Early in April, 1832, Brig. General Atkinson, with about three hundred troops, was ordered to Fort Armstrong to prevent a threatened war between the Menominee and Fox Indians, on account of a massacre, committed by a band of the latter on a small band of drunken Menominee the previous summer at a point near Fort Crawford. To prevent bloodshed he was directed to demand the murderers of the Foxes; but on arriving at Rock Island he soon learned that there was imminent danger of a war of a different character–that Black Hawk, with his entire band, was then on his way to invade the State of Illinois and would probably be joined by the Pottawattomie and Winnebago. In order to ascertain the facts in the case, he called upon the Indian Agent and Col. George Davenport, both located here, and requested them to furnish, in writing, all the information they had in relation to the movements and intentions of Black Hawk in coming to the State of Illinois. Both gentlemen replied to his inquiries immediately as follows:
Rock Island, April 12, 1832.
My opinion is that the squaws and old men have gone to the Prophet’s town, on Rock river, and the warriors are now only a few miles below the mouth of Rock river, within the limits of the State of Illinois. That these Indians are hostile to the whites there is no doubt. That they have invaded the State of Illinois, to the great injury of her citizens, is equally true. Hence it is that that the public good requires that strong as well as speedy measures should be taken against Black Hawk and his followers.
Respectfully, I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
[Signed,] Andrew S. Hughes. To Brig-Gen. Atkinson.
Rock Island, April 13, 1832.
In reply to your inquiry of this morning, respecting the Indians, I have to state that I have been informed by the man I have wintering with the Indians that the British band of Sac Indians are determined to make war upon the frontier settlements. The British band of Sac Indians did rendezvous at old Fort Madison, and induced a great many of the young men to join them on their arrival at the Yellow Banks. They crossed about five hundred head of horses into the State of Illinois, and sent about seventy horses through the country toward Rock River. The remainder, some on horseback the others in canoes, in a fighting order, advanced up the Mississippi, and were encamped yesterday five or six miles below Rock river and will no doubt endeavor to reach their stronghold in the Rock river swamps if they are not intercepted. From every information that I have received, I am of the opinion that the intentions of the British band of Sac Indians is to commit depredations on the inhabitants of the frontier.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
George Davenport. [Signed,] “To Brig. Gen. Atkinson.”
Being satisfied from the information thus acquired, that there was danger ahead for the small settlements of whites in the Northern portion of the State, he immediately addressed a letter to Gov. Reynolds, of Illinois, from which we take the following:
Fort Armstrong, April 13, 1832.
The band of Sacs, under Black Hawk, joined by about one hundred Kickapoo and a few Pottawattomie, amounting in all to about five hundred men, have assumed a hostile attitude. They crossed the river at the Yellow, Banks on the sixth inst., and are now moving up on the east side of Rock river, towards the Prophet’s village.
“The regular force under my command is too small to justify me in pursuing the hostile party. To make an unsuccessful attempt to coerce them would only irritate them to acts of hostility on the frontier sooner than they probably contemplate.
“Your own knowledge of the character of these Indians, with the information herewith submitted, will enable you to judge of the course proper to pursue. I think the frontier is in great danger, and will use all the means at my disposal to co-operate with you in its protection and defense.
With great respect, Your most obedient servant,
H. Atkinson, Brigadier General of the U. S. Army, His Excellency, Gov. Reynolds, Belleville, Ills.”
On receipt of Gen. Atkinson’s letter, Gov. Reynolds issued his proclamation, calling out a strong detachment of militia to rendezvous at Beardstown on the 22d of April. In obedience to this command a large number of citizens assembled and offered their services. They were met by Gov. Reynolds, and after bring organized into a brigade, he appointed Brig. Gen. Samuel Whitesides commander. His brigade embraced 1600 horsemen and two hundred footmen–being four regiments and an odd spy battalion.
First regiment, Col. Dewitt; second, Col. Fry; third, Col. Thomas; fourth, Col. Thompson; Col. James D. Henry, commanded the spy battalion.
The troops took up their line of march at once, under command of Gen. Whitesides, accompanied by the Commander-in-Chief, Gov. Reynolds. For the purpose of laying in provisions for the campaign they went to Yellow Banks, on the Mississippi river, where Major S. S. Phelps, who had been appointed quarter master, supplied them. They arrived on the 3d of May, and left for Rock river on the 7th.