Monday, September 23, 2019

Ulysses S. Grant: Fighting Celt

Ulysses S. Grant & his wife Julia
Grant Home Galena, IL

On my recent visit to Illinois I had a chance to see Ulysses S, Grant's hometown of Galena Illinois.  Galena is a charming town.  Grant was born in Ohio rather than Illinois, but he spent many years in Galena working as a shop clerk before the US Civil War.  After the war the citizens of Galena purchased a home for Grant to honor his service.  Visitors to Galena can find his well preserved home curated by the National Park Service...

I wrote earlier about Ron Chernow's excellent new biography of Grant and even recommended it for President Trump's nightstand!  See...  This book was an admirable reappraisal of

But there was a key to Grant's character that even Chernow seems to have missed -- Grant was a Fighting Celt in the tradition of William Wallace and Brian Boru.  The Celtic aspects of his nature help explain his impressive horsemanship, his determination on the battlefield and even his drinking.

In our forthcoming book 101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur we (Kelly and Laycock) examine Grant's Celtic heritage and his unquestioned martial skill.
"Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?  An Ohioan.  A West Point graduate.  A veteran of the Mexican-American War.  The foremost commander of the US Civil War. The 18th President of the United States. All of these…but also a warrior of partly Celtic ancestry.

Ulysses S. Grant was born in Ohio in 1822 in Point Pleasant Ohio.  Fighting was in his blood.  His great grandfather served in the Seven Years War and his grandfather Noah fought at the battle of Bunker Hill in the American Revolution.

Grant had double-barreled Celtic ancestry.  Ulysses S. Grant had an Irish grandmother, Rachel Kelley, who married Noah in 1792.  His great-grandfather had left Dungannon in County Tyrone in the 1730s.  Another ancestor, John Roberts, was born in Wales in 1665 and migrated to Pennsylvania where he died in 1735.

At West Point Grant was a middling student, remarkable mainly for his excellent horsemanship.  Like so many Celtic warriors who preceded and followed him, Grant developed a lifelong love of horses.

Lieutenant Grant served with distinction in the Mexican-American War (1846-48) where he fought in many battles rising to the rank of captain.  In 1879 he told a journalist “I do not think that there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico.”  In Grant’s memoirs he described this war as “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”  Grant would come to believe that the war with Mexico was a “transgression” which, in some sense, was a precursor to the US Civil War.

After the war Grant served with the US Army on the frontier in California.  Bored with peacetime service he turned to drink.  He resigned from the Army to escape court martial.

In 1860 Grant was working in his father’s leather good store in Galena, Illinois.  His life might have been largely ignored by history had it not been for the outbreak of the US Civil War in April of 1861 which followed the attack on Fort Sumter.  The great tragedy of America’s bloodiest war was a career opportunity for Grant which he seized avidly.

Ulysses S. Grant

Operating in the Western theatre of the war, Brigadier General Grant immediately demonstrated his aggressive approach in 1861 by, without prior authorization, seizing Paducah in the order state of Kentucky.  In 1862 he won significant victories in Tennessee.  He cooperated with the US Navy in a river campaign that led to the capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in Tennessee.He gained the nickname “Unconditional Surrender Grant” for the uncompromising terms he demanded from Confederate General Buckner at Donnelson.

Commander K. at Shiloh Battlefield

On April 6-7, 1862 Grant led Union forces in a two day battle on the banks of the Tennessee River near Pittsburg Landing.  The first day of the battle went poorly for the Union with Confederate forces launching a surprise attack.  On the night of April 6 General Sherman observed to Grant,”We’ve had the devil’s own day haven’t we?”  Grant replied laconically, “Yes, lick ‘em tomorrow though.”   Grant proved as good as his word (who?) gained a decisive victory over Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnson who was killed that day.  Delighted to have finally discovered a winning general Lincoln exclaimed of Grant, “I cannot spare this man.  He fights.”

