Joseph Coursolle's Testimony

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The book, Through Dakota Eyes, records a story of the war experiences of my great great great grandfather, Joseph Coursolle or Kabupi, who was also known as Gaboo or Caboo.  What I’d like to share here is another version of Joseph's first day of the war - in his own words.  Joseph Coursolle was born in 1829 or 1830 to a French Canadian father and a Sisseton mother who had lived at Lake Traverse.  By 1841, with his parents both gone, Joseph came under the guardianship of Henry Sibley.  By 1850, he was living in Mendota, working as a blacksmith in the household of Joseph Robinette, and in 1862, he was running Louis Robert’s store at the Lower Sioux Agency.  Joseph's wife, Jane, had been briefly married to Robert's brother (until his death), and she was the step-daughter of Robinette, who became the blacksmith at the Lower Sioux Agency and was killed on the first day of the war.  Two of Joseph's daughters by Jane and his son by a Mdewakanton mother were made captives during the war, and the children were reunited with their father at Camp Release.  After the war, Joseph and Jane tried to make a go of it in Minnesota but eventually moved to the Santee Reservation in northern Nebraska.  There, in December 1887, during an illness that was expected to kill him, Joseph died by his own hand.  He was buried outside the Catholic cemetery in Springfield, South Dakota.  Joseph Coursolle had acted as interpreter and scout for Henry Sibley and had fought at the Battles of Birch Coulee and Wood Lake, but his grave marker appears exiled from the cemetery just as Joseph was exiled from his home.  The story recorded in Through Dakota Eyes is an oral history passed down to Joseph’s grandson.  The oral history appears to be - perhaps - especially the beginning of it - a mix of Joseph’s experiences during the 1857 Spirit Lake Massacre and his experiences during the 1862 US Dakota War.  What I’d like to share here are Joseph Coursolle’s own words - from court testimony - about his experience on 18 August 1862.
Joseph Coursolle, Sworn on behalf of the claimant Eulalie Turpin testified:
By Gen. Sanborn: Q. What is your age and place of residence? A. 55 years of age. I live at Nebraska, Santee Agency. Q. Where did you live in 1861 and 1862? A. At Redwood Agency. Q. In whose employ were you? A. Mr. Robert's. Q. What were you doing? A. Interpreting for him, trading and selling goods for him. Q. Where did you sell goods for him? A. In all directions; On the Coteau de Prairie; back of New Ulm, and also back of Redwood. Q. What do you mean by "back", north or south? A. That is south. Q. When did you commence working for Mr. Louis Robert? A. From first to last, do you mean? 7 years. Q. What year did you commence? A. I don't believe I could tell you what year. Q. Well, when did you cease you labors? A. Just after the Outbreak when I ran away from the Agency. Q. Where were you on the day of the Outbreak in 1862?  A. At the store. Q. What store? A. Mr. Robert's store. Q. At what place? A. At the Lower Agency. Q. At Redwood? A. Yes, sir. Q. How many stores had Mr. Robert? A. He had one at Redwood Agency, one at Yellow Medicine Agency and one up to Big Stone Lake. Q. Did you sell in a store or a tent or from a cart or how? A. In a tent. Q. Sold from in a tent? A. Yes, sir. Q. How long did you remain at any one place? A. Sometimes a week, sometimes a month and sometimes two or three days, according to what trade I made. Q. How long had you been at Redwood Agency at the time of the Outbreak? At that particular time, I mean; how long had you been in to the Agency? A. I was there all the time. Q. You say you were there when the Outbreak occurred? A. Yes, sir. Q. Well, how long had you been in from the Coteau or wherever you had been last? A. I had been in there for just about 2 weeks before that.
Q. How did you save your life?
A. There was an old man early in the morning there was an old Indian came to the store or came to my door and knocked at the door and he asked me to come out to give him some shot and powder; he says his son-in-law is going out to shoot some ducks; and I came out, bare-foot, no coat on me with the exception of my pants and a hat, and I took the key and went over to the store with him; and at once the Indian looked up that way and he saw them Indians coming down, running, on the Prairie, and he says, say he, "What's the matter?" and I looked up that way and I saw the Indians, a foot and horseback - the prairie was covered. Said I "What's the matter?" Said he, "I don't know." And I turned right back and came to our house, and in about 20 to 25 minutes after that they just rushed right at the Agency there and they stood all around the store and everywhere and standing there with their arms, and I was standing right in front of our door just like this way (witness stands up erect, with arms folded) looking towards Mr. Myrick's store. I saw an Indian start from there, all naked, with his gun on his shoulder and a lance on his left hand, and he came to Mr. Forbe's store, there was about maybe 30 or 40 Indians standing right in front of the store, and there was some Frenchmen sitting on the porch; and an Indian (they called him Cutnose) was standing right in front of Antoine Young, and this Cutnose had his gun just like this (up in front of his face) and this Indian came from Myrick's store and told him something, and he wiped his hand this way (indicating as though wiping the sweat from his face) but I didn't understand what he said, I was too far away from him; he turned back from there and went out towards Mr. Myrick's store, and just as soon as he turned the corner of the store, this way, I heard one gun fired, and then Cutnose took his gun and dropped it down that way (indicating) and shot Antoine Young right in the stomach, and he just went this way (indicating falling over). And three days before that my wife was confined with a child and in bed at the time, and she raised up, with her baby in her arms and she says - came to the door and says, "Let's go," and crying, and reached me by the arm. And I told her to lie down. Said I, "Wife, you can't save yourself anyhow." She said she would go anyhow. And we started going down the hill, there was a bluff coming down that way, and she was holding my arm this way, and I was holding my other boy with the [?] and we went down the hill and went in the timber and hid ourselves, and then we crossed the Minnesota River and came on the other side and then that night I came to Ft. Ridgley, walking with her, about midnight. That is the way I saved my life. [The testimony continues.]
The foregoing testimony having been...reduced to writing it was on the 30th day of July 1885 read over to the witness and by him subscribed and sworn to. [Signature of notary public]

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