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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

June 15: Gen. Atkinson Prepares to March on Black Hawk

Editor's Note:

In this letter to U.S. Army General Alexander Macomb, Genl. Atkinson reports that he is about to march on Black Hawk with 3,000 militia and 400 regular troops. He also planned to leave a detachment at the fort in Ottawa, Ill., and to have a force of Potawatomi warriors join him in a week.

This news of action was a long time coming, since for the last month Black Hawk's location had been a mystery, the militia had been unable to protect the frontier from attacks, and Atkinson had remained holed up in Ottawa. His final remark that he would pursue Black Hawk's warriors until they were "annihilated or fully and severely punnished and subdued" reflects the spirit of revenge that was mounting among the frontier population. His threat would culminate at the end of the war, when the starving men, women and children of Black Hawk's community would be massacred at Bad Axe, Wisconsin.

Genl. Atkinson to Genl Macomb
Head Qrs. Right Wing West Dept
Fort Deposit near Ottoway
June 15. 1832

General, I have the honour to inform you that the Illinois Militia called out by the Governor on my requisition have mostly arrived at this place, and are being organized into corps preparatory to being turned over and mustered into the service of the U. States. Some of the corps will be put under march in three days. The whole force in five.

I have ascertained that the hostile Indians have assembled about Twenty miles above Tush-ca-o-mong, on Rock river and have Pitched their Lodges on a piece of ground supposed by them to be impenetrable, between the River, a swamp, and a muddy creek. This is a favoarable circumstance as it is probable they will attempt to defend themselves in their present Position, hence giving us a reasonable prospect of coming up with them.

I have only to add that I have a Militia force of Three thousand Men and about four hundred regular Troop. With these I cannot fail to put an end in short time to the perplexed state of Indian hostility in this quarter. Should, however, the Sacs elude us and recross the Mississippi, I will pursue them forthwith and never cease till they are annihilated or fully and severely punnished and subdued.

H Atkinson
Brigr. Genl U.S. Army.

[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.589]

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