Letter 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 —

Sunday, 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. was determined.

The Siouxs or Dakotas were the perpetrators of all the murders and outrages, but they had been urging the Winnebagoes to join 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).

Of 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 clothes.

Troupes are constantly sent to the frontier, but there is much necessary delay, for infantry can do little with a pack of demons 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…

Miss 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.


Sister Mary


Alexander Faribault

Faribault's French House
Fur Trade
Making the Town Grow
Site of the Bluffs
Trading Post

Mary Whipple

Bed Bugs
Divinity Students
Emma and Eva Havens
Emma Willard School
Eva's Death
Hastings to Faribault
Hawaiian Fever
Letter of August 25, 1862
Longed to Travel
Mary's Wedding
Sandwich Islands
Soap to Sausages
Some Clothing
Sound of Bells


Big Woods
Fort Snelling
Saving Others
When it Started

Henry Whipple

Back Home
Bad Teeth
East to School
Gull Lake
Loved to Fish
Six Children
Time of Crisis
Treatment of Indians
Youngest Child

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