Commander K. with Honest Abe
Gettysburg, PA

In the fall of 1862 Grant again collaborated with the US Navy to begin a combined arms siege of Vicksburg.  The protracted siege of the “Confederate Gibraltar” was rewarded with success with the fall of Vicksburg and the capture of 30,000 Confederate troops on July 4, 1863.  The Confederacy was effectively bisected along the line of the Mississippi River.  Lincoln exulted, “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.”

In April 1864 President Lincoln made Grant overall Commanding General of the Armies of the United States with the rank of lieutenant general.  Now Grant’s Army of the Potomac would have to square off against Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The Union forces advancing towards Richmond were roughly twice the number of those of Confederate defenders.  A grinding attritional war ensued featuring engagements in the Wilderness and at Spotsylvania courthouse.  Northern casualties were greater than those suffered by the Confederates but the much larger population of the north meant that Confederate losses were impossible to replace totally.

Grant Painting
Grant Museum, Galena, IL

On June 3, 1864 Grant ordered a frontal assault on Lee’s entrenched positions at Cold Harbor.  Among the Union forces Grant had sent into battle was the Irish Brigade fighting under their distinctive emerald green banners.  The Irish soldiers “fell in heaps” according to Captain Flemming of the 28th Massachusetts.  Two members of the Irish Brigade would win medals of honor for that day’s fighting.  The Army of the Potomac lost 7,000 men killed and wounded in the space of around fifteen minutes.  It was, perhaps, Grant’s greatest blunder.

Later that month Grant’s Army advanced to besiege Petersburg.   On June 16, 1864 Colonel Patrick Kelly, commander of the Irish Brigade, was killed at Petersburg after being shot in the head.  A ten month long siege eventually resulted in the fall of Petersburg which swiftly led to the capture of the Confederate capital at Richmond.

In the final campaign of the war fought in Virginia in the spring of 1865 Grant’s cavalry, led by Brigadier General Phillip Sheridan (1831-1888, Irish ancestry from Albany, NY) harassed the Confederate lines of communication and destroyed enemy supplies.  On April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse Grant accepted the surrender from Lee of the Army of Northern Virginia which had been reduced to a ragged mass of less than 30,000 starving men.  The generous terms of surrender which Grant offered and Lee wisely accepted would bring the war to a swift conclusion and avert a deadly guerilla campaign which some Confederate officers had supported.

The US Civil War had made Grant a nationally recognized hero.  Lincoln’s assassination left him the foremost man in the nation in spite of Vice President Johnson’s elevation to the White House.As general in chief Grant presided over the rapid demobilization of the enormous Union Army.  Grant’s experience of war gave him a profound distaste for it.  He would avoid military parades and displays for the rest of his life when possible.
Union Bugler at Lincoln's Tomb
Springfield, IL
In 1868 Grant was nominated as the Republican candidate for the President of the United States.  Grant, the grizzled warrior, ran on a campaign of “Let us have peace”.  Grant won the first of two terms he would serve as President in an electoral landslide.

Lincoln's Tomb
Springfield IL
President Grant did preside over a period of peace and rising prosperity during his terms in office which ran from 1869 until 1877.  Grant won an admirable reputation for standing up for the civil rights of emancipated slaves in spite of the backlash which swept through the South on the heels of Reconstruction.  Grant appointed Ely Parker, of the Seneca tribe, the first native American head of the Bureau of  Indian Affairs.  Parker had previously served as an officer in Grant’s headquarters during the war.  General Lee, upon meeting Parker at Appomattox, had observed “I am glad to see at least one real American here.”  Parker had rejoined pointedly, “We are all Americans, sir.

In spite of his personal integrity and honesty, Grant was often ill served by many of his subordinates and appointees.  His trusting nature led to scandal and corruption in what became known as the “gilded age.”

Significantly, Grant did deliver on his pledge of peace.  His administration chose the path of negotiation in the dispute with England over the English-built Confederate raider Alabama averting a costly war..

