A. P. (Alonzo Putnam) Connolly.

A Thrilling Narrative of the Minnesota Massacre and the Sioux War of 1862-63 online

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Online LibraryA. P. (Alonzo Putnam) ConnollyA Thrilling Narrative of the Minnesota Massacre and the Sioux War of 1862-63 → online text (page 3 of 13)
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votes hold down Congressional chairs. Yet they are called savages and are
associated in our minds with tomahawks and scalping knives. Few regard
them as reasoning creatures and some even think they are not endowed by
their Creator with souls. Good men are sending Bibles to all parts of
the world, sermons are preached in behalf of our fellow-creatures who
are perishing in regions known only to us by name; yet here within easy
reach, but a few miles from civilization, surrounded by churches and
schools and all the moral influences abounding in Christian society;
here, in a country endowed with every advantage that God can bestow,
are perishing, body and soul, our countrymen - perishing from disease,
starvation and intemperance and all the evils incident to their unhappy
condition. I have no apology to make for the savage atrocities of any
people, be they heathen or Christian, or pretended Christian; and we can
point to pages of history where the outrages perpetrated by the soldiers
of so-called Christian nations, under the sanction of their governments,
would cause the angels to weep. Look at bleeding Armenia, the victim of
the lecherous Turk, who has satiated his brutal, bestial nature in the
blood and innocency of tens of thousands of men, women and children; and
yet, the Christian nations of the world look on with indifference at
these atrocities and pray: "Oh, Lord, pour out Thy blessings on us and
protect us while we are unmindful of the appeals of mothers and daughters
in poor Armenia!"

This royal, lecherous, murderous Turk, instead of being dethroned and
held to a strict accountability for the horrible butcheries, and worse
than butcheries, going on within his kingdom and for which he, and he
alone, is responsible, is held in place by Christian and civilized
nations for fear that some one shall, in the partition of his unholy
empire, get a bigger slice than is its equitable share.

The "sick man" has been allowed for the last half century to commit the
most outrageous crimes against an inoffensive, honest, progressive, and
law-abiding people, and no vigorous protest has gone out against it.
Shall we, then, mercilessly condemn the poor Indians because, driven
from pillar to post, with the government pushing in front and hostile
tribes and starvation in their rear, they have in vain striven for a
bare existence? Whole families have starved while the fathers were away
on their hunt for game. Through hunger and disease powerful tribes have
become but a mere band of vagabonds.

America, as she listens to the dying wail of the red man, driven from the
forests of his childhood and the graves of his fathers, cannot afford
to throw stones; but rather let her redeem her broken pledges to these
helpless, benighted, savage children, and grant them the protection they
have the right to expect, nay, demand.

"I will wash my hands in innocency" will not suffice. Let the government
make amends, and in the future mete out to the dishonest agent such
a measure of punishment as will strike terror to him and restore the
confidence of the Indians who think they have been unjustly dealt with.
But to my theme.

The year of which I write was a time in St. Paul when the Indian was
almost one's next door neighbor, - a time when trading between St. Paul
and Winnipeg was carried on principally by half-breeds, and the mode
of transportation the crude Red river cart, which is made entirely of
wood, - not a scrap of iron in its whole make-up. The team they used was
one ox to a cart, and the creak of this long half-breed train, as it
wended its way over the trackless country, could be heard twice a year as
it came down to the settlements laden with furs to exchange for supplies
for families, and hunting purposes. It was at a time when the hostile
bands of Sioux met bands of Chippewas, and in the immediate vicinity
engaged in deadly conflict, while little attention was paid to their
feuds by the whites or the government at Washington.



It was in August, 1861, on the western border of Devil's Lake, Dakota,
there sat an old Indian chief in the shade of his wigwam, preparing a
fresh supply of kinnikinnick.

