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Minnesota’s Sioux uprising began with senseless murder on a peaceful Sunday afternoon. Before it ended, the smell of death was everywhere
April 1962 | Volume 13, Issue 3
The day was August 17, 1862, a Sunday when most of the settlers in southwestern Minnesota were taking a Sabbath rest in the midst of the farmers’ yearly race to get in the ripe grain while the weather stayed good. If it was like most days in a Minnesota harvest season, there was a blue haze along the prairie horizon and the dusty smell of dry grass and wheat stubble in the air.
It was, above all, a peaceful day, and the small band of a score or so of Sioux hunters passing the scattered farms of Acton Township in Meeker County, on their way home from the Big Woods to the north, added no note of menace. Beyond begging and petty thievery, the Sioux had given the settlers little trouble; even when most of their vast hunting lands were taken from them, they only complained and grumbled but did not resist. Of course, there had been the massacre five years earlier of thirty settlers at Spirit Lake just across the border in Iowa, but Inkpaduta and his small band, who were responsible, were outlaws, disowned by their own tribesmen.
The Minnesota hunting party, though, was in a rather snappish mood. Hunting had been poor, they were hungry, and there were still some forty miles between them and home, which was the village at Rice Creek, across the Minnesota River, ruled by Red Middle Voice. And at this time, the fates so arranged it that one of them should discover a nest of eggs in the grass beside the road, left there by a settler’s far-ranging hen.
One man began to gather up this unexpected gift of food; another cautioned him that they belonged to a white man and that trouble might ensue. The first thereupon smashed the eggs to show his disdain for whites and jeered at the other for being a coward. The argument became acrimonious, sides were taken, and finally the majority turned down a different road after boasting to the cautious one and the three who had taken his part that they were going to kill some whites, and daring the four to do the same.
It was a challenge the quartet did not know how to evade, and after some indecision they turned into a farmyard where three white families were gathered for a Sunday visit. The Sioux proposed a shooting match, and when the guns of the whites were empty, they turned on their hosts and killed three men and two women. Then, their brief spell of courage over, the four Indians stole horses and headed for home, arriving after dark.
When they told their story, messengers were sent at once through the night to other villages, summoning an immediate council at the house of Chief Little Crow, most important leader of the Lower Sioux. It was a bitter council, and came close to blows. Some chiefs called for war, arguing that the whites would extract reprisals indiscriminately and that the Sioux should strike first. Besides, what better time to redress their many grievances, when so many young white men were away fighting their own Civil War? Others, like Chiefs Wabasha and Wacouta, were eloquent champions of peace—and would remain so even during the fighting. Little Crow spoke at first, like the peace chiefs, about the certainty of defeat, but later, in a startling change of direction, said that he would lead them nevertheless.
It would prove to be a fateful decision, for the hostilities about to begin would continue to erupt into intermittent wars and ambuscades for almost three decades. There would be many setbacks for the white man, but in the end there would be nothing but complete and hopeless defeat for the Sioux; the inevitable conclusion at the euphemistically named Battle of Wounded Knee would see soldiers using rifles, bayonets, and artillery on ragged and starving Indians, largely women and children, who had already surrendered. But all this lay far ahead on that August night when the decision was made.
There seemed to be every reason why Little Crow should want to avoid war with the whites. After a dissipated youth, he had settled down and become a sober and responsible leader. He was gradually adopting some of the white man’s ways: he farmed a little, lived in a wooden house, wore trousers, and only the morning before the council had attended services at the agency chapel, although he did not profess Christianity. But other Sioux were beginning to sneer at him as a “cut-hair” and a lackey of the whites, and he had recently been defeated for re-election to the important position of speaker of the Lower Sioux. These things must have rankled deeply, and made him see in war a chance, even though a forlorn and desperate one, to retrieve his slipping reputation.
A brief word about the geography of the situation. Southwestern Minnesota was filling with settlers, and the Sioux had been deprived of all their land except a shoestring reservation one hundred and fifty miles long and ten miles wide on the south side of the upper Minnesota River. The affairs of this long strip were administered from two centers, or agencies. Lower Agency was in the area where the villages of the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute tribes of the Sioux nation stood; Little Crow and the other Indians involved in the midnight council belonged to these tribes. Some forty miles up the river was Upper Agency, which took care of the affairs of the Wahpeton and Sisseton Sioux. Both agencies were busy communities with government offices, warehouses, schools, and traders’ stores. Little Crow’s hope was that the Wahpetons and Sissetons would join the war, and possibly even the Yanktons, Tetons, and other Siouan tribes from farther west.