After serving his term of office Grant set out, like the eponymous Ulysses of yore, onto a long voyage across the seas.  Grant and his family dined with Queen Victoria at Windsor castle.  Grant toured Asia meeting the Thai royal family and the emperor of Japan.

Ulysses S. Grant Statue
Galena IL

In January 1879 Grant paid tribute to his Celtic roots, becoming the first US President to ever visit Ireland.  He visited Trinity college and the Bank of Ireland.  Addressing a crowd near Dublin’s City Hall he noted, “I am by birth a citizen of a country where there are more Irishmen, either native born or the descendants of Irishmen, than there are in all of Ireland.

In the 1880’s Ferdinand Ward, an unscrupulous young man, formed an unfortunate business alliance with Grant, trading in Wall Street on Grant’s good name.  He essentially ran a Ponzi scheme which collapsed nearly bankrupting Grant.

Grant was, in a sense, killed by the kindness of strangers.  After his initial victories on the western front of the Civil War, he was given thousands of complimentary cigars by northern businessmen.  He acquired an addiction to cigars and developed throat cancer that eventually killed him in 1885. Fortunately for posterity he managed to compose his famous Memoirs (published by Mark Twain) which remain today the gold standard among presidential memoirs."

101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur will be coming in 2020...

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Invading Michigan

Commander K. with Michigan's favorite son Gerald Ford
Ford Library and Museum

Michigan is loaded with fascinating history, both military and otherwise.  Significant battles were fought on the Great Lakes during the War of 1812.  George Armstrong Custer grew up in Monroe Michigan.  The Polar Bear expedition that invaded Russia in the later stages of World War I was made up primarily of Michiganders.  Grand Rapids was the home of Gerald Ford, our 38th President.  Today it is the home of the Ford Library and Museum...

Commander K. at Michigan Military Museum
Frankenmuth, Michigan

German settlers from Franconia came to Michigan early settling Frankenmuth in 1845.  Today this German-themed town with a population of 5,000 welcomes around 3 millions tourists per year.  Frankenmuth is a great town -- unless you are a chicken -- fried chicken dinners are a local specialty!  Frankenmuth is also home to the splendid Michigan Military and Space Heroes Museum...

Germans ""Invade" Michigan
We discussed fighting that took place within the state of Michigan in our recent book America Invaded...

"Even before Europeans reached what is now Michigan, their arrival farther east had had something of an impact on the Native American people of the area.

When Europeans first entered Michigan, they found a land inhabited by a range of Native American peoples, particularly the peoples that formed part of the Algonquian-language group, like the Ottawa, the Ojibwa, the Potawatomi, and the Miami, but also people from the Iroquoian-language group, like the Wyandot.

When Europeans did arrive in the area, it was the French who played the leading role.

In the early seventeenth century, Étienne Brulé explored some of the region; and soon, other French missionaries, explorers, and traders followed. In 1668, Father Jacques Marquette founded the first permanent European settlement in what is now Michigan at Sault Ste. Marie. And in 1671, Simon François, Sieur de St. Lusson arrived at the Sault and claimed a vast chunk of western America for France. A number of French forts were established; and in 1701, Detroit itself was founded.
But the French were beginning to encounter serious opposition from both local Native American peoples and another European power, Britain.

By the late seventeenth century, parts of Michigan had already been affected by the Iroquois Wars, as the Iroquois sought to establish control over the lucrative fur trade with the Europeans. And in the early eighteenth century, competition for land and trade led to clashes, as the Fox tribe fought the French and their Native American allies.  The result was great suffering for the Fox and the Sauk.
And indeed, French power in Michigan did not have long left.  The French and Indian War saw the collapse of French power throughout North America. In 1760, the British accepted the surrender of Detroit.

