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Civil War Era in North Dakota


Andrew BurkeAndrew Burke: Civil War Veteran
In 1890, Andrew Burke was the second governor elected in the state of North Dakota. He was the only North Dakota governor who was a veteran of the Civil War.

Burke had a rocky start in life which makes his election to the governorship even more interesting. He was born in New York City to a poor family. His mother died when he was born. His father raised him until he died when Andrew was four. Andrew was sent to an institution for orphans, but also fared for himself by selling newspapers. Eventually, Andrew Burke became a ward of the Children’s Aid Society of New York which put orphans on trains that traveled across the country. The trains stopped at towns where farm families could choose to adopt one of the children.

Burke ended up on a farm in Indiana. He was fortunate that this was a happy home for him. He attended school in the winter and worked on the farm in the summer. The Civil War broke out when Burke was 11 years old. When he turned 13, he enlisted with Company D of the 75th Indiana Infantry as a drummer boy. He mustered out of service in 1865 and returned home to finish school.

After two years of college, Burke moved to Minneapolis where he married. The young couple soon moved to Casselton, Dakota Territory. Here, Burke’s fortunes began to improve. He worked as a bookkeeper for Hibbard and Parlin’s general store, and then as a cashier for the First National Bank. Beginning in 1884, he served three terms as Cass County Treasurer which brought him into contact with important Republican Party leaders.

In 1890, the Republican Party nominated Burke for governor of the new state. He was also supported by the Farmers’ Alliance, an organization with national and statewide political power. As governor, Burke discovered that the state had no constitutional provision for the election of presidential electors. He called the legislature into special session in June 1891 so that North Dakota’s voters would have a voice in the 1892 presidential election. He also supported using state funds (and some of his own money) to help farmers buy arsenic to poison grasshoppers when the insects threatened to destroy the wheat crop.

Burke (as well as several other governors) was influenced by “Boss” Alexander McKenzie who worked for railroad interests. Because there was no governor’s mansion in 1891, McKenzie gave his own house to Burke, but McKenzie expected favors in return. The legislature passed a bill favored by farmers and the Farmers’ Alliance that was meant to force railroads to lease land to grain elevators and warehouses. McKenzie asked Burke to veto the bill. Burke did veto the bill, but the veto angered the Farmers’ Alliance. Because he gave in to pressure from McKenzie, Burke lost the 1892 election to a farmer, Eli Shortridge.

Burke never forgot his early days and the help he had from the Children’s Aid Society. In 1891, he organized a group that worked to establish the Fargo orphan’s home in 1892. His story was carried in newspapers around the country. He encouraged orphans to believe in their future, saying that “It is the character of the man that wins recognition.”

As a veteran of the Civil War, Burke was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. He later worked for the U. S. Land Office in New Mexico where he died in 1918.


Eagle WomanEagle Woman: Mrs. Matilda Galpin
One of the most important people living at Fort Rice in 1864 was Matilda Galpin. Her husband was a trader and had been appointed the post sutler (a sutler sold supplies). She was one of three women living at Fort Rice during the terrible winter of 1865. Her friendship was important to Julia Larned, a survivor of Fort Dilts, who worked with her husband to operate a private bakery for the soldiers. Elizabeth Cardwell, the wife of a private in the First U.S. Volunteers, felt the comfort of Matilda Galpin’s medical skills at the birth of her baby in the spring.

Matilda Galpin was also known by the name her family had given her as a child: Eagle Woman That All Look At (Wambdi Autepe Win), or simply Eagle Woman. Her father was the famous Two Kettle Teton leader, Two Lance. Her mother was a Hunkpapa Dakota known as Rosy Light of Dawn. She inherited her mother’s status as a Hunkpapa. When her parents died, she married Honore Picotte, a trader for the American Fur Company at Fort Pierre. Around 1850, she married Charles Galpin.

She gave important assistance to both of her husbands. Through her family ties, she was able to help her husbands engage in trade with the Dakotas. She was also able to create peaceful relations between the traders and the Dakotas and later helped to bring several Dakota tribes to Fort Rice to talk peace. Her skills as a diplomat were recognized and respected by both the Dakotas and the officers of the Army.

Eagle Woman was able to live and work in both cultures. She understood that life on the northern Great Plains was changing with the arrival of more and more white people. She also understood the power of the Army. Often described as a very intelligent woman, she did what she could to avoid war and promote peace.

Eagle Woman was also a woman of great courage. One day, at the end of March 1865, she saw two Dakota men trying to set fire to Fort Rice. She approached them and ordered them to leave. The fort did not burn and the men were captured the next day.

