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The Saga of Blackhawk,
               Part II

Battle of Wisconsin Heights

They came in sight of river
    Before the set of sun,
They came in sight of  foe,
  
Their scouts were on the run!

The screaming Indians came,
    Close to the guns aflame!
At less than a hundred feet,
    They turned, in their retreat...

The battle began, nigh to where,
     The Wisconsin was coursing by...
With smoke adrift in air,
     Their traded shots did fly...

The Whites were on a plain
     Above the Wisconsin flow;
The natives, up the hills,
     Poured down their fire below...

And yet the soldier Whites,
      Gained the upper hand,
And drove from off the heights,
      The natives from higher land.

But with the coming of night,
       The soldiers broke off the fight...

There were reports of few
       To many natives who died;
But only one in war,
       Upon the soldier side...

The aborigines,
    That eve and during the night,
Stripped bark from off of trees...
    And tied pieces together tight,
And canoes they made of these...

With their boats of bark,
    And rafts of mats and animal skin,
Their own they floated in dark
     To cross to land again...

A few unable to go on,
    With the army to assail...
Drifted the river down,
    In vessels, fragile and frail...

Come morning, the army formed
    And moved with caution on,
Moved across the nether land,
    But Black Hawk now was gone

With rations for a day
     And tools for rafts, a-lacking,
Their crossing did they delay,
     To continue their Indian tracking...

Another surrender attempt

Soon after, before the break of dawn,
     After the natives had crossed and gone,
They heard a voice, loud and shrill,
     Coming down, from off a hill...

It was from Neapope,
      Of the Indian band,
Who spoke in Winnebago,
       To arrange, to leave the land...

He described the womenfolk and young,
        Their condition he did invoke...
But those who understood his tongue,
       Were gone, the day before he spoke,
No longer the Whites among

The others comprehended naught
       Of the words their ears had caught...

The Captain at Prairie du Chien,
       Commanding  Ft. Crawford there,
Took measures to intervene,
       To deploy and to prepare...

He was advised to artillery place,
      To prevent escape from river space...
But he did more,
      Than counseled for:

Besides preventing flight
      From the river mouth
Of fleeing in their plight...
      He bade Winnebago south.

They brought in canoes
     Or ruined them to use...

He had a boat above du Chien,
     With cannon, steam back and forth
And called to arms some Sioux,
      Who descended from the north...

A hundred and fifty put on paint
      With Wabashaw, one patched of eye,
But 'twas ignorance or unrestraint,
      To even invite the Sioux to ally...

Cut Off at the Wisconsin

Some Indians tried to get away,
     On the water during the dark,
But their vessels were fired upon,
     At starving buoyed in bark...

Some of their canoes were destroyed,
     Yet the fleeing continued to try;
But then the army deployed,
     NonWhites to search and spy...

The aborigine sight,
      Of Winnebago and Menominee,
Was aided with torches of light,
      To hunt the Indians trying to flee...

Of the Indians sought,
      Were four and thirty caught;
And sadly, this native help,
      Severed from nine their scalp.

On the trail again

From cabins left behind before,
    The army made rafts for crossing o'er...
On July's twenty-eighth day,
     The army again was on their way...

The Wisconsin now behind,
     Their quarry they sought to find...

Within miles, the trail they saw,
     Toward the west it went;
Farther on they found,
     That more to the north, it bent...

They came to a hilly ground,
     Barren of grass for horse to eat;
They saplings cut for mounts
    And followed the tramp of feet...

The dwindling band of Fox and Sac,
    Left belongings, strewn along in back...
Mats and blankets, kettles and traps,
    And starved and wounded
                                         in their wake...
They passed by one in wooden crypt,
    Whose own took time, for burial sake...

The Indian hunger forced them to eat,
     Their own transport, of horse for meat.

Back at the Mississippi

At last the Fox and Sacs,
     Reached the boundary flow,
'Twas  near the stream, Bad Axe,
     Miles above du Chien below.

It was midsummer, August the first,
    But hope of crossing, quickly burst...

The desperate band, disappointed were;
    They found no canoes upon the banks...
With Black Hawk, most did not concur,
     And with his leadership, broke ranks...

He'd counseled these, the sorely tried,
     To go up the Mississippi, to hide
He counseled the members that they go,
     Among the native, the Winnebago...

