The Abduction of the Hall Sisters
The present year (1832) will be long remembered as a year of much human distress, and a peculiarly unfortunate one for the American nation --for while many other most populous cities have been visited by that dreadful disease, the CHOLERA, and to which thousands have fallen victims, the merciless SAVAGES have been as industriously and fatally engaged in the work of human butchery on the frontiers.
In the month of May last, a considerable body of
Indians (principally of the tribes of the Sacs and Foxes) having, as they professed, become dissatisfied with the
encroachments of the whites, invaded and made a furious and unexpected attack upon the defenceless inhabitants
of the frontier towns of Illinois. The first and most fatal was upon a small settlement on Indian Creek, running
into Fox river, where were settled about twenty families, who, not being apprized of their approach, became an
easy prey to their savage enemies --indeed so sudden and unexpected was the attack, that they were unalarmed until
the savages with their tomahawks in hand, had entered their houses, and began the perpetration of the most inhuman
barbarities! No language can express the cruelties that were committed; in less than half an hour more than one
half of the inhabitants were inhumanly butchered --they horribly mutilated both young and old, male and female,
without distinction of age or sex! among the few whose lives were spared, and of whom they made prisoners, were
two highly respectable young women (sisters) of the ages of 16 and 18.
As soon as the melancholy tidings of the horrid massacre were made known to the white inhabitants of the neighboring settlements, a company of volunteers
of about 270 in number, were hastily collected and sent in pursuit of the Savages, whom they overtook near Sycamore Creek, and resolutely attacked, but were unfortunately repulsed by a force far superior to their own, and were compelled to retreat with the loss of 50 of their number --many of the Indians were killed, but as they carried off their dead, the exact number could not be ascertained ; one only was found on the ground the succeeding day ; he had received a mortal wound, and in the agonies of death, had tomahawked one of the whites and cut his head half off, dying in the very act; his last convulsive struggle being an embrace of his enemy even in death! The bodies of the slain whites were cut and mangled in the most cruel manner that savage barbarity could devise; their hearts taken out and their heads cut off!
Immediately on the receipt of the rnelancholy news of the defeat of the volunteers, Governor Reynolds issued his Proclamation, and a very formidable force (comprised of about 1400 men) were speedily raised, and under command of the Governor and Gen. Atkinson, marched forthwith in pursuit of the murderous foe, but were unable to overtake them, as it appears by the reports of the captives, who have since been ransomed, that after their engagement with the volunteers (the better to evade the pursuit of the whites) they separated into small parties, and fled in different directions. The two unfortunate females, whom they retained as prisoners, and whose unfortunate parents were among those who were inhumanly butchered at Indian Creek, were providentially (by the aid of the Winebagoes) rescued from the hands of the savage monsters, after having been ten days in their power; in which time they were compelled to travel many miles, either on horseback or on foot, through almost impenetrable forests, and subjected to great privations and hardships, and in the expectation at every step of having their heads severed from their bodies, by the bloody tomahawk.
The third day after their engagement with the volunteers, and while on their return to their settlement, they fell in with a Kentuckian hunter, a young man of about 24 years of age, whom, after a consultation among themselves, whether they would dispatch him on the spot, or reserve him for other purposes, it was finally decided that his life should be spared until they readied the place of their destination, when and where (agreeable to his own statement) he was for 22 days made the subject of the most cruel treatment.
