[Marxism] Black Hawk
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 2 14:06:05 MST 2006
Bookforum, Feb.-Mar 2006
John Mack Faragher on Kerry A. Trasks Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart
of America and Stuart Banners How the Indians Lost Their Land: Law and
Power on the Frontier
In early April 1832, Black Hawk's band of Saukssome two thousand men,
women, and children, including several hundred well-armed warriorscrossed
the Mississippi near the mouth of the Iowa River and began making their way
north toward Saukenuk, their traditional summer village, at the junction of
the Mississippi and Rock rivers (now within the city limits of Rock Island,
Illinois). A startled American settler encountered them along the river
road. They had come in peace to reclaim their village, the Sauks told him,
"but if the Whites want War they shall have it."
That was precisely what many Americans wanted. Historian Kerry A. Trask
makes this clear in Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America, both a
biography of the Sauk leader (Makataimeshekiakiak"Black Sparrow Hawk"in
the Sauk language) and a history of the war that took his name, a war that
was nothing short of an instance of American genocide. Trask quotes General
Henry Atkinson, commander of a small force of US Army troops sent to patrol
the northern Illinois frontier: "I will treat them like dogs," he sneered.
"If Black Hawk's band strikes one white man[,] in a short time they will
cease to exist!" Atkinson was blusteringhe was unwilling to take on such a
large forcebut his rhetoric was commonplace. Indian hating, Trask
understands, was part of the very character of American settler society.
Atkinson wrote Illinois governor John Reynolds for assistance, warning that
"the frontier is in great danger." Reynolds responded quickly. Facing
reelection and sensing the political advantage of a quick and violent
strike against a despised enemy, he called out the militia.
It was mid-May by the time several hundred disorderly volunteers, including
a young captain named Abraham Lincoln, caught up with the Sauks along the
Rock River. Thus far there had been no violence. Black Hawk had expected
support from other tribes, possibly from the British in Canada as well, but
none materialized. Now uncertain of his course and fearing for the safety
of the women and children, he sent a delegation out to parley with the
American officers under a flag of truce. Here was an opportunity to end the
crisis. But eager for a fight, the Americans attacked, killing two of the
Sauks. Believing himself (erroneously) to be greatly outnumbered, Black
Hawk nevertheless thought he had no choice but to order his men to charge.
It quickly turned into a rout. Confronted with fierce warriors, the
undisciplined settlers panicked and fled in wild confusion. Soon Indians
were raiding isolated settler cabins in the area, killing, scalping, taking
captives, and terrorizing the entire region. There was an outcry for
revenge. One editor urged Reynolds to "carry on a war of extermination
until there shall be no Indian (with his scalp on) left in the northern
part of Illinois." The modern term for extermination is genocide.
Like most violent conflicts between American settlers and Indians, the
Black Hawk War was fought over land. There had been a long lead-up to this
confrontation. The American position was that the Sauks had ceded their
territory years before, in 1804, when General William Henry Harrison
cajoled several minor chiefs to sign a treaty giving up all their lands
east of the Mississippi, as well as some of their claims to the west,
reportedly using whiskey to smooth the negotiations. Legitimate Sauk
leaders protested as soon as they got news of the treaty, making it
perfectly clear that as far as they were concerned it was null and void.
The Americans ignored them.
More information about the Marxism