Stearns County Minnesota
THE SIOUX OUTBREAK OF 1862.
Source: The Early History of Maine Prairie by E. H. Atwood, 1890/ *
During the outbreak of the Sioux Indians, in the summer of 1862, there were many acts of bravery, many deeds of valor, many scenes of heroic unselfish devotion of man to man, and many exciting incidents that the historian has never chronicled, and which are only remembered by the few survivors who are fast passing to that bourne from whence none returneth. Although the numbers engaged in deadly conflict with their relentless and savage foes were small and insignificant in comparison to the vast armies that were engaged in putting down the rebellion, yet in true bravery, heroism and courage, these pioneers were unsurpassed by any of their brethren on southern battle fields. The future history of Minnesota, and especially of the events occurring during the progress of the massacre of the whites in 1862, by the Sioux Indians, would be incomplete without an account of the thrilling events that transpired in the many isolated little hamlets and settlements upon the extreme frontier of the young state. None of the historians of that eventful period have mentioned the prominent part taken by the people of Maine Prairie in the brave stand they made for their homes. And, as the principal actors of those stormy days are fast passing away, it was deemed advisable to record as many of the leading events of that period, participated in by the people of that isolated settlement as could be found.
THE GREAT SIOUX OUTBREAK.
The town of Maine Prairie is situated fifteen miles southwest of St. Cloud. The prairie proper is irregular in shape, from four to five miles across, and, in 1862, had about fifty-five American families, with a few German families in the northwest corner. It the fall of 1861, Capt. Inman had organized company D. 4th regiment, for the war, in which about 22 had enlisted from our town. Besides these several others had enlisted in other regiments. After doing duty at Fort Abercrombie during the winter, they started the next April for the seat of war, leaving about thirty-five men, not including a number of quite old men, and a few boys, in the town. There were but two or three reapers on the prairie, the grain being bound on the ground by hand, and needing from six to nine men to make a full crew. The harvest that year was very heavy and late. It was impossible to hire men to help harvest, and the only way for a farmer to get his grain cut was to join a crew and follow a reaping machine. In this way he helped others and they in turn were to assist him. We had been harvesting but a few days, when, about the 19th of August, a rumor was brought that the Sioux Indians, near Yellow Medicine, had killed some of the whites. It was thought to be only a drunken row, and no alarm was feIt. A heavy rain falling that afternoon stopped the reaping for the next day, and a number of the settlers on horseback happened to meet near the center of the Prairie. Among the number were A. B. Greely, E. H. Atwood, D. A. Hoyt and A. S. Greely. Rumors of more Indian depredations had been heard, and some alarm was felt. After discussing the subject a while, it was voted that E. H. Atwood and A. B. Greely should go to Fair Haven, and farther, if necessary, to obtain some definite information regarding the truth of the rumors. If there was danger they were to come back and call a meeting of the settlers. Both bad good blooded horses, and they soon arrived at Fair Haven, where they found the people greatly excited, for a messenger with dispatches for Governor Ramsey had just arrived from the seat of war bringing information that the Indians and soldiers had met in battle, and that a vast horde of savages were butchering the inhabitants, burning and torturing their captives, and committing the most atrocious cruelties ever known in the annals of savage warfare. They were sweeping everything before them, were coming our way, and unless checked we might expect them to reach us in from 36 to 48 hours. They had heard enough. The fearful thought that their homes, their wives and children were soon to be at the mercy of blood thirsty savages, was enough to appal the stoutest heart. Our town was so situated that it would undoubtedly receive the first and most furious shock of the advancing horde of inhuman monsters.
WARNING THE SETTLERS.
