• Cite
  • Share
  • Print this Page

Letter written by George E.H. Day to President Lincoln, January 1, 1862"...voluminous and outrageous frauds upon the Indians in Minnesota."

George E. H. Day, January 1, 1862

As unrest continued to build, so did warnings of war.

George E. H. Day was a special commissioner sent from Washington, D.C., to Minnesota in 1861 to report and recommend on the state of affairs between the Indians and the whites. Day reported back on what he considered was the fraudulent behavior of the traders towards the Dakota.

While Day was working at the national level, others tried to attract the notice of Minnesota's politicians. In a January 2, 1862, message to the Minnesota congressional delegation, missionaries Stephen Riggs and Thomas Williamson outlined abuses of power by traders and government officials, warning that inaction would guarantee a "collision with Indians on our frontiers."

Matters continued to worsen. On August 14, a group of New Ulm residents voiced their concerns in a strongly worded petition sent to Minnesota governor Alexander Ramsey. In it, the settlers described delays in payments to the Dakota, rumors of corruption in the state's office of Indian Affairs, and their fears that a war was imminent. An excerpt of their letter reflects the level of panic, fueled by fact and rumor, running rampant before the war.

That the payment for the Dacotah and Sioux nation of Indians has this year been delayed up to this time.
That said Indians considering said payment justly due to them and relying on the same for their subsistence, have become by such delay exceedingly exasperated, have committed several outrages and threaten to overwhelm these frontier settlements with Indian Warfare.
That your memorialists are in eminent danger to see their families massacred by said Indians, if the able bodied men of these settlements should be removed from here under the militia draft, before said Indians are appeased by receiving what is justly due them.
That the rumor has spread here far and wide that the United States Government has paid the money in gold for said Indians long ago, but that said money has been corruptly misapplied in speculations on the discount between gold and paper currency and otherwise by the Hon. Clark Thompson, Superintendent of the Indian Affairs in the State of Minnesota, and that this is the reason of the delay of the payment.

Dated August 14th, A. D. 1862

Of the 47 signers of this petition, two (Johan Schneider and Ernst Dietrich) were killed on August 18. A third (G. W. Otto Barth) was wounded August 23 and died shortly after.


John G. Rudolph, John Manderfelt(d) A. Strecker, L. Brockmann, Johan Schneider, D. G. Shillock, Francis Erd, John W. Young, F. Beinhorn, Christian Prignitz, Carl Schmidt, Henry Behnke, Ernst Dietrich, H. C. Bergmann, ? Martin, S.C.?, Johan Bobleter, Johan ?, Aug. Friton, Stu Seiter, P. Scherer, C. Pfau, H. Loheyde, C. Schumacher, Fr. Rehfeld, H. Schalk, Fr. Wehrs, W. Galles, H. Kiesling, ? Kiseling, Pet. Jos. Schmitz, P. Hitz, Joseph Hitz, Louis Theobald, G. W. Otto Barth, Charles Roos, Jacob Muller, A. Claussen, Charles Frieberg, John C. Toberer, August Kiesling, Fredrich Immel, Franz Nolle, Friedrich Ring, Christoff Brockmann, John Hauenstein, Benjamin Heinebach.

"Records of the Interior show that warnings like Day's were sent from all over the United States. Unfortunately, they were so common by 1862 that the government was no more alarmed than the father of the little boy who cried, 'Wolf!'"—Carrie Zeman, historian; author, 2011

  • Cite
  • Share
  • Print this Page