Motorhead Quote

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

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Something Smells Fishy

A while back I posted something on the Little Big Horn Associates Facebook group and it got me thinking that maybe I should relay it here as well.

First, a little background information...

James Rooney was born in New York City in 1848. He died half a continent away on August 5, 1918, in Yankton, South Dakota, at the State Hospital. During his stint in the 7th U.S. Cavalry, he was a member of Company F, under Captain George Yates. Luckily, for Rooney, he was detailed to help with the pack train on June 25, 1876. Most of his company followed Custer into the fight and were wiped out.

James Rooney

He was promoted to sergeant on November 10, 1876 and was discharged on December 3 of the following year at Fort Buford, Dakota Territory, upon expiration of service.

He was admitted to the Yankton State Hospital in July 1911.  He died at age 74 (which is at odds with his supposed date of birth) at 3:45pm on August 5, 1918, at Yankton State Hospital.  Cause of death was carcinoma of the lip.  Buried in Grave 593, Yankton State Hospital Cemetery (now South Dakota Human Services Center).

Rooney's grave at Yankton, South Dakota

During the 7th Cavalry's march to the Little Big Horn, they lost a pack from one of the mules. A few soldiers went back to retrieve it and found Indians trying to break the pack open. Shots were fired and the Indians left the scene. The troopers reported the incident and this was a factor that convinced Custer his column had been discovered and the village was about to be warned. Since the army was worried the Indians would scatter, Custer decided to attack. I mention this because according to the book, Camp, Custer, and the Little Bighorn by Richard G. Hardorff -- "The men who went back to check on the pack that was lost were Sgt. William A. Curtiss and Privates James M. Rooney, William Brown, Patrick Bruce, and Sebastian Omling, all of F Company."

As I mentioned above Rooney was a private in F Company assigned to the pack train. He took part in the hilltop fight portion of the Little Big Horn battle.

Now we finally get to the point of my post to the LBHA Facebook group and this blog entry.

Walter Mason Camp was a renowned Little Big Horn researcher and his notes are priceless to the modern day student of the battle. As Rooney had participated in the hilltop portion of the Little Big Horn battle, Camp would definitely have been interested in getting any insight Rooney would have been able to provide. In a January 16, 1909 letter to Camp, Rooney made the weird comment that when Captain Benteen arrived on Reno Hill, he was wearing a big straw hat and carrying a fishing pole!

As odd and far-fetched as that seems, it can possibly be explained. The letter between Camp and Rooney was 33 years after the battle. I don't know about you but my memory may be a bit lacking when it comes to details from 30+ years ago. This is one of the issues with getting participant testimony so long after the events transpired.

I believe that in the years following the battle, Rooney had read up on the campaign in which he was a participant. It is a well-known fact that after the Battle of the Rosebud, Crook retreated to Goose Creek, near present-day Sheridan, WY, and spent a lot of the time fishing. I'm thinking maybe Rooney congealed what he remembered from that stressful day during the battle with what he read over the years and simply mixed Benteen up with Crook. Also, since Rooney was with the pack train, he would have arrived on Reno Hill AFTER Benteen had already gotten there.

My Facebook post garnered some interesting discussion. A couple of group member comments that struck me as particularly interesting (I've left off the poster information):

"The story I’ve read about the fishing pole was that it occurred one year later when Benteen and the 7th Cavalry were deployed in the Nez Perce campaign against Chief Joseph."

OK, this I would find more believable if it wasn't for one thing...I can't find any documentation to support the claim that Rooney was part of the campaign against the Nez Perce. I checked the three "roster" reference books I have and none have a mention of Rooney participating in the Nez Perce campaign. Of course that doesn't mean that he didn't.

"A number of the 7th's officers, including Benteen & Godfrey, were ardent fly fishermen & went fishing whenever the opportunity presented itself while on route up the Rosebud. By the mid-19th century most fishermen were using split-cane bamboo rods, which were very fragile, broke easily & couldn't be stowed safely with the packs. To prevent their breakage, the officers generally kept their poles close to hand."

This is another post that makes some sense to me. But fragile or not, I really can't see Benteen walking around during an Indian battle with a fishing pole over his shoulder.

Whatever the reason, it's certainly an interesting remark and makes one think. Did Rooney confuse things or was Benteen an even cooler cucumber than he's been portrayed? Something to ponder...

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Website Translation Now Available

If you hang out on any of the message boards or Facebook groups dedicated to the study of Custer, the Little Big Horn, the Indian Wars, or the general history of the western frontier, you will quickly realize that this is an obsession that knows no boundaries. People from all over the world (and maybe even out of this world for all we know) read, study, and are generally interested in this fascinating period in history.

With that in mind I'm happy to announce that this website now has automatic translation capability. On the right side of the page scroll down to the Translate box. From the drop-down menu you can select the language of your choice. This will automatically translate the website into the chosen language. Maybe it's just me but I think that is pretty damn cool! Thank you Google!

