App of the Week – Skitch

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

logoSince Evernote consistently delivers helpful apps that help us work smarter, we decided to try out Skitch, an Evernote-owned annotation tool with the tagline: “Snap. Mark up. Send.” It really is that easy. It could be called Snapchat for productivity, except that you (and/or your recipient) get to keep the photo.

Skitch allows you to annotate/draw on/mark-up any website, photo, map, or PDF of your choosing. You can also draw and annotate an idea from scratch. Skitch aims to facilitate visual communication (marking up a photo or map to highlight points for others), but it also allows you to simply make better use of your own notes. Need to study for anatomy? Just use the text and arrows to label a photo you snapped from your textbook. Want to screencap or scan your notes and highlight them for use on your iPad? The possibilities are endless.


Most Helpful Features:

  • Simple, easy-to-use interface.
  • Each document choice (photo, maps, etc.) provides the same mark-up tools – you can add text, colorful arrows, shapes, stamps, and even emoticons. You can even use the pixelation feature to blur out information you don’t want to share (or distract others with).
  • Allows you to export your items to Evernote, email, Facebook, Twitter, and many other compatible apps.
  • You can configure your settings to automatically upload shared photos to your Camera Roll.


One of the more helpful features of the app–PDF mark-up–is only provided as a one-time in-app purchase of $1.99. However, if you read a lot of PDFs on your iPad and plan to take notes on them, it will be worth it to pay for this feature. It costs less than your morning coffee, and will save your printing allowance (and the environment).


Bottom Line:

Skitch is a simple mark-up tool that allows you to visually communicate with others quickly and easily. As always, if you try it out, please feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

Review: Skitch lets you visually highlight images to help your point

Staff Picks: Sketch a little here and there with Skitch

Skitch is a multi-purpose editing tool for doodling on any document

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week –

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

maxresdefaultWhile learning a new language, you can never have too many resources at your disposal. If you’ve started using an app like Duolingo to get familiar with another language’s vocabulary, you’ll be looking for ways to test your new skills in the real world. The app provides an immersive language experience by allowing you to read online articles–generally recent headline news–in the language of your choice, on a topic of your choice.

While it may be helpful to have a little vocabulary knowledge of the language you’re trying to read in, the app still works well for beginners because it lets you “select” every word you don’t understand. The app then translates the word and pronounces it for you. It also remembers all the words you select, and these become your ongoing vocabulary words. You can practice these words at any time, or keep reading through articles – the app adapts the articles it shows you to what you’re learning!


Most Helpful Features:

  • Completely free – and it’s also ad free.
  • No set lessons, so essentially, you’re deciding what you learn by choosing specific articles to read.
  • The app only suggests articles for you that are on your level (which it guesses based on your vocabulary and quizzes).
  • You can learn multiple languages at a time.
  • It tracks your progress with points earned and words learned.
  • It encourages short intervals of learning by letting you choose how many words you want to review at a time.
  • began as a browser extension in Google Chrome, so if you’d like an additional dimension to your learning, add it to save vocabulary from websites and turn them into automatic flashcards.


  • The app doesn’t teach you the grammar behind the sentences – it just immerses you in the language experience.
  • Can have trouble with idiomatic phrases, and may translate very literally.
  • Sometimes, there are no articles available for the language and topic you want at the time (example – Arabic + science articles), but I just try a different combination and find other interesting things to read.
  • Only 10 languages are supported on the iOS app right now, but more will be supported soon. More languages are already supported on the web and Android versions. FrenchTravel

Bottom Line: provides a fun, enriching language-learning experience by guiding you through current world happenings in the language of your choice. It is an excellent tool to add to your language acquisition arsenal. As always, if you try it out, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:, Which Turns The Internet Into A Language Learning Tool, Launches Its First App

EdTech Startup Raises $1M for its Immersive Language Platform

Finally, a Language Learning App That Works

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – HabitRPG

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

Have you evelogor wished real life was more like a video game, where you could get rewards for completing everyday tasks? Would earning experience points or leveling up your character for doing your research or finishing a paper motivate you to get started earlier or work a little harder? If so, HabitRPG might be just be your alternative to a more traditional to-do list.

