Cherokee Phoenix

From the New York Spectator

Published September, 22, 1832

Page 2 Column 4a

From the New York Spectator.


Sir, I perceive by the latest accounts from the remote west, that the Indian War is at end. Black Hawk and his three or four hundred miserable followers have been dispersed, after an apology for a battle of less importance than a respectable skirmish, and the whites are in full pursuit o'er brakes and bogs and fens, of a foe whom they are destined not to overtake. Gen. Scott can now return to his quarters in N. Y. while his subordinate officers are left to collect the remains of their scattered battalions-scattered by disease, or slain by the Destroying Angel-and bring back the remains in the best manner they can. Neither General Scott, nor any portion of his ill fated expedition, despatched under such a flourish of trumpets, has seen an Indian. But that was no fault of the commander, or of those under him. No one doubted that, under such conduct, all that bravery and skill could accomplish, would be achieved. But the campaign was completely broken up by the direct interposition of Heaven. And even had it been otherwise, this boasted expedition would have had nothing to do. They would never have seen an Indian; and so I have said from the first moment that the war blast of the bugle was wound at Governor's Island.

When Messrs. Editors, will the American people open their eyes to the deceptions practiced upon them by those enjoying their misplaced confidence! The fact is, in the first place, that these troubles with the Sacs and Foxes, under Black Hawk, had their origin in the injustice of the whites, combined with the ignorance of the Indians; and, secondly, as will presently be seen, in the boasted system of Jackson Reform. And as for the war, it has been one of the sheerest humbugs ever played off upon a credulous people. I have just risen from a full and highly interesting conversation with a distinguished gentleman from Illinois, who is intimately acquainted with the whole matter, and who has not only a personal knowledge of Black Hawk, but has conversed with him upon the very subject of the existing difficulties.

It was, I believe, in 1825 that the last treaty was negotiated with Black Hawk and his fellow chiefs, for a cession of territory to the United S. It was the desire of the Commissioners on the part of the latter, to have the line of purchase drawn from the head of Lake Michigan directly across to a given point on the Mississippi. To this arrangement Black Hawk for a long time objected- alleging his apprehensions that the line proposed would include his own village. But after strong assurances that the said line would yet leave his village some thirty or more miles north of it, the Hawk consented to the sale, and the new boundary. In due time, however, it appeared that the fears of the chief were well founded, and the line was ascertained to run some two or three miles north of the favorite village of the Hawk. The chief and his tribe were dissatisfied, insisting that the equity they ought not to be deprived of their village, the site of which they had positively refused to sell. Meantime, well knowing where the line would strike, on an actual survey, several determined border men from Ohio penetrated farther into the wilderness, and planted themselves upon several tracts of fertile land in the neighborhood of the village, at different points, on a semi-circular line, as it were with the intention of completely surrounding the lodges of the wild-men. The Indians remonstrated against this inroad upon territory considered yet to be their own, and threatened frequently to drive the intruders away. But to no purpose. The squatters obstinately remained, and commenced cultivating the land. After the line had been ascertained by actual survey, an act was passed by congress, giving to the squatters upon the newly acquired territory the pre-emptive right to the lands in their immediate occupation-of which indulgence the troublesome neighbors of the Black Hawk lost no time in availing themselves, and took the necessary measures to secure their titles.

But the Indians understood not this proceeding. The intruders exhibited their certificates under the new laws, but the Indians knew nothing of the nature of pre-emptive rights, and continued to threaten them as before. It was sometime previous to this stage of controversy that a serious obstacle was thrown in the way of a good understanding by Gen. Jackson himself, in the application of his miserable system of REFORM to the Indian agencies. The Indian Agent for this station, (Major Forsyth) was removed, to make a place for some partizan favorite--and this place was filled by the appointment of somebody from Virginia, who had probably never even looked upon a wild Indian. At any rate, he was wholly unacquainted with the language of the Indians among whom he was to reside, and knew nothing of their manners, habits, customs, disposition. He of course, could not possess the confidence of these children of nature, and the removal of their former friend, Major Forsyth, who was in all respects an excellent officer, only served further to annoy them with further suspicions of mediated wrong.--But for his untimely and unnecessary change, such explanations would doubtless have been made as would have prevented mischief, although they might not have been perfectly satisfactory at first to the Indians. Such, however, was not the case; the new agent, although probably a good electioneerer in Virginia, knew nothing of his duties among the Sacs and Foxes. The fund between the Indians and their before mentioned instructive neighbors, continued, and became more aggravated. The former, in the night time, would go and throw down the fences of the white men; and the latter in turn threatened to shoot the trespassers. Thus matters stood for months. The intruders armed themselves and watched the Indians by night; but when thus on the watch, their fences were not molested. No sooner, however, were their backs turned, than their fences were again overthrown. But the Indians committed no further hostilities than these. They drew not a drop of blood until several of their own number had been killed by the white men.

Meantime, however, on a complaint to the repeated outrages of the Indians upon the aforesaid fences, and before any other act of hostility had been committed, Governor Reynolds of Illinois, whose political situation rendered action of some description necessary to sustain a waning popularity, ordered out two thousand militiamen to take the field; or rather the forest, against the Indians. this was the signal for the accounts of Indian hostilities-of massacres and murders which forthwith resounded throughout the whole nation. And of course it was the signal for the Indians to take up the tomahawk, and raise the war whoop. The subsequent incidents of this eventful history are pretty well known; and I am sorry to add my conviction that the whole affair will redound little to the credit of the United States, or to the parties more immediately concerned. The whole western country has been kept in a state of confusion, and sometimes of positive alarm, by the exaggerated stories spread abroad, of murders, and scalpings, and burnings of the most startling description, few of which ever took place. Countless hundreds, and even thousands of Indians, have been represented as prowling along the frontier settlements, committing such enormities as would 'freeze the young blood, and make each individual hair to stand erect like quills upon the fretful porcupine;' while in fact, the whole armed forces of Black Hawk has never, at any one time, exceeded about four hundred and fifty or five hundred warriors. And it is to conquer these poor hungry, ignorant, nay injured natives that the militia forces of the West have been so frequently dragged into the field by thousands; and at length the whole disposable force of our little army, with the gallant Scott at their head, collected at all points of the Union, and dispatched fifteen hundred miles up the Great Lakes, at an expense of one or two millions of the revenue! O! 'tis painful, 'tis wondrous pitiful! But we must submit, and the glories of this contest-for no doubt the results will be claimed as such-will all be poured into the 'measure' of the 'HERO'S' popularity!

The immediate cause of the great alarm in the Spring, in consequence of which the army was put in motion, was ludicrous enough. You recollect the bloody accounts which reached us of Major Stillman's defeat, with the reported loss of about two hundred and fifty men. Now, we have already been unformed of the fact, that less than a dozen of the two hundred and fifty were killed, and the supposed loss of the residue arose from the fact that they all ran away! These fugitives reported that they had encountered fifteen hundred Indians. But the ascertained facts are that this valiant battalion encountered only a scouting party of thirty Indian warriors, who, after one whoop and a fire, ran as fast from the whites as the whites did from them! The whites magnified each of these thirty into fifty, thus making up fifteen hundred; while the terrified Indians told Black Hawk that the whites on their trail were as numerous as the leaves on the trees! So much for the mighty Indian War. But there are no historians among the Indians.