The morning of the 4th, of September 1862, was celebrated in Forest City by the early arrival of about 200 Indians. They were evidently unaware of the existence of our stockade and appearances indictated that they intended to take the people by surprise.
Coming into town at 3 A. M., some twenty or more mounted Indians advanced to about the center of the town-site and discharged a volley in the air evidently intending to rouse the sleeping settlers, and during the panic, have things their own way. In this they were disappointed.
With what we knew of the Indians in the county, an attack had for some two days, been deemed a moral certainty and we were as well prepared for them as we could have been Guided solely by the light of the “volley in the air” some twenty of our men fired over the pickets of the stockade and five Indians “bit the dust” and were subsequently loaded into a wagon at Hoyt’s house.
A picket guard surrounded the town, and most of them continued on the second beat, a list of the men standing guard that night has not been preserved but among them we find H. Stevens, Chauncy Dart, Andrew Nelson, Henry L. Smith Wm, Branham and Sylvester Stevens, with others.
The Indians forded the river on the west and came in between sentinels Smith and Dart, who were the first to give the alarm, by the discharge of their pieces-this was immediately passed round the town by the entire guard and all started for the stockade, the Indians in the mean time giving a grand war whoop ‘ and .discharged a volley apparently in the air, as above stated.
The moon having just gone down, it was remarkably dark and sentinel Dart in taking a b –for the stockade, suddenly found himself in a “coal-pit hole” where he lost his hat and gun-being some-what in a hurry he had passed along a few rods, when the ludicrous in his composition got the better of his fears, and he went back and recovered his hat and gun.
Henry L. Smith in his b passed his fathers law office and brought up at the Hotel barn, where the mail boy was fruitlessly endeavoring to saddle and bridle his horse, preparatory to starting to Monticello with the mail.
Sentinel Smith assisted the boy in getting the horse properly equipped and started off, by which time diverse and sundry bullets, were reminding H. L. that no further delays were allowable.
The Indians finding a pretty formidable stock ade did not attempt to enter it, but confined them selves to stealing such household goods as could be most easily carried off. Sixty horses were stolen that morning and four or five buildings ransacked and burned.
The mail carrier came back from Kingston about 7 o’clock A. M. in company with C. F. Davis, to ascertain the result of the attack.
A report of the nights doings was drawn up by A. C. Smith and signed by Whitcomb and sent that morning by mail to Gov. Ramsey.
A little before daylight two families came to the stockade, from the school house, where they had spent the night, viz: N. E. Tornbom, wife and four children one of them, Sophia, now the wife of John. Lundberg (Sheriff of Stevens County) and Charles Magnus, wife and two children; also Mrs. (Hodgeson,) mother of Ole (Hodgeson.)
The school house had been the nucleus for a band of the Indians, but not anticipating, that any one was in the house, its occupants remained unmolested for nearly two hours.
In the stockade that morning there were some 40 men armed with Springfield muskets and about 200 old men, women and children-most of them unable to get out of the country.
General Isaac Fletcher of Lyndon-late a member of Congress from Vermont, once boasted on the floor of the House of Representatives at Washington that “no hostile flag ever entered on the soil of Vermont and returned to its original abode”.
We don’t claim that the Sioux Indians entered Meeker County with a hostile flag-but we had a very good one at the top of our liberty pole, which entirely escaped our memory that night and the Indians took it down and’ ran off with it.
After day light some Indians were in the act of driving off cattle when Sergeant Wm. Bran – ham, called for a squad of men to go out and head them off-six went out-three in a squad-the foremost consisting of Wm. Branham, H. L. Smith and Aslog Olson; the cattle were saved, but Olson was shot through the breast, Branham in the arm, while Smith remained unharmed. The rear squad countermarched to the stockade without waiting for orders, the wounded men recovered.
Lieut. Atkinson was on his way from Clearwater with supplies, and was two or three miles out, when he learned of the. attack and in the exercise of a sound discretion, concluded to start a new hotel in the bushes, and dumped his provisions and supplies and himself into the biggest grove of hazel brush and prickly-ash to be found. He subsequently changed his mind and returned to Forest City.
The Indians retired from Forest City about five o’clock in the morning, dividing into three parties. The first took the Manannah road-the second due south on the Greenleaf road and the third the Rice City road-simultaneously firing the residences of Dudley Taylor, Milton Gorton and Wm. Richardson, situated each about a mile from town, one house on each road.
We have since been told, that at the Indian trials at Mankato, the chiefs admitted a loss of eleven at Forest City. We cannot vouch for its truth. From what was seen, and from examinations subsequently made we guarantee that seven were killed-how or where the other four lost their breathing apparatus, is more than we can tell. About ten o’clock on the morning of the 4th, and about five hours after, the disappearance of the Indians, Capt. Nelson and Lieut. J. B. Blanchard with Thomas Dunham, Henry Bradford, Fred Hilter Elder Brooks and some 20 others came in from Manannah, where it appears they were encamped the night before. They were from Monticello, Wright County and came by way of St. Cloud and Paynesville to Manannah.
Whether the object of their mission was for more than a tour of inspection is unknown. They made no stop at Forest City, and rendered us no service.
Apprehensive of a renewal of the attack on the night of the 5th, or 6th, there was no sleep to the eye or. slumber to the eyelid for the two succeeding nights, by those in Forest City, but no further demonstration was made by the Indians.
