Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Regulators and the Prairie Bandits: Vigilante Justice in the Illinois Rock River Valley.


In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM is the introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. I believe presentism is a form of cultural bias, and it creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. I'm well aware that historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present articles that are fact based and well researched, without interjecting any of my personal opinions.


From about 1835 to the early 1840s, the Illinois Rock River Valley was the setting for a "settlers-versus-bad guys." Lawlessness on the frontier was a frequent accompaniment to the nation's westward expansion and the stream of new residents who flowed into northern Illinois after the conclusion of the Black Hawk War of 1832, including more than a few attracted by the feeble state of law enforcement of what then was the outer edge of settlement. Ex-Governor Thomas Ford, in his classic book, History of Illinois, described the prevailing state of affairs as follows:
"...the northern part of the State was not destitute of its organized bands of rogues engaged in murders, robberies, horsestealing, and in making and passing counterfeit money. These rogues were scattered all over the north: but the most of them were located in the counties of Ogle, Winnebago, Lee and DeKalb. In the county of Ogle they were so numerous, strong, and organized that they could not be convicted for their crimes."
Ford had reason to know for he was an important player in the events that finally ended the bandits' domination of the area. On Sunday, March 21, 1841, some half dozen gang members had been apprehended on charges which included counterfeiting and possession of counterfeiting tools and were being held in the tiny Ogle County jail in Oregon, Illinois. Around midnight fire broke out in the nearby newly-completed courthouse and the building quickly burned to the ground. The fire had apparently been set in the expectation that it would destroy records needed to prosecute the prisoners, perhaps spread to the jail itself and, in any event, create a diversion that would permit an escape.

It didn't work. The court clerk had taken the records home, the fire never reached the jail and, whatever confusion may have existed, no escape was made. Ford, sitting as Circuit Judge, presided over a temporarily relocated Ogle County Circuit Court before which three of the prisoners were tried, the others having secured a change of venue. When it developed, not for the first time in Ogle, that one of the jurors was a gang member or sympathizer who declined to convict, the other jurors resorted to a somewhat unorthodox means of persuasion. They told him that they would lynch him right there in the jury room unless he came to see that the majority view of the evidence was the correct one. He was persuaded and the three were convicted. Elation over this victory for the forces of law and order was somewhat dampened when all of the prisoners subsequently escaped.
The Rock River, Ogle County, Illinois.
Ford, just a year-and-a-half away from election as Governor of Illinois, was a terror to horse thieves and murderers. It seems clear that, at the time, he regarded vigilante activity as a regrettable but necessary way to deal with the prairie bandits. He is reported to have warned from the bench during the trial of one gang member that if there was any attempt to retaliate against him by harming his family he would assemble his friends and neighbors and those responsible would find that "the first tree shall be their gallows."

The concept of citizens banding together to protect what they perceived to be their vital interests had already gained a foothold in the valley with the establishment of what were known as claim associations. Most of the early residents had settled there before the land was legally opened for sale to the public and their claims were of dubious legal value. Claims associations, such as the Oregon Claim Society formed in 1836, were organized to oppose claim jumpers and land speculators and to protect the land claims of their members until legal title could be obtained.

So a kind of precedent, albeit a mild one, already existed when, in an outraged reaction to the burning of the courthouse and, possibly, in response to direct counsel from Ford, some fifteen citizens met in April at the log school house in White Rock township in the eastern part of the county and formed themselves into an association committed, not to protecting land claims, but to driving the outlaws from the area. The tactic agreed upon was a warning to move out or be horsewhipped, although it sometimes developed that the horse-whipping was administered as an accompaniment rather than a sequel to the warning. In any case, the new association's numbers grew quickly; membership was soon up in the hundreds, and parallel organizations appeared all over the valley. They were most often known as "Regulators," sometimes as "lynching clubs," and one group formed at the Lee County community of Inlet gave itself the imposing name of "Associations for the Furtherance of the Cause of Justice."

The Ogle group sprang into action by warning and whipping two horse thieves. One miscreant subsequently declared his innocence and joined the Regulators, the other disappeared from the valley as ordered. The bandits, however, were not disposed to accept this turn of events meekly.

Their leader was a tall, sturdy, old migrant from Ohio named John Driscoll who had come to Ogle in 1835 and settled on Killbuck Creek in the northeastern part of the county. He had four grown sons: William, David, Pierce, and Taylor. Both John and Taylor had been convicted of arson in Ohio, and the other three sons were equally dubious citizens. William, who was about forty-five years old and who lived at South Grove in DeKalb County, was regarded as the worst of a thoroughly bad lot.

Shortly after the Regulators carried out their first two whippings, a grist mill owned by W.S. Wellington, the first Captain of the Regulators, was destroyed by fire. Wellington's horse, too, was killed in a particularly cruel manner: its front legs were broken and the creature was left to perish in agony.

Fearing for himself and his family, Wellington resigned and John Campbell, like the elder Driscoll a resident of White Rock Township, was elected to replace him.

William Driscoll greeted Campbell's accession to office with a letter offering to kill him.

In response, Campbell assembled a band of nearly 200 Regulators and marched on William's place where a much smaller band of outlaws had gathered. Seeing they were seriously outnumbered, the outlaws fled only to return several hours later with the Sheriff of DeKalb County and several other local figures of consequence in tow -- presumably to protest the extra-legal nature of the vigilante band. But when the Sheriff and his companions heard a detailed account of the misdeeds of the Driscolls and their associates, they agreed that the Regulators' demands were entirely justified. The Driscolls promised that they would be gone in twenty days.

They didn't mean it. Instead, meeting at the farm of William Bridge in Washington Grove, the gang members concluded that Campbell and Phineas Chaney, another prominent Regulator, had to go. On June 25th, there was a failed attempt on Chaney's life. Two days later, on Sunday, June 27, at about sundown, David and Taylor Driscoll ambushed Campbell at his farm and David killed him with a single shot. While Campbell's wife ran to her dying husband, their thirteen-year-old son, Martin, fired at the Driscolls with a double-barreled shotgun but the weapon failed to go off.


Illinois Judge (later governor)
Thomas Ford played an instrumental
role in ridding Ogle County
of its roving bandits.
The news of Campbell's murder spread rapidly and by the following morning outraged Regulators were on the move. It was known from Mrs. Campbell's account that David and Taylor Driscoll had been the gunmen on the scene but hoofprints leading away from the Campbell farm indicated that there had been as many as five riders. The Regulators, accompanied by Ogle County Sheriff William T. Ward, followed the trail to David Driscoll's home. There, John, the only suspect present, acknowledged that he had been at South Grove the previous day. He also admitted that he had recently ridden a horse found in David's stable, which had a broken shoe matching one of the hoofprints the Regulators had trailed from the Campbell farm. Sheriff Ward promptly arrested him "on suspicion of being accessory to the murder of John Campbell." That same afternoon William and Pierce Driscoll were taken in custody by a group of Regulators from Rockford. David, the known gunman, and Taylor, his accomplice at the Campbell slaving, had successfully flown the coop.

