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


Joe Smart, Indian Scout

S HORTLY after Black Hawk left for Canada, Neapope left to see General Dixon, too. Neapope did not travel over the same route that Black Hawk had taken to Fort Malden.

"I do not believe that the British will help us," Neapope said to himself. "General Dixon will tell Black Hawk to remain at peace and Black Hawk will take his advice. But I will tell the British general that Black Hawk sent me to demand that he help us to win back our lands."

When Neapope reached Fort Malden he went directly to Dixon. Neapope explained that he was second-in-command of the followers of Black Hawk and that he had come on orders from his chief.

"I talked with Black Hawk a few days ago," answered the general. "I told him that I could not help the Sauks."

"Yes, I know," lied Neapope. "Black Hawk told me that you refused to help us. But he sent me here to demand your help."

"I cannot help the Sauks," repeated Dixon.

"I demand that you help us," insisted Neapope.

"Go back to your new village," ordered Dixon. "Live in peace. There is nothing I can do for your people. I have explained everything to your chief."

Black Hawk had left Fort Malden tired and discouraged. He had gone directly back to his starving people. When Neapope left Fort Malden he was angry.

"The British will not help us, and without their help Black Hawk will not try to reclaim our old lands," said Neapope to himself. "But I must make him believe that General Dixon has decided to help us. How? How?" he asked himself.

Neapope walked along the trail, his head bent low. Suddenly he stopped. "White Cloud," he cried, "the Sauk prophet! Why didn't I think of him before? If I had thought of him I never would have bothered to come all the way to Canada. I will make him help me," he laughed. "Black Hawk believes in him and I will tell our old chief that White Cloud told me the British will help us. Why didn't I think of that before?"

Day after day Neapope traveled over the snow-covered trail to White Cloud's village.

"If we leave our new village there will be no turning back. The other tribes will help us when Black Hawk tells them that the British will help us. And as soon as we are in Saukenuk I will tell the people that I am the one who made it possible for them to return. Then they will make me their war chief. Black Hawk will be disgraced and I will be in complete command. I will have power!" He laughed to himself.

He finally reached the village and hurried on to White Cloud's lodge.

"White Cloud," said Neapope, "the British general told Black Hawk that he would not help us reclaim our lands. But I have a plan."

The flames of the campfire lighted up Neapope's ugly face. "I will tell Black Hawk that the British general has now decided to help us. I will tell Black Hawk that he has promised to send guns and ammunition."


"Why are you going to lie to your chief?" asked White Cloud.

"I want power!" exclaimed Neapope. "For years I was an unimportant chief. Now I am second-incommand." He lowered his voice and almost as though he were talking to himself said, "And soon I may be made the war chief. I will have power!"

"Black Hawk will not believe you," said White Cloud.

"Black Hawk will believe me," said Neapope, "because I am going to tell him that you gave me this news. I am going to tell him that General Dixon promised you that he would help us. Our chief may not believe me, but he has complete faith in you."

"Do not lie to Black Hawk!"

"Lie!" Neapope laughed. "I will do anything for power. I wanted to leave with Keokuk but I stayed with Black Hawk. Why?" He leaned closer to White Cloud. "Because Black Hawk is old. He is old and when he is dead then I shall have all the power I want. Now I may not have to wait until he is dead!"

"I will not lie to Black Hawk for you," said White Cloud.

"You will do as I tell you!" Neapope caught White Cloud by the throat. "I will kill you, if you don't do exactly as I tell you."

When Black Hawk and the people in the unhappy village were told by Neapope of General Dixon's promise of help they were overcome with joy. Not one of them questioned the truth of Neapope's statements. They had complete faith in White Cloud, their prophet. He had always told them the truth. In the spring they would return to their beloved Saukenuk. In the spring!

Black Hawk sent runners to the Indian tribes who had promised to help them. "Tell their chiefs that we are returning to our homelands," commanded Black Hawk. "General Dixon will send us supplies. When I am ready to cross the Mississippi I will send word to them."

A special runner was sent to Keokuk's village. Swift and trusted Loud Thunder was chosen to carry the good news. "Keokuk and his followers will return with us," said Loud Thunder to himself. "He will be glad to hear our plans."

Keokuk was not glad to hear that Black Hawk planned to return to Saukenuk. "Lies! Lies!" Keokuk cried. "The British cannot help you. Go back to your father, Loud Thunder. Tell him to remain in his new village. Tell him to remain at peace!"

Loud Thunder left the village. Keokuk called a meeting of his chiefs. He told them of Black Hawk's plans. "We must warn the soldiers at Fort Armstrong and our friend, Davenport," Keokuk said. "We must send word to them."

In a short time one of Keokuk's runners was on the trail to Fort Armstrong. Major Bliss, the new commander of the fort, and George Davenport received the warning.

"When does Black Hawk plan to return?" asked Major Bliss.

"In April. He and his followers will cross the Mississippi River as soon as the ice melts," answered the runner.

"In April!" exclaimed Davenport. "Next month. We will not have much time to prepare for an attack."