The Indians had many legitimate grievances. Most of their hunting grounds had been taken away. They had been granted considerable sums of money for their various land cessions, but strange claimants were paid large amounts for various vague services, and many of the Indians received nothing. And each time the annual pay tables were set up, traders were present to demand money for goods sold to Indians on credit; the traders were paid oft without being made to present the most elementary proof of their claims. Things were especially bad this August of 1862 because the Indians had delayed a buffalo hunt into Dakota Territory to wait for the annuity payment which ordinarily came in early July, but still had not arrived.
The council had broken up very late, and not long afterward, well before full morning light, Indians came quietly into Lower Agency, splitting into groups which took up positions at the various buildings. Early-rising whites who saw Indians around so early were mildly puzzled but unsuspecting. It was one of the characteristics of this bloodiest of all Indian uprisings that so many of its victims knew no apprehension almost until they felt the shock of a bullet striking their bodies.
James Lynd, clerk in a trader’s store and sire of several children by Sioux girls he found plenty of time to woo but not enough to marry, met a bullet as he came to the door and so won the distinction of being the first to die. Upstairs, Andrew Myrick, Lynd’s employer, jumped from a window but was shot down before he could reach shelter in a clump of brush. The Sioux were especially interested in Myrick. A few weeks earlier, he had cut off further credit to Indians and had shrugged away remonstrances that some might starve. “Let them eat grass,” he had said. Many days later, when white forces were able to return to Lower Agency, they found Myrick’s body, the mouth stuffed with prairie grass.
Others were slain in those first minutes, but fortunately for the befuddled whites, the Indians became overwhelmed by the rich loot open to them and temporarily gave up killing in favor of pillage and arson. Most of the terrified whites made their way to the river ferry. The ferryman, a hero whose name is not even known for certain, might easily have escaped, but he stayed with his boat and carried perhaps fifty persons to safety before the Sioux noticed what was going on and put a stop to it by shooting and killing him.
Those who had been ferried to the north bank of the river headed toward Fort Ridgely, about fifteen miles to the southeast. Not all made it. Thirteen were killed at the Agency and another ten in flight; ten women were taken captive. Two or three persons were saved through the intercession of individual Sioux they had befriended, but more often old friends of the Indians were killed without mercy. Philander Prescott, for instance, had lived with the Sioux for more than forty years as an interpreter and good friend and was married to a Sioux woman. But he was overtaken while fleeing toward Fort Ridgely and shot down.
There was smoke and blood and the smell of death in many places that day. While Chief Little Crow personally led the attack on the Agency, other bands were ranging wide. In Milford Township, a good twenty miles south of the Indian villages, fifty German settlers were slain. On the north side of the river near present-day Sacred Heart, twenty-five were butchered and a number of women and children taken captive. As many as several hundred may have died that first day; no one will ever know because many died without any survivors to report their fates.
Adult males were killed, with few exceptions. Women were sometimes taken captive, sometimes slain, as suited the whim of the Sioux. Some children were allowed to go into captivity with their mothers, but others were brutally beaten to death. There were instances of atrocities and mutilations, but they appear to have been the exception to the general rule. Even so, death at the hands of a Sioux war party was as hard and bitter as death by violence always is.
Rumors of the uprising sped across the forty miles to Upper Agency. The Wahpetons and Sissetons debated long and hard about joining their brothers on the lower reservation but finally straddled by deciding they would neither join the war nor refuse it support. They had no more love than the Lower Sioux for the whites; they just wanted to make sure they were not backing a losing horse. It was the first blow to Little Crow’s hopes for a united force.
Nevertheless, Indians at Upper Agency did break into stores and warehouses, killing one man and mortally wounding another. But Christian Indians quietly herded sixty-two whites into a brick warehouse and kept guard over them until the next morning, when they led them on a several-day trip to safety.
It was midmorning when the first refugees from Lower Agency reached Fort Ridgely. They would be streaming in for days with their fear-haunted faces and their tales of violent death, but Captain John Marsh, in command, did not wait to learn the dimensions of the uprising. At the first reports of trouble, he hurried to take care of what he assumed was a local outbreak of violence. His party, which numbered forty-eight including himself, passed refugees heading toward the fort who warned them of danger ahead, but Marsh either did not take the warning seriously or did not know what to do about it.
