Denton Jaques Snider.

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

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And spout Will Shakespeare at Black Hawk,

If he does not give up, then in addition

I have some other rhymed ammunition

Which I can draw from out my pouch —

In shooting versicles I am no slouch ;

You ought to know my talent well

On you I oft have tried its spell ;

I feel you have for me been wishing,

Again we shall now go a-fishing,

And with my rhymes you cannot help but

Of savage redskins the whole batch.' '

The Captain's hand gave one huge reach,
And clasped Jack Kelso for his speech ;
The soldiers all in chorus shouted,
As Lincoln roared : ' ' We never shall be routed
By those infernal mullygrubs,
Which give to life the hardest rubs ;
For Jack will put to flight the dumps,
Which more than Indians give us thumps,
When the campaign may drag on dreary,
And with flat prairies we are weary,
The shout will rise as if from night
At peeping of the light :
Here Kelso comes — now we are cheery. ' '
Naught could the soldiers better please,
Since Jack and Abe with tales and spouting


Would make in camp some lively fun

And start the heavy hour-glass on a run.

Jack Kelso's name was then writ down;

Of all the men who lived in town

He was the one whom Abe was thinking over,

And longing for a rhymer and a lover

To calm the agitated heart

With strains of soothing art,

Which no one else was able to impart.

The roses white and red were sung with might
In those old Shakespeare times,
But now it is the redskin and the white
Which must exploited be in rhymes ;
And so Jack Kelso hies him to the front
With backwoods verses broad and blunt,
And challenges Will Shakespeare's poem,
As rhyming wrestler tries to throw him.


With this last man enlisted
The company feels itself full-fisted,
Till now there seemed some lack,
The gap is filled by rhyming Jack.
Who never fails to show his knack.
Then all the soldiers start to say
"Up, off — let us no longer stay,
Though it be hard to break away."
The Captain gives the quick command,


At once they step — the entire band-—

And all New Salem marches after,

Women and men with teary looks and laugh-

Still old Tom Cunes strode at their head,

Blowing his fife he stiffly stepped,

Nodding his poll the time he kept

With Captain Lincoln's tread,

Who all the people led.

The fiery fif er fifed himself so red

That his fat jowl seemed gushing blood,

Washing his face in crimson flood ;

Fifing his blast at big Black Hawk

Aye but he made his whistle talk !

The drummer drummed his drum with all his

His big-thewed arm he slung as in a fight,

Whirling his drum-stick balled

As if a log he mauled.

The people trod to that one sound,

Their common footstep shook the ground,

Eeverberating everywhere around.

The little snare-drum snarled between

Grumbling its rat-a-tat-a-teen,

Pelting away in petty pother,

As ever scolding its big drum brother

In gnarly nasal drawl

Which made the epidermis crawl.

And so they strode that orchestra,

With its triumphant artists three,


Making of. sounds a mighty murderous play-
As if the Indians thence to slay,
To v&hkh jt.he people's hearts agree.
The very dome of Heaven echoed aboon
With Old Dan Tucker for a tune.
This ended, Tom turned on his heel,
But in the act against a wagon wheel
He struck by chance and broke his darling

That seemed to take away his life
A moment, till again upright he stood,
When he picked up the leaden nib still good.
But where they passed the village bound,
The Captain stopped and looked around;
His stalwart arm he did upreach
And then he made a little speech,
Just at the grove of Hickory
Still famed as Jackson's tree:
1 i Here, friends, we have to part,
Although it wrenches every heart,
Henceforth we must be going faster ;
Say your last prayer, my good Schoolmas-
ter.' J
Then Mentor Graham stood before the boys
And throbbed a word in broken voice,
He folded round his heart that flag,
Caressing it, " Good-bye, old rag,
More I cannot speechify,
My eyes will not keep dry,
I must not show to you the tears,


Which I have often trounced from you, my

And more of that I still must do
For sake of all those after you ;
And though I be not now in school,
I shall not play the sentimental fool."
Whereat the apple in his throat
Pushed up and blocked the gushing note,
Just then he slipped off to one side
And secretly his eyes he dried.

