War Within War

History Forum: War Within War: Lincoln and the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862

Minnesota History Center

In early 1862 a federal investigator cautioned President Lincoln that mass corruption within Minnesota's system of Indian Agencies would lead to disaster if left unchecked. The president, consumed by the battle to preserve the Union, ignored the warning. When the U.S.-Dakota War broke out eight months later, Lincoln told Minnesota's governor Alexander Ramsey, "Attend to the Indians... Necessity has no law." The war and its aftermath—U.S. victory, Dakota internment, the largest mass hanging in American history, and the forced removal of the Dakota from their homelands—solidified Minnesota's place in the Union, even as it set the stage for the Indian Wars to come, and tragically altered the lives of thousands of Dakota people for generations to come.

With David Nichols, the former academic dean at Southwestern College in Winfield, his alma mater. A native of Kansas, he has a Ph.D. in history from the College of William and Mary. His dissertation, Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics, was published by the University of Missouri Press in 1978. That book, still the definitive study of Lincoln's Indian policies during the Civil War, was reissued as a paperback by the University of Illinois Press in 2000 and will be published in a third edition by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in June 2012. Dr. Nichols has spoken across the nation at venues including the Clinton Presidential Library, the Eisenhower Library, Atlanta History Center, John F. Kennedy Library, the Air Force Academy and the National Archives.