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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

June 22: Gov. Reynolds Ignores Criticism in the Press

Editor's Note:

In the face of public criticism of his handling of the war, Governor John Reynolds (1788-1865) here defends himself to his friend and former Illinois Governor Ninian Edwards.

By late June, critics of the ambitious governor claimed that he had been unwise in calling out the large militia, and that he was responsible for the embarrassing defeat of Stillman's Run on June 14. Black Hawk escaped, and the militia was demoralized to the point of mutiny and dissolution. Emboldened by victory and seeing the American defences crumbling, Indian warriors had been attacking whites across the region with impunity.

Nonetheless, the determined Governor seems to have believed that history would absolve him. Ninian Edwards, who took an anti-Indian stance similiar to Reynolds, was one of the few public voices sympathetic to the Governor. Reynolds lived true to his word that he would be "easy as a rock in the wind."

After the Black Hawk War, he would go on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives 1834-1837 and 1839-1843. In his 1879 autobiography, Reynolds expressed no regret over his actions in the Black Hawk War and blamed the militia's "want of disipline, subordination, and proper previous arrangements of the officers" for their defeat.

John Reynolds to Ninian Edwards
Fort Wilburn 22 June 1832

Dear friend: - I am much more concerned at the anxiety of friends, and you are one, about the dissatisfaction of the people, than I am for my self. I have acted right, and should the people not approve, let it be so. It can not hurt me, as I want nothing from them other than common civility... The frontier is crowded with men, so is the army. It will not do to do wrong to humor a blind infatuation. I am as easy as a rock in the wind, let it blow hard, or not. All I am sorry for is that I commenced so good and must continue.

I wish you to inform my friends that I am "bullet proof." I have done
right, & care not for slander, that I go in for nothing: that as soon as the storm settles in my favor, which it is compelled to do, I will bid a long farewell to public life & Live at home in peace. I am now before the people. I am in for my friends: but you and a few excepted, not one other will write or say one word in my favor. I do not want it, as I care very little about the result. .
Snyder had a fight with the Indians - lost 3 men, Ben. Scott, McDanow and Macomson, and killed 4 Indians, at least there were 4 killed. Dodge killed 11 Indians. J. W. Stephenson it is said is mortally wounded. Dr Cornelius is wounded. A man was killed in the Beurau settlement, and one at DePage since I arrived here. Blood flows here on a small scale tolerably fast.

I am well so you will inform my family—and will start in the morning for the Indian country, and will return in 20 or 30 days.

Col. Millefris' company is ordered on the frontier for 20 days. A supply can not be had for more troops; and not long for those here.

I see Congress has passed 30000[0] Doll[ar]s, for the war.

Your friend
John Reynolds

[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.648]

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