Militia, Battles and Unrest
Source: Encyclopedia of Biography of Minnesota, History of Minnesota
by Judge Charles E. Flandreau, 1900,
transcribed by Mary Kay Krogman
- TOPICS INCLUDED:
- Wright County War
- Civil War
- Indian War of 1862
- Attack on Fort Ridgely
- Battle of New Ulm
- Battle of Birch Coulie
- Meeker County
- Battle of Wood Lake
- Fort Abercrombie
- Camp Release
- Trial of the Indians
- Execution of 38 Condemned Indians
- The Campaign of 1863
- Battle of Big Mound
- Battle of Dead Buffalo Lake
- Battle of Stony Lake
- Campaign of 1864
During the Territorial times there were a few volunteer militia companies in St. Paul, conspicuously the Pioneer Guard, an infantry company, which, from its excellent organization and discipline, became a source of supply of officers when regiments were being raised for the Civil War. To have been a member of that company was worth at least a captain's commission in the volunteer army, and many officers of much higher rank were chosen from its members.
There was also a company of cavalry at St. Paul, commanded by Capt. James Starkey, called the "St. Paul Light Cavalry." Also the "Shields Guards," commanded by Capt. John O'Gorman. There may have been others, but I do not remember them. The services of the Pioneer Guards and the cavalry company were called into requisition on two occasions, once in 1857 and again in 1859. During the summer of 1857 the settlers near Cambridge and Sunrise complained that the Chippewas were very troublesome. Governor Medary ordered Captain Starkey to take part of his company and arrest the Indians who were committing depredations, and send the remainder of them to their reservation. The Captain took twenty men, and on August 24, 1857, started for the scene of the trouble. On the 28th he overtook some six or seven Indians, and in their attempt to escape a collision occurred, in which a young man, a member of Starkey's company, named Frank Donnelly, was instantly killed. The troops succeeded in killing one of the Indians, wounding another and capturing four more, when they returned to St. Paul, bringing with them the dead, wounded and prisoners. The dead were buried, the wounded healed and the prisoners discharged by Judge Nelson on a writ of habeas corpus.
The general sentiment of the community was that the expedition was unnecessary and should never have been made. This affair was facetiously called the "Corn-stalk War."
THE WRIGHT COUNTY WAR.
In the fall of 1858 a man named Wallace was killed in Wright county. Oscar F. Jackson was tried for the murder in the spring of 1859 and acquitted by a jury. Public sentiment was against him and he was warned to leave the county. He did not heed the admonition and on April 25 a mob assembled and hung Jackson to the gable end of Wallace's cabin. Governor Sibley offered a reward for the conviction of any of the lynchers. Shortly afterwards, one Emery Moore was arrested as being implicated in the affair. He was taken to Wright county for trial and at once rescued by a mob. The Governor sent three companies of the militia to Monticello to arrest the offenders and preserve order, the Pioneer Guards being among them. This force, aided by a few special officers of the law, arrested eleven of the lynchers and rescuers and turned them over to the civil authorities, and on the 11th of August, 1859, having completed their mission, returned to St. Paul. As there was no war or bloodshed of any kind connected with this expedition it was called the "Wright County War."
Governor Sibley, having somewhat of a military tendency, appointed as his adjutant general Alexander C. Jones, who was a graduate of the Virginia Military Academy and captain of the Pioneer Guards. Under this administration a very complete militia bill was passed on the 12th day of August, 1858. Minnesota from that time on had a very efficient militia system, until the establishment of the National Guard, which made some changes in its general character, supposed to be for the better.
THE CIVIL WAR.
Nothing of any special importance occurred during the years 1859 and 1860 in Minnesota. The State continued to grow in population and wealth at an extraordinary pace, but in a quiet and unobtrusive way. The politics of the Nation had been for some time much disturbed between the North and the South on the question of slavery, and threats of secession from the Union made by the slave-holding States. The election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States in 1800 precipitated the impending revolution, and on the 14th of April, 1861, Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, was fired upon by the revolutionists, which meant war between the two sections of the country. I will only relate such events in connection with the Civil War which followed as are especially connected with Minnesota.
When the news of the firing upon Fort Sumter reached Washington, Alexander Ramsey, then Governor of Minnesota, was in that city. He immediately called on the President of the United States and tendered the services of the people of Minnesota in defense of the Republic, thus giving to the State the enviable position of being the first to come to the front. The offer of a regiment was accepted, and the Governor sent a dispatch to Lieutenant Governor Ignatius Donnelly, who, on the 16th of April, issued a proclamation giving notice that volunteers would be received at St. Paul for one regiment of infantry composed of ten companies, each of sixty-four privates, one captain, two lieutenants, four sergeants, four corporals and one bugler, and that the volunteer companies already organized, upon complying with these requirements as to the numbers and officers, would be entitled to be first received.
Immediately following this announcement, which, of course, meant war, great enthusiasm was manifested all over the State. Public meetings were held in all the cities; almost every man capable of doing soldier duty wanted to go, and those who were unable, for any reason, to go in person subscribed funds for the support of the families of those who volunteered. The only difficulty the authorities met with was an excess of men over those needed. There were a good many Southerners residing in the State, who were naturally controlled in their sentiments by their geographical affinities, but they behaved very well and caused no trouble. They either entered the service of the South or held their peace. I can recall but one instance of a Northern man who had breathed the free air of Minnesota going over to the South, and the atrocity of his case was aggravated by the fact that he was an officer in the United States army. I speak of Major Pemberton, who, at the breaking out of the war, was stationed at Fort Ridgely in this State, in command of a battery of artillery. He was ordered to Washington to aid in the defense of the capital, but before reaching his destination resigned his commission and tendered his sword to the enemy. I think he was a citizen of Pennsylvania. It was he who surrendered Vicksburg to the United States army, July 4, 1863.
The first company raised under the call of the State was made up of young men of St. Paul and commanded by William H. Acker, who had been Adjutant General of the State. He was wounded at the first battle of Bull Run and killed at the battle of Shiloh, as captain of a company of the Sixteenth Regular Infantry. Other companies quickly followed in tendering their services.
On the last Monday in April a camp for the first regiment was opened at Fort Snelling, and Capt. Anderson D. Nelson of the United States army mustered the regiment into the service. On the 27th of April John B. Sanborn, then Adjutant General of the State, in behalf of the Governor, issued the following order: "The Commander-in-chief expresses his gratification at the prompt response to the call of the President of the United States upon the militia of Minnesota, and his regret that under the present requisition for only ten companies it is not possible to accept the services of all the companies offered."
The order then enumerates the ten companies which have been accepted, and instructs them to report at Fort Snelling, and recommends that the companies not accepted maintain their organization and perfect their drill, and that patriotic citizens throughout the State continue to enroll themselves and be ready for any emergency.
The Governor, on May 3, sent a telegram to the President, offering a second regiment.
The magnitude of the rebellion becoming rapidly manifest at Washington, the Secretary of War, Mr. Cameron, on the 7th of May, sent the following telegram to Governor Ramsey:
"It is decidedly preferable that all the regiments from your State, not already actually sent forward, should be mustered into the service for three years, or during the war. If any persons belonging to the regiments already mustered for three months, but not yet actually sent forward, should be unwilling to serve for three years, or during the war, could not their places be filled by others willing to serve?"
A great deal of correspondence passed between Lieutenant Governor Donnelly at St. Paul and Governor Ramsey at Washington over the matter, which resulted in the First Minnesota Regiment being mustered into the service of the United States for three years, or during the war, on the 11th day of May, 1861. Willis A. Gorman, second Governor of the Territory, was appointed colonel of the First. The Colonel was a veteran of the Mexican War. The regiment when first mustered in was without uniform, except that some of the companies had red shirts and some blue, but there was no regularity whatever. This was of small consequence, as the material of the regiment was probably the best ever collected into one body. It included companies of lumbermen, accustomed to camp life and enured to hardships; men of splendid physique, experts with the axe; men who could make a road through a forest or swamp, build a bridge over a stream, run a steamboat, repair a railroad or perform any of the duties that are thrust upon an army on the march and in the field. There are no men in the world so well equipped naturally and without special preparation for the life of a soldier, as the American of the West. He is perfectly familiar with the use of firearms. From his varied experience he possesses more than an average intelligence. His courage goes without saying, and, to sum him up, he is the most all-around handy man on earth.
On May 25th the ladies of Saint Paul presented the regiment with a handsome set of silk colors. The presentation was made at the State Capitol by Mrs. Ramsey, the wife of the Governor. The speech was made on behalf of the ladies by Captain Stansbury, of the United States Army, and responded to by Colonel Gorman in a manner fitting the occasion.
On the 21st of June the regiment, having been ordered to Washington, embarked on the steamers "Northern Belle" and "War Eagle" at Fort Snelling for their journey. Before leaving the Fort the chaplain, Rev. Edward D. Neill, delivered a most impressive address, concluding as follows:"Soldiers: If you would be obedient to God you must honor him who has been ordained to lead you forth. Your colonel's will must be your will. If, like the Roman centurion, he says 'Go,' you must go. If he says 'Come,' come you must. God grant you all the Hebrew's enduring faith, and you will be sure to have the Hebrew's valor. Now with the Hebrew's benediction, I close.
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen."
The peace the good chaplain asked the Lord to give to the regiment was that peace which flows from duty well performed, and a conscience free from self-censure. Judging from the excellent record made by that regiment, it enjoyed this kind of peace to the fullest extent, but it had as little of the other kind of peace as any regiment in the service.
The regiment reached Washington early in duly and went into camp near Alexandria in Virginia. It took part in the first battle of the war, at Bull Run, and from there to the end of the war was engaged in many battles, always with credit to itself and honor to its State. It was conspicuously brave and useful at the great conflict at Gettysburg, and the service it there performed made its fame world-wide. In what I say of the First Regiment, I must not be understood to lessen the fame of the other ten regiments and other organizations that Minnesota sent to the war, all of which, with the exception of the Third, made for themselves records of gallantry and soldierly conduct, which Minnesota will ever hold in the highest esteem. But the First, probably because it was the first, and certainly because of its superb career, will always be the pet and especial pride of the State.
The misfortunes of the Third Regiment will be spoken of separately.
The first conception of the rebellion by the authorities in Washington was that it could be suppressed in a short time; but they had left out of the estimate the fact that they had to dial with Americans, who can always be counted on for a stubborn fight when they decide to have one. And as the magnitude of the war impressed itself upon the government, continuous calls for troops were made, to all of which Minnesota responded promptly, until she had in the field the following military organizations:Eleven full regiments of infantry.
The first and second companies of sharpshooters.
One regiment of mounted rangers, recruited for the Indian War.
The Second Regiment of cavalry.
Hatche's Independent Battalion of Cavalry for Indian War.
Brackett's Battalion of cavalry.
One regiment of heavy artillery.
The First, Second and Third Batteries of Light Artillery.
There were embraced in these twenty-one military organizations 22,070 officers and men who were withdrawn from the forces of civil industry and remained away for several years. Yet, notwithstanding Ibis abnormal drain on the industrial resources of so young a State, to which must be added the exhaustive effects of the Indian War, which broke out within her borders in 1862, and lasted several years, Minnesota continued to grow in population and wealth throughout it all, and came out of these war afflictions strengthened and invigorated.
THE THIRD REGIMENT.