William and Pierce were taken to the Campbell home where it was decided to take the three Driscolls to Washington Grove and there try them for Campbell's murder. The next morning, Tuesday the 29th, three of the Regulators appeared in Oregon and, over the protest of Judge Ford and Sheriff Ward, removed the senior Driscoll from jail and took him to the appointed spot, just off of present-day Prairie Road, where the Rockford Regulators had already brought William and Pierce.

A crowd estimated to number as many as 500 had gathered under the Washington Grove oaks and, after another unsuccesful attempt by Ward to have John Driscoll returned to his custody, the "trial" proceeded. E.S. Leland, later a judge at Ottawa, presided. He directed those who were members of the Regulators to form themselves in a circle. Some 120 men responded initially but 9 were dismissed as not being bonafide Regulators leaving 111 men to pass judgment on the 3 Driscolls.

Chairs for the accused, witnesses, prosecutors, and volunteer defense lawyers were placed inside the circle. William Driscoll, examined first, initially denied the prosecutor's accusation that he had instructed his brother, David, to shoot Campbell. But when confronted with the testimony of Henry Hill, who swore he had overheard William do so, said "I remember it now; I did use the language, but only did it in jest" -- an explanation that very likely was received with considerable scepticism. His father, while admitting he had stolen so many horses he had lost count, could not be moved from his denial that he had had anything to do with the Campbell killing.

No evidence was found linking Pierce Driscoll to the murders and he was released from custody. There were closing arguments and Acting Judge Leiand then put the case to the one jury. The guilty verdict that followed was described as "almost unanimous," as was the jury's sentencing decision; father and son were to be hanged on the spot.

True to their roles, the Driscolls requested they be shot instead of "hanged like dogs." This was agreed to and a delay of several hours was granted to permit the condemned men to repent, confer with their lawyers, and otherwise prepare for eternity. William prayed and confessed to six murders, while his hard-as-nails father declined any such show of weakness. During this interval some in the crowd had second thoughts about the proceedings, but there was no dissuading the determined majority. What is very likely the largest firing squad in history was then assembled. The Regulators were formed into two roughly equal lines, fifty-six in one, fifty-five in the other, each group assigned to the execution of one of the Driscolls. At least one unloaded weapon was issued to each contingent so that those with misgivings could cling to the hope that they had not been part of the fatal fusillade.

First John, impassive to the end, was led before the fifty-six Regulator line, blindfolded, and made to kneel. Fifty-six rifles cracked and he fell dead. A trembling William was next put through the same procedure before the second group of Regulators. Afterwards, Pierce Driscoll, was offered assistance in transporting the bodies of his father and brother home but he declined to have anything to do with the business. A shallow grave was dug, both bodies placed in it, and the Regulators, singly or in small groups, mounted up and rode off.
This cemetery marker in Ogle County memorializes the murder of Captain Campbell.
While there is no doubt that the vigilante justice administered by the Regulators turned the tide against the bandits in the valley, there were those who questioned whether such conduct can be justified in a society that purports to be governed by law. In early July, Philander Knappen, editor of the Rockford Star protested:
"...If two or three hundred citizens are to assume the administration of lynch law ... we shall soon have a fearful state of things, and where, we ask, will it end? ...  It will be argued... that we have in this new country no means or proper places for securing offenders... to which we answer, then build them."
A few nights after this editorial appeared, the Star's offices were sacked and the type broken up and scattered on the floor. Knappen decided that it would be best to exit the newspaper business in Rockford.

Concerned that some future prosecutor might take a view of their activities like that expressed by Knappen, the Regulators and their allies staged a rigged trial. On September 24th, more than 100 men (reports of the exact number vary from 104 to 112) were tried in separate, back-to-back cases for the murders of John and William Driscoll. Ford again presided and the same jury heard both cases. No witnesses to the June 29th events at Washington Grove were produced, the prosecution's case consisted primarily of inadmissible rumors and as John Dean Caton, one of the defense attorneys, later wrote: the prosecutor, Seth Farwell "utterly failed to prove that any person had been killed much less that any of the prisoners had taken any part in killing anybody." The jury, which included at least one Regulator among its members, announced its verdicts of not guilty without bothering to leave the jury box.

There is a case to be made both for the many ordinarily law-abiding citizens who did what seemed to them to be necessary to end the outlaw reign in the valley, and for those who argued that such conduct struck deeply against the principles on which our society is based. Although very likely unnoticed at the time by the future Regulators of 1841, the case against vigilante justice had been made more than three years earlier by a young lawyer-politician who had served in the Rock River country during the Black Hawk War. On January 27, 1838, addressing the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Abraham Lincoln took note of the then current outbreak of mob violence "from New England to Louisiana," including lynchings in Misissippi of gamblers and of blacks charged with conspiring to raise an insurrection, and in St. Louis of a mulatto man accused of murder. Then he warned his audience:
"When men take it in their heads today, to hang gamblers or burn murderers, they should recollect, that, in the confusion usually attending such transactions, they will be as likely to hang someone who is neither a gambler nor a murderer as one who is; and that, acting upon the example they set, the mob of tomorrow, may, and probably will, hang or burn some of them by the very same mistake... There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law."
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

How two Illinois men helped keep Adolph Hitler from getting the atomic bomb.

One reason Adolph Hitler was so anxious to invade Norway during World War II was that it offered him access to heavy water, or D2O, a key ingredient in his plans to build an atomic bomb. In the mountainous region of southern Norway, near the village of Vemork, the Fuhrer in 1941 commandeered a hydroelectric plant to separate heavy water (deuterium oxide) from its common cousin, H2O. Allies and Norwegian resistance fighters were aware of the plant. It was sheltered under a rocky ledge, though, and could not be bombed from the air. Thus the Nazis were able to separate the heavy water and ship it to Germany. Had it not been for the efforts of a small town pastor and an editor from Gardner, Illinois, they might have been able to build their bomb and drastically alter the outcome of the war.
Reverend Christian Christiansen
outside his home in Gardner, Illinois.
Christian Christiansen was born in Sandnes, Norway, not far from Vemork, in 1859. As a child, he became intimately familiar with the fjords and mountains of his native land. As a young man, he joined Norway's massive merchant marine fleet and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean several times. In 1881 he crossed the Atlantic one last time and settled in Chicago. There he worked all day for up to $1.50. At night, he attended a Lutheran seminary.

Ordained in 1888, Christiansen became a circuit rider between York, Illinois, and Gardner, about 60 miles south of Chicago. Near the turn of the century, he accepted a call to pastor churches in Gardner, Gardner Prairie, and Grand Prairie. After a decade there, a dispute with parishioners drove him to northern Wisconsin for 23 years.

When his Gardner congregation asked him three times to come back, he finally agreed to spend the twilight of his career there.
Burt Parkinson and his Heidelberg Press, 1985.