Marsh was a brave man but he knew nothing about fighting Indians, and he ran into an ambush at the ferry. Sioux popped out of the grass on both sides of the river and poured a deadly fire into the soldiers. Captain Marsh got his men into a thicket where they had a little cover, then decided to cross the river—to a point opposite where there were no Sioux—and was drowned while trying to find a place to ford. Survivors able to take advantage of brush, river bluff, and tailing light to sneak by the Indians reached the fort long after dark. Of the forty-eight who had left before noon, twenty-five had been killed and another died four days later. One Indian died at the ferry; he was the only Sioux known to have been killed on a day that saw so many whites slain.
Fort Ridgely now had become the main hope for white survival, but when night fell, it was not much of a bastion to depend on. It was a fort in name only, an army post never designed for holding off a hostile force. Its heart was a quadrangle of buildings set about an open parade; there were wide gaps between them, and only two were of stone. Various other buildings, including stables, icehouses, and cabins for civilian workers, were scattered outside the quadrangle, offering plenty of cover to an attacking force. So did several ravines, heavily wooded, extending back from the river bluffs almost to the quadrangle.
From a manpower standpoint, the situation was even worse. Captain Marsh’s departure had left nineteenyear-old Lieutenant Tom Gere in command with only a corporal’s guard of twenty-two effective soldiers and seven on the sick list. Even after the beaten scraps of Marsh’s command had come back from the tragedy at the ferry, Gere had less than fifty men. And by nightfall he had two hundred refugees to worry about.
When the sun came up the second day, Tuesday, August 19, a Sioux force of modest size could have taken the fort. Little Crow recognized that Ridgely was the key to the river towns all the way east to Fort Snelling, and he wanted to attack at once while it was weak. But things among the Sioux were done on a pretty individualistic basis, and the young braves decided that murder and looting at New Ulm, twenty miles to the south, would be more fun than attacking a defended fort. About a hundred reached New Ulm, where they engaged the defenders in a brief, long-range exchange of shots in which the only casualty was a girl who wandered out into the street and was killed.
But it was an important respite for the fort. When Captain Marsh had set out for his rendezvous with death, he had first sent a messenger racing after First Lieutenant Timothy Sheehan, who had left Ridgely only a few hours earlier with a detachment of men for a post in Chippewa country. Sheehan was overtaken about forty miles away and immediately turned about and marched his men all night to bring them into the fort by Tuesday noon. There, as senior officer, he took over command from Gere.
Lieutenant Gere had also sent for help. As soon as the news of the defeat at the ferry reached him, he dispatched a rider, Private William Sturgis, to Fort Snelling. Sturgis made an epic ride, traveling all night and covering the 125 miles in only eighteen hours. His route passed through St. Peter, where he alerted a group of about fifty recruits, mostly half-breeds from Upper Agency, who were on their way to Fort Snelling and the Union Army. This group, called the Renville Rangers, started for Fort Ridgely at a dark and chilly 4 A.M. and reached it during the afternoon.
Another small but ironic accession to the fort’s strength came when a stagecoach carrying $71,000 and four armed guards rolled in on its way from St. Paul to Lower Agency. It was the long-overdue annuity money; had it come only a few days earlier, there might have been no uprising.
Lieutenant Sheehan had 180 soldiers by nightfall, as well as a number of civilians ready to fight; the fort had become a much tougher nut during the day. About noon the next day, Little Crow and several other mounted Indians appeared, riding back and forth and waving blankets. It was purely a diversion; suddenly some two hundred yelling, painted braves burst out of a wooded ravine, drove in the pickets, seized outbuildings, and at one point broke through breastworks closing one of the gaps between buildings before being driven back. Another attack boiled out of a ravine to the south and brought the Indians close enough to bring the gunners handling an artillery piece under fire. But the big gun was too much for them, and they drew back after five hours of hard fighting.
Heavy rain fell that night and the next day, and the Sioux did not appear. But many men were streaming in to join Little Crow until by Friday, August 21, he had possibly as many as eight hundred ready to attack. Once again they worked their way up the ravines, and at midday opened fire from all directions. They obtained a brief lodgment in a big stable only about 250 feet south of the quadrangle but were ousted when shells from one of the cannon set it on fire. There were no chivalrous exchanges in this fighting. Once a Sioux came running out of the burning building and a bullet knocked him down; as he started to crawl away, two of the Renville Ranger half-breeds dropped their muskets and ran across the bullet-swept space to grab the struggling, kicking Indian and throw him back into the burning barn.
