The Saga of Black Hawk,    
               Part I

     Near where I grew up in Sac County, Iowa,
(called after the Sac or Sauk Indians) there's a
glacial lake named for their famed leader,
Black Hawk.
     A statue of him stands near to the northern
shore. This long narrative poem remembers him
 and the tragedy that befell him and his people.

He wore a reddish crest,
A tuft atop his head;
He resisted movement west,
But sadly, be it said,
    His stance, to tragedy led!

Of him did history write
And scribe his native stand:
He stood against the white,
Uprooting from the land...

In Saukenuk, he dwelt;
Its houses hided of bark;
Where venison hung and pelt,
And fires illumed the dark...


Detail of a map from Plate XC, dated 1832, year of  the war.  Copy from reproduction of original in National Archives.  See the  map larger but somewhat cropped, at the end of this poetry, along with other cartography.

His village was nigh to where,
Two rivers met and mingled:
The Mississippi and Rock,
Together, their waters singled...

From inside the banks of one, unpent,
The flow of water, to the other went.
         
In this land of his abode
― a terrain with rivered road 
A prairie lay parallel to
The Mighty water running through.

And in the soil of fertile land,
The women did hack and hoe and hew;
With a stony blade and stick in hand,
They tilled the crop of maize they grew.

Joined by the Indian Fox,
They met and toiled in tillage;
They worked to grow their crops,
They sweat for each their village.

In the country  around
Were abundant berries to pick;
Apples and plums did abound,
And nuts were found, there thick.

Above the prairie, rose a bluff
Where gushed spring water clear;
They drank to slake their thirst,
And saw the track of deer
      The print of cloven toe,
            Left by buck and doe.

They hunted the antlered one,
The denizen of the woods,
They hunted, both father and son,
For venison, hide and goods.

Where the rapids rushed and swished,
With weir and spear they fished.
In the shadowy deep, they dropped a hook
And by the bank, they turtle took,
     Where it slid o'er mud or clay,
     Before it swam in shell away.


Black Hawk

The native who stood was Sauk,
But called himself "a Sac"
In English known as Black Hawk...
Yet Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak,
Was a name to which he clung,
His name in native tongue...

He stood not large of size,
Dark hazel were his eyes;
From his ears and neck were hung
Strings of wampum strung;
Hollow cheeked and bent of nose,
He deerskin wore for clothes.

Aside, he wore a pouch of hawk,
From whence his name in paleface talk...

The Sauk

The Sauk dwelt once in Michigan,
In the region of Saginaw Bay,
But westward came this native clan,
They came Wisconsin way...

They also were known as Saukie
And by the longer, Asakiwaki...

Among what meanings or origins say:
"The outlet," or people of  "yellow earth,"
Created in myth of yellow clay
―The heritage of their birth.

Confederated with the Sauk,
Were the Indians called the Fox,
Like separate feet together,
In a pair of Indian moccs...

Together, yet apart alone,
These native tribes did locate;
They dwelt in villages of their own,
Along and near the river great...

       
Mis-treaty of 1804?

In the year of 1803,
For pennies an acre paid,
The French, they did agree,
To a Purchase, America made:

Louisiana, for coins of cent,
'Twas a land of great extent:
From the Gulf to Canada north,
And to the Rockies west it went...

And with this great expanse,
She doubled in size from France.

The following year, America sought,
    A tract of tribal land;
And again, by treaty wrought,
    America did expand...

Not only land acquired,
From the Mississippi west,
But land to the east desired,
Land the natives possessed...

Land from the river Wisconsin,
South to the Gasconade,
And east to the Illinois,
She gained by pact she made...

For the Fox and Sauk or Sac,
Much it did them cost;
The land they now did lack,
Was land they lost!

These questions we may pose
And ask the past to disclose:

Whether those who put to paper quill,
Went beyond their tribal will;
Whether a few were pressed to cede,
More than the many would've agreed...

Whether the mind of Quashquame
Was befogged with drink;
Whether he and others, they,
Were too grogged to clearly think...

Removal and Return

In the course of time, America sold
This land the Indian once did hold...
And for these natives, their fortunes sank,
To the east of the Mississippi bank...

That is to say, no longer were they,
Allow'd to abide, upon that side...

Across the river the Hawk was forced,
Across and west to the Ioway...
But after some moons, back he coursed,
Against the Whites, their way...

Across the current they paddled canoe,
And their horses swam, the water through...

Black Hawk returned to enjoy
Ancestral land in Illinois...
He did not intend a fray
But thought to defend and stay...

And thus the Indian Sac,
In time flown by before,
      The Hawk flew back,
      And winged the river o'er...
And his talons, they alit,
      On land he wouldn't quit...

He was heartened by Neapope's report,
Of tribal help and British support
And word from one, believed endowed:
Wobokieskiek,
               the prophet White Cloud...

