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Lincoln and the Sioux Uprising of 1862 (Book Review)
Civil War buffs rarely pay it any mind, even though it occurred in 1862 and had more than a marginal body count, and President Abraham Lincoln intervened in it. Western history buffs usually ignore it as well, even though Sioux Indians were involved and plenty of homesteaders were massacred and hangings took place in the aftermath. Part of the problem is that it occurred in Minnesota, a bit west for the blue-and-gray crowd and a bit east for most fans of the Old West. Known as the Minnesota Uprising or the Sioux Uprising, it cost the lives of perhaps 800 settlers, government agents and soldiers and led to 303 Sioux warriors receiving a hanging sentence. Only 39 of the condemned actually hanged at Mankato, Minn., on December 26, 1862, thanks to Lincoln’s intervention, but that was still the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
The two best-known books covering the shocking outbreak in southern Minnesota are C.M. Oehler’s The Great Sioux Uprising (first published in 1959) and Kenneth Carley’s The Sioux Uprising of 1862 (which came out in 1976). Neither of them played up Lincoln’s involvement, and few of the many works about Lincoln have had much to say about an event that was triggered in part by hunger among the Sioux (or Dakotas) at the agencies on the Minnesota River. Although author Hank H. Cox doesn’t say so in his 213-page Lincoln and the Sioux Uprising of 1862, these were Santee Sioux (comprising the Sissetons, Mdewankantons, Wahpekutes and Wahpetons), who had been forced to cede most of their lands to pushy white settlers. “The Sioux warriors,” writes Cox, “split the skulls of men clubbed children to death raped daughters chopped off heads, breasts, and genitals from the corpses and then looted whatever goods could be taken, setting fire to what remained.”
Little Crow was the most prominent Indian leader during the summer bloodbath, which naturally soon also involved soldiers. Colonel Henry Hastings Sibley’s September 23 victory in the Battle of Wood Lake (actually Lone Tree Lake a guide had misinformed Sibley) caused many Sioux — but not Little Crow — to surrender.
Cox devotes the last 35 or so pages to Lincoln’s political situation and explains why the great wartime president became involved in the Minnesota mess when there were so many bigger messes so much closer to home. Lincoln reviewed the cases of the 303 Sioux waiting to be hanged, even though virtually everyone in Minnesota was crying out for Indian blood and he had previously invested little time in Indian affairs. Cox notes that “the worst offenders [such as Little Crow and Red Middle Voice] were not among the convicted awaiting executions.” The 39 men that Lincoln ordered hanged, however, “were proven to have participated in massacres, as distinguished from participation in battles.” That Lincoln decided to show mercy to the generally despised Indians “was politically reckless,” according to the author.
Legends of America
Attack of New Ulm, Minnesota during the 1862 Dakota War, painting by Anton Gag, 1904.
The Dakota War of 1862, also known as the Sioux or Dakota Uprising, was an armed conflict between the United States and several bands of Dakota Sioux. It began on August 17, 1862, along the Minnesota River in southwest Minnesota and ended with a mass execution of 38 Dakota men on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota.
Between 1805 and 1858, treaties made between the U.S. government and the Dakota nation reduced Dakota lands, significantly altered the lives of the Dakota tribe, and had serious implications on Dakota-U.S. government relations. Throughout this time, treaty violations by the United States and late or unfair annuity payments by Indian agents caused increasing hunger and hardship among the Dakota. Further, many Dakota felt cheated because when annuity money did arrive, it was often immediately paid to traders who made claims of debts owed by the Dakota. Many Dakota claimed these debts had been inflated or were falsified, and were opposed to the traders being paid directly by the U.S. government.
By the summer of 1862, delayed annuity payments from the U.S. government due to the U.S. government’s priority in financing the Civil War, crop failures, poor hunting, and the refusal by traders and Indian agents to extend credit to the Dakota, left many Dakota people hungry and desperate, particularly those who had not taken up farming. Due to these and other factors, tensions within Minnesota’s Dakota community reached a breaking point.
On August 17, 1862, four young Dakota warriors killed five settlers at the farms of Robinson Jones and Howard Baker in Acton, Minnesota. Afterward, the warriors traveled to Redwood to visit with Chief Little Crow (Taoyateduta), an influential Dakota leader, to convince him to lead a military effort against the European-Americans to reclaim their ancestral land. Upon hearing the entreaties of the warriors, Little Crow blackened his face and covered his head, as if in mourning. When one of the warriors accused him of cowardice, Little Crow responded, “Braves, you are little children — you are fools. You will die like the rabbits when the hungry wolves hunt them in January.” Reluctantly, Little Crow agreed to lead them, stating: “Taoyateduta is not a coward: he will die with you.”
The next day, a group of Dakota warriors attacked the Lower Sioux Agency, killing many civilians, and continued through the Minnesota River Valley, attacking trading posts and settlements. The U.S. – Dakota War of 1862 had begun. In the forays, 44 Americans were killed and 10 were captured.
The very next day, on August 19th, Territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey, appointed Henry H. Sibley as “commander of the Indian expedition” with the rank of colonel in the state militia. Though Sibley was dedicated to Minnesota, this would be a somewhat difficult task for him as he had traded with the Dakota for almost a quarter of a century. Knowing many of them well, he spoke the Dakota language, had been adopted into a Dakota band, had a Dakota child, and knew Chief Little Crow personally, as they had hunted together in the past.
On August 20, 1862, Colonel Sibley and the 6th Minnesota Infantry, a hastily-formed regiment of local volunteers and army troops marched from Fort Snelling towards the town of St. Peter. After waiting several days for supplies and reinforcements, Sibley and his forces advanced towards Fort Ridgely with approximately 1,400 soldiers, arriving on August 28th. After reinforcing Fort Ridgely, Sibley focused on training the troops for battles with the Dakota.
Meanwhile, the first battle of New Ulm occurred on the afternoon of August 19, 1862, when the settlement was attacked by a relatively small group of Dakota warriors. This skirmish lasted several hours and left six settlers dead and five wounded. With other attacks occurring throughout the area, New Ulm was inundated by more than 1,000 refugees over the next several days, increasing its population to some 2,000 people, though only 300 were equipped to fight.
The siege of New Ulm, Minn Henry August Schwabe
Dakota warriors continued their attacks throughout the Minnesota River Valley and on the afternoon of August 20th, they attacked Fort Ridgely, the only military post between the Sioux Reservations and the settlers. Chief Little Crow led some 400 Dakota warriors in the attack which lasted about five hours before the warriors retreated. However, the attacks continued into the next day, by which time the Dakota had nearly doubled their number. Though severely outnumbered, the soldiers were able to successfully defend the fort. In the battles, three soldiers and four civilians were killed and 13 soldiers and 26 civilians were wounded. Because Dakota carried away their dead, only two Dakota deaths were confirmed.
On August 23rd, New Ulm, the largest settlement near the Sioux reservation, was attacked again by some 600 warriors led by Chiefs Wanbdiṭanka, Wabasa, and Makato. At about 9:30 in the morning, the Dakota began the attack on the city after burning many of the homes in the surrounding area. The settlement’s defenders formed a defensive picket line several blocks west of town before the Sioux warriors advanced. The Indians held their fire until one of the defenders fired a shot and seeing the Dakota’s superior numbers, the citizens retreated to barricades in town. In the meantime, the Sioux encircled the town. Though the battle destroyed the town, leaving only 49 of the 190 structures, left 34 dead and 60 wounded, the citizens had successfully defended off their attackers.
People escaping from the Indian massacre of 1862 in Minnesota
Two days later on August 25th, out of ammunition, food, and medicine, 2000 people, including 153 wagons and a large number of refugees, evacuated the city and headed to Mankato, St. Peter, and St. Paul. Fortunately, they arrived unopposed and safe from their perilous journey.
In early September, Sibley tried to negotiate a settlement with Little Crow (Taoyateduta), but he would not agree to stop the fighting, but did explain the reasons for the war and that he was willing to release prisoners. Though Sibley demanded surrender, Little Crow refused. There were, however, two other leaders, Chiefs Wabasha and Taopi, who had opposed the war, that were willing to discuss surrender, as the war was fracturing the tribe. Fought by a relatively small group of Dakota warriors, there never was universal support from the community at large.
On September 2nd, the Minnesota militia counterattacked in the Battle of Birch Coulee, located about 16 miles from Fort Ridgely. Colonel Sibley, stationed at Fort Ridgely, had sent out a detachment of 150 soldiers to find survivors, locate and bury the remains of civilians, and report on the location of Dakota warriors. In the process, the burial party was attacked by Dakota warriors at Birch Coulee in the early morning, resulting in a three-hour firefight, in which 13 soldiers were killed and 47 were wounded. In this defeat, only two Dakota were known to have been killed. When reports of the attack arrived at Fort Ridgely, Colonel Sibley immediately led a column of 240 soldiers to relieve the detachment at Birch Coulee the same afternoon. After the Dakota withdrew, Sibley and his troops returned to Fort Ridgely to continue their training.
Due to the demands of the Civil War, the region’s representatives had to repeatedly appeal for aid before President Abraham Lincoln formed the Department of the Northwest on September 6, 1862, and appointed General John Pope to command it with orders to quell the violence. Pope dispatched troops dispatched to the front as soon as companies were formed.
Dakota attacks were also taking place farther north as warriors laid siege to several unfortified stagecoach stops and river crossings along the Red River Trails, a settled trade route between Fort Garry (now Winnipeg, Manitoba) and Saint Paul, Minnesota, in the Red River Valley in northwestern Minnesota and eastern Dakota Territory. Many settlers and employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and other local enterprises in this sparsely populated country took refuge in Fort Abercrombie, located about 25 miles south of present-day Fargo, North Dakota. Though the Dakota launched several attacks on Fort Abercrombie between late August and late September, all were repelled by its defenders.
Under considerable political pressure to defeat the Dakota quickly, Sibley and his reinforced troops moved up the Minnesota River, arriving at Lone Tree Lake (mistakenly identified as Wood Lake) where they camped on the night of September 22nd. The next morning several soldiers left camp to forage for food and stumbled upon a group of Dakota warriors who had been preparing to attack Sibley’s forces. This resulted in the Battle of Wood Lake on September 23, 1862. According to the official report, troops along with a six-pounder cannon were deployed equally in dugouts and in a skirmish line. After brief fighting, the forces in the skirmish line charged against the Dakota and defeated them overwhelmingly. It was the last major battle of the Dakota War of 1862.
The war lasted nearly six weeks, during which more than 600 civilians and U.S. soldiers, as well as an estimated 75-100 Dakota, lost their lives.
After the Battle of Wood Lake, many of the Dakota who participated in the war fled Minnesota. Of the approximately 2,000 who remained, of which 1,600 were non-combatants, they surrendered to Sibley’s military force on September 26th at Camp Release, near present-day Montevideo, Minnesota. With them were more than 250 European-American and “mixed-blood” prisoners who had been captured by the Dakota warriors during the war.
After their surrender, Colonel Sibley established a Military Commission and 498 trials were held in November 1862. Some trials lasted less than 5 minutes. No one explained the proceedings to the defendants, nor were the Sioux represented by defense attorneys. By the end of the process, a total of 307 men were sentenced to death, but Sibley reduced the initial number to 303 after reviewing the testimonies.
Execution of 38 Sioux, Mankato Minnesota, December 26, 1862
The execution orders needed to be approved by the President of the United States before they could be carried out and the number of condemned men was further reduced to 38 by President Lincoln, who sought to distinguish between Dakota warriors who had participated in battles with U.S. soldiers and those accused of killing and assaulting civilians. The remaining 38 men were hanged in Mankato, Minnesota on December 26, 1862, in the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The mass execution was performed publicly on a single scaffold platform. After regimental surgeons pronounced the prisoners dead, they were buried en masse in a trench in the sand of the riverbank.
In the meantime, Chief Little Crow had fled to Canada, where he stayed for a time before returning to Minnesota. He was killed on July 3, 1863, near Hutchinson, Minnesota by white settler Nathan Lamson, who shot him to collect the bounty. Once it was discovered that the body was that of Little Crow, his skull and scalp were put on display in St. Paul, Minnesota. For killing Little Crow, the state granted Lamson an additional $500 bounty.
Many Dakota were captured and imprisoned by the U.S. military, among them Sakpedan (Little Six) and Wakanozhanzhan (Medicine Bottle). The two men fled to Canada after the war but were captured and delivered to U.S. authorities by British agents in January 1864. Both men were subsequently imprisoned at Fort Snelling where they were charged and convicted for their participation in the war and sentenced to death. Their execution took place at Fort Snelling on November 11, 1865, in the presence of the fort’s garrison and numerous civilians.
The rest of the approximately 1,600 Dakota and “mixed-bloods”, comprised mostly of women, children and old men, surrendered at Camp Release and were removed to an internment camp of Pike Island near Fort Snelling. Here they spent the winter of 1862-63 where living conditions and sanitation were poor, and infectious disease struck the camp, killing more than 300 people. According to reports in local newspapers and Dakota oral histories, some of the prisoners endured assaults and violence at the hands of soldiers and local civilians.
Historic Fort Snelling in Minnesota. Photo by Dave Alexander, 2016. Click for prints, downloads and products.
