Minnesota Indian Uprising "Let Them Eat Grass" August 17 - December 26, 1862
On August 15, 1862, Santee Sioux Chief Little Crow went to the Indian Agency located on the Minnesota River to ask government agent Thomas J. Galbraith to distribute the Indians' government-stockpiled provisions to his hungry people. "We have no food, but here are these stores filled with food", he yelled at Galbraith. "So far as I'm concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass or their own dung", reported trading post operator Andrew J. Myrick. The angry Indians left, but a few days later Myrick's corpse was found- with grass stuffed in his mouth.
The Santee Sioux had lived in Minnesota for hundreds of years before 1851, when the U.S. government forced them to give up their 24-million-acre hunting ground and live in a reservation on the Minnesota River. Seven years later the United States swindled them out of half of the reservation land. The provisions and annuities the Santee were promised never seemed to get through the graft-ridden government agency. The Santee finally had enough of the white man and decided that with the United States engaged in the Civil War, the time had come to reclaim their land. Little Crow knew the Santee had little chance of defeating the U.S. Army; however, he told his braves, "Little Crow is not a coward; he will die with you!"
By the end of September the Sioux uprising in Minnesota was mostly over, though other Sioux tribes in neighboring territories had taken to the warpath. The U.S. troops who were rushed to Minnesota contained the uprising, but not before 800 white settlers had been murdered and several million dollars' worth of property had been destroyed. Of 2,000 Indians captured and tried, a military board sentenced 303 to be hanged. President Abraham Lincoln reviewed the list and trimmed it to 38. The United States' largest public mass execution was held December 26, 1862, when the 38 Indians were hanged.
Fascinating Fact: Three days after his disastrous defeat at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, Union Gen. John Pope was dispatched to Minnesota to put down the uprising. There he sat out the rest of the war, "banished to a remote and unimportant command".
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