Boarding the Steamboat “Warrior”

We had been here but a little while before we saw a steamboat (the “Warrior,”) coming. I told my braves not to shoot, as I intended going on board, so that we might save our women and children. I knew the captain (Throckmorton) and was determined to give myself up to him. I then sent for my white flag. While the messenger was gone, I took a small piece of white cotton and put it on a pole, and called to the captain of the boat, and told him to send his little canoe ashore and let me come aboard. The people on board asked whether we were Sacs or Winnebago. I told a Winnebago to tell them that we were Sacs, and wanted to give ourselves up! A Winnebago on the boat called out to us “to run and hide, that the whites were going to shoot!” About this time one of my braves had jumped into the river, bearing a white flag to the boat, when another sprang in after him and brought him to the shore. The firing then commenced from the boat, which was returned by my braves and continued for some time. Very few of my people were hurt after the first fire, having succeeded in getting behind old logs and trees, which shielded them from the enemy’s fire.

The Winnebago on the steamboat must either have misunderstood what was told, or did not tell it to the captain correctly; because I am confident he would not have allowed the soldiers to fire upon us if he had known my wishes. I have always considered him a good man, and too great a brave to fire upon an enemy when sueing for quarters.

After the boat left us, I told my people to cross if they could, and wished; that I intended going into the Chippewa country. Some commenced crossing, and such as had determined to follow them, remained; only three lodges going with me. Next morning, at daybreak, a young man overtook me, and said that all my party had determined to cross the Mississippi–that a number had already got over safely and that he had heard the white army last night within a few miles of them. I now began to fear that the whites would come up with my people and kill them before they could get across. I had determined to go and join the Chippewas; but reflecting that by this I could only save myself, I concluded to return, and die with my people, if the Great Spirit would not give us another victory. During our stay in the thicket, a party of whites came close by us, but passed on without discovering us.

Early in the morning a party of whites being in advance of the army, came upon our people, who were attempting to cross the Mississippi. They tried to give themselves up; the whites paid no attention to their entreaties, but commenced slaughtering them. In a little while the whole army arrived. Our braves, but few in umber, finding that the enemy paid no regard to age or sex, and seeing that they were murdering helpless women and little children, determined to fight until they were killed. As many women as could, commenced swimming the Mississippi, with their children on their backs. A number of them were drowned, and some shot before they could reach the opposite shore.

One of my braves, who gave me this information, piled up some saddles before him, (when the fight commenced), to shield himself from the enemy’s fire, and killed three white men. But seeing that the whites were coming too close to him, he crawled to the bank of the without being perceived, and hid himself under the bank until the enemy retired. He then came to me and told me what had been done. After hearing this sorrowful news, I started with my little party to the Winnebago village at Prairie La Cross. On my arrival there I entered the lodge of one of the chiefs, and told him that I wished him to go with me to his father, that I intended giving myself up to the American war chief and die, if the Great Spirit saw proper. He said he would go with me. I then took my medicine bag and addressed the chief. I told him that it was “the soul of the Sac nation–that it never had been dishonored in any battle, take it, it is my life–dearer than life–and give it to the American chief!” He said he would keep it, and take care of it, and if I was suffered to live, he would send it to me.

During my stay at the village, the squaws made me a white dress of deer skin. I then started with several Winnebagoes, and went to their agent, at Prairie du Chien, and gave myself up.

On my arrival there, I found to my sorrow, that a large body of Sioux had pursued and killed a number of our women and children, who had got safely across the Mississippi. The whites ought not to have permitted such conduct, and none but cowards would ever have been guilty of such cruelty, a habit which had always been practiced on our nation by the Sioux.

The massacre, which terminated the war, lasted about two hours. Our loss in killed was about sixty, besides a number that was drowned. The loss of the enemy could not be ascertained by my braves, exactly; but they think that they killed about sixteen during the action.

I was now given up by the agent to the commanding officer at Fort Crawford, the White Beaver having gone down the river. We remained here a short time, and then started for Jefferson Barracks, in a steam boat, under the charge of a young war chief, (Lieut. Jefferson Davis) who treated us all with much kindness. He is a good and brave young chief, with whose conduct I was much pleased. On our way down we called at Galena and remained a short time. The people crowded to the boat to see us: but the war chief would not permit them to enter the apartment where we were–knowing, from what his feelings would have been if he had been placed in a similar situation, that we did not wish to have a gaping crowd around us.

We passed Rock Island without stopping. The great war chief, Gen. Scott, who was then at Fort Armstrong, came out in a small boat to see us, but the captain of the steamboat would not allow anybody from the fort to come on board his boat, in consequence of the cholera raging among the soldiers. I did think that the captain ought to have permitted the war chief to come on board to see me, because I could see no danger to be apprehended by it. The war chief looked well, and I have since heard was constantly among his soldiers, who were sick and dying, administering to their wants, and had not caught the disease from them and I thought it absurd to think that any of the people on the steamboat could be afraid of catching the disease from a well man. But these people are not brave like war chiefs, who never fear anything.

On our way down, I surveyed the country that had cost us so much trouble, anxiety and blood, and that now caused me to be a prisoner of war. I reflected upon the ingratitude of the whites when I saw their fine houses, rich harvests and everything desirable around them; and recollected that all this land had been ours, for which I and my people had never received a dollar, and that the whites were not satisfied until they took our village and our graveyards from us and removed us across the Mississippi.

On our arrival at Jefferson Barracks we met the great war chief, White Beaver, who had commanded the American army against my little band. I felt the humiliation of my situation; a little while before I had been leader of my braves, now I was a prisoner of war, but had surrendered myself. He received us kindly and treated us well.

We were now confined to the barracks and forced to wear the ball and chain. This was extremely mortifying and altogether useless. Was the White Beaver afraid I would break out of his barracks and run away? Or was he ordered to inflict this punishment upon me? If I had taken him prisoner on the field of battle I would not have wounded his feelings so much by such treatment, knowing that a brave war chief would prefer death to dishonor. But I do not blame the White Beaver for the course he pursued, as it is the custom among the white soldiers, and I suppose was a part of his duty.

The time dragged heavily and gloomily along throughout the winter, although the White Beaver did everything is his power to render us comfortable. Having been accustomed, throughout a long life, to roam the forests o’er, to go and come at liberty, confinement, and under such circumstances, could not be less than torture.

We passed away the time making pipes until spring, when we were visited by the agent, trader and interpreter, from Rock Island, Keokuk and several chiefs and braves of our nation, and my wife and daughter. I was rejoiced to see the two latter and spent my time very agreeably with them and my people as long as they remained.

The trader, Sagenash, (Col. Davenport) presented me with some dried venison, which had been killed and cured by some of my friends. This was a valuable present, and although he had given me many before, none ever pleased me so much. This was the first meat I had eaten for a long time that reminded me of the former pleasures of my own wigwam, which had always been stored with plenty.



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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