This week in 1862

January 4th, 2013 by admin

Each man called out his name, then the name of a friend, who called back, saying in essence:

“I’m here! I’m here!”

— Thirty-eight Dakota Indians, among them cut nose and big
eagle, convicted of murder, rape. and other crimes, hanging, Minnesota.
Executed December 26, 1862

These thirty-eight men were among the “most ferocious” followers of the Dakota (or Sioux) leader Little Crow; they were accused of slaying approximately 490 settlers, including men, women, and children, in a raid along the Minnesota frontier. All of the 303 Sioux captured by General John Pope for the attack were sentenced by military court to death, but President Abraham Lincoln interceded and reduced the number to thirty-nine. Thirty-eight were eventually hanged.

The St. Paul Pioneer described the scene and their “death wail” just before the execution:

All joined in shouting and singing. . . . The tones seemed somewhat discordant and yet there was harmony in it. Their bodies swayed to and fro and their every limb seemed to be keeping time. . . . The most touching scene on the drop was their attempt to grasp each other’s hands, fetteredas they were. . . .Three or four in a row were hand in hand, swaying up and down with the rise and fall of their voices. One old man reached out on each side but could not grasp a hand. His struggles were piteous and affected many beholders. We were informed . . . that their singing and dancing was only to sustain each other—that there was nothing defiant in their last moments. . . . Each one shouted his own name, and called on the name of his friend, saying in substance, “I’m here! I’m here!”

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