By Don Heinrich Tolzmann
The two battles of New Ulm occupy an important place in the history of the 1862 Dakota War and had the city fallen, the war no doubt would have further enveloped the entire Minnesota River Valley. The citizens of New Ulm and Brown County were not alone in rising to the city’s defense, but were joined by reinforcements from Mankato, St. Peter, LeSueur, and elsewhere.
The Mankato Company was organized, for example, in Mankato by German immigrant William Bierbauer. Born in 1826 in Einselthum, he came to America with his brother after the 1848 Revolution in Germany and settled in Mankato, Minnesota. He founded the Bierbauer Brewing Co. in 1857, which became the second largest brewing company in southern Minnesota (after Schell’s Brewery of New Ulm).
Daniel Buck reports in his book, Indian Outbreaks, (Mankato, Minnesota, 1904) that when Bierbauer “heard of the Indian outbreak he immediately raised a company in Mankato, and, as its captain, proceeded to New Ulm, where he rendered valiant service through its siege.”
Buck also quotes Judge Flandrau as saying of him: “Captain Bierbauer and his gallant company were very prominent figures at the battle of New Ulm, which was fought Aug. 23, 1862. The bravery of Captain Bierbauer was most conspicuous, and produced the best result. During the critical period of the fight, when bullets were falling fast and thick from the Sioux rifles, I noticed one man standing alone and in advance of all others, firing at the Indians, and manfully maintaining his position. We advanced, and ascertained that it was Captain Bierbauer of Mankato, and directing the attention of the men to this manifestation of bravery, they rallied to assist in maintaining the position held by the captain. I shall never forget the effect it produced on these men who had been on the run a moment before. When they recognized their captain in this exposed position, so coolly holding his own, the effect was electrical. The State of Minnesota owes Captain Bierbauer a debt of gratitude, and will ever keep his memory green.”
Buck notes of Bierbauer: “He imperiled his life for others and for his country, and the fruitage of that heroism helped save the lives of many. Grand old hero of New Ulm's bloody days! You fulfilled life's best measure and demands, and to your memory I bring my personal respect for a dear friend and brave man.”
A roster of the Mankato Company can be found in the following lists from: Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861-1865 (St. Paul, 1891).
The Defenders Monument in New Ulm was erected by the State of Minnesota in 1890 and lists the names of those killed in the Battles of New Ulm, including members of the Mankato Company. (Photographs of the monument courtesy of John LaBatte)