Second Lieutenant Tommy Tompkins, D Troop, 7th Cavalry

…if I had not been with my Regiment when it went into action I should have regretted it all my life.

Second Lieutenant S. R. H. "Tommy" Tompkins, D Troop, 7th Cavalry, at Pine Ridge Agency, 16 Jan. 1891. Cropped from John C. H. Grabill’s photograph, “The Fighting 7th Officers.”

Second Lieutenant S. R. H. “Tommy” Tompkins, D Troop, 7th Cavalry, at Pine Ridge Agency, 16 Jan. 1891. Cropped from John C. H. Grabill’s photograph, “The Fighting 7th Officers.”

Captain Godfrey’s second lieutenant, Selah R. H. Tompkins, was a young twenty-six year-old that had been with D troop since transferring to the regiment from the 7th Infantry four years earlier.  Reared in a military family, Tompkins was a tough young officer, the son of Colonel and Brevet Brigadier General Charles H. Tompkins of the Quartermaster Department.  Tompkins, as the final 7th Cavalry officer called on to testify on 9 January 1891 at Major General Miles’s investigation into the Wounded Knee affair, provided the following account of his actions at Wounded Knee.[1]

I was on duty with my Troop D, 7th Cavalry, on the 29th of December 1890.  I had a detachment of 12 men of D Troop, 7th Cavalry, and about 5 or 10 minutes after the firing began the Troop was deployed on the crest of a hill, dismounted.  I was ordered down to the ravine to the left to hold the ravine and stop the Indians from firing into the rear of our line as they had been doing.  There were a number of the Indians in the ravine; my men killed three bucks that I know of.  While we were engaged under fire there, some of the men remarked “Lieut., they are firing at us from that wagon” (pointing to a wagon about 400 yards to our left and front).  I am not positive, but think my men fired two or three shots at the wagon, and no further trouble was given from that direction.  I did not go near the wagon and do not know what was in it. While in action at the ravine, a party of squaws and children ran up the ravine not over 100 yards from my men.  I immediately gave the order don’t fire on women and children, and to the best of my knowledge not a shot was fired at them.  Behind them, 25 or 30 yards from them, came two bucks stripped and painted, and my men killed these.  Generally speaking, men and women were so mingled together that it was impossible to destroy the bucks without endangering the women and children.  This at the first break, but while in the ravine we took particular pains not to fire on women and children.[2]

Writing in a letter to his father, Lieutenant Tompkins provided additional details that indicated the two casualties in D Troop at Wound Knee occurred in his small  detachment guarding the ravine, “Capt. Godfrey was with the troop when the fight commenced and I was with him shortly after. I was detached with twelve or fourteen men and had quite a little time. My men killed three bucks and I had one man killed [Private Frank T. Reinecky] and one wounded [Wagoner George York]. The bullets flew thick but I was not touched.”[3]  Tompkins provided more personal details to his mother who inquired of him about a tale she had heard that her son’s hat was shot through.

You said in one of your letters you heard I had a bullet through my hat. Well, I did not stop to find out. I think my hat was shot off my head just as I was riding up to the skirmish line, but we were under quite a heavy fire at the time, and I didn’t have any time to pick up my hat, so I went through the fight without it. There was one Indian who seemed to have a grudge against me, for he fired five or six shots from his Winchester, and they all came uncomfortably close to me. He was stripped and painted in the most approved style, and as he was about 50 yards from me when he commenced shooting I had a good look at him. As the aforesaid Indian was trying to hit me I thought I would take a crack at him with my revolver, and I did so, but whether or not I hit him I can’t say. Anyhow, he stopped shooting and died where he stood. He was a brave man, but was out of luck.[4]

The regimental commander, Colonel Forsyth, wrote to Tompkins’ father, Assistant Quartermaster General Tompkins, assuring him that his son performed admirably in the fight, “Tom boy was with us, as you know, and his conduct reflected credit on his father, there being enough for himself and some to spare.”[5] Captain Godfrey also wrote to Tompkins’ father expressing that his son did his duty during the course of the battle and would be a better officer for the experience.

Your son has had his baptismal of fire and did splendidly. He has got good stuff in him and will make a good officer. He will now look at affairs more seriously. He said after the fight that he learned to know me better in five minutes in a critical period than he had before in four years service and that he should hereafter so conduct himself that I should never have to reprove him, that he would always do what I said. I am very happy over it for his sake. He has always been heretofore more like a boy, but always honorable and manly. I think now he will show his manly qualities in a way to call forth pride, honest pride.[6]

Colonel Tompkins responded in a letter to his son intimating his pride in his son’s conduct through the affair.

My Dear Selah—I was very much pleased to get your letter. I knew you would act bravely and acquit yourself honorably. I am very proud of you. I received a letter from Capt. Godfrey in which he spoke of you very handsomely. I hope the fighting will soon be over. Give my kind regards to Gen’l Forsyth, and tell him every officer I have heard speak of this affair are on his side, and I am heart & soul. I only wish more squaws had been killed.[7]

Captain Godfrey was impressed enough by his young second lieutenant’s performance during the battle that he singled him out in a letter to Colonel Forsyth, “I have the honor to inform you that 2nd Lieut. S. R. H. Tompkins, Troop D, 7th Cavalry, behaved with great coolness and judgment at the battle of Wounded Knee, December 29th, 1890. Soon after the engagement began, I ordered him to take a detail of men to a place that commanded the ravine above the village. He responded promptly, led his men into position and posted them with good judgment.”[8]  The regimental commander followed up Godfrey’s letter by recommending to Major General Schofield that the lieutenant receive honorable mention, one of only a few such recommendations that Forsyth made. “2nd Lieut. S. R. H. Tompkins, 7th Cavalry, for coolness and good judgment in locating and commanding a small detachment of Troop D, 7th Cavalry, at the head of the ravine to which the Indians retreated at the battle of Wounded Knee, S. D., Dec. 29th, 1891 [sic: 1890].”[9]

Later that spring, Tompkins again wrote his mother stating his satisfaction in having been with his unit during the fight, “Now that we are comfortably settled in garrison I look on last winter’s campaign as a kind of dream, but still I would not have missed the experience for anything. I consider myself very fortunate to have come out all OK, and if I had not been with my Regiment when it went into action I should have regretted it all my life.”[10]

Selah Reeve Hobbie Tompkins was born 17 July 1863 in the Nation’s capital.  He was the eldest of seven children born to Charles Henry Tompkins and Augusta Root Hobbie.  At the time of Selah’s birth, thirty-two-year-old Charles Tompkins was serving as a captain in the Quartermaster’s department, a position during the Civil War that enabled him to reside with his twenty-seven-year-old bride of eight months.  During the first sixteen years of their marriage, the Tompkins buried three of their children: nine-month-old Charles Henry, Jr.,  in 1867, four-year-old Augusta Hobbie in 1876, and six-year-old George Parker in 1879.  All three Tompkins sons that lived to adulthood served lengthy careers in the cavalry: Tommy retired in 1927 as a colonel with almost forty-three years in the saddle, Frank retired for disability in 1918 after thirty years of service, and the youngest brother, Daniel, also retired as a colonel in 1940 after forty-two years of service.[11]

Indeed, the military for the Tompkins men was a family tradition.  The father, Charles Tompkins, followed in the footsteps of his father, Daniel D. Tompkins, who retired in 1858 as colonel in the Quartermaster department after a thirty-eight-year career.  He returned to service for two years during the Civil War operating a Quartermaster depot in New York.  During his career, he received a brevet promotion to major for gallantry as an artillery officer in the second Seminole war and a brevet of lieutenant colonel for meritorious service as a Quartermaster during the Mexican war.  Charles Tompkins began his career as an enlisted soldier in the First Dragoons in 1856.  He was commissioned an officer at the outset of the Civil War and was cited for gallantry in one of the first engagements of the war, action for which he was awarded the medal of honor more than three decades later.  He received numerous brevet promotions during and at the end of the war for gallantry and meritorious service.  He retired as a colonel and brevet brigadier general in 1894.[12]

Young Selah Tompkins began his military career ingloriously when he failed the English entrance exam at West Point, purportedly following a night of hard drinking at Benny Havens’ Tavern.  However, this initial setback did little to slow this future cavalryman’s career.  With his father’s connections, General Philip Sheridan was able to secure a direct commission from the President in 1884, thus gaining a commission three years earlier than if he had completed a four-year course of instruction at the Military Academy.[13]

First Lieutenant S. R. H. Tompkins sporting his famous mutton chop whiskers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, circa 1898.

First Lieutenant S. R. H. Tompkins sporting his famous mutton chop whiskers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, circa 1898.

Initially assigned to the 7th Infantry Regiment, Tompkins secured a transfer to the 7th Cavalry in 1886, the regiment with which he would serve the vast majority of his forty-three year career, and with which he would forever be associated.  He was with the regiment through the Spanish-American War, and up through the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa.  Tompkins became an iconic figure of the old cavalry, sporting mutton chop whiskers throughout his career.  His red hair intermixed with grey gave his facial hair a pink tint and earned him the cognomen “Pink Whiskers.”[14]

While campaigning in Cuba in 1902, Tommy Tompkins married Miss Dolores Muller in Havana, she being the daughter of a Spanish officer.  They had six short years together during which she bore him two daughters, Augusta Maria del Carmen and Dolores.  The latter died in April 1908 two days after she was born, and the mother two days after that.  Tompkins never remarried and raised his daughter who married Lieutenant Richard C. Singer in 1922.[15]

Selah R. H. Tompkins, 7th U.S. Cavalry, mounted.[15]

Colonel Selah R. H. Tompkins, 7th U.S. Cavalry, mounted.[16]

