The Army of the US Historical Sketches of Staff and Line with Portraits of Generals-in-Chief

The Seventh Regiment of Infantry

By Lieut. A. B. Johnson

« Return to Table of Contents

The Seventh U. S. Infantry was organized under the act of Congress approved July 16, 1798, with William Bently as Lieutenant Colonel Commandant. After an existence of less than two years, the regiment was honorably mustered out of the service on the 15th of June, 1800, under the provisions of an Act approved May 4, 1800.

The regiment was again organized on the 3d of May, 1808, under the act of Congress approved April 12, 1808, with William Russell as colonel.

The first engagement in which any part of the regiment participated, and which is the first battle inscribed on its colors, was at Fort Harrison, Ohio, on September 4th and 5th, 1812. On the 3d of September the fort was attacked by a large band of Indians, who set fire to one of the block houses on the 4th, and followed it up with a resolute attack on the fort, which was then commanded by Captain Zachary Taylor, 7th Infantry, continuing the assault the following day, when the little garrison was relieved from its perilous position by the timely arrival of Colonel Russell, 7th Infantry, with a force of 1100 men.

This engagement was followed by one at Viller's Plantation on the 23d of December, 1814, in which the regiment was conspicuous for its bravery and was highly complimented for its action under fire. This action was followed by the battle of New Orleans, La., on the 1st, 8th and 9th of January, 1815, in which the British lost 293 killed and 1267 wounded, while the American loss was comparatively small.

In the year 1815 the practice of assigning particular states as recruiting districts for the infantry, was discontinued, Kentucky having previously been the district for the Seventh Infantry, as Colorado now is. In the same year the regiment was ordered to Georgia, and its headquarters established at Fort Hawkins, where in accordance with the act of Congress of March 3, 1815, it was consolidated with the 2d, 3d and 44th regiments of infantry to form the present First Infantry; and the 8th, 19th, 36th and 38th were consolidated to form the present Seventh Infantry, its station being changed to Fort Gibson, Arkansas, where it remained for many years. From the Arkansas frontier the regiment was ordered to Florida where it took part in the battle of Fort King, E. Fla., on April 28, 1840; Fort Drane, E. Fla., May 19, 1840; Martin's Point Hammock, E. Fla., December 28, 1840, and Wahoo Swamp, E. Fla., May 17, 1842.

It was not until 1846, when difficulties with the Republic of Mexico assumed a serious aspect, that the Seventh Infantry was concentrated for duty and ordered to Corpus Christi, Texas, and in March of that year was moved to the Rio Grande opposite Matamoras. General Taylor, conscious of the approaching war, began the erection of a large fort defended by extensive works. This was called Fort Taylor. On the 1st of May, 1846, the


larger part of the American forces under General Taylor left for Point Isabel, and the Seventh Infantry, under command of Major Brown, was left to garrison the new fort.

No sooner had the main body of the army disappeared than the Mexicans commenced a spirited bombardment of the earthwork, which was gallantly and successfully defended by the regiment. In this engagement Major Brown received a severe wound, from the effects of which he died on the 9th of May, and in honor of his memory and for the gallant manner in which he and the regiment had acted, the name of the earthwork was changed to Fort Brown, which name it still retains.

The regiment was now much reduced in numbers, and immediately after the siege ten companies were consolidated into six, and placed under the command of Captain D. S. Miles, 7th Infantry, and with this organization it proceeded to Monterey. Here, though under fire, and in the position assigned it, the regiment did not become actively engaged until the action at the Bishop's Palace, when Captain C. F. Smith, of the artillery, was ordered to storm the heights, and Captain Miles, with the 7th Infantry, was ordered to support him. Captain Miles sent Lieutenant Garnett, 7th Infantry, with a detachment of men up the hillside to divert the enemy's attention from Captain Smith's command. Lieutenant Garnett's detachment was met by a vigorous attack of the enemy, but continued to move up, driving the Mexicans before it until the party was recalled. Col. Percifor F. Smith, commanding the 5th, 7th, and the Louisiana Volunteers, gave orders for these commands to pass around on each side and storm the fort which was on the same ridge and about a half mile back, and which commanded the Bishop's Palace. Here a natural rivalry took place between the three organizations, each endeavoring to outstrip and arrive before the other. The three commands entered the gates almost at the same moment, the 5th a little in advance, but followed very closely by the 7th.

