UNDYING hatred of the pale-face was the leading trait in the character of many of the Indian tribes of the West. From time to time, in the preceding pages of this book, we have caught glimpses of the great and terrible Dakota, or Sioux Indians, as they are now called. We have seen them sending bands of fierce warriors from their distant home beyond the Mississippi, being the territory now covered by Minnesota, northern Iowa, and Dakota, to take part in the great wars of the East. These bands of braves traveled thousand of miles to become participants in the Old French War, in the conspiracy of Pontiac, and all the other border struggles. Such was their appetite for war, that no obstacles of distance or danger could keep the Dakotas from taking part.
As the line of border settlements moved westward, they at last reached the home of these people. Various treaties were made between them and the United States. By the terms of these treaties, the tribes or bands occupying what is now Minnesota and northern Iowa relinquished all their territory, in consideration for heavy annuities, which the United States agreed to pay, with the exception of a reserved strip of territory extending along either side of the Minnesota River for the distance of one hundred and fifty miles. The tribes whose homes were on this reservation were four in number. Two of these had their head-quarters in the western end of the reservation, and were known as the Upper Sioux. The others, being on the east and center of the reservation, were known as the Lower Sioux. Of these latter, the principal chief was Little Crow.
The government established two posts or agencies on the reservation. The upper agency, where the Indian agent resided, was at Yellow Medicine. The lower post was located at a point ten miles below the mouth of the Red Wood River. At these places were located the government warehouses, the dwellings of the agent and employes of the government, of which latter the number was about two hundred at the time of the tragedy hereinafter related, as well as various machine shops and traders' cabins. At these points, the Indians assembled annually to receive their money from the government, the most important event of the year. Twelve miles from the lower agency, on the north side of the Minnesota, the government erected a military post known as Fort Ridgley.
In 1858, the simple provisions of the former treaties were modified by an elaborate scheme for the civilization of the Indians. They surrendered all their land on the north side of the Minnesota, retaining only a strip some ten miles wide on the south side of the river. The "civilization scheme" was, in brief, the reservation of a portion of the annuity each year, to constitute a civilization fund. This money was to be expended in behalf of such of the Indians as would give up their tribal relations and adopt the habits and modes of the white man. To every head of a family who was willing to do this was to be set off a farm of eighty acres, on which the government was to erect the necessary buildings, and to furnish the usual supply of farm implements and live stock. In addition to this, they were to be paid by the day for their labor on their own farms, and, at the same time, to retain the crop which they raised. In 1862, one hundred and sixty farms of this description had been opened and occupied. The dwellings were neat and comfortable, many of them being built of brick. The large majority of these Indian farmers belonged to the lower bands, and Little Crow himself was one of the number.
This move on the part of the government opened a wide schism in the tribes. The "blanket Indians," of whom there were over five thousand on the reservation, felt deeply injured at the detention of a part of their annuity fund, and lost no opportunity to worry the life out of the handful of "farmer Indians." These savages, whenever the chase failed them, would resort to the homes of the farmer Indians, pitch their tepees around the house of some relative, and at once proceed to eat him out of house and home. When provision was exhausted, the farmer would be compelled to resort to the chase. In his absence the blanket Indian would destroy whatever displeased their fancy, and then move on to some other spot. The territory around the reservation and bordering upon it, in the various counties of Renville, Brown, Blue Earth, Kandiyohi, Meeker, LcLeod, Sibley, Cottonwood, and Watonwan, was populated at the time of the tragedy by forty thousand people.
On the 15th of August, 1862, Little Crow seemed to be pleased and happy. He was at work digging a cellar for the new brick house, which the government had agreed to build for him. On that day Major Galbraith went down to see him. The teamsters were busily engaged in hauling brick, and the government carpenters were making the window and door frames. Major Galbraith talked at length with Little Crow, and the latter appeared to be at peace with all the world and gratified beyond measure at his new home. The agent had gone down there with some trifling apprehension. In the first place there had for several years been some dissatisfaction among the Indians at the non-payment of a considerable part of the money which the government had promised them. There had perhaps been some embezzlements. Besides this, large sums of money had been paid to the traders for goods which they claimed the Indians had bought, instead of to the "chiefs in open council," as the treaty required.
