Visit Historic Fort Meade

5/18/2021 - 9/30/2021

Historic Fort Meade

It was 1878, two years after the defeat of General Custer in the Battle of Little Bighorn.  Gold had been discovered in Deadwood, bringing prospectors, businessmen, and homesteaders flocking to the Wild West.   As more people made their homes in the Black Hills, conflicts with Native American tribes grew more frequent and dangerous.  In response to multiple pleas from area settlers for protection, General Phillip Henry Sheridan ordered a temporary military camp to be instituted just north of Bear Butte.  Then christened Camp Sturgis after a lieutenant who fell during the Battle of Little Big Horn, it was soon moved a short distance away and turned into a permanent post on August 31, 1878.

Fort Meade is Born
In honor of Major General George Meade, whose definitive win at the Battle of Gettysburg turned the tide of the Civil War, the United States Secretary of War officially designated the post as “Fort Meade.”  7th Cavalry Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis assumed leadership as Fort Meade’s first commander; in subsequent years, the fort was occupied at different times by the 7th Cavalry, 1st Infantry, 25th Infantry (one of the celebrated Buffalo Soldier divisions), 3rd Infantry and 8th Cavalry.  At the time of its building, Fort Meade was considered one of the War Department’s most strategically important land-bound military posts.  It could quarter and house up to ten full troops of cavalry, including horses.  

The National Anthem 
Early on, Fort Meade became home to Comanche, the lone cavalry horse which survived the Battle of Little Big Horn.  He died a happy life around the early 1890s, and is now on display at the University of Kansas’ Natural History Museum.  It was also Fort Meade where, prior to being made the National Anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner” became the official song used in military retreat ceremonies, and the patriotic custom of rising in respect began. As the longest-standing military post in the upper Midwest, Fort Meade was transitioned in 1944 to a full veteran’s hospital and clinic.  And Fort Meade proper is still bustling with activity.  South Dakota National Guard’s 196th Regiment, one of the premier National Guard training institutes in the country, utilizes the fort’s campus as a training grounds for Officer hopefuls.  

Fort Meade Museum and Grounds
Another wonderful feature at Fort Meade is the museum, located in the Old Headquarters building.  There are three full stories of history to wander through, with artifacts and displays documenting Fort Meade’s part in every military operation from the Indian Wars all the way up to World War II.  Listed as one of the top 5 “Things To Do In Sturgis” on TripAdvisor, the Fort Meade Museum is definitely worth the visit.  If you’re more interested in architecture, the museum provides a map of the grounds and the over 100 historic buildings situated around the fort.  

Fort Meade National Cemetery
Just up the road from the post is the Fort Meade National Cemetery (not to be confused with the Black Hills National Cemetery).  Peaceful and well-tended, it is the final resting place for 188 soldiers and their family members; the first interment occurred in 1878, the same day the cemetery was commemorated.  There are several Buffalo Soldiers and members of the 7th Cavalry laid to rest, as well as some noted and decorated military heroes.  Visiting the cemetery is free of charge.

Historic Fort Meade was and continues to be an important part of Sturgis and the Black Hills.  While you are staying with us at Baymont Inn & Suites, be sure to set aside a few hours to tour through the Fort Meade Museum or take some time to wander the grounds and drink in an awesome piece of American history.