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away without guns or any of the weapons necessary to life. The Illinois of
the Rock, the Mascoutins and the Kickapoos are at present after this small
remaining number of runaways, and the first news will bring information of
the destruction of that miserable nation.

We do not know how many warriors the Nations of Canada killed nor the
number of slaves which they have taken.

Canad, Correspondence, Generale, 1732, vol. 57, page 316.

This is the document which Ferland had before him when he wrote the
description of the battle, indeed he made use of the account in toto.



NARRATIVE OF THE CAPTURE OF WILLIAM BIGGS
BY THE KICKAPOO INDIANS IN 1788.

[Written by himself and publishedlin 1826.J

[William Biggrs was born in Maryland in 1755. and there received a fair elementary
English education. In 1778, at the age of 23, he enlisted in the regiment raised by Col.
George Rogers Clark for conquest of the Illinois, and was elected a lieutenant of his com-
pany. After expiration of his military service he married and began farming in the western
part of Virginia not far from Wheeling. But he was so fascinated with the beautiful, fertile
country he had seen in Illinois, in the campaign with Col. Clark, that he left the rocky,
sterile hills of Virginia in 1784, in company of his two brothers, and a few of his military
comrades with their families, and returned to Illinois to here find a permanent home. They
settled down with James Moore, Shadrach Bond, Sr., Larken Rutherford and others, in and
about Bellefontaine, near the present town of Waterloo, Monroe county. In 1790. Mr. Biggs
was appointed, by Gov. St. Clair, sheriff of St. Clair county— the first county organized in
Illinois, comprising the territory west of a line drawn from the confluence of the Little
Mackinaw with the Illinois river, to the mouth of a creek above Fort Massacre on the Ohio
river, and bounded on the south and west by the Ohio, Mississippi and Illinois rivers. In
December, 1802, he was defeated at an election held in Cahokia, by Jean Francois Perry, for
delegate to a convention called by Governor Harrison, to meet at Vincennes for the purpose
of petitioning congress to abrogate or suspend the clause of the ordinance of 1787, prohibit-
ing slavery In the Northwestern territory. In September. 1804, he was elected as one of the
representatives of Illinois territory in the legislature of the Indiana territory that met at
Vincennes. and was elected in 1806. He was elected to represent St. Clair county in the
legislative council (Senate) of Illinois territory in 1812, and re-elected in 1814. In 1808 he
was elected to an office in St. Clair county styled "Justice of the Peace and Judge of the
Court of Common Pleas." which he held for a number of years, holding the first term of his
court in a corn crib. In 1818, he was defeated for the office of sheriff of St. Clair county by
Wm. Anderson Beaird. In recognition of his valuable military and civil services, congress,
in 1826, granted him three sections of land. He was then engaged in the manufacture of
salt from a salt spring near Silver creek, in Madison county, and died at the residence of
Col. Thos. Judy, in that county the following year, 1827. He is described by his contempor-
aries as a very handsome man, tall, erect, of fine military figure, with florid complexion,
dark hair and eyes, and having keen intelligence, and pleasant affable disposition. J. F. S,]



203

NARRATIVE OF WILLIAM BIGGS.

