Private Dominick Franceschetti, G Troop, 7th Cavalry – Left for Dead


He had been scalped, his head crushed in, hands cut off and in other ways horribly mutilated.

Private Dominick Franceschetti, who had been with the 7th Cavalry Regiment for a year, came through the Battle of Wounded Knee unscathed.  He was not so fortunate the following day at White Clay Creek.  As a member of Captain W. S. Edgerly’s G Troop at Wounded Knee, Franceschetti was positioned on the east side of the cavalry camp between the Wounded Knee Road and Wounded Knee Creek, south of the Post Office crossing and a barbed wire fence, and north of the ravine.  No one in G Troop was injured that day.  However at White Clay Creek, Franceschetti made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country, and his regiment returned to the Pine Ridge Agency without him.

Whether Franceschetti was killed in action, died of wounds, or was abandoned on the field and left to the devices of an embittered enemy depends on which report one reads.  All 7th Cavalry records and testimony listed Private Franceschetti as killed in action on 30 December 1890.  On the 31 December reports, the day after the battle, Captain Edgerly recorded on the troop muster roll:

Captain W. S. Edgerly's Muster Roll Recapitulation for G Troop, 7th Cavalry

(Click to enlarge) Captain W. S. Edgerly’s Muster Roll Recapitulation for G Troop, 7th Cavalry.[1]

Dec. 30th, 1890 – participated in the engagement with hostile Sioux Indians under Chief “Two Strike” six (6) miles north of Pine Ridge Agency, S.D.  Private Francischetti killed in action.  1 horse wounded.

Similarly, Colonel Forsyth listed him by name as killed in action, not died of wounds or missing.  None of the reports mentioned that his body was left on the battle ground.  The narrative on the regiment’s field return stated:

Field Return of Seventh Cavalry in the field commanded by Colonel James W. Forsyth, for the month of December, 1890.

(Click to enlarge) Colonel J. W. Forsyth’s Field Return of Seventh Cavalry, December 1890.[2]

…left camp and marched 8 miles below the agency, on White Clay Creek, S.D., and were engaged in a skirmish with Hostile Indians during the day, with a loss to the command of 1 enlisted man killed, and 1 commissioned officer & 6 enlisted men wounded, and returned to camp same day.

A week after the battle a correspondent for the Nebraska State Journal, W. F. Kelley, provided the following detail concerning the recovery of Private Fanceschetti’s body.

Another unfortunate victim of the mission fight with the Indians was found yesterday afternoon, his name being Dom Franschettie, of Troop G, Seventh Cavalry.  Franschettie was missed upon the return of the cavalry that day.  No one had seen him fall in the fight, but he was at once given up for lost.  Lost Horse, one of Taylor’s Indian scouts, came across his body yesterday and brought it to this place.  He had been scalped, his head crushed in, hands cut off and in other ways horribly mutilated.  The unfortunate man was interred with military honors as soon as possible in the little cemetery on the hill, officers and comrades of his regiment attending in a body.[3]

The Commanding General of the Division of the Missouri, Major General Nelson A. Miles, found this incident yet another indication of Colonel Forsyth’s incompetence.  Miles detailed the death of Private Franceschetti in a letter to the Adjutant General of the Army written the following November.  In Miles’s account, he states that sources informed him that Franceschetti was alive when left on the field.

….On this occasion a soldier of Colonel Forsyth’s command was left on the field stunned and with his leg broken.  Some days afterwards when the body was recovered it was found to be horribly mutilated, the man evidently having been tortured, as some of his sockets had been disjointed, this condition being verified by a surgeon.  The Indians subsequently admitted that this man was not dead when found by them.  An officer of the 7th Cavalry has said that, at the time the troops were retiring, he volunteered to go with a sergeant to recover the soldier, but was not permitted to do so.[4]

Writing more than five years later in a letter to then Brigadier General Forsyth, Captain William W. Robinson, Jr., who had served as a first lieutenant and adjutant of the 7th Cavalry’s 2nd Battalion under Captain Ilsley, detailed the death and abandonment of Franceschetti.  His account disputes General Miles’s claim that the trooper was not dead when left on the field.

