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displayed great bravery in crossing the ravine under a hot fire and maintained his position there until his troop was withdrawn at the time the Hotchkiss gun was put in position.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.” Continue reading