All attacks were repulsed, and Little Crow massed his men for one great, final assault. Two of the fort’s three cannon concentrated their fire on the threatened side; their double charges of canister were too much for the Sioux, who broke and fled.
After two days of fighting, Little Crow had gained nothing beyond burning some of the fort’s outbuildings and haystacks and driving off its livestock. He had lost an estimated one hundred men while the defenders had casualties of only three killed and thirteen wounded. And the barrier to the eastern part of the valley still stood.
Now, on August 23, the Sioux again turned their attention to New Ulm, a very tempting target. It was a town almost devoid of natural defenses, but it had resolute human defenders. Volunteers from Mankato, St. Peter, Le Sueur, and other river towns to the east had hastily formed militia, armed themselves as best they could (many had no guns), and come to defend New Ulm. They elected their own commander—and a good one—Charles Flandrau, a justice of the state’s supreme court in less parlous times. He posted his forces around the outer edge of the town, and also barricaded six square blocks in the business district as an inner bastion should his situation become desperate.
New Ulm’s brief brush with the Sioux on August 19 had not amounted to much. The second attack was different: a great body of Indians swarmed down from higher land, fanning out as they came, until they covered the entire defense line. When they broke into a run and surged forward yelling at the tops of their voices, it was too much for some of the defenders. They fell back, giving up a number of the outermost houses to the Sioux before their resistance hardened. Dozens of snarling, vicious little battles developed as both sides fought to occupy and hold houses, while flames and smoke rolled over the scene. Flandrau ordered some houses fired to keep them from the Indians; the latter started their own blazes on the windward side of town, and flames spread from building to building.
The whites clung tenaciously to their strong points—a stone windmill and the brick post office were especially effective fortifications—and when the Sioux attempted to assault the central defenses, sixty whites scattered them with a wild, courageous charge. The Indians fought on until after sunset and remained around the town through the next morning, but they never really threatened again.
New Ulm had suffered grievously. There were twenty-six dead and more than sixty wounded; 190 of its houses were burned and only 25 remained. More than a thousand refugees were crammed inside the inner barricade; food was running low, ammunition was almost gone, and sanitary conditions were atrocious. Flandrau decided to abandon the town, and on Monday morning a melancholy procession, with 153 wagons carrying wounded, children, and the aged, started on the thirty-mile trip to Mankato. The Sioux had drawn off to the west, and the journey was made safely.
While Fort Ridgely and New Ulm were going through their hours of agony, raiders continued to roam the prairies, going farther and farther afield to find new victims. At Lake Shetek, far out toward Dakota Territory, an isolated settlement was wiped out; of its fifty members, fifteen were killed, some were taken captive, the rest escaped. A Norwegian settlement on the upper Des Moines River was attacked and thirteen killed; the Sioux were raiding to the Iowa line. Far to the northwest, across the Red River in present-day North Dakota, war parties attacked Fort Abercrombie. It was a post no more designed for defense than Fort Ridgely, but its small garrison built breastworks of cordwood, fought off two attacks, and then waited uneasily for six weeks before help arrived.
Panic had spread across Minnesota, and thousands fled eastward in a frantic exodus. Many saw their families butchered and made hazardous escapes, hiding in sloughs and thickets, living on berries or a few carrots grubbed at night from a vegetable garden beside the ashes of a farm home, often bearing frightful injuries, and proving what toughness lies in the human body faced with a fight to survive.
Twenty-three counties were completely depopulated, a region 50 by 250 miles. An estimated 30,000 people fled their homes and some of them kept going right out of the state, never to return. How many died is a matter of guesswork. Too many went uncounted, buried in hasty graves soon overgrown by the sod, or fallen in lonely places where prairie fires and the natural forces of dissolution wiped out all traces of them. Sober citizens estimated the dead as high as two thousand; eight hundred is accepted as a conservative figure.
After the defeats at Fort Ridgely and New Ulm, the Sioux moved their villages up the Minnesota River, five miles northwest of Upper Agency. The whites would be striking back soon; it would be just as well to have wives and children in a safe place.
And a white force was on the way. As soon as hard-riding Private Sturgis brought news of catastrophe at Lower Agency and the ferry, Governor Alexander Ramsey rode to Fort Snelling to see what troops were available, then called on his personal friend and political foe, Henry Sibley. He commissioned Sibley a colonel, put him in charge of operations against the Indians, and told him to get moving.
Henry Sibley had been a fur trader for years, knew the habits and character of the Sioux, and was acquainted with many of their leaders. He had also been the first governor of the young state. All in all, a perfect choice—except that there is argument about whether he knew anything about fighting Indians. It all depends on which historian you read.
