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Fort Abercrombie
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Location: Abercrombie, North Dakota
Built/Founded: 1860
Architect: WPA
Architectural style(s): Rustic/Log
Governing body: State
Added to NRHP: January 22, 2009
NRHP Reference#: 08001367[1]

Coordinates: 46°26′41″N 96°43′07″W / 46.44480°N 96.71859°W / 46.44480; -96.71859 (Fort Abercrombie)

Fort Abercrombie, in North Dakota, was an American fort established by authority of an act of Congress, March 3, 1857. The act allocated twenty-five square miles of land on the Red River in Dakota Territory to be used for a military outpost, but the exact location was left to the discretion of Lieutenant Colonel John J. Abercrombie. The fort was constructed in the year 1858. It was the first permanent military settlement in what became North Dakota, and is thus known as "The Gateway to the Dakotas".


Because the original location was prone to flooding, a new fort was built at a higher location in 1860, north of the original location. It was besieged by the Dakota (Sioux) Indians for more than six weeks during the Dakota War of 1862. The fort was abandoned in 1877 and the town of Abercrombie, North Dakota, was founded a half mile west in 1884. Abercrombie Township was settled, in part, due to the early presence of the fort.[2]

The fort served as a transportation hub as it guarded the Red River Trails used by the Red River ox cart trains of the late fur trade, military supply wagon trains, stagecoach routes, and steamboat traffic on the Red River.

The original buildings were either destroyed or sold at public auction when the fort was abandoned, but a Works Progress Administration project in 1939-1940 reconstructed three blockhouses and the stockade (fence) and returned the original military guardhouse to the site. More recent renovations include dismantling the southeast blockhouse and using salvageable materials to renovate the two remaining blockhouses and the guardhouse.

A new stockade was constructed and native grasses are allowed to grow in the locations of the missing buildings for visitors to get an idea about the size and shape of the buildings. A visitor's center was built in the summer of 2007. Today it is known as Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site and includes a modern museum and pavilion in the town of Abercrombie. The fort itself is a quarter mile east.

Dakota War of 1862

During the Dakota War of 1862 a citizen soldiers company was mustered in by Fort Commandnat Captain J.Van Der Horck and commanded by Captain T.D. Smith. Another unit was Captain Ambrose Freeman's Company of Mounted Men "Northern Rangers."


Killed: Sgt Edward Wright (Sept 23, 1862)

  • Corporal James Bennett (with party sent to Breckinridge)
  • Ostler Charles W. Soell (Sept 6, 1862)
  • Private Augustus Ruchenell


  • Private C.P. Lull (Severely; Sept 23, 1862)
  • Private Edwim M. Wright (Severely; Sept 3, 1862)[3]


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  2. Tweto, Alma (1910). Libby, Orin Grant. ed. History of Abercrombie Township, Richland County. Bismarck, ND: Tribune, State Printers and Binders. pp. 158–177. OCLC 01773487. 
  3. Minnesota in the civil and Indian wars, 1861-1865, Volume 1

Further reading

  • Barnes, Jeff. Forts of the Northern Plains: Guide to Historic Military Posts of the Plains Indian Wars. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.
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