"I was on my way as soon as Keokuk learned of Black Hawk's plans," said the runner. "My chief gives you his promise that he will save you and your family." He bowed to Davenport. "And he will try to help you, too," he added as he turned toward Major Bliss.

"Return to your village. Thank your chief for his warning," ordered Major Bliss. "I will get in touch with him in a few days."

Silently the runner left the fort.

"I must send word to the commander of Fort Crawford," said Major Bliss. "I have less than a hundred soldiers here. I need more soldiers and food supplies."

"Send Joe Smart!" said Davenport. "He is the best scout around here. He will have to go through Indian territory all the way, but Smart can do it."

Joe Smart was a well-educated white man. He was a close friend of Davenport. Smart was married to a Fox Indian maiden. They were very happy. Part of the year they lived with the Fox Indians. In the Indian village Smart lived and dressed like an Indian. The rest of the year he and his wife lived in a cabin near Davenport's trading post. When Smart lived with the white people he dressed like the white people. But he had learned many things from his Indian friends. He could follow a trail as quietly as an Indian. He knew all the secrets of the woods. He could speak the language of many Indian tribes.

In an hour Smart reported to Major Bliss for orders. He was dressed in Sauk doeskin clothes. Over his shoulders hung a pair of ice skates. In his hand he carried a rifle.

"Tell the commander at Fort Crawford how important it is that he send soldiers and food supplies. We have very little food left," said Major Bliss. "I do not need to tell you that this trip will be difficult and dangerous. You know it. Good luck to you."

"I will need all the good luck you can spare," laughed the young scout. "But I will do my best."

With long, free strides Joe Smart left the fort. He reached the Mississippi River. The river was frozen. He stopped to put on his ice skates.

"I must skate as fast as I can," he said aloud. "I must reach Fort Crawford."

He skated many miles each day. All the way he faced a freezing wind. It bit and stung his face. A blizzard delayed him almost a whole day. But at last he reached the fort.

"I cannot send soldiers to Major Bliss," said the commanding officer. "I cannot spare a single soldier."

"Our need is desperate!"

"The Indians here are unfriendly, too. There may be an uprising at any time. I can't spare a soldier, but I can send some food. It will not be much, but it will help Major Bliss until he can get his supplies in the spring. How can you get it back to Fort Armstrong?"

"By canoe! The ice is breaking."

"I will hire some friendly Indians to help you," said the officer.

Smart and the Indians waited several days until the ice broke. At last they started back to Fort Armstrong. The trip was slow and dangerous.

Finally Smart and his Indians reached the fort. The half-starved soldiers rushed out to meet them. The trip had taken more than a month. But Joe Smart had carried out his orders.

Smart jumped out of the first canoe and rushed to the major. "The commander could not spare any of his soldiers." He pointed to the loaded canoes. "All he could do was to send some food."

"That will help," said the major as he shook hands with the scout.

Major Bliss and Smart walked back to the fort. "When you did not return," Major Bliss said as they entered the gate, "I sent three soldiers to St. Louis to get help from General Atkinson the commander of the Army of the West. The three soldiers have not returned."

"What else has happened?"

"Many things have happened and many more are about to happen!" exclaimed the major. "The Indians are getting ready for something. Their scouts and runners keep in constant touch with each other. We have scouts, but as yet we have learned very little.

"If the Indians attack," continued the major, "the white people have been warned to come to the fort or to the new stockade."

"The new stockade?" questioned Smart.

"Yes, Davenport built a stockade around his trading post and his home."

"What have you heard from Keokuk?" asked Smart.

"Two of his braves are here now," answered the major. "He wants one of my scouts to return to his village. Black Hawk is coming to his village to try to enlist some of Keokuk's braves. And Keokuk wants to prove to us that he is doing all he can to stop Black Hawk."

"When will Black Hawk reach Keokuk's village?"

"He is on his way right now."

"Then I must leave at once," said Smart quickly.

"Good! Good!" exclaimed the major. "I had hoped that you would go, but I did not like to ask you to undertake new dangers so soon."

"There is no time to lose!" answered Smart. "The Sauks will not wait for us. Is Black Hawk still planning to return to Saukenuk?"

"He is trying to unite all the Indians against us. I am afraid that he is getting many followers," said the major. "If we can get help from St. Louis we shall be able to defend ourselves."

Smart and Keokuk's two braves left. They hurried to the Mississippi. They paddled their canoes up the river to Keokuk's village.

When Keokuk saw Smart he started to laugh. "You look about as much like a Sauk brave," he said, "as I look like your white war chief. You might fool a white man but even the papooses in my village would know that you are not a Sauk. You are a good scout, but you don't look like an Indian."

"My white war chief thought I was a Sauk," laughed Smart.

"You are here just in time," said Keokuk. "Black Hawk and his braves will be here tonight. If they see you they will kill you. You must hide in my lodge. You are not to leave until I tell you that you may go."

Early that evening Black Hawk and two hundred braves entered Keokuk's village. They were in full war paint. They carried tomahawks, lances, and bows and arrows. They sang a war song. They marched to the village square and placed the war post in the ground. The post was just in front of Keokuk's lodge.

Keokuk and his braves were in the square. But Joe Smart was hiding under many blankets in Keokuk's lodge.

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