Execution of Minnesota Indians


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, January 17, 1863

You are viewing an original Civil War Harper's Weekly newspaper. We have posted our entire collection of newspapers to this WEB site for your research and study. These old newspapers have incredible illustrations of the key events of the day.

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Negroes Fighting

Fighting Negroes

1863 Emancipation Proclamation

1863 Emancipation Proclamation

General Butler Letter

General Butler's Letter to New Orleans

Indian Murderers

Execution of Indian Murderers

Minnesota Indian Execution

Minnesota Indian Execution

General John McNeil

General John McNeil

Mississippi Map

Map of Mississippi

General Blunt

General Blunt

Rebel Trenches

Winslow Homer's Shell in Rebel Trenches

Butler Departs New Orleans

General Butler Departs New Orleans

Border States

War in the Border States

General Blunt Biography

General Blunt Biography

Emancipated Negro

Emancipated Negro



JANUARY 17, 1863.]



young man. But she could not look back so long. Was Mr. Kirke poor?

Even Captain Wragge's penetration was puzzled by that question. He gave the true answer at hazard. "No," he said, "not poor."

Her next inquiry showed what she had been thinking of. If Mr. Kirke was not poor, why did he come to live in that house?

"She has caught me!" thought the captain. "There is only one way out of it; I must administer another dose of truth. Mr. Kirke discovered you here by chance," he proceeded aloud, "very ill, and not nicely attended to. Somebody was wanted to take care of you while you were not able to take care of yourself. Why not Mr. Kirke? He was the son of your father's old friend, which is the next thing to being your old friend. Who had a better claim to send for the right doctor and get the right nurse when I was not here to cure you with my wonderful Pill? Gently! gently! you mustn't take hold of my superfine black coat sleeve in that unceremonious manner."

He put her hand back on the bed; but she was not to be checked in that way. She persisted in asking another question. How came Mr. Kirke to know her? She had never seen him; she had never heard of him in her life.

"Very likely," said the captain. "But your never having seen him is no reason why he should not have seen you."

"When did he see me?"

Captain Wragge corked up his doses of truth on the spot without a moment's hesitation.

"Some time ago, my dear. I can't exactly say when."

"Only once?"

Captain Wragge suddenly saw his way to the administration of another dose. "Yes," he said. "Only once."

She reflected a little. The next question involved the simultaneous expression of two ideas —and the next question cost her an effort.

"He only saw me once," she said; "and he only saw me some time ago. How came he to remember me when he found me here?"

Aha!" said the captain. "Now you have hit the right nail on the head at last. You can't possibly be more surprised at his remembering you than I am. A word of advice, my dear. When you are well enough to get up and see Mr. Kirke, try how that sharp question of yours sounds in his ears—and insist on his answering it himself." Slipping out of the dilemma in that characteristically adroit manner, Captain Wragge got briskly on his legs again and took up his hat.

"Wait!" she pleaded. "I want to ask you—"

"Not another word," said the captain. "I have given you quite enough to think of for one day. My time is up, and my gig is waiting for me. I am off to scour the country as usual. I am off to cultivate the field of public indigestion with the triple plowshare of aloes, scammony, and gamboge." He stopped, and turned round at the door. "By-the-by, a message from my unfortunate wife. If you will allow her to come and see you again, Mrs. Wragge solemnly promises not to lose her shoe next time. I don't believe her. What do you say? May she come?"

"Yes; whenever she likes," said Magdalen. "If I ever get well again may poor Mrs. Wragge come and stay with me?"

