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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

June 1, Porters Grove, Wis.: White Crow Delivers the Hall Girls

Editor's Note:

This is a lightly edited transcript of a speech made by Ho-Chunk chief White Crow at a June 3rd meeting with Indian agent Henry Gratiot and militia Col. Henry Dodge.

On June 1, White Crow had arrived at Blue Mounds with Rachel and Sylvia Hall (see this previous entry for the circumstances of their capture by Potawatomi warriors). Col. Henry Dodge, eager to claim credit for the highly publicized rescue of the girls, had also arrived, with 200 troops. White Crow, Gratiot, and Dodge met at Porter's Grove, Wis., about 9 miles from Blue Mounds, to transact the exchange of the girls for the ransom promised by Gen. Henry Atkinson.

White Crow (who died prior to 1836) played both sides against each other during the war, and often had to prove his loyalty to the Americans. This previous entry contains more biographical information on him. The speech at left shows White Crow trying to win back the good graces of the Americans, telling in detail how faithfully and kindly he treated the girls. After his speech, the girls were delivered to Gen. Dodge's troops, and they verified the truth of White Crow's account.

That night, however, the Ho-Chunk left their cabins and held a meeting in the forest that roused the suspicions of Dodge. He marched in upon the scene and immediately ordered the arrest of White Crow and five other chiefs to assure the cooperation of the Ho-Chunk.

Indian agent Henry Gratiot later referred to this night, saying, "I was extremely mortified to find that, notwithstanding the uniformly good conduct and recent manifestations of fidelity of the Winnebagoes [Ho-Chunk], all of the fears and bad feelings of the whites towards them had been renewed." Gratiot had the prisoners released and tried to pacify them with gifts, but the incident left the Ho-Chunk angry and distrustful of American intentions. Although Dodge had demonstrated the power of the Wisconsin militiamen, his blundering use of force also further alienated those Ho-Chunk who were already sympathetic toward Black Hawk's cause.

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

My Fathers - as soon as I heard that the Sacks had two White Women Prisoners, we gathered all our people that was round us, and we made them turn out all their Wampum, & trinkets, and we made each of our Chiefs here turn out a horse, and the women, turned out all their corn to buy them. My Fathers, This man the Little Priest, myself, and two others went to the Sacks to see if we could get the prisoners, and we bought one, but could not buy the other - after we had bought one they set her before us, we demanded the other one. They said no, we will not give her up, and we said we must have her. The Sacks answered, we have Lost too much Blood, and we will keep her; we told them we would have her - if you don't give her up, we will raise the Tomahawk and take her. It took us almost all day before we could obtain her and near night they gave her up to us. My Fathers, I had a horse given to me by you, my father (Gratiot), the only horse I had left, and I told them so, and told them I would give them that to obtain the other Prisoner. At Sun down they gave me the girl and I gave them the Horse.

My Fathers, So soon as they gave the Last one to us the Little Priest took one & I took the other, and put them on Horses, and a Sack came just as we were starting, and wanted to cut off one of the girls Hair, and I caught his hand and prevented him; but afterwards I allowed him to cut off a small Lock.

My Fathers, If you had seen those Young Sisters how bad they looked and how they cried all the time; one of them was sick, and when we brought them to our women, they were all sorry, and my young Daughter cried for them. We comforted them as much as we could, and our women bought from the Sacks Clothes for them.

My Fathers, Those young Sisters can tell you, we made them sleep together, and I made my Daughter sleep on the out side of one of them, and the Little Priest's Daughter on the out side of the other. We feel ashamed, Fathers, that we could not use them any better than we did, for our Blankets were worn out and we could do no better. I gave them all I could to please them, and to eat, but they were not used to our way of living and could not eat.

My Fathers, here are our two white sisters that we got from the Sacks, we bring them here, and we take their hands and we give them into the hands of our sister here, Mrs Miott, for we know her, that she is true, and when she speaks to you for us, or to us for you, we perfectly understand each other; and she must take our two white Sisters and give them to the whites, to whom they belong.

My fathers, we take these two white Sisters by the hand which we have brought to you; we have saved their lives, for they were to be killed by the Sacks, and all we ask of you, is that you will not put us or our children in the same situation, that these young white Sisters were, for we have brought you these white sisters to prove to you that we are the friends of the Americans.

Council adjourned till tomorrow, June 4th 1832. Council met at 8 oclock A.M.

[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.507]

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