Review – MHS FR Info Website

Minnesota Historical Society Website
Fort Ridgely Historic Site Information
Fort Ridgely Media Room
Reviewed on August 27, 2015

 Items of Interest

The Fort Ridgely Historic Site Information is presented by MHS to attract the public to the Fort Ridgely Historic Site. I do not know the purpose of the Fort Ridgely Media Room.

General Comments

  • Incorrect – One statement indicates there were “280 military and civilian defenders” while another statement indicates there were “280 military personnel and civilians.” Both statements are incorrect. See below.
  • Unbalanced – Information is provided on the Dakota after the Dakota War of 1862, but no information is provided on the soldiers or the settlers after the war.
  • Disrespectful – Government officials and fur traders are criticized without showing proof.

Most Objectionable Statements

Fort Ridgely Historic Site Information
http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/fort-ridgely/history

Home

Built in 1853 as a police station to keep peace as settlers poured into the former Dakota lands, it withstood several attacks in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and became a training ground for Civil War recruits.
—Incorrect – New Ulm has a police station. Fort Ridgely was not a police station.
—Incorrect – This purpose of Fort Ridgely does not agree with the Fort Ridgely historic site sign which states: “…the Fort’s primary role was to assist the federal government with an orderly transition of land ownership from American Indians to the growing number of European immigrant farmers.”
—Incorrect – This statement on the sign is also incorrect. Fort Ridgely was a frontier fort whose purpose was to preserve peace on the reservation and between the Dakota and the settlers.
—Incorrect – Fort Ridgely also served as a training ground for Civil War recruits prior to the attacks.

Plan a Visit

The stone foundations of the other fort buildings remain and interpretive markers on the grounds tell the fort’s story.
—Incorrect – The foundations are underground. The foundations were located and outlined above ground in the 1930s. The stones in the cellar walls of the officers’ quarters possibly are original stones.

History

Yielding to pressure from the U.S. government in 1851, the Eastern Dakota (Eastern Sioux) sold 35 million acres of their land across southern and western Minnesota.
—Incorrect – Here it states 35 million acres and below it states 24 million acres. Neither is correct. This land was never surveyed. We don’t know how many acres were sold.

The Dakota moved onto a small reservation along the Minnesota River, stretching from just north of New Ulm to the South Dakota border.
—Incorrect – There were 2 reservations. Some moved and some did not move.
—Incorrect – Combined, these reservations were 20 miles wide and 139 miles long. This was not “a small reservation.”
—Incorrect – The lower reservation started northwest of New Ulm.
—Incorrect – The upper reservation extended into present day South Dakota.

In 1853, the U.S. military started construction on Fort Ridgely, near the southern border of the new reservation and northwest of the German settlement of New Ulm. The fort was designed as a police station to keep peace as settlers poured into the former Dakota lands.
—Incorrect – Fort Ridgely was constructed on the lower reservation about 5 miles from the eastern border of the lower reservation.
—Incorrect – Fort Ridgely was not a police station. See above.

Nine years later, unkept promises by the U.S. government, nefarious practices by fur traders and crop failure all helped create tensions that erupted into the U.S.-Dakota War in August 1862.
—Disrespectful – Show proof that there were unkept promises.
—Disrespectful – Name the dishonest fur traders and show proof.
—Incorrect – The causes of the Dakota War were much more complicated than this.
—Incorrect – The crop failure occurred in 1861. In 1862, there was a bumper crop.

Fort Ridgely’s 280 military and civilian defenders held out until Army reinforcements ended the siege.
—Absolutely Incorrect – General L. F. Hubbard stated that there were 180 military and civilian defenders. See Hubbard, “Narrative of the 5th Regiment,” Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, Volume I, Page 251. Historian Stephen Osman agreed with the 180 number in his “Dakota War” speech. The Fort Ridgely Defenders’ Monument erected in 1896 lists a total of 243 soldiers and civilians. The monument lists many more civilians than those mentioned in Hubbard’s account. In either case, the number 280 is absolutely incorrect. The Fort Ridgely site sign also incorrectly states the number of defenders as 280.

From 1935 to 1942 the Veteran Conservation Corps excavated the site, restored the foundations of eight fort buildings and reconstructed the entire commissary building.
—Incorrect – The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) began this work in 1834-1835. The VCC completed the work.

In 1970 the fort was added to the National Register of Historic Places, while much of the park was added in 1989.
—Incorrect – In 1970, Fort Ridgely Historic District was added to the National Register. The Historic District included 220 acres.
—Incorrect – In 1989, the CCC and VCC structures were listed on the National Register. Included were 25 structures in the park, including the foundation restorations around the Fort Ridgely parade ground and the historic commissary reconstruction.

Fort Ridgely Media Room
http://www.mnhs.org/media/kits/fortridgely

Fort Ridgely – Background

Constructed in the 1850s, Fort Ridgely was designed as a police station to keep peace as settlers poured into former Dakota lands after the treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota in1851, in which the Eastern Dakota ceded 24 million acres to the U.S. government.
—Incorrect – It was not a “police station.” See my comment above.
—Incorrect – Here it states 24 million acres and above it states 35 million acres. Neither is correct. This land was never surveyed. We don’t know how many acres were sold.

