Denton Jaques Snider.

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

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Methinks there is but one worse lot —
That is, to let the nation
Die under doom of peaceful separation.
I shall enlist again, so come the need;
My people, are you all agreed!
My soldiers, daring battle's harms
Will you with me re-shoulder arms?
To march perchance the other way —
Which God forbid, I pray."
Whereat uprose a solid shout,
"You, leader, Lincoln, march us out."
Then Lincoln fixed afar his eyes
As if he would soliloquize :


"The Union is our Holy Mother,

And Illinois her son,

Than her we recognize none other,

Though we be only one,

Of her increasing family

With more than royal pedigree.

Not all the States such high descent can show

But for their birth-line elsewhere go,

Even across the sea

Roots their colonial tree.

This Mother, too, us free has borne

Our soil will chain no slave forlorn;

I would that each State thus might be —

That day I hope I yet may see."

Whereat a silence fell upon the crowd,
They all were set to thinking not aloud,
And could not well make up their mind,
And so they had to lag behind
Their speaker in his lofty mood,
Who hazily before them stood.
It was a dreamy interval
Which stilled the talking of them all,
A node of strange bewilderment,
Each seemed upon himself inbent,
That wordlessness was a surprise;
What could those tongues so paralyze?
Lincoln dreamed trouble out of his eyes,
The heart must find some utterance,
It cannot bide in speechless trance,


Then just in time the man appears,

Jack Kelso, who can tap the unshed tears.

He seems himself to throb the woe,

And so he starts the tale of Eomeo.

The tragic lot of Juliet,

Who paid of too much love the debt

With her own life laid in the tomb,

Turned every heart to sob and gloom,

Making them feel fair maiden Ann

Caught in the net of fateful plan,

For she was their first favorite

Who stood just now within their sight.

But Lincoln more than all forefelt

The stroke of destiny here dealt

Upon a hopeful loving pair;

One sigh escaped him like despair,

As if it came just from the fact

Which he saw scythed Time enact

Upon the fairest of the fair.

Again he grasped the weapon by the belt,

With it he might not yet be through —

Lincoln perchance is fated too.

A while his very heart did melt,

And pulse its way out of his eyes

At love's untoward destinies,

So deeply Kelso him up stirred

By Shakespeare's ever-throbbing word.

But there the bright Ann Rutledge stands
Before him reaching both her hands,


As if to help him out the cloud

Which seems him bodeful to enshroud,

And takes the sword from Lincoln now

Who faithful had fulfilled his vow,

Uttered upon that very spot,

To bear the blade without a blot.

His melancholy took to flight,

And all the dragons of his spirit's night,

Were routed by the inner sun

Which with the maiden rose and shone.

Thus Lincoln was to hope restored

When out his hand he gave the sword,

Sword of the loyal Eutledges

Yet worn with knightly gentleness,

Which spake a line of high degree

Flashing the words: "Man is born free."

The father also nearby stood,

James Eutledge, worthy of his blood,

But worthier in his own right

Of character and honor bright ;

The people's word gave him a crown

As the first man of all the town ;

The cavalier aloft did tower

Beside him bloomed the rarest flower,

He looked to Lincoln high and spoke,

In presence of the cheering folk:

"Son of promise, you I nominate

Here as our legislative candidate,

Our choice you are the law to make,

In that I see your future stake,


The larger time is coming on —

A mightier stream than Sangamon

Which yonder now can barely crawl

Through shallow pools and grasses tall,

A little harmless thing,

Mnch dwindled since the floods of spring,

When you obeyed your country's call;

Then it appeared as if forever

It might roll on a full-grown river,

Able upon its face to float

The heavy-burdened steam-winged boat.

Not for New Salem's likes alone

With its dear navigable Sangamon,

But for the weal of the entire State

It must be yours to legislate;

Then you will mount to a still higher station,

From State rise up to the whole Nation."

Whereat they cheered the candidate
With an all-throated tumbling yell,
Whose ups and downs surged for a spell;
Lincoln has passed to his new vocation,
Whose star will never quit his sight
Until his eye shuts into his last night ;
But now he hails the great release
To turn away from war to peace;
Though he forefeel this may not be the last —
Enough ! the Black Hawk War is past.
So Lincoln has his campaign rounded,
Some depths of living he has sounded,


And now again has readied the place

From which he started on his race,

Still the aspiring candidate

For his dear folk to legislate.

