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No tribe considered revenge are more sacred duty than the Winnebagos. It was their ancient custom to take five lives for one. And it is notorious on the front tears that no blood of theirs has been shed that has not been fully of a managed. They used to or some part of the body of a slain enemy about them as a testimonial of prowess. We will remember a grim Winnebago was wont to present himself before whites with a human hand on his breast. He had taken it from a Yankee soldier to pick a no. The way it was. Presenting eyewitness accounts of historic events material for the series has been selected from the files of the Wisconsin State Historical Society. Today the story of a redbird.
Before the outbreak of the Winnebago war of eighteen twenty seven. Thousands of settlers had encroached on Winnebago territory in southwestern Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois searching for fur and leather. Some of the most important discoveries of late or were on the lands of the Winnebagos who work their own mines and were jealous of the intruders. The Indians long smoldering resentment came to a head in 1826 when word reached the Winnebago village of Redbird that two Winnebago prisoners at Fort Snelling Minnesota had been killed and their bodies cut to pieces. It is recollections of early Perry to Sheen Army Officer William Snelling described how the story reached the Indian village. Certain Dakota ambassadors arrived at Redbirds village with a y in their mouths. They said you have become a by word of reproach among us.
You have given the Chippewas reason to laugh it you and the big knives also laughing at you lo while they were among you they dared not offend you. But now they have caused gherao and his companion to be put to death and they have cut their bodies into pieces not bigger than the spots in a garter. The tail is believed and a cry for vengeance rose throughout the village. According to Indian beliefs every man needs his whole body to enter the great beyond. If the big knives as the Indians call the white man had mutilated the bodies the men who died could not enter the spirit world. The leading chiefs of the Winnebagos counseled upon what action was to be taken. Their decision to take scalps was recalled by Colonel Thomas McKinney in his memoirs of the Winnebago war. The result of dawn enforcing the Indian's law retaliation Redbird was
called upon to go out and take meat as they phrase it. Not wishing to appear a coward. He undertook the enterprise secretly rejoicing that a business had been referred to him for he resolved to make a circuit and return saying he could find no meat. He did so and was a braided and taunted and called coward and told he knew very well if he had the spirit to avenge the wrongs of his people he could by going to the prairie get as much meat as he could bring home. This fired him and he reckoned to redeem his character is a brave and beckoning to another Indian he told him to follow him. On June 26 or 27 18 27 Redbird and his two companions entered the home of Mrs. James H Lockwood in Wisconsin and after frightening her and her servant went on to the farm of news daughter Mary Louise and described what happened at the farm and a long letter written years later.
I will tell the story as learned from my mother. The family consisting of the father and mother kept an old man. My brother Frank was 3 years old and past a visit to. An actor. Who had reached the door unnoticed. Hungry back. And watching them she said to father for. Me to do. Father had made no reply. To a joint of the.
