Sent to the Great Father in Washington

Keokuk and his chiefs, during their stay at the barracks, petitioned our Great Father, the president, to release us, and pledged themselves for our good conduct. I now began to hope I would soon be restored to liberty and the enjoyment of my family and friends, having heard that Keokuk stood high in the estimation of our Great Father, because he did not join me in the war, but I was soon disappointed in my hopes. An order came from our Great Father to the White Beaver to send us on to Washington.

In a little while all were ready and left Jefferson Barracks on board of a steamboat, under charge of a young war chief and one soldier, whom the White Beaver sent along as a guide to Washington. We were accompanied by Keokuk, wife and son, Appanooce, Wapello, Poweshiek, Pashippaho, Nashashuk, Saukee, Musquaukee, and our interpreter. Our principal traders, Col. Geo. Davenport, of Rock Island, and S. S. Phelps and clerk, William Cousland, of the Yellow Banks, also accompanied us. On our way up the Ohio we passed several large villages, the names of which were explained to me. The first is called Louisville, and is a very petty village, situated on the bank of the Ohio River. The next is Cincinnati, which stands on the bank of the same river. This is a large and beautiful village and seemed to be in a thriving condition. The people gathered on the bank as we passed, in great crowds, apparently anxious to see us.

On our arrival at Wheeling the streets and river banks were crowded with people, who flocked from every direction to see us. While we remained here many called upon us and treated us with kindness, no one offering to molest or misuse us. This village is not so large as either of those before mentioned, but is quite a pretty one.

We left the steamboat then, having traveled a long distance on the prettiest river I ever saw (except our Mississippi) and took the stage. Being unaccustomed to this mode of traveling, we soon got tired and wished ourselves seated in a canoe on one of our own rivers, that we might return to our friends. We had traveled but a short distance before our carriage turned over, from which I received a slight injury, and the soldier had one arm broken. I was sorry for this accident, as the young man had behaved well.

We had a rough and mountainous country for several days, but had a good trail for our carriage. It is astonishing what labor and pains the white people have had to make this road, as it passes over several mountains, which are generally covered with rocks and timber, yet it has been made smooth and easy to travel upon.

Rough and mountainous as this country is there are many wigwams and small villages standing on the roadside. I could see nothing in the country to induce the people to live in it, and was astonished to find so many whites living on the hills.

I have often thought of them since my return to my own people, and am happy to think that they prefer living in their own country to coming out to ours and driving us from it, as many of the whites have already done. I think with them, that wherever the Great Spirit places his people they ought to be satisfied to remain, and be thankful for what He has given them, and not drive others from the country He has given them because it happens to be better then theirs. This is contrary to our way of thinking, and from my intercourse with the whites, I have learned that one great principle of their religion is “to do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.” Those people in the mountains seem to act upon this principle, but the settlers on our frontiers and on our lands seem never to think of it, if we are to judge by their actions.

The first village of importance that we came to, after leaving the mountains, is called Hagerstown. It is a large village to be so far from a river and is very pretty. The people appear to live well and enjoy themselves much.

We passed through several small villages on the way to Fredericktown, but I have forgotten their names. This last is a large and beautiful village. The people treated us well, as they did at all other villages where we stopped,

Here we came to another road much more wonderful than that through the mountains. They call it a railroad, (the Baltimore and Ohio). I examined it carefully, but need not describe it, as the whites know all about it. It is the most astonishing sight I ever saw. The great road over the mountains will bear no comparison to it, although it has given the white people much trouble to make. I was surprised to see so much money and labor expended to make a good road for easy traveling. I prefer riding horse back, however, to any other way, but suppose these people would not have gone to so much trouble and expense to make a road if they did not prefer riding in their new fashioned carriages, which seem to run without any trouble, being propelled by steam on the same principle that boats are on the river. They certainly deserve great praise for their industry.

On our arrival at Washington, we called to see our Great Father, the President. He looks as if he had seen as many winters as I have, and seems to be a great brave. I had very little talk with him, as he appeared to be busy and did not seem to be much disposed to talk. I think he is a good man; and although he talked but little, he treated us very well. His wigwam is well furnished with every thing good and pretty, and is very strongly built.

He said he wished to know the cause of my going to war against his white children. I thought he ought to have known this before; and consequently said but little to him about it, as I expected he knew as well as I cold tell him.

He said he wanted us to go to Fortress Monroe and stay awhile with the war chief who commanded it. But having been so long from my people, I told him that I would rather return to my nation; that Keokuk had come here once on a visit to him, as we had done, and he had let him return again, as soon as he wished, and that I expected to be treated in the same manner. He insisted, however, on our going to Fortress Monroe; and as the interpreter then present could not understand enough of our language to interpret a speech, I concluded it was best to obey our Great Father, and say nothing contrary to his wishes.

During our stay at the city, we were called upon by many of the people, who treated us well, particularly the squaws; we visited the great council home of the Americans; the place where they keep their big guns; and all the public buildings, and then started for Fortress Monroe. The war chief met us on our arrival, and shook hands, and appeared glad to see me. He treated us with great friendship, and talked to me frequently. Previous to our leaving this fort, he made us a feast, and gave us some presents, which I intend to keep for his sake. He is a very good man and a great brave. I was sorry to leave him, although I was going to return to my people, because he had treated me like a brother, during all the time I remained with him.

Having got a new guide, a war chief (Maj. Garland), we started for our own country, taking a circuitous route. Our Great Father being about to pay a visit to his children in the big towns towards sunrise, and being desirous that we should have an opportunity of seeing them, had directed our guide to take us through.

On our arrival at Baltimore, we were much astonished to see so large a village; but the war chief told us we would soon see a larger one. This surprised us more. During our stay here, we visited all the public buildings and places of amusement, saw much to admire, and were well entertained by the people who crowded to see us. Our Great Father was there at the same time, and seemed to be much liked by his white children, who flocked around him, (as they had around us) to shake him by the hand. He did not remain long, having left the city before us. In an interview, while here, the President said:

“When I saw you in Washington, I told you that you had behaved very badly in going to war against the whites. Your conduct then compelled me to send my warriors against you, and your people were defeated with great loss, and several of you surrendered, to be kept until I should be satisfied that you would not try to do any more injury. I told you, too, that I would inquire whether your people wished you to return, and whether, if you did return, there would be any danger to the frontier. Gen. Clark and Gen. Atkinson, whom you know, have informed me that your principal chief and the rest of your people are anxious you should return, and Keokuk has asked me to send you back. Your chiefs have pledged themselves for your good conduct, and I have given directions that you should be taken to your own country.

“Major Garland, who is with you, will conduct you through some of our towns. You will see the strength of the white people. You will see that our young men are as numerous as the leaves in the woods. What can you do against us? You may kill a few women and children, but such a force would seen be sent against you as would destroy your whole tribe. Let the red men hunt and take care of their families. I hope they will not again raise the tomahawk against their white brethren. We do not wish to injure you. We desire your prosperity and improvement. But if you again make war against our people, I shall send a force which will severely punish you. When you go back, listen to the councils of Keokuk and the other friendly chiefs; bury the tomahawk and live in peace with the people on the frontier. And I pray the Great Spirit to give you a smooth path and a fair sky to return.”

I was pleased with our Great Father’s talk and thanked him. Told him that the tomahawk had been buried so deep that it would never be resurrected, and that my remaining days would be spent in peace with all my white brethren.


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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