Another attack on the sawmill at Fort Rice on May 26, 1865 led to the wounding of Lieutenant Wilson, who supervised the log-cutting operations. Three arrows hit his arm, his leg, and his chest and caused him to fall from his horse, fracturing his hip bone.  Mrs. Galpin (as she was usually known at the fort) saw his attackers riding toward him to take his scalp. She ran to help and protect Lt. Wilson. As she held him, she chased off his attackers by scolding them and shouting: “This man belongs to me now! You can not mutilate him or touch him! Begone, every one of you!”  They fled. She then waved her shawl in the air to draw the attention of rescuers who carried Lt. Wilson to the post surgeon.

In the fall of 1865, Charles and Matilda Galpin visited several tribes including the Blackfoot Sioux, Brulé, Hunkpapa, Miniconjou, Oglala, Sans Arc, Two Kettle, and Yanktonai villages to invite the leaders to participate in peace talks at Fort Rice. Most agreed to come, but a snowstorm prevented most of them from attending. The council eventually led to treaties in 1868 providing some of the tribes with reservations.

Another treaty signed in 1882 and 1883 by representatives of many Dakota tribes created separate agencies within the Great Sioux Reservation. The only woman to sign the treaty was Eagle Woman. She signed the section creating Standing Rock Agency with her mark next to the name Matilda Galpin.

The Death of Captain John Feilner
Captain John Feilner died on a hot, dry summer day in Dakota Territory. When he stopped to get some water, he was shot by three young Teton Dakotas who were intent on stealing horses. Feilner’s death led to events that further fueled the war that was breaking out on the northern Great Plains.

Feilner was born in Germany in 1830.  He trained as a mapmaker before he immigrated to the United States.  He joined the Army in 1856 for five years of service and became an Army topographer, or mapmaker.  Feilner re-enlisted in 1860 in California and a year later was commissioned a lieutenant.  He was becoming well known as a mapmaker and a careful observer of natural surroundings including plants, animals, and rocks.  In the course of his career, he met and befriended several important people, including General Alfred Sully.

In April 1864, General John Pope assigned Feilner to accompany Sully on his campaign into northern Dakota Territory. Feilner’s assignment, to map the region and collect specimens of plants and rocks, meant that he often had to ride away from the main columns of the cavalry. Sully often told him to take care, to remember that they were in hostile territory, and to take some soldiers with him in case of attack. Feilner usually laughed away these cautions. He usually took just two or three soldiers with him on his excursions.

On June 28, 1864, Sully’s troops broke camp and resumed their march northward. Feilner set out to locate Medicine Rock, a large boulder with markings of human hands and feet and bear tracks. It was said to be a sacred rock for the Dakotas and Arikaras. After viewing the rock and making notes, Feilner and the two soldiers went to Little Cheyenne River to get water and wait for the rest of the command. Three Dakotas waited for them. When the Dakotas attacked, Feilner was mortally wounded.

Company A of the Dakota Cavalry soon arrived and set out in pursuit of the Indians. They found the young Dakotas hiding in a buffalo wallow and killed them. As the men of Company A returned to the column, Sully was informed of their success. The General was pleased with the performance of the Dakota Cavalry and their eagerness to engage in a fight.

Then, Sully ordered an officer to find the bodies of the Dakotas and to remove their heads. The heads were brought back to camp in a gunny sack.

On June 29, Captain Feilner’s body was placed on a steamboat in order to return his remains to his family. The same day, Sully ordered the severed heads placed on poles set up at the camp. The heads remained there as a gruesome warning to other Dakotas that the Army was intent on success in its campaign against the Teton Dakotas. To the Dakotas, this disrespect for the dead was an atrocity they could not forget. Word of the deed spread ahead of Sully’s troops.

One month later, the Dakotas met Sully in battle at Killdeer Mountain.  When a Dakota warrior removed a letter from the pocket of a soldier he had killed, he took it to the captive Fanny Kelly and asked her to read it.  The soldier wrote of the death of Captain Feilner and the placing of the heads of the Dakotas on posts.  Though the letter was never sent to the soldier’s family, Fanny Kelly wrote of the event in her memoir.

Feilner’s assistant, Siegmund Rothhammer, wrote about the Captain’s death in his diary. Feilner, he wrote, was a “brave, efficient, & accomplished Officer, . . . a gentleman who . . . commanded the Respect of All, who knew Him.” Feilner’s death gave Sully a chance to goad the Dakotas into war by his disrespect of the Dakotas’ bodies.

J. L. FiskJames Liberty Fisk: Businessman
James L. Fisk was born in 1835 in New York. In the 1850s, Fisk joined the Army and served in Minnesota. There, he married and began farming, but when an opportunity to go west with an expedition to Wyoming came along, he took it.

