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where as a New Year's greeting they riddled Hunt's men
with bullets and tore them limb from limb, stripping their
bones of all flesh.^^ They then robbed Hunt of all his goods,
including **a dozen fine linen shirts'', burned his trading-
house after giving the furs to some Sacs, and had they not
believed Himt himself was an Englishman (for they called
him **Saginash"), he might immediately have shared the
fate of his companions. At length the murderous band
discovered and consumed a barrel of whisky which thus
proved to be the source of Hunt's salvation. Hunt and his
half-breed interpreter, Victor Lagotery, escaped south-
ward, arriving with a young Sac guide at Fort Madison at
sundown on the evening of January 6, 1812, where they
found Mr. Johnson at tea.

On the 7th of January, 1812, Johnson wrote to Benjamin
Howard, Governor of Missouri Territory, (the Iowa coun-
try then comprised a part of St. Charles County), that an
expressman had left there on foot to apprise the people of
Prairie du Chien of the battle of Tippecanoe, and that on
the day before the express had left there with M. John
McBae for St. Louis with many letters and papers. John-
son asked for immediate relief in anticipation of a Winne-
bago war party. Howard wrote to the War Department
that only a punitive campaign in Illinois could procure
durable peace upon the frontiers; while General William
Clark on January 12th also reported the events near **the
Spanish mines". Captain Horatio Stark, however, sent
word of a Sac council's decision for peace.

5ff American State Papers, Indian Afairs, Vol. I, pp. 605, 806.



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PUR TRADE IN THE IOWA COUNTRY 509

Early in February, 1812, Hunt, a discharged sergeant,
and an interpreter — all on horseback — joined an express-
man, Willard, on his return journey to St. Louis from
Prairie du Chien and the mines. Later, Johnson informed
William Clark by express that on March 3rd a war party
of five Winnebagoes killed one of the corporals a short
distance from Fort Madison. On March 22nd Clark re-
ported that Tecumseh had won the ear of Sacs and Sioux
and that a Pottawattamie called Marpack had sent runners
from the vicinity of Fort Madison to his nation informing
them he would play a new game with the Americans. A
week before a considerable band of Sacs and Foxes who
were friendly toward the Americans had left their villages
upon the Mississippi Biver to make their abode upon the
Missouri Eiver, declaring their determination to continue
in friendship with the United States.

Early in April Asa Payne left Fort Madison and in-
formed General Clark at St. Louis that on March 29th the
Winnebagoes had shot a sentinel, that on the 3rd of April
another sentinel had reciprocated by shooting a Winne-
bago, and that small parties of Winnebagoes were continu-
ally about the fort. Governor Edwards of Illinois
Territory also received constant advices from frontier
posts confirming the hostile intentions of the Indians and
fearing a bloody war by a formidable combination of sav-
ages. He reported on May 12th that, inasmuch as differ-
ences had arisen between the Sacs and the Foxes, the United
States should support the latter to prevent their joining
the hostile confederacy then forming.

George Hunt ventured to start out for the site of his
post on the Mississippi in order to bring away his lead
which had been melted into a solid lump when the Winne-
bagoes burned his trading-house. He took passage on one
of three French boats which left St. Louis in May, 1812.

VOL. xn — 33



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510 IOWA JOURNAL OP HISTORY AND POLITICS

They liad proceeded some distance above Fort Madison when
they met Maurice Blondeau with a boat-load of furs bound
for St. Louis. He informed them that a force of Winne-
bagoes had occupied Bock Island in the Mississippi and
were levying tribute upon all Frenchmen and French boats
and threatening to slaughter all Americans. Hunt there-
fore abandoned his projected trip and embarked southward
with Blondeau who immediately showed him an object of
interest stowed away among his packs of furs in the person
of Lieutenant Pryor. The latter was just completing his
escape from the Winnebagoes who had visited him also on
January 1st. The whole party landed at Fort Madison and
on the next day went on to St. Louis."

