Private Frank T. Reinecky, D Troop, 7th U.S. Cavalry – Killed in Action

My men killed three bucks and I had one man killed and one wounded. –Lieutenant Tommy Tompkins

"The Cavalier. The young soldier and his horse on duty at camp Cheyenne," by J. C. H. Grabill, 1890, Deadwood, Dakota.

“The Cavalier. The young soldier and his horse on duty at camp Cheyenne,” by J. C. H. Grabill, 1890, Deadwood, Dakota.  Privates in the 7th cavalry at Wounded Knee were equipped like the trooper pictured.

On the morning of 29 December 1890, Frank T. Reinecky, a private in Captain Godfrey’s D Troop, was mounted with his troop on the south side of the ravine.  He had little more than a year left on his five-year enlistment, making him one of the more experienced privates in the unit.  When some of the fleeing Indians crossed the ravine and headed to the southerly Wounded Knee Road that led to the Pine Ridge Agency, Reinecky was on the line. Captain Godfrey relocated the unit south of a hill to avoid the line of fire from Indians, other troopers, and the Hotchkiss guns.  Reinecky also was likely a part of the firing line that Godfrey initiated when he stated, “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.”[1]

Inset of Lieut. S. A. Cloman’s map of Wounded Knee depicting the position of C and D Troops, December 29, 1890.

Inset of Lieut. S. A. Cloman’s map of Wounded Knee depicting the position of C and D Troops, December 29, 1890.

As there was only one man killed in D Troop, Second Lieutenant Tommy Tompkins must have been referring to Private Reinecky’s death when he stated in a letter to his father, “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 and one wounded.”  According to a New Year’s Day article in the Omaha Bee listing the soldiers’ causes of death at Wounded Knee, Reinecky was shot in the head.  Tompkins described the action where Reinecky was likely killed in his testimony at General Miles investigation of Wounded Knee, “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.”  Private Reinecky and his comrades were buried two days later next to the Episcopal Church at the Pine Ridge Agency.[2]

The Evangelical Parish of Dierdorf, Prussia listing Franz Anton the son of Wilhelm Moritz Reineck and Katharina Heer.[6]

The Evangelical Parish of Dierdorf, Prussia listing Franz Anton the son of Wilhelm Moritz Reineck and Katharina Heer.[4]

Reinecky’s given name was Franz Anton Reineck.  He was born on 6 January 1858 at Dierdorf in the Kingdom of Prussia, what today is known as the Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.  His father was Wilhelm Moritz Reineck, a thirty-four-year-old tailor and native of Dierdorf, and his mother was Katharina Heer from Wissen thirty-five kilometers to the north.  Wilhelm and Katharina were married in Dierdorf six years earlier and had  a four-year old daughter, Katharina Maria, when Franz was born. Wilhelm was the son of a locksmith, Johann Friedrich Reinecke and his wife, Anne Elisabethe Schroeder.  Katharina was the daughter of a cultivator, Simon Heer and his wife, Maria Chatharina Marzheuser.[3]

In 1866, Wilhelm left his family and emigrated to America, perhaps to establish himself in his new country before bringing his wife and children across the ocean.  He settled in the village of Ravenna, Portage County, Ohio, working again as a tailor and anglicizing his name to William M. Reineck.  Before joining her husband in America, Katharina died in April 1871. Her two teenage children made the trip alone in September of that year, arriving in New York City aboard the ship Ohio, also anglicizing their names to Catherine and Frank. Within two years of his children’s arrival, William married twenty-eight-year-old Sarah Deuble, the daughter of German emigrants who was working as a domestic servant for the Reverend George S. Davis in Ravenna, where the Reverend married the couple at his home.  William and Sarah had at least five children over the next decade including Henry, who died in 1877; William who died in 1875, the same year he was born; Mrs. Bertha Mahoney, born in 1877; George Davis, born in 1879, and Frederick, born in 1883.  By 1880 neither of William’s children from Germany, by then of adult age, were living with their father and step-mother.[5]

Abandoning the life of a butcher, Frank T. Reineck, enlisted 11 January 1887 at Cleveland, Ohio. His recruiting officer, Lt. Vernon, recorded his name as Reinecky and signed him up for five years in the cavalry.  Stating that he was twenty-seven years of age, two less than actual, Frank Reinecky also stated that he was born at Long Island, N. Y, rather than his native Dierdorf, Germany.  He had blue eyes, blond hair, a fair complexion, and stood five feet, seven and a half inches in height.  Reinecky was assigned as a private in Captain Godfrey’s D Troop, 7th Cavalry.[6]

Letter from the War Department to the Commissioner of Pensions verifying the Private Frank T. Reinecky was killed at Wounded Knee.

