My Dear friend we had a pretty hard battle with Big foots band on the 29th Dec. We killed over 300 of them.
Private Thomas McGuire was a twenty-four-year-old Irish immigrant in Captain Godfrey’s D Troop. He enlisted in New York City in April 1888 and served three of his five years, being discharged in July 1891 with a characterization of service of excellent. A native of Leitrim, Ireland, McGuire stood just under five feet, seven inches, with blue eyes, light hair and a fair complexion. Writing two letters from the Pine Ridge Agency in January 1891, Thomas McGuire related to a friend in Topeka, Kansas, his experience in the battles at Wounded Knee and the Drexel Mission, and about some of the curios he collected from the Wounded Knee battlefield. He also describes the fear and animosity with which the Lakota viewed the 7th Cavalry three weeks after the tragedy.
I do not know the name of
this place it is 18
miles from Pine R. agency
January 10th, 91.
Friend, I received your kind letter yesterday as was glad to hear by it that you are better of your sickness. My Dear friend we had a pretty hard battle with Big foots band on the 29th Dec. We killed over 300 of them. The 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavy, went out scouting and captured the Band and when the[y] brought them into camp the[y] sent a courier for the 2nd Battalion and we went out to help to disarm them. There was 4 troops in a circle around them and the other 4 troops went into
there [sic] camp to take there arms every thing was going fine only for a medicine man commenced to preach to them saying that a white man bullets could not kill them and then all at once he threw up a hand full of sand in the air and like a flash of lighting all the Indians men, women & children started firing on us. I thought that it was the last of me right there but I came out safe. There was bullets cuting [sic] the ground right around me. I felt nervous at first but I got over it after I fired 5 or 6 shots and we gave them all the[y] wanted of lead. We had another fight
on the 30th, but we had a hard crowd to tackle. There was about 1200 warriors and about 388 of us and the[y] had us in a pretty hard place to fight them. The Indians will never fight except in ravines or holes of some kind where the soldiers cannot get a shot at them. The[y] are a hard crowd to deal with but I guess the war is about over now. We heard that the Indians was going into the agency today to give up. We have them surrounded like a horse shoe and the only way that can get out is to go into the agency and if the[y] raise any noise going in the artillery & Infantry is ahead of them there
I must close this note as there is a party going into the agency from here and that is the only way that we can get mail in to get it posted.
You must excuse my writing as I am writing this on my knee.
Troop D, 7th Cavy
Pine Ridge Agency
Pine Ridge agency,
January 20th 1891
My Dear Friend, Mr. Zeller
I received your welcome letter on the 18th and was glad to hear that you are well. You asked me if I could get you a bow & arrow or a tomahawk. I am sorry that I cannot get one for you as we are not allowed to go into the hostile camp. The only things that I got is a squaw knife & scabbard & a pair of moccasins that I got on the battle field. I will send them to you but I will try and find something else before I send them and send them all together. It is pretty hard to get anything from
the Indians as the[y] hate the soldiers. The[y] are turning in there [sic] arms every day here but the[y] want the Seventh Cavalry sent away from here. The[y] are afraid of us. The[y] say that the Seventh is on the war path and not them. We got orders tonight to move camp in the morning, we do not no where we are going to camp but it is believed that we are moving towards Rushville and then to go home from there. You must excuse me for this writing as the men in this tent is [sic] packing up some of there [sic] stuff. The[y] say that I am in the way.
This letter was provided courtesy of Ms. Pat Carney.
Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Letter from Private Thomas McGuire, D Troop, 7th Cavalry,” Army at Wounded Knee (Sumter, SC: Russell Martial Research, 2013-2015, http://wp.me/p3NoJy-It), updated 24 Feb 2015, accessed date __________.
Sam– Another neat piece, and thanks for forwarding it. Jerry
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Today I received a second letter from Private McGuire to his friend, L. R. Zeller of Topeka, Kansas, dated 10 January. I have updated the post to include both letters.