Tag Archives: Minnesota

On the Sioux Trail: Battle of Acton

U.S. – Dakota War of 1862, Part XII:

Company B of the Ninth Minnesota, under the command of Captain Richard Strout, left Minneapolis on 26 August 1862. Their mission was to head to Glencoe, Minn to “protect settlers from Dakota attacks”. Of the 75 men in Company B, one third were new recruits, and the rest were “citizen soldiers” out of Minneapolis. They were not hardened veterans.

War had been ignited just nine days before, when five settlers were killed by four young Dakota warriors. Tensions had been brewing for decades, and the killing in Acton Township blew up a powder keg. Captain Strout and Company B headed out into this maelstrom.

While I was out looking for Ness Church with a C-to-C sponsor earlier this summer, we stopped by the marker near where Company B met the Dakotas.

The Company found Glencoe uninhabited, so they returned to Forest City. On 1 September, they spent the night in Acton Township, camping next to the Robinson Farm, where the war began. The Forest City Home Guard, while on patrol, encountered 150 Dakota warriors. Three scouts were sent out to warn Captain Strout of the threat.

The scouts found Company B, and told Strout of the Dakota party. Sentries were placed about the camp, and the men prepared for what seemed like an inevitable fight. At this point, the Company realized that a huge blunder had been made at Fort Snelling. Most of the ammunition they brought was .62 caliber, yet they all had .59 caliber muskets. The men set out with 20 rounds of the proper ammunition each.

Company B, led by the three (now exhausted scouts), made a run for Forest City. Within two miles of their start, the Company met up with a party of Dakotas, and shots were fired. Two soldiers were killed, and many more were wounded. It became apparent almost immediately, that the Dakota had Company B surrounded. Accounts have Dakota numbers at anywhere from 150 to 300. Strout divided his men into four equal groups, and faced them in four directions. Their wagons were placed in the middle. A.H. Rose, a citizen soldier, later stated, “I had never fired a gun before the battle, but they showed me how to load, and I pointed my gun at the Indians, shut my eyes and pulled the trigger.”

Strout ordered his front group to fix bayonets, and charge the Dakota warriors. The rest of the Company followed. Strout knew that they would never make Forest City, so they tried to get to Hutchinson. It was now a running battle.

As the wagons rolled, the men would fire, run, stop, reload, and repeat. Wounded men were placed into the wagons, and supplies were thrown out. The men of Company B were shocked to see the Dakota warriors stop and pick up the discarded supplies. The battle went on for eight miles, over a period of two hours. The Dakota pressed the Company, but made no real attempt to overtake it. Eventually, the Dakota stopped pursuing the Company, and Strout and his men made it to Hutchinson. The Company B losses were 3 dead, and 18-24 wounded. Dakota losses are unknown.

The next day, the Dakotas attacked the town of Hutchinson, but the small stockade provided adequate security for those who sought it. A few settlers who did not seek the safety of the stockade, were killed. The town was plundered and several buildings were burned.

The men of Company B stayed that winter in Hutchinson. Three more died during that time of wounds sustained in the Battle of Acton. The remaining soldiers were mustered into the regular army and sent to fight the Civil War in the fall of 1863.

Hutchinson Stockade Marker

Killed during the Battle of Acton: Alvah Getchell, George Gideon, Edwin Stone.

Died from wounds sustained in battle: Frank Beadle, Abner Bennett, N.E. Weeks.


You cannot pass

Private Bridge


Ness Church Cemetery

Litchfield, Minnesota


On the Sioux Trail: Ness Church

U.S. – Dakota War of 1862; Part XI

Ness Church, Litchfield, Minnesota; in 2020

On August 17, 1862, four young Dakota warriors killed five settlers near Acton, Minnesota. The killings would ignite the war between the Dakotas’ and the United States military, but tensions had been brewing long before that August day in 1862. The bodies of those five settlers would be brought, to what is now Litchfield, and buried at Ness Church.

I visited the church and the surrounding cemetery with one of C-to-C’s sponsors, when I was back in Minnesota this past spring.

Ness Monument to the fallen settlers

In the back corner of the cemetery, close to the rows of corn, stands a monument. Buried underneath, in one grave, are the first five victims of the U.S. -Dakota War: Robinson Jones, Viranus Webster, Howard Baker, Ann (Baker) Jones, and Clara Wilson.

The Ness Monument was erected on 13 September 1878, by the State of Minnesota. It is the third oldest monument in the state.

The original Ness Church, circa 1858

In 1970, the church & cemetery were listed officially, as a Minnesota Historical Site.

The church was founded by Ole Halverson Ness and his wife Margit, who arrived in the area in 1856. Ole Ness was a member of the Acton burial party.

Also buried in the cemetery is Andreas Olson, another victim of the U.S. -Dakota War. Olson was killed on 22 September 1862.

Historic Ness Church

The current church was built by settlers in 1874, a dozen years after the start of the U.S. – Dakota War. The church is said to be haunted by both Sioux Indians and the five settlers, in particular the young girl, Annie. The church historical society denies any haunting, although that has not stopped self-proclaimed ghost hunters from breaking into the church.

I witnessed no paranormal activity when I was there, but I did find the cemetery to be a very solemn place.

Camera for B&W photos: Kodak 66; Film: Kodak 120, Tri-X400


Alaska Bound: Round 2

Film Friday:

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Camper Special

A friend recently sent me this photo.  I came back to Minnesota a year after first driving up to Alaska, because I needed a pickup, and vehicles can be expensive in Alaska, and often beat on.  I forget all of the details, but it’s possible, I simply wanted to drive the AlCan again.

