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


The New Hero of Saukenuk

B LACK HAWK was the hero of Saukenuk. The old warriors praised him. The young braves asked his advice. Small boys crowded around him. Everywhere he went the people cheered him.

"Let me take a party of warriors and follow the Osages, Father," Black Hawk pleaded.

"My son, you are too young to lead our warriors."

"Everyone says that I am brave," replied Black Hawk. "Many Sauk warriors say that if I will lead them, they will follow me."

Pyesa said to himself, "He must learn that to be a leader one must be more than brave. But he can learn that only by experience."

Pyesa looked at his son and, aloud, he said, "All right, Black Hawk, you may go. You will be responsible for those who wish to go with you."

Red Eagle was the first to offer to go with Black Hawk. A hundred other Sauk braves joined Black Hawk's first command. Amid the cheers of the people, Black Hawk and his warriors marched out of Saukenuk.

The Osage scouts reported to their war chief that the Sauks were on the warpath.

The Osage war chief called his warriors together. "The Sauks are on our trail," he said. "We must flee to our homes in Missouri."

Black Hawk and his braves followed the Osage trail. They marched until they were far from Saukenuk. They had no food. The braves were tired and discouraged, but Black Hawk would not turn back. They went on until they came to a small Osage village.

"Halt!" Black Hawk ordered. "I will go forward alone to see if there are enemy warriors in the village."

The village was deserted. Black Hawk called to his followers and they entered the village. Black Hawk and Red Eagle waited in the square while the braves searched for food.

"Black Hawk," said Red Eagle, "if the braves do not find food they will not go on."

"We must go on," answered Black Hawk. "We cannot return to Saukenuk until we have defeated our enemy in battle."

"Your braves do not want to go on. They want to return to Saukenuk."

"What do you want to do?" asked Black Hawk.

"If you return, I will return with you," answered Red Eagle. "If you go on, I will go with you. You know that I am loyal and that I will follow you."

The braves came back to the square. One of the braves said, "Black Hawk, there is no food. We want to return to Saukenuk."

"I am your leader. You are to follow me," said Black Hawk angrily. "I promised Pyesa, your war chief, that we would defeat the Osages in battle. We cannot turn back!"

But the Indians would not go on. They left Black Hawk and returned to Saukenuk. Only Red Eagle and four other braves remained with him. He and the faithful five marched forward to find the enemy.

As they were moving through the forest they came upon four Osage braves.

"We will creep as close to them as we can," said Black Hawk. "We will make a surprise attack."

In the surprise attack two Osages were killed. The other two escaped.

"The two braves who escaped will tell their people that only six Sauk braves are following their trail," said Black Hawk. "I am responsible for you and I will not lead you against a powerful enemy who has been warned. We shall return to Saukenuk."

Black Hawk was not a hero when he returned to Saukenuk. His braves had not obeyed him. They had not followed him. He had not shown himself to be a leader of warriors.

"Do not be discouraged, my son," said Pyesa. "Some day the Sauks will follow you. You are young and you have much to learn, but you are brave. A war chief must lead so that others will follow him. It is not enough to give orders. You will learn, my son. You will be worthy!"

Three years passed before Black Hawk had another chance to lead the Sauk braves into battle. During these years the Osage Indians made many raids into Sauk territory. The Sauks wanted revenge. While Pyesa was away fighting the Cherokees, the Sauk braves asked Black Hawk to lead them once more against the Osages. Black Hawk said, "I will lead you, but this time I want two hundred warriors to go with me."

The night before they left Saukenuk, Black Hawk talked with Red Eagle about his plans. "I must prove to Pyesa and to the people that I can defeat the enemy," he said. "This is my chance and I will win."

When the sun rose in the morning the people met in the village square. The two hundred braves were ready for battle. Their bodies were covered with war paint. The squaws and children cheered them. Everyone was noisy, happy, and excited.

Black Hawk strode into the square. In a loud voice he called out, "Sauks, remember this day! We go to fight the Osages. This time we will win!"

Black Hawk and his braves marched out of the village. They marched for several days without finding the trail of the Osages. Boldly they moved into Osage territory.

Red Eagle and Mehaska, another Sauk brave, marched in front with Black Hawk. As they came over a hill in the forest, Red Eagle exclaimed, pointing straight ahead, "There is our enemy! Shall we advance or start fighting from here?"

"Advance," answered Black Hawk. "Go down the hill on the left. And you, Mehaska, go down the hill on the right. Warn our braves that the Osages are just ahead."

Red Eagle and Mehaska left to carry out Black Hawk's orders. Slowly the Sauks advanced. When they neared the Osages, Black Hawk gave the Sauk war whoop. Two hundred Sauk arrows flew through the air.

The Sauks were weary from many days of fast marching, but they fought bravely. They fought from behind trees, stumps, and fallen logs. From these protected spots they threw their lances and aimed their arrows.

Arrows, lances, and tomahawks came back from the Osages. Sauk arrows and lances were hurled back with deadly aim. Many times during the battle the Osages aimed their arrows and lances at Black Hawk. He was everywhere, calling out orders and shouting encouragement to his braves.

"Victory must be ours!" he called. "Fight, braves! We are Sauks!"

Hour after hour the fighting continued, each side refusing to retreat. All day Black Hawk was in the thickest of the fight. On the left his line was falling back. He dashed to rally his braves.

"Advance! Follow me!" he called.

He went forward alone. He shouted and called again to his braves. The braves gave the Sauk war whoop and advanced. Little by little the Osages retreated. Little by little the Sauks gained ground. Finally the Osages gave way and fled through the woods. When the dead were counted, Black Hawk found that he had lost twenty braves in the battle. The Osages had lost a hundred.

Black Hawk had won his first battle. A brave only nineteen years old had led his warriors against two hundred of the finest Osage warriors and had defeated them.

Black Hawk and his victorious braves marched back to Saukenuk. When they were a day's march from the village, Black Hawk sent for Red Eagle.

"You are to have the honor of telling the Sauks of our victory, Red Eagle," he said. "Take ten braves and hurry to our village. Tell the people we are returning victorious."

A feast and dance were held for Black Hawk and his braves. After the dance he spoke to the cheering crowd.

"You honor me and I am proud," he said. "But your braves are the ones you should honor. They are the defenders of Saukenuk. I beg the Great Spirit to watch over them."

"My son is learning," Pyesa said to himself. "He will be worthy to became the Sauk war chief after I am gone." Turning to his son, he said, "I am proud of you, Black Hawk."

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