Custer’s Best

Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Gold and Guns

Sitting Bull Cover

(August 27, 2016) Schiffer Publishing has received Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Gold and Guns: The 1874 Yellowstone Wagon Road and Prospecting Expedition and the Battle of Lodge Grass Creek. 

The book is available now !

I have a copy and it is gorgeous.  There are 342 color and black and white images, several dozen of which are color maps of the three battles and about 30 locations, where the wagon train made camp for the night, during its 80-day journey.  The photos, most of which previously have never been published, show period weapons, as well as warrior and wagon train participants.  It is on the Schiffer website with ISBN13: 9780764351518

This is the story of 150 of the most adventurous scouts, gold prospectors, gunslingers, buffalo hunters, and Civil War veterans of both sides—they may have been the deadliest collection of shooters to ever hit the trail.  This is the most detailed work ever produced on the obscure legend of the 1874 Yellowstone Wagon Road Prospecting Expedition in the Montana Territory—the product of multi-year research across the country, and visits to the three significant battlefields and expedition route of over 500 miles—an event that impacted the Little Bighorn in 1876.

Numerous legends of the West rode on the expedition, later playing key roles in the Great Sioux War of 1876.  Their adversaries now were the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne—some of the greatest light cavalry to ever gallop over the North American continent.  And watching their every move were Sitting Bull, Gall, Hump, Crazy Horse, and a renegade chief named Inkpaduta, ready to strike.

As part of the book are in-depth descriptions of three pitched battles in 1874 between the wagon train and the Lakota/Northern Cheyenne warriors that hopefully will now be part of the lexicon of the Wild West:

The Battle of Rosebud Creek

The Battle of Great Medicine Dance Creek

The Battle of Lodge Grass Creek

The book also lists warriors involved in these fights and provides detailed information on several renowned scouts during that era such as George Herendeen, William T. “Uncle Billy” Hamilton, Jack Bean, “Muggins” Taylor, Addison M. Quivey, Zadok “Zodiac” Daniels and Oliver “Big Spit” Hanna.

It also describes exploits of heroes you have never met.  John Anderson, a former slave, who had fought in an all black unit in Kansas in the Civil War, was on the trek.  At the Battle of Great Medicine Dance Creek, both the frontiersmen and the warriors stopped in their tracks to watch an epic fight to the death, with knife and tomahawk, between Anderson and a Lakota chief!

John’s photo is in the book, as is perhaps the only photo in existence of scout “Muggins” Taylor, who two years later rode from the Little Bighorn battlefield to the Fort Ellis telegraph office with a note from General Alfred Terry on the debacle that became known as Custer’s Last Stand.  Fortunately for Taylor, much of that route had been the same as he had scouted with the wagon train in 1874.

As a special feature, the book presents information that may link John “Liver-Eating” Johnston with the wagon train.  And using new genealogy resources, such as, the book traces the lives of many of the participants on the wagon train, whether they later again got the itch to search for gold, ended their days at Deadwood in the Dakota Territory, or whether they practiced medicine outside of Tombstone in the Arizona Territory during the “Gunfight at the OK Corral” era.

The epilogue of the book documents the re-creation of Jack Bean’s nearly one-mile shot against a single Lakota warrior that we attempted, during the preparation of the book, to duplicate at the exact location it occurred.

The work is also a history of the wild territory of Montana, including the Montana Vigilantes, no nonsense territorial governors such as Sidney Edgerton and Benjamin F. Potts, the wild town of Coulson, and the search for the mythical Lost Cabin Gold Mine.  Much like today, it has an element of the political elites taking advantage of hard-working regular folks, who ultimately had the last laugh and lived the way they desired.

Perhaps most importantly, the book sets the stage for the Great Sioux War of 1876, which became the cataclysmic event in the nation’s expansion to the west.

Many of the significant incidents on the expedition happened within 30 miles of the Little Bighorn, so for those visitors to that battlefield, this book shows you numerous additional locations to visit during your trip, including GPS information to make navigation easy.  In fact, if you visit Fort Phil Kearny, near present-day Buffalo, Wyoming and adjacent to the Fetterman Fight, follow with an examination of the 1874 Yellowstone Wagon Road and Prospecting Expedition—as shown in this book—and visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield, a total stretch of 93 miles, you can put the entire Lakota and Northern Cheyenne fight with the United States Army during the gold-rush on the Plains into perspective.

