Friday, June 15, 2018

Fort Snelling: Frontier Fortress on the Mississippi

**Disclosure: Thank you to Visit Roseville for hosting our incredible visit to Roseville, Minnesota! Views are 100% my own.

I first visited Fort Snelling as a child when my grandparents took our family to visit St. Paul. Always the history buff, I was immediately fascinated by the fortification sitting above the Mississippi River. When we decided to visit Roseville, Minnesota for a family weekend, I knew that I had to bring my daughter. The day was sweltering and there is little shade at the fort, so we didn't spend as much time as I would of liked. However, we still learned quite a bit!

Expansive parade ground at Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Minnesota
Expansive parade ground at Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Minnesota
The stone fort was constructed in the 1820's and situated to help dissuade the British from encroaching on the Northwest part of our young country. The fort served to protect the fur trade and maintain stability between the Dakota and Ojibwe tribes. The fort was closed in 1858 after the US placed forts further West.

Interpreters organizing on the parade ground at Fort Snelling
Interpreters organizing on the parade ground at Fort Snelling

Fort Snelling reopened during the Civil War to serve as a rendezvous point and training center for volunteer soldiers. During this period of time, Fort Snelling was also part of the Dakota War of 1862. This is a pretty dark chapter of the fort's history with the fort playing a role in the removal of the Dakota from the area. For a time, the fort served as an internment camp for the noncombatant Dakota.

While visiting we explored what would have been the medical facilities and were pretty impressed with the detail put into the exhibits:

Frontier medical kits on display at Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Minnesota
Frontier medical kits on display.
One of the physicians at Fort Snelling was Dr. Emerson, the owner of Dred Scott. I was really surprised to learn that Dred Scott lived at Fort Snelling. In addition, he met and married his wife, Harriet Robinson, while at Fort Snelling. Scott would sue for his freedom based on his residency in free territories including Minnesota. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court in Scott vs Sanford where Scott lost. However, the family did grant his freedom. I found this to be a great teachable moment for my daughter..

The doctor's room at Fort Snelling.
The doctor's room at Fort Snelling.

We learned about medicine during the frontier days, medicine during battle and even Fort Snelling's roll as a hospital for soldiers wounded in WWI an WWII.

There were interpreters throughout the fort that helped detail life in the fortification.

Interpreters resting at Fort Snelling before muster

Of course, we had to climb the Round Tower which is highly recommended for great views! When the tower was originally built, the flat roof accommodated a cannon.

You can see Minneapolis from the top of the Round Tower which is cool:

Minneapolis in the distance from Fort Snelling
Minneapolis in the distance from the Round Tower

Fort Snelling has quite a number of buildings, so there is plenty to see. Of course, many of us love visiting the blacksmith shop -- so we had to take a peek:

Blacksmith shop at Fort Snelling

We also enjoyed a view of the Mississippi from one section of the fort:

Mississippi River from Fort Snelling

Fort Snelling is full of history with a lot to see and experience. Reenactors add more context. There are special daily demonstrations and additional events. There is so much at Fort Snelling and we barely scratched this surface! Fort Snelling is an interesting historical element to add to your visit to Roseville, Minnesota and the surrounding area.


  1. Cool! I had no idea this was so close to Iowa! Going on the Bucket list!