The regiment left Monterey December 13, 1846, and arrived at Tampico February 3, 1847, where it embarked for Vera Cruz, landing after a voyage of thirteen days, and joined in the siege of the city and of the castle of San Juan. After a spirited contest the Mexicans capitulated on the 24th of March, 1847.

The Seventh Infantry then, with other troops, took up the line of march toward the interior, frequently skirmishing with the enemy at various points, and on the 15th of April arrived at Cerro Gordo, where the Mexicans were found to be strongly intrenched. The regiment, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Plympton, and three companies of the 3d Infantry, were detailed to storm the heights of Cerro Gordo, which feat was performed with brilliant success, both colors of the regiment being planted on the enemy's works. Sergeant Henry, 7th Infantry, with his own hands hauled down the national standard of Mexico from the fort, and was recommended for a commission by General Scott for this and his well-known intrepidity on former occasions. General Scott in his official report said, "The highest praise is due to Colonel Plympton, 7th Infantry, and the gallant officers and men of the regiment for their brilliant service." After this victory the troops continued the onward march to Jalapa, where they went into camp.


On the 19th of August, at Contreras, the brigade of which the 7th Infantry formed a part commenced the movement at sunrise, and after a tedious march reached an elevation in rear of the enemy, stormed the intrenchments, carried their works and planted their colors upon them, capturing a large number of prisoners and ammunition. At this juncture relief was required for the troops in front of Cherubusco, and the 7th Infantry being detached for their relief, moved rapidly, joined in the assault and participated in the handsome action at that place on August 20, 1847.

On the 12th of September a call was made for a captain, a lieutenant and a detachment of enlisted men from the 7th Infantry, to join with similar details from other troops, in forming a storming party for the attack of the works of Chapultepec. Captain Gabriel R. Paul and Lieutenant Levi Garnett, 7th Infantry, with a detachment of enlisted men, volunteered their services. The party formed at once and marched to Tacubaya, under the command of Captain Silas Casey, 2d Infantry. At nine o'clock in the evening Captain Paul moved out near the enemy's works, when a brisk engagement took place, resulting in the defeat and retreat of the Mexican pickets. At daylight on the 13th the entire party moved forward under command of Captain Paul, 7th Infantry (Captain Casey having been wounded), who led the attack and carried the works, capturing five pieces of artillery and 450 prisoners. Lieutenant Garnett was killed in the assault. On the 14th of September the regiment with colors proudly flying marched into the City of Mexico, where it remained until the ratification of the treaty of peace.

After the treaty of peace with Mexico, the regiment was ordered to Florida, where it remained until June, 1850, when it was ordered to Jefferson Barracks, arriving there in July. After a short stay of a few weeks, it was ordered on the 13th of August to New Mexico, embarking the following day and arriving at Fort Leavenworth on the 18th. Here it remained fitting out and mounting Companies C, D, F and H, in accordance with orders, from the War Department, until September 15th, when the entire regiment took up the line of march for New Mexico. On the 1st of October the command had reached the crossing of the Little Arkansas, 210 miles from Fort Leavenworth, when orders were received by courier countermanding the order and directing the return of the regiment to Jefferson Barracks, where it arrived on the 21st, and remained until the following spring. It was then ordered to relieve the 5th Infantry in its several stations on the Arkansas frontier, arriving there several weeks later, and remaining on this frontier building posts, making roads and protecting the few white settlers from the Indians, until 1858, when it was ordered to rendezvous at Jefferson Barracks for service in Utah against the Mormons.

The troops composing the Utah expedition were formed into six separate columns, the 7th Infantry being posted in the 4th, 5th, and 6th. After a long and tedious march of 1200 miles over an uninteresting and monotonous country, the several columns took position by regiments at Camp Floyd, Utah, in September, the last column arriving September 25th. Here the regiment remained until April, 1860, when it was ordered to take station in New Mexico, arriving at Santa Fé in August, from which point it was sent to various posts in the Territory.


Early in the spring of 1861, orders were issued to breakup Fort Buchanan, join the troops of the post (Companies C and H, 7th Infantry) with the companies at Fort Breckenridge, and march the command to reinforce the troops on the Rio Grande. During this period many important events were taking place. Actual warfare had already begun between the North and the South. The attack upon Fort Sumter, several skirmishes, and the battle of Bull Run, had already occurred, although the forces in Texas and New Mexico had received but partial intelligence of these events. The Seventh Infantry, with a view to a change of station to the States, had been ordered to concentrate at Fort Fillmore, then commanded by Major Isaac Lynde, 7th Infantry. Here all was doubt and anxiety. No authentic information of the intended policy of the Government had been received, and the mail and couriers brought only the sad news of the continued secession of the States, and the general inertness and doubtful course of the Government.

