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A visual visit to Fort Snelling

A visual visit to Fort Snelling

Fort Snelling was built in the early 1820s near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, a place of great significance for both the Dakota people and European fur traders.  No battles were ever fought at the fort. It served mostly as place to regulate the fur trade, rather than as a strategic military outpost.

The river valley below the old fort is a state park and nature preserve.

After the Dakota conflict of 1862, about 1,600 American Indians were detained there, awaiting an unknown fate. Hundreds died of while incarcerated. Most of the rest were moved to reservations in South Dakota and 303 were sentenced to die. President Abraham Lincoln reduced the sentences of 246 to life in prison, but left 39 to be executed. Thirty-eight were hung in Mankato, Minn., on the day after Christmas in the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

I visited the fort recently and took a walk around Pike Island, stopping for a moment at the sand point where the rivers meet — a sacred place for the Dakota people and now a peaceful urban space enjoyed by hikers, boaters and nature-lovers.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/05/2012 - 01:04 pm.

    Another grand photo journey…

    …and what a picture; those gnarled tree roots reaching toward the waters edge; arthritic fingers grasping for one more chance at life?

    My eyes may deceive me here too, but there appears to be a root umbrella formed closer up the bank at the trunk of the larger tree. Could be some creature curled up there last winter under an insulated cover of snow, who knows?

  2. Submitted by J Kelley on 04/21/2012 - 02:54 pm.

    Strategic Value . . . in the 1800s

    RE: “No battles were ever fought at the fort. It served mostly as place to regulate the fur trade, rather than as a strategic military outpost.”

    Somewhat true, barely, but consider that circa in 1820 virtually all US citizens lived east of the Mississippi River and two-thirds lived east of the Appalachians. The “frontier” was a very dangerous place – sometimes hosting marauding outlaws, enemy armies (British, Spanish), and some hostile Indians. James Monroe’s State of the Union in 1819 denied the Spanish charge the US tolerated an expedition from the US against the province of Texas. The US decided it would build 3 forts – to protect against possible attacks from the British, Ft. Snelling and another near the present Montana-North Dakota border, with 3d near “Council Bluffs” present Fort Atkinson, to protect the Missouri River. Recall the US traded shot and ball with the Lobsterbacks as recently as 1815 at New Orleans, Baltimore, and NY.

    Additionally, FT Snelling’s strategic value also was in the northern-most lynch pin of the 3 forts anchoring westward expansion: along with FT Leavenworth (1824) and FT Gibson (1824). Virtually all western expansion and provisions funneled through these 3 forts, their military roads, and supporting forts – for decades. That later western settlement, along with the “success” implementing the infamous Indian Removal Act (1830) gradually receded the 3 forts’ strategic value to the nation. FT Snelling’s 19th century strategic value was in protecting the US’s northern frontier and her western expansion and settlement.

    Rest assured that from 1820 until the closure of the frontier that FT Snelling served as a strategic military outpost – under a premise that the best strategy is creating conditions to prevail without requiring a shot be fired.

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