Another ancient source of irritation among the Sioux grew out of a massacre in 1857, at Spirit Lake. For some years prior to that time a desperate Indian named Inkpaduta had resided on the reservation. Although he was not a chief he drew money on behalf of several persons who were afraid to disown him lest in his anger he would kill them. A handful of desperadoes always accompanied him. One day some settlers, who had suffered from the depredations of this band of ruffians, took away their guns. By some means Inkpaduta and his followers, who numbered about fifteen, procured other weapons, and went to a house on Spirit Lake with a demand for food. Those who came in first with this request were supplied. A second lot of applicants were informed by the people of the house that they could spare nothing more. The Indians instantly murdered every member of the family; they then passed from house to house along the lake massacring the people until no less than forty-seven persons had been killed, before the settlers rallied and drove them out of the country.
The government at once demanded that the Sioux give up the murderers. Accordingly Little Crow took a band of one hundred warriors, and started out to hunt the rascals. Three were found and killed, but at the end of thirteen days Little Crow returned and told the agent that he had done enough, and would not hunt the murderers any longer. Unfortunately the government submitted, and the Indians never forgot the fact. Little Crow reasoned that if the United States was too weak to insist on the punishment of a few Indians, who had murdered three times their own number of white people, it would be too weak to punish the whole tribe of Sioux should it revolt. The innate hostility of the Indians toward the aggressions of the white man and the bad feeling about the annuities was re-enforced by the feud between the "Scalp Locks" and "Blanket Indians" on the one hand, and the "Cut-hair" and "Pantaloon Indians" on the other. The former party was intensely jealous of the favor with which the government regarded the other. Little Crow, though living in a house, was the leader of the "Blanket Indians." The promise of a new house had been made in order to fasten his rather doubtful alliance with the farmer Indians.
In addition to these general causes for apprehension, there were other and more local ones. The civil war, it will be remembered, was in the second year of its course. The resources of the government were drained to the utmost to raise and equip armies. As a consequence, the annuity money had not been sent. The crops of the previous year had failed. The Indians asked every day at the agency for their money, and when told it had not come, went away with angry words and threatening gestures, alleging that they, with their women and children, were starving.
On the 14th of July, 1862, five thousand angry Sioux gathered around the agency at Yellow Medicine, demanding food. The government employes temporized with them as well as possible, but the provision of the post was itself almost exhausted. On the 4th of August five hundred and fifty warriors broke into the parade ground of the post in a boisterous manner, surrounded the warehouse, chopped down the door, and commenced carrying out the provision. The troops of the fort had by this time rallied, and drove the Indians out of the warehouse. The trouble was patched up, but the Indians should have been punished. This was impossible, because there was no power to punish them. The military posts of the frontier had been almost emptied of their soldiers, who were needed to take part in the great war which was then absorbing the thought and energy of the whole American people.
On the same day a hundred armed warriors appeared in front of Fort Ridgley, which was garrisoned by only thirty men, and asked permission to have a dance in the parade ground. This request was refused, and the Indians contented themselves with a pow-wow outside of the fort. No one apprehended any danger except a sergeant named Jones, who insisted on taking his stand beside a loaded howitzer pointed toward the Indians. He not only stood there during the afternoon, but remained all night by the gun, ready to fire at the first alarm. Two weeks later it was ascertained that the Indians had intended to massacre the garrison, seize the arms, break open the magazine, and supply themselves and their friends with ammunition. This accomplished, the whole body of Sioux were to inaugurate a war to drive the white men out of the Minnesota valley. They were foiled in the attempt, which could easily have succeeded, as the gates of the fort were always open, by Sergeant James pointing a loaded cannon at them. For the time being this roused no particular suspicion.
On the morning of the 15th of August, a drunken Indian was heard to boast that the Sioux were going to kill off all the white men. All these things had so disturbed Major Galbraith that he had resolved, as we have seen, to interview Little Crow. He was relieved to find the sage Indian busy with the innocent work of digging, and apparently in perfect good humor. The agent rode away with all suspicion driven from his mind. On Sunday, August 17th, Little Crow attended church, and gave the sermon the most devout attention. That evening he held a council up in the country. The proceedings of the council are not known, except by inference from the terrible events which happened on the morrow.
