Saturday, August 25, 2018

Peter Eixenberger: A Double Bereavement

Peter Eixenberger was a member of the U.S. 7th Cavalry mounted band. He enlisted on November 15, 1875, in New York City. He listed his previous occupation as musician.  He was discharged on November 14, 1880, at Fort Meade, Dakota, upon expiration of service, as a private of excellent character. He was not present at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  He was on detached service from June 14, 1876, at Yellowstone Depot, Montana Territory, with the rest of the band members.

Custer wanted his band with him in battle. General Terry would not allow this so the band members were left behind when the 7th Cavalry marched off to the Little Big Horn. Custer did however take the band member’s white horses with him to the battle.

World famous Little Big Horn researcher, Walter Mason Camp, stopped off in Lead, South Dakota, to interview Charles Windolph, who had been with Benteen’s Company H at the Little Big Horn battle. While in the area, he also interviewed Peter Eixenberger along with former 7th troopers John Mahoney and Max Hoehn.

Peter Eixenberger died on September 12, 1917, and is buried in St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota. Buried alongside him are his wife, Mary (died December 8, 1940), and two of their three children, Peter, Jr. and Gladys. Both Peter, Jr. and Gladys died on October 31, 1918, after becoming ill with the Spanish flu and pneumonia. They died less than a half hour apart.

The following appeared in the Sturgis Weekly Record of Thursday, November 7, 1918:

A Double Bereavement

The hand of misfortune rests heavily on Mrs. Peter Eixenberger of Sturgis in the loss of two of her children, Peter, Jr., aged twenty-four years and ten months and Gladys aged eighteen years and eleven months.  They both passed away, after a severe siege of Spanish influenza followed by pneumonia, on Thursday night of last week, less than a half hour apart.

Words are inadequate to assuage the grief over this double loss, but the tenderest sympathy of the entire community is extended to the bereaved mother and brothers and sister who survive them, in this dark hour of bereavement.

The funeral took place last Saturday morning and the services were conducted by the Rev. Father Columban at the grave in the Catholic cemetery.

Both the young people were favorites among their many friends in this vicinity, and their so sudden passing away will not soon be forgotten.

** The next issue of the Sturgis Weekly Record (November 14, 1918) carried the front page headline, END OF THE WAR HAS COME!, announcing the end of World War I.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Peter Thompson and the Belle Fourche Bee

Although his actual birthdate is a matter of dispute, Peter Thompson was born in Scotland. He enlisted in the army on September 21, 1875, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He listed his previous occupation as miner. He was transferred to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and was assigned to Company C, 7th Cavalry at Fort Lincoln. He had brown eyes, brown hair, ruddy complexion, and was 5’ 8 ¾” in height.

Thompson and the rest of Company C were assigned to the battalion under Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.  His horse gave out and he fell back and eventually joined Major Reno and the troops on the hilltop.  He was wounded in the right hand while with the water party on June 26th.  He was transported to Fort Lincoln aboard the steamer Far West.  

He was discharged on September 20, 1880, at Fort Meade, Dakota, upon expiration of service, as a private of excellent character. He was issued the Medal of Honor on October 5, 1878, as a member of the water party with the citation”… after having voluntarily brought water to the wounded in which effort he was shot through the hand, he made two more successful trips for the same purpose notwithstanding the remonstrances of his sergeant.”

Thompson later became a well-respected rancher and land owner. He ran a ranch northeast of Alzada, Montana. 

In 1914 Thompson had his recollections of the Custer Fight published in the Belle Fourche Bee. The first appeared on Thursday, February 19 and continued for eight consecutive weeks. The final installment was published on April 9, 1914. 

Thompson died in December of 1928 in Hot Springs, South Dakota and is buried in the West Lead Cemetery in Lead, South Dakota, about 5 miles from famous Deadwood.