Most listened naught,
    To what he thought...
They'd suff'ring undergone,
   And to another way were drawn:
To cross to the farther shore,
   Yon the water that lay before...           

They constructed rafts and canoe,
    To ferry them the river o'er;
And of the native band, a few
    Were able to cross
                    to the other shore. 
But then! a boat did appear...
    Approaching and drawing  near...

White flag raised again

It was the Warrior called,
   With troops and artillery piece...
To the Indians now, to fight was  futile,
   They raised white flags, to cease...

They hailed the Warrior  boat,
    To surrender to those afloat...

An interpreter did err and say,
     To the lieutenant in command,
That what the natives had said:
     Was for the Whites to land...
From mistrust there came a demand
     That two come aboard instead...

Now those ashore misunderstood,
     And complied not, as well they could...

Black Hawk put cloth to pole
    And called to the captain he knew,
To let him come aboard,
    And send for him, a canoe...

Yet Black Hawk heard
    A warning word:
    A native said to hide
    For the Whites were going to shoot...
    Would death be upon his side?
    And error there took root.

A woman reported that they,
    Were Fox and Sac upon the shore;
And the boat, to native dismay,
     A storm of lead on them did pour...

To nervous men aboard, it appeared:
    They cover sought and guns did prime;
And on the boat the commander feared,
    Those ashore, were playing for time...

Those aboard unloosed, a volley of fire;
    About two hours did last the  fray,
Until the Warrior had to retire,
    To replenish fuel they went away...

Black Hawk tried again to persuade,
    After the boat had left,
But discredit had befallen the Hawk:
    His group in twain was cleft.

That night some lodges went forth,
    Departing with Black Hawk north...

Meanwhile coming behind

The army roused by bugle,
     long before light...
Some moved out before,
    To seek the path of flight...

The scouts came upon
    A party ahead;
Some they dispatched,
    And some they fled...

The army formed for battle,
     But advancing, no foe did see;
But the last to leave the camp
     Discovered, what happened to be   
         The trail and course
         Of the principal force...
   

A brigade began
     To battle the Indian band,
Who after a feeble fight, fell back,
     Through brush
                  and fallen timberland...

The Massacre

They drove them they did pursue
Drove them from river bottom
      To several bars where willow grew...
They fired at that which moved,
      They shot 'em!

Many women and young they slew!
    Shot, burrowed in sand,
    Shot, while trying to swim away...
    Behind logs, or cowering in brush,
    All these the troops did slay!

From the willow bars, a few,
    Did cross to islands two
And there they climbed up trees...
    But sadly for the natives, these...

The Warrior appeared anew,
    With these island trees in view;
They boomed away with cannonfire
    At those aloft, up higher...

The Whites came together at the flow;
     Aboard the soldiers did embark:
To empty the islands of their foe,
    To bring them closer to their mark...

They routed the remaining ones
    And drove the natives to water:
There to drown...or shot by guns,
    Shot from the banks in slaughter...

An agent would say,
    That the Indian, they
Were literally pushed
    Into the Mississippi flood...
Shot astream or at the edge
Its current once tinged with blood!

Black Hawk said many women
    Began swimming the river o'er,
With young upon their backs...
     
Some drowned, some shot before
         They reached the farther shore...

It would be called a war...
    Yet it seems 'twas more
A chase and a massacre,
    That took place and did occur...

It needn't have been
In the annals of men.

The Aftermath

The surgeons dressed soldier wounds
    And those of natives surviving the fray;
The prisoners and wounded were sent,
   To Prairie du Chien on water's way...

Those who got away,
    The army did not pursue,
For their horses had tired  
    And the infantry, had no shoe...

To the General, it seemed
    Too cruel more blood to shed,
Until he learned if remnants
    Would surrender, instead...

But Wababshaw and the Sioux
    Reported to the American chief,
Who deputized the Sioux to search
    For those, who'd end in grief!

He'd been told to restrain,
    The Sioux from the Fox and Sac...
But then why did he give such rein?
   Why didn't he send them back?

Those who crossed

Those of  Black Hawk's band
    Who'd fled to the farther side,
Hungry, and nigh defenseless were,
    And most would perish of homicide!

About a week, after crossing,
    And far from the boundary river,
The Sioux o'ertook the Fox and Sac,
    And did hostile death deliver!

