Black Hawk War Symposium
Dissolving Myths & Legends:
Rivalries, Allies, Histories & Cultures that Shaped the Black Hawk War
This one-day symposium will feature four well-known scholars discussing different aspects of one of Wisconsin’s most interesting historical events. Suitable for all learners.
The Black Hawk War was brief but bloody war from April to August 1832 between the United States and Native Americans led by Black Hawk, a 65-year-old Sauk warrior who in early April led some 1,000 Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo men, women, and children, including about 500 warriors, across the Mississippi River to reclaim land in Illinois that tribal spokesmen had surrendered to the U.S. in 1804. The band’s crossing back into Illinois spurred fear and anger among white settlers, and eventually a force of some 7,000 mobilized against them—including members of the U.S. Army, state militias, and warriors from various other Indian peoples. Some 450–600 Indians and 70 soldiers and settlers were killed during the war.
Dr. Patrick Jung
“Situating the Black Hawk War Within a Century of American Indian Anti-Colonial Resistance.”
Jung will discuss the context of the Black Hawk War within the larger scope of American Indian history, and particularly anti-colonial resistance. Too many people, including scholars, have examined the Black Hawk War in isolation, as though this conflict was some sort of historical fluke. It is clear that Black Hawk was following in the footsteps of earlier Native leaders such as Pontiac and Tecumseh.
Dr. Patrick Jung is a professor of history and anthropology at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Dr. Jung received his doctoral degree in United States history in 1997 from Marquette University. He has written and researched extensively on Indian-White relations in the North American Great Lakes region.
Dr. Kerry Trask
“The Centre Cannot Hold:” The Collapse of Sauk Society and the Black Hawk War.”
A society can disintegrate with astounding speed as the result of what may first appear to be rather modest changes which disrupt its equilibrium. That is precisely what happened to the Sauk society in the upper Mississippi region in the early 19th century Midwest.
Before 1820 the Sauk enjoyed a way of life built upon a prosperous mixed economy and a growing population which was healthy, happy, and sustainable. Then suddenly, in 1823 a new invention—the steel spring trap—changed the technology of hunting for the fur trade and the American Fur Company, motivated by corporate methods and goals, moved aggressively to replace a closely supervised, government-run trading system. By the end of the decade those changes, along with the commencement of lead mining by Americans, proved catastrophic to Sauk society. By 1832 it was in ruins and the war associated with Black Hawk, which began that spring, was a desperate attempt by those despairing people to regenerate the way of life they had lost.
Kerry A. Trask is Professor Emeritus of the University of Wisconsin Colleges, and taught history at UW-Manitowoc from 1972 until his retirement in 2008. A native of Canada, he graduated from Hamline University in Minnesota and received his M.A. and Ph.D. in early American History from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He is also the author of six books, including his award-winning works: Fire Within: A Civil War Narrative From Wisconsin, and, Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America. He lives in Manitowoc, where, for many years he has been engaged in the civic and political life of the community and Wisconsin.
Dr. Libby Tronnes
“Protectors of the Corn Moon: How the Rock River Ho-Chunks Hid 1,200 Fugitive Indians & Mired U.S. Troops During the 1832 Black Hawk War”
This presentation reconsiders the role of the Rock River Ho-Chunk people during the 1832 crisis known as the Black Hawk War. After over, 1,200 members of the Sauk band fled into Ho-Chunk lands around Koshkonong (widening of Rock River) and were pursued by over 3,000 white troops, Rock River Ho-Chunks attempted to thwart violence on their soil and avoid the destruction of their corn crop by guiding both U.S. troops and Sauk band Indians.
Libby Tronnes, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison) is an assistant professor of history at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Her recent dissertation—“Corn Moon Migrations: Ho-Chunk Belonging, Removal, and Return in the Early Nineteenth-Century Western Great Lakes” (2017)—details the significance of the history of the Rock River Ho-Chunk people, including their central role in the 1832 crisis known as the Black Hawk War.
Steven K. Rogstad
“I Fought, Bled, and Came Away”: Abraham Lincoln’s Experiences in the Black Hawk War and Their Influence on Him as President”
Abraham Lincoln’s only military experience was as a volunteer in the Illinois State militia during the Black Hawk War. Within this context he became familiar with the soldier experience, the role of government in military conflicts, individual discipline, tactical command, and the culture of death. He would later tap into all of these experiences as a congressman and President of the United States. This lecture looks at the influences of the Black Hawk War on Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief.
Mr. Rogstad’s avocation has been the study of Abraham Lincoln. For 30 years he has taught seminars and courses on Lincoln-related topics at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Carroll College, and Kenosha Civil War Museum. He has served as Secretary and Editor for the Lincoln Fellowship of Wisconsin and as Review Editor of the Lincoln Herald. Mr. Rogstad is the author of numerous reviews and articles related to his own Lincoln research. In April 2008, Mr. Rogstad was appointed by Governor James Doyle to the Wisconsin Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, serving as Secretary and as a member of the Markers & Memorials Committee.