I found a 1966 Chevrolet C20, Camper Special in one of the auto trade magazines that were around back at the time.  It came with bald, bias-ply tires, but a sound 327 engine, and a rather smooth ride, compared to my Bronco.  I didn’t have anything in the trailer that belonged to me, but the canoe riding on the top is mine.  I sent my Dad into a state of mild depression, when he saw what I was about to drive for 4000 miles.

I bought a set of tires, replaced all fluids, hoses and belts, and the truck made it to Alaska without so much as a hiccup.


A Pandemic Roadtrip

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Rolling hills of NE Wyoming, after the thunderstorm

Recently, I found myself in the Lower 48, with a car and no where to park it.  The smart move was to sell the car in Minnesota, but the lure, and frankly, the need for a road trip was too strong to resist.

The rumor was that Canada would allow Alaskans to cross the border to return back home to Alaska.  There were also several reports, that the final judgement was up to the individual border patrol agent at the port of entry.  I decided to roll the dice, pack up the little 300zx, and drive the car back to Alaska.

This would be the twelfth time I have driven the AlCan, or the Alaska Highway, as it is more commonly known.  I knew it would be a different sort of trip, but I didn’t know what to expect in these anxious times, so it was hard to predict how different it would be.

I drove I-90 across South Dakota.  I have not driven the interstate for ages, as I try to avoid them, when I can.  This trip, it seemed like the smart move.  The interstate made it a lot easier to avoid people, plus I wasn’t sure if the small towns in South Dakota,  Wyoming and Montana would care to see a car zip through with Alaska plates.

Day one’s goal was to get to the Black Hills National Forest, just past Rapid City and into Wyoming.  The weather was hot & sticky, and the air conditioner in the car had recently stopped blowing cold air.  An attempt was made to fix that, but with working windows and a T-Top, I wasn’t overly put out by the heat.  The 90 degree weather did force me to take the top off before I made it out of Minnesota.

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Aladdin General Store

I veered off I-90 and took SoDak Hwy 34 near Spearfish.  The hot & humid weather had been building dark storm clouds on my horizon for a while, so I stopped to put the tops back on the roof of the car.  Immediately after, the wind picked up, the sky darkened even more, and the sound of hail hit the recently replaced glass tops.  The cell phone gave me an automated message that I had never seen before: Tornado Warning in your vicinity until 7pm. Then the rain came down in absolute torrents.  I was impressed, but I pressed on.  There was no place to stop anyway.  I followed a truck’s set of taillights as best I could, and continued on.

I eventually drove through the storm, and it was beautiful weather on the west side of the Black Hills.  I stopped briefly in the community of Aladdin, Wyoming: Population 15, Cell Coverage: zero, wonderful country: as far as the eye could see.

Not long after Aladdin was the campground I was looking for in the national forest.  Within minutes, I had started some charcoal, and was setting up camp among the tall pines of the Black Hills.


A Tribute:

In all the photos, there you were, right in the middle of the gathering.  Often surrounded by kids, and almost always wearing a huge smile.  My favorite photo of you though, is an old, black & white one, and it’s just you.  A young high school athlete, looking confident, about to go on a date, standing in front of a first car.  A 1950 Ford.

We went through some tough times, the three of us, with you leading the way by example.  Somehow, even working two jobs and extremely long hours, you were always there.  There were dance recitals and football games; you must have rushed through the entire day, but there you were, off to the side, quietly watching.

When you couldn’t be there, you found someone who could.  I often wondered at that sacrifice.  How difficult was it for you to allow someone to stand in for you?  There were camping trips, fishing trips, outdoor adventures that you knew fueled a flame, yet you had the bravery to allow another to strike the match.  I never asked you about that, and I never told you, that I knew all along, that it was you who provided the tinder.

There were a lot of sporting events, however.  Williams Arena, Mariucci, Memorial Stadium, The Met, the Dome.  We ran the gamut. We sat in the rain, in the cold, in the sun.  We saw the first Hobey winner in action.  We tailgated. We watched as the goal posts came down and were carried across the parking lot, but you wouldn’t let me liberate your seats, even though I brought a tiny socket set for the occasion.  You were the one to give me that set in the first place, which I may have reminded you of at the time.

I followed a different trail, and I know it was difficult for you.  Every year, my eyes seemed to search a little further west, and eventually I found my way to Alaska.  That fact did not thrill you, but you tolerated it, as best as you could.  Every year you came up, and every year I hoped you would see what I saw, feel what I felt.  Then one year, we were sitting at the gate, waiting for you to board the airplane for the flight back to civilization.  That one had been a fun visit; we had gone all over the state, and we had met a lot of different people.  You said, “I get it now.  Alaska suits you.  You belong here.”  That was probably the best gift I have ever received.

Our paths have diverged now.  Advice I will have to obtain from the archives.  Luckily for me, the archives are full.  Pictures may be few, but memories run rampant.  Life is a short game, but you played it extremely well.  You taught a lot of people that kindness was a strength, and wisdom something hard earned, tainted by experience.

I do not have any answers.  Mostly there are only questions right now, and a huge empty void.  Over the years, I have shared a poem with a few people that I originally found by reading Ernest Gann.  The poem is often attributed to Henry Van Dyke, or the Rev. Luther F. Beecher.  Take your pick, but for me, it originated with Gann.

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze,
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch her until she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says: “There! She’s gone!”
Gone where? Gone from my sight – that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side,
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of her destination.
Her diminished size is in me, and not in her.

And just at the moment
when someone at my side says: “There! She’s gone!”
there are other eyes that are watching for her coming;
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:
“There she comes!”

 


Underpass Art

Film Friday:

Camera: Kodak 66; Film: Kodak 120, Ektar 100


Humble beginnings

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The Mississippi River in Northern Minnesota 

 


Truly, One of a Kind

Flashback Film Friday: