On August 17, 1862, four Dakota Indians began a massacre of white settlers at a farm near Acton. The event left five settlers dead. The cause of this massacre stems from politics between the Indians and the whites. However, this event was said to be caused by a basket of eggs.
The four Dakota Indians were hunting for food and had come up empty handed. They noticed a basket of eggs near a farm and when one Indian reached to take the eggs, another one stopped him. The morals of the event were heavy in one's head and he advised his friend to not take the eggs because they were not rightfully his and had belonged to the farmer. When questioned about if he feared the white man, the Dakota man stated that he would kill any white that stood in his way if he had the company of his brothers.
The four Dakota marched into the farm and killed the five white settlers that resided at the farm.The farm that this happened at was the Baker Farm.
Illustration of Baker Farm Massacre
What started this?
The Baker Farm massacre was the flame to the fire but what was the gasoline? What had built up the hatred for the Dakota Indians against the white man?
You have to remember at this era in U.S. History, many white settlers were getting land grants to move west. Minnesota was not very different and the territory was just settled and had become a state in 1858. During this time, the white man was taking away land from the natives and forcing them to live on reservations.
The U.S. Government was paying annuities to the Dakota for the land that was being settled. The territories of Southern Minnesota, sections of South Dakota, and Northern Iowa were bought by the U.S. Government in the Treaty of the Traverse de Sioux (Crossing Point of the Sioux) on July 23, 1851. This treaty came at the price of 1.665 million dollars!
The U.S. Government also gained a large section of land in the Treaty of Mendota, where two more bands of Dakota Indians ceded sections of Southeastern Minnesota for the price tag of 1.41 million dollars.
However in August 1862, payments were late and there were rumors that the payments were not going to be gold like usual. The Civil War was ongoing and taking much of the government's resources. The Dakota demanded that these payments be made directly to the tribes rather through traders in future payments because the time delay was too much and they believed the traders were taking a cut of the money.
The reservations that the Dakota were on had wide spread hunger and starvation. When the Dakota held a meeting with the traders to resolve this issue, a trader by the name of Andrew Myrick stood up and said, "So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass!"
Later that month, the Baker Family would pay the price for Myrick's words.
The Dakota Indians had decided that war was their best option and since four young Dakota men already had added a flame to the fuel, things were quickly spinning out of control.
On August 18, 1862, Dakota Indians killed 44 Americans and captured 10 when federal troops went to the Redwood Agency in hopes of supressing the uprising.
On August 19, 1862, Minnesota's first Governor, Ramsey, appoints Colonel Henry Sibley as the leader of the American volunteer troops. This same day, the Dakota attack New Ulm, Minnesota and force the survivors into a barricaded area on main street. 16 settlers die in these attacks.
The next day, during a two day span, the Dakota focus their attention on Fort Ridgely, near New Ulm but the fort is successfully defended. Unsuccessful in their attacks, the Dakota turn back to the city of New Ulm.
650 Dakota attack the town and raze the hell of the town. Most of the town's buildings are burned. 34 settlers are killed, 60 are wounded, but in the end, the Dakota are chased out of the town by the volunteer troops from Fort Ridgely.
On August 25, now knowing that New Ulm was a major target in the Dakota's plans, about 2,000 citizens of New Ulm set up wagons and head towards the city of Mankato, which is about 30 miles away. The caravan of wounded men, children, and women take up 153 wagons.
The Battle of Birch Coulee
The Battle of Birch Coulee (near Morton, MN) takes place on September 2, 1862. 150 troops and 100 horses were sent from Fort Ridgely to check on bands of Indians in the area, bury settlers that were found dead, and bring a report back to Colonel Henry Sibley. Basically they were recon.
The troops set up camp for the night on flat land. There were woods in an L shape around the camp and this gave the Dakota a huge advantage. The Dakota waited for the American troops to get rest and planned their assault at dawn. Immediately as the sun rose, the Indians approached the camp. The American forces tried to gather themselves but the Dakota slaughtered them almost instantly. The fighting went on for 3 hours almost and the battle was heard 16 miles away at Camp Ridgely. Colonel Sibley sent out 240 more troops to assist at the battle but when the men arrived, they were shocked to see what they did.
What they arrived to were a few survivors of the 150 men, 90 dead horses, and only 2 dead Dakota warriors. This was the largest loss the American troops ever faced during the Sioux Uprising.
The Battle of Wood Lake
The Battle of Wood Lake took place on September 23, 1862. It took the U.S. forces 19 days to recover and plan how to avoid what happened at Birch Coulee. Colonel Sibley set out with 1,500 volunteer troops from Fort Ridgely to put down the uprising. As they neared the Wood Lake area, the American troops were ambushed by 700 Sioux warriors.
The Battle of Wood Lake had begun. Both major players on both teams were involved; Colonel Sibley for the American troops and Chief Little Crow for the Santee, or Sioux.
During this battle, Chief Mankato was killed by a cannon ball to the stomach that he was too proud to dodge. What is relevant to him in this story is that the present city of Mankato is derived from the same source as his name. While the city was not named after this Mdewakanton Sioux chief, the term "Mankato" is derived from the word Sioux word, "Makawto" which means Blue Earth. The city of Mankato is in Blue Earth County. There is a rumor floating about that the actual Sioux word for Blue Earth was "Mahkato" and when they filled out the paperwork for the structure of the city, the "H" was shortened by sloppy handwriting and thought to be a "N." History proves this rumor to not be true.
At the end of this fight, the U.S. forces inflicted heavy casualties to the Dakota forces and this battle was considered the first decisive victory for the American soldiers since the uprising began.
Enough is enough...