That expedition began a life of adventure in the Northwest that included leading four wagon trains from St. Paul to Montana. Two of these wagon trains (1862 and 1863) traveled across Minnesota to Dakota Territory along the north side of the Missouri River to Fort Benton in Montana.

Congress was interested in developing a good route to the Montana gold fields and offered $10,000 in payment to those who would help develop that road. Fisk, who had left the Army before the Civil War began, obtained a Captain’s commission and the $10,000 grant from Congress to take yet another wagon train west in 1864.

Like most officers, Fisk gave up his military commission when the war ended in 1865. In 1866, Fisk took another wagon train along the northern route to Helena through Fort Abercrombie, the north side of the Missouri River, and the Milk River in Montana.

Fisk remained in Montana for several years working for a newspaper. His business ventures sometimes failed, and he had trouble with unpaid bills from time to time. He spent the rest of his life in Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana. In the 1890s he moved into the Soldiers’ Home in Minneapolis. He died in 1902 at the age of 67.

Inkpaduta: A Santee Leader
Inkpaduta was born around 1815 in what later became Dakota Territory. His father was a leader of a band of Wahpekutes, a part of the Santee (or Eastern) Dakota Nation. Inkpaduta, like his father, was a man who had a bad temper and he often quarreled with members of his tribe, sometimes violently. Because of that, he was often considered an outcast from the tribe and did not participate in treaties with other Santees.

On the other hand, when white settlers began to occupy northern Iowa where Inkpaduta lived with his band, he often got along well with them. During the hard times of the bad winter of 1857, Inkpaduta’s band began to run low on food. Then came news that whites had committed crimes against some of the Dakotas in Iowa. Inkpaduta decided to take revenge. Inkpaduta and his followers murdered 39 white settlers near Spirit Lake. The Army set out to capture and punish the Wahpekutes, but never caught up to them. Freedom seemed to make Inkpaduta more famous.

After the massacre at Spirit Lake, Inkpaduta’s band traveled widely, spending time with the Yanktonais and Yanktons. Sometimes he briefly joined with the Hunkpapas or other bands of Tetons. He probably participated in the battles of Big Mound, Dead Buffalo Lake, and Stony Lake, though he had come to that place only to hunt. He also fought at Killdeer Mountain. He may have been at the Battle of the Little Big Horn (1876), though by then he was an elderly man and probably did not engage directly in the battle. After that battle, he made his way to Canada where he died in 1881. Some Dakotas preferred to keep their distance from Inkpaduta because they knew that the Army was still looking for him and his presence could mean trouble for his friends.

After the massacre at Spirit Lake, Inkpaduta gained a reputation as a fearsome murderer. His name was known far and wide and stories of his actions were told and re-told long after his death. White people seemed to fear Inkpaduta more than other Dakotas because he was never caught, never lived on a reservation, and never signed a treaty. He spent his life defending his people and their way of life. For this, he was respected by the Dakotas.

Fanny KellyFanny Kelly: Captive of the Dakotas
Fanny Kelly was born in 1845 in Canada. By 1856, her family had moved to Kansas. She was still a young woman of 19, when she married Josiah Kelly. The couple believed that his poor health might be improved by moving west. In May 1864, they set out in a small train of five wagons for Montana. There were only two women and two children in the group.

On July 12, 1864, the wagon train was intercepted by 100 Teton Dakota warriors. After a short conversation, the Dakotas attacked, killing four emigrants, wounding two others. The women and children were taken captive. Fanny’s husband managed to escape.

The other woman and her children escaped captivity in a few days, and Fanny’s niece also escaped, though she was later killed. Fanny remained with the Tetons for five months enduring the hardship of travel, lack of food and water, and the battles at Killdeer Mountain and Fort Dilts. In addition, she was beaten and had to perform hard labor in the household that kept her.

By September, Kelly’s presence began to cause some problems. Sitting Bull identified her as a source of conflict among the bands, as well as a magnet for Army action. He sought her release, but her owner, a man she called Ottawa, refused to let her go. The Dakotas might have released her at Fort Dilts, but Captain James Fisk did not follow through on negotiations and she was not released.

During her captivity, her husband sent gifts through friendly messengers to encourage her release. But Ottawa wanted to keep her. There is some evidence that her captors were very fond of her, and there is no doubt that she was a hard worker in their households. She was eventually traded to Brings Plenty who gave her the honorable name, Real Woman.