In the meantime, steamboat and flatboat trade on the Red River came to a halt. Mail carriers, stage drivers and military couriers were killed while attempting to reach settlements such as Pembina, North Dakota, Fort Garry, St. Cloud, and Fort Snelling. Eventually, the garrison at Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota was relieved by a U.S. Army company from Fort Snelling, and the civilian refugees were removed to St. Cloud.
In April 1863, the U.S. Congress abolished the Dakota reservation, declared all previous treaties with the tribe null and void, and undertook proceedings to expel the Dakota people entirely from Minnesota. In May 1863, Dakota survivors were forced aboard steamboats and relocated to the Crow Creek Reservation, in the southeastern Dakota Territory, a place stricken by drought at the time. Many of the survivors of Crow Creek moved three years later to the Niobrara Reservation in Nebraska. By the summer of 1863, the vast majority of Dakota had left Minnesota, heading into the western territories or north into Canada. As a result of the war, approximately 6,000 Dakota and “mixed-blood” people were displaced from their Minnesota homes.
To this end, a bounty of $25 per scalp was placed on any Dakota found free within the boundaries of the state. The only exception to this legislation applied to 208 people of the Mdewakanton band of Sioux, who remained neutral or assisted white settlers in the conflict.
After the expulsion of the Dakota, some refugees and warriors made their way to Lakota lands. During the summer of 1863, newly-promoted Brigadier General Sibley and Brigadier General Alfred Sully mounted a joint military operation called the “Punitive Expedition” against those Dakota who left Minnesota and headed into the western territories. Battles continued between the forces of the Department of the Northwest and combined Lakota and Dakota forces through 1864.
In the Sibley Expedition of 1863, Colonel Henry Sibley with 2,000 men pushed past Devil’s Lake towards the Missouri River, fighting three major battles against combined Dakota and Lakota forces: Big Mound on July 24th, Dead Buffalo Lake on July 26th, and Stony Lake on July 28th. By the end of August Sibley had returned to Minnesota, while the Sully expedition continued on and engaged an encampment of Yanktonai, Santee, and Lakota warriors at Whitestone Hill on September 3-5. The Sioux retreated further but faced Sully’s Northwest Indian Expedition in 1864. General Alfred Sully led a force from near Fort Pierre, South Dakota, and decisively defeated the Sioux at the Battle of Killdeer Mountain on July 28, 1864. The following year Sully’s Northwest Indian Expedition of 1865 operated against the Sioux in Dakota Territory. For his military service, Sibley was promoted to Major General of Volunteers in 1865.
The conflicts with the U.S. Government and the Sioux continued. Within two years settlers’ encroachment on Lakota land sparked Red Cloud’s War the US desire for control of the Black Hills in South Dakota prompted the government to authorize an offensive in 1876 in what would be called the Black Hills War. By 1881, the majority of the Sioux had surrendered to American military forces. In 1890, the Wounded Knee Massacre ended all effective Sioux resistance.
Today, Dakota communities remain spread throughout Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Canada.
Sioux Uprising (1862)
In late August 1862, angered by white incursions and the failure of the U.S. government to honor treaties, a coalition of Sioux bands in Minnesota attacked settlers southwest of the modern Twin Cities. Known as the Sioux Uprising, warriors of these bands attacked New Ulm and nearby villages, killing more than 100 settlers in the first week. When news of the Sioux Uprising reached Wisconsin, settlers from Lacrosse to Lake Michigan reacted with hysteria that many residents never forgot. "From all directions and in all conditions, men, women, and children came pouring into Milwaukee by every possible means of conveyance. And all were mortally panic stricken, all filled with the tales of the most horrible outrages. Reputable men, convulsed with fright, rushed up and down the street, relating scenes of which they claimed to have been eye witnesses. Hartland was burned. Oconomowoc lay in ashes all the good people of Pewaukee had been murdered. It was as though an overwhelming invasion had taken place from a populous country of maniacs. The more horrible and extravagant the incoming reports were, the more eagerly the apprehensive populace seized upon them as true." In the end, there was no violence in Wisconsin. In Minnesota, however, more than 500 whites and 60 Indians died in a month of fighting.
Minnesota State University, Mankato: http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/history/oldmankato/1852-1900/siouxuprising.html
The Inevitable Retribution
The fighting was over, but the sentiment of most of the Dakota people had been decidedly against what the warriors had done. They knew what could come of it.
Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey had declared just a few weeks before the end of the uprising what he intended to do:
“The Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the State. If any shall escape extinction, the wretched remnant must be driven beyond our borders, and our frontier garrisoned with a force sufficient to forever prevent their return.”
Indeed, the state eventually raised the bounty on Dakota scalps from $75 to $200 — $2,500 apiece in today’s dollars.
After the uprising, the head of the military for the area, Colonel Henry Sibley (who was the main architect of the flawed treaty to begin with), promised security and safety for the remaining Dakota people if they came forward. The warriors who had caused death and destruction had already fled the state or were captured. Those who did come forward were old men, women, and children. They were hunger-marched for several days to Fort Snelling, near St. Paul.
It was “essentially a concentration camp,” said historian Mary Wingerd, “where they were kept until the spring of 1863. And then they were transported to a reservation — Crow Creek, South Dakota. It was in Dakota Territory, which was the next best thing to hell. And the death toll was just shocking.”
“They lost everything. They lost their lands. They lost all their annuities that were owed them from the treaties. These are people who were guilty of nothing.”
Minnesota Historical Society A Dakota woman and her child in the concentration camp at Fort Snelling. 1862 or 1863.
This, of course, followed the execution of the 38 Dakota prisoners on Dec. 26, 1862 in Mankato — the largest mass execution in American history.
After the execution, the rest of the Dakota people were effectively banished from the state forever.
Next, discover the full history of the genocide against Native Americans. Then, learn the story of the infamous massacre at Wounded Knee.
Sioux Uprising - History
By Eric Niderost
Shortly after midnight on the morning of Monday, August 18, 1862, an uneasy group of Santee Sioux warriors arrived at the simple frame home of Taoyateduta, known to the whites as Little Crow. The day before, four Santee warriors had killed five white people, including two women, while hunting near Acton, Minnesota, 40 miles north of the Lower Sioux Agency on the Minnesota River. They might not have known it at the time, but the incident sparked the Dakota War of 1862.
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, a council of elders decided to seek the chief’s advice. Little Crow was asleep on the ground floor of his house when they arrived, but he quickly rose and came outside to confront the assembled crowd of 100 chiefs and warriors.
For years, Little Crow had been the principal spokesman and negotiator for his people, but recently he had been accused of becoming a pliant tool of the whites, counseling peace and acquiescence to the ceaseless demands for more Indian land. As tensions mounted, the Mdewakanton—his branch of the Santee Sioux—showed their anger by removing Little Crow from his speakership. This was a serious blow to his honor and prestige, and Little Crow took the demotion bitterly. Now it seemed as though he was needed again. His prestige, however tarnished, would be an asset in an all-out war with the whites, which many now feared was coming soon. (Read more about the fighting and conflicts in the American West by subscribing to Military Heritage magazine.)
“Taoyateduta is a Coward”
The Sioux knew that there were few white soldiers left in Minnesota, most regulars having been withdrawn to fight the Confederates in the Civil War. One strong push, some said, and the whites would be expelled from the Minnesota Valley forever. Little Crow knew better. He had traveled east to Washington D.C., a few years earlier and had seen with his own eyes how numerous white people were. Indian grievances, however just, would not be remedied by war, and might well lead to his people’s extinction. “The white men are like locusts when they fly so thick that the whole sky is a snowstorm,” he warned his visitors. “You may kill one, two ten, yes, as many as the leaves in the forest yonder, and their brothers will not miss them. Kill one, two ten, and ten times ten will come to kill you. Count your fingers all day long and white men with guns in their hands will come faster than you can count.”
One or two of his listeners whispered the fatal phrase: “Taoyateduta is a coward.” No Indian could stand being called a coward, and Little Crow saw that this was his last chance to reclaim his honor and prestige. If he refused to go to war, his reputation would sink even lower. Against his better judgment, the chief decided to fight. “You will die like rabbits when the hungry wolves hunt them in the Hard Moon,” he warned, but added: “Taoyateduta is not a coward. He will die with you.” With that simple statement, the Dakota War of 1862 began.
Financial Pressures on the Sioux
The origins of the uprising could be traced to a series of ill-advised treaties the Indians had signed in the 1850s. The first pacts were signed at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota in 1851. Collectively, the Sioux ceded almost 24 million acres of prime agricultural land, which was legally opened to white settlers three years later. The tribe agreed to part with the priceless territory in exchange for comparatively insubstantial amounts of cash and annuities. The treaties left the Sioux—some 7,000 strong—on two reservations, each 20 miles wide and 70 miles long, hugging the Minnesota River. As was customary, the federal government established administrative agencies on each reservation. The Upper Sioux Reservation was served by the Yellow Medicine Agency, while the Lower Sioux Reservation had the Redwood Agency. White merchants established stores at both agencies where the Sioux could spend their annuity money or trade furs for food and other goods.
By 1857, white settlers, rapacious as ever for new land, started to pressure the government to open the Dakota Territory for settlement. In the spring of 1858, a Sioux delegation led by Little Crow and Indian agent Joseph R. Brown traveled to Washington to negotiate a new series of treaties. The treaties of 1858 further reduced the Santee reservations, ceding the strip that was north of the Minnesota River for an amount to be determined by the U.S. Senate. It would take two more years for the senators to decide on payment, a laughable 30 cents per acre—well below the going rate for prime real estate. Meanwhile, almost a million additional acres of Sioux homeland were lost at the stroke of a pen. Returning home, Little Crow was hard put to cast the treaty in a favorable light.
White traders were the greatest source of conflict and controversy in the years leading up to the 1862 uprising. As early as 1851, traders had laid claim to a substantial portion of the Indian annuities. For the 1851 pact, the figure was approximately $400,000. Traders also insisted that they be given the annuity money directly. In theory, they would then subtract what the Indians owed them and distribute what was left. In practice, many unscrupulous traders presented fraudulent claims that left little, if any, cash for the Sioux. Intratribal friction rose between those who sought to take on white ways, called “cut hairs,” and those who clung to traditional tribal beliefs, called “blanket Indians.”
The novel specter of financial debt haunted the free-living Sioux, many of whom found themselves owing huge sums of money for blankets and food. It was a vicious cycle, especially when wild game became scarce. The Santees in the north became increasingly dependent on white men for food and other goods. The traders’ greed was doubly resented, since virtually all of them had married Indian women. Social relationships and kinship were the cornerstones of Indian society. In the Santees’ eyes, the traders should have had the decency to simply wait patiently until their customers, who were often their relatives, were able to pay their bills.
A delay in annuity payments caused by the worsening war between the Union and the Confederacy sparked the Dakota War of 1862. Hungry tribesmen, desperate for food, broke into a government agency storehouse at Upper Agency to take flour and other items. Indian agent Thomas Galbraith was reluctant to depart from the norm—distributing food only after the annuity money arrived—and the white traders adamantly refused to extend credit. Army Lieutenant Timothy J. Sheehan, commanding the 5th Minnesota Regiment, had his men train a loaded howitzer on the angry crowd.
“When Men are Hungry, They Help Themselves”
Little Crow and other Indian leaders at the Lower Agency convened a council to discuss the crisis. Among those present were Little Crow, Galbraith, and several white traders. John P. Williamson, a missionary, handled the translating chores. Little Crow asked that the Indians be given the food that was rightfully theirs. They were starving, he warned, adding, “When men are hungry, they help themselves.” Andrew J. Myrick, one of the leading traders, discounted the warning. “So far as I am concerned,” he said, “if they are hungry they can eat grass.” After Williamson translated Myrick’s words into Dakota Sioux, the assembled Indians reacted with angry war whoops and threatening gestures. Myrick’s stubborn insensitivity was glossed over when Sheehan convinced Galbraith to distribute some pork and flour to the starving Indians.
That same day, four young Santees were passing the Robinson Jones homestead in Acton, three miles southwest of Grove City. They knew Jones, who ran a combination post office, inn, and store. The Indians went up to the house and demanded whiskey, becoming angry when Jones refused. One thing led to another, and the Indians killed Jones, his wife, and neighbors Viranus Webster and Howard Baker. Fifteen-year-old Clara Wilson, whom Jones had adopted, was also shot and killed. Once their fury had abated, the four warriors realized that they were in serious trouble. They returned to their village, explaining what had happened and urging an all-out war to drive the whites from the Minnesota River Valley. The late-night meeting with Little Crow followed.
Massacre at Redwood Post
Once he had decided on war, Little Crow directed that the Lower Sioux Agency’s Redwood post be attacked at dawn. The agency post was a small cluster of log cabins, frame houses, and brick buildings perched atop a bluff. Some 60 white men and women lived there, including cooks, clerks, teachers, missionaries, and government laborers who tilled the fields. The traders’ stores were located a quarter of a mile from the government buildings.
Sioux warriors attempt to burn out defenders at New Ulm. The siege lasted for two days before the settlers withdrew to nearby Mankato by wagon.
