Second Lieutenant Thomas Quinton Donaldson, C Troop, 7th Cavarly

One of these bucks I took a rifle from; he was lying under a squaw’s blanket with her, and had evidently tried there to shield himself while firing ; both were dead.

Second Lieutenant Thomas Q. Donaldson, Jr., C Troop, 7th Cavalry, at Pine Ridge Agency, 16 Jan. 1891. Cropped from John C. H. Grabill’s photograph, “The Fighting 7th Officers.”

Second Lieutenant Thomas Q. Donaldson, Jr., C Troop, 7th Cavalry, at Pine Ridge Agency, 16 Jan. 1891. Cropped from John C. H. Grabill’s photograph, “The Fighting 7th Officers.”

Lieutenant T. Q. Donaldson was one of the youngest officers in the Regiment at Wounded Knee.  The twenty-six-year-old South Carolinian had been with C Troop since joining the regiment at Fort Riley in September 1887 following graduation from the United States Military Academy.[1]  He provided concise testimony at the military investigation of Wounded Knee on 9 January 1891 wherein he detailed his role in the battle and focused on measures taken to avoid killing women and children.

Inset of Lieut. S. A. Cloman’s map of Wounded Knee depicting the position of C and D Troops, December 29, 1890.

Inset of Lieut. S. A. Cloman’s map of Wounded Knee depicting the position of C and D Troops, December 29, 1890.

I was located behind the 1st platoon of G Troop as located on the map on the 29th of December, 1890.  That after this firing commenced my platoon was separated from the other platoon on account of a wire fence which was behind us.  I took my platoon around this fence to a ravine in the rear and dismounted it to fight on foot, and placed the horses under cover of the ravine entirely out of fire, and started my men on foot towards some bucks and squaws who were firing (a number of Indians were firing from this party).  As I did so, there were 6 or 7 squaws came running up to me and evidently implored me not to kill them.  I pointed to the horses in the ravine, and they went down there and I told the corporal left with the horses to take care of them.  After the firing from this Indian line had ceased, I went up there with my men.  I saw a number of dead Indians lying around several bucks among them.  One of these bucks I took a rifle from; he was lying under a squaw’s blanket with her, and had evidently tried there to shield himself while firing; both were dead.  I had repeatedly ordered my men not to fire on squaws, and this order was obeyed throughout the day.[2]

Ernest Garlington in his The Seventh Regiment of Cavalry stated that, “Lieutenant Donaldson was struck by a bullet with sufficient force to penetrate his leather belt and his clothing.”[3]  The bullet apparently did not enter the officer’s body, as Donaldson was not reported wounded at either Wounded Knee or White Clay Creek.

Thomas Quinton Donaldson, Jr., was born on 26 June 1864 at Greenville, South Carolina, the second son of Thomas Q. and Susan B. Donaldson.  The senior Thomas was a native South Carolinian, the son of Nimrod and Sarah (McCullough) Donaldson.  He was a well educated man and became a lawyer in 1855.  In 1859 he married fellow Greenville native Sarah Barbara Hoke, the twenty-three-year-old daughter of David and Nancy (Bivings) Hoke.  Thomas enlisted in April 1861 in B Company, 2nd Palmetto Regiment, where he served as a corporal until May 1862 when he resigned due to failing health.  He served out the remainder of the war as the collector of war tax for Greenville County. Following the war, Thomas ran a private law practice and was elected to the state legislature in 1872.  Thomas and Susan had four children: Augustus Hoke, born in 1860, was a practicing attorney in Greenville and died in 1927; Thomas Quinton, Jr., the subject of this post, was born in 1864; Sarah E., born in 1869, married Albert Barnes, and died in 1949; and Nancy H., born in 1872, married Davis Furman and died in 1960.  The patriarch, Thomas Q., Senior, died in 1912, seven years after the death of his wife, Susan.[4]

Of Thomas Quinton Donaldson, Jr.’s life and career, a fellow West Point alumnus wrote the following necrology:

