The Ghost of the Blackhawk War – Chapter 1

By Dan Norvell

On the morning of May 13th 1832, I was camped with the Militia commanded by Major Isaiah Stillman. Our camp was about three miles east of the river, and we were there until the Regulars arrived to relieve us and take over the mission. There were many of us that just wanted them to get here and let us return home. I was seventeen years old, and had just joined the militia six months earlier. Our camp was near Old Man’s Creek.

The next day, some of our scouts had come back and reported that they had ambushed three Sauk warriors that were traveling toward our encampment. They had shot and killed one of the warriors, but the other two had fled and escaped being shot. Major Stillman had assigned me and eleven other men to the command of Captain John Giles Adams. Adams and our small group of militia set out late in the afternoon of the 14th of May, 1832 to take on Blackhawk’s warriors and drive them back across the Mississip. We were on our way Northeast when we encountered a large number of Sauk and Fox warriors. They began to attack, and Major Stillman had sounded a retreat. We all ran back toward the camp at Old Man’s Creek.

As we retreated, Major Stillman ordered Captain Giles and his men to hold the hill just south of the camp. There were twelve of us, and we were ready to fight those warriors to the death. The Indian warriors approached, and we started to fire on them. Our shots were quickly overcome, and we were now fighting hand to hand with those Fox and Sauk warriors. I had just clobbered one of those Indians in the mush with the butt end of my rifle when I felt a sharp pain to the side of my head.

When I awoke, the Indians were gone, and the moonlight was shining down onto the dead bodies of my fallen friends. I noticed that a patch of hair about the size of a dollar was cut off of their scalps, and taken as a prize for the warriors. I looked around and yelled out, “Any of you alive?” I heard no response in the dimly lit night.

I am not sure how long our stand lasted, but the remainder of our militia had hot-footed it back to Dixon’s Ferry by now. I picked up my rifle and my powder and I headed back North where I knew the Indians were camped. I would find their position and map it out. I would then return to Dixon’s Ferry myself, and my hope was that the Regulars would have arrived so we could return to the Indian encampment and repay those Sauk and Fox for killing my friends.

The word was that Blackhawk had also convinced the Potawatomi tribes from around the area to help out with his plight. I traveled for a few hours in the moonlight, and morning was finally coming. I could see smoke rising in the distance around the spot where the two rivers meet. I continued on toward the smoke, and I noticed a Sauk warrior standing in the woods about fifteen yards from me. I could not believe that he hadn’t seen me. I raised my rifle and I fired. The Sauk warrior took off toward the smoke, and I pursued him through the woods.

He was not moving very quickly like someone that had just been shot at, he just seemed to move slowly and precisely through the woods. I followed at a safe distance, and I was very careful to not be seen. There were hundreds of Sauk and Fox warriors camping where the rivers met, not thousands like was first thought. I would make my way back to Dixon’s Ferry to let Major Stillman know that the number of Indian warriors was much smaller than first thought. I took notice of five newly dug graves on the outer edge of the Indian camp. I found it difficult to believe that they had only lost five warriors when all of us were firing wildly into the night and forest. I traveled up to the high point on the West side of their encampment. I stood up on the ridge and I counted the warriors that were in it. Excluding women and children, there were only around six hundred actual warriors there at the camp.

I was pretty sure my count was accurate, as accurate as I could be anyhow. I would wait on the ridge until nightfall, and I would start out for Dixon’s Ferry and travel by moonlight. I felt strange, not tired, or hungry. I stopped a second to think about it, I had not eaten since before the skirmish last night. I found it very strange that I had not eaten or drank anything at all, and yet I wasn’t hungry or thirsty at all. I waited until night, and I started out for Dixon’s Ferry.


Dan Norvell is 40 years old and has a strong desire to help people in the paranormal field that comes from his time spent in the Fire Service. He is enjoying his time as a writer, and he hopes to continue to bring his readers stories from a ghost’s point of view.

Think you are ready to write for E-mail us your ideas at Stories about Illinois are preferred.


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