A Trumpeter and the Girl he left Behind

  • The wagon train was headed west, the wheels of the heavy outfits making big ruts in the rain-soaked ground. General Terry suggested that Custer parade to the fort so that the worried women and children there could see for themselves what a strong fighting force it was. The band on white horses led off and we paraded around the inner area. Then married men and officers were allowed to leave their troops and say good-by to their families. In a few minutes ‘Boots and Saddles’ was sounded, and the troopers returned to their companions. Then the regiment, its guidons snapping in the morning breeze, marched off, while the band played over and over again ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me.’1
  • For the wife of the trumpeter from Company G, Seventh Cavalry, this dramatic departure of the Dakota Column from Fort Abraham Lincoln, May 17, 1876 would have been even more distressing than for most because not only was she was bidding an anxious farewell to a beloved husband but also grieving over the sudden death of her eldest child who had been laid to rest in the post cemetery barely ten days before. No one present that day could possibly have foreseen the catastrophic events that were to unfold on the bluffs above the Little Big Horn River, Montana Territory, which have become immortalised in popular American culture as “Custer’s Last Stand.”  
  • Anna Elizabetha Hahn, the only child of Carl Hahn, a stonemason, and Maria Katharina Kesselring, was born 13 July 1846 in Meckenheim, Pfalz – near Bad Durkheim, then in the Kingdom of Bavaria – and christened in the local Evangelisch (Lutheran) church sthere ix days later.2 It is assumed that her mother died while Anna was still an infant beacause on 16 December 1849, her father and Anna Margaretha Weil were married at the same church.3   
  • In Bavaria, like in many other German states, the late 1840s was a time of great political and social unrest and, no doubt influenced by encouraging news received from his sister-in-law, Mrs Elizabeth Weil Hafner, of Franklin, Lee County, Iowa, Carl Hahn and several members of the Weil family made the decision to seek a new life in America. They made their way to the French port of Le Havre and embarked on the ship Arcadia bound for New Orleans. The arduous journey from Meckenheim was not without incident as Carl and Anna’s first child, Henry, had been born at sea on 21 September 1850 during a storm which damaged the ship requiring it to put in at another port for repairs before continuing to the Crescent City, where it arrived on 29 December. The storm, during the height of the Atlantic hurricane season, and damage to the ship, explain the three months that elapsed between Henry’s birth and the arrival of the Arcadia in New Orleans. The whole party then took passage on a steamer up the Mississippi River, stopping at St. Louis, where Anna’s parents died within 48 hours of each other were buried there. They carried on as far as Keokok, Iowa, a former fur-trading post situated at the extreme southeast corner of the state. 
  • The newly arrived immigrants duly settled in Franklin, a small community founded 14 years earlier by Mennonites from Bavaria and the Palatinate. Here Carl (aka Charles) Hahn followed his trade as a stonemason and raised six children, including Anna, who went by the name of Elizabeth.5 Nothing is known of her early life beyond the fact that she received an elementary education and at the age of 19 or 20 formed an intimate liaison with a Jakob Vetter, which resulted in the birth of a child, Heinrich Friedrich, on January 6, 1868.6 Why the young couple were destined never to marry or, indeed, what became of Jakob Vetter remains a mystery.
  • Elizabeth subsequently adopted the surname ‘Fettis,’ an anglicised variant of Vetter (pronounced ‘Fetter’) and, in 1870, found employment as a domestic servant in the household of Civil War veteran Captain (Brevet Brigadier General) William H. Penrose, Company I, Third Infantry, the commanding officer at Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory.7 Penrose is remembered for sending a 10-man detail under the command of Lt. Henry H. Abell, in October 1868, to relieve the men still with the wagon train that was besieged by the band of Indians which had abducted Mrs Clara Blinn and her two year-old son Willie.  Sadly, the search for Clara and young Willie proved to be in vain.8  It was at Fort Lyon, on the left bank of the Arkansas River near the present-day town of Las Animas, where Elizabeth Fettis met a young private, by the name of Henry Dose, and it seems romance soon blossomed.
  • A Henry Dose was enlisted in the Army at Davenport, Iowa, January 4, 1870 by Captain Thomas Little, Thirty-First Infantry, and assigned to the Third Infantry. He is described in the Register of Enlistments as being age 22, previously employed as a carpenter, with gray eyes, brown hair, a fair complexion, 5’ 6” tall, born Holstein, Germany.9 
  • Although the surname ‘Dose’ was (and still is) widespread in the northern states of Germany, and a great many immigrants from Holstein settled in Iowa during the mid-nineteenth century, a comprehensive and diligent examination of pertinent genealogical records by both this writer and a direct descendantof the trooper has failed to produce a single shred of evidence to substantiate his identity. Such a dearth of information inevitably leads to a real possibility that, as in the well-documented instance of John S. Stuart Forbes, the future orderly to Custer entered the US Army under an assumed name. Be that as it may, Private Henry Dose joined Company I at Fort Lyon on July 26; was appointed an artificer the following September 1 and spent much of the next four and a half years on daily or extra duty as a mechanic or carpenter in the Quartermaster Department.10
  • Dose’s pension file reveals that he and Elizabeth Fettis were married October 4, 1871 at Dodge City, Kansas but the date and location are at variance with an entry in the Register of Marriages, Barton County, Kansas, which states the ceremony took place there on October 4, the following year.11 In classic Seventh Cavalry fashion the mystery deepens as Dodge City was not founded until July 1872, nor is there anything  in the regimental monthly returns or post returns for either date to show that Dose was absent from his military duties. Until further details are forthcoming therefore the ‘facts’ of their marriage must remain uncertain. 