Li the month of June, 1812, the United States declared
war against Great Britain, citing among its grievances the
Indian disturbances in the Northwest. The British military
operations which ensued in the Upper Mississippi Valley
constituted little more than the determined efEorts of Brit-
ish traders to beat back the advancing power of American
government and trade; for one of Canada's main resources
was furs and peltries, and to obtain these the mother coun-
try furnished the manufactured goods. Hence both Cana-
dians and Englishmen united to uphold their interests. The
commandants at Fort Madison, Mackinac, Detroit, and
Fort Dearborn (Chicago) had to bear the brunt of the
British attack, unformidable as it was. Captain Stark of
Fort Madison was ordered to put his fortification into the
best possible state of defense and to exercise vigilance : any
number of Indians could then be resisted. After Ensign
Barony Vasquez arrived with a relief force of twelve sol-
diers the captain departed with a small party of soldiers

B« For the facts above enumerated see The Iowa Jouenal of History and
PouTics, Vol. Xlf pp. 527-543; and American State Papers, Indian A fairs,
Yol I, pp. 807, 808, 809.



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FUE TRADE IN THE IOWA COUNTRY 511

for service down the river, and the post then came under
the command of Lieutenant Thomas Hamilton.'''

On the fifth day of September, a band of over two hun-
dred Winnebagoes, infuriated by their defeat on the Wa-
bash, and Sacs under Black Hawk attacked the garrison,
scalped a soldier, burned the boat and cargo of a trader
named Graham and two government boats, killed some cat-
tle, and plundered and burnt the houses of men named
Julien and M'Nabb. For three days they besieged the fort
and threw fire upon the block-houses which were only saved
from conflagration by the use of guns as syringes. Fearing
that the savages would set fire to the factory and endanger
the whole fort if the wind blew from that direction, Hamil-
ton one calm evening caused the factory to be burned.

The Indians were believed to have had several killed
during the siege.'® Hamilton and Vasquez were compli-
mented on the way in which they defended a post so badly
situated : the interior of the stockade lay within view of the
hills round about and was surrounded by chasms within ten
or twelve paces of the pickets and block-houses. From
these places the Indians had hurled hundreds of pieces of
burning timber and kept up "a continued sheet of fire from
guns, fiery arrows and brands.** But the brave fellows
within were able now and then to knock over *'such red
skins as had the impudence to peep over the bank.**

That the site of Fort Madison was unsuitable and there-
fore diflScult to defend, many reports bear witness. Benja-
min Howard, Governor over the Missouri and Iowa country,
had repeatedly advised the authorities at Washington to
remove the post further up the river, preferably to Prairie
du Chien. The War Department in October, 1812, instruct-
ed the withdrawal of troops and all army stores from Fort

BT Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. Ill, pp. 103, 104.

»« The Iowa Joxtbnal of Histoet and Politics, Vol. XI, pp. 544, 545.



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512 IOWA JOURNAL OP HISTORY AND POLITICS

Madison, but learned of the impracticability of evacuation
until March when the Mississippi would be free of ice.
When March of the year 1813 came, Governor Howard
deemed evacuation impolitic under the circumstances, de-
claring that if abandonment were to take place then, **the
measure could be employed with great dexterity among the
Indians by British agents, as evidence of our inability to
maintain it, and would embolden those who are now hostile,
and probably decide the wavering to take part against

Another reason for holding the fort at this time lay in the
fact that Fort Madison was the only place where persons
could safely be sent and kept to collect information regard-
ing the views and movements of the British and their
Indian allies. Furthermore, Governor Howard suggested,
if the government's difficulty with the Indians of this region
were ever to terminate, it would be absolutely necessary to
make a campaign as far north as the Wisconsin Biver and
then to erect a fort at Prairie du Chien : in the prosecution
of such a campaign what place better than Fort Madison
could be used as a base of supply and operations f In case
the Indians were aided by a British force with artillery
Fort Madison would probably fall, but to repel such a force
a fortified boat or two would prove very useful: garrison
and gunboats could then cooperate **in arresting an attempt
of the enemy to descend the river against the [Missouri and
Illinois] settlements below, and in the event of a serious
attack of the Post on the land side, the command in them
can be drawn with facility to its support.'* On the 8th of
April, 1813, the Governor, then on an inspection tour which
included Fort Madison, advised the postponement of the
evacuation of the post, but he favored "every necessary
preparation to a relinquishment of the garrison *\*^

B» Annals of Iowa (Third Series), VoL III, pp. 105, 106.
«o AnnaU of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. HI, p. 107.



