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The military expeditions of 1814, in which Illinois participated, were by water on the Mississippi. The first projected in the west was that of Governor Clark (in the absence of General Howard), which left St. Louis about the 1st of May. It comprised a force of some 200 men in five armed barges, its destination being Prairie du Chien. The notorious Dickson, British agent and Indian trader, a man of pleasing manner and captivating address, had but a few days before recruited for the British army 300 Sioux, Winnebagoes and Folsavoisns, whom he was conducting to Canada. A small garrison of “Mackinac fencibles”, in command of a British officer, was left in charge of the place, but being greatly outnumbered by Clark's forces, they joined the fleeing iubabitants. Clark's unopposed troops were quartered in the house of the Mackinaw Fur Company, and a fort, calledShelby, was built. In June Gov. Clark returned to St. Louis, where the people tendered him a public ovation in honor of his conquest. Thus easily did he win military glory. But in July a large force of British and Indians under Col. Mackey, came by water from Mackinaw, via Green Bay and the Wisconsin, and after a short seige, Gov. Clark's entire garrison capitulated and was paroled, leaving the British with the new fort in much better condition than two months before. Such are the fortunes of war.
In the meantime, Gen. Howard, having returned to his post, deemed it advisable to strengthen so remote a post as Prairie du Chien, and to that end sent reinforcements to the number of 108 men, in charge of Lieut. Campbell of the regular army, in three keel boats up the river. Of this force 66 men were Illinois Rangers, under Captains Stephen Rector, and Riggs, who occupied two boats. The remainder were with Campbell in the other boat. Rock Isla nd, where they laid up for a night, was passed without molestation, but at the foot of the rapids great numbers of the Sac and Fox Indians visited the boats with professions of friendship. Some of the French boatmen were known to the Indians, and very much liked by them. They would squeeze their hands with a pull down the river, indicating that it would be well for them to leave. It was rightly judged by them that the treacherous savages meditated an attack, of which Lieut. Campbell was duly informed. He, however, disregarded these hints. The sutler's and contractor's boats, and two barges with the Illinois rangers, had passed the rapids, and had got some two miles ahead, when Campbell's barge was struck by a yale from the west so strong as to force her against a small island, next to the Illinois shore. Thinking it advisable to lie to till the wind abated, sentinels were immediately stationed, while the men went ashore to cook breakhim, was raised up by it. He quickly seized his gun, and by a powerful blow crushed in the skull of one, but broke his rifle. His remaining antay still kept up the contest making thrusts with his knife at the bleeding and exhausted Higgins, which he parried with his broken gun as best he could. Most of this desperate engagement was la plain view of the Fort, but the rangers, having been in one ambuscade, saw in this fight only a ruse to draw out the balance of the garrison. But a Mrs. Pursely, residing at the Fort, no longer able to see so brave a man contend unaided for his life, seized a gun, and mounting a horse, started to bis rescue: At this the men took courage and hastened along. The Indian seeing aid coming, fled. Higgins being nearly hacked to pieces, fainted from loss of blood. He was carried to the Fort. There being no surgeon, his comrades cut two balls from his flesh ; others remained in For days his life was despaired of, but by tender nursing, he ultimately recovered his health, badly crippled. He resided in Fayette County for many years after, where he raised a large family, and died in 1829. He received a pension, pursued farming, and at one time was door-keeper of one of the houses of the General Asseinbly at Vandalia. Reynold's Plo. Hist.-P. 32L
fast. At this time a large force of Indians on the main shore, under the command of Black Hawk, commenced an attack. The savages, in canoes, passed rapidly to the island, and with a war whoop rushed upon the men, who retreated and sought refuge in the barge. A battle of brisk musketry now ensued between the few regulars aboard the stranded barge and the hordes of Indians under cover of trees on the island, with severe loss to the former. Meanwhile, Captains Rector and Riggs, ahead with their barges, seing the smoke of battle, essayed to return, but in the strong gale Riggs' boat became unmanageable and was stranded on the rapids. Rector, to avoid a similar disaster, let go his anchor. The rangers, however, opened with good aim and telling effect on the savages.