Letter from the War Department to the Commissioner of Pensions verifying that Private Frank T. Reinecky was killed at Wounded Knee.[7]

Following his death at Wounded Knee, William Reineck filed for a dependent father’s pension in July 1891, stating that his son was never married, had no children, and that he, William, had never remarried.  He provided official documents from the Evangelical Parish of Dierdorf proving that he was married to Katharina Heer and that Franz Anton was their son.  He also stated that he had no income and no one to support him, even though seven years later he was still working as a tailor and was living in Ravenna with his second wife and three of their children, including his eldest daughter, Bertha, and her husband, Henry Mahoney, a rail road brakeman.  William died in January 1903, and his wife, Sarah, applied for the unpaid balance of his $12-per-month pension providing proof that she had been married to William Reineck for the past thirty years.[8]

More than three years after William Reineck’s death, his son’s body was disinterred in October 1906 and  moved to Fort Riley, home of the 7th Cavalry Regiment in 1890, where Private Frank T. Reinecky was buried in the post cemetery along with most of his fallen comrades from Wounded Knee.[9]

Private Frank T. Reinecky is buried at the Fort Riley Post Cemetery.[10]


[1] Adjutant General’s Officer, “7th Cavalry, Troop D, Jan. 1885 – Dec. 1897,” Muster Rolls of Regular Army Organizations, 1784 – Oct. 31, 1912, Record Group 94, (Washington: National Archives Record Administration); 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.
[2] 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; Omaha daily bee., January 01, 1891, Part One, Image 1, ( accessed 4 Nov 2013; 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] Adjutant General’s Office, The National Archives, Pension Application Certificate No.: 338377, Pensioner: William M. Reineck, Stack area: 18E3, Row: 5, Compartment: 2, Shelf: 4. Research conducted by Vonnie S. Zullo of The Horse Soldier Research Service;, Germany, Select Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014, FHL Film Number: 489978.
[4] William M. Reineck Pension File.
[5] Ibid.; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010, Year: 1880, Census Place: Ravenna, Portage, Ohio, Roll: 1059, Family History Film: 1255059, Page: 381A, Enumeration District: 128, Image: 0419; Year: 1870, Census Place: Ravenna, Portage, Ohio, Roll: M593_1258, Page: 455B, Image: 508, Family History Library Film: 552757.
[6], U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914, 1885-1890, L-Z, image 309, line 34.
[7] William M. Reineck Pension File.
[8] Ibid.; United States Federal Census,Year: 1900, Census Place: Ravenna, Portage, Ohio, Roll: 1314; Page: 9B, Enumeration District: 0090, FHL microfilm: 1241314.
[9] Dakota County herald., October 05, 1906, Image 1, accessed 11 Dec 2013.
[10] Jana Mitchell, photo., “Frank T. Reinecky,” FindAGrave, ( accessed 3 Aug 2014.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Private Frank T. Reinecky, D Troop, 7th U.S. Cavalry – Killed in Action,” Army at Wounded Knee, posted 5 August 2014, accessed date __________,

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Major Samuel Marmaduke Whitside’s Campaign Letters

I am fully convinced the trouble will terminate without a shot being fired.

Major Samuel M. Whitside, 7th U.S. Cavalry, circa 1890-1891.

The 7th Cavalry arrived at the Pine Ridge agency on 27 November 1890 and Major S. M. Whitside, as with many of the officers, began writing letters to his wife, Carrie McGavock Whitside, at Fort Riley.  Of his letters, fifteen remain and provide a fantastic, candid glimpse of life in the regiment during the campaign.  Whitside usually referred to each of the officers using their brevet rank.  I have inserted full names where officers are introduced.