HabitRPG is based on a role-playing game, where one creates a character and undertakes a quest, faces obstacles, gains experience, and levels-up along the way. You sign up for an account either through the website or app (you can use email or a Facebook login); Habit RPG then allows you to design your character and immediately start adding and completing tasks. While getting set-up is fairly straightforward, the game aspect is in-depth enough to truly be considered an RPG, so you may want to check out the site FAQ and the rest of the HabitRPG wiki for all of your quest and character possibilities (as well as how to level up and avoid death!).

On the surface, though, it’s a fairly straightforward concept. There are 4 categories of action: Habits, Dailies, To-Dos, and Rewards. You add good habits that you want to maintain, but you can also include bad habits that you want to break. Checking off Dailies and To-dos offer instant gratification in the form of gold, and the more gold you have, the better rewards you can “buy.”

Most Helpful Features:

  • Unlike some other RPG apps and websites, this one is totally free.
  • The interface is reminiscent of Minecraft and Legend of Zelda, which gives it more of a game feel than simply a habit/task app.
  • In addition to being rewarded for your good habits, you are penalized for your lack of action (or continuing bad habits), from gradually losing health to the death of your character – so you can’t afford to ignore your tasks!
  • Allows you to rank your habits as Easy, Medium, or Difficult, and you can make daily tasks recurring.
  • Keeps a chart of your progress for each habit.
  • Rewards can be anything you want — there are several in-game tools you can earn, or you can give yourself an hour of Netflix time.
  • On the website, you can join a guild (some of them have thousands of other players), join challenges and compete against other players to win gems, and create a party of friends to go on a quest with.
  • If you want to get really into the game and also keep yourself on track, you can download a Google Chrome browser extension for the website version that will actually hurt your character if you waste time on specific websites (such as Facebook or Reddit – you can choose the worst offenders).



Unfortunately, the app itself does not contain the full game capacity of the web version of HabitRPG, but when you’re logged into your account, the app and the site work together. You are able to edit your character, control all of the basic habits and tasks, maintain inventory, and chat socially with others in the app. If you are looking for an app-only experience and don’t want to deal with the website, the app works fine as a stand-alone resource, and is still fun and addictive.

Bottom Line:

HabitRPG helps you establish good habits and set goals while literally leveling up in life. If you enjoy gaming and need some extra motivation, give it a try. As always, if you check it out, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

HabitRPG Makes Improving Yourself Actually Addictive

Life Is A Game: Level Up Life and HabitRPG

HabitRPG Turns Better Behavior into a Game of Survival

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

App of the Week – 30/30

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

30-30logopngTask management is a crucial part of being a student, and good time management will benefit you throughout life. These skills do not always come naturally, though – so there’s an app for that.

In fact, there are many task management apps out there, and many utilize the Pomodoro Technique of tackling work in blocks while taking short breaks in between. 30/30 is an established Pomodoro-esque timer app that allows you to create a daily timed task list. The name implies you’ll work in a 30 minute block and take a 30 minute break, but the app offers much more flexibility. You simply add new tasks (using gesture controls like dragging your fingers apart vertically), choose a time frame for them, and put them in order. The app will let you know when time is up on one task, and automatically starts the next in line. You can add or subtract time as necessary, easily move tasks around, or pause a task when you’re interrupted.


30/30 seems to work best when you need to accomplish a task (or several) and use it to keep you on track and focused. For example, while working on an assignment, you can schedule 30 minutes of writing, a 10 minute break, 30 more minutes of writing, 20 minutes of Netflix, a 6 minute coffee run, 30 more minutes of writing, and so on.

This app can also help you figure out how you work – do you need 20 minutes of writing with a 20 minutes break? Is a task taking longer than you anticipated, forcing you to schedule more blocks? Is it helpful to work on another assignment for 30 minutes and come back to your paper with fresh eyes? 30/30 can teach you how to use your time more efficiently.


Most helpful features:

  • Attractive, easy-to-use interface.
  • Instructions for using the app are built into the format as a sample task list, so you can try and test out all of the features before starting your own list.
  • Uses gesture controls (swiping right to delete, tapping with two fingers, etc.) that are easy to learn.
  • You can schedule tasks from a few seconds up to 9 hours each (though that would slightly defeat the purpose of the app!).
  • You can turn on reminder notifications for when you leave the app, but want to stay on track.
  • It doesn’t force you to assign a task to a time of day, so you can start and stop tasks as your time allows, or rearrange the order of tasks with a swipe of the finger.