Up the Rock

They followed the Rock,
And up it, they singing went;
With drums abeat, the flock
Was silent not, in its intent...

General Gaines did this assert:
He'd crush them, like a piece of dirt!

The Indian came by canoe and horse,
To make their corn and gather force...
But the help foretold, came not to pass,
Not sinew enough nor muscle mass...

The British were coming not,
The Winnebago wouldn't unite,
The Potawatomi had no corn...
Black Hawk decided not to fight...

Black Hawk believed
      Himself deceived...
His trust was shaken,
      He'd been mistaken!
If pursuers, on them did close,
     And they were overtaken,
     Surrender then, he chose...

A White Flag Torn

On a day that year in May
With militia just miles away...
His hopes did sag,
     His hopes were hollowed...
He sent a white flag
     To those who followed...

The trucebearers went to talk,
Of council with Black Hawk,
Of where the parties could meet,
Woes discuss, and then retreat:
              The Indian flock
              Would descend the Rock...

And several Indians, sent to watch,
Were seen, far out upon the prairie...
But events to follow, would rip apart,
The flag of truce the natives did carry...

Fighting Begins

The sighting flashed through
                                  the militia force,
And some in haste, hastened ahorse;
And from their encamping place,
Toward those afar, they did race!

They galloped o'er the prairie,
       Alarming, as on they sped...
The observers stayed not to tarry,
But turned instead―and fled!

But shot! in volley were two,
By those who did pursue!

For the Indian quest, O sadly,
The Whites reacted badly,
Even attacking those in truce
―And a battle they did produce!

Their impetuosity
Unloosed ferocity...

The White pulled back
     The bow that bent,
And nocked the arrow,
     The Indian sent...

They came at a gallop on horse,
With most of the warriors away...
But Black Hawk, with some forty of force,
By bushes hidden, sprang in fray...

The Whites, they wheeled about,
In panic they fled, a rout;
In the gathering darkness scary,
They fled to Dixon's Ferry...

And the natives pursued the White
Into the gloom and night...

The Battle of Stillman's Run,
The Indian fought and won;
But the peace they sought,
         Had come to nought,
And alas,
Moons would pass,
Before the strife begun,
Would be o'er and done...

And eleven Whites were slain,
And not only did they slay,
But enemy scalps did gain
In a very sanguine way...
   And they limbs did sever,
   From the fallen forever...

The band ascended the Rock
           To the Winnebago praise,
And these offered to lead to safely
           To what's Wisconsin these days...

It should be remembered that
A Winnebagos go,
Some would be their friend,
Some would be their foe...

Even Keokuk, a chief of Sauk,
In offer went against the Hawk!

Raids

In part, for supplies to raise,
Black Hawk unloosed forays...

His band did attack, 'tis true,
But not everything did do:
The Fox and Sac were blamed,
For weapons others aimed.

Between Galena and Dixon's Ferry,
Some with dispatches to carry,
Met a party of war...
And Winnebago killed four.

And among the slain
Was agent St. Vrain;
And with his life at end,
The Indians lost a friend...

The lost on this occasion,
Was one of peaceful persuasion...
And in reporting that he he'd died,
The St. Louis Beacon cried:
A hundred Indian lives, is too small,
For each of the victims who did fall...

And here the Beacon shone a light
Upon its darkness of its sight.

On the Pecatonica, a party of war
Was trapped at a river bend;
The Whites slew the party, and more:
They scalped those brought to end...

Yet even more
        was yet in store:
Menominees,
        Winnebago and Sioux
They fell on these,
        And cruelly cut them too...

Away from the Kishkonong and fish,
They were famished for food to eat;
More than roots and bark could wish;
―And frailty and death they came to meet!

As other tribesmen left,
Their number was bereft.

And with fear of encircling foe,
Black Hawk thought West to go:
To his people he did recommend,
The Wisconsin they descend,
Down to the Mississippi flow
And to its farther side, to go.

In Pursuit

After a string of setbacks
    And signs, anon,
The trail of the Fox and Sacs,
    The Whites came upon...

On the 21st of July,
    They cast their soldier eye
Upon a native alone,
    There grieving for his own,
There
buried was his wife...
    With shots, they took his life!

And not content with his demise,
    His scalp they took it too;
And remember this, and realize,
    That this, the White did do!

And more, they came upon, in back
    And followed in falling rain;
The Indian tried to throw off track,
    But the army continued to gain...

(continued in Part II)

 

 
Hand-drawn map, Plate XC, dated 1832, year of the Black Hawk War

  

Plate XXXIX, 1815-1816.  Sketch of part of upper Mississippi at the close of the War of 1812.  Copy of reproduction from the original in the National  Archives, Washington, D.C.   A plausible interpretation of the writing shows Sacks or Socks Town where the Rock and Mississippi rivers join, Prarie de Chien, and the Des Moines spelled as Le Moin. 

                                                                                                                                

   

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