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FUR TRADE IN THE IOWA COUNTRY 513

Two months later the garrison, consisting of about one
hundred men, repulsed a small body of Indians, and on the
16th of July withstood a second attack with the loss of a
corporal and three privates who were butchered and man-
gled in a small block-house commanding a hollow ravine
where the savages found shelter. Lieutenant Thomas Ham-
ilton submitted a report of the storming and added :

I must begin again cursing the situation of this garrison. If
there is any necessity for one in this part of the country t^hy can it
not be removed to a more eligible spotf The Indians have decided
advantage over us in our present position, and will always succeed
whenever they attempt to kill a man. It is true we may prevent
them from taking the garrison, but that, sir, .... must be
attended with great slaughter, for I never heard of greater acts of
desperation offered by any of the tribes than what has been shown
in storming the small block-house. Our incessant watching I fear is
.... why I have so many at present on the sick report.

Lieutenant Hamilton also complained that there was a
lack of wood, so that he was under the necessity **to bum
some of the petty mouldings in some of the fine buildings. '*
He also called for musket powder and 2% inch shells.®^

But no help came. Besieged by the Indians, reduced to
the direst extremity and driven to the verge of starvation,
the garrison had no alternative but to surrender or escape.
During the night of the 3rd of September a trench was dug
from the southeast block-house to the river; the soldiers
removed their provisions and property, and gained their
boats by crawling out on hands and knees. They embarked
safely and departed southward, leaving the fort wrapped
in flames to the enemy's utter surprise.®^

•1 Annah of Iowa (TMrd Series), Vol. Ill, p. 108.

•2 Annals of Iowa (Third Series), VoL III, p. 110.

The propriety of rebuilding Fort Madison on a site farther north was con-
sidered advisable for reasons already stated. Captain John Cleves Sjmmes
wrote from St. Louis in October, 1813, that he had been ordered to rebuild the
post and assiune command. But events prevented the execution of the plan.



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514 IOWA JOUENAL OP HISTORY AND POLITICS

During tlie winter of 1813 and early months of 1814 the
French traders at Mackinac, pro-British in their sympa-
thies, made preparations to descend upon the Americans at
Prairie du Chien. Louis Grignon, whose voyageurs were
to be used as a part of the invading force, reported from
Green Bay on January 10, 1814, that he had got news from
Sacs and Foxes who had come from Fort Madison that *'a
Capt. of Gov. Howard was to come to Prairie du Chien
with an army of 2700 men/' Grignon declared: **Many
think this is not their plan, for soon after we learned that
they had gone up the river Des Moines and built a Ft. at
Pees and then that they had come down the same river.**®*

Early in May, 1814, William Clark, the new Governor of
Missouri Territory, ascended the Mississippi Biver from
St. Louis with gunboat and barges conveying one hundred
and fifty volunteers and sixty regulars. Just north of
Prairie du Chien they erected a stockade. Fort Shelby, and
equipped it with six pieces of cannon, relying upon the gun-
boat 's fourteen cannon for further protection. Upon Gov-
ernor Clark *s departure southward. Lieutenant Joseph
Perkins took command. Soon a few British military men
with a motley force of traders, fur trade employees, and
several hundred Indian allies from Mackinac, appeared
before Prairie du Chien on July 17, 1814, and summoned
Perkins to surrender. Not until after considerable cannon
fire was the American gunboat driven downstream and
pursued by French and Indians in canoes as far as the
rapids at Eock Island; Perkins ran up the white flag; and
Fort Shelby became Fort McKay in the hands of the Anglo-
savage army of Great Britain.®* About this time also
British forces were burning the national capitol and the
President's house at Washington.

«8 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XI, p. 283. The location of the fort
at ''Pees" can not be determined.
•* Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, Vol. XV, p. 623.



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PUR TRADE IN THE IOWA COUNTRY 515

It may seem surprising, but it is a fact nevertheless, that
the British placed great strategic importance upon this
little frontier post in the wilderness. They feared that
Americans would win over tribe after tribe of the Indians
friendly to the English and thus ** destroy the only barrier
which protects the Great trading establishments of the
North West & the Hudson's Bay Company. '* Nothing
could then prevent the Americans from extending their
power up the Mississippi, thence by the Bed Eiver to Lake
Winnipeg, and by Nelson's Eiver to Hudson Bay, thus aid-
ing in the expulsion of the English from Upper Canada.®*

