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Fort Meade
Meade County, on the east side of Bear Butte Creek, in the Black Hills, 14 miles northeast of Deadwood, South Dakota.
Fort Meade Dakota 1888.jpg
Fort Meade, Dakota. Bear Butte, 3 miles distant.
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1878
In use 1878-1944
Controlled by United States

1st U.S. Infantry

7th U.S. Cavalry

25th U.S. Infantry

8th U.S. Cavalry

3rd U.S. Infantry

10th U.S. Cavalry

4th U.S. Cavalry

Major Henry M. Lazelle, 1st Infantry

Captain Van Vajzah, 25th Infantry

Major Edward Ball, 7th Cavalry

Colonel Joseph G. Tilford, 7th Cavalry

Colonel James W. Forsyth, 7th Cavalry

Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis, 7th Cavalry

Cololel Elmer Otis, 8th Cavalry

Colonel Caleb H. Carlton, 8th Cavalry

Colonel John M. Bacon, 8th Cavalry

Major Robert McGregor, 8th Cavalry
Battles/wars Indian Wars

Fort Meade was established in 1878 as a cavalry fort to protect the new settlements in the northern Black Hills, especially the nearby gold mining area around Deadwood. Several stage and freighting routes passed through Fort Meade en route to Deadwood.

For most of the past 120 years, there has been some military presence at Fort Meade, near Sturgis, South Dakota. Many cavalry and infantry units were stationed here, including the 7th U.S. Cavalry after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry, and the 4th U.S. Cavalry which saw the transition from horses to mechanization. Fort Meade still serves as a training site for the South Dakota National Guard and an Army National Guard Officer Candidate School. It is also home of Fort Meade National Cemetery.

Established[edit | edit source]

By order of Gen. Sheridan, issued in response to numerous appeals of the settlers of the Hills for military protection against persistent Indian depredations, a temporary United States military camp was established on Spring creek a little north of Bear Butte, in August, 1876, and named Camp Sturgis, in honor of the gallant Lieut. J. G. Sturgis, or "Jack Sturgis," as he was familiarly called by his comrades, who fought and fell with Custer on the hills overlooking the $3. During the occupation of this camp, the present site of Fort Meade, situated just outside the eastern foot-hills of the Black Hills, and on the south side of Bear Butte creek, was selected and located as a permanent United States military post, which was established and garrisoned on the 31st of August, 1878.[1]

The new post replaced Camp J.C. Sturgis, started in July 1878, about two miles northwest of nearby Bear Butte, was first named Camp Ruhlen for Lt. George Ruhlen, 17th U.S. Infantry quartermaster officer who supervised the building of the post. It was established by Major Henry M. Lazelle, 1st U.S. Infantry, and companies D and H of the 11th U.S. Infantry on a site selected by Lieutenant General Philip H. Sheridan, on the east side of Bear Butte Creek, in the Black Hills, fourteen miles northeast of the town of Deadwood, South Dakota.

General Order No. 27, issued at Department of Dakota Headquarters, announced that the Secretary of War had designated the post “Fort Meade” in honor of Major George G. Meade, of Civil War fame. The first commander was Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis, 7th Cavalry.

The work of building the post, for which an appropriation of $100,000.00 had been made, was begun on August 28, 1878, and completed in August, 1879. The original appropriation not proving sufficient to meet the cost of the necessary buildings an additional appropriation of $11,000, and later a special appropriation of $13,000, was made for post hospital.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

According to information obtained from an officer in the Eighth Cavalry Regiment, Fort Meade has been garrisoned, since its occupation, as follows:

The original garrison consisted of troops E and M, Seventh Cavalry, and companies F and K, First Infantry, with Major H. M. Lazelle, of First United States Infantry, in command. In June, 1879, the garrison was reinforced by the arrival of band and troops C and G, Seventh Cavalry, and on July 10, 1879, by troops A and H, Seventh Cavalry, at which time Col. S. D. Sturgis assumed command of the post. On September, 1879, Companies D and H, First Infantry, from Fort Sully, joined, increasing the garrison to four companies of infantry and six troops of cavalry.[1]

