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Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War

July 14, Fort Hamilton, Wis.: A Militia Unit Requests Discharge

Editor's Note:

Concerned that their service might last longer than they'd bargained for, and without seeing any combat, and with the army short on supplies, the third regiment of Gen. Posey's brigade here requests an early discharge so they can reach their homes while still in full pay status.

Gen. Atkinson, in his reply below, assured them that no matter how long they had to serve they would be fully paid, and predicts a decisive move toward Black Hawk is about to begin:

"Genl Atkinson--To Brig. Genl Posey
Head Qrs: of the Army on Rock Rver,
Mouth of White Water [Bark], 16th. July 1832

"Sir, Your letter of yesterday by express has been recieved. I regret that you found no provisions in Depot at Hamiltons as you expected -- you can however easily supply yourself from the public Depot at Galena, of which you will avail your self. You are charged with the command and defence of the Mineral District and will so dispose your forces as to meet that object.

'I[n] answer to the enquiry made by Col [Samuel] Leech and others, of the 3rd Regt. 1st Brigade, as to their receiving pay and Rations should they not reach home before their term of service expires, I have to observe that they will receive pay till they are mustered out of service, although it may be longer than the period for which they [enrolled] and pay for the time necessary for them to Travel home after they are discharged & Travelling expences for the distance traveled according to Law.'

"I do hope and believe that we shall not be much longer in bringing the war to a close. The hostile Indians are still about thirty miles [above us]. I purpose [propose] moving upon them in two days as the supply of Provisions from Fort Winnebago is arriving and the Train of Waggons from Galena by the way of Fort Hamilton, will be in this evening.

"(Signed) H Atkinson. Brigr Genl U.S. Army"

Fort Hamilton was a temporary fortification built at modern Wiota, on the property of William Hamilton.

Camp Near Fort Hamilton M T [Michigan Territory].
14th July 1832.


Several Companies Composing the Regiment under our Command being enrolled &
Musterered into service for a tower [tour] of three months, Commencing the 12th day of May & ending the 12th day of August 1832, Which Being expressed in the Muster Rolls & the troops being Mustered into service & the Muster Rolls Received in that Way, Makes the Contract between the General Government & the men binding on both Parties, and of Course it Cannot be Changed by one Without the Consent of the other; and from the distance we are now from our Place of Residence it Will Require the Balance of the three Months allowing 15 Miles for a days travel to Perform the Journey home, and Should We be detained longer in the service Without entering into a new Contract, the government Will not be Bound to Pay us for more than the time expressed in the Original Contract.

[Therefore] under these Circumstances, the Men contend that they are entitled to a discharge, and Believing that We can no Longer be useful to our Country in this expedition as there are now More troops in the field than can be Profitably Employed against the enemy in this quarter, and in fact more than can be supplied with rations, We therefore under a deep sense of duty to our Country as Well as to ourselves, Wish to be Honorably discharged from the service of the untied States and desire you to make our Wishes Known to Genl. Atkinson.

We have the Honor to be Verry Respectfully yours &c

Saml. Leech Col. 3rd Regt 1 Brig
Joseph Campell Lieut Col
Joseph Shelton Major
Jeffrey Robinson Adjt

[Source: Thayer, Crawford Beecher, Hunting a Shadow: The Search for Black Hawk (Banta Press, 1981), p. 193.]

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