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Abraham Lincoln: Deciding the Fate of 300 Indians Convicted of War Crimes in Minnesota's Great Sioux Uprising

Originally published by American History magazine. Published Online: June 12, 2006 
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In late 1862, while suffering through continuing Union military disasters, handling a contentious cabinet and wrestling with the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln had to agonize over another matter. He had to decide whether to allow the execution of more than 300 Indians convicted of war crimes in Minnesota's Great Sioux Uprising. One of the first and bloodiest Indian wars on the western frontier, the Great Sioux Uprising (today called the "Dakota-U.S. Conflict) cost the lives of hundreds of Native Americans, white settlers, and soldiers. After the U.S. Army suppressed the uprising it established a commission that condemned 303 Dakota men in trials that were patently unfair. Federal law, however, required the president's approval of the death sentences. "Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on the one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, Lincoln ignored the howling of a white populace thirsting for revenge and began the arduous task of reviewing the trial records and deciding the fates of hundreds of men.

The Dakota had existed for generations on the land surrounding the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, site of the present-day cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Translated roughly into English, Dakota means "the allies, and they were a group of seven Indian bands that lived mostly in harmony in the region's bountiful river valleys. Their only enemy was the Chippewa to the north. The first European explorers there had done little to alter the Indians' way of life, although the French dubbed them the Sioux—a mutation of the Chippewa word for "snake. Real change began after 1819, when federal soldiers built Fort Snelling, a sprawling outpost above the mouth of the Minnesota River. After that the stream of white traders and settlers became a flood; land treaties in 1837 and 1851 and Minnesota statehood in 1858 pushed the Dakota off their native lands westward to a narrow, 100-mile-long reservation on the harsh prairie along the Minnesota River. The exodus also forced the Dakota to change their way of life. Government agents on the reservation favored those Dakota who settled on plots, learned English, cut their hair, and took up farming. Yet the crops failed year after year, and the Dakota grew dependent upon government gold annuities that were promised by the land treaties, and upon the foods and sundries peddled by white traders. The Dakota were often left with little after government agents paid annuity moneys first to the traders who had given credit to the Dakota for goods purchased at highly over-inflated prices. Those Dakota who refused to give up their traditional ways were in an even worse position and spent many winters in near-starving conditions.

The situation reached its flashpoint in the summer of 1862. The financial cost of the Civil War was bleeding the government dry, and rumors flew that there would be no annuity gold for the Dakota. Traders who had liberally given credit in the past now slammed the door. One trader named Andrew Myrick announced that if the Dakota were hungry they could "eat grass. Tensions mounted until four Dakota led by an Indian named Killing Ghost murdered five white settlers on August 17. Some Dakota leaders sensed this was an opportunity to strike back at the U.S. Government, and they pressed Chief Taoyateduta, or Little Crow, to strike at the whites while many soldiers were fighting in the Civil War. Little Crow initially wanted no part of a war with the whites, recognizing the calamity that would surely follow. But when faced with a challenge to his authority, he reluctantly relented. Ironically, the annuity gold shipment had left St. Paul that same day.

The Dakota raged across the countryside with a fury. Four to eight hundred white settlers were butchered during the first four days of the rampage, while their farms and fields burned. The Dakota hit first and hard at the reservation agency, killing dozens. One of the victims was trader Myrick. His killers stuffed his mouth with grass. The Dakota also struck at the region's army outpost and towns. They annihilated a detachment of soldiers dispatched from nearby Fort Ridgely before being repulsed in two assaults on the garrison itself. They twice attacked and burned most of the town of New Ulm but failed to capture it from its armed residents.

Panic surged throughout Minnesota. Tens of thousands of terrified settlers fled and virtually depopulated the state's western regions. Governor Alexander Ramsey dispatched 1,200 men from Fort Snelling under the command of Henry H. Sibley, a former fur trader, politician and friend of the Dakota. Sibley was not regular army, but he heeded Ramsey's call and accepted a commission as colonel. Unsure of his authority, Sibley failed to declare martial law and moved excruciatingly slowly. He did not engage the Dakota until early September 1862, when Indians surprised and butchered a 150-man reconnaissance detail at Birch Coulee. The debacle slowed Sibley even more, and he did not meet Little Crow in full force until September 22, when he won a decisive victory at Wood Lake. The Dakota scattered over the prairie. Sibley finally managed to capture about 1,200 men, women, and children, but Little Crow was not among them. Sibley intended to prosecute as war criminals those Indians who had participated in the rebellion.