It was then three o'clock p. m. The settlers of Maine Prairie must be warned to prepare to meet and repulse the foe. There was no talk of seeking safety in flight. We had a little band of 30 or 40 pioneers who could handle a gun who did not propose to be driven from their homes. Wheeling their horses around, the two couriers started back to warn the people of their peril. Faster and faster they urged their spirited horses, and as they reached the settlement each took different routes stopping at each house just long enough to tell them to be at Spaulding's blacksmith shop at six p.m., to take measures against the Indians. The blood and foam-covered sides, and heaving flanks of their horses, carried conviction to the settlers that prompt action was necessary. At six o'clock the two couriers dashed up to the blacksmith shop, both horses and riders nearly exhausted. They had personally warned each family, or sent them word, and each had ridden over thirty miles in three hours. Nearly every man in town was there. The meeting was called to order, and after fully discussing the situation, it was unanimously decided to stay and
FIGHT THE INDIANS
if they should attack us. An organization was effected by choosing R. F. Adley Captain, F. H. Dam, D. W. Fowler, E. H. Atwood and Joseph Eaton were given the title of 1st, 2d, 3d and 4th lieutenants; R. F. Adley, F. H and Joseph Dam were chosen a committee on fortifications, and A. B. Greely was chosen commissary; F. M. Kimball, Wm. H. Heywood and Alex Spaulding were chosen as 1st, 2d and 3d sergeants.
Every man was to come out the next morning with teams, wagons and other tools and meet at the blacksmith shop, (which was near the center, and commanded a view of nearly all the prairie) for the purpose of building a fort. James Jenks and F. H. Dam were chosen to supervise the building.
BUILDING A BLOCK HOUSE.
Early the next morning nearly every man was on hand. A site just south of the present Methodist church was chosen for a fort. All day long men worked with eager haste to erect an inclosure capable of holding their families in case of an attack. The fort was forty feet square, made by standing a double row of tamarack logs on end close together. They were sixteen feet above ground and two feet in the ground, all roofed in, making it when finally finished, three stories high. Timbers were run out under the eaves at two corners and bullet proof rifle pits were built capable of holding three or four rifle men, to protect the sides of the fort. House and barn logs, fence rails, barn timbers, bridge timber, wherever found, was taken with or without leave, but generally it was freely donated.
All that and the following day the men worked like beavers, but toward night of the second day, no fresh news coming in from the scene of Indian depredations, many began to doubt the danger, and the idea began to prevail that they had not secured sufficient evidence to warrant them in going to such an outlay. Some did not propose to do any more work on the fort until there was more proof of danger. The next morning only about half the men came back to work, the others went to harvesting their grain. Those working upon the fort had succeeded in getting the sides up when about four o'clock p. m. a courier arrived with the
that the Indians had attacked the little settlement of Paynesville the night before and had massacred all the inhabitants and had perpetrated all the harrowing atrocities usually indulged in by savages. As Paynesville was but 22 or 23 miles from Maine Prairie, it was believed that the whole force of Indians would be upon us before morning. The reception of the startling news that the savages were so near at hand, and might even then be re-enacting the same fearful slaughter among their own families in the outskirts of the town created for awhile the utmost confusion and panic. A vote was immediately taken to get all the women and children together as soon as possible and start for St. Cloud. But the cool heads of R. F. Adley, Wm. L. Heywood, F. H. Dam, E. H. Atwood, James Jenks, A. B. Greely and others, showed them the danger of a long exposed line of teams going through the brush and timber to St. Cloud, where a few Indians could kill the whole of them without danger to themselves. Another vote was taken, and it was agreed to bring all the women and children to the fort, place them in the stockade and the men guard the outside. It was then nearly five o'clock. There was not a moment to be lost. Those living at a distance whose houses were surrounded with timber, feared that their families might be the first victims of the relentless savages. This caused them to make all haste possible, and when they found their loved ones safe their hearts were full of thankfulness. Hastily selecting such articles of clothing and provisions as were actually necessary, they hastened to a place of safety, admonised by the sinking sun. Swift courriers had been sent out and all had been warned of the impending danger.
GATHERING IN THE BLOCK HOUSE.
Soon after sundown the settlers and their families began to arrive at the fort. Capt. Adley and a part of the officers were kept busy making arrangements for the women and children, while others were equally active in fortifying and placing out pickets to prevent a surprise.
MILITARY PREPARATIONS FOR DEFENSE.
There were three houses near the fort (which was not yet roofed in,) in which the women and children were placed. Pass words were given out and orders given that no one was allowed outside the picket line. A few mounted pickets were sent out a mile or so with orders to dismount and listen with their ears to the ground. Upon the approach of danger they were to fire their guns and ride for the fort. Few if any men slept that night. It was believed that the Indians would attack us before morning. A few men worked all night long in building up breast works. Boxes, trunks and anything that could be found were used and before morning a fairly good breast work had been erected on four sides of the fort. Each man's arms were carefully examined and nothing was left undone that could be done to prepare for a conflict with the Indians. So the night passed and the morning came. After a hasty breakfast all went to work to finish the fort.
