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Camp Arnold State Historic Site

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Camp Arnold, located four miles north of Oriska, Barnes County, was the August 14, 1863, campsite used by the Sibley expedition during its return to Minnesota at the end of the summer campaign. It was named for Regimental Adjutant Captain John K. Arnold, 7th Minnesota Infantry.

Leaving their previous campsite early in the morning on August 14, the troops marched thirteen miles, following a trail left by one of Captain James Fisk’s immigrant wagon trains. Although the day was cloudy and cool, it was also windy and by noon, exhausted mules could go no further. The soldiers established a camp near the east end of Pickett Lake which, despite its poor water, supported a substantial population of muskrats.

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Tired troops continued straggling into camp after a twelve-hour march. As they arrived, the men discovered that, as usual, there was no firewood and even the alternate fuel, “buffalo chips,” was hard to find. However, the spirits of the troops were buoyed by the arrival of long-awaited mail and by the knowledge that they were finally on the way home.

Two soldiers, sixteen year-old James Ponsford (Company D) and twenty-two-year-old Andrew Moore (Company B), 1st Regiment, Minnesota Mounted Rangers, died in camp on August 15. Ponsford died of disease and Moore of wounds received at the Battle of Big Mound on July 24, 1863. Although the site lacks a formal marker, headstones honoring these men are visible beside Highway 32.

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