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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

June 10, Blue Mounds: Report of William Aubrey's Murder

Editor's Note:

William Griffith Aubrey worked as a miner for Ebenezer Brigham at Blue Mounds, in what was then part of Michigan Territory but is now western Dane Co., Wisconsin. On June 6th he had been shot about a mile and a half from the fort when going out for water. One witness claimed that the Indians that had killed him were from the band of Ho-Chunk led by White Crow, that had only days before claimed their loyalty to the Americans in a counil with General Dodge.

This attack threw the loyalty of the Ho-Chunk into question, and presented the Americans with the possibility of a two-front war, against Black Hawk's warriorsin the north and the Ho-Chunk in the south. At this time the Americans had correct intelligence that Black Hawk was camped near Lake Koshkonong, twenty miles above Turtle Village, site of modern Beloit, Wisconsin. This swampy area naturally protected the band of 1,000 men, women and children from the mounted American forces, which could not negotiate the soft ground, but it did not provide a good source of food for the colony of Indians.

Despite knowledge of Black Hawk's position, the Americans were unable to catch up to him at this time. The original Illinois militia was near mutiny, with desertions and low morale commonplace, and the new force called out by Gov. Reynolds was not ready to attack. The regular army of only 320 some soldiers was stationed in Ottawa with General Atkinson, who was cautiously biding his time.

Continuning raids in the Lead Mining region would soon provoke Captain James Stephenson to rush down from Galena and root out the harassing warriors in the Battle of Pecatonica on June 16.

James M. Strode to Henry Atkinson
Galena
June the 10th. 1832

Sir:

Being informed that you desired some information in respect to the movements of the hostile Indians in this quarter, I embrace the present opportunity with pleasure in forwarding such as we have received to you.

The Indians have carried the war to the south & north of us. We have ascertained here since Genl. Dodge left Gratiot's Grove for your Quarters, that the man who was killed by the East Blue Mound on the evening of the 6th. Inst was named [William Griffith] Auberry, and upon examining his body it seems two balls had entered it & he was stabbed in the neck with a spear, and they also shot at a man by the name of [Jefferson] Smith three times in company with Auberry at the same time. On the night of the 8th. Inst. the Indians stole 12 horses from the Apple River Fort, most of them valuable...

There is doubtless a chain of correspondence kept up between the Indians of the Mississippi and those located at different Points on Rock Rver. The main body of the hostile Sacks and their allies, which are believed to be somewhat numerous, are said by the Winnebagoes to be in the forks of the White Water River and Rock River about twenty miles above the Turtle Village [modern Beloit], a place by nature almost inaccessable to our people; and we have heard since Genl. Dodge's departure for your Head Quarters, that they have all their Women and Children with plenty of provisions there, and are fortifying by throwing up a breast work, and are digging pits in the ground to cover them from our firing in case of attack, which they are expecting soon to take place...

I am Sir, however well convinced, that danger is nigh us, and if we possibly can defend ourselves, without assistance from abroad, it will at least equal my expectation; two thirds of the men that were here at the beginning of the war have evacuated the Country and gone below—but when we finish our stockade, which can be done in one day, we can spare an hundred horse and an hundred foot. I shall send a force tomorrow down to the mouth of Plum River, to dislodge that horde of robbers and plunderers, who have so much annoyed our people.

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