Recruiting for the Third Regiment commenced early in the fall of 1861, and was completed by the 15th of November, on which day it consisted of nine hundred and one men all told, including officers. On the 17th of November, 1861, it embarked at Fort Snelling for its destination in the South, on the steamboats Northern Belle, City Belle and Frank Steele. It landed at St. Paul and marched through the city, exciting the admiration of the people, it being an unusually fine aggregation of men. It embarked on the same day and departed for the South, carrying with it the good wishes and hopes of every citizen of the State. It was then commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Smith, and afterwards by Col. Henry C. Lester, who was promoted to its command from a captaincy in the First, and joined his regiment at Shepardsville. Colonel Lester was a man of prepossessing appearance, handsome, well-informed, modest and attractive. He soon brought his regiment up to a high standard of drill and discipline, and especially devoted himself to its appearance for cleanliness and deportment, so that his regiment became remarkable in these particulars. By the 12th of July the Third became brigaded with the Ninth Michigan, the Eighth and Twenty-third Kentucky, forming the Twenty-third Brigade under Col. W. W. Duffield of the Ninth Michigan, and was stationed at Murfreesboro in Tennessee. For two months Colonel Duffield had been absent, and the brigade and other forces at Murfreesboro had been commanded by Colonel Lester. A day or two before the 13th Colonel Duffield had returned and resumed command of the brigade, and Lester was again in direct command of his regiment. In describing the situation at Murfreesboro on the 13th of July, 1861, Gen. C. C. Andrews, the author of the History of the Third Regiment, in the State War Book, at page 152, says:"The force of enlisted men fit for duty at Murfreesboro was fully one thousand. Forest reported that the whole number of enlisted men captured, taken to McMinnville and paroled, was between 1,100 and 1,200. Our forces, however, were separated. There were five companies, two hundred and fifty strong, of the Ninth Michigan in camp three-fourths of a mile east of the town, on the Liberty turnpike (another company of the Ninth Michigan, forty-two strong, occupied the Court House as a provost guard); near the camp of the Ninth Michigan were eighty men of the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry under Major Seibert, also eighty-one men of the Fourth Kentucky Cavalry under Captain Chilson. More than a mile distant, on the other side of the town, on undulating rocky and shaded ground near Stone river, were nine companies of the Third Minnesota, five hundred strong. Near it also, two sections - four guns - of Hewitt's Kentucky Field Artillery with sixty-four men for duty. Forty-five men of Company C, Third Regiment, under Lieutenant Grummons, had gone the afternoon of July 12th as the guard on a supply train to Shelbyville, and had not returned on the 13th."
Murfreesboro was on the Nashville & Chattanooga railroad. It was a well-built town around a square, in the center of which was the courthouse. There were in the town valuable military stores.
July 13, at daybreak, news arrived at Murfreesboro that the Rebel general, Forest, was about to make an attack on the place, which news was verified by General Forest capturing the picket guard and dashing into the town soon after the news arrived, with a mounted force of 1,500 men. A part of this force charged upon the camp of the Seventh Pennsylvania, then re-formed and charged upon the Ninth Michigan infantry, which made a gallant defense and repulsed the enemy's repeated charges, suffering a loss of eleven killed and eighty-nine wounded. The enemy suffered considerable loss, including a colonel killed, up to about noon, when the Ninth Michigan surrendered. General Crittenden was captured in his quarters about eight o'clock. Almost simultaneous with the first attack, a part of Forest's force moved toward the Third Minnesota, which had sprung up at the first sound of the firing, formed into line, Colonel Lester in command, and with two guns of Hewitt's Battery on each flank, marched in the direction of Murfreesboro. It had not gone more than an eighth of a mile when about three hundred of the enemy appeared, approaching on a gallop. They were moving in some disorder, and appeared to fall back when the Third Regiment came in sight. The latter was at once brought forward into line and the guns of Hewitt's Battery opened fire. The enemy retired out of sight, and the Third advanced to a commanding position in the edge of some timber. A continuous fire was kept up by the guns of Hewitt's Battery, with considerable effect upon the enemy. Up to this time the only ground of discontent that had ever existed in this regiment was that it had never had an opportunity to fight. Probably no regiment was ever more eager to fight in battle than this one. Yet while it was there in line of battle from daylight until about noon, impatiently waiting for the approach of the enemy, or what was better, to be led against him, he was assailing an inferior force of our troops and destroying valuable commissary and quartermaster's stores in town, which our troops were, of course, in honor bound to protect. The regiment was kept standing or lying motionless hour after hour, even while plainly seeing the smoke rising from the burning depot of the United States supplies. While this was going on Colonel Lester sat upon his horse and different officers went to him and entreated him to march the regiment into town. The only response he gave was, "We will see." The enemy made several ineffectual attempts to charge the line held by the Third, but were driven off with loss, which only increased the ardor of the men to get at them. The enemy attacked the camp of the Third, which was guarded by only a few convalescents, teamsters and cooks, and met with a stubborn resistance, but finally succeeded in taking it and burning the tents and property of the officers, after which they hastily abandoned it. The firing at the camp was distinctly heard by the Third Regiment, and Captain Hoyt of Company B asked permission to take his company to protect the camp, but was refused. While the regiment was in this waiting position, having at least five hundred effective men, plenty of ammunition, and burning with anxiety to get at the enemy, a white flag appeared over the crest of a hill, which proved to be a request for Colonel Lester to go into Murfreesboro for a consultation with Colonel Duffield. General Forest carefully displayed his men along the path by which Colonel Lester was to go in a manner so as to impress the Colonel with the idea that he had a much larger force than really existed, and in his demand for surrender he stated that if not acceded to the whole command would be put to the sword, as he could not control his men. This was an old trick of Forest's, which he played successfully on other occasions. From what is known, he had not over one thousand men with which he could have engaged the Third that day.
When Colonel Lester returned to his regiment his mind was fully made up to surrender; a consultation was held with the officers of the regiment, and a vote taken on the question, which resulted in a majority being in favor of fighting and against surrender, but the matter was re-opened and re-argued by the Colonel, and after some of the officers who opposed surrender had left the council and gone to their companies, another vote was taken, which re-suited in favor of the surrender. The officers who, on this final vote, were against surrender were Lieutenant Colonel Griggs and Captains Andrews and Hoyt. Those who voted in favor of surrender were Captains Webster, Gurnee, Preston, Clay and Mills of the Third Regiment, and Captain Hewitt of the Kentucky Battery.
On December 1, an order was made dismissing from the service the five captains of the Third who voted to surrender the regiment, which order was subsequently revoked as to Captain Webster.
The conduct of Colonel Lester on this occasion has been accounted for on various theories. Before this he had been immensely popular with his regiment and also at home in Minnesota, and his prospects were most brilliant. It is hard to believe that he was actuated by cowardice, and harder to conceive him guilty of disloyalty to his country. An explanation of his actions which obtained circulation in Minnesota was that he had fallen in love with a Rebel woman, who exercised such influence and control over him, as to completely hypnotize his will. I have always been a convert to that theory, knowing the man as well as I did, and have settled the question as the French would, by saying "Cherchez la femme."
General Buell characterized the surrender in general orders as one of the most disgraceful examples in the history of wars.
What a magnificent opportunity was presented to some officer of that regiment to immortalize himself by shooting the Colonel through the head while he was ignominiously dallying with the question of surrender, and calling upon the men to follow him against the enemy. There can be very little doubt that such a movement would have resulted in victory, as the men were in splendid condition physically, thoroughly well armed and dying to wipe out the disgrace their Colonel had inflicted upon them. Of course, the man who should inaugurate such a movement must win, or die in the attempt, but in America death with honor is infinitely preferable to life with a suspicion of cowardice, as all who participated in this surrender were well aware.
The officers were all held as prisoners of war and the men paroled on condition of not fighting against the Confederacy during the continuance of the war. The Indian War of 1862 broke out in Minnesota very shortly after the surrender, and the men of the Third were brought to the State for service against the Indians. They participated in the campaign of 1862 and following expeditions. For a full and detailed account of the surrender of the Third consult the history of that regiment in the volume issued by the State, railed "Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars."
It would please the historian to omit this subject entirely did truth permit; but he finds ample solace in the fact that this is the only blot to be found in the long record of brilliant and glorious deeds that compose the military history of Minnesota.
A general summary will show that Minnesota did her whole duty in the Civil War, and that her extreme youth was in no way a drawback to her performance. She furnished to the war in all her military organizations a grand total of 22,970 men. Of this number, six hundred and seven were killed in battle and 1,647 died of disease, making a contribution of 2,254 lives to the cause of the Union, on the part of Minnesota.
Our State was honored by the promotion from her various organizations of the following general officers:
C. P. Adams, Brevet Brigadier General.
C. C. Andrews, Brigadier and Brevet Major General.
John T. Averill, Brevet Brigadier General.
James H. Baker, Brevet Brigadier General.
Theodore E. Barret, Brevet Brigadier General.
Judson W. Bishop, Brevet Brigadier General.
William Colville, Brevet Brigadier General.
Napoleon J. T. Dana, Brevet Brigadier General.
Alonzo J. Edgerton, Brevet Brigadier General.
Willis A. Gorman, Brevet Brigadier General.
Lucius F. Hubbard. Brevet Brigadier General.
Samuel P. Jennison, Brigadier General.
William Le Duc, Brigadier General.
William R. Marshall, Brigadier General.
Robert B. McLaren, Brigadier General.
Stephen Miller, Brigadier General.
John B. Sanborn, Brigadier and Brevet Major General.
Henry H. Sibley, Brigadier and Brevet Major General.
Minor T. Thomas, Brevet Brigadier General.
John E. Tourtellotte, Brevet Brigadier General.
Horatio P. Van Cleve, Brevet Brigadier General.
George N. Morgan, Brevet Brigadier General. PAGE 63
THE INDIAN WAR OF 1862 AND FOLLOWING YEARS.
In 1862 there were in the State of Minnesota four principal bands of Sioux Indians. The Me-de-wa-kon-tons, and Wak-pa-koo-tas, and the Si-si-tons and Wak-pay-tons. The first two bands were known as the Lower Sioux and the last two as the Upper Sioux. These designations arose from the fact that in the sale of their lands to the United States by the treaties of 1851, the lands of the Lower Sioux were situated in the southern part of the State, and those of the upper bands in the northern part, and when a reservation was set apart for their future occupation on the upper waters of the Minnesota river they were similarly located thereon. Their reservation consisted of a strip of land ten miles wide on each side of the Minnesota river, beginning at a point a few miles below Fort Ridgely and extending to the headwaters of the river. The reservation of the lower bands extended up to the Yellow Medicine river; that of the upper bands included all above the last named river. An agent was appointed to administer the affairs of these Indians, whose agencies were established at Redwood for the lower, and at Yellow Medicine for the upper bands. At these agencies the annuities were regularly paid to the Indians, and so continued from the making of the treaties to the year 1802. These bands were wild, very little progress having been made in their civilization, the very nature of the situation preventing very much advance in that line. The whole country to the north and west of their reservation was an open, wild region, extending to the Rocky mountains, inhabited only by the buffalo, which animals ranged in vast herds from British Columbia to Texas. The buffalo was the chief subsistence of the Indians, who naturally frequented their ranges, and only came to the agencies when expecting their payments. When they did come, and the money and goods were not ready for them, which was frequently the case, they suffered great inconvenience and were forced to incur debt with the white traders for their subsistence, all of which tended to create bad feelings between them and the whites. The Indian saw that he had yielded a splendid domain to the whites, and that they were rapidly occupying it. They could not help seeing that the whites were pushing them gradually - I may say rapidly - out of their ancestral possessions and towards the West, which knowledge naturally created a hostile feeling towards the whites. The Sioux were a brave people, and the young fighting men were always making comparisons between themselves and the whites, and bantering each other as to whether they were or were not afraid of them. I made a study of these people for several years, having had them in charge as their agent, and I think understood their feelings and standing towards the whites as well as any one. Much has been said and written about the immediate cause of the outbreak of 1862, but I do not believe that anything can be assigned out of the general course of events that will account for the trouble. Delay, as usual, had occurred in the arrival of the money for the payment which was due in July, 1862. The war was in full force with the South, and the Indians saw that Minnesota was sending thousands of men out of the State to fight the battles of the Union. Major Thomas Galbraith was their agent in the summer of 1862, and being desirous of contributing to the volunteer forces of the government he raised a company of half-breeds on the reservation and started with them for Fort Snelling, the general rendezvous, to have them mustered into service. It was very natural that the Indians who were seeking trouble should look upon this movement as a sign of weakness on the part of the government, and reason that if the United States could not conquer its enemy without their assistance it must be in serious difficulties. Various things of similar character contributed to create a feeling among the Indians that it was a good time to recover their country, redress all their grievances and reestablish themselves as buds of the land. They had ambitious leaders; Little Crow was the principal instigator of war on the whites. He was a man of greater parts than any Indian in the tribe. I had used him on many trying occasions as the captain of my body-guard, and my ambassador to negotiate with other tribes, and always found him equal to any emergency, but on this occasion his ambition ran away with his judgment and led him to fatal results. With all these influences at work, it took but a spark to fire the magazine, and that spark was struck on the 17th day of August, 1862.
A small party of Indians were at Acton, on August 17, and got into a petty controversy with a settler about some eggs, which created a difference of opinion among them as to what they should do, some advocating one course and some another. The controversy led to one Indian saying that the other was afraid of the white man, to resent which, and to prove his bravery, he killed the settler, and the whole family was massacred. When these Indians reached the agency and related their bloody work, those who wanted trouble seized upon the opportunity and insisted that the only way out of the difficulty was to kill all the whites, and on the morning of the 18th of August the bloody work began.