Meanwhile a preliminary tragedy was taking place at the town of Acton, thirty-five miles from the lower agency, at the mouth of Red Wood. Mr. Robinson Jones kept a country inn at this place. At one o'clock in the afternoon, a half dozen Indians appeared at the door, demanding food. As the kitchen of the inn was entirely under the charge of Mrs. Jones, who was at the house of her son-in-law, Howard Baker, three quarters of a mile away, Jones told them he could not get them any thing to eat. Seeing that they were angry, Jones took his son and daughter, and went over to Baker's himself, being followed by the Indians. A Mr. Webster and Mr. Baker were at the house. The Indians proposed target-shooting, to which the three men acceded. The Indians fired first, and commenced reloading their guns. When the guns of the white men were emptied, the savages suddenly shot them down. Two or three other members of the family were killed, when the savages, seizing a span of horses, drove hastily away.
The council presided over by Little Crow on Sunday evening, August 17, 1862, acted with swiftness and secrecy. During the night the entire force of warriors of the lower tribes armed and painted for battle, and distributed themselves among the white settlements, sprinkled over the region forty miles in extent. Two hundred and fifty Indians were silently posted at the lower agency. At early dawn, Monday morning, Mr. Prescott, an interpreter, coming out of the door of his dwelling to get some fire-wood, was surprised to see the street swarming with painted savages. At this moment, Little Crow passed the house. Prescott, asking the trouble, was answered, "Go in your house and stay there." John Lamb, a government teamster, was just coming out of his stable, when he was fired upon and killed. This was the first shot. The Indians at once seized the horses, and were appropriating them when Mr. Wagner came running out to stop it. Little Crow ordered him to be shot, which was instantly done.
The tide of death at once overflowed through the settlement in all directions. Hearing the shots, the people came running out to ascertain the trouble, only to fall victims to the ruthless murderers. Six men were in the store of William Forbes. They started out of the door, and were instantly fired upon. Four were killed outright. Mr. Spencer ran back into the store, and started upstairs. Concealing himself under a bed, he could hear the rioters breaking open the cases of goods and carrying them out. Presently the Indians commenced to talk of burning the house. Spencer quickly took the bed-cord, fastened one end to a post, and carried the other to a window, which he raised. At this moment, the Indians burst into his room, seized him, and took him downstairs. His captors happened to be friends, and whispered that they would save him. They took Spencer out through the yelling mob, and carried him safely to their lodge, four miles away, where he remained in safety.
Similar attacks were made on the other stores and houses, and numbers of people killed. Meanwhile, the alarm had spread through the entire settlement, and the panic-stricken people were flying in all directions. Mr. Hinman and his family succeeded in reaching the ferry, and crossed the Minnesota River in that way. Mr. J. C. Dickinson hurriedly harnessed his horses to a wagon, placed his family in it, and galloped toward a deep ford, which he made in safety. Dr. Humphrey, with a sick wife and four children, also crossed the river on their way to Fort Ridgley. After proceeding four miles, Mrs. Humphrey became too ill to proceed further. Near by stood the house of a settler whose family had fled to the fort, leaving doors and windows wide. Here the refugees stopped. The sick woman was laid upon a bed. The son hurried to a spring in a neighboring ravine to get some water for his mother, leaving his father to keep guard at the house. While at the spring, the terrified boy heard a war-whoop, followed by a series of shots. The boy fled to the fort. An hour later, some soldiers passing by found the corpse of the boy's father lying in the front yard, with the brains beat out between two rocks. The house itself was a heap of smoldering embers, in the midst of which were discovered the blacked remains of Mrs. Humphrey and her two little children.