The merchants, clerks, and others had just sat down for breakfast when a large party of Indians arrived, ominously painted for battle. Before the whites could react, or even fully comprehend, the meaning of the war paint, the Indians began killing them. Dakota warriors broke into small groups, shooting down all they encountered. Taken by surprise, the victims were probably unaware of why they were being murdered. Myrick’s store was a special target. One warrior was heard to mutter, “Now I will kill the dog who wouldn’t give me credit.”
Myrick’s clerk and cook were shot down, but at first the merchant himself could not be found. He was discovered trying to flee from a second-story window in his store and shot down without mercy. It was said Myrick had fathered three children by a Sioux woman, then abandoned her for a younger woman. The jilted woman’s brother was the first to pump a bullet into the businessman’s body. As was customary in Sioux culture, Myrick’s body suffered post-mortem indignities. Arrows were shot in his corpse and an old scythe driven through his rib cage. Remembering his insulting words, warriors stuffed Myrick’s mouth with grass. “Now Myrick eats grass himself,” one warrior exalted.
The general massacre slowed when the Indians began to loot the buildings, then put them to the torch. The distraction allowed many settlers time to escape. Not all the Indians joined in the general bloodlust. Several slipped away and warned white friends and relatives, giving them enough time to escape. The fugitives made their way to the Redwood Ferry in an attempt to cross the Minnesota River and comparative safety. Ferryman Humbert Miller heroically stayed at his post, shuttling dozens of people over to the far bank before the Sioux finally killed him.
News Reaches Fort Ridgely
Warriors fanned out, spreading terror and death through the surrounding countryside. From August 18 to August 21, many white homesteads were wiped out. The Beaver Creek settlement, just across the Minnesota River from Redwood and Milford Township, was particularly hated, since the Sioux felt that the whites living there were squatting on stolen Indian land. In Milford alone, 50 or so whites, mostly unarmed German immigrants, were felled by bullets or chopped down by hatchets.
Most of the civilian refugees made for Fort Ridgely, situated on a spur of high prairie ground 150 feet above the Minnesota Valley floor. The site was commanding but flawed. Deep ravines to the east, north, and southwest provided ample cover for potential attackers. The post itself was unfortified, merely a hodgepodge of barracks, stables, commissary, and other military buildings. Like many forts of the period, Fort Ridgely did not have a stockade wall like the ones often depicted in Westerns.
The main buildings were a two-story stone barracks, a one-story commissary, officer’s quarters, and a combination headquarters and surgeon’s facility, all grouped around a parade ground 90 yards wide. Behind the barracks were some log houses and the post hospital. To the south was a large stable just across the road from New Ulm. The ammunition magazines were exposed, lying some 200 yards northwest of the fort.
Refugees began streaming into Fort Ridgely not long after the first attacks on the Lower Agency. Post commander Captain John S. Marsh was incredulous at first, scarcely believing that such a major uprising could be taking place under his very nose. But when the reports became too numerous to ignore, Marsh took action. Drummer boy Charles Culver beat a steady tattoo, and 76 soldiers fell into line. Lieutenant Sheehan had left for Fort Ripley, located on the Mississippi River, the day before. A messenger was quickly dispatched urging Sheehan to return immediately. “The Indians are raising hell in the Lower Agency,” Marsh’s missive explained.
Marsh took 46 soldiers and headed for the scene of the fighting at the Lower Agency. Nineteen-year-old Lieutenant Thomas B. Gere was left in command of the post. Gere, a “shavetail,” or greenhorn, had only been in the Army for eight months. To make matters worse, he was also ill, having contracted mumps a short time earlier. There were 29 men left to defend the post. In the meantime, Marsh continued on toward Lower Agency. Marsh and interpreter Peter Quinn rode mules, while the soldiers were riding in wagons. They began to encounter refugees going in the opposite direction, all with the same tale of surprise, mayhem, and abject terror.
Soldiers and civilians gather at Mankato on December 16, 19862, to witness the mass hanging of 38 Sioux prisoners following the massacres. It was the largest mass execution in American history.
At Redwood Ferry, Marsh and his men were ambushed by Chief White Dog, a sub-chief who was normally known to be friendly to whites. Attacked on three sides, the soldiers made their way through thick vegetation along the river bank. Marsh, attempting to swim across the river, was seized by a cramp and drowned. The surviving soldiers—half the original force—extricated themselves with difficulty and returned to Fort Ridgely. The ambush was the Indians’ first major victory, and their elation knew no bounds. One warrior boasted, “The white men can be killed like sheep!” Little Crow, who knew what they were up against, cautioned against overconfidence, but he was overruled by young hotheads who were openly contemptuous of the whites’ fighting abilities.
Little Crow wanted to attack Fort Ridgley the next morning, but several days passed before he could muster enough warriors to mount a credible assault. By then, Fort Ridgely’s most vulnerable time had passed, although the Indians did not yet know it. Sheehan had arrived at the fort after a grueling all-night march of 40 miles. He took over command from Gere and continued to prepare for the defense. Indian agent Galbraith, who had been at St. Peter, arrived at the fort with 50 members of the Renville Rangers, a mixed-blood militia unit originally recruited to fight Confederates. Including 20 or so male refugees, Sheehan now had around 180 effectives inside the fort. He sent urgent word to Minnesota governor Alexander Ramsey for more reinforcements, and Ramsey commissioned former governor Henry Hastings Sibley to lead relief troops from Fort Snelling to Fort Ridgely.
It would take time for Sibley to arrive. In the meantime, the defenders would have to fend for themselves. Breastworks were thrown together to connect the innermost buildings. Barrels of flour, salt pork and beef went into the barricades, the gaps filled in by odd pieces of cordwood. The post had four artillery pieces that had been left behind when the Regular Army troops had been withdrawn for Civil War service. In a stroke of luck, Sergeants James G. McGrew and John Jones, both skilled artillerists, had remained behind. Hastily, they trained infantry soldiers and civilians to work as effective gun crews. One 12-pounder mountain howitzer was placed in the gap between the two-story barracks and the bake house. Another howitzer was wheeled out to the northwest corner.
Painting of Minnesota massacre, Sioux Iindian uprising, killing white settlers and others.
Driven Back by “Rotten Balls”
The Indians finally attacked on the morning of August 20. Little Crow led a diversionary attack on the west side of the post. While the defenders’ attention was fixed on Little Crow, Chiefs Mankato, Gray Bird, Shakopee, and others led an assault on the northern perimeter They managed to seize several outbuildings, and for a time it looked as if the Sioux might win. The fighting grew heavier, with the defenders’ Springfield rifle-muskets unleashing sheets of smoke and flame with each volley. Then the artillery opened up, iron monsters the natives had never seen before—at least not in action.
The warriors were particularly upset by the howitzer shells, which they called “rotten balls.” When they exploded, they sent up a lethal spray of hot metal in every direction, killing and maiming with horrifying ease. The Indians rushed the western corner of the fort, but were stopped cold when Jones and his 6-pounder crew shot their gun off at point-blank range. It was too much for flesh and blood to stand. The warriors withdrew, carrying off their dead and wounded. A thunderstorm moved in that night, soaking the ground and washing away the stains of carnage.
On August 22 the Sioux massed for a final, all-out assault on the beleaguered post. Little Crow, who had been slightly grazed by a cannonball the day before, rode to battle in style, seated in a handsome horse-drawn buggy driven by a mixed-blood named David. Some 800 Indians gathered for the effort, including many warriors who had newly joined the uprising. The Sioux sneaked close to the fort, using the tall grass for cover and camouflaging themselves with prairie grass and flowers in their headbands. They rushed several buildings, gaining a foothold in the stables and the sutler’s house. Well aimed artillery shells soon set the stables alight, the flames and smoke forcing the Indians to abandon their newly won prize. The sutler’s house was soon engulfed in flames as well.
The Indians literally tried to fight fire with fire by launching a hail of flaming arrows on building roofs, but the shingles were still damp from the previous night’s rains and failed to ignite. One or two roofs did finally catch fire, but were quickly extinguished with buckets of water. Frustrated, the Sioux launched another all-out attack on the southwest corner. It was the same story—case shot and shells broke up the attempt, leaving the natives little to show for their courage.
The Sioux withdrew, this time for good. Chief Big Eagle said later: “We thought the fort was the door to the valley as far as St. Paul, and if we got through nothing could stop us. But the defenders of the fort were very brave, and kept the door shut.” Sibley’s relief force of some 1,400 men arrived at Fort Ridgely a few days later.
Raid on New Ulm
Now the Indians’ wrath fell upon New Ulm, a community of some 900 souls and the largest white settlement near the Sioux reservation. Many of New Ulm’s men were gone, having joined the Union Army to fight the South. The town’s vulnerability made it a tempting target, full of goods—and pretty young women—that could be carried off as booty. New Ulm was built on two natural terraces of land like two giant steps that rose up from the Minnesota River Valley to the height of about 200 feet and ended in a high bluff in back of the town. The community, which was founded by Germans, boasted a fine hotel called the Dacotah House.
On August 18, a recruiting party of New Ulm men had left town to gather volunteers for the Union Army from the scattered farm homesteads in the area. Sioux warriors ambushed them at Milford Township, killing 11 and causing the survivors to fall back to New Ulm. The citizens were thrown into a near-panic by the evil tidings. There were few able-bodied men in town, perhaps 40 individuals, and even fewer arms and ammunition. Some defenders were forced to arm themselves with pitchforks and other farm implements—little use against an enemy armed with up-to-date rifles. Brown County Sheriff Charles Roos and local citizen Jacob Nix organized the defense.
Minnesota Street, the town’s principal thoroughfare, was barricaded for three blocks from Center to Third North. New Ulm’s brick buildings made good defensive positions because of their relative resistance to fire. Couriers were dispatched to neighboring towns asking for immediate help. The citizens of St. Peter, Le Sueur, and other settlements responded with alacrity, but it would be some time before reinforcements arrived. In the meantime, New Ulm had to weather its first Indian assault alone. About 3 pm on Tuesday, August 19, a force of 100 warriors dismounted and began firing into the town. Six townsfolk were killed, including a 13-year-old girl named Emilie Pauli, and five others were wounded.
The sky turned overcast, signaling the beginning of a large thunderstorm. Jagged streaks of lighting sliced through the sky, accompanied by torrential downpours of rain. The rainstorm seemed to dampen the Indians’ ardor. The citizens welcomed the reprieve, but the danger was not over. Beginning about 9 pm, much-needed reinforcements rode into town. Judge Charles E. Flandrau headed some 125 armed militiamen, a welcome addition to the defense. Other militia units also came in, many of then sporting bellicose names like the Le Sueur Tigers and the Winnebago Guards. Flandrau took overall command of the town’s 300 able-bodied defenders. After this, it was simply a matter of watching and waiting. More refugees had come to New Ulm, swelling the town’s numbers to perhaps 1,500 people.
190 Buildings Destroyed
On Saturday morning, August 23, New Ulm scouts spotted pillars of smoke rising into the sky in the direction of Fort Ridgely. If the fort had fallen, the Sioux might attack New Ulm from the north side of the Minnesota River. To guard against this possibility, Flandrau sent William Harvey and 75 men to investigate. It was a ruse, and Flandrau had risen to the bait. Harvey and his men were soon cut off and forced to retreat to St. Peter. Harvey’s departure left New Ulm with around 200 defenders, not all of them well-armed.
At about 9:30 am, the Indians finally showed themselves, coming out of the woods to assemble on the prairie just west of New Ulm. The 600 to 800 warriors were led by Mankato, Wabasha, and Big Eagle, chiefs of considerable experience and skill. Flandreau ordered his second in command, militia captain William B. Dodd, to take his men and meet the Indians beyond the barricades. It was a near-fatal error. The Sioux began fanning out until they covered the defenders’ entire front. The Indians, wearing breechcloths, arm bands, and feathered headdresses, picked up the pace. The advance culminated with the Indians sweeping down on the defenders with a cry so bloodcurdling that it unnerved the defenders, who broke and ran for the safety of the barricades and nearby houses. The Indians pressed forward and managed to occupy several dwellings before the townsfolk rallied and stopped the attack.
This sturdy stone commissary building at Fort Ridgely withstood two days of furious assaults by Sioux attackers.
Flandrau later recalled that “the firing from both sides became general, sharp, and rapid. It got to be a regular Indian skirmish, in which every man did his own work after his own fashion.” About 20 men from the Le Sueur Tigers took shelter in a local windmill three blocks from the business district and made it a major stronghold. The Frederick Forester Building, a combination pottery works, post office, and private home, located outside the barricaded perimeter, was another major strongpoint.
The town’s lower terrace, near the river, was buffeted by high winds, which the Indians tried to use in their favor. They put many buildings to the torch, the thick black coils joining together to form a perfect cover for their advance. Sixty warriors, some on horse, others on foot, made their way through the acrid stench of burning wood. The fighting reached a climax around the blacksmith shop of August Kiesling, which the Indians had occupied early in the attack. When Flandrau realized the Sioux were advancing behind the smokescreen, he gathered some men to leave the relative safety of the barricades and meet the enemy head on. This time the tables were turned, and the whites’ fierce battle cry unnerved the Indians. Getting a taste of their own medicine, the Sioux warriors halted, wavered, then withdrew. The Indians also evacuated the blacksmith shop, a major thorn in the defenders’ side.
