The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 29, 2012

Mankato historian Bryce Stenzel releases playbook detailing Lincoln, U.S.-Dakota War

The Free Press

MANKATO — Bryce Stenzel will release his latest Abraham Lincoln-related work on the 150th anniversary of the 16th president’s Annual Message to Congress in which he devoted an entire section of his speech to the U.S.-Dakota War.

Saturday marks the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s speech, which occurred five days before he pardoned all but 38 of the Dakota sentenced to death by makeshift courts in Mankato.

It also marks the official release of Stenzel’s playbook, “... We Cannot Escape History ...,” which dovetails the events that unfolded between white settlers and mostly Dakota Indians on Minnesota’s prairie in 1862 with the political and moral obligations felt by Lincoln.

Stenzel, a Mankato historian and veteran Lincoln reenactor, spent months researching and writing the script, compiling material from a variety of sources including Lincoln’s own writings and local accounts from both sides of the war.

When his play was staged in May at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Stenzel said the play was his response to the community dialogue surrounding the events that preceded the largest mass execution in this country’s history.

“There will never be true reconciliation until the story is told objectively from multiple perspectives,” Stenzel said at the time. “This play is my effort to do that.”

In addition to signing copies of his playbook, Stenzel will be leading a discussion that includes: a brief summary of the events that culminated in the mass hanging in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862, as well as a description of how the play was written and performed, and an objective analysis of how the historiography of the U.S.-Dakota War has changed over time.

Special emphasis will be placed on discussing the ongoing controversy associated with how the Dakota hanging site should be memorialized.

The book was published by Minnesota Heritage Publishing, which also published Stenzel’s previous playbooks about Lincoln’s life and legacy.

During the event, books will be available for sale and donations will be accepted on behalf of the Boy in Blue Memorial Project, which aims to rebuild Mankato’s Civil War soldier statue that once stood in Lincoln Park.