Next smiling Uncle Jimmy came
Who always leveled up the same,
In weal or woe, in bliss or bane,
He never failed to light on top again ;
Spoke he, now fondling Speedwell 's mane :
1 * Good-by, my favorite faithful nag,
Follow bravely Lincoln and the flag,
Bring him in safety back to our New Salem,
With a grand jubilee again we'll hail him. ,,

When Uncle Jimmy Short had spoken

The Captain had no time his gratitude to

token ;
The Eutledges were standing there —
Just there before his look
And every thought of his a captive took.
The father with his lordly classic air,
The daughter with the sunbeams tangled in

her hair
And rosebuds blushing in her face


Which dropped in every eye their grace,

And shot in every heart a tiny shaft

Of maiden love all innocent of craft,

Whereof Abe Lincoln took the deepest draft.

As soon as those two shapes he scanned,

In hope his soaring spirit planned

To draw that famed ancestral sword

Which dangled dazzling at his side,

As if it too felt some old pride

In lofty Lincoln, its new lord,

W^ho spoke to them a stalwart word :

"This falchion's edge unsheathe I now,

By it I lip my holiest vow;

This burning blade I deem a loan,

Which I shall bring back to its own ;

When I return from my long ride

You still shall see it gleaming at my side —

Dear sword, thy sunbeams from on high

Flash back their sparkles to mine eye ;

When I thy laughing face uncover,

I feel myself, I swear, to be thy lover,

Who shall be true to thee till death,

Shall grip thee fond at my last breath. ' '

Three cheers for the keen Eutledge sword !

All took a shouting spell;

Three cheers for Lincoln's keener word!

They bettered e'en their yell.

Now blooming Ann, at what she heard,

Seemed with some inner forecast stirred,

As if in rivalry with that bright sword

Her face its beaming treasures poured,


Until the day itself was all outshone,
And on the earth had risen a new sun,
Which never sets when it has once begun.

But who is this that, leaning on her cane,

Doth interweave her voice into this strain

Of tender thought, between the twain?

A form beloved steps up again,

Her mien has changed to looking merry,

Hearken! she speaks! 'tis Mother Sally

Of Little Goose Neck Prairie ;

Her furrowed cheeks run full of pleasure,

Eainfalls of joy pour down their treasure,

In glowing glances she seems to rally

From that first dread presentiment ;

Illumed of look she tells her new content :

* ' My Abe, you now may go to war,

The cloud no longer veils your star,

It peeps out at me like a child in play.

And twinkles in my eye a laughing ray ;

You will come back this time, I see,

The next time, ah ! but let that be,

And take the blessing of to-day.

Thy love must go out to another,

But thou shalt not forget thy mother ;

My darling boy, again good-bye,

To thee I feel I shall be nigh,

My cabin bedside I shall nightly knee,

My prayer shall thy guardian angel be."

With quivering lips the Captain fluttered,

And though he tried to talk,


At every syllable his tongue would balk,
Till gathering up himself he stoutly stuttered :
i i Forward, Company : — Good-bye ' ' —

The pensive village folk turn back,
The volunteers keep on their forward track,
Streaming the road with gayety,
Though they no longer home can see.
But Lincoln dared just once look round,
He saw a maiden glance upon the ground,
Showing a redder-lidded eye

As though she, if alone, would like to cry.


Oh, Lincoln, what means this deep unrest !

Two loves are surging in thy breast,

As thou dost stride along the road,

Foref eeling what it may forebode ;

An inner war is thy new test,

A double heart with double hest ;

One love thou hast, most tender, for thy

The other love is thine just for the other,

Who stirs the fiercer farther quest

And cannot let the future rest ;

For it will never leave thee — never —

Its presence will now dwell with thine for-

Thy soul's one guest has come to stay

Until thy judgment day;

And then — and then —

Enough — Amen.

Canto $ ourtfr


"Yes, I am going back again

To my forefathers' graves,

Which can be now seen only in the waves

Which ripple the white man's growing grain

Along Rock River's shore;

They are already leveled o'er

By plow and soon will be no more.

Tribesmen, help me avenge that wrong !

How many here will go along?"

So spake in council bold Black Hawk

Who hissed a serpent in his talk,

A coiled poisonous rattlesnake,

Ready ever a spring to make,

And head with venomed fang to rear



Against the pale-faced pioneer.

This council looked upon the Iowa

Along whose banks the Sauks and Foxes lay

Smoking their fated pipe of peace,

Yet somehow troubled with their ease.