Three days after the Battle of Wood Lake, Colonel Sibley marches into the Dakota camp and takes 1200 Dakota men, women, and children into custody. In the next few weeks, over 800 Dakota surrender. The conflict lasted for 37 days and took the lives of 500 Americans and 60 Dakota warriors.
Sibley appoints a five-member military commission to try the Dakota in custody for charges of "murder, rape, and other outrages." Sixteen trials take place that day. The commission finds ten Dakota guilty and sentenced to be hung. Six are acquitted. During the next six weeks, 383 Dakota are tried.
President Lincoln hears of the Dakota trials at his cabinet meeting on October 14, 1862. He and the cabinet are appalled by the report prepared by General Pope and move to prevent horrible actions from taking place.
On October 17, the news from Lincoln reaches Sibley that states that no execution take place without Presidential sanction.
On November 3, the last of the 393 trials take place. The end result show that 303 Sioux Indians are guilty and are to be executed by hanging. The 303 condemned captives are moved from the Lower Agency to Camp Lincoln, which was set up near Mankato. The caravan that is transporting the captives is ambushed by an angry mob and a few Dakota are killed and other injured. Meanwhile, the 1700 uncondemned Sioux are moved to Fort Snelling in St. Paul.
On December 4, the angry mob appears once more at Camp Lincoln and attacks. The security issue becomes a major concern and President Lincoln issues that only 39 of the 303 Dakota are to be executed on December 6. The execution of one Dakota is suspended due to new evidence that proves he might be innocent and this cuts the number down to 38. President Lincoln had cut the number down due to two basic factors; who was just a warrior in the battles and those who committed murder and rape to innocent civilians.
On Christmas Eve 1862, the 38 condemned Dakota warriors meet with their families for one last time.
Dark history is made
On December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men are lead up scaffolding to 38 nooses. The men are all singing and chanting Dakota songs. Three drum beats signal the moment of the execution. The crowds cheered and things were thrown at the condemned Dakota.
One execution cut a single rope that tied into each of the 38 nooses and all 38 were executed instantly and together. It truly was a mass execution, in fact, it was the largest mass execution in U.S. History!
Minnesota currently does not believe in the death penalty but it is a hidden aspect of our history that we did the largest. The Dakota Conflict of 1862 was a dark time, not only for Minnesota but also for the whole country. The way that the Dakota, as well as other Native American bands, was unjust and often times unmorale.
One example of how unmorale the Dakota were treated includes the way that the 38 Dakota were "disposed" of after the hangings. All 38 men were piled into a single grave on the edge of Mankato! This single grave was said to be a sandbar in the Minnesota River.
That brings the question up of was it right or wrong to do the "burial" in that way? These men were rapists and murders so they must have deserved to be treated that way. Or should human rights play a part in that? Was it done that way because they were Dakota?
The single grave was visited by grave robbers. One notable grave robber that would later go on to be considered a "good man in Minnesota history" was William Worrall Mayo. William Mayo is probaby best known as the English medical doctor and chemist who would go on to found the world renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
The story goes that Mayo had dug up the body of Cut Nose, the Dakota who he had previous encounters with during the time they both were alive. He took the body back to his home in Le Sueur and dissected it with colleagues. He then cleaned, dried, varnished, and displayed the skeleton so that the "students could benefit from it."
The Sioux Wars would continue in South Dakota from 1863 until the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890.
How does this affect present day?
So how does the Sioux Uprising of 1862 affect today's life almost 140 years later? Well it shows how the major players of the era affected history. Many of these people were influential and if you live around Southern Minnesota, you might see some places that bear their names or understand the origins of the names.
Colonel Henry Hastings Sibley would go on to be the first elected governor of Minnesota. Alexander Ramsey was the first governor of Minnesota but he was appointed. (Ramsey's namesake lies in Ramsey County.)
Sibley's name sakes include: the towns of Hastings, Minnesota; Sibley, Iowa; Sibley county in Minnesota; Henry Hastings Sibley High School in Mendota, MN. Sibley State Park near New London, MN is also named after Colonel Sibley. Mankato's Sibley Park also is derived from his name.
You also have William Mayo digging up the bodies of the condemned Sioux. What exactly was gained from his experiment and dissection of Cut Nose is not known. William Mayo did learn a lot of medical knowledge in his time here obviously as he set up the world famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
President Lincoln also was involved in this affair. It showed that he was involved in more than just the Emancipation Proclaimation and freeing the slaves. He also had to deal with the Sioux Uprising. My research did not show if President Abraham Lincoln ever made a trip to Mankato to see the camp that bore his name but if he did, knowing that you walk in the same spots that a great President once did can give you chills.
Speaking of giving you chills because of a location that has historical significance, the location where the executions took place are located in Mankato. Not many people know exactly where even if they know about the Dakota Conflict at all. The location of the hangings is someplace that thousands of people visit every single day and is probably a part of many's daily lives.
The hangings that took the lives of 38 Sioux Indians and recorded the largest mass execution in U.S. History took place on the very ground that is Riverfont Drive and Main.
The Blue Earth County Library sits upon this area and the city of Mankato has placed various statues to remember those that were tried and hanged. These statues include a Sioux warrior and a buffalo. The grounds also hold a Holiday Inn, the Alltel Center, and the Mankato City Hall.
I suggest that if you are interested from this article to see what other local spots were affected during the Sioux Uprising, to definitely do more research. So many local towns and areas were affected by the uprising. There is so much that this article has missed as far as specific details that are out there about the Sioux Uprising. It's amazing how chronicled the event was and still is to this day 140 years later!
I know that the group has been to one location in New Ulm that served as a hospital for those that were wounded there as well as also serving as a Dakota poorhouse prior to being a hospital.
History can be interesting especially when you find out that it does affect your daily life!