Another IAGenWeb Project





PREVIOUS to the Minnesota outbreak Governor Kirkwood had issued a call convening the Iowa legislature in special session for the purpose of making provisions for placing Iowa's quota of troops under the last call of the President, and it was during the interval between this call and the time of the meeting of the legislature that the troubles in Minnesota occurred. The Governor at once realized the necessity of increasing the frontier defenses, and in order that he might have as full and clear an understanding of the matter as possible, on the twenty-ninth of August, without waiting for the meeting of the legislature he had summoned, he appointed S. R. Ingham, of Des Moines, special agent, with instructions to proceed at once to the frontier and make a thorough investigation of the situation and report to him as soon as practicable.


"August 29, 1862.



"Sir: I am informed there is probable danger of an attack by hostile Indians on the inhabitants of the northwestern portion of our state. Arms and powder will be sent you at Fort Dodge. Lead and caps will be sent with you. I hand you an order on the Auditor of State for one thousand dollars.


"You will proceed at once to Fort Dodge, and to such other points there as you may deem proper. Use the arms, ammunition and money placed at your disposal in such manner as your judgment may dictate as best to promote the object in view, to-wit: the protection of the inhabitants of the frontier. It would be well to communicate with Captain Millard commanding the company of mounted men raised for United States service at Sioux City. * * * Use your discretion in all things and exercise any power I could exercise if I were present according to your best discretion.


"Please report to me in writing.

"Very respectfully your obedient servant,



Colonel Ingham at once proceeded to make a tour of the frontier settlements and reported the result of his investigations to Governor Kirkwood. His report is too lengthy to be reproduced in full, but a few extracts from it are given herewith.


"To His Excellency, S. J. Kirkwood, Governor of Iowa: I have the honor to report that in compliance with your instructions I at once proceeded to the northern border of our state to ascertain the extent of the supposed difficulties and do the needful for the protection of our frontier settlements should circumstances warrant or demand. I visited Dickinson, Emmet, Palo Alto, Humboldt, Kossuth and Webster Counties. Found many of the inhabitants in a high state of excitement and laboring under constant fear of an attack by Indians. Quite a number of families were leaving their homes and moving into the more thickly settled portions of the state.


"This feeling, however, seemed to be more intense and to run higher in the more inland and remote counties from the border than in the border counties themselves. In Emmet and Kossuth, both border counties, I had the settlers called together in order that I might learn from them their views and wishes as to what ought to be done for their safety, or rather what was necessary to satisfy and quiet their fears and apprehensions. They said all they wanted or deemed necessary for the protection of the northern frontier was a small force of mounted men stationed on the east and west forks of the Des Moines River to act in concert with the United States troops then stationed at Spirit Lake, but that this force must be made up of men such as could he chosen from amongst themselves, who were familiar with the country and had been engaged in hunting and trapping for years and were more or less familiar with the habits and customs of the Indians, one of which men would be worth half a dozen such as the state had sent there on one or two former occasions. In a small force of this kind they would have confidence, but would not feel safe with a much larger force of young and inexperienced men such as are usually raised in the more central portions of the state. I at once authorized a company to be raised in Emmet, Kossuth, Humboldt and Palo Alto Counties. Within five days forty men were enlisted, held their election for officers, were mustered in, furnished with arms and ammunition and placed on duty. I authorized them to fill up the company to eighty men if necessity should demand such an addition to the force.


"At Spirit Lake, in Dickinson County, I found some forty men stationed tinder command of Lieutenant Sawyers of Captain Millard's Company of Sioux City Cavalry in the United States service. From the best information I could obtain, I deemed this a sufficient force and therefore took no action to increase the protection at this point further than to furnish the settlers with thirty stands of arms and a small amount of ammunition, for which I took a bond as hereinafter stated."


Here follows the details of taking bonds and distributing arms and ammunition which are too lengthy and not of sufficient importance for repetition. The report closes as follows:


"Having done all that seemed necessary for the protection of the settlers of the more exposed of the northern border counties, I returned to Fort Dodge on the eighth clay of September, intending to proceed at once to Sioux City and make all necessary arrangements for the protection of the settlements on the northwestern border. At that point I was informed that the legislature, then in extra session, had passed a bill providing for the raising of troops for the protection of our borders against hostile Indians. I therefore deemed it best to report myself to you for further instructions, which I did on the tenth of September."