Finally, on December 12, 1864, Kelly was released at Fort Sully. She had endured great hardships and battles. She had lived with three different Dakota families, and had met the great leader Sitting Bull. After her release, she was reunited with her husband. Josiah Kelly lived only three more years. He died just before the birth of their only child.

In 1870, Kelly published her memoir titled: Narrative of my captivity among the Sioux Indians: With a brief account of General Sully's Indian expedition in 1864, bearing upon events occurring in my captivity. For a while, she made her living by traveling from town to town, giving speeches about her experience. The events of the rest of her life are not known.

You can read Fanny Kelly’s entire memoir in its full text online

Jerome King: Civil War Private
Jerome King served in the 6th Iowa Cavalry during the Civil War. The 6th Iowa, under the command of General Alfred Sully, participated in the Battles of Whitestone Hill and Killdeer Mountain. However, Jerome King was not present at either battle. His story is complicated (and the historical record isn’t complete), but the record tells us a little about this very young man who left us one important historical document – his drawing of the encampment at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory.

King was the name Jerome Keuhn adopted after he enlisted in the Army. Born in Germany, he immigrated to the United States in 1853. Army records state that he was 18 when he enlisted in 1862, making his birth date 1844. Later in life, however, he claimed a later birth date of August 1847. If that record is accurate, then King was only 15 when he enlisted. He lived in Toledo, Iowa where he worked for a printer before he enlisted.

King mustered into the 6th Iowa Cavalry at Davenport Iowa December 6, 1862. The 6th Iowa was recruiting men for a three-year term of service with an offer of “$100 bounty, $25 of which is paid in advance, together with One Month’s Pay.” Recruiting posters stated that Iowans would be subject to the draft by January, so they were encouraged to enlist before they were ordered into uniform.

The 6th Iowa enrolled a total of 1,420 men. King, among the original enlistees, had a troubled record of service. By March, 1863, when the 6th Iowa was stationed at Fort Randall in Dakota Territory, he was treated for health problems. Then, he apparently disappeared, perhaps because of ill health. He did not draw pay throughout the winter and spring of 1863.

In August, 1863, while Sully was marching his troops north along the Missouri River toward White Stone Hill, he turned himself in to a special agent in Iowa. His record notes that he was on sick furlough, but he was called a “detached man” meaning that he was not with his company, but it could also mean that he had deserted. From August to November, he was in transport from Davenport to Fort Randall, for which he had to pay $7.25 from his own funds.

King returned to Fort Randall just after his company, “F”, returned from the Battle of White Stone Hill. King was soon back in the regimental hospital for treatment of an unknown health condition. By April 1864, while Company F was preparing for the summer campaign in northern Dakota Territory, King was at Fort Leavenworth, where he was labeled a “straggler.” Stragglers were soldiers who could not keep up with the pace of the march and often arrived at camp a few hours, or days, behind the rest of their company. Straggler was also another word for a deserter who changed his mind and returned to his company. The Union Army had a hard time keeping enough men in the field to fight the war and tended to be forgiving of stragglers.

Disease caused the loss of more men in the Civil War than combat. Among the soldiers of the 6th Iowa, 22 were killed in action. Seventy-five men died of disease. Considering the rate of death and desertion, King’s return to his unit after his health problems were treated would have been welcomed.

In May 1864, King was back with Company F. In June, General Sully issued Order No. 46, returning King to duty and noting that he was “recovered from desertion.” Sully punished King by withholding his pay until August, but otherwise forgave him. However, Sully apparently did not completely trust King in combat. Sully assigned King to serve as an aide to an officer who remained at Fort Rice during its construction. One day, King drew a picture in pencil and red ink of the new post. This drawing is the earliest document of the construction of Fort Rice.

When the 6th Iowa returned from Fort Rice in October 1864, King went with them and remained in the service. His record shows no more instances of desertion, and he was mustered out of the Army on October 17, 1865. At that time, he purchased his gun for $8.00 and his saber for $3.00. He also received the rest of his bounty.

After the war, King married and worked as a railroad baggage handler. In 1886 he applied for an Army pension. In 1890, he was a resident, along with 85 other men, of the Iowa Soldiers’ home.

Abraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln: Civil War President
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) was the Civil War President. When Lincoln was elected in 1860, southern states, fearing that he would ask Congress to outlaw slavery, seceded from the Union. South Carolina was the first to depart. Eventually 10 other states broke their ties with the United States and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. As the states seceded, their elected delegates to Congress left their seats and returned to their home states.

Lincoln was mostly self-educated. He had a typical frontier education with several months in a “blab” school where students learned to “read, write, and cipher” (do arithmetic). From these basics he learned how to be a surveyor. He was also a storekeeper and became a lawyer. He passed the bar exam in Illinois, and set up an office as a lawyer in Springfield.

