A FAR CRY FROM GLORY
Most officers in the regular army during the 1850s were professional soldiers with combat experience. Most had fought in the Mexican-American War (1846-47), and three quarters were West Point graduates. To those who had seen action in Mexico, frontier duty was boring. Moreover, promotions were hard to get. Since there were no retirement benefits, senior officers stayed in service as long as possible.
In the regular army there was a wide social gulf between enlisted men and officers. Enlisted men were expected to address officers in the third person, as in: "If it pleases the lieutenant, the morning reports are ready for examination." This strict class etiquette faded away when volunteer regiments were formed during the Civil War.
Officers and Agents
Fort Ridgely's officers and soldiers feared that the local Indian agents' mismanagement of the reservation would lead to conflict with the Dakota. They did not think highly of these politically appointed civilian agents. They considered them incompetent, ignorant, and corrupt. In 1855, Commandant Major Hannibal Day was outraged when the Lower Sioux Agency's Robert Murphy purchased spoiled pork—which Day had earlier refused—to feed to the Dakota.
Captain Richard Musgrove, an officer at Fort Ridgely, said, "The Indian agent has been the fruitful cause of trouble among the Indians." Musgrove added that the Dakota knew they were being cheated, and that "this knowledge was one of the many grievances that the Indians cherished, previous to the outbreak."
Minnesota Historical Society