The legislature convened in pursuance of the governor's call and the first measure passed was "A bill for an act to provide for the protection of the northwestern frontier of Iowa from hostile Indians." The first section of the bill is as follows:


"SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Iowa: That the governor of the state of Iowa be and is hereby authorized and required to raise a volunteer force in the state of Iowa from the counties most convenient to the northwestern border of said state of not less than five hundred mounted men, and such other force as may be deemed necessary, to be mustered into service by a person to be appointed by the governor at such place as he may designate, to be stationed at various points in the northwestern counties of said state in such numbers in a body as he may deem best, for the protection of that portion of the state from hostile Indians at the earliest practicable moment."


The balance of the bill relates to the enlisting, mustering in and equipping and arming the force thus created. This bill was introduced, run the gauntlet of the committees, passed both houses and was signed by the governor inside of five days, which, considering its magnitude and importance, was remarkably quick work. While the above bill was pending, the legislature also passed a joint resolution asking aid from the general government, of which the following is the preamble:


"WHEREAS, for several months past the Indians residing along the northwestern lines of the state of Iowa, in Minnesota and Dakota, and in the country in that vicinity have exhibited strong evidence of hostility to the border settlers and have committed depredations upon the property of these settlers, and have finally broken out into open hostility, not only committing gross acts of plunder, but have committed the most cruel barbarities upon the defenseless citizens residing in the southern and southwestern border of Minnesota, murdering with unparalleled cruelty a large number of these citizens and their families in the immediate vicinity of our state, burning their houses and destroying their property; and,


"WHEREAS, it is believed from the general uprising of these Indians and the great extent of their depredations and from various circumstances relating thereto that they are incited to these acts of cruelty by evil disposed whites from our enemies and that a general Indian war is impending, and,


"WHEREAS, the people along the borders of Iowa and Minnesota are deserting their homes and fleeing to places of safety in the interior of the state and entirely abandoning their homes and property for places of safety, therefore, Resolved, by the General Assembly of the State of Iowa," etc.


The resolution was an earnest appeal to the general government for immediate assistance. This bill and resolution were approved by the Governor on the ninth of September, and Colonel Ingham reported to the Governor the next day.


The Governor immediately issued General Orders No. 1, together with the following additional instructions, to Colonel Ingham :





"S. R. Ingham, Esq. Sir: You are intrusted with the organization of the forces provided by law for the defense of the northwestern frontier, and with furnishing them with subsistence and forage during and after their organization, also with the posting of the troops raised at such points as are best calculated to effect the object proposed until the election of the officer who will command the entire force and generally with the execution of the orders issued of this date in connection with this force. It is impossible to foresee the contingencies that may arise rendering necessary a change in these orders or the prompt exercise of powers not therein contained, and delay for the purpose of consulting me might result disastrously. In order to avoid these results as far as possible, I hereby confer upon you all I myself have in this regard. You may change, alter, modify or add to the orders named as in your sound discretion you may deem best. You may make such other and further orders as the exigencies of the case may, in your judgment, render necessary. In short, you may do all things necessary for the protection of the frontier as fully as I could do if I were personally present, and did the same. The first object is the security of the frontier; the second, that this object be effected as economically as is consistent with its prompt and certain attainment.


"Very respectfully your obedient servant,



The following extract from General Orders No. 1 will explain the manner of raising and organizing the force.


"First. The number of companies that will be received for service under the act to provide for the protection of the northwestern frontier of Iowa from the hostile Indians, passed at the extra session of 1862, and the acts amendatory thereto is as follows, viz: One to be raised at Sioux City, one at Denison, Crawford County, one at Fort Dodge, one at Webster City, and one now stationed at Chain Lakes and Estherville.


"Second. These companies shall contain not less than forty nor more than eighty men each. They will elect the company officers allowed and in the manner prescribed by law. As soon as company elections are held, certificates of the result must be sent to the Adjutant General for commissions. After being mastered and sworn in they will proceed, on a day to be fixed by S. P. Ingham, to vote at their several places of rendezvous by ballot for a Lieutenant Colonel to command the whole. * * * The highest number of votes cast for any one candidate shall elect.


"Fourth. The points at which the troops will be stationed will in the first place be fixed by Mr. Ingham and afterwards by the Lieutenant Colonel elect. * * *


"Seventh. Each man will be required to furnish his own horse and equipments. Subsistence and forage will be furnished by the state. The same pay will be allowed for this service as is now allowed for like service by the United States.


"SAMUEL J. KIRKWOOD, Governor of Iowa."


We will now give extracts from Colonel Ingham's second report to Governor Kirkwood.


