magazine of History, June, 1933, Volume XVI, No 4.) p. 408]

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