Thursday, March 17, 2011

Letters from Fort Pembina


Found amongst archived auctions comes this image and description of letters sold in 2007 that were written by residents of Fort Pembina in the 1880's...
Four letters - 3 written by a soldier with the last name of Dean, to his brother in Liberty, Mo. The 4th letter is written by the daughter of a man working at the fort, to Alice Warner in Wooster, Ohio. One letter from Dean to his brother states:   
We are situated on the Red River of the North which is frozen over with ice 28" thick...The public use the rivers in the winters for wagon roads or sleigh roads rather and they run the cars across on the ice also up in Pembina city, which is a mile & 1/2  - a lively little town too - it has 3000 population and is growing very rapidly.  Hunting is not as good as it was in Garland, Colorado, but there are some elk and plenty of geese, ducks, prairie chickens & grey wolves. 36 below zero... 
Then the boats begin to run on the Red, and he talks about going to Fort Snelling.   
We have 4 companies of infantry , and 1 company of cavalry - over 225 men in all.  
He is detailed as clerk of court for a court martial. 
Illness with the other men, have no guard duty and sleep in my own room at the fort.  
More content about fort life, his 2nd letter is dated 1883 to his brother regarding being a crack shot or a sharp shooter.   
We are practicing on old dummies hooked on a ring to a crooked wire...fire with a rifle all the way from 50 to 1000 yards. 
The 3rd letter to his brother regards money matters. The 4th letter is to Alice from her friend about people with frozen ears or feet. 
The men have large buffalo coats which come down almost to their ankles and huge collars. They wear fur caps & gloves so they look almost like esquiman [Spanish for Eskimo...] 
She talks about men in the guard house, liquor, and other realities of fort life...
Letter from the Army's Ordnance Department in 
Washington to Captain Mott Hooton of the 22nd 
Infantry, dated June 8, 1895. At the time Captain 
Hooton was Commanding Officer of F Company, 
and was at Fort Pembina, North Dakota.  Most of 
the fort was destroyed by a fire in May of 1895, 
and the post was abandoned in August of that year.