Guest Post: Mendota and the Restive Rivers of the Indian and Civil Wars 1861-65

This is the fictional story set in Mendota, Minnesota of the Simmons family who are faced with the consequences of the Dakota Sioux Uprising of 1862 that swept across the state as well as the Civil War.

The father, Dan enlists in the 1st regiment of Minnesota volunteers as a teamster. His two sons, who are both underage join the 2nd Regiment. John, aged 16 becomes a bugler and William, aged 15 becomes a drummer. Their sister, Sara is left behind with their mother, Louise to fend for themselves. Dan is sent east to fight with the Army of the Potomac while his sons are sent to the western theater to serve in the army of the Cumberland. Back in Mendota, their neighbor and close friend, Colonel Henry Sibley is ordered to stay in the state to control the Indian uprising.

Dan will see action up through the battle of Antietam. He will later find himself in the hospital in Washington DC where he befriends a comrade also from the 1st Regiment. His sons barely miss the action at Shiloh but after, are engaged in all the major battles in the West. While they are passing through Louisville, William falls for a young woman, Mary who works as a hospital nurse. Back in Mendota, Sara befriends a young Chippewa native boy while her mother struggles with the breakup of her family. After Colonel Sibley defeats the Sioux, he is promoted to General and ordered to round up all the Dakota and push resettle them in the Dakotas.

This leads to the punitive expeditions that he and General Sully will command up until 1864. William is captured at the battle up Missionary Ridge and then sent to the prison camp at Belle Isle, VA. and then onto Andersonville. GA. John receives a 30 day furlough and returns to Mendota before he re-enlists. Louise and Sara wait for the war’s end so the family can be reunited, but events may not turn out as anticipated.

Author’s Inspiration

This could be a book in itself.

From as far back as I can recall my earliest memories were of aspects of the US Civil War. Before I could even read I was tormenting my mother with tales of the war. Where I got these notions I don’t know, but as I grew my fascination took over. Of course, being surrounded by the environment where some of these actions in my story took place only added fuel to the fire.

In the early 1980s, I was living in Southern California. The events of the Indian and Civil war were still driving me to read all I could about it. One day, after seeing an ad in the local newspaper I signed up to gain a certificate in hypnosis. The class was being taught by a NASA psychologist who was working with Astronauts on visualization. The class ran for 16 weeks. Midway through the instructor found me to be such an agreeable subject he asked if I would be interested in doing a past life regression. I volunteered and he took me through three sessions that were recorded on audiotape. I dismissed most of this as just part of my imagination.

Years later I sat down to review the tapes and listen to myself under hypnosis. Behold! There was a name and Identity that stood out. The man’s name was John Sonderman.

On one of my visits to the National Archives, I decided to see if I could find him in the US Civil War pension records, and indeed I did. From my audiotape, I already knew enough about him to form an Identity that matched my own life. John Sonderman had been a member of the 1st Minnesota regiment and was part of that horrific final charge that nearly wiped out every member. He was wounded but survived and went on to live out his life in Indian territory in the Dakotas. Hence this was the inspiration to write my book. Though he is not a character. I did use his first name John as one of my main characters.

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Meet Dane Pizzuti Krogman

Dane Pizzuti Krogman was educated in the fine arts at the University of Minnesota, receiving BFA and MFA degrees. He also specialized in Asian art history, with a concentration in textile and surface design. After graduation, he worked as a freelance designer creating fashion samples for women’s athletic wear. He eventually relocated to California and taught at Cal-Poly Pomona in the Environmental Design program then moved on to work as a pictorial artist for outdoor advertising. Moving back to the Twin Cities in 1981 he formed a scenic design company call Artdemo which in 10 years did over 1000 designs and productions for sets, props, and special effects for television commercials and feature films. In the early 90’s he relocated to Charleston, SC to work as a spec writer for feature film scripts. Six of his screenplays have won major writing awards and two of these have been optioned for production. During this time he also taught scene design at the College of Charleston. This position led to an adjunct teaching position at Virginia Commonwealth University where he taught art direction for filmmakers. In 1998 he took a full time teaching position at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where he taught art direction, life drawing, set construction, and Asian film studies, eventually becoming chairman of the department.

The common thread through all of this has been his passion for Japanese design, art, and fashion. He has lived in Kyoto, Japan for the past 20 summers studying Japanese kimono and obi design of the Heian and Edo periods. In 2002 he won the Grand Prize for the best graphic novel at the Hiroshima manga competition. His graphic Novel Skeleton boy was selected for inclusion into the Hiroshima peace memorial library in 2007.

He was most recently an adjunct faculty member in the Graduate Program in Digital Filmmaking at Stony Brook Southampton. He is also an award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay, The Schooner was produced as the Australian film, AUSTRALIA in 2008. He has other award-winning films that have been optioned for production or are in production.

As a Civil War historian he has worked as a technical advisor for the films, Dances with Wolfs, Gettysburg, and Glory. He currently has one Civil War novel in pre-publication; MENDOTA, AND THE RESTIVE RIVERS OF THE CIVIL AND INDIAN WARS 1861-65.

He also works part-time as a crew member on a Grand-Am Rolex series race team. The team won the national championship in 2008

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