"Certainly, my dear. If you have no objection I will provide her beforehand with a few thousand impressions in red, blue, and yellow of her own portrait ('You might have blown this patient away with a feather before she took the Pill. Look at her now!'). She is sure to drop herself about perpetually wherever she goes, and the most gratifying results, in an advertising point of view, must inevitably follow. Don't think me mercenary. I merely understand the age I live in." He stopped on his way out, for the second time, and turned round once more at the door. "You have been a remarkably good girl," he said, "and you deserve to be rewarded for it. I'll give you a last piece of information before I go. Have you heard any body inquiring after you, for the last day or two, outside your door? Ah, I see you have. A word in your ear, my dear. That's Mr. Kirke." He tripped away from the bedside as briskly as ever. Magdalen heard him advertising himself to the nurse before he closed the door. "If you are ever asked about it," he said, in a confidential whisper, "the name is Wragge; and the Pill is to be had in neat boxes, price thirteen - pence - halfpenny, government stamp included. Take a few copies of the portrait of a female patient whom you might have blown away with a feather before she took the Pill, and whom you are simply requested to contemplate now. Many thanks. Good-morning."

The door closed and Magdalen was alone again. She felt no sense of solitude, Captain Wragge had left her with something new to think of. Hour after hour her mind dwelt wonderingly on Mr. Kirke until the evening came and she heard his voice again through the half opened door.

"I am very grateful," she said to him, before the nurse could answer his inquiries—"very, very grateful for all your kindness to me."

"Try to get well," he replied, kindly. "You will more than reward me if you try to get well."

The next morning Mr. Merrick found her impatient to leave her bed and be moved to the sofa in the front room. The doctor said he supposed she wanted a change. "Yes," she replied, "I want to see Mr. Kirke." The doctor consented to move her on the next day, but he positively forbade the additional excitement of seeing any body until the day after. She attempted a remonstrance—Mr. Merrick was impenetrable. She tried when he was gone to win the nurse by persuasion—the nurse was impenetrable too.

On the next day they wrapped her in shawls

and carried her in to the sofa and made her a little bed on it. On the table near at hand were some flowers and a number of an illustrated newspaper. She immediately asked who had put them there. The nurse (failing to notice a warning look from the doctor) said Mr. Kirke had thought that she might like the flowers, and that the pictures in the paper might amuse her. After that reply her anxiety to see Mr. Kirke became too ungovernable to be trifled with. The doctor left the room at once to fetch him.

She looked eagerly at the opening door. Her first glance at him as he came in raised a doubt in her mind whether she now saw that tall figure and that open sun-burnt face for the first time. But she was too weak and too agitated to follow her recollections as far back as Aldborough. She resigned the attempt and only looked at him. He stopped at the foot of the sofa and said a few cheering words. She beckoned to him to come nearer, and offered him her wasted hand. He tenderly took it in his and sat down by her. They were both silent. His face told her of the sorrow and the sympathy which his silence would fain have concealed. She still held his hand—consciously now—as persistently as she had held it on the day when he found her. Her eyes closed after a vain effort to speak to him, and the tears rolled slowly over her wan white cheeks.

The doctor signed to Kirke to wait, and give her time. She recovered a little and looked at him: "How kind you have been to me!" she murmured. "And how little I have deserved it!"

"Hush! hush!" he said. "You don't know what a happiness it was to me to help you."

The sound of his voice seemed to strengthen her, and to give her courage. She lay looking at him with an eager interest, with a gratitude which artlessly ignored all the conventional restraints that interpose between a woman and a man. "Where did you see me," she said, suddenly, "before you found me here?"

Kirke hesitated. Mr. Merrick came to his assistance.

"I forbid you to say a word about the past to Mr. Kirke," interposed the doctor; "and I forbid Mr. Kirke to say a word about it to you. You are beginning a new life to-day; and the only recollections I sanction are recollections five minutes old."

She looked at the doctor and smiled. "I must ask him one question," she said, and turned back again to Kirke. "Is it true that you had only seen me once before you came to this house?"

"Quite true!" He made the reply with a sudden change of color, which she instantly detected. Her brightening eyes looked at him more earnestly than ever, as she put her next question:

"How came you to remember me, after only seeing me once?"

His hand unconsciously closed on hers, and pressed it for the first time. He attempted to answer, and hesitated at the first word. "I have a good memory," he said at last, and suddenly looked away from her, with a confusion so strangely unlike his customary self-possession of manner that the doctor and the nurse both noticed it.

