Black Hawk, a Sauk chief, lent his name to the frontier war that gave Abraham Lincoln his one experience in soldiering. Born near Rock Island, Illinois, the future war chief grew up during the period of Spanish ascendancy in the Mississippi Valley. Hostile to American fur traders who manned the trading posts at St. Louis when the United States took over that area in 1804, he refused to recognize the Treaty of St. Louis, in which Sauk and Fox tribes relinquished their claim to all lands east of the Mississippi. During the War of 1812, Black Hawk (whose Indian name was Makataimeshekiakiak) fought for the British under the leadership of the famous Tecumseh. Continuing to brood over the injustice of the Treaty of St. Louis, he attempted, between 1816 and 1829, to enlist. In 1832 he led two hundred warriors and their families back across the Mississippi. Disappointed when no help was offered by neighboring tribes, he was on the verge of seeking a truce precipitating the Black Hawk War. On August 2, 1832, the Indians were overwhelmed at Bad Axe River, Wisconsin, and Black Hawk was taken prisoner.
When President Andrew Jackson ordered Black Hawk brought east in 1833, the Sauk chief became a celebrity and attracted great crowds. His courage, integrity, and dignity were revealed in his Autobiography (1833), which has become an American classic.