Burke, Edmund H.

Place of Birth: Manchester

Date of enlistment: 14 December 1871

Age given at enlistment: 30

Rank: Blacksmith

Company: K

Location on 25 June 1876: In hilltop fight



Name, date and place of birth have not yet been verified.

A Manchester-born Irishman

First enlistment - 11th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. (Courtesy of Margie Smith, Texas, a great-granddaughter of Edmund Burke).

  • Edmund Henry Burke was most likely born in Manchester, then in the county of Lancashire,  although a record of his birth (claimed to be 10 August 1843) has not been found. Both parents were Catholics from the Emerald Isle and he would almost certainly have considered himself to be Irish.
  • Records are somewhat unclear though it seems that the family arrived in the United States ca. 1850 and settled in either Illinois or Iowa. During the Civil War he served in the 11th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Company C, from 30 April to 30 July 1861. He joined the 21st Iowa Infantry on 16 August 1862 and took part in the battles of Hartville, Port Gibson, Champion’s Hill, Black River Bridge, and the siege of Vicksburg, promoted to sergeant.
  • Burke was wounded 22 May 1863 at Vicksburg.  Musket ball front of head about at junction of frontal parietal and temporal bones, crushing skull and depressing the bone at that point; some portions of bone lost; the wound healed, leaving a very apparent depression.  He was transferred to the Invalid Corps 29 Feb 1864 from whence he was discharged a 1st Sgt 17 July 1865 at Baton Rouge, La., per GO 116 AGO.  (Prior service Co. C 11th Illinois Vols., 19 Apr to 30 July 1861 [3 month org’n]).  Especially noteworthy is the fact he made no mention of his post war service in his application for an army pension.

United States Invalid Pension Application dated 29 September 1865 (abandoned). Note: It shows 27 (not 21) Iowa Infantry.

  • After three years as a civilian, Burke enlisted in the regular army for a three-year engagement, on 11 December 1868, at Omaha Barracks, Nebraska, giving his age as 24 years and “Butcher” as his civilian occupation. He spent this first period as a regular with the 3rd Artillery, Battery C,  and was discharged on 11 December 1871 at Columbia, South Carolina.
  • His age is shown as 30 when he rejoined the Army  on 14 December 1871 which is at odds with the date of birth, i.e. 10 August 1843, that is inscribed on his headstone. He was enlisted in the 7th Cavalry at Yorkville, South Carolina, by Lt. Henry J. Nowlan, and described as having dark eyes, black hair, a ruddy complexion, 5′ 8″ tall, previous occupation, a ‘Horse Shoer.’ Burke joined Company L, 7th Cavalry, at Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on 11 February 1872.  
  • In August that year he was court martialled for the offence of sleeping on stable guard duty, for which he was sentenced to six months confinement, and to the forfeiture of $10 per month pay for the same period. After this brush with authority he was, on the inauspicious date of 1 April 1873, appointed Company blacksmith, in which capacity he did extra duty with the Quartermaster Department in July and August of that year. Burke broke his left leg during the Black Hills Expedition in 1874 and was briefly hospitalised at Fort Rice, before returning to duty with the QMD when fit enough to do so. [Information from Geoff Topliss]
  • As a member of Company K (having been transferred from Company L on 15 August 1872) he took part in the Black Hills Expedition (1874) and the Sioux Campaign (1876). With Benteen’s battalion on 25 June 1876 and took part in the hilltop fight. Following promotion to corporal 1 August 1876,  he was on special duty with Lt. Luther Hare’s section of Parrott Guns from 8 October to 12 November, and discharged 14 December 1876 at Fort Abraham Lincoln, a “Corporal of Good Character.”
  • In April 1877 Burke pursued his claim for an invalidity pension for the effects of his Civil War wound. He had made a first attempt at this in 1865, but had abandoned the claim (see above). His 1877 application was successful: it should be noted that on this occasion he expressly stated that he had no military service since July 1865, which was patently untrue.  It was not only a successful claim but a profitable one because he was awarded $4 a month, back-dated to July 1865, and $18 per month from May 1877.  If we assume eleven years and nine months as the period of his back-dated pension then he received the sum of $564, which compared very favourably with the pay of a U.S. Army sergeant, who at the time received $17 per month. [Information from Geoff Topliss]
  • Burke invested his money wisely and by 1880 had set himself up as a farmer in Frederika Township, Bremer County, Iowa.  He had married 25 year-old Mary Ann Collins, from Ohio, daughter of Irish Catholic immigrants, Peter Collins and Mary Welsh Collins, in St. Paul, Minnesota on 20 June 1878 and soon after moved to Frederika  where, other than the first, 10 of their children were born.
  • Iowa State Census, Frederika Township, Bremer County, 1895 – Bremer County
  • Edmond Burk (Edmund Henry Burke), 57, born England.
  • Mary, wife. 55, born Ohio.
  • Children: All born Iowa except Mary, born Minnesota.
  • Mary, 16,
  • Edmond (Edmund H.), 15, married Nellie O’Neill, Swaledale, Cerro Gordo County, 27 June 1906. Lived at Fancher Township, Ramsey County, North Dakota, 1940, died pre-1965 (grandfather of Margie Smith, Texas).
  • Katie (Katherine), 14, married a Barker.
  • Peter, 13, died 1965, buried Mount Calvary Cemetery, Sumner, Bremer County.
  • Anna, 12, married James C. McMenimen, Waterloo. Black Hawk County, 30 August 1911.
  • Mickle (Thomas M.), 11, married Mary I. Barker, Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, 1 December 1906, died pre-1965.
  • Celia, 9, married an Ellison.
  • Patrick (Clarence), 7, married Maggie Eugena Patvein, New Hampton, Chickaswa County, 12 December 1910, died pre-1965.
  • Nora (Lanora, or Lenore, Evelyn), 6, born 10 May 1888, married William Hugh Mooney, Sumner, Bremer County, 10 September 1913, died 21 March 1965, buried St Mary’s Cemetery, Waverly, Bremer County.
  • James (Ethelbert), 5, born 4 December 1890, died 26 August 1957, buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Sumner, Bremer County.
  • Sarah, 1, married a Sullivan.
  • The Federal Census taken in 1910 describes him as a retired farmer, and his sons were working his farm. About a year before his wife’s death he bought a house in Sumner, also in Bremer County.
  • Mary Burke, born 31 March 1853,  died 21 March 1912, and was buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Sumner.
  • The Sumner Gazette, Sumner, Bremer County, Iowa, Thursday, 13 January 1921
  • Col. E. H. Burke went to Waverly (Bremer County) Saturday to spend a few days with his daughter Mrs W. H. Mooney.
  • The Sumner Gazette, Sumner, Bremer County, Iowa, Thursday, 1 June 1922
  • On Monday afternoon Colonel E. H. Burke of the Civil War Veterans and Adjutant Rundle of the American Legion, drove to Pin hook (sic) Cemetery [Frederika], and decorated the graves of the following Civil War Veterans: Patrick “Phil” Burke, Tom Callahan, Philip Callahan, Michael O’Connell and Patrick O’Connell, five of the oldest soldiers in Bremer County. Philip [Patrick] Burke is the father of Colonel Burke.
  • The Fredericksburg News, Chickasaw County, Iowa, 22 January 1925
  • Mr and Mrs James McMenemen, of Waterloo (Black Hawk County), Iowa were visitors during the past month in Sumner at the H. A. Barker home to see their father, Col. E. H. Burke, who is in very poor health.


