Minnesota Massacre of 1862 Leaves 800 Dead, People In Colorado Territory Fearful of Similar Attack

Nearly two years before Sand Creek, the Minnesota Massacre on August 17, 1862, left eight hundred dead. The massacre left the people of Colorado Territory on high alert. 

From our book: 

The Minnesota Massacre of 1862, the Hungate family murders in June of 1864, and the Plum Creek Massacre in August of 1864, were key events that led to Sand Creek.

We Found the Lost Sand Creek Site

The following is letter to the editor from someone named “Dry Bones.” It was printed in the Rocky Mountain News (Weekly), Jan. 8, 1863. 

Letter to the Editor from “Dry Bones” 

Dec. 21, 1862

DEAR NEWS: — In the course of human events there occur at times transactions that cause a thrill of horror to run through our souls and fairly makes our heart’s blood freeze with terror. An event of this kind has occurred not long since and is fresh in the memory of every man, woman and child on the frontier. An event unlooked for, but most fearful, barbarous and fiendish in its cool, deliberate barbarity. I allude to the Indian massacre in Minnesota. The true cause of this terrible onslaught against tender women, old men and children, has never been stated to the public by the Government. There is no doubt but what the true facts are in possession of our rulers and we ought to be informed of them too. I will quote from the late message of our worthy President:

“It is estimated that not less than eight hundred persons were killed by the Indians, and a large amount of property destroyed.” 

Eight hundred persons killed! and for what? Was it an open, honorable fight, or was there the chances of war allowed these poor, unfortunate souls? No—Great God—‘twas done: the deed was enacted by stealth. In the dead of night, while all was still and wrapped in peaceful slumber, these murderous fiends of hell in human shape came creeping down upon the defenseless inhabitants; the only warning received was the horrid war whoop and the tomahawk buried in the brain. 

The senses of bloodshed and fearful acts are beyond the pen of human nature to describe; the suckling babe torn from the mother’s breast, the mother outraged before the husband’s eyes, the __king scalp tortures too sickening to be enacted except by these red devils, took place and will again take place if the weak policy of the Government is carried out.

And pardon is to be extended to all but thirty nine! Thirty-nine to be hung—“Eight hundred” whites miserably butchered. Look at the comparison. Contrast the feelings of so many breaking hearts causes by this outbreak, with the stoical indifference of the “noble red man of the forest” as the yellow covered pamphlet writers delight in calling them, and then you have a fair idea of the good the execution of the thirty nine Indians will do. Out on such policy. Either pardon the whole, or hang the three hundred; no half way policy is just, in such a matter as this.

Look for one moment at the former prosperous and thriving condition of happy Minnesota. We all know how readily she turned out her thousands of brave men for the protection of the general Government, leaving the homes of their wives and children utterly defenseless: and the result we all know. Now that the perpetrators of this outrage are in the hands of the law, let the law be carried out. Hang these thirty-nine, and release the balance, and the next gale from the east will bring us tidings of an outrage more thrilling and bloody than the last. Revenge, will, (in connection with the uncalled for, suicidal leniency of the powers that control) instigate a feeling of still greater hatred and animosity in the heart of the Indian, not only in Minnesota but the whole frontier will be in a state of suspense at our very doors we will have these incarnate fiends thirsting for our lives, our homes, and the lives of the wives and children of those who live far apart from the more thickly settled portion of the Territory will be liable at any moment to be torn from them, and a fate that sickens any one to think of will their doom. 

The prompt attention of the News to this question of most vital importance to the inhabitants of of Colorado, is truly refreshing. What care we for politics or the intrigues of the day so long as we are at any moment liable to the same outbreaks as Minnesota has so lately witnessed. Petitions to Congress from the east have no doubt been presented in overwhelming numbers to allow the red fiends—“the noble red man,” to go “scot free” ‘Twas only a freak of their natural instinct, ebullition of the natural overwhelming of the former happy, but now oppressed race— so say these philanthropists—these kid gloved denizens of the thickly settled and far removed from all such dangers—cities of the east. What do they know of the hardships and privations of those who leave all comforts behind them, and seek a home in the howling wilderness, and by their perseverance overcome the dreary and heretofore considered impenetrable waste, and turn darkness into day? 

We, of the frontier can have no sympathy in their unlooked for, uncalled for, and I must say, impudent and imprudent interference in a matter that they have no business to meddle with. 

‘Tis not for the week imbecile, who so easily sits in his gorgeous parlor, so quietly sipping his wine or smoking the fragrant havanna, to make laws for the hardy sons of the forest or plains. Because forsooth, they make a few paltry dollars in trading whisky to the Indian for his furs, they think an act of the Indian, no matter how brutal—must be overlooked—and even if “eight hundred” whites are butchered, the Indian must not suffer; oh, no! it would injure our trade. Such miscreants are far worse than the red-skins, and alas! in many instances where the truth is fairly known, they the instigators of the plot. 

We trust the President will give no ear to the harangues of these so called philanthropists. Hang the whole three hundred, collect as many of the red devils as possible, and before the whole concourse hang their former associates. 

The moral effect will be shown in the future. The Indian will then know that he has to deal with a firm, unyielding, but just master, and will act accordingly. But to allow the majority to escape, a feeling will enter their minds that the government fears the red man, and that being the case, we will know no peace until the whole race is exterminated. Better, far better, to wipe the Indians from the face of the earth than to have one white man suffer. 

It now behooves every man in Colorado to exert his utmost influence towards sustaining the people of Minnesota in their wishes and rights in this matter of executing the whole number of Indians concerned in the late bloody massacre, it is a question of vital importance to us, and if we now take no notice of the matter, the future will prove the necessity of extreme measures, when dealing with the red skins.

Most Respectfully Yours, 


President Abraham Lincoln ordered for 39 of the Indians to be executed, and they were hanged on Dec. 26, 1862 (The Weekly Commonwealth, January 15, 1863).

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