Yesterday was the first time since sometime in June that the high temperature for the day was in the 70's. It has been 80, 90, and even 100 degrees for so long that I had forgotten how lovely summer in Minnesota can really be. We decided to go for a little drive. We drove the road known locally as The River Road, over to Ft. Ridgely State Park. We drove past corn fields, soybean fields, and hay fields.
Fort Ridgely played an important part in the U.S.-Dakota War of August of 1862. This war was the result of disastrous U.S. government Indian policies. Years of broken treaty promises to the Dakota, combined with an exploding settler population, created conditions ripe for conflict...........In August of 1862, when the Dakota were facing starvation after late annuity payments and the refusal by government agents and traders to release provisions, four young Dakota men killed five settlers near Acton. In the days that followed, tribal factions attacked the Lower Sioux Agency, Fort Ridgely and white settlements in south central and southwestern Minnesota. The fighting lasted six weeks. Between 400 and 600 white civilians and soldiers and an unknown number of Dakota were killed....... On December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato in the largest mass execution in U.S. History. More than 300 had initially been condemned to death, but President Lincoln commuted 264 to prison terms. Following this fighting that lasted 6 weeks, many Dakota fled west or into Canada, about 1,600 women and children were held in an internment camp over the winter under horrible conditions where 300 died, and the survivors were moved to reservations in the Dakota Territory and Nebraska. The majority of the Dakota still live outside of Minnesota. This war also caused 20,000 settlers to flee their Minnesota homes. Minnesota had changed forever. (Italics indicate the text was taken directly from a pamphlet by the Minnesota Historical Society entitled The US-Dakota War of 1862.)
Ruins of some of the barracks at Ft. Ridgley.
This August is 150 years since this very sad time in Minnesota history. The State Parks in the area, and the other communities that were directly involved, as well as the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, are offering programs aimed at educating visitors about the broken treaties and promises that led to this horrible 6 week war that has had lasting results in Minnesota. For further information you can visit www.usdakotawar.org.
On a more pleasant note, this park is one of the campgrounds our family used to frequent when our kids were all little, probably because my brother was the park manager there. Our kids, and their cousins, spent many happy hours playing in this creek that flows through the campground.
It was fun to walk through the campground and remember those happy days.
And as we crossed the creek on the bridge, we heard a song coming from the branches above us. This pretty cardinal sang for us for quite awhile. He was happy!