and the Beginning of the Frontier's End (2012)
Ass't SecInterior Usher had been sent to Minnesota after one-too-many of General John Pope's exaggerated dispatches had been received. On 1 December 1862, Lincoln instructed Usher and two other trusted men to review the military court transcripts, and find out which Dakotas were the most violent offenders (e.g. murder of noncombatants, rape, etc.). In Lincoln's point-of-view, the worst offenders deserved to be executed, but those convicted of less in his mind simply did not deserve that fate. Pope's criteria for execution had been soundly rejected by President Lincoln, and his troika, headed by Usher, was to get to the truth of the matter.
On 4 December 1862, before a Cabinet meeting, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles had reached the conclusion that Lincoln would spare most of the Dakotas. On 5 December 1862, Lincoln sent a communique to Sibley, ordering him to only execute 38, and also ordering Sibley to keep the remaining Dakotas safe until he received further orders. Lincoln had eliminated over 260 Dakotas from Sibley's list; in Lincoln's mind, once he decided on the final list of 38, he was done with the Dakota War and its aftermath in Minnesota.
At 10 am on 26 December 1862, the 38 were led to the gallows in the midst of a thick layer of revenge in the air among the assembled whites. The commander of the 1000 soldiers had done his best to limit the amount of alcohol that would lead to out-of-control mobs, but there was no way he could stop the many groups that were making plans (most of them haphazard) to kill the 260+ Dakota that were spared execution. When the 38 Dakotas would make their final walk to the gallows, there would be over 5000+ whites watching, which to the 38 would seem to be all the whites in the world.
Pope's main reason for relocating his headquarters was that he wanted to be closer to Illinois, where his friends and political connections were located; Pope planned on making a successful comeback in the Union Army. Governor Ramsey was in St. Paul, while General Sibley was in Mendota, having just taken command of the "Minnesota District" in Pope's new military/administrative reorganization. Sibley was finally free of the Dakota War, and he looked forward to being able to put his personal, political, and business affairs back in order.
Right Reverend Henry Whipple decided to attend the executions, but on the way to Mankato he literally became stuck in the mud due to the extremely unseasonable warm weather. Whipple's vision of converting and assimilating Dakotas had become as impossible as trying to find passable roads to Mankato. Whites whose property had been destroyed assumed that the federal government would provide reparations, expecting that the unused annuities would be heading their way. Secretary of the Interior Caleb Smith had already agreed to the complete expulsion of the Dakota (and the Ho-Chunk) from Minnesota, emptying the fertile southern half of Minnesota for whites.
After the 38 were buried in a mass grave, Mayo had received permission (or was the first granted permission) to exhume and take the bodies he wished, which was a common medical practice during those years. Mayo wanted the body of Cut Nose for examination, the most brutal of the 38 hanged, since he had crossed paths with the huge Dakota warrior when he tried to steal Mayo's horse while drunk. Due to other doctors, grave robbers, and Mother Nature, by the Spring of 1863, none of the 38 remains were to be found in the mass grave. As for the gallows, pieces were auctioned-off, purchased by exhilarated whites . . .