…in remaining with a detachment of Troop “E”, 7th Cavalry, in a dangerous and difficult position in order to protect against possible mutilation the bodies of soldiers of his command already killed by the Indians….
–Colonel James W. Forsyth
Two weeks short of his thirty-seventh birthday, Horatio G. Sickel, Jr., was commanding E Troop during the Pine Ridge Campaign while Captain Charles S. Ilsley was commanding the 2nd Battalion. Lieutenant Sickel had served in E Troop for eight years and had been with the regiment since being transferred to it following the battle along the Little Big Horn River just a couple of weeks after graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1876. The troop’s second lieutenant was Sedgwick Rice, a civilian appointee that had been with the unit since transferring to the 7th Cavalry four years earlier. Lieutenant Sickel’s senior non-commissioned officer was First Sergeant Charles M. Clark, a veteran enlisted man with over twelve years in the saddle with the regiment and at least one prior enlistment with the 6th Infantry. E Troop had its full compliment of officers, fourteen of its fifteen non-commissioned officers, and forty-three of its forty-five privates at Wounded Knee, twelve of which were recently assigned from the recruiting depot at Jefferson Barracks, comprising twenty-eight percent of the troop’s junior enlisted soldiers.
During the fighting on Wounded Knee, E Troop suffered two men killed and one wounded and lost one horse as well. Due to the troop’s operations in the field through the middle of January, Lieutenant Sickel did not testify at the investigation of Wounded Knee. An article in Philadelphia’s The Times, which ran on February 9, 1891, detailed some of the action to which E Troop faced and the measures Lieutenant Sickel took to avoid the unnecessary killing of two non-combatants, measures that ultimately failed to save the Lakota women from their own self-destruction.
One of the results of the fight struck me as being peculiarly horrible. The battle was about over–only an occasional shot being fired away in the distance–when two women, one old, the other young–appeared on the field from some place of concealment and began looking at the bodies of the dead of their race. They would have been shot had it not been for the interference of an officer–Lieutenant Sickles [sic]. As rapidly as possible they moved from corpse to corpse (the wounded were but few) and when near the prostrate line of waiting soldiers they found those whom they sought–their husbands. Low wails of anguish followed recognition. The older woman, mother of the younger, was bending over her husband when the daughter deliberately approached from behind, covered her mother’s eyes with her left hand and then cut the maternal throat with a keen knife she had in her right. Before any of the spectators could say or do a thing the girl threw off her bright plaid shawl, shook back her long hair, and with the bloody blade severed her own jugular. 
Following the campaign, Lieutenants Sickel and Rice worked diligently to ensure the recognition of their troopers for actions at Wounded Knee. Their efforts paid off with five cavalrymen from E Troop receiving Medals of Honor–Sergeant A. W. McMillan, Sergeant W. G. Austin, Private M. Feaster, Private T. Sullivan, and Private H. Ziegner–and one with a Certificate of Merit–Sergeant J. F. Tritle. The actions of both officers, however, received little thought until their gallantry was brought to the attention of Colonel Forsyth in the fall of 1891. Writing on October 8, Captain Henry J. Nowlan commander of I Troop, detailed his observations of Lieutenant Sickel at Wounded Knee.
Sir: Having learned, incidentaly [sic], in conversation with other officers that certain gallant conduct on the part of 1st Lieut. H. G. Sickle [sic], 7th Cavalry in the battle of “Wounded Knee,” S. D., on Dec. 29th, 1890, had never been brought to your notice I consider it my duty and take pleasure in calling your attention to the following conduct which came under my personal observation.
