HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE NORTHWEST,
Milwaukee, Wis., May 16, 1865.
Honorable S. FINCH,
MY DEAR SIR: Colonel Smith will have replied to your favor of the 9th concerning your Indian difficulties before this. If I had not been anxious to see General Sully and secure corresponding movements in his district I should have Remained longer in Minnesota, but think I have done all I could to avert supposed danger. Government never can keep a sufficient guard in front as to avoid such a sneaking organization of a few savages as this which now prowls within the forests of your vicinity. They probably came disguised in citizens' or soldiers' clothes. Half-breed robbers no doubt lead them. I will do all in my power to guard against the recurrence of mischief by punishing those we find, and if possible assaulting their lodges. You will before now have heard of some movements to this effect, but it will not do to publish plans or even inform you, lest they may get circulation. Indian half-breeds are well informed of everything, and some of them are ready to carry intelligence to hostile tribes. The movements and stations of troops must therefore be concealed. In the meantime I can assure you all our forces will be in active service. Only enough remain at forts to guard property, prisoners, and the post. The rest will be in motion as soon as possible. Only enough to guard property and prisoners (ninety men) are stationed at Fort Snelling. The convalescents are being mustered out as fast as they recover from illness, so as to need no additional medical care. I wish you would say to Mr. McMahan and others who sent me a petition, dated May 6, that I also find their papers on my return and have duly considered them. I shall always be pleased to know what is doing on the frontier, and will always interest myself in whatever interests the community. I appreciate the importance of not only keeping the Indians down, but also the necessity of confidence in the community enough to avoid needless alarms. But so much anxiety should remain as to induce your people also to be self-sustaining. We never can have entire safety within the range of wild Indians, and frontier settlements must therefore always have some arrangements for quick rally and resistance, for Government cannot protect all points in the vast circumference of our great and now glorious Republic. I was glad to meet my old friend Colonel Smith, and recollect you very well. Of course many hard feelings will be involved on the occasion of such a disaster as that which occurred in your vicinity whenever several peaceable citizens and one of our soldiers have been stealthily murdered, but I hope no unjust indignation or reproaches will be indulged against our troops, who are generally ready and anxious to repel or avenge all such outrages.
I have the honor to be, sir, your friend and obedient servant,
S. R. CURTIS,
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSOURI,
Saint Louis, May 26, 1865.
This letter of General Curtis is respectfully forwarded for the information of the General-in-Chief. It contains substantially the same view of the Indian stampede in Minnesota hitherto sent.