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.
There were men, girls, boys & infants on the walk too.
Yes, Dale. I hope this is what this document helps make more clear. Although far more women and children were taken to Fort Snelling, the women named here, and their children, accompanied the prisoners to Mankato. These women are documented in written and oral history. The whole 1862 story is so much more complicated than we (white people like me, at least) have understood. Besides these women and their children who accompanied the prisoners, there were men in the prisoners’ group who were acquitted at trial who by right ought to have been released and allowed to go with their families to Fort Snelling. But these acquitted men were kept in prison at Mankato until the spring of 1863. And there were condemned prisoners, possibly ill?, sent to Fort Snelling, not to Mankato where we’d expect to find them. My point is that 150 years later, both Dakota and white historians have probably been too quick to assert their story constitutes “truth-telling.” The truth is we’ve all been telling stories in good faith, but ignorant of how much more information remains to be discovered and considered.
I have wondered if the mother of Caske (who protected Sarah Wakefield) was among these caregivers, or if she was on the march to Ft. Snelling. Any idea?
If she was at Mankato, her name is on this list. Unfortunately, the Snelling internment lists do not give every name, only that of the person acting as the head of household.
Yep, I’d noticed that about the Ft. Snelling lists.
Strange that S. Wakefield didn’t name Caske’s mother in her narrative, as she did his sister-in-law (Winona–obviously a birth-order name, though, so not much help). She claimed to have had such a close relationship with the woman, unlike with Winona, yet she never used the woman’s name. Was this possibly a way of trying to be protective of her, in a way now hard to understand? She obviously felt guilty….
That’s the beauty of writing fiction: you can ascribe her the motivation that serves your story. Have you read Thomas Matlmann’s Night Birds? Frederick Manfred also used SW in Scarlet Plume and Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve in Betrayed. Each found a different spark in the same story.
Just brought NIGHT BIRDS home from the library a few days ago. 🙂
I agree totally with what you’re saying about “the beauty of writing fiction.” But in trying to do this project of HISTORICAL FICTION, I want to have a fairly full a sense of the historical “facts” as possible before entering into the purely fictional. The “gaps” in the historical accounts are the richest places for fictional play, but I want to make sure what I perceive as gaps are actually that–“NOBODY knows”–and not just my own ignorance! Anyway, I’ve bothered you enough on this….
Is there a list of those Dakota that testified against their Dakota relatives and where they were transported to?
At Sibley’s place, Pond’s place , Faribault’s place or someplace else???
The trial case records (‘transcripts’) contain the names of the people who testified in each case where outside testimony was brought in. In many cases, though, the record does not make it explicit whether the witness was a relative. Modern Dakotas, however, certainly might recognize whether a relationship existed or not.
By the last part of your question, do you mean to ask whether the Dakotas who were allowed to stay in MN, were being rewarded for testifying against a relative? I certainly don’t know the story of every Dakota family who was allowed to stay. But the ones who come to my mind were never called to testify because they didn’t participate in the war. The people called as witnesses at trial were present at battles or the sites of civilian massacres and were asked to testify about what they saw. I believe that means most of these witnesses were themselves tried. Relatively few men who were tried were acquitted so my guess is that most of the men who testified against someone were transported to prison.
John Isch recently published a book called The Dakota Trials (2012) a 558-page unedited transcription of the National Archives microfilm of the 1862-64 trial records. The Brown County Historical Society sells it on the web (browncountyhistorymn.org/store). At $29.95 its a great value for the amount of information it contains and much more convenient that rolls of microfilm.
Yes, I read “The Dakota Trials”. Were those that testified, Mdewakanton or other?
I was just analyzing who the witnesses were. So far the vast majority are white women who had been held captive or mixed bloods who had been captive, with one Mdewankanton member of the Lower Peace Party who did not fight –people who never stood trial themselves. That demographic might shift as I’m approaching the date the captives left Camp Release. After that, the pool of people from which to draw witnesses was not as large.
Of the Dakota interned below Ft. Snelling, what Bands were represented?
Of those that were forced to walk, what Bands were represented?
Where the Mdewankanton the only Band to be removed?
Of the Men hung at Mankato, how many of the 38 were Mdewakanton?
Your questions about band affiliation touch on something very important about the historical record. The paper documentary record was created by white people. I am guessing from the general lack of band affiliation mentioned in the 1862-64 records that white men didn’t care about band affiliation because they didn’t write it down–which I think means they didn’t ask. White judgments seem to have been based on RACE –were you Dakota. The trial record bears that out. Walt Bachman mentioned to me years ago that when a full blood Dakota and a mixed blood Dakota were accused of a very similar offense, the mixed bloods generally got a more fair trial (longer, more witnesses etc.) than full-blood Dakotas did. I am finding that is true as I look at who testified. It’s like if you appeared to be Dakota and spoke Dakota, there was a presumption you were guilty. But if you were a mixed blood who spoke English the court seems to have entertained the idea that they needed to hear more evidence before judging.
To be fair, though, it seems like on the opening days of the war, the Dakota warriors prosecuting the war also used RACE to determine who to target. The war cry was “Kill the whites!” and the warriors didn’t stop to discriminate between ‘bands’ like German and Swedes or Christians and Turners. If you were white and lived proximate to the neighborhoods the warriors swept through (or didn’t live there but happened to be driving your escape wagon down a road in that neighborhood) and you encountered warriors, they killed you or took you captive –unless you managed to run away and hide.
In the wake of the war, I don’t think Minnesotans adopted race-based judgment of Dakota people, (trying them, persecuting them, deporting them) as a response to the race-based judgments Dakota warriors used during the war. Rather, I believe the whites and the Dakotas both were immersed in the highly racially-charged ethos of their day. Very few people understood there was any other (non-race based) way to view the world.
By the turn of the 20th century, however, whites and Dakotas both were highly interested in the question of band affiliation because big money was riding on it –the question of restoring the Sisseton and Wahpeton annuities with interest. The best evidence of band affiliations comes out in the testimony given in that case. I discuss that in the Epilogue,”Contested Credit,” to my Historical Introduction to A Thrilling Narrative,p. 110-112.
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