If you use the translate feature, I would love to hear how it works for you. You can leave a comment on this post or email me directly at scott.nelson[at] Just replace the [at] with @.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Contact Form Not Working

I have had a contact form on the right side of this page since it's inception. I would consistently receive a few messages a month. Nothing real major but it was nice to hear from people and get their thoughts on the website. I haven't really been paying much attention and then today I was thinking that I hadn't received any messages for a while. I went out on the site and tried to sent myself a test message and sure enough I didn't get anything. More detective work online led me to discover that the contact form was not working and hasn't been for months. Yikes.

If you sent me a message using the contact form in the past six months or so, I never received your message. I'm not some stuck-up goon who asks for comments and then doesn't reply. Please accept my apologies. The best way to contact me is via email or through Facebook. 

My email - scott.nelson[at] - just replace the [at] with @. Trying to head off SPAM here.

You can also visit me on Facebook - Scott Nelson. I'm on Facebook Messenger too so please feel free to send me a private message through that platform also.

Hopefully with the above contact information you should have no problem getting in touch.

That's it for now. Stay safe. I hope to hear from you soon.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Mishap or Murder?

Thomas Harper Ince (November 16, 1880 – November 19, 1924) was an American silent film producer, director, screenwriter, and actor. Ince was known as the "Father of the Western" and was responsible for making over 800 films.

Thomas Ince - silent film producer, director, screenwriter, and actor.

His death in 1924, on William Randolph Heart's yacht, at the age of 44, has been the subject of much speculation and scandal, with rumors of murder, mystery, and jealousy. It's a fascinating story but how the hell does it relate to Custer and the Seventh Cavalry? Well stick with me folks...I think you'll find this interesting.

Ince and William Randolph Heart had been in negotiations for Hearst to use Ince's studio for filming his motion pictures. Hearst invited him to his yacht that weekend to work out the details. Among Hearst's other guests that weekend were his mistress, Marion Davies, silent film star Charlie Chaplin, and Dr. Daniel Carson Goodman, Hearst's film production manager. Ince was working on the production deal and was late. The yacht left without him.

Actress Marion Davies

Ince took a train to San Diego where he was able to get on the yacht the next morning. At dinner Ince suffered a bout of indigestion. Ince left the yacht and traveled by train, accompanied by Dr. Goodman, who was a licensed but non-practicing physician. They arrived in Del Mar where Ince was taken to a hotel and given medical treatment by a second doctor and a nurse. Ince's personal physician was contacted and arrived in Del Mar along with Ince's wife, Nell. The group traveled by train to his Los Angeles home where Ince died.

Stories started to circulate containing a rumor that Hearst had shot Ince in the head. Hearst apparently believed Davies was having an affair with the tremendously popular Chaplin, who was famous for his character portrayal of "The Tramp." Rumors were that Hearst, in a jealous rage, shot Ince in the back of the head, mistaking him for Chaplin. Chaplin's valet claimed to have seen Ince when he came ashore via a stretcher in San Diego. He told his wife that Ince's head was "bleeding from a bullet wound." At Ince's funeral, however, his casket was open and no one ever mentioned a bullet wound.

Charlie Chaplin as "The Tramp"

Years later, Hearst spoke to a journalist about the rumor that he had murdered Tom Ince. "Not only am I innocent of this Ince murder", he said. "So is everybody else". Nell Ince herself was increasingly frustrated over the Hearst rumors surrounding her husband's death and remarked: "Do you think I would have done nothing if I even suspected that my husband had been victim of foul play on anyone's part?"

Unfortunately, the myth of Ince's death overshadowed his reputation as a pioneering filmmaker and his role in the growth of the film industry. His studio was sold soon after he died. His final film, Enticement, a romance set in the French Alps, was released posthumously in 1925.

The 2001 Peter Bogdanovich film, The Cat's Meow, was inspired by the events of Thomas Ince's death. The cast includes:

Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies
Edward Herrmann as William Randolph Hearst
Eddie Izzard as Charlie Chaplin
Cary Elwes as Thomas Ince


Ok. Ok. Ok. Thanks for hanging around. Here's the Custer/Seventh Cavalry tie-in...

In 1912, Thomas Ince produced a silent film entitled, Custer's Last Fight. The film was directed by Francis Ford, older brother of director John Ford. Francis Ford also starred as George Armstrong Custer in the film. It was released in the United States on October 4, 1912. The film supposedly includes some Indian warriors who were actually at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Poster for Custer's Last Fight, produced by Thomas Ince.

Rapid City Journal - June 25, 1926 - announcing a screening of the movie on the
50th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Watch the movie yourself and let me know what you think:

I told you it was an interesting story...

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Fort Meade Closed for the Time Being

This was posted on the Fort Meade Museum Facebook page.

Hopefully this all won't last long and we can get back to normal.
Stay safe out there.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Subscribe and Save!

Well, that's a lie. You won't save anything as there is no charge for anything here. But if you subscribe to this website/blog, you will get notified by email when I publish an update. I hate spammers too and will not send you a bunch of crap. To subscribe, scroll down and put your email address in the box at the lower right where it says FOLLOW BY EMAIL, click SUBMIT, and you're done.. At least think about it...