« PreviousContinue »
received by tho suffrages of his fellows, and one that afforded particular satisfaction to his not unaspiring, though modest spirit, as he, long afterward, frankly admitted.
Their first march was to the rendezvous appointed by Gov. Reynolds, at Beardstown, one of the earlier settlements on the Illinois river, forty miles west of New Salem. Here eighteen hundred men were speedily assembled, under the direction of the Governor. The forces were organized into four regiments, with an additional spy battalion. Gen. Samuel Whiteside, of the State militia, who had commanded the spy battalion in the campaign of the previous year, was now intrusted with the command of the whole brigade. Gen. James D. Henry was placed at the head of the spy battalion.
This little army, a more imposing force than that of the preceding year, set out from Beardstown on the 27th of April, for the scene of action. Three or four days' hard marching across the country brought the volunteers to Oquawka, on the Mississippi, from whence they proceeded, without delay, northward to the mouth of Rock river. Here it was arranged with Gen. Atkinson, commander of the regulars, that the volunteer force should march up the latter stream a distance of about fifty miles, to Prophetstown, where they were to encamp, awaiting the arrival of the regulars, with provisions, by the river. Gen. Whiteside, however, instead of following out this plan, set fire to the Prophet's village, on arriving, and pushed forward toward Dixon's Ferry, forty miles further up the river.
These incessant marches must have severely taxed the endurance of many of the inexperienced soldiers, but to Capt. Lincoln, reared as he had been, they rather hightened the exhilaration which attended these adventures from the start. The prospect of speedily overtaking and encountering the enemy in battle, and the hope of winning, in the fight, some special honors for the little contingent under his command, relieved the sense of fatigue. A short distance below Dixon's Ferry, it was ordered that the baggage-wagons should be left behind, and that a forced march should be made upon that place. Arrived there, Gen. Whiteside halted, and sent
out scouting parties to ascertain the position and condition of the enemy. Here two battalions of mounted volunteers, num. bering two hundred and seventy-five men, joined them from McLean, Peoria, and other counties, eager to distingish themselves by participating in the war. Some of these fiery spirits, advancing without orders, and having no other duty assigned them than that of scouts, had a little skirmish on the 12th of May, a mile distant from their encampment, in Ogle county, with a number of mounted Indians, in which threu of the latter were killed. Black-Hawk and his principal forces were not far off, and rallying seven hundred men, he promptly repelled the assaults of these scouts, pursuing them in a disorderly condition, to their camp. These rash adventurers now showed greater eagerness in flight, than they had before to gain distinction in battle, and ran helter-skelter over the prairie, producing such confusion and dismay as to render it difficult to prevent the most serious effects from their insubordinate conduct. As it was, eleven of the men were killed, the confidence of the Indians was greatly raised, and the survivors, who came straggling into the camp of General Whiteside, were full of panic, anticipating an immediate and general attack from their pursuers. Such was “Stillman's defeat.”
The consequence of this affair was a council of war at the tent of the commander-in-chief, and a decision to march, early next morning, to the scene of that evening's misadventure. The great battle which Capt. Lincoln and his fellowvolunteers had come so far to participate in, seemed now on the point of becoming a reality. Notwithstanding the premature advance of Whiteside from Prophetstown had left them without the necessary supplies, and subjected them to the privations so well known to experienced soldiers, yet seldom encountered so early in a campaign, they made up for the absence of their regular provisions as best they might, and were ready, with the dawn, for the day's undertaking. But their enemy did not await their coming. Arrived at the scene of yesterday's skirmish and flight, they found not a straggler of all the savage forces. They had partly gone further up the river, and partly dispersed, to commit depredations in the
surrounding country. One party of them came suddenly upon a settlement near Ottawa, and massacred fifteen persons, carrying two young women into captivity. This circumstance alone is sufficient to show how utterly unfounded was the pretense of some that Black-Hawk had no hostile purpose, in this repudiation of his treaty engagements, and to remove any ground for the mistaken sympathy which many have expended
After this energetic but vain attempt to fall in with the enemy and give him battle, Gen. Whiteside, having buried the dead of the day before, returned to camp, where he was joined, next day, by Gen. Atkinson, with his troops and supplies. The numbers of the army were thus increased to twenty-four hundred, and a few weeks more would have enabled this force to bring the war to a successful close. But
of the volunteers, whose time had nearly expired, were eager to be discharged. They had seen quite enough of the hardships of a campaign, which, without bringing as yet any glory, had turned out in reality quite different from what their imaginations had foretold. With the prevailing discontents, but one course was possible. The volunteers were marched to Ottawa, where they were discharged by Gov. Reynolds, on the 27th and 28th of May.
This sudden disbanding, without a battle, and with no results accomplished, was a disappointment to the young captain from Menard county. Gov. Reynolds had previously issued a call for two thousand new volunteers, to assemble at Beardstown and Hennepin. In accordance with the wishes of Lincoln, and others, who were still ready to bear their share of the campaign, to its close, the Governor also asked for the formation of a volunteer regiment from those just discharged. Lincoln promptly enrolled himself as a private, as did also General Whiteside.
Before the arrival of the other levies, a skirmishing fight with the Indians was had at Burr Oak Grove, on the 18th of June, in which the enemy was defeated, with considerable loss, and on the side of the volunteers, two killed and uno wounded.