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Lincoln ordered execution of dozens of Sioux warriors, commuted sentences of others

December 31, 2018 GMT

CLAIM: Social media posts circulating recently stated: “On this day, 26 December 1862, 38 Native Americans are executed in the US’s largest mass-hanging. The execution was ordered by Abraham Lincoln.”

 AP’S ASSESSMENT: True. Thirty-eight Native Americans were hanged on Dec. 26, 1862, as ordered by former President Abraham Lincoln, after the 1862 Dakota War, which was also known as the Sioux Uprising of 1862. The sentences of 265 others were commuted. 

 THE FACTS: A military commission sentenced 303 Sioux fighters to be executed after deadly fights white settlers and soldiers had with Indians angry about the loss of their homeland and lack of access to food. Harold Holzer, author of several books on Lincoln, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview this month that Lincoln reviewed “every one of these capital cases.”


According to reporting by The Associated Press, the original trials were a farce, some taking as little as five minutes. In addition, the Indians were denied counsel and did not understand what was being said.

 After the review, Lincoln decided there was evidence that 39 Sioux were guilty of murder or rape during the uprising and ordered their execution. The remaining 264 sentences were commuted. In addition, one of those sentenced to be executed received a reprieve before the Dec. 26, 1862, hanging of 38 Sioux warriors.

Lincoln went against the advice of fellow Republicans in Minnesota who warned that showing mercy would “carry a large political cost” and that “lessons needed to be taught,” according to Holzer. 

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program:


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.