The junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers is a place of major social, cultural, and historical significance to all people inhabiting the region, a place whose history evokes both pride and pain. It is a place of cultural importance to many Dakota people as a historical gathering place, the site of the B'dote creation story, and as a place of Dakota internment and exile after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
1835 map of Fort Snelling, drawn by
Indian Agent Lawrence Taliaferro.
This area was also the crossroads of two major river highways of the fur trade, one of the most lucrative businesses during the 19th century. After the War of 1812, the U.S. government established its strategic presence at the river junction with the arrival of military forces and an Indian agent, whose goals were to promote and protect the interests of the United States in the region's fur trade and to gain the friendship and cooperation of American Indian communities. The establishment of the fort and Indian Agency became a foothold of U.S. expansionism in the territory that would become Minnesota.
Located on top of the bluff overlooking the river junction, Fort Snelling served the U.S. military for over 120 years, through conflicts at home and abroad, and thousands of Minnesotans received their first taste of military service within its walls. By the late 20th century its national cemetery became the site of the final resting place for more than 180,000 men and women who served in the armed forces. Today, the historic fort has been restored to its 1820s-1830s appearance, and the site's living history program brings the past to life!
The history of this region is not limited to the fort itself. The historical resources below have been compiled from many different primary and secondary sources to help provide a larger context for understanding the place of Fort Snelling in the history of the region.
Click on the links below to begin your exploration of the rich and complex history of Fort Snelling.