Colonel Tompkins was renowned as much for his intemperate habits as he was for his prolific use of profanity. Many Tompkins’ quotes became legendary and were oft repeated throughout the Army. When reviewing troops with President Taft in 1909, the president remarked that a passing cavalry unit was a splendid body of troops, to which Tompkins replied, “You bet your ass it is Mr. President.”  Following his campaign in Mexico, he demanded that his troopers remain clean shaven stating, “There is only one man in this outfit who can wear a beard, and that’s me.  Now the rest of you get in there and get those beards the hell off your faces!”  One flustered second lieutenant who grew weary of his men calling him “Shavetail,” had the audacity to ask Colonel Tompkins to intervene, to which Tompkins replied, “Make ‘em stop!  Hell, they’ve been calling me a pink-whiskered old son-of-a-bitch for twenty-five years and even I can’t do a thing about it.”  When an inspector general recommended that the aged cavalry colonel be more “circumspect” when dressing down a soldier, Tompkins responded, “What do you want me to do, give him an ice cream cone?”  During one such dressing down of a trooper who failed to salute him, Colonel Tompkins barked, “When you see these whiskers coming around the corner start saluting because I’ll be right behind them!”  When addressing a Methodist congregation regarding the arrival of the 7th cavalry at Fort Bliss, Colonel Tompkins punctuated his remarks with, “ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you that the new regiment in your neighboring post is the best God-damned outfit in any God-damned army in the world!”  Finally, at the conclusion of his retirement ceremony while being driven away, an Irish cavalry veteran that served for years under the colonel stood at the end of the line; waving to him Colonel Tompkins bellowed “Goodbye Paddy.  Goddamn your black Irish soul to hell!”[17]

Twelve years later Tompkins passed away in 1939 from stomach cancer.  The New York Times ran a fitting obituary of the grizzled cavalry Colonel and icon of the Seventh.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, Feb. 6, (AP).–Colonel Selah R. H. (Tommy) Tompkins, famed cavalryman of the old school, died at the Fort Sam [Houston] Hospital last night.
Colonel Tompkins, whose luxuriant beard and rough talk and demeanor became a tradition during forty-three years of service in the United States Army, retired from active duty July 17, 1927, on his sixty-fourth birthday.
All but six years of Colonel Tompkins’s army life were passed with the Seventh Cavalry and when it came time to retire a special War Department order was issued sending him back from Fort Stanley, Texas, which he then commanded, to have his last week with the outfit in which he arose from “shave-tail” to colonel.
Colonel Tompkins was born in Washington, D. C., the son of the late General Charles Tompkins and a member of a family that had contributed many officers to the United States Army.  In 1900 [sic: 1890] he rode with the Seventh against the Sioux Indians in the battle of Wounded Knee.  He rode again with his famous cavalry unit when it accompanied General Pershing into Mexico on Villa’s trail.  He received a silver star citation then.
During the World War he led the Seventh in its border patrol work and in training men for overseas duties.  In 1916 Colonel Tompkins attained the rank with which he retired in 1927.  Toward the end of the World War he was in command of the Second Brigade.
To cavalrymen his name meant action.  He was the stuff of tradition and anecdote.  His gift for expletive wrought him a sort of immortality.
The colonel still believed with the dictionary that the word cavalry meant “mounted troops.”  He strongly opposed motorizing cavalry units.
Once in the Philippines, old soldiers recalled at Fort Sam Houston tonight, he was given 400 cavalry recruits and told to mold them into a fighting unit.  After a few weeks his superior officer sent a note inquiring how things were going.
Colonel Tompkins sent the following reply:
“I have 400 men who had never seen a horse and 400 horses that had never seen a man, and twelve officers who had never seen a man or a horse.  Now what can I do?”
He had two brothers, Colonel Frank Tompkins, retired, and Colonel Dan D. Tompkins, stationed at Atlanta.  His son-in-law, Captain R. C. Singer, is stationed in Hawaii.[18]

Colonel Tommy Tompkins was a bit of a poet and a couple of years after the fight at Wounded Knee, he penned an ode titled “The Dragoon Bold.”  The closing stanzas would serve as a fitting farewell to the horse-cavalry officer more than forty-five years later.

When the Dragoon Bold is old and gray,
And his sabre and spurs are laid away,
He sadly thinks of the days that are past,
And he longs to hear the trumpets blast.

So fill up your glasses and drink to the health
Of the Dragoon Bold, whose only wealth
Is his horse, his sabre and the debts he owes,
And whose motto is, Well, everything goes![19]

Colonel Selah R. H. “Tommy” Tompkins is buried at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. His wife, Dolores Muller, and infant daughter are buried at the Fort Riley Post Cemetery.[20]

[1] John M. Carroll, “TOMPKINS, SELAH REEVE HOBBIE [TOMMY],” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed May 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010.
[2] Jacob F. Kent and Frank D. Baldwin, “Report of Investigation into the Battle at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, Fought December 29th 1890,” in Reports and Correspondence Related to the Army Investigations of the Battle at Wounded Knee and to the Sioux Campaign of 1890–1891, the National Archives Microfilm Publications (Washington: The National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1975), Roll 1, Target 3, Jan. 1891, 697-698.
[3] Selah R. H. Tompkins, letter to Colonel Charles H. Tompkins, Carroll, as quoted by John M. Carroll in The 7th U.S. Cavalry’s Own Colonel Tommy Tompkins: A Military Heritage and Tradition (Mattituck, N. Y.: J. M. Carroll & Company, 1984), 74.
[4] Selah R. H. Tompkins, letter to Mrs. Augusta Root Hobbie Tompkins, Carroll, Colonel Tommy Tompkins, 76.
[5] James W. Forsyth, letter to Colonel Charles H. Tompkins, Carroll, Colonel Tommy Tompkins, 76.
[6] Edward S. Godfrey, letter to Colonel Charles H. Tompkins, Carroll, Colonel Tommy Tompkins, 73.
[7] Charles H. Tompkins, letter to Lieutenant Selah R. H. Tompkins, Carroll, Colonel Tommy Tompkins, 74.
[8] Edward S. Godfrey, letter to Colonel James W. Forsyth, Carroll, Colonel Tommy Tompkins, 77.
[9] James W. Forsyth, letter to Major General John M. Schofield, Carroll, Colonel Tommy Tompkins, 77.
[10] Selah R. H. Tompkins, letter to Mrs. Augusta Root Hobbie Tompkins, Carroll, Colonel Tommy Tompkins, 76.
[11], United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006, Year: 1880, Census Place: Saint Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota, Roll: 630, Family History Film: 1254630, Page: 22D; Enumeration District: 001, Image: 0046; Samuel L. Russell, “Family Group Sheet of Charles Henry Tompkins and Augusta Root Hobbie,” Cavalry Officers of the American Frontier, ( accessed 25 Jul 2014.
[12] Historical Data Systems, comp., U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2009.
[13] Carroll, Colonel Tommy Tompkins, 68.
[14] Ibid, various.
[15] United States Federal Census, Year: 1910, Census Place: Fort Riley Military Reservation, Geary, Kansas, Roll: T624_440, Page: 3A, Enumeration District: 0060, FHL microfilm: 1374453; Year: 1930, Census Place: Fort Ethan Allen, Chittenden, Vermont, Roll: 2428, Page: 10A, Enumeration District: 0028, Image: 76.0, FHL microfilm: 2342162.
[16] Aultman, Otis A. [Colonel Selah R. H. Tompkins]. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed July 25, 2014.
[17] Carroll, Colonel Tommy Tompkins, 85, 92, 95, 100, 107, and 112.
[18] Associated Press, “Obituaries,” New York Times, Feb. 7, 1939.
[19] Carroll, Colonel Tommy Tompkins, 127-128.
[20] LKat, “Selah Reeve Hobbie Tompkins,” FindAGrave ( accessed 5 Jun 2014, uploaded 30 Jul 2012.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Second Lieutenant Tommy Tompkins, D Troop, 7th Cavalry,” Army at Wounded Knee, posted 25 July 2014, accessed date __________,

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Corporal Charles H. Newell, B Troop, 7th Cavalry – Died of Wounds

Following the initial melee at Wounded Knee surrounding the council circle, many of the soldiers of B and K troops, the two units that formed a V around the Lakota men, lay dead or dying.  Correspondent Charles H. Cressey furiously wrote his initial report of the battle while fighting continued up the ravine.  His list of killed and wounded was the first glimpse that many readers across the country received of the deadly skirmish.  He listed only two soldiers killed, Captain Wallace of K troop and Private Cook of B troop, and provided a list of twenty-two wounded troopers.  Cressey ended his roll call of the casualties stating, “This is only a partial list. There are about a dozen more. One is reported to have been seen lying as if dead, but no more officers are killed, while twenty-five or more are wounded. Many of the wounded will die.”  The last soldier on the list of wounded was Corporal Newell of B troop, having suffered a ghastly abdominal wound.[1]

The Regiment’s commander, Colonel James W. Forsyth, in his field return dated 31 December 1890 also listed Corporal Newell as wounded in action, although he had already succumbed to his wounds on the day of the battle two days earlier.  Likely he died in the afternoon, or on that night’s march back to Pine Ridge.[2]

Charles H. Newell was born in 1859 in the small Pennsylvania town of Oxford or perhaps Nottingham in Chester County.  He was the son of Caroline T. Faulkrod of Lower Oxford, who claimed Charles’ father was James Newell of East Nottingham, although the two do not appear to have been married.  Caroline and James also had a daughter, Francina Newell, who was born eleven years earlier, but in 1850, just two years after Francina’s birth and nine years before Charles’, twenty-year-old Caroline and her daughter were living with her parents under her maiden name. [3]

James,  born about 1827, came from a poor family, the fourth child and eldest son of George Kemmet Newell and Nancy Ann Carson, and went to school paid by the state of Pennsylvania at a time when government funded education in the state was provided for only the poorest of citizens.  While George was a laborer, likely taking odd jobs when he could get them, James listed his profession as that of a shoemaker, although his trade did not appear to advantage Caroline or her two children.  Although James registered for the draft in 1863, he did not serve in the Union army during the Civil War, unlike his younger brother, John, who served as a private in Company C, Pennsylvania 124th Infantry Regiment from August 1862 to May of 1863.  The last record of James was an entry in the Oxford Circuit Methodist Episcopal Church on 21 February 1867, which merely listed him and his father as members of the Elk Ridge Church.[4]

Caroline, born about 1830 in Bucks County, was the sixth of eight children of farmer George M. Faulkrod and Elizabeth F. Yonker.  By 1870 Caroline was going by the last name of her children’s father, and had another daughter, Victoria Newell, born about 1865, also sired by James.  Caroline was living with and working as a house keeper in Oxford for David W. Baldwin, a carpenter and widower with four children of his own.  Only Victoria was living with her mother, Francina having married a shoemaker named Frederick Huntley.  Eleven-year-old Charles was living and working ten miles away in the town of Kimblesville as a farm hand for a wealthy landowner named Crossley Pyle, earning his keep at the expense of an education.  A year later Caroline married Baldwin, and both mother and daughter, Victoria, took his last name.[5]