Near the close of the fight, when the Indians in groups were making a stand in sheltered ravines, I, by your direction, carried an order to Lieut. Sickle. I found him in an isolated position with a few men of his Troop, hotly engaged with a party of Indians who had taken cover in a ravine. They could not be
induced to surrender and had already killed two and wounded one of his small party. At the time of my arrival he with his party had worked their way close up to the edge of the ravine and in doing so were necessarily exposed to a hot & close fire from the Indians. The example set by Lieut. Sickle to his men upon this occasion and the courage and coolness he displayed earn my earnest admiration. Upon my return I was met by a scout who informed me that Captain Jackson’s Troop, which was in the bluffs back of Lt. Sickle’s position, but out of sight, was surrounded by hostile Indians from the Agency. Realizing the danger Lt. Sickle & his small party would be in should this prove true & being still within hearing distance of him I warned him of the danger. Yet, though he heard and understood me he still continued to hold his position and did so for some time afterwards. His reason for remaining, as I learned later, was to protect the bodies of his dead soldiers, which
he could not at that time recover, from mutilation by the Indians still in the ravine close to where the men had fallen.
Lieutenant Sickle’s conduct throughout this affair was deserving of all praise and would have been reported by me long ago had I not been under the impression, until within the last day or two, that it had already been brought to your notice.
Hoping it is not yet too late to do justice to a gallant young officer.
I have the honor to be
Your obdt. Servt.
H. J. Nowlan
Captain 7th Cavalry
The regiment’s commander, Colonel James W. Forsyth, forwarded a letter of his own recommending that Lieutenants Sickel and Rice receive honorable mention and enclosed Captain Nowlan’s letter and a similar letter from Captain Varnum commending Lieutenant Rice’s gallantry at White Clay Creek. Forsyth explained why the lieutenants’ commanding officer did not make the recommendations. “Tho’ both these officers belonged to Captain Ilsley’s Troop ‘E’, of the 7th Cavalry, he, Captain Ilsley, was in command of a Battalion and was not in a position to have any personal knowledge of the facts set forth in these communications.” Forsyth went on to state, “I greatly regret that the information conveyed by them [Nowlan and Varnum] did not reach me soon enough to enable me to make these recommendations with the rest, but the failure to report the facts at the proper time was due, as will be seen from the reports, to a supposition, on the part of the officers stating them, that they had already been reported.”
Based on Captain Nowlan and Captain Varnum’s letters and Colonel Forsyth’s subsequent recommendation for honorable mention for both Lieutenants, the conduct of those officers was a point of focus of Colonel Heyl’s investigation of acts of gallantry. During that investigation in the later part of October, Lieutenant Sickel provided the following testimony.
Directly under my observation at Wounded Knee during the fight, December 29th, 1890, were Lieuts. Rice and Tompkins, 7th Cavalry. Lieut. Tompkins had charge of a small party of enlisted men, on the other side of the ravine. He was exposed by standing near the edge of the ravine. I did not notice any specially conspicuous acts of gallantry on his part at that time.
I did not notice anything particularly conspicuous about Captain Capron’s actions at Wounded Knee. My attention was directed to the ravine. I did not notice any other officers. I was separated from the rest, my field of action being near the pocket of the ravine.
Lieut. Rice, 7th Cavalry, remained with the gun when Lieut. Hawthorne was wounded, and then took charge of the gun and party.
Several officers commented on the gallantry of Lieutenant Sickel that day. Lieutenant W. J. Nicholson, the 1st Battalion adjutant at Wounded Knee, stated, “I saw Lieutenants Sickel and Rice, 7th Cavalry, move their skirmish lines forward (at Wounded Knee), exposing themselves to a hot fire, when only thirty (30) yards from the Indians in the ravine.” Lieutenant E. P. Brewer of G Troop testified, “I also saw Lieutenants Sickel and Rice, 7th Cavalry, who were dislodging some Indians. All these officers were conspicuous in exposing themselves.” Lieutenant S. R. H. Tompkins who was engaged on the other side of the ravine with a detachment of Captain Godfrey’s D Troop recalled, “While I was down at the ravine, Lieuts. Sickel and Rice came over from the village. I consider the bearing of these officers gallant–Lieut. Rice particularly so. Lieut. Sickel was on the skirmish line all the time. These were the only officers who came under my observation during the hot fire.”
Lieutenant S. Rice, second in command of E Troop during the fight, provided greater detail of his troop commander’s actions that day.
