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Battle of Fort Ridgely
Part of the Dakota War of 1862
Date August 20, 1862 (1862-08-20)August 22, 1862 (1862-08-23)
Location Nicollet County, Minnesota
Result United States of America victory
United States of America Santee Sioux
1Lt. Timothy J. Sheehan Chief Little Crow
(August 22) about 210 (Company B and Company C (detachment), Fifth Minnesota Infantry, Renville Rangers, citizens) 400-600 (August 20) 800-1,000 (August 22)
Casualties and losses
3 killed, 1 mortally wounded, 14 wounded 2 confirmed killed, 5 confirmed wounded

Fort Ridgely was built in 1851. It wasn't much of a fort though, but it was the only military post between the Sioux Reservations and the settlers. On August 18, 1862, the Lower Sioux Agency was attacked. About 67 whites were there. Within a few hours 20 had been killed, and 10 captured. The remaining 47 reached fort Ridgely. Mr. J.C. Dickinson led his family in a wagon to Fort Ridgely, nobody believed him. Several more settlers came, convincing Captain John S. Marsh, Company B, fifth Minnesota, that the Agency had been attacked. Marsh ordered Drummer Charles M. Culver, a twelve year old (who would die in 1943, at 93, as Company B's last survivor) to beat the long-roll. About 74 men fell in. The men were Captain Marsh, Second Lieutenant Thomas P. Gere, about 4 sergeants, 7 corporals, and about 62 privates. Marsh chose 46 men, along with Indian Interpretor Peter Quinn, to go with him. They saw many dead. Quinn was one of the first killed by Chief White Dog, along with a quarter of the men. By 4:00 P.M. Marsh had eleven men in his command and twenty-four had been killed, 14 left. Marsh wanted to swim across, carrying his revolver and sword. Marsh was a strong swimmer, but two-thirds of the way across he had to swim. He was seized by a cramp and shouted, "Cramp." Sergeant John F. Bishop, the ranking officer, ordered Privates John Brennan, James Dunn, and Stephen Van Buren to save Marsh. Brennan reached Marsh. Marsh grabbed Brennan's shoulder for dear life but fell off. Marsh drowned and the men saw Marsh's body floating in the river. He was about 28 when he died. (See Battle of Redwood Ferry.) Sergeant Bishop led the eleven back to safety. One man was so shot up he had to be carried. They arrived between 10:00 P.M. and 11:00 P.M. that night. 10 other survivors eluded the Indians and sneaked back to Ridgely. The Battle of Redwood started a siege.

On August 18, just before Marsh left, he requested Lieut. Sheehan come back with his 50 men from Company C, Fifth Minnesota, who left Fort Ridgely on August 17, to come back. Private James C. McLean gave the note to Sheehan and they arrived on August 19. Once Bishop and the men got back Sheehan gave Private William J. Sturgis a note to Lieut. Culver, to warn several frontiers, and to Gov. Alexander Ramsey himself. Lieut. Norman K. Culver, Company B, along with Indian Agent Abraham Galbrieth, Sergeant James G. McGrew, and 5 others were doing recruiting in St. Paul and they arrived at Ridgely with the "Renville Rangers" as reinforcements. They were 50 men under First Lieutenant James Gorman, who were going to muster into Civil War Service but went to Ridgely with Harper's rifles and three rounds of ammunition each. About 70 citizens, under Sutler Ben H. Randall volunteered. About 10 of them were woman, some related to soldiers. The command was now went from Company B's about 65 to 210. Also, there was Post Sutler B.H. Randall, Ordnance Sergeant John Jones, artillery, Dr. Alfred Muller, and Major E.A.C. Hatch, an experienced cavalry man who would one day lead Hatch's Battalion, Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry.

On August 20, 1862, Lieut. Timothy J. Sheehan, Company C, commanded the post. First Lieut. Culver, Company B, was commissary and quartermaster. All but 8 men were wounded or assigned hospital duty. 23 of the 24 ferry survivors were at Fort Ridgely. The other (Private Ezekial Rose) had snuck to Henderson because he thought the fort fell, and eventually got to Ridgely.

That sunny day 400 Indians attacked. Their first shots killed Private Mark. M. Greer, Co. C, and wounded Corporal William Good, Co. B. Good was shot straight through the forehead and was declared dead but was really living and discharged for disability October 24, 1862. Sergeant Bishop, a 19-year old survivor of Redwood, commanded the pickets and wanted Little Crow to go down there and get whooped, but it didn't work. Several men were wounded. William H. Blodgett, Private, Company B, who got a wound in the spinal column at Redwood, fought. By the end of the battle 4 Americans were killed and another 15 wounded, 1 mortally.

On August 21, a thunderstorm struck, so the men could strengthen the defense. Ordnance Sergeant Jones had three six-pound artillery guns, two twelve pounds, and one twenty-four pound. Jones, himself, would command a 12-pounder. Sergeants James G. McGrew and Bishop commanded the twelve pounders. Bishop's was set up in the southwestern field.

On August 22, it was very sunny, although the roofs were still wet. A good day for 800 Indians attacked the fort. They were quickly repelled. Little Crow and the chiefs yelled at them to take the fort. The Indians last attack on the northern side of the fort was vicious. They burned almost all the buildings in the north. The Indians hid in the rest so Lieut. Sheehan ordered them destroyed. The men watched as the buildings went up in a greenish smoke. The Indians were repelled. Little Crow realized that if he couldn't defeat the whites with 800 warriors, he couldn't defeat them at all. The siege lasted until August 27, when Colonel Henry H. Sibley arrived with 1,400 trained militia men. Sibley was put in command when Gov. Ramsey heard of the Lower Sioux and Redwood Battles. These reinforcements contained elements of the 5th and 6th Iowa State Militia (including 1st Lt Christopher Hansen's company "Cedar Valley Rangers" of Mitchell Co, Iowa). Governor Ramsey had requested emergency aid from Governor Kirkwood of Iowa, and the 5th and 6th Iowa Militia were ordered to muster. In all 4 Americans were killed, 1 mortally wounded, and 15 wounded. Indians loss 2 killed and 5 wounded.

The Indians kept attacking frontiers until September 23, 1862, at Wood Lake. At Camp Release about 400 were captured. 393 were tried, 303 sentenced to death. For about 500 whites, militia and civilian, were killed in the outbreak. President Abraham Lincoln reduced the executions to thirty nine men. One was pardoned December 25, 1862, for he was ten miles away when what he was convicted of what happened. Thirty-eight Dakota were hanged December 26, 1862, the largest mass-execution in U.S. history.

For rosters of men see Company B, Fifth Minnesota Infantry, Recollections of the Sioux Massacre, 1909, pages 82-83 Company C, Fifth Minnesota Infantry, Recollections of the Sioux Massacre, 1909, pages 83-84 Renville Rangers, Recollections of the Sioux Massacre, 1909, pages 84-85 Post Locals, page 85 Citizens, 120-121


Duane Shultz, Over the Earth I Come, 1992 Oscar G. Wall, Recollections of the Sioux Massacre, 1909

External links[]

pl:Bitwa o Fort Ridgely