Massacre in Minnesota: The Dakota War of 1862, the Most Violent Ethnic Conflict in American History

Front Cover
University of Oklahoma Press, Oct 17, 2019 - History - 384 pages

In August 1862 the worst massacre in U.S. history unfolded on the Minnesota prairie, launching what has come to be known as the Dakota War, the most violent ethnic conflict ever to roil the nation. When it was over, between six and seven hundred white settlers had been murdered in their homes, and thirty to forty thousand had fled the frontier of Minnesota. But the devastation was not all on one side. More than five hundred Indians, many of them women and children, perished in the aftermath of the conflict; and thirty-eight Dakota warriors were executed on one gallows, the largest mass execution ever in North America. The horror of such wholesale violence has long obscured what really happened in Minnesota in 1862—from its complicated origins to the consequences that reverberate to this day. A sweeping work of narrative history, the result of forty years’ research, Massacre in Minnesota provides the most complete account of this dark moment in U.S. history.

Focusing on key figures caught up in the conflict—Indian, American, and Franco- and Anglo-Dakota—Gary Clayton Anderson gives these long-ago events a striking immediacy, capturing the fears of the fleeing settlers, the animosity of newspaper editors and soldiers, the violent dedication of Dakota warriors, and the terrible struggles of seized women and children. Through rarely seen journal entries, newspaper accounts, and military records, integrated with biographical detail, Anderson documents the vast corruption within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the crisis that arose as pioneers overran Indian lands, the failures of tribal leadership and institutions, and the systemic strains caused by the Civil War. Anderson also gives due attention to Indian cultural viewpoints, offering insight into the relationship between Native warfare, religion, and life after death—a nexus critical to understanding the conflict.

Ultimately, what emerges most clearly from Anderson’s account is the outsize suffering of innocents on both sides of the Dakota War—and, identified unequivocally for the first time, the role of white duplicity in bringing about this unprecedented and needless calamity.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


List of Illustrations
TWO The American Invasion
THREE Removal the New Reservations and the First Indian
FOUR Chaos Confusion and
FIVE The Massacre
SIX Fright and Flight on the Minnesota Frontier
SEVEN The Road to Retribution
EIGHT Captives and the Fate Worse Than Death
NINE Capture and Trials
TEN The Executions
ELEVEN Deportation and Rebirth
EnglishDakota Name Glossary

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2019)

Gary Clayton Anderson, Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma, is author of The Conquest of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing in the Promised Land, 1820–1875. His book The Indian Southwest, 1580–1830: Ethnogenesis and Reinvention won the Angie Debo Prize and the publication award from the San Antonio Conservation Society.

Bibliographic information