Fort Abraham Lincoln
In July 2008 I made a stop at Fort Abraham Lincoln in North Dakota. It was from this site that General George Armstrong Custer and the famed US 7th Cavalry began their trek to the Battle of The Little Big Horn. The fort layout was much larger than I anticipated. I guess all those movie and TV sets depicting forts had become my expectation of reality. I should have known better. A very friendly and informative employee at the gate cheerfully answered my questions and made recommendations.
I opted to buy tickets to Fort Abraham Lincoln itself, the Mandan Indian Village, and the Custer House. I'll only cover Fort Abraham Lincoln here. There are no original buildings left at the site. Several buildings still have a portion of their foundation still visible. The buildings on the site are created from the original blueprints and are built with material reasonably close to what would have been used. Some of the distances between buildings are several hundred yards apart so wear comfortable shoes with a good sole as it would be easy to slip inside the blockhouses.
I started at the museum as it was lightly raining at my time of arrival. The museum is not a large facility and you can view it pretty quickly. Several displays contained real US Army uniforms from different branches of service and the US Army Indian Scouts. Items recovered from the Battle of The Little Big Horn were among my favorites. General Custer is prominently displayed as you enter. I was fortunate enough to meet another Hoosier on staff there who took me to a portion of the facility not generally open to the public. There I was able to view case upon case of recovered artifacts from the fort including articles from the original Custer House. The visit at this point had already become a rousing success!
The summer shower stopped and I ventured outside. The blockhouses were large on the outside but really cramped on the inside. The stairs were narrow and the floors to shoot from were not very wide. Being a 6'1" 265 pound former football lineman didn't help at all. The field of view from the gunports was narrow. The temperature was in the high 80's and it was very warm inside. The noise, heat, and smoke from the blackpowder rifles would have made battle inside the blockhouse extremely uncomfortable.
I entered all the buildings available on the grounds. The stable was quite large and had numerous displays explaining cavalry life and duties. Only one stable was rebuilt but the corners of the others are marked out. The stables were close to the Missouri River and the potential for flooding existed. I'm sure the access to water outweighed the risk. Barracks life was sparse. There was no sense of privacy and the stoves for heating couldn't have kept them warm. I'm sure the summer heat also took a toll on the Troopers. There were several displays on barracks life. The theater was well laid out and I'm sure was a pleasant distraction for the Soldiers.
The cemetery on the grounds contained only civilians. All the US Army Troopers, Soldiers, and Indian Scouts have been moved to Custer National Cemetery at the Little Big Horn Battlefield.
The Fort Abraham Lincoln gift shop had a lot of items and a bookstore. Unfortunately for me the shirts I wanted were only available in XL and smaller. All the XXL were gone and I was told by the courteous clerk that no more would be ordered for this season.
The grounds, buildings, and displays were well laid out and informative. All were clean and well maintained. I did not see a single piece of loose trash on the entire tour and believe me I logged quite a few walking miles.