Baptiste Scott Campbell


Baptiste Scott Campbell

Mendota, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
Death 26 Dec 1862 (aged 31)
Mankato, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, USA
Burial Mankato, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, USA
Memorial ID 47617886 View Source

A Mdewakanton Dakota of mixed descent who was executed by a military commission after the US-Dakota War of 1862. He was also known as Jean Baptiste or John Baptiste Campbell. He was the son of Antoine Scott Campbell and Marguerite Menager of St. Paul, Minn. He was among the 303 Dakota men who were tried by a kangaroo court for participating in the war. He was convicted of "participation in the murders, robberies and outrages committed by the Sioux Indian on the Minnesota frontier" and and hanged at Mankato, Minn. on Dec. 26, 1862.

He was born at Fort Snelling, where his father was an interpreter for Indian Agent Maj. Lawrence Taliaferro for 25 years. He married Rosalie Renville, who was the daughter of Joseph Renville and Marie (or Mary) Little Crow.

He was a farmer and was living with his parents in 1850. His father died the following year. In the mid-1850's, he went to the Upper Sioux reservation to work there as a small Indian trader. About this same time, he sold some land north of what is now Main Street in Winsted, Minn. to Elias Lewis. Lewis then founded the village of Winsted on July 30, 1857.

In 1857, he was one of the six braves of mixed descent who went with Chief Little Crow to Skunk Lake to try to stop Chief Inkpaduta's renegade band of hostile Dakota warriors. The winter had been severe, food was scarce, and Inkpaduta's band was starving, causing the death of his grandson. In retaliation, his band had ruthlessly attacked non-combatant settlers at Spirit Lake, Iowa, killing 38. This became known as the Spirit Lake Massacre. Inkpaduta's band evaded capture by the US military, which then asked for Little Crow's help. However, Inkpaduta's renegade band was never caught.

According to the 1860 census, Campbell had $100 in his personal estate. No occupation was listed.

He was at Myrick's Trading Post at the Lower Agency with his brother, Joe Campbell, when it was attacked by hostile Dakota on Aug. 18, 1862 - the beginning of the US-Dakota War, led by Chief Little Crow. He and his brother managed to slip away during the attacks at the Agency with the help of Indian relatives who were in the war party. For the Dakota who had declared war, the purpose was to kill all whites and "all cut-hairs who will not join us", take their land back, and return to their way of life before the white settlers came. The lives of Dakota Indians of mixed descent were also at risk; some had been killed for not cooperating with Little Crow's band of warriors. Against their will, many were forced to participate to protect the lives of their family members and avoid losing their own lives. Sometimes, this also meant telling members of Little Crow's band that you had killed someone, even if you had not.

Baptiste participated in the US-Dakota War of 1862, but said it was under duress. On the day after the war broke out, the Campbells were among the several hundred Dakota who went to Little Crow's camp when he gave orders to come to his village.

During his trial, Baptiste said he was pressed into service: "I had a wife and two children at Crow's village. Little Crow said I must kill all the white men I met. He told me if I didn't do as he said, he would find a way to kill me."

He testified that he was told by warriors in Little Crow's party to go on the other side of the river and catch horses and cattle because they couldn't catch them. He and Henry Milord, Auge, and some other Indians went over, and Little Crow told them "If you won't help and kill some white men, you should be killed." Campbell then went to a house where he didn't think there were any people. He saw a white man by a marsh a long distance off. "I shot first, none went round the hill."

Antoine Freniere testified that Campbell had told him he saw a white man and fired at him. Ma-za-bom-a-du testified that he and another Indian had heard that some half-breeds had killed a white man and woman. He had seen the defendant going home, but didn't think he had a gun.

After explaining that Little Crow had ordered him to kill, Campbell said, "...I went to the Big Woods on a war party. They had a fight with the soldiers. Crow was along. The soldiers and Indians ran so fast that I couldn't keep up with them. Joe Campbell was there and Narcisse Freniere, Louis LaBelle. We went above the town, crossed the river three or four miles above. We heard the firing at the town. After we heard the firing, Crow asked us to go toward the town. When we got within a mile and a half of the town saw Indians with a White woman as a prisoner. Crow said the White men were too many for us and left."

At most, the testimony indicates Campbell shot at a man, but does not prove he killed him. However, the verdict was "Guilty and to hang."

The day before the 38 Dakota men were to be executed, they were told by missionary Stephen Riggs that they could ask to speak and pray with a missionary, priest, or minister. They did not ask for Riggs. Almost every one of them asked for Father Ravoux, a Jesuit priest who had been a long-time friend of the Dakota. Although Stephen Riggs was fluent or nearly fluent in the Dakota language, Father Ravoux was not. He asked Baptiste Campbell, not Riggs, to translate for him when he spoke to the Dakota. Baptiste was a Catholic and was fluent not only in Dakota but other languages as well. As Father Ravoux ministered to the Dakota men and prayed with them, Campbell was at his side, translating his words into their native language.

One of Baptiste's brothers, John "Jack" Campbell, had enlisted in the Army in 1861. He had been missing from his regiment, Brackett's Battalion, since the outbreak of the Dakota War. After he returned to his unit, he told an Army comrade many details about the Dakota War in Minnesota, and that his brother Baptiste had joined the hostiles, been captured, tried, and hanged. He swore revenge on all of Mankato for his brother's hanging.

(c) Copyright 2009 C. K. Coffin


Isch, John. The Dakota Trials, Including the Complete Transcripts and Explanatory Notes on the Military Commission Trials in Minnesota, 1862-1864, Case No. 138, pages 182-184.

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