PIECE OF CIVIL WAR ARMY BLANKET FROM FORT PEMBINA, NORTH DAKOTA

$125.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1052-263

Civil War army issue blankets, whole or even in pieces, are scarce. If a veteran brought one home, it was generally too useful around the house or farm. A small piece might be cut out as a memento, if they even bothered with that. And, those still in government stockpiles were used up by issue to the postwar army well into the 1870s. These pieces of a Civil War army issue blanket come from that source and excavations at Fort Pembina, ND, conducted on private property with the owner’s permission, a fort established in 1870 by troops of the 20th US Infantry and garrisoned until 1895. Uniform and equipment items recovered were in a remarkable state of preservation from the anaerobic conditions of the dig.

These blankets measured about 5 ½ feet by 7 feet, and featured dark end stripes and a loosely stitched “U.S.” made of yarn in the center. Officially designated as gray in color with black end stripes and letters, the logwood dies with iron mordants usually oxidized to a brownish color in short order. They were replaced by a better quality blanket in 1873 and one changing the color of the end stripes and US to blue in 1876. These pieces show the typical loose twill weave of the army issue Civil War blankets that produce a diagonal wale. The color has shifted to a light and dark brown with some white and grayish stains.

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.

These pieces would fit a Civil War collection but also have 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. They are also good for comparative display alongside the later army issue blankets that are a lot more common.    [sr][ph:L]

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