It was Sunday, and in the afternoon Elder Brooks preached a sermon in the stockade. Then work was resumed and by night the sides of the fort were considered bullet-proof and many of the families moved in. Many had ventured home and brought back supplies. That night, after carefully placing out a strong line of pickets and a few mounted ones, nearly all the rest, overcome by fatigue, had fallen asleep. About midnight a shot rang out upon the still night air from one of the mounted pickets a mile to the south, followed by the clatter of a horse coming with headlong speed. The alarm was given, the men sprang to their arms and quickly formed in line, A lieutenant, with nine men, was sent to each of the four breast works with orders to hold them at all hazards. There was no confusion. Orders were given and executed quickly, and, ere the arrival of the mounted picket, we were fully prepared to receive the foe with a force of ten men at each breast work and the captain with a small reserve in the center. Just then the horseman, A. D. Guptil came up and reported that he saw what he took to be an Indian partly emerge from the brush, and had shot at him and then started for the fort, but had gone but a few rods when he heard a horse whinney and thought it more than likely that it was a stray horse. A small party immediately started back to cautiously reconoiter, and found the object shot at to be a colt belonging to Orlen Farwell. It was slightly wounded in the leg. Mr. Farwell congratulated the picket upon his coolness. Then the sleepy and exhausted men sank down again to gain a little rest.
THE BRAVE WOMEN OF 1862.
The next day the work on the fort was resumed. While the men were busy, the women were not idle. There was but little ammunition in the town, but what there was put into the general fund and the woman were busy making it up into cartidges. All the lead and pewter that could be found they manufactured into bullets and heavy shot. Bandages and lint were prepared. The commissary stocked the fort with.
PROVISIONS FOR A SIEGE.
Barrels were filled with water and placed into the fort, and lumber was prepared to curb a well inside in case of need. Teams wore sent to St. Cloud for lumber and shingles for the fort. H. P. Bennett the gunsmith was kept busy fixing up old guns. No one was idle, for it was believed that the danger was imminent. Rumors of Indian depredations reached us daily, and many believed that they would be upon us before another sunrise.
THE MEN RECEIVE ORDERS.
Before night the men were assembled together and instructed how to act in case of an attack, when and where to assemble on the first alarm. None were allowed outside the lines. The countersign was given out, and a double line of pickets stationed around the fort. Every gun was carefully examined, and ammunition given out. Then those not on duty lay down to rest, with loaded guns and ammunition at their side. The pickets were changed at midnight. Several of the officers never retired, but kept a keen watch, listening to catch the first and faintest sound of an approaching foe. The night passed with no alarm, and next day the work on the fort was pushed ahead, with all vigor possible. The shingles had come and the roof and floors for the second and third stories were hurried forward.
STILL WAITING THE DREADED ATTACK.
Another day passed, rumors of the terrible fighting between settlers and Indians to the south and west of us were heard daily. Every precaution was taken to guard the loved ones. Pistols and knives were given to women with the command that they never allow themselves to be taken captive alive by the Indians. Most of the women and children now slept in the fort. The next day the roofs and floors were finished and each family was allotted a sleeping space. The dividing partition between families consisted often of only a chalk mark upon the floor. These slender and inadequate partitions occasionally led to ludicrous and sometimes serious blunders. A weary guard who had been relieved of picket-duty at midnight, would quietly enter the fort and relying upon his knowledge of the location of his own family's allotted space upon the second floor, would undertake to find it in the dark. The next morning's light might find him located two or three blocks away from his own, and in the vicinity of some other man's wife. It sometimes took a long time to satisfactorily explain to his wife and the woman's husband, just how the mistake occured. Little shanties to cook in were erected 40 to 60 rods from the fort and were occupied by one, two or more families during the day.
A COMMON INCIDENT.
About this time a strange woman was seen not far off calling for some of the women to come to her. They found her to be a Swede girl whose family, father, mother, brothers and sisters had been butchered and tortured before her eyes, and she had been taken captive by two lustful savages who had kept her for two or three days abusing her in the most horrible and brutal manner. Her clothing had been nearly all torn from her. She had succeeded in escaping from her fearful bondage and had wandered in an almost nude condition until we saw her. Our women clothed her and kindly cared for her until her strength returned, then sent her on to Clearwater, where she expected to find friends.
