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Non-UK Members of U.S. Cavalry

  • 1.    First Sergeant Joseph McCurry, Company H
  • 2.   Private Edward Diamond, Company H
  • 3.   First Lieutenant Donald McIntosh, Company G
  • 4.   Private Garrett H. Van Allen (real name Gerrit Houghtaling Niver), Company C
  • 5.   Private James Thomas (real name Thomas James Stowers), Company B
  • 6.   Private Ernest Wasmus, Company K 
  • 7.   Corporal Daniel Nealon, Company H
  • 8.   Wagoner Albert Whytefield (real name Albert Schenke), Company K
  • 9.    Sergeant John Vickory (real name John H. Groesbeck), Company F
  • 10. Henry T. McBratney – A Citizen Packer with General Alfred Terry’s Dakota Column
  • 11. Death at Fort Assinniboine – Sergeant Peter Gannon, (formerly) Company B, 7th Cavalry
  • 12. Private Gabriel Gussbacher (real name Guessbacher), Company I

1. First Sergeant Joseph McCurry, Company H

A late 1800s lithograph of a baseball game.

  • Theodore Ewert, Company H, 7th U.S. Cavalry, confided to his diary1 that “McCurry delivers a swift and correct ball, generally to suit the batter, is a sure base runner, briskly if it pays, earns his runs, and is a gentlemanly player withal….He is undoubtedly the stay and prop of the club, and is also the best player.”
  • Joseph McCurry, son of Irish immigrants, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, mostly likely in 1853, not three years earlier as virtually every biographer has led us to believe.
  • He was enlisted into the U.S. Army by Captain Samuel Whitside on 22 January 1872 in Philadelphia, at a stated age of 21, and described as having brown eyes, dark hair, a ruddy complexion, standing 5’ 7” tall, previously employed as a coach maker. From Philadelphia McCurry was sent to the St Louis Depot, Missouri where, on 2 February 1872, he was transferred via the General Mounted Recruiting Service to the 7th Cavalry and assigned to Captain Frederick W. Benteen’s Company H, which he joined in Nashville, Tennessee, ten days later.  He was promoted to corporal on 20 August the same year.
  • On 1 March 1873, while still stationed in Nashville on Reconstruction duty, Company H decided to organize a club with the view of having games, sports, and exercises to be known as the “Benteen base ball and gymnasium club.” Joseph McCurry was elected as treasurer. It is interesting to note that leadership, military and sporting, among the enlisted men of Company H rested in the hands of McCurry – team captain, club treasurer, star pitcher, leading actor of the Fort Rice Minstrels theatrical group, which also performed at Fort Lincoln and Bismarck, and last, but no means least, its future senior NCO. He participated in the Yellowstone Expedition campaign against the Sioux later that year.
  • Joseph McCurry was appointed sergeant on 1 July 1874 and served with his company in the famous Black Hills Expedition.
  • In addition to its athletic program, the troopers of Company H also organized a glee club. According to the Ewart diary, one of their performances in the Black Hills for Samuel June Barrows, correspondent for the New York Tribune, was rewarded with two bottles of whiskey. They also sang several times in Yankton during the spring of 1875.
  • Yankton Daily Press and Dakotaian, 25 May 1875.
  • “We were favored last evening with a delightful serenade from a glee club organised by members of Co. H, 7th cavalry. It was a most agreeable interruption to our nightly labor and we thank the singers for thus kindly remembering us. If Yanktonians want to enjoy some of the best vocal music extant we recommend them to make friends with the Co. H boys. The following gentlemen comprise the membership of the glee club: 1st Sergeant — Theodore Covers; Sergeants — P. H. Rooney, Joseph McCurry; Farrier — John. M. Marshall,2 Privates – Alonzo Plumb,3 Charles W. Lange, Alexander Bishop, Charles Bishop.  It is hoped that we may have them here on a concerting visit soon. If they remain at Randall they will endeavor to favor Yankton with a couple of entertainments.”
  • Yankton Daily Press and Dakotaian, June 14, 1875
  • “The McDougall4 Base Ball Club played the Randalls [Benteen Base Ball Club] a close contested game on the 8th inst. The score stood, Randalls 32, McDougalls 19. The Randalls improved on McCurry’s swift pitching, while the fielding of the McDougall nine was miserably poor.”
  • Bismarck Weekly Tribune, 27 November 1875
  • Fort Rice Ministrels – The Fort Rice boys have organized a minstrel troupe consisting of the following persons, some of whom are known to our people as artists of unusual merit: — Joseph McCarthy [McCurry], right end; Alonzo Plumb, left end; James Tanner,5 interlocuter; William F. Davis; S. G. Mawson; Thomas G. Meader6; A. B. Bishop; John M. Marshall;  J. M. Walsh and James Stringer. They expect to give their first entertainment about Dec. 10th, and hope to visit Bismarck during the winter.”
  • On 1 October 1875. Joseph McCurry was promoted to 1st Sergeant of Company H.
  • Bismarck Weekly Tribune, 15 December 1875
  • “The Fort Rice Minstrels will give their first entertainment on or about Dec. 18th, at the Opera House, Fort Rice. Judging from their programme, a rich treat is promised. They may be expected at Bismarck at an early day.”
  • Bismarck Weekly Tribune, 12 January 1876
  • “Sergt. McLaughlin was in the city from Fort Rice Saturday. He says the Minstrels took in $150 at their last entertainment. The programme was acted to perfection. Lowenstein’s Garden, by McCurry and Plumb could not have been excelled in any country. They will appear at Bismarck in a few days.”
  • Bismarck Weekly Tribune, 26 January 1876
  • “The Fort Rice Minstrels did themselves credit in their performance last night. McCurry, Plumb and Bishop were encored again and again. The house was full, – packed and jammed to such an extent that, other ventilation being defective, several panes of window were broken. When the boys come again they are certain to secure a full house.”
  • Bismarck Weekly Tribune, 16 February 1876
  • “Sergt. McCurry and Plumb, of Fort Rice Minstrel fame, are in town, making preliminary preparations for an entertainment next Monday or Wednesday night. They will perform at Rice tomorrow night.”

Captain Frederick W. (1834-1898), Commanding a battalion (Companies D, H and K) at the battle.

Sergeant Major William H. Sharrow (Courtesy of Tim Bumb).