In July, the Headquarters and Companies A, B, D, E, G, I and K, had assembled at Fort Fillmore awaiting the arrival of Companies C, F and H from Forts Craig and Buchanan. Scouting parties from Fort Bliss, where the Confederates were concentrating troops, had ventured within twenty miles of Fort Fillmore, and on one occasion Major Lynde had sent several companies of the regiment to drive back these parties, but none were ever found. On the 18th of July Companies E and G of the regiment, under command of Captain Joseph H. Potter, were sent to occupy the town of San Thomas, on the opposite side of the river and about two and a half miles from the post, for the purpose of guarding the ford. On the evening of the 23d, Major Lynde, hearing that the enemy was about to advance upon the fort, immediately ordered Captain Potter to abandon San Thomas with his two companies and hasten back.

The Confederates, meeting with no resistance at the ford, crossed on the morning of the 25th into San Thomas, and then leisurely marched into the town of Mesilla, about two miles from the post. On the night of the 24th, when all the garrison were sleeping peacefully, with no more than the customary number of sentinels, no pickets out in any direction, no precaution whatever taken to prevent surprise from an approaching enemy, a body of Texas troops commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Baylor, C. S. A., to the number of about 250, were quietly encamped within six hundred yards of the fort, intending to surprise it at daybreak on the morning of the 25th, kill or capture the officers in their quarters, and then take the men prisoners in their barracks. Fortunately for the command, one of the Confederate pickets,—an old discharged soldier,—deserted from his post, came in and alarmed the garrison, otherwise their success would have been complete. The troops were at once put in readiness to withstand an attack, but the Texans drew off, returning to Mesilla.

The troops of the garrison were finally (about 4 o'clock P. M.) ordered out for the purpose of marching into Mesilla, the force consisting of Companies B, D, E, G, I and K, 7th Infantry, and two companies of the mounted rifles. When within 500 yards of the town, Lieutenant E. J. Brooks, the regimental adjutant, and Assistant Surgeon McKee, rode forward with a flag of truce toward the enemy's lines, and as they did so, two mounted men


advanced to meet them, each having a double-barrelled shot-gun on his saddle. Lieutenant Brooks in the name of his commander demanded "an unconditional surrender of the forces and town," to which one of the men replied, "If you want the town come and take it." Orders were at once given by Major Lynde to advance and attack the enemy. Lieutenant Crilly, 7th Infantry, in charge of the two field pieces, was ordered to shell the town, which was full of women and children. Dr. McKee says that he heard Major Lynde order Lieut. Crilly to fire a shell at a group of women and children, and so, without having, in accordance with the humane rule of civilized warfare, given notice to remove the women and children to a place of safety, shells were thrown into different parts of the town, fortunately injuring no one. Night coming on, the command was withdrawn, returning to the post about 10 P. M., having lost three men killed and twelve wounded.

The next day Major Lynde ordered the post abandoned and the public property destroyed, and at 1 A. M. on the morning of the 27th of July took up the line of march for Fort Stanton. By daylight the command was eight or ten miles on the road to San Augustine Springs. The day being extremely hot and there being no water, many of the men dropped out almost dead from fatigue and thirst. The Texans pursued the troops as soon as possible, the only temporary security and intervening guard being the company of Rifles under Captain Gibbs, which was deployed as skirmishers, covering the retreat. Dr. McKee says, "About noon I drove into camp at San Augustine Springs, found the troops in camp, and Lynde enjoying a comfortable lunch, as if nothing was going on. It was the sublimity of majestic indifference, his gray hair and beard forming a fitting frame for his pale face and cowardly soul." In a short time the Texans were seen advancing in line of battle to the number of some 300, Lynde's command numbering nearly 500 well trained and disciplined troops and forming a striking contrast to the badly armed and irregular command of the Texans. The enemy advanced within 300 yards, when Major Lynde sent out a flag of truce, and at once commenced negotiations for surrendering his command, which was accomplished in a very short time. When the officers heard of it they waited upon Major Lynde, and each in turn gave in his protest, but it was of no avail. Was ever such a blemish and stigma attached to a regiment whose record had hitherto been full of glory wherever it had been placed? The colors of the regiment were cut from the staff, torn into pieces, and distributed to those who had fought under them in years gone by and who loved them as they loved life. To any unprejudiced mind this action on the part of Major Lynde must seem hasty and unjust towards the command, and unwarranted when it is considered that no opportunity was afforded the men to prove their courage. No matter what the ultimate consequences might have been, it certainly would have been more soldier-like and vastly more loyal to have tried to have beaten the enemy, and then, if overpowered, to have surrendered, than to have surrendered without a shot to a force inferior in numbers, in discipline, in esprit-de-corps, and indeed vastly more poorly armed.

