Near Montevideo in Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Tried and Sentenced
Just two days after the captives were turned over, the brief military trials of the Dakota who had taken part in the fighting began here at Camp Release on September 28, 1862. The trials moved to the Redwood (Lower Sioux) Agency on October 24 and were completed there on November 4.
In little more than a month, 392 Dakota men and one Dakota woman were brought before a five-man commission appointed by commander Henry Sibley from among officers who had fought against them. Of the 392 Dakota men tried, the commission sentenced 303 to be executed.
The prisoners had been tried for a variety of offenses against soldiers and civilians. And they were judged harshly for what, today, many would consider just causes for warfare — fighting to regain their land, protecting their way of life, providing for their families.
Each trial opened with the reading of charges based on interviews with the freed captives by Reverend Stephen R. Riggs. For prisoners who pleaded not guilty, witnesses were called to testify under oath. The trials moved quickly; as many as 42 were held in a single day, some lasting only five
In the end, the commission sentenced 303 men to be executed; 20 others were sentenced to prison and the rest acquitted. But by federal law, no death sentences could be carried out until authorized by the president of the United States. After reviewing the cases, President Abraham Lincoln concluded that a line should be drawn between those found guilty of “violating women” and “participating in massacres” and those who had only participated in battles. Of the 40 men who fit the former categories, two were granted clemency and 38 were sentenced to die. All the others were sent to prison.
At 10 a.m. on December 26, 1862, the 38 condemned men were led to a scaffold in Mankato and hanged. It was the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
Reverend Stephen R. Riggs, who had long worked among the Dakota as a missionary and translator, wrote about the trials in a letter to his son in November 1862:
“I told the members of the commission several times that I should be sorry to have my life placed in their hands.”
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,
logos of: Scenic Byway Minnesota River Valley; City of Montevideo; 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.
Erected by the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Minnesota Historical Society marker series.
Location. 44° 55.972′ N, 95° 44.855′ W. Marker is near Montevideo, Minnesota, in Lac qui Parle County. Marker can be reached from 445th Avenue south of U.S. 212, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Montevideo MN 56265, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 14 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Captives Released (here, next to this marker); Maza sa Protected His Village (here, next to this marker); Camp Release State Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); Camp Release (within shouting distance of this marker); School Bell (approx. 13.3 miles away); Henry Hill 1829-1879 (approx. 13.3 miles away); Ancient Exposed Rocks (approx. 13.3 miles away); World's Oldest Rock (approx. 13.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Montevideo.
More about this marker. photo captions:
• When cold weather forced a move to the Redwood (Lower Sioux) Agency, the remaining trials took place in François Labathe’s log kitchen. Adrian J. Ebell, courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society
• Stephen R. Riggs Whitney's Gallery, courtesy of MHS
These men, tried and convicted at Camp Release by U.S. officers they had just fought against, were among the 38 executed in Mankato on December 26, 1862.
• Wahpe duta (Red Leaf) Courtesy of Kramer Gallery, St. Paul, MN
• Tihdoni c'a (One Who Forbids Entry to House) Joel Emmons Whitney, courtesy of MHS
• Mahpeonazin (Who Stands on a Cloud), or Cut Nose Minnesota Historical Society
• Taitazipe (His Bow) also called Dowan (To Sing) Martin's Gallery, courtesy of MHS
Also see . . .
1. The Trials & Hanging. Minnesota Historical Society. (Submitted on January 22, 2014.)
2. The Dakota Conflict Trials 1862. University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. (Submitted on January 22, 2014.)
3. 38 Dakota men executed in Mankato. Star Tribune. 1862 New York Times article. (Submitted on January 22, 2014.)
4. Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway. (Submitted on January 22, 2014.)
Additional keywords. U.S.-Dakota War of 1862
Categories. • Native Americans • Wars, US Indian •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on January 22, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 497 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on January 22, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.