Denton Jaques Snider.

Lincoln in the Black Hawk war, an epos of the Northwest online

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Sigh-laden round him waved the air ;
Still we must think him over-sad,
The Latin case is not so bad;
Its culture and its worship will long live,
For they to man have much to give,
Yea even to Teutonic foe,
Who through them must in spirit go
That he may rise himself to know.
But Molinar let run his Spanish bent,
Southward to Texas soon he sped,
In which a granite-builded settlement
He thought to make his lasting bed.
But after not so very long he found
Fighting Sam Houston on the ground,
At San Jacinto Molinar
Must take another bitter bit of war,
He hardly dared turn round his head
Until across the Rio Grande he fled,
And there he stayed in peace some years,
But Taylor came and the volunteers,


Behold, it is the same old Zack

In hot pursuit upon his track,

Again the Saxon drove him out

At Buena Vista putting him to rout ;

Thence tripped he featly to the Capital

And perched himself in Montezuma 's hall,

Till Scott took it and him and all.

Some fifteen years have seemed to be

Fulfilling Keokuk's prophecy.

But now the other conflict whirls apace,

With newest shift of tragedy of race.


The Bluecoats found a voided village

With all its greening fields of tillage ;

Much truck was lying round in waste,

So panicky had been the haste,

Pipes, blankets, clothes, and moccasins —

Still full of corn were many bins.

But up and on the soldiers pressed,

To Black Hawk's band they gave no rest,

With it there could not be a truce,

They let escape squaw and pappoose.

Some days had passed in this pursuit,

When suddenly the Indians shoot

Upon a foraging detail

Who will at once the foe assail;

They gather up their little troop

In answer to the savage whoop ;


Of them a sergeant had command,

Bravely they took their final stand

Before the larger Indian band

With cartridge ball to greet it,

And then with bayonet or knife to meet it

If once the struggle started hand to hand.

But who is this — an Indian chief —

With vengeance in his vicious look?

He will destroy these men in blue

And scalp them too,

Before may come relief.

The father 'tis of Winnemuk,

The daughter he again forsook

He has become forsworn, untrue,

Slyly he slipped out of her view,

He watched the moments while she slept

Out-worn with her fatigue and care,

Then through the prairie grass he crept,

Soon sped he far from there.

When she awoke she was alone,

The way she knew not he had gone ;

It was another stroke of fate

Which made her for a moment hesitate

And her new lot debate :

* ' Shall it then be that they must fight —

The very two whom I love most ?

If that be God's decree of right,

Then I am lost.

My heart is torn in twain

And bleeds with its own wound again ;



In me I hear the fire-arms rattle,
Methinks I see the bloody battle
Between two loves in deadly fend ;
I am both sides and I am each,
Their fnry cannot be withstood,
I cannot them compassion teach,
So peace has fled beyond my reach.
I am myself both fires,
How can I qnench their burning ires !
I know my father has gone back,
But I can't tell where is his track;
I breathe but know not why,
I wonder that I do not die.
Then it must be I have some task —
Further I shall not ask."

So Winnemuk sets out belated

To save her father from what seems fated

That he has gone the Hawk to find

Is certain in her mind.

And so she pushes on the way,

Eesting but little day by day,

Wreathing her soul in hopes and fears,

She sees the sky rain down its tears,

Giving to hers a soft reply

In nature's sympathy.

But suddenly the crack of guns she hears

As she a meadow nears ;

She sees two groups of red and white

In maddest sort of fight.


But soon the Indians take to flight

Except just one — the chieftain he

Is. wrestling with the Sergeant, each for life ;

In deadly rivalry

Each has unsheathed his knife,

And drives the blade into his foe,

Just to the mark the weapons go.

Now Winnemuk has come that way,

Not six rods distant from the fray

She sees her loves both give the blow,

And then drop low ;

She now beholds the outer duel

Which she within had seen, a vision cruel ;

The lover white and father red

Are lying on a common gory bed;

The blood of each by other has been shed.

Prophetic her presentiment

Has ever pictured such event ;

Up to this day her march of life has led.

Soon by the side of each she stands,

And takes both daggers from their hands,

She plunges both into her heart,

Fulfilled is now her tragic part.

She falls with only Heaven for a cover

Between her father and her lover.

