A DANE WHO SURVIVED THE LITTLE BIG HORN FIGHT

  • Jens Mathiasen Møller aka Jan Moller or Mollar
  • The post Civil War Frontier Army depended heavily on attracting the sons of newly arrived immigrants and foreign-born recruits into its ranks, and during the period 1866-1890 no fewer than 55 Danes served in the celebrated 7th U.S. Cavalry. Of the six who were present at the Battle of the Little Big Horn on 25-26 June 1876, three were killed with Custer’s column, two were wounded in the hilltop fight and just one escaped totally unscathed.1 One of the wounded Private Jan Moller, Company H, was seriously hurt and never fully recovered from his injuries. This is his story.

 

 

  • On 15 September 1849, a male child was born in the village of Hasle, on the remote island of Bornholm, which lies some 80 nautical miles southeast of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.

Bornholm, a Danish island lying in the Baltic Sea to the south of Sweden and north of Poland.

  • He was the seventh child in a family of five boys and four girls born to Hans Nielsen Møller, a coal worker, and his wife, Elisabeth Kirsten Hansen. Five weeks later the infant was baptised Jens Mathiasen in the local Evangelical-Lutheran church.2 When he was still only 11-years-old Jens was sent to work on a farm in the nearby town of Nyker but was back in Hasle on 4 April 1864 where he was confirmed, having attained the lowest grade for his Christian knowledge.3  His father died in 1867 at the young age of 48 but his mother lived to be 70.4
  • Jens Goes to America
  • Sometime around 1871 Jens made up his mind to leave his native Denmark and, along with a growing number of fellow countrymen, decided to seek a better life in “God’s own country” – America. He sailed from an unknown port for New York and eventually made his way to Chicago.5 Evidently he found that not all the streets of this rapidly growing city were ‘paved with gold’ and the prospect of being unemployed in a strange land during a bitterly cold winter may well have influenced him to opt for a term in the military. The records show that on 15 January 1872 he was enlisted into the United States Army by Captain Samuel Young, 8th Cavalry, and assigned to Company H, 7th Cavalry, then garrisoned in Nashville, Tennessee, under the command of Captain Frederick W. Benteen. We learn from his enlistment papers that Jens gave his name as Jan Móller, born Orsle, Denmark, aged 22 years, 5’ 8” in height, with grey eyes and light-coloured hair, previously employed as a labourer.5 Little could he have foreseen what dangers and excitement the next five years would bring.6
  • It is interesting to note that Captain Young wrote the name of Jens’ birthplace exactly as this young Bornholmer would have pronounced it. Inhabitants of Bornholm, which geographically is much nearer to Sweden than it is to the rest of Denmark, speak with an accent peculiar to that island and a stranger to this part of Scandinavia could quite easily interpret ‘Hasle’ as ‘Orsle’. It was the latter spelling that Jan Moller continued to use long after leaving the Army, probably for fear of getting into trouble with the law when filling in official documents.

Private Charles Windolph [1851-1950].