Pine Ridge, South Duke St.,
Monday 10 A.M. Dec. 1st ‘90

This is the first day of winter and the change in weather seems to indicate that this is really the commencement of winter. The air this morning is sharp and dry. Small flakes of snow are now falling and by tomorrow a real old Northern blizzard will probably be raging–two more days have gone since I wrote you last, but nothing of a war like nature has happened. Several thousand Indians are in Camp near the Agency. They all seem anxious and uneasy as if they were expecting something to turn up.
[Brigadier] General [John R.] Brook [sic: Brooke] is in Command, and is evidently preparing for a raid on some of the absent Tribes still out and who will not accept the invitation to come in. If we go at all, from appearances I conclude it will be a night march and a few pack mules will go with each Co. to carry rations. This will be for the purpose of surprising the Indians while in their camp, capturing and bringing them in here but all of this will probably be accomplished without firing a shot. I am fully convinced the trouble will terminate without a shot being fired.
Captain [Myles] Moylan arrived last evening. He is looking well and says he is glad to be here. Lt. [Herbert G.] Squires is also on hand, but I guess after sleeping two nights with [First Lieutenant] Jim Mann for a bed companion, on the cold ground, he will wish himself back to his comfortable house on the Hudson River.
Lt. [Edwin C.] Bullock is a very sick man and will probably be sent to Riley.

Pine Ridge Agency
Saturday, 10 A.M. Dec. 6

We are certainly favored by having most charming winter weather, which continues uninterrupted. The nights are quite cold, ice forms on the water in our buckets, three or four inches thick, but it is a still cold, free from wind. No new developments have taken place in the last two days, regarding the Indian affairs.
I have just been informed by Dr. [Capt. John Van R.] Hoff, who just came down from Headquarters that General Brook and the Agent of Indians were having an interview with his honor the Great Chief Two Strike and Short Bull and several other lesser lights who are leaders of the Rose Bud Indians, still out and up to this time have failed to obey the Agent’s orders to come into the Agency. The council now in session may result in all of the Indians coming in. Should such be so, the next thing to do will be to disarm all of the Indians in this section of the country, take from them all of their war ponies and then turn them over to the Missionaries with the advice to behave themselves. Should there be any outbreak whatever, the Troops were never in better condition for service than we are today. The Indians are surrounded by several thousand soldiers and should they attempt to get away and raid the settlements, it would be the signal for a general advance of the Army and a certain destruction of the Indians would follow. I am still of the opinion that the whole question and trouble will be adjusted and not a hostile shot will be fired. It would be folly for the Indians to go on the War Path at this season of the year and now that they know so many soldiers are on the ground and are in readiness to jump on them.
Col. [John M.] Bacon has applied to join his Battalion so the General informed me last evening and will join tomorrow.  [First Lieut. Luther R.] Hare is having the same old trouble of fainting spells, in fact he is a wreck in mind and body and may keel over at any moment–he is not fit for duty. [First Lieut. Loyd S.] McCormick is unwell, suffering with a cold and is about laid up for repairs. Capt. [Charles A.] Varnum is not well. The great [Second Lieut. Sedgwick] Rice is on duty again having recovered from the smash up–still goes about with a black eye and a lame knee. I remain in fine condition, have an enormous appetite and eat three substantial meals each day and ready for any duty that may come up. I will return to my old Nickle [sic] plated Battalion on the arrival of Bacon.
Dr. [Lt. Col. Dallas] Bacha [sic: Bache] reported for duty yesterday. He came over to camp to see me last evening. I never saw him looking better. His trip East did him good. He told me that he wanted to remain here but that General Brook rather discouraged his staying. The Battalion from Leavenworth is in the same locality–the 1st, 5th and 7th Infantry are on their way to join us. The 2nd & 8th Infantry are already on the ground so that nearly one third of the whole Army is here. There never has been such a great gathering since the War of any people as we have here so you see should there be any outbreak we are able to settle it in short order, with very little danger to any body of Troops engaged.

Major Bacon held a brevet of colonel and was the senior major in the 7th Cavalry.  He was serving as Brooke’s Inspector General.  Bacon had married Colonel James W. Forsyth’s daughter, Mary, the previous year, making him the son-in-law of the regiment’s commander.  Bache, General Miles’s assistant surgeon, was a widower; his first wife, Alberta McGavock who died in 1878, was the sister of Carrie McGavock, making him Whitside’s brother-in-law.

