Fort Abraham Lincoln

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Fort Abraham Lincoln (1872-1891) - A U.S. Army post first established as Fort McKeen (1) and then renamed Fort Abraham Lincoln on 19 Nov 1872. The post was located near present day Mandan in Morton County, North Dakota. Congress authorized the addition of a Cavalry Post in 1873. Lieutenant Colonel (Bvt Major General) George A. Custer was the first commander of the enlarged fort and served here from 1873 until the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. Abandoned in 1891. Also known as Fort McKean.

Fort Abraham Lincoln Infantry Post Marker
Fort Abraham Lincoln Cavalry Post Marker
Fort Abraham Lincoln Infantry Post Blockhouse
Fort Abraham Lincoln Cavalry Post Custer House

Fort Abraham Lincoln History

Fort Abraham Lincoln Cavalry Post Company Barracks
Fort Abraham Lincoln Cavalry Post Granary
Fort Abraham Lincoln Cavalry Post Commissary

Constructed in June 1872 by Companies B and C of the 6th U.S. Infantry to protect the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The initial post was located on a high bluff overlooking the confluence of the Missouri River and the Heart River and was known as Fort McKeen. Fort McKeen was built as an infantry post with three blockhouse and a partial palisade, unsuited for cavalry operations. It was soon realized that the mission required mounted cavalry and that the new post was unsuited for those troops. A second post was begun below the first one. The new post was begun in late 1872 as a six company cavalry post and on 3 Mar 1873 Fort Abraham Lincoln was authorized by act of Congress. The newly created fort encompassed both the infantry post and the cavalry post.

The first commander of the combined post was Lieutenant Colonel (bvt Major General) George A. Custer. By 1874 the fort housed nine companies with about 650 men, three companies of the 6th U.S. Infantry and 17th U.S. Infantry and six companies of the 7th U.S. Cavalry. The fort was among the largest and most important on the Northern Plains.

Custer and the 7th Cavalry departed from Fort Lincoln on 17 May 1876 in a campaign to round up the remaining plains Indians. Several Indian tribes had come together at the Little Bighorn River at the behest of Chief Sitting Bull to discuss what to do about the white man. Custer 's command came upon this large encampment, he split his forces into three battalions and attacked. A series of missteps and an underestimations of Indian strength caused the initial attack by Major Marcus Reno to falter and fail. Thousands of Indians then attacked Custer remaining men who were forced to ground by the overwhelming force. Custer and all his men were killed in the final stand.

Fort Abraham Lincoln remained the headquarters of the 7th U.S. Cavalry until June of 1882, when the 7th U.S. Cavalry and its headquarters were transferred to Fort Meade in South Dakota. After the railroad to Montana was complete the fort gradually declined in importance and was finally abandoned per G.O. 50, 1891.

At its height Fort Abraham Lincoln had 78 separate buildings. Many of those original buildings were dismantled by settlers and used in the construction of homes and farms.


Current Status

Fort Abraham Lincoln Cavalry Barracks Interior
Fort Abraham Lincoln Cavalry Post Custer House Interior

Must See! President Theodore Roosevelt signed the deed to the land to the state in 1907 as Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. In 1934, the Civilian Conservation Corps built a visitor center, shelters, and roads. They also reconstructed military blockhouses and placed cornerstones to mark where fort buildings once stood, as well as replicating Mandan earthen lodges. Additional reproductions have since been built on the site creating a replica Mandan village, called "On-a-Slant Village." The park also includes a campground and picnic area.


The Victorian-style home of George and Libbie Custer has been reconstructed and is open for tours. The commissary storehouse, the enlisted men's barracks, the granary and the stable have also been reconstructed on the Cavalry Post. Three replicated blockhouse are located on the upper Infantry post.


A separate visitor center is located on the lower level along the road between the lower cavalry post and the upper infantry post. The Mandan village, "On-a-Slant Village" is located behind this visitor center.



USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry:

  • Name: Fort Abraham Lincoln Type: Class: Park ID: 1029014
  • Location: Morton County, North Dakota, US, FIPS Code: 38059
  • Latitude: 46.7641610, Longitude: -100.8498517, Elevation: 1722 Map: Bismarck
  • As Of: 23 Sep 1986
Source: U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Location: Seven miles south of present day Mandan, Morton County, North Dakota.

Maps & Images

Lat: 46.759092 Long: -100.84548

Sources:

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Visited: 15 Sep 2013

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