  • Charles Windolph
  • On 26 July 1872 a young German from Bergen, on the Baltic Island of Rügen, joined Company H in Nashville. His anglicised name was Charles Windolph, whose experiences in the Seventh Cavalry are recorded in that excellent autobiographical account entitled I Fought with Custer, and would have been very similar to those encountered by Jan Moller, or Mollar.7
  • If Moller and Windolph joined the cavalry to fight Indians then initially they would have been disappointed as much of their time was spent tracking down members of the Ku Klux Klan and illicit whiskey distillers. However, over the following years Company H did see active service in the Yellowstone Campaign (1873) and the Black Hills Expedition (1874) before returning south to New Orleans on Reconstruction duty in the winter of 1875/6.  Towards the spring of 1876 the whole regiment was assembled at Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory, in readiness for the forthcoming campaign against the Sioux and other tribes, which had been declared hostile to the U.S. Government.
  • Fight at the Little Big Horn River
  • The events surrounding the disastrous defeat of the Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Big Horn are too well known to be repeated here other than to say that Company H played a major part, and at great cost, in defending Reno Hill. Benteen, who to all intents and purposes had taken command of the depleted regiment, placed his own Company in a very exposed position on the bluffs facing south towards the river, but it was their failure to construct breastworks or dig rifle pits, due to the lack of trenching tools, that was directly contributed to the unacceptably high number of casualties.8 Jan Moller was struck by a bullet in the right thigh and pelvis and took no further part in the battle. It is interesting to note that Private William E. Morris, Company M, claimed that Moller had told him he heard heavy gunfire while watering at the morass, something that seems to have escaped the memory of both Benteen and Lieutenant Francis Gibson. 
  • Along with over 50 other wounded men Jan was carried on a pallet made of blankets strung between two poles, with a mule at each end, twenty miles downstream to the junction with the Big Horn River. Early on June 29, the steamer Far West, with the wounded lying on beds of freshly cut grass on its deck, started out on its journey via the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers to Fort Abraham Lincoln. Jan was listed as ‘absent sick’ at Fort Rice from August 12 until his discharge on expiration of service, as a corporal of excellent character, on 15 January 1877. 
  • Returns to Civilian Life
  • His whereabouts immediately after leaving the army are not known but we find him living in Spearfish, Lawrence County, South Dakota in April 1881 and was still there on April 12, the following year, when he applied for a disability pension in preparation for his intended return to Denmark. However shortly afterwards he moved to near Beulah, Wyoming, where he farmed alongside the Redwater Creek, a tributary of the Belle Fourche River. The Seventh Cavalry had passed through this beautiful valley in July 1874 during the Black Hills Expedition, which inspired Chief Engineer William A. Ludlow to write:
  •  “The temperature was delightful; the air laden with sweet wild odors; the grass knee-deep and exceedingly luxuriant; while wild cherries, blueberries and gooseberries abounded, as well as many varieties of flowers.  All these advantages, combined with that with an abundance of pure cold water, were ours, with rare exceptions, until the final departure from the hills.”
  • It is little wonder that Jan, also known as John, spent the greater part of the next 45 years here.  On April 14, 1890 a man by the name Henry Slater, 35 years of age, and Jems [Jens?] A. Moller, age 31, both living in Beulah, stated “they had been well acquainted with Jan Moller for more than seven years.”  The same year one Iver (?) Hejde, Aladdin, Wyoming, stated “he had been knowing Moller for 20 years”, which suggests they may have met on board the ship that brought them from Europe or soon after Jan first set foot in America.9
  • Jan Moller Takes a Wife and Returns to Denmark
  • Jan Moller married Carolina Anderson in Spearfish on October 4, 1891. Carolina was born in Swedenin 1849 and came to America following the death of her first husband in their native country in 1879, which left her a widow with two young children. There were no children born in the Moller marriage.
  • Jan and Carolina sailed for Denmark in the late spring of 1898 and bought a house in Vestergade Street, Nyker, a few miles from Hasle. In July that year Jan went to the Herredsfuldmægtig, P. Ipsen, [county head-clerk] in the nearby town of Rønne, who agreed to write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Copenhagen, with a request for Jan’s U.S. Army pension to be paid in Denmark on a yearly or half-yearly basis. His letter was dated 23 July 1898. There was also reference to a similar letter being sent to the Royal Danish Consulate in Chicago. For whatever reason, Jan’s request was denied. The Mollers were to remain in Bornholm for the next four and a half years.10
  • Back to America and More Problems
  • On 3 March 1903, together with Jan’s younger brother Hans Andreas,11 the Mollers registered with the emigration office in Copenhagen as all three had decided to return to America.12 They gave Deadwood, South Dakota, as their intended destination, which was the home of Carolina’s son, William Nielsen. Sometime later they resettled near Beulah, close to the state line with South Dakota, where the injury that Jan sustained in the hilltop fight continued to give him a great deal of trouble. Dr. Alexander Otto Frasser, at Belle Fourche Hospital, South Dakota, examined him on Monday, 27 December 1909, and certified, “Mr. Jan Moller appeared before me this day and upon examination is suffering from a gunshot wound of right thigh. Of late he has been suffering from Rheumatism of right leg so that he is disable from doing manual labor. He is 60 years old and as a result of this Rheumatism of right leg is prevented from doing manual labor or gaining a livelihood. For the last 10 years this has fortially (sic) prevented him from doing manual labor and gaining a livelihood and during the last 2 years entirely prevented him from doing manual labor or earning a livelihood.”
  • A letter found among in his pension papers, dated 10 May 1912, contains the following information, “Question: Where did you live since discharge?  Answer: Beulah (Crook County) Wyo. I Leve on a veset to Denmark for 5 yars? I was Sick.”  On 19 September 1921, Moller stated that he had been living in Wyoming, near Beulah, ever since the date of discharge (1877). From this time he received a pension of $50 a month, which was granted to veterans who had served for 30 days or more during the Indian Wars [Act of Congress, 4 March 1917].13
  • Jan Moller’s Last Years
  • Around 1925, due to increasing infirmity, Jan and Carolina went to stay with her son, William Nielsen (or Nelson), at 63 Stewart Street, Deadwood.  It was here that Carolina died on 11 January 1928. Jan passed away just six weeks later on 23 February. They were both interred in Mount Moriah Cemetery,14 overlooking Deadwood City, which they share with such celebrated Western characters as James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and Martha “Calamity Jane” Cannary.  Jan is not only listed as ‘Mollar’ on the headstone but his date of birth is incorrectly shown as ‘Sept. 13, 1849′ when, in fact, he was born on 15 September that year.

Gravesite for Jan and Carolina Mollar in Mount Moriah Cemetery, Deadwood, South Dakota. Photograph courtesy of Scott Nelson.

Jan and Carolina Mollar's headstone, Mount Moriah Cemetery, Deadwood, South Dakota. Author's photograph.

