INDIAN WAR SOLDIER’S SOCK FROM FORT PEMBINA, ND

$495.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1052-592

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This comes from the excavations at Fort Pembina, ND, and appears to be the 1877 pattern army sock, which was medium gray in color, had white toes, and the weave of the heel running parallel with the leg and nearly at a right angle to the foot. The color has shifted to a light brown with grayish white stains, but the lighter colored toe and the weave at the ankle are clear. The upper edge is there, but the back of the leg has a large chunk out of it, the front has a narrower loss, and both the heel and toe have holes and are ragged, but the sock (stocking in army terminology) is still in rather good condition from anaerobic conditions of the soil, and displays well. It is also rare: after all, who would save them? They would be too useful not to use up in civilian life and not have enough eye-appeal or sentimental value to preserve as a memento.

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.

Excavations at the site were conducted on private property with the owner’s permission and have yielded a trove of material casting light on the material culture of the fort’s 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. This is in remarkably good condition for an excavated piece, displayable, and has a tight provenance to an Indian War post garrisoned by the U.S. army for a well-defined period that encompasses the 1870s and 1880s Indian Wars.  [sr][ph:m]

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