In July an American force under Lieutenant John Camp-
bell was checked three miles above Bock Island by a party
of Sacs and Foxes under the command of Black Hawk,
suffered a bloody repulse, and retreated with a loss of nine
killed, sixteen wounded, and one boat of stores captured.^®
To destroy the village and crops of these hostile Sacs and
Foxes upon the Bock Biver, Major Zachary Taylor set out
from St. Louis with about three hundred and fifty men in
August. On the 6th of September, as Taylor's armed keel-
boats were preparing to ascend Bock Bapids, an English
artillery officer with thirty men welcomed Taylor's force
with a brass three-pounder and two swivels: these were
handled so dexterously with cooperation from the Sacs and
Foxes on shore that the American boats hastily retired
downstream, stopping long enough near the river Des
Moines to make repairs and bury their dead. Taylor wrote
and dated a report of the skirmish at the ruins of Fort
Madison.®^ Opposite the mouth of the Des Moines Biver

«B Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, Vol. XV, p. 611.

«« Wisconsin Historical Collections, VoI« II, pp. 220-222; and Annals of Iowa
(Third Series), Vol. VI, p. 251.

•T Wisconsin Historical Collections, VoL IX, pp. 199, 220, 238; and Downer's
History of Davenport and Scott County, Iowa, VoL I, pp. 79-81, contains
Taylor's letter.



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516 IOWA JOURNAL OP HISTORY AND POLITICS

Taylor then constructed Fort Johnson. During the ensuing
winter messengers from three nations in winter quarters at
the ** Riviere des Ayouais*' — Sacs, Kickapoos, and Foxes
— came to the commandant at Prairie du Chien to report
that the new fort had been abandoned and burned by the
Americans themselves in October, 1814.®® Not long after
Taylor's repulse, Andrew Jackson and his army of back-
woodsmen overwhelmed an army of England's Napoleonic
veterans at New Orleans, thus blasting at once all British
hopes of winning the American West.

French-British traders were, however, in undisputed pos-
session of the entire Upper Mississippi Valley. By the
distribution®^ of public stores at Fort McKay the British
maintained their grip upon all the Indian tribes of the
region. They called the Sacs ** Mississippi Indian heroes'*.
Indeed, the Sacs and Foxes who had not removed to the
Missouri River to be within the protection of the American
lines made repeated protestations of their sincerity to the
British cause. At one time they brought from the Des
Moines River to Fort McKay ten scalps, asserting they
would continue "to bring them in as they do ducks from
the swamps. "''^® British traders now introduced their goods
into the country at will and they hoped that if peace were
restored they might retain their ascendancy.

Peace negotiations between the warring nations had al-
ready been opened: the British commissioners at first
insisted that the United States set apart some of the North-
west to be held by the Indians under a guarantee of Great
Britain, and they demanded freedom of navigation upon
the Mississippi River. But the treaty concluded at Ghent
in December, 1814, contained no such privileges, although
news of this did not reach Fort McKay until May, 1815.

«8 WisoonHn Hiataricdl Collections, Vol. IX, pp. 243, 250.
99 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. IX, pp. 279-281.
70 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. IX, pp. 207, 239, 240, 272.



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FUR TRADE IN THE IOWA COUNTRY 517

Tlius was cut short the British regime in the Iowa-Wis-
consin region. The treaty placed the English government
in an embarrassing position because English army officers
had promised supplies from time to time to such of their
Indian allies as would come to Drummond Island: they had
forced the Sacs into war and now called on the British
government to make good all their promises. For years
thereafter Sac and Fox Indians obtained presents and sup-
plies from their English friends in Canada.''^

FUB TBADE OPEBATIONS APTEB THE WAB OP 1812

Active steps were at once taken by the American govern-
ment to resume friendly relations with England *s Indian
allies in the war. Governor William Clark of Missouri Ter-
ritory, Governor Ninian Edwards of Illinois Territory, and
Auguste Chouteau, the St. Louis merchant, were commis-
sioned by President James Monroe to enter into negotia-
tions with the tribes. They accordingly summoned Indian
deputations to Portage des Sioux, just above the mouth of
the Missouri. In July and September peace was ** reestab-
lished'* between the United States and the Sioux, Kicka-
poos, Osages, loways, and other tribes. The eight hundred
Sacs, who at the outbreak of war had removed to the Mis-
souri and Osage rivers^* in order to show their disapproval
of Black Hawk and his warlike followers, now renewed
their friendly relations with the government, assented to
the treaty of 1804, and promised to remain where they were
until the Sacs of the Bock Eiver had surrendered. The
Foxes, then estimated to number about 1200 persons dwell-
ing below Prairie du Chien, also agreed to ** perpetual peace

f^AnnaU of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. VI, p. 252; Thwaites's Wisconsin, p.
177; and Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, Vol XXIII, pp. 97, 169.

ti American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. II, pp. 62, 76. Maurice
Blondeau received $800 as Indian Sub-agent for the Sacs and Foxes on the
Missouri.



