GRANITE FALLS -- Union soldiers and Dakota warriors who clashed in a violent conflict 147 years ago may be remembered on the western Minnesota prairie where they gave their lives, and where the bodies of some still lie.
Gene Flaten, representing the Wood Lake Battlefield Preservation Association, told the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the group is hopeful of seeing the site of the Sept. 23, 1862, Battle of Wood Lake designated as a national historic site within a year's time.
It would represent a big step toward the group's ultimate goal of preserving the site as a national battlefield.
It's one of only two Civil War battlefield sites currently recommended by the National Park service for consideration for such a designation in Minnesota. The other is Fort Ridgely, where Union soldiers and Dakota warriors also battled in the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862.
Col. Henry Sibley and his 1,600 troops thwarted an ambush by Chief Little Crow at this site in eastern Yellow Medicine County, and the battle ended what some called President Abraham Lincoln's "second war."
Flaten said the nonprofit group has entered into a 50-year lease agreement with a landowner to protect a 64-acre portion of the battlefield. It is also close to completing a perpetual easement for a 240-acre portion of the battlefield with other landowners.
"It's remarkably beautiful and pristine; much like it was when the battle occurred," said Flaten of the site.
The group would like to see the battlefield preserved to remember those on both sides who lost their lives, as well as to tell the story of the clash of two great cultures that occurred here.
The association was started in early 2006 by Tom Hosier of Rochester, and now counts over 800 members in 39 states. Flaten said the process towards becoming a designated Civil War battlefield will be a long one.
The group wants to see the area protected in its natural state.
Although some areas are now farmed- the Dakota warriors are believed to lie under a corn field- much of the battlefield surrounds a creek with 60-foot banks and remains pasture and open prairie.
Flaten said someday there could be a small hiking trail, interpretive signs and a parking area developed.