and the Beginning of the Frontier's End (2012)
Lincoln was under pressure from Horace Greeley, perhaps the most powerful newspaper publisher in the world, to immediately free the slaves with an official statement. Greeley had at least tacitly supported President Lincoln so far, since both were former Whigs that became Republicans. But Greeley had become apoplectic at Lincoln's refusal to issue an order of immediate emancipation. Lincoln paid attention to Greeley, since he was basically the voice of the Liberal Republicans, and he needed that wing of the party to support the war effort.
On the same day that news of the Dakota War reached the War Department, Lincoln received a copy of an open letter Greeley had published in New York titled "The Prayer for the 20 Millions". In that open missive, Greeley accused Lincoln of dereliction of duty as President in terms of emancipation, telling Lincoln to get a backbone and declare slavery illegal everywhere so the Civil War could shift to a war for human rights. Lincoln wanted/needed to quickly respond, but the President was walking a political tightrope, in that he had already sent out secret "feelers" to publishers, including Greeley, about emancipation. As it turned out, Greeley published his open letter before he received Lincoln's secret letter concerning emancipation.
By the time Nicolay reached St. Paul, the Dakota War was in its fourth day, with warriors having already attacked Fort Ridgely and the town of New Ulm, and hundreds of whites had been killed or captured. Several companies of soldiers from Fort Snelling had been sent to the Minnesota River Valley to engage-and-defeat the Dakota warriors. Minnesota whites saw Natives everywhere in the state as a threat, with the conventional wisdom holding that the Ojibwe would soon be on the warpath in support of the Dakota as well as to protect their own lands. Nicolay started to head north per Lincoln's instructions, but the negotiations with the Ojibwe would be much different and more difficult than he or President Lincoln had originally envisioned.
Lincoln notified Nicolay to inform Ramsey that he could hold back sending men to the Union Army to "attend to the Indians", but to not use the President's name in doing so. On 25 August 1862, the same day Little Crow began his retreat to the northwest, Greeley published two items in his New York Tribune. One of the items was Lincoln's reply to Greeley's "Prayers", which contained Lincoln's statement that if he could save the Union by freeing all, some, or none of the slaves, he would do so. Little did Greeley know at the time (nor did anyone else), but that phrase would become historically significant, showing Lincoln's political/military acumen at a crucial stage of the Civil War.
Soon, neighboring states to Minnesota sent telegrams to Washington, D.C. claiming sudden Native unrest and agitation (but nothing of the level that was happening in Minnesota). All of the movement and unrest was seen as the work of unseen sinister Confederate forces. In reality, there was no way Natives were able to unite in the way whites claimed, but the belief that the Confederacy was backing/instigating Native unrest continued for the duration of the Civil War. The unity that existed was among whites, fearful that Natives were ganging up on them to take their land.
By February 1863, Lincoln would formally (and very quietly) dismiss the idea of a coordinated offensive of Natives organized by the Confederacy; Lincoln correctly saw the idea as pure fantasy. One of the consequences from not having as many soldiers from Minnesota in the Union Army was that Lincoln, sooner than what he wanted, authorized African-Americans soldiers to be used.
Sibley also sent out an open letter to Dakotas not involved, telling them in effect to get out of his way, and to make it obvious that they were not combatants (e.g. fly a "truce flag"). Little Crow was not only a target of white soldiers, but also of many Dakota, and even some of those around Little Crow were thinking of ways to capture him to end the war. Little Crow calculated that engaging Sibley and his men very soon would provide a chance to hit-and-then-run to the Great Plains, where Sibley would have to suspend the chase due to the winter.
On 13 September 1862, Nicolay left St. Paul for Washington, D.C., carrying a report for Lincoln and notes that would become the basis for the first article about the Dakota War to appear in the Eastern press. After the disastrous Union defeat at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run in late-August 1862, where Lee gained control of all of Virginia, Lincoln had to figure out what to do with the disgraced General John Pope. Lincoln had replaced General George B. McClellan with Pope (the son of a judge that Lincoln knew and admired) in order to find a general that would defeat General Lee in battle; the move not only backfired, but Lincoln had to place McClellan back in command of the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln decided to send Pope to Minnesota, which in essence federalized the Dakota War. Pope, of course, saw the posting as nothing more than punishment and exile, an insult to his honor and abilities . . .