The treaties left the Dakota confined to a small reservation along the Minnesota River, stretching from just north of New Ulm to today’s South Dakota border, in return for annual payments of gold and goods and help in building schools and farms on the reservation.
—Incorrect – There were 2 reservations.
—Incorrect – At a combined 20 miles wide and 139 miles long, these were not small reservations.
—Incorrect – The lower reservation was northwest of New Ulm.
—Incorrect – The upper reservation extended into present day South Dakota.
—Incorrect – The missionaries and the U.S. built the schools. The U.S. did not give help to the Dakota in building schools.
—Incorrect – They received much more than gold, goods, schools and help in building farms.

Nine years later, broken promises by the U.S. government, unscrupulous practices by fur traders and crop failure all helped create tensions that erupted into the U.S.-Dakota war in August 1862.
—Disrespectful – Show proof that there were broken promises.
—Disrespectful – Name the unscrupulous fur traders and show proof.
—Incorrect – The crop failure occurred in 1861.
—Incorrect – The causes of the Dakota War were much more complicated than this.

The 280 military personnel and civilians who sought refuge at the fort were relieved on Aug. 26 when Col. Henry Sibley and 1,400 soldiers arrived from Fort Snelling in St. Paul.
—Absolutely Incorrect – 280 cannot be proven. See my comments above.
—Absolutely Incorrect – If this is stating that there were a total of 280 soldiers and civilians, this is also absolutely incorrect.

The stone foundations of the buildings remain and interpretive markers on the grounds tell the fort’s story.
—Incorrect – The foundations are underground. The foundations were located and outlined above ground in the 1930s. The stones in the cellar walls of the officers’ quarters possibly are original stones.

Fort Ridgely – Causes Leading to the U.S. – Dakota War

The Dakota were coerced into signing treaties in 1851 that gave the U.S. government control of almost all of what is now the state of Minnesota. New settlers wanted more space and the Dakota were left a small strip of land on which to live in return for annual payments of gold and goods, and help in building schools and farms on the reservation.
—Incorrect – At a combined 20 miles wide and 139 miles long, this was not a small strip of land.
—Incorrect – The missionaries and the U.S. built the schools. The U.S. did not give help to the Dakota in building schools.
—Incorrect – They received much more than gold, goods, schools and help in building farms.
—Incorrect – There were 2 reservations.

In 1861, the Dakota had not received the food and money the government had promised, a bad summer harvest meant that they had little food to see them through the winter and the Indian Agency traders stopped giving them credit, leading to near starvation. A Dakota leader named Little Crow knew that there were supplies in government warehouses on the reservation that could be used to feed his people. He also knew that many Minnesota soldiers had been called to fight in the Civil War.
—Incorrect – I think the author meant, “In 1862…”
—Incorrect – In 1861, the Dakota did receive the food and money that was promised.
—Incorrect – Many of the Indian Agency traders stopped giving credits in July of 1862.
—Disrespectful – It was not the responsibility of the fur traders to supply the Dakota with food.
—Incorrect – Food was provided by the Agent during the winter of 1861-62.
—Incorrect – Food was provided by the Agent to the Upper Indians in August 1862.

Many Dakota were calling for war to drive out the settlers in the spring and early summer of 1862. Little Crow and his troops first attacked on Aug. 18, 1862 and the fighting continued until Sept. 26, 1862, when the Dakota released their captives.
—Incorrect – The majority of the Dakota did not want war.
—Incorrect – This should read “Little Crow and his warriors…” or “Little Crow and his soldiers…”
—Incorrect – The Dakota did not release their hostages. The friendly Dakota took control of the hostages.

After the war, the Dakota were expelled from the state and most were sent to Crow Creek, S.D., where many were killed by disease and starvation. Others were captured and put on trial for their crimes, beginning on Oct. 25, 1862. A commission was appointed to hear cases, and, on many occasions, heard as many as 40 cases per day. Some captives were heard and sentenced in less than five minutes. More than 300 Dakota were sentenced to death and 16 others were given prison terms.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were expelled from the state.
—Absolutely Incorrect – 40 cases were heard on only one day – October 30. See Bachman, Northern Slave, Black Dakota, page 203.
—To be precise, 303 Dakota were sentenced to death.
—Unbalanced – What happened to the Whites after the war?

On Dec. 6, President Lincoln approved the death sentence for 39 of the original 307. One man was given a last-minute reprieve. On Dec. 26, 1862, 38 men were hung in the largest mass execution ever to take place in the United States.
—Incorrect – There were originally 303 death sentences. See Bachman, Northern Slave, Black Dakota, page 221.
—Incorrect – This was the largest mass simultaneous hanging.

Fort Ridgely – Timeline

July 12, 1852 Minnesota Territory Congressional Representative Henry Sibley recommends the establishment of a fort on the Minnesota River.
—Sibley asked that a fort be build because, “the Sioux or Dakotas are the most powerful and warlike tribe on the continent. They…wage interminable war with almost every other band with whom they are brought in contact…it is highly expedient, and fact indispensable, that a respectable force would be preserved in the country for the protection of the settlers and of those officers entrusted with the charge of our Indian relations in that quarter…”

Aug. 22, 1862 An estimated 800 Dakota attack and are defeated by cannon fire after hours of fighting. Three soldiers and up to 100 Dakota are killed in the two days of fighting.
—Incorrect – They were defeated by cannon and musket fire.
—Four civilians were also killed.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s