Denton Jaques Snider.

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

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At last it comes for better or for worse;

According to the life he lives

The even recompense it gives.

In silent rue the men pass to their station

With sting of keenest human evil,

For they had seen their very incarnation

In Richard Crookback's ugly devil;

Each recognized his hideous counterfeit,

And tried to run away from it;

Each heard his diabolic scoff,

When Lincoln dared to hold him off

From slaying innocent old Loo,

Because the skin showed red to view;

It turned a time of deep self-seeing

When every soul glimpsed its own naked be-


At last the sun withdraws his beams

And drops his head upon the pillowed West,

Worn with his day's o'erarching quest;

To imitate the sun the soldier seems,

And weary lies down to his rest.

But he repeats in sleep the frenzied dreams

Of Richard's conscience ghost-oppressed,

Yet showing of him what was best,

For he a dream can still repent

Of all his waking devilment.

More than ten thousand Indians with their


Those shadows stirred that band to fear of

Such was the might of Shakespeare's word

Though voiced by backwoods Kelso the er-


Canto &txtf).


Full-flooded seethed the Iowa
Around its winding banks that day
When all of Black Hawk's band set out
The white intruder to expel ;
It was of Reds a furious rout,
Each heart aflame in passion's Hell.
The turbid river hissed and boiled
As it ran through its channel coiled;
It sought its bound of shores to swallow
And turn inside that outside hollow ;
It seemed a mighty water-snake
Which would in ever-wriggling wrath retake
The earth into its body yellow,
And gave at every crook a bellow.


But now along its banks in angry swell
An Indian stream runs parallel
Which also seeks with raging blood
To reach the Mississippi flood,
And crossing it somehow flow back
Along an ever-westering track,
And thence the sunset steps retrace
Imprinted by a fleeing race.
Looking upon that turbulent throng,
Which past him surged the way along,
Stood in reflection steeped Black Hawk
Who there within himself began to talk :

11 My blood no longer skips in fun

Tingling in every limb to start and run

But it begins to slow its speed,

And loiters doing the daring deed.

The rounding years three score and five

Since I in time was born,

Have left me hardly half alive,

And getting more forlorn;

Still I must rouse myself once more

And be the warrior as of yore,

Do better than I ever did before.

The white man 's progress I must stay

And hurl him back to whence he started, •

Back to the ray of rising day,

With whose quick flashes he has westward

Unto the Mississippi's shore


From the far Ocean's roar.

The Bedskin's ever-flinching flight

I shall hend round with might,

Shall make his white-skinned foemen run

And leap headlong into the Sun,

To be forever out of sight,

Where it first lifts its head from night.

Old Keokuk I shall defy

With all his gloomy prophecy,

Who weens the Indian doomsday nigh

If we dare see our former dwelling place,

And spend upon our father's graves a sigh.

Let come the death of all our race

Just now, if we must further fly ;

Then face about, Black Hawk — and die."

'Twas with himself he held this talk —

Dreamy, dissatisfied Black Hawk;

Ambition gave him no repose,

And ever stabbed him with its throes,

For Keokuk the place had won

Of highest tribal dignity,

And had his rival too outshone

In eloquence 's chieftaincy.

Still Black Hawk held fast to his scheme,

Would realize his savage dream:

Two centuries he would reverse,

Back into chaos them immerse;

As he bethought his past career

He lisped into his own self's ear:


"My youthful ardor was so keen,

I went to war before sixteen,

A tribal foe as boy I slew,

And home I brought the trophy too.

Next with the Cherokees I fought,

And from the field new honors brought,

But my good father Pyesa

Fell in the bloody fray,

Vengeance I feel down to this day.

Kaskaskias and Chippewas,

Osages and the Iowas

I helped obliterate,

And carried out the red man's fate

To be by his own race destroyed —

Which Keokuk has so annoyed.

Then reached our Eiver the American,

The curse of curses for the Indian —

The devil is he 'gainst whom I plan.

He cut in pieces our one soil,

And shared it out to his white kin

Who everywhere came streaming in ;

Then he himself would even toil

And leave at home his idle squaw :

Whoever heard of such a law!"

While thus Black Hawk alone stood musing,

The priest Francesco was not losing

His outlook on the circumstances,

But ready was to seize all chances.

