The Civil War: A Native American Perspective


The Civil War is one of the most popularly studied and written about eras of American history. However, we often still miss out on the full picture, as my guest today points out. Dane Pizzuti Krogman has written about an aspect of the Civil War that you may not have considered before.

Welcome, Dane!

~ Samantha


The Civil War: A Native American Perspective

Guest Post by Dane Pizzuti Krogman

Most historical novels or textbooks about the American Civil war are told from the perspective of the so-called great leaders. Seldom do we find books that give us a perspective from the common man’s point of view.

My fiction novel is based on the participant’s point of view. For this, I had to study the diaries, newspapers, and letters written at the time to get to the truth that would draw in reluctant readers who are usually put off by the tales recorded years later by the generals and the leaders who rallied the common folk on.

I have focused on the rivers in my story because these were the highways that fed the troops to their locations and were typically the boundaries over which the war was fought.

The Restive rivers of Mendota

Minnesota becomes the central location for my characters because it was here in this small village of Mendota that the great Sioux uprising took place at the same time the Civil War was being fought in the East and South. Most people have never heard of the uprising nor have they ever heard of the mass execution carried out by general Sibley which was ultimately approved by President Lincoln.

Chief Little Crow Of the Santee Sioux

We were never taught this in school. It was a thing to be swept under the rug and forgotten. But in recent times with more awareness of the critical part Native Americans played in the development of the nation these things have come to light. The high school which I attended which was named after General Sibley just this past week had voted to change its name as people have become aware of the shameful role Sibley played during the war. The new name is now Two Rivers High School. So once again the mighty rivers of the land are brought into perspective in their importance during the conflict.

The world’s largest mass hanging. 38 Sioux warriors, 1862

The war became an international focus as Europe looked on to see the outcome and the economic effect it would play in the future. Outdated Napoleonic tactics were still being used against new weapons such as the rifled cannon and rifled musket. Up until the American Civil War, the smoothbore musket was the weapon of use for the infantry, hence marching into battle in a regulated line where men faced each other less than 50 yards apart was the only way to break through an enemy line. With the new British Enfield and US Springfield which had machined interchangeable parts and a rifled barrel one shot could take out not only the first row of soldiers, but it could pass through into the 2nd and 3rd row. This along with the introduction of repeating rifles set up the battlefield for horrific slaughter and contributed to the need for trenches and trench fighting. The war became a prelude as to what the first world would be.

Supplies and soldiers were transported by rail and boat. The US navy grew from 3 battleships in 1861 to over 1000 ships in its fleet by 1865. The first ironclad ships were introduced and changed the course of naval warfare. Riverine warfare was first introduced in 1863 and the tactics learned then were repeated in the Philippines and Vietnam years later. Not only were the rivers important for the military but they were also the lifeblood of the native Americans. Without an interstate highway system or a fully developed rail system, the waterways became omnipresent.

The war was fought to end slavery. Although it did put an end to slavery it also brought the beginning of the enslavement of the Natives. The reservations that the natives were confined to were and to this day are still classified as internment camps. This is confusing and shameful. If one looks at a map of the United States one sees that most of the names of places- lakes rivers, trees, plants, and animals all have Native American names. Mendota itself means the meeting of two rivers. Minnehaha, the small creek that empties into the Mississippi from Minneapolis means “laughing water.” And the list goes on and on.

Mendota and the Restive Rivers of the Indian and Civil Wars 1861-65

The Simmons Family Saga

This is the fictional story set in Mendota, Minnesota of the Simmons family who are faced with the consequences of the Dakota Sioux Uprising of 1862 that swept across the state as well as the Civil War.

The father, Dan enlists in the 1st regiment of Minnesota volunteers as a teamster. His two sons, who are both underage join the 2nd Regiment. John, aged 16 becomes a bugler and William, aged 15 becomes a drummer. Their sister, Sara is left behind with their mother, Louise to fend for themselves. Dan is sent east to fight with the Army of the Potomac while his sons are sent to the western theater to serve in the army of the Cumberland. Back in Mendota, their neighbor and close friend, Colonel Henry Sibley is ordered to stay in the state to control the Indian uprising.

Dan will see action up through the battle of Antietam. He will later find himself in the hospital in Washington DC where he befriends a comrade also from the 1st Regiment. His sons barely miss the action at Shiloh but after, are engaged in all the major battles in the West. While they are passing through Louisville, William falls for a young woman, Mary who works as a hospital nurse. Back in Mendota, Sara befriends a young Chippewa native boy while her mother struggles with the breakup of her family. After Colonel Sibley defeats the Sioux, he is promoted to General and ordered to round up all the Dakota and push resettle them in the Dakotas.

This leads to the punitive expeditions that he and General Sully will command up until 1864. William is captured at the battle up Missionary Ridge and then sent to the prison camp at Belle Isle, VA. and then onto Andersonville. GA. John receives a 30 day furlough and returns to Mendota before he re-enlists. Louise and Sara wait for the war’s end so the family can be reunited, but events may not turn out as anticipated.

Available on Amazon or the Indie Book Store.

Connect with Dane

Dane Pizzuti Krogman was educated in the fine arts at the University of Minnesota, receiving BFA and MFA degrees. He also specialized in Asian art history, with a concentration in textile and surface design. After graduation, he worked as a freelance designer creating fashion samples for women’s athletic wear. He eventually relocated to California and taught at Cal-Poly Pomona in the Environmental Design program then moved on to work as a pictorial artist for outdoor advertising.

Moving back to the Twin Cities in 1981 he formed a scenic design company call Artdemo which in 10 years did over 1000 designs and productions for sets, props, and special effects for television commercials and feature films. In the early 90’s he relocated to Charleston, SC to work as a spec writer for feature film scripts. Six of his screenplays have won major writing awards and two of these have been optioned for production.

During this time he also taught scene design at the College of Charleston. This position led to an adjunct teaching position at Virginia Commonwealth University where he taught art direction for filmmakers. In 1998 he took a full time teaching position at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where he taught art direction, life drawing, set construction, and Asian film studies, eventually becoming chairman of the department.

The common thread through all of this has been his passion for Japanese design, art, and fashion. He has lived in Kyoto, Japan for the past 20 summers studying Japanese kimono and obi design of the Heian and Edo periods. In 2002 he won the Grand Prize for the best graphic novel at the Hiroshima manga competition. His graphic novel Skeleton Boy was selected for inclusion into the Hiroshima peace memorial library in 2007.

He was most recently an adjunct faculty member in the Graduate Program in Digital Filmmaking at Stony Brook Southampton. He is also an award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay, The Schooner was produced as the Australian film, AUSTRALIA in 2008. He has other award-winning films that have been optioned for production or are in production.

As a Civil War historian he has worked as a technical advisor for the films, Dances with Wolves, Gettysburg, and Glory. He currently has one Civil War novel in pre-publication; MENDOTA, AND THE RESTIVE RIVERS OF THE CIVIL AND INDIAN WARS 1861- 65.

He also works part-time as a crew member on a Grand-Am Rolex series race team. The team won the national championship in 2008.