Historic Fort Snelling

Historic Fort Snelling With a human history more than 10,000 years in the making, the area today known as Fort Snelling means different things to different people. Explore the past through tours, demonstrations, conversations, and more!
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The history of this place is more than just the story of the fort itself. The junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers is a place of major social, cultural, and historical significance to all people inhabiting the region, a place whose history evokes both pride and pain. It is a place of cultural importance to many Dakota people as a historical gathering place, the site of the B'dote creation story, and as a place of Dakota internment and exile after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. This area was also the crossroads of two major river highways of the fur trade, one of the most lucrative businesses during the 19th century. After the War of 1812, the U.S. government established its strategic presence at the river junction with the arrival of military forces and an Indian agent, whose goals were to promote and protect the interests of the United States in the region's fur trade and to gain the friendship and cooperation of American Indian communities. The establishment of the fort and Indian Agency became a foothold of U.S. expansionism in the territory that would become Minnesota. Fort Snelling also played an important role in the great conflict over slavery in the United States. During the 1820s and 1830s, it is estimated that between 15 and 30 enslaved people lived and worked at Fort Snelling at any given time, in spite of the fact that the Missouri Compromise (1820) made slavery illegal in the region. Dred and Harriet Scott, two enslaved African Americans, used their time held at Fort Snelling as part of their decade-long legal battle to gain freedom for themselves and their children. Located on top of the bluff overlooking the river junction, Fort Snelling served the U.S. military for over 120 years, through conflicts at home and abroad, and thousands of Minnesotans received their first taste of military service within its walls. By the late 20th century its national cemetery became the site of the final resting place for more than 180,000 men and women who served in the armed forces. Today, the historic fort has been restored to its early 19th century appearance, and the site's living history program brings the past to life!

One more (last?) frosty morning at Historic Fort Snelling.
03/10/2020

One more (last?) frosty morning at Historic Fort Snelling.

Fascinating story of James Thompson, who was brought to Fort Snelling as an enslaved person and later returned to the ar...
03/06/2020
Up From Slavery: How early settler James Thompson became a pillar of St. Paul

Fascinating story of James Thompson, who was brought to Fort Snelling as an enslaved person and later returned to the area as a free man to become a prominent citizen of St. Paul.

In 1849, James Thompson, a citizen of St. Paul, donated the lumber and shingles necessary to construct the city’s first Methodist church.

Then & Now: Man ski-joring at Fort Snelling, 1938.
02/25/2020

Then & Now: Man ski-joring at Fort Snelling, 1938.

On this day in 1869 John Richardson, thought to be the state's first African American voter, casts his vote on a bond re...
02/24/2020

On this day in 1869 John Richardson, thought to be the state's first African American voter, casts his vote on a bond referendum in Lake City. Learn more about the history of African American Suffrage in MN on MNopedia.
https://bit.ly/2vOfdhd

Volunteer to assist spring field trip groups at Historic Fort Snelling as a greeter or field trip facilitator. Enthusias...
02/20/2020
Volunteer

Volunteer to assist spring field trip groups at Historic Fort Snelling as a greeter or field trip facilitator. Enthusiastic students need your help weekly in the morning or afternoon from April 15 to June 10. Training is provided. Click below to apply!

http://www.mnhs.org/fortsnelling/support/volunteer

Volunteers are essential to Historic Fort Snelling and the Minnesota Historical Society. Browse our list of volunteer opportunities currently available.

On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 leading to the forced removal and impri...
02/19/2020

On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 leading to the forced removal and imprisonment of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry. Nearly 6,000 Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) went on to serve in the Military Intelligence Service Language School, many of whom enlisted from incarceration camps. Pictured here are Nisei linguists at Fort Snelling, which was home to the school from 1944 to 1946.

Sunrise over Wíta Tháŋka (Pike Island), Bdóte (the confluence), and Oȟéyawahe (Pilot Knob).
02/14/2020

Sunrise over Wíta Tháŋka (Pike Island), Bdóte (the confluence), and Oȟéyawahe (Pilot Knob).

Early morning visitor...
02/12/2020

Early morning visitor...

We're hiring for the upcoming season!  Interpreter (Site Guide) and Visitor Services positions are now open.
02/05/2020
Jobs

We're hiring for the upcoming season! Interpreter (Site Guide) and Visitor Services positions are now open.

