Black Hawk War

The Blackhawk War

Indian braves from Illinois and Wisconsin opposed attempts for their resettlement. Led by their chief, Black Hawk, they led an able defense against the settlers. The Indians were subdued by a US army force that included Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.


The Black Hawk war began when a group of Sauk Indians crossed the Mississippi and entered Illinois. Black Hawk led the Sauk tribe. Black Hawk, and many other Native Americans, did not accept the Treaty of 1804. This treaty called on the Indians to give up all of their lands east of the Mississippi. Along with his objections to the treaty, Black Hawk truly believed he could prevail in a war against the US.

In 1831, Black Hawk crossed over from Iowa back into Illinois. The governors of Illinois and Michigan called out the militia. Black Hawk responded by agreeing to the terms of the original treaty and returning to Iowa. The winter of 1831-1832 was particularly harsh. In April 1832 Black Hawk returned to Illinois with 400 warriors, as well as their families (including many older people.) It is unlikely, based on the make up of those who came with him, that Black Hawk had any hostile intentions in Iowa. He was just looking for a place for his people to plant corn and have any easier life, at least for a time.

The governor of Illinois was not willing to take any chances. He immediately mobilized the militia. On May 14th, Black Hawk sent an emissary to talk to the troops under the flag of truce. Despite that fact, the militia chose to kill the emissary. In turn, Black Hawk responded by attacking the militia. The Native Americans soundly defeated the militia, at what became known as, “The Battle of Stillman’s Run. ” President Jackson ordered a force of 1,000 Federal troops, under the command of the General Winfield Scott, to take control of the situation. The war, however, was resolved before they could arrive.

Black Hawk had withdrawn to Wisconsin. There, they conduced raids on American settlements. U.S. troops caught up with the Black Hawk’s men and defeated them at “The Battle of Wisconsin Heights. ” Black Hawk withdrew across the Mississippi, as the American troops continued to pursue them. Then, Black Hawk decided to make a stand at “The Battle of Black Axe. ” The American troops defeated the Native Americans there, killing or capturing almost all of them – including many women and children.

The Black Hawk war is notable; both for being the last resistance in what would be called “The old North-West”, as well as for being a war in which many Americans who became household names participated. Some of the “soon-to-be-famous” Americans to participate in this war include: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor.