Monday, August 13, 2018

General Henry Sibley's Description of the Dakota Conflict of August 1862

General Henry Sibley, then a Colonel and commander of the Indian Expedition to battle Little Crow after the outbreak of this Indian war, describes the Dakota Conflict thus:

"On the morning of August 18th, 1862, as if a volcano filled with lava and blood had suddenly discharged its contents upon the earth, the Sioux massacre burst upon the breast of Minnesota, terrific and unexampled, covering her soil with the blood of her children, and, amid horrors of devastation and death, spreading anguish and consternation on every side. The very hour when, dreaming of "Peace and Safety," sudden destruction came. In that moment, when her citizens were congratulating each other at being so far removed from the scene of civil war, a merciless and furious enemy perfected a plan of marvelous secrecy, which, in an instant, let loose upon her unsuspecting settlers almost a thousand of the most warlike of all the Indian tribes upon the continent, reveling in a carnival of the most indiscriminate and cruel butchery, killing men, women, and children, saving only girls of tender years and comely females, to minister to their brutal appetites. Many of the young were ravaged in the sight of their dying parents, and in various instances the torch was applied to the dwellings in which the victims had met their fate, before they ceased to exist. From Otter Tail lake and Fort Abercrombie on the Red River, southwardly, to the Iowa border,  a distance of 200 miles, and, eastward, from Big Stone lake, on the western shore, to Forest City in Meeker County, an area of 20,000 square miles, embracing no less than eighteen counties with a population of 40,000 souls, the wild war whoop of the naked Indian, hideous in plumes and war paint, the torch, the tomahawk, the scalping knife, the rifle, the arrow, and all the unchained passions of men insane with the desperation of revenge, asserted their fiendish supremacy. Old men stumbling beneath the dull thud of the war club, infants brought to an untimely birth, nailed to the door, or tossed to alight on the limbs of the thorn tree, women transfixed to the ground after abuse had exhausted itself, and young men stabbed to the heart, nameless atrocities to which "massacre itself was a mercy," diversified the orgies of this carnival of hell, until the Moloch of cruelty and lust, glutted to satiety, could ask no more.  Over this vast Aceldama, the sky, at night, was illumined with a lurid reflected glare from the conflagration of burning homes below. The flames subsiding here, were answered by flames ascending there. Homes, beautiful a moment ago, now sank out of sight, to their ashes, forever. The moan of the dying and the shriek of the helpless filled the air. In a week, and mostly within forty-eight hours, 1000 persons perished in excruciating pain, 2000 more were maimed sufferers from the outrage, and 8000, who before were fairly well-to-do, were thrown, as paupers, on the charity of individuals, or on the bounty of the state. A stream of 30,000 fugitives rushed down the Minnesota valley, seeking protection in the interior towns of the state, or fleeing to the neighboring states, and even to their New England friends. Not less than $2,000,000 worth of property was destroyed in a belt of two hundred and fifty miles, and in ten counties, nothing was left. What remained to testify to the indescribable barbarity and unsmothered hate of the savages, in their descent upon a peaceful and prosperous community, was a vision of widespread desolation, dotted with hundreds of dead bodies, strewn everywhere, unsepelchered, and rotting in the sun. As a result of the horror, reason reeled in many cases, and for some who had seen this infliction of  brutalities upon their household, nothing was left but stupification at first, mechanical motion next, and at last, the maniac's wild stare, and the maniac's sad wail." (The Ancestry Life and Times of Henry H. Sibley, Pp 249-250, by Nathaniel West, D.D. Pioneer Press Publishing Company, Saint Paul Minnesota, 1889)

This month is the 158th anniversary of the Dakota Conflict of 1862. Read the entire story, both sides, white and Indian, of the Dakota Conflict in "Blood on the Prairie: A Novel of the Sioux Uprising" in the format of your choice at Amazon at the link below:


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