In 1846, Lincoln was elected to Congress. As a representative, he gained some notice because he opposed the Mexican War. In 1858, Lincoln, a Republican, ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate against Stephen A. Douglas. Douglas was a well-known senator, a Democrat, and a capable public speaker. As the two campaigned for office, they engaged in several debates. Lincoln’s performance in those debates brought him national attention. Though Lincoln lost that election, the Republican Party asked him to run for President in 1860.

Immediately after Lincoln was elected President, southern states threatened to secede. Secession meant that the United States would have to go to war to restore the Union. In his inaugural address, Lincoln spoke directly to the southern states saying:

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.... You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.

Lincoln did not intend to free the slaves when he first became president. He came to that conclusion slowly over the course of the Civil War as he listened to his advisors and members of Congress. He also knew that restoring the Union meant ending slavery permanently. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared enslaved people to be free.

During his presidency, Lincoln ensured that the United States would continue to establish new territories and states in the West. To help these states prosper, he signed the Homestead Act, the Pacific Railway Act, and the Morrill Land Grant Act. Though the war in the states took up most of his time and attention, he read reports on the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and the battles in Dakota Territory. He made sure that military resources were sent to Dakota. He appointed able officials to the new Dakota Territory.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was assassinated on April 14, 1865 just as the Civil War came to a close.

George NorthrupGeorge Northrup: Adventurer and Soldier
George Northrup was born in New York in 1837. As a boy, he valued education and reading. A restless teenager, he decided to go west at the age of 15. He wrote to his family, “I think it is the best thing I can do.” He went to St. Paul, Minnesota Territory, where he went to work for fur trader Auguste Larpenteur. Unsatisfied with a clerking job, he headed to Pembina (later in Dakota Territory) where he planned to work for the American Fur Company. Though the fur trade was no longer important, there were still a few opportunities in the West for an ambitious, adventurous young man.

The trip took about 40 days through “Buffalo Country.” Northrup packed a revolver and a rifle knowing that he was traveling through the lands of the Chippewas, Dakotas, and Assiniboins. He thought he might be in danger from tribes who were trying to protect their homes and way of life. He wrote to his family from Pembina, stating that he had walked some 900 miles of the entire 2,500 mile journey from his New York home. Northrup admitted that he had made the journey “from St. Paul to Pembina for nothing more nor less than to go out on the plains and kill a Buffalo. . . . I killed my Buffalo.” He was just 16 years old.

In the fall of 1853, the Protestant Mission at Pembina hired Northrup as a teacher. Northrup took advantage of his position to learn the languages of his students: Assiniboin, Chippewa, Cree, and French. He was soon dressing in the style of the Metís residents of the area. He wore a “Blue Hudson’s Bay [blanket] coat . . . with a Hood on the back to pull over the head when it is very cold weather, with white moleskin [soft cotton] pants, and a Red Sash around the waist with a large knife in its scabbard stuck in the belt, with a pair of fancy Moccasons.”

In the spring of 1854, Northrup and friends set out on a three-month-long buffalo hunt. Though he was excited about the hunt and his opportunities to make some money from the meat and hides he would bring back, he was also planning to “study Indian life” and to “pick up curiosities of the region that stretches from the Red River to the Missouri.” Northrup’s experiences in the Red River country had already changed him from a bookish boy into an Indian fighter and plainsman with notable skills in tracking, hunting, and survival.

Northrup returned to St. Paul in the spring of 1855. He got a clerking job and studied mathematics and navigation. He soon set out on another expedition, this time with only a dog as a companion. For more than a month, he walked west pulling a handcart while following the trail of Isaac I. Stevens’ 1853 railroad survey into the Missouri Coteau. There he encountered Dakotas who stole the contents of his cart in a stealthy, night-time raid. Discouraged and without supplies, Northrup returned to Minnesota, eating only raw frogs during his four day journey. By fall, he was employed as a government farmer, teaching the Sisseton Dakota how to farm in the European-American style.

The young man’s familiarity with the Red River country and the Missouri Coteau made him a valuable consultant to business interests that were interested in what the Northwest had to offer. In 1859, Northrup mapped a route for a stage coach line and guided the first coach from St. Paul to the Red River. He later worked for James C. Burbank and Company which owned the first steamboat on the Red River.

By 1860, this young man, just 23 years old, had become a well-known and respected frontiersman known as the “Kit Carson of the Northwest.” But he was still a shy, soft-spoken youth who owned 150 books and whose “language is always proper, frequently elegant , . . as unaffected as a child.”