But almost as soon as the British had taken control of the area, they faced major opposition to their rule from Native Americans. Unhappy with the new British rule and the arrival of more settlers from the east, a variety of peoples combined to attack British targets. Prominent among those leading the effort was an Ottawa leader, Pontiac, and the conflict has consequently become known as Pontiac’s War. It didn’t start well for the British in Michigan. Not well at all.

Fort Detroit managed to avoid being captured by a surprise attack, but it then came under siege. Elsewhere in Michigan, the British faced near disaster. Fort St. Joseph and Fort Michilimackinac would both be captured, and British troops suffered defeat on the battle eld as well. In May 1763,  fifty-six out of ninety-six men from a British supply unit were killed at Point Pelee. And in July of that same year, an attempt by British forces from Detroit to attack Pontiac led to defeat and the deaths of twenty British soldiers at the Bloody Run. Settlers were attacked as well.

However, Detroit did not fall, and the Native American forces were defeated elsewhere too. Gradually, the Native American alliance fell apart as separate peace deals were negotiated with the British.  The British administration also attempted to deal with one of the main local grievances by restricting the arrival of settlers into the region. Pontiac himself finally made peace with the British in 1766.

But another war was coming. During the American Revolution, the British used Detroit as a base to launch raids against American targets farther south. Detroit also saw the arrival of Daniel Boone as a prisoner, and the construction of Fort Lemoult.

And in one dramatic venture, Spain invaded Michigan briefly.  In 1780, American forces had attacked Fort St. Joseph, located in what is now Niles. In 1781, it was the turn of the Spanish.  The Spanish commandant of St. Louis sent an expedition that launched a surprise attack on the fort on February 12, 1781, crossing ice to take the target.  The Spanish briefly raised the Spanish flag, looted the fort, and then returned to safety in St. Louis.

Ultimately, the result of the War of Independence would be determined by actions farther to the east; and in the 1783 peace deal that ended the war, Michigan became American. Except that it didn’t exactly. Britain, for instance, remained in control of Detroit, and elections were even held there in 1792 for representatives to the provincial assembly of Upper Canada.

The situation was a headache for the United States government. Not only did it see Britain, via Detroit and other locations, assisting Native American resistance to the United States’ attempts to impose its rule on the region, but it also had to deal with competing claims to the Michigan territory from existing states. In the end, it was determined that existing states would not have control of the territory; and in 1795, after the defeat of Native Americans at the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, the British finally agreed to withdraw from all Northwest Territory lands. In 1796, they left Detroit.
But not for the last time. Another war was coming, and soon British forces would return to Detroit.
In 1805, most of what is now Michigan was de ned by the United States as Michigan Territory. In 1807, the United States signed a deal in Detroit with the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandot, and Potawatomi, under which these peoples ceded lands. It would be the first of a number of deals in which Native Americans gave away their land rights in Michigan.

Commander K. at River Raisin

The War of 1812 didn’t start well for America in Michigan. In July 1812, Mackinac Island fell without a shot to the British, because the British in the area had been told they were at war and the Americans in the area hadn’t. And the situation wasn’t going to get any better for the Michigan authorities anytime soon. In August, Detroit surrendered to the British. And January 1813 saw a major American defeat by British and Native American forces at the Battle of Frenchtown, also known as the Battle of the River Raisin. However, events in the region were about to take a major turn in America’s favor. Victory for Olive Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie was followed by a significant British defeat at the Battle of the Thames. In September, the British withdrew from Detroit, this time for the final time. In the summer of 1814, Americans attempted but failed to retake Mackinac Island, but the war came to an end in February 1815. In July, British forces withdrew from Mackinac Island. Small changes to the border between the United States and Canada would still be made decades after the war.

The end of the War of 1812 was not the last fighting in Michigan. Another war was coming. Well, sort of.