The mantle of evening was veiling the sky as this old chief worked and
the events of the past were crowding his memory. He muses alone at the
close of the day, while the wild bird skims away on its homeward course
and the gathering gloom of eventide causes a sigh to escape his breast,
as many sweet pictures of past happy years "come flitting again with
their hopes and their fears." The embers of the fire have gone out and he
and his dog alone are resting on the banks of the lake after the day's
hunt; and, as he muses, he wanders back to the time when in legend lore
the Indian owned the Western world; the hills and the valleys, the vast
plains and their abundance, the rivers, the lakes and the mountains were
his; great herds of buffalo wended their way undisturbed by the white
hunter; on every hand abundance met his gaze, and the proud Red Man with
untainted blood, and an eye filled with fire, looked out toward the four
points of the compass, and, with beating heart, thanked the Great Spirit
for this goodly heritage. To disturb his dream the white man came, and
as the years rolled on, step by step, pressed him back; - civilization
brought its cunning and greed for money-getting. A generous government,
perhaps too confiding, allowed unprincipled men to rob and crowd, and
crowd and rob, until the Mississippi is reached and the farther West
is portioned out to him for his future residence. The influx of whites
from Europe and the rapidly increasing population demand more room, and
another move is planned by the government for the Indians, until they are
crowding upon the borders of unfriendly tribes.

[Illustration: Designed by A. P. Connolly.

Little Crow Sitting Meditating on the Banks of Devil's Lake, Dakota,
August, 1862.]

This old chief of whom we speak awoke from his meditative dream, and
in imagination we see him with shaded eyes looking afar off toward the
mountain. He beholds a cloud no bigger than a man's hand; he strains
his eye, and eagerly looks, for he sees within the pent-up environments
of this cloud all the hatred and revenge with which his savage race is
endowed. The cloud that is gathering is not an imaginative one, but it
will burst in time upon the heads of guilty and innocent alike; and the
old chief chuckles as he thinks of the scalps he will take from the
hated whites, and the great renown, and wonderful power yet in store for
him. His runners go out visiting other bands and tell what the old chief
expects. They give their assent to it, and as they talk and speculate,
they too, become imbued with a spirit of revenge and a desire to gain
back the rich heritage their fathers once held in possession for them,
but which has passed from their control. They are not educated, it is
true, but nature has endowed them with intelligence enough to understand
that their fathers had bartered away an empire, and in exchange had
taken a limited country, illy adapted to their wants and crude,
uncivilized habits. This old chief's mind is made up, and we will meet
him again - aye! on fields of blood and carnage.

The government had acted in good faith, and had supplied the Indians
with material for building small brick houses, furnishing, in addition
to money payments and clothing, farming implements and all things
necessary to enable them to support themselves on their fertile farms;
and missionaries, also, were among them, and competent teachers, ready to
give the young people, as they grew up, an education, to enable them to
better their condition and take on the habits and language of the white

But the devil among the Indians, as among the whites, finds "some
mischief still for idle hands to do;" gamblers and other unprincipled
men followed the agents, hob-nobbed with them, and laid their plans
to "hold-up and bunko" the Indians, who, filled with fire-water and a
passion for gambling, soon found themselves stripped of money, ponies
and blankets, with nothing in view but a long, cold, dreary winter and
starvation. A gambler could kill an Indian and all he had to fear was
an Indian's vengeance (for the civil law never took cognizance of the
crime); but if an Indian, filled with rum, remorse and revenge, killed
a gambler, he was punished to the full extent of the law. In this one
thing the injustice was so apparent that even an Indian could see it;
and he made up his mind that when the time came he would even up the
account. The savage Indians were intelligent enough to know that in these
transactions it was the old story of the handle on the jug - all on one

Those of the "friendlies" who were Christianized and civilized were
anxious to bury forever all remains of savagery and become citizens of
the nation, and if the government had placed honorable men over them to
administer the law, their influence would have been felt, and in time the
leaven of law and order, would have leavened the whole Sioux nation. The
various treaties that had been made with them by the government did not
seem to satisfy the majority, and whether there was any just cause for
this dissatisfaction I do not propose to discuss; but, that a hostile
feeling did exist was apparent, as subsequent events proved.