Sibley ordered a commission of five military officers to try the prisoners summarily and "pass judgment upon them, if found guilty of murders or other outrages upon the Whites, during the present State of hostilities of the Indians. Major General John Pope, recently banished to Minnesota by President Lincoln after Pope's humiliating defeat at the Civil War's Battle of Second Bull Run, saw an opportunity to redeem himself at the Dakota's expense. He immediately approved Sibley's plans. "The horrible massacres of women and children and the outrageous abuse of female prisoners, still alive, call for punishment far beyond human power to inflict, Pope wrote. "It is my purpose utterly to exterminate the Sioux if I have the power to do so… They are to be treated as maniacs and wild beasts.

The commission began the hearings on the reservation on September 28 and tried 16 men that day alone. This breakneck pace continued, and by November 3—a mere five weeks later—the commission had conducted 392 trials, including an astonishing 40 in one day. Observer Reverend J.P. Williamson noted that the trials took less time than the state courts required to try a single murder defendant. The accused were hauled before the commission, sometimes manacled together in groups, and were arraigned through an interpreter. The charges ranged from rape to murder to theft, although most Dakota were accused of merely participating in battles. The defendants entered a plea, and those who pleaded not guilty had an opportunity to speak. The commission then called and examined its own witnesses, but it did not permit the Dakota to have counsel for their defense. As one man who assisted in gathering evidence against the Indians noted, "[T]he plan was adopted to subject all the grown men, with a few exceptions to an investigation of the commission, trusting that the innocent would make their innocence appear.

The commission received testimony from eyewitnesses to some of the murders. Most of the evidence turned out to be hearsay, with witnesses declaring what they heard others say about particular killings. Some witnesses said they merely saw a defendant "whooping around or bragging about killings. The commission relied heavily on six witnesses, each of whom offered evidence in dozens of trials. The most damning of these was Joseph Godfrey, a mulatto who had lived among the Dakota and taken a Dakota wife. He was one of the first tried and convicted of engaging extensively in "massacres, but the commission, impressed with Godfrey's courtroom presence, recommended imprisonment instead of hanging because he was willing to testify against other defendants. The court reporter noted that Godfrey's "observation and memory were remarkable. Not the least thing had escaped his eye or ear. Such an Indian had a double-barreled gun, another a single-barreled, another a long one, another a lance, and another one nothing at all… Godfrey testified in more than 50 trials. In a remarkable irregularity the commission even allowed him to question particular witnesses. The Dakota quickly dubbed him Otakle, or "One Who Kills Many. Most defendants admitted to participating in some sort of warfare, whether in battles, attacks on armed settlements, or skirmishes with settlers. After news of the first few death sentences spread among the prisoners, however, many defendants then claimed they did not shoot at settlers or soldiers, or they did not hit them because of poor aim, or their weapons did not fire. Some testified they merely watched others fight or commit atrocities. Others offered evidence that they had saved the lives of whites, but the commission largely ignored it, even when the accounts were corroborated.

Sibley and Pope desperately wanted to begin the executions immediately, but the sentences required presidential review. On November 7 Pope telegraphed the names of the condemned to Lincoln, at a cost of $400. The editors of the New York Times berated Pope for his profligacy and suggested the amount be deducted from his salary.

Lincoln responded three days later, asking Pope to send "the full and complete record of these convictions" and to identify "the more guilty and influential of the culprits." Lincoln pointedly added, "Send all by mail." Pope grudgingly complied but said, "The only distinction between the culprits is as to which of them murdered most people or violated most young girls. All of them are guilty of these things in more or less degree.

Pope's opinions were only the tip of the iceberg. As Lincoln began his deliberations, people on both sides of the issue bombarded him with letters and telegrams. Politicians, army officers, and clergy called on the president at the White House, each adding his take on the situation and offering advice. Lincoln dutifully and patiently listened. One of his own secretaries, John Nicolay, had been in Minnesota at the time of the conflict, and he told Lincoln that from "the days of King Philip to the time of Black Hawk, there has hardly been an outbreak so treacherous, so sudden, so bitter, and so bloody, as that which filled the State of Minnesota with sorrow and lamentation . . . ." Nicolay's words must have struck a chord with Lincoln, for the president had been a militia volunteer during the 1832 Black Hawk War in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Governor Ramsey telegrammed Lincoln, "It would be wrong upon principle and policy" to refuse the executions. "Private revenge would on all this border take the place of official judgment of these Indians." Two congressmen and a senator from Minnesota warned Lincoln that, should he grant clemency, "the outraged people of Minnesota will dispose of these wretches without law. These two peoples cannot live together." A "resolution" from St. Paul residents declared, "The blood of hundreds of our murdered fellow citizens cries from the ground for vengeance . . . . The Indian's nature can no more be trusted than the wolf's." Pope chimed in again as well, warning Lincoln that the "indiscriminate massacre" of all Dakota would occur if the president was too lenient. One man stood almost alone with a voice of moderation.

