Lincoln's Bishop: A President, a Priest, and the Fate of 300 Dakota Sioux Warriors Hardcover – 27 May 2014
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Title: Lincoln's Bishop( A President a Priest and the Fate of 300 Dakota Sioux Warriors) <>Binding: Hardcover <>Author: GustavNiebuhr <>Publisher: HarperOne
Top Customer Reviews
That man was Benjamin Whipple, Bishop Whipple of the Episcopalian Church, and he had long been an advocate of 'Indian affairs', outraged by the corruption and abuses of the Indian agents he saw cheating, lying and abusing the tribes on the reservations under their care, the deception and broken promises of the federal government. He foresaw that once the starving, dispossessed and desperate tribes reached rock bottom, there was no telling what could, and eventually did, occur. For years he petitioned the public and politicians, his neighbours and fellow clerics, agitating for reform of the Office of Indian Affairs, the removal of corrupt agents, the prompt payments of annuities promised to the tribes, who had no other means of support. After the uprising, he again went to work on the tribes' behalf, petitioning Abraham Lincoln to commute the death sentences of some 300 Native Americans, sentenced to death for their part in the 'war', some of whom were undoubtedly guilty, but many of whom had taken no part or had risked their own lives to save whites.
This is a short book, but then it was a brief and relatively disregarded episode of American history.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Niebuhr writes like a journalist, and he spent nearly the first half of the book setting the stage and introducing the major players (President Lincoln, Chief Little Crow, and Bishop Whipple). There were times I struggled to maintain interest, even in light of the mistreatment of Indians. But then hostilities escalated to warfare between the Sioux and the white settlers, and the story grabbed me by the guts. Indian tactics were gruesome, and half the state of Minnesota fled in terror. Tales of horrific massacre grew like gossip. Niebuhr presents both sides of the story, which is far from clear and hardly guiltless on either side. When the dust settled, 303 Indian warriors stood ready to be hanged, and public opinion was ready to lynch any others who remained.
Enter Bishop Whipple, an Episcopal minister who took the side of the Indians. But what could Whipple accomplish against strong public opinion? How could he capture the ear of a distant President (Lincoln) whose attention was more strongly focused on civil war? What would be the fate of the 303 Indians, and hundreds of others who coexisted peacefully or–even more astounding–risked their lives to save white men, women and children during the war?
This is a story of out-of-control greed, human limits when backed against a wall, and the ugliness that results … plus one man’s determination to apply Christian principles where humanity could only fail. Highly recommended.
HarperOne, © 2014, 210 pages
Lincoln's Bishop: A President, A Priest, Ant the Fate of 300 Dakota Sioux Warriors, Gustav Niebuhr, Harper One/Harper Collins Publishing, 210 pp., four b/w images, bibliographic notes, bibliography, index, $26.99.
The Dakota War of 1862 began on August 17 in southwest Minnesota and ended with the mass execution of 38 Dakota tribe warriors on December 26, 1862. Throughout the late 1850s, treaty violations, unfair annuity payments and bureaucratic corruption by Federal government agents caused destitution and starvation among the Dakota tribes.
In early December, my military court 303 Sioux prisoners were convicted of murder and rape sentenced to death. Some trials were conducted without defense attorneys; other trials lasted less than five minutes. Abraham Lincoln reviewed the court proceedings and commuted the death sentences of 264 prisoners and allowed the execution of 38. Lincoln received the counsel of Henry Benjamin Whipple, a native of New York, a missionary priest to Chicago, an elected first Episcopal bishop of Minnesota, did not meet a Native American until he was 37 years old.
Whipple met and respected the Dakota Sioux, watched and learned first had the corruption of the Federal Office of Indian Affairs. By letters and a visit to Washington D.C., he informed the President that the agency was corrupt, the agents were political hacks,, the vendors were greedy providers of illegal alcohol and abusive of Native American women. At stake for Whipple was not only an injustice but an offense to religious principles that demanded aggressive resistance. By 1860 he began a letter writing campaign that described the problems and proposed remedies.
The 15th President,James Buchanan did not respond; the 16th President did. After a face-to-face interview of Whipple, Lincoln mentioned to a friend that Whipple's testimony had 'shaken him down to his boots.' Whipple organized other bishops, who by virtue of their habits, were reluctant to speak out on the issues of public issues, even those issues of slavery, secession or politics.