He slipped up to his moodful friend,

Perchance advice in time to lend,


At least some moments well to spend,
Which might the Indian keep aright
When foamed the crisis at its height.
First Black Hawk tongued the waiting word
With savage compliments before nnheard:

" A Spaniard I am always glad to see,

There is some bond 'tween him and me;

A strain of natnre makes us deeply one,

Though he be priest, while I take to the gun.

A common craft we both possess,

And vengeance we can hide in a caress ;

Linked too we are in common hate

Of this new man and of his State.

E'en though we be of different race

We look alike, methinks, out of the face ;

Eeligion too is not the same,

At least each has its separate name ;

And both of us have one great joy:

We love our enemies — to destroy.

Although our worlds be far apart,

We are alike deep down in heart.

And I do dote on talking Spanish

E 'en if my accent be outlandish,

Its words run round and rhyme so jinglish;

But I do hate the very sound of English,

Its speech cuts in my ear a slash,

Long afterwards I feel the gash,

I fain would fight it to its overthrow,

And take its scalp just like a foe.


That language — when I try to talk it,

My tongue will only tomahawk it.

But Spain I dream the happy hunting ground,

Set in the sun-up's golden glow;

Thither I too beyond shall go,

When my full days have done their round ;

There all our greatest Indians will be found

Still with their tomahawk and bow,

In all their feathered high estate,

Circling forever the Spirit Great —

Our Manito."

So Black Hawk spoke his compliment

With Indian etiquette well-meant,

Though sounding somewhat heathenish,

To that sleek Spaniard Molinar,

Who seemed to smile his heart's assent

Though inwardly he was at war

And relished not the godless dish,

For e'en his wish he must at times unwish.

To everything the savage said

He never failed to nod his head,

But would not back it with his word,

Not let a single smile be heard.

Whereat the Redskin higher raises

His voice, with a wild whoop of praises:

"I love the Spaniard and his rule,
And still I go to him to school.
Some things of his I do not take


But him I never shall forsake.

Down to St. Louis would I often float

In my canoe to see the lord of note,

Whom Governor the people name,

My Spanish father I called the same.

A number of them I knew well

And every year would visit them a spell ;

They let us keep our law and land,

They traded with us hand to hand,

That was our time of greatest bliss,

Which now in sorrow we all miss.

There came another sort of man,

This vile land-thief American,

With his fire-water's hell —

I know that yellow devil well,

Though it I never drink,

In flames it makes the Indian sink,

Turning him sick instead of well

And then he wallows just pell-mell;

He fights his friend and whips his wife,

It quills him over like a porcupine,

Which jabs each kindly hand, or mine or

thine ;
It is the White 's bad medicine
To cure the red man of his life ;
So will the pale face solve the races' strife.
On us he casts his greedy frown,
But I keep out of that vile town,
So wicked since the American
Has gotten there with all his clan,


Different now from good St. Louis

Which once with presents did bestrew us,

That paradise devoid of cares

The sinner new to enter dares;

The happy Creole he is not

But laden with a toilsome lot.

Miserable town ! I hate the spot,

For there was signed the treaty, wretched

Which guiled us of our own true home
Compelling us again to roam
And of our land is left us not a bit. ' '
Then Black Hawk viewed the passing crowd,
And cheered them on with accents loud:

1 ' Now we are going back to Saukenuk,

Our lovely village by the Rock,

Despite the warning of old Keokuk

Who would our noble impulse block ;

Let him enjoy his wives, some two or three —

I find one is enough for me,

Let him at home his gilt fire-water guzzle,

Rather would I look in a musket's muzzle.

So march ahead in haste, my braves,

We shall re-take our father 's graves,

Our white-faced foe forever foil

And own again our former soil.' '

When he had heartened thus his train,

To Molinar he turns again,

And whispers into priestly ear

Some words that thrill with gleeful fear :


"Now to Eock Island goes our way,

The Fort to seize without delay

A secret plot will it ensnare,

In which I am to do my share,

Approaching on this side the stream;

From the other side will spring the scheme

Which will o 'erwhelm the garrison.

Of them there will be left not one,

When we the deed have done.

