By john g. Nioolay and john hay

Download 4.94 Mb.
Size4.94 Mb.
1   ...   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   ...   45

chap. v. the word of Mr. Lincoln for it, that no subsequent success ever gave him such unmixed pleasure as this earliest distinction. It was a sincere, unsought tribute of his equals to those physical and moral qualities which made him the best man of his hun­dred, and as such was accepted and prized.

At the Beardstown rendezvous, Captain Lincoln's company was attached to Colonel Samuel Thomp­son's regiment, the Fourth Illinois, which was organ­ized at Eichland, Sangamon County, on the 21st of April, and moved on the 27th, with the rest of the command under General Samuel Whitesides, for Yellow Banks, where the boats with provisions had been ordered to meet them. It was arduous march­ing. There were no roads and no bridges, and the day's task included a great deal of labor. The third day out they came to the Henderson Eiver, a stream some fifty yards wide, swift and swollen with the spring thaws, with high and steep banks. To most armies this would have seemed a serious obstacle, but these backwoodsmen swarmed to the


Reynolds, work like beavers, and in less than three hours the river was crossed with the loss of only one or two horses and wagons. When they came to Yellow Banks, on the Mississippi, the provision-boats had not arrived, and for three days they waited there literally without food ; very uncomfortable days for Governor Eeynolds, who accompanied the ex­pedition, and was forced to hear the outspoken comments of two thousand hungry men on his supposed inefficiency. But on the 6th of May the William Wallace arrived, and "this sight," says the Governor with characteristic sincerity, "was, I presume, the most interesting I ever beheld."


From there they marched to the mouth of Rock chap.v. River, and thence Q-eiieral Whitesides proceeded with his volunteers up the river some ninety miles to Dixon, where they halted to await the arrival of General Atkinson with the regular troops and pro­visions. There they found two battalions of fresh horsemen under Majors Stillman and Bailey, who had as yet seen no service and were eager for the fray. "Whitesides's men were tired with their forced march, and besides, in their ardor to get forward, they had thrown away a good part of their pro­visions and left their baggage behind. It pleased the Governor, therefore, to listen to the prayers of Stillman's braves, and he gave them orders to proceed to the head of Old Man's Greek, where it was supposed there were some hostile Indians, and coerce them into submission. " I thought," says the Governor in his memoirs," they might discover the enemy."

The supposition was certainly well founded. They rode merrily away, came to Old Man's Creek, thereafter to be called Stillman's Run, and en­camped for the night. By the failing light a small party of Indians was discovered on the summit of a hill a mile away, and a few courageous gentle­men hurriedly saddled their horses, and, without orders, rode after them. The Indians retreated, but were soon overtaken, and two or three of them killed. The volunteers were now strung along a half mile of hill and valley, with no more order or care than if they had been chasing rabbits. Black Hawk, who had been at supper when the running fight began, hastily gathered a handful of warriors and attacked the scattered whites. The onset of

I CERTIFY, That *&£&^ iS^J^ volunteered and served

?n ^e Company of Mounted Volunteers under my command, in the Regiment commanded by Col. samuel M. thompson, in the Brigade under the com­mand of Generals S. whiteside and H. atkinson, called into the service of the United States by the Commander-in-XJhief of the Militia of the State, for the protection of the North Western Frontier against an Invasion of the British Band of "Sac and other tribes of Indians} — that he was enrolled on the day of ^^^L^^JC 1832, and was HONORABLY DISCHARGED on the

rtt^p j ^ ^

^ day of ^H^t thereafter, having served */v c*e£"*2&S


Given under my hand, this Q&/ day of




the savages acted like an icy bath on the red-hot chap. v. valor of the volunteers; they turned and ran for their lives, stampeding the camp as they fled. There was very little resistance — so little that Black Hawk, fearing a ruse, tried to recall his warriors from the pursuit, but in the darkness and confusion could not enforce his orders. The Indians killed all they caught up with; but the volunteers had the fleeter horses, and only eleven were overtaken. The rest reached Bixon by twos and threes, rested all night, and took courage. G-eneral Whitesides marched out to the scene of the disaster the next morning, but the Indians were gone. They had broken up into small parties, and for several days they reaped the bloody fruit of their victory in the massacre of peaceful settle­ments in the adjacent districts.