Did I mention the Boothill Cemetery?

Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Gold and Guns2021-06-28T19:16:58-06:00

Company M, Seventh Cavalry, Little Bighorn Battle Roster

Seventh Cavalry insignia

Seventh Cavalry insignia

The following company roster is found in Custer’s Best:

CPT Thomas H. “Tucker” French (Company Commander) [CW] [V2] (MB) {7}

1LT Edward G. “Bible-Thumper” Mathey (detached to command the pack train) [V3]

2LT James G. “Jack” Sturgis (detached with Company E) (KIA)

1SG John “Paddy” Ryan (Company First Sergeant) [CW] [V3] (RS) {3}

SGT Patrick “Patsy” Carey (WIA) [V2] (MB) (RT)

SGT John McGlone [V2] (PT)

SGT Miles O’Hara (KIA) [V2] (AG)

SGT Henry C. Weihe [aka Charles White] (First Duty Sergeant) (WIA) [V2] (AG) (RT)

CPL Henry M. Cody [aka Henry Scollin] (KIA) (AG)

CPL William Lalor [V2] (MB)

CPL Frederick Stressinger (KIA) [V2] (MB)

Trumpeter Charles “Bounce” Fischer (MB)

Trumpeter Henry C. Weaver [CW] (MB)

Saddler John “Jack” Donahoe [V2] (PT)

Farrier William D. “Tinker Bill” Meyer (KIA) [V2] (MB)

Farrier George “Cully” Weaver (MB)

PVT Joseph “Joe” Bates [aka Joseph Murphy] (MB)

PVT Frank Braun (DOW) [R] (AG)

PVT Morris Cain [R] (MB)

PVT James W. Darcy [aka James Wilber] (WIA) [R] (RS)

PVT Henry H. “Harrison” Davis [CW] [V3] (PT)

PVT Jean B. “Frenchy” Gallenne (AG) (H/H)

PVT Jacob H. Gebhart [aka James J. Tanner] (DOW) [R]

PVT Bernard “Barney” Golden (MB)

PVT Henry “Tom” Gordon (KIA) [V2] (AG)

PVT George Heid (MB)

PVT Charles Kavanaugh [CW] (MB)

PVT Henry Klotzbucher (Company Clerk) (KIA) (MB)

PVT George Lorentz (KIA) [V2] (MB)

PVT Daniel Mahoney [R] (MB)

PVT John H. “Snopsy” Meier (WIA) (AG)

PVT Hugh N. Moore [V2] (MB)

PVT William E. “Bill” Morris (WIA) [R] (RS)

PVT Francis “Frank” Neely (AG)

PVT Daniel J. “Dan” Newell (WIA) (AG) (T/B)

PVT Edward D. Pigford (WIA) [R] (MB) {2}

PVT William E. Robinson (detached service as an assistant to Dr. Henry Porter)

PVT Roman “Henry” Rutten (WIA) [V2] (RS)

PVT Hobart Ryder (RS)

PVT William W. Rye [R] (MB)

PVT John Seamans [R] (MB)

PVT Robert Senn [R] (MB)

PVT James W. “Crazy Jim” Severs [V2] (MB)

PVT John “Big Fritz” Sivertsen [V2] (MB) (RT) (T/B)

PVT William C. “Bill” Slaper [R] (MB)

PVT George E. Smith (KIA) [R] (MB)

PVT Frank W. Sniffin (Company Color Bearer) [R] (MB)

PVT Frank Stratton [R] (MB)

PVT David “Sandy” Summers (KIA) (MB) (H/H)

PVT Levi M. Thornberry [R] (MB)

PVT Rollins L. “Robert” Thorpe [R] (AG)

PVT Henry J. “Jim” Turley (KIA) [V2] (AG)

PVT Thomas B. “Happy Jack” Varner (WIA) [R] (MB)

PVT Henry C. Voight (KIA) (MB)

PVT James “Jim” Weeks [R] (MB)

PVT John V. Whisten (MB)

PVT Charles T. Wiedman (WIA) [R] (MB)

PVT Charles H. Williams (MB)


Not Present at the Little Bighorn


SGT William Capes (Powder River Camp)

PVT John Dolan (Powder River Camp)

PVT James McCormick (Powder River Camp)

Wagoner Joseph Ricketts (Powder River Camp)

PVT Walter Sterland (Powder River Camp)

