A'riveting account of the little-known Dakota War of 1862, which culminated in the largest government-sanctioned execution in United States history. In August 1862, after decades of broken treaties, ever-increasing hardship, and relentless encroachment on their lands, Dakota Indian warriors began a series of devastating attacks on white soldiers and settlers on the Minnesota frontier. After six weeks of intense conflict that left hundreds dead, federal forces quashed the uprising and convened a hasty military court that found more than 300 Indians guilty of murder. President Lincoln, embroiled in the darkest period of the Civil War, personally intervened in order to spare the lives of 265 of the condemned men, but still the toll on the Dakota nation was staggering: a way of life destroyed, a tribe forcibly relocated to barren and unfamiliar territory, and 38 Dakota warriors hanged the morning after Christmas. Scott W. Berg places these events firmly within the larger context of the raging Civil War, the history of the Dakota people, subsequent U.S.-Indian
Berg, a teacher of writing and literature at George Mason University, turns his attention from Pierre L'Enfant, planner of Washington, D.C. (Grand Avenues), to the Dakota War of 1862 in a gripping narrative of this little-known conflict and a careful exploration of the relationships between events of the Civil War and America's expansion west. Berg illuminates the growing clashes between whites and Indians and reveals the contradictory stances taken by such participants as Dakota chief Little Crow, a white woman Little Crow had taken as a hostage, an Episcopalian bishop, army officers, and political leaders-including Abraham Lincoln. The first military commission used in the Indian wars sentenced 303 warriors to death after hearings that were held without defense representation and usually lasted only a few minutes. Lincoln stayed most of the executions, rejecting the commission's criterion that "any armed resistance to white encroachment was worthy of death." Nevertheless, in America's largest mass execution, 38 Indians were hanged from a single scaffold in December 1862. Although the reader knows the eventual outcome of these battles-near extermination of Indian tribes and cultures-Berg maintains suspense about individual fates to round out this nuanced study of a complex period. B&w illus. Agent: Eric Lupfer, WME. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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December 04, 2012
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