Near Fairfax in Nicollet County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Who Lived in the Barracks?
Most soldiers at Fort Ridgely were low-ranking enlisted men, and before 1861 most of these were foreign-born. Out of 166 enlisted men in the 1860 census, 70 were from Ireland, 34 from Germany, ten from Great Britain, and 33 from the United States. The men enlisted for five years. For many, the military provided their first job in America and a way to learn the country's language and customs. Once their enlistments were over, many stayed in the region.
From 1853 to 1855 the garrison at Fort Ridgely averaged one desertion a month. In July 1855 alone, 31 soldiers deserted. Nearby civilian towns like New Ulm may have tempted the men. Still, the rate was in line with the national average; the U.S. Army annually lost 15 percent of its forces to desertion. Revealing the anti-immigration bias of the time, Fort Ridgely Commandant Major Hannibal Day attributed the desertion rate to "the character generally of our rank and file which I have no doubt, is made up in some measure of criminals from Europe."
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Forts and Castles. In addition, it is included in the Minnesota Historical Society series list. A significant historical month for this entry is July 1855.
Location. 44° 27.206′ N, 94° 44.059′ W. Marker is near Fairfax, Minnesota, in Nicollet County. Marker can be reached from County Highway 30 1.1 miles west of State Highway 4, on the right when traveling west. Marker is in Fort Ridgely State Park; fee area – a Minnesota state park vehicle permit is required. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 72404 County State Aid Highway 30, Fairfax MN 55332, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Stone Barracks (a few steps from this marker); Fort Ridgely Closes (within shouting distance of this marker); Garrison Life Was Like Clockwork (within shouting distance of this marker); Fort Ridgely State Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); A Minority in Their Homeland / U.S.-Dakota Conflict (within shouting distance of this marker); Log Buildings (within shouting distance of this marker); Camp Women (within shouting distance of this marker); Four Days From Fort Snelling (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fairfax.
More about this marker. captions:
• David Geister, An Evening in the Barracks, 1858, 2005
• David Geister, A Winter's Night Guard Duty, 1855, 2005
Also see . . .
1. Fort Ridgely in 1862.(Submitted on March 19, 2014.)
2. Fort Ridgely. Minnesota Historical Society. (Submitted on March 19, 2014.)
3. Autobiography of Capt. Richard W. Musgrove. Page 166. "New Ulm contained fifteen hundred inhabitants... I rode down there one day with some of the officers of the fort, and I had heard so much about the wickedness of the place, that I felt as though I were visiting Sodom and Gomorrah." (Submitted on March 19, 2014.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on March 19, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 386 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on March 19, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.