The report of the unfortunate young women (Misses Frances and Almira Hall) communicated to their friends and relatives, on their return from captivity, although treated with less severity, cannot fail to be read with much interest --they state, that after being compelled to witness, not only the savage butchery of their beloved parents, but to hear the heart-piercing screeches and dying groans of their expiring friends and neighbors, and the hideous yells of the furious assaulting savages, they were seized and mounted upon horses, to which they were secured by ropes, when the savages with an exulting shout, took up their line of march in Indian file, bending their course west; the horses on which the females were mounted, being each led by one of their number, while two more walked on each side with their blood-stained scalping knives and tomahawks, to support and to guard them --they thus travelled for many hours, with as much speed as possible, through a dark and almost impenetrable wood ; when reaching a still more dark and gloomy swamp, they came to a halt. A division of the plunder which they had brought from the ill fated settlement, and with which their stolen horses (nine in number) were loaded, here took place, each savage stowing away in his pack his proportionable share as he received it; but on nothing did they seem to set so great a value, or view with so much satisfaction, as the bleeding scalps which they had, ere life had become extinct, torn from the mangled heads of the expiring victims! the feelings of the unhappy prisoners at this moment, can be better judged than described, when they could not be insensible that among these scalps, these shocking proofs of savage Cannibalism, were those of their beloved parents ! but, their moans and bitter lamentations had no effect in moving or diverting for a moment, the savages from the business in which they had engaged, until it was completed ; when, with as little delay as possible, and without giving themselves time to partake of any refreshment, (as the prisoners could perceive) they again set forward, and travelled with precipitancy until sunset, when they again halted, and prepared a temporary lodging for the night--the poor unfortunate females, whose feelings as may be supposed, could be no other than such as bordered on distraction, and who had not ceased for a moment to weep most bitterly during the whole day, could not but believe that they were here destined to become the victims of savage outrage and abuse; and that their sufferings would soon terminate, as they would not (as they imagined) be permitted to live to see the light of another day ! such were their impressions, and such their dreadful forebodings--human imagination can hardly picture to itself a more deplorable situation ; but, in their conjectures, they happily found themselves mistaken, as on the approach of night, instead of being made the subjects of brutal outrage, as they had fearfully apprehended, a place separate from that occupied by the main body of the savages, was allotted them ; where blankets were spread for them to lodge upon, guarded only by two aged squaws, who slept on each side of them. With minds agitated with the most fearful apprehensions, as regarded their personal safety, and as solemnly impressed with the recollection of the awful scene which they had witnessed the morning previous, in the tragical death of their parents, they spent, as might be expected, a sleepless night; although the savages exhibited no disposition to harm or disturb them--early the morning ensuing, food was offered them, but in consequence of the disturbed state of their minds and almost constant weeping, they had become too weak and indisposed to partake of it, although nearly twenty hours had passed without their having received any sustenance.
The second day they passed much as the first, the Indians travelling with the same speed as on the former one ; but nearly at its close, the two unfortunate females had become, through great fatigue and long fasting, too weak to support themselves longer on their horses, and were consequently dismounted and compelled to travel many miles on foot; and not until it was perceived by the savages that they were about to sink under the weight of their miseries, did they consent to come to a halt, and prepare quarters for a second night's lodging--a fire was kindled and some venison broth made, of which the unhappy prisoners were compelled by hunger to partake, and were then permitted to retire and spend the night as they had the preceding one, (as regarded any insult being offered them;) and being unable longer to resist the calls of nature, they the morning ensuing felt much relieved by the undisturbed repose which they had been permitted to enjoy.
During the long travel, or rather flight of the Indians the two preceding days, although they had in two or three instances met with small squads of armed savages, bound as was supposed to commit further depredations on the defenceless inhabitants of the frontier settlements, yet they had not until this the third day of their captivity, met with or beheld the face of any white inhabitant; when, at about noon, a Kentuckian hunter unfortunately fell into their hands ; he was immediately seized and pinioned; and after nearly half an hour's consultation among those who appeared to be chiefs, devising, as the prisoner concluded, the best plan to dispose of him, they again put forward, and a few hours before sunset, arrived at one of their Indian settlements, where, in consequence of their enfeebled and emaciated state, it was concluded that the two female captives should remain until recruited; and it was here that it was first communicated to them why their lives had been spared, and why they had been protected from insult, to wit: for the reason that they were to become the adopted wives of the two young chiefs by whom they were first seized ! If there was any thing calculated to add more horror to their feelings, it was this, which was indeed calculated to produce a greater shock than the intelligence that they were doomed to become the victims of the most savage torture ! Yet however great their afflictions, it was evident that they were supported and protected by that Supreme Being, who has power alone to soften the savage heart--" to break the chains of bondage, and bid the captive go free,"--for, although now completely in the power of the savages, and by every one acknowledged the rightful property of two of their young and distinguished chiefs, yet for the seven days that they passed with them, they received none other but kind and civil treatment--the two young chiefs, by whom it was intended that they should be espoused, manifesting that regard for, and protecting them with as much interest, and apparent good feeling, as if they had been actually their lawfully wedded companions !