The unequal combat having raged for some time, the commander's barge, with many wounded and several dead on board, among the former of whom, very badly, was Campbell himself, had almost ceased fighting when she was discovered to be on fire. And now Stephen Rector, and his brave crew of Illinois rangers, comprehending the horrid situation, performed, without delay, as cool and heroic a deed, and did it well, as ever imperiled the life of mortal man. In the howling gale, in full view of hundreds of the infuriate savages, and within range of their rifles, they deliberately
, raised anchor, lightened their barge by casting overboard quan. tities of provisions, and guided it with the utmost labor down the swift current, to the wind ward of the burning barge, and, in the galling fire of the enemy, rescued the survivors, removed the wounded, the dying and all, to their vessel. This was as heroic a deed of noble daring as was performed during the war in the west. The island, in memory of the struggle, was named after Campbell, but with Rector and his crew of Illinois rangers remains the glory of the action.
The manner of effecting the rescue displays the resource of courageous minds in the crisis of imminent peril. Rector's barge was first quickly lightened by casting overboard the provisions, the crew (mostly experienced French boatmen,) got into the water on the windward side of the barge, which brought it between them and the fire of the enemy. In this manner it was guided in close proximity to the disabled barge, and held there till the removal was effected, when, after being hauled against the wind far out into the stream, it glided safely away. The loss was 25; 9 killed—4 rangers, 3 regulars, 1 woman, 1 child ; wounded 16, among whom were Lieut Campbell and Dr. Stewart, severely. Rector's barge was uncomfortably crowded for the wounded, but as the force was large they rowed night and day until St. Louis was reached. The Indians, after the abandonment of Campbell's barge, feasted upon the contents of their prize.
It was now feared that Riggs and his company were captured and sacrificed by the savages. His vessel, which was strong and well armed, was for a time surrounded by the Indians, but the whites on the inside were well sheltered. The wind becoming allayed in the evening, the boat, under cover of the night, glided safely down the river without the loss of a single man. At St. Louis there was great rejoicing on the arrival of Riggs and crew, all safe. Many fervent prayers had gone up, many anxious eyes had eagerly "Mo. Gazette, July 30, 1814
watched the river, and many a patriot heart was made glad by the final tidings of their safety.
Still another expedition for the Upper Mississippi was projected this season after the two foregoing disasters. It was fitted out at Cape au Gris, and old French hamlet on the left bank of the Mississippi, a few miles above the mouth of the Illinois. It consisted of 334 effective men, 40 regulars and the rest rangers and volunteers, in command of Major Zackary Taylor (afterwards president.) Nelson Rector, and Samuel Whitesides, with the Illinoisans, were in command of boats. It was generally regarded as of material importance to have a strong fort with a garrison well up the Mississippi in the heart of the Indian country. The plan was to proceed above the rapids, and in descending sweep both banks of the river of the Indian villages, destroy their corn down to Rock Island, and there build the fort. The expedition departed its place of rendezvous, August 23, 1814, and passed Rock Island and the Rapids unmolested. It was now learned that the country was not only swarming with Indians, but that the English were there in command, with a detachment of regulars and artillery. The advanced boats in command of Rector, Whitesides, and Hempstead, turned about and began to descend the Rapids, fighting with great gallantry the hoardes of the enemy pouring their fire into them from the shore at every step. A little way above the mouth of Rock river, not far from some willow islands, Major Taylor anchored his fleet out in the Mississippi. During the night the English planted a battery of six pieces down at the water's edge to sink or disable the boats, and filled the islands with redskins to butcher our men, who might, unarmed, seek refuge there. But in this scheme they were frustrated. In the morning Taylor ordered all the force, except 20 boatmen on each vessel, to the upper island to dislodge the enemy. The order was executed with great gallantry, the island scoured and the savages, many of whom were killed, driven to the lower one. In the meantime the British cannon told with effect upon the fleet, piercing many of the boats. The men rushed back and the boats were dropped down the stream out of range of the cannon. Captain Rector was now ordered with his company to make a sortie on the lower island, which he did, driving the Indians back among the willows, but they being reinforced, in turn hurled Rector back upon the sand beach. A council of officers called by Taylor had by this time decided that their force was insufficient to contend with the enemy, who outnumbered them three to one, and the boats were in full retreat down the river. As Rector attempted to get under way, his boat grounded, and the savages, with demoniac yells, surrounded it, when a most desperate hand to hand engagement ensued. The gallant ranger, Samuel Whitesides, observing the imminent peril of his brave Illinois comrade, went immediately to his rescue, who, but for his timely aid, would undoubtedly have been overpowered with all his force and murdered. Taylor's loss was 11 men badly wounded, 3 of whom had died at the date of his report to Gen. Howard, Sept. 6, 1814.