In 1835–1836, a sort of war broke out between Michigan and Ohio, or as it is also known, the Toledo War. Confused surveying had left control of a strip of land stretching west from Toledo in dispute. When applying for statehood in 1835, Michigan claimed it. Ohio wasn’t very happy about that. In fact, it wasn’t happy at all. Both Michigan and Ohio sent militias to the area. Tensions ran high, and some shots were  red at the so-called Battle of Phillips Corner, as Ohio’s surveyors ran into Michigan militiamen. In the end, though, the only actual casualty was a Michigan sheriff  who got stabbed, but not killed, while attempting to arrest an Ohioan. In the end, a compromise was found. Ohio got the Toledo strip, and the new state of Michigan, recognized in 1837, ended up with most of the Upper Peninsula. Michigan wasn’t very happy about the deal at the time, but became a lot happier when it realized how much valuable natural resources its new territory contained.

And that’s almost the end of combat in Michigan. The state sent people and supplies to the fighting in the Civil War, but the battles took place elsewhere. In the early twentieth century, the United States still had a war plan for the invasion of Canada, which would have involved thrusts from Michigan across the border. It was never needed. Similarly, Canada had at one stage, between the world wars, its Defence Scheme No. 1, which envisaged, in the event of an America invasion, Canadian troops  seizing Detroit, among other targets. But that was never needed either.

Over 600,000 Michiganders served in the armed forces in World War II.

Over 600,000 Jeeps were built during WW2

The state’s automotive industry became an arsenal of Democracy, producing thousands of tanks, jeeps, and other vehicles. Almost 5,000 German and Italian POWs were held in camps in Michigan, such as Fort Custer. But one last foreign attack on Michigan was still to come. During the Japanese balloon- bomb campaign of the Second World War, some Fu-Go balloon bombs did make it as far as Michigan, with one landing near Grand Rapids."

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Xi Who Must Be Obeyed

Xi Who Must Be Obeyed

The media was in an uproar about the influence of Russia on the 2016 Presidential election.  They have, however, almost completely ignored the massive influence that China will have on the upcoming 2020 election.

President Xi Jinping, now 66 years old, is China's undisputed paramount leader.  In 2017 The Economist magazine declared Xi the most powerful person in the world.  Forbes agreed in 2018.  Xi's power, unlike that of Trump or any American president, is unconstrained constitutional limitations.

China is a colossus bestriding the world today.  She has around nearly 1.6 billion people -- the most populous nation on earth.  The Chinese economy has been growing steadily and at a rapid rate (always over 6%) since the late 1970s.  Since 2010 the Chinese economy as measured by GDP is the second largest in the world.

Is Xi a Communist?  Well, in some sense he is.  Xi is the General Secretary of the Communist Party.  But he is hardly a doctrinaire Maoist.  He and his family were personally victimized by the Cultural Revolution.  Mao was the kidney stone that China eventually passed after great pain and suffering; over 40 million are estimated to have been killed as a result of Mao's policies making him a greater executioner than Hitler or Stalin

Nor is Xi an ideological Marxist.  He is the steward of China's economic growth.  The Chinese have enormous pride in their ancient civilization.  China traded with ancient Rome.  China was a sophisticate civilization when Europe was in a prolonged Dark age that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire.

China is an explosive capitalist engine with a thin veneer of Communism.  For China Communism simply means that neither Xi nor any future Chinese leader can create a feudal family run dynasty as in days of old.  Each Supreme Chinese leader must select a successor based upon merit much as Julius Caesar selected Augustus.  It was executive ability and merit that earned Xi his current position rather than mere party loyalty.

China lights up the world

A central truth about China is that it is a combustible society.  This is the nation that gave us gunpowder.  This is the nation that has perfected fireworks that entertain crowds around the world.

China's greatest fear is the possibility of anarchy and Civil War.  One and a half billion people cannot be expected to always agree.  Take food for example.  Those in Hunan like their chicken spicu and hot while those in Canton prefer it sweet and sour.
Ghengis Khan
China built a wall to keep the Mongols out

We all know that Civil Wars can be costly.  The English Civil War of the 17th Century claimed over 50,000 lives.  We Americans know that the US Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American history taking around 3/4 of a million lives in the 19th Century.  But China takes the cake for frequent and horrendously bloody civil wars. 

