In November of 1862, after the fighting of the U.S.-Dakota War had drawn to a close, those who had not engaged in battle — mostly women and children — were taken overland by U.S. soldiers from the Redwood (Lower Sioux) Agency to a concentration camp at Fort Snelling to await their fate.The Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway
Weeks earlier, in September, the Dakota who could prove they had not joined in the war had already been moved from Camp Release to the Redwood Agency. On November 7, they were forced to undertake another long, difficult journey to Fort Snelling.
Escorted by three companies of armed U.S. soldiers, the group of 1,658 Dakota — women and children, along with a few, mostly elderly men — slowly made their way east. For six days they labored on foot, by horseback and in wagons, subject to threats and attacks as they passed by angry and frightened residents. Some of the equally frightened Dakota captives were injured or killed along the way.
Finally, on November 13, the survivors arrived at the fort and were confined in a fenced concentration camp along the river. There they spent the harsh winter of 1862-63, enduring inadequate shelter, cold, hunger and disease. More Dakota died that winter.
In the months and years that followed, most of the Dakota were exiled from their homeland along the Minnesota River to Crow Creek in what is now South Dakota. Countless numbers died, families were broken apart, and the traditional way of life of the Dakota was largely destroyed. The results of this forced, mass exile are still felt today.
Wicahpi wastewiŋ (Good Star Woman) was eight years old in November 1862 when her family was moved to Fort Snelling. Her father, on horseback, pulled a travois where his three daughters hid under a buffalo skin. Later, she recalled their fear passing through towns where "the people brought poles, pitchforks and axes and hit some of the women and children in the wagons."
"It is a sad sight to see so many women and children marching off, not knowing whether they will ever see their husbands and fathers again."
John Williamson, son of Dr. Thomas Williamson, missionary to the Dakota
Heartbreak at Henderson
Interpreter Samuel J. Brown rode with the wagon train to Fort Snelling. In his journal he recorded this heart-rending scene:
"I saw an enraged woman rush up to one of the wagons, snatch a nursing babe from its mother's breast and dash it on the ground. The soldiers dragged the woman away and restored the papoose to its mother....[It] died a few hours later. After, the body was quietly laid away in a crotch of a tree a few miles below Henderson and not far from Faxon. I witnessed the ceremony, which was...one of the oldest and most cherished customs of the tribe."
From "In Captivity," published in the Mankato Weekly Review, April-May 1897
Dotted lines mark the route through town taken by the Dakota as they were moved from the Redwood Agency to the concentration camp at Fort Snelling.
From An Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Minnesota, published by A.I. Andreas, Chicago, 1874.
Struggles for a Home
The Minnesota River Valley has stories to tell...about the indigenous people struggling to keep their land and their way of life, and about immigrant families who began new lives here. Their stories came together, with tragic consequences for all, in what has become known as the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 — a war that had repercussions for the whole country.
logos of: Scenic Byway Minnesota River Valley; Minnesota Historical & Cultural Grants; Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This project has been made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008. Administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.