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.
–First Sergeant Herman Gunther

Three weeks after Wounded Knee an Indian policeman named Red-Hawk, who had been searching for his sister since the battle, 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 Nelson A. Miles, perhaps concerned with Captain Edward S. Godfrey’s testimony two weeks earlier that “My men had killed one boy about 16 or 17 years old, a squaw and two children,” gave Captain Frank D. Baldwin instructions to locate the bodies and determine what happened. On January 21, 1891, Baldwin submitted the following report:

Captain Frank D. Baldwin at the Pine Ridge Agency, 13 January 1891.

Captain Frank D. Baldwin at the Pine Ridge Agency, January 13, 1891.

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.

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First Lieutenant Horatio Gates Sickel, Commander, E Troop, 7th Cavalry


…in remaining with a detachment of Troop “E”, 7th Cavalry, in a dangerous and difficult position in order to protect against possible mutilation the bodies of soldiers of his command already killed by the Indians….
–Colonel James W. Forsyth

Lieut. Horatio G. Sickel - Fighting 7th Officers - J. C. H. Grabill - colorized by Amy Gigliotti

First Lieutenant Horatio G. Sickel, Jr., E Troop, 7th Cavalry, at Pine Ridge Agency, 16 January 1891. Cropped from John C. H. Grabill’s photograph, “The Fighting 7th Officers.” Colorized by Amy Gigliotti.

Two weeks short of his thirty-seventh birthday, Horatio G. Sickel, Jr., was commanding E Troop during the Pine Ridge Campaign while Captain Charles S. Ilsley was commanding the 2nd Battalion. Lieutenant Sickel had served in E Troop for eight years and had been with the regiment since being transferred to it following the battle along the Little Big Horn River just a couple of weeks after graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1876. The troop’s second lieutenant was Sedgwick Rice, a civilian appointee that had been with the unit since transferring to the 7th Cavalry four years earlier. Lieutenant Sickel’s senior non-commissioned officer was First Sergeant Charles M. Clark, a veteran enlisted man with over twelve years in the saddle with the regiment and at least one prior enlistment with the 6th Infantry. E Troop had its full compliment of officers, fourteen of its fifteen non-commissioned officers, and forty-three of its forty-five privates at Wounded Knee, twelve of which were recently assigned from the recruiting depot at Jefferson Barracks, comprising twenty-eight percent of the troop’s junior enlisted soldiers.[1] Continue reading

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Captain Henry James Nowlan, Commander, I Troop 7th Cavalry—Gallant Service


Don’t fire, let them go, they are squaws….
Here come the bucks; give it to them!

Photograph of Henry J. Nowlan from Memorials of Deceased Companions of the Commandery of the State of Illinois, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.[1]

At the age of fifty-three–fifty-four according to British records–Captain Henry James Nowlan was the oldest of the 7th Cavalry officers, save that of Colonel J. W. Forsyth, and had commanded I Troop for fourteen years. The Irishman’s distinctive sideburns by 1890 were snowy white. Educated at Sandhurst and a veteran of the Crimean War and the American Civil War, Nowlan had been in uniform for almost four decades. He was cited for gallantry for his actions in leading I Troop at Canyon Creek in 1877, action for which he would eventually be awarded a brevet promotion to major but had not yet received by the time of Wounded Knee.

Capt. Nowlan brought I Troop to Wounded Knee with almost all of its authorized officers and soldiers; he was short one corporal and one private. Of his privates, nine had arrived from the recruiting depot during the campaign three weeks earlier, meaning that 20% of his privates were green soldiers with less than a month in the troop. Nowlan’s first lieutenant was W. J. Nicholson, who had served for six years at that rank and had been with the regiment for fourteen years, joining it a couple of months after the Little Big Horn. During the fight at Wounded Knee, Nicholson served as Major S. M. Whitside’s acting battalion adjutant. The I troop second lieutenant was J. C. Waterman, a thirty-three-year-old West Pointer who had been with I Troop since graduating from the academy in 1881. Jacob Trautman was Nowlan’s first sergeant, a twenty-seven year veteran who had served as the troop’s senior non-commissioned officer for the past decade and had joined the regiment a month after the Little Big Horn.[2] Continue reading

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