Young Donaldson attended the local schools of his native town and later went to the Patrick Military Institute in Greenville, South Carolina. After being there some two years, he learned that the students were to be given an opportunity to compete for a West Point cadetship. He entered this contest and won the appointment.
He reported at the Military Academy on August 28, 1883, and was admitted as a cadet to date from September 1. There were thirty-one other “Seps” with him; so he did not lack company during the period of his change from a “Sep Plebe” to a real “Plebe”.
His classmates adopted the abbreviation T. Q. as his nickname soon after his arrival, and this stuck to him throughout his military career.
His life at West Point was much like that of his comrades. He was highly studious and very religious. He had a fine sense of humor and enjoyed to the full the many amusing incidents that happened during the four-year grind at the Academy. He graduated in 1887, number 34 in a class of 64.
His first assignment was to the 3rd Cavalry, but this was changed while he was on graduation leave, and he joined the 7th Cavalry at Fort Riley, Kansas, in September, 1887.
At this time, Colonel (afterwards Major General) James W. Forsyth was commandant of the School for Cavalry and Light Artillery and Lieutenant (afterwards Major General) J. Franklin Bell was his aide. With two such able men at the helm, the school was coming rapidly into prominence and it was amid these scenes of activity and efficiency that young Donaldson began his service in the Regular Army.
Three years later (1890-91), he accompanied his regiment in the Wounded Knee Campaign and, after several engagements, was slightly wounded at White Clay Creek, South Dakota. [This statement is not substantiated by the official record.]
He became [Professor of Military Science and Tactics] of Patrick Military Institute in 1892 and on October 26 of that year married Miss Mary Elizabeth [Willson], daughter of the Reverend John [Owen Willson], D. D., President of Landor College of Greenville, South Carolina. Later, he was appointed [Professor of Military Science and Tactics] at the Clemson Agricultural College, at Fort Hill, South Carolina. He received his promotion to First Lieutenant in January, 1895.
It was not long after the conclusion of his detail at Clemson College that the Spanish-American War came on. Young Donaldson had been assigned previously to the 8th Cavalry, which he joined in time to accompany it to Cuba. The regiment returned to the United States in 1900, with station at Fort Riley, Kansas.
He was Post Quartermaster at Fort Riley at the time he received his Captaincy which was February 2, 1901. He accompanied his regiment to the Philippine Islands and remained for two years, 1905-1907.
Captain Donaldson went in for rifle-firing, even before he went to West Point, and finally became a very distinguished shot. During the period from 1888 to 1907 he was a member of various Department, Division, Army and National Cavalry Carbine and Rifle Teams.
The ideas about military education which T. Q. had absorbed at West Point and later, upon joining the School for Cavalry and Field Artillery had never been forgotten. So in 1908, he obtained a detail as a student to the Army School of the Line. He finished his year there as a distinguished graduate and then took the course at the Army Staff College, graduating in 1910. He received his Majority the next year and then followed several years on troop duty.
In 1915, T. Q. was detailed in the Inspector General’s Department. His long experience with the Line of the Army had well fitted him for this type of duty. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on July 1, 1916, and received his Colonelcy twelve days later.
The World War came on nine months later, and, on February 18, 1918, Colonel Donaldson was promoted to Brigadier General, National Army. Six months after this, he went to France and became Inspector General of the [Service of Supply], at Tours, which position he filled with such distinction that, not only did he receive the [Distinguished Service Medal], but also the French Government decorated him with the Cross of the Legion of Honor.
In June, 1919, he was returned to the grade of Colonel but remained on duty in the Inspector General’s Department. It was the next year that he investigated the circumstances attending the escape of the draftdodger, Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, and his report on that disgraceful affair is a classic.
After duty for a while as a member of the General Staff in the feverish after-the-war atmosphere and, later, with troops, he was appointed a Brigadier General in the Regular Army and ordered to the Philippine Islands (1925). He remained for two years as Commander of the 23rd Infantry Brigade at Fort William McKinley.

Maj Gen T Q Donaldson

Upon his return to the United States, he was assigned to command of the 16th Infantry Brigade with station at Washington, D. C. On December 11, 1927, he was promoted to Major General and assigned to the First Division, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Later, he became Commanding General of the 8th Corps Area, which position he held until his retirement for ill health in June 26, 1928. [His retirement date is his sixty-fourth birthday indicating that he retired of age by law, not for ill health].  From that time, he was an invalid and spent the greater part of his remaining days in various hospitals. He died October 26, 1934, at the Veteran’s Hospital, Fast Northport, Long Island, New York.
He is survived by Mrs. Donaldson and by two sons and a daughter. One son, Augustus [Hoke] is in business in New York [and Naval Academy class of 1920]. Another son, Thomas Q., Jr., is a Captain in the 8th Cavalry [and Military Academy class of 1918]. [Mary] Sue, his daughter, is married to Major Casper B. Rucker, Infantry, General Staff, San Antonio, Texas.
Another son, John [Owen], served in the Aviation Branch during the World War with distinction. He was the 4th ranking American Ace, having brought down eight German planes and a German balloon. Shortly before the armistice he and his companion were forced down in Belgium and captured by the Germans. After several days’ imprisonment they escaped and, after nineteen days of almost incredible adventures, they reached Holland. The signing of the armistice enabled them to rejoin the American forces in London. [He was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal and the Silver Star Citation.] Later, John O. resigned from the Army and entered aviation in civil life. He was killed when his plane crashed about seven years ago.
T. Q. Donaldson was a kind and indulgent father and husband and an active, useful and distinguished officer. His family may well be proud of him. The members of the Class of 1887 who survive him were and still are conscious of his outstanding ability and will remember him always. May he rest in peace amid Arlington’s beautiful hills.[5]