In the year 1788, March 28, I was Roing: from Bellfontain to Cahokia, in
company with a young man named John Vallis, from the state of Maryland;
he was born and raised near Baltimore. About 7 o'clock in the morning I
heard two guns fired; by the report I thought they were to the right; I
thought they were white men hunting; both shot at the same time. I looked
but could not see anybody; in a moment after I looked to the left and saw 16
Indians, all upon their feet, with their guns presented, about 40 yards dis-
tant from me, just ready to draw trigger. I was riding between Vallis and
the Indians, in a slow trot, at the moment I saw them. I whipped my horse,
land leaned my breast on the horse's withers, and told Vallis to whip his
horse, that they were Indians.* That moment they all fired their guns in one
platoon; you could scarcely distinguish the report of their guns one from an-
3tber. They shot four bullets into my horse, one high up in his withers, one
lin the bulge of the ribs near my thigh and two in his rump, and shot four or
five through my great coat. The moment they fired their guns they ran to-
wards us, and yelled so frightfully that the wounds aud the yelling of the
Indians scared my horse so that my gun fell off my shoulder, and twisted out
of my hand. I then bore all my weight on one stirrup, in order to catch my
bfiin, but could not. I had a large bag of beaver fur, which prevented me
from recovering my saddle, and having no girth nor crupper to my saddle, it
turned and fell off my horse, and I fell with it, but caught on my feet and
lield by the mane; I made several attempts to mount my horse again, but the
[ndians running up so close, and making such a frightful yelling, that my
horse jumped and pranced so that it was impossible for me to mount him
again; but I held fast to my horse's mane for 20 or 30 yards; then my hold
ftroke and I fell on my hands and knees, and stumbled along about four or
ive steps before I could recover myself. By the time I got fairly on my feet,
the Indians were about eight or ten yards from me. I saw then there was no
[)ther way for me to make my escape but by fast running, and I was deter-
bained to try it, and had but little hopes at first of my being able to escape.
[ ran about 100 yards before I looked back. I thought almost every step I
Bould feel the scalping knife cutting my scalp off. 1 found I was gaining
CTOund on them; I felt encouraged, and ran about 300 yards farther, and
Woking saw that I had gained about 100 yards, and considered myself quite
Out of danger. A thought then occurred to me that I was as safe and out of
danger as I would be if I were in the city of Philadelphia. The Indians had
quit yelling and slacked their running, but 1 did not know it then.

It being a tolerable cold morning, and I was heavily clad, I thought per-
haps the Indians would give me a long chase, and probably they would hold
put better than I could; although at that time I did not feel the least tired or
out of breath. I concluded to throw off my two coats and shoes, as I would
then be better prepared for a long race. I had my great coat tied around me
with a silk handkerchief pretty much worn — I recollect tying it with a slip
knot, but being in a hurry it was drawn into a double hard knot; I tried
some little time to get it loose — the longer I tried the harder the knot seemed
Ito get, that stopping my running considerably; at length I broke it by
isome means, I do not know how. In the morning I forgot to put on my shot
pouch before I put on my great coat, and then put it on over it. I pulled off
the sleeves of my great coat, not thinking of my shot-pouch being over the
eoat, it having very short straps, the coat got so tight in the strap that I
could not get it loose for a considerable time. Still trying, it hung down and
trailed on the ground, and every two or three steps it would wrap around my
legs and throw me down, and I would catch on my hands and knees, it
served me so several times, so that I could make no headway at running.
After some considerable time, I broke the strap and my great coat dropped
from me — I had no knife with me.

The Indians discovered that something was the matter and saw me tumb-
ling down several times. I suppose they thought I was wounded and could
Irun no farther; they then set up the yell again and mended their gait run-
jning. By the time I got my great coat loose from me, and was in the act of
Ipulling off my under coat, 1 was pulling off one sleeve, I looked back over



