Fort Peterson

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Fort Peterson (1862-1863) - A U.S. Civil War era Fort established in 1862 in response to the 1862 Sioux uprising. Located at Peterson in Clay County, Iowa. Abandoned in 1863.

Fort Peterson Original Blockhouse (modified) in 2020.


Fort Peterson was located along the Little Sioux River at Peterson in Clay County, Iowa. This fort and five others were established as a result of the 1862 Sioux Indian uprising and the slaughtered of some 800 settlers by raiding Sioux warriors in August 1862. This line of forts provided large stockades to hold local settlers during times of Indian alarm. Each of the forts was manned by a detachment of troops of the Northern Iowa Border Brigade, who were organized by the Iowa governor to deal with the crisis. Captain Harvey N. Crapper was commissioned as Commander of Company C, who was posted to build the Fort at Peterson.

Fort Peterson was one of three almost identical triangular-shaped forts probably all designed by the same man, Schuyler Ingham. The design had a 150' south wall joined by two 100' walls on the east and west both joining a blockhouse on the north end. The south end incorporated stables for a small number of horses and the officer's quarters. The north end blockhouse was a two-story defense with the upper story rotated so as to provide a field of fire from eight sides and no blind corners. The lack of enlisted men's barracks in the plan indicates that the blockhouse likely also served as a barracks. A small wood-lined well was about 15' from the stable and was most likely contaminated because of that proximity.

On 7 Apr 1863 Lt. Col. James A. Sawyers reported the completion of Fort Peterson:

"The erection of said buildings and stockade was assigned to Co. C, commanded by Captain H. N. Crapper, and has been completed in a substantial and workmanlike manner. The blockhouses and officers' quarters are built of oak and ash timber, ten inches square. The buildings are roofed with soft maple boards jointed together and grooved on the sides to convey off the water. The stockade on the west side is built of oak timber six inches thick, sawed. On the east and south, the stockade is built of hewed timbers six inches thick. The well is 26-1/2 feet deep; the lower half curbed with ash, the upper half with oak plank. The gate is framed together, and planked on both sides."

This was a badly designed fortification and had the fort been attacked by a determined enemy it would likely have fallen. Luckily the fort was never attacked.

Current Status

Fort Peterson Plaque on a Boulder.

The original blockhouse was relocated, modified, and served as a residence for a number of years. It now resides in the town of Peterson on park street along with a plaque mounted on a boulder explaining the site.

Location: Park St. and West 2nd St., Peterson, Clay County, Iowa.

Maps & Images

Lat: 42.917446 Long: -95.340934

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • Roberts, Robert B., Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States, Macmillan, New York, 1988, 10th printing, ISBN 0-02-926880-X, page 288.
  • Whittaker, William E., Ed., Frontier Forts of Iowa: Indians Traders and Soldiers, 1682-1862, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2009, ISBN 978-1-58729-831-8, 287 pages.
  • Ingham, William H., The Iowa Northern Border Brigade of 1862-3, The Annals of Iowa 5, 1902, Pdf, pages 496-497,503
  • McKusick, Marshall, The Iowa Northern Border Brigade, 1973, Office of the State Archaeologist, University of Iowa, Iowa City, 74-20374, 172 pages, page 77-80, 107-110.


Visited: 29 Jul 2020

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