The provisions of the treaties for periodical money payments, although
carried out with substantial honesty, failed to fulfill the exaggerated
expectations of the Indians; and these matters of irritation added
fuel to the fire of hostility, which always has, and always will exist
between a civilized and a barbarous nation, when brought into immediate
contact; and especially has this been the case where the savages were
proud, brave and lordly warriors, who looked with supreme contempt upon
all civilized methods of obtaining a living, and who felt amply able
to defend themselves and avenge their wrongs. Nothing special has been
discovered to have taken place other than the general dissatisfaction
referred to, to which the outbreak of 1862 can be immediately attributed.
This outbreak was charged to emissaries from the Confederates of the
South, but there was no foundation for these allegations. The main reason
was that the Indians were hungry and angry; they had become restless, and
busy-bodies among them had instilled within them the idea that the great
war in the South was drawing off able-bodied men and leaving the women
and children at home helpless. Some of the ambitious chiefs thought it a
good opportunity to regain their lost country and exalt themselves in
the eyes of their people. The most ambitious of the lot was Little Crow,
the old chief we saw sitting in the shade of his wigwam on Devil's Lake.
He was a wily old fox and knew how to enlist the braves on his side.
After the battles of Birch Coolie and Wood Lake, Minnesota, in September,
1862, he deserted his warriors, and was discovered one day down in the
settlements picking berries upon which to subsist. Refusing to surrender,
he was shot, and in his death the whites were relieved of an implacable
foe, and the Indians deprived of an intrepid and daring leader.

There was nothing about the agencies up to August 18, 1862, to indicate
that the Indians intended, or even thought, of an attack. Everything had
an appearance of quiet and security. On the 17th of August, however, a
small party of Indians appeared at Acton, Minnesota, and murdered several
settlers, but it was not generally thought that they left the agency
with this in mind; this killing was an afterthought, a diversion; but,
on the news of these murders reaching the Indians at the Upper Agency
on the 18th, open hostilities were at once commenced and the whites and
traders indiscriminately murdered. George Spencer was the only white man
in the stores who escaped with his life. He was twice wounded, however,
and running upstairs in the loft hid himself away and remained concealed
until the Indians, thinking no more white people remained, left the
place, when an old squaw took Spencer to her home and kept him until his
fast friend, Chaska, came and took him under his protection. The picture
of Spencer is taken from an old-time photograph.

[Illustration: George Spencer,

Who was Saved by Chaska, August, 1862.]

The missionaries residing a short distance above the Yellow Medicine,
and their people, with a few others, were notified by friendly disposed
Indians, and to the number of about forty made their escape to
Hutchinson, Minnesota. Similar events occurred at the Lower Agency on the
same day, when nearly all the traders were butchered, and several who got
away before the general massacre commenced were killed before reaching
Fort Ridgely, thirteen miles below, or the other places of safety to
which they were fleeing. All the buildings at both agencies were
destroyed, but such property as was valuable to the Indians was carried

The news of the outbreak reached Fort Ridgely about 8 o'clock a. m. on
the 18th of August through the arrival of a team from the Lower Agency,
which brought a citizen badly wounded, but no details. Captain John F.
Marsh, of the Fifth Minnesota, with eighty-five men, was holding the
fort, and upon the news reaching him he transferred his command of the
fort to Lieutenant Gere and with forty-five men started for the scene
of hostilities. He had a full supply of ammunition, and with a six-mule
team left the fort at 9 a. m. on the 18th of August, full of courage and
anxious to get to the relief of the panic-stricken people. On the march
up, evidences of the Indians' bloody work soon appeared, for bodies were
found by the roadside of those who had recently been murdered, one of
whom 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 endeavored to induce the soldiers to cross. A dense chaparral
bordered the river on the agency side and tall grass covered the bottom
land on the side where the troops were stationed. From various signs,
suspicions were aroused of the presence of Indians, and the suspicions
proved correct, for without a moment's notice, Indians in great numbers
sprang up on all sides of the troops and opened a deadly fire. About
half of the men were instantly killed. Finding themselves surrounded,
desperate hand-to-hand encounters occurred, with varying results, and the
remnant of the command made a point down the river about two miles from
the ferry, Captain Marsh being among the number. They evidently attempted
to cross, but Captain Marsh was drowned in the effort, and only thirteen
of his command escaped and reached the fort alive. Captain Marsh, in
his excitement, may have erred in judgment and deemed it more his duty
to attack than retreat; but the great odds of five hundred Indians to
forty-five soldiers was too great and the captain and his brave men paid
the penalty. He was young, brave and ambitious and knew but little of
the Indians' tactics in war; but he no doubt believed he was doing his
duty in advancing rather than retreating, and his countrymen will hold
his memory and the memory of those who gave up their lives with him in
warmer esteem than they would had he adopted the more prudent course of
retracing his steps.

