Fort Buford was named for Major General John Buford, a Union commander at the Battle of Gettysburg. The establishment of Fort Buford in 1866 safeguarded the territory surrounding the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers and served as a supply depot for soldiers operating further west.
Over the winter of 1866-1867, Fort Buford's garrison was repeatedly harassed by tribal warriors angered by the establishment of the fort. Post Surgeon James P. Kimball noted that these raids were led by the Hunkpapa leader Sitting Bull. Following that first winter, Fort Buford's garrison was strengthened with additional troops. Over the next decade, Fort Buford went through two expansions and eventually housed six companies of soldiers.
Fort Buford frequently served as a detention area for tribal leaders and their followers who had fought placement onto reservation. Among the prominent tribal leaders held at the fort were Chief Joseph, Crow King, Rain-in-the-Face, Gall and Low Dog. The last to be detained at the fort was Sitting Bull in July of 1881.
In later years, Fort Buford's soldiers not only provided general security for the area, but were also assigned specific tasks such as guarding railroad construction crews, constructing telegraph lines, and guarding railroad property during the Pullman Strike of 1894. The fort was
officially abandoned on October 1, 1895 after almost three decades of service.