It may take you a few minutes to figure out the gesture controls, but after that the app is easy to navigate. Overall, I found the app incredibly helpful.

Bottom Line:

30/30 is an easy-to-use task management resource that can help you work smarter and avoid the procrastination trap. As always, if you try it out, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

Schedule your day with free task manager 30/30

30/30 is a Productivity App for the Procrastinator in All of Us

30/30: A Timer with a Sleek Design

Review: 30/30 Simple Task Manager for iPad

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren D. Hall, Circulation Librarian

Dwight David Eisenhower

President Eisenhower and LTG Garrison Davidson (USMA 1927). who was USMA Superintendent 1956-1960, meeting at West Point.

President Eisenhower and LTG Garrison Davidson (USMA 1927, USMA Superintendent 1956-1960), meeting at West Point in 1960. (image courtesy of USMA Library Special Collections and Archives)

Dwight David Eisenhower was born October 14, 1890. He was nominated for an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy by Senator J.L. Bristow of Kansas, and was admitted on June 14, 1911.

While he was a cadet, Eisenhower became active in sports participating in football, baseball and track. His football career ended when he succumbed to a knee injury during the November 16, 1912 Tuft’s game.   At graduation he was ranked 61st of 164 members in the Class of 1915.

Eisenhower served during World War I in the Tank Corps and was commander of Camp Colt, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (the Tank Corps Camp) from March 1 to November 17, 1918.   In 1935 he went to the Philippines as Assistant to Military Advisor General Douglas MacArthur.

Eisenhower’s World War II service included service as head of the European Theater of Operations and as commander of the forces invading North Africa in November 1942. In December 1943 General Eisenhower, having been appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, moved to England to assemble and coordinate a gigantic invasion force for the cross-channel assault on June 6, 1944 (D-Day).

At war’s end, Eisenhower was ordered to Washington to become Army Chief of Staff; he served in this position until his retirement in February 1948. At that time he accepted the presidency of Columbia University and began a new career. In 1950 he was recalled to active duty to become the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe under the newly established North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In 1952 General Eisenhower entered politics. He resigned his commission to campaign for the presidency, and in November was elected the thirty-fourth President of the United States. He served two terms.

In 1961 General Eisenhower was reappointed a General of the Army, and in the same year received the Thayer Award from USMA’s Association of Graduates. Eisenhower died March 28, 1969 at the age of 78, and was buried in Abilene, Kansas.

Contents contributed by Alicia Mauldin-Ware, Archives Curator

App of the Week – F1000 Faculty of 1000

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

F1000 (2)Ever hear of F1000? No, not the open-wheel class of Formula 1 car racing Formula 1000, but Faculty 1000, the literature discovery service highlighting the best research articles in biology and medicine.

Faculty of 1000, or F1000, can help you F1000 logo animalthrough the daunting process of digesting scientific literature. If you’re feeling stuck on how to evaluate literature, why not let the Faculty make some recommendations for you on the best articles? The articles in F1000 are read and rated by the top senior scientists and their associates, leading experts in all areas of biology and medicine. Articles are rated on a scale from 1 – 5 (5 being the highest rating), with short explanations for their selections. It covers 40 disciplines from 3,500+ journals.


Think of F1000 like an Amazon review for journal articles. You can “try it” (read the review) before you read the entire article. Reviews provide classification tags, such as “new finding,” “good for teaching,” “controversial” or “technical advance,” etc. Read the review and then make your own critical analysis. You can also expand to the abstract for more detailed information and get related articles.

F1000 iPad article screenshot (2)

Articles are recommended based on their individual merit, rather than by association with a particular journal’s image or impact factor.

