DAKOTA DAWN: The Decisive First Week of the Sioux Uprising, August 1862
by Gregory F. Michno
- Hardcover: 492 pages
- Publisher: Savas Beatie (July 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1932714995
- ISBN-13: 978-1932714999
Brutal, murderous war
Europe’s discovery of North America put Europeans and Native Americans on a collision course. Tens of millions of Europeans would not starve for land while a few million Indians had a surplus of it. The Europeans and their descendants never adopted a policy to destroy the Indian nations. However, in fits and starts they moved west displacing more of them each time and fighting a series of wars lasting almost 300 years. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, the United States agency to handle the Indians, established a record of incompetence and dishonesty during the 1800s unmatched since.
The Sioux Uprising of 1862 is a meeting of the Civil War and the Indian Wars. Enlistments pulled military age men away from the area, giving the Sioux an advantage in numbers. Additionally, the war caused a shortage in gold coin that delayed the 1862 annuity payment. The Republican victory of 1860 replaced the more experienced Indian Agents with new people. This coupled with the “normal” problems embolden the Sioux. Starting in August, for forty days war raged in Minnesota. After defeat, over 300 Sioux receive a sentence of death for rape and murder.
The book covers the first week of the uprising in detail. This is a history of murder more than war. The Sioux attack farm after farm killing the people and plundering the farm. The author introduces us the both the Sioux and the settlers us a personal interest in the war. This keeps the book from being a listing of attacks and deaths. The personal nature of Indian warfare is very clear. The majority of Whites are unarmed men, women and children. This is not armies fighting but people being killed. The narration provides a real look at life in rural Minnesota. Using claims filed against the Sioux and careful reconstruction of events, the reader comes to understand what people owned and how they communicated. During this week, a number of battles take place. They occur at the proper time in the narration with full details. We see the operation of local government and life in the army far from the fighting.
The author has extensive knowledge of the uprising and carefully recreated the area. The book opens with a series of maps locating the farms and buildings. The author always tells us the map needed to follow the action. I was never unable to find where we were or to estimate travel time. This author tracks down many of the more colorful stories from this incident. The amount of fiction that is “history” is always a surprise to me.
The book has a full set of footnotes, excellent maps, useful illustrations, Bibliography and index. Given that, this is a book of text. There are 398 pages of history that is worth reading here. The author has a good readable style that is easy to follow. He takes the time to help the reader with the Indian’s names, something I found important.
This is not a pleasant comfortable read. This is a story of murder, brutality, courage and desperation as real people struggle to survive. In short, this is the Indian Wars as both sides fought them.
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