This is the point on June 12, 1832 where Blackhawk's roving band of thirteen Indians swam the Pecatonica River to take refuge under the banks of a small pond. General Dodge and twenty eight mounted volunteers followed this band six miles from Fort Hamilton (present day Wiota). We are on the west bank looking to the south-east.
General Dodge's official report to his commanding officer.
" ..........The Indians being under the bank, our guns were brought within ten to fifteen feet of them before we could fire. Their party consisted of thirteen men. Eleven were killed on the spot and the remaining two were killed in crossing the lake so they were left without one to carry back the news. The volunteers under my command behaved with great gallantry. At the word CHARGE, the men rushed forward and literally shot the Indians to pieces. We were, Indians and Whites, on a piece of ground not to exceed sixty feet square".
Bloody Battle of the Pecatonica
Two days after the Spafford Creek Massacre, another battle engaging the same Indians, was fought on Horseshoe Bend on the eastern branch of the Pecatonica River above the present town of Woodford. Black Hawk's entire war party of thirteen men was wiped out by twice as many mounted militia riding from Fort Hamilton.
General Dodge of the Mounted Michigan Rangers hurried from Fort Blue Mounds (near present day Madison) early in the morning of June 16, 1832, after receiving an urgent message advising him of an Indian ambush near Fort Hamilton. Within a half mile of the fort he met one of the soldiers on horseback on the wagon road and briefly heard details of the Spafford Creek attack from him. The solder, Apfel by name, continued east to his cabin while Dodge made his way west to the fort.
As Dodge entered the stockaded compound, shots rang out from the road and Apfel's horse came running back covered with blood. A great excitement was generated among the militia and the untrained miners had to be restrained from dashing off in a wild rush towards the gunshots. General Dodge quickly formed the thirty undisciplined men into a mounted company which galloped off to see what had become of Apfel.
A short distance from where Dodge had stopped to talk they found Apfel's body in the roadway and indications of an ambuscade in the heavy thickets alongside. The company plunged their horses into the dense underbrush and followed the Indians, who traveled afoot, east towards the Pecatonica. The small party of Sacs crossed and recrossed a small deeply cut creek (Cherry Branch) to slow Dodges mounted force down. They soon reached a high bluff overlooking the river. Descending the steep slope they then swam the flooded Pecatonica and realizing they were being closely followed the small band secreted themselves under a small pond (Bloody Lake), the location requiring their enemy to advance at close range in order to fight.
When Dodge's men arrived at the Pecatonica the horses would nor swim the swollen river where the Indians had crossed. The militia rode on the west bank upstream about a mile to the ford on the trail to Demun's Trading Post. After crossing the horses at the shallow stoney bottomed ford, Dodge ordered four of his men to go to watch the movements of the Sac from high ground while four others were detailed to hold the horses. The General then prepared the remaining militia to advance in to the swampy thickets surrounding the Bloody Lake. He ordered them to renew their flints and to reprime their muskets. If any feared t follow him into the thicket, he asked that they fall back then, and not when they encountered the Indians. None fell back and within a few minutes the banks of the lake could be seen dimly through the thick underbrush.
Suddenly when Dodge's twenty one men were about to the edge of the lake a volley of shots came from under the bank and three of his men fell. Dodge gave the order to charge and, as the militia fired their flintlocks a fierce hand to hand combat ensued.
John Messersmith, one of the twenty one soldiers involved his part in the brief battle thus:
"The battle was fought hand to hand, and it was over directly. I fired my yager (short German hunting rifle), let it drop. Drew out my left pistol, fired at another Indian and was pouring powder in my hand to reload, when one of our company said 'They are all dead'! The fact was so, or nigh to it, as the whole number of Indians except one were killed.
It was said that the defeated foe had got their powder wet while swimming the Pecatonica and thus were at a disadvantage in this short skirmish. After the battle the three wounded trooper were carried six miles back to Fort Hamilton, two of which died of their wounds. Dodge's men scalped four of the Indians in the aftermath.
The Battle of the Pecatonica gave General Dodge and his Michigan Volunteers a reputation for bravery in the face of fire. But they were also cast as ruthless and unforgiving in the months to follow as they discovered Black Hawk's main band near Lake Koshkonong, gave chase through the isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona , and killed most of them, mean women and children, at the Battle of Bad Ax on the Mississippi River.