On the Sioux Trail: Battle of Birch Coulee

U.S. – Dakota War of 1862, Part V

Birch Coulee
“The Battle of Birch Coulee”, by Dorothea Paul, circa 1975

Colonel Henry Sibley sent out a burial party of 170 men from Fort Ridgely on 31 August 1862 in search of dead settlers. Captain Hiram Grant led the party, which buried 54 bodies by the end of the day of 1 September. At that time, Chief Little Crow was leading 110 warriors from New Ulm, and Gray Bird was coming down the south side of the Minnesota River with 350 warriors. The burial party was unaware of the Dakota warriors, but the Dakota were well aware of the soldiers.

Birch Coulee today
The Birch Coulee Battle site today: Prairie

During the night, Gray Bird’s force crossed the Minnesota River and surrounded the soldiers’ camp. On the morning of 2 September, the Dakota attacked, wounding over 30 soldiers and killing almost all of the horses within minutes. Colonel Sibley could hear sounds of the battle from Fort Ridgely, which is 16 miles away. He sent a relief party of over 240 men and an artillery brigade immediately. The shelling from the artillery ended the attack, although the siege had lasted 31 hours.

U.S. forces saw their worst defeat of the US-Dakota War at Birch Coulee, 22 men were killed and 47 severely wounded. Over 90 horses were also dead.

About icefogger

Just a basic, down to Earth, laid back type of guy here, who loves the outdoors, the indoors, jazz on the turntable, a fire in the woodstove, the northern lights blazing across the sky, and the company of good friends. View all posts by icefogger

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