Black Hawk was not a chief, but had spent most of his sixty-three years fighting the Osages, Cherokeans, and Chippewas. When the war among the whites broke out in 1812, he had assembled a troop of Sauk warriors and offered their services to the Americans, but had been refused. Offended, he made the same offer to the English, who treated him with respect, secured his services and gave him weapons, ammunition, medals and the red coat that distinguished a soldier.
Now that Black Hawk was nearing old age, he had to watch whiskey sell in his longhouse. Worse still, he watched his tribe be tainted by the alcohol. Vandruff and his friend B. F. Pike got the Indians drunk and licked their skins, horses, rifles and traps. Black Falcon went to Vandruff and Pike and asked them not to sell any more whiskey to the Sauks. When his request was ignored, he came back with a handful of warriors who rolled the barrels out of the longhouse, smashed them, and poured the whiskey on the ground. Vandruff then packed his saddlebags with provisions for a long journey and rode to Bellville, the hometown of John Reynolds, the governor of Illinois. In a sworn statement before the governor, he stated that the Sauks were on a raid, in the course of which there was a stabbing and extensive damage to white property. He then presented the governor with a letter signed by B. F. Pike, saying that “the Indians graze their horses in our fields, shoot our cattle and threaten to set fire to our houses if we don’t go away.”
Reynolds was freshly elected to office and had promised voters to keep the Illinois settlers safe. A governor who successfully fought the Indians could hope for the presidency. “By God, sir,” he said to Vandruff, moved, “you are asking the right man for justice.”
Seven hundred mounted soldiers came and camped near Sauk-e-nuk. Their presence created excitement and fear. At the same time, a smoke-spitting steamship pounded up the Rock River. The ship ran aground on some of the rocks that gave the river its name, but the mookamonik managed to get it afloat again. Soon it was at anchor, its cannon aimed directly at the Indian settlement. The mookamonik war chief, General Edmund P. Gaines, called a conference with the Indians.