Letter from G. Merrill Dwelle to his sister Carrie describing matters at Fort Snelling and a trip to Minnehaha Falls – April 12, 1863
Fort Snelling April 12th, 1863
You see the moment you left home I run away to cheat you out of the board bill. Nice trick of mine wasent it[,] to take you out in the country and leave you there and then leave in your absence. That is one of the tricks we learn at the war[.] We all finally becom dishonest, or form habits that are no help in later life[.] There are more temptations thrown around me now than ever before. When I was in the army before I was associated with men that could only get rum once and a while but now how different – one Steady Stream are is running into the necks of some of the officers by night and day. I am happy to say that those belonging to the company or rather the battery are different [.] Lieut Whipple does not drink but little and Cap. Jones not at all. If I have been asked to partake once I have fifty times and hope I may have the courage to resist all entreaties in the future as well as I have in the past[.] Lieut Whipple assists me by telling them that I never drink. Thus far I like him, so will give you a description of his general appearance. He is large of size frame and proportionately tall, stoop shouldered and takes steps when he walks about as far as I can jump[.] His countenance is anything but handsom and by what I have seen of him yet – is pretty good natured – is full as negligent in his dress as I am, and dislikes foppish airs as bad as any one I ever met – has been to Sea a number of years and sailed five times around the world – has been ten years in the regular army and was through the Florida war and war with Mexico and says he is going out now to fight these infernal Injuns[.] Lieut W. is a cousin of Bishop W. instead of brother as I told you[.] There is about fifteen hundred Indian prisoners encamped here.[*] They are kept under guard, are mostly women and children – there being but few men with them here[,] they being in irons at Mankato[.] On Friday in company with the agent[,] Whipple and I visited their camp[,] which is in a yard surrounded by a high board fence and covers the area of about one and a half acres[.] Such a filthy motley group I never saw before. Old Squaws who look as if they had seen a hundred years and whose countenances look more like fiendish than friendly[.] Lieut Whipple was at Fort Ridgely when it was attacked and said that when any of our men was wounded these Squaws would [go] around and cut their heads off and if there is anything in Phisiognomy[**] to mark the character[,] I believe some of these very ones would do it.
Today I went out to Minnehaha Falls to see the sights about there[.] It is quite a romantic place isent it. There was a youg Englishman of a romantic turn of mind furnished who belongs to the Cavelry, furnished the horses and went with us. While there Lieut Whipple remarked that it would be a nice place for a mill. He (the Englishman revolted in a moment) and said that would spoil the place.
If there is any letters for me forward them here[.] The address is 3rd Minnesota Battery Fort Snelling Minn[.]
Write me often and all the news.
See entire letter here: 1863-04-12_Dwelle_combined
*Learn more about the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, as well as its causes and consequences, by visiting this website or by viewing the exhibit at the Minnesota History Center.
**Physiognomy, defined as judging human character from facial features (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/physiognomy)
Citation: April 12, 1863, Letter from G. Merrill Dwelle to Carrie, Correspondence, 1863. G. Merrill Dwelle papers. Minnesota Historical Society. [A/ .D989]