Indian signified little son. To my father with his. Gun concealed under his blanket in such a position as to bring my father. Karen took down my father's gun. Father instantly rose the gun from him at a signal from one of the other little fired his concealed gun. In the right breast of my father. The house was filled with powder smoke. My little brother was crying. Mother picked him up and ran out of the house. The Indian had preceded her over the fence near the house. They made her way over the fence and dropped directly in front of one of the Indians who was
there by her dropping the gun and with one away from him threw the guy who had started. My mother then returned to the house. I crept under the bed. Father was not dead but could not speak or move but made motions with his eyes which she clearly understood to make. Out through a picket fence which divided their grounds from those of a man Joseph. She hurriedly told him what had occurred and asked him to help her. He mounted his horse and rode cowardly away without a word. She then returned to the house
father who still lived again plainly signaled. Get away. Mother the end with my little brother made her way into the timber close to the house in her flight she noticed a large soft maple tree which had been blown down. The place where it stood was surrounded by a dense growth of brush. She crept into this and into the cavity made by uprooting the tree. He placed Frank crouching over him remained almost breathless. Until within twelve feet of her hiding place. The Indians killed the cap with their knives. Mutilating him and taking his scalp. My mother was not discovered. The Indians then returned to the house. Passed from a place of concealment took this opportunity to make his way to the village. He reached exhausted the house of Julian la
Riviere. He there found Frank who kept who mounted his horse and alarmed the people who turned out to the rescue. A mother in the meantime was searching for the road to the village. When she saw all the people coming to their relief. I had crept from under the bed to the door when the Indians returned to the house. Little son in testimony given at the trial of himself than the Chief Red Bull said. That he first gave the child a kick on the left hip and then with the gun barrel in his hands struck her with the breech of the gun on the right shoulder and with his knife struck her in the back of the neck. Intending to behead her and carry the head away with him. At this moment the other Indians outside the house shouted that people are coming. He said. I then took her
scalp and with it part of the skull. He then scalped my father down her dying face he said the tears were flowing at witnessing the hardened butchery of myself. When the rescue party reached the house my father was dead. I was lying in a pool of my own blood. I'm supposed to be dead. Do you. Son of Julian the Riviere wrapped me in his hand project and carried me to his father's house. Hours later. Being washed preparatory to bury you know. I was first discovered to be alive. And by careful tender care. Under kind Providence was restored to help. The same day as the incident it is fine to kill boats coming
down the Mississippi bound for prayer were fired upon by Indians from the shore. Among the passengers aboard was William Snelling who included a description of the attack and his recollections of early prayer to Him. During the absence of Redbird and his companions 37 of the warriors who acknowledge the authority of Redbird had assembled with their wives and children near the mouth of bad acts river they received the murderers with exceeding great joy and love approbation of the exploit. A keg of liquor was immediately set approach. The red men began to drink and as their spirits rose to boast of what they had already done and intended to do. They were at about four in the afternoon and dissipating the last fumes of their excitement in the
scalp dance when they decried one of the keel boats approaching forth with the proposal to take here and massacre the crew was made and carried by acclamation. The boats that descended the river together as far as the village of WABA shot where they expected an attack. The Indians on shore were dancing a war dance and nailed their approach with insults and menace. But did not nevertheless offer to obstruct their passage. The whites Now suppose the danger over and a strong wind at that moment beginning to blow upstream the boats parted company. That which sat deepest in the water had the advantage of the undercurrent and of course gained several miles in advance of the other so strong was the wind that all of the force of sweeps could scarcely stem it. And by the time the foremost boat was near the encampment at the mouth of the bags the crew were very willing to stop and rest one or two Frenchmen who are on board observed
hostile appearances on shore and advised the rest to keep the middle of the stream. But their council was disregarded most of the crew were Americans so as usual with our countryman combined a profound ignorance of Indian character with their own contempt for Indian prowess. They urged the boat directly toward the camp then men were teasing their friends companions about their apprehensions and the boat was within 30 yards of the shore. Suddenly the trees and rocks rang with the blood chilling ear piercing tones of the war whoop and of Ma'ale of rifle balls rained upon the deck. Happily the Winnebagos had not yet recovered. From the effects of their demarche and their arms we're not studying only one man fell by their employer. He was a little negro named Peter. His leg was dreadfully shattered and he afterwards died of the wound. Then Peter began to curse and to swear damning his fellows for leaving him to be shot