INDIANS IN SIGHT.
That night, just before dark, Mr. Stone, who had come down with his family from near Sauk Center, saw four Indians skulking among the willows near the lake, about eighty rods distant. Stone immediately reported the discovery to E. H. Atwood, one of the officers. Drill Sergeant F. H. Dam, was ordered to immediately get all men in line and drill them, and have their arms inspected. The band of men with fife and drum made quite an imposing spectacle. A meeting of the women was called in the fort. Thus without any confusion all the women were gathered safely into the fort, and the men informed of the discovery of the Indians, and that we might expect an attack some time during the night. A strong picket line was put out, with orders to watch for Indians.
SKIRMISH ON THE PICKET LINE.
About nine o'clock the stillness of the night was broken by the reports of several shots on the picket line. It was then believed that the long looked for battle was about to begin. The orders of Capt. Adley could be heard calling the men to rally around the fort. Lieutenant Atwood hastened to the picket line to assist in holding the Indians in check. He found the picket, Redman Field, bravely loading his gun. An Indian had crawled up through the grass to within three rods of Field and then fired, the shot fortunately striking the ground at his feet, Quick as possible Field, like a true veteran, had a bead on the Indian and fired. He sprang into the air and disappeared in the dark. Richard Vandervoort was the next to re-enforce the picket line, and his keen eye soon detected a dark object in the grass. As no one was allowed outside the lines, it was believed to be an Indian, and Vandervoort fired at it. When the smoke cleared away the object was gone. Not knowing what game the Indians were up to, the men slept with their arms by their sides, ready for immediate use. The next morning the trail where the Indians had wormed their way through the grass was easily seen.
SAVING THE CROPS.
During all this time a large part of the wheat and oats were standing uncut in the fields exposed to the destruction of the elements, which caused the grain to lodge. So, just as soon as the fort was completed, the men went out in small parties to harvest their grain, always keeping one or two men on the watch for the foe, each harvester keeping near his gun. As men were scarce several girls assisted by driving the reapers.
By this time, our numbers had been increased by additions from families further west. Among the number was Mr. Robert Wheeler and wife, and daughters Nellie and Lidia, Mr. Stone and wife and son Frank and daughter Ella, and Wm. Westover from near Sauk Center.
One morning a party of nine men went to harvest E. H. Atwood's grain, Mrs. Thos. B. Standley volunteered to go to the house and cook the dinner. The house was situated in the edge of the timber. Every precaution was taken to prevent a surprise. Two men were placed on guard and every one kept his gun near him.
SETTLERS ATTACKED ON THE ROAD.
Messrs. Stone, Wheeler and Westover had decided to return to their homes, and about ten o'clock passed Atwood's house with an ox team and their families. About an hour after they had passed heavy and rapid firing was heard in the direction which they had taken. As the guns sounded like Indian guns, there was some uneasiness felt and just as the men were going to dinner Westover was seen coming running at his utmost speed. He was nearly exhausted and said that they were going along through the brush one and a half miles west of Pearl Lake, Wheeler a few rods ahead of the team. Stone just back of the wagon and he a little further back, when just as they came to the foot of a hill three Indians were seen dodging behind the bushes near the road and one of them rose up, but two or three rods off, and fired at Wheeler, but missed him. Wheeler returned the fire, and the Indian dropped behind the brush. Stone sprang forward just in time to see a naked savage taking deadly aim at Wheeler from behind a clump of bushes. His naked left side was exposed and Stone put in a charge of buck shot "where it did the most good." The Indian fell to the ground without a groan and the other Indians fled. The wagon was turned around and they ran their oxen back a mile and a half to Mr. Watkins' house, where the oxen fell down from exhaustion. They had seen the Indians running their ponies to get ahead of them and cut off their retreat, but they had failed, and had come out into the road a little behind them. Stone and Wheeler and their families took refuge in the Watkins house and Westover had come on to our place for help. From the boldness of the attack, it was thought there were quite a number of Indians. No time was to be lost if we would save the besieged ones. Orders were rapidly given and quickly executed. A. S. Greely was ordered to hitch his team to a wagon and take Mrs. Standly to the fort with all possible speed. One or two other men were sent to warn other parties, who were harvesting in other places, and scouts were sent out to prevent a surprise. Mrs. Standly was informed of the situation and danger, and that the men were going to rescue the besieged people, and that she was to get into