Atkinson might've prevented this attack,
     By Wabashaw's blood-thirsty Sioux,
Who massacred most of the Fox and Sac,
     And scalped sixty-eight
                             of those they slew!

Black Hawk gives up

With bounty and promise of ponies
    And redemption in the American eye,
Some Winnebago trailed Black Hawk
    To where the Dells are nigh...

They watched where they did go
    And surprised them as they slept;
Without their striking a blow,
    The band, surrender did accept...

But Black Hawk said he went
     To a village of Winnebago,
And asked a chief to go with him,
     To surrender to the American foe...

The squaws made him attire,
    Of deer skin white to wear;
He then went to Prairie du Chien
    To give up to the agent there...

The agent turned him and others o'er
    To Zachary Taylor at the fort,
Who in turn entrusted them,
    To a guard of a gallant sort...

A  lieutenant, kind and considerate,
    In the way he treated the seized;
By name was Jefferson Davis,
    His conduct Black Hawk pleased.

The officer traveled with them
    To Jefferson Barracks by boat;
Black Hawk surveyed the country,
   As he passed the land afloat...
The land that was native and theirs,
   That cost so much, he did note...

Confined at the Barracks
    They wore a ball and chain;
Time dragged on in wintertime
    And lack of liberty caused him pain.

In spring some visitors came,
    Including his daughter and wife;
A trader brought him venison dried,
    A reminder of former life...

In time, he was taken East,
    To Washington and Fort Monroe,
And in time, he was released,
    After more America he'd come to know.

Back to Iowa

To Iowa country, he came to dwell,
    To live by a river side.
First by the Iowa flow, a spell,
    Then by the Des Moines, to abide.
                                 
In the fall of a year,
    His autumn came to him...
A time when leaves are sere,
    His spirit, parted from limb...

From that aged, ancient tree,
    The giant growth of the human race,
A leaf detached and fell so free,
    And alit upon the river's face...

The leaf alone, a little curled,
     It drifted away like a canoe,
Past a current a little swirled,
     A bit of russet beneath the blue...

And there was heard the cry
    Of a dark-plumed bird...
As off, a hawk did fly,
    Off into the sunset sky...           

                                                 John Riedell

Postscript:
Black Hawk dictated his story to Antoine LeClair, the U.S. interpreter for the Sac and Foxes, who "was particularly cautious, to understand distinctly the narrative of Black Hawk throughout." After completing it, LeClair carefully examined it, pronouncing it "strictly correct, in all its particulars." He certified at the Sac and Fox Agency on Oct. 13, 1833, that after his return to his people, that Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak or Black Hawk had called upon him and asked that a history be written so the people of this country "might know the causes which impelled him to act as he had done, and the principles by which he was governed."

This autobiography and The Sac and Fox Indians by William Hagan were among the works consulted in writing this long narrative of the Sac warrior and leader.

His final words in the autobiography were as follows: "...the white man will always be welcome in our village or camps, as a brother. The tomahawk is buried forever. We will forget what has passed―and may the watchword between the Americans and the Sacs and Foxes, ever be ―'Friendship!'  I am now done.   A few more moons, and I must follow my fathers to the shades!   May the Great Spirit keep our people and the whites always at peace―is the sincere wish of BLACK HAWK."

In his final years he lived near the Iowa River, and a missionary who visited his home in 1833 described his lodge as neatly kept, "surrounded by melon vines." He was gone at the time but his children were polite.  In 1838 he moved to a new home along the Des Moines, which empties into the Mississippi at the southeast corner of Iowa.  He died that year, on October 3rd, and was placed in a small log mausoleum, above ground in a sitting position.  His grave was robbed and his remains were transferred to the museum of the Geological and Historical Society at Burlington, Iowa, but were destroyed by a fire in 1855.

Two sons and a daughter lived with him in Iowa.  One of the sons was Whirling Thunder,  the subject of a painting with his father, done by John Jarvis (The Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art).  His daughter Namequa was good looking enough "to compete with local white girls for the glances of young pioneer men."  While Black Hawk resisted the American encroachments of the white upon Indian land, his great grandson was "one of the greatest athletes America ever saw."  That grandson was Jim Thorpe, through whose veins coursed the blood of Black Hawk.

 
   
 

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