Pine Ridge,
Monday, Dec. 8th – 90.

The Command still remains in permanent camp waiting for something to turn up to solve the Indian problem. When I last wrote you I said Two Strike and a number of his War Chiefs were holding a council with General Brook. After a few hours parley Mr. Two Strike agreed to return to his fortifications in the Bad Land where his 2000 bold bad men were located.–that he would immediately cause the General to be sounded and cause his camp to be broken up, traps packed and take up his line of march to the Agency and on his arrival report to General Brook to be dealt with as the Great Father may direct. The known white men at the Agency including newspaper reporters, say that Two Strike will never come in with his people. I believe they will comply with their promise and if they do, it will wind up the business so far as the hostiles now absent from the Reservation are concerned. It is generally believed that the Interior Department has decided to pursue a new policy with these Indians but what it really is to be we are at a loss to know. It is my opinion that if we are not ordered home by January 1st we will remain here all winter. Should the Indians come in as they have promised to do, I cannot see any reason why we should be kept here, as there is a sufficient force in this Department which properly belong here to look after the hostiles and send us back to our loved ones to enjoy home comforts and steam heat.
Major Bacon is here with General Brook. It was expected he would command a Battalion but General Brook told me before he arrived that he would be kept at Headquarters.
Lt. Hare is on the sick report suffering with old trouble, and will probably be sent home soon. He is a broken down and a used up man both mentally and physically and if he does not improve and change his habits he has but a short time to stay on Earth.
The weather remains most favorable for our work in Dakota. The days are bright and clear and free from wind. Should this weather continue during December, we will be in big luck. The new comer, Capt. [Edward S.] Godfrey, says he suffers with the cold at night. I sleep warm and retain my appetite, so I have nothing to complain of.
Several thousand Indians are camped within five miles of our Command. They are quiet and seem well satisfied with their condition. There is no more danger here then at Riley.

Pine Ridge So. Dakota
Tuesday, Dec. 9th ‘90

The situation remains unchanged. All is quiet along the White today. The weather is all that can be desired. In about five days the hostiles under Two Strike will commence arriving here if they come at all. [Major] General [Nelson A.] Miles, the papers say is on his way here from Chicago, and should the Indians fail to come in according to promise, the peace and quiet of camp life will be a thing of the past, as we will mount our horses and pack our mules and proceed to the Bad Lands, and pay Mr. Two Strike a visit with a view of escorting him and his family to the Agency.

Pine Ridge, S. D.
Thursday, Dec. 11th, 1890

During the last two days and nights the weather has been very warm, but a sudden change took place this A.M.–a strong wind is blowing from the North and the Mercury must have gone down thirty degrees during the last two hours. Buffalo overcoats and arctic overshoes are in demand today. Old Mr. & Mrs. Two Strike and the young Two Strikes have not yet reported. Their journey from Bad Wonderland has been very slow on account of the broken down condition of their horses, oxen and wagons. The scouts sent out from here report their approach and that they may reach here today. The question which remains unanswered is what are we to do when the blanket robed bucks are all in here, banqueting on Uncle Samuel’s beef and flour. Judging from the extensive preparations being made by the Government in the way of the arrival of a very large quantity of stores of all kinds, such as an extra large supply of buffalo overcoats, 200 extra pack mules and 50 additional four mule wagons, I should say it looks very much as if the Troops were to spend the winter in camp at or near this place. Although the Riley detachment hope to be permitted to enjoy the steam heat at Riley instead of living in a cloth house with Mercury 40° below zero as we will do here if we remain.
I have taken advantage of the last two days good weather in getting some lumber and nails and having my tent floored and framed and going so far as to indulge in the luxury of a door, so I am pretty well prepared for a change in the temperature. I slept in my new palace the first time last night and when I awakened this A.M. and heard the wind blowing and the air filled with pulverized sand, I congratulated myself on being more enterprising than any of my brother officers–heretofore my bedding and tent has been full of dust and I have really been sleeping in sand and dirt like a pig but now as clouds of dust are rolling swiftly Southward, I laugh and say, lucky man thou art to be in a clean room. The paymaster paid off the men yesterday, as this is a Prohibition State and an Indian Reserve no intoxicants can be had, consequently no drunks follow payday. The Indian Traders are reaping a rich harvest and are disposing of a great many goods to the soldiers.
Lts. Hare, [Horatio G.] Sickle [sic: Sickel], Rice and [Thomas Q.] Donaldson all of the Nickel-plate Battalion are on the sick list. Nothing serious. Col. Bacon is here with General Brook in his capacity as Inspector. Lt. [John A.] Harmon [sic: Harman] has applied to be relieved from his college detail and ordered to join his troop for duty in the Indian Campaign at this place. General Miles has gone up North to Standing Rock Agency and he is expected to reach this place in six or seven days, when it is thought some permanent disposition will be made for the winter, when we will know whether we return home or stay out here.

