In The News
- Thursday, 21 September 2017
- With Custer’s Cavalry by Katherine Gibson Fougera: From the memoirs of the late Katherine Gibson, widow of Captain Francis M. Gibson of the Seventh Cavalry, U.S.A. (Retired).
- Illustrated with photographs.
- FACT or FICTION?
- I suspect that few 7th U.S. Cavalry–related books have attracted more favourable reviews or have been quoted as a reliable source of information by as many authors as Katherine Gibson Fougera’s With Custer’s Cavalry. However, while I found this little volume an enjoyable read it left me with a nagging feeling that something was amiss. For instance, would a relatively junior officer’s wedding have warranted taking place at Fort Lincoln with such ceremony on 30 August 1874, the same day that ten saddle-sore companies of the regiment returned from the Black Hills Expedition (p.192): a possibility perhaps, though somewhat unlikely?
- One collateral piece of damning evidence is the truly outrageous claim that “[at the wedding] … Major Reno and his wife congregated in the corner of the crowded room (p.197),” when he had yet not returned from escort duty with the Northern Boundary Survey Commission and his poor wife, Mary Hannah Ross, had died over six weeks before. A second blunder, which appears on the following page, places Captain Myles Keogh among the officer corps present even though it is well documented that this Wild Irish Rover was thousands of miles away visiting family and friends in his beloved Emerald Isle.
- That aside, my doubts were soon validated by an entry in the register of Kansas Marriages, for Leavenworth County (1811-1911), which shows that 23 year-old Frank (Francis) Gibson (stationed at Fort Scott) and 19 year-old Katie (Katherine) Garrett (from Washington, D.C.) were duly wed on 19 November 1870, that is, nearly four years earlier than Fougera leads us to believe. So, what influenced her to invent such an easily disputable piece of misinformation? The answer to this question was simple to find. On her second marriage, to Edmond Fougera, Katherine Gibson (widow of Frederick Lewis) reduced her age by a full nine years to match that of a much younger husband, which computes to 1882 as the year of her birth, and it is this year that has been near-universally accepted by Custer scholars ever since.
- Katherine (Fougera), the only child of Frank and Katie Gibson, was most likely born at Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory, on 11 December 1873,* which is supported by a report in the Bismarck Weekly Tribune, 18 October 1876, that reads: “A party consisting of Mrs. Col. Benteen and son, Mr. and Mrs. Lt. Gibson and daughter, Mrs. Lt. De Rudio and children ….came up [from Fort Rice] on the C. K. Peck and paid Bismarck a flying but welcome visit.” So much for 1882! With Custer’s Cavalry was first published in 1940, and as Edmond Fougera lived until 1953, the author was left with little choice other than to falsify the chronological sequence of events to conceal her true age from her husband.
- First and foremost Fougera was a newspaper journalist, not an historian, and I submit that she deliberately delayed publishing this amazingly dubious account of her mother’s life on the Frontier until every person featured in the story, not least Elizabeth Custer (to whose memory the book is dedicated), was long dead. Unless my research is found wanting then somehow her apocryphal tale did remarkably well to go largely unchallenged for over 75 years** until, that is, the intrusion of Ancestry.com and the inquisitive mind of a Little Big Horn enthusiast living on the other side of the Atlantic!
- If an author can blatantly commit one lie to paper, why stop there – Katherine Gibson Fougera certainly didn’t! As With Custer’s Cavalry appears to be littered with so many factual inaccuracies and half-truths how much faith should one place in Fougera’s version of the famous buffalo hunt, her mother’s incredulous premonition shortly before the battle, and much more? All will be revealed in an analysis of the book by this writer, which is scheduled to be published in the next issue of the Custer Association of Great Britain’s annual journal, The Crow’s Nest, and later posted on this website. It promises to make for some very interesting and illuminating reading.
- Seventy-two photographic images, including a group of mounted photographs prepared as illustrations for With Custer’s Cavalry, are held at Yale University and this material is available for research. Lastly, I hasten to add that I haven’t actually seen Katherine Garrett Gibson’s memoirs, which I understand are gathering dust in the archives at the battlefield (my enquiry is pending) and they may well hold a vital clue to unravelling more aspects of this mystery.
- Peter Russell
- (*) The place and date of birth are taken from the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, but have not been substantiated by an independent primary source.
- (**) To his credit Charles K. Mills, in the Bibliography of his excellent Harvest of Barren Regrets: The Army Career of Frederick William Benteen, 1834-1898, Arthur H. Clarke, Glendale, CA, 1985, states that Fougera’s book was “based (loosely) on her mother’s diary (sic) and notes; there are some errors of fact,” though none was identified.
- Tuesday, 19 September 2017
- BATTLE OF THE LITTLE BIG HORN, 25 & 26 June 1876
- ‘WIDOWS AND ORPHANS’ of those killed in the battle
- Name of Deceased-Rank-Company-Country of Birth-Name of Spouse-Name of Children
- Allan, Fred E*-Private-C-England-Mary Hamilton Fletcher-Harry
- Baker, William H-Private-E-USA-Nancy E Broadway (divorced)-Minnie
- Bloody Knife-Guide-Quartermaster-USA (Dakota Territory)-She Owl-a son
- Bobo, Edwin, 1st Sergeant-C-USA-Missouri Ann Wycoff-Charles; Frank
- Bob Tail Bull-Private-Indian Scouts-USA (Dakota Territory)-Bear Woman-3 children
- Bouyer, Mitch-Interpreter-QMD-USA (Dakota Territory) Magpie Outside-Mary: Thomas
- Botzer, Edward-Sergeant-G-Germany-“Mrs Brushes’ dau”-None
- Butler, James-1st Sergeant-L-USA-Mary ?-None
- Calhoun, James-1st Lieutenant-C-USA-Margaret “Maggie” Emma Custer-None
- Crisfield, William B-Private-L-England-Mary Blanchton-Edward; Albert; Paul
- Custer, George A-Lieutenant Colonel-Staff-USA-Elizabeth Bacon (see above)-None
- Custer, Thomas W-Captain-C-USA-Not married-Thomas (putative)
- Darris, John-Private-E-USA-Mary E Topping-2 children
- DeWolf, James M-Acting Assistant Surgeon–Staff-USA-Frances “Fannie” J Downing-None
- Dorman, Isaiah-Interpreter-Quartermaster-Unknown-Visible-None
- Dose, Henry-Trumpeter-G-Germany-Anna Elizabeth Hahn (aka Fettis)-Hattie (see above), Charles
- Finley, Jeremiah-Sergeant-C-Ireland-Ellen E Boyer-Mary Ellen; William; Jeremiah
- Gilbert, William H-Corporal-L-USA-Mary Kittinger-Rudy
- Harrington, Henry-2nd Lieutenant-C-USA-Grace Bernard-Grace
- Hohmeyer, Frederick-1st Sergeant-E-Germany-Mary ?-Lizzie; William; Lena; Nellie
- Hughes, Francis T-Private-L-USA-Mary Jane Madden-William; Francis; Charles
- Hughes, Robert H-Sergeant-K-Ireland-Annie ?-Maggie (step-daughter); Miles; Thomas.
