The Attack at the Lower Sioux Agency was the initial action of the Dakota War of 1862 in August. After the initial conflict at Acton Township, Minnesota on August 17, in which five white settlers were killed, tensions were running high within the Lower Sioux tribe. The Sioux or Dakota feared that the murders would bring about a reprisal from United States forces. Chiefs Shakopee and Red Middle Voice convened a council at Little Crow’s village near the Lower Sioux Agency to discuss the situation. Although Little Crow was hesitant to go to war, because of the strength of United States troops, Little Crow was threatened and berated, eventually convinced to lead a war to drive the settlers from the Minnesota River valley.
On the morning of August 18, a large party of painted and armed Sioux warriors surrounded the buildings of the Lower Sioux Agency, a settlement populated by the Indian agent and various government personnel. The Sioux gave a signal and launched a surprise attack on the post on unsuspecting and unarmed men, women, and children. Under the direction of Chief Little Crow and the cry,
“Kill all of the Whites and Cut Hairs…,”
newspaper editor, legislator, and trader, James Lynd, was the first man killed. Agent Andrew Myrick escaped from the post storehouse through a second story window, but was killed before he could reach cover. Others, all unarmed, killed included George W. Divoll; Francois La Bathe; A.H. Wagner, the superintendent of farms; Dr. Philander P. Humphrey, the agency physician; and Philander Prescott, a fur trader. The remains of those murdered were mutilated. In all, twenty people were killed, at least three young women, of the ten people captured, were raped. 47 escaped. George H. Spencer was kept in captivity throughout the war and was later rescued at Camp Release. A 40-man relief party of soldiers from Fort Ridgely were also ambushed at the Attack at Redwood Ferry. In the following week, the Sioux attacked isolated farms and community in over thirty counties and killed over 650 settlers, most buried in unmarked graves. The Dakota also attacked Fort Ridgely (a sustained siege through August 29, 1862) and New Ulm (Battles of August 18 and 23, 1862) but those defending those sites fought back successfully.