Another yet, though voiceless, goal

Looms up within him and above —

A power he cannot control —

He is, too, candidate for love.

A circle going forth and coming back,

The tale has followed out his journey's track;

But now the end of this one inning

Has overlapped a new beginning,

Whereof to tell is not of here

But cycles in another sphere.


Historic Sntimations.

Canto I— On April 21st, 1832, sixty-eight
men volunteered to serve the State of Illi-
nois at Richland, Sangamon County, and in
the election which followed Lincoln was cho-
sen Captain, who had walked over from New
Salem to the place of rendezvous. This was
in response to the call of Governor Reynolds
for troops against the invasion of Black

Says Stevens (The Black Hawk War, p.
278) : "One William Kirkpatrick aspired to
the same position. He was pretentious, as-
sumed a prominence in the neighborhood —
and when he announced a desire for the office
he expected to get it. The two candidates
were placed a short distance away, and the
men were requested to fall in behind the man
they preferred for their Captain. Lincoln
was overwhelmingly and hilariously elected. \ '

Says Miss Tarbell (Life of Lincoln, Vol. I.,
p. 75) : "One of the odd jobs which Lincoln
had taken since coming into Illinois, was
working in a saw-mill for a man named Kirk-
patrick" (to which fact a story is appended).


The muster-roll of the company in Lin-
coln's hand-writing is still in existence. A
fac-simile is given in Steven's work before
mentioned. No. 20 is the name William Kirk-
patrick, with the inserted gloss: "Promoted
from the ranks April 30th."

From Lincoln's first brief sketch of his life
(written in 1859): "Then came the Black
Hawk War, and I was elected Captain of
volunteers — a success which gave me more
pleasure than any I have had since."

From a second and later account (written
by him in 1860) : "Abraham joined a volun-
teer company and to his own surprise was
elected Captain of it. He says he has not
since had any success in life which gave him
so much satisfaction. He went to the cam-
paign, served near three months, met the
ordinary hardships of such an expedition,
but was in no battle (Works of Lincoln, by
Nicolay & Hay).

"Lincoln's paternal grandfather, also
called Abraham Lincoln, the pioneer from
Virginia, met his death within two years after
his settlement in Kentucky at the hands of
the Indians — not in battle but by stealth when
he was laboring to open a farm in the forest"
(From Herndon & Weik's Lincoln, p. 6).

Herndon says: "I have often heard the
President describe the tragedy as he had in-


herited the story from his father, Thomas
Lincoln, whose brother, Mordecai, took delib-
erate aim at a silver crescent which hung sus-
pended from the Indian's breast and brought
him to the ground. The tragic death of his
father filled Mordecai with an intense hatred
of the Indians, a feeling from which he never
recovered. It was ever with him like an
avenging spirit. Thomas Lincoln retained a
vivid recollection of his father 's death, which
he was fond of relating to his children, among
whom was, of course, young Abraham."

Canto II — Black Hawk left an autobiog-
raphy, the only Indian one, it is said. It
was dictated in 1833 to Antoine Le Claire, a
half-breed interpreter who could not write.
The amanuensis was a Mr. Patterson, who
gave to it its style and who printed it.

Black Hawk was born in 1767 at Saukenuk,
the Sauk village on the Rock River, not far
from the latter 's confluence with the Missis-
sippi. He was not the Chief of Sauks and
Foxes, but the leader of the British band,
those Indians of his nation who favored the
British against the Americans. His success-
ful rival for chieftainship was Keokuk, quite
his counterpart in character.

Opinions about the ability of Black Hawk
are diverse. He has been often regarded as
one of the great historic Indians, and put in


company with Philip, Pontiac, Tecumseh.
Says one of his historians: "He evinced no
particular talents in any of his plans, nor did
he exhibit extraordinary skill in their accom-
plishment. ' ' He was a daring fighter but no
great organizer of his race.

White Cloud was the Prophet, a Winne-
bago, whose visions are said to have had their
part in stirring up Black Hawk to the war.
His village was known as Prophetstown and
was burned by the volunteers.

