Juliette Augusta Magill Kinzie
Part 6 out of 7
The arrival of my brother Arthur from Kentucky, by way of the
Mississippi, in the latter part of April, brought us the uncomfortable
intelligence of new troubles with the Sauks and Foxes. Black Hawk had,
with the flower of his nation, recrossed the Mississippi, once more to
take possession of their old homes and corn-fields.
It was not long before our own Indians came flocking in, to confirm the
tidings, and to assure us of their intention to remain faithful friends
to the Americans. We soon heard of the arrival of the Illinois Rangers
in the Rock River country, also of the progress of the regular force
under General Atkinson, in pursuit of the hostile Indians, who, by the
reports, were always able to elude their vigilance. It not being their
custom to stop and give battle, the Sauks soon scattered themselves
through the country, trusting to some lucky accident (and such arrived,
alas! only too often) to enable them to fall upon their enemies
The experience of the pursuing army was, for the most part, to make
their way, by toilsome and fatiguing marches, to the spot where they
imagined the Sauks would be waiting to receive them, and then to
discover that the rogues had scampered off to quite a different part of
Wherever these latter went, their course was marked by the most
atrocious barbarities, though the worst had not, at this time, reached
our ears. We were only assured that they were down in the neighborhood
of the Rock River and Kishwaukee, and that they lost no opportunity of
falling upon the defenceless inhabitants and cruelly murdering them.
As soon as it became certain that the Sauks and Foxes would not pursue
the same course they had on the previous year, that is, retreat
peaceably across the Mississippi, Mr. Kinzie resolved to hold a council
with all the principal chiefs of the Winnebagoes who were accessible at
this time. He knew that the Sauks would use every effort to induce their
neighbors to join them, and that there existed in the breasts of too
many of the young savages a desire to distinguish themselves by "taking
some white scalps." They did not love the Americans--why should they? By
them they had been gradually dispossessed of the broad and beautiful
domains of their forefathers, and hunted from place to place, and the
only equivalent they had received in exchange had been a few thousands
annually in silver and presents, together with the pernicious example,
the debasing influence, and the positive ill treatment of too many of
the new settlers upon their lands.
With all these facts in view, therefore, their Father felt that the
utmost watchfulness was necessary, and that the strongest arguments must
be brought forward, to preserve the young men of the Winnebagoes in
their allegiance to the Americans. Of the older members he felt quite
sure. About fifty lodges had come at the commencement of the
disturbances and encamped around our dwelling, saying that if the Sauks
attacked us it must be after killing them; and, knowing them well, we
had perfect confidence in their assurances.
But their vicinity, while it gave us a feeling of protection, likewise
furnished us with a channel of the most exciting and agitating daily
communications. As the theatre of operations approached nearer and
nearer, intelligence was brought in by their runners--now, that "Captain
Barney's head had been recognized in the Sauk camp, where it had been
brought the day previous," next, that "the Sauks were carrying
Lieutenant Beall's head on a pole in front of them as they marched to
meet the whites." Sometimes it was a story which we afterwards found to
be unhappily true, as that of the murder of their Agent, M. St Vrain, at
Kellogg's Grove, by the Sauks themselves, who ought to have protected
It was after the news of this last occurrence that the appointed council
with the Winnebagoes was to be held at the Four Lakes, thirty-five miles
distant from Fort Winnebago.
In vain we pleaded and remonstrated against such an exposure. "It was
his duty to assemble his people and talk to them," my husband said, "and
he must run the risk, if there were any. He had perfect confidence in
the Winnebagoes. The enemy, by all he could learn, were now far distant
from the Four Lakes--probably at Kosh-ko-nong. He would set off early in
the morning with Paquette, bold his council, and return to us the same
It were useless to attempt to describe our feelings during that long and
dreary day. When night arrived, the cry of a drunken Indian, or even the
barking of a dog, would fill our hearts with terror.
As we sat, at a late hour, at the open window, listening to every sound,
with what joy did we at length distinguish the tramp of horses! We knew
it to be Griffin and Jerry ascending the hill, and a cheerful shout soon
announced that all was well. My husband and his interpreter had ridden
seventy miles that day, besides holding a long "talk" with the Indians.
The Winnebagoes in council had promised to use their utmost endeavors to
preserve peace and good order among their young men. They informed their
Father that the bands on the Rock River, with the exception of
Win-no-sheek's, were all determined to remain friendly and keep aloof
from the Sauks. To that end, they were abandoning their villages and
corn-fields and moving north, that their Great Father, the President,
might not feel dissatisfied with them. With regard to Win-no-sheek and
his people, they professed themselves unable to answer.
Time went on, and brought with it stories of fresh outrages. Among these
were the murders of Auberry, Green, and Force, at Blue Mound, and the
attack on Apple Fort. The tidings of the latter were brought by old
Crely, the father of Mrs. Paquette, who rode express from Galena,
and who averred that he once passed a bush behind which the Sauks were
hiding, but that his horse smelt the sweet-scented grass with which they
always adorn their persons when on a war-party, and set out on such a
gallop that he never stopped until he arrived at the Portage.
Another bearer of news was a young gentleman named Follett, whose eyes
had become so protruded and set from keeping an anxious look-out for the
enemy, that it was many days after his arrival at a place of safety
before they resumed their accustomed limits and expression.
Among other rumors which at this time reached us, was one that an attack
upon Fort Winnebago was in contemplation among the Sauks. That this was
in no state of defence the Indians very well knew. All the effective
men had been withdrawn, upon a requisition from General Atkinson, to
join him at his newly-built fort at Kosh-ko-nong.
Fort Winnebago was not picketed in; there were no defences to the
barracks or officers' quarters, except slight panelled doors and
Venetian blinds--nothing that would long resist the blows of clubs or
hatchets. There was no artillery, and the Commissary's store was without
the bounds of the Fort, under the hill.
Mr. Kinzie had, from the first, called the attention of the officers to
the insecurity of their position in case of danger, but he generally
received a scoffing answer.
"Never fear," they would say; "the Sauks are not coming here to attack
One afternoon we were over on a visit to some ladies in the garrison,
and, several officers being present, the conversation, as usual, turned
upon the present position of affairs.
"Do you not think it wiser," inquired I of a blustering young officer,
"to be prepared against possible danger?"
"Not against these fellows," replied he, contemptuously.
"I do not think I would even take the trouble to fasten the blinds to my
"At least," said I, "if you some night find a tomahawk raised to cleave
your skull, you will have the consolation of remembering that you have
not been one of those foolish fellows who keep on the safe side."
He seemed a little nettled at this, and still more so when sister
"For my part, I am of Governor Cass's opinion. He was at Chicago during
the Winnebago war. We were all preparing to move into the fort on the
first alarm. Some were for being brave and delaying, like our friends
here. 'Come, come,' said the Governor, 'hurry into the fort as fast as
possible--there is no merit in being brave with the Indians. It is the
height of folly to stay and meet danger which you may by prudence
In a few days our friends waked up to the conviction that something must
be done at once The first step was to forbid any Winnebago coming within
the garrison, lest they should find out what they had known as well as
ourselves for three months past--namely, the feebleness of the means of
resistance. The next was to send fatigue-parties into the woods, under
the protection of a guard, to cut pickets for inclosing the garrison.
There was every reason to believe that the enemy were not very far
distant, and that their object in coming north was to break a way into
the Chippewa country, where they would find a place of security among
their friends and allies. The story that our Indian runners brought in
most frequently was, that the Sauks were determined to fall upon the
whites at the Portage and Fort, and massacre all, except the families of
the Agent and Interpreter.
Plante and Pillon with their families had departed at the first word of
danger. There only remained with us Manaigre, whose wife was a
half-Winnebago, Isidore Morrin, and the blacksmiths from Sugar
Creek--Mata and Turcotte.
At night we were all regularly armed and our posts assigned us. After
every means had been taken to make the house secure, the orders were
given. Sister Margaret and I, in case of attack, were to mount with the
children to the rooms above, while my husband and his men were to make
good their defence as long as possible against the enemy. Since I had
shown my sportsmanship by bringing down accidentally a blackbird on the
wing, I felt as if I could do some execution with my little pistols,
which were regularly placed beside my pillow at night; and I was fully
resolved to use them, if necessity required. I do not remember to have
felt the slightest compunction at the idea of taking the lives of two
Sauks, as I had no doubt I should do; and this explains to me what I had
before often wondered at, the indifference, namely, of the soldier on
the field of battle to the destruction of human life Had I been called
upon, however, to use my weapons effectually, I should no doubt have
looked back upon it with horror.
Surrounded as we were by Indian lodges, which seldom became perfectly
quiet, and excited as our nerves had become by all that we were daily in
the habit of hearing, we rarely slept very soundly. One night, after we
had as much as possible composed ourselves, we were startled at a late
hour by a tap upon the window at the head of our bed, and a call of
"Chon! Chon!" (John! John!)
"Tshah-ko-zhah?" (What is it?)
It was Hoo-wau-ne-kah, the Little Elk. He spoke rapidly, and in a tone
of great agitation. I could not understand him, and I lay trembling, and
dreading to hear his errand interpreted. Now and then I could
distinguish the words Sau-kee (Sauks) and Shoonk-hat-tay-rah (horse),
and they were not very reassuring.
The trouble, I soon learned, was this. A fresh trail had been observed
near the Petit Rocher, on the Wisconsin, and the people at the villages
on the Barribault were in a state of great alarm, fearing it might be
the Sauks. There was the appearance of a hundred or more horses having
passed by this trail. Hoo-wau-ne-kah had been dispatched at once to
tell their Father, and to ask his advice.
After listening to all he had to communicate, his Father told him the
trail was undoubtedly that of General Henry's troops, who were said to
have come north, looking for the enemy; that as the marks of the horses'
hoofs showed them, by this report, to have been shod, that was
sufficient proof that it was not the trail of the Sauks. He thought that
the people at the villages need not feel any uneasiness.
"Very well, Father," replied Hoo-wau-ne-kah; "I will go back and tell my
people what you say. They will believe you, for you always tell them the
truth. You are not like us Indians, who sometimes deceive each other."
So saying, he returned to his friends, much comforted.
The completion of the picketing and other defences, together with the
arrival of a detachment of troops from Fort Howard under Lieutenant
Hunter, at our fort, now seemed to render the latter the place of
greatest safety. We therefore regularly, every evening immediately
before dusk, took up our line of march for the opposite side of the
river, and repaired to quarters that had been assigned us within the
garrison, leaving our own house and chattels to the care of the
Frenchmen and our friends the Winnebagoes.