204

my shoulder, but had not time to pull it off — the Indians being within teno
yards of me. I then started again to run, but could not gain any ground on:
them, nor they on me; we ran about 100 -yards farther and neither appeared!
to gain ground; there was a small pathwaj' that was a little nearer than toi
keep the big road, — I kept the big road, the Indians took the path, and whenji
we came where the path comes into the big road the Indians were withiSj
three or four yards from me — we ran 40 or 50 steps farther, and neither ap*l
peared to gain ground. I expected every moment they would strike me withi
their tomahawks — I thought it would not do to be killed running like a cow
ard and saw no other way to make my escape than to face about and to
catch the tomahawk from the first that attempted to strike me, and jerk it
from him, which I made no doubt but I was able to do; then I would have ai
weapon to fight with as well as them, and by that means I would be
able to make my escape; they had thrown down their guns before they gave
me chase; but I had not fairly faced about before an Indian caught
me by the shoulder and held his tomahawk behind him and made an attempt
to strike me. I then thought it best for me not to make any resistance till I
would see whether he would attempt to strike me or not. He held me by them
shoulder till another came up and took hold off me, which was only four ori
five minutes; then a third Indian came up; the first Indian that took hold oti
me took the handle of his tomahawk and rubbed it on my shoulder and dowiia
my arm, which was a token that he would not kill me, and that I was hisi
prisoner. Then they all took their hands off me and stood around me. The6
fourth Indian came up and attempted to strike me, but the first Indian thabi
caught me pushed him away. He was still determined to kill me, and triedJ
to get around to my back, but I still faced round as he was trying to get tO(
my back. When he got up by my side he drew his tomahawk the secondc
time to strike me, but the same Indian pushed him off again and scoldedd
him very much. He let his tomahawk hang by his side, but still intendedd
to kill me if he could get an opportunity. The other Indians watchedc
him very closely. There were but four Indians that gave me chase;
they were all naked except their breachcloth, leggins and moccasins.-
They then began to talk to me in their own language, and said they-
were Kickapoos, that they were very good Indians. I need not be
afraid, they would not hurt me, and I was now a Kickapoo and must go
with them, they would take me to the Matocush, meaning a French trading
town on the Wabash river. When the Indians caught me I saw Mr. Vallis
about 100 yards before me on the road — he had made a halt. They shot him
in the left thigh, about seven or eight inches above the knee, the ball came«
out just below the hip, his horse was not injured — he rode an elegant horsw
which carried him out of all danger — his wound mortified, he lived six weeks!
after he was wounded, then died. I understood their language, and couldc
speak a little. They then told me to march; an Indian took hold of each ofrl
my arms, and led me back to where they shot at me, and then went about
half a mile further off the road, where they had encamped the night beforet
and left their blankets and other things. They then took off my undercoaW
and tied my hands behind my back, and then tied a rope to that, tying abouft)
six or seven feet long, we then started in a great hurry, and an Indian heldd
one end of the rope while we were marching. '

There were but eight Indians marched in company with me that morningi
from the camp. The other eight took some other route, and never fell in with
us again, until some time after we got out of their towns. We had marched
about three or four miles from that camp when Vallis arrived at the fort,
about six miles from where they caught me, where they fired a swivel to
alarm the people who were out of the fort. When the Indians heard the



* The "Fort" mentioned by Mr. Bigrgs, known then as Piggott's Fort— to which his com-
panion. Vallis, succeeded in escaping— was a block house built by James Piggott and others,
at the foot of the bluffs, in Monroe county, where the road from Waterloo to Cakokia— un-
changed since then— crosses the rivulet, named by the early French inhabitants of the
American Bottom, Le Grand Rtiisseau, where it emerges from the bluffs, a mile and a hall
directly west of Columbia, in that county Mr. Biggs, when captured, had reached a point
on that road three miles due south of Columbia, and very nearly opposite the farm houscw
built there several years ago by Mr. Warnick. The iexact spot was shown by Mr. BigKSn
after his return, and is still well known. J. F. S.