At the time of the first alarm, John Nairn, the head carpenter, had seized his wife and children, and hurried through the prairie in the direction of the fort. He was joined in his flight by Mr. Hunter and his young wife, to whom he had been married only a month. Nairn and his wife reached the fort in safety, but Hunter, who was lame, walked with great difficulty. Meeting an Indian friend, the latter offered to procure him a conveyance if he and his wife would come to a neighboring Indian village. The fugitives accepted his invitation, but failing to procure the vehicle, and fearing to remain, they took to the woods, where they passed the night. In the morning they continued their painful journey toward the fort, when they were met by an Indian, who shot Hunter dead, and carried his horror-stricken young wife into captivity. Without lingering over the fearful details, it is sufficient to say that the day which began with massacre proceeded with destruction and plunder. The stores, dwellings, and government warehouses were, toward evening, fired, and the blackened stone walls alone remained to mark the spot of the lower agency
The storm broke over the whole country at once. Ten miles above the lower agency, on Red Wood River, resided J. B. Reynolds, a teacher. At half past six in the morning he was aroused by a messenger, urging him to fly for his life. The whole household was at once alarmed. A Mr. Davis, stopping with them, and three girls got into the wagon of a trader, which happened to be passing at that moment. In the direction of the agency they saw a dense cloud of smoke. Convinced now that the town was in flames and that they themselves were in great danger, they only drove faster. Suddenly they came upon fifty Indians with wagons full of provisions, goods, and furniture from the village. The savages were all perfectly naked, painted in the most hideous manner, and, worse yet, drunk. Davis and the trader were killed outright. Mary Anderson was also shot. The other two girls were placed in separate wagons, the one containing Mary Schwandt driving toward an Indian village. The captive was brutally treated and subjected to nameless outrages. The other two captive girls, one of them wounded, were brought in during the night. Two days later the wounded girl died. The others remained in captivity until rescued by the United States troops.
At the same time that the party had left in the trader's wagon, Mr. Reynolds and his wife threw some things into a buggy and drove toward the agency. So quickly did the outbreak follow the alarm that a dozen squaws were swarming through the house, putting dishes, clothes, and provisions into sacks which they brought with them before Mr. Reynolds and his wife had driven out of the yard. Still ignorant of the trouble, they drove to a hill overlooking the lower agency, where they saw the work of ruin going on. Hurrying on toward the fort, they saw several parties of squaws and Indians, who were at a distance, and found that they were followed. To help on matters, the horse gave out, and the party had to take across the country. Their course lay along the shore of the Minnesota River. Mr. Reynolds swam the river to procure help from the fort. His wife, with two children, whom they had picked up along the way, walked along the sandy shore, "covering," as Mrs. Reynolds says, "the children's tracks with my own, and turning my toes as much like a squaw as possible." Assistance reached the ingenious woman and her husband, and they reached the fort, having lost all the property they had in the world, but nevertheless thankful to have escaped with their lives.
Little Crow's conspiracy was widely extended. Early the morning of the 18th of August the settlers on the north side of the Minnesota River were angry and frightened to discover large bodies of Indians on that side of the river, engaged in capturing horses. Half an hour later four naked Indians came to the house of Jonathan Earl and demanded his gun. This demand was refused and the savages went away, taking with them several horses. The alarm had spread to other houses, and in a short time twenty-eight of the neighbors assembled at Earl's house. Provisions were hastily gotten together, and the company, some of them but half dressed, hurried away to Fort Ridgley.
They had proceeded but a little distance when they were overtaken by Indians, who deliberately unhitched the horses from the wagons, and then began to fire upon the party. Several men were killed, and about ten women and girls taken captive. Earl himself, after seeing his wife and two daughters carried off and his son killed, started across the country to escape by running. Little by little he removed all his clothing but his shirt, and finally distanced his pursuers. During the flight he had been fired at thirty times, but was as yet unhurt. After a flight of forty-eight hours, in which the prairie-grass had cut off nearly all the flesh from his feet, Earl reached Cedar City. Colonel Sibley's expedition subsequently rescued Mrs. Earl and her daughters, who were captives in the wigwam of Little Crow himself.
Three of the party to which Earl had belonged were killed by the Indians, by being burnt to death under a blazing mattress. Mrs. Carruthers was among the captives who, together with Mrs. Earl, were taken to Little Crow's village. In the story of her sufferings, she says that Little Crow's house was a two-story frame one, plastered and furnished with common furniture, cooking stove, chairs, and table. There were dishes, with knives and forks. All of these things had been furnished by the government. The house was stuffed full with provision and plunder from the government warehouses.