Every nerve in her body felt that momentary pressure of his hand with the exquisite susceptibility which accompanies the first faltering advance on the way to health. She looked at his changing color, she listened to his hesitating words, with every sensitive perception of her sex and age quickened to seize intuitively on the truth. In the moment when he looked away from her she gently took her hand from him and turned her head aside on the pillow. "Can it be?" she thought, with a flutter of delicious fear at her heart, with a glow of delicious confusion burning on her cheeks. "Can it be?"

The doctor made another sign to Kirke. He understood it, and rose immediately. The momentary discomposure in his face and manner had both disappeared. He was satisfied in his own mind that he had successfully kept his secret, and in the relief of feeling that conviction he had become himself again.

"Good-by, till to-morrow," he said, as he left the room.

"Good-by," she answered, softly, without looking at him.

Mr. Merrick took the chair which Kirke had resigned and laid his hand on her pulse. "Just what I feared," remarked the doctor; "too quick by half."

She petulantly snatched away her wrist. "Don't!" she said, shrinking from him. "Pray don't touch me!"

Mr. Merrick good-humoredly gave up his place to the nurse. "I'll return in half an hour," he whispered, " and carry her back to bed. Don't let her talk. Show her the pictures in the newspaper, and keep her quiet in that way."

When the doctor returned the nurse reported that the newspaper had not been wanted. The patient's conduct had been exemplary. She had not been at all restless, and she had never spoken a word.

The days passed; and the time grew longer and longer which the doctor allowed her to spend in the front room. She was soon able to dispense with the bed on the sofa—she could be dressed, and could sit up, supported by pillows, in an arm-chair. Her hours of emancipation from the bedroom represented the great daily event of her life. They were the hours she passed in Kirke's society.

She had a double interest in him now—her interest in the man whose protecting care had saved her reason and her life; her interest in the man whose heart's dearest and deepest secret she had surprised. Little by little they grew as easy and familiar with each other as old friends; little by little she presumed on all her

privileges, and wound her way unsuspected into the most intimate knowledge of his nature.

Her questions were endless. Every thing that he could tell her of himself and his life she drew from him, delicately and insensibly; he, the least self-conscious of mankind, became an egotist in her dextrous hands. She found out his pride in his ship, and practiced on it without remorse. She drew him into talking of the fine qualities of the vessel, of the great things the vessel had done in emergencies, as he had never in his life talked yet to any living creature on shore. She found him out in private sea-faring anxieties and unutterable sea-faring exultations, which he had kept a secret from his own mate. She watched his kindling face with a delicious sense of triumph in adding fuel to the fire; she trapped him into forgetting all considerations of time and place, and striking as hearty a stroke on the rickety little lodging-house table, in the fervor of his talk, as if his hand had descended on the solid bulwark of his ship. His confusion at the discovery of his own forgetfulness secretly delighted her: she could have cried with pleasure when he penitently wondered what he could possibly have been thinking of.

At other times she drew him from dwelling on the pleasures of his life, and led him into talking of its perils—the perils of that jealous mistress the sea, which had absorbed so much of his existence, which had kept him so strangely innocent and ignorant of the world on shore. Twice he had been shipwrecked. Times innumerable he and all with him had been threatened with death, and had escaped their doom by the narrowness of a hair's-breadth. He was always unwilling, at the outset, to speak of this dark and dreadful side of his life: it was only by adroitly tempting him, by laying little snares for him in his talk, that she lured him into telling her of the terrors of the great deep. She sat listening to him with a breathless interest, looking at him with a breathless wonder, as those fearful stories—made doubly vivid by the simple language in which he told them—fell, one by one, from his lips. His noble unconsciousness of his own heroism—the artless modesty with which he described his own acts of dauntless endurance and devoted courage, without an idea that they were any thing more than plain acts of duty to which he was bound by the vocation that he followed—raised him to a place in her estimation so hopelessly high above her that she became uneasy and impatient until she had pulled down the idol again which she herself had set up. It was on these occasions that she most rigidly exacted from him all those little familiar attentions so precious to women in their intercourse with men. "This hand"—she thought, with an exquisite delight in secretly following the idea while he was close to her—"this hand that has rescued the drowning from death is shifting my pillows so tenderly that I hardly know when they are moved. This hand that has seized men mad with mutiny, and driven them back to their duty by main force, is mixing my lemonade and peeling my fruit more delicately and more neatly than I could do it for myself. Oh, if I could be a man, how I should like to be such a man as this!"

