Northern Slave, Black Dakota
The Life and Times of Joseph Godfrey
A Book About How the U.S. Army Brought Slavery to Minnesota in the 1800s
Author and retired attorney Walt Bachman’s historical research uncovered how the U.S. Army pay system fostered slavery in the 1800s at military installations in “free” states and territories, including Fort Snelling. Bachman’s research was inspired by stories he heard as a boy about his great-great grandfather Ernst Deitrich who was killed during an ambush by a group of Dakota men at the beginning of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. He learned that Joseph Godfrey, a black man, was accused of leading the ambush in which Deitrich was killed. Additional research revealed several unusual facts about Godfrey including:
- He was born a slave in a free territory.
- He is the only known home-grown fugitive slave in Minnesota.
- He was the only non-Dakota to fight with the Dakota.
Bachman’s research included interviews with a descendant of Dred Scott (of Dred Scott v. Sandford) and more than 50 visits to the National Archives to find thousands of federal pay records that refer to slaves kept by army officers. – most of which had never been reviewed. The result is his book, Northern Slave, Black Dakota: The Life and Times of Joseph Godfrey (Pond Dakota Press, 2013).
Bachman’s ground-breaking research documents how the U.S. Army pay system rewarded military officers for using enslaved people as servants in “free” states and territories.
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About Walt Bachman
Read “Walt Bachman Book Tells Life of Man Alleged to Have Killed his Ancestor,” by Claude Peck, Star Tribune.
Read “Author and Historian Walt Bachman Uncovers the Story of Minnesota Slavery,” by Amy Goetzman, MinnPost.
Listen to the author: “Author Walt Bachman Talks About his Book, Northern Slave Black Dakota,” KVSC Radio.