Thursday, August 16, 2012

Haunted Frontier Fort

The U. S. Army first established an outpost on the eastern edge of what would become North Dakota in August of 1858. This outpost was named Fort Abercrombie after the Lieutenant Colonel who established it along the Red River. 

Unfortunately, the Lieutenant Colonel picked a spot that was prone to flood. His newly established outpost was washed away two years later. In 1860 the fort was rebuilt on higher ground north of the original site.

The fort quickly became known as “the Gateway to the Dakotas”. Its main purpose was to guard the oxcart trails used by fur traders, the military wagon trails, the stagecoach routes, and the steamboat traffic along the Red River. The fort was also the main supply hub for all the routes that led through the Northern Plains.

First stagecoach arriving at fort.

The soldiers at the fort also protected the local settlers by keeping the Sioux Indians on the west side of the James River. These Sioux were becoming more and more restless as they watched their land claimed by these settlers. 

In August of 1862 Sioux warriors attacked the fort. At this time the “regular” army soldiers had been withdrawn from the fort to fight in the Civil War. In their place, a smaller number of Minnesota Volunteer Infantrymen manned the fort.

The Sioux besieged the fort for more than six weeks in what became known as the Dakota War of 1862. It is not known how many Indians perished but it is estimated that around fifty soldiers were wounded or killed. 

At the time of the attack the fort had neither blockhouses nor a palisade, which would have helped defend it. Despite these handicaps the soldiers prevailed and the war ended in late September. Shortly afterwards both of these defenses were built at the fort.

In its last years in service Fort Abercrombie was charged with protecting the railroad that was being built, establishing peace among the local Indian tribes, and serving as a hub for all the mail routes in the area. 

By 1877 the fort was abandoned. Most of its building were sold at auction and removed from the site. The town of Abercrombie, North Dakota was founded a half mile west of the fort in 1884.

Original Guardhouse
What was left of the fort lay in ruins until 1939 when the Works Progress Administration (WPA) reconstructed the fort’s blockhouses, stockade, and palisade wall. They also returned the original military guardhouse to the site. 

In recent years even more renovations of the site have been undertaken.

Since the Dakota War of 1862—a span of 150 years-- there have been numerous reports that Fort Abercrombie is haunted. 

Many groups and individual witnesses have described full-bodied apparitions that have been seen around and near the fort. These ghosts of Sioux Indians and 19th century soldiers are seen wandering the area. More vivid witness accounts describe how these ghosts seem to be re-enacting battles from another time.

Today, visitors can tour the grounds of the old fort which is a designated state historical site. A small museum located a quarter of a mile east of the fort, is open five days a week from late May till early September, it chargers a minimal fee. 

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