I have transcribed Peter Thompson’s story as it appeared in the Belle Fourche Bee in 1914. You can download and read the entire story here. Please feel free to post comments below.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Online Forums and Facebook Groups

If you are interested in Custer, the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse or any other aspect of the Plains Indian Wars in general you are living in a great time. It wasn’t all that long ago that you would have been studying the battle in solitude. Chances are there would have been no one to share your interest with or ask questions or just discuss the battle or other facets of the Indian Wars.
Technology has brought us the ability to keep in touch with those who share our interests. We are using laptop computers and smartphones to discuss the 19th century Plains Indian Wars. Ironic isn’t it?
Today there are website forums and Facebook pages that are easily accessible to any that wish to look for them. Discussions range on all topics and can become quite heated. Even today, Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn generate controversy and strong feelings. If you want to check out a forum or Facebook group I would highly suggest to spend some time reading. Get a feel for the group or forum before jumping right in. When you are ready to start posting, introduce yourself. Most people on these groups love to answer questions and discuss the battle but get very tired of posters throwing out comments without anything to back them up. So before you post that Custer’s death at Little Bighorn was all Major Reno’s fault, please have something to backup your comments. Also don’t get all bent out of shape when people respond with ideas that are different than your own.
The most important thing is to read and learn. Keep an open mind and maybe you’ll change your ideas about what happened.
Online Forums:
Facebook Groups:
The following aren’t Facebook Groups but are related pages:
For a while I had preferred the online message boards as opposed to Facebook for the simple reason it was easier to find archived information on the message boards. That isn’t necessarily true anymore. Facebook has added the ability to search a group and has also added the ability to save posts. When you save a Facebook post it appears on the left side of your page under the SAVED heading. You can make different folders to help organize your saved posts. But the message boards offer better and more accurate searching in my opinion.
Of course the best option is to visit both the forums and the Facebook groups. You’ll eventually find the ones that are the best fit for you. And if you see me [Scott Nelson on Facebook; treasuredude on the forums] please say hello!

Friday, May 4, 2018

“There’s gold in them thar hills…”

General Custer led an expedition of the 7th U.S. Cavalry into the Black Hills in 1874. They spent almost two months traveling to, exploring, and traveling back home from the Black Hills (July 2, 1874 - August 30, 1874). From the point of view of the U.S. government the expedition was a resounding success. It almost certainly was a factor in what happened to Custer and the 7th Cavalry two years later on the Little Bighorn river in Montana.

Many of the troopers looked at the 1874 Black Hills Expedition as a type of vacation. It was a break from the rather mundane life of a trooper at a post on the Great Plains. Once they arrived in the Hills there was plenty of game, wild berries, and cold mountain stream water. Custer brought the 7th Cavalry band along on the trip and they serenaded the troops from the hilltops in the evening. There was even a baseball game held near their Permanent Camp just outside the present-day town of Custer, South Dakota.

The official mission was to locate an appropriate location for a fort. The Fort Laramie Treaty gave the Army that right. But another reason for the trip, unofficially, was to determine if the rumors of gold were true. Two experienced miners, Horatio Ross and William McKay, accompanied Custer. In addition to the miners, several others also attached themselves and came along for the fun - newspaper reporters, engineers, scientists, and luckily for present-day researchers, a photographer, William H. Illingworth.

Illingworth’s photo of the 7th Cavalry winding its way through the Black Hills.

Horatio Ross made the initial discovery of gold along French Creek. Scout Charley Reynolds carried the news of the gold discovery to Fort Laramie. From there the news was sent via telegraph to General Terry in St. Paul. Custer’s report stated:
“… gold has been found at several places, and it is the belief of those who are giving their attention to this subject that it will be found in paying quantities. I have on my table forty or fifty small particles of pure gold…most of it obtained today from one panful of earth.” *** Newspapers around the country picked up the story and the race was on. The Army tried to downplay the gold discovery and keep miners out of the Black Hills but you can’t unring a bell. There indeed was “gold in them thar Hills.” The Homestake Gold Mine near Lead, South Dakota, was the largest and deepest in North America, until its closing in 2002. The Homestake produced more than 40 million troy ounces of gold during its lifetime of operation. Click here or on the Bismarck Tribune image below to read the announcement of the gold discovery in the Black Hills as it appeared on August 12, 1874.

To learn more about Custer’s 1874 Black Hills Expedition, I would highly recommend the following books: Exploring With Custer: The 1874 Black Hills Expedition Crossing the Plains with Custer ***Custer’s official dispatch; August 2, 1874

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Montana Mayhem

I have been fortunate enough to find a group of buddies who are all interested in Custer and the Plains Indian wars of the 19th century. We have come to call ourselves Montana Mayhem even though we also have wreaked havoc over North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska. We get together every couple of years and travel the highways and byways in search of battlefields, historic markers, old graves, etc. We also hunt down micro-breweries and good buffalo ribeyes.

