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men as a very few do now respecting our military posts, and behold t(he) results!"
The reply of Davis to this Macedonian call is not a matter of record, but Mrs. Kinzie makes it clear that of religious interest or observance at Fort Winnebago there was very little. Recently from the East and an enthusiastic church-woman, she vainly endeavored to persuade the inmates of the garrison to assemble on Sunday for religious service. “I approached the subject cautiously,” she writes, “with an inquiry to this effect:
‘Are there none among the officers who are religiously disposed?
‘Oh, yes,' replied the one whom I addressed, 'there is Swhen he is half tipsy he takes his Bible and Newton's Works, and goes to bed and cries over them; he thinks in this way he is excessively pious.'”
From Fort Winnebago Davis made numerous journeys to surrounding points. One of the first of these was the logging assignment up the Wisconsin, in connection with which a local tradition still persists that he rode one of the first rafts of logs ever piloted through the surging waters of the famous dells of the Wisconsin. One Wisconsin pioneer recalled in old age that Davis made many journeys to Dodgeville to attend social gatherings and asserted that for nearly half a century he was well-remembered by the older residents of the place.12 An excursion that is better authenticated led him to Chicago in the autum of 1829. In after years Davis looked upon himself as the discoverer of the Four-Lakes Country, and believed that his was the first overland journey to be made by white men between the Fox-Wisconsin portage and Chicago.13 A member of the Fort Dearborn garrison at this time was Lieutenant David Hunter Looking out from the fort one morning in 1829 where now swirls the greatest tide of humanity borne by any bridge in the world, Hunter perceived on the north side of the river a white man. Wondering who the stranger could be, he entered a small canoe, intended for but a single person, and paddled across to interview him. It proved to be Davis, and inviting him to lie down in the bottom of the canoe Hunter ferried him across to the post. The passage of time was to
12 John Wentworth in Fergus Historical Series No. 7, 26. 13 Letter to James D. Butler, cited above.
work a strange transformation in the relations between the occupants of that little boat in this voyage across the placid Chicago. In May, 1862, Hunter, now a Major-general in command of the Department of the South, issued an order emancipating the slaves in the states of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, and he followed this up by organizing the first negro regiment for service in the Civil War. Davis, as president of the Confederacy, responded with a proclamation of outlawry against Hunter, threatening in the event of his capture by the Confederate forces to put him to death as a felon. Again the band of time moved on, and the spring of 1865 witnessed the spectacle of Davis manacled in a dungeon, charged with instigating the assassination of President Lincoln, while Hunter served as president of the military commission which sat in judgement on the Lincoln conspirators.
Precisely when Davis' stay at Fort Winnebago terminated and his second sojourn at Fort Crawford began, seems impossible certainly to determine. The clearest evidence I have found on this point is supplied by Davis himself in the letter of 1872 to his friend George W. Jones of Dubuque which has already been alluded to. In this he states that at the outbreak of Indian hostilities in 1831 he joined the command of General Gaines at Rock Island, and after the treaty of that year was ordered to Prairie du Chien. The campaign referred to occurred in June, 1831, when General Gaines with ten companies of regular compelled Black Hawk's band to abandon their village at the mouth of Rock River and agree to withdraw permanently to the west side of the Mississippi. The campaign ended with the signing of the treaty on the last day of June, yet the diary of Cutting Marsh, from which we have quoted above, places Davis at Fort Winnebago on July 25 of this year. A possible explanation of the conflicting evidence would be that after the close of Gaines' brief campaign Davis returned to Fort Winnebago for a short time before being transferred to Fort Crawford. 14
Subsequent to the campaign with Gaines, apparently in the summer or autumn of 1831,16 Davis was dispatched by
14 Another explanation is possible—that Marsh, who was not himself at Fort Winnebago wrote to Davis in ignorance of the fact that he had been called into active service and was, therefore, no longer at the fort. 15 It is possible that the episode I am bout to describe should be assigned to
of 1832 rather than 1831; I have found nothing which conclusively
the autum fixes the date
Colonel Taylor to the lead mines at Dubuque to take charge of a difficult situation. A large number of miners had crossed to the west side of the river and in defiance of the prohibition of the government had staked out many claims while the land still belonged to the Indians. Another officer, Lieut. George Wilson, had been sent down with a squad of soldiers to evict the trespassers but the latter were numerous and determined and the officer was compelled to retire without accomplishing anything. In this posture of affairs Davis was dispatched with a larger body of soldiers to eject the miners from the country. Although Davis had the requisite force at his command, he chose to employ persuasion. In the first public address of his life, according to Mrs. Davis he informed the miners that the command must be obeyed. He explained, however, that their eviction was but temporary, and as soon as the requisite arrangements could be made for the extinction of the Indian title they would be free to return. Meanwhile, he volunteered to secure to each man the lead or claim he had staked out, by exerting his influence to this end with Captain Legate, the United States superintendent of the lead mines. This sensible program met the approval of the squatters, who with-drew peaceably to the east side of the river.18 Davis remained at Dubuque for some time, watching over the miners and the Indians. In a conversation with Charles Aldrich of the Iowa Historical Society, almost at the close of life, he recalled by name many of the early settlers of Dubuque and related various interesting incidents connected with his service there.
