Today was a very educational day. Our first stop was the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum (first 4 pictures). It is an amazing museum with exhibits that start with the dinosaurs and go all the way to current time. It has been called the “Smithsonian on the plains”and is home to a rare mummified Edmontosaurus with fossilized skin. They also had a great exhibit on all of the Indian tribes that have inhabited the area.
Our next stop was Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park (next 5 pictures). The park is home to the On-A-Slant Indian Village and reconstructed military buildings including the Custer House. In June 1872, a military post named Fort McKeen was built by two companies of the 6th U.S. Infantry. The three-company infantry post’s name was changed to Fort Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1872, and expanded to the south to include a cavalry post accommodating six companies. By 1873, the 7th Cavalry moved into the fort to ensure the expansion of the Northern Pacific Railway. The first post commander of the expanded fort was Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer. In 1876, the Army departed from here as part of the Great Sioux War of 1876-77 which ultimately resulted in Custer’s defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Custer, along with about half of his troops, did not return to Fort Lincoln.
Our last stop was Fort Mandan which is a replica of the encampment which the Lewis and Clark Expedition built for wintering in 1804-1805 (the original burned to the ground before Lewis and Clark made it back to it on the return trip). The fort was built of cottonwood lumber cut from the riverbanks. It was triangular in shape, with high walls on all sides, an interior open space between structures, and a gate facing the Missouri River. The men of the Corps of Discovery started the fort on November 2, 1804. They wintered there until April 7, 1805. It was amazing to see all that they had with them that had to be carried in boats and over land. They had an entire blacksmith shop with them – that must have weighed a ton. Most of the men had to sleep in an attic above the rooms, which sounds pretty bad until you compare it with sleeping outdoors.