A New Find at Historic Fort Snelling
In early December 2004, Historic Fort Snelling Site Manager Stephen Osman saw something he had never seen in more than thirty years at the site. A local fisherman had discovered rock carvings near the fort, and removed moss to expose the inscriptions. Osman believes that volunteers from the Eighth Minnesota Regiment left these markings in 1864. This is the first public notice of this unique find.
In the spring of 1864, the regiment was assembled at Fort Snelling after eighteen months of outpost duty in Minnesota. In preparation for the summer campaign, new men joined and new gear was issued. Edward Scott was an 18-year-old recruit who had joined Company D only two days before he carved his name at the spring. His companion that day was 33-year-old William W. Smith who had joined up the previous month. On the inscriptions, above their names, company, regiment and date, is the name of another member of the Eighth. 35-year-old Normal Flover of Company B served a three-year enlistment and was discharged in the Fort Snelling hospital in 1865. All three men rode on Sully’s summer campaign that left the fort just a month later. Additional names may lie under the fill deposited below the railroad grade.
The site of the markings requires a hike along the river bank, down the steep side of the bluff at Fort Snelling, directly below the far end of the visitor parking lot. Although the site is not in Historic Fort Snelling’s new Civil War hiking tours, staff can provide directions to those interested in viewing the inscriptions.
Fort Snelling was temporary home to some twenty five thousand Union soldiers during the Civil War. These soldiers roamed far and wide around the Fort and portions of the river valleys they hiked are little changed from the 1860s. A natural spring flows into the Mississippi River just above the Fort and the Hwy. 5 Bridge and below the old Camp Coldwater boat landing. The spring still produces a small steam of water from a vertical limestone face just below the old railroad grade, now Minnehaha Trail. Cut deeply into the stone are the markings left by the Eighth Minnesota Regiment on April 1, 1864.
The Eighth Infantry is notable for having traveled more miles than any other Minnesota Civil War unit. In the summer of 1864, the Eighth were mounted on Canadian ponies to accompany General Alfred Sully’s expedition into the Dakotas. As part of a 2,200-man army, they fought the Dakota at the important battle of Kildeer Mountain and later headed south to battle in Tennessee and the Carolinas.