Among his neighbors when he returned were the Parkinsons, publishers of the Gardner Chronicle since 1865. He became particularly good friends with young Burt Parkinson, who would soon become the third generation to head the paper.
Although Burt was in his 80s, he still has a vivid memory that separates editorial wheat from chaff.

"My grandfather once published a daily paper in Braidwood," he said. "It was a much bigger city then because of coal mining. Anton Cermak was his paperboy. I remember we used to visit him after he moved to Chicago. My grandfather would set me on that big desk while the two of them went to work on memories. Later Chicago Mayor Anton J. Cermak was shot and killed in an assassination attempt while shaking hands with President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt during an event in Miami, Florida in 1933.

"Walt Disney used to be a good buddy of mine, too," Burt continued. "We used to go drinking once in awhile. He was with the Chicago Herald and Examiner, a Hearst newspaper. They were the first ones to publish his Mickey Mouse strip. The Chronicle then was eight pages long. We bought prepared inserts from Chicago. They were four pages of world news about a month late. The other four pages we did ourselves."

"The old reverend was a friend of mine," Burt said. "I loved him. Every morning he would come in the office and we"d sit there and chat. One morning he came in with a Chicago Tribune article about the plant "Look here, Burt," he said. The English had been bombing it, but that shelf of mountains protected it. The reverend said, "I can show them how to get up underneath and bring a warship in." Nobody knew the depth of the fjord or anything that might be in the way. I said, "Let"s call the Navy." I knew one of the guys up there. The reverend said, "Fine."

"The next Sunday morning after the sermon, the reverend invited me over. A line of cars was parked out front. Out on his kitchen floor two admirals, one from England and one from the U.S., had laid out a map as big as a dining room table. We all got down on our hands and knees. The reverend took a red pencil and drew his own map on the bigger map. Then they left."

Burt believes that English warships destroyed the heavy water plant within a week of the Gardner meeting that he arranged. This cannot be easily documented. What is known is that Allies and Norwegian commandos attacked and seriously damaged the plant on at least three separate occasions between 1942 and 1944. Finally Hitler decided to dismantle the facility and move it to Germany. He succeeded in doing this, but a Norwegian ferry loaded with his precious heavy water mysteriously exploded in late 1944. The U.S., meanwhile, was able to develop its A-bomb without using D2O.

The specific impact of the Reverend Christiansen's contribution to the war effort has never been detailed. This is due in large part to its classified nature. However, Burt has a copy of a diploma from the King of Norway thanking the reverend for his "valuable services" to his native country during World War II. And he also has the surety that he and his old friend did the right thing at the right time.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The History of the Illinois Country from 1673-1782.

The Illinois Country (1673-1782) is sometimes referred to as Upper Louisiana was the vast region of "New France" (hereinafter called Canada). While these names generally referred to the entire Upper Mississippi River watershed (the Indians called the Mississippi River, "Sinnissippi," meaning "rocky waters"). The French colonial settlement was concentrated along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers in what is now the states of Illinois and Missouri, with outposts in Indiana. 

Explored in 1673 from Green Bay to the Arkansas River by the Canadien expedition of Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, the area was claimed by France. It was settled primarily from the Pays d'en Haut [French: "up country" or "upper country"] in the context of the fur trade. Over time, the fur trade took some French to the far reaches of the Rocky Mountains, especially along the branches of the broad Missouri River valley. The French name, Pays des Illinois, means "Land of the Illinois [plural]" and is a reference to the Illinois Confederation, a group of related Algonquian tribes (usually referred to as  "Illinois" or the "Illiniwek" or "Illini." who were a group of Indian tribes in the upper Mississippi River valley. The tribes were the Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Peoria, Tamaroa, Moingwena, Michigamea, Chepoussa, Chinkoa, Coiracoentanon, Espeminkia, Maroa, and Tapouara).

The Illinois Country's landscape of today's Illinois boundaries was a patchwork of prairies, forests, marshes, and swamps. Bison and elk roamed the upland prairies, bears and mountain lions prowled the forests and swamps, and the skies were often darkened by large flocks of pigeons. Bordering the land were three large streams: the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash rivers. To the northeast lay one of the world's largest freshwater lakes, Lake Michigan. These and other aquatic and wetland environments teemed with many different species of waterfowl, fish, and freshwater mollusks.

FRENCH FORTS BUILT IN ILLINOIS:
1680 - Fort Crèvecoeur, Creve Coeur, Peoria County
1682 - Fort Saint Louis du Rocher, North Utica, La Salle County
1691 - Fort Pimiteoui, Peoria County
1720 - Fort de Chartres, Randolph County
1757 - Fort Massac, Massac County
1759 - Fort Kaskaskia, Randolph County 
Pais des Ilinois (Illinois Country) in this 1717 French map.
Up until 1717, the Illinois Country was governed by the French province of Canada, but by order of King Louis XV, the Illinois Country was annexed to the French province of Louisiana, with the northeastern administrative border being somewhat vaguely on or near the upper Illinois River. The territory thus became known as "Upper Louisiana." By the mid-18th century, the major settlements included Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Chartres, St. Philippe, and Prairie du Rocher, all on the east side of the Mississippi in present-day Illinois; and Ste. Genevieve across the river in Missouri, as well as Fort Vincennes in what is now Indiana.

As a consequence of the French defeat in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), the Illinois Country east of the Mississippi River was ceded to the British, and the land west of the river to the Spanish. Following the British occupation of the east shoreline of the Mississippi in 1764, some Canadien settlers remained in the area, while others crossed the river, forming new settlements such as St. Louis.

Eventually, the eastern part of the Illinois Country became part of the British Province of Quebec, while the inhabitants chose to side with the Americans during the Revolutionary War. 

 Although the lands west of the Mississippi were sold in 1803 to the United States by France—which had reclaimed possession of Luisiana from the Spanish in the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso—French language and culture continued to exist in the area, with the Missouri French dialect still being spoken into the 20th century.

Because of the deforestation that resulted from cutting down forests for wood for fuel during the 19th-century age of steamboats, the Mississippi River became shallower and broader causing severe flooding of the Mississippi between St. Louis to the confluence with the Ohio River. As a consequence, many architectural and archaeological resources were lost to flooding and destruction of early French colonial villages originally located near the river, including Kaskaskia and St. Philippe.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Cahokia Mounds and the Indian Village of Cahokia.

The name Cahokia is a reference to one of the Indian tribes of the Illinois Confederation, a group of related Algonquian tribes (usually referred to as  "Illinois" or the "Illiniwek" or "Illini," who were a group of Indian tribes in the upper Mississippi River valley. The tribes were made up of the Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Peoria, Tamaroa, Moingwena, Michigamea, Chepoussa, Chinkoa, Coiracoentanon, Espeminkia, Maroa, and Tapouara) who were encountered by early French explorers to the region.

