Union General John Pope got his training for Reconstruction 1.0 during the Civil War. (Reconstruction 2.0 is the so-called “FEMA”. Background: “FEMA Is Reconstruction 2.0”, Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of April 9, 2013.)
When Pope was made the new big General for the Union army, he announced a series of hard-war policies aimed at punishing Confederate civilians. Confederate General Robert E. Lee labeled him a “miscreant.” But General Pope was the “man of the future.” He sought not just to defeat the Confederates but to punish them. (Source: “John Pope (1822–1892)”, by Peter Cozzens. Encyclopedia Virginia.)
The opposite of General Pope was General George McClellan. Through McClellan’s alter-ego, Colonel Thomas Key, there was an attempt to conduct the war upon the highest principles known to Christian Civilization. This was to be a war with at least honor, in McClellan’s plan. (Background: “Secret Meeting on Mechanicsville Bridge”, Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of April 2, 2013.)
But General Pope had an opposite approach. He was of the William Tecumseh Sherman school of thought: “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.”
Anyway, the new big General John Pope was soundly defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run (a.k.a. “Second Manassas”) in August 1862. Consequently Pope was banished to Minnesota, where he commanded U.S. Forces in the Dakota War of 1862. This “Dakota War” turned out to be the “beta version” of Reconstruction 1.0.
The Dakota War of 1862 was also known as the Sioux Uprising. Long story short, in early December of 1862, 303 Sioux prisoners were convicted of murder and rape by military tribunals and sentenced to death.
Here is where Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under President Abraham Lincoln, weighs in on the subject. Welles’s private diary, first published in 1911, was re-published in 1960. Since that time it has become a “forgotten book” and is mostly out-of-print (except for Volume 3, published by forgottenbooks.org).
Oct. 14, 1862: “[Edwin] Stanton read a dispatch from General Pope, stating that the Indians in the Northwest had surrendered and he was anxious to execute a number of them. The Winnebagoes, who have not been in the fight, are with him [Pope], and he proposes to ration them at public expense through the winter. He has, Stanton says, destroyed the crops of the Indians, etc. I was disgusted with the whole thing; the tone and opinions of the dispatch are discreditable. It was not the production of a good man or a great one. The Indian outrages have, I doubt not, been horrible; what may have been the provocation we are not told. The Sioux and Ojibbeways are bad, but the Winnebagoes have good land which white men want and mean to have.” (Gideon Welles Diary)
Dec. 4, 1862: “The Members of Congress from Minnesota are urging the President vehemently to give his assent to the execution of three hundred Indian captives, but they will not succeed. Undoubtedly the savage wretches have been guilty of great atrocities, and I have as little doubt the stories of their barbarities, bad enough in themselves, are greatly exaggerated. What may have been the aggressions and provocations which led the Indians on is not told us. When the intelligent Representatives of a State can deliberately besiege the Government to take the lives of these ignorant barbarians by wholesale, after they have surrendered themselves prisoners, it would seem the sentiments of the Representatives were but slightly removed from the barbarians whom they would execute. The Minnesotians are greatly exasperated and threaten the Administration if it shows clemency.” (Ibid.)
Nonetheless, President Abraham Lincoln did show clemency. Taking time from various other crises, Lincoln examined the trial records regarding each defendant. In the end, Lincoln commuted the death sentences of 264 prisoners, but he allowed the execution of 38 men.
The New York Times described the hanging of the doomed Indians: “The prisoners received their sentence very cooly… Several Indians smoked their pipes composedly during the reading…” The condemned men marched to the scaffold to be hanged. “They went eagerly and cheerfully, even crowding and jostling each other to be ahead…” (“Execution Of The Indians In Minnesota”, New York Times, Jan. 4, 1863)
“As they commenced the ascent of the scaffold, the death-song was again started…” One of the condemned men had been given a cigar by a reporter. He smoked it while being fitted with a noose. Even after the hood was pulled over his face, “he managed to get it [the cigar] up over his mouth and smoke.” (Ibid.)
The drums rolled. The trap fell. The Indians were ushered into eternity. (Ibid.)