Before withdrawing into the barricades, Flandrau torched the remaining buildings in the lower parts of town. Soon, crackling flames devoured the houses and belongings of German settlers who had come to America with such hope. Once the houses and other buildings were consumed, the Indians could find little cover in the blackened ruins. There was little left of New Ulm around 190 buildings were destroyed.
The Sioux finally broke off the attack, leaving the exhausted defenders with their lives, but little else. On Monday, August 25, it was decided to evacuate what remained of New Ulm. There was little food, and ammunitions stocks were perilously low. The smell of burnt wood hovered over the town like the remains of a funeral pyre, to which was added the sickening stench of unburied corpses decaying in the summer heat. Fear of pestilence decided the issue, and a melancholy caravan of 153 wagons, packed with women, children, and wounded men, painfully made its way to Mankato, 34 miles distant.
The Largest Mass Execution in American History
Although there was more fighting in the weeks to come, the clashes at Fort Ridgely and New Ulm ultimately decided the Dakota War of 1862. Increasingly divided and poorly led, the Sioux were planning a last large attack on Sibley’s relief force, camped near Wood Lake, on September 23. Discovered by chance when soldiers of the 3rd Minnesota Regiment, newly paroled from Civil War battlefields, left camp without orders to pick potatoes in nearby fields, the Indians attacked in piecemeal fashion, only to be driven back into a ravine. Cannon fire swept the hollow, killing Chief Mankato and breaking the back of the Sioux resistance. Most surrendered, at the same time releasing 267 prisoners, including 162 mixed bloods and 107 whites, almost all of them women and children. In all, more than 800 white settlers had died in the uprising.
Little Crow fled to Canada, and 303 Sioux warriors were tried and sentenced to death for war crimes and atrocities. The trials were a travesty of justice, given the cultural differences, the defendants’ lack of understanding, and the whites’ thirst for revenge. Some trials lasted only five minutes. President Abraham Lincoln, a lawyer himself, intervened, reviewing each case personally. After careful deliberation, only those who had raped or murdered were condemned to death. Lincoln commuted the death sentences of 264 defendants, allowing the execution of 39 prisoners. Last-minute evidence gave a reprieve to one of the condemned the rest were hanged on December 26, 1862. It was the largest mass execution in American history.
Little Crow drifted back to the United States and was killed a few months later while picking berries in a farmer’s field. The settler, a man named Nathan Lamson, didn’t even know at first that he had killed the infamous Little Crow. When the chief’s body was taken into town, it was recognized, and the chief’s remains were dragged through the street and thrown ingloriously onto a garbage heap. More than a century later, in 1971, in a gesture of reconciliation, the Minnesota Historical Society released Little Crow’s bones to his descendants. He was buried with honor in a small ceremony attended only by family members.
THE FIRST SETTLEMENTS IN THE KANDIYOHI REGION AND THEIR FATE IN THE INDIAN OUTBREAK
Victor E. Lawson
Editor of Willmar Tribune.
[Source: Year-Book of the Swedish Historical Society of America, VII 1924-1925]
In the Kandiyohi region certain families have enjoyed a distinction - have constituted a sort of a local aristocracy among the old settlers - namely those who might boast that their folks came into the country "before the Indian Outbreak." That tragic break in the peaceful subjugation of the wilderness caused by the Indians making desperate attempt to retake by force their old hunting grounds from the advancing civilization of the white man, fell as a stunning blow upon these early settlements and caused their abandonment for a period of from two to three years, and in some cases permanently, by the survivors of these families. Small wonder then that the stirring events of that period should furnish subject for discussion for years afterwards and that any one who had lived through those times would be listened to with interest as he recounted his experiences to the settlers who came later to make their homes there.
The large number of Scandinavians among those whose labor has transformed the heavy woods and raw prairies of the south-central Minnesota into its present high state of development testifies most eloquently to the industry and community-building traits of this race. Without in the least wishing to deny credit or recognition to other racial elements which were represented in this section and which contributed their efforts, as a society we are particularly interested in the major part taken by Swedish and Norwegian immigrants in the building of this part of Minnesota. To furnish a brief outline of the very first settlements in this region and what befell them in the onslaughts of the savages is the purpose of this article.
In the sense in which we wish to use it, the Kandiyohi region includes all that section of Minnesota which is covered by the headwaters of the Crow River with its three main branches, also of Hawk Creek and Chippewa River, which all rise in the chain of lakes that extend from the southwestern part of Meeker County north ward through the present Kandiyohi County and into parts of Swift, Pope, and Stearns counties. For a distance of forty miles the landscape is dotted with hundreds of lakes which are fed by springs and in the springtime and in rainy seasons by numberless small creeks and brooklets. In the shallow and clear waters of these streams it was an easy matter to spear the fish which crowded up during the spawning season. The Dahkotah Indians came hither to get their supplies of buffalo, suckers, and other similar species of fish, and that is what the term, "Kandiyohi" signified to them. It is a country where undulating prairies, beautiful lakes, fine groves of timber, and the best of soil combined to furnish conditions ideal for the pioneer homesteader.
Immediately after the Indian treaties of 1851, when the Santee tribes sold their rights to their domain in exchange for money and annuities (most of which they never received and little realizing what they were doing), the government surveyors began their work of running lines and establishing section corners. In 1856 these surveys had reached the Kandiyohi region and it was opened for settlement.
The first white man known to have visited the Kandiyohi region was Jacob Fahlstrom. Born in Stockholm in 1793 he went to sea as a boy, was in a shipwreck, came to London as a waif, accompanied Lord Selkirk's expedition to Red River, was lost in the woods and adopted by the Chippewas, became fur buyer for the American Fur Company and in this capacity visited the Kandiyohi region long before there were any settlements in the territory. In advancing years he located at Taylor's Falls, near the first Swedish settlement in Chisago County. He told all who tired of the slow process of clearing timber land that if they wanted good prairie land they should go to the Kandiyohi lakes.
With the first rush of township promoters we shall not concern ourselves. It was as homeseekers with a view to permanent residence that the first Scandinavians came. The vanguard arrived in Meeker County in 1856 - some Swedes by way of Chisago Lake, who located near Swede Grove, and a colony of Norwegians from Rock County, Wisconsin. The latter came originally from Naes, Hallingdal, hence the name "Ness" which they gave their settlement. This colony continued to grow and the Norwegian church of Ness was organized by the Rev. B. J. Muus in 1861. It was in the Ness churchyard where the first five victims of the Indian Outbreak at Jones cabin, August 17, 1862, were buried by the Norwegian settlers. The Nordland congregation in Irving township has a record book dated on the title page "Anno Domino 1861," probably a reference to a few early settlers along Crow River in Meeker County. A few Swedish families located near Lake Ripley and were in communication with the settlers of New Sweden at Eagle Lake.
In the early spring of 1857 a party of four Swedes came from Chisago Lake and pushed on to the Kandiyohi lakes where they took claims. Others came in later, but there were only four families living there when the out break came - Gustaf Johnson Thang, a native of Elmeboda, Smaland, Charles Peterson (Torsas, Smaland), E. P. Wicklund (Stegsjo, Halsingland), and Peter Norberg (Hassela, Halsingland). The family of John Johnson (Linneryd, Kronobergs Ian) came in the fall of 1857 and lived in a shack on the Kandiyohi townsite the following winter. The wife, Kajsa Pehrson (Elmeboda) died in April from exposure. Her grave has been marked by the Kandiyohi County Old Settlers' Association.
Rev. Peter Magnus Johnson (Vederslof, Smaland), a Swedish Methodist minister, came with a company of Swedish settlers in the early spring of 1859 and located claims. He lived in a dugout on Lake Wagonga the first winter and the next year he moved to Lake Elizabeth. He was a traveling missionary among the Swedish settlements.
E. P. Wicklund was one of the first Swedish settlers at Taylor's Falls, locating at Swede Lake in 1851. He became a local Methodist preacher.
The Lake Elizabeth settlement consisted of the following, most of whom arrived in 1858: Samuel Peterson (Elmeboda, Smaland), Erick Eastlund (Bergsjo, Halsingland), Peter O. Olofson and Peter Wicklund (Stegsjo, Halsingland), Andrew M. Ecklund (Evaryd, Blekinge), Louis Johnson and his two brothers-in-law, John and William Johnson (Alfta, Halsingland), John P. Dahlin (Altmar, Medelpad), and Rev. C. F. Lindquist (Smaland), the latter arriving in 1861.
The settlers of Kandiyohi and Lake Elizabeth were united under the same spiritual leadership. Rev. Erick Sjogren, presiding elder of the Swedish Methodist church, organized a congregation with sixteen members in 1860. Rev. C. F. Lindquist became the first resident pastor.
The rival townsite promoters of Green Lake and Kandiyohi lakes had affected two county organizations in 1858 - Monongalia and Kandiyohi. All of these promoters had expected their "towns" to be in line with the proposed railroad. Eventually the railroad was built halfway between these choice locations and later it was found expedient to consolidate the two counties into one.
The Swedish settlement just outlined was located in the original Kandiyohi County. Most of the settlers of Yankee blood had abandoned the country after the hard times of 1857 or after they had acquired title to their claims. The Civil War came on and that helped to retard the development of the new country. Those remaining at the time of the exodus were James C. Bright (Nova Scotia), Otis Ferguson (New York, Tompkins County), Mark W. Piper (Penobscot County, Maine), Noah Webster White (New York), and Solomon R. Foot (Dover, Ohio). There remained twenty -three families, eighteen of which were Swedish.
The settlements in Monongalia County far outnumbered those in Kandiyohi. They clustered about the lakes which gave them their names. The Green Lake and Diamond Lake settlements were made up of people of Scotch, Irish and English descent. At the time of the outbreak those remaining were the following: John, James, Robert and Adam Tait (Moffat, Scotland), four brothers who arrived in 1857 Mary Wheeler and four sons, Mathew, Michael, Thomas and William (Ireland), 1857 Jeremiah Sperry (Woodbridge, Conn.), and five sons, Charles J., Andrew, Albert H., Burton W., and Orlando F., and son-in-law, James B. Garrison (Clark County, Ohio) George Heywood (Bangor, Maine) Joseph D.Harris (Nova Scotia) Michael Mulcare (Ireland) John Masters (England) Nathan Sanders (Cattaraugus County, N. Y.) Jesse M. Ayers (Canada). On the Irving side of Green Lake lived Henry Parsons (Rensselaer County, N. Y.), and son Pearce H., Adolphus A. Schenck (Hessia), James Hart (Nass, Ireland), Daniel Delaney (Ireland). South and west of Green Lake were F. W. Woodcock (Williamstown, Mass.), Jephta H. Adams (Kenebec, Me.), Job W. Burdick (Almond, N. Y.), William Kouts (New Germantown, Pa.), Samuel Holes (England, came in 1856), likewise Silas Foot (Rockport, Ohio), William Cartledge (England), Joseph Thomas (Cardiff, Wales), William Whitney (England), William H. Clark (Northwestern Town, N. Y.). The settlers living in the country district near Paynesville we shall omit from this record. Included among those listed were many hardy frontiersmen, who had followed the march of the empire west ward from the Eastern states and who were trained from childhood to American frontier life.
In the northern part of Monangalia County the forerunners of the large Norwegian settlements in present northern Kandiyohi and southern Pope and Stearns Counties settled. To the eastern part came a colony which hailed from Tordal in Drangedals parish and it included the Jorgenson Postmyhr, Olson Bergan and Levor Nelson families. Others were Torkel Nygaard and Ole Reine from Finaas parish, and Gunder Johnson, the first settler from Gausdal in Gulbrandsdalen among the large number that came later. The Norwegian church in that community now bears the name of Gausdal. A record of an early organization of a church among these people dated Oct. 31, 1861, by Rev. B. J. Muus, written on a slip of paper, was discovered by the writer in going through some church records at a Nor way Lake parsonage in 1903. Farther west in the Lake Prairie settlement several Norwegian families located in the same years, namely 1859 and 1860 - Soren Pederson (Moster) and Mathias Johnson (Valestrand), Lars Olson (Finaas), Anfin Thompson, and Torris Tyse (Stordoen, Diocese of Bergen). To the north in Stearns County were Thorbjorn Wraalson (Bygland), Ole Tovsen, et al. Farther to the Northwest near Lake Johanna in Pope County the four families of Jon Olson Sandvigen (Tinus), Gregor Halvorson, Ole Kittelson, and Salve Olson had located.
North of Norway Lake four Peterson brothers - Nels, Hans, Christian, and Peter - located. They hailed from Grindheim, Norway, and were the first of that large colony of today. Erick Kapperud (Nordreland), Lars Iverson (Sogndal), Even Olson (Glesne in Sigdal), Ole Knutson Storbraaten (Sigdal), located claims. South and west of Norway Lake came Even and Andrew Railson (Glesne in Sigdal), Haavel Halvorson and five sons - Johannes, Halvor, Andreas, Ole and Hans (Gausdal), Sven Gunderson Borgen (Nommedal), and his brother-in-law Thomas Osmundson (Hardanger), John and Helge Torkelson (Aotland), and Andrew Nelson Vaalhod of Land. At Crook Lake Johannes Iverson (Hurdal) had located. At Solomon Lake Lars and Sever Endreson (Vikor), Lars Larson (Rosseland), and Asbjorn (Oscar) Erickson (Rykken) were the first of the Hardanger settlement to arrive. At Long Lake Nils Olson (Allvik) located on the claim later taken by Johannes Swenson. In what is now the Sletten grove, Ole Olson Haugen (Bire) built his cabin and his friend Berger Thorson located on Foot Lake and was the first resident within the present limits of Willmar City.