It was on one of these days that we were sitting at the windows which
looked out over the Portage--indeed, we seldom sat anywhere else, our
almost sole occupation being to look abroad and see what was coming
next--when a loud, long, shrill whoop from a distance gave notice of
something to be heard. "The news-halloo! what could it portend? What
were we about to hear?" By gazing intently towards the farthest
extremity of the road, we could perceive a moving body of horsemen,
which, as they approached, we saw to be Indians. They were in full
costume. Scarlet streamers fluttered at the ends of their lances--their
arms glittered in the sun. Presently, as they drew nearer, their paint
and feathers and brooches became visible. There were fifty or more
warriors. They passed the road which turns to the Fort, and rode
directly up the hill leading to the Agency. Shaw-nee-aw-kee was absent.
The Interpreter had been sent for on the first distant appearance of the
strangers, but had not yet arrived. The party, having ascended the hill,
halted near the blacksmith's shop, but did not dismount.
Our hearts trembled--it must surely be the enemy. At this moment my
husband appeared from the direction of the Interpreter's house. We
called to entreat him to stop, but he walked along towards the
To our infinite joy, we saw the chief of the party dismount, and all the
others following his example and approaching to shake hands.
A space was soon cleared around the leader and my husband, when the
former commenced an oration, flourishing his sword and using much
violent gesticulation. It was the first time I had seen an Indian armed
with that weapon, and I dreaded to perceive it in such hands. Sometimes
he appeared as if he were about to take off the head of his auditor at a
blow; and our hearts sank as we remembered the stratagems at Mackinac
and Detroit in former days. At length the speech was concluded, another
shaking of hands took place, and we saw my husband leading the way to
his storehouse, from which some of his men presently brought tobacco and
pipes and laid them at the feet of the chief.
Our suspense was soon relieved by being informed that the strangers were
Man-Eater, the principal chief of the Rock River Indians, who had come
with his band to "hold a talk" and bring information.
These Indians were under the special care of Mr. Henry Gratiot, and his
efforts had been most judicious and unremitting in preserving the good
feeling of this the most dangerous portion of the Winnebagoes.
The intelligence that Man-Eater, who was a most noble Indian in
appearance and character, brought us, confirmed that already received,
namely, that the Sauks were gradually drawing north, towards the
Portage, although he evidently did not know exactly their whereabouts.
There was, soon after they had taken leave, an arrival of another party
of Winnebagoes, and these requested permission to dance for their
The compliment having been accepted, they assembled, as usual, on the
esplanade in front of the house. My sister, the children, and myself
stationed ourselves at the open windows, according to custom, and my
husband sat on the broad step before the door, which opened from the
outer air directly into the parlor where we were.
The performance commenced, and as the dancers proceeded, following each
other round and round in the progress of the dance, my sister, Mrs.
Helm, remarked to me, "Look at that small, dark Indian, with the green
boughs on his person--that is _a Sauk!_ They always mark themselves in
this manner with white clay, and ornament themselves with leaves when
they dance!" In truth, I had never seen this costume among our own
Indians, and as I gazed at this one with green chaplets round his head
and his legs, and even his gun wreathed in the same manner, while his
body displayed no paint except the white transverse streaks with which
it was covered, I saw that he was, indeed, a stranger. Without owing
anything to the exaggeration of fear, his countenance was truly
He held his gun in his hand, and every time the course of the dance
brought him directly in front of where we sat, he would turn his gaze
full upon us, and club his weapon before him with what we interpreted
into an air of defiance. We sat as still as death, for we knew it would
not be wise to exhibit any appearance of fear; but my sister remarked,
in a low tone, "I have always thought that I was to lose my life by the
hands of the Indians. This is the third Indian war I have gone through,
and now, I suppose, it will be the last."
It was the only time I ever saw her lose her self-possession. She was
always remarkably calm and resolute, but now I could see that she
trembled. Still we sat there--there was a sort of fascination as our
imaginations became more and more excited. Presently some rain-drops
began to fall. The Indians continued their dance for a few minutes
longer, then, with whoopings and shoutings, they rushed simultaneously
towards the house. We fled into my apartment and closed the door, which
my sister at first held fast, but she presently came and seated herself
by me on the bed, for she saw that I could not compose myself. Of all
forms of death, that by the hands of savages is the most difficult to
face calmly; and I fully believed that our hour was come.
There was no interruption to the dance, which the Indians carried on in
the parlor, leaping and yelling as if they would bring down the roof
over our heads. In vain we tried to persuade my husband and the
children, through a crevice of the door, to come and join us. The
latter, feeling no danger, were too much delighted with the exhibition
to leave it, and the former only came for a moment to reassure me, and
then judged it wisest to return, and manifest his satisfaction at the
compliment by his presence. He made light of our fears, and would not
admit that the object of our suspicions was in fact a Sauk, but only
some young Winnebago, who had, as is sometimes the custom, imitated them
in costume and appearance.
It may have been "good fun" to him to return to his village and tell how
he frightened "the white squaws." Such a trick would not be unnatural in
a white youth, and perhaps, since human nature is everywhere the same,
it might not be out of the way in an Indian.
FLEEING FROM THE INDIANS.
The danger had now become so imminent that my husband determined to send
his family to Fort Howard, a point which was believed to be far out of
the range of the enemy. It was in vain that I pleaded to be permitted to
remain; he was firm.
"I must not leave my post," said he, "while there is any danger. My
departure would perhaps be the signal for an immediate alliance of the
Winnebagoes with the Sauks. I am certain that as long as I am here my
presence will act as a restraint upon them. You wish to remain and share
my dangers! Your doing so would expose us both to certain destruction in
case of attack By the aid of my friends in both tribes, I could hope to
preserve my own life if I were alone; but surrounded by my family, that
would be impossible--we should all fall victims together. My duty
plainly is, to send you to a place of safety."
An opportunity for doing this soon occurred. Paquette, the Interpreter,
who was likewise an agent of the American Fur Company, had occasion to
send a boat-load of furs to Green Bay, on their way to Mackinac. Mr.
Kinzie, having seen it as comfortably fitted up as an open boat of that
description could be, with a tent-cloth fastened on a frame-work of
hoop-poles over the centre and lined with a dark-green blanket, and
having placed on board an abundant store of provisions and other
comforts, committed us to the joint care of my brother Arthur and our
faithful blacksmith, Mata.
This latter was a tall, gaunt Frenchman, with a freckled face, a
profusion of crisp, sandy hair, and an inveterate propensity to speak
English. His knowledge of the language was somewhat limited, and he
burlesqued it by adding an s to almost every word, and giving out each
phrase with a jerk.
"Davids," he was wont to say to the little yellow fiddler, after an
evening's frolic at the Interpreter's, "Davids, clear away the tables
and the glasses, and play _fishes-hornspikes."_ He was a kind,
affectionate creature, and his devotion to "Monsieur Johns" and "Madame
Johns" knew no bounds.
Besides these two protectors, three trusty Indians, the chief of whom
was called _Old Smoker_, were engaged to escort our party. The crew of
the boat consisted entirely of French engages in the service of the Fur
Company. They were six gay-hearted, merry fellows, lightening their
labor with their pipe and their songs, in which latter they would have
esteemed it a great compliment to be joined by the ladies who listened
to them; but our hearts, alas! were now too heavy to participate in
The Fourth of July, the day on which we left our home, was a gloomy one
indeed to those who departed and to the one left behind. Who knew if we
should ever meet again? The experience which some of the circle had had
in Indian warfare was such as to justify the saddest forebodings. There
was not even the consolation of a certainty that this step would secure
our safety. The Sauks might, possibly, be on the other side of us, and
the route we were taking might perhaps, though not probably, carry us
into their very midst. It was no wonder, then, that our leave-taking was
a solemn one--a parting which all felt might be for this world.
Not _all_, however; for the gay, cheerful Frenchmen laughed and sang and
cracked their jokes, and "assured Monsieur John that they would take
Madame John and Madame Alum safe to the bay, spite of Sauks or wind or
Thus we set out on our journey. For many miles the Fort was in sight, as
the course of the river alternately approached and receded from its
walls, and it was not until nearly mid-day that we caught the last
glimpse of our home.
At the noon-tide meal, or pipe, of the voyageurs, an alarming discovery
was made: no bread had been put on board for the crew! How this
oversight had occurred, no one could tell. One was certain that a large
quantity had been brought from the garrison-bakery for their use that
very morning--another had even seen the sacks of loaves standing in
Paquette's kitchen. Be that as it may, there we were, many miles on our
journey, and with no provisions for the six Frenchmen, except some
salted pork, a few beans, and some onions. A consultation was held in
this emergency. Should they return to the Portage for supplies? The
same danger that made their departure necessary, still existed, and the
utmost dispatch had been enjoined upon them. We found upon examination
that the store of bread and crackers with which our party had been
provided was far-beyond what we could possibly require, and we thought
it would be sufficient to allow of rations to the Frenchmen until we
should reach Powell's, at the Butte des Morts, the day but one
following, where we should undoubtedly be able to procure a fresh
This decided on, we proceeded on our journey, always in profound
silence, for a song or a loud laugh was now strictly prohibited until we
should have passed the utmost limits of country where the enemy might
possibly be. We had been warned beforehand that a certain point, where
the low marshy meadows, through which the river had hitherto run, rises
into a more firm and elevated country, was the border of the Menomonee
territory, and the spot where the Sauks, if they had fled north of the
Wisconsin towards the Chippewa country, would be most likely to be
As we received intimation on the forenoon of the second day that we were
drawing near this spot, I must confess that "we held our breath for
The three Winnebagoes were in the bow of the boat. Old Smoker, the
chief, squatted upon his feet on the bench of the foremost rowers. We
looked at him. He was gazing intently in the direction of the wooded
point we were approaching. Our eyes followed his, and we saw three
Indians step forward and stand upon the bank. We said in a low voice to
each other, "If they are Sauks, we are lost, for the whole body must be
in that thicket." The boat continued to approach; not a word was spoken;
the dip of the paddle, and perhaps the beating hearts of some, were the
only sounds that broke the stillness. Again we looked at the chief. His
nostrils were dilated--his eyes almost glaring.
Suddenly, with a bound, he sprang to his feet and uttered his long,
"Hoh! hoh! hoh! Neechee (friend) _Muh-no-mo-nee!_"
All was now joy and gladness. Every one was forward to shake hands with
the strangers as soon as we could reach them, in token of our
satisfaction that they were Menomonees and not Sauks, of the latter of
whom, by the way, they could give us no intelligence.
By noon of that day we considered ourselves to be out of the region of
danger. Still, caution was deemed necessary, and when at the mid-day
pipe the boat was pushed ashore under a beautiful overhanging bank,
crowned with a thick wood, the usual vigilance was somewhat relaxed, and
the young people, under the escort of Arthur and Mata, were permitted to
roam about a little, in the vicinity of the boat.
