Monday, September 08, 2014

The Dead of Fort Pembina

Some of the graves that were originally in the Fort Pembina Cemetery.
In anticipation of Fort Pembina (1870-1895) closing, the graves were  
disinterred and reburied at the Custer National Cemetery in 1892.

When Fort Pembina existed (1870-1895), it was in a sense its own town, almost entirely self-sufficient. That included having its own cemetery.
As Fort Pembina's time was winding down, the U.S. Army knew it would need to find a new home for the graves at the Fort's cemetery.  It was determined they would be disinterred, then transferred for reburial, to the Custer National Cemetery.  This was accomplished in 1892.
I recently became curious about whether the Fort had its own cemetery or not, and that's when I learned about the above after doing the initial research.  That wasn't enough for me - I had to know more.

I eventually learned that prior to Fort Pembina's establishment, the people of Pembina demanded protection due to the recent Dakota Uprising of 1862 in Minnesota.  To fulfill their request, the government formed a special unit which eventually became known as Hatch's Battalion.  Mustered in 1863, the battalion was ready to head to Pembina, Dakota Territory in early October; they arrived - after many challenges and losses of stock and supplies - on November 13th.  They encamped over the winter, building as best they could log buildings for the 300 men that comprised the battalion.  Their main objective was to hold back the hostile Dakota that had retreated across the boundary into Canada.  [In the end, they captured over 300 Dakota; the prisoners were remnants of the 1862 uprising that had been hiding 60 miles north of Pembina...]

Hatch received orders in April to transfer the Battalion to Fort Abercrombie.  In that same letter, dated April 26, 1864, he was ordered to put one company on patrol duty, up and down the Red River of the North between Fort Abercrombie and Pembina, " protect the route to Pembina, and keep open communication."  The immediate threat had passed, but an eye would be kept on the situation with the patrols.  Meanwhile, communications and plans were coming together, to obtain authorization for what would become Fort Pembina. In 1869 Major General Winfield S. Hancock, commander of the Department of the Dakota, recommended the establishment of a post near Pembina. Lobbying by citizens and local area politicians had worked.  With General Hancock's recommendation to the War Department, the fort would finally become a reality; "...danger from the Sioux and construction of two railroads" were cited as reasons for providing military protection to the area.

During the time prior to the fort's establishment in 1870, two soldiers with Hatch's Battalion were the first to die while stationed in Pembina:

- Joseph Gague (Co. C, Hatch's Battalion) D. 24 April 1864
- John Munger (Co. A, Hatch's Battalion) D. 8 March 1864

[Click below to see all 25 gravestones...]

Created with flickr badge.

During the Fort's existence, approximately 25 other souls were buried while serving in Pembina.  When the Fort was slated for closing, the cemetery graves were disinterred and transferred to Custer National Cemetery in 18921 [Source:  Gerald Jasmer, National Park Ranger and Historian].

Custer National Cemetery, located near Crow Agency, Montana
The transferred graves (including the two above), were:

Baker, Joseph (Corporal)
Co. I, 15th US Infantry
D. 15 Feb 1883
COD: Aneurysm
Grave #: A-160

Burke, Richard (Corporal)
Co. A. 7th US Infantry
D. 10 Dec 1882
COD: Heart Clot
Grave #: A-128

Coupland, Frederick (Private)
Co. D, 20th US Infantry
D. 2 Jun 1875
COD: Drowned
Grave #: A-122

Crosby, Thomas H. (Sergeant)
Co. I, 20th US Infantry
D. 26 Apr 1876
COD: Consumption
Grave #: A-123

Dowd, Dennis (Musician)
Co. I, 20th US Infantry
COD: Typhoid Fever
Grave #: A-120

Gague, Joseph (Private)
Co. C, Hatch's Battallion & Minnesota Cavalry
D. 24 Apr 1864
Grave #: A-167

Garland, Michael (Private)
Co. F, 20th US Infantry
D. 12 Jun 1875
COD: Frozen to Death
Grave #: A-124

Gerald, William (Deserter-at-Large)
(No Company affiliation given...)
D. 28 Sep 1870
COD: Drowned
Grave #: A-116

Harrison, John E. (Corporal)
Co. H, 1st Minnesota Infantry
D. 3 Mar 1873
COD: Dropsy
Grave #: A-117

Lewis, George W. (Government Employee)
D. 6 May 1877
COD: Consumption
Grave #: A-125

Marcellus, George (Private)
Co. K, 20th US Infantry
D. 26 Dec 1871
COD: Congestion
Grave #: A-115

McGuire, John (Private)
Co. I, 20th US Infantry
D. 18 Dec 1873
COD: Bronchitis
Grave #: A-119

McNally, John (Private)
Co. K, 20th US Infantry
D. 12 Nov 1873
COD: Inflammation of the Lungs
Grave #: 118

Munger, John (Private)
Co. A, Hatch's Battalion & Minnesota Cavalry
D. 8 Mar 1864
Grave #: A-166

Rasch, Charles J. (Hospital Steward)
US Army
D. 15 Mar 1871
COD: Consumption
Grave #: A-113

Raymond, Charles H. (Corporal)
Co. E, 17th US Infantry
D. 29 Jul 1878
COD: Struck by Lightning
Grave #: A-126

Roberts, Robert (Corporal)
Co. B, 15th US Infantry
D. 19 Feb 1884
COD: Pneumonia
Grave #: A-161

Rudolph, Charles (Private)
Co. I, 20th US Infantry
D. 21 Jun 1871
COD: Rheumatism
Grave #: A-114

Schwab, Henry (Private)
Co. I, 15th US Infantry
D. 2 Jul 1886
COD: Valvular Heart Disease
NOTES: It started out as a case of "Frostbite of the Left Foot including all toes, on February 13, 1886, complicated with General Debility." Source of Admission, Garrison.
Autopsy Note: The Thorax and abdominal viscera only were examined; the body was much emaciated. Rigor mortis well marked; the lower lobes of both lungs were congested; the heart was enlarged; left ventricle very much hypertrophied; the mitral valves were thickened and the orifice contracted; the pericardium was normal; the spleen and liver were enlarged; the kidney affected with parenchymatous nephritis.
Grave #: A-163

Smith, Harry
D. 14 Nov 1888
Grave #: 165
Smith, Jessie --- Children of H.L. Smith, Co. I, 15th US Infantry
D. 9 Feb 1887
Grave #: 164
Smith, Otice
D. 9 Dec 1885
Grave #: 162

Sones, Frederick (Private)
Co. K, 17th US Infantry
D. 12 Jun 1879
COD: Drowned
Grave #: A-127

West, Arthur P. (Sergeant)
Co. B, 15th US Infantry
D. 30 Jan 1883
COD: Inflammation of the Bowels
Grave #: A-129

Wiley, George (Private)
Co. D, 20th US Infantry
D. 2 Jun 1875
COD: Drowned
Grave #: A-121

Custer National Cemetery
1 - Due to an amended 1873 act of Congress, the War Department established additional national cemeteries in the West, necessitated by the abandonment of military posts on the old emigrant routes as settlement progressed westward. Such abandonment entailed the removal of the remains from the post cemeteries and reinterment in national cemeteries, for this course was less expensive than providing for the continued care and maintenance of the post cemeteries. Thus, the reason why Custer National Cemetery includes interments from Fort Pembina.