Welcome to the Minnesota Historical Society's job announcement page. ​Interested applicants must apply online at our career center (www.mnhs.org/jobs) and include a resume and cover letter by the application deadline date. Questions can be sent to [email protected] or call the MNHS Job Line ...

Now booking summer field trips!  New this year for school-age care groups:- Play historic games- Experience a one-room s...
01/28/2020
Summer Field Trips

Now booking summer field trips! New this year for school-age care groups:
- Play historic games
- Experience a one-room schoolhouse lesson
- Use an activity map to take a Story - - Adventure into the past and learn the stories of people who have lived in and around the fort

And come visit us at the MNHS booth at the @MnAEYCMnSACA Annual State Conference this Friday and Saturday!

Bring your group of children ages 5–12 on a field trip to Historic Fort Snelling to explore and imagine as part of the Summer Field Trips program.

Fort Snelling - Circa 1871.While the two-story building no longer exists, you can see the south battery (one of four ori...
01/02/2020

Fort Snelling - Circa 1871.

While the two-story building no longer exists, you can see the south battery (one of four original buildings that still exists today) in the background in this photo.

#OTD 1863 - Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect. African American men were officially allowed to enlist in the US...
01/01/2020

#OTD 1863 - Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect. African American men were officially allowed to enlist in the US Army.

104 men enlisted from MN to join twelve different United States Colored Troops regiments In the US Army and some MN soldiers of European descent became officers in these units.

Photo - Unknown USCT regiment on parade

Fort Snelling - Circa 1871.While the two-story building no longer exists you can see the south battery, which is one of ...
12/27/2019

Fort Snelling - Circa 1871.

While the two-story building no longer exists you can see the south battery, which is one of four original buildings that still exist today, is in the background in this photo.

#OTD Following the US-Dakota War of 1862, the United States government hanged 38 Dakota men in Mankato -- the largest ma...
12/26/2019

#OTD Following the US-Dakota War of 1862, the United States government hanged 38 Dakota men in Mankato -- the largest mass execution in US history.

Reconciliation Park (dedicated in 1997) is a place to reflect and remember the events that took place on this day. The park sits on the location where the mass hanging took place.

All is calm...
12/24/2019

All is calm...

Fort Snelling from St. Paul. Unknown Date. Likely 1885 or after.
12/19/2019

Fort Snelling from St. Paul.

Unknown Date. Likely 1885 or after.

At the end of every season our staff go through our program use materials. This includes reproduction clothing, swords a...
12/17/2019

At the end of every season our staff go through our program use materials. This includes reproduction clothing, swords and firearms that are cleaned, repaired and prepped for storage.

Here you can see a disassembled reproduction 1816 Harpers Ferry musket. It will be cleaned, polished and lightly greased for storage until our school tour season starts next spring in 2020.

#OTD in 1798, Alexis Bailly was born at St. Joseph's, near the Canadian shore of Lake Huron. He was of French and Ottawa...
12/14/2019

#OTD in 1798, Alexis Bailly was born at St. Joseph's, near the Canadian shore of Lake Huron. He was of French and Ottawa Indian heritage. He received an education at Montreal and then engaged in the fur trade- eventually preceding Henry H. Sibley as an agent for the American Fur Company in Mendota.

This sketch depicting a fur trader was found in the pages of a trading journal kept by Alexis Bailly. While the artist cannot be officially identified, they were likely drawn by Bailly himself.

Officers of the 3rd US Infantry at Fort Snelling - 1895
12/12/2019

Officers of the 3rd US Infantry at Fort Snelling - 1895

U.S. Army musicians of the 1820sTwo musicians were authorized for each infantry company, typically a fifer and drummer. ...
12/10/2019

U.S. Army musicians of the 1820s

Two musicians were authorized for each infantry company, typically a fifer and drummer. The only exception being the light infantry company of a regiment which would have a single bugler.

In garrison environments, like Fort Snelling, musicians would play various calls during the day to denote when meals were to take place, when soldiers were to wake up or when formations were to be held. During battle officers could relay commands through music such as forward march to having the company fire their muskets.