They soon came back, with the report that the woods were "alive with
pigeons,"--they could almost knock them down with sticks; and earnestly
did they plead to be allowed to shoot at least enough for supper. But
no--the enemy might be nearer than we imagined--the firing of a gun
would betray our whereabouts--it was most prudent to give no notice to
friend or foe. So, very reluctantly, they were compelled to return to
the boat without their game.
The next morning brought us to Powell's, at the Butte des Morts. Sad
were the faces of the poor Frenchmen at learning that not a loaf of
bread was to be had. Our own store, too, was by this time quite
exhausted. The only substitute we could obtain was a bag of dark
looking, bitter flour. With this provision for our whole party, we were
forced to be contented, and we left the Hillock of the Dead, feeling
that it had been indeed the grave of our hopes.
By dint of good rowing, our crew soon brought us to the spot where the
river enters that beautiful sheet of water, Winnebago Lake. Though there
was but little wind when we reached the lake, the Frenchmen hoisted
their sail, in hopes to save themselves the labor of rowing across; but
in vain did they whistle, with all the force of their lungs--in vain did
they supplicate _La Vierge_, with a comical mixture of fun and
reverence. As a last resource, it was at length suggested by some one
that their only chance lay in propitiating the goddess of the winds with
an offering of some cast-off garment.
Application was made all round by Guardapie, the chief spokesman of the
crew. Alas! not one of the poor voyageurs could boast a spare article. A
few old rags were at length rummaged out of the little receptacle of
food, clothing, and dirt in the bow of the boat, and cast into the waves
For a moment all flattered themselves that the experiment had been
successful--the sail fluttered, swelled a little, and then flapped idly
down against the mast. The party were in despair, until, after a
whispered consultation together, Julian and Edwin stepped forward as
messengers of mercy. In a trice they divested themselves of jacket and
vest and made a proffer of their next garment to aid in raising the
At first there seemed a doubt in the minds of the boatmen whether they
ought to accept so magnificent an offer; but finding, on giving them a
preparatory shake, that the value of the contribution was less than they
had imagined, they, with many shouts and much laughter, consigned them
to the waves. To the great delight and astonishment of the boys, a
breeze at this moment sprang up, which carried the little vessel
beautifully over the waters for about half the distance to Garlic
Island. By this time the charm was exhausted, nor was it found possible
to renew it by a repetition of similar offerings. All expedients were
tried without success, and, with sundry rather disrespectful reflections
upon the lady whose aid they had invoked, the Frenchmen were compelled
to betake themselves to their oars, until they reached the island.
Two or three canoes of Winnebagoes arrived at the same moment, and their
owners immediately stepped forward with an offering of some sturgeon
which they had caught in the lake. As this promised to be an agreeable
variety to the noon-tide meal (at least for the Frenchmen), it was
decided to stop and kindle a fire for the purpose of cooking it. We took
advantage of this interval to recommend to the boys a stroll to the
opposite side of the island, where the clear, shallow water and pebbly
beach offered temptation to a refreshing bath. While they availed
themselves of this, under the supervision of Harry, the black boy, we
amused ourselves with gathering the fine red raspberries with which the
Our enjoyment was cut short, however, by discovering that the whole
place, vines, shrubs, and even, apparently, the earth itself, was
infested with myriads of the wood-tick, a little insect, that, having
fastened to the skin, penetrates into the very flesh, causing a swelling
and irritation exceeding painful, and even dangerous. The alarm was
sounded, to bring the boys back in all haste to the open and more
frequented part of the island. But we soon found we had not left our
tormentors behind. Throughout the day we continued to be sensible of
their proximity. From the effects of their attacks we were not relieved
for several succeeding days; those which had succeeded in burying
themselves in the flesh having to be removed with the point of a
penknife or a large needle. After partaking of our dinner, we stepped on
board our boat, and, the wind having risen, we were carried by the
breeze to the farther verge of the lake, and into the entrance of the
river, or, as it was called, the Winnebago Rapids.
On the point of land to the right stood a collection of neat bark
wigwams--this was Four-Legs' village.
It was an exciting and somewhat hazardous passage down the rapids and
over the Grand Chute, a fall of several feet; but it was safely passed,
and at the approach of evening the boat reached the settlement of the
Waubanakees at the head of the Little Chute. These are the Stockbridge
or Brothertown Indians, the remains of the old Mohicans, who had, a few
years before, emigrated from Oneida County, in the State of New York, to
a tract granted them by the United States, on the fertile banks of the
Fox River. They had already cleared extensive openings in the forest,
and built some substantial and comfortable houses near the banks of the
river, which were here quite high, and covered for the most part with
It was determined to ask hospitality of these people, to the extent of
borrowing a corner of their fire to boil our tea-kettle, and bake the
short-cake which had been now, for nearly two days, our substitute for
bread. Its manufacture had been a subject of much merriment. The
ingredients, consisting of Powell's black flour, some salt, and a little
butter, were mixed in the tin box which had held our meat. This was then
reversed, and, having been properly cleansed, supplied the place of a
dough-board. The vinegar-bottle served the office of rolling-pin, and a
shallow tin dish formed the appliance for baking. The Waubanakees were
so good as to lend us an iron bake-kettle, and superintend the cooking
of our cake after Harry had carried it up to their dwelling.
So kind and hospitable did they show themselves, that the crew of the
boat took the resolution of asking a lodging on shore, by way of relief
after their crowded quarters in the boat for the last three nights.
Arthur and Mata soon adopted the same idea, and we were invited to
follow their example, with the assurance that the houses were extremely
neat and orderly.
We preferred, however, as it was a fine night, and all things were so
comfortably arranged in the boat, to remain on board, keeping Edwin and
Josette with us.
The boat was tightly moored, for the little Chute was just below, and if
our craft should break loose in the rapid current, and drift down over
the falls, it would be a very serious matter. As an additional
precaution, one man was left on board to keep all things safe and in
order, and, these arrangements having been made, the others ascended the
bank, and took up their night's lodgings in the Waubanakee cabins.
It was a beautiful, calm, moonlight night, the air just sufficiently
warm to be agreeable, while the gentle murmur of the rapids and of the
fall, at no great distance, soon lulled our party to repose. How long we
had slumbered we knew not, when we were aroused by a rushing wind. It
bent the poles supporting the awning, snapped them, and, another gust
succeeding, tent and blanket were carried away on the blast down the
stream. The moonlight was gone, but a flash of lightning showed them
sailing away like a spectre in the distance.
The storm increased in violence. The rain began to pour in torrents, and
the thunder and lightning to succeed each other in fearful rapidity. My
sister sprang to waken the Frenchman. "Get up, Vitelle, quick," cried
she, in French, "run up the bank for Mata and Mr. Arthur--tell them to
come and get us instantly."
The man made her no reply, but fell upon his knees, invoking the Virgin
"Do not wait for the Virgin, but go as quickly as possible. Do you not
see we shall all be killed?"
"Oh! not for the world, madame, not for the world," said Vitelle,
burying his head in a pack of furs, "would I go up that bank in this
storm." And here he began crying most lustily to all the saints in the
It Was indeed awful. The roaring of the thunder and the flashing of the
lightning around us were like the continued discharge of a park of
artillery. I with some difficulty drew forth my cloak, and enveloped
myself and Josette--sister Margaret did the same with Edwin.
"Oh I madame," said the poor little girl, her teeth chattering with cold
and fright, "won't we be drowned?"
"Very well," said my sister to the Frenchman, "you see that Madame John
is at the last agony--if you will not go for help I must, and Monsieur
John must know that you left his wife to perish."
This was too much for Vitelle. "If I must, I must," said he, and with a
desperate bound he leaped on shore and sped up the hill with might and
In a few minutes, though it seemed ages to us, a whole posse came flying
down the hill. The incessant lightning made all things appear as in the
glare of day. Mata's curly hair fairly stood on end, and his eyes rolled
with ghastly astonishment at the spectacle.
"Oh, my God, Madame Johns! what would Monsieur Johns say, to see you
nows?" exclaimed he, as he seized me in his arms and bore me up the
hill. Arthur followed with sister Margaret, and two others with Edwin
and Josette. Nobody carried Vitelle, for he had taken care not to risk
his precious life by venturing again to the boat.
On arriving at the cabin where Arthur and Mata had been lodged, a fire
was, with some difficulty, kindled, and our trunks having been brought
up from the boat, we were at length able to exchange our drenched
garments, and those of the children, for others more comfortable, after
which we laid ourselves upon the clean but homely bed, and slept until
As it was necessary to ascertain what degree of damage the cargo of furs
had sustained, an early start was proposed. Apparently, the inhabitants
of the cottages had become weary in well-doing, for they declined
preparing breakfast for us, although we assured them they should be well
compensated for their trouble. We, consequently, saw ourselves compelled
to depart with very slender prospects of a morning meal.
When we reached the boat, what a scene presented itself! Bedclothes,
cloaks, trunks, mess-basket, packs of furs, all bearing the marks of a
complete deluge! The boat ankle-deep in water--literally no place on
board where we could either stand or sit. After some bailing out, and an
attempt at disposing some of the packs of furs which had suffered least
from the flood, so as to form a sort of divan in the centre of the boat,
nothing better seemed to offer than to re-embark, and endure what could
not be cured.
Our position was not an enviable one. Wherever a foot or hand was
placed, the water gushed up, with a bubbling sound, and, oh! the state
of the bandboxes and work-baskets! Breakfast there was none, for on
examining the mess-basket everything it contained was found mingled in
one undistinguishable mass. Tea, pepper, salt, short-cake, all floating
together--it was a hopeless case.
But this was not the worst. As the fervid July sun rose higher in the
heavens, the steam which exhaled from every object on board was nearly
suffocating. The boat was old--the packs of skins were old--their
vicinity in a dry day had been anything but agreeable--now it was
intolerable. There was no retreating from it, however; so we encouraged
the children to arm themselves with patience, for the short time that
yet remained of our voyage.
Seated on our odoriferous couch, beneath the shade of a single umbrella,
to protect our whole party from the scorching sun, we glided wearily
down the stream, through that long, tedious day. As we passed
successively the Kakalin, the Rapids, Dickenson's, the Agency, with what
longing eyes did we gaze at human habitations, where others were
enjoying the shelter of a roof and the comforts of food--and how eagerly
did we count the hours which must elapse before we could reach Port
There were no songs from the poor Frenchmen this day. Music and fasting
do not go well together. At length we stopped at Shanty-town, where the
boat was to be unloaded. All hands fell to work to transfer the cargo to
the warehouse of the Fur Company, which stood near the landing. It was
not a long operation, for all worked heartily. This being accomplished,
the voyageurs, one and all, prepared to take their leave. In vain Mata
stormed and raved--in vain Arthur remonstrated.