Bishop Henry Whipple, head of the Minnesota Episcopal Church, spoke often of the hypocrisy of federal Indian policies. In a newspaper editorial he wrote, "[I]f . . . vengeance is to be more than a savage thirst for blood, we must examine the causes which have brought this bloodshed . . . . Who is guilty of the causes which desolated our border? At whose door is the blood of these innocent victims? I believe that God will hold the Nation guilty." Whipple was a cousin to Henry Halleck, Lincoln's general-in-chief, so the bishop gained an audience with the president in November and urged clemency. Lincoln was impressed. "He came here the other day," Lincoln said later, "and talked with me about the rascality of this Indian business, until I felt it down to my boots.

The timing of the Dakota crisis could not have been worse for the president. On a personal level, he and his wife, Mary, still grieved over the death, nine months earlier, of their 11-year-old son, Willie. On a political level, the administration faced one crisis after another. The war effort was in tatters. Major General George McClellan's Army of the Potomac lay no closer to Richmond after the ill-conceived Peninsula Campaign and the bloody draw at Antietam. McClellan tolerated precious little advice from the president and sometimes even refused to meet with him. Finally the exasperated president dismissed the insolent general and replaced him with Ambrose Burnside, soon to be responsible for the Union disaster at Fredericksburg. As the blunders mounted, Lincoln also faced a challenge to his leadership from disgruntled cabinet members. Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, perpetually jealous of Lincoln and furious that the president did not turn to him for military advice, sulked and plotted behind the president's back. Lincoln knew of these designs and only tolerated them because Chase was a supremely able leader of his department.

Slavery issues preoccupied Lincoln as well. Somewhere between the bad tidings and bouts of depression the president managed to work on the final drafts of the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order that would free the slaves in most of the South, even as he was being called upon to suppress the Dakota. The Minnesota business weighed heavily on Lincoln's mind.

"Three hundred Indians have been sentenced to death in Minnesota by a Military Commission, and execution only awaits my action," he wrote to Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt. "I wish your legal opinion whether if I should conclude to execute only a part of them, I must myself designate which, or could I leave the designation to some officer on the ground?" Holt answered, "I am quite sure the power cannot be delegated." So Lincoln began reviewing the trials. The president first reviewed them as the expert lawyer he truly was. His political fortunes had often risen and fallen, but Lincoln's brilliant legal career had remained a constant. Largely self-taught, he gained a formidable reputation as both a defense lawyer and court-appointed prosecutor known for his piercing cross-examinations and folksy, countrified manner. He continually asserted he was "not an accomplished lawyer," but Lincoln appeared before the Illinois Supreme Court more than 200 times and made a small fortune as one of the principal lawyers for the Illinois Central Railroad. The president often utilized his legal skills when called upon to review the hundreds of Civil War military court verdicts appealed to him. By law and practice, there were basically two types of military courts at the time: courts martial and military commissions. Courts martial were comprised of a dozen officers and were generally held to try officers and enlisted men for dereliction of duty—sleeping while on sentry duty, cowardice, desertion, conduct unbecoming an officer—and for crimes such as rape and murder. Military commissions usually consisted of less than a dozen officers and were convened in areas where martial law had been declared, to try civilians accused of military crimes—spying, smuggling, conducting guerrilla actions against Union troops, and recruiting for the Confederacy.

The law allowed the convicted to appeal to Lincoln in most cases, and in capital cases it was a matter of right. In the midst of the havoc wrought by the war, Lincoln spent many hours of many days reviewing transcripts and receiving visits from the pleading family members of convicted men. Lincoln could easily see the defects of the Dakota trials.

Most importantly, the Dakota defendants had not been allowed representation by counsel. Defense lawyers would have raised objections to the jurisdiction of the commission in an area where martial law had not been ordered, as required by law. They would have questioned the impartiality of the five officers on the commission, all of whom fought against the Dakota and undoubtedly harbored ill will toward them. Defense lawyers would have cross-examined the commission's witnesses, pointing out inconsistencies in their testimony and exposing their biases, particularly those—such as Godfrey—who "turned government's evidence" and likely testified falsely in attempts to curry favor with the commission and save their necks. Without counsel, the defendants— already trapped behind a language and cultural barrier—did not have anyone to help them understand the proceedings, offer credible mitigating evidence, or develop and practice their own testimonies.

The president could also see how the trials' rapidity prevented a full and fair analysis of the facts. The weight and impact of evidence simply could not be properly processed in a few minutes, especially in capital cases with their ultimate stakes. Undoubtedly the brevity of the trials resulted from the absence of defense counsel. The president could also see how the commission convicted many men with insufficient evidence. Lincoln, a master politician, also reviewed trials with a political perspective. On December 1 he gave the requisite nod to those who had pressured him against clemency by telling Congress, "The State of Minnesota has suffered great injury from this Indian war." While he did not tip his hand about his imminent decision, it was a signal he would offer some satisfaction there. Yet he also knew how the rest of the world, especially Britain—still considering whether to recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation—would perceive the mass execution of some 300 men. As Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles noted in his diary: "When the intelligent Representatives of a State can deliberately besiege the Government to take the lives of these ignorant barbarians by wholesale… , it would seem the sentiments of the Representatives were but slightly removed from the barbarians they would execute."