China has fought at lest four civil wars that claimed well over a million lives.  The Mongol Conquests of the 13th and 14th  centuries cost over 30 million lives.  The Transition from ming to Qing in the 17th century is estimated to have cost over 25 million lives.  The Taiping Rebellion which lasted from 1850 to 1864 cost at least 20 million lives (some sources estimate 100 million) which is more than all the lives lost in World War I by all sides.  World War II became a Civil War and featured not only the Nationalists and the Communists, but also a substantial block of collaborationists that supported the Japanese occupier (See .  The most recent Chinese Civil war which raged from 1927 to 1949 between Nationalists and Communists claimed 8 to 12 million lives.

Taiping Rebellion
1850 - 1864
20 - 100 Million lives
China insists endlessly that there is only one China denying the diversity of
central government that can fundamentally alter course every fours years or so as in America is anathema to a society that seeks to plot its progress in terms of centuries.  The Chinese are horrified by the ideological pendulum swings that occur in western democracies.   China had disastrous 19th and 20th centuries.  She wants to climb back up to the top of the pyramid sometime in the 21st century.  And Xi Jinping wants, above all to steer her on that course.  Xi wants to keep China's economic engine running and to put it at the forefront of all nations eventually overtaking the USA in terms of the economy, military and even cultural.  No one in China doubts that Xi's mission is to Make China Great Again!

It is the combustibility of China and its long history of Civil wars that were the cause of the crackdown at Tiananmen Square thirty years ago.  It is this continued fear of anarchy that lies behind Xi's thinking now with regard to the pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.

Xi enjoys the power of life and death over his Chinese citizens.  Moreover, he has the power of a Kingmaker in regard to American politics.  It will be up to him to decide whether or not to do a trade deal with President Trump.  If Xi prefers to deal with the devil he knows, then there will be a trade deal with China well before the November election.  If Xi prefers to take his chances with a new American president, then Trump's chances in 2020 decline dramatically.

All of Xi's deliberations depend upon his calculation of what will benefit China and her economy in the long term.

My speculation is that Xi will very likely do a trade deal with the USA knowing he will materially help re-elect Trump rather than face the uncertain gamble of a new American president.  Furthermore, I speculate that Xi will NOT launch a violent crackdown on the Hong Kong mainly because he knows that the West (his trading partners) are watching.

This week Trump announced a delay in the imposition of new tariffs on China ( in 2020 And no wonder.  Trump cannot win without the support of farmers who have been hard hit by Chinese trade policies.  Trump needs a Chinese trade deal to win in 2020.

Xi, who must be obeyed, now enjoys power and influence that Putin can only dream of.

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Friday, September 6, 2019

Invading Illinois

Invading the Land of Lincoln

Thoroughly enjoyed my recent visit to Illinois -- the Land of Lincoln.  This state is a historical treasure trove waiting to be explored.  Springfield was Lincoln's home and is his final resting place.  Ulysses S. Grant was a storekeeper in Galena, Illinois.  Galena was, in fact, the home of no less than nine Union generals in the US Civil War.

First Division Museum
Cantigny Park, IL
Chicago is the home of "Da Bears," the Cubs and the White Sox.  But it also the home of one of the nation's most prestigious military history institution -- the Pritzker Museum and Library (  Just out of Chicago in Cantigny Park visitors can also find a splendid museum dedicated to the First Division (

In America Invaded ( we explored fighting that took place in Illinois from the first arrival of Europeans to the present.  Here is the Illinois chapter...