- Kellogg, Marcus H-Civilian Reporter-Staff-Canada-Martha Robinson (dec’d); Cora; Martha
- Kelly, John-Private-F-USA-Not known-3 children
- Kelly, Patrick-Private-I-Ireland-Ellen Flynn-Susan; Ellen (step-daughters)
- Klein, Gustav-Private-F-Germany-Not known-Anton; Catharina; Mathias; Franziska
- Kramer, William-Trumpeter-C-USA–Elnora ?- Oren
- Little Brave-Private-Indian Scouts-Not known-Not known
- McElroy, Thomas F-Trumpeter-E-Ireland-Nora ?-Thomas
- McIlhargey, Archibald-Private-I-Ireland (Northern)–Josie ?-Archibald; Rosie
- McIntosh, Donald-1st Lieutenant-G-Canada-Mary “Mollie” Garrett-None
- Meador, Thomas-Private-H-USA-Eliza ?-None
- Mitchell, John E-Private-I-Ireland-Catherine Agnes Clemens-Anna; Catherine
- Porter, James E-1st Lieutenant-I-USA-Eliza Frances Westcott-David; James
- Post, George-Private-I-USA-Maggie ?-None
- Rogers, Walter B-Private-L-USA-Emma ?-None
- Selby, Crawford-Saddler-G-USA-Mary Elizabeth Beck (divorced)-None
- Smith, Algernon E-1st Lieutenant-A-USA-Henrietta “Nettie” Bowen-None
- Staples, Samuel F-Corporal-I-USA-Annie ?-None
- Symms, Darwin-Private-I-Canada-Isabell Smith-None
- Warner, Oscar T-Private-C-USA-Sarah ?-None
- Way, Thomas N-Private-F-USA-Rebecca ?-None
- Wells, Benjamin J-Farrier-C-USA-Sarah ?-Charles
- Wild, John-Corporal-I-USA-Annie Dawson-None
- Wilkinson, John K-Sergeant-F-USA-Anna Howard-None
- Yates, George W M-Captain-F-USA-Annie Gibson Roberts-George; Bessie; Milnor
- (*) Real name: Alfred Ernest Allen
- 46 Husbands/Fathers and 54 Children/Step Children/incl. 1 Putative Child
- Note: The author wishes to establish an accurate database of the widows and the children made fatherless as a result of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. As stated in the Introduction, any amendments, corrections or additional information to the above list would be most gratefully received, via the ‘get in touch’ form on the Contact page.
- Friday, 28 April 2017
- In 36 pages Peter Russell’s meticulously researched new rong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on 25 June 1876.
- English by Birth, Scottish by Blood is published by The English Westerners’ Society to mark the forthcoming 140th anniversary of that iconic battle and celebrates the life of gambler John Stuart Stuart Forbes who fought, and died, as Private John S. Hiley in Company ‘E’ of the 7th United States Cavalry.
- This detailed account is well illustrated with accompanying notes and sources compiled and written in collaboration with Edinburgh-based researcher, Leslie Hodgson.
- Only 5 copies left!!
- This publication is priced at £6:00 to addresses within the UK and £9:00 (or $12 US currency notes only) to all other destinations. Prices include mailing costs.
- Please send Sterling cheques, made payable to ‘P. G. Russell’ (or currency notes), to: 18 Iverhurst Close, Bexleyheath, DA6 8HY, UK.
- Thomas D. Godman, Company A, 7th U.S. Cavalry
- “In the disastrous defeat of Gen. Custer on the [Little] Big Horn he belonged to Benteen’s command and helped bury the dead the next day.” The Semi-weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, Kentucky, 9 April 1895.
- The above sentence in a late 19th century Kentucky newspaper immediately caught my eye as previously I had not even heard of Thomas D. Godman let alone suspected he was with Captain Frederick Benteen at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. However, thanks to an article by Dan Bird, entitled ‘Answering an old Question,’ I soon discovered that while Godman’s enlistment dated from 3 February 1876 he wasn’t transferred from the General Mounted Service to the 7th Cavalry until 12 July 1876 and, in turn, didn’t join Company A in the field at the Rosebud Camp until as late as the twenty-ninth of the same month. That being said, unlike so many other LBH imposters he certainly proved to be no ordinary trooper and worthy of further investigation.
- The self-styled ‘Captain’ Thomas David Godman was a direct descendant of the appropriately-named Rembrandt Peale, who painted probably the best known portrait(s) of George Washington; a grandson of Dr. John Davidson, the early 19th century author and naturalist; and son of Major Stuart Adair Godman, adventurer, author and editor of the innovative South Carolina weekly journal the Illustrated Family Friend. Born in Abbeville, South Carolina, in 1847 or possibly during the later months of 1846, to a slave-owning father, Thomas was orphaned at six-years-old and raised by an aunt and uncle in Louisville, Kentucky. He enlisted in the 15th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry (Union) at the age of 14; was wounded at the battle of Resaca, Georgia in 1864; discharged on grounds of disability; served no less than seven enlistments in the regular army, twice deserting and three more times being discharged on disability. Godman was wounded in the fight with the Nez Perce at Bear Paw Mountain in 1877; discharged with the rank of sergeant in January 1878; styled himself as Captain; served four years as the Superintendent at the Vicksburg National Cemetery, Mississippi; co-authored an illustrated guide book to Vicksburg; and for two years was clerk to fellow Civil War veteran, Kentucky U.S. Congressman, Colonel Silas Adams. He married a girl of Irish descent from Vicksburg in 1890; moved to Washington, D.C. where they had six children; only two of which survived infancy. Thomas Godman died in his sleep of a heart attack in 1896 at the relatively young age of forty-nine. His remarkable story can be found under the ‘Miscellaneous Items’ page – Thomas D. Godman.
