The U.S.-Dakota War affected people in Faribault,
even though no fighting took place there. The fighting took
from August 17, 1862, through September 26, 1862, in different
locations in the Minnesota River Valley.
||"Attack on New Ulm during the
Sioux Outbreak August 19th - 23rd 1862."
This was the scene imagined
by artist Anton Gag in when he created this oil painting in1904.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.
During this time, many Faribault citizens were
very frightened. Some were frightened because of the reports they
heard from places like Lower Sioux Agency and New Ulm, where angry
Dakota had attacked. These places did not seem very far away from
Faribault, even during a time when people traveled by horse or on
foot. Adding to this fright was the lack of understanding many settlers
had for the Dakota people and their culture.
Others who did know the Dakota and had had good
relationships with them didnt believe they would attack. It
is also important to understand that there were many different views
among the Dakota people about whether it was a good idea to go to
But war seemed the only option to some. In the
years leading up to the war, the Dakota people were in desperate
circumstances. They had been placed on reservations. These were
small sections of land along the Minnesota River. New settlers wanted
more space, and wanted the reservation sections to be made even
The Dakota could no longer hunt or gather food
from the woods and prairies. They also had not received the food
and money the government promised to pay them for the land they
had signed over in treaties in 1851. The crops they had planted
on their reservations failed, and they had no food in the winter
of 1861-62. They were starving to death.
A Dakota leader named Little Crow decided to
take action. He knew that there were supplies in government warehouses
on the reservation that could be used to feed his people. He
thought that the time had come to stop the whites from mistreating
Little Crow also knew that in August, 1862, there
were not many soldiers in Minnesota. Many men from the state had
been called to fight in the Civil War. Little Crow and others first
attacked on August 18, 1862. The fighting continued until September
26, 1862, when the Dakota released their captives.
The people who lived outside of towns were particularly
frightened. They did not know where the angry Dakota would go next.
They felt isolated, and fled to towns or forts. In Faribault, many
people also went to larger towns like St. Paul. Others, like Mary
Mills Whipple, went to towns farther to the east, like Hastings,
because they were farther away from the fighting. No one knew if
the Dakota would attack Faribault.
||" Escapees camping on prairie,
Sioux Massacre." This is a colored postcard created
from an 1862 photo by Adrian J. Ebell. Courtesy
of the Minnesota Historical Society .
Prominent Faribault citizens like Alexander
Faribault and Taopi became involved in the problems during the
war. They, along
with Bishop Henry Whipple, were also involved in the trials that
were held after the war. The Dakota and mixed blood people such
as Alexander Faribaults nephew, David, were put on trial
for crimes they were said to have committed during the war. Even
well-educated David did not fully understand the trial proceedings.
They were very unfair. In the end, 38 Dakota men were executed
their involvement in the war. Somewhere between 400 and 800 white
setters had been killed during the fighting.
The U.S.-Dakota War was not the only war of
its type. Across the upper plains, the U.S. government and desperate
Indian tribes engaged in several battles over the next three decades.
The last of the major fighting occurred in 1890 during tragedy
Wounded Knee in South Dakota.
Many people have studied the causes and after-effects
of the U.S.-Dakota War. There many good sources of information
include many more details than are discussed here. Students and
teachers may be interested in the Minnesota
Public Radio online information discussing the War and its
reverberations today as well as information provided by the Minnesota
Historical Society at the Lower
Sioux Agency and Birch
sites. Detailed information about the Dakota trials, including
the roles of Alexander Faribault, Taopi, and Bishop Henry Whipple,
found on the Famous