Real life is never as cut and dried as histories make it seem. The stories of the Dakota Women’s March to Fort Snelling, and of the Prisoners’ March to South Bend in November 1862 are great examples.
Although the majority of the Dakota women who surrendered in 1862 were taken to Fort Snelling, some Dakota women were sent with the prisoners to South Bend, then to Mankato, and finally on to Davenport in 1863.
This means some Dakota families today carry stories from grandmothers who shared many of the prisoners’ experiences, while others carry stories from grandmothers who were interned at Fort Snelling. Both groups were subject to the overt race hatred that prevailed in Minnesota in 1862-63.
It is not surprising that Dakota oral history sometimes conflates the two groups, reporting that the women and children were marched through New Ulm along with the prisoners, then, were marched on to Fort Snelling. Other Dakota stories hold that the condemned men were marched to Fort Snelling along with their families, where every fourth man was arbitrarily selected out for execution. These stories say the selected men with their families were marched to Mankato –again, placing women and children in Mankato as witnesses to the executions.
Further confusing matters is the fact that General Pope first ordered that very scenario: all the Dakota captives were to be delivered to Fort Snelling where the condemned men would be executed. Then Pope changed his order, directing the men condemned by the military commission be separated out and sent to Mankato, while the remaining captives be sent to Fort Snelling.
But practical concerns dictated an in-the-field modification of Pope’s order. The prisoners were kept in chains. Chained, they could not cook for themselves or tend to the sick and injured in their midst. Further, the prisoners were not allowed knives, awls, sewing needles or anything else that could be used as a weapon against their captors.
The prisoners needed others to take care of them. So twenty Dakota men and women –and a small, but unknown number of their young children –who would have been sent to Fort Snelling were not. Instead, they were detailed as caregivers to the prisoners: water-haulers, nurses, cooks, laundresses, and sent with the prisoners to Mankato.
These prison caregivers were caught in the attack on the prisoners outside New Ulm. They were subject to the attempts to lynch the prisoners in South Bend and Mankato. Most of the caregivers were and Dakota women at Mankato complained to Sibley that the white soldiers guarding the prisoners troubled them in their tipis at night. They would have watched the 38 march to their deaths.
We know the names of these Dakota caregivers:
6. Thomas Renville
8. Akipa Renville
9. Red Iron
10. Winuna Renville
13. “Cecile Tami-ye”
The numbers preceding each name are as given in “Report of Maj. J. R. Brown and Capt. G.D. Redfield List of Persons Employed and of Prisoners.” This PDF transcription reproduces the first two pages of the document dated December 31, 1862, including the job each person was assigned.
The first 5 names on the list are white (and French) men. I did not transcribe the last section of the report referred to in the title, “…and of Prisoners” because the prisoners are listed only by number, not name.
Walt Bachman found this document in the National Archives and shared it with Lois Glewwe, who used it in her 2008 essay on the attack on the prisoners outside New Ulm in Trails of Tears. Walt also shared it with me, and with his permission, I am posting my transcription to make the names more widely available.