The love of maiden sought to mediate

The far-descended racial hate,

But ran into the jaws of Fate;

She dreamed somehow she could unite

With her own tinted kin the white,


But found that they would only fight.
She lays on both her gentle finger tips,
Some gasping words aloud she lips :
1 ' My people are like me —
This hour my last I see —
Each stab would take my life —
The dagger white, the dagger red,
Each of them cuts me dead
In their own mutual strife.
The father slays his daughter
Just in the lover's slaughter,
The lover slays his maiden too
In slaying parent in her view. ' '

The army moves upon its track,

Soon to the spot has come old Zack ;

It was an outpost of his regiment,

To which the little squad was sent,

On whom the Indians undetected

Had sneaked their way quite unexpected.

The father was first recognized

By Zack — aye but he was surprised —

He dimly felt himself just there

Lying in place of that stabbed Indian,

His heart throbbed up with the same care

And life seemed separated but a span

Joining the father living and the dead ;

An iron tear old Mars then shed.

But when he saw between them lying

The lovely Indian maiden dying,


With the two daggers sticking in her breast,

The thought of his own daughter pierced his

And drove the silent man to speak

The doom whereof he saw the wreak —

Some utterance he had to seek :

1 ' Can this be she, brave Winnemuk ?

Still in her face there gleams a loving look ;

She bids me thinE of my own child

Of whom I too have been beguiled

Torn from me by another 's love malign,

Though still she clings, I know, to mine.

Ah, Winnemuk, I seem to see

In you what now belongs to me ;

That double wound — it is in you —

But it is in my bosom too ;

And then I see it rend my daughter's heart,

That rouses in me a still deeper smart ;

Thy daggers twain point me the same direc-

I see her bleed in thy reflection,

Rent by the same twofold affection.

And though she still has life,

She soon, I fear may die

Of this same double strife

Which seems the doom of destiny,

Winnamuk, to thee,

And aye to me."

So spake strong Zachary the bluff,


Outside he could be somewhat rough
E 'en when he was most sad,
But a hot heart he had.
Just here before his men assembled
His forceful voice to silence trembled,
Worded it gave not forth its tone,
But ran into a soughing moan
Which the strong soldier soon suppressed,
Downing the mutiny in his own breast ;
To what he next had planned
Calmly he gave command :
4 ' These three here bury in one grave
In honor of the brave.
This uniform is our own too,
A comrade wore it tried and true.
But that which puts him up above,
He won this loyal maiden's love.
The Indian father lying here
I somehow feel with to a tear,
He fell in fighting for his race,
As parent shows he a yet deeper trace,
I have to think me in his place.
But this brave daughter is the heroine,
Of human tragedy the queen ;
Leave in her heart the twinned daggers,
My soldier soul her maiden courage stag-
gers.' J
And so the Bluecoat buried Winnemuk,
Whose grave his soul with sorrow strook,
It was her fate two loves to cherish,


Their warfare 'twas which made her perish,
They fought outside her to her view,
Before her eyes each other slew;
They fought within her many a day,
And could their struggle not allay
Except in this one way —
That was the way of easeful death
Which loosed her ever-battling breath.
But in her end there seemed to lie
More than her own fatality,
Her tomb a doomful shadow cast
That her own race would follow fast.


Some slower weeks we now shall skip ;

Over their petty turns just slip,

Behold the Hawk in prison caged,

No longer with his war engaged ;

It came to end in a defeat

Whereby his overthrow was made complete,

Almost alone he took his flight

When he had lost his final fight ;

His hiding-place was quickly known

Some Eedskins soon the chieftain caught,

And to Fort Armstrong he was brought ;

So now a captive he must groan

In those same walls whose overthrow he

But him a lesson has been taught,


For lie has gotten back his own,

Foretold him oft by Keokuk,

Of whom he now longs for a look.

He was betrayed by his red kind,

So is his deed stamped in his mind,

Since oft he has for Eeds in ambush lain,

What he has done, he gets through Eeds

His followers to death have mostly gone,
But he is left to still live on,
A spectacle for his white foes
Who gaze at him as round the land he goes,
A captive still in Indian pride,
But always with a Bluecoat at his side.