63 Stewart Street, Deadwood. Jan Mollar lived here. Photograph courtesy of Scott Nelson.

  • An obituary was published in the Lead Daily Call on the day immediately following his death and a second was featured on the front page of The Deadwood Daily Pioneer-Times on 26 February, it reads:
  • Will Be Buried With All Military Honors
  • Funeral services for the late Jans Móller will be held this afternoon from the Schulte undertaking parlors and will be attended by those military who served their country in its wars in one of its military establishments. Rev. Hartung of the Methodist church will conduct the services at the undertaking parlors and at the grave.
  • An escort from Co. “F” 109th Engrs., will accompany the body to its last resting place on Mount Moriah. At the grave “Taps” will be sounded by a trumpeter. After which the usual three volleys of rifle fire will be fired over his grave. The military escort will accompany the body as guard of honor from the undertaking establishment to the cemetery.
  • Jans Móller served two enlistments with that most famous of regiments of the cavalry service of the United States government, the Seventh, and was with it when it took part in engagements with hostile Indians in the northwest and southwest, left the service as a non commissioned officer and with the highest discharge that the service can grant an enlisted man, both having inscribed on them the simple word “Excellent”, which means so much to the soldier who has served his country.15  
  • Jan Moller was survived by his brother Hans, Belle Fourche, and stepson.
  • The author, Leif Rudi Ernst, is very thankful to Peter Russell for the great work he has done to make this article readable in English.
  • First published in The Crow’s Nest, the Newsletter of the Custer Association of Great Britain, Spring/Summer 2004, Volume 4 Number 1.
Notes
  • 1. They Rode With Custer, John M. Carroll: (i) Killed with Custer’s Column: Cpl W. Teeman, Company F, Private Christian Madsen, Company F, Blacksmith Charles Siemon, Company L; (ii) Wounded in the hilltop fight: Private Frederick Holmstead, Company A, Private Jan Moller, Company H; (iii) Survived uninjured: Private Christian C. Boisen, Company K. Tribune Extra, Bismarck, 6 July 1876: wounded Jas. Muller, [Company] H right thigh. Fred Holmsted, [Company] A, left wrist. There may have been a seventh Danish trooper, Private Henry Witt, Company K, but he was on detached service at the Powder River Depot. His enlistment papers give Cincinnati, Ohio, as his birthplace whereas his death certificate says 10 December 1852, Heide, Denmark (Men With Custer, CBHMA, Inc., 2010, p.432).
  • 2.  Parish Register, Town of Hasle, Bornholm. Denmark. Census 1845 and 1870, Town of Hasle, Bornholm. Denmark.
  • 3.  Parish Register, the Town of Hasle, Bornholm. Denmark. Parish Register, Nyker, Bornholm. Denmark
  • 4.  Hans Nielsen Møller died on 28 September 1867, 48 3/4 years old. Elisabeth Kirstine Møller died on 1 May 1886, 70 3/4 years old. Parish Register, Hasle, Bornholm. Denmark.
  • 5.  A man with the same name, occupation and age registered to New York City on 14 September 1871. Last residence was on the Danish mainland in the town of Kolding, Vejle County. Copenhagen Police Ledgers: “Indirectly”emigration from Denmark (1868-1940). Ledger No. 200. Id. No.I7172M0724.
  • 6.  National Archives, Washington, D.C.: Enlistment papers and Pension no. SA-18110 and SC-11044.
  • 7.  Carl Windolph, (Charles in America) born 9 December 1851, was the last surviving member of Custer’s soldiers who saw action at the Little Big Horn. Ironically, to escape compulsory military service in the Franco-Prussian War,  he came to Denmark, and from there he emigrated to the United States in June 1871. He left Copenhagen on the  ship Humboldt. Five months later he joined the 2nd U.S. Infantry, deserted, and on 23 July 1872 he enlisted at Nashville, TN. He came to serve in the same Company as Jan Moller. Discharged Fort Meade, South Dakota on 21 March 1883. He died 11 March 1950. Ibid and Copenhagen Police Ledgers: “Directly” emigration from Denmark (1868-1940). Ledger No. 22. Id. No. D7181V0105. And Hunt, I Fought with Custer.
  • 8. One officer (Benteen) wounded, 3 enlisted men killed, 19 wounded, one of which (Private William M. George) died on board the Far West on 3 July.
  • 9.  National Archives, Washington, D.C.: Enlistment papers and Pension no. SA-18110 and SC-11044.
  • 10.  Udenrigsministeriets Arkiv, 1856-1908, Rigsarkivet (Denmark). Ks. 591, sag. B4836.
  • 11. Hans Andreas Móller, a stone cutter, born 27 February 1852, together with his wife, Anine Nielsine and five children aged from six months to eight years, lived in Little Rock, Arkansas, before moving their belongings by a team and wagon to Beulah in the 1880s. They made their home on Redwater Creek with brother Jan Moller for three or four years. Hans is listed as ‘Single’ in the Census of Crook County, Wyoming (1920).
  • 12. Copenhagen Police Ledgers: “Indirectly” emigration from Denmark (1868-1940). Ledger No. 221. Id. No.
  •       I0203M1110, I0203M1111 and I0203M1112.
  • 13. National Archives, Washington, D.C.: Pension no. SA-18110 and SC-11044.
  • 14. Mount Moriah Cemetery, Deadwood, Addition 3, Section 2, Lot # 200.
  • 15. There is no evidence to substantiate that Moller served two enlistments the 7th U.S. Cavalry.

