Motorhead Quote

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

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.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Re-Enact Famous Custer Struggle

 The 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Big Horn was a huge event. People came from all over the area, all over the country actually, to see the terrain where the battle was fought. There were special ceremonies, speeches, and re-enactments of the battle.

The automobile allowed people to more easily travel
to the 50th anniversary festivities.

Several battle participants were on hand to reminisce about the action that took place fifty years earlier. Former lieutenant, Edward S. Godfrey, was among those who visited during the anniversary. There was a ceremony held where Godfrey and warrior participant White Bull "buried the hatchet" between the two sides. Elizabeth Custer did not attend the anniversary. She actually never could bring herself to visit the battlefield where her husband and several family members died, but her niece did attend the 50th anniversary celebration.

A portion of the crowd at the 1926 anniversary. Notice
the people standing and sitting on the marble markers.

A re-enactment of the battle was performed, much as it is today, for the entertainment of those attending. The following is a story from the Rapid City Daily Journal which appeared on Friday, June 25, 1926, outlining some of the activities. 

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.