"In pursuance of these orders and instructions, I proceeded to Fort Dodge and mustered and swore into the service of the state for nine months, unless sooner discharged, the company raised at that place, first inspecting the horses and equipments and having them appraised. I then proceeded with due dispatch to Webster City, Denison and Sioux City, and in like manner mustered in the companies raised at those places. * * * These four companies, and the one that had previously been stationed at Chain Lakes and Estherville, were all that were authorized under your General Orders and mustered in all about two hundred and fifty men, rank and file. As each of the companies were sworn in, marching orders were at once given to the commanding officers and such other orders as seemed advisable for the purpose of carrying out the objects in view, as expressed in your orders and instructions. One company was stationed at Chain Lakes, one at Estherville, and portions of companies at each of the following points, to-wit: Ocheyedan, Peterson, Cherokee, Ida, Sac City, Correctionville, West Fork, Little Sioux and Melbourne, thus forming in conjunction with the portion of Captain Millard's company stationed at Sioux City and Spirit Lake, a complete line of communication between Chain Lakes and Sioux City.


"After consulting the feelings and wishes of the settlers along the line, and after a careful survey of the ground it was determined to erect blockhouses and stockades at the following points, to-wit: Correctionville, Cherokee, Peterson, Estherville and Chain Lakes. At Spirit Lake a stockade had already been built around the courthouse by Lieutenant. Sawyers. The courthouse being constructed of brick, made a work of a very permanent and durable character. In making these locations I was, of course, governed in a great degree by the desires and wishes of the settlers at the expense of what might be regarded by military men as a proper location in a strict military point of view. In conceding these points to them, I assumed that inasmuch as the state was constructing the works solely for their use and benefit, if the settlers themselves were satisfied, certainly the state would be. At the points above indicated are the principal settlements on our extreme northwestern border and they are the only ones at which it was necessary to construct works as contemplated in your orders."


Then follows the details of building the stockades and furnishing supplies which are too lengthy for reproduction here. Further on he continues:


"In accordance with your orders, I fixed Friday, the seventh of November, as the day on which the several companies should hold an election for Lieutenant Colonel to command the whole. At the election so held, James A. Sawyers, First Lieutenant of Captain Millard's company, was chosen. And permit me to say that an excellent selection was made. In my opinion no better man could have been found for this service."


In addition to the active efforts made by the Governor and legislature in providing an armed force for the protection of the frontier settlements, Governor Kirkwood made special efforts to obtain the most reliable information possible as to the strength of the hostile Indians, their number, equipment and everything possible connected with their movements. To that end he dispatched Honorable George L. Davenport, a man well informed in all matters connected with the northwestern Indians, to proceed at once to Minnesota, and through the agencies and authorities there, to gain all the information possible and report at once. Below are given extracts from his report.


"To His Excellency, Governor Kirkwood. Dear Sir: I proceeded to Burlington and delivered your communication to Honorable J. W. Grimes, and in consultation with him he advised me to proceed at once to Minnesota and ascertain the extent of the Indian outbreak. He gave me letters of introduction to His Excellency, Governor Ramsey, and to Honorable Commissioner Dole. Upon my arrival at St. Paul, I called on Governor Ramsey, who gave me all of the information in his power. He informed me that the outbreak with the Sioux is of the most serious character and the massacre of the men, women and children of the frontier settlements the largest known in the history of the country. Over six hundred are known to be killed and over one hundred women and children are in the hands of the savages as prisoners. The Indians are very bold and defiant, repeatedly attacking the forts and troops sent out against them. They have plundered many stores and farm houses and have driven off a very large number of cattle and horses. The Indians continue to attack the settlements almost every week, keeping up a constant alarm among the people. It is estimated that over five thousand persons have left their homes and all of their property, causing immense loss and suffering."


Then follows the details of arrangements made by Governor Ramsey for the protection of the Minnesota frontier. The report of his Minnesota tour closes as follows:


"I am much alarmed in regard to the safety of the settlement on the northwestern border of our state. I think they are in imminent danger of an attack at any moment, and will be in constant alarm and danger during the coming winter. As the Indians are driven back from the eastern part of Minnesota they will fall back towards the Missouri slope and will make inroads upon our settlements for supplies of food, and plunder. They are much exposed to attacks from parties of Sioux passing from the Missouri River to Minnesota.


"Yours respectfully,


"Davenport, Iowa, September 17, 1862."


After Mr. Davenport's return from his Minnesota trip, Governor Kirkwood sent him west on a tour through Nebraska and Dakota. The result of his observations and investigations on this trip were to the effect that the strength of the Indian forces and the number of warriors they could place in the field had been largely overestimated. After giving the location and estimated strength of several bands on the Missouri River, and detailing the measures there taken for defense, he closes that part of his report as follows:


"They have erected forts or blockhouses at Yankton, the seat of government, at Elkhorn and Vermilion Rivers, in which are .a small force of volunteers, and with the troops your excellency has stationed between Sioux City and Spirit Lake, along the northern part of this state, our citizens need not apprehend any danger from the Indians on that or any other part of our frontier."