On the 29th of July the troops left San Augustine Springs as prisoners


of war, arriving at Las Cruses, N. M., the same night, where on the 30th and 31st, they were paroled. The Headquarters, Band and Companies A, B, D, E, G, I and K, left Las Cruses on the 3d of August, en route to Fort Union, arriving at Fort Craig on the 10th. Upon their arrival there, Company F, together with the rest, of the garrison, turned out and presented arms to the prisoners of war as they marched into the post. So great was the feeling toward Major Lynde, that he was not allowed to enter the garrison. This disastrous and disgraceful affair occurred July 20, 1861, and after due consideration Major Lynde was summarily dismissed from the service by order of President Lincoln, and ceased to be an officer of the army November 25, 1861. Five years later (November 27, 1866), President Johnson revoked the order of President Lincoln, and thus restored Major Lynde to duty to date July 28, 1866; and on the same date placed him on the retired list.

Companies C, F and H escaped capture by returning at once to their respective posts. The seven surrendered companies remained at Fort Union until the 18th of August, when they were ordered to Jefferson Barracks, arriving there early in November. Here they remained until December, when they were sent to posts along the northern lakes.

Having escaped the unfortunate fate of the remainder of the regiment, Companies C, F and H, were concentrated at Fort Craig. On the 21st of February the severe battle of Valverde was fought in which Companies C, F and H participated. Company F was decimated and both the others lost heavily. Captain Bascom, 16th Infantry, recently promoted from the 7th, was killed in the action while commanding Company C. The three companies lost one officer, two sergeants and sixteen privates killed; three sergeants, two corporals and thirty-four privates wounded, and four privates taken prisoners; making an aggregate loss of sixty-two.

On the 30th of September, 1862, the companies that had been surrendered were declared released from parole, and in October were ordered to join the regular brigade in the Army of the Potomac, arriving at camp near Sandy Hook, Md., on the 31st. Leaving on the 1st of November, they crossed the Potomac River at Harper's Ferry, went into camp at Snicker's Gap on the second, and formed part of the reconnoisance on the 3d. On the 6th they went into camp near Middlebury, Va., and on the 23d encamped near Potomac Creek.

The brigade of which the 7th Infantry was a part, left camp on Potomac Creek at daylight on the 11th of December and marched to a point near Falmouth, Va., where it bivouacked under cover of some ravines. It remained in this position until about 4 P.M. on the 13th, when the march was resumed, the brigade crossing the Rappahannock River on the upper bridge, passed through Fredericksburg and was placed in position on the south side of the city and on the east side of Hanover Street. This took place at about 5.15 P. m. under a heavy fire of musketry, and in taking up this position, eight men were killed. About 11 P. M. the brigade advanced about a third of a mile, and relieved a part of the advanced guard of the army. The position proved to be a most trying one, and eventually put the nerve and endurance of the oldest and most courageous of the officers and men to the severest


test. The line was now about eighty yards in front of a stone wall, behind which the enemy was posted in great numbers, while the slope occupied by the troops was so slight as to compel the men, to remain flat on their faces from earliest dawn until darkness again veiled them from sight. Thus the troops remained for twelve long hours, unable to eat or drink, for so relentless was the enemy that not even a wounded man nor a litter-bearer was exempted from their fire. At 11 P. M. on the 14th, the command withdrew and marched back into the city, bivouacking in the streets during the night, crossing the Rappahannock River on the 16th, and returning to camp near Falmouth on the 17th. In this fight the 7th Infantry lost two men killed, twenty-six wounded, and nine missing, this being the heaviest loss of any regiment in the brigade.

On the arrival of the regiment in New York in November, 1861, the regimental commander applied to the War Department for a set of colors to replace those destroyed at the surrender, but another set was refused until the regiment had won them by deeds of valor on the field of battle. Accordingly, in January, 1863, a set of colors was sent to the regiment for its gallantry in the battle of Fredericksburg, and the presentation was made with suitable honors.

