CIVIL WAR - INDIAN WAR SOCK FROM FORT PEMBINA, ND

$495.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1052-581

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This comes from the excavations at Fort Pembina, ND, a fort established in 1870 and in operation into the 1890s. The dig was conducted on private property with the owner’s permission and has yielded a vast array of artifacts, including wood, leather and even cloth, preserved by the wet anaerobic conditions of the soil, that cast light on the material culture of a small postwar frontier garrison, who were equipped with Civil War material well into the 1870s and then later patterns as they were adopted and became available for issue.

Socks, like other undergarments, were army issue, but rare. They were too useful in civilian life and unlikely to have much sentimental value to a veteran or his family to be preserved. They are difficult to date. This would originally have been gray and the color has shifted to a light brown, with stains, some holes, tears and raggedness to the toe, likely the reason it was discarded. The heel shows a slightly lighter color, so it may well be one of the army issue socks of the 1870s. Nevertheless, it displays well and has a tight provenance and time frame for issue.

Situated in the Red River Valley in North Dakota near the Canadian border, Fort Pembina was established in 1870 and in operation until 1895. Trading posts existed earlier in the area as part of the fur trade, and the first U.S. military post there was temporary- manned by a detachment of Minnesota troops in 1863-1864 following the 1862 Sioux uprising. In March 1870 a new fort was established south of the Pembina River and about 200 yards west of the Red River, completed by July and named in honor of Gen. George H. Thomas. The name was changed to Fort Pembina in September and the initial garrison consisted of two companies of the 20th US Infantry. Their main duty was to provide security for settlers worried about Sioux returning south from Canada, but the troops were more occupied with escorting boundary surveys along the Canadian border and preventing Fenian raids heading north into Canada.

The fort included enlistedmen’s barracks, officers’ quarters, guard house, ordnance storehouse, company kitchen, root house, laundress’s quarters, quarters for civilian employees, hospital and hospital servant’s house, a barn for the “hospital cow,” quartermaster and commissary offices and storehouse, stables, wagon shed, etc. The garrison reached peak strength in 1878 af 200, but the average was about 125 enlisted men and 8 officers. An October 1885 return listed 97 men, 2 field pieces, 1 mountain howitzer, 100 rifles, 19 pistols, 23 mules, and 9 wagons. By 1890 the post had just 23 men, and after an 1895 fire destroyed some 19 buildings it was decided to abandon the fort rather than rebuild, the last detachment left in September. The property was turned over to the Interior Department and later sold in 1902.

Army socks, like shoes, are not very much to look at, but were essential to the soldier.  [sr][ph:m]

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