CIVIL WAR-INDIAN WAR UNIFORM COAT PIECE WITH BUTTONS FROM FORT PEMBINA

$450.00

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Item Code: 1052-580

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This comes from the right lapel of a US army coat discarded by a soldier at Fort Pembina, ND, sometime between 1870 and 1895, and is from excavations in wet, anaerobic soil that has preserved leather and cloth discarded by the garrison. It still has five enlisted, general service eagle buttons in place, coat sized general service eagle buttons, whose number and spacing suggest the coat was an army dress coat, likely of the 1870s-80s. The cloth includes some of the exterior of the coat and some of the lining. Remarkably, the exterior preserves much of its blue color, though shifting toward green, with a few whitish stains and the lining shows as a light brown with white and grayish white stains, along with some thin green from the buttons.

The excavations at the fort were conducted on private property with the owner’s permission. Situated in the Red River Valley in North Dakota near the Canadian border, the 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.

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:L]

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