“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Fort Rice in Morton County, North Dakota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

The Founding of Fort Rice

Fort Rice State Historic Site

The Founding of Fort Rice Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Connor Olson, September 27, 2019
1. The Founding of Fort Rice Marker
Inscription.  Fort Rice was established on July 7, 1864, by General Alfred H. Sully as a field base during his 1864 expedition. The fort was named for Brigadier General James Clay Rice of Massachusetts who was killed in battle during the Civil War. Fort Rice was the first of a chain of forts built to guard northern plains transportation routes; evidence of the United States government's changing policy toward western lands, encouraging their settlement and providing protection for Euro-American settlers. Fort Rice became an important military post on the Upper Missouri River. During the summer of 1864, Sioux in Dakota Territory were angered by the military expeditions that had attacked Dakota, Lakota, and Yanktonai bands the previous year. In response, the Indians increased their attacks on transportation routes, including steamboats traveling the Missouri.

In 1864 General Sully returned with an army of 3,500 men to punish the Sioux, force them onto reservations, and to strengthen peace by building military forts near the mouth of Long Lake Creek (Fort Rice), and the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers (Fort Buford), and near the mouth

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of the Powder River. The army hired fifteen steamboats to transport men and supplies part of distance and retained three steamboats to support the expeditions for its four-month duration.

Before leaving for what would result in the Battle of Killdeer Mountain (July 28, 1864), General Sully tasked Colonel Daniel J. Dill and soldiers of the Thirtieth Wisconsin Infantry to build the original Fort Rice. Because of the lateness of the construction season and the lack of more permanent building materials, the first fort was little more than structures of newly-felled cottonwood logs covered with sod and chinked with mud.

The first permanent force (537 men and one woman) arrived at Fort Rice on Monday, October 17, 1864. Tired, bedraggled and sick, they were designated the 1st United States Volunteer Infantry (1st USVI), derisively labeled the "Galvanized Yankees." Former Confederate prisoners-of-war, the six companies of the 1st USVI has sworn a new allegiance to the Union Army and were tasked with the defense of the fort until their mustering out one year later. During that year, 102 soldiers and civilians (including one woman and one baby) would die at or near the fort from various causes including scurvy, diarrhea, typhoid, drowning, and a very few in combat.

Life was not easy in small frontier forts, isolated by distance and a seasonally ice-bound transport

Remnants of fort blockhouse. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Connor Olson, September 27, 2019
2. Remnants of fort blockhouse.
system. To pass the time during the first winter, the soldiers opened a theater and from June 15-October 9, 1865 published a newspaper, the Frontier Scout.
Erected by State Historical Society of North Dakota.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Forts and Castles. A significant historical date for this entry is July 7, 1864.
Location. 46° 30.771′ N, 100° 35.059′ W. Marker is in Fort Rice, North Dakota, in Morton County. Marker can be reached from North Dakota Route 1806. Located at Fort Rice State Historic Site. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Mandan ND 58554, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 6 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Fort Rice After General Sully's Expeditions (here, next to this marker); Fort Rice (within shouting distance of this marker); Archaeological Excavations of Houses (approx. 7.8 miles away); Village Fortifications and Human Conflict (approx. 7.8 miles away); Huff Indian Village State Historic Site (approx. 7.9 miles away); Huff Indian Village Dates to AD 1443-1465 (approx. 7.9 miles away).
More about this marker. Marker is on skids, location may vary slightly.
Also see . . .  Fort Rice State Historic Site. (Submitted on August 7, 2020, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin.)
The Founding of Fort Rice Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Connor Olson, September 27, 2019
3. The Founding of Fort Rice Marker
Plat of Fort Rice
Credits. This page was last revised on August 7, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 4, 2020, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 244 times since then and 70 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on August 4, 2020, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. • Mark Hilton was the editor who published this page.

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Oct. 2, 2023