ANOTHER DANE WHO SURVIVED THE LITTLE BIG HORN FIGHT

  •  Clemmens Christian Boisen aka Christian C. Boissen
  • An important aspect of the history of Danish emigration to the United States relates to the problems in South Jutland, which arose after Denmark was defeated by Prussia in the Second Schleswig War of 1864. This resulted in the provinces of North Schleswig and Holstein being ceded to the German Federation, and over 150,000 Danes living there suddenly found themselves under the yoke of a foreign power.
  • German demands that only the German language was to be spoken in schools and, perhaps even more significantly, that all males between certain prescribed ages would be liable for conscription into the armed forces made emigration to Denmark and the United States the two most attractive alternatives to Prussian militarism.
  • For many years Custer historians have overlooked the fact that soldiers born in Schleswig and Holstein prior to 30 October 1864 were in fact Danes, not German, although they are not alone in being confused by the various changes in national boundaries. During the period 1866–1892 as many as 69 Danes enlisted in the celebrated 7th U.S. Cavalry, 40 of which were born in Schleswig and Holstein. No less than 24 Danes served in the regiment during the ‘Custer period’ (1866–1876) and of the eight who took part in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, on 25–26 June 1876, five were killed and two were wounded. Private Christian C. Boissen, Company K, had the good fortune to be the only Dane to survive the battle unscathed.
  • Boisen was born on 26 May 1840 in Vester Lindet, Gram Parish, Haderslev County, Denmark, son of Christen Boisen, a cottager or agricultural labourer, and Mette Cathrine Clemensdatter. He was christened the same day at the Evangelical-Lutheran Church and given the names Clemmens Christian.1
  • When he was six years-old the family moved to the town of Rødding, about three miles north of Vester Lindet. For reasons unknown Clemmens was confirmed at the Evangelical-Church in the nearby parish of Skrave on 15 April 1855 when the priest gave him a high mark “for religious knowledge and excellent manners.”2 Sadly, his mother had died, aged 52, at Rødding, in October the previous year and so did not witness her son’s confirmation. His father, Christen Boisen, aged 63, then working for a local innkeeper, followed his wife to the grave two years later. Sometime in late 1859 Boisen, a 19 year-old farmhand, left Rødding and went to town of Haderslev where it is most likely he learned the trade of boot and shoe making.3
  • Enlists in United States Army
  • Nothing more is known about Boisen’s life in Denmark and, if the Census is to be believed, he arrived in the United States in 1870.4 Since there is no record of him sailing from his own country it must be assumed that he embarked from a German port, most likely Hamburg. The first verifiable reference to his being in America can be found when he enlisted in the United States Army at Memphis, Tennessee on 25 March 1873 under the name of Christian Boissen,* where it is stated he was born in Denmark, age 31 years, a bootmaker by trade, and is described as having blue eyes, brown hair, fair complexion and being 5′ 6” tall.5  His enlistment papers were signed by Captain Owen Hale who duly assigned him to his own command, Company K, 7th U.S. Cavalry, which also included First Lieutenant Edward S. Godfrey and Second Lieutenant Luther R. Hare.
  • It is interesting to note that only ten days after his enlistment Boissen, together the rest of Company K, was sent from Memphis to Yankton, Dakota Territory, arriving there on 11 April. He remained in Yankton until 7 May when they set off “on horseback” for the Little Cheyenne River which was reached 24 days later, on their way to Fort Rice. As a member of Company K, Boissen took part in the Yellowstone Campaign (1873) and the Black Hills Expedition (1874). Between 29 September and 5 October 1874, he was on detached service at Fort Rice, with company property awaiting transport to Louisiana. Company K eventually arrived at Colfax, Louisiana, on 18 October, where they remained on ‘Reconstruction duty’ until 12 January 1876. On that day they left by steamer for New Orleans, which they reached two days later. The following morning they departed from that city by rail for the overnight journey to McCourt, Mississippi, where they were stationed for the next three months. Then on 18 April they set out for Bismarck, Dakota Territory, via St. Paul, Minnesota, and arrived at their destination 12 days later. Companies B, G and K, under the command of Lt. Edward Godfrey, crossed the Missouri River on 2 May and went into camp near Fort Abraham Lincoln “for duty with Expedition against the hostile Sioux.”6
  • At the ensuing Battle of the Little Big Horn, Company K formed part of Reno’s battalion in the ill-fated Valley fight and later defended the northern section on Reno Hill. Lack of tools kept the men from preparing defences. Years later Godfrey he recalled: “…[they] settled down to their work of digging rifle pits. They worked in pairs, in threes and fours. The ground was hard and dry. There were only three or four spades and shovels in the whole command; axes, hatches, knives, table-forks, tin cups, and halves of canteens were brought into use. However, everybody worked hard, and some were still digging when the enemy opened fire at early dawn, between half-past two and three o’clock, so that all had some sort of shelter…”
  • Saddler Boissen was among the 235 enlisted survivors of the Battle, who on 4 July 1876, at the regimental camp near the Big Horn, on the Yellowstone River, signed a petition addressed to the President and the Congress of the United States, asking that Major Reno be promoted to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer; and that Captain F. W. Benteen be then promoted to fill the vacancy caused by the requested promotion of Reno. The 235 names represented approximately 80% of the survivors of Reno and Benteen’s combined commands.7
  • A year after the Little Big Horn fight Company K was in action at Canyon Creek, Montana Territory on 13 September 1877 and 17 days later saw action again at Snake or Eagle Creek, near Bear Paw Mountain.
  • After five truly eventful years with the regiment Boissen was discharged on 25 March 1878 at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, by expiration of service a Private of excellent character.8
  • Returns to Civilian Life
  • Christian Boisen, returned to Memphis and it was there on 26 April 1880 that he married 40 year-old Dorothea Jager (Jaeger). Twice-widowed, Dorothea, who had arrived in the United States from Germany 15 years earlier and had outlived her first husband, Albert Theiler (died Memphis 1877) and second husband, Henry Bertram (died Memphis 1879), brought two children with her into the marriage, Agustafh Bertram (or Barlnen) age 14 and Lousia Boisen (sic), age just five months.9 Christian and Dorothea were to be blessed with two children of their own, namely, Lucy, born 4 November 1881 and Clemmen (aka Clement) born 7 June 1883.
  • Soon after wedding the Boisens moved 290 miles west to Fort Smith, Arkansas, a rough and tumble frontier border town full of brothels, saloons and outlaws across the river from Indian Territory. This was the domain of Judge Isaac Parker, nicknamed the “Hanging Judge” because in his first term after assuming office he tried eighteen people for murder, convicted fifteen of them, sentenced eight of those to die, and hanged six of them on one day. Over the course of his career in Fort Smith (1875-1896), Parker sentenced 160 people to hang, of those 79 actually were executed on the gallows.
