Drilling on the Ft. Snelling parade grounds - photo by the author
by Steve Timmer
Jun 4, 2016, 10:00 PM

An unapologetic love letter to Historic Fort Snelling, part two

In part one, I described the bonding request from Historic Fort Snelling and the Minnesota Historical Society to the Legislature for a new visitors’ center and the renewal and re-imagining of the site. I included some photos of fort activities involving young people. Here are some more photographs that I have taken over the years.

This is a photograph of volunteer re-enactors, portraying the return of the 2nd Minnesota Volunteer Regiment after the end of the Civil War, streaming through the gate into the fort. This was in 2015, part of the observation of the 150th anniversary of the end of the war. Hundreds of volunteers participated in the event, and thousands watched.

Soldiers departed for the Civil War from Ft. Snelling; they also returned there.

Soldiers departed for the Civil War from Ft. Snelling; they also returned there.

This event also involved many re-enactors who weren’t soldiers, but loved ones and others who turned out to greet the returning soldiers. And the costumes were amazing.

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Standing outside the gates of the fort.


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The hoop skirt was bigger than the parasol.


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A war widow goes to greet those who survived.

The fort has a Civil War weekend every summer — not as elaborate as the one for the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War — and special events for other major conflicts in which the U.S. was involved, fur trading events, and events highlighting the early interaction between the fort and the indigenous population.

One of the things that impresses me is that the special events require the participation of hundreds of volunteer re-enactors, people who supply their own uniforms and do it on their own time.

A Civil War cannon squad

A Civil War cannon squad on a Civil War weekend.

A lot of people know about Civil War re-enactors, but that barely scratches the surface of it. On Memorial Day every year, soldiers from all of the eras in American history are represented.

Rick Magee portrays a soldier in the 1805 Zebulon Pike expedition.

Rick Magee portrays a soldier on the 1805 Zebulon Pike expedition.

I’ll bet, gentle readers, that most of you had no idea what soldiers on the Pike expedition looked like. Now you know, and you are richer for it.

Jared Little as a soldier from the post-Civil War west.

Jared Little as a soldier from the post-Civil War west.

Jared is a teacher, by the way, as many of the volunteers and employees at Historic Fort Snelling are, as I have learned over the years. I suppose this ought not to surprise us.

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Portraying WWII, Chris Belland and Andy Timmer.

World War II’s weekend commemoration every year always brings out the veterans, fewer of them every year, who will recount their own experiences, sometimes to surprised children and grandchildren.

Andy Timmer and Bill Thompson as Vietnam era Marines.

Andy Timmer and Bill Thompson as Vietnam-era soldiers.

This is also true of the Vietnam-era vets who come out to the fort. (Just by the way, you have probably noticed that one fellow appears in a lot of the photos. That’s because he’s my son, Andy Timmer, a teacher, by the way. Andy literally grew up at Historic Fort Snelling.)

A nurse to the soldiers.

Susi Adler portrays a nurse in the American Expeditionary Force Army Nurse Corps in Europe.

As I said, not all of the re-enactors portray soldiers.

I cannot close, though, without mentioning a couple of people who have been involved in the company of Historic Fort Snelling for as long as I can remember: Jeff Nordin and Spence Johnson. (There are others, too, but I have last Memorial Day photos of these two.)

Jeff Nordin

Jeff Nordin as an 1827 fifer. (I originally wrote “piper” but was corrected by my senior offspring, who used to be one, too.)

Jeff also leads a fife and drum corps that plays at events like Grand Old Days in St. Paul.


Spencer Johnson as a Revolutionary War soldier.

Spencer Johnson as a Revolutionary War soldier.

If you have ever been to Historic Fort Snelling, the chances are excellent that you have seen one or both of them.

I ask you again to contact your legislators and ask them to support Historic Fort Snelling’s bond request. There is no finer investment in preserving the history of Minnesota.

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