Near Fairfax in Nicollet County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Surprise Attack at Redwood Ferry
On the morning of August 18, 1862, Captain John Marsh, 46 soldiers, and interpreter Peter Quinn left the fort to respond to news of violence at Lower Sioux Agency. After an 11-mile march, the soldiers prepared to cross the Minnesota River at the Redwood Ferry. At the ferry, Sunka Ska (White Dog), leader of the farmer Indians, called out, "Come across the river." Suspicious, Marsh ordered his men to stay put. Dakota warriors, concealed in the brush on both sides of the river, opened fire on the soldiers. Quinn and 23 soldiers died in the attack.
Under fire and desperate to return to the fort, the surviving soldiers worked their way down the river for four hours. Marsh decided that their only chance was to cross the water. Taking his sword and revolver in hand, he led the way. Midway across, he lost his footing and drowned. The remaining soldiers straggled back to the fort under the cover of darkness.
What Did Sunka Ska Really Do at the Ferry Site?
There are conflicting stories of what happened at the ferry. In the official report of Lieutenant T.J. Sheehan, commander of Fort Ridgely during the attack, Sunka Ska was said to have calmed the soldiers' fears at the ferry: "Come across; everything is right over here." A soldier seeing Dakota warriors hiding in the bush gave a warning shout. Then
In 1894, Wambdi Tanka (Big Eagle) recalled that, "they (Dakota warriors) said that White Dog did not tell Mr. Quinn to come over, but told him to go back."
Testimony given by a soldier at Sunka Ska's trial offered a very different picture: the farmer Indian carried not a gun but "a big tomahawk, and was all painted over, red." The soldier asserted that Sunka Ska distracted Marsh and then "waved his hand to the Indians and gave them the order to fire." After his trial, Sunka Ska was hanged in December 1862.
Redwood Ferry is located 11 miles away in this direction.
Erected by the Minnesota Historical Society.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Minnesota Historical Society marker series.
Location. 44° 27.158′ N, 94° 44.11′ W. Marker is near Fairfax, Minnesota, in Nicollet County. Marker can be reached from County Highway 30 1.1 miles west of State Highway 4, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in Fort Ridgely State Park; fee area – a Minnesota state park vehicle permit is required. Marker is at or near this postal address: 72404 County State Aid Highway 30, Fairfax MN 55332, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Second Wave of Attacks (here, next to this marker); Officers' Quarters—C (within shouting distance of this marker); Surgeon's Quarters—Headquarters (within shouting distance of this marker); A Doctor's Life (within shouting distance of this marker); Reinforcements Arrive (within shouting distance of this marker); Five Days and Nights on the River (within shouting distance of this marker); Economic Engine (within shouting distance of this marker); Four Days From Fort Snelling (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fairfax.
More about this marker. caption: David Geister, Attack at Redwood Ferry, Monday, August 18, 1862, 2005
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. Redwood Ferry.
Also see . . .
1. The U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. Minnesota Historical Society. Timeline. (Submitted on February 8, 2014.)
2. Battle of Redwood Ferry. Wikipedia entry. (Submitted on February 8, 2014.)
3. Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars 1861-1865. The Sioux Indian War. Official reports and correspondence. Battle of Redwood. Report of First Lieut. John F. Bishop.
"No official report of this affair was ever made or called for, so far as I know... I now submit the following account of the facts as I remember them, that they may be used, so far as required, in making up the history of those memorable days. The first indication of an Indian outbreak we saw at Fort Ridgley was a team from the Lower Sioux Agency, bringing in a citizen badly wounded and pleading for help... Captain Marsh at once ordered the long roll sounded [a drumroll used as an alarm - immediate assembly under arms], and the whole company fell in, about 85 men strong...
One lone Indian, 'White Dog,'... urged Captain Marsh to cross over... I think the captain was about to order his men onto the boat, when I said to him, 'Captain Marsh, I believe we are being surrounded by Indians crossing the river above us...'" (Submitted on February 8, 2014.)
Additional keywords. Battle of Redwood Ferry; 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 February 8, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 362 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on February 8, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.