It is proper to say here that some of the Indians who were connected with the missionaries, conspicuously An-pay-tu-tok-a-cha, or John Otherday, and Paul Ma-za-ku-ta-ma-ni, the president of the Hazelwood Republic, of which I have spoken, having learned of the intention of the Indians, informed the missionaries on the night of the 17th, who, to the number of about sixty, fled eastward to Hutchinson, in McLeod county, and escaped. The next morning, being the 18th of August, the Indians commenced the massacre of the whites, and made clean work of all at the agencies. They then separated into small squads of from five to ten and spread over the country to the south, east and southeast, attacking the settlers in detail at their homes and continued this work during all of the 18th and part of the 19th of August until they had murdered in cold blood quite one thousand people - men, women and children. The way the work was conducted was as follows: The party of Indians would call at the house of a settler and the Indians being well known, this would cause no alarm. They would await a good opportunity and shoot the man of the family, then butcher the women and children, and, after carrying off everything that they thought valuable to them, they would burn the house, proceed to the next homestead and repeat the performance. Occasionally some one would escape and spread the news of the massacre to the neighbors, and all who could, would flee to some place of refuge.
The news of the outbreak reached Fort Ridgely, which was situated about thirteen miles down the Minnesota river from the agencies, about eight o'clock on the morning of the 18th, by means of the arrival of a team from the lower agency, bringing a badly wounded man, but no details could be obtained. The fort was in command of Capt. John F. Marsh of Company B, Fifth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. He had eighty-five men in his company, from which he selected forty-five, leaving the balance, under Lieut. T. F. Gere, to defend the fort. This little squad under command of Captain Marsh, with a full supply of ammunition, provisions, blankets, etc., accompanied by a six-mule team, left the fort at nine A. M. on the 18th of August for the lower Sioux agency, which was on the west side of the Minnesota river, the fort being on the east, which necessitated the crossing of the river by a ferry near the agency. On the march up, the command passed nine or ten dead bodies, all bearing evidence of having been murdered by the Indians, one of which was Dr. Humphrey, surgeon at the agency. On reaching the vicinity of the ferry, no Indians were in sight, except one on the opposite side of the river, who tried to induce them to cross over. A dense chaparral bordered the river on the agency side, and tall grass covered the bottom on the side where the troops were. Suspicion of the presence of Indians was aroused by the disturbed condition of the water of the river, which was muddy and contained floating grass. Then a group of ponies was seen. At this point, and without any notice whatever, Indians in great numbers sprang up on all sides of the troops and opened upon them a deadly fire. About half of the men were killed instantly. Finding themselves surrounded, it became with the survivors a question of sauve qui peut. Several desperate hand-to-hand encounters occurred with varying results, when the remnant of the command made a point down the river about two miles from the ferry, Captain Marsh being of the number. Here they attempted to cross, but the Captain was drowned in the effort and only from thirteen to fifteen of the command reached the fort alive. Among those killed was Peter Quinn, the United States interpreter, an Irishman who had been in the Indian Territory for many years. He had married into the Chippewa tribe. He was a man much esteemed by the army and all old settlers.
Much criticism has been indulged in as to whether Captain Marsh, when he became convinced of the general outbreak, should not have retreated to the fort. Of course, forty-five men could do nothing against five or six hundred warriors, who were known to be at or about the agency. The Duke of Wellington, when asked as to what was the best test of a general, said, "To know when to retreat, and to dare to do it." Captain Marsh cannot be justly judged by any such criterion. He was not an experienced general. He was a young, brave and enthusiastic soldier. He knew little of Indians. The country knows that he thought he was doing his duty in advancing. I am confident, whether this judgment is intelligent or not, posterity will hold in warmer esteem the memory of Captain Marsh and his gallant little band than if he had adopted the more prudent course of retracing his steps. General George Custer was led into an ambush of almost the exact character, which was prepared for him by many of the same Indians who attacked Marsh, and he lost five companies of the Seventh United States Cavalry, one of the best fighting regiments in the service, not a man escaping.
Immediately previous to the outbreak Lieut. Timothy J. Sheehan, of Company C, Fifth Minnesota, had been sent with about fifty men of his company to the Yellow Medicine agency on account of some disorder prevailing among the Indians, but having performed his duty, he had been ordered to Fort Ripley, and had, on the 17th, left Fort Ridgely, and on the 18th had reached a point near Glencoe, distant from Fort Ridgely about forty miles. As soon as Captain Marsh became aware of the outbreak he sent the following dispatch to Lieutenant Sheehan, which reached him on the evening of the 18th:
"It is absolutely necessary that you should return with your command immediately to this post. The Indians are raising hell at the lower agency. Return as soon as possible."
Lieutenant Sheehan was then a young Irishman, of about twenty-five years of age, with immense physical vigor and corresponding enthusiasm. He immediately broke camp and returned to the fort, arriving there on the 19th of August, having made a forced march of forty-two miles in nine and one-half hours. He did not arrive a moment too soon. Being the ranking officer after the death of Captain Marsh, he took command of the post. The garrison then consisted of the remnant of Marsh's Company B, 51 men; Sheehan's Company C, 50 men; Renville Rangers, 50 men. This company was the one raised by Major Galbraith, the Sioux agent at the agencies, and was composed principally of half-breeds. It was commanded by Capt. James Gorman. On reaching St. Peter, on its way down to Fort Snelling to be mustered into the service of the United States, it learned of the outbreak, and at once returned to Ridgely, having appropriated the arms of a militia company at St. Peter. There was also at Ridgely Sergeant Jones of the regular artillery, who had been left there in charge of the military stores. He was quite an expert gunner, and there were several field-pieces at the fort. Besides this garrison a large number of people from the surrounding country had sought safety at the fort, and there was also a party of gentlemen who had brought up the annuity money to pay the Indians, who, learning of the troubles, had stopped with the money, amounting to some $70,000 in specie. I will here leave the fort for the present, and turn to other points that became prominent in the approaching war.
On the night of the 18th of August, the day of the outbreak, the news reached St. Peter, and as I have before stated, induced the Renville Rangers to retrace their steps. Great excitement prevailed, as no one could tell at what moment the Indians might dash into the town and massacre the inhabitants.
The people at New Ulm, which was situated about sixteen miles below Fort Ridgely, on the Minnesota river, dispatched a courier to St. Peter as soon as they became aware of the trouble. He arrived at four o'clock A. M. on the 19th, and came immediately to my house, which was about one mile below the town, and informed me that the Indians were killing people all over the country. Having lived among the Indians for several years, and at one time had charge of them as their agent, I thoroughly understood the danger of the situation, and knowing, that whether the story was true or false, the frontier was no place at such a time for women and children, I told him to wake up the people at St. Peter, and that I would be there quickly. I immediately placed my family in a wagon and told them to flee down the river, and taking all the guns, powder and lead I could find in my house, I arrived at St. Peter about six A. M. The men of the town were soon assembled at the court house, and in a very short time a company was formed of one hundred and sixteen men, of which I was chosen as captain, William B. Dodd as first and Wolf H. Meyer as second lieutenant. Before noon two men, Henry A. Swift, afterwards Governor of the State, and William C. Hayden, were dispatched to the front in a buggy to scout and locate the enemy if he was near, and about noon sixteen mounted men under L. M. Boardman, sheriff of the county, were stalled on a similar errand. Both these squads kept moving until they reached New Ulm, at about five P. M.
Great activity was displayed in equipping the main body of the company for service. All the guns of the place were seized and put into the hands of the men. There not being any large game in this part of the country, rifles were scarce, but shot-guns were abundant. All the blacksmith shops and gun-shops were set at work molding bullets, and we soon had a gun in every man's hand, and he was supplied with a powder horn or a whiskey flask full of powder, a box of caps and a pocketful of bullets. We impressed all the wagons we needed for transportation and all the blankets and provisions that were necessary for subsistence and comfort. While these preparations were going on a large squad from Le Sueur, ten miles further down the river, under the command of Captain Tousley, sheriff of Le Sueur county, joined us. Early in the day a squad from Swan Lake, under an old settler named Samuel Coffin, had gone to New Ulm to see what was the matter.
Our advance guard reached New Ulm just in time to participate in its defense against an attack of about one hundred Indians who had been murdering the settlers on the west side of the river, between the town and Fort Ridgely. The inhabitants of New Ulm were almost exclusively German, there being only a few English speaking citizens among them, and they were not familiar with the character of the Indians, but the instinct of self-preservation had impelled them to fortify the town with barricades to keep the enemy out. The town was built in the usual way of western towns, the principal settlement being along the main street, and the largest and best houses occupying a space of about three blocks. Some of these houses were of brick and stone, so with a strong barricade around them the town was quite defensible. Several of the people were killed in this first attack, but the Indians, knowing of the coming reinforcements, withdrew, after firing five or six buildings.
The main body of my company, together with the squad from Le Sueur, reached the ferry about two miles below the settled part of New Ulm, about eight P. M., having made thirty-two miles in seven hours, in a drenching rainstorm. The blazing houses in the distance gave a very threatening aspect to the situation, but we crossed the ferry successfully, and made the town without accident. The next day we were reinforced by a full company from Mankato under Capt. William Bierbauer. Several companies were formed from the citizens of the town. A full company from South Bend arrived on the 20th or 21st, and various other squads, greater or less in numbers, came in during the week, before Saturday the 23rd, swelling our forces to about three hundred men, but nearly all very poorly armed. We improved the barricades and sent out daily scouting parties, who succeeded in bringing in many people who were in hiding, in swamps, and who would have undoubtedly been lost without this succor. It soon became apparent that to maintain any discipline or order in the town some one man must be placed in command of the entire force. The officers of the various companies assembled to choose a commander in chief, and the selection fell to me. A provost guard was at once established, order inaugurated, and we awaited events.
I have been thus particular in my description of the movements at this point, because it gives an idea of the defenseless condition in which the outbreak found the people of the country, and also because it shows the intense energy with which the settlers met the emergency, at its very inception, from which I will deduce the conclusion at the proper time that this prompt initial action saved the State from a calamity the magnitude of which is unrecorded in the history of Indian wars.
Having described the defensive condition of Fort Ridgely and New Ulm, the two extreme frontier posts, the former being on the Indian Reservation and the latter only a few miles southeast of it, I will take up the subject at the capital of the State. The news reached Governor Ramsey at Saint Paul on the 19th of August, the second day of the outbreak. He at once hastened to Mendota, at the mouth of the Minnesota river, and requested ex-Governor Sibley to accept the command of such forces as could be put in the field to check the advance of and punish the Indians. Governor Sibley had a large experience with the Sioux, perhaps more than any man in the State, having traded and lived with them since 1834, and besides that, was a distinguished citizen of the State, having been its first Governor. He accepted the position with the rank of colonel in the State Militia. The Sixth regiment was being recruited at Fort Snelling for the Civil War, and on the 20th of August Colonel Sibley started up the Valley of the Minnesota with four companies of that regiment, and arrived at St. Peter on Friday, the 22nd. Capt. A. D. Nelson of the regular army had been appointed colonel of the Sixth, and William Crooks had been appointed lieutenant colonel of the Seventh. Colonel Crooks conveyed the orders of the Governor to Colonel Nelson, overtaking him at Bloomington ferry. On receipt of his orders, finding he was to report to Colonel Sibley, he made the point of military etiquette, that an officer of the regular army could not report to an officer of militia of the same rank, and turning over his command to Colonel Crooks, he returned to St. Paul and handed in his resignation. It was accepted, and Colonel Crooks was appointed colonel of the Sixth. Not knowing much about military etiquette, I will not venture an opinion on the action of Colonel Nelson in this instance, but it always seemed to me that in the face of the enemy, and especially considering the high standing of Colonel Sibley, and the intimate friendship that existed between the two men, it would have been better to have waived this point and unitedly fought the enemy, settling all such matters afterwards.
