Review – MHS WL Battle Sign

Minnesota Historical Society
Wood Lake Battle Sign
Reviewed on May 29, 2017

Items of Interest

From the MHS Website: This sign replaced the old sign in 2012. Content on this sign was reviewed by an MHS historical marker committee, as well as by Dakota consultants and the MHS Indian Advisory Committee.

This review includes the text on the Minnesota Historical Society website and the text on the sign.

Most Objectionable Statements

Website Text

Henry H. Sibley
During the war, Sibley was vilified in the press for his slowness in advancing to Fort Ridgely to liberate captive settlers. He wrote to his wife on September 4, 1862:

  • Disrespectful – To publish this with no explanation other than a few words from a letter to his wife, does a great disservice to Henry Sibley. Why was he slow in advancing?
  • Incorrect – He was not advancing to Fort Ridgely to rescue captive settlers. The captives were further to the west.

Colonel Sibley to Governor Ramsey, August 25, 1862:
“My heart is steeled against them, and if I have the means, and can catch them, I will sweep them with the besom of death.” 

  • Disrespectful – Why was Sibley’s heart “steeled” against them? Could it be that the hostile Dakota killed more than 650 whites – some in the worst way imaginable?

Sibley convened the military commission that condemned 303 Dakota men to death in the wake of the war.

  • Incorrect – There was at least one white and several mixed-bloods among these 303 men.
  • Disrespectful – Mention should be made as to what became of these 303 men; 38 were hanged.

Sign Text

In mid-September, 1862, more than 1,600 soldiers commanded by Colonel Henry Sibley marched northwest from Fort Ridgely into the Minnesota River Valley with an aim to end the U.S.-Dakota War.

  • Incorrect – They also wanted to rescue the hostages held by the hostile Dakota and they wanted to destroy, capture or drive the hostile Dakota from the state.

At dawn on September 23, 1862, hundreds of Dakota warriors prepared to attack from the tall grass near Sibley’s encampment, three miles south of the Yellow Medicine Agency, known today as the Upper Sioux Community.

  • Incorrect – It is known today as the Upper Sioux Agency State Park.

The ambush was thwarted when several men from Sibley’s camp left in a wagon in search of potatoes.

  • Incorrect – There was more than one wagon.

On December 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota, 38 men were sentenced to hang in what became the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

  • Incorrect – This was the largest simultaneous mass execution in U.S. history.

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