Most of the first Swedish settlers of Monongalia County came originally from Halsingland and Vastergotland. The first to arrive came to Eagle Lake by way of Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Sven Helgeson Backlund, his son Johannes Backlund, and Magnus Anderson (Finnekumla) located claims August 8, 1857. A few days later Andreas Lorentson Sandland (Hillared) and Johan Nilson (Grenna, Smaland) settled on claims. All of these families lived on their claims fully five years before the settlement was broken up by the Indians. Others to arrive later were Nils Axel Viren (Figelvik, Blekinge), his mother-in-law, Anna Greta Sandstrom and family (Abo, Ostergotland), Carl Peter Jonason (Virserum, Smaland) and son Carl Johan Carlson (Hogsrums, Oland) who with family arrived directly from Sweden at Eagle Lake in 1858. Jonas Johnson (Alfta, Halsing land) came in 1860. In 1861 Johannes Swenson (Vastergotland) and Magnus Kyllerstrom (Toarps, Vastergotland) arrived in the settlement. At Foot Lake in the same community but just over the line of the original Kandiyohi County, Andrew and Swan Nelson and their brother-in-law Swan Swanson located claims November 3, 1858.
At Nest Lake, Peter Larson Sr., with sons Lars, Peter, Ole, and Nils (Rosteby, Bollnas, Halsingland), located in 1859. Erick Peterson and sons - John, Peter, Williams, and Frederick (Jarfso, Halsingland) came the same year. Peter Thompson Sr. (Jarfso) with sons Thomas, John and Peter Jr., and son-in-law Samuel Stoner (Franklin County, Pennsylvania), came in 1859, as did Nils Tornborn. Otto Broberg (Bro, Gallaryd, Smaland) and John Harpman (Bollnas) also located in the settlement. Mons Olson (Bjorketorp, Vastergotland) settled on Crow River, northwest of Nest Lake, a few weeks before the Indian outbreak.
Marcus Johnson Sr., with family including four sons - Johannes, Goran, Marcus Jr., and Peter - came to Lake Prairie in 1859. Marcus Danielson, Anders Olson, Erick Olson and their families also came. These families came to Green Lake in 1858, but changed their location to Lake Prairie the following year. All were natives of Jarfso, Halsingland and came to this county from Waupaca County, Wisconsin. They had come over the Atlantic in sailing vessels a few years before. Other Swedish settlers at Lake Prairie were Anders Johnson and family (Langared, Vastergotland), 1859, Andrew Gabriel Hillberg (Jarfso), 1861, Johannes Dahlbrink and family (Bollnas), 1861, and Peter Johnson (Alfta), 1861.
On the extreme western border of the Norway Lake settlement a colony of people from Vastergotland had located. In 1860 came Johannes Anderson Lundborg and three brothers, Anders, Gustaf, and Lars. They had been in America two years. In the following summer their father Andreas Larson Lundborg, together with their mother, sister, and younger brother, came directly from the old home at Algutstorp. Another party of immigrants came soon after: Daniel Peter Broberg (Harenes), Anders Peter Broberg (Algutsorp), and Sven Johanson Aman (Algutstorp) with families. Ole Swenson (Skofde) and family and Johannes Swenson (Algutstorp), a half-brother of Mrs. A. P. Broberg, had arrived from Sweden barely a month before the outbreak.
This outline of the heads of families or single men who had filed on claims and their antecedents gives a fair index to the composition of the resident population of the Kandiyohi region in the summer of 1862. The townsite promoters had come and gone. Hard times and disappointment over the tardy development of the country had caused others to leave. Progress in community life had been slow. The county civil organizations existed mostly on paper. There was a great distance to the markets at St. Cloud and Minneapolis and travel with ox teams was slow. The nearest grist mill was at Kingston. The post office of Columbia had been moved from the abandoned townsite on Green Lake to the home of Mr. Burdick on Lake Oliver (Twin Lakes) and the mail came once a week. The Eagle Lake community was the best developed of any among the Scandinavians. A saw mill had come and gone, but it had provided a lot of necessary lumber. John Lorentson was a good blacksmith, Grandpa Backlund was a shoemaker, and it is recorded that he was expert in making shoes from old boot tops. N. A. Viren was a good wagon and cabinet maker. Mrs. Jane Clark, a daughter of Gephta Adams taught several terms of school in a shack at the sawmill at Eagle Lake.
With the Jarfso colony from Waupaca in 1858 came an educated and serious-minded young man of thirty years, Andrew Jackson (Walla, Bohuslan). He had made his way to America in 1852 and for five years had dwelt in communities where he was the only one of foreign birth. In 1857 he found a colony of Swedes at Waupaca, Wis., and was engaged by them to teach private school. In 1858 he accompanied a contingent of these settlers in their prospecting trip to the Kandiyohi region in Minnesota and in the following winter he went back to teach school again at Waupaca. In 1859 he rejoined his Minnesota friends with the full expectation of acquiring a claim and making his future home there. He taught a private school and became the religious leader among the settlers.
Very rarely did ordained Swedish Lutheran pastors visit the settlements. They were kindly received by the Scandinavian settlers, for they were God-fearing people and missed the religious ministrations to which they were accustomed from childhood. The religious training of the children had been neglected. Some who had left Sweden eight to ten years before had grown to manhood or womanhood without having been confirmed.
On Friday, July 22, 1859, Rev. Peter Carlson of the Union settlement at Carver came to Eagle Lake and organized the first Lutheran church in this region. The Eagle Lake, Nest Lake, and Lake Prairie settlers were united into one parish called New Sweden. The minutes of this meeting are preserved in the archives of the Lebanon Church at New London. On Sunday, July 24, services were again held by Rev. Carlson and the minutes of the organization meeting were approved by the meeting and signed by the deacons of whom Andrew Jackson was one.
The conviction had grown upon the last named young man that he should enter the ministry and he left to attend the theological seminary at Chicago. In June, 1861, he was ordained a minister of the Gospel at Galesburg, Illinois, and joyfully made his way back to the Monongalia settlement to take up his chosen calling. The annual meeting of the New Sweden parish was held at the home of Peter Larson St., at Nest Lake, July 10. Peter Thompson, now one of the leading citizens of Worthington, acted as secretary. Owing to the scattered settlements New Sweden was divided into three parishes - New Sweden, Lake Prairie and Norway Lake - to constitute one charge. Boards were elected for each. Many of the Norwegians joined with the Swedes in these early parishes, as the old church records show. These parish books are the only written records available from these early settlements. There were one hundred and three persons enrolled in New Sweden, fifty-five at Lake Prairie and fifty-five at Norway Lake. In October the New Sweden congregation acquired the abandoned Andrew Holes cabin which was located between the Eagle and Nest Lake settlements, fitted it out and dedicated it as a house of worship. On November 17 nineteen young people from all three parishes, including two from Lake Ripley, in Meeker County, were confirmed in this church.
On May 28, 1862, the third annual meeting of the New Sweden congregation was held, and it was found expedient again to divide the parish. The north part was called the Nest Lake congregation and the south part, Eagle Lake congregation. The savage outbreak of the Indians occurred in August following. But few Swedish settlers returned to Eagle Lake or West Lake after the frontier became safe. The Lake Prairie people joined with the Nest Lake congregation in 1865. In 1873 a church building was erected in New London village and in later years the congregation was renamed Lebanon.
The Indian outbreak fell upon these peaceful settlements like a crack of thunder from a clear sky. The settlers were accustomed to seeing hunting parties of Santee (Isanti) Sioux Indians go thru the settlements to and from their reservations along the Minnesota River. Often the Indians would call and beg for food, which was usually given them. Even war parties returning from raids on their hereditary enemies, the Chippewas, were seen and scalp dances by such returned warriors were held within the settlements. On such occasions they might steal pigs and young cattle and prove an annoyance. The military commander with a detachment of soldiers from Fort Ridgely camped at Twin Lakes in the summer of 1861, trying to accomplish the hopeless task of making peace between the warring tribes. The settlers knew little about the brewing dissatisfaction of the Indians over their treatment received at the agencies. We will enter into no discussion here as to the causes of the outbreak. Suffice it to say that the Kandiyohi region settlers had given the Indians no just cause for complaint or revenge. These immigrants were absolutely innocent of any wrong done to the red man.
On August 17, 1862, the first blood was shed in the Great Massacre at Acton, Meeker County, near the Ness settlement. Five whites were killed by a party of Rice Lake Indians. Realizing what the consequences of their rash act would be, these Indians made a rush for the reservation. In passing thru the Lake Elizabeth settlement they stole some horses from A. M. Ecklund in order to make better time. On their arrival at the reservation a council of warriors was at once convened by Chief Little Crow and the decision reached that the time to strike the white man and retake their hunting grounds had arrived. The next day the agencies were attacked and a carnival of death reigned in the Minnesota Valley, where the defenseless settlers were murdered in cold blood. On the 19th, bands of Indians started north to overrun the settlements in the Kandiyohi region. What in this day of the automobile is not much more than an hour's ride was a day's journey in those days. There were no telephone lines or radios by which to broadcast the news. Warnings had been sent out from Meeker County after the massacre at Acton, but many had not even heard of this and others believed that it was simply a result of a drunken brawl and did not mean a general uprising.
For Wednesday, August 20, the zealous preacher, Rev. Andrew Jackson, had scheduled two meetings in his Norway Lake parish. The forenoon services were held for the West Lake settlers at the Lundborg cabin. As they came to a close a little boy, Peter Broberg, came breathless saying that the Indians had arrived at the Broberg cabins about two miles distant and were scaring the children. Anders P. Broberg rushed at once, unarmed, to the scene. The four Lundborg sons took their guns and started in the same direction. As they left they were cautioned by their good pastor not to provoke the Indians. The elder Lundborg and Mr. Oman also started for the Broberg cabins on foot. Daniel Broberg hitched up the yoke of oxen and with the women and children in the wagon started home by the usual wagon road. The preacher, little dreaming how serious the situation was, rode on to his next place of meeting at the Thomas Osmundson place on the shores of Norway Lake.
Anders Broberg was greeted with the usual friendly salutations by the Indians when he arrived at his cabin, and so were the Lundborg boys. There was nothing to indicate hostility. The Indians appeared to be a hunting party such as the settlers had been accustomed to see. But suddenly the savages at some prearranged signal opened fire. Anders Broberg was shot as he sat at his table in the cabin. The Lundborg boys had no chance to use their guns. All four were shot. Samuel, the youngest, was not killed, but feigned death and later escaped. His three brothers were killed. The women and children in the approaching wagon were soon brutally dispatched with tomahawks after the driver had been shot. But one small boy Peter, of the A. P. Broberg family and a girl, Anna Stina, of the D. P. Broberg family, made their escape. Thirteen victims lay cold in death and the other members of the settlement were in desperate flight to safety. We cannot here relate the many stirring incidents of the flight of the survivors.
(Peter Broberg still lives at New London, where for many years he was engaged in mercantile and banking business. Anna Stina Broberg married John Peterson, one of the early Nest Lake settlers. They later made their home at St. Hilaire, Minn., where "Grandma Peterson", now widowed, still lives.)
The second service of the day at Thomas Osmundson's was destined also to be disturbed. Johannes Lundborg arrived with the terrible news of the West Lake massacre. The pastor at once left for Nest Lake to warn the settlers and by night every member of that settlement had gathered and camped at the J. H. Adams place at George Lake.
At Norway Lake a rendezvous was agreed upon at an island in Norway Lake, where all the refugees of the Norway Lake settlement were gathered except one or two who had made their way to Lake Prairie and Paynesville. All day Thursday scouting parties went thru the Norway Lake settlements picking up refugees and bringing them to the Isle of Refuge. On Friday a burial party was organized to visit the scene of the massacre. All thirteen victims were buried in one grave. On Saturday morning several of the settlers had a brush with seven Indians, who hurriedly left when they saw the whites were well prepared for them. As the refugees broke their camp on the Isle of Refuge and made their start for Paynesville they were met by a relief party from Paynesville, which consisted largely of able-bodied men from the Lake Prairie and adjoining settlements. This relief party had previously met the Lake Johanna settlers and had dispatched a force to accompany them back home to salvage necessities of life from their abandoned homes.
To return to the events of Wednesday, a bloody drama was being enacted at other points along the out skirts of the settlements. John Iverson was killed in the meadow near Crook Lake where he was cutting grass.
(John (Johannes) Iverson was born Sept. 15, 1821, in Hurdal, Norway. He was recorded as a member in Rev. Jackson's church records).
Here as elsewhere the Indians made their approach in a friendly manner and conversed with their victim before dispatching him. The sixteen-year-old daughter, Mary, was captured and placed on a pony, but her screams frightened the pony to run away and Mary managed to slip off the animal and hide in the brush. The Indians gave chase and caught the pony but lost the girl. Later she made her way back to her mother and eventually all the other members of the Iverson family were safely piloted to the Isle of Refuge.