205

swivel they were very much alarmed, and all looked that way and hallowed,.
'•youg:h, yougrh." They then commenced running, and in a pretty smart trot
of a run for five or six miles before they halted, and then walked very fast
until about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, when they separated, I supposed to
hunt, having nothing to eat. The old chief and one of the other Indians kept
on a straight course with me; we traveled about three miles, when we got a
little way into a small prairie and halted about 15 minutes; there
one of the party fell in with us; he had killed a bear and
brought as much of the meat with him as he could carry.
We then crossed the prairie and came to a large run about one mile
Rnd a half from where we had.halted to rest. By this time the three Indians
had joined us. We halted there, made a fire and roasted the bear meat, the
Dther two Indians stayed behind as spies. Whilst the meat was cooking, the
Indians held a council what they would do with the Indian that wanted to
kill me. He was a young fellow about 19 years of age and of a different na-
tion, being a Pottowattema. They did not want him to go to war with them;
they said he was a great coward and would not go into danger till there was
QO risk to run, then he would run forward and get the best of the plunder,
and that he would not be commanded; he would do as he pleased; was very
selfish and stubborn, and was determined to kill me if he could get a chance.
They determined in their council to kill him. It is a law with the Indians
when they go to war, if an Indian will not obey the counsels and commands
3f his captain or chief, to kill them. When their meat was cooked, they ate
srery hearty, and when they were done eating, three of the Indians got up,
)ut on their budgets and started, this young Indian was one of them. L
fclso got up to show a willingness to be ready. The old chief told me to me to sit
lown, and the three Indians started off. In about three or four minutes after we
started, but varied a little in our course. We had not traveled more than one
lundred yards when we heard the report of a gun. The old chief then told
ne that they had killed the Indian that wanted to kill me. The other two In-
lians fell in company with us before night. We then traveled till about 10
f>'clock in the night, when we encamped at a large grove of timber in a prai-
•ie, about four miles from the edge of the woods; made no fire that night.
Ne traveled about forty miles that day. After they rested awhile they sat
lown to eat their "iirk." They gave me some but I could not eat any.
lifter they were done eating, one of the Indians was sitting with his back
igainst a tree, with his knife lying between his legs. I was sitting facing
lim with my feet nearly touching his. He began to inquire of me of what
lation I belonged to. I was determined to pretend that 1 was ignorant and
sould not understand him. I did not wish them to know that I could speak
lome Indian language, and understand them better than I could speak. He
irst asked me in Indian if I was a Mattocush (that is Frenchman in English.)
told him no. He asked me if I was a Sagenash, (an
Snglishman.) I told him no. He again asked if I was a She-
aolsea, (that is a long knife or Virginian,) I told him no.
Je then asked me if I was a Bostonely, (that is American.)
[ told him no. About one minute afterwards, he asked me the same ques-
:ion over again. I then answered him yes; he then spoke English and caught
ip his knife in his hand, and said: "You are one dam son of a bitch." I
really thought he intended stabbing me with his knife. I knew it would not
io to show cowardice, 1 being pretty well acquainted with their manner and
vays. I then jumped upon my feet and spoke in Indian and said, "Mane-
:way, kien, depaway" (in English it is "No, I am very good,") and clapped
ny hand on my breast when I spoke, and looked very bold. The other
Indians all set up such ha! ha! and laugh that it made the other Indian look
7ery foolish. He sat still and looked very sulky. After they had rested
kwhile they began to prepare to lay down; they spread down a deer
ikin and blanket for me to lay on. They had tied a rope around my
irms above my elbows, and tied that rope across my back, and a rope
iround my neck; they then tied the end of another rope behind to the
leck rope, then down my back to the pinion rope; they then drew my
lands forward across my stomach and crossed my wrists; then tied my
wists very tight; then tied my legs together, just below my knees:



t



206

then tied my feet together with a rope around my ankles; then took a small
cord and tied in between my wrists, and also between my ankles very tight,
in order to prevent me from drawing out my hands or feet; they then took
another cord and tied one end to the neck rope; then to the hand rope; then
from the hand rope to the knee rope; then they took a rope about six feet
long and tied one end to the wrist rope, and the other end to a stake about
six feet from me stretched very tight, and an Indian laid on that rope all
night; then they took another rope about the same length, and tied one end
to the knee rope and the other end to a stake, and another Indian laid on
that all night; then they tied a large half-dressed elk rope, one end to the
back part of the neck rope which made a knot as big as my fist, the other
end they tied to a stake about six feet from my head. When they finished
their tying me, they covered me with a blanket. They tied me in the afore
going way nine nights in succession; they had me stretched and tied so tight
that I could not move one inch to turn or rest myself; that large knot was on
the back of my neck, so that I was obliged to lay on it all night, and it hurt
my neck very much. I never suffered as much in the same length of time in
all my life; I could hardly walk when we got to their town. They never
made me carry anything except a blanket they gave me to keep myself warm,
when they took all my clothes from me. The Indians carried a deerskin and
blanket all the way for me to lodge upon. When my hands and feet became
sore with the tying, the Indians would always pull off my moccasins at night
and put them on in the morning, and patch them when they would require it.*

The second day we started very early in the morning and traveled about
35 miles, which was the 29th day of March. They killed a deer that day — in
the evening they took the intestines out of the deer and freed them of theii
contents, when they put them in the kettles witti some meat and made soup.
I could not eat any of it.

