Yielding to pressure from the U.S. government in 1851, the Eastern Dakota
(Eastern Sioux) sold 35 million acres of their land across southern
and western Minnesota. The Dakota moved onto a small reservation along
the Minnesota River, stretching from just north of New Ulm to today's
South Dakota border.
In 1853, the U.S. military started construction on Fort Ridgely, near
the southern border of the new reservation and northwest of the German
settlement of New Ulm. The fort was designed as a police station to
keep peace as settlers poured into the former Dakota lands.
Nine years later, unkept promises by the U.S. government, nefarious
practices by fur traders and crop failure all helped create tensions
that erupted into the U.S.-Dakota war in August 1862. Dakota forces
attacked the fort twice-on Aug. 20 and Aug. 22. The fort that had been
a training base and staging ground for Civil War volunteers suddenly
became one of the few military forts west of the Mississippi to withstand
a direct assault. Fort Ridgely's 280 military and civilian defenders
held out until Army reinforcements ended the siege.
Fort Ridgely State Park
Off Minn. Hwy. 4, seven miles south of Fairfax
June 1 through Labor Day: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon
to 5 p.m. Sunday. Open Labor Day 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. School season may
507-426-7888 or 507-697-6321
Historic site visit is free. State park vehicle permits are required.
Fort Ridgely Historic Site
72404 County Road 30
Fairfax, MN 55332