- Monahsetah, Southern Cheyenne
- Monahsetah: The Life of a Custer Captive, by Peter Harrison, edited by Gary Leonard, English Westerners’ Society, London, UK (2014).
- The first edition of Monahsetah is the subject of an excellent and comprehensive review in the current issue of CBHMA’s The Battlefield Dispatch, Spring 2015, by Rev. Vincent Heier and Editor, Lee Noyes, who end by saying: “We can think of no more fitting tribute to her legacy and memory.” High praise indeed. Please find a copy of the CBHMA’s review attached. For further information about the Custer Battlefield Historical & Museum Association follow the link to www.custerbattlefield.org
- I was privileged to have been closely associated with the publication of both the first and second editions which has been generously acknowledged by the Editor, Gary Leonard, who on page xvi writes: “My special thanks must go to Peter Russell who not only diligently read through several drafts of the manuscript but also provided numerous corrections and made a significant contribution to the editing of the text. I am most grateful that Peter’s continuing interest and attention to detail has equally enhanced the quality of this [second] volume.” Gary Leonard, Southampton, February 2015.
- Copies can be purchased from Sandy Barnard at AST Press www.indianwarsbooks.com and Gary Leonard via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Lastly, I thank Brian Kennedy and his team at Electric Design, Drighlington, near Leeds, Yorkshire, for their continuing technical website support which makes all (well most) things possible.
- Wednesday, 17 December 2014
- By far the most satisfying and rewarding aspect of running a website of this nature is making contact and sharing information with a direct descendant or other family member of someone from the United Kingdom who served in the 7th U.S. Cavalry at the time of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, 25-26 June 1876. During the last few weeks I have been privileged to have exchanged correspondence with Gordon Green, from Queensland, Australia – a great-grandnephew of Private Fred E. Allan, Company C – and Margie Smith, from Texas, USA – a great-granddaughter of Blacksmith Edmund H. Burke, Company K – both of whom have added to my knowledge of these two troopers: a wonderful example of true co-operation across three continents.
- Private Fred E. Allan, Company C Gordon Green generously shared the findings of his late brother’s research into Fred Allan’s (real name Alfred Ernest Allen) widow’s claim for a U.S. Army pension which hitherto appears to have escaped the notice of even the most highly-respected LBH historians and stimulated me to dig a little deeper into the circumstances surrounding this breaking news. The results of our combined research can be found in Biography No. 1, which makes for fascinating reading. Fred’s town of birth in printed works and websites was universally shown as ‘Milton’ (not ‘Melton Mowbray’), an understandable misreading of the handwritten entry in the U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, until the Little Big Horn Associates kindly published my article under the title ‘Biographies of British Members of the Seventh U.S. Cavalry in 1876′ in their Newsletter, Vol. XLII, December 2008, pp. 4-5, which brought new biographical information from these shores into the public domain.
- Blacksmith Edmund H. Burke, Company F Margie Smith has provided me with a good deal of information about her great-grandfather, Anglo-Irishman Edmund Burke, and it is hoped that this, and the findings of my own further research, will be incorporated into his existing biography early in the New Year.
- Monahsetah: The Life of a Custer Captive Over the past few months I have been working very closely with Gary Leonard, my successor as Chairman of the Custer Association of Great Britain, and others, on several drafts of a ground-breaking and exciting new 220-page book entitled Monahsetah: The Life of a Custer Captive, which represents over twenty years of research by the late Peter Harrison, Gary’s predecessor as publications editor of The English Westerners’ Society (EWS), who died in 2009. Although this excellent work is specifically being published to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the EWS it is fully intended to be available on general sale early in the New Year. The EWS was delighted to announce that the much-acclaimed Western and wildlife artist, Jerry Thomas, had given permission for the Society to use his painting ‘Good-bye Sally Anne’ on the front cover. ‘Good-bye Sallie Anne’ portrays Monahsetah’s departure from Fort Hays on 13 June 1869. According to Libbie Custer, Tom Custer had nicknamed Monahsetah ‘Sallie Ann’.
- My thanks must also go to Brian, Simon and Fred at The Electric Design Company, Drighlington, West Yorkshire, whose advice and ongoing website support throughout the year has made all things possible.
- And, finally, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Thursday, 25 September 2014
- Based wholly on the potentially large numbers involved, I initially chose to restrict my website to the 62 members of Custer’s Seventh Cavalry in June 1876 ‘who claimed’ to have been born within the borders of the post-1922 (present-day) United Kingdom, which includes the six counties of Northern Ireland: a majority of which have yet to be positively identified. That being said, I am always happy to publish biographies of those who hailed from what is now the Republic of Ireland, or even mainland Europe, and earlier this year opened new pages entitled ‘The Twenty-Six Counties’ and ‘The Danish Contingent.’
- The Twenty-Six Counties
- To date, A Voice from the Grave [Private John Hackett, Company G] by Randy Johnson, and A Blacksmith from Ballinlough [Blacksmith Daniel Newell, Company M] by Geoff Topliss – both with some input by myself – have been published and, today, A Hero from the Wee County* [Private Thomas Callan, Company B], comprehensively researched and written by me, with additional material by Liz Trowbridge from New Jersey (a great-granddaughter of Callan’s elder brother, Patrick) has been posted. In addition, an equally carefully-researched sketch entitled An Ever Faithful Servant [Private James Boyle, Company G], with supplementary material by Geoff Topliss, was published last week. A simple search for ‘men with custer boyle’ will take you directly to Biography 04. Other Irishmen already researched in some detail include Private Thomas Atcheson, Company F, and Citizen Packer William Alexander; biographies 02 and 63 respectively. The work continues on both sides of the Irish Sea.