Early European settlers also named Cahokia Mounds after the Illinois Confederation which was an extensive prehistoric Mississippian urban site located to the north of present-day Collinsville in Madison County.  Cahokia Mounds is the site of a pre-Columbian Indian village directly across the Mississippi River from modern St. Louis, Missouri. This historic park lies between  today's East St. Louis and Collinsville. The park covers 2,200 acres, or about 3.5 square miles, and contains about 80 mounds, but the ancient city was much larger. In its heyday, Cahokia covered about 6 square miles and included about 120 manmade earthen mounds in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and functions.
Cahokia was the largest and most influential urban settlement of the Mississippian culture, which developed advanced societies across much of what is now the central and southeastern United States, beginning more than 1000 years before European contact. The city's original name is unknown.
The mounds were later named after the Cahokia tribe, a historic Illiniwek people living in the area when the first French explorers arrived in the 17th century. As this was centuries after Cahokia was abandoned by its original inhabitants, the Cahokia tribe was not necessarily descended from the earlier Mississippian-era people. Most likely, multiple indigenous ethnic groups settled in the Cahokia Mounds area during the time of the city's apex. It is a World Heritage Site and an Illinois State Historic Park.

The "New France" (hereinafter called Canada), association with Cahokia began over 320 years ago, with Father Pinet’s mission in late 1696 to convert the Cahokia and Tamaroa Indians to Christianity. Father Pinet and the Seminary of Foreign Missions of Quebec built a log church. It was dedicated to the Holy Family. During the next 100 years, Cahokia became one of the largest French colonial towns in the Illinois Country.

Cahokia had become the center of a large area for trading Indian goods and furs. The village had about 3,000 inhabitants, 24 brothels, and a thriving business district. The nearby town of Kaskaskia on the Mississippi became the region’s leading shipping port, and Fort de Chartres became a military and governmental command center. The 50-mile area of land between the two cities was cultivated by farming settlers, known as habitants, whose main crop was wheat. As the area expanded, the relationship between the settlers and the Indians continued to be peaceful. Settlers were mostly Canadien migrants whose families had been in North America for a while.

In the following years, Cahokia suffered, mainly from the French loss in the French and Indian War in 1763. Defeated by Great Britain in what was an extension of the Seven Years’ War in Europe, the French were forced to cede large parts of the Illinois Country to the victors. Many Cahokians fled in fear of the British, or because they wanted to live in a Catholic province, Louisiana, where they founded new Canadien villages on the west of the Mississippi River, such as St. Louis, and Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

The Odawa leader Pontiac was assassinated by other Indians in or near Cahokia on April 20, 1769. The Pottawattamies blamed the local Illinois Indians and took revenge on them at Starved Rock by cornering them on the top of Starved Rock, waiting for their food and water to run out -- then killing all of them. (Fact or fiction? Click the link to read the article.) 

In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, George Rogers Clark set up a court in Cahokia, making Cahokia an independent city state even though it was part of the Province of Quebec. Cahokia officially became part of the United States by the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Soon after that, the 105 Cahokia “heads of household” pledged loyalty to the Continental Congress of the United States.

In the 1800's a Tappist Priest built a church on top of what they called "Monk's Mound." The New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-1812 was the reason for this structure to be vacated.

Compiled by Neil Gale,Ph.D.

An In-Depth Analysis of the Battle of Fort Dearborn.


In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM is the introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. I believe presentism is a form of cultural bias, and it creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. I'm well aware that historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present articles that are fact based and well researched, without interjecting any of my personal opinions.


On the issue of General William Hull's campaign hung the fate of Fort Dearborn. With the Indians, war was a passion, their greatest pleasure and chief business in life. Indians could not remain an idle spectator of such a war as had now been joined between the white races, but must be a participant on one side or the other.
General William Hull

The exhortations of the Americans that the red man hold aloof from the war, which did not concern him, and let the whites fight out their own quarrel, would be heeded only on one condition. The Americans must manifest such a decided superiority over the British as to convince him that theirs was the successful cause.

Both disposition and self-interest urged the Indian to take his stand on the winning side. As long as appearances led him to believe that this was the American, he would hold aloof from the war, since the United States did not desire Indians assistance.

On the contrary, events both inclination and self-interest would lead the Indians to side with the British.

There were exceptions, of course, to these generalizations. Tecumseh's (ti-KUM-see; Shawnee Chief and warrior.) hostility to the Americans was independent of any such adventitious circumstances. But with Gen. Hull triumphant (having won a battle; victorious) at Maiden the tribes to the west of Lake Michigan would have possessed neither the courage nor the inclination to rise against the Americans; with the British flag waving over Detroit the whole Northwest as far as the Maumee River and the settlements of southern Indiana and Illinois would, as Gen. Hull pointed out to the government before the war began, pass under British control.

Captain Nathan Heald
Alarming reports of Indian hostility and depredations came to Chicago (Indian: Chicagoua; French: Chicagou) during the winter of 1812. Early in March Captain Nathan Heald received news from a Frenchman at Milwaukee of hostilities committed by the Winnebagoes on the Mississippi river (the Indians called the Mississippi River, "Sinnissippi," meaning "rocky waters").

On April 6th a band of marauders who were believed to belong to the same tribe made a descent upon Chicago. Shortly before sunset eleven Indians appeared at the farm of Russell Heacock and  Charles Lee (or Leigh) some three or four miles from the fort down the South Branch. Lee is said to have settled at Chicago about the year 1805, having received the contract to supply the garrison with provisions. He lived with his family a short distance southwest of the fort, and carried on his farming operations at Lee's Place on the South Branch which was later known as Hardscrabble (today's Bridgeport community). Russell was evidently the partner of Lee, but aside from this fact nothing is known about him. The farm was under the immediate superintendence of an American named Liberty White, who had lived at Chicago for some time. At the time of the descent of the marauding war party there were three other persons, in addition to White, at the farm house, a soldier of the garrison named John Kelso (or Kelson), a boy whose name no one has taken the trouble to record, and a Canadian Frenchman, John B. Cardin, who had but recently come to Chicago.

Soon after the arrival of the visitors Kelso and the boy, not liking the aspect of affairs, "cleared out" for the fort. White and Cardin, less apprehensive of a hostile disposition on the part of the Indians, remained and were shortly murdered. The former was "shockingly butchered." He was tomahawked and scalped, his face was mutilated and his throat cut from ear to ear, and he received two balls through his body and ten knife stabs in his breast and hip. It was with reason that Capt. Heald declared him to be "the most horrible object I ever beheld in my life." Cardin was shot through the neck and scalped, but his body was not otherwise mutilated. It was Capt. Heald's belief that the Indians "spared him a little" out of consideration for his nationality. 

Following the murder of White and Cardin, the garrison and the civilian residents of Chicago endured for some time what may fairly be described as a state of siege. The murderers were supposed to belong to the Winnebago tribe, but the efforts of the commander to learn from the neighboring Indians whether the supposition was correct were in vain. Accordingly he forbade the Indians to come to the place until he should learn to what nation the murderers belonged. John Kinzie moved his family into the fort, and all of the other residents of the place outside the garrison fortified themselves in the house formerly occupied by Charles Jouett, the Chicago Indian agent. Those able to bear arms, fifteen in all, were organized by Capt. Heald into a militia company and furnished with arms and ammunition from the garrison store. Parties of savages lurked around, and the whites were forced to keep close to the fort to avoid the danger of losing their scalps. A few days after the murders three of the militia, two half-breeds and a Frenchman, deserted, thus reducing the membership of the company to twelve, the number present at the time of the massacre. The deserters were believed to have gone in the direction of "Millewakii," taking ten or a twelve horses with them.