  • McCurry participated in the hilltop fight at the Little Bighorn where he received a gunshot wound in his left shoulder on the second day of the battle but remained in the field.  On 1 August 1876 he was transferred the Non-commissioned Staff appointed sergeant major to replace British-born William H. Sharrow7 who had been killed with Custer.
  • Due to one member of the team being killed6 and four wounded, including McCurry,7 the Benteen Base Ball Club never played another game after the Little Bighorn.
  • McCurry has been suspected as the author of the notorious Reno petition, because of a perceived similarity of his handwriting with that of several of the alleged signatures, although the evidence is far from conclusive.
  • On 2 October 1876, for his own reasons, McCurry reverted to 1st sergeant from sergeant major. He was discharged by expiration of service on 22 January 1877, at Fort Rice, as a 1st sergeant of excellent character.
  • Contrary to what was originally published by Kenneth Hammer, and perpetuated by subsequent generations of authors, McCurry did NOT live at 4820 Oliver Street, Philadelphia, but [according to the United States Census, 1880] he WAS a boarder in the house of Harry Stafford, 1946 North 10th Street, Philadelphia, working in a carriage factory. He died, unmarried, of phthisis pulmonalis (TB) on 20 August 1883 in Philadelphia – address given as 1946 North 10th Street – and buried three days later in the city’s Cathedral Cemetery.9 The plot number is not known.
  • Joseph McCurry’s age is shown as 27 in the 1880 census and 30 in the Philadelphia death records, which makes it seem very probable that he did, indeed, increase his age by two, or possibly three, years at enlistment to meet the minimum age requirement, i.e., 21.  Writing in early 1876, Theodore Ewert gives McCurry’s age as 23, which supports the hypothesis that he was born in 1853, NOT 1850, as is published in two of the four books featured above.
  • Notes and Sources
    1. 1. Theodore Ewert, originally from Prussia, author of Private Theodore Ewert’s diary of the Black Hills expedition of 1874, was discharged at Fort Rice with the rank of sergeant on 10 February 1876. He enlisted in the 5th Infantry on 15 February 1878 and discharged five years later at Fort Keogh, Montana Territory, a sergeant major of excellent character. He died 27 November 1906 at Quincy, Illinois.    
    2. 2. Farrier John M. Marshall, Company H, who claimed to have been born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, though his true identity has not been verified, was absent sick in the post hospital, Fort Rice, on 5 May 1876 and he did not participate in the Little Bighorn campaign.
    3. 3. Private Alonzo Plumb was described by Ewert – ‘as “right field, the funnyman,” don’t profess to play base ball, but thinks he can keep the “nine” in a good humorous vein, thus in good working condition. He is from Ohio, catches pretty fair, is ambitious, but says himself that baseball is not “his forte,” but is on hand when “the laugh comes ”’  He was discharged April 3, 1876, at Fort Rice. He later served in the 1st and 10th U.S. Infantry, and discharged on disability in Washington, D.C. on 13 February 1891.  Sadly, Plumb died, age 43, in an asylum for the insane on March 1, 1893 and buried in Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Cemetery, Washington, D.C., where a small military-style headstone marks the spot.
    4. 4. Lieutenant Thomas Mower McDougall, born Fort Crawford, WI, Company E, 7th Cavalry. He was appointed captain on 18 February 1876 and assumed command of Company B, which provided the pack train escort at Little Bighorn.
    5. 5. Real name Jacob Henry Gebhart, a private, Company M, from Altoona, Pennsylvania, killed in the hilltop fight at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, 26 June 1876.
    6. 6. Private Thomas E. Meador (correct spelling), Company H, from Bedford County, Virginia, also killed in hilltop fight, 26 June 1876.
    7. 7. Sergeant Major William Hunter Sharrow, born 2 March 1845, Sheriff Hutton, Yorkshire, England.
    8. 8. Private William Davis, from Vandalia, Illinois, Company E, killed with Custer’s column.
    9. 9. All Company H, 7th (i) 1st Sergeant Joseph McCurry, see above; (ii) Corporal Alexander B. Bishop, from Brooklyn, New York, wounded in right arm in the hilltop fight, and taken on the steamer Far West to Fort Lincoln; (iii) Private Charles H. Bishop, from Washington, D.C., wounded in the right shoulder but remained in the field; (iv) Private William C. “Fatty” Williams, born Wheeling, Virginia, wounded in the left leg, also remained in the field.
    10. 10. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915.
  • Obituary – Theodore Ewert – 27 November 1906 (11 March 1847-27 November 1906)
  • Colonel Theodore Ewert, who served in the civil war and later in the regular army, and who was for twenty years connected with the Illinois National guard, died Wednesday morning at the Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home at Quincy, of which he had been an inmate since last spring. The funeral will take place at the cemetery of the home this afternoon, and the interment will be at the cemetery of the home. The services will be under the auspices of the Grand Army of the Republic. Colonel Ewert died as the result of a general breaking down of his mental faculties and the system in general. He was 64 years old.Colonel Ewert was a native of Prussia, but came to this country when a youth. On Aug. 9, 1861, he enlisted in Thielman’s cavalry, and re-enlisted Feb. 14, 1864. He was commissioned second lieutenant of the Twelfth United States colored heavy artillery on July 9, 1864, and was mustered out April 11, 1865, at the end of the war. Jan. 24, 1867, he enlisted in company H of the Thirty-sixth United States infantry and was discharged as corporal Jan. 24, 1869. He again enlisted, this time in the seventh United States cavalry, April 1, 1871, and was discharged as sergeant April 10, 1876. April 15, 1878, he enlisted in the Fifth United States artillery, and was discharged as sergeant major April 14, 1883.
  • Colonel Ewert on his discharge from the army in 1883, came to Springfield and was appointed a clerk in the office of the adjutant general. Aug. 30, 1883, he was commissioned captain of Troop C, First cavalry, Illinois National Guard. He resigned Oct. 10, 1884, to accept the position of captain and adjutant of the Eighth Infantry, I. N. G., being commissioned as such Oct. 18, 1883, to rank from April 30, 1883.
  • March 15, 1885, he was commissioned as acting assistant adjutant general and on July 1, 1885, as assistant adjutant general with rank of colonel, serving until his successor was appointed in June, 1889. Dec. 30, 1889, he was commissioned as captain of Company C, Fifth Infantry, resigning May 16, 1890. May 4, 1891, he was appointed assistant adjutant general of the Second brigade, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He resigned this position Oct. 4, 1892. All this time he was connected with the adjutant general’s office, remaining there until the accession of General Alfred Orendorff as adjutant general in the spring of 1893. He was commissioned Captain and adjutant of the Fifth Infantry, July 14, 1896, holding the position until April 19, 1902, when he was appointed assistant adjutant general, holding that position until General Scott was appointed adjutant general in 1905, when he became custodian of the state arsenal. When his health failed last spring, he was sent to the Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home at Quincy.
  • Colonel Ewert was twice married. His first wife died several years ago, and he married Miss Nellie Bell, daughter of Colonel John C. Bell of this city, who survives him, together with one son, Frederick Ewert, now residing in Chicago and one daughter, Miss Etelka Ewert, both children by his first wife. Colonel Ewert was a member of the G. A. R. and of the Modern Woodmen of America. Pub. in the Illinois State Register, Springfield, IL 12-4-1906

(Above)Headstone of Private Alonzo Plumb. (Left) Headstone of Sgt Maj. Theodore Ewert.

2. Private Edward Diamond, Company H

The Town of Stoughton, Massachusetts, sign.

The Depot, Stoughton, Massachusetts (1888).

  • As far as this writer is aware only one member of the 7th U.S. Cavalry had the distinction of their birthday falling on the first day of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.1  I refer to Private Edward Diamond, Company H, from the Town of Stoughton, Norfolk County, Massachusetts.
  • However, while Men With Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry (1995), p. 90, Kenneth Hammer, gives Diamond’s date of birth as 25 June 1854, Military Register of Custer’s Last Command (2009), p. 109, Roger L. Williams, and Men With Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry (2010), p. 102, Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, each show 11 June 1853, and Participants in the Battle of the Little Big Horn (2016), p. 35, Frederic C. Wagner III, hedges its bets by quoting “both dates have been listed.”  All a little confusing.
  • Edward Diamond (aka Dimon, Dimond) was, indeed, born on 25 June 1854 in Stoughton,2 the sixth of seven children to Irish immigrants, Hugh Dimond,3 a boot maker, and Sarah McGuiness (aka Maginnis).  Sarah died of cancer on 11 September 1862 – she was only 47 years of age.4
  • A young Edward was still living in the family home in 1865 but nothing further is known of him until 18 September 1875 when he was enlisted in United States Army in Boston, Massachusetts, by Lt Henry Lawton and described as having grey eyes, dark brown hair, a ruddy complexion, 5′ 5 3/4″ tall, age 22 (actually 21), previous occupation, a crimper in a boot making company. On 13 October, along with several other new recruits, including Private Timothy Donnelly,5  he was sent to the St Louis Depot from where he was transferred from the General Mounted Recruiting Service and assigned to Company H, 7th Cavalry, eight days later. Company H, under the command of Captain Frederick W. Benteen, was stationed at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, and Diamond arrived at the post on 29 October.
  • From 15 March to 4 May 1876 Diamond was on detached duty as a labourer with the Quartermaster’s Dept until Companies H and M left Fort Rice for Fort Lincoln to join the rest of the regiment as part of Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry’s Dakota Column.  At the Battle of the Little Bighorn, he rode with his company in Benteen’s battalion and fought on Reno Hill.  Charles Windolph, the last survivor of men  in the 7th Cavalry who participated in the battle, said that on Reno Hill Company H was behind a horseshoe facing south and toward the river. This position was the most exposed to enemy fire and not surprisingly this company suffered by far the highest number of casualties.6  Diamond was fortunate to have survived unscathed and almost certainly numbered among the fourteen troopers from Company H left in the saddle, three of whom were wounded, in the first party to visit the Custer battlefield after the battle.7

Private Timothy Donnelly (1857-1876), Company F, 7th U.S. Cavalry, killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

(Captain Frederick W. Benteen (1834-1898), Company H, 7th U.S. Cavalry, as he would have looked at the time of the battle.

  • Edward Diamond found himself in confinement on 28 November 1876 and again on 28 December, when he was sentenced at a general court martial to forfeit $10 (out of $13) pay for three months (offence not known).  From May 1877 to January 1878, he was in confinement at Fort Lincoln awaiting trial (again offence not known) and consequently did not participate in the Battle of Canyon Creek, Montana Territory, against Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce Indians on 13 September 1877. He was at Fort Rice on 4 February 1879 and from April to August on detached duty as company cook. On 17 September 1880 he discharged at Fort Meade, Dakota Territory, a private of only a “fair character”.
  • Three months later, on 21 December 1880, Diamond enlisted in the Marine Corps, in Boston, and for the first two years served mainly at the Marine Barracks there and on the barrack ship USBS Wabash. He went absent for 44 hours on 15-16 July 1881, for which he was confined for 13 hours on the 17th. He was discharged on 28 December 1885 at Mare Island, California, upon expiry of service.
  • Perhaps dissatisfied with civilian life, on 5 October 1887 Diamond was enlisted in the United States Army in Boston by Captain William A. Miller, and assigned to Company F, 12th U.S. Infantry. His age given as ’34’, his place of birth as ‘East Stoughton’ and his occupation as ‘Mass[achusetts]’!  Perhaps he genuinely believed he was born in 1853. There is no record of him being incarcerated during this second stint in the army and he was discharged twenty-one months early on 4 January 1891 at Fort Lincoln, North Dakota, a private of “excellent character.”8
  • Men With Custer, p.103 (Nichols), speculates that “[Diamond] possibly worked as a stagecoach driver after discharge and was killed by Indians or outlaws.”  This writer considers that after thirteen years of military service he may well have grown tired of being in uniform and decided to go under an assumed as, at the relatively young age of thirty-six, he simply wanted to start a new life.  It is most unlikely that we shall ever know and his ultimate fate therefore must remain a mystery.

