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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 5:
 

Black Hawk, Tradition of Capture

-As transcribed from pages 47 - 49

Black Hawk, leader of the Fox and Sauk Uprising in 1832, was captured near Arcadia, in Trempealeau County, according to Indian tradition. Official reports, however, declare that Black Hawk and his followers retreated to the Dalles of the Wisconsin River, and were there captured about two miles above Kilbourn City, by the One-Eyed Decorah and Cha-e-tar, who took them to Prairie du Chien, August 27, 1832, and delivered them to General Joseph D. Street, the Indian Agent.29

The tradition of the capture near Arcadia was related through Antoine Grignon, to Dr. E. D. Pierce, by O-kick-chum-hak (Looking Glass), a medicine man, nearly eighty-five years old, and though it has no foundation in history, it is here given as one of the tales of the Indian lore of Trempealeau County, oft repeated around the vanishing campfires of a dying race.

"After the battle of Bad Axe, where so many of the followers of Black Hawk were cruelly slaughtered, the old chief and two followers fled north-ward, following the course of the Mississippi River, and carefully avoiding any trading post or trapper's cabin, until they reached the Trempealeau River, known by the Winnebago as the Nee-chum-ne-chum-u-kah, or flooding river, on account of its overflowing its banks during the spring season and when heavy rains occurred. The Hawk now turned his steps to follow the course of "The Flooding River," but he was weary with the effects of the hard campaign, and broken in spirits with its disastrous results, so he made his way but slowly through the tangled underbrush, and along the hills of a strange land. His sad-hearted companions, too, were wont to lag, and though game was plentiful, they were unable to secure enough to satisfy their craving appetites, which had been made keen by long, hard marching for many months where at one time the flesh of half-starved horses kept them from perishing with hunger.

"But the Sac chief and his faithful companions struggled along up the river, and succeeded in reaching a well-hidden thicket along its banks, opposite Barn Bluff, and near the present village of Arcadia, where they went into camp, as it was toward evening, arid they were in sore need of food and rest.

"In the meantime four Winnebago braves, Ne-no-hump-e-kah, or one who clears the water, Ra-koo-a-e-kah, Chosh-chum-hut-ta-kah, meaning Big Wave, and Wa-kow-oha-pin-kar (Good Thunder), were in hot pursuit of Black Hawk, and since the battle of Bad Axe had been following the trail of the noted Sac. They traveled up the Trempealeau Valley, keeping close watch for any signs of the fleeing Indians, and were rewarded by finding fresh traces of the trail, which they pursued with savage interest. One day they lost the trail, and seeing a high barn-shaped bluff in the distance resolved to climb it, and take a look at the surrounding country in the hope of catching a glimpse of the hunted fugitives. It was near sunset when they reached the summit of Barn Bluff, on the same day that Black Hawk and his men went into camp in the thicket on the banks of the Trempealeau River.

"The Winnebago braves looked down on the wild country with its rough hills stretching away in every direction, while the river gleaming with a touch of the sinking sun, threaded its way silently through the valley and was lost from sight in the misty thicket far down below. The Indians scanned the horizon that seemed to touch a continuous range of hills formed into an immense circle. They looked up the river, and down the river, and then away down among the thickets one discovered a thin smoke arising, and caught the glimpse of a campfire.

"A council was quickly held to determine what course to pursue, in endeavoring to capture Black Hawk, should it prove to be his camp. It was decided to steal continuously down in the dusk of the evening and surround the camp, and when its inmates were busy eating to slip up and capture them, for they wanted to take Black Hawk alive. Accordingly as arranged, they made their way downward, guided by the light of the fire, and surrounded the Indians, who were peacefully eating their evening meal. After watching the care-worn men a short time a signal was given, at which the four braves rushed forward to the capture. No force was needed, however, as Black Hawk quietly gave himself up. He was taken to the trading post at La Crosse and turned over to One-Eyed Decorah and Wa-kon-ah-kah (Snake Skin), two noted Winnebago chiefs, and they sent him a prisoner down the river to Prairie du Chien."

After his capture he was sent from Prairie du Chien to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, in charge of Jefferson Davis, then an officer in the United States army, later President of the Confederate States of America. In April, 1833, he was taken east, was confined for a while at Fortress Monroe, was taken on a tour through the cities of the East, was afterward released, settled on the Des Moines River, and died October 3, 1838.30



Resources for the above information:

29 - Spoon Decorah, a cousin of One Eyed Decorah, tells still another Indian tradition and locates the capture near the headquarters of the La Crosse River. (Thwaites, ed., Narrative of Spoon Decorah, Wis. Hist. Colls.,- XIII, 454-455.) Thwaites in a note to Walking Cloud's Narrative, Ibid., 465, refutes the various Indian traditions and discusses the unreliability of Indian tradition in general. Draper, in a note to Satterlee Clark's Early Times at Ft. Winnebago, Id., VIII, 316, mentions the various traditions of the capture and refutes them by a quotation from the official report locating the capture near the Dalles of the Wisconsin. For various accounts of the capture see: De La Ronde, Narrative, ld., VII, 351. Also: John T. Kingston, Early Wisconsin Days, Ibid., 332. Also: Thwaites, "The Black Hawk War, Id., XII, 261, text and note. Also: Strong, Indian Wars of Wisconsin, Id., VIII, 285. Also: David McBride, Capture of Black Hawk, Id., V, 293-297.

30 - Willard Barrows, Death of Black Hawk, Id., V, 305. Also: Thwaites, The Black Hawk War, Id., XII, 262.

 


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