"No," they said, "they had brought the boat and cargo to the
warehouse--that was all of their job." And they turned to go.
"Guardapie," said I, "do you intend to leave us here?"
"Bien, madame! it is the place we always stop at."
"Does Monsieur John pay you for bringing his family down?"
"Oh, yes, Monsieur John has given us an order on the sutler, at the
Fort down below."
"To be paid when you deliver us safe at the Fort down below. It seems I
shall be there before you, and I shall arrange that matter. Monsieur
John never dreamed that this would be your conduct."
The Frenchmen consulted together, and the result was that Guardapie with
two others jumped into the boat, took their oars, and rather sulkily
rowed us the remaining two miles to Fort Howard.
FORT HOWARD--OUR RETURN HOME.
We soon learned that a great panic prevailed at Green Bay on account of
the Sauks. The people seemed to have possessed themselves with the idea
that the enemy would visit this place on their way to Canada to put
themselves under the protection of the British Government. How they were
to get there from this point--whether they were to stop and fabricate
themselves bark canoes for the purpose, or whether they were to charter
one of Mr. Newbery's schooners for the trip, the good people did not
seem fully to have made up their minds. One thing is certain, a portion
of the citizens were nearly frightened to death, and were fully
convinced that there was no safety for them but within the walls of the
old dilapidated fort, from which nearly all the troops had been
withdrawn and sent to Fort Winnebago some time previous.
Their fears were greatly aggravated by a report, brought by some
traveller, that he had slept at night on the very spot where the Sauks
breakfasted the next morning. Now, as the Sauks were known to be reduced
to very short commons, there was every reason to suppose that if the man
had waited half an hour longer they would have eaten him; so he was
considered to have made a wonderful escape.
Our immediate friends and acquaintances were far from joining in these
fears. The utter improbability of such a movement was obvious to all who
considered the nature of the country to be traversed, and the efficient
and numerous body of whites by whom they must be opposed on their
entrance into that neighborhood. There were some, however, who could not
be persuaded that there was any security but in flight, and eagerly was
the arrival of the "Mariner" looked for, as the anxiety grew more and
The "Mariner" appeared at last. It was early in the morning. In one hour
from the time of her arrival the fearful news she brought had spread the
whole length of the settlement--"the cholera was in this country! It was
in Detroit--it was among the troops who were on their way to the seat of
war! Whole companies had died of it in the river St. Clair, and the
survivors had been put on shore at Port Gratiot, to save their lives as
best they might!" We were shut in between the savage foe on one hand and
the pestilence on the other!
To those who had friends at the East the news was most appalling. It
seemed to unman every one who heard it. An officer who had exhibited the
most distinguished prowess in the battle-field, and also in some private
enterprises demanding unequalled courage and daring, was the first to
bring us the news. When he had communicated it, he laid his head
against the window-sill and wept like a child.
Those who must perforce rejoin friends near and dear, left the Bay in
the "Mariner;" all others considered their present home the safest; and
so it proved, for the dreadful scourge did not visit Green Bay that
The weather was intensely hot, and the mosquitoes so thick that we did
not pretend to walk on the parade after sunset, unless armed with two
fans, or green branches to keep constantly in motion, in order to
disperse them. This, by the way, was the surest method of attracting
them. We had somehow forgotten the apathetic indifference which had
often excited our wonder in Old Smoker, as we had observed him calmly
sitting and allowing his naked arms and person to become literally
_gray_ with the tormenting insects. Then he would quietly wipe off a
handful, the blood following the movement of the hand over his skin, and
stoically wait for an occasion to repeat the movement. It is said that
the mosquito, if undisturbed until he has taken his fill, leaves a much
less inflamed bite than if brushed away in the midst of his feast.
By day, the air was at this season filled with what is called the Green
Bay fly, a species of dragon-fly, with which the outer walls of the
houses are at times so covered that their color is hardly
distinguishable. Their existence is very ephemeral, scarcely lasting
more than a day. Their dead bodies are seen adhering to the walls and
windows within, and they fall without in such numbers that after a high
wind has gathered them into rows along the sides of the quarters, one
may walk through them and toss them up with their feet like the dry
leaves in autumn.
As we walked across the parade, our attention was sometimes called to a
tapping upon the bars of the dungeon in which a criminal was
confined--it was the murderer of Lieutenant Foster.
It may be remembered that this amiable young officer had been our
travelling companion in our journey from Chicago the preceding year.
Some months after his arrival at Port Howard, he had occasion to order a
soldier of his company, named Doyle, into confinement for intoxication.
The man, a few days afterwards, prevailed on the sergeant of the guard
to escort him to Lieutenant Foster's quarters on the plea that he wished
to speak to him. He ascended the stairs to the young officer's room,
while the sergeant and another soldier remained at the foot, near the
Doyle entered, and, addressing Lieutenant Foster, said, "Will you please
tell me, lieutenant, what I am confined for?"
"No, sir," replied the officer; "you know your offence well enough;
return to your place of confinement."
The man ran down-stairs, wrenched the gun from the sergeant's hand, and,
rushing back, discharged it at the heart of Lieutenant Foster.
He turned to go to his inner apartment, but exclaiming, "Ah me!" he fell
dead before the entrance.
Doyle, having been tried by a civil court, was now under sentence,
awaiting his execution. He was a hardened villain, never exhibiting the
slightest compunction for his crime.
The commanding officer, Major Clark, sent to him one day to inquire if
he wanted anything for his comfort.
"If the Major pleased," he replied, "he should like to have a light and
a copy of Byron's Works."
Some fears were entertained that he would contrive to make way with
himself before the day of execution, and, to guard against it, he was
deprived of everything that could furnish him a weapon. His food was
served to him in a wooden bowl, lest a bit of broken crockery might he
used as a means of self destruction.
One morning he sent a little package to the commanding officer as a
present. It contained a strong rope, fabricated from strips of his
blanket, that he had carefully separated, and with a large stout spike
at the end of it. The message accompanying it was, "He wished Major
Clark to see that if he chose to put an end to himself, he could find
means to do it in spite of him."
And this hardened frame of mind continued to the last. When he was led
out for execution, in passing beyond the gate, he observed a quantity of
lumber recently collected for the construction of a new Company's
"Ah, captain, what are you going to build here?" inquired he of Captain
Scott, who attended him.
"Doyle," replied his captain, "you have but a few moments to live--- you
had better employ your thoughts about something else."
"It is for that very reason, captain," said he, "that I am inquiring--as
my time is short, I wish to gain all the information I can while it
* * * * *
We were not suffered to remain long in suspense in regard to the friends
we had left behind. In less than two weeks Old Smoker again made his
appearance. He was the bearer of letters from my husband, informing me
that General Dodge was then with him at Port Winnebago, that Generals
Henry and Alexander were likewise at the Fort, and that as soon as they
had recruited their men and horses, which were pretty well worn out with
scouring the country after Black Hawk, they would march again in pursuit
of him towards the head-waters of the Rock River, where they had every
reason, from information lately brought in by the Winnebagoes, to
believe he would be found.
As he charged us to lay aside all uneasiness on his account, and
moreover held forth the hope of soon coming or sending for us, our minds
became more tranquil.
Not long after this, I was told one morning that "_a lady_" wished to
see me at the front door. I obeyed the summons, and, to my surprise, was
greeted by my friend _Madame Four-Legs._ After much demonstration of joy
at seeing me, such as putting her two hands together over her forehead
and then parting them in a waving kind of gesture, laughing, and patting
me on my arms, she drew from her bosom a letter from my husband, of
which she was the bearer. It was to this effect--"Generals Dodge and
Henry left here a few days since, accompanied by Paquette; they met the
Sauks near the Wisconsin, on the 21st. A battle ensued, in which upwards
of fifty of the enemy were killed--our loss was one killed, and eight
wounded. The _citizens_ are well pleased that all this has been
accomplished without any aid from _Old White Beaver._ The war must
be near its close, for the militia and regulars together will soon
finish the remaining handful of fugitives."
The arrival of Lieutenant Hunter, who had obtained leave of absence in
order to escort us, soon put all things in train for our return to Fort
Winnebago. No Mackinac boat was to be had, but in lieu of it a Durham
boat was procured. This is of a description longer and shallower than
the other, with no convenience for rigging up an awning, or shelter of
any kind, over the centre; but its size was better fitted to accommodate
our party, which consisted, besides our own family, of Lieutenant and
Mrs. Hunter, the wife of another officer now stationed at Port
Winnebago, and our cousin, Miss Forsyth. We made up our minds, as will
be supposed, to pretty close quarters.
Our crew was composed partly of Frenchmen and partly of soldiers, and,
all things being in readiness, we set off one fine bright morning in the
latter part of July.
Our second day's alternate rowing and poling brought us to the Grande
Chute early in the afternoon.
Here, it is the custom to disembark at the foot of the rapids, and,
ascending the high bank, walk around the fall, while the men pull the
boat up through the foaming waters.
Most of our party had already stepped on shore, when a sudden thought
seized one of the ladies and myself.
"Let us stay in the boat," said we, "and be pulled up the Chute." The
rest of the company went on, while we sat and watched with great
interest the preparations the men were making. They were soon overboard
in the water, and, attaching a strong rope to the bow of the boat, all
lent their aid in pulling as they marched slowly along with their heavy
load. The cargo, consisting only of our trunks and stores, which were of
no very considerable weight, had not been removed.
We went on, now and then getting a tremendous bump against a hidden
rock, and frequently splashed by a shower of foam as the waves roared
and boiled around us.
The men kept as close as possible to the high, precipitous bank, where
the water was smoothest. At the head of the _cordel_ was a merry
simpleton of a Frenchman, who was constantly turning his head to grin
with delight at our evident enjoyment and excitement.
We were indeed in high glee. "Is not this charming?" cried one. "I only
The wish, whatever it was, was cut short by a shout and a crash. "Have
a care, Robineau! Mind where you are taking the boat!" was the cry, but
it came too late. More occupied with the ladies than with his duty, the
leader had guided us into the midst of a sharp, projecting tree that
hung from the bank. The first tug ripped out the side of the boat, which
immediately began to fill with water.
My companion and I jumped upon the nearest rocks that showed their heads
above the foam. Our screams and the shouts of the men brought Lieutenant
Hunter and some Indians, who were above on the bank, dashing down to our
rescue. They carried us in their arms to land, while the men worked
lustily at fishing up the contents of the boat, now thoroughly saturated
We scrambled up the high bank, in a miserable plight, to join in the
general lamentation over the probable consequences of the accident.
"Oh! my husband's new uniform!" cried one, and "Oh! the miniatures in
the bottom of my trunk!" sighed another--while, "Oh! the silk dresses,
and the ribbons, and the finery!" formed the general chorus.