A decade later Caroline and David Baldwin had settled in the town of Elk still in Chester County, where they were raising three teenage daughters, two from his first marriage and one from her’s.  Daughter Francina and her husband, Fred Huntley, had moved to West Bloomfield, just south of Rochester in upstate New York.  Twenty-one-year old Charles had moved to Mill Creek, Delaware, with his two step-brothers, Harvey and George Baldwin, where the three were working in a clay yard.[6]

Perhaps looking for a steady income Charles H. Newell enlisted on 24 July 1888 at Cincinnati, Ohio, by Lieutenant Hunter for five years.  He was twenty-nine years of age and listed his profession as a rubber maker.  Newell stood just under five feet eight inches, had blue eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion.  He was assigned to B Company, 7th Cavalry, a unit he would serve with for two-and-a-half years and rise to the rank of corporal.  Perhaps one of Newell’s reasons for joining the cavalry was to assure a steady paycheck in which he could assist his ailing mother and step-father who were destitute.  By the late 1880s David Baldwin was suffering greatly from rheumatism and rarely able to work.  Newell’s $12-per-month private’s pay was their only source of steady income.  His promotion to corporal only brought an extra dollar each month.  Newells’ life support to his parents ended when he met his fate at Wounded Knee.  Corporal Newell was buried along with twenty-nine other fallen troopers on New Year’s Eve, 1890, in a shallow grave next to the Episcopal church at the Pine Ridge Agency.  Caroline Baldwin received a final stipend from the army when they forwarded the monies collected from the sale of the corporal’s personal effects, around $30.[7]

David Baldwin died a year later, and on 12 January 1892 Caroline filed for a pension for her son’s service related death.  In her application, Caroline stated that her daughter, Victoria, was feeble minded and unable to work, that her only son had been providing her sole financial support, that he was never married, and had no children, and that she was subsisting off the generosity of her late husband’s children.  Later that year she began receiving a check from the interior department of $12 a month.  Within five years her pension case created a stir when the bureau of pensions noticed that her checks were being cashed by a notary public.  The state of Pennsylvania launched an investigation into the possible fraud, and after a number of statements, determined that the notary had acted improperly, but was providing the monies to a gentleman with whom Caroline was boarded.  The elderly mother was not fairing well, was subject to fainting spells and seizures, and suffering from memory loss.  She could recall that she had a son in the army, but no longer knew what had happened to him.  Unable to write, witnesses assured the investigator that they dutifully obtained Caroline’s mark on each check and that they were providing her with room, board, and clothing as well as medical care.  Caroline’s daughter, Francina, who visited occasionally, admitted that while she was being fed and had a place to sleep, she did not appear to have acceptable clothing.  The state reprimanded the notary and appointed Edward Jones, the husband of Caroline’s eldest sister, Elizabeth, as her guardian. The ailing and senile mother of the fallen cavalry trooper resided with her eighty-year-old sister and brother-in-law for the last few years of her life.  Caroline passed away in April 1900.  That same year her youngest daughter, Victoria Baldwin, was admitted as an inmate at the Chester County Home for the Insane, often a last station for destitute women unable to support themselves; she would live there for the next thirty-four years before joining her mother and brother in death.[8]

In October 1906, the army paid a contrator to exhume the bodies of the thirty soldiers buried at Pine Ridge.  Corporal Newell’s remains were returned to Fort Riley, sixteen years after his unit had departed from the post for the Sioux campaign of 1890-’91, and he and his comrades were laid to rest in the post cemetery.[9]

Corporal Charles H. Newell is buried at the Fort Riley Post Cemetery.[10]


[1] Charles H. Cressey, “A Bloody Battle,” Omaha Daily Bee, 30 December 1890, page 1.
[2]  National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C., Returns from U.S. Military Posts, 1800-1916, Microfilm Serial: M617, Microfilm Roll: 1532.
[3], United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009, Year: 1870, Census Place: Franklin, Chester, Pennsylvania, Roll: M593_1323, Page: 247B, Image: 499, Family History Library Film: 552822; Year: 1850, Census Place: Lower Oxford, Chester, Pennsylvania, Roll: M432_764, Page: 65A, Image: 136; Year: 1850, Census Place: East Nottingham, Chester, Pennsylvania, Roll: M432_764, Page: 26B, Image: 61.
[4] United States Federal Census, Year: 1850, Census Place: Oxford, Chester, Pennsylvania, Roll: M432_764, Page: 71A, Image: 148; Year: 1860, Census Place: East Nottingham, Chester, Pennsylvania, Roll: M653_1092, Page: 560; Image: 37; Family History Library Film: 805092; Chester County Archives and Record Services, “Poor School Children Records Index 1810-1842,” page 7; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registrations, 1863-1865, NM-65, entry 172, 620 volumes, ARC ID: 4213514, Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War), Record Group 110, National Archives at Washington D.C.; Historical Data Systems, comp., U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2009; Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records, Reel: 370.
[5], Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011; United States Federal Census, Year: 1850, Census Place: Lower Oxford, Chester, Pennsylvania, Roll: M432_764, Page: 65A, Image: 136; Year: 1860, Census Place: Lower Oxford, Chester, Pennsylvania, Roll: M653_1093, Page: 436, Image: 443, Family History Library Film: 805093; Year: 1870, Census Place: Oxford, Chester, Pennsylvania, Roll: M593_1324, Page: 399A, Image: 114, Family History Library Film: 552823; Year: 1870, Census Place: West Bloomfield, Ontario, New York, Roll: M593_1066, Page: 177A, Image: 360, Family History Library Film: 552565; Year: 1870, Census Place: Franklin, Chester, Pennsylvania, Roll: M593_1323, Page: 247B, Image: 499, Family History Library Film: 552822.
[6] United States Federal Census, Year: 1880, Census Place: Elk, Chester, Pennsylvania, Roll: 1114, Family History Film: 1255114, Page: 417B, Enumeration District: 065, Image: 0482; Year: 1880, Census Place: West Bloomfield, Ontario, New York, Roll: 909, Family History Film: 1254909, Page: 524D, Enumeration District: 140, Image: 0652; Year: 1880, Census Place: Mill Creek, New Castle, Delaware, Roll: 119, Family History Film: 1254119, Page: 149B, Enumeration District: 022, Image: 0631.
[7], U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007, Record Year Range: 1885-1890, Surname Letter Range: L-Z, Image: 206, Line: 81; National Archives, Adjutant General’s Office, Final Statements, 1862-1899, “Newell, Charles H.,” at Fold3, accessed 17 Jul 2014; Burial Registers for Military Posts, Camps, and Stations, 1768-1921, Microfilm Publication M2014, 1 roll, ARC ID: 4478153, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, Record Group 92, National Archives in Washington, D.C.; Adjutant General’s Office, The National Archives, Pension Application Certificate No.: 537404, Pensioner: Caroline T. Baldwin, Stack area: 18E3, Row: 5, Compartment: 27, Shelf: 2. Research conducted by Vonnie S. Zullo of The Horse Soldier Research Service.
[8] Caroline T. Baldwin Pension File.
[9] National Archives and Records Administration, Burial Registers of Military Posts and National Cemeteries, compiled ca. 1862-ca. 1960, Archive Number: 44778151, Series: A1 627, Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985, Record Group Number: 92.
[10] Jana Mitchell, photo., “Corp Charles H. Newell,” FindAGrave, accessed 23 Jan 2014.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Corporal Charles H. Newell, B Troop, 7th Cavalry – Died of Wounds,” Army at Wounded Knee, posted 17 July 2014, accessed date __________, http://

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Samuel M. Whitside letter, Part 1

Sam Russell:

First Lieutenant S. M. Whitside, circa 1865.

Author and fellow blogger Don Caughey posted a letter I shared with him about a year ago. It was penned by then First Lieutenant S. M. Whitside as he appeared before a medical retiring board in January 1865 during the Civil War.  Addressing the president of the retiring board, Whitside provided a six-page letter detailing his military service up to January 1865, beginning with his enlistment as a private into the General Mounted Service in 1858.

As Whitside would go on to become a prominent officer at Wounded Knee, I thought it of value to reblog his letter. It is divided in two parts.  Part 1 of Whitside’s letter details the first three years of his career including his time as a private and corporal in the General Mounted Service at Carlisle Barraks, Pennsylvania, and on recruiting duty, and through his first year with the 6th U. S. Cavalry as the regiment’s sergeant major and as a second lieutenant during General McClellan’s Penninsular Campaign.   In Part 2 of his letter, Whitside details his experience as an aide-de-camp for General Banks during the 1863 Red River Campaign, his struggles with malarial fever, suffering from varioloid (a mild form of Small Pox), his injury at Culpepper Court House, and his duties as a recruiting and mustering officer in Rhode Island.

Originally posted on Regular Cavalry in the Civil War:

Samuel Whitside, courtesy of the David Perrine collection.

Samuel Whitside, courtesy of the David Perrine collection.

In a recent trip to the National Archives, friend Samuel Russell came across this letter from his ancestor, Samuel M. Whitside, and was kind enough to pass it along with his permission to post it.  While it doesn’t necessarily shed any new light on Whitside’s career beyond what we included in our book on the 6th U.S. Cavalry, I think it’s very interesting as a junior officer’s firsthand account of the war.

In February 1865, 1st Lt. Samuel M. Whitside was ordered to appear before a medical retiring board to determine if he was fit for duty with his regiment.  In the file, Whitside provides a six page letter to the board detailing his service in the Army from November 1858 up to the date of the board.  I have left all punctuation as I received it, but added clarification in…

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Investigation of the White Horse Creek Tragedy

I then called to the captain that it was squaws, and he replied “Don’t kill the squaws.” I said – it is too late, I am afraid they are already killed.