"Illinois was home to Cahokia and the spectacular civilization that flourished there long before the arrival of Europeans. When they finally did arrive, they found a land populated by a number of Algonquian-speaking

And it would be the French who would first bring European influences 
into the area. In 1673, French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet entered the region; and in 1675, Marquette established a mission near present-day Utica. By 1680, Robert de La Salle and Henri de Tonti were building Fort Crèvecoeur near what is now Peoria.

It wasn’t, however, just the French who were on the move.  The Iroquois had been battling for some time to control the lucrative fur trade created by European expansion. Their westward drive brought them into conflict with tribes in the Illinois region; and that same year, 1680, they destroyed the Great Village of the Illinois. In the winter of 1682–3, de La Salle built Fort Saint Louis du Rocher opposite the Great Village of the Illinois. It too was attacked by the Iroquois, and Henri de Tonti had to abandon the fort in 1691.

Fighting with the Iroquois went on in the region until the Great Peace of Montreal brought a respite from hostilities.

The early eighteenth century saw significant expansion of French influence in the area. In 1717, Illinois was removed from Canadian control and instead incorporated into the French province of Louisiana. Work began on building Fort Chartres in 1718, and in 1730, it became the capital of the French Illinois Country. In 1721, they built a fort at Kaskaskia.

But the expansion of French control would not occur without conflict. The French, for instance, clashed repeatedly with the Fox/Meskwaki. The Second Fox War saw a massacre in 1730 in east-central Illinois of Fox/Meskwaki by the French and their Native American allies.

The future of Illinois was not going to be French, however. Another European power was exerting increasing influence in the region. Yes, Britain. Under the 1763 peace deal that ended the French and Indian War, the
territory that is now the state of Illinois became British.
Pontiac led a rebellion
that spread to Illinois
However, as the British took control of the region, resistance to the new authorities broke out almost immediately, caused by changes in trade policies and the arrival of fresh settlers. The focus of Pontiac’s War (1763–1766) was to the east, but it delayed British control of Illinois and sucked in local tribes, including the Illinois. Pontiac himself was killed in or near Cahokia by a member of the Peoria tribe.

And another war was coming, one that would dramatically change the future of Illinois. Even territory this far west was to see major action during the War of Independence.

George Rogers Clark
For instance, in July 1778, George Rogers Clark, leading a column of Virginian troops, marched into Illinois—which had been left lightly defended by Britain—and seized a number of settlements, including Kaskaskia and Cahokia. Many of the local French welcomed the American arrival and swore an oath of allegiance to Virginia and the United States. But this was not to be the last fighting in the region during the War of Independence. In 1780, a combined force of British and Native Americans commanded by Emanuel Hesse attacked St. Louis and Cahokia, but failed to achieve very much. Some of the British attempted to escape along the Illinois River. A force consisting of American, French, and Spanish troops went after them, but got involved in attacking a Sauk and Fox/Meskwaki settlement. In 1781, a Spanish expedition passed through the area, en route to attacking Fort St. Joseph.

When peace came in 1783, what is now the state of Illinois was confirmed as being under American control.
In 1784, Virginia gave up its claim to Illinois; and in 1787, under the Northwest Ordinance, it became part of the Northwest Territory. Soon the process of opening up the area to American settlements began. In 1803, the
Kaskaskia gave up almost all their land in Illinois to the United States. More settlers arrived. In 1804, in a disputed agreement in St. Louis, the United States thought it had bought the lands of the Sauk and Meswkaki east of the Mississippi.
Jean Baptist Point du Sable
Founder of Chicago
In 1799, African-American pioneer Jean-Baptist-Point Du Sable founded the first settlement on the site of what is now Chicago. In 1803, the US Army established Fort Dearborn. And the young United States was already beginning to look far to the west of Illinois. In 1804, William Clark (brother of George Rogers Clark, who had taken Kaskaskia and Cahokia in 1778) and his troops departed from Camp Dubois to join up with Meriwether Lewis and head west.

Some might have thought that the process of establishing American domination of Illinois would from then on be a smooth one. If so, they would have been wrong.