No one thought of the provisions, although we had observed, in our
progress to shore, the barrel of bread and the tub of ice, which
Lieutenant Hunter had providently brought for our refreshment, sailing
away on the dancing waves. Among the boxes brought to land, and "toted"
up the steep bank, was one containing some loaves of sugar and packages
of tea, which I had bought for our winter's supply from the sutler at
the post. The young Indian who was the bearer of it set it upon the
ground, and soon called my attention to a thick, white stream that was
oozing from the corners. I made signs for him to taste it. He dipped his
finger in it, and exclaimed with delight to his companions, when he
perceived what it was. I then pointed to his hatchet, and motioned him
to open the box. He did not require a second invitation--it was soon
backed to pieces.
Then, as I beckoned up all the rest of the youngsters who were looking
on, full of wonder, such a scrambling and shouting with delight
succeeded as put us all, particularly the boys, into fits of laughter.
Bowls, dippers, hands, everything that could contain even the smallest
quantity, were put in requisition. The squaws were most active. Those
who could do no better took the stoutest fragments of the blue paper in
which the sugar had been enveloped, and in a trice nothing remained but
the wet, yellow bundles of tea, and the fragments of the splintered box
which had contained it.
By this time fires had been made, and the articles from the trunks were
soon seen covering every shrub and bush in the vicinity. Fortunately,
the box containing the new uniform had been piled high above the others,
in the centre of the boat, and had received but little damage; but sad
was the condition of the wardrobes in general.
Not a white article was to be seen. All was mottled; blue, green, red,
and black intermingling in streaks, and dripping from ends and corners.
To add to the trouble, the rain began to fall, as rain is apt to do, at
an inconvenient moment, and soon the half-dried garments had to be
gathered out of the smoke and huddled away in a most discouraging
The tent was pitched, wet as it was, and the blankets, wrung out of the
water, and partially dried, were spread upon the ground for our
accommodation at night.
A Hamburg cheese, which had been a part of my stores, was voted to me
for a pillow, and, after a supper the best part of which was a portion
of one of the wet loaves which had remained in a barrel too tightly
wedged to drift away, we betook ourselves to our repose.
The next morning rose hot and sultry. The mosquitoes, which the rain
had kept at bay through the night, now began to make themselves amends,
and to torment us unmercifully.
After our most uncomfortable and unpalatable breakfast, the first
question for consideration was, what we were to do with ourselves. Our
boat lay submerged at the foot of the hill, half-way up the rapids. The
nearest habitation among the Waubanakees was some miles distant, and
this there was no means of reaching but by an Indian canoe, if some of
our present friends and neighbors would be so obliging as to bring one
for our use. Even then it was doubtful if boats could be found
sufficient to convey all our numerous party back to Green Bay.
In the midst of these perplexing consultations a whoop was heard from
beyond the hill, which here sloped away to the north, at the head of the
"There is John! that is certainly his voice!" cried more than one of the
It was, indeed, my husband, and in a moment he was among us. Never was
arrival more opportune, more evidently providential.
Not having learned our plans (for the unsettled state of the country had
prevented our sending him word), he had come provided with a boat, to
take us back to Fort Winnebago.
Our drying operations, which we had recommenced this morning, were soon
cut short. Everything was shuffled away in the most expeditious manner
possible, and in an incredibly short time we were transferred to the
other boat, which lay quietly above the Chute, and were pulling away
towards Winnebago Lake.
We had resolved to go only so far as the vicinity of the lake, where the
breeze would render the mosquitoes less intolerable, and then to stop
and make one more attempt at drying our clothing. Accordingly, when we
reached a beautiful high bank near the Little Butte, we stopped for that
purpose again, unpacked our trunks, and soon every bush and twig was
fluttering with the spoils of the cruel waves.
Hardly had we thus disposed of the last rag or ribbon when the tramp of
horses was heard, followed by loud shouts and cheers ringing through the
A company of about twenty-five horsemen, with banners flying, veils
fluttering from their hats, and arms glittering in the sun, rode into
our midst, and, amid greetings and roars of laughter, inquired into the
nature and reasons of our singular state of confusion.
They were Colonel Stambough and Alexander Irwin, of Green Bay, with a
company of young volunteers, and followed by a whooping band of
Menomonees, all bound for the seat of war. We comforted them with the
assurance that the victories were by this time all won and the scalps
taken; but, expressing the hope that there were yet a few laurels to be
earned, they bade us adieu, and rapidly pursued their march.
We crossed Lake Winnebago by the clear, beautiful light of a summer
moon. The soft air was just enough to swell the sail, and thus save the
men their labor at the oar.
The witchery of the hour was not, however, sufficient to induce us to
forego our repose after the heat and annoyances of the day--we therefore
disposed ourselves betimes, to be packed away in the centre of the boat.
How it was accomplished no one of the numerous company could tell. If
any accident had occurred to disturb our arrangement, I am sure it would
have been a Chinese puzzle to put us back again in our places. The men
on the outside had much the best of it, and we rather envied those who
were off watch, their ability to snore and change position as the humor
We reached Powell's just in time to have gone ashore and prepare our
breakfast had we had wherewithal to prepare it. We had hoped to be able
to procure some supplies here, for hitherto we had been living on the
remains of my husband's ample stock. That was now so nearly exhausted
that when we found the mess-basket could not be replenished at this
place we began to talk of putting ourselves on allowance.
The wet bread, of which there had remained an ample store, had, as may
be readily imagined, soon fermented under the influence of a July sun.
The tea, too, notwithstanding our careful efforts at drying it on
newspapers and pieces of board, ere long became musty and unfit for use.
There was, literally, nothing left, except the salted meat and a few
crackers, hardly sufficient for the present day.
The men were therefore urged to make all the speed possible, that we
might reach Gleason's, at Lake Puckaway, in good season on the following
At evening, when we stopped to take our tea at a beautiful little
opening among the trees, we found our old enemies, the mosquitoes, worse
than ever. It was necessary to put on our cloaks and gloves, and tie our
veils close around our throats, only venturing to introduce a cracker or
a cup of tea under this protection in the most stealthy manner.
The men rowed well, and brought us to Gleason's about eleven o'clock the
next day. We were greeted with the most enthusiastic demonstrations by
my old friend _La Grosse Americaine,_ who had removed here from
"Oh, Mrs. Armstrong," cried we, "get us some breakfast--we are
At that instant who should appear but our faithful Mata, driving the old
caleche in which we were in the habit of making our little excursions in
the neighborhood of the Port. He had ridden over, hoping to meet us, in
the idea that some of us would prefer this method of reaching our home.
With provident thoughtfulness, he had brought tea, roasted coffee, fresh
butter, eggs, etc., lest we should be short of such luxuries in that
advanced stage of our journey.
His "Good-morning, Madame Johns! How do you dos?" was a pleasant and
We could not wait for our breakfast, but gathered round La Grosse
Americaine like a parcel of children while she cut and spread slices of
bread-and-butter for us.
After our regular meal was finished, it was decided that sister Margaret
should take Josette, and return with Mata to open the house and make it
ready for our reception. It had been the head-quarters of militia,
Indians, and stragglers of various descriptions during our absence, and
we could easily imagine that a little "misrule and unreason" might have
had sway for that period.
We had yet seventy-two miles, by the devious winding course of the
river, over first the beautiful waters of Lac de Boeuf, and then through
the low, marshy lands that spread away to the Portage. An attempt was
made on the part of one of the gentlemen to create a little excitement
among the ladies as we approached the spot where it had been supposed
the Sauks might pass on their way to the Chippewa country.
"Who knows," said he, gravely, "but they may be lurking in this
neighborhood yet? If so, we shall probably have some signal. We must be
on the alert!"
Some of the ladies began to turn pale and look about them. After an
interval of perfect silence, a low, prolonged whistle was heard. There
was so much agitation, and even actual terror, that the mischievous
author of the trick was obliged to confess at once, and receive a hearty
scolding for the pain he had caused.
Just before sunset of the second day from Gleason's we reached our home.
Every thing was _radiant_ with neatness and good order. With the
efficient aid of our good Manaigre and his wife, the house had been
whitewashed from the roof to the door-sill, a thorough scrubbing and
cleansing effected, the carpets unpacked and spread upon the floors, the
furniture arranged, and, though last not least, a noble supper smoked
upon the board by the time we had made, once more, a civilized toilet.
Many of our friends from the Fort were there to greet us, and a more
happy or thankful party has seldom been assembled.
SURRENDER OF WINNEBAGO PRISONERS.
The war was now considered at an end. The news of the battle of the Bad
Axe, where the regulars, the militia, and the steamboat Warrior
combined, had made a final end of the remaining handful of Sauks, had
reached us and restored tranquillity to the hearts and homes of the
It may seem wonderful that an enemy so few in number and so
insignificant in resources could have created such a panic, and
required so vast an amount of opposing force to subdue them. The
difficulty had been simply in never knowing where to find them, either
to attack or guard against them. Probably at the outset every military
man thought and felt like the noble old veteran General Brady. "Give me
two infantry companies mounted," said he, "and I will engage to whip the
Sauks out of the country in one week!"
True, but to whip the enemy you must first meet him; and in order to
pursue effectually and _catch_ the Indians, a peculiar training is
necessary--a training which, at that day, few, even of the frontier
militia, could boast.
In some portions of this campaign there was another difficulty,--the
want of concert between the two branches of the service. The regular
troops looked with contempt upon the unprofessional movements of the
militia; the militia railed at the dilatory and useless formalities of
the regulars. Each avowed the conviction that matters could be much
better conducted without the other, and the militia, being prompt to
act, sometimes took matters into their own hands, and brought on defeat
and disgrace, as in the affair of "Stillman's Run."
The feeling of contempt which the army officers entertained for the
militia, extended itself to their subordinates and dependants. After the
visit of the Ranger officers to Fort Winnebago, before the battle of the
Wisconsin, the officer of the mess where they had been entertained
called up his servant one day to inquire into the sutler's accounts, He
was the same little "Yellow David" who had formerly appertained to
"David," said the young gentleman, "I see three bottles of cologne-water
charged in the month's account of the mess at the sutler's. What does
"If you please, lieutenant," said David, respectfully, "it was to
sweeten up the dining-room and quarters after them milish' officers were
Black Hawk and a few of his warriors had escaped to the north, where
they were shortly after captured by the One-eyed Day-kau-ray and his
party, and brought prisoners to General Street at Prairie du Chien. The
women and children of the band had been put in canoes and sent down the
Mississippi, in hopes of being permitted to cross and reach the rest of
The canoes had been tied together, and many of them were upset, and the
children drowned, their mothers being too weak and exhausted to rescue
them. The survivors were taken prisoners, and, starving and miserable,
were brought to Prairie du Chien. Our mother was at the Port at the time
of their arrival. She described their condition as wretched and reduced
beyond anything she had ever witnessed. One woman who spoke a little
Chippewa gave her an account of the sufferings and hardships they had
endured--it was truly appalling.