  • Boisen applied for an Army pension in both 1892 and 1893 on the grounds that while serving at Colfax, Louisiana, about 1 November 1874, he had contracted chronic diarrhoea and was treated at the Company Hospital there. He also claimed that since 1888 he had been suffering from deafness in his right ear.  In February 1893, a neighbour, Fritz Keisnig, who had been known Boisen for over ten years, testified, “… I consider claimant unable to perform manual labor to the extent of one fourth (1/4) of that of an able-bodied and healthy man, in fact, he could not, if he would, do any physical labor worth much…”  Both pension applications were unsuccessful.
  • The Killing of Jesse Pigeon
  • Early in January 1894 Boisen was granted a licence to sell liquor and he opened a saloon in Garrison Street, off First Street, Fort Smith, which three months later was the scene of a brutal murder. The Fort Smith Elevator Friday, 13 April 1894, carried the headline “The Killing of Jesse Pigeon” and under the sub-heading, ‘The Saloon Keepers Offer $165 Reward for His Slayer M.J. Manion and P. McMann Held as Accessories,’ it told the graphic story of the killing in Boisen’s Saloon. It read:
  • On Monday night last, an Indian named Jesse Pigeon was at Boison’s saloon near First street on a drunk. No one appears to have been in the saloon but Jack Moore, the barkeeper, P. McMann and “Shortie” Manion. The two latter took a drink with Pigeon and Moore demanded pay for some. Pigeon did not respond, and was assaulted by Moore. Policeman Anthony appeared on the scene and found Pigeon lying on the side walk in a dying condition. He was told by those present, Manion, McMann and George Parks, that the Indian was drunk and fell out of the saloon, hurting himself on a barrel with which his head came in contact.
  • Pigeon soon died and Coroner Hellean was sent for. He summoned the three men mentioned above and Jack Moore, the bartender as witnesses before the coroner’s jury. Immediately afterward Moore was missing, and Manion stated that he had gone to tell his wife what had occurred. This excited the suspicion of the coroner, and he at once ordered Manion, Parks and McMann under arrest.
  • Further investigation at the saloon showed that Moore had taken all the money there was in the drawer and skipped. On leaving the saloon he went to Ella Abbott’s “chippy” dive and got a ring that one of the girls had, telling them that he had killed an Indian and was going to leave town at once.
  • Officers were soon out in search of Moore, and Sheriff Buggs offered one hundred dollars reward for his capture, but up to this writing he has not been heard from. Tuesday morning the three men arrested were brought before the coroner’s jury, and Parks testified that he was standing outside the screen from the bar reading a letter. He heard a lick struck and heard some one fall, and then the Indian ran out the door and fell on the sidewalk. Manion testified that Moore knocked the Indian down twice with his fist, while McMann swore he did not see anything of it; says he went out and tried to get Pigeon, and he laid him down where Officer Anthony found him. The jury returned a verdict that Pigeon came to his death at the hands of Jack Moore and held Manion and McMann as accessories before and after the fact. They are committed to jail.
  • A wagon spoke with some blood on the end of it was found behind the bar, and as the wound that killed Pigeon was a cut just over the left eye, it is supposed that Moore struck him with the weapon and caused his death. The dead man had no other marks of violence on his person or about his face to indicate that he had been struck with the fist of any one. Moore is classed as a tough and a slugger, and the two men under arrest also belong to the tough order.
  • Additional reward offered
  • The unwarranted killing of Pigeon is universally condemned, and the saloon men of the town have made up a  purse of one hundred and sixty-five dollars, which they offer as an additional reward for the capture of Moore, which amount will likely be increased by other business men of the town. Pigeon is said to be a Creek Indian, and lives nine miles from Okmulgee. He came in on Monday morning’s train from Braggs in company with Silas Columbia, another Indian, having left their horses at Braggs. The body of Pigeon was taken to the undertaking establishment of Birnie Bros., and after a post mortem examination was held Tuesday evening the remains were interred in the city cemetery.
  •  It seems that Jack Moore was arrested soon after the alleged offence and before the following report appeared in the Fort Smith Elevator, Friday, 10 August 1894, page 3:
  •  Bailed Out
  • Jack Moore was admitted to bail last week on a bond of $5.000. Moore, it will be remembered, is accused of killing Jesse Pigeon, an Indian, some time ago. He has been in jail ever since. Judge Blythe is his lawyer and has worked diligently to secure his release. He thinks there will be no difficulty in securing an acquittal for his client.
  • The fate of Moore, Manion and McMann remains unknown to this writer.
  • Shortly after this killing Boisen decided to sell his saloon which was described in the Fort Smith Elevator, 18 May 1894, as a “Two-story business house, now occupied by C.C. Boison as a saloon. Three doors this side of railroad track, on Garrison Avenue, $7500 1/3 cash.* The same advertisement was run for several months, although from August 1894 the price was reduced by $1000. It was last run in the 28 September 1894 issue of the same newspaper and it must assumed that Boisen finally did made a sale even though, with the bad name hanging over the property, he may have had to lower the price still further.
  • For some reason Christian Boisen’s name is missing from Census (1900)* although Dorothea (listed as Dora C. Boysen) is recorded as a “Boarder” living with their son Clemmen (listed as Clement Boysen), a 17 year-old “Bartender” in Fort Smith. In January 1902 Boisen’s doctor stated: “he [Boisen] had complete loss of hearing in right ear, caused by inflammation of middle ear and thickening of drum. Left ear is also now impaired and fast becoming as the right.” We know from his pension file that in 1903 he described himself as a “Solicitor” (Salesman) born Denmark, 25 May 1843, and residing at 405 North 10th Street, Fort Smith, but yet again his claim for a pension proved unsuccessful. Seven years later the Census (1910) shows him as a “Solicitor working for a Tea & Coffee Company,” still residing at the same address.
  • Dies at Fort Smith
  • On 28 November 1922, Boisen was finely granted a well-deserved pension of $20 per month. Sadly he died of ‘senility’ less than two months later, on 21 January 1923. His death was reported in the following day’s Fort Smith Times Record, which wrongly credited him as having served with the Union Army during the Civil War and made no mention of him ever being in the 7th Cavalry, let alone surviving the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
  • C.C. Boisen
  • Christian C. Boisen, 82 years old, for 42 years a resident of Fort Smith, died at 7 O’clock Sunday evening at his home 405 North Tenth Street.
  • The funeral will be held Tuesday afternoon.
  • Mr. Boisen was a Union soldier during the Civil war (sic) and will be buried in National cemetery. Rev. H.D. Mensing, pastor of First Evangelical Lutheran church, will officiate.
  • Beside his wife, Mr. Boisen leaves one son, Clemens Boisen of Tulsa. Okla. and one daughter, Mrs. O.C. Pendall (sic), of Fort Smith.
  • He was a native of Denmark and came to the United States when a young man.
  • Christian Boisen was duly laid to rest on 23 January 1923 in the Fort Smith National Cemetery, 522 Garland Avenue, Fort Smith, plot 1 0 437. His name appears as ‘Boissen’ on the gravestone.

