On November 8, after completing harried trials of Dakota prisoners taken after their surrender at Camp Release, Henry Sibley presented the list of 303 condemned Dakota men to the US government.
Two days later, President Lincoln wired Gen. John Pope, Sibley’s superior: “Please forward, as soon as possible, the full and complete record of these convictions.”
Lincoln and his lawyers then reviewed the trial transcripts of all 303 men. “Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on one hand,” Lincoln explained to the US Senate, “nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I ordered a careful examination of the records of the trials to be made, in view of first ordering the execution of such as had been proved guilty of violating females.” When only two men were found guilty of rape, Lincoln expanded the criteria to include those who had participated in “massacres” of civilians rather than “battles.” He then made his final decision, and forwarded a list of 39 names to Sibley.
Lincoln's Execution List
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