Settlers had come from miles around. The hotels were full. And some spectators were camped out in tents and wagons. The giant gallows erected between Front Street and the Minnesota River was a marvel: a perfect square, supported by oak timbers, and able to hold 40 nooses — 10 on each side.

It was the day after Christmas 1862, and the largest mass execution in American history was scheduled for 10 a.m. in the hamlet of Mankato.

The condemned were 38 Dakota Indians convicted for the largest killing of whites in any Indian war in American history.