the wagon and go to the fort in haste, but she insisted that as dinner was all ready we should eat before going. It was argued that the danger was imminent, that even now there was danger of our being surrounded by the savages, or that the women and children might be captured if we delayed. She still insisted that we would be half sick if we went "trapesing off there without our dinner," and that the beans would all be cold and mussed up. Just then hearing firing in the direction of the Watkins house she was persuaded to go. The rest of the party, six or seven in number, started for the rescue. The Indians fled upon their approach. The oxen were found alive and able to travel, and were hurriedly started for the fort, with the women and children, and guarded out of the timber by the whole force. Five then started to rescue Mr. A. Maservey, John White and H. Clark, who were harvesting a small field west of M. Greely's The Indians had been seen on their ponies near this field. The field was found deserted, the horses gone, and appearances indicated that the place had been raided. While cautiously reconnoitering the place, Atwood saw a bald head and red face peering around the corner of the old log house. Taking it for the head of an Indian he took aim and was just pulling the trigger, when he discovered his mistake. It was A. Maservey's head. It was a narrow escape. The men were taking their after dinner nap and knew nothing of their danger. The whole party then started for the dead or wounded Indian that Stone had shot, and were soon joined by about 20 from the fort. When the watchmen on the fort saw A. S. Greely running his horses to the fort he raised the alarm flag and fired the signal guns. The harvesters came pouring in from all directions and when they heard of the peril of their comrades, hastened forward to their assistance, the party were so close upon the retreating Indians that they had barely time to snatch their dead or wounded comrade and escape, leaving, where he had fallen, a new bed cord, an oil cloth gun cover, a woman's shawl, a white clean new woolen bed blanket and an old smoked Indian blanket. Their trail was followed over the hills a mile or more and lost. The party returned to the fort with appetites that could relish beans, even if they were cold and all mussed up. Thus far the Indians had found our people alert and watchful, brave and ready on the instant, cautious and crafty as the Indians were. It is undoubtedly due to our attitude, that the savages were deterred from making any formidable raid upon our settlement. Thus we were saved from the fate of many other sections.
F. H. DAM RIDES TO ST PAUL.
We had but few guns and but little ammunition. F. H. Dam volunteered to go to St. Paul and endeavor to procure some guns and powder and shot from the government. He had John Farwell's fast horse, and made the trip of 150 miles in about 36 hours, braving the dangers of driving through alone in the night from Clearwater. The few old muskets and ammunition that he could get were gladly received. After that John Farwell drove to St. Paul and returned with more old muskets and ammunition. The wonderful and vigorous kick which these old muskets could exert made it equally dangerous to be at either end when they were fired off. But they had bayonets on them and looked formidable.
The next year John White was hunting for a lost cow and had one of these kicking government muskets. Getting up on a high log for a better view, he discovered a black bear but a few rods away. Bruin saw him at the same time and raised up on his hind legs. While took good aim and fired. The gun kicked him heels overhead and the last he saw of the bear he was performing a similar acrobatic feat.
WILLMOTT MAYBEE AND COMRADES KILLED.
There was a small settlement at Mannanah, 22 miles west of Maine Prairie, of four or five families. Upon the first alarm they had all fled to safer places, some to Clearwater and some to other places. After remaining a few days a party of ten or fifteen men thought there was no danger and returned to get supplies of provisions and other goods and to look after their stock. They were urged not to go, as it was believed to be a dangerous undertaking. But they had no fear. When they arrived near their homes two of their number, Thomas Ryckman and Chauncy Willson left the wagon to look after some cattle. Mr. Willmot Maybee, Lyman Howe and Joseph Page were in the two-horse wagon Mr. Maybee was driving, and Philip Deck was driving a one horse rig.
Willson and Ryckman were about 80 rods distant, when just as the party drove up to their house imagine their horror to see a party of Indians rise up from behind a pile of lumber and shoot and kill the four men in the wagons. These two men on foot sprang into the timber with the Indians in close pursuit. They succeeded in escaping from their persuers and started for Maine Prairie Fort where they arrived almost bereft of their senses, bare headed and bare footed. They were brave men, but the horror of seeing their friends killed and mangled, and fearing every moment that they might be overtaken by the savages whom they imagined were pursuing them during their long flight, had completely prostrated them.