The brigade of which the 7th Infantry formed a part left its encampment near Chancellorsville on the morning of May 1st, advancing on the Fredericksburg road. Having advanced a couple of miles, the enemy was discovered in front, and orders were at once given to deploy the brigade in line, with a regiment as skirmishers in front, and await instructions. The troops were at once deployed, the 7th Infantry being on the left of the road. Finding the position much exposed to the shells from the enemy's batteries, the line was advanced to the bottom of the hill to a fence bordering a small stream which ran along the front of the line on the left of the road. Orders were soon received to advance to the crest of the hill. This was stubbornly opposed by the enemy, but the advance of the line was irresistible. The enemy fled or were captured, and in a few minutes the brigade occupied the crest of the hill. Having gained this position, orders were received to hold it at all hazards and a disposition of the troops most favorable for the purpose was made accordingly. After holding this position for an hour without any serious molestation, orders were received to retire. The troops were accordingly withdrawn slowly in line of battle and in good order, occasionally facing about and fronting the enemy, the wounded at the same time being carefully removed to the rear. In this fight at Chancellorsville, the regiment lost two enlisted men killed, nine wounded and five missing.

The regiment left camp on the 4th of June and proceeded to Benson's Mills near the Rappahannock River, leaving there on the 13th, and reaching camp near Union Mills on the 30th. After leaving the Rappahannock and making the usual marches incident to following an advancing army, some of them being unusually severe, the regiment arrived in front of the enemy at Gettysburg, and at once was formed in line on Round Top, at about 5.30 P. M. and immediately advanced down the hill and across an open field. Shortly after, that portion of the brigade that the 7th Infantry was in was ordered to cross the stone fence near them, wheel to the left, form in


a line perpendicular to the original direction, and advance into the woods. This was immediately done, relieving time a brigade already there.

After remaining faced in this new direction for a few minutes, the enemy became visible upon the right. At this juncture the regiment was ordered to retire slowly, which order was obeyed with great reluctance by the men. While they were retiring, the fire of the enemy became very destructive, and after recrossing the stone fence into the open field, it became frightful, the regiment receiving a fire from three different directions. After reaching the hill, the regiment was halted and remained in that position, being engaged no more during the operations. Although the loss during the engagement was heavy, the regiment fell back in good order and could account for every man. Of the 116 officers and men who went into action, the regiment lost one officer and eleven men killed; three officers and forty-two men wounded, and two men missing; being a loss of 50.86 per cent., far in excess of that of the famous Light Brigade at Balaklava.

The regiment left Gettysburg on the 6th of July in pursuit of the enemy, crossing the Potomac River near Berlin, Md., on the 17th, and was present and engaged in the fight at Wapping Heights, Va., on the 27th of July. It resumed the march on the 27th, and arrived at camp near Beverly Ford on the 6th of August, where it remained until the 14th, when orders were received to proceed to New York City, to assist in quelling the draft riots, where it remained until May, 1865, when it was ordered to Florida.

Here the regiment remained during the reconstruction period, until April, 1869, when it wag ordered to the Department of the Platte, and consolidated with the 36th Infantry, under its old designation. In this Department the regiment remained until the following spring, when it was ordered to Montana, with headquarters at Fort Shaw.

On the 20th of October, 1871, Companies B and H, under the command of Captain H. B. Freeman, 7th Infantry, left Fort Shaw en route to old Fort Belknap, M. T., for the purpose of breaking up the camp, and driving out of the country, a party of half-breeds from Canada, who were engaged in illicit traffic in whiskey and ammunition with the Indians. The command struck the half-breed camp on the 2d of November, capturing and burning their supplies and ordering them out of the country. Here it remained until the 16th, when it broke camp en route to Fort Shaw. On the 24th, about noon, the command was overtaken while on the march, by a most terrific storm. The weather, which had hitherto not been unusually cold, suddenly changed to many degrees colder,—a violent northwest wind accompanied with snow coming on before the command could get into camp, and nearly one-half of the men had their hands and feet frozen, some of them very severely, ten of whom were compelled to have amputations performed.