Most helpful features:

  • Discover the best research articles in your field of interest
  • Easily find related articles
  • Browse Faculty Member profiles by area of interest or by name
  • Read additional articles recommendations from faculty profile page

F1000 iPad Faculty screenshot

  • First-time users are required to register before using
  • App does not offer a link to full-text article. Functionality is better at the website, where linking to the USMA Library collection is possible.
  • Still developing as an iPad app

Bottom line:

Faculty recommendations to the most important articles on a subject might be a good starting point at your understanding of a topic. It saves you time digging for a good article, since the articles are recommended by highly regarded faculty in their field. After reading their reviews, you can make your own critical analysis for your paper. Use the app to help you zero in on a topic, then copy and paste the DOI (the permanent article ID number) into the USMA Library Scout search box to get the full-text article. In this reviewer’s opinion the app has a way to go, but it is worth checking out. And those interested in further research may use the parent tool, Faculty of 1000, in the Library’s database list.

As always, if you give F1000 a try, feel free to let us know what you think!

Further Reading: Reviews on Faculty of 1000 (not on the iPad app)

Stoneham, I. CardioPulse Articles A twenty-first-century approach to post-publication peer review. European Heart Journal (2013) 34(8):549-556

Vardell E, Swogger S. F1000Prime: A Faculty of 1000 Tool. Medical Reference Services Quarterly [serial online]. January 2014; 33(1):75-84

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Manja Yirka, Continuing Resources Librarian

Staff Profile – Corey Harmon

CoreyPhotoCorey Harmon is the newest member of the USMA Library Staff, joining the Access Services team as Circulation Librarian. He comes to us from Barr Memorial Library at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, where his official title was Electronic Services Librarian. In MWR libraries, everyone wears several hats; in addition to his duties in electronic services, Corey staffed the reference desk, researched new technologies for the library, updated the library website, taught instructional classes on Google and Overdrive, and more.

Before his time at Ft. Knox, Corey held various positions at different types of libraries, including Mauney Memorial Library and the US Environmental Protection Agency Library, both in North Carolina; Southern Crescent Technical College in Georgia; and the Leyburn Library at Washington and Lee University in Virginia.

Corey was born in Houston, Texas, but raised in Royal Oak, Michigan. He lived there until he moved away for college, and he still has many family members in Michigan, including his parents, brother, sister-in-law, and nieces. Corey received an undergraduate degree in History and Russian Area Studies from Washington and Lee University in Virginia, an MA in Contemporary Russian Studies from the University of Virginia, and his MSLS degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Corey has a wife, Miranda, and a son, Wyatt, age 2. They will be joining him in the Hudson Valley in April.

On behalf of the entire USMA Library staff, we would like to say welcome, Corey!

A few questions for Corey:

What was your path from Russian studies to librarianship?

I pursued my MA in Russian Studies with the goal of going to work in the intelligence community, ideally the CIA. That didn’t really pan out, so I evaluated what I wanted to do and what I thought I’d be good at. I had enjoyed working in the library as an undergrad, and thought it would be a good fit as a way to share my knowledge with others and help them with their own studies. It’s also not that far of a stretch to go from intelligence analyst to librarianship, as they’re both about information and getting it to the people who need it. I talked to the librarians at my undergrad alma mater about their jobs and librarianship, and decided to apply to library school.

Can you describe some of your favorite past projects?

I was responsible for getting a video game lending collection put in place at Ft. Knox that was an instant hit with our patrons; it was really fun to spend $3000 on video games with my boss. I was also involved in researching how we could roll out Roku lending at Ft. Knox by talking to other libraries, finding out how they did it and what we could use. As a result of these and other projects that I eventually became the subject matter expert on, I was able to share how we at Ft. Knox (which, frankly, is the cutting edge of the Army MWR library system) did things with other military libraries and got a nice shout out on the Army Library Listserv. Another fun project was from a summer internship during library school where I had to evaluate the condition of a nineteenth century collection of science books and prepare them for sale or donation. I got to talk to some booksellers, as well as consult with the head of special collections from the Library of Virginia.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I have a 2 year old, so I spend a lot of time playing with and just generally being with him. My wife will come up with things she wants to do as a family, and those are usually pretty fun. When I have personal time for myself (Wyatt’s napping and Miranda’s either napping or doing something else and says I can do what I want), I like to play video/computer games, watch TV, and, occasionally, I’ll even read.

Any fun facts about yourself to share?

Miranda and I met on eHarmony, had a 9 hour first date, and were married on the one year anniversary of our first date (almost to the minute of our first meeting).

Contents contributed by Lauren Dodd Hall, Circulation Librarian



Stewart Field and West Point


An air cadet receiving training at Stewart Field in the 1940s.

