Letter to Henry Sibley (December 6, 1862)

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#113 on the list of 150 Most Teachable Lincoln Documents

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HD Daily Report, December 6, 1862

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How Historians Interpret

“A decisive victory by Sibley at Wood Lake on September 23 was the end of organized fighting by the Sioux in Minnesota.  Indians who remained hostile fled west, and friendly chiefs arranged for the release of white captives.  Large numbers of Sioux were captured or surrendered, and day by day more Indians, many of them on the point of starvation, gave themselves up.  Cries of vengeance filled the air, and a five-man military commission was quickly appointed to try the captive Indians.  The commission worked with great haste; in ten days it tried 392 prisoners, condemning 303 to death.  Pope and Sibley wanted the condemned men executed at once, and they telegraphed the names to Lincoln for confirmation of the sentences.  Lincoln would not move so precipitously; he directed that the full records of the trials be sent to him for review. . . It was not an easy question for Lincoln.  He decided finally to uphold the sentence of death for only thirty-nine of the convicted me, and on December 6 he sent Sibley their names.  He laid out the basis for his decision to the Senate.  ‘Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak, on the one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty, on the other,’ Lincoln said, ‘I caused 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.  Contrary to my expectations, only two of this class were found.  I then directed a further examination, and a classification of all who were proven to have participated in massacres, as distinguished from participation in battles.’  One of the thirty-nine men was reprieved as the last minute; the thirty-eight were hanged at Mankato in a spectacle attended by a large crowd on December 26, 1862.”

Francis Paul Prucha, The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984), 443-445

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Executive Mansion, Washington,  
December 6th. 1862.
 
Brigadier General H.H. Sibley 
St. Paul Minnesota. 
 
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 named, towit
“Te-he-hdo-ne-cha.”  No. 2. by the record.
“Tazoo” alias “Plan-doo-ta.” No. 4. by the record.
“Wy-a-tah-to-wah” No. 5 by the record.
“Hin-han-shoon-ko-yag.” No. 6 by the record.
“Muz-za-bom-a-du.” No. 10. by the record.
“Wah-pay-du-ta.” No. 11. by the record.
“Wa-he-hud.” No. 12. by the record.
“Sna-ma-ni.” No. 14. by the record.
“Ta-te-mi-na.” No. 15. by the record.
“Rda-in-yan-kna.” No. 19. by the record.
“Do-wan-sa.” No. 22. by the record.
“Ha-pan.” No. 24. by the record.
“Shoon-ka-ska.” (White Dog). No. 35. by the record.
“Toon-kan-e-chah-tay-mane.” No. 67. by the record.
“E-tay-hoo-tay.” No. 68. by the record.
“Am-da-cha.” No. 69. by the record.
“Hay-pee-don—or, Wamne-omne-ho-ta.” No. 70. by the record.
“Mahpe-o-ke-na-ji.” No. 96. by the record.
“Henry Milord”—a Half-breed. No. 115. by the record.
“Chaskay-don”—or Chaskayetay.” No. 121. by the record.
“Baptiste Campbell” a Halfbreed. No. 138. by the record.
“Tah-ta-kay-gay.” No. 155. by the record.
“Ha-pink-pa.” No. 170 by the record.
“Hypolite Ange” a Half-breed. No. 175 by the record.
“Na-pay-Shue.” No. 178. by the record.
“Wa-kan-tan-ka.” No. 210. by the record.
“Toon-kan-ka-yag-e-na-jin.” No. 225. by the record.
“Ma-kat-e-na-jin.” No. 254. by the record.
“Pa-zee-koo-tay-ma-ne.” No. 264. by the record.
“Ta-tay-hde-don.” No. 279. by the record.
“Wa-She-choon,” or “Toon-kan-shkan-shkan-mene-hay.” No. 318. by the record.
“A-e-cha-ga.”  No. 327. by the record.
“Ha-tan-in-koo.” No. 333. by the record.
“Chay-ton-hoon-ka.” No. 342. by the record.
“Chan-ka-hda.” No. 359. by the record.
“Hda-hin-hday.” No. 373. by the record.
“O-ya-tay-a-koo.” No. 377. by the record.
“May-hoo-way-wa.” No. 382. by the record.
“Wa-kin-yan-na.” No. 383 by the record
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,
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