Wednesday, August 22, 2007
What Black Hawk said long ago: "I loved my towns, my cornfields, and the home of my people"
Drive north of Prairie du Chien along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi and you'll come across this reminder of a great tragedy, commemorated by two markers, one from the thirties, one from the fifties. The Bad Axe River runs into the Mississippi not far from this spot on Hwy 35, north of Prairie du Chien. This is the place where 175 years ago, the cruelly misnamed Battle of the Bad Axe took place -- not a battle, but a massacre, the slaughter of most of Black Hawk's band of Sauks -- not just warriors, but women and children -- after they had tried to surrender. It happened after months of pursuit, which started in Illinois and at one point led through the isthmus of what later became Madison, some 150 miles southeast of here. Black Hawk's words on the marker are a poignant reminder of the underlying issue in the Black Hawk War, a tragic conflict that arose from a combination of bungling, brutality, fear and misunderstanding on both sides as a tidal wave of white settlement spread west.