Motorhead Quote

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

Saturday, August 28, 2021

To 'E' Or Not To 'E' - Good Question

One thing I have noticed while researching troopers buried in South Dakota and it's really surprising when you think about it... headstones with the wrong information. Where are the family and friends of the deceased? Don't they notice that the dates are wrong? Or the name isn't spelled correctly? This weird reality extends to documents, both official and personal, as well. Birth and death certificates with the wrong information. Military records with incorrect names, dates, company assignments, etc. It makes life unnecessarily difficult on those of us trying to research these guys.

Indeed, a 2010 US Army report to Congress found that a shocking one in four graves at Arlington National Cemetery may contain discrepancies. Officials found that internal records did not match with 64,230 headstones. There were misspelled names, incorrect ranks, and wrong dates of birth and death.

This brings us to Max and Annie Goetze.

Max Goetze joined the 7th Cavalry at St. Louis in 1861 and was in G troop. He served with Custer in the Black Hills in 1874. After his discharge in the 80s he became a rancher, and later drove the ambulance at the post. 
Max died of pneumonia on Feb. 25, 1903 at the age of 54 years. Max had a funeral service with full military honors (he was a member of the Regular Army and of the Navy Union).


From the Sturgis Advertiser (newspaper) of November 22, 1892: Max Goetz [notice the missing 'e'] has received a patent for an improved "Railway Coach" to prevent accidents in collisions from the US Patent Office. 

Max's wife Annie was previously married to 7th trooper David McWilliams and they had one son, James. David died of a laudanum overdose. It is listed as a suicide but could have just as easily been an accidental overdose. She later married Max and they resided in Sturgis. 

The Sturgis Weekly Record published obituaries for both Max and Annie and in each their name is spelled  'Goetze.'

Max and Annie Goetze are buried next to each other in the Fort Meade Post Cemetery. When you are standing at their graves notice that Max has an 'e' at the end of his last name and it's missing on Annie's headstone

Saturday, July 17, 2021

No Trespassing

Those of us who are interested in the Indian Wars of the Great Plains will often travel quite a distance to see a small marker, a "special" pile of rocks, or some other significant history related site. Many of these are either on private land or are only accessible by crossing private property. This post is meant as a reminder to please be respectful of landowners and ask permission to access or cross their property. 

One of the first posts I made on this website pertained to the John Cunningham and George Turner markers in Wyoming. Cunningham and Turner both died during Custer's 1874 Black Hills Expedition. Cunningham and Turner died under very different circumstances but were buried next to each other on a small hillside near the one of the Expedition's former campsites, 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.

The photos below are from my visit to the site back in June 2016.

John Cunningham and George Turner graves.

The Cunningham and Turner graves with Inyan Kara mountain in the distance.

A few weeks ago I decided to take a drive out to Devil's Tower, Wyoming. On the way I figured I would stop by the Cunningham/Turner graves and get some updated photos. Imagine my surprise when I was greeted with the following...

The graves are on the hillside and a No Trespassing sign has been posted.

No Trespassing sign closing off access to the Cunningham/Turner graves.

Further investigation has revealed that instead of simply walking the short distance to the graves, people were driving ATV vehicles up to the site. In addition a geocache was placed on the property and published to a popular website, drawing even more people to the area hunting for the hidden cache.

All this prompted the landowner to post No Trespassing signs on the property. Now the area is shutdown. Simple courtesy and respect was all that was needed to visit the site previously. All that has changed now due to the actions of a few idiots. 

Here are some Best Practices to follow when you’re out chasing history:
  • Do not trespass; always respect private property. Obtain permission from the landowner.
  • Never do anything that might contaminate wells, creeks or other water supplies.
  • Respect the property. Leave gates as they are found, do not damage crops.
  • Never deliberately disturb wild or domestic animals.
  • Never litter. Always gather or collect any trash or debris you create or find.
  • Leave as little sign of your passing as possible. 
A little common sense and respect will go a long way to insuring these sites are available for access in the future.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Charles Windolph Obituary Added

Charles Windolph was one of the better known enlisted men in the 7th Cavalry. There are a few reasons for this...

First, he was only a handful of troopers to have a book published of his exploits. I FOUGHT WITH CUSTER has become to be considered a first rate primary account of life in Custer's outfit as well as giving glimpses into the Little Big Horn mystery.

Second, Windolph performed well during the battle. He was selected as one of the sharpshooters assigned to protect the water carriers during their trips to the river and back. The sharpshooters stood exposed to Indian snipers while providing a cover fire for their comrades.

Third, Windolph was one of the last living survivors of the fight. He lived well into the 20th century, dying in Lead, South Dakota, on March 11, 1950. He was therefore the subject of many articles and even appeared in a radio interview. Unlike most of his fellow troopers, there are many newspaper and magazine articles dealing with Windolph. A typical trooper was lucky to have one photo taken of himself during his lifetime. Windolph lived into the age of general public photography.

Today I have added another obituary for Windolph. This one is from the March 12, 1950 edition of The Sunday Star from Washington, DC.

Windolph Obituary - The Sunday Star - Washington, DC - March 12, 1950


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Down in the Valley

Many of the troopers represented on this website participated in the valley fight portion of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. 