(Above) Colonel Guy V. Henry, 40th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. (Right) Headstone of Sergeant Hugh Dimond, Company F, 40th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, St Mary's Cemetery, Randolph, MA.

  • Notes & Sources:
    • 1. 25 June 1876, Montana Territory.
    • 2. Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915.
    • 3. Hugh Dimond (aka Dimon, Diamond) was born in Ballynahinch, Co. Down, present-day Northern Ireland, on 3 August 1822. On 22 June 1862, he enlisted in Company F, 40th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and was with his regiment at Cold Harbor, Virginia, on 1 June 1864 when Colonel Guy Vernor Henry’s bravery was awarded with a Medal of Honor. The citation reads: “Led the assaults of his brigade upon the enemy’s works, where he had two horses shot under him.” Henry is remembered for the part he played in the Battle of the Rosebud, Montana Territory, 17 June 1876 when he was shot in the face and badly wounded. Hugh Dimond was mustered out of the 40th Massachusetts on 30 June 1865, with the rank of sergeant. In late 1865 or early 1866 he married Mary Currivan, née Harney, who brought three children into the marriage. Mary was the widow of Private William Currivan, 56th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, killed in action in 1864. A daughter, Hannah, was born in Stoughton on 6 October 1866 and died in Randolph, Massachusetts, of ‘lung fever’ on 16 October 1868. Hugh Dimond died of sunstroke on 18 September 1881 in Randolph (Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915), and is buried in St Mary’s Cemetery, where a small, weathered military-style headstone marks the spot.
    • 4. Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915
    • 5. Private Timothy Donnelly, Company F, 7th Cavalry, born in Darlington, Co. Durham, also a son of Irish immigrants, was killed with Custer’s column on the first day of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  He had been enlisted by Lt Lawton at the same recruiting office in Boston three days after Diamond, and they travelled together to the St Louis Depot.
    • 6. One officer and 19 enlisted men (excluding the five companies in Custer’s column).
    • 7. Military Register, p 379.
    • 8. GO 80, HQ Army, AGO, 26 June 1890, in accord with Section 2 of the act of Congress approved on 16 June 1890, provided for furlough and discharge of certain soldiers, who on that date had served faithfully three years or less and on their own application received furlough not to exceed three months so dated to expire with discharge not later than the last day of third month following end of third year of enlistment, and not eligible to again enlist in the Army for one year from date of discharge (Military Register, p. 115).

3. First Lieutenant Donald McIntosh, Company G

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 264.

  • Date and place of birth: It is widely stated that Donald McIntosh was born 4 September 1838 at Jasper House, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Other references suggest it could have been at anytime from 1835 to 1840. In Lives Lived West of the Divide: A Biographical Dictionary of Fur Traders Working West of the Rockies, 1793-1858 (2013), Bruce McIntyre Watson says that Donald McIntosh was born in 1836, with a question mark! I think it is safe to say that he was NOT born in Montreal and possibly not even at Jasper’s House in present-day Alberta, but as no written record of his birth has been found the precise date and place must remain uncertain.
  • Heritage: Donald’s parents were John (not James) McIntosh and Charlotte Robertson (not Robinson).  He was almost certainly NOT “of the same Scotch family” as Sir James McIntosh,  In the HBC records John McIntosh is styled a ‘Clerk in charge’, not a ‘Factor’.
  • Church records:  ‘Catholic Church Records of the Pacific Northwest. Oregon City’ (1984) – baptisms on 18 Sept. 1842 of Donald, aged 6, and John, aged 3, sons of legitimate marriage of John McIntosh and Charlotte Robertson (godmother was Betsy McIntosh); ‘Vancouver’. Volumes I and II (1972) – baptisms on 13 June 1845 of Jacobus [James], legitimate son of Jean McIntosh and Charlotte Robertson, born Oct. 23, 1843.
  • The Catholic Church Records of St. James Church, Vancouver, now in Washington state – show that on 4 June 1848 Charlotte and three of her children, including Donald were confirmed.
  • Death of father: John McIntosh was shot dead by a “Sickanie Indian” at McLeod Lake, present-day British Columbia, on 8 July 1844 when Donald might  have been as young as four or as old as eight, but not fourteen!
  • Headstone: Donald McIntosh’s headstone in Arlington National Cemetery is inscribed ‘Aged 36’ (see below), not 37 as the 1838 year of birth would suggest, which only adds to muddy the water.

Looking towards the site of the second Jasper House across the Athabasca River.

  • Additional Notes:
  • John McIntosh (1803-1844)
  • 1836-1842 Clerk in charge Connolly’s Lake New Caledonia (now known as Bear Lake, British Columbia)
  • 1842-1844 Clerk in charge Babines New Caledonia
  • 1844 Clerk in charge McLeod Lake New Caledonia
  • 1844, 8 July “…shot Dead by a Sickanie Indian”
  • Fur Trade Family History: John McIntosh, HBC
  • According to his biography at HBCA, John McIntosh was born about 1803.
    His father, Donald McIntosh, worked for the North West Company, and at its amalgamation with the HBC in 1821, was made Chief Trader.
    Governor George Simpson did not have a good opinion of Chief Trader Donald McIntosh, considering him “qualified to cheat an Indian…. but perfectly Sober and honest.” (Source: HBCA bio sheet and Simpson’s ‘Character Book.’)
    John McIntosh’s mother was a Mohawk woman; no fur trader at that time had an English wife.
    John began his career as a clerk in 1821 at Fort William (Thunder Bay, Ont.), and was clerk-in-charge at various posts in the Lake Superior District and at Lac La Pluie (Rainy Lake) between 1827 and 1835.
    By the time McIntosh met Alexander Anderson at Jasper’s House in October 1835, he had a very good opinion of himself.
    He was a senior clerk, having clerked in the HBC for fourteen years; he was also the son of a Chief Trader.
    In 1835, John McIntosh was about thirty-two years old; Anderson was twenty-one.
    Certainly McIntosh considered himself must more important than any of the other men who worked the 1835 Leather party that Anderson commanded. Anderson’s party had reached Jasper’s House ten days before the Columbia express and the passengers for the Leather party reached the post.
  • Anderson picked up sixty packs of leather and five adult passengers, along with McIntosh’s wife and children.
    Eleven days later the party reached the banks of the Fraser River, but was already short of provisions.
    Winter came early with freezing temperatures, and Anderson’s canoes froze into the ice of the Fraser River near modern-day McBride, B.C.
    They were in serious straits, almost out of food and hundreds of miles from any New Caledonia post.
    Twenty-two people, including McIntosh’s three small children (Catherine, Mary (?) and Archie) walked through the snow toward the safety of Jasper’s House, on the east side of the Rocky Mountains.
    “After a few days our provisions were entirely exhausted,” Anderson wrote. “We expected ….to go to bed supperless, …..but no sooner had the illumination of our newly lit fire spread through the valley, when a neighing was heard, and a fine fat unbroken horse…galloped fearlessly into camp…”
    They slaughtered the horse and its meat fed them a few more days.
    From hand to mouth they at length reached Jasper’s House, two weeks after turning back.
    As there were no provisions to spare at Jasper’s, they continued their retreat to Edmonton House, at modern-day Edmonton, Alberta.
  • Anderson returned to New Caledonia by dog-sled, but McIntosh remained at Edmonton House. In the spring he was dispatched to hunt for meat with a few other men.
    They discovered a party of Assiniboine hunters prowling around their horses.
    The Assiniboines were noted horse thieves.
    The men captured eight Natives and brought them into their camp, where they held a mock court-martial and executed them on the spot.
    Anderson wrote that the news of this atrocity caused “a thrill of shame and indignation throughout the country.”
    When the incoming New Caledonia brigade carrying Betsy Birnie arrived at Fort Alexandria, the clerk noticed that “Mr. Anderson arrives he is cordially rec. by Mr. Ogden with the shake of the hands to both Mr. Ogden & myself but no shake of the Hands to Mr. John McIntosh who was standing by us.” (Fort Alexandria post Journals 1837-1839, B.5/a/4, fo. 5b, HBCA)
  • At that time McIntosh was in charge of the difficult Chilcotin post, but in later years he was at McLeod Lake post.
    In July 1844 he was “shot Dead by a Sickanie Indian” and his body disappeared beneath the waters of the lake.
    The HBC men suspected that his death was in retribution for his role in the murder of the party of Assiniboine men years earlier.
  • Perhaps the most interesting part of this story is what happened to one of his children.
    Some of the older boys joined the fur trade and worked at Fort Vancouver.
    But Donald returned to Montreal with his mother [Is this correct?], and later joined the U.S. Cavalry on frontier duty.
    In 1876 Donald McIntosh was part of the first assault when General Custer recklessly led the Seventh Cavalry into the Battle of Little Big Horn against Chief Sitting Bull and his thousands of native warriors.
    Lieutenant Donald McIntosh rode in the first charge, and went down when his horse was killed by an arrow in the head.
    He grabbed a stray cavalry horse but was wrestled from the saddle and clubbed to death.
    Fifteen Canadians were in Custer’s Army, but McIntosh was the first of the Canadian members to be killed.
    The source of this latter information is from an article in Beaver Magazine, Summer 1976, Custer and the Canadian Connections, by C. Frank Turner.

