Black Hawk War

Date: From 1832-05 to 1832-08

Place: Illinois

In the spring of 1832, Black Hawk, a warrior and leader of the Sauk tribe, led 1,100 Indians into Illinois in direct violation of the federal government's order to remove them to the west side of the Mississippi River. After a difficult winter, the Indians, mostly Sauk and Fox, were seeking to plant crops on land they had lost in a treaty signed at St. Louis in 1804. Although war was not their intention, their presence alarmed white settlers in northern Illinois. Illinois Governor John Reynolds called on the state militia, and Abraham Lincoln volunteered as a soldier. For fifteen weeks, the Indians (primarily Black Hawk's "British Band") met armed resistance from 7,790 Illinois militia, 2,700 Michigan militia, and 1,500 regular U.S. Army troops, who did most of the fighting. On August 2, the Indians were routed at the Battle of Bad Axe River in present-day Wisconsin in a brutal army assault against Indian warriors and innocent Indian women. Only seventy-two troops and white civilians died in the war, compared to the more than 520 Indians. Black Hawk was forced to surrender at Prairie du Chien, and in order to achieve peace the Indians he led signed a treaty that essentially removed the Sauks, Fox, and Winnebagos from the Old Northwest. The short war and treaty garnered support for President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal policy, which sought to push Native Americans further and further west.

Thomas L. Purvis, "Black Hawk War," Dictionary of American History (New York: Blackwell, 1997), 1:194-5; Patrick J. Jung, The Black Hawk War of 1832 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 33-210; Frank Everett Stevens, ed., Wakefield’s History of the Black Hawk War (Chicago: The Caxton Club, 1908), 25-158.