Sep 26, 2019 - Sale 2517

Sale 2517 - Lot 144

Price Realized: $ 7,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,500 - $ 2,500
" THE INDIANS . . . CAME POURING IN FROM ALL QUARTERS" (MINNESOTA.) Brookins, George W. Letters of a soldier in the 3rd Minnesota Infantry on the Dakota War of 1862. 10 Autograph Letters Signed to brother Harvey S. Brookins; various sizes, condition generally strong, most with original envelopes with stamps excised. Vp, September 1862 to January 1863

Additional Details

George W. Brookins (1827-1885) and his brother Harvey (1834-1907) were Vermont natives who went west as farmers to Monticello in Wright County, Minnesota. In August 1862, Minnesota's settlers fell into open conflict with the Dakota Sioux. Despite the growing demand for troops on the Civil War front, several regiments of Minnesota troops were mobilized to go on the offensive against the Dakota under Colonel Henry Hastings Sibley. George Brookins served as a private in the 3rd Minnesota Infantry.
George's first letter in this collection, dated 30 September 1862, describes the biggest battle of this conflict, the Battle of Wood Lake. "Col. Sibley reported that he saw a good many Indians . . . through his glass. We camped that night at a little lake called Wood Lake about 3 miles from Yellow Medicine. The next morning . . . after the teams had crossed the creek & gone about 80 rods further to the top of a rise of ground they were suddenly fired upon by 8 or 10 Indians who rose up from the grass. . . . Major Welch did not wait for any orders, but told us to fall in if we wanted a fight. . . . We saw any amount of Indians on every little knoll. They seemed to be on almost every side of us. . . . They undertook to turn our left flank & get between us and the camp." Major Fowle "rode up in front of the men & told them that Col. Sibley ordered them back to camp & told them to get back to camp the best way they could. He seemed much frightened & turned & rode back to camp as fast as he could. . . . Soon everything was in confusion & every man on his own hook. As soon as the Indians saw the retreat, they came pouring in from all quarters, firing into our crowd as fast as they could. We kept retreating, loading & turning & firing as fast as we could. . . . On the top of the hill we made a stand while the Indians took possession of the ravine. . . . We gathered and charged on them with a terrible yell. The way they got out of that tall grass was a caution. We killed 8 of them in one little ravine." Brookins added that "the Indians while they had possession of the ravine cut the body of a 2nd Regt man in a manner most horrible to behold, scalping him &c." Brookins also comments on the controversial trials of captured Dakotas, which began shortly after the battle: "I hope the devils will be hung here at once."
The remaining letters are not nearly so dramatic, being mostly written in camp in Minnesota, and then on the march southward to join in the Civil War. One undated letter describes a brutally cold night in Memphis, when 7 men were sent out on a boat to catch smugglers. "The next day, they not returning, a party was sent out to hunt for them. The Lieut. and 4 of the men were found on an island frozen to death. The other two men had got into the boat & drifted ashore where they were found nearly perished."