Bruce Brown's 100 Voices...
John McGuire's Story of the Battle
THE STORY OF PRIVATE JOHN MCGUIRE
McGUIRE SAYS Custer was arrested by Terry's order twice before got to Powder river for trying to advance too far ahead of column with escort and without permission. Three cos. made a scout up Little Missouri River under Custer himself.
Reno's scout out 12 days. C Troop was along, thinks B Troop along, also D crossed divide, hit Powder and Tongue and then crossed divide, hit Tongue and Rosebud.
Two Gatling guns along. There were a few infantrymen with the Gatlings. Each Gatling hauled by four horses. At some of the ravines had to unlimber guns and unhitch horses and haul over by hand. Passed over very rough ground, rougher than they found beyond Rosebud. At one time men lifting and pulling guns got tired and gave up, and other men had to be sent back to get them up. They were abandoned only temporarily at any time. Never were abandoned with thought of leaving them. Thinks it a great misfortune were not taken to Little Bighorn, as ground was not nearly so rough as had been back on Reno's scout. On Reno's scout one of B troop's pack mules fell down in the water and spoiled the provisions and this is one reason why ran short of rations ... ran out of provisions and thought would starve before found Custer and rest of regiment.
Left band at Powder River and took horses to go on expedition to Little Bighorn. Hardtack which fell off mule on night of June 24. Says reason Sioux scouts broke into boxes was to carry back hardtack as trophies to show their chiefs how close they got to soldiers.
Saw where Indians had killed buffalo on Rosebud, and Mitch Bouyer2 [Mitch Boyer] told him that Indians had herded buffalo ahead of them and that such was reason for such a big trail, which in some places was spread out all over the country. Says Custer had kept Bouyer ahead of column all along. Bouyer said he had told Custer there must be a very large village ahead and Custer said: "Show them to me," meaning he would believe it only after he would see them.
Mitch Bouyer [was] a good trailer. Had lived among Sioux in boyhood. Was about 30 years old. Bouyer told McGuire that from what he saw of signs Indians must be very thick ahead of them. Said "There are too many for this outfit, and if we get up to them they will recognize me and that will be the last of Bouyer. Nevertheless I have been drawing $10 per day from the government and intend to stick it out."
Thinks there were 30 Rees. Saw them go back with herd of Sioux ponies and no officer with pack train tried to stop them. Says that when pack train3 got up all was in confusion with all six troops there with Reno and Benteen.
Did pack train start toward Custer when Godfrey, Benteen, and others moved down that way? Yes, went to top of ridge where could see Weir out ahead.
Did he see any ammunition boxes opened while waiting to start? No.
Says several times Indians got close enough to fortifications to shoot arrows and throw stones into the lines. After being wounded went down to hospital, where the wounded were placed under a fly tent. Every little while a bullet would go whizzing through the tent, and it seemed to me that the wounded were in as much danger of being struck again as they would be on the line.
Point out on map where ammunition mule got loose. Yes, back on trail, which was south of Custer's trail as explained by McDougall. Catching the pack mule -- the mule started back on the trail. McGuire was just then tying Hanley's horse and Hanley said: "Where is my horse?" I said, "I have him here." I then threw the reins over the horse's head, and Hanley rode off after the mule, and I went on foot. Hanley got around on the flank, and the mule turned him my way. When the mule saw he was being headed off, he turned and ran back into the herd. Neither Hanley nor I got our hands on him.4
Says when Peter Thompson came back, Sioux were already firing and [McGuire] said to those around him, "Don't fire - there comes Thompson with his horse."5 Thompson came along with his horse and as he approached, McGuire said, "Thompson, hand me your horse. I have room on my line." Just as he handed him to me, the horse was struck on the left flank near the heart and almost instantly killed. McGuire says he heard the story Thompson told about Bill Jackson and stirrup gone but thinks it might have been Bob Jackson instead of Bill.
Was there any particular reason for Thompson and Watson keeping still about their manner of escape? Yes, the company filled up with new men in the fall who would not understand such discussions, and the old men never said much about questions of this kind. McGuire says that among C troop men it was always the opinion that John Brennan and John Fitzgerald fell back from Custer's 5 troops out of cowardice and in that way did not get into the fight. Says that they ... often joked about it afterward. [Note: Peter Thompson agreed. He said "both Brennan and Fitzgerald turned their horses toward the rear, when they had gone two miles beyond the lone teepee..."]
On boat going down there were 51 wounded white men and one Indian (White Swan).
Walter Mason Camp's Notes:
1. Walter Camp field notes, folder 73, BYU Library. John McGuire was a private in Company C under Captain Tom Custer. He was with the pack train on June 25 and was wounded in the right arm in the hilltop fight on June 26. He was sent back to Fort A. Lincoln on the steamer Far West.
2. Antoine Bouyer says Mitch Bouyer's name is Michel Bouyer. Mitch's father was a full blood Frenchman who was killed by Indians while trapping. Mother of Mitch was full blood Santee Sioux. He was married to three Sioux. John Bouyer, brother of Antoine and Mitch, was hung for murder. F. G. Burnett says Mitch Bouyer was about 5 years older than he. Burnett is (Sept. 18, 1913) now 70.... Mitch Bouyer's widow married Wind (commonly called Big Wind) and lived on Big Horn. She died in 1916.
(Camp MSS, field notes, Walter Mason Camp, box 2, folder 9, Lilly Library, Indiana University.)