- Note (*): Callan was born in Rathiddy, County Louth. By virtue of being the smallest in area of all 32 counties in the island of Ireland, Louth has long been known as the ‘Wee County,’ hence the title of his bio
- The Danish Contingent
- A Dane Who Survived the Little Big Horn Fight [Private Jan Moller, Company H] by Leif Rudi Ernst is the sole Danish contribution to date. Two others, Christian Boissen and Frederick Holmsted, await to be posted.
- Scottish independence referendum, 2014
- As a first generation Englishman of Scottish descent I was delighted that a majority north of the border voted to remain within the United Kingdom. My roots lie deeply-embedded in the islands of Orkney, the region which actually cast the highest percentage of ‘No’ votes in the referendum.
- It is interesting to note that the Inverness Courier, published Thursday, 18 May 1865 [just nine days after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia] said, “It is stated that the Federal General Custer is a native of Orkney, and cousin of Mr. John Cursiter, merchant Kirkwall.” If only it were true!
- Lastly, over the summer months I have been closely involved in the editing and proof-reading of an exceptionally well-researched biography of one the best-known, though conceivably ‘the least known about,’ character in the ‘Custer Story.’ Hopefully, I will be in position to be more specific shortly.
Thursday, 4 September 2014
- After a thoroughly enjoyable extended summer break, I am now pleased to turn my attention to Men With Custer UK and bring you up to date with the latest news and what has been added to this website during the last three months.
- Sergeant Major William H. Sharrow – Staff
- In June, the CBHMA published all six papers that had been presented at The Brian C. Pohanka 27th Annual Symposium in Hardin, Montana, on 21 June 2013. I thank Ron Nichols and the editorial team at the CBHMA for producing such a splendid little volume. In the Introduction, members of the Symposium Committee wrote: “Excellent research on the battle is not reserved to the United States. This is shown by the contribution of Peter Russell of England in his profile of William H. Sharrow, ‘Custer’s Sergeant Major.”‘ Jon Custer, President, kindly gave his permission for this paper to be posted on my website, which can be found under Biography No. 54.
- On his second and third enlistments Sharrow bizarrely claimed to have been born “at sea” – Sheriff Hutton, near York, being his true place of birth – but one trooper, namely Private Martin McCue, Company K, was actually born on board an emigrant ship bound for America, though not on 10 November 1851 nor from Ireland as is near-universally quoted. A short biography of McCue can be found as an ‘endnote’ to the sketch on Sharrow.
- Private Thomas J. Callan – Company B
- As a direct result of being contacted by Elizabeth “Liz” Trowbridge, New Jersey (a great-grandniece of Thomas Callan), who has also been generous enough to scan and share numerous documents regarding her ancestor, I was motivated to undertake some research of my own and the first part of his biography, entitled ‘A Hero from the Wee County,’ is posted under the page heading ‘The Twenty-Six Counties,’ see left-hand margin. The second part, which includes Callan’s two (or was it three?) marriages and his belated but successful claim to be awarded a Medal of Honor for bravery at the Battle of the Little Big Horn will be posted towards the end of the month. When completed, this biography will not only add to our knowledge of this brave trooper but will also challenge several facts that have hitherto been attributed to him.
- Researcher breathes life into Brits who served with Custer’
- On 24 June, the eve of the battle, Ed Kemmick, a former journalist on the Billings Gazette, Montana, who now runs an online news column called ‘Last Best News,’ featured my website under the headline, ‘Researcher breathes life into Brits who served with Custer.’ Comments included “Peter’s quality website reflects his intense dedication to Custer, Little Big Horn and related topics” and “The content is excellent, which should be no surprise to those who know him and his demanding, exemplary research standards,” but perhaps the most pleasing of all was “Such stories, layered with the history of early-day Montana, make it obvious that you don’t have to be British, or even particularly a fan of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, to find Russell’s researches so interesting” – fine words indeed, which were very much appreciated. Why not take a look at ‘Last Best News’ for yourself by following this link – www.lastbestnews.com – you’ll find some good stuff there. The piece referred to above can be retrieved by using the ‘browse archives’ link, i.e. to find 24 June 2014.
- Lieutenant Charles C. De Rudio – Company E
- With the exception of Custer and his wife, Libbie, Charles De Rudio is arguably the next most colourful character ever to serve in the celebrated 7th U.S. Cavalry. Bearing in mind the difference in both age and social background it was almost inevitable that the marriage of this flamboyant, revolutionary Italian nobleman to Eliza Booth, a diminutive, 14 year-old working-class, lace runner from Nottingham, would capture the imagination of generations of historians equally fascinated by the events surrounding De Rudio’s participation in both the failed attempt to assassinate Emperor Napoleon III and the ill-fated Battle of the Little Big Horn. However, based on the findings of this writer’s own study of this remarkable couple it would seem that, yet again, far too many authors have relied almost exclusively on previously poorly-researched, secondary sources, which regrettably has perpetuated easily avoidable factual inaccuracies and other misleading material. See next paragraph.
- Custer Association of Great Britain (CAGB) Gathering in London on 1 November 2014
- A paper by this writer, entitled ‘Stand up, the real Charles De Rudio,’ is scheduled to be presented on I November 2014 (the 104th Anniversary of his death), at the AGM Gathering of the Custer Association of Great Britain (CAGB), being held in London. Although the ‘programme for the day’ has not yet been updated on the Association’s website to include this item, hopefully it can be squeezed in between the ‘Tea/coffee & Quiz’! It is anticipated that a written account of this presentation will be posted on Men With Custer UK and/or in the CAGB’s biannual journal, The Crow’s Nest, in due course. For further information about the CAGB simply follow the link – www.westernerspublications.ltd.uk
- “Just the facts ma’am. All we want are the facts.”