Two tribes they were, well mated,

Long had they been confederated,

And showed that red men of the forest might

In their own social forms unite,

Eenouncing their fierce tribal hate

And founding e'en an Indian State,

Which would them all associate.

So the twin tribes, the Foxes and the Sauks,

Have laid aside their tomahawks

To wage a little war of talks.

To council all the men had come,

It was a glowering set and glum,

They crouched in rows and all were mum,

Excepting two big tongue-tips never dumb,

Those of Black Hawk and Keokuk,

Who spoke as if they were an Indian book.

Again to rattle began Black Hawk

Spraying on all his venomed talk

And brandishing his tonguey tomahawk:

"The white skin may it be accursed!

I hate it last, I hate it first;

To me and mine it is the worst

Of all the ills sent down by Manito,

From his great sea of woe,

As if our world to overthrow.


Till I, the red, shall redden it
My warfare shall I never quit;
That body in its gore I'll tan,
And make it like an Indian,
The white may then become a man.
The color of his skin means ever battle
Till one of us be dead;
Which one shall hear the other's dying rat-
I swear, it shall not be the red.
I long to wash these silver faces
In bubbling fountains of their blood,
And end this conflict of the races
By wiping out the hellish brood."
Just as he stopped his furious talk,
He raised aloft his tomahawk
And flung it forth with all his might
Eastward, as if he sought to fight
A foe in that direction lying,
Whom thus he fiercely was defying,
And at the act the warlike group
Of redskins gave a mighty whoop,
And sprang like panthers from their lair,
Will on the war-path start just there.

Amid the tumult of that boist'rous band
Gesturing silence with his hand,
Uprose the Indian's greatest orator
Who would divert his people from the war,
Which meant destruction to them all,
If they should follow Black Hawk's call


To face about and then turn back,

Reversing their old westward track.

He bore the name of Keokuk

His speech was gifted with good-luck

For all his folk when in distress,

And every soul it seemed to bless.

The red man's racial hate

He tried to mitigate,

He saw in it the brand of fate

Upon each Indian of the land.

So now he would Black Hawk withstand,

And stay the vengeful hand

Which would be certain to invoke

Retribution on his folk.

Of Indian wisdom he was the voice,

Of all his race he rose the choice;

Their greatest man was Keokuk,

The sage whom Black Hawk could not brook,

Envious from whisper of ambition,

And opposite in disposition.

Both tribes, the Foxes and the Sauks allied

Made Keokuk their chief in pride,

E'en if a party was dissatisfied —

Black Hawk and those who took his side,

Who now had roused the frenzied thrill

Which coursed in every Indian's blood.

But all were of a sudden still

When Keokuk before them stood,

He looked a moment far away,

And then began to say:


"Hear the Great Spirit first,
And to him pray

Ere we are borne down to the worst
And vanish from the day.
His hand has led the white men here
And makes them stronger every year;
Their arms will slay us if we fight,
Although we think we have the right;
Oft have we tried to stop their way
And always had the debt to pay;
The one great fact we must descry:
Be it for us to live or die,
The whites are here to stay,
Until the Judgment day."
Sad was the voice of Keokuk,
More grave became the chieftain's look,
He knew he had to touch a strain
Which would to many friends give pain,
But his dear people's welfare stirred
His heart to speak the fateful word:
"We have to change our way of life,
If we would ban the cause of strife
Between the red man and the white :
For us it is a losing fight
And ever has been till to-day,
To-morrow looks the self-same way.
Our customs long ingrown we must undo,
Else we shall not pull through;
Methinks our very soul
We must somehow unroll


And overwork it new;
Like his onr village we must make,
Divide the land that each one take
His portion, to be his alone,
Which he will till and own.
Methinks I see my Indian
Becoming thns another man,
Uprising till he builds a mighty State
And so defies the blow of Fate."

So spake Chief Keokuk the sage,

The wisest red man of his age ;

He hoped to save his dying race

By bringing them to take their place

In the new order of the world,

And not beneath its wheels be whirled.

Alas ! his wisdom soared above his tribe,

They could not grasp his lofty word,

Although its sounds they heard,

Its meaning they could not imbibe.

They were unable from their birth

To see what swept them off the earth,

They could not change their institution

Without an instant dissolution;

He voiced the hest of the Great Spirit,

But not a Redskin there could hear it,

Gave but a grunt or mumble

While Black Hawk's band sneered out an

ugly grumble.
Sage Keokuk waved silence, being chief,


He knew the way to give relief
To the upheaving savage heart,
Through charm of Indian art;
And so he called for a folk-tale,
The wanderings o'er hill and dale
Through which his tribe had had to roam,
Ere they could reach their present home.


