REMAINS OF A SOLDIER’S KEPI FROM AN INDIAN WAR FRONTIER FORT

$45.00 SOLD

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Item Code: 1052-437

These relics of army life on a small frontier post after the Civil War come from excavations at Fort Pembina, ND. They include strips from the base of a soldier’s cap and much of its leather chinstrap. The fabric has shifted in color from blue to light brown from the soil conditions, which also preserved it, and shows stains. The fort was established in 1870 by troops of the 20th US Infantry and garrisoned until 1895 and as would be expected from an early Indian War post, pieces from the dig are a mix of Civil War commercial and issue items retained by soldiers, sold by retailers from old inventory, or issued by the army out of surplus stocks, along with later material, both commercial and 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, escort boundary surveys along the Canadian border, and, ironically, prevent raids north into Canada by Fenian groups.

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 of 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.    [sr] [ph:L]

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