On the 13th of July, 1872, Companies C, E, G and I, under the command of Captain C. C. Rawn, left Fort Shaw as part of the force organized for the protection of the engineers of the Northern Pacific Railroad, in their surveying expedition down the Yellowstone River. On the 1st of August the command broke camp, continuing its march without incident until the 12th, when it arrived about twelve miles below the terminus of the survey


of the previous year. On the 13th the command remained in camp near Pryor's Fork. At about 2.45 A. m. on the morning of the 14th the camp was attacked by a war party of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. The troops were immediately deployed and then advanced steadily, driving the Indians out of the timber and occupying it. The fire was kept up from this time until 7.30 A. M., when the Indians withdrew. From the darkness of the morning it was impossible to estimate correctly the number of Indians engaged, but it has been estimated at from 400 to 800. Only two bodies were found, the gloom enabling the Indians to carry off their wounded and slain. The companies lost two killed and ten wounded. After the Indians had retreated, the march was continued down the Yellowstone, but no further trouble was made that year by the Indians.

On the 2d of June, 1874, Companies G and K, under Captain G. L. Browning, were ordered to old Fort Lewis, Montana, for the purpose of protecting travellers and wagon trains over the Carroll road, between Camp, Baker and Carroll, arriving on the 25th. On the 7th of July a war party of from fifty to eighty hostile Sioux made their appearance within a mile of Camp Lewis, firing upon a fatigue party procuring wood for the camp, and also upon a small number of recruits who were fishing in the creek near the wood party. A detachment of mounted men from the two companies, under Lieutenant Wright, 7th Infantry, proceeded at once to the scene of the attack, followed by the companies under Captain, Browning. The Indians being mounted on fleet ponies and the companies on foot, they were unable to intercept them. The mounted men however followed on the trail and overtook them in a ravine about fifteen miles from camp, immediately opening fire upon them, which was returned by the Indians. After a sharp skirmish of a few minutes, the Indians fled. The detachment recaptured eight head of stock which had been run off from a ranch near camp. The horses of the detachment being too much jaded to follow the Indians any further, the command returned to camp. Three unassigned recruits were killed in this affair, one of whom was scalped. Private Davis, Company G, was severely wounded in the right hand, while bravely defending himself with his fishing pole, that being his only means of defense.

On the 17th of March, 1876, Companies A, B, E, H, I and K, 7th Infantry, were ordered to concentrate at Fort Ellis, as a part of a column to operate against the hostile Sioux Indians, reaching that post on the 28th. Here the command was augmented by four troops of cavalry, and left Fort Ellis on the 30th, under command of Colonel John Gibbon, 7th Infantry, whose instructions were to guard the left bank of the Yellowstone River, and if possible prevent the Indians from crossing the river, in case they should attempt to do so, either in pursuance of their habit of following the buffalo to the north, or in case they should seek to avoid the troops coming against them from the south and east. After marching and counter-marching up and down the Yellowstone. Colonel Gibbon, in accordance with orders from General Terry, put his command across the Yellowstone and went into camp on the 24th of June, this being part of a plan to surround the Indian village on the Little Big Horn River, while General Custer with the 7th Cavalry was to march up the Rosebud River until he struck the Indian


trail, and the two columns were to attack the village at the same time and from opposite directions.

On the morning of the 25th, Gibbon's command (General Terry being with it) broke camp, making a march of twenty-eight miles, over heavy mountain trails without any water, the day being very hot, and the men suffering greatly with thirst. In order that scouts might be sent out into the valley of the Little Big Horn, the cavalry, with the battery and a mounted detachment of the 7th Infantry commanded by Lieutenant Bradley, was pushed on thirteen miles further, not getting into camp until midnight. Scouts were sent out at half-past four in the morning of the 26th, who shortly afterwards brought in news that they had encountered some Indians, and had run them across the river. They proved to be Crow scouts which had been sent with Custer's command, and when they discovered that their pursuers were soldiers, they called across the river that Custer's command had been entirely destroyed by the Sioux, who were chasing the soldiers all over the country and killing them. The column now pushed up the valley of the Little Big Horn, as rapidly as the men could march, halting and bivouacking on the open prairie about dark, having marched thirty-three miles since morning.

Very early the following morning the advance was resumed, and after proceeding about three miles, a large deserted Indian camp appeared. Many lodge poles were still standing, and the quantity of property scattered about testified to the hasty departure of the Indians. While passing through the Indian camp, Lieutenant Bradley rode up to General Terry and reported that he had counted 194 dead soldiers in the foot hills to the left. Communication was soon opened up with Major Reno, whose command was found intrenched upon the tops of several small ridges with fifty-eight wounded lying on the hot dusty hill tops, where, until about 6 o'clock on the evening before, they had been unable to obtain any water except at the imminent risk of life. Colonel Gibbon's command was at once put into camp and arrangements made to bring down and properly care for the wounded, which was effected by night-fall.

