History Of The Sioux War And Massacres Of 1862 And 1863, by Isaac Heard
Around the time of the Sioux Wars there was at least some demand for books that brought news of the conflict to far-off corners of the United States, and this book was one of those which answered the call, being written by someone who appears to have been a part of the military effort to stop the Sioux invasion of Minnesota. One of the more remarkable aspects of this book is the way that the author is particularly fair-minded towards the Sioux despite not being very favorable to them. Despite having little fondness for the heathen religion of the Sioux and outright scorn for the militarism of their culture, the author is remarkably sympathetic to their plight regarding broken treaties, exploitation through debt, and the failure to provide proper education and resources on the part of the government. And the author points out accurately that it was far cheaper to be just than it was to beef up the army to deal with the repercussions of an uprising. This level of insight coming from a work of the 19th century is a reminder that people from the past could be fair-minded even where their sympathies were different than many today.
This book is a sizable one of about 350 pages or so. The structure of the book consists of various relatively large chapters that begin with a discussion of the history of the relationship between the Sioux and the United States, including previous treaties between the tribe’s Minnesota bands and the American Government. After this there is a discussion of crop failure that led to fears of starvation among the underpaid Sioux and led to their hostility, even if that hostility was misdirected. The discussion of the first phase of the war, a series of massacres, then follows. After this there is a discussion of the sieges of Fort Ridgely and New Ulm as troops were mustered and trained for a counterattack. After this the author discusses other engagements and sieges that eventually led to the rescuing of hostages, some of whom had suffered terribly, as well as to some military victories for the Union forces under Sibley and later Pope, first in Minnesota, and then in an attack after the fleeing Sioux into South Dakota, where other efforts at massacres had been averted through the brave defense of Sioux City and other places by small detachments.
It is lamentable that the history of the Sioux War is not better known. It was quite surprising to realize just how widespread the war was, because I had heard only that the war involved the depopulation of much of rural Minnesota in the Civil War reading I have done, but there is considerable more detail to be found here. Indeed, it seems pretty clear that the Sioux War was pretty decisive in opening up South Dakota to growing interest by settlers and the military that played a major role in the wars that followed the Civil War to open up the plains to settlement. And, it should be noted that many of the towns involved in the Dakota War remain notable towns to this day, including New Ulm, Mankato, as well as Sioux Falls, interestingly enough, it appears as if the diplomatic success of the Sioux led by Little Crow led to the expansion of the war beyond its original borders, to the point where it introduced several plains tribes that had no treaty relationship to the United States to the power of the Union army, which would have fateful consequences for the Sioux.