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1862 November 26: “The voice of Northwestern Wisconsin should be added to the appeal” to President Lincoln to Hang the Dakota Indians in Minnesota

November 29, 2012

The following update on the “Indian troubles” in Minnesota comes from The Prescott Journal of November 26, 1862.  It seems to be an editorial by the Journal, although is not located in the usual spot in the newspaper for editorials.


Among the large number of Indian prisoners taken in the recent campaign in Minnesota some three hundred have been, upon trial, found guilty of participating in the massacres on the border, and sentenced to be hung.  Their sentence was telegraphed to President Lincoln three weeks ago, in the general expectation that he would immediately approve it, and that the punishment of these atrocious wretches would follow so swift and terrible upon the heels of their crimes, as would at once strike terror among all the hostile bands of the Sioux, and assure the people of Minnesota that the Government was determined to do something decisive to prevent a recurrence of similar outrages.

This hope seems likely to be disappointed.  No action has yet been taken by the President, and from his silence and the tone of the Eastern press, it seems that it is at least an open question with our  Government whether these fiends shall not be treated as “prisoners of war,” and finally let loose, upon the consummation of some new treaty with the Sioux.

The people of the Northwest are struck with amazement at the bare suggestion of such a policy.  For these incarnate fiends who plunge the knife into the mother’s bosom and tomahawk her shrinking children before her eyes,—who strike down whole families, and apply the torch to their dwellings, adding the tortures of fire to their dying agonies,—who scalp and maim their helpless victims, showing no mercy till their thirst for torture is satiated, and who have lit up whole settlements in Minnesota with the flames of accumulated horrors,—it seems incredible that the Government should allow a plea.  There is but one fate for them consistent with justice or the future security of our frontier, and that is their immediate execution by the most ignominious method known to our laws.

The hanging of these three hundred miscreants would have a more salutary influence upon the remaining Indians than any mere display of military strength, or even any destruction in battle.  It would show them not only the power of the Government, but its determination to punish them for their atrocities in the way most dreaded by their race.

The people of the Northwest are a law-abiding people, but such have been the terrible scenes in the last few months of massacre and conflagration, and wide-spread alarm, and such their fears for the future when the restraining presence of the soldiers shall be removed, that they are becoming exasperated at the tenderness and delay in the treatment of these convicted Indians.  They demand that the strong arm of the Government shall make out the punishment of death.  The Indian murderers must be executed by the Government ;  or all confidence in its protection will be gone.  The President will inflict a staggering blow to the prosperity of the Northwest if he permits them to escape.  We cannot believe he will do it ;  but steps should be taken to memorialize him upon the subject that he may know the views and temper of the people.  Public meetings are being held for this purpose in Minnesota, and the voice of  Northwestern Wisconsin should be added to the appeal.

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