- Two book reviews (Custer’s English Soldier,* by David Rowland and Wild Geese of the Greasy Grass, by Keith Norman) have been posted during the last three months but disappointingly, in this writer’s opinion at least, the biographical content of neither volume matches the high expectations raised by the respective authors. One of my long held concerns over the inherent dangers of self publication, aka ‘vanity publishing,’ is that a self-serving CV (or resume) highlighting an author’s credentials is understandably presented in the best possible light to generate the maximum number of sales, whereas the finished product, as in the case of the two titles referred to above, all too often falls well short of the pre-launch hype.
- (*) For a more faithful and comprehensive account, see ‘The Elusive Henry Holden‘ by this writer under Biography No. 28.
- It is generally agreed that 263 men (five others later died from their wounds ) paid the ultimate price while serving with ‘Custer’s Seventh Cavalry’ at Little Big Horn, while around 50 more suffered from injuries inflicted in the heat of battle, but, mercifully, a greater number survived unscathed. Many may have had good reason to be ‘economical with the truth’ both at the time of enlistment and later in life: I passionately believe that 21st century authors and historians do not, which brings to mind the semi-apocryphal words of one of my all-time favourite TV characters, Sergeant Joe Friday, of Dragnet fame: “Just the facts ma’am. All we want are the facts.”
- Of course, no one is immune from making a mistake and if you find anything in this email, or on my website, that differs from the findings of your own research, I invite you to contact me.
- Private Christian Madsen, Company F
- A few days ago an enquiry was received from the well-known Danish author and photographer, Benny Nybo, requesting information about his fellow countryman, Christian Madsen, from Kjerteminde (now Kerteminde). If anyone can provide any additional information to that already published in Men With Custer , edited by Ron Nichols, and Military Register, by Roger Williams, I (and Benny) would like to hear from them. Benny published and provided the photographs for the beautifully-illustrated North Atlantic Reflections , which covers the discovery of North America by the Vikings.
- Several biographies have been updated, including First Sergeant Edward Garlick’s and his little known younger brother, Frederick, who served in the 7th Cavalry for five years from 26 August 1876.
- Correspondence has been received from a ‘step’ descendant of Mrs Sarah Underwood Jellison (formerly Mrs James Pym) and a direct descendant of the sister of Mrs Elizabeth Hahn Garlick (formerly Mrs Henry Dose), which makes the time and effort that necessarily goes into maintaining a website of this nature that much more worthwhile. I thank them, Liz Trowbridge, Benny Nybo and many others for getting in touch, which all helps to keep the MWCUK wheels turning.
- Finally, during the summer months far too many outside influences and distractions got in my way in the preparation of our (Geoff Topliss and me) proposed innovative book on the men from the British Isles who served with Custer in June 1876, but I am quietly confident that we will meet our first editorial deadline of 31 December 2014. Watch this space.
- I am delighted to be associated with this new biographical account of Monahsetah, which is the result of over twenty years of research by the late Peter Harrison. The author made numerous trips to Oklahoma where he was warmly received and universally respected by Monahsetah’s direct descendants and the wider Cheyenne community. Monahsetah – The Life of a Custer Captive is highly recommended by Dee Cordry, an Oklahoma author and historian. Chetwynd Press has generously offered to extend its original ‘Special Introductory Offer’ to any purchaser who mentions ‘Men With Custer UK.’
- The Book:
- Monahsetah – The Life of a Custer Captive by Peter Harrison
- Edited by Gary Leonard
- Chetwynd Press, Southampton, UK, paperback, 220 pages, black & white illustrations.
- Monahsetah, or Meotzi, was a young Cheyenne Indian woman captured by the 7th U.S. Cavalry following Custer’s attack on Chief Black Kettle village along the banks of the Washita River in November 1868. Controversy has endured for decades over the question of whether Custer indulged in some sort of sexual relationship with Monahsetah and if she bore his child. The late Peter Harrison’s meticulously-researched account of her incredible life allows the reader to make up his or her own mind on the issue.
- This truly remarkable woman lived through one of most tumultuous periods of Cheyenne history. The author skilfully fleshes out her long and adventurous life which, in addition to her liaison with Custer, tells the story of her being wounded at the infamous Sand Creek massacre; her part in securing the release from the Cheyennes of two white women and her involvement in the rescue of two of the German sisters. Monahsetah was married several times. Her first husband was a son of the Cheyenne chief, White Antelope, while subsequent spouses included a former mountain man and Fort Marion captive who later became a scout for the Army.
- Monahsetah: The Life of a Custer Captive is published in paperback with a full-colour front cover featuring ‘Good-bye Sallie Anne’ by the renowned Western artist, Jerry Thomas, which portrays Monahsetah’s departure from Fort Hays, Kansas, on 13 June 1869, after her release from military custody.
- The book was initially published in a strictly limited first edition of 100 copies to commemorate to 60th Anniversary of The English Westerners’ Society. I understand that edition has now sold out.
- A second edition is now on general sale and can be obtained from lulu.com, but at a price of £20 plus p&p.
- For those resident in the United States copies can be purchased from AST Press at a cost of $32.00 + $5.00 shipping. If you are interested in ordering a copy, please email Sandy Barnard at email@example.com. AST Press will ship you your copy with an invoice.
- As a special offer, the publisher, Chetwynd Press, Southampton, UK, is offering the book at a price price £15 plus £2 p&p (to postal addresses in the UK). And, as a SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY OFFER, it is available for just £12 plus p&p (again for within the UK) until 31 March 2015 (extended to 8 April for purchasers who mention Men With Custer UK!). Payment by sterling cheque or PayPal. To order a copy, send a message to the ‘Monahsetah – A Life’ Facebook page or email Gary Leonard, the editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Overseas purchasers should also write to the same email address for a specific price and postage rate.
- Please do not hesitate to contact me if you encounter any difficulty in obtaining a copy.
- Peter Russell
- Friday, 6 June 2014
- Men With Custer UK celebrates its First Anniversary
- On 31 May 2014 MWCUK celebrated its first anniversary. During the past 12 months no fewer than 3,000 individuals from 66 different countries around the world made over 6,000 visits to this website, which exceeded my own modest expectations. However it wasn’t the number but rather the quality and origin of those who made contact that gave me the most satisfaction – messages from descendants of men from this country who fought with Custer and those with no prior interest in the battle being particularly rewarding. I would like to take this opportunity to thank not only those who have taken the time and trouble to send messages of goodwill and approval but everyone who has visited the site. MWCUK is updated on a regular basis and I look forward to publishing the findings of my research as soon as new material comes to hand.
