I have posted previously on the disparity between December 1862 and July 1863, when Minnesota soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice in historic numbers to turn the tide at Gettysburg. But the last semester of college included history of the American Indian. From my research paper for the class-
Revisionist historians like to point to the mass execution as proof of the guilt that all white men should feel towards Native Americans, but completely lost is the fact that Indians drew first blood. And second, and third. This Indian uprising came during the midpoint of the civil war, when many of the men in the area had been mustered into federal service. This left the settlers in southern Minnesota weak and vulnerable to Sioux attacks.
In 1851, the Dakota Sioux and the US government signed several treaties that gave large areas of present day Minnesota to the US government, while giving the Dakota money, goods, and a guarantee to a large reservation along the Minnesota River in western Minnesota. Little of the money and goods actually reached the Dakota, and in 1858 when the Minnesota territory became a state, several Dakota chiefs tried to persuade Washington to enforce the treaties as written. The US agreed, but required the Dakota to cede some of the reservation, mostly prime hunting and agricultural land, back to the state of Minnesota. This left the Dakota dangerously dependent on cash payments from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to purchase food and supplies.
In 1862, after several years of unreliable payments from the government, food shortages and massive crop failure on the reservation, the Dakota were facing starvation. When a government agency refused to sell them food on credit until their government payment arrived, some Dakota turned to violence and killed nearby white settlers in order to steal their food. With the excitement of their success, and possibly also because the US military was preoccupied with the ever expanding Civil War, the Dakota held a war council and approved the use of force and violence to drive the white settlers out of land that had traditionally belonged to the Dakota. In the minds of the Dakota, the treaty with the US was no longer in effect because the government had not lived up to its side of the bargain. The Dakota Uprising of 1862 had begun.
On August 18th, the Dakota attacked the government building where they had been refused in their attempt to buy food and supplies. They killed several officials and burned the building down. After a Minnesota militia unit sent in to quell the uprising was routed with heavy casualties, the war parties ravaged several towns in the area of the lower Minnesota River, killing settlers and burning whole towns. Over the next several days, large war parties attacked and temporarily laid siege to the town of New Ulm and attacked the nearby Fort Ridgely. They also attacked settlers in a large area of western Minnesota and into the Dakota Territory. Other Dakota tribes attacked trading and stagecoach routes north of Saint Paul and on the Red River in north western Minnesota. Estimates on the number of settlers killed vary, from as low as 400 to as high as 1000.
While small American military units were sent in as reinforcements wherever available, the bulk of the reinforcements sent by Washington did not arrive in the area until late in September. The majority of these units were Minnesota volunteers that had been training in preparation for the Civil War. Two full regiments, approximately 700 men and one small canon were finally able to engage the main Dakota war party on September 23rd. The Dakota were decisively defeated, and the uprising quickly ended. Three days later, most of the surviving warriors surrendered, and they were held until military tribunals were held in November.
By early December, 303 Sioux had been found guilty of various charges of rape, murder, and warfare against the United States and sentenced to death. But because of the lax standards used during the tribunals (some lasted as little as five minutes and were not translated for the Indians accused), President Lincoln personally intervened and commuted 264 death sentences and granted one reprieve. The remaining 39 Dakota were hanged the day after Christmas in 1862, in the town of Mankato. It remains the largest mass execution in American history.
The aftermath of the uprising would be no less than devastating to the Dakota. Over 1600 men, women and children were interned in a camp near Fort Snelling over the winter of 1862-1863. Hundreds perished from disease. The following April, Congress declared all treaties with the Dakota Sioux to be null and void and ordered the banishment of all Sioux from the state of Minnesota. The internees were relocated to the Dakota Territory and were warned that they would be shot on sight if they set foot in Minnesota again.
It is also important to note that 10 times as many settlers were killed by Indian attacks than were executed in Mankato almost 150 years ago. White men, white women, and white children were slaughtered by roving bands of Dakota men, yet no lefty bloggers weep for them. The left would have us believe that the Indians were innocent of any wrongdoing, while the white man deserves all the blame. In truth, each side is to blame, and each side suffered for it.
The research paper, by the way, got an A, 98 out of 100.