Fort Vancouver, 1850.

  • Additional Notes (Cont’d):
  • James Lowe’s journal entry for June 12, 1845, records the arrival of the interior brigade with the “family of the deceased Mr. McIntosh” who were “brought down to be left here.” Thereby hangs a tale. John McIntosh, a part-Indian clerk who was described as “boastful and tactless,” had long served in New Caledonia. On July 8, 1844, he was shot to death by a Sekanis Indian while tending his fish nets at McLeod’s Lake during a time of famine. His wife, Charlotte Robertson, made secure both the fort and the Company’s property, including the furs, before abandoning the place with her family and the only other male employee. The reason for her being taken to Fort Vancouver is not stated in records thus far examined, but evidently the Company felt an obligation to provide for her. Her children in June 1845 were: Catherine (Kitty), ca. 14 years; Archibald, age unknown; Donald, ca. 10 years; Elizabeth, age unknown; John, Jr., ca. 5 years; James aged 1 year, 7 months; and Julia, age unknown. In addition, there was Marie, ca. 2-1/2 years, the natural daughter of John McIntosh by Nancy, a woman of the Carrier tribe. Mrs. McIntosh was still at Fort Vancouver with several children in 1850. At that time she seems to have been living inside the fort, and perhaps had done so since 1845. At least two of the sons [Archibald and Donald) later entered the [HBC] Company’s service.
  • John F Noble (ca.1828- ?)
  • According to the Catholic church records, in early February of 1852 Catherine (Kitty) McIntosh gave birth to a daughter; on May 6 Julia Catherine Noble was baptized and Kitty McIntosh was buried. Her daughter followed her to the grave in August of 1852. (Warner and Munnick, Vancouver, H, passim.)  John Noble was a military commissary clerk at Columbia Barracks (Fort Vancouver) under Brevet Captain Ulysses S. Grant and later Captain Rufus Ingalls. Noble served in the First Oregon Cavalry during the Civil War. Archives West: John F. Noble papers, 1849-1950
  • John F. Noble was an Indian agent, stock rancher, and U.S. Army officer who lived in Oregon and Washington State. He came overland in 1849 from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as a civilian traveling with the U.S. Mounted Rifle Regiment. He was married to Catherine McIntosh at Fort Vancouver in 1851, and engaged in a stock raising enterprise near The Dalles, Oregon, with Louis Scholl.
  • 10 August 1857, Charlotte Robertson McIntosh (Donald’s mother) dies at Fort Vancouver.
  • For a resume of Donald McIntosh’s army career, see ‘Nichols’ above.

First Lieutenant Donald McIntosh. Inscription on the headstone of Donald McIntosh and his wife, Mary "Mollie" Garrett, in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 1, Grave 107D (right).

4. Private Garrett H. Van Allen (real name Gerrit Houghtaling Niver), Company C

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 400.

The Niver-Eddy mausoleum, Elmwood Cemetery, Bethlehem, New York. The mortal remains of Gerrit's parents, David M Niver and Phoebe C. Houghtaling Niver, are deposited here.

Elmwood Cemetery, Bethlehem, Albany County, New York. The inscription reads: GERRIT H. NIVER - Killed in the Custer massacre on the Little Big Horn Dakota June 25 1876 Aged 30 years 4 mo. 25 days.

  • Place & Date of Birth: Born 1 February 1846 (the indexes says 1843!), in Bethlehem, Albany County, New York and baptised Gerrit Houghtaling Niver on 1 May 1846 in the First Reformed Church, Bethlehem. Several censuses support 1846 as the year of his birth.
  • Heritage: Gerrit’s parents were David M. Niver (1819-1906), a farmer, and Phoebe C. Houghtaling Niver (1819-1903).  His mother was never was a “Van Allen”!
  • Enlistment: He was enlisted in the U.S. Army in New York City on 2 October 1873, by Lt. Edward Hunter, 12th Infantry, in the name of Garrett H. Van Allen, when he gave New Brunswick, New Jersey, as his place of birth. His occupation is given as ‘Farmer’, most likely simply meaning he only “worked on a farm.”  Interestingly, he is recorded as a “Clerk on Steam Boat,” in the Federal Census, 1870. No explanation has been found to why Gerrit Niver said his surname was ‘Van Allen’, which he ‘borrowed’ from his brother-in-law, Richard Van Allen, who had married his sister, Anna, in December 1869.
  • Army Records: Williams was incorrect to list him as Private Garrett H. Niver as no-one of that name ever enlisted in the U.S. Army, whereas others placed too much faith in Hammer’s erroneous assumption that ‘Niver’ was the surname of his mother’s second husband – the good lady only had one husband, David Niver, Gerrit’s father. They were married on 26 October 1843 at the First Reformed Church, Bethlehem.
  • Army Pension: His mother’s application for an army pension, dated 18 April 1892 (No. 548,585), was rejected on the grounds that her husband owned property which provided comfortable support and she was not dependent as contemplated by law.  See below.

5. Private James Thomas (real name Thomas James Stowers), Company B

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 392.

  • Place of Birth: Thomas James Stowers, who enlisted under the name of James Thomas, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, not ‘Bucks’ County, Pennsylvania, which most likely is a miss-reading of ‘Burk’ [Berks?] County, PA,  as appears in the U.S. Army, Registers of Enlistments.
  • Heritage: His parents, William Stowers, a nightwatchman/labourer, from Tennessee, and Emily Parrish from Virginia, were married in Sumner County, TN, on 31 January 1838. Thomas, their third child, had at least three brothers and two sisters. Emily Parrish Stowers died 11 July 1886.
  • Civil War Regiment: He was mustered into Company D, 199th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (not the 119th) on 3 September 1864 under his real name and mustered out on 28 June 1865.
  • Army Records: Only Nichols correctly shows him enlisting as Private James Thomas on 1 December 1874.
  • Death: Thomas Stowers died on 25 July 1933 in Baxter, Tennessee (Williams says it was the 26th – the date of his funeral) and buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery there. It is true that he did survive the Battle of Little Big Horn, being firstly with the pack train and later in the siege on Reno Hill, but was neither the sole nor the last survivor.

Headstone of Thomas James Stowers, Odd Fellows Cemetery, Baxter, Tennessee.

Thomas Stowers in later life. Photograph courtesy of the late Michael Nunnally.

6. Private Ernest Wasmus, Company K

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 414.

  • Jemima “Jennie” Beulah Cornell, the future Mrs Ernest Wasmus, was born in May 1854, in Ontario, Canada, daughter of David Cornell (Canada) and Margaret Jane Harvey Cornell (Ireland).
  • Federal Census 4 June 1880 – Port Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan
  • Mary Cornell, 46, Keeping House, with five boarders.
  • Children: Jemima, 26, School Teacher; Meta, 22, Dressmaker; Allen, 19. Machinist’s Apprentice; Maud, 13, and niece, Kate McGraw, Dressmaker – all born Ontario, Canada.
  • Marriage: Ernest Wasmus and Beulah Cornell, 13 November 1886 at St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota.
  • St. Paul Daily Globe, 14 November 1886
  • Mr. Ernest Wasmus, chief clerk of the adjutant general’s office at Fort Snelling, and Miss Cornell, were married Friday. An elegant silver tea service was presented to the happy couple by Mr. Wasmus’ brother clerks.
  • St. Paul Daily Globe, 12 April 1890
    Unaccountable Disappearance of  Ernest Wasmus of 299 Pleasant Avenue
    In a cosy little home at 299 Pleasant avenue, a young mother, tearful and tremulous, and a prattling babe, are awaiting the return of the husband and father, Ernest Wasmus, who has mysteriously disappeared. The mother, with intervals of tears, hopes he may yet return all right, and the child is scarce old enough to do aught than
    vaguely wonder why it does not daily receive the caresses of its father. Wasmus is chief clerk of the adjutant general’s office, at the war building. On the first day of the month he left his home as usual, and so far as can be ascertained, no one has since set eyes upon him. A Globe reporter called upon Maj. Barber, acting adjutant general, yesterday afternoon, but that official could give us insight into
    the cause of the disappearance. “Wasmus is a capable, efficient clerk,” he said, “and his place will be held open for him a reasonable time. I hope he may return and resume his duties as usual.” Last evening Mrs. Wasmus answered the ring of the Globe envoy at her front door. She was very much agitated and evidences the suffering she has undergone. Her knowledge includes nothing that would account for the absence of her husband, other than that he had complained of pains in his head, nervous headaches, and other evidences of mental trouble. It is possible, then, that in a temporary aberration of mind he wandered away and may return. Maj. Barber thought possibly a slight mental derangement was at the bottom of the case.*
    About this city it was learned that Wasmus had a few debts, most of them being of the nature of outstanding paper upon which he had secured indorsements (sic). Lieut. Budy, of the mounted patrol, had indorsed for him, and Lieut. Cole, of the subsistence department, had also accommodated him in the same way. The amounts in these cases were very small, and would not, of themselves, account for the flight of Wasmus. It is possible that there are other accounts of a larger sum, and that his indebtedness preyed upon the mind of the missing man, in connection
    with nervousness growing out of over work. But whatever may be the cause, his friends are a unit in expressing the hope that Wasmus may return at once.
    Ernest Wasmus was a sergeant of K troop, Seventh cavalry, until 1883. In that year he came to St. Paul to a rifle contest, and through the influence of Capt. Davis was exchanged into the general service here. Upon receiving his present position he married Miss Cornell, of St. Paul, and has since resided here.
  • Note (*): In addition to insanity, other possible PTSD symptoms emerge from the Seventh Cavalry medical records. They include Little Bighorn survivor, Private Ernest Wasmus, who experienced insomnia when he was about to engage the Nez Perces a year after the battle. Among the more than 20,000 medical records, only one other case of insomnia occurred. Source: Health of the Seventh Cavalry: A Medical History, edited by P. Willey and Douglas D. Scott, 2015.
  • St. Paul Daily Globe, 12 November 1890
  • Mrs. K. Wasmus, teacher of Fourth grade, Madison school, to date from Oct.13, at schedule salary.