Soon will be seen no more their traces,

Then shall we have our union of the races.' '

So Black Hawk spake to Molinar

And gave a foreglimpse of the war

Which made old Sol's big downcast eye

Look blood-shot out the upper sky.

Meanwhile before them rolled along

A barbarous upbubbling throng

Of human beings in a stream,

To fire the world was their wild dream

And whelm it back to anarchy

For then they thought they would be free.

The warriors ride in line ahead —

The tribal part which Black Hawk led—

They bore the name of British band,

'Gainst all Americans was raised their hand,

In contrast with sage Keokuk's folk

Who stayed at home and shunned the fatal

Through the wood and down the vale,
Those Indians trod their beaten trail


Toward the Mississippi's flow,

Whither each runnel tried to go.

For though it might be very small,

It would obey the Ocean's call

To be of the great One-and-All.

And as they trod they hummed a song;

Each entire household bowled along

And to a little ball seemed rounding

Which with the footsteps went a-bounding.

The sturdy squaw upon the road

In moccasins would bear her load,

From blanket on her swaying back

Slung round her in a kind of noose,

Two little eyes would peep jet-black

Of her pappoose.

The other children about her ran,

The coming flock barbarian.

The Indian lassie there lacked not,
The Indian lad was also on the spot ;
Each cast at the other stolen glances —
Would meet by signs well understood
Alone would wander in the quiet wood,
Or sit beside the troubled river's flood,
According to the circumstances.
And so sweet love is doing there
What it does everywhere;
It nooses the young hearts together
And sometimes e'en the old,
And ties them tightly to its tether,


Till it perchance grows cold.

Alas! that it should not forever be,

That love unlearns its glowing smile ;

But then, you know, eternity

Is a good while.

And yet 'tis said there is a love

Which registers itself above,

And so in time it cannot die

Unless with its own tragedy.

Such love by poets has been shown

As if to them at least well known,

Perchance to them alone.

But here a deeper foreword must be said

There may be born a Juliet red,

To her white Eomeo so true

That she will die with him when dead

Feeling she has nought else to do ;

And so the difference of race above

May rise the higher unity of love.


Header, now turn away thy look
To where the Mississippi makes a crook,
And sweeps around an island's rock,
A gem set in the middle of the stream,
Which to the current gives a shock
And makes it whirl in double gleam,
As if the married waters to divide
And turn a river to each side,


Which for a while flows separated

Until again the loving twain are mated,

And happily together glide

In many a silvery ripple's slide.

This is an island rock, which tells its name,

And as Rock Island is known to fame,

Which the fond River hugs in two arms

Gives it a kiss quite three miles long.
Upon this isle a fort uprises
Built by the United States,
To guard against the foe 's surprises :
That fort is what the Redskin hates
As one of his forefrowning fates.

Behold an Indian girl slips into view

Upon the silent Eastern shore,

She springs alone to her canoe

And takes in hand her oar ;

She dips it darkling in the stream,

'Tis after midnight with no moon's beam;

The tear drops down, her heart is sore ;

She ne'er had done the like before,

And yet she dared the more.

The daughter of the chief she was

Bred to the Indian 's lore and laws ;

The village belle and favorite,

Still she her tribe's own youth would slight,

Not caring for their tender speeches,

Her little world that maid outreaches,


She has a great ambition too,

Will weld the racial chain anew,

Transcending the fixed Indian bound;

The wooing chiefs the country round

In every Winnebago town

She has turned down;

E 'en White Cloud once, the Prophet great,

Sued humbly for her plighted troth,

Although he had another mate,

He weened he wanted both.

But when he barely saw that maiden's frown

In secret slunk he off to Prophet's town, •

He well foretold the right reply,

For once he gave true prophecy.

And Swartf ace too had felt a little ruffle

For love of human kind again,

Coming from a girl's least look,

Which he could not so wholly muffle

From tingling him with heart-deep pain,

Beneath his misanthropic strain.

Such was the love-born winning look

Of maiden Winnemuk,

For she had given her heart away —

That consecration seemed to play

In every little glance she took,

In every word she had to say.

Her aspiration could not cool —

Then she had been well educated

In an Indian mission-school

Not far off from her home located ;


The English tongue she spoke and read,

Many a printed page lay in her head

And welled up oft to memory

Telling what was and is to be.