- So, what’s been happening since my message of 4 April?
- Private Herod T. Liddiard, Company E – ‘A Cotswolds Lad’
- The biography of Herod Liddiard [No.32], the woollen mill workers’ son and young offender from Rodborough, Gloucestershire, has been substantially expanded as a result of further research.
- Private Felix J. Pitter, Company I – ‘He Died with Keogh’
- This biography [No. 49] has been updated to show that Pitter was born on 30 January 1845 in the village Brown Candover, near [New] Alresford, Hampshire [County of Southampton in 1845], not 1850 in Alesford as is near-universally perpetuated.
- Private John S. Hiley, Company E – ‘English by Birth – Scottish by Blood’
- In collaboration with a fellow genealogist based in Edinburgh I have recently completed the first draft of a 5,000-word biography of Private Hiley, real name John S. Stuart Forbes, dispelling such myths as he attended Rugby School and was a member of the nobility. The findings of our research will be published in due course.
- Farrier William H. Heath, Company L – ‘A Coachman from Staffordshire’
- My extensive research into the ‘survivor’ claim made by the descendants of the William Heath, an English-born miner, who lies buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery, Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, has led me to the conclusion that their great-grandfather was probably neither a survivor [deserter] nor an imposter – details to be published shortly.
- Dr. Kenneth Hammer and John Carroll
- For several years I’ve been the custodian of the papers of the late Norman Walker, Newport, South Wales, which contain some very enlightening exchanges of correspondence during the 1980s between this meticulous student of the battle and Ken Hammer and John Carroll. Although some of its contents is of a strictly personal and, at times, sensitive nature, I consider other parts would be of general interest to fellow enthusiasts and I therefore propose to publish carefully vetted items on an irregular basis in the months ahead. Watch this space.
- The Fights on the Little Horn – Unveiling the Mysteries of Custer’s Last Stand, by Gordon Harper
- My initial verdict on this recently-published book – after reading only the first 100 of its 385 pages – is that it is extremely well researched, factually correct, well written, thought-provoking, and generally well edited and proof-read.
- On a purely personal level however I was somewhat disappointed to find that Harper’s only known justification for discounting the accepted name of the battle, which he summarily dismissed as being “a misnomer,” is covered by just a few words in the Foreword, which say ” … my Dad [writes daughter, Toni Harper] preferred to call it the Fights on the Little Horn because that was the original name of the river …” But was it? Other than General Terry, who as early as 6 July 1876 reverted to writing ‘Little Big Horn,’ and maybe one or two others, I believe that ‘Little Horn’ is the misnomer. The Bighorn River was named for the Bighorn Sheep that grazed along its banks. I’ve yet to be convinced that another breed of ovine or other species, with smaller [little] horns, once inhabited the valley of the Greasy Grass! Or have I missed something? There are numerous examples of ‘Little’ preceding the name of a larger river into which the one in question flows, such as the Little Cheyenne and the Little Missouri. Any ‘hard evidence’ in support of ‘Little Horn’ would be gratefully received.
- Thursday, 3 April 2014
- A Scottish Soldier
- John McAlpine (1849-1941) – ‘The Last Survivor of General Custer’ – Dies in Canada
- Thanks to George Kush of Monarch, Alberta, Canada for bringing the name of John McAlpine to my attention and Bob Cuthill for kindly granting permission to publish his excellent photograph of the former 7th Cavalry sergeant’s tombstone in Three Hills Cemetery, also in Alberta, I am pleased to post the findings of my research of this Scottish soldier who claimed – or at least the legend on his tombstone does – that he was ‘THE LAST SURVIVOR OF GENERAL CUSTER. But was he? See Biography No. 65. McAlpine was the author of an unpublished manuscript, entitled Memoirs of a Frontier Soldier, which is in George Kush’s private collection and, it is hoped, will be published in the foreseeable future.
- A New Website Page – What the Papers Said!
- This is a brand new page that presents a random selection of news items, arranged in strict chronological order, that appeared in the press from 1866 onwards, which I came across in my research over the last few years and thought worthy of sharing: some having only a tenuous but hopefully an interesting connection with Custer and the 7th Cavalry. The pages of 19th century newspapers were filled with gossip and humour. Clippings from UK newspapers to follow. This page is not intended to be read as a continuous narrative but rather to dip into from time to time when you have a few minutes to spare.
- An Interview with Thom Hatch [Friends of the Little Bighorn Battlefield newsletter – March 2014]
- I found Bob Reece’s interview with Thom Hatch in the Friends’ recently-published newsletter most fascinating and I certainly subscribe to this veteran author’s ‘bare-knuckle’ approach to history, which in many ways mirrors my own. I was interested in his latest work – apparently still in the manuscript stage – with the working title Ultimate Betrayal: Custer; Crazy Horse, and the True Story of the Little Bighorn. Hatch told Reece that “This book assuredly is not for the thin-skinned or faint-hearted who cannot handle blunt statements, harsh judgments, barbed-wire criticisms, or graphic details, and need their history doled out in warm and fuzzy familiarity.” This is one title I’m certainly looking forward to reading.
- Earlier in the interview Hatch stated, “American history has been saturated in so many areas with books that simply duplicate material already written and add nothing of value to the historical record.” How very true. In my experience not only are existing works repeatedly duplicated but many clearly perpetuate some extremely dubious biographical information indeed: Charles De Rudio and Henry Jackson being among those most often misrepresented.
- You can visit Thom Hatch online at http://thomhatch.com
- Tuesday, 4 February 2014
A New Page – The Danish Contingent
While, as its title infers, the primary rationale for ‘MEN WITH CUSTER UK’ is to dispense reliable biographical information about men from this country who served in the 7th U.S. Cavalry in June 1876, I am always happy to publish well-researched articles about others in this celebrated regiment who came from the Republic of Ireland [see under ‘The Twenty-Six Counties’] and mainland Europe. The subject of the first of three biographies* submitted by Leif Rudi Ernst, entitled ‘A Dane Who Survived the Little Big Horn Fight,’ is Private Jan Moller, Company H.