at like a Christmas turkey. But finding that his reproaches had no effect. He also managed to drag himself below second volley came from the shore but as the men were now lying prone in the bottom of the boat load of water line they all escaped with one. The Winnebagos encouraged by the resistance now rushed to their canoes with intent to board in the meanwhile the white man had recovered from their first panic and seized their arms. Orders were received with a very severe discharge. One two savages were killed with the same Several more were wounded and those who remained on her back satisfied that a storm was not the best mode of attack. However persevered they were together in one canoe and approached the boat a stern where there were no holes through which the whites could fire upon them. They soon leaped on board one seized a long steering oar the other jumped upon deck where he halted and discharged five muskets which had been left there by the crew fly below
through the deck into the bottom of the boom. This man or he wounded one man very severely. After this exploit He hurried to the door he seized a long pole and with the assistance of the steersman succeeded in grounding the boat on a sandbar and fixing our fast unto the fire of two Winnebago boatmen then began to load and fire no small amounts of the crew at the stern with some dispatch. One of the whites served his position through a crack and gave him a mortal wound through the board. Still he struggled to get overboard probably to save his scalp but his struggles were feeble and the second bullet terminated them before you get the effect his option after the fight was over. The white man who slew him took his scalp. The bow of the boat was open and the warrior there still kept the station out of sight accepting when he stopped the fire which he did five times. A sailor named Saucy Jack
Mandeville shot him through the head and he fell overboard carrying his gun with him. From that moment Mandeville assumed the command of the book. A few would resolve to take the skiff and leave the rest to their fate. They had already cast off the rope. Jack interposed declaring that he would shoot the first man and bayonet the second who had persevered and they submitted. Afterwards they fought like bulldogs. After the two or three first volleys fired slackened but it was not there for the last dangerous. The Indians had the advantage of superior numbers and could shift their positions a pleasure that whites were compelled to line the bottom of the boat along the water mark or its sides where with what works. Every bullet passed through and through. It was only at intervals and very wearily that they could rise to fire with a flash of every gun show the position of the marksman and was instantly followed by the reports of two or three Indian rifles. On the other hand they were
not seen and being thinly scattered over a large boat the Winnebagos could not guess their position. The fire was therefore slow on either side cared to waste ammunition for upwards of three hours both blood and water deprived of the free use of their limbs and wholly unable to extricate themselves during the height of battle. The day was saved when Saucy Jack Mandeville leaped overboard calling for assistance with the aid of four men who succeeded in pushing the boat off the sand bar thereby setting it afloat and enabling an escape. About sunset the boat arrived carrying the dead and wounded of the crew and bearing the marks of about five hundred shots on its side. News of the attack on the keel boats and of the incident at gun use firearm travel quickly panicky settlers were soon fleeing to prairie to Sheen at the village they proceeded
to fortify themselves and prepare for what they believed was an impending attack. Governor Lewis Cass of Michigan hastily organized military detachments from St. Louis Missouri Aleena Illinois Fort Snelling Minnesota and Fort Howard Wisconsin and ordered them to meet at the Portage of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to discuss the treaty with the Winnebagos. Among the officers at the Portage was a special commissioner from the War Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs. Colonel Thomas McKinney the object of the joint expedition was to put a stop to any further aggression of the sword that Winnebagos had been advised that the security of their people lay in the surrender of the murderers. The first intimation that this primary object would be accomplished was given the day after our arrival at the Portage in a very mysterious way. I was sitting at the door of my tent when an Indian with nothing over him but a blanket came up to the bluff and walking to the tent seated himself beside it. I inquired through an interpreter what
was the object of his visit. After musing awhile he said do not strike. When the sun is there tomorrow and looking up and pointing to about three o'clock in the afternoon they will come in who will come in I asked Red Bird and we come. He answered. The moment he gave the answer he rose wrapped his blanket about him and with hurried steps returned by the way he'd come. At about three o'clock the same day another Indian came and took his position in nearly the same place and in the same way. When two like questions he gave like answers and at sundown a third came confirming what the other two had said. With the addition that he had to secure that object given the families of the murderers. Nearly all his property. There was something heroic in his voluntary surrender. The giving away of property to the families of the guilty parties had nothing to do with their determination to devote themselves to the good of
