The Original Fort Randall
The establishment of the Fort Randall Military Post on June 26, 1856, was a direct result of the Sioux Expedition into Nebraska Territory in 1855.
Gen. William S. Harney, Commander of the Sioux Expedition,
selected the location and named the post in honor of Col. Daniel
Randall, late Deputy Paymaster General of the Army.
The post was established to provide military protection to
settlements, open roads and to guard and escort travelers and
emigrants across the plains. It also settled disputes with various
Indian tribes; was there to prevent trespass by whites and serve as an
Army supply depot for the entire Upper Missouri River.
Early in the summer of 1856, the post was laid out and construction of the one-story cabins began. By 1860, the post had 24 log cabins for the officer’s quarters, garrison quarters, commissary, and quartermaster department arranged around the central parade ground which contained a flag pole and bandstand. Other buildings included the guard house, hospital, morgue, warehouse and Sutler’s store.
By 1871, a thorough renovation of the post was ordered by
Commanding Lt. Col. E. S. Otis, 22nd Infantry. The shabby log cabins were torn down and replaced with two-story framed structures. In addition, a bakery, magazine, water pump house, and two laundry quarters were constructed. In 1877, 12 new officer’s quarters, a new sawmill and a shed were added. White picket fences were installed around all of the buildings at that time. Most of the soldiers of Fort Randall lived a monotonous military life, working the same routine day after day, broken only by occasional trips into Indian Territory. The boredom led to discontent resulting in high desertion rates.
In 1871, the soldiers were allowed to organize fraternal societies, a library opened on post, and a baseball team called the “O’Reilly’s” was formed. In addition, most of the officers and some of the enlisted men were allowed to bring their families to the post.
By 1880, the western frontier had passed over South Dakota. On
November 9, 1892, Lt. Samuel Leah marched his 21st Infantry out of Fort Randall’s gates for the last time as the fort passed into history.