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THE BLACK HAWK WAR.
A lady who used to know Lincoln when he was a school boy, told his friend, Mr. Herndon, of the school exhibitions of those days-declamations, dialogues and debates. The declamations were chiefly from a book called "The Kentucky Preceptor." Lincoln had often used it, she said. The questions for discussion were such as called for thought and power. One of these was: "Which has the most right to complain, the Indian, or the Negro?" If Lincoln had ever studied it, and we may be sure that nothing in the book had escaped him, he may have had a different opinion from most people as to the rights and wrongs of the Indians and our general policy toward them.
But when Black Hawk, the old Sac chief, kept up his raiding of land ceded to the white man and at last brought over a large band of warriors having been promised aid by other
tribes, Gov. Reynolds called for volunteers to move the tribe of Black Hawk across the Mississippi, for the settlers in the neighborhood had been in terror. In the summer of 1831, after having been driven across the Mississippi, Black Hawk had made a solemn treaty never to come to the east side again, unless by permission of the President or of the Governor of Illinois. But in the summer of 1832 there he was again. He said that he and the young men with him had come to "plant corn." But he marched up the Rock River, expecting to be joined by other tribes. These, however, would not come to him. The truth was that the poor chief was old and loved the lands where the graves of his fathers were and where he would have his own to be; and, most of all, could not keep away from the place where his beloved daughter was buried. Every year he had made a pilgrimage to her grave, and he was not willing to give this up, even if he died for it.
General Atkinson commanding the United States troops there sent a command to Black Hawk to return. But Black Hawk refused, and the Governor called for volunteers. Abraham Lincoln was one of the first to respond. In those days the volunteer companies chose their captains just like an election. When this company assembled on the green and some one pro
posed an election, three-fourths of the men walked across to where Lincoln was standing; that was their way of voting. The man who received the other quarter of the votes was one of some wealth from another town; and Lincoln had once tried to work for him, but he had been so overbearing that he could not be endured. Now when the majority had decided, all the others turned and came with them. So, Lincoln was this man's captain. But he was too generous ever to take advantage of this.
Lincoln has said that nothing ever gave him more pleasure than this first recognition of him as a leader. How little the young man understood then that he was to learn something of army life that would be of service to him in the great struggle of the nation where he was to be, not captain of a company, but commander-inchief of army and navy, as every President is. The volunteers did not understand military. rules as the regular soldiers did, and many things in their drilling and getting into order were amusing. Some of Lincoln's droll stories were about the drills he used to give his men. One morning he was marching at the head of his company. The men were marching twenty abreast when they came to a gate. They could not possibly get through the gate twenty abreast and they could not change their order
without the command of their captain, and their captain could not remember the military term to turn the company endwise. But up they were marching nearer and nearer to the gate, and something had to be done. Lincoln had not taken boats up and down shallow rivers and slipped them off their grounding on falls, and done so many difficult tasks, to be stopped by a gatepost. "Halt!" he shouted, facing round to the men. "This company will break ranks for two minutes and form again on the other side of the gate!" So they got through all right, but not in military style.
But if the young captain was not skilled in military manœuvres, he had plenty of wit and keenness and was never slow to defend those needing defence, no matter to whom he spoke. The officers and soldiers of the regular army despised and laughed at the volunteers, as all regular army men do. Lincoln could not help this. But there was another thing quite different. For they disliked the volunteers so much that they were unfair to them in rations and pay and in duties assigned to them. One day an improper order came to Captain Lincoln. He obeyed it. But he went immediately to protest against it and against the injustice done his men and the other volunteers. Mr. Stoddard
in his "Life of Lincoln" tells that he said to the officer:
"Sir, you forget that we are not under the rules and regulations of the War Department at Washington; are only volunteers under the orders and regulations of Illinois. Keep in your own sphere and there will be no difficulty; but resistance will hereafter be made to your unjust orders. And, further, my men must be equal in all particulars, in rations, arms, camps, &c., to the regular army."
Things improved at once. Lincoln had won. But it was a brave thing for him to do and very expressive of his character. For when he knew he was in the right, there was no human being whom he was afraid to speak to and declare the right; and all his life he was studying how to be able to say this right in the clearest way and make most people see it and believe it. All the volunteers who were better fed and better treated for this bold protest held Lincoln in higher esteem than ever.
When his company's term of service was over and the company had been mustered out, Lincoln with a number of others re-enlisted. Then he was a private; and he enjoyed himself during the short time he was there. For he was out of service before the battle, which was more a massacre, in which nearly all the young braves