Historic Fort Snelling entrance.

  • St. Paul Daily Globe, 9 November 1899
  • Mrs J. Beulah Wasmus files an application with Gen. Lambert
  • Nearly Ten Years ago Her Husband, then a Member of the Seventh Cavalry, but Serving In Department Headquarters Left His Office and has Never Been Seen Since— An Old Story
  • An application was filed with Adjt. Gen. Lambert for a widow’s pension by Mrs.J. Beulah Waumus yesterday afternoon.* The application calls to mind the mysterious disappearance of Ernest Wasmus, who was for a number of years a clerk In the adjutant general’s office of the department of Dakota. One day he complained of a violent headache, put on his coat and hat, left the office and has never been seen since. Many different surmises were made as to the manner of his death, If he were dead, but his disappearance is a as much shrouded in mystery today as it was on the day he was missed by his family. Wasmus disappeared March 30, 1890, leaving his wife with three small children to support.** Mrs. Wasmus went bravely to work, securing a position as teacher in the Madison school and educating her children to the best of her means.  Max Ernest Wasmus, her husband, was originally sergeant In Company K, of the Seventh cavalry, and resigned as sergeant to take a detached position In the adjutant general’s office. Accompanying Mrs. Wasmus’ application are affidavits from the colonel of the Seventh cavalry and others as to Wasmus’ record and as to the disability that he had incurred at the time of his disappearance.
  • It was stated at the time that the domestic relations of the Wasmus family were all that could be desired, and that, in the absence of any cause for suicide, the affair was a most unaccountable one to the friends -of the family. Wasmus had, however; incurred some disability since his enlistment In the army in 1874, and was subject to violent headaches. Mrs. Wasmus is still teaching at the Madison school and lives in the Argyle apartment house.
  • Notes:
  • (*) This application for a pension was not successful but a second application filed on 7 March 1923 was approved.
  • (**) At the time of his disappearance there was only one child to support, Margaret Alwaine, born 18 August 1887.  However, his wife was five months pregnant with a son whom she named Ernest Louis, born 6 August 1890. Beulah Wasmus never remarried and lived for a further fifty-six years.
  • St. Paul Daily Globe, 25 February 1900
  • He Started in 1890 and Has Not Yet Returned
  • Judge Bazille yesterday in probate court appointed Mrs. Jennie Wasmus, the widow, as administratrix of the estate of Ernest Wasmus. The appointment recalls, an interesting story. Wasmus was for a considerable time chief clerk at the army building. March 31, 1890, he went out for lunch and has never been heard from since, although every agency was employed. He left two minor children, besides the widow, and an estate, consisting principally of $2,000 in life insurance.

Judge of Probate Edmund W. Bazille (c.1855-1922) in his office in the courthouse, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1900.

  • Federal Census 13 June 1900 – St. Peter Street, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Beulah J. Wasmus, 40, a Widow, Teacher, born Canada East. Children: Margaret A., 12 and  Ernest L., 9 – both born in Minnesota and both at school.
  • Minnesota State Census 3 June 1905 – 561 Laurel Avenue, St. Paul.
  • Beulah Wasmus, 50, Housewife. Children: Margaret, 17 and Louis, 14. Frank Bussell, 26, School Teacher, born Illinois.

561 Laurel Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota. Beulah Wasmus and family lived here.

  • Death: Beulah J. Cornell Wasmus, 25 July 1946, St. Paul, Minnesota. Her place of burial is not known to this writer

7. Corporal Daniel Nealon, Company H.

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 294.

Guest register for the Gilt Edge Hotel, Gilt Edge, Montana, 16 January 1898 - note Dan Nealon's signature.

  • Daily Enterprise, 20 October 1884 – Livingston, Montana.
  • The List of Letters Advertised at Livingston waiting for collection included the name of Daniel Nealon.
  • Federal Census (1900) – Gilt Edge, Maiden, Fergus County, Montana.
  • Daniel Nealon, a Quartz Miner, lodging with Thomas L. Burke, b. Rhode Island, October 1850, parents born in Rhode Island and New York.
  • Fergus County Democrat, 22 August 1900.
  • Daniel Nealon was the delegate for Maiden, Fergus County, at the Republican Convention.

Looking southeast on Main Street, Gilt Edge, circa 1905.

  • Federal Census (1910) – School District 23, Fergus County, Montana.
  • Daniel Nealon, a Farmer, single, age 60, both parents born in Ireland.
  • Fergus County Democrat, 20 April 1916
    While sitting in a chair at the Midway saloon yesterday morning, Daniel Nealon, generally known as “Cracker Box Dan,* fell over to the floor dead. Heart failure was the cause of death. Mr. Nealon was a widely known old timer and for many years was located at Maiden. He was a native of Rhode Island and came to Montana first forty-three years ago. He served with distinction in the  army during several Indian campaigns, having fought under General Miles and Custer. He was a man whose word was always respected and was known far and wide as a brave, upright, industrious citizen. He went to Maiden soon after leaving the army and worked in the Spotted Horse for Mr. McAdoo for several years and also worked in the Maginnis mine. He was 69 (sic) years of age. While little is known as to his family he had many friends among the old timers and they are interesting themselves in seeing that his is given a proper burial
    The arrangements for the funeral  have not yet been completed.
  • Fergus County Democrat, 27 April 1916
    The funeral of  the late Daniel Nealon, the widely known pioneer and ex-solider (sic), was held from the Cotholic (sic) church at 2 Saturday afternoon. A number of old timers, friends and associates of the  decedent, had charge of the arrangements.
    An  effort has been made to find Mr. Nealon’s discharge papers and other paper but they have not as yet been located. Any person having knowledge  as to where Mr. Neulon kept his papers is requested to communicate the information to the Democrat.
  • Fergus County Democrat, 29 June 1916
  • George R Creel, Undertaker, paid $100 for Daniel Nealon’s burial.
  • (*) According to Private John Burkman, Company L, papers, Nealon was known as “Cracker Box Dan” because he kept hid behind a cracker-box on Reno Hill. Source: Military Register (Williams), p.23
  • Participants (Wagner), p.72 reads: “Possibly illiterate, though this is hard to believe for a corporal [sergeant effective from 1 September 1876]”. Wagner is right to query this as two Federal censuses (1900 and 1910) show that Nealon could both read and write (also, see signature above).
  • Daniel Nealon never married. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery, Lewistown, Fergus County (no headstone). His date of birth and heritage remain uncertain.


'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 425.