3. John McGuire says there was a detail of a non-commissioned officer and 7 men with each company's pack mules. Officers say the detail was 1 non-com officer and 6 men. This makes at least 96 or 84 men. Besides these there were strikers, cooks, headquarters details, and men leading officers' extra horses to the number of two or three to each company, or 30 men. Besides the above there were 11 men citizen packers, making at least 125 men all armed. With McDougall's men of B Co. he thus had a larger battalion of fighting men than either Reno or Benteen.
(Walter Camp field notes, folder 79, BYU Library.)
5. Although Trumpeter Martin and myself Daniel Knipe [Daniel Kanipe] were the last messengers sent by Gen. Custer, we were not the last men to leave his battalion and survive. That distinction belongs to Peter Thompson and James Watson of my company. I have personal knowledge of Thompson's movements that day as I saw his horse standing on the bluffs when I went out with Co. H, and I later saw Thompson himself coming up the bluffs from the river and heard him then say that he had left his horse standing and followed on after Custer about until cut off and turned back by Indians. Knipe says when column went down in direction of Custer, he went with Co. H and saw Thompson's horse standing near head of hollow down which Custer marched. When I saw Peter Thompson coming up the bluffs on foot with his carbine and knowing that he had been with his company all day, I said: "Thompson, where in the devil have you been?" He said: "Well, my horse gave out and left me afoot; and I tried to catch up but could not make it." I then told him that I had seen his horse some distance back of us on the bluffs.
(Camp MSS, field notes, Daniel A. Knipe [Daniel Kanipe], box 2, folder 8, Lilly Library.)
I will reply hastily to your letter of 16th inst. covering the Peter Thompson story. Candidly I do not know what to think about his story in its entirety. I have discussed it with six or eight officers who were at Little Bighorn on June 25 and 26, 1876, with Reno, and not one of them believes it. I heard the story first in 1906 and made some investigations. Here is a strange thing -- a good many enlisted men heard his story in 1876, but not one of the officers I talked with had ever heard of the story until I told it to them, some of them in 1908.... Now about the Crow dragging a squaw, about Custer being down at the river, and the Sioux Indian on the boat with the wounded on the way to Ft. Lincoln all that is unbelievable -- it is impossible. [Note: Camp is wrong here. Actually the incidents Thomson described are not "impossible" at all; they are probable. In fact, you can't understand what happened at the Battle of the Little Bighorn unless you listen very closely to what Thompson had to say, which is why Camp -- for all his data -- didn't have a clue what happened in the battle. See Bruce Brown's introduction to Peter Thompson's account of the battle, American Atrocities at the Little Bighorn, and Who Killed Custer -- The Eye-Witness Answer for more info.]
Thompson did not meet Weir's troop when he came out of the bottom. If he says he did he is mistaken. [Note: it's hard to know what Camp is squabbling about here. This is John McGuire's eye-witness account of how Thompson joined Reno and Benteen.] I have talked with a half dozen or more of that troop about their advance toward Custer and no one of them ever heard anything about Thompson. Old Sergeant [Thomas W.] Harrison and Sergt. [Cornelius] Bresnahan, whom Gen. Godfrey and I met in 1916, and talked over that whole matter of Weir's advance were very clear about all details, and neither of them saw or heard anything about Thompson. Neither did Weir's troop pick up any played-out horses that p.m. There were, however, some played-out cavalry horses rounded up on June 27 and shot-ten or a dozen of them; and it is a fact, supported by the best testimony, that some of Custer's horses did play out and were left behind just before the Custer battalion got into the fight. I have evidence of that independently of Thompson.. . .
Thompson did not claim, to me, that he struck Weir's company at all. He did tell me about seeing Custer down at the river, about the squaw being pulled by a lariat by a Crow and the hostile Indian on the boat, etc. I tried to discuss with him the impossibility of these things but there was "nothing doing" and I saw that he would take offense if I persisted. This was in 1910. My conclusion is that the story cannot be accepted in its entirety, although a good deal of it is plausible. The Crows who were there June 25, 1876, never heard anything about one of their number lariating a Sioux squaw. I went through all that with the four surviving Crow scouts, so Thompson is mistaken about that. [Note: Camp is so earnest and so dense! Of course the Crows didn't proudly step forward in the cool of the hour and identify themselves as would-be rapists! But all four of them were at the river at that time, and Curley -- the most likely suspect -- was there alone at the moment Thompson witnessed the war crime. See American Atrocities at the Little Bighorn, Bruce Brown's note on Curley's first account of the battle, and Who Killed Custer? Part 10 -- War Crime Time for more info.] If some things in Thompson's story could be eliminated it could be given historical standing, but as it stands published it cannot be reconciled with known facts. [Note: again, Camp has it completely wrong. Thompson's story does reconcile with the facts from the eye-witness record of the battle. The real problem here is that Thompson's eye-witness acount doesn't mesh with Camp's incorrect preconceptions of what happened at the battle, so Camp rejects and discredits the memories of a Medal of Honor winning American soldier. Truth is, to understand what really happened at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, you have to pay close attention to what Peter Thompson said.] It could be edited into good shape but I hardly think the historian would have the moral right to do that.
Custer in '76: Walter Camp's Notes on the Custer Fight, edited by Kenneth Hammer, Brigham Young University Press 1976 p 123 - 126
John McGuire was wounded during the Seige of the Greasy Grass, and took part in one of the most memorable and herocic escapades of the battle -- Hanley's Mule Chase.