Massacre in Minnesota
The Dakota War of 1862, the Most Violent Ethnic Conflict in American History
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
In August 1862 the worst massacre in U.S. history unfolded on the Minnesota prairie, launching what has come to be known as the Dakota War, the most violent ethnic conflict ever to roil the nation. When it was over, between six and seven hundred white settlers had been murdered in their homes, and thirty to forty thousand had fled the frontier of Minnesota. But the devastation was not all on one side. More than five hundred Indians, many of them women and children, perished in the aftermath of the conflict; and thirty-eight Dakota warriors were executed on one gallows, the largest mass execution ever in North America. The horror of such wholesale violence has long obscured what really happened in Minnesota in 1862—from its complicated origins to the consequences that reverberate to this day. A sweeping work of narrative history, the result of forty years’ research, Massacre in Minnesota provides the most complete account of this dark moment in U.S. history.
Focusing on key figures caught up in the conflict—Indian, American, and Franco- and Anglo-Dakota—Gary Clayton Anderson gives these long-ago events a striking immediacy, capturing the fears of the fleeing settlers, the animosity of newspaper editors and soldiers, the violent dedication of Dakota warriors, and the terrible struggles of seized women and children. Through rarely seen journal entries, newspaper accounts, and military records, integrated with biographical detail, Anderson documents the vast corruption within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the crisis that arose as pioneers overran Indian lands, the failures of tribal leadership and institutions, and the systemic strains caused by the Civil War. Anderson also gives due attention to Indian cultural viewpoints, offering insight into the relationship between Native warfare, religion, and life after death—a nexus critical to understanding the conflict.
Ultimately, what emerges most clearly from Anderson’s account is the outsize suffering of innocents on both sides of the Dakota War—and, identified unequivocally for the first time, the role of white duplicity in bringing about this unprecedented and needless calamity.
“Anderson’s account of the Dakota uprising of 1862 is now the definitive one of an event—shamefully corrupt in its origins, horrific in its unfolding, and tragic in its aftermath—that must stand among the most appalling and revealing in the long history of Indian-white relations.”—Elliott West, author of The Essential West: Collected Essays and The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story
“Exhaustively researched and copiously documented, Anderson’s history of the Minnesota-Dakota War of 1862 offers fresh perspectives and a superior understanding of both Dakota culture and federal Indian policy. This will become the standard work on the subject.”—William E. Lass, author of Minnesota: A History and Navigating the Missouri: Steamboating on Nature’s Highway
“Treating all aspects of the 1862 Dakota War with matching gravity, Gary Clayton Anderson's Massacre in Minnesota can justifiably lay claim to being the finest single-volume treatment of "the most violent ethnic conflict in American history." Highly recommended." - Civil War Books and Authors
“Gary Clayton Anderson’s well-written book provides a readable, single-volume portrayal of this defining event in Minnesota history that remains controversial today.”—South Dakota History
“After four and a half decades of scholarship—including the ethno-biography, Little Crow: Spokesman for the Sioux (1986), and a co-edited collection, Through Dakota Eyes (1988)—Gary Clayton Anderson came to the conclusion that he had not provided a clear explanation for the combination of circumstances that caused the Dakota War of 1862…With this career capstone book, Anderson has given us our best understanding of the terrible Dakota War of 1862 and its tragic consequences, to date.”—New Mexico Historical Review