Monday, July 18, 2011

Henry M. Atkinson
(1782 - June 14, 1842)

Henry M. Atkinson was a native of Person County, North Carolina. He entered the army in 1808 as a captain in the infantry, serving at various outposts on the Western frontier. He moved to New York and was promoted to colonel in the Regular Army, seeing considerable action during the War of 1812. He commanded the 6th U.S. Infantry beginning in 1815. After the war, Atkinson led two expeditions to the Yellowstone River in 1819 and 1825. Appointed Commissioner together with Indian agent Benjamin O'Fallon and with a military escort of 476 men, Atkinson and his fellow commissioner left Fort Atkinson near present day Council Bluffs, Iowa, on May 16, 1825, and ascending the Missouri River, negotiated treaties of friendship and trade with tribes of the upper Missouri, including the Arikara, the Cheyenne, the Crow, the Mandan, the Ponca, and several bands of the Sioux. At that time there was still rivalry with British traders on the upper Missouri. The treaties acknowledged that the tribes lived within the United States, vowed perpetual friendship, and recognized the right of the United States to regulate trade, promising to deal only with licensed traders. The tribes agreed to forswear private retaliation for injuries and to return or indemnify the owner of stolen horses or other goods. He was appointed brevet brigadier general and was in overall command of U.S. forces during the Black Hawk War in 1832. Although he delivered the final blow to the Black Hawk Indians at the Battle of Bad Axe, Atkinson was criticized for mishandling the operations of the war and his reputation did not prosper as did those of his subordinates Zachary Taylor and Henry Dodge. Atkinson later superintended removal of the Winnebago to Iowa; a second Fort Atkinson was named in his honor in Iowa.Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis and Fort Leavenworth were begun under his direction. He spent the remainder of his career stationed at Jefferson Barracks.

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