The drummer pictured carries everything a soldier would with the exception of a musket and cartridge box. Instead musicians carried a sword for personal defense. Musicians wore red coatees (coat) rather than the standard indigo color of soldiers for quick identification by officers who could look for the contrasting coat color during battle. Musician coats would still be adorned with white colored tape, the color of infantry during the 1820s, and would wear contrasting red coats until the 1850s.

This is our continuing series of looking at U.S. Army uniforms and equipment over the decades.

#OTD In 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service. Outside of Pearl Harbor, the destroye...
12/07/2019

#OTD In 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service. Outside of Pearl Harbor, the destroyer Ward (the crew was made up of primarily reservists from St. Paul), attacked and sank a Japanese submarine. These were the first shots fired on the "date which will live in infamy."

Inside the harbor, Minneapolis-born Captain Franklin van Valkenburgh was killed on the bridge of his ship, the USS Arizona. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by Congress.

End of infantry row. Circa 1905.This is a view down Taylor Ave from the last barracks building (which is now covered by ...
12/05/2019

End of infantry row. Circa 1905.

This is a view down Taylor Ave from the last barracks building (which is now covered by MSP runway).

This view is looking roughly North East toward the Administration Building and the Round Tower if Taylor Ave was taken all the way up.

1855 - At the Washington Navy Yard, Susan L. Mann christens the steam frigate Minnesota with a bottle of Minnesota water...
12/01/2019

1855 - At the Washington Navy Yard, Susan L. Mann christens the steam frigate Minnesota with a bottle of Minnesota water. On April 6 of the previous year, Congress had authorized construction of this ship and, coincidentally, the frigate Merrimac. Rebuilt as a Confederate ironclad and renamed the Virginia, it would attack the Minnesota during the Civil War.

1857 Lithograph of USS Minnesota
(Source - Hampton Roads Naval Museum)

#OTD 2017 - Wreck of the USS Ward Found  On December 7, 1944, Kamikaze fighters and bombers struck the USS Ward and it w...
11/30/2019

#OTD 2017 - Wreck of the USS Ward Found

On December 7, 1944, Kamikaze fighters and bombers struck the USS Ward and it was disabled. Forcing the crew to abandon ship. All crew made it safely off and were recovered from the water. The USS Ward was scuttled by friendly gun fire from another ship commanded by the former captain of the USS Ward, William W. Outerbridge.

The USS Ward played a pivotal role in US history by firing the first shots of the Pacific War- hours before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Ward served the US Navy until 1944, when Japanese fighters and suicide bombing aircraft caused extensive damage to the Ward- forcing the crew to abandon ship.

The photo below is of the USS Ward No. 3 gun that sits on the MN State Capitol grounds.

Uniform of the U.S. Army during the 1820s.Pictured is the prescribed winter uniform of a company orderly sergeant (first...
11/27/2019

Uniform of the U.S. Army during the 1820s.

Pictured is the prescribed winter uniform of a company orderly sergeant (first sergeant) of infantry. White braid and metal buttons denoted the color of infantry until 1851 when it changed to blue.

Full marching order consists of canteen, haversack and knapsack with rolled overcoat. This would allow a soldier to carry everything they needed to live in a field environment. The knapsack would carry the blanket, toiletry and personal items. The white cotton haversack allowed the soldier to carry three days rations and wooden drum canteen to carry water. The long arm for this era is the model of 1816 musket produced at the Harpers Ferry Armory. White buff cross belts would support the bayonet scabbard and the pattern of 1808 cartridge box to carry ammunition. Sergeants would carry a sword denoting their rank and a red sash would separate a first sergeant in a company from their fellow sergeants.

This is the start of a ongoing visual series showcasing U.S. Army uniforms and equipment across the decades. If you have any questions about the uniform or equipment. Ask away!

1863 - The Second Minnesota and the rest of General George H. Thomas's Army of the Cumberland charge up Missionary Ridge...
11/25/2019

1863 - The Second Minnesota and the rest of General George H. Thomas's Army of the Cumberland charge up Missionary Ridge near Chattanooga and defeat the Confederates holding the ridge.

11/22/2019
Dakota Omniciye (Gathering) at Historic Fort Snelling

Every year for the past three years, Dakota people have come together at the Dakota Omniciye (Gathering), held at Historic Fort Snelling, which is located at Bdote, to remember the history of their ancestors and reflect on community and family resiliency. See what Syd Beane (Flandreau Santee Sioux) had to say when he was asked to reflect on this event.

