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Alfred Sully was born in 1821, the son of a well-known artist. He graduated West Point Military Academy in 1841 and served in the US Army throughout his lifetime. His service in Florida, Claifornia, and Mexico gave him a reputation as an Indian fighter. While in Claifornia, He married a Mexican woman who later died.
When the Civil War broke out, Sully was in Kansas. He occupied St. Joseph, Missouri, the site of secessionist activity. Early in 1862, he was sent to Minnesota and Dakota Territory. Following the U.S.-Dakota War, Sully was made Brevet (a temporary rank) Brigadier General.
Many fur traders and soliders who lived in Dakota in the 1850s and 1860s married women of local tribes. These marriages created a complex of relationships that benefited the traders and the Indians. The relationships were more complicated for soldiers. However, a young French and Yankton woman caught Sully's eye while he was stationed at Fort Randall in Dakota Territory. His marriage to her gave him strong kindhsip ties to the Yankton tribe. Together they had a daughter, Mary, (also called Akicita Win or Soldier Woman). In 1866, Sully married in a tradition more suitable to his background. His new wife was Sophia Henrietta Webster.
Alfred Sully was, like his father, an amateur artist. His favorirte subjects were Indians and Indian villages he saw while on duty in California and Dakota. He also painted a scene from his attack on Dakotas camped at Whitestone Hill in 1863.
Other officers called Sully an easy going person, not interested in the details of military dress and regulation. He was somewhat relaxed when things were going well. He was considered an able soldier and unafraid. Sully also had a bad temper and a large vocabulary of profanity. Sully knew Indians well, and following the Battle of Killdeer Mountain, he counseled Col. Dimon, in command at Fort Rice, to avoid confrontation and conflict and to find a way to befriend the Dakotas that camped near the post.
Sully contiued to serve in the Army after the Civil War ended, though he seldom saw conflict. He died in 1879 while stationed at Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory.