During the Civil War (1861 – 1865), General Alfred Sully led troops into northern Dakota Territory in pursuit of Dakotas who had rebelled against their agency and nearby farmers (Dakota War of 1862) in southern Minnesota. Sully needed accommodations and a base of operations in Dakota and for a short time housed his troops at the former American Fur Company post, Fort Union. In the summer of 1864, his troops built Fort Rice on the banks of the Missouri River about 30 miles south of present-day Mandan, North Dakota.
To provide some entertainment and to relieve to some extent their feeling of remoteness from the “states,” the men in Sully’s command published a newspaper titled, The Frontier Scout. The first four issues (volume 1, number 1 has not been located) of the newspaper were published while the troops occupied Fort Union. After a delay of nine months, fifteen more issues were published at Fort Rice. Publication continued until October 1865.
Shortly after Fort Rice was constructed, six companies (see Unit 3 Document Set 3) of new recruits arrived. These were members of the 1st U.S. Volunteers (1st U.S.V.), commonly called “galvanized Yankees.” The 1st U.S.V. comprised former Confederate soldiers recruited from the Union military prison at Point Lookout, Virginia in 1864 to serve in the Union Army. The use of former prisoners of war as Union soldiers was not a new idea, but it was controversial. Though members of the 1st U.S.V. briefly engaged in Civil War military action at Elizabeth City, North Carolina, General Grant feared that if they were captured by Confederate troops they would be executed as deserters. Therefore, the regiment was sent to New York City where the men boarded trains for Chicago. At Chicago, 6 companies (600 men with laundresses and officers) were sent to St. Louis to board the steamer Effie Deans to steam upriver to Fort Rice. The river was low that year and the boat could not run the entire distance, so the soldiers had to march the last 270 miles of the trip. Without wagons to carry supplies or tents for shelter, the march constituted great hardship. They reached Fort Rice October 17, 1864.
At Fort Rice, as at Fort Union, the newspaper helped the men remain connected to events at the post, in the region, and in the states, and it eased the loneliness of what many of them considered to be “Siberian exile” (volume 1, number 15) on the northern Great Plains. Indeed, the sentimental tone of many of the articles suggests a longing for more familiar and comfortable surroundings.
The galvanized Yankees of the 1st U.S. Volunteers were mustered out of service on November 27, 1865. Those who returned to the South met a cool welcome because of their service with the Union Army and few found adequate employment. Some returned to the West or re-enlisted in the Army.
As you read through the issues of The Frontier Scout, note the details about the soldiers’ health (June 22 & June 15, 1865), and an article about Indian Policy (“Indian Im-Policy,” August 10, 1865). Think about how the isolation of the post and the circumstances of the Civil War might have shaped the soldiers’ way of thinking about the Indians they encountered on the northern Great Plains.
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