On May 13, 1880, companies D, F, H, and K, left for Texas, and were replaced by Companies A, D, H, and K, Twenty-fifth Infantry (colored), with Capt. D. D. Van Valzah,Twenty-fifth Infantry, in temporary command, Col. Sturgis being absent on leave. On May 19, 1881, Col. Sturgis resumed command, but relinquished in June, going to Washington, D. C., to take charge of the Soldiers' Home. From that time the post was commanded successively by Capt. Van Vajzah, Twenty-fifth Infantry, Major Edward Ball, Seventh Cavalry, and Col. Joseph G. Tilford, Seventh Cavalry,[1] until July 1886, when Col. James W. Forsyth was assigned to the command and remained until June, 1887.[2][3]

In 1887, the four companies of the Twenty-fifth Infantry were replaced by four companies of Third Infantry. In June, 1888, the Seventh Cavalry Regiment was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas, and the Third Infantry to some other point, when the post was regarrisoned by the Eighth Cavalry Regiment, consisting of eight troops under the command of Col. Elmer Otis. In January 1891, Col. Otis was superseded by Col. C. H. Carleton, who was retired from active service in June 1897, when Col. John M. Bacon took command of the garrison.[1]

Soon after the beginning of the Spanish-American War, Col. Bacon was ordered to St. Paul, Minnesota, leaving the post in charge of Major Robt. McGregor. Pending the war, the Eighth Cavalry Regiment, which had occupied the post for ten years, was broken up and scattered, the last troops leaving on October 6, 1898, for Huntsville, Alabama, from where they were to be sent to join the army of occupation in Cuba. The garrison, in October 1898, consisted of two troops of the First United States Cavalry, transferred there from the battlefields of San Juan Hill and El Caney.[1]

Description[edit | edit source]

Fort Meade has quarters and building accommodations for a regiment of ten full troops of cavalry, and as it is regarded, from a strategic standpoint, as the most important inland military post in the whole War Department, it will, doubtless, be increased to its full capacity, and maintained for many years to come, or so long at least, as the government feels it necessary to keep a watchful eye and a restraining hand over the numerous bands of untamed, it might be said, almost untamable, Indians, partitioned off among the various reservations of the Northwest.[1]

The Officers' Line. Fort Meade, Dak.

The present post buildings consist of twenty-five sets officers' quarters, four double sets barracks, two single sets barracks, adjutant's office, quartermaster's office, guard house, officers of the guard room, two quartermaster's store houses, one commissary, one set band quarters, post exchange, one granary, nine stables, one quartermaster's stable, new hospital of two wards, built in 1896; chapel, schoolhouse, post office, post hall, library, ordnance store house, powder magazine, one bakery, two ice houses, one saw mill, one steward house, and a beautifully located post cemetery fenced in.[1]

Home of Comanche[edit | edit source]

In June, 1879, ' Comanche ' was brought to Fort Meade by the Seventh Regiment, where he was kept like a prince until 1888, when he was taken to Fort Riley, Kansas, where a few years since he died, and was buried with military honors. Shortly thereafter the horse's remains were sent to a taxidermist to be stuffed, and in the early 1900s Comanche was put on display at the Natural History Museum on the campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. A restoration of the display was completed in 2005.[1]

Home of the National Anthem[edit | edit source]

Star Spangled Banner display at the fort.

It was here that the "Star Spangled Banner" first became the official music for the military retreat ceremony, long before in became the National Anthem. In 1892, the post commander Colonel Caleb H. Carlton, 8th Cavalry, began the custom of playing the “Star Spangled Banner” at military ceremonies and requested that all people rise and pay it proper respect long before it became the National Anthem.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Tallent, Annie D., The Black Hills, or, The last hunting ground of the Dakotahs: a complete history of the Black Hills of Dakota, from their first invasion in 1874 to the present time, Nixon-Jones, 1899.
  2. Memorials of Deceased Companions of the Commandery of the State of Illinois, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States: From July 1, 1901 to December 31, 1911, Volume 2 of Memorials of Deceased Companions of the Commandery of the State of Illinois, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Illinois, 1912 .
  3. Annual Reunion of the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy, at West Point, New York, June 12th, 1908 , Saginaw, Mich., Seemann & Peters, Printers And Binders, 1908.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Lee, Robert, Fort Meade, the peace keeper post on the Dakota Frontier, 1878-1944,Old Fort Meade Museum & Historic Research Association, 1987.
  • Lee, Robert, Fort Meade and the Black Hills, University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

External links[edit | edit source]

Coordinates: 44°24′34″N 103°28′16″W / 44.40944°N 103.47111°W / 44.40944; -103.47111

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