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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

June 28: Gen. Atkinson Starts Hunting for Black Hawk

Editor's Note:

In this letter to Henry Dodge, Gen. Henry Atkinson announces that he is finally beginning the hunt for Black Hawk.

Atkinson had spent most of the war building the Army's base of operations in Ottawa, Ill., far away from the settlers he was meant to protect as well as at a safe distance from Black Hawk's warriors. Closer to the action was Col. Henry Dodge of Wisconsin, a rising star of the war who, unlike the cautious Atkinson, was anxious to go after Black Hawk as soon as possible.

By late June, Dodge had established his reputation as an effective Indian fighter and militia leader at a time when most of the militia was considered inept, cowardly, and unmotivated. Because of this, Dodge was given command over Gen. Alexander Posey, who technically outranked him. In his letter to Posey of the same day, Atkinson wrote, " will report and receive the orders of Genl Dodge as soon as practicable, who is an officer of great experience & merit & is acquainted with the country."

Posey refused to do so, creating a rift between officers that made the hunt for Black Hawk even more difficult and slow.

Genl. Atkinson - To Col. Dodge
Head Qrs of the Army of the frontier Dixons ferry, 28th. June 1832

...I shall move to day with Henry's Brigade of volunteers and the regular Troops up the left bank of Rock River with a view of finding the main body of the enemy south of Four lakes [modern Madison, Wisconsin]. Your cooperation is very desirable, and I have to direct, that should the state of things in the Mineral [District] admit of your leaving there, that you will Join me with part of [Brigadier General Alexander] Posey's Brigade and some of your own Troops, near the mouth of the Peketollike [Pecatonica] or some suitable point near that place. It is necessary however to leave the positions in the Mineral District well guarded with an active force to scour the Country...

(Signed) 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.698]

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