38 Nooses by Scott W. Berg
Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End

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Synopsis

In August 1862, after decades of broken treaties, increasing hardship, and relentless encroachment on their lands, a group of Dakota warriors convened a council at the tepee of their leader, Little Crow. Knowing the strength and resilience of the young American nation, Little Crow counseled caution, but anger won the day. Forced to either lead his warriors in a war he knew they could not win or leave them to their fates, he declared, “[Little Crow] is not a coward: he will die with you.”

So began six weeks of intense conflict along the Minnesota frontier as the Dakotas clashed with settlers and federal troops, all the while searching for allies in their struggle. Once the uprising was smashed and the Dakotas captured, a military commission was convened, which quickly found more than three hundred Indians guilty of murder. President Lincoln, embroiled in the most devastating period of the Civil War, personally intervened in order to spare the lives of 265 of the condemned men, but the toll on the Dakota nation was still staggering: a way of life destroyed, a tribe forcibly relocated to barren and unfamiliar territory, and 38 Dakota warriors hanged—the largest government-sanctioned execution in American history.

Scott W. Berg recounts the conflict through the stories of several remarkable characters, including Little Crow, who foresaw how ruinous the conflict would be for his tribe; Sarah Wakefield, who had been captured by the Dakotas, then vilified as an “Indian lover” when she defended them; Minnesota bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple, who was a tireless advocate for the Indians’ cause; and Lincoln, who transcended his own family history to pursue justice.

Written with uncommon immediacy and insight, 38 Nooses details these events within the larger context of the Civil War, the history of the Dakota people, and the subsequent United States–Indian wars. It is a revelation of an overlooked but seminal moment in American history.

 

About Scott W. Berg

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Born and raised in the Twin Cities, Scott W. Berg holds a BA in architecture from the University of Minnesota, an MA from Miami University of Ohio, and an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University, where he now teaches writing and literature. The author of Grand Avenues: The Story of Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the French Visionary Who Designed Washington, D.C., he is a regular contributor to The Washington Post.
 
Published December 4, 2012 by Vintage. 386 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, War, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for 38 Nooses

Kirkus Reviews

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With their credit lines running thin, the Dakota people fought for their survival, though insult was added to their injurious defeat when a military trial sentenced 300 Dakota warriors to death for their role in the battle.

Sep 02 2012 | Read Full Review of 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Cr...

Publishers Weekly

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Berg illuminates the growing clashes between whites and Indians and reveals the contradictory stances taken by such participants as Dakota chief Little Crow, a white woman Little Crow had taken as a hostage, an Episcopalian bishop, army officers, and political leaders—including Abraham Lincoln.

Sep 10 2012 | Read Full Review of 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Cr...

Book Reporter

Not only does he illustrate how the Dakota War led to the more rapid extermination and usurpation of the Native American people of the West, his final chapter surprisingly cycles back to the front, discussing the Black Hawk War and Lincoln's involvement as a young man not yet decided on politics,...

Dec 07 2012 | Read Full Review of 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Cr...

The Washington Post

Twenty Indians were slain and then scalped in retribution, Berg writes.

Dec 21 2012 | Read Full Review of 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Cr...

USA Today

The last thing on Abraham Lincoln's mind in 1862, as his armies bore the bloody brunt of the Civil War, was the tension mounting in Minnesota and the Dakota Territory between white settlers, Native Americans and a distant government.(If anything, Steven Spielberg's new film, Lincoln, shows us a p...

Dec 09 2012 | Read Full Review of 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Cr...

Dallas News

Of this, Berg makes a substantial case that Custer’s downfall at the Little Bighorn in 1876, the killing of Crazy Horse in Nebraska in 1877, and the murders at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota in 1890, can all be traced back to Aug. 17, 1862, to the tent of Little Crow, chief of the Mdewakanton...

Dec 07 2012 | Read Full Review of 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Cr...

Bookmarks Magazine

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Dec 09 2012 | Read Full Review of 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Cr...

Bookmarks Magazine

President Lincoln, embroiled in the most devastating period of the Civil War, personally intervened in order to spare the lives of 265 of the condemned men, but the toll on the Dakota nation was still staggering: a way of life destroyed, a tribe forcibly relocated to barren and unfamiliar territo...

Dec 09 2012 | Read Full Review of 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Cr...

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