Nevertheless, Lincoln's compassion played the largest role in the predicament. In their lengthy debates over Civil War military court verdicts, Judge Advocate Holt often urged execution. Lincoln usually demurred, saying, "I don't think I can do it," or "I am trying to evade the butchering business lately." Holt said Lincoln's "constant desire was to save life." John Hay, the other of Lincoln's personal secretaries, wrote in his diary, "I was amused at the eagerness with which the President caught at any fact which would justify him in saving the life of a condemned soldier." Statistics confirm these observations. In his review of death sentences for desertion, Lincoln disagreed with the trial courts at a rate of 75 percent initially, increasing to 95 percent by the middle of the war. He rarely approved execution for cowards because "it would frighten the poor devils too terribly," and he never allowed execution for those who slept on sentry duty. In reviewing the death sentences of civilians handed down by military commissions, Lincoln disagreed with 60 percent of the trial courts. He was only merciless in cases involving cruelty or sex offenses.

Any death sentence for rape or murder, whether from courts martial or commission, stood a 50- to-80 percent chance of being upheld upon presidential review. Lincoln issued his decision in the Dakota cases on December 6, 1862. He later explained his rationale to the Senate: "Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on the one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I caused a careful examination of the records of trials to be made, in view of first ordering the execution of such as had been proved guilty of violating females. Contrary to my expectations, only two of this class were found. I then directed a further examination, and a classification of all who were proven to have participated in massacres, as distinguished from participation in battles." Lincoln's order to Sibley—in his own handwriting—allowed the execution of only 39 of the 303 condemned Dakota.

Of these, 29 had been convicted of murder, three for having "shot" someone, two for participating in "massacres," and one for mutilation. As Lincoln told the Senate, only two had been convicted of rape. Curiously, the president allowed the executions of two men who were convicted merely for participating in battles. Lincoln spared Godfrey, as the military commission requested, and two weeks later spared another man due to newly discovered exculpatory evidence. "The other condemned prisoners," Lincoln ordered Sibley, "you will hold subject to further orders, taking care that they neither escape, nor are subject to any unlawful violence." With his "massacres" versus "battles" standard, Lincoln offered clemency to 265 of the condemned Dakota, or 87 percent of them. Some analysts have argued that jurisdictional defects in the proceedings—namely, that the commission lacked authority because martial law had not been declared, and that the Dakota were not tried for military-type violations, but the common-law crimes of rape and murder—nullify Lincoln's well-intentioned efforts. While these arguments are probably true in theory, the reality of the situation was different.

This was wartime; Lincoln could not have reversed the convictions wholesale, either ordering new trials or disapproving the proceedings entirely. The former would have caused great delay and the latter great outrage, either of which could have led to mob violence in Minnesota. Such actions would not necessarily have prevented the Dakota from being tried in state courts, where they would have received little sympathy from citizen juries. Lincoln had to make a final decision on the matter, and he did: his "massacres" versus "battles" standard recognized all legal and political issues and encompassed all reasonable solutions. His standard presented a plausible, practical effort to correct the verdicts and assign more appropriate standards of responsibility. On December 27 President Lincoln received a telegram from Sibley: "I have the honor to inform you that the thirty-eight Indians and half-breeds, ordered by you for execution, were hung yesterday at Mankato, at 10 a.m.

Everything went off quietly, and the other prisoners are well secured." The politicians and citizens of Minnesota had taken the president's order with a smoldering reserve, and there were no acts of vigilantism or mob law. The Dakota plunged simultaneously to their deaths on one giant gallows before thousands of spectators. It remains the largest mass execution in American history. In the next year Sibley led a punitive expedition against those Dakota who had escaped after the conflict.

A settler killed Little Crow after the Indian had sneaked back into Minnesota. After spending a freezing, disease-ridden winter at Fort Snelling, the remaining Dakota were banished to an inhospitable reservation in South Dakota. All, that is, except one man named Chaska. In an example personifying the trial defects, Chaska—who had saved the lives of captive white women—was errantly hanged instead of one Chaskaydon, convicted of shooting and mutilating a pregnant woman.

The marshal of the prison had gone to release Chaska: "[B]ut when I asked for him, the answer was 'You hung him yesterday.' I could not bring back the redskin.



This article was written by Daniel W. Homstad and originally published in the December 2001 issue of American History Magazine.

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27 Responses to “Abraham Lincoln: Deciding the Fate of 300 Indians Convicted of War Crimes in Minnesota's Great Sioux Uprising”


  1. 1
    Holly Verret says:

    None of this is true…were you there?

