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Birch Coulie: The Epic Battle of the Dakota Warby John Christgau
Synopses & Reviews
In the days following the Battle of Birch Coulie, the decisive battle in the deadly Dakota War of 1862, one of President Lincolns private secretaries wrote: “There has hardly been an outbreak so treacherous, so sudden, so bitter, and so bloody, as that which filled the State of Minnesota with sorrow and lamentation.” Even today, at the 150th anniversary of the Dakota War, the battle still raises questions and stirs controversy. In Birch Coulie John Christgau recounts the dramatic events surrounding the battle. American history at its narrative best, his book is also a uniquely balanced and accurate chronicle of this little-understood conflict, one of the most important to roil the American West.
Christgaus account of the war between white settlers and the Dakota Indians in Minnesota examines two communities torn by internal dissent and external threat, whites and Native Americans equally traumatized by the short and violent war. The book also delves into the aftermath, during which thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged without legal representation or the appearance of defense witnesses, the largest mass execution in American history. With its unusually nuanced perspective, Birch Coulie brings a welcome measure of clarity and insight to a critical moment in the troubled history of the American West.
While elated Northerners were celebrating victory at Gettysburg and toasting Abraham Lincoln as the Great Emancipator, Missourian Charles W. Walker was rousing his thirteen slaves in the dark of night. In defiance of a standing Union order prohibiting the transfer of slaves among states, he intended to ship his slaves by train to Kentucky, where they would be sold at auction. What ensued was one of the most gripping—and until now, mostly forgotten—events of the Civil War.
In Incident at the Otterville Station, John Christgau relates the true story of the rescue of Walkers thirteen slaves by soldiers of the Ninth Minnesota Regiment and the soldiers subsequent arrest for mutiny. The controversial incident became national news, with President Lincoln ultimately sending Secretary of War Edward Stanton to investigate. Christgaus compelling narrative of the Otterville Station rescue and its aftermath illustrates the complex process of emancipation during the American Civil War, particularly in border states such as Missouri. The end of slavery was the product of many actors, from Union soldiers to the president and Congress to abolitionists and the enslaved themselves. This detailed account examines the critical role that individuals played in determining the outcome of emancipation and the war.
About the Author
John Christgau, an award-winning writer on issues of restitution and reconciliation, is the author of several books, including Enemies: World War II Alien Internment, available in a Bison Books edition.
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History and Social Science » Military » Civil War » General