On the 9th, of September Maj. Welch with about 300 men-a portion of the 3rd. Regiment passed thorough Forest City on their way to the Minnesota River, remaining at Forest City but one night, Capt. Petitt’s company B. 8th Regiment hastily organized at Faribault, Rice County, arrived at Forest City, went into quarters there on the 15th, of September and was the first military organization sent to our assistance-twenty-nine days after the massacre at Acton, and after the main body of the Indians had returned to the vicinity of the Minnesota River.
Forest City had thus presented the only successful barrier to the passage of the Indians to Kingston-Fairhaven and Clearwater on the Mississippi River.
The Indians showed no disposition to pass and leave in their rear the post at Forest City, unless they could first wipe it out of existence or take its possession from the whites.
Capt. J. C. Whitney’s Company C, 6th Regiment arrived at Forest City, Nov. 22nd, 186z, and went into winter quarters in the stockade while Capt. Petitt’s company occupied the hotel.
Capt. Whitney’s company was ordered to Fort Snelling, Feb. 26th 1863, and again Sep. 25th ’63 he returned to Kingston-remaining about one month, when his command went across the plains to the. Missouri River, as an escort to a supply train-returned to Kingston Jan. 5th 1864, and thence for the south the following June.
On the 27th of Feb. the day after Capt. Whitney left for Fort Snelling. Capt. O. C. Meriman arrived with Company B, 6th, Regiment and remained till the 26th, of April following.
On the 24th, two days prior to the departure of Merimain’s company, Lieut. Clark Keysor arrived with 21 privates and 4 non-commissioned officers of Capt. Dane’s company E 9th, Regiment and occupied the stockade. Capt. Wilson’s company of cavalry passed Forest City on the 8th, of May ’63, for Fort Ridgely.
On the 9th, of June Little Crow and son crossed the Forest City and Clearwater turnpike, about four miles out from Forest City, with two horses stolen at Silver Creek in the county of Wright.
Lieut. Keysor being apprised of the fact, took eight men and went out on the Clearwater road with the view of following their trail, but returned next morning without success, having been in the woods all night and passed the places where Little Crow and son had eaten both dinner and supper.
Little Crow and son forded the river three or four miles above Forest City early on the morning of the l0th, and passed on west—the trail could be easily followed.
Knowing that two Indians were in the woods west of Forest City and that they would necessarily cross the river at or near the old fords, Thos Grayson, H. L. Smith, Jas. M. Harvey and Robert Holmes, volunteered to watch two fording places on the river between Forest City and Manannah on the night of the 9th,–but for some purpose unknown these parties .went to Manannah and spent the night, on returning found the fresh trail as above stated, and at the same time appeared Capt. John Cady and five of his men en-route for Paynesville.
Cady selected two of his men and took the trail and finally overtook the Indians on the 11th, on the bank of Lake “Arthur” in Kandiyohi county, when a skirmish immediately took place in which Capt. Cady was shot through the breast and killed, the balance of the party returned, bringing the remains of Cady to Forest City, where they were properly cared for and forwarded to his friends in Anoka.
July 8th, Capt. Dane appeared and removed his men to the west bank of Long Lake near Kelly’s bluff-the company went South in September.
One or two companies occupied Kingston in the winter of 1862-3 and a detachment under Lieut. O’Brien, was the last military organization stationed at Forest City.
After the arrival of Capt. Petitt’s company, the Forest City boys devoted most of their time in caring for personal property-stock, grain, &c., in different parts of the county and in which they did good service. The company was disbanded by Gov. Ramsey on the 15th of October, 1862.
While in active service and until disbanded, the Government recognized and paid the officers and men.
After the arrival of regular troops, many of our men, knowing our organization to be a mere rope of sand., proposed to, and did go about their business, endeavoring to get ready for winter-get their families back-most of them had families which had been broken up, all of which seemed a very important duty.
On the 6th, Whitcomb met the writer in St. Paul and informed him that he and a portion of his command had “nominated a candidate for the Legislature,” the knowledge of which coming to the ears of Gov Ramsey, he promptly ordered the company to be disbanded.
This proceeding deeply offended our doughty captain, who, on his return, took the orderly’s book and marked the word “deserted” against the names of all his men, who were engaged in looking after their own property.
Thirteen of the best men of the company were thus marked, why or wherefore is unknown, unless the captain drawing pay for his entire company neglected to pay the deserters, an easy way to net about $300.00. One of the last raids of the Indians in the county took place in August 1863. Jesse V. Branham, sen. Wm. Kruger, Charles Kruger and William Branham, one dog and two horses, visited the farm of Wm. Kruger, eight miles south of Forest City, for the purpose of harvesting wheat.
The first night out, the men slept in the house, the horses were picketed within a rod of the house and dog stood sentinel–Kruger said he could be trusted.
During the night a tremendous thunder storm rent the skies, and the dog deserted his post and returned to Forest City and two Indians ran off with the horses-the trail run a due west course passing Pipe Lake Station, when seventeen soldiers took the trail and followed it past the Kandiyohi Lakes, overhauling the Indians about twenty miles out-the horses were picketed and the red men fast asleep.
Thinking to have more fun with them than fighting-the soldiers surrounded the sleeping Indians before waking them up.
As soon as the Indians discovered their position they pitched in among the soldiers and came very near whipping the crowd and died game, and father Branham says, the soldiers scalped the Indians and left their bodies on the prairie. Father Branham has a poor opinion of “dogs” as a picket guard, and still less of Indians as playmates.