Christian Boissen's headstone in Fort Smith National Cemetery. Note: 'Tennessee,' the state where he enlisted in the United States Army. (Courtesy of Fort Smith National Cemetery).

The reverse of Christian Boissen's headstone showing the plot number and his wife's forenames names and date of death. (Courtesy of Fort Smith National Cemetery).

  • Shortly after her husband’s death, Dorothy Boisen moved to 910 North 32nd and Grand, Fort Smith, where on the 14 March she applied for and was accepted as a pensioner three days later.
  • Dorothy (Dorothea, Dora) Boisen died of “organic heart trouble” on 12 November 1930, aged 90.  Her death was reported in the Fort Smith Times Record and reads
  • Mrs. Boisen, 90, Dies at Residence of her Daughter
  • Funeral Service for Aged Woman Will Be Held On Friday Afternoon
  • Mrs. Dorothy Louise Boisen, 90 years old, native of Germany, and resident of Fort Smith for more than 48 years, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. O.C. Kendall, 1022 North Fifteenth, at 7:10 o’clock Wednesday morning. The death followed a critical illness of four weeks.
  • Mrs. Boisen was born in Hanover, Germany, April 11, 1840, coming to moving to Fort Smith in 1882 (sic). She was the wife of Christian Boisen, a Civil war veteran (sic), whose death occurred in 1923, and who was buried in the National cemetery in Fort Smith.
  • Mrs. Boisen, until recent years, was an active member of the First Lutheran church.*
  • Besides her daughter, she is survived by one son, Clemens Boisen of Tulsa, Okla., who will arrive in Fort Smith Wednesday night.
  • While funeral arrangements are incomplete, a short prayer service will be held at the home at 2:30 o’clock Friday afternoon, and the regular service will be held from the church at 3 o’clock. Burial will be beside the grave of her husband in National cemetery. The Putnam Funeral home is in charge of arrangements.
  • As far as is known neither Christian Boisen nor his wife ever became naturalised citizens of the United States.
  • The author, Leif Rudi Ernst, thanks Peter Russell for generously sharing the findings on his own research on Boissen and further gratefully acknowledges the help given by him in the writing of this article.