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518 IOWA JOUENAL OP HISTORY AND POLITICS

and friendship "y confirmed the treaty of 1804, and promised
to deliver up the prisoners in their handsJ*

Many months were to pass before the hostile Sacs, who
were then said to dwell 3200 strong upon the Bock Biver,
came to terms. They stood aloof and remained so menacing
that the only alternative presented to the commissioners
seemed a military campaign. British traders had planned
and caused the war: they were now accused of fanning
Indian hostility. When all the other tribes had buried the
tomahawk, the commissioners wrote:''* **The Sacs of Bock
Biver have ultimately refused to treat with us in the most
positive manner; speak, without disguise, of their opposi-
tion to military establishments on the Mississippi river;
and have continued to commit occasional but serious depre-
dations on this frontier.*' Their many ** flagitious acts''
and their refusal to listen to overtures and consent to. the
treaty concessions of 1804 were attributed to British
traders. But the government's patience was at length re-
warded by a treaty in May, 1816.

The restoration of peace found the Iowa country more of
a wilderness than before, marked, indeed, by a monument
to the government's generous but unsuccessful attempt to
make friends of the native population: Fort Madison and
Des Moines Factory lay reduced to a heap of ruins. After
the departure of the troops and factory employees late in
1813, however, factory operations had been continued by
John W. Johnson somewhere else'^*^ as indicated by his an-
nual reports until March 31, 1815. It would seem that

78 Kappler's Indian A fain, Vol. 11, pp. 120-122.

T4 American State Papers, Indian A fairs. Vol. II, pp. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 83.

7B Thomas ForsTth writes that he had advised and procured the removal of
the friendly Sacs and Foxes to the Missouri and the establishment of the fac-
tory there. He declares that many returned to their fellow tribesmen on the
Bock Biver after the winter of 1813, so that in September, 1<814, only about
two hundred warriors dwelt in lodges upon the Missouri. — Wisconsin Historical
Collections, VoL XI, pp. 331, 334.



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FUR TRADE IN THE IOWA COUNTRY 519

Johnson accompanied the friendly Sacs and Foxes to the
Missouri Eiver country where all might live and trade with-
in the protection of the American lines while the war
dragged on. Thus secure from the attacks of the hostile
British band of Sacs and Foxes, Johnson did a profitable
business until he closed the factory doors in the spring of
1815. He then removed his goods to St. Louis.''® For four
years he had run his house at a gain of nearly $13,000 to the
government, despite war losses aggregating $5,500.'^^

British and Indians had thus for several years resisted
the inroads of government traders and military forces in
the Upper Mississippi Valley. Governor Edwards of Illi-
nois Territory in his report to the Secretary of War boldly
criticised the government's policy as follows :

For my part, I have never been able to discover, and I defy any
man to specify, a solitary public advantage that has resulted from it
in this coimtry; while the melancholy fate of Chicago, the attacks
upon Fort Madison, other early hostilities in its vicinity, the signal
escape of the agents with the public goods from the Missouri, and
the undeniable fact that, during the most successful operation of the
public trading-houses at the above-mentioned places, individuals
constantly vended more goods to the Indians for whose benefit those
houses were established than the public agents did — all combine to
afford practical demonstration that the system under consideration
is neither calculated to conciliate and accommodate the Indians, nor
for successful competition with British traders^®

For several years British traders had smuggled most of
their goods into the American Indian territory: they had
come by way of Chicago and the Illinois Eiver, very often
by way of Green Bay and the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, and

re Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XIX, pp. 386, 387.

7T The reader who is interested can find the annual reports of old Fort
Madison or Des Moines Factory in American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol.
n, pp. 34, 36, 37, 42, 44, 47, 49, 51, 53, 57, 59, 60, 68. The losses by fire con-
sisted of sixty packs of peltries, one hundred and twenty bear skins, other
articles, and buildings valued at $3321.

T8 American State Papers, Indian A fairs, VoL II, p. 64.



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520 IOWA JOURNAL OP HISTORY AND POLITICS



Online LibraryJustin McCarthyThe Iowa Journal of History and Politics → online text (page 42 of 58)