After having eaten such of the horses as could be spared, they had
subsisted on acorns, elm-bark, or even grass. Many had died of
starvation, and their bodies were found lying in their trail by the
pursuing whites. This poor woman had lost her husband in battle, and all
her children by the upsetting of the canoe in which they were, and her
only wish now was, to go and join them. Poor Indians! who can wonder
that they do not love the whites?
But a very short time had we been quietly at home when a summons came to
my husband to collect the principal chiefs of the Winnebagoes and meet
General Scott and Governor Reynolds at Rock Island, where it was
proposed to bold a treaty for the purchase of all the lands east and
south of the Wisconsin. Messengers were accordingly sent to collect the
principal men, and, accompanied by as many as chose to report
themselves, he set off on his journey.
He had been gone about two weeks, and I was beginning to count the days
which must elapse before I could reasonably expect his return, when, one
afternoon, I went over to pay a visit to my sister at the Fort. As I
passed into the large hall of one range of quarters, Lieutenant Lacy
came suddenly in from the opposite direction, and, almost without
"Bad news, madam! Have you heard it?"
"No. What is it?"
"The cholera has broken out at Rock Island, and they are dying by five
hundred a day. Dr. Finley has just arrived with the news." So saying, he
vanished, without stopping to answer a question.
The cholera at Rock Island, and my husband there! I flew to the other
door of the hall, which looked out upon the parade-ground. A sentinel
was walking near. "Soldier," cried I, "will you run to the young
officers' quarters and ask Dr. Finley to come here for a moment?"
The man shook his head--he was not allowed to leave his post.
Presently Mrs. Lacy's servant-girl appeared from a door under the steps.
She was a worthless creature, but where _help_ was so scarce ladies
could not afford to keep a scrupulous tariff of moral qualification.
"Oh! Catharine," said I, "will you run over and ask Dr. Finley to come
here a moment? I must hear what news he has brought from Rock Island."
She put on a modest look, and said,--
"I do not like to go to the young officers' quarters."
I was indignant at her hypocrisy, but I was also wild with impatience,
when to my great joy Dr. Finley made his appearance.
"Where is my husband?" cried I.
"On his way home, madam, safe and sound. He will probably be here
to-morrow." He then gave me an account of the ravages the cholera was
making among the troops, which were indeed severe, although less so than
rumor had at first proclaimed.
Notwithstanding the doctor's assurance of his safety, my husband was
seized with cholera on his journey. By the kind care of Paquette and the
plentiful use of chicken-broth which the poor woman at whose cabin he
stopped administered to him, he soon recovered, and reached his home in
safety, having taken Prairie du Chien in his route and brought his
mother with him again to her home.
The Indians had consented to the sale of their beautiful domain. Indeed,
there is no alternative in such cases. If they persist in retaining
them, and become surrounded and hemmed in by the white settlers, their
situation is more deplorable than if they surrendered their homes
altogether. This they are aware of, and therefore, as a general thing,
they give up their lands at the proposal of Government, and only take
care to make the best bargain they can for themselves. In this instance
they were to receive as an equivalent a tract of land extending to
the interior of Iowa, and an additional sum of ten thousand dollars
One of the stipulations of the treaty was, the surrender by the
Winnebagoes of certain individuals of their tribe accused of having
participated with the Sauks in some of the murders on the frontier, in
order that they might be tried by our laws, and acquitted or punished as
the case might be.
Wau-kaun-kah (the Little Snake) voluntarily gave himself as a hostage
until the delivery of the suspected persons. He was accordingly received
by the Agent, and marched over and placed in confinement at the Fort
until the seven accused should appear to redeem him.
It was a work of some little time on the part of the nation to persuade
these suspected individuals to place themselves in the hands of the
whites, that they might receive justice according to the laws of the
latter. The trial of Red Bird, and his languishing death in prison, were
still fresh in their memories, and it needed a good deal of resolution,
as well as a strong conviction of conscious innocence, to brace them up
to such a step.
It had to be brought about by arguments and persuasions, for the nation
would never have resorted to force to compel the fulfilment of their
In the mean time a solemn talk was held with the principal chiefs
assembled at the Agency. A great part of the nation were in the
immediate neighborhood, in obedience to a notice sent by Governor
Porter, who, in virtue of his office of Governor of Michigan Territory,
was also Superintendent of the Northwest Division of the Indians.
Instead of calling upon the Agent to take charge of the annuity money,
as had heretofore been the custom, the Governor had announced his
intention of bringing it himself to Fort Winnebago and being present at
the payment. The time appointed had now arrived, and with it the main
body of the Winnebagoes.
Such of the Indians as had not attended the treaty at Rock Island and
been instrumental in the cession of their country, were loud in their
condemnation of the step, and their lamentations over it. Foremost among
these was Wild-Cat, the Falstaff of Garlic Island and its vicinity. It
was little wonder that he should shed bitter tears, as he did, over the
loss of his beautiful home on the blue waters of Winnebago Lake.
"If he had not been accidentally stopped," he said, "on his way to the
treaty, and detained until it was too late, he would never, never have
permitted the bargain."
His Father, who knew that a desperate frolic, into which Wild-Cat had
been enticed by the way, was the cause of his failing to accompany his
countrymen to Rock Island, replied, gravely,--
"That he had heard of the chief's misfortune on this occasion. How that,
in ascending the Fox River, a couple of kegs of _whiskey_ had come
floating down the stream, which, running foul of his canoe with great
force, had injured it to such a degree that he had been obliged to stop
several days at the _Mee-kan,_ to repair damages."
The shouts of laughter which greeted this explanation were so contagious
that poor Wild-Cat himself was compelled to join in it, and treat his
misfortune as a joke.
The suspected Indians having engaged the services of Judge Doty to
defend them on their future trial, notice was at length given that on a
certain day they would be brought to the Portage and surrendered to
their Father, to be by him transferred to the keeping of the military
officer appointed to receive them.
It was joyful news to poor Wau-kaun-kah, that the day of his release was
at hand. Every time that we had been within the walls of the Fort we had
been saluted by a call from him, as he kept his station at the
"Do you hear anything of those Indians? When are they coming, that I may
be let out?"
We had endeavored to lighten his confinement by seeing that he was well
supplied with food, and his Father and Paquette had paid him occasional
visits; but, notwithstanding these attentions and the kindness he had
received at the Fort, his confinement was inexpressibly irksome.
On the morning of a bright autumnal day the authorities were notified
that the chiefs of the nation would present themselves at the Agency to
deliver the suspected persons as prisoners to the Americans.
At the hour of ten o'clock, as we looked out over the Portage road, we
could descry a moving concourse of people, in which brilliant color,
glittering arms, and, as they approached still nearer, certain white
objects of unusual appearance could be distinguished.
General Dodge, Major Plympton, and one or two other officers took their
seats with Mr. Kinzie on the platform in front of the door of our
mansion to receive them, while we stationed ourselves at the window
where we could both see and hear.
The procession wound up the hill, and approached, marching slowly
towards us. It was a grand and solemn sight. First came some of the
principal chiefs in their most brilliant array. Next, the prisoners, all
habited in white cotton, in token of their innocence, with girdles round
their waists. The music of the drum and the shee-shee-qua accompanied
their death-song, which they were chaunting. They wore no paint, no
ornaments--their countenances were grave and thoughtful. It might well
be a serious moment to them, for they knew but little of the customs of
the whites, and that little was not such as to inspire cheerfulness.
Only their Father's assurance that they should receive strict justice,
would probably have induced them to comply with the engagements of the
nation in this manner.
The remainder of the procession was made up of a long train of
Winnebagoes, all decked out in their holiday garb.
The chiefs approached and shook hands with the gentlemen, who stood
ready to receive their greeting. Then the prisoners came forward, and
went through the same salutation with the officers. When they offered
their hands to their Father, he declined.
"No," said he. "You have come here accused of great crimes--of having
assisted in taking the lives of some of the defenceless settlers. When
you have been tried by the laws of the land, and been proved innocent,
then your Father will give you his hand."
They looked still more serious at this address, as if they thought it
indicated that their Father, too, believed them guilty, and stepping
back a little, they seated themselves, without speaking, in a row upon
the ground, facing their Father and the officers. The other Indians all
took seats in a circle around them, except the one-eyed chief,
Kau-ray-kau-say-kah (the White Crow), who had been deputed to deliver
the prisoners to the Agent.
He made a speech in which he set forth that, "although asserting their
innocence of the charges preferred against them, his countrymen were
quite willing to be tried by the laws of white men. He hoped they would
not be detained long, but that the matter would be investigated soon,
and that they would come out of it clear and white."
In reply he was assured that all things would be conducted fairly and
impartially, exactly as if the accused were white men, and the hope was
added that they would be found to have been good and true citizens, and
peaceful children of their Great Father, the President.
When this was over, White Crow requested permission to transfer the
medal he had received as a mark of friendship from the President, to his
son, who stood beside him, and who had been chosen by the nation to fill
his place as chief, an office he was desirous of resigning. The
speeches made upon this occasion, as interpreted by Paquette, the modest
demeanor of the young man, and the dignified yet feeling manner of the
father throughout, made the whole ceremony highly impressive; and when
the latter took the medal from his neck and hung it around that of his
son, addressing him a few appropriate words, I think no one could have
witnessed the scene unmoved.
I had watched the countenances of the prisoners as they sat on the
ground before me, while all these ceremonies were going forward. With
one exception they were open, calm, and expressive of conscious
innocence. Of that one I could not but admit there might be reasonable
doubts. One was remarkably fine-looking--another was a boy of certainly
not more than seventeen, and during the transfer of the medal he looked
from one to the other, and listened to what was uttered by the speakers,
with an air and expression of even childlike interest and satisfaction.
Our hearts felt sad for them as, the ceremonies finished, they were
conducted by a file of soldiers and committed to the dungeon of the
guard-house until such time as they should be summoned to attend the
court appointed to try their cause.
ESCAPE OF THE PRISONERS.
The Indians did not disperse after the ceremonies of the surrender had
been gone through. They continued still in the vicinity of the Portage,
in the constant expectation of the arrival of the annuity money, which
they had been summoned there to receive. But the time for setting out
on his journey to bring it was postponed by Governor Porter from week to
week. Had he foreseen all the evils this delay was to occasion, he
would, possibly, have been more prompt in fulfilling his appointment.