On Sunday, the 24th, Colonel Sibley's force at St. Peter was augmented by the arrival of about two hundred mounted men under the command of William J. Cullen, formerly superintendent of Indian Affairs, called the Cullen Guard. On the same day six more companies of the Sixth arrived, making up the full regiment, and also about one hundred more mounted men, and several squads of volunteer militia. The mounted men were placed under the command of Col. Samuel McPhail. By these acquisitions Colonel Sibley's command numbered about 1,400 men. Although the numerical strength was considerable, the command was practically useless. The ammunition did not fit the guns of the Sixth Regiment, and had to be all made over. The horses of the mounted men, and the men themselves, were inexperienced, undisciplined, and practically unarmed. It was the best the country afforded, but probably about as poorly equipped an army as ever entered the field, to face what I regard as the best warriors to be found on the North American continent; but fortunately the officers and men were all that could be desired. The leaders of this army were the best of men, and being seconded by intelligent and enthusiastic subordinates, they soon overcame their physical difficulties, but they knew nothing of the strength, position or previous movements of the enemy, no news having reached them from either Fort Ridgely or New Ulm. Any mistake made by this force resulting in defeat would have been fatal. No such mistake was made. Having now shown the principal forces in the field, we will turn to the movements of the enemy. The Indians felt that it would be necessary to carry Fort Ridgely and New Ulm before they extended their depredations further down the Valley of the Minnesota, and concentrated their forces for an attack on the fort. Ridgely was in no sense a fort. It was simply a collection of buildings, principally frame structures, facing in towards the parade ground. On one side was a long stone barrack and a stone commissary building, which was the only defensible part of it.
THE ATTACK ON FORT RIDGELY.
On the 20th of August, at about three P. M., an attack was made upon the fort by a large body of Indians. The first intimation the garrison had of the assault was a volley poured through one of the openings between the buildings. Considerable confusion ensued, but order was soon restored. Sergeant Jones attempted to use his cannon, but, to his utter dismay, he found them disabled. This was the work of some of the half-breeds belonging to the Renville Rangers, who had deserted to the enemy. They had been spiked by ramming old rags into them. The Sergeant soon rectified this difficulty, and brought his pieces into action. The attack lasted three hours, when it ceased, with a loss to the garrison of three killed and eight wounded.
On Thursday, the 21st, two further attacks were made on the fort, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, but with a reduced force, less earnestness, and little damage. On Friday, the 22nd, the savages seemed determined to carry the fort. About eight hundred or more, under the leadership of Little Crow, came down from the agency, and concentrating themselves in the ravines which lay on several sides of the fort, they made a feint by sending about twenty warriors on the prairie for the purpose of drawing out the garrison from the fort and cutting them off. Such a movement, if successful, would have been fatal to the defenders, but fortunately there were men among them of much experience in Indian warfare who saw through the scheme and prevented the success of the maneuver. Then followed a shower of bullets on the fort from all directions. The attack was continued for nearly five hours. It was bitterly fought, and courageously and intelligently resisted. Sergeant Jones and other artillerists handled the guns with effective skill, exploding shells in the outlying buildings and burning them over the heads of the Indians, while the enemy endeavored to burn the wooden buildings composing the fort by shooting fire arrows on their roofs. One of the most exposed and dangerous duties to be performed was covering the wooden roofs with earth to prevent fire. One white man was killed and seven wounded in this engagement. Lieutenant Sheehan, who commanded the post through all these trying occurrences; Lieutenant Gorman of the Renville Rangers; Lieutenant Whipple and Sergeants Jones and McGrew all did their duty in a manner becoming veterans, and the men seconded their efforts handsomely. The Indians, after this effort, being convinced that they could not take the fort, and anticipating the coming of reinforcements, withdrew, and concentrating all their available forces, descended upon New Ulm the next morning, August 23d, for a final struggle. In the official history of this battle, written for the State, I placed the force of the Indians as four hundred and fifty, but I have since learned from reliable sources that it was as above stated.
BATTLE OF NEW ULM.
We left New Ulm after the arrival of the various companies which I have named, on the twenty-first of August, strengthening its barricades and awaiting events. I had placed a good glass on the top of one of the brick buildings within the barricades for the purpose of observation, and always kept a sentinel there to report any movement he should discover in any direction throughout the surrounding country. We had heard distinctly the cannonading at the fort for the past two days, but knew nothing of the result of the fight at that point. I was perfectly familiar, as were many of my command, with the country between New Ulm and the fort, on both sides of the river, knowing the house of every settler on the roads.
Saturday, the 23d of August, opened bright and beautiful, and early in the morning we saw column after column of smoke rise in the direction of the fort, each column being nearer than the last. We knew to a certainty that the Indians were approaching in force, burning every building and grain or hay stack as they passed. The settlers had either all been killed or had taken refuge at the fort or New Ulm, so we had no anxiety about them. About 9:30 A. M. the enemy appeared in great force on both sides of the river. Those on the east side, when they reached the neighborhood of the ferry, burned some stacks as a signal of their arrival, which was responded to by a similar fire in the edge of the timber about two miles and a half from the town on the west side.
Between this timber and the town was a beautiful open prairie with considerable descent towards the town. Immediately on seeing the smoke from the ferry the enemy advanced rapidly, some six hundred strong, many mounted and the rest on foot. I had determined to meet them on the open prairie, and had formed my men by companies in a long line of battle, with intervals between them, on the first level plateau on the west side of the town, thus covering its whole west front. There were not over twenty or thirty rifles in the whole command, and a man with a shotgun, knowing his antagonist carries a rifle, has very little confidence in his fighting ability. Dawn came the Indians in the bright sunlight, galloping, running, yelling and gesticulating in the most fiendish manner. If we had had good rifles they never would have got near enough to do much harm, but as it was, we could not check them before their fire began to tell on our line. They deployed to the right and left until they covered our entire front, and then charged. My men, appreciating the inferiority of their armament, after seeing several of their comrades fall, and having fired a few ineffectual volleys, fell back on the town, passing some buildings without taking possession of them. This mistake was instantly taken advantage of by the Indians, who at once occupied them; but they did not follow us into the town proper, no doubt thinking our retreat was a feint to draw them among the buildings and thus gain an advantage. I think if they had boldly charged into the town and set it on fire they would have won the fight; but instead they surrounded it on all sides, the main body taking possession of the lower end of the main street below the barricades, from which direction a strong wind was blowing towards the center of the town. From this point they began firing the houses on both sides of the street. We soon rallied the men, and kept the enemy well in the outskirts of the town, and the fighting became general on all sides. Just about this time my first lieutenant, William B. Dodd, galloped down the main street, and as he passed a cross street the Indians put three or four bullets through him. He died during the afternoon, after having been removed several times from house to house as the enemy crowded in upon us.
On the second plateau there was an old Don Quixote windmill, with an immense tower and sail-arms about seventy-five feet long, which occupied a commanding position, and had been taken possession of by a company of about thirty men, who called themselves the Le Sueur Tigers, most of whom had rifles. They barricaded themselves with sacks of flour and wheat, loopholed the building and kept the savages at a respectful distance from the west side of the town. A rifle ball will bury itself in a sack of flour or wheat, but will not penetrate it. During the battle the men dug out several of them, and brought them to me because they were the regulation Minie bullet, and there had been rumors that the Confederates from Missouri had stirred up the revolt and supplied the Indians with guns and ammunition. I confess I was astonished when I saw the bullets, as I knew the Indians had no such arms, but soon decided that they were using against us the guns and ammunition they had taken from the dead soldiers of Captain Marsh's company. I do not believe the Confederates had any hand in the revolt of these Indians.
We held several other outposts, being brick buildings outside the barricades, which we loopholed and found very effective in holding the Indians aloof. The battle raged generally all around the town, every man doing his best in his own way. It was a very interesting fight on account of the stake we were contending for. We had in the place about twelve or fifteen hundred women and children, the lives of all of whom and of ourselves depended upon victory perching on our banners, for in a fight like this no quarter is ever asked or given. The desperation with which the conflict was conducted can be judged from the fact that I lost sixty men in the first hour and a half, ten killed and fifty wounded, out of less than two hundred and fifty, as my force had been depleted by the number of about seventy-five by Lieutenant Huey taking that number to guard the approach to the ferry. Crossing to the other side of the river he was cut off and forced to retreat toward St. Peter. It was simply a mistake of judgment to put the river between himself and the main force, but in his retreat he met Capt. E. St. Julien Cox with reinforcements for New Ulm, joined them and returned the next day. He was a brave and willing officer. The company I mentioned as having arrived from South Bend, having heard that the Winnebagoes had joined in the outbreak, left us before the final attack on Saturday, the 23d of August, claiming that their presence at home was necessary to protect their families, and on the morning of the 23d, when the enemy was in sight, a wagon load of others left us and went down the river. I doubt if we could have mustered over two hundred guns at any time during the fight.
The enemy, seeing his advantage in firing the buildings in the lower part of the main street, and thus gradually nearing our barricades with the intention of burning us out, kept up his work as continuously as he could with the interruptions we made for him by occasionally driving him out, but his approach was constant, and about two o'clock a roaring conflagration was raging on both sides of the street, and the prospect looked discouraging. At this juncture, Asa White, an old frontiersman, connected with the Winnebagoes, whom I had known for a long time, and whose judgment and experience I appreciated and valued, came to me and said: "Judge, if this goes on, the Indians will bag us in about two hours." I said: "It looks that way; what remedy have you to suggest?" His answer was, "We must make for the cottonwood timber." Two miles and a half lay between us and the timber referred to, which, of course, rendered his suggestion utterly impracticable with two thousand non-combatants to move, and I said: "White, they would slaughter us like sheep should we undertake such a movement; our strongest hold is in this town, and if you will get together fifty volunteers I will drive the Indians out of the lower town and the greatest danger will be passed." He saw at once the propriety of my proposition and in a short time we had a squad ready, and sallied out, cheering and yelling in a manner that would have done credit to the wildest Comanches. We knew the Indians were congregated in force down the street and expected to find them in a sunken road about three blocks from where we started, but they bad worked their way up much nearer to us and were in a deep swale about a block and a half from our barricades. There was a large number of them, estimated at about seventy-five to one hundred, some on ponies and some on foot. When the conformation of the ground disclosed their whereabouts we were within one hundred feet of them. They opened a rapid fire on us, which we returned, while keeping up our rushing advance. When we were within fifty feet of them they turned and fled down the street. We followed them for at least half a mile, firing as well as we could. This took us beyond the burning houses, and finding a large collection of saw logs I called a halt and we took cover among them, lying flat on the ground. The Indians stopped when we ceased to advance, took cover behind anything that afforded protection, and kept up an incessant fire upon us whenever a head or hand showed itself above the logs. We held them, however, in this position, and prevented their return toward the town by way of the street. I at once sent a party back with instructions to burn every building, fence, stack or other object that would afford cover between us and the barricades. This order was strictly carried out, and by six or seven o'clock there was not a structure standing outside of the barricades in that part of the town. We then abandoned our saw logs and returned to the town, and the day was won, the Indians not daring to charge us over an open country. I lost four men killed in this exploit, one of whom was especially to be regretted. I speak of Newell Houghton. In ordinary warfare all men stand for the same value as a general thing, but in an Indian fight a man of cool head, an exceptionally fine shot, and armed with a reliable rifle, is a loss doubly to be regretted. Houghton was famous as being the best shot and deer hunter in all the Northwest, and had with him his choice rifle. He had built a small steamboat with the proceeds of his gun and we all held him in high respect as a fine type of frontiersman. We had hardly got back to the town before a man brought me a rifle which he had found on the ground near a clump of brush, and handing it to me said, "Some Indian lost a good gun in that run." It happened that White was with me and saw the gun. He recognized it in an instant, and said, "Newell Houghton is dead; he never let that gun out of his hands while he could hold it." We looked where the gun was picked up and found Houghton dead in the brush. He had been scalped by some Indian who had seen him fall and had sneaked back for that purpose.
That night we dug a system of rifle pits all along the barricades on the outside, and manned them with three or four men each; but the firing was desultory through the night and nothing much was accomplished on either side.
The next morning, Sunday, opened bright and beautiful, but scarcely an Indian was to be seen. They had given up the contest and were rapidly retreating northward up the river. We got an occasional shot at one, but without effect except to hasten the retreat. And so ended the second and decisive battle of New Ulm.
In this fight between ourselves and the enemy we burned one hundred and ninety buildings, many of them substantial and valuable structures. The whites lost some fourteen killed and fifty or sixty wounded. The loss of the enemy is uncertain, but after the tight we found ten dead Indians in burned houses and in chaparral, where they escaped the notice of their friends. As to their wounded we knew nothing, but judging from the length and character of the engagement and the number of their dead found, their casualties must have equaled, if not exceeded, ours.
About noon of Sunday, the 24th, Capt. E. St. Julien Cox arrived with a company from St. Peter, which had been sent by Colonel Sibley to reinforce us. Lieutenant Huey, who had been cut off at the ferry on the previous day, accompanied him with a portion of his command. They were welcome visitors.
There were in the town at the time of the attack on the twenty-third, as near as can be learned, from 1,200 to 1,500 non-combatants, consisting of women and children, refugees and unarmed citizens, all of whose lives depended upon our success. It is difficult to conceive a much more exciting stake to play for, and the men seemed fully to appreciate it and made no mistakes.