Want to learn more about Native communities in Minnesota? Come to the new Our Home: Native Minnesota exhibit that opens at the Minnesota History Center on Dec 7, 2019. Native Americans — Dakota, Ojibwe, as well as people from other tribal nations — have lived in this region for thousands of years and continue to call this land home. The exhibit uses historic and contemporary photographs, maps and artifacts to illustrate Dakota and Ojibwe life and relationships throughout history as well as long-held connections to the land.

#NativeAmericanHeritageMonth #OurHomeNativeMN #History

1855 - The Mississippi River freezes over for the season, concluding a busy year during which 553 boats and 30,000 peopl...
11/22/2019

1855 - The Mississippi River freezes over for the season, concluding a busy year during which 553 boats and 30,000 people traveled to St. Paul.

Fort Snelling around 1904-10A group of soldiers and civilians gather for a unknown reason in front of artillery barracks...
11/21/2019

Fort Snelling around 1904-10

A group of soldiers and civilians gather for a unknown reason in front of artillery barracks (area currently under the highway) just after the turn of the century.

You can see Building 30 at the far left in the background and possibly the roof line Building 18 or 17 in the far right background. Both of which exist today.

Join in a statewide conversation about Historic Fort Snelling. Does the name of the 23-acre site reflect all the stories...
11/15/2019
Public Input Process

Join in a statewide conversation about Historic Fort Snelling. Does the name of the 23-acre site reflect all the stories told there? There is still time to share your thoughts by taking the survey at www.mnhs.org/naming. The public input process ends today, Friday, Nov 15. #ManyVoicesManyStories

Please join a conversation about the name of Historic Fort Snelling, Minnesota's first National Historic Landmark.

Know as "The Country Club of the Army" during the interwar period. Here we see a polo match being played on the cavalry ...
11/14/2019

Know as "The Country Club of the Army" during the interwar period. Here we see a polo match being played on the cavalry parade ground in front of General Hospital No. 29.

(Date unknown - However a keen eye might be able to guess based on the model of car in the background)

Join in a statewide conversation about Historic Fort Snelling. Does the name of the 23-acre site reflect all the stories...
11/13/2019
Public Input Process

Join in a statewide conversation about Historic Fort Snelling. Does the name of the 23-acre site reflect all the stories told there? There is still time to share your thoughts by taking the survey at www.mnhs.org/naming. The public input process ends this Friday, Nov 15. #ManyVoicesManyStories

Please join a conversation about the name of Historic Fort Snelling, Minnesota's first National Historic Landmark.

On Nov. 11, 1865, two Dakota leaders, Sakpedan and Wakan Ozanzan, were executed at Fort Snelling.In the wake of the US-D...
11/12/2019

On Nov. 11, 1865, two Dakota leaders, Sakpedan and Wakan Ozanzan, were executed at Fort Snelling.

In the wake of the US-Dakota War of 1862, many Dakota fled Minnesota, some heading west into the US-claimed “Dakota Territory” and others north into Canada. Among the latter were Bdewakanunwan leaders Sakpedan (Little Six) and Wakan Ozanzan (Medicine Bottle). In 1864 British agents kidnapped the two men and handed them over to the US Army. Both men were transported to Fort Snelling where they were incarcerated, tried by a military tribunal for their participation in the war, and sentenced to death by hanging. The executions were carried out on Nov. 11, 1865, in the presence of the fort’s garrison and civilian onlookers. A local newspaper reported that, as the men climbed the scaffold, a train whistle blew in the distance. Reportedly, Sakpedan stated, “As the white man comes in, the Indian goes out.”

Sakpedan and Wakan Ozanzan at Fort Snelling, 1864.

#OTD 1918 -  World War I ends.118,000 Minnesotans served during the Great War. 3,600 of those service members would not ...
11/11/2019

#OTD 1918 - World War I ends.

118,000 Minnesotans served during the Great War. 3,600 of those service members would not return home.

US Congress passed a concurrent resolution on June 4th, 1919 that states:

"Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far-reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed..."

In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signs legislation officially changing the name of “Armistice Day” to “Veterans Day.”

