Thursday, December 26, 2013

American History: The Mankato Massacre

Mankato, Minnesota. It remains the largest mass execution in American history. In early December, 303 Sioux prisoners were convicted of murder and rape by military tribunals and sentenced to death as part of the Dakota War of 1862. Some trials lasted less than 5 minutes. No one explained the proceedings to the defendants, nor were the Sioux represented by a defense in court. The death sentences of 264 prisoners were commuted, but President Lincoln denied justice for the 38 others. The mass execution was performed publicly on a single scaffold platform. After regimental surgeons pronounced the prisoners dead, they were buried en masse in a trench in the sand of the riverbank. Before they were buried, an unknown person nicknamed “Dr. Sheardown” removed some of the dead’s skin, and sold it in small boxes in Mankato. The Dakota War of 1862 was the result of continued treaty violations by the United States, as well as ongoing encroachments on Dakota lands that were guaranteed within the treaties.

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