On the morning of the 10th day from that of their capture, about fifty of the Winebagoes, (of a neighboring tribe so called) who had been dispatched by the friends of the two young women, in quest of them, with means to ransom them if found alive, arrived-- although the prisoners could not but feel overjoyed at this sudden and unexpected prospect of a deliverance, and to hail the tawny messengers as beings commissioned by Heaven, to rescue them from their perilous situation, yet they could not but discover, that on the minds of the two whose companions it was intended they should be, it had quite a different effect; and more particularly with one, who for some time manifested an unwillingness to receive any thing that could be named, in exchange for his highly prized captive ! the ransom was however finally effected by adding ten horses more to the number already offered. On parting with her, he insisted upon exercising the right of cutting from her head a lock of her hair, not as a relic which he was desirous to retain in remembrance of one, for whom he felt any uncommon degree of friendship and affection, but to be retained and interwoven into his belt, as an invaluable trophy of his warlike exploits! such indeed is the Indian character--such their love of fame! The price paid in consideration of the ransom of the two female captives, was forty horses, together with a specified quantity of wampum and trinkets--the bargain closed, the prisoners were taken under the protection of the Winebagoes, and conveyed in safety to Galena (Illinois) and although they appear not insensible of the gratitude they owe to God, for their wonderful preservation and final deliverance from the hands of a merciless enemy, yet it is to be expected that they will long remember in sorrow, that fatal day, and the melancholly event, which not only deprived them of their liberty, but of their beloved parents, forever.
While the two females (for whose safety so much was apprehended) appear to have providentially escaped unharmed, a different fate appears to have attended the unfortunate Kentuckian--who states, that after his separation from the other captives, he was compelled to travel on foot with a heavy burden, and was conducted by the savages to one of their settlements still further west; where on his arrival, he was beset by a throng of the natives, of both sexes and of all ages, armed with sticks and bludgeons, and who commenced beating him to a degree almost to deprive him of life ! and after having undergone this introductory discipline, he was (with the exception of his shirt and pantaloons) stripped of his clothing, and bound hand and foot to a tree, and where he concluded they intended to leave him to perish, as he was suffered there to remain for more than ten hours, without food, exposed to the heat of the sun, and enduring much bodily pain from the many bruises and deep wounds produced by the blows inflicted upon him. He was however finally removed from thence, to an old deserted booth, or wigwam, which contained nothing but a few rotten mats covered with vermin, and on which he was given to understand he would be permitted to repose himself, until otherways disposed of. The only food allowed him during his captivity was the offal of wild animals, some of which it was apparent had been slain many days. While confined in the hut, he was constantly guarded night and day by two young savages, and from whom he received the most brutal treatment; whenever they had occasion to leave him, if even but for a few moments, they never failed to bind him with withes to a log of his miserable habitation ; and in one instance, he was so left bound for the space of twenty-four hours, without food or a single drop of water to allay his thirst.
During the 22 days of his captivity, he witnessed the departure of many of the savages, in small bodies, of from 15 to 20 in number, bound as he supposed to depredate on the frontier settlements ; as they were frightfully painted, and well provided with fire arms, tomahawks, and other instruments of death ; and while some were thus departing, others in still smaller squads were almost constantly arriving, with valuable horses, laden with various articles plundered from the whites; and what was still more melancholly to view, in some instances, with human scalps, among which would be not only those of the hoary headed, but of tender infants, apparently not exceeding two years of age! All of which, after being sufficiently dried or cured in the sun, were hung up in their wigwams, as the highly prized trophies of their bravery!
