As it is today, the Sinkhole is an ideal hiding place - though very hard to access due to the rampant growth all around. Photo by Norm McFadden

A battle that should not have been fought, but had to be. It was a meaningless war full of meaningful deaths. The blood that fell on the ground that day should not have been shed, unfortunately for those who lost their lives, it had to be. Well, let us get to the story and then you will understand.

It is May 24th, 1815, on the border of what will later become Lincoln and St. Charles counties. It is a day like any other the sun is up, the birds are singing and flowers are in bloom. A platoon of soldiers have only just set out from a small fort. They are heading to an abandoned cabin to retrieve a grinding stone.

They had only just set out when the platoon came to a halt. Their leader had thought that he heard something in the bushes near the road. After a few moments they set off again, their leader telling himself that it must have been only a squirrel. Beginning again, they had truly only just begun, when the first shots rang out in what would later be known as the Battle of the Sinkhole. 

The first fallen soldier was Francois Lammey, then Antoine Pelker and Hubbard Tayon. The Native Americans from the Sauk were picking them off like flies upon the wall. The platoon retreated to the fort, where the Rangers had opened fire upon the Indians, to no avail as they were out of rifle range. 

Captain Peter Craig rallied the men together and he and forty soldiers headed out to engage the enemy. 

Captain Peter Craig had come north from Cape Girardeau, and was the son-in-law of famous pioneer Andrew Ramsey Sr. As he and his men approached the Indians began to fall back to the sinkhole to the Northwest of the fort. It wasn’t long before the soldiers were joined by another twenty men and Captain David Musick from nearby Fort Independence. Captain Peter Craig was the first man to fall when the fighting resumed, followed by Alexander Giboney Jr. After which the command passed to Lieutenant Edward Spear.

The Sauk were led by a man named Blackhawk – he then led his fighters to take refuge in the sinkhole. Lieutenant Spears, taking advantage of a moment free of shooting, ordered his men to rig a battery from the pieces of a cart. 

The resulting structure was able to conceal six men. 

A crazy command from Lieutenant Spears put the battery near the edge of the sinkhole, though he didn’t realize that this left the men inside unconcealed from below.

The Sauk saw their advantage and easily took aim for the soldiers. Lieutenant Spears suffered a fatal wound, and most of the others inside were wounded as well. 

As night began to fall and with so many being wounded or lost the remaining soldiers post a guard over the sinkhole and retreated once again to the fort.

At some point in the night Blackhawk and his men escaped, completely eluding the guard. The soldiers surveyed the carnage, eight of their men were dead and five wounded, one man was completely missing. And only one of Blackhawk’s men had been killed.

The sad part of this tale is that the war had ended over three months before the Sinkhole Battle, but word had not yet reached the soldiers or the Native Americans in Missouri. 

John 15:13

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

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