Monday, June 18, 2012
Fort Ransom was established on the banks of the Sheyenne River on this date in 1867. The fort was built by a battalion of the 10th U.S. Infantry to protect those traveling overland between Fargo and Bismarck. At the time, the atrocities of the Dakota War of 1862 were still fresh in many people’s minds, and the threat of Indian attacks was considered a very real risk to settlers. It had only been four years since Sibley’s expedition had crossed the Sheyenne to quell the Sioux in a series of battles east of Bismarck.
Because of this, the U.S. military was charged with building a series of forts throughout the Dakotas, not only to protect settlers and the coming railroad, but also to encourage settlement. On June 17th, Major Crosman and his men reached Grizzly Bear Hill, the site chosen for the fort.. They began building the following day, naming the fort after Civil War soldier Major General Thomas Ransom. The quadrangular fort was surrounded by a twelve-foot high stockade made of sod and logs. Inside, a barracks with attached kitchens housed the soldiers; married men had separate quarters. They also built a granary, bakery, hospital, storehouses, stables, and a guardhouse.
Outside the stockade, they set up quarters for the Indian scouts and an eight-acre vegetable garden. They completed most of the construction by August, although an 1869 inspection report by Surgeon C. E. Munn reported that most buildings remained unfinished and primitive.
The buildings were very cold during the winter, even with fires going. Munn reported that his thermometer reached 32ᵒ in the fort’s hospital, though he was only a few feet from the fire. Captain Crosman, a resident at the fort, later wrote that the weather and risk of prairie fires were their only real dangers; the risk of ‘Indian troubles’ had moved west. The only men to die at the fort passed away from natural causes, although two Indian mail carriers froze to death attempting to reach the fort. In good weather, mail took eight days to reach St. Paul, and in winter, the fort was cut-off for weeks at a time.
In 1872, Fort Ransom was dismantled. Soldiers tore it down, using the building materials to construct Fort Seward on the James River. Colonel Lounsberry reported that anything they left behind was quickly stolen by the locals.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme Job
Lounsberry, Clement Augustus. 1919 Early History of North Dakota: Essential Outlines
of American History. Liberty Press: New York: p. 543.