Major General Thomas Q. Donaldson and his Wife, Elizabeth Willson, are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[6]


[1] George W. Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy vol. 3 (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1891), 411.
[2] Jacob F. Kent and Frank D. Baldwin, “Report of Investigation into the Battle at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, Fought December 29th 1890,” in Reports and Correspondence Related to the Army Investigations of the Battle at Wounded Knee and to the Sioux Campaign of 1890–1891, the National Archives Microfilm Publications (Washington: The National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1975), Roll 1, Target 3, Jan. 1891, 696.
[3] Major E. A. Garlington, “Seventh Regiment of Cavalry,” The Army of the United States: Historical Sketches of Staff and Line with Portraits of Generals-in-Chief, Theodore F. Rodenbough and William L. Haskin, eds., (New York: Maynard, Merrill & Co., 1896), 266.
[4] NARA, Washington D.C.; U.S. Passport Applications, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Philippines, 1907-1925, Collection Number: ARC Identifier 1244181 / MLR Number A1 542, Box #: 4250, vol. 6; Yates Snowden and Harry Gardner Cutler, History of South Carolina, vol. 5 (The Lewis pub. co., 1920), 257 – 259; NARA, Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865, Catalog ID: 586957, Record Group #: 109, Roll #: 154; Hunting For Bears, comp.. South Carolina Marriages, 1641-1965 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005, Source: South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research, Vol 11, #2, 4;, 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009, Year: 1850, Census Place: Eastern Subdivision, Anderson, South Carolina, Roll: M432_848, Page: 276A, Image: 558; Year: 1860, Census Place: Greenville, Greenville, South Carolina, Roll: M653_1220, Page: 402, Image: 159, Family History Library Film: 805220; Year: 1880, Census Place: Greenville, Greenville, South Carolina, Roll: 1230, Family History Film: 1255230, Page: 60A, Enumeration District: 081; Year: 1900, Census Place: Greenville Ward 6, Greenville, South Carolina, Roll: 1529, Page: 6A, Enumeration District: 0037, FHL microfilm: 1241529; Year: 1910, Census Place: Greenville Ward 6, Greenville, South Carolina, Roll: T624_1461, Page: 5B, Enumeration District: 0032, FHL microfilm: 1375474Obituary Index of the Greenville News, Greenville County Library System,
[5] N. F. M., “Thomas Quinton Donaldson, No. 3207, Class of 1887,” in Sixty-sixth Annual Report of the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York June 11, 1935 (Newburgh: The Moore Printing Company, Inc., 1935), 140-142; R. F. Good, The 1920 Lucky Bag: The Annual of the Regiment of Midshipmen, United States Naval Academy (Copyright 1919), 44; NavSource Naval History, accessed 1 Feb 2014.
[6] Paul Hays, photo., “Thomas Quinton Donaldson, Sr,” FindAGrave, accessed 1 Feb 2014.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Second Lieutenant Thomas Quinton Donaldson, C Troop, 7th Cavarly,” Army at Wounded Knee (Sumter, SC: Russell Martial Research, 2013-2014,, posted 1 Feb 2014, accessed __________.

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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3 Responses to Second Lieutenant Thomas Quinton Donaldson, C Troop, 7th Cavarly

  1. Thomas Q. Donaldson V says:

    I am Thomas Quinton Donaldson V….these are my grand and great grandfathers. I am USNA ’75, retired as Rear Admiral, USN. Am interested in any material you can share. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sam Russell says:

      Sir… I appreciate the comment and will certainly contact you.


    • Lee Dixon says:

      I served in Korea in the 10th Calvary during your father’s command and worked directly for him. He was one of the best people that I have ever known. His memory has always stayed with me. We often talked about our families and backgrounds. He treated me, a lowly enlisted man, with the same dignity and respect that he showed to his superior officers.. I learned so much from him about military duty. We stayed in touch for a few years and then I lost contact with him. I didn’t just respect your father as my commanding officer – – I trusted and loved him as a friend and mentor. I was saddened to learn of his untimely death. May God bless and keep him safely in his heavenly home. LRDIXON@AOL.COM

      Liked by 1 person

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