I was particularly moved by this passage from Thomas DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln (also available from Amazon.com), reviewed here by David Gordon. DiLorenzo is one of the few people to take an honest look at Lincoln, instead of treating him like a saint and making excuses for his atrocities. This passage is from the chapter, Was Lincoln a Dictator?
In 1861 the Santee Sioux Indians in Minnesota sold 24 million acres of
land to the federal government for $1,410,000. By August 1862 thousands
of white settlers were pouring onto the Indian lands, but there was such
corruption in the government that almost none of the money was paid to
the Sioux. A crop failure that year meant the Sioux were starving. The
federal government refused to pay what it owed, breaking yet another
Indian treaty, and the Sioux revolted. A short “war” ensued, with
Lincoln putting General John Pope in charge. Pope told a subordinate,
“It is my purpose to utterly exterminate the Sioux…They are to be
treated as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom
treaties or compromises can be made.”
The Indians were overwhelmed by the Federal army by October, at which
time the “war” was over and General Pope held hundreds of “prisoners of
war,” many of whom were women and children who had been herded into
military forts. Military “trials” were held, each lasting ten to fifteen
minutes, in which most of the male prisoners were found guilty and
sentenced to death. The lack of hard evidence against the accused was
manifest; many men were condemned to death just because they were
present during a battle.
Three hundred and three Indians were sentenced to death, and Minnesota
political authorities wanted to execute every one of them, something
that Lincoln feared might incite one or more of the European powers to
offer assistance to the Confederacy, as they were hinting they would do.
So his administration pared the list of condemned men down to
thirty-nine, with the promise to Minnesota’s politicians that in due
course the Federal army would remove every last Indian from Minnesota.
This was the bargain: Lincoln would look bad if he allowed the
execution of three hundred Indians, so he would execute only thirty-nine
of them. But in return he would promise to have the Federal army murder
or chase out of the state all the other Indians, in addition to sending
the Minnesota treasures $2 million.
On December 26, 1862, Lincoln ordered the largest mass execution in
American history — and yet the guilt of the executed could not be
positively determined beyond reasonable doubt.
Also of interest may be an James Ostrowski’s DiLorenzo and His Critics on the Lincoln Myth, which summarizes DiLorenzo’s charges against Lincoln, and responds to some erroneous criticisms.