The balance of the party coming up later discovered the dead bodies of their comrades and started at once for Forest City, not waiting to investigate. They put in a borrowing night wading through marshes and brush, not daring to keep the road for fear of meeting Indians. They reached the City the next morning in a deplorable condition. A party of men went right back and found all except Maybee who was found two months later by a soldier. Mr. Howe had been scalped and Mr. Page's throat was cut from ear to ear. The others were not mutilated. Mr. Ryckman is now one of Meeker county's most prosperous farmers and is living at Union Grove. But he will never forget his thrilling experience at Mannanah, Aug. 26, 1862.
This incident caused us to redouble our precautious at the fort. From many signs seen and heard it was believed that our movements were closely watched by our savage foe from the surrounding hills, but finding us always on the alert, brave and ready to dash out whenever there was a foe or sign of a foe in sight, and a match for them in caution and strategy, they dared not to molest us. The brave stand made by these resolute men undoubtedly had its influence in holding in check the savages.
WHAT THE LOOKOUT FOUND.
A little incident that occurred about this time still farther strengthened them in the belief that our movements were being watched by the Indians. R. M. Vandervoort was appointed to keep a lookout from the top of the fort during the day with a telescope to guard against a surprise by the Indians. He faithfully filled that responsible position for three weeks. One day he engaged a substitute to fill his place while he took a vacation, and went into the timber near Carnelian lake for wild plums. He had not proceeded far when he discovered a small pile of ashes. As they looked fresh he was somewhat startled. Thrusting his hand into them he discovered that there was fire, and believing that the fire had been built by an Indian and fearing he might then be near and probably drawing a bead on him, he claims that he made the best time on record in his flight to the fort.
GETTING AMMUNITION AT ST. CLOUD.
It was understood at St. Cloud that a courier would be sent through from the prairie each day unless surrounded by the foe. It was brush and timber nearly all the way and the messenger could easily be shot by an unseen savage. The next morning D. A. Hoyt, E. H. Atwood and H. P. Bennett volunteered to go through to St. Cloud. It was one of the darkest periods of the outbreak. James Jenks offered them his ponies. Mr. Jenks was one of those big hearted, whole souled men often found on the frontier. These ponies were thoroughly disgusted with life in this world, and it required very weighty argument, and unscriptural language, besides the vigorous application of a three-quarter inch brad, to induce them to go faster than a walk. The citizens of St. Cloud were found badly frightened and many leaving for the east. The were fearful that the Chippewas would be down upon them. General H. Z. Mitchell presented Atwood with two sacks of buckshot and a can of powder. We were in great need of ammunition and were glad to get these supplies for the fort. It was near midnight when the party reached the prairie on their return.
TWO FALSE ALARMS.
They found the men at the fort all under arms and a double line of pickets on guard. Joseph Watkins, and Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Noyes had gone out to R. F. Adley's house to sleep. It was against the orders of the captain to leave the fort at night without leave. No one knew that anyone was outside the fort. Near midnight Watkins saw through the window what he took to be three Indians on ponies near the house. Hastily taking his gun and awakening Mr. Noyes he was ready to give them a warm reception. But they had mysteriously disappeared. He immediately gave the alarm by firing the danger signal. The fort was aroused, but as no one knew of anyone being outside of the lines, it was thought to be a decoy. After firing the danger signal, several times Watkins came to the fort and reported his discovery. Several went down with a buggy and brought Mrs. Noyes to the fort. It proved to be three stray colts that were taken for Indians.
The second day after this scare, a party of men from St. Cloud, who had been out beyond Forest City to bury some of their countrymen, who had been murdered by the Sioux, were returning home. When about one and a half miles from the fort in the timber they thoughtlessly began firing off their guns to clean them. Hearing the firing at the fort it was thought that the Indians were attacking the whites. Then there was mounting in hot haste and swiftly forming, a strong force was soon upon the spot ready for action, but they discovered their mistake before any blood was shed.
THE ATTACK ON FOREST CITY.
