Department of the Northwest

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The Department of the Northwest was an Army Department created September 6, 1862 by the Union Army to put down the Sioux uprising in Minnesota. It was composed of the forces within the territory of the states of Wisconsin (taken from the Dept. of the Ohio), Minnesota and Iowa (from the Department of the Mississippi), and the Nebraska and Dakota Territories (from the Department of Kansas). Nebraska Territory was detached to the Department of the Missouri on Oct. 11 1862.

From November 17, 1862 the Department was divided into four districts for a short time. The First District was composed of Iowa and Dakota Territory. The remainder were in Minnesota, the Second in the vicinity of Fort Snelling, the Third in the vicinity of Fort Ripley and the Fourth in the vicinity of Fort Abercrombie. These last three districts were merged into the District of Minnesota on November 23, 1862. First District remained until June 1, 1863 when Dakota Territory was merged into the District of Dakota and Iowa into the District of Iowa. Also a District of Wisconsin was formed.

Montana Territory, (largely part of Dakota Territory), was added to the department in May 26, 1864. The Department was attached to the Military Division of the Missouri on Jan. 30, 1865. On February 17, 1865, Montana and Dakota Territories west of 110 degrees west longitude were attached to the Department of the Missouri. The Department of the Northwest through the remainder of the Civil War consisted of the Districts of Wisconsin (Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Davies), Minnesota (Brig-Gen. Henry H. Sibley) and Iowa (Brig-Gen Alfred Sully). The Department of the Northwest was merged with the Department of the Missouri on June 27, 1865. Later most of its territory was organized as the Department of Dakota in 1866.

This Department's forces fought the Dakota War of 1862 and in the Sibley and Sully Expeditions of 1863, Sully's Northwest Indian Expeditions of 1864 and 1865 against the Sioux in Dakota Territory.[1][2]


Department of the Northwest

1st District, Department of the Northwest (incl.Iowa and Territory of Dakota)

  • Brig-Gen John Cook Nov. 17, 1862 – June 1, 1863

District of Iowa (incl. Territory of Dakota)

2nd District, Department of the Northwest (vicinity of Fort Snelling, Mn)

3rd District, Department of the Northwest (vicinity of Fort Ripley, Mn)

4th District, Department of the Northwest (vicinity of Fort Abercrombie, Mn)

District of Minnesota, (consolidated from 2nd, 3rd and 4th Districts)

District of Wisconsin

Posts in the Department of the Northwest


  • Camp Barstow (1861–1862), Janesville.
  • Camp Bragg (1861–1862), Oshkosh.
  • Fort Howard (1861–1863), Green Bay.
  • Camp Hamilton (1861–1862), Fond du Lac. Renamed Camp Wood (1862).
  • Camp Harvey (1861–1862), Kenosha.
  • Camp Holton (1861–1865), Milwaukee. Renamed Camp Reno in 1864.
  • Camp Randall (1861–1865), Madison.
  • Camp Scott (1861), Milwaukee.
  • Camp Sigel (1861), Milwaukee.
  • Camp Washburn (1861–1865), Milwaukee.
  • Camp Utley (1861–1862), Racine.
  • Camp Trowbridge (1862), Milwaukee.



  • Camp Burnside (1862), Des Moines
  • Camp McClellan (1861–1865), Davenport. Located on the riverfront at McClellan Park.
  • Camp Kearny (1863–1865), Davenport It was a prison stockade for Sioux Indians captured after the Sioux Uprising in Minnesota. Located adjacent to Camp McClellan.
  • Fort Defiance (1862–1864), Estherville
  • Fort Williams (1862–1865), Fort Dodge

Nebraska Territory

Dakota Territory

Events, skirmishes, and battles


Iowa, and the territories of Dakota and Nebraska with headquarters in St. Paul.

  • September 16, Major General John Pope arrives at St. Paul and takes command of the Department.
  • September 23, Battle of Wood Lake, Little Crow forced to flee to Canada.
  • September 26, Surrender at Camp Release
  • November, military trials of surrendered Dakota warriors
  • December, 303 Dakota prisoners were convicted of murder and rape by military tribunals and sentenced to death.
  • December 26, 38 convicted Dakota prisoners hanged in Mankato, Minnesota


  • June 16 – September 13, Sibley's Expedition against Indians in Dakota Territory.
  • July 3, Little Crow was killed near Hutchinson, Minnesota.
  • July 24, Battle of Big Mound
  • July 25, Sully's troops arrived at Fort Pierre missing the rendezvous with Sibley at Long Lake. Sully was forced to wait two more weeks for his steamboats, delayed by extreme low water in the Missouri River caused by a drought.
  • July 26, Battle of Dead Buffalo Lake
  • July 28, Battle of Stony Lake
  • July 31, With no sign of Sully at Long Lake and his horses worn down from the campaign, Sibley decides to abandon the operation and march back to Minnesota.
  • Mid-August, Sully, loaded the available supplies and 23 days of rations onto borrowed wagons and marched overland toward Devils Lake.
  • Late August, Sully's command reached rendezvous site at Long Lake. Sully knowing he had missed Sibley, turned southeast to attack Dakota that had returned to the east side of the Missouri River to hunt buffalo following the departure of Sibley.
  • September 3–5, Battle of Whitestone Hill. Sioux driven west of the Missouri River.



  • January 30, Department of the Northwest attached to the Military Division of the Missouri.
  • March 28, District of the Plains formed, to consisting of the Districts of Utah, Colorado, and Nebraska, with Brig. Gen. Patrick E. Connor, assigned to its command.
  • Spring, General Sully was ordered to provide one of 4 columns for Gen. Patrick E. Connor's Powder River Expedition.
  • Late Spring, Santee Sioux raid into Minnesota led by Jack Campbell killed 5 members of the Jewett family near Mankato, the last civilians killed in the Indian Wars in Minnesota. Campbell, drunk, was soon caught and hung. Santee Scouts working for the Army killed the remainder of the band soon after. Sully's force was diverted to attack hostiles, thought to be the source of the raid, near Devils Lake.
  • June 27, Department of the Northwest was merged with the Department of the Missouri.
  • July 5 – September 13, Sully's Northwestern Expedition of 1865.
    • July 13–22, Sully arrives at Fort Rice, negotiates treaties with some the bands he fought with the previous year.
    • July 23 – Aug 1, Sully marches from Fort Rice to north of Devils Lake looking for hostile Sioux, believed to have raided Minnesota.
    • August 2–8, Finding no hostiles, Sully turns west to Mouse River and then Fort Berthold.
    • August 25, Sully returns to Fort Rice, which drives off a Sioux force that had been attacking the Fort.
    • September 13, Sully returns to Fort Sully ending the campaign.


  1. 1.0 1.1 David Stephen Heidler, Jeanne T. Heidler, David J. Coles, Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2000, p.590
  2. John H. Eicher, David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2001, p.839