Near Morton in Renville County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
The Prairie Factor
"I led my men up from the west through the grass and took up a position 200 yards from the camp behind a small knoll."
You are standing where Wamditanka and his band took cover during the battle. The knoll, or small hill, in front of you kept the Dakota force from view.
The landscape played a significant role in the battle. The tall grass obscured long views, and wetlands to the south and north of the campsite were effective hiding places for Dakota men.
Tall grass and a Dark Night
The stars and the full moon were the only light sources aiding U.S. pickets at Birch Coulee. They were expected to stay alert, listening closely and watching for the slightest movements.
The cover of darkness was a crucial element in the Dakota battle strategy. Dakota forces surrounded the campsite and made their attack before dawn.
Birch Coulee Battlefield
Erected by the Minnesota Historical Society.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Minnesota Historical Society marker series.
Location. 44° 34.597′ Touch for map. Marker is within Birch Coulee Battlefield/State Park. Marker is at or near this postal address: 68634 County Road 18, Morton MN 56270, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. “The Fight Was On” (here, next to this marker); Dakota Positions (within shouting distance of this marker); The Battle of Birch Coulee (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Battle Tactics (about 500 feet away); Battle Scars (about 600 feet away); "A Beautiful Place to Encamp" (approx. 0.2 miles away); Wrong Place, Wrong Time (approx. 0.2 miles away); a different marker also named The Battle of Birch Coulee (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Morton.
More about this marker. sketch caption: Albert Colgrave, First Night Out, 1862
Regarding The Prairie Factor. In 1862, the Minnesota Dakota, also known by the French term, “Sioux," waged war against the United States following two years of unfulfilled treaty obligations. A burial detail of 160 to 170 soldiers and civilians was dispatched from Fort Ridgely to bury the remains of settlers who had been killed in the early weeks of the war. During the first night out, the detail was surrounded by Dakota, who attacked at dawn.
Also see . . .
1. Thy Eternal Summer: The U.S. - Dakota Conflict of 1862. Chapter 7; Battle of Birch Coulee. "By about four in the morning we had the camp surrounded. There were ten pickets with three men at each picket, but they were not far from camp, which enabled the Sioux to get within short range of the sleeping soldiers. The plan was to surprise and kill the men at the pickets." (Submitted on January 31, 2014.)
2. Picket (military). Wikipedia entry. (Submitted on January 31, 2014.)
Additional keywords. U.S.-Dakota War of 1862
Categories. • Wars, US Indian •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on January 31, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 294 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 31, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.