Elizabeth Armstrong (settler)

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Elizabeth Armstrong was a settler at the site of the Apple River Fort in present-day Elizabeth, Illinois. She was praised for her bravery during the Battle of Apple River Fort in the 1832 Black Hawk War.

Early life[edit]

Elizabeth Armstrong was an early settler at the Apple River settlement, in present-day Elizabeth, Illinois. She was the wife of John Armstrong.[1]

Black Hawk War[edit]

On the afternoon of June 24, 1832 the Black Hawk War came to Apple River Fort. There were 28–30 armed militia and civilians inside Apple River Fort at the time of the attack. Another 40 women, children, and infants sought protection at the stockade. Captain Clack Stone command the militia company at the Fort, some of whom were not present for the battle.[1][2]

As Black Hawk's British Band closed in on the Fort, the locals took shelter inside the fort while the 28–30 men and boys took up positions at the portholes between the fort's pickets and inside the blockhouse. A vicious firefight erupted, involving about 150 of Black Hawk's war-party.[2][3] The battle raged for about an hour with heavy gunfire from both sides.[4] At the battle's onset most of the settlement's women had been huddled in the cabins, but Armstrong and other women rallied the young women, boys, and girls to provide support to the soldiers. She assigned them to such tasks as rolling cartridges, molding rifleballs and reloading the weapons while the soldiers tried to keep up their stream of gunfire.[1][4]


Elizabeth Armstrong was praised as a heroine for her actions during the battle, displaying the kind of courage under fire the militia had so badly lacked during the first months of the Black Hawk War.[1] Her actions, in part, helped give Black Hawk the impression the Apple River Fort was heavily defended and a frontal attack would be inane.[1] There has been disagreement regarding the name of the woman who assumed command at Apple River Fort; a 1900 collection from the Wisconsin Historical Society described her as "Mrs. Graham."[5] The same source stated that Armstrong was "cursing & swearing like a pirate" throughout the battle; so angry that even Black Hawk's band purported to hear her.[5] The same collection described such action as "profane" and "a great drawback upon her credit."[5] A newspaper report in Galena, Illinois described Armstrong's actions at the Battle of Apple River Fort.[6] "Elizabeth Armstrong took charge of the women's activities and set a coolheaded, courageous example."[6] It has also been suggested that Armstrong was the namesake for the village of Elizabeth.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "June 24, Elizabeth, Ill.: Women Save the Apple River Fort," Historic Diaries: The Black Hawk War, Wisconsin State Historical Society, accessed April 12, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Marshall, Janet A. and Marshall, Mary K., Black Hawk's War 1832, 1997, pp. 90-94.
  3. ^ "Apple River Fort," Historic Sites, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, accessed April 12, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Harmet, A. Richard. "Apple River Fort Site Archived October 31, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., (PDF), National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, March 31, 1997, HAARGIS Database, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, p. 14, accessed April 12, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, (Google Books), The Society: 1900, Vol. XV, p. 278, accessed April 12, 2009.
  6. ^ a b Trask, Kerry A. Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America, (Google Books), Henry Holt: 2006, pp. 229, (ISBN 0805077588).