Lieut. Sickel was in command of Troop “E”, 7th Cavalry, to which I belonged, and immediately after the outbreak at Wounded Knee, our troop was ordered to clear out a ravine in which a party of Indians had taken a strong position in a pocket in the ravine. I think we were engaged there about two hours. Lieut. Sickel, while exercising command of his troop there, was conspicuously brave and gallant in my opinion, by exposing himself unnecessarily to the fire of the Indians and cheering and encouraging his men constantly…. Lieut. Sickel’s conduct throughout the whole engagement was particularly conspicuous.
Colonel Heyl concluded his investigation stating, “In the case of Lieuts. Sickel and Rice, 7th Cavalry, the evidence seems to sustain the facts as represented for honorable mention.”
Ultimately both lieutenants received honorable mention in General Order No. 100, but the details of Sickel’s actions that merited the commanding general’s accolades were watered down in the final draft approved by Major General Schofield. Like most citations from the Indian Wars era their was no detail of the actions which garnered laudatory praise. The honorable mention stated only that Lieutenant Sickel was commended for “gallant service in action against hostile Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee Creek, S. D.”
Born on January 15, 1854 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Horatio Gates Sickel, Jr., was the last of five children. Despite having three older brothers, he was his father’s namesake. The elder Horatio Gates Sickel was also a native Pennsylvanian born in 1817 in Bucks County. He was the son of John and Elizabeth (Vandergrift) Sickel. As a young man Horatio apprenticed as a smith and worked in several trades including as a blacksmith, coach maker, and lamp maker. In 1841, he married Elizabeth VanSant, a twenty-year-old native of Bucks County. Living in Quakertown, the young couple had two children there: Howard VanSant, born in 1843, and Ellen VanSant, the future Mrs. Augustus J. Miller, born in 1844. The Sickels moved to Philadelphia where they had three more sons: Charles Albert born in 1848, William VanSant in 1851, and Horatio Gates, Jr., the subject of this post. Horatio, Sr., also served for two decades as an officer in the volunteer militia such that when the Civil War broke out he was elected colonel of the Third Pennsylvania Volunteers. During his wartime service, he commanded his regiment and a brigade in combat and was rewarded for faithful and meritorious service with brevet promotions to brigadier general and major general. Upon conclusion of the war he was appointed the Health Officer for the Port of Philadelphia. Horatio G. Sickel, Sr., died in April 1890, five years after the death of his wife and eight months before his namesake was called to action commanding a cavalry troop at Wounded Knee.
Horatio G. Sickel, Jr., was appointed from the state of Pennsylvania to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and began his cadetship in 1872. He graduated on June 14, 1876 and stood thirty-sixth in a class of forty-seven men. Sickel was appointed to the 14th Infantry Regiment the following day and began his graduation leave. The catastrophe that befell the 7th Cavalry ten days later on the Little Big Horn River had a dramatic impact on promotions and transfers across the Army in order to fill vacancies created by the loss of so many officers. This effect was perhaps best described by General Ernest A. Garlington, a classmate of Sickel’s, who, writing in 1929, detailed the promotions and transfers associated with the 7th Cavalry that summer of 1876.
On the 25th of June, 1876, Custer’s fight with the Sioux Indians on the Little Big Horn, Montana Territory occurred. On the 15th of June only one vacancy existed in the 7th Cavalry, to which the writer [Garlington] was assigned. The fatalities in the regiment promoted him [effective 25 June] and left twelve vacancies in the grade of second lieutenant. Certain second lieutenants were transferred from other Cavalry Regiments to these vacancies, but, through regimental esprit, and for other reasons, with three exceptions, these transfers were declined. Whereupon six members of the Class of 1876 were transferred (to date the 26th of June) to the Seventh Cavalry, namely, J. C. Gresham, H. L. Scott, L. S. McCormick, A. J. Russell, H. G. Sickel, and H. J. Slocum, carrying with them the strong bond of friend and comrade established during cadet days which continued unbroken through the many years of intimate association under the old system of regimental promotion.
Sickel served with the 7th Cavalry for twenty-seven years, the first twelve at various posts in the Dakota Territory where he participated in several campaigns and scouting expeditions, escorted prisoners, and commanded a troop of Indian Scouts.