Now let us mark a single circumstance
Then give Black Hawk a parting glance ;
Again he stands within Fort Armstrong's

As if he waited for another call ;
Along that island in the stream
No more he sees the swan-wings gleam
Of the Great Spirit Manito
Swooping above the River's flow —
It has elsewhither fled
It may be even dead.
While he stood gazing one bright day
A boat shot out a little bay
Upon the River's western shore
Just where he once intended passing o'er


To take the fort and slay the garrison

Now guarding him with sword and gun.

Such is the run of fortune 's whim :

The fort he gets not, but the fort gets him.

Now in that rocking small canoe

Another Indian comes to view,

Behold Chief Keokuk once more,

With face turned toward the fortressed

shore ;
Of Black Hawk's capture he has heard, t
And now he comes to speak a friendly word,
Although the two in bitter rivalry
Had long competed for the chieftaincy.
Sage Keokuk had been the white man's

In trying days his help would always lend.
So was he known to all the garrison,
He never had a promise once betrayed, *
They trusted him in what he said,
Would him a favor do, could it be done.
Keokuk begs the Hawk's release
And pledges him to keep the peace.
So now behold the rivals twain
Together paddling their canoe again.
They reach the lodge of Fox and Sauk
Along the eddying Iowa,
Without the gun and tomahawk,
Composed was too their tonguey fray,
Which frothed so loud when Black Hawk

marched away


With haughty rage he outward darted,

But now he is again just where he started,

'Twere better he had not begun,

He would not then have been undone.

So ends the conflict of Black Hawk,

Still living as the theme of talk ;

As he has been, the other Reds will be

And so he types the Indian's tragedy.

Canto Mintb


" Much have I knocked about in this cam-
Have hither thither chased and back again,
Turning always in a kind of round,
But not a single Eedskin have I found.
I seem to tread a circled charm
Which keeps me whirling all the while,
So that I cannot do a harm,
The victim of the f oeman 's guile,
Which makes us run to this and that alarm
To find him distant many a mile.
Shall I break out this witch's mill —
Or shall I treadle in it still ?"



So Lincoln crooned upon his past

Pondering if it ought to last,

To be discharged has come the chance :

How shall he use that circumstance ?

He could not quite suppress a sneer

At his null soldiery 's career ;

"From Dixon's Ferry, hot on the track,

We marched some days and then marched

Three times to that infernal battle-ground
Where Major Stillman was defeated
We sallied forth with martial sound
To have a fight — and then retreated,
And so our glorious nothing was completed.
Up to Galena we advanced for battle,
But only heard our sabres rattle
Tuned to our tonguey tittle-tattle.
'Twas there again we wheeled about,
And bravely put ourselves to rout
Not catching sight of any foe :
If he saw us, I do not know.
So with victorious hearts and merry
We came back to old Dixon's Ferry,
That spot bewitched, from which if once we

Would jerk us round to whence we started
Not having ever drawn a knife or
Even pulled a trigger ;

And so with toil, we traced the barren cipher,
Apart from any fore-placed figure,


And this is what we have come out to die

Whereat he drew some nothings on the

With his sword's scabbard marking round

and round.
This done, he stood again erect,
And spoke his mood of retrospect :
■ ' But up and off we rode once more,
To catch the foe along Kishwaukee's shore,
But he had gone, and then we went to seek
His camp on Petonica's creek,
But found it empty of the game,
All I remember is the name,
So there we are not halted long
But push up to Lake Koskonong
Or Lake of Mud means just the same,
Its character deserves a greater fame.
Thence, too, the enemy had fled,
Although my nag had run till nearly dead ;
Some Indian words are all my prey,
And them I cannot rightly say.
So in this war's circummigration
We soon shall round a fresh gyration ;
Tomorrow if nothing be contrary
We shall wind up again at Dixon's Ferry.
And so in filling out a line of zeros
We all have won the name of heroes ;
Now for this fightless war's contention
Each man will surely have a pension,


And though our battles have been those of

We still shall get our hundred acres,
A warrant for the public land,
Such is the modesty of our demand. ' '

Thus Lincoln mused upon his soldiering

Which turned out such a fruitless thing ;

It seemed as if a sportive spook

Had led him round in many a crook ;

The marches of successive days

Him interlinked in one huge maze —

A kind of treadmill for his sinning

Which turned him ever to the same beginning.

