Dakota Expeditions of Sibley and Sully

views updated


DAKOTA EXPEDITIONS OF SIBLEY AND SULLY (1863–1865). In 1863, during the American Civil War, Major General John Pope ordered Union general Henry Hastings Sibley to march from Camp Pope near Fort Ridgely, Minnesota, against the Dakota (Sioux) Indians, who had taken part in hostilities of 1862 in Minnesota. He was to drive them west toward the Missouri River, and General Alfred Sully was ordered to proceed up the Missouri and intercept the Dakotas before they could cross to the western side of the river. Sibley set out on 16 June and established his field base at Camp Atcheson, North Dakota. He defeated the Dakotas in three battles: at Big Mound, Kidder County, on 24 July; at Dead Buffalo Lake on 26 July; and at Stony Lake on 28 July. Retreating Dakota fighters held back Sibley's army until their families crossed to safety on the western side of the Missouri.

Sibley established his camp at the mouth of Apple Creek, near present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. On 1 August he began his return march by way of Camp Atcheson to Fort Abercrombie, which he reached on 23 August. Meanwhile, Sully established headquarters at Sioux City, Iowa, and set up a base camp at Fort Pierre, South Dakota. On 13 August he left the fort for a quick march northward. On 3 September he fought a battle near White Stone Hill, North Dakota; the Dakota camp was dispersed and their supplies destroyed. Sully took prisoners and returned to his winter quarters at Sioux City.

Sully conducted the next two summer campaigns. In the summer of 1864 his army proceeded up the Missouri River from Sioux City, accompanied by two steamboats that carried his supplies to the rendezvous point at the site of the new army post at Fort Rice, North Dakota. Leaving a part of his force to construct the fort, he marched northwest to the Dakota camp located in the Killdeer Mountains. There a battle was fought on 28 July, and the Dakotas were defeated and scattered. The following summer, Sully's force moved up the Missouri River to Fort Rice and marched north of Devils Lake. On 2 August he set out for the Mouse (Souris) River and from there marched southwest to Fort Berthold. There he met the famous Jesuit missionary Father Pierre Jean De Smet. Sully's force returned to Fort Rice on 8 September and went into winter quarters at Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


Jones, Robert Huhn. The Civil War in the Northwest: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960.

O. G.Libby/a. r.

See alsoIndian Policy, U.S., 1830–1900 ; Indians in the Civil War ; Sioux ; Sioux Uprising in Minnesota .