At a later date, in 1876, it will be remembered, the brave Custer was
led into a similar trap, and of the five companies of the Seventh United
States cavalry and their intrepid commanders only one was left to tell
the tale.

After having massacred the people at the agencies, the Indians at once
sent out marauding parties in all directions and covered the country from
the northeast as far as Glencoe, Hutchinson and St. Peter, Minnesota,
and as far south as Spirit Lake, Iowa. In their trail was to be found
their deadly work of murder and devastation, for at least one thousand
men, women and children were found brutally butchered, houses burned,
and beautiful farms laid waste. The settlers, being accustomed to the
friendly visits of these Indians, were taken completely unawares and were
given no opportunity for defense.

Major Thomas Galbraith, the Sioux agent, had raised a company known
as the Renville Rangers, and was expecting to report at Fort Snelling
for muster and orders to proceed south to join one of the Minnesota
commands; but upon his arrival at St. Peter, on the evening of August
18, he learned the news of the outbreak at the agencies, and immediately
retraced his steps, returning to Fort Ridgely, where he arrived on
the 19th. On the same day Lieutenant Sheehan, of the Fifth Minnesota
Infantry, with fifty men, arrived also, in obedience to a dispatch
received from Captain Marsh, who commanded the post at Fort Ridgely.
Lieutenant Sheehan, in enthusiasm and appearance, resembled General
Sheridan. He was young and ambitious, and entered into this important
work with such vim as to inspire his men to deeds of heroic valor. Upon
receipt of Captain Marsh's dispatch ordering him to return at once, as
"The Indians are raising hell at the Lower Agency!" he so inspired his
men so as to make the forced march of forty-two miles in nine hours and
a half, and he did not arrive a minute too soon. After Captain Marsh's
death he became the ranking officer at Fort Ridgely, and the mantle
of authority could not fall on more deserving shoulders. His command
consisted of Companies B and C of the Fifth Minnesota, 100 men; Renville
Rangers, 50 men; with several men of other organizations, including
Sergeant John Jones (afterwards captain of artillery), and quite a number
of citizen refugees, and a party that had been sent up by the Indian
agent with the money to pay the Indians at the agency.

[Illustration: Designed by A. P. Connolly.

Siege of Fort Ridgely, August 20, 21 and 22.

Indians fired the Fort with burning arrows, but were finally defeated by
General Sibley's Column.]



Fort Ridgely was a fort in name only. It was not built for defense,
but was simply a collection of buildings built around a square facing
inwards. The commandant's quarters, and those of the officers, also, were
two-story structures of wood, while the men's barracks of two stories
and the commissary storehouse were stone, and into these the families of
the officers and soldiers and the refugee families were placed during
the siege. On the 20th of August, 1862, about 3 p. m., an attack was
made upon the fort by a large body of Indians, who stealthily came down
the ravines and surrounded it. The first intimation the people and the
garrison had of their proximity was a volley from the hostile muskets
pouring between the openings of the buildings. The sudden onslaught
caused great consternation, but order was soon restored.

