of August 25, 1862
A Closer Look
Mary Whipple wrote the following letter as
the events of the U.S. Dakota War began affecting Faribault.
Faribault, Aug. 25, 1862
Dear Little Sister,
It is Monday morning, that most inauspicious
of all mornings for writing, but I fancy you must have heard
something of the Indian troubles and I hasten to write you of our safety —
Sept. 14. You see I did not write far — kitchen duties
called me and I was in turn called away from them by a visit from
Rev. Mr. Blow, a Nashotah deacon… He entertained and horrified
us by accounts of Indian atrocities as related to him by eye witnesses — I
dare not record them, but it is sufficient to say that they exceed
all I have read… Bro. Blow left about dinnertime and immediately
after that meal a council of war was held in the parlor – said
council consisting of Rev. Dr. Breck, Mr. Geo. Whipple, and wife.
The precarious status of Ft. Ridgely (then besieged) and probable
consequences of its fall, led my husband and brother to think we
would be better in Hastings, at least until the fate of the Ft.
The Siouxs or Dakotas were the perpetrators of
all the murders and outrages, but they had been urging the Winnebagoes
them. The latter have their agency about 25 miles from us, and
in case the Sioux succeeded in taking Ft. Ridgely would no doubt
immediately join them and thus be within a few hours march of here.
They are well mounted and furnished with fire arms. These things
being considered, I was ordered to pack up for Hastings, taking
Clara, Muhlenberg and Charlie with me. No gentlemen could leave
town without a pass. Imagine! A large washing in the tubs, and
children’s clothes indispensable. I hired a woman and baby
to iron, and after as hard a day as I ever had, my husband and
brother were to remain, and the “babes in the woods” under
my care. Even that India Rubber vehicle the stage groaned when
it saw me, although our passage had been engaged the day before.
There were already nine inside including two children and excluding
a baby, when my flock appeared. But we were packed, I shudder now
when I think how, and after a whole day’s ride we were set
down at the Tremont House, Hastings, where I secured rooms and
gained time to breathe, meditate on my position and prospects (that
last sentence would so credit to one of the late love stories).
course I felt alarmed for Faribault, but we were all in fearful
suspense for the missionaries at Redwood, concerning whom not a
word had reached us except the uncertain rumor that they had reached
Ft. Ridgely (12 miles this side of Red Wood, 100 miles from here).
Mrs. Hinman, wife of the missionary in charge there, was here with
her child, and was waiting for her husband when the news of the
outbreak reached her. Imagine her feelings – reading and
hearing every day, the too true accounts of others, her friends
and neighbors burned alive, tomahawked, mangled and mutilated in
the most dreadful manner.
I was at Hastings a week, during which
time dreadful battles occurred at the Fort. Miss West’s escape
was almost miraculous. She walked 12 miles to the Ft., was once
surrounded by Indians who
announced their intention of killing her and the woman with her,
but her presence of mind saved her—they recognized her, saluted
her with their customary “ho” to which she replied
and held out her hand. They shook hands with her and told her to
hasten to the Ft. Then hastened off on an errand of death to another
house. She and her companion lost everything. She was in her washing
Troupes are constantly sent to the frontier, but
there is much necessary delay, for infantry can do little with
who fly hither and thither on horseback. More murders were committed
last week near Mankato within one mile of the military force stationed
for the protection of the inhabitants. There are between one and
two hundred captive women and children at Yellow Medicine—Mankato
is 50 miles from here.
Your letter came to me at Hastings. I had
wondered at not hearing from you, although I had dared not hope
you would come. I am glad
you did not. No one can tell how this Indian War will affect us
all this winter—the school has dwindled away amazingly since
the fuss commenced, and many are leaving town for the present.
If affairs do not alter for the better it is not impossible I may
be sent east with the children. Of course we are constantly on
the alert for Indian wars and at present they are very discouraging.
Almost every woman in town whether she knows it
or not is in constant dread that “the Indians should come” and
she and her little ones be a prey to the tomahawk and scalping
knife or worse.
I am not really afraid for our safety here, and yet I must confess
that all day, here alone with the children, the others at Church,
I have listened with nervous eagerness, and started at every sound
because Muhlenberg said this morning, while out on the piazza that
he had just seen Indians pass in their blankets. My reason tells
me that Indians intent on hostilities would never come into town
so openly, or rather pass a house openly—we are out of town – and
yet the indefinable dread that makes me constantly start and listen…
West spent the day with me, and her account of the horrors, which
she herself witnessed, and the dreadful deaths of those whom
she knew well, have quite unsettled me. But I have other letters
to write, and I have scarcely answered yours. I appreciate your
feeling after your company has left. I have been alone very little
this summer. It is well perhaps. But for a new housekeeper with
Irish help, a house full of company and three children, [I] have
little time for folded hands. I read little except Indian news
and a snatch occasionally of “Recreations of a Country Parson.” We
have some pleasant people spending the winter in town in search
of health. A clergyman, wife and daughter from Brooklyn and a lady
from Penn. The latter is an admirable German scholar, speaking
the language fluently and acquainted with the best literature of
the country. I wish you might know her – Miss Darlington-
I fear she will not spend many winters anywhere. She is a good
Churchwoman – an unpretending unmistakable lady…. Write
me soon please – I am afraid George may be drafted, as he
is not yet ordained….
Love to your mother, as ever.