When Minnesota became a state in 1858, the leftover area between the Missouri River and Minnesota's western boundary fell unorganized. When the Yankton Treaty was signed later that year, ceding much of what had been Dakota land to the U.S. Government, early settlers formed an unofficial provisional government and unsuccessfully lobbied for United States territory status. However, it wasn't until three years later when soon-to-be-President Abraham Lincoln's cousin-in-law, J.B.S. Todd, personally lobbied for territory status that Washington formally created Dakota Territory. The name refers to the Dakota branch of the Sioux tribes which occupied the area at the time. It became an organized territory on March 2, 1861 including much of present-day Montana and Wyoming. By 1868, creation of new territories reduced Dakota Territory to the present boundaries of the Dakotas.
After becoming an organized territory, the population increased very slowly during the early years and then very rapidly with the "Dakota Boom" from 1870 to 1880. Veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies moved to Dakota Territory. The 1893 Veterans Census shows 5875 Union Soldiers and 69 Confederate Soldiers.
The Agency of Indian affairs was dominated by the political spoils system and by corruption of the Indian agents. As a master of the art of pragmatic politics, Lincoln used the system as he needed to hold the Union together-resulting in tragedy for our country's Indian wards. A study of the Dakotas under the Lincoln Administration will show the results of a Federal totalitarian Government gone amuck.
Lincoln not only had to deal with the Civil War, but he also had to deal with the Dakota Indians. Terms of the treaty had not been kept by the Lincoln Administration and greviances dated back to the earliest times. The Indian greviances were:
Most of the military in Minnesota left to assist in the War efforts leaving Minnesota settlers without protection. On August 18, 1862 fighting broke out at the Redwood Agency in lower Minnesota. Casualties are unknown, but white women and children were attacked and buildings burned. A trader at the Agency, Andrew Myrick, who was hated the most by the Dakota for refusing to give them credit for supplies and for remarking "let them [Indians] eat grass, was found with grass in his mouth.
Requests for more horses, ammuniton, and men were sent to Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, by Governor Alexander Ramsey, but the requests were refused. On September 8, Ramsey wrote to President Abraham Lincoln and told him, "It is not our war; it is a national war . . . . Answer me at once. More than 500 whites have been murdered by the Indians. Lincoln responded to Ramsey's request immediately and by September 23 the Dakota uprising had ended.
By November 5, after being tried by a military court, a total of 303 Dakota Indians were sentenced to death. General Henry Hastings Sibley had the names and the involvements of those found guilty forwarded to President Lincoln. Lincoln reviewed the list and cut it down to 39 prisoners to be executed. This outraged many of the settlers in Minnesota and on December 5 a mob from Mankato made their way towards Camp Lincoln where the prisoners were being kept. Fortunately, the mob was stopped by troops. The following day the Indians were moved to a log structure at Mankato for safekeeping.
On December 26, the 38 (one prisoner died prior to the hanging) prisoners were executed in the largest mass execution in United States history.
A battalion of Cavalry was raised in the Dakota Territory in support of the Union. The roster of the 1st Battalion, Dakota Cavalry contains the names of 231 men.