It seems now that the retirement of the 1st Battalion encouraged the Indians in the belief of their strength, and caused them as the 2nd was about to retire, to make quite a vigorous attack upon its left flank.  Just as I mounted my horse to retire with the line, I found myself quite fully exposed to the fire of, as I judged, about a dozen Indians on the hills to our left and front, and by one of these shots, Private Clette [sic: Franceschetti] of troop G was killed about ten feet from me.  Several comrades were near him attending him, and one of them handed me his carbine.  I could perhaps have brought the body off on my horse without being hit, if I had thought of it, and should certainly have tried it if I had realized then that otherwise it would be abandoned, but I regret to say it did not occur to me to do so.  He was dead before I left, and in riding down through the ravine, I was exposed to an enfilading fire to which the dismounted command was not, and it is somewhat doubtful if I could have gone slowly through there encumbered with this dead body.  However I have never forgiven myself for not making the effort, nor shall I ask you to do so.[5]

Military records provide scant detail of Dominick Franceschetti’s life or family prior to enlisting in the Army.  He was born at Cologna in the Province of Trentino, Austria, which today is Trentino and South Tyrol located in Northern Italy. Immigration records indicate several Franceschettis emigrated from the alpine region of Northern Italy and Southern Austria in the late 1800s; names include Prospero in 1886 Alfredo and Giordano in 1889, Viette and Frank in 1890, and Michelle and Maria in 1892, but fail to reveal when Dominick Franceschetti came to America and if or when he was naturalized.

Final Statement of Private Dominick Franceschetti prepared by Captain Myles Moylan on 3 February 1891.[3]

(Click to enlarge) Final Statement of Private Dominick Franceschetti prepared by Captain Myles Moylan on 3 February 1891.[6]

On 9 September 1889 in Chicago, Illinois, Franceschetti, a twenty-three-year-old miner, enlisted in the Army for five years.  He stood just under five and a half feet, had brown eyes and hair, and a dark complexion.  Included in Captain Edgerly’s inventory of his personal effects were two Italian dictionaries, a war club, and a pair of moccasins.  Little else is known of the life and death of this Austrian-Italian immigrant.  He was buried at the Episcopal cemetery at the Pine Ridge Agency on 6 January 1891, and was exhumed and re-interred in October 1906 in the Fort Riley Post Cemetery.[7]

Private Dominick Franceschetti’s grave marker at the Fort Riley Post Cemetery in Kansas misspelled the trooper’s name, leaving off the ‘I’ at the end.[8]

Endnotes

[1] Adjutant General’s Officer, “7th Cavalry, Troop G, Jan. 1885 – Dec. 1897,” Muster Rolls of Regular Army Organizations, 1784 –  Oct. 31, 1912, Record Group 94, (Washington: National Archives Record Administration).
[2] National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C., Returns from U.S. Military Posts, 1800-1916, Microfilm Serial: M617, Microfilm Roll: 1532.
[3] Kelley, Pine Ridge 1890, 227
[4] Nelson A. Miles to Adjutant General of the Army dated 18 November 1891, on file at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center with the Guy V. Henry, Sr. collection.
[5] William W. Robinson, Jr., to Brigadier General James W. Forsyth dated 1 March 1896, James W. Forsyth Papers, 1865-1932, Series I. Correspondence, Box 1, Folder 1 – Box 2, Folder 49, The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Libraray, Yale University Library.
[6] Adjutant General’s Office, Final Statements, 1862-1899, “Dominic Francischetti,” at Fold3, http://www.fold3.com/image/271303433/ accessed 5 Sep 2013.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Jana Mitchell, photo., “Dominick Franceshett,FindAGrave, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=59151753&PIpi=33535819 accessed 5 Sep 2013.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Private Dominick Franceschetti, G Troop, 7th Cavalry – Left for Dead,” Army at Wounded Knee (Sumter, SC: Russell Martial Research, 2013-2015, http://wp.me/p3NoJy-8V), updated 10 Oct 2014, accessed date _______.

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About Sam Russell

I am a fifth-generation Army officer with over twenty-eight years of commissioned service. I have been researching the frontier Army for over fifteen 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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