On May 1st Francis Keneaum, a British subject who lived at Maiden, reached Chicago attended by two Chippewa Indians, enroute for Green Bay. The party was arrested on suspicion that Keneaum was a British emissary, and he subsequently made an affidavit showing that he had been engaged by the brother-in-law of Matthew Elliot, the British Indian agent, to go on a secret mission to Robert Dickson, the most active and influential British emissary among the tribes west of Lake Michigan. The Indians had taken the precaution to conceal the letters entrusted to them in their moccasins and to bury them. After their release from detention they proceeded on their way and delivered them to Dickson, who was passing the winter at the Fox-Wisconsin Portage. The message which Capt. Heald thus failed to intercept was from no less a person than General Brock, who was seeking to establish communication with Dickson; and it was due to the communication thus established that Dickson led his northwestern bands to St. Joseph's to co-operate in the attack on Mackinac, and in that descent upon Detroit which had such a fatal effect upon Gen. Hull's campaign.

We have seen already how that campaign progressed to its disastrous close, and that on its issue hung the fate of Fort Dearborn and the Northwest. With so much of importance in the immediate vicinity of Detroit to demand his attention, Gen. Hull had little time or thought to devote to the remote posts at Mackinac and Chicago. News of the declaration of war was received at Fort Dearborn toward the middle of July. The tradition was current at Chicago long afterward that the news was brought by Pierre Le Claire, a half-breed who figured in the negotiations for the surrender of the garrison on the day of the massacre, who walked from the mouth of the St. Joseph River to Fort Dearborn, a distance of ninety miles, in a single day. 

On July 14th, Gen. Hull wrote to Eustis, the Secretary of War, that he would cause the brig, "Adams," which had been launched ten days before, to be completed and armed as soon as possible for the purpose of supplying the posts of Mackinac and Fort Dearborn with the necessary stores and provisions, if they could be obtained at Detroit. Exactly two weeks later, however, two Chippewa Indians reached Gen. Hull's camp at Sandwich bringing news of the surrender of Mackinac. The report seemed so improbable that at first Gen. Hull refused to believe it, but close questioning brought forth so many circumstantial details as to remove his doubt. On the same day, July 29th, he wrote to the Secretary of War, "I shall immediately send an express to Fort Dearborn with orders to evacuate that post and retreat to this place or Fort Wayne, provided it can be effected with a greater prospect of safety than to remain. Capt. Heald is a judicious officer, and I shall confide much to his discretion." 

With the evacuation impending, we come upon some of the most important questions in the history of Fort Dearborn. The nature of Gen. Hull's order for the evacuation, the demeanor of the savages around the fort immediately prior to the evacuation, the relations subsisting between Capt. Heald and the officers and men under his control, the degree of sanity and sense displayed by the commander in dealing with the difficult situation which confronted him; all these things require careful consideration. In the accounts of the massacre that have been written hitherto, these matters have commonly been presented in such a way as to place the responsibility for the tragedy solely on Capt. Heald's shoulders, and to represent his administration of affairs as stupid and incompetent to the verge of imbecility. But there is abundant reason for suspecting that these accounts, which all proceed, directly or indirectly from a common source, do Capt. Heald grave injustice.  If an examination of the available sources of information confirms this suspicion it is quite time to correct the popular impression of the affair and do belated justice to the leader of civilization's forlorn hope on that day of savage triumph.
General Hull's Order for the Evacuation of Fort Dearborn, Dated July 29, 1812
Gen. Hull's letter to Eustis of July 29th expressed an intention to confide much to Capt. Heald's discretion in the matter of the evacuation. But his letter to Capt. Heald, although written on the same day, does not fulfil this intention. The order to evacuate was positive, and the reason assigned for this step was a want of provisions. Capt. Heald was also peremptorily enjoined to destroy the arms and ammunition. The only thing confided to his discretion was the disposition of the goods of the government factory, which he was authorized to give to the friendly Indians, and to the poor and needy of the settlement.

Unfortunately for Capt. Heald's reputation with posterity, the evacuation order was lost to sight for almost a century. Lieutenant Helm's labored account of the massacre, written in 1814, states that the order to Capt. Heald was "to Evacuate the Post of Fort Dearborn by the route of Detroit or Fort Wayne if Practicable." Helm's narrative, like the evacuation order, was unknown to the public for almost a century; his version of Gen. Hull's order, however, was preserved in the form of tradition in the family of Kinzie, the trader, to which Mrs. Helm belonged, and thus after the lapse of a third of a century it appeared in print in Mrs. Juliette Kinzie's account of the massacre which was afterward incorporated in her book, "Wau-Bun, the Early Day in the Northwest."

Captain William Wells
The evacuation order closed with the expression by Gen. Hull of the hope, destined never to be realized, of being able to announce in his next communication the surrender of the British at Maiden. Instead of this, on August 8th he abandoned Sandwich and recrossed the river to Detroit. The next day the Indian runner, Winnemac, delivered to Capt. Heald at Fort Dearborn his order for the evacuation. Gen. Hull also sent word of the intended evacuation to Fort Wayne, ordering the officers there to cooperate in the movement by rendering Capt. Heald any information and assistance in their power. In consequence of this Captain William Wells, the famous Indian scout, set out for Fort Dearborn at the head of thirty Miami warriors to assist in covering Capt. Heald's retreat.

The days following the ninth of August were, we may well believe, filled with care and busy preparation for Capt. Heald and all the white people in and around Fort Dearborn. Their situation in the heart of the wilderness was an appalling one, well calculated to tax the judgment and abilities of Capt. Heald, on whose wisdom and energy the fate of all depended, to the utmost. Apparently Kinzie sought to dissuade Capt. Heald from obeying Gen. Hull's order to evacuate. There must be powerful reasons to justify him in taking this step, yet if sufficiently convincing ones pertaining to the safety of the garrison existed, it is clear that Capt. Heald should have assumed the responsibility on the ground that the order had been issued in ignorance of the facts of the situation confronting the Fort Dearborn garrison.

There were several reasons to be urged against an evacuation. The fort was well situated for defense. With the garrison at hand it could probably be held indefinitely against an attack by Indians alone, providing the supply of ammunition and provisions held out. The surrounding Indians outnumbered the garrison ten to one, it is true, but success against such odds when the whites were sheltered behind a suitable stockade was not unusual in the annals of border warfare. The red man possessed little taste for besieging a fortified place, and if the first assault were beaten off, his lack both of artillery and of resolution to persevere in such a contest rendered his success improbable, unless the odds were overwhelmingly in his favor, or the provisions of the besieged gave out. Moreover, whatever the odds might be at Fort Dearborn, the probability of making a successful defense behind the walls of the stockade was immeasurably greater than it would be in the open country. Both Governor Edwards of Illinois and Harrison of Indiana were vigorous executives, and if the fort were held, relief might reasonably be expected before long from the militia which was then being collected in southern Illinois and Indiana, or even from Kentucky.

