CLOTH FROM FORT PEMBINA, POSSIBLY FROM AN ISSUE SHIRT

$95.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1052-646

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This piece of white cloth was discarded by a soldier at Fort Pembina, ND, sometime between 1870 and 1895. It has some fairly straight cuts or tears indicating it was salvaged for some purpose before before being discarded, and has a short reinforcing piece on one edge and a triangular piece sewn to another side. Our best guess is that it was salvaged from the chest portion of an early issue shirt and that we are looking at part of the placket on the front opening of the shirt and part of the sleeve gusset at the arm pit. The cloth is in very good, solid condition and shows as an off-white with thin stains on both sides.

The excavations at the fort were conducted on private property with the owner’s permission and wet, anaerobic conditions have preserved cloth and leather in very good condition. Situated in the Red River Valley in North Dakota near the Canadian border, the fort 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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