Fort Lincoln the Second
It was on this date in 1895 that the military established Fort Lincoln on the Missouri River south of Bismarck. But, you say, Fort Lincoln is south of Mandan, on the other side of the river. Let’s just say if you’re not a history buff, following the overlap of forts in North Dakota can make you dizzy.
Let’s start in 1864, when General Sully established the first military post on the Missouri River. It was called Fort Rice and was some 25 miles south of Mandan. Fort Rice was constructed of log and adobe, materials not well suited to Dakota Territory’s climate, and it had to rebuilt four years later, and 10 years after that, it was abandoned.
In the meantime, another fort was built farther south near a spot where Lewis and Clark had spent the night in 1804. This place was named the Post at Standing Rock Agency. When Fort Rice was abandoned, the Standing Rock post was renamed Fort Yates, which replaced Fort Rice as the primary military post in the region. That was in 1878.
Fast forward 25 years... in 1903, Fort Yates was the last fort in North Dakota to be abandoned by the military, when it was turned over to the Standing Rock Reservation.
Okay, pay attention, because there’ll be a quiz on this. Fort Yates was overlapped by Fort Lincoln – remember; this is the one that was established on this date in 1895 – outside of Bismarck. Fort Abraham Lincoln was already abandoned when Fort Lincoln was built, so now we have to backtrack.
Back in 1872, Fort McKeen was built where the mouth of the Heart River meets the Missouri south of Mandan. The following year, a cavalry post was built and named Fort Abraham Lincoln. The purpose of this Fort Lincoln was to protect the Northern Pacific Railroad while it was being constructed in western North Dakota, and it was from here that Custer led the 7th Cavalry to its fate at the Little Bighorn.
Nineteen years after Fort Abraham Lincoln was built, the railroad was safely entrenched, and the forced relocation of Native Americans was finished, so the military abandoned the post, and it was dismantled. Four years later, an 1895 newspaper article stated, “Settlers around Fort Lincoln are still plundering the fort. The porcelain bath tubs used in the officers’ quarters are found to make excellent hog troughs.”
About this same time, plans were made to rebuild Fort Lincoln on the east side of the Missouri, south of Bismarck, to replace Fort Yates… and obviously to replace Fort Abraham Lincoln.
Since then, the original Fort Lincoln south of Mandan has been rebuilt and made into a state park.
The second Fort Lincoln became an internment camp, during World War II, to hold “enemy aliens” – Germans and Japanese who had the misfortune of living in America at the time. After that, the Army Corps of Engineers used Ft. Lincoln as the planning center for the Garrison Dam Project. Eventually, Fort Lincoln took on perhaps its most fitting role of all when it became home to the United Tribes Technical College.
Now the quiz: name all the military forts that were ultimately replaced by United Tribes Technical College.
Written by Merry Helm