Saturday 10 A.M.
December 13th, 1890

No change has occurred during the last twenty four hours to break the monotony of Camp life. Every other day I have Battalion Skirmish drill for an hour and a half. Every man except the cooks are required to turn out. Every alternate day 60 men and one commissioned officer with 20 six mule teams march out to the timber section where they cut and load the wagons with wood, returning to camp about 3 o’clock–this with the usual daily duty is all we have done since our arrival here. The reported hostile Indians that broke away from the Rose Bud Indians and went into the Bad Land country, under Two Strike, Short Bull, Chicken Hawk and Young American Man-Afraid-of-his-Horse and several other lesser lights, in all comprising 2000 men, women and children it is reported will arrive here today, with the exception of 50 lodges of 100 fighting men who have decided not to come in but prefer to stay out and fight the whole Army. –but it is generally believed that these Indians will soon change their minds and sneak in a few at a time. If they do not they will be sent for and forced in or suffer the consequences, which would result in their complete destruction. The policy of the Government seems to be to handle these people gently and kindly and not to resort to force until all other measures fail.
Lt. [William W.] Robinson is now on the sick report, suffering with a severe cold–in fact all of the Lieuts. in the Nickle [sic] plate Battalion except [Edwin P.] Brewer and [Selah R. H.] Thompkins [sic: Tompkins] have been or are sick since our arrival here. Lt. Hare is again out for duty but is looking badly–young wounded knee Rice has sufficiently recovered from the accident he met with on his way up here which was the result of drunkenness as to do a share of his duty. He is without a doubt the most useless appendage in the way of an officer I have met for many a day. We are all waiting anxiously for a decision of General Miles as to what disposition he is going to make of us during the winter–whether we are to return to Riley or go into permanent camp for the winter. The sooner the question is decided the better it will be for us. We are all hanging onto the hope that we will anchor at Riley for the winter.

Sunday Dec 14 ‘90

The situation here remains unchanged. Whatever is being done or is to be done has a good deal of mystery connected with it. I begin to think that General Brook does not know anything more regarding the situation here than I do. The whole business has been a bungle and a big scare and there is nothing in it. I firmly believe the Indians here never had any intention of leaving the reservation or engaging in War with the whites but all of this movement of large bodies of soldiers had been brought about by false reports made by the Indian Agent [Daniel F. Royer], who is a new man and did not have the force of character to control and manage the Indians. Some few of the Indians had a fight among themselves and when the Agent’s Police interfered to arrest the fighters a resistance and threats were made against the Agent, which so frightened him that he ran away and abandoned his post of duty–went to Fort Robinson for protection where he remained until troops were ordered to escort him back to this place, when he sent to the Interior Department the most alarming reports as to the Messiah and the Ghost dance and the war like demonstration made by the Indians which resulted in the whole Army being placed under marching orders and now that we are here, it is evident some one has made a serious mistake and is only waiting for a way to crawl out of the dilemma.
This is a most disgusting day, a high wind is raging and the air is filled with dust.