Opposite the inouth of the Des Moines, on the site of the present town of Warsaw, a fort was built by Taylor's men, called Elwards, which consisted of a rough stockade and blockhouses of unhewn loys. Fort Madison, on the west side of the Mississippi and farther
up, after being repeatedly attacked by the enemy, was evacuted and burnt. A few weeks later (in October) Fort Edwards shared a similar fate; the troops got out of provisions, and unable to sustain their position, retreated down the river to Cape au Gris. The people of Illinois and Missouri were astonished at this extraordi. nary evacuation and destruction of the fort by our own troops. The rangers and volunteers were discharged October 18th, 1814.*
Thus ended the last, like the two previous expeditions up the Mississippi during the war of 1812, in defeat and disaster. The enemy was in undisputed possession of all the country north of the Illinois river, and the prospect respecting these territories boded nothing but gloom. With the approach of winter, however, Indian depredations ceased to be committed, and the peace of Ghent, Dec. 24, 1814, closed the war.
*The account of these expeditions has been in great part gathered from Reynolds' Own Times.
CIVIL AFFAIRS OF THE ILLINOIS TERRITORY FROM
1812 TO 1818.
Meeting of the Legislature—The Members—Laws—Conflict between
the Legislature and Judiciary-Curious Acts— Territoriai Banks -Cairo Bank-Commerce-First Steamboats-Pursuits of the People.
For nearly four years after the organization of the territorial government no legislature existed in Illinois. The governor was both executive and, in great part, the law-making power. These extraordinary powers, authorized by the ordinance of 1787, viewed at this day, seem strangely inconsistent with our republican notions of the necessity of co-ordinate branches of government. Under that celebrated ordinance, the political privileges of the citizen were few or none.
He could not exercise the elective franchise unless he was a freeholder of 50 acres, nor aspire to a seat in the territorial legislature unless he was a freeholder of from 200 to 500 acres. Those of the territorial officers whom the president did not appoint, were appointed by the governor. The people could not elect jus tices of the peace, county surveyors, treasurers, coroners, sheriffs, clerks, judges of the inferior courts, nor even choose the officers of the territorial militia ; all this power and much more was vested in the governor. By the act establishing the Illinois territory, it was provided that whenever his Excellency was satisfied that a majority of the freeholders desired it, then he might authorize a legislature. While none of these extraordinary powers were perhaps ever arbitrarily exercised by any of the governors, unless it was St. Clair, the people were all the time clamorous for an extension of suffrage. Congress (not the governor) finally, by act of May 21, 1812, raised Illinois to the second grade of territorial government, and further extended the right of suffrage to any white male person 21 years old, who had paid a territorial tax and resided one year in the territory next preceding any election, authorizing such elector to vote for representative, member of the legis. lative council and delegate to congress. The property qualification, under the ordinance of 1787, was abolished. This was a very great concession to the people. The governor was required to apportion the territory. On the 14th of February, 1812, accordingly, he issued his proclamation, ordering an election to take the sense of the people for or against entering upon the second grade of territorial government. The election was to be held for three successive days in each county, commencing on the second Monday in April. The question was decided in the affirmative by a largo