This is a monument seen at Fort Ridgely, where an initial attack of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 took place. It's also the setting of Chatfield resident Joe Chase's tales of soldiers from this area who fought in that war. "The Last Boy in Blue" will run Aug. 8 to 11 at Potter Auditorium. The photo was taken last fall on a tour with Historic Adventure & Travel Tours of Spring Valley, an excellent source of information. (Bluff Country Reader photo by Lisa Brainard)<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->
This is a monument seen at Fort Ridgely, where an initial attack of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 took place. It's also the setting of Chatfield resident Joe Chase's tales of soldiers from this area who fought in that war. "The Last Boy in Blue" will run Aug. 8 to 11 at Potter Auditorium. The photo was taken last fall on a tour with Historic Adventure & Travel Tours of Spring Valley, an excellent source of information. (Bluff Country Reader photo by Lisa Brainard)

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It's August. One-hundred-fifty years ago this month events occurred in Minnesota that turned into what today is known as the "U.S.-Dakota War of 1862."

This is the best time ever for both history buffs and those who are just finding out about the conflict (perhaps from this column) to learn more. Many types of commemorative events marking the 150th anniversary of the war are being held throughout the state. While the war spread over a large area all along the Minnesota River valley and beyond, the anniversary events will allow you to learn a lot in one location, such as New Ulm... or in a full range of communities.

• Let's start in our local area. Joe Chase of Chatfield has done a lot of research and travel to document the role of many Fillmore County (Chatfield and Preston, mostly) men in the war, which was occurring at the same time other area men were sent south to fight in the Civil War.

Chase tells the story of the beginning of the battle in "The Last Boy in Blue," starting with the early attacks on Fort Ridgely in August of 1862. It includes two soldiers from Chatfield, Charley Culver, a boy who served at the fort, and Thomas Gere, the teenager put in charge of the fort. Also involved was Capt. John Marsh from Preston, who was ambushed at the Redwood Ferry crossing on the Minnesota River.

It seems a lot more personal when you see local names, doesn't it?

The Redwood Ferry location can be seen at the Lower Sioux Agency, a Minnesota State Historical Site. Fort Ridgely is another MHS site with an adjoining state park.

I'm just amazed by all this and you can bet I'll be at "The Last Boy in Blue!" The story tells a huge part of Minnesota's history - and better yet, it was local men on the front lines.

Performances will be held Aug. 8 to 10, each night at 7:30 p.m. at Potter Auditorium in the Chatfield Center for the Arts. A final performance during Western Days will occur Saturday, Aug. 11, at 5 p.m. Get tickets or more information at 507-867-8780.

• Another major commemoration will be held in New Ulm Aug. 20 to 26. Events there include all kinds of presentations on the war; tours of areas including the Leavenworth rescue, the Milford area, the New Ulm downtown battlefield and the Hanska historical area; marker dedications including one for Flandrau's Charge; movies and documentaries on the war; and authors and book signings.

Wednesday, Aug. 22, sounds like an especially interesting day to me, including archaeologists discussing their work and finds at battle sites.

This website includes almost any kind of information you might want, as well as contacts: www.browncountydakotawarcommemoration.com/Home_Page.php

• I also see on the homepage, the link I just noted, even more events have been set for the week of Aug. 14 to 18. Again, they sound very interesting, although most are either held at lunch or at night. It's not the full, daily schedule of the following week.

A weekend event of interest is an auto tour of cemeteries related to the conflict and marker dedications. Find more information here, http://browncountyhistorymn.org/Marker%20&%20Cemetery%20Auto%20Tour.pdf

• On Friday through Saturday, Aug. 17 to 19, "Celebration of Friendships and Family Reunions" will take place at Lake Shetek State Park. Invited are "Descendants of the Fool Soldiers, Shetek settlers and their friends." Search online for their story.

• On Saturday, Aug. 18, John LaBatt - whom I've heard is a great speaker on war - will talk twice at Fort Ridgely, at 1 p.m. on "Causes of the Dakota War," and at 2:30 he'll give a battlefield tour there.

• On Sunday, Aug. 19, the dedication of the LeSueur Tigers marker will be held in LeSueur City Park at 2 p.m.

The Dakota will gather

One day ago, I learned of another whole set of events. Members of the Dakota Nation from throughout the Midwest and Canada will gather in Minneapolis/St. Paul Aug. 20 to 23 for the fourth and final Dakota Nationwide Conference, Dakota Iyuha Owanjina - "Together as One."

The conference will commemorate the Dakota and U.S. War of 1862 through the learning and teaching of Dakota history so that the future will bring healing.

Organizers released this statement:

"We, as a Dakota Nation, have come together for four years; we finally came back to our homeland and we have found our relatives, talked, cried, laughed and held each other. We have come together in this sacred place to honor our past, share our experiences and knowledge, and most of all, to heal.

"We have found that in order to heal, first the truth needs to be told. We are a unique, caring and beautiful people who believe in the Creator. We want to make a way for generations to come so that this will not ever be repeated and to teach our young to love mankind."

The conference mission statement is this: "We invite Dakota people to come together to learn the old ways that were lost as a result of assimilation policies and our forced removal from Minnesota after the 1862 Dakota War."

This conference includes an opening ceremony prayer by Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the 19th Generation White Buffalo Calf Pipe; flag-raising ceremony at the Minnesota State Capitol; tour of sacred sites; tour of the prison site at Fort Snelling, where Dakota prisoners were taken; a showing of the film "Dakota 38"; and Ken Salazar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior speaking on "Recognizing the Dakota Homeland."

I see at 2:25 p.m. Minnesota State Rep. Dean Urdahl will present an update on his work toward the pardon of Chaska and also the Dakota Removal Bill. You may recall I checked into this issue with Urdahl in past months.

As noted, this conference is set for Dakota people and not necessarily open to the public. If there is an interest, check with organizers, including the Minnesota Historical Society.

An important opportunity

Bottom line, I can't stress this enough. To totally immerse yourself in this historical topic, plan to attend an event or two. The commemoration has brought together those who've studied the war. They're anxious to share the history with you, so it can be passed on to future generations.

Another good place to look for the background of the war and a listing of even more and different events stretching later into the year is www.usdakotawar.org.

Lisa Brainard is the news editor for the Republican-Leader and Chatfield News. She writes for the Phillips Bluff Country Publishing group of newspapers, which also includes the Spring Grove Herald, Bluff Country Reader, News-Record, and Spring Valley Tribune. She can be reached at: lbrainard@bluffcountrynews.com. She also photographs many scenic landscapes in her travels near and far, in addition to taking numerous newspaper photos.