Custer’s Best

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 Grave2015-09-04T21:59:22-05:00

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 Stand2015-09-12T14:22:05-05:00

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 Hill2015-09-12T14:27:10-05:00

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 side2015-09-12T14:31:50-05:00

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 side2015-09-12T14:35:32-05:00

Private Jean “Frenchy” Gallenne

Private Jean “Frenchy” Gallenne

“Frenchy” served on the advance guard for Reno’s detachment and complained about the high speed the unit was charging.  He survived the battle, serving early on Reno Hill as a water carrier – a feat that earned others the Medal of Honor, but no one in Company M received an award.  The following year, “Frenchy” received a major wound to an ankle and his foot had to be amputated.  This picture shows him in his later years with part of his family.


Private Jean “Frenchy” Gallenne2015-09-12T14:37:30-05:00

Private Edward Pigford

Private Edward Pigford

A coal-miner from Pennsylvania, Pigford fought in the battle and survived.  He claimed he went forward from Weir Point and saw the final minutes of Custer’s destruction, but this claim cannot be verified.

Private Edward Pigford2015-09-12T14:38:30-05:00
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