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    Document Signed in 1874 by Seventeen 7th Cavalry Troopers who Perished at Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. There is nothing else like this. Hearing (wrongly, as it happens) that their witty and affable company commander was not going to be leading them on the Black Hills Expedition, the men of Company "E" took the unprecedented step of writing to 1st Lieutenant Thomas Mower McDougall of their disappointment. The letter, which follows in its entirety, was dated June 30, 1874. The expedition was scheduled to depart just two days later!

    "Sir: The men of E Company 7th Cavalry learning that you will not accompany the Black Hills Expedition and that the company is to be commanded by another officer are desirous of expressing their regret at your not going in command and take this somewhat unusual means of showing it. We are sure that manny [sic] a day on the march we shall regret your absence and that manny times before we see Fort A. Lincoln again we will have good cause to feel sorry for this unfortunate event.

    "Trusting that this blunt but honest expression at an unavoidable piece of bad luck may not be deemed out of place We remain Very respectfully,"

    Forty-nine men, the entire company on hand, signed the letter. Two years later, seventeen of them - now under the command of 2nd Lieutenants Algernon Smith and James Sturgis - would fall at the Little Bighorn.

    We can hope that in the meantime they were given an extra ration of rum. McDougall (1845-1909), of course, survived the battle because he was in command of Company "B" which had been detailed to accompany Lt. Edward G. Mathey and the pack train.

    In Swanson, G. A. Custer: His Life and Times, pp. 156-158, there are photographs of nine of the slain, including 1st Sergeant Frederick Hohmeyer, writer of the letter. The letter comprises two sheets of tablet paper. There is light staining at the folds, and the second sheet has very minor tears at the folds. All of the text and all of the signatures are clear and legible

    From the Glenwood Swanson Collection.

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