Sibley took his command, four companies of infantry, upriver to St. Peter, sixty-five miles from Fort Snelling. During the three-day trip, reports became more and more alarming. The lower Minnesota River valley was in a state of mixed panic and high excitement, with every arriving refugee bringing new alarms. Sibley listened, grew worried, hesitated, and then sent back to the Governor for more men, better guns, more supplies. Ramsey complied, while additional hundreds of local volunteers streamed into Sibley’s camp. On the morning of August 26, he finally set out with a force of 1,400, at a speed so ponderous that his army covered all of six miles that day and camped virtually within sight of the evening cooking fires of St. Peter. The mounted forces, however, pushed on all night and reached Fort Ridgely early the next morning. The main force arrived a day and a half later.
Sibley sent women and children back east under escort, and after three days, sent a detachment toward Lower Agency to bury dead and to look for signs of the enemy. The burial party, under the command of Major Joseph R. Brown, traveled slowly because it found a great deal of melancholy work to do along the road. During its second day, the detachment found one living survivor, Mrs. Justina Kreiger, who had been a member of the Sacred Heart Creek settlement attacked on the first day of the uprising. This tortured woman had been shot and slashed with a knife; she had seen husband, friends, and one of her children butchered; and she had been without food (except for a few berries) for twelve days. She was emaciated, half-naked, covered with dirt and caked blood, and too dazed and weak to tell her story. But alive she was, and one wagon was emptied and lined with grass and blankets, and she was placed in it.
Major Brown saw no Indians, but they saw him. A large war party, headed downriver to plunder, sighted the detachment and followed it until it made camp near the head of Birch Coulee, a gully or ravine about three miles from the river. It was a bad campsite. The wooded coulee, offering fine cover for ambush, was little more than a rifle shot away, and to the north a swell in the prairie would protect any enemy approaching from that direction.
The Sioux attacked before the first gray of dawn, meaning to kill the sentries noiselessly with bow and arrow and then burst into the sleeping camp. A sharp-eyed sentry spoiled that plan when he saw the grass move; his shot awoke the camp and gave it a brief moment of warning that prevented complete disaster. The Indians rushed in yelling and shooting, and many whites died in the first few minutes. Major Brown ordered a barricade made of the wagons, and all were turned on their sides except the one in which Justina Kreiger lay. The Sioux were checked for the moment, and the defenders worked to improvise breastworks of prairie sod, saddles, dead horses, and even the bodies of their own comrades. And there, almost without water and completely without food, they lay in the dust and grimly held on.
Fort Ridgely was fifteen miles away, and the sounds of the fight were heard there plainly. After some confusion, Coloney Sibley sent out a strong relief force, 240 men with artillery, under a Colonel Samuel McPhail. A few miles from Birch Coulee they met a small group of Sioux making a great deal of noise. Their only purpose was to delay reinforcements to Major Brown, but the timid McPhail set up camp in a good defensive position and sent word to Sibley that he was almost surrounded and needed help.
Sibley, with a thousand men and more artillery, reached McPhail about midnight. Three hours later the united force set out, but so circumspect was this dash to the rescue that it took until almost noon the next day—eight hours—to cover the last four or five miles. The Sioux withdrew with derisive yells, and Brown’s force was relieved. It was in bad shape after thirty-one hours under continuous attack. Thirteen were dead, three more mortally wounded. Another forty-four were seriously wounded, and all were suffering from thirst and hunger.
And Justina Kreiger? Her wagon had been hit so many times that its wood was torn to splinters. The blanket that wrapped her contained more than two hundred bullet holes. But only five bullets had even touched her, and those so lightly that they left only the most superficial of scratches. It is pleasant to record that this charmed woman survived to find peace again. Before the year was out she met and married a man who had lost his wife and children to the Sioux.
After delaying longer at Fort Ridgely while he tried to carry on long-distance negotiations for release of captives, Sibley at last marched out to make war, leading 1,600 men. Four days of cautious advance brought him to Wood Lake, still some twenty miles from the Indian villages. Here the Sioux prepared an ambush, meaning to let Sibley get started the next morning and then to attack from all sides when his columns were strung out for several miles. Between seven and eight hundred Sioux took advantage of tall grass, ravines, and other cover, and the trap was set. It was a good one, but happenstance set it off too soon when men of one of Sibley’s units on a pre-breakfast foraging expedition headed its wagon directly toward the spot where several Sioux were hiding. The latter had no choice but to start shooting.
