Assistant Surgeon Captain Charles B. Ewing’s Report to Major General Miles

In June 1891, Captain Charles B. Ewing, Assistant Surgeon, Department of the Platte, at the request of Major General Nelson A. Miles, Commanding General, Division of Missouri, submitted the following report to the Adjutant General of the Division of Missouri, Chicago, Illinois.

June 23, 1891

Sir:–Understanding that a report of my services at the battle of Wounded Knee is desired, I have the honor to submit the following:

The battle began at 9:30 A.M., December 29, 1890, and the troops withdrew from the field about 2 P.M., and marched to Pine Ridge Agency, reaching that point sometime between 9:30 and 10 o’clock that evening.

Lieutenant Kinzie, Second United States Infantry, Mr. James Assay, Indian trader at Pine Ridge agency, and myself, were seated in an open wagon within ten to fifteen feet of one end of the parallelogram of soldiers that surrounded the Minneconjous Sioux band under Big Foot.

Colonel Forsyth, Seventh United States Cavalry, was writing a communication which one of our party was to carry to General Brooke, commanding Department of the Platte, then at Pine Ridge agency, and while waiting for communication, the firing commenced.  A volley came in our direction, the bullets whistling unpleasantly about us; our horses took fright, and, becoming uncontrollable, ran right across the line of fire, but were turned, and finally stopped near Louis Mossoeu’s store, about three hundred yards distant from the field of battle; we alighted, and I was then informed by Lieutenant Kinzie that he had been shot in the foot; after examination of the same, I immediately returned to the camp and busied myself in the care of the wounded.

I did not think it a time for ceremony, hence dispensed with the formality of reporting for duty, and at once went to work.  The work consisted principally of what is known as first aid to the wounded.  The only exception being an operation of a plastic nature, when I replaced and stitched the severed nose of Mr. Wells, the interpreter, belonging to Lieutenant Taylor’s command of Indian scouts.  This was the only operation, if my memory serves me, that was performed on the field.

This first aid consisted in stopping haemorrhage; applying dressing to wounds; putting up fractures; giving stimulants; and allaying pain.  Later it became necessary to redress many of the wounds, as is often the case, the first dressing being only temporary.

I accompanied Captain Edgerly’s troop to a point about three miles to the west, where Captain Jackson was reported to be surrounded by hostile Brulés.  Truth forbids that I place this in the light of a medical service, and I freely confess that it was only after arriving at our destination that I was aware that I lacked everything in the way of dressings to render aid to the wounded in case of trouble; of course, much could be done in that regard by using the clothing and equipment of the men.  My only excuse is that I went very suddenly, so quickly in fact that there was no time for obtaining dressings.  It was in this way: I was standing on the brow of the hill watching the firing of the Hotchkiss guns and the barricading of the ridge when Captain Edgerly’s troop galloped past, and seeing a horse in the troop without a rider, I ran out and jumped in the saddle.  I had provided myself with carbine and ammunition, hence was in good shape.  It did not take us more than fifteen minutes to ride the three miles, and we were just in time to see the Indians disappear in the direction of Pine Ridge agency.  After remaining about fifteen or twenty minutes, I suddenly remembered that I had absolutely nothing in the way of dressings, hence returned to camp with Lieutenant Brewer for the purpose of obtaining some, but learning that the command was to return immediately, I found my services would not be needed, hence did not obtain dressings as I intended doing.

Now to sum up: I was on the field from 9:30 A.M. to about 4 P.M., at which hour we began our march back to the agency.  Of that six and one-half hours, I am quite sure I spent two and one-half to three hours at the dressing station, and the same length of time superintending the removal of a part of the wounded and at least three-fourths of the dead, to which must be added about three-quarters of an hour taken up in accompanying Captain Edgerly’s command and returning as stated above.

We consumed about five and one-half hours on the march to the agency, which was of necessity slow.  I rode a horse (kindly furnished me by a troop commander), as did also Assistant Surgeons Hoff and Glennan.  I did not render any medical service on the march, and think it quite unlikely that such could have been rendered efficiently, as darkness came on quickly and lights were not permitted in the command.  I was not called upon to render any aid by the surgeon officially in charge, and I fail to see, under the conditions, how the wounded could have been benefited further till arrival at division hospital.  I would be failing in a proper appreciation of the work of my brother surgeons in the connection were I not to mention the very efficient and untiring services of Captain Van R. Hoff and Lieutenant Glennan, of the Medical Department, who labored unceasingly in ministering to the wounded.  Upon arriving at Pine Ridge agency, the wounded were placed in that part of the divisional field hospital of which I was in charge.  It was my duty to attend and redress some twenty of the wounded, which occupied my time till two o’clock the following morning.

Capt. C. B. Ewing. Assistant Surgeon

Source: George B. Shattuck, ed., The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Volume CXXVI, January – June 1892, (Boston: Damrell and Upham, 1892), 463-464.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Assistant Surgeon Captain Charles B. Ewing’s Report to Major General Miles,” Army at Wounded Knee (Sumter, SC: Russell Martial Research, 2013-2015,, posted 12 Aug 2013, accessed date __________.

About Sam Russell

I am a fifth-generation retired Army officer with twenty-nine years of commissioned service. I have been researching the frontier Army for over eighteen years and am interested in documenting the lives of the soldiers that participated in the battle of Wounded Knee using primarily official reports, diaries, letters, newspaper articles and other primary source documents. My interest in Wounded Knee stems from my kinship to one of the principal participants. I am the great-great-grandson of Samuel M. Whitside, who was a major and battalion commander at the battle. I welcome and encourage comments on posts and pages and am always interested in any new primary sources. If you have copies of letters, diaries, etc, from participants and are willing to share, please contact me. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are strictly my own, and should in no way be construed as official Army or U.S. Government positons.
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