Many causes conspired to make an early payment desirable. In the first
place, the Winnebagoes, having been driven from their homes by their
anxiety to avoid all appearance of fraternizing with the Sauks, had made
this year no gardens nor corn-fields They had, therefore, no provisions
on hand, either for present use or for their winter's consumption,
except their scanty supplies of wild rice. While this was disappearing
during their protracted detention at the Portage, they were running the
risk of leaving themselves quite unprovided with food, in case of a bad
hunting-season during the winter and spring.
In the next place, the rations which the Agent had been accustomed, by
the permission of Government, to deal out occasionally to them, were now
cut off by a scarcity in the Commissary's department. The frequent
levies of the militia during the summer campaign, and the reinforcement
of the garrison by the troops from Port Howard, had drawn so largely on
the stores at this post that there was necessity for the most rigid
economy in the issuing of supplies.
Foreseeing this state of things, Mr. Kinzie, as soon as the war was at
an end, commissioned Mr. Kercheval, then sutler at Fort Howard, to
procure him a couple of boat-loads of corn, to be distributed among the
Indians. Unfortunately, there was no corn to be obtained from Michigan;
it was necessary to bring it from Ohio, and by the time it at length
reached Green Bay (for in those days business was never done in a hurry)
the navigation of the Fox River had closed, and it was detained there,
to be brought up the following spring.
As day after day wore on and "the silver" did not make its appearance,
the Indians were advised by their Father to disperse to their
hunting-grounds to procure food, with the promise that they should be
summoned immediately on the arrival of Governor Porter; and this advice
While they had been in our neighborhood, they had more than once asked
permission to dance the _scalp-dance,_ before our door. This is the most
frightful, heart-curdling exhibition that can possibly be imagined. The
scalps are stretched on little hoops, or frames, and carried on the end
of slender poles. These are brandished about in the course of the dance,
with cries, shouts, and furious gestures. The women, who commence as
spectators, becoming excited with the scene and the music which their
own discordant notes help to make more deafening, rush in, seize the
scalps from the hands of the owners, and toss them frantically about,
with the screams and yells of demons. I have seen as many as forty or
fifty scalps figuring in one dance. Upon one occasion one was borne by
an Indian who approached quite near me, and I shuddered as I observed
the long, fair hair, evidently that of a woman. Another Indian had the
skin of a human hand, stretched and prepared with as much care as if it
had been some costly jewel. When these dances occurred, as they
sometimes did, by moonlight, they were peculiarly horrid and revolting.
* * * * *
Amid so many events of a painful character there were not wanting
occasionally some that bordered on the ludicrous.
One evening, while sitting at tea, we were alarmed by the sound of guns
firing in the direction of the Wisconsin. All started up, and prepared,
instinctively, for flight to the garrison. As we left the house we found
the whole bluff and the meadow below in commotion,--Indians running with
their guns and spears across their shoulders to the scene of
alarm--squaws and children standing in front of their lodges and looking
anxiously in the direction of the unusual and unaccountable
sounds--groups of French and half-breeds, like ourselves, fleeing to
gain the bridge and place themselves within the pickets so lately
As one company of Indians passed us hurriedly, some weapon carelessly
carried hit one of our party on the side of the head. "Oh!" shrieked
she, "I am killed! an Indian has tomahawked me!" and she was only
reassured by finding she could still run as fast as the best of us.
When we reached the parade-ground, within the Fort, we could not help
laughing at the grotesque appearance we presented. Some without hats or
shawls--others with packages of valuables hastily secured at the
moment--one with her piece of bread-and-butter in hand, which she had
not had the presence of mind to lay aside when she took to flight.
The alarm was, in the end, found to have proceeded from a party of
Winnebagoes from one of the Barribault villages, who, being about to
leave their home for a period, were going through the ceremony of
burying the scalps which they and their fathers had taken.
Like the military funerals among civilized nations, their solemnities
were closed on this occasion by the discharge of several volleys over
the grave of their trophies.
* * * * *
At length, about the beginning of November, two months after the time
appointed, Governor Porter, accompanied by Major Forsyth and Mr.
Kercheval, arrived with the annuity money. The Indians were again
assembled, the payment was made, and having supplied themselves with a
larger quantity of ammunition than usual,--for they saw the necessity of
a good hunt to remedy past and present deficiencies,--they set off for
their wintering grounds.
We were, ourselves, about changing our quarters, to our no small
satisfaction. Notwithstanding the Indian disturbances, the new Agency
House (permission to build which had, after much delay, been accorded by
Government) had been going steadily on, and soon after the departure of
the Governor and his party, we took possession of it.
We had been settled but a few weeks, when one morning Lieutenant Davies
appeared just as we were sitting down to breakfast, with a face full of
consternation. "_The Indian prisoners had escaped from the black-hole_!
The commanding officer, Colonel Cutler, had sent for Mr. Kinzie to come
over to the Fort and counsel with him what was to be done."
The prisoners had probably commenced their operations very soon after
being placed in the _black-hole_, a dungeon in the basement of the
guard-house. They observed that their meals were brought regularly,
three times a day, and that in the intervals they were left entirely to
themselves. With their knives they commenced excavating an opening, the
earth from which, as it was withdrawn, they spread about on the floor of
their prison. A blanket was placed over the hole, and one of the company
was always seated upon it, before the regular time for the soldier who
had charge of them to make his appearance. When the periodical visit was
made, the Indians were always observed to be seated, smoking in the most
orderly and quiet manner. There was never anything in their appearance
to excite suspicion.
The prisoners had never read the memoirs of Baron Trenck, but they had
watched the proceedings of the badgers; so, profiting by their example,
they worked on, shaping the opening spirally, until, in about six weeks,
they came out to the open air beyond the walls of the Fort.
That they might be as little encumbered as possible in their flight,
they left their blankets behind them, and although it was bitter
December weather, they took to the woods and prairies with only their
calico shirts and leggings for covering. We can readily believe that
hope and exultation kept them comfortably warm until they reached an
asylum among their friends.
It would be compromising our own reputation as loyal and patriotic
citizens to tell of the secret rejoicing this news occasioned us.
The question now was, how to get the fugitives back again. The Agent
could promise no more than that he would communicate with the chiefs,
and represent the wishes of the officers that the prisoners should once
more surrender themselves, and thus free those who had had the charge of
them from the imputation of carelessness, which the Government would be
very likely to throw upon them.
When, according to their custom, many of the chiefs assembled at the
Agency on New-Year's Day, their Father laid the subject before them.
The Indians replied, that _if they saw the young men_ they would tell
them what the officers would like to have them do. They could,
themselves, do nothing in the matter. They had fulfilled their
engagement by bringing them once and putting them in the hands of the
officers. The Government had had them in its power once and could not
keep them--it must now go and catch them itself.
The Government, having had some experience the past summer in "catching
Indians," wisely concluded to drop the matter.
About this time another event occurred which occasioned no small
excitement in our little community. Robineau, the striker from the
blacksmith establishment at Sugar Creek, near the Four Lakes, arrived
one very cold day at the Agency. He had come to procure medical aid for
Mata's eldest daughter, Sophy, who, while sliding on the lake, had
fallen on the ice and been badly hurt. Her father was absent, having
gone to Prairie du Chien to place his youngest daughter at school. Two
or three days had elapsed since the accident had happened; a high fever
had set in, and the poor girl was in a state of great suffering; it had
therefore been thought best to send Robineau to us for advice and aid,
leaving Turcotte and a friendly Indian woman from a neighboring lodge to
take charge of poor Sophy.
The commanding officer did not think it prudent, when the subject was
laid before him, to permit the surgeon to leave the post, but he very
cheerfully granted leave of absence to Currie, the hospital steward, a
young man who possessed some knowledge of medicine and surgery.
As it was important that Sophy should have an experienced nurse, we
procured the services of Madame Bellaire, the wife of the Frenchman who
was generally employed as express to Chicago; and, as an aid and
companion, Agathe, a daughter of Day-kau-ray, who lived in Paquette's
family, was added to the party.
Of Agathe I shall have more to say hereafter.
The weather was excessively cold when Robineau, Currie, and the two
women set out for Sugar Creek, a distance of about forty miles. We had
provided them with a good store of rice, crackers, tea, and sugar, for
the invalid, all of which, with their provisions for the way, were
packed on the horse Robineau had ridden to the Portage. It was expected
they would reach their place of destination on the second day.
What, then, was our surprise to see Turcotte make his appearance on the
fourth day after their departure, to inquire why Robineau had not
returned with aid for poor Sophy! There was but one solution of the
mystery. Robineau had guided them as ill as he had guided the boat at
the Grande Chute the summer before, and, although he could not shipwreck
them, he had undoubtedly lost them in the woods or prairies. One comfort
was, that they could not well starve, for the rice and crackers would
furnish them with several days' provisions, and with Agathe, who must be
accustomed to this kind of life, they could not fail in time of finding
Indians, and being brought back to the Portage.
Still, day after day went on and we received no tidings of them.
Turcotte returned to Sugar Creek with comforts and prescriptions for
Sophy, and Colonel Cutler sent out a party to hunt for the missing ones,
among whom poor Currie, from his delicate constitution, was the object
of our greatest commiseration.
As the snow fell and the winds howled, we could employ ourselves about
nothing but walking from window to window, watching, in hopes of seeing
some one appear in the distance. No Indians were at hand whom we could
dispatch upon the search, and by the tenth day we had almost given up in
It was then that the joyful news was suddenly brought us, "They are
found! They are at the Fort!" A party of soldiers who had been exploring
had encountered them at Hastings's Woods, twelve miles distant, slowly
and feebly making their way back to the Portage. They knew they were on
the right track, but had hardly strength to pursue it.
Exhausted with cold and hunger, for their provisions had given out two
days before, they had thought seriously of killing the horse and eating
him. Nothing but Currie's inability to proceed on foot, and the dread of
being compelled to leave him in the woods to perish, had deterred them.
Agathe had from the first been convinced that they were on the wrong
track, but Robineau, with his usual obstinacy, persevered in keeping it
until it brought them to the Rock River, when he was obliged to
acknowledge his error, and they commenced retracing their steps.
Agathe, according to the custom of her people, had carried her hatchet
with her, and thus they had always had a fire at night, and boughs to
shelter them from the storms; otherwise they must inevitably have
There were two circumstances which aroused in us a stronger feeling even
than that of sympathy. The first was, the miserable Robineau's having
demanded of Currie, first, all his money, and afterwards his watch, as a
condition of his bringing the party back into the right path, which he
averred he knew perfectly well.
The second was, Bellaire's giving his kind, excellent wife a hearty
flogging "for going off," as he said, "on such a fool's errand."
The latter culprit was out of our jurisdiction, but Mons. Robineau was
discharged on the spot, and warned that he might think himself happy to
escape a legal process for swindling.
