Mankato mass execution


This illustration was made in 1848. It depicts a reach of the Peter’s River ten miles north of Mankato, Minnesota. Seth Eastman, a US Army officer made the picture. The figures in the landscape are called Sioux by the world. They call themselves Lakota. The country is very similar to the Yarra at Templestowe. Fourteen years after Eastman made this picture 38 Lakota were publicly hanged in the largest mass execution in US history. President Abraham ordered this execution without judicial process, darting the precedent that convinced George W. bush of the legality of Guantanamo Bay and the Military Commission that convicted the Australian David Hicks.




“Largest mass hanging in United States history”
38 Santee “Sioux” Indian men
Mankato, Minnesota, Dec. 16, 1862 303 Indian males were set to be hanged


Wa-kan-o-zhan-zhan (Medicine Bottle), executed at Fort Snelling, November 11, 1865, for participating in the massacre of 1862, by Zimmerman, Charles A., 1844-1909. Did American children pop this into their stereoscope and shudder?

In Minnesota 1862, the U.S. Government failed to honor its treaties with Indian Nations. Indians were denied the money or food granted to them for signing a treaty to turn over more than a million acres of their land and accepting residence on a reservation.

Indian agents kept the treaty money and food owing to the Indians. The food was sold to White settlers. Food that was given to the Indians was spoiled and unfit for a dog to eat. Indian hunting parties went off the reservation land looking for food to feed their families. One hunting group took eggs from a White settlers land after the theft the Indians killed several whites.

Information below tells how President Lincoln and Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey set out to exterminate Indians from their home.

Authorities in Minnesota asked President Lincoln to order the immediate execution of all 303 Indian males found guilty. Lincoln was concerned with how this would play with the Europeans, whom he was afraid were about to enter the war on the side of the South. He offered the following compromise to the politicians of Minnesota: They would pare the list of those to be hanged down to 39. In return, Lincoln promised to kill or remove every Indian from the state and provide Minnesota with 2 million dollars in federal funds. Remember, he only owed the Sioux 1.4 million for the land.

On December 26, 1862, the Great Emancipator ordered the largest mass execution in American History, where the guilt of those to be executed was entirely in doubt. Regardless of how Lincoln defenders seek to play this, it was nothing more than murder to obtain the land of the Santee Sioux and to appease his political cronies in Minnesota.

Text of Order to General Sibley, St. Paul Minnesota:

“Ordered that of the Indians and Half-breeds sentenced to be hanged by the military commission, composed of Colonel Crooks, Lt. Colonel Marshall, Captain Grant, Captain Bailey, and Lieutenant Olin, and lately sitting in Minnesota, you cause to be executed on Friday the nineteenth day of December, instant, the following names, to wit [39 names listed by case number of record: cases 2, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 19, 22, 24, 35, 67, 68, 69, 70, 96, 115, 121, 138, 155, 170, 175, 178, 210, 225, 254, 264, 279, 318, 327, 333, 342, 359, 373, 377, 382, 383].

The other condemned prisoners you will hold subject to further orders, taking care that they neither escape, nor are subjected to any unlawful violence.

Abraham Lincoln,
President of the United States”

“On December 6 (1862) President Lincoln notified Sibley that he should “cause to be executed” thirty-nine of the 303 convicted Santees, Execution date was the 26th of December. At the last minute, one Indian was given a reprieve. About ten o’clock the thirty-eight condemned men were marched from the prison to the scaffold. They sang the Sioux death song until soldiers pulled white caps over their heads and placed nooses around their necks. At a signal from an army officer, the control rope was cut and thirty-eight Santee Sioux dangled lifeless in the air.

A spectator boasted that this was
“America’s greatest” public execution.”

Dec 27 1862 (Saturday)

SAINT PAUL, December 27, 1862.


I have the honor to inform you that the thirty-eight Indians and half-breeds ordered by you for execution were hung yesterday at Mankato at 10 a.m. Everything went off quietly and the other prisoners are well secured.

H. H. SIBLEY, Brigadier-General.

“The Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the state.”

Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey

Bounties were placed on the scalps of Dakota people which eventually reached $200

Governor Alexander Ramsey had declared on September 9, 1862 that “The Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the state.” The treatment of Dakota people, including the hanging in Mankato and the forced removal of Dakota people from Minnesota, were the first phases of Ramsey’s plan.

His plan was further implemented when bounties were placed on the scalps of Dakota people which eventually reached $200. Punitive expeditions were then sent out over the next few years to hunt down those Dakota who had not surrendered and to ensure they would not return. After 38 of the condemned men were hanged the day after Christmas in 1862 in what remains the largest mass hanging in United States history, the other prisoners continued to suffer in the concentration camps through the winter of 1862-63.

In late April of 1863 the remaining condemned men, along with the survivors of the Fort Snelling concentration camp, were forcibly removed from their beloved homeland in May of 1863. They were placed on boats which transported the men from Mankato to Davenport, Iowa where they were imprisoned for an additional three years. Those from Fort Snelling were shipped down the Mississippi River to St. Louis and then up the Missouri River to the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota.

The youngest person hanged in America was Hannah Ocuish who was 12 years and nine months old and was described as a half breed Indian girl. She was executed on December 20th 1786 for the murder of a 6 year old girl whom she had beaten to death after an earlier argument.

A memorial to the memory of the dead now stands in downtown Mankato in Reconciliation Park.


American Scenery. A stereoscope of the scalp of Little Crow, commander of the Dakota in 1862. This scalp was on display at the Minnesota Historical Society until 1971.

In 1863, Little Crow was on the run.

On July 3 1863, while he and his son Wowinapa were foraging for berries in a farmer’s field, they were spotted by the landowner Nathan Lamson and his son. The four engaged in a brief firefight in which Little Crow fired twice, once wounding the elder Lamson. Lamson and his son both shot and mortally wounded Little Crow. The chief then told his son to flee. Lamson’s son then ran for nearly 12 miles to Hutchinson, Minnesota to gather a search-and-recovery party. The townspeople quickly departed to find a wounded Lamson and a dead and unidentified Dakota man. When they discovered the latter was Little Crow, they mutilated and displayed the body.

Nathan Lamson received a standard bounty for the scalp of a Dakota, plus an addition $500 bounty when it was discovered the remains were that of Little Crow. Little Crow’s body was transported back to Hutchinson where it was again mutilated by the citizens. His body was dragged down the town’s Main Street. Firecrackers were exploded in his ears. Dogs picked at his head. After their celebration, the townsfolk disposed of the body in an alley, where ordinary garbage was customarily thrown.

The Minnesota Historical Society received his scalp in 1868, and his skull in 1896. Other bones were collected at other times. In 1971, Little Crow’s remains were returned to his grandson Jesse Wakeman (son of Wowinapa) for burial. A small stone tablet sits at the roadside of the field where Little Crow was killed.









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