She never allowed her thoughts, while she was in his presence, to lead her beyond that point. It was only when the night had separated them that she ventured to let her mind dwell on the self-sacrificing devotion which had so mercifully rescued her. Kirke little knew how she thought of him, in the secrecy of her own chamber, during the quiet hours that elapsed before she sunk to sleep. No suspicion crossed his mind of the influence which he was exerting over her—of the new spirit which he was breathing into that new life, so sensitively open to impression in the first freshness of its recovered sense! "She has nobody else to amuse her, poor thing!" he used to think, sadly, sitting alone in his small second-floor room. "If a rough fellow like me can beguile the weary hours, till her friends come here, she is heartily welcome to all that I can tell her."

He was out of spirits and restless now whenever he was by himself. Little by little, he fell into a habit of taking long lonely walks at night, when Magdalen thought he was sleeping up stairs. Once he went away abruptly in the daytime—on business, as he said. Something had passed between Magdalen and himself the evening before, which had led her into telling him her age. "Twenty, last birthday," he thought. "Take twenty from forty-one! An easy sum in subtraction—as easy a sum as my little nephew could wish for." He walked to the Docks, and looked bitterly at the shipping. "I mustn't forget how a ship is made," he said. "It won't be long before I am back at the old work again." On leaving the Docks he paid a visit to a brother-sailor, a married man. In the course of conversation, he asked how much older his friend might be than his friend's wife. There was six years' difference between them. "I suppose that's difference enough?" said Kirke. "Yes," said his friend. "Quite enough. Are you looking out for a wife, at last? Try a seasoned woman of thirty-five; that's your mark, Kirke, as near as I can calculate."

The time passed smoothly and quickly—the present time, in which she was recovering so happily—the present time, which he was beginning to distrust already.

Early one morning Mr. Merrick surprised Kirke by a visit in his little room on the second floor.

"I came to the conclusion yesterday," said the doctor, entering abruptly on his business, "that our patient was strong enough to justify us, at last, in running all risks, and communicating with her friends; and I have accordingly followed the clew which that queer fellow, Captain Wragge, put into our hands. You remember he advised us to apply to Mr. Pendril, the

lawyer? I saw Mr. Pendril two days ago, and was referred by him—not over-willingly, as I thought—to a lady, named Miss Garth. I heard enough from her to satisfy me that we have exercised a wise caution in acting as we have done. It is a very, very sad story—and I am bound to say, that I, for one, make great allowances for the poor girl down stairs. Her only relation in the world is her elder sister. I have suggested that the sister shall write to her in the first instance—and then, if the letter does her no harm, follow it personally in a day or two. I have not given the address, by wary of preventing any visits from being paid here without my permission.. All I have done is to undertake to forward the letter; and I shall probably find it at my house when I get back. Can you stop at home until I send my man with it? There is not the least hope of my being able to bring it myself. All you need do is to watch for an opportunity when she is not in the front room, and to put the letter where she can see it when she comes in. The handwriting on the address will break the news before she opens the letter. Say nothing to her about it—take care that the landlady is within call—and leave her to herself. I know I can trust you to follow my directions; and that is why I ask you to do us this service. You look out of spirits this morning. Natural enough. You're used to plenty of fresh air, captain, and you're beginning to pine in this close place."

"May I ask a question, doctor? Is she pining in this close place, too? When her sister comes, will her sister take her away?"

"Decidedly—if my advice is followed. She will be well enough to be proved in a week or less. Good-day.—You are certainly out of spirits, and your hand feels feverish. Pining for the blue water, captain—pining for the blue water!" With that expression of opinion the doctor cheerfully went out.

