Gateway to the Classics: Chief Black Hawk by Frank Lee beals
Chief Black Hawk by  Frank Lee beals


Brave White War Chief

"I cannot defeat the white soldiers," said Black Hawk. "What I need is time in which to lead my people to safety. I will head for Wisconsin. It will be dangerous because I shall have to pass Kellogg Stockade. However, that is the shortest trail and I will take it."

Black Hawk and his people were not the only ones to follow that trail. Behind them came Major John Dement in command of a battalion of the United States Army. Neither leader knew of the presence of the other.

"Head for Dixon," Major Dement ordered his scouts. "I must report to Colonel Zachary Taylor as soon as possible."

When Major Dement reported to Colonel Taylor, the latter said to him, "I have an important task for you. I hope your men will behave better than Major Stillman's men behaved."

"I have a hundred and seventy untrained men, Colonel," said Major Dement.

"I know volunteers, but trained or untrained, here are your orders," said Colonel Taylor. "Move at once to Kellogg Stockade which is thirty-six miles northeast. Only sixteen men are now holding the place. We cannot let it fall into the hands of the Indians. I am informed that a large party of Indians is not far from there."

"Then we will have to march through enemy territory. My men are brave enough, but they are not trained soldiers. Most of the men have been in the army only eight days," explained Major Dement.

"Are you refusing to obey orders?"

"I am not, sir. But I cannot help thinking that trained soldiers should be sent into hostile country. It seems too bad to send untrained men into it."

"You have your orders," said Colonel Taylor.

"And I shall carry them out," answered the major as he saluted and left.

Major Dement and his men reached Kellogg Stockade late in the afternoon. The stockade was small, too small to hold both the men and horses.

"Form a picket line outside the stockade," ordered the major. "The horses can be guarded there. We will scout the country around here tomorrow."

In the morning scouting parties were sent out. Within a short time one of the scouts galloped his horse back to the stockade. He shouted, "The Indians are over there," and pointed in the direction from which he had come.

Without waiting for orders the men who were at the picket line threw saddles on their horses and rode off. They rode pell-mell, each man for himself, without orders of any kind.

When Major Dement saw what was happening he mounted his own horse and rode after his men. Before he could reach them they began firing.

"We've got them on the run," shouted one man as he spurred his horse forward.

"Halt!" shouted Major Dement. The men pulled up their horses.

"You have ridden straight into a trap," said the major when he reached his men. "There is a wounded Indian. Bring him to me."

Two men went to the Indian who was so badly wounded that he could not walk. They lifted him by the arms, one man on each side, half-carried and half-dragged him to Major Dement.

"Who is your chief?" the major asked.

"Shabbona," answered the Indian.

"Is Shabbona the chief of the Indians over there?" and he pointed.

"No. Black Hawk." The Indian was too weak to talk further. The two men eased him to the ground and remounted their horses.

"So we have Black Hawk to deal with," said Major Dement.

The Sauk war cry rang through the air. The warriors began to close in on the white men.

"You will have to fight your way out. You rushed into this trap, now stay together and fight," and Major Dement formed his men in a circle. He remained on his horse in the center.

"When the Indians have surrounded us we will break through their line where it is the thinnest. Get an Indian every time you fire."

But the Indians did not advance. They hid behind stumps or fallen trees and fired from there. They did not expose themselves to the fire from the white men.

The soldiers were in the open. They were good targets. The Indians took every possible advantage.

"There is one way out," shouted Major Dement. "When I give the command, every man head east. Go as fast as your horses can go. I will follow when I have seen that no man is left behind. Get ready! Charge!"

Major Dement sat on his horse and waited. Every man got away. Even the wounded clung to their horses and succeeded in escaping. When the last man was clear of the field Major Dement put spurs to his horse and rode away amid a shower of bullets and arrows.

"That white war chief is like an Indian brave," said one of the Indians.

When the soldiers reached the stockade they tied their horses on the picket line outside. There was so much excitement and talk among the untrained volunteers that even the picket guards went inside the stockade. The horses were left unprotected.

Major Dement looked out of a window in the stockade. "There goes a horse," he said to himself. "He is moving slowly across the grassy plain. How did he get away from the picket line ? There goes another—and another. Ah, I see. An Indian crawls through the grass and unties a horse. Then he crawls slowly away leading the horse. When he reaches the far side of the clearing he mounts the horse and dashes away."

"Men !" Major Dement called to a group of men nearby, "bring your rifles and come here."