When war threatened to break up the Union, Northrup wrote his sister that if war broke out between the states, he would not enlist because he lacked courage. He may have been joking; his courage was never in doubt. When “the South . . . raised her head to rend asunder our devoted union . . . I enlisted.” He mustered into service with the Fifth Iowa Cavalry on November 2, 1861.

His Civil War service was exemplary. In December 1863, General George Crook transferred him into his Scouts unit. As a Scout, he traveled, in his Union uniform, through Confederate lines without being captured.

In 1864, he re-enlisted in Minnesota and joined Brackett’s Battalion which joined General Alfred Sully’s expedition against the Dakotas. Northrup understood how important this expedition would be. He wrote that the soldiers would pursue the Dakotas to the Black Hills, if necessary, where the Indians would have to “fight or loose their families which will most certainly fall into our hands.”

The campaign against the Dakotas was emotionally difficult for Northrup. Among the Dakotas he expected to find his old friend, Standing Buffalo. They had met and sealed their friendship with a ceremony when Northrup had been held prisoner by the Yankton Dakotas. Yet, both men knew they must declare their loyalty to their own nations even though it meant fighting against a friend.

On July 11, 1864, as Sully’s troops prepared to leave Fort Rice in pursuit of the Dakotas, George Northrup wrote: “They [the Dakotas] are not anxious for peace and we must teach them a salutary lesson.” He thought he might die in this battle though he understood his duty to fight. Indeed, George Northrup was one of the two men in Sully’s command who died at the Battle of Killdeer Mountain on July 28, 1864.

George Northrup died a respected frontiersman and soldier who had lived the adventures he dreamed. He understood Indians very well and respected their power and their devotion to family and home. However, like other Anglo-Americans of his day, he believed that Indians had to yield to the on-coming settlement and government of the United States.

John PopeJohn Pope: Commanding Officer
General John Pope was in charge of the Department of the Northwest while the U.S.-Dakota War was under way in Minnesota. He issued the orders that propelled Generals Sibley and Sully into Dakota Territory on a campaign to capture the Santees and subdue the rest of the Dakotas.

Pope was born in 1822 in Kentucky. His father was a judge and a friend of Abraham Lincoln. Pope attended West Point Military Academy and graduated in 1842. As a young officer, he served in Florida and fought in the Mexican War under General Zachary Taylor. As an officer of the Topographical Engineers, he helped survey the U.S. border with Canada. He was later posted to Minnesota where he demonstrated that the Red River of the North was a navigable river. Before the Civil War broke out, he surveyed a route for a transcontinental railroad.

After the election of Abraham Lincoln, Pope served as an aide to the president. Shortly after the war with the Confederate States began, Lincoln promoted Pope to the rank of Major General. As Pope prepared his troops for battle, he told them that “Success and glory are in the advance, disaster and shame lurk in the rear.” Despite his brave words, his troops were defeated at Second Manassas (Second Battle of Bull Run) by General Lee’s Confederate army on April 28–30 1862.

This disastrous defeat caused Lincoln to relieve Pope of his command. Pope was sent to St. Paul, Minnesota to command the Department of the Northwest. At first, Pope considered this a form of banishment, but it turned out to be a period of success for him. He directed the military efforts of 1862, 1863, and 1864 in Minnesota and Dakota Territory.

Success in the northwest brought Pope another promotion and another chance at glory. He was transferred to the Division of Missouri and was promoted for his service at Island No. 10. After the war, Pope commanded the Department of Missouri under General William Tecumseh Sherman, commander of the Division of Missouri.

After service in the South during Reconstruction, Pope returned to the West and served ably in the Apache Wars (1849–1886). He quarreled with the Indian Bureau stating that Indian reservations should be managed by the Army, not by civilians or the Indian Bureau. He called for more humane treatment of Indians, but this position was always challenged by his own words of 1862 calling for the army to “utterly exterminate the Sioux.”

Pope retired from the Army in 1886. He died in the Soldiers’ Home in Sandusky, Ohio in 1892.

Henry H. SibleyHenry H. Sibley: Fur Trader, Governor, and Soldier
Henry Hastings Sibley was born 1811 in Michigan. His father was a Michigan Supreme Court justice who made sure Henry received a good education. But Sibley was interested in seeing the frontier. At 18, he went to Minnesota where he went to work for the American Fur Company. By the age of 23, Sibley was in charge of the company’s business among the Eastern Dakota. His neighbors, the Santee Dakotas, became his friends. He learned their language and much about their culture.