  1. Albert Schenke, alias Whytefield and Whitefield – A Timeline
  3. c.1845 – Born Prussia (Germany), not Sandusky, Ohio, son of Henry and Elmira Schenke.
  4. c.1856 – Arrives in the United States with both parents and a sister, Johanna (born c.1854).
  5. 1860 – 8 June Federal Census for Sandusky, Erie County, Ohio – Henry Schenke, 39, Painter, born Bavaria; Elmira, 48, wife, born Russia. Children: Albert, 15, born Prussia; Johanna, 6, born Prussia.
  6. 1863 – 19 October enlists  under the name ‘Schenck’ in 12th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry and assigned to Company I.
  7. 1865 – 19 July mustered out of 12th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, Sweet Water, Tennessee.
  8. 1866 – 11 September enlists in U.S. Army, using the alias “Whytefield” (said to be illiterate, which he may have been in English) in Detroit, Michigan, for five years. Age given as 20, a painter, with blue eyes, light hair, a fair complexion, 5’ 4 1/2” in height. Assigned to 7th Cavalry, Company K, which he joined at Fort Riley, Kansas, in October. On extra duty as a teamster in December.
  9. 1867 – 20 May deserted from a camp near Fort Hays, Kansas.
  10. 1873 – 7 July arrested at Sandusky. In confinement in Newport Barracks, Kentucky to 11 August when transferred under guard to Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory.
  11. 1874 – 4 February transferred to Company K at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, in confinement.  1 May sentenced by a general court martial to three years confinement, then dishonourable discharge. 20 June restored to duty (authorised by ‘General’ Custer) to accompany the Black Hills Expedition. 14 October unexpired portion of sentence remitted. November and December extra duty with QMD and on 1 December appointed company wagoner.
  12.  1876 – 15 June detached service at Powder River Depot thereby did not take part in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  11 August detached service at mouth of Rosebud Creek. 12 – 28 September detached duty with QMD with 281 cavalry horses at Fort Lincoln. October dismounted teamster with QMD.
  13. 1877 – 23 June discharged at camp on Sunday Creek, “a wagoner of excellent character.”
  14. 1880 – Federal Census for 1515 Madison Street, Sandusky, Erie County, Ohio – Rochus Link, 33, a grocer, born Baden (Germany); Anna, wife, 29, born Maryland [the future Mrs Albert Whitefield], and cyhildren: Anthony, 9; Mary, 8; Oliver, 5; George, 1 – all born Ohio.
  15. c.1882 – Rochus Link dies – no details.  Albert marries his widow, Anna Zellers.
  16. 1884 – Son, Albert Whitefield, born 20 June 1884 in Sandusky.
  17. 1885 – Daughter, Nora Whitefield, born 11 December in Sandusky.
  18. 1886 – 12 April U.S. Army Invalid Pension granted.g556                  
  19. 1894 – Michigan State Census Kalamazoo, Michigan – Albert Whitefield, age 46,  Teamster; Anna, 44, wife. Children: Albert, 10; Nora, 8 (and three stepchildren but excl. Anthony).
  20. 1895 – Albert, Snr, a teamster, and family living at 1125 North Park, Kalamazoo. 

Main Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan, ca.1899.

  • 1899 – 20 July one-year-old son,Willie, dies.
  • 1899 – Albert, Snr, dies in early November and buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kalamazoo on 9 November. A Civil War style headstone shows his adopted surname incorrectly spelled as “Whitfield.” 

(Above) Memorial stone of Anna Zellers Whitefield. (Left) Military-style headstone to her husband, Albert Whitfield (sic) - real surname Schenke, Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

  • 1899 – 17 November Anna Whitefield applies for a U.S. Army widow’s pension, which was granted.
  • 1900 – 13 June Anna Whitefield and her six children living at 1010 South Church Street, Kalamazoo. It is likely that Albert died there.
  • 1905 – Anna Zellers Whitefield living with her son, George, at 508 West Willard, Kalamazoo. 
  • 1909 – Leona (Nora) Whitefield marries Nelson Gerow, age 22, in Kalamazoo, on 27 February.
  • 1918 – 21 June Anna Zellers Whitefield dies of ‘General Debility’, aged 69 years and 23 days. Buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kalamazoo.

9. Sergeant John Vickory (real name John H. Groesbeck)

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 404.

Clifton Park Baptist Church, Saratoga County, New York, built 1837. A young John Groesbeck and his family would most likely have attended services here.

  • Contrary to popular belief, I have found no evidence to support the claim that John H. Groesbeck (alias John Vickory) was born in Toronto, Canada. Why would New Yorker (Saratoga County) Mariah Groesbeck travel 300 miles in the late 1840s to a foreign country to give birth to just one of her eight or nine children? It makes no sense, whereas to John Groesbeck, a deserter from a New York regiment in the Union Army, laying a false trail clearly does. After all, he has successfully managed to deceive almost the entire Custer community for more than the last 150 years!  The fact that at the age of sixteen he enlisted for military service in nearby Utica, New York, adds credence to him being born in the United States NOT Canada. To say that Vickory was born in Toronto and sometime shortly afterward the family moved to Clifton Park, New York, is nothing more than a figment of Mary Thomas’s vivid and misleading imagination, see Canadians with Custer, 2012.
  • As far as this writer is aware, Roger Williams (Military Register of Custer’s Last Command, 2009, p.141), is the only author to give Saratoga as Vickory’s place of birth though he does have him under the name of John H. Groesbeck, when no sergeant of that name ever served in the 7th U.S. Cavalry. Groesbeck is listed on the battlefield monument as JNO. VICKORY which is correct, as for the same reason John Stuart Stuart Forbes is shown as J. S. HILEY and Thomas P. Eagan as THOS. HAGAN.
  • How and when William Groesbeck knew that his son had been killed with Custer at the Little Bighorn and why he waited over five years to file for an Army pension awaits further investigation.
  • John H. Groesbeck (alias John Vickory) – a timeline
  • 1840 – United States Census, Clifton Park, Saratoga County, New York – William Groesbeck, wife, Mariah, and three children under ten years old.
  • 1847John H. Groesbeck born to William and Mariah Groesbeck.  Almost certainly at Clifton Park on a date not yet verified.
  • 1849 – 7 August,  Clark V. Groesbeck (brother of John), drowns age 4 yrs 4 m 9 d and buried in Clifton Park Baptist Cemetery, Saratoga County (headstone)
  • 1850 – United States Census, Russia, Herkimer County, New York, nr Cold Brook Post Office – William Groesbeck, 43; Mariah, 32, wife. Children: Emoline, 15, Abraham, 13; Malinda, 8; John H., 3; Nelson, 1.
  • 1851 – 17 August, Mariah Groesbeck (mother of John) dies, age 34, buried in Clifton Park Baptist Cemetery, Saratoga County (headstone, see below).
  • 1855 – New York State Census, Deerfield, Oneida County – William Groesbeck, 52, widower, Laborer.  Children: Emeline, 20; Abram, 18, Laborer; Caroline, 13; John, 8, b. Saratoga County, New York; Nelson, 6; Nemiah, 3.  All children born Saratoga County with the exception of Emeline, b. Monroe, New York. The family had been in Deerfield for two years.
  • 1860 – United States Census, Russia Township, Herkimer County, New York, nr Cold Brook Post Office – William 52. Children: Caroline, 18; John, 13, Nelson, 11; Nemiah, 9.
  • c. 1862 – William Groesbeck (father of John)  weds Margaret Woodard, who brings three children into the  marriage.
  • 1863 – 23 November enlists as a private in Company H, 14th New York Heavy Artillery in Utica.
  • 1865 – New York State Census, Williamstown, Oswego County – William Grosbeck (sic), 56, Laborer; Margaret, 30, wife. Children: Nelson, 16; Nemiah, 13; Ida 1 5/12. Stepchildren:  Ella, 7; Harrison, 5; William, 3, children of Margaret.
  • 1866 – 31 July, using the alias John Vickory, enlists in U.S. Army in Boston, Mass, and assigned to Company F, 7th Cavalry stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas.
  • 1870 – United States Census, Williamstown, Oswego County, New York  – William Groesbeck, 62; Margaret, 36, wife. Children: Ida 8. Stepchildren: Harris (sic), 11; William, 6, Walter, 4.
  • 1875 – New York State Census, Williamstown, Oswego County – William Grosbeck (sic), 66, Laborer, Emily, 35, wife. Children: Niamiah (sic), 35, Laborer; Walter, 9; r Ella, 2 3/12.  Stepchildren:  William Grosbeck (Woodard), 11.
  • 1876 – 25 June killed on Last Stand Hill in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Montana Territory.
  • 1881 – 27 September, William Groesbeck (father of John Vickory, alias John H. Groesbeck) applies for an army pension, which is rejected on the grounds that the claimant could not provide evidence that his son had been contributing to his support.
  • 1887 – 19 February, William Groesbeck dies (Men With Custer, Nichols, 2010, p. 404, see above).
  • From 15 March to 4 May 1876 Diamond was on detached duty as labourer with Quartermaster’s Dept when Company H left Fort Rice for Fort Lincoln to join the rest of the regiment to part of General Alfred Terry’s Dakota Column. At the Battle of the Little Bighorn, 25-26 June 1876 he rode with his company in Benteen’s battalion and fought on Reno Hill.
  • According to Private Charles Windolph (the last member survivor of men who served in the 7th Cavalry at the battle) said he and [almost certainly Diamond] was among fourteen other troopers from Company H left in the saddle, three of whom were wounded, in the first party to visit the Custer battlefield after the battle (Military Register, p 379).
  • Edward Diamond found himself in confinement on 28 November 1876 and again on 28 December, when he was sentenced at a general court martial to forfeit $10 (out of $13) pay for three months (offence not known).  From May 1877 to January he was in confinement at Fort Lincoln awaiting trial (again offence not known) and consequently did not participate in the Battle of Canyon Creek, Montana Territory, against Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce Indians on 13 September 1877.
  • Diamond was at Fort Rice on 4 February 1879 and from April to August was on detached duty as company cook. On 17 September 1880 he discharged at Fort Meade, Dakota Territory, a private of fair character.
  • Three months late, on 21 December 1880 Diamond enlisted in the Marine Corps, at Boston, and for the first two mainly served at the Marine Depot, Boston, and USRS Wabash. He discharged  on 28 December 1885 at Mare Island, California, upon expiry of service.
  • Perhaps dissatisfied with civilian life, on 5 October 1887 he was enlisted in United States Army in Boston by Captain William A. Miller, and assigned to Company F, 12th Infantry. His age given as 34, his place of birth as East Stoghton and occupation ‘Mass[achusetts]’!  Perhaps he genuinely believed he was born in 1853. There is no record of him ever being incarcerated during this second spell in the army and he was discharged twenty-one months early  on 4 January 1891 at Fort Lincoln, North Dakota, a private of excellent character.
  • Men With Custer (Nichols), p. 103, speculates that “[Diamond] possibly worked as a stagecoach driver after discharge and was killed by Indians or outlaws.”  This writer thinks that he may have decided to go under an assumed as, at the relatively young age of thirty-six, he simply wanted to start a new life. It is most unlikely that we shall ever know. His ultimate fate must therefore remain a mystery.