PVT Ferdinand Widmayer (Powder River Camp)

Farrier William Wood (Fort Rice)

PVT John Zametzer (Fort Rice)




CPT=Captain; 1LT=First Lieutenant; 2LT=Second Lieutenant; 1SG=First Sergeant; SGT=Sergeant; CPL=Corporal; PVT=Private


KIA= killed in action; WIA=wounded in action; DOW=died of wounds; CW=Civil War veteran; V1=Battle of Washita veteran; V2=fought Indians on 1873 Yellowstone expedition; V3=veteran of both Washita and Yellowstone campaigns; R=recruit (less than nine months service); AG=on advance guard mission; RS=on 1SG Ryan’s timber scout mission; MB=with main body in valley; PT=detailed to pack train; RT=remained in timber during retreat; H/H=believed to have been a horse-holder; T/B=trained as a blacksmith


{2, 3, 7}=estimated number of enemy warriors that the trooper shot during the entire battle

Company M, Seventh Cavalry, Little Bighorn Battle Roster2016-01-19T06:58:18-06:00

Private Edward Pigford’s Grave

Three brothers, fans of Custer’s Best, recently took a field trip to visit the grave of Private Edward Pigford in Dravosburg, Pennsylvania.  As George, Jack & Mike wrote: “As per your book “Custer’s Best” on page 105, Private Pigford stated, ‘I’d have given all the money I ever expected to have for just one big swig of good licker.’  So we stopped by and had a big swig of good licker for Private Pigford!”

Thanks, guys — from all the troopers in Company M!




Private Edward Pigford’s Grave2015-09-04T21:59:22-06:00

First Sergeant John Ryan Kepi

John Ryan’s Kepi

He wore this cap after his service in the Army when he attended numerous reunions.

First Sergeant John Ryan Kepi2015-09-04T22:02:25-06:00

Custer’s Last Stand

Custer’s Last Stand

“In his first novel, A Garden of Sand, Earl Thompson wrote of Depression-era Kansas in the 1930s.  At one point in the story, he described the inside of a truck-stop, where a young man often fantasizes about doing something bigger with his life than his friends – being a part of something bigger than himself.  Above the jukebox in the old café is an Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company print depicting Custer’s Last Stand, at which point Thompson’s story continues, describing the Americana masterpiece:

“It was a great picture with ponies wild-eyed and frothing in the dust of battle, ridden by howling Indians in warpaint, dropping, dragging, dying like flies, all over it.  And Custer, his hair like golden flypapers, golden mustachios, great white hat, fringed buckskin jacket, supported dying troopers around his knees, his pearl-handled six-guns blazing, mowing down Indians as if they were wheat.  That dusty golden land was of the world and the boy knew.  He lived where Indians had walked.  Where buffalo grazed.  Listen!  For the silent step.  He could look at the picture for hours.  Nuts to Western Union!  When he grew up, he was going with the cavalry.””

Custer’s Last Stand2015-09-12T14:22:05-06:00

Map of the Battle Showing the Defense at Reno Hill

Map of the Battle Showing the Defense at Reno Hill

Company M defended the perimeter of the hill on the side of the Little Bighorn River below the steep slopes of the ridge and hill.  First Sergeant John Ryan engaged warrior sharpshooters on Sharpshooter Ridge, about 900 yards away.

Map of the Battle Showing the Defense at Reno Hill2015-09-12T14:27:10-06:00

First Sergeant John Ryan’s Discharge, back side

John Ryan’s Discharge, back side

Captain Thomas H. French hand-wrote the campaigns on which First Sergeant Ryan participated including the Yellowstone River Expedition in 1873, General Custer’s Black Hills Expedition in 1874 and at the Battle of the Little Big Horn on June 25th and 26th.  Ryan returned to the Boston area and became a police officer for several decades.

First Sergeant John Ryan’s Discharge, back side2015-09-12T14:31:50-06:00

First Sergeant John Ryan’s Discharge, front side

John Ryan’s Discharge, front side

First Sergeant Ryan finally left the Army in December 1876, about six months after the battle.  The discharge is signed by Major Tilford, who commanded Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, and Captain Thomas H. French, Company M’s commander.  French wrote, “A brave, capable and trustworthy First Sergeant.”

First Sergeant John Ryan’s Discharge, front side2015-09-12T14:35:32-06:00
Go to Top