When Minnesota became a territory in 1849, Sibley was elected a delegate to Congress, a position he held for three terms. When Minnesota became a state in 1858, Sibley was elected governor, a position he held for one term. In 1862, he accepted appointment as the military commander of Minnesota in the U. S.-Dakota War. In 1863, he reluctantly accepted Lincoln’s appointment as a general reporting to General John Pope.

In 1863, Sibley led his Minnesota troops west into Dakota Territory in pursuit of Dakotas who had fled Minnesota. He found Teton Dakotas, Yanktons, Yanktonais, and Sissetons and fought them in the Battles of Big Mound, Dead Buffalo Lake, and Stony Lake.

After the Civil War, Sibley pursued a career in business that included serving as president of St. Paul Gas Light Company. He died in 1891 in St. Paul.

Sitting BullTatanka Iyotanke: The Hunkpapa Leader known as Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull, or Tatanka Iyotanke, was born at a place the Dakotas called Many Caches in 1831. Today, that location is near Grand River in South Dakota. His father, Jumping Buffalo, was well-known as a warrior of great courage. His family was part of the Hunkpapa band of the Western or Teton Dakotas.

While still a young man, Sitting Bull demonstrated his intelligence, courage, and leadership. One of his biographers called him a “natural strategist of no mean courage and ability.” This courage served him well, especially after 1862 when soldiers and gold seekers entered their hunting and treaty lands. The emigrant and Army wagon trains disturbed the bison and destroyed the grass. Soldiers came to fight, but Sitting Bull believed that his band had no quarrel with the United States.

After battles with the Army in 1863, 1864, and 1865, Sitting Bull was recognized for his leadership in battle. By 1868, he was considered to be one of the most important leaders of the Teton Dakotas. Even though Sitting Bull was respected, he did not have authority over his tribe. Decisions were usually made by a group of men, not an individual.

The U.S. Army saw Sitting Bull as a fierce and powerful opponent. As the Northern Pacific Railroad prepared to build through his country, he demonstrated his fearlessness by sitting with four other warriors on the prairie in front of the soldiers protecting the railroad workers. They smoked their pipes as the soldiers fired their guns at him. When they were done, they got up and walked away.

In 1868, the Treaty of Fort Laramie granted to the western Dakotas “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation” of an area in southwestern Dakota Territory that included the Black Hills. These forested hills were important to the Dakotas as a sacred place and as their homeland. However, in 1874, Colonel George Custer led an expedition to the Black Hills to map the area and to see if rumors of gold were true. The result was a rush to the gold mines of the Black Hills. The federal government tried to resolve the conflict with the Dakotas by buying the Black Hills from the tribes, but the tribes refused to sell. The government then abandoned the treaty and demanded that the Dakotas go to reservations set aside for them. Those Dakotas who refused this order would be considered hostile and would be subject to military action. Sitting Bull and many other tribes refused to accept this violation of their treaty and traditions. The conflict led to the battle at the Little Big Horn River in Montana in 1876.

The battle was devastating for the Army. All of Custer’s command was killed. The other regiments failed in their effort to subdue, capture, or kill the Dakotas and Cheyennes in that battle. Sitting Bull remained free and with his band crossed the border into Canada in May 1877. They stayed there until July 1881. By then, nearly all the bison had been killed, and the Hunkpapas could not find enough to eat. Starving, they surrendered at Fort Buford and accepted a new home at Standing Rock Reservation.

Sitting Bull was soon sent to a military prison at Fort Randall for two years. When he returned, he was treated as though he had never been a leader. He was sent to work in the farm fields, which he did with dignity. In 1885, Sitting Bull joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. He spent four months traveling with Cody’s show, earning $50 per week and earning a little more signing autographs. In his later years, he painted his autobiography in a series of pictographs which described the important events of his life.

In December 1890, when the Ghost Dance reached the reservations, the agent at Standing Rock still feared Sitting Bull’s power as a leader and had him arrested. His followers came to his aid and the confusion led to a gunfight. Sitting Bull was killed in the fight.

Sitting Bull’s death did not put an end to his reputation as a man of courage who protected his people. For years, people talked of his actions and repeated his words. He understood, even after surrendering, that “No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die, we die defending our rights.”

Alfred SullyAlfred Sully: Professional Solider

Alfred Sully was born in 1821, the son of a well-known artist.  He graduated West Point Military Academy in 1841 and served in the US Army throughout his lifetime.  His service in Florida, Claifornia, and Mexico gave him a reputation as an Indian fighter.  While in Claifornia, He married a Mexican woman who later died.

When the Civil War broke out, Sully was in Kansas.  He occupied St. Joseph, Missouri, the site of secessionist activity. Early in 1862, he was sent to Minnesota and Dakota Territory.  Following the U.S.-Dakota War, Sully was made Brevet (a temporary rank) Brigadier General.