After a few days of captivity, Mrs. Carruthers and her children managed to escape. They traveled through the country until they reached a farm-house, from which the people had fled. Crawling into the cellar, they remained there two days, living on a few raw potatoes. During this time, the house was frequently visited by Indians. Mrs. Carruthers made her way to the river, where she found a crazy boat, in which she made the attempt to cross. The feat was accomplished, though not without danger. Near her landing-place, she was sickened at the sight of no less than six settlers. She struggled on through the country, carrying a child in either arm, and tortured almost to death by swarms of mosquitoes on her face, from which she was unable to protect herself. She found some little food in nearly every deserted house which she passed. By the time she reached the fort, the little clothing which the Indians had left her was almost entirely gone. Although famished and in danger, the poor woman, ashamed of her plight, hid herself in some bushes until a man passed that way, from whom she procured a blanket for covering.
Two miles above Mr. Earl's house, forty persons, frightened by the unusual occurrences, assembled at the house of John Meyer, soon after sunrise on the morning of the 18th. While the company was discussing the situation in an agitated manner, fifty Indians were discovered approaching. All but Meyer's family fled from the house, taking to the grass and bushes. Peter Bjorkman passed out at the back door, and plunging into a slough, concealed himself in the mire. He remained here in the morass, with nothing but his head above the water, and concealing that member by some weeds, until dark, when he made his escape. The Indians instantly attacked Meyer's family, butchering the women and children. With a facility which seems peculiar to the men of that region, and speaks poorly for their chivalry, Meyer managed to escape to Fort Ridgley. While the savages occupied themselves with plundering the deserted houses, thirty terrified people sought refuge in the dwelling of Mrs. Sitzton, near Bjorkman's. In an hour or two, Bjorkman, who was out in the swamp, witnessed the massacre of nearly the entire company. One woman and her child alone escaped, to be taken into captivity.
After night, Bjorkman ventured out of his hiding-place, made his way to his house, bound up a bundle of food and clothing, and commenced his flight toward Fort Ridgley. He passed the houses of Meyer and Sitzton. By the starlight, he could see that the doors and windows were open. Two forms seemed to be lying on the doorstep of the Sitzton house. The man gave a terrified glance toward the place; he felt, rather than saw, that the structure, a few hours before a happy home, had become a charnel-house, filled with from twenty to thirty corpses. Hurrying past the place of death, he shortly overtook a woman and two children. It was Mrs. Lateau. Her husband had been killed. Misery loves company. Bjorkman took one of the children in his arms. The wretched people then hurried across the country as fast as possible. The woman was nearly naked. The rough grass of the prairie cut her feet and limbs like so many swords. The man took off his shirt, and Mrs. Lateau, tearing it into strips, bound it about her bleeding feet and limbs. After nameless sufferings, the poor people reached the fort.
A mile and a half from the Earl house, lived Patrick Hayden. On the morning of this, the day of doom, he had started across the river to the house of J. B. Reynolds, whose fate has already been mentioned. On his way, Hayden met a man who shouted to him, "For God's sake, get your family and fly. The Indians are going to kill us all." Hayden, alarmed but mystified, hurried back to his house, got his family, and took them off to a neighbor's by the name of Eune. The latter was also making preparations for flight.
Sending his family on with the Eunes, Hayden, ignorant of the meaning of the fearful panic, started back to his house to protect his property. He was never seen again. Eune's party hurried on. Here and there they found the corpse of some settler who had been overtaken in his flight. From time to time they could see men on horseback, hurrying across the country like themselves. On the following day Mrs. Hayden and the rest reached the fort, only to learn that all their neighbors, less fortunate than they, had been killed before they got away.
