Fight at Apple River Fort

Capt. A. W. Snyder’s Company, of Col. Henry’s Regiment, was detailed to guard the country between Galena and Fox and Rock rivers, and was surprised on the night of the 17th of June, while encamped in the vicinity of Burr Oak Grove. His sentinels, while on duty, were fired upon by Indians, who did not deem it prudent to continue the attack, but immediately fled. As soon as it was light enough next morning to follow their trail, Capt. Snyder started with his company, but on reaching their camp, found that they had fled on his approach. He redoubled his speed and continued on their trail until he overtook them. Finding that there was no escape, the Indians got into a deep gully for protection, but were soon surrounded, when Capt. Snyder ordered his men to charge upon them. The Indians fired as they approached and mortally wounded one of his men, Mr. William B. Mekemson, a brave volunteer from St. Clair county, (whose father’s family afterwards settled in this, Henderson county, all of whom, except one brother, Andrew, a highly respected Christian gentleman, have, long since, gone to meet their kinsman in another world.) Mr. M. being unable to ride, a rude litter was made and men detailed to carry him back to camp, at Kellogg’s Grove. The company had not proceeded far before they were attacked by about seventy-five Indians, and two men, Scott and McDaniel, killed, and a Mr. Cornelius wounded. The company was soon formed into line by the aid of Gen. Whiteside, who was then acting merely as a private, and using the precaution of Indians, each man got behind a tree, and the battle waxed furiously for sometime without any serious results, until the Indian commander was seen to fall, from the well directed aim of Gen. Whiteside’s rifle. Having now no leader the Indians ingloriously fled, but for some reason were not pursued. Our reporter, however, said that most of the company refused, for the reason that the second term of their enlistment had expired, and they were anxious to be mustered out of service, although the officers were eager to pursue.

The company then commenced their march to camp, and on approaching the litter on which Mekemson lay, found that the Indians had cut off his head and rolled it down the hill. Soon after, Major Riley, with a small force of regulars, came up, and after consultation with Capt. Snyder, it was deemed best not to follow the retreating Indians, as their route probably led to the main army of Black Hawk.

Apple River Fort

On the 23d of June scouts came into Galena, and reported at headquarters that a large body of Indians had been seen about thirty miles distant, but not being on the march, they were not able to conjecture to what point they were going. Col. Strode immediately made all necessary preparations to receive them, should Galena be the point of attack, and dispatched an express early next morning for Dixon’s Ferry. On their arrival at Apple River Fort they halted for a short time, and then proceeded on their journey, and while yet in sight, at the crack of a gun the foremost man was seen to fall from his horse and two or three Indians rushed upon him with hatchets raised ready to strike, while his comrades galloped up, and with guns pointed towards the Indians kept them at bay until the wounded man reached the Fort. But had the Indians known these guns were _not loaded,_ (as afterwards reported) they could have dispatched all three of them with their tomahawks.

In a very short time after hearing the crack of the gun a large body of Indians surrounded the fort, yelling and shooting, when the inmates, under command of Capt. Stone, prepared for defense, every port hole being manned by sharp-shooters. One man, Mr. George Herclurode, was shot through a port hole and instantly killed, and Mr. James Nutting wounded in the same way, but not seriously; which was the only loss sustained during the engagement of more than one hour’s duration. A number of Indians were wounded and carried off the field. Capt. Stone had only twenty-five men, with a large number of women and children in the fort, but had providentially received a quantity of lead and provisions from Galena only an hour before the attack, and as he was short of bullets, the ladies of the fort busied themselves in melting lead and running balls as long as the battle lasted. Black Hawk, finding the fort impregnable from assault without firing it–an act that he well knew would, in a very short time, have brought a large body of troops on his path–concluded that it would be better to return and carry with them all the flour they could, killed a number of cattle and took choice pieces of beef, and all the homes that were in the stable. One of the expressmen, not deeming the fort a place of safety, hurried back to Galena, but getting lost on the way did not get in until early next morning. On hearing the news, Col. Strode took one hundred picked men, well mounted, and went to the relief of the fort, and was much gratified to find that its noble defenders had put to flight about one hundred and fifty Indians who had been under the command of Black Hawk himself.



Black Hawk, Patterson, J. B., editor, Leclair, Atoine, interpreter  Autobiography of Black Hawk or Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak, Self Published by J. B. Patterson, 1882.

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