The situation was complicated, too, by the private interests at stake. Evacuation would mean financial ruin to Kinzie, the trader, and Lee, the farmer. These considerations Capt. Heald properly ignored of course. But the danger to the families of the soldiers and of the civilians clustered around the fort was greater and more appalling than to the garrison itself. There could be no thought of abandoning these helpless souls, yet the attempt to convey them away with the garrison would render the retreat exceedingly slow and cumbersome. Kinzie at Chicago and Forsyth at Peoria were well known and esteemed by the resident natives, and many of these were well disposed toward the Americans; the hostile bands might be expected to disperse after a period of unsuccessful siege, and the property of the settlers and the lives of the garrison would be saved.

On the other hand, most of these things were as familiar to Gen. Hull as to Capt. Heald himself. Practically the only feature of Capt. Heald's situation about which Gen. Hull's knowledge might be presumed to be deficient was that concerning the number and demeanor of the Indians around Fort Dearborn. But in the provision of his order authorizing Capt. Heald to distribute the goods of the factory "to the Friendly Indians who may be desirous of escorting you on to Fort Wayne" was a clear indication of the commanding general's will in case this contingency should be realized. Obedience to orders is the primary duty of a soldier. He may not refrain from executing the order of his superior, however ill-advised it may appear to him, unless it is evident that it was issued under a misapprehension of the facts of the situation, and that the commander himself, if aware of these facts, would revoke it. The truth of this proposition is so obvious that it would scarcely be worthwhile to state it, were it not for the fact that there has been a practically unanimous chorus of condemnation of Capt. Heald on the part of those who have hitherto written of the Fort Dearborn massacre because he acted in accordance with it and obeyed his superior's order. Capt. Heald's own view of his duty is clear, both from the course he followed and from the narratives of himself and of his detractors. The latter shows that he paid no attention to the protests against the evacuation made by Kinzie and such others as the trader was able to influence; while in his own official report of the massacre Capt. Heald does not even discuss the question of holding the fort or of his reason for evacuating it, further than to recite the order received from Gen. Hull to do so. 

The time until the thirteenth of August was doubtless spent in preparation for the wilderness journey, though actual details are for the most part wanting. Some slight indication of the commander's labors is afforded by an affidavit he made in 1817 in behalf of Kinzie and Forsyth's claims against the government for compensation for the losses sustained by them in the massacre. In this Capt. Heald stated that, being ordered to evacuate Fort Dearborn and march the troops to Fort Wayne, he employed sundry horses and mules, with saddles, bridles, and other equipment, the property of Kinzie and Forsyth, to transport provisions and other necessities for the troops. On August 13th Captain Wells arrived from Fort Wayne with his thirty Miami warriors to act as an additional escort for the troops in their retreat. Probably on this day a council was held with the Indians at which Capt. Heald announced his intention to distribute the goods among them and evacuate the fort, and stipulated for their protection upon his retreat.  On the fourteenth the goods in the factory were delivered to the Indians, together with a considerable quantity of provisions which could not be taken along on the retreat. The stock of liquor was destroyed, however, as were also the surplus arms and ammunition. The one was calculated to fire the red man to deeds of madness, while for the whites to give him the other would have been to furnish him with the means for their own destruction.

To the resentment kindled among the Indians by the destruction of these stores the immediate cause of the attack and massacre on the following day has often been ascribed. That the disappointment of the red man was keen is self-evident. Yet that but for the destruction of the powder and whisky there would have been no attack on the garrison seems most improbable. Capt. Heald stated under oath several years later that prior to the evacuation the Indians had made "much application" to him for ammunition, and expressed the opinion that but for the destruction which took place not a soul among the whites would have escaped the tomahawk. 

All was now ready for the departure, which was to take place on the morning of the fifteenth. At this juncture there came to the commander a belated warning. Black Partridge, a Pottawattamie chief from the Illinois River, came to him with the significant message that "linden birds" had been singing in his ears and they ought to be careful on the march they were about to make. At the same time he surrendered his medal, explaining that the young warriors were bent on mischief and probably could not be restrained.

It was now too late to withdraw from the plan of evacuating the fort, even if the commander had desired to do so. The next morning dawned warm and cloudless. Inside the stockade the last preparations for the toilsome journey had been made. No chronicler was present to preserve a record of the final scenes, but the imagination can find little difficulty in picturing them. With all its rudeness and privation, the Chicago they were leaving was home to the members of the little party for some the only one they had ever known. Here the Lees had lived for half a dozen years; here their children had been born, and had passed their happy childhood. Here the Kinzies had lived for an even longer time, and had long since attained a relative degree of prosperity. Here the soldiers had hunted and skated and fished, and gone through their monotonous routine duties until they had become second nature to them. Here the talented young Van Voorhis had dreamed dreams and seen visions of the teeming millions that were to compose the busy civilization of this region in the distant future. Hither in the spring of 1811 the commander had brought his beautiful Kentucky bride, the niece of Captain Wells; here, true to her ancestry, she had fallen in love with the wilderness life; and here, three months before, her life had been darkened by its first great tragedy, the loss of her first-born son, "born dead for the want of a skillful Midwife." We may not know the thoughts or forebodings that filled the mind of each member of the little wilderness caravan, but doubtless home was as dear, and anxiety for the future as keen, to the humbler members of the party as to any of those whose names are better known. 

Without, in the marshes and prairies and woods that stretched away from the fort to south and west and north, the representatives of another race were encamped. Several hundred red warriors, many of them accompanied by their squaws and children, had gathered about the doomed garrison.

For them, doubtless, the preceding days had been filled with eager debate and anticipation. The former had concerned the momentous question whether to heed the advice of the Americans to remain neutral in the war between the white nations, or whether to follow their natural inclination to raise the hatchet against the hated Long Knives and in behalf of their former Great Father. The latter had hinged about the visions of wealth hitherto undreamed of to flow from the distribution of the white man's stores among them; or about the prospect, equally pleasing to the majority, of taking sweet if belated revenge for the long train of disasters and indignities they had suffered at the hands of the hated race by the slaughter of its representatives gathered here within their grasp. As day by day the runners came from the Detroit frontier with news of the ebbing of lull's fortunes and with appeals from Tecumseh to strike a blow for their race, the peace party among them dwindled, doubtless, as did the hope of Gen. Hull's army. Now, at the critical moment, on the eve of the evacuation when, if ever, the blow must be struck, had come a final message from Tecumseh with news of Gen. Hull's retreat to Detroit and of the decisive victory of August 4th over a portion of his troops at Brownstown. With this the die was cast, and the fate of the garrison sealed. The war bands could no longer be restrained by the friendly chiefs, to whom was left the role of watching what they could not prevent and saving such of their friends as they might from destruction. 

