The Dakota County Historical Society’s latest newsletter includes an article about the Minnesota county in 1863. The article touches on regional conflicts with Native Americans, and among the illustrations is a photograph of William Crooks from my collection. Crooks served as the colonel of the Sixth Minnesota Infantry. In this excerpt, Col. Crooks toasts Gen. Henry Hastings Sibley. The toast was recounted by a correspondent for the St. Paul Pioneer with the nom de plume INVALIDE:
To the far west of Dakota County, Sibley’s Indian Expedition was encamped at Camp Hayes at the “Great Bend” of the Sheyenne River during the Fourth of July. That evening, as reported by INVALIDE, Sibley and his staff as well as the field and staff officers of the different regiments of the Expedition, were invited to dine together at the headquarters’ mess tent. Colonel Crooks offered a toast to the health of the Brigadier General Commanding. Sibley replied saying: “I trust there is no gentleman present, or in this camp who would shrink from any sacrifice needed to accomplish the proposed objects of this expedition. For myself, I am not only willing to make any personal sacrifice, but am determined so far as I am concerned. I will endeavor to execute to the utmost of my ability, the important trusts developed to me. I shall take no backward step that I can avoid, until I secure Little Crow and his band of murderers.”
No one knew at the celebratory dinner, or could have known, that Little Crow had been shot and had bled to death the day before in Minnesota. Sibley would not have his prize.”
Unusual subject matter in this carte de visite by Martin’s Gallery of St. Paul, Minn. William Crooks (1832-1907), the colonel and commander of the Sixth Minnesota Infantry, stands next to a table top stereoscope, likely made by Alexander Beckers, a pioneer photographer, artist, inventor and businessman in New York City. Beckers, a friend and competitor of photographer Edward Anthony, received ten patents for the stereoscope during two decades in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. Stereoview photographs could be viewed in 3-D using devices like the one pictured here.
There are dozens of Minnesota men named Lars Larson recorded in the 1860 U.S. Census, and this is very likely one of them. The name is inscribed on the back of the mount. Also present on the reverse is a internal revenue stamp, which was used by the federal government between 1864 and 1866 to help pay for the Civil War. The stamp covers the photographer’s advertising mark—all that is visible is the city, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
While the Norwegian name may be commonplace, the elaborate background is not. Larson rests his left hand on a book that lay on an impressive balustrade, and behind him is a wood-trimmed door or window frame from which hangs a decorative curtain and tassels. The darkness inside the frame creates contrast with his face.