History of the Butterfly, Part 99: The Survivors and Keokuk

Black Hawk knew he was defeated and attempted to negotiate a surrender on May 13, 1832, in the event that later became known as “The Battle of Stillman’s Run.”  After that event came a series of skirmishes and battles as Black Hawk tried unsuccessfully to escape with his people, or to surrender.  The Sauk fought desperately, often against superior forces.  Many were starving during the hostilities.  The Black Hawk War ended at “The Bad Ax Massacre”, where large numbers of warriors but also women and children were killed under a flag of truce by U. S. troops, guns firing from the steamboat Warrior, and Sioux (who were allied with the U.S.).

Black Hawk was captured later and turned over to the U. S. authorities.

A small group of survivors were reunited with Keokuk.  As John Shaw witnessed it:

“At the time of which I am now speaking, 1832, there was no settlement at what is now called Keokuck, except Stillwell’s cabins.  Not long after Black Hawk’s descent of the river as a prisoner, the remnant of his band arrived at that point, generally in canoes; warriors, women and children, numbering perhaps two hundred altogether, disembarked, and sat down along the beach.  Keokuk, at the head of a few followers, now made his appearance—his first meeting with them since their departure on their disastrous hegira.  He appeared to be some thirty years of age; and as he approached and beheld his surviving countrymen and associates, some wounded, and all haggard, and a most pitiable condition, now returning, and looking to him as the most influential chief of the Sauk and Fox nations, for friendship and protection, he was deeply moved at the sight.  He walked along their line forward and backward, for some minutes, the working of the muscles of his face, and even his brawny limbs, evincing the strong agitation of his mind at beholding such a scene.  He burst into a flood of tears as he said touchingly:

‘My mothers, my sisters, my brothers!  I forewarned you of what I believed was inevitable—that should you persist in marching off in abody, your attitude would be regarded as a hostile one, and you would be destroyed.  The destruction of that portion of our nation, of which you are the remnant, has been nearly effected.  Your leader is gone—he is in the keeping of the whites—we know not what will be his fate.  But you must submit to your condition, and must now fully identify yourselves with us, the peaceful portion of the nation, and we will, to the utmost of our ability, alleviate your sufferings, and supply your wants.  You know me well, and know that I never had a desire to go to war, either against the white or the red man, and always endeavored to inculcate by my own example, that peace was our true policy.  Now my advice to you, young men, the remnant of a noble band, is to pursue the game in the forest, and not seed the destruction of your fellowmen, while your women cultivate the soil at some place chosen for the purpose, and there live in peace and harmony with all.’

All were deeply affected, and wept like children, and seemed like so many returning prodigals.  I was present at this scene, and had my feelings as deeply stirred within me as the rest.  Gathering up what little they had, they now followed Keokuk a few miles up the Des Moines, where he and his people resided.”

Shaw, 1888

painting from McKenney, 1872

About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
This entry was posted in American Indians, Black Hawk, Fox tribe, Keokuk, The History of the Butterfly and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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