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100 Voices: Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Crow, Arikara and American Eye-witness accounts of the Battle of the Little Bighorn

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Stanislas Roy's Story of the Battle
A 7th Cavalry survivor's account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn

Interview with Stanislas Roy circa 1910.1

Note

THE STORY OF SERGEANT STANISLAS ROY

Scout Billy Cross, who survived the Battle of the Little BighornON 5th OF JUNE got caught in snow storm between Hart [Heart] river and O'Fallon creek and very cold weather.... Roy says wagon train went no further than Powder river. Did not go to Rosebud and then return to Powder.... Indian graves were in hollow between Miles City and Rosebud.

About Ft. Keogh is where Reno came in off his scout. Between here and the Rosebud we came across low ground with Indian graves in trees. G troop men tore them down and robbed them and threw bones into Yellowstone. Some of the men told McIntosh that G troop might be sorry for this.... On trail along Rosebud Indian ponies had eaten grass off each side for long distances....

Roy says when started at noon 6/22 left camp in timber about mile east of mouth of Rosebud and cut across hill and struck Rosebud some distance from river, crossing it and continuing up west side of it. His account seems to indicate that Custer followed a route now marked by the road.

Roy says always heard that Bob Jackson and Billy Cross never forded at Ford A. No one remembers seeing them in the valley fight or on west side of river at all. About 50 yds. timber on west bank Ford A. . . . Reno's advance was cos. G, A, M in this order....

After passing ford we formed in line and while forming I heard some of the men say "There goes Custer." He could be seen over on hills to our right and across river. Dismounted about 200 yds. in advance of timber and skirmish line advanced to point of timber. G on right, A next, and M on left. He is sure there was no timber to right of line. Some Indians were in timber in advance of right of skirmish line and were firing on skirmish line in an oblique direction - toward the southwest.

Skirmish line extended west from point of timber and not where I have it on the map. Roy saw Charlie Reynolds dismounted and wounded with pistol in hand trying to follow troops in retreat. Roy says, After my horse was wounded he seemed to be crazy and I could not guide him but he went right, and I stuck to him and he carried me through all right.

Ordered in from skirmish line and went into timber about 50 yds. to get horse. Met Wallace2 mounted and leading G Troop out. I asked (no one in particular) where my horse was and Wallace said "Grab any horse you can get and get out of here." Says all went out of south side of timber. Thinks was on skirmish line full 20 minutes. Shot away about 20 rounds of ammunition. Saw ravines over toward hill full of Indians shooting oblique to line. Also saw Indians across river opposite the timber circling around toward east. Saw them through timber.

Pvt. John Martin, who carried Gen. George A. Custer's last orderWhen went in saw Gilbert3 coming out of timber with 4 horses, one of which was mine. I mounted up and followed the column and yelled to Gilbert to follow the column and "git." I was behind Gilbert and very late in getting out of timber. About 75 or 100 yds. from timber I saw Charlie Reynolds dismounted and wounded with pistol standing still and showing fight. Soon after this my horse was shot through jaws just back of mouth. Horse went down and then jumped up again and I mounted. My sling belt flew over my head when horse fell and lost my carbine, so that when I mounted had only pistol. Got safely to river. Water about belly deep to horse. Started immediately up the bluff. Horse bleeding badly and abandoned him going up bluff. The talk was that Reno would go to Custer and I said to Moylan "Captain, I am dismounted." He said, "Well, get one," which I was, of course, very anxious to do because it would have been very dangerous to have been dismounted had the command left the place. (About 10 minutes after getting to top of bluff, Benteen came up and there was talk about going to Custer and then happened to talk with Moylan about getting horse.) I then went about halfway down to river and got my horse.

Soon after Benteen [Capt. Frederick Benteen] came up, Weir [Capt. Thomas Weir] went out and later came back and Sioux after him. Heavy firing till dark. King wounded evening of 25th.4

On evening of 25th we made breastworks. After firing ceased, Reno came up and said to Moylan, "Have one noncommissioned officer volunteer to go in charge of six volunteers to go out and stand picket in front of Co. A line." Moylan called one noncom officer after another to volunteer for this duty. Heyn was wounded. Called Serg. Fehler and he refused to volunteer. Serg. McDermott would have gone but Moylan did not want him to go -- said he wanted McDermott to be first sergt. in place of b. Sergt. Easley gave as his excuse that he had been on guard night before. Next Moylan called me and I said I would go if men would volunteer to go with me. Next privates called on, and the following volunteered - Conner, Gilbert, Bancroft, McClurg, Harris. Another man whose name I will not mention volunteered but backed out at the last minute before starting. I then said I would stand with one of the men on one relief. After men volunteered I went to Reno for orders. Reno told me to have the men sneak out one at a time. The Sioux were still out there galloping around. We could hear them plainly. Reno told me to have two stay awake at a time and to talk to each other so as to be sure to keep awake. We were all very much in need of sleep. He also said that if Indians opened fire very early next morning, to scatter and run for the breastworks but not to go in a bunch. The picket was carried out exactly as ordered by my detail, and at dawn when Sioux opened fire we were lying in grass and sage brush and we retreated to line safely and in good order. I was then complimented by my capt. for duty that night.

