With hundreds of men and some 175 horses, the garrison had a gargantuan appetite for wood, hay, grain, corn, and beef. Unable to meet the requirements of the post through any direct federal supply system, the War Department issued contracts to civilian suppliers offering the lowest bids. For years, this system made Fort Ridgely the best market in the Minnesota River valley for farmers and businessmen.
The post also provided much-appreciated services to the community. The army surgeons treated and sold medicines to area residents. Mail could be picked up or dropped off at the fort. Groceries and a variety of goods could be purchased at the sutler's store. Local farmers could use the post's slaughterhouse (located one mile from Ridgely) and buy lumber from the post's sawmill.
From 1853 to 1856, steamboats were the principal mode of transportation for military personnel and supplies going to and from Fort Ridgely. The presence of the post and increasing white settlement led Congress to improve and build new military roads in the territory. By 1858, land routes had mostly replaced the water routes to the fort.
Minnesota Historical Society