Monday 9 A.M. Dec. 15

Everything seems to indicate that the troops now here will be on the march in the direction of the Bad Lands inside of twenty four hours. Extra rations are being issued. Pack mules are being put in readiness for immediate use. Covers are being put on the wagons which have heretofore been stripped for hauling wood and no wood detail has been sent out today. General Forsyth was directed to report to General Brook at 8 o’clock this A.M. and at this writing is still absent. It appears that the promises made to General Brook by Two Strike and other Chiefs at the Council held twelve days ago have not been kept by the Indians, to come in to this Agency. They are still out although it is reported about two thirds of these Indians are on their way in but move slow in consequence of their broken down transportation, but it is now believed that this excuse is given merely to gain time to enable these Indians to receive reinforcements from other Agencies as they are so inspired by the influence they have in the coming Messiah as to believe they can whip all the troops we can take against them and that a bullet cannot injure them.
We have been here nearly three weeks and during that time the weather has been most delightful for field service, and we have done nothing. Today the weather is very threatening–North winds, cold, and the sky is overcast with snow clouds, which is anything but promising for a march North in the direction where the War Party of Indians are supposed to be located.
General Forsyth has just returned and has issued orders for the Command to be in readiness to march at a moment’s notice, which means that we will leave here tomorrow morning or tonight. We will move with 12 companies of Cavalry, one battery and 90 Indian Scouts–in all about 700 men. We take our wagons and pack mules with us. We have sufficient force to suppress any body of Indians now away from here. I do not apprehend that we will have much fighting to do–as soon as the Indians see our large force they will take to their heels and make their way back to the Agency the best way they can. Daily telegrams will be sent to [Maj. Edward B.] Willitson regarding our movements as usual.

Tuesday 10 A.M. Dec. 16

As I stated in my letter of yesterday that everything indicated an advance of the troops to the Bad Land today. Later in the day an order of march was issued, directing the Military to move out of camp at 8 A.M. today and as a matter of fact every body was in readiness. But about 8 o’clock last evening a telegram was received from General Miles announcing that the arrest of Sitting Bull has been effected [sic] at Standing Rock Agency and an attempt to rescue him was made by his followers which resulted in the killing of Sitting Bull and several other Indians. Also that the advanced movement ordered of this Command would be suspended until further orders–So here we are still in our old quarters. This is one of the most charming days of the season. I presume it is expected that the killing of this Old Chief will influence the troublesome Indians here for the better by proving to them that none of them are bullet proof and if they go to war some of them will meet the same fate as their Great Chief has.
Lt. Hare leaves here for Riley today being rendered unfit for duties by illness. He is a wreck both physically and mentally and cannot ever recover.

Thursday A.M. Dec. 18th

All quiet along the banks of the White Clay. No change and we are just where we were three weeks ago today when we arrived here. The killing of old Sitting Bull seems to have changed the whole plan of our Campaign as originally decided upon–yesterday General Brook had a council with all of the friendly Chiefs now here, when subject of bringing in the Indians from the Bad Lands was fully discussed and it was suggested that all of the friendly Indians go out to the Bad Lands in a body and urge upon the Indians now there to come in and surrender and should they decline to do so peacefully to compel them by force to come in–The Indians could not decide last evening whether they would go out or not but promised to take the matter under consideration and make known their decisions at noon today–if they decide to undertake the job we will remain quietly in camp and wait developments but should they conclude not to go which they probably will do, why then we may be sent out and I feel confident we will make short work of the business.
I do not believe there is any more prospect of the 7th Cavalry going to New Mexico than there is to go to New York. We are sure to remain at least two years longer at Riley or at least the 7th Cavalry will, regardless of the reports made by Capt. [George E.] Pond and other knowing persons to the contrary. As affairs now stand the chances are very favorable that what dinner we have on Christmas, one week from today, will be eaten right here in this Camp.

Friday Evening
December 26th ‘90

When I wrote to you this morning little did I think that I would be 20 miles from Pine Ridge at this time–At noon I received orders to proceed with my battalion, and the section of Artillery under Lt. [Harry L.] Hawthorn, to this point and try to intercept the Sitting Bull Indians who escaped from Col. [Edwin V.] Sumner, who were reported trying to join the hostiles in the Bad Land. I am now camped on Wounded Knee Creek. Tomorrow I will scout in all directions from this place and am in hopes of being successful in finding the Indians. If I do not succeed it will not be any fault of mine but because the Indians are not in this part of the country to find.
I will probably be back to Pine Ridge by the time this reaches you. It is now 11 o’clock at night and I am sending a scout back to the Agency with an official dispatch for General Brook, and he will take this note with him to mail.