And now the stage is set for Chicago's grimmest tragedy. Before us are the figures of her early days. Let us pause a moment to take note of some of the actors before the curtain is lifted for the drama. John Kinzie, the trader, vigorous and forceful and shrewd, with more at stake financially than anyone else in the company, but, of vastly greater importance, with a surer means of protection for the lives of himself and family in the friendship of the Indians. Chandonnai, the half-breed, staunch friend of the Americans, whom all authorities unite in crediting with noble exertions to save the prisoners. The friendly Pottawattamie chiefs, Alexander Robinson, who was to pilot the Capt. Healds to safety at Mackinac, and Black Partridge, who had warned Capt. Heald of the impending attack, and who soon would save the life of Mrs. Helm. Among the hostile leaders were Black Bird, probably the son of the chief who had assisted the Americans in plundering St. Joseph in 1781; and Nuscotnemeg, or the Mad Sturgeon, already guilty of many murders committed against the whites. There were, of course, many other chiefs of greater or less degree and reputation. Then there were the officers and their wives. Capt. Heald, the commander, old in experience and responsibility if not in years; his beautiful and spirited young wife, whose charm could stay the descent of the deadly tomahawk, and whose bravery extort the admiration of even her savage captors; Lieutenant Helm and his young wife, who preferred to meet the impending danger by the side of her husband. Of the younger men, Van Voorhis and Ronan, the former has left of himself a winning picture, sketched in a letter a fragment of which has been preserved; the latter is painted in the only description we have of him, in the pages of Wau Bun, as brave and spirited, but rash and overbearing and lacking a due sense of respect for his superiors in age and responsibility. These faults of youth, if in fact they existed, were soon to be atoned by the bravery with which he met his fate, fighting desperately to the end.

Sadder, however, than any of these was the situation of some of the humbler members of the party. That a soldier and officer should face death with composure was to be expected; that a soldier's wife should brave danger by his side was not an unknown thing in the annals of the frontier. But the officers' wives were mounted, and whatever might happen on the weary march; they were certain to receive the best care and attention the resources of the company could afford. There were, too, in their case no children for whom to provide or worry. But what of the state of mind of those members of the Chicago "militia," who in addition to abandoning their homes were burdened with wives and children, and with inadequate means of providing for them? What of Mrs. Burns and Mrs. Simmons with their babies of a few months and the hardships of the march before them? What of the other mothers' forebodings for their loved ones? What of the wife of Fielding Corbin, with the pangs of approaching maternity upon her and the prospect of the dreary journey before her? Perhaps it was a mercy a period was so soon to be put to her trials. Finally, what of the innocent babies whose bright eyes were looking out, doubtless, in uncomprehending wonder, upon the unwonted scene of bustle and excitement around them?

With them but not of them was William Wells, the famous frontier scout, the true history of whose life surpasses fiction. Member of a prominent Kentucky family, the brother of Colonel Samuel Wells of Louisville, he was kidnaped at an early age by the Indians and adopted into the family of Little Turtle, the noted Miami chieftain. He became a noted warrior and fought by the side of his red brothers in the campaigns of 1790 and 1791, when they defeated the armies of Harmar and St. Clair. Afterward, whether because of a belated consciousness of his true race identity or of the solicitations of his white relatives and the pleading of his beautiful niece, Rebekah Wells, he threw in his lot with the whites. His fame as a scout and fighter soon became as great among them as it had formerly been with the Indians. He was a perfect master of woodcraft and of the Indian mode of warfare, and as head of a special force of scouts he rendered most efficient service in Wayne's campaign. 

Perhaps the most notable tribute to his character is the fact that despite this change of allegiance he continued to retain the esteem of his former associates; and that in this period of fierce rivalry between the two races he enjoyed at one and the same time the esteem and confidence of such men as Little Turtle on the one side and Anthony Wayne and William Henry Harrison on the other. At the conclusion of the Treaty of Greenville Little Turtle made a speech on behalf of the Indians, expressing his satisfaction with it; in the course of which, adverting to the subject of the traders, he especially requested that Wells be stationed by the government at Fort Wayne as resident interpreter, saying that he possessed the confidence of the Indians as fully as he did that of the whites. Fort Wayne remained his place of residence for the remainder of his life and during most of the time he was serving in the government Indian Department. In 1807 Capt. Heald came to Fort Wayne as commander of the post, and here met and wooed Rebekah, the daughter of Samuel, and favorite niece of William Wells. Now at the summons of love and duty, heedless of the danger to himself, the latter had hastened with his friendly Miamis from Fort Wayne to rescue her and assist in the retreat of the garrison. He alone of all the company, therefore, was present from choice rather than from necessity. His arrival at Fort Dearborn on the thirteenth must have afforded the only ray of cheer and hope which came to the settlement in this time of trial and danger. 

All preparations being complete, about nine o'clock the stockade gate was thrown open and there issued forth the saddest procession [today's] Michigan Avenue has ever known. In the lead were a part of the Miamis, and Wells, their leader, alert and watching keenly for the first signs of a hostile demonstration. In due array followed the garrison, the women and children who were able to walk, and the Chicago militia, the rear being brought up by the remainder of the Miamis. Most of the children, being too young to walk, rode in one of the wagons, accompanied, probably, by one or more of the women. Mrs. Heald and Mrs. Helm were mounted and near or with their husbands, though each couple became separated early in the combat. The other women and children were on foot around the baggage wagons, which were guarded by Ensign Ronan, Surgeon Van Voorhis, the soldiers who had families, and the twelve Chicago militia. 
Deadly Encounter at Fort Dearborn.
The route taken was due south, parallel with the river until its mouth was reached and then along the beach, not far, probably, from the present Michigan Avenue, for most of the land to the east has been filled in since the beginning of modern Chicago. On the right of the column moved an escort of Pottawattamies. Below the mouth of the river began a row of sand hills, or ridges, which ran between the prairie and the beach, parallel to the latter and distant from it about one hundred yards. When these were reached the soldiers continued along the beach, while the Pottawattamies disappeared behind the ridges to the right. The reason for this soon became apparent. When a distance of about a mile and a half had been traversed by the soldiers Captain Wells, who with his militia was some distance in advance, discovered that the Indians had prepared an ambush for the whites and were about to attack them from their vantage point behind the bank. Aware of a favorable position for defense a short distance ahead, he rode  rapidly back toward the main body to urge Capt. Heald to press forward and occupy it, swinging his hat in a circle around his head as he went, as a signal that the party was surrounded. The heads of the warriors now became visible all along the line, popping up "like turtles out of the water." The troops immediately charged up the bank, and with a single volley followed home with a bayonet charge scattered the Indians before them. But this move proved as futile as it was brave. The Indians gave way in front only to join their fellows in another place, on the flank or in the rear, and the fight went on.