Fighting started at daylight on June 26 and very heavy until about 10:00 a.m. We could see them riding around us by the hundreds like race horses. They fired at us so heavy that cut down all of sage brush in front of us. A little rain fell about noon of 26th, and men held ponchos to catch some of it but did not get much.

On a.m. of June 26 F. C. Mann, citizen packer, was killed. He was behind breastwork with carbine on A Co.'s line. He was aiming a carbine over a breastwork about 3 ft. high, and after he had been observed in this position about 20 min., some one made remark that "something must be wrong with the packer." Upon going up he was found stone dead, having been hit in the temple and killed so quick that he did not move from position sighting his gun.

About 11:00 a.m. June 26 we dragged up more dead horses and extended our line up toward Benteen's position and gave better protection to the men. Benteen saved the command, according to my opinion. He was a very brave and nervy man. We became thirsty and chewed grass to get saliva in our mouths, and Cowley5 went insane from thirst and did not recover for sometime. We had to tie him fast on June 26.

After Benteen's charge the cry for water was very loud, especially the wounded. Some of the enlisted men would propose that some of the men should volunteer to get to the river for this purpose. This talk went around, and finally the officers said if any of the men wanted to volunteer they might do so. Not long after this 19 men volunteered to go, and officers thought this would be too many, but said 12 might go. It was decided that we would take 2 canteens to a man and about 6 2-gal. camp kettles in the party. Sergt. Fehler was one of the sharpshooters and four others. They could command the timber on west bank and kept the Indians from getting thick in there. Nevertheless there were many skulked along the river bank in position to fire on anyone attempting to get water.

In going down from top of bluff we had to run across an open space about 100 yards wide to get to head of ravine. From here to river we were concealed from Sioux. We got down to mouth of ravine and could see Indians in brush on opposite bank of river, but we did not want to shoot, to bring an engagement. Ravine 20 yds. from water. Madden was third man to rush for water and was hit and leg broke, but he crawled back to cover unassisted. He was a big, heavy man and his wound was very painful and requested to be left down there as it hurt him to be disturbed. He thought he would be safe down there. He was carried up some time before dark.

Water party: Roy, Gilbert, Madden (K Troop), Wilber (M Troop), Bancroft, Harris, Voit, Peter Thompson, Goldin, Tanner, Coleman (B), Boreen;6 Roy says he is not sure about the last 3 names.

Medal of HonorI was fifth man to dash for water. In ravine we numbered ourselves off and said that as each man's name was called off he could go or not as he would choose. The first man, whose name I do not remember, came back with a kettle full and we all took a drink, the first in 36 hours. I think Wilber was fourth, and he was wounded. After Madden was hit, he crawled back and we gave him water and nursed him and there was then an intermission of about one-half hour before anyone went again. [Note: Here is Peter Thompson's account of finding Madden sitting by the side of the stream in a pool of blood.] Altogether we were there in the ravine about an hour getting water. We would rush and fill the kettle from the river and then fill canteens from the kettles.

In about one and one-half hours after starting we got back to the top of hill with water, and Varnum [Lt. Charles Varnum] was put guard over it. Dr. Porter [Dr. Henry R. Porter] 7 issued water to the wounded, but there was not enough to give them all they craved for. The fight was still on, and toward evening the Indians slackened their fire and withdrew. That night we dug pits toward river to guard water route and carried up plenty of water for the use of the men.

That night Gerard [scout Fred Gerard] and Bill Jackson, De Rudio [Lt. Charles DeRudio] and Tom O'Neill came in. I heard De Rudio yell "Hello" and guard George Bott of A Troop was on post and challenged him and he answered "Lieutenant De Rudio," and the officer of the guard gave orders to "advance" him and he came in. There was great rejoicing as we had supposed they had been killed. We had seen Indians leave the valley on evening of June 26 but thought it might be a ruse. On morning June 27 took horses down to water. It was a pitiful sight to see the poor animals plunge their heads in the water up to their eyes and drink.

Seventh Infantry came up and camped in bottom about where McIntosh was killed. The officers of Gibbon's command gave up all their sugar, lemon, and other luxuries for our wounded.

On 28th ... I was detailed to help shoot about 20 wounded horses scattered down on side of bluffs which had been left on retreat up bluffs on June 25 and wounded horses that had strayed out from Reno hill during 2 days fight, some of which had been turned loose after being wounded.

On June 28 a.m. we went over to Custer battlefield to bury the dead. We carried our wounded over to camp in village opposite Custer battlefield. Some of these were on horses, but about 30 had to be carried by hand on blankets. They were carried in reliefs, and the Infantry helped us out. We then formed skirmish line and buried the dead. On the way over we followed what we supposed was Custer's trail and at one point it led down pretty close to the river.

