Date of Award

Summer 1961

Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Much has been written about the Black Hawk War, but a great body of this literature was written for partisan political purposes. The War has grown into a romantic legend tinged with the nostalgia of glamour and heroism. Black Hawk has been immortalized as a "noble savage" fighting against the unjust tide of white civilization. The purpose of this essay is to present the War in an objective perspective; separating the true facts from the labyrinth of historical fiction that have become a part of the conflict. One of the objectives of this paper is to reveal the causes and circumstances of the military actions and to indicate the shortcomings of the American and Indian leaders. It is my considered conclusion that this Indian War was needless and could have been avoided by prudence and discretion on the part of those responsible. The paper will reveal the sometimes dishonorable and inept handling of Indian affairs by white officials in charge. In addition, I propose to trace the course of the Black Hawk War from its remote causes, through the battles; to the tragic conclusion. I have relied heavily on the autobiography of Black Hawk, though in places it imputes more noble virtues to the War Chief than American Historians would grant him. Dr. William Hagan, while at Wisconsin University, did a doctoral dissertation on the subject, The Black Hawk War, which is accurate and unbiased. In addition to this, he published a book entitled the Sac and Fox Indians which was valuable in the preparation of this paper.