The next day was occupied in burying the dead and in constructing litters for transporting the wounded. With these litters carried on the shoulders of the men of Companies H and I, 7th Infantry, the command left camp at sunset, but the march was exceedingly slow and tedious, and it was long after midnight when camp was reached, having marched only about four and a half miles. Progress with the hand-litters having proved so exceedingly slow and tedious, it was thought best to discard them and try some mule litters, which worked so admirably that the command was enabled to start that evening about six o'clock. After proceeding a few miles, information was received that the steamer Far West was at the mouth of the Little Big Horn, waiting for the command, and accordingly General Terry directed the command to push on with a view to placing the wounded on the boat, where they could have comfort and the best attention. This was safely accomplished about two o'clock on the morning of the 30th.

Soon after the disaster to Custer's command, General Terry made attempts to communicate with General Crook's column which was somewhere


in that vicinity, in order that concert of action might be established between the two columns. A reward of $250 was offered to any citizen who would carry a dispatch through to him. A scout started out but was driven back by the Indians. A reward of $500 was then offered with a like result. At last the General called for volunteers, and twelve enlisted men came forward volunteering to go. From these twelve men three were selected, who left camp on the 9th of July, reaching General Crook's camp on the 12th, and returned safely on the 25th. General Terry published the following order to the command:

"The Department Commander has recently had urgent occasion to communicate from this camp with Brigadier General Crook, commanding a force on the headwaters of Powder River. The duty of carrying dispatches between these points, through a country occupied by a large force of hostile Sioux, was one of the most arduous and perilous nature. A scout, inspired by the promise of a large reward, made the attempt, but soon abandoned it as hopeless. As a last resort a call was made upon the troops of this command for volunteers, in response to which not less than twelve enlisted men promptly offered their services. From among them the following named soldiers were selected,—Privates James Bell, Benjamin H. Stuart, and William Evans, of Company E, 7th Infantry. On the 9th day of July they set out for General Crook's camp, which they reached on the 12th, delivered the dispatches, and returned, arriving in camp on the 25th. In making this public acknowledgment of the important service voluntarily rendered by these soldiers at the imminent risk of their lives, the Department Commander desires to express his deep regret that at present it is not in his power to bestow the substantial reward which has been so well earned, but he is confident that an achievement undertaken in so soldierlike a spirit and carried so gallantly to a successful issue, will, not be permitted to pass unrewarded. The exploit is one calculated to establish in the public mind a higher and more just estimate of the character of the United States soldier. The Department Commander, on his own behalf, and on behalf of the officers of this command, desired thus publicly to thank Privates James Bell, Benjamin H. Stuart, and William Evans, Company E, 7th Infantry, for a deed which reflects so much credit on the service." These men were eventually granted medals by Congress.

After consolidating with General Crook's command, and making many long and hard marches, orders were issued on the 5th of September for the troops to return to their several stations, which they hailed with delight. During the period from March 17 to October 7, the companies of the 7th Infantry marched nearly 1700 miles and were in the field six months and nineteen days.

In July, 1877, word was received at Fort Missoula, Montana, that a large party of hostile Nez Perce Indians under Chief Joseph were coming over the "Lo Lo" trail in their efforts to escape from General Howard's troops who were pursuing them. Captain C. C. Rawn, 7th Infantry, then in command, at once took steps to head them off, but the wily savages eluded him and escaped around his position taken in their front.

Upon the receipt of a dispatch from General Howard that the hostiles


had started over the "Lo Lo" trail, Colonel Gibbon, 7th Infantry, concentrated four additional companies of the regiment at Fort Missoula, and on August 4, left that post with Companies A, D, F, G, I and K, in pursuit of the Indians, making 25 miles the first day. The following day a march of 30 miles was made, during which quite a number of citizens joined the command, who volunteered to act as scouts and who desired to assist in case of a fight. After following the hostiles for three or four days longer, they were discovered on August 3 camped in the Big Hole Basin, and the troops took position, all lying down to await daylight. Here they remained for several hours, in plain hearing of the barking of dogs, the crying of babies, and other noises of camp. The Indian camp was pitched on the south bank of the Big Hole River, in an open meadow partially surrounded by dense thickets of willows. There were 89 lodges, pitched in the form of a V, with the apex up stream.