No fresh rumors of Indian depredations had been heard for a day or two, and the men were somewhat relaxing the usual vigilance and were hoping that "the cruel war was o'er," when just before night a messenger came through from Forest City, 16 miles southwest of us, with word that their fort had been attacked the night before by a band of Sioux and several had been killed and the rest compelled to remain in the fort and see the Indians harness their horses to wagons, load them with plunder and go off. At this fort there was a company of cavalry and about one hundred and fifty armed citizens. As we had but forty or fifty men at our fort with but little ammunition and very inferior arms, we felt that our position was critical. Every man was called in, arms examined and everything done that could be done to prepare for the worst. The wagons were rendered useless by taking off and hiding the nuts and the horses were turned loose in a large pasture There was little sleep that night. From the actions of the dogs, it was thought they heard or smelled Indians. They sniffed the air to the west and barked continually. One of our men burning with a desire to avenge the wrongs and cruelties that he had seen and heard of felt a strong desire to shoot and scalp an Indian. So intense was this passion that he went to the picket on the west and told him he was going to reconnoiter for a scalp. Carefully loading his gun, with pistol and knife in his belt, he began crawling off into the darkness listening with ear to the ground then advancing, then listening and peering through the darkness often imagining that he could hear the approach of the crafty foe or that some dark object in the grass might be a skulking savage, until after hours of patient search he crawled back greatly disappointed. The Indians were not be caught napping. The next day the fortifications were strengthened by building a breast work all around them and just outside of this a deep ditch or moat was dug 10 feet deep and 10 feet wide. Our horses were placed in this at night. We now felt that we could hold our fort against five hundred savages and did not need so many pickets. All slept in the fort nights, except those who where out as pickets or to go out at midnight. These slept in the blacksmith shop.
INDIANS DRIVEN OFF BY TROOPS.
Soon after the raid on Forest City, the Indians were driven back by the State and United States troops, and the settlers began to feel safer, although occasional signs were seen that would indicate that there were a few savages skulking around, who would murder whenever they could. A few began to leave the fort and go to their homes.
ATTACKED BY AN INDIAN.
Old Mr. Field, his son and daughter, went to their home one morning, and in the afternoon the daughter went into the brush near by to pick plums. A painted warrior rose up near her and sprang for her. She screamed and ran for the house the Indian in close pursuit. Just as she reached the edge of the brush he caught her dress by one hand and struck her with a knife with the other hand. She tore loose, and as her father and brother, hearing her screams, had come to her assistance, the Indian retreated. The wound received was on her arm and not very deep. She was brought to the fort, but was prostrated for some time from the shock.
WATER MELON BRIGADE.
This time a number of young men, with a man calling himself "Captain," came to the fort, and confiscated some horses, grain and provisions, in the name of the State or some other authority. They might have been of great help to the people, but their undesciplined actions and wild behavior made them obnoxious. They were called the "Water Melon Brigade," on account of their many raids upon the water melon patches.
RETURNED TO THEIR HOMES.
Gradually the people sought their homes, but some stayed at the fort until cold weather, when all left, and the usual routine of parties, lectures, meetings, surprise parties and donations followed each other in rapid succession. It must not be inferred from this fact that life was one of sad and fearful foreboding. There were many occasions of merriment; many laughable incidents, many pleasant hours, and, among the younger lads and lassies, many a tender look and action that were the first seeds that soon ripened into a closer union of soul to soul. No doubt, the peril that surrounded them made many a young man vow to sell his life dearly, should it ever be necessary, in defense of the young lady walking by his side; and the proud bearing and brave demeanor of her young escort would tend to soften the heart of the most obdurate maiden. Oh, there is nothing like a common danger, and a common cause to bring the hearts of brave men and women to beat in unison. But, alas for the fickleness of the human heart. It is believed that in more than one case, when the danger was over and the close associations were ended, that time, distance and other associations, gradually caused a coolness, then a final severing of the once united hearts.
A NEWSPAPER ITEM.