I am happy to say that Sophy Mata, in whose behalf all these sufferings
had been endured, was quite recovered by the time her father returned
from the Prairie.
Agathe was the daughter of an Indian who was distinguished by the name
of _Rascal_ Day-kau-ray. Whether he merited the appellation must be
determined hereafter. He was brother to the grand old chief of that
name, but as unlike him as it is possible for those of the same blood to
The Day-kau-rays were a very handsome family, and this daughter was
remarkable for her fine personal endowments. A tall, well-developed
form, a round, sweet face, and that peculiarly soft, melodious voice
which belongs to the women of her people, would have attracted the
attention of a stranger, while the pensive expression of her countenance
irresistibly drew the hearts of all towards her, and prompted the wish
to know more of her history. As I received it from her friend, Mrs.
Paquette, it was indeed a touching one.
A young officer at the Fort had seen her, and had set, I will not say
his heart--it may be doubted if he had one--but his mind upon her. He
applied to Paquette to negotiate what he called a marriage with her. I
am sorry to say that Paquette was induced to enter into this scheme. He
knew full well the sin of making false representations to the family of
Agathe, and he knew the misery he was about to bring upon her.
The poor girl had been betrothed to a young man of her own people, and,
as is generally the case, the attachment on both sides was very strong.
Among these simple people, who have few subjects of thought or
speculation beyond the interests of their daily life, their affections
and their animosities form the warp and woof of their character. All
their feelings are intense, from being concentrated on so few objects.
Family relations, particularly with the women, engross the whole amount
of their sensibilities.
The marriage connection is a sacred and indissoluble tie. I have read,
in a recent report to the Historical Society of Wisconsin, that, in
former times, a temporary marriage between a white man and a Menomonee
woman was no uncommon occurrence, and that such an arrangement brought
no scandal, I am afraid that if such eases were investigated, a good
deal of deceit and misrepresentation would be found to have been added
to the other sins of the transaction; and that the woman would be found
to have been a victim, instead of a willing participant, in such a
At all events, no system of this kind exists among the Winnebagoes. The
strictest sense of female propriety is a distinguishing trait among
them. A woman who transgresses it is said to have "forgotten herself,"
and is sure to be cast off and "forgotten" by her friends.
The marriage proposed between the young officer and the daughter of
Day-kau-ray, was understood as intended to be true and lasting. The
father would not have exposed himself to the contempt of his whole
nation by selling his daughter to become the mistress of any man. The
Day-kau-rays, as I have elsewhere said, were not a little proud of a
remote cross of French blood which mingled with the aboriginal stream in
their veins, and probably in acceding to the proposed connection the
father of Agathe was as much influenced by what he considered the honor
to be derived as by the amount of valuable presents which accompanied
the overtures made to him.
Be that as it may, the poor girl was torn from her lover, and
transferred from her father's lodge to the quarters of the young
There were no ladies in the garrison at that time. Had there been, such
a step would hardly have been ventured. Far away in the wilderness, shut
out from the salutary influences of religious and social cultivation,
what wonder that the moral sense sometimes becomes blinded, and that the
choice is made, "Evil, be thou my good!"
The first step in wrong was followed by one still more aggravated in
cruelty. The young officer left the post, as he said, on furlough, but
_he never returned_. The news came after a time that he was married, and
when he again joined his regiment it was at another post.
There was a natural feeling in the strength of the "woe pronounced
against him" by more tongues than one. "He will never," said my
informant, "dare show himself in this country again! Not an Indian who
knows the Day-kau-rays but would take his life if he should meet him!"
Every tie was broken for poor Agathe but that which bound her to her
infant. She never returned to her father's lodge, for she felt that,
being deserted, she was dishonored. Her sole ambition seemed to be to
bring up her child like those of the whites. She attired it in the
costume of the French children, with a dress of bright calico, and a cap
of the same, trimmed with narrow black lace. It was a fine child, and
the only time I ever saw a smile cross her face was when it was
commended and caressed by some member of our family.
Even this, her only source of happiness, poor Agathe was called upon to
resign. During our absence at Green Bay, while the Sauks were in the
neighborhood, the child was taken violently ill. The house at
Paquette's, which was the mother's home, was thronged with Indians, and
of course there was much noise and disturbance. My husband had a place
prepared for her under our roof, where she could be more quiet, and
receive the attendance of the post physician. It was all in
vain--nothing could save the little creature's life. The bitter agony of
the mother, as she hung over the only treasure she possessed on earth,
was described to me as truly heart-rending. When compelled to part with
it, it seemed almost more than nature could bear. There were friends,
not of her own nation or color, who strove to comfort her. Did the
father ever send a thought or an inquiry after the fate of his child, or
of the young being whose life he had rendered dark and desolate? We will
hope that he did--that he repented and asked pardon from above for the
evil he had wrought.
Agathe had been baptized by M. Mazzuchelli. Perhaps she may have
acquired some religious knowledge which could bring her consolation in
her sorrows, and compensate her for the hopes and joys so early blasted.
She came, some months after the death of her child, in company with
several of the half-breed women of the neighborhood, to pay me a visit
of respect and congratulation on the advent of the _young
Shaw-nee-aw-kee._ When she looked at her "little brother," as he was
called, and took his soft, tiny hand within her own, the tears stood in
her eyes, and she spoke some little words of tenderness, which showed
that her heart was full. I could scarcely refrain from mingling my tears
with hers, as I thought on all the sorrow and desolation that one man's
selfishness had occasioned.
* * * * *
Early in February, 1833, my husband and Lieutenant Hunter, in company
with one or two others, set off on a journey to Chicago. That place had
become so much of a town (it contained perhaps fifty inhabitants) that
it was necessary for the proprietors of "Kinzie's Addition" to lay out
lots and open streets through their property. All this was accomplished
during the visit in question.
While they were upon the ground with a surveyor, the attention of my
husband was drawn towards a very bright-looking boy in Indian costume,
who went hopping along by the side of the assistant that carried the
chain, mimicking him as in the course of his operations he cried,
"Stick!" "stuck!" He inquired who the lad was, and, to his surprise,
learned that he was the brother of the old family servants Victoire,
Genevieve, and Baptiste. Tomah, for that was his name, had never been
arrayed in civilized costume; he was in blanket and leggings, and had
always lived in a wigwam. My husband inquired if he would like to go to
Fort Winnebago with him and learn to be a white boy. The idea pleased
him much, and, his mother having given her sanction to the arrangement,
he was packed in a wagon, with the two gentlemen and their travelling
gear, when they set forth on their return-journey.
Tomah had been equipped in jacket and trousers, with the other articles
of apparel necessary to his new sphere and character. They were near the
Aux Plaines, and approaching the residence of Glode (Claude)
Laframboise, where Tomah knew he should meet acquaintances. He asked
leave to get out of the wagon and walk a little way. When the gentlemen
next saw him he was in full Pottowattamie costume: although it was
bitter winter weather, he had put on his uncomfortable native garb
rather than show himself to his old friends in a state of
On his arrival at Fort Winnebago, our first care was to furnish him
with a complete wardrobe, which, having been placed in a box in his
sleeping-apartment, was put under his charge. Words cannot express his
delight as the valuable possessions were confided to him. Every spare
moment was devoted to their contemplation. Now and then Tomah would be
missing. He was invariably found seated by the side of his little trunk,
folding and refolding his clothes, laying them now lengthwise, now
crosswise, the happiest of mortals.
Our next step was to teach him to be useful. Such little offices were
assigned to him at first as might be supposed not altogether new to him,
but we soon observed that when there was anything in the shape of work,
Tomah slipped off to bed, even if it were before he had taken his
supper. Some fish were given him one evening to scale; it was just at
dark; but Tom, according to custom, retired at once to bed.
The cook came to inquire what was to be done. I was under the necessity
of calling in my husband's aid as interpreter. He sent for Tomah. When
he came into the parlor Mr. Kinzie said to him, in Pottowattamie,--
"There are some fish, Tomah, in the kitchen, and we want you to scale
"Now?" exclaimed Tom, with an expression of amazement. "It is very
A young lady, Miss Rolette, who was visiting us, and who understood the
language, could not refrain from bursting into a laugh at the simplicity
with which the words were uttered, and we joined her in sympathy, at
which Tom looked a little indignant; but when he understood that it was
the _white custom_ to scale the fish at night, and put salt and pepper
on them, he was soon reconciled to do his duty in the matter.
His next office was to lay the table. There was a best service of
china, which was only used when we had company, and a best set of
teaspoons, which I kept in the drawer of a bureau in my own room
above-stairs. I Was in the habit of keeping this drawer locked, and
putting the key under a small clock on the mantel-piece. The first time
that I had shown Tomah how to arrange matters for visitors, I had
brought the silver and put it on the table myself.
Soon after, we were to have company to tea again, and I explained to
Tomah that the best china must be used. What was my surprise, on going
through the dining-room a short time after, to see not only the new
china, but the "company silver" also, on the table! I requested our
mother, who could speak with him, to inquire into the matter.
Tomah said, very coolly, "He got the silver where it was kept."
"Did he find the drawer open?"
"No--he opened it with a key."
"Was the key in the drawer?"
"No--it was under that thing on the shelf."
"How did he know it was kept there?"
This was what Mr. Tomah declined telling. We could never ascertain
whether he had watched my movements at any time. No one had ever seen
him in that part of the house, and yet scarcely an article could be
mentioned of which Tomah did not know the whereabouts. If any one was
puzzled to find a thing, it was always,--
"Ask Tomah--he will tell you." And so in fact he did.
He was a subject of much amusement to the young officers. We were to
have a tea-party one evening--all the families and young officers from
the Fort. To make Tomah's appearance as professional as possible, we
made him a white apron with long sleeves to put on while he was helping
Mary and Josette to carry round tea--for I must acknowledge that Tomah's
clothes were not kept in as nice order out of the trunk as in it.
Tom was delighted with his new costume, as well as with the new
employment. He acquitted himself to perfection, for he had never any
difficulty in imitating what he saw another do. After tea we had some
music. As I was standing by the piano, at which one of the ladies was
seated, Lieutenant Vancleve said to me, in a low tone,--
"Look behind you a moment."
I turned. There sat Tom between two of the company, as stately as
possible, with his white apron smoothed down, and his hands clasped
before him, listening to the music, and on the best possible terms with
himself and all around him. Julian and Edwin were hardly able to
restrain their merriment, but they were afraid to do or say anything
that would cause him to move before the company had had a full enjoyment
of the scene. It was voted unanimously that Tomah should be permitted to
remain and enjoy the pleasures of society for one evening; but, with
characteristic restlessness, he got tired as soon as the music was over,
and unceremoniously took his leave of the company.
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