Air Corps activities at the United States Military Academy date from the late 1920’s, when a single hangar and ramp for amphibian-type aircraft were built here. In August 1933, a small USMA Air Corps detachment was established to familiarize cadets with the construction, types and capabilities of airplanes. Throughout the 1930’s, cadets studied Air Corps organization, equipment and training, and received some primary flight instruction during trips to various Army airfields during the summer months. Most actual flight training came after graduation.

By 1940, with the advent of the Second World War, it became evident that cadets needed more than this general aviation training. An embryonic flight school had been established at the partially completed Stewart Field. Stewart Air Field was named in honor of Lachlan Stewart, who skippered schooners, packets and other sailing vessels in the years 1850-1870. The original tract of land was donated by his son, Samuel L. Stewart, to the City of Newburgh in 1930, for use as a municipal airport and is located some 10 miles northwest of the West Point Military Reservation. The city of Newburgh deeded the field to the Federal Government in 1935 and it was accepted for War Department use by an act of May 13, 1936.

Final title to all land acquisitions was secured with the exchange of the city’s deed for a U.S. Treasury Department Check in the amount of one dollar on October 29, 1941, only a few months after the first proposals for extensive flight training at the Academy were introduced. By this time some first classmen were already receiving regular instruction in flight engineering and flight operations at Stewart Field.

Early in 1942, the War Department directed Air Corps Branch instruction to commence at West Point. The expanding USMA Air Corps Detachment, which had been stationed at Stewart Field, was redesignated the 570th School Squadron (SP) by USMA General Order 7, February 5, 1942. Several more squadrons were added shortly thereafter. A War Department letter of May 22, 1942, implemented by USMA General Order 31, July 13, 1942, formally established the Army Air Forces Basic-Advanced Flying School (AAFB-AFS) at the field for the purpose of giving flight training to qualified cadets in the first and second classes. Pilot training was introduced into the curriculum so that those cadets wishing to enter the Air Corps could receive their wings with their commissions at graduation and be assigned immediately to combat organizations. These air cadets received their basic and advanced flight training at Stewart Field concurrently with their academic and tactical training at West Point.

Stewart Field was officially dedicated on August 25, 1942 and the rapidly developing subpost became an integral part of the Military Academy. It contained shops, school buildings and other facilities for the training of up to 500 air cadets, and at its peak during the war years housed approximately 2,000 officers and enlisted personnel. Although Stewart Field was under the administrative control and responsibility of the Superintendent of USMA, it had its own commandant. Technical control was placed under the Army Air Forces Flying Training Command in July 1943; other changes in the command channel occurred during and immediately after the Second World War.

The last class of air cadets graduated in June 1946, after which flight training for cadets was discontinued. The AAFB-AFS was redesignated the 2002d Army Air Forces Base Unit (Base Services) in January 1947, and Stewart Field was later turned over to the newly established Department of the Air Force. When the Air Force closed the facility in December 1969, part of it was returned to the Academy for use as a housing area.

When Stewart Field was deactivated in 1970 due to the drawdown of the Aerospace Defense Command, the Air Force released most of Stewart AFB back to civilian control.

Stewart Air Force Base transitioned back to active military control in 1983. Today, the former Stewart Air Force Base is home to both Stewart International Airport and Stewart Air National Guard Base, and has undergone several renovations.

Contents contributed by Alicia Mauldin-Ware, Archives Curator

App of the Week – TED

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

TedLogoTED, an ongoing conference series dedicated to “ideas worth sharing,” has been around since 1984. Many of these short talks (typically 18 minutes or less) have been available online since 2006. TED talks started by covering Technology, Entertainment, and Design, but they have since expanded to cover any topic imaginable.

Most Useful Features:

  • Access to over 1000 Ted Talks.
  • Can download and save videos for later.
  • Ever-changing list of featured videos.
  • Sort by Most Recent and Most Popular.
  • Filter by six categories: Technology, Entertainment, Design, Business, Science, Global Issues
  • Subtitles in over 90 languages.
  • Surprise Me search lets you make playlists based on eight topics (Courageous, Funny, Persuasive, Ingenious, Jaw-Dropping, Beautiful, Fascinating, and Informative) and length of time (from 5-60 minutes).
  • Use Discover to find videos on many different topics or browse the featured playlists on a wide variety of topics.
  • Clean, easy to use interface.
  • Can share videos.