The time of enlistment of the volunteers had now come to an end, and the men, seeing no pros­pect of glory or profit, and weary of the work and the hunger which were the only certain incidents of the campaign, refused in great part to continue in service. But it is hardly necessary to say that Captain Lincoln was not one of these homesick soldiers. Not even the trammels of rank, which are usually so strong among the trailers of the saber, could restrain him from what he considered his simple duty. As soon as he was mustered out of his captaincy, he reenlisted on the same day, May 27, as a private soldier. Several other officers did the same, among them G-eneral Whitesides and Major John T. Stuart. Lincoln became a member of Captain Elijah Iles's company of mounted volun­teers, sometimes called the u Independent Spy Bat-


chap.v. talion," an organization unique of its kind, if we may judge from the account given by one of its troopers. It was not, says Mr. George M. Harrison, " under the control of any regiment or brigade, but received orders directly from the Commander-in-Chief, and always, when with the army, camped within the lines, and had many other privileges, such as having no camp duties to perform and drawing rations as much and as often as we pleased," which would seem to liken this battalion as nearly as possible to the fabled " regiment of brigadiers." With this elite corps Lincoln served through his second enlistment, though it was not his fortune to take part in either of the two engagements in which General James D. Henry, at the Wisconsin Bluffs and the Bad Axe, broke and destroyed forever the power of Black Hawk and the British band of Sacs and Foxes.

After Lincoln was relieved of the weight of dignity involved in his captaincy, the war became a sort of holiday, and the tall private from New Salem enjoyed it as much as any one. He entered with great zest into the athletic sports with which soldiers love to beguile the tedium of camp. He was admitted to be the strongest man in the a,rmy? and, with one exception, the best wrestler. Indeed, his friends never admitted the exception, and severely blamed Lincoln for confess­ing himself defeated on the occasion when he met the redoubtable Thompson, and the two fell together on the turf. His popularity increased from the beginning to the end of the campaign, and those of his comrades who still survive always speak with hearty and affectionate praise of his


character and conduct in those rough yet pleasantly chap. v. remembered days.

The Spy Battalion formed no part of G-eneral Henry's forces when, by a disobedience of orders as prudent as it was audacious, he started with his slender force on the fresh trail which he was sure would lead him to Black Hawk's camp. He found and struck the enemy at bay on the bluffs of the Wisconsin River on the 21st of July, and inflicted upon them a signal defeat. The broken remnant of Black Hawk's power then fled for the Missis­sippi Eiver, the whole army following in close pur­suit— Greneral Atkinson in front and General Henry bringing up the rear. Fortune favored the latter once more, for while Black Hawk with a handful of men was engaging and drawing away the force under Atkinson, Greneral Henry struck the main trail, and brought on the battle of the Bad Axe, if that could be called a battle which was an easy slaughter of the weary and discouraged savages, fighting without heart or hope, an army in front and the great river behind. Black Hawk escaped the fate of his followers, to be captured a few days later through the treachery of his allies. He was carried in triumph to Washington and pre­sented to President Jackson, to whom he made this stern and defiant speech, showing how little age or disaster could do to tame his indomitable spirit: "I am a man and you are another. I did not expect to conquer the white people. I took up the hatchet to avenge injuries which could no longer be borne.1 Had I borne them longer my

1 It is a noteworthy coincidence calls for troops "to redress that President Lincoln's procla- wrongs already long enough en-mation at the opening of the war dured,"



chap, v, people would have said: ' Black Hawk is a squaw; lie is too old to be a chief; he is no Sac.' This caused me to raise the war-whoop. I say no more of it; all is known to you." He returned to Iowa, and died on the 3d of October, 1838, at his camp on the river Des Moines. He was buried in gala dress, with cocked hat and sword, and the medals presented him by two governments. He was not allowed to rest even in his grave, His bones were ms. letters exhumed by some greedy wretch and sold from

Thomas hand to hand till they came at last to the Burling-'1 ton Museum, where they were destroyed by fire.

