Was the news from Minnesota in August of 1862 shocking or alarming? Or were Americans so jaded by news of the war that they found news of an Indian uprising to be no big deal?
That was the news from southwestern Minnesota. Eastern bands of Dakota Indians, upset about the failure of the U.S. government, (or Indian agents) to provide provisions and other goods promised in treaties, and facing starvation due to crop failures, decided to drive white settlers out of the region.
Readers of the Democratic Banner received the news in the Aug. 26 issue.
A messenger had arrived at Fort Ridgley Monday morning (this dispatch from St. Paul was dated Thursday, Aug. 22), announcing an outbreak at the lower Sioux Agency and the massacre of “all the whites except a few.”
“Captain Marsh set out immediately with 45 men. At the ferry opposite the agency he encountered a large body of warriors who opened fire on them.”
Another band fired on them from the rear. “A retreat was attempted across the river, and while in the water the Indians killed the Captain, three sergeants and four corporals. Seventeen men returned to the fort Monday night.
“The light from the burning buildings and grain stacks could be seen in every direction. Escaped citizens came into the fort during the night, giving accounts of horrors too terrible for the imagination to conceive. Mothers came in rags and barefooted, whose husbands and children were slaughtered before their eyes. Children came who witnessed the murder of their parents and burning of their own houses.”
The Dakota, led by Little Crow, attacked the settlement of New Ulm.
The uprising would last about six weeks and result in the deaths of more than 500 settlers and about 150 Dakota warriors.
President Lincoln needed to do something with Gen. John Pope after his humiliation at Second Bull Run, so Pope was sent to Minnesota to organize the military department there.
By the end, some 2,000 Indians were rounded up and more than 300 were sentenced to death, but President Lincoln commuted most of the sentences.
However, on Dec. 26, 38 Dakota men were hanged at Mankato, Minn., the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
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