    • 1.1
      Arkynut says:

      your lame, like the rest-look the other way. I guess the holocaust didn't happen either!! Both white and black damn near wiped out a race of people. if you don't bother to research before you answer, keep your frikin mouth SHUT! Cause your lame ass don't know nothing! FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF!

  2. 2
    tiffany says:

    so the indians won or lost? You describe it so confusing that i don't know who won the war. I thought it was the Dakota…or was it the settlers. I don't know…I'm so lost I'm heading towards crazy town.

  3. 3
    mariah says:

    this is lame its not true

  4. 4
    Michael Mack says:

    You commentators who dispute the truth of this article, do your research THIS DID HAPPEN.

  5. 5
    David Irish says:

    I read this as part of my research for my next writing which I will focus on Abraham Lincoln. I published on an Internet site and have written poems concerning the Civil War. I have had a lady friend that is half Sioux and was born in South Dakota and raised in Montana.

    This relationship with her has created a stronger interest in the Native American people that I have a great respect for. I live in Arizona where their is a significant Native population.

    Honest Abe's decision concerning this very difficult situation combined with the Civil War under way must have been very difficult and demanding. I do believe that Lincoln was a strong supporter of human rights.

  6. 6
    Tony says:

    Abe Lincoln was as much a racist as Adolf Hitler-he hated Indians and didn't care much for blacks either. He didn't care if the slaves were freed or not-just so the United States would be united. All those who are on Mount Rushmore were Indian haters and the person who sculpted it (Borglund) was a member of the KKK. The more you learn about history the more you realize that humankind and human behavior is very abnormal and that history is a lot of B.S. People need to stop worshing Presidents and celebrities..stop being shallow!!!!!

    • 6.1
      maureen mccarthy says:

      well said tony i so agree with you

    • 6.2
      Lamashtar says:

      If Lincoln was as racist as Hitler, he'd've ordered the executions of all 300. But you seem to have issues with reading comprehension.

  7. 7
    Darryl says:

    The victor always writes the history, assuming this to be correct we have a white account of what happened. The native american version is not heard. I am sure if their truth were to be written the level of hatred, butchery,corruption and injustice wrought upon the native american people who were responding to the genocide of their people might be perceived differently. As the article points out none spoke english, a biased interpret was used and no legal representation was allowed. Using todays standard of justice, ethics and human rights any person involved in this execution of the Native Americans is a murderer, thats includes honest Abe who gave the excutive approval to hang 29. The truth hurts…but it sets you free

    • 7.1
      Lee says:

      It is simply too convenient to revise our view of America's heroic. Particularly, as we have such great need to justify our own behavior, and those of our elected officials. Execution by hanging is certainl gruesome, we seem to center our thought on the fact that these were native americans, and fail to recall the number of innocents who were victimized by these raiders. That is, of course if one insists on believing the accounts given in the article are accurate. It seems to me very clear that Lincoln grieved over any such decision whether it had to do with treason, or murder and rape. The article indicates, perhaps by mere coincidence that Lincoln was instrmental in sparing some 85% of both soldiers and natives despite an overwhelming bias not to do so. Certainly, Pope's position was shameful, however, given the circumstances, I expect that the thirty some individuals who were hanged had innocent blood on their hands. Please don't make this a white and native victimization thing.

    • 7.2
      Lamashtar says:

      You're only an internet click away from Native American versions. But it's interesting that you don't care at all about the 800 victims who died previous to the mass hanging.

  8. 8
    Half Breed says:

    United Native America
    The American Indian And The "Great Emancipator"

    By Michael Gaddy
    Published 01. 9. 03 at 21:31 Sierra Time
    http://www.sierratimes.com/gaddy.htm

    Perhaps the veneer of lies and historical distortions that surround Abraham Lincoln are beginning to crack. In the movie, "Gangs of New York," we finally have a historically correct representation of the real Abraham Lincoln and his policies. Heretofore, many socialistic intellectuals, politicians and historians have whitewashed these policies in order to protect Lincoln's image because of their allegiance to the unconstitutional centralization of power he brought to our government.

    The false sainthood and adulation afforded Lincoln has its basis in the incorrect assumption he fought the war to free an enslaved people. To believe this propaganda one must ignore most everything Lincoln said about the Black race and his continued efforts at colonization. Lincoln's treatment of the American Indian has been very much ignored, though not exactly misrepresented.

    One would find it hard to refute that Abraham Lincoln's political idol was Henry Clay. Lincoln would say of Clay; "During my whole political life, I have loved and revered Henry Clay as a teacher and leader." Lincoln delivered the eulogy at the funeral for Clay. When elected President, Lincoln set about implementing Henry Clay's political philosophies.

    Throughout Clay's political life he was a strong believer in National Socialism and a complete racist in all references to the American Indian. As Secretary of State Clay would declare: "The Indians' disappearance from the human family will be no great loss to the world. I do not think them, as a race, worth preserving."

