Sioux Uprising - Sgt. Ira Eggleston

Sgt. Ira Eggleston

Ira Edisson Eggleston was raised in Chateaguay, New York and Goodhue County, Minnesota. In the Summer of 1862, Lincoln made another call for volunteers to fight against the Confederacy and Alexander Ramsey, governor of Minnesota, who was in Washington at the time,  promised that two regiments would be raised from Minnesota, the 9th and 10th Minnesota Volunteer Regiments.

Ira enlisted in Company D of the 10th Regiment.  He was assigned as company Wagoner which was the senior sergeant apparently also responsible for moving the company's supplies.  The day after the regiment was sworn at Fort Snelling,  the Great Sioux Uprising broke out in Western Minnesota.  For the next two years, the regiments fought the Sioux instead of the Confederacy.  The Indian war ended two years later  when the hostiles were driven out of Minnesota after they had murdered over 600 settlers.  The Indian leaders not pardoned by Lincoln were hanged at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.  Read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Little Crow's War, for more details and the Indian side of the conflict.

This is of particular interest to me, since my ancestors were homesteading nearby at the time of the uprising, and were having their own problems with the natives. In my youth, I lived in this area. We were taught in history class about the problems encountered while exploring and settling the area.

The Sioux Uprising

While soldiers from Minnesota were fighting for the Union, a conflict was brewing at home.  The eastern branch of the Dakota tribe, known as the Santee Sioux, was growing more and more angry at the white settlers.  The tribe had been moved to a tiny reservation along the Minnesota River.  Many of the Santee Sioux felt their land and their future had been given away for little in return.  In 1862, a drought killed the Indians crops and the government refused to give the Indians money and supplies it promised them in the treaties.  Many of the Indian agents were unfair and corrupt which caused increased tension between the two groups.

At first, Chief Little Crow tried to convince the tribe to make peace, but younger leaders wanted to fight.  Little Crow finally gave in to them although he feared the outcome.  The Santee Sioux uprising began on August 17, 1862 when a small group of Indians who were searching for food killed three men, a woman, and a 15 year old give at a farmhouse near Acton.  The following day the Indians stormed the Lower Sioux Agency near Redwood Falls and killed or wounded about 40 soldiers.  Little Crow and his warriors then went on a raid along the Minnesota River.  The looted and burned everything in their path.  They were joined by Indians from other Dakota bands.

The Minnesota militia was smaller than usual because many members were away fighting in the Civil War.  The soldiers desperately tried to stop the uprising.  They were commanded by Colonel Henry Sibley, the former governor who had once been friendly with the Dakota Indians.  On September 23, the army defeated the Santees at the Battle of Big Lake.  Three days later, Sibley’s troops captured more than 1,600 of the rebellious Indians, but Little Crow had escaped.    Of the 400 Indians were put on trial for taking part in the uprising, more than 300 were found guilty of various crimes and sentenced to death.  Abraham Lincoln reviewed the trial records and ordered that only those guilty of murder or rape would get the death sentence lowering the number down to 38.
As a result of the uprising, thirty-eight Sioux were hanged on the morning of December 26, 1863, in the city of Mankato. The following is an eye-witness report of the event quoted from The Sioux Uprising by Kenneth Carley.

"The Indians began chanting their death songs early on the morning of December 26. They continued this ritual while Brown and his assistants prepared them for the gallows, which had been built in the Mankato public square. Their chains were removed, and their arms were bound with cords. The dirge ceased as the soldiers placed on each doomed head a white cap, which would be rolled down over each face before the execution. The Indians objected to these caps, regarding them as a great humiliation. All crouched in silence, some listening to Father Ravoux, and some painting their faces.

"At 10:00 A.M., the 38 prisoners marched from the prison to the wooden scaffold, which was surrounded by solid ranks of more than 1,400 soldiers on hand to keep order. Many curious citizens crowded the streets for a glimpse of the condemned, and more on-lookers stared from roof tops and windows. Once more the "hi-yi-yi" of the Sioux death song began as the prisoners mounted the gallows and the caps were drawn over their faces. Major Brown began a slow, measured drumbeat. At the third roll, William Duley, a survivor of the Lake Shetek murders, stepped forward and cut the rope. 'As the platform fell, there was one, not loud, but prolonged cheer from the soldiery and citizens...and then all were quiet and earnest.'"

At the end of the uprising, more than 1600 Dakota-Sioux men, women, and children were rounded up and marched to Fort Snelling where they lived in very cramped quarters.  Various diseases and epidemics took the lives of many.  They were held at the Fort until May of 1863.  It was very much like a concentration camp.  The Minnesota uprising was one of the nations most costly Indian wars, both in lives and property destroyed.  It resulted in the near depletion of the frontier life and exile of the Dakota from Minnesota.  This marked the largest mass execution in American history.

Captured Dakota at Fort Snelling
After the war, most of the remaining Dakota in Minnesota were rounded up and held in a makeshift prison camp at Fort Snelling. Most later were expelled from the state to new reservations in South Dakota, Nebraska and other areas.

Fighting the Insurrectionists

Finally, the 10th Regiment moved South and fought against the Confederacy  in the battles of Tupelo (July 1864), Nashville (December 1864), and in the New Orleans-Mobile-Montgomery Expedition (February – April 1865).

During the first day of the Battle of Nashville (December 15, 1864) the regiment charged the enemy’s earthworks on a high hill and “after a severe struggle had the honor of first planting its colors upon his works and capturing two cannons and many prisoners.

At the end of the Civil War, the regiment was in occupation duty in Mississippi and returned home by steamboat to St. Paul where the men were discharged.  Ira is listed in the 1880 Census with the occupation of horse collar maker. He was granted a pension for his Civil War service.  He died of a heart attack in 1898 at his home in St. Paul.


5th cousin 5X removed of compiler, L. Kimmel

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