The first dead body we came to was that of Corpl. John Foley. I heard several say: "There lies Foley of C Company." I saw him and recognized him easily, as he had bald head and black hair. He was of middle age and I knew him well. Foley was at least three fourths mile in advance of the first group of dead at C.8

The next body we came to was that of Sergt. Butler, and from him to first group of dead at C the distance was considerable. He lay probably one-half way from Foley to C. There was no dead horse near either Foley or Butler. I helped to bury the bodies on west slope of ridge, and we wound up with E Troop men over near the gully.9 I then took sick to my stomach from the stench and went to river to get a drink...

Walter Mason Camp's Notes:

. 1. Walter Camp field notes, folders 50 and 99, BYU Library. Stanislas Roy, born in France, was a sergeant in Company A, 7th Cavalry. He enlisted in the 7th Cavalry in 1869 and again on January 19, 1875, at age 28 (in Cincinnati, Ohio). He was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 5, 1878, with the citation, "Brought water to the wounded under most galling fire of the enemy and at great danger to life." He participated in the Nez Perce campaign and the engagement at Bear Paw Mountain during October 2-4, 1877. He died at Columbus Barracks, Ohio, on February 10, 1913. His correspondence (1909-1912) with Walter Camp is in the Walter Camp Collection, BYU Library.

2. When I entered the woods L said to Wallace: "Lieutenant, I cannot find my horse." M and A Troops had already gone out and Wallace said, "Take any horse you can find and gel out of here quick, or get on a horse behind some one. Get out any way that you can on a horse."

(Walter Camp field notes, folder 99, BYU Library.)

3. Private John M. Gilbert was in Company A.

4. George H. King, corporal, Company A, died on July 2 of the wound received here. He was buried on the north bank of the Yellowstone River at the mouth of the Bighorn River.

5. Private Cornelius Cowley was in Company A.

6. Stanislas Roy, Co. A; John M. Gilbert, Co. A; Michael Madden, Co. K; James Wilber, Co. M; Neil Bancroft, Co. A; David W. Harris, Co. A; Otto Voit, Co. H; Peter Thompson, Co. C; Theodore Goldin, Co. G; James J. Tanner, Co. M; Thomas W. Coleman, Co. B; Ansgarius Boren, Co. B. Of this group, Bancroft, Harris, Voit, Thompson, and Goldin later received the Medal of Honor for bringing water to the wounded.

7. The account of Dr. Henry Rinaldo Porter, who was acting assistant surgeon with Major Reno, was published in the New York Herald, 11 July 1876, as "The Terrible Sioux -- Doctor Porter's Account Of The Battle," and in the St. Paul Pioneer Press 12 July 1876, as "The Indian Battlefield." An abstract of his testimony before the Reno court of inquiry is found in Frances Chamberlain Holley's Once Their Home or Our Legacy from the Dakotahs (Chicago: Donohue and Henneberry, 1890), pp. 247-49. An extract concerning Dr. Porter is found in Joseph Mills Hanson's The Conquest of the Missouri (Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co., 1909), pp. 293-95. Dr. Porter's own story is found in Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota (Chicago: George A. Ogle & Co., 1900), pp. 160-62. Henry Porter was born in New York Mills, New York, on February 3, 1848, and graduated from The Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1872. He served in Arizona with the 5th Cavalry as an acting assistant surgeon and later moved to Bismarck, Dakota, where he served as an acting assistant surgeon for the army at various times. He died on March 3, 1903, in Agra, India.

8. When we went to bury the dead on June 28 we did not follow Dry Creek to the river but cut straight across to the battlefield, going over the little rise between the two coulees. The first body we saw was that of Corpl. Foley of Co. C on this rise, just over toward the coulee running up to the battlefield. Butler lay 200 or 300 yds. beyond and across the ravine. (Walter Camp field notes, folder 99, BYU Library.)


Custer in '76: Walter Camp's Notes on the Custer Fight, edited by Kenneth Hammer, Brigham Young University Press 1976 p 111 - 117

NOTE:

Stanislas Roy was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor during the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The citation on his medal reads: "Brought water to the wounded under most galling fire of the enemy and at great danger to life."

  A Note on 100 Voices by Bruce Brown
100 Voices: Full List * Crow/Arikara * Sioux/Cheyenne * American * Rosebud
Guided Tours: Crazy Horse at the Little Bighorn * Crazy Horse at the Rosebud
Features:
Who Killed Custer? * Who Killed Custer? Audio Book
Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger * Winter Count of Crazy Horse's Life
Bogus Crazy Horse Photos * Unsung 7th Cavalry Scouts Saga
Indian Battlefield Tactics * Woman Warriors * Little Bighorn Maps
U.S. Medal of Honor Winners * U.S. Atrocities * Indian Atrocities
Little Bighorn Mysteries * Virtual Museum

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