Date of Award

Spring 1996

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Marten, James

Second Advisor

Avella, Steven

Third Advisor

Hay, Robert


Fort Ridgely is not one of the readily recognized forts in United States history. It existed for only fourteen years before being closed by the federal government. Yet, in several ways Fort Ridgely is quite unique. It is one of the few federal forts in our nation's history to be directly attacked by Native Americans. When built in the Minnesota Valley in 1853 it resided near the Santee reservations and the white settlement of New Ulm; only a handful of miles separated these three diverse communities. This was rare in the West. Finally, when established Fort Ridgely was on the frontier but in a little over a decade the valley became so settled that the post was no longer necessary. The soldiers at the fort played an important role in the rapid transformation of the valley. For all these reasons Fort Ridgely is worth writing about. Historians, outside of a few articles, have not written much about Fort Ridgely. What has been written overwhelmingly deals with the Santee attacks on the post during the Sioux Uprising. It is my goal to write a more complete history of the fort and to show the impact of the military on civilian settlements in the west. In attempting to do this I discovered why historians may have shied away from writing about Fort Ridgely. The records for the post are, for certain years, sparse. Records of contracts and court martial findings and files containing letters sent and received are incomplete. Personal letters or memoirs from regular officers or enlisted men are rare. Still, the records that do exist provide a good picture of the events at the fort. These records are supplemented by letters, journals and diaries of the volunteer officers and enlisted men, and numerous other sources of information both primary and secondary. From these sources a history of Fort Ridgely emerges.



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