While stationed at Fort Meade, the thirty-one-year-old cavalry officer took leave in the summer of 1885 and married Miss Mary Louise Jouett in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 5. The twenty-two-year-old native of St Louis was the only child of William Robards Jouett, Jr., and Anne F. Schaumburg. She was orphaned at the age of four when her parents died in 1865, her father in late February and her mother in early April. Mary accompanied her husband back to the Dakota Territory where she gave birth to a daughter, Anna. The child died in infancy and was initially buried at Fort Yates in March 1888. Two months later the Sickels removed their daughter’s body and had her laid to rest in the Bellefontaine Cemetery, St Louis, in the same plot where Mary’s parent’s and maternal grandparents were buried.
Lieutenant Sickel was stationed with the portion of the regiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory, in 1888 and two years later at Fort Riley just prior to the commencement of the Pine Ridge Campaign of November 1890 – January 1891. While stationed at Fort Sill the Sickels had a second child, Howard Wright, born in January 1890. The child died of lung and heart disease nine months later about the time that E Troop was relocating to Fort Riley. Mary apparently remained at Fort Sill until after the campaign when Lieutenant Sickel was able to again take leave. They buried their second infant child in February 1891 next to their daughter and Mary’s parents. Horatio and Mary Sickel had no more children.
Twice he was detached from the regiment for recruiting duty at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. Sickel served as the regimental adjutant for eighteen months until his promotion to captain in May 1896, and saw duty with the 7th in Arizona at Forts Grant and Huachuca. During the Spanish-American War, the regiment remained on border duty in Arizona, but soon after was moved to Huntsville, Alabama, then Macon, Georgia, before taking up occupation duty at Camp Columbia in Havana, Cuba.
Sickel was promoted to major and transferred to the newly formed 12th Cavalry Regiment in 1903 and served his remaining thirteen years in uniform with that regiment. His duties took him to the Philippine Islands where he commanded the military station at Calamba, Laguna, and later the Santa Mesa Garrison at Manila. Returning to the United States, he was posted at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, Fort Slocum, New York, and Boston, Massachusetts. Sickel returned to the Philippines in 1909 serving eighteen months at Fort William McKinley. He returned to Fort Huachuca where he was promoted in 1911 to lieutenant colonel and commanded a squadron of the 12th Cavalry. Sickel was promoted a colonel of cavalry in 1912 and commanded Fort Robinson, Nebraska, before taking command of the 12th Cavalry Regiment at Columbus, New Mexico, in 1914. He served his final years at the head of that regiment during the turbulent Mexican Border period that was highlighted by General Pershing’s Punitive Expedition.
Colonel Sickel was retired by law on his sixty-fourth birthday in January 1918, and although many of his peers returned to service at garrisons in the United States during World War I, Sickel retired with his wife, Mary, to their home in St Louis, Missouri. Colonel Sickel lost all of his siblings in the few short years before his retirement. His oldest brother, Howard, died in 1912, Charles and William in 1914, and his sister, Mrs. Ellen Miller, in 1915. Perhaps their recent deaths coupled with his failing health led him to desperation, for on September 9, 1918, the retired Army colonel with almost forty-two years of service took his own life when he shot himself in his upstairs bedroom.
In a 1919 obituary for the West Point Association of Graduates, a fellow classmate recalled of Colonel Sickel:
By his classmates he is remembered always as “Tiny” Sickel. The name seemed naturally to belong to him from his earliest days at the Academy, and was used more as a term of endearment than as nickname, in unconscious recognition of the universal affection of his classmates; an affection that increased and ripened until graduation scattered the members throughout the service, and which the separation of after years did not weaken. The later association of the writer with “Tiny,” although long deferred because of difference of service, was particularly delightful. Our first meeting after graduation was in 1903, in St. Louis, at the dedication of the World’s Fair Grounds. It was so short that there was scarcely time for us to recognize each other, after the lapse of twenty-seven years, but it served as a new starting point toward better acquaintance at our next meeting. A few years later found us serving together at Fort William McKinley, P. I., and still later when we were both approaching the retiring age, there were numerous delightful meetings while service together in the Islands, and the later meetings broadened and strengthened our friendship. I learned to know his modest, generous nature that led him always to consider others before himself; to know the high ideals that regulated his daily life and the nobility of his character as a man.