Canto III — The town of New Salem, the
scene of Lincoln's early activity, has van-
ished. It was situated on a bluff of the San-
gamon river which was then regarded as
navigable. The place was founded in 1829
by James Rutledge and John Cameron, and
lasted about ten years. At present it is a
cow pasture.

Rutledge was born in South Carolina and
belonged to the famous family of that name.
He first migrated to Kentucky and thence to
Illinois. Says Herndon: "I knew him as
early as 1833, and have often shared the hos-
pitality of his home. He was a man of no
little force of character ; those who knew him
best, loved him the most. Ann, his third
child, was a beautiful girl, and by her win-
ning ways attached people to her so firmly
that she soon became the most popular young


lady of the village' ' (Herndon and Weick's
Lincoln, p. 120).

Mentor Graham, the village schoolmaster
of New Salem, was a character who in a num-
ber of ways plays into the early life of Lin-
coln. Some account of him may be found in
the Lincoln Biographies.

Uncle Jimmy Short of Sand Ridge was the
generous farmer who redeemed Lincoln's
horse and surveying instruments when they
were sold for debt (see Miss Tarbell's Lin-
coln, p. 105).

Sallie Bush Lincoln, the stepmother, had
probably more to do in building the character
of Abraham Lincoln than any other human
being. The following citation indicating her
sympathetic and premonitory nature we owe
to Herndon: "I did not want Abe to run for
President and did not want to see him elected.
I was afraid that something would happen to
him. And when he came down to see me
after he was elected President, I still felt and
my heart told me that something would befall
him, and that I should never see him again. ? '

Jack Kelso: "In New Salem was one of
those curious individuals sometimes found in
frontier settlements, half poet, half loafer, in-
capable of earning a living in any steady em-
ployment, yet familiar with good literature
and capable of enjoying it — Jack Kelso. He


repeated Shakespeare and Burns incessantly
over the odd jobs he undertook, or as he
idled by the streams — for he was a famous
fisherman — and Lincoln soon became his con-
stant companion" (Miss Tarbell's Lincoln I.,
p. 93).

Canto IV — There is a general agreement
concerning the talents and character of Keo-
kuk, "the watchful Fox." He was a Sauk,
born about 1780, the life-long rival of Black
Hawk for the headship of their common na-

Says Drake's Life of Black Hawk (7th edi-
tion, 1849) : "The eloquence of Keokuk and
his sagacity in the civil affairs of his nation
are, like his military talents, of a high order.
In point of intellect, integrity of character,
and the capacity for governing others, he is
supposed to have no superior among the In-

On the other hand, Keokuk had a de-
cided Epicurean tendency. He was fond of
fire-water, and indulged in the luxury of six
wives. "He liked to travel in state from tribe
to tribe. He moved in more savage mag-
nificence, it is supposed, than any other In-
dian chief on the continent" (Drake's Life,
very partial to Black Hawk).

Says Stevens (The Black Hawk War, Chi-
cago, 1903 — a book unfriendly to Black



Hawk): "Keokuk's oratory was so perfect,
his logic so convincing, his person so mag-
netic, and his pleas so engaging that poor
Black Hawk made a sorry figure against him.
As an orator Keokuk had no equal among the
red men, and the influence it acquired for him
so rankled in the heart of Black Hawk that
the latter could never overcome his hatred
of Keokuk" (p. 44).

The fact is, the two Indians were opposite
in moral temperament. In contrast with
Keokuk's Epicureanism, stands out prom-
inently Black Hawk's Stoicism. In his Auto-
biography Black Hawk condemns fire-water
as "bad medicine"; he also claims to have
had but one wife; moreover, like a good
moralist, he sneers at Keokuk as "politic."
On the whole, the pictures of Black Hawk
(see them in Stevens) show an ascetic, thin-
visaged, Puritanic look.

There is, however, some evidence that he
too at times indulged in fire-water and polyg-
amy, like a true Indian (and some white
men). This evidence can be found in his
friendly biographer, Drake.