The terror was later in reaching those who lived at points more distant from the fort. Twenty-seven miles from Fort Ridgley, in Renville county, a Mr. Kreiger had, only a few weeks before, settled on a homestead claim. On the 18th of August he and his cousin were away fishing. At sunset two men came running toward the house, and told Mrs. Kreiger that, six miles below, they had discovered the corpses of a woman and two children. Scattered near the bodies were pieces of broken furniture, and fragments of a feather bed. Horror stricken, that they hurried to a settlement about a mile away, to report what they had seen.
The first house they entered without knocking, their excitement over the murder being so great. On the floor of the room the men saw the dead bodies of five people. Almost paralyzed with horror, the men ran on to the next house. A man was lying dead on the doorstep, and the whole place had been plundered. Still hoping for an explanation of the appalling mystery, which grew blacker and more terrible at every step, the men passed on from house to house, in search of some living being.
Every dwelling was the scene of desolation and death. One woman was found dead with her hands still in the flour, where she had been making bread. Two men had been killed at a grindstone, where they had been sharpening a scythe. Another was lying in his barn, with some hay in his arms, which he had been carrying to his horses when the murderers overtook him. An old lady, seventy years of age, was found weltering in her blood in the chimney-corner, where she was accustomed to sit. She still had in her hands the knitting needles and half-finished sock which she had been knitting. Two boys who had been playing marbles were found lying on the ground, with their heads split open. The marbles still stood in the ring where the little fellows had been at play. The entire settlement had been given over to butchery.
Such was the report which the men, hoarse with excitement, and breathless with running, brought to Mrs. Kreiger in her lonely house. While the men ran on to alarm other settlers, Mrs. Krieger hurried up the creek to where her husband was fishing, and told him what had happened. Within an hour thirteen families were gathered at the house. It was now dark. Suddenly someone remembered that no word had been sent to Mr. Schwandt, who lived on a small stream called Sacred Heart, in Renville county. Messengers at once started away on a gallop to alarm him of his danger. Arriving within sight of the house, they discovered chairs and broken furniture scattered through the yard. John Waltz, a son-in-law of Mr. Schwandt, was lying dead in the door, pierced by three bullets. Mr. Schwandt himself was found on the ground, with a hammer and nails in his hand. He seemed to have being shingling the roof of the house, and, being shot, had rolled off to the ground, dead. Two oxen were in the house, eating flour out of the barrel. The messengers did not, at the time, wait to see any more. It was afterward learned that they had seen but a small part of the work of blood. The Indians had attacked the house in the forenoon. After killing Waltz and Schwandt, they had taken the latter's daughter, who was enciente, cup open the body, removed the child, and nailed it to a tree. Mrs. Schwandt had been dragged a few yards, and her head chopped off. Mr. Fross, a farm-hand, was also killed.
Of the whole family August, a boy of thirteen, alone escaped. After seeing his sister's child nailed to the tree, he was beaten and left for dead. When the Indians went off he revived and started to a house of Mr. Suche, four miles distant. This house was in the midst of a small settlement. Here, instead of finding help, the boy discovered every house to be tenanted only by the dead. More than thirty corpses lay in the place. The only living being was a child three years old. The boy carried the child three or four miles, but was so exhausted that he left it in a deserted house, and hurried on by himself to Fort Ridgley, which he reached at the end of four days. The child was afterward found in the hands of the Indians. It was brought to Fort Ridgley, but shortly died.
The messengers returned to the party at Kreiger's and related what they had seen. The thirteen families with eleven teams at once set out toward the fort and traveled all night. In the morning eight Indians came up with the party and pretended to be friendly. They said that the murders had been committed by the Ojibwas, and that the Sioux were going to punish the murderers. They earnestly advised the settlers to return home as the road to the fort was filled with Ojibwas.
The settlers unfortunately believed the Indians to be friendly and took their advice. This was the first explanation of the mysterious massacre. Nothing seemed to them so improbable as that their neighbors, the Sioux, were the murderers. The teams were turned homeward, accompanied by the Indians, who offered to act as guard. Suspicious circumstances roused the apprehensions of some of the party, but as the settlers had placed their guns in the wagons they dared not take them out lest the Indians should fire. When nearly to their homes the manner of the Indians suddenly changed. They were re-enforced by other savages, and the whole party demanded that the settlers give up their money. No sooner was this done than the Indians fired upon the party, killing all but three of the eleven white men. The savages shot the three remaining men, and then, with their clubbed guns commenced beating out the brains of the women and children. Two of Mrs. Kreiger's boys, aged seven and eight years, managed to escape through the prairie grass. On their journey to the fort the little fellows discovered a team driving in the direction they were going. They were about to run out and ask for help, when a party of Indians sprang out toward the wagon and killed all its occupants right before the children's eyes. The little fellows journeyed on, passing many dead, and at last reached the fort.
When the Indians left the scene of slaughter one of their number, a young brave, took with him a little girl as a captive. His heart must have been kinder than the rest. The child's name was Alice Thompson. Her plea for mercy saved her life. Of the children left on the ground, apparently dead, many were not so. Three girls, the oldest being thirteen years old, hid themselves in the grass until the Indians went off. They then came out of their hiding-place, and found one woman and about ten children yet living. The oldest girl, Mrs. Kreiger's daughter, being thirteen years old, developed remarkable nerve and self-possession. She succeeded in removing these children and the woman to her home, a mile away, and there ministered to the wants of the wounded as best she could.
The night was passed amid crying and moaning from all the occupants of the house. In the morning the girl of thirteen years decided that it was unsafe to remain, and taking such of the little company as were able to walk, took to the woods. The girl at once returned to the scene of the massacre to hunt for her mother, but was frightened away by the sight of Indians. A little later she saw the house which she with her five companions, of whom the woman, Mrs. Zable, was one, had recently left, surrounded by Indians and in flames. The seven little children which had been left there were burned alive in the house. The little party of fugitives hid in the woods until dark, and then started toward Fort Ridgley. They obtained some food on the way in the deserted houses which they passed. It consisted wholly of corn eaten raw. The oldest girl, with remarkable tenacity, had insisted on carrying her baby brother. At the end of three days her strength was so exhausted that the little fellow had to be left behind. His fate was never known.
The party journeyed on for eleven days. One of the children fell down from exhaustion and hunger. The others refused to leave her. Some one found the rind of a watermelon, which was given to the child. She revived, and by the help of the others, proceeded until they were within sight of Fort Ridgley. The children were terribly frightened at the sight of the fort, thinking it was an Indian camp. When some soldiers approached they turned to fly, but the poor little flutterers were soon caught. When they arrived at the fort, the children presented a pitiable sight. Some were wounded by hatchet cuts; others had been beaten by the butts of guns; others still bore bleeding gunshot wounds. Their little bodies were almost destitute if clothing, and were cut and bleeding from head to foot from the prairie grass through which they had passed.
Returning once more in our story to the scene of the attack on the wagon party, Mrs. Kreiger remained on the ground almost unconscious until midnight of Tuesday, August 19th. At that time two Indians came up, and he felt a sharp pointed knife passed swiftly from her throat downward, laying open her intestines. Her clothing was then removed, and she was seized by the hair and dragged some distance. Still conscious, she saw the savages mutilating the dead bodies of her friends in a manner too horrible to be reproduced on this page. Finally, Mrs. Kreiger succeeded in crawling from the scene of the massacre to a creek. Refreshed by the water, she managed to drag herself two or three miles further. Unable to proceed, she remained on the ground for three days, drinking water from a slough and eating grass. Again she recovered sufficient strength to crawl. Not infrequently she passed corpses of the settlers, and was frightened, in a dull weary way, by the sight of Indians.
Space forbids the details of her terrible journey. She had given up all hope of life, when a party of troops sent out to bury the murdered settlers passed her way, and put her into a wagon. Two hours later the troops were attacked by Indians, and the poor woman again trembled between life and death. All of the wagons were turned upside down ass a rude barricade, except the one in which she lay. The battle raged all day and all night. The wagon in which Mrs. Kreiger was the best mark afforded the savages. The wagon was literally shot to pieces. The cover was riddled with bullets, and the spokes were shot out of the wheels. The cup in which she attempted to take her medicine was dashed from her mouth by a rifle-ball. She received five wounds during the battle.
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The Tragedy of Minnesota
Created October 26, 2001
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