    This mentality lead to the forced walk of all Cherokees from the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia to Oklahoma during the winter of 1838. Over 20,000 Cherokees were dragged from their homes, which were then plundered and burned. They were force marched most of them barefooted to Oklahoma during the dead of winter with the sky for their blanket and the earth for their pillow. Over 4,000 Cherokees died on this march and it became known as the "Trail of Tears."

    Similar atrocities occurred all through the Lincoln Administration. In 1862, the Santee Sioux of Minnesota grew tired of waiting for the 1.4 million dollars they had been promised for the sale of 24 million acres of land to the federal government in 1851. Appeals to President Lincoln fell on deaf ears. What made this even more egregious to the Sioux was the invasion of this yet unpaid for land by thousands of white settlers. Then, with a very poor crop in august of 1862, many of the Indians were hungry and facing starvation with the upcoming winter.

    When Lincoln outright refused to pay the owed money, remember he had a war to finance the Indians revolted. Lincoln assigned General John Pope to quell the uprising and he announced at the beginning of his campaign: "It is my purpose to utterly exterminate the Sioux. They are to be treated as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom treaties or compromise can be made." Lincoln certainly did not challenge this statement.

    The Indians were quickly defeated in October of 1862 and Pope herded all the Indians, men, women and children, into forts where military trials were immediately convened. None of the Indians tried were given any semblance of a defense. Their trials lasted approximately 10 minutes each. All adult males were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death with the only evidence against them being they had been present during a "war" which they themselves had declared against the government.

    The authorities in Minnesota asked Lincoln to order the immediate execution of all 303 males found guilty. Lincoln was concerned with how this would play with the Europeans, whom he was afraid were about to enter the war on the side of the South. He offered the following compromise to the politicians of Minnesota: They would pare the list of those to be hung down to 39. In return, Lincoln promised to kill or remove every Indian from the state and provide Minnesota with 2 million dollars in federal funds. Remember, he only owed the Sioux 1.4 million for the land.

    So, on December 26, 1862, the Great Emancipator ordered the largest mass execution in American History, where the guilt of those to be executed was entirely in doubt. Regardless of how Lincoln defenders seek to play this, it was nothing more than murder to obtain the land of the Santee Sioux and to appease his political cronies in Minnesota.

    Lincoln's western armies, using the tactics of murder, rape, burning and pillaging, simultaneously being used against Southern noncombatants by the eastern armies, turned their attention to the Navajos.

    In 1863-64, General Carleton and his subordinate, Colonel Kit Carson, invaded the Navajo land, especially those concentrated in the Canyon de Chelly area. Crops were burned, innocents were murdered, women were raped and general chaos was rained upon these noble people simply because, like the Santee Sioux, they demanded from Lincoln what they had been promised; their land and to be left alone. General Carleton, believing there was gold to be found in the area, stated: "This war, will be pursued against you if it takes years until you cease to exist or move." Again, there was no protest of this policy from Lincoln, his Commander in Chief.

    The Navajo were forced to march over 300 miles to Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico. Over 200 Navajos died on this march and, eventually, over 2,000 perished before a treaty was signed in 1868. While at Bosque Redondo, the Navajo suffered the vilest conditions; bitter water, no firewood and impossible growing conditions for crops. The soldiers and the Mexican guards subjected the women to rape and humiliating treatment. Children born at this "concentration camp" were lucky to survive their first few months of life.

    As our Founding Fathers did in our Declaration of Independence from the British, the Cherokee Nation listed its grievances with the Union when they declared their unification with the Confederate States on October 28th 1861. These brave people had already observed the atrocities of Lincoln's war criminals and saw through any so-called war for liberation.

    "When circumstances beyond their control compel one people to sever the ties which have long existed between them and another state or confederacy, and to contract new alliances and establish new relations for the security of their rights and liberties, it is fit that they should publicly declare the reasons by which their action is justified.

    The Cherokee people had its origin in the South; its institutions are similar to those of the Southern States, and their interests identical with theirs. Long since it accepted the protection of the United States of America, contracted with them treaties of alliance and friendship, and allowed themselves to be to a great extent governed by their laws.

    In peace and war, they have been faithful to their engagements with the United States. With much hardship and injustice to complain of, they resorted to no other means than solicitation and argument to obtain redress. Loyal and obedient to the laws and the stipulations of the treaties, they served under the flag of the United States, shared the common dangers, and were entitled to a share in the common glory, to gain which their blood was freely shed on the battlefield.

    When the dissentions between the Southern and Northern States culminated in a separation of State after State from the Union, they watched the progress of events with anxiety and consternation. While their institutions and the contiguity of their territory to the states of Arkansas, Texas and Missouri made the cause of the seceding States necessarily their own cause, their treaties had been made with the United States, and they felt the utmost reluctance even in appearance to violate their engagements or set at naught the obligations of good faith.