At Solomon Lake the Indians approached the Lars Endreson home. They killed the father and oldest son Endre, wounded the son Ole seriously, and took two daughters captives. Mrs. Endreson saved her life and that of her baby by hiding in an outside cellar. The heroic conduct of Mrs. Guri Endreson on the following Saturday in rescuing two wounded men and taking them as well as her wounded boy and baby, with an unbroken team of steers hitched to a wagon, all the way across the prairies, to Forest City, has made her the heroine of Kandiyohi County history and secured for her memory a monument erected by the State of Minnesota.
(Lars Endreson was born at Rosseland, Vikors parish, Hardanger, Norway, in 1803. The son Endre was born in Norway Aug. 21, 1842. Ole, the wounded boy, was born in Norway, March 27, 1848. He recovered from his wound, but died the following winter from typhoid fever. The wife and mother, Guri Olsdatter Endreson, was born at Haugen, Hardanger, Norway, March 26, 1813. She died at Solomon Lake June 20, 1881. This family was recorded in the New Sweden church book).
Farther south at the Ole Olson Haugen cabin two horrible murders were committed, the wife Bergeret and son Frederick being the victims. The father was killed near Twin Lakes while on his way to get the mail.
(Olof Haugen was born at Bire, Norway. His wife Bergeret was born at Ekren in Bire. The son was also born in Norway. He had attained legal age because he had filed on a claim).
Another band of Indians set out to attack the Eagle Lake settlement. At sundown they arrived at Foot Lake. Here a staunch and fearless bachelor, Berger Thorson, had lived in his cabin for five years to the day. The Indians surprised him in the doorway of his cabin and dispatched him with a tomahawk. No shot was fired. That would have alarmed the settlers across the lake. At dusk the Indians came around the lake. They found the Swanson and Foot cabins deserted and pushed on. These families had heard of the massacre and were preparing to flee to Green Lake. They arrived at the Oscar Erickson cabin at Eagle Lake Creek where they decided to stay over night. Andrew Nelson was bringing up the cattle and while trying to get them out of Foot's corn field was run into by the Indians, who saw the cattle in the gathering dusk and rode in among them. Nelson escaped, jumped down the bank into Mud Lake, and as soon as the Indians had passed, made a bee-line across the prairie to the Diamond Lake settlement, where his appearance had much to do with the early departure of those settlers for Forest City.
(Berger Thorson - The correct surname of this victim of the Indians and first resident of Willmar and his antecedents have not as yet been ascertained. The name was variously written as Thorson, Tolerson and Torrison. He went by the nickname "Baggie" in the settlements. He was intimate only with the Haugens who were all killed by the Indians).
On arriving at Erickson's cabin the Indians pretended they were a hunting party. Foot refused them permission to come near the house, explaining that rumors had arrived that the Indians were on the warpath. The Indians denied this and camped on the bank of the creek over night. Foot sat guard all night with his rifle and with his faithful dog, ready to give alarm if anyone should approach the cabin at night. In the morning the Indians came up and asked for potatoes. Foot gave them a kettle and told them to dig their own potatoes, showing them the patch. An Indian, whom Foot knew well, came up to the rail fence that encircled the cabin and asked for an interview. By this time Foot had started to doubt that the Indians had any evil intentions and stepped out to pow-wow with this brave. But on catching the eye of the Indian he instantly wheeled about and rushed for the cabin. The Indian whipped out a shotgun hidden under his blanket and gave Foot a charge of buckshot which however did not entirely disable him. At the same moment Charles J. Carlson, who had heedlessly volunteered to dig potatoes for the Indians, was killed in the potato patch. Foot and Erickson opened fire from the cabin. Three Indians were hit, and the rest, who had great respect for Foot's unerring aim, rushed for cover. They continued to shoot at the cabin and again succeeded in seriously wounding both Foot and Erickson, who were rendered helpless. Ammunition was getting low. The women shot occasionally to make the Indians believe that the defenders were still on duty. Finally the Indians moved on to find more easy victims. The Swansons had left early in the afternoon to hide on the island in Foot Lake. The women and children were prevailed upon by their wounded men to seek help and safety at Green Lake. They succeeded in reaching Green Lake, but found the Arnold block house an ash heap instead of a haven. They were picked up by some scouts and brought to Forest City.
(Carl Johan Carlson (known in most records of the outbreak as "Swede Charlie.") was born at Hogrums parish, Oland, Sweden. Aug. 14, 1825. His family record is in the New Sweden church book).
In the meantime the two helpless men lay in the cabin thru two long and hot August days. They were finally rescued by Mrs. Endreson, who came from her devastated home with her babe and wounded son with her team of steers hitched to a sled. She hitched the steers to Swanson's wagon, which stood inside the enclosure near the cabin, made a bed of hay in the wagon box, helped the wounded men into it, after having washed their wounds and changed their clothing. Then she started off leading the steers and after a tedious trip arrived safely at Forest City.
Here she received the joyful news that her daughters had escaped from the Indians and had been picked up by a scouting party at Kandiyohi lakes.
After arriving at Forest City with the Diamond Lake settlers, Andrew Nelson joined Captain Whitcomb's party, which was organized to go out and bury the dead and search for the Swansons. The latter, however, had made their way to Paynesville.
On Thursday morning the Nest Lake settlers made an early start from the Adams place, followed by the Adams, Thomas, Silas Foot and Burdick families, William Kouts, and the elder Solomon Foot children. After traveling three miles they were joined by the Eagle Lake settlers. When they were a little distance north of the present village of Atwater a band of Indians rode out from Wheeler's woods to attack them. The wagons were hastily drawn into a circle on the top of a hill for protection. The long range rifles of Silas Foot and William Kouts held the Indians at bay. The defenders were unable, however, to save the lives of old shoemaker Backlund and blacksmith Lorentson, who were determined to bring in their stock and stubbornly refused to abandon them and flee to the corral. The murder of these men by the Indians was a fiendish performance and the mutilation of the bodies in the plain sight of the refugees was no doubt done for the purpose of further instilling fear in their hearts. Kouts succeeded in bringing down one of the Indian ponies and wounding one of the Indians. After circling around the corralled wagons at a respectful distance for several hours the savages became tired and withdrew, giving the refugees a chance to make the run for Forest City, where a stockade had been erected.
(Sven Helgeson Backlund was born in Finnekumla parish, Vastergotland in 1787. Andreas Lorentson Sandland was born at Hillared, Vastergotland, Dec. 21, 1806. Both victims and families were members of New Sweden parish.
It seems that most of the active young men of the Nest Lake settlement were not at home at the time. They were working in the harvest fields of the older settlements around Clearwater and Montecello. When the New Sweden refugees came to these river towns they were met by some of these young men and it was decided to go back to St. Cloud. Rev. Andrew Jackson there organized an expedition to go back to the settlements and see what could be salvaged in the abandoned homes. Practically every able bodied surviving member of the New Sweden parish became a member of this company. They were mounted and had four wagons. They had a narrow escape in a brush with a large war party of Indians, which their scouts saw marching eastward from Green Lake and which had camped at Lorentson's place the night before. As the Indians were leaving Rev. Jackson reasoned that it would be safe to venture to go there. The company visited all the abandoned homes at Nest Lake and Eagle Lake. They buried the bodies of Ole Olson Haugen, which was found floating in the smaller Twin Lake, and of Carl Peter Jonason, who had been shot in the meadow while on his way that fateful morning from his home near the old sawmill site to the Erickson cabin, where his son Carl had been killed shortly before.
(Carl Petter Jonason was born at Virserum Smaland, March 20, 1793. He was a New Sweden church member.
The party gathered up what household goods they could carry, rounded up about a hundred cattle and a dozen horses and made their way back to St. Cloud. From there the refugees scattered down the river and made their homes with relatives and acquaintances until such time as the frontier would be safe for them. Most of the Eagle Lake settlers never returned to live on their claims, but located permanently in Goodhue County.
The Lake Elizabeth settlers had received timely warning and had left their homes. Gustaf Johnson, and Charles Peterson at Kandiyohi Lake, their families having accompanied the Lake Elizabeth settlers, were in no hurry to go, but changed their minds after a teamster had come tearing up the agency trail and told them what had happened in the Minnesota Valley. Before they got away the refugees from the Upper Agency, piloted by the faithful Indian, John-Other-Day, arrived footsore and hungry and camped at Peterson's place over night. The cook stove was utilized all night for baking purposes, the hot biscuits being greedily devoured by the refugees. Stewart Garvie, who had been wounded at the agency, died in the camp that night. In the morning Johnson and Peterson followed the refugees to the point where the trail to Hutchinson led off and rejoined their families at Forest City.
The Lake Elizabeth settlers continued the flight to Clearwater, where the families would be safe while an attempt would be made to return to the settlements to gather up what necessaries could be found. They participated in the defense of Forest City and later with two wagon teams and eight men made a trip out to their settlement against the advice of the commandant. They found all clothing and other articles of value had been taken away, but the savages had overlooked the cellars and stores of provisions were found.
In 1891 by a special act of the Minnesota legislature the remains of the thirteen victims of the West Lake massacre were moved from where first interred to the church yard of the Nest Lake church at New London and a monument was erected to commemorate this tragic event. This monument was given the name of "Vastgota Monumentet" by Dr. A. J. Enander from the fact that all of the victims commemorated by the same were born in Vastergotland, except a babe born at West Lake. Peter Broberg, the lone survivor of the Andrew Broberg family, has erected a monument at the old cellar hole of the cabin where his father was killed. A monument was erected at the grave of Guri Endreson at the Solomon Lake churchyard shortly after the Kandiyohi County History appeared, in which a likeness of Mrs. Endreson was used as a frontispiece. The graves of all the older victims in this region have been marked by marble tablets by the Kandiyohi County Old Settlers' Association, with the exception of those of Lorentson and Backlund, which have not been located up to the present time. But by far the best monument provided for these victims is the History of Kandiyohi County, a large folio volume, the publication of which was made possible by the generous co-operation of the surviving families and other early settlers of Kandiyohi County. In this history is given the entire story of the outbreak in this section very much in detail as a general narrative and also personal experiences in the outbreak by some representative of practically every family involved.
The inscription on the State Monument in the Lebanon Swedish Lutheran churchyard at New London:
This Monument is erected by
State of Minnesota
in memory of
Anders Petter Lundborg, born March 23, 1837.
Gustaf Lundborg, born April 30, 1839.
Lars Lundborg, born Dec. 22, 1840.
Anders Petter Broberg, born Sept. 16, 1819.
His wife, Christina, born Aug. 31, 1828.
Their son, Johannes, born Jan. 23, 1849.
Their son, Andreas, born Jan. 27, 1852.
Their daughter, Christina, born May 31, 1855.
Their relative, Johannes Nilson.
Daniel Petter Broberg, born Jan. 8, 1824.
His wife, Anna Stina, born March 31, 1832.
Their son, Alfred, born March 31, 1859.
Their son, Johan Albert, born Oct. 22, 1861.
Anders and * Lars Lundborg left Vargarda, Westergotland,
Sweden, May 8, 1858, landing at Boston, Mass., June 4, 1858
arrived at West Lake, Minn., in the spring of 1860.
Anders Petter Broberg and his brother, Daniel Petter Broberg
with their families left Vargarda, Westergotland, Sweden, April
28, 1861, landed at Quebec. Canada, June 19, 1861, and arrived
at West Lake. Minn., July 15, 1861.
All of these persons were massacred by the Sioux Indians
while on their way home from a religious meeting held at the
home of Andreas Lundborg, in T. 121, R. 36, Kandiyohi County
and conducted by Rev. Andrew Jackson, all being members of
the Swedish Lutheran church. The names of the parties mas-
sacred being kept on file in the records of the Nest Lake Lutheran
Church of New London.
This monument was erected Aug. 20, 1891, by a special act of
the Legislature of Minnesota in 1891.
John Lundborg, John Peterson, and Erick Paulson were
appointed by the Governor a committee to select and erect this
The massacre of these persons was the commencement of the
Indian War of 1862.
Derfor varen I ock redo ty den stund I icke menen kommer Menniskosonen. - Luc. 12:40.
The remains of the massacred were removed from West Lake,
Minn., June 19, 1891, and now rest where this memorial is
When the State later organized to fight the Indians and break the power of the hostile Sioux in the Northwest most of the able bodied young men among the refugees of the Kandiyohi region enlisted in the regiment of Mounted Rangers and other military organizations. The contemporaneous newspaper accounts of the massacre in Monongalia County were very fragmentary and unsatisfactory. Rarely do they give correctly the names of the people involved. Hearsay reports among excited refugees naturally would not be accurate.
Aspersions made by some articles as to the conduct of the Scandinavians and especially the contemptuous comment on their resort to prayer when in danger would be unworthy of notice had they not created an erroneous impression with some writers. The panicky feeling on hearing the reports of the butchery on the frontier was not confined to the Scandinavians. Neither were acts of bravery when face to face with death unknown among them. Considering their lack of knowledge of Indian treachery, lack of guns and ammunitions, their behavior will average up well with any other class of settlers.
