Images of Indian fighting were prevalent in American print culture during the Civil War era. Edward Sylvester Ellis’s dime novel, Nathan Todd, casts scouts and settlers as brave and righteous fighters in mortal combat with a bloodthirsty and primitive foe.
In “The Indian Massacres and War of 1862,” the Native Americans themselves appear in the role of conquered victims, under guard, and brought to justice. The prisoners’ bodies, slumped in defeat, evoke the stereotype of the Indians as a “vanishing race.”
“Indian Outrages in the Northwest” presents a scene of savage murder. Purportedly based on a “sketch by a correspondent” but probably embellished by a Leslie’s staff artist, the grisly scene presents itself as unvarnished truth.
The popular press tended to assume some involvement by the Confederacy in the Dakota War, as is evident in this Harper’s cartoon depicting Indians massacring women and children. Lying at their feet is a liquor jug labeled “Agent CSA”—implying that the Confederate States of America helped to instigate the violence. The cartoon takes the savage Indian stereotype to an extreme, depicting the Natives as merciless killers dispatching their unarmed and helpless victims.