Sergeant Jones, of the battery, who had seen service in the British army,
as well as in our own regular army, in attempting to turn his guns on the
Indians found to his utter astonishment that the pieces had been tampered
with by some of the half-breeds belonging to the Renville Rangers who had
deserted to the enemy. They had spiked the guns by ramming old rags into
them. The sergeant soon made them serviceable, however, and brought his
pieces to bear upon the Indians in such an effective way as to teach them
a lesson in artillery practice they did not forget. The "rotten balls,"
as they termed the shells, fell thick and fast among them, and the havoc
was so great that they withdrew out of range to hold a council of war
and recover from their surprise. The fight lasted, however, for three
hours, with a loss to the garrison of three killed and eighteen wounded.
On the morning of Thursday, the 21st of August, the attack was renewed
by the Indians, and they made a second attack in the afternoon, but with
less force and earnestness and but little damage to the garrison. The
soldiers were on the alert and the night was an anxious one, for the
signs from the hostiles indicated that they were making preparations
for a further attempt to capture the fort. During the night barricades
were placed at all open spaces between the buildings, and the little
garrison band instructed, each man's duty specified, and directions
given to the women and children, who were placed in the stone barracks,
to lie low so as not to be harmed by bullets coming in at the windows.
On Friday, the 22d, Little Crow, the then Sioux commander in chief, had
the fort surrounded by 650 warriors whom he had brought down from the
agency. He had them concealed in the ravines which surrounded the fort,
and endeavored by sending a few of the warriors out on the open prairie
to draw the garrison out from the fort, but fortunately there were men
there who had previously had experience in Indian warfare, and the
scheme of this wily old Indian fox did not work. Little Crow, finding it
useless to further maneuver in this way, ordered an attack. The showers
of bullets continued for seven long hours, or until about 7 p. m., but
the attack was courageously and bitterly opposed by the infantry, and
this, together with the skillfully handled artillery by Sergeant Jones,
saved the garrison for another day. The Indians sought shelter behind
and in the outlying wooden buildings, but well directed shells from the
battery fired these buildings and routed the Indians, who in turn made
various attempts by means of fire arrows to ignite the wooden buildings
of the fort proper. But for the daring and vigilance of the troops the
enemy would have succeeded in their purpose. The Indians lost heavily in
this engagement, while the loss to the troops was one killed and seven
wounded. Lieutenant Sheehan, the commander of the post, was a man of
true grit, and he was ably assisted by Lieutenant Gorman of the Renville
Rangers, and Sergeants Jones and McGrau of the battery. Every man was
a hero and did his whole duty. Surrounded as they were by hundreds of
bloodthirsty savages, this little band was all that stood between the
hundreds of women and children refugees and certain death, or worse
than death! Besides, the government storehouses were filled with army
supplies, and about $75,000 in gold, with which they intended making an
annuity payment to these same Indians.

The water supply being cut off, the soldiers and all the people,
especially the wounded, suffered severely, but Post Surgeon Mueller and
his noble wife heroically responded to the urgent calls of the wounded
sufferers irrespective of danger. Mrs. Mueller was a lovely woman of the
heroic type. During the siege, in addition to caring for the wounded, she
made coffee, and in the night frequently visited all the men who were on
guard and plentifully supplied them with this exhilarating beverage. An
incident in relation to her also is, that during the siege the Indians
had sheltered themselves behind a haystack and from it were doing deadly
work. Sergeant Jones could not bring his twenty-four pounder to bear on
them without exposing his men too much, unless he fired directly through
a building that stood in the way. This house was built as they are on the
plantations in the South, with a broad hall running from the front porch
clear through to the rear. In the rear of this hall were rough double
doors, closed principally in winter time to keep the snow from driving
through. The sergeant had them closed and then brought his piece around
in front, and the Indians away back of the house could not see what the
maneuvering was. He crept up and attached a rope to the handle of the
door, and looking through the cracks got the range and then sighted his
gun. Mrs. Mueller, sheltered and out of harm's way, held the end of
the attached rope. The signal for her to pull open the doors was given
by Sergeant Jones, and this signal was the dropping of a handkerchief.
When the signal came, with good nerve, she pulled the rope and open flew
the doors. Immediately the gunner pulled the lanyard and the shell with
lighted fuse landed in the haystacks, which were at once set fire to and
the Indians dislodged. This lady died at her post, beloved by all who
knew her, and a grateful government has erected an expensive monument
over her remains, which lie buried in the soldiers' cemetery at Fort
Ridgely, where, with hundreds of others whose pathway to the grave was
smoothed by her motherly hands, they will remain until the great reveille
on the resurrection dawn.

[Illustration: LITTLE CROW.]



Little Crow, finding himself baffled in his attempt to capture the fort,

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Online LibraryA. P. (Alonzo Putnam) ConnollyA Thrilling Narrative of the Minnesota Massacre and the Sioux War of 1862-63 → online text (page 3 of 13)