Setting the Record Straight Regarding H. R. 3467 Remove the Stain Act

The Honorable Adam Smith, Chairman
The Honorable Mac Thornberry, Ranking Member
House Armed Services Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Thornberry:

I am writing you regarding H. R. 3467 “Remove the Stain Act,” to implore the House Armed Services Committee to take no action on this historically deficient bill. In doing so, I wish to set the record straight regarding the Army’s actions at Wounded Knee and the men who were awarded Medals of Honor for their gallantry, heroism, and fortitude on that battlefield.

I am a retired Army officer with three decades of active service in uniform, a military historian who has researched and written about the Army’s actions at Wounded Knee for two decades, and a descendant of a survivor of the Battle of Wounded Knee. Retired from active service, I now serve on the faculty and staff at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks. However, I am writing to you as a private citizen, not in an official capacity.

Major Samuel M. Whitside, 7th Cavalry, at Pine Ridge Agency, 16 Jan. 1891. Cropped from John C. H. Grabill’s photograph, “The Fighting 7th Officers.”

My great great grandfather was Brig. Gen. Samuel M. Whitside, who, as a major in the 7th Cavalry in 1890, commanded that regiment’s First Battalion, captured Chief Spotted Elk’s band near Porcupine Butte, and escorted them to his camp at the Wounded Knee Creek crossing. Most of the soldiers who were killed the following day were from his battalion, and he was consulted on most of the medals awarded to 7th Cavalry troopers.

The House Armed Services Committee should allow the “Remove the Stain Act” to die in committee for three reasons, which I explain in detail on the following pages.

1) It all but ignores, and at times misrepresents, the well documented historical record that articulates the Army and the War Department’s official position on Wounded Knee and the honors conferred.

2) It presents only the perspective of the Lakota peoples, whose ancestors were the very forces that opposed U.S. Soldiers at Wounded Knee.

3) It does what has never been done in our Nation’s history, that is, consult the perspective of the opponent of our U.S. Soldiers in a particular conflict to determine if medals should be rescinded.

To pass such an Act now or any time in the future would set a precedent for all future generations of Americans to rescind any medal from any conflict to which such a generation may take umbrage, regardless of the facts and established record.

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I Troop, 7th Cavalry Regiment Muster Roll

Muster Roll of Captain Henry J. Nowlan’s Troop I of the Seventh Regiment of Cavalry, Army of the United States, (Colonel James W. Forsyth,) from the 31st day of October, 1890 to the 31st day of December, 1890. [Names in bold are believed to have been present at the battle of Wounded Knee.  Those annotated with * were wounded in action, those annotated with § were killed in action or died of wounds, and those annotated with ¥ were awarded the Medal of Honor or the Certificate of Merit.]

Captain Nowlan, Henry J.: Absent with leave from Oct. 10, 1890 to Nov. 11, 1890 for one month.  Commanding troop since Nov. 11, 1890.

First Lieutenant Nicholson, W. J.: Commanding troop from Sept. 11, 1890 to Nov. 11, 1890.  On duty with troop since Nov. 11, 1890.

Second Lieutenant Waterman, J. C.: On duty with troop since Sept. 11, 1890.

¥ Sergeant Trautman, Jacob: Enlisted on January 4, 1886, at Fort Totten, Dakota Territory, by Lt. Russell. A.G.O. Granted a Medal of Honor.

¥ * Sergeant Loyd, George: Enlisted on April 15, 1889, at Fort Riley, Kansas, by Lt. McCormick. Absent sick in General Hospital, Pine Ridge, S. D., since December 29, ’90. Wounded in action at Wounded Knee Creek, S. Dak. Dec. 29, 1890. Shot through right lung.

Sergeant Crowley, Edward B.: Enlisted on March 15, 1887, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, by Lt. Andrews.

Sergeant Connelly, James F.: Enlisted on February 8, 1887, at Saint Louis, Missouri, by Lt. Wilson.

Sergeant Smith, Frederick: Enlisted on March 7, 1886, at Fort Meade, Dakota Territory, by Lt. Wilkinson. On detached service since Nov. 24, ’90 at Fort Riley, Kansas, in charge troop property.

§ Sergeant Howard, Henry: Enlisted on April 25, 1888, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by Capt. Drum. Absent sick in General Hospital at Pine Ridge, S. D., since Dec. 29, ’90. Wounded in action at Wounded Knee Creek, S. D., Dec. 29, ’90. Shot through left shoulder. Continue reading

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First Lieutenant Ernest Albert Garlington, A Troop, 7th Cavalry – Distinguished Gallantry

Garlington promptly took his place among the fighting men and kneeling in plain view of Indians who, not 30 yards away, were pouring a galling fire into his little party, he continued the fight against overwhelming odds and held the ravine.
–Col. James W. Forsyth

Lieutenant Ernest A. Garlington, 7th U.S. Cavalry, circa 1876.[1]

Lieutenant Ernest A. Garlington, 7th U.S. Cavalry, circa 1876.[1]

Thirty-seven-year-old Ernest A. Garlington was the First Lieutenant of Captain Moylan’s A Troop and was commanding a detachment of that troop posted as sentinels just south of the dry ravine on the morning of December 29, 1890. Lieutenant Nicholson, the acting adjutant for 1st Battalion, mentioned speaking with Garlington just prior to the first shots fired that morning.

Just before the firing took place, I was in rear of the center of the line of tepees on the edge of the ravine with Lieut. Garlington, who was one of the officers on guard, when he remarked to me that the squaws were saddling up and packing and that he was satisfied that they would make a break. He advised me to report the fact to Major Whitside, and I was on my way to him and had reached the opening between B and K Troops when the first shot was fired by the Indians.[2]

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