The conflict of the red with white

She knew from its first early start,

Upon each side she saw a right

And felt them both within her heart,

Where they kept up their racial fight,

And she with each of them took part,

So in that red-skinned girl the time's sore

Kept clashing up and down her way of life.
In sympathy she pondered long
Of Pocahontas the strange tale —
That daughter of the chieftain strong,
Who knew so well love 's weal and wail
For lover of a different race —
And what beside took place.
And she had read with many a throe
The tale of Inkle and Yarico,
The faithless English-speaking man,
And the devoted maiden Indian,
Who saved his life, and then her all him gave
With this reward : he sold her as a slave
Into a life forlorn .

Regardless of his child and hers unborn.
Down deep the soul of Winnemuk
That tragic story strained and shook,
As its keen point she would uncover


For she had also a white lover,
Whom she would dare to save
Although the cost might be her grave.

Now in her cabin she had overheard

The details of the Indian plan

To slay the Bluecoats to a man

Upon Eock Island in the River;

She to her being's depths was stirred,

And every muscle felt the quiver ;

One of the plotters was her sire,

She heard him speak the bloody word

Whose hate blazed a consuming fire

Against the whites of every sort,

But now against the holders of the Fort

Which he would raze at once outright,

Since it was built just opposite

To where his Indian village stood

Across a narrow intervening flood,

And never was out of his sight.

A tempest raged in every nook

Within the heart of Winnemuk,

For at Fort Armstrong was the chosen one,

A soldier of the garrison

Wearing the hated white-skinned face,

Belonging to a different race.

That night upon her cot she tossed,

And for a while she held herself as lost ;

Though not a syllable she tattled,

Inwardly she sorely battled :


< ' From my dear father and my brother,

From sisters loved and my own mother,

Am I now called to separate

And bring on them perchance their fate ?

To whom is my allegiance due ?

Can I be to my love untrue ?

But that is just my deepest trouble :

Ob Love, I find that thou art double.

I feel thee in my bosom stalk

And smite it with thy tomahawk,

So that it bleeding lies in twain

And never can be whole again. —

But love my lover I shall dare,

To that one Heaven goes up each prayer.

My kinship then I must defy,

And for my heart, if need be, die. ' '

So spake the Indian maid alone,

But there was heard from her no moan,

She even could suppress the sigh,

Although a tear globed round her eye.

But still her thought within would roll

Weighing just what to do with life,

Which heaped her up with strife on strife,

Whereat she took a midnight stroll

Again communing with her soul :

"And now there comes another claim
Which rises from that deepest deep.
Where races have their primal keep,
Far down in man's first living frame;



My outer tint is not the same —

Must I yield up my people 's trace

And give me to another race ?

Ah, in the bitter jar of this misgiving

Fain would I quit this strif eful living !

All must I sacrifice to-day,

Do it I shall, let come what may —

My family, my tribe, my race,

I shall give up and take disgrace !

Yea, more ! there looms before me death,

I dare it take my final breath,

The voice now bids me from above :

Surrender thy whole world to love. ' '

Thus by herself that maiden strove

And fought inside her rifted heart,

Then with a will resigned she rose

And yet resolved to dare her part

Amid the deepest human throes.

Still now and then a hope would seem

To soothe her to a fleeting dream

That she might be an instrument

Perchance through suffering from Heaven

To obliterate ensanguined traces,
And join in love two hostile races,
So that the future time might be
A line through her posterity.

Silent she sped her swift canoe,
With it she knew just what to do ;


She shot across the darkling stream,

On which the fighting fiends did seem

To rage around her every pull,

While her own struggles had no lull ;

But all her ghosts inside and out

Were foiled in turning her about.

Soon to the pacing watch she came

And in a whisper spoke her name,

The guardsman chanced to be her lover,

Who knew her voice beneath night 's cover ;

For he had heard it thus before,

This time was just once more.

She told him what her errand was,

And of her journey strange the cause,

And why the danger was so pressing,

Although to her an act distressing,

He led her to his Captain in the Fort

She told in tears the same report,

Exposed the plot to burst to-morrow,

With many a sob which spoke her sorrow.

The Captain heard the treacherous scheme,

He thought it was not all a dream,

And called at once the commandant

Whose name was Taylor, old Zachary,

Whom a presentiment did haunt

Of some sore trial soon to be,

Though what it was he could not quite foresee.

