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Josiah Snelling

Josiah Snelling, Location no. por 15691 r1, Negative no. 89068Josiah Snelling, Jr., was born in 1783 and lived the early portion of his life in Boston. He began moving west early as a part of his long military career.

After his first wife died in 1810, he left his son in the care of relatives and dedicated himself to the military. He was rewarded with a commission as a captain at Fort Detroit in August of 1812.

Shortly after his arrival there he married his second wife, Abigail Hunt. Just days after that, he became a prisoner of war when the fort surrendered during the War of 1812. He was paroled by the British and served the next two years in a noncombatant role. Even while not fighting Snelling advanced quickly through the ranks, becoming first a major, then a lieutenant colonel, and finally a brevet colonel on April 12, 1814.

Due to postwar cutbacks, Snelling lost his brevet rank, but he again became a full colonel in 1820 and was given control of the 5th Infantry Regiment stationed in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. Upon arrival at his new post, Snelling found that the garrison he was sent to defend was really more of an encampment, so he began the construction of Fort St. Anthony (later Fort Snelling), an act that would become his greatest accomplishment. The building of the permanent fort took until 1824, and he served there until his death in the late 1820s. Today, Snelling Avenue bears his name and his fort—which remained in use off and on for 126 years—is a state historical park, restored to its original appearance in the 1820s.


  • "A Newly Discovered Diary of Colonel Josiah Snelling," by Helen Dunlap Dick.
    In Minnesota History, vol. 18, no. 4 (Dec. 1937): pp. 399-406.
    MHS call number: Reading Room F601.5 .M66 v.18.
  • "Abigail Snelling: Military Wife, Military Widow," by Janis Obst.
    In Minnesota History, vol. 54, no. 3 (fall 1994): pp. 98-111.
    MHS call number: Reading Room F601.5 .M66 v.54:3.
  • "Fort Snelling, Minnesota, While in Command of Col. Josiah Snelling, Fifth Infantry," by Rev. Edward D. Neill.
    In Magazine of Western History. vol. 8, no.2 (June 1888): pp.171-180 and vol. 8, no. 4 (Aug. 1888): pp.373-381.
    MHS call number: E171 .N27 - original edition (bound with National Magazine).
    MHS call number: F612.H58 F6 1888 - reprint edition.
  • Snelling: Minnesota's First First Family, by Barbara K. Luecke and John C. Luecke.
    Eagan, Minn.: Grenadier Publications, 1993.
    MHS call number: F605.1.S667 L83 1993.


  • Josiah Snelling Commissions and Appointments
    These are military commissions and related documents (1779-1820) from Snelling's service in the Massachusetts militia and the U.S. infantry as well as two documents relating to the Connecticut state militia during the Revolutionary War.
    MHS call number: +123 (oversized); see the green "+" Manuscripts Notebooks (there are twelve items).
  • Lawrence Taliaferro Papers
    Taliaferro was a friend of Josiah Snelling and a U.S. Indian Agent to the Ojibwe and Dakota at the St. Peter's Agency near Fort Snelling. His papers describe relations between Indians and whites and detail other information pertaining to Indian tribes in the area.
    MHS call number: P1203; see the green "P" Manuscript Notebooks for a detailed list of box contents (there are nine boxes of material).
    Also available on microfilm: Microfilm M35 and M35-A; see the green "M" Manuscripts Notebooks for a detailed list of reel contents (there are 5 reels of microfilm).
    Note: Microfilm is available for sale and Interlibrary Loan.
  • Letters Sent by the Secretary of War Relating to Military Affairs
    These letters (1808-1830) either address military matters at Fort Snelling during the time of its establishment and construction or were sent to Josiah Snelling at some point during his military career.
    MHS call number: Microfilm M152; see the green "M" Manuscripts Notebooks for more details (there are 6 reels of microfilm).
    Note: This collection is not available for sale or Interlibrary Loan. Originals are in the National Archives.
  • Marion S. Hall and Family Papers
    Marion Snelling Hall is the great-granddaughter of Josiah Snelling. Her papers (1807-1962) contain some personal correspondence and newspaper clippings, but there is also information about Fort Snelling and genealogical data on the Snelling, Howard, and Hunt families.
    MHS call number: P16; see the green "P" Manuscripts Notebooks for more details (there is only one box of material).
  • Order Books (1819-1828)
    The manuscript collection (P695) contains an original order book with letters and orders regarding supplies at Fort Snelling, plus photographic copies of part of a garrison orderly book. The microfilm (M239) contains a complete copy of the garrison orderly book with orders issued by post commanders, notably Josiah Snelling and Josiah H. Vose. A few examples of these orders are courts martial, appointments, and commissions.
    MHS call number: P695; see the green "P" Manuscripts Notebooks for more details (there is one box of material).
    MHS call number: M239; see the green "M" Manuscripts Notebooks for more details (there is 1 reel of microfilm).
    Note: This collection is not available for sale or Interlibrary Loan. Originals of the microfilmed materials are in the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library.
  • Photo and Art Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
  • Check the library catalog for other materials.
  • Visit Historic Fort Snelling.