11. Henry T. McBratney – A Citizen Packer with General Alfred Terry’s Dakota Column  

  • Although Henry “Harry” McBratney played only a minor role in the Little Bighorn campaign in the spring of 1876 he appears in the four best-known biographical works, three of which give a different version where he was at the crucial time of the battle and the fourth does not offer any information. Men With Custer (Hammer) tells us that he was a packer with the pack train and in the hilltop fight; Military Register (Williams) states he drove pack mules alongside the wagon train during the march to the Powder River depot; Men With Custer (Nichols) says he was with the Terry/Gibbon pack train, while Participants (Wagner) provides nothing beyond his name. Nichols gives 1840 as his year of birth, Williams gives c. 1840, yet his headstone reads “1844” – all very confusing.
  • It seems most likely to this writer that McBratney, the son of a Scots father and an Irish mother, was born sometime around 1840 in New York State, though the precise date and location remain a mystery.1 We know that in July 1860 he was a labourer living in the Jamaica district of New York,2 and in August 1870 a clerk working in St Louis, Missouri.3
  • Army records show that in April 1876 he was hired in St Paul, Minnesota, by Lieutenant Eugene B. Gibbs, Acting Assistant Quartermaster, 6th U.S. Infantry,4 to pack supplies on public animals for the forthcoming Little Bighorn campaign for $50 a month and entitled to one ration a day, and transport back to St Paul if honourably discharged. In the event, he was transferred to Lieutenant Henry Nowlan, Regimental Quartermaster, 7th U.S. Cavalry. The Dakota column, which marched west from Fort Abraham Lincoln on 17 May, had 150 wagons pulled by 900 mules, i.e. six per wagon, and carried 250 pack saddles in the wagons in case pack trains were needed later. As we know, they were. McBratney almost certainly remained in the field until his discharge on 23 September 1876, when he received $138.33 in pay, but there is no evidence to suggest he participated in the battle or ever visited the battlefield.

'The Mandan Criterion', Saturday, July 5, 1879, Vol. 1. No. 7.

  • After being discharged, McBratney gravitated to Bismarck but by early 1879 he had already opened a store in Mandan, on the west bank of the Missouri River, that was nothing more than a cluster of log shacks, partly tented wooden structures and a colony under canvas. The same year he went into partnership with a 29-year-old Canadian, Thomas Bush, and launched the Pride of the West Sample Room (see advertisement above) and later the popular Palace Restaurant, situated next door to the Opera House. There, customers were offered fine wines and liquors, fresh Milwaukee beer, a good cigar, a game of billiards and a “bang-up” meal!

An advert in the 'Bismarck Tribune' which ran for several months during 1881.

The Hagers Block, Mandan (1883) would have been well-known to Harry McBratney.

  • On 29 February 1880 Thomas Bush had accepted a Leap Year proposal from Mary “Kittie” Lenehan, the daughter of Irish immigrants, at a ball held in the Northwest Hotel, Mandan, and they were married on 22 October the same year. Less than three weeks later the Bush and McBratney partnership was dissolved.
  • Judging by the following piece in the Bismarck Tribune, 8 July 1881, the ex-civilian packer’s restaurant did not escape unscathed from the disastrous ice floods that hit Mandan in  March and April that year.
  • Harry McBratney is never the man to bring up the rear, as anybody can see by taking a look at his place since he has had it fixed. The bar stands now along the east side, and is as well stocked and appointed as any in the territory. Where the old bar stood is being fitted up as a club and leading room, and the walls and woodwork throughout have been retinted and painted. No thirsty man is able to get by Harry’s now, in this hot weather, and don’t you forget it.
  • Sometime later McBratney found a new partner in Thomas Mahar, who also ran a billiard hall and pool room in the town with a man called Ed Drury. The following report is taken from the Bismarck Tribune, 29 September 1882.
  • When it comes down to enterprise Mandan doesn’t take a back seat for any of the towns in the country. Those who attended the opening McBratney & Mahar’s elegant billiard parlors last night, were surprised at finding a place that would be a credit to St. Paul or Chi­cago. The room is a marvel of neatness and good taste, with its new tables, furniture and the well-arranged bar. The wainscoting bar and refrigerator are fin­ished in black and gold, with Japanese ornaments. Taking all together, Harry and Tom have a dandy place, and they are proud of it. A choice lunch was served, and champagne flowed freely at their opening last evening, and all drank to the success of “Harry and Tom’s place.”
  • The year before, on 24 November 1881, Henry McBratney had married Mary Ann Butler, also the daughter of Irish immigrants, who came originally from New York.5 They made their home in Mandan until 1888 until they filed for homestead land in Township 138 Range 82, known as Custer Flats, six miles southwest of the town and built their first home there, a one room shack. Mary – and their five children: Edward R. (born 1883); Frances M. (born 1884); James H. (born 1886); Florence (born 1889); Robert T. (born 1892) – continued to live on the farm while her husband maintained his business interests in Mandan.
  • Henry “Harry” McBratney died suddenly on 12 October 1892.

Notice in the 'Bismarck Weekly Tribune', 14 October 1892.

  • Henry McBratney was laid to rest in Mandan Union Cemetery, where a fine grey granite headstone marks the family plot. His memorial tablet, which shows ‘1844’ as his year of birth, has a perfectly plausible explanation. Mary Butler, born 28 July 1854, was around fourteen years her husband’s junior and we should not be surprised therefore if he reduced his age by four years to ‘deceive’ his bride that he was younger than he really was. The word ‘Father’ was most likely added at the time of his wife’s death 45 years later.
  • The fact that he ran a popular restaurant and his name often in the local newspapers, his service with the Custer expedition of 1876 was not mentioned, which supports Roger Williams’ thoughts that McBratney himself did not think his involvement in Little Bighorn campaign of June 1876 was sufficiently worthy of retelling the tale.

McBratney Family Headstone, Mandan Union Cemetery, Morton County, North Dakota.

  • In spite of many hardships Henry’s widow carried on and over time bought more land until her property became a large ranch with a modern dwelling house and outbuildings. Tragedy struck the family on 20 September 1898 when after a three-day illness, twelve-year-old James died of bronchitis. He was buried in Mandan Union Cemetery. Mary McBratney also raised her grandson, Grenville Swanberg, a deaf and dumb child who was orphaned at a young age6 and, for several years, found time to be treasurer of the Highland township school district.

McBratney land (480 acres) in Township 138, Range 82, Morton County.

  • Mary Butler McBratney, a devout Catholic, died aged 84, at home on 31 August 1938, and was laid to rest beside her late husband in Mandan Union Cemetery, where a tablet is engraved in her memory.

Memorial tablet for Henry T. McBratney, Mandan Union Cemetery. Note the year of birth, i.e., 1844.

Memorial tablet for Mary Ann (Butler) McBratney, Mandan Union Cemetery.

  • Mary McBratney was survived by Edward Raymond (unmarried, died 6 March 1945), who ran the family farm, Florence (also, never married, died 9 December 1958), a teacher in Boulder, Montana, and Robert Thomas  (died 26 September 1964), a rancher near New Salem, Morton County, who had married Margaret Magdalen Smith on 1 March 1916. As none of the three surviving children produced any progeny the McBratney surname became extinct with the death of Robert’s wife in Rapid City, South Dakota, on 1 February 1975.  Robert and Margaret lie buried, in St Aloysius (Catholic) Cemetery, Sturgis, Meade County, South Dakota, where a double headstone was erected in their memory.

Headstone to Robert and Margaret (Smith) McBratney, st Aloysius Cemetery, Sturgis, South Dakota.

