Alexander Faribault's story: 1855
Before the story
After the story
In his tracks

Mary Whipple's_story: 1862
Before the Story
After the Story
In her tracks

Taopi's story: 1864
Before the story
After the story
In his tracks

Bishop Henry Whipple's story: 1867
Before the story
After the story
In his tracks

The U.S.-Dakota War
Events in Common

The U.S.-Dakota War affected people in Faribault, even though no fighting took place there. The fighting took place 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. "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 didn’t 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 war.

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 smaller.

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 also thought that the time had come to stop the whites from mistreating them.

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. " 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 Faribault’s nephew, David, were put on trial for crimes they were said to have committed during the war. Even the well-educated David did not fully understand the trial proceedings. They were very unfair. In the end, 38 Dakota men were executed for 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 of 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 that 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 Coulee historic sites. Detailed information about the Dakota trials, including the roles of Alexander Faribault, Taopi, and Bishop Henry Whipple, can be found on the Famous Trials website.

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