Still he had seen along his path

The bloody signs of savage scath,

The dripping scalps of slain white-faces

Bespoke the furious strife of races;

In him arose ancestral wrath

When he beheld, wherever he might roam,

The ashes of a frontier home,

Or forms of children and of wife

The tomahawk bereft of life ;

But in the skull a bleeding bullet-hole

Would from the bottom wring his soul

That born revenge of his to wreak

Transmitted to him in his blood,

In spite of that examplar meek

Who called up his forgiving mood

And for his higher nature stood.


But he has reached his stopping-place once

At Dixon's Ferry on the shore
Where runs the ripple of a stream
Which weaves young joy into his dream
Of his own sunny Sangamon
Which his New Salem sleeps upon,
With its high couch along the bluff
Whereof he could not think enough.
Nor did he fail to pat his sword,
And glance upon its graven word
His thoughts he hardly dared confess
Nor would he tell what lay in his caress
Given the sword of Rutledges.

To-morrow is the mustering out,

But something he did hesitate about ;

His fellow-soldiers were not sad,

To see their own again they would be glad.

The most of Lincoln's company

Already were of service free,

The weary work of war they quit,

Jack Kelso had no love for it,

Could now be found on his old log

Fishing besunned for perch or frog

Slaking his thirst betimes with swig of grog.

But Lincoln was in sober mood

As he that dancing streamlet viewed ;

He asked himself, see-sawed in doubt :

1 ' Can I be here of further good 1

I do not like to turn about


Until I see the war completed,

Indian Black Hawk is undefeated,

From such a foe to seem to run

Is not for me a bit of fun ;

Three times I have set down my name

Unwon is still the wily game ;

I quiz myself : Shall I enlist again,

To stay up here till end of the campaign?"

And so he turned the matter over,

No answer could he then discover.

Within the camp fantastic joys

Kept rollicking out of the boys,

Each fellow had a sweetheart in his home,

To whom he now would quickly come,

His soul's desire was to be mated

With her from whom he had been separated ;

Than war his love had grown much stronger,

Alone he could not stand it longer,

And still one day he had to wait

For his certificate.

Abe Lincoln, too, abashed New-Salemite,

Long felt himself to be in that same plight,

But never would he dare confess it,

Although he hoped the Lord would bless it.

Now rose before him sour-faced duty

Contending with his bosom's beauty,

Within he heard the double argument

On what might be the right intent :

"Methinks I've paid my pledge's price;


Others went off, but I enlisted thrice,
Keeping the field against the foe :
Now is it right for me to go f
The war is not yet ended,
Unwon the point for which we have con-
The Indian dares to scalp at will,
In spite of us refusing still
To cross the Mississippi's bound,
He flees before he can be found,
In trailing him he keeps us busy,
While Stillman's fate has made me dizzy
With my inherited dislike,
And the red slayer I long to strike,
Grandfather mine within my brain
I see once more by Indian slain,
That deed is lashing me again. ' '
The brook ran wrestling in its bed
As if it felt a struggle, too,
Its channeled waters through and through,
But that eased not the throbbing head
Of Lincoln in his self's own interview ;
He strolled alone into the wood,
When all at once a Redskin stood
Before him with a friendly mien
Whom he recalled he had once seen
Unarmed amid a vengeful multitude
Who sought to let his guiltless blood.



It was the messenger old Loo,

Who showed again his spirit true,

Whom Lincoln rescued from the soldiery,

And sent him on his errand, free

To go to Keokuk, the friend

Of whites, his journey's end.

To Lincoln here he speaks again

And tells about the tribal twain,

The strife between the Hawk and Keokuk,

What he had kenned in his own look :

' ' The Pottawatomies, my nation,

The chief keeps from participation

In this too desperate foray :

Shabbona — you should mark his name —

What I have thought, he thinks the same.

Nor will the Winnebagoes all obey

Their prophet devious in his way ;

White Cloud has grown a little shaky,

Finding the ground beneath him quaky;

They also are within divided,

Like every Indian clan — two-sided —

And so the tribes have not uprisen ;

Black Hawk himself will soon be lodged in

Another rumor I have learned,
The dark-stoled priest away has turned,
And left his victims in the lurch
Despite the goodness of his church ;
He was a cunning fabricator,


I think the Hawk's chief instigator,

But when he saw the smallness of the fight,

He stole away one cloudy night,

While still his head he could slip loose,

But left his pupil in the noose.

So ran the story which I found,

Perchance a little twisted in its round."

