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38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End

A riveting account of the little-known Dakota War of 1862,
which culminated in the largest government-sanctioned
execution in United States history.

363pp. Hardback. Pantheon Books. 

In August 1862, after decades of broken treaties, ever-increasing hardship, and relentless encroachment on their lands, Dakota Indian warriors began a series of devastating attacks on white settlers and soldiers on the Minnesota frontier. After six weeks of intense conflict that left hundreds dead, federal forces quashed the uprising and convened a military commission that found more than 300 Indians guilty of capital crimes. President Lincoln, embroiled in the darkest period of the Civil War, personally intervened to spare the lives of 265 of the condemned men, but still the toll on the Dakota nation was staggering: a way of life destroyed, a tribe forcibly relocated to barren and unfamiliar territory, and 38 Dakota warriors hanged the morning after Christmas.

38 Nooses places these events firmly within the larger context of the raging Civil War, the history of the Dakota people, subsequent U.S.-Indian wars, and the unending influx of white settlers into Indian territory. The conflict is recounted through the stories of a remarkably rich cast of characters, including Little Crow, the Dakota leader who foresaw how ruinous the conflict would be for the tribe but determined nonetheless to die with his warriors; Sarah Wakefield, vilified as an “Indian lover” when she defended the Dakotas who had held her captive for six weeks; and Minnesota bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple, a tireless advocate for the Dakotas’ cause. Written with uncommon immediacy and insight, 38 Nooses is a revelation of a hidden but seminal moment in our history.

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Also available in eBook formats.