A woman was the keeper of this store,

Long known as teller of her people's lore,

Which she preserved well memorized

Without the aid of print or letters civilized,

And in it many a lesson brought

To savage minds, not to be taught

In any other school of man

A little foreview of God's plan.

That woman knew her Indians well,

And could their soul's own story tell

In their long fateful wandering,

E'en could it in rude measures sing;

She gave her head a little tilt,

And to her words a swaying lilt:

"Far up in Canada we Sauks once dwelt,

When from above a push we felt,

And that was long, ah! long ago,

It is the first of us I know;

From that far land, our earliest home,

Westward the Sauks were forced to roam,



Fleeing the Whites, and Indians, too,
Till countries vast we wandered through
With all their swamps and running streams,
And passed high mountains iced in sunny

gleams ;
Wandering ever, ever forth
We crossed great lakes set in the North,
Until we in Wisconsin landed,
W T ith kindred Foxes there we banded,
And formed a single Indian nation,
Staying the same in all migration.
In time we started on our way once more,
Thence to the milder South we bore,
And drove the Eedskins all before.
Again we raised the furious battle-cry,
We fought and slew the native Illini,
So that of thousands now remain
Scarcely a hundred to be slain.
Then on Eock Eiver we made our nest
Of wigwams where we took a rest
From our long time of killing,
Though not much Indian blood was left for

What we had done, we soon were made to

For the Great Spirit paid us back
Bringing these Whites upon our track,
With whom we now must deal.
Before them we have had to leave
Our latest dwelling place and best


And though our hearts did deeply grieve

Again we had to move still further west,

Over the royal River's haughty foam,

Into our present quiet home.

So far the Great Spirit has now brought us

And many a miracle has wrought us;

But what our lot is hence to be

Lies not within my soul to see,

Or if it did, my tongue is not to tell ;

Still I must think all will be well

If we but listen to our sage,

Who says that rage must bleed for rage,

Revenge's arrow will come back

And level all upon its track

Tapping at last the very heart

Whence it did start.

That is the Indian's danger.

More than the white-faced stranger."

So spake the bronze-lipped poetess

Who knew the story of her people's stress

Through centuries of far migrations,

In Oceanic undulations

Westward across the continent,

Till o'er the Mississippi sent

Unto their present habitations;

Her people 's old recurring fate

In heartfelt words she did narrate,

That fated whirl of Indian despair

Which Keokuk would stop by a new state


And thus a race's loss repair,

At least its rapid rush would check

From going all at once to wreck.

But scarcely was the story ended

And by the people's wiser half commended,

When Black Hawk sprang his daggered

And for his weapon made a reach

To brandish its defiance,

As if to cut off all compliance.

While his keen blade whizzed on the air

His keener words hissed round him every-
where :

"That land of ours we never sold,

It is the white man's lie now told

By artful woman's tongue,

Inspired by slippery Keokuk

Who never would our rights uphold,

But let our homes from us be wrung:

Such truckling shall I never brook,

I shall retake of ours what thieves once took.

Yea, the Great Spirit's gift of lands

Cannot by us be sold,

Cannot be handled in our hands,

And thus exchanged for gold.

Who'll pick land up and carry it along?

To no man singly it can belong,

It is for all the tribe who use it,

Not for the one who will abuse it.

Never the red man shall divide the soil —


Breaking the good old Indian law —
And o'er it stoop himself in toil,
As if he were a white man or a squaw.' !
Whereat he turned aside to Keokuk
And gave the sage a scornful look,
Eunning its lines out to the nose's tip
Which in disdain did downward dip.
Heaven-soaring went up the applause,
And with it clamored too the squaws
Who clung to the time-honored laws,
Which made them dig the earth and hoe the

Chop the wood, the children bear and raise.
She toiled for her big Indian all her life,
And so she was his wife.

By such entire approval stirred

Black Hawk dared break his boldest word:

' ' To hunt our game and plant our corn

We shall set out to-morrow morn;

From our own native field and wood

Hereafter we shall win our food,

Despite the pale land-hungry thief,

Whose ownership we shall make brief

Unless by flight he gets relief.