A doubt still lingered in his breast,

And so he asked Maid Winnemuk,

Eyeing her with a father's look


While giving her the final test :

1 ' Tell me the motive of this deed,

Which made you dare alone the night to face.

Defying all the ties of kin and race,

In answer to some deeper need.

That power would I like to know,

Which can such bravery bestow

Upon a simple girlish heart,

Quite equal to a soldier's part."

The maiden modestly replied,

Shrinking a little to one side :

* ' Confess the power which me drave —

I would my lover save. ' ■

Whereat she slipped out of the place

And ran the guard at swiftest pace,

But on the way she never stopped,

Till in her boat she lightly dropped,

Leaving old Zack in dreamy mood

Which then he hardly understood,

But later he will get a chance

To test the meaning of this circumstance.

But while she rowed the middle of the River,

She prayed to it as the All-Giver ;

Though she had been baptized a Christian

She dropped back to the Indian,

And in her Nature 's far-down trance

Upsprang her soul's inheritance,

Descended from ancestral faith ;

In quick response to fervid prayer


Lisped to the guardian Spirit there,

Out of the water rose a snow-winged wraith,

The shape of the great Manito

Who makes the self itself to know ;

So now to Winnemuk he saith :

' ' I come to help thee in thy love

Although it goes out to the white ;

The message hails thee from above

And bids thee glimpse the future right ;

Love lifts thee up beyond the race,

And washes out the tainted trace

Though it be seen in every face.

'Tis love that makes thee human,

A fragile Indian woman,

Now art thou more than red or white or black,

Not moving on one race's track,

Hearing the universe's call

Thou art the semblance of the All. ' '

The boat sheered to the shelving shore,

The Manito was seen no more

But dived into the foaming stream

Yet stayed in Winnemuk's high dream,

She felt her love far greater than before,

Ready to be its sacrifice

Should ever that stern hap arise ;

Slyly she slipped in at her father's door,

Just when Aurora had begun

To shoot some blushes at the seeking Sun,

Although he was her hot pursuing lover


Whose eye could never get a look above her.
So Winnemuk her cot had won,
Much had she done that night, but more


Still Black Hawk's troop winds serpentine

Over the trail in drawn-out line

Of women, children, and the old :

Before them rode the horsemen bold.

They cross the snaky little creeks

Which secretly through prairies crawl,

As if they might be playing tricks,

Unseen till in them one may step or fall.

Then all would curve through woody cove

And hear the leafy organ of the grove,

Whose pipes were lofty tops of trees

Which chorused to the pumping of the breeze,

With up and down of soft vibration,

In melancholy susurration

Which rose and fell in heart-tuned surges,

Wreathing the way with Indian dirges,

Seeming the outcome to foresigh

In throbs of bodeful prophecy.

At last all reached a thick morass
Where they couched hid in the long grass,
Beside the Mississippi's flood;
Not far away Fort Armstrong stood.
Which was by Indians to be seized


And razed in cunning stratagem,

Then they could do just what they pleased,

No obstacle would stand their way to stem.

The island fastness upward rose

And threw a scowl back at its foes,

By water everywhere begirt.

The river would not let its child be hurt,

Which lay upon its heaving breast

By ripples all around caressed

And kissing it to rest.

Scarce had they found their hiding spot,

When a canoe across the wavelets shot,

And sped to shore where they lay hid

To sight the signal which would bid

Them do their portion of the plot.

But suddenly ran up an Indian stranger,

Who came to warn the Hawk of danger,

Which had just dawned instead of victory ;

What could the matter be !

White Cloud was called the man who came,

With character told in his name ;

For what he said lay in a cloud,

Though whited was the wordy shroud

Made of politest secrecy,

E 'en if it held the blackest lie.

Winnebago was his nation,

Prophet was his high vocation.

But now he has to tell the truth,

And even trembles in his ruth ;

Unto the Hawk aside he stepped,

The prophet almost wept :


"You know our plan well laid —

To seize the Fort, the Bluecoats slay

Upon this very day —

That plan has been betrayed !

By whom I cannot say.

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Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderLincoln in the Black Hawk war, an epos of the Northwest → online text (page 9 of 16)