Fort Snelling and Minnehaha Falls

Today was more Fun Stuff™. After a (for us) relatively late rising time of 0700 we had coffee and breakfast…then dressed and headed off around 0940. We had two destinations today…Fort Snelling which is pretty much in the middle of Minneapolis at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers…back in the day it was built to control and pacify the territory and in the 1820s when it was constructed it was the farthest west and north outpost of the country. 

The fort was used up until after WWII…during it’s history it trained soldiers for both World Wars as well as being the initial in-processing site for Minnesota citizens who volunteered for service during the Civil War. It was also the home for 4 years of a slave named Dred Scott and his wife who he met and married here. Because Minnesota was in the north where slavery was outlawed…and because Congress passed a law that made any slave who entered a free state a free man…his time here was the genesis of the court case which culminate in the famous Dred Scott decision. In addition, it was the home of the chief Japanese language school for the military in the years before and during WWII and it’s graduates plated a pivotal role in in interrogation of Japanese prisoners and translation/evaluation of captured documents during the war.

There were slaves held at the fort with the approval of the commandant and in apparent violation of Federal law. Years later…Dred Scott sued for his freedom based on the congressionally passed law and the case went up all the way to the Supreme Court. The decision came down against him and the court stated that Congress could not pass a law outlawing slavery in the territories. There were some quotes from the majority opinion of the court in the historical movie we watched at the fort…and it’s clear that despite anything you’ve heard to the contrary that racism was alive and well in the free states even though there were no slaves in those states. The court held that the Negro race was known to be deficient and did not have the rights accorded to white men. While we had heard of the Dred Scott decision way back in American History class in grade school…we were not aware of the details of the decision. I don’t mean to bring up a touchy subject…but from the court decision it’s clear that racism was not confined to the Confederacy. Well…’nuff said about that…but it is part of the history of the fort and I thought it should be mentioned.

Anyways…after our arrival we got parked and paid the entrance fee…then sat down and watched the 16 minute or so movie about the history of the fort. Here’s a picture of Kara intently watching to learn stuff.

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After a quick tour of the fort by a young lady staff member dressed in 5…or so she told us…layers of heavy period clothing from the early 1820s we gathered in the parade ground to watch a cannon demonstration. This is a 6 pound field piece…so named because it fired a 6 pound shot and was designed to be mobile artillery instead of being fixed in position in a fort. We watched the crew load and then fire the cannon…a properly trained crew could load and fire twice a minute…pretty good rate of fire.

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That’s the enlisted men’s quarters in the background behind the field piece…12 men to a bunk room but only 6 bunks so they slept head to toe two to a bunk. 

Here’s a shot of the Commandant’s Quarters…it’s at the far end of the parade ground about where the field piece is aimed, and a shot of the officer’s quarters located across from the enlisted men’s. Larger rooms as the officers were expected to have servants (usually slaves, soldier’s wives, or local settler women) to maintain their social status…their quarters were bigger and had a parlor, bedroom, and kitchen for each officer and his wife or set of 3 bachelor officers.

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After that we climbed up to the top of one of the three surviving buildings…the original round fortification located behind the field piece. The others are the officer’s quarters and the Commandant’s Quarters…which is the oldest home in Minnesota being built in 1822. Here’s a panorama shot of the parade ground taken from atop the fortification. This view is looking towards the Mississippi about a half mile outside the walls below the bluff…there weren’t any trees back then so the fort commanded the confluence of the two rivers. The Minnesota is to the left of the fort and is immediately adjacent to the bluff the fort is on. You can see the enlisted quarters, Commandant’s Quarters and officer quarters from left to right around the parade ground.

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We stopped and had some popcorn for lunch…then visited the kitchen below the Commandant’s Quarters and had a brief demonstration of how the meals were cooked…she was cooking chicken, peas, and fruit cake for the daily meal for the family…it smelled pretty good but because of a mouse problem in a 195 old year building they aren’t allowed to give any samples out. Bummer. After that were pretty much fort’ed out so we made our way back to BAT and headed off to our second destination of the day…Minnehaha Falls. We didn’t realize that this  was going to be as crowded as it was…we knew it was in the middle of downtown and it’s June but we never really made the connection between that and crowds. After a bit-‘o-adventure finding a parking place for BAT in between the roads closed for construction, detour signs, and cramped parking lot we made our way over to the falls…which is a 53 foot drop on the Minnehaha Creek about a half mile before it empties into the Mississippi. Here’s a shot taken from the side atop the gorge and another one taken from down at the base after trekked down the stairs to the bottom. We were going to try and get closer but elected to obey (good idea!) the No Trespassing signs…however there were dozens of people who violated them and then risked their lives by crawling up the rock face to get behind the falls themselves. We thought to ourselves that there is “ignore the No Trespassing signs” stupid…and then there’s “let’s risk our lives” level of stupid. We frankly don’t understand why the city doesn’t have a Ranger down there to prevent people from violating the signs…or at least a taller fence to keep them out. Seems like a whole lot of potential liability to us when one of the snowflake teenagers falls and is injured or killed. You can see from the second photo a couple of the higher level of stupid teenagers…Neil was going to edit them out but left them in for ya’. Connie had to walk away as almost nothing gets her irritated more than idiots that endanger themselves by crawling out on waterfalls as well as ruining the ability of the rest of us to get a decent picture without them being in it. You can just see them at center right in the second shot.

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With that our day was done. We made our way back to BAT, stopped for a coke, and headed home. Got stuck in a bit of traffic going through town on I-94 but after that it was smooth sailing all the way home.

Neil went out and greased the hitch in the back of BAT…it’s got a couple of standard grease fittings on it where it pivots up on the airbags when they are inflated. Then it was a short nap…and dinner of brats, corn on the cob, and leftover sweet ‘taters from the other night.

Tomorrow is errands…check book balancing, work, Neil’s got a pile of of paper to process/scan/file/shred and need to pick up a few last minute groceries since we’re boon docking out in the ND prairie next week…then Friday we’re off bright and early with an overnight stop at Fargo ND on the way to Medora.


About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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1 Response to Fort Snelling and Minnehaha Falls

  1. Mj Trainor says:

    Just love all the pix! 🙂

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