Stop 5: Battle of Wisconsin Heights
(Hwy. 78, 2 mi S of Sauk City)

From the Indian Lake parking lot turn right (west) on Hwy 19 and drive into Marxville. Turn right on County KP. Travel north to Hwy 12. Turn left on Hwy 12. Travel west on Hwy 12 until you reach Hwy 78; turn left. Travel south two miles to Parking Lot on left hand side of 78. Historical Marker #396.

July 21, 1832
Black Hawk writes:

We were proceeding to the Ouisconsin [Wisconsin River], with our women and children. We arrived and had commenced crossing them to an island, when we discovered a large body of the enemy coming towards us. We were now compelled to fight, or sacrifice our wives and children to the fury of the whites! I met them with fifty warriors, (having left the balance to assist our women and children in crossing) about a mile from the river, when an attack immediately commenced.

I was mounted on a fine horse, and was pleased to see my warriors so brave. I addressed them in a loud voice, telling them to stand their ground, and never yield it to the enemy. At this time I was on the rise of a hill, where I wished to form my warriors, that we might have some advantage over the whites. But the enemy succeeded in gaining this point, which compelled us to fall back into a deep ravine, from which we continued firing at them and they at us, until it began to grow dark.

My horse having been wounded twice during this engagement, and fearing from his loss of blood, that he would soon give out--and finding that the enemy would not come near enough to receive our fire, in the dusk of the evening--and knowing that our women and children had had sufficient time to reach the island in the Ouisconsin, I ordered my warriors to return, in different routes, and meet me at the Ouisconsin--and were astonished to find that the enemy were not disposed to pursue us.

In this skirmish, with fifty braves, I defended and accomplished my passage over the Ouisconsin, with a loss of only six men [actually 40+ men]; though opposed by a host of mounted militia.

I would not have fought there, but to gain time for my women and children to cross to an island. A warrior will duly appreciate the embarrassments I labored under--and whatever may be the sentiments of the white people, in relation to this battle, my nation, though fallen, will award to me the reputation of a great brave in conducting it.7

Black Hawk and his people reached the Wisconsin River in the early afternoon of July 21, 1832. In the process fo crossing onto an island in the river, the militiamen finally catch up to the Sauk. Black Hawk, facing a larger force, holds off the militiamen until nightfall. Because of the night and a steady rain, the militiamen leave the Sauk to retreat and set up a camp. The numbers of dead favor the militiamen. The troops have one killed, and eight wounded; Black Hawk lost upwards of forty warriors. However, Black Hawk managed to gain enough time for the women and children to create crude canoes to float down the Wisconsin River. Dodge and Henry opted not to pursue -- the Black Hawk War would continue for another eleven days.

Above: Marker #396 at the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, Black Hawk Unit on Hwy 78.

Left: Present-day wooded area at the Wisconsin Heights Battlefield.


Tip: Late summer, the mosquitoes will eat you alive, be sure to pack the bug spray.