It was on the 16th of June, a month before the slaughter of the Bad Axe, that the battalion to which Lincoln belonged was at last mustered out, at Whitewater, "Wisconsin. His final release from the service was signed by a young lieutenant of artillery, Eobert Anderson, who, twenty-nine years later, in one of the most awful crises in our annals, was to sustain to Lincoln relations of prodigious importance, on a scene illuminated by the flash of the opening guns of the civil war.1 The men

1A story to the effect that Lincoln was mustered into serv­ice by Jefferson Davis has for a long time been current, but the strictest search in the records fails to confirm it. We are indebted to General E. C. Drum, Adjutant-General of the Army, for an interesting letter giving all the known facts in relation to this story. General Drum says : "The company of the Fourth Eegiment Illinois Mounted Vol­unteers, commanded by Mr. Lincoln, was, with others, called out by Governor Reynold s, and was organized at Eichland, San-

gamon County, Illinois, April 21, 1832. The muster-in roll is not on file, but the records show that the company was mustered out at the mouth of Fox River, May 27, 1832, by Nathaniel Buck-master, Brigade-Major to General Samuel Whitesides's Illinois Vol­unteers. On the muster-roll of Captain Elijah Iles's company, Illinois Mounted Volunteers, A. Lincoln (Sangamon County) appears as a private from May 27, 1832, to June 16, 1832, when the company was mustered out of service by Lieutenant Eobert Anderson, Third United




started home the next day in high spirits, like chap.v. school-boys for their holidays. Lincoln had need, like Horatio, of his good spirits, for they were his only outfit for the long journey to New Salem, he and his mess-mate Harrison1 having had their horses stolen the day before by some patriot over­anxious to reach home. But, as Harrison says, " I laughed at our fate, and he joked at it, and we all started off merrily. The generous men of our com­pany walked and rode by turns With us, and we fared about equal with the rest. But for this gen­erosity our legs would have had to do the better work; for in that day this dreary route furnished no horses to buy or to steal; and, whether on horse

States Artillery and Colonel (Assistant Inspector - G-eneral) Illinois Volunteers. Brigadier-General Henry Atkinson, in his report of May 30, 1832, stated that the Illinois Volunteers were called out by the 0-overnor of that State, but in haste and for no definite period of service. On their arrival at Ottawa they became clamorous for their dis­charge, which the Governor granted, retaining— of those who were discharged and volunteered for a further period of twenty days — a sufficient number of men to form six companies, which General Atkinson found at Ottawa on his arrival there from Rock Eiver. General Atkinson further reports that these companies and some three hundred regular troops, remaining in position at Eock River, were all the force left him to keep the enemy in check until the assemblage of the three thousand additional Illinois militia called out by the Governor upon his (General A.'s) requisi-

vol. I. —7

tion, to rendezvous at Ottawa, June 12-15, 1832.

" There can be no doubt that Captain Iles's company, men­tioned above, was one of the six which served until June 16, 1832, while the fact is fully established that the company of which Mr. Lincoln was a member was mustered out by Lieutenant Robert Anderson, who, in April, 1861, was in command of Fort Sumter. There is no evidence to show that it was mustered in by Lieutenant Jefferson Davis. Mr. Davis's company (B, First United States Infantry) was stationed at Fort Crawford, Wisconsin, during the months of January and Feb­ruary, 1832, and he is borne on the rolls as ' absent on detached service at the Dubuque mines by order of Colonel Morgan.' From March 26 to August 18, 1832, the muster-rolls of his company re­port him as absent on furlough."

1 George M. Harrison, who gives an account of his personal experiences in Lamon, p. 116.


chap. v. or afoot, we always had company, for many of the horses' backs were too sore for riding." It is not hard to imagine with what qnips and quirks of native fancy Lincoln and his friends beguiled the way through forest and prairie. With youth, good health, and a clear conscience, and even then the dawn of a young and undefiled ambition in his heart, nothing was wanting to give zest and spice to this long, sociable walk of a hundred leagues. One joke is preserved, and this one is at the expense of Lincoln. One chilly morning he com­plained of being cold. "No wonder," said some facetious cavalier, " there is so much of you on the ground."l "We hope Lincoln's contributions to the fun were better than this, but of course the pros­perity of these jests lay rather in the liberal ears that heard them than in the good-natured tongues that uttered them.

Lincoln and Harrison could not have been alto­gether penniless, for at Peoria they bought a canoe and paddled down to Pekin, Here the ingenious Lincoln employed his hereditary talent for car­pentry by making an oar for the frail vessel while Harrison was providing the commissary stores. The latter goes on to say: " The river, being very low, was without current, so that we had to pull hard to make half the speed of legs on land; in fact, we let her float all night, and on the next morning always found the objects still visible that were beside us the previous evening. The water was remarkably clear for this river of plants, and the fish appeared to be sporting with us as we

1 Dr. Holland gives this homely later, when Lincoln had perma-joke (Life of Lincoln, p. 71), but iiently assumed shoes and had a transfers it to a time four years horse of his own.

Share with your friends:
1   ...   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   ...   45

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page