Marriage License of Henry C. Dose and Elizabeth Ferris [Hahn] - 3 October 1872, Barton County, Kansas.

  • Elizabeth Fettis is often described as a laundress although without a verifiable source to support the claim.12 As the wife of a serving soldier however it is most likely to have been the case and, if so, she would have exchanged the relative comfort afforded by a position in the commanding officer’s quarters for a more robust but financially lucrative life on “Suds Row.” 
  • Company I, together with Company D, set out from Fort Lyon on April 26, 1872 for Camp Supply, Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) where they remained for the next two years.  The Doses’ first child, Hattie Anna, was born at the post just under six months after their arrival, on October 22.13 It was from Camp Supply that Custer led the Seventh Cavalry south to the banks of the Washita River in November 1868 to destroy the village of the Cheyenne Indian chief Black Kettle.
  • In the late summer of 1874 both companies left Camp Supply for Alexandria, Louisiana to undertake Reconstruction duty and went into camp outside the town on October 30. Dose was discharged as a private (artificer) on January 4, 1875, having completed five years’ service.14 A second child, Charles, was born six days later.15
  • After a brief spell of civilian life Dose shows up at Shreveport, also in Louisiana, where, on February 1, 1875, he re-enlists in the Army and was assigned to Company G, Seventh Cavalry, under the command of Lieutenant Donald McIntosh. On this occasion he gave his age as 25 years, which made him at least 12 months younger, probably more, than his first enlistment led us to believe. He was appointed trumpeter on June 17, the same year. His hitherto exemplary record of service was broken in the coming October when, according to the muster roll, he was “In confinement in Post Guard House.” The muster roll for December states he was to forfeit $10 of that month’s pay.16 
  • Early in 1876 plans were being made to mount a three-pronged campaign against the ‘hostile’ Indians who had ignored the Government’s orders to report to appointed reservations. The Seventh Cavalry would form part of General Alfred H. Terry’s Dakota Column that was to assemble at Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory. Company G left Shreveport on April 19 and arrived at Bismarck, via St. Louis and St. Paul, on the thirtieth. The same day, under the command of Second Lieutenant Edward S. Godrey, they crossed the Missouri River and went into camp two miles south of the fort.17  
  • Much to the alarm of other parents, all three of Elizabeth Dose’s children arrived from Shreveport suffering from a highly contagious bout of scarlet fever. While Hattie and Charles were to make a full recovery, sadly, eight year-old Heinrich (aka Henry or Harry) succumbed to the disease and died on the evening of the sixth of May.18 
  • For some unexplained reason, Cassius Carter, the senior trumpeter in Company G, was detained at Shreveport by the authority of the Department Commander [of New Orleans], given in a telegram, which directed that: “.. he must join company at his own expense if quartermaster cannot work with [rail] roads to reserve him a ticket out of transportation provided for his company.19 Dose would likely have been delighted at his unexpected promotion, if only of a temporary nature which, alas, was to have fatal consequences.
  • General Terry’s Dakota Column finally moved out from Fort Abraham Lincoln early in the morning of Wednesday, May 17, 1876 with all the pomp and ceremony so eloquently described above. The rugged terrain and the unseasonable weather hampered its progress and after three long weeks the column had travelled only as far as the Powder River. Here a base camp was established and, on June 8, Dose took the opportunity to write the following emotive words to Elizabeth:
  •  My Dear Wife
  •   I received your Letter to day and was glad to hear from You and them little Children. I was a great deal troubled about it, that I didn get no letter from You, I am allwright if only I no that You and them Children ar all well, Wear about 250 miles from Lincoln on the Powder River but we dintn see a sign of an Indian but we ar expecting every day to meet with them, we had terrible bad wether and a Terrible Snow Storm the first and second June
  •   The Command is stopping her on Powder River and resting two days, wear going to leave here in the Morning 5 o,clock for the Yellow Stone, The Ration ar running out very near, and so we have to hurry to get to the Yellow Stone Myself and Hageman and Weis got some Antilops Meat from them Indian Scouts, but had to pay $2.00 for a Quarter of it, I spend at already $8.00 for Eating, Gen. Tarry [Terry] said if we get Sitting bull and his trib soon, then we ar going home, but if we dont, we will stay 3 months and hunt for him. I wish for mine part we would meet him to morrow Serg Botzer and me came to the conclusion, it is better anyhow to be home and baking Flapjacks, who [?] we get home we will pay up for this and bake Flapjacks  all the time,
  •   Dear Lizze I can not forget Harry, I dont no how it is but his in my Mine  all the time, and sometime I worry a great deal about him, The best ting  for you to do is to go to the Carpenter and get him to make a paling fenz rows [for] The Grave and dont forget to send for that Tombstone, for we dont  no if we got anny time to spare after we get back again,