With its fair days has come the spring

And bids the birds for us to sing,

As underneath the leaves we roam,

Going back to our old home.

The Mississippi's whirling flood


Let us repass and stay for good,

That stream we should have never crossed

This way, but held at any cost;

Let us return, undo with gun

What never ought to have been done ;

Our wives and children with us take,

Our village then remake,

Which we shall not forsake.

Be ready, both ye tribal bands,

The Foxes and the Sauks

With whetted tomahawks

From thieves to wrest our stolen lands,

And with our twain the tribes afar

We shall unite in one last war,

Winnebagoes, Kickapoos,

Potawatomies and all the Sioux;

I see the Eed Man's rising star

When he a nation, too, will make,

And will his own in might retake.

I see our band of painted whoopers

Scattering afar the blue-coat troopers,

And tomahawking out their life —

That is the end of mortal strife.

With great Tecumseh once I stood,

And saw him welter in his blood,

And with his prophet-brother I shot true

And felled my man at Tippecanoe;

We shall make live our dying race,

Or stamp our bloody trace

Upon the earth's bewrinkled face.


Rise, then, and make a start, ye braves,
Do not desert your fathers' graves."

All seemed to shout approval,

None liked that last removal

Which they would somehow wipe away,

And so turn back their day,

Undoing all their westward flight,

Reversing e'en the sunset's light,

As if it could wheel round in upward bent,

And so remount the cycled firmament.

But Keokuk then raised his wand

To signify the chief's command

That the wild tumult now must cease ;

He was the friend of peace,

And his benignant look brought calm,

Dropping in passion's wound its balm;

Full well did Black Hawk know its power,

To turn the soul to sweet from sour,

And so he straightway strove to stem it,

And by suspicion to condemn it;

"Beware of Keokuk's soft soap

Which washes out our only hope,

And leaves us prey to sheer despair ;

And of his gentle looks beware,

With these his weapons you must cope,

In them is hidden sly his snare."

The chieftain looked a silent sneer,
But let no wrath in act appear,


A word of wisdom would he teach,

And sway the madness by his speech,

He sought to soothe the seething hour,

And lay his spell upon the demon's power,

By gentle manner and oration,

Instilling solacement and its salvation

Into his frenzied nation.

"A few of our forefathers rest forever

Beside this little Iowa river,

Where now we hope to stay awhile

Within our present peaceful domicile;

The vernal sod now greens above them,

It is our duty here to love them.

And meed of memory to give

That their example still may live.

Methinks that sorely it would grieve them

If we of our free will should leave them.

Since the great treaty many years

Have circled out and in,

Beyond have borne our dearest kin,

Bestrown us with their hopes and fears ;

Then I was young, but now am gray,

So very long I shall not stay,

But with my father yonder soon be laid away.

Our old and young lie buried here,

Why quit the tombs of those most near?

Some of our sires of many moons ago,

My own more distant blood, I know,

Eepose beside Eock Eiver's flow.

Thither my heart doth often yearn,


Fain would I see my fair birth-place,

But life's hard lesson I have had to learn,

It is the lesson of my race.

That goodly land is ours no longer,

To get it we would have to fight

And conquer, too, the stronger,

E 'en if we have the right,

Losing perchance what now we own,

The very ground we stand upon ;

Then just one more enforced migration

The funeral march will be of all our nation —

With one exception, 'tis Black Hawk,

The sole surviving Sauk."

So spake in trembling tones staid Keokuk,
While his whole being with emotion shook.
He seemed to hear his people gasping their

last breath
And then forever sink in death.
But soon he gathered up his broken self

And started in a calmer strain :
"Why not for great-grandfathers' sakes
Push farther back to the Great Lakes —
Where once we had our dwelling place
And stayed for years our westward pace ?
Where our most famous deed was done —
Our double folk was wrought to one;
Twinned together in death and life,
We brought to end our tiibal strife


With Indian's ill most rife;

If all the Eeds the same could do,

A nation great they might be too.

But, ah! that seems their wall of fate;

Somehow they can't associate,

And with each other form a State.

But on the Lakes we were not ever

E'en if we came thence to Rock River;

We Sauks must go still farther back,

Up the St. Lawrence winds our track,

Till it be lost in twilight dim

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Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderLincoln in the Black Hawk war, an epos of the Northwest → online text (page 5 of 16)