  • Endnotes
  1. 1. U.S. Census, 1880, Dakota Territory, Burleigh.
  2. 2. U.S. Census, 1860, New York, Queens.
  3. 3. U.S. Census, 1870, Missouri, St Louis.
  4. 4. Aide-de-camp to General Alfred Terry on the campaign. Lieutenant Eugene Beauharnias Gibbs is remembered for rescuing a Blue Skye Terrier called “Smoke”, one of at least two canine survivors of the Little Bighorn, whose Indian master had been killed in the famous battle.
  5. 5. Bismarck Tribune, 2 December 1881.
  • The Marriage of an Old Time Bismarcker by the Rev. Father Cassidy
  • The Event Made Conspicuous by the Number Present and Presents Made
  • A Good Time at Mandan.
  • One of the most enjoyable social affairs of the season was the McBratney-Butler wedding Thursday Nov.24. Mr. McBratney is an old tried and true resident of the west; was formerly at Bismarck but for the past two years has lived and tran­sacted business in this city, where his friends are only numbered by his ac­quaintances. The wedding ceremony was performed at the Catholic church, Rev.Cassidy officiating, and was very largely attended. Tommy Mahar acted as groomsman, and Miss Mary Lyons, of Bismarck, as bridesmaid. At 10 o’clock a GRAND RECEPTION was given at the home of Mr. and Mrs. McBratney, where a large concourse of warm friends assembled and gave evidence of their good wishes for the newly wed led pair by their offerings of numerous valuable and useful presents. After the reception, the wedding party adjourned to the dancing hall of the Mandan Social Club, where dancing was kept up until a late hour.
  • (There followed an impressive list of the presents and the names of the donors.)
  • 6. Grenville Clemens Swanberg (born 1914), son of John R. Swanberg (died 1921) and Frances M. McBratney (1915) both of whom are buried in Mandan Union Cemetery. Grenville died 1888, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

12. Death at Fort Assinniboine - Sergeant Peter Gannon

Fort Assinniboine Post Hospital (undated)

  • Whilst I have long held the view that fact is stranger than fiction, and invariably no less entertaining, I never cease to be amazed at why so many films based on a historical event pay such scant attention to faithfully portray what actually happened – They Died With Their Boots On, being among the best known. Nonetheless, I have reluctantly come to accept that profit is a far greater motivation to a film maker than any desire for factual accuracy. I am much less relaxed, however, when it comes to the written word or a documentary. Ideally, an author of a work of non-fiction should publish as fact only that he/she can personally verify to be so, which is not always the case. Of course, nobody is immune from making a mistake, certainly not this writer, and it is almost inevitable that an odd error or two may slip through even the most stringent checking process but, whenever possible, they should be kept to an acceptable minimum. The cause of death of Sergeant Peter Gannon is a perfect, if unusual, example to illustrate the inherent risk of over reliance on a secondary source.
  • Peter Gannon, age 39, a veteran of three enlistments in the 7th U.S. Cavalry (1867-1882),1 who claimed to have been born in Manchester, England, signed up for a fourth term at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 22 December 1883. He was assigned to the 20th U.S. Infantry, Company A, and quickly re-gained his sergeant’s stripes.
  • John Catney born County Down, [Northern] Ireland, was baptised on 30 September 1863. He embarked on the S.S. Waldensian at Londonderry on 26 March 1882 and arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 7 April. In December 1884 Catney enlisted in the United States Army and was also assigned to the 20th U.S. Infantry. He joined Company I on 27 January 1885 at Fort Leavenworth.
  • In May 1885, the regiment was transferred from Fort Leavenworth in the Department of Missouri to Fort Assinniboine,2 Montana Territory, in the Department of Dakota. Company A and I both departed Leavenworth on 20 May and travelled by rail to Bismarck, Dakota Territory, where they arrived three days later. Company A boarded the steamer Batchelor, for the long journey up the Missouri River to Fort Assinniboine, while the men of Company I were transported to their new station by the steamer Rosebud, arriving on 30 May.
  • On 17 April 1886 Gannon was diagnosed as suffering from “Constipation” and found himself an in-patient in the post hospital. It was there, on 4 June, he was joined by Catney who had been laid low with “Typhoid.” Sadly, Catney succumbed to this deadly infection on 12 June and Gannon, quite unexpectedly, expired later the same day. Initially, the Englishman’s cause of death was recorded as “Inhibition of hearts (sic) action by fear by the death of a comrade” [Private Catney?], although an autopsy determined it was “Chronic peritonitis with the colon constricted by lymph bands at hepatic flexure,” while the entry in his Record of Death and Interment (see below) reads, “Localized Chronic Peritonitis, stricturing the transverse colon.”

Record of Death and Interment.

Inventory of Peter Gannon's Effects.

  • Military Register (Williams) condenses the cause of death to three words, “stricture transverse colon,” which is essentially correct, whereas Men With Custer (Hammer) uses the Inventory (see above) of Peter Gannon’s personal effects as its source that wrongly gives “Constipation” as the reason of the sergeant’s demise. Unfortunately, Kenneth Hammer transcribed it as “consumption,” a mistake which is perpetuated in two subsequent editions of Men With Custer (Nichols). Both volumes of Participants (Wagner) add to the confusion by modernising the reason of death to “TB,” another case of too much faith being placed in an ostensibly reliable secondary source.
  • Gannon and Catney were buried in the post cemetery the following day. On 27 March 1905, their mortal remains were reinterred in the Custer Battlefield National Cemetery3 and lie side by side in Section B, #1285/6 respectively, where identical headstones mark their graves.

Headstone for Sergeant Peter Gannon. Custer National Cemetery.

Headstone for Private John Catney. Custer National Cemetery.

  • Notes:
  •  1. A sergeant in Company on detached service at the Powder River Depot, Montana Territory, from 10 June 1876 and consequently did not participate in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Gannon’s age and place of birth remain uncertain.
  • 2. Although named after Assiniboine Tribe of Indians, this military post (built 1879) near Havre, Montana, is spelled with an additional letter ‘n’, i.e., Assinniboine, conceivably to differentiate it from Fort Assiniboine, an old Hudson’s Bay Company’s fur trading post (built 1823) on the north bank of the Athabasca River in present-day northwest Alberta, Canada. All four publications quoted above incorrectly refer to Fort Assiniboine, M.T.
  • 3. Custer National Cemetery since 1991.


  • Postscript
  • As Peter Gannon’s place and year of birth have never been verified this writer’s hopes were raised on reading the following words which were posted on the Custer National Cemetery site by Melissa Lee on 22 October 2015 – “to my great-great uncle, how awesome to know you explored the black hills of South Dakota a 100 years ago before us! you are not forgotten, the Gannon name continues.”  It was disappointing, therefore, to discover from Melissa that her collateral ancestor was born in Ireland, emigrated to Australia, from where it is ‘believed’ he went to America. Sadly, yet another in a long line of instances, where cherished family oral history is not supported by the facts. Clearly not Peter Gannon of the 7th Cavalry and, therefore, the search for details of his pre-U.S. Army life must go on.

13. Private Gabriel Gussbacher (real name Guessbacher), Company I

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 139.

  • Gabriel Guessbacher arrived in the United States from Bavaria in 1870. He enlisted in the U.S. Army under name of ‘Gussbacher’ in Philadelphia on 6 October 1873 and re-enlisted as ‘Geesebacher’ five years later.  It is not surprising that his surname has been spelled in some many different ways.  Gabriel G. Guessbacher became a naturalised U. S. citizen on 24 November 1896 at a stated age of 23.  A little under twenty-two months later he filed  a claim for land in Washington Township, Eddy County, North Dakota, which he farmed for several years. The 1900 Census for Eddy County says he was born in October 1843  and if correct would make him three years older than his age given on his first enlistment, which is far from uncommon for a new recruit in his late twenties.
  • He was on detached service at the Powder River Depot from 10 or 15 June 1876 and consequently did not participate in the Battle of Little Bighorn. While at Powder River, Guessbacher said they had to sleep on the damp ground without covering, and he contracted rheumatism. John Shauer (a fellow Bavarian private in Company K), in affidavit, supporting Guessbacher’s claim for pension, said they camped at the mouth of the Powder River and for a week or more had wet weather, and not having tents they had to sleep on the wet ground. Shauer did not know Guessbacher at the time, but said what few men of Company I were left were camped there without tents (Source: Military Register of Custer’s Last Command, Roger L. Williams, 2009, p. 142, n. 38). Guessbacher applied for an army pension on 9 January 1899, which was abandoned.
  • Claims to have witnessed the massacre of Custer’s five companies
  • Sometime before 1910, Guessbacher, affectionately known as “Uncle,” owned and operated the Valley Grain Company at Warwick, near Devil’s Lake, ND. Although detached at the Powder River, he claimed to be one the few survivors of Little Bighorn who actually witnessed the “massacre of Custer’s command,” which is a figment of his vivid imagination (see his obituary below).  Not far from the ex-trooper’s home, in his little tepee, lived Old Chief White Dog (age 41 in 1876?) who it is said led a group in the fight against Custer. It is ironic that these two veterans who were on opposite sides in June 1876 should live peacefully so far away from the battlefield within gunshot range of each other nearly forty years later.
  • An obituary was published in the Ward County Independent, Minot, ND, 17 August 1916.  In other reports and enlistments his name is spelled ‘Geisebacher’, ‘Guesaber’ and ‘Guesbacher’ and his age at death given as ’77 years’.  The age inscribed on his headstone shows ’60 years’ though he was most likely thirteen years older.

Warwick Cemetery, Warwick, Benson County, ND, Plot: Block One - Plot 29.

Obituary of Gabriel Guesbacher (Guessbacher) in 'Ward County Independent', Minot, ND, 17 August 1916.

8. Wagoner Albert Whytefield (real name Albert Schenke), Company K

& The Small Print

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