Whenever a very considerable body of the savages were on the point of departing, for the purpose before mentioned, preparatory to the event, the War Dance was performed, which was most frightful in view of one in the situation of the unfortunate prisoner, who was in two or three instances an involuntary spectator of the whole performance. It was (as he states) performed in the midst of a circle of warriors, and commenced by a chief, moving from the right to the left, singing at the same time both his own exploits, and those of his ancestors--and when he had concluded his account of some memorable action, he gives a violent blow with his war-club, against a post that was fixed in the ground near the centre of the circle ; his example was followed by every warrior who was to engage in the expedition, each recapitulating the wondrous deeds performed by his family, till all finally joined in the dance ; when, to the unfortunate captive, it became truly alarming, as the savages (to frighten him as he supposed) threw themselves into every horrible and terrifying posture that can be imagined ; at the same time hurling their tomahawks and brandishing their long and sharp knives, within a few inches of his body, he was fearful every moment of receiving a fatal blow ! By these motions it is supposed that they intend to represent the manner in which they kill, scalp and take their prisoners. To heighten the scene, they set up the same hideous yells, cries, and war-whoops they use in the time of action!
In the twenty-two days in which the narrator remained a prisoner with them, many horses and a number of human scalps were brought in, but not a single prisoner ; which rendered it very probable that all the unfortunate whites who fell into their hands, of whatever sex or age, were murdered--which, indeed, appears to have been in obedience to the commands of Black Hawk, the blood-thirsty chief, who was the prime mover and instigator of the war ; and who, to encourage the neighboring tribes to unite with him for the purpose, had pledged himself either to compel the whites to recede to their older settlements, or totally to exterminate them.
Never did the unfortunate Brigdon feel (as he expressed himself) more afraid of becoming the victim of savage torture, than when they in an engagement with the whites, were so unfortunate as to meet with a repulse, and to return lamenting the loss of either some favorite chief, or some of their best warriors.-- So exasperated were they on such occasions, that nothing but an immediate opportunity to revenge themselves, seemed calculated to pacify them ; nor does he doubt but that they would have selected him, as a proper subject on whom to retaliate, had they not been so confident that as soon as his situation should be made known to his friends, a sum equal to that paid for the ransom of the two female captives (of which they had been advised) would be offered for his release !
To this alone he imputes the preservation of his life ; and in confirmation of which, on the very day of his providential escape, the Savages having ascertained that the Winebagoes were neither authorized or disposed to negotiate for his release, after a short consultation, he believes that it was their conclusion to put him to death, in the awful manner as described--preparatory to which, two posts were set firmly and perpendicularly in the ground, to which two cross pieces were fastened horizontally, with withes, one about two and the other about six feet from the ground, to which it is probable that his hands and feet were to be bound. Around the whole were piled dry fagots, and other combustibles--the whole construction being within a short distance of the place where the prisoner was confined, he witnessed the praparations making for a dreadful scene of torture, (and of which he doubted not he was to be the subject) with feelings that may be better imagined than described ! Nor did he fail at the important moment to send up a petition to Heaven, that his sufferings might not be of long duration, and that the Almighty, in his infinite mercy, might be pleased to have compassion on and cause provision to made for his bereaved family ! --Indeed dreadful as he viewed his own situation, his greatest concern was for their welfare--for while precluded from the sweet hope of ever beholding them again in this world, his thoughts were ultimately fixed on a happier state of existence, beyond the tortures which he doubted not he was about to endure !
