Brief Descriptions of Dakota Territory Forts:

Forts in the Dakota Territory

Fort Abercrombie:
Established August 28, 1857. Located on the left bank of the Red River of the North at Graham's Point, twelve miles north of the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers. Established by Lieutenant Colonel John J. Abercrombie, 2nd U.S. Infantry, for whom the post was named, it was intended to protect settlers in the Red River Valley from the Sioux Indians. Latter on in its life, Fort Abercrombie was the terminus of the military mail routes from Fort Stevenson via Fort Totten and from Fort Wadsworth (Ft. Sisseton) via Fort Ransom. Evacuated on July 25, 1859, but reoccupied in July, 1860, and rebuilt. Finally abandoned on October 23, 1878. The buildings were sold to area settlers for their use. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on July 14, 1880.

Fort Bennett:
Established May 17, 1870. Located on the right bank of the Missouri River, about thirty miles above Fort Sully and below the mouth of the Cheyenne River, on the Cheyenne Indian Reservation. Established by Captain Edward P. Pearson, 17th U.S. Infantry, to protect the agency. Originally called Cheyenne (or Cheyenne River) Agency. On December 30, 1878, the post was designated Fort Bennett, in honor of Captain Andrew S. Bennett, 5th U.S. Infantry, killed on September 4, 1878, in a skirmish with Bannock Indians in Montana. Abandoned on November 18, 1891.

Fort Buford:
Established June 15, 1866. Located on the left bank of the Missouri River, just below the confluence of the Yellowstone and some two and one-half miles below the American Fur Company's Fort Union. The post was intended to protect the emigrant route from Minnesota to Montana as well as navigation along the Missouri River, principally from the Sioux. Established by Captain William G. Rankin, 31st U.S. Infantry, on a site chosen by Major General Alfred H. Terry. In 1867 Fort Union was dismantled and the materials used in the enlargement of Fort Buford. Fort Buford was named for Major General John Buford, who died on December 16, 1863. The post, situated in the heart of buffalo country, was particularly offensive to the Sioux. However, once the power of the Sioux had been broken and the railways constructed, it no longer served a useful purpose. Fort Buford was abandoned on October 1, 1895, and the garrison transferred to Fort Assiniboine, Montana. A small contingent remained at the post until November 7, 1895, to close the affairs of the post. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on October 31, 1895.

Fort Dakota:
Established May 1, 1865. Located at Sioux Falls on the left bank of the Big Sioux River. Established by Captain Daniel F. Eicher, 6th Iowa Cavalry, by order of Brigadier General Alfred Sully, to serve as one of the chain of posts from Minnesota to the Missouri River to guard the Frontier between the area of settlement and the Sioux country. The name is derived from the Dakota Sioux. Abandoned on June 18, 1869. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on June 10, 1869.

Fort Hale. Established June 8, 1870. Located originally on the right bank of the Missouri River, above the present town of Fort Lookout, on the lower Brule Indian Reservation. On July 21, 1870, the post was moved about fifteen miles upstream to a site opposite the mouth of Crow Creek. Established by Captain George W. Hill, 22nd U.S. Infantry. Originally called Lower Brule Agency. On December 30, 1878, the post was designated Fort Hale, in honor of Captain Owen Hale, 7th U.S. Cavalry, killed on September 30, 1877, in a skirmish with Nez Perce' Indians. Abandoned on May 20, 1884, except for a small detachment which remained to close the affairs of the post. The buildings were turned over to the Indian Agent on July 7, 1884 and the detachment was withdrawn the following day.

Fort James:
Established in September, 1865. Located at the junction of the Fire Steel Creek and the James River, on the right side of the James at the present town of Rockport. Established by Captain Benjamin King, 6th Iowa Cavalry, by order of Brigadier General Alfred Sully. Fort James served as one of the chain of posts from Minnesota to the Missouri River to guard the Frontier between the area of settlement and the Sioux country. Abandoned in October 1866.

Fort Abraham Lincoln:
Established June 14, 1872. Located on the right bank of the Missouri River at the mouth of the Heart River, three miles south of the town of Mandan. Established to protect the engineers and workers engaged in the construction of the Northern Pacific Railway. Established by Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Huston, 6th U.S. Infantry. The post was First named Fort McKean for Colonel Henry Boyd McKean, 81st Pennsylvania Infantry, killed in the Battle of Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864. On November 19, 1872, it was designated Fort Abraham Lincoln in honor of the martyred president. In 1873 it became a nine company Cavalry and infantry post with the cavalry stationed on the level river plain near the mouth of the Heart River. Abandoned on July 22, 1891, as no longer necessary. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on October 15, 1891. The area is now a North Dakota state Park and has been partially reconstructed.

