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Fort Snelling

a military post located near present-day St. Paul

location of Fort Snelling

In 1805, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike purchased 100,000 acres of land at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers with the intention of establishing a trading post. Significant settlement of the area did not begin until the late 1810's, however, when the U.S. Department of War began building a chain of forts between Lake Michigan and the Missouri River.

Fort Saint Anthony was built on "Pike's Purchase" between 1820 and 1824. Upon its completion in 1825, the Army renamed the fort in honor of its architect and first commander, Colonel Josiah Snelling (who commanded the fort until poor health forced him to leave in 1827). Due to its location, Fort Snelling was a vital, and often busy, frontier outpost through the first half of the 19th century. The growth of St. Paul and Minneapolis lessened the need for a fort, however, and the Army sold it to Franklin Steele in 1858.

Fort Snelling as it looked in the mid-1800's

During the Civil War, Steele leased Fort Snelling back to the War Department for use as an induction and training station for Minnesota recruits. The fort was also used as a supply base for the Dakota Territory, as well as "housing" for the hundreds of Dakota women, children, and elders captured during the Indian Campaigns.

Minneapolis began to expand into the area around Fort Snelling after the war, but the fort itself remained under Army control through the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. Over 300,000 inductees were processed through Fort Snelling through World War II, during which it also served as the headquarters of the Military Intelligence Service Language School.

Fort Snelling was decommissioned on October 14, 1946, and given to the Veterans Administration. It continued to serve as headquarters of the U.S. Army Reserve 205th Infantry Brigade, however, until 1994. In 1960, Fort Snelling became Minnesota's first National Historic Landmark. Since then, Historic Fort Snelling has been rebuilt and maintained by both private and public funding, and is currently managed by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Historic Fort Snelling's official website is

Fort Snelling today

Zebulon Pike
Civil War
Spanish-American War
World War I
World War II

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The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: Local History and Description >> The West >> Minnesota

This page was last updated on October 07, 2017.