Known to the Whites as Black Hawk,
Crossed back over the Mississippi in 1832
To return to our ancestral village, Saukenuk,
From which we had been driven the year before.
He had hoped for help from the Winnebago,
The Potawatomi, and the British in Canada,
But when he received none, he waved the white flag
And tried to cross back over to Iowa,
He and his 500 warriors, and his 1500 women and children,
To give up our homeland forever.
And I was with him.
The Illinois militia pursued us,
Though we waved the white flag many times
And wished to leave in peace,
And we fought with them along the way
Until we came to the Mississippi,
Near where a tributary called the Bad Axe
Joined the great river.
There was a steamboat on the river
With canons and sharpshooters,
And again we waved the white flag,
And again we were ignored.
The canons and sharpshooters let loose,
Killing many as we tried to cross the river,
Killing many hiding on small islands
And behind fallen trees and swampland
On the river's banks.
And we fought back, thinking to die with honor
There on the great river
That lay between our home
And the place of our banishment.
Two days we fought them
Until many of us were dead,
And those remaining had nothing more to fire.
I saw the white men taking scalps.
Some cut strips of flesh from our warriors' backs
To serve as razor strops.
They took 400 women and children prisoner,
Along with the warriors that were left.
No one knows how many warriors, women, and children
Were massacred in the river, on the islands, and on the banks.
One warrior, in pride and grief,
Banged his head against the steamboat's rail
Until he was dead.
But I, less brave than he,
To my eternal dishonor and shame,
Copyright by Nicholas Gordon. Free for personal or non-commercial use.
Audio and Video Music: Virtutes Instrumenti. By Kevin MacLeod. Performed by Kevin MacLeod at the Free Music Archive under an Attribution license.