When they reached him the major pointed out across the cleared space.

"Do you see those horses going across that space?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," answered one of the men.

"Take careful aim at the grass a few feet in front of one of the horses. Take the one nearest. Careful now," as the man sighted. A flash was followed by a report. An Indian rose from the grass and stood for a moment, then fell forward on his face.

Major Dement sent men to catch the horses that were loose. He posted guards.

The men who had been sent out to catch the horses returned. One of them went to Major Dement. The man held out a hand. On his palm lay a braid of blonde hair.

"Where did you get it?" asked the major.

"I found it around the neck of the Indian who was shot making off with one of our horses. It must mean that they have a white girl with them."

"It may mean that they did have a white girl with them," said the major. "I would like to follow them but I have been ordered to hold this stockade.

"Men," he called, "two scouting parties are to leave at once. Find Black Hawk's camp but do not go near it. Report to me when you have located his campfire."

But in Black Hawk's camp there were no fires to cheer his weary, hungry followers. There was little food left. Men, women, and children were gathered in front of Black Hawk's teepee. Black Hawk, who stood in front of his teepee facing the crowd, blended into the night.

"Are you there, Black Hawk? We cannot see you," said one of the braves in the crowd.

"Yes, I am here," answered Black Hawk. "I ordered that no fires be lit because the white soldiers are near and they might attack us during the night. I did not wish to fight the white soldiers today. I fought only to gain time for you to escape. My braves and I drove the soldiers back to the stockade but they will not stay there. They will follow us and they have many guns and bullets. We have only a few. We must retreat as swiftly as we can."

"How do you know that the white soldiers will follow us?" asked a brave.

"My Winnebago spies went to the white soldiers' stockade. They were able to enter and leave the stockade because their tribe is friendly to the whites. They reported to me that the white war chief sent his scouts out to find our camp. They also brought word that Red Eagle's son was killed today at Kellogg stockade."

"Are you sure of that?" another brave asked.

"Yes, I am sure. The white soldier who found our brave's body found a lock of blonde hair around his neck. The dead brave was Red Eagle's son."

Silence followed this announcement. The people stood and waited. Finally Black Hawk said, and his voice was gentle, "My purpose now is to lead you safely across the river."

"You are our chief, we will follow you," cried a brave.

"I know that you will follow wherever I lead. You have not disobeyed me on this long, hard march. I gave orders that you were not to take anything that belonged to a white man. In spite of hunger and want you passed by the open doors of white men's cabins and you did not enter. You could have found food there with which to satisfy your hunger. But you did not enter because I had told you not to enter. You did not disobey me."

"We will never disobey you, Black Hawk," shouted a brave. "You told us not to make war on the white people. We have not made war. You told us not to take anything that belonged to the white people. We took nothing that belonged to them."

"Black Hawk," said Red Eagle as he moved through the darkness to Black Hawk's side, "When you said that my son had been killed I could not speak. I cannot say now what I feel. My son wore the lock of hair from the white girl's head because he loved her. He would not have harmed her. He would not have harmed any white man or woman. Now he is gone, killed by the white soldiers. I should want revenge, but I do not. My son would not want me to take revenge on the white men. I shall be loyal to you and I will obey your orders. All of the people will obey you. Lead us to safety. We will give up our lands and live at peace with the white people."

"You speak wisely, Red Eagle," said Black Hawk. "What is done cannot be undone. We must live for the future. Listen, my people. With the coming of dawn you will be on the march. Red Eagle will lead you. Go now, secure what rest you can, for you move with the dawn."

There was no place for the people to go. Most of them sat on the ground where they were. Mothers tried to make their children as comfortable as they could. Occasionally the stillness of the night was broken by the whimper of a hungry child.

1. How did Black Hawk and Kilbourn meet at Still-man's camp?

2. How did Kilbourn explain the firing on the flag of truce?

3. What did Black Hawk do to Kilbourn? Why?

4. What effect did Stillman's defeat have on the people of Illinois?

5. What happened when Black Hawk went to visit Shabbona?

6. Tell about Shabbona's ride to warn the white settlers.

7. What happened at Indian Creek?

8. Who saved the lives of the Hall sisters?

9. How were the sisters returned to their own people?

10. How did Major Dement's men show that they were untrained?

11. How were the Indians stealing Dement's horses?

12. What did Red Eagle say about the death of his son?

13. In what ways did Black Hawk's people show their trust in and love for him?

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