Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War
July 31, Fort Crawford: The Militia Capture Refugee Women and Children
In this letter Gustavis Loomis (1789-1872), Captain at Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, informs General Atkinson of his plan to capture the rufugees of Black Hawk's band who had escaped down the Wisconsin River at the time of the Battle of Wisconsin Heights on July 21.
Loomis expresses his intention here to capture and protect the women and children, but this would not work out as he hoped. Only two days before, militia had fired on canoes of refugees in the dark without identifying who was inside [see this previous entry]. Gen. Atkinson had employed Menominee warriors, who were in the middle of a blood feud with the Sauk and Fox and were more interested in taking scalps than prisoners. By August 8, the Galenian reported 34 prisoners and 50 killed in the search for Sauk and Fox on the lower-Wisconsin.
The steam boat Warrior Loomis mentions was on its way up the Mississippi, where it would soon play a crucial part in the massacre of Black Hawk's remaining followers on the banks of the Mississippi.
Captain Gustavis Loomis to General Henry Atkinson:
Fort Crawford, M[ichigan]. T[erritory]... July 31. 9 ock.
The Winnebagoes have just bro't in 7 to 9 more prisoners, squaws & children, among them a part Menominie Squaw who says that the whole of the Women and Children are coming down the Ouisconsin. That she cannot count the Canoes -- That they thought they would come and give themselves up to their relations the Menominies -- That there were but 7 men with her party. She does not think there were many men coming down, they had gone with the main Band. She has not seen that band since the battle [on July 21], says they lost in killed 68 men.
I have requested Genl. [and Indian agent Jospeh] Street to tell the Winnebagoes to go out with flags and endeavor to persuade them all to come in and surrender themselves.
I have great hopes that they will do so. I think the possession of the Women and Children will give you a great hold upon the band of B. Hawk. Genl. Street was also of the opinion that we had better take them prisoners.
I deem it very important that you should know that Black Hawk is releived from his women and children -- for he will be able to fly the more rapidly. I could not get any body to go on Express yesterday and now am obliged to pay an exhorbitant price for they think that there is great risk of life.
The S.B. [steam boat] Warrior now up the Miss: is to go as far as Wa-ba-shaw and get the Scioux to watch the Shores of the river that the men (Hos. [Hostile] Indians) do not cross with impunity -- the boat has a 6 Pr. [pounder cannon] on board, Lt. [Reuben] Holmes is also on board and has provisions with him. Wi-ni-shec has not come in with his band. I fear he is too friendly with the S. & Foxes.
Genl. Street wishes me to say he is too busy to write.
I tried but could not get a man to go to Galena nor hire a Canoe. I wished to inform Col. [James M.] Strode and get him to send some Mounted Men to guard the Ouisconsin &c. and prevent their passing around the ferry by land.
My whole Guard & 6 Pr. are now at the Ferry: I found that the Musketry of the Guard at the Ferry stopped nearly all from passing and rendered the 6 Pr. useless below.
The Winnebago Chief Caramonie has gone out with a part of his band, 2 Frenchmen & a Sac Squaw goes along to assure the fugetives of security and good treatment as prisoners, until the pleasure of the President is known.
I have the honor to be very Respectfully, Yr. mo. obt. Servt.
G: Loomis Cap. 1t. Infy. Commg. [Captain, 1st Infantry, Commanding]
[Source: Thayer, Crawford B. Massacre at Bad Axe. (Banta Company, 1984), p. 122]