The Black Hawk War was a brief 1832 conflict between the United States and Native Americans led by Black Hawk, a Sauk leader. The war erupted soon after Black Hawk and a group of Sauks, Meskwakis, and Kickapoos known as the "British Band" crossed the Mississippi River into the US state of Illinois from Iowa in April 1832. Black Hawk's motives were ambiguous, but he was apparently hoping to avoid bloodshed while resettling on tribal land that had been ceded to the United States in the disputed 1804 Treaty of St. Louis.
US officials, convinced that the British Band was hostile, mobilized a frontier militia and opened fire on a delegation from the Native Americans on May 14, 1832. Black Hawk responded by successfully attacking the militia at the Battle of Stillman's Run. He led his band to a secure location in what is now southern Wisconsin and was pursued by US forces. Meanwhile, other Native Americans conducted raids against forts and settlements largely unprotected with the absence of US troops. Some Ho-Chunk and Potawatomi warriors with grievances against European-Americans took part in these raids, although most tribe members tried to avoid the conflict. The Menominee and Dakota tribes, already at odds with the Sauks and Meskwakis, supported the US.
Commanded by General Henry Atkinson, the US troops tracked the British Band. Militia under Colonel Henry Dodge caught up with the British Band on July 21 and defeated them at the Battle of Wisconsin Heights. Black Hawk's band was weakened by hunger, death, and desertion and many native survivors retreated towards the Mississippi. On August 2, US soldiers attacked the remnants of the British Band at the Battle of Bad Axe, killing many or capturing most who remained alive. Black Hawk and other leaders escaped, but later surrendered and were imprisoned for a year.
The Black Hawk War gave the young captain Abraham Lincoln his brief military service. Other participants who later became famous included Winfield Scott, Zachary Taylor, and Jefferson Davis. The war gave impetus to the US policy of Indian removal, in which Native American tribes were pressured to sell their lands and move west of the Mississippi River and stay there.