Today marks the birthday of the United States Marine Corps. 244 years old today.
11/10/2019

Today marks the birthday of the United States Marine Corps.

244 years old today.

1926 - The old Mendota bridge to Fort Snelling opens and is dedicated to the men of the 151st Field Artillery who had be...
11/08/2019

1926 - The old Mendota bridge to Fort Snelling opens and is dedicated to the men of the 151st Field Artillery who had been killed in World War I.

Pistol team of the headquarters company, 3rd Infantry during the opening match of the Minnesota Rifle and Revolver Assoc...
11/07/2019

Pistol team of the headquarters company, 3rd Infantry during the opening match of the Minnesota Rifle and Revolver Association at Fort Snelling in 1933.

From left to right
Sergeant George Kealey, Private Alex Ruffer, Private Harry Silver, Sergeant Harry Flory and Private Peter J. Rivers. At far right is Captain Con V. Schmitt who was listed as in charge of observing the match.

11/07/2019

1862 - Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey declares that “the Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the state.” About 1600 Dakota women, children and older men are marched from the Lower Sioux Agency to Fort Snelling. Along the route they are attacked by mobs of angry settlers.

11/05/2019

1862 - The military commission headed by Henry H. Sibley completes its trial of Dakota people accused of participating in the U.S.-Dakota War earlier that year. Of the 392 prisoners, 307 are sentenced to death and sixteen to prison. President Abraham Lincoln would commute many of these sentences.

1850 - Fort Gaines is renamed Fort Ripley in honor of Eleazar Ripley, a general in the War of 1812. The fort would be ab...
11/04/2019

1850 - Fort Gaines is renamed Fort Ripley in honor of Eleazar Ripley, a general in the War of 1812. The fort would be abandoned in 1878, but the National Guard's Camp Ripley preserves the name.

Photos - Fort Ripley (1862) and Camp Ripley (2015)
Source - MNopedia

11/01/2019

Thank you to everyone who was a part of our 2019 season this year! We are now closed during our typical off season until Spring 2020.

As we move forward with construction and renovation of our new visitor center we will keep everyone informed on the progress we are making as time goes on.

In the mean time we will be working on exciting new programs for next season and posting content on our page here through the winter.

"The Departure of the 3rd U.S. Infantry For the South. Farewell Fort Snelling" - 1899.The 3rd Infantry Regiment would re...
10/31/2019

"The Departure of the 3rd U.S. Infantry For the South. Farewell Fort Snelling" - 1899.

The 3rd Infantry Regiment would return to Fort Snelling again in 1921 and would remain there, with the exception of a few postings elsewhere, until 1941.

10/25/2019

Saturday is the last day of general visitation for the 2019 season here at Historic Fort Snelling.

We will be open for general visitation in 2020. Hope to see you tomorrow!

Soldiers conducting training at Fort Snelling circa 1900.Two years later the first big uniform change would take hold. S...
10/24/2019

Soldiers conducting training at Fort Snelling circa 1900.

Two years later the first big uniform change would take hold. Shades of Olive Drab and russet shoes would take the place of the long serving blue wool well into the 1950s.

If you look closely you can see Building 22 in the background. One of the surviving buildings that exists today.

Take a look at an aerial view of Fort Snelling around 1925.You can see there is no interior connecting walkway between b...
10/17/2019

Take a look at an aerial view of Fort Snelling around 1925.

You can see there is no interior connecting walkway between building 17 & 18 and Mendota Bridge appears to be under construction. At the time of completion in 1926 it was the longest continuous concrete spanned bridge in the world.

Address

200 Tower Avenue
Saint Paul, MN
55111

Light Rail Line runs near Historic Fort Snelling; Metro Transit Bus Line 7 run to the site on weekends and holidays (https://www.metrotransit.org/route/7/0/36)

General information

Memorial Day Weekend - Labor Day Weekend: Tues - Sat 10 am - 5 pm Sun 12 - 5 pm *Open Memorial Day, Independence Day & Labor Day 10 am - 5 pm Fall Hours (Sept-Oct) Sat 10 am - 5 pm School tours available in Spring and Fall (call for details) Admission: $11 Adults $9 Seniors $9 College Students $6 Children ages 6-17 FREE for children age 5 and under and MHS members.

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