  • Sorting and Filtering only available on the Featured tab
  • Can’t comment on videos in the app, but you can go to the TED website to comment.
  • Videos are not date-stamped on the main page (you have to click on it to find out when it was made)

Bottom Line:

If you like TED Talks, this is a perfect companion app that will let you access them from anywhere at any time.

Further Reading:

The TED Talks App Brings Tons of Video Lectures to iOS (Review)

TED (Review)

TED Talks for iPhone and iPad (Review)

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed G.J. Corey Harmon, Circulation Librarian

The Potawatomi Chief in the Front Yard: An Intersection with History

The USMA Library is a wonderful resource for the community of scholars located at West Point. In recent weeks, what was once a footnote in my family history has come alive for me like never before, just by “getting lost” in the stacks in Jefferson Hall. Once I found out this “footnote” tied in with a major watershed event in American history, I was able to flesh out the life of a Potawatomi chief known to my forebears, who, it turns out, played a significant role in the Black Hawk War of 1832. Perusing over a dozen books in our collection, and augmenting what the library has by using our excellent Interlibrary Loan service, I was able to get a handle on someone almost lost to history, who, in reality, changed the course of history. And with the help of the library’s collections and services, I have been enriched with a new appreciation of my own history and heritage.

Rock 1

Shabbona’s Rock in 1977 – note the patch of original Illinois prairie

My mother, Jeanne Westgate Arden, was very close to my great aunt, Waneta Westgate Beardsley, who donated a big rock in 1969 to the LaSalle County Historical Museum in the town of Utica in northern Illinois. The significance of the rock is that it was located on the site of a log cabin near the town of Mendota belonging to the patriarch of my mom’s side of the family, Abner Westgate. Abner used to palaver with a Potawatomi chief by the name of Shabbona (pronounced shah-buh-naw), who would come around to visit during the mid-1850s. Abner sat in a wooden chair and Shabbona would always sit on the big rock in the front yard. My brother, Tom, took a picture of me sitting on Shabbona’s Rock around 120 years later, and that’s about all I knew about Shabbona at the time.

Last summer, I revisited Shabbona’s rock with family members including Aunt Waneta’s son, Craig. My cousin is fascinated by his own Native American ancestry, which he has on both his father’s side (Montauk) and his mother’s side (Mohawk). Craig even danced at powwows with the Ojibwas at Lac du Flambeau while he served as a National Forest Ranger in northern Wisconsin. Since my grandfather, Walter Westgate, who died earlier the year I was born, was nicknamed “Indian” by clients whom he guided on hunting and fishing trips into the North Woods, I have always been attuned to the Westgate family’s Mohawk lineage. Looking at old family photos, I could easily see where the nickname came from, given my grandfather’s swarthy, Native American features. Recently, I asked Craig if Shabbona might have felt especially comfortable talking with Abner, given the Westgate family’s Native American connection. It turns out I was wrong. Abner’s son, David Westgate, married Martha Anne Gibbs, and it was one of Martha’s male forebears who had married a Mohawk woman back East. Unfortunately, that woman’s name has been lost to our family history.

As a result of last year’s visit to LaSalle County, I decided to do some library research on Shabbona to find out just who he was. Again, that research utilizing the excellent collections and services of the USMA Library was invaluable. First of all, I discovered that Shabbona was quite well-known in his day, although he has since been far eclipsed in fame by his nemesis, Black Hawk, a Sauk warrior who led Sauk and Mesquakie (Fox) forces dubbed the “British Band,” making a stand in the face of white encroachment on his lands. Badly in need of the support of the Potawatomis, Black Hawk had initially approached Shabbona, who had taken over the leadership of the tribe in northern Illinois. The Sauk warrior asked Shabbona, an old comrade-in-arms from the War of 1812 when both men fought on the side of the British, to throw in the support of the Potawatomis for what was to become a bloody conflict with white settlers and the U.S. Army. Shabbona refused outright, having no desire to go to war with the whites, with whom he had friendly relations. From that point on, he became a critically important ally of the forces opposing the British Band. Ironically, Black Hawk is commemorated today throughout the upper Midwest with statues in many locations, and Chicago’s National Hockey League franchise, an Army helicopter, and four Navy vessels were named after him, as well. It seems that history tends to commemorate great warriors more than venerable peacemakers.