George E. Trager's 29 Dec. 1890 photograph titled "Birds eye view of 7th Cav Camp at Wounded Knee S.D. before the fight with Chief Big Foots Band."

George E. Trager and the Northwestern Photographic Co., dated 29 Dec. 1890, titled “Birds eye view of 7th Cav Camp at Wounded Knee S.D. before the fight with Chief Big Foots Band.”

Friday, January 2nd, 1891

Yesterday General Brook, his staff, the 2nd Infantry, one Battalion 9th Cavalry and two small Mountain guns left here about 9 A.M. for active service in the field, with a view of getting in rear of the hostile Indians. General [Eugene A.] Carr with his Command is moving up on their right, the troops from Rose Bud are in position the troops now here–1st Infantry and my regiment, with four guns under Capt. [Allyn] Caperon [sic: Capron] will advance direct on the Red Skins and a demand will be made on them to surrender and return to the Agency with the promise that they will receive good, kind treatment. Should they disregard the demand to surrender and fire on our men, why of course a bloody battle will ensue and again the Indians will get the worst of it. I firmly believe, however, the whole difficulty will be adjusted by General Miles without another shot being fired. He is working day and night to induce the head men now out to come in and have a talk and arrange terms with them, for them to come in and behave themselves. General Miles is terribly worked up over the battle with Big Foot as it was his desire to settle matters without the loss of life. I guess from what I hear that he is dissatisfied with Brook’s management of affairs and as soon as he reached here, he ordered Brooks to take the field; so as to get him away from the Agency. We are in readiness to leave here on an hour’s notice and if we go at all, I feel it will be our last campaign, as with the large number of troops on horse the work should be settled either by peace or war. I hope the end may be reached before you receive this paper, or letter I should have said. The wounded are all improving and appear cheerful. No provision had been made by the Medical Department to provide for so many wounded men and of course there must be discomforts. This time of the year is recognized as the season of abundant merriment and genuine good fellowship. The good fellowship can be found here but all luxuries are not with us.

Monday, January 5th, ‘91

At midnight Friday, I received instructions to proceed at day light Saturday A.M. with a burial party to the battle ground of Wounded Knee for the purpose of assisting in making a complete map of the ground locating thereon the exact position the Troops occupied from the commencement to the end of the battle. I obeyed the order literally and only returned to my camp here last evening at 8 o’clock pretty badly used up, but a good night’s rest was most refreshing and I am feeling very much improved this morning. Eighty four Buck Indians were buried yesterday, ten are wounded in the hospital and nine were taken away and buried by friendly Indians. 8 are at the Catholic Mission wounded. So out of 120 present at the beginning of the fight we know of 111 that were either killed or wounded, leaving nine unaccounted for. On my arrival here I find General F. has been relieved from Command of his regiment and a Board of Officers ordered to investigate what brought on the fight, whether it could not have been avoided and whether a proper disposition of the troops was made for disarming and fighting. The settlement of the Indian trouble has been a failure according to the plans arranged by Gen. Miles, and now some one must shoulder the responsibility and be sacrificed and from appearances Gen. F. is the man selected, for other people to unload on. I regard the management of the Council with the Indians, the disarmament of them as far as it went, and the placing of troops before and during the battle as judicious. Every thing was done to avert an outbreak, considering the circumstances and our position that mortal man can do.
The General is terribly worried and distressed over his position as he says, although he may be fully exonerated from all blame, the great harm has been done his record which can never be erased. I am willing to shoulder all the responsibility of the affair, as I really managed the whole business. The Inspector General was with me on the battle field yesterday and he was perfectly satisfied with every thing done and will so report to General Miles. I have just been sent for by General Miles to report to him in person.

Lieutenant Sydney A. Cloman's original map of the Wounded Knee Battlefield

Lieutenant Sydney A. Cloman’s original map of the Wounded Knee Battlefield.

