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SEVENTH CAVALRY survivor Daniel Kanipe said after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, "There were 14 men and two officers, Lieutenant Harrington and Lieutenant Sturgis, that never were found."
Actually, the missing also included one more officer, Lt. J.E. Porter, and one of the Seventh Cavalry's surgeons, Dr. G. E. Lord. Survivor William Slaper identified one of the enlisted men who were never found as "a young fellow named Smith, of Boston." Including Mitch Bouyer, the half-breed interpreter for the Crow scouts, this makes a total of 19 Americans whose bodies were either missing or unidentiable after the battle.
Seventh Cavalry scout George Herendeen added, "The heads of four white soldiers were found in the Sioux camp that had been severed from their trunks, but the bodies could not be found on the battlefield or in the village."
Lieutenant Charles Roe of the Second Cavalry, who was an eye-witness to the condition of the battlefield immediately afterwards, said, "we found in the Indian village a white man's head with a lariat tied to it, which had been dragged around the village until the head was pulled off the body."
According to George Glenn, who was on the Little Bighorn burial detail, one of the heads belonged to Pvt. John E. Armstrong. The head of Custer's favorite scout, Bloody Knife, was similarly severed and paraded through the village on a pole. Bloody Knife was also scalped.
Many of the American dead that could be identified were also hideously mutilated. Tom (Boss) Tweed's "crotch had been split up with an ax and one of his legs thrown up over his shoulder. He was shot with arrows in both eyes." Jim Turley was found with his own knife plunged to the hilt in one eye. An unknown Arikara scout had "his head pounded to pieces."
The corpse of Isaiah Dorman, the black scout, was "very much mutilated," with strong indication that he was tortured. In the end, "the Dakotas had left a kettle full of his own blood close by his head" for his refreshement, should he become thirsty while he died in agony in the hot summer sun.
Lieutenant Donald McIntosh's head was "pounded to jelly," according to Charles Roe, but McIntosh's corpse was identified by the "gutta-percha" sleeve button found nearby. McIntosh's wife had given him the button when the Seventh Cavalry left Fort Lincoln. James Sturgis was not so fortunate. George Glenn said Sturgis's trousers were found, but that was all that could be identified of him.
Survivor Jacob Adams recalled, "troopers were lassooed from their horses and dragged to the center of the village, where they were tied to trees and burned to death that night within sight of their comrades of Benteen's division, who were helpless to rescue them. After the battle, John Ryan said, "we found what appeared to be human bones, and parts of blue uniforms, where the men had been tied to stakes and trees."
Most Sioux and Cheyenne denied that any Americans were held alive after the battle or tortured (just as they denied mutilating the dead, which was patently untrue), but Little Knife said, "one prisoner was taken. He was captured by Rain In The Face, who said he had stripes on his arm." Little Knife said the American prisoner was bound "shag-a-nappe" and killed in the village during the night of June 25.
(If the American captured by Rain In The Face was one of the Seventh Cavalry troopers who mistreated Rain In The Face while he was imprisoned in Ft. Lincoln the year before, things would have certainly gone badly for the captive American. On the other hand, Jacob Adams spoke of how respectfully the Sioux treated the body of another American who was kind to Rain In The Face at Ft. Lincoln.)
And there may have been more. Barely three months after the battle when Blackfeet Sioux war chief Kill Eagle was asked about torture, the following rather oblique exchange took place:
-- Bruce Brown
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