On the 25th we found that provisions and ammunition were becoming scarce, and pestilence being feared from stench and exposure, we decided to evacuate the town and try to reach Mankato. This destination was chosen to avoid the Minnesota river, the crossing of which we deemed impracticable. The only obstacle between us and Mankato was the Big Cottonwood river, which was fordable. We made up a train of one hundred and fifty-three wagons, which had largely composed our barricades, loaded them with women and children, and about eighty wounded men, and started. A more heartrending procession was never witnessed in America. Here was the population of one of the most flourishing towns in the State abandoning their homes and property, starting on a journey of thirty odd miles through a hostile country, with a possibility of being massacred on the way, and no hope or prospect but the hospitality of strangers and ultimate beggary. The disposition of the guard was confided to Captain Cox. The march was successful, no Indians being encountered. We reached Crisp's farm, which was about half way between New Ulm and Mankato, about evening. I pushed the main column on, fearing danger from various sources, but camped at this point with about one hundred and fifty men, intending to return to New Ulm, or hold this point as a defensive measure for the exposed settlements further down the river. On the morning of the 26th we broke camp, and I endeavored to make the command return to New Ulm or remain where they were; my object, of course, being to keep an armed force between the enemy and the settlements. The men had not heard a word from their families for more than a week, and declined to return or remain. I did not blame them. They had demonstrated their willingness to fight when necessary, but held the protection of their families as paramount to mere military possibilities. I would not do justice to history did I not record that when I called for volunteers to return Captain Cox and his whole squad stepped to the front ready to go where I commanded. Although I had not then heard of Capt. Marsh's disaster, I declined to allow so small a command as that of Captain Cox to attempt the re-occupation of New Ulm. My staff stood by me in this effort, and a gentleman from Le Sueur county, Mr. Freeman Talbott, made an impressive speech to the men to induce them to return. The train arrived safely at Mankato on the 25th, and the balance of the command on the following day; whence the men generally sought their homes.
I immediately, on arriving al Mankato, went to St. Peter to inform Colonel Sibley of the condition of things in the Indian country. I found him, in the night of August 26th, in camp about six miles out of St. Peter, and put him in possession of everything that had happened to the westward. His mounted men arrived at Fort Ridgely on the 27th of August, and were the first relief that reached that fort after its long siege. Sibley reached the fort on the 28th of August. Intrenchments were thrown up about the fort, cannon properly placed and a strong guard maintained. All but ninety men of the Cullen Guard, under Captain Anderson, returned home as soon as they found the fort was safe. The garrison was soon increased by the arrival of forty-seven men under Captain Sterritt, and on the 1st of September Lieut. Col. William Marshall of the Seventh Regiment arrived with a portion of his command. This force could not make a forward movement on account of a lack of ammunition and provisions, which were long delayed.
BATTLE OF BIRCH COULIE.
On the 31st of August a detail of Captain Grant's company of infantry, seventy men of the Cullen Guard under Captain Anderson, and some citizens and other soldiers, in all about one hundred and fifty men, under command of Maj. Joseph R. Brown, with seventeen teams and teamsters, were sent from Fort Ridgely to the lower agency to feel the enemy, bury the dead and perform any other service that might arise. They went as far as Little Crow's village, but not finding any signs of Indians they returned, and on the 1st of September they reached Birch Coulie and encamped at the head of it. Birch Coulie is a ravine extending from the upper plateau to the river bottom, nearly opposite the ferry where Captain Marsh's company was ambushed.
The Indians, after their defeat at Fort Ridgely and New Ulm, had concentrated at the Yellow Medicine river, and decided to make one more desperate effort to carry their point of driving the whites out of the country. Their plan of operation was to come down the Minnesota Valley in force, stealthily, passing Sibley's command at Ridgely, and attacking St. Peter and Mankato simultaneously. They congregated all their forces for this attempt and started down the river, when they reached the foot of Birch Coulie they saw the last of Major Brown's command going up the Coulie. They decided to wait and see where they encamped and attack them early in the morning. The whites went to the upper end of the Coulie and camped on the open prairie about two hundred and fifty feet from the brush in the Coulie. On the other side of their camp there was a roll in the prairie about four or five feet high, which they probably did not notice. This gave the enemy cover on both sides of the camp, which they did not fail to see and take advantage of. The moment daylight came sufficiently to disclose the camp the Indians opened fire from both sides. The whites had ninety horses hitched to a picket rope and their wagons formed in a circular corral, with their camp in the center. The Indians soon killed all the horses but one, and the men used their carcasses as breastworks from which to fight behind. The battle raged from the morning of September 2, to September 3, when they were relieved by Colonel Sibley's whole command and the Indians fled to the west.
Maj. Joseph R. Brown was one of the most experienced Indian men in the country and would never have made the mistake of locating his camp in a place that gave the enemy such an advantage. He did not arrive until the camp was selected and should have removed it at once. I have always supposed that he was lulled into a sense of security by not having seen any signs of Indians in his march; but the result proved that when in a hostile Indian country no one is ever justified in omitting any precautions. The firing at Birch Coulie was heard at Fort Ridgely, and a relief was sent under Colonel McPhail, which was checked by the Indians a few miles before it reached its destination. The Colonel sent a courier to the fort for reinforcements, and it fell to Lieutenant Sheehan to carry the message. With his usual energy he succeeded in getting through, his horse dying under him on his arrival. Colonel Sibley at once started with his whole command, and when he reached the battle ground the Indians left the field.
This was one of the most disastrous battles of the war. Twenty-three were killed outright, or mortally wounded, and forty-five severely wounded, while many others received slight injuries. The tents were, by the shower of bullets, made to resemble lace work, so completely were they perforated. One hundred and four bullet holes were counted in one tent. Besides the continual shower of bullets that was kept up by the Indians, the men suffered terribly from thirst, as it was impossible to get water into the camp. This fight forms a very important feature in the Indian war, as, notwithstanding its horrors, it probably prevented awful massacres at St. Peter and Mankato, the former being absolutely defenseless and the latter only protected by a small squad of about eighty men, which formed my headquarters guard at South Bend, about four miles distant.
OCCURRENCES IN MEEKER COUNTY AND VICINITY.
While these events were passing, other portions of the State were being prepared for defense. In the region of Forest City in Meeker county, and also at Hutchinson and Glencoe, the excitement was intense. Capt. George C. Whitcomb obtained in St. Paul seventy-five stand of arms and some ammunition. He left a part of the arms at Hutchinson, and with the rest armed a company at Forest City of fifty-three men, twenty-five of whom were mounted. Capt. Richard Strout of Company B, Ninth Regiment, was ordered to Forest City, and went there with his company. Col. John H. Stevens of Glencoe was commander of the State militia for the counties of McLeod, Carver, Sibley and Renville. As soon as he learned of the outbreak he erected a very substantial fortification of saw-logs at Glencoe, and that place was not disturbed by the savages. A company of volunteers was formed at Glencoe under Capt. A. H. Rouse. Company F of the Ninth Regiment, under Lieut. O. P. Stearns, and Company H of the same regiment (Capt. W. R. Baxter), also an independent company from Excelsior, and the Goodhue County Rangers (Capt. David L. Davis), all did duty at and about Glencoe during the continuance of the trouble. Captains Whitcomb and Strout, with their companies, made extensive reconnoissances into the surrounding counties, rescuing many refugees, and having several brisk and sharp encounters with the Indians, in which they lost several killed and wounded. The presence of these troops in this region of country, and their active operations, prevented its depopulation and saved the towns and much valuable property from destruction.
PROTECTION OF THE SOUTHERN FRONTIER.
On the 29th of August I received a commission from the Governor of the State instructing and directing me to take command of the Blue Earth country, extending from New Ulm to the north line of Iowa, embracing the then western and southwestern frontier of the State. My powers were general, to raise troops, commission officers, subsist upon the country, and generally to do what in my judgment was best for the protection of this frontier. Under these powers I located my headquarters at South Bend, being the extreme southern point of the Minnesota river, thirty miles below New Ulm, four from Mankato and about fifty from the Iowa line. Here I maintained a guard of about eighty men. We threw up some small intrenchments, but nothing worthy of mention. Enough citizens of New Ulm had returned home to form two companies at that point; Company E of the Ninth Regiment, under Capt. Jerome E. Dane, was stationed at Crisp's farm, about half way between New Ulm and South Bend; Col. John R. Jones of Chatfield collected about three hundred men, and reported to me at Garden City. They were organized into companies under Captains N. P. Colburn and Post, and many of them stationed at Garden City, where they erected a serviceable fort of saw-logs. Others of this command were stationed at points along the Blue Earth river. Capt. Cornelius F. Buck of Winona raised a company of fifty-three men, all mounted, and started west. They reached Winnebago City, in the county of Faribault, on the 7th of September, where they reported to me, and were stationed at Chain lakes, about twenty miles west of Winnebago City; twenty of this company were afterwards sent to Madelia. A stockade was erected by this company at Martin lake. In the latter part of August Capt. A. J. Edgerton, of Company B, Tenth Regiment, arrived at South Bend, and having made his report, was stationed at the Winnebago agency, to keep watch on those Indians and cover Mankato from that direction. About the same time Company F of the Eighth Regiment, under Capt. L. Aldrich, reported and was stationed at New Ulm. E. St. Julien Cox, who had previously reinforced me at New Ulm, was commissioned a captain and put in command of a force which was stationed at Madelia, in Watowan county, where they erected quite an artistic fortification of logs, with bastions. While there an attack was made upon some citizens who had ventured beyond the safe limits, and several whites were killed.
It will be seen by the above statement that almost immediately after the evacuation of New Ulm, on the 25th of August, the most exposed part of the southern frontier was occupied by quite a strong force. I did not expect that any serious incursions would be made along this line, but the state of alarm and panic that prevailed among the people rendered it necessary to establish this cordon of military posts to prevent an exodus of the inhabitants. No one who has not gone through the ordeal of an Indian insurrection can form any idea of the terrible apprehension that takes possession of a defenseless and non-combatant population under such circumstances. There is an element of mystery and uncertainty about the magnitude and movements of this enemy, and a certainty of his brutality, that inspires mortal terror. The first notice of his approach is the crack of his rifle, and no one with experience in such struggles ever blames the timidity of citizens in exposed positions when assailed by these savages. I think, all things being considered, the people generally behaved very well. If a map of the State is consulted, taking New Ulm as the most northern point on the Minnesota river, it will be seen that the line of my posts covered the frontier from that point down the river to South Bend, and up the Blue Earth southerly, to Winnebago City, and thence to the Iowa line. These stations were about sixteen miles apart, with two advanced posts at Madelia and Chain lakes, to the westward. A system of couriers was established, starting from each end of the cordon every morning with dispatches from the commanding officer to headquarters, who stopped at every station for an endorsement of what was going on, so I knew every day what had happened a I every point on my line. By this means the frontier population was pacified, and no general exodus took place.
In September Major General Pope was ordered to Minnesota to conduct the Indian war. He made his headquarters at St. Paul, and by his high rank took command of all operations, though not exerting any visible influence on them, the fact being that all imminent danger had been overcome by the State and its citizens before his arrival. In the latter part of September the citizen troops under my command were anxious to return to their homes, and on presentation of the situation to General Pope, lie ordered into the State a new regiment just mustered into the service in Washington - the Twenty-fifth Wisconsin - commanded by Col. M. Montgomery, who was ordered to relieve me. he appeared at South Bend on the 1st of October, and alter having fully informed him of what had transpired and given him my views as to the future, I turned my command over to him in the following order: I give it, as it succinctly presents the situation of affairs at the time."Headquarters Indian Expedition,
South Bend, October 5, 1862.
To the Soldiers and Citizens who have been, and are now engaged in the defense of the Southern Frontier:
On the eighteenth day of August last your frontier was invaded by the Indians. You promptly rallied for its defense. You checked the advance of the enemy and defeated him in two severe battles at New Ulm. You have held a line of frontier posts extending over a distance of one hundred miles. You have erected six substantial fortifications and other defensive works of less magnitude. You have dispersed marauding bands of savages that have hung upon your lines. You have been uniformly brave, vigilant and obedient to orders. By your efforts the war has been confined to the border; without them, it would have penetrated into the heart of the State.