January 7th ‘91

I have been before the Board of Officers investigating our Wounded Knee Battle all the morning and it is within a few minutes of mail time so I can only say that everything remains quiet at Pine Ridge. There has been no movement of Troops since I wrote you yesterday as we are all waiting to see how many hostiles will come into the Agency and surrender as they have been invited to do.
All evidence offered so far has been based on facts as they occurred on the battle field, that every precaution was taken to guard against an accident and the whole affair reflects great credit on each and everyman connected with the capture and management of those Indians.
Tell Miss Bessie to cheer up as the daughter of a soldier who did his whole duty and did it well and he will come out of it without a stain on his fair name and the report of the Board will be that the 7th Cavalry should have commendation of the War Dept. and no praise is too great to bestow on us.
The Indians are coming in slowly and there is great prospects of the trouble ending without any further fighting.
Lt. [J. Franklin] Bell joined us yesterday direct from Mexico. We are all well.

Bessie, or Elizabeth, was Forsyth’s eldest daughter.  Within a year of the campaign, she married Lt. Col. Dallas Bache, making him the son-in-law of Forsyth and the brother-in-law of Bacon, and from his first marriage, the brother-in-law of Whitside.

Thursday 10 A.M.
Camp at Pine Ridge So. Dakota
January 15th 1891

Another day has gone and the military situation at the seat of War remains unchanged. Yesterday was spent by the Commanding General in holding councils with a number of the head men of the hostiles in which the subject of surrendering their arms was fully discussed, and I understand the Indians agreed to bring in their arms today, turn them over to the Agent and receive his receipt for the same–the arms to be returned to them at some future time, or the money value therefore. It remains to be seen whether the hostiles, young and old will comply with the arrangements made by their representative men, as the Indian values his gun more highly then any of his belongings. We are evidently held here waiting the result of the disarmament. As soon as the matter is settled we will be told to go home and the Indians will be sent to their farms.
A military officer has been sent here, to set an Agent in place of the imbecile just relieved and who in a measure is responsible for all of the trouble at this place.
This is a cold foggy day and if all weather signs do not fail, we will be visited by a blinding snow storm and a Northern blizzard within the next seventy four hours. I pity our poor horses as they stand at the picket line on the side of the hill exposed to the wind and cold.
Gen. Forsyth has just come into my tent with a telegram from Hare, saying [First Lieut. James D.] Mann died yesterday. I am shocked and distressed beyond expression to hear such sad news. The information is such a surprise as the Medical officers here did not regard his wound as in any way serious, and his sudden ending must be the result of blood poisoning. Mann was a fine brave and gallant officer, always ready and willing for service and did his duty cheerfully. There is many a sad heart here to day among the officers and especially among the enlisted, as he was a great favorite of the men, as he always treated them kindly. I will miss poor Mann as I have always been very fond of him and appreciated his many good qualities. Gen. Forsyth’s status remains unchanged. –he is more cheerful and is becoming reconciled to the unfortunate position in which he is placed. The investigation developed nothing to his discredit but as one of the officers of the Board [Capt. Frank D. Baldwin] was the confidential advisor of Gen. Miles, the report of the Board will probably be in accordance with the will or desires of Gen M. instead of the facts in the case as shown by the evidence adduced. As soon as the report of the Board is made public, Gen. F. will demand a Court of Inquiry, when I am confident he will be exonerated. The Court will be composed of officers of high rank who are not under Miles’ Command, and therefore not afraid to express their opinion. Mr. Hermann Dennison, a brother-in-law of Gen. F. is expected here today. Col. [William R.] Shafter called yesterday.

William R. Cross, No. 747. "Camp of the 7th Cavalry, Pine Ridge Agency, S. D. Jan. 19th, 1891. W. R. Cross, 1891. "

William R. Cross, No. 747. “Camp of the 7th Cavalry, Pine Ridge Agency, S. D. Jan. 19th, 1891. W. R. Cross, 1891. “

Source: Samuel L. Russell, “Selfless Service: The Cavalry Career of Brigadier General Samuel M. Whitside from 1858 to 1902,” Masters Thesis, (Fort Leavenworth: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2002), 138-144.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Major Samuel Marmaduke Whitside’s Campaign Letters,” Army at Wounded Knee, posted 1 August 2014, accessed date __________,

Posted in Officers, Personal Letters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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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