The Battle of Birch Coulee, one of the hardest-fought battles of the US-Dakota War of 1862, lasted 36 hours and resulted in devastating casualties.
On September 1, 1862, a detail of 160 to 170 soldiers and civilians under the command of Maj. Joseph R. Brown was dispatched from Fort Ridgely to bury the remains of settlers who had been killed in the early weeks of the US-Dakota War. That evening, they selected an open piece of ground near Birch Coulee Creek for camp.
During the night, a group of 200 Dakota soldiers surrounded the camp. Just before sunrise, a warning shot signaled the start of the Battle of Birch Coulee.
Badly outnumbered and highly exposed, the detail was under siege for nearly 36 hours. The fighting finally ended on the morning of September 3, when Henry Sibley arrived with reinforcements and artillery from Fort Ridgely.
Brown’s forces lost 13 men and 90 horses, and more than 50 men were injured. There were two recorded Dakota deaths.
To learn more about the US-Dakota War of 1862, visit the US-Dakota War of 1862 website.