For nearly two hours after the savages had completed their work (preparatory to the commencement of the work of death) was the unhappy prisoner suffered to remain in a state of awful suspense--when, suddenly, a state of the utmost tumult and confusion, attended with the most terrific whoops and yells, appeared to prevail throughout the whole village. A party of the savages who had the morning previous left for the purpose of depredating on the whites, had returned in great haste, and communicated something to their Indian brethren, evidently of a very alarming nature ; what, the prisoner was not able to determine, but it has since been ascertained that they had been, and probably still supposed themselves closely pursued by an armed and very considerable body of the whites. On the receipt of this alarming intelligence, every visage seemed to wear the gloom of despair ! and but one principle seemed to govern them, which was, each to seek his own safety, and to hasten with their squaws and papooses from their invaded village ; which, the prisoner believes, was totally deserted by the savages in less than 25 minutes, and that he might without opposition easily have reduced the whole to ashes, had not the thought of self-preservation (at this unexpected opportunity to escape from captivity and death) alone occupied his mind--and fortunate indeed was it for him, that so great was the panic of the savages, and their anxiety to remove their wives and children, that he was probably forgotten by them, for had it been otherways, without causing them but a moment's delay, they might (and agreeably to their barbarous custom, certainly would) have dispatched him by a single blow of the tomahawk, as they have been seldom known to fail to scalp and cut the throats of their prisoners, when hard pushed by an enemy.
As soon as the natives had totally disappeared, the prisoner having with some difficulty succeeded in unbinding himself, he hastily seizing an old musket, the only weapon which the hut contained, (and without a moment's reflection that without ammunition it would prove but a useless burden) he set out with light feet through a pathless wilderness, in a direction as he supposed leading to the nearest white settlement--and which, after much hard travelling, he succeeded in reaching; but, in a truly pitiful condition--his only clothing, a pair of tattered, dirty pantaloons, and a shirt in no better condition--his beard long, and legs and feet blistered and torn by thorns and briars.
Since the commencement of hostilities by the disaffected Indians, in May last, their depredations and shocking barbarities exercised upon the defenceless inhabitants of the frontiers, are some of them of a nature too shocking to be presented to the public--it is sufficient to observe, that the scalping knife and tomahawk, were in some cases the mildest instruments of death ! One, of many remarkable instances of whole families having been inhumanly murdered, by the merciless barbarians (of which we have been credibly informed) is that of the truly unfortunate family of Capt. Joseph Naper, near Fort Chicago, comprized of himself, wife, wife's sister, and four children ! --when the alarm became general, Naper with many others fled with his family to the fort; but after remaining there a short time, being a bold and daring man, and doubting the hostile views of the savages, he imprudently returned with his family to his log cabin ; but, a fatal remove it proved to him, for two days after, every member of his family with himself, were found murdered, and their bodies mangled in the most brutal manner--however shocking the spectacle, the scene of human slaughter afforded a proof that the ill-fated Naper, although single handed, had bravely defended himself and friends--nine of the Indians were found dead near his house, who unquestionably fell before his intrepid arm!
" WAR! WAR ! ! WAR !!!
WOMEN AND CHILDREN BUTCHERED !
Two young ladies taken by the Savages.
Authentic information has been received from the Illinois frontiers, informing of the murder of fifteen defenceless inhabitants of the frontier, most inhumanly butchered, and the women in a most shocking manner mangled and exposed. Two highly respectable young women of 16 and 18 years of age, are in the hands of the Indians, and if not already murdered, are perhaps reserved for a more cruel and savage fate. Whole families are driven from their homes, actually starving, and without a day's provision before them.
Shall we, fellow citizens, quietly look upon these transactions ? Can we look upon them without feelings of revenge--without knowing that our assistance is necessary? How soon may it be before our frontiers are in the same way invaded, and our own brothers and sisters scalped ? Shall we allow these brutes to dull their tomahawks on the bones of our friends, in order that they may only re-sharpen them for our relations ? Allow these murderers further success, and they will be joined by bands from every quarter, and their "border warfare" will be terrible. Rise, fellow citizens of this city and county--let us no longer delay--talk no more, but act. To arms--unloose the spirit of revenge--each one raise a horse, gun, and a few days rations, and put himself under the guidance of some respectable members of the community, (one of experience, and well acquainted with the Indian character, and their mode of warfare) resolved to revenge or die in defence of his relatives and friends. Let us convince our brethren of our neighbor State, that we are willing and able to assist them--and in assisting them to protect ourselves. Let us, as has been already suggested, meet at 5 o'clock this afternoon--form ourselves on the spot, in companies of fifty men each--and the St. Louis Corps will march to the seat of war."
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