On 12 February, Secretary Proctor’s exoneration of Colonel Forsyth and the 7th Cavalry Regiment appeared in newspapers across the country, along with his statement, “The bodies of an Indian woman and three children who had been shot down three miles from Wounded Knee were found some days after the battle…”  the secretary of war continued, “Necessary orders will be given to insure a thorough investigation of the transaction and the prompt punishment of the criminals.”  That same day the three enlisted soldiers of Captain Edward S. Godfrey’s D troop, who were involved in the killing to which the secretary of war referred, provided depositions to a notary public in Geary County, Kansas, detailing their role in the incident.[1]

Major Peter Dumont Vroom, Inspector General for the Department of the Missouri, was assigned to investigate the tragedy at White Horse Creek.  Vroom was forty-eight years old and had served as a company grade officer for twenty-two years in the 3rd Cavalry before being promoted to the the rank of major in the Inspector General’s Department in 1888.  He began his investigation with an interview with Captain Godfrey on 17 March 1891 and next turned his focus toward the soldiers involved in the shooting.  Vroom’s time in the 3rd Cavalry would bode well for one of the soldiers who was also a veteran of the 3rd.[2]

Herman Gunther, a native of Baden, Germany, was an experienced forty-five-year-old cavalryman and the senior non-commissioned officer of Captain Godfrey’s D troop.  He initially entered the army in 1868 as a young twenty-two-year-old jeweler from New York City.  He served for fifteen years in C troop, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, and was discharged from that unit in November 1883 at Fort Thomas, Arizona Territory, having risen to the rank of  first sergeant.  After six months working as a butcher in St. Louis, Gunther signed up for his fourth five-year enlistment and was assigned to the 7th Cavalry’s D troop.  Rising again to first sergeant of his unit by the time D troop arrived at Wounded Knee, First Sergeant Gunther along with Captain Godfrey, ensured that D troop was ably led by two veteran cavalrymen, both with more than two decades in the saddle.[3]

First Sergeant Gunther provided the following deposition on 12 February regarding his role at White Horse Creek, certainly as a result of the secretary of war’s call for an investigation.

That on the 29th day of Dec., 1890, he accompanied Capt. Godfrey, just about the close of the battle of Wounded Knee, on a search up a ravine near the scene of that battle, for a party of about fifteen Indians.  That these Indians were several times seen to be in the bottom dodging around thro’ the brush.  That the head of the ravine was reached and a high hill ascended where a halt was made and the country surveyed with field glasses in search of Indians, but without success.  The party then started back down the ravine again and having gone some distance he noticed some Indians, not more than fifty yards away, dodging into the brush.  He quickly called to the captin [sic], who was riding in front and had not seen the Indians, “There are some Indians, captain, we are right on the top of them, look out.”  The captain then dismounted a lot of them and sending a party on each side of the ravine and one behind to watch the rear he sent me with two or three men down into the ravine to hunt the Indians I had seen who had hid in the brush.  As soon as I told the captain I had seen Indians down in the brush and before the firing, he called out loudly two or three times, “How Kolah,” but did not receive any reply.
We then advanced, Private Kern a little ahead of me and Private Settle behind.  Private Kern suddenly halted and fired and just at that moment I could indistinctly see through the brush the faint outlines of a person and raising my gun I quickly fired.  We supposed we were hunting the party of Indians we had seen and were ready to fire at a flash as we did not propose to let any Indian get the first shot at us if we could help it.  Immediately I fired, Kern fired a second time and I heard squealing in the brush.  I then called to the captain that it was squaws, and he replied “Don’t kill the squaws.”  I said – it is too late, I am afraid they are already killed.
To the best of my belief the bullet I fired killed the one I shot at and wounded the one that did the crying.
No more shots were then fired and the captain coming up told us to go on down the ravine and he again began to call out “How Kolah.”
All of this happened in a very short space of time, under excitement, in only a few moments, because we supposed, seeing we had found some of the squaws, the rest, the bucks would be found right close by.
We did not stop, but went immediately on down the ravine, hunting for the rest.  Finding none, we came back finally to the lead horses, and there the captain told me that a woman, a boy and two children had been killed in there.
Private Settle did not fire at all.  I fired once and Private Kern twice.  There was not another shot fired by us and none of us were ever closer to these Indians than 25 yards, which was the distance we were away, about, when we fired.[4]

During his investigation in March 1891, Inspector General Vroom recorded the following statement from First Sergeant Gunther at Fort Riley.

Captain Godfrey with one platoon was following a party of Indians that got away from the battle-field and went up a deep ravine leading toward the hills.  We were trying to cut them off. The Indians were seen several times by us, but always in such a way that we could not get at them.  I should judge that there were about fifteen Indians in that party.  When we got to the head of the ravine, we halted.  Captain Godfrey and myself then examined the country around closely with field glasses, but were unable to see any signs of the Indians.  After staying there quite a while Captain Godfrey started back with the platoon.  Just as we were coming around a bend in the road leading down into the bottom, I saw some Indians dodging into the brush.  My impression at the time was that we were on to the party of Indians that we had been following up.  I called Captain Godfrey’s attention to it, saying to look out as we were right on top of them.  The Captain ordered myself and several men to dismount and move forward.  At the same time the Captain sung out “How Colah.”  In moving ahead Private Kern, who was off his horse quicker than I was, got ahead of me a few paces.  I noticed Private Kern raise his carbine and on looking in that direction I saw Indians that were hiding in the bottom of a dry creek.  I was unable to distinguish what they were, the brush being so thick Private Kern fired the first shot.  I fired immediately after him.  As soon as I fired there was some screaming done by a child.  The captain then sung out again “How Colah,” and said “Don’t kill any squaws.”  I replied that I was afraid it was too late.  I am positive that the object I aimed at did not move after I fired.  The one that done the squealing was behind the object and must have been wounded by my ball.  I then sent Private Kern to the right of me on some high ground with instructions to watch the brush from up there.  Myself and Private Settle, who had come up in the meantime, went through the brush down the creek, but we did not find any more Indians.  I had not been closer than from twenty to twenty-five yards to the Indians we shot at.[5]

Major Vroom than asked the first sergeant if he could distinctly see the Indians when he fired.

I could just see the outline of something lying close to the ground.  The brush was very thick.  It was thicker between me and the Indians than it was between Kern and the Indians.  I had to fire right through the brush.  After I fired I went down the creek and did not see the bodies of the Indians.  The captain told me that there was one woman and three children in there killed.  There were only three shots fired, one by myself and two by Private Kern.  After I got a little way down the creek I heard another shot fired in our rear, but I did not know at the time who fired it.[6]

In the course of Major Vroom’s investigation into the killing of a Lakota woman and her three children, he next interviewed Blacksmith Maurice Carey, a twenty-three-year-old emigrant from Northern Ireland who had enlisted in the army at Wheeling, West Virginia, in the middle of September 1890. He was one of the new recruits that joined the regiment at Pine Ridge at the beginning of December.  Carey was a horseshoer by trade prior to entering the military and Captain Godfrey appointed him to the vacant blacksmith position in D troop in the middle of December.  Carey had light blue eyes, light brown hair, a fair complexion and stood five feet eight and a half inches tall.  He provided Major Vroom with the following statement.[7]

We were going through a ravine and saw a party of Indians trying to cross.  Then we were dismounted and I ran back about twenty yards and fired a shot and then I went up over the bluff and came down to the captain.  Then we were looking at those Indians and I caught one by the hair and lifted him up.  He looked at me and pulled himself away and made a movement and I jumped away from him and shot him through the head.  I shot him because I was afraid he was going to shoot me.[8]

When asked how old the Indian was, Carey responded, “I took him to be seventeen or eighteen years old.  He was pretty tall.  I took him to be as tall as me.”  Major Vroom next asked the blacksmith how close he was to the Indian when he shot.  “I could not say.” replied Carey.  “I jumped away from him as quickly as I could and then shot him.”  “Was he lying on the ground when you shot him?” queried the investigator.  “Yes, sir.” was the answer.  The inspector general concluded the interview by asking, “How long have you been in the service?” to which Cary replied, “A little over six months.”[9]

Prior to the army initiating its investigation into what E. S. Godfrey dubbed the tragedy at White Horse Creek, Blacksmith Carey provided a sworn deposition to Notary Public J. H. Farley in Geary County, Kansas.

I was with Capt. Godfrey and his detachment on the day of the Wounded Knee fight, when we killed four Indians in a ravine. We had been hunting for a party of Indians we had seen in that ravine and the first thing I heard was the 1st Sergeant telling the captain that there were some Indians in the brush.  The captain dismounted a lot of us and I was sent down with 1st Sergeant and Private Kern, but they got ahead of me.  Coming along behind I saw some Indians about 20 or 30 yards away creeping thro’ the brush and I quickly fired.  I heard the 1st Sergeant and Kern fire.  Then they went on down thro’ the brush, and I came out and went around on top of a high bluff and could see the dead Indians down in the bottom.  I went down there with the captain and examined the Indians.  There were four of them, a woman, two children and a boy who was nearly as tall as myself.  I took him to be about 18 or 19 years old and thought he was wounded.  The captain started to walk away and I took hold of the boy’s head to lift him up, when I did so he opened his eyes, looked at me and at the same time made a motion to get something out of his breast.  I quickly jumped away from him and shot him thro’ the head.  The captain turned around and I told him the Indian was not dead.  I was only a few feet away from him when I fired this shot.
I fired no other shots, but these two, and did not see anybody else fire except the 1st Sergeant and Private Kern.[10]

Major Vroom next interviewed Private William Kern, a twenty-three-year-old German emigrant who had been working as a baker when he enlisted at Newark, New Jersey, two years earlier.  Kern was short in stature standing just five feet four inches with hazel eyes and brown hair.  Private Kern provided the following statement:

After the shooting at Wounded Knee was over, we were ordered by Captain Godfrey to mount our horses and follow up a ravine.  We followed that ravine along and came upon open ground, where we saw an Indian about two miles ahead of us.  After we had looked over the ground carefully, we could not see any signs of other Indians and turned off to our right going down towards a big ravine full of underbrush and a road leading through the ravine from one end to the other.  As soon as we came down the ravine the road bent to the left.  As soon as we came around that bend we seen Indians.  Captain Godfrey was riding in front and me and 1st Sergeant Gunther right behind him.  Then we caught a glimpse of one Indian who appeared to be a buck.  As soon as he saw us he jumped from the road and Captain Godfrey halted the command and told Sergeant Gunther to dismount and take some men and be prepared.  There was me and Private Settle and Sergeant Gunther dismounted.  The rest of the troop was sent out to the right and left of the ravine.  As soon as we were dismounted, Captain Godfrey hallooed out twice: “How Colah,” and while he hallooed out “How Colah,” I was ahead and 1st Sergeant Gunther following me on the right side of the ravine in a kind of a washout, and we could see the head of an Indian twenty-five yards away.  Captain Godfrey didn’t get any answer.  By that time I had loaded up and Sergeant Gunther the same.  I fired first and Sergeant Gunther Immediately after me.  As soon as I had fired I reloaded again.  I heard an Indian grunting, but it was too late for me to stop and I pulled off my second shot.  Sergeant Gunther ordered me then to go along the ravine and search careful and he says he expects a lot of Indians in that ravine.  Private Settle came on the left of me to help search the ravine.  We went through that ravine carefully and couldn’t find nothing else.  There was a log house in front of us on top, and we went up and searched that.[11]

Inspector General Vroom asked Private Kern if he could distinctly see what he was aiming at when he fired at the Indians, to which Kern responded, “I could see a head that I was aiming at.  The Indians were lying down in the same washout that we were in.  The underbrush was very thick.  I did not see the Indians after they had been killed.”  Major Vroom concluded the interview by asking Kern how far he was from the Indians when he fired.  “About twenty-five yards, just the width of the ravine.” was Kern’s reply.[12]

Private Kern also had provided a sworn and notarized deposition that he had made the previous month at Fort Riley while he was in the post hospital recuperating from a gunshot wound to his face that he received at White Clay Creek on 30 December, the day after the incident under investigation.

