Fort Ransom History

Long before Fort Ransom or the Fort Ransom town-site were established, the native Americans were lord and rulers of the Dakota Territory. Here in eastern Da­kota, there were Crows, Arikaras, Cheyennes, Chippewa and others, but this was predominantly Sioux country. The Great Sioux Nation consisted of seven council fires: The Mdewakantons: Sacred Water People; The Sissetons: The Marsh Dwellers; The Wahpekutes: Shooters Among the Leaves; The Yanktons: The End-Village People; The Wahpetons: Dwellers Among the Leaves; The Yanktonais: Little End-village People; and The Tetons: Dwellers on the Prairie. There were at least 30,000 Sioux east of the Missouri before the white men came.

The Sioux war and hunting parties penetrated all of the Sheyenne River Country of North Dakota. All the battles and uprisings came to a head in 1876, on the greasy grass, at the Little Bighorn. Although General Custer was defeated, the powerful Sioux Nation was broken. Sitting Bull was the last chief to surrender at Fort Buford, Dakota Territory, in 1881. The massacre of men, women and children at "Wounded Knee" in 1890 was the last so-called battle with the Sioux.

Paleo Points, Yuma, Eden, Folsom

Fort Ransom Military Post was established in 1867 to protect settlers and railroad workers building the Northern Pacific Railroad from Fargo to Bismarck . The fort was built at a place called Grizzly Bear Hill, a site chosen by Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry. It was named in honor of Major General Thomas E.G. Ransom of the U.S. Volunteers. Ransom distinguished himself during the Civil War.

On June 17, 1867, a battalion of the 10th U.S. Infantry, commanded by Brevet Major George H. Crosman, arrived from Fort Wadsworth. Soldiers began work on enclosing a breastwork and completed it by August. Oak logs Fort Ransom from the nearby Sheyenne River Valley were used to construct the post. The buildings were arranged within the earthen breastworks in a square, measuring 350 by 400 feet.

With the exception of two, all were one-story log buildings. The barracks building was under one roof on the north square and was subdivided into four large rooms for the enlisted men and two small rooms for the first sergeants. Box stoves warmed quarters, and each squad room had three windows. Kitchens were attached to the rear of the quarters. Other buildings at the post were quartermaster and commissary storehouses, quarters for married men, a granary, bakery, guardhouse, hospital, office for commandant and adjutant, stables, and the magazine. Outside the breastworks were quarters for the Indian scouts.

According to an 1869 inspection report by Asst. Surgeon C.E. Munn, conditions at the fort were very primitive and most of the buildings were still unfinished. This condition was due to all the citizen employees being discharged and the commander having no skilled labor among his troops. One major example was the hospital building. Munn reported it "is totally unfit for the accommodation of the sick in the colder season, at which time the thermometer frequently indicates the freezing point when suspended in the wood a few feet from a good fire." (The historic site is located southwest of the town of Fort Ransom and is 3 miles from Fort Ransom State Park .

Survival and everyday life at this military post, like any frontier settlement, was a constant struggle. Captain Crosman wrote about his experiences at Fort Ransom in a letter written on October 9, 1895. "We lost no officers or men by Indians. The Indian troubles were then on the Missouri and west of it. No officers died or were killed while I was at Fort Ransom. "During the five years 1867-1872, there were five deaths from natural causes at the fort and the two Indian mail carriers who froze to death on the trail. Captain Crosman continued: "The character of the weather was, I presume, about as it is now. During the summr the weather was not unpleasantly hot, but the mosquitoes were something terrific. In all my experience in Texas, Louisiana and other places, I never saw anything to compare to the mosquitoes in Dakota; they actually made life a burden. The winters were very severe, the thermometers froze every year. After the snow fell at Fort Ransom, we were actually shut in from the world entirely; our own communication with the outside world was made by Indians in government employ, on snowshoes who carried our mail to and from Abercrombie… ... In the fall of 1867 while the command was still in camp, we had a very serious prairie fire. It came from the west and traveled with the speed and noise of several railroad trains. Subsequently I took occasion of visiting Indian chiefs to inquire about the fire. I was told they had no knowledge or tradition of such a terrible fire. Of course I had the whole garrison turned out with their blankets to fight the fire, but that would have been of no avail, if the wind, fortu- nately, had not veered around a little just before the fire approached the camp, and saved us." The fire destroyed their hay and wood supply for the winter.

Fort Ransom was dismantled in 1872 and the materials were used to build Fort Seward at Jamestown, Stutsman County. The army had determined that protection of the Northern Pacific Railroad crew at the James River crossing was a higher priority than protecting the overland route. The final disposition of the military reservation took place on July 14, 1880, when it was turned over to the Department of Interior for survey and sale to homesteaders 

 

 

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