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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

June 25: The Battle of Kellogg's Grove

Editor's Note:

This report, lightly edited here, was written to inform Brig. Gen. Henry Atkinson of the Battle of Kellogg's Grove on June 25. This battle was between a large band of warriors led by Black Hawk and chiefs Neapope and Weesheet (or Sturgeon), and a spy company of 35 militia under Major John Dement. Only the day before, the elusive Black Hawk had attacked the Apple River Fort with 200 warriors, and failing to take that fort had made off with horses and supplies. Major Dement was searching the countryside for marauding bands of warriors sent by Black Hawk, following trails that led him to Kellogg's Grove when he stumbled upon the war party.

Like many battle in the Black Hawk War, Kellogg's Grove began without order or strategy. The document describes how scouts spotted seven braves and instead of reporting this to the Major, who might order an organized attack, they rode off in hot pursuit. The Indian warriors ran for cover of the woods, and using the same strategy that had foiled the Illinois militia so many times before, they set an ambush. From the cover of the forest, they sprung up and soon surrounded the over-anxious militiamen. Major Dement brought the rest of his company up to help the scouts, but in the end suffered five dead, three wounded, and lost many horses. At least nine of Black Hawk's fightrers were killed.

In his autobiography, Black Hawk also describes this battle, giving great praise to Maj. Dement:

"After marching a considerable time I discovered some white men coming towards us. I told my braves that we would go into the woods and kill them when they approached. We concealed ourselves until they came near enough and then commenced yelling and firing and made a rush upon them. About this time their chief, with a party of men, rushed up to rescue the men we had fired upon. In a little while they commenced retreating and left their chief and a few braves who seemed willing and anxious to fight. They acted like men, but were forced to give way when I rushed upon them with my braves. In a short time the chief returned with a larger party. He seemed determined to fight, and anxious for a battle. When he came near enough I raised the yell and firing commenced from both sides. The chief, who seemed to be a small man, addressed his warriors in a loud voice, but they soon retreated, leaving him and a few braves on the battle field. A great number of my warriors pursued the retreating party and killed a number of their horses as they ran.

"The chief and his few braves were unwilling to leave the field. I ordered my braves to rush upon them, and had the mortification of seeing two of my chiefs killed before the enemy retreated.

"This young chief deserves great praise for his courage and bravery, but fortunately for us, his army was not all composed of such brave men."

John Dement: Report of Battle at Kellogg's Grove

On monday morning [April 25,] at about four Oclock, Majr. Dement received an express from Gratiots Grove, eighteen miles west of his encampment, informing him that large Indian trails leading towards the Mississippi had been discovered. The trails were supposed to have been made by the main body of Indians retreating to the west side of the Mississipi and had passed five miles west of his encampment. The Major immediately sent an express to Dixon's Ferry, forty miles South East of his encampment, where by that time he supposed the main army had reached, and at daylight Issued orders to his Battallion preparatory to scouring the country around his incampment, and the examination of the Indian trails. He ordered thirty men then to prepare themselves immediately, to march with him in the direction of the Indian trails, and another party to examine the woods immediately around the encampment. The thirty or perhaps thirty five mounted their Horses, which they had according to orders tied within the centinals [sentinels] and marched, in the direction of the Indian trails, but the Indians had not marched across the Mississippi as had been supposed by the express, but proved to be lying in ambush but a short distance from his encampment.

The Major had not marched more than one mile & half towards the Indian trails, when his front men scouting in advance of his party near one half mile discovered seven Indians, and through their anxiety to engage with the seven immediately & for fear of their escape, pursued them without reporting their discovery. The Majr anticipating the consequences of the pursuit, stated to the small party of his officers & men, who were then with him, that he was sorry that his advance men had pursued the seven Indians, that they would be fired on so soon as they reached the woods they were running the Indians to, and the attack would be brought on before any re-enforcement could be brought from the encampment, and too true was his remark.

The words had scarcely been expressed, when from the woods the Indians bursted forth upon the scouts, with all the savage ferocity, which has always characterised an attack of Indians, when they have an advantage of their enemy. The Major then bravely animating his little party, to stand and relieve their brother soldiers, he with his small number, bravely met the charge of upwards of two hundred Select Warriors, commanded by all of their best and most Warlike Chiefs, (To Wit) Black Hawk, Wesheat, Nepope, & others, and rescued his scouters from their Persuit, and in so doing the Indians had him & his party almost surrounded, when with his party he forced his way through the flanks of the Indian Ranks to his encampment one & a half miles, closely pursued by the Indians, while the balance of his Battalion, were standing in readiness to receive them.

When the Major got his Battalion together, with the assistance of his Brother officers, rallied his men to Battle, when a very hot fire commenced, but in a very few moments the Indians tho flushed with the hope of victory, which had a short time previous appeared certain to hem, gave way before the steady well aimed Rifles of our Volenteers, who had determined with the advantage of the deserted cabbins they had possession of, to make every shot count if possible, as they were very scarce of Amunition; the orders of the Major was to let them come as close as they will before you fire, make every shot count

Black Hawk & his men soon discovered notwithstanding their superior numbers they could not make wages righting men that were determined upon death or Victory. He then withdrew to a thick cluster of trees where he could fire upon our soldiers horses, and killed & wounded fifty or sixty of them, but finding although they had got a considerable distance from the deserted cabbin, they were not out of reach of our Bullets, for two of them were killed while they were shooting horses, they were finally forced to retire with their disappointed hopes of Victory, & loss of nine men killed which were found on the field, and it has been assertained they lost eighteen. They killed five of our men in the Prairie, of the party that were going to examine the trails, & wounded three or four others; they wounded several of our horses while our men were upon them.

[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.680]

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