Major General Pope has assumed command of the Northwest, and will control future operations. He promises a vigorous prosecution of the war. Five companies of the Twenty-fifth Wisconsin Regiment and five hundred cavalry from Iowa are ordered into the region now held by you, and will supply the places of those whose terms of enlistment shortly expire. The department of the southern frontier, which I have had the honor to command, will, from the date of this order, be under the command of Colonel M. Montgomery of the Twenty-fifth Wisconsin, whom I take pleasure in introducing to the troops and citizens of that department, as a soldier and a man to whom they may confide their interests and the safety of their country, with every assurance that they will be protected and defended.
Pressing public duties of a civil nature demand my absence temporarily from the border. The intimate and agreeable relations we have sustained toward each other, our union in danger and adventure, cause me regret in leaving you, but will hasten my return.
Charles E. Flandrau,
This practically terminated my connection with the war. All matters yet to be related took place in other parts of the State, under the command of Colonel Sibley and others.
COLONEL SIBLEY MOVES UPON THE ENEMY.
We left Colonel Sibley on the 4th of September at Fort Ridgely, having just relieved the unfortunate command of Maj. Joseph R. Brown, after the fight at Birch Coulie. Knowing that the Indians had in their possession many white captives, and having their rescue alive uppermost in his mind, the Colonel left on the battlefield at Birch Coulie the following communication attached to a stake driven in the ground, feeling assured that it would fall into the hands of Little Crow, the leader of the Indians:"If Little Crow has any proposition to make, let him send a half-breed to me, and he shall be protected in and out of camp.
H. H. Sibley,
The note was found and answered by Little Crow in a manner rather irrelevant to the subject most desired by Colonel Sibley. It was dated at Yellow Medicine, September 7, and delivered by two half-breeds.
Colonel Sibley returned the following answer by the bearers:
"Little Crow, you have murdered many of our people without any sufficient cause. Return me the prisoners under a flag of truce and I will talk with you like a man."
No response was received to this letter until September 12, when Little Crow sent another, saying that he had one hundred and fifty-five prisoners, not including those held by the Sissetons and Wakpaytons, who were at Lac qui Parle, and were coming down. He also gave assurances that the prisoners were faring well. Colonel Sibley, on the 12th of September, sent a reply by Little Crow's messengers, saying that no peace could be made without a surrender of the prisoners, but not promising peace on any terms, and charging the commission of nine murders since the receipt of Little Crow's last letter. The same messenger that brought this letter from Little Crow also delivered quite a long one from Wabashaw and Taopee, two lower chiefs who claimed to be friendly, and desired a meeting with Colonel Sibley, suggesting two places where it could be held. The Colonel replied that he would march in three days, and was powerful enough to crush all the Indians; that they might approach his column in open day with a flag of truce, and place themselves under his protection. On the receipt of this note a large council was held, at which nearly all the annuity Indians were present. Several speeches were made by the Upper and Lower Sioux, some in favor of continuance of the war, and "dying in the last ditch," and some in favor of surrendering the prisoners. I quote from a speech made by Paul Ma-za-ku-ta-ma-ni, who will be remembered as one of the Indians who volunteered to rescue the white captives from Ink-pa -du-ta's band in 1857, and who was always true to the whites. He said among other things:
In fighting the whites you are fighting the thunder and lightning. You say you can make a treaty with the British government. That is not possible. Have you not yet come to your senses? They are also white men, and neighbors and friends to the soldiers. They are ruled by a petticoat, and she has the tender heart of a squaw. What will she do for the men who have committed the murders you have?"
This correspondence was kept up for several days, quite a number of letters coming from the Indians to Colonel Sibley, but with no satisfactory results. On the 18th of September Colonel Sibley determined to move upon the enemy, and on that day camp was broken at the fort, a boat constructed and a crossing of the Minnesota river effected near the fort to prevent the possibility of an ambuscade. Colonel Sibley's force consisted of the Sixth Regiment, under Colonel Crooks; about three hundred men of the Third, under Major Welch; several companies of the Seventh under Col. William R. Marshall; a small number of mounted men under Colonel McPhail, and a battery under the command of Capt. Mark Hendricks. The expedition moved up the river without encountering any opposition until the morning of the 23d of September. Indians had been in sight during all the march, carefully watching the movements of the troops, and several messages of defiance were found attached to fences and houses.
THE BATTLE OF WOOD LAKE.
On the evening of the 22nd the expedition camped at Lone Tree lake, about two miles from the Yellow Medicine river, and about three miles east from Wood lake. Early next morning several foraging teams belonging to the Third Regiment were fired upon. They returned the fire and retreated toward the camp. At this juncture the Third Regiment, without orders, sallied out, crossed a deep ravine and soon engaged the enemy. They were ordered back by the commander and had not reached camp before Indians appeared on all sides in great numbers, many of them in the ravine between the Third Regiment and the camp. Thus began the battle of Wood lake. Captain Hendricks opened with his cannon and the howitzer under the direct command of Colonel Sibley, and poured in shot and shell. It has since been learned that Little Crow had appointed ten of his best men to kill Colonel Sibley at all hazards, and that the shells directed by the Colonel's own hand fell into this special squad and dispersed them. Captain Hendricks pushed his cannon to the head of the ravine and raked it with great effect, and Colonel Marshall, with three companies of the Seventh, and Captain Grant's company of the Sixth, charged down the ravine on a double quick and routed the Indians. About eight hundred of the command were engaged in the conflict, and met about an equal number of Indians. Our loss was four killed and between forty and fifty wounded. Major Welch of the Third was shot in the leg, but not fatally. The Third and the Renville Rangers, under Capt. James Gorman, bore the brunt of the fight, which lasted about an hour and a half, and sustained the most of the losses. Colonel Sibley, in his official report of the encounter, gives great credit to his staff and all of his command. An-pay-tu-tok-a-cha, or John Otherday, was with the whites, and took a conspicuous part in the fray.
Thus ended the battle of Wood lake. It was an important factor in the war, as it was about the first time the Indians engaged large forces of well organized troops in the open country, and their utter discomfiture put them on the run. It will be noticed that I have not in any of my narratives of battles used the stereotyped expression: "Our losses were so many, but the losses of the enemy were much greater; however, as they always carry off their dead and wounded, it is impossible to give exact figures." The reason I have not made use of this common expression is, because I don't believe it. The philosophy of Indian warfare is, to kill your enemy and not get killed yourself, and they can take cover more skilfully than any other people. In all our Indian wars from the Atlantic westward, with regulars or militia, I believe it would not be an exaggeration to say that the whites have lost ten to one of the Indians in killed and wounded. But the battle of Wood lake was quite an open fight, and so rapidly conducted and concluded that we have a very accurate account of the loss of the enemy. He had no time or opportunity to withdraw his dead. Fifteen dead were found upon the field, and one wounded prisoner was taken. No doubt many others were wounded who were able to escape. After this fight Colonel Sibley retired to the vicinity of an Indian camp located nearly opposite the mouth of the Chippewa river, where it empties into the Minnesota, and there encamped. This point was afterwards called "Camp Release," from the fact that the white prisoners held by the enemy were here delivered to Colonel Sibley's command. We will leave Colonel Sibley and his troops at Camp Release and narrate the important events that occurred on the Red River of the North, at and about Fort Abercrombie.
The United States government, about the year 1858, erected a military post on the west side of the Red River of the North at a place then known as Graham's Point, between what are now known as the cities of Breckenridge and Fargo. Like most of the frontier posts of that day, it was not constructed with reference to defense, but more as a depot for troops and military stores. It was then in the midst of the Indian country, and is now in Richland county, North Dakota. The troops that had garrisoned the fort had been sent South to aid in suppressing the Southern Rebellion, and their places had been supplied by one company of the Fifth Regiment of Minnesota Volunteers, which was commanded by Capt. John Van der Horck. There was a place down the river, and north of the fort about fifty miles, called Georgetown, at which there were some settlers, and a depot of stores for the company engaged in the navigation of the river. At the commencement of the outbreak Captain Van der Horck had detached about one-half of his company and sent them to Georgetown to protect the interests centered at that point.
About the 20th of August news reached Abercrombie from the Yellow Medicine agency that trouble was expected from the Indians. An expedition was on the way to Red lake to make a treaty with the Chippewa Indians, which consisted of the government commissioners and party, accompanied by a train of thirty loaded wagons and a herd of two hundred cattle. On the 23d of August news reached Fort Abercrombie that a large body of Indians were on the way to capture this party. A courier was at once dispatched to the train, and it immediately sought refuge in the fort. Runners were also sent to all the settlements in the vicinity, and the warning spread of the approaching danger. Happily, nearly all of the surrounding people reached the fort before the arrival of the enemy. The detachment stationed at Georgetown was also called in. A mail coach that left the fort on the 22nd fell into the hands of the Indians, who killed the driver and destroyed the mail.
The garrison had been strengthened by about fifty men capable of duty from the refugees, but they were unarmed. Captain Van der Horck strengthened his post by all means in his power, and endeavored to obtain reinforcements. Captain Freeman, with about sixty men, started from St. Cloud on the Mississippi to relieve the garrison at Abercrombie, but on reaching Sauk Center the situation appeared so alarming that it was deemed imprudent to proceed with so small a force, and no addition could be made to it at Sauk Center. Attempts were made to reinforce the fort from other points. Two companies were sent from Fort Snelling, and got as far as Sauk Center, but the force was even then deemed inadequate to proceed to Abercrombie. Part of the Third Regiment was also dispatched from Snelling to its relief on September 6. Another expedition, consisting of companies under command of Captains George Atkinson and Rollo Banks, with a small squad of about sixty men of the Third Regiment under command of Sergeant Dearborn, together with a field-piece under Lieut. Robert J. McHenry, was formed, and placed under the command of Capt. Emil A. Burger. This command started on September 10, and, after a long and arduous march, reached the fort on the 23d of September, finding the wearied and anxious garrison still in possession. Captain Burger had been reinforced at Wyman's station, on the Alexandria road, on the 19th of September by the companies under Captains Freeman and Barrett, who had united their men on the 14th, and started for the fort. The relief force amounted to quite four hundred men by the time it reached its destination.
While this long delayed force was on its way the little garrison at the fort had its hands full to maintain its position. On the 30th of August a large body of Indians made a bold raid on the post and succeeded in stampeding and running off nearly two hundred head of cattle and one hundred head of horses and mules, which were grazing on the prairie. Some fifty of the cattle afterwards escaped and were restored to the post by a scouting party. This band of marauders did not, however, attack the fort. No one who has not experienced it can appreciate the mortification of seeing an enemy despoil you of your property when you are powerless to resist. An attack was made on the fort on the 3d of September, and some stacks burned and a few horses captured. Several men were killed on both sides, and Captain Van der Horck was wounded in the right arm from an accidental shot from one of his own men. On September 6th a second attack was made by a large force of Indians, which lasted nearly all day, in which we lost two men and had several wounded. No further attack was made until the 26th of September, when Captain Freeman's company was fired on while watering their horses in the river. These Indians were routed and pursued by Captain Freeman's company and a squad of the Third Regiment men with a howitzer. Their camp was captured, which contained quite an amount of plunder. A light skirmish took place on the 29th of September, in which the enemy was routed, and this affair ended the siege of Fort Abercrombie.
Colonel Sibley's command made Camp Release on the 26th of September. This camp was in the near vicinity of a large Indian camp of about one hundred and fifty lodges. These Indians were composed of Upper and Lower Sioux, and had generally been engaged in all the massacres that had taken place since the outbreak. They had with them some two hundred and fifty prisoners, composed of women and children, whites and half-breeds. Only one white man was found in the camp - George Spencer - who had been desperately wounded at the lower agency, and saved from death by an Indian friend of his.
The desire of the troops to attack and punish these savages was intense, but Colonel Sibley kept steadily in mind that the rescue of the prisoners was his first duty, and he well knew that any demonstration of violence would immediately result in the destruction of the captives. He therefore wisely overruled all hostile inclinations. The result was a general surrender of the whole camp, together with all the prisoners. As soon as the safety of the captives was assured inquiry was instituted as to the participation of these Indians in the massacres and outrages which had been so recently perpetrated. Many cases were soon developed of particular Indians who had been guilty of the grossest atrocities, and the commander decided to form a military tribunal to try the offenders.
TRIAL OF THE INDIANS.
The State has reason to congratulate itself on two things in this connection. First, that it had so wise and just a man as Colonel Sibley to select this important tribunal, and, second, that he had at his command such admirable material from which to make his selection. It must be remembered that this court entered upon its duties with the lives of hundreds of men at its absolute disposal. Whether they were Indians or any other kind of people, the fact must not be overlooked that they were human beings, and the responsibility of the tribunal was correspondingly great. Colonel Sibley, at this date, sent me a dispatch, declaring his intention in the matter of the result of the trials. It is as follows:"Camp Release, nine miles below Lac Qui Parle, Sept. 25, 1862.
