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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

July 2: Hunting a Shadow

Editor's Note:

After the dissolution of the militia and a month and a half of unrestrained Indian attacks across the Lead Mining region, in early July American forces finally began to hunt for Black Hawk. At the time of this reporting, the Americans believed that Sauk & Fox were camped near Lake Koshkonong, in south-central Wisconsin. The army and militia, burdened with horses and supply wagons, could only move very slowly through the uninhabitted swamps and wetlands to reach the spot. By the time they arrived on July 4, all they found was an abandoned encampment.

Although Black Hawk's Band was made up of more than 1,000 people - men and women, children and elderly, warriors and non-combatants - they proved surprisingly elusive. Their knowledge of the environment, how to traverse it, live off it, and use it strategically, gave them a marked advantage over the white soldiers, who were contrained by the need to be resupplied every few days. The immense difficulty in finding Black Hawk would lead Governor Reynolds to write, "we were almost hunting a shadow."

War News from Galena
July 2.

A detachment of 60 mounted Volunteers, composed part of Captains Craig and Duncan's companies left town, by order of Col. Strode, under command of Major Stevenson, to join the main army, which is now marching to the Indians' encampments with a view of a general extermination.

Lieuts. Holmes and Crossman, and Mr. Enoch C. March, Q.M.G. arrived here this afternoon from Gen. Atkinson's Head Quarters, at the mouth of Sycamore Creek, state that between Buffalo Grove and Kellogg's Grove, and in the latter, they saw three very large fresh Indian trails yesterday and the day before, and several smaller ones. They do not believe the trail could have been more than a day or two old, when they saw it. They all lead S.,S.W. to N.,N.E. in a direction where, we understand, the main body of the Indians are stationed.

Such of the mounted Volunteers as remain, of Captains Craig and Duncan's companies, have been placed under command of the former, and will continue to reconnoitre the country around and about Galena. They have returned this evening, but report no signs of hostility as having met their observation.

[Source: Whitney, Ellen M., ed. The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Society, 1970), p.731]

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