Remember way back...before Facebook? I had ended up in some online forums dealing with Custer and the different events surrounding his life. One of these was Delphi Forums. There were different Custer-related user groups on Delphi and these allowed for a back and forth discussion about the topic at hand. As is usual in most things Custer, there were some heated discussions, name calling, empty threats, and all the rest. Not much has changed and things are pretty much the same today. But what was born out of all that static and noise was a group of guys who just wanted to talk Custer and the Indian wars of the Great Plains. I was fortunate enough to be one of those guys. We started emailing each other and before we knew it we were planning a trip. I will admit that it was a bit weird to go on a trip with a bunch of guys I had never met in person before. How did I know one of them wasn’t a serial killer? Well, I didn’t and everything turned out fine. Today we are the best of friends and we keep in constant contact through phone calls, email, text messages, and our own private, super-secret Facebook group.

I have so many fond memories of our trips. We have been able to do things as a group that I doubt any of us could have done individually. Plus, it’s pretty cool to go on a trip to explore forts and battlefields in which you are all mutually interested. We spend the days hiking around the battlefields and the nights drinking beer and talking about it all. They are very special times.

Here we are on the porch of Old Bedlam at Fort Laramie - June 24, 2013

“Montana Mayhem - tracking down history one beer at a time”.

Please click on the links below to check out our different trips:

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Turner and Cunningham - Black Hills 1874

This site has always been dedicated to the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry who are buried in South Dakota. Technically they are not all members of the mighty 7th. Rose Courtney, for example, was a servant for Lt. George Wallace. Moses Flint was a packer. James McGee was a wagon master. But they are all tied to Custer and either served him directly or served someone who did.

This brings us to troopers Turner and Cunningham. Both were official members of the 7th Cavalry and accompanied Custer on his Black Hills Expedition of 1874. Sadly, the Black Hills were the end of the line for both of them. Both died on the expedition. But they are not technically part of the scope of this website as both are buried in Wyoming. They died before Custer and the 7th had entered the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Private John Cunningham died from complications of diarrhea on July 21, 1874.

Private Turner’s demise was a bit different…

Privates Roller and Turner were both members of M Troop. They had been having a long-time feud. One morning, Roller went to check on his horse and found that it had been hobbled, making it incapable of moving without falling down. Because of this incident Roller and Turner had a fatal showdown. Turner was mortally wounded in the abdomen by a gunshot from Roller.

Turner and Cunningham were both buried near Inyan Kara Creek near the Expedition’s camp #19, about 14 miles south of present-day Sundance, Wyoming. After the troopers were buried, fires were built atop their graves in an effort to conceal the plots. This was done to prevent the bodies from being disinterred by Indians.

Their graves are located alongside Highway 585, 14 1/2 miles south of Sundance. For you GPS types, go to N44 13 06.8 W104 16 02.6. Take exit 187 off Interstate 90 and drive south until you reach the state historical marker below.  The marker is located on the east side of Highway 585. Inyan Kara mountain is off to the west. Behind the historical marker, up on the side of a hill, you will notice a small white picket fence.  These are the graves of Cunningham and Turner. Follow the gravel road and park. You will need to walk to the graves.

Historical marker for the 1874 Black Hills Expedition along Highway 585 south of Sundance, Wyoming.

The picket fence surrounding the graves of Cunningham and Turner is on the upper right.  Inyan Kara can be seen in the distance.

Another view of the fence and Inyan Kara.

The graves of Privates Cunningham (Troop H) and Turner (Troop M), 7th U.S. Cavalry.

Friday, March 9, 2018


Well hello.  Welcome to the new site!

This is new and improved site is something that I've been meaning to do for quite some time.  I wanted a site that would be more interactive.  This new site will let visitors leave comments.  You can comment on any post or page.  Believe me, I love to receive your comments.  In the past you had to send me an email but now it will be much easier to leave comments, suggestions, and feedback.  We can all learn together.

You can still email me at scott.nelson [at]  Just replace the [at] with a @.  You can also find me on Facebook at

One of the best features of this new site is it will automatically render itself for mobile devices.  I know the old site was hard to navigate on a tablet or phone.  This one should be much better.

Putting this new site together took some time.  I've done my best to make sure everything was transferred correctly.  If you happen to find a bad or broken link or see any other mistake please let me know so I can get it fixed as soon as possible.

So please, explore the site and let me know what you think.  You can also subscribe via email and you will be notified whenever a new update is made to the site.

I hope you enjoy the new site and find it easier to navigate than the old one.

Take care.