Fort Meade:
Established August 28, 1878. Located on the east side of Bear Butte Creek, in the Black Hills, fourteen miles northeast of the town of Deadwood. Established by Major Henry M. Lazelle, 1st U.S. Infantry, on a site selected by Lieutenant General Philip H. Sheridan. Fort Meade was established to control the Sioux Indians and to protect the Black Hills mining district. Originally called Camp Ruhlen, the post was designated Fort Meade on December 30, 1878. Named in honor of Major General George Gordan Meade. Fort Meade is the home of the national anthem and since 1944 has been used as a hospital by the Veterans Administration. Fort Meade has also been the home of Commanche, the horse that survived the Battle of the Little Big Horn and is currently the home of the regional National Guard Officer Training Academy.

Fort Pembina:
Established July 8, 1870. Located a mile and a half south of the town of Pembina North Dakota on the left bank of the Red River of the North, just above the mouth of the Pembina River. The Minnesota legislature petitioned Congress for the establishment of a post at Pembina because of the unrest in the Red River Valley and the danger of depredations by the Sioux Indians, who had been driven into Canada some years before. Major General Winfield Scott Hancock recommended the establishment of the post on December 8, 1869. The post served also to check illicit trade between the United States and Canada. Established by Captain Lloyd Wheaton, 20th U.S. Infantry. Originally called Fort Thomas, for Major General George H. Thomas, who died on March 28, 1870. The post was designated Fort Pembina on September 6, 1870. A Large part of the post was destroyed by fire on May 27, 1895, leading to its abandonment on August 16, 1895. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on December 2, 1895, and sold at public auction.

Fort Randall:
Established June 26, 1856. Located on the right bank of the Missouri River on a plateau one-quarter of a mile from the river, just north of the point where the river crosses the Nebraska line. The post was re-built in 1870 - 1872, about one-quarter of a mile farther from the river and slightly downstream from the original site. Established to keep peace among the Sioux, Ponca, and other warlike tribes and to protect the advancing line of settlement. The Yankton Sioux Reservation was established north and east of the post in 1878 and the Ponca Reservation south and east at a later date. Established by First Lieutenant George H. Paige, 2nd U.S. Infantry, on a site selected by Colonel William S. Harney, 2nd U.S. Dragoons. Named for Lieutenant Colonel Daniel D. Randall, deputy paymaster general of the army, who died on December 17, 1851. Most of the military reservation was relinquished on July 22, 1884, and the garrison of the post was reduced in size after that date. Fort Randall was abandoned on December 7, 1892. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on October 1893.

Fort Ransom:
Established June 18, 1867. Located on the right side of the Sheyenne River, about seventy-five miles above its junction with the Red River of the North, at Grizzly Bear Hill. Established by Captain George H. Crosman, 10th U.S. Infantry, on a site chosen by Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry. Fort Ransom was designed to keep the Sioux in check and to protect the emigrant trail from Minnesota to Montana. Named for Brigadier General Thomas E. G. Ransom, who died on October 29, 1864. Abandoned on July 31, 1872, when Fort Seward was established. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on July 22, 1884.

Fort Rice:
Established July 7, 1864. Located on a high point on the right bank of the Missouri River opposite the mouth of Long Lake Creek and immediately below the present day town of Fort Rice North Dakota. Established by Brigadier General Alfred Sully during his punitive expedition against the Sioux. Intended to control the Sioux, protect the emigrant route from Minnesota to Montana and to protect navigation on the Missouri River. Erected under the direction of Colonel Daniel J. Dills, 30th Wisconsin Infantry. The original post consisted of rude barracks made of cottonwood logs with sod or earth roofs, but it was re-built in a more substantial form in 1868. By order of the Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, issued May 12, 1864, the post was named for Brigadier General James Clay Rice, killed in the Battle of Laurel Hill, Virginia, on May 10, 1864. After the establishment of Fort Yates, Fort Rice was no longer considered necessary. It was abandoned on November 25, 1878. A small detachment remained until February 6, 1879 to dismantle the fort and dispose of public property. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on July 22, 1884.

Fort Seward:
Established May 27, 1872. Located on the right bank of the James River a little above the present day town of Jamestown North Dakota. Established to protect the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and located at the point where the railroad crossed the James River. Established by Captain John C. Bates, 20th U.S. Infantry. The post was first called Camp Sykes, for Colonel George Sykes, 20th U.S. Infantry. It was designated Fort Cross on September 7, 1872. The name was changed to Fort Seward in 1873 in honor of former Secretary of State Wlliam H. Seward who died on October 10, 1872. Fort Seward was abandoned as a military post on September 30, 1877. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on July 14, 1880.

