After the Battle of Wood Lake in September 1862, the US Army held some 393 Dakota Indians at Fort Snelling on charges of rape and murder. The state government and military authorities put the men on trial, but each hearing lasted less than ten minutes, and most of the accused were not provided with counsel or interpreters. The Harper’s Weekly image here shows a wounded settler’s boy identifying his Indian attackers.
In the end, 303 of the accused were sentenced to death for their roles in the war. The final decision on their fate fell to President Lincoln, who signed an order of execution condemning 38 men to hang. This was the largest mass execution in US history.
No photographs were allowed at the December 26, 1862, hanging. The January 1863 issue of Frank Leslie’s brought the execution into readers’ homes. Dime novels that luridly depicted the “Minnesota Massacre” also circulated widely during the Civil War.