Chief Shabbona

Chief Shabbona

The name Shabbona is loosely translated as “built like a bear” and is likely a corruption of Shabni, meaning “he has pawed through.” He was born around 1775 of the Odawa (Ottawa) tribe, either in Ohio, Ontario or northern Illinois, possibly a grandnephew of the great chief, Pontiac. After the Algonquin-speaking tribe was driven out of Ontario by the Iroquois, they moved west into Michigan and aligned with the Council of Three Fires (Ojibwa, Ottawa and Potawatomi) and then moved further south across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. At that time the Ottawas and Potawatomis were very closely intermixed. With his heavy frame, considerable fighting skill, great strength and courage, Shabbona was a formidable warrior, yet a firm believer in fair play, even in the heat of battle. The son of an Ottawa warrior who had fought next to Pontiac in Pontiac’s War, Shabbona bravely fought alongside his friend, Tecumseh, during the War of 1812, while allied with the British against the Americans. He was by the great chief’s side when Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of Thames in 1813. After that, Shabbona decided that it was useless and counterproductive to fight against the Americans, given their overwhelming numbers. Instead, he became a devoted and loyal friend of the whites, believing that peaceful coexistence would be most beneficial to his people. Although an Ottawa by birth, he eventually became a prominent Potawatomi chief.

When the Black Hawk War broke out in May of 1832, Shabbona and his fellow chief, Wabaunsee, had already refused the Sauk warrior’s overtures, instead allying the Potawatomis with the Americans. Other tribes allied with the Potawatomis and the Americans included the Menominee, Ojibwa (Chippewa), Ottawa, and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago), although a minority of the latter tribe supported the British Band. Had Shabbona tipped the alliance towards the British Band, the war to follow would indubitably been much longer and bloodier, given the considerable numbers and strength of the Potawatomis and their close allies.

Black Hawk Ptg

Black Hawk

Black Hawk’s grievance with the whites began on a long hunting expedition west of the Mississippi River in what is today Iowa and Minnesota. In his band’s absence, white settlers moved into their houses located on prime farmland in northern Illinois, consuming their crops and spending considerable time drunk on corn whiskey. While on a subsequent trip, the bad news reached Black Hawk that the federal government forbade him to return to his ancestral lands east of the Mississippi. Highly angered, he was determined to make a stand. Although the Black Hawk War is remembered today as the conflict that gave young Abraham Lincoln his brief military service, and also involved the participation of other soon to be famous Americans including Winfield Scott, Zachary Taylor, and Jefferson Davis, its greater significance is that it gave impetus to the federal government’s policy of Indian removal, in which Native American tribes were pressured to give up their lands and move west of the Mississippi.

At the onset of hostilities, Shabbona saved the lives of numerous settlers by playing the role of a Native American Paul Revere, fearlessly riding a hundred mile swath of bog, prairie and clearings in northern Illinois with his son and his nephew, to warn settlers of Sauk, Mesquakie and Kickapoo warriors on the war path. There were a minority of renegade Potawatomis as well, who had grievances against the whites. Shabbona feared their hostility would create major problems for the whole tribe, the majority of whom desired peaceful relations with the whites. While most isolated settlers heeded the warning and moved to larger settlements like the town of Ottawa for protection, a group of families at Big Indian Creek led by William Davis, a settler known to be an “Indian hater,” considered they had sufficient safety in numbers to stay put. Unfortunately, this decision resulted in a massacre by renegade Potawatomis, joined by three Sauk British Band warriors. They were outraged that a dam on the creek at the settlement disrupted their fishing upstream, leading to an earlier ugly incident when the settler took a hickory stick and beat a brave severely who tried to tear an outlet in the dam. Some boys and adult men slipped away during the attack, but out of twenty-three settlers, fifteen men, women and children were killed and their bodies badly mutilated. Additionally, two teenage sisters were taken captive by the renegades, led by the enraged Potawatomi brave who had been flogged (both survived).

Gustavus Loomis

Gustavus Loomis

Leafing through the books I checked out of the library, I came across the exploits of an 1811 USMA graduate, Captain Gustavus Loomis, an exemplary military officer in all respects. A devout Christian, Loomis was the commander at Fort Crawford, located in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, where he ministered to the starving and half-naked women and children of the defeated British Band who surrendered to his garrison. Giving them food, covering their nakedness, and trying to restore their strength and health, Loomis stated, “We war not with women and children.”1 Loomis’ military career spanned from the War of 1812 to the Civil War, at which time he retired as a brevet brigadier general, after 52 years of faithful service to his country.

Shabbona, who dodged several assassination attempts by his enemies after hostilities ended, had been ceded some land in DeKalb County, Illinois, for him and his band to settle on some years beforehand. This was in response to his help quelling an earlier conflict, the Red Bird Winnebago uprising of 1827. Sadly, like so many Native Americans, he was ultimately disenfranchised of the land ceded to him, although it was finally restored to the Potawatomis by the Department of the Interior in 2001. Happily, influential white friends and neighbors generously contributed money so a fine piece of land, high over the Illinois River, could be purchased for the chief in his old age.

Never fluent in English, Shabbona enjoyed visiting white settlers nevertheless, always preferring to stay outdoors whenever possible, as he did when visiting Abner’s cabin. Although there is no record of my forebear’s conversations with the renowned chief, author James Dowd offers the following tidbit. Referring to Abner and the rock in his front yard he states, “Shabbona would, under no circumstances, enter this man’s cabin, but would sit on this stone to eat his victuals. Whatever the reason for Shabbona’s action is unexplained, but it can easily be conjectured that the spot was either some burial place, or else was believed to have been the abode of some spirit.”2 One anecdote has it that a family had invited the old chief to have Saturday breakfast at table with them, only to discover that there was not a crumb of bread left from what had been baked that morning. Seeing that Shabbona was somewhat out of sorts, the lady of the house quickly cooked him pancakes, which he found to be delicious!3

Shabbona died in 1859, a beloved figure to the many settlers whom he had befriended, leaving many descendants from his two marriages. Numerous markers around northern Illinois commemorate him, including his grave site in Morris. The Chief Shabbona Historical Trail was established by a Joliet Boy Scout troop in the 1950s. The popular walking trail winds through 20 miles of picturesque woodlands and prairie in northern Illinois, and is perhaps the most fitting legacy of this stalwart yet gentle-spirited and nature-loving man.

For further reading, the following books were very helpful:

Bowes, John P. Black Hawk and the War of 1832: Removal in the North. New York: Chelsea    House, 2007.

Dowd, James. Built Like a Bear: Which is a descriptive name for one of the last great Chiefs of  the “Three Fires” in Illinois… Fairfield, WA: Ye Galleon Press, 1979.

Eby, Cecil. “That Disgraceful Affair”: The Black Hawk War. New York: W.W. Norton, 1973.

Edmunds, R. David. The Potawatomis: Keepers of the Fire. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.

Hall, John W. Uncommon Defense: Indian Allies in the Black Hawk War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009.

Jung, Patrick J. The Black Hawk War of 1832. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008.

Lawson, Kenneth E. For Christ and Country: A Biography of Brigadier General Gustavus Loomis. Greenville, SC: Ambassador International, 2011.

McLaughlin, Benjamin. In Black Hawk’s Footsteps: A Trail Guide to Monuments, Museums, and Battlefields of the Black Hawk War of 1832. 3rd ed. Santa Fe: B. McLaughlin, 2005.

Trask, Kerry A. Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America. New York: Henry Holt, 2006.

Except for the Dowd and McLaughlin books, all are located in the USMA Library. Many thanks to the Department of History, for contacting John W. Hall, who provided me a PDF copy of his master’s thesis submitted to the University of North Carolina in 2002, “Everything to Lose: Potawatomi Auxiliaries to the U.S. Army in the Black Hawk War, 1832.”

1Kerry A. Trask, Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America (New York: Henry Holt, 2006), 292.

2James Dowd, Built Like a Bear: Which is a descriptive name for one of the last great Chiefs of the “Three Fires” in Illinois… (Fairfield, WA: Ye Galleon Press, 1979), 102.

3Ibid., 101-102.

Content contributed by Michael G. Arden, Audiovisual Librarian