Colonel: (After speaking of a variety of matters concerning the disposition of troops who were in my command, the battle of Wood lake - which he characterized as 'A smart conflict we had with the Indians' - the rescue of the prisoners and other matters, he adds):
N. B. I am encamped near a camp of one hundred and fifty lodges of friendly Indians and half-breeds, but have had to purge it of suspected characters. I have apprehended sixteen supposed to have been connected with the late outrages, and have appointed a military commission of five officers to try them. If found guilty they will be forthwith executed, although it will perhaps be a stretch of my authority. If so, necessity must be my justification. Yours,
H. H. Sibley."
On the 28th of September an order was issued convening this court martial. It was composed of William Crooks, colonel of the Sixth Regiment, president; William R. Marshall, lieutenant colonel of the Seventh Regiment; Captains Grant and Baily of the Sixth, and Lieutenant Olin of the Third. Others were subsequently added as necessity required. All these men were of mature years, prominent in their social and general standing as citizens, and as well equipped as any persons could be to engage in such work. What I regard as the most important feature in the composition of this most extraordinary court is the fact that the Hon. Isaac V. D. Heard, an experienced lawyer of St. Paul, who had been for many years the prosecuting attorney of Ramsey county, and who was thoroughly versed in criminal law, was on the staff of Colonel Sibley, and was by him appointed recorder of the court. Mr. Heard, in the performance of his duty, was above prejudice or passion, and could treat a case of this nature as if it was a mere misdemeanor. Lieutenant Olin was Judge Advocate of the court, but as the trials progressed the evidence was all put in and the records kept by Mr. Heard. Some changes were made in the personnel of the court from time to time, as the officers were needed elsewhere, but none of the changes lessened the dignity or character of the tribunal. I make these comments because the trials took place at a period of intense excitement, and persons unacquainted with the facts may be led to believe that the court was "organized to convict," and was unfair in its decisions.
The court sat some time at Camp Release, then at the lower agency and Mankato, where it investigated the question whether the Winnebagoes had participated in the outbreak, but none of that tribe were implicated, which proves that the court acted judicially, and not upon unreliable evidence, as the country was full of rumors and charges that the Winnebagoes were implicated. The court terminated its sittings at Fort Snelling, after a series of sessions lasting from September 30 to November 5, 1862, during which four hundred and twenty-five prisoners were arraigned and tried. Of these three hundred and twenty-one were found guilty of the offenses charged, of whom three hundred and three were sentenced to death and the rest to various terms of imprisonment according to the nature of their crimes. The condemned prisoners were removed to Mankato, where they were confined in a large guard house constructed of logs for the purpose, and were guarded by a strong force of soldiers. On the way down, as the party having charge of the prisoners passed through New Ulm, they found the inhabitants disinterring the dead, who had been hastily buried in the streets where they fell during the fights at that place. The sight of the Indians so enraged the people that a general attack was made on the wagons in which they were chained together. The attacking force was principally composed of women, armed with clubs, stones, knives, hot water and similar weapons. Of course, the guard could not shoot or bayonet a woman, and they got the prisoners through the town with the loss of one killed and many battered and bruised.
While this court-martial was in session the news of its proceedings reached the eastern cities, and a great outcry was raised that Minnesota was contemplating a dreadful massacre of Indians. Many influential bodies of well-intentioned but ill informed people beseeched President Lincoln to put a stop to the proposed executions. The President sent for the records of the trials, and turned them over to his legal and military advisers to decide which were the more flagrant cases. On the 6th of December, 1862, the President made the following order:
"Executive Mansion, Washington, D. C.,
December 6, 1862.
Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley,
St. Paul, Minnesota:
Ordered, that of the Indians and half-breeds sentenced to be hanged by the Military Commission, composed of Colonel Crooks, Lieutenant Colonel Marshall, Captain Grant, Captain Bailey and Lieutenant Olin, and lately sitting in Minnesota, you cause to be executed on Friday, the 19th day of December, instant, the following named, to-wit:
(Here follows the names of thirty-nine Indians and their numbers on the record of conviction.)
The other condemned prisoners you will hold subject to further orders, taking care that they neither escape nor are subjected to any unlawful violence. Abraham Lincoln,
President of the United States."
Colonel Sibley had been appointed by President Lincoln a Brigadier General on the 29th of September, 1802, on account of his success at the battle of Wood Lake, the announcement of his promotion being in a telegram, as follows:
"Washington, D. C, Sept. 29, 1862.
Major General Pope,
St. Paul, Minnesota:
Colonel Henry H. Sibley is made a Brigadier General for his judicious fight at Yellow Medicine. He should be kept in command of that column and every possible assistance sent to him. H. W. Halleck,
General in Chief."
His commission as brigadier general was not issued until March 20, 1864, but, of course, this telegram amounted to an appointment to the position, and if accepted, as it was, made him subject to the orders of the President; so notwithstanding his dispatch to me stating that the Indians, if convicted, would be forthwith executed, he could not very well carry out such an extreme duty without first submitting it to the Federal authorities, of which he had become a part.
My view of the question has always been that when the court-martial was organized Colonel Sibley had no idea that more than twenty or twenty-five of the Indians would be convicted, which is partly inferable from his dispatch to me, in which he said he had "apprehended sixteen supposed to have been connected with the late outrages." But when the matter assumed the proportions it did, and he found on his hands some three hundred men to kill, he was glad to shift the responsibility to higher authority. Any humane man would have been of the same mind. I have my own views also of the reasons of the general government in eliminating from the list of the condemned all but thirty-nine. It was not because these thirty-nine were more guilty than the rest, but because we were engaged in a great Civil War, and the eyes of the world were upon us. Had these three hundred men been executed, the charge would have undoubtedly been made by the South that the North was murdering prisoners of war, and the authorities at Washington, knowing full well that the other nations were not capable of making the proper discrimination, and perhaps not anxious to do so if they were, deemed it safer not to incur the odium which might follow from such an accusation.
EXECUTION OF THE THIRTY-EIGHT CONDEMNED INDIANS.
The result of the matter was that the order of the President was obeyed, and on the 20th of December, 1862, thirty-eight of the condemned Indians were executed by hanging at Mankato, one having been pardoned by the President. Contemporaneous history, or rather general public knowledge of what actually occurred, says that the pardoned Indian was hanged and one of the others liberated by mistake. As an historian, I do not assert this to be true, but as a citizen, thoroughly well informed of current events at the time of this execution, I believe it to be a fact. The hanging of the thirty-eight was done on one gallows, constructed in a square form capable of sustaining ten men on each side. They were placed upon a platform facing inwards, and dropped all at once by the cutting of a rope. The execution was successful in all its details, and reflects credit on the ingenuity and engineering skill of Captain Burt of Stillwater, who was intrusted with the construction of the deadly machine. The rest of the condemned Indians were, after some time, taken down to Davenport, in Iowa, and held in confinement until the excitement had generally subsided, when they were sent west of the Missouri and set free. An Indian never forgets what he regards as an injury, and never forgives an enemy. It is my opinion that all the troubles that have taken place since the liberation of these Indians, with the tribes inhabiting the western plains and mountains up to a recent date, have grown out of the evil counsels of these savages. The only proper course to have pursued with them, when it was decided not to hang them, was to have exiled them to some remote post - say the Dry Tortugas - where communication with their people would have been impossible, set them to work on fortifications or other public works, and allowed them to pass out by life limitation.
The execution of these Indians practically terminated the campaign for the year 1862, no other event worthy of detailed record having occurred; but the Indian war was far from being over, as it was deemed prudent to keep within the State a sufficient force of troops to successfully resist all further al tacks and to inaugurate an aggressive campaign in the coming year. The whole of the Sixth, Seventh and Tenth Regiments, the Mounted Rangers, some artillery organizations, scouts and other troops were wintered in the State at various points along the more exposed frontier; in 1863 a formidable expedition under command of General Sibley was sent from Minnesota to crush the enemy, which was to be aided and co-operated with by another expedition under Gen. Alfred Sully, of equal proportions, which was to start from Sioux City, on the Missouri. After the attack at Birch Coulie and its relief, Little Crow, with a large part of his followers, branched off and went to the vicinity of Acton, and there attacked the command under Capt. Richard Strout, where a severe battle was fought, in which several of Captain Strout's men were killed. On the 3d of July, 1863, Crow ventured down to the neighborhood of Hutchinson with his young son, probably to get something which he had hidden, or to steal horses, and while he was picking berries a farmer named Lamson, who was in search of his cows, saw him and shot him dead. His scalp now decorates the walls of the Minnesota Historical Society.
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1863.
The remnant of Little Crow's followers were supposed to be rendezvoused at Devil's lake, in Dakota Territory, and reinforced by a large body of the Upper Sioux. An expedition against them was devised by General Pope, to be commanded by General Sibley. It was to assemble at a point near the mouth of the Redwood river, some twenty-five miles above Fort Ridgely. On the 7th of June, 1863, General Sibley arrived at the point of departure, which was named Camp Tope in honor of the commanding general. The force composing the expedition was as follows: One company of Pioneers under Captain Chase; ten companies of the Sixth Regiment, under Colonel Crooks; eight companies of the Tenth Regiment, under Colonel Baker; nine companies of the Seventh, under Lieutenant Colonel Marshall; eight pieces of artillery, under Captain Jones; nine companies of Minnesota Mounted Rangers, under Colonel McPhail; seventy-five Indian scouts under Major Brown, George McLeod and Major Dooley; in all three thousand and fifty-two infantry, eight hundred cavalry and one hundred and forty-eight artillerymen. The command, from the nature of the country it had to traverse, was compelled to depend upon its own supply train, which was composed of two hundred and twenty-five six-mule wagons. The staff was complete, consisting of Adjutant General Olin, Brigade Commissary Forbes, Assistant Commissary and Ordnance Officer Atchinson, Commissary Clerk Spencer, Quartermaster Corning, Assistant Quartermaster Kimball, Aides-de-camp, Lieutenants Pope, Beaver, Hawthorne and A. St. Clair Flandrau, Chaplain Rev. S. R. Riggs.
The column moved from Camp Pope on June 16th, 1863. The weather was intensely hot, and the country over which the army had to march was wild and uninhabited. At first the Indians retreated in the direction of the British line, but it was discovered that their course had been changed to the direction of the Missouri river. They had probably heard that General Sully had been delayed by low water and hoped to be able to cross to the west bank of that stream before his arrival to intercept them, with the future hope that they would, no doubt, be reinforced by the Sioux inhabiting the country west of the Missouri. On the 4th of July the expedition reached the Big Bend of the Cheyenne river. On the 17th of July Colonel Sibley received reliable information that the main body of the Indians was moving toward the Missouri, which was on the 20th of July confirmed by a visit at Camp Atchison of about three hundred Chippewa half-breeds, led by a Catholic priest named Father Andre. On becoming satisfied that the best fruits of the march could be attained by bending towards the Missouri, the General decided to relieve his command of as much impedimenta as was consistent with comfort and safety, and thus increase the rapidity of its movements. He therefore established a permanent post at Camp Atchison, about fifty miles southeasterly from Devil's lake, where he left all the sick and disabled men and a large portion of his ponderous train, with a sufficient guard to defend them if attacked. He then immediately started for the Missouri with one thousand four hundred and thirty-six infantry, five hundred and twenty cavalry, one hundred pioneers and artillery and twenty-five days' rations. On the 22nd he crossed the James river, forty-eight miles west of Camp Atchison, and on the 24th reached the vicinity of Big Mound, beyond the second ridge of the Missouri coteau. Here the scouts reported large bodies of Indians with Red Plume and Standing Buffalo among them.
BATTLE OF BIG MOUND.
The General, expecting an attack on the 24th, corralled his train and threw up some earthworks to enable a smaller force to defend it. The Indians soon appeared. Dr. Weiser, surgeon of the First Rangers, supposing he saw some old friends among them, approached too close and was instantly killed. Lieutenant Freeman, who had wandered some distance from the camp, was also killed. The battle opened at three P. M., in the midst of a terrific thunderstorm, and after some sharp fighting the Indians, numbering about fifteen hundred, fled in the direction of their camp, and were closely pursued. A general panic ensued, the Indian camp was abandoned, and the whole throng, men, women and children, fled before the advancing forces. Numerous charges were made upon them, amidst the roaring of the thunder and the flashing of the lightning. One private was killed by lightning, and Colonel McPhail's saber was knocked out of his grasp by the same force.