The fourth day we traveled about 25 miles. We stopped about 3:00 o'clock
in the afternoon at a pond. They stayed there all night. They had some '
dried meat, tallow, and buffalo marrow rendered up together, lashed and
hung upon a tree about 20 feet from the ground, which they had left there in
order to be sure to have something to eat on their return. They killed two
ducks that evening. The ducks were very fat. They picked one of the
ducks, and took out all its entrals very nice and clean, ttien stuck it on a
stick, and stuck the other end of the stick in the ground before the fire, and
roasted it very nice. By the time the duck was cooked, one of the Indians
went out and cut a large block out of a tree to lay the duck upon; they made
a little hole in the ground to catch the fat of the duck while roasting. When
the duck was cooked, they laid it on this clean block of wood, then took a
spoon and tin cup and lifted the grease of the duck out of the hole and took
it to the cooked duck on the table, and gave me some salt, then told me to go
and eat. I sat by and eat the whole of the duck, and could have eaten more
if I would have had anything more to eat, though I had no bread. I thought
I had never eat anything before that tasted so good. That was the first meal
I had eaten for four days. The other duck they pulled a few of the largest
feathers out of, then threw the duck — guts, feathers and all — into their soup-
kettle, and cooked it in that manner.

The fifth day we traveled about 30 miles. That night I felt very tired and
sore; my hands, arms, legs and feet had swelled and inflamed very much by
this time; the tying that night hurt me very much, indeed. I thought I could



*It is much to be regretted that Mr. BIg'gs delayed writing the history of his capture and'
captivity by the Indians until 38 years after its occurrence, when he was 71 years of age; aa
after that lapse of time many incidents of his harrowing experience, and his impressions;
of the topography of the country over which he journeyed, had no doubt measurably faded
from his memory. In his narrative he fails to describe any stream he crossed, or to mention
particularly any prominent landmark he saw. by which we can now trace with certainty the
route he traveled. Presuming his Indian captors, in hastening to their village on the
Wabash, a few miles below, where Lafayette, in Indiana now stands, only deflected from a
direct course to avoid crossing large streams, they must have passed through or near the
site of Belleville, there crossing Richland creek, and camped the first night not far from
Lebanon, perhaps on Silver creek. Thence, they probably crossed the east branch of ShoaT
creek, a short distance north of Greenville, then passed through, or near the sites of ToweBi
Hill, Sullivan. Tuscola and Danville. J. F. S. •]



207

not live until morning; it felt just like a rough saw cutting my bones. I told
the Indians I could not bear it, it would kill me before morning, and asked
them to unslack or unloosen the wrist rope a little; that hurt me most. They
did so, and rather more than I expected; so much that I could draw my hand
out of the tying, which I intended to do as soon as I thought the Indians were
asleep. When I thought the Indians were all asleep I drew my hand out of
the tying, with an intention to put it back again before I would go to sleep,
for fear I should make some stir in my sleep and they might discover me.
But finding so much more ease, and resting so much better, I fell asleep be-
fore I knew it, without putting my hand back in the tying. The first thing I
knew about 3 o'clock in the morning, an Indian was sitting astraddle me,
drawing his tomahawk and rubbing it across my forehead; every time he
would draw a stroke with the pipe of his tomahawk, he threatened to kill me,
and saying I wanted to run away; I told him to away. I would as leave
die as live. I then told him I was not able to run away. He then got off me,
and the rest of the Indians were all up immediately. They then held a short
council and agreed to tie me as tight as ever, and they did so. I got no more
sleep that night. I never asked them to loose my ropes any more.

The sixth day we traveled about 30 miles, and had nothing to eat that day.

The seventh day we traveled about 25 miles. They killed a doe that day;
she had two fawns in her, not yet haired. They stopped about 4:00 o'clock
in the evening and cooked the doe and her two fawns, and eat the whole up
that night. They gave me part of a fawn to eat, but I could not eat it— it
looked too tender. I eat part of the doe.

The eighth day we traveled about 25 miles, and had nothing to eat that
day.

The ninth day we traveled about 15 miles. We then arrived at an Indian

hunting camp, where they made sugar that spring. About 11:00 o'clock in the

forenoon we had not yet anything to eat that day. The Indians that lived there

had plenty of meat, hominy, grease and sugar to eat. They gave us a plenty

of everything they had to eat. We were very hungry, and eat like hungry

dogs. When we were satisfied eating, the warriors went into a large cabin,

and I went with them, and immediately several of their friends Icame in to

see them, both men and squaws, to hear the news. It is a custom with that



Online LibraryIllinois State Historical Society. 1nPapers in Illinois history and transactions (Volume yr. 1902) → online text (page 33 of 40)