Dale Blanshan, Abraham Lincoln, reenactor discusses Lincolnís involvement in the Dakota Uprising in the historic Wasioja on Sunday. Photo by David Haanson
By Ruth Hanson
About 125 people gathered at the historic Baptist Church in Wasioja in the afternoon on Veterans' Day. They gathered to honor the soldiers whose names are engraved on pavers at the foot of the Civil War Monument in Seminary Park in Wasioja. The ceremony was moved from the park to the Church because of the cold weather.
The program opened with the posting of the Stars and Stripes by the Dodge Center Legion Color Guards. The entire group sang the "Star Spangled Banner," led by Michelle Wencl, who also led the Pledge of Allegiance. Don Smith introduced Dale Blanshan well known reenactor of Abraham Lincoln. He was asked to reflect on Lincoln's involvement in the Dakota Uprising that took place in Minnesota 150 years ago.
"One hundred fifty years ago our nation was involved in a great Civil War, a test of the resolve of the people that this nation, dedicated to freedom and self-government, should continue," he said.
"It was also the judgment of the nation, or at least the portion of it that called for union, that a state of affairs that allowed one people to subjugate another, and to earn their bread not by honest toil of their own, but by the enforced toil of another, was a dishonor to a nation begun with a Declaration that every man has been endowed by his Creator with a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
"The people of the State of Minnesota were tested not only by that Civil War, but by another that arose within the boundaries of their state.
"The history of our nation's dealings with the red man has not been a comfortable one. The conflict in which Minnesota was engaged 150 years ago was an outgrowth of those dealings. Promises made to the Indian were not always kept. Red men who had by treaty given up violence against innocent women and children often returned to that violence.
"In the great, sweeping movements of civilization, it is, perhaps, inevitable that offenses come, but, as I wrote in my address at the Inauguration of 1865, 'Woe,' saith the Almighty, 'to that man by whom the offense cometh.'
"In the fall of 1862 I was presented with a demand that every Indian who had wielded a weapon in the War of 1862 be executed. Nearly 400 men, in chains in Mankato, waited for that sentence to be approved and carried out.
"It seemed to me that both justice and the need to look beyond the day of triumph to the day of reconciliation required the making of a distinction between the men who pillaged and murdered and those who merely answered the call, right or wrong, of their nation.
"I therefore asked for and received the trial record of each of the condemned. Where a man merely fought in battle, I disapproved his execution. Only 38 were eventually hung.
"In the 150 years since the events of the 1860s, this nation has many times gone to war. As I wrote in my second inaugural address, our responsibilities include malice toward none and charity for all, firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, striving to bind up the nation's wounds, and doing everything possible to achieve a just and lasting peace, including caring for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.
"At the end of our Civil War, as at the end of any war, men returned from battle crippled, blinded, and in other ways disabled, and many times their return has been met with profound indifference by people ready to turn from the sacrifices of war to pursuits more self-gratifying.
"But for a nation to ask a man to leave family, friends and fireside to take up arms and hazard his life, then, when he returns home, wounded and disabled, to turn its back upon him, is a shame not to be countenanced by a just people.
"Let us, then, be faithful to him who has been faithful. Let us give honor to whom honor is due. Let us remember today the veteran, and be sure that our country's gratitude is expressed in ways that justly comprehend his needs and his due."
David Hanson explained that six more pavers had been added recently at the foot of the memorial and that more are for sale.
David Livingston gave the benediction and called the soldiers to attention. They were members of the Third Minnesota and were dressed in authentic Civil War uniforms. They joined the Legion Color Guard and marched outside for the Gun Salute. The event concluded with the playing of "Taps" and its echo.