Black Hawk, Indian Warrior

In 1832, Black Hawk. 67 years old, led a band of 500 Sauk warriors, with their families back across the Mississippi River from Iowa to reclaim the land of his people near Rock Island, Illinois. Fear spread through the region among the white settlers.

Black Hawk became an enemy of the United States when he fought for the British in the War of 1812. During his absence from his homeland in Illinois the Sauk Chief Keokuk sold their lands east of the Mississippi to the U. S. government. Black Hawk never recognized the treaty since he nor many of the other tribes had a voice in the decision
Abraham Lincoln was 23 years old, living in New Salem, Illinois and unemployed. He and many young men of the area enlisted in the Illinois Militia to pursue and fight against Black Hawk. Lincoln was chosen captain of his company. Later in his life he said this gave him more satisfaction than any political success he ever had.

They never made contact with Black Hawk although there was bitter fighting across upper Illinois and into Wisconsin. Black Hawk was defeated, his little band nearly wiped out. He was escorted to prison by Jefferson Davis, future president of the Confederacy, who was on leave during most of the war but returned in time to escort the surrendered Black Hawk, and others to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri in September 1832.

Black Hawk later was released and became a celebrity traveling around the country giving interviews at George Catlin’s Indian Gallery Exhibitions.

It is ironic that Lincoln found satisfaction in this first military attempt and later became
commander in chief of the Union Army.

Near Rock Island, Illinois