Sunday, October 7, 2007
Custer's History at Fort Abraham Lincoln
Our visit to Fort Abraham Lincoln, 7 miles south of Mandan,N.D., on route 1806 in September opened up the pages of history to which we had little knowledge. The Fort was originally called Fort Mckean and was established on June 14,1872, by the 6th Cavalry under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel Huston. At the Commissary Storehouse - reconstructed in 1992,now a bookstore, located close to the entrance of the park you can catch a guided tour of the Custer home replica built in 1989. The original Commanding Officers quarters was built in the summer of 1873 for George and Elizabeth Custer. They lived in their new home until a fire claimed it in February 1874. Another new home was constructed the summer of 1874; the same Victorian style used in the first and common for the time period. Several original family articles were seen on display during our tour. "Lieutenant Colonel- General" George Armstrong Custer arrived before his wife at the Fort, with the 7th Cavalry, in the Fall of 1873, to ensure the expansion of the railroad in the Dakota Territories. It became a very important outpost with 6 companies or 650 Infantry and Cavalry soldiers keeping things going from 1873 - 1891. The men were Irish or German immigrants. The physical traits of no more than 165 lbs. and short stature to protect the health of the horses. George had the distinction by those who knew him of being an eccentric. On many an occasion he would warn wife Elizabeth, or one of the servants of his trips down the banister in the entry-way. They would leave the front door open for him to land out on the front porch. What a ride! When we finished at the Custer home we headed off to the re-constructed barracks to see what the common living space would have looked like in an era when they lived so far away from civilization. Our guide Diane, an Native American ,raised with 2 sisters by her mother away from the Kansas Reservation, shared her heritage with us. She called herself an apple..."Red on the outside, white on the inside". She spoke of the beliefs of historians about what went on at the "Battle of Little Big Horn", June 25th-26th,1876, the way the remains of the soldiers were treated after death. It is believed that Custer had an Indian woman since he was not dismembered in the same manner as the other soldiers who lost their lives that day. The only injury other than gun shot suffered by Custer was punctured ear-drums. This interpreted to mean that he "didn't listen" to what he was told in life so they made it impossible for him to hear in the next life... North Dakota has many areas of interest so if you get a chance to take an extended vacation I would recommend hitting the I-94 from one end of the state to the other for a delightful excursion.