(The Simmons family saga)
Chapter 8: The uprising.
"We have waited a long time. The money is ours, but we cannot get it. We have no food, but here are these stores, filled with food. We ask that you, the agent, make some arrangement by which we can get food from the stores, or else we may make our way to keep ourselves from starving. When men are hungry they help themselves" -Taoyateduta,(Little Crow) 1862-
The Sioux Indian revolt and massacre commenced on August 18th. Authentic information reached St. Paul on the 19th, the same evening ex-Gov. Henry H. Sibley was appointed by the governor of Minnesota to conduct a military force against the hostile Sioux, and he started the next day with four companies of the Sixth Regiment for St. Peter. In compliance with the request of Gov. Ramsey, Gen. Halleck, on August 22d, instructed Gen. Schofield to send the Third Regiment to Minnesota. The War Department announced on August 27th that the enlisted men of the regiment, as paroled prisoners, were fully exchanged. A high value, even in their disorganized condition, was placed upon their service in the Indian campaign, and their arrival was anticipated with much interest. Rapidly marching until eleven at night, they made forty miles.
Near Acton, Minnesota close to the Lower Sioux reservation along the Minnesota River was the farm of the settler Mr. Robinson Jones. On the hot humid morning of August 17th, four young braves all belonging to Shakopee’s band, 18-year-old Brown Wing, 20-year-old Breaking Up, 20-year-old Killing Ghost, and 18-year-old Runs Against Something When Crawling were hunting in a wooded area near the Jones homestead. They wandered up to a split rail fence that separated the woods from the farm. Brown Wing spotted a hen’s nest with some eggs in it. He reached over the fence rail to take them and exclaimed to the others.
“I’m so hungry, I’m going to eat these.” Breaking Up reached out to stop him. “Don’t take them. They belong to a white man and we may get into trouble.” Brown Wing held fast to the eggs anyway and lashed out at Breaking Up. Angrily he dashed the eggs to the ground and yelled out. “You are a coward! You are afraid of the white man! You are afraid to take even an egg from him, though you are half-starved. Yes, you are a coward, and I will tell everybody so.” Breaking Up yelled back at him. “I am not a coward. I am not afraid of the white man, and to show you that I am not I will go to the house and shoot him. Are you brave enough to go with me?” Brown Wing accepted his challenge. “Yes, I will go with you, and we will see who is the braver of us two.” Not to be left out, Killing Ghost turned to Runs Against Something When Crawling and said, “We will go with you, and we will be brave, too.” “Yes, we will all go,” replied Runs When Crawling Against Something.
The four braves, without any permission from their chief, then moved out towards the house of Robinson Jones.
Robinson Jones, a family man, and settler in his early 30’s was resting in his cabin. Without any concern, he sensed something was amiss and headed for the cabin door to have a look outside. He opened the door and looked out across his property. Headed toward him were the four braves with rifles at the ready. Becoming alarmed at the sight and having heard rumors of unrest among the Dakota, Robinson reached for his rifle, which he kept loaded next to the door and made a mad dash to the house next door. This was the home of his brother-in-law, Howard Baker. He was greeted by a shocked Howard Baker, Baker’s young wife and the wife of another neighbor named Webster. Jones’s wife and his 14-year-old daughter were also at the house. As Jones relayed what he had just seen outside his cabin all the occupants of the Webster home rushed to the windows to see for themselves and were all horrified to see that the braves were now headed for the Webster house. A panicked Jones reached for his wife to comfort her. The startled neighbors could hardly believe what they were seeing. Ester, Jones’s daughter, ran to her mother’s side.
“They’ve got guns, mama! What could they possibly want? Mama! I’m scared.” Jones looked to his wife and daughter. “I don’t know what they want, but they sure don’t look happy.” Howard was now panicked but tried to remain calm. “OK, everyone take cover. Webster, take my shotgun.”
Howard lifted a rifle from its perch above the door then handed the shotgun to Webster. The men prepared for the worst as the women cowered in a corner of the cabin. Webster handed a pistol to Mrs. Jones and the men all took positions of defense at the door. Within moments the four braves had reached the entrance to the Baker house. In shockingly quick time they breached the threshold of the door without incident and immediately fired on the settlers. Before any of the defenders could get off a shot, the three men were killed. Mrs. Jones rushed to cover her child and was shot in the back. Ester was then pulled out from under her dying mother and raped by two of the braves. The other two rummaged through the cupboards and took whatever food stock they could find and stuffed it into a grain sack. One of the braves slit the throat of Ester and with a loud whoop, they departed the house. The four Indians rushed to the barn and stable to find a team of horses and a wagon. They hitched up the team and rushed off in the wagon. They cut across the open field and entered a wagon trail road. Runs When Crawling Against Something wiped the blood from the knife he used to kill young Ester, then turned to Killing Ghost.
“Where is Shakopee’s camp?” Killing Ghost who had taken command of the horse’s answered. “He’s about 6 miles above the Redwood Agency.” “He’ll be proud of how brave we are,” said Brown Wing. “Is he with Little Crow?” asked Runs When Crawling Against Something to nobody in particular. Killing Ghost answered him. “I’m not sure, but I don’t think Little Crow will find us so brave.” Breaking Up added to that comment. “Not after what you two did to that little girl.” Brown Wing tried to put on a brave face as he was now evidently not so proud of his actions in the death of Ester. “You know how angry whites get when it comes to their children.” Runs When Crawling Against Something scoffed and put an end to this early chatter. “That’s because they are weak and so are their children- Always crying-for what? They already have everything!”
The carriage headed down the wagon wheel road making haste for Little Shakopee’s camp. Though the drive was less than ten miles, they had to ford many streams and rough terrain full of fallen trees and tangles of brush. They did not get to the camp until late evening. Before going to Little Crow’s cabin, the four braves stopped to meet with Little Shakopee, thinking that maybe he would understand their violent outburst of the day against these innocent settlers and smooth the way for the meeting with Little Crow, who was not in this camp but had gone back to his cabin in Redwood Falls. Shakopee and the four braves exited the teepee and walked across the campground, passing the native dancers and drummers. It was a hot humid night full of mosquitoes, which were common in this part of the lower Sioux agency. The swamps, wetlands, and Minnesota river itself were the big contributors to these conditions, but the smoke from the bonfire held back the infestation of flying insects, which made their walk to the stolen wagon more pleasant. The braves mounted the stolen wagon and headed out. Little Shakopee took the reins and snapped the horses to a gallop. The wagon pulled out onto the agency road. Their drive to Little Crow’s cabin took them a little over an hour.
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