Motorhead Quote

"The battlefields are silent now. The graves all look the same." -- Motorhead,Voices from the War

Saturday, August 6, 2022

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Remember back in school and everyone would come back after the long summer break? Some classmates you hung out with and others you didn't see at all. The teacher would go around the room and ask everyone for a brief update on what you did over the summer break. Well, this is what I did.

Day 1: Mackenzie River Pizza. L to R: Max Reeve, Michael Olson, Frank Bodden, Scott Nelson.

I have a close group of buddies and we go hunting around battlefields, forts, and other historic sites. We also look for decent food and beer along the way. We typically try to go every other year but Covid-19 threw a monkey wrench into those plans. Our last trip was back in 2018. 2020 was to be our next but we all know what happened. 2021 wasn't any better so that was also scrapped. When 2022 rolled around we were determined to make a go of it. Unfortunately, one of us couldn't make it. That changed the whole dynamic and feel of the trip so we are setting our sights on 2023 to have all of us together and try and get things back to some form of normal.

We call our trips and group "Montana Mayhem." We all met on the internet and since our first trip we have been going strong. When we are not traveling together we keep in contact by phone calls, email, text messages, and our own private Facebook group. We're not always discussing Custer, the Little Big Horn battle, the Plains Indian wars, etc. There is lots of talk about football, beer, movies, etc. Just normal everyday stuff.

Our 2022 trip was a wide ranging trip. We all met up in Billings on June 14. From there we branched out and hit Hardin, Sheridan, Cody, Bozeman, and eventually back to Billings. We hit the Little Big Horn Battlefield, Fort Phil Kearny, the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West, the Museum of the Rockies, Big Hole Battlefield, and other points in-between. There are many small, but extremely interesting and valuable, museums and historical sites spread throughout the area. We try to visit as many as we can. And don't forget about the food and beer aspects either. Looking for the ever elusive and excellently prepared bison steak.

We are already throwing around ideas for our 2023 trip. After all, half the fun is in the planning.

Montana Mayhem 2022 Photo Album

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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Trooper Pahl Photo

Thanks to Diane Merkel of the Little Bighorn History Alliance Blog for hooking me up with a photo of John Pahl. I made a post not all that long ago about Pahl's grandson, John Albert, who was killed in action during World War II. In that post I quoted Charles Windolph, a Medal of Honor winner from the Little Big Horn fight, stating this about John Pahl:

“There were many men that day deserving medals who never got them. There was Sergeant Pahl who got shot leading a charge on the north side of the hill. A braver man never lived." 

--Charles Windolph 

7th Cavalry trooper John Pahl is buried next to his wife, Anna, in Bear Butte Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.

So, to put a face to the name, here is John Pahl...

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Old Lead Soldier Still Defies Death

Charles Windolph was the last surviving trooper that actually participated in the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  He was born on December 9, 1851 and lived into the mid-20th century, passing away on March 11, 1950. 

Windolph was very proud of the time he spent in the 7th U.S. Cavalry. He was awarded a Medal of Honor and later a Purple Heart for his actions there. He was a member of Company H and was a "Benteen man" through and through. He related variations of the following story several times during his post-cavalry days:

The Indian rifle fire had resumed and happened to be particularly fierce at the time. Benteen told the prone Private to stand up. Young Windolph hesitated, since two of his H Company comrades, Julien Jones and Thomas Meador, had only recently been killed beside him. He asked his Captain if it was really necessary that he stand. “On your feet,” ordered Benteen. Windolph obeyed. “Look at all those Indians," Benteen said. "If you ever get out of here alive, you will be able to write and tell the Old Folks in Germany how many Indians we had to fight today." -- A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn, The Last Great Battle of the American West; Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY, 2008; by James Donovan

The following article in from the Rapid City Journal, December 18, 1949 (click image to expand):

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Lattman Tidbits

John Lattman was born in Switzerland and came to the United States where he enlisted in the 7th U.S. Cavalry on October 14, 1873, in Philadelphia.