Elijah Strode was serving as orderly to Lt. Charles Varnum. On the retreat to the bluffs, Strode was shot in the thigh and had to be assisted by Varnum and another trooper in remounting a horse. He made it to the top and survived the battle.

Samuel McCormick gave his horse to Lt. McIntosh in the rush to leave the timber and make it to the bluffs. Other versions report that McIntosh commandeered McCormick's horse. However it happened, McCormick found himself without a horse and made it to the top of the bluffs on foot. He survived the battle and died in 1908.

John Lattman was one of several men left in the timber during the retreat. He would eventually join the rest of his comrades on the hilltop, possibly as part of Herendeen's group, and survive the battle. He died near Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1913.

Daniel Newell witnessed his bunkie being shot down during the retreat to the bluffs. Newell was wounded in the left leg at the beginning of the retreat from the valley during the Little Bighorn fight on June 25, 1876.  He was taken to Fort Lincoln aboard the steamer Far West.  His story of the Battle of the Little Bighorn was published in The Sunshine Magazine on September 30, 1930.  

These are just a few of the stories of the troopers and their experiences in the valley fight along the Little Big Horn River in June 1876. My friend, Frederic Wagner, has a new book out about the valley fight portion of the Little Big Horn battle. He gave a Zoom presentation to promote the book.

Order Fred's book direct from the publisher, McFarland or on Amazon. Watch Fred's presentation below.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Email Service Expiring

It seems that Feedburner is discontinuing it's email service in July 2021. What does that mean? Well, if you subscribe to this website and receive updates via email, that will end in July. This website will continue and will be updated as usual. I typically publish updates every six weeks on Saturday mornings. So please stop by to see what's going on. You can always drop me an email - scott.nelson[at] Just replace the [at] with @. Sorry, have to do that to fight off the spammers.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Captain Grant Marsh - Little Big Horn Hero

Captain Grant Marsh

There was one hero of the Little Big Horn battle who did not receive a Medal of Honor: Grant Marsh, captain of the Far West. Grant Marsh was a riverboat pilot and captain who was noted for his many piloting exploits on the upper Missouri River and the Yellowstone River in Montana from 1862 until 1882. He is probably best known for his piloting of the steamer Far West during the Sioux Campaign of 1876. 

During the operations that summer of 1876, the Far West transported troops and supplies for the army. It also served as a sort of meeting place for the officers to plot their plans to find and defeat the 'hostile' Sioux Indians.

The Far West

After the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Grant Marsh piloted the Far West down the Yellowstone and the Missouri Rivers to Bismarck, carrying troopers who were wounded in the fight back to Fort Abraham Lincoln. He brought the first news of the "Custer Massacre," which was published to the nation via telegraph from Bismarck. In delivering the wounded, Captain Marsh set a downriver steamboat record, around 710 river miles in 54 hours. He was indeed one of the heroes that summer. 

Captain Grant Marsh died in Bismarck, North Dakota, on January 6, 1916. He is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Bismarck. A large engraved stone marks his grave.

Grant Marsh gravesite in Bismarck, ND.

Due to the whole COVID fiasco, I was feeling a bit of cabin fever back in July 2020. I decided to take a drive down to Yankton, South Dakota, to explore a couple of the Captain Grant Marsh locations in that city. While Marsh was in Yankton, he purchased a brick house in 1877. In April 1883, with his own packet boat, the W.J. Behan, he participated in transporting the Lakota leader Sitting Bull and his remaining followers from Fort Yates to Fort Randall where they were detained after their return from Canada.

The former Grant Marsh home at 513 Douglas Avenue, Yankton, SD

Grant Marsh statue at Riverside Park, Yankton, SD

If you're interested in reading more about Captain Grant Marsh, or riverboat traffic on the Missouri River, I would recommend picking up a copy of the book CONQUEST OF THE MISSOURI

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Rest in Peace Gerry Schultz

A friend of mine passed away the other day. Gerry Schultz was a scholar of the Battle of the Little Big Horn and of trooper Peter Thompson in particular. Gerry knew anything and everything about the guy. He would scour through books, magazines, and the internet looking for obscure mentions of Peter Thompson to add to his database of knowledge. He was an avid contributor to the many message boards and Facebook groups dedicated to the study of the Little Big Horn fight and the 7th U.S. Cavalry. That's where I first came into contact with Gerry... online.

Later, during one of our Montana Mayhem trips, we met Gerry in person. He was as friendly and welcoming in the flesh as he was online. Every trip thereafter we made a point to visit and catchup with Gerry. He was a re-enactor and portrayed Peter Thompson to the masses, not only during the big battle anniversary weekend but he would give presentations and talks throughout the year on his favorite subject. He loved sharing his passion for history and I'm sure he ignited the interest in more than a few people.

You will be terribly missed Gerry.

Gerry at his campsite, US Cavalry School, Little Big Horn Battlefield, June 2013.

Gerry with an old bugle. Little Big Horn Battlefield, June 2013. Also shown are renowned Custer re-enactor Steve Alexander and author Fred Wagner.

Gerry answering questions at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, South Dakota, June 2017.

Gerry Schultz, portraying trooper Peter Thompson at the High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, South Dakota, June 2017. On the stand next to Gerry is Peter Thompson's actual Medal of Honor, awarded for his actions as a water carrier at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.