 

A THIRD DANE WHO SURVIVED THE LITTLE BIG HORN FIGHT

  • Frederik Holmsted Mortensen aka Frederick Holmsted or Holmstead
  • When undertaking research on men who served in the U.S. Frontier Army it is always frustrating to discover that they not only enlisted under an assumed name but often gave an incorrect place of birth. Such was the case of Frederick Holmsted, Company A, 7th Cavalry.
  • Frederik Holmsted Mortensen was born on 9 December 1849 in the small village of Vallund, Olgod parish, Ribe county, Denmark.  His parents were Morten Andersen, a farmer, and Maren Esnesdatter, who were also born Olgod parish. Vallun is situated in the western part of the mainland of Jutland, some 100 kilometres north of the German border. Frederik was baptised in the parish church on 27 January 1850.
  • In April 1859 Morten and Karen took their fast growing family to nearby parish of Nørre Nebel. Their two eldest children, Kirsten and Kirsten Marie, had already left home to find work on nearby farms but Eskild Christian 14; Anders 12; Frederik Holmsted 10; Marie 7; Leopold 4 and Kjeld Vilhelm Sophus 2 were still at home.
  • On 3 April 1864 Frederik Holmsted Mortensen was confirmed, in the church at Nørre Nebel, when the priest gave him the top marks for his Christian knowledge and excellent manners. He was then fourteen years of age and, as was the custom at that time, ready to leave home to learn a trade and earn his own income. It was only three days after his confirmation that he went to work in the town of Henne and resided there for about a twelve months before moving on to the country town of Varde.
  • Frederik Mortensen goes to America
  • At some unknown date Frederick Mortensen came to Copenhagen where he was employed as a clerk. Evidently he decided that there were better prospects to be found in America for on 9 February 1872 the following details were recorded in the Copenhagen Police Register of Emigrations: Frederik Holmsted Mortensen. Birthplace and last residence: Copenhagen. Occupation: Clerk. Age: 22 years. Bound for New York City.  As his name appears in the “Indirect” Register, it is most likely that he sailed for the United States from either an English or German port.
  • Mortensen found his way to Williamstown, Massachusetts from where he wrote a letter to the Danish Consul General Christian T. Christensen in New York City, asking him to check into some financial matters concerning money he was going to receive from Portland, Oregon. The money was to be sent to his address in Williamstown.
  • The general was known to be a very decent man, who did what he could to help his fellow countrymen.
  • Private Frederick Holmsted
  • In common with many other immigrants Frederik Mortensen was unable to find a job and was forced to return to New York City. On 6 November 1872 he enlisted in the U.S. Army under the name Frederick Holmsted, and stated that he was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, age 23 years, a clerk by trade. He was described as having brown eyes, blond hair, and being 5′ 8 ¼” tall. Captain Edwin Summers 1st Cavalry signed his enlistment papers and he was duly assigned to serve in Company A, 7th Cavalry, then under command of Captain Myles Moylan and First Lieutenant Charles C. De Rudio.
  • During Yellowstone Expedition (1873) Company A were in action at the Tongue River, Montana on 4 August, and near the Yellowstone River on 11th. Eight months later Company A again saw action, this time near Fort Abraham Lincoln on 23 April 1874. On 2 July that year his company joined nine  other companies of the Seventh Cavalry on the Black Hills Expedition, which left at Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory on a 880-odd mile march. In letters sent to his family in Denmark, Holmsted refers to Custer speaking highly of him in his reports to the Government (or Congress) in Washington, D.C.
  • Battle of the Little Big Horn
  • The details of the Battle of the Little Big Horn are far too well known to be repeated here other than to say that Company A formed part of Reno’s three-company battalion that attacked the Indian Village. In the flight that followed, after Major Reno had lost “his head” and retreated to the hills, Frederick Holmsted numbered among those left behind in the timber.  According to Dr. Henry Porter, Holmsted “came out afterwards, probably with Scout George Herendeen, and joined his company at the hilltop fight where he received a minor wound to his left wrist.”
  • Three days after the fight was over, along with about 50 other wounded men, he was taken on board the steamer Far West en route to Fort Abraham Lincoln, a journey that…..
  • A little over three months after the Little Big Horn fight Frederick Holmsted again saw action, this time at Snake (Eagle) Creek, near Bear Paw Mountains, Montana on 30 September 1877. The enemy this time was Chief Joseph and his band of Nez Perce Indians.
  • On 6 November 1877 he was discharged at Fort Abraham Lincoln; still a private, but with an “Excellent Character.”
  • Returns to Civilian Life
  • After his military service Holmsted worked for a time as an interpreter at Fort Abraham Lincoln. Later he came to work as a Quartermaster clerk in Forage business in Bismarck at $75 a month. On 2 April 1878 he became a member of Odd Fellow Lodge in the same city
  • During the winter of 1879 the house in which he was living caught fire the middle of the night during a spell of severely cold weather and he escaped with nothing more than the night clothes he was wearing.
