A Long & Eventful History
Established by General William S. Harney in June 1856, the post provided troops and routed supplies to serve an assortment of government ventures. Harney named it after the late Deputy Paymaster General of the US Army, Colonel Daniel Randall.
Mission To Maintain Peace
Most of the soldiers lived a monotonous military life, working the same routine day after day, broken only by occasional trips into Indian Territory. But the boredom led to discontent among the soldiers, resulting in high desertion rates.
Famous Visitors & Prisoners
Perhaps the most famous inhabitant of Fort Randall was not a soldier but a prisoner. Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake) of the Lakota Sioux is probably best known for his contribution towards the defeat of Col. George Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn. He and his band of 158 Hunkpapa Sioux camped south of the fort and were kept under loose surveillance from July 1881 until November 1883 when he was moved to Fort Yates, in present day North Dakota.
In 1877, Chief Standing Bear and his brother Big Snake, head of the Ponca warrior society, were briefly imprisoned in retaliation for opposing relocation of the tribe and for evicting federal Indian agents from tribal land. They were released by the fort commander who sent a telegram of protest to President Hayes.
The most conspicuous improvement to the fort made in the 1870s, when it was home to the 1st United States Infantry, was that of the combination chapel, library and lodge. Conceived by Lt. Colonel Pinkney Lugenbeel and designed by the post carpenter, George Bush, the cross-shaped building was erected in 1875 with the sweat from many a soldier and at a cost of about $20,000.
The Army campaign of 1876 substantially ended the military aspect of the regional "Indian question." But the post continued to provide security by assuring federal presence to settlers who flocked into newly opened lands in the region.
The Final Years
Upon abandonment in 1892, and with exception of the chapel, the fort's buildings and contents were sold at auction and removed by local settlers.
Did You Know?
Ponca Chief Standing Bear's desire to return to his tribe's ancestral homeland along the lower Niobrara River resulted in a landmark federal court decision affirming that American Indians are persons under the U.S. Constitution. More...