With the spring of 1832 Davis secured a furlough from his regiment for the purpose of paying a somewhat extended visit to his former home and relatives in Mississippi. Before he had time to depart, however, the invasion of Illinois by Black Hawk began; the garrison at Fort Crawford was called into the field, of course, and Davis was with it throughout the campaign, serving in the capacity of adjutant to Colonel Taylor. Pushing up Rock River, the regulars reached Dixon about the middle of May, whence Davis was despatched to Galena to assist in bringing order out of the confusion which had been precipitated
16 For this account I have drawn on Davis' own statements as presented in Mrs. Davis' Memoir, and on those made by George W. Jones in the Davis Memorial Volume (Richmond, 1890), 48-49.
there in connection with the efforts of militia officers to organize the miners for military service. Returning to Dixon from this service, Davis remained there with his command until June 27, when the northward advance of the army was resumed. The followers of Black Hawk, outnumbered and famishing, were now only seeking to escape their pursuers; the retreat led over the present site of Madison, across the beautiful University grounds, and on to the Wisconsin River on the western border of Dane County. Here the warriors were overtaken and Black Hawk fought a rear-guard engagement, known as the battle of Wisconsin Heights. Although but a small affair, it was the first engagement Davis ever witnessed, and the generalship displayed by the red leader made a great impression upon his mind. Over half a century later, with his mind stored with the experiences of the Mexican and Civil Wars, he described it as “the most brilliant exhibition of military tactics that I ever witnessed—a feat of most consumate management and bravery, in the face of an enemy of greatly superior numbers.” “Had it been performed by white men,” he continued, "it would have been immortalized as one of the most splendid achievements in military history" 17 This characterization more than confirms the modest claim of Black Hawk, made in writing his biography, that “whatever the sentiments of the white people in relation to this battle, my nation, though fallen, will award to me the reputation of a great brave in conducting it.”
The pursuers again caught up with their quarry on the bank of the Mississippi. This time an armed steamboat lay in the river to prevent the Indians from crossing and in the battle of Bad Axe, fought on August 2, Black Hawk's band was practically annihilated. This action ended the war, and the next day the regulars descended the river to Prairie du Chien. Here Black Hawk was shortly delivered to Colonel Taylor by some Winnebago Indians, in whose country he had sought refuge after the overthrow at Bad Axe. The task of conveying the prisoner to Jefferson Barracks was committed by Colonel Taylor to Davis. At Galena a crowd of sightseers boarded the boat, intent on gloating over the fallen foe. But Davis interposed to protect him from this humiliation, winning
17 Interview with Charles Alrich, reported in Midland Monthly, V, 408-9.
thereby a dignified tribute of gratitude from Black Hawk when he composed his autobiography a year or two later.
At Jefferson Barracks Black Hawk was committed to prison for a brief time, and then taken on an extended tour of the East, in the course of which he seems to have become something of a social lion. Davis returned to Fort Crawford, whence, at some time during the autumn, apparently he was sent to Yellow River, a few miles away, to assume control of a detachment of soldiers engaged in getting out lumber for use at Fort Crawford. This assignment and the one of 1829 at Fort Winnebago comprise the sum of Davis' lumbering experiences in the Northwest, concerning which many inaccurate and extravagant statements have been made. Their general tenor is conveniently summarized in the statements made on the subject by Mrs. Davis in the Memoir. Of the first experience, she says that in the spring of 1829 her husband was sent from Fort Crawford to the vicinity of modern Menominee on the Red Cedar River,18 to cut logs for repairing the fort. Amid many perils the work was prosecuted throughout the winter. At one time the men took to headlong flight when an Indian war party swept into view. One canoe landed, and a warrior came within 12 feet of the sport where Davis lay concealed. Thus, in constant peril, with the threat of death hurtling forth from behind every tree or bush,19 the work was carried on. When the raft was made, the oxen and outfit were placed upon it for the descent to Prairie du Chien; but the swift stream sucked the raft into a side current of the Chippewa, where it was broken up and several of the oxen were drowned. Hence the place gained the name of "Beef Slough,” famous in the logging annals of Wisconsin at a later day. For a portion of the narrative Mrs. Davis cites a newspaper clipping by "a western historian whose name was not revealed".20
18 The Red Cedar is a tributary of the Chippewa; Menominee is upwards of 300 miles above Prairie du Chien.
10 The extreme peril of living on the northwestern frontier is a pronounced obsession with Mrs. Davis. Wandering Indians, even in times of peace, would occasionally commit acts of violence against whites; but the chief danger to travelers proceeded not from the Indians but from the physical obstacles encountered. The visitor to the Chicago loop is probably in at least as great danger at the hands of gunmen as was the traveler in the Northwest a century ago from the Indians.
20 Mrs. Davis' account agrees fairly closely with several preserved in Wisconsin local histories, and appears, indeed, to be based upon these.