Henry Hastings Sibley

Henry Hastings Sibley, a distant cousin of General Henry Hopkins Sibley of the Confederacy, was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 29, 1811, when the area was virtually a wilderness. He received a superior education for the place and time and in 1829 entered the employ of the American Fur Company as a clerk. Five years later he began to actively engage in the fur trade itself and in 1835 built the first private residence in Minnesota at Fort Snelling. In 1848 Sibley was elected territorial delegate to Congress from the part of Wisconsin Territory not embraced by the state of Wisconsin, and the next year was instrumental in the establishment of the Minnesota Territory. When the territory achieved statehood in 1858, he was elected its first governor. During the Sioux uprising in 1862, Sibley, who had enjoyed much prestige among the tribes for many years, was placed in command of the state forces sent against them. He was commissioned a brigadier general of U. S. Volunteers on September 29, 1862, but was not confirmed by the Senate and the appointment expired by law the following March 4. However, on March 20, 1863, he was reappointed and duly confirmed. Although he performed admirably against the Sioux and in 1865-66 was one of the commissioners to negotiate treaties with the various warlike tribes, it is probable that General Sibley never saw an armed Confederate. He was brevetted major general on November 29, 1865, for "efficient and meritorious service" and was mustered out on April 30, 1866. At this time he changed his residence to St. Paul where he spent the balance of his life. He headed, at various times, a gas company, an insurance company, and a bank. He was elected to the state legislature in 1871 and while serving in this body delivered a speech opposing the repudiation of the state railroad bonds which resulted in the maintaining of Minnesota's credit. For many years he was president of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce and was active on the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota. He received an honorary LL.D. from Princeton University in 1888. During the later years of his life he wrote a number of articles for the collections of the state historical society, meanwhile, serving as the society's president. General Sibley died on February 18, 1891, in St. Paul and was buried there in Oakland Cemetery.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.