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    Lt. James J. Bradley, The First Witness to the Killing Field: His 7th Infantry Shoulder Knots. James J. Bradley (1844-1877) commanded a detachment of Crow scouts as part of Col. John Gibbon's (1827-1896) column which marched out of Fort Shaw, Montana, on June 21, 1876, intending to meet up with General Terry's column. Bradley was a dedicated diarist who recorded that early on the morning of June 26 he was ordered out on scout. Not long after, he encountered three Crow scouts whom Bradley had earlier detached to Custer's command. They were in great distress. "Little Face in particular," Bradley recorded, "wept a bitterness of anguish such as I have rarely seen." Bradley knew there had been a disaster and only hoped the Crow accounts were overstated. The next day, as the first soldier on the scene, he could see how indescribably terrible the 7th Cavalry's disaster had been.

    Bradley himself was headed to a deadly encounter. Early in the Nez Perce Campaign, he was shot through the heart and killed at the Battle of the Big Hole on August 9, 1877. The Model 1872 shoulder knots, with Bradley's "7" and lieutenant bars in sterling on the "Infantry Blue" background, were a gift to Capt. (later Brig. Gen.) Anson Mills (1834-1924). Mills mounted them in a wood frame on felt with three small bronze stars. He later gave the shoulder knots to Little Bighorn veteran Charles Varnum.

    More of Bradley's story is found in Swanson, G. A. Custer: His Life and Times, pp. 226-227.
    From the Glenwood Swanson Collection.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2018
    9th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 9
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