In Lincoln's Bishop, Gustav Niebuhr carefully offers evidence of Whipple's investigation and engagement with politicians regarding the Dakota Sioux. Niebuhr is a professor of newspaper and online journalism, the founding director of the Carnegie Religion and Media Program, and winner of awards for the reporting of religion. Lincoln's Bishop offers a clear and concise narrative supported by primary sources. It moves briskly does not stray away from the central features of the story. Currently 'telling truth to power' is often a slogan to justify personal self absorption, narcissism and self promotion. Niebuhr's work offers the story of one man's 'telling truth to power' as selfless and motivated by the gospel.
Bishop Henry B. Whipple was an Episcopal priest who became the first bishop of Minnesota. A new state, Minnesota needed a bishop and Whipple actually took a decrease in pay to minister to the residents and the Indian population. Unlike many Americans at that time, Whipple believed that Indians had souls and he spent time traveling through Indian territory, converting, preaching, and worshipping with these natives. It also did not take him long to realize that the Office of Indian Affairs “was brutally, dangerously corrupt and needed a thorough reform in the name of peace and the nation’s standing with God.” He also believed that bad treaties, ignorant agents, and greedy and self-serving traders had turned the Dakota into a tribe beset by poverty. Niebuhr details the Dakota War of 1862 which was caused by the very things that Whipple warned about. Unlike President James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln returns Whipple’s letters and even meets with him in the White House. “What the bishop managed to do was set the war [Dakota War of 1862] within the context of federal government corruption and ineptitude. He created for Lincoln a lens through which to view the war.” Unfortunately, Lincoln didn’t live long enough to live up to his promise to Whipple “to address America’s other racial sin after first dealing with slavery and secession.”
As an Episcopalian, I was also fascinated by some of the Civil War history of the Episcopal Church. I did not know that the national church was split in two, north and south, just like our country. I also never knew that Lincoln sent Bishop Charles McIlvaine of Ohio to Great Britain to convince his fellow Anglicans against recognizing the Confederacy as a sovereign nation.
You will have to read Lincoln’s Bishop to discover what happened to those 300 Sioux warriors. But I think it’s good that Bishop Henry Whipple is finally getting his due. It’s about time someone recognizes his accomplishments and brings them to light.
Lincoln's Bishop, a brief book on an important subject. During the Civil War there was an Indian “uprising” in Minnesota during the Civil War. This book looks at the causes and the Bishop, Henry Benjamin Whipple, that tried to get better treatment for the tribes, even after some of them went on a bloody rampage killing many and forcing other white settlers to flee. Whipple even made overtures and has meetings with Abe Lincoln to discuss these issues, discussions that seem to have borne fruit in some of Lincoln’s speeches. Much of Lincoln history deals with his life and biography and of course slavery and the Civil War. I had never heard of Lincoln and Indians with the exception of the death of his grandfather, whom he was named for, and his death at the hands of an Indian. The author also traces those whites that wanted to kill and or remove all Indians from their reservations and those whites that took a stand to defend Indians that protected and defended whites during the killings.
The story heats up when the punishment for those captured and those that surrendered seems to many to be justified and to others seems far too extreme. How will these people be treated? Many hope for executions but others including Whipple, ask for leniency. What would Lincoln do with the many sentenced to death?
Logging in at about 180 pages (+ notes and citations) the story in the book is compelling. While the narrative gets distracted at times, trying to fill in backstory, and there is a feeling of missing some of the uprising, down the home stretch the larger issues of White-Indian relations, the role of the Federal government and the damage of an uncaring bureaucracy and it bureaucrats are all well told. It is possible to see in this war and its aftermath the basics of the Native American story in America. As you should know, it’s not that good. This is one of those segments of history that is heart wrenching. Having people testify about the good and yes NOBLE nature of some/most of the Indians and yet seeing them mistreated and removed from their lands (again!) is disturbing.
Also of interested are those views of Lincoln on the Indian issue and his pledge to Whipple that if he survived the (Civil) War, he would try to have the government do better by the Indians. Maybe that is something else JW Booth robbed us of.
For another look at this event, see "38 Nooses, Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End" by Scott W. Berg].
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