One soldier was killed. His comrades jumped from the wagons and withdrew, shooting as they went. The men of their regiment hurried to their aid, while the Renville Rangers came briskly up to protect the flank as more Indians poured from hiding. Most of the army did not even get to fire a shot before the Sioux withdrew. Nor did most of the Indians take part; they were still too far away to reach the fighting in time. Some desultory firing continued on the fringes, but it was all over in two hours. This was the Battle of Wood Lake, and Sibley was made a general for his victory.
The Sioux now finally admitted the hopelessness of the war, and most of those who had been deeply involved began a long retreat to the west. Before leaving, Little Crow turned custody of the captives over to Chief Wabasha, who had opposed the war and was not fleeing. Four days later, Sibley reached the site that his men named Camp Release. There were 107 white and 162 half-breed captives, and a number of additional ones were later brought in from other camps.
The army ranged the surrounding country, bringing in Sioux. Sibley’s aim was to hang the guilty ones in large numbers, but most of those whose hands were bloody were far out in Dakota Territory. He did eventually round up some 2,000 Sioux, of whom about 400 were braves under suspicion. Sibley instituted a sort of military court which ground out convictions at a fast clip as soon as it got the knack of it, often taking no more than five minutes to condemn a man to the gallows. The mere fact of presence at a battle was enough to bring a death sentence, even, occasionally, despite testimony that the man on trial actually had protected a white person. By the first week in November the job was done. Almost 400 Sioux had been tried, of whom 306 were sentenced to death for murder, rape, or participation in a battle, and another 16 to imprisonment for the lesser crime of robbery.
The 1,700 prisoners considered innocent, mostly women and children, were sent to Fort Snelling. The next spring they were taken to a miserable tract of land in Dakota, and three years later to a somewhat better reservation on the Niobrara River in Nebraska. The 300-odd convicted men were marched to a prison stockade near Mankato.
Minnesotans as a whole were determined to exact the harshest vengeance. One of the rare exceptions was Episcopal Bishop Henry Whipple, who went directly to President Lincoln with a plea for a measure of Christian forbearance. Many easterners, their own Indian wars long past, also cried out against the mass execution. Lincoln called for the trial records, found that many convictions were based on pretty thin evidence, and made a distinction between those guilty of murder and rape, and those who had only fought in a battle. The latter were to be treated as prisoners of war. On this basis, only thirty-eight remained on the condemned list.
Those thirty-eight died on the day after Christmas, on a huge scaffold. In traditional Indian fashion they sang death songs; their only display of emotion came when hoods were drawn over their heads, something which they considered degrading. All dropped at the same instant when the traps were sprung by cutting a single large rope. It was the largest legal group-execution in American history.
It would be gratifying to note that all of the thirty-eight who died that December day deserved their fate. Most did, but the records of Sibley’s court were sketchy and many Indian names were very similar and confusing; at least one or two of those executed were the wrong men.
Those who had been reprieved, almost 300, were kept in the Mankato prison through the winter, during which time many became converts to Christianity. In the spring they were taken down the Mississippi to Rock Island, where they led an anomalous existence for three years, not quite prisoners but not quite free, working when they could and causing no trouble. Then they were allowed to join their families on the Niobrara in Nebraska.
Meanwhile, Little Crow tried to continue his war from the west, and did his best to arouse the western Siouan tribes. He failed. He also crossed into Canada to ask for help from the British. There was a legend among the Sioux that, in gratitude for the help they had given to Britain in the War of 1812, the British had promised to return the favor if help was ever needed, but it turned out to be only a legend.
A number of Indians drifted back into Minnesota the next summer and resumed attacks on a very reduced scale. Thirty settlers were killed. One of those who came back was Little Crow, although apparently only to steal horses. While picking berries in a clearing near Hutchinson, he and his son were surprised by a settler and his young boy. The chief was killed, but his son escaped. Little Crow’s body was taken to the village, but no one could identify it and it was thrown into the offal pit of a slaughterhouse. Only when his son was captured later did the identity of the dead Indian become known.
Hutchinson had no reason to love Little Crow or any of the Sioux. During the uprising a war party had raided the town. The inhabitants had built a stockade or fort in the center of the village and easily defended themselves, but the Sioux burned the buildings outside the stockade, including Hutchinson Academy, a frontier citadel of learning. But such are the mellowing effects of time that today a statue of Little Crow stands in Hutchinson, gazing out upon the small waters of the Little Crow River.