their people but only to reconcile those who were about to be bereaved. The heroism in the purpose is seen in the fact that the murders committed to Prairie du scene were not wanton. But in retaliation for wrongs committed upon this people by whites the parties murdered at the Prairie were doubtless innocent of the wrongs and outrages of which the Indians complained but the law of Indian retaliation does not require that he alone who commits a wrong shall suffer for it. One scalp is held to be do another. No matter from whose head it's taken. Provided it be torn from the crown of the family or people who may have made a resort to this law unnecessary. The next day they were seen descending a mound of Portage a body of Indians somewhere mounted somewhere on foot. Three flags were borne by two one in front and one in the rear where
America and one in the center was white. They bore no arms. Of course a half an hour they had approached within a short distance of the crossing of the Fox River. When we heard a sink. Those who were familiar with the air said its a death song. And still nearer some present who knew him said it is red bird singing his death song. The moment a halt was made on the margin of the river preparatory to crossing over to scalp yells were heard. In the nominees and other Indians who had accompanied us were lying carelessly around on the ground regardless of what was going on but when the scalp yells were uttered they sprang as one man to their feet seized their rifles and were ready for battle. They were at no loss to know the details. But they had not heard with
sufficient accuracy to decide whether they indicated Scouts to be taken or given but doubtless inferred the first. The advance of the Indians had reached half the ascent of the bluff and the lead was Mani walking turtle. She. Spoke. They are here Braves they have come in. Treat them as Braves do not put them in I guess. I told him I was not a big captain. His talk must be made to Major Whistler. The military had been previously drawn out in line. They Menominee and while but not the Indians were in groups upon their haunches on our left flank on the right. The band of music a little in advance of the line in the front of center at about ten paces distant where the murderer
the magnificent red bird. And the miserable looking weak all eyes were fixed on red bird. Well they might be for of all the Indians I ever saw. He is without exception the most perfect in form in face gesture in height. He is about six feet straight but without restraint. His proportions are those of the most exact symmetry and these embrace the entire man from his head to his feet. I never beheld a face that was so full of all the ennobling at the same time the most winning expression. I could not but ask myself Can this man be a murderer. Is he the same who shot scalped and cut the throat of gag near very still. Nor was the expression of his face changed a particle. He appeared to be conscious that according to Indian Law and measuring the DDA had committed by the injustices and
wrongs cruelties of the white man he had done no wrong. The light which had shone upon his bosom from the law which demanded an eye for an eye so harmonized with his conscience as to secure its repose. He was there prepared to receive the blow that should consign his body to the ground and send his spirit to that blissful region to mingle with his fathers who had gone before. After a moment's pause a quick survey of the troops he spoke. I am ready and then advancing a step or two he paused saying I do not wish to be put in irons. I have given away my life it is gone. Stooping took some dust in his finger in. The dust as it fell in very tight like that he added. I would not take it.
Yet go on having spoken he threw his hands behind him to indicate that he was leaving all things behind him and marched briskly up to major Whistler breast to breast. Platoon was wheeled backward from the center of the line. Major Whistler stepping aside Redbird and we marched through the lime in charge of a file a man to attempt it had been provided for him in the rear where a guard was set over him. Red Bird was denied the noble death his surrender had seemingly prefaced according to one report an epidemic then raging in the village was the cause of Redbirds death. Some claim he died from the effects of his confinement. One writer states that he died of a broken heart. Most say simply he died in prison a few months after his surrender. A year later the other prisoners were sentenced to be hanged the day after Christmas. Eighteen twenty eight. But in November of that year President John Quincy Adams granted them a
pardon on the implied condition that the Winnebagos for ever relinquish their claim to the land they had long held. The threat of a border war with the Winnebagos and other Indian nations in Wisconsin was temporarily ended and more settlers than ever flocked to mine the rich deposits on the former Indian land. The way it was presenting eyewitness accounts of historic events. The story. Material for the series was selected from the files of the Wisconsin State Historical Society consulted for the series scripts for production. Ralph Johnson. This is the national educational radio network.
The Way It Was
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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"The Way It Was" is a radio program which presents eye witness accounts of notable topics throughout American history. Each episode begins with a description of a specific event, person, or historical topic, followed by several dramatic readings of witness testimonies found in the files and papers of the state historical society of Wisconsin. The program was originally released in 1969, and was re-broadcast from the program library of National Public Radio.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-37-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:28:30
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Chicago: “The Way It Was; 4,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
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