The history of this place is more than just the story of the fort itself. The junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers is a place of major social, cultural, and historical significance to all people inhabiting the region, a place whose history evokes both pride and pain. It is a place of cultural importance to many Dakota people as a historical gathering place, the site of the B'dote creation story, and as a place of Dakota internment and exile after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.Plan to visit Historic Fort Snelling and other customer-reviewed, writer-recommended Saint Paul attractions using our Saint Paul sightseeing planner.
This area was also the crossroads of two major river highways of the fur trade, one of the most lucrative businesses during the 19th century. After the War of 1812, the U.S. government established its strategic presence at the river junction with the arrival of military forces and an Indian agent, whose goals were to promote and protect the interests of the United States in the region's fur trade and to gain the friendship and cooperation of American Indian communities. The establishment of the fort and Indian Agency became a foothold of U.S. expansionism in the territory that would become Minnesota.
Fort Snelling also played an important role in the great conflict over slavery in the United States. During the 1820s and 1830s, it is estimated that between 15 and 30 enslaved people lived and worked at Fort Snelling at any given time, in spite of the fact that the Missouri Compromise (1820) made slavery illegal in the region. Dred and Harriet Scott, two enslaved African Americans, used their time held at Fort Snelling as part of their decade-long legal battle to gain freedom for themselves and their children.
Located on top of the bluff overlooking the river junction, Fort Snelling served the U.S. military for over 120 years, through conflicts at home and abroad, and thousands of Minnesotans received their first taste of military service within its walls. By the late 20th century its national cemetery became the site of the final resting place for more than 180,000 men and women who served in the armed forces. Today, the historic fort has been restored to its early 19th century appearance, and the site's living history program brings the past to life!
Historic Fort Snelling Reviews
Great re-enactors, a fascinating and troubled history of white / native conflict, especially. Large grounds with interesting buildings. more »
My teen daughter and I attended this living history fort and it was amazing! :) We thought it would be an hour or so but we spent well over 2 hours listening and learning. There was a blacksmith... more »
Nice way to spend an afternoon. We brought our 4 month old in a stroller and that worked just fine. There’s only a few places that the stroller couldn’t go but the staff offered to keep an eye on it for us. Thanks! I recommend watching the intro video in the visitor center before you head out to the site. Can’t wait for the remodel.
Love this fort and the history behind it. The people there were very nice and helpful. It is different from many of the forts I have visited. I'd go back and explore more. Veterans are free. Worth the visit plus beautiful views of the river!
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