  • It is hardly surprising that he was in a very bad shape after this. Friends who knew him well later told that he was always cautious when it came to revealing anything concerning matters of business. But on one thing they all agreed upon, he lost a great deal of valuable property securities and money had gone up in smoke. He was known to an honorable and trustworthy person well liked by all who came in contact with him. His health continued to deteriorate and developed consumption, which finally cost him his life.
  • Frederick Holmsted died at Fort Abraham Lincoln on 27 March 1880, he was 30 years of age. His death was reported in the Bismarck Tribune, 2 April 1880.
  • DEATHS
  • HOLMSTEAD. – At Fort Lincoln, D.T., at 4:40 p.m., March 27, 1880, after a protracted illness, Mr. Fred Holmstead of this city, aged 29 years (sic).
  • Mr. Holmstead was buried at Fort A. Lincoln on Sunday, John G. Tritton conducting the usual ceremonies on behalf of the Odd Fellows order of which Mr. Holmstead was a worthy member. Chaplain J.W. Jackson preached the funeral sermon, Maj. John Carland aiding as chaplain for the lodge.
  • The Bismarck Odd Fellows Lodge passed the following resolution at its meeting Tuesday evening:
  • Resolved, – That the thanks of this lodge be tendered to Col. Tilford, commandant at Ft. A. Lincoln; Dr. Wolverton, surgeon in charge of post hospital; Capt. Beach, Chaplain Walker, Adjutant Varnum, Hospital Steward Smith, Maj. John Carland and nurse Mount for their kind and unremitting attention to Bro. Fred Holmstead of this lodge during his last illness.
  • Resolved, – That a copy of this resolution, under the seal of the lodge, be forwarded to each of the persons named above and that a copy be furnished the Bismarck Tribune for publication.
  • It was William von Kuster, the secretary of Odd Fellow Lodge, who in a letter informed Holmsted’s parents in Denmark of their son death’s. With the help from a member of the Hall of Mandan Lodge No. 12. S.O.O.F. in Bismarck, the letter was translated into Danish by S.T. Simonsen.
  • Did Holmsted die a wealthy Man?
  • Frederik Holmsted knew he was dying, and asked William von Kuster to send to his father, Morten Andersen, in Denmark, a notebook and a gold ring after he was death. This Kuster duly did; he also sent $21 in money from the deceased estate. Morten Andersen did not believe that the paltry sum of $21 was all there was left of the property left by his son. In letters sent from Fort Abraham Lincoln, dated 16 March 1877 and 22 July 1878, Frederik Holmsted had been written about buying 160 acres of land some 150 miles east of the Fort, near the Red River, which he estimated to be worth around £2,000.
  • In another letter, dated 2 December 1878, Sturgis City, Black Hills, Dakota Territory, Holmsted wrote about his savings of $400, which he had deposited in a bank in St. Paul, Minnesota. Unfortunately, this bank went broke and he was only able to retrieve a small amount of his money.  In a letter, dated 1891, his brother, Leopold Mortensen enquired if he was eligible for a pension from the United States Army but this was denied as only parents of a deceased soldier could receive a pension, and since Holmsted was nor in the Army at the time of his death this was …Morten Andersen asked the Foreign Affairs Secretary in Denmark to help him in the matter, without success. The Royal Danish Vice-Consul for Dakota Territory, Henry Krogh, took over and did his best to solve the problem. He contacted several of Holmsted’s known acquaintances but they were unable could do little to help him with information on Holmsted’s …. The Vice-Consulate then wrote to the Registrar of Deeds in Cass, Richland, Traill and Grand Forks Counties (North Dakota). But none either gave any result – nothing could be found. Letters to the Sheriff of Lawrence County were never answered. It was difficult for the Danish consul to get any result or much help.
  • The Odd Fellow Lodge, where Holmsted had been a member, either could not or would not help. As he described in a letter to the Royal Danish Consul in Chicago, Emil Dreier: Since I am not a member of the lodge I hardly can’t get any information from them concerning Mr. Holmsted…He finely had to give up.
  • Where is Holmsted buried?
  • When Fort Abraham Lincoln was abandoned in 1891, the remains of 160 men buried at the post cemetery were removed and re-interred at Custer Battlefield National Cemetery (Custer National Cemetery). For some unknown reason, Holmsted’s mortal remains were not among them.  At the time of his death, he was not in the Army so his burial was almost certainly treated as a civilian affair. Strangely, his name cannot be found in the record of burials in the Morton County Cemetery.
  • An enquiry made to the Custer National Cemetery on July 1999 was never answered.
  • Postscript
  • Eight years after Frederik Holmsted’s death he was to be remembered in a very special way. His younger brother, Leopold and wife, Hansine Kirstine Thomsen were blessed with the birth of a son who was christened Frederik Holmsted Mortensen on 30 April 1888 year in honour of his uncle who fought so bravely and survived the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
  • Note: Other troopers from Denmark
  • Killed in the battle with Custer’s column: Private Christian Madsen, Company F; Blacksmith Charles Siemon, Company L; Corporal William Teeman, Company F.
  • Not in the Battle: Henry Nicholaus Peter Witt – at the Powder River Depot
  • Also: Trumpeter Henry Dose, Company G – killed in the battle with Custer’s column; Private George Gustave Lorentz, Company M – killed in the valley fight. Both gave Holstein, Germany, as their place of birth though they may have originally been Danish nationals as Schleswig-Holstein was not annexed to Prussia until 1866.

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