1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Black Hawk

BLACK HAWK [Maʽkatawimeshekaʽka, “Black Sparrow Hawk”], (1767–1838), American Indian warrior of the Sauk and Fox tribes, was born at the Sauk village on Rock river, near the Mississippi, in 1767. He was a member of the Thunder gens of the Sauk tribe, and, though neither an hereditary nor an elected chief, was for some time the recognized war leader of the Sauk and Foxes. From his youth he was intensely bloodthirsty and hostile to the Americans. Immediately after the acquisition of “Louisiana,” the Federal government took steps for the removal of the Sauk and Foxes, who had always been a disturbing element among the north-western Indians, to the west bank of the Mississippi river. As early as 1804, by a treaty signed at St Louis on the 3rd of November, they agreed to the removal in return for an annuity of $1000. British influences were still strong in the upper Mississippi valley and undoubtedly led Black Hawk and the chiefs of the Sauk and Fox confederacy to repudiate this agreement of 1804, and subsequently to enter into the conspiracy of Tecumseh and take part with the British in the war of 1812. The treaties of 1815 at Portage des Sioux (with the Foxes) and of 1816 at St Louis (with the Sauk) substantially renewed that of 1804. That of 1816 was signed by Black Hawk himself, who declared, however, when in 1823 Chief Keokuk and a majority of the two nations crossed the river, that the consent of the chiefs had been obtained by fraud. In 1830 a final treaty was signed at Prairie du Chien, by which all title to the lands of the Sauk and Foxes east of the Mississippi was ceded to the government, and provision was made for the immediate opening of the tract to settlers. Black Hawk, leading the party in opposition to Keokuk, at once refused to accede to this cession and threatened to retaliate if his lands were invaded. This precipitated what is known as the Black Hawk War. Settlers began pouring into the new region in the early spring of 1831, and Black Hawk in June attacked several villages near the Illinois-Wisconsin line. After massacring several isolated families, he was driven off by a force of Illinois militia. He renewed his attack in the following year (1832), but after several minor engagements, in most of which he was successful, he was defeated (21st of July) at Wisconsin Heights on the Wisconsin river, opposite Prairie du Sac, by Michigan volunteers under Colonels Henry Dodge and James D. Henry, and fleeing westward was again decisively defeated on the Mississippi at the mouth of the Bad Axe river (on the 1st and 2nd of August) by General Henry Atkinson. His band was completely dispersed, and he himself was captured by a party of Winnebagoes. At Fort Armstrong, Rock Island, on the 21st of September, a treaty was signed, by which a large tract of the Sauk and Fox territory was ceded to the United States; and the United States granted to them a reservation of 400 sq. m., the payment of $20,000 a year for thirty years, and the settlement of certain traders’ claims against the tribe. With several warriors Black Hawk was sent to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, where he was confined for a few weeks; afterwards he was taken by the government through the principal Eastern cities. On his release he settled in 1837 on the Sauk and Fox reservation on the Des Moines river, in Iowa, where he died on the 3rd of October 1838.

See Frank E. Stevens, The Black Hawk War (Chicago, 1903); R. G. Thwaites, “The Story of the Black Hawk War” in vol. xii. of the Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin; J. B. Patterson, Life of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak or Black Hawk (Boston, 1834), purporting to be Black Hawk’s story as told by himself; and Benjamin Drake, Life of Black Hawk (Cincinnati, 1846).