In 1804 a treaty was made with the Sacs and Foxes by which they ceded to the whites all title to the Rock River Country, though they were permitted the privilege of living and hunting therein as long as it remained the property of the U.S. This treaty Black Hawk, one of their most celebrated Chiefs, would never recognize, asserting that it was secured by the whites through fraud, the Indian chiefs being drunk when the treaty was signed. In the war of 1812 these tribes sided with Great Britain. In 1816 a treaty was made with them at Fort Armstrong (Rock Island) by which that of 1804 was ratified, and large bodies of land were ceded to the U.S. Black Hawk signed this treaty.
In 1829 a portion of the land in the Rock River country was sold to private individuals, and therefore it became necessary to remove the Indians across the Mississippi. Another treaty was therefore made, in 1830, by which they agreed to surrender the land ceded to the U.S. and peaceably retire to their Iowa reservations. Notwithstanding Black Hawk was a party to the treaty and retired with his tribe, yet he longed to return to live and hunt in the beautiful Rock River country. He represented to the tribes that their rights to the soil were inalienable and the cessions and treaties were null and void. In 1831, with 300 warriers and his women and children, Black Hawk re-crossed the Mississippi, ordered the settlers away and killed their cattle and otherwise destroyed their property. Gov. Reynolds at once issued a call for 700 troops to drive them back to their reservation, and 1600 responded to the call. Upon the appearance of these troops Black Hawk, with his warriors, fled across the river, and for fear of pursuit and punishment, sued for peace. Another treaty was entered into by which the Indians agreed to forever remain west of the Mississippi River, and never to re-cross i without permission of the President or Governor of the State. The treacherous character of the Indians was shown the following year, when Black Hawk and the disaffected braves returned to the Rock River.
In Whiteside County there were several Indian villages, the most noted being that known as Prophetstown, being the home of the Prophet, a noted Indian chief of the Winnebago tribe.
The Blackhawk War, though occurring prior to the settlement of WHiteside County, has an important bearing upon its history. It was the fertile valley of the Rock River that the old chief and his braves wanted to re-possess, that was the cause of this war. Black Hawk had recrossed to the eastern bank of the Mississippi prior to 1832, but it was during the early part of that year that he made the most concerted and desperate effort to regain the country so dear to him and which he considered he had been unjustly deprived of. There has been much speculation as to Black Hawk's motives in returning to Illinois, many claiming he came only to get food for his tribe and not with hostile intentions. Upon Black Hawk with his force appearing on this bank of the Mississippi, a large force was at once raised and marched against him. On the evening of May 14, 1832, the first engagement occurred between the military and Black Hawk's band, in which the former were defeated.
This attack and its result aroused the whites. A large force of men was raised, and Gen. Scott hastened from the seaboard, by way of the lakes, with U.S. troops and artillery to aid in the subjugation of the Indians. On the 24th of June, Black Hawk, with 200 warriors, was repulsed by Major Demont between Rock River and Galena. The American army continued to move up Rock River toward the main body of the Indians, and on the 21st of July came upon Black Hawk and his band, and defeated them near the Blue Mounds.
Black Hawk, with his twenty braves, retreated up the Wisconsin River. The Winnebagoes, desirous of securing the friendship of the whites, went in pursuit and captured and delived them to Gen. Street, the U.S. Indian Agent. Among the prisoners were the son of Black Hawk and the prophet of the tribe. These with Black Hawk were taken to Washington, D.C. and soon consigned as prisoners at Fortress Monroe.
At the interview Black Hawk had with the President, he closed his speech delivered on the occasion in the following words: "We did not expect to conquer the whites. They have too many houses, too many men. I took up the hatchet, for my part, to revenge injuries which my people could no longer endure. Had I borne them longer without striking, my people would have said, 'Black Hawk is a woman; he is too old to be a chief; he is no Sac.' These reflections caused me to raise the war-whoop. I say no more. It is known to you. Keokuk once was here; you took him by the hand, and when he wished to return to his home, you were willing. Black Hawk expects, like Keokuk, he shall be permitted to return too."
After their release from prison they were conducted in charge of Major Garland, through some of the principal cities, that they might witness the power of the United States and learn their own inability to cope with them in war. Great multitudes flocked to see them wherever they were taken, and the attention paid them rendered their progress through the country a triumphal procession instead of the transportation of prisoners by an officer. At Rock Island the prisoners were given their liberty, amid great and impressive ceremony. In 1838 Black Hawk built him a dwelling near Des Moines Iowa and furnished it after the manner of the whites, and engaged in agricultural pursuits and hunting and fishing. Here, with his wife, to whom he was greatly attached, he passed the few remaining days of his life. To his credit, it may be said, that Black Hawk remained true to his wife, and served her with a devotion uncommon among Indians, living with her upward of 40 years.
In September 1838, while on his way to Rock Island to receive his annuity from the Government, he contracted a severe cold which resulted in a fatal attack of bilious fever, and terminated his life October 3. After his death he was dressed in the uniform presented to him by the President while in Washington. He was buried in a grave six feet deep, situated upon a beautiful eminence. The body was placed in the middle of the grave, in a sitting posture upon a seat constructed for that purpose. On his left side the cane given him by Henry Clay was placed upright, with his right hand resting upon it. Thus, after a long, adventurous and shifting life, Black Hawk was gathered to his fathers.
[Source: From the History of Whiteside County, 1885]
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