  • Edmund Burke died at his home in Sumner on 21 April 1925, at a given age of 81, and was buried Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Sumner, Bremer County. His headstone gives detail his Civil War service as a sergeant with the 21st Iowa Infantry, but makes no mention of his later time with the 3rd Artillery or the celebrated 7th Cavalry.
  • The Sumner Gazette, Sumner, Bremer County, Iowa, Thursday, 23 April 1925
  •  Colonel E. H. Burke passed away at his home in Sumner on Tuesday night after an illness of several months during most of which time he was confined to his home.
  • The Sumner Gazette, Sumner, Bremer County, Iowa, Thursday, 28 March 1912
  • The people of Sumner were much grieved when they heard the news that Mrs. E. H. Burke had passed away Thursday evening, March 21. The family lived on a farm until about one year ago when they came t0 Sumner where they purchased a home. She leaves a husband and 11 children to mourn her death, namely, Mrs. Mae Squires of Greene, Edmund H. Burke of Swaledale, Mrs. Katie Barker, Thomas Burke and Mrs. Ceila Ellison of Fredericksburg, Clarence Burke of Dubuque, Mrs. McMenimen of Waterloo, Nora, Sarah, Ethelbert, and Peter Burke of Sumner.

Edmund H. Burke's children: (Left to right) Katherine (Katie), Anna, Cecelia (Celia), Etelbert (Albert), Sarah, Thomas (Michael), Mary, Nora and Peter - missing from are Edmund and Patrick(Clarence). Photograph taken at Waverly, Iowa, 1935. Courtesy of Kenneth Collins, Canada, grandson of Peter Burke (aka Collins).

  • A short obituary, entitled  ‘A SURVIVOR OF CUSTER’S FIGHT’ was published in the Davenport Democrat and Leader, 24 April 1925 (see right).  Rather surprisingly the obituary itself calls the ‘survivor’ claim into question.  It reads: “Burke evidently could not have been a member of the loyal band of 200 soldiers who were immediately under General Custer’s command in the Battle of the Big Horn (sic), for they were killed to a man. He probably was in Major Reno’s detachment, or that of Captain Benteen,* which Custer had sent out to the right and left to reach the rear of the Indians, while he himself charged their center.” It goes on to say: “The slain had been left where they fell, reports being that all the bodies were horribly multilated except Custer’s, for whom the Indians showed the respect due the leader of an heroic charge.

Edmund and Mary Collins Burke's headstone, Mount Calvary Cemetery, Sumner, Bremer County, Iowa. A Louis Schwartz photograph.

(Left) Edmund H. Burke with U.S, flag in later life. Courtesy of Kenneth Collins, great-grandson. (Above) Peter Francis Burke (aka Collins). Courtesy of Kenneth Collins, grandson.

  • Both Burke  and his wife are buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Sumner, Bremer County, where a fine pink granite joint tombstone marks the spot. The legend to Edmund includes the words “Sergt. Co. C. 21st Ia. Vol. Inf.’ but no mention is made of his service with Battery C, 3rd Artillery or as a blacksmith with Company K, 7th Cavalry.
  • Note: (*) Company K was indeed in Benteen’s three-company Battalion and took part in the hilltop fight where five enlisted men were killed and three wounded. Although Burke survived the Battle of the Little Big Horn unscathed, he had received a gun shot wound to the head during the Civil War for which his pension application was approved in April 1877, back-dated to 18 July 1865 (see above).

St Mary Catholic Church, Waverly, Bremer County, Iowa.

Obituary of Lenore "Nora" Burke Mooney who died in Waverly, Bremer County, Iowa on 21 March 1965.

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