He was a member of Company G and was therefore in the valley fight with the Major Reno. In the haste to leave the valley and get to the nearby bluffs, several troopers were left behind. Lattman was one of those left in the timber after the rest of the troops made their way to the hilltops across the river. He later made it to the hilltop, possibly as a member of Herendeen's group. 

He was discharged on October 14, 1878, at Fort Lincoln, Dakota, upon expiration of service, as a private of excellent character. He eventually homesteaded on 160 acres of land northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota, where he raised cattle. 

He died on October 7, 1913, and was buried northeast of Rapid City in Elk Vale Cemetery.

While perusing old newspapers on microfiche, I came across a couple of mentions of Lattman. These are hardly earth shattering finds but just a glimpse into the past and one of Custer's troopers.

The first is from the April 11, 1913 edition of the Black Hills Weekly Journal. Lattman, who was living on his farm northeast of Rapid City at the time, found himself stuck and stranded during a prairie blizzard. As someone who has lived in the Dakotas all my life, I can certainly attest to these spring snow storms. They drop a lot of snow and can easily fool people into thinking that conditions aren't as bad as they really are.

The second clipping is a bit more ominous. This is from the September 30, 1913 edition of the Rapid City Journal.

Two sentences. Three short lines of print. A week later Lattman would be dead. 

Lattman's grave at Elk Vale Cemetery.

The entrance to Elk Vale Cemetery northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Eixenberger Photo

On the 1876 Campaign, Peter Eixenberger was a member of the 7th U.S. Cavalry band which was under the leadership of Chief Musician Felix Vinatieri. Therefore, he was not at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, but instead was on detached service at the Powder River Depot with the rest of the band. 

Eixenberger was discharged from the 7th Cavalry on November 14, 1880 at Fort Meade, upon expiration of service as a private of excellent character. He re-enlisted in the band for another five years and was discharged for the final time on November 14, 1885. That same month, he married Mary Achenbach and together they had eight children.

Peter died on September 12, 1917 near Sykes, Montana. He was buried at St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota. Sadly, two of his children, Peter Jr. and Gladys, died the following year during the Spanish Flu epidemic. His wife, Mary, lived until 1940. She died on December 8 and is buried next to her husband.

Many thanks to Diane Merkel of the THIS WEEK IN LITTLE BIGHORN HISTORY blog for providing me with this photo.

Peter and Mary Eixenberger

Eixenberger grave at St. Aloysius Cemetery, Sturgis, SD.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Pahl to Pahl - Another Generation

“There were many men that day deserving medals who never got them. There was Sergeant Pahl who got shot leading a charge on the north side of the hill. A braver man never lived." 

--Charles Windolph 

John Pahl was born in Germany in 1850. During the Battle of the Little Big Horn he was wounded in the right shoulder and was later transported back to Fort Lincoln on the steamer Far West. He was recommended for a medal for distinguished gallantry by Captain Frederick Benteen on April 16, 1877. The army never issued Pahl the medal. After his discharge from the 7th Cavalry he worked as a blacksmith in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Ad from Sturgis Weekly Record; April 23, 1897

He married his wife Anna in 1885. Their first daughter, Cora, died at age 3 months, 28 days in August 1886. They went on to have four more children - Rosa, May, Albert, and Louise. John Pahl died in Hot Springs, South Dakota on January 28, 1924. He is buried at Bear Butte Cemetery in Sturgis.

John Pahl's only son, Albert, was born on April 15, 1893. He married his wife Edith in Montana on Christmas Eve 1919. Albert and Edith had three children - Jack, Harriet, and Francis.

Seventh Cavalry trooper John Pahl's grandson, John Albert (Jack) Pahl was born on March 23, 1921, in Lead, South Dakota. The family moved to Montana where Jack attended school until 1934, when they returned to Lawrence County, settling in Terraville. Jack graduated from high school in Lead in 1940. Jack joined the National Guard and was later inducted into the army. He was sent overseas and arrived in Ireland in 1942. 

Jack was on active duty in Africa during the Tunisian Campaign and was then sent to Anzio Beachhead in Italy, in March of 1944. He was slightly wounded on May 22, but returned to action almost immediately.