It was now nearing daylight, and the men suffered with cold, as they had neither blankets nor overcoats, having left them with the wagon train in the rear. The smouldering camp-fires flickered fitfully in the pale starlight, and the smoky lodges of the savages presented a most fantastic picture as the dying lights blazed with ever-changing weirdness upon them. Finally the night ended, and as the day approached from behind the eastern hills, the troops were again astir, but their movements were as silent as the grave. Under whispered orders and with -stealthy tread the companies took position. As the light increased and the men were advancing cautiously, an Indian rode out of the willows directly in front of Lieutenant Bradley's position, en route to the pony herd on the hillside, and was instantly shot. The entire line at once advanced on the village; volleys were fired into the tepees, and with an eager yell the whole line swept wildly into the midst of the slumbering camp. The. Indians, completely surprised, rushed from their lodges panic stricken, by the suddenness of the attack, running for the river banks and thickets; squaws yelling, children screaming, dogs barking, horses neighing, many breaking their lariats and stampeding. For a few minutes no effective fire was returned, but as soon as the Indians recovered from their surprise, they opened fire upon the troops with terrible effect. In less than twenty minutes the troops had possession of the camp and orders were given to set fire to it.

The Indians, however, had not given up the fight, and while a portion of the command was setting fire to the tepees, the other portion was occupied in replying to the shots, which now came upon them from every direction. At almost every crack of the rifle from the distant hills, some member of the command was sure to fall. The troops were now formed into two lines, back to back, and the order was given to charge through the brush in opposite directions, for the purpose of driving out the Indians who remained there, but they simply retreated further into the woods. In this part of the action Lieutenant Coolidge (now Captain) while gallantly leading his company, was shot through both thighs, and was carried to a place of safety by 1st Sergt. Patrick Rogan, to whom Congress awarded a medal for bravery in this engagement.

It soon became evident that it was not prudent to attempt to hold the


position in the river bottom any longer, and the order was given to fall back to the hills, which was done, with all the wounded. Here they replied with good effect to the sharpshooters who were gathering around them, and here Lieutenant English received his death, and Captain Williams a severe but not fatal wound. The Indians crawled up as closely as they dared, and with yells of encouragement urged each other on, but the troops met them with a bold and determined front, their fire being very destructive to the enemy. While in this position the Indians attempted to fire the grass, arid smoke the troops out, but fortunately it was too green, and would not burn.

At ten o'clock on the following morning General Howard arrived with part of his command, and thus saved from entire annihilation the remainder of the regiment, which surely would have been wiped out had it not been for this timely reinforcement. In this fight the regiment lost 22 killed and 35 wounded while the enemy acknowledged to have lost 208. Among those killed was Captain Logan and Lieutenant Bradley, and among the wounded were Colonel Gibbon and Lieutenant Woodruff.

On the morning of the 13th, the command started for Deer Lodge, reaching it on the 15th. Here the greatest care was given the wounded by the citizens, and everything done for their comfort. From here the companies went to their respective stations, taking with them such of their wounded as were able to travel.

The regiment remained in Montana until September, 1888, when the Headquarters, Band and Companies B, C, E, F, H and K, left for Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and took station there and were followed by Companies A, D, G and I in October of the following year.

Companies B, C, E, F, H and K, under the command of Lieut. Colonel Charles C. Gilbert, 7th Infantry, left Fort Snelling on October 1, 1889, for service against the hostile Utes on White River, Colorado, who on the 29th September had ambushed Major Thornburg's command, killing him and many of his men. The companies left the post within two hours after receiving the order, and arrived at the camp on White River, October 14th. Here they remained until June 11, 1880, when they were ordered back to Fort Snelling, from which point they were distributed to several posts in the Department.

Here the regiment remained until December, 1882, when it was ordered to the Department of the Platte, with its headquarters at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, remaining until October, 1889, when it was ordered to Fort Logan, Colorado, at which are at present eight companies of the regiment. The regiment participated in the Sioux War of 1890-91, returning to Fort Logan in January, 1891.

This regiment has the unusual distinction of having had a colonel,—Matthew Arbuckle,—longer than any regiment in the world, viz., from March 16, 1820, to June 11, 1851,—over thirty-one years, It has had many men of note and mark on its rolls, such as Zachary Taylor, U. S. Grant, B. L. E. Bonneville, the explorer, Joseph H. Potter, Gabriel R. Paul, Cadmus M. Wilcox, Gabriel I. Raines, John Gibbon and others; and for the past few years has stood at the head of the army in marksmanship.

« Return to Table of Contents