The Epic Battle of the Dakota War
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
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The Battle of Birch Coulie and the Dakota War of 1862 were extraordinary events in American history. In the days following the battle and the war, one of President Lincoln’s private secretaries wrote that “there has hardly been an outbreak so treacherous, so sudden, so bitter, and so bloody...
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A precise timetable for Birch Coulie and the Dakota War is difficult to determine. The various eyewitness accounts of events vary by hours, in some cases days. Where the confusion is unresolvable, I have incorporated the timetable that...
1. Private Robert K. Boyd
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The soldiers could have been mistaken for a picnic party, laughing as they marched merrily in a column across the Minnesota prairie, drinking from the creeks and streams they crossed, and gathering ripe fruit from trees on homesteads that had been abandoned by fleeing settlers...
2. Red Iron
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No one in the mid-nineteenth century was sure where these strange Indian people had come from. At the time some argued that their origins were as mysterious as the dawn of life itself. Others insisted that the Indians had come in an ancient migration from Asia before the land bridge to North America had been swamped by the rising...
3. Little Crow
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His name was Little Crow. As a boy he had attended a mission school, where he learned to read and write Dakota. Then he had left his father’s village in Kaposia, near St. Paul, and headed west for the prairie, where he had married four sisters in succession and earned a reputation for card playing, gambling, and wildness. His father on...
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A lone rider in a saddle of beaded buckskin had raced through the streets of St. Paul sounding the news that out along the Minnesota River women and children by the hundreds were being killed. “Governor Ramsey, Governor Ramsey!” the rider shouted. “The Indians are at war and killing all the white people.” There were soon more alarming...
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Just before dawn at Birch Coulie, the wagons and picketed horses that had been silver in the moonlight began to turn gold. The expedition cook had been up since the middle of the night preparing breakfast for the troops. Captain Joe Anderson had instructed the cook to wake him if he heard anything suspicious. Now the cook noticed that...
6. Colonel Sam McPhail and Lieutenant Sheehan
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Fort R idgely lay sixteen miles southwest of Birch Coulie. With his arrival at the fort, Colonel Sibley had positioned pickets around the fort to give advance warning of an attack. One of those Fort Ridgely pickets, stationed on a small hill twenty yards northwest of the fort, was nineteen-year-old Private Charles Watson, who had been...
7. Dr. Daniels
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By nightfall the men inside Grant’s encampment could make out campfires on the bluffs across the Minnesota River, where the Indians were gathered to enjoy a relaxing feast of cooked cattle captured earlier in the day and prepared by their women. If it were meant to tantalize...
8. The Messenger
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With McPhail’s cautious troops pulled back, there was now little hope by the men of the burial expedition of rescue. The silence of the night was punctuated by cries from the wounded for water and food. Despite the overcast skies and the heat lightning, it did not rain, and the men...
9. Little Paul
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Little Crow rode east across the prairie in the box of a horse-drawn wagon whose axles creaked and grunted. Following the battle plan agreed to over the kettle of dog stew, he was leading an expedition of 110 Dakotas who would try to block the route of government reinforcements...
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Eighty-five-year-old Robert K. Boyd stood on a makeshift wood stage beside Birch Coulie. It was Labor Day 1930, and a crowd of thousands had gathered to remember the Battle of Birch Coulie. The air, which sixty-eight years earlier had been filled with the stench of dead soldiers and...
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An army of researchers, writers, historians, and friends provided information and encouragement. Among them were Tom Ellig, Duane Bright, Alan Woolworth, Jerry Anderson, Dave Craigmile, Scott Larson, Dan Fjeld, Rhoda Gilman, Bob Sandeen, Ron Manzow, Marcia Anderson, Dr. Roger...
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Publication Year: 2012