General Atkinson Comes to Fort Armstrong

On June 31, 1831, a war party of nearly 100 Sacs and Foxes had attacked a camp of Menominees situated about one half a mile about Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien and killed twenty-five. Black Hawk says the killed were Sioux and Menominees. Between the former and the Sacs and Foxes there had always been a bitter and hostile feeling. April 1, 1832, General Henry Atkinson, then commanding Jefferson Barracks at St. Louis, received orders to proceed up the Mississippi and demand from the Sacs and Foxes the principals engaged in the murder of the Menominees. Atkinson left St. Louis April 8, with six companies of the Sixth Regiment, 220 men accompanying the expedition. Albert Sidney Johnson, afterwards a Confederate general, was a second lieutenant in this command. April 10, Atkinson’s army reached the Des Moines Rapids, where they were informed that Black Hawk and his warriors were marching up the river. The army now hastened to Fort Armstrong, arriving there the night of the 12th. The 13th, General Atkinson called the Indians then in that vicinity to the fort. Among those who came were Keokuk and Wapello. Atkinson demanded the murderers of the Menominees and these two disclaimed any part in that affair. General Atkinson then started for Fort Crawford and also sent out messengers to warn the settlers of Black Hawk’s coming. On the 19th of the month, General Atkinson returned to Fort Armstrong. Accompanying him was Lieu-tenant Colonel Zachary Taylor, afterwards President of the United States, and two companies of the First Infantry. Before leaving Fort Armstrong, General Atkinson had sent a letter to Governor Reynolds asking for state aid. After Black Hawk passed his old village, General Atkinson sent Captain Phil Kearney up Rock River after him, with orders for Black Hawk to return and recross the Mississippi, which order Black Hawk refused to obey, claiming his mission was a peaceful one. The news that Black Hawk and his warriors were again marching up Rock River alarmed the whole northern frontier and the Governor daily received messages asking protection. George Davenport, the Indian trader on Rock Island, had before General Gaines’ arrival written him: “From every information I have received, I am of the opinion that the intention of the British band of Sac Indians is to commit depredations on the inhabitants of the frontier.”

 

Indian Wars 

 

Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908