Colonel Horatio Gates Sickel, Jr., was buried in the Bellefontaine Cemetery in St Louis adjacent to his infant children, Anna and Howard, and his wife’s parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Mary Sickel survived her husband by more than a decade. She passed away on August 13, 1930 and was laid to rest by her husband’s side in a plot surrounded by family.
 Adjutant General’s Officer, “7th Cavalry, Troop E, Jan. 1885 – Dec. 1897,” Muster Rolls of Regular Army Organizations, 1784 – Oct. 31, 1912, Record Group 94, (Washington: National Archives Record Administration).
 “At Wounded Knee; Incidents and Happenings in the Terrible Fight,” The Times (Philadelphia: 9 Feb 1891), 3.
 Adjutant General’s Office, Honorable Mention file for Horatio G. Sickel, Principal Record Division, file 3466, Record Group: 94, Stack area: 8W3, Row: 7, Compartment 30, Shelf: 2. Research conducted by Vonnie S. Zullo of The Horse Soldier Research Service.
 Samuel P. Bates, Martial Deeds of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: T. H. Davis & Co., 1875), 844–847; John P. Nicholson, recorder, Register of the Commandery of the State of Pennsylvania from April 15 1865 to May 5 1887 (Philadelphia: Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1887), 4; Ancestry.com, United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009), Year: 1860, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 14 Division 1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Roll: M653_1164, Page: 157, Image: 161, Family History Library Film: 805164; Year: 1870, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 14 Dist 41 (2nd Enum), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Roll:M593_1426, Page: 441A, Image: 367, Family History Library Film: 552925.
 Association of Graduates, Sixtieth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 12, 1929 (West Point: Association of Graduates, 1929), 231. Herbert J. Slocum was a member of the West Point class of 1876, but was dismissed from the academy for academic deficiency during his final year. He received a direct appointment from the state of Illinois on 21 June, just a week after his former classmates had graduated and received their commissions. Originally appointed to the 25th Infantry Regiment, his date of transfer to the 7th Cavalry was 28 June 1876.
 George W. Collum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, since its establishment in 1802, vol. 3 (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1891), 266.
 Hunting For Bears, comp., Missouri Marriages, 1766-1983 (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004); St. Louis Genealogical Society, comp., St. Louis City Death Records, 1850-1902 (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2001), Volume: L, Page: 55, County Library: RDSL 8, Missouri Archive: C 10366, SLGS Rolls: 307; Ancestry.com, New Orleans, Louisiana, Marriage Records Index, 1831-1920 (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004); Ancestry.com, U.S. Military Burial Registers, 1768-1921 ( Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007), State: Dakota Territory, Page#: 135; Bellafontaine Cemetery Association, (http://www.map.ramaker.com/bca/), accessed 9 Aug 2015.
 Collum, Biographical Register, vol. 3, 266; Bellafontaine Cemetery Association, (http://www.map.ramaker.com/bca/), accessed 9 Aug 2015.
 Collum, Biographical Register, vol. 4, 272; Collum, Biographical Register, vol. 5, 248.
 Ibid., Collum, Biographical Register, vol. 6, 220
 Ibid., 220 – 221; “Col. Sickel Kills Self at St. Louis,” The Oregon Daily Journal (9 Sep 1918); “Col. Sickle Ends His Life,” El Paso Herald (10 Sep 1918).
 Association of Graduates, Sixtieth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 12, 1929 (West Point: Association of Graduates, 1929), 231.
 Bellafontaine Cemetery Association, (http://www.map.ramaker.com/bca/), accessed 9 Aug 2015.
 Connie Nisinger, photo., “Horatio Gates Sickel,” FindAGrave (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=45427343) posted 8 Mar 2013, accessed 14 Jun 2015.
Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “First Lieutenant Horatio Gates Sickel, Commander, E Troop, 7th Cavalry,” Army at Wounded Knee (Carlisle, PA: Russell Martial Research, 2015-2016, http://wp.me/p3NoJy-K3) posted 9 Aug 2015, accessed date __________.
This is an important account of Colonel Sickel’s life and career, with special insights into his service at Wounded Knee, including important information about other officers, as well. Thanks, again, Colonel Russell, for another significant record of a Seventh Cavalry figure’s participation at Wounded Knee using historically vital primary documents. A fine presentation, indeed.
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Although Colonel Sickel had no children that survived infancy, he did have a namesake. When he was a cadet at West point, his older brother and sister-in-law, William and Sarah (Locke) Sickel, had a son. Born 27 September 1874 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, they named him Horatio Gates Sickel, III. The name continued for at least two more generations. Horatio Gates Sickel, IV, was a 1920 U.S. Naval Academy graduate and pilot who was killed in action in 1944 in the Pacific theater. His son, Horatio Gates Sickel, V, also was an Annapolis graduate and a pilot. He too was killed on active duty in a test flight in 1956.
Thanks for this well written article. CAPT HGS, IV was not a pilot but rather Surface Navy. He was killed off Funi Futi Island while a passenger in a Navy transport plane. My Uncle Bud, HGS, V was indeed a Navy Test Pilot killed in 1956. His brother and my father, John A (Jack) Sickel was also a USNA grad and Navy Test pilot. The name HGS is still carried to this day, at least in part. My son’s Name is Ryan Gates Sickel, his mother nixed Horatio..He served in the US Army in Iraq.
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Mr. Sickel… Thank you for the comment, and the brief synopsis of your family’s military history. Their service is most admirable and greatly appreciated. I have another contact via this site that is in possession of Col. H. G. Sickel’s saber. He would like to pass it back into the family. Do you mind if I have him contact you?
Regards, COL Sam Russell
COL, thank you very much for your kind offer. I have already been in contact with Dr Wisdom both by telephone and by email and the saber is on it’s way. I am very excited and interested to look at it. I had HGS, Jr’s M1902 complete with horn grip. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in the “Great Sickel House Fire.” along with MG Sickel’s saber and my fathers sword. Fortunately, I had my M1902 (I was a CPT in the Texas Guard) at the office, along with my grandfathers sword so they were saved. I have replaced the “lost” sabers with replicas. I suspect, at this point, that the saber Dr Wisdom has sent is an M1872, which would make it the saber HGS, Jr carried during the Indian Wars. I will keep you posted. JAS
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I only had a partial picture of Col. Sickel
before this. Wonderfully written and a great story. I will direct my siblings to you site to learn more about our “shirt-tail” relative. Thanks Sam.
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Thanks for the comment, Mr. Wisdom. A justifiably proud military heritage in the Sickel family.
Great article, Sam. Thank you so much for bringing these men’s stories to light with such meticulous detail. After spending so much time on their faces, it’s lovely to get to know them better:)
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Sir, My Great-Grandfather was with the 8th CAV at FT Meade at this time. There’s a report that he transferred from I Troop to M Troop (Indian Scouts) and was part of the Campaign. Would this have been possible?
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John… White officers commanded the Indian scouts at this period. 1st Lieut. Charles Taylor and 2nd Lieut. Preston were the 9th Cavalry officers in charge of the Oglala Scouts at Wounded Knee. 1st Lieut Edward Casey of the 22nd Infantry commanded the Cheyenne Indian Scouts and was killed during the campaign. There were a number of Indian Scouts formed in the aftermath of the campaign. What was your ancestor’s name?
Thank you for the response. His name was – Charles Mathias Reuther. He would have been a senior private at the time. He was with the 8th from ’86-’91. His reference to Wounded Knee only really came up later when he was applying for a pension. Would it have been common for all soldiers in the AOR at the time to consider themselves part of the campaign? Not unlike when campaigns were added to theater ribbons like the Iraqi or Afghanistan Campaign Medal.