The twenty-four victims of the massacres in the Kandiyohi region were innocent martyrs to the advance of civilization over barbarism. Therefore their memory will always be cherished by the people who have inherited and developed the beautiful country to which they gave their lives.
"Och det var har det blodet flot
Ja, har for oss det var,
Och det var har sin frojd det njot
Och det var har sin suck det gjot
Det folk sum vara bordor bar
Langt fore vara dar.
"Sioux War of 1862-Swedish Immigrants
A History of the Swedish-American's of Minnesota, Vol. I, Chapter XVII, Complied and Edited by A. E. Strand, pages 355-366, rll
About one hundred and twenty miles northwest of St. Paul, in Kandiyohi county, is a fine lake, called Norway Lake, six miles in length and from one to two miles wide. It is partially enclosed by woods which, especially to the north of the lake, spread for many miles over the country. Around Norway Lake the land is rolling prairie. It is rated among the best wheat producing land in the state. The air, though rather cold in the months of January and February, is upon the whole pleasant and bracing.
One day in July, 1859, some Scandinavian families came into this country to settle there. They took land in the neighborhood of the lake, rather far apart from one another. The Indians thereabout, however, seeming friendly disposed toward them, they had no fear of trouble on that account. They found the redskins experts in pilfering and begging yet they shared their bread with them, and thus made them behave peacefully.
The life of a newcomer in such localities differed not a little from that of farmers in civilized sections. The house, in most cases, was a rude log cabin plastered with mud and having a huge fireplace with an outside chimney, or the stovepipe sticking out through roof or wall. One single small room served as kitchen, bedroom, parlor, pantry and for all other purposes. The furniture was just as antediluvian in character, empty boxes with rough deal boards on top serving as seats and a heap of litter on the floor as bed. The staple food with these settlers was Indian corn, which they would grind on a coffee-mill, an implement which thus had to be kept constantly running to furnish food enough, as soon as the family began to increase in number. Next they might have some fish, fowl and pork. What wheat they raised, they could hardly dispose of, there being no place to sell it. It was threshed by oxen being driven in a ring over the sheaves. Their cash earning the settlers had mostly from hunting and trapping in the woods. Once every month agents of the fur traders would come around, buying the skins and paying cash for them the minks from six to seven dollars, and for muskrats twenty-five to forty cents per skin. The money made in this way by the settlers would usually suffice to pay for clothing and their few agricultural implements. Their dress was a rather primitive one, not at all after the fashion of the day. Men in wooden shoes and homemade woolen jackets were no uncommon sights at their religious meetings, or even when they were locked in holy matrimony before the altar. This, to all appearance rude and rough manner of life, was, however, not without those gentle elements that go to elevate and refine mankind. Of books there were none, except the Bible and Psalmbook, but he natural scenery surrounding the settlers, on all sides spoke though its grandeur to their minds and their isolated and perilous situation not only made the members of the same family cling more closely together, but even prompted them to help and assist their neighbors, and to extend their hospitality beyond the dictates of discretion and of their small means. Adding hereto their healthy exercise in the invigorating air and the development of their mental faculties through the varied dangers to which they were exposed, we may account for the unwillingness manifested by not a few of the settlers to change their isolated situation for a safer, but also more monotonous, life in eastern states.
Our settlers at Norway Lake lived in peace and safety until August, 1862. The harvest of the season was so plentiful that they hardly had room for it, and the farmers looked forward full of hope and confidence. The Civil war was in full blaze, to be sure, but its effects were little felt here in the extreme northwest, and of the discontent among the Indians the settlers hardly heard anything that was no concern of theirs. Then, as a lighting flash from a clear sky, came the bloody horrors that broke up this little colony also.
Wednesday, the twentieth of August, dawned bright and warm. Members of several of the households had gone east to attend services to be held by the Rev. Andrew Jackson. Several of the most western families were of Swedish nationality, for instant, those of Andreas Peter Broberg and Daniel Broberg, two brothers. Only a few half-grown children and some of a more tender age were left at home. Shortly after the parents had left these were visited by a number of Indians who had scarcely entered the house before they began maltreating the defenseless children. One of the latter, however, got away and notified the parents. Nearly all in the congregation were ready to take up their guns and start back, but were prevented by the minister, who, thinking the case one of no extreme danger, was for a peaceful settlement of the affair. This proved a fatal mistake. Some of the most fearless settlers started, nevertheless, to return, but only one of them, A. Lundberg, took his gun with him, putting more trust in that weapon than in the clergyman's familiarity with Indian habits and disposition. He also went by a more direct route through a grove, while the others followed the wagon road. When near enough to see his house he heard the report of guns, and stopping on this account, he saw, how the other party, and among them four of his sons, namely, Anders, Gustaf, Lars and Samuel, were assailed by the Indians. One of the boys, Lars, on receiving a dangerous wound, ran toward a fence near where his father was standing, and tried to climb it, but was hit by the bullets of the pursuing fiends, who soon after came up and cut his throat from ear to ear, where-upon they stripped his body of such clothing as they thought they could use. All this happened before the eyes for the father, who, paralyzed with horror, was unable to move from the spot to protect his boy. In his despair, however, he emitted heart-rending cries, and thereby drew upon himself the attention of the Indians, who started to pursue him, and sent their bullets after him. He ran as fast as he could, and the redskins, just then catching sight of a wagon drawn by oxen and filled with settlers returning from the above-mentioned meeting, left off from their pursuit after Lundberg and headed for the wagon. They soon came up with it. Some of the occupants, Sven Johnson, with his wife and two children and another little boy, P. Broberg (who later became a merchant at New London, the same county), succeeded, nevertheless, in reaching Johnson's house, where they hid themselves in the cellar. The Indians soon arrived there, fired through the windows, split open the door, and cut to pieces what scanty furniture they found, among the rest the clock, which they tore down from the wall and trampled upon. Fortunately enough the hatch over the opening into the cellar escaped their eyes. One of the heavy chests had in the scrimmage been pushed over it by the fiends themselves. They thereupon left the house.
In the meanwhile Lundberg had got a start of about a mile. On arriving at his house he told his family and two other persons who lived with them, to make ready without delay, and soon they were all on their way toward the nearest neighbor's, Mr. Ole Knudson's, about three miles off. Lundberg himself, and an elderly companion, were the last who left the house. They took with them two guns and some ammunition. The Indians soon were on their track, and the settlers were in no little danger, their guns having become wet while they were plodding through a slough. They had several times to turn and make front against their pursuers, as if they proposed to attack them. The Indians would then retreat until the had got their reloaded, when they would take the offensive again. Having in this way came within about one mile from Ole Knudson's house, the attention of the Indians was attracted to a team of horses tied to a wagon. A little off two men were busy hewing logs for a cabin. The Indians went up, shook hands with them, asking permission to try the fine horses. The owner objected. Two of the Indians, nevertheless, mounted the animals and rode off with them, while the others stood with their guns cocked, compelling the settlers to keep quiet. They did not kill any of them, however.
Lundberg and his party had, in the meanwhile, improved the opportunity to secrete themselves, hoping for a safer escape when under cover of night. In the evening some of the fugitives arrived at the house of Ole Knudson, who at once prepared to start with them. He and his wife shouldered each a child, and off they sped toward the house of Even Railson, their neighbor. Finding that he had left, they resolved to take refuge in a small island in Norway Lake, situated so far from shore as to be safe against the guns of the Indians. The passage was effected by means of an excavated basswood log, hardly capable of carrying two men at a time. They repeated the trip till all of them had got over safely. They determined there to defend themselves to the utmost against the Indians. As. however, several of the neighbors and acquaintances were yet, in all probability, rambling around not far from the lake-among them the wife and daughter of Lundberg-six men were sent with two horses-the latter brought along by Johannes, the eldest of the sons of Lundberg-to look around for the fugitives and bring them safely over to the islet.
When the explorers came to Knudson's cabin, the darkness was intense and the rain pouring down amidst thunder and lightning. Some of the party, therefore, thought all further search in vain, but three of the men, E. Railson, Lundberg and Knudson, declined to give up, and in despite of darkness and rain, continued their efforts for a good while yet. They were fortunate to hit upon five individuals who had taken shelter in different places among the tall rush of the marshes. These were all now conducted to Knudson's cabin to be landed safely on the island in the morning.
The next day twelve of the "islanders" started to explore a large tract in the vicinity. They divided into two parties, selecting Knudson's grove as a meeting place. They found no stray settlers, but came near mistaking each other for Indians-an error that was happily discovered in time to prevent bloodshed. They came by some food which proved quite a relief to the women and children on the island, who had eaten nothing since the flight began.
The following morning they sent out an expedition to bury the dead and bring back to the island such as might yet be alive. On their way they hit upon Samuel Lundberg, who had been wounded by the Indians and left for dead. He had, however, recovered so far that he was able to walk, though yet weak from loss of blood, from hunger and the extreme peril he had been exposed to.
Having taken him to the stronghold in the lake, the party continued their march and soon arrived at the scene of the massacre, where lay the mutilated remains of friends and neighbors, some in the cabins and others in the fields. Lament was of little avail, so the men set to work digging graves with the spades and shovels they carried with them for that purpose, and deposited the dead. They found all those they were looking for, two of them the sons of Broberg, sixteen and seventeen years, respectively, in the grove near their father's cabin. One of them clutched a hammer in his hand near the other lay an old, broken, bloodstained knife. Both had been killed by a blow with a tomahawk on the head, whereupon their throats had been cut. One little six-year-old boy had evidently tried to flee, but had been overtaken by the bloodhounds, who had split his head with an ax belonging to Broberg himself. Some of the victims lay stripped of their clothing on others the clothing was burned. One infant had been subjected to the most terrible outrage its nose had been cut off, its skull crushed in, and in one of the cheeks was a deep hole. The remains of the mother were found near by. She had evidently fought to the last to save her own life and that of her child.
In all thirteen bodies were found at this place. For three days they had been exposed to the burning sun-to handle them was, consequently, anything but pleasant. They were buried in one common grave.
At Broberg's house, everything had been either carried away or destroyed. Near the door lay the cat with a knife sticking through it into the floor. Having searched the neighborhood in vain for Mrs. Lundberg, now the only one whose fate was unknown, the party returned to the island. Here, in the meanwhile, a woman had arrived with a little child. Her home was about three miles farther to the south. The Indians had also been there, and shot and killed her husband in the field where he was mowing hay, after which they had tried to carry off herself and her sixteen-year-old daughter. While they were forcing the latter up on one of their ponies, the mother had fled into the woods. The girl made so spirited a resistance that the horse took fright, threw her and ran away. The Indians, in order to recapture the animal, left the girl to herself, a chance she improved by starting for the woods. The mother, with the youngest child, went to the lake, whiter also the daughter intended to go together with the other four children whom she, during the night, met at the house. They lost their way, however, on the open prairie, and it was not until the following day they succeeded in reaching a house where they found some milk, which they drank, but no inmates. They were saved at last as shall be related hereafter.
The homeless settlers now sought to collect what had been spared by the redskins. It did not amount to much upon the whole and their agricultural implements, and other such property of the unwieldier kind, were mostly abducted by the Indians or marauding whites during the ensuing winter. A prolonged stay on the isle seemed little advisable on account of the scarcity of provisions. They, therefore, prepared to leave-the crossing to be effected in a little boat and two disemboweled logs-and one fine morning the oxen were put to the wagons, and all were ready to start and go eastward. In the meantime Tom Osmundson and his father-in-law, Sven Borgen, should drive over with their team to the house of the latter to take on board some property left there. When near the house, half a dozen redskins or more emerged from the grove near by, and began shooting at them, Osmundson being seated in the vehicle and Sven walking behind. They cried out for help and were answered in good old style by those at the lake, especially the women. The Indians became frightened, ran to their ponies in the grove, and fled southward over the prairie toward another grove, called the "Dahl grove," a Swede by that name living there. Fortunately for him, he was not at home. The men from the island pursued for a while, but gave up and returned, fearing lest the women and children, who were frantically pulling back to the stronghold, should be attacked by another crowd of savages.
The panic and confusion having subsided, some of the men mounted the nearest hillocks to look out, while others undertook to ferry over the last of the "garrison." No sooner had they all got over than a train of men on horseback, and others in wagons, were seen approaching from the west. New confusion, this time, however, to end in general rejoicings. Expeditions having been sent out from both sides to reconnoiter, the approaching caravan was found to consist of none but the good people from Painsville and vicinity, who, in full military equipment, had taken the field to assist their fellow-settlers at Norway Lake. These brave Painsville men had, on the prairie, met with the five children above mentioned, whose father, Johannes Ivarson, had been killed by the Indians. The children, mistaking their friends for enemies, ran with all their might, and had to be hunted up and caught like wild animals. They are now, safe and sound, taken to their mother who, as stated, was with the settlers. From the Painsville people Mr. Lundberg learned that also his wife was alive. She had come to Painsville in the company of Even Olson and his family, Lars Iverson and his family, one Erik Kapperrud and the two men with whose horses the Indians ran off near Knudson's house. All these had clubbed together, and in one body traveled north of Norway Lake, through woods and swamps, to Painsville, Stearns county, about twenty-five miles east of Norway Lake. They now all set out for Painsville, where they arrived in the evening, and where there were almost no end to the rejoicings of Mr. and Mrs. Lundberg, who had entertained no hope of ever more meeting in this world. Here the fugitives remained a few days, partly to rest and restore their strength, and partly because of their disagreement as to where to go next, some of them being for returning to their farms, others wanting to move still farther east.