Leif, from Aalborg, Denmark, was a worthy winner of the prestigious ‘Best Historical Book of 2003′ award, in Denmark, for Skurk i Danmark – Helt i Amerika [Villain in Denmark – Right in America], which was 25 years in the writing and tells the story of Oklahoma U.S. Marshal Chris Madsen.
Note (*): The two others are – Private Christian Boissen, Company K and Private Frederick Holmsted, Company A. All three biographies are updated versions of articles that were first published in The Crow’s Nest, the biannual journal of the Custer Association of Great Britain [CAGB].
- Thursday, 5 December 2013
- 174th Anniversary of Custer’s Birth
Today marks the 174th Anniversary of George Armstrong Custer’s birth in New Rumley, Ohio, USA [and Sergeant Frederick Wilkinson Nursey, born 1848, in Bungay, Suffolk, England – see Biography No. 46]
Men With Custer UK is pleased to mark this occasion by publishing the second article in an occasional series entitled ‘The Twenty-Six Counties,’ written by Geoff Topliss. It tells the story of Private Daniel Newell, Company M, from Ballinlough, County Roscommon, Ireland, who fought in the valley and hilltop fights at Little Big Horn, was wounded, lived for nearly 50 years in Sturgis, South Dakota, and died at the Soldiers’ Home in Hot Springs, in the same state, in 1933.
Also, please note that an extract taken from the original letter written by Private John Hackett to his brother back in Dublin, is reproduced in ‘A Voice from the Grave.’ It covers the section that refers to this brave trooper being twice wounded in the battle: a very rare, possibly unique, document, indeed.
- Saturday, 30 November 2013
Today marks the first six-month ‘anniversary’ of Men With Custer UK [MWCUK], which was launched on 31 May of this year.
[aka Audience Overview] tells us that from a standing start 1,217 ‘unique individuals’ made 2,509 visits to this website during the first six months, of which around 80% were resident in the United States, 15% in the British Isles, and the rest in Canada and countries in western Europe and Scandinavia. If you are one of the 1,217, I say “Thank you” but, if not, I invite you to take a look for yourself: there just may be something of interest.
To date, the Custer Association of Great Britain is the only ‘LBH organisation’ to add a link to this website, which makes the interest shown on the other side of the Atlantic that much more rewarding.
The Twenty-Six Counties
In response to popular demand, it has been decided to extend the scope of MWCUK to include those from the present-day Republic of Ireland [often referred to as ‘The Twenty-Six Counties’] who served in the 7th Cavalry in June 1876. The first biography, entitled ‘A Voice from the Grave,’ which tells the story of Dublin-born Private John Hackett, Company G, has been submitted by my old friend, Randy Johnson, co-author with Nancy P. Allan, of A Dispatch to Custer: The Tragedy of Lieutenant Kidder. Mountain Press, 1999. Some of Randy’s ancestors came from the village of Wilsden in deepest Yorkshire, for which one of my grandsons recently played in its football [soccer] team – a very small world, indeed.
The story of Private Daniel Newell, Company M, by Geoff Topliss, will be posted on 5 December to mark the 174th anniversary of the birth of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer in New Rumley, Ohio – a birthday that GAC shared with Sergeant Frederick Nursey, Company F, born 1848 in Bungay, Suffolk,England – see Biography No. 46.
An extract taken from the Final Statement, prepared by the deceased soldier’s company commander, has been added to the biography of all those who were killed at the Little Big Horn and two others, namely, Gannon and Loyd, one who died of illness and the other by his own hand, in 1886 and 1892 respectively.
Another ‘first’ for Men With Custer UK
Contrary to details shown in the U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, and universally accepted as fact, Private Joshua S. Nicholas, Company H, was not born “in 1850, in London,” but “on 14 June 1852, in Greenwich, Kent.” See Biography No. 45 for full details.
The following biographies have also recently been extended and updated – Allan (or Allen), Carter, Conlan, Cunningham, Galvan, Gannon, Garlick, Loyd, McMasters, McWilliams and Scott. There may be others.
Sergeant Major William H. Sharrow
A 3,500-word paper, with notes and illustrations, written by this author, entitled Custer’s Sergeant Major, is due to appear in the CBHMA’s Symposium Book for 2013 and, as a matter of courtesy, will therefore not be posted on this site until after its publication on 26 June next year.
Can you help?
The following enquiry was recently received: “I am researching a couple of your 7th Cav. Soldiers to see if we are related. Charles Cunningham and Albert Cunningham. I have just lately acquired a Custer Range Colt SAA Revolver serial number # 5624 from Lot Six that could have possibly been issued to the 7th Cav. prior to them departing to the LBH Battle. I have found that any Ordnance Records or Reports from Fort Abraham Lincoln about what guns were issued to what Companies are located in the National Archives because these are Federal Property. If any of your readers can help me locate any records please do so.“
My research into the life of any officer or enlisted man invariably starts with a judicious look at Military Register of Custer’s Last Command (2009), by Roger Williams, and Men With Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry (2010), edited by Ron Nichols with Dan Bird. I use the word ‘judicious’ advisedly, because, as far as I am aware, like me, neither author nor editors have ever claimed to be infallible. That being said, the time and expense that both volumes have saved me over the years cannot be over-stated and, with minor caveats, I have no hesitation in recommending these volumes to anyone interested in the men who fought with Custer in 1876 – see my ‘Book Reviews’ page.
Thanks also go to Roger Williams for sharing the extensive findings of his research that does not appear in his scholarly work referred to above; to Geoff Topliss for his many contributions to MWCUK and the mutually informative exchange of correspondence relating to our fascination in the lives of this most disparate group of men, which we plan to publish in hard copy format in the not too distant future; to Scott Nelson for generously giving his permission for me to use images posted on his own excellent website; and last, but by no means least, to Brian, Simon and Fred at Electric Design whose on going creative ideas and technical support make anything, well almost anything, possible!
Researched articles, photographs, news items, ‘Letters to the Editor’ comments – both pro and con – are always gratefully received and acknowledged.
