Seventh Cavalry


Plains Indians






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Diane Merkel

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Additional Sole Survivors

In addition to the "Sole Survivors" compiled by Mike Nunnally, other men whose stories cannot be substantiated claimed to have witnessed the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Herbert James Atkinson - He claimed to have been a scout with Marcus Reno for many years, and his 1932 obituary stated, "Mr. Atkinson was at Colonel G.A. Custer’s last stand when he fought Sitting Bull’s band of Sioux, some 9,000 strong, at the Little Big Horn, Montana, when the colonel was slain and his force of 1,100 practically wiped out." There is no record of him in the contemporary Seventh Cavalry roster.

William Friedrich Braendle - His obituary said he served with "General Tom Custer" from 1873 until 1878. It stated that, on the day of the battle, he was on courier duty and "alone escaped the fate of his comrades." It went on to say that Braendle was officially recognized as a survivor, but records show he was on detached service at the Yellowstone Depot.

William Millard Caldwell - His death notice in the Harrisburg Telegraph claimed he was "one of two men who had been sent out with messages for aid." He was on detached service at the Powder River depot.

John D. Casey - A local historian in Manchester, New Hampshire, claims that Casey was guarding the pack train and was "with General Reno on the way to Custer's relief when they learned of the disaster. . . ." There are several major errors in the account, but it is not known if Casey himself claimed to have been there or if family members developed the story.

Frank H. Erle - According to an abstract of his obituary dated August 14, 1915, Erle was said to have been "the single survivor of General Custer's 7th Cavalry's Battle with the Indians on Little Big Horn. He was sent to deliver a message at the time of the Massacre." He was born in England, died in Arkansas City, and was buried in Greenville, Mississippi. There is no record of him in the contemporary Seventh Cavalry roster.

Thomas J. Green - His 1904 obituary in The Boston Globe quoted his account of the battle during which, he claimed, he was wounded. Green was in the Seventh Cavalry at the time, but he was on detached service at the Powder River depot.

Gabriel Guessbacher - In May 1914, an item under "Of General interest" in the Bismarck Daily Tribune stated that Guessbacher claimed to be "one of the few who escaped the Custer massacre." He was a Private in Company I, but he was not present at the battle. In that same article, "Chief White Dog" was said to have led a division against Custer. No reference to an Indian named White Dog has been found in connection with the battle.

John Sauer - Sauer claimed to have served under Benteen and to have assisted one of the wounded water carriers for which he said he was promised a Medal of Honor. He attended a commemoration of the battle in 1916, wearing a Medal of Honor. There is no record of a John Sauer being at the battle or receiving a Medal of Honor.

Frank Smith - An article published in the Reno Evening Gazette in January 1877 claimed Smith carried dispatches between Terry and Custer. His horse supposedly failed a few miles away from the battlefield but, nevertheless, Smith claimed to have witnessed the death of Custer. There is no record of him in the contemporary Seventh Cavalry roster.

"Texas Harry" - in June 1967, the Little Big Horn Associates published a blurb sent by a member from the Milwaukee Sentinel: "March 10, 1884. Milwaukee. . . . Among the attractions at the Dime Museum this week is 'Texas Harry,' the only white man to escape the Custer massacre eight years ago at Little Big Horn. . . " Efforts to locate that edition of the paper have been futile.