In early December, 303 Sioux prisoners were convicted of murder and rape by military tribunals and sentenced to death. Some trials lasted less than 5 minutes. No one explained the proceedings to the defendants, nor were the Sioux represented by a defense in court. Pres. Abraham Lincoln personally reviewed the trial records to distinguish between those who had engaged in warfare against the U.S., versus those who had committed crimes of rape and murder against civilians.
This clemency resulted in protests from Minnesota, which persisted until the Secretary of the Interior offered white Minnesotans "reasonable compensation for the depredations committed." Republicans did not fare as well in Minnesota in the 1864 election as they had before. Ramsey (by then a senator) informed Lincoln that more hangings would have resulted in a larger electoral majority. The President reportedly replied, "I could not afford to hang men for votes."
One of the 39 condemned prisoners was granted a reprieve. The Army executed the 38 remaining prisoners by hanging on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota. It remains the largest mass execution in American history.
Our last stop on our tour was to the site of the hangings. The location is now called the Peace Plaza. Considering that around five hundred white settlers and an unknown number of Native Americans were killed in this terrible tragedy it is a fitting memorial. The words on a giant marker speak to today and say it best.....