But the pivotal point in the character of
Black Hawk is contained in the following
statement by him, which may indeed be said
to express the basic consciousness of the In-
dian race: "My reason teaches me that land


cannot be sold. The Great Spirit gave it to
his children to live upon, and cultivate, as
far as is necessary, for their subsistence ; and
so long as they occupy and cultivate it, they
have the right to the soil, but if they volun-
tarily leave it, then any other people have
the right to settle upon it. Nothing can be
sold but such things as can be carried away. ■ '

Possibly we may account in part for Keo-
kuk by the fact that he had white (French)
blood in his veins, through his mother. The
Sauks originally were located in Canada upon
the St. Lawrence. Thence occurred their mi-
gration westward to the Great Lakes, toward
the end of the 17th century; next they are
found at Green Bay, where their federation
with Foxes took place. From Wisconsin they
moved southward, dispossessing and destroy-
ing other Indians till they reach Rock river,
where they are overtaken by the white Ameri-
can migration and pushed across the Missis-

Canto V — The interference of Lincoln to
protect an old stray Indian, who had wan-
dered into the camp of the regiment, is given
with some variations by the biographers. We
shall cite from the account of Herndon, who
probably heard about the incident from the
lips of Lincoln himself as well as from sol-
diers of the Black Hawk War (I, p. 87):



"An old Indian strayed, hungry and helpless,
into camp one day, whom the soldiers were
conspiring to kill on the ground that he was a
spy. A letter from General Cass, recom-
mending him for his past kind and faithful
services to the whites, which the trembling
old savage drew from beneath the folds of
his blanket, failed in any degree to appease
the wrath of the men who confronted him.
They had come out to fight the treacherous
Indians, and here was one who had the temer-
ity even to steal into their camp. 'Make an
example of him,' they exclaimed, 'the letter
is a forgery and he is a spy.' But the tall
form of their Captain interposed itself be-
tween them and their defenseless victim. Lin-
coln's determined look and the demand that
it must not be done, were enough. They sul-
lenly desisted, and the Indian, unmolested,
continued on his way."

Canto VI— In May, 1816, United States
troops landed on Rock Island and began to
build Fort Armstrong, named after the late
Secretary of War. The purpose of the fort
was to overawe the hostile Indians of the ad-
jacent country, of whom the leading spirit
was Black Hawk. Moreover, the Island was
a kind of holy spot for the Indians, with
whose mythology it was connected. This is
indicated by a passage in Black Hawk's Auto-
biography as follows :


"A good spirit had care of this island who
lived in a cave in the rocks immediately un-
der the place where the fort now stands, and
has often been seen by our people. He was
white with large wings like a swan's, but ten
times larger. We were particular not to make
much noise in that part of the island which
he inhabited, for fear of disturbing him. But
the noise of the fort has since driven him
away, and no doubt a bad spirit has taken his
place. ' '

Canto VII — From Lincoln's speech before
the Convention which nominated him for Sen-
ator against Douglas (June 16th, 1858) :

"In my opinion it (slavery agitation) will
not cease till a crisis shall have been reached
and passed. A house divided against itself
cannot stand. I believe this Government
cannot endure permanently half-slave, half-
free. I do not expect the Union to be dis-
solved, I do not expect the House to fall, but
I do expect it will cease to be divided. It
will become all one thing or all the other. ' '

From the life of Jefferson Davis by his
wife (I., p. 132) : "Then a tall, gawky, slab-
sided, homely, young man, dressed in a suit
of bluejeans, presented himself as the cap-
tain of a company of recruits, and was sworn
in by Jefferson Davis." This statement
doubtless is derived from the words of her


husband. Lincoln also believed that he had
been sworn in by Jefferson Davis, and repeat-
ed the fact to Ben Perley Poore and others.
Still the statement has been questioned, some-
times on one ground and sometimes on an-

From the same biography of Davis we
learn that his views on State sovereignty
were fixed already in 1832, which year was
full of the nullification excitement, the Force
Bill, and Jackson's campaign for re-election.
The thought that Davis's regiment might be
sent by Jackson against the nullifiers, had al-
ready been weighed by the young Lieutenant
with this result, according to his wife's rec-
ord : He resolved to resign his commission in
the army, though by education, association
and preference he was a soldier, rather than
be a party to the coercion of a State. Thus
Davis must have been thinking amid the
Black Hawk War.