St. Andrew’s Day
Lastly, being St. Andrew’s Day, I had expected to share in the celebrations but yesterday’s helicopter crash in Glasgow, which resulted in so many being killed and seriously injured, has changed all that. This is a truly tragic day for Scotland. My thoughts and prayers are with those involved and with their families and friends.
- Thursday, 22 August 2013
The Bismarck Tribune, 2 March 1883
The following item, which appears in an adjacent column to a paragraph about [ex-Quartermaster Sergeant] Thomas W. Causby preparing to “become a genuine resident and boomer of Bismarck,” caught my eye and is typical of the period. Clearly not relevant to Men With Custer UK but it made me smile. I thought I would share it with you.
The Office Boy [from the Boston Courier]
He was a brand new office boy, young, pretty-faced, with golden ringlets and blue eyes. Just such a boy as one would imagine would be taken from out of his little trundle-bed in the middle of the night and transported beyond the stars. The first day he glanced over the library in the editorial room, became acquainted with everybody, knew all the printers, and went home in the evening as happy and cheery as a sunbeam. The next day he appeared; leaned out of the back window; expectorated on a bald headed printer’s pate; tied the cat up by the tail in the hallway; had four fights with another boy; borrowed $2 from an occupant of the building, saying his mother was dead; collected his two days’ pay from the cashier; hit the janitor with a broomstick; pawned a coat belonging to a member of the editorial room; wrenched the knobs off the doors; upset the ice cooler; pied three galleys of type; and mashed his finger in the small press. On the third day a note was received saying: “Mi mother do not want I to work in such a dull place. She says I would make a good preacher, so do I. Mi finger is better; gone fishing. Yours Till Deth do Yank us.”
- Friday, 9 August 2013
- Biographies of William Alexander (No. 63) and John Lamplough (no. 64) posted today
The number of civilian packers believed to have been present at the Battle of the Little Big Horn varies from as few as four to as many as twelve – perhaps the true figure will never be known. Be that as it may, William Alexander (Northern Ireland) and John Lamplough (England) were hired to drive pack mules alongside the wagon train to at least as far as the Powder River. While both Britons survived the Little Big Horn campaign unscathed, within a few years of the battle each would meet with serious misfortune. Their short, but intriguing, stories, which bring new information into the public domain, are told by this writer in Biographies No. 63 and No. 64.
Please feel free to contact me on any issue directly, or even indirectly, related to our interest in the men from the UK who served with the 7th Cavalry in June 1876. I look forward to hearing from you.
Friday, 26 July 2013
Biography of Private James Pym posted today
I am pleased to announce that a comprehensive biography of Private James Pym, Company B, 7th Cavalry, including four appendices, has been posted today.
Please also note that new information and several illustrations have been added to the updated biographies of William B. Crisfield, Henry Holden and Herod T. Liddiard.
In response to popular demand, and in partnership with Geoff Topliss, it is intended to open a new page on Men With Custer UK entitled ‘The 26 Counties,’ which over time will tell the stories of the Irishmen from ‘south of the border’ who served with the 7th Cavalry in June 1876. Watch this space – there are exciting times ahead.
The interest shown in Men With Custer UK since it was launched on 31 May has certainly exceeded my expectations and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have given their support.
Lastly, contributions in the form of articles and photographs, but also corrections to factual errors – if supported by a primary or other reliable source – are always gratefully received. I look forward to hearing from you.
Enjoy the rest of the summer.
Wednesday, 26 June 1876
The 137th Anniversary of the second day of the Battle of the Little Big Horn
To mark the 137th anniversary of Private Henry Holden’s act of bravery on Reno Hill that earned him the prestigious Medal of Honor a comprehensive and, I believe, the most faithful account published to date of this elusive Englishman can be found on the Biographies page, under No. 28.
One of the most visited biographies (yet to be completed) is that of Private James Pym (Company B). A full-length biographical account of his truly extraordinary life, his four-times married wife, Sarah Underwood, and how his Medal of Honor came to be donated to the battlefield museum, is now on course to be published at the end of July. This replaces the proposed biography of Quartermaster Thomas W. Causby (true name Thomas Causby Woolfitt), which will now appear at the end of August. The British contingent was certainly a disparate bunch of characters!
On this day, our thoughts inevitably turn to all those on both sides who lost their lives or were wounded – and also to the wives and children they left behind – during the 25 & 26 June 1876 in the valley of the Little Big Horn and on the bluffs overlooking this iconic river.
Friday, 14 June 2013
- Private Timothy Donnelly – Another ‘first’ for Men With Custer UK
To read the ‘ground-breaking news’ about Timothy Donnelly, one of the youngest troopers killed at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, open his expanded biography [No. 15] to find out when and where he was really born, and more …..
Also, why not read the Final Statements for Privates Fred Allan and Thomas Atcheson that have been added to their biographies?
As promised, new information on men from the UK will be published and updated on a regular basis.
Lastly, a sincere “Thank you” to the many visitors to this website who, over the last fourteen days, have taken both the time and trouble to write such encouraging and supportive words, which is greatly appreciated.
- Friday, 31 May 2013
- Welcome to MEN WITH CUSTER UK, which was launched on today.
- Although this site is dedicated to the men from the United Kingdom who served in the celebrated 7th United States Cavalry at the time of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, 25-26 June 1876, you will see that it covers a much broader area of interest.
Over the next twelve months a substantial amount of new material will be posted on this site [see below], which is planned to be updated on a regular basis. Additionally, new information, endnotes, and illustrations will be added to existing biographies when new information comes to hand. A slightly longer term objective is to publish a hard copy in book form as soon as it becomes a worthy and viable proposition.
It is hoped that visitors to MEN WITH CUSTER UK will not only find something of interest but also add to their knowledge and enjoyment of this fascinating period of American frontier history.
Contributions in the form of researched articles, book reviews, photographs and other items of interest would be gratefully received, particularly if they have a link with this country. ‘Letters to the Editor’ are welcome. A ‘get in touch’ form can be found on the Contact page.
One hundred and thirty-seven years ago Custer and the 7th Cavalry were their way to the Little Big Horn, and immortality. Who knows where this trail will lead.