General Sully Claims Victory in His Attack on Village at Whitestone

Dakota Territory
September 5, 1863

Alfred Sully’s superior, General John Pope, has commended the soldier sent to punish the Dakota for his victory at White¬stone Hill. “I bear willing testimony to the distinguished conduct of yourself and your command and to the important service you have rendered to yourself and to the Government,” General Pope states. “I tender my thanks and congratulations.”

As part of a campaign to capture and punish the Dakota who took part in last year’s Minnesota Revolt, General Sully had been ordered, along with General Sibley, to Dakota Territory. In early September, Sully found a large hunting encampment at Whitestone Hill. Without determining whether these were Dakota, on September 3, Sully and his force of between 600 and 700 men attacked the encampment of 1,500 (his estimate). 

The Battle of Whitestone Hill. Gilcrease Museum

When the smoke had cleared, Sully had lost twenty men; over 300 (men, women, and children) Indian people, Yanktonai not Dakota, were dead. Most of the survivors fled, but the army took about 200 as prisoners.  Sully claims that some of the Indian people were Dakota. When asked to comment on the battle, the General states, “I believe I can safely say I gave them one of the most severe punishments that the Indians have ever received.”

Sam Brown, a young interpreter, does not believe that Sully should “brag” about his victory. According to Brown, Sully did “what no decent man would have done, he pitched into their camp and just slaughtered them.” Brown states that the Indian people had no “hostile intention” and that Sully’s force killed mostly women and children.

The army has spent the two days since the “battle” destroying the encampment’s provisions and supplies. His troops plan to winter at newly constructed Fort Rice near the Missouri River. The army will continue its pursuit of the Dakota rebels next summer.


By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton


Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council

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