General Gaines Enters Rock River

Some of our young men who had been out as spies came in and reported that they had discovered a large body of mounted men coming toward our village, who looked like a war party. They arrived and took a position below Rock river, for their place of encampment. The great war chief, General Gaines, entered Rock river in a steamboat, with his soldiers and one big gun. They passed and returned close by our village, but excited no alarm among my braves. No attention was paid to the boat; even our little children who were playing on the bank of the river, as usual, continued their amusement. The water being shallow, the boat got aground, which gave the whites some trouble. If they had asked for assistance, there was not a brave in my band who would not willingly have aided them. Their people were permitted to pass and repass through our village, and were treated with friendship by our people.

The war chief appointed the next day to remove us. I would have remained and been taken prisoner by the regulars, but was afraid of the multitude of pale faced militia, who were on horse back, as they were under no restraint of their chiefs.

We crossed the river during the night, and encamped some distance below Rock Island. The great war chief convened another council, for the purpose of making a treaty with as. In this treaty he agreed to give us corn in place of that we had left growing in our fields. I touched the goose quill to this treaty, and was determined to live in peace.

The corn that had been given us was soon found to be inadequate to our wants, when loud lamentations were heard in the camp by the women and children, for their roasting ears, beans and squashes. To satisfy them, a small party of braves went over in the night to take corn from their own fields. They were discovered by the whites and fired upon. Complaints were again made of the depredations committed by some of my people, on their own corn fields.

I understood from our agent, that there had been a provision made in one of our treaties for assistance in agriculture, and that we could have our fields plowed if we required it. I therefore called upon him, and requested him to have a small log home built for me, and a field plowed that fall, as I wished to live retired. He promised to have it done. I then went to the trader, Colonel Davenport, and asked for permission to be buried in the graveyard at our village, among my old friends and warriors, which he gave cheerfully. I then returned to my people satisfied.

A short time after this, a party of Foxes went up to Prairie du Chien to avenge the murder of their chiefs and relations, which had been committed the summer previous, by the Menomonee and Sioux. When they arrived in the vicinity of the encampment of the Menomonee, they met with a Winnebago, and inquired for the Menomonee camp. They requested him to go on before them and see if there were any Winnebago in it, and if so, to tell them that they had better return to their own camp. He went and gave the information, not only to the Winnebago, but to the Menomonee, that they might be prepared. The party soon followed, killed twenty-eight Menomonee, and made their escape.

This retaliation which with us is considered lawful and right, created considerable excitement among the whites. A demand was made for the Foxes to be surrendered to, and tried by, the white people. The principal men came to me during the fall and asked my advice. I conceived that they had done right, and that our Great Father acted very unjustly in demanding them, when he had suffered all their chiefs to be decoyed away, and murdered by the Menomonee, without ever having made a similar demand of them. If he had no right in the first instance he had none now, and for my part, I conceived the right very questionable, if not an act of usurpation in any case, where a difference exists between two nations, for him to interfere. The Foxes joined my band with the intention to go out with them on the fall hunt.

About this time, Neapope, who started to Malden when it was ascertained that the great war chief, General Gaines, was coming to remove us, returned. He said he had seen the chief of our British Father, and asked him if the Americans could force us to leave our village. He said: “If you had not sold your land the Americans could not take your village from you. That the right being vested in you only, could be transferred by the voice and will of the whole nation, and that as you have never given your consent to the sale of your country, it yet remains your exclusive property, from which the American government never could force you away, and that in the event of war, you should have nothing to fear, as we would stand by and assist you.”

He said that he had called at the prophet’s lodge on his way down, and there had learned for the first time, that we had left our village. He informed me privately, that the prophet was anxious to see me, as he had much good news to tell me, and that I would hear good news in the spring from our British Father. “The prophet requested me to give you all the particulars, but I would much rather you would see him yourself and learn all from him. But I will tell you that he has received expresses from our British Father, who says that he is going to send us guns, ammunition, provisions and clothing early in the spring. The vessels that bring them will come by way of Milwaukee. The prophet has likewise received wampum and tobacco from the different nations on the lakes, Ottawa, Chippewa, and Pottawattomie, and as to the Winnebago he has them all at his command. We are going to be happy once more.”

I told him I was pleased that our British Father intended to see us righted. That we had been driven from our lands without receiving anything for them, and I now began to hope from his talk, that my people would once more be happy. If I could accomplish this I would be satisfied. I am now growing old and could spend the remnant of my time anywhere. But I wish first to see my people happy. I can then leave them cheerfully. This has always been my constant aim, and I now begin to hope that our sky will soon be clear.

Neapope said:

“The prophet told me that all the tribes mentioned would fight for us if necessary, and the British father will support us. If we should be whipped, which is hardly possible, we will still be safe, the prophet having received a friendly talk from the chief of Wassicummico, at Selkirk’s settlement, telling him, that if we were not happy in our own country, to let him know and he would make us happy. He had received information from our British father that we had been badly treated by the Americans. We must go and see the prophet. I will go first; you had better remain and get as many of your people to join you as you can. You know everything that we have done. We leave the matter with you to arrange among your people as you please. I will return to the prophet’s village tomorrow. You can in the meantime make up your mind an to the course you will take and send word to the prophet by me, as he is anxious to assist us, and wishes to know whether you will join us, and assist to make your people happy.”

During the night I thought over everything that Neapope had told me, and was pleased to think that by a little exertion on my part, I could accomplish the object of all my wishes. I determined to follow the advice of the prophet, and sent word by Neapope, that I would get all my braves together, explain everything that I had heard to them, and recruit as many as I could from the different villages.


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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