By the 1860s, the US was caught up in the developing Civil War and was unable to pay the Dakotas their yearly annuity on time. Settlers had taken most of the good hunting land, so with fewer animals to hunt and no money to buy food, the Mdewakanton band began calling for a war with the settlers to push them out of their old land. Taoyateduta, their leader, was originally not willing to lead the warriors into battle, but with growing pressure from his people he was resigned to lead them regardless.
The Dakota's were able to achieve some victories in the region, specifically at Lower Agency and Birch Coulee, but settlers were able to push them back with relative ease due to superior firepower and numbers. With news of the Dakota's uprisings reaching Col. Henry Sibley, he made the decision to bring his troops closer to the Dakota's camp. The militia left Fort Ridgely on September 19th and reached the shores of Lone Tree (also known as Battle Lake) on September 22nd. That night, a band of about 700 Dakota warriors approached their camp by the Chippewa River and hid in the tall grass, preparing to attack when the militia broke camp. The incident happened by accident, when a group of Sibley's troops looking for food stumbled upon the Dakota warriors. Shots were fired, alerting the rest of the militia. The Dakota were outnumbered and outgunned. Taoyateduta realized the battle was lost and fled into the countryside with what was left of his army.