Tuesday, September 26, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: September 26

September 26, 1862 – “In 1862, the site of Camp Release [today near Montevideo, Minn., Camp Release State Park, Lac qui Parle County] was the site of the Wahpeton Dakota village led by Red Iron. Red Iron did not participate in the U.S. Government-Dakota Conflict of 1862 and so his village became the site where 269 settlers, who had been captured by the Dakota, were brought by Native American 'friendlies.' Other leaders in charge at the camp were Chief Wabasha, Standing Buffalo, and Taopi (a Mdewakanton chief). Chief Red Iron's people dug rifle pits around the camp, expecting that they would have to defend the captives from Chief Little Crow and his men. However, Little Crow was defeated at Wood Lake and the camp was not attacked.

"On September 26, 1862, Henry H. Sibley's army arrived at Red Iron's camp and released the prisoners. Kenneth Carley (historian of the 1862 war) writes:

"Sibley, unmounted but with an escort of troops, entered the Indian camp 'with drums beating and colors flying' at about two o'clock on the afternoon of September 26. . . . The friendlies at once released 91 whites and about 150 mixed-bloods. Additional captives, freed in the next few days, brought the total to 107 whites and 162 mixed-bloods -- 269 in all. Most of the whites rescued were women and children, there being not more than four men (Carley 1976:65).

"The campsite was renamed Camp Release to commemorate the return of the captives. Within a few weeks of the prisoner release, the camp (still under the control of Sibley) became the site where Native Americans gathered to seek protection from the U.S. army. By the end of October 1862, well over 2,000 Native Americans were under Sibley's charge at Camp Release.”



Marker reads:

On September 26, 1862, 91 whites and about 150 mixed-blood captives, some of whom had been prisoners of the Dakota Indians for more than a month were returned to Colonel Henry H. Sibley’s military camp, later joyfully known as Camp Release. In the next few days, additional captives were freed, bringing the total to 107 whites and 162 mixed-bloods – 269 in all.

When the 1862 U.S.–Dakota conflict moved into its final weeks in mid-September, attention on both sides had focused on the captives, mostly women and children, held by the Dakota. Sibley, heading a largely volunteer army, demanded that the captives be released before peace negotiations could begin. But the Dakota warriors led by Little Crow moved up the Minnesota River Valley, still holding their prisoners.

Many Dakota who had not supported the war took great risks to help keep the captives alive. By late September, Dakota peace factions led by Wabasha, Topi, Red Iron, Mazomeni, Standing Buffalo, and others were camped only a half a mile from the war faction near the mouth of the Chippewa River.  While Little Crow’s men were fighting the Battle of Wood Lake, the peace supporters took control of the captives, expecting to have to have to fight the returning war party if it was victorious against Sibley’s army. But Little Crow’s men did not win at Wood Lake. The war leaders and many of their followers fled Minnesota, and the Dakota peace group sent a message to Sibley to arrange the prisoner release three days later. Many of the peace faction who surrendered to Sibley’s army at Camp Release were among the Dakota exiled from Minnesota the following year.

If you are interested in finding out more about your family history in Minnesota, I specialize in researching  genealogical and historical records in Minn. and western Wis., including:
census records,  birth records,  death certificates, obits, grave site photos, ship passenger lists, marriage records and declarations of intent/naturalization records.  I will visit locations to research local history and county records, as well as take photos. Quick turnaround on MNHS records. Both short searches and family history reports available.


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