Civil War Figures That Participated in the Black Hawk War of 1832

The Black Hawk war took place in Illinois and southern Wisconsin in the spring and summer of 1832.  A band of Native Americans consisting of members of the Sauk tribe plus smaller numbers of other allied tribes under the leadership of the Sauk Chief Black Hawk crossed from Iowa into Illinois to dispute American expansion into their territory.  Black Hawk and his followers were defeated in the last military campaign against Native Americans east of the Mississippi River.  Black Hawk surrendered at Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien Wisconsin in August 1832, ending the war. Several individuals who played prominent roles in the Civil War served in the Black Hawk War

Robert Anderson

Lieutenant Robert Anderson served on the staff of Brigadier General Henry Atkinson, overall commander of U.S. forces in the war. In 1861, Anderson, now a major in the U.S. Army, was in command of Fort Sumter when the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Albert Sydney Johnston

Lieutenant Albert Sydney Johnston also served on Atkinson’s staff as Aide-de-Camp and Acting Assistant Adjutant General.  In April 1862, Johnston was a general in the Confederate States Army in overall command at the Battle of Shiloh, where he was killed on the first day of the two day battle.

William S. Harney

Captain William S. Harney served in the field in pursuit of Black Hawk’s band.  In 1861, Harney, now a Brigadier General, was in command of the U.S. Army’s Department of the west with headquarters at St. Louis.  A native of Tennessee, Harney had southern sympathies and was removed from his command  and assigned to Washington D.C. in administrative posts.  He retired from the army in 1863.

Winfield Scott

Major General Winfield Scott was ordered by President Andrew Jackson to assume command of U.S. forces when he felt Atkinson had been ineffective.  Scott and his reinforcements traveled by boat through the Great Lakes to Chicago.  However, many of Scott’s men were sick with a cholera outbreak, and he did not reach the scene of the fighting until the war was over.  Scott was the general in chief of the U.S. Army in 1861.  Too old and infirm to lead troops in battle, Scott stayed on as an administrator until November 1861.

Philip St. George Cooke

Lieutenant Philip St. George Cooke served as Acting Adjutant of the U.S. Army’s Sixth Regiment. Cooke, a Virginia native, remained loyal to the Union in the Civil War. Brigadier General Cooke commanded cavalry in the Washington DC defenses early in the war, and commanded a cavalry division in the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. Following that campaign, Cooke served in administrative positions for the remainder of the war.

John McClernand

A private with an Illinois unit during the Black Hawk War, John McClernand was a politician who received a brigadier general’s commission in May 1861.  McClernand commanded the Union Army’s 13th Corps for much of the war, including the Vicksburg Campaingn.   John McClernand was all about promoting John McClernand, and he often publicly gave his troops credit for victories that far outweighed reality.  He also sought to undermine Ulysses S. Grant’s authority for his own gain.  McClernand resigned from the army on November 30th, 1864.

Abraham Lincoln

The future U.S. president was a 23 year old volunteer with an Illinois militia unit during the war.  He did not see any fighting, but did help bury the dead of two battles.  This was Lincoln’s only military service before becoming Commander in Chief.

Jefferson Davis

Lieutenant Jefferson Davis was on leave for most of the war, and returned at the end to Fort Crawford.  Davis escorted Black Hawk to St. Louis, where he was incarcerated for a time before being sent to Fortress Monroe in Virginia.  Black Hawk was released from captivity in 1833.

Davis went on to become the President of the Confederate States of America.  After the war, Davis was imprisoned for two years–at Fortress Monroe.

Fort Crawford, where Black Hawk surrendered, was abandoned by the army in the 1850’s.  During the Civil War, it was reopened as a recruitment center and military hospital.  It was abandoned for good after the war.  Part of the site now holds a museum dedicated to the history of the fort and medical progress.


Fort Crawford Museum Website

Generals in Blue by Ezra J. Warner

In Black Hawk’s Footsteps
by Benjamin McLaughlin

The Black Hawk War of 1832 (Campaigns and Commanders)
by Patrick J. Jung


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