Meanwhile a deadlier combat, which we may perhaps think of as a separate battle, was raging around the wagons in the rear. Here it was that the real massacre occurred. Apparently in the charge up the sand hills and in the ensuing movements the main division of the regulars under Capt. Heald became separated from the rear division, and yet it was precisely here, where the provisions and the helpless women and children were placed, that protection was most urgently needed. The Indians, outnumbering the whites almost ten to one, swarmed around, some, apparently, even coming from the front to share in the easier contest at this point. Here were the junior officers, Ronan and Van Voorhis, and here, apparently, Kinzie had elected to stay. Around the wagons too were the militia, twelve in number, comprising the male inhabitants of the settlement capable of bearing arms, who had been organized and armed by Capt. Heald at the time of the April murders. The combat here was furious, being waged hand to hand in an indiscriminate melee. Fighting desperately with bayonet and musket-butt the militia were cut down to a man. But one, Sergeant Burns, escaped instant death, and he, grievously wounded, was slaughtered an hour after the surrender by an infuriated squaw. Ronan and Van Voorhis shared their fate as did the regular soldiers, Kinzie being the only white man at the wagons who survived. Even the soldiers' wives, armed with swords, hacked bravely away as long as they were able. In the course of the melee two of the women and most of the children were slain.

The butchery of these unfortunate innocents constitutes the saddest feature of that gory day. The measure which had been taken to insure their welfare was responsible for their destruction; for while the conflict raged hotly, a young fiend broke through the defenders of the wagons and climbing into the one containing the children quickly tomahawked all but one of them. Of the women slain one was Mrs. Corbin, the wife of a private soldier, who is said to have resolved never to be taken prisoner, dreading more than death the indignities she believed would be in store for her. Accordingly she fought until she was cut to pieces. The other was Cicely, Mrs. Heald's Negro serving-woman. She and her infant son, who also perished, afford two of the few instances of which we have authentic record of Negroes being held in slavery at Chicago.

While this slaughter was going on at the wagons Captain Wells, who had been fighting in front with the main body of troops, seems to have started back to the scene to engage in a last effort to save the women and children. His horse was wounded and he himself was shot through the breast. He bade his niece farewell, when his horse fell, throwing him prostrate on the ground with one leg caught under its side. Some Indians approaching, he continued to fire at them, killing one or more from his prostrate position. An Indian now took aim at him, seeing which Wells signed to him to shoot, and his stormy career was ended.

The foe paid their sincerest tribute of respect to his bravery by cutting out his heart and eating it, thinking thus to imbibe the qualities of its owner in life. Wells was the real hero of the Chicago massacre, giving his life voluntarily to save his friends. The debt which Chicago owes to his memory an earlier generation sought to discharge by giving his name to one of the city's principal streets. But to its shame a later one robbed him in large part of this honor, by giving to that portion of the street which runs south of the river the inappropriate and meaningless designation of Fifth Avenue.

The close of another brave career was dramatic enough to deserve separate mention. During the battle Sergeant Hayes, who had already manifested the greatest bravery, engaged in individual combat with an Indian. The guns of both had been discharged, when the Indian ran up to him with uplifted tomahawk. Before the warrior could strike Hayes ran his bayonet into his breast up to the socket, so that he could not pull it out. In this situation, supported by the bayonet, the Indian tomahawked him, and the foemen fell dead together, the bayonet still in the red man's breast.

Meanwhile what of Capt. Heald and the troops under his immediate direction? The Miamis had abandoned the Americans at the first sign of hostilities. After a few minutes of sharp fighting Capt. Heald drew off with such of his men as still survived to a slight elevation on the open prairie, out of shot of the bank or any other cover. Here he enjoyed a temporary respite, for the Indians refrained from following him, having no desire, apparently, to grapple with the regulars at close range in the open. The fight thus far had lasted only about fifteen minutes, yet half of the regulars had fallen, Wells and two of the officers were dead and the other two wounded, and the Americans were hopelessly beaten. The alternatives before them were to die fighting to the last, or to surrender and trust to the savages for mercy. After some delay the Indians sent a half-breed interpreter, who lived near the fort and was friendly with the garrison, and who in the commencement of the action had gone over to the Indians in the hope of saving his life, to make overtures for a surrender. Capt. Heald advanced alone toward the Indians and was met by the interpreter and the chief, Black Bird, who requested him to surrender, promising to spare the lives of the prisoners. The soldiers at first opposed the proposition, but after some parleying the surrender was made, Capt. Heald promising, as a further inducement to the Indians to spare the prisoners, a ransom of one hundred dollars for every one still living. The captives were now led back to the beach and thence along the route toward the fort over which they had passed but an hour or so before. On the way they passed the scene of the massacre around the wagons. Helm records his horror at the sight of the men, women, and children "lying naked with principally all their heads off." In passing the bodies he thought he perceived that of his wife, with her head severed from her shoulders. The sight almost overcame him, and we may readily believe that he "now began to repent" that he had ever surrendered. He was happily surprised, however, on approaching the fort to find her alive and well, sitting crying among some squaws. She owed her preservation to the friendly Black Partridge, who had claimed her as his prisoner.

In the action the white force numbered fifty-five regulars and twelve militia in addition to Wells and Kinzie, the latter of whom did not participate in the fighting. Against these were pitted about five hundred Indians. The white men were better armed, but the Indians had the advantage of position and of freedom from the encumbrance of baggage and women and children to protect. Under the circumstances the odds were overwhelmingly in their favor, and their comparatively easy victory was but a matter of course. Their loss was estimated by Capt. Heald at about fifteen. The Americans killed in the action comprised twenty-six regular soldiers, the twelve militia and Captain Wells, with two of the women and twelve children. A number of the survivors, too, were wounded.

Following the surrender came the customary scenes of savage cruelty. The friendly Indians could answer only for the prisoners in their possession. Some of the wounded were tortured to death, and it is not improbable that some of the prisoners were burned at the stake. The more detailed story of their fate, along with that of the other survivors of the battle, is reserved for the following chapter. For the remainder of the day and the ensuing night the victors surfeited themselves with the plunder and the torture. The following day the plundering of the fort and the distribution of the prisoners were completed, the buildings were fired, and the bands set out for their several villages. The corpses on the lake shore, bloody and mutilated, were left to the buzzards and the wolves, and over Chicago silence and desolation reigned supreme. In March, 1813, Robert Dickson passed through Chicago on a mission to rouse the northwestern tribes against the Americans. He reported that there were two brass cannon, one dismounted, and the other on wheels but in the river. The powder magazine was in a good state of preservation and the houses outside the fort were well constructed. He urged the Indians not to destroy them, as the British would have occasion to use them if they should find it necessary to establish a garrison here.

Twenty-nine soldiers, seven women, and six children remained alive at the close of the battle among the sand dunes to face the horrors of captivity among the Indians. These figures do not include Kinzie, the trader, and the members of his family, who were regarded as neutrals and were not included by the Indians in the number of their prisoners.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.