In discussing the causes that led to the outbreak he closes as follows :


"I am of the opinion the cause of dissatisfaction among many of the tribes of Indians is caused mainly by the general government paying the annuities to the Indians in goods instead of money. Year before last his money bought a great many goods. Goods were cheap. Last year he gets less. He is dissatisfied. He thinks the agent is cheating him. This year he gets only half as many. Now he feels sore. He thinks he is wronged, although the government agent explains to him that cotton and wool and other things have gone up in price and that his money does not buy as much as before. It is difficult to make the Indian understand or believe it, but pay him his dollars and then he knows the government has fulfilled its part. * * *


(Signed) "George L. DAVENPORT."


General Sully, who led the several expeditions against the Indians, gave it as his opinion that the cause of the outbreak at the time it occurred was that the agent attempted to pay the money portion of the annuities in greenbacks instead of gold, as had formerly been done. This was the first the Indians had seen of the greenbacks, and they indignantly refused them. They were afterwards exchanged for gold, but not in time to prevent the trouble.


Another theory is that emissaries from the Confederates were sent among the Indians to incite them to deeds of violence and insurrection. Judge Flandrau says there is no foundation for any such suspicion. He further writes at greater length and more in detail about the matter. He says:


"Much dissatisfaction was engendered among the Indians by occurrences taking place at the time of the negotiating of these treaties. * * * *This dissatisfaction was increased rather than diminished by the subsequent administration of the treaties under the general government. * * * The provisions of the treaties for periodical payments of money and goods and other benefits, although carried out with substantial honesty, failed to meet the exaggerated expectations of the Indians. * * * Nothing special has been discovered to have taken place to which the outbreak can be immediately attributed. It was charged to emissaries from the Confederates in the South, but there was no foundation for these surmises. The rebellion of the southern states was at its height. Large bodies of troops were being sent out of Minnesota. The payment due in June or July, 1862, was much delayed. The Indians were hungry and angry.* * * Some of the chiefs were ambitious and thought it a good opportunity to regain their lost country and exalt themselves in the eyes of their people. This combination of circumstances operating upon a deepseated hatred of the whites, in my opinion, precipitated the outbreak at the time it occurred."


Another theory, and one that was entertained by many who understood the subject best, was that the Indians construed the failure of the authorities to capture and punish Inkpadutah and the remainder of his band for their part in the outrages of 1857 as an evidence of weakness and cowardice on their part. It is said that Little Crow boastfully declared "that if Inkpadutah with his fifteen followers could massacre a whole settlement and create a panic that drove thousands from their homes and escape unpunished, he, numbering his warriors by thousands, could massacre and expel all the whites from the Minnesota Valley." Now it is more than probable that the wily chieftain, seeing that the men were being sent out of the state by thousands, really imagined himself strong .enough to recover his lost hunting grounds and reestablish his waning prestige and power. Again, may not the cause have been the inexorable logic of events; the immutable decree of fate? May not the whole affair have been one link in the great chain of fatalities which has followed the native tribes from the time the whites first set foot on the shores of New England, and will continue to follow them until the race becomes extinct? Who knows?


More space has been given to these official reports than was at first intended, but there is no other way in which so accurate an understanding of the situation and condition of affairs on the frontier at that time can be had as by these reports. They were written on the ground at the time by some of the best known and level headed men in the state, and their statements will at once be taken at their face value. In perusing these reports the reader will not fail to notice that Spirit Lake and the settlements in Dickinson County were the most exposed of any on the Iowa frontier, being at the northwestern angle of the line of posts from Chain Lakes to Sioux City. On the other hand, there was no point on the entire line where less excitement prevailed and less needless fear and apprehension were felt than in the vicinity of the lakes. Colonel Ingham noticed this fact when he was here, and mentions it in his report as follows: "This feeling (referring to the general feeling of fright and apprehension then prevailing), however, seemed to be more intense and to run higher in the more inland and remote counties from the border than the border counties themselves."


It will be noticed that the events which have taken so much space to relate were crowded into a small portion of time in the fall of 1862. By the time that winter fairly set in, the stockades at the different posts were completed and occupied by the requisite number of troops and a system of scouting and carrying dispatches put into operation. Doubtless this prompt action of the authorities, state and national, prevented any further depredations, and it certainly inspired the settlers with a greater feeling of security.