I was with Capt. Godfrey and a detachment of the Troop on the day of the Wounded Knee fight when on coming down a ravine we had been looking for some Indians in, I saw an Indian, caught a glimpse of him just as he darted in the brush.  He was a buck, at least I thought he was, he seemed to have on pants.  The 1st Sergeant saw him at the same time and called out to the captain who was riding ahead, there are some Indians in the brush.  The captain halted the troop and dismounted a lot of men and sent them around.  I was directed to go down with the 1st Sergeant.  The captain called out “How Kolah,” but didn’t get any answer.  I went on down the road ahead of the 1st Sergeant looking into the brush.  Pretty soon I caught sight of two heads across the ravine in a ditch and immediately fired at one of them.  I loaded quickly and fired again just as the 1st Sergeant fired.  The 1st Sergeant then told me and Settle to go on down the ravine quick and I heard the captain calling out “How Kolah” again.  I only fired twice and was about the length of this ward away (hospital ward—67 feet long) when I fired.  I never was at any time closer to these Indians than this, as I went straight on down the ravine quickly looking for the buck Indians we thought was in there.  When I came back the detachment was not there any more where the Indians were fired at.
I do not think that Private Settle fired at all.  Nobody else fired at that time except Sergeant Gunther and me.  We did not find any more Indians in the ravine and came back.
All of this happened in only a few seconds; we were in a hurry to catch the buck Indians we thought were in there and did not stop long.[13]

The final witness that Major Vroom questioned was Private Green A. Settle, a thirty-one-year-old native Kentuckian.  He had served for three years with the Fifth Cavalry at Camp Supply, Indian Territory, in the mid 1880s and enlisted into the 7th Cavalry in January 1889.  According to his most recent enlistment record, Private Settle stood just under five feet nine inches, had gray eyes, light hair and a fair complexion.  Settle provided the following account to the inspector.

Coming down the ravine Captain Godfrey was leading the detachment, Sergeant Gunther was next to Captain Godfrey, Private Kern and myself were first in column.  There were some Indians, I could not say how many, that appeared right in front of us in the road, and some one from behind had seen the Indian first and cried out: “There is Indians ahead of us.”  The captain didn’t seem to see them at first and I didn’t see them till some one spoke.  As soon as I saw them I only saw one, and he ran across the road into the under brush.  The captain ordered the 1st Sergeant to dismount some men and go ahead.  Sergeant Gunther, Private Kern and myself was the three men to dismount.  Kern was in front, Sergeant Gunther was next to him and I was last.  Private Kern moved on to where he saw the Indian run out of the road and fired two shots into a little ravine where the Indians had hid.  Sergeant Gunther fired one shot and we then moved on down the ravine.  There was a road running down the ravine and I was on the left side of the road as we went and Kern was on the right.  We went on out as far as the brush was thick until it began to get open, to an old house.  After we had looked around there, the detachment came up and we mounted our horses and went away.[14]

Major Vroom asked Settle if he could see the Indians when Private Kern and First Sergeant Gunther fired.

No, sir.  There was a kind of dry creek or ravine that they were in that must have been twenty-five yards from the road.  The underbrush and grass were very thick.  I was about twenty-five yards from Sergeant Gunther and Private Kern when they fired.  I did not see what they fired at.  I did not see the Indians after they came out of the road.  After the shots were fired, Captain Godfrey advanced toward where the Indians were and called out “How Colah.”  Then he told Gunther to send men on down and search out the ravine.  I went on down the ravine and did not see any more Indians.  I did not see the bodies of the Indians that had been killed.[15]

Having questioned all of the soldiers involved in the incident, Major Vroom concluded his investigation with a summation of testimony he had collected. Writing on 24 March 1891 from the Inspector General’s Office, Department of the Missouri in St. Louis, Vroom forwarded the following report through department and division headquarters to the adjutant general’s office at the war department.

It appears from the evidence adduced that on the 29th of December, 1890, immediately after the fight at Wounded Knee Creek, Captain E. S. Godfrey, 7th Cavalry, with a detachment of his troop, was in pursuit of a party of about fifteen Indians, who had escaped from the battle-field, and were making their way through a deep ravine toward the hills.  On his return, while moving down along the valley of what he subsequently learned to be White Horse Creek, it was reported to Captain Godfrey that Indians had been seen in his front in the creek bottom.  Captain Godfrey halted his detachment, dismounted half of it and ordered a non-commissioned officer to take some men and deploy them across the valley of the creek, while the other dismounted men were sent to the left on the high ground.  While his men were deploying, Captain Godfrey called out several times to the Indians: “Squaw,” “Pappoose,” “Colah,” and tried in every way to indicate to them that if they were squaws or children they had nothing to fear.  The men of the troop had previously been particularly cautioned against shooting squaws and children and when they were ready to advance on this occasion the caution was repeated.  First Sergeant Herman Gunther was in charge of the squad directed to move down the ravine.  After waiting for sometime to give the men on the left time to get into position, and also to receive responses from the Indian, Captain Godfrey ordered his non-commissioned officers to move their squads forward very carefully.  The men under Sergeant Gunther advanced close to the ground and soon commenced firing.  Captain Godfrey, hearing the wail of a child, called to them to stop firing, but they had already stopped.  The party was then about twenty-five or thirty yards from where the Indians were found to be.  Captain Godfrey immediately went forward to where the bodies were and found a boy, a squaw and two children lying there, the squaw and children dead, and the boy, who was lying on his face, apparently so.  At this juncture, Blacksmith Maurice Carey, who after the first firing had gone around on top of a high bluff, from which he could see the dead Indians in the creek bottom, joined Captain Godfrey.  As the latter turned away to look after his detachment, Blacksmith Carey took hold of the Indian boy’s head to lift him up.  As he did so, the boy opened his eyes and made a movement that evidently frightened Carey, who jumped back and shot him through the head.  Blacksmith Carey states that he shot the Indian because he was afraid the Indian would shoot him.
But five shots were fired during this affair, one by Sergeant Gunther, two by Blacksmith Carey and two by Private Kern.  The evidence shows that the brush in the creek bottom was very thick and that the men could not distinctly see what they were firing at.  The Indians were evidently lying down and close together when shot.  With the exception of the last shot fired by Blacksmith Carey, which killed the Indian boy, all of the shots were fired at distances of from twenty to thirty yards, precluding the possibility of the person or clothing of every Indian having been powder-burned.
The whole affair lasted but a few moments.  The men were excited and there seems to be no doubt that they believed that the Indians seen belonged to the party they had pursued from the battle-field.  The killing of the woman and children was unfortunate, but there is nothing to show that it was deliberate or intentional.  First Sergeant Gunther is an old soldier of the 3d Cavalry and has been personally known to me for many years.  That he would deliberately shoot down women and children I do not believe.  Blacksmith Carey is a recruit and at the time of this occurrence had been but three weeks with his troop.  As suggested by Captain Godfrey, it is probable that his action in killing the Indian boy was prompted by what he had heard from old soldiers of the ruses and desperation of wounded Indians.  Opinions differ as to the age of the Indian boy.  Captain Godfrey thinks that his age was 16 or 17 years, while Blacksmith Carey states that he was 18 or 19 years old and as tall as himself.[16]

Major General John M. Schofield, Commanding General of the Army, endorsed Major Vroom’s report on 2 April adding, “In my judgment no further action is required in this case.”  The report was marked “Seen by the Secretary of War” and filed with the Adjutant General’s Office.[17]

Blacksmith Maurice Carey, the Irishman from Wheeling, West Virginia, was discharged from the army at Fort Riley for disability in January 1892 with a characterization of service of ‘excellent.’  His life after the army is lost to history.[18]

Private William Kern, the German emigrant from Newark, New Jersey, was shot in the face during the Drexel Mission fight along the White Clay Creek the day after the Wounded Knee battle.  Kern drowned on 20 September 1891 while fishing in the Kansas River, still assigned to D troop at Fort Riley.  The army ruled his death was not in the line of duty.  He was buried in the Fort Riley Post Cemetery.[19]

Green A. Settle is buried in A. R. Dyche Memorial Park at London, Kentucky.[20]

Private Green A. Settle of Jackson County, Kentucky, continued his service with the 7th Cavalry.  During the Spanish American War, he served as the first sergeant of troop H, in the 1st U. S. Volunteer Cavalry, the Rough Riders, which was one of the elements of the regiment that did not go to Cuba.  After the war and seventeen years in the cavalry, he settled in London, Kentucky, where he worked as a barber.  About 1903 he married twenty-one-year old Annie Reams and they had six children together.  Green Settle died in 1946 and his wife 1969.[21]

First Sergeant Herman Gunther and his wife, Emma, are buried in the San Antonio National Cemetery.[23]

First Sergeant Herman Gunther enlisted two more times ultimately retiring on 19 June 1899 at Fort Riley, Kansas, after thirty years of service.  At the time of his retirement he was still serving as D troop’s first sergeant. He married eighteen-year-old Emma Kramer, a dress maker from Junction City, Kansas, in 1892.  The Gunther’s settled in San Antonio, Texas.  They had one son, Arthur, born in 1895. Herman Gunther died in 1931, Emma in 1945.[22]

