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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Captain Winfield Scott Edgerly, Commander, G Troop, 7th Cavalry


Several of these Indians were wounded, and I had my dressers care for the wounds dressing a child’s wound myself.

Capt. W. S. Edgerly

Captain Winfield S. Edgerly, Commander, G Troop, 7th Cavalry, at Pine Ridge Agency, 16 January 1891. Cropped from John C. H. Grabill’s photograph, “The Fighting 7th Officers.”

Captain Winfield Scott Edgerly was forty-four years old at Wounded Knee. He joined the 7th cavalry two decades earlier after graduating from West Point in June 1870. As the second lieutenant of D Company, Edgerly fought in Captain Benteen’s battalion at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Edgerly was appointed the captain of G troop in 1883 while on recruiting service and joined his new troop in the fall of 1884 commanding it since that time. He had with him at Wounded Knee his first lieutenant, Edwin P. Brewer, but his second lieutenant, J. Franklin Bell, had not yet rejoined the troop by the end of December. Edgerly’s first sergeant was twenty-five-year-old Frederick E. Toy, a New York native two years into his second enlistment. G Troop had four of its five sergeants present and four corporals. His troop served as part of the regiment’s 2nd Battalion, then commanded by Captain Charles Ilsley, and formed up mounted on the eastern side of the cavalry camp at Wounded Knee the morning of December 29th.

Writing to his wife at Fort Riley on the evening of December 29 after returning from Wounded Knee, Capt. Edgerly described his and his units actions that day. Continue reading

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Sergeant William Grafton Austin, E Troop, 7th Cavalry – Conspicuous Gallantry


He displayed great bravery in crossing the ravine under a hot fire and maintained his position there until his troop was withdrawn at the time the Hotchkiss gun was put in position.
–Lieutenant Sedgwick Rice

Sergeant William G. Austin had been in the cavalry and E Troop a month shy of four years when shots rang out on the Wounded Knee and the melee ensued at the council circle. By army records, the native Texan from Savannah, Georgia, was twenty-eight; in fact he was only twenty-two at the time of the battle. Despite his youth, Austin proved to be a leader of men rising rapidly to the rank of sergeant. His leadership was evident on December 29 catching the attention of the three officers of E Troop.

In the middle of March 1891, Lieutenants Horatio G. Sickel and Sedgwick Rice recommended Sergeant Austin and several other soldiers be awarded the Medal of Honor. Those recommendations were endorsed by the regiment’s adjutant, Lieutenant L. S. McCormick, in consultation with Major S. M. Whitside, who was commanding the regiment and post at the time while Colonel J. W. Forsyth was on leave. The Adjutant General provided a summary of the actions of all of the cavalrymen of E Troop recommended by the two lieutenants and wrote of the two sergeants, “McMillan and Austin were conspicuously brave, frequently exposing themselves to close fire from the ravine in order to obtain an advantage over the concealed Indians, and rendered much assistance in placing the men in good positions and encouraging them by good example.” Noting that Colonel Forsyth had not endorsed the recommendations, Major General John M. Schofield suggested on April 6 that all of the E Troop recommendations be returned to the 7th Cavalry for “personal action of the regimental commander.”[1] Continue reading

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