Indian Wars Discussed By Presidents Part IV

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Millard Fillmore

While in Office As President During the Term of July 10, 1850 to March 4, 1853.

Volume: V   Page: 87

First Annual Message
                                                                                              Washington, December 2, 1850

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:

(excerpt) "Texas and New Mexico are surrounded by powerful tribes of Indians, who are a source of constant terror and annoyance to the inhabitants. Separating into small predatory bands, and always mounted, they overrun the country, devastating farms, destroying crops, driving off whole herds of cattle, and occasionally murdering the inhabitants or carrying them into captivity. The great roads leading into the country are infested with them, whereby traveling is rendered extremely dangerous and immigration is almost entirely arrested. The Mexican frontier, which by the eleventh article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo we are bound to protect against the Indians within our border, is exposed to these incursions equally with our own. The military force stationed in that country, although forming a large proportion of the Army, is represented as entirely inadequate to our own protection and the fulfillment of our treaty stipulations with Mexico. The principal deficiency is in cavalry, and I recommend that Congress should, at as early a period as practicable, provide for the raising of one or more regiments of mounted men.


President Abraham Lincoln while in office during the term of March 4, 1861 to April 15, 1865.

Volume: VI   Page: 132

Second Annual Message
                                                                                                       December 1, 1862

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

(excerpt) "The Indian tribes upon our frontiers have during the past year manifested a spirit of insubordination, and at several points have engaged in open hostilities against the white settlements in their vicinity. The tribes occupying the Indian country south of Kansas renounced their allegiance to the United States and entered into treaties with the insurgents. Those who remained loyal to the United States were driven from the country. The chief of the Cherokees has visited this city for the purpose of restoring the former relations of the tribe with the United States. He alleges that they were constrained by superior force to enter into treaties with the insurgents, and that the United States neglected to furnish the protection which their treaty stipulations required.

In the month of august last the Sioux Indians in Minnesota attacked the settlements in their vicinity with extreme ferocity, killing indiscriminately men, women, and children. This attack was wholly unexpected, and therefore no means of defense had been provided. It is estimated that no less than 800 persons were killed by the Indians, and a large amount of property was destroyed. How this outbreak was induced is not definitely known, and suspicions, which may be unjust, need not to be stated. Information was received by the Indian Bureau from different sources about the time hostilities were commenced that a simultaneous attack was to be made upon the white settlements by all the tribes between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. The State of Minnesota has suffered great injury from this Indian war. A large portion of her territory has been depopulated, and a severe loss has been sustained by the destruction of property. The people of that State manifest much anxiety for the removal of the tribes beyond the limits of the State as a guaranty against future hostilities. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs will furnish full details. I submit for your especial consideration whether our Indian system shall not be remodeled. Many wise and good men have impressed me with the belief that this can be profitably done.


Volume:  Page: 144

To the Senate of the United States:

In compliance with your resolution of December 5, 1862, requesting the President "to furnish the Senate with all information in his possession touching the late Indian barbarities in the State of Minnesota, and also the evidence in his possession upon which some of the principal actors and headmen were tried and condemned to death," I have the honor to state that on receipt of said resolution I transmitted the same to the Secretary of the Interior, accompanied by a note a copy of which is herewith enclosed, marked A, and in response to which I received through that Department a letter of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, a copy of which is herewith enclosed, marked B.

I further state that on the 8th day of November last I received a long telegraphic dispatch from Major-General Pope, at St. Paul, Minn., simply announcing the names of the persons sentenced to be hanged. I immediately telegraphed to have transcripts of the records in all the cases forwarded to me, which transcripts, however, did not reach me until two or three days before the present meeting of Congress. Meantime I received, through telegraphic dispatches and otherwise, appeals in behalf of the condemned, appeals for their execution, and expressions of opinion as to proper policy in regard to them and to the Indians generally in that vicinity, none of which, as I understand, falls within the scope of your inquiry. After the arrival of the transcripts of records, but before I had sufficient opportunity to examine them, I received a joint letter from one of the Senators and two of the Representatives from Minnesota, which contains some statements of fact not found in the records of the trials, and for which reason I herewith transmit a copy, marked C. I also, for the same reason, enclose a printed memorial of the citizens of St. Paul addressed to me and forwarded with the letter aforesaid.

Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on the one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I caused a careful examination of the records of trials to be made, in view of first ordering the execution of such as had been proved guilty of violating females. Contrary to my expectations, only two of this class were found. I then directed a further examination,, and a classification of all who were proven to have participated in massacres, as distinguished from participation in battles. This class numbered forty, and included the two convicted of female violation. One of the number is strongly recommended by the commission which tried them for commutation to ten years' imprisonment. I have ordered the other thirty-nine to be executed on Friday, the 19th instant. The order was dispatched from here on Monday, the 8th instant, by a messenger to General Sibley, and a copy of which order is herewith transmitted, marked D.

An abstract of the evidence as to the forty is herewith enclosed, marked E.

To avoid the immense amount of copying, I lay before the Senate the original transcripts of the records of trials as received by me.

This is as full and complete a response to the resolution as it is in my power to make.

December 11, 1862                                                                          ABRAHAM LINCOLN

President Andrew Johnson while in Office during the term of April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869.

Volume: VI   Page: 576

Third Annual Message
                                                                                                         Washington, December 3, 1867

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:

(excerpt) "The menacing attitude of some of the warlike bands of Indians inhabiting the district of country between the Arkansas and Platte rivers and portions of Dakota Territory required the presence of a large military force in that region. Instigated by real or imaginary grievances, the Indians occasionally committed acts of barbarous violence upon emigrants and our frontier settlements; but a general Indian war has been providentially averted. The commissioners under the act of 20th July, 1867, were invested with full power to adjust existing difficulties, negotiate treaties with the disaffected bands, and select for them reservations remote from the traveled routes between the Mississippi and the Pacific. They entered without delay upon the execution of their trust, but have not yet made any official report of their proceedings. It is of vital importance that our distant Territories should be exempt from Indian outbreaks, and that the construction of the Pacific Railroad, an object of national importance, should not be interrupted by hostile tribes. These objects, as well as the material interests and the moral and intellectual improvement of the Indians, can be most effectually secured by concentrating them upon portions of country set apart for their exclusive use and located at points remote from our highways and encroaching white settlements."

ANDREW JOHNSON                                                                            


Website: The History
Article Name: Indian Wars Discussed By Presidents Part IV
Researcher/Preparer/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my Collection of Books: "A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1897". By James D. Richardson--a Representative from the State of Tennessee. Publisher: by Authority of Congress--1899. Ten volumes total. Copyright: 1897 by James D. Richardson.
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