Edward S. Godfrey wrote an unpublished manuscript entitled “Tragedy at White Horse Creek” in 1903, likely to present his account of the incident and perhaps influence senior military leaders and politicians to intercede on his behalf with President Roosevelt, who was adamant that Godfrey would not be promoted to flag officer rank. Roosevelt eventually did promote Godfrey to brigadier general in 1907 largely based on the counsel of  Major General J. Franklin Bell, Chief of Staff of the Army and fellow former 7th Cavalry officer who had served with Godfrey during the Pine Ridge campaign. However, the promotion came in Godfrey’s sixty-fourth year when he would be retired by law, and, thus, not be eligible for promotion to major general.  In 1931 at the request of the Chief of Staff of the Historical Section of the U.S. Army War College, General Godfrey wrote a letter recounting his reminiscences of Wounded Knee and White Horse Creek.  His recollection was in line with his testimony four decades earlier.[24]

The names of the Lakota woman and her son and two daughters that were shot and killed along White Horse Creek at the hands of the cavalrymen of D troop remain unrecorded, their bodies resting in unmarked graves where they were buried by Captain Frank D. Baldwin’s party on 20 January 1891, three weeks after they were killed.[25]

[1] Peter D. Vroom, “Investigation of circumstances connected with shooting of an Indian woman and three children by U.S. Troops near the scene of the battle of Wounded Knee Creek,” in Reports and Correspondence Related to the Army Investigations of the Battle at Wounded Knee and to the Sioux Campaign of 1890–1891, the National Archives Microfilm Publications (Washington: The National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1975), Roll 1, Target 3, Jan. 1891, 1136.
[2] Adjutant General’s Office, Official Army Register for 1912, (Washington: War Department, 1912), 478.
[3] Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914, (National Archives Microfilm Publication M233, 81 rolls), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94, National Archives, Washington, D.C., 
[4] Vroom Investigation, 1155-1156.
[5] Ibid., 1149-1151.
[6] Ibid., 1151.
[7] Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, Years: 1885-1890, Range: A-D, Page: 255, Line: 304.
[8] Vroom Investigation, 1151.
[9] Ibid., 1152.
[10] Ibid., 1156-1157.
[11] Ibid., 1152.
[12] Ibid., 1153.
[13] Ibid., 1157-1158.
[14] Ibid., 1153-1154.
[15] Ibid., 1154-1155.
[16] Ibid., 1142-1145.
[17] Ibid., 1441.
[18] Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, Years: 1885-1890, Range: A-D, Page: 255, Line: 304.
[19] Ibid., Page: 331, Line: 34; National Archives and Records Administration, Burial Registers of Military Posts and National Cemeteries, compiled ca. 1862-ca. 1960, Archive Number: 44778151, Series: A1 627, Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985, Record Group Number: 92.
[20] Stephen and Andrea Brangan, “Green Adam Settle,” FindAGrave, ( accessed 23 May 2014.  Uploaded 1 June 2012.
[21] Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, Years: 1893-1897, Range: L-Z, Page: 92, Line: 56;, U.S., Spanish American War Volunteers, 1898 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012, Original data: General Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers who Served During the War with Spain, Microfilm publication M871, 126 rolls, ARC ID: 654543, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s–1917, Record Group 94;, United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004, Year: 1900, Census Place: London, Laurel, Kentucky, Roll: 537, Page: 1A, Enumeration District: 0147, FHL microfilm: 1240537;, Kentucky, Death Records, 1852-1953 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.
[22], United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004, Year: 1900, Census Place: San Antonio Ward 6, Bexar, Texas, Roll: 1611, Page: 12A, Enumeration District: 0100, FHL microfilm: 1241611; Year: 1910, Census Place: San Antonio Ward 6, Bexar, Texas, Roll: T624_1531, Page: 8A, Enumeration District: 0048, FHL microfilm: 1375544; Year: 1930, Census Place: San Antonio, Bexar, Texas, Roll: 2296, Page: 25B, Enumeration District: 0105, Image: 556.0, FHL microfilm: 2342030; Year: 1940, Census Place: San Antonio, Bexar, Texas, Roll: T627_4205, Page: 10B, Enumeration District: 259-143; “Kansas, Marriages, 1840-1935,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 30 May 2014), Herman Gunther and Emma Kramer, 14 Jul 1892, citing Junction City, Geary, Kansas, reference p 159; FHL microfilm 1685972;, Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013, Original data: Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas Death Certificates, 1903–1982. iArchives, Orem, Utah,, U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012, Original data: Interment Control Forms, 1928–1962, Interment Control Forms, A1 2110-B. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985, Record Group 92, The National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.
[23] Laura T., “Herman Gunther,” FindAGrave, ( accessed 23 May 2014. Uploaded 24 Apr 2013.
[24] Associated Press, “Brig. Gen. Godfrey Retired,” The Sun (New York: 10 Oct 1907), 2; Peter Cozzens, ed., Eyewitnesses to the Indian Wars, 1865-1890, (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2004), 615-619.
[25] The Westerners Brand Book, vol 19, 1963, page 82 provides detail as to the identity of the Lakota woman, “Mother and children were not divided even in death, Prone, and with the right side of her face frozen to the solid earth was the squaw “Walks-Carrying-The-Red.” Snow almost covered an extended arm and filled the creases in the little clothing she wore.  Piled up alongside of her were her little ones, the youngest with nothing to cover its ghastly nakedness but a calf buffalo robe.”  Check sources cited by Jerome Greene in American Carnage, page 520, note 69.  He cites the Lakota woman’s husband as Elk Creek and her brother as Red Hawk.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Investigation of the White Horse Creek Tragedy,” Army at Wounded Knee, updated 18 July 2014, accessed _______,

Posted in Enlisted, Official Reports, Wounded Knee Investigation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Testimony of Captain Edward Settle Godfrey, Commander, D Troop, 7th Cavalry

I here opened fire on the Indians who had crossed the ravine, who were attempting to escape.

Captain Edward Settle Godrey, D Troop, 7th Cavalry, at Pine Ridge Agency, 16 Jan. 1891.  Cropped from  John C. H. Grabill's photograph, "The Fighting 7th Officers."

Captain Edward Settle Godrey, D Troop, 7th Cavalry, at Pine Ridge Agency, 16 Jan. 1891. Cropped from John C. H. Grabill’s photograph, “The Fighting 7th Officers.”

Captain Edward Settle Godfrey was forty-seven years old and had been with the 7th Cavalry since June 1867 upon graduation from West Point.  He was a battle tested veteran with a stellar reputation across the cavalry.  As a young seventeen-year-old man Godfrey, with his father’s permission, completed a three month enlistment during the Civil War in the 21st Ohio where he experienced his first combat action at Scarey Creek, Virginia.  His first decade in the 7th Cavalry Regiment, saw him participate in some forty Indian engagements including the battle of the Washita in 1868, Stanley’s expedition along the Yellowstone in 1873, Custer’s Black Hills expedition in 1874, and of course the Little Bighorn campaign of 1876 and 1877.  Godfrey commanded Company K as a first lieutenant in Captain Benteen’s battalion at the Little Bighorn and one of the few officers who received high praise from Benteen for his conduct in the hill top fight.  During the Nez Perce campaign in 1877 under the command of Colonel Nelson A. Miles, Godfrey was severely wounded at the battle of Bear Paw Mountain, action in which he eventually received a brevet for gallantry and was awarded the Medal of Honor.  Godfrey had been commanding Company D upon appointment to captain in December 1876 and still held that position fourteen years later at Wounded Knee.[1]

At the end of November when the regiment was ordered to deploy to Pine Ridge, Captain Godfrey was at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, serving as a member of the tactical board since February 1889. He applied to the War Department to join his troop in the field, and, upon approval of this application, headed to South Dakota where he rejoined the regiment the first week of December bringing with him a number of recruits designated for the 7th Cavalry.  A review of the D Troop muster roll indicates that at Pine Ridge D troop was close to its authorized strength and received only three of the new recruits.  There were four troopers that remained behind at Fort Riley, two that were ill including one non-commissioned officer, and two that were in confinement.  A fourth recruit designated for D Troop fell ill at Fort Robinson and never joined the regiment during the campaign.  Both of Godfrey’s lieutenants were on duty, but First Lieutenant William W. Robinson, Jr., who had been commanding D Troop for almost two years until Godfrey’s return, was detailed as Captain C. S. Ilsley’s acting assistant adjutant. Godfrey’s Second Lieutenant was S. R. H. “Tommy” Tompkins.  His first sergeant was German emigrant Herman Gunther, a forty-five-year-old cavalryman with over twenty-two years in the army including fifteen years in the 3rd Cavalry before transitioning to the 7th in 1884.

Being in the outer cordon at Wounded Knee, D Troop suffered only one soldier killed, Private Reinecky,  and one wounded, Wagoner York.  The following day at White Clay Creek, the troop suffered one soldier wounded, Private Kern.  The horses of D Troop fared worse with two killed and one lost at Wounded Knee and one killed and one wounded at White Clay Creek.

During Major General Miles’ investigation into Wounded Knee, Captain Godfrey was the second officer called to testify on the afternoon of 8 January.  The court asked him, “State what part you took with your Troop in the Battle with Big Foot’s Indians on December 29th, 1890.” to which he replied:

I was posted on the side of the ravine, with the ravine between myself and the Indian village.  I was under command of Captain Jackson, whose Troop was there also, and who was my senior.  The troop was deployed with intervals, and mounted about 50 yards behind the line of scouts.  Soon after the firing began, the cordon of sentinels and scouts rushed back on the line.  I told the men to fall back slowly, which they were doing, until a number of Indians from the village came up, across the ravine, onto the plateau, and the shots from the other lines at those Indians were falling among the men, and  one of the shots from the Hotchkiss gun fell near the front of the line, when I ordered the men to rally behind the hill, which was just to our left and rear, where I dismounted to fight on foot.  I here opened fire on the Indians who had crossed the ravine, who were attempting to escape.[2]

Several years later Godfrey provided additional detail of his unit’s engagement of the Indians that crossed the ravine in a professional article on cavalry fire discipline:

As soon as the Indians crossed the ravine, perhaps two hundred yards distant, and attempted to escape on the Agency road, I gave the command, “Commence firing!” I know the men did not aim deliberately and they were greatly excited. I don’t believe they saw their sights. They fired rapidly but it seemed to me only a few seconds till there was not a living thing before us; warriors, squaws, children, ponies and dogs—for they were all mixed together—went down before that unaimed fire, and I don’t think anything got nearer than a hundred yards. I believe over thirty bodies were found on our front.[3]

Continuing with his testimony, Godfrey went on to explain further actions in which he and his soldiers were engaged at Wounded Knee.  His testimony of one incident, near the White Horse Creek, would result in a subsequent investigation, and have lasting implications in Godfrey’s military career.