In 1835 Davis resigned and married Miss
Taylor, daughter of the General, having re-
tired to his plantation in Mississippi. The
young wife died the same year.

In the Black Hawk War Lieut. Albert Sid-
ney Johnston was on Gen. Atkinson's staff.
Lieut. Eobert Anderson was " Assistant In-
spector General of the militia with the rank
of Colonel on the Governor's staff." Lieut.
Davis was for a time Adjutant to Taylor.


Canto VIII — From a local history (Lee
County) has been transmitted the following
speech of Taylor to some mutinous State
troops: "You are citizen soldiers and some
of you may fill high offices, or even be Presi-
dents some day — but never unless you do
your duty." The fact is three future Presi-
dents were then in the neighborhood, possi-
bly within the hearing of his voice. ' ' Every
American citizen has in him the total gamut
of possibilities between the Gallows and the
Presidency," said the observant politician
upon a time.

Accounts agree about Keokuk's treatment
of Black Hawk after the latter 's defeat.
(See Drake's Life of Black Hawk, p. 218).
Keokuk with some followers came up the
river to see Black Hawk, who was a prisoner
at Fort Armstrong: "Keokuk kindly ex-
tended his hand to Black Hawk, saying : The
Great Spirit has sent our brother back, let
us shake hands with him in friendship."
Still Black Hawk flared up seriously once,
and Keokuk had to apologize for him, and to
intercede with the military authorities for
his liberation. The outcome was that Black
Hawk was allowed to return to home and fam-
ily. He quietly settled down, and for a time
took up his abode near Keokuk's village on
the Iowa Eiver. But he could never get over
his hate and jealousy of his rival. On an im-


portant public occasion he said: "Keokuk
has been the cause of my present situation,
but do not attach blame to him." This was
spoken not long before his death, which oc-
curred October 3rd, 1838.

Canto IX — It is recorded that "the com-
pany of Captain lies was mustered out by
Lieutenant Robert Anderson at Fort Wil-
burn, ,, south-east of Dixon's Ferry on the
Illinois, an important depot of supplies
(Captain lies' Life and Times, by himself,
1883). Lincoln was then re-mustered into
the new company of Capt. Early, with whom
he made the circle to Lake Koshkonong and
back again to Dixon's Ferry. The expedi-
tion to Galena and return took place with
Capt. lies.

Stillman's defeat (May 14th) was merely
a panic on the part of a battalion of white
volunteers, 275 in number, who fled disgrace-
fully from a few Indians. But it prolonged
the war, encouraged the Reds, and fright-
ened the border to a frenzy, sending indeed
a thrill of alarm through the whole Union.
Moreover, it was the exploit which gave to
Black Hawk his chief fame as a great Indian
commander. The Governor of the State is-
sued a new call for troops. The Secretary of
War sent 1,000 United States soldiers from
the Seaboard, and General Scott was or-


dered to the North-west to take charge.
(Drake, p. 156). Lincoln's company was not
with Stillman, but hastened to the field of
battle the next day — May 15th — and helped
bury the dead (Stevens, p. 284). Of the three
enlistments of Lincoln, the first has been
already recorded; the second was when he
enlisted as a private with Captain lies for
twenty days, having been mustered out as
captain the 27th of May; on June 15th he
was mustered out the second time, and re-
enlisted with Captain Early. After another
round of considerable extent, he was mus-
tered out for the last time July 10th, 1832,
and started for home, the most of his origi-
nal company having already gone before




A national epos in four separate poems cor-
responding to the chief epochs of Lincoln's
career, and setting forth especially his inner life
and its transformations along with the outer
events of his time.

I. Lincoln in the Black Hawk War.
The first pivotal episode in Lin-
coln's evolution, written in free
rhymed tetrameters $1.50

II. Lincoln and Ann Rutledge. The
love idyl of Lincoln's life, written
in hexameters 1.50

III. Lincoln in the White House. Lin-

coln's development through inner
and outer conflict to his national
greatness — blank verse and prose 1.50

IV. Lincoln at Richmond, portraying his

last days of triumph and tragedy




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