Fort Sisseton:
Established August 1, 1864. Located on the elevated tableland known as Coteau Des Prairies, near the Kettle (Fort) Lakes. Established to control the hostile Indians along the northern frontier, to permit settlement east of the James River, and to protect the northern wagon route to the newly discovered gold fields in Idaho and Montana. Established by Major John Clooney, 30th Wisconsin Infantry, by order of Brigadier General John Pope, Commanding the Department. Originally designated Fort Wadsworth, in honor of Brigadier General James S. Wadsworth, who died of wounds received in the Battle of the Wilderness. On August 29, 1876, the name was Changed to Fort Sisseton because a post named Fort Wadsworth already existed in New York. The name Fort Sisseton was derived from the Sisseton band of Sioux. Fort Sisseton was abandoned as a military post on June 9, 1889. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on April 22, 1889.

Fort Stevenson:
Established June 14, 1867. Located on the left bank of the Missouri River above the mouth of the Knife River at the mouth of Douglas Creek and about one-quarter mile from the river. The site, some twelve miles below Fort Berthold, was selected by Brigadier General Alfred Sully in 1864. It is now covered by the waters of Garrison Reservoir. Established by Major Joseph N. G. Whistler, 31st U. S. Infantry, with troops from Fort Berthold which it replaced. Fort Stevenson served as a base of supplies for Fort Totten and as a link in the chain of posts along the emigrant route from Minnesota to Montana. It protected navigation along the Missouri River as well as the Indians of the Fort Berthold Agency, and aided in the control of the Sioux. Named for Brigadier General Thomas G. Stevenson, by order of the Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, dated April 12, 1864. General Stevenson was killed on May 10, 1864 in the Battle of Spotsylvania. The building of the railroads and the waning power of the Sioux eventually rendered the post unnecessary. Fort Stevenson was abandoned as a military post on July 22, 1883. A small detachment remained until August 31, 1883 to dismantle the fort and dispose of public property. The garrison was transferred to Fort Buford. The post was turned over to the Fort Berthold Indian Agency on August 7, 1883 and was used as an Indian School until 1894. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on February 13, 1895.

Fort Sully:
Established September 14, 1863. Originally located on the left bank of the Missouri River, about six miles below the present town of Pierre. Established by Brigadier General Alfred Sully, for whom the post was named, during his campaign of 1863 against the Sioux. The post was temporary and served primarily as headquarters for the troops stationed in the vicinity. Abandoned July 25, 1866 because the site was considered to be inconvenient and unhealthy. Fort Sully was then relocated the following day on the left bank of the Missouri River, twenty-eight miles above Pierre and thirty miles below the mouth of the Cheyenne River. The new site was chosen and the post established by Lieutenant Colonel George L. Andrews, 13th U.S. Infantry. Construction on the new post began in August 1866. Abandoned on October 30, 1894, except for a small detachment which remained until November 30, 1894, to close the affairs of the post. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on November 14, 1894.

Fort Thompson:
Established in September, 1864. Located on the left bank of the Missouri River at the mouth of Soldier Creek, on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, some twenty miles above the present town of Chamberlain. The post served as headquarters for the reservation and was also called Crow Creek Agency, Named for Colonel Clark W. Thompson, superintendent of Indian Affairs at St. Paul, Minnesota. The post was established by Captain Nelson Minor, Dakota Cavalry. Abandoned as separate post on June 9, 1867, and the garrison transferred to Fort Sully. A detachment from Fort Sully was stationed at the post for a time after the garrison was withdrawn.

Fort Totten:
Established July 17, 1867. Located on the south side of Devils (Minnewaukan) Lake, about five hundred yards from the lake shore on a site chosen by Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry. Established as a step toward placing the Indians of the region on reservations. The post served also as one of the chain of posts to protect the emigrant wagon train route from Minnesota to Montana. Established by Captain Samuel A. Wainwright, 31st U.S. Infantry. The post lay within the limits of the Devils Lake, or Fort Totten Indian Reservation when it was established on January 11, 1870. The rolling plains, timbered hills, and lake made this one of the most attractive posts on the plains. Named for Brigadier General Joseph Gilbert Totten, Chief Engineer of the U.S. Army, who died on April 22, 1864. Abandoned in 1890, the post and reservation were transferred to the Interior Department on October 4, 1890 and became the headquarters for the Fort Totten Indian Agency industrial school. A small garrison of troops remained at the post until December 31, 1890 to close the affairs of the post.



My thanks to the website "Dakota Territory Forts" for this great information.