As soon as I forced them back or cleaned them out, I saw some going up the ravine.  I cut off about 12 men and ordered Lieut. Tompkins to take them to a point that I designated, to cover that ravine and prevent their escape by that line. I was then ordered by Major Whitside to take the balance of my Troop and make pursuit of some Indians who seemed to be going up the hillside to the westward.  After I got to the top of the Divide, I saw only one Indian mounted, who made his escape up the ravine.  I continued on to the westward to a creek, which I followed down then for the purpose of catching up any Indians who might be secreted in there.  I went over to the west of this creek, beyond the divide, to a high point from which I could see the country.  I saw no Indians from that point.  From there I scouted down the creek some distance.  Some of my men called my attention, that they saw some Indians in the creek bottom.  I dismounted some men and sent them forward, enjoining them not to shoot if they were squaws or children, and called out “How cola,” which means friend.  They, the Indians, made no reply, and the men, as soon as they got a glimpse of the Indians through the brush, fired about six shots.  I heard the wailing of a child, and stopped the firing as quickly as possible.  My men had killed one boy about 16 or 17 years old, a squaw and two children. Then I took up the scout down the creek, and then turned back to the camp.  On my way back I saw a Troop on the Divide at the head of the ravine that led from camp, and I turned to where it was and found Captain Jackson, with his Troop and a number of Indian prisoners.  I remained with him a little while, and at this suggestion made a detail to scout down the ravine dismounted, and I was going along on the ridge with the rest of my men to support them in case of necessity.  As I was just about to start, we saw a number of Indians congregating on a hill some distance off in the direction of the agency road, between us and the agency.  We were wondering who they were, when they started towards us.  Several, I don’t remember how many, perhaps 4 or 5, came up, said “How cola,” shook hands and seemed a good deal excited; one came up to me, shook hands and gave a pretty hard pull, as I have thought since, tried to pull me off my horse.  A young Indian was standing there who I took to be one of our scouts or an Indian policeman.  He had been there some little time before the others came up.  He said in English “This is my father.”  I asked him what his father meant; he said he did not know.  Then Captain Jackson called my attention to the other Indians deploying and advancing very rapidly.  I thought they numbered 50 or 60.  His lead horses were between our men and the advancing Indians, whose intentions we yet did not know; we were getting these horses back of the line when these Indians opened fire, wounding one of my men [Wagoner George York].  We returned fire, and Captain Jackson said that we would fall back, which we did.  The Indians made no effort to follow us up.  Soon two other troops came up to us from the battle field, and all returned to the main command.  We thought the Indians described were agency Indians; they were evidently strangers to the prisoners, whom we abandoned.  I saw no wanton destruction of non-combatants, none that could be helped, in my opinion.  I told the men throughout the day not to fire on women or children.  Although the Indians that we saw of the Big Foot band were at times about 200 yards off, we could not discern the distinction between bucks and squaws, and firing came from the parties.  No firing took place on the part of my men when other of our troops were between us and the Indians.  The prisoners that were abandoned had surrendered to Captain Jackson.  The number I do not know except from hearsay.  I know that there were five warriors, two of whom were badly wounded, and I was told the rest were so also; the rest were squaws and children, some of whom were wounded.[4]

Three weeks after the incident, an Indian policeman named Red Hawk, who had been searching for his sister since the battle at Wounded Knee, found her remains and those of her children near White Horse Creek.  He returned to the Pine Ridge Agency and reported his discovery of the bodies.  Major General Miles, perhaps concerned with Captain Godfrey’s statement that “My men had killed one boy about 16 or 17 years old, a squaw and two children,” gave Captain Frank Baldwin instructions to locate the bodies and determine what happened.  On 21 January 1891 Baldwin submitted the following report:

I have the honor to report that in obedience to verbal orders of the Division Commander, I proceeded this morning at 7 A.M., under escort of a detachment of the 1st Infantry, mounted to White Horse Creek, about eleven miles distant, where I found the bodies of one woman, adult, two girls, eight and seven years old, and a boy of about ten years of age. They were found in the valley of White Horse Creek, in the brush, under a high bluff, where they had evidently been discovered and shot.  Each person had been shot once, the character of which was necessarily fatal in each case.  The bodies had not been plundered or molested.  The shooting was done at so close a range that the person or clothing of each was powder-burned. The location of the bodies was about three miles westward of the scene of the Wounded Knee battle.  All of the bodies were properly buried by the troops of my escort. From my knowledge of the facts, I am certain that these people were killed on the day of the Wounded Knee fight, and no doubt by the troop of the 7th Cavalry, under the command of Captain Godfrey.

Goodenough Horse Shoe Mfg. Co. had been supplying the U.S. Army with horseshoes and horseshoe nails since at least 1874.

Tracks of horses shod with the Goodenough shoes were plainly visible and running along the road passing close by where the bodies were found. A full brother of the dead Indian woman was present.  He had been on the agency police force for several years.  Considering the distressing circumstances attending the death of his sister, his demeanor was remarkably friendly.  His only request was that a family of three persons, the only relatives he has living, and who were of Big Foot’s band, may be allowed to remain at this agency.  This I recommend be granted. I returned to the agency at 3 P.M. Very respectfully, Your obedient servant, Frank D. Baldwin, Captain, 5th Infantry, A. A. I. G.[5]

Almost a week after Baldwin returned from his ominous burial duty, Correspondent Harries of the Washington Evening Star published an article in that paper that heightened eastern outrage over Wounded Knee.  Although run on page six, the attention grabbing headlines undoubtedly shocked the readers in the nation’s capital, “A Prairie Tragedy.  How a Sioux Squaw and Her Three Little Ones Met Death.  Tracing the Murderers.  A Sad Scene Near Pine Ridge—The Discovery and Burial of the Victims of a Brutal Assassination—Cowardly Crime by Men Wearing the Blue.”

Pine Ridge, S. D., January 22,.—War, barbaric at the best, is legitimate, but there can be no possible excuse for assassination.  Today I witnessed the last scene in the earthly history of four of God’s creatures.  They were Indians and they lacked much.  Education had done nothing for them and the softening touch of religion had not smoothed their way to eternity, but they had souls, and those who killed them as the assassin kills are murderers of the most villainous description.  No one who looked upon that scene can ever forget it, and not a man or woman who is acquainted with the facts but regards the bloody circumstances with anything save horror.  An Indian woman, comely in life, with her three children were brutally murdered at about the time of the Wounded Knee fight and within three miles of the battlefield.  Yesterday their bodies were discovered by an Indian policeman; today the remains of the unfortunate quartet were placed in the bosom of mother earth. When it became known at division headquarters yesterday that four dead Indians had been found Capt. Baldwin of the fifth infantry and now on staff duty was instructed to proceed to the spot accompanied by a sufficient force for the purpose of identifying and burying the deceased.  Sunshine and frost combined to make this morning pleasant enough to make South Dakota a reputation as a winter resort.  Ordinarily two or three men would be able to inter four people, but these are still times of war and the revengeful Indian will lose no opportunity to wreak a portion of his vengeance on weaker parties than the one he commands. For that reason company A, first United States infantry, was ordered to perform escort duty and also to furnish a burial party.  Lieut. Barry and his men have only recently been mounted on Indian ponies and there is perhaps a little friction because men and cayuses do not yet understand each other, but the command was ready before the hour specified—7 a.m.—and after a slight and unavoidable delay on the part of others who were to go along the column moved out of the settlement and to the eastward.  Two ladies—one of them a newspaper correspondent, the other simply morbidly curious—were with the little expedition, the latter daughter of Eve being in a buggy commanded by Dr. Gardner, the former on one of Gen. Miles’ pet horses. Twelve miles from the agency was the spot to which our guides led us, the place where Red Hawk, an Indian policeman, had yesterday found the bodies of his sister and her children.  Red Hawk, the scouts, Interpreter Frank White and myself rode ahead of the column and arrived there some minutes in advance, leaving the main trail and our destination over a bridle path that narrowed at times to a dangerously insufficient footing even for a careful horse.  Red Hawk went alone to the little patch of brush in which lay those he loved, the remainder of the advance guard considerately halting on the bank above the bloody scene until it might be regarded as proper for them to approach and see for themselves what a cowardly deed had been done. Oh, it was a pitiful sight.  Mother and children had never been separated during life and in death they were not divided.  Prone and with the right side of her face frozen to the solid earth was the squaw “Walks-carrying-the-red.”  Snow almost covered an extended arm and filled the creases in the little clothing she wore.  Piled up alongside of her were her little ones, the youngest with nothing to cover its ghastly nakedness but a calf buffalo robe, which is before me as I write.  The positions of the children were changed somewhat from those in which they were found, the discoverer putting them together that he might cover them with a blanket. The first body to be examined was that of a girl about nine years of age.  In the horrible moment preceding dissolution she had drawn her arms up and placed them across her face—a pretty face, say those who knew her—and as the features molded themselves on the bony arms and froze her visage became frightfully distorted.  A black bead necklace was embedded in the flesh of her throat.  The victim was killed by being shot through the right lung, the ball entering high in her breast and making its exit at the right of her back, near the waist. Her sister—less than seven years old—was almost naked.  She, too, was facing the murderers when they took such deadly aim and, like the other girl, she had tried with her arms to shut out the sight of the unwavering rifle muzzles.  The ball entered her right breast, went through the right lung downward and came out near the spine and just above the left kidney. Seventy grains of powder drove 500 grains of lead through the brain of the boy—a sturdily built twelve-year-old.  Of all the horrible wounds ever made by bullets none could be more frightfully effective than that which forever extinguished the light of life in this boy.  The wound of entrance was on the upper part of the right side of the head; the wound of exit was beneath the right eye, tearing open the cheek and leaving a bloody hole as large as a dollar.  There must have been at least a few seconds of agony before death came, for the right arm was thrown up to and across the forehead and the fingers of the left hand stiffened in death while clutching the long, jet-black hair near the powder-burned orifice in his skull. And the mother.  Gentle hands loosened the frosty bands which bound her to the soil and fingers which tingled with the hot flow of blood from indignant hearts tenderly removed from her flattened and distorted face the twigs and leaves and dirt which in the death agony had been inlaid in the yielding features.  Her strong arms were bare and her feet were drawn up as the natural consequence of a wound which commenced at the right shoulder and ended somewhere in the lower abdominal region.  From the wounded shoulder a sanguinary flood had poured until her worn and dirty garments were crimson-dyed; the breasts from which her little ones had drawn their earliest sustenance were discolored with the gory stream.  It was an awful sight; promotive of sickening thought and heartrending memories. While Dr. Gardner, Capt. Baldwin and Lieut. Barry were satisfying themselves as to the direct causes of death a detachment from the escort had prepared a shallow grave.  It was on the brow of the hill immediately above the scene of crime.  Red Hawk had selected the spot and it did not take long for half a dozen muscular infantrymen to shovel away the light soil until the bottom of the trench was about three feet below the surface.  In one blanket and covered by another the bodies of the three children were borne up the slope and laid alongside their last resting place.  When the detachment returned for the mother Red Hawk took from under his blue overcoat a few yards of heavy white muslin, which he shook out and placed over his sister’s body.  Then everybody went up the hill.  The mother was first placed in the grave, and upon and alongside of her were the children.  Not a sound of audible prayer broke the brief silence.  The warm sun shone down on the upturned faces of Elk Creek’s widow and children and searching January breeze played among their ragged garments. “Fill her up, men,” said Lieut. Barry, and that broke the spell.  In five minutes a little mound was all that denoted the place from whence the four bodies shall rise to appear before the judgment seat, there to face four of the most despicable assassins this world ever knew.[6]

