So my trip to Pierre and the South Dakota State Archives wasn’t as thrilling as I hoped on the research end of things. The Archives was fabulous, but records they had for Fort Sully weren’t terribly exciting or in depth. I think part of the problem is that the first Fort Sully only stood for three years so there is little information about it.
The most exciting find at the Archives was a hand-drawn illustration of the fort by Private William S. Peck himself! Yes, “my” William! I will be ordering a scan in the next week or so and I hope to post it here. It is a beautiful drawing of the fort a bit at a bird’s-eye view looking from the Missouri River.
The illustration is partially in color, with the use of some reds and blues. There is an large eagle accompanied by flags, guns, cannons, and a bugle which includes a banner touting Company D of the 30th Wisconsin, and “Bello vel Pace [Paci]” translated to “War or Peace.” The scene includes details of the fort structures along with out buildings and teepees and people situated along the banks of the Missouri.
Since Old Fort Sully no longer stands, I was encouraged to find some additional drawings and reconstructed plans of the fort. One in particular was quite helpful. The drawing shows the location of the barracks, hospital, guard house, doctor’s quarters, commissary, officer’s quarters, the well, interior walkways, and the flag pole. It also indicates sites outside the fort walls including a dance hall, indian homes, the interpreter’s house, and stores. I will redraw the plans when I post the illustration of the fort by William Peck.
The time Company D of the 30th Wisconsin stayed at the fort was limited. Post returns show they were only there a couple of months along with the 6th and 7th Iowa. Three officers were present in the month of June 1864 with Captain David C. Fulton as commanding officer, there was 1 medial officer and 65 enlisted men with only 54 were on duty, since 10 were sick and one that was arrested. Hmmmm, arrested for WHAT? The records don’t reveal the crime, darn it!
A small monument is the only evidence that a fort ever existed at this location. There is a little children’s museum here, but all I saw inside were play exhibits of wildlife. It really isn’t surprising no mention was made of a contentious past.
Overall I’m glad I made the trip to Pierre, however it would have probably been much more satisfying if it was the first stop on a much longer road trip. I hope to get up to Fort Totten in North Dakota soon. Now THAT will be a much more inspiring trip considering a majority of the fort still stands!