Minnesota’s Civil War

The Civil War Preservation Trust issued a report today saying it rescued 2,777 acres of hallowed Civil War ground in 2009.

In addition to land purchases, CWPT remained actively engaged in education and advocacy programs designed to inform the public of the threats facing Civil War battlefields. In 2009, two major news conferences with Academy Award-winning actors — Richard Dreyfuss unveiled CWPT’s annual History Under Siege report in March and Robert Duvall called attention to Walmart’s plans to build on Virginia’s Wilderness Battlefield in May — raised the profile of historic preservation efforts and brought national attention to the cause. Also last year, CWPT received national-level awards of excellence for the complete overhauls of its website and Hallowed Ground, its quarterly membership magazine.

One of the preserved plots is about 60 acres at Wood Lake in Minnesota. It’s also the only one of the 20 battlefields about which the CWPT offered no information.

It wasn’t a Civil War battle, at least one between Confederate and Union forces. It was one of four fronts President Lincoln was confronted with during the Civil War, in this case the Dakota War of 1862, according to the American Battlefield Protection Program.

On September 19, 1862, Col. Henry Hastings Sibley set out from Fort Ridgely with 1,500 volunteers to put down the Santee uprising. As they neared Wood Lake on September 23, Sibley’s men escaped an ambush by 700 warriors under Chief Little Crow and engaged them in a battle. Sibley’s force won the day inflicting heavy casualties on the Sioux. For this action, Sibley received a promotion to brigadier general. Wood Lake was the first decisive defeat of the Sioux since the uprising began.

Chief Mankato was killed in the battle, which is documented at the Wood Lake Battlefield Preservation Association Web site. A must-read is the two perspectives on the battle.

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