The rumor of the massacre having spread, people began to come up from St. Cloud. They warned the settlers against going east. There they would perish for want of food. But if they would go back and take are of their farms once more, they should have every possible assistance arms, ammunition, nay, even military protection. Thus spoke the men from St. Cloud. All their eloquence, however, proving of no avail, they told the fugitives that under no circumstances would they be allowed to cross the Mississippi river. Despite all this the Norway Lake people started to move east, and whenever they came the settlers along their track made ready and joined them, for no one wanted to be left on the line immediately exposed to the cannibals. And on they traveled, young and old, until they came to St. Cloud, where they stopped for a few days, and where the people actually tried to prevent them from crossing the river. There was no bridge at that day, and the ferryboat was chained and locked. One morning, then, when the ferryman had peremptorily refused them the use of his boat, the Swedes, and the rest as well, drove their cattle down to the river, and T. Osmundson got safely over on the back of his oxen. The other settlers followed, and before evening all the cattle had crossed the Mississippi. The next step now was to break loose the ferry-boat. The police of the place would interfere, but withdrew when the settlers declared they would rather risk a tussle with honorable peace preservers of St. Cloud than with the redskins. The people of St. Cloud now being on the exposed line, began to feel rather anxious themselves. They dug ditches, threw up miniature fortifications and posted guards on the ramparts nay, some of them even went so far as to leave the place for good, or a least to send off their families.
The Norway Lake people, after a long and wearisome travel, at length got as far as the St. Anthony falls. Here they were visited by the people of the place, who very generously supplied them with both food and clothing. In the same kind way they were received at St. Paul, where the toll-bridge stood open for their passage free of charge. From there they spread over the counties east and northeast of St. Paul, among friends and kinsmen, where many of them remained, until about three years later, in the spring of 1865, they began going back to their old homes at Norway Lake. Here they did surely not find things as they left them. Redskins and prairie fires had played havoc with their cabins. Little by little, however, they go over their troubles and have since lived unmolested by the Indians. Nor was the time far of when immigration should assume such proportions that all available land was taken up, mostly by Scandinavians.
The first white settlers in the town of Dovre, Kandiyohi county, were Lars Anderson and Sivert Anderson, both of them settling in the year 1857. Soon after came Oscar Erikson, the only survivor of the first settlers. Johan Backlund, Andreas Peterson, Andreas Lorentson and Magnus Anderson took land simultaneously in the more eastern part of the same town, as did in town of Willmar Andrew Nilson and Sven Svenson. The first girl born of white parents in Dovre was Anna Anderson, and the first boy Erik Erikson.
According to official reports, the number of the victims ran up toward seven or eight hundred, soldiers included but old settlers put them at about one thousand. Their graves are adorned by no monuments. Posterity, however, will give them credit for having fallen on a field far nobler then many of those stained by the blood of soldiers in actual warfare. The fall the champions of civilization against barbarity, and the people in Minnesota now reaping the benefits of their sufferings death, will preserve them in kind remembrance.
During the Civil War, in Wyoming, horse dealers Joan Britton (Faith Domergue) and Stephen Cook (Lyle Bettger) are competing to supply the Union Army with horses. A Cherokee, Stan Watie, is in the area to stir up the Sioux against the Union just as Cook decides to steal a herd of Sioux horses. Ex-army doctor Jonathan Westgate (Jeff Chandler) opposes Cook's unscrupulous methods as well as being Cook's rival for the affections of Joan. It seems Westgate is the only one able to prevent a new Indian war.
- as Jonathan Westgate as Joan Britton as Stephen Cook as Ahab Jones as Uriah as Joe Baird
- Stephen Chase as Maj. McKay as Chief Red Cloud as Gen. Stan Watie as Gist
- Julia Montoya as Heyoka
- Ray Bennett as Sgt. Manners
- Dewey Drapeau as Teo-Ka-Ha as Ray as Lee as Sam
- Clem Fuller as Jake
In 1952 Jeff Chandler signed a new contract with Universal which doubled his salary. The Great Sioux Uprising was the first film under the new agreement.  Alexis Smith and Stephen McNally were meant to co star with Chandler.  Eventually Smith was replaced by Faith Domergue.  McNally's wife then fell ill and he asked to withdraw from the film he was replaced by Lyle Bettger.  Filming took place in Portland and Pendleton, Oregon. 
- ^ 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1953', Variety, January 13, 1954
- ^ "FILM UNIT OPPOSES FOREIGN VENTURES: A.F.L. Council Opens Campaign to Halt Cheaper Production Abroad by U. S. Studios". New York Times. July 10, 1952. p. 27.
- "U.-I. SELECTS CAST FOR NEW PICTURE: Alexis Smith, Stephen McNally and Jeff Chandler to Star in 'Sioux Uprising ' ". New York Times. July 26, 1952. p. 9.
- THOMAS M. PRYOR (Sep 10, 1952). "ROGERS JR. AGREES TO DO SECOND FILM: Will Star at Warners in 'Boy From Oklahoma' – Wyman Set for New Role at Columbia". New York Times. p. 34.
- THOMAS M. PRYOR (Sep 22, 1952). "MARTA TOREN FLIES TO ROME FOR FILM: She Will Co-Star With Italian Actor in 'Life of Puccini,' to Be Produced in Color". New York Times. p. 19.
- "The Great Sioux Uprising (1953)". Turner Classic Movies . Retrieved May 4, 2018 .
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Sioux Uprising - History
When the state of Minnesota recently celebrated its 150th Anniversary of statehood in 2008, this bitter war between white settlers and Native Americans was revisited in depth in the media, public forums and observances. It’s clear that many of the old wounds inflicted so many years ago still cause pain.
The Dakota War of 1862, (or the Sioux Uprising) began in a southern area of Minnesota near the present city of Mankato. In a location near the Minnesota River, a hunting party of four Dakota Sioux killed five white settlers. It was the spark that flared a wide scale decision by the Dakota Sioux to bring full-scale war against the United States.
The first killings of settlers by the Sioux were the culmination of more than 10 years of frustration beginning in 1851, when the United States government signed two treaties with the Dakota Sioux. These were the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, signed on July 23, 1851, and the Treaty of Mendota, signed on August 5, 1851.
Both treaties were a raw deal for the Native Americans, but decades of conflict with white settlers had depleted the numbers, strengths and resources of Indian nations in that region. They had little choice but to make peace and accept the terms of the treaties – which ceded vast areas of Indian territory to the U.S. in exchange for money and supplies.
The Dakota Sioux were relegated to an area by the Minnesota River that was about 20 miles wide, and which ran up and down the river for about 150 miles.
This would have been bad enough, except that a combination of actions by U.S. Senate and local Indian agents immediately began to violate the terms of the two treaties. For one, the Senate eliminated Article 3 of the one of the treaty unbeknownst to the Sioux. This reduced considerably what they were to receive under the terms of the original agreements.
Cheated on Money and Supply
Furthermore, the money and supplies they were to receive often got siphoned off by Indian agents, bureaucrats and various middlemen – in effect, the Dakota Sioux had not only given up 98% of the land that had once belonged to them, but they were now getting cheated out of what little compensation they had been promised. All this, and settlers continued to encroach upon land that belonged to the Dakota.
The result was that living conditions on the Indian Reservation became unbearable. There was starvation, poverty and hopelessness. And so in the summer of 1862 anger among Sioux warriors flared into violence. After the first five settlers were killed, the Dakota met in a war council wherein they agreed to prosecute a full-scale war on the whites. The goal was to drive them out of Minnesota.
The Beginning of the War
The leader of the Dakota Sioux was Little Crow. It was he who had negotiated the Traverse and Mendota treaties. On August 18, a day after the first five settlers were killed, Little Crow led a small force to attack the Lower Sioux Redwood Agency, killing at least one person there, but unwittingly allowing most of the people to escape across the Minnesota River.
The escapees of the Redwood Agency attack alerted the Minnesota volunteer military forces who mounted an attack on Little Crow’s position there. The Minnesota army volunteers were defeated in what is known as the Battle of Redwood Ferry, which killed 24 Minnesota militia men.
This event triggered off a series of raids and attacks on white settlers in a much wider area along the Minnesota River. Numerous settlers were killed and others driven off their land. Small towns and cabins were burned and farm sites were raided for food and belongings. This begin a string of victories of the Dakota Sioux warriors. They sacked a number of larger towns, including New Ulm, Minnesota, and conquered several forts in the region.
The Spread of the Rebellion
The fighting in the south of Minnesota sparked off other conflict around the state, both in the far north and even in what is now Manitoba in Canada.
The fact that the Dakota Wars began during the Civil War purchased the rebelling Indians some time. Military men and supplies were heavily committed to the national war effort. Nevertheless, local Minnesota militias with the help of federal troops eventually organized a large, well-armed force to counter the Dakota uprising.
The first large-scale fighting began in late September 1862. A well-equipped army consisting of elements of the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 9th and 10th Minnesota Volunteer infantry Regiment met a force of the Dakota Sioux in Yellow Medicine County. Here was fought the Battle of Wood Lake, which was an utter defeat for the Sioux. Armed with a 10-inch cannon and superior firepower, the Minnesota volunteers were able to inflict heavy casualties on the Sioux, including the death of Chief Mankato, who was killed by a cannon ball.
By the time whites and the Dakota engaged in the Battle of Wood Lake, their uprising had been about a month old and already running out of steam. The Dakota Sioux surrendered and ended their conflict on Sept. 26. Thus, the Dakota War of 1862 lasted scarcely more than a month. It is estimated that 800 white settlers were killed during the month.
What happened in the aftermath of the war is as much a source of ongoing bitterness as the conflict itself. Hundreds of the Dakota involved in the war were rounded up and imprisoned and tried in military tribunals. More than 300 of them were convicted of murder and rape and were given a death sentence. On December 26, 1862, the day after Christmas, 38 Dakota Sioux were hung in Mankato.
The 38 hangings are still the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The mass hangings were conducted in public and all on a single platform. The bodies of the dead were buried in a trench near the Minnesota River.
Many of the other Dakota warriors who escaped hanging were imprisoned or deported to other states. About one-third of those imprisoned died during their incarceration under extremely harsh conditions.
After the war, all remaining Dakota Sioux in Minnesota were deported to other states, most of them to South Dakota, North Dakota and some to Nebraska and Iowa. Chief Little Crow survived the war and the military tribunal, but was killed about a year later in an armed skirmish with a Minnesota settler.
Dec. 26, 1862: Mass Execution of Dakota Indians
Little Crow, a chief of the Mdewakanton Sioux Vannerson, Julian lead his people in the Great Sioux Uprising in Minnesota 1862.
On Dec. 26, 1862, 38 Dakota Indians were executed by the U.S. government during the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 (also known as the Sioux Uprising, Dakota Uprising).
Minnesota was a new frontier state in 1862, where white settlers were pushing out the Dakota Indians—also called the Sioux. A series of broken peace treaties culminated in the failure of the United States that summer to deliver promised food and supplies to the Indians, partial payment for their giving up their lands to whites.
The Indians responded in the Santee Sioux uprising, killing 490 white settlers. The Dakota were executed for their role in the war of self-defense. As Wiener notes,
[President Abraham] Lincoln’s treatment of defeated Indian rebels against the United States stood in sharp contrast to his treatment of Confederate rebels. He never ordered the executions of any Confederate officials or generals after the Civil War, even though they killed more than 400,000 Union soldiers.
To learn more, we recommend the U.S. Dakota War website and an edition of This American Life, Little War on the Prairie, by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen says, nobody ever talked about the most important historical event ever to happen there: in 1862, it was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged after a war with white settlers. John went back to Minnesota to figure out what really happened 150 years ago, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it much after.
Find a description of the segment with teaching resources in a blog by Debbie Reese on American Indians in Children’s Literature.
Andrew Jackson and the “Children of the Forest”
Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow.
A lesson in which students develop critical literacy skills by responding to Andrew Jackson’s speech on “Indian Removal.”
Standing with Standing Rock: A Role Play on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Teaching Activity. By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, Bill Bigelow, and Andrew Duden. Article by Ursula Wolfe-Rocca. 15 pages. Rethinking Schools.
A role play helps students recognize the issues at stake in the historic struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux to block construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People
Book – Non-fiction. By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz adapted by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza. 2019. 244 pages.
The original academic text is fully adapted by renowned curriculum experts Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza, for middle-grade and young adult readers.
Native American Activism: 1960s to Present
Overview of Native American activism since the late 1960s, including protests at Mt. Rushmore, Alcatraz, Standing Rock, and more.
Unlearning “Indian” Stereotypes
Slideshow on DVD. 1977, updated in 2008. Rethinking Schools and the Council on Interracial Books for Children.
Native American history through the eyes of Native American children.
American Indians in Children’s Literature
Website. By Debbie Reese.
Critical perspectives of Indigenous peoples in children’s books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society-at-large.