In an hour the letter arrived. Kirke took it from the landlady reluctantly, and almost roughly, without looking at it. Having ascertained that Magdalen was still engaged at her toilet, and having explained to the landlady the necessity of remaining within call, he went down stairs immediately and put the letter on the table in the front room.

Magdalen heard the sound of the familiar step on the floor. "I shall soon be ready," she called to him through the door.

He made no reply—he took his hat and went out. After a momentary hesitation he turned his face eastward and called on the ship-owners who employed him, at their office in Cornhill.


ON page 37 we give an illustration of THE EXECUTION OF THIRTY-EIGHT INDIAN MURDERERS, which took place at Mankato, Minnesota, on 26th ult. We are indebted to Mr. Herman, of St. Peter, for the sketch we have reproduced. The St. Paul Press says:

The gallows stood upon the high street close in front of the levee. It is estimated that not less than four thousand people, exclusive of the military, were in attendance. The gallows was erected in the form of a diamond, twenty-four feet on each angle, sufficient to execute ten on each side. A square was formed around the gallows by the military, and the citizens occupied the sand bar on the river. The ceremony was brief, and the whole number of savages were sent at the same moment before the Great Spirit to answer for their inhuman barbarities.

Upon leaving the stone building the condemned set up the death-dance and kept it up on the platform.

While the soldiers were at work upon the gallows a stranger came up to one of them who was planking the platform, and asked the privilege of "driving one nail." He wanted to drive it in a place where it would be of service. The soldier handed him his hammer and a nail, and told him where to drive. The man drove the nail home into a plank of the platform, thanked the soldier, said he was satisfied, and left.

William J. Duly, who had half his family massacred at Lake Shack, was assigned by Colonel Miller the duty of cutting the rope. Another man offered five dollars for the privilege.

At precisely 10 o'clock the condemned were marshaled in a procession, and headed by Captain Medfield, marched out into the street, and directly across through files of soldiers to the scaffold, which had been erected in front, and were delivered to the Officer of the Day, Captain Burt. They went eagerly and cheerfully, even crowding and jostling each other to be ahead, just like a lot of hungry boarders rushing to dinner in a hotel. The soldiers who were on guard in their quarters stacked arms and followed them, and they in turn were followed by the clergy, reporters, etc.

As they commenced the ascent of the scaffold, the death-song was again started, and when they had all gone up, the noise they made was truly hideous. It seemed as if pandemonium had broken loose. It had a wonderful effect in keeping up their courage. One young fellow who had been given a cigar by one of the reporters, just before marching from their quarters, was smoking it on the stand, puffing away very coolly during the intervals of the hideous "Hi-yi-yi," "Hi-yi-yi," and even after the cap was drawn over his face, he managed to get it over his mouth and smoke. Another was smoking his pipe. The noose having been promptly adjusted over the necks of each, by Captain Libby, all was ready for the fatal signal.

The scene at this juncture was one of awful interest. A painful and breathless suspense held the vast crowd which had assembled from all quarters to witness the execution.

Three slow, measured, and distinct beats on the drum by Major Brown, who had bean announced as signal officer, and the rope was cut by Mr. Duly, the scaffold fell, and thirty-seven lifeless bodies were left dangling between heaven and earth. One of the ropes was broken, and the body of Rattling Runner fell to the ground. The neck had probably been broken, as but little signs of life were observed, but he was immediately hung up again. While the signal-beat was being given numbers were seen to clasp the hands of their neighbors, which in several instances continued to be clasped till the bodies were cut down.

As the platform fell there was one, not loud, but prolonged cheer from the soldiery and citizens who were spectators, and then all were quiet and earnest witnesses of the scene. For so many there was but little suffering; the necks of all, or nearly all, were evidently dislocated by the fall, and the after-struggle was slight. The scaffold fell at a quarter past ten o'clock, and in twenty minutes the bodies had all been examined by Sugeons Le Boutillier, Sheardown, Finch, Clark, and others, and life pronounced extinct.

The bodies were then cut down, placed in four army wagons, and attended by Company K. as a burial party, and under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Marshall, were taken to the grave prepared for them, among the willows on the sand-bar, nearly in front of the town.




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