Birch Coulie


Birch Coulie

The Epic Battle of the Dakota War

John Christgau

152 pages


March 2012


$16.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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March 2012


$16.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In the days following the Battle of Birch Coulie, the decisive battle in the deadly Dakota War of 1862, one of President Lincoln’s private secretaries wrote: “There has hardly been an outbreak so treacherous, so sudden, so bitter, and so bloody, as that which filled the State of Minnesota with sorrow and lamentation.” Even today, at the 150th anniversary of the Dakota War, the battle still raises questions and stirs controversy. In Birch Coulie John Christgau recounts the dramatic events surrounding the battle. American history at its narrative best, his book is also a uniquely balanced and accurate chronicle of this little-understood conflict, one of the most important to roil the American West.

Christgau’s account of the war between white settlers and the Dakota Indians in Minnesota examines two communities torn by internal dissent and external threat, whites and Native Americans equally traumatized by the short and violent war. The book also delves into the aftermath, during which thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged without legal representation or the appearance of defense witnesses, the largest mass execution in American history. With its unusually nuanced perspective, Birch Coulie brings a welcome measure of clarity and insight to a critical moment in the troubled history of the American West.

Author Bio

John Christgau (1934–2018), was an award-winning writer on issues of restitution and reconciliation, and is the author of several books, including Enemies: World War II Alien Internment, available in a Bison Books edition.


"[Birch Coulie is] a dramatic narrative that students of frontier and Minnesota history will wish to read closely."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

Birch Coulie is a great re-telling of a great story. Birch Coulie accurately captures not only the events leading up to this historic battle, but also the emotions of its participants. Christgau seems to understand the depth of Dakota frustrations that produced one of the most determined Native attacks on US troops in all of American History.”—Carl Colwell, LTC U.S. Army (Ret.), director of the Renville County (Minnesota) Historical Society and director of the Minnesota Valley History Learning Center

"Christgau's book is essential reading on the 150th anniversary of the largely forgotten, under-taught war that he describes as "a brutal collision of two worlds and cultures." —Curt Brown, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"John Christgau has captured the facts of the 1862 war and the battle at Birch Coulie in a way that brings them alive to the reader."—Gary Revier, Minnesota's Heritage

Table of Contents


Author's Note

1. Private Robert K. Boyd

2. Red Iron

3. Little Crow

4. Gray Bird

5. Gaboo

6. Colonel Sam McPhail and Lieutenant Sheehan

7. Dr. Daniels

8. The Messenger

9. Little Paul

10. Epilogues



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