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    Elizabeth B. Custer. Boots and Saddles or Life in Dakota with General Custer. Annotated by John W. Ford, the telegraph operator at Ft. Laramie who reported the massacre of Custer at Little Bighorn. NY: Harper & Brothers (1913). 315pp. Later printing. Blue decorative cloth stamped in gold and black. Very good. Howes C983.

    Heavily annotated with marginalia in ink by Captain John W. Ford. In part: "A little volume written by a devoted and womanly woman, descriptions of the domestic life in the regular army with whom my wife and I lived the first eleven years of our happily married life, written so o simply and attractively, earnestly and truthfully, that it brings up many happy scenes of our very own army life, partially dormant perhaps but by no means forgotten, full of pathos and humor but true to life."

    It is marked on the little map where Ft. Laramie, Wyoming was located where we were stationed at the time and first got news of the massacre of Custer and his entire command. Genl. Bradley of the 9th Infantry was in command of the post at the time.

    In August of 1874, Reynolds appeared at Ft. Laramie from camp near Harney's Peak in the Black hills and of the Black Hills expedition of 7th Cavalry under the command of Custer. He had a heavy private mail for officers and command and the first official report of the Black Hills country consisting of over six thousand words to Dept. commander of Omaha, Genl. Ord., then Dept. commander. It was addressed to my telegraphic headquarters for transmission.

    This report I have now in my possession with Custer's autograph attached. Genl. Smith of the 14th infantry was in command at Fort Laramie at the time and of the...at camps Robinson and Sheridan, the former being the Red Blood reservation and the latter being the Spotted Trail reservation named from their respective head Indians, and Genl. Smith signified his displeasure was that a breach of military etiquette had been committed in that the report had not been addresses to or sent through the Comdg. Officer at Fort Laramie but it went all the same and from Reynolds, afterwards killed at Battle of Little Big Horn with Custer and his command was in the hospital for several days before he was able for his return trip. He was a superior man, an educated gentleman, who lived this daring, isolated life from...and some disappointment or occurrence in his life. I doubt if Reynolds was not an assumed name. His actions indicated that he courted death and did not view the manner of his takings off with dread, but with absolute pleasure. Many such characters were and are still in the far west but Reynolds was so conspicuous by being superior to any I ever met both in appearance and education, so thoroughly to "the manner born" and a gentleman always...He finally spent a few hours at our quarters from time to time with our books and souveniers and when Mrs. Ford always made him welcome at my request and because she had a women's pity and commiseration for him. A...character for Bret Harte who never made a character overdrawn, and a duplicate could have been met in far west. I saw it at Camp Sheridan in 1877 when Crazy Horse "came in" there and surrendered his arms and we had a veritable dog feast, real dog and it was not half bad. Genl. Crook was at table and Col...and Col Stanton and other of the pay master department.

    A fine dog feast was an Indian roast turkey stuffed with oysters. [back cover] The reception of the news at Fort Laramie of the battle of the little Big Horn was paralyzing. I received the dispatch in the morning with all of the details of the fearful fight. It is customary at frontier military posts for the officers to congregate at the adjutant's office directly after...which is usually about nine O'clock in the morning. The Comdg. Officer and adjutant, Qtr. Master and commissioning officer, the old and new officers of the day are always there officially to get instructions etc. The company officers and others for talks and friendly meetings.

    We were getting reports of the battle at my office when the general's orderly reported with some dispatches to be wired, on sending his compliments and asking if "any news this morning" I wrote a hurried note with a pencil with my compliments to Genl. Bradley in command, now retired, and living in Tacoma Washington state 9th infantry, that I had no official telegrams or business but some very interesting army news then being received that I would formally deliver adjutant's office as soon as possible, and to please tell the assembled officers so they could remain if they wished for it was important. This was superfluous since news was so scarce any news was a boon. I dared not mention its...fearing a general stampede to telegraph office before replying and tabulation and interruptions. When I reported at Adjutant's office all were waiting. Some began badgering me about its assumed importance. No one anticipating how alarming and important it was. I gave the written message directly to Genl. Bradley as courtesy required, but he, knowing it was general news asked me to read it for benefit of all, I did so as well as I could for I personally knew numbers killed in the fight. As I progressed the silence became oppressive and when concluded was unbroken. Genl. Bradley finally said "Custer is dead - His entire command, almost his regiment annihilated." Then after a moment added. "There can be no doubt of the authenticity of this report" I answered "Nota particle General, it is all confirmed by later news, and by instructions both from Government and from Headquarters of Western Union Telph. Co. is transmitted to all posts for their information. It is absolutely the truth". He answered "The question was unnecessary Mr. Ford, pardon me, your delivering it is sufficient proof of its truth." It was an awful shock to the garrison. The officers were blanched and still, even the soldiers were...Women wept from sympathy. It might have been their fate.

    In a few days the official orders came from department Headquarters announcing it and whole army of the United States went into mourning for a period of six months.

    One horse alone "came out" alive. Every little while a newspaper paragraph appears of some survivor of this massacre being buried etc., usually to court publicity, get pictures in a newspaper, and name in print, but is false. This horse was found a day or two after the battle quietly grazing in a picket common, but with brand of 7th cavalry on his shoulder. This horse was taken in charge by the reformed regiment of the 7th cavalry the nucleus being the two companies under Major Reno, not in fight. An attendant...was detailed as his constant companion. A special box stall was always his domicile, no one was ever allowed to mount him, nor any work performed by him, simply exercise for his health, but always under guard and watched. He was a gentleman, and bore his honors with becoming dignity...at all reviews or parades he was included, attended by his groom, with an inverted carbine suspended from...saddle, and a pair of...cavalry boots flung across the saddle and fastened to it. No doubt he is dead now, but buried in some of our national cememteries with horses of war, three volleys fired over grave, and taps sounded. I hope so.

    Considerable discussion occurred over action of Major Reno in entrenching himself with two companies three miles from the fighting grounds, when he was expected to be with him, but the consensus of opinion of many army officers was that he did right, his duty was to save his men, under the circumstances, and just that many more would have been slain had they been with Custer. I have no doubt of this, a hundred and fifty or two hundred men could not saved the day. They were so hopelessly outnumbered.

    Respectfully submitted, J. W. F.




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