In the St. Cloud Democrat, of Sept. 4, 1862, under the head of "locals" appeared the following:
"As we go to press, this note is handed us. It is from a well known Maine Prairie citizen to his wife:
Dear Augusta: We were cutting our wheat yesterday, when a man came running saying they had started back to Cold Springs with three men, women and children in an ox team. When they had got a mile beyond John White's three Indians arose. One Indian fired at one of the men not more than twenty feet off, but missed him. Each of the men fired, and one Indian dropped as though killed. Then the men turned the team around and run the oxen back to the Cutter house. The Indians trying to head them off, but did not succeed. Two of the men stayed with the women in the house, while the other came through and told me. We took a wagon and went over and got the family to a safe place, and then went up to find the dead Indian. We found two blankets, a shawl, a bed cord and gun cover, and some blood, but no Indian. We had an alarm this morning about 4 o'clock. I have no time for particulars. E. H. Atwood.
THE WINTER OF 1862-3.
On account of the trouble with the Indians, quite a percentage of the crop of 1862 was lost or damaged, and it was very late in the fall before the grain was all secured. Although the settlers had plenty to eat, still, on account of their losses and the hard times, they had to economize in every possible way during the winter of 1862-3. Tea, coffee and sugar were luxuries that but few could indulge in. Home grown tobacco was largely used as a substitute for that sold in the stores. A new suit of store clothes on a person at church would attract so much attention that the fervent words of the minister had but little effect upon the congregation. The woman with a brand new calico dress was generally greeted with a coldness by her less fortunate sisters that made her wish that she had worn her old dress. Many of the more nervous people were still timid, fearing that the Indians might come back and do damage. But, spring came, and it was believed that there would be no more trouble with them.
SIGNS OF INDIANS AGAIN.
Soon, however, signs, showing that small parties of Indians were lurking around, were frequently met with. Mr. Goodner found in a patch of brush not far from his house fresh signs where apparently several savages had cleared out a space in the patch where they could lay concealed and watch what was going on around them. They had undoubtedly been making bridles out of rawhide for clippings and strips of untanned hide had been left on the ground where they had lain. It was supposed that their object was to steal horses, but it was believed that they would not hesitate to shoot a white person whenever they could safely do so. Several persons had been shot at by unseen foes, and a few killed or wounded in the Big Woods to the south. Great uneasiness was felt by the people. The men mostly went armed and the women were careful about keeping the doors fastened. Finally the State organized a
COMPANY OF SCOUTS
and about three were detailed to each town for the purpose of patroling the town, and to be ready to concentrate at any threatened point. These scouts were of great benefit in allaying the fears of the citizens. They were alert, and investigated many alarms and scares, which often proved groundless, but which occasionally clearly indicated that Indians were around. If a man found himself in the vicinity of Indians, or had any reason to believe that there was danger of his coming in contact with them, when he was unarmed, it was considered wise and proper to seek safety with all possible speed.
AN AMUSING INCIDENT.
One instance of a causeless panic occurred when David Goodner and M. V. Greely went after wild plums. They entered a large plum thicket from opposite sides at the same time. Each heard the other, and by stooping down and looking under the brush they could see the legs of the other, and the two front and two hind feet of their horses They could not see high enough to see the bodies of the men or horses. In their excitement, each mistook the other party for at least three Indians, and both sprang upon their horses and rode for their lives in opposite directions, and spread the news that they had seen Indians. Of course there was but little sleep in the neighborhood that night. Guns were carefully loaded and ammunition brought out and all precautions taken to guard against any raid the Indians might make. A careful investigation the next morning revealed the true facts in the case. Every few days some such an alarm would be given in some part of the town. Many, upon investigation, proved groundless. Others would show that Indians were around and the settlers did not know at what moment they might be the victim of a crafty foe that was able to lay in wait for days to get a shot at a white man.
LITTLE CROW'S LAST DITCH.
A large body of troops had driven the main body of Indians back into the Bad Lands of the Dakotas the fall before, but Little Crow, a celebrated Sioux chief, his son, and a few others had passed through the lines and returned to the settlements to steal horses, and avenge certain wrongs. But the tragic death of Little Crow; the narrow escape of his son; the disastrous results to the three Indians that stole Block's horses, as well as the failure of those Indians who stole Mr. King's horses, but which they had to relinquish, so disheartened them that they soon sought safety among their people on the western plains. Little Crow's son was soon captured on the plains, and brought back by Gen. Sibley in the fall of 1863. They camped on the east side of the river, and many St. Cloud people visited the tent of of Little Crow's son.
* Transcribed by Mary Kay Krogman.
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