Army Sgt. Jack A. Pahl was killed in action on June 1, 1944, during the Invasion of Italy on Anzio Beach while "cleaning out a machine gun nest." Reports say he was killed by sniper fire. Jack Pahl was awarded two Purple Hearts.

Jack Pahl, Great Falls Tribune, June 22, 1944

Jack Pahl was originally buried in Italy but his body was eventually shipped stateside and he was buried in Bear Butte Cemetery in Sturgis in August 1948. 

When Jack was buried in Bear Butte Cemetery, the following appeared in the August 6, 1948 edition of The Black Hills Weekly newspaper - SGT. JACK PAHL BURIED WITH FULL MILITARY HONORS.

Sgt. Jack Pahl

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Elizabeth Bacon Custer

“As the sun broke through the mist a mirage appeared, which took up about half of the line of cavalry, and thenceforth for a little distance it marched, equally plain to the sight on the earth and in the sky. The future of the heroic band, whose days were even then numbered, seemed to be revealed, and already there seemed a premonition in the supernatural translation as their forms were reflected from the opaque mist of the early dawn.” 

― Elizabeth Bacon Custer, Boots and Saddles: Or, Life in Dakota with General Custer

Elizabeth Bacon Custer

When George Custer was killed at the Little Big Horn in 1876, he was fortunate to leave behind his greatest advocate, his wife Elizabeth. Libbie promoted his image and fought off all naysayers who had anything but the best to say about the celebrated "Boy General." She kept this up until her death in 1933, by which time many of Custer's critics had already passed on. She wrote letters, editorials, and gave lectures on her gallant husband. Fortunately, for us and for history sake, she also wrote three wonderful books based on her experiences and life with Custer and the 7th Cavalry.

While her books are technically non-fiction, they are decidedly and unsurprisingly slated to depict her husband in a favorable light. But, they also provide a wonderful window into the lives of 19th century soldiers and their families. She describes picnics, horseback riding, games, parties, holiday gatherings, and other tidbits of daily life that are priceless when it comes to understanding those times of yesteryear. All three books are highly recommended.

Boots and Saddles: Or, Life in Dakota with General Custer was Libbie's first book, published in 1885. It is also her most famous book. 

It covers the couple's time at Fort Abraham Lincoln near Bismarck, in what was then Dakota Territory. It covers up to the time the 7th Cavalry left on the Sioux Expedition of 1876 and Libbie was informed that she was a widow.

Boots and Saddles is one of the few books about military life in the 1800's written from a woman's perspective. It is worth reading for that fact alone. But it also sheds light on George Custer, the man, as well as the rest of the "Custer Clan." 


Tenting on the Plains: Or, General Custer in Kansas and Texas was Libbie's second book, published in 1887. Tenting on the Plains primarily focuses on the Custer's lives during the period immediately following the Civil War. 

At this time they were stationed in Louisiana, Texas, and Kansas. Libbie portrays the aftermath of the Civil War in Texas and life in Kansas while her husband took part in General Winfield Hancock's 1867 expedition against the Indians between the Arkansas and Platte rivers. 

Throughout the book, she provides detailed descriptions of an army officer's home life on the frontier during this major period of Indian unrest.

Following the Guidon: Into the Indian Wars with General Custer and the Seventh Cavalry is the third book in Elizabeth's trilogy, published in 1890. 

In this final book she covers the period when Custer's career and standing was again on the rise. Custer had been "in exile" following his court-martial and has been recalled to assist the army with the growing Indian problems throughout the Great Plains.

This book recounts the first major engagement after Custer's return, The Battle of the Washita.

If you want to read the books in a real chronological order you should start with Tenting on the Plains, then Following the Guidon, and finally ending with Boots and Saddles. Personally, I read the books in publication order and found that just as enjoyable. No matter the order in which they are read, Libbie's books provide an insight into Custer, their lives together, his family, and the frontier army that you just can't get anywhere else.

Elizabeth never remarried and spent the 57 years following her husband's death strongly supporting and defending him. She played a giant role in building the legend General George Armstrong Custer. She died just four days short of her 91st birthday, on April 4, 1933.

Libbie's books are still in print and are readily available. Check out your favorite bookseller.