Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Death on the prairie

LJ, I see your death-markers-for-soldiers-on-the-prairie, and I raise you actual-graves-and-interesting-causes-of-death:
(This looks impossible from this vantage point, but the Missouri River is not so far away.)

From Ft. Lincoln, south of Mandan, North Dakota.

Update to give some history about these soldiers (from the Ft. Lincoln site):
The History of Fort Abraham Lincoln

As the Northern Pacific Railroad advanced west across Dakota Territory, the US military kept pace. When the railroad reached the Missouri River in 1872, the city that would become known as Bismarck sprang up and Fort McKeen was established on the west bank of the river as a small infantry post. By November of that year, Fort McKeen had been renamed in honor of the fallen President, Abraham Lincoln.

Fort Abraham Lincoln was expanded to house six companies of the 7th Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer in 1873. Their mission was to further the advancement of the Northern Pacific Railroad and open the westward expansion of the American frontier.

By 1874, Fort Abraham Lincoln was the largest and most important fort in Dakota Territory and was considered the “premier“ frontier fort on the Northern Plains with 650 Infantry and Cavalry soldiers keeping the post maintained and operational.

May 17, 1876, the troops left Fort Lincoln on the Centennial Campaign, which took the 7th Cavalry into the valley of the Little Big Horn. They were attempting to force non-treaty Indians back to their respective reservations. Outnumbered, outgunned, and out-maneuvered, 260 cavalry troopers would not return to Fort Abraham Lincoln, including every member of the five companies with Custer.

By 1883, the Cavalry had been detached to Fort Meade, the NP railroad had been completed to Montana and Fort Abraham Lincoln’s importance declined, leaving Fort Abraham Lincoln to be later officially abandoned in 1891 by order of Congress. Fort Abraham Lincoln and General Custer’s 7th Cavalry would leave a lasting legacy for years to come.

Today, the visitor can relive what Fort Abraham Lincoln was like for General Custer and his command in the year 1875. We invite you to take a step “back to 1875“ as uniformed soldiers and laundresses conduct “Living History“ style guided tours through the reconstructed Custer House and Central Barracks. Relive the Legacy! Come out to Fort Abraham Lincoln and see for yourself.

Update II: I should note that the most surprising thing about the causes of death in this cemetery is that at least 90% had nothing to do with engaging an enemy (at least not directly), but instead were these kinds of things.

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