Johann Melchior Wahl

2012 – The Minneapolis Tribune recently ran a series on the 150th Anniversary of the Dakota Indian War.

Because my family had deep roots to that area, I have spent time researching their involvement in that action. Here is a little of what I found.

150 years ago – The Dakota Indian War

My grandmother’s 18 year old grand uncle, Johann Melchior Wahl arrived in Baltimore, Maryland from Württemberg, Germany in 1862. Less than three months after his arrival to the farm in Carver County, Minnesota, the first attack on the unsuspecting farmers in Acton, Meeker County, Minnesota signaled the start of the Dakota Indian War. Within days Melchior had enlisted and was marched to Hutchinson, MN along with other area farmers, to defend his new countrymen. During his time as a soldier he not only participated in notable battles with the Dakota, he also served as a witness to the hanging of the 38 Indians at Mankato. Later he spent time on post at Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory, where another relative of mine was killed by Indians in the second attack on the Fort

Before he could be released from service, his Company H of the 9th Minnesota was called to action in the Civil War and he was dispatched to Mississippi in the spring of 1864. After a long march with little in the way of provisions, he took part in the action at Brice’s Crossroads. Due to the Confederate’s superior knowledge of the terrain and the southern soldier’s fighting while being well rested and well fed, the Union Army was defeated. The week long retreat over the wet and muddy roads, combined with the lack of provisions and poor hygiene was too much for him and he died in a Memphis Hospital on July 24th 1864 of dysentery. It was doubtful he learned much English, but in his short time, here he gave his all to his new country.

Melchior was buried in Memphis, not more than 30 feet away from yet another of my Carver County Great Grand Uncles, who had also died of disease a year earlier in serving in the Union Army in Memphis.

The only records of their existence during the war was detailed in Army records and muster rolls. In Melchior’s case, a complete list of his possessions was documented at the time of his death… One shirt, a trouser with belt, socks and shoes.

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