Many fur traders and soliders who lived in Dakota in the 1850s and 1860s married women of local tribes. These marriages created a complex of relationships that benefited the traders and the Indians. The relationships were more complicated for soldiers. However, a young French and Yankton woman caught Sully's eye while he was stationed at Fort Randall in Dakota Territory. His marriage to her gave him strong kindhsip ties to the Yankton tribe. Together they had a daughter, Mary, (also called Akicita Win or Soldier Woman). In 1866, Sully married in a tradition more suitable to his background. His new wife was Sophia Henrietta Webster.

Alfred Sully was, like his father, an amateur artist. His favorirte subjects were Indians and Indian villages he saw while on duty in California and Dakota. He also painted a scene from his attack on Dakotas camped at Whitestone Hill in 1863.

Other officers called Sully an easy going person, not interested in the details of military dress and regulation. He was somewhat relaxed when things were going well. He was considered an able soldier and unafraid. Sully also had a bad temper and a large vocabulary of profanity. Sully knew Indians well, and following the Battle of Killdeer Mountain, he counseled Col. Dimon, in command at Fort Rice, to avoid confrontation and conflict and to find a way to befriend the Dakotas that camped near the post.

Sully contiued to serve in the Army after the Civil War ended, though he seldom saw conflict. He died in 1879 while stationed at Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory.

Two BearsTwo Bears (Mato Nopa): Yanktonai Chief
Two Bears (Mato Nopa in the Sioux language) was a highly respected leader of the Upper Yanktonais. Though he was often called a “peace chief” by the Army, his loyalty to the welfare of his band was the philosophy which guided him.

Two Bears spoke of his friendship for whites as early as 1856 in a council at Fort Pierre. However, in 1862, while demanding that the U. S. keep its promises to him, Two Bears said that he doubted the military power of the U.S. Army. General Sully removed those doubts when soldiers attacked peaceful Dakotas, including Two Bears and his family, camped at Whitestone Hill in September 1863.

Two Bears fought at the Battle of Killdeer Mountain in 1864. A few months later, he went to Fort Rice where he met and befriended the commanding officer, Colonel Charles Dimon. Dimon, who had little experience with Indians, appreciated Two Bears’ friendship, though he was confused by their cultural differences. Dimon described Two Bears as sharp and eloquent, and (to Dimon’s surprise) able to present his ideas very well. General Sully also respected Two Bears. He described him as a “very influential man in his nation; a very brave and very shrewd Indian.” They had met in battle, but Sully respected Two Bears and gave him a letter attesting to his trustworthiness and friendship.

Once he became known at Fort Rice, Two Bears promised to live in peace. He tried to help the Army locate Minnesota Santees who had participated in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

Two Bears and his family were invited to Fort Rice for the Christmas celebration in 1864. They dressed in their finest clothing, as did the soldiers, and enjoyed the feasting. The Dakotas performed songs and dances for the soldiers. And they all ate well. Col. Dimon was astonished by how much the Yanktonais ate; he did not consider that because of the very dry summer and their losses in the Battle of Killdeer Mountain, they needed to take in as much food as possible in the face of a long winter.

Some Dakotas, particularly those led by Sitting Bull, made frequent attacks on Fort Rice and on the men who worked outside of the walls cutting wood and carrying mail. Two Bears did not have the power to stop these attacks. Though the Army wanted to believe that he could order his followers to do what he wanted them to do, there was no such thing as an all-powerful king among Native Americans. Two Bears could talk peace, but if his people chose war, he was bound to follow them. Dimon and other officers saw this as dishonesty. They did not understand that for Two Bears, this was the quality of responsible leadership.

Two Bears attended the 1867 council at Fort Rice. At this meeting, U.S. agents suggested that several reservations be established for the Dakotas.  Two Bears objected saying:

Now I will tell you one thing that I don’t like; you are going to put all the tribes together and I do not approve of it. I speak for my own band; our country is on the other side of the river—we are Yanktonais...The trouble was begun by the whites rushing into our country...There is one thing that I must tell you; though I want to make peace, yet I don’t want to sell my land to the whites. It is the whites who will break the treaty, not us. I don’t give permission to any white man to chop wood and get hay in our country.”

In 1873, while traveling to his new post at Fort Abraham Lincoln, Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his wife Elizabeth visited Two Bears. Mrs. Custer held a low opinion of most Indians, but still she was able to see the dignity of Two Bears and understand why so many people respected him. In his council with Col. Custer, Two Bears demanded payment for use of his tribe’s land and for the grass that the soldiers’ horses had consumed. Custer gave him a beef steer.