    But Providence rules the destinies of nations, and events, by inexorable necessity, overrule human resolutions. The number of the Confederate States increased to eleven, and their government is firmly established and consolidated. Maintaining in the field an army of two hundred thousand men, the war became for them but a succession of victories. Disclaiming any intention to invade the Northern States, they sought only to repel invaders from their own soil and to secure the right of governing themselves.

    They claimed only the privilege asserted by the Declaration of American Independence, and on which the right of the Northern States themselves to self-government is formed, of altering their form of government when it became no longer tolerable and establishing new forms for the security of their liberties.

    Throughout the Confederate States, we saw this great revolution effected without violence or suspension of the laws or the closing of the courts, The military power was nowhere placed above the civil authorities. None were seized and imprisoned at the mandate of arbitrary power. All division among the people disappeared, and the determination became unanimous that there should never again be any union with the Northern States. Almost as one man, all who were able to bear arms rushed to the defense of an invaded country, and nowhere has it been found necessary to compel men TO SERVE, or to enlist mercenaries by the offer of extraordinary bounties.

    But, in the Northern States, the Cherokee people saw with alarm a violated constitution, all civil liberty put in peril, and all rules of civilized warfare and the dictates of common humanity and decency unhesitatingly disregarded. In states which still adhered to the Union, a military despotism had displaced the civil power and the laws became silent amid arms. Free speech and almost free thought became a crime. The right of the writ of habeas corpus, guaranteed by the constitution, disappeared at the nod of a Secretary of State or a general of the lowest grade. The mandate of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was at naught by the military power, and this outrage on common right, approved by a President sworn to support the constitution. War on the largest scale was waged, and the immense bodies of troops called into the field in the absence of any law warranting it under the pretense of suppressing unlawful combination of men.

    The humanities of war, which even barbarians respect, were no longer thought worthy to be observed. Foreign mercenaries and the scum of the cities and the inmates of prisons were enlisted and organized into brigades and sent into Southern States to aid in subjugating a people struggling for freedom, to burn, to plunder, and to commit the basest of outrages on the women.

    While the heels of armed tyranny trod upon the necks of Maryland and Missouri, and men of the highest character and position were incarcerated upon suspicion and without process of law, in jails, in forts, and prison ships, and even women were imprisoned by the arbitrary order of a President and Cabinet Ministers; while the press ceased to be free, and the publication of newspapers was suspended and their issues seized and destroyed.

    The officers and men taken prisoners in the battles were allowed to remain in captivity by the refusal of the Government to consent to an exchange of prisoners; as they had left their dead on more than one field of battle that had witnessed their defeat, to be buried and their wounded to be cared for by southern hands"

    Lincoln's armies, after decimating and destroying the South in the War for Southern Independence, turned its war criminals loose on the Indians of the Great Plains and the Southwest. The tactics of murder, rape and pillaging, perfected in such places as Atlanta, the March to the Sea and the Shenandoah Valley, were repeated in places with names like Sand Creek and Wounded Knee.

    Small wonder one of Lincoln's favorite Generals was William T. Sherman, who wrote to his wife in 1862 that his goal was the "extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least of the trouble, but the people of the South." He said while campaigning against the Indians: "The only good Indian I ever saw was dead," and lamented to his son shortly before his death that he had been unable to kill all of the "Red Sob's."

    Abraham Lincoln's "American System," adopted from Henry Clay, brought about the necessity for the removal of the Indians from the west. This concept of government had been vetoed as unconstitutional by virtually every president, beginning with James Madison.

    The system called for the subsidizing of the railroads with stolen taxpayer money. Lincoln had long been the primary attorney representing the railroads before being elected President. For the railroads to complete their lines into the west, the Indian had to be either "neutralized" or eliminated. Thus, Lincoln left his fingerprints on the campaign against the Indian well into the 19th century.

    Lincoln's policies of taxpayer-supported railroads would lead, not only to the attempted annihilation of the Indian, but to tremendous scandals in the administration of another of Lincoln's war criminals, Ulysses S. Grant. Grant, like Lincoln, handed out his "political plum" appointments of Indian Agent to cronies who proceeded to gain tremendous wealth by selling supplies and stealing money that should have gone to the Indians.

    Today, as we Southerners protest the conversion of the Battlefields of the National Park Service into "the beginnings of reparations for slavery," by Marxist politicians and journalists, and challenge the erection of a statue of Lincoln in Richmond, we might ask ourselves as the Indian has done for years: Why, in the most sacred land of the Sioux, is there a monument carved into the granite mountain, a figure of Lincoln, who promised the annihilation of a band of the Sioux to please his political cronies?