With a brief chuckle in his throat,

Old Loo took up a different note :

"I cannot think you wish to lose

Another little bit of news :

You could not know that there was sent

A spy to watch your regiment

As it marched northward to attack —

This spy disguised sought out its track

And played the hunter bronzed in face,

Although mulatto was his race.

From Prophetstown in stealth he came,

Swartface the people coined his name,

A slave he was once in his day,

But there he was a runaway ;

Now in your camp he heard the rumor wild :

You freed a negro mother and her child ;

That raised in him some old fond notion,

Which stirred far down his strong emotion;

And he looked at you the very hour

When me you rescued from the crowd

Mid murderous menaces and curses loud,

And sent me guarded off with power.


This Swartface, too, has quit the Indian band,
Is seen no longer in the Prophet 's land,
Some sort of change has wrought him over,
A vengeful speech of his could not be heard,
How furious was his former word !
Methinks he has turned out a lover.
I heard him say that you he would not fight,
And then he quickly slid off into night. ' p
Whereat Loo could a smile uncover,
Which soon lapsed to his gravest line,
Forelighting up his new design,
As if he had a secret to impart
Out of the bottom of his heart ;
He turned to trembling of the voice
Though hitherto appearing to rejoice;
And so to Lincoln now began
In tender tone that Indian :

"One thing I do not like to see,
You fight my people — that hurts me ;
I love my race, would stay its death —
I would for it give my last breath ;
And, too, methinks I could for you
Dare just the self-same deed to do,
What you have done my life to save
I could pay back with my own grave.
But you, I say, are out of place
Arrayed in war against a race,
I deem you have another call,
No more to racial hate the thrall,


I read it even in your face,

That character of yours bespeaks such grace.

You saved me once, I would save you,

I to your destiny am true,

So hear the prayer of poor old Loo ;

I long to spend my days in peace

Till Manito sends life's release.

We redmen should give up this fight,

And bid ourselves within unite,

Instead of battling with the stronger,

Then might we live some ages longer.

But you I fain would see once more

'Ere passing to the other shore,

And though you come the redman's foe r

That 's not your deepest nature, well I know ;

I judge by what you did for me —

That last dark strain of racial enmity

You can pluck out of your descent

And give your whole to your true bent :

Your call is still to save, not slay ;

Take to your heart what I now say,

Your message 'tis I bring to-day,

I, poor old Loo, your Indian friend,

But faithful to the end."

Then Loo sprang out among the trees,
Leaping a ditch ten feet with ease,
But Lincoln, at the sudden visitation,
Sank soon into his deepest meditation,
His sword he laid down and his gun,


With them he felt he was now done ;

His thoughts recalled a little book,

From his breast pocket it he took,

He glimpsed a verse tuned to his mood,

Filling his heart with a beatitude.

Himself he then again did interview,

Voicing his purpose new :

* ' The dawning fact to me is plain,

I shall not here enlist again ;

I feel it not to be my place,

To help destroy a dying race ;

Bather I would now aid it live

If I but knew just what to give.

This Potawatomie, old Loo,

Has told me rightly what to do,

Though he may wear an Indian face,

He has ascended out of race,

With all its ages-aged hate.

That is the human conquest over fate ;

And now, attuning with this lesson new,

My life I have to reconstrue,

The fateful heirloom of my ancestor

I can no longer battle for;

I must clean out transmitted spite

Which drives me to keep up this fight ;

I have to praise thee, good old Loo,

To thine own blood thou hast been true

But to the truth of all men truer still,

Thou hast exampled me in will.

Henceforth I shall the lower self outclimb,


Though from the father 's father to the son
It has come down to me through time,
My higher self must now be won. ' '

So Lincoln, when he entered camp,

Bore on his soul another stamp ;

If now he feels that old blood-stain

From parent's stock work in his brain,

He casts it from him, to be free

Of the grim fates of ancestry.

And so he conquers his heredity;

Grandfather 's bullet by Indian shot,

Lay lodged in Lincoln's destined lot;

Another Indian now has cut it out

With gentle words and left no scar of doubt ;

Of truth he gains a new beginning,

Of manhood wins the primal winning,

The blot transcended of his birth,

The whole asserted of his human worth.

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Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderLincoln in the Black Hawk war, an epos of the Northwest → online text (page 13 of 16)