The Indians are reported to have lost in this fight eighty killed and wounded. They also lost nearly all their camp equipment. They were pursued about fifteen miles, and had it not been for a mistake in the delivery of an order by Lieutenant Beaver, they would undoubtedly have been overtaken and destroyed. The order was to bivouac where night caught the pursuing troops, but was misunderstood to return. This unfortunate error gave the Indians two days' start, and they put a wide gap between themselves and the troops. The Battle of Big Mound, as this engagement was called, was a decided victory and counted heavily in the scale of advantage, as it put the savages on the run and disabled them from prosecuting further hostilities.
BATTLE OF DEAD BUFFALO LAKE.
On the 26th the command again moved in the direction of the fleeing Indians. Their abandoned camp was passed on that day early in the morning. About noon large bodies of the enemy were discovered and a brisk fight ensued. Attacks and counter attacks were made, and a determined fight kept up until about three P. M., when a bold dash was made by the Indians to stampede the animals which were herded on the banks of a lake; but the attempt was promptly met and defeated. The Indians, foiled at all points and having lost heavily in killed and wounded, retired from the field. At night earthworks were thrown up to prevent a surprise, but none was attempted, and this ended the battle of Dead Buffalo lake.
The General was now convinced that the Indians were going toward the Missouri with the intention of putting the river between them and his command, and, expecting General Sully's force to be there to intercept them, he determined to push them on as rapidly as possible, inflicting all the damage he could in their flight. The campaign was well conceived, and had Sully arrived in time the result would undoubtedly have been the complete destruction or capture of the Indians. But low water delayed Sully to such an extent that he failed to arrive in time, and the enemy succeeded in crossing the river before General Sibley could overtake them.
BATTLE OF STONY LAKE.
On the 28th of July Indians were again seen in large numbers. They endeavored to encircle the troops. They certainly presented a force of two thousand fighting men, and must have been reinforced by friends from the west side of the Missouri. They were undoubtedly fighting to keep the soldiers back until their families could cross the river. The troops were well handled. A tremendous effort was made to break our lines, but the enemy was repulsed at all points. The artillery was effective and the Indians finally fled in a panic and rout towards the Missouri. They were hotly pursued, and on the 29th the troops crossed Apple creek, a small stream a few miles from the present site of Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, and, pushing on, struck the Missouri at a point about four miles above Burnt Boat island. The Indians had succeeded in crossing the river with their families, but in a very demoralized condition as to supplies and camp equipage. They were plainly visible on the bluffs on the opposite side. It was here that Lieutenant Beaver lost his life while carrying an order. He missed the trail and was ambushed and killed. He was a young Englishman who had volunteered to accompany the expedition, and whom General Sibley had placed upon his staff as an aide.
Large quantities of wagons and other material abandoned by the Indians in their haste to cross the river were destroyed. The bodies of Lieutenant Beaver and a private of the Sixth Regiment, who was killed in the same way, were recovered and buried. It was clear that the Indians, on learning of the magnitude of the expedition, never contemplated overcoming it in battle, and made their movements with reference to delaying its progress, while they pushed their women and children toward and across the river, knowing there was no resting place for them on this side. They succeeded admirably, but their success was solely attributed to the failure of General Sully to arrive in time. General Sibley's part of the campaign was carried out to the letter and every man in it, from the commander to the private, is entitled to the highest praise.
On August 1, the command broke camp for home. As was learned afterwards, General Sully was then distant down the river one hundred and sixty miles. His delay was no fault of his, as it was occasioned by insurmountable obstacles. The march home was a weary, but uneventful one. The campaign of 1863 may be summed up as follows: The troops marched nearly 1,200 miles. They fought three well-contested battles. They drove from eight to ten thousand Indians out of the State and across the Missouri river. They lost only seven killed and three wounded, and inflicted upon the enemy so severe a loss that he never again returned to his old haunts. For his meritorious services General Sibley was appointed a Major General by brevet on November 29, 1865, which appointment was duly confirmed by the Senate, and he was commissioned on April 7, 1866.
In July, 1863, a regiment of cavalry was authorized by the Secretary of War to be raised by Maj. E. A. C. Hatch for duty on the Northern frontier. Several companies were recruited and marched to Pembina on the extreme northern border, where they performed valuable services and suffered incredible hardships. The regiment was called Hatch's Battalion.
CAMPAIGN OF 1864.
The government very wisely decided not to allow the Indian question to rest upon the results of the campaign of 1863, which left the Indians in possession of the country west of the Missouri, rightly supposing that they might construe their escape from General Sibley the previous year into a victory. It therefore sent out another expedition in 1864 to pursue and attack them beyond the Missouri. The plan and outfit were very similar to that of 1863. General Sully was again to proceed up the Missouri with a large command and meet a force sent out from Minnesota, which forces, when combined, were to march westward and find and punish the savages if possible. The expedition, as a whole, was under the command of General Sully. It consisted of two brigades, the first composed of Iowa and Kansas infantry and cavalry, and Brackett's Battalion, to the number of several thousand, which was to start from Sioux City and proceed up the Missouri in steamboats. The Second embraced the Eighth Regiment of Minnesota Volunteer Infantry under Colonel Thomas, mounted on ponies, the Second Minnesota Cavalry under Colonel MacLaren, the Third Minnesota Battery under Captain Jones. The Second Brigade was commanded by Colonel Thomas. This brigade left Fort Snelling on June 1, and marched westward. General Sibley and staff accompanied it as far as Fort Ridgely. On the 9th of June it passed Wood lake, the scene of the fight in 1862. About this point it overtook a large train of emigrants on their way to Idaho, who had with them 160 wagon loads of supplies. This train was escorted to the Missouri river safely. The march was wearisome in the extreme with intensely hot weather and very bad water, and was only enlivened by the appearance occasionally of a herd of buffalo, a band of antelope or a straggling elk. The movements of the command were carefully watched by flying bands of Indians during his whole march. On July 1st, the Missouri was reached at a point where now stands Fort Rice. General Sully and the First Brigade had arrived there the day before. The crossing was made by the boats that brought up the First Brigade. The column was immediately directed toward Cannon Ball river, where 1,800 lodges of Indians were reported to be camped. The Indians fled before the approaching troops. On the last of July the Heart river was reached, where a camp was formed, and the tents and teams left behind. Thus relieved, the command pressed forward for an Indian camp eighty miles northward. On the 2nd of August the Indians were found in large numbers on the Big Knife river in the Bad Lands. These were Unca-Papa Sioux, who had murdered a party of miners from Idaho the year before and had given aid and comfort to the Minnesota refugee Indians. They were attacked and a very spirited engagement ensued, in which the enemy was badly beaten and suffered severe losses. The place where this battle was fought was called Ta-ka-ho-ku-tay, or the bluff where the man shot the deer.
On the next day, August 3, the command moved west through the Bad Lands, and just as it emerged from this terribly ragged country it was sharply attacked by a large body of Indians. The fight lasted through two days and nights, when the enemy retired in haste. They were very roughly handled in this engagement.
General Sully then crossed to the west side of the Yellowstone river, where the weary soldiers found two steamboats awaiting them with ample supplies. In crossing this rapid river the command lost three men and about twenty horses. From this point they came home by the way of Forts Union, Berthold and Stevenson, reaching Fort Rice on the 9th of September.
On this trip General Sully located Forts Rice, Stevenson and Berthold.
On reaching Fort Rice, considerable anxiety was felt for Colonel Fisk, who, with a squad of fifty troops, had left the fort as an escort for a train of Idaho immigrants, and had been attacked one hundred and eighty miles west of the fort and had been compelled to intrench. He had sent for reinforcements and General Sully sent him three hundred men, who extricated him from his perilous position.
The Minnesota Brigade returned by way of Fort Wadsworth, where they arrived on September 27. Here Major Hose, with six companies of the Second Cavalry, was left to garrison the post, the balance of the command reaching Fort Snelling on the 12th of October.
In June, 1865, another expedition left Minnesota for the West under Colonel Callahan of Wisconsin, which went as far as Devil's lake. The first, second and fourth sections of the Third Minnesota Battery accompanied it, and again in 1866 an expedition started from Fort Abercrombie which included the first section of the Third Battery, under Lieutenant Whipple. As no important results followed from these two latter expeditions I only mention them as being parts of the Indian War.
The number of Indians engaged in this war, together with their superior fighting qualities, their armament, and the country occupied by them, gives it rank among the most important of the Indian Wars fought since the first settlement of the country on the Atlantic Coast. But when viewed in the light of the number of settlers massacred, the amount of property destroyed and the horrible atrocities committed by the savages, it far surpasses them all.
I have dwelt upon this war to such an extent because I regard it as the most important event in the history of our State, and desire to perpetuate the facts more especially connected with the gallant resistance offered by the settlers in its inception. Not an instance of timidity is recorded. The inhabitants engaged in the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, utterly unprepared for war, sprang to the front on the first indication of danger, and checked the advance of the savage enemy in his initial efforts. The importance of battles should never be measured by the number engaged, or the lists of killed and wounded, but by the consequences of their results. I think the repulse of the Indians at Fort Ridgely and New Ulm saved the State of Minnesota from a disaster, the magnitude of which cannot he estimated. Their advance was checked at the very frontier and they were compelled to retreat, thus affording time and opportunity for the whites to organize for systematic action. Had they not met this early check, it is more than probable that the Chippewas on the upper Mississippi and the Winnebagoes in the lower Minnesota valley would have joined them, and the war have been carried into the heart of the State. Instances of a similar character have occurred in our early wars which illustrate my position. The Battle of Oriscany, which was fought in the Revolutionary War in the valley of the Mohawk, between Rome and Utica, was not more of an encounter than Ridgely or New Ulm, yet it has been characterized as one of the decisive battles of the world because it prevented a junction of the British forces under St. Ledger in the west and Burgoyne in the east and made American independence possible. The State of New York recognized the value of Oriscany just one hundred years after the battle was fought by the erection of a monument to commemorate it. The State of Minnesota has done better by erecting imposing monuments on both the battlefields of Ridgely and New Ulm, the inscriptions on which give a succinct history of the respective events.
The State also presented each of the defenders of Fort Ridgely with a handsome bronze medal, especially struck for the purpose, the presentation of which took place at the time of the dedication of the monument, on the 20th day of August, 1896.
The medal has a picture of the fort on its obverse side, surrounded by the words, "Defender of Fort Ridgely. August 18-27, 1862." Just over the flagstaff, in a scroll, is the legend in Sioux. "Ti-yo-pa-na-ta-ka-pi," which means, "It shut the door against us," referring to the battle having obstructed the further advance of the Indians. This was said by one of the Indians in the attacking party in giving his view of the effect of the repulse, and adopted by the committee having charge of the preparation of the medal, as being appropriate and true. On the reverse side are the words, "Presented by the State of Minnesota to . . . . . . . . . . .," encircled by a wreath of moccasin flowers, which is the flower of the State.
The State has also placed monuments at Birch Coulie, Camp Release and Acton. I regret to be compelled to say that a majority of the committee having charge of the building of the Birch Coulie monument so far failed in the performance of their duties as to the location of the monument and formulating its inscriptions that the Legislature felt compelled to pass an act to correct their errors. The correction has not yet been made, but in the cause of true history it is to be hoped that it will be in the near future. The State also erected a handsome monument in the cemetery of Fort Ridgely to Captain Marsh and the twenty-three men of his company that were killed at the ferry near the Lower Sioux agency on August 18, 1862, and by special act passed long after, at the request of old settlers, added the name of refer Quinn, the interpreter who was killed at the same time and place. The State also built a monument in the same cemetery in remembrance of the wife of Dr. Muller, the post surgeon at Ridgely during the siege, on account of the valuable services rendered by her in nursing' the wounded soldiers.
A LONG PERIOD OF PEACE AND PROSPERITY.
After the stirring events of the Civil and Indian Wars, Minnesota resumed its peaceful ways and continued to grow and prosper for a long series of years, excepting the period from 1873 to 1876, when it was afflicted with the plague of grasshoppers. Possessed of the many advantages that nature has bestowed upon it, there was nothing else for it to do. The State, as far as it was then developed, was exclusively agricultural, and wheat was its staple production, although almost every character of grain and vegetable can be produced in exceptional abundance. Potatoes of the first quality were among its earliest exports, but that crop is not sufficiently valuable or portable to enter extensively into the catalogue of its productions beyond the needs of domestic use.
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