    To continue to idolize Lincoln is to refute history and intellectual thought and to worship at the foot of Marxist government. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, Americans will be able to see the Lincoln Administration and its legacy of how we are governed today in the light of truth. We may even be able to see its consequences as clearly as the Cherokee Nation saw them in 1861!

    ——————————————————————————–

    Please click on the Native American Holiday banner for late breaking news and updates on the Native American Holiday

  9. 9

    [...] this date, President Lincoln ordered the execution of 39 of the 303 Santee Sioux Indians that had been condemned after a very hasty trial. A mass hanging of these unlucky ones was [...]

  10. 10
    Philip Rushe says:

    Hitler was rightly condemned for invading France and Poland and Russia and killing huge numbers of the natives of those countries. Yet where is the condemnation of the Europeans that invaded the Americas, killed God knows how many natives, stole the land, slaughtered women and children, did their best to wipe out entire nations, etc. Is it any wonder that there is such close ties between the US and Israel, seeing as Israel is trying to do to the Palestinians what the Europeans did to the Native Americans. Every US President should start a tern by apologising to the Native Americans and making a large payment in compensation. Indeed the US should pay rent to the Native Americans for using their land along with a cut of all revenue from oil and minerals.

    • 10.1
      MGarcia says:

      Cobell made step in the direction of making it right… but no amount of money can make the injustices of the world "right" or disappear.

      We are all grateful that light has been shed on issues and information like this.

      Nothing can justify racism or genocide. People need to start researching and learning what they can about the history of the world before words are spoken that are more harmful and ignorant than they are beneficial.

  11. 11
    Michael Mack says:

    The history of this incident is part of offcial federal records – the government has never hidden it. Many other such similar incidents are found throughout government records dating back to when the U.S. was founded in 1776. In those days these occurrences were not crimes or "civil rights" issues, etc. rather they were about government record keeping for expenditures, regarding the effectiveness of government policies, etc. These records include the U.S. Serial Set, the Congressional Record, etc. so the truth of their occurrence is readily available for those who take the time to do the research.

    It is the U.S. government that set up the treaty-making process in the U.S. Constitution. Although the tribes basically didn't want anything to do with the U.S. government at all, when the tribes recognized they were outnumbered, they signed the treaties (contracts) because they believed (hoped) the U.S. government would keep its part of the contacts – which they never did. According to the U.S. Constitution treaties remain "the law of the land". Subsequently tribes have worked, with little success, to get the U.S. government to FULLY live up to the stipulations IT put in the treaties. Any benefits the tribes and their members might receive from the U.S. government, is because the U.S. government committed to do so in specifically legally documented terms.

  12. 12
    Abe Supporter says:

    Being ignorant isn't an excuse to slander a man that helped more blacks and Natives then anyone commenting on this article. and Tony your clearly biased/ Do your research,that goes for all those listed below.

    Holly Verret
    mariah
    Tony
    maureen mccarthy

  13. 13
    Philip Rushe says:

    Lincoln was Hitler but with a lot less firepower. Oddly enough if the Native Americans had been united under a crazy dictator like Stalin they would probably have come out on top. The victors write the history and the Yanks have been telling massive lies for centuries. It is no wonder the United States is such a messed up country when you consider its disgraceful history. Most Americans are just as brainwashed and in denial as the Germans were in the thirties, or as most Muslims today. If it was not for the media coverage the Palestinians would have gone the same way as the Native Americans although it seems the Israelis have not completely given up on their genocidal intentions.

  14. 14
    Historian says:

    When informed of the perfidious treatment of Native Americans on reservations by Bishop Whipple, President Lincoln was visibly shaken, and vowed that if he outlasted the all-consuming Civil War, he would see to it that the government's relationship with the Tribes was changed.

  15. 15
    Liam Urban says:

    my english class is doing a reaport on this and it is true

  16. 16

    [...] by right-wing extremists. Lincoln ordered the the largest mass execution in American history – Source – He would fit right in with today's GOP Sign in or Register Now to [...]

  17. 17
    Bob Hamilton says:

    If Lincoln wanted to unify the nation he wouldn't have freed the slaves, and he wouldn't have sent General Sherman down to burn half the south. By the way, Hitler murdered millions of Jews for no reason other than they were Jewish, Lincoln only sentenced 39 people of the 300 who were convicted of terrible crimes. you should watch what you say because no one in history should ever be compared to Hitler.

  18. 18
    Spencer courtis says:

    'The truth does not matter, it's what's communicated that does' – from the movie The International. It has to do with the 'love of money' …greed!

  19. 19
    Joshua says:

    Haha the war is never over if we all survive Native Nation!!!

  20. 20

    [...] U.S. federal holiday celebrates colonialism, slave-owning presidents, regressive religions, or outright genocide - July 4th is no different. Only one of our holidays celebrates a American of morality and virtue [...]

  21. 21


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