  •   Take good care of Yourself and Hetty and Charly and dont forget Your Husband and wrigth to me when ever You get a change, for I am lonely her to hear from You,
  •   Serg Botzer, Hagemann, Weis, Serg Northeg, Others and very near the hole Camp send ther best Regards to You and Hetty and Charly
  •   I for myself send my love and a Kiss to You and one to Hetty and Charly 
  •   My best Regards to Mrs Hughes and her Children and to Klein and Mrs Klein and Mrs James and to Serg Loyd, Lawler and Luther.
  •             I remain Your true and loving Husband
  •                             Henry C Dose
  •                  Trumpeter Troop G 7 Cavalry20
  • The same day that Dose wrote to his wife, Cassius Carter was ordered to rejoin his company and would have arrived at Fort Lincoln shortly thereafter. In a letter to Custer, Libbie reported: “Carter has returned and is chief trumpeter. He really sounds the calls beautifully. But his long-drawn notes make me heartsick. I do not wish to be reminded of the Cavalry.”21 One can only imagine the thoughts that passed through the mind of Elizabeth Dose, who was no doubt still coming to terms with the loss of young Harry.
  • On the morning of the 25 June, Dose along with John Martin, Company H, and possibly a third trooper, was detailed to be Custer’s orderly for the day even though his company was assigned to Reno’s battalion. This left Company G without a recognised trumpeter which may have been a contributory factor to the chaos that occurred during the withdrawal from the timber.
  • Henry Dose was killed on the first day of the battle and his body is alleged to have been found on the flat ground near the Little Bighorn River, between Medicine Tail Coulee and Deep Coulee.  At the Reno Court of Enquiry Lieutenant Charles C. De Rudio said: “Probably 500 yards from the ford we found a dead body, that was the first dead body we found, lying in the bottom of a little coulee. He was so much disfigured that I did not know who he was, only the marks on his pants showed he was a trumpeter.22 Dose perhaps?  Private Henry Petring, also in Company G, who was wounded in the eye and hip in the hilltop fight, told Walter Camp that Dose was discovered “half way between Custer and Reno with arrows in his back and sides.23 Was he was carrying a message from Custer?
  • Horned Toad and Speckled Cock, two Crow Scouts with Colonel John Gibbon’s forces at the Little Big Horn on June 27, rode into Fort Lincoln a few days later bringing news of Custer’s defeat but their story was either dismissed or suppressed by the Army authorities. However this did not prevent rumors of a terrible disaster soon becoming until the worst fears were formally confirmed around 7:00 am on July 6 when acting post commander Captain William S. McCaskey, Twentieth Infantry, accompanied by Lieutenant Charles L. Gurney, Sixth Infantry, and Dr Johnson Van D. Middleton, the post surgeon, began the painful task of breaking the news to the 25 or so widows, one of whom was Elizabeth Hahn Dose. 
  • The following summer Trumpeter Henry Dose’s remains were reinterred in the mass grave on top of Last Stand Hill and his name inscribed on the south-facing panel – fifth from the top of the right-hand column – of the Cavalry Monument, which it was erected in 1881.
  • Having suffered two bereavements in as many months and with two young children to support, it is not altogether surprising that a grief-stricken Elizabeth Dose should find solace in the arms of a trooper from her late husband’s company, though Edward Garlick the lanky, English-born first sergeant who was on furlough at the time of the battle, may well not have been the first name to come to mind. They were married on November 21, 1876 but that’s another tale waiting to be told.
  • An amazing postscript to this fascinating story was published in Iowa eleven years after the battle. It reads:
  • Elizabeth  was a daughter of the first wife of Charles Hahn, and is the wife of Edward Garlick, Sergeant of Troop G, 7th United States Cavalry, now stationed at Ft. Meade, Dak. Her first husband was Henry Dose, a soldier who shared the fate of many other brave men when Gen. Custer and his gallant band were masacred [massacred] by the savages. Mrs. Garlick has been on the frontier for years, sharing all vicissitudes of her husband’s soldier life, and is the owner of the only horse uncaptured by the Indians when the Custer massacre took place. It was ridden three days and nights without food, and was presented by its owner and the guide of Custer, to Mrs. Garlick.24
  • While it is a historical fact that all three of Custer’s guides were killed in the battle and Comanche is symbolically acknowledged as the sole equine survivor of the ‘Last Stand,’ there is the remote possibility that this ostensibly apocryphal anecdote might contain an element of truth if the words “a scout with Gibbon” were substituted for “the guide of Custer.” Why a Crow Scout who had ridden over 300 epic miles in three or four days would choose to give his mount to a Seventh Cavalry laundress is, of course, an entirely different matter!
  • Notes to be added.

Hattie Dose Garlick Ackerman (1872-1952).

& The Small Print

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