Fort Dearborn
Early in the War of 1812, in August 1812, American troops were ordered to withdraw from Fort Dearborn in the belief it would be impossible to defend. During the ensuing Battle of Fort Dearborn, the American military withdrew, and military and civilians were attacked and captured by Potawatomis. In turn, American forces attacked Potawatomi and Kickapoo villages in the Peoria area; and in 1813, they built Fort Clark in Peoria. Other clashes occurred in what is now Illinois. For instance, in April 1813, American rangers were ambushed by Kickapoo warriors at the so-called Battle of Africa Point. Later in the war, in 1814, American troops suffered a defeat at the Battle of Rock Island Rapids on what is now Campbell Island.

The peace deal that ended the war, however, left the area under American control, and the following decades would see Native Americans squeezed out and even more settlers flowing in.

Already, for example, soon after the war, veterans settled in Illinois. In 1819, the year after Illinois became a state, most of the Kickapoo moved west of the Mississippi. In 1829, by an agreement at Prairie du Chien, Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi ceded territory in northern Illinois. However, some would resist the American government’s attempt to remove all Native Americans from Illinois. In the decades after the disputed St. Louis agreement of 1804, many Sauk and Meskwaki had moved west across the Mississippi, but not all were willing to stay there.

In 1830 and 1831, Black Hawk, a chief of the Sauk and Meskwaki who had fought alongside the British in the War of 1812, returned to his ancestral lands in Saukenuk, Illinois. He returned again in 1832, with hundreds of men, women, and children who formed what became known as the British Band, because of their habit of using the British flag to defy US sovereignty and to stress their British connections. Armed American militiamen met Black Hawk and his supporters, and when Black Hawk tried to negotiate a truce, fighting broke out. e result was a defeat for the American forces, known as the Battle of Stillman’s Run. What followed was a series of minor clashes and raids on settlers—some involving Black Hawk’s British Band, some involving other Native Americans who had been inspired by his actions—that stretched across large parts of Illinois and Wisconsin. e short war culminated in a massacre of Black Hawk’s followers in the Battle of Bad Axe River.

In 1833, an agreement at Chicago included provision for the ceding and settling of the last remaining Native American lands in Illinois.

In 1839, expelled Cherokee on the Trail of Tears trekked through southern Illinois.

Lincoln's Tomb
Springfield, IL
When the Civil War came, Illinois, a very important state in Abraham Lincoln’s life (he had even served as a captain in the Illinois militia in the war against Black Hawk), stayed with the Union, despite Confederate sympathies in some parts of southern Illinois, known as Little Egypt.

Ulysses S. Grant statue
Galena IL
The state played a major part in the successful Union river campaign. In 1861, Commodore John Rodgers, commanding the Union river flotilla, chose Cairo, located where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meet, as a major operations base. Confederate raiders did occasionally cross into Illinois. For instance, on August 19, 1864, a small number of Confederate raiders seized goods at Bay eld, near present-day Bay City. And in March 1864, the Charleston Riot saw Union troops clash with Copperheads (Democrats who opposed the war), and nine people died.
Herbert Haupt
That’s pretty much the end of combat in Illinois. Occasional violence would follow, like the Haymarket A air bombings of 1886; and during World War II, Herbert Haupt was arrested in Chicago for espionage. Haupt, born in Stettin in 1919 to German parents, had grown up in Chicago. In 1941, he left the United States on a world tour, winding up in Nazi Germany, where was recruited for a sabotage mission. A member of Operation Pastorius, he was dropped o by a German U-boat near Jacksonville, Florida, and made his way by train back to Chicago, where he was reunited with his parents. After being informed on by another German saboteur, he was arrested, tried, and executed in 1942 at the age of twenty-two.

Al Capone of Brooklyn, New York, “invaded” Chicago in the 1920s to lead the Chicago mob, but that is another story...."

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