General Miles mentioned the incident at White Horse Creek specifically in his 31 January 1891 endorsement to the investigation of the battle of Wounded Knee in which he unequivocally found fault with Colonel Forsyth’s handling of the affair.  “I also forward herewith report of Captain Frank D. Baldwin, 5th Infty., concerning the finding of the bodies of a party of women and children about three miles from the scene of the engagement on Wounded Knee Creek.  This report indicates the nature of some of the results of that unfortunate affair, results which are viewed with the strongest disapproval of the undersigned.”[7] On 12 February 1891 Secretary Redfield Proctor directed an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killing of the Indian woman and her children:

The bodies of an Indian woman and three children who had been shot down three miles from Wounded Knee were found some days after the battle and buried by Captain Baldwin of the 5th Infantry on the 21st day of January; but it does not appear that this killing had any connection with the fight at Wounded Knee, nor that Colonel Forsyth is in any way responsible for it.  Necessary orders will be given to insure a thorough investigation of the transaction and the prompt punishment of the criminals.[8]

General Miles returned the notarized statements and a memorandum summarizing the event with a full paged endorsement wherein he seemed to blame Captain Godfrey while at the same time relieved him from any responsibility.

The woman and children killed were in the camp of Big Foot on Wounded Knee Creek. In his testimony at the investigation of the Wounded Knee Creek affair Captain Godfrey states that his men killed one boy, one squaw and two children.  His testimony as to the locality where these people were killed coincides with the report of Captain Baldwin as to the spot where the bodies were found.  Captain Baldwin’s report, which accompanied the papers pertaining to the Wounded Knee Creek investigation, shows also that the tracks of a troop of cavalry horses were found near the bodies, as well as other evidences of the presence of soldiers.  The boy, however, was not sixteen or seventeen years of age, but between eight and ten, and the two girls between five and seven. Captain Godfrey subsequently admitted that this party was killed by his men, but gave as an excuse for them that he did not think they could see the Indians on account of the brush. Persons who were on the ground and examined the brush could easily be identified in that locality at a distance of fifty yards. The weight of this excuse, however, is entirely destroyed by the fact that the soldiers could see well enough to take deliberate and deadly aim and kill four persons with six shots, and so near were they as to burn the clothing and flesh of every victim, and one of their United States cartridge shells was found in the midst of the dead bodies. In my opinion, however, Captain Godfrey was not responsible for this crime. All the facts were not ascertained until the regiment was ordered out of this Division, and this incident was regarded in the same light as that of others which occurred in other parts of the field.[9]

Major General Schofield, through the Adjutant General of the Army, next directed General Wesley Merritt, Commanding General of the Department of the Missouri, to whom the 7th Cavalry was assigned, to conduct a further investigation.  The task eventually fell to Major Peter Dumont Vroom, Inspector General of the Department of the Missouri. Major Vroom received his orders on 13 March and conducted interviews with Captain Godfrey, and four enlisted soldiers from D Troop on the 17th and 18th.  Vroom began with an interview of the Troop commander and asked Captain Godfrey, “Please state the circumstances with the killing of a party of Indians by a detachment under your command on the 29th of December 1890, after the fight on Wounded Knee Creek.” Godfrey replied with the following:

We were scouting down a creek, which I understand now to be White Horse Creek, and were in a gorge.  I was looking to the flanks and also to see if there were any tracks on the ground of anybody that had passed there.  Sergeant Gunther and some of the men called out: “Look out, there, Captain, there are some Indians down the creek there.”  I halted the detachment, I had about twenty men with me and asked how many Indians they had seen.  They replied that they had seen three crouching and running across the creek.  My detachment was in column of twos.  I dismounted half of the men and told Sergeant Gunther to take some men and deploy them across the creek valley.  The other dismounted men I sent to the left on the high ground.  While they were taking their posts, I called out several times: “Squaw,” “Pappoose,” “Colah,” and tried to indicate in the best way I could that if they were squaws or children they had no reason to fear us.  Sergeant Gunther then called my attention and said: “Captain, they will get the advantage of us if we stand here.”  I was waiting for the men on the left to get into position and also waiting to get responses from the Indians.  When the men first began to go out I cautioned them particularly against shooting squaws and children, and when they were ready to advance I gave this caution again.  I then told the non-commissioned officers to move their squads forward very carefully.  Sergeant Gunther’s men moved forward crouching down pretty close to the ground, and pretty soon some one called out: “There they are,” and they commenced firing.  I heard the wail of a child and called to them to stop firing, but they had already stopped.  The party was then about twenty-five or thirty yards from where the Indians were found.  I immediately ran forward to where the bodies were and saw at a glance a boy, squaw and two children lying there.  The look was sufficient to satisfy me that I could do nothing for the squaw and children.  The boy was lying on his face motionless and I supposed he was dead.  I had already ordered the men to continue on down the creek and was turning away hurriedly to look after my detachment when I heard a shot and Blacksmith Carey said: “Captain, the man ain’t dead yet,” and I saw that he had shot him.  The horses remained back where the men were dismounted.  After examining the creek and ravine below, I called for the led horses.  The road led down the valley of the creek, which was narrow, crooked and full of brush.  The road passed right near where the bodies were, within a few feet of them.[10]

Major Vroom next asked Captain Godfrey, “Did you notice that the flesh or clothing of any one of the bodies was burned?” Godfrey replied, “I did not, nor do I believe that my men were close enough for the bodies to be powder-burned by their fire, except in the case of the boy.  I took the boy to be about fifteen or sixteen years of age.” Major Vroom followed up with, “How thick was the brush at the place where the Indians were found?”[11]  Godfrey responded with:

It was such that I did not see them at any time until I went up to the bodies.  I am satisfied that the men did not know at what they were firing except that they were Indian, because Sergeant Gunther, as soon as he heard the wail of the child, dropped the butt of his gun on the ground, leaned his weight on it and shook his head in a sorrowful manner.  Blacksmith Carey was a recruit who had joined us three weeks before, and when he shot a thought went through my mind that he had evidently heard of the ruses and desperation of wounded Indians.  It is a well-known fact that old soldiers take no chances with wounded Indians.  In conversation with Captain Baldwin, subsequent to his report of the burial of the bodies, he said that the boy had but one gun shot.  Of course then the boy had not been hit in the first firing.[12]

Major Vroom concluded his interview with Captain Godfrey with one final question. “Did your detachment move or handle the bodies at all?”  Godfrey answered:

They did not.  I have understood from parties who were present, and also from a letter of a newspaper correspondent who was present with Captain Baldwin at the time of the burial that the position of the bodies had been changed after a snow had fallen on them, and it is my belief that if the bodies were powder-burned it was done by some parties subsequent to the day of the fight with malicious intent and purpose to deceive.  The fight took place on the 29th of December, 1890.[13]


[1] USMA AOG, Sixty-third Annual Report of the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, June 9, 1932, 59-68.
[2] Jacob F. Kent and Frank D. Baldwin, “Report of Investigation into the Battle at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, Fought December 29th 1890,” in Reports and Correspondence Related to the Army Investigations of the Battle at Wounded Knee and to the Sioux Campaign of 1890–1891, the National Archives Microfilm Publications (Washington: The National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1975), Roll 1, Target 3, Jan. 1891, 676.
[3] Edward S. Godfrey, “Cavalry Fire Discipline,” Journal of Military Service Institution of the United States, Volume XIX,” (Governor’s Island: Military Service Institution, 1896), 259.
[4] Kent and Baldwin Investigation, 676-679.
[5] Ibid., 732-733.
[6] George H. Harries, Evening Star (Washington, D. C.: 27 Jan 1891), 6.
[7]Kent and Baldwin Investigation, 767.
[8] Peter D. Vroom, “Investigation of circumstances connected with shooting of an Indian woman and three children by U.S. Troops near the scene of the battle of Wounded Knee Creek,” in Reports and Correspondence Related to the Army Investigations of the Battle at Wounded Knee and to the Sioux Campaign of 1890–1891, the National Archives Microfilm Publications (Washington: The National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1975), Roll 1, Target 3, Jan. 1891, 1136.
[9] Ibid., 1139-1140.
[10] Ibid., 1145-1147